Anti-Austerity Parties Win in France, Greece
The growing anti-austerity movement in Europe received a big boost this weekend with the defeat of French President Nikolas Sarkozy and the defeat of Greek’s two largest political parties. In France, François Hollande is set to become the first Socialist to lead France since 1995.
François Hollande: "I am the president of the youth of France! I am the president of all the collective pride of France! I am the president of justice in France! Carry this message far! Remember for the rest of your life this great gathering at the Bastille, because it must give a taste to other peoples, to the whole of Europe, of the change that is coming."
In Greece, anti-bailout parties placed first and second in Sunday’s election, ousting Greek’s ruling parties from power. The right-wing New Democracy Party won 19 percent of the vote. The Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, placed second. One Greek analyst told the Financial Times, "There is a whole generational shift happening in just one night."
U.S. Drones Hit Yemen, Pakistan
The United States carried out drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan over the weekend. In Yemen, a drone reportedly killed Fahd al-Qasaa, who escaped from prison in 2005 after being convicted of a role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship in Yemen’s Port of Aden. In response to the drone strike, militants staged a surprise attack on a Yemeni army base earlier today, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 25 others. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a U.S. drone fired two missiles at a compound in North Waziristan on Saturday, killing at least nine people.
Report: U.S. Secretly Releasing Afghan Prisoners to Militant Groups
In news from Afghanistan, the Washington Post has revealed the United States has been secretly releasing Afghan prisoners as part of negotiations with militant groups. U.S. officials have reportedly used the prisoners as bargaining chips in violent areas.
Guantánamo Defendants Stage "Peaceful Resistance" to Military Commissions
At Guantánamo, lawyers for five prisoners being tried by a military commission for their role in the Sept. 11 attacks said the judicial process was rigged to lead to the execution of their clients. During Saturday’s arraignment, the prisoners refused to talk or listen to the judge. One prisoner was brought to the court in restraints. A lawyer for one of the prisoners said the actions of the men were a “peaceful resistance to an unjust system.” Attorney James Harrington criticized the military commission’s rules that bar discussion of the time his client, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, spent in a secret CIA prison.
James Harrington: "Well, there are certain areas that are off-limits for us, including questions about their confinement and questions about things that have happened to them in the past. And until there’s some change in the rules that we operate under, we have severe constraints in exploring those issues. And they bear significantly on this case and the issues that ultimately will be litigated."
Army Brigadier General Mark Martins defended the military commission process.
Brig. Gen. Mark Martins: "Some have said that any attempt to seek accountability within the military commission system must inevitably be tainted by torture. To those who have these concerns, we say: We acknowledge your skepticism, but we also say that the law prohibits the use of any statement obtained as the result of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and we will implement the law. These proceedings will be fair. And I submit that we military judge advocates who are carrying out assigned duties in this reform process have some standing to maintain that they will be fair."
Bahraini Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab Jailed
One of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights activists remains in jail after being detained on Saturday. Nabeel Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested when he returned from a trip to Lebanon. Rajab is being accused of taking part in and calling for an illegal gathering and march. Rajab has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now! over the past year.
Japan Shutters Last Nuclear Power Plant
For the first time since 1970, Japan has stopped producing nuclear power. Up until the partial nuclear meltdown at Fukushima last year, nuclear power plants provided almost 30 percent of Japan’s electricity needs. A growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan has forced the closure of Japan’s other facilities. On Saturday, Japan shut down its last nuclear plant, but government officials have not ruled out restarting its nuclear industry if Japan suffers from electricity shortages. On Saturday, thousands of anti-nuclear activists marched calling for the nuclear plants never to be reopened. One protester, Kaori Kanda, said she was worried about the effects of radiation.
Kaori Kanda: "My friend in Iwaki just died of cardiac arrest. The people around me are dying. They are dying because they are staying in places where the radiation is too high, absorbing the fallout and dying of cardiac arrest. The cause and effect cannot be directly established, so we can only say, 'What a pity.' But there are many people dying now."
Biden: "I Am Absolutely Comfortable" with Same-Sex Marriage
Vice President Joe Biden says he is "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage, a position that appears in contrast to that of President Obama, who has endorsed civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples. Biden made the remark in an interview on "Meet the Press" with David Gregory.
David Gregory: "You’re comfortable with same-sex marriage now?"
Joe Biden: "Look, I am vice president of the United States of America. The President sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another, all are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction beyond that."
Gregory: "In a second term, will this administration come out behind same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage?"
Biden: "I can’t speak to that. I don’t know the answer to that."
Federal Probe Launched into Police Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
Federal prosecutors have announced they will investigate last year’s fatal police shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., the 68-year-old African-American former Marine who was shot dead inside his own apartment in White Plains, New York, after he accidentally set off his LifeAid medical alert. Last week, a Westchester grand jury declined to bring charges against any of the police officers involved in the incident. He was shot by a white police officer. Shortly before the shooting, another police officer referred to him using the "N-word." Ellen Davis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, said, "We will review all of the available evidence with respect to the death of Kenneth Chamberlain, including the evidence collected during the state’s investigation, to determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws."
FBI Pushes National Electronic Surveillance Strategy
The website CNET is reporting the FBI is asking internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance. The FBI has drafted a proposed law that would requiring social-networking websites and providers of instant messaging and web email alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly. The legislation is reportedly one component of what the FBI has internally called the "National Electronic Surveillance Strategy."
20 Convicted for Protesting NYPD Stop and Frisk Policy
Twenty activists were convicted on Friday of disorderly conduct for blocking a New York City police station door in October to protest the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Defendants included Princeton University Professor Cornel West. Most of the activists were sentenced to time served.
Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, 47, Dies
The pioneering hip-hop artist Adam Yauch died Friday of cancer at the age of 47. Known by his nickname "MCA," he was one-third of the legendary Beastie Boys. He was a practicing Buddhist and helped organize the Tibetan Freedom Concert. In 1998, he made headlines when at the Video Music Awards he publicly criticized the climate of racism toward Muslims and Arabs, and the Clinton administration’s bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan.
Adam Yauch: "It’s kind of a rare opportunity that one gets to speak to this many people at once, so if you guys will forgive me, I just wanted to speak my mind on a couple things. And I think it was a real mistake that the U.S. chose to fire missiles into the Middle East. I think that was a huge mistake, and I think that it’s very important that the United States start to look towards nonviolent means of resolving conflicts, because if we [applause] — hold on, hold on, give me one second here — because if we — those bombings that took place in the Middle East were thought of as a retaliation by the terrorists. And if we thought of what we did as retaliation, certainly we’re going to find more retaliation from people in the Middle East, from terrorists specifically, I should say, because most Middle Eastern people are not terrorists. And I think that’s another thing that America really needs to think about, is our racism, racism that comes from the United States towards Muslim people and towards Arabic people. And that’s something that has to stop, and the United States has to start respecting people from the Middle East in order to find a solution to the problem that’s been building up over many years. So, I thank everyone for your patience and letting me speak my mind on that."