Egypt Protests Grow over Trial Verdicts, Elections
Protests continue to grow across Egypt over the exoneration of top regime officials for killings during the uprising as well as the involvement of a top regime official in the ongoing presidential elections. On Tuesday, tens of thousands flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other cities in the largest show of outrage to date following the sentencing of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other former regime officials on Saturday. Mubarak and his former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, were given life in prison for failing to stop the killing of unarmed demonstrators during the protests that ended Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule. However, the court dismissed corruption charges against Mubarak and his sons, Alaa and Gamal, on technical grounds. The court also acquitted six former police chiefs for their roles during the uprising when 840 protesters were killed and more than 6,000 injured. No one was found guilty of actually ordering the killing of protesters. Protesters are also calling for the reinstatement of a measure that banned the involvement of Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, in Egypt’s presidential elections. Shafik won nearly a quarter of the vote in last month’s elections and is headed for a runoff with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. In other news from Egypt, the ruling military council has given lawmakers a 48-hour deadline to form an assembly to write a new constitution or face having a charter imposed.
Walker Prevails in Wisconsin Recall Vote
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has survived a historic recall election more than a year after launching a controversial campaign against the state’s public workers. After raking in millions of dollars in outside campaign contributions, Walker beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 53 to 46 percent. High voter turnout was reported across the state. Walker becomes the first governor in the country to survive a recall election. Walker declared victory on Tuesday night after Barrett conceded the race.
Gov. Scott Walker: "Tonight—tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions."
Mayor Tom Barrett: "And what we have seen over the last 16 months is we have seen this democracy come alive. To those of you—to those of you who fought, who obtained signatures, who stood out in the cold, who did what you thought was right: never, ever stop doing what you think is right."
NATO Strike Kills Reported 17 Civilians in Afghanistan
Seventeen civilians have reportedly killed in an air strike by U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. A local official in Logar province said the bombing killed a tribal elder and 16 family members, including women and children, inside their home. Six Taliban fighters were also reportedly killed. NATO is denying knowledge of the deaths and says only that two civilians were lightly injured. If confirmed, the bombing would mark the deadliest known attack on Afghan civilians by NATO forces in many weeks. In other news from Afghanistan, at least 22 civilians have been killed in a twin suicide bombing near a NATO base in Kandahar.
U.S. Claims Killing of Top Al-Qaeda Leader in Pakistan
The Obama administration says a U.S. drone strike that killed at least 15 people in Pakistan on Monday claimed the life of al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called Libi’s death a major defeat for al-Qaeda.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: "This would be a major blow, we believe. Al-Libi’s death is a major blow to core al-Qaeda, removing the number two leader for the second time in less than a year and further damaging the group’s morale and cohesion and bringing it closer to its ultimate demise than ever before."
Despite U.S. claims, militant leaders in Pakistan say al-Libi escaped the attack, with his bodyguard and driver among those killed. It’s unknown if any civilians died in the strike.
Senate GOP Blocks Wage Equality Bill
Senate Republicans have blocked the advance of a bill aimed at narrowing the wage gap between men and women. The Paycheck Fairness Act received 52 votes in favor of proceeding to final consideration, eight votes short of the 60 required. All Senate Republicans voted against it. Among other protections, the bill would have barred employers from retaliating against workers who disclose their own pay information to colleagues and increased the ability of workers to pursue damages for pay discrimination. On average, women who work full-time in the United States make 77 cents for every one dollar men earn for equivalent work.
Appeals Court Won't Reconsider Prop 8 Rejection
A federal appeals court has declined to hear a challenge to a decision that declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. California outlawed same-sex marriage in 2008 when voters passed the ban known as Proposition 8. A three-judge panel struck down the ban in a 2-to-1 decision earlier this year, ruling that Proposition 8 "serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California." Tuesday’s decision to refuse hearing an appeal clears the way for the case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Syrian Gov't Allows Aid Workers, Expels 17 Foreign Diplomats
The Syrian government has reached a deal to allow humanitarian workers into the country while at the same time announcing the expulsion of foreign diplomats. An agreement brokered Tuesday would mark the first authorized entry of international aid groups into Syria aside from the Red Cross. U.N. official John Ging said the deal marked an important first step.
John Ging: "Today marked a step of progress, in that there is now agreement with the Syrian government on the scale, scope and modality for humanitarian response in Syria moving forward. So the discussions have come to a point of conclusion on the need for scaling up and how we will do that. Whether this is a breakthrough or not will be evident in the coming days and weeks, and it will be measured not in rhetoric, not in agreements, but in action on the ground."
The announcement on aid workers came as the regime of Bashar al-Assad announced 17 foreign diplomats are no longer welcome inside Syria. Ambassadors from the United States, U.K., France and Turkey, as well as embassy staffers from a number of other countries, have been ordered to leave immediately. The move came days after the United States and 12 other countries expelled Syrian diplomats following the massacre of civilians in Houla.
Palestinians Mark 45th Anniversary of 1967 War
Palestinians rallied across the Occupied Territories on Tuesday to mark the 45th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1967 war, when Israel seized Arab lands, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Scuffles erupted near the Israeli military camp of Ofer, when Israeli troops fired tear gas to disperse Palestinian demonstrators waving flags and throwing stones.
Israeli Forces Detain Head of Palestinian Children's Theater
In news from the Occupied Territories, the artistic director of an acclaimed theater company for Palestinian children has been seized in an Israeli military raid. Nabil Al-Raee of the Jenin Freedom Theatre was taken from his home in the early morning hours and taken to an undisclosed Israeli army base. The Jenin Freedom Theatre was founded to help Palestinian children express themselves through the arts. The theater’s founder, Juliano Mer-Khamis, was shot to death last year.
IAEA: Iran May Have Cleaned Up Nuclear Site
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has publicly accused Iran for the first time of seeking to hide evidence of a 2003 nuclear weapons test. IAEA Director Yukiya Amano says Iran may have tried to clean up the Parchin military complex ahead of a potential visit by international monitors. The U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Robert Wood, called for immediate inspections.
Robert Wood: "It’s clear from some of the images that were presented to us that further sanitization efforts are ongoing at the site. There were a number of countries in that meeting that asked very serious questions reflecting the concern that the broader international community has about Parchin. And I think, as I mentioned to some of you last time, what we all believe needs to happen is for Iran to open up that Parchin facility to the IAEA and to do it now."
Report: U.S. Blocked Key Iran Nuclear Offer
New details have emerged on the U.S. rejection of a 2005 Iranian offer to resolve the nuclear standoff. The journalist Gareth Porter reports the Bush administration blocked France and Germany from negotiating with Iran over Tehran’s willingness to convert enriched uranium to fuel rods. A former top Iranian negotiator says European negotiators told him "they were ready to compromise, but that the United States was the obstacle."
U.S. Muslims File Suit over NYPD Spying
American Muslims in New Jersey say they are suing the New York City Police Department for its widespread surveillance of Muslim Americans. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for its series revealing the NYPD has extensively spied on Muslims, targeting mosques, businesses and student groups throughout the Northeast. The lawsuit is led by the national advocacy group, Muslim Advocates.
Occupy Activist on Hunger Strike to Pressure Trinity Church on Charges
An Occupy Wall Street protester says he has gone on hunger strike and has stopped taking his AIDS medications to protest trespassing charges against activists who were arrested at New York’s Trinity Church on December 17. Jack Boyle, who is 57, has been on hunger strike and without medication for roughly two weeks. Protesters have asked the church, one of the city’s largest landowners, to "forgive us our trespasses," a reference to a phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. The arrests occurred when protesters scaled a fence onto church-owned property after Trinity refused to give them sanctuary following their eviction from Zuccotti Park. Many of those arrested are due in court next week.