Tens of thousands rallied on Washington’s National Mall on Sunday for what organizers dubbed the largest climate rally in U.S. history. The "Forward on Climate" event was held to urge President Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and commit the U.S. to binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases. Indigenous leaders Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation and Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma said the Keystone pipeline endangers their communities.
Chief Jacqueline Thomas: "It puts at risk my neighbors to the east of me that live at the tar sands. The government doesn’t recognize these people, and these people have been dying of mysterious cancers. Their water is polluted. Their animals are sick. And Mother Earth is sick."
Casey Camp: "And we’re here to make a difference. We’re here to be in solidarity with all of us who understand that we have a very slim opportunity to make human life continue to exist. And that’s our choice."
Groups opposing coal production, nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas participated in the protest, as did a number of interfaith organizations. Several smaller parallel rallies were held in cities across the country.
The Obama administration has confirmed reports it’s drafted a backup plan should Congress fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform. According to USA Today, the Obama proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain legal permanent residency status within eight years while continuing massive spending on border militarization.
President Obama returned to his hometown of Chicago on Friday as part of a post-State of the Union tour. Obama announced the visit in the aftermath of the killing of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teen shot dead just days after performing at Obama’s second-term inauguration. In his remarks, Obama said the rate of shooting deaths for young people in Chicago is equivalent to a Newtown massacre occurring every four months.
President Obama: "There was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of six-year-olds being killed. But last year, there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months. And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some commonsense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun."
Four separate shootings were reported in Chicago in the 90 minutes after Obama’s speech. Just hours later, the sister of a teenager who had sat behind Obama on stage as he appealed for gun control was shot dead. The victim, Janay McFarlane, was 18 years old. She was the mother of a three-month-old boy.
Sectarian discord is growing in Pakistan in the aftermath of a massive bombing. At least 85 people were killed in the city of Quetta on Saturday in an attack carried out by the extremist Sunni group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Pakistani Shiite groups have threatened to march on the capital Islamabad unless the Pakistani government deploys the military to Quetta and other Shiite areas.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the Afghan military to stop requesting air strikes from the U.S.-led NATO occupation force on residential areas. Karzai unveiled the ban just days after a U.S. air strike killed 10 civilians, including four children, in Kunar province.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai: "In the district of Kunar, foreigners and our Afghan national directorate of security forces carried out an operation and bombarded a village. They killed 14 people, including women, men and children. Tomorrow, I will issue a decree stating that under no conditions can Afghan forces request foreign air strikes on Afghan homes or Afghan villages during operations."
Iraq continues to face a wave of sectarian violence. On Sunday, at least 37 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in a series of car bombings in the capital Baghdad. The blasts targeted mostly Shiite areas. More than 100 people have been killed in Iraq this month after close to 200 died in January.
Protests continued in Bahrain over the weekend after activists marked the second anniversary of their uprising against the U.S.-backed monarchy. On Saturday, police fired tear gas at stone-throwing youths following the funeral for a 16-year-old demonstrator reportedly shot by authorities at close range. On Sunday, the Bahraini regime claimed it had arrested eight people belonging to a militant cell with ties to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.
Protests erupted across the occupied West Bank on Friday in support of hunger-striking Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Dozens of protesters were treated for tear-gas inhalation and injuries from rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli troops. The prisoners include Samer Issawi, who was initially released under the 2011 deal that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit only to be re-arrested and returned to an Israeli prison last year. His family says he’s been on hunger strike for more than 200 days, drinking only water.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has easily won re-election to a third term in office. Correa took Sunday’s election with 57 percent of the vote, more than doubling the tally of his challenger. In his victory speech, Correa said his re-election marks a new step in Latin America’s growing independence from foreign control.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: "The banking class cannot run things here anymore, nor party politics, nor the media, nor factions serving interest groups. The International Monetary Fund does not run things here, nor the international bureaucracies. Hegemonic countries do not run things here anymore. Despite whatever errors we could commit, you can rest assured that this revolution will be led by you, Ecuadorean men and women."
Correa’s international notoriety has increased in the past year after he granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has returned to Venezuela after a two-month stay in Cuba to receive cancer treatment. Chávez was forced to delay his inauguration last month in order to continue his recovery. In a Twitter message earlier today, Chávez said he will continue his treatment back at home.
Thousands of people marched in the Maldives on Friday in support of the ousted former former president Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed took refuge in the Indian embassy last week to evade arrest on a warrant. He is facing charges of illegally ordering the arrest of a judge appointed by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years before Nasheed became its first democratically elected president in 2008. Nasheed was ousted last year year in what he has described as a coup at gunpoint by Gayoom’s supporters. Nasheed is well known internationally for his activism around the issue of global warming, which he says threatens the survival of his small island country.
Officials in Washington state have confirmed a radioactive leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. A single tank is losing up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste, sparking concerns about the facility’s other tanks. Hanford currently houses more than 53 million gallons of radioactive waste.
Former Democratic Congressmember Jesse Jackson Jr. has agreed to plead guilty to spending more than $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. A federal indictment shows Jackson steered donations toward purchases including music memorabilia and items for his home. Jackson resigned last year after a several-month leave to seek treatment for bipolar disorder. In a statement, Jackson said, "While my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right." He faces up to five years in jail and fines of $250,000.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is reportedly being investigated for allegedly having sex with prostitutes while staying at the home of a top donor in the Dominican Republic. Menendez has denied the allegations, and no evidence has emerged to back them up. He is already facing a Senate Ethics Committee probe over his ties to the donor in question.
New York City bus drivers have ended a month-long strike after failing to win concessions from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. More than 8,000 school bus drivers and matrons have been off the job since mid-January seeking guarantees over job security and the outsourcing of their contracts. New York City has put its deals with the private bus companies that hire the drivers up for bidding, a move the drivers say could threaten their jobs at the end of the school year. The bus drivers’ union says they’ve given up trying to secure a deal with Bloomberg and will try again with his eventual successor.