Cyprus Banks Reopen with Tight Restrictions
Banks in Cyprus are reopening today after being shut for nearly two weeks with new controls now in place to prevent people from emptying their bank accounts. Cash withdrawals are limited to 300 euros, or $384, per person each day with limits also imposed on how much can be carried abroad. The electronic transfer of funds out of Cyprus is banned. Officials still fear mass withdrawals after it was announced major swaths of larger-size deposits would be used to pay off banking debts under a $13 billion international bailout. Mass protests against the bailout continued Wednesday as thousands took to the streets in the capital Nicosia.
Mathew Elefteriou: "I think we should leave the troika and do this on our own, because they forced us to take these austerity measures, and the people has done, in my opinion, nothing wrong. The banks, the banks should pay, not the people."
Supreme Court Justices Appear Skeptical of Defense of Marriage Act
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. During the proceedings, a majority of the justices seemed ready to consider striking down the law. The case before the court involves Edie Windsor, a woman who had to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009, because the federal government did not recognize their legal marriage. Edie Windsor spoke outside the court on Wednesday.
Edie Windsor: "Today is like a spectacular event for me. I mean, it’s a lifetime kind of event. And I know that the spirit of my late spouse, Thea Spyer, OK, is right here watching and listening and would be very proud and happy of where we’ve come to. Thank you all."
Thousands Protest School Closings in Chicago
Thousands of teachers, school workers, parents and students joined a mass protest led by the Chicago Teachers Union Wednesday against the city’s plan to close 54 schools, most of them in African-American neighborhoods. About 150 people sat down in the road outside Chicago City Hall and locked their arms together, prepared to risk arrest. Roughly 130 people were detained by police. Teacher Phil Cantor was one of them.
Phil Cantor: "CPS has been closing schools for about 12 years now. Closing schools to save them is not a way to improve schools. Now they’re closing 54 or more in one year. It’s outrageous. It’s not going to help our students. It’s not going to help our schools. It’s going to destroy neighbors. We’re doing civil disobedience because we have to stand up. We cannot just keep letting these things happen without reacting."
Some 30,000 students will be impacted by the closings. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, has defended the closings, saying he does not want students trapped in failing schools.
U.S. Flies Nuclear-Capable Bombers over South Korea
In a move that could further inflame tensions with North Korea, the United States has confirmed it flew stealth bombers capable of deploying nuclear weapons over South Korea Thursday. It is the first time the United States has confirmed flying B-2 bombers over the Korean Peninsula. North Korea, provoked by international sanctions and joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, had already severed military contact with South Korea and said conditions have reached "simmering nuclear war."
Turkish Police Fire Tear Gas at Syrian Protesters in Refugee Camp
In Turkey, riot police used a water cannon and tear gas against Syrian refugees who threw rocks as they protested against poor conditions at a camp near the border. The Suleiman Shah site is one of the largest in Turkey, housing roughly 35,000 people. Wednesday’s violence highlights a growing regional crisis as Turkey, Jordan and other countries struggle to accommodate more than one million people who have fled the two-year conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels.
Report: Official Promoted to Top CIA Post Linked to Black Sites, Destruction of Torture Tapes
A Washington Post investigation has revealed a woman recently promoted to head a top CIA division played a key role in the agency’s discredited detention and interrogation program after 9/11 and signed off on a decision to destroy videotapes of torture. The woman, who was not named because she is undercover, served as chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s former head of clandestine operations. In 2005, she and Rodriguez signed an order to destroy tapes of interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand where two prisoners had been waterboarded. According to the Los Angeles Times, she also ran a “black site” prison overseas. The official is mentioned in a Senate Intelligence Committee report that accuses top officers of misleading Congress about the effectiveness of the interrogations. She became acting head of clandestine services at the end of last month. One of the first decisions faced by new CIA Director John Brennan is whether to keep her in the post.
Priest Denies Role of Pope Francis in His Imprisonment During Military Junta
A priest who was imprisoned for five months during Argentina’s military dictatorship has issued a statement clearing Jorge Manuel Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — of playing a role in his arrest. Francisco Jalics was addressing reports Bergoglio had passed along information about him and another Jesuit priest that led to their detention and torture. He said, "I myself was once inclined to believe that we were the victims of a denunciation." But he said, "At the end of the ’90s, after numerous conversations, it became clear to me that this suspicion was unfounded. It is therefore wrong to assert that our capture took place at the initiative of Father Bergoglio." Jalics’ statement appears to contradict what he originally told Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky. Verbitsky appeared recently on Democracy Now! and said Jalics confirmed a report by the second priest, Orlando Yorio, who is now dead, that Bergoglio was involved in their imprisonment.
Horacio Verbitsky: "I talked with him, and he confirmed the story, but he didn’t want to be mentioned in my piece, because he told me that he preferred to not remember this sad part of his life and to pardon. And he was for oblivion and pardon. That he was, during a lot of years, very resented against Bergoglio, but that he had decided to forgot and forget."
Outcry Grows over "Monsanto Protection Act" Weakening Regulation of GMO Crops
In the United States, outrage is spreading over a rider dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act" that was attached to a spending bill signed by President Obama last week. Critics say the quietly passed provision weakens regulation of genetically modified foods and undermines the ability of federal courts to block potentially dangerous crops from reaching consumers. Because it was attached to the bill averting a government shutdown, members of Congress may not have realized they were voting for it. On Wednesday, food activists protested the rider in front of the White House. More than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition against it.
Wal-Mart Sues Groups over Protests at Stores
Wal-Mart appears to be retaliating against groups that have organized historic protests against its labor practices. The retailer filed a lawsuit against the United Food and Commercial Workers union and its affiliated group, OUR Walmart, in a Florida court. The suit accuses the groups of trespassing on Wal-Mart property 73 times in 13 states over the past year. Wal-Mart workers are not unionized, but the UFCW has demonstrated in support of employees’ calls for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Arkansas Senate Overrides Veto of Voter ID Bill
State senators in Arkansas have voted to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill requiring voters to show photo ID before casting a ballot. The state House is expected to follow suit. Despite numerous legal challenges that have blocked or weakened prior voter ID laws, 19 states have reportedly introduced proposals this year to enact new voter ID requirements or strengthen existing ones. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a strict photo ID bill into law earlier this week.
Brazil Forcibly Evicts Indigenous Group to Prepare for World Cup
Brazil is continuing to face controversy over its upcoming hosting of two world athletic events. A stadium in Rio de Janeiro set to host part of the 2016 Olympics has been closed indefinitely because of problems with its roof. The news comes days after Brazilian riot police forcibly evicted an indigenous community from a former museum next to another stadium that will host the next World Cup. A group of indigenous Brazilians had been living in the building next to Maracaña stadium for more than six years and said they wanted to use it to showcase their culture. Instead, police armed with batons, tear gas and pepper spray raided the building so it can be destroyed.
Anti-Keystone XL Protester Climbs Flagpole to Denounce Tar Sands Oil
Protesters are continuing to ramp up their resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas, as they await word from President Obama on whether he will approve it. In Houston, Texas, Wednesday, a protester climbed a 50-foot flagpole and hung a banner denouncing a firm that processes tar sands oil. LyondellBasell is reportedly planning an upgrade that will allow it to process nearly a quarter of the pipeline’s capacity. The group Tar Sands Blockade accused the company of "environmental racism" for polluting a largely Latino area. On Wednesday, the street in front of the firm’s office was blocked off as firefighters used a ladder to remove protester Perry Graham from the flagpole. Before his ascension, Graham said his act was connected to a wave of actions against the Keystone XL last week.
Perry Graham: "By taking action today, I hope to call people to action. We just had a week of action where we saw over 55 actions across the country and over 60 people get arrested, sending a clear message to anyone who hopes to invest in tar sands that resistance will only continue if they do try to profit off other people’s suffering."
Adbusters Calls for Actions to Shut Down Goldman Sachs Offices
The magazine Adbusters has launched a new campaign targeting financial firm Goldman Sachs. Calling Goldman "the most powerful and unrepentant of the financial fraudsters," Adbusters has called for actions to shut down all of the firm’s 73 global offices. Adbusters has been credited with helping to spark the Occupy Wall Street movement that ignited the country in 2011. It’s calling for protesters to use the Twitter hashtag #GOLDMAN.
Study: Every 3 out of 4 People Found with Drugs by Border Patrol Are U.S. Citizens
A new analysis has revealed the prominent role U.S. citizens play in drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Center for Investigative Reporting says three out of four people caught with drugs by U.S. Border Patrol agents are U.S. citizens. Four out of five drug busts — or 80 percent — involved a U.S. citizen. The number of U.S. citizens caught by border agents tripled from 2005 to 2011, a shift some have attributed to unemployment in the United States.
Nelson Mandela Hospitalized with Lung Infection
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized for a recurrent lung infection. The anti-apartheid leader is 94 years old and has suffered a series of recent health problems.