Scott McClellan has resigned as White House Press Secretary. With President Bush at his side, McClellan made the announcement Wednesday on the White House South Lawn: “I’m here to announce that I will be resigning as White House press secretary. Mr. President, it has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to have served you for more than seven years now, the last two years and nine months as your press secretary. The White House is going through a period of transition. Change can be helpful. And this is a good time and good position to help bring about change.” Time Magazine is reporting McClellan did not want to step down but felt internal signals indicated the White House wanted him replaced.
The Bush administration also announced Wednesday deputy chief of staff for policy Karl Rove will reduce some of his duties in order to focus on the November mid-term elections. Joel Kaplan, who played a role in the efforts to stop the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential elections, has been promoted in Rove’s place.
In Nepal today, police opened fire on thousands of pro-democracy protesters as they marched towards the capital of Katmandu. At least three people were killed and more than 40 injured. The protesters turned out in the face of government warnings that anyone caught violating a curfew would be “shot on sight.” The shootings come just one day after Nepal’s worst day of government repression since pro-democracy protests broke out two weeks ago. On Wednesday, four people were killed and dozens more injured when police shot at another demonstration in an eastern town. Police reportedly directed the protesters towards a stadium before they opened fire.
Meanwhile, three leading human rights groups are calling for targeted sanctions against the Nepalese government. On Wednesday, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists issued a joint statement saying King Gyanendra and his senior officials should be refused entry to foreign countries and have their assets frozen. Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “The human cost of the conflict in Nepal has been catastrophic: people have been killed or 'disappeared,' women attacked and raped, children abducted to fight as soldiers and critics of the regime have been locked up… The international community must now apply pressure through targeted sanctions that will have a direct impact on the king and his cohorts.”
In Italy, the Supreme Court has confirmed the victory of Romano Prodi over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in last week’s national elections. Prodi addressed reporters shortly after the ruling was announced: “Finally the election process has been concluded. Italians have no further doubts about our victory. Now we are working for a strong government, a government with the capacity to confront and resolve the great problems of Italian society.” Despite the ruling, Silvio Berlusconi is still refusing to concede defeat. On Wednesday, two key Berlusconi advisers said his campaign is considering further legal challenges. Prodi’s new government is set to assume power in mid-May.
In Afghanistan, police and local residents say US troops shot and injured six Afghan civilians who were traveling in separate cars Tuesday. The victims included a newborn baby girl and a five-year old boy. The baby’s grandmother spoke after the attack: “After the baby was born in hospital we were heading to our home, on our way home we heard gunfire, I saw we are being targeted. Everyone in the car was hurt. The baby received head injuries. I don’t know what we did, why they attacked innocent people.”
In Bangladesh, at least 60 protesters were injured Wednesday when police fired at them with rubber bullets and tear gas. The protesters were targeted as they embarked on an anti-government protest that drew thousands of people.
Back in the United States, the Pentagon has released its most comprehensive list yet of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since it opened four years ago. The list shows the names of 558 men from 41 countries. Most came from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan. The list was not complete, with the omission of close to 200 current and former detainees.
Meanwhile, a new report from Amnesty International shows the US ranks only behind China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in carrying out state executions. 94 percent of an estimated 2100 executions worldwide took place in those four countries alone. In China, Amnesty says at least 1700 executions took place last year, but that the actual number could reach as high as 8,000.
The internet giant Yahoo is once again being accused of aiding a Chinese government’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists. According to Reporters Without Borders, the government used evidence taken from a Yahoo e-mail account to convict activist Jiang Lijun three years ago. The group says although Lijun could have been turned in by a fellow activist, it was highly likely the information came from Yahoo. This is the third instance where Yahoo has been accused of aiding in the conviction of a Chinese pro-democracy activist. The news comes as Chinese President Hu Jintao is in Washington for a meeting today with President Bush.
And finally, the Village Voice has lost another member of its staff with the firing of music editor Chuck Eddy. The Voice has now lost 17 employees since it was purchased by New Times Media in November.