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Iran has agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in a nuclear fuel swap deal that could ease the international standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear program. In exchange, Iran would receive low-level nuclear fuel to run a medical reactor. The deal was reached earlier today by the foreign ministers from Iran, Turkey and Brazil. Iran said the swap would be under the supervision of the UN nuclear agency. The Los Angeles Times said the deal could be a stunning breakthrough in the years-long diplomatic deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program. The deal comes at a time when the United States and other world powers were pushing for a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
In Thailand at least thirty-five people died over the weekend after the Thai military attempted to crush protests organized by the anti-government Red Shirts. The Thai military is threatening to make a final push this week to end the street protests that have paralyzed Bangkok for two months. Today and tomorrow have been declared “holidays” in an effort to keep Bangkok residents at home and off the streets. On Sunday the Thai government rejected a call by the Red Shirts for a ceasefire and UN-moderated talks.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, Thai government spokesperson: “We reject their demands for UN mediation or for them to do to any activities in Thailand. No Thailand government has ever let anyone intervene with our internal affairs. We can solve our problems ourselves, but we are willing to listen.”
Since last week, the Thai military has been firing live ammunition at the anti-government protesters. CNN aired footage of Thai soldiers shooting at Canadian journalist Nelson Rand, who was working for France 24 news channel. The journalist, Nelson Rand, was hit by three bullets. Doctors said he was gravely wounded. Meanwhile, the rogue Thai general who was shot by a sniper last week has died from his wounds. The general, Seh Daeng, was a leader of the Red Shirts.
The oil giant BP says it has had some success at containing oil that is gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico. BP says it has succeeded in inserting a tube into the leaking well and siphoning some of the oil to a drilling rig at the surface. But a substantial amount of oil continues to leak at the bottom of the Gulf, and BP has been unable to close the well. Up to 70,000 barrels of oil have been leaking into the Gulf every day since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20.
BP executive Kent Wells talked to reporters in Houston.
Kent Wells, BP executive: “What we’ve done is the oil and gas have been leaking out through the end of the riser. And what we’ve done is submit a tool in the end of the riser to start to extract some of that flow and bring it directly to the drill ship so it never enters into the Gulf of Mexico.”
More evidence has emerged indicating the size of the oil spill is far larger than BP and the government has publicly acknowledged. Marine scientists say they have found enormous plumes of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Times reports one of the oil plumes is ten miles long, three miles wide, and 300 feet thick in spots. Scientists worry the plumes could cause oxygen levels in the Gulf to eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.
On Friday, President Obama lashed out at executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton for blaming each other for the oil rig disaster. Executives from the three companies testified before Congress last week.
President Obama: “I know BP has committed to pay for the response effort, and we will hold them to their obligation. I have to say, though, I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn’t. I understand that there are legal and financial issues involved, and a full investigation will tell us exactly what happened. But it is pretty clear that the system failed, and it failed badly. And for that, there is enough responsibility to go around.”
The Israeli government has blocked MIT professor Noam Chomsky from entering the West Bank. Chomsky, who is Jewish, was scheduled to speak in the West Bank at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah and meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Chomsky was denied entry after being questioned for three hours. Chomsky has been a longtime critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. On Sunday, Noam Chomsky spoke to Al Jazeera about why he had been refused entry.
Noam Chomsky: “There were two basic points. One was that the government of Israel does not like the kinds of things I say, which puts them into the category of, I suppose, every other government in the world. The second was that they seemed upset about the fact that I was just going to — I was taking an invitation from Bir Zeit, and I had no plans to go on to speak in Israeli universities, as I have done many times in the past.”
The New York Times reports the Pentagon is continuing to rely on a secret network of private spies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to produce intelligence that is used to track and kill suspected militants. The existence of the private spy network was revealed earlier this year, but at the time the Pentagon portrayed it as a rogue operation. The Times reports the spy network is still running and has become an important source of intelligence for military commanders.
In Detroit, a candlelight vigil was held last night following the death of a seven-year-old girl who was shot by police in her own home. The girl, Aiyana Jones, was sleeping when police raided her family’s home just after midnight on Sunday. Detroit police said an officer’s gun accidentally went off after the officer tussled with Aiyana’s grandmother. A bullet from the gun pierced Aiyana’s head and neck. The police raid began when police threw an incendiary device known as a flash-bang grenade through a front window of the home. The device reportedly burned the seven-year-old girl, who was sleeping on the couch. Police conducted the no-knock raid even despite warnings that children lived in the home. Police had been seeking a thirty-four-year-old murder suspect. Police say they got their man but have not said if he was arrested in the raid on the downstairs or upstairs apartment.
In news from Europe, the euro has hit a four-year low on fears that Europe’s fiscal situation might worsen. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has said he is considering taking legal action against US investment banks for their role in creating the spiraling Greek debt crisis.
In Somalia, at least twenty people died Sunday after rebels fired mortars near the Somali parliament meeting in Mogadishu. The attack came as lawmakers were meeting in the parliament complex for the first time since it was renovated.
In Spain, a top judge has been suspended on allegations of overreaching his authority in a probe of human rights abuses during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. Baltasar Garzón has been accused of opening an investigation without proper jurisdiction. Garzón’s investigation was probing the disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of Gen. Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Garzón is known worldwide for taking on international human rights cases. His actions include ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, indicting Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, and probing the abuse of US prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. On Friday, supporters of Garzón rallied in Madrid.
Rosa, supporter of Judge Garzón: “You can say that today, it’s the 17th of July, 1936, and a group of fascists have taken control of the state through the Spanish judges’ governing body.”
The International Crisis Group is calling for an international probe of the Sri Lankan military’s mass slaughter of Tamil civilians last year. A new report by the organization concludes that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians died in the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, most as a result of shelling from the Sri Lankan military. The report found evidence that the Sri Lankan military repeatedly shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations. The International Crisis Group also accused the rebel Tamil Tigers of violating international humanitarian law, but on a smaller scale.
The Episcopal Church has ordained its first lesbian bishop in a move expected to further divide the international Anglican church. The newly consecrated bishop, Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, said she wanted to have a dialogue with those critical of her.
Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool: “I would invite them to meet with me, if they’re willing. I am a reconciling person, and I will seek to reach out and engage with people who believe or think differently than I do and try to build a relationship with them.”
Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation of Massey Energy, the owner of the West Virginia mine where twenty-nine workers died last month. The Upper Big Branch Mine was operated by Massey subsidiary Performance Coal.
Rima Fakih of Dearborn, Michigan has won the Miss USA 2010 pageant. She is believed to be the first Arab American and Muslim to become Miss USA. Fakih was born in Lebanon and raised in the United States. She told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths.