President Obama is expected in Arizona today to lead a memorial service for the victims of Saturday’s shooting attack that left Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded, six dead and 13 others injured. Doctors say they expect Giffords to survive the attack, but the extent of her recovery remains unknown. The chief neurosurgeon at the University Medical Center, Michael Lemole, assessed Giffords’ progress so far.
Dr. Michael Lemole: “She’s going to take her recovery at her own pace, and I’m very encouraged by the fact that she has done so well. This kind of injury — I think we’ve said it a couple times — a penetrating injury through the skull, really, the survival, let alone recovery, is abysmal. She has no right to look this good, and she does. We’re hopeful, but I do want to underscore the seriousness of this injury and the fact that we all have to be extremely patient.”
The parents of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner have issued their first public comments since the attack. A written statement attributed to the Loughner family said: “It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don’t understand why this happened.” Earlier in the day, a neighbor of the Loughners, Wayne Smith, said the family is devastated by the attack.
Wayne Smith: “They’re hurting bad. She’s really bad. We may have to put her in the hospital. People, it’s a sad thing. And he told me to tell you guys that when he [Randy Loughner] gets to where he can, he will give you a statement himself, and he will notify you and let you know where it’s going to be. It won’t be here.”
Reporter: “You were saying that they have lost, as well, here. What…”
Wayne Smith: “Yes, it’s a sad thing. Their son did this, not Amy and Randy, and people need to understand that.”
The memorial service with President Obama is one of a number taking place in Arizona and around the country. The youngest victim was nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, a third-grader recently elected to the student council at her elementary school. The husband of Susan Hileman, a family friend who escorted Christina to the event and was herself wounded in the shooting, said his wife remains in shock.
Bill Hileman: “I hear her in her semi-conscious ramblings screaming out, 'Christina! Christina! Let's get out of here! Let’s get out of here!’ And she keeps talking about the holding of hands and then the realization that she was on the ground and the bleeding was profuse. Her memory seems to end there.”
Haitians have begun two days of commemoration of the massive earthquake that devastated the country one year ago today. Up to a quarter of a million people were killed and more than 1.5 million were made homeless in one of the worst natural disasters in history. On the eve of the anniversary, Haitian President René Préval presided over a ceremony at the Titanyen mass grave for earthquake victims on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince.
Haitian President René Préval: “We must respect the duty of commemorating the dead. It’s a duty we must not forget because it motivates and gives strength to the generations to come, so that they don’t suffer what we suffered.”
Ahead of the anniversary, the British charity Oxfam released a report slamming the reconstruction effort and the recovery commission headed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Oxfam says less than five percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built, and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed.
The White House panel investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has called for a major overhaul of the regulation and oversight of the oil and gas industry in the United States. In its final report, the presidential oil spill commission called for establishing an independent safety agency within the U.S. Department of Interior, tougher fines and regulation, and an industry-run safety organization. Commission co-chair Bob Graham unveiled the report in Washington, D.C.
Bob Graham: “A fundamental finding of our six-months investigation is that the Deepwater Horizon disaster did not have to happen. It was both foreseeable and preventable. That fact alone makes the loss of the 11 lives to serious injury to others on the rig and the enormous damage that the explosion caused even more tragic. We recommend, therefore, that Congress and the [Obama] administration create an independent safety agency within the Department of Interior with enforcement authority to oversee all aspects of offshore drilling safety.”
Commission co-chair Bill Reilly also called on Congress to enact “serious oversight” over the agencies regulating the oil industry. In a statement, the environmental group Greenpeace said, “The oil industry will resist the recommendations of the Commission at its own peril. The Administration will do right by taking swift action … to stop risky offshore oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic and work with Congress to … redouble regulation of existing drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and spill response apparatus nationwide.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is vowing to speed up the release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables as he fights extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes. On Tuesday, Assange spoke out after a London court set his extradition hearing for next month.
Julian Assange: “Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated, and we are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials. Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world, big and small newspapers, and some human rights organizations.”
A draft version of Assange’s defense released by his attorneys warns he should not be extradited to Sweden because he could wind up in the United States facing the death penalty or torture.
Illinois is poised to become the first state to abolish the death penalty since 2009. On Tuesday, the Illinois State Senate approved a ban on capital punishment, following a House vote late last week. Governor Pat Quinn has not yet signaled his full support for the measure, but supporters say they expect him to sign it into law. Executions have been halted in Illinois since a January 2000 moratorium that followed revelations of the innocence at least 20 death row prisoners.
A new Afghan government study shows U.S.-led military operations have caused more than $100 million in damages to homes and fruit crops in southern Kandahar province. Tens of thousands of troops have launched a series of offensives in Kandahar over the past year. In a statement, Afghan presidential adviser Mohammad Sadiq said the so-called “Hope” military operation “has inflicted severe damage to the people.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has paid a surprise visit to Yemen as part of a Middle East tour. On Tuesday, Clinton met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh at the presidential palace.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We face a common threat posed by the terrorists and al-Qaeda, but our partnership goes beyond counterterrorism. We are focused not just on short-term threats, but long-term challenges. Yemen has announced a number of reforms that we in the international community look forward to supporting in the economic, social and political sectors.”
The meeting follows the recent disclosure by WikiLeaks that the U.S. and Saleh’s governments have agreed to cover up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb Yemen. Clinton is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Yemen in two decades.
Anti-torture activists rallied in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to mark the ninth anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The protest was led by 173 people wearing hoods and jumpsuits to represent the 173 men still imprisoned at Guantánamo. After gathering outside the White House, the protesters marched to the U.S. Department of Justice where they held a blockade. Protests were also held in a number of cities including Chicago, where 10 people were arrested outside the Federal Building. The group, Witness Against Torture, organized the actions to kick off an 11-day liquid-only fast by more than 100 members nationwide. Two years ago next week, President Obama signed an executive order promising to close Guantánamo within a year.