A federal grand jury has indicted alleged Arizona gunman Jared Loughner over the attack that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was charged for the attempted murder of Giffords and two of her staffers. Prosecutors say he will face additional charges in the coming weeks, including murder. The indictment comes amidst the disclosure the Tucson shooting was captured entirely on a security camera. Unreleased footage reportedly shows Loughner shooting Giffords and several others at close range. It also shows federal judge John Roll was killed after stepping in front of one of Giffords’ staffers when the shooting began. The staffer survived the attack.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in serious condition at a Tucson hospital. In the latest milestone of her recovery, Giffords was able to stand on her feet Wednesday with the aid of medical staff. Her office says she could be transferred to a Houston rehabilitation facility specializing in brain injuries as early as Friday. Giffords’ husband Captain Mark Kelly, meanwhile, has revealed she had long worried of being targeted at one of her public events. Kelly discussed Giffords’ fear in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
Diane Sawyer: “Had you been worried for her safety?”
Mark Kelly: “Absolutely. Yes. And she was, too.”
Diane Sawyer: “Had there been death threats?”
Mark Kelly: “Yeah, she’s had death threats, as a lot of members of Congress have death threats. She’s had them before. You know, she says, you know, 'Someday, I'm really worried that somebody’s going to come up to me at one of these events with a gun.’”
Diane Sawyer: “She said that?”
Mark Kelly: “Oh, yeah. I mean, she said it — I mean, we’ve talked about it probably, you know, 10 times.”
The Obama administration is reportedly preparing to renew the military tribunal system it halted at the military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to the New York Times, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will sign an order authorizing new military commissions against Guantánamo prisoners. Gates froze all new cases on President Obama’s first day in office in January 2009. The Times calls the move a signal Guantánamo remains “open for business” two years after Obama vowed to shut it down. The tribunals’ resumption follows last month’s House vote to prevent the transfer of Guantánamo Bay prisoners for trial in U.S. courts.
On Capitol Hill, the Republican-controlled House has voted to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare law by a margin of 245 to 189. Three Democrats joined with the Republican majority. The vote is largely symbolic, however, with Democrats vowing to block the measure in the Senate where they retain control. House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans are carrying out their elected mandate.
House Speaker John Boehner: “Repeal means keeping a promise. This is what we said we would do. We listened to the people. We made a commitment to them, a pledge to make their priorities our priorities. And when you look at the facts and when you listen to the people, this is a promise worth keeping. Let’s stop payment on this check before it can destroy more jobs and put us into a deeper hole.”
Opposing repeal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invoked the memory of the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “Just under a — just less than a year ago on this floor, I quoted the late Senator Kennedy, many of us did, our inspiration in all this, calling healthcare reform the greatest — the great unfinished business of our society. By completing that great unfinished business of our society, now patients and their doctors are in charge of their health, not insurance companies.”
Protests continue outside the White House amidst the state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao. On Wednesday, demonstrators called on Obama to press Hu on China’s treatment of Tibetans and Uyghurs.
Tenzin Dorjee of Students for a Free Tibet: “We hope that President Obama can actually earn the Nobel Prize that he won two years ago and convince Chinese President Hu Jintao to release all the political prisoners in Tibet and in China.”
Omar Kanat of the Uyghur American Association: “We are here to protest all these crimes that he committed against the Uyghur people, and we are here to ask the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to raise the Uyghur human rights issue in their meetings with the Chinese president and ask him and urge him to stop all the brutalities which is being carried out against the Uyghur people.”
New figures show a major increase in suicides among members of the U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve. According to the military, suicides by reserve and National Guard soldiers almost doubled to 145, from 80 deaths the year before. For active-duty troops, the number to take their own lives fell slightly to 156 from 162 in 2009.
In military news, seven retired admirals and generals have resigned from advisory roles with the Pentagon rather than comply with new rules on reporting outside income to avoid a conflict of interest. The former officers were among a group of 158 Pentagon officials identified in an investigation by the newspaper USA Today. Eighty percent of the so-called “mentors” were found to have ties to military contractors that they previously were not required to publicly disclose. A Boston Globe study early this month found that 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives from 2004 to 2008.
At least 15 people were killed Wednesday in separate suicide bombings in Iraq’s Diyala province. In the deadliest attack, 13 people died and more than 70 were wounded when an explosives-laden ambulance slammed into a police training center in the provincial capital. The attacks brought to four the number of suicide attacks to hit Iraq in three days.
In Haiti, four alleged victims have filed human rights complaints against former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. Known as “Baby Doc,” Duvalier returned to Haiti this past weekend 25 years after a popular uprising forced him into exile. The complaints accuse “Baby Doc” of overseeing crimes against humanity by Haitian forces, including torture.
They come one day after the Haitian government filed charges against Duvalier — but only on allegations of corruption and graft. Michèle Montas, who went on to become a top United Nations official after her imprisonment under Duvalier, was among those to file a complaint.
Michèle Montas: “I think it’s a matter — there are books that have been written about Fort Dimanche, which was that notorious torture place and place where so many people were killed. And even though some of the political prisoners were freed in 1976, some of them arrested in 1976, all this was during the reign of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Yes, there is enough evidence. Yes, there is ground to not only judge Mr. Duvalier on economic crimes, on the fact that, you know, so much came out of the public treasury and was taken into foreign bank accounts, but there is also plenty of ground on human rights accounts.”
Human rights groups have echoed calls to prosecute Duvalier for crimes including state-sponsored killings and torture. In a bizarre twist to the case, Duvalier’s own attorney, Reynold Georges, admitted to being victimized under Duvalier, but said Haiti should “look forward.”
Reynold Georges: “I was arrested under Jean-Claude Duvalier, too. And I was a candidate for congress. I was elected. They didn’t want me to get access to parliament. But I can’t hold that against him. Why? We have to look forward. Now, I am his lawyer.”
Georges has also revealed Duvalier still hopes to return to office. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Georges said, “He is a political man. Every political man has political ambitions.”
On the heels of Duvalier’s re-emergence in Haiti, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has renewed his pleas for the Haitian government to authorize his return. Aristide has lived in forcible exile in South Africa since 2004 when he was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup. In a statement, Aristide said he hopes to return home “today, tomorrow and at any time.” The Haitian government has refused to issue him a new passport under reported pressure from the United States and France. Speaking to the New York Times, an analyst described as being “close to the Haitian government” said, “Aristide could have 15 passports and he’s still not going to come back to Haiti. France and the United States are standing in the way.”
Ivory Coast’s political crisis continues to intensify. On Wednesday, Kenyan Prime Minister and African Union mediator Raila Odinga abandoned talks with incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, saying negotiations are at an impasse. Gbago, meanwhile, has rejected Odinga as a mediator. Gbagbo has refused to step down despite losing a run-off election to Alassane Ouattara in November. The United Nations Security Council meanwhile has voted to deploy an additional 2,000 troops to the Ivory Coast. Earlier this week, forces loyal to Gbagbo allegedly opened fire on U.N. staffers near the capital of Abidjan.
Three death row prisoners at the supermax Ohio State Penitentiary have ended a liquid-only hunger strike after prison officials agreed to nearly all their demands. The prisoners — Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur and Jason Robb — launched the action on January 3 to protest what they call their harsh mistreatment under solitary confinement. For more than 17 years, they have been held in 23-hours-a-day solitary lockdown for their involvement in the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio. In response to the hunger strike, the prison has agreed to allow the prisoners “semi-contact” visits with family members, additional recreational time, access to digital legal research, phone calls, and permission to purchase additional goods such as food and clothing.
The New York Police Department is drawing criticism following the disclosure it recently used an anti-Muslim video in training for officers. According to the New York City newsweekly, the Village Voice, officers were shown the 72-minute The Third Jihad video in the NYPD’s required counterterrorism training courses. The Third Jihad is said to depict gruesome imagery coupled with the argument that Muslim leaders and organizations in the United States are part of a plot of global jihad. During the film, the narrator says, “Americans are being told that most of the mainstream Muslim groups are moderate when in fact, if you look a little closer, you’ll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.”
The straight-to-DVD movie was released by the Clarion Fund, which in 2008 sent copies of another anti-Islamic film to 28 million homes in battleground states. That film, called Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, also features graphic, violent images and makes comparisons of Islam to Nazism. The NYPD says it no longer shows the video.
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