Alleged Arizona gunman Jared Loughner appeared in a Phoenix courtroom Monday to face charges in connection with the shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 13 earlier this month. Monday’s hearing dealt with a set of charges on attempting to kill federal employees, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Asked for his plea, Loughner was silent. The court entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union address tonight on Capitol Hill. Danny Hernandez, the openly gay Latino intern credited with saving the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the Arizona shooting, will sit next to First Lady Michelle Obama as the Obamas’ special guest. During his speech, Obama is expected to advocate a centrist agenda that critics have compared to the Clinton-era approach of triangulation. However, Obama is not expected to endorse the recent calls by his deficit commission to raise the retirement age and reduce Social Security benefits.
At least 35 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in a suicide bombing in Russia. The attack struck a packed international arrivals hall at the Domodedovo airport. Russian officials have alleged militants from the North Caucasus carried out the attack. At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs read a statement on President Obama’s behalf.
Robert Gibbs: “I want to express the solidarity of the American people with the Russian people in the aftermath of this premeditated attack against innocent civilians. Michelle and I offer our deepest condolences to the Russian people, who have suffered greatly at the hands of terrorism. We share your sorrow and a resolve to stand with you in our common fight against those who use terrorism for their political goals.”
In Iraq, at least 22 people were killed and 75 wounded in two separate car bombings on Monday. At least 151 people have died in a number of bombings to hit Iraq over the past week.
Newly released documents show Palestinian negotiators have offered the Israeli government major concessions on the rights of Palestinian refugees. The disclosure is among the latest in the so-called ”Palestine Papers“—more than 1,700 files from inside Israeli-Palestinian negotiations dating from 1999 to 2010. According to the news network Al Jazeera, the Palestinian Authority has signed off on accepting the return of a “symbolic number” of Palestinians who lost their homes in the 1948 war around Israel’s independence. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is said to have proposed that 5,000 Palestinian refugees be allowed back into Israel, a fraction of the six million displaced around the world. In Lebanon, a Palestinian refugee criticized the Palestinian Authority’s leadership.
Abdul Razzaq: “This latest scandal proves that we have a serious legitimacy problem in the Palestinian context. We have a leadership imposed from abroad that does not represent the realities of our people. We have a situation whereby our people’s reality is deteriorating day by day; concession after concession is being made, and yet we are getting nothing in return.”
The details of the stance on refugees follow the news Palestinian negotiators offered Israel the annexation of large tracts of West Bank land, including East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority has denounced the papers’ release and denied making sweeping concessions to Israel. On Monday, Palestinian Liberation Organization chair Yasser Abed Rabbo called for an investigation into the papers and denied the reports on giving up East Jerusalem.
Yasser Abed Rabbo: “I call upon, in the name of the Palestinian leadership, Palestinian and independent institutes of research and study to immediately create a committee to study these documents and to find out whether they are true or not true. Nothing regarding East Jerusalem has been put forth which goes beyond the position which Abu Mazen told Olmert, once, twice and ten times: East Jerusalem is ours based on the 1967 borders.”
Al Jazeera plans to continue releasing the “Palestine Papers” throughout the week. On Monday, dozens of protesters gathered outside the network’s office in Ramallah.
Protester: “We don’t want anybody, any part, any media channel, anyone to divide us. We are here, the Palestinian community. We have many crises. We have many conflicts, internal and international, and it is enough. The occupation is dividing us.”
In Turkey, a government inquiry has faulted Israel for the deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year. Nine people were killed when Israeli troops stormed the Mavi Marmara ship on May 31. The panel’s conclusion came one day after an Israeli panel cleared the Israeli government and military of any wrongdoing. The chair of the Turkish panel, Mithat Rende, said investigators had found proof Israeli troops opened fire before storming the ship.
Mithat Rende: “In this report, we established that, unfortunately, the Israeli forces started firing at the passengers on the upper deck from the helicopters before landing on the upper deck. And this caused, of course, the first — probably the first two people who were killed were killed as a result of the fire from the helicopter.”
Peru has become the latest Latin American country to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. On Monday, Peru followed recent decisions by Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to recognize an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Lebanon’s political crisis is intensifying over a pending vote on a new government. On Monday, a prime-ministerial candidate backed by Hezbollah won enough parliamentary votes to form a new cabinet. Supporters of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri have taken to the streets in protest. In Washington, U.S. Department of State spokesperson P.J. Crowley said a Hezbollah victory could endanger U.S. aid to Lebanon.
P.J. Crowley: “We will reserve judgment until a government is formed. Our view of Hezbollah is very well known: we see it as a terrorist organization. And we’ll have great concerns about a government that — you know, within which Hezbollah plays a leading role.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Mexico on Monday to voice support for Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s efforts on combating powerful drug cartels. Clinton acknowledged human rights abuses in Mexico’s drug war but said Calderón’s government has improved its record.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: “And I think that what Mexican law enforcement is doing to both reform at the same time that they take on the drug traffickers is essential and a commitment that we stand ready to help them carry out. And I also believe that the very successful efforts by the Mexican military deserve support as well, and we have offered any support that they would be interested in pursuing.”
More than 30,000 people have died since Calderón launched military operations against the drug cartels four years ago.
The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained government documents on the deaths of 190 prisoners at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to the ACLU, between 25 to 30 of the deaths appear to fit the category of “unjustified homicides.”
An Illinois appeals court has struck down the bid of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to become mayor of Chicago. In a two-to-one ruling, the court rejected Emanuel’s eligibility to run in next month’s city election on the grounds he has not resided in Chicago long enough to appear on the ballot. Emanuel vowed an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court.
Rahm Emanuel: “I still own a home here, look forward to moving into it one day, vote from here, pay property taxes here. I do believe that the people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make a decision on who they want to be their next mayor.”
The Chicago Elections Board has already placed an order for two million ballots excluding Emanuel’s name, with printing beginning today.
New figures show a surge in corporate donations to top House Republicans over the past two years. According to the Washington Post, major healthcare companies have given Republican leaders at least $5 million since 2009. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor received some $6 million in corporate money during the 2010 midterms, including $2.4 million from the financial industry. Overall, finance records show corporations from fields including banking, insurance, energy and agribusiness have given their biggest donations to Republicans heading the committees overseeing their industries.
In Vermont, a landmark measure has been introduced to revoke the granting of personhood rights to U.S. corporations. The bill calls for a constitutional amendment declaring “corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States.” The measure’s introduction Friday came on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending on election campaigns.