The ousted Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi has reportedly been killed in the town of Sirte, eight months after the first protests erupted against his longtime rule. The announcement came shortly after the interim government said it had captured Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown and the last major pocket of resistance held by fighters loyal to his rule. The fall of Sirte follows weeks of fighting that left much of Sirte in ruins, forcing thousands of civilians to flee. The death toll is unknown, but it is believed hundreds of people have been killed. Libya’s governing National Transitional Council had said Libya’s post-conflict political transition could not fully proceed until Sirte had fallen and Gaddafi’s troops were expelled. Celebrations have broken out in the Libyan capital of Tripoli in response to the news of Gaddafi’s capture and possible death. Gaddafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court for attacks on civilians during the Libyan uprising.
In Greece, thousands of people have gathered outside the nation’s parliament on the second day of a general strike and mass demonstrations against new austerity measures. The Greek parliament is preparing for a second and final vote on new laws that would cut wages and raise taxes in return for an international bailout. On Wednesday, clashes broke out in the streets as lawmakers approved the new measures. An estimated 100,000 protesters flooded the capital’s main Syntagma Square outside the parliament building. More than 7,000 police, including hundreds in riot gear, were deployed. Protesters reportedly threw stones and firebombs, and today some have planned to try to block lawmakers from entering the parliament building to vote.
A United Nations probe is accusing Iran of increasing human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture. In a report to the U.N. General Assembly, Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said hundreds of prisoners have been secretly killed and many more held without trial.
Ahmed Shaheed: “I was also concerned by reports of multifarious and systemic deficits in the administration of justice, including certain practices that amount to torture, cruel or degrading treatment of detainees; the imposition of the death penalty in the absence of proper judicial safeguards; the denial of reasonable access to legal counsel and adequate medical treatment; the existence of widespread use of both secret and public executions; the employment of capital punishment in juvenile cases; and the application of capital punishment in cases that do not hold up to the level of serious crimes by international standards, such as narcotics cases.”
The Iranian government has dismissed the report and in an apparent response says it has launched it’s own probe of human rights abuses committed by the United States.
The Obama administration has delayed plans to sell $53 million worth of military equipment to Bahrain following public outcry over the crackdown on Shiite protesters. The proposed sale includes bunker buster missiles, armored vehicles and wire-guided missiles. The White House now says it will await the results of a Bahraini probe into its own abuses before proceeding with the sale. In a statement, Amnesty International welcomed the move, saying: “As long as the Bahraini government and its security forces are using violence, unjust military trials, and alleged torture against peaceful protesters, the U.S. government should not be sending more weapons there.”
New figures show President Obama continues to pull in huge donations from the financial sector, with more money from Wall Street this year than all other Republican presidential candidates combined. According to the Washington Post, Obama has raised a total of $15.6 million from banks and other financial firms, with nearly $12 million of that going to the Democratic National Committee. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has raised less than half that much from Wall Street, around $7.5 million. A top banking executive and Obama fundraiser told the Washington Post that reports of Wall Street antagonism toward Obama “are exaggerated and overblown … [but] it probably helps from a political perspective if he’s not seen as a Wall Street guy.”
A unit within the banking giant Citigroup has been charged with negligence after allegedly selling a $1 billion investment product in 2007, without warning investors that it was using the instrument to bet against them. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Citigroup will pay $285 million to its investors without acknowledging any wrongdoing.
A federal judge in Ohio has ordered police to stop ticketing supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Cincinnati. Protesters had filed lawsuit against the city for banning people from a park where they have set up an encampment. So far, the city had ticketed the protesters approximately $25,000. Occupy Cincinnati protesters are calling on city council members to remove rules that ban anyone from being in a public park after 10 p.m.
Heavy flooding in Mexico and Central America has caused at least 110 deaths and affected approximately one million people. Over the course of the last week, two hurricanes and three tropical storms have ravaged areas in a number of countries. As of Wednesday, Mexico’s death toll had risen to 10. Guatemala had reported 36 deaths and some 26,000 displaced. In Nicaragua, 13 people have been killed, while in Honduras the toll has climbed to at least 15, with more than 70,000 affected and more than 11,000 evacuated. Costa Rica has reported four deaths. At least 32 people have died in El Salvador. Health officials warn the extreme weather could lead to the outbreak of viruses and food shortages throughout the region.