Activists are claiming victory after the Obama administration announced it would put off any decision on approving the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline until 2013 — well after the 2012 elections. On Thursday, the White House said it needed more time to review the route of the proposed 1,700-mile, $7 billion TransCanada pipeline and its environmental impact on Nebraska’s Sandhills region. The announcement was made just days after more than 10,000 people circled the White House calling on President Obama to reject the project. Opponents had objected to the pipeline over its potential dangers to the areas along its path and its tapping of the carbon-intensive Canadian tar sands oil fields.
A U.S. Army sergeant has been convicted of leading a so-called “kill team” in Afghanistan that murdered civilians and then kept their body parts for sport. Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs has admitted to cutting the fingers off dead Afghan civilians as war trophies. Other soldiers have said it was his idea to kill civilians and stage their deaths to make them appear to have been combatants. Despite being found guilty on all 15 counts, including premeditated murder, Gibbs avoided an automatic life sentence and will be eligible for parole after 8.5 years behind bars.
At least nine people have reportedly been killed in Syria today in President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing crackdown on opposition protests. The new killings come amidst reports of dozens of deaths over the past two days, most in the flashpoint area of Homs. In a new report, Human Rights Watch has accused the Assad government of “crimes against humanity” for alleged killings of protesters dating back to April. Citing what it calls the “systematic nature of abuses against civilians … including torture and unlawful killings,” Human Rights Watch says the United Nations should impose an arms embargo on Syria and refer top officials to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Student activists at the University of California, Berkeley, are calling for a probe of campus police after a violent confrontation at an Occupy-related protest earlier this week. Video footage shows police in riot gear hitting students with batons as they linked arms outside the campus administration building. The protest was a part of a number of actions held on at least 10 California campuses.
In Portland, Oregon, activists are facing a weekend deadline to vacate protest encampments at two city parks they have held for the past six weeks. Portland Mayor Sam Adams says protesters will need to clear out their tents by 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning.
In Vermont, a 35-year-old man has died after apparently shooting himself in the head at an Occupy encampment in downtown Burlington. The unidentified victim was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after shooting himself on Thursday afternoon. Burlington police say they have now banned camping at the site.
Occupy Wall Street protesters staged an action on Thursday at a speech by Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann in South Carolina. Bachmann was speaking aboard a World War II aircraft carrier when around 30 people rose from the audience to drown her out. Bachmann has been a vocal Republican critic of the Occupy movement. She returned to finish her speech after the protesters were removed.
New York City Occupy activists have erected a women-only tent following reports of sexual assault at their Lower Manhattan encampment.
Alex Borders, Occupy Wall Street: “A lot of the women felt that they were kind of like—I mean, their rights were being violated to the extent that they were in the camp, and they had people that were actually, I mean, like invading their tent space and stuff like that, so they instituted the women’s-only tent, which is just for the women. We have security around the clock now actually, I mean, patrolling the camp itself.”
Nan Terri, Occupy Wall Street: “It’s housing 20 people right now, but it can house more, once we organize it. That’s why I have the gloves on. I was about to clean up. But my plan is to get more tents for the women. And I’m trying to get maybe an 80-by-80 or 60-by-80, 60-by-60 tent to put the other side for women’s safety.”
Greece is swearing in a new prime minister today to head an interim government amidst ongoing economic turmoil. Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice president, will serve a three-month term before new elections in February. On Thursday, thousands of people rallied outside the Greek parliament calling for immediate elections. Papademos replaces outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou, who resigned shortly after canceling his plan for a national referendum on an austerity measure demanded by eurozone countries in return for a massive financial bailout.
James Murdoch, the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, returned before a British parliamentary inquiry on Thursday to deny misleading lawmakers over the phone-hacking scandal that has consumed his father’s company, News Corporation. James Murdoch repeatedly denied he had been given evidence of widespread phone hacking at a crucial meeting in 2008 and placed the blame on former executives who themselves have testified they had made him aware.
James Murdoch: “As I said to you, as I wrote to you, and I issued a public statement certainly in the evidence that they gave to you in 2011, with respect to my knowledge, I thought it was inconsistent and not right, and I dispute it vigorously.”
Tom Watson, Member of British Parliament: “So you think Mr. Crone misled us?”
James Murdoch: “It follows that I do, yes.”
Tom Watson: “And so, do you think Mr. Myler misled us, as well?”
James Murdoch: “I believe their testimony was misleading, and I dispute it.”
Four elderly members of a Georgia militia have been arrested on charges of keeping a hit list targeting government officials. Prosecutors say Attorney General Eric Holder and former Congress member and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney were listed as potential assassination targets. The group’s alleged ringleader, Frederick Thomas, was found to have stockpiled 52 guns and 30,000 rounds of ammunition in his Georgia home.
A major U.S. climate study group has announced it will begin accepting money from big oil companies and other large corporations after losing most of its funding. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions was formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change until the Pew Charitable Trusts withdrew its financing for 80 percent of the group’s $4.4 million budget. The new Center will be funded by companies including Shell, General Electric, Duke Energy, Bank of America and others.
President Obama is heading to his birthplace of Hawaii today for the gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders at the APEC summit. Activists with the group Occupy Honolulu are planning a march on the summit to protest neoliberal trade deals under APEC as well as what they call draconian security measures around this weekend’s gathering. At a speech ahead of the summit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for greater U.S.-Pacific ties.
Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton: “The 21st century will be America’s Pacific century, a period of unprecedented outreach and partnership in this dynamic, complex and consequential region. American businesses are eager for more opportunities to trade and invest in Asian markets. And we share with most nations the goal of broad-based, sustainable growth that expands opportunity, protects workers and the environment, respects intellectual property, and fosters innovation. But to accomplish these goals, we have to create a rules-based order, one that is open, free, transparent and fair.”
A Virginia district court judge has ruled the U.S. government can collect the private information of three WikiLeaks volunteers from the social networking site Twitter. The government has subpoenaed all the account information of Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Dutch activist Rop Gongrjip and programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Thursday’s ruling upholds a lower court judgment in March that found the subpoena does not violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.