Egyptian protesters continue to fill Cairo’s central Tahrir Square over the ruling military council’s refusal to immediately transfer power to a civilian government. In a televised address on Tuesday, the head of Egypt’s military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said he has accepted the prime minister’s resignation and that the military is ready to relinquish power if Egyptians call for that in a referendum. But protests only intensified after Tantawi’s speech, and security forces unleashed a barrage of tear gas. At least 38 people have reportedly been killed, and more than 2,000 wounded nationwide since Saturday in the military government’s crackdown. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called for an independent probe into the deaths.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh appears to be on the verge of stepping down following months of massive protests against his longtime rule. Saleh has arrived in Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to sign an agreement to resign in return for immunity from prosecution. Brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, the deal will reportedly see Saleh hand off power to his vice president. Thousands of people have rallied in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in protest of the deal. Yemeni groups have remained opposed to any immunity for Saleh and his regime.
Clashes have erupted in Bahrain ahead of today’s release of a report investigating the crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising earlier this year. The Bahraini monarchy commissioned the supposed independent probe after crushing the uprising with the help of Saudi troops. At least 26 people were killed, over 1,500 people were arrested, and thousands lost their jobs, after protests erupted in February. Bahraini activists have questioned the report’s credibility. The Bahraini monarchy is funding the probe and footing the bill for commission members to stay at the lavish Ritz-Carlton hotel and spa. Earlier today, Bahraini police reportedly fired tear gas at demonstrators after raiding a makeshift clinic near the capital, Manama.
President Obama was in New Hampshire on Tuesday to tout his economic stimulus plan, including a jobs bill and an upcoming vote to preserve a payroll tax cut. Shortly after taking the stage, Obama was “mic-checked” by Occupy Wall Street protesters criticizing the ongoing crackdown on demonstrators across the country.
President Obama: “Listen, I’m going to be talking about a whole range of things today, and I appreciate you guys [hecklers] making your point. Let me go ahead and make mine. All right? And I’ll listen to you. You listen to me. All right?”
Obama later made reference to the Occupy movement in his speech, saying it has spoken to a “profound sense of frustration” about the economy nationwide. Obama also issued a challenge to Republicans, urging them to extend the payroll tax cut.
President Obama: “Next week they’re (Congress) going to get to take a simple vote. If they vote no again, the typical family’s taxes will go up a thousand dollars next year. If they vote yes, the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut. All right? So I just want it to be clear for everybody: no, your taxes go up; yes, you get a tax cut. Which way do you think Congress should vote? It’s pretty simple.”
Oregon’s Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber has announced he will no longer allow executions in his state. In a statement, Kitzhaber called the death penalty “morally wrong,” adding: “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.” The move will halt the planned execution of a death row prisoner who had been scheduled to be put to death early next month.
The U.S. Department of Justice is challenging Utah’s recent immigration law, calling it unconstitutional. Under the measure, Utah law enforcement officers would be forced to check the citizenship or legal immigration status of people stopped for violations. The Justice Department’s move follows earlier actions against similar measures in Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina.
Republican presidential contenders gathered in Washington on Tuesday for a debate aired on CNN and co-sponsored by two leading right-wing groups, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Newly resurgent candidate Newt Gingrich surprised some by offering a less extremist stance on immigration policy, saying Republicans should drop measures that break up families.
Newt Gingrich: “If you’ve been here recently and you have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties for employers. But I would urge all of you to look at the Krieble Foundation plan. I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century.”
Occupy Wall Street protesters joined with a group of South Korean activists on Tuesday to rally against the so-called free trade deal between Seoul and the United States. The demonstrators rallied outside the South Korean mission in New York. Protest organizer Adam Weissman of Occupy Wall Street criticized the crackdown on protesters who have been rallying at the South Korean parliament.
Adam Weissman: “It’s outrageous that peaceful protesters are being subjected to a weapon that can cause permanent injury. People have been blinded for life by water cannons. And President Lee, instead of violently assaulting protesters, should respect democracy and listen to his own people, who are telling him that they don’t want this FTA [Free Trade Agreement], that it’s putting their country’s laws on the chopping block and compromising their rights in service to corporate profits.”
The deal with South Korea is the largest trade agreement the United States has signed since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994. South Korean farmers and some workers oppose it, saying it threatens their livelihoods. South Korean organizer and church pastor Kim Dong-Kyun said the deal would harm the 99 percent in both countries.
Kim Dong-Kyun: “The FTA is a trade agreement that benefits the 1 percent of Korea and the 1 percent of the U.S. It will bring pain to the 99 percent of America and the 99 percent of Korea. That is why we are doing this with the Occupy Wall Street people from both countries.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a measure condemning Syria’s ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. British Ambassador Lyall Grant was among the measure’s three co-sponsors.
Lyall Grant: “The co-sponsors table this resolution in response to the ongoing and widespread violence and human rights violations that have persisted in the Syrian Arab Republic since March this year. Despite repeated calls from the international community, including the United Nations and the League of Arab States, this violence continues, with the latest United Nations report estimating that well over 3,500 civilians have now been killed in the country.”
The International Criminal Court says it will not stand in the way if Libya seeks to prosecute the son of Muammar Gaddafi on its home turf. Speaking on a visit to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he has no objections to seeing the trial of Saif al-Islam held inside Libya.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo: “Libya now established its new government, and they have the right to prosecute Saif and Senussi here. And in accordance with our rules, the primacy is for the national system. If they conduct the proceedings, the court will not intervene.”
Protests have erupted in South Africa over a measure barring the disclosure of so-called “state secrets.” The African National Congress’s so-called Protection of State Information Bill grants the state the authority to determine what documents classify as secret with respect to the “national interest.” Individuals found in possession of such documents can be sentenced to up to 25 years in jail. Critics of the bill include Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, who has called it “insulting to all South Africans.” Protesters dressed in black gathered in the South African city of Johannesburg Tuesday to denounce the legislation.
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