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North Korea has announced its leader Kim Jong-il died on Saturday at the age of 69. He reportedly suffered a heart attack while traveling on a train. Known as the Dear Leader, Kim took over North Korea in 1994 when his father Kim Il-sung died. The two men are the only leaders North Korea has known since its founding in 1948. Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jung-un, is expected become North Korea’s new leader. South Korea put its military on alert soon after the news of Kim Jong-il’s death was announced earlier this year. Technically the two countries are still at war. Under Kim Jong-il’s leadership North Korea became a nuclear state. In 2003, it quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Three years later, it tested its first nuclear device. While North Korea was becoming a nuclear state, an estimated one million North Koreans died during a famine in the 1990s.
A pretrial hearing for accused Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is entering its fourth day at Fort Meade in Maryland. On Sunday, a military investigator testified classified files downloaded to the computer of Manning matched those that later showed up on the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Manning faces up to life in prison. Supporters of Bradley Manning have been gathering outside the military base. One of the most prominent Manning supporters over the weekend was Lt. Dan Choi, a gay veteran and activist.
Lt. Dan Choi, gay veteran and activist: “I’m here because Bradley Manning, Private First Class Manning, is a good soldier, who stood up for the truth and lived the Army values. And I believe that all soldiers need to follow that example to base their actions on those virtues that we protect. The Constitution that he swore to protect, against all enemies foreign and domestic — well, when we see the curtailment of our rights, that’s an enemy of the Constitution. The Constitution is what we protect. It should also protect all of us.”
At least 14 people have died in Egypt in four days of protests against military rule. Police and soldiers have used batons, water cannons and tear gas to push protesters from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “excessive” force used against the protesters.
Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia. The dramatic display is considered by many to have been the catalyst for the Arab Spring protests. Bouazizi ran an unlicensed fruit stand to make ends meet. After a particularly degrading crackdown by local officials and police on December 17, 2010, the 26-year-old chose to set himself on fire in protest of his treatment. The act led to protests across the country, which eventually brought about the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and inspired activists around the world.
As many as 8,000 people turned out in Moscow and St. Petersburg Sunday to protest Russia’s contested parliamentary election results. Demonstrators and independent observers claim the government of Prime Minister Vladamir Putin won the contest through cheating. Meanwhile, the founder of a Russian newspaper devoted to uncovering government corruption was found shot to death last week. Hadzhimurad Kamalov was shot 14 times as he left his office on Thursday. According to the International Press Institute, 40 Russian journalists have been killed since 2000, including at least four this year. Tanya Lokshina is the office deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow.
Tanya Lokshina, office deputy director of Human Rights Watch, Moscow: “The North Caucasus is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work. And in past few years, many independent journalists, citizens and activists have died, died as payback for their work in the North Caucasus. And therefore, everything that’s happened, everything that happened with Kamalov, it’s on one side a horrible shock, but on the other side, it was almost even expected.”
Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City marked the three-month anniversary of the movement by attempting to set up an encampment in a vacant lot owned by a prominent local church. Led by Bishop George Packard, a retired former supervisor of Episcopal military chaplains, demonstrators used a makeshift staircase to bypass a chain-link fence and gain access to an unused plot of land owned by Trinity Church, just blocks from Zuccotti Park. Protesters cheered and celebrated before police moved in on the square, making dozens of arrests. The attempt led to a winding march through much of Lower Manhattan and north to Times Square. New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez joined the day-long protest.
Ydanis Rodríguez, New York City Council Member: “This movement has been built on the need of the working class and the middle class. This movement is not going anywhere, is not leaving this city, unless we take particular initiatives to close the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.”
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has offered his support for Occupy London protesters. Jackson told the protesters camped out at St. Paul’s Cathedral their demonstration was reminiscent of the activism of many historic figures.
Reverend Jesse Jackson: “Martin King was an occupier, Mandela an occupier. They’re all exalted as martyrs now, but were rejected as occupiers, as protesters, as radicals, called 'terrorists' by governments. The occupiers’ cause is a just cause, a moral cause.”
A tax break for 160 million American workers is in doubt after House Republicans have threatened to reject a two-month extension overwhelmingly approved by the Senate. The Senate tax bill included a controversial provision to force the Obama administration to accelerate a decision on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline project.
Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is continuing to attack the judicial system. During an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the former speaker of the House said he would force judges to defend unpopular decisions before congressional hearings. He was asked about his views by CBS’s Bob Schieffer.
Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation”: “One of the things you say is that if you don’t like what a court has done, that Congress should subpoena the judge and bring him before Congress and hold a congressional hearing. Some people say that’s unconstitutional, but I’ll let that go for a minute. I just want to ask you, from a practical standpoint, how would you enforce that? Would you send the Capitol police down to arrest him?”
Newt Gingrich: “Sure, if you had to. Or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshal.”
In the Philippines, at least 680 people have died and 800 are missing after a typhoon hit the southern island of Mindanao, unleashing massive flooding. The typhoon hit a section of the Philippines not prone to major storms. Filipino senator Loren Legarda tied the storm to climate change. She said, “Climate change is a clear and present danger. Demanding immediate government action to address its impact is the very least we can do.”
A dispute has broken out in Peru over whether the once-imprisoned U.S. activist Lori Berenson should be allowed to travel to New York City to spend the holidays with her family for the first time since her arrest in 1995. Last week, three judges granted her permission to take the trip, but on Friday she was prevented from boarding a flight.
Former Czech leader Vaclav Havel has died at the age of 75. The former playwright led the “Velvet Revolution” to topple Communist rule. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was jailed repeatedly after he launched Charter 77 asking the Czechoslovak government to abide by its international commitments to human rights. As Czech president, Havel embraced neoliberal economic policies and supported both U.S. wars in Iraq.
The Cape Verdean folk singer Cesaria Evora has died at the age of 70.