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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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Military prosecutors have finished laying out their case against alleged Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning in a pretrial military hearing to determine whether he is to face a court-martial for leaking classified videos and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. The first defense witnesses are expected to testify today. On Tuesday, the man who turned Manning in to U.S. authorities, Adrian Lamo, denied in his testimony that he had violated a journalistic or ministerial promise of confidentiality when he handed over the chat logs that led to Manning’s arrest.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has given new indications the U.S. plans to keep its troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 timetable for withdrawal. In what the New York Times calls the “most emphatic signal to date” of U.S. designs to remain, General John Allen said talks on a strategic agreement with the Afghan government would “almost certainly” include “a discussion with Afghanistan of what a post-2014 force will look like.” General Allen added, “We would probably see some number of advisers, trainers, intelligence specialists here for some period of time beyond 2014.”
The last U.S. military commander in Iraq has returned to the United States as part of the last wave of outgoing U.S. troops. General Lloyd Austin paid tribute to U.S. soldiers who fought in Iraq at a ceremony outside Washington, D.C.
General Lloyd Austin: “There’s one thing that particularly impresses me about our force. And that is that a significant number of those who served in Iraq answered the call to arms after the life-altering events of 9/11, knowing that they might go into harm’s way. And even more impressive is that after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them have re-enlisted to continue serving our nation. Now these are the things that make them the next greatest generation.”
Syrian opposition groups are urging international action to prevent what it calls a series of massacres by Syrian forces against civilians and military defectors. Most of the violence has reportedly focused on the province of Idlib, where scores of people have been killed in the last two days. One witness reported seeing civilian corpses burnt and beheaded with their hands tied behind their backs. Estimates of the death toll have ranged from 150 to 270.
In Egypt, thousands of women marched on Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday to protest the ongoing attacks on female protesters. The rally was sparked by recent video footage showing soldiers dragging a woman through the street by her hair, with traditional clothing ripped from her body and her underwear exposed.
Islama Thabet, Egyptian protester: “The reason for the protest is the picture and the video that was published by news services around the world, and it showed us to what extent the military council has no qualms about trampling on the women of Egypt and the girls of Egypt, and to beat them up and strip them. They have no problem doing that, so long as they get to stay in power and cover up their crimes, and the regime remains in place, protecting Mubarak and the previous regime, which has still not fallen.”
Earlier in the day, Egyptian forces had fired on protesters demonstrating against military rule in the fifth day of clashes that have killed 14 people and left hundreds injured.
In North Korea, state media is claiming some five million people have turned out to mourn the death of leader Kim Jong-il. The figure amounts to more than one-fifth of North Korea’s population. Kim Jong-il’s son and presumed successor, Kim Jong-un, has led the funeral proceedings for his father. Reuters reports that a well-placed “source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing” expects North Korea to come under the collective leadership of Jong-un, an uncle, and top military officials.
The latest spending showdown between President Obama and Congressional Republicans continues after House Republicans rejected a bipartisan Senate measure that would extend a payroll tax cut for two months, benefiting 160 million American workers. Lawmakers have until the end of the month to extend the tax break, after which payroll taxes will jump 2 percent, costing the average U.S. family $1,000 per year. On Tuesday, President Obama criticized Republicans for opposing the Senate measure.
President Obama: “I saw today that one of the House Republicans referred to what they’re doing as, quote, 'high stakes poker.' He’s right about the stakes, but this is not poker. This is not a game. This shouldn’t be politics as usual. Right now the recovery is fragile, but it is moving in the right direction. Our failure to do this could have effects not just on families but on the economy as a whole.”
A former U.S. soldier has been sentenced to 32 years in prison after pleading guilty to a failed bombing of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade march in Spokane, Washington, earlier this year. Kevin William Harpham admitted to hiding a bomb coated in rat poison in a backpack along the parade’s route. Investigators say it was equipped with a remote control detonator and positioned to direct its blast toward the marchers. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups, has identified Harpham as a one-time member of the white supremacist group, National Alliance. He tried to withdraw his guilty plea just before his sentencing, but was denied.
A U.S. citizen and Boston area resident has been convicted of “conspiring to support” al-Qaeda and other terrorism charges after a controversial trial. Tarek Mehanna was accused of trying to serve in al-Qaeda’s “media wing.” He was 27 years old when he was arrested in October 2009 and has been held in solitary confinement. Mehanna was originally courted by the FBI to become an informant. His lawyers argued that Mehanna was acting well within his First Amendment rights in posting jihadist content online and was expressing his own political views, not conspiring with al-Qaeda. But the jury found Mehanna guilty on all charges. The defense says it will appeal. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts criticized the verdict, saying it “undermines” free speech.
The top U.S. nuclear safety official is backing Japan’s claim to have stabilized the earthquake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility and brought the crisis under control. Speaking after a visit to the plant, Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, rejected suspicions raised by experts that the plant is not ready for the next stage of cleanup. Jaczko also said he had learned from seeing the plant firsthand.
Gregory Jaczko: “A humbling experience for me to go to Fukushima Daiichi and see the damage to the reactors, to see the damage to the facilities, but it was also a very inspiring visit, because I really got to see and experience firsthand the kind of conditions and efforts that were made by many of the workers immediately after the accident. Seeing both the sites, I think, left me with two very different impressions, but both of them really, I think, a recognition of the positives and the things that we can learn going forward about how to ultimately reduce the likelihood of an event like this in the future.”
Members of the U.N. Security Council have issued rare public criticism directed at the United States over the Obama administration’s refusal to allow a resolution criticizing Israel’s settlement building in the Occupied Territories. After a closed-door session on Tuesday, diplomats from all the regional blocs represented on the Council expressed frustration with the Obama administration’s stance. The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said the United States is alone in blocking action against illegal settlement building.
Riyad Mansour: “It is very unfortunate that when you have this kind of support in the Security Council, that the Security Council cannot legislate that in a resolution on parameters, in a resolution of condemnation of settlement activities, and a demand from Israel to stop this illegal behavior immediately in all the occupied territory, including in East Jerusalem. And the reason why the Security Council was unable to act on this very important issue, simply because of a position of one powerful country in the Security Council.”
The once-imprisoned U.S. activist Lori Berenson arrived in the United States on Tuesday for the first time since her 1995 arrest in Peru. Berenson was allowed to leave Peru along with her two-year-old son Salvador to spend the holidays with her parents in New York City. She was paroled last year after serving 15 years of a 20-year sentence for aiding the outlawed Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. After she landed, Berenson declined to speak with reporters. Her mother, Rhoda Berenson, made a brief statement.
Rhoda Berenson: “This is not a political time for us. This is a time for family and friends. Everybody is excited about meeting Salvador, so he’s going to be front and center.”
Reporter: “Rhoda, how is your Spanish?”
Rhoda Berenson: “I don’t have any. That’s exactly how it is. But Salvador can mumble words in both languages.”