The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has warned that the widespread attacks against protesters in Libya amounts to crimes against humanity. Witnesses in Tripoli have reported Libyan fighter jets and helicopter gunships have been used to attack protesters who are calling for an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule. At least 300 people have reportedly died in recent days, and tens of thousands of foreigners are attempting to flee the country. Gaddafi briefly appeared on state television Monday to say he is still in Libya; however, his grip on the country appears to be weakening. Opposition forces now control the eastern part of Libya, and numerous Libyan diplomats and soldiers have defected and voiced support for the opposition.
In New York City, Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, accused Gaddafi of committing genocide.
Ibrahim Dabbashi, deputy ambassador to the United Nations: “No, we are not with Gaddafi, we have never been with Gaddafi. We are with the people, and we just made a statement to ask the international community to intervene to do something to help the Libyan people, who is facing genocide now in Tripoli. And he has been facing also crimes against humanity in all the eastern cities of Libya.”
Many Libyan-American activists have criticized the Obama administration for its minimal response to the bloody crackdown on protests by the Libyan government. President Obama last mentioned Libya on Friday. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not said anything publicly but issued a statement Monday calling for a halt to the “unacceptable bloodshed.”
In recent years, Libya has strengthened its ties to the United States and many European nations. Two years ago, the U.S. firm General Dynamics signed a $165 million contract to arm the Libyan Armed Forces’ elite second brigade. Halliburton, Shell, Raytheon, Dow Chemical and Chevron are all members of the U.S.-Libya Business Association. And in 2009, it was revealed that British forces were training Libyan special forces in counterterrorism techniques.
Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch called on the international community to respond to the mass killings.
Human Rights Watch spokesperson, Reed Brody: '’We would like to see friends of Libya, the African Union, the European Union, make clear that this violence against unarmed protesters has to stop, that these are crimes that are being committed and that those who commit them could be brought to justice. We would like to see a total cutoff of military and security aid to Libya and demand that Libya restore the internet and allow journalists and human rights groups in to see what is really happening.'’
Egypt’s public prosecutor has requested the freezing of all foreign assets held by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his family.
The King of Bahrain has ordered the release of some political prisoners following a week of pro-democracy protests in the Gulf nation.
Iranian authorities have detained the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi.
In Wisconsin, massive public protests continue against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to strip most public workers of collective bargaining rights. On Monday, Walker again refused to negotiate over the bill.
More information has come to light about the close ties between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who helped bankroll the Tea Party movement. According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Koch Industries funneled $43,000 to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, making it one of Walker’s biggest contributors. In addition, Koch Industries gave more than $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which played a key role in the Wisconsin race. Since taking office, Walker has been in close contact with Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded organization. The head of the organization, Tim Phillips, told the New York Times that his group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown in Wisconsin.
The arrest of Raymond Davis has set off a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Pakistan and has provided the world a glimpse of the secret U.S. war in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities claim Davis acted with excessive force in shooting the men 10 times from both inside and outside of his car. One of the victims was shot in the back as he fled. Upon his arrest, Davis was found in possession surveillance equipment, large amounts of ammunition and a camera that included photos of madrassas and prohibited installations along the border of India.
Tension is rising between U.S. and Afghan officials after reports that 64 Afghan civilians may have been killed in NATO attacks last week. The Washington Post reports that U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus suggested Sunday in a closed meeting that pro-Taliban Afghans might have burned their own children or invented stories to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties. Afghan officials present at the meeting were said to have been shocked by Petraeus’s comment. One Afghan official said, “Killing 60 people, and then blaming the killing on those same people, rather than apologizing for any deaths? This is inhuman.”
Researchers in the Gulf of Mexico have found dead baby dolphins are washing up along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines at 10 times the normal rate. The Sun Herald newspaper in Mississippi reports that 17 young dolphins have been collected along the shorelines so far this year, the first birthing season for dolphins since the massive BP oil spill. Deaths in the adult dolphin population have also risen sharply over the past nine months. Meanwhile, a top marine scientist, Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia, has revealed that large amounts of the oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the sea floor bottom in the Gulf of Mexico, decimating life on parts of the sea floor.
The state of Michigan has ordered Detroit to close half of its public schools by 2013 and to increase class size in high schools to more than 60 students. The state claims the moves are needed to eliminate a $327 million deficit. In related news, Detroit has announced it plans to privatize maintenance services at the schools by hiring the company Sodexo.
In media news, small television and radio stations serving rural areas are expected to be hardest hit if Republicans succeed in eliminating federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. On Saturday, the House of Representatives approved budget legislation that would slash about $430 million in funding for the CPB. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, CPB funding makes up as much as 45 percent of the budget of some rural public radio and TV stations in California. For some stations broadcasting on Native American reservations or broadcasting in Spanish to farm workers, their federal subsidy is often at least half of their budget.
Voters in Chicago head to the polls today to pick a replacement to succeed the retiring Mayor Richard Daley. Candidates include President Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former U.S. senator Carol Moseley Braun, former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held in six weeks.
In New Zealand, at least 65 people have died after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Christchurch. The quake was so strong that 30 million tons of ice broke loose from New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier after the quake.
John Key, New Zealand Prime Minister: “I don’t think we can go past the fact that we may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day. The advice I’ve had at the moment, I think viewers will understand and appreciate that it’s very fluid advice at the moment, but the death toll I have at the moment is 65, and that may rise. So, look, it’s an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand, for the people we care so much about. And it’s a terrifying time for the people.”
Democracy Now!’s own co-host Juan Gonzalez has won a George Polk Award for his columns in the New York Daily News exposing the scandal behind Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to create a new computerized payroll system called CityTime. Gonzalez’s reporting helped lead to the federal indictment of four consultants and two associates on charges that they orchestrated a fraud that cost city taxpayers more than $80 million. One of seven people so far arrested in the fraud pleaded guilty two weeks ago and is cooperating. The director of New York City’s Office of Payroll has been forced to resign. So far, federal agents have recovered more than $27 million in cash from dozens of bank accounts of dummy companies connected to the scheme. Gonzalez also won a Polk Award in 1998. Other winners this year include Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, for his article that led to the dismissal of former U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal who led the war in Afghanistan; the Washington Post's Dana Priest and Bill Arkin, for their investigation called “Top Secret America”; and ProPublica, PBS's Frontline and the Times-Picayune for their work exposing how New Orleans police officers shot dead at least four people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The George Polk Career Award has been given to Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media.
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