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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is warning thousands of people may have been killed in Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s assault on the growing Libyan uprising. The United Nations is also warning Libya’s food supply network is on the brink of collapse. Deadly clashes are ongoing as anti-government forces close in on the capital city of Tripoli. According to Al Jazeera, fighting appears to be the most intense 30 miles west in the town of al-Zawiyah. In a rambling telephone interview with state television, Gaddafi blamed al-Qaeda and hallucinogenic drugs for the revolt against his rule.
Muammar Gaddafi: "They give them pills. These pills in Tripoli are called 'taxis of Al Jadeeda,' because when you take them, you will not wake up unless you reach Al Jadeeda. These young people do not realize they have been killing because they are under the influence of the drugs."
Protesters are said to be preparing for a major demonstration in Tripoli today. Most of eastern Libya remains under the rebellion’s control. In the port city of Benghazi, protesters have set up neighborhood councils after ousting Gaddafi’s forces.
Protester: "My people are dying in here, because Muammar Gaddafi is killing us, because we are dying, because we are fighting ’til we die. We have no mercy — he has no mercy anymore."
Both the U.N. Security Council and U.N. Human Rights Council are holding sessions on Libya today. Measures under consideration include the imposition of a no-fly zone over Tripoli, increased sanctions, and investigation of the Gaddafi regime for "crimes against humanity." U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said the United States backs international pressure on the Libyan government.
P.J. Crowley: "We support expelling Libya from the Human Rights Council. The Libyan government has violated the rights of its people. Taking this step continues the increased isolation that the Libyan government is facing, including announcements made yesterday by the Arab League and the African Union."
The Wisconsin State Assembly has approved Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to remove the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Lawmakers passed the measure on a 51-to-17 vote following two consecutive overnight sessions. Democrats have stalled the bill in the Wisconsin State Senate by fleeing the state, thereby denying Republicans quorum. On Thursday, Wisconsin police were deployed to retrieve the absent Senate Democrats at their homes without success. Thousands of people remain inside the Capitol Rotunda in protest of the anti-union bill. After the Assembly vote, protesters chanted, "It’s not over yet" and "We are here to stay," and broke into a version of the song "We Shall Overcome."
The Idaho State Senate has approved a measure restricting the collective bargaining of public school teachers. In a 20-to-15 vote, lawmakers voted to restrict teachers’ collective bargaining to salaries and benefits, precluding issues including class sizes and workload. The measure now goes to the Idaho State House of Representatives, where approval is expected.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Iraq today in defiance of a government plea to stay home. Demonstrators have turned out for a "day of rage" in a number of cities to denounce corruption and demand better services. Clashes have broken out in the town of Hawija, leaving two dead and more than 20 injured. In other Iraq news, 15 people were killed and 21 wounded when a suicide bomber attacked a religious ceremony in the city of Ramadi.
A Pakistani court has adjourned the murder trial of a CIA agent and former Blackwater operative accused in the shooting deaths of two men last month. The Obama administration had insisted Raymond Davis was a diplomat until acknowledging his work for the CIA this week. The United States has called for Davis’s repatriation as a diplomat entitled to diplomatic immunity, but Pakistani authorities are challenging his diplomatic status in court. Davis’s murder trial will continue next week. According to Reuters, two U.S. citizens were quietly withdrawn from Pakistan last month after causing a fatal car accident as they came to Davis’s aid. A police report says the pair struck a Pakistani motorist, only to flee the scene. The Davis case has strained U.S.-Pakistani ties. On Thursday, Pakistan’s main spy agency, the ISI, announced it’s scaling back cooperation with the CIA.
Algeria has lifted a government-imposed state of emergency following a wave of opposition protests. The measure had been in effect since 1992.
A Saudi national in the United States on a student visa has been arrested on terrorism charges in Texas. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari is accused of purchasing chemicals and equipment with the intent to make a bomb. His alleged targets included former President George W. Bush and three former U.S. military officials stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where scores of Iraqis were tortured. White House spokesperson Jay Carney announced the arrest.
Jay Carney: "The arrest, once again, underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad. The President thanks the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the rest of our law enforcement, intelligence and Homeland Security professionals who continue to keep us safe and who once again have served with extraordinary skill and with the commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand."
The Indiana State Senate has passed a measure similar to Arizona’s anti-immigration bill from last year. The legislation would empower law enforcement officers to request proof of legal residency of anyone they suspect of being undocumented. The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives.
Hawaii has enacted a measure legalizing same-sex civil unions. Hawaii becomes the seventh state to effectively grant gay couples the same rights as straight couples. The Maryland State Senate, meanwhile, has approved a measure authorizing same-sex marriage. The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives.
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