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Momentum is growing for an international no-fly zone over Libya as Col. Muammar Gaddafi continues an assault to retake rebel-held towns. The British government says the United States has agreed to a “full spectrum” of military responses if Gaddafi refuses to step down. Gaddafi’s forces are battling rebels in towns near the capital Tripoli, as well as across the rebel-held east. The Libyan government claims it’s taken control of the western city of Zawiyah after pinning rebels in a central square. In his latest speech, Gaddafi again repeated his assertion rebel fighters are mostly vulnerable youths drugged by al-Qaeda operatives. He also again called on supporters to attack protesters in the streets. Around 200,000 people have fled Libya in the past two weeks. The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, spoke out Tuesday on a visit to Libya's border with Tunisia.
António Guterres: “The first thing that we cannot fail to feel is an enormous anger for what’s going on, for the fighting that is going on, and the fact that that fighting doesn’t stop and people are suffering so much. And this is the result of what’s happening in Libya.”
The Idaho State Legislature has given final approval to a measure restricting the collective bargaining of public school teachers. The bill would limit teachers’ collective bargaining to salaries and benefits, precluding issues including class sizes and workload. It also ends teacher tenure, limits teacher contracts to one year, and removes seniority as a factor in determining layoffs. Republican Gov. Butch Otter is expected to sign the measure into law.
The passage of the Idaho anti-union measure comes as protesters held rallies for workers’ rights in six other states. In Michigan, more than 1,000 people rallied at the State Capitol in Lansing to oppose a measure allowing the breaking of labor contracts by placing schools and districts under emergency management. In a scene reminiscent of Wisconsin, hundreds of demonstrators packed the Capitol Rotunda, chanting slogans. Protests were also held Tuesday against anti-union measures in Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Florida and Tennessee.
In Wisconsin, newly disclosed emails show Republican Gov. Scott Walker has been willing to negotiate on his anti-union bill despite repeated claims the state is unable to compromise. Walker has cited budget woes to push through a plan that would restrict collective bargaining to wages only, tie raises to the Consumer Price Index, and require annual union votes on whether workers still want to be members. Although the emails show Walker has offered concessions despite publicly dismissing talks, critics say his overtures have not gone far enough. As Walker seeks to slash the wages and benefits of public employees, members of his own party have been shown to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds. According to the Huffington Post, Republican State Senators Luther Olsen, Dale Schultz and Sheila Harsdorf all had stakes in Wisconsin farms that netted more than $300,000 in government subsidies between 1995 and 2009.
New figures show last year was the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001. The United Nations reports civilian casualties hit a record high of 2,777 in 2010, an increase of 15 percent from the previous year.
Thirty-six people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan earlier today. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, believed to be the deadliest in Pakistan this year. The Pakistani Taliban has also claimed responsibility for a bombing that left 25 people dead and 131 wounded in the eastern city of Faisalabad. The nearby offices of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency were the apparent target.
In Yemen, the government of U.S.-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh is escalating a crackdown on opposition protests. On Tuesday, at least 50 people were wounded in the capital Sana’a after police opened fire on demonstrators attempting to join a pro-democracy encampment on a university campus. Four of the injured were left in critical condition. At least 27 people have been killed since protests erupted against Saleh last month.
At least 11 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. Fighting broke out after an estimated 1,000 Coptic Christians gathered to protest the earlier burning of a church and what they describe as state discrimination.
Amnesty International has released video it says provides evidence of the torture of scores of prisoners killed during the uprising against U.S.-backed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. According to Amnesty, the video was taken inside a morgue a month ago. The victims had all been jailed at one of Egypt’s largest prisons. Corpses had wounds to the head, mouth and eyes, as well as bullet wounds, burn marks and missing fingers.
Egypt was one of a number of countries to see events and rallies Tuesday marking International Women’s Day. Over a thousand women led a march through Cairo to Tahrir Square. In the Ivory Coast, thousands of women marched in the capital of Abidjan. The rally came one week after government forces killed seven women protesters at an all-female march.
Protester: “We want peace. We want peace because we are here and we see that you are killing our brothers, our mothers and our sisters. We’ve come out here this morning so that peace can return to Ivory Coast.”
Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who now heads the U.N. Agency for Women, celebrated in Liberia.
Michelle Bachelet: “The first priority is to enhance the voices and leadership and political participation of women. The second is economic empowerment. We believe that women’s rights will be only possible if we have women in power, in terms of having access to jobs. And, of course, the better jobs will be linked to a better location. The third is of course women at the heart of peace and security. And we will be working very hard on all these areas. And the fourth is on ending violence against women.”
In Syria, a prominent dissident and human rights attorney has been released from prison after being convicted last July. Seventy-eight-year-old Haitham Maleh had been jailed over public comments criticizing the lack of democracy in Syria and the excessive powers wielded by security officials. Maleh also spent seven years in jail in the 1980s.
The International Court of Justice has ruled on the border dispute that’s inflamed tensions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Both countries have been ordered to keep military, civilian and police personnel out of disputed area along the shared San Juan River. Costa Rica had accused Nicaragua of illegally sending troops and engineers into Costa Rican territory to dredge the river. While the court declined to order Nicaragua to halt all dredging, it did permit Costa Rica to send civilian staff to monitor damage to internationally protected wetlands in parts of the disputed region. At The Hague, Nicaraguan diplomat Carlos Arguello Gomez and Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro welcomed the ruling.
Carlos Arguello Gomez: “The main point for Nicaragua is to keep on dredging on the river. That was the most important thing, and the court has reaffirmed that Nicaragua can continue its dredging works.”
René Castro: “Today, an important step has been reached in the international justice, because the court forced Nicaragua to stop its abusive and aggressive behavior of invasion of Costa Rican territory, and it established that the only personnel that can enter the area are Costa Rican.”
New York Republican Rep. Peter King is set to open a controversial hearing Thursday on the radicalization of the American Muslim community. Critics have described the hearings as a modern-day form of McCarthyism designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. King has refused calls to broaden the hearing to examine right-wing militias or any non-Muslim groups. Ahead of the hearing’s first day, Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said King is scapegoating Muslims.
Nihad Awad: “This kind of hearing serves to stigmatize the American Muslim community in the same way many people were stigmatized under the McCarthy senator who singled out people. And we’re just looking at a repeat by some people who’s in authority and abusing that authority, targeting a minority who might be unpopular because of propaganda and stereotypes and because of the political turmoil in the Muslim world. He knows that the Muslim community can be singled out, and I think he’s just exploiting this in an ugly fashion.”
A right-wing activist behind the infamous undercover sting against the community group ACORN has now targeted National Public Radio. On Tuesday, James O’Keefe released video of a secretly recorded meeting between two NPR executives and two people posing as donors for a fake Muslim group. The impersonators requested the meeting under the guise of wanting to donate $5 million, an offer NPR rejected. On the tape, NPR executive Ronald Schiller criticizes the Tea Party and fringe Republicans.
Ronald Schiller: “The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives, and very fundamental Christian. And I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move.”
Schiller was scheduled to leave NPR for a new job next month but has resigned effective immediately. In 2009, O’Keefe disguised himself as a pimp and secretly videotaped ACORN employees appearing to offer him advice. The scandal led to a congressional measure stripping ACORN of federal funding. The release of the new video comes as NPR is facing the threat of major cutbacks. In a statement, Republican Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia said, “This disturbing video makes clear that taxpayer dollars should no longer be appropriated to NPR.”
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