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HeadlinesApril 18, 2011

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Gaddafi Forces Accused of Firing Cluster Bombs

Apr 18, 2011

In Libya, the Gaddafi regime is being accused of firing cluster bombs in its ongoing attack on the rebel-held city of Misurata. Human Rights Watch says the clusters were fired on a residential area. A rebel spokesperson said the bombing underscores the need for increased international aid.

Abdul Ghoga: “This just goes to reinforce the statement we made, that this regime is bent on creating a large humanitarian crisis in Misurata, and lends support to our request that the international community takes up its responsibility to increase support of the civilian population.”

A global treaty banning cluster bombs went into effect last year, but Libya, along with countries including the United States and Israel, refused to sign. A Gaddafi regime spokesperson denied that clusters had been fired.

Mussa Ibrahim: “We can never do this. We can’t. Our — morally, legally, because this is our country, we can’t do that. We will never do it. We challenge them to prove it. To use these bombs, you know, the evidence will remain for days and weeks, and we know the international community is coming en masse on our country soon.”

17 Reportedly Killed in Attack on Misurata

Apr 18, 2011

The Gaddafi regime’s attack on the Libyan city of Misurata, which is under rebel control, continues to cause deaths. At least 17 people were reportedly killed and 47 wounded Sunday in the fourth straight day of bombing. Evacuees say conditions are worsening with shortages of food, medical supplies, electricity and water. Meanwhile, in eastern Libya, rebel forces were able to repel a government assault on the town of Ajdabiya following a weekend of intense fighting. The United States and its allies have reportedly begun seeking a country to shelter Col. Muammar Gaddafi should he be forced out.

TEPCO Seeks 9 Months to Repair Plant; Clinton Visits Japan

Apr 18, 2011

The operator of Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has unveiled a new plan to stabilize the facility within the next nine months. The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will first take three months to build cooling systems to prevent further releases of radioactive material. The new plan indicates a shift in strategy following initial plans to repair the plant’s existing system. It also means Japan will see several more months of radioactive emissions. Evacuees who lived around the Fukushima plant will not be allowed to return for at least six months and possibly far longer. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Japan on Sunday, making her the most senior U.S. official to visit the country since the disaster in early March.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “It is a great honor for me to be here on behalf of my country to demonstrate our very strong bonds of friendship that go very deep into the hearts of both of our people.”

House Approves GOP Spending Bill

Apr 18, 2011

The Republican-controlled House has approved a budget measure that would cut $5.8 trillion in spending over the next decade. The bill would gut Medicare and Medicaid programs serving the elderly and the poor while granting tax cuts to top-earning individuals and corporations. Democrats say the measure has no chance of passing the Senate. Republicans plan to leverage the measure in talks on reducing the deficit. On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he is confident Congress will vote to raise the federal debt limit.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “We’re going to move forward, and again, we want Congress to put in place a comprehensive framework, a balanced framework, that can reduce our long-term deficits. And we’re going to work hard to do that, but if, by the time we need to raise the debt limit, we haven’t worked all that out, Congress still has to raise the debt limit.”

Report: Walker to Propose Emergency Management Bill

Apr 18, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is reportedly preparing a new effort to further weaken the public sector in his state. According to Forbes magazine, Walker’s camp is drafting legislation that would allow for a takeover of local municipalities that fail a financial stress test. Walker could then appoint emergency managers empowered to cancel union contracts, dismiss elected officials and school board members, and take control of entire cities and towns. Walker would also have unchecked authority to cancel government services, including safety net assistance. A high-powered Wisconsin law firm is said to be drafting the plan. The plan would mirror a law enacted in Michigan last month.

Michigan Emergency Managers Target Elected Officials, Teachers

Apr 18, 2011

Last week in Michigan, an emergency financial manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder issued an order taking away all powers of elected officials in the town of Benton Harbor. Meanwhile, the financial manager for Detroit’s public school system has sent layoff notices to all the city’s teachers—more than 5,000 people.

Bid to Repeal Ohio Anti-Worker Law Approved

Apr 18, 2011

Organizers in Ohio have won approval to begin an effort to bring the state’s new anti-labor law to a referendum. The Republican-backed measure bars strikes and limits collective bargaining for more than 350,000 public sector workers. The group “We Are Ohio” has been certified to begin collecting the 231,000 signatures needed to put repeal of the law on the November ballot.

Study: Dangerous Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Fracking

Apr 18, 2011

A congressional probe has found oil and gas corporations involved in the drilling practice of hydrofracking injected hundreds of millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals into wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009. The chemicals were used in the fluids used to open up deposits of natural gas deep below ground. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee also found that companies used at least 650 products that are known or possible human carcinogens, or are hazardous air pollutants.

Georgia Approves Anti-Immigrant Law

Apr 18, 2011

Georgia has become the first state to pass an anti-immigrant law modeled on the measure approved in Arizona last year. The legislation would mandate law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of suspects if officers believe they have “probable cause.” Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has vowed to sign it into law.

13 Killed in Syria Crackdown on Protests

Apr 18, 2011

At least 13 people were killed and many more arrested Sunday when Syrian forces attacked ongoing protests in two towns. Thousands took the streets across Syria demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down. In an attempt to silence the protests, al-Assad has vowed lift Syria’s nearly 50-year emergency law. But opposition leaders say Assad will impose new legislation maintaining the same restrictions on speech and assembly. Human rights groups estimate more than 200 people have been killed since the Syrian government began cracking down on demonstrations in mid-March.

Cables: U.S. Funded Syrian Opposition

Apr 18, 2011

In Syria, newly released diplomatic cables from the online whistleblower WikiLeaks show the United States has secretly financed Syrian opposition groups and activities since at least 2005. The funding has gone to a number of projects, including the London-based satellite channel, Barada TV.

Yemeni Forces Fire on Demonstrators

Apr 18, 2011

Doctors in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a say at least 22 people were wounded Sunday when government forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired on pro-democracy protesters. The crackdown came just one day after thousands of women took to the streets to protest a claim by Saleh that demonstrators are violating Islamic law because they are allowing women and men to mix.

Study: U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan Killed 957 in 2010

Apr 18, 2011

A new study estimates U.S. drone strikes killed 957 people in Pakistan last year. It is unknown how many of the dead were civilians. The chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, I.A. Rehman, called for an end to the attacks.

I.A. Rehman: “We have our reservation on drone strikes, because, whatever their people may say, there is a great danger of innocent people being killed, and we do not approve of this method. We have quoted a U.N. rapporteur’s finding on that, and we stand by that.”

Slain Italian Peace Activist Honored in Occupied Territories

Apr 18, 2011

Vigils were held in the Occupied Territories over the weekend for the slain peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni. A native of Italy, Arrigoni was killed last week after his capture by extremist Palestinian militants. Arrigoni was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led movement that uses nonviolent and direct action methods to oppose the Israeli occupation. He had lived in Gaza since 2008 after arriving on a boat carrying humanitarian aid. A friend of Arrigoni’s remembered him in Gaza.

Silvia Todeschini: “Vittorio was here for the Palestinian people, and they killed somebody who was here for them. And, I mean, we can see — we can see really clearly that the most of the Palestinian people, the civil society, is with us.”

The Hamas-led government in Gaza has arrested two suspects.

Cuba Marks 50th Anniversary of Bay of Pigs; Castro Backs Term Limits

Apr 18, 2011

Cuba has marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-organized Bay of Pigs invasion. On April 17, 1961, a group of more than 1,400 fighters armed, trained and directed by the Kennedy administration landed on Cuba’s shores in an attempt to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro. Within days, the fighters were defeated in what proved to be a major embarrassment for the Kennedy administration and the CIA. The United States has never apologized for the attack. The invasion was marked this weekend as Cuba also held a Communist Party congress. In an opening speech, Cuban President Raúl Castro proposed that Cuba consider imposing term limits on its heads of state. Castro and his brother, Fidel Castro, have led Cuba for more than five decades.

Texas Psychologist Barred from Death Row Evaluations

Apr 18, 2011

A psychologist used as a key government witness in death row cases in Texas has reached a settlement barring him from performing future evaluations. George Denkowski agreed to the deal after his methods came under challenge. Denkowski has been accused of helping prosecutors unfairly send mentally retarded prisoners to death row. Defense attorneys are planning to seek appeals court reviews of at least 14 death row cases that relied on Denkowski’s testimony. But the settlement says that it cannot be used as evidence in cases that are retried.

OECD: U.S. Has Highest Incarceration Rate, 9th Worst on Social Spending

Apr 18, 2011

New figures show the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the developed world, while ranking ninth worst in social spending. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States imprisons 760 of every 100,000 citizens, more than five times the OECD average.

43 Killed in Hundreds of U.S. Tornadoes

Apr 18, 2011

The death toll from a series of tornadoes that ripped through 14 states in the South and the Midwest over the weekend has reached 45. In all, 243 tornadoes caused damage from Oklahoma to Virginia beginning last Thursday. As many as 60 twisters touched down in North Carolina, the most the state has seen in more than 25 years.

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