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The Obama administration has announced plans to send $25 million in aid to the Libyan rebels as part of a broadening international effort to help the fighters in their campaign against Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the money would be provided for so-called “non-lethal aid.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Now, some of the items are medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios, Halal meals. There are no new purchases. This is not a blank check. But this action is consistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which among other actions authorized member states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas.”
While the Unite States and its European allies are increasing their roles in the Libyan conflict, the United Nations is warning against blurring the lines between military operations and relief work in the country. Italy has announced it will join France and Britain in sending military liaison officers to advise and train Libyan opposition forces. Meanwhile, the Libyan city of Misurata remains under siege. This is U.N. Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos.
U.N. Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos: “The situation in Misurata grows more serious every day. And although the U.N. is unable to obtain verifiable numbers, clearly hundreds of people have been killed and wounded during the almost continuous fighting. In addition, the reported use of cluster munitions in Misurata is extremely worrying.”
On Wednesday, mortar attacks killed at least 10 civilians in the western Libyan city of Misurata. The dead included seven Libyans, a Ukrainian doctor and two journalists: the Oscar-nominated director Tim Hetherington and Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Chris Hondros.
In Bahrain, a secret military trial has reportedly begun against one of the country’s leading human rights activists, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. Earlier this month, he was seized from his home, along with his two sons-in-law, by masked men. He is the former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. On Wednesday, his daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja, ended a 10-day hunger strike demanding his release.
In Iraq, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has denounced a ban on public gatherings as “un-democratic.” Last week, the Iraqi government announced demonstrations would only be allowed at three soccer stadiums. Iraq has seen weekly protests against a lack of basic civic services since late February.
An Egyptian court has ordered the names of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne to be removed from all public places. According to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, a judge ordered Mubarak’s name and picture removed from sport fields, streets, schools, libraries and other public establishments. At present, some 500 schools and a number of public spaces bear the Mubarak name.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Wednesday that the world must be prepared for more nuclear accidents on the scale of Chernobyl and Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, but he declined to call for an end to nuclear power. Ban Ki-moon made the comment at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, marking the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “We have to have a sharper focus on the relationship between natural disaster and nuclear energy. We have to have review on cost-benefit on nuclear energy. And lastly, we have also have a serious review how we can strengthen nuclear safety energy and how we can protect this nuclear technology from nuclear terrorism.”
Thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluid used in hydraulic fracturing spilled into a Pennsylvania waterway Tuesday night after a blowout at a natural gas well. The spill occurred in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, at a well operated by Chesapeake Energy. Local residents in LeRoy Township had to be evacuated from their homes. The blowout could heighten concerns about the safety of a controversial process to extract gas from shale rock known as fracking. House Democrats recently issued a report warning that 29 chemicals used in natural gas drilling are human carcinogens or considered hazardous under federal clean air and water rules. For years, companies—including Halliburton—have attempted to keep secret the list of chemicals used in fracking.
In labor news, the National Labor Relations Board has issued a major ruling against Boeing for retaliating against striking workers. The NLRB ruled that Boeing illegally shifted production of its new 787 Dreamliner passenger plane to a non-union plant in South Carolina to retaliate against union workers in Washington State who went on strike in 2008. In the complaint filed Wednesday, the NLRB said Boeing was “motivated by a desire to retaliate for past strikes and chill future strike activity.”
The oil giant BP marked the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion by filing a pair of lawsuits in an attempt to win back some of the money it has paid out after last year’s massive oil spill. The suits target Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and Cameron International, the company that made the blowout preventer that failed last year. BP said it filed the lawsuits “to ensure that all parties involved in the Macondo well are appropriately held accountable.”
Security researchers have revealed that Apple’s popular iPhone has been designed to secretly track a user’s location and store the information on the device, without the user’s knowledge. Some phones may contain enough tracking information to trace a person’s movement for an entire year. Pete Warden is one of the researchers who discovered the secret program. He said, “Apple has made it possible for almost anybody—a jealous spouse, a private detective—with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been.”
President Obama traveled to the headquarters of Facebook Wednesday while on a fundraising trip to California. During a public event at Facebook, Obama criticized the Republicans for pushing a plan to alter Medicare and Medicaid.
President Barack Obama: “Yes, I think it’s fair to say that their vision is radical. No, I don’t think it’s particularly courageous, because the last point I’ll make is this: nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor or people who are powerless or don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout. I don’t think that’s particularly courageous.”
In news from Wisconsin, JoAnne Kloppenburg has asked for a statewide recount of her closely watched race against conservative Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. Kloppenburg lost the race after a county clerk with close ties to Prosser found 14,000 uncounted votes. Kloppenburg also called on the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board to appoint a special investigator to probe the clerk, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus.
In Australia, roughly 100 asylum seekers at an immigration detention center set fire to nine buildings Wednesday in a night of riots sparked by the denial of visas to two detainees. Australia has a policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers while claims are processed.