Syrian security forces have arrested some 500 pro-democracy activists after the Syrian government sent in tanks to try to crush protests in the city of Daraa. At least 23 civilians were killed Monday when tanks shelled the coastal city. Security forces have now killed more than 400 civilians since protests erupted last month. While Syrian President Bashar Assad is coming under increasing international criticism, the White House has not declared that Assad has lost the legitimacy to rule as Obama declared in the case of Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. On Monday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said sanctions are being considered.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We are pursuing a range of possible options, including targeted sanctions. I should note for those who don’t know that we have had a fairly aggressive regime of sanctions in place, unilateral sanctions, since, I believe, 2003, and this would be in addition to that, if we were to pursue that course of action. But we’re certainly looking at different ways to make clear to the Syrian government how appalling we find this behavior to be and to encourage them both, as we have, by speaking out against it, but in other means to stop the violence and to move towards serious reform.”
In news on Libya, Italy has announced it will begin using its Air Force to bomb military targets in Libya in the latest escalation by NATO forces. Italy had previously said it would not take part in NATO-led air strikes, citing its former 40-year colonial rule of Libya. Meanwhile, forces loyal to Gaddafi are continuing to shell the city of Misurata. There are reports Gaddafi’s forces are using human shields in the city.
In Afghanistan, NATO forces are saying they have killed a senior al-Qaeda leader named Abdul Ghani. The Saudi-born commander has been described as the second-most-wanted insurgent in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has taken credit for orchestrating Monday’s massive jailbreak in Kandahar that freed nearly 500 imprisoned people, including many Taliban fighters. The Taliban built a massive tunnel underneath the high-security prison.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he lacks the authority to personally order a probe into the mass killings of civilians by the Sri Lankan military in 2009. A U.N. panel says there is evidence that both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers committed war crimes when the Sri Lankan government launched a massive assault on Tamil separatists.
The White House is publicly criticizing news organizations for publishing leaked files about the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that were first obtained by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The documents reveal the United States has held 150 innocent men at the base. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney commented to the press.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “The release of classified information, we condemn in the strongest possible terms, and we think it’s unfortunate that the New York Times and others, news organizations, have made the decision to publish numerous documents obtained illegally concerning the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.”
A new report is warning that soaring global food prices could threaten to push 60 million Asians into extreme poverty. According to the Asian Development Bank, domestic food inflation in developing Asian nations hit 10 percent at the start of this year as the price of wheat, corn, sugar, dairy products and meat soared.
Amnesty International is criticizing Brazil’s plans to demolish the homes of many residents living in the slums, or favelas, of Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty is in Brazil this week.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General: “Everybody fully understands that some degree of movement might be inevitable when you’re undergoing such a major project, but the issue really is as to whether the fair process is being followed. So, I mean, these people have been given houses, apartments, 50 kilometers away from their place of livelihood, or compensations which are really a pittance. And the communities are not really involved.”
In political news, Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has announced he is forming a presidential exploratory committee. Meanwhile, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the former Washington lobbyist, surprised many on Monday by announcing that he will not run in the 2012 presidential race.
The National Labor Relations Board is preparing to sue the states of Arizona and South Dakota over state laws that require workers to hold secret ballot elections before a company can be unionized. The NLRB says the state laws conflict with federal law that gives employers the option to recognize a union if a majority of workers simply sign cards, a process known as “card check.”
A pair of iPhone users have filed a lawsuit against Apple claiming that the company is secretly recording movements of iPhone and iPad users. The suit comes a week after technology researchers revealed that the iPhone had been designed to secretly track a user’s location and store information on the device for a year, without the user’s knowledge. Attorney Aaron Mayer said, “We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go. If you are a federal marshal, you have to have a warrant to do this kind of thing, and Apple is doing it without one.”
Residents of Texas City, Texas, have been ordered to stay inside their homes after oil refineries run by BP and Marathon Oil, as well as a Dow Chemical plant, lost power last night. Local residents were ordered inside to avoid breathing smoke from the refinery’s flares. A small fire broke out at the BP refinery after the power outage, but workers at the facility were able to extinguish it. No injuries were reported. In 2005 an explosion at the Texas City BP refinery killed 15 workers. Last year BP allowed 538,000 pounds of chemicals to escape from the refinery without telling local residents.
Immigrant rights advocates are calling on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to formalize and expand an immigration pardon panel established last year under former Governor David Paterson. The panel was designed to allow immigrants the opportunity to defend themselves from being deported. Since major changes in immigration laws in 1996, millions of immigrants have been deported for minor crimes and crimes they were already punished for. Mizue Aizeki heads the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
Mizue Aizeki, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights: “You’re funneling people into a system where they have no way to get out. It’s a mandatory deportation. And this is a system that needs to be examined very critically, and so we’re calling on Governor Cuomo to institute this pardon panel that would allow at least many immigrants a second chance to be like, 'Look, this is my life. I’ve rehabilitated. Would you please give me another chance?' And I think it’s important to remind people that this is basically a premise of our society: that you should not be punished doubly for something that you’ve already done your time.”
The law firm hired by Republicans in the House of Representatives to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act has withdrawn from its agreement. King & Spalding said defending a law which prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages would hurt its capacity to attract and retain attorneys. The attorney hired to lead the case, Paul Clement, resigned from the firm following the decision. Clement served as Solicitor General under President George W. Bush.
In news about this week’s royal wedding, British gay rights campaigners attempted to deliver an early wedding card to Buckingham Palace Monday calling on Prince William and Kate Middleton to “express their support” for same-sex marriages. The Reverend Sharon Ferguson heads the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.
Reverend Sharon Ferguson: “What we want is for gay couples to have the right to be able to get married and for straight couples to have the right to have a civil partnership, if that’s what they wish. So we’ve already lodged our application with the European Court of Human Rights. And today we are here to present a card to Will and Kate wishing them all the best on their upcoming nuptials and asking them to please support the fact for gay people to be able to also get married. I want to be able to marry my partner, and at the moment I don’t have that opportunity.”