In Afghanistan, at least eight NATO troops and a contractor have died after a veteran Afghan air force pilot opened fire inside a military compound in Kabul. There are reports that six of the dead soldiers are Americans. It is not clear how many Afghan security forces were killed or wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, but NATO denied the claim. It was the seventh incident so far this year in which members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents impersonating them, have killed coalition soldiers or members of the Afghan security forces.
The Wall Street Journal reports Pakistan is lobbying Afghan President Hamid Karzai against building a long-term strategic partnership with the United States. Karzai is being urged to grow closer to Pakistan and China. At a meeting on April 16, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza reportedly told Karzai that the Americans had failed them both and that Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country.
The Associated Press is reporting President Obama is preparing a change in leadership at the CIA and Pentagon. According to the AP, Obama will name CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, and then Gen. David Petraeus will be nominated to replace Panetta as CIA director. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern criticized the possibility of Petraeus taking the lead of the spy agency, saying it represented “the full militarization of the intelligence community.” Meanwhile, Ryan Crocker has reportedly become the top candidate to become new ambassador to Afghanistan.
In news from Libya, NATO is reportedly planning to step up its attacks by carrying out more air strikes on Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s palaces, headquarters and communications centers. On Monday, NATO forces bombed Gaddafi’s residential compound in what Libyan officials described as an assassination attempt. Liam Fox is Britain’s Defense Secretary.
British Defense Secretary Liam Fox: “In Libya, we discussed how the situation is progressing. We’ve seen some momentum gained in the last few days. We’re very grateful to the United States for making the armed Predators available, and for the difference that makes in helping us to be able to hit more ground targets. We’ve seen some progress made in Misurata, and it’s very clear that the regime is on the back foot.”
Monday’s attack on Gaddafi’s compound in Libya has been criticized by some world leaders, including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: “They said they didn’t want to kill Gaddafi. Now some officials say, 'yes, we are trying to kill Gaddafi.' Who permitted this? Was there any trial? Who took on the right to execute this man, whatever he is?”
Syria’s crackdown on protesters is continuing. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has poured troops into a suburb of Damascus overnight while his tanks pounded the southern city of Daraa. In the Damascus suburb of Douma, white buses brought in soldiers in full combat gear. More than 2,000 security police were deployed to man checkpoints and check identity cards in an effort to arrest pro-democracy sympathizers. Walid Saffour is the president of the Syrian Human Rights Committee.
Walid Saffour, president of Syrian Human Rights Committee: “The more the violence, the more the protest in Syria. And now there is no going back to the days of fear, to the days of repression. The Syrians want their freedom, want democracy, want equality.”
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice spoke about Syria Tuesday at the United Nations.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: “Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is disingenuously blaming outsiders while at the same time seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens, through the same brutal tactics that had been used by the Iranian regime. The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and respect for human rights, the universal rights that all human beings deserve in Syria and around the world.”
President Barack Obama welcomed the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to the White House on Tuesday, despite criticism from human rights groups over the recent crackdown on dissidents across the United Arab Emirates. Several prominent Emirati human rights activists and academics have been arrested over the past month, including Ahmed Mansoor, who has been held since April 8. Mansoor has been a leading proponent of a petition submitted last month demanding democratic reforms. The UAE is also facing criticism for recently dissolving the Jurist Association, a legal organization that has backed the reform movement. The UAE, a federation of seven emirates headed by ruling families, does not allow direct elections or political parties. It is the world’s third-largest oil exporter. President Obama issued no statement on Tuesday about the human rights situation in the UAE.
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan is facing increasing anger from his own constituents over his budget plan to privatize Medicare and lower taxes on the wealthy. On Tuesday, hundreds of people had to be turned away from a town hall meeting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, because the room was already at capacity. At another public meeting last week, Ryan was repeatedly booed by his constituents.
Rep. Paul Ryan: “We do tax the top. [booing] Let’s remember, let’s remember, let’s remember, most of our jobs come from successful small businesses, two-thirds of our jobs. [booing] You’ve got to remember, these businesses pay taxes as individuals, so when you raise their tax rate to a 44.8 percent rate — what the President is proposing — I would just fundamentally disagree. That is going to hurt job creation.”
Other Republican lawmakers are facing their own heated town hall meetings as they defend their budget plans. The Orlando Sentinel reports a town hall meeting held by Congressman Dan Webster of Florida “degenerated into bedlam” on Tuesday, with members of the crowd shouting down the freshman Republican congressman and yelling at one another.
The Huffington Post is reporting a newly released study from the Congressional Research Service bolsters claims that the nation’s largest banks profited off the federal government’s bailout programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates. The report was requested by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who likened the loans to “direct corporate welfare to big banks.”
In business news, oil giant BP is reporting it made just $7 billion in the first quarter of the year, a 17 percent increase in profits. BP’s profits come at a time when the price of a gallon of gasoline has topped $4 in many parts of the country. On Tuesday, President Obama called for an end to $4 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.
The State of Vermont has moved one step closer to becoming the first state to establish a single-payer healthcare system that guarantees coverage to all residents. On Tuesday, Vermont’s Democratic-led Senate voted 21-8 to support the healthcare bill. The Vermont House has already passed a similar measure. Once the two bills are reconciled, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to sign the bill into law.
The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly dropped its long-running criminal investigation of a former Justice Department attorney who admitted playing a role in exposing the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program. The attorney, Thomas Tamm, has admitted that he called the New York Times in 2005 to leak information about the secret program. Tamm appeared on Democracy Now! in 2009.
Thomas Tamm, attorney: “I have been in law enforcement my entire life. My family was in law enforcement. And I didn’t want to be participating in something that might be illegal. So I actually went up to the Hill to see if Congress — to try and find out whether Congress knew about what was going on. And when I was told and warned that it’s very dangerous to be a whistleblower and they would not confirm that Congress had been briefed is when I decided to call the New York Times.”
A new study of medical records at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has concluded that doctors and psychologists at the prison concealed evidence of intentional harm and torture in apparent violation of the Hippocratic Oath. The study found “the medical doctors and mental health personnel who treated the detainees…failed to inquire and/or document causes of the physical injuries and psychological symptoms they observed.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has informed attorneys of prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo that they cannot access or discuss the secret files recently released by WikiLeaks because the documents remain legally classified. Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor, told the New York Times he could not comment on the newly disclosed assessment of his client Abu Zubaydah. “Everyone else can talk about it. I can’t talk about it.”
Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a bill to severely punish anyone who converts marijuana or marijuana oil into hashish. If the bill is signed by the Oklahoma governor, a first-time offender would face a mandatory sentence of two years to life.
In Arizona, Tucson students shut down a school board meeting Tuesday night by chaining themselves to the chairs of the board members. The students were protesting a plan to terminate the school system’s acclaimed Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies program as an accredited program. The school board meeting was canceled minutes before it was scheduled to begin when nine students took over the seats of the board and then chained themselves to the seats.
The electronics company Sony has admitted its PlayStation Network was hacked in one of the largest internet security break-ins ever. An unauthorized person stole names, addresses and possibly credit card data belonging to up 77 million account holders on the network.