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The Libyan government is claiming at least 31 people have died in the most sustained NATO bombings of the Libyan capital Tripoli to date. The death toll has not been independently verified. Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the dead included civilians.
Moussa Ibrahim: "Today, we have lost 31 martyrs from the center of the city in Bab al-Aziziya, the outskirts of Tajoura and Tareeq al-Matar. Some of these 31 were guards guarding the buildings that were hit. Some of them were passers-by. Some of them were totally innocent civilians. The injured are in the dozens."
The NATO bombings on the Libyan capital of Tripoli came as leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi delivered a televised address vowing "to stay in our land dead or alive." At the White House, President Obama said the NATO operation in Libya is weakening Gaddafi’s regime.
President Obama: "Gaddafi needs to step down for the sake of his own people. And with respect to the pace of operations and participation, I think if you look at where we were three months ago and where we are now—or two months ago and where we are now—the progress that has been made in Libya is significant. Our goal there was to protect the Libyan people from a potential slaughter."
President Obama’s comments came on the same day he met face-to-face with another foreign leader facing internal unrest—the Crown Prince of Bahrain. Salman bin Hamad Khalifa’s visit to the White House was kept under wraps, with no announcement beforehand that it was to take place. The meeting came less than one week after the Bahraini government lifted the nation’s three months of martial law, then launched assaults on protesters in 20 villages. It also came one day after dozens of Bahraini medical officials who treated anti-government protesters were charged with attempting to overthrow the Bahraini monarchy. A White House statement about the meeting made no mention of the Bahraini crackdown. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally and home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Thousands of Yemeni protesters gathered outside the home of the nation’s vice president Tuesday after the government rejected a proposal for a political transition. Yemeni officials appear to have ruled out coming to any agreements until President Ali Abdullah Saleh returns. Saleh was taken to Saudi Arabia over the weekend to receive medical care for wounds suffered in a rocket attack on his compound.
The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, is warning the ongoing crisis in Yemen is fostering a humanitarian catastrophe. Already one of the poorest nations on the planet, Yemeni residents are now struggling with widespread water and fuel shortages. Half of Yemeni children suffer from stunted growth, the highest rate in the world. Some 15,000 people have already uprooted by the nation’s violence, but the United Nations fears that number could rise to as much as 40,000. The majority of the displaced are women and children.
Syrians are fleeing a northwestern town in fear of retaliation for the killings of as many as 120 Syrian security forces. Residents of Jisr al-Shughour now say the killings were carried out by mutinous Syrian troops who had refused orders to attack civilians. One witness said government forces had attacked the town over the weekend.
Resident: '’They went to bury Basel al-Masri, and they started firing at us from the post office building. And there was a helicopter flying above us, and they hit us with the tanks, and they fired at us. They put the army in front of us. We don't want the army to come to us. They killed our youths. Four of my cousins were killed, and my two sons are injured.’’
A top U.N. official has criticized Israel’s killings of unarmed demonstrators on the Syrian border. Up to 40 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in two separate Israeli shootings of unarmed protesters in the Golan Heights. Twenty-three people were killed after crossing from Syria into a buffer zone this past Sunday. In a statement, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said, "The use of live ammunition against allegedly unarmed protesters, resulting in large numbers of deaths and injuries, inevitably raises the question of unnecessary and excessive use of force."
At least 15 people were killed today in the latest U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s Waziristan region. The attack reportedly hit a compound in an area bordering North and South Waziristan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has wrapped up his final trip to Afghanistan before stepping down from the Pentagon at the end of the month. During his visit, Gates floated the idea of extending the U.S. occupation beyond 2014 while also rebuffing Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call to end U.S. attacks on Afghan homes. On Tuesday, Gates addressed troops at a ceremony in Kabul.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "So I leave Afghanistan today with the belief that if we keep this momentum up, we will deliver a decisive blow to the enemy and turn the corner in this conflict. And if we do, it will be because of the service and sacrifice of all of you, all of the rest of those from all of the coalition countries and our Afghan partners throughout this country, and the sacrifices of your families, as well. And for that, I will always thank you."
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is warning U.S. economic recovery is advancing at a glacial pace with a full turnaround still years away. Bernanke spoke to a conference of bankers Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke: "U.S. economic growth so far this year looks to be somewhat slower than expected. Aggregate output increased at only 1.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter, and supply chain disruptions associated with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are hampering economic activity this quarter. A number of indicators also suggest some loss of momentum in the labor market in recent weeks."
Bernanke’s comments follow last week’s figures showing the United States added only 54,000 jobs last month, the fewest since last September. The nation’s official unemployment rate also increased to 9.1 percent, up from 9.0 percent in April.
The nation’s largest private prison company has hired the former head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to a top executive position. Harley Lappin retired as the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons last month. On Friday, the Corrections Corporation of America named Lappin its executive vice president and chief corrections officer. Lappin had stepped down as federal prison chief following his arrest for driving under the influence. A $1.6 billion company, the CCA has faced widespread allegations of prisoner mistreatment and negligence in the deaths or injuries of prisoners in its prisons and immigrant jails.
A new study is warning highly touted efforts at nuclear disarmament are being canceled out by parallel investments in new nuclear weapons systems. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says more than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use around the world, including 2,000 kept in a state of high alert. The world’s eight nuclear powers—Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States—possess some 20,500 nuclear warheads. Because of new weapons spending, the study warns, "it seems unlikely there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the foreseeable future."
In Haiti, at least 23 people have died and scores of others are missing after torrential rains set off devastating flooding. Most of the deaths came in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The crisis has worsened with the large number of people living in tent communities and temporary shelters following the devastating earthquake of January 2010. Haiti is bracing for more deaths with hurricane season just beginning.
The United Nations is warning global food prices are expected to remain high for the rest of the year and beyond. In a biannual report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says dwindling stocks and modest gains in crop yields will prevent a reduction in food prices to more sustainable levels. Earlier this year, food prices hit levels seen during the 2007-2008 food crisis that sparked unrest in poor nations worldwide.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced a deal that will radically scale back public broadcasting produced in his state. Christie’s administration has agreed to place the publicly owned New Jersey Network under control of New York’s public broadcaster WNET-TV. The deal will mean the firing of all 130 of New Jersey Network’s employees, though around 20 will be hired to produce content for the new station. It also contracts the private Caucus Educational Corporation—owned by the son of a well-connected New Jersey political powerbroker—to provide 20 hours of television content per week. Christie has also reached separate deals to sell all nine of New Jersey Network’s radio licenses to Philadelphia’s WHYY and New York Public Radio.
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