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British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to hold an emergency session of parliament on Wednesday to discuss the growing phone-hacking scandal that has threatened Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and rocked the British government. On Sunday, British detectives arrested Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper arm, on suspicion of intercepting communications and corruption. Hours later, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson resigned following criticism of the handling by police of the phone hacking scandal. Meanwhile, in Washington, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, has called for congressional hearings and investigations of Murdoch’s media empire in the United States.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin: “What’s going on in England is startling—to think of the extent that they went to to break the law to try to report a story. We need to follow through with the FBI investigation and also with congressional investigation.”
In Afghanistan, a senior adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a member of the Afghan parliament were assassinated Sunday when gunmen stormed a private home in Kabul. Karzai’s aide, Jan Mohammad Khan, was the former governor of Uruzgan province. His death came just days after the killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai, a half-brother of President Hamid Karzai. Meanwhile, the Taliban released footage appearing to show the execution-style killing of 16 Afghan police officers in northwest Pakistan.
In news on Libya, the United States and 31 other nations have formally recognized the rebel-led Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority of Libya. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the recognition should open the rebels to various forms of funding. About $34 billion in frozen Libyan government assets are being held in the United States.
It has been another bloody weekend in Syria as government forces expanded their crackdown on protesters. In the city of Homs, at least 30 activists died Sunday when the Syrian military sent tanks into the city. Syrian troops also reportedly opened fire on demonstrators in the city of Deir ez-Zor. In Damascus, Syrian troops arrested the prominent writer Ali Abdallah. Human rights groups say more than 1,700 people have now been killed since the protests began in March. Meanwhile, more than 300 Syrian activists and dissidents met in Istanbul over the weekend to form a National Salvation Council that could form the basis for a transitional government. Attendees included Haitham al-Maleh, the longtime Syrian human rights attorney and former political prisoner.
Haitham al-Maleh, president of Syrian Human Rights Association: “What I ask from those present here is to cooperate and be faithful, because making statements is easy, but changing the reality is not easy. I hope that we all realize that we are up against a difficult regime in Syria.”
The Los Angeles Times has revealed elite units, controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s military office, continue to operate a secret jail in Baghdad’s Green Zone where prisoners routinely face torture to extract confessions. Iraq’s Justice Ministry ordered the prison shut down in March, but scores of prisoners have been held there since then. In interviews with the International Committee of the Red Cross, former prisoners reported beatings, electric shocks to the body, suffocation using plastic bags, scalding with boiling water or burning with cigarettes, being hung from ceilings with hands tied behind the back, the pulling out of fingernails, and being left naked for hours.
The first U.N. emergency airlift flight arrived in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi Sunday to assist the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have fled the devastating drought and famine afflicting their homeland.The Horn of Africa is facing what is being called one of the largest humanitarian crises in 50 years. In Ethiopia, emergency refugee camps that opened just weeks ago are already at capacity. One Somali refugee named Safiala arrived at a camp in Ethiopia a week ago with seven children. It took them days to reach the camp. On the way tragedy struck.
Safiala Abdullahi, Somali refugee: “I became sick on the way, and therefore the child had nothing to eat, because I had no breast milk, so he died of hunger and dehydration. We called on passers-by to helped us dig a grave. We buried the child and left.”
António Guterres is the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
António Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees: “Our heart is broken when we see mothers telling us that after having walked for days to reach safety, they have lost their children on the way, to see children dying and the doctors not being able to address their situation because it is too late, and to see that we have a lot to do together.”
President Obama has decided to nominate former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama picked Cordray over Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who first proposed the bureau and has been helping to set up the bureau for the past year. Warren had been the choice of many progressive organizations, but her nomination was strongly opposed by Republican lawmakers and the banking industry.
Federal regulators have acknowledged the Exxon Mobil pipeline that recently ruptured under Montana’s Yellowstone River may have been carrying tar sands oil, a heavier, more toxic form of crude oil. Initially Exxon Mobil said the pipeline was only carrying oil from Montana and Wyoming, but on Thursday the company admitted the pipeline was also carrying oil from Canada, the home of the major tar sands deposits in Alberta. Meanwhile, a group of Democratic senators have called on the Department of State to conduct additional environmental reviews before approving a massive new tar sands oil pipeline known as Keystone XL that would stretch from Montana to Texas.
National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake was sentenced to a year of probation for a minor offense after the U.S. government dropped more serious charges that he illegally held classified material. Outside the courtroom, Drake said he had been “personally and professionally shattered” by the investigation and prosecution, which he called “vindictive and malicious.”
In Texas, a man is attempting to save the life of a convicted murderer who tried to kill him. Rais Bhuiyan is suing Gov. Rick Perry in order to stop the execution of death row prisoner Mark Stroman, scheduled for Wednesday. Stroman shot Bhuiyan in 2001, partially blinding him in the wake of September 11. Stroman, an Aryan Brotherhood member, also killed two men at the time, including a Muslim man. All of his victims were from India or Pakistan. Stroman’s half-sister was killed in the attack on the twin towers and claimed her death fueled his rampage. Bhuiyan is now calling on Perry to heed his demand for mercy and lower Stroman’s punishment to life in prison, arguing the attack was rooted in ignorance.
Rais Bhuiyan: “September 11 did a horrible thing not only to U.S., to all over the world. This is a time we should take a new narrative. We should take a new narrative of passion, forgiveness, tolerance and healing.”
Japan has announced plans to suspend all cattle shipments from the Fukushima region as concerns over radiation-tainted beef escalate. The decision comes one day after a major Japanese retailer admitted it had sold beef from cattle that ate nuclear-contaminated food. The beef was sold in 14 stores in Tokyo and the surrounding area.
Lawyers and relatives of victims of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan are seeking the arrest of the CIA’s former legal chief on murder charges for approving attacks that have killed hundreds of people. The effort to seek an international arrest warrant for former CIA general counsel, John Rizzo, is being led by British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, along with a number of Pakistani attorneys. Stafford Smith’s campaign group, Reprieve, estimates U.S. drone strikes have led to the deaths of some 2,500 Pakistani civilians since they began in 2004. The campaigners argue their case against Rizzo turns on the fact that the United States is not at war with Pakistan. Last week, two drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas killed 48 people. President Obama has thoroughly expanded the drone program. In 2009 alone, there were 118 attacks in Pakistan, compared to just one in 2004.
The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders has denounced the CIA for setting up a fake vaccination program in Pakistan in order to gain access to the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding. According to the organization, the scheme could hamper efforts to provide medical services in poor nations, particularly in those where distrust of the United States is already high. Last week, The Guardian newspaper revealed the CIA initiated the program to obtain DNA from the al-Qaeda leader’s family. A senior Pakistani doctor who was recruited by the CIA for the project is now being held in Pakistan after being arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence for cooperating with U.S. intelligence agents. The United States has petitioned for the doctor’s release, offering to allow him and his family to resettle in the United States. Though the medication used in the bogus campaign was real, the medical professionals carrying out the ruse failed to provide the full course of vaccinations.
Egypt’s prime minister has appointed 14 new ministers and kept 13 in their current positions in a reshuffling of the cabinet. The move comes as thousands of protesters continue to occupy Tahrir Square expressing their discontent at the path followed by the country’s transitional government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Hadba Suleiman is among the protesters in Tahrir Square.
Dr. Hadba Suleiman, the New Coalition of the Egyptian People: “I feel that this is not a revolutionary government, and every time we speak out, they say this is just a caretaker government. OK, so anyone who is not interested in carrying out their work can resign. Dr. Essam Sharaf keeps saying that his hands are tied, so then he should resign, and a revolutionary can take his place. We want a revolutionary government to deal with the price rises that the people have to deal with.”
In other news from Egypt, there are conflicting reports about former president Hosni Mubarak. On Sunday, his lawyer announced he had suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma. But state television and hospital officials later said Mubarak only had a temporary bout of low blood pressure. Mubarak is scheduled to stand trial in two weeks on charges of corruption and ordering demonstrators to be killed.
A ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists hopes to reach the Gaza Strip Tuesday. The French yacht, Dignity al-Karama, set sail from a Greek island late Saturday and was slowly crossing international waters early Monday. The boat is carrying 16 people, including three crew members and three journalists. The aim of the trip, according to those aboard, is to draw attention to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which many argue amounts to the collective punishment of some 1.6 million people. The Dignity al-Karama was part of a large international aid flotilla intended for the occupied territory. Athens, however, blocked the departure of any ships heading to the region. The Israeli military has said it will stop any attempt to break the sea blockade.
Gunmen in Honduras shot and killed a radio journalist late last week, as the violent targeting of reporters in the country continues to persist. According to authorities, 26-year-old Nery Jeremías Orellana, the manager of Radio Joconguera in the town of Candelaria, in the western department of Lempira, was shot in the head several times on Thursday. Orellana was a supporter of ousted president Manuel Zelaya and a member of the National Popular Resistance Front, an umbrella group of Honduran activists. Twelve journalists have been killed in Honduras in the last 18 months; none of the crimes have been solved. The Committee to Protect Journalists has declared the country one of the most dangerous places in the world to cover the news; more than one-third of all reporter killings in Latin America in 2010 were carried out in Honduras.
Japan has won its first Women’s World Cup. Japan beat the United States 3-1 on penalty kicks after twice rallying with late equalizers first in regulation time and then in extra time.
Today is Nelson Mandela International Day. The anti-apartheid leader and former South African President turns 93 years old today. He has urged people to do 67 minutes of voluntary work on the day — to represent the 67 years Mandela devoted to South Africa’s political struggle. Mandela is expected to spend the day with family in his childhood village in the Eastern Cape.