Libyan officials close to Col. Muammar Gaddafi and a U.S. diplomat have held secret face-to-face talks, the first since the United States and NATO began its bombing campaign in March. The three-hour talks took place in Tunisia on Saturday. A Libyan official described the meeting as a first step to repair relations between the two countries, but U.S. Department of State officials said the meeting was only held for the United States to deliver a message that Gaddafi must step down. The talks came one day after the United States and 31 other nations officially recognized the Libyan rebels as the new Libyan government.
Medial mogul Rupert Murdoch, his son James Murdoch, and former News International executive Rebekah Brooks are set to testify before the British Parliament today as the phone-hacking scandal engulfing the Murdoch media empire continues to grow. Today marks the first time Rupert Murdoch has faced questioning from British MPs in the 40 years he has owned several of Britain’s largest newspapers. Today’s hearing began with the questioning of two former senior police officials from Scotland Yard. The unprecedented hearing comes a day after another shocking development in the Murdoch scandal. A former reporter who helped blow the whistle on the Murdoch-owned News of the World was found dead at his home. Police said the death of Sean Hoare was being treated as “unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious.” Hoare had been the source for a New York Times story tying the phone hacking to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who would later become director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
General David Petraeus handed over command of U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan Monday, a day after a tentative start was made to a gradual process of transferring security to Afghan forces. Petraeus is set to become the new head of the CIA. Lt. Gen. John Allen has become the new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Lieutenant General John Allen, Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan: “It is my intention to maintain the momentum of this campaign, this great campaign on which we have embarked. I will continue to support, in every way possible, the recruiting, the training, the preparation and equipping, and the fielding and the employment of the Afghan national security forces.”
Authorities in Tunisia report a 14-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet fired during a violent protest in the town where the Arab Spring movement first began. Protesters in Sidi Bouzid flung Molotov cocktails at security officers, who responded by firing warning shots late Sunday night and into Monday morning. The clashes come as Tunisia prepares for significant October 23 elections to create a body to draw up a new constitution. Residents in Sidi Bouzid have expressed frustration that the protests, which began in December over rising food prices and unemployment, have done little to change everyday life in Tunisia, despite triggering uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Prime Minister Béji Caïd Essebsi denounced the recent unrest in Tunisia as a ruse orchestrated by extremists to derail the October elections and insisted the proceedings would go on.
The Israeli government is moving forward on plans to build 336 new settlement homes in defiance of the international community. According to the plan, 294 of the homes will be built outside of Jerusalem, another 42 will be build outside of the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinians said Israel’s move to build more settlements hardened their resolve to seek statehood recognition from the United Nations. Hagit Ofran of the Israeli group Peace Now also criticized the new settlements.
Hagit Ofran, Peace Now: “The government of Israel is expanding the settlements despite the fact that it’s against the Israeli interest and against the declarations of the government that we are going to peace. This construction in settlements now pushes the Palestinians to go unilaterally to the U.N.”
A new Israeli law outlawing citizens and organizations from advocating for boycotts against any Israeli person or entity is drawing criticism from around the world as an attack on freedom of speech. Under the new law, any person — including journalists — calling for the boycott or divestment of Israel or the occupied West Bank can be sued by the boycott’s targets without having to prove that they sustained damage. Prominent Israeli columnist Ben Caspit, who is opposed to boycotts, denounced the new legislation, writing, “This is a blatant and a resounding shutting of people’s mouths. This is a thought police. There is no choice but to use this word. Fascism at its worst is raging.” The Jewish daily newspaper, The Forward, issued an editorial claiming, “a boycott can be a legitimate use of non-violent protest to achieve a worthy goal.” The editors of the paper then drew a line through the sentence, along with several others, to illustrate the type of reasonable thoughts that will be punishable under the new law.
Borders, the nation’s second largest bookstore chain, has announced it plans to shut down its remaining 400 stores and eliminate nearly 11,000 jobs. The store was founded in 1971 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Meanwhile, Cisco Systems has announced plans to cut its workforce by 11,500 employees.
A BP oil pipeline on Alaska’s North Slope ruptured on Saturday, spilling up to 4,200 gallons of oil-containing fluids, mainly methanol, into the Alaskan tundra. ProPublica reports that the section of pipeline where the leak occurred was flagged by BP officials more than a year ago as so corroded it presented an imminent threat of rupture.
There has been another oil spill in Montana. Up to 630 gallons of crude has spilled at an oil field in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The oil line may have been leaking for 10 to 14 days before a neighboring landowner reported it last week.
In Montana, the Associated Press has revealed federal regulators knew potentially contaminated bark and wood chips were being sold from a Superfund site in the asbestos-tainted town of Libby, Montana, for three years before they stopped the practice. The contaminated wood chips were placed in yards, city parks, outside schools and at the local cemetery. Asbestos from a W.R. Grace mine in Libby has killed an estimated 400 people and sickened at least 1,750 people.
A new report finds people of color are disproportionately targeted for crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and HIV status. According to the latest annual report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 27 anti-LGBT murders occurred in 2010 — the second highest annual total recorded in 15 years. Of those 27 victims, 70 percent were people of color, and 44 percent were transgender women.
Millions of people in South Africa and around the world marked Nelson Mandela Day on Monday on Mandela’s 93rd birthday. Shaka Sisulu is the grandson of the late anti-apartheid leaders, Walter and Albertina Sisulu.
Shaka Sisulu: “Nelson Mandela Day is an international day for us to celebrate the very values and ethos that we’re celebrating today. So it was a natural fit. We are asking people to give their time in developing their communities, their broader communities. Sometimes we are an enclave; we think that the rest of society isn’t. But we’re asking people to contribute their time and to think about it. And that’s exactly what Nelson Mandela Day is all about. That’s exactly what the legacy of Mr. Mandela himself is.”