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Heavy fighting and gun battles have broken out in parts of Tripoli after NATO-backed rebels marched into the Libyan capital overnight. Some reports indicate that forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi now control just 10 or 15 percent of the city. Three of Gaddafi’s sons have already been seized, and Muammar Gaddafi’s whereabouts have been unknown for days. Gaddafi’s Presidential Guard reportedly surrendered on Sunday. Celebrations have been held across Libya over the possible end of Gaddafi’s 42 years in power. Hours before the rebels entered Tripoli, a former deputy to Muammar Gaddafi appeared on Al Jazeera on Saturday to voice his support to Libya’s rebel movement trying to overthrow Gaddafi.
Abdel-Salam Jalloud, former deputy to Muammar Gaddafi: “The people of Tripoli, who account for more than a quarter of Libya’s population, rise up as one man, woman, children and the elderly. Enough. Zero hour is here. Enough. The areas which have not yet stamped the fear with their feet should defeat that fear tonight and unite, as your enemy is fear.”
Meanwhile, Moussa Ibrahim, Libya’s information minister, lashed out at NATO for backing the rebellion.
Moussa Ibrahim, Libyan information minister: “Every blood — every drop of Libyan blood — shed by these rebels is the responsibility of the Western world, and especially NATO’s countries. So we hold Mr. Obama, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy morally responsible for every single unnecessary death that takes place in this country.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned on Sunday any military action against his country would backfire on those who carry it out. Assad’s message came just days after President Obama and the European Union called for him to step down. Meanwhile, the U.N. Human Rights Council is set to hold a special session today to examine the Syrian government’s violent crackdown on protesters during the five-month-old uprising.
A pair of Americans who have been held in Iran for two years have been given eight-year jail sentences. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were arrested in 2009, along with their friend Sarah Shourd, after they mistakenly crossed from northern Iraq into Iran while on a hike. Shourd was released in September. Iran’s chief prosecutor said the men were found guilty of illegal entry and espionage. Their trial took place behind closed doors, and the evidence against them has not been made public. The men have adamantly denied the spy charges. Bauer is a freelance journalist who has contributed to Democracy Now! and other news outlets. A lawyer for the men said he would appeal the sentence, which shocked their families and friends.
A Japanese newspaper is reporting that residents of some towns closest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may be barred from returning home for several decades. Radiation in the towns is as much as 25 times the level considered safe by the Japanese government.
Workers at Verizon have ended their 15-day strike and are set to return to work tonight even though they have not agreed to a new contract. Union leaders say the decision by the 45,000 workers to end the strike was made after they reached an agreement with Verizon on how bargaining will proceed. Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said, “We don’t consider this a victory in any way. We consider it progress toward a good process at Verizon.” The strike was the largest in the United States in several years.
The faculty at Central Michigan University has announced plans to go on strike today on the first day of classes.
More than 110 people have been arrested since Saturday for taking part in sit-ins outside the White House calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1,500-mile pipeline to deliver tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. Prominent environmental organizer Bill McKibben and over 70 others were arrested on Saturday on the first day of a two-week series of actions. McKibben and dozens others remain in jail. Dr. Sydney Parker of Maryland was arrested during Sunday’s action.
Dr. Sydney Parker, arrested protester: “We are here because this is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a very big health issue. And that’s why we’ve come out today, and that’s why we’re so committed. So, personally, I have never been arrested before. I’m not—you know, I don’t do this for fun. I’m here because I think it is such an important issue that it really demands this kind of action, and it demands that level of commitment from myself.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Friday that Iraqi officials have agreed to negotiate an extension of U.S. forces there beyond the scheduled withdrawal date at the end of this year. Roughly 46,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, along with more than 64,000 private contractors. Last week, Iraq suffered its bloodiest day of the year, with more than a dozen coordinated attacks, leaving 89 people dead and more than 300 injured.
Israel and Hamas have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire after five days of cross-border violence. The violence erupted on Thursday when militants crossed into southern Israel and carried out a series of deadly attacks near the Egyptian border. Since then, Israel has launched a series of air strikes against Gaza. On Sunday, at least nine Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were wounded by Israeli drones and F-16 fighter jet attacks.
In presidential campaign news, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman accused some of his Republican rivals of being too extreme. Huntsman criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s skepticism about global warming and evolution.
Jon Huntsman: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party—the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people that would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science—Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and therefore, in a losing position.”
New reports have surfaced that a staffer responsible for presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s faith-based organizing was once charged with terrorism in Uganda. According to the Atlantic Magazine, Peter Waldron was arrested in Africa in February of 2006 for allegedly possessing a number of assault rifles and ammunition just days before Uganda’s first multiparty elections in 20 years. Waldron spent 37 days in a prison outside Kampala before his charges were dropped. A Ugandan newspaper accused Waldron of collaborating with Congolese rebels to capture the leader of a Ugandan guerrilla group. According to the paper, the International Criminal Court placed a $1.7 million bounty on his head.
In other campaign news, the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting presidential candidate Mitt Romney has applied for a permit to bulldoze his 3,000-square-foot, $12 million beachfront vacation home in La Jolla, California, and replace it with one nearly four times its size. A campaign official said the existing $12 million home is “inadequate for their needs.” Romney lives in Massachusetts but also has vacation homes in New Hampshire and Utah.
A trio of men convicted of brutally murdering three young boys in Arkansas in 1993 were released from prison Friday. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. — otherwise known as the West Memphis Three — entered a rare plea deal in which they maintained their innocence but pleaded guilty to murder, with the state of Arkansas recognizing them as child-killers safe enough to be set free. The men were convicted of the killings after an investigation largely fueled by unsubstantiated rumors of a Satanic ritual. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life, and Echols was placed on death row. The case has become a cause célèbre over the years, with critics arguing the men were targeted because they were outsiders in the community. In 2007, new forensic tests of evidence at the crime scene turned up no genetic material belonging to any of the men. Damien Echols spoke to reporters after being release from death row.
Damien Echols: “They knew they wouldn’t be able to get away with a lot of stuff that they got away with the first time. They knew there would be more people watching this, more attention on this case, so they wouldn’t be able to pull the same tricks. You know, basically when we went to trial the first time, they came in with ghost stories, rumors, innuendo, things that really had nothing to do with the case whatsoever. And they knew now that we’re—the whole world was watching. They wouldn’t be able to do the same thing. They would have to come with some sort of concrete, physical evidence, and they didn’t have any, and they knew that.”
In news from India, tens of thousands of people marched in New Delhi on Sunday to show support for the anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, who has been on hunger strike for the past week. Hazare has vowed not to end his fast until the Indian government creates a new national anti-corruption agency. On Saturday, Anna Hazare spoke to supporters.
Anna Hazare: “The second war for India’s independence has begun. This is the beginning of a new revolution. Now, the flame of hope that has been lit by all the brothers and sisters, students and youth of this nation must not get extinguished. The fire should not go away.”
While Anna Hazare’s hunger-strike campaign has brought tens of thousands to the streets, he has vocal critics within the government and among some Indian activists. Writing in the Hindu newspaper, the Indian author Arundhati Roy writes, “While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not.” Roy writes that Gandhi would have been dismayed by Hazare’s vision of an all-powerful, centralized ombudsman.
In New York City, an 82-year-old resident of Brooklyn facing foreclosure was allowed to stay in her house on Friday after more than 200 people gathered in front of her home to block the eviction. Mary Lee Ward has lived in her home for 44 years. Her supporters say she is facing foreclosure because she was a victim of deceptive and predatory lending practices. Mary Lee Ward spoke from her front stoop after learning that the eviction was put off for now.
Mary Lee Ward: “We’re not slaves anymore. My grandfather was a slave, but I’m not. And they’re not going to force me to do anything against my will. You’ve got to put up a hard fight for the faith, and that means the fact that you have to stick with it when you know that you’re right, you know you have the evidence, you know you have the facts. Don’t let nobody walk over you. Don’t let nobody make you a slave.”