British officials have confirmed NATO is actively helping the Libyan rebels in their search for Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, whose whereabouts have been unknown since rebel forces stormed Tripoli. British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said NATO intelligence and reconnaissance assets are being used in the search. On Wednesday, rebel groups announced a cash award for the capturing or killing of Gaddafi. With much of Tripoli in rebel hands, the NATO-backed forces are now heading to Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, east of Tripoli. Gaddafi forces are still firmly in control of Sirte, as well as Sabha in the desert to the south. Libyan rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril spoke in France on Wednesday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mahmoud Jibril, Libyan rebel leader: “I can confirm that our battle as the Libyan nation is still not over. It has not finished on the ground, because Gaddafi forces are bombing indiscriminately at the southern towns, especially Sabha. A large number of regime remnants and pockets are still performing as snipers and assassins, even in Tripoli’s streets. This should be a reminder that the duty of protecting civilians is not yet over.”
The Arab League has now recognized the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya. Meanwhile, the United States has asked the U.N. Security Council to unfreeze $1.5 billion in Libyan assets for the cash-strapped rebels in a move to bypass opposition from South Africa, which has close ties to Gaddafi. The Qatari minister Khald Al-Attiyah said money was urgently needed.
Khald Al-Attiyah, Qatar Minister for International Cooperation: “Of primary importance, it is immediate need to pay the salaries for the civil and public servants who have not been paid anything for nearly six months now, which amount to approximately $2.5 billion, as estimated by the TNC. We strongly believe that this action should be taken before Eid al-Fitr, which commences at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. We also feel that this will have a very positive and emotional impact over the the Libyan people, who have suffered for a long time from lack of humanitarian needs.”
Earlier today, four Italian journalists who were kidnapped and held by suspected loyalists of Gaddafi were freed. On Wednesday, three dozen journalists who were being held captive at Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel were also let go.
A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday reveals Republican Sen. John McCain, former 2008 presidential candidate, promised to provide arms and military gear to Col. Muammar Gaddafi during a meeting in August 2009. Also attending the meeting was Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins. The leaked cable reads, “Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has launched a preliminary investigation into claims reporters from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. tried to hack the phones of September 11 victims. During a meeting with family members of the September 11 attacks, Holder confirmed the U.S. Department of Justice has been looking into a report by Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper that reporters at the now closed News of the World had offered to pay a New York police officer for private phone records of some victims of the 2001 attacks. Peter Gadiel, whose son died at the World Trade Center, attended the meeting.
Peter Gadiel, father of 9/11 victim: “The Attorney General said he broke precedence by talking about this investigation at its outset. From everything we saw today, it certainly appears that the government is taking these allegations very seriously. Of course, personally, I find the idea that somebody would have hacked into my son’s cell phone reprehensible. I certainly hope that the individuals responsible are found and prosecuted.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has admitted in his forthcoming memoir that he urged President George W. Bush to bomb a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site in June 2007, but the President rejected his advice. Israel bombed the site three months later. In the book, Cheney also confirms he pushed to have Secretary of State Colin Powell removed from office after the 2004 election, because Powell had privately expressed doubts about the Iraq war. On the issue of interrogations, Cheney defends the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and rejects charges that it was a form of torture.
In campaign news, three new national polls show Texas Gov. Rick Perry has taken a lead in early polling among the 2012 Republican presidential candidates. In a Gallup poll, 29 percent of respondents backed Perry, who entered the race earlier this month. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who had been considered the early front-runner, placed second with 17 percent, followed by Ron Paul at 13 percent and Michele Bachmann at 10 percent.
A new study has found a direct connection between changing climate and an increase in warfare and conflict. Meteorologists at Columbia University examined the relationship between the weather pattern known as El Niño and the rise in civil unrest in the world’s poorer tropical countries. Of the 234 civil wars or uprisings that took place between 1950 and 2004, researchers say El Niño influenced 48 of them. Unrest in Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Indonesia, Rwanda, Burma and Niger, for example, all occurred during a particularly strong El Niño in 1997. El Niño is a regular climatic event that tends to warm up and dry out tropical regions.
In what is being described as the largest civil disobedience protests in the environmental movement’s recent history, 56 more people were arrested Wednesday outside the White House in a protest against the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Since Saturday, 275 people have now been arrested. Meanwhile, the leaders of the nation’s largest environmental groups released a letter Wednesday calling on President Obama to block the pipeline, saying it may be the “biggest climate test you face between now and the election.”
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed to anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare to end his public hunger strike and proposed that parliament debate his demands after an apparent breakdown in talks with the self-styled Gandhian activist. The 74-year-old Anna Hazare has been on a hunger fast for 10 days demanding India pass a new anti-corruption law. On Wednesday, he vowed to continue the fast until death.
Anna Hazare, anti-corruption activist: “The government is still not agreeing to these issues, showcasing that they have no intention to fight corruption. And this is why I have decided that for as long as I am alive and until the government agrees on all these issues, I will not step back, even if I have to die.”
A group of some three dozen Egyptian human rights groups are lodging a complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Commission against the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, accusing the military junta of cracking down on civil society groups and crushing dissent. Activist groups have also accused the military of trying to defame them by alleging that they receive funding from foreign countries.
A new report alleges that previous estimates of the amount of Egyptian prisoners killed in the nation’s popular uprising failed to account for the total number of prisons where violence is believed to have occurred. According to a report issued today by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the systematic killing of Egyptian prisoners is likely to have occurred at at least nine prisons around the country, rather than five as previously believed. At least 189 prisoners were killed after the January 25 uprising, but the new findings suggest that number may be higher.
The jailed Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad has begun a hunger strike to protest his conditions. Amnesty International has declared Sanad to be a prisoner of conscience.
In news from the Middle East, Israeli air strikes in Gaza have killed at least four people. Meanwhile, more than 20 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel. A nine-month-old Israeli baby was wounded. The attacks threaten an informal truce agreed by Israel and Hamas on Sunday.
Former Fox television host Glenn Beck has declared he is forming a new Texas-based global movement to defend Israel from the United Nations and international human rights organizations. Beck made the announcement while addressing roughly 1,000 American Evangelical Christians and right-wing Israelis in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Beck, a born-again Mormon, showered praise on Israelis and the Israeli state.
Glenn Beck: “In Israel, there is more courage in one small square mile than in all of Europe. In Israel, there is more courage in one soldier than in the combined and cold hearts of every bureaucrat at the United Nations.”
Beck’s appearance in Israel was the first stop in his worldwide speaking tour entitled “Restoring Courage,” which will take him to South Africa and South America before a major event in Texas on Sunday. Roughly three dozen activists with the group Peace Now gathered to protest the rally. Yariv Oppenheimer is Peace Now’s secretary general.
Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now Secretary General: “We came to protest against this show of Glenn Beck. I think he tried to use the tension in this city for his career. And we have enough fanatics here, we don’t need anymore. We need friends who come from abroad to support the idea of two states, of sharing Jerusalem as capital for two states, for the Palestinians and the Israelis, and not people who come here just to provoke.”
Chile is bracing for the second consecutive day of a nationwide strike led by the country’s main umbrella labor union. Though yesterday’s protests began peacefully, officials claim nearly 350 people were arrested after some 18 flaming barricades were set up around the capital city of Santiago. Clashes between demonstrators and the police reportedly left dozens of people injured. The strike was called to demand changes to pensions, healthcare and taxes, as well as constitutional reform.
The Peruvian National Congress has approved a landmark bill that will require companies to consult with indigenous communities before building mines or drilling for oil. The law also requires the government to consult with indigenous groups on a number of other issues.
A new report from the Washington Post has revealed U.S. dollars, equipment and elite units intended to combat drug trafficking in Colombia have been used to carry out spy operations and to undermine political opponents of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe. Targets of the campaign included Supreme Court justices and civil society groups. The Post revealed U.S. backing for one unit of Colombia’s state security agency that gathered dossiers on labor leaders, broke into their offices, and videotaped union activists. The same unit reportedly met with a U.S. embassy official on a regular basis and received equipment and tens of thousands of dollars.
The publisher of the conservative website WorldNetDaily has published an editorial blaming Tuesday’s earthquake on the East Coast to what he sees as the nation’s declining morals. Joseph Farah writes, “Washington, D.C., deserves more than the wallop it got today. It needs a much bigger shaking up than it got.” Meanwhile, a Brooklyn rabbi named Yehuda Levin, who has ties with the National Organization for Marriage, recorded a YouTube video blaming the earthquake on the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Yehuda Levin: “The Jerusalem Talmud tells us that one of the reasons that God brings earthquakes to the world is because of the transgression of homosexuality. And the Talmud states, 'You have shaken your male member in a place where it does not belong. I, too, will shake the Earth.' So, to those who sent out the email, yes, there’s a direct connection between earthquakes and homosexuality. There was in Haiti, and there is here in New York and Washington, D.C., where they passed homosexual legislation and ordinances.”
Steve Jobs has resigned as Apple CEO. He will be replaced by his handpicked successor, Tim Cook.