Two sons of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi have issued conflicting statements on the status of their embattled regime. In telephone calls made to Arab television stations within minutes of one another, a man claiming to be Gaddafi’s son Al-Saadi said forces loyal to his father were prepared to negotiate with Libya’s rebel opposition, while a man who identified himself as Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam urged Libyans to continue fighting. Rebel forces are closing in on three pro-Gaddafi strongholds where they believe Muammar Gaddafi himself may be hiding. Rebel fighters have given Gaddafi and his loyalists until Saturday to lay down their arms or face intensified military action.
Newly uncovered documents show a former Bush administration official and current top executive at the multinational contracting firm Bechtel has tried to assist the Gaddafi regime. According to Al Jazeera, former U.S. State Department official David Welch met with the Gaddafi representatives as recently as last month to offer advice on winning the “propaganda war” with the United States and NATO. Records of the meeting show Welch advised Gaddafi’s aides to pass on any evidence of the Libyan rebels’ alleged links to terror groups. The disclosure was made in documents found in a sacked Libyan intelligence building. Another document suggests a representative of Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio passed on a request to Muammar Gaddafi’s son for information on the rebels that could help end the war. In response, Kucinich said, “Any implication I was doing anything other than trying to bring an end to an unauthorized war is fiction.”
The top legal official in the embattled Syrian city of Hama has resigned in protest of what he calls crimes against humanity during the ongoing crackdown on opposition protests. In a video statement, Hama’s Attorney General Adnan Bakkour says he has witnessed dozens of executions, the torture of civilians, and more than 420 mass graves by Syrian forces. Bakkour’s resignation comes as hundreds of soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad conducted raids in Hama in a search for protesters. It is unknown how many people were detained. Amnesty International meanwhile has released a report documenting 88 cases in which prisoners held by the Assad regime have died. According to the report, the bodies of the dead showed signs of torture and abuse, including broken necks, cigarette burns to the chest and face, electrocution to genitalia, fractures and whipping slashes. Ten of the victims were under the age of 18, with some as young as 13. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims a total of 473 people were killed during protests in the recently concluded holy month of Ramadan, including 360 civilians.
The United Nations is warning millions of people remain cut off from desperately needed aid in the famine-stricken Horn of Africa. The number of people fleeing their homes has rapidly declined since last month, but millions remain at risk of starvation. In a visit to the Somali capital of Mogadishu, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, António Guterres, said relief efforts are still falling short.
António Guterres: “I think it’s clear that things are scaling up, but I think it’s also clear that the dimension of the problem is out of proportion with what it has been possible to do until now. I think we all need to put together all the efforts that exist—U.N. efforts, NGOs. The whole of the international community is still far from reaching the totality of the population and the stress in Somalia, because of this combination, this deadly combination, of conflict and drought.”
The whistleblower website WikiLeaks has blamed The Guardian newspaper for making public thousands of unredacted diplomatic cables. In a lengthy editorial, WikiLeaks accuses a Guardian reporter of divulging the password needed to decrypt the files in a book published earlier this year. The files reportedly contain raw, unredacted cables that include the names of agents, journalists and human rights workers in countries such as Israel, Jordan, Iran and Afghanistan.
President Obama has rescheduled a major address on jobs and the economy after a dispute with House Speaker John Boehner. Obama initially sought to hold the speech next Wednesday, the same night as the next Republican presidential debate. Boehner refused the request, citing unspecified House votes. The speech is now expected before a rare joint session of Congress next Thursday.
General David Petraeus has stepped down from the military ahead of his new stint as head of the CIA. In a farewell address, Petraeus warned against cuts to the military’s massive budget.
General David Petraeus: “It will be imperative to maintain a force that not only capitalizes on the extraordinary experience and expertise in our ranks today but also maintains the versatility and flexibility that have been developed over the past decade in particular. I do believe, however, that we have relearned since 9/11 the timeless lesson that we don’t always get to fight the wars for which we’re most prepared or most inclined. Given that reality, we will need to maintain the full-spectrum capability that we have developed over this last decade of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the telecom giant AT&T from purchasing T-Mobile in a $39 billion deal. The move marks the Obama administration’s biggest challenge of a takeover bid to date. Sharis Pozen of the Justice Department’s antitrust division and U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the deal would harm consumers because of reduced competition.
Sharis Pozen: “Unless this merger is blocked, competition and innovation in the mobile wireless market, in the form of low prices, innovative wireless handsets, operating systems and calling plans, will be diminished, and consumers will suffer.”
James Cole: “The Department filed this lawsuit because we feel the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower-quality products for their mobile wireless services.”
The Associated Press has provided new details on how ethnic groups were targeted by secretive intelligence cooperation between the CIA and the New York City Police Department in the years following the 9/11 attacks. According to the AP, the NYPD’s so-called “Demographics Unit” dispatched plainclothes officers into ethnic communities throughout New York City. The officers have reportedly used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even without evidence of wrongdoing. The NYPD has also scrutinized imams, taxi cab drivers, food cart vendors and other jobs often done by Muslims. The report claimed an unprecedented level of CIA cooperation made the surveillance possible. The NYPD has denied the unit’s existence. But on Wednesday the AP released another article citing a memo from the unit’s supervisor and a PowerPoint presentation which described the unit in detail and repeatedly featured the department’s logo. According to the documents, the Demographics Unit is comprised of 16 officers speaking at least five languages and is the only squad of its kind known to be operating in the country. In addition to New York City, the unit has also mapped neighborhoods in Connecticut and New Jersey. The squad has maintained a long list of “ancestries of interest” and received daily reports on life in Muslim neighborhoods.
Federal officials are claiming an uncle of President Obama that was arrested in Boston last week on drunk-driving charges has been a fugitive of deportation for nearly two decades. Onyango Obama, also known as Omar, was arrested last Wednesday after allegedly darting his vehicle in front of a police cruiser. Onyango Obama could face deportation if convicted.
Virginia has experienced another aftershock from last week’s earthquake on the East Coast. A 3.4-magnitude earthquake was recorded in Virginia earlier today. There have been more than 20 aftershocks since the initial 5.8-magnitude quake hit last week.
An ongoing billing dispute between contractors in a New York court has offered a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the CIA’s notorious extraordinary rendition program. Richmor Aviation, based near Hudson, New York, is suing Sportsflight, a one-man aircraft brokerage business on Long Island, for breach of contract. Court documents presented in the suit show that in and around 2003, Sportsflight organized dozens of flights at the behest of the CIA to locations including Romania, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Djibouti, Pakistan and Libya. More than 1,500 pages from the trial and appeals court detail calls to CIA headquarters; to the cell and home phones of a senior CIA official involved in the rendition program; and to the private contracting company DynCorp, employed by the CIA. Passengers on the flights included suspects targeted by the CIA’s so-called Rendition Group. The prisoners were shuttled between secret CIA prisons around the world. Richmor earned at least $6 million over three years. Publicly available records show the company accounted for only a small percentage of the CIA’s business, suggesting the agency paid tens of millions of dollars to use private planes to transport detainees and personnel in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The renowned poet and author Maya Angelou has criticized an inscription on the new monument to the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Washington, D.C. The inscription is a paraphrase from a sermon King gave two months before his assassination in 1968, in which he discussed what might be said at a eulogy in the event of his death. King told the congregation, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.” The inscription on the monument reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” Angelou argues the truncated quotation diminishes King’s words and makes him seem arrogant and egotistical. Angelou was a consultant on the monument project but was not approached about the quotation. The monument’s designers say the abbreviated version was necessary due to limited space.