Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned a video appearing to show four uniformed U.S. marines urinating on the corpses of three Afghan men. Karzai said in a statement, “This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.” The video was posted online Wednesday. In the video, one marine says, “Have a great day, buddy.” Another jokes, “Golden, like a shower.” The Marines said it had launched an investigation. CNN reports the marines in the video are carrying 30-caliber sniper rifles and wearing helmets issued to members of Marine Corps sniper teams. Desecration of a body by U.S. troops could be considered a potential war crime. Local Afghan residents warned the video could derail the possibility of peace talks with the Taliban.
Afghan resident: “We condemn this action by U.S. soldiers who have urinated on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. It will harm the peace talks. It seems that the U.S. never want peace talks to happen in Afghanistan, and this action will increase misery in our country.”
A military trial is continuing for Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the last of the U.S. marines charged in the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in the Iraqi village of Haditha in November 2005. On Wednesday, a fellow marine testified that Wuterich called for violent retaliation against Iraqi civilians if they were attacked. Wuterich allegedly told his men, “If we ever get hit again, we should kill everyone in that vicinity.” Wuterich faces nine counts of voluntary manslaughter. During the trial, another soldier admitted he urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis.
Nigerian oil workers have threatened to shut down the country’s oil production as a general strike continues to cripple the country for a fourth day. Nigeria is Africa’s top crude producer and is a key supplier to the United States. The strike against rising fuel costs and corruption have shut down most of Nigeria’s banks, shops, airports and schools. According to accounts in the Nigerian press, at least 22 people have died since the nationwide protest began on Monday. On Wednesday, several hundred protesters took over a major highway leading to wealthy neighborhoods in Lagos. One protester at the demonstration held out a plate of rice and beans while condemning Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
Nigerian protester: “Jonathan is eating with three million every day. This is what I’m eating. This is what I’m eating. We will fight. We will not stop until this ends. This must end.”
Iran is urging the United Nations to condemn Wednesday’s assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist. Iran described the attack as “cruel, inhumane and criminal acts of terrorism.” Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan became the fifth Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated in recent years. Iran blamed Israel and the United States for the attack. Pentagon spokesperson George Little denied U.S. involvement.
George Little: “The United States played no role whatsoever in the killing of this scientist. And as to the broader question of tensions, we have been very clear that we seek to lower the temperature on tensions with Iran, and we think that things have calmed down a bit in recent days.”
In campaign news, a group of conservative Christian leaders are meeting in Texas this weekend in an effort to unite the Christian right around a candidate other than front-runner Mitt Romney. Invited attendees include James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. The meeting is taking place in Texas at the ranch of Paul Pressler, a former judge and influential Southern Baptist.
In campaign finance news, the Republican National Committee is urging a federal appeals court to throw out a century-old ban on corporate donations to federal political campaigns. The RNC is claiming the law violates the First Amendment in light of the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited donations to independent expenditure groups. In its legal brief, the RNC complains that the corporate ban artificially disadvantages political parties and candidate committees by forcing them to rely on small-dollar donations from individuals while super PACs can receive unlimited corporate donations.
The Obama campaign revealed today that it and the Democratic National Committee raised more $220 million in 2011, exceeding the campaign’s internal target of $200 million.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center has found nearly two-thirds of Americans believe there is a strong or very strong class conflict between the rich and poor. The survey found Americans now believe there is more conflict between the rich and poor than between immigrants and the native-born or between blacks and whites. Meanwhile, a new study by Indiana University has found 46 million Americans were living in poverty last year, an increase of nearly 11 million since 2006.
In news from Syria, a French journalist was among several people killed in a grenade or mortar attack in the city of Homs Wednesday. Gilles Jacquier is believed to be the first Western reporter to have died in 10 months of unrest in the country. He worked for France 2 television. Jacquier was killed while covering a pro-government rally that he was attending as part of a government-authorized tour of Homs.
Memorials are being held in Haiti to mark the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed roughly 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless. Two years later, the recovery process is just beginning in parts of Haiti. Half-a-million people are still living in crowded camps. According to the United Nations, of the $4.5 billion pledged after the earthquake, only about $2.4 billion has been delivered. Only half of the debris littering the capital of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas has been cleared.
Becky Webb, spokesperson for the Red Cross: “Two years after the anniversary, and up to half-a-million people are still living in camps in Haiti, just like this one here in Mais Gate. The Red Cross has been working to help decongest camps, which means help families leave the camps they’re in and move to a more dignified, more appropriate, more sustainable solution. Here in this camp, we’ve helped 1,500 families leave. That means mainly through rental support, providing financial support so that people can move to the nearby area, where most of them have come from anyway, and into a rental property.”
Haitian residents say entire neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince have been ignored during the recovery process.
Otelier Herman, Center for Respect and Promotion of Human Rights: “Two years after, nothing has been done in the poorest neighborhoods. As a citizen within the poor neighborhoods, we have found that there was not a policy for housing, and that’s why so many people have died.”
The Mexican government is now saying that more than 47,000 people have been killed in the country since President Felipe Calderón declared a war on drug traffickers in 2006. Nearly 13,000 people died in the first nine months of 2010. Some analysts say the actual toll is considerably higher. The Mexican census agency has identified 67,000 homicides from 2007 through 2010, nearly double the government’s count of drug-related deaths for that period.
In news from China, dozens of factory workers assembling Xbox video game consoles threatened to commit suicide last week. The workers climbed to the roof of the factory last week in a protest reportedly over wages. The factory is owned by the manufacturing giant Foxconn, which makes parts for Microsoft’s Xbox console as well as iPads and iPhones for Apple.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House and Supreme Court Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. Demonstrators called for the closure of the prison and the end of the U.S. policy of indefinite detention.
Ann Tiffany, longtime activist from Syracuse, New York: “We want to send a very strong message to the White House, to the Supreme Court, to the Capitol, that in fact Guantánamo breaks international law, that prison is illegal, and action should be taken to close it. And I’m hoping that that message, with all of these people, will get through.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Federal Aviation Administration seeking more information on how law enforcement agencies are using unmanned drones inside the United States. The FAA has reportedly authorized more than 270 drone flights inside the United States, with 35 percent being flown by the Pentagon, 11 percent by NASA, and 5 percent by the Department of Homeland Security. Jennifer Lynch, attorney for EFF, says, “The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens — tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives.”
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the “Bread and Roses” textile workers strike in Lawrence, Mass. Led by the Industrial Workers of the World, the strike lasted for two months and is considered one of the nation’s most important strikes.