The focus of the Republican presidential race has turned to Florida after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich easily won Saturday’s primary in South Carolina with 40 percent of the vote.
Newt Gingrich: “This is the most important election of our lifetime. If Barack Obama can get re-elected after this disaster, right, just think how radical he would be in a second term. So I have a proposal. With your help, we are now moving on to Florida and beyond.”
In the South Carolina primary, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney placed second with 28 percent of the vote. Gingrich’s victory dashed Romney’s plan to wrap up the nomination early. After the polls closed in South Carolina, Romney lashed out at Newt Gingrich and others for criticizing his record at the private equity fund Bain Capital.
Mitt Romney: “Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them turned against us tomorrow. That’s the choice our party gives America, or else we don’t offer them any choice at all. And Americans, in my view, will demand a real choice in this campaign, between those people who believe in prosperity and success and opportunity, and those who believe in government. And I think they’ll choose us.”
Rick Santorum placed third in South Carolina. Ron Paul came in fourth.
Newt Gingrich surged to victory in South Carolina in part thanks to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million to a pro-Gingrich super PAC. Much of the money was used to buy airtime to attack Romney. Gingrich was also widely accused of employing the so-called “Southern strategy” to appeal to the prejudices of white voters in the South. Last week former President Jimmy Carter said there is a “subtlety of racism” to Gingrich’s comments about food stamps and welfare. House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina repeated a similar charge on Sunday.
Rep. James Clyburn: “He’s appealing to an element in his party that will see President Obama as different from all the other presidents that we have had.”
Archival video has been posted online showing Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul speaking in front of a giant Confederate flag. In the undated video, the Texas congressman argues the South was on the right side of the Civil War.
Rep. Ron Paul: “The country was led to believe, and every one of our public schools since then have preached and harped and pounded it into our kids, that the only issue that was involved was slavery. And yet, that was—that was the excuse, and that was the rabble-rousing issue. And it was; you can’t deny that it was an important issue. That really wasn’t the issue of why the war was fought, in my estimation.”
A U.S. drone strike in Somalia has killed a man from London accused of being a commander of the militant group al-Shabab. Bilal al-Barjawi was assassinated just hours after his wife gave birth to a child in a London hospital. The Guardian newspaper reports the timing has raised suspicion that Barjawi’s location in Somalia was pinpointed as a result of a telephone conversation between the couple. The drone strike occurred about eight miles south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Meanwhile, the United States has carried out another deadly drone strike in Pakistan. Four alleged militants were reportedly killed.
In news from Nigeria, at least 178 people died Friday in a coordinated series of bombings and shootings in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city. The militant Islamic group Boko Haram claimed responsibility. Earlier this month, three of Nigeria’s most famous writers—Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and J.P. Clark—released a statement warning that the country could be descending into civil war. Nigeria’s 160 million people are roughly divided between a mostly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
The U.S. State Department has granted a visa to Yemeni president and longtime U.S. ally Ali Abdullah Saleh to enter the United States to seek medical treatment. Prior to leaving Yemen on Sunday, Saleh apologized for “any shortcoming” in his 33-year rule.
Ali Abdullah Saleh: “I demand a pardon from all the sons of the nation, men and women. If shortcomings occurred during my 33-year term, then I ask for forgiveness, and I apologize to all the citizens of Yemen.”
Thousands of Yemenis protested on Sunday, calling on Saleh to be put on trial for the killing of hundreds of demonstrators over the past year.
Syria has rejected a request by the Arab League for President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to a deputy and set up a new unity government. Syria described the proposal as a violation of its national sovereignty and flagrant interference in internal affairs.
Egypt’s parliament opened today for the first time since a historic free election put the Muslim Brotherhood in a leadership role after years of repression under deposed former president Hosni Mubarak. In the recent elections, the once-banned Brotherhood won 47 percent of the seats in the lower house of parliament. The Islamist Nur party won an additional 29 percent of the seats. The new parliament is meeting today just two days ahead of the first anniversary of the Jan. 25 protests in Tahrir Square that sparked the Egyptian revolution.
Human Rights Watch is urging the United States and other nations to do more to support the rights of Arab Spring protesters to build real democracies in the Middle East.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch: “And to date, the international community, as I’ve outlined, has been much too equivocal and inconsistent in assisting the birth of rights-respecting democracies in this region. Ultimately, the international community has to decide what it stands for. Does it value the rights and the aspirations of the people of this region, or does it prefer to side with the autocrats? In the past year, the West has generally opposed the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators, but the West has frankly been sometimes reluctant to become genuinely full partners with the protesters.”
France is threatening to pull its troops out of Afghanistan after four of its soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan soldier. Security sources said the soldier carried out the killings because he was angry about a recent video showing U.S. marines urinating on the dead bodes of three Afghan men.
In news from Capitol Hill, congressional leaders announced on Friday a pair of controversial anti-online piracy bills have been indefinitely put on hold following a massive online protest against the legislation. Up until last week, both bills—the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act—had widespread, bipartisan support. Numerous tech companies, including Wikipedia and Google, warned the legislation would lead to censorship online and threaten the future of the internet.
In energy news, House Speaker John Boehner threatened Sunday to block an extension of the payroll tax cut unless President Obama reverses his decision and approves the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Boehner made the comment on Fox News Sunday.
Rep. John Boehner: “The Keystone pipeline is the prime example of a shovel-ready project that’s been through every approval process here in Washington. Every option is on the table. We’re going to do everything we can to try to make sure that this Keystone pipeline project is in fact approved.”
Scores of protests were held across the country on Friday to protest the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which ruled corporations have a right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Twelve people were arrested outside the U.S. Supreme Court. The actions were dubbed “Occupy the Courts.”
Tony, protester from Austin, Texas: “Today we’re here to protest the Citizens United decision and any decisions that support unlimited money being used to buy our elections.”
Paul King, from Brick, New Jersey: “I feel like corporate money is invading our politics and taking voices away from the common people. So I felt it’s important to kind of come out and be seen and possibly be heard.”
Vic, protester from Charlotte, North Carolina: “This is an unstoppable force, whether people want to recognize it as such or not. We’re up against a lot of odds, but like I said, there’s power in numbers. And if we get those numbers, you can’t stop it.”
In education news, the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” education initiative has been dealt a setback after public school teachers in Hawaii rejected a contract that called for a move to a performance-based evaluation and compensation system. The vote came shortly after the U.S. Department of Education threatened to sanction the state for not implementing enough educational reforms.
The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to begin delivering fresh water to four homes in northeastern Pennsylvania where water wells have been contaminated by the natural gas drilling technique known as fracking. Some of the water was found to be polluted with cancer-causing arsenic and synthetic chemicals. Meanwhile, a New York man named Patrick McElligott has entered his eighth day on a hunger strike against fracking. McElligott is expected to speak today at the Hydrofracking Day of Action in Albany, New York.
Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona has announced she will step down this week from Congress. Giffords was shot in the head last year in a shooting spree that left six people dead in Tucson. Giffords made the announcement in a video message posted on YouTube.
Rep. Giffords: “Thank you for your prayers and for giving me time to recover. I have more work to do on my recovery. So, to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week. I’m getting better every day. My spirit is high. I will return.”
The Grammy-award winning R&B singer Etta James has died at the age of 73.