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Protests have erupted across Egypt today amidst ongoing upheaval over President Mohamed Morsi’s decree granting himself wide-ranging protections from judicial oversight. Clashes between police and protesters were reported Tuesday morning near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where some activists vowed to remain until Morsi cancels the edict. The actions come a day after tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square to attend the funeral of a protester who died following violent clashes with security forces last week. Hundreds of people have been injured amidst protests since the edict was issued. On Monday, Morsi met with the country’s top judges in an effort to calm the crisis. Following the meeting, a Morsi spokesperson appeared to clarify last week’s decree, saying only “acts of sovereignty” were immune from review.
Yasser Ali: “What is meant by Article 2 of the constitutional declaration in relation to the executive orders of the president of the republic relates to issues concerning sovereignty matters, as well as the fact that it is a temporary measure until the formation of a new constitution.”
Protests are expected in dozens of cities today as part of an effort to call attention to the harsh conditions faced by accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Manning is expected to testify about conditions during his imprisonment at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, as part of a pretrial hearing today at Fort Meade, Maryland. The testimony will mark Manning’s first public comments since his arrest more than two years ago. Manning’s lawyers have argued all charges against him should be dismissed because of his “unlawful pretrial punishment,” which included being held in a six-by-eight-foot cell for at least 23 hours a day and being banned from lying down or even leaning against the wall unless he was sleeping. Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks and has offered to plead guilty to a subset of the government’s charges against him. In a recent statement published by The Nation magazine, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemned Manning’s treatment, which has been called cruel, inhuman and degrading by a United Nations investigator. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel wrote: “If Bradley Manning released the documents, as the prosecution contends, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace.”
As the United Nations climate summit gets underway in Qatar this week, a new study has found wealthy nations, including the United States, have fallen short on vows to give billions in aid to poorer countries in order to help them fight climate change. While $30 billion in new aid was pledged over a two-year period ending this year, Monday’s report by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development found less than $24 billion had been committed, most of it in loans that would have to be repaid. The climate talks come on the heels of a United Nations report that found the concentration of greenhouse gases has jumped 20 percent since 2000. During a news conference Monday, European Union negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said Europe would be willing to ramp up its efforts to curb emissions if other countries would follow suit.
Artur Runge-Metzger: “We are ready to step up our ambition from 20 to 30 percent if other major economies would also move up to the higher end of their pledges. This offer is still on the table, and it will stay on the table even after Doha. But in terms of making the international commitment of 30 percent, that requires a conversation with our partners around the world, in particular the major economies. The United States already clearly says that it cannot move; we do not think there would be any productive discussion on upping individual countries’ targets in Doha.”
The United States on Monday resisted calls for deeper emissions cuts, saying the Obama administration would hold fast to a 2009 pledge to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The statement came despite a plea by poorer countries for greater action to help the world avoid more severe storms, droughts and rising ocean levels. One analyst with Action Aid USA noted that climate change has a harsher impact on poor countries.
Brandon Wu: “What happens when there’s a drought in the U.S.? Our food prices go up. What happens when there’s a big hurricane that hits New York? You know, it’s a big deal, it’s a problem. But what happens when those same disasters hit countries that are not nearly as well resourced? What happens when, say, a hurricane hits Haiti, for example? What happens when there’s a drought in the Sahel? The impacts are much more severe, and, you know, there’s a real climate justice dimension to this conversation that needs to have a much higher profile in the United States.”
Protests are continuing in Bangladesh after more than 120 workers were killed in a factory fire over the weekend. On Monday, thousands of garment workers blocked roads, causing some factories to shut down. As mourners gathered outside the gutted factory, one survivor described the fire.
Survivor: “My husband and I were working in the factory that day. At first, I didn’t know where my husband was, until he called me and asked me to help him. Then I ran back to the third floor, and it was black everywhere, and I could not find him.”
In the wake of the blaze, many are condemning U.S. companies such as Wal-Mart after burnt remnants of clothing from brands sold at the retail giant were found in the Bangladeshi factory.
Experts have taken samples from the body of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat as part of an international probe to determine whether he was poisoned to death. Earlier this year, an investigation found traces of the radioactive material polonium on Arafat’s clothing. Arafat died in 2004 after being flown to France for medical treatment.
In Afghanistan, hundreds of students rallied Monday to demand the release of an Afghan soldier sentenced to death for killing five French servicemembers. Abdul Saboor was condemned to die by a military court for the January shooting, one of dozens of insider attacks that have killed more than 60 foreigners this year. On Monday, protesters expressed outrage that no Western troops have been executed for the deaths of hundreds of Afghan civilians in the more than decade-long war. Hundreds of university students blocked a major highway as part of a demonstration that also condemned Israel’s recent attacks in Gaza and Pakistan’s cross-border shelling in Afghanistan. The protests come as the United States is weighing plans to keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond a 2014 deadline.
Reuters is reporting M23 rebels reportedly backed by Rwanda and Uganda have agreed to withdraw from two eastern cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the key city of Goma. Uganda’s military chief told the news outlet the leader of the M23 rebels has also agreed to stop any advances southward. The M23 rebels had faced a Monday deadline from African leaders to withdraw from Goma after seizing it last week.
A Syrian air strike hit an olive press near the northern city of Idlib Tuesday, potentially killing and wounding dozens of people. One activist said 20 people were killed and 50 wounded in the attack. On Monday, Syrian warplanes bombed rebel bases near the Turkish border, sending hundreds of panicked civilians fleeing into Turkey. Monday’s attacks came a day before officials from Turkey and NATO were expected to start scouting locations for possible missiles along the Turkish side of the border.
Former Republican officials in Florida have admitted a controversial new law that helped fuel massive lines on Election Day was intentionally created to suppress Democratic votes. Republican leaders had claimed the law was aimed at stopping voter fraud. But former Republican officials, including former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, told the Palm Beach Post that alleged fraud was used as a cover to conceal the main goal of Republicans: curbing Democratic votes. In particular, Republican officials were apparently concerned about the impact of early voting by people of color. The Palm Beach Post cites an anonymous Republican consultant saying: “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves.” President Obama ultimately won the battleground state of Florida, but the state’s voting restrictions caused a spike in provisional ballots, which are used when a voter’s eligibility is in question.
Solidarity actions are expected across Canada and around the world today to support a resistance effort by First Nations groups in British Columbia against the construction of an oil pipeline on their land. Last week, members of the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation seized equipment and established a roadblock to prevent construction on the Pacific Trails Pipeline, which would carry gas extracted through the the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Organizers have twice evicted pipeline surveyors from the land, accusing the workers of trespassing.
Illinois has set a March date for elections to replace Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned from his post after taking a several-month leave to seek treatment for bipolar disorder. In a statement announcing his departure, Jackson cited the orders of his doctors and acknowledged for the first time he is the subject of a federal investigation for what’s believed to be alleged misuse of campaign funds. Jackson said: “None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right.”