Clashes between police and protesters are continuing in the Egyptian capital of Cairo a day after more than 200,000 people flooded Tahrir Square in the biggest protest to date against President Mohamed Morsi. The crowds evoked reminders of Egypt’s popular revolution last year that ousted President Hosni Mubarak with some calling for the toppling of the new regime. A banner headline in Egypt’s Al-Akhbar newspaper Wednesday declared: “The Revolution Returns to the Square.” At least one person reportedly died of a heart attack after inhaling tear gas, while hundreds of others were injured. The mass protests were triggered by President Morsi’s decree last week exempting his decisions from judicial oversight, but protesters issued a range of complaints.
Abdel Hamid Ramadan: “The people are tired. I swear to God, the people are tired. Unemployment is increasing. The people who they’re calling old regime remnants in the square, all these people are civilized, university students, doctors, and they’re all exceptional people. What the government is doing is unacceptable. The police are firing at us without any of us throwing one stone. I am a witness. I swear to God, right now they fired without any of us throwing a stone.”
In Syria, at least 34 people are dead after two car bombs exploded in a suburb of the capital Damascus early Wednesday amidst ongoing clashes between anti-government rebels and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Amateur video uploaded Tuesday showed Syrian rebels shooting down a military helicopter over the northern city of Aleppo. The video is seen as potential proof the rebels are now using heat-seeking missiles in the fight against government forces. Meanwhile, a United Nations General Assembly committee voted Tuesday to condemn the Syrian government for widespread human rights abuses.
At least 30 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a series of attacks in Iraq. Many of the dead were Shiite worshipers targeted by car bombs that exploded near mosques in Baghdad. Bomb blasts also hit the northern city of Kirkuk.
CNN is reporting M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo are preparing to surrender the key eastern city of Goma after initially defying a deadline from African leaders to leave. The shift came after M23’s political leader previously said Tuesday the rebels would not leave Goma unless Congolese President Joseph Kabila agreed to a series of demands, including the release of political prisoners. Reuters now reports the rebels have already begun withdrawing from two other towns captured from government troops.
Three managers at a Bangladeshi garment factory, where a fire killed more than 120 people, have been arrested and accused of locking the factory’s main gate, blocking those attempting to flee. Protests are continuing in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka with demonstrators calling for a full investigation into the blaze.
Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law is back in the spotlight after an African-American teenager was shot dead by a 45-year-old white man in Jacksonville. Seventeen-year-old Jordan Russell Davis was killed Tuesday following an argument over music volume. Davis and his friends were sitting inside an SUV when Michael David Dunn pulled up in a car and asked them to turn their music down. Following an argument, Dunn shot eight or nine times into the car, fatally hitting Jordan Russell Davis, who was sitting in the backseat. Dunn’s lawyer said he acted in self-defense. Dunn told police he felt threatened and thought he saw a gun inside the teenagers’ SUV, but no gun was recovered from the vehicle. The shooting has already prompted comparisons to the death of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed 17-year-old African American who was shot dead by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, on February 26.
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice met with three of her top critics Tuesday in a bid to settle claims by Republicans that she knowingly misled the American people about the fatal attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. After the meeting, the three Republican senators appeared to harden their opposition to Rice’s potential nomination as secretary of state. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire both vowed they would seek to block Rice from succeeding Hillary Clinton. Arizona Sen. John McCain told reporters after the meeting he was still concerned about early statements by Rice about the Libya attacks.
Arizona Sen. John McCain: “It is clear that the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video. It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case, including statements by Libyans as well as other Americans who are fully aware that people don’t bring mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to spontaneous demonstrations.”
The retired colonel who presided over the Quantico Marine brig during accused whistleblower Bradley Manning’s nine-month imprisonment there took the stand Tuesday during a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning’s defense lawyers have complained he was kept in solitary confinement in a six-by-eight-foot cell and periodically forced to strip naked. During the hearing Tuesday, former Colonel Daniel Choike admitted Quantico was not adequately resourced for long-term confinement and said he had expressed concerns Manning should not be kept for longer than 90 days. Choike cited Manning’s “erratic behavior, poor judgment in the past and poor family relationships” as the reason Manning was placed on suicide watch and subjected to harsh treatment. Manning has been imprisoned for more than two years for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the website WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spoken out against U.S. politicians he says have harmed the whistleblowing website by influencing credit card companies to block donations. Speaking to reporters in Brussels via internet Tuesday from his refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Assange said the action by credit card companies had blocked 95 percent of the site’s donations from Europe, potentially costing it tens of millions of dollars and reducing the number of documents it has been able to post. Assange’s comments came after the European Commission said the blockade did not violate antitrust rules. In his remarks, Assange vowed WikiLeaks would continue.
Julian Assange: “The strength of popular and private support means that we continue. There is no danger that WikiLeaks will cease to exist as an organization. Rather, its natural and rightful growth has been compromised, and that is wrong and must change. It would set a very bad precedent — it was not only wrong for WikiLeaks; it sets an extremely bad precedent for all other European organizations and all media organizations worldwide that monopolies can simply exercise financial death penalties over organizations and companies as a result of political controversy.”
In Portugal, thousands of protesters gathered outside the country’s parliament Tuesday as lawmakers gave final approval to an austerity budget that includes the biggest tax hikes in modern history as part of a bid to meet the terms of an international bailout. The budget vote was widely seen as ensuring a third year of economic recession for the hard-hit nation. Portugal’s unemployment rate has reached a record 15.8 percent and is expected to climb even higher. Filmmaker Raquel Ferreira condemned the austerity budget.
Raquel Ferreira: “I think this state budget is a crime because it is a budget that will kill what remains of the democracy in this country. It will threaten our basic rights, including education, health, support for the most vulnerable, and it will violate all of our constitutional principles. We are talking the basics here. Many children in Portugal go hungry. We are seeing the greatest social decline ever. So, for that reason, this budget is a budget against the people. It is a budget against democracy. And we are here to say that this cannot be, this is not the way.”
Switzerland and Denmark have joined a growing number of countries backing recognition of Palestinian “nonmember observer state” status at the United Nations. On Tuesday, France’s foreign minister announced the country will vote in favor of the Palestinian bid for greater U.N. recognition. The move is seen by some as a crucial step toward a possible two-state solution with Israel. Britain is expected to announce its decision later today. Both Britain and the United States have reportedly put pressure on the Palestinians to give assurances they will not use the new status to press war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
The United Nations climate change summit in Qatar has entered a third day after talks stalled Tuesday on a possible extension of the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions that expires at the end of this year. New Zealand, Japan and other countries have announced they will not agree to a second round of the protocol. Speaking to Al Jazeera, the head of Japan’s delegation said Kyoto covers less than a quarter of global carbon emissions and noted major polluters such as the United States are not bound to emissions reductions under the agreement. Meanwhile, a new U.N. report has found thawing permafrost could significantly accelerate global warming in the coming years as it releases carbon and methane from frozen organic matter. The United Nations says that by 2100, warming permafrost could release up to 135 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to 39 percent of annual emissions from human sources. Tune into Democracy Now! next week as we travel to Doha to bring you live coverage of the United Nations climate summit.
Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto met with President Obama at the White House Tuesday to discuss trade, immigration reform and other issues. His visit comes amidst recent grisly reminders of increasing violence in Mexico’s drug war, including the discovery of 19 bodies in a mass grave in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and the death of a Mexican beauty queen killed in an apparent gun battle between soldiers and drug traffickers. In another recent attack, a former mayor who stood up to drug traffickers and survived two previous assassination attempts was murdered in the western state of Michoacán. The body of Maria de los Santos Gorrostieta Salazar was found in a ravine three days after she was reportedly kidnapped in broad daylight. The 36-year-old mother had survived two previous attacks that claimed her husband’s life and left her badly wounded and in pain. Known by some as the “heroine of Mexico,” Gorrostieta published photographs of her scarred body in a local newspaper with a message vowing to “continue fighting, true to my ideals and my convictions, convinced that the truth will make us free.” Earlier this month, she was ambushed while driving her young daughter to school. Mexican reports said she was physically assaulted and begged for her child’s life before appearing to get into the kidnappers’ car willingly. Her body was found days later showing signs she’d been stabbed, burned and bound. Tens of thousands of people, including about two dozen mayors, have been killed since the U.S.-backed war on drugs began in 2006 under outgoing President Felipe Calderón. The incoming president has previously affirmed his commitment to continuing the crackdown.
The U.S. State Department has rescinded an invitation for the rock musician Andrew W.K. to travel to Bahrain and perform at a concert sponsored by the U.S. embassy. The musician had claimed on his website he’d been appointed a “cultural ambassador” and was headed to Bahrain to promote “music, freedom and positive party power.” But the State Department later changed its mind about sending Andrew W.K., whose musical repertoire includes titles like “Party ‘Til You Puke.” Bahrain is a key U.S. ally, home of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, but it has received criticism recently for cracking down on protesters and jailing medics who treated demonstrators.
Marvin Miller, the economist and labor leader who changed the face of Major League Baseball by pioneering one of the country’s strongest unions, has died at the age of 95. Miller is seen as one of most important figures in baseball’s history for his role in bolstering salaries, pensions and free agency rights for professional baseball players.
In Ohio, a controversial measuring banning abortions in early pregnancy once a fetal or embryonic heartbeat can be detected will not come to a vote before the end of the legislative session. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus said Tuesday another bill that would have effectively defunded Planned Parenthood has also been shelved at least until the end of this year. In a rare move for a Republican leader, Niehaus voiced support for Planned Parenthood during a conversation with reporters.
Ohio State Sen. Tom Niehaus: “I think you have to look at the entirety of the work that’s done by Planned Parenthood, and I believe that they offer much-needed services that are not available other places. So I chose not to take the bill up in lame duck.”