The political crisis in Egypt is deepening as critics of President Mohamed Morsi have continued to reject his bid for a referendum on a draft constitution passed by an Islamist-dominated panel. Morsi has given the army the power to arrest people and ordered them to protect state institutions ahead of the vote set for December 15. At least seven people have died in clashes and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets since Morsi granted himself sweeping powers in a decree last month. Morsi attempted to appease the mounting turmoil Sunday by rescinding most of the decree’s provisions. But the move has not stopped his opponents from calling for a fresh round of mass protests starting Tuesday. The head of Egypt’s lawyers syndicate spoke on behalf of the main opposition group Sunday.
Sameh Ashour: “The National Salvation Front announces its complete rejection of the referendum scheduled for December 15, and it asserts its rejection of a referendum that is sure to increase strife and divisions.”
In Afghanistan, a senior female official was shot to death by unidentified gunmen today just five months after her predecessor was killed in a bomb attack. Nadia Sediqi, acting head of the women’s affairs department in an eastern province, was killed on her way to work. Her son told Reuters authorities had repeatedly ignored her requests for protection, fueling concerns the government is disregarding the safety of female officials. In a separate attack Monday, the police chief of another province was killed by a roadside bomb. The New York Times says the Taliban has stepped up their targeting of Afghan officials in recent years, with U.N. data showing more than 300 people were assassinated last year, the most since 2001. Meanwhile, a U.S. servicemember was killed Sunday in a rescue mission that freed a captured American doctor, becoming the latest of at least 385 international troops to die there this year.
In news from Afghanistan, the U.S. military has detained more than 200 teenagers at a prison near the Bagram Airfield, accusing them of being “enemy combatants.” The U.S. report submitted to the United Nations says young people, most of them about 16, have been detained for average stays of a year in order to “prevent a combatant from returning to the battlefield.” Some critics say the alleged combatants are as young as 11 or 12 years old. When the last report was submitted in 2008, just 10 young people were being held at the prison. Under the George W. Bush administration, thousands of young people were detained, almost all of them in Iraq.
The United Nations climate change summit wrapped up this weekend in Doha with no new commitments from the United States to reduce carbon emissions or provide aid to countries suffering the worst impacts of climate change. The final deal saw the extension of binding emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol for a second commitment period, but only a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are covered. Several countries, including Japan and Canada, have opted out of the protocol, which the United States never ratified. Critics said the deal reached by nearly 200 countries was far too weak to avoid the deadly impacts of catastrophic climate change. Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists criticized the summit’s outcome during a news conference.
Alden Meyer: “There were some winners here. The coal industry won here, the oil industry won here, the fossil fuel industry won here. You saw on display the power of these industries and their short-term profit motivation to dominate the governments of the world. This wasn’t an environmental or a science-driven discussion; this was a trade fair. This was a, who’s going to share the spoils of the world as we drill in the Arctic and produce tar sands in Canada and mine coal in Indonesia for China. This is not the future we need to leave to our children.”
The U.N. climate talks in Doha concluded as the death toll from a devastating typhoon in the Philippines continues to soar with some 650 now reported dead and about 900 still missing. Greenpeace International’s executive director Kumi Naidoo condemned the lack of action in Doha in the face of these deadly impacts.
Kumi Naidoo: “Our governments must realize that this failure is a betrayal of the people in the Philippines and around the world that have faced climate impacts now, today, and will continue in the days to come. But what is at stake here is not some ethereal thing called the planet, the climate, the environment, but what is at stake here is selling down our children and grandchildren’s futures.”
In the latest potential sign of climate turmoil, freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall have blasted the Balkans, killing at least six people. Croatian authorities said the snowfall was the heaviest in nearly 60 years, while hundreds of people in Serbia were evacuated after being trapped inside their vehicles.
In Oslo, Norway, protesters carrying lit torches flooded the city streets Sunday night to condemn today’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. They criticized the European Union for demanding harsh austerity cuts in Greece and condemned its member states for exporting a major share of the world’s weapons. The European Union is receiving the award for its historic role in uniting the continent. But the selection has been controversial with critics saying European arms sales and use of military force — including support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — are in direct violation of Alfred Nobel’s will.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has announced he is returning to Cuba for more cancer surgery and endorsed Vice President Nicolás Maduro as his potential successor if he is unable to continue leading. Maduro is a former bus driver and union leader who previously served as Venezuela’s foreign minister. Chávez was expected to make the trip back to Cuba on Sunday after saying his cancer had returned.
President Obama met with House Speaker John Boehner Sunday for talks aimed at avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax increases. The meeting comes as a rising number of Republicans are suggesting the party should heed Obama’s call for higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans in exchange for potential slashes to benefit programs. Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Tennessee Senator Bob Corker suggested Republicans should concentrate on cutting so-called entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Sen. Bob Corker: “A lot of people are putting forth a theory, and I actually think it has merit, where you go ahead and give the president the 2 percent increase that he’s talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent, and all of a sudden the shift goes back to entitlements.”
Five people are dead after a gunman opened fire on a Native American reservation in Central California. Hector Celaya killed his mother, her two brothers and his eight-year-old daughter Alyssa. He also wounded Alyssa’s brother and sister. Celaya was attempting to flee with his two daughters when he was fatally injured in a shootout with police early Sunday.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of same-sex marriage by hearing two cases challenging federal and state laws that restrict marriage rights. One case challenges California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, while the second concerns the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized same-sex marriage, including three of them by popular vote during last month’s election.
On Sunday, scores of same-sex couples in Washington state got married on the first day it was legally allowed. Newlywed Jessie Page was among them.
Jessie Page: “To celebrate the love that we have for one another, not only through our families and friends, but also through the court system in Washington state, it’s an exceptional opportunity to have everyone here to recognize it. But our union is really truly between each other.”
The documentary “Harvest of Empire,” based on the book by Democracy Now!'s Juan González, has won an award for the best use of archival footage at the International Documentary Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. The film uses rarely seen archival material to reveal the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and today's immigration crisis. Other winners included “The Island President,” about ousted Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed in a special environmental category, and “Searching for Sugar Man,” about the musician Rodriguez, for best feature.