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At least six people have been killed and some 40,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in a major typhoon hitting the southern Philippines. Typhoon Bopha is the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year.
Israel has rejected international condemnation of its latest plans for a major settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. On Monday, five nations — Britain, Spain, Sweden, France and Denmark — summoned their Israeli ambassadors to protest Israel’s plan to build 3,000 new settlement homes and expand the “E1” settlement zone that splits the West Bank in two. The E1 construction had largely been put on hold following U.S. objections dating back to President George W. Bush. But Israel says it has resumed work there in direct response to last week’s Palestinian statehood vote at the United Nations. Despite harshly condemning the Palestinian Authority for advancing the statehood vote, the Obama administration has adopted a more hands-off approach to Israel’s settlement expansion. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner called the settlement building “counterproductive.”
Mark Toner: “You know, we consider these kinds of actions, these kinds of unilateral decisions to be counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations. I mean, obviously, you know, we continue to consult closely with our allies and partners on how to get both parties back to the negotiating table, but I think, you know, our reaction is similar to their reaction, that this is not the kind of action that we need to see.”
President Obama has issued a new warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the use of chemical weapons. At a nuclear proliferation gathering on Monday, Obama said any use of chemical weapons by Syria would lead to unspecified “consequences.”
President Obama: “Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable.”
The White House has issued similar statements in the past toward Syria but has yet to provide specifics on what actions it would take.
Iran is claiming to have captured a U.S. drone that was flying in Iranian airspace. Earlier today, Iran’s state media reported that a ScanEagle was seized as it conducted surveillance over the Arabian Gulf. It was the latest reported incident involving Iran and a U.S. drone, following Iran’s firing at a U.S. surveillance drone last month.
Hundreds of protesters rallied in Bahrain on Monday in the latest demonstrations against the ruling U.S.-backed monarchy. As in a number of previous cases, the protest ended with Bahraini forces firing tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the crowds. The rally coincided with the arrival of a United Nations fact-finding mission in Bahrain to assess human rights conditions on the ground.
The White House has rejected a Republican counteroffer in the ongoing logjam over a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.” House Republicans proposed Monday to cut some $600 billion from Medicare and other health programs and curb the growth of benefits provided by Social Security. The Republicans’ offer also would have seen $800 billion in tax hikes on the wealthy, about half of what President Obama has proposed. The Obama administration immediately dismissed the proposal, saying it “does not meet the test of balance.”
The attorney for accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning spoke out Monday night in his first public speech about his client’s case. Addressing a church audience in Washington, D.C., David Coombs called Manning’s treatment in U.S. custody “criminal,” and said that Manning is feeling optimistic about his chances in court.
David Coombs: “Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched, I believe, in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time. Not only was it stupid and counterproductive, it was criminal. An entire group of individuals who I — no doubt, are honorable men and women, chose to turn a blind eye to how Bradley was being treated. I can tell you that he is very excited about having his case go forward, and it’s in the process now. It’s been a long time. And he’s also, at this point, very encouraged by the way the proceedings are going.”
A pretrial hearing before Manning’s court-martial is ongoing. Coombs says he intends to continue to call Manning’s military jailers to the stand to confront them on Manning’s harsh treatment behind bars.
Three environmental activists were arrested in Texas on Monday after engaging in what organizers called an unprecedented action against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, locking themselves inside a section of the pipeline itself. Two members of the Tar Sands Blockade chained themselves between barrels of concrete in a pipe segment waiting to be placed underground in East Texas along the pipeline’s southern leg. Construction was halted until the activists were removed and arrested after several hours inside. Their action comes one week after two other activists began a hunger strike following their arrest for protesting the pipeline. President Obama is set to decide on the Keystone XL in the coming months after delaying a move until after the 2012 elections.
At least 12 students have barricaded themselves inside a campus building of New York City’s Cooper Union demanding the school affirm its commitment to free education. Cooper Union recently approved graduate student tuition for the first time in its 110-year history, and students fear the undergraduate program may be next.