The death toll from a massive typhoon in the southern Philippines has doubled to more than 270 people. Typhoon Bopha is the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year. Some 87,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. The typhoon hit as delegates from around the world are here in Doha, Qatar, for the U.N. climate change summit.
New clashes have erupted in Egypt in the ongoing uproar over a proposed referendum on a new constitution. On Tuesday, thousands of people took to the streets to protest Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s effort to hold the referendum vote later this month after asserting wide-ranging powers protecting him from judicial oversight. Egyptian forces fired tear gas at demonstrators, some of whom broke through police lines to approach the presidential palace. The rally coincided with a one-day strike by eight Egyptian newspapers against what they allege to be restrictions on freedom of speech in the proposed constitution.
The United Nations is warning that food shortages are growing in Syria as a result of rising prices and mounting attacks on U.N. vehicles delivering vital supplies. The U.N. World Food Program is currently feeding some 1.5 million people in Syria, the vast majority displaced from their homes. The news comes one day after the United Nations and European Union announced they are cutting back operations and removing staffers from the capital Damascus. Among the victims of the latest violence in Syria Tuesday were nine students and a teacher killed when their school was bombed in a suburb of Damascus. Government forces have blamed rebels for the attack.
NATO has approved a request by Turkey for the deployment of Patriot missiles to its border with Syria. Turkey has sought the missiles to defend itself, it says, from cross-border violence. Speaking in Belgium, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Patriot missiles would serve as a deterrent to Syria.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “I do believe that a deployment of Patriot missiles will serve as an effective deterrent and that way de-escalate the situation along the Syrian-Turkish border, because the mere fact that the missiles, the Patriot missiles, have been deployed make it necessary for any potential aggressor to — to — to think twice before they even consider attacking Turkey.”
The Palestinian Authority is urging the United Nations and other global actors to hold Israel accountable for its recent expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has announced plans to build 3,000 new settlement homes and expand the “E1” settlement zone that splits the West Bank in two in response to last week’s historic Palestinian statehood vote at the United Nations. On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Security Council should pressure Israel to stop expanding settlements.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “We’ve communicated with both the U.N. and the U.N. Security Council on this issue. We want to follow up on it if Israel continues in its settlement activity — not just in E1, but all settlement activity. This means clearly that it (Israel) doesn’t want to reach peace.”
While the settlement expansion has prompted at least five European countries to summon their Israeli ambassadors, the Obama administration has offered a tepid response, calling the building “counterproductive.” Defending Israel’s settlement growth, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman cited U.S. policy established under President George W. Bush.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: “Now I want to remind you that building (settlements) in Jerusalem is with accordance to Israeli law. If anyone wants to investigate further, they can go to the Bush letter and see all those settlements blocks and the changes in the territory which the U.S. president spoke of.”
The White House is denying Iran’s claim of having captured a U.S. drone in Iranian airspace. Iran has said it seized an unpiloted ScanEagle aircraft conducting surveillance over the Arabian Gulf. But speaking at the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney rejected Iran’s claims.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “I can tell you that we have no evidence that the Iranian claims you cite are true. I’d refer you to the Pentagon’s comments this morning for details about this particular type of UAV. But again, we have no evidence that the Iranian claims are true.”
Protests are continuing in Mexico in the aftermath of violent clashes between police and demonstrators during Saturday’s inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Dozens of people were arrested and treated for injuries when opponents of Nieto faced a heavy police crackdown. Activists have accused Mexican police of using infiltrators to carry out vandalism and other acts of sabotage. In Mexico City, hundreds of people marched through the streets to call for the release of jailed protesters and to denounce alleged police infiltration.
Palomo Escoto: “All this vandalism was caused by groups of infiltrators. It was horrible, because we have been protesting peacefully. You have seen that those of us in Yo Soy 132 have been peaceful as we reject the return of the PRI. We are completely rejecting the return of Enrique Peña Nieto, and we don’t think it should be like this. Many innocents should be released.”
The Senate has unanimously approved a $631 billion military spending bill. The measure includes a call for an acceleration of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as for intensified sanctions on Iran. The Obama administration has threatened a veto over limits on President Obama’s authority to handle alleged terrorism suspects.
In a separate vote, Senate Republicans defeated a measure to ratify a landmark United Nations treaty banning discrimination against people with disabilities. The final vote was 61-to-38, five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval. Republicans objected to the measure by saying it would make it easier to obtain abortions and place restrictions on home-schooling disabled children. The rejection came despite the U.N. treaty itself being modeled on a piece of U.S. law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Some 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, have already ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the United Nations, Werner Obermeyer of the World Health Organization noted that the treaty rejected by Republicans covers about 15 percent of the world’s population.
Werner Obermeyer: “People with disabilities make up 15 percent of the world’s population, as you’ve heard, and have worse health and socioeconomic outcomes than people without disabilities. Across the world, people with disabilities have poorer health, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without the disabilities. This unacceptable situation must change.”
California has formalized its refusal to ensure the enforcement of federal immigration requests. On Tuesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said state law enforcement agencies are not required to comply with the program known as Secure Communities, where local authorities share fingerprints with immigration officials. The federal program helped lead to the record deportation of around 400,000 people last year.
Striking clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have reached a tentative agreement after an eight-day walkout. Workers went on strike last week against international corporations they say are outsourcing good-paying jobs. The strike cost southern California a reported $8 billion in lost economic activity and marked the worst disruption of local cargo traffic in a decade.
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