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At least 50 people have been killed in a series of bombings and shootings across Iraq. According to Al Jazeera, the attacks included car bombs, roadside bombs and gunfire targeting Iraqi police. More than 200 people were also wounded.
Violent protests are escalating in Afghanistan over the recent burning of copies of the Koran by NATO troops. Earlier today, an Afghan soldier shot dead two U.S. soldiers at a military base in eastern Afghanistan. The shooting came as protesters stormed the base as part of a third consecutive day of protest.
In Syria, government forces continue shelling the city of Homs a day after killing dozens of people, including three journalists. Activists say the weeks-long siege of Homs has been one of the deadliest episodes in the 11-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There have been warnings of a humanitarian crisis as food, water and medical supplies run low. The United Nations has announced humanitarian chief Valerie Amos will be sent to Syria to assess the situation.
In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, investigators have created a list of high-ranking officials believed to have committed crimes against humanity, including the killing of unarmed civilians. Investigators also found opposition groups had committed abuses, but said they were “not comparable in scale and organization” to those committed by government forces.
Accused U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning is appearing in military court today to be arraigned on charges stemming from the alleged disclosure of classified material to WikiLeaks. Manning faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy. He is accused of downloading thousands of classified files that later appeared on the WikiLeaks website.
U.N. nuclear officials say a two-day visit to Iran has failed to illuminate whether or not the country is pursuing technology for nuclear weapons. Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency say they were denied access to key locations and records, including a facility where research on nuclear warhead designs was alleged to have taken place years ago. The U.N. team also failed to reach a deal with Iran on how to address questions over the country’s supposed nuclear research. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney criticized Iran for the failure of the U.N.’s mission.
Jay Carney: “Unfortunately, it’s another demonstration of Iran’s refusal to abide by its international obligations. We will continue to evaluate, working with our P5-plus-1 partners, the letter in response that we received from the Iranians, in response to Lady Ashton’s letter about the possibility of engaging in talks. But this particular action by Iran suggests that they have not changed their behavior when it comes to abiding by their international obligations.”
A former U.S. resident imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay has reached a plea deal that positions him to testify against other prisoners in exchange for a reduced sentence and eventual release. Majid Khan was seized in Pakistan in March 2003 and spent around three years in CIA prisons overseas. His plea deal marks the first for a high-level prisoner held at the CIA’s so-called “black sites.” Khan has agreed to testify at military commissions over the next four years, after which he will become eligible for transfer to Pakistan.
The U.S. Marine Corps has discharged the lone marine convicted in the 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha. Sergeant Frank Wuterich avoided charges of involuntary manslaughter and walked away with no jail time after pleading guilty to dereliction of duty last month. Wuterich allegedly led the Haditha massacre and was the last defendant to face charges. Six other marines have had their charges dropped or dismissed, while another soldier was acquitted. Wuterich has reportedly received a general discharge under honorable conditions — one level below an honorable discharge.
The U.S. military has acknowledged it now has troops deployed in at least four Central African countries under the mission to fight the rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. The United States announced a deployment of 100 troops for the Central Africa effort late last year. Special operations forces are now stationed at bases in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
New Jersey’s largest city is accusing the New York City Police Department of concealing its extensive spying on local Muslim neighborhoods. On Tuesday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker said the NYPD never informed him or Newark police they were spying on Muslims as part of a wider program across the Northeast. The Associated Press has revealed NYPD agents photographed every mosque in Newark and eavesdropped inside Muslim businesses. Booker says he would have objected to the spying had he known it was taken place. In a statement on Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union called on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to investigate the spying, saying, “The NYPD has run amok, engaging in secret multi-state domestic surveillance of innocent people based on crude religious and racial profiling.”
In Virginia, a bill requiring women to obtain an ultrasound before an abortion has been softened after a wave of protest. Critics said the original bill would have required women in early pregnancy to undergo a vaginal ultrasound involving the insertion of a probe. The updated version requires an abdominal ultrasound and the offer of more detailed imaging. Many abortion facilities routinely provide ultrasounds before an abortion. But the bill also imposes a 24-hour waiting period between the ultrasound and the abortion — or two hours if a woman lives at least 100 miles from the facility. House lawmakers approved the updated version Wednesday after Gov. Robert McDonnell requested the change. The Senate sponsor of the original bill said she would move to kill her measure due to confusion over what type of ultrasound would be required. Seven states currently require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion.
A third-grade student in Washington state is in critical condition after being shot by a classmate who brought a gun to school. The gun apparently went off accidentally in the classmate’s backpack. In a separate shooting incident on Wednesday, five people were killed at a spa in suburban Atlanta in what appeared to be a murder-suicide.
In California, Oakland police have seriously wounded an unarmed 24-year-old man after shooting him in the back. The victim, Tony Jones, is a cousin of Oscar Grant, who was shot dead by a Bay Area Rapid Transit Police officer on a train platform on New Year’s Day 2009. Grant was also shot in the back. Jones’s mother, Betrina Works-Grant, described her son’s shooting.
Betrina Works-Grant: “I talked to my son. My son said, 'Momma, the officers is lying. They watched me get out the car. They watched me walk. And then they started speeding up, and I took off running across the street. And when I took off running, I just heard the gun go pow, pow, pow.' He said he was running with his hands like this [at his sides]. The police shot at him and shot him in his back. They never said they was the police.”
President Obama visited the National Mall on Wednesday for the groundbreaking of a new Smithsonian museum devoted to African-American life. The $500 million National Museum of African American History and Culture is set to open in 2015.
President Obama: “This day has been a long time coming. The idea for a museum dedicated to African Americans was first put forward by black veterans of the Civil War. And years later, the call was picked up by members of the civil rights generation, by men and women who knew how to fight for what was right and strive for what is just. This is their day. This is your day. It’s an honor to be here to see the fruit of your labor. And when future generations hear these songs of pain and progress and struggle and sacrifice, I hope they will not think of them as somehow separate from the larger American story.”
Victims of the notorious pepper-spray incident at the University of California, Davis, late last year have filed a lawsuit accusing the school of violating their constitutional rights. Video footage seen around the world showed police pepper-spraying student protesters as they sat down during a peaceful rally. The students were peacefully sitting down cross-legged with their arms locked when the officers began pepper-spraying them at close range.
The trailblazing publisher Barney Rosset has died at the age of 89. Rosset is widely credited with changing U.S. publishing, withstanding death threats, lawsuits and a bombing attack to win critical cases against censorship. Through his imprint Grove Press, he was an early champion of voices including Samuel Beckett, Che Guevara and Malcolm X.