The Associated Press is reporting Israeli officials have privately told the Obama administration they will not warn the United States if they decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The news come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for a trip to Washington next week for meetings with President Obama. Both Netanyahu and Obama are scheduled to address a conference organized by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The Wall Street Journal is reporting Obama is considering using his AIPAC speech on Sunday to more forcefully outline potential military actions against Iran. Meanwhile, scores of organizations have endorsed a series of protests dubbed “Occupy AIPAC” to coincide with the AIPAC conference in Washington.
Syrian forces shelled an opposition stronghold in Hama province, killing 20 people today according to Syrian activists. Meanwhile, two wounded foreign journalists trapped inside Syria have been smuggled safely to Lebanon. British photographer Paul Conroy and French journalist Edith Bouvier were both wounded in a government-backed attack in Baba Amr last week. French photographer William Daniel and Spaniard Javier Espinosa are still inside Syria, but efforts are underway to evacuate them. On Monday, International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Hicham Hassan warned about the crisis facing the Syrian city of Homs.
Hicham Hassan: “For us, the humanitarian situation is degenerating by the hour, and this is why it is absolutely important that we enter as soon as possible — on one hand, to evacuate all those who need to be evacuated, and on the other hand, to bring in much-needed assistance.”
In other news on Syria, the prime minister of Qatar has publicly called for the arming of rebel groups in Syria despite concerns it could lead to a regional war.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani: “I think we should do whatever necessary to help them, including giving them weapon to defend themselves. I think, by international law, defending themselves against what the force, Bashar al-Assad force, do for them, they have the legitimacy to defend themselves.”
A new independent report has revealed the Japanese government withheld information about the full dangers of last year’s nuclear disaster from its own people and from the United States. Reuters is reporting Japan’s then-prime minister ordered workers to remain at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant as fears mounted that a chain reaction at the plant would force the entire city of Tokyo to be evacuated. At the time, Japanese officials were fearing thousands of spent fuel rods stored at a damaged reactor would melt and spew radiation across large parts of the country.
Police in London have arrested 20 Occupy London activists and dismantled the Occupy encampment outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, where protesters have been staying for four months. Police removed 50 tents. Symon Hill of the Christian group, Ekklesia, accused the police of using brutal force to dismantle the encampment.
Symon Hill: “Some of us from Christianity Uncut knelt on the floor to pray, and bailiffs had to push past us. And then they charged in to start pulling down the tents. And it was very quick. It was very brutal. There’s people who’ve been sleeping in those tents for four months, seen their homes uprooted. There were people appealing to the bailiffs. There were people calling out. All the resistance I’ve seen has been entirely nonviolent.”
Some Occupy London protesters are vowing to continue the protest.
Occupy London protester: “A lot of people are saying that to me as if this is it now, this is over. It’s not. This is just the beginning. This is just where it starts to kick off. A lot of these people, including myself, will be willing to stay here regardless. The only thing that’s being told to move right now is the tents. We’re not being told to move, so we’re going to stay here for as long as we can.”
Millions of workers in India have launched a 24-hour strike in a major push for workers’ rights. The strike is backed by India’s 11 major trade unions and has swept through multiple industries, including banking, transportation and postal services. Demands include a minimum wage, permanent jobs for contract workers and an end to privatization of public companies. The unions are also pressing the government to take steps to curb inflation and rising prices.
In news from Latin America, the Colombian rebel group FARC has announced it would abandon its decades-long policy of kidnapping for ransom and free all military and police hostages it holds in jungle camps. The move is seen as the latest sign the FARC wants to move toward a peace deal with the government.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on whether corporations can be sued in U.S. courts for human rights abuses committed overseas. The case involves nine Nigerian activists executed for protesting Royal Dutch Shell.
The White House has embraced a plan for TransCanada to build a 485-mile oil pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas. The moves comes a month after President Obama blocked the construction of a 1,700-mile TransCanada pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Texas.
It is primary day in Michigan and Arizona. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum appear to be in a dead heat in Michigan, where Romney was born and where his father once served as governor. Romney is expected to easily win in Arizona. On Monday, Romney criticized Santorum’s work résumé.
Mitt Romney: “Senator Santorum is a nice guy, but he’s never had a job in the private sector. He’s worked as a lobbyist, worked as an elected official. That’s fine. But if the issue of the day is the economy, I think to create jobs it helps to have a guy as president who’s had a job, and I have.”
Rick Santorum also campaigned in Michigan on Monday.
Rick Santorum: “As you can imagine, pretty excited to be here. This was not a place that, frankly, I thought we were going to be competing at the level that we are competing, here in the state of Michigan. But we’re excited, because this is a great place to show the kind of potential that our campaign has. And being able to connect and attract the voters that are absolutely essential for us to be able to win this election in the general election, that’s the focus.”
A new report by the Center for Tax Justice has found General Electric made $81 billion in U.S. pretax profits over the past decade but paid just 2.3 percent of its profits in taxes — far lower than the official 35 percent corporate tax rate. Between 2006 and 2011, GE received a tax rebate of $2.7 billion.
The city of Stockton, California, is expected to move closer today to becoming the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy. The city has a long-term debt of $700 million and has already laid off many workers, including a quarter of its police force.
The British police officer leading an investigation into a bribery scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers in Britain has revealed journalists at Murdoch’s newspaper, The Sun, often paid large sums of cash to corrupt police officers and public officials in exchange for private information. The disclosure could give ammunition to the FBI and other U.S. government agencies to prosecute Murdoch’s firm, News Corp., for violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Murdoch owns several major media assets in the United States, including Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Sue Akers, deputy assistant commissioner of the British Metropolitan Police Service, outlined her findings on Monday.
Sue Akers: “There also appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate those payments, whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money. The emails indicate that payments to sources were openly referred to within The Sun, and in which case the source is not named, but rather, the category 'public official' is identified rather than the name.”
Akers said employees at Murdoch’s newspaper paid out large bribes to police officers and public officials.
Sue Akers: “I mean not ones that involve just the odd drink or a meal to police officers or other public officials; these are cases in which arrests have been made involving the delivery of regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to small numbers of public officials by journalists. Some of the initial emails reveal, upon analysis, that multiple payments have been made to individuals amounting to thousands of pounds. In one case, over a period of several years, this amounts to in excess of 80,000 pounds.”
Schools in Chardon, Ohio, are closed today one day after a shooting inside the Chardon High School cafeteria left two students dead and three others injured. Daniel Parmertor, age 16, was the first student to be reported dead. Russell King, Jr., age 17, also died from his wounds. Police have arrested the alleged gunman, a 17-year-old student from a nearby school.
A New York federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by thousands of organic farmers against the agribusiness giant Monsanto. The farmers were seeking to prevent Monsanto from suing them if their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s patented products, which can drift onto nearby fields. Daniel Ravicher, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said some farmers have stopped growing certain crops to avoid a lawsuit. He called the judge’s decision “gravely disappointing.”
Gay rights groups in Tennessee are making a last attempt to block legislation that would ban all discussion of homosexuality in the state’s schools. The controversial bill bans any teaching about sexuality apart from “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade. The original version, which has been amended, would have barred “any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” Rights groups expressed fears the measure could block school staff from addressing bullying of LGBT students. Two teenagers in Tennessee recently committed suicide after they were bullied about their sexuality. The bill has passed the state senate and is expected to face another vote today.