Hundreds of students in eastern Afghanistan protested against the United States today condemning the U.S. soldier who reportedly massacred 16 Afghan civilians, mostly children. Some students burned an effigy of President Obama and called for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan.
Jan Mohammad: “We, the students of Nangarhar Islamic University, want from crusaders to leave from Afghanistan immediately, without any stipulations. Down, down America!”
Earlier today, suspected insurgents fired on an Afghan government delegation investigating the massacre of the 16 civilians. Two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers were with other senior officials when insurgents opened fire.
At the White House, President Obama was asked in an interview how the Afghan massacre impacts U.S. plans in Afghanistan.
President Obama: “And so, what we try to do is create a responsible pathway for an exit, where, by the end of 2014, we’ll have all our troops out.”
Reporter: “So, this doesn’t make you more inclined to move us out faster?”
Obama: “Well, it makes me more determined to make sure that we’re getting our troops home. It’s time. It’s been a decade. And frankly, now that we’ve gotten bin Laden, now that we’ve weakened al-Qaeda, we’re in a stronger position to transition than we would have been two or three years ago.”
More details are emerging about the alleged shooter, a 38-year-old Army staff sergeant of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. He was trained as a sniper and served three tours in Iraq before arriving in Afghanistan late last year. In 2010, he was reportedly treated for traumatic brain injury suffered in a vehicle rollover in Iraq. Afghan lawmakers called on the soldier to be put on trial inside Afghanistan.
Sharifullah Kamawal: “It was a tragic incident for all of us, that these people (Western forces) have repeatedly targeted civilians and killed Afghans in their operation. The Afghan parliament is very sad about this, and we will follow this and will urge the president to put the criminals to trial.”
The United States has reportedly carried out another drone strike in Pakistan. Six people died when their vehicle was struck by a drone in South Waziristan. Pakistani officials said the passengers were all militants.
Human rights lawyers are preparing to sue British Foreign Secretary William Hague over the alleged use of British intelligence in assisting U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. The case is being brought on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a U.S. strike. Lawyers say British intelligence officers who provided information used in drone strikes may be liable as “secondary parties to murder.”
Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have reportedly agreed to a ceasefire after four days of cross-border violence. Earlier today, an Egyptian official said both sides have pledged to end current attacks and implement “a comprehensive and mutual calm.” Israel’s latest strikes on Gaza killed at least 26 Palestinians, including five civilians. At least 80 Palestinians were also wounded, most of them civilians. At least four Israelis in border towns were wounded in rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Voters in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa head to the polls today to vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. Polls indicate it could be a virtual three-way tie in Alabama and Mississippi between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
In election news, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has blocked Texas from enforcing a new law requiring voters to present photo identification after ruling that the law would discriminate against Latino voters. The move follows a similar decision late last year to block another voter ID law in South Carolina. Meanwhile, a Wisconsin judge has declared a state law requiring people to show photo ID at the polls to be unconstitutional.
The United Nations has announced it will soon deploy human rights monitors in countries bordering Syria to collect eyewitness testimony on “atrocities” committed in the country. The news comes a day after a special U.N. Security Council meeting on the “Arab Spring” showed the five permanent members were no closer to breaking their impasse over Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the international community to speak with one voice on Syria.
Hillary Clinton: “Now the United States believes firmly in the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member states, but we do not believe that sovereignty demands that this council stand silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening regional peace and security in the process. And we reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defense.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Syrian authorities bear a huge share of responsibility, but he insisted opposition fighters and militants are also committing violent acts.
Sergey Lavrov: “Making hasty demands for regime change, imposing unilateral sanctions designed to trigger economic difficulties and social tensions in countries, inducing the opposition to continuous confrontation to the authorities instead of promoting dialogue, making calls in support of armed confrontation and even foreign military intervention—all of the above are risky recipes of geopolitical engineering that can only result in the spread of the conflict.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Treasury Department over his ties to the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq, or the MEK. Although the group has been designated as a “terrorist” organization by the State Department for 15 years, a number of prominent former U.S. officials have been paid to speak in support of the MEK. The list of officials include: two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and Porter Goss; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
The U.N. special rapporteur on torture has accused the U.S. military of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment towards alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. In his report, Juan Méndez criticized the U.S. military for holding Manning in solitary confinement for 11 months. Méndez writes: “The special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.” Manning is accused of leaking a trove of secret documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
In media news, advertisers are continuing to pull ads from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. ThinkProgress has obtained an internal memo from the distributor, Premiere Networks, which shows 96 companies have requested their ads not be played during Limbaugh’s show. The memo also lists other programs “deemed to be offensive,” including those anchored by right-wing hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. ThinkProgress says the 96 national companies do not include 50 companies that had previously pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s program following his use of the terms “slut” and “prostitute” to describe a Georgetown University law student who had advocated for coverage of birth control. In addition, Radio-info.com is reporting the syndicator of Limbaugh’s program is suspending a major portion of advertising spots on the show for two weeks.
British police arrested six more people early today as part of the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked the holdings of media giant Rupert Murdoch. Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband, Charlie Brooks, were reportedly among those arrested. Rebekah Brooks, who is the former editor of the British tabloids News of the World and The Sun, was previously arrested in the scandal last July. Police said the six people are suspected of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
A new report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has revealed an electrical fire at an idled Nebraska nuclear plant posed a high safety risk because the fire knocked out pumps circulating water in a pool with spent nuclear fuel. The fire occurred last June at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station shortly after the reactors were idled due to massive flooding. The NRC said it classified the fire as a “red” event, representing the highest level of safety threat tracked by the agency. The report also criticized workers at the nuclear plant for ignoring an “acrid odor” at the plant that existed for three days before the fire began.
The World Trade Organization has ruled the United States has been illegally subsidizing airplane manufacturer Boeing, causing “serious prejudice” to its European rival, Airbus. Karel De Gucht is trade commissioner of the European Union.
Karel De Gucht: “Not only has the WTO rejected the appeal by the United States, but it has also gone even further. The WTO has found that the U.S. is guilty of past illegal funding to Boeing, worth between five and six billion dollars, and future illegal subsidies of just over three billion U.S. dollars.”
A new study has found drinking water in California’s agricultural core is contaminated by nitrates and that the problem is likely to worsen in the coming years. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found chemical fertilizers and livestock manure are the main sources of groundwater contamination affecting more than one million people across the state’s Salinas Valley and parts of the Central Valley. Nitrates are linked to a range of health problems, including reproductive disorders and cancer, and high levels of nitrates in water can prove deadly to infants.
The study on contaminated drinking water in California’s agricultural core comes on the heels of United Nations report that found the global agricultural sector will need 19 percent more water by 2050 to meet a 70 percent increase in demand for food. Meanwhile, government officials, industry representatives and members of nonprofit groups are meeting in Marseilles, France, at the World Water Forum to discuss global water policy. Angel Gurría is secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Angel Gurría: “Today 800 million, 900 million people are in areas that you have—where you have water stress—water stress, we define as a difficult access to water—and then, on top of that, the fact that if you get water, it may not be of the right quality. And bad quality water is also extremely, extremely dangerous, because by having good water and investing one euro in good water, you will save six euros or eight euros in health costs.”
The group Reporters Without Borders is calling for an international investigation into attacks on journalists in Honduras following the murder of a radio host. Fausto Hernández Arteaga was killed Sunday by machete blows, bringing the number of slain media workers in the country to 19 over the past two years.