The New York Times is reporting a classified war simulation held this month by Pentagon planners found an Israeli attack on Iran would likely lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead. The so-called “war game” has reportedly raised fears among top American planners that it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran.
In news from Iraq, at least 43 people died and 243 were wounded today in a series of car and roadside bombs. The bombings occurred on the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion. The deadliest attack occurred in the southern Shiite holy city of Karbala, where twin explosions killed 13 people and wounded 48. In Kirkuk, a car bomb killed nine people and wounded 42. Blasts also occurred in at least 10 other cities and towns, including Baghdad, Ramadi and Hilla.
Voters in Illinois head to the polls today for the Republican primary. During a campaign stop Monday, Mitt Romney accused rival Rick Santorum of being an “economic lightweight.”
Mitt Romney: “I’m someone experienced in the economy. I’m not an economic lightweight. President Obama is. We’re not going to be successful in replacing an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight. We’re going to have to replace him with someone who knows how to run this economy.”
Rick Santorum responded during a stop in Rockford, Illinois, by calling attention to Romney’s ties to Wall Street.
Rick Santorum: “This race is about how we’re going to get this economy growing. I heard Gov. Romney here call me an economic lightweight because I wasn’t a Wall Street financier like he was. You really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as a president of the United States? You think that’s the kind of experience we need? Someone—someone who’s going to take and look after, as he did, his friends on Wall Street and bail them out at the expense of Main Street America?”
The Justice Department and FBI have launched an investigation into the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month in Florida. The unarmed African-American teenager was shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer in an Orlando suburb. The shooter, George Zimmerman, remains free and has not been charged with the shooting.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments today in a pair of cases to determine the constitutionality of sentencing 13- and 14-year olds to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At least 79 juveniles are now serving such life sentences.
A manhunt is underway in France for a serial gunman suspected of killing four people at a Jewish school on Monday. The same shooter is believed to have killed three French soldiers of African and Caribbean descent in earlier attacks this month. Authorities say the same gun and motorcycle were used in those attacks, and the shooter wore a motorcycle helmet. New reports say the gunman wore a small video camera around his neck and may have filmed the attack that killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
The U.S. soldier implicated in the massacre of 16 villagers in Afghanistan “doesn’t remember” the incident, his lawyer, John Henry Browne, said Monday after their first face-to-face meeting.
John Henry Browne: “He doesn’t remember everything in the evening in question. That doesn’t mean he has amnesia.”
Browne met the alleged shooter, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Bales has been in solitary confinement since arriving there on Friday. Bales is accused of gunning down 16 civilians, including nine children and three women. In news from Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the United States is considering giving the Afghan government some control for the first time over when and where the U.S. conducts night-time raids in Afghan villages.
In related news, a parliamentary commission in Pakistan is demanding an end to U.S. drone attacks inside the country and an apology for deadly U.S. air strikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The demand to end drone strikes was one of the first read out by the commission.
Russia has announced it is ready to support a United Nations resolution endorsing a plan by U.N.-Arab League special joint envoy Kofi Annan for settling the Syrian crisis. Annan’s plan has not been made public, but Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that the resolution should not turn into an ultimatum to the Syrian government. On Monday, Russia joined the International Committee of the Red Cross to ask Syria to ensure a daily pause in fighting to allow humanitarian access.
Saudi Arabia has reportedly begun delivering military equipment to arm the Free Syrian Army in its fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The announcement comes just days after the Saudi kingdom said it had shut down its embassy in Syria and withdrawn all its staff.
A new report by Human Rights Watch accuses armed opposition groups in Syria of carrying out serious human rights abuses including kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters and people identified as members of pro-government militias. Human Rights Watch has also received reports of executions by armed opposition groups.
Libya’s new government has released two British journalists nearly a month after they were detained by a militia in the city of Misurata. Nicholas Davies-Jones and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson worked for Iran’s Press TV. The men were detained shortly after they produced a video report exposing how the militia waged revenge attacks on black Libyans they accused of supporting Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces during the war. This is part of the report that aired before their capture.
Nick Jones: “The ongoing attacks in Libya underscore a sense of lawlessness in the country, and if what is alleged to have taken place in the camp is true, then it could be a damaging setback to the country’s interim rulers and the trust placed in the country’s new national forces.”
In other news from Libya, a dispute has broken out over the possible extradition of former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who is being held in Mauritania. Libya, France and the International Criminal Court in The Hague have all asked to take him into custody. The ICC has indicted him on two counts of crimes against humanity during last year’s uprising.
Nobel Peace Peace Prize winner and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has defended a Liberian law that criminalizes homosexual acts. In Liberia, so-called “voluntary sodomy” is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. Sirleaf made the comment during an interview with The Guardian newspaper.
Reporter: “At the moment, I mean, voluntary sodomy is illegal at the moment. So, in essence, homosexuality for two gay men under the books is illegal in Liberia.”
President Sirleaf: “We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we’d like to preserve.”
Reporter: “So you’re saying you wouldn’t decriminalize that current law?”
President Sirleaf: “I’ve just said to you we’re going to maintain our traditional values.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was taking part in the joint interview, refused to criticize Sirleaf’s stance.
Reporter: “Given that good governance and human rights go hand in hand, what is your advice to Madam President and Liberia on this gay rights issue?”
Tony Blair: “You know, one of the advantages of doing what I do now is that I can choose the issues I get into and the issues I don’t. So, you know, for us the priorities are on power, roads, jobs, delivery. I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, but the President has given her position, and this is not one for me.”
The City of Chicago has rejected a permit for the Coalition Against NATO/G8 to hold a protest on May 20, the opening day of a NATO summit. The permit was rejected even though the city had previously granted a permit to the very same group to march one day earlier against the now relocated G8 summit. Protest organizers sought to change the date of the protest once the Obama administration moved the G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David.
Lawmakers in Georgia are considering a bill that would make it illegal for demonstrators to picket outside the homes of corporate executives or outside some businesses. Opponents of the bill include labor unions and environmental organizations, as well as the Atlanta Tea Party.
Some 250,000 students are expected to go on strike today in the Canadian province of Quebec to protest tuition hikes planned by the government. The government plan would increase tuition by 75 percent over the next five years. On Sunday, several thousand students participated in a downtown protest march. Last week, protesting students claimed sections of major highways during rush hour.
A new U.N. report says Jewish settlers in the West Bank have seized dozens of water sources and are using violence and intimidation to block Palestinian access. The report found 56 springs that were under some degree of settler control, including 30 that were claimed completely. Some Palestinians said they were afraid to approach water sources out of fear of violence from settlers.
New research has shown women are paying $1 billion more each year than men for the same health insurance coverage. The report from the National Women’s Law Center says 92 percent of the top plans in states that permit so-called “gender rating” charge women more — even though most of those plans do not cover maternity care. In most states, female non-smokers are also charged more than male smokers, simply because they are women. The Obama administration’s new healthcare law will ban gender rating, starting in 2014.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has announced he will run for a seat in the Australian Senate. Assange, who is under house arrest in Britain, was born in Australia and grew up there.
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