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The Republican presidential race appears headed for the long haul after the “Super Tuesday” slate of primaries failed to produce a decisive winner. Mitt Romney won six states, including what appears to be a slim victory over Rick Santorum in the main battleground state of Ohio. Santorum, meanwhile, won three states, while Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia. Romney currently enjoys a sizable lead in delegates, but still only has a third of the number needed for the nomination.
In other notable elections around the country, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich was defeated in a primary against Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. The two were forced to square off after Republicans redrew Ohio’s congressional map to form a new district. Kaptur will now face Samuel Wurzelbacher, winner of the district’s Republican primary. Wurzelbacher gained notoriety as “Joe the Plumber” during the 2008 presidential campaign, despite not actually being a licensed plumber.
In Vermont, voters in at least two dozen towns approved local resolutions challenging corporate personhood and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
The United States and five other world powers have agreed to resume nuclear talks with Iran after more than one year. Speaking on behalf of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany, the European Union’s Catherine Ashton accepted Iran’s offer from last month to restart negotiations.
Catherine Ashton: “On behalf of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, I have offered to resume talks with Iran. We hope that we will be able to now pursue, with Iran, constructive engagement with the purpose of addressing the international community’s concerns about the nuclear program. We will in the course of the next few days decide the dates and the venue.”
The U.N. Security Council announcement to resume nuclear talks with Iran came shortly after Iran has announced it will allow international nuclear inspectors to visit its secret Parchin military complex, which has come under speculation as a potential site for research relevant to nuclear weapons. It also came amidst ongoing talks in Washington of a potential military strike on Iran by Israel or the United States. At a White House news conference, President Obama reiterated his vow to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon if it attempts to do so.
President Obama: “We will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon. My policy is not containment. My policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon, because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our nonproliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists. And we’ve been in close consultation with all our allies, including Israel, in moving this strategy forward.”
Obama was speaking one day after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sought U.S. support for military action against Iran. In a response to his Republican critics, Obama challenged proponents of immediate military action to explain their case to the public.
President Obama: “It is deeply in everybody’s interests — the United States, Israel and the world’s — to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion. And so this notion that somehow we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks or month or two months is not borne out by the facts. I think there’s no doubt that those who are suggesting or proposing or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be. I’m not one of those people.”
As Obama talked about Iran, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared before the annual gathering of the pro-Israeli government lobbying group AIPAC. Echoing Obama’s speech to the group on Sunday, Panetta vowed the United States would use force against Iran if need be.
Leon Panetta: “As the President said on this stage, these are the most consequential decisions a president must make. Of course we prefer the diplomatic path. And as the Prime Minister himself has said, military action is the last alternative when all else fails. But make no mistake: when all else fails, we will act.”
Panetta’s comments were the latest by an Obama administration official to warn of a military attack on Iran. Critics have accused the White House of violating the U.N. Charter, which bars “the threat or use of force” against another state, unless in cases of self-defense.
One day after meeting with President Obama at the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered with congressional leaders Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Praising the wide bipartisan support for Israeli government policies, Netanyahu said no institution on earth can match what he called the “clarity, courage and wisdom” of the U.S. Congress.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Those great challenges require really three qualities to address them successfully. The three are clarity, courage and wisdom. I don’t think that there is a place anywhere else on earth where we can match the clarity, courage and wisdom that I find here in the halls of this institution and amidst these venerable friends.”
In the Occupied Territories, two Palestinian children were killed on Tuesday when an abandoned Israeli mortar exploded in the Occupied West Bank. The governor of Hebron, Kamel Hameed, denounced Israel for the children’s deaths.
Kamel Hameed: “It’s clear from all the indications and the finds that we have that these children found leftovers of the Israeli army, and it led to the loss of their lives. These are ongoing crimes.”
U.N. Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos is headed to the Syrian city of Homs after meeting with Syria’s foreign minister in Damascus. Amos said she hopes to pave the way for humanitarian relief workers to evacuate the wounded and deliver supplies. The Syrian government continues to block humanitarian aid to the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, which endured a nearly month-long siege before it was claimed by government troops last week. Meanwhile, China, an ally to the Syrian regime, has pulled its workers out of the country due to the violence. The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have been killed since President Bashar al-Assad began his crackdown on the uprising a year ago. Assad said Tuesday he would continue fighting what he called “foreign-backed terrorism.”
Speaking at his news conference at the White House, President Obama predicted the eventual downfall of the Assad regime in Syria.
President Obama: “We are going to continue to work on this project with other countries, and it is my belief that, ultimately, this dictator will fall, as dictators in the past have fallen. But the notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military, you know, that hasn’t been true in the past, and it won’t be true now.”
At least 42 people are dead after an avalanche struck a village in northeastern Afghanistan. The Afghan army has sent helicopters to the area in an attempt to rescue trapped survivors under the snow. Afghanistan is currently facing its harshest winter in 15 years.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Honduras for talks with Central American leaders on regional security efforts and drug trafficking. Biden said the Obama administration will ask Congress for an additional $107 million for the Central American Regional Security Initiative next year. Biden’s visit comes amid what appears to be an emerging rift between the Obama administration and its Central American allies on decriminalizing drugs. Last month, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said he would support decriminalization, and on Tuesday, Central American leaders agreed to debate the idea at a gathering later this month. During his stop in Honduras, Biden pledged the Obama administration’s support for the Honduran government.
Joe Biden: “The United States and Honduras have had a long and close partnership, and we reaffirmed that today. The President and I discussed a wide range of topics, especially security and economic development. We understand the grave threats of narcotrafficking and the gang violence and the threat it poses to the people of Honduras, but quite frankly the entire region, as well as to my country. And the United States is absolutely committed to continuing to work with Honduras to win this battle against the narcotraffickers.”
Reports have emerged that a man who had been accidentally deported from the United States was among the roughly 360 inmates who perished in the Honduras prison fire last month. Nelson Avila-Lopez was deported in October, just weeks after he was granted a stay of deportation. Avila-Lopez, who came to the United States as a teenager to escape attempts by local gangs to recruit him, was immediately jailed for suspected gang involvement upon his return. At the time of his death in the massive prison blaze on February 14, he had not been convicted of any crime.
Leaders in eastern Libya have announced plans to seek semi-autonomy from the rest of the country. On Tuesday, officials meeting in Benghazi named the leader of a new governing council. They also rejected a national election plan that allotted the eastern region far fewer seats in Libya’s assembly than the west.
U.S. Army investigators have recommended a court-martial for four soldiers accused in the death of Private Danny Chen. A 19-year-old Chinese American, Chen allegedly took his own life just weeks after he was deployed to Afghanistan last October. His family says Chen had been abused by comrades on an almost daily basis, including racist hazing, with soldiers throwing rocks at him, calling him ethnic slurs and forcing him to do push-ups or hang upside down with his mouth full of water. A commanding officer will preside over the four soldiers’ court-martial and will make a final decision on whether to bring charges. Four other soldiers are also under investigation in the case.
A judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of a controversial new voter identification law in Wisconsin. The law would require all voters to present photo ID at the polls. Dane County Judge David Flanagan issued a temporary injunction after the NAACP brought a lawsuit saying the law could block those without ID, including many people of color, from voting.
Thousands of demonstrators turned out in downtown New York City on Tuesday to form a three-mile line in order to draw attention to high unemployment. Known simply as “The Line,” the protest stretched from Wall Street to Union Square, with demonstrators carrying pink slips to represent the estimated 14 million unemployed people in the United States.
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