Labor and progressive groups are preparing for a national slate of protests on Tuesday in what’s expected to be one of the largest May Day turnouts since the immigrant rights marches of 2006 and 2007. Occupy Wall Street is seeking a turnout of tens of thousands under the slogan of “General Strike. No Work. No Shopping. Occupy Everywhere.”
On Friday, hundreds of Occupy activists rallied in Manhattan as part of a weekly march to the New York Stock Exchange. A handful of arrests were made.
Violence continues in Syria in the ongoing uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier today, at least eight people were killed in a pair of suicide bombings in the northwestern city of Idlib. Activists say most of the dead were members of Assad’s forces. As the fighting rages, the head of the U.N. observer mission to Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said more international monitors are needed and called on all sides to adhere to a ceasefire.
Major General Robert Mood: “To achieve the success of Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, I call on all. I call on all to stop the violence and to help us on a continued cessation of armed violence in all its forms.”
A Bahraini court has ordered a retrial for 21 opposition activists jailed during the crackdown on protests against the U.S.-backed monarchy last year. The prisoners include Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is on the 82nd day of a hunger strike protesting his life imprisonment.
An Egyptian demonstrator was killed on Saturday in a protest calling for the departure of Egypt’s ruling military council. Clashes erupted outside Egypt’s defense ministry after unidentified military supporters rushed the crowd. A demonstrator said the protest had been peaceful until it was attacked.
Protester: “We are here staging a peaceful sit-in, continuing our revolution, conveying our demands. Unfortunately, we saw the thugs that the military let loose on us, who attacked people and gave people very grave injuries. There has been news of deaths, but we will continue, and they will not terrorize us. This is a new battle, which we will continue, and if they don’t respond, we will escalate our efforts.”
A prominent Chinese activist has reportedly taken refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing after escaping house arrest. Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, evaded guards at his village home in Shandong province to escape undetected. A friend of Chen’s described his escape.
Hu Jia: “We talked about how Guangcheng climbed over a high wall in the middle of the night and fell over more than 200 times, and how he wounded himself when he fell down from the wall and couldn’t stand up. But he kept going and stumbled forward. And, as I remember, he said it took 20 hours to get past all these obstacles to get to the people waiting to meet him.”
The Obama administration has refused to confirm whether Chen is at the U.S. embassy, but has sent a top diplomat to China to address the case. Bob Fu, a Chinese opposition activist based in Texas, said he has confirmation Chen is under U.S. protection.
Bob Fu: “From our source who is both knowledgeable to the U.S. government and Chinese government, that we can confirm that Chen is in the protection of the U.S. government in Beijing, and the high-level negotiation between the two governments has started. And it happened on April 27th, and Chen is safe right now.”
The former head of Israel’s spy agency has criticized Israeli leaders for their longstanding threats to attack Iran. In a speech, former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have formed their Iran policy around “messianic feelings.”
Yuval Diskin: “I will tell you things that will be, perhaps, harsh. I have no faith in the Prime Minister, nor in the Defense Minister. I really don’t have faith in a leadership that makes decisions out of messianic feelings.”
Diskin is the second prominent figure from Israel’s military intelligence establishment to question Israel’s stance on Iran in less than a week. In a recent interview, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz called Iranian leaders “very rational people” who appear to have been swayed by international sanctions to halt nuclear efforts.
A leading British supermarket chain has extended its boycott of Israeli goods made in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Co-operative Group, Britain’s fifth-largest grocer, says it will now cut business ties with any companies known to source from the settlements. The co-operative has boycotted settlement products since 2009.
Spain has officially confirmed its economy has fallen into a recession after shrinking in the first three months of the year. It is the second time Spain has been deemed to be in recession in three years. The news comes as tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Spain on Sunday to protest austerity measures that will see massive cuts to healthcare and education.
A Democrat-led congressional probe has found there is no evidence torture practices employed by the CIA under the Bush White House have led to significant intelligence gains. After a nearly three-year inquiry, investigators with the Senate Intelligence Committee found the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” played a minimal role in U.S. intelligence coups, including the locating and killing of Osama bin Laden a year ago. The finding comes amid a slew of media appearances by a leading Bush-era official, Jose Rodriguez, to promote his new book and defend the torture techniques. Speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes, Rodriguez, the former head of CIA clandestine operations and former lead interrogator, discussed how the CIA obtained legal authorization for torture from the White House.
Jose Rodriguez: “We needed to get everybody in government to put their big-boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed.”
Lesley Stahl: “Their big boy pants on.”
Jose Rodriguez: “Big boy pants. Let me tell you, I had had a lot of experience in the agency where we had been left to hold the bag. And I was not about to let that happen for the people that work for me.”
Lesley Stahl: “There wasn’t going to be any deniability on this one?”
Jose Rodriguez: “There was not going to be any deniability. And I tell you something. In August of 2002, I felt I had all the authorities that I needed, all the approvals that I needed. The atmosphere in the country was different. Everybody wanted us to save American lives.”
In the CBS 60 Minutes interview, Jose Rodriguez, former head of CIA clandestine operations and former lead interrogator, later compared the authorization of torture under President George W. Bush to the increased amount of extrajudicial killings under President Obama.
Jose Rodriguez: “We don’t capture anybody anymore, Lesley. I mean, you know, their default option of this administration has been to kill all prisoners, take no prisoners.”
Lesley Stahl: “The drones.”
Jose Rodriguez: “The drones. How could it be more ethical to kill people rather than capture them? I’ve never understood that one.”
The judge overseeing the murder trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin has rejected a prosecution request to raise Zimmerman’s bail. Prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda asked for the increase on Friday after Zimmerman’s attorney disclosed his client had raised more than $200,000 through his now-defunct website.
Bernardo de la Rionda: “The family members represented that they had no money, when in truth they really did. So I don’t know if they did that intentionally or what, but so I would submit that there’s a change in circumstance regarding bond, and I would ask the court to consider possibly raising the bond.”
The $200,000 raised by Zimmerman exceeds the $150,000 bail he was freed on last week. But on Friday, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester refused to raise Zimmerman’s bail, saying he needed more financial information on Zimmerman’s fundraising before making a ruling.
Thousands of people convened in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the weekend for the annual meeting of Native American and indigenous people known as the Gathering of Nations. Now in its 29th year, the Gathering of Nations is billed as the largest meeting of indigenous people in the world.
President Obama took shots at his Republican opponents on Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C. In his remarks, Obama singled out Newt Gingrich, who was in attendance, as well as Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.
President Obama: “I know at this point many of you are expecting me to go after my likely opponent, Newt Gingrich. Newt, there’s still time, man. I’m not going to attack any of the Republican candidates. Take Mitt Romney, he and I actually have a lot in common. We both think of our wives as our better halves, and polls show to an alarmingly insulting extent, the American people agree. We both also have degrees from Harvard. I have one, he has two. What a snob.”
Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, when an all-white jury acquitted four police officers for the beating of black motorist Rodney King, sparking massive unrest in the downtown streets. A number of events are being held to mark the date, including a community “speakout” in the neighborhood of South Central.
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