Mitt Romney moved closer to securing the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with primary victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Romney received 42 percent of the vote in Wisconsin, 49 percent in Maryland and 70 percent in D.C. Romney’s chief rival, Rick Santorum, placed second in Wisconsin and Maryland and is now pinning his hopes on the Pennsylvania primary set for April 24.
An advance team from the United Nations peacekeeping department is expected in Damascus within 48 hours to discuss deployment of observers to monitor a ceasefire in Syria. As part of a six-part peace plan put forward by envoy Kofi Annan, 200 to 250 unarmed U.N. observers would be deployed to Syria. Nabil Elaraby is secretary general of the Arab League.
Nabil Elaraby: “There is a political path which Kofi Annan is implementing. In order for this political path to succeed and for the aspirations of the Syrian people to be achieved, there must be an immediate ceasefire. That is what I have said, and I have requested for a binding Security Council resolution because of the recent developments. But this does not mean the use of force.”
The United States and Afghanistan are reportedly close to signing an agreement that would allow U.S. special forces to continue carrying out nighttime raids. Under terms of the proposed accord, Afghan forces would lead the operations, and the raids would be subject to review by Afghan judges. The deal is expected to clear the way for the United States and Afghanistan to sign a strategic partnership agreement next month in Chicago.
Two hundred U.S. marines have arrived in northern Australia in the first wave of a buildup of 2,500 troops due eventually in the country. The United States says the move is needed to better protect U.S. interests across Asia, but the deployment has sparked concern in China. U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich spoke at a welcoming ceremony earlier today.
Jeffrey Bleich: “We are fortunate to be in the most dynamic area in the world right now. This is the fastest-growing economic area and also the one that is enduring the greatest demographic change, and we want to make sure that it continues to be a peaceful, prosperous and stable area. The way that we accomplish that is by ensuring that trade routes are open and that we’re prepared for any issue that could come up. And so, the opportunity to train here in Darwin is ideal for having the ability to do that. You have access to the Pacific Ocean, to the Indian Ocean, to the East Timor Sea and to trade routes all around.”
Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law is receiving new scrutiny in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African-American teenager who was killed in Sanford, Florida, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Democratic Florida State Senator Chris Smith has announced he is forming a task force to review the law, which allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened. Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade Commission has passed a resolution asking the Florida State Legislature to convene hearings on the law.
A newly released 2006 State Department memo reveals there was division within the Bush administration over the Justice Department’s authorization of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The author of the memo, Philip Zelikow, wrote, “Under American law, there is no precedent for excusing treatment that is intrinsically 'cruel' even if the state asserts a compelling need to use it.” Zelikow, who was counselor to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, went on to criticize several interrogation methods including waterboarding, walling, dousing, stress positions and cramped confinement.
The International Criminal Court has rejected calls to open an investigation into war crimes committed by Israel committed during its three-week attack on Gaza that began in late 2008. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office has no jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories until the United Nations recognizes them as a state.
Rupert Murdoch’s son James has became the latest casualty in the phone-hacking scandal that has shaken Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire. On Tuesday, James Murdoch resigned as chair of the British satellite broadcasting company BSkyB. The move comes a month after he resigned as chair of News International. Up until last year James was seen as the heir apparent to his father’s media empire. Porter Bibb is managing partner in an investment bank specializing in media ventures.
Porter Bibb: “James Murdoch did not want to be seen to be forced out of office as chairman of BSkyB, which might have been inevitable when the parliamentary committee’s report comes out 10 days from now. He’s also, with his father, Rupert Murdoch, about to be called in front of the judiciary committee, the Leveson Committee, to testify on bribing public officials. And then there’s a third investigation underway: the Metropolitan police, Scotland Yard is very close to charging at least some of the 28 people who have been arrested from various News Corp. entities.”
The U.S. Justice Department is threatening to sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is accused of committing flagrant civil rights abuses against immigrants in Arizona. Settlement talks between Arpaio and the federal government broke down Tuesday because of Arpaio’s resistance to having an independent monitor oversee his compliance with the settlement. In a letter to the Sheriff’s Office, a Justice Department official accused Arpaio of “wasting time and not negotiating in good faith.” He also said the Justice Department has recently uncovered more information on the office’s failure to investigate sex crimes.
Greenpeace has repeated its call for an end to oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean after activists with the group found evidence of environmental pollution in the North Sea connected to a natural gas leak at a platform owned by the firm Total. Christian Bussau is leading the Greenpeace expedition in the Arctic.
Christian Bussau: “When Greenpeace arrived early this morning at the platform, we found oil on the water surface. We smell the gas, the chemicals in the air. And we take water and oil samples, and we take air samples. We use our gas detection camera to make the gas visible, which comes out from the platform. And what we can say is this accident is a serious accident. It will be not easy for Total to solve the problem, and therefore our demand is: no oil exploration in the Arctic. This is far too dangerous, this is far too risky, and therefore we do not want the oil industry to go into the Arctic.”
A string of tornadoes ripped through parts of northern Texas Tuesday, damaging hundreds of homes, throwing trucks into the air and leaving thousands without electricity. No major injuries or deaths were reported. Weather warnings are in place across the country today as another wave of storms is expected. Meanwhile, a major storm has rocked Tokyo, Japan, with some of the strongest winds to hit the city in 50 years. The storm dumped massive amounts of water across parts of Japan. Four people were reported dead, hundreds were injured, and thousands lost power. At two nuclear power plants in northern Japan, employees were forced to temporarily stop the cooling of spent fuel storage pools after a power failure.
In news from California, about 100 students took part in protests at Santa Monica College Tuesday against the school’s plan to implement a two-tiered tuition system that will offer some core courses at a higher cost. Police responded with pepper spray after dozens of students began chanting during the college’s Board of Trustees meeting. At least two students were taken to a hospital after the pepper-spraying.
Donald Trump announced Tuesday a Canadian transgender beauty pageant contestant will be allowed back into the Miss Universe Canada contest. Jenna Talackova was thrown out last week after organizers ruled she was not a “naturally born” female. Talackova underwent gender-reassignment surgery four years ago and carries a Canadian passport, driver’s license and birth certificate that all identify her as a woman. Trump made the decision hours after Talackova spoke out publicly.
Jenna Talackova: “I am a woman. I was devastated, and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust. I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete. I saw the statement by Mr. Trump’s representative that was issued yesterday, and I find it quite confusing.”
The sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett has died at the age of 96 in Mexico. She was renowned for her portrayals of African-American and Mexican women. Born in Washington, D.C., she moved to Mexico in 1946 and became friends with the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. In 1962, the State Department banned her from returning home for nearly a decade because of her political affiliations.