Hopes for a ceasefire in Syria appear to be in jeopardy after Bashar al-Assad’s government demanded written guarantees rebel groups will stop fighting before it pulls back troops under the terms of a U.N. peace plan. U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan had brokered a deal for Syria to begin the pullback of troops from around towns and cities by Tuesday and for a truce to start 48 hours later. Turkey has accused Syrian forces of firing across the Turkish border and wounding three people close to one of the largest refugee camps housing Syrian nationals. Thousands of Syria refugees are now living in refugee camps.
Syrian refugee: “We have left everything behind — our home, families. I always think about home, my family, relatives and neighbors there. I miss everything and I want to return as soon as the bloodshed comes to an end.”
In other news from Syria, Human Rights Watch has accused Syrian security forces of summarily executing more than 100 civilians and wounded or captured opposition fighters during recent attacks on cities and towns.
The Washington Post has revealed the CIA has been operating stealth surveillance drones deep inside Iran for the last three years in an attempt to uncover evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. In addition, the National Security Agency has ramped up eavesdropping on Iran, and the United States has expanded its network of spies inside Iran’s borders. The news comes just days before Turkey hosts talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Last week, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada even though the group is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. The MEK has been linked to the assassinations of several Iranian nuclear scientists.
Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have arrested two men in connection to a shooting spree that left three people dead and two injured. All of the victims were African Americans. The shootings terrorized a predominantly black section of Tulsa. Police said the suspects, Jacob England and Alvin Watts, drove through the streets of north Tulsa in a pickup truck and randomly shot pedestrians. Police have not labeled the killings as a hate crime, but several local officials said the shootings were racially motivated.
Rev. Warren Blakney, president of the NAACP chapter in Tulsa: “We want our people to know there’s no need to go out and try and take vengeance and become a vigilante. Just wait through the process, and let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Afghanistan and the United States reached a deal on Sunday to curb night raids on Afghan homes, giving Kabul a veto over the operations, clearing the way for a wider pact extending the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Under the agreement, Afghan authorities will have control over prisoners taken in night raids and decide whether to allow U.S. interrogators access to detainees. An Afghan judge would also have to grant a warrant approving operations.
Gen. John Allen, NATO commander in Afghanistan: “Today we are one step closer to the establishment of the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership. Most importantly, today we are one step closer to our shared goal and vision of a secure and sovereign Afghanistan. Together, we will realize that vision.”
Many Afghan residents criticized the agreement because it did not put an end to all night raids.
Nazar Mohammad: “We don’t want any forces entering our houses during the night — neither American forces and nor Afghan forces. If they really need to inspect homes, they must come first and get permission and then enter the houses.”
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday in Athens, Greece, for the funeral of Dimitris Christoulas, the 77-year-old retired pharmacist who shot and killed himself near the Greek Parliament building last week after writing a note that blamed his suicide on the economic crisis. Christoulas’s daughter, Emi Christoulas, spoke at his funeral and said his act had been “deeply political.”
Emi Christoulas: “You found it unacceptable that they were killing our freedom, our democracy, our dignity. You found it unacceptable as they tightened the harsh noose of economic austerity and apartheid around us, to the unacceptable act of surrendering our independence and the keys to the country. It was unacceptable to you that Greece did not acknowledge its children, and its children did not recognize their own country. You found the bestiality of capitalism unacceptable, that it infiltrated our lives, and no one tried to stop it. Then, you made your decision: to become the fear, the death, the memory, the sorrow of our ruined lives.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revealed last month was the warmest March ever recorded in the United States. Temperatures in the continental 48 states were 8.6-degrees above normal for March and 6-degrees higher than average for the first three months of the year.
Representatives from dozens of countries met in Nepal this weekend for a conference on the impact of climate change on mountain communities.
Ram Baran Yadav, President of Nepal: “We all know that mountains all around the world are facing disproportionate impact of climate change. Combined with the forces of globalization, continuing environmental degradation and also socioeconomic development, climate change is making life in the mountains in developing countries more difficult.”
In economic news, the Japanese electronic company Sony has announced plans to slash about 10,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its global workforce. It is unclear how many of the jobs lost will be in the United States.
The U.S. Labor Department says just 120,000 jobs were created in March, far below the expected gain of 200,000 jobs. It was the smallest rise since October. In spite of the weak job growth, the unemployment rate edged down to 8.2 percent because more people have left the labor force.
Bahrain is refusing to extradite jailed political activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja despite a request from Copenhagen to hand him over. Alkhawaja, who is also a Danish citizen, has been on a hunger strike for more than two months. Over the weekend his daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja, was briefly detained and interrogated after she tried to see him at the military hospital where he is being held. Security guards reportedly tied her hands and legs to a wheelchair. Sunday marked the 60th day of Alkhawaja’s hunger strike and the first anniversary of his arrest.
The former intelligence chief of ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak has joined the presidential race. Omar Suleiman made the announcement on Friday. He headed Egypt’s intelligence services for more than 18 years under Mubarak. Suleiman was a close U.S. ally who had a key role in the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program. During the Egyptian uprising last year, Mubarak appointed Suleiman as his first-ever vice president. Meanwhile, a popular Islamist candidate named Hazem Salah Abu Ismail has been ruled ineligible to run because documents show his mother became a U.S. citizen before she died — a charge Ismail has disputed.
The Nobel Prize-winning German author Günter Grass has been barred from visiting Israel after the publication last week of a poem titled “What Must Be Said.” In the poem, Grass described the nuclear-armed state of Israel as a threat to world peace. The poem also assailed Israel for its threats to attack Iran, called for supervision of Israel’s nuclear weapons, and criticized Germany for selling submarines to Israel. Grass is considered to be Germany’s most famous living writer. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999.
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras has revealed she was detained Thursday after she landed at Newark International Airport from a trip to Britain. When she landed, she was interrogated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Agents threatened to handcuff her when she attempted to keep notes about the interrogation. Poitras told Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald that she is detained and questioned almost every time she returns to the United States from overseas travel. She said it is “very traumatizing to come home to your own country and have to go through this every time.” Poitras is the director of “The Oath” and “My Country, My Country.” “The Oath” was about Guantánamo prisoners returning to Yemen after being released by the U.S. government.
Minneapolis police arrested 12 Occupy protesters on Saturday. Several activists say they were the victims of police brutality. Local television station KSTP said one of its employees was videotaping the arrests when an officer shoved his camera, knocking it to the ground and slightly injuring the cameraman.
One of China’s best-known dissidents, Fang Lizhi, has died at the age of 76. He was viewed as a key figure in the pro-democracy movement behind the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The legendary “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace has died at 93. He worked at “60 Minutes” for almost 40 years, beginning in 1968.
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