Florida prosecutors have released a trove of documents revealing new details about the night George Zimmerman shot dead the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. The evidence indicates a fight occurred between the two, but police determined the deadly encounter was "ultimately avoidable" if Zimmerman had "remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement." The police also concluded, "There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter." Autopsy results show Martin died from a single gunshot wound to the chest, with the bullet going through his heart. The new documents also show Sanford police received an anonymous tip less than two full days after the shooting — before it became widely known to the public. The caller refused to identify herself but said that Zimmerman "has racist ideologies and ... is fully capable of instigating a confrontation that could have escalated to the point of [him] having to use deadly force." The caller was never tracked down.
Hundreds of people rallied in Houston on Thursday to protest the acquittal of a former police officer in the videotaped beating of an African-American teenager. On Wednesday, the officer, Andrew Bloomberg, was found not guilty by an all-white jury in the beating and stomping of 15-year-old burglary suspect, Chad Holley. Video taken of the March 2010 incident shows Holley being stopped by a police vehicle. After Holley falls to the ground, he is clearly seen surrendering and putting his hands behind his head. But instead of placing him in handcuffs, Bloomberg and six fellow officers proceed to attack Holley with stomps and kicks. Bloomberg and the other officers lost their jobs after the video emerged. Three of the officers will learn of their trial dates next week.
The United States has issued what could be its most forceful threat to date of a potential attack on Iran. Speaking at a public event in Jerusalem, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said the Obama administration has made preparations for military action. Shapiro said the United States would prefer a peaceful resolution to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear activities. But he added: "That doesn’t mean that the [military] option is not fully available. And not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready."
The Obama administration has granted an Israeli request for an additional $70 million to fund a so-called missile defense program known as "Iron Dome." On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Pentagon will request the funding over the next three years. The money would come on top of the more than $200 million already allocated for the system and the additional $3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. Republicans say the U.S. funding for Iron Dome does not go far enough and are advancing a measure that would give Israel an additional $680 million. Speaking at a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak thanked the White House for its support.
Ehud Barak: "I’m delighted to be here once again and to have an opportunity to discuss Middle Eastern issues with the Secretary. We are here. I was in the Pentagon. And we are highly appreciative of the approach of this administration, of the Secretary, of Secretary of Defense, and of course of the President, in regard to the security of Israel, making sure that in our tough neighborhood Israel will be strong and secure."
Israel has launched new attacks on the occupied Gaza Strip. On Thursday, seven Palestinians were wounded after Israeli forces opened fire near the Israel-Gaza border. At least three of the victims were said to be farmers. Another Palestinian farmer said he fled the shooting.
Nafez Jindiyah: "We are farmers. We were planting, and we left our tools behind us. We also left our donkeys and cars to the east from here. Suddenly the Israelis started to shoot on us so we ran away."
An Egyptian court has acquitted 14 police officers charged with killing protesters during the uprising against the regime of Hosni Mubarak last year. The officers were accused of firing on demonstrators outside of police stations in the early stages of the protests. So far, nine out of 10 cases where Egyptian officers have been tried for killing protesters have ended in acquittals. The tenth case ended in a suspended sentence.
The Obama administration continues to ease restrictions on Burma in the aftermath of parliamentary elections and the release of political prisoners. On Thursday, the United States said it will name its first ambassador to Burma in 20 years. Speaking in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also announced the United States will ease the ban on trading and other investments in Burma.
Hillary Clinton: "I am also announcing new steps to permit American investment in the country and export of U.S. financial services. These are the most significant adjustments to our previous policy that have been taken to date. The United States will issue a general license that will enable American businesses to invest across the economy, allow citizens access to international credit markets and dollar-based transactions. So today we say to American business, invest in Burma, and do it responsibly. Be an agent of positive change."
Events and marches were held across the globe on Thursday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Countries to take part included Cuba, which has recently taken steps to account for the persecution of LGBTQ people in the 1960s and ’70s. U.S. activist Anna Dorman was in Cuba to take part.
Anna Dorman: "We’re very happy and excited to be here. We’re very impressed with how open the community is to both us and to discuss this theme, which we think is very important. We’re here in solidarity with the people of Cienfuegos and the people of Cuba to really promote education and awareness and consciousness raising so that we reduce homophobia and increase openness to diversity."
The House has passed a Republican-backed version of a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a sweeping law that aids victims of domestic violence. But critics say the House version excludes protections for Native American and LGBT victims passed by the Senate and rolls back existing protections for immigrant women. The White House has threatened to veto the House version, saying it undermines the law’s core purpose.
The New York Times has revealed a Republican super PAC has planned an ad campaign that would revive the effort to link President Obama to his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Soundbites of Wright’s sermons became a dominant staple of the 2008 campaign when Republicans tried to associate Obama with Wright’s denunciations of U.S. foreign policy and its record on civil rights. A newly disclosed plan shows strategists with the "Ending Spending Action Fund" writing: "The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way." The Times reported a proposal for the $10 million plan had been commissioned by the billionaire Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. But following denunciations by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others, a spokesperson for Ricketts disavowed the campaign, saying it "reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted, but only a suggestion for a direction to take."
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