Syrian activists opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad are planning a massive day of protest today after a government raid that killed four students at Aleppo University. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the international community should consider new steps with the apparent failure of a U.N.-brokered ceasefire.
Jay Carney: “It is clear, and we will not deny, that the plan has not been succeeding thus far and that the regime has made no effort to take any of the steps required under the Annan plan, including moving toward the implementation of a full ceasefire. If the regime’s intransigence continues, the international community is going to have to admit defeat and work to address the serious threat to peace and stability being perpetrated by the Assad regime.”
The Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng made a direct appeal to U.S. lawmakers on Thursday in his bid for entry into the United States. Speaking through an interpreter, Chen told a congressional hearing he fears for his safety and wants to flee China.
Chen Guangcheng: “I’m really afraid [for] my other family members’ lives, and they have installed seven video cameras and even with an electric fence. And now, I mean, he wanted — he said, those security officers in my house, and basically said we want to see what else Chen Guancheng can do.”
Chen escaped house arrest and took refuge at the U.S. embassy last week. He was freed under a deal with the Chinese government but now says he wants to come to the United States aboard the return flight of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s currently in China for talks. In a move that could signal the end of the standoff, the Chinese government issued a statement today saying Chen is free to apply for permission to study abroad.
Lawmakers in Argentina have approved plans to re-nationalize the country’s largest oil company, YPF. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced a government takeover last month in a bid to reclaim sovereignty over Argentina’s natural resources. The move has sparked an outcry from the firm’s majority owner, Repsol, and the Spanish government. Kirchner is expected to sign the takeover into law in the coming days.
World Press Freedom Day was observed across the globe on Thursday just as journalist killings were reported in Mexico and Somalia. Three photojournalists were found murdered in the Mexican state of Veracruz just days after an investigative reporter there was found strangled in her home. The victims all covered crime-related stories and had reportedly fled the state at one point after receiving threats. The bodies of Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Huge and Esteban Rodríguez bore signs of torture and mutilation when they were discovered inside plastic bags in a canal Thursday. A fourth victim, who was the girlfriend of one of the journalists, was also found. Meanwhile, in Somalia, radio journalist Farhan Abdulle was shot dead by two armed assailants. He was the fifth Somali journalist to be killed this year.
TransCanada is expected to reapply as early as today for permission to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast. The news comes just weeks after many Democrats joined with Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a measure that would expedite the pipeline’s approval. President Obama has sought to delay a decision on the pipeline until after the presidential election. The multi-billion-dollar project has faced mass protests from activists who say it would devastate the environment.
A trial involving billions of dollars in damages related to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been delayed until January, despite a push from the federal government to begin the trial this summer. The delay means states devastated by the oil spill may need to wait longer for compensation from BP and other companies involved in the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig that sent nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf. BP had pressed for the trial’s delay while it resolves a $7.8 billion settlement with victims of the historic disaster.
A key Obama administration official has asked Congress to authorize increased government access to the cellphone records of U.S. citizens. Speaking at a conference in Washington, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein urged lawmakers to pass a law that would make it easier for officials to obtain cellphone data in the early stages of investigations. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that warrants are needed to place GPS tracking devices on a suspect’s vehicle, raising questions about whether court permission is needed for other forms of mobile spying.
Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has asked the nation’s largest cellphone carriers to provide information on how they have aided police surveillance. In a letter this week to eight companies, Markey, the co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, said he is “deeply concerned” that routine police tracking of cellphone calls “may violate the privacy rights of Americans.”
At least 115 undocumented immigrants face deportation in Texas after authorities found them forcibly held without food or water for days. The immigrants were abandoned inside three homes bound by padlocks and chains as well as bars on the window. Police were alerted to the scene after one captive immigrant called in for help. Two suspects have been detained on charges of illegally harboring immigrants.
In other immigration news, President Obama has renewed calls for congressional approval of the DREAM Act, which would grant children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Obama spoke on Thursday at the White House.
President Obama: “'No' is not an option. I want to sign the DREAM Act into law. I’ve got the pens all ready. I’m willing to work with anybody who’s serious to get this done and to achieve bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that solves this challenge once and for all.”
A new study has found chemicals injected into the ground as part of the controversial natural gas drilling process known as “fracking” could reach drinking water supplies at a far faster rate than initially believed. The study, published in the journal Ground Water, focused on the Marcellus Shale, a massive rock formation stretching through New York and other states where thousands of natural gas wells have been drilled. While scientists previously thought the rock would contain so-called fracking fluid and its blend of dangerous chemicals, keeping it away from water supplies, researchers found the fracking process is making the rocks highly permeable. They concluded the chemicals could reach the surface in “just a few years.”