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Violence is raging across Syria as government forces attack rebel strongholds. Syrian activists say at least 94 people were killed in nationwide violence on Monday, including 64 civilians. A spokesperson for the U.N. mission in Syria warned that civilians in Homs are trapped by the gunfire.
Sausan Ghosheh: “When civilians are stuck and trapped in the line of fire, this is a humanitarian crisis. We need to ensure that these civilians are protected. We need to ensure that there’s respect and protection for the human life of the Syrian people. There needs to be willingness on behalf of the parties to ease the pain of the Syrian people and to release these civilians that are trapped in the line of fire.”
The U.N. monitoring mission in Syria remains on the sidelines after suspending its operations over unsafe conditions. In Geneva, the U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said Syrian forces may be committing war crimes.
Navi Pillay: “All violations of the human rights of the Syrian people at the hands of all parties to the conflict must end. The government of Syria should immediately cease the use of heavy armaments and shelling of populated areas, as such actions amount to crimes against humanity and possible war crimes.”
As the crisis continues in Syria, President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Mexico on Monday. It was their first meeting since Putin returned to the Russian presidency last month. The two have remained at odds over Syria, with the United States criticizing Russian support for Bashar al-Assad and Russia calling on the United States to include Iran in regional talks for an end to the violence. In his comments to reporters, Obama acknowledged he and Putin had broken no new ground.
President Obama: “We discussed Syria, where we agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war and the kind of horrific deaths that we’ve seen over the last several weeks. And we pledged to work with other international actors, including the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and all interested parties, in trying to find a resolution to this problem.”
Obama’s visit to Mexico for the G20 summit comes days after he announced a new executive order stopping the deportation of many undocumented youths. At a separate meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón on Monday, Calderón praised Obama’s move.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón: “I would like to thank personally, and on behalf of the Mexican nation, President Barack Obama for his valuable decision. We believe that this is very just. It’s a humanitarian action. And it’s an unprecedented action.”
Protests are continuing against the G20 summit of world leaders in Los Cabos, Mexico. On Monday, activists unfurled a giant “one trillion dollar” bill representing the money given in fossil fuel subsidies each year. The group Avaaz.org says it has collected more than 750,000 signatures for a petition calling for a shift to renewable energy.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is calling for protests against the ruling military council in the aftermath of weekend elections and new edicts shoring up the council’s control. The Brotherhood claims it won the race, but the apparent victory was overshadowed after Egypt’s military rulers granted themselves new authority to limit the incoming president’s role. Ahmed Shafik, who served as the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak and squared off against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, is still refusing to concede the race. On Monday, the military council pledged to hand over power at the end of the month as scheduled, but said it will continue to control the budget and other key matters until a new parliament is elected.
A Palestinian soccer player from Gaza has agreed to end a three-month partial hunger strike in return for hospital care and an early release. Mahmoud al-Sarsak has been held in an Israeli prison without trial for nearly three years. He was one of more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners to recently take part in a coordinated hunger strike to protest Israel’s policy of administrative detention.
In other news, an Israeli soldier imprisoned for refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories has gone on a hunger strike of his own in solidarity with those Palestinians jailed without charge of trial. The soldier, Yaniv Mazor, was sentenced to 20 days in military prison last week for defying service in what he calls Israel’s “occupation army.”
Greece appears close to seeing a new coalition government days after parliamentary elections ended in a narrow finish. Leaders from the center-right New Democracy party say they have reached a preliminary deal with Socialist PASOK leaders for a coalition that would likely also include a smaller leftist party. The New Democracy party won by less than three percentage points over the second-place Syriza party, which has rejected joining any coalition that agrees to the harsh austerity measures required for an international bailout.
Violence continues in Iraq amidst a wave of bombings across the country. At least 15 people were killed and dozens more wounded when a bomber struck a funeral in the town of Baquba earlier today.
President Barack Obama’s pick for ambassador to Iraq has withdrawn his nomination following Republican opposition and claims of inappropriate contact with a journalist. Brett McGurk had come under fire from Senate Republicans over revelations of a racy email exchange with a Wall Street Journal reporter while he served in Iraq in 2008. McGurk and the reporter, Gina Chon, later married. Chon resigned from the Wall Street Journal last week.
In a major victory for Native Americans, the Supreme Court has ruled the government must reimburse tribes for the cost of running federal programs after apparently short-changing them for years. The Navajo and other Native American tribes had filed a class action lawsuit claiming the government withheld millions of dollars by imposing a cap on payments for police, education and other programs. The Court ruled 5-to-4 along unconventional lines, with conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas siding with the tribes.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited Wisconsin on Monday as part of a six-state bus tour. Romney’s campaign has used the jaunt to assess a number of prospective vice-presidential nominees, including Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. On Monday, Romney appeared with Ryan, as well as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on the heels of Walker’s recall victory two weeks ago. Speaking to supporters, Romney predicted he will carry Wisconsin on Election Day.
Mitt Romney: “I’ll tell you, I think President Obama had just put this in his column. He just assumed from the very beginning Wisconsin was going to be his. But you know what? We’re going to win Wisconsin, and we’re going to get the White House.”
A federal investigation has revealed what critics say are major design flaws at California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant, which has been shut down since a radioactive leak in January. Monitors at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say that design flaws caused excessive wear in tubing that carries radioactive water. The plant’s operator, Southern California Edison, had been planning on seeking approval to restart the reactors, but critics say the findings show San Onofre should remain idle. In a statement, Friends of the Earth said the crisis is the result “of a perfect storm of error,” saying: “Edison made significant design changes without seeking an amendment to its license as required by NRC regulations; on the other hand, the NRC appears to have been asleep at the regulatory wheel.”
A federal judge has dismissed a $40 million lawsuit against New York’s Suffolk County and its police department in connection with the November 2008 hate crime that killed Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant. Lucero was taunted and then stabbed to death by a group of white teenagers who had been looking for a Hispanic person to assault. His family had brought a suit accusing local and police officials of responsibility for the murder because of a “indifferent and unconstitutional failure to provide equal [protection]” for immigrants. But in a newly unsealed ruling, U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler invalidated the suit on the grounds the accused officials weren’t adequately served with court papers. Lucero’s brother, Joselo Lucero, said: “I believe that this court is rushing to decide everything in the county’s and police’s favor.”
A U.S. Army deserter who went AWOL in 1984 has come forward in Sweden, where he says he has been living ever since. David Helmer says he dropped out of the military after becoming a pacifist and growing disillusioned with then-President Ronald Reagan’s policies.
David Helmer: “I discovered the world of solving problems by peaceful methods, like Gandhi’s peaceful fight against the British, which my school forgot to tell me about. I eventually asked for a discharge, on the grounds of my affiliation with a peace church. That is a legal channel of getting a discharge in the military. But after one year, I understood that they just ignored my request completely, and they gave me orders to transfer to another base. And at that time, it felt hopeless.”
In coming forward, Helmer also contacted his family, who had no idea he was still alive.
Eight Occupy Wall Street protesters have been found guilty of trespassing stemming from their arrest at New York’s Trinity Church in December. The protesters had scaled a fence onto church-owned property after Trinity refused to give them sanctuary following their eviction from Zuccotti Park at the time. The trial had pitted Occupy supporters against the church, which cooperated with prosecutors in targeting the activists. One of the defendants, Mark Adams, was sentenced to 45 days in prison on additional charges, 15 more days than prosecutors had sought.
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