The United Nations failed to meet a deadline on Friday for the first-ever global agreement regulating the arms trade. Hopes had been raised for a last-minute deal, but the negotiations collapsed without the required consensus. Arms control advocates heavily criticized the Obama administration, which demanded a number of exemptions and ultimately said it needed more time to review the proposals. White House officials had cited the need to protect Second Amendment rights in the United States, despite U.N. assurances the treaty text would not interfere. In a statement, Amnesty International said the United States had shown “stunning cowardice,” adding: “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough.” The United States is now under new pressure to revive the talks to reach a deal before the U.N. General Assembly this fall.
As the global arms treaty talks collapsed at the United Nations, a top State Department official openly bragged that U.S. government efforts have helped boost foreign military sales to record levels this year. Speaking to a group of military reporters, Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said: “We’ve really upped our game in terms of advocating on behalf of U.S. companies. I’ve got the frequent-flyer miles to prove it.” According to Shapiro, U.S. arms sales have already topped $50 billion in fiscal 2012, putting the United States on pace to increase its total for the year by 70 percent.
At least seven people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Pakistani area of North Waziristan. As in previous strikes, Pakistani officials say the victims were militants, but the Obama administration’s policy is to deem all adult-male drone targets as militants unless exculpatory evidence is found after their deaths. The strike comes just as the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, is preparing to visit the United States for talks later this week.
Relief officials in Pakistan are warning that some 240,000 children are now at risk after local Taliban warlords banned polio vaccination in both North and South Waziristan. The Taliban called the move a response to the ongoing drone attacks and the potential for espionage under the cover of immunization, citing the CIA-backed fake vaccination program that helped locate Osama bin Laden. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio remains a large-scale risk.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney continued a foreign trip over the weekend with a visit to Israel. Romney’s campaign drew headlines after a top aide initially announced on Sunday that Romney would announce his support for a “pre-emptive” Israeli military attack on Iran should Israel deem it necessary to stop Iran’s alleged nuclear activities. But after taking the stage for a speech Sunday night, Romney backed off from the stance, stopping short of backing a unilateral strike. Instead, Romney echoed President Obama’s long-stated position to leave all options on the table.
Mitt Romney: “We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself and that it is right for America to stand with you.”
As Mitt Romney headed to Israel, President Obama took new steps to display his support for Israeli government policies. On Friday, Obama announced a new measure to increase military aid to Israel. Speaking to reporters, Obama correctly said the aid was worth $70 million, but then — apparently thinking he had made a mistake — stopped himself to wrongly claim the aid was in fact worth $70 billion.
President Obama: “I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues — intelligence, military, technology. And in many ways what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really at an unprecedented level, between our two countries to underscore our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending — $70 billion, excuse me, in additional spending for Iron Dome.”
A pregnant shooting victim who sustained serious injuries in the Aurora massacre and lost her young daughter in the attack has suffered a miscarriage. Ashley Moser was eight weeks pregnant when she miscarried from the trauma of the shooting while undergoing treatment in the hospital. Her six-year-old daughter, Veronica, was the youngest victim to be killed in the attack. The suspect in the case, James Holmes, is due to make his second court appearance today. Holmes’ public defender has made court filings showing he had been receiving psychiatric treatment before the shooting occurred.
Police in Maryland say they may have prevented another shooting with the arrest of a man who made violent threats and was found to have a large stockpile of weapons. The suspect, Neil Prescott, had reportedly called his workplace and made threats referring to himself as the “joker,” just as James Holmes had allegedly called himself upon his arrest in Aurora. Maryland police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials described the raid on Prescott’s home.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw: “He made significant threats to coming back and harming people at the business. In fact, he said, ’I’m a joker, and I’m going to load my guns and blow everyone up.’ That initiated a 36-hour investigation that culminated early this morning.”
Ashan Benedict, ATF Baltimore Field Division: “We had several agents out there right on the scene. They evaluated the evidence. They recovered approximately 25 firearms, several thousand rounds of ammunition. The firearms are further described as semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic pistols.”
The Canadian oil company Enbridge has sustained another leak to one of its oil pipelines in the United States. A major pipeline for Canadian light crude spilled more than 1,000 barrels of oil in Wisconsin on Friday, forcing the company to shut it down. The leak came nearly two years to the day after Enbridge’s oil spill in the Kalamazoo River — the most expensive onshore spill in U.S. history.
The FBI is being accused of targeting political activists in the northwestern United States. At least three homes have been raided in Portland, and grand jury subpoenas have also been handed out in Seattle and Olympia against people linked to Occupy and anarchist-related groups. A spokesperson for a group calling itself the “Committee Against Political Repression” said people are being targeted for their ideological beliefs.
Tabatha Millican: “People are being targeted based on their political beliefs. And we know this because specifically in the search warrant they’re listing anarchist literature, black clothes and computers.”
No arrests have been made so far. The FBI has said only the raids were conducted as part of an investigation of violent crime. The grand jury in Seattle is expected to convene later this week.
Police in Burlington, Vermont, are being accused of firing rubber bullets at activists protesting a meeting of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers. On Sunday, police said they took action after a group of protesters tried to block a bus picking up conference delegates. Video footage posted online shows police shooting at least one protester at close range. Police confirm pellets were used but deny firing rubber bullets.
Thousands of people rallied on Capitol Hill on Saturday to protest the national gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Organizers of the “Stop the Frack Attack” rally say they brought together members of communities across the country whose lives are being adversely impacted by the environmental damage of fracking. The rally culminated in a march to the offices of America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute.
Police in London are being accused of political repression in a mass arrest of cyclists during the Olympics’ opening ceremony. On Friday, at least 132 people on bicycles were detained while taking part in the monthly ride called Critical Mass. The cyclists say they were kettled by police and held overnight. One of those arrested was 13 years old.
In Japan, thousands of people broke through police barriers to march on parliament Sunday night in a massive protest against nuclear power. Japan has seen its largest anti-nuclear protests to date after bringing a shuttered plant back online for the first time since last year’s Fukushima disaster.
In Syria, clashes continue to rage between government and rebel forces in Aleppo. Both sides have offered conflicting accounts of how much they are in control of the city. At the United Nations, Rupert Colville of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned civilians in Aleppo are under siege.
Rupert Colville: “It goes without saying, the increased use of heavy weapons, tanks, attack helicopters, and reportedly in some cases even jet fighters in urban areas, has already caused many civilian casualties and puts many more at grave risk. Taking all this together with a reported buildup of forces in and around Aleppo, we believe this bodes very ill for the people of that city.”
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