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NATO supply convoys have resumed in Pakistan after the United States finally apologized for a deadly attack that occurred last year. Pakistan had barred the NATO trucks that carry supplies for the Afghan war after U.S. forces killed 24 Pakistani troops in November. On Tuesday, the Obama administration dropped its longstanding refusal to apologize, ending a more than seven-month standoff. Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the apology had met Pakistan’s demands.
Qamar Zaman Kaira: “America has accepted Pakistan’s principled stand on an apology and has agreed to work in unison with Pakistan in the war against terrorism. They have declared that, in the future, Pakistan’s sovereignty will not be compromised. They have also reaffirmed that they respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. These were Pakistan’s demands which have been accepted.”
The first NATO trucks entered Afghanistan from Pakistan earlier today. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland appeared to downplay the apology, saying both sides had expressed regret for the November incident and that the United States would be saving money with the supply lines reopened.
Victoria Nuland: “The secretary of defense has spoken to the fact that it was expensive for us during the period when the GLOCs were closed. One of the things that has resulted from this is that we have restored the GLOCs, and we are going to be paying the exact same amount as we were paying before, so we are back to significant savings here. You know, as the statement makes clear, there were mistakes made on both sides that led to the tragic loss of life, and we are both sorry for those.”
In news from Afghanistan, several NATO troops have been wounded in an attack by an Afghan soldier. The gunman opened fire as the troops received medical treatment in an eastern province. It was the latest in a spate of attacks by Afghan servicemembers on NATO forces.
The head of the United Nations observer mission in Syria says violence has reached an “unprecedented” level in the country. Earlier today, Major General Robert Mood again called for a ceasefire to allow hundreds of monitors stationed in Syria to resume their work.
The chief executive of the banking giant Barclays has resigned over a major interest-rate fixing scandal that has already ousted the company’s chairman. Bob Diamond stepped down just days after Barclays was fined $453 million by U.S. and British authorities for manipulating key interest rates. A British probe found Barclays conspired to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, which provides the basis for rates on trillions of dollars in transactions across the globe. The manipulation meant millions of borrowers paid the wrong amount on their loans. Appearing before a British parliamentary committee the day after his resignation, Diamond called his company’s action “reprehensible” but said top executives had moved swiftly to take action.
Bob Diamond: “When I read the emails from those traders, I got physically ill. It’s reprehensible behavior, and if you’re asking me, should those actions be dealt with, absolutely. But I think it’s a sign of the culture of Barclays that we were willing to be first, we were willing to be fast, we were willing to come out with this.”
Diamond is the second top Barclays executive to depart after chairman Marcus Agius resigned last week. Also speaking at the British parliamentary hearing, Labour Member of Parliament George Mudie said Barclays executives had shown negligent behavior.
George Mudie: “That’s not the point, that tells the world with Barclays. That tells the world with Barclays that two chief executives have been running the firm, and it’s been doing fundamentally wrong things. And your senior management have known about it, and they’ve either been too frightened or too disinterested to actually tell the chief executive. And that is a very worrying thing to come out the inquiry.”
The Palestinian Authority has called for an international investigation of the death of Yasser Arafat after traces of radioactive material were found on his belongings. An investigation by the news network Al Jazeera found Arafat may have died of poisoning after high levels of polonium were discovered on personal items, including his clothes and toothbrush. Arafat died in November 2004 after being flown to France for medical treatment. His widow, Suha Arafat, called on the Palestinian Authority to allow for her husband’s body to be exhumed.
Suha Arafat: “I want to ask to exhume the body of my husband. I think this is my responsibility as a mother, as a wife, as the partner of this great man for 20 years. And this is my message to the Palestinian Authority that they have to cooperate, because the grave and the tomb of Yasser is in Ramallah.”
The Bolivian government says it has reached a deal with indigenous leaders to hold a referendum on a highway project that has sparked massive protests. Thousands of indigenous protesters marched on the capital, La Paz, last week to oppose the government’s plans for the road, which would cut through a national park and indigenous land. Similar protests led Bolivian President Evo Morales to partly halt construction last year. The Bolivian government says the referendum will be held later this month.
More than one million homes and businesses remain without power in the aftermath of last week’s massive storms in the eastern United States. States from Indiana to Virginia have seen major power outages after hurricane-levels winds were followed by sweltering heat. The strain on the power grid, coupled with the fear of fire from scorching temperatures, forced the cancellation of scores of Fourth of July celebrations across the country.
The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to settle a long-running dispute over the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex couples. Five different federal appeals courts have ruled the law unconstitutional. Despite also opposing the law, the Obama administration has continued enforcing it pending a final ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears to have shifted his stance on Obama’s landmark healthcare law, echoing party members by calling the mandate requiring people to buy health insurance a “tax.” Romney’s remarks come days after his top spokesperson said Romney does not believe the mandate is a tax. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate at the core of Obama’s healthcare law last week on the grounds of it being a tax. Romney enacted a nearly identical mandate when he was governor of Massachusetts.
On Wednesday, Romney marked the Fourth of July with an appearance in New Hampshire. Speaking to supporters, Romney continued with a campaign theme of linking President Obama’s policies to European-style social welfare.
Mitt Romney: “We believe in America. We don’t want to change America into something it’s not. We don’t want to make America more like Europe or more like any other place. We want to make America more like America, with conviction that freedom is right, that all people are designed to have opportunity.”
Meanwhile, at the White House, President Obama spent the Fourth of July hosting a celebration and concert for U.S. servicemembers.
President Obama: “Because of your service and sacrifice, all of our troops are now out of Iraq. Because of your service, because of your service and sacrifice, we took the fight to al-Qaeda, and we brought Osama bin Laden to justice. Because of your service and sacrifice, we’re transitioning out of Afghanistan. We remain ready for any threat. That is all because of you.”
In a surprise victory for voting rights advocates, Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to sign three bills that would have restricted voting rights in the state. One bill rejected by Snyder would have required voters to show a photo ID in order to obtain an absentee ballot, while a second restricted voter registration drives. Snyder also rejected a bill that would have required residents to check off a box on their ballot stating that they are U.S. citizens. Republican legislators backed the laws as part of what critics call a nationwide push to disenfranchise people of color and other possible Democratic voters ahead of the November election.