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The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staffers have been killed in an attack on the American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Christopher Stevens and three aides died of smoke inhalation after an angry mob set fire to the building in protest of an amateur anti-Muslim film produced in the United States. The film also sparked protests in Egypt, where demonstrators scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and burned the American flag. The film, called “Innocence of Muslims,” was funded by private donors and made by a director who has called Islam a “cancer.”
The White House is denying reports President Obama has snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by refusing a meeting when Netanyahu visits Washington next week. The purported rift is said to center around U.S.-Israeli tensions over Iran, with Netanyahu continuing to push for a military attack. On Tuesday, Netanyahu escalated his bellicose rhetoric, saying no one in the world can tell Israel not to attack Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “The world tells Israel, 'Wait, there's still time.’ And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel. If Iran knows that there’s no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing. It’s continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and, from there, nuclear bombs.”
Many have taken Netanyahu’s comments as his most forceful rebuke of the Obama administration’s stance on Iran to date.
United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is due to arrive in Syria in the coming days for talks with both President Bashar al-Assad and with the rebel opposition. Brahimi’s visit comes amidst ongoing violence that has pushed the death toll in the Syria conflict well past 20,000. At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed calls on both sides to halt the fighting.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “First and foremost, the violence must stop, by both sides, regardless of what their political grievances or problems may be. That is not acceptable at all. Then, those countries who may have influence over two parties should exercise (that) and should be united in their influence. Then, thirdly, they should immediately begin the political dialogue to have a political resolution reflecting the genuine aspirations of the Syrian people.”
The U.S. military has identified the Guantánamo Bay prisoner who died over the weekend as Adnan Latif, a Yemeni national who had previously attempted suicide multiple times since his imprisonment a decade ago. Latif was at least the ninth foreign prisoner to die at Guantánamo since the United States began jailing foreigners there in 2002. Latif had remained at Guantánamo despite being cleared for release. Appearing on Democracy Now! in June, the British journalist Andy Worthington discussed Latif’s case.
Andy Worthington: “He’s one of these prisoners who was approved for transfer under President George W. Bush in 2006, at the very latest, possibly earlier than that. He was then—had his release approved by Obama’s task force. He won his habeas corpus petition, as well. But because the judges of the D.C. Circuit Court, you know, a bunch of very right-wing judges, I think that — I think that objectively it’s absolutely fair to say that these people are very right-wing, who have been clamping down on the ability of the lower courts to approve the release of Guantánamo prisoners under any circumstances — you know, they reversed the ruling in Latif’s case, and they relied for that on saying that an intelligence report, which they even said was, you know, was produced in haste under battlefield conditions, should be believed.”
In a letter released in 2009, Latif wrote: “I have seen death so many times. Everything is over. Life is going to hell in my situation. America, what has happened to you?”
Events were held across the nation on Tuesday to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. President Obama spoke in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
President Obama: “We recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess. That’s the commitment that we reaffirm today. And that’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world, a stronger nation, and a people more united than ever before.”
In Chile, thousands turned out for the country’s own 9/11 anniversary, the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Salvador Allende. On September 11, 1973, Allende died in the presidential palace in the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. On Tuesday, protesters blocked traffic and set fire to security cameras after marching to commemorate Allende’s ouster.
The historic teachers’ strike in Chicago has entered its third day as educators remain deadlocked with the city over teacher evaluations and other issues. On Tuesday, thousands of Chicago Teachers Union members flooded Daley Plaza outside City Hall and marched toward the school district’s headquarters. Nearly 30,000 teachers and their support staff have walked out over reforms sought by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is President Obama’s former chief of staff. A key point of contention is the district’s proposed method for evaluating teachers, which the teachers’ union says relies too heavily on standardized testing and could soon result in thousands of job cuts.
The IRS has announced a record $104 million reward to a whistlelower who exposed the biggest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history. Former UBS AG banker Brad Birkenfeld first reported in 2007 that he and his colleagues had encouraged rich Americans to store more than $20 billion in offshore Swiss bank accounts and cheat the IRS. But after coming forward, Birkenfeld was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to prison. Following Birkenfeld’s release last month, on Tuesday the IRS vindicated his actions with a $104 million award under its whistleblower program. Attorney Dean Zerbe said Birkenfeld has been rewarded for defending U.S. taxpayers.
Dean Zerbe: “This award by the IRS is being made thanks to the information Brad provided, by Brad, that led to over $5 billion and counting in tax payments being made by big banks and wealthy individuals who tried to evade paying their fair share of taxes. These $5 billion in payments were all made thanks to Brad’s willingness to stand up on behalf of honest taxpayers.”
A Georgia grand jury has indicted five more suspects — at least four of them former U.S. soldiers — in connection with the killing of a former comrade and his girlfriend to help conceal the existence of a militia they had formed to carry out anti-government attacks. Prosecutors say the soldiers spent $87,000 on guns and bombing materials for a plot that included taking over their base, Fort Stewart; bombing a dam and poisoning the apple crop in Washington state; and ultimately overthrowing the government and assassinating President Obama. The soldiers called themselves F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. They are accused of killing former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, last December in a bid to keep their plans secret. It is the most high-profile case to involve extremism in the U.S. military ranks since neo-Nazi Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed six worshipers at the Oak Creek Sikh temple in Wisconsin and critically wounded three others before being shot dead last month. Four other current or active-duty soldiers have also been charged in the case.
Environmental protesters opposed to Shell’s Arctic oil drilling plans stacked a wall of ice blocks in front of an entrance to the company’s London headquarters Tuesday. Some 15 activists from the group Climate Justice Collective participated in the action against Shell, saying its drilling efforts off the coast of Alaska are both taking advantage of and contributing to the problem of receding sea ice. Meanwhile, more naturally occurring sea ice moving into the vicinity of Shell’s Arctic drill rig forced the company to halt its efforts Monday, just one day after it began drilling an exploratory well. The Arctic has seen unprecedented melting rates this summer, with scientists expected to announce a record low for the Arctic sea ice minimum this week.
A month-long, cross-country peace caravan led by Mexican activists calling for an end of the U.S.-backed drug war is wrapping up today in Washington, D.C. The caravan is organized by Mexican poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, was murdered by drug traffickers last year. Speaking on Tuesday at a Washington church, Sicilia called for the demilitarization of the drug war.
Javier Sicilia: “The path to peace depends on the regulation of drugs, the control of deadly assault weapons, a profound and real fight against money laundering, a humane immigration policy that is centered on lives and not political interests.”