Syrian rebels have bombed a military command building in Damascus, the latest in a series of attacks targeting the top ranks of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Both sides have offered conflicting accounts of the toll. The rebels claim dozens of Syrian forces were killed, while the regime says several people were wounded.
Greek workers are holding their first general strike today since the country’s conservative-led coalition government came to power in June. Thousands of Greeks are converging outside the Parliament in Athens. The general strike is expected to shut down the nation’s ports, airports, schools, shops and tourist sites.
In Spain, thousands of people surrounded the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on Tuesday as the government prepares to unveil further austerity measures. After hours of protest, police in riot gear charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets. Thirty-five people were arrested, and at least 60 people were injured.
President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday with a heavy focus on the wave of anti-U.S.-government protests that have swept Muslim countries and the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three staffers in Libya. Obama again condemned the anti-Islam film that set off the unrest, but said no speech can justify violence.
President Obama: “I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America, as well. But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cellphone can spread offensive views around the world with a click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question then is, how do we respond? And on this, we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.”
Obama also addressed ongoing tensions with Iran, criticizing Tehran for backing the Assad regime in Syria and saying he hopes to resolve the nuclear standoff through diplomacy.
President Obama: “Just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful and to meet its obligations to the United Nations. So let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so.”
Earlier in the day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the General Assembly with an appeal to end the bloodshed in Syria, which he called a “regional calamity.” Ban also criticized Israel for ongoing settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories and its repeated threats of war against Iran.
Ban Ki-moon: “The continued growth of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory seriously undermines efforts toward peace. We must break this dangerous impasse. I also reject both the language of delegitimization and threats of potential military action by one state against another. Any such attacks would be devastating. The shrill war talk of recent weeks has been alarming and should remind us of the need for peaceful solutions and full respect of the United Nations Charter and international law.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is among the world leaders set to address the General Assembly today. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan ahead of his speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about the oft-reported claim that he has called for “wiping Israel off the map.”
Piers Morgan: “Should Israel be wiped off the face of the map? Is that your desire?”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “When we say 'to be wiped,' we say for occupation to be wiped off from this world, for war seeking to be wiped off and eradicated, the killing of women and children to be eradicated. And we propose the way. We propose the path. The path is to recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-governance.”
In Bahrain, a leading pro-democracy activist has been sentenced to two months in prison for tearing up a picture of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Zainab Alkhawaja already spent a month behind bars earlier this year for taking part in the protests against the Bahraini monarchy. Her father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, is a leading Bahraini activist who’s currently serving a life sentence. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally in the Middle East, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Zainab’s jailing came just as President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and spoke of the merits of free speech.
A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge brought by civil and immigrant rights activists to a key component of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law. The “show me your papers” measure requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop before releasing them. Critics say it enables racial profiling. The law went into effect last week after a district court upheld it, and on Tuesday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed that decision.
New York prosecutors have dealt a major blow to the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy by refusing to prosecute those arrested for trespassing at Bronx public housing projects unless the arresting officer submits to an interview. The change was adopted in July after prosecutors found many of those arrested for trespassing at public housing projects were tenants of the buildings or invited guests who were wrongfully arrested. Officials found police had provided written statements indicating people were guilty of trespassing, even though they later turned out to be innocent. The new policy appears to have had an impact in the Bronx, where trespass arrests to date have fallen more than 38 percent compared to last year. Previous data on the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy has shown African-American and Latino men make up a hugely disproportionate share of those stopped by police.
An anti-Islam advertisement referring to Muslims as “savages” posted in New York City subway stations has become the target of a campaign by activists. The ads read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel/Defeat Jihad.” The ad was sponsored by the pro-Israel group American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is also known for opposing the creation of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero. In response, activists have affixed labels on top of the ad reading “racist” and “hate speech.” Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Egyptian-American activist and columnist Mona Eltahawy was arrested at the Times Square subway station after attempting to spray paint over the ad. Eltahawy was confronted by an employee of the ad’s sponsor, right-wing blogger Pamela Geller, before she was detained by police and led away in handcuffs.
Two environmental activists were arrested in East Texas Tuesday as protesters there continue their push to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Activists with the Tar Sands Blockade are claiming to have thwarted construction efforts outside Winnsboro, Texas, for most of the day after two people locked themselves to a backhoe. The pair were reportedly pepper-sprayed, tasered and put in chokeholds by police before being arrested. Meanwhile, eight other activists remain aloft in a “tree village” in a bid to block tree-clearing equipment that’s making way for the pipeline’s southern leg.
In Massachusetts, video has emerged showing Republican staffers making derogatory war whoops and Tomahawk chops in a bid to mock Democratic Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren. Incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown has criticized Warren for claiming she is part Native American without providing documentation. On the video, an aide to Brown and a local Republican operative are seen making the gestures and chants during a rally of Brown supporters. Warren says she is “appalled” by the footage.