Outrage has erupted in Yemen over the killing of 13 civilians in a U.S. drone strike on Sunday. Yemeni government officials have confirmed the toll, saying the intended target of the strike was “completely missed.” According to CNN, outraged family members attempted to deliver the victims’ bodies to the residence of Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Hadi, but were denied entry. The Yemeni government says it is investigating.
The new United Nations envoy to Syria has warned the country’s civil war has reached “catastrophic proportions.” Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, issued the warning in his first address to the U.N. General Assembly since replacing Kofi Annan.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “The death toll is staggering, the destruction is reaching catastrophic proportions, and the suffering of the people is immense. Mr. President, I am looking forward to my visit to Damascus in a few days’ time and also, when convenient and possible, to all the countries who are in a position to help the Syrian-led political process become a reality, leading to a transition that respects the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future.”
The new United Nations envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke as the United Nations disclosed a record 100,000 refugees fled Syria in August and activists claimed some 5,000 people were killed during the same period. Patrick McCormick of the United Nations Children’s Fund warned that Syria could become a major humanitarian emergency.
Patrick McCormick: ”UNICEF is concerned, deeply concerned, that in Syria and the surrounding region we may be or are looking at one of the biggest humanitarian emergencies in the last decades, when you consider so many of the factors involved in this crisis.”
In Afghanistan, at least 25 people were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber struck a funeral in the eastern Nangarhar province. Dozens more were left wounded. It was one of the worst attacks on Afghan civilians in weeks.
Key U.N. agencies are warning surging prices could spark a repeat of the food crisis that swept the globe in 2007 and 2008. In a joint appeal, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program say the world faces a “catastrophe affecting tens of millions” unless food prices can be brought under control. The appeal advises: “Two interconnected problems must be tackled: The immediate issue of some high food prices … and the long-term issue of how we produce, trade and consume food in an age of increasing population, demand and climate change.”
The 2012 Democratic National Convention kicked off in Charlotte on Tuesday with a heavy focus on President Obama’s achievements on issues ranging from healthcare and women’s rights to immigration and ending combat operations in Iraq. San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro gave the convention’s keynote address, becoming the first-ever Latino to do so. In his comments, Castro called Republican candidate Mitt Romney out of touch with ordinary Americans.
Julián Castro: “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave students there a little entrepreneurial advice. 'Start a business,' he said. But how? 'Borrow money, if you have to, from your parents,' he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? … We know that in our free market economy, some will prosper more than others. What we don’t accept is the idea that some folks won’t even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America.”
Also speaking Tuesday night was first lady Michelle Obama, who praised her husband’s first four years in office.
Michelle Obama: “When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically — no, that’s not how he was raised — he cared that it was the right thing to do. … He reminds me that we are playing a long game here and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once. But eventually, we get there. We always do.”
The Democratic National Convention also began on Tuesday with the party’s adoption of its official platform for the 2012 election. The text includes support for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that paved the way for unlimited private spending on elections.
On foreign policy, Democrats chose to omit a statement in their 2008 platform that declared Jerusalem to be the undivided capital of Israel. The new platform makes no mention of Jerusalem, while calling for a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. In a statement, the Romney campaign called the Democrats “shameful” for making the change. Despite taking a less right-wing stance in their platform, Democrats featured former Rep. Robert Wexler on the stage Tuesday night to tout President Obama’s support for the Israeli government. In his address, Wexler falsely claimed that a U.N. report critical of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 had questioned Israel’s right to self-defense.
Robert Wexler: “When the anti-Israel Goldstone report was released, questioning Israel’s right to self-defense, President Obama challenged it. When the U.N. held the Israel-bashing Durban conference, President Obama led an international boycott of it. When a violent Egyptian mob stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo, it was President Obama who intervened to ensure the safety of the Israelis trapped inside. In the wake of the Gaza flotilla, President Obama’s support for Israel never waned.”
President Obama is in the midst of a swing through four battleground states — Iowa, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia — before he accepts the nomination in Charlotte on Thursday night. Addressing supporters in Virginia, Obama said Republicans have failed to outline concrete proposals for reviving the struggling U.S. economy.
President Obama: “Now, the other side may not have been eager to talk about their ideas. But on Thursday night, I’m going to look forward to sharing mine with you. On Thursday night, I will offer what I believe is a better path forward, a path that will create good jobs and strengthen our middle class and grow our economy. And the good news is, Virginia, that in just two months, you get to choose which path we take.”
A number of protests are being held outside the Democratic National Convention throughout the week. On Tuesday, dozens of Occupy protesters marched through Charlotte before staging a sit-in at an intersection near the convention center.
On Tuesday, activists rallied in support of Planned Parenthood to denounce the Republican-led attack on reproductive rights.
Rae Abileah: “We really feel like our bodies are under attack. And so, we are wearing these vagina costumes to say that we’re proud of our vaginas, and if GOP legislators can’t say the word ’vagina,” they shouldn’t be trying to legislate it.”
Suzanne Berger: “I’m here to make sure Barack Obama gets re-elected, and I’m specifically here because I’m appalled that rights we fought for as women are in danger, and we have to remind people that these are our bodies and we need to take control of them and make sure that the Republican Party doesn’t get elected and take control of us.”
Tuesday’s protest outside the Democratic National Convention coincided with a challenge by Planned Parenthood in federal court seeking a reversal of a ruling that upheld Texas’ effort to defund Planned Parenthood and exclude it from a government-funded health program for low-income women simply because they also provide abortions. The Texas program offers cancer and health screenings as well as birth control services to some 130,000 low-income women, about 40 percent of whom are served through Planned Parenthood. In a new court filing, Planned Parenthood says the ban violates the group’s First Amendment rights. Dozens of supporters of Planned Parenthood also packed a public hearing in Texas on Tuesday to denounce the state ban.
The Colombian government has announced peace talks with the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, will begin next month. On Tuesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the negotiations will continue with a process already underway with the involvement of Norway and Cuba.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos: “The explorative discussions were held in a direct and completely discreet way and were conducted over six months in Havana [Cuba] with the accompaniment of Cuba and Norway after a year and a half of preparatory work. In these, we constructed a shared vision for the end of the conflict. A purpose, schedule and rules of engagement were agreed on for a process that should be serious, dignified, realistic and effective.”
The upcoming talks will be held in Norway before moving on to Cuba.
Human rights and Bahraini opposition groups are denouncing the U.S.-backed monarchy in Bahrain for upholding the convictions of 20 activists on allegations of plotting to overthrow the U.S.-backed regime. The activists were sentenced by a military court last year, eight of them to life behind bars. In a statement, a coalition of Bahraini opposition and Shiite groups said: “There is no state in Bahrain. It is a tyrannical authority, and an oppressive government that tries to look like a (political) system while hiding security apparatuses that terrorize the people to silence demands for democracy.” Amnesty International meanwhile denounced the verdicts as “outrageous” and called for them to be “overturned and the activists immediately and unconditionally released.”
A federal appeals court has ordered Massachusetts to pay for a sex-change operation sought by an imprisoned convict. Michelle Kosilek sued the state more than a decade ago. Initially imprisoned as a man, she is serving a life sentence for murder. In its ruling, the court said Kosilek had been unlawfully denied her right to surgery.
Computer hackers are claiming to have uncovered the FBI’s storage of millions of names of users of the computer giant Apple. On Tuesday, a group calling itself AntiSec released one million of what it said were 12 million Apple IDs stored on the laptop of an FBI agent. The group says it believes the FBI is using the IDs to help with surveillance. The FBI has denied the claim.
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