In Bahrain, a teenage boy has been killed by security forces during protests marking the second anniversary of the country’s pro-democracy uprising. Opposition activists said Hussain al-Jaziri died from shotgun wounds. At least 87 people have died at the hands of security forces in the Gulf nation since 2011. Despite the crackdown, opposition protesters are flocking to the streets across the country. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a close U.S. ally in the region.
In the United States, nearly 50 people were arrested Wednesday in front of the White House calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline would deliver tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. But critics who have joined a mounting campaign of civil disobedience say it will bring climate disaster. On Tuesday, a group of protesters, including leading scientists, activists and celebrities, sat down and refused to move. Some zip-tied themselves to a fence. Those arrested included environmentalist Bill McKibben, actress Daryl Hannah, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and civil rights leader Julian Bond. The protest was a landmark for the Sierra Club environmental group after its board endorsed an act of civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was among those arrested.
Michael Brune: “And so we know that we can’t win on climate change if we continue to dither, if we continue to talk about it but not do anything. And so, the Sierra Club is engaging in civil disobedience for the first time, because we have a moral catastrophe on our hands, and we need to do everything that we can to compel stronger, bolder action.”
President Obama’s pick for treasury secretary faced questions over his Wall Street past at a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. Jack Lew defended the bonus of nearly a million dollars he received while working at Citigroup just a few months after the bank got a taxpayer bailout worth billions. He was also questioned about his investment of tens of thousands of dollars in a Citigroup fund listed at a building in the Cayman Islands that Obama himself has referred to as “the largest tax scam in the world.” While at Citigroup, Jack Lew oversaw a unit that reportedly profited off the housing crisis by investing in a hedge fund which bet in favor of the collapse. Among those to question Jack Lew was Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.
Orrin Hatch: “You have stated that you support the Volcker Rule, yet you were the chief operating officer over two units that engaged in the sort of activities the Volcker Rule is meant to prevent. Therefore, if you were to be confirmed, it could lead to an awkward situation in which your role as chair of the FSOC (Financial Stability Oversight Council) — as chair of the FSOC, you would effectively be saying to financial firms, 'Do as I say, not as I did.'”
Jack Lew: “I was not in the business of making investment decisions. I was certainly aware of things that were going on. I was working in a financial institution. I learned a great deal about the financial products, but I wasn’t designing them and I wasn’t opining on them.”
Lew served as Obama’s chief of staff before being nominated for the post of treasury secretary.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced it is delaying a vote on whether to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as it waits for more information on the drone program he has orchestrated. On Wednesday, Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein reiterated a demand to see all nine classified Justice Department memos on the supposed legal basis for targeted killings of U.S. citizens. Two memos were released to the committee last week.
U.S. lawmakers have also floated the idea of creating a special court to review strikes on U.S. citizens. South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu weighed in on that plan in a letter to The New York Times. He wrote: “Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.”
In New York, nine people were arrested Wednesday after blocking the gate of a base where drones are operated remotely. The protesters held signs condemning the killings of children and other civilians as they stood in front of the entrance to Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse.
The European Union and United States have confirmed plans to begin negotiating what could be the largest-ever free-trade deal of its kind. President Obama noted the potential agreement in his State of the Union speech Tuesday. Lori Wallach of the group Public Citizen criticized the plan, writing, “These talks are aimed at eliminating a list of what multinational corporations call 'trade irritants,' but the rest of us know as strong food safety, environmental and health safeguards,” she wrote.
At least 11 undocumented immigrants and their allies were arrested Wednesday after interrupting a Senate hearing on immigration reform. The protesters from around the country were calling for immediate action to end the Obama administration’s unprecedented deportations. They rose to their feet and interrupted remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Man: “That’s the problem. You are destroying our communities! Stop the deportations!”
Chanting: “Stop the deportations! Stop the deportations!
Woman: “Stop! No deportations!”
In Minnesota, a man has been charged with murder after a shooting spree that killed a young boy. Nhan Lap Tran allegedly opened fire on passing cars Monday night, apparently at random. Nine-year-old Devin Aryal died after he was shot in the head while riding in his mother’s minivan. His mother and a woman in another car were both injured.
Meanwhile in Maryland, two people are dead after a University of Maryland student shot his roommate and then took his own life. The gunman had been arguing with his roommates when he brandished a gun and opened fire. The third roommate survived and is expected to recover from his injuries.
People around the world are rising up on this Valentine’s Day and taking to the streets to dance. Their actions are part of a global movement to end rape and sexual violence called “One Billion Rising,” launched by playwright Eve Ensler, creator of “The Vagina Monologues.” Actions have already been held in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal, India, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Sudan and more. Here are the voices of some of those who danced in the Philippines.
Monique Wilson: “Dance is really an action that can free women, that can also collectively bring us together; and because when you think of women being raped or beaten, their bodies are becoming their prison. So the form of dance is a form of breaking free from that oppression.”
Obet Montez: “More than one billion women are experiencing abuse, and we women cannot just let it pass. That is why we want this day to mark an end to violence against women.”
Among those to voice solidarity with “One Billion Rising” is Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar, a musician herself, and half-sister of singer Norah Jones. She told her story.
Anoushka Shankar: “As a child, I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly. Growing up, like most women I know, I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things I didn’t know how to deal with, I didn’t know I could change. And as a woman, I find I’m frequently living in fear — afraid to walk alone at night, afraid to answer a man who asks for the time, afraid I’m going to be judged or treated in ways based on the way I might choose to dress or the makeup I might choose to wear. And, you know, enough is enough. I’m rising.”
Today’s global day of activism against violence against women and girls dawned with the news Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murdering his girlfriend. Model Reeva Steenkamp was shot and killed at the athlete’s home early this morning. A police spokeswoman said neighbors heard shouting, and police had previously been called to the home for domestic issues. Pistorius became a global phenomenon as the first double amputee to run in the Olympics. Every day around the world, three women are murdered by their intimate partners.
The Indian activist Sankaralingam Jagannathan has died at the age of 100. He was a lifelong advocate for social justice and the landless poor. In 2008, he won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel,” along with his wife, Krishnammal. He died Tuesday in southern India. They walked with Mahatma Gandhi.