A new report has revealed the United States has a secret drone base inside Saudi Arabia. According to The New York Times, the CIA first used the base in 2011 to kill the Muslim cleric and U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The revelation came two days before a Senate hearing to confirm counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as director of the CIA. Brennan is a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia who reportedly worked closely with the Saudis to gain approval for the remote base. The news comes a day after NBC News published a secret Justice Department memo outlining the Obama administration’s legal rationale for assassinating U.S. citizens overseas even when there is no intelligence indicating the targeted individual is engaged in an active plot to attack the United States. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the assassination program. This is part of his response.
Jay Carney: “We have acknowledged, the United States, that sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al-Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives. We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al-Qaeda terrorist, to ensure precision, and to avoid loss of innocent life.”
In Tunisia, a leading member of the opposition movement has been shot dead in front of his own home. Chokri Belaid was an outspoken critic of the Islamist-led government who criticized Tunisian leaders for failing to stop violence by ultra-conservative Salafis against art galleries and other institutions seen as out of step with their faith. Hundreds took to the streets to protest the killing. No one has claimed immediate responsibility.
At least six people are dead in the Solomon Islands after a powerful 8.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that inundated several villages and sparked warnings across the region. At least 100 homes were reportedly destroyed in the hard-hit community of Lata. The death toll is expected to rise.
Bulgarian officials have announced two members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah are suspected of involvement in a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver last July. Bulgaria’s interior minister said a “reasonable assumption” could be made the pair were members of Hezbollah’s militant wing. Hezbollah, however, has denied responsibility for the attack. In one of his first statements as secretary of state, John Kerry said the United States is acting “decisively and comprehensively” to curb Hezbollah’s impact and urged European governments to “take immediate action to crack down” on the group. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned what he called the “terrorist atrocity” of the bus bombing in Bulgaria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Six innocent people lost their lives there: five Israelis, one Bulgarian. It is a further corroboration of what we know, that Hezbollah and Iran are together building a worldwide terrorist network. They have attacked in a dozen countries. They’re planning attacks in dozens more. And it’s time that international community branded Hezbollah for the terrorist organization that they are.”
President Obama has announced plans to visit Israel in the coming months for the first time since becoming president. He will also visit the West Bank and Jordan. The announcement comes on the heels of an inquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Council that found Israel is openly flouting international law by continuing the growth of West Bank settlements.
In Britain, lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure legalizing same-sex marriage. While the bill still has to clear a number of legislative hurdles, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his intention to see it enacted this summer. Cameron voiced his support for same-sex marriage ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
British Prime Minister David Cameron: “Today is an important day. I’m a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other, and I think it’s right that gay people should be able to get married, too. This is, yes, about equality. But it’s also about making our society stronger. I know there are strong views on both sides of the argument; I respect that. But I think this is an important step forward for our country.”
Hopes for peace talks to end the conflict in Syria have faltered after a Syrian lawmaker and a leading opposition group both rejected the idea. Anti-government opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib had indicated he would be willing to sit down with aides of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the Syrian National Council, a leading voice in the coalition against Assad, has distanced itself from the proposal, calling it an “individual decision.” More than 60,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad began nearly two years ago.
State lawmakers in Colorado have unveiled a new gun control plan that would hold the makers and sellers of assault-style weapons legally liable for the damage their products cause. The bill could potentially conflict with a federal law shielding gun manufacturers from such liability. It comes as part of a package announced Tuesday that also includes limits on the size of ammunition magazines and universal background checks on all gun sales. Colorado has suffered some of the country’s deadliest shootings.
New figures suggest gun sales in the United States are continuing to soar amid the push for tighter gun control in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. FBI data shows roughly 2.5 million gun background checks were initiated last month, a nearly unprecedented figure exceeded only by the record number of checks run the month prior, in December, when the Newtown killings took place. One likely reason for the slight dip in gun sales from December to January is that retailers have been running out of guns amid a buying rush spurred by the gun control push. In the week following the Newtown killings, the FBI conducted more background checks for gun sales and permits than in any other one-week period since 1998.
A Florida judge has rejected a bid by George Zimmerman to delay his June trial for the murder of the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder after shooting Martin dead in Sanford, Florida, one year ago this month. Zimmerman, who claims he shot Martin in self-defense, was not charged in the killing until months later following nationwide protests calling for his arrest. Meanwhile, supporters across Florida mourned Martin on Tuesday, the day he would have turned 18 years old.
In New York City, people whose homes were ruined by Superstorm Sandy gathered on the steps of City Hall to call for assistance and denounce squalid living conditions in shelters and hotels where they have been forced to live. Thousands of people still remain in temporary housing more than three months after the storm. Isaiah Douglas Laws is one of them. He described the difficulty of his family’s situation.
Isaiah Douglas Laws: “We need assistance. This is too much for us to handle, emotionally and physically. This is a scary situation. And if I could ask for one thing, I just want to live in my home peacefully and go to sleep without worrying about anything.”
Aid groups joined with evacuated families at the event Tuesday to outline a series of demands for assisting low-income people left homeless by Sandy. Giselle Routhier is with Coalition for the Homeless.
Giselle Routhier: “There are a few things that the city could immediately do. The first and foremost is to move families from unsafe and unsanitary conditions that we have seen at some of these evacuee hotels. The second is to provide immediate need services like food and transportation. And the last and most important is to work on a long-term housing solution.”
Indigenous leaders from Ecuador have traveled to Houston, Texas, to confront the Ecuadorean government over plans that could see vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest sold for oil drilling. Their protest comes as government officials and oil executives are meeting in Houston for the North American Prospect Expo, a trade fair for oil and gas deals. Protesters say the Ecuadorean government plans to sell roughly 10 million acres of land in the southeastern Ecuadorean Amazon without proper consent from the local indigenous peoples. The protesters were joined by indigenous leaders and environmentalists from across North America. Jaime Vargas, president of the Achuar Nationality of Ecuador, was among those who came to Texas.
Jaime Vargas: “From Ecuador to Houston, we have come to reclaim our rights and to say to the country and to the world that the rainforest is not for selling, it’s for protecting, because it’s life, because it’s our Mother Nature, because for us, for the indigenous peoples, the rainforest is life, because we find everything there. But in contrast, for the big capitalists, for the materialists, it’s a market of commerce, a market of money. But for us, it’s a market for life.”
The U.S. post office will stop delivering mail on Saturdays under a plan aimed at addressing its financial difficulties. The plan, which would be implemented by August 1, would still see packages, express and priority mail delivered six days a week.
A new study has found racial bias in ad results from the online search engine Google. Harvard Professor Latanya Sweeney found names typically associated with African Americans were 25 percent more likely to produce ad results offering background checks and suggesting the person had a criminal record. Sweeney conducted the study after a search for her own name turned up an ad reading, “Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?” with a link offering background checks. Sweeney concluded: “There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads.”
A Pakistani schoolgirl attacked by the Taliban last year has undergone successful surgery to repair her skull. Malala Yousafzai was left seriously wounded when militants shot her in the head for campaigning for the rights of girls. Shortly before her operation, Malala announced the creation of a new foundation to advocate for children.
Malala Yousafzai: “Today, you can see that I am alive. I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone. And today I can speak, and I’m getting better day by day. It’s just because of the prayers of people, because all the people — men, women, children — all of them, all of them have prayed for me. And because of these prayers and — because of these prayers, God has given me this new life. And this is a second life. This is a new life. And I want to serve. I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child, to be educated. And for that reason, we have organized Malala Fund.”