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HeadlinesMarch 12, 2013

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U.N.: Civilian Space in Syria Is “Almost Completely Eroded”

Mar 12, 2013

The head of a United Nations commission investigating abuses in Syria says violence has spread so vastly that the “civilian space is almost completely eroded.” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro said the commission has been gathering evidence about 20 massacres that have taken place in Syria. Another commission member said both sides in the conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and anti-Assad rebels are committing war crimes, but that it seems government authorities are “involved more in regard to crimes against humanity.” The U.N. refugee agency has warned the number of refugees outside Syria could triple by the end of 2013 if the nearly two-year conflict is not resolved. The one millionth Syrian refugee was registered last week.

U.S. Troops Face Deadliest Day This Year in Afghanistan

Mar 12, 2013

Monday marked the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year after seven soldiers perished in two separate incidents. Five U.S. servicemembers were killed in a helicopter crash outside Kandahar city. Hours earlier, two U.S. soldiers were shot dead in a so-called insider attack at a special operations site in Wardak province when a person in an Afghan military uniform turned his gun on U.S. and Afghan forces. Three Afghan police officers and two army officers were also killed in the attack, according to a senior police official. Brigadier General Günter Katz of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, described the attack.

Günter Katz: “What I can confirm is that today in Wardak an Afghan wearing the uniform of the Afghan National Security Forces shot ISAF and ANSF soldiers. Two of our ISAF soldiers were killed, a couple others were wounded, and there were other causalities amongst the members of Afghan forces, as well.”

Monday’s attack occurred in Wardak as a deadline expired for U.S. special forces to leave the province. President Hamid Karzai had set the deadline over allegations concerning the disappearances of nine villagers.

North Korea Declares End to 60-Year Armistice with South Korea

Mar 12, 2013

North Korea says it has unilaterally scrapped the 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War amid escalating tensions over ongoing U.S.-South Korea military drills. North Korea has issued threats of an attack against the United States and has severed its hotline with South Korea. In return, the Obama administration has issued new sanctions and warnings. Obama’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon spoke to the Asia Society in New York.

Tom Donilon: “North Korea’s claims may be hyperbolic, but the policy of the United — but as to the policy of the United States, there should be no doubt: We will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against and respond to the threat posed to us by North Korea and our — to us and our allies by North Korea. That includes not only any North Korean use of weapons of mass destruction, but also, as the president has made clear, their transfer of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials to any other states or non-state entities. Such actions would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies, and we will hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences.”

Obama Administration Warns China over Cyber-Attacks

Mar 12, 2013

Obama’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon has called for China to stop hacking U.S. companies. It was the first time the Obama administration has publicly confronted China over allegations its military is behind cyber-attacks on U.S. firms and government agencies. China has denied the claims and accused the United States of routinely hacking its military websites. Donilon called for China to adhere to “acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.”

Tom Donilon: “Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China at a very large scale. The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country.”

Colorado Senate Passes Sweeping Gun Control Package

Mar 12, 2013

The Colorado state Senate has approved a package of gun control measures, bringing the state one step closer to enacting some of the nation’s toughest gun laws. The measures include universal background checks, a limit on the size of ammunition magazines, and a requirement that domestic abusers surrender their guns. Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., at least 13 people were injured, one critically, in a drive-by shooting Monday.

Six-Month-Old Baby Girl Critically Wounded in Chicago Drive-by Shooting

Mar 12, 2013

In Chicago, a six-month-old baby girl was shot in a drive-by attack. Johnylah Watkins and her father, Jonathan Watkins, were shot while he was changing her diaper in a parked minivan. The baby underwent surgery and was in critical condition Monday night.

Anger Erupts over NYPD Killing of Brooklyn Teenager

Mar 12, 2013

A candlelight vigil for a 16-year-old boy shot dead by police in Brooklyn, New York, turned into a raucous protest Monday as residents expressed their outrage over the killing of Kimani Gray. Riot police packed the streets while some residents reportedly broke car windows, looted a pharmacy and threw bottles at police. At least one person was hospitalized. City Councilmember Jumaane Williams said: “There’s a lot of anger here. This isn’t just from one particular shooting. A whole community has not been heard for far too long.”

“Mapping Muslims” Report Documents Chilling Effect of Police Surveillance

Mar 12, 2013

A new report says the New York City Police Department’s efforts to spy on Muslim Americans have had a chilling effect on freedom of speech and religion. A coalition of civil liberties groups says NYPD surveillance of Muslim student groups and mosques across the Northeast silenced activism and religious expression as individuals attempted to “refrain from appearing overtly 'Muslim' to avoid triggering surveillance.” Soheed Amin with the Brooklyn College Islamic Society spoke at a news conference Monday.

Soheed Amin: “We Muslims are not asking for any special treatment. We are asking to be treated the same. We are asking for us to be able to look at the NYPD as our protectors, not as people who bring terror to us and make us terrified of living here and dealing with them and speaking with them — and speaking with even our own Muslim brothers and sisters.”

25 Arrested at Keystone XL Pipeline Protest in Massachusetts

Mar 12, 2013

In the latest protest against the Keystone XL oil pipeline, 25 people were arrested after handcuffing themselves together inside a TransCanada office in Westborough, Massachusetts. More than 100 students, mothers and clergy members staged a “funeral for our future,” saying TransCanada’s pipeline would spur devastating climate change, pollution and potential spills.

Protesters: [singing] “They are digging us a hole. They are digging us a hole, six feet underground, where the pipeline will go.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude from Canada to Texas. A decision from President Obama on the project is expected soon, after a State Department review found it does not pose a serious threat to the environment.

South Dakota Extends 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period to Up to 6 Days

Mar 12, 2013

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has enacted a measure extending the state’s waiting period for abortion, which was already one of the longest in the country. Under the new law, weekends and holidays will be excluded from South Dakota’s 72-hour waiting period. That means some women will have to wait up to six days for an abortion.

Judge Strikes Down NYC Ban on Large Sugary Drinks

Mar 12, 2013

A New York Supreme Court judge has struck down Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large-size sugary drinks, calling the rules “arbitrary and capricious,” a day before they were set to go into effect. The ban would have prohibited restaurants and certain other vendors from selling drinks with high sugar content in containers larger than 16 ounces in a bid to curb obesity and other health issues. Bloomberg vowed to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Michael Bloomberg: “We were very confident this morning. We think the judge is totally in error in the way he interpreted the law, and we’re very confident that we will win on appeal.”

U.S. Firms Stashed $166 Billion Offshore in 2012, Shielding 40% of Annual Profits

Mar 12, 2013

A new report says U.S. companies are holding more of their profits in overseas tax havens. The Wall Street Journal analyzed 60 major companies and found they stashed a total of $166 billion offshore in 2012. That move shielded more than 40 percent of their annual profits from U.S. taxes. In several cases, the companies parked more earnings offshore last year than they generated in net income.

Fidel Castro: Cuba Has Lost “Best Friend” with Death of Chávez

Mar 12, 2013

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has issued his first remarks on the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. In a newspaper column Monday, Castro said Cuba had lost its “best friend.” He wrote: “I should say to the people of Latin America and to all peoples of the world who, during the last 50 years, have been victims of exploitation and looting: That was Hugo Chávez’s fight. I don’t think he even realized how big he was. Until victory always, my unforgettable friend,” Castro wrote.

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