A papal conclave has selected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, to be the new pope. He replaces Pope Benedict XVI, who shocked the Catholic Church last month when he became the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years. Bergoglio has taken the name Pope Francis. He is the first pope from Latin America and the first not to hail from Europe in more than 1,000 years. He’s also the first to come from the Jesuit order of priests, which is known for its work on social justice. He is viewed as a theological conservative who has staunchly opposed abortion, same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. In Argentina, he has long been dogged by reports that he aided the military dictatorship in the 1970s.
President Obama met with House Republicans on Wednesday in a bid to resolve the ongoing standoff over a budget deal. Obama has sparked concern over his willingness to discuss cutting safety net programs with Republicans in a bid to cut spending. But on Wednesday, Obama appeared to directly reject Republicans’ stated priority of reducing spending to trim the deficit, reportedly telling them: “Our biggest problems in the next 10 years are not deficits.” The meeting followed the release of the Republicans’ 2014 budget by Congressmember Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan’s plan would balance the budget in 10 years through major cuts to social programs, including the repeal of President Obama’s healthcare law. Speaking to ABC News, President Obama said his differences with Republicans may be too wide to reach a deal.
President Obama: “Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide. If their position is 'We can't do any revenue,’ or 'We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,' if that’s the position, then we’re probably not going to be able to get a deal.”
Obama’s comments also came as Senate Democrats released their 2014 budget. The plan includes a proposal for a new economic stimulus of $100 billion to fund job training and the repair of roads and bridges.
Colorado state lawmakers have given final approval to some of the toughest gun control laws in the country. The measures include a limit on ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, forcing gun buyers to pay for background checks, a requirement that domestic abusers surrender their guns, and a ban on obtaining concealed-carry permits online. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper has pledged to sign the measures into law.
An Egyptian government inquiry has found the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak was behind nearly all of the roughly 900 killings of protesters during the country’s uprising. According to the Associated Press, a fact-finding commission has confirmed Mubarak’s regime used rooftop snipers to fire into large crowds around Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The report cites internal government records of assault rifles and ammunition rounds showing that police shootings were widespread. The report concludes the shootings could only have been approved by Mubarak’s former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, with Mubarak’s blessing. The findings come ahead of a retrial for Mubarak and el-Adly on charges of failing to stop the killings after they successfully appealed their convictions last June.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won an agreement for a new governing coalition after weeks of negotiations. Netanyahu made a deal to bring in parties controlling 68 of the Israeli parliament’s 120 seats. The agreement excludes former allies in Israel’s far-right religious parties to include more centrist partners, including former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. President Obama is due to visit Israel next week.
A funeral was held in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday for the latest unarmed Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops. Twenty-five-year-old Mahmoud Titi was among a group of people fired on by Israeli forces during a raid near the city of Hebron. Titi’s cousin said he was killed while filming the raid.
Ali Titi: “He had a smartphone and was filming from about 100 meters away from the army jeeps. At a distance of 100 meters, a stone cannot reach; logically, it cannot reach if you’re that far away. A sniper soldier shot him, using only one bullet. And before Mahmoud died, they started targeting the shops. The shopkeepers had already closed the shops themselves, but the army was shooting.”
Titi was the sixth Palestinian killed by the Israeli occupation force in the West Bank this year.
Military officials appeared before a Senate panel on Wednesday to answer questions over the failure to halt the epidemic of sexual assault within their ranks. Some 19,000 members of the military were sexually assaulted in the 2011 fiscal year. Fewer than one in 10 of the perpetrators whose attacks were reported have actually been held accountable. The landmark hearing came amid controversy over the reinstatement of Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault before Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin tossed out the conviction. New York senator and panel chair, Kirsten Gillibrand, blasted the military’s handling of sexual assault.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “I am extremely disturbed, based on the last round of question and answer, that each of you believes that the convening authority is what maintains discipline and order within your ranks. If that is your view, I don’t know how you can say that having 19,000 sexual assaults and rapes a year is discipline and order. I appreciate the work you are doing, I honestly do. But it’s not enough. And if you think you are achieving discipline and order with your current convening authority framework, I am sorry to say you are wrong.”
A trial has begun in Ohio for two high school football players accused of raping a female classmate last August. The young men possibly urinated on the girl’s unconscious body, later chronicling their actions on social media sites. During opening statements, prosecutors said the victim was too drunk to make a decision on her welfare and vowed to introduce the suspects’ social media postings as evidence.
Attorneys for the late Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz have filed an ethics complaint over his federal prosecution. Swartz took his own life in January, weeks before he was set to go to trial for downloading millions of articles provided by the nonprofit research service JSTOR. He was facing 35 years in prison, a penalty supporters called excessively harsh. In a letter to the Justice Department obtained by The Washington Post, Swartz’s attorney Elliot Peters accuses federal prosecutors of misconduct, saying they withheld exculpatory evidence. An email withheld from Swartz’s attorneys appears to refute prosecutors’ claims they didn’t have enough time to obtain a warrant to search Swartz’s laptop. The letter’s release comes one week after Attorney General Eric Holder publicly defended prosecutors’ conduct, saying their case against Swartz marked “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”
Unrest again broke out in the Brooklyn area of New York Wednesday night at a protest over the police shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray. Gray was shot dead by two plainclothes officers who claimed he had a gun, but one witness has said he was unarmed, and another has said he may not have known he was being approached by police. Gray died from seven bullet wounds. On Wednesday night, at least 45 people were arrested after clashes broke out between demonstrators and police in the neighborhood of East Flatbush. A group of demonstrators had thrown bottles after police officers seized Gray’s sister and gave her a summons.
The source of the secret video showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney dismissing 47 percent of the U.S. electorate has come forward to reveal his identity and explain his motives. The video was secretly recorded at a Romney fundraiser in Florida in May. On the tape, Romney describes nearly half of the American electorate as people “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.”
Mitt Romney: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it, that that’s — it’s entitlement, and the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
The video’s release by the magazine Mother Jones upended the 2012 presidential campaign, with many believing it doomed Romney’s chances. The tape also sparked new public debate over inequality in the U.S. and the attitudes of the wealthy toward lower-income Americans. The source remained unknown until Wednesday, when Scott Prouty, a bartender at the event, came forward in an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz.
Scott Prouty: “My name is Scott Prouty. I’m a regular guy, middle-class, hardworking guy. You know, I think — I’d like to think I have a good moral compass and a core, and I think I have a little bit of empathy. I think I have a little more empathy than Mitt Romney had. I don’t know how to describe myself, but I was behind this whole thing. I was bartending that night for the Romney fundraiser.”
Prouty said he had brought his camera along after seeing former President Bill Clinton take pictures with fellow workers at a previous event. But he said Romney’s comments spurred him to make a full recording and then release it to the public to show average Americans how Romney spoke about them to wealthy donors behind closed doors.
Scott Prouty: “There’s a lot of people that can’t afford to pay $50,000 for one night, for one dinner. And I felt an obligation, in a way, to release it. I felt an obligation for all the people who can’t afford to be there. You shouldn’t have to be able to afford $50,000 to hear what the candidate actually thinks. I don’t think he has any clue what a regular American goes through on a daily basis. I don’t think he has any idea what a single mom [experiences] — you know, taking a bus to work, dropping her kid off at a day care, that she can barely afford, hopping on another bus. You know, the day-in, day-out struggles of everyday Americans, that guy has no idea. No idea. And I don’t think he’ll ever have an idea.”
Although Romney’s 47 percent comments sparked a national controversy, Prouty said he was most disturbed by Romney’s bragging about a Chinese factory he had invested in, where workers lived in harsh conditions. Prouty says he remained anonymous until now in order to protect his livelihood and to keep the focus on Romney’s words. In a recent interview with Fox News, Romney acknowledged the video’s release was partially to blame for his loss and insisted he doesn’t believe what he was recorded saying.
Mitt Romney: “It was a very unfortunate statement that I made. It’s not what I meant. I didn’t express myself as I wished I would have. You know, when you speak in private, you don’t spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and — and it could come out wrong and be used. But, you know, I did. And it was very harmful. What I said is not what I believe. Obviously, my whole campaign — my whole life has been devoted to helping people, all of the people. I care about all the people of the country. But that hurt. There’s no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.”