A decade of war in Iraq has killed roughly 134,000 Iraqi civilians and potentially contributed to the deaths of many hundreds of thousands more, according to researchers at Brown University. Their report was released ahead of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003. It says the Iraq war has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, including $500 billion in benefits owed to veterans. The report says the war has devastated rather than helped Iraq, spurring militant violence, setting back women’s rights and hurting the healthcare system. Most of the more than $200 billion supposedly set aside for reconstruction in Iraq was actually used for security or lost amid rampant fraud and waste. Some previous reports have put the death toll in Iraq significantly higher. A 2006 report published in The Lancet by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found 655,000 people had died in the first 40 months of the war both from violence and indirect causes related to the devastated infrastructure.
In the latest violence in Iraq, a wave of coordinated attacks killed at least 25 people and wounded scores of others in the capital Baghdad. A series of car bombings tore through the city in broad daylight near the heavily guarded Green Zone, which houses several foreign embassies. A suicide bomber detonated another blast inside an Iraqi government building which was also attacked by gunmen who clashed with security forces.
The head of a United Nations team probing U.S. drone attacks has said the strikes are violating Pakistani sovereignty. The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson, said the Pakistani government has not consented to the strikes. He said Pakistani officials told him at least 400 civilians have been confirmed killed by U.S. drones.
A new U.S. Senate report accuses JPMorgan Chase of misleading the public, manipulating documents and ignoring warnings from within its own ranks as it accumulated losses of more than $6 billion. Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who heads the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, called the bank’s trading strategy a “runaway train that barreled through every risk warning.” The report faults CEO Jamie Dimon, saying he withheld information from federal regulators. In fact, the report says, bank executives bullied and derided regulators, calling them “stupid.” Former and current bank executives are expected to testify before the subcommittee today, but Jamie Dimon will not be among them.
Syrians are marking the second anniversary of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Since nationwide protests began on March 15, 2011, roughly 70,000 people have perished as the conflict between the Assad regime and rebels has engulfed the nation. On Thursday, the United Nations reported the number of registered refugees fleeing the conflict jumped 10 percent in the past week alone.
France is calling on European leaders to lift an arms embargo to allow for the supplying of weapons to Syrian rebels. Britain is joining France in lobbying against the embargo during a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels. French President François Hollande spoke on Thursday.
President François Hollande: “We want the Europeans to lift the embargo on the weapons. This does not mean that we want to go toward total war. We believe a political transition must be the solution for Syria. But since we have to put pressure on and show we are ready to support the opposition, we have to go that far. That is what I will tell my European colleagues.”
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed this week Iran has not decided to develop a nuclear weapon and that it would be unable to do so secretly. Testifying before the Senate, Clapper said Iran could not divert safeguarded material to produce weapons-grade uranium without it being discovered. Despite Clapper’s statements, President Obama raised the prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon during an interview Thursday with an Israeli television station ahead of his visit to Israel next week.
President Obama: “There’s a window, not an infinite period of time, but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically. And that is in all of our interests — Israel, the United States, the world and Iran’s — if we can resolve this diplomatically. Now, we think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close. And what we’re going to be doing is to continue to engage internationally with Iran, understanding that we’ve set up the toughest sanctions ever. It’s having a significant effect.”
Dozens of people were wounded in Bahrain on Thursday as protesters marked the second anniversary of a Saudi-led intervention that helped crush the pro-democracy uprising. Clashes erupted around the capital Manama with police firing stun grenades and tear gas at protesters who burned tires and threw Molotov cocktails. Bahrainis have defied a ban on demonstrations despite a brutal government crackdown. Bahrain houses the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is a key U.S. ally in the Gulf.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has chosen an emergency manager to take control of the city of Detroit during its fiscal crisis. In a controversial move seen by many as undemocratic, the city’s leadership will now cede broad powers to Kevyn Orr, a lawyer who handled Chrysler’s bankruptcy and restructuring process in 2009. Orr’s salary will be $275,000, almost all of it paid by the state. Emergency management decrees have disproportionately affected people of color in Michigan. Half the state’s African-American population now lives under unelected leadership.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced an assault weapons ban to the Senate floor, where it will likely die due to opposition from Republicans and some Democrats. The bill would ban magazines of more than 10 rounds and stop the manufacture of 157 specific gun models. More than half of mass shooters in the United States have used weapons that would be banned under the bill, according to Mother Jones.
Police in upstate New York, meanwhile, have killed a man suspected of shooting four people dead and wounding two others during a shooting spree at a barbershop and car wash. Officers traced the suspect, Kurt Myers, to an abandoned commercial building in the village of Herkimer, New York. State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico described what happened on Thursday.
Joseph D’Amico: “This morning, joint teams from the FBI and the New York state police tactical teams, shortly before 8 a.m., entered the location with canines as part of the team. And somewhere on the first floor of the location, the gunman began to shoot at the tactical team, struck one of the canines, and fire was returned and exchanged with the gunman from one of the tactical teams. And at that time, the male, Kurt Myers, was shot and killed inside the location.”
Most gun show operators in New York state have agreed to adopt new procedures to ensure gun buyers actually undergo background checks. The move comes after undercover agents from the state attorney general’s office purchased weapons, including three AR-15s like the one used in the Newtown massacre, without undergoing any screening. The agents were able to purchase guns even after confessing to sellers they had protection orders against them, meaning they would have failed a background check.
A vigil and protest march was held for a fourth night in a row in the New York City borough of Brooklyn to condemn the police killing of 16-year-old Kimani Gray. Kimani was shot dead by plainclothes police officers who claimed he had a gun. His mother, Carol Gray, spoke at a news conference.
Carol Gray: “I’m still waiting for Kimani to come home. And today, I’m asking for justice, and I’m asking: Why? Why was Kimani being murdered and slaughtered? Why was Kimani begging for his life? Why was Kimani saying, 'You got me. I'm down. Don’t shoot no more’? Why was Kimani saying that, if Kimani had a weapon to point at the officer?”
A new report from the Interior Department says Shell failed to adequately oversee contractors who were central to its botched oil-drilling efforts in the Arctic. Shell had already announced it would not drill in the Arctic this year after mishaps on its rigs, one of which ran aground off Alaska. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, “Shell screwed up in 2012.” He said Shell will need to present a plan showing it is better prepared for Arctic conditions before it can resume drilling there.
Researchers in Mexico say the use of genetically modified crops has fueled an historic decline in the population of migrating monarch butterflies. While monarchs once occupied 50 acres of of Mexican forest, this winter they occupied less than three acres. That’s in part because herbicide-tolerant crops have allowed U.S. farmers to decimate the monarchs’ food supply of milkweed. Researchers said drought and record-shattering heat last spring also played a key role in the decline.
The Obama administration is reportedly drafting plans to let U.S. spy agencies monitor the financial data of Americans and others who bank in the United States. According to Reuters, the measure would expand access to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network from just the Federal Bureau of Investigation to also include the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.
Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has come out in support of same-sex marriage after his son told him he was gay. Portman was a leading contender for Mitt Romney’s running mate on the 2012 presidential ticket and a sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Portman told CNN his son first came out to him in 2011.
Sen. Rob Portman: “I’m announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about. It has to do with gay couples’ opportunity to marry. And during my career in the House and also the last couple years here in the Senate, you know, I’ve taken a position against gay marriage, rooted in part in my faith and my faith tradition, and had a very personal experience, which is my son came to Jane, my wife, and I, told us that he was gay, and that it was not a choice, and that, you know, he — that’s just part of who he is, and he’d been that way ever since he could remember.”