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Syria has marked its deadliest month since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began two years ago. More than 6,000 people died in Syria during the month of March, according to the anti-government Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Roughly a third of those killed were civilians, including about 300 children and 300 women, the group said. Nearly 1,500 government troops were also killed, along with a larger number of rebel fighters. Hundreds of civilians and rebels were not identified. In total, the group has documented more than 62,000 deaths in the conflict but says the actual toll could be about twice that. The United Nations put the death toll at roughly 70,000 in February.
North Korea has announced it will restart nuclear facilities at its main complex, including a reactor shuttered in 2007 as part of talks on nuclear disarmament. A North Korean spokesperson said the move is aimed at boosting electricity production and “bolstering up the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity.” Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States, which has been carrying out military drills with South Korea. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said there were no signs North Korea was actually preparing for an attack.
Jay Carney: “I would note that despite the harsh rhetoric we’re hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces. Now, we take this seriously — I’ve said that in the past — and we are vigilant, and we are monitoring the Korean situation very diligently.”
In news from Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated a tanker truck inside a government compound in the city of Tikrit, killing nine people, most of them police. Monday’s attack is the latest in a spate of violence ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20. March was the deadliest month in Iraq since August with 271 people killed and more than 900 wounded, according to AFP.
Connecticut lawmakers have reached a deal for what is being touted as the strictest gun-control package in the country. The legislation comes more than three months after a gunman killed 27 people and himself in Newtown. It would require universal background checks for all gun sales; mandate state-issued eligibility certificates for buying rifles, shotguns and ammunition; and expand the state’s ban on assault weapons. It also creates a statewide registry for those convicted of weapons offenses. Despite pleas from the family members of Newtown shooting victims, the deal will not ban the possession of high-capacity magazines, although it will ban any new sales of magazines with more than 10 bullets. Assault weapons and magazines banned under the new legislation could no longer be purchased in Connecticut, but those who currently own them could keep them.
A city in Georgia has gone in the opposite direction of other states on gun control, making it mandatory for heads of households to own a gun and ammunition. City Council members in Nelson, Georgia, voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance to “provide for the emergency management of the city” and “protect the safety, security and general welfare” of residents. The measure exempts felons, people with certain disabilities, and those who object to owning guns.
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Prosecutors rejected a deal whereby James Holmes would have pleaded guilty to the shooting last July in exchange for life in prison without parole. The decision to pursue the death penalty means the case will not go to trial until at least next year.
The United States is criticizing Egypt for stifling freedom of speech after a prominent comedian became the latest figure to turn himself in for government questioning. Bassem Youssef was released on bail Sunday a day after the prosecutor general issued a warrant for his arrest on accusations of insulting Islam and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The move came after arrest warrants were issued last week for five opposition activists, including blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah. On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland condemned what she termed “a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression.”
Victoria Nuland: “As I said last Thursday, we’re also concerned that the government of Egypt seems to be investigating these cases, while it has been slow or inadequate in investigating attacks on demonstrators outside of the presidential palace in December 2012, other cases of extreme police brutality, and illegally blocked entry of journalists to Media City. So there does not seem to be an evenhanded application of justice here.”
Egypt’s prosecutor has reportedly launched a new investigation of Bassem Youssef after a recent episode of his TV show, which has been compared to U.S. satirist Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Youssef tweeted late Monday, “A new investigation against me is to be started because of last episode. Accusations include spreading rumors and disturbing the 'Peace.'”
A federal judge has ruled Stockton, California, is eligible for bankruptcy protection, rejecting complaints from the city’s Wall Street creditors. The ruling sets the stage for a battle over the future of employee pensions after creditors objected to the city’s plans to repay its debt to the state pension system in full. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Christopher Klein ruled creditors had acted in bad faith when they walked away from negotiations, but has yet to decide whether pensions can be cut. Stockton became the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy last June following the collapse of the housing market and cuts that included slashing the police department by 25 percent.
The military’s tally of the official number of Guantánamo prisoners deemed to be on hunger strike rose Monday to 39. Eleven are being force-fed. But prisoners and their lawyers still contest the official numbers, saying most of the prison’s 166 prisoners have joined the two-month-long strike. Prisoner Shaker Aamer told his lawyer Friday that 130 prisoners are on strike and that he himself has lost 32 pounds. Aamer, like most Guantánamo prisoners, has spent more than a decade at the prison without charge.
In Yemen, hundreds of people protested outside the U.S. embassy in Sana’a to call for the release of Yemeni prisoners from Guantánamo. Yemenis make up roughly 90 of the 166 prisoners in Guantánamo — the largest nationality at the prison. Relatives of the men called for their release.
Relative of Nabil Ali al-Hilah: “We, the families of Guantánamo detainees, have gathered here today to call upon the Yemeni government and all the mediators who speak for this country. We tell them that this nation will have no value or sovereignty without the return of the Guantánamo detainees.”
Relative of Amna Abdulla al-Shobati: “We appeal to the U.S. embassy to release our brothers, our sons and our fathers who have been imprisoned (in Guantánamo) for 12 years, and we are waiting for their release.”
A U.S. soldier killed last week in Afghanistan was stabbed in the neck by an Afghan teenager believed to be about 16 years old, U.S. officials confirmed Monday. The Pentagon had said in a statement last week that Sgt. Michael Cable died of injuries sustained when his unit came under attack by enemy forces. But unnamed U.S. officials told the Associated Press Cable had been playing with a group of Afghan children in an eastern province when the teenager stabbed him. Cable was one of 14 U.S. servicemembers killed in March, an uptick from the total of four in the previous two months.
In a blow to the world of music downloading, a federal judge has ruled that the reselling of digital products constitutes copyright infringement. The case concerned a startup named ReDigi that allowed listeners to buy and sell used music originally purchased through iTunes. ReDigi said it deleted the original music file, making its system similar to the way a used bookstore would resell books. But U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan sided with Capitol Records in its lawsuit against ReDigi, ruling that the so-called first-sale doctrine — which allows someone to resell a copyrighted book, for example — does not apply to digital music files. ReDigi says it will appeal the ruling.
A former New York City police captain has testified the NYPD intentionally targeted African-American and Latino men under its controversial stop-and-frisk policy in a bid to “instill fear.” New York State Senator Eric Adams, who served in the police department for more than two decades, testified during the federal trial for a lawsuit challenging the NYPD policy. He said that in 2010 New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly “stated that he targeted and focused on that group” —- meaning African Americans and Latinos -— “because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time they left their homes they could be targeted by police.” Recent data shows the vast majority of people stopped by the NYPD are African American or Latino, and nearly 90 percent are neither ticketed nor arrested.
More than 11 years after the September 11 attacks, the New York City medical examiner’s office is resuming its search for human remains in debris collected from around the World Trade Center site. Of the more than 2,700 people who died at the World Trade Center, only about 1,600 have been identified. Some relatives, including Sally Regenhard, expressed frustration they have gone so long without the remains of their loved ones.
Sally Regenhard: “We really are calling for an inspector general to be placed in the OCME (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner) office to really oversee what is happening there and why, after 11 years, 1,000 people, including my son, firefighter Christian Regenhard, remain missing at the World Trade Center site.”
A federal judge has dismissed nearly all the claims in lawsuits filed against major banks for involvement in manipulation of the global interest rate Libor. The rigging of Libor altered the benchmark for rates on trillions of dollars in transactions across the globe, meaning millions of borrowers paid the wrong amount on their loans. Plaintiffs, including the city of Baltimore, had filed antitrust and racketeering claims against firms such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. But U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dismissed nearly all the claims, citing technical grounds that the plaintiffs cannot claim “antitrust injury.” The dismissals were issued without prejudice, meaning they cannot be appealed. A limited number of claims under the Commodity Exchange Act were however allowed to proceed to trial. A handful of banks have already paid around $2.5 billion in fines for the Libor scandal, but have avoided criminal charges and payouts of damages to the scandal’s victims.
The former Justice Department official who led the agency’s investigation of Libor and the financial crisis is taking a post at a law firm that represents Wall Street firms who have faced federal scrutiny. Lanny Breuer left as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division last month. In the latest sign of the revolving door between Wall Street and agencies that purport to oversee it, Breuer is returning to his former employer, the law firm Covington & Burling, where he is expected to defend corporate clients and receive a salary of $4 million a year.
British forces who helped operate a secret U.S. prison in Baghdad have spoken out for the first time about abuses they witnessed there. The Guardian reports former British soldiers and air force personnel say prisoners at the secretive Camp Nama were held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels, subjected to electric shocks, routinely hooded, and taken to soundproofed shipping containers for interrogations, after which they emerged in a state of physical distress. One British servicemember recalled seeing a man’s prosthetic leg pulled off and used to beat him about the head before he was thrown onto a truck. Many said they complained about the abuse to no avail. The latest report follows revelations years ago about torture and abuse at the secret facility at Baghdad International Airport following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Human Rights Watch has said prisoners there were subjected to beatings, extreme cold and death threats, while The New York Times recounted how prisoners were beaten with rifle butts and used as paintball targets.