A U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan has killed a number of civilians, including at least 11 children. Six women were reportedly wounded. The attack occurred on Saturday in eastern Kunar province. The reported target was a Taliban commander who reportedly died in the attack. A tribal elder in the region where the killings occurred confirmed the child toll.
Haji Shah Mahmood: “Eleven children have been killed, aging from one year old to eight years old. We have not counted the number of women that were killed in this operation. This is the fifth incident that I remember where children and women have been killed. There is no proof that al-Qaeda or any other fighters were killed.”
The strike followed the deadliest day for the U.S. occupation force in Afghanistan this year. Three U.S. soldiers and two civilian workers — one of them a diplomat — were killed in separate attacks on Friday.
North Korea has announced plans to withdraw over 50,000 workers from its shared industrial zone with South Korea. North Korea already cut off access to the Kaesong zone last week amidst a heightened nuclear standoff. Over the weekend, the United States said it would suspend a planned missile test at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base to avoid further inflaming tensions. Over the weekend, South Korea also accused North Korea of preparing a fourth nuclear test, but the claim was later withdrawn.
The latest round of international talks on Iran’s nuclear program ended Saturday without an agreement. European Union diplomats say Iran and six world powers remain far apart, but Iran’s top negotiator said that “good progress” was made during the negotiations in Kazakhstan. The impasse appears to continue centering around Iranian uranium enrichment and Western sanctions: Iran reportedly wants the full lifting of major sanctions in return for halting enrichment at 20 percent.
A federal judge has ruled the emergency contraception “morning-after pill” must be available to everyone without a prescription, not just to those 17 and older. The ruling overturns the Obama administration’s 2011 move blocking the Food and Drug Administration’s effort to make the Plan B One-Step available over the counter to women of all ages. It was the first time a health secretary had ever overruled the FDA in U.S. history. On Friday, Judge Edward Korman of Federal District Court rejected the administration’s move as “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” In a statement, the Center for Reproductive Rights, a plaintiff in the case said: “Science has finally prevailed over politics, to the benefit of millions of women across the United States.”
The latest jobs report shows the United States gained only 88,000 net jobs in March. It was the lowest monthly output since last summer. The official unemployment rate is now at 7.6 percent.
New details have emerged on the origins of the CIA drone war in Pakistan. The New York Times reports the Pakistani government agreed to allow the drone attacks in return for the CIA’s assassination of a Pakistani militant who was not even a target of the United States. The militant, Nek Muhammad, was killed by a CIA Predator drone in 2004. Pakistan took credit for the attack under the terms of its agreement with the CIA, which also called for Pakistani approval of all strikes. The major impetus for the CIA’s shift toward killing militants through drone attacks appears to have been its reduced ability to carry out torture and secret detention. The drone program expanded just after a scathing inspector general report put the brakes on the CIA’s torture and extraordinary rendition of foreign prisoners.
A month-long protest against U.S. drone warfare and surveillance continued in Southern California over the weekend at the headquarters of two corporations. Activists with the group Code Pink marched on the military contractors General Atomics and Northrop Grumman, as well as in front of executives’ homes. The protests were part of the “April Days of Action,” organized by the Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare.
A group of high school students in Georgia are making headlines around the world for challenging the segregation of their high school prom. The four female students — two black and two white — are seeking to end a longstanding tradition at Wilcox County High that holds segregated proms each year. The proms are organized by private groups, and parents behind the “white prom” have refused to let African-American students attend. Local officials say the segregated prom has continued because it’s organized privately, out of the school district’s control. News of the case spread quickly over social media last week, fueling an outpouring of donations and offers to help the four girls stage an integrated prom open to all. In a statement announcing their funding goal has been reached, the quartet told supporters: “You have confirmed our belief in the human spirit.”
Protests were held in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for the second annual Occupy the Department of Education. The three-day event brought together educators and activists for protests and teach-ins challenging corporate-based school reforms embraced under President Obama.
The environmental activist Daniel McGowan was released from prison Friday afternoon after federal authorities were notified they had arrested him under a regulation declared unconstitutional. McGowan had been taken into custody Thursday just months after his release to a halfway house following over five years in prison for his role in two acts of arson as a member of the Earth Liberation Front. In his case, the judge ruled he had committed an act of terrorism, even though no one was hurt in either of the actions. McGowan was told he had violated a Bureau of Prisons rule for publishing an article decrying his treatment for The Huffington Post. McGowan’s attorneys say they won his release after pointing out that the regulation in question had been declared illegal in 2007 and eliminated in 2010.
The family of the jailed civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart is calling for her release to receive urgent medical attention. Stewart was found guilty in 2005 of distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the “Blind Sheikh.” In 2010, she was re-sentenced to 10 years in prison — nearly five times her original sentence of 28 months. Stewart has breast cancer which has reportedly spread to other parts of her body, including her lungs. In a statement, the comedian and activist Dick Gregory announced a liquid-only hunger fast to demand Stewart’s immediate release. Gregory said: “The prosecution and imprisonment of Lynne Stewart is an ominous threat to the freedom, rights and dignity of each and every American. It is the agenda of a police state.”
The critically acclaimed filmmaker Les Blank has died at the age of 77. Blank was known for documenting cultural topics overlooked by the mainstream, focusing on what The New York Times called “the American periphery.” He made 42 films, including “Burden of Dreams” and “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins.”
In breaking news, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87. Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister, serving three terms in office. Known as the “Iron Lady,” Thatcher became synonymous with austerity economics as a close ally of President Ronald Reagan. She also presided over the Faulklands War with Argentina and provided critical support to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.