The United States appears to have carried out its second drone strike inside Yemen in the past three days. Two people were killed today when a drone hit their vehicle south of the capital Sana’a. At least four people were killed and several others wounded in a drone attack on Saturday. Local officials say the victims were suspected al-Qaeda militants, but their identities have not been confirmed.
The White House has announced President Obama will deliver a speech at National Defense University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday on a wide number of counterterrorism issues. Obama will discuss the legal framework underpinning national security efforts including the drone program. He will also address the status of Guantánamo Bay, where more than 100 foreign nationals are on hunger strike against their indefinite imprisonment.
Protests were held on Friday to mark the Guantánamo hunger strike’s 100th day. Outside the White House, demonstrators wearing orange jumpsuits and carrying signs were arrested after refusing to leave the sidewalk. In New York City, dozens of people gathered for a rally in Times Square.
Ben Case: “As far as I can tell, President Obama wants to say that Congress is holding him up, or there’s these laws, or it’s complicated. As far as I can tell, it’s not complicated. That’s a military prison down there, and President Obama is the commander-in-chief of the military. As far as I can tell, he has to pick up his phone and call someone and say, 'Close the prison.'”
Julie Pycior: “Having them in Guantánamo is violating the Constitution, and therefore threatening — therefore, hurting the rights of Americans, in general. If our government is violating our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, that hurts us all.”
At least 30 of the more than 100 hunger strikers are being force-fed through nasal tubes pushed into their stomachs, a practice critics say amounts to torture.
The Syrian government and opposition rebels are in the midst of intense clashes in the city of Qusayr near the Lebanese border. Activists are claiming dozens of Syrian government and Hezbollah fighters have been killed in fighting with the rebels, but the toll has not been confirmed.
The United States says Russia has stepped up its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a shipment of advanced missiles. At the Pentagon, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized Russia for aiding Assad.
General Martin Dempsey: “It’s, at the very least, an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering. So, it’s ill-timed and very unfortunate. It pushes the standoff distance a little more, increases risk, but not impossible to overcome. What I really worry about is that Assad will decide that, since he’s got these systems, he’s somehow safer.”
Iraq is enduring some of its worst sectarian violence in months. More than 40 people were killed today when car bombings hit Shiite areas in the capital, Baghdad, and the southern city of Basra. At least 76 people were killed in a series of bombings on Friday, Iraq’s deadliest day in eight months. More than 150 people have been killed in sectarian violence over the past week
A leading Pakistani politician was shot dead outside her home in Karachi on Saturday amidst an ongoing standoff over last week’s election. Zahra Shahid Hussain headed the women’s wing of the PTI, which took second place in the national vote. PTI leader Imran Khan had called for a revote amidst a wave of campaign-related violence. On Sunday, Khan accused Altaf Hussain, leader of the rival party MQM, of responsibility for Zahra Hussain’s murder.
Imran Khan: “I hold Altaf Hussain responsible for this murder. Whatever happens, I am firmly standing against this murder because it is not the first time it’s happened. It has happened several times before. They wait outside the house of their target, just like what happened with Zahra. I hold them responsible. They have issued two threats, one to the journalists and the other to our workers and supporters when they staged a protest.”
More than 150 people have been killed in the violence surrounding Pakistan’s election.
Former Argentine dictator General Jorge Rafael Videla has died at the age of 87. Videla was serving a life sentence for murder, torture and kidnapping under his regime. He helped lead the military coup that unseated President Isabel Perón in 1976. He later served five years in prison before a presidential pardon set him free in 1990. Two decades later, he was retried and sentenced to life behind bars. Estela de Carlotto of the human rights group, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, criticized Videla for refusing to account for the whereabouts of those who disappeared under his watch, including the babies of political prisoners taken from their biological parents.
Estela de Carlotto: “We feel so relieved, but at the same time this weight, because he didn’t speak or contribute to us knowing where those 30,000 people that we are looking for are, or the whereabouts of the 400 grandchildren that the Grandmothers [of Plaza de Mayo] are still looking for, who are disappeared and are alive. There was not a scrap, not a single word to help with this search; on the contrary, he reaffirmed those crimes.”
Videla died while being tried for his role in Operation Condor, a coordinated effort by Latin American military rulers to target their political opponents in the 1970s and 1980s. Another former dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, remains on trial in the case.
The head of the Associated Press says the news group has not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department for the warrantless spying uncovered over the past week. The Justice Department has admitted to seizing the work, home and cellphone records of almost 100 AP reporters and editors. The action came as part of a probe into the leaks behind an AP story about CIA operations in Yemen. Speaking to CBS, AP chief executive Gary Pruitt called the Justice Department’s spying “unconstitutional.”
Gary Pruitt: “We don’t question their right to conduct these sort of investigations. We just think they went about it the wrong way, so sweeping, so secretively, so abusively and harassingly and overbroad that it constitutes — that it is an unconstitutional act.”
As the Associated Press spying scandal unfolds, details have emerged in a second recent case of government spying on a journalist. The Washington Post reports the Justice Department tracked a reporter’s phone records and State Department visits, and even received a search warrant to read his personal emails. The reporter, Fox News correspondent James Rosen, was investigated for obtaining details of a secret government report on North Korea in 2009. The probe of Rosen’s communications has helped lead to charges against State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who’s accused of providing him with classified national defense information. Investigators used records of Rosen’s phone calls and Kim’s security badge to track their conversations. Kim’s trial is expected in 2014.
The White House has acknowledged top administration lawyers knew about alarming activity at the Internal Revenue Service well before President Obama was informed. The IRS has acknowledged over the past week that right-wing groups received extra scrutiny in their bid for tax-exempt status. The Office of the White House Counsel said it received word of the IRS controversy over two weeks before Obama was finally made aware earlier this month. Testifying before Congress just two days after he was forced to resign, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller apologized but said the additional scrutiny of right-wing groups was not politically motivated.
Steven Miller: “As acting commissioner, I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided. The affected organizations and the American public deserve better. I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection. The listing described in the report, while intolerable, was a mistake and not an act of partisanship.”
A federal judge has temporarily blocked a recent Arkansas law banning abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy. The ban was scheduled to take effect in August. But on Friday, Judge Susan Webber Wright issued a preliminary injunction pending a final ruling on its legality.
Chicago teachers are in their third and final day of a cross-city march against school closures in low-income communities. The Chicago Teachers Union launched the more than 30-mile trek on Saturday, calling it “Our City. Our Schools. Our Voice.” They are protesting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to shutter 54 public schools, mostly in African-American neighborhoods. Some 30,000 students will be impacted. A coalition of parents filed two federal lawsuits seeking to stop the closures last week. The board of the Chicago Public Schools is slated to vote on the plan Wednesday.
Thousands of Philadelphia high schoolers staged a walkout on Friday to fight a wave of budget cuts hitting their classrooms. The school district has proposed ending arts and sports programs as well as firing support staff like secretaries, librarians and counselors to close a $300 million funding gap. On Friday, a crowd of more than 2,000 students and teachers marched from the school district to Philadelphia City Hall, blocking traffic.
Student: “If you’re planning on cutting back sports and arts, and then you want us to be involved in our community and stay out of the streets, it’s kind of hard to do that.”
Protester: “It’s not equitable, compared to the suburbs, and these children are told the message they don’t count. And it’s tragic.”
The new funding cuts follow the Philadelphia school district’s vote to close 23 of the city’s public schools earlier this year.
A gay man was shot to death in New York City Friday night in what police are calling a hate crime. The victim, Mark Carson, was with a male companion when the suspect accosted him and followed him for several blocks. The suspect, Elliot Morales, confronted Carson and his male companion with an anti-gay remark before opening fire. Police arrested Morales after he fled the scene. Carson was 32 years old and worked in a midtown yogurt shop. A friend described him as a “proud gay man … who didn’t have a negative bone in his body.” The shooting occurred just blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the West Village landmark that launched the modern gay and lesbian rights movement after a 1969 police raid.