The rate of killing in Syria’s bloody conflict has reached a new high. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an average of 196 people died each day in April, up from 190 per day in March. The group also reported an uptick in civilian deaths. Half of the nearly 6,000 people killed last month were civilians; nearly 1,700 were rebel fighters; and more than 1,000 were members of the Syrian army.
U.S. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey has introduced a bill to arm some Syrian rebels groups. The move comes as a series of Israeli strikes inside Syria have heightened debate over potential U.S. involvement there. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended Israel’s right to carry out the attacks.
Jay Carney: “Israel has for a long time been justifiably concerned about the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah. This is not just chemical weapons, but sophisticated weaponry, to Hezbollah. And it is certainly within their right to take action to protect themselves and to prevent that kind of weaponry from getting into the hands of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”
Details remain murky about potential chemical weapons attacks inside Syria, which have been described by President Obama as a possible trigger for direct U.S. intervention. A U.N. commission investigating possible chemical weapons use in Syria sought to distance itself from claims by one of its investigators that sarin nerve gas was likely used by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. In a statement, the commission said it “wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday the Obama administration is “highly skeptical” of claims the rebels used chemical agents and believes any attack involving the weapons would likely have been carried out by the Assad regime.
In Pakistan, at least 12 people were killed and scores more wounded after a suicide blast near a vehicle carrying a candidate with the Ulema-e-Islam political party. The attack comes a day after at least 25 people were killed in an explosion at a political rally in the Kurram tribal area that targeted the same party. The Taliban claimed reponsibility for that attack, which was reportedly the deadliest in a series that have killed dozens ahead of the elections set for Saturday.
Authorities in Bangladesh have banned all rallies in the capital Dhaka after clashes between police and religious activists killed at least 27 people. The main opposition party and its allies have called a two-day strike to protest what they called a “mass killing” of protesters by security forces, but police claim they were attacked by protesters wielding sticks and rocks. Muslim activists were demonstrating to demand passage of an anti-blasphemy law.
Officials say the death toll from the collapse of a Bangladeshi garment factory building on April 24 has now surpassed 700.
A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been released from jail on $100,000 bond after his arrest last week for allegedly lying to investigators about attempts to dispose of the suspect’s belongings. Robel Phillipos, who is 19, the same age as Tsarnaev, will remain under house arrest ahead of his trial. Two other friends of the suspect were also charged last week after allegedly removing a backpack, emptied-out fireworks, and a laptop from Tsarnaev’s room following the bombings.
FBI officials say they have prevented a terrorist attack in a small Minnesota town by arresting a man linked to a local militia who is accused of stashing a trove of weapons and explosives in a mobile home. Buford Rogers was arrested Friday after authorities found Molotov cocktails, suspected pipe bombs and firearms. The Rogers family reportedly started a local anti-government militia group called the Black Snake Militia. An FBI spokesperson said Monday: “The FBI believed there was a terror attack in its planning stages.”
The Obama administration is directly accusing China of attacking computer systems belonging to the U.S. government and defense contractors. Pentagon official David Helvey outlined the findings of a new Pentagon report.
David Helvey: “China’s military continues to explore the role of military operations in cyberspace as a feature of modern warfare and continues to develop doctrine training and exercises which emphasize information technology and operations. In addition in 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the United States government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to PRC (People’s Republic of China) government and military organizations.”
China has accused the United States of carrying out similar attacks against its military systems.
An Air Force officer who led the branch’s sexual assault prevention unit been arrested for allegedly committing an act of sexual assault. Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski is accused of drunkenly approaching a woman in a parking lot in Virginia and groping her. The woman fought back, and Krusinski’s mugshot appears to show cuts and bruises on his face. The news came on the eve of new Pentagon data showing the epidemic of sexual assault among servicemembers is continuing to rise. There was a 6 percent increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military in fiscal year 2012 compared to the previous year. But a separate Pentagon report based on an anonymous survey found an estimated 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010. Most of the assaults were never reported.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced plans to sue Bank of America and Wells Fargo for violating the terms of a settlement aimed at curbing foreclosure abuses. The $26 billion settlement was reached last year between five major banks and 49 attorneys general. It provided basic protections for homeowners such as requiring banks to notify them about missing documents within a certain time period. But Schneiderman said the banks had violated the terms of the settlement with impunity. At a news conference Monday, he lifted a massive sheaf of papers to show the hundreds of complaints issued by homeowners against the banks.
Eric Schneiderman: Two of the participating servicers, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, have flagrantly violated their obligations under the settlement. I’ve sent a letter to the monitoring committee, the body that oversees the implementation of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement, notifying them of my intention to sue both Wells Fargo and Bank of America for noncompliance with servicing standards spelled out in the settlement. This enforcement action, which is the first taken under the settlement, is based on 339 individual complaints from New Yorkers against these two banks in just the last six months.”
In a separate case, Bank of America will pay roughly $1.6 billion to settle years of litigation with the bond insurer MBIA, which had accused the bank and its Countrywide unit of issuing risky loans that helped fuel the financial crisis. The settlement also grants Bank of America the right to buy a nearly 5 percent stake in the insurer.
New research published by The New York Times shows media moguls are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the country’s highest-paid executives. When ranked by market worth, the top 20 companies in the United States did not include any media firms. Yet media corporations employ seven out of the 20 highest-paid chief executives. Leading the industry was CBS head Leslie Moonves, who made more than $60 million last year as the third-highest-paid executive in the country. Also on the list with salaries in the tens of millions of dollars were the heads of Discovery Communications, Walt Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, Comcast, and the head of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch.
A new study shows the Arctic Ocean is becoming more acidic as it absorbs soaring carbon dioxide emissions in a shift that could imperil the ecosystem. According to an international team of scientists, the average acidity of surface ocean waters across the globe has increased by roughly 30 percent over the past two centuries. Experiments have shown the acidification process could drive some species to extinction. Researcher Richard Bellerby told the BBC: “We have already passed critical thresholds. Even if we stop emissions now, acidification will last tens of thousands of years.”
A formerly imprisoned member of the so-called “Cuban Five” has taken the first steps to renounce his U.S. citizenship after a U.S. judge ruled he must do so in order to remain free in Cuba. René González was convicted along with four other people of espionage in 2001. The other four members of the “Cuban Five” remain behind bars. They say they were not spying on the United States but trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups responsible for attacks inside Cuba. González was released on parole in 2011. He spoke to reporters in Havana Monday about the Cuban Five.
René González: “What is missing from this campaign is for the American people to know about the five heroes, that the American people know that the American government put us in prison to defend terrorism, because that’s what we must keep in focus. This case is about the American government’s right to defend its terrorists, and in order to do that, they put us in prison.”
Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart has spoken out against abstinence-only sex education, which she says fueled her feelings of shame when she was captured and raped at the age of 14. During an address about human trafficking at Johns Hopkins University, Smart recalled being taught that women who have sex before marriage are like used chewing gum. As a result, after being raped, Smart said: “I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed-up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easily it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” Smart was kidnapped at knife point in 2002 and held captive for nine months.
In a separate kidnapping case, three women who went missing roughly a decade ago have been found alive in a residential area of Cleveland, Ohio. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight had all vanished in seemingly separate cases when they were between the ages of 14 and 21. They were discovered Monday after Amanda Berry called 911. She had been missing since 2003.
Amanda Berry: “Hello, police. Help me! I’m Amanda Berry.”
Dispatcher: “You need police, fire or ambulance?”
Amanda Berry: “I need police.”
Dispatcher: “OK, and what’s going on there?”
Amanda Berry: “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m — I’m here. I’m free now.”
A police official said he thinks the three women had been tied up in captivity after they all disappeared between 2002 and 2004. Police have arrested three brothers in their fifties. On the tape one of them is identified by Berry as Ariel Castro.