The military trial of the accused Army whistleblower Bradley Manning begins today more than three years after he was first detained. Manning is accused of disclosing a trove of U.S. cables and government documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in the largest leak of state secrets in U.S. history. On Saturday, hundreds of Manning supporters rallied outside the barracks at Fort Meade, Maryland, where the trial will be held.
Hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have written an open letter asking military doctors to stop contributing to what they call “abusive conditions.” The letter calls out the doctors for taking part in force-feeding and pleads for “independent” medical professionals in their place. Signed by 13 prisoners, the letter says: “Your dual loyalties make trusting you impossible. … You will have to live with what you have done and not done here at Guantánamo for the rest of your life. You can make a difference. You can choose to stop actively contributing to the abusive conditions I am currently enduring.” More than 100 of Guantánamo’s 166 prisoners are taking part in the hunger strike. At least 36 are being force-fed through tubes.
The death toll from Friday’s tornado in central Oklahoma stands at 13, including four children. Three people were killed in neighboring Missouri. The storm triggered massive flooding in areas around Oklahoma City. It came 11 days after an EF5 category twister left 24 people dead in a nearby suburb. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin toured the damage on Sunday.
Gov. Mary Fallin: “We’ll recover. We’ve just seen people spring to action, just like they did a couple weeks ago in Moore, with all the different charities that have come out, neighbors helping neighbors. Everyone has performed to the very best of their ability. And I am still extremely strong of Oklahoma — extremely proud of Oklahoma and the strength and the resiliency of the character of its people.”
Oklahoma’s death toll also included three so-called “storm chasers,” people who risk their lives to cover storms up close for media and weather agencies.
Wildfires have erupted in California and New Mexico as the United States faces what could be a record-shattering drought. A wildfire burning north of Los Angeles exploded in size over the weekend, spreading to around 25,000 acres. The Powerhouse wildfire in the Angeles National Forest has destroyed at least six homes and forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people. New Mexico, meanwhile, is seeing its first major fire of the dry season. The Tres Lagunas fire has consumed more than 5,000 acres of forest. About 98 percent of New Mexico is in severe drought conditions, with 44 percent in exceptional drought, the maximum level. It’s believed to be New Mexico’s worst drought in decades.
According to the forecasting service Harris-Mann Climatology, the nation’s current drought pattern may be the biggest natural disaster of 2012 and 2013. If the drought continues apace, damages could approach $200 billion, even more costly than Superstorm Sandy.
The Canadian province of British Columbia has dealt a major blow to the extraction of carbon-intensive crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands. In a victory for environmental and indigenous activists, the B.C. government formally rejected the Enbridge corporation’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would have carried tar sands oil to Canada’s West Coast. The proposal had sparked protests for standing to cut through sensitive environmental areas and indigenous land. Announcing its rejection, B.C. officials cited a lack of evidence Enbridge could adequately respond to oil spills along the pipeline’s route. Canada’s federal government could still override B.C.'s decision, but that prospect appears unlikely given local opposition and the chance of a protracted legal dispute. The Northern Gateway has been seen as the main back-up option should President Obama reject another tar sands pipeline, the Keystone XL. In a statement, 350.org founder Bill McKibben called on the White House to follow B.C.'s lead, saying: “If [Obama] rejects the pipeline, then an awful lot of crude is going to stay in the ground where it belongs.”
Turkey is seeing its biggest wave of protests against the ruling government in many years. Tens of thousands of people rallied across the country Sunday for a third consecutive day of mass demonstrations. The unrest erupted last week when thousands of people converged at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a public space set for demolition. The protesters have managed to remain, despite a heavy police crackdown, including tear gas and rubber bullets. The Turkish government says around 1,000 people have been detained at more than 200 protests nationwide. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdo?an has dismissed the uproar as the work of political opponents and “extremists,” vowing to proceed with governments plans to remake Taksim Square.
Around 120 people have been killed in a massive fire at an industrial poultry plant in northeast China. The victims were locked inside and hampered by narrow exits to escape. The plant is a major producer of processed chicken. Relatives of the victims say the plant’s doors were always kept locked during business hours, and workers were forbidden to leave.
A massive workers’ strike continues at a Cambodian factory that makes clothing for the sportswear giant Nike. Around 4,000 striking workers entered the factory today and briefly clashed with colleagues who have remained on the job. Strikers have been picketing for over a week for a pay increase of $14 a month. Nike has formally responded by saying the factory is responsible for setting the workers’ pay.
At least nine people have been killed in a suicide bombing on a U.S. military convoy in eastern Afghanistan. The attack came outside a boys’ high school. At least six students and two U.S. soldiers were among the dead.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed a West Bank university professor as the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Rami Hamdallah will replace the outgoing Salam Fayyad, who formally steps down next month. The Gaza-based Hamas has criticized Abbas’ pick, saying it could jeopardize a tentative unity government agreed to in principle last month.
Thousands of people marched in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday in a rare show of protest. Demonstrators carried pictures of jailed opposition leaders and chanted slogans calling for respect of the country’s constitution. It was Ethiopia’s first mass protest since 2005, when election-fueled unrest left around 200 people dead.
Thousands marched in Tokyo on Sunday to protest the Japanese government’s move to restart the country’s nuclear reactors. Japan has brought back two of the country’s 50 reactors shut down following the Fukushima disaster of March 2011. Six more could follow by the end of the year.
Japan and parts of South Korea have banned U.S. wheat imports after the discovery of a genetically modified crop in Oregon. Testing has confirmed the GMO wheat comes from the agri-giant Monsanto. The herbicide-resistant strain was field-tested several years ago before protests helped force Monsanto to withdraw it from consideration. The European Union is urging members to test what would amount to 80 percent of its imported U.S. wheat. In Washington, officials with the Department of Agriculture insisted the wheat is safe.
Michael Firko: “We have reviewed this particular transgenic trait in a variety of different crops — cotton, corn, soybean, canola and wheat. And although there are no wheat varieties that are approved for unrestricted planting, we have no safety concerns related to planting of this transgenic wheat at this time.”
Bernadette Juarez: “We understand how important this issue is to the American public and to our agriculture industry, and we have a team of dedicated investigators working on the ground daily to collect all the information and evidence that’s available for us to figure out what’s going on here.”
In a statement, the Center for Food Safety called on regulators to suspend all field trials of genetically modified crops, saying: “Our farmers and food supply are severely jeopardized by such contamination episodes, yet the biotech industry responsible faces no accountability.”
A bipartisan congressional delegation has wrapped up a visit to Russia where they probed the circumstances leading up to the Boston Marathon attacks. The trip was held amidst scrutiny of the FBI following news Russia warned U.S. law enforcement about one of the two bombing suspects. Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said the trip unearthed no evidence of an intelligence mishap, only the need for closer U.S.-Russian cooperation.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher: “Do we believe that the Boston Marathon massacre could have been thwarted? Could it have been prevented? And the answer is, there is nothing specific that could have — that would have been done, that could have been done, that we can point to that, had it been done differently, would have prevented this. But we can say that had we had a much higher level of cooperation all along, so that the whole situation would have been different, I believe that that would have been one of the type of things we could have thwarted by a higher level of cooperation between our two countries.”
A federal judge has ordered the Internet giant Google to hand over customer data sought by the FBI. In a ruling disclosed Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston said Google must comply with the so-called national security letters granting the government access to users’ private info without court warrants. Judge Illston’s latest ruling appears to contradict her decision earlier this year ordering the government to stop issuing the letters. A group that has challenged the letters in court, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “We are disappointed that the same judge who declared these letters unconstitutional is now requiring compliance with them.”
Hotel workers in Chicago have ended one of the longest labor strikes in U.S. history. Employees at the Congress Plaza Hotel have been picketing over wage cuts for the past decade. It’s believed to be the nation’s longest-ever strike by hotel workers. In a statement, UNITE HERE Local 1 says the workers have decided to move on and “unconditionally” bring the strike to a close.