Mass protests are continuing in Turkey, despite a government apology for the police crackdown. In a bid to defuse public outrage that has sparked fiery demonstrations nationwide, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc expressed regret for the initial police response to protesters opposing the demolition of a pubic park. But he defended the use of force against protesters he accused of rioting.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc: “The use of excessive force shown against the people who initially started this protest with the motive of protecting the environment was wrong. And it was unfair. So I apologize to those citizens, I can definitely say that. But I do not think we need to apologize to those who create destruction of public property in the streets and who try to prevent the freedom of the people in the streets.”
Hours after Arinc’s statement, clashes continued across Turkey overnight between protesters and police. Thousands remain at the protests’ epicenter, Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
Pro-government forces in Syria have seized the key border town of Qusayr after a year of rebel control. Qusayr has seen intense clashes over the past two weeks as fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah joined forces aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, France is claiming tests on chemical samples taken from Syria prove the deadly nerve agent sarin gas has been used several times during the country’s more than two-year conflict. But France did not give any details of where or by whom the poison gas was used. At a NATO summit in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen advised caution on France’s claim.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “As a matter of principle, we never comment on intelligence reports. But needless to say, that if chemical weapons have been used, we strongly condemn such acts, whoever might have used them. There’s not so far much clarity about detailed circumstances.”
Protests are continuing in Afghanistan’s Wardak province where alleged U.S. involvement in the disappearance of villagers has fueled months of unrest. Two demonstrators were killed Tuesday when Afghan police reportedly fired on a crowd protesting the recent discovery of three mutilated bodies near a military base formerly housing U.S. special forces. The discovery brings to 10 the number of bodies that have been found of the 17 people who disappeared following their arrest last year. It is unclear if U.S. forces or the Afghan units they shared the base with were responsible. The U.S. military has denied involvement in the abductions, but has withheld the findings of an internal probe.
The military court-martial of accused Army whistleblower Bradley Manning continued at Fort Meade, Maryland, on Tuesday for a second day. Witnesses included Adrian Lamo, the convicted computer hacker who turned Manning in to U.S. authorities after the two became friends online. Lamo testified that Manning expressed hope the files he passed on to WikiLeaks would help spark global debate and policy changes. For a consecutive day, prosecutors sought to tie Manning to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, asking Lamo if Manning had mentioned Assange’s name. Manning’s immediate superiors are expected to take the stand today, followed by a recess until Monday.
The White House is expected to announce the appointment of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as President Obama’s national security adviser for the rest of his second term. Rice will replace Tom Donilon, who is stepping down. She withdrew from consideration to become Secretary of State in December after Republicans accused her of misleading the public with comments she made on Sunday talk shows over last year’s killings of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
President Obama is challenging what he calls Republican obstruction with the nomination of three judges at once. All three have been tapped to fill vacancies on the D.C. Court of Appeals, the nation’s second-most important court. The move could set off a showdown with congressional Republicans this summer. Obama said he was compelled to act in the face of unprecedented Republican opposition to his judicial nominees.
President Obama: “My nominees have taken three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of my Republican predecessor. These individuals that I nominate are qualified. When they were given an up-or-down vote in the Senate — when they were finally given an up-or-down vote in the Senate, every one of them was confirmed. So this is not about principled opposition. This is about political obstruction.”
Top military leaders appeared before the Senate on Tuesday to refuse calls for independent oversight of sexual assault in the armed forces. The military has faced renewed calls to remove oversight from the chain of command following a report showing around 26,000 sex crimes within the ranks last year. The findings coincided with the recent arrests of several Army officials involved in sexual assault prevention on charges they committed some of the very crimes they are tasked with overseeing. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told a nearly all-male contingent of military commanders that victimized servicemembers are afraid to report sexual assault.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases. They’re afraid to report. They think their careers will be over. They fear retaliation. They fear being blamed. That is our biggest challenge, right there, right there.”
Senator John McCain of Arizona weighed in on the assaults by saying the climate is so dangerous for women in the military that he could not unconditionally recommend that a woman enlist.
The suspect accused of last year’s mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. James Holmes faces multiple charges of first-degree murder for the shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured.
Connecticut has become the first state to approve the mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. The measure can only take effect, however, when at least four other states also pass similar bills. In a statement, the Center for Food Safety said the measure should motivate similar efforts across the country, saying: “Other states should now pass GE labeling laws, providing millions of U.S. consumers with the basic right to know how their food is produced.”
A new report shows a wide racial disparity in arrests for possession of marijuana. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. The gap comes despite the fact pot usage amongst whites and blacks is nearly equal. Overall, marijuana possession now accounts for nearly half of all drug arrests. The ACLU concludes: “State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost.”
Two police officers in Jasper, Texas, have been fired after being caught on video beating a woman detained for an unpaid fine. The victim, Keyarika Diggles, was allowed to call her mother to help secure the money she needed for an outstanding traffic ticket. But Diggles says the officers who arrested her soon grew impatient. Video surveillance of the room shows the officers pushing her up against a wall, slamming her head into a counter, and then shoving her to the ground. She is then dragged by her ankle into a holding cell. Diggles has filed a lawsuit seeking damages for police brutality. The town of Jasper became known for racial violence in 1998 when James Byrd Jr., an African American, died after being chained to a pickup truck by white assailants and dragged along a rural road, his body badly dismembered.
An Egyptian court has convicted 43 NGO workers, including 16 U.S. citizens, of illegally using foreign funds to stir up opposition to the former military government. All but one of the 16 Americans was tried in absentia after they were allowed to leave the country on bail.
Jackson, Mississippi, has elected the attorney and activist Chokwe Lumumba as its new mayor. Lumumba, a city council member in Jackson, swept Tuesday’s vote with about 85 percent support. A veteran civil rights activist, Lumumba is a co-founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a longtime defender of black political prisoners, including Assata Shakur.
Rebel preacher and activist, Reverend Will Campbell, has died at the age of 88. Campbell was one of a small number of white clergymen who became deeply involved in the civil rights movement beginning in the 1950s. He took part in some of the struggle’s key moments, attending the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and helping escort nine black students to integrate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, months later. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said: “Brother Will, as he was called by so many of us who knew him, made his own indelible mark as a minister and social activist in service to marginalized people of every race, creed and calling.”