Millions of people have rallied across Egypt calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi one year after his inauguration. Sunday’s protests sparked clashes that left at least 16 people dead and nearly 800 injured. Among those killed in previous days of unrest was Andrew Pochter, a 21-year-old Kenyon College student from Chevy Chase, Maryland. Anti-government demonstrators reportedly ransacked the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo and set it ablaze. The Egyptian government says up to 17 million people turned out nationwide. Tens of thousands of people remain in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace, vowing to stay until Morsi steps down.
The latest revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden are threatening a major rift between the U.S. and the European Union. Citing documents released by Snowden, the German magazine Der Spiegel reports the National Security Agency spied on European Union offices in Brussels, Washington and at the United Nations. The NSA allegedly planted bugs to listen in on conversations and phone calls, and also hacked into the EU computer network to access emails. According to The Guardian, one NSA document lists 38 embassies and missions as “targets,” including not just the EU but also countries such as Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The revelations come just as the U.S. and EU are preparing to negotiate a trans-Atlantic trade deal. On Sunday, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, called on the U.S. to explain the latest spying claims.
Martin Schulz: “I feel treated as a European and representative of a European institution like the representative of an enemy. Is this the basis for a constructive relationship on the basis of mutual trust? I think no. And therefore my first request to the embassy of the United States here in Brussels is: Is it true? And in case it is true, why? They should justify. It is shocking that the United States take measures against their most important and nearest allies, comparable to measures taken in the past by the KGB, by the secret service of the Soviet Union.”
The latest documents also point to a major NSA spy operation targeting European citizens. According to Der Spiegel, some 500 million unique communications are monitored in Germany alone each month. The revelations have sparked calls from some European diplomats to suspend trade talks as well as the sharing of information on bank transactions and flight passengers. The New York Times reports Snowden likely obtained access to the U.S. target list because his job for the contractor Booz Allen Hamilton was to help the NSA break into Internet and telephone communications worldwide.
Edward Snowden is believed to remain in a transit area of a Moscow airport one week after leaving Hong Kong. On Saturday, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Vice President Joe Biden called him to urge a rejection of Snowden’s asylum bid.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: “What a difference between Vice President Biden and those poorly raised congressmen and senators threatening the country. It was a very friendly, even cordial, conversation. Of course we discussed the topic of Snowden, for which he communicated a very courteous request from the United States that we reject asylum. I told him what the Ecuadorean position is. Vice President, thank you for your call. We very much appreciate the United States. We have not gone in search of this situation. We are not anti-U.S., which is what certain negative-thinking members of the media have said.”
On Sunday, Correa followed up by saying Russia is now in control of Snowden’s fate. Despite rumors his government issued Snowden a special travel document, Correa says his government can’t process Snowden’s asylum bid until he reaches Ecuador or one of its embassies. In a public message to Snowden, Correa also urged the whistleblower to “keep your spirits high,” adding: “knowing that you acted in accord with your conscience can give you peace.”
Speaking to ABC News, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange criticized the U.S. for revoking Snowden’s passport but said no amount of government pressure can stop the publication of his leaks.
Julian Assange: “There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage. Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process. I mean, the United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia. Is that really a great outcome by the State Department? Is that really what it wanted to do? I think that every citizen has the right to their citizenship. To take someone’s principal component of citizenship — their passport — away from them is a disgrace.”
Edward Snowden’s surveillance leaks were first published by The Guardian. The Pentagon has now confirmed it’s blocking access to the Guardian website at U.S. military facilities around the world. The ban apparently covers Guardian articles related to NSA surveillance, not the entire website as a whole. It also extends to other news websites that report The Guardian’s revelations.
Same-sex marriages have resumed in California following last week’s Supreme Court decision allowing them to go forward. Ceremonies had been expected to resume in a few weeks, but on Friday a federal appeals court lifted the ban earlier than expected. That prompted a wave of couples to exchange vows across the state for the first gay marriages there in five years. They included Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, who were among the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case challenging California’s ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8. After their marriage at Los Angeles City Hall, Zarrillo hailed what he called a victory on the path to equality.
Jeff Zarrillo: “People ask us all the time, 'Did you have any second thoughts? Did you always want to do this when you had the opportunity?' And we’ve always said, 'How could you not?' The opportunity to right a wrong was there, and, you know, when we leave this earth, people will say that Paul and Jeff and Kris (Perry) and Sandy (Stier) and so many others like us did not stand for being treated as second-class citizens. And I hope we did a little bit to change the path towards equality.”
Opponents of gay marriage asked the Supreme Court to halt California’s resumption of gay weddings over the weekend, but their request was denied. The resumption of gay marriage in California came just in time for Gay Pride celebrations this weekend across the country.
Last week also saw the Supreme Court strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which barred federal recognition of same-sex couples. On Friday, a married couple in Florida — an American and an immigrant from Bulgaria — became the first same-sex couple to be approved for a permanent green card in the aftermath of DOMA’s invalidation.
Nineteen firefighters have died in Arizona while battling a wildfire in near-record heat. The victims were trying to contain a fast-moving fire near the town of Yarnell. The National Interagency Fire Center says it’s the third-deadliest single-wildfire incident ever in the U.S. and the deadliest ever in Arizona. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo announced the toll.
Dan Fraijo: “Right now, what we do know is that 19 firefighters were killed in what’s probably the worst disaster that’s taken place in wildland history here in the state of Arizona. We grieve for the families. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city. The families are in terrible shock. Fire departments are like families, and so the entire fire department, the entire area, the entire state, is being devastated by the magnitude of this incident.”
The wildfire comes as parts of the West grapple with triple-digit temperatures. At least one person died in Las Vegas over the weekend as the mercury hit 118 degrees. At least three migrants trying to cross into the U.S. were found dead near Mexico’s border with Arizona, likely because of the heat.
President Obama has wrapped up a visit to South Africa as the country focuses on the health of ailing former President Nelson Mandela. Mandela is said to remain in critical but stable condition. On Sunday, Obama unveiled a new initiative to invest in African energy called Power Africa.
President Obama: “We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources. We’re going to partner with the private sector, who themselves have committed more than $9 billion in investment. And in partnership with African nations, we’re going to develop new sources of energy. We’ll reach more households, not just in cities but in villages and on farms. We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid. And we’ll support clean energy to protect our planet and combat climate change. So, a light where currently there’s darkness.”
Obama spoke after touring Robben Island, site of the prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years behind bars as leader of the anti-apartheid struggle. On Sunday, riot police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd protesting Obama’s visit in the township of Soweto. Obama now heads to Tanzania, the last stop on his three-nation African tour.
Secretary of State John Kerry has wrapped up a visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories without an agreement on resuming peace talks. Negotiations have stalled since 2010 over Israel’s refusal to halt settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. As he left Israel, Kerry claimed he had made progress in bridging gaps between the two sides.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “I’m pleased to tell you that we have made real progress on this trip. And I believe that with a little more work, the start of final status negotiations could be within reach. We started out with very wide gaps, and we have narrowed those considerably.”
Israel announced the construction of dozens of settlement homes in East Jerusalem last week just before Kerry arrived.
Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed into law a new budget that includes some of the harshest anti-abortion measures in the country. The bill’s provisions would effectively defund Planned Parenthood, shift funds to deceptive crisis pregnancy centers, impose restrictions that could shut down clinics and require providers to detect any fetal heartbeat and then tell the patient about it before an abortion. Kasich chose not reject any of them with a line-item veto. Pro-choice advocates say three abortion clinics will likely be forced to close.
Thousands of people are expected to return to the Texas state Capitol in Austin today as Republican lawmakers revive an anti-abortion measure thwarted last week. Texas Governor Rick Perry has called a second special legislative session after State Senator Wendy Davis and a “people’s filibuster” stopped a bill to close most of the state’s abortion clinics and ban abortions after 20 weeks. Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Davis vowed to continue the fight again today.
Wendy Davis: “What we saw in the Capitol last week, really, was people who have grown weary of our politicians trying to boost their own political careers on the backs of women by bullying them, and others, honestly, in order to promote agendas that help them personally. These are matters of personal liberty. In Texas, we hold very dear to intrusions against our personal liberty. We fight very hard against that. And we will fight as we begin the session again on Monday.”
More than 5,000 people have signed up for a “Stand With Texas Women” demonstration to be held on the Capitol steps.
A federal judge meanwhile has temporarily blocked an Alabama law that stood to shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics. The measure forces doctors at the state’s five clinics to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a step that can be impossible in part because some hospitals oppose abortion. On Friday, the law was put on hold pending a final ruling in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. A similar law in Mississippi was blocked earlier this year.
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