Spain has acknowledged a request from the U.S. prompted last week’s blockade of a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales. The Bolivian plane was grounded in Austria for 14 hours after Spain, France, Portugal and Italy closed their airspace over false rumors NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board. On Tuesday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo confirmed for the first time that the rumor came from the U.S. government. He went on to say he is willing to apologize to Bolivia.
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo: “There seems to be a misunderstanding there, and if there is a misunderstanding, I don’t have any problem apologizing to President Morales. That is, if President Morales thinks that there has been a misunderstanding, that is no problem. I insist, neither the airspace nor landing authorization were closed at any moment. It’s the only one that remains open.”
On Tuesday, Evo Morales criticized European countries for acceding to U.S. demands, saying the former colonizers of Latin America are now being colonies of the United States.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “The invaders, the colonists, now they are the colonies, and they are the invaded, and they are the ones to submit to the United States. I don’t understand what is happening in Europe. From here, I believe that, along with the social movements of Europe, we are going to defend the sovereignty and dignity of these people who are also our peers.”
Bolivia has accused the United States of spreading the false rumor as a means of intimidation into rejecting Edward Snowden’s bid for asylum. Bolivia and Venezuela have since said they would take Snowden in, and Nicaragua has signaled it would do the same.
On Tuesday, a Russian lawmaker fueled rumors surrounding Snowden’s next steps after posting a Twitter message saying Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s asylum offer. The tweet was deleted shortly after. On its Twitter feed, the group WikiLeaks said Snowden has not yet accepted asylum in Venezuela and that an announcement will be made “if and when the appropriate time comes.” In an interview shortly after conducting an online chat with Snowden, the journalist who brought his disclosures to the world, Glenn Greenwald, said he thinks Venezuela is Snowden’s best bet.
Glenn Greenwald: “There are news reports today that he has formally accepted the asylum offer from Venezuela. Whether those news reports are accurate or not, I don’t want to comment on, but I think, personally, just speaking for myself, that of the three options that one (Venezuela) seems like the most plausible. Figuring out how to get to the country that has offered him asylum without the rogue or lawless empire that has proven itself willing to engage in rogue behavior to prevent him physically from getting there, being able to stop him, that’s the challenge.”
Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s latest reports show National Security Agency spying has extended to all of Latin America. The surveillance has gone far beyond issues of terrorism claimed by the U.S. government, with areas of focus including Venezuela’s oil industry and Mexico’s energy sector. Brazil says it has set up a task force to investigate the allegations and is still waiting on U.S. diplomats to provide a formal explanation.
The standoff between Egypt’s interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood party it replaced in power continues to widen. Egypt’s top prosecutor has ordered the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and other top officials on charges of inciting violence. The Muslim Brotherhood is accused of sparking the violence that ended in the army’s fatal shootings of at least 51 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the wounding of hundreds more. The charges come one day after the Muslim Brotherhood rejected a role in Egypt’s interim Cabinet. On Tuesday, Egypt’s interim president also named former Finance Minister Hazem el-Beblawi as interim prime minister, and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as vice president.
Russia is backing Syrian government claims that an alleged chemical attack earlier this year came from rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Presenting evidence to the United Nations, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin cited the findings of a team of Russian experts on the ground.
Vitaly Churkin: “The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin. The sarin technical specifications prove that it was not industrially manufactured either. The absence of chemical stabilizers in the samples of the detected toxic agents indicate the relatively recent production. The projectile involved is not a standard one for chemical use. Hexogen utilized as an opening charge is not used in standard ammunitions. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal.”
The Russian team was allowed in after the Syrian government blocked a U.N. investigation. Syrian rebels have blamed the government for the March attack near Aleppo, which left at least 26 people dead. The White House says it rejects Russia’s claims.
Confirmation hearings have begun for James Comey, the former Bush administration official tapped by President Obama to head the FBI. On Tuesday, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee he now sees waterboarding as a form of torture, a shift from his stance in 2005 when he authorized a Bush administration legal memo justifying its use. Comey said he signed off on waterboarding at the time after fighting against it and knowing he would soon be stepping down. Comey also gave his backing to President Obama’s surveillance program, saying he believes it is under sufficient oversight. Comey is well known for refusing to reauthorize the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program while serving as acting attorney general, forcing the Bush administration to make changes.
A group of same-sex couples has filed suit challenging Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban. It is the first case seeking to overturn a gay marriage ban on the state level since last month’s Supreme Court decision rejecting the federal Defense of Marriage Act and allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California. Attorney Mark Aronchick and plaintiff Julia Lobur spoke out from the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.
Mark Aronchick: “There is a public sentiment here in Pennsylvania that is rolling ever forward toward freedom to marry.”
Julia Lobur: “It’s a tragedy that talented, loving, productive citizens have to leave this state if they want their marriages recognized.”
The American Civil Liberties Union says it plans to file similar cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Virginia and North Carolina.
The Texas House has given provisional approval to the controversial bill that would shut down nearly all of the state’s abortion clinics and ban abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization. Republicans are seeking to push the measure through after last month’s filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis and a crowd of supporters. The Texas House will hold a final vote today before sending the bill to the Senate.
A federal investigation of the Miami Police Department has uncovered a pattern of excessive force and delays in the investigation of police shootings. The probe was launched in 2011 after a spate of killings by Miami officers of young African-American men — seven killed over the course of eight months. In recent years Miami has seen one fatal shooting per every 220 police officers, compared to one for every 4,300 officers in New York City. In total, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found officers fired at people intentionally 33 times from 2008 to 2011. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the findings should lead to prosecutions, saying: “People’s rights have been violated and lives have been unjustly taken. Now that the groundwork has been laid … we expect a follow-up investigation into the conduct of Miami Police Department officers who were responsible.”
Supporters of the jailed civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart rallied outside a federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday to oppose the denial of her compassionate release. A 73-year-old grandmother, Stewart is fighting stage IV cancer that has metastasized, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs. Stewart is serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison near Fort Worth, Texas. In 2005, she was found guilty of distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the “Blind Sheikh.” The Federal Bureau of Prisons rejected her transfer to a hospital last month despite the recommendations of her prison warden. Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, said her condition is getting worse by the day.
Ralph Poynter: “Lynne is getting sicker by the day. And when I went to see her the 4th of July, I was afraid I wouldn’t get a chance to visit her because she’s in quarantine. What’s quarantine mean? That means her white blood cell count is so low that it is dangerous for her to be in population. So they (prison bureau) didn’t stop her from visiting me, but she’s still not in population. They said she is self-sufficient. She doesn’t do anything for herself. She doesn’t go to get her meals. She doesn’t clean. She doesn’t make up her bed. And they say, 'Oh, she's self-sufficient.’ And yet, in the prison, she does nothing.”