Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi are calling for new protests after another mass killing by state forces. On Saturday, at least 72 people were killed when Egyptian police opened fire on a Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo. More than a hundred people were wounded. The attack came nearly three weeks after around 60 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were gunned down at a protest against Morsi’s ouster. It also came just hours after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians turned out for dueling political rallies in support of and against the Egyptian military. The Egyptian Interior Ministry says police were forced to open fire after demonstrators threw rocks, fired rounds, and marched on a key bridge. But in a rare show of dissent from within the interim regime, Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei criticized what he called “the excessive use of force” and said he hopes to seek a “peaceful solution.” A Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson denounced Egypt’s new interim government, saying: “They had orders to shoot to kill. This is the new regime.” The interim government has warned Morsi supporters they face “decisive” action if they exceed their right to protest. In defiance, the Muslim Brotherhood has called new rallies for late Monday and Tuesday.
A U.S. drone strike in Pakistan has killed at least six people. Unverified reports say the victims included a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban who had just returned from fighting the U.S.-led occupation in Afghanistan. It was at least the 17th CIA drone attack in Pakistan this year. The Associated Press reported last week the United States has scaled back drone strikes in response to Pakistani objections. Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the AP says the White House has dropped the practice of “signature strikes,” in which attacks can be launched based on circumstantial patterns, such as a large gathering of military-age males.
Closing arguments have wrapped in the military trial of Army Private Bradley Manning after nearly two months. The presiding judge, Colonel Denise Lind, is now deliberating on 21 charges, including “aiding the enemy.” Manning faces up to life in prison for leaking more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks and other news sources, the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history. On Friday, Manning supporters blocked the gates of Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., home of the convening authority in Manning’s court-martial.
John Pepper: “I don’t think he’s claimed to be naive; I think he has claimed to have done the right thing. I don’t think the question is whether he was naive; I think the question is whether or not he did the right thing.”
Rachel Atwood: “The very idea that he is being punished for coming out against war crimes and such cruelty by his fellow servicemen is — it’s really disturbing.”
Over the weekend, protesters in dozens of cities around the world also held rallies to mark an international day of action calling for Manning’s release.
The Obama administration has assured Russia that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden would not be executed or tortured if he is sent back to the United States. In a letter to his Russian counterpart, Attorney General Eric Holder said Snowden does not face the death penalty and would not even if he is charged with additional crimes. Holder said his assurances eliminate the grounds for Snowden’s asylum bid in Russia and said the United States is prepared to issue him a passport valid for returning to the United States.
The mother of Trayvon Martin is urging supporters to use her son’s death in the campaign against racial profiling and lax gun laws. Sybrina Fulton spoke out Friday before the National Urban League in Philadelphia.
Sybrina Fulton: “My message to you is: Please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, we cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.”
Fulton’s speech came two days after the lone person of color on the jury that acquitted George Zimmerman came forward to say she believes Zimmerman “got away with murder.”
Sybrina Fulton’s comments also come as a group of young Florida activists are entering the third week of a sit-in at the offices of Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. The group Dream Defenders have refused to leave the Capitol building until Scott calls a special legislative session to repeal Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Scott has rebuffed their demands so far. On Friday, the Dream Defenders’ protest received a visit from the legendary performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. Speaking to reporters, Belafonte was asked for his message to Gov. Scott.
Harry Belafonte: “I’m just here to support these young people and to tell him that if he is at all in touch with history, he should know that this is just the beginning of the journey, and that I would suggest that he deals with it now while there’s still sanity and peace and a willingness to not see anything go askew. It’s not violent. If he pays attention now and deals with the issue now, he might prevent it from escalating into something infinitely bigger.”
On Saturday, Florida police initially barred the delivery of food to the Capitol sit-in, but reversed their decision after the Dream Defenders appealed to supporters over Twitter.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to sign a new law today that is being described as the nation’s harshest crackdown on voting rights. The new bill cuts early voting to one week, requires government-issued ID at the polls, ends same-day voter registration, and drops a program that helps high school students register to vote before their 18th birthdays. Asked about the elimination of the high school program at a news conference, McCory admitted he had not read that section of the bill.
At least 47 people have been killed and more than 200 wounded in a wave of bombings across Iraq. It was the latest in a series of sectarian attacks that have brought Iraq its worst violence since 2008.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are resuming direct peace talks for the first time in three years. The two sides agreed to begin meetings in Washington today after intense lobbying from Secretary of State John Kerry. On the eve of the talks, Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners. Palestinians are returning to the negotiating table despite Israel’s rejection of the PA’s lone precondition, a freeze on all settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
The Obama administration has announced plans to transfer two prisoners from Guantánamo Bay to Algeria. The two are among 86 prisoners who have remained at Guantánamo despite being cleared for transfer as early as three years ago. They will be the first prisoners to be released since last fall, months before the ongoing hunger strike that began in February. According to military figures, 68 prisoners remain on hunger strike as of Friday. The Pentagon has also announced its top official for dealing with Guantánamo Bay prisoners, William Lietzau, is stepping down to join the private sector. The State Department official for the same position remains on the job.
Dozens of people were detained over the weekend as part of the “Summer Heat” direct action campaign for environmental justice. At least 44 people were arrested on Sunday in a march on the Brayton Point coal plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. It’s one of several coal plants targeted by calls for closure and a transition to cleaner sources of energy. On Friday, 54 people were arrested after blockading the offices of the State Department contractor involved in assessing the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline. The firm Environmental Resources Management, ERM, has come under scrutiny following the recent news it failed to disclose financial ties to the tar sands industry in Canada. In a statement, the group 350.org said the action was taken “to expose ERM’s corruption and conflicts of interest in having contractual relationships with Big Oil.”
President Obama has offered new hope to Keystone XL opponents by questioning the pipeline’s ability to create jobs. Speaking to The New York Times, Obama said: “Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true.” In his major address on climate policy last month, Obama tied his decision on the pipeline to its net impact on global warming.
At least seven people are dead after a shooting rampage near Miami. The gunman, Pedro Vargas, allegedly set fire to his apartment building, killed six people in the surrounding area, and took two neighbors hostage. He was shot dead early Saturday in a police raid. A Florida police spokesperson announced the standoff had come to an end.
Carl Zogby: “Eight hours after this situation started early Saturday morning, SWAT units moved in and shot and killed the suspect. At the time, the suspect was holding at least two hostages at gunpoint. and the decision was made that negotiations were to cease and action was to be taken immediately. The end result: Seven people have lost their lives in this incident — six innocent victims and the one shooter. Now starts the investigation how and why this happened.”
According to police, Vargas had no known criminal history.
A California prisoner in solitary confinement has died at one of the state prisons involved in a mass hunger strike. Authorities say the prisoner, Bill Sell, was not taking part in the protest and that his death is being treated as a suicide. But hunger-striking prisoners and advocates maintain that Sell was a participant and had asked for medical treatment in the days leading up to his death. Around 1,000 people in 11 prisons are said to remain on hunger strike after initial numbers of some 30,000. Prison clinics have reportedly been overrun with hunger strikers in dire condition.
Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are facing controversy for running a sting campaign that targets and detains homosexual men for agreeing to consensual gay sex. Under the operation, undercover Baton Rouge police find men willing to have sex and then arrest them for “crimes against nature.” The Baton Rouge Advocate reports at least a dozen arrests have been made since 2011. The men are being targeted even though the Supreme Court struck down the state’s anti-sodomy law a decade ago and prosecutors never bring charges.
In Cleveland, Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and abused three women in a decade-long captivity, has reached a plea deal to spend the rest of his life behind bars. On Friday, Castro pleaded guilty to hundreds of kidnapping and rape charges in the forced imprisonment of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Castro fathered a six-year-old daughter with Berry after raping her, and also forced Knight to miscarry multiple times through beatings and starvation. The women were often kept bound in chains or ropes and abused. In reaching the plea agreement, Castro avoids the death penalty.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has announced he is entering two weeks of behavior therapy in response to multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Seven women have now come forward in the past two weeks to accuse Filner of inappropriate conduct. Filner has refused calls to step down, and on Friday said he is seeking help.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner: “Beginning on August 5th, I will be entering a behavior consulting — counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy. So when I return on August 19th, my focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by the city in terms of being the best mayor I can be and the best person I must be.”
Two of Filner’s top aides have resigned since the scandal broke. The San Diego police have set up a hotline specifically to field complaints from his alleged victims. Filner’s party, the San Diego County Democrats, voted last week for him to resign.
The White House has announced it would not announce a successor to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke until the fall. Speculation has centered on Bernanke’s current deputy, Janet Yellen, and Larry Summers, President Obama’s former economic adviser and treasury secretary under President Clinton. Summers’ name has sparked opposition from progressive critics over his role in pushing deregulatory policies that helped cause the financial crisis. He resigned as president of Harvard University in 2006 amidst uproar over his suggestion that women have less innate scientific ability than men.
Supporters of a jailed New York imam have turned in a petition calling for his conviction to be struck down. Yassin Aref was sentenced to 15 years in prison, along with another mosque leader, in 2007 for laundering money as part of a fake terror plot invented by the FBI. Aref’s lawyers now say secret evidence revealed by a Freedom of Information Act request shows the FBI targeted Yassin Aref because they mistook him for an al-Qaeda agent named Mohammed Yasin, who was reportedly killed in an Israeli strike in 2010. Aref’s attorney, Kathy Manley, addressed a rally outside the Federal Courthouse in Binghamton.
Kathy Manley: “He did witness a loan. And the idea was that the loan was supposed to be money laundering from the sale of a missile. But he was never really told about that. He was never shown the missile. They said that would spook him, because if he knew there was anything like that going on, he would have wanted nothing to do with it. And he even said that he had no interest in supporting terrorism.”
New York activist Lynne Jackson delivered the petitions for Aref’s release after walking 133 miles in a “Journey for Justice” from Albany to Binghamton.
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