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An estimated 3.7 million people rallied across France on Sunday in response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings and ensuing attacks that left 17 people dead. More than a million people marched in Paris, making it the largest demonstration in French history. More than 40 world leaders traveled to Paris to help lead the march. Several demonstrators mounted the Statue of the Republic, a symbol of the French Revolution, and hoisted up an inflated pencil to honor the killed Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. France has announced it will deploy 10,000 soldiers on home soil by tomorrow and post almost 5,000 extra police officers to protect Jewish sites after last week’s attacks.
The massive protests in France came two days after the gunmen who attacked the magazine, Chérif and Said Kouachi, were killed by police after a siege at a printing works following a three-day manhunt. Minutes after the print shop assault, police broke a second siege at a kosher Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris. Four hostages died there along with the gunman, Amedy Coulibaly. Before his death on Friday, Chérif Kouachi told a French television station he received financing from the Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Both brothers reportedly traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had weapons training in the deserts of Marib, an al-Qaeda stronghold. A video released over the weekend meanwhile shows Amedy Coulibaly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Meanwhile, a source within al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has provided The Intercept with a full statement claiming responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Witnesses in Syria say a recent U.S.-led coalition airstrike may have killed dozens of civilians. According to McClatchy News, the attack hit a makeshift Islamic State jail in the town of Al-Bab close to the Turkish border on December 28. Most of the reported dead were civilian prisoners held by the Islamic State for violations of Sharia law or opposition fighters from rival groups. The Syrian Network for Human Rights says it believes around 50 civilian prisoners died, which would make it the worst attack on civilians in Syria since the U.S.-led campaign began. The Pentagon says it has no evidence of civilian casualties so far. But it also acknowledged it failed to disclose the Al-Bab attack in its weekly summaries, and only confirmed it following a request from McClatchy reporters. Military officials have recently announced a review of civilian deaths in the U.S.-led bombing campaign, but have only acknowledged a small number of killings to date. According to Pentagon figures, the U.S.-led coalition carried out 34 strikes in Iraq and Syria over the weekend, 25 in Syria and nine in Iraq.
This weekend, Islamic State fighters killed at least 24 members of the Kurdish security forces in a surprise ambush in northern Iraq. Hundreds of fighters from both sides have died in fighting since the summer.
Hundreds of people are feared dead in what is being called the worst attack of the Boko Horam’s six-year Nigeria insurgency. Local authorities in Borno State say militants opened fire after storming the town of Baga and surrounding areas last week. Fleeing residents were chased into the bush and shot dead, and scores of homes burned to the ground. There has been no independent corroboration of the death toll, which is said to be in the hundreds to up to 2,000. In a statement, Amnesty International said: “The attack on Baga and surrounding towns looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act.”
Cuba has released all 53 prisoners it pledged to free as part of the historic restoration of U.S. ties last month. The White House confirmed the prisoners’ release over the weekend ahead of key talks on normalizing diplomatic relations in Havana next week. The Obama administration says it will continue to ask Cuba to free people it considers political prisoners. According to the White House, President Obama could issue an executive order easing some travel and business restrictions on Cuba in the coming days or weeks.
Haitian President Michel Martelly has struck a deal with opposition leaders to hold new elections later this year. The agreement comes just after thousands of people rallied to call for Martelly’s resignation over alleged corruption and a three-year delay of legislative elections. Today marks the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people in Haiti.
Congressional Republicans are in a new effort to push through the Keystone XL after a key ruling on the pipeline’s route. On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected a case challenging the pipeline’s approval process, effectively allowing the Keystone XL to run through the state. The ruling does leave open future challenges. But it also undermines a key factor cited by President Obama for his repeated delay of a decision on the pipeline’s approval or rejection. Also Friday, the Republican-controlled House passed a measure approving Keystone’s construction for the tenth time. Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio mocked Republicans’ focus on the pipeline’s approval.
Rep. Peter DeFazio: “It’s fine to say, 'Gee, we voted on this a lot of times before.' Sixty-one new members of the House. Gas prices are down by almost 50 percent. A lot of things have changed. I would even wonder about the viability of this project. I did just recently learn the Koch brothers, though, have a significant investment in tar sands in Canada, but that probably has nothing to do with an attempt to expedite this project.”
Although he has yet to make a final decision on Keystone XL, President Obama has promised to veto Republican-backed attempts to approve it through Congress. The House vote fell short of a veto-proof majority. Senate Republicans will begin debate on their version of the Keystone XL approval bill today.
A new study finds more than 80 percent of the world’s known coal reserves and about half of gas reserves must remain unburned in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The report published in the journal Nature outlines specific limits, saying 92 percent of U.S. coal supplies, most Canadian tar sands oil, and all oil and gas in the Arctic are “unburnable” if the world is to keep an increase in global temperatures below the agreed-upon cap of 2 degrees Celsius.
Protests were held this weekend to mark the 13th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay. On Saturday, two people with the group CodePink were arrested in a demonstration at the home of former Vice President Dick Cheney, calling for his arrest. On Sunday, protesters — some wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods — rallied outside the White House to call for Guantánamo’s closure.
The FBI and federal prosecutors have recommended felony charges against former CIA director David Petraeus for allegedly providing classified information to a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. Petraeus resigned in 2012 after admitting to cheating on his wife with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The recommendation of charges stems from a probe into whether Petraeus gave Broadwell access to his CIA email account and other sensitive material. Before leading the CIA, Petraeus directed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attorney General Eric Holder was supposed to have decided by the end of last year on whether to indict. According to The New York Times, the delay has frustrated some federal officials “who have questioned whether Petraeus has received special treatment at a time Holder has led a crackdown” on government whistleblowers.
New York City has agreed to pay $17 million to settle claims from three people who were wrongfully convicted. The cases involved former homicide detective Louis Scarcella whose actions, including relying on the same witness for multiple prosecutions, are currently under review. The three men — Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin — are half-brothers who spent a combined 60 years in prison before two were released. Alvena Jennette died in prison in 2000 after 13 years behind bars.
A number of Hollywood stars paid tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hedbo massacre at the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night. The Richard Linklater film “Boyhood” took home prizes for best director and best dramatic film. John Legend and Common won best original song for “Glory,” from the film “Selma.” On the TV side, the new Amazon series “Transparent” won best comedy, and its star, Jeffrey Tambor, won a best actor award for his portrayal of a transgender parent; he dedicated his award to the transgender community. Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal was among those to pay tribute to the expanding roles for women in Hollywood, as she accepted her best actress award for the miniseries “The Honorable Woman.” And Joanne Froggatt accepted a supporting actress award for her role on the show “Downton Abbey.”
Joanne Froggatt: “After this storyline aired, I received a small number of letters from survivors of rape, and one woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she had written, but she just felt, in some way, she wanted to be heard. And I’d just like to say I heard you, and I hope saying this so publicly means, in some way, you feel the world hears you.”