The White House is rejecting a call by Cuba to return all of Guantánamo Bay a day after Cuban President Raúl Castro said restoring Havana’s control of the bay is a prerequisite for normalizing ties with the United States, which has controlled the area of Cuba since 1903. The area contains the notorious U.S. prison, as well as a large naval base. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was questioned about the future of Guantánamo.
Reporter: “Is it the president’s intention, when he finally does close the Guantánamo facility, to give back the actual territory to Cuba?”
Josh Earnest: “No.”
Reporter: “No. He wants to hang on to Guantánamo, even after he empties the prison?”
Earnest: “Yeah, the president does believe that the prison at Guantánamo Bay should be closed down. … But the naval base is not something that we believe should be closed.”
Eight Republican and Democratic U.S. senators have introduced legislation to repeal all restrictions on U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba. Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois co-sponsored the bill.
Sen. Richard Durbin: “We tried it for 50 years. We said if we close the door on Cuba, Cuba would change. We did not succeed in that policy. It’s time for a new policy, a policy that we know is proven to work.”
In Pakistan, at least 35 people have died after a bomb exploded during Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in the south province of Sindh. Dozens more were wounded.
In Afghanistan, three American contractors were killed Thursday in a possible insider attack at a military base attached to Kabul’s international airport. Earlier in the day, 16 Afghans — including four police officers — died when a suicide bomber targeted the funeral of a slain Afghan police commander. In other Afghan news, the U.S. military has begun classifying key information about United States efforts to train an Afghan security force and the cost of U.S.-funded infrastructure projects.
The Egyptian wing of the Islamic State is claiming responsibility for a series of attacks that killed at least 27 security personnel in North Sinai province. The first attack targeted a military headquarters, base and hotel, killing 25 and wounding at least 58, including nine civilians.
South Africa has granted parole to apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock. He was dubbed “Prime Evil” for his role in the torture and murder of scores of black South African activists in the 1980s and early 1990s. He had been imprisoned since 1994, the year Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress came to power.
On Capitol Hill, the Republican-led Senate has passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Senate bill passed 62 to 36, five votes short of the number needed to overturn a potential veto by President Obama.
In New York City, the girlfriend of Akai Gurley says she plans to file a $50 million lawsuit against the New York City Police Department. Gurley was shot dead by an officer in the dimly lit stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project in November. New York CIty Police Commissioner William Bratton described the shooting as an accident, saying Gurley, who is African-American, was “totally innocent.”
In academic news, professor Steven Salaita has filed a lawsuit against the University of Illinois and unnamed donors. Last year, the university withdrew a job offer to him after he posted tweets harshly critical of the Israeli assault on Gaza.
A San Francisco public defender was arrested Tuesday inside a courthouse after she objected to city police officers questioning and photographing two suspects without their attorneys present. When the attorney, Jami Tillotson, first objected, an undercover police officer threatened to arrest her for resisting arrest. Moments later she was handcuffed. The incident was filmed and posted on YouTube.
Activists from the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he arrived to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Thursday. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Vietnam War under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Sen. John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill Police to remove them.
Sen. John McCain: “I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place about — you know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested. … Get out of here, you low-life scum.”
Thirty minutes, later two more members of CodePink interrupted Henry Kissinger’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.