France has declared a day of mourning as it continues a manhunt for two brothers wanted for killing 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. On Wednesday night, thousands of people took part in vigils to condemn the attack. Many held signs reading “Je Suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.” The attack killed several prominent cartoonists including the magazine’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, who was better known as Charb. He was placed on al-Qaeda’s most wanted list in 2013. The paper had come under threat and was firebombed in 2011 after publishing controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. In a televised address, French President François Hollande said the “message of freedom” of those killed will live on.
French President François Hollande: “This shooting of extreme violence killed 12 people and injured several more. Greatly talented cartoonists, courageous journalists are dead. They left their mark on generations and generations of French people through their influence, through their insolence and through their rare independence. I want to tell them that we will continue to defend this message — this message of freedom — in their name.”
The Pentagon says the U.S.-led coalition has dropped nearly 5,000 bombs in more than 1,600 strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq. The figures come as the United States has disclosed for the first time it is investigating several attacks that may have killed civilians. In Washington, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby repeated long-standing assertions that the United States does not conduct body counts. Kirby also said a program to train Syrian rebels in allied Middle Eastern countries could begin this spring.
Rear Admiral John Kirby: “We look forward to, in the new year, you know, getting it up and going. I think if we continue to make the progress that we’re making now, that we believe we could start conducting some training of moderate opposition by early spring. We don’t have the ability to — to count every nose that we schwack. Number two, that’s not the goal. That’s not the goal. The less of these guys that are out there, certainly that’s the better, but the goal is to degrade and destroy their capabilities. And we’re not getting into an issue of body counts.”
The United Nations has confirmed Palestine will join the International Criminal Court. Palestinian leaders applied to join the ICC last week, vowing to seek the prosecution of Israeli officials for war crimes in the Occupied Territories. Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Palestine’s membership in the ICC will take effect April 1.
Stéphane Dujarric: “Relating to the accession of Palestine to 16 multilateral treaties in respect — which the secretary-general is a depository, including the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court, I can say that in conformity with the relevant international rules in his practice as a depository, the secretary-general has ascertained that the instruments received were in due and proper form before accepting them for deposit, and he has informed all states concerned accordingly.”
The Palestinian move came after the United States and Israel successfully lobbied against a U.N. Security Council measure calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2017. In retaliation for the ICC membership, Israel has halted the transfer of hundreds of millions in tax revenues needed to pay for Palestinian salaries and public services. The United States has also opposed Palestinian membership in the ICC. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the United States doesn’t believe Palestinians qualify to join the court.
Jen Psaki: “The United States does not believe that the state of Palestine qualifies as a sovereign state, and does not recognize it as such and does not believe that it is eligible to accede to the Rome Statute.”
On top of Israel’s freezing of Palestinian revenue, the Obama administration has also threatened to retaliate against the Palestinian Authority by reviewing $440 million in annual aid.
The FBI has disclosed evidence it says ties North Korea to the hack on Sony Pictures. The cyber-attack led to the release tens of thousands of Sony emails and files, and prompted the studio to change the release of a comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Speaking to the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York, FBI Director James Comey said the hackers had used North Korean servers.
James Comey: “The 'Guardians of Peace' would send emails threatening Sony employees and would post online various statements explaining their work. In nearly every case, they used proxy servers to disguise where they were coming from, in sending those emails and in sending and pasting and posting those statements. But several times they got sloppy. Several times, either because they forgot or they had a technical problem, they connected directly, and we could see them. And we could see that the IP [Internet Protocol] addresses that were being used to post and to send the emails were coming from IPs that were exclusively used by the North Koreans.”
Comey says he is seeking the declassification of further evidence. His comments come after security experts raised doubts about North Korea’s involvement.
Cuba has released more prisoners as part of its obligations from last month’s historic restoration of ties with the United States. The Obama administration had called on Cuba to free a group of 53 people Washington considers political prisoners. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the releases are underway ahead of new talks between U.S. and Cuban officials later this month.
Jen Psaki: “They have already released some of the prisoners. We’d like to see this completed in the near future, and certainly that’s something we’ll continue to discuss. … While we’re still finalizing the agenda for the migration talks, we plan on discussing human rights issues directly with the Cuban government at the migration and normalization talks in Havana later this month, and that will certainly be a topic that continues to be a focus of our discussion.”
The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay nearly $84 million in compensation for a pair of oil spills in Nigeria. The claimants say the 2008 spills devastated their small Niger Delta community with the leak of 500,000 barrels of oil. Shell initially claimed the spill was only a fraction of that size, but later acknowledged it could have been bigger. It is the largest ever out-of-court settlement for an oil spill in Nigeria, but much smaller than cases in other countries. In a statement, Amnesty International said: “While the pay-out is a long awaited victory for the thousands of people who lost their livelihoods in Bodo, it shouldn’t have taken six years to get anything close to fair compensation.”
The FBI says a deliberate explosion outside a Colorado office of the NAACP may have been an act of domestic terrorism. An improvised explosive device was detonated on the NAACP building’s wall in Colorado Springs Tuesday morning. A gasoline can was placed nearby, but did not ignite. An FBI spokesperson says a hate crime is among the potential motives. Police have announced a person of interest in the case, a white male around the age of 40.
The bombing of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, has received almost no attention in the corporate media. According to the website ThinkProgress, a search of news coverage over a close to 24-hour period through Wednesday afternoon found just one mention on CNN and none on MSNBC and Fox News. MSNBC’s Al Sharpton and Chris Hayes did cover the explosion on their MSNBC programs Wednesday evening. According to the NAACP, the attack follows the shooting of a school bus that was traveling with the group’s 120-mile protest march in Missouri last month.
Three more women have come forward to accuse the comedian Bill Cosby of drugging them and committing sexual assaults. Appearing with two other alleged victims, Lynn Neal said Cosby raped her after drugging her in a Las Vegas restaurant.
Lynn Neal: “So we left the restaurant. By the time we walked back to his dressing room, I was having problems walking. I felt disoriented and confused. I didn’t understand what was happening to me; I had never felt that way before. When we entered the dressing room I sat on the couch, and he started taking my pants down. I said, 'What are you doing? Stop!' But he didn’t.”
Nearly 30 women have now accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them in attacks dating back to the 1960s. Cosby is facing at least two lawsuits over the allegations as well as a Los Angeles Police Department investigation.