Mexican authorities rescued 165 kidnap victims who had been held for weeks in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, the country’s Interior Ministry said Thursday.
A majority of the victims — 150 — are Central American migrants. Another 14 are Mexican nationals, and one is from India, the ministry said.
They were held captive for as many as three weeks, officials said.
Drug cartels that operate in the area are known to have kidnapped migrants in the past and requested ransoms for their release.
Amnesty International has said that immigrants in Mexico “face a variety of serious abuses from organized criminal gangs, including kidnappings, threats and assaults.”
During a six-month period in 2010, Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights said, at least 11,333 migrants were kidnapped.
That same year, authorities found the bodies of 72 slain immigrants from Central and South America on an abandoned ranch near the Mexico-U.S. border.
The Central American migrants freed Thursday included 77 Salvadorans, 50 Guatemalans and 23 Hondurans.
Editor’s note: Charles Kaiser is the author of “The Gay Metropolis” and “1968 in America,” a former reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and a former press critic for Newsweek.
(CNN) — President Barack Obama’s blockbuster announcement that he is in favor of full marriage equality is the most courageous thing he has done since he entered the White House three and a half years ago.
Coming after his successful strategy to get Congress to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell so that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military and the decision of his Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal courts, he has now done nearly as much for gay people as Lyndon Johnson did for African-Americans with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
People like me, who were among his most passionate supporters in 2008, felt a sense of gigantic relief. The man who seemed like such a courageous candidate four years ago finally sounded like a genuinely courageous president.Charles Kaiser
Coming so soon after his decision not to sign an executive order that would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians among federal contractors, Wednesday’s statement instantly obliterated the doubts of millions of his gay supporters.
In some ways, the momentum of his own presidency on gay rights made Wednesday’s declaration inevitable. In his interview with ABC News, the president himself cited the end of don’t ask, don’t tell as one reason he felt compelled to speak out.
“I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that don’t ask, don’t tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” the president said.
Many polls have shown healthy majorities among Americans younger than 30 in favor of marriage equality, and the president noted that even college Republicans who oppose the rest of his policies “are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality.”
The other two facts that probably made his decision easiest were contained in a Gallup Poll released this week, which showed that 65% of Democrats and 57% of independents agree that gay marriage should be legal.
What made the decision most difficult is the closeness of the presidential race in battleground states such as Ohio and North Carolina — especially after North Carolina residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to change the state constitution so that not only marriage but all forms of domestic partnership would be banned for same-sex couples.
The effect on the president’s base was immediate and electric.
Andrew Tobias, the long-time treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, said that most “LGBT donors were already willing to focus on all the great stuff that has been done and how much more we’ll get done if he’s re-elected. But today has ramped up the enthusiasm dramatically. I’ve gotten calls and five-figure credit card authorizations already from people who were just waiting for this. The enthusiasm level is very high.”
Former New York City Mayor Edward Koch is a strong supporter of the president. The dean of New York Democrats also has one of the oldest and strongest records in support of gay rights of any modern American politician, having first come out in favor of the repeal of New York State’s anti-sodomy law in 1962.
When informed of the president’s action by CNN.com, Koch said, “Someone should write a play about this — there’s so much drama here!”
“The question will be, was he pushed, or are these his real feelings?” Koch continued. “I believe this is how he really feels. I commend him for doing this.”
The former mayor pointed out that until today, the president was getting the “worst of both worlds” by continuing to say that his feelings were evolving on this subject.
“He was evolving into dust. And now he has evolved into a major figure who should be thanked by the country.”
Among the president’s most fervent supporters, a latent fear remains that this announcement could cost him the election. But a new feeling offers gigantic compensation: the conviction that we really did elect a genuinely transformational president.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Charles Kaiser.
SANAA, Yemen—An airstrike Sunday killed a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI’s most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The airstrike resembled earlier U.S. drone attacks, but the U.S. did not immediately confirm it.
Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al-Qaida operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. They were speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.
The airstrike came as the U.S. and Yemen cooperate in a battle against al-Qaida in southern Yemen.
Al-Quso, 37, was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing in the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.
He served more than five years in a Yemeni prison for his role in the attack and was released in 2007. He briefly escaped prison in 2003 but later turned himself in to serve the rest of his sentence.
A telephone text message claiming to be from al-Qaida media arm confirmed al-Quso was killed in the strike.
Al-Quso was also one of the most senior al-Qaida leaders publicly linked to the 2009 Christmas airliner attack. He has allegedly met with the suspected bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in Yemen before he left on his way to execute his failed bombing over Detroit.
In December 2010, al-Quso was designated a global terrorist by the State Department, an indication that his role in al-Qaida’s Yemen branch had grown more prominent.
Local Yemeni official Abu Bakr bin Farid and the Yemeni Embassy in Washington confirmed al-Quso was killed in Rafd, a remote mountain valley in Shabwa. It is the area where many of al-Qaida leaders are believed to have taken cover, including the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen last year.
Yemeni government officials reported that Al-Quso and al-Awlaki were killed in an airstrike in 2009 in Rafd, but they both resurfaced alive.
Al-Quso was known for his ability to move in disguise. He was from the same tribe as al-Awlaki, and local tribesmen said he was a close aide. He studied ultraconservative Salafi Islam as a teenager in northern Yemen, then returned home to learn welding.
The White House and the State Department had no immediate comment.
Yemen’s government has been waging an offensive on al-Qaida militants, who have taken advantage of the country’s political turmoil over the last year to expand their hold in the south.
The new Yemeni president has promised improved cooperation with the U.S. to combat the militants. On Saturday, he said the fight against al-Qaida is in its early stages.
Al-Quso’s association with al-Qaida dated back more than a decade, when he met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Bin Laden allegedly told him to “eliminate the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula.”
From there he rose through the ranks. He was assigned in Aden to videotape the 1998 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, but he fell asleep.
Despite the lapse, the local leader, Nasser al-Wahishi, declared him the regional leader in Aden. He was also believed to have played a prominent role in al-Qaida’s attack and capture last year of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.
Government troops are trying to drive al-Qaida out of Zinjibar.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Hiring slowed dramatically in March, clouding optimism about the strength of the recovery.
Employers added 120,000 jobs in the month, the Labor Department reported Friday, falling far short of economists’ expectations.
By Al Arabiya with Agencies
The “Friends of Syria” on Sunday recognized the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) as a legitimate representative of all Syrians, and “noted” it as the main opposition interlocutor with the international community – wording that fell short of full recognition of a group hampered by chronic disunity.
The group made no mention of supporting or arming the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), as advocated by some Gulf Arab states, but said it would “continue to work on additional appropriate measures with a view to the protection of the Syrian people.”
Wikipedia: The Syrian National Council, sometimes known as SNC, the Syrian National Transitional Council, or the National Council of Syria is a partially recognised government in exile of Syria based in Istanbul, Turkey. →
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Unemployment fell in 29 states in February and rose in only eight, the government reported Friday, in another sign of broad improvement in the U.S. labor market.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Turkey and Norway closed their embassies in Syria on Monday and ordered all diplomatic staff withdrawn in response to the government’s harsh repression of the year-old uprising, as opposition activists reported a new spasm of army shelling in Homs, the rebellious city that Syrian security forces had proclaimed purged of insurgents just a few weeks ago.
WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February to complete three of the best months of hiring since the recession began. The unemployment rate was unchanged, largely because more people streamed into the work force.
After two years of declines, Americans’ income finally rose in 2010. The Internal Revenue Service provided a first peek at taxpayers’ returns and it showed that adjusted gross income totaled $8 trillion, up 5.2% from 2009.
But a closer look at the data reveals that only the wealthiest Americans will be popping the Cristal.
Taxpayers earning more than $250,000 saw their total adjusted gross incomes rise by 13.8%, while those bringing home between $200K and $250K enjoyed at 6.7% increase, according to a CNNMoney analysis.
Middle-class Americans? Not so fortunate. Those making between $50K and $100K saw their incomes creep up only 1.5%.
Part of the imbalance comes from differences in the growth of wages, the largest component of adjusted gross income.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks closed at multi-year highs, as investors weighed a small pullback in oil prices and improving consumer confidence against a worse-than-expected drop in durable goods orders.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 19, 2008, after narrowly missing that finish line for the past several trading days. The DJIA added 24 points, or 0.2%. While the 13,000 level is not considered technically significant, it is a psychological milestone.