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The 411 Last Updated: Dec 21st, 2012 - 11:20:32


The Just-Us System
By the SB Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from DemocracyNow.org
Oct 25, 2012, 15:59

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The Just-Us System
Valeria "Munique" Tachiquin: U.S. Agent Kills Young Mother of 5 in Latest of Growing Border Deaths
Valeria 'Munique' Tachiquin, was shot to death in broad daylight by a U.S. border agent.
In the wake of a dramatic increase in deaths at the hands of U.S border patrol agents, the Department of Homeland Security has agreed to launch a long-awaited investigation into the agency’s use of force. Since 2010, border agents have killed at least 18 people, including Valeria "Munique" Tachiquin, slain by a Border Patrol agent on September 28 in broad daylight several miles north of California’s border with Mexico. Tachiquin was a U.S. citizen and mother of five children. Her family is now brings a wrongful death lawsuit against the Border Patrol.


Louisiana Police Challenge Burn Victim’s Claim of Hate Crime
Police in Louisiana are claiming an African-American woman badly injured in what she called a racially motivated attack inflicted her wounds herself. Twenty-year-old Sharmeka Moffitt reportedly told police she was set on fire by three men who wrote the initials KKK and a racial slur on her car. She suffered burns on more than half her body and is now hospitalized in critical condition. But police now say Moffitt staged the attack herself and that her DNA was found on the bottle of lighter fluid used to start the fire.


Judge Sets June Trial Date for Trayvon Martin Killing
A judge has set a trial date for the self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder for the February 26 attack in Sanford, Florida. He appeared in court Wednesday, and his trial date was tentatively set for June 10. But Zimmerman’s defense team has said they will likely request a hearing under Florida’s controversial stand-your-ground law that would allow Zimmerman to make the claim before the trial that he acted in self-defense.


Video: New York Police Call Teenager a "Mutt" During Stop-and-Frisk
The Nation magazine has released what is said to be one of the few known audio recordings of New York City police questioning a young man of color under the department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" program. The audio was recorded last June by a Harlem teenager named Alvin, who says he was stopped frequently by police. On the recording, police officers can be heard telling the teenager he looked suspicious because he had his hood up and was "looking back" at them. They also threaten Alvin with physical violence and use racialized language, calling him a "mutt."
Officer: "You wanna go to jail?"
Alvin: "For what?"
Officer: "Shut your [expletive] mouth, kid!"
Alvin: "What am I getting arrested for?"
Officer: "Shut your mouth!"
Alvin: "What am I getting arrested for?"
Officer: "For being a [expletive] mutt! You know that?"
Alvin: "That’s a law? Being a mutt?"
Officer: "Who the [expletive] do you think you’re talking to?"
Alvin: "Because you’re over here telling me, why I have a bookbag, why I have a bookbag on, and said, for my hoodie."
Alvin: "While they’re holding me — the sergeant’s holding me like this. He’s like, ’I’m gonna — I’m gonna break your arm.’ I’m like, 'Why are you — you're gonna break my arm?’ He’s like, 'Yeah, then I'm gonna punch you in the face.’ I was, ’You’re gonna punch me in the face?’ He’s like, 'Yeah.' He’s like, 'And then I'm gonna arrest you.’ I’m like, 'Arrest me for what?' He’s like, 'For being a mutt.'"

New York City police, by their own count, conduct more than 1,800 stop-and-frisks every day. More than 20 percent of those stops reportedly involve force. People of color are disproportionately targeted. About 87 percent of people stopped last year were black or Latino.


Boston Police Spied on Protests, Meetings
Boston police are being accused of routinely spying on local peace groups at their meetings and protests. The American Civil Liberties Union says police have filed regular reports to Boston’s Regional Intelligence Center detailing the activities of groups including Veterans for Peace, United for Justice with Peace and CODEPINK. One event at a church featuring the late historian Howard Zinn was filed under the category of "Criminal Act: Groups-Extremist." Officers also monitored protesters’ out-of-state plans, including attendance at a rally in Washington, D.C. The police have also held on to the surveillance files for several years despite federal rules that call for them to be expunged if no criminal or terrorist activity is involved. In a statement, the ACLU of Massachusetts said: "Spying on church groups and peaceful, non-violent, political gatherings violates civil liberties, wastes scarce police resources and doesn’t keep us safe."


National Day of Action Held Against Police Brutality
Rallies were held across the United States in a national day of action against police brutality and the targeting of people of color. In New York City, hundreds joined the October 22nd Coalition for a rally and march leaving from Union Square.

Nichole Cuevas: "My brother was working a late night shift at my brother’s — my uncle’s grocery store, and three robbers went in to rob the store. And my brother was trying to escape the robbery to not get killed, and when he ran out of the store, there was a police officer right in front of the door, and he shot him. And the police officer says it was a mistake, but we obviously — you can’t just kill someone as a mistake."

Aidge Patterson: "Across the country, the police brutality movement is finally coming back to a place where people are really holding police accountable from a grassroots level up to a legislative level, and we see the Community Safety Act being passed or going through here in New York, as well as the class action lawsuit against stop and frisk, all the way down to grassroots-level organizing like Copwatch."

A recent study from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement found that at least 110 African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes during the first six months of the year, a rate of roughly one every 40 hours.


Ex-NYPD Informant Blasts Anti-Muslim Spy Program
A 19-year-old man of Bangladeshi descent has admitted he was used as an informant by the New York City Police Department to spy on mosques and bait Muslims into saying inflammatory things. Shamiur Rahman says he also spied on the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society. Rahman became an informant after he was arrested multiple times for marijuana. During his time as an informant, he said, he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.


A Life Sentence for Stealing Socks? California’s Prop 36 to Decide Future of Three-Strikes Law
Under California’s three-strikes law, a person convicted of a felony who has two or more prior convictions for certain offenses must be sentenced to at least 25 years to life in state prison, even if the third offense is nonviolent. Critics have argued it is the harshest sentencing law in the United States. Life sentences have been handed down for stealing a pair of pants, shoplifting, forging a check and breaking into a soup kitchen. Although other states have three-strikes laws, California is the only state where a life sentence can be handed down for a nonviolent crime that could qualify as a misdemeanor, such as petty theft or drug possession. Prop 36 would revise the law limiting third-strike felonies to serious or violent crimes only.

Opponents of the law often cite the case of Norman Williams. In 1997, he was sentenced to 25 years to life under the three-strikes law for stealing a car jack from the back of an open tow truck. He had two previous nonviolent crimes on his record. Williams was released in 2009 with the help of the Three Strikes Project here at Stanford Law School.


Appeals Court Blocks Execution of Mentally Ill Florida Prisoner
A federal appeals court has blocked the execution of a severely mentally ill man in Florida. John Ferguson was scheduled to die for a string of killings in the 1970s. But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a last-minute stay, accepting lawyers’ argument he is too mentally ill to be put to death. Ferguson is a paranoid schizophrenic who’s claimed he believes he is the "Prince of God."


More News
ACLU Sues Morgan Stanley over Predatory Loans Sold to African Americans
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against Morgan Stanley for pedaling predatory subprime loans to African-American borrowers in Detroit. The lawsuit alleges Morgan Stanley lent billions of dollars to New Century, a now-defunct subprime lender, and pressured it to make loans to borrowers who could not afford them. Morgan Stanley later packaged the loans and sold them to pension funds and other large investors.


Justice Dept. Files $1 Billion Suit Against Bank of America
Federal prosecutors in New York have filed a $1 billion civil suit accusing the financial giant Bank of America of a massive fraud. The Justice Department says Bank of America executed a scheme that would blindly hand out mortgages without proper checks and then turn around and sell the toxic loans to the government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While Bank of America reaped a windfall, Fannie and Freddie were stuck with huge losses and foreclosed properties. The scheme was known as the "hustle" and originated under the firm Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America took over in 2008. It was the sixth time in less than 18 months that U.S. prosecutors in New York have filed suit against a major U.S. financial firm for mortgage practices that helped cause the financial crisis. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Bank of America’s "fraudulent conduct ... was spectacularly brazen in scope."


Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Hold Telecom Companies Accountable for Domestic Spying
The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a 2008 law granting immunity to telecom companies that aided the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless domestic spy program. Groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union had brought the case, consolidating 33 different lawsuits against the companies after a lower court ruled that the firms are protected by congressionally mandated retroactive immunity. An appeals court upheld the case’s dismissal last year, and the Supreme Court declined to hear it without comment. The ruling could mark the end of legal attempts to hold the telecom firms accountable for the spying. In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: "After 11 years and multiple congressional reports, public admissions and media coverage, the only place that this program hasn’t been seriously considered is in the courts."


Prosecutors Sue Mississippi for "School to Prison Pipeline"
The Justice Department is suing state and local officials in Mississippi for allegedly violating the rights of children — especially black and disabled — with routine and unjustified arrests. A federal complaint accuses officers in Meridian, Mississippi, of operating a "school to prison pipeline," in which youth are consistently arrested after being suspended from school for infractions such as dress code violations or talking back to teachers. It is the first time the Justice Department has used a 1994 federal anti-discrimination law on behalf of youths.


Indiana GOP Senate Candidate: Pregnancy by Rape "Intended" by God
The Republican Senate candidate in Indiana has become the latest member of his party to draw criticism for comments about rape. Defending his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape at a recent debate, Richard Mourdock said that conception by rape is something intended by God.

Richard Mourdock: "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Mourdock is currently in a tight race with Democratic challenger, Rep. Joe Donnelly. Mourdock has stood by his remarks, prompting criticism from Republican nominee Mitt Romney.


Report: U.S. Businessman Launches Risky Geoengineering Venture in Pacific Ocean
The Guardian reports a U.S. businessman has dumped about 100 metric tons of iron sulphate into the ocean off the Canadian coast as part of a risky for-profit geoengineering venture that appears to violate two international resolutions. California businessman Russ George dumped the iron to spark an artificial plankton bloom that now appears to stretch up to 10,000 square kilometers. The plankton is supposed to absorb carbon dioxide as part of a controversial tactic called "ocean fertilization" that could produce profitable carbon credits. But scientists have raised concerns the process could irreparably damage ocean life and might even worsen global warming. George has previously failed to conduct similar dumps near the Galápagos and Canary Islands, prompting the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments to bar his vessels. The recent dump happened in July off the west coast of Canada, where the head of the local Haida Nation said it was touted as a "salmon enhancement project." The Haida Nation president said the local people would have rejected the project if they had known of any potential negative consequences to the ocean.



Document: Israel Calculated Number of Calories Needed by Gazans
A newly released document shows Israel calculated the precise number of calories that residents of the Gaza Strip would need to eat in order to avoid malnutrition during a strict Israeli blockade that lasted until 2010. An Israeli military spokesperson said Wednesday a mathematical formula was created to avoid a humanitarian crisis, but denied it was used to restrict food into Gaza.


Cuba Loosens Travel Restrictions for Citizens
Cuba has announced it will scrap broad travel restrictions to make it easier for Cubans to travel abroad. For the first time in 50 years, Cubans will no longer need to obtain an exit visa and letter of invitation in order to leave the island. Beginning in January, Cubans will be allowed to simply show a passport and a visa from the country they are traveling to, if needed.


Report: CIA Seeks Massive Expansion of Drone Arsenal
The CIA is reportedly urging the White House to back a major expansion of armed drones used for attacks overseas. The Washington Post reports the CIA has asked for permission to expand its fleet by as many as 10 drones on top of the roughly 35 in its possession. The move would continue the agency’s shift from "intelligence" activities to operating as a full-on paramilitary wing of the U.S. government. If approved, the proposal would expand the CIA’s capability to wage drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, while also allowing it to shift focus to North Africa and other areas. Despite concerns of the CIA’s involvement in military operations, the Pentagon reportedly has yet to raise any formal objections.


Food Fight: Debating Prop 37, California’s Landmark Initiative to Label GMO Food
On Election Day, California voters will decide on Proposition 37, which would make their state the first in the nation to require the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The California Department of Public Health would be responsible for labeling everything from baby formula and instant coffee, to granola, canned soups and soy milk. Many major corporations, including Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Pepsi and Coke, are spending millions fighting the measure, which stands to impact labeling practices across the country.


Single-Payer Activists Protest Obama, Romney in NYC
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney appeared together in New York October 18 for the annual Al Smith memorial charity dinner. Outside the event, a group of protesters including physicians and medical students rallied to call for a single-payer health insurance program.

Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal, Physicians for a National Health Program: "We are here because both President Obama and Governor Romney are threat — what they want to do is a threat to Medicare. Now, with Romney, it’s much more of a threat, because he wants to do a voucher program, which will really destroy Medicare as we know it. But President Obama also wants to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare, and we think that’s not right."

Andy Simmons, Weill Cornell Medical College: "As a medical student, I’m afraid of practicing in the current system. It’s going to prevent me from practicing care in the way I want to, which is to help people with their needs and not be concerned about the endless paperwork of a multi-payer system."


The Elections
Obama Derides Romney on "Battleship" Approach to Military Spending
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney met for their third and final presidential debate October 22 before the general election. With the focus on foreign policy, both candidates shared wide agreement on issues including support for the Israeli government, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and opposition to U.S. military involvement in Syria. But they clashed over a few key points, including military spending, Iran and Libya. In one exchange, Obama chided Romney for seeking to increase military spending by an additional $2 trillion.

President Obama: "I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so, the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships; it’s — it’s what are our capabilities."


Audio Reveals Romney Told Employers to Give Staff Voting Advice
Mitt Romney is now facing criticism over a conference call from June where he told employers they should give their staff advice on how to vote. Romney made the remarks during a talk with small-business owners.

Mitt Romney: "I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise, and therefore their job and their future, in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope — I hope you pass those along to your employees."


Supreme Court Upholds Montana Law Limiting Campaign Donations
The Supreme Court has upheld a Montana law that limits donations to political campaigns. The law was among several that had been struck down in Montana in decisions citing the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited outside spending on elections. But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling from earlier this month that affirmed Montana’s right to regulate contributions in state elections.


Greg Palast: "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit"
A new exposé on the cover of The Nation magazine is called "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit." Investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney’s top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout. Palast’s report is part of a film-in-progress called "Romney’s Bailout Bonanza." Palast is the author of several books, including recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."


Soup Kitchen Head Slams Paul Ryan for Staged Photo Op
The head of a soup kitchen in Ohio has accused Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and campaign staffers of ramrodding their way into the soup kitchen so that Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall. According to news accounts, Ryan arrived at the soup kitchen after the food had been served, the patrons had left, and the hall had been cleaned. Photos show Ryan washing dishes that had reportedly already been cleaned. Brian Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, criticized the Ryan team for using the soup kitchen for a staged photo op. Antal said: "They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors. The photo op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall."


Billionaire CEO Warns Workers of Job Cuts if Obama Re-Elected
A billionaire corporate executive has sent a notice to employees warning them of job cuts should President Obama be re-elected. In a memo sent to 7,000 workers, Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel writes: "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. ... This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone. So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job." Before the letter, Siegel was perhaps best known for building the largest private home in the United States.


Campaigns Buying Personal Data to Influence Votes
New details have been revealed on the efforts by Democrats and Republicans to mine American voters’ personal data to influence the outcome of next month’s election. The New York Times reports the Obama and Romney campaigns are purchasing an unprecedented amount of personal information from private companies and using it to encourage or convince targeted voters to head to the polls. The information collected includes everything from religious ties, interest in pornographic sites, product preferences, financial status, social media affiliations and whether a voter has gay friends. That information is then used to shape the approach of unsolicited phone calls from campaign staffers to the voters, based on how they have been analyzed. Some voters will even be pushed to vote by being publicly "shamed," when the campaign publicly divulges how frequently they and their neighbors have previously voted in the hopes that public disclosure will spur them to action.


Supreme Court Rejects GOP Attempt to Block Early Voting in Ohio
The Supreme Court has paved the way for voters in Ohio to cast ballots on the three days before the presidential election, refusing to hear an appeal by Republicans attempting to curb early voting in the crucial battleground state. Republicans had appealed a lower court decision reinstating early voting on the three days before the election for everyone, not just overseas voters and members of the military. In 2008, when Obama won the state of Ohio, more than 100,000 people cast ballots in the three days before the election.


Appeals Court Won’t Review Florida Voter Purge Case Until After
Election

In news affecting another battleground state, a federal appeals court has decided not to rule on a challenge to Florida’s plan to purge nearly 200 voters from the rolls until after the election. Florida had initially claimed to have identified nearly 200,000 possible non-citizen voters, but that number was downgraded to about 2,600. Officials now say they have identified 198 people who are non-citizens.


More News
"Earthship Biotecture": Renegade New Mexico Architect’s Radical Approach to Sustainable Living
In New Mexico residents are trying to a break free from Los Alamos’ nuclear legacy by creating more environmentally sound ways of living. At the forefront of this struggle is renegade architect Michael Reynolds, creator of radically sustainable living options through a process called "Earthship Biotecture." Reynolds’ solar homes are created from natural and recycled materials, including aluminum cans, plastic bottles and used tires. These off-the-grid homes minimize their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels by harnessing their energy from the sun and wind turbines. In Taos, New Mexico, Reynolds gave a tour of one of the sustainable-living homes he created.


American Indian Movement Leader Russell Means Dies at 72
The longtime Native American activist Russell Means has died at the age of 72. Means was an early leader of the American Indian Movement, and he helped head the uprising at Wounded Knee in 1973.



More International News
Palestinians Protest Destruction of West Bank Olive Trees by Israeli Settlers
In the West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli activists blocked traffic on a highway into Jerusalem Tuesday to protest repeated attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian olive groves. Israeli soldiers used tear gas and stun grenades against protesters. Hundreds of olive trees that provide a livelihood for Palestinians in the West Bank were uprooted, burned or chopped down by settlers during the first week of the harvest this month. One protester condemned the attacks.

Mahmoud Zawahreh: "Today’s activity, to close Route 443, which goes through the Palestinian lands, tying together the settler terrorists who are uprooting olive trees and burning them. We came as part of the popular committees to close this road and to tell them that we are stronger than your streets, your weapons and your settlers, and you should stop settler terrorism, which they are carrying out against all our Palestinian lands by uprooting anything that gives life on this land, specifically the blessed olive tree, the symbol for peace and love."



Alleged 9/11 Mastermind: U.S. Killed More People Than Hijackers Did
The alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told a courtroom at Guantánamo Bay Wednesday that the United States had killed more people in the name of national security than he is accused of killing on 9/11. Mohammed addressed the court during a hearing ahead of his trial for coordinating the attacks. Speaking through a translator, Mohammed said that while about 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, the United States has killed thousands or even millions. He said: "Many can kill people under the name of national security. And to torture people under the name of national security. And detain their children under the name of national security." He went on to say: "I don’t want to be long, but I can say that the President can take someone and throw him in the sea in the name of national security. And so well he can also legislate the killings, assassinations, under the name of national security, for American citizens. My only advice to you that you do not get affected by the crocodile tears. Because your blood is not made of gold and ours made of water. We are all human beings."


Judge Bars Torture Discussion from 9/11 Trial at Guantánamo
In news from Guantánamo Bay, a U.S. military judge refused to allow a discussion about torture during a pretrial hearing on Monday in the death penalty case against five prisoners including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Before their transfer to the Guantánamo U.S. Naval Base in 2006, the defendants were held for years in secret CIA prisons where all five have said they were tortured during interrogations. David Nevin is an attorney for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

David Nevin: "I’m talking about the United States of America tortured my client for three-and-a-half years. It’s a capital case. Do you think that’s something I might want to talk to Mr. Mohammed about? Well, of course it is. But there, defined as 'contraband' in the rules [of what detainees can talk about] is quote-unquote 'the detention of any detainee.'"
Attorney David Nevin went on to criticize the overall court proceedings at Guantánamo.

David Nevin: "It is a court that is designed to achieve a conviction and to do it in such a way that the truth never comes out about what was done to our client, who did it and why, and what it means."


Court Overturns Terrorism Conviction of Bin Laden’s Driver
A U.S. court has overturned the terrorism conviction of Osama bin Laden’s former driver and bodyguard, Salim Ahmed Hamdan. A former Guantánamo prisoner, Hamdan was convicted of material support for terrorism in 2008 in the first U.S. military commission trial in decades. On Tuesday, a court unanimously struck down that conviction because there was no such crime defined under international law at the time. A senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said the decision "strikes the biggest blow yet against the legitimacy of the Guantánamo military commissions, which have for years now been trying people for a supposed war crime that in fact is not a war crime at all."


Sudan Accuses Israel of Deadly Bombing of Weapons Factory
Sudan has accused Israel of bombing a weapons factory in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, killing two people and leaving another seriously wounded. Sudanese officials say four aircraft were able to evade radar defenses to hit the Yarmouk military facility in the middle of the night, causing a massive fire and damaging several nearby homes. It was the latest in a series of bombings in Sudan blamed on Israel over the past several years. The Israeli military has refused to confirm or deny Wednesday’s attack.


Study: U.S. Bombings Caused "Staggering Increases" in Iraqi Birth Defects, Miscarriages
A new study has provided further evidence of the damage to Iraqi public health caused by the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation. The Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found "staggering increases" in Iraqi birth defects and miscarriages in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Fallujah, which both endured heavy U.S. bombing. Iraqi children were found to have elevated levels of mercury and lead, key elements in the manufacture of bullets and bombs. Overall, the study says U.S. bombings have left a "footprint of metal in the population," causing a "public health crisis." Next March will mark the Iraq War’s 10th anniversary.


U.S. Deploys Secret Team to Jordan Amidst Syria Crisis
The U.S. military has deployed a secret task force to Jordan to help respond to the ongoing violence in Syria. The New York Times reports a contingent of more than 150 planners and other specialists is tasked with helping Jordanian forces handle incoming Syrian refugees, prepare for Syria’s potential loss of control over its chemical weapons, and respond should the turmoil in Syria spread more widely throughout the Middle East. The mission also reportedly has discussed contingency plans to insulate Jordan from the conflict, with talk of a U.S.-backed buffer zone along the Syria-Jordan border. The U.S. military presence in Jordan comes just as the Jordanian monarchy is facing its largest protests since the start of the "Arab Spring." On Friday, thousands of Jordanians marched in the capital Amman demanding economic opportunities and democratic reforms.


Police Fire on Protesters in Ongoing Panama Unrest
Violence continues to flare in the Panamanian city of Colón amidst protests over the sale of state-owned land to private companies. On Monday, police fired gunshots to disperse demonstrators who had blocked roads. The shootings followed days of protests that saw at least three deaths last week, including a nine-year-old boy who died when police opened fire.


Honduras Bars Plan for Private Cities
The Honduras Supreme Court has struck down a proposal for a number of so-called private cities with their own tax and justice systems. Wealthy landowners had pushed the plan, drawing opposition from human rights groups. But Honduran justices ruled the establishment of private jurisdictions outside of Honduran law would violate the constitution.Ecuador Seeks U.K.

Assurance of Assange Safe Passage for Hospital Treatment
Ecuador has asked the British government to assure the safe passage of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should he require medical treatment in a hospital. On Wednesday, an Ecuadorean diplomat said that concerns have been raised about Assange’s health that may require medical attention. Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, and ultimately, he says, to the United States.


WikiLeaks Releases Trove of U.S. Files on Jailing Foreign Prisoners
In other WikiLeaks news, the whistleblowing group has just released a new cache of files detailing U.S. guidelines for jailing foreign prisoners at military prisons from Iraq to Guantánamo Bay. According to WikiLeaks, the "Detainee Policies" includes one manual instructing how to "disappear" prisoners into other government agencies while hiding their names from U.S. military records.


Carter: Israel, U.S. Abandoning Two-State Solution
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is accusing the Israeli government of abandoning any effort to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. Speaking during a visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank, Carter said Israel, with U.S. backing, has never been less publicly committed to a two-state solution.

Jimmy Carter: "I think, for the first time in my memory of the Mideast peace process, we have reached a crisis stage, because all the previous prime ministers of Israel have been detectably and provenly committed to a two-state solution. I would say that every [Israeli] prime minister that I’ve known has been a pursuer of the two-state solution, and I don’t know that President Obama has found that Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to go that route."


U.S. Imposes Troop Curfew in Japan Following Alleged Rape
The U.S. military has imposed a curfew on all U.S. forces in Japan following the arrest of two American troops for allegedly raping a Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa. The top U.S. commander in Japan, Lieutenant General Sam Angelella, announced the curfew earlier today.

Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella: "I want to personally apologize for the grief and trauma the victim has endured and the anger it has caused among the people in Okinawa. I am immediately issuing a curfew to all military personnel in Japan, both temporary and assigned. In addition, core value training, retraining for military and SOFA civilians will be conducted by subordinate commanders, and a review of the USFJ liberty policy will be executed over the coming days and weeks."

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