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The 411 Last Updated: Feb 23rd, 2013 - 20:24:14

Israel Attacks Gaza
By the SB Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from
Nov 16, 2012, 16:05

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Breaking Truce, Israeli Strikes Kill "Moderate" Hamas Military Chief, Palestinian Civilians in Gaza
Israel is threatening to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after breaking an informal ceasefire with a series of deadly attacks. On Wednesday, an Israeli air strike assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing. The bombing continued throughout the day and night, killing at least 13 civilians, including a baby and a mother pregnant with twins. More than a hundred Palestinians were also wounded. The toll is expected to rise.
At least three Israelis were killed Thursday when Palestinian rockets hit a residential building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, the first Israeli fatalities since the latest fighting began. Israel says it has launched the strikes to prevent Palestinian rocket fire, but the latest round of violence began last week when Israeli troops killed a young boy in Gaza. The situation has escalated since Saturday, when Palestinian militants fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Israel-Gaza border. After Palestinian militant groups agreed to an informal truce Monday, Israel broke two days of quiet with Wednesday’s attack.

Israel’s attack on Gaza marks its largest since the U.S.-backed operation that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians nearly four years ago. It was just about this time, just after President Obama was elected for the first time, that the attacks, Operation Cast Lead, began.

Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer said, "One thing that we ought to talk about here is the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. This is a situation of targeting a population of civilians, exactly like Israel is shooting in a fishbowl. And there is no shelter, and there is nowhere to run for the general population. Gaza is living in a very dire situation."

U.S. Says Hamas is to Blame for Gaza Violence
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday: "There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel." Speaking later Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the onus was on Hamas to stop the violence.

Mark Toner: "Let me be very clear: The onus here is on Hamas. And, you know, as Jay Carney just said from the White House, it claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, but through its actions, it’s showing — it’s showing a far different agenda."

Romney Blames Election Loss on Obama "Gifts" to People of Color, Youth
The now former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is again under scrutiny for a leaked recording discussing President Obama’s supporters. In a conference call with donors, Romney blamed his loss on Obama’s "gifts" to various groups, including African Americans and Hispanics.

Mitt Romney: "What the president — president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote. What the president did is he gave them two — two things: One, he gave them a big gift on immigration with the DREAM Act amnesty program; number two, put in place 'Obamacare,' which is — which basically is $10,000 a family. I mean, it’s a proven political strategy, which is, give a bunch of money from the government to a group and, guess what, they’ll vote for you. The giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with."

Romney went on to include young people and college students in his list, saying: "Forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift. Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, 'Obamacare' also made a difference for them because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people." Romney’s comments come days after his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chalked up Obama’s victory to the president’s strength in "urban areas." But some top Republicans are already distancing themselves from Romney’s remarks. Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called Romney’s statements "absolutely wrong," adding, "We have got to stop dividing American voters."

Florida Tea Party Rep. Allen West Refuses to Concede Re-Election Race
Black Republican and tea party favorite Allen West is refusing to concede his re-election fight against Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy even though the state of Florida says he lost by more than 2,000 votes, which is a larger margin than would trigger an automatic recount, but election officials in one county are reportedly recounting some early votes. On Friday, a Florida judge denied a request by Rep. West to impound ballots and voting machines. UPDATE: A partial recount of early ballots from St. Lucie County narrowed Patrick Murphy’s lead to 1,907 votes, still outside the margin needed to trigger a recount under state law.

Supreme Court to Review Key Provision of Landmark Voting Rights Act
The Supreme Court has announced it will hear a challenge to a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The case centers on a section of the law that requires many state and local governments with a history of voting-related discrimination to get federal approval before altering voting procedures. Recently the law has been used by courts to block voter identification requirements and attempts to curb early voting.

Las Vegas Business Owner Fires 22 "Mostly Hispanic" Workers over Obama Re-Election
A man claiming to be a business owner in Las Vegas has publicly announced he has fired 22 of his more than 114 "mostly Hispanic" employees because of President Obama’s re-election. Speaking anonymously to the radio station KSNT, the man blamed the expected costs of President Obama’s healthcare law.

"David": "I explained to them a month ago, if Obama gets in office, the regulations for 'Obamacare' are going to hurt our business, and I am going to have to make provisions to make sure I have enough money to cover the payroll taxes, the additional healthcare I’m going to have to do. And I explained that to them, and I said, 'You do what you feel in your heart you need to do, but I'm just letting you know as a warning this is things that I have to think of as a business owner.’ Well, unfortunately, the — and most of my employees are Hispanic, I’m not going to go into what kind of company I have, but I have mostly Hispanic employees. Well, unfortunately, we know what happened. I can’t wait around anymore. I need to be proactive. I had to lay off 22 people today to make sure that my business is going to thrive and that I’m going to be around for years to come.

"Rolling Jubilee: Buying Up Distressed Debt, Occupy Offshoot Bails Out the People, Not the Banks
An offshoot of Occupy Wall Street has launched a new movement called "Rolling Jubilee" to buy distressed debt from financial firms, often for pennies on the dollar, and then canceling it so that borrowers do not have to repay. The people who incurred the debt in the first place then get a certified letter informing them they are off the hook. Typically, financial institutions sell debt for pennies on the dollar to third parties who either try to collect on it or bundle it up for resale. However, the Rolling Jubilee activists say they are buying up the debt in order to "liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will, and collective refusal." Tonight, Rolling Jubilee is holding a sold-out benefit concert in New York City to continue its anti-debt fundraising. The group says it has already raised $129,000 through online donations, which is enough to buy approximately $2.5 million worth of defaulted loans, due to their steep markdowns.

BP Agrees to Pay $4.5 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Disaster
BP has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $4.5 billion to the government for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The payment includes $4 billion related to criminal charges, including $1.2 billion in criminal fines, as well as half-a-billion dollars in payments to securities regulators. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday the settlement broke two records.

Eric Holder: BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges, including responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The company has also agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and in penalties. This marks both the largest single criminal fine, more than $1.25 billion, and the largest total criminal resolution, $4 billion dollars, in the history of the United States."

Critics say even the record payments are merely a fraction of BP’s profits and will not be enough to deter future disasters. Public Citizen called the deal "pathetic" and "a slap on the wrist," noting it would not prevent BP from continuing to receive lucrative government contracts and leases. Under the settlement, BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect in connection with the deaths of rig workers as well as a separate count for lying to Congress. Separately on Thursday, the government pursued charges against three BP employees for their role in the disaster. The top BP officers who were aboard the drill rig, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, were charged with manslaughter for their alleged negligence after, the government says, they became aware of multiple signs the well was unsafe. BP’s former vice president for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, David Rainey, was charged with obstruction of Congress and making false statements about how quickly oil was gushing from the well.

Wal-Mart Bribery Probe Expands as Workers Plan Wave of Black Friday Protests
A bribery scandal involving the retail giant Wal-Mart could be widening from Mexico to multiple other countries, the company reported Thursday. The New York Times had previously revealed how Wal-Mart paid Mexican officials millions of dollars in bribes to win construction permits in Mexico. Now the company says it has uncovered enough evidence to merit bribery concerns about its business practices in China, India and Brazil. The news comes as hundreds of Wal-Mart workers walked off the job this week to protest low wages, poor benefits and alleged retaliation from management. Workers have promised a wave of strikes and
protests next week culminating in a massive day of action on Black Friday.

MoneyGram to Pay $100 Million to Settle Fraud Case
The money transfer company MoneyGram has agreed to establish a $100 million compensation fund as part of a government settlement over fraud allegations. The company is accused of processing transfers to MoneyGram agents who defrauded customers by posing as family members or offering cash prizes. The Justice Department said thousands of MoneyGram customers complained, but the company failed to fire the agents it knew were involved. MoneyGram also admitted it failed to maintain an effective anti-money-laundering program in violation of federal law.

Ron Paul Blasts U.S. Policy in Farewell Address
Texas congressmember and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has given his farewell speech to the House of Representatives. In a more than 45-minute address Wednesday, Paul assessed his own legacy, blasted U.S. policy at home and abroad, and posed a series of questions.
Ron Paul: "Why can’t people understand that war always destroys wealth and liberty? Why is there so little concern for the executive order that gives the president authority to establish a 'kill list,' including American citizens, of those targeted for assassination? Why is patriotism thought to be blind loyalty to the government and the politicians who run it, rather than loyalty to the principles of liberty and support for the people? Real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it’s wrong."
Rep. Ron Paul is retiring at the end of the year.

Report: U.S. Trained, Vetted and Supplied Honduran Unit Accused of Killing Teen
The Associated Press has revealed a unit of Honduran soldiers accused of killing a 15-year-old boy in May were trained, vetted and equipped by the U.S. government. Ebed Yanes was shot dead by soldiers who chased him when he drove through a military checkpoint on his father’s motorcycle. The Associated Press investigation details an alleged attempt by officers to cover up the killing. It turned out the truck used in the chase was supplied by the United States and the unit was vetted by the United States as free of corruption and human rights abuses. On Wednesday, a State Department official told the AP the United States may withhold as much as half of all aid to Honduras for this year out of concern over human rights violations.

Groups Submit Evidence on "Crimes Against Humanity" in Honduras to ICC
Two human rights groups say they have submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court regarding targeted killings and other crimes against humanity that have taken place in Honduras since the 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights submitted information about the targeted killings of journalists, union leaders, land activists and human rights lawyers amidst what they say is a climate of rampant political persecution and impunity.

Report: First 10 Months of 2012 Warmest in U.S. History
New government data shows the year-to-date period from January to October was the warmest ever recorded for the contiguous United States. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the national temperature was 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th century average and more than one degree higher than the previous record for the first 10 months of the year. October’s cooler temperatures ended a streak of 16 consecutive warmer-than-average months, but this year is still on pace to become the warmest ever recorded. The latest report follows a number of global warming benchmarks, including the warmest consecutive 12-month period, which ended in July.

U.N. Votes to Condemn U.S. Embargo on Cuba
The United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba for the 21st year in a row. The final vote was 188-to-3, with only Israel and the Pacific island state of Palau joining the United States. U.S. envoy Ronald Godard urged fellow General Assembly delegates to reject the measure.

Ronald Godard: "This resolution only serves to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people, and therefore my delegation will oppose it. We encourage this body to support the desires of the Cuban people to determine their own future freely. By doing so, it would truly advance the principles of the United Nations Charter and the purposes for which the United Nations was created."

Speaking for the Cuban government, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez called on President Obama to break from decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba.

Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: "President Obama has an opportunity to start a new policy toward Cuba different from the one implemented by his 10 predecessors for more than half a century. It will surely be a difficult task, and maybe he would face serious obstacles, but the president of the United States still has the constitutional powers that would enable him to listen to public opinion and generate the necessary dynamics by means of executive decisions even without the approval of Congress."

Addressing the assembly on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean states, Chilean envoy Octavio Guilisasti said overwhelming U.N. opposition to the embargo reflects the consensus of virtually the entire world.

Octavio Guilisasti: "We emphasize the inconsistency that exists between the application of the unilateral measures which has no backing in international law and the latter spirit and principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. We urge the United States of America to make the necessary adjustments to its international behavior in this regard, aligning its legislation with the Charter of the United Nations, the resolutions of the United Nations and the views of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and, in general, of all the regions of the world."

Haiti Floods Devastate Harvest, Threaten Disease
The United Nations is warning that Haiti’s upcoming March harvest may already have been destroyed by the flooding of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy left Haiti overrun with devastating floods, causing widespread damage and adding thousands of people to the massive numbers already displaced by previous floods and the devastating earthquake of January 2010. On Tuesday, U.N. relief official Johan Peleman said, in addition to potentially destroying March’s harvest, the new flooding has led to a spike in waterborne disease.

Johan Peleman: "The March harvest may already be lost. This is why we urgently are asking for money for people to go back to the fields to start working those irrigation canals that have — that need to be drained. Now that half the country has been flooded, and water has in some areas — and we’re now 10 days away from Sandy — some areas are still completely inundated with water, and sanitation systems broken or needing drainage, we obviously fear a new breakout of waterborne diseases, including spikes in cholera. Between the 28th of October and the 8th of November, we had 4,000 new cases, which is almost double the average that we’ve seen for the remainder of the year."

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