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The 411 Last Updated: Apr 14th, 2013 - 19:52:44

India, Congo Rape Outrage
By the SB Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from
Dec 21, 2012, 10:31

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India: Gang Rape on Moving Bus Sparks Public Outcry
Women in India protest recent gang rape of a woman on a moving bus.
Outcry is continuing in India over the gang-rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi. The woman was hospitalized and remains in critical condition after the attack Sunday night. On Wednesday police used used water canons against protesters who condemned the violence. Police say a group of six men raped the woman and beat both her and a male friend with iron rods while driving through the city, reportedly passing through several police checkpoints. Both victims were stripped and dumped by the side of the road. Police say five men have been arrested. Indian women right’s activist Ranjana Kumari said rapists in India often escape punishment.

Ranjana Kumari: "Under the current laws, rapists are not being prosecuted the way they should be. Almost 40,000 rape cases across are pending in various courts across the country. In 2003 there was an instance of rape whose judgement has come now in 2012 after a gap of nine years. If it takes nine years for justice to be delivered do you think culprits would be afraid to commit such heinous crimes? It is important to put a system in place to deal with such cases. We also demand to expedite the trial of crime against women in fast-track courts."

Amid the mounting protests officials in India have reported at least two more gang rapes. In two separate incidents a 10-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered and a 14-year-old was in critical condition after being raped by a group of men. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, one woman is raped every 20 minutes in India.

Mass Rape of 126 Women Reported in the DRC
A new case of mass rape has been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N. mission for the DRC says that 126 women were raped in eastern Congo last month after Congolese troops fled there to escape rebels advancing on the provincial capital of Goma. Two Congolese soldiers have been arrested to date in connection with the violence.

Study: Record Emissions Threaten Global Temperature Rise of 6 Degrees Celsius
A new study is warning the heating of the planet is threatening a temperature rise of up to 6 degrees Celcius by the end of the century. The Global Carbon Project says a continued increase in carbon dioxide emissions means the planet could see up to triple the maximum 2-degree target set by the United Nations in 2010. The warning follows the news global emissions of greenhouses gases hit an all-time record last year. In a statement, the lead scientist with the Global Carbon Project says the goal of avoiding devastating temperature rises can only be achieved through "an immediate, large and sustained global mitigation effort."

Death Toll in Philippines Typhoon Tops 715
The death toll from the massive typhoon in the southern Philippines continues to grow by the day, now topping 715 people, with hundreds more missing. Typhoon Bopha was the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific and the strongest to hit the Philippines this year. More than 115,000 homes were destroyed and a number of communities completely wiped out.

U.S. to Replenish Bombs Used by Israel in Gaza Attack
The Pentagon has quietly confirmed plans to replenish the U.S.-made munitions used by Israel in its recent assault on the Gaza Strip. The website Common Dreams reports that Congress has been notified of a $647 million deal to resupply the Israeli Air Force with the bombs and missiles that rained on Gaza over the course of the eight-day siege. The U.S.-backed Israeli attack killed more than 180 Palestinians, including many children. Congress is expected to approve the deal.

U.S. "Deeply Disappointed" in Israeli Settlement Expansion, Yet Won’t Take Action
The Israeli government has announced yet another new round of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank — 1,500 new settler homes in East Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo. It is the latest in a series of Israeli settlement expansions following last month’s historic recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has issued some of its most forceful public criticism of Israeli settlement expansion to date, yet has acknowledged it will not take any practical steps to respond on the ground. After weeks of international calls for a U.S. response to Israeli settlement growth, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland criticized Israel on Tuesday. Despite the criticism, Nuland went on to acknowledge the Obama administration will leverage none of its political and diplomat clout with Israel — including billions in annual U.S. aid and veto power at the U.N. Security Council — to stop the settlements.

Israeli Soldiers Attack Journalists in Hebron
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israeli troops have attacked two journalists with the news service Reuters as they covered the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a Palestinian boy. Camera operators Yousri Al Jamal and Ma’amoun Wazwaz were on their way to the Hebron military checkpoint where Israeli troops had shot the boy dead when they were stopped by an Israeli military vehicle. According to their account, the Israeli soldiers punched them, forced them to strip in the street, and then fired off a tear gas canister. Wazwaz was overcome by the tear gas fumes and treated in a local hospital. Two other Palestinian journalists working for local outlets were also stopped and accosted.

Israel to Withhold Palestinian Funds over U.N. Vote; Palestinian NGOs Raided in West Bank
Israel has confirmed it will withhold Palestinian funds until at least March in response to the recent vote for Palestinian recognition at the United Nations. In addition to seizing Palestinian tax revenue, Israel has also announced a radical West Bank settlement expansion since the United Nations voted to grant Palestine the status of a non-member observer state last month. In a speech Tuesday night, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Palestinians can forget about getting "even one cent" until March. The announcement came hours after Israeli forces raided the offices of three civil society groups in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Entering overnight, Israeli soldiers broke open the doors of the Women’s Union, the Palestinian NGO Network and Addameer, which works on behalf of Palestinians in Israeli jails. The invading soldiers badly damaged computers and furniture.

Venezuela: Chávez Suffers Internal Bleeding Following Surgery
The Venezuelan government says President Hugo Chávez has suffered internal bleeding following his cancer surgery in Cuba earlier this week but is still showing signs of recovery. It is unclear if Chávez will be healthy enough to return to Venezuela in time for his swearing-in ceremony scheduled for January 10th. Predicting a "complex and difficult" recovery process, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro called for national unity while Chávez is on the mend.

Judge Rules Torture Testimony in 9/11 Will Be Kept Secret
A military judge presiding over the death penalty trial of five prisoners accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks has approved the government’s request to keep testimony about their torture secret. Before being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006, the five prisoners, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were held in secret CIA prisons and reportedly tortured during interrogations. In a ruling released Wednesday, Army Colonel James Pohl banned the disclosure of information about where the prisoners were held before Guantánamo and the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" they may have endured. The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the government’s request for secrecy, saying the public has a right to hear the testimony. The ACLU now says it will seek further review.

Report: Bangladeshi Factory Billed Wal-Mart Subcontractor on Day of Fatal Fire
Details continue to emerge on the retail giant Wal-Mart’s ties to the Bangladeshi garment factory where 120 workers died in a fire last month. The New York Times has revealed that at least two subcontractors were using the Tazreen factory to make Wal-Mart goods when the fire occurred. Wal-Mart has claimed it cut ties to a lone company that had used the factory before the fire. But documents recovered in the fire’s remains show the factory had billed one of the two Wal-Mart subcontractors on November 24, the very day of the fire. Previously recovered documents have shown that five of the factory’s 14 production lines were devoted to making Wal-Mart apparel. Two people involved in worker safety oversight in Bangladesh have also revealed that Wal-Mart played a key role in blocking the improvement of electrical and fire safety at Bangladeshi factories during a 2011 meeting.

Report: Wal-Mart Pushed Back Against Safety Improvement at Bangladeshi Factories
New details have been revealed on the retail giant Wal-Mart’s ties to the Bangladeshi garment factory where 120 workers died in a fire last month. The New York Times is reporting Wal-Mart played a key role in blocking the improvement of electrical and fire safety at Bangladeshi factories. Two officials who attended a 2011 meeting in Bangladesh say a Wal-Mart representative helped quash a proposal to improve safety investments, calling them "not financially feasible." Documents found at the fire scene also show that five of the factory’s 14 production lines were devoted to making Wal-Mart apparel.

Wal-Mart to Deny Health Benefits to New Part-Time Workers
Meanwhile in the United States, Wal-Mart is drawing criticism for reportedly planning to deny health insurance to newly hired employees working less than 30 hours a week, shifting the burden for their care onto the federal government. An internal company policy obtained by the Huffington Post shows newly employed part-time workers will no longer receive benefits, while those hired in or after 2011 will also lose out if their hours dip below 30 hours a week. Labor experts say Wal-Mart is following other large employers in exploiting "Obamacare" to shift health costs onto taxpayers. In its response to the story, Wal-Mart refused to disclose how many workers will lose their coverage by saying it’s decided to no longer answer questions from the Huffington Post, which it accused of biased coverage. The new policy is slated to take effect next month.

Jailed Qatari Poet to Appeal Life Sentence
A Qatari poet sentenced last week to life in prison for his writing is planning to appeal his case in court. Mohammad al-Ajami was accused of insulting Qatar’s emir and inciting the overthrow of the regime. He wrote a poem inspired by the Tunisian uprising that read, in part, "We are all Tunisia, in the face of the repressive elite." Al-Ajami has been held largely in solitary confinement since his arrest one year ago.

States Sue EPA over Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Drilling
New York and six other U.S. states have announced plans to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to address methane emissions created by the oil and gas industry. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted by humans and 21 times more powerful at contributing to global warming than carbon over a 100-year period. In a statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the oil and gas industry is the single largest source of human-made methane emissions and called the EPA’s failure to address those emissions a violation of the Clean Air Act. Schneiderman said: "We can’t continue to ignore the evidence of climate change or the catastrophic threat that unabated greenhouse gas pollution poses to our families, our communities and our economy."

U.S. Auctions Oil Leases on California Public Land
The federal government held a controversial auction on Wednesday to allow for oil drilling and fracking on some 18,000 acres of California public land. The Bureau of Land Management said at least eight bidders in Sacramento competed for oil leases in areas of Central California, home to some of the largest deposits of shale oil in the United States. The auction was met by dozens of protesters chanting environmental slogans and donning hazmat suits. In a statement, protest organizer and environmental watchdog the Center for Biological Diversity said: "The federal government should protect these beautiful public places, not sell them off to be drilled and fracked, risking irreparable harm to our air, water and climate."

Thousands Protest in Michigan as Gov. Signs Anti-Union Bills
Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law two highly controversial anti-union bills, officially making the historic union stronghold the 24th so-called "right-to-work" state in the country. On Tuesday, Snyder was met by thousands of demonstrators at the state Capitol in Lansing, denouncing the bill as an organized attack against labor that will lower wages and diminish collective bargaining rights. State police with riot gear fired pepper spray and arrested at least three people. Michigan Republicans advanced the anti-union bills last week before Democrats gain five House seats in the new legislative session that begins next month.

Fed to Keep Interest Rates Near Zero Until Unemployment Drops
The Federal Reserve has announced plans to keep interest rates near zero until the official unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent. The unprecedented move was unveiled alongside plans to purchase another $45 billion in Treasury debt. Announcing the measures, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said the Fed won’t be able to properly offset the full economic damage should the United States fall off the "fiscal cliff."

Ben Bernanke: "Outside forecasters all think that that would have very significant adverse effects on the economy and on the unemployment rate. And so, on the margin, we would try to do what we could. We would perhaps increase a bit. But I just want to, again, be clear that we cannot — we cannot offset the full impact of the fiscal cliff. It’s just too big, given the tools that we have available and the limitations on our policy toolkit at this point."

Elizabeth Warren to Join Senate Banking Committee
Massachusetts Democratic Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren has been selected to join the Senate Banking Committee when the new Congress convenes next month. Best known for launching the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Obama, Warren’s bid to join the Senate, and subsequently the Banking Committee, was heavily opposed by Wall Street lobbyists.

In Reversal, Obama to Accept Corporate Funds for Inauguration
President Obama is under criticism for agreeing to accept corporate funding for his second-term inauguration next month. The New York Times reports donors have been offered a number of sponsorship options including the top tier of $1 million for institutions and $250,000 for individuals. The plan differs from Obama’s 2009 inauguration, when corporate, lobbyist and political action committee donors were banned and individual contributions were capped at $50,000. It also follows the Democratic National Committee’s move this summer to renege on a vow to stage its convention in Charlotte without corporate donors. Ironically, Obama’s corporate-sponsored inauguration will take place on January 21st — the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United ruling allowing unlimited outside spending on political campaigns. Criticizing the move, the transparency watchdog the Sunlight Foundation said: "[President] Obama said unlimited donations sully our democracy, threaten public service, and weaken representation — and he has now chosen to embrace them."

Native American Activist Leonard Peltier’s Jailhouse Plea for Long-Denied Clemency
During the holidays, the atmosphere of goodwill and mercy traditionally extends all the way to the nation’s highest leaders, with presidents typically pardoning more prisoners than any other time in the year. On Friday, actors, musicians and activists are uniting to renew calls for clemency for one of America’s most well-known and longest-incarcerated prisoners: Leonard Peltier. The Native American activist and former member of the American Indian Movement was convicted of abetting the killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier has long maintained his innocence. Amnesty International considers him a political prisoner who was not granted a fair trial.

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