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The 411 Last Updated: Apr 14th, 2013 - 19:43:39

The FBI vs. Occupy...
By the SB Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from
Jan 8, 2013, 00:03

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The FBI vs. Occupy: Secret Docs Reveal "Counterterrorism" Monitoring of OWS from Its Earliest Days
New docs reveal that the FBI worked with big banks to disrupt the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Newly revealed documents show that the FBI monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement from its earliest days last year. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential terrorism threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The monitoring expanded across the country as Occupy grew into a national movement, with FBI agents sharing information with businesses, local police agencies and universities. One FBI memo warned that Occupy could prove to be an "outlet" through which activists could exploit "general government dissatisfaction." Although the documents provide no clear evidence of government infiltration, they do suggest the FBI used information from local law enforcement agencies gathered by someone observing Occupy activists on the ground. (RT also reported that the documents reveal that the FBI learned of an assassination plot against Occupy leaders but did not notify the leaders about the plot.) The heavily redacted FBI records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request.

India Rape-Murder Suspects Appear in Court
In India, five men accused in the gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman have appeared in court for the first time. The unidentified victim was raped on a moving bus in New Delhi last month, dying from her injuries two weeks later. The case has sparked a nationwide call for reforms to increase punishment for rapists and prevent legal cases from languishing. At a candlelight vigil in India on Sunday, hundreds of women paid tribute to the victim and demanded government action.

Protester: "I don’t know how much of security will come in, even after all this is being done. But I hope, somewhere or the other in the minds of some people, some little bit of awareness will come, some bit of consciousness will come."

Also, in India, a 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped has committed suicide after being pressured by police to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.

Africa Deploys Troops to Central African Republic as Aid Group Declares "Silent Crisis"
South Africa has deployed up to 400 soldiers to the Central African Republic in a bid to help the government defeat a rebel advance. The Seleka rebels have claimed a series of victories in recent weeks after accusing the government of violating a 2007 peace accord. Several other African countries, including neighboring Chad, have sent troops to help fight the rebels. Speaking from the capital of Bangui, Ellen van der Velden of Doctors Without Borders said the Central African Republic’s turmoil marks a "silent crisis."

Ellen van der Velden: "So far, we have labeled the crisis in the Central African Republic as a silent one because of the very poor health indicators that already existed surpassing crisis indicators, while at the same time there was very limited attention for this crisis. There is, even before the current crisis broke out, already very few development NGOs or support or business, and this country already — at the best of times, many people could have done with a lot of help, and that situation has only become more complicated."
The Central African Republic is among the poorest countries in the world despite having deposits of gold, diamonds and uranium, which are mined by foreign interests.

North Carolina Governor Grants Pardons of Innocence to Wilmington Ten
In a victory for civil rights advocates, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue has issued pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten. The group of mostly African-American activists were falsely convicted and imprisoned for the firebombing of a white-owned store in the 1970s. Their pardons in the waning days of Perdue’s administration follow a campaign to vindicate unequivocally the Wilmington Ten after their convictions were overturned by a federal court decades ago. Newly surfaced documents show the prosecutor in the case made racially based notes next to potential jurors, writing comments like "KKK good" and "Uncle Tom type." In a statement about the Wilmington Ten, Gov. Perdue said, "These convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina’s criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer." Wilmington Ten member Benjamin Chavis appeared on Democracy Now! last week before the victory to talk about what a pardon of innocence would mean.

Benjamin Chavis: "A pardon of innocence would mean that the state of North Carolina finally realizes that the trial, the unjust arrest charges, were all racially motivated, politically motivated. And now it’s time, 40 years later, for the state to remove this pain from the members of the Wilmington Ten, from the community of Wilmington, and from the state itself. It’s been an albatross around the state’s neck for over 40 years."

Michigan Enacts Emergency Manager Law Despite Voter Repeal
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law a measure allowing Michigan areas to declare bankruptcy or fall under the control of an unelected emergency manager enabled to fire public officials and nullify union contracts. Dubbed by critics Michigan’s "local dictators" law and impacting African American areas in the state, state Republicans approved it this month after voters repealed a similar initiative on Election Day. Despite reimposing a measure that was rejected by popular vote, Gov. Snyder said, "This legislation demonstrates that we clearly heard, recognized and respected the will of the voters." It was among a number of controversial bills recently advanced by state Republicans in Michigan before their majority declines with the new legislative session next month.

EPA Head Lisa Jackson Announces Resignation
Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson has announced her resignation ahead of President Obama’s second term. Jackson, the first African-American to head the agency, departs after a four-year tenure that saw advances in the regulation of environmentally harmful practices such as mountaintop removal and the emissions of harmful chemicals from industrial plants. But it was also marked by a number of key disappointments on environmental issues owing to Republican opposition and a lack of White House support. President Obama rejected Jackson’s proposal for tougher regulations on smog pollution last year, even though Jackson submitted a proposal she viewed as a major compromise. She has recently tried to impose restrictions on carbon emissions from new power plants, drawing a concerted Republican and corporate pushback. After ignoring global warming during the 2012 campaign, Obama has recently vowed to address it during his second term. In a statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council called Jackson an unrivaled "champion of our health and our environment," adding: "Her successor will inherit an unfinished agenda that begins with the issuance of new health protections against carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest remaining driver of climate change that needs to be controlled."

Chicago Teachers Union Sues City for Discrimination
The Chicago Teachers Union has filed a lawsuit accusing the city of discriminating against African-American teachers and staff through its effort to reform or shut down local schools. The federal suit says more than half of the tenured teachers who lost their jobs in the most recent wave of school closings were African American, despite African Americans comprising just 30 percent of tenured teachers overall and 35 percent in the under-performing schools that wind up being closed. The teachers’ union is seeking an injunction to stop Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from closing any more schools.

Woman Charged with Murder as Hate Crime in New York Subway Attack
In New York City, a woman has been charged with murder as a hate crime after allegedly pushing a man to his death on the subway tracks because she believed he was Muslim or Hindu. Erika Menendez reportedly told authorities, "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims — ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up." The victim, 46-year-old Sunando Sen, was a Hindu born in India.

WI State Senator: "Almost No Black People" Care About Kwanzaa
A Wisconsin state senator drew ire for his comments against the holiday of Kwanzaa. Republican State Senator Glenn Grothman released a statement titled, "Why Must We Still Hear About Kwanzaa." He wrote: "Of course, almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans." The comments drew outrage from local democratic leader Meg Moen, who called them "jaw-dropping" and said, "Not only does Senator Grothman seem to find his inherit racism acceptable, he implores people to follow his lead and question a holiday that African Americans have been celebrating for years."

Hacker Group Anonymous Leaks Chilling Video in Case of Alleged Steubenville Rape, Cover-Up

In Steubenville, Ohio, members of a high school football team allegedly raped an underage girl and possibly urinated on her unconscious body over the course of an evening of partying in late August. The young men chronicled their actions on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But after many in the town of Steubenville, including the high school football coach, rallied to the players’ defense, the hacker group "Anonymous" vowed to release the accused players’ personal information unless an apology was made. Anonymous has since released a video showing a male Steubenville high schooler joking about the alleged victim. We’re joined by three guests: Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; Kristen Gwynne, an associate editor at AlterNet; and "X", a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous using a pseudonym.

Protesters Disrupt NRA as It Calls for Guns in Schools
The National Rifle Association broke a lengthy silence following the Newtown shooting massacre with a call to deploy armed guards in every U.S. school. NRA head Wayne LaPierre unveiled the proposal at a highly anticipated news conference on the one-week anniversary of Newtown.

Wayne LaPierre: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation and to do it now, to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January."

LaPierre was interrupted by CODEPINK protesters who held up banners reading "The NRA Is Killing Our Kids" and "NRA: Blood On Our Hands." The NRA spoke out after going silent in the days following Newtown, ceasing activity on its Facebook and Twitter pages. In the days leading up to its call for firearms in schools, the NRA had promised to unveil what it called "meaningful contributions" to the gun control debate. After sparking a torrent of criticism, LaPierre appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Sunday to defend his stance.

Wayne LaPierre: "If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy. I’ll tell you what the American people — I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe. And the NRA is going to try to do that."

Dakota Mark 150th Anniversary of Mankato Executions
Dakota Native Americans held a ceremony in Minnesota to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged simultaneously on December 26, 1862, in front of thousands of onlookers. They were condemned to death for crimes allegedly committed during a brief, but bloody war with white settlers and soldiers. The executions were allowed by then-President Abraham Lincoln, despite sparse evidence. The conflict came amidst broken U.S. treaties and desperate conditions that left some Dakota starving. After the war, nearly 2,000 Dakota noncombatants were marched to a prison camp where as many as 300 died. Some Dakota marked Wednesday’s anniversary with an annual 300-mile horseback ride ending with the unveiling of a public memorial in Mankato, Minnesota, the site of the executions.

The Other Bradley Manning: Jeremy Hammond Faces Life Term for WikiLeaks and Hacked Stratfor Emails
A federal judge has refused to recuse herself from the closely watched trial of jailed computer hacker Jeremy Hammond, an alleged member of the group "Anonymous" charged with hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor and turning over some five million emails to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Hammond’s lawyers had asked Federal Judge Loretta Preska to recuse herself because her husband worked for a client of Stratfor, and himself had his email hacked. Hammond’s supporters say the Stratfor documents shed light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. He has been held without bail or trial for more than nine months

Time Warner Cable Criticized for Dropping Current TV After Purchase by Al Jazeera
The New York Times is criticizing a decision by Time Warner Cable to stop carrying Current TV after the channel was purchased by Al Jazeera. In an editorial, the paper called the move "unfortunate," saying it could "block access to an important news source." Time Warner dropped Current TV within hours of its purchase by Al Jazeera, saying in a statement: "We are removing the service as quickly as possible." But the distributor appeared to change course Thursday following a wave of criticism, saying it would keep an "open mind" about possibly carrying Al Jazeera in the future. The New York Times reports Vice President Al Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current TV, made $100 million off the company’s $500 million sale.

Is Fracking Safe? Debate on Controversial Natural Gas Drilling Technique as NY Moratorium May Expire
The controversial use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," that is behind the country’s natural gas boom has come under scrutiny in the new Hollywood drama, "Promised Land," and met stiff resistance in New York state, where a four-year moratorium against the process could soon expire. Supporters say fracking is essential to U.S. energy independence, a way to revitalize depressed rural areas with new mining jobs and gas projects. But opponents warn that hundreds of millions of gallons of chemically treated water used in the process will pollute drinking water supplies and agricultural fields. New research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado say methane — a potent greenhouse gas — may be escaping from gas sites at much higher rates than previously thought.

Illinois "Supermax" Prison Tamms Closes Doors
The notorious Tamms "supermax" prison in Illinois has officially closed its doors following the transfer of the last of its prisoners. Prisoners’ advocates and family members led a campaign for the shuttering of Tamms, citing harsh conditions that included the use of long-term solitary confinement for a decade or longer. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced its closure last year, citing budgetary concerns. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project praised the closure of Tamms, saying the prison "symbolized the ever more punitive, dehumanizing, and ineffective state of our criminal justice system where entire institutions are built to hold prisoners in extreme solitary confinement. [Its closure] is a major victory first and foremost because of [solitary’s] abhorrent and terrifying psychological consequences."

Judge Upholds Drone Secrecy Despite Doubts on Attacks’ Legality
The ongoing drone attacks come days after a federal judge ruled the Obama administration is under no obligation to publicly disclose their legal justification. The American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times had filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding the U.S. government disclose the legal basis for launching drone strikes overseas. The suit was filed after the U.S. killed the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen despite having never charged him with a crime. In upholding the Obama administration’s right to secrecy, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon expressed misgivings about the drone program itself, writing: "I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch ... to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret." McMahon continued, "I can only conclude that the government has not violated [the Freedom of Information Act] by refusing to turn over the documents, and so cannot be compelled by this court of law to explain in detail the reasons why its actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States. The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me."

Google Dodges Antitrust Charges After Federal Probe
Google has won a major victory in the United States after dodging charges from the Federal Trade Commission over how it arranges search results. The FTC concluded a two-year investigation of Google saying the search giant had not violated antitrust or anti-competition statutes. The decision allows Google to continue elevating its own services in search results, raising concerns the company could exercise massive power over the Internet. Google performs 70 percent of all U.S. search queries.

International Child Porn Investigation Rescues Scores of Young Victims
U.S. immigration authorities say 245 people have been arrested as part of a weeks-long international investigation into child pornography. Scores of child victims were rescued from past or current exploitation, including 110 victims in the United States and 13 abroad. Many of the victims were living with their abusers.

New U.S. Immigration Rules to Ease Separation of Families
The Obama administration has unveiled new rules allowing undocumented immigrants to avoid lengthy separations from U.S. family members while applying for legal status. Current U.S. policy forces immigrants who entered the country without authorization to return to their native countries for visas, then bars them from re-entering the United States for as long as a decade. Starting in March, family members who can demonstrate "extreme hardship" if separated from U.S. family members may be eligible for a waiver allowing them to re-enter the country more quickly. The new policy could potentially spare hundreds of thousands of families from being kept apart.

Study Raises Concerns About Methane Release from Natural Gas Fracking Sites
New scientific research has shed further doubt on claims about the environmental benefits of the natural gas drilling process known as fracking. Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado say methane may be escaping from gas sites at much higher rates than previously thought. Data suggests as much as 9 percent of total methane produced may be leaking. Methane is many times more powerful than carbon at contributing to global warming.

Texas: Protesters Launch New Tree Blockade Against Keystone XL Pipeline
In Texas, opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline have set up a new tree blockade in the path of the pipeline’s southern leg. Protesters say they have shielded two "dump platforms" with a series of lifelines that could potentially drop protesters from 50 or 60 feet in the air if disturbed. The blockade outside Diboll, Texas, follows the conclusion of a months-long blockade against the controversial pipeline near the Texas city of Winnsboro.

Obama Signs Renewal of Controversial Defense Act
President Obama has signed a renewal of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. The law has drawn widespread criticism for last year’s provision allowing the United States to detain suspects anywhere in the world without charge or trial. A group of journalists, activists and scholars — including Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky — have challenged the Obama administration over that statute in a case currently before a federal appeals court. The 2013 version effectively blocks the Obama administration from closing Guantánamo Bay by barring the use of funds for construction on facilities that could be used for prisoner transfers. There are currently 166 prisoners held at Guantánamo; 86 of them have been cleared for release. President Obama signed the renewal despite his objections to the Guantánamo provision, following promises to close the detention center. In a statement, he said: "I have approved this annual defense authorization legislation, as I have in previous years, because it authorizes essential support for service members and their families, renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world."

More International News
Exposé Reveals Wal-Mart Blocked Improvements Despite Vows to Improve Safety After Deadly Factory Fire
Wal-Mart has vowed to improve safety problems among suppliers who make clothes for the company after at least 111 workers died in a deadly fire at a Bangladesh garment factory. But inspection reports found inside the facility underscore fundamental problems with how Wal-Mart’s supply chain allows it to avoid improving conditions. "One of the main monitoring companies, inspection companies for Wal-Mart, admitted that 'We don't even check whether factories have emergency exits, whether they have fire escapes or fireproof, smoke-proof enclosed staircases.’ And this factory did not have outdoor fire escapes, did not have enclosed staircases," says Steven Greenhouse, labor and workplace reporter for the New York Times about his latest investigation, "As Walmart Makes Safety Vows, It’s Seen as Obstacle to Change."

Pakistani Girl Shot by Taliban Is Released from UK Hospital
A Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban has been released from a hospital in Britain. Malala Yousafzai is expected to return to the hospital in the coming weeks for reconstructive surgery to her skull. She was targeted by militants after campaigning for the rights of girls.

Months Later, U.S. Admits Responsibility for Drone Strike that Killed 11 in Yemen
The United Staes has acknowledged for the first time it carried out a September drone strike that killed 11 people in Yemen. The victims were packed into a truck on a desert road in the town of Radda when they were struck by a missile. The dead included three children. The Washington Post reports the Yemeni government tried to hide U.S. responsibility for the attack by taking credit for carrying it out. The Yemeni government also initially claimed that only militants were killed in the strike, but were forced to withdraw that claim after mourners tried to bring the dead bodies to the gates of the presidential residence. According to the Washington Post, the attack has devastated the community in Radda and militants in surrounding areas have gained more recruits for their fight against the U.S.-backed Yemeni government since it occurred. Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 show the United States and Yemen have repeatedly covered up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb Yemen. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, covert U.S. operations have killed up to 171 civilians, including 35 children, in Yemen over the past decade.

U.N.: More Than 60,000 Killed in Syria Conflict
The United Nations says more than 60,000 people have died in Syria over nearly two years of fighting between government forces and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. A new analysis of the toll conducted for the U.N. human rights office took five months to complete, using data from seven sources, including the Syrian government. The number is higher than the previous estimate of 45,000 reported by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Rupert Colville, spokesperson for U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, discussed the Syrian crisis on Al Jazeera Wednesday.

Rupert Colville: "It became so complicated. There were so many different people reporting casualties, so many different places where violence and fighting was going on simultaneously, and no way of really verifying each and every case. So it’s been a very difficult issue. But this is a real attempt to do an exhaustive analysis of the information we do have. It should be treated as an indicative number, not as a real number, but we believe it’s probably the minimum."

Violence in Syria is continuing to claim scores of lives on a daily basis. More than 200 people were killed Wednesday, many of them in and around the capital Damascus, according to an opposition group. Dozens died when a government air strike hit a gas station in a Damascus suburb. An Internet video posted by rebels appears to show fighters loyal to Assad killing two men by stabbing them and hitting them with concrete blocks over an extended period of several minutes. Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency says about 84,000 people fled the Syrian crisis in the month of December alone, bringing the total number of people displaced by the conflict to about half a million.

Chile: Widow of Singer Víctor Jara Asks U.S. to Extradite Suspect in His 1973 Murder
Several former military officials have been detained in Chile after a judge ordered their arrest for alleged involvement in the 1973 murder of singer Víctor Jara. Jara was shot to death after the U.S.-backed coup that ousted elected President Salvador Allende. First his hands were smashed so he could no longer play guitar. Jara’s widow has called for the United States to extradite one of the eight officers now being charged in the killing, Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, who is currently living in Florida. Joan Jara spoke Wednesday from a stadium that was used as a torture center following the coup.

Joan Jara: "It is very difficult for me to talk at this moment, in spite of the fact that I know it is the time to talk. It’s not a time for celebration; it’s a time to be calm and to know that there is a lot of work ahead in order to finally achieve real justice, and especially real justice for all the victims who suffered so much here and in so many other places in Chile."

Ivory Coast: 61 Killed in Stampede
In Ivory Coast, at least 61 people were crushed to death in a stampede following a New Year’s fireworks show. Witnesses said police had tried to control a crowd of thousands pouring out of a stadium in the city of Abidjan. Scores of people were injured. Most of the dead were children and teenagers. The fireworks display was planned by the government to celebrate peace after months of violence following disputed elections in 2011.

Bolivia Nationalizes Operations of Spanish Firm Iberdrola
Bolivia has nationalized the operations of Spain’s largest utility company, Iberdrola. Buildings occupied by the energy firm were seized by Bolivian authorities last week following orders by President Evo Morales, who said the move was made to ensure equality.

President Evo Morales: "We considered this measure necessary to ensure equitable energy tariffs in the departments of Oruro and La Paz, so that the quality of electricity service is uniform in rural and urban areas. This measure guarantees equality to the citizens who live in rural areas and ensures their income with equitable tariffs and a quality and uniform service."

Venezuela’s Chávez Suffering "Severe Lung Infection"
Venezuela has released new information on the medical status of President Hugo Chávez, raising concerns the leader’s health may be failing after a recent cancer surgery in Cuba. Ernesto Villegas, Venezuela’s minister of communication and information, made the remarks.

Ernesto Villegas: "After the delicate surgery of this past December 11, Comandante Chávez has faced complications as a result of a severe lung infection. This infection has caused a breathing insufficiency that requires Comandante Chávez to comply strictly with medical treatment."

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