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The 411 Last Updated: Apr 14th, 2013 - 19:43:02


New Term, New Vision?
By the SB Crew, Compiled with Dispatches from DemocracyNow.org and Other Sources
Jan 22, 2013, 18:01

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OBAMA’S SECOND TERM
Obama Stresses Equality in 2nd Term Inaugural Address
President Obama begins again.
Hundreds of thousands packed into the National Mall on Monday for President Obama’s second-term inauguration. In an address many saw as a blueprint for a more progressive second-term domestic agenda than his first, Obama vowed a continued fight to seek equality for the rights of women and of gays and lesbians.

President Obama: "Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well."

In making those comments, Obama became the first U.S. president to ever use the word "gay" in an inaugural address. In his remarks, Obama also gave a nod to voting rights, immigration reform and his recent push for gun control.

President Obama: "Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm."

Obama also used his inaugural address to hint at a more forceful engagement on climate change than in his first term, calling the fight against global warming a defense of future generations.


Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Urge Obama to Take Up MLK’s Fight Against Poverty
Journalist, author Tavis Smiley has spent the last year crisscrossing the country with activist, professor, preacher, Cornel West, to start a national conversation on poverty, which they address in their book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. They’ve called on President Obama to organize a White House Conference on the Eradication of Poverty in America. Tavis was in the nation’s capital recently moderating a nationally televised symposium called "Vision for a New America: A Future Without Poverty."

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah. The president has been given high marks, as you know, by his supporters and by others, and the media certainly has declared him the winner in these January fiscal cliff negotiations. But, of course, you and Amy both know that we won’t really know how good this deal was in January until we get to March, when we get to the debt ceiling conversation and when these entitlement cuts are on the table. I’ve said many times before that budgets are moral documents. Budgets are moral documents. And when we get to this kind of debate in March about these entitlement cuts, then we’re going to see how good this deal in January allegedly was.

But something is wrong when your economic policy has you teetering on cliffs and bumping up against ceilings. That’s no way to run a country. It’s certainly no way to prioritize poverty. The bottom line is that President Obama ought to do two things, and he ought to do them quickly. Number one, he ought to give a major public policy address on the eradication of poverty. Here’s a guy who starts out as a community organizer, who speaks eloquently of Dr. King, who has a bust of Dr. King in the White House Oval Office, has—will be inaugurated on King’s holiday. What are we going to do about pushing our president to give a major public policy address on the eradication of poverty, number one? And number two, then to call and convene a White House Conference on the Eradication of Poverty, bring the experts together and create a national plan that can cut poverty in half in 10 years and eradicate it in 25. So, first, a major public policy address, and secondly, convening this conference to put together a national plan. We’re going to talk about that and ask the public to help us engage the president on this issue by going to our website, AFutureWithoutPoverty.com, and signing the letter that we’re pushing out to the White House asking the president to do those very two things."


Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare
Premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the new documentary "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield" follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill to Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen as he chases down the hidden truths behind America’s expanding covert wars. We’re joined by Scahill and the film’s director, Rick Rowley, an independent journalist with Big Noise Films. "We’re looking right now at a reality that President Obama has essentially extended the very policies that many of his supporters once opposed under President Bush," says Scahill, author of the bestseller "Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army" and a forthcoming book named after his film. "One of the things that humbles both of us is that when you arrive in a village in Afghanistan and knock on someone’s door, you’re the first American they’ve seen since the Americans that kicked that door in and killed half their family," Rowley says. "We promised them that we would do everything we could to make their stories be heard in the U.S. ... Finally we’re able to keep those promises."


"Kill Anything That Moves": New Book Exposes Hidden Crimes of the War Kerry, Hagel Fought in Vietnam
Two of the leading figures nominated to head President Obama’s second-term foreign policy establishment have their political roots in the Vietnam War. If confirmed, Chuck Hagel will become the first Vietnam War veteran to head the Pentagon, while John Kerry will helm the State Department after becoming one of the most prominent veterans to oppose the Vietnam War upon his return from duty. Although Vietnam is far behind them, Kerry and Hagel will now have to contend with the longest-running war in U.S. history: Afghanistan. We’re joined by Nick Turse, managing editor of TomDispatch.com and author of the new book, "Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam." The title is taken from an order given to the U.S. forces who slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians in the notorious My Lai massacre of 1968. Drawing on interviews in Vietnam and a trove of previously unknown U.S. government documents — including internal military investigations of alleged war crimes in Vietnam — Turse argues that U.S. atrocities in Vietnam were not just isolated incidents, but "the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military.


Former Adviser: Obama "As Ruthless and Indifferent to the Rule of Law" as Bush
A former adviser to Obama on security issues has forcefully come out against drone warfare, saying it is encouraging arms proliferation worldwide while causing unknown civilian casualties. Writing in this month’s issue of International Affairs, La Salle University’s Michael Boyle, an adviser on the Obama campaign’s counterterrorism expert group in 2007 and 2008, writes: "[Obama] has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor. ... The consequences can be seen in the targeting of mosques or funeral processions that kill non-combatants and tear at the social fabric of the regions where they occur. No one really knows the number of deaths caused by drones in these distant, sometimes ungoverned, lands


As Brennan Tapped for CIA, Case of Somali Detainees Highlights Obama’s Embrace of Secret Renditions
New details have emerged about how the Obama administration has quietly embraced the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition in which terrorism suspects are secretly detained and interrogated abroad without due process. The Washington Post recently reported three European men with Somali backgrounds were arrested in the East African country of Djibouti on a "murky pretext" in August. They were then questioned by U.S. interrogators before being secretly indicted by a U.S. grand jury and flown to the United States for trial. News of their case accompanies this week’s nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA. Brennan withdrew from consideration for the same position in 2008 amidst protests over his role at the agency under George W. Bush and his public support of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition.


U.S. Military Contractor to Compensate Abu Ghraib Torture Victims
A U.S. military contractor has agreed to pay a more than $5 million settlement to 71 former prisoners who suffered torture at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Engility Holdings, formerly known as L-3 Services and before that Titan Corporation, becomes the first U.S. corporation involved in the abuses at Abu Ghraib to compensate its victims, eight years after the scandal first broke. Filed in 2008, the suit accused Engility of "[permitting] scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq." One of the plaintiffs, an Iraqi farmer, alleges he was caged, beaten, threatened with dogs and given electric shocks during more than four years in U.S. detention. A case against another contractor, CACI, is set to go to trial later this year.


Report: Jackson Left EPA over Fears Obama Will Approve Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
Speculation that Obama will approve the pipeline has grown in recent weeks following the sudden resignation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson. A source reportedly close to Jackson told the New York Post she did not want to be at the EPA when the pipeline is given the green light, saying: "She will not be the EPA head when Obama supports [Keystone XL] getting built."


JUSTICE AND THE ECONOMY
Bronx Residents Accosted by NYPD Win Landmark Court Ruling Deeming "Stop and Frisk" Tactic Illegal
A federal judge has ruled that New York City police are not allowed to routinely stop pedestrians outside of private residential buildings in the Bronx. The stops are part of the so-called Clean Halls program, which has prompted allegations of police harassment by some residents who say they are being accosted outside of the buildings in which they live. Previous data on the New York Police Department’s "stop-and-frisk" policy has shown African-American and Latino men make up a hugely disproportionate share of those stopped. http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justice/stop-and-frisk-practices.


Activist Who Challenged KKK-Backed TV Station, Turns 100
Jan. 17 was the 100th birthday of the legendary media activist Everett Parker. Active for more than six decades, Parker is best known for spearheading the challenge to Mississippi television station WLBT in the 1960s, which ultimately had its license revoked for attempting to squelch the voices of the civil rights movement of the time. In a 2008 interview with Democracy Now!, Parker discussed his efforts to monitor racist television networks as founder of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ.

Everett Parker: "I went down, and I really looked at stations throughout the —— from New Orleans to the East Coast and found that it was a very bad situation. And I had earlier -— teaching at Yale Divinity School, I had developed a new way of monitoring television stations."
Parker identified the KKK-backed WLBT as a frequent target of public complaints and FCC reprimands regarding its public service. He filed a "petition to deny renewal" with the FCC, initiating a process that eventually got the station’s license revoked by a federal court and had far-reaching consequences in American broadcasting.


Report: Harsh Policies Funnel Mississippi Students into Justice System
A new report says students across Mississippi are being expelled and incarcerated for minor offenses due to harsh school policies that mainly affect youth of color. The report by groups including the ACLU and NAACP follows the filing of a Justice Department lawsuit alleging officials in Meridian, Mississippi, have created a "school-to-prison pipeline," sending disproportionately African-American and disabled students to juvenile detention for violations like flatulence or breaking the dress code. The report says a five-year-old boy in Holmes County was escorted home in a police car for a dress code violation — the school required black shoes, but his mother had tried to cover other colors on his shoes with black marker. Researchers wrote: "Whether it is a dress code violation, profane language, or a schoolyard scuffle, young people are being herded into juvenile detention centers and into the revolving door of the criminal justice system." The report comes as President Obama is backing a plan to increase police officers in schools, a policy some fear could lead to even higher incarceration rates for students of color.


Brooklyn Protesters Allege Police Brutality, Anti-LGBT Slurs in Arrest of Jabbar Campbell
In Brooklyn, a group of demonstrators marched to the police precinct in the neighborhood of Crown Heights to demand justice in the case of Jabbar Campbell, an African-American man who has accused officers from the New York City Police Department of a hate crime. Campbell says he was hosting a party for gay and lesbian friends at his home earlier this month when he was confronted by police. Surveillance footage from Campbell’s apartment shows officers tampering with and turning around the camera monitoring his doorstep. Moments later, Campbell says he was brutally beaten and called anti-LGBT slurs. On Monday, Campbell address supporters outside the precinct.
Jabbar Campbell: "We need to speak up and let these officers know that they can’t go around invading people’s homes, tampering with their property, and beating up innocent people, treating them like animals. I was an innocent man, and I was brutalized by these officers from the 77th Precinct. And I’m here to speak up and fight back."


GOP Boasts About Gerrymandering to Gain U.S. House Seats
The Republican State Leadership Committee has released a shockingly honest report boasting about how it retained the party’s majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by gerrymandering congressional districts in traditionally Democratic states. The report concedes Democratic candidates for the U.S. House received 1.1 million more votes than Republicans in the last election cycle. But the Republicans still won a 33-seat majority in the House. "How?" the report asks. "One needs to look no farther than four states that voted Democratic on a statewide level in 2012, yet elected a strong Republican delegation to represent them in Congress: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin." It goes on to detail how Republicans spent millions of dollars in those states, fueling state-level victories that allowed Republicans to spearhead redistricting for the 2012 election to their party’s advantage. The group says it raised $30 million for the initiative.


Report: Admin to Propose Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants The Obama administration is reportedly preparing to unveil a new push for immigration reform in the coming months. According to The New York Times, President Obama will ask Congress to approve measures including a new path to citizenship for some of 11 million undocumented people currently in the United States, as well as a guest-worker program for low-wage immigrant workers. A bipartisan group of senators is working on a comprehensive bill that could be introduced as early as March. The administration is backing eventual citizenship after deporting more than 400,000 undocumented people in the 2012 fiscal year, the largest number in U.S. history.


Consumer Bureau Unveils New Rules to Prevent High-Risk Mortgages
The federal government has unveiled new restrictions on the high-risk home loans that pushed millions into foreclosure and helped spark the financial crisis. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new rules Thursday forbidding lenders from issuing mortgages to those ill-positioned to repay the loan and preventing inducements for borrowers to take on crushing debt. In a statement, the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, said: "To put it simply: Lenders should not set up consumers to fail."


Top Banks Escape Wider Fines with $8.5 Billion Foreclosure Settlement
In another major settlement, Bank of America and nine other major lenders have agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle claims of wrongfully foreclosing on millions of American homeowners. The settlement covers a number of foreclosure abuses including flawed paperwork, robo-signing, and wrongly modified loans. The settlement will end an independent review of all foreclosures, meaning the banks could be avoiding billions of dollars in further penalties. Diane Thompson, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, criticized the deal, telling the Associated Press: "[The settlement] caps [banks’] liability at a total number that’s less than they thought they were going to pay going in."


California Teachers’ Fund Divests From Gun Companies
One of the largest pension funds in the country has announced it is divesting from all its holdings in firearms following last month’s shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted unanimously Wednesday to unload its roughly $12 million investments in three gun companies, including Freedom Group, the manufacturer of the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was used in the killing of 20 young children and seven adults in the Newtown rampage. Pension funds in a number of other states are considering following suit.


"Failure of Epic Proportions": Treasury Nominee Jack Lew’s Pro-Bank, Austerity, Deregulation Legacy
President Obama is facing criticism for nominating another former Wall Street executive to become treasury secretary. On Thursday, Obama tapped his own chief of staff, Jack Lew, to replace Timothy Geithner. Lew was an executive at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008 at the time of the financial crisis. He served as chief operating officer of Citigroup’s Alternative Investments unit, a group that bet on the housing market to collapse.

Lew has also long pushed for the deregulation of Wall Street. From 1998 to January 2001, he headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton. During that time, Clinton signed into law two key laws to deregulate Wall Street: the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont criticized Lew’s nomination, saying, quote, "We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis."


Study: Half of World’s Food Going to Waste
A new study has found that up to half of all food worldwide is going to waste. Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that at least 1.2 billion of the four billion tons of food produced each year is thrown out due to problems with harvesting, transporting and storage, as well as wasteful behavior from sellers and consumers. The report calls food wastage "a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands." The findings come as nations across the globe continue to grapple with soaring food prices. Brendan Cox of the group Save the Children said soaring food costs threaten to cause more needless deaths.

Brendan Cox: "What we’re saying today is there is a new normal of high food prices. Just in the last year, we’ve seen wheat and maize increase by 25 percent, and that’s having a real impact on children’s lives. We already know that around three million children are dying every year as a result of malnutrition, and we think the food price crisis this year, but what could happen next year, could make that situation much worse."


Bank of America to Pay $11 Billion Settlement to Freddie Mac
The financial giant Bank of America has agreed to pay more than $11 billion to the government-backed mortgage finance company Fannie Mae for flooding it with toxic mortgages during the financial crisis. 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 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While Bank of America reaped a windfall, Fannie and Freddie were stuck with huge losses and foreclosed properties.


THE PLANET
2012 Was Hottest Year on Record for U.S.
New figures have confirmed 2012 was the hottest year on record for the continental United States. On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced an average temperature for 2012 of 55.3 degrees, 1 degree above the previous record and 3.2 degrees more than the 20th-century average. Temperatures were above normal in every month between June 2011 and September 2012, a 16-month stretch that has not occurred since the government began keeping track in 1895. Among a number of other milestones, 2012 also saw the second-most extreme weather on record. The news comes as, across the globe, Australia is dealing with record-shattering heat.


Australia on Fire: Record-Shattering Heat, Wildfires Engulf World’s Largest Exporter of Coal
Two new colors have been added to Australia’s weather maps to show temperatures exceeding 122 degrees Fahrenheit in the country’s fiercest heat wave in more than 80 years. Wildfires are raging through Australia’s six states, including in Tasmania where some 50,000 acres of forests and farmland have been destroyed


Mishaps by Shell Prompt Admin Review of Arctic Drilling
The Obama administration has launched a review of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic following a cascading series of blunders and mishaps by the oil giant Shell. Shell’s recent troubles culminated when its drill rig ran aground last week off the Alaskan coast, sparking concerns of a potential spill. Past problems have included safety and environmental violations on its vessels and the failure during a test of a device meant to control a gushing well. Government officials say the new 60-day review could potentially limit or halt Shell’s ambitions for Arctic drilling. The escalating issues have followed repeated warnings by environmental groups that Shell is unprepared for the harsh and dangerous conditions associated with Arctic drilling. Dan Howells of Greenpeace told The New York Times: "We’ve repeatedly been told Shell is the best in the business, and so we can only conclude after this series of mishaps that the best in the business is simply not good enough for the Arctic." The Coast Guard has launched a separate investigation into the grounding of Shell’s drill rig last week.


U.S. Declares Natural Disaster Areas in Drought-Stricken Midwest
Fears of a spike in food prices have grown after a longstanding drought prompted the Obama administration to declare a natural disaster in large parts of the Midwest. Conditions in the four main wheat-producing states — Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas — continue to be the worst on record. The drought has carried over from what was the hottest year on record in the United States.


Report: EPA Ditched Gas-Drilling Probe After Firm’s Threats A new investigation says the Obama administration cast aside the results of a probe into the effects of gas drilling on drinking water following pressure from the drilling company. The Associated Press reports the Environmental Protection Agency issued an emergency order in 2010 saying a Texas well saturated with flammable methane posed an immediate risk to homeowners. Regulators had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but backed down after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study on the drilling process known as fracking. The threats apparently prompted the agency to set aside their investigation, which found drilling could in fact have contaminated the water. One of the affected homeowners said his drinking water is so laced with methane he can set it on fire. Steve Lipsky said, "I just can’t believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn’t use it."


OTHER NATIONAL NEWS
Poll: 9 in 10 Favor Background Checks on All Gun Buys A new poll finds the Newtown massacre has affected public opinion on guns more deeply than other shootings. The New York Times/CBS News poll says 54 percent of Americans believe gun control laws should be tightened, up from 39 percent last April. The increased support swept across party lines, with an 18-point rise among Republicans. Nine in 10 people said they favored requiring background checks on all gun purchases.


Panetta: "I Don’t Know Why the Hell People Have to Have an Assault Weapon"
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed his support for gun control during an address to U.S. troops in Italy. Panetta told the group only soldiers need assault weapons.

Leon Panetta: "I mean, who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle? I mean, you know, and I—look, I’m a hunter. I go out, and I’ve done duck hunting since I was 10 years old. And I love to hunt. And I love to be able to — you know, to share that joy with my kids. But I don’t — I mean, for the life of me, I don’t know why the hell people have to have an assault weapon."


Tennessee Suspends Gun Permit of CEO Who Threatened to "Start Killing People" over Gun Reform
The chief executive of a Tennessee-based company specializing in weapons training has had his gun permit revoked after posting a rant threatening violence should the federal government impose new gun control laws. In his post, James Yeager of the firm Tactical Response vowed to "start killing people" if gun laws are passed.

James Yeager: "I’m telling you that if that happens, it’s going to spark a civil war, and I’ll be glad to fire the first shot. I’m not putting up with it. You shouldn’t put up with it. And I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you’re going to do, load your damn mags, make sure your rifle’s clean, pack a backpack with some food in it, and get ready to fight. I’m not [expletive] putting up with this. I am not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. I’m not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people."

In response, Tennessee officials have suspended Yeager’s weapons permit, citing the risk of public harm.


Emails: Wal-Mart CEO Was Told of Mexico Bribes
Two Democratic congressmembers are claiming Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke was told of bribery allegations surrounding the retail giant’s expansion in Mexico as early as 2005. Emails disclosed by Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland show Walmart International’s general counsel emailed Duke and other executives about specific bribes for the opening of a number of stores in November 2005, contradicting Wal-Mart claims its top officials were unaware. In a letter to Duke, the congressmembers write: "It would be a serious matter if the CEO of one of our nation’s largest companies failed to address allegations of a bribery scheme." The Justice Department is currently investigating whether Wal-Mart violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime for American corporations to bribe foreign officials.


Seattle High School Teachers Vote to Refuse Standardized MAP Tests
The entire faculty of a Seattle-area high school has voted to refuse giving students a standardized test used in teacher evaluations. In a unanimous decision that is likely the first of its kind nationwide, teachers at Garfield High School said the MAP tests are a waste of time, money and resources that are then unfairly used to grade their performance.

Jesse Hagopian: "Today isn’t just about testing in general; it’s about a particularly flawed test."

Kit McCormick: "And I just see no use for it at all. And so, I’m not going to do it."

Writing on her website, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch said the vote could have national ramifications for showing teachers "There is strength in unity and that they do not have to endure unethical demands with passivity and resignation."


Pentagon: U.S. Military Suicides Broke All-Time Record in 2012
New figures show U.S. military suicides broke another all-time record last year. According to the Pentagon, 349 active-duty soldiers took their own lives in 2012, far exceeding the number of U.S. troops killed in battle. The previous record of 310 suicides within army ranks was set in 2009. The figures do not include veterans no longer enlisted in the military.


Behind the NRA’s Money: Gun Lobby Deepens Financial Ties to $12 Billion Firearms Industry
Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has portrayed itself as an advocate for individual gun owners’ Second Amendment rights. But a new investigation finds the group has come to rely on the support of the $12-billion-a-year gun industry — made up of firearms and ammunition manufacturers and sellers. Since 2005, the NRA has collected as much as $38.9 million from dozens of gun industry giants, including Beretta USA; Glock; and Sturm, Ruger & Co., according to a 2011 study by the Violence Policy Center.


Obama Reveals Sweeping Gun Control Plan; NRA Vows "Fight of the Century"
President Obama has formally unveiled his proposals to reform the nation’s gun laws more than a month after the shooting massacre in Newtown. On Wednesday, Obama called for reinstating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, expanding background checks for gun buyers, improving the delivery of mental health services, and allowing schools to hire up to 1,000 school resource officers and counselors. Obama presented his plan alongside Vice President Joe Biden, who headed the White House task force appointed after Newtown.

President Obama: "In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing. So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe’s (Biden) task force. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality."

The White House plan is expected to meet stiff resistance from House Republicans and even some Senate Democrats in states with loose restrictions on firearms. In a statement, the National Rifle Association vowed to challenge Obama with what it called "the fight of the century." In his remarks, Obama called on the American people to help him push gun control through Congress.

President Obama: "This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, 'Enough. We've suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue,’ then change will — change will come."


ACLU: Obama’s Call for More Police in Schools Could Lead to "Over-Incarceration"
In a statement, the nation’s leading gun control advocacy group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, endorsed Obama’s plan, saying the White House has exhibited "tremendous leadership" in its "comprehensive policy recommendations to address gun violence." The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, expressed concern about Obama’s call for more police officers in schools, saying: "We fear neutral sounding safety policies, such as putting more cops in school will lead to the over-incarceration of school-age children, especially students of color and students with disabilities, who are disproportionately arrested and prosecuted for issues that would normally be handled by school administrators."


Judge: U.S. Gov’t Must Prove Manning Knowingly Aided Al-Qaeda
The judge overseeing the pretrial hearing of alleged Army whistleblower Bradley Manning has ruled the government must prove Manning wanted to aid the enemy as prosecutors have alleged. Colonel Denise Lind told prosecutors to prove that Manning knew, or should have known, the documents he is accused of passing to WikiLeaks would end up being seen by members of al-Qaeda. Lind also granted a defense request to present evidence that Manning carefully selected documents he knew would not harm the United States. Manning has previously offered to plead guilty to releasing the documents if the government drops its most serious charges, including aiding the enemy. Also, defense attorneys tried to argue for the case’s dismissal on the grounds Manning has been denied the right to a speedy trial. By the time his trial begins in June, Manning will have been in detention for 1,101 days, nearly 10 times the maximum allowed by military rules between arrest and trial.


Los Angeles Catholic Church Hid Priests’ Child Abuse
Newly disclosed internal documents have confirmed the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles deliberately hid evidence of child molestation for more than a decade. The now-retired archbishop, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and other high-ranking clergy officials made extensive efforts to transfer abusive priests out of state to avoid prosecution and to stop them from confessing to therapists who would have been forced to inform police. The church reached a $660 million settlement with 500 victims in 2007, the largest of any Roman Catholic diocese. In reaching the deal, it spared top church officials from having to testify in court. A Los Angeles judge is set to rule next month on whether two church officials will face new depositions in a civil lawsuit over the abuse.


Hundreds March for Gun Control in New York City
Hundreds of people marched in New York City Monday in a show of support for stricter gun control in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The group One Million Moms for Gun Control called on Congress to back President Obama’s plan for tighter restrictions on gun and ammunition purchases. The group marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, braving frigid temperatures.

Kate Godsil-Freeman: "Children shouldn’t have to worry about guns. And like, we should have a free nation that doesn’t need to depend on guns and firearms to protect ourselves, that we should just know that we’re safe."

Mary Priest: "Really listen to the voices of moms and not to the lobby of the gun industry, and to try to protect our lives and to value the lives of our kids above really what is an industry voice and not the voice of people."

Ana Maria Allessi: "We were devastated. I mean, it was devastating. And I think — I’ve never marched before, and I’m going to do whatever I can to be certain that things change."

Katie Rosenfeld: "As a mom and as a New Yorker and as an American, that we’re fed up with guns and with children getting killed and people being unsafe. And we want change and better laws and no more of these atrocities."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a package of gun-control measures hailed as some of the tightest in the country.


MORE INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Haiti Marks Quake’s Third Anniversary
Haiti marked the third anniversary on Saturday of the devastating earthquake that killed roughly 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless in what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In tent camps housing the displaced, Haitian residents said international donors have left them behind.

Clautaire Fenel: "My message to the international donors is that the money they gave to help the people in Haiti is being put to use for the interest of other people instead. It is used to buy luxury cars, pay for hotels and go to high-priced restaurants paid in U.S. dollars."

Eunice Eliassaint: "I don’t see a future here. I can’t hide anything from you. There is no tomorrow. Last night, the children went to bed without anything to eat."
Appearing in Haiti to mark the anniversary, former President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, was questioned about U.N. responsibility for the post-earthquake cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 8,000 people. Some 450,000 Haitians have also been sickened since the cholera outbreak erupted in October 2010, apparently brought over by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal.

Bill Clinton: "We have to speed up some of the infrastructure. We have to repair the agriculture. We’ve got to build more houses. We’ve got to get people out of those tents.

Reporter: "And cholera? What about — you’ve said the U.N. introduced cholera to Haiti. Do you think they should be liable for all of those deaths? There’s nearly 8,000 people who have been killed."

Bill Clinton: "I think that’s a decision someone else has to make now. I think the most important thing is that the U.N. asked Paul Farmer to oversee the response. We’ve got the infection and mortality rate cut in half, and I think it can be contained, so I’m encouraged by that."


New Cases of Fatal Gang Rape Reported in India
New cases of deadly gang rape have been reported in India amidst ongoing outcry over the death of a rape victim last month. Six men have been arrested on charges of gang-raping a woman on board a bus in northern India. Another gang rape and murder has also been reported at a train station in the state of Bihar. The attacks are likely to fuel protests that have erupted across India since 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey was gang-raped and mutilated on a moving bus in the capital New Delhi nearly one month ago. She died in the hospital two weeks later.


Algeria Confirms Death Toll in Hostage Crisis
Algeria has confirmed the death toll from its recent hostage crisis at a southern gas field, saying 37 foreigners and 11 workers lost their lives. The dead included three Americans. The attackers came from Algeria and neighboring Mali, as well as several foreign countries, including Egypt and Canada. Algerian troops raided the complex over the weekend after the attackers seized it last week, calling for an end to the French bombing of Mali.


French Ground Troops Seize 2 Towns in Mali
In Mali, France continues to make advances in its ground invasion in the north after a week of air strikes. French troops appear to have now taken control of the key towns of Diabaly and Douentza after rebel militants fled their positions.

Meanwhile, the United States ramped up its involvement in Mali’s conflict Thursday amid the hostage crisis, crafting plans to use its cargo planes for shuttling French troops and equipment. Regional forces from West Africa are joining the armed conflict against rebels who have occupied much of Mali’s north since March. The European Union, meanwhile, is planning to send about 500 soldiers and security forces to Mali for a 15-month training mission. EU foreign ministers approved the plan and selected a French general to lead the mission during a special meeting Thursday in Brussels. After the meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France had European support for its military efforts in the former French colony.

Laurent Fabius: "All the EU countries have expressed their solidarity both with Mali and with France’s intervention. All my colleagues, without exception, have highlighted that they fully support France’s actions, and they are all thankful that France reacted so quickly. To quote the remarks of one of them, 'Without France, there would have been no Mali.'"

EMIRA WOODS, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies: This is a reminder that military attacks, military interventions, lead to awful consequences. So, clearly, what we see—and it goes, really, back to the intervention in Libya. The military intervention in Libya, ousting Gaddafi, essentially unleashed massive caches of weapons, coming both from the Libyan side but also, you know, from the Western side that was flooding Libya with weapons. Those weapons made their way to Mali and created an opportunity for ongoing conflicts in the north to really escalate. So, I think we see these unintended consequences of military intervention. And we have to underscore that, you know, often what we’re doing is breeding more enemies, breeding more extremists at every turn.

So, I think, clearly, looking at the root causes of crises and trying to address concerns, particularly from people who are feeling marginalized, communities that have vast resources on their land but are suffering from complete economic isolation and political isolation—I think we have to address these root causes. We cannot meet extremists where they are, you know, through bombings and military attacks. We have to address issues of extremism, of militarism, of insurgencies, by looking at economic opportunities in places that are long marginalized, looking at political expressions for people who have long not had a voice. It cannot only be interests in sort of economic resources and military might to secure access to those resources.

Mali gained independence from France in 1960.



U.N. Criticizes Beheading of Guest Worker in Saudi Arabia
The United Nations is criticizing the U.S.-backed regime in Saudi Arabia for the beheading of a Sri Lankan guest worker. Rizana Nafeek, a 24-year-old housemaid, was decapitated over allegations of murdering the baby of her employer. Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, condemned the execution.

Rupert Colville: "We express our deep dismay at the execution of a young Sri Lankan woman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Rizana Nafeek, who arrived in Saudi Arabia from Sri Lanka to work as a housemaid in 2005, was charged with the murder of her employers’ baby a week after her arrival. Despite a birth certificate that allegedly showed she was a minor at the time of the baby’s death and repeated expressions of concern from the international community, she was convicted of murder, sentenced to death and beheaded."


U.N. Investigators Find Ongoing Torture in Afghanistan
A new U.N. report says the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan is not only continuing but may be on the rise. Investigators say they have uncovered ongoing abuses in Afghan prisons, including the beating of detainees with cables and hanging them by their wrists. More than half of prisoners interviewed said they had been tortured, higher than the previous rate of 24 percent in 2011. The report also cites an unnamed Afghan official confirming prisoners are being held at secret detention sites to avoid international scrutiny. Last week the U.S. military said it had halted the transfer of detainees to some Afghan prisons over ongoing torture.


Israel Raids, Removes Palestinian Encampment in West Bank
The Israeli military has forcibly removed yet another Palestinian protest encampment in the path of the expanding Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian residents of the village of Beit Iksa had set up three tents and a mobile building on to stop Israel from seizing parts of their land. The demonstrators named their site Bab al-Karama, Arabic for "Gate of Dignity." Upon receiving the evacuation demand, the activists say they tore up the Israeli military’s order in the faces of Israeli soldiers. The encampment was raided and dismantled by Israeli soldiers. Another Palestinian encampment in the West Bank, Bab al-Shams, Arabic for "Gate of the Sun," was removed earlier this month.


Thousands Rally for Chávez on Delayed Inauguration Day
Thousands of people rallied in Venezuela on to mark what would have been the swearing-in of ailing President Hugo Chávez. The inauguration has been delayed while Chávez remains in Cuba following his fourth surgery for cancer. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro addressed Chávez supporters.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro: "Thirty days have passed since the operation on Commander Hugo Chávez, and at this very moment, as you know, he is fighting a battle, and we tell him from here: 'Commander, easy! Keep up your battle, because here you have a Bolivarian government and a revolutionary people!'"

While the Venezuelan Supreme Court has ruled Chávez is still president despite missing his swearing-in, the opposition is calling for a caretaker government and new elections.

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