||Last Updated: May 13th, 2013 - 00:47:16
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Sequestration: What Do the Automatic Spending Cuts Mean for the Poor, Unemployed and Children?
The word of the month in Washington is "sequestration," or the automatic $85 billion in spending cuts slated to take effect on March 1 unless Congress reaches a deal. What will those cuts mean in real life for the poor, unemployed, sick and children? Reporter Imara Jones of ColorLines.com says the damage will stretch far beyond jobs, forcing a dramatic pullback in critical areas like health, education, housing and food security, especially in already vulnerable and marginalized communities.
IMARA JONES: Some of the critical areas are: 125,000 people will lose Section 8 housing, which is critical housing support for the working poor; 100,000 people who are homeless will not receive the support that they need without a place to go; there won’t be 450,000 AIDS tests; something like 500,000 vaccines won’t be manufactured; a million people won’t be able to access community health centers; unemployment insurance for four million long-term unemployed will be cut by 10 percent; in terms of education, 70,000 kids won’t have access to Head Start; another 30,000 in terms of child care assistance. And then, if the sequestration goes on, because, you know, it’s a rolling—sort of a rolling storm, if it goes on through the summer and into the fall, the programs that support up to 20 million of the nation’s poorest students will be cut and are in jeopardy.
Obama: Automatic Cuts Under Sequester "Will Hurt Our Economy" President Obama held a public event with a group of firefighters and police officers on Tuesday to pressure Republicans on the upcoming round of automatic budget cuts under the sequester. Obama wants Republicans to end tax breaks mostly for the wealthy to avoid the $85 billion in spending cuts set to take effect on March 1 under a previous budget deal. In his remarks, Obama said the cuts will cause major economic damage.
President Obama: "These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. So, now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice: Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and healthcare and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special-interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations? That’s the choice."
A new analysis from the economist group Macroeconomic Advisers warned on Tuesday the sequester will slow economic growth by more than half a percentage point and result in the loss of 700,000 jobs.
U.N. Rejects Haiti Cholera Compensation Claims
The United Nations has refused to pay compensation to victims of cholera in Haiti despite claims it is at fault for an epidemic that claimed nearly 8,000 lives. The cholera outbreak that sickened roughly 620,000 Haitians has been linked to U.N. peacekeepers who responded to Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. But the United Nations says it will not pay hundreds of millions of dollars sought by thousands of victims and family members. U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky made the announcement Thursday.
Martin Nesirky: "In November 2011, a claim for compensation was brought against the United Nations on behalf of victims of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Today the United Nations advised the claimants’ representatives that the claims are not receivable, pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The secretary-general again expresses his profound sympathy for the terrible suffering caused by the cholera epidemic and calls on partners in Haiti and the international community to work together to ensure better health and a better future for the people of Haiti."
The lead lawyer for the cholera victims, Mario Joseph, responded to that announcement, saying: "It is disgraceful that the U.N. will not even consider compensating the thousands of families who have lost their children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters due to the U.N.’s wrongdoing."
An Intentional Fire? Police Use of Incendiary Tear Gas
Criticized in Killing of Christopher Dorner
|Ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner died inside a burning cabin, shown on national television, minutes before President Obama gave his State of the Union Address.
Medical examiners in California say they have positively identified the body of former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner, the man authorities say killed four people over the past two weeks in a campaign of terror against the LAPD. Dorner’s body was found in the burned-out ruins of a California mountain cabin ending the most extensive manhunt in California’s history. Questions are being raised over whether police intentionally set his hideout on fire after police officials confirmed the use of incendiary tear gas. An audio recording from a police scanner appears to show officials from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department planning to deploy "burners." In another recording that was aired live on the television station KCAL, a police officer can be heard in the background shouting, "We’re going to burn him out," and "Burn it down!” Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper says "Whether it was intentional or not, a very predictable outcome of deploying seven burners in what appears to have been a wooden cabin would predictably leave it in rubble."
In his online manifesto, Dorner threatened to wage "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against a police department he accused of racism and corruption. He was fired from the police department in 2008 after being accused of falsely claiming his training officer kicked a mentally ill suspect in the course of an arrest. On Friday, the LAPD announced it would reopen its investigation of Dorner’s firing and his claims. Journalist and activist Davey D, says Dorner’s manifesto "has opened up old wounds or it’s reaffirmed what people have long suspected or have experienced in terms of [police] brutality. ... I’m really curious as to whether or not these allegations that he has raised, where he names dates, times and places and names, whether or not they actually check out. And I think that needs to be really investigated, above and beyond the immediate scenario which led to his firing."
The fire that killed Dorner has drawn comparisons to the deadly 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, and the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia. In Waco, federal agents denied for years they had used incendiary tear gas after a fire killed 76 people inside the compound. The MOVE bombing left six adults and five children dead.
Judge Denies Request to Delay George Zimmerman’s Trial in Trayvon Martin Case
A Florida judge has rejected a bid by George Zimmerman to delay his June trial for the murder of the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder after shooting Martin dead in Sanford, Florida, one year ago this month. Zimmerman, who claims he shot Martin in self-defense, was not charged in the killing until months later following nationwide protests calling for his arrest. Meanwhile, supporters across Florida mourned Martin on Tuesday, the day he would have turned 18 years old.
Throwaways: Recruited by Police & Thrown into Danger, Young Informants are Drug War’s Latest Victims
New Yorker staff writer Sarah Stillman has just been awarded a George Polk Award for her article, "The Throwaways," which investigates law enforcement’s unregulated use of young confidential informants in drug cases. Stillman details how police broker deals with young, untrained informants to perform high-risk operations with few legal protections in exchange for leniency — and sometimes fatal results. Stillman joins us to discuss her eight-month investigation, which has spurred calls for reform in several states. We’re also joined by Margie Weiss, the mother of Rachel Hoffman. After police found drugs in her apartment, Hoffman agreed to assist Florida officers in a major undercover deal involving meeting two convicted felons alone to buy two-and-a-half ounces of cocaine, 1,500 ecstasy pills, and a semi-automatic handgun. Within days, her body was found shot five times with the gun that the police had sent her to buy. We also speak with Alexandra Natapoff, professor of law at Loyola Law School and author of "Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice."
"Stop and Frisk" Lawsuit Granted Class Action Status
A federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit challenging the New York City police tactic known as "stop and frisk." Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled a group of Bronx residents can bring claims on behalf of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of their neighbors for being accosted outside of the buildings in which they live. The ruling comes one month after Judge Scheindlin ordered police to cease the "stop and frisks" outside of residential buildings under the city’s so-called Clean Halls program.
Hundreds Mark 1st Anniversary of Ramarley Graham Killing; Family Sues NYPD
The family of an unarmed African-American teen shot dead by New York City police in his own home has filed a lawsuit one year after his killing. Ramarley Graham was shot at close range on February 2, 2012, after being chased by narcotics officers into his building. Police say Graham was trying to empty a small bag of marijuana into the toilet before he was killed. In their lawsuit against the NYPD, Ramarley’s family says the officers threatened to kill Ramarley’s distraught grandmother in the moments after she witnessed the shooting. The officer who killed Ramarley, Richard Haste, was charged with manslaughter last year. On Saturday, hundreds of people marched to a Bronx police precinct to mark the first anniversary of Ramarley Graham’s death.
Jesse Jackson Jr. Pleads Guilty in Corruption Case
Former Democratic Congressmember Jesse Jackson Jr. has formally pleaded guilty to spending more than $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. Jackson steered donations toward purchases including music memorabilia and items for his home. He resigned last year after a several-month leave to seek treatment for bipolar disorder. Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Reid Weingarten said Jackson’s condition is improving, and expressed hope his record of public service will factor into his sentencing.
Reid Weingarten: "It turns out that Jesse has serious health issues. Many of you know about them. We’re going to talk about them extensively with the court. And those health issues are directly related to his present predicament. That’s not an excuse; that’s just a fact. And Jesse has turned the corner there, as well, and I think there’s reason for optimism here, too. And finally, I would say we’re hopeful, and we expect that there will be fairness in the process, and a person who has contributed so much to his community, done so much for so many people, will and should get credit for it."
Jackson will be sentenced in June. Under his plea deal, he faces up to five years in prison.
2 Arrested in Shooting Death of Chicago Teen
Two men have been charged in the shooting death of a 15-year-old girl struck by random gunfire just days after taking part in President Obama’s inauguration. Hadiya Pendleton had recently returned from Washington, where she had performed with her school marching band during the inaugural festivities. She was laid to rest on Saturday at a funeral attended by first lady Michelle Obama. Police say the suspects are 18- and 20-year-old members of a street gang who opened fire at a group of students they mistook for gang rivals.
Report: U.S. Sentencing Runs Contrary to International Law
A new report says massive incarceration rates in the United States are being fueled by harsh sentencing practices that run contrary to international law. In their latest World Report, Human Rights Watch found U.S. prisons house an increasing number of elderly people whose needs they are not equipped to handle, as well as more than 95,000 youth under the age of 18 who are being held in adult facilities. Hundreds of children are reportedly being kept in solitary confinement. People of color continue to be incarcerated at hugely disproportionate rates. African Americans represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for more than 28 percent of all arrests. The United States leads the world in incarceration, maintaining both the largest incarcerated population — 1.6 million people — and the world’s highest per capita incarceration rate.
NYC: 7-Year-Old Boy Handcuffed, Interrogated for 10 Hours for Allegedly Stealing $5
In New York City, the family of a seven-year-old boy has filed suit against police and the city, saying the boy was handcuffed and interrogated for 10 hours for allegedly stealing five dollars. Wilson Reyes was detained in a room at his Bronx school for four hours, then taken to a precinct house where he was held for another six hours and charged with robbery, according to the lawsuit. The boy’s mother snapped a photo of him handcuffed to a railing. She said, "I never imagined the cops could do that to a child. We’re traumatized."
North Carolina Cuts Jobless Benefits, Rejects Federal Aid
North Carolina has enacted a new law imposing major cuts to aid for the unemployed. Jobless benefits will be slashed by nearly one-third, and recipients will have less time to collect them. In addition to gutting state benefits, the bill also rejects millions of dollars in additional federal aid. North Carolina currently has the nation’s fifth-highest official unemployment rate, at 9.2 percent. The measure takes effect on July 1. In a statement, the North Carolina Justice Center denounced Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and state lawmakers, saying: "Hundreds of thousands of jobless workers thrown out of work through no fault of their own will face deepening poverty as a result of this decision."
Death Row Prisoner Wins Stay of Execution in Georgia
A death row prisoner in Georgia has been granted a last-minute stay of execution. Warren Hill was set to be put to death for the murder of a fellow prisoner while serving a life sentence for fatally shooting his girlfriend. But a federal appeals court granted a last-minute reprieve, citing expert opinion Hill is mentally disabled. All three doctors who originally said Hill failed to meet the legal definition of "mentally retarded" have since reversed their opinion. Hill would have been the first prisoner executed in Georgia since Troy Anthony Davis in 2011. The ruling marks only a temporary delay, and Georgia can still appeal for the execution to proceed.
Dept. of Education Panel Says School System Burdening Low-Income Children
A federal commission has found U.S. education policies are burdening students from low-income families. In a new report, the Equity and Excellence Commission concluded: "No other developed nation has inequities nearly as deep or systemic; no other developed nation has ... so thoroughly stacked the odds against so many of its children." The panel goes on to call for greater investments in public education, better training of teachers, equality in allocating funds, and a new push for more ethnically diverse schools. The commission was created by the Department of Education, but its findings largely reject the department’s bipartisan education reform effort, saying the focus on charter schools and standardized testing has been "poorly targeted.
Sandy Victims Denounce Conditions in Temporary Housing
In New York City, people whose homes were ruined by Superstorm Sandy gathered on the steps of City Hall to call for assistance and denounce squalid living conditions in shelters and hotels where they have been forced to live. Thousands of people still remain in temporary housing more than three months after the storm. Isaiah Douglas Laws is one of them. He described the difficulty of his family’s situation.
Isaiah Douglas Laws: "We need assistance. This is too much for us to handle, emotionally and physically. This is a scary situation. And if I could ask for one thing, I just want to live in my home peacefully and go to sleep without worrying about anything."
Aid groups joined with evacuated families at the event Tuesday to outline a series of demands for assisting low-income people left homeless by Sandy. Giselle Routhier is with Coalition for the Homeless.
Giselle Routhier: "There are a few things that the city could immediately do. The first and foremost is to move families from unsafe and unsanitary conditions that we have seen at some of these evacuee hotels. The second is to provide immediate need services like food and transportation. And the last and most important is to work on a long-term housing solution."
Study Finds Racial Bias in Google Ad Results
A new study has found racial bias in ad results from the online search engine Google. Harvard Professor Latanya Sweeney found names typically associated with African Americans were 25 percent more likely to produce ad results offering background checks and suggesting the person had a criminal record. Sweeney conducted the study after a search for her own name turned up an ad reading, "Latanya Sweeney, Arrested?" with a link offering background checks. Sweeney concluded: "There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads."
Critics Denounce Filibuster Deal as "Capitulation"
Congressional leaders have reached an agreement altering rules for the Senate filibuster, but leaving its core intact. A deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Republicans would impose new caps on how often lawmakers can filibuster bills they oppose, but preserve the current 60-vote threshold needed to pass a bill through the Senate. In a statement, the public advocacy group Common Cause denounced the agreement as a "capitulation" and vowed to continue challenging the filibuster in court, saying: "It’s now clear that the Senate will not fix the filibuster and the President lacks authority to [do so]. We must turn to the judicial branch to enforce the Constitution."
Native American Leader Urges Passage of Expanded Violence Against Women Act
A top Native American leader is urging House lawmakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and allow tribal governments to prosecute non-Native men who abuse women on tribal lands. Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, made the remarks Thursday in his State of the Indian Nations address. He said the death rate of Native women on some reservations is 10 times the national average. Nearly 60 percent of Native women are married to non-Native men, and according to Justice Department data, non-Native men carry out nearly 90 percent of reported rapes against Native women. Keel said tribes still remain powerless.
Jefferson Keel: "Today, tribes do not have the authority to prosecute non-Natives who beat, rape or even kill women on tribal lands. State and federal authorities are often hundreds of miles away, without the local resources to investigate crimes. And in recent times, U.S. attorneys have declined to prosecute a majority of violent crimes in Indian country, most of which are related to sexual abuse. No other government would stand for this violation of sovereignty or continued injustice. No other government should, and no other government has to. The solution is simple: Congress must reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act and assure that tribal governments have the authority to prosecute non-Native men accused of violence against women on tribal lands."
The Senate has passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act that allows Native American courts to prosecute non-Native domestic violence suspects, as well as providing new protections for LGBT victims. House Speaker John Boehner signaled Thursday House Republicans may be open to considering the Senate version after initially blocking the bill’s reauthorization over the expanded protections.
Fruitvale, Depiction of Oscar Grant’s Last Day of Life, Takes Top Prizes at Sundance Film Festival
"Fruitvale" tells the story of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was shot dead by a transit police officer in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009. On Saturday, the film won both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. First-time, 26-year-old director Ryan Coogler accepted the prizes at the Sundance awards ceremony.
10th Anniversary Marked of Historic Global Protests Against Iraq War
Feb. 15 marked the 10th anniversary of the historic wave of global protests against the war in Iraq. Tens of millions of people took to the streets in hundreds of cities around the world to say no to war. The BBC said the protest in London was the largest in the capital’s political history. Protest sites included Australia, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Syria, Tokyo, Bangladesh, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Brazil, East Timor, India, and even the South Pole. At least half a million rallied in New York City alone 10 years ago. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would begin just over a month later.
Sen. Graham Reveals Toll of 4,700 in U.S. Drone War
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has revealed what he says is the death toll in the U.S. drone war overseas. At a speech in South Carolina Wednesday night, Graham said: "We’ve killed 4,700. Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al-Qaeda." Graham’s comments mark the first time a U.S. official has offered a figure for those killed in nearly a decade of U.S. drone strikes abroad. The 4,700 figure matches the high end of an estimate by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has extensively covered the strikes and faced a concerted U.S. government effort to discredit its work.
U.S. Signs Deal to Build Drone Base in Niger
The Obama administration has formally signed an agreement with Niger allowing a permanent U.S. military site in the African country. Reports emerged this week that the United States will build a base in Niger from which to fly drones for surveillance and potentially even missile strikes. Niger borders Mali, where the United States is aiding a French-led military operation in the country’s north.
Bill Introduced to Restrict Drone Use Inside the United States
In the U.S. House, a bipartisan team of lawmakers has introduced a bill to prohibit the use of armed drones within the United States. The bill would restrict the use of drones by law enforcement, requiring judicial approval and restricting surveillance to criminal acts. U.S. aviation officials are now seeking proposals for six sites that would be used to test the use of domestic drones across the country.
Leaked Memo Shows Expansive Rationale for U.S. "Kill List"
The Obama administration’s legal rationale for assassinating U.S. citizens without charge has been revealed for the first time. A secret Justice Department document obtained by NBC News says the administration can target citizens who are "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaeda or "an associated force" — even if there is no intelligence indicating they’re engaged in an active plot to attack the United States. The document is described as a "white memo" provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees last year. Its release follows a series of failed efforts by civil liberties groups to obtain the government’s legal justification for the targeted killing of an American.
Report Tallies 54 Countries, 136 Prisoners in CIA Torture Program
A new report has revealed a detailed look at global involvement in the CIA’s secret program of prisons, rendition and torture in the years after 9/11. The Open Society Justice Initiative says 54 countries aided the CIA until President Obama halted the program in 2009. The report, called "Globalizing Torture," also discloses at least 136 people were held by the CIA during those years — the largest tally to date. The countries’ assistance ranged from allowing CIA planes to refuel to hosting the prisons where the detainees were tortured. The report’s author, Amrit Singh, said: "The moral cost of these programs was borne not just by the U.S. but by the 54 other countries it recruited to help."
Italian Court Reverses Acquittals of CIA Agents for ’03 Kidnapping
The report comes as an Italian appeals court has reversed a lower court decision acquitting three CIA agents involved in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric. Abu Omar was seized from the streets of Milan in 2003. He was taken to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before being sent to Egypt, where he suffered torture during a four-year imprisonment. The reversal of the agents’ acquittals means all 26 Americans tried in the case have been found guilty in Italy. None have been extradited, but are subject to arrest if they travel in Europe.
Ex-CIA Officer and Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to 30 Months
A retired CIA agent who blew the whistle on the agency’s Bush-era torture program has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. John Kiriakou admitted to a single count of revealing the identity of a covert officer under a plea deal that saw prosecutors drop charges brought under the Espionage Act. Kiriakou was the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the Bush administration’s torture program, describing the waterboarding of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in a 2007 interview with ABC News. He also is the first CIA official to be jailed for any reason relating to the torture, even those who carried it out. Outside the courthouse, prosecutor Neil MacBride called Kirakou’s sentence a warning to other whistleblowers.
Neil MacBride: "As the judge just said in court, today’s sentence should be a reminder to every individual who works for the government, who comes into the possession of closely held sensitive information regarding the national defense or the identity of a covert agent, that it is critical that that information remain secure and not spill out into the public domain or be shared with others who don’t have authorized access to it."
The judge in the case, Leonie Brinkema, told Kiriakou she would have sentenced him to more jail time if not for the limits imposed by the plea deal. Kiriakou’s supporters, meanwhile, say he has been unfairly targeted in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers. In a statement urging President Obama to commute Kiriakou’s sentence, a group of signatories including attorneys and former CIA officers said: "[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. ... Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison." Speaking after his sentencing, Kiriakou thanked what he said were a number of intelligence officials who supported his cause.
John Kiriakou: "I would like to thank the dozens of former and active-duty CIA officers and FBI agents and assistant U.S. attorneys who rallied to my side, although most of them had to do so privately. I thank them for their cards, their emails, their donations to my defense fund. It was their friendship and the support of my friends and family that really got me through this."
Kiriakou will remain free until ordered to begin his 30-month sentence.
Prisons Bureau to Review Solitary Confinement
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has announced plans to review the use of solitary confinement in prisons nationwide. The United States is among the world leaders in holding prisoners alone in small cells, in some cases up to 23 hours a day. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the review, saying: "We hope and expect [it] will lead the Bureau [of Prisons] to significantly curtail its use of this draconian, inhumane and expensive practice."
Kill List Exposed: Leaked Obama Memo Shows Assassination of U.S. Citizens "Has No Geographic Limit"
The Obama administration’s internal legal justification for assassinating U.S. citizens without charge has been revealed for the first time. In a secret Justice Department memo, the administration claims it has legal authority to assassinate U.S. citizens overseas even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the United States. We’re joined by Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "If you look at the memo ... there’s no geographic line," says Jaffer. "The Obama administration is making, in some ways, a greater claim of authority [than President Bush]. They’re arguing that the authority to kill American citizens has no geographic limit.
RBS to Pay $612 Million Fine for Libor Rigging
The Royal Bank of Scotland has agreed to pay a $612 million fine in the United States and Britain over its role in the manipulation of global interest rates. RBS becomes the third bank to pay fines in the Libor scandal, which saw major companies take part in fixing the benchmark for rates on trillions of dollars in transactions across the globe. The rigging of Libor meant millions of borrowers paid the wrong amount on their loans. Announcing the settlement, RBS chief executive Stephen Hester apologized to the public.
Stephen Hester: "I am disgusted by this and hugely disappointed at the wrongdoing of 20 people in this institution. It’s no excuse that it was also across the industry. It is unacceptable. There’s no place in our industry for it. And worse than that, in many respects, the culture of selfishness, of self-serving, of which this is an extreme and unrepresentative example but is an example, taints our whole industry."
S&P to Face Civil Charges for Faulty Ratings
The Justice Department is filing civil charges against the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s for improperly rating mortgage securities leading up to the nation’s financial crisis. The charges would mark the government’s first enforcement action against a major credit ratings agency to come out of the nation’s near-economic collapse. But they would only carry civil penalties of fines and new restrictions — not jail time for top executives. Prosecutors reportedly decided to file the civil case after S&P balked at paying fines of at least $1 billion.
Jeremy Scahill: Assassinations of U.S. Citizens Largely Ignored at Brennan CIA Hearing
President Obama’s nominee to run the CIA, John Brennan, forcefully defended Obama’s counterterrorism policies, including the increased use of armed drones and the targeted killings of American citizens during his confirmation hearing Thursday. "None of the central questions that should have been asked of John Brennan were asked in an effective way," says Jeremy Scahill, author of the forthcoming book, "Dirty Wars." "In the cases where people like Sen. Angus King or Sen. Ron Wyden would ask a real question, for instance, about whether or not the CIA has the right to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, the questions were very good. Brennan would then offer up a non-answer. And then there’d be almost no follow-up." Scahill went on to say, "[Brennan] has served for more than four years as the assassination czar, and it basically looked like they were discussing purchasing a used car on Capitol Hill. I mean, it was total kabuki oversight. And that’s a devastating commentary on where things stand."
Donors Trust: Little-Known Group Helps Wealthy Backers Fund Right-Wing Agenda in Secret
Since 1999, the nonprofit charity Donors Trust has handed out nearly $400 million in private donations to more than 1,000 right-wing and libertarian groups. The fact it has been able to quietly do so appears to explain why it exists: Wealthy donors can back the right-wing causes they want without attracting public scrutiny. The most detailed accounting to date shows Donors Trust funds a wish list of right-wing causes, prompting Mother Jones magazine to label it "the dark-money ATM of the right." We’re joined by John Dunbar, politics editor at the Center for Public Integrity and co-author of the group’s months-long investigation into Donors Trust. "They’re essentially a pass through," Dunbar says of Donors Trust. "They act as a kind of a middleman between what are very large, well-known private foundations created mostly by corporate executives, like the Kochs, for example, and they direct the money of those contributions to a very large network of right-leaning, free-market think tanks across the country.
Israel OKs New Settlements Ahead of Obama Visit
Israel has authorized the construction of hundreds of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank just days after President Obama announced an upcoming visit. More than 340 homes have been given the green light in two southern West Bank settlements, and another 90 homes have been authorized for a settlement near Ramallah.
Fight over Seed Patents Between Monsanto and Farmer Reaches High Court
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments today in a legal battle between agricultural giant Monsanto and a 75-year-old Indiana farmer. Monsanto accused Vernon Hugh Bowman of infringing on their seed patents after he planted soybeans purchased from a local grain elevator that contained a Monsanto gene. In fact, more than 90 percent of soybeans in Indiana reportedly contain the gene, which allows them to survive when sprayed with the company’s Roundup weed killer. Bowman is appealing his case after he was ordered to pay Monsanto $84,000. Critics have accused Monsanto of using their patents to try to monopolize the supply of certain crops. The case could potentially impact patents across multiple industries.
Palestinian Filmmaker Behind "5 Broken Cameras" Detained at LAX Ahead of Oscars
A Palestinian filmmaker and his family were detained at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday after arriving to attend this weekend’s Academy Awards. The filmmaker, Emad Burnat, is nominated in the Best Documentary category for "5 Broken Cameras," which documents the growth of a resistance movement to the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. In a series of Twitter messages, the filmmaker Michael Moore said immigration officers told Burnat he would not be allowed to enter the country even after he showed them his Oscar invite. Burnat and his family were eventually released after Moore phoned Academy attorneys. Moore quoted Burnat as saying: "It’s nothing I’m not already used to. When [you] live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence."
"Report: Obama Settles on Picks for EPA, Energy Dept.
President Obama has reportedly decided on his second-term nominees to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Reuters reports Obama has tapped air quality expert Gina McCarthy to replace Lisa Jackson at the EPA. McCarthy currently serves as assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation. The nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, meanwhile, is reportedly the pick to head the Energy Department. A former undersecretary of energy under President Bill Clinton, Moniz currently heads the Energy Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group Food and Water Watch has started a petition against Moniz’s potential bid, citing his support for the gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Virginia Lawmakers Approve Strict Voter ID Bill
Virginia lawmakers have approved a new measure imposing strict requirements for photo identification at the polls. The bill would force voters to produce government-issued documents such as a driver’s license, passport or a voter ID card in order to cast their ballots. Although Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign the measure into law, the Justice Department will have to sign off on its adoption. The Voting Rights Act mandates federal oversight of voting laws in states with a history of disenfranchising African Americans. During his State of the Union address, President Obama announced the formation of a new bipartisan commission to fix the nation’s broken voting system. In the audience was 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who waited for hours to cast her ballot in the last election. Victor lives in Florida, where an estimated 200,000 voters failed to vote after becoming frustrated by the long line
On Rosa Parks’ 100th Birthday, Recalling Her Rebellious Life Before and After the Montgomery Bus
Born on Feb. 4, 1913, today would have been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday. On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her act of resistance led to a 13-month boycott of the Montgomery bus system that would help spark the civil rights movement. Today we spend the hour looking at Rosa Parks’ life with historian Jeanne Theoharis, author of the new book, "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks." Often described as a tired seamstress, no troublemaker, Parks was in fact a dedicated civil rights activist involved with the movement long before and after her historic action on the Montgomery bus. "Here we have, in many ways, one of the most famous Americans of the 20th century, and yet treated just like a sort of children’s book hero," Theoharis says. "We diminish her legacy by making it about a single day, a single act, as opposed to the rich and lifelong history of resistance that was actually who Rosa Parks was." We also air audio of Rosa Parks in her own words. In the midst of the boycott in April of 1956, she spoke to Pacifica Radio about the action she took.
Report: More Than 2,100 Gun Deaths in the U.S. Since Newtown Massacre
The number of gun deaths that have taken place in the United States since the December shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, has topped 2,100. The website Slate, along with the Twitter feed @GunDeaths, say they have documented 2,141 deaths in more than two months. That’s equivalent to more than 79 Newtown massacres. Meanwhile, a new analysis by USA Today has found more than 900 people died in mass shootings over the past seven years, most killed by people they knew. But those mass killings accounted for less than 1 percent of all gun-related homicides. Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told the newspaper, "Mass shootings ... are the tragedies that capture the public’s attention. But every day, 33 Americans are being killed, mostly with handguns, and distressingly often by a family member or intimate partner." In the latest violence making headlines, three people died after a shooting sparked a fiery crash in Las Vegas, Nevada, Thursday. Authorities say a Maserati collided with a taxi after the sports car driver was hit by shots fired from another vehicle. Among those killed was the rap artist Kenneth Cherry Jr., known as Kenny Clutch. On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden continued his push for lawmakers to take action on gun control with a speech in Danbury, Connecticut, where he met with families of the Newtown shooting victims.
Joe Biden: "I can imagine how we will be judged as a society if we do nothing. I can imagine that. I can predict that, what will be written of us, 20 and 30 years from now, if we don’t act. When I think about all the courage you’ve shown, it’s not too much to ask the political establishment in this country, the members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, state legislators, governors, to show some political courage, too."
Tens of Thousands Rally in D.C. Against Keystone Pipeline
Tens of thousands rallied on Washington’s National Mall on Sunday for what organizers dubbed the largest climate rally in U.S. history. The "Forward on Climate" event was held to urge President Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and commit the U.S. to binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases. Indigenous leaders Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation and Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma said the Keystone pipeline endangers their communities.
Chief Jacqueline Thomas: "It puts at risk my neighbors to the east of me that live at the tar sands. The government doesn’t recognize these people, and these people have been dying of mysterious cancers. Their water is polluted. Their animals are sick. And Mother Earth is sick."
Casey Camp: "And we’re here to make a difference. We’re here to be in solidarity with all of us who understand that we have a very slim opportunity to make human life continue to exist. And that’s our choice."
Groups opposing coal production, nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas participated in the protest, as did a number of interfaith organizations. Several smaller parallel rallies were held in cities across the country.
Washington St. Nuclear Site Leaking Radioactive Waste
Officials in Washington state have confirmed a radioactive leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. A single tank is losing up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste, sparking concerns about the facility’s other tanks. Hanford currently houses more than 53 million gallons of radioactive waste.
Supreme Court Rebuffs Industry Challenge to EPA Air Pollution Regulation
The Supreme Court has refused to hear an industry group’s challenge of the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for air pollution. The move leaves intact a 2010 regulation limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide.
Admin Has Backup Plan on Immigration
The Obama administration has confirmed reports it’s drafted a backup plan should Congress fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform. According to USA Today, the Obama proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain legal permanent residency status within eight years while continuing massive spending on border militarization.
FAIR: Corporate Media Largely Ignored Historic D.C. Climate Rally
New research says corporate news outlets largely ignored Sunday’s massive climate change rally in Washington, D.C., which organizers had called the largest in U.S. history. Tens of thousands of people rallied against the Keystone XL oil pipeline and in favor of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting says none of the Sunday talk shows that day even mentioned the protest. ABC World News and CBS Evening News each gave it less than 50 words. While The Washington Post covered the protest, The New York Times limited its coverage to a business section story about the political implications of President Obama’s decision on whether to approve the pipeline. FAIR wrote: "When history looks back on how we responded to the climate change crisis, the fact that most of the corporate media missed [the protest’s] importance will be remembered."
NOAA: More Than Half of U.S. Still in Drought
In another sign of climate turmoil, government forecasters say drought is continuing in more than half of the country and is expected to persist or even deepen. More than two-thirds of the United States is currently classified under conditions ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
4 Indicted for Deadly Salmonella Outbreak Stemming from Peanut Plant
The former owner of a Georgia peanut company and several of his employees have been indicted on felony charges over a salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened more than 700 in 2009. Federal prosecutors say the Peanut Corporation of America knowingly shipped contaminated peanut products around the country, sparking one of the deadliest salmonella outbreaks in U.S. history. Owner Stewart Parnell and three others are accused of misleading customers after lab tests found salmonella in the products. After being informed containers of peanut meal were covered in rat feces and dust, Parnell reportedly wrote: "Clean ‘em all up and ship them."
Study: 1/3 of U.S. Seafood Samples Are Mislabeled
A new study has found one-third of all seafood samples taken across the United States are fraudulently labeled. In some places, roughly half of samples were found to be a different type of fish than customers thought they were buying, according to the group Oceana, which tested more than 1,200 seafood samples. Certain types of fish were more commonly mislabeled than others. Out of 120 samples of red snapper, for example, only seven were labeled correctly. The group found fish species that are considered potentially risky for pregnant women and children because of their high mercury content were being sold to customers who ordered safer types of fish. Report author Kimberly Warner described the findings.
Kimberly Warner: "Some of the most troubling substitutions we found were for species that can really cause health problems. Our prime example was we found escolar substituted for something called white tuna, sold in sushi venues. Eighty-four percent of the white tuna was actually escolar, which is something that can cause acute and serious digestive effects if you eat more than just a couple of ounces."
FBI Probes Insider Trading in Heinz Deal
The FBI has launched a probe of potential insider trading in the purchase of the food giant H.J. Heinz. A consortium of the firms 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired Heinz for $28 billion earlier this week. The FBI says a number of suspicious trades took place one day before the deal was announced.
Pentagon Investigates Controversial Interview of Navy SEAL Who Killed bin Laden
The Pentagon has launched a probe into a recent magazine interview with the Navy SEAL who reportedly killed Osama bin Laden. Speaking to Esquire magazine, the unidentified SEAL claims he lost medical benefits for himself and his family after recently leaving the Navy. The article quotes him saying: "My healthcare for me and my family stopped at midnight Friday night. ... I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years." He goes on to use an expletive to describe the Navy’s attitude toward his well-being. Navy commanders have pushed back against the SEAL’s claims, saying he knowingly retired years before becoming eligible for additional benefits. Military investigators are looking into whether the interview divulged classified information about the raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan compound.
"5 Broken Cameras" Director Emat Burnat, Michael Moore Discuss LAX Incident
An Oscar-nominated Palestinian filmmaker has spoken out one day after being detained and questioned at Los Angeles International Airport along with his family. Emad Burnat arrived in Los Angeles to attend this Sunday’s Academy Awards, where he is nominated in the Best Documentary category for "5 Broken Cameras." The film documents the growth of a Palestinian resistance movement to the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Burnat and his family were freed after the filmmaker Michael Moore sent out Twitter messages and called lawyers to intervene. Burnat and Moore discussed the incident at an event Wednesday night.
Emad Burnat: "When I got here yesterday, it was different treatment and different — you know, they were questioning me, and they were asking for more documents and more papers. I had the visa, I had the documents, and I had the invitation. I had everything. But they were asking for me to give them more documents."
Michael Moore: "So then I called the head of the Academy, who then called the Academy’s lawyer, who then got an immigration lawyer, all within five minutes. And then I called a friend that works in the State Department, and I’d say probably a half-hour or so later they released him."
Study: Suicide Rate of U.S. Vets Jumps 20 Percent
New figures show the suicide rate for U.S. veterans has increased about 20 percent since 2007. A study by a researcher with the Department of Veterans Affairs says close to 22 veterans take their own lives each day.
Video Shows Egyptian Police Beating Naked Protester
Egyptian forces have sparked a new outrage with the release of video showing the brutal beating of a protester. On the tape, the victim, Hamada Saber, is seen being stripped naked, dragged across the ground and repeatedly beaten by a half dozen officers. His beating capped a week of unrest in which some 60 people were killed in protests against the government of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Damage to Philippines Reef by U.S. Ship Worse Than Previously Thought
In the Philippines, the damage caused by a U.S. Naval ship to a pristine coral reef is reportedly far worse than previously thought. The USS Guardian has been stranded in the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park since mid-January after its commanders ignored warnings from park rangers. The Navy says it will be forced to dismantle the ship into separate pieces in order to safely remove it. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At least 4,000 square meters have been damaged, four times the initial estimate.
Prisoner X: Doubts Grow on Jailhouse Suicide Claims for Australian Israeli Linked to Mossad
An international scandal is growing after an Australian-Israeli man with ties to Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, died inside a maximum security prison in Israel. For more than two years, the Israeli government imposed a strict gag order on his 2010 death, but now the secret is leaking out. Israel has called his death a suicide, but new information could emerge now that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has revealed his name: Ben Zygier. We’re joined by Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has led the effort in Israel to uncover information about Prisoner X and has successfully challenged a gag order on its role. We also speak to Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist, author and co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices.
Amazon Accused of Hiring Neo-Nazi Guards in Germany to Intimidate Foreign Workers
Online retailer Amazon is facing a scandal in Germany amid allegations it employed security guards with neo-Nazi ties in a bid to intimidate foreign workers. A documentary broadcast by Germany’s ARD television channel revealed guards in black uniforms, boots and military haircuts commonly searched the living spaces of migrant workers. The firm is called HESS Security, which ARD implied was a reference to Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess.
Dutch Court Rules Shell Partially Liable for Nigeria Oil Spills
A court in the Netherlands has ruled the oil giant Shell is at least partly responsible for environmental damage from oil leaks in the Niger Delta. A Dutch court ruled Shell must pay compensation to a Nigerian farmer whose land was contaminated by oil pollution from Shell’s operations. The ruling was mixed, however, as the court also threw out four other complaints. Despite the dismissals, Nigerian human rights lawyer and activist Ebun Adegboruwa said the ruling establishes a precedent to hold Shell accountable.
Ebun Adegboruwa: "I am glad that for the first time at least the agitation of our people has been confirmed that Shell is not a friendly organization and that it needed to be held accountable by its own people for the crimes committed against people of Nigeria, so it’s quite commendable."
Palestinian Prisoners Refuse Meals in Support of Hunger Strikers
In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, protests are continuing in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. On Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinian detainees refused meals in solidarity with four hunger-striking prisoners. Hundreds of people, meanwhile, rallied across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, drawing fire from Israeli troops of tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. The prisoners include Samer Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 200 days, drinking only water. On Tuesday, an Israeli court ordered Issawi to remain behind bars indefinitely. His lawyer announced the decision.
Jawad Boulos: "The decision is to reject the appeal of the defense to release Samer immediately and to keep him behind bars until the last verdict, which will be given maybe in two weeks’ time."
Issawi and another hunger-striking prisoner were initially released under the 2011 deal that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, only to be re-arrested and returned to an Israeli prison last year. Israel has refused to disclose the reasons for their re-arrest, and they could each face at least 20 more years behind bars.
Israeli Soldier Posts Photo of Palestinian Boy in Rifle Crosshairs
An Israeli soldier has ignited controversy after posting a photograph to a social networking site that appears to show a Palestinian boy in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. Mor Ostrovski, a sniper in the Israeli military, posted the photo to his Instagram site. It shows a Palestinian boy facing away from the camera with the gun crosshairs focused on the side of his head. The Israeli military says it is investigating.
Correa Wins Re-election in Ecuador
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has easily won re-election to a third term in office. Correa took Sunday’s election with 57 percent of the vote, more than doubling the tally of his challenger. In his victory speech, Correa said his re-election marks a new step in Latin America’s growing independence from foreign control.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa: "The banking class cannot run things here anymore, nor party politics, nor the media, nor factions serving interest groups. The International Monetary Fund does not run things here, nor the international bureaucracies. Hegemonic countries do not run things here anymore. Despite whatever errors we could commit, you can rest assured that this revolution will be led by you, Ecuadorean men and women."
Correa’s international notoriety has increased in the past year after he granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Chávez Returns to Venezuela After 2-Month Absence
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has returned to Venezuela after a two-month stay in Cuba to receive cancer treatment. Chávez was forced to delay his inauguration last month in order to continue his recovery. In a Twitter message earlier today, Chávez said he will continue his treatment back at home.
Israel OKs New Settlements Ahead of Obama Visit
Israel has authorized the construction of hundreds of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank just days after President Obama announced an upcoming visit. More than 340 homes have been given the green light in two southern West Bank settlements, and another 90 homes have been authorized for a settlement near Ramallah.
Indian Activist, Right Livelihood Award Winner Sankaralingam Jagannathan Dies at 100
The Indian activist Sankaralingam Jagannathan has died at the age of 100. He was a lifelong advocate for social justice and the landless poor. In 2008, he won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the "Alternative Nobel," along with his wife, Krishnammal. He died Tuesday in southern India. They walked with Mahatma Gandhi.
Britain: Horsemeat Found in Beef Lasagna Products
In Britain, beef lasagna products have been pulled from the shelves over concerns they are actually made up of horsemeat. Frozen-food company Findus tested several of its products and found most contained between 60 and 100 percent horse. The news comes after millions of burgers were withdrawn in Ireland and Britain over similar concerns. The lasagna products are being tested for bute, a horse drug that could be potentially harmful to humans. Catherine Brown, head of the Food Standards Agency, spoke to the BBC.
Catherine Brown: "I think these are very robust tests, and what it says is the clear majority, potentially all of these products, are in fact horsemeat. Now we’re going to require every food business to test every product line, be it meatballs, be it lasagna, be it burgers, to be able to reassure us at a baseline that there is no horse in these products."
Somali American Convicted in Alleged Entrapment Case
A Somali-American man has been found guilty of trying to detonate a bomb supplied by undercover agents at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland. Attorneys for Mohamed Osman Mohamud had accused the FBI of entrapment. Undercover FBI agents orchestrated much of the bomb plot, supplying Mohamud with money, providing materials to construct the fake bomb, and blocking Mohamud from leaving the Portland area to take a job in Alaska. Mohamud could face life in prison.
U.N. Report: Israel Must End West Bank Settlements or Potentially Face ICC Charges
A new United Nations report has strongly condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying they violate the Geneva Convention and must be dismantled immediately or Israel could potentially face charges at the International Criminal Court. The U.N. Human Rights Council says Israeli settlements are "leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination." Israel boycotted the council’s review of its human rights record this week, becoming the first country ever to do so.
Israeli Warplanes Bomb Syria, Killing 2
Israel has carried out a bombing inside of Syria, killing two people. The Syrian government says Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and launched strikes. The U.S. government has alleged Israel was hitting a convoy carrying weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Syria says the target was in fact a military research site near Damascus. It was the first known Israeli attack inside Syrian territory since 2007, when Israeli warplanes bombed a military site in eastern Syria.
Israel Makes Landmark No-Show at U.N. Human Rights Council Session
Israel has become the first country to boycott a U.N. Human Rights Council review of its record on human rights. The acting president of the Human Rights Council convened the session in Geneva, only to see that no Israeli representatives had shown up.
Remigiusz Henczel: "We were to convene this afternoon to proceed with the review of Israel; however, I see that the delegation of Israel is not in the room."
Israel severed contacts with the council last year after the body launched an investigation of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Gatekeepers: In New Film, Ex-Shin Bet Chiefs Denounce Occupation, Compare Israel to Nazi Germany
Amidst a spate of killings by Israeli forces of unarmed Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, the stunning Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Gatekeepers" are gaining attention. The film brings together six former heads of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, collectively speaking out for the first time ever. They detail their methods against Palestinian militants and civilians in the Occupied Territories, including targeted killings, torture, recruiting informants, and the suppression of mass protests during two intifadas. But in doing so, they also criticize the occupation they were assigned with defending and warn that successive Israeli governments have endangered their country’s future by refusing to make peace. "We are making the lives of millions unbearable, into prolonged human suffering, [and] it kills me," Carmi Gillon says in the film. "[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II," adds Avraham Shalom.
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