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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the Justice Department will launch full criminal investigations into the deaths of two prisoners killed in CIA custody, including one who died at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But Holder said no criminal probes will occur in 99 other cases of alleged torture, abuse and murder reviewed by federal prosecutors. The criminal probes were announced on Leon Panetta’s last full day as CIA director. Panetta will be sworn in as a Defense Secretary today. The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gen. David Petraeus to become the new CIA director.
In Britain, more than 750,000 workers refused to work Thursday in the largest public sector strike in the country in a generation. Some 6,000 schools were forced to close, and 5,000 were partially closed. The workers were protesting against sweeping changes to state-sponsored pension plans.
Alex Capon, British teacher on strike: “We don’t strike lightly. We obviously—we went into teaching, because we care about the kids, and we care about their education, so it’s not something we just do just for the hell of it. We’ve obviously—it’s something that is deeply important to us."
The Guardian newspaper has revealed British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a coordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. In emails sent just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, British officials wrote that they wanted to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in Britain. One official wrote, "We need to quash any stories trying to compare this to Chernobyl."
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted 20-year license renewals for two nuclear power power facilities in southern New Jersey, the Salem 1 and 2 plants. The New Jersey Sierra Club criticized the NRC for failing to address "sizable tritium leaks" last year at the plants that the group says are causing major groundwater contamination.
The State of New York is reportedly preparing to lift a moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to issue a report today recommending that fracking be allowed on privately held land in much of the state. The report recommends only banning drilling within primary aquifers and 500 feet of their boundaries, and on state-owned land, such as parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas.
Numerous reports are emerging that the sexual assault case against former International Monetary Fund chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is on the verge of collapse. Strauss-Kahn was arrested last month on allegations of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York. Unnamed law enforcement officials told the New York Times that forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and the woman, but prosecutors reportedly have major doubts about the credibility of the woman, a 32-year-old immigrant from the African nation of Guinea. A judge will consider today easing the bail conditions imposed on Strauss-Kahn.
The Reuters news agency is reporting the United States is rejecting demands from Pakistani officials that U.S. personnel abandon a military base used by the CIA to stage drone strikes inside Pakistan. An unnamed official told Reuters that U.S. personnel have not vacated the remote base and there is no plan for them to do so.
Some 200,000 protesters took to the streets of Santiago, Chile, Thursday calling for more government support for the education system. Organizers described the protest as one of Chile’s largest since the fall of the dictatorship in 1990. Police responded by firing tear gas and water cannons. Thirteen protesters were arrested. Giorgio Jackson is the student federation president at Catholic University of Chile.
Giorgio Jackson: "The truth is that the spread of people is huge, but we all have the same idea: that the education system is in crisis, and one of the reasons why is inequality. Chile is one of the most unequal countries in the world, and today we need to find a solution to that root problem. Obviously education is the key that can achieve that change."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has revealed he had a cancerous tumor but had undergone a successful operation in Cuba to extract the cancerous cells and was on the road to full recovery. Chávez made the disclosure in his first televised speech to the nation since he had surgery on June 10 in Havana, which had triggered widespread speculation about his health.
Between 50 and 100 prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California have announced plans to begin a hunger strike today to protest what they say are cruel and unusual prison conditions. Located in Crescent City, Pelican Bay was California’s first super-maximum security prison. Isaac Ontiveros of the anti-prison group Critical Resistance outlined the prisoners’ demands.
Isaac Ontiveros: "End the use of group punishment and administrative abuse; abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; comply with the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; provide adequate and nutritious food; and expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates."
A U.S. government panel voted Thursday to reduce the sentences of up to 12,000 prisoners serving time for crack cocaine. The U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously backed retroactively applying a new law easing penalties for possession of the drug.
Judges in Colorado and Minnesota have issued rulings that could open the door for states and cities to roll back pensions to retired public workers. The judges rejected lawsuits from retired public employees who claimed that they had a right to specific cost of living adjustments.
The government of Minnesota shut down at midnight after lawmakers failed to agree on how to close a $5 billion deficit. The shutdown means thousands of layoffs, a standstill for road projects, and closed state parks just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.
Glenn Beck is off the air. Beck hosted his final TV show on Fox News Thursday. He now plans to launch his own internet broadcast. Beck was the target of a widespread advertising boycott organized by Color of Change and Media Matters. The boycott began after Beck made this comment about President Obama in 2009.
Glenn Beck: "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don’t know what it is, but you can’t sit in a pew with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff and not have it wash over."