Komen Officials Resign over Planned Parenthood Controversy

The nation’s leading breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, continues to face a public backlash over its decision to cut off funding for breast cancer screening programs run by Planned Parenthood. It emerged this week Komen has withdrawn some $700,000 in funding for breast screening services provided by Planned Parenthood, citing a new policy barring funding for any groups under investigation. Planned Parenthood’s finances are currently the subject of a congressional probe prompted by anti-abortion groups. A number of key members of Komen and its affiliates have announced their resignation, including Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams; Dr. Kathy Plesser, a member of Komen’s medical advisory board; and Deb Anthony, executive director of Komen’s Los Angeles County chapter. Also Thursday, all seven of Komen’s California affiliates issued a statement criticizing Komen’s new policy denying grants to groups under investigation. As they try to contain the controversy, Komen officials have offered contradictory explanations for the decision to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding. On Thursday, Komen President Elizabeth Thompson said the funding decision was unrelated to the congressional probe into Planned Parenthood’s funds. Komen founder Nancy Brinker, meanwhile, said the decision had nothing to do with political pressure and that Komen is only seeking to back groups that directly provide breast health services, instead of referrals. Planned Parenthood says it has received a flood of donations since Komen’s announcement, with $400,000 coming in from online donors. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Lee and Amy Fikes Foundation have each made separate pledges of $250,000.

Syria: U.N. Drops Call for Assad Resignation

Talks continue at the U.N. Security Council today over a measure to respond to the Syrian government’s crackdown on the growing uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a bid to avoid a Russian veto, backers of a proposed measure have dropped language calling on Assad to step down. Russia has vowed to block any measure that would allow for foreign military intervention. The ongoing talks at the United Nations come as more accounts of a war-zone-like atmosphere emerge from restive Syrian cities. In Homs, a young boy described what he said was the torture and murder of his father by Assad’s forces.

Unidentified: '’They called us and said, ’We have Abdel Fattal Hosam.' We went to the government hospital, and he had marks of torture on his face. There were no gunshot wounds. He was just tortured. We found him dead. He was in a coma for five days and then died. They called us from the hospital and told us to come and get him. He had a taxi car, as well. They burned the taxi.’’

Egypt: 4 Killed as Thousands Protest Soccer Deaths

In Egypt, thousands of people protested in several cities Thursday to condemn the military government for failing to prevent the deaths of more than 70 people at a soccer game riot the night before. Four protesters were killed when police fired into the crowd.

NATO Chief Contradicts Panetta on Afghan Timetable

Top U.S. and NATO officials are downplaying comments by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggesting an end to the combat mission in Afghanistan next year. CIA Director David Petraeus said the United States remains committed to ending the combat mission by the end of 2014. At a meeting in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also backed the later date.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "If anyone thinks that the ISAF mission will be completed by 2013, then I can declare that’s not the case. We stick to the road map that was outlined in Lisbon in November 2010, according to which the transition will continue until the end of 2014. But obviously, from now until then, you will see a gradual development of our operation."

Israel: Iranian Missiles Could Reach United States

A top Israeli official is claiming an Iranian missile site destroyed in an explosion last year was producing missiles capable of reaching the United States. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s deputy prime minister and minister for strategic affairs, made the assertion in a speech on Thursday.

Moshe Ya’alon: "The explosion in the research and development installation for the Iranian missile system was for a system that was preparing to produce or develop a missile with a range of 10,000 kilometers. This is for 'the great Satan,' the United States, America, and not us, and therefore, it’s not just a threat against Israel. So when we reach the discussion of a nuclear weapon in the hands of this regime, we need to look at it within this perspective."

U.S. officials have cast doubt on Ya’alon’s claims, saying Iran is nowhere close to producing missiles capable of hitting U.S. soil.

Khmer Rouge Commander Gets Life Term

A U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia has extended the sentence of a senior Khmer Rouge commander to life in prison. Kaing Guek Eav, who is known as Duch, was initially sentenced to a term amounting to 19 years for overseeing the torture and the killing of more than 14,000 people. The initial verdict had outraged Khmer Rouge victims, who had called for Duch to be jailed for life.

Trump Backs Romney Ahead of Nevada Caucus

The Republican presidential contest is in full swing in Nevada ahead of Saturday’s caucus. On Thursday, Mitt Romney picked up an endorsement from real estate mogul and reality television personality, Donald Trump.

Donald Trump: "Mitt is tough. He’s smart. He’s sharp. He’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ’em. You can do it."

Mitt Romney: "There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement. And of course, I’m looking for the endorsement of the people of Nevada."

Initial reports had suggested Trump was set to back Romney’s chief rival, Newt Gingrich. The Nevada caucus is followed by votes next week in Maine, Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

SEC Issued Scores of Waivers to Wall Street Firms in Fraud Cases

The New York Times has revealed new details on how the Securities and Exchange Commission has repeatedly allowed Wall Street firms to skirt punishment for fraud. An analysis shows the SEC has granted nearly 350 waivers to financial companies, allowing them to maintain privileges even after admitting fraudulent practices. JPMorgan Chase received at least 22 waivers over the past 13 years while settling six fraud cases, while Bank of America and Merrill Lynch received 39 waivers and settled 15 times. In a speech on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said deceptive practices by Wall Street firms are now under control.

Timothy Geithner: "The financial system itself is getting strong and safer. Much of the excess risk taking and careless and damaging financial practices that caused so much damage to the American economy have been forced out of the financial system. These gains, though, will erode over time if we are not able to put these full reforms into place."

Holder Takes Heat from Congress for "Fast and Furious" Weapons Sting

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before Congress on Thursday for the sixth time on the controversial gun-sting operation known as "Fast and Furious." The operation saw U.S. agents encouraging the sale of thousands of guns to middlemen for Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to gain access to senior-level figures within Mexico’s criminal organizations.

Eric Holder: "Now, in some of my comments today, if they sound familiar, it is because this marks the sixth time that I’ve answered questions about this operation before a congressional committee in the last year. Let me start, however, with something that cannot be said enough: allowing guns to walk, whether in this administration or the prior one, is wholly unacceptable."

During Holder’s appearance, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa faulted him for the operation, which has been linked to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. In response, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland defended Holder.

Rep. Darrell Issa: "This committee has lost its patience to wait longer. We will not wait until next Groundhog Day to get answers for the American people, for Brian Terry, and for others."

Rep. Elijah Cummings: "Mr. Chairman, although you deserve credit for exposing these operations over the last five years, we part ways in what we should do next. You now appear intent on escalating controversy and promoting unsubstantiated allegations in a campaign that looks more like an election-year witch hunt than an evenhanded investigation."

Yemeni Activists Protest Saleh’s NYC Visit

Protesters rallied outside a luxury New York City hotel Thursday to denounce President Obama’s decision to allow Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to enter the United States for medical treatment. Saleh is believed to be staying in the Ritz-Carlton overlooking Central Park. Yemen’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkul Karman, addressed the protest via cellphone from Yemen and called for Saleh to be tried by the International Criminal Court.

Amel Ahmed, Yemeni American Coalition for Change: "Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh is staying at this hotel, so we came out to protest the fact that our government would allow him into this country, to begin with. We don’t feel that he should be here in the United States of America. We think it sends the wrong message to the Middle East. If you’re saying that you support democracy in the Middle East and you’re anti-extremism in the Middle East, then you shouldn’t be supporting dictators. You should be supporting people on the ground who are calling for democracy. I mean, for years, we’ve criticized the Muslim world for turning to extremism and not sharing the same democratic values. Meanwhile, we have an entire generation that’s rising up and demanding democracy, and meanwhile, we’re here hosting a dictator in a five-star hotel. I mean, the message is conflicting, and there should be a consistent message coming from the White House."

Sierra Club Took $26 Million from Gas Industry

The Sierra Club has admitted it accepted more than $26 million in donations from one of the nation’s largest natural gas companies at a time when the environmental group was publicly promoting natural gas as an alternative to coal. On Thursday, the Sierra Club said it stopped accepting the money in 2010.

Report: U.S. More Than Doubles Names on No-Fly List

The Associated Press is reporting the Obama administration has more than doubled the number of people on the secret no-fly list who are prevented from flying to or within the United States. The government broadened the criteria for the list, which now has about 21,000 names, including some 500 Americans. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the government on behalf of Americans who believe they have been unfairly prevented from travel.

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