Obama Renews Bulk Phone Data Collection Despite Call for Reform
President Obama has reauthorized the government’s bulk collection of phone data for 90 days despite calling for the practice to end. In a statement, Obama said he will sign an extension because Congress has yet to approve his proposed reforms. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said Obama should end bulk collection on his own.
Sen. Ron Wyden: "I believe the president ought to make the transition right away. … I believe strongly we ought to ban all dragnet surveillance on law-abiding Americans, not just phone records, but also medical records, purchases and others."
Under Obama’s proposal, phone companies would store the metadata, and the government would mine it using individual court orders.
U.N. Panel: Poorest Will Suffer Brunt of Global Warming's Impact
The U.N.’s top climate body is warning human-driven climate change has impacted every corner of the globe, with the poorest suffering the worst effects. In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says greenhouse gases have driven up global temperatures and extreme weather, while threatening sources of food and water. Unveiling the findings in Japan, panel chair Rajendra Pachauri called for immediate action to adapt to climate change and prevent it from getting worse.
Rajendra Pachauri: "The one message that comes out very clearly is that the world has to adapt and the world has to mitigate, and the sooner we do that, the less the chances of some of the worst impacts of climate change being faced in different parts of the world."
The panel’s report warns climate change "will exacerbate poverty in low and lower-middle income countries … and create new poverty pockets in upper-middle to high-income countries in which inequality is increasing." At a rally, Christian Teriete of the Global Call for Climate Action urged rich countries to take the lead on curbing greenhouse gases.
Christian Teriete: "We are here to remind world leaders, like Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, David Cameron and many others, that this is the time to act, cut emissions to fight climate change. They have ample opportunity this year and next year at important climate summits, and that is when they need to put better policies on the table to save their people and the environment we depend on from climate change."
Report: U.S. & Other Rich Countries Delete Call for Climate Aid
Poorer countries have increasingly called for climate aid as they face the worst impacts from the emissions of the world’s wealthiest. The UN’s new report cites a World Bank study calling on rich countries to provide climate aid of as much $100 billion per year. But according to The New York Times, the $100 billion figure was removed from an executive summary of the report to be read by the "world’s top political leaders." The edit was reportedly made at the request of "several rich countries, including the United States." Poor countries are expected to seek firm commitments on climate aid at a summit in New York this fall.
Kerry, Lavrov Follow Obama-Putin Talks on Ukraine
The United States and Russia continue to hold talks amidst the diplomatic showdown over Ukraine. President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, followed on Sunday by a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Kerry said he pressed Lavrov on withdrawing Russian forces from its eastern border with Ukraine.
Secretary of State John Kerry: "The U.S. and Russia have differences of opinion about the events that led to this crisis, but both of us recognize the importance of finding a diplomatic solution and of simultaneously meeting the needs of the Ukrainian people, and that we agreed on tonight. Russia’s actions over the past several weeks have placed it at odds, obviously, with the rule of law and the international community and, we still believe, on the wrong side of history, but any real progress in Ukraine must include a pull-back of the very large Russian force that is currently massing along Ukraine’s borders."
Russia says it wants Ukraine to adopt a federal system of semi-autonomous regions. The two sides are set to hold continued talks.
Thousands Stage Land Day Protests in Israel, Occupied Territories
Thousands of Palestinians have rallied across Israel and the Occupied Territories to mark Land Day. The annual protest commemorates the killings of Arab demonstrators protesting the seizure of their land.
Basel Ghattas, Arab-Israeli lawmaker: "This is the Land Day celebration, the Land Day protest, where the Arab-Palestinian community every year at the 30th of March remember the first Land Day in ’76 when Arabs for the first time in their history, the Arabs that have Israeli citizenship, have went in a general strike to defend their lands."
Israel Reneges on Pledge to Free Palestinian Prisoners
Israel has reneged on a pledge to free a small group of Palestinian prisoners as part of the U.S.-brokered peace talks. Some 26 prisoners were due for release over the weekend, but Israel says it will now only release them if the Palestinian Authority agrees to extend the talks beyond next month’s deadline. The negotiations have faltered so far over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Spanish Journalists Freed by Al-Qaeda Rebels in Syria
Two journalists have returned home to Spain after more than six months of captivity in Syria. Javier Espinosa and Ricardo García Vilanova were seized by al-Qaeda-linked rebels near the border with Turkey in September. Details on how the pair were released are being kept under wraps. For journalists in Syria, there are at least nine foreigners and 10 Syrians still missing.
Gen. Alexander Retires as NSA Head
On Friday, the Obama administration bid farewell to General Keith Alexander, the longest-serving head of the National Security Agency. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel paid tribute to Alexander’s tenure.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: "Our responsibility, all of us, whatever the revolutions in technology, is to guard not only our nation, but also the fundamental character of our open society. General Alexander, your vision, your dedication, your leadership have allowed us to begin that task. Now it is ours to carry. From a grateful nation, thank you, Keith."
Alexander will be replaced by Admiral Michael Rogers.
Hundreds Protest Police Shootings in Albuquerque; FBI Opens Probe
Hundreds of people have marched in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to protest a spate of deadly police shootings. The latest saw police kill James Boyd, a homeless man who appeared to be surrendering at the campsite where he was sleeping. After a peaceful march, Sunday’s protest turned into clashes as police fired tear gas at demonstrators who threw rocks and blocked traffic. At least four people were arrested. As demonstrators marched in the streets, a group claiming to be the hacker group Anonymous took down the Albuquerque Police Department’s website for several hours. The FBI has confirmed it is investigating the latest shooting in addition to around 22 others by police since 2010. Albuquerque has one of the highest per capita rates of fatal police shootings in the country.
Christie Apologizes to Billionaire GOP Donor for Calling West Bank "Occupied"
Over the weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and several top Republican politicians attended a gathering hosted by billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas. The conference was dubbed the "Adelson Primary," as Adelson’s donations could play a major role in the 2016 presidential race. Christie unintentionally caused a stir during a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition at Adelson’s casino, the Venetian, when he said the words "occupied territories." Invoking a line previously used by George W. Bush, Christie spoke of flying in a helicopter over the West Bank and becoming mindful of Israel’s security challenges. Christie later apologized to Adelson for calling the West Bank "occupied," saying he misspoke.
Married Same-Sex Couples in Michigan Win Federal Recognition
The Justice Department is recognizing the same-sex marriages performed in Michigan when they were briefly legalized earlier this month. A federal judge struck down the state’s ban, prompting hundreds of weddings the following day. But an appeals court then froze the ruling after the state appealed. On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder said those couples that managed to tie the knot can receive federal benefits. Holder took the same step for same-sex couples in Utah earlier this year.
West Virginia Gov. Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban
West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed a measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. The law was similar to one struck down in Arizona last year.
Report: Regulators Failed to Launch GM Probe Despite Knowing of Deadly Flaws
A House panel investigating a deadly safety defect in General Motors cars has revealed federal regulators failed to open a probe despite knowing of numerous problems in 2007. According to The New York Times, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was made aware by its own investigators that faulty ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts caused four deadly crashes and scores of accidents. But it took no action. Documents released last week showed GM continued to mislead the families of accident victims despite acknowledging the defect in 2009. GM has recalled some 3.1 million cars this year. It admits the defect has caused 12 deaths, but independent estimates say the toll could be in the hundreds.