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HeadlinesFebruary 15, 2011

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Iran: Security Forces Violently Crackdown on Protesters

Feb 15, 2011

In Iran, tens of thousands of people took to the streets Monday in the largest Iranian protests since the aftermath of the nation’s disputed 2009 election. At least one protester died and several were injured as security forces used tear gas, pepper spray and batons in an attempt to disperse the crowds. Dozens of protesters were detained.

bq.Faraz Sanei, researcher for Human Rights Watch: “We don’t really have exact numbers on the numbers of individuals who participated in the demonstrations today, but we do know that thousands of individuals in Tehran, in Shiraz, in Isfahan, in Kermanshah, in Rasht — these are some of the larger cities in Iran — did actually participate in the protests… There were lots of reports of violence in various parts of the the city, in Tehran and in other cities. The riot police, in particular, and the Basij, plainclothes militia, were responsible for going after individuals with batons, with tear gas and with sticks.”

Iranian Lawmakers Call for Execution of Opposition Leaders

Feb 15, 2011

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi in Iran were placed under house arrest ahead of Monday’s protests. Earlier today, a large group of lawmakers called for their execution. Press TV has aired video of lawmakers chanting, “Moussavi, Karroubi… execute them.” The security crackdown in Iran comes just days after the Iranian government claimed to support the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Meanwhile, protests continue across the Arab world.

Two Demonstrators Die in Bahrain Protests

Feb 15, 2011

In the Gulf nation of Bahrain, tension is rising after security forces killed two protesters. A 21-year-old college student died Monday during the first day of anti-government protests. A second man died after being shot while attending the funeral of the college student. Bahrain’s main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, has suspended its membership in the parliament, in protest. Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, making it a key strategic ally for the United States.

U.S. Increases Aid to Yemen as Anti-Government Protests in Sana’a Intensify

Feb 15, 2011

In Yemen, anti-government protests have entered their fifth day. Protesters are marching from Sana’a University toward the city center, calling for the end of the authoritarian rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for three decades. Human Rights Watch has condemned the Yemeni security forces for using tasers against the peaceful protesters. On Monday, a journalist and a camera operator from the BBC say they were deliberately attacked while covering the protests. Meanwhile, President Obama is proposing to increase ties to Yemen by sending nearly $200 million in aid to Yemen next year including $75 million to double the size of a special Yemeni counterterrorism unit.

Egyptian Military Urges End to Protests, Labor Strikes

Feb 15, 2011

The Egyptian military is moving to shore up its power following the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. On Monday, the armed forces council urged an end to all protests and labor strikes.

bq.Army Spokesman: “But some groups in the country have continued to take a stand (hold strikes and protests), despite the return to normal life, at a time when the nation should unite to promote this positive progress and support the efforts of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to enable them to realize all the people’s hopes and ambitions. Noble Egyptians see that these strikes, at this delicate time, lead to negative results.”

Retired Judge Heads Up Egyptian Constitutional Committee

Feb 15, 2011

Egypt’s new army rulers have appointed a retired judge named Tareq al-Bishry to head a committee set up to suggest constitutional changes. Meanwhile, the director of public security at Egypt’s Interior Ministry, and Cairo’s security chief, have been fired for their involvement in the decision to open fire on pro-democracy protesters during the uprising.

Egypt Requests States Freeze Mubarak’s Funds

Feb 15, 2011

Egypt has asked the United States, Britain and France to freeze the assets of officials close to former President Hosni Mubarak. However, both Washington and Paris said that Mubarak was not on the list. Switzerland has already said it has frozen assets that may belong to Mubarak. Some press reports suggest the Mubarak family may be worth as much as $70 billion.

William Hague, British foreign secretary: “We have also received a request from the Egyptian government to freeze the assets of several former Egyptian officials. We will of course cooperate with this request, working with E.U. and international partners as we have done in the case of Tunisia. If there is any evidence of illegality or misuse of state assets, we will take firm and prompt action.”

Self-Immolation Protests Spread to Morocco

Feb 15, 2011

In Morocco, a 26-year-old former soldier died Sunday after setting himself on fire. The Moroccan Human Rights Association said the man had faced economic hard times after he was dismissed from the army in July. In Algeria, an unemployed man and father of six died on Friday after setting himself on fire. At least four Algerians have died from self-immolation since January. In Tunisia, it was the self-immolation of a young street vendor that helped spark the populist uprising that led to the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Syrian Blogger Sentenced to Five Years in Jail After Secret Trial

Feb 15, 2011

A Syrian court has sentenced a 19-year-old blogger to five years in prison after a secret trial. The blogger, Tal al-Mallohi, was accused of “contacting a foreign country” and leaking secret information.

Chevron Ordered to Pay Ecuador $8.5 Billion for Environmental Damages

Feb 15, 2011

A court in Ecuador has ordered the oil giant Chevron to pay $8.6 billion for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s rain forest. The judgment is one of the largest ever imposed for environmental contamination in any court. Chevron said it would appeal the ruling.

Italy’s Berlusconi to Stand Trial on Sex Charges

Feb 15, 2011

An Italian judge has ordered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial on charges of paying for sex with a nightclub dancer when she was under 18 years old.

European Energy Companies Spied on Activist Groups

Feb 15, 2011

The Guardian newspaper has revealed that three large British and Scottish energy companies have been carrying out covert intelligence-gathering operations on environmental activists. Leaked documents show that private security firms broke into the email accounts of activists, posed as activists on mailing lists, and infiltrated protest groups, including the climate justice organization Rising Tide.

Israel to Build Army Base in East Jerusalem

Feb 15, 2011

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting the Israeli military has decided to build an army base in East Jerusalem beyond the pre-1967 war green line. The base construction is expected to spark international criticism. Israel has disputed _Haaretz_’s report.

House Votes to Extend Elements of PATRIOT Act

Feb 15, 2011

In news from Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives has voted to pass an extension of parts of the USA PATRIOT Act that were set to expire at the end of the month. The vote was 275 to 144.

Shirley Sherrod Sues Conservative Blogger

Feb 15, 2011

Former U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod has sued conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. Sherrod was forced out of her job after Breitbart posted a video clip that was deceptively edited to make it appear that she was racist toward a white farmer.

Friend of Suspected WikiLeaks Source Alleges Torture

Feb 15, 2011

A friend of the alleged whistleblower, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, says the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning amounts to torture. David House is one of the few people who have been allowed to visit Manning, who is being held at a military base in Quantico, Virginia.

bq.David House: “I went and saw him again in December, this last December, and it was completely alarming, this transition that happened to him. He was ashen-faced, had huge bags under his eyes, and he had trouble keeping up with topics of conversation, something that had never been a problem for him. So it’s — this confinement, this solitary confinement, has really taken a huge toll on him, definitely. From meeting with Bradley, from getting to know him and from watching his state degrade over time, the only conclusion I can reach is that this is torture.”

Clarence Thomas Connected to Tea Party Funders

Feb 15, 2011

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is coming under scrutiny over his participation in a 2008 political retreat organized by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who have helped bankroll the Tea Party movement. A court spokeswoman originally said he had only made a brief drop by at the event. But newly disclosed financial records show that the Federalist Society had reimbursed Thomas for four days of “transportation, meals and accommodations” over the weekend of the retreat. The watchdog group Common Cause has questioned whether Thomas should have disqualified himself from last year’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission because of his ties to the Koch brothers. The news comes just a week after Thomas’s wife formed a right-wing lobbying group in an effort to become the “ambassador to the Tea Party movement.”

Honduras: Plane Crash Kills 14; Two Campesino Leaders Murdered

Feb 15, 2011

Fourteen people were killed when a small passenger plane crashed outside the capital of Honduras on Monday. Three Americans were counted among the victims of the crash as well as several prominent Hondurans, including government official Rodolfo Rovelo, trade union leader José Israel Salinas and former finance minister Carlos Chain. Meanwhile, on Friday, two influential campesino leaders were killed in the Aguan Valley region of Honduras. The men headed up a co-operative that cultivates African palm oil for biofuel production.

Equatorial Guinean Author Enters Fifth Day of Hunger Strike

Feb 15, 2011

One of Equatorial Guinea’s most prominent authors has entered his fifth day on a hunger strike to protest the policies of Equatorial Guinean dictator Teodoro Obiang. The writer, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, began the hunger strike on Friday calling for more political rights and an end to the dictatorship. Obiang has ruled the oil-rich West African nation since 1979.

BP Executive Resigned over Safety Protocols Before Spill

Feb 15, 2011

A class action federal lawsuit has revealed that a former BP executive resigned in late 2009 because of concerns over the company’s safety protocols in offshore drilling operations. Kevin Lacy resigned in December 2009 — just months before last year’s massive oil spill. He was BP’s former senior vice president for drilling operations for the Gulf of Mexico.

Arizona Bill Would Require Hospitals Check Citizenship Status of Patients

Feb 15, 2011

In news from Arizona, Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill that would require doctors and nurses to check on the citizenship status of their patients. Under the bill, hospitals would be required — when admitting non-emergency cases — to confirm that a person seeking care is a U.S. citizen or in the country legally. The bill has sparked outrage in the medical profession.

Former Head of Vigilante Anti-Immigrant Group Convicted of Murder

Feb 15, 2011

In other news from Arizona, the former head of the anti-immigrant vigilante group Minutemen American Defense has been convicted of two counts of murder. Shawna Forde was found guilty of killing nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul Flores, Jr., in May 2009 in a home invasion arranged to fund her vigilante group.

Texas Refuses to Compensate Exonerated Death Row Prisoner

Feb 15, 2011

The Texas Comptroller’s Office is refusing to pay out compensation to a former death row prisoner who spent 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Anthony Graves was denied the $1.4 million in compensation because the word “innocent” did not appear in paperwork submitted on his behalf.

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