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HeadlinesMay 17, 2011

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NATO Bombs Key Gaddafi Targets in Tripoli

May 17, 2011

NATO warplanes have carried out another series of air strikes in Tripoli near the home of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The attacks targeted the headquarters of Libya’s anti-corruption agency in Tripoli and a security services building. The bombings came one day after the International Criminal Court sought arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son and another top official.

U.S. Joins Talks with Taliban amid Fresh Deaths of Civilians and U.S. Troops

May 17, 2011

The Washington Post is reporting the Obama administration has accelerated direct talks with the Taliban. A senior Afghan official said a U.S. representative attended at least three meetings in Qatar and Germany with a Taliban official considered close to Mohammed Omar. In other news from Afghanistan, four U.S. troops died Monday when they were hit by an improvised explosive device. And NATO says it is investigating several reports of civilian casualties over the past week. Two 12-year-old girls and a 14-year-old boy were killed in three separate attacks by U.S. or NATO forces since Thursday.

NATO Helicopter Fires on Pakistani Army Post

May 17, 2011

Pakistani officials say a NATO helicopter attacked a Pakistani army post on the border of Afghanistan today, wounding at least two soldiers. NATO officials confirmed there was an incident in which coalition forces received and returned fire across the Pakistan border. A similar helicopter shooting last year resulted in Pakistan closing the border to NATO supply convoys for 11 days. The incident occurred one day after Senator John Kerry met with top Pakistani officials. He told Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders that Washington wanted to hit the “reset button” on deteriorating relations following the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan.
Kerry spoke to reporters after his meetings.

U.S. Senator John Kerry: “I expressed as clearly as possible the grave concerns in the United States over Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and the existence here, continuing existence, of sanctuaries for our adversaries in Afghanistan. And I emphasized to my Pakistani friends that many in Congress are raising tough questions about our ongoing assistance to the government of Pakistan in light of the events of the past weeks.”

New York Investigates Major Banks over Mortgage Security Operations

May 17, 2011

The State of New York has launched an investigation of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley over the mortgage security operations at the three banks. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly examining how the banks profited by bundling thousands of risky home loans into securities that were then sold to investors, such as pension funds, mutual funds and insurance companies.

Audit: Five Largest Mortgage Firms Defrauded Taxpayers

May 17, 2011

The Huffington Post has revealed a set of confidential federal audits have accused the nation’s five largest mortgage companies of defrauding taxpayers in their handling of foreclosures on homes purchased with government-backed loans. The companies named are Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial.

Supreme Court Increases Police Power to Conduct Warrantless Searches

May 17, 2011

The Supreme Court has granted police officers increased power to enter the homes of citizens without a warrant. In an eight-to-one ruling on Monday, the Court upheld the warrantless search of a Kentucky man’s apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared those inside were destroying evidence. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that citizens are not required to grant police officers permission to enter their homes after hearing a knock, but if there is no response and the officers hear noise that suggests evidence is being destroyed, they are justified in breaking in. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asserted that the ruling “arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases.” In other legal news, Indiana’s Supreme Court has stripped citizens of the right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes. Critics of the ruling say it eliminates a common law right dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215.

IMF Chief Held on Sex Crime Charges Denied Bail

May 17, 2011

International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was denied bail on Monday on charges he attempted to rape a hotel maid in New York City. Until this week, Strauss-Kahn was seen as a front-runner for the French presidency. Strauss-Kahn faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. He is now being held at the New York City prison on Rikers Island. Strauss-Kahn’s attorney spoke to reporters outside the courthouse.

Benjamin Brafman, Attorney: “We believe and will prove in our judgment that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is innocent of these charges. We think this case is very defensible. We do not believe he has any intention of ever fleeing the jurisdiction. His principal intention is to try and clear his name and reestablish his good name. So we are disappointed, but this case has just begun.”

Some supporters of Strauss-Kahn in France have questioned whether he is being set up by his political opponents. On Monday, a French writer came forward to say that Dominique Strauss-Kahn attempted to rape her nearly a decade ago.

Canada Wildfires Threaten Oil Pipeline Spill Cleanup

May 17, 2011

Raging wildfires have forced workers to delay cleanup efforts of last month’s massive oil spill from a tar sands pipeline in Alberta, Canada. More than 115 wildfires have been reported across Alberta. Thirty-six of them are listed as being out of control. Fears are growing that the fires will reach the site of last month’s oil spill, near the community of Little Buffalo in the traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree First Nation. Melina Laboucan-Massimo is an environmental campaigner with Greenpeace who is from the Lubicon Cree First Nation.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Greenpeace: “Currently around the area where the spill is, and this has raised concerns for people as well, because if that oil were to ignite, we would also see a whole host of problems related to toxins being further released from the oil spill, as well as the inability to put the fire out.”

The pipeline spill in Alberta caused a leak of 28,000 barrels of oil—the largest oil spill in the region in decades.

New Yorker Exposé Reveals Obama’s Expansive Attack on Whistleblowers

May 17, 2011

A major new exposé by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker magazine has revealed new details about the Obama administration’s attack on whistleblowers. The article focuses on former National Security Agency analyst Thomas Drake, who is being prosecuted for leaking information about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The New Yorker reveals the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined. Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Hudson Institute said, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.” Yale University Professor of Constitutional Law Jack Balkin said the increase in leak prosecutions is part of a larger transformation, what he described as bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national surveillance state.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Bush-Era Extraordinary Rendition Case

May 17, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of five men who say they were victims of CIA kidnapping and torture under the former Bush administration. The men had asked the high court to reinstate their case against Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen DataPlan. The lawsuit accused Jeppesen of arranging at least 70 flights since 2001 as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.

Journalists Detained in Libya May Be Released

May 17, 2011

A group of foreign journalists who were detained six weeks ago by the Libyan government could be released in a matter of days. The reporters include two Americans, GlobalPost correspondent James Foley and freelancer Clare Morgana Gillis, as well as the Spanish photographer Manuel Varela. A fourth journalist, South African photographer Anton Hammerl, had also been with them at the time, but his whereabouts remain unknown. Human Rights Watch said that nine foreign journalists and six Libyan journalists are believed to be detained or missing inside Libya.

Iran Comments on Missing Al Jazeera Correspondent

May 17, 2011

The Iranian government has commented publicly for the first time on the disappearance of Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz. Parvaz was detained in Syria last month and was reportedly deported to Iran but has not been seen since. A spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said Parvaz attempted to enter Syria last month with an expired Iranian passport and without proper press clearance. The official offered no details on reports that Parvaz has been deported to Iran. Parvaz was born in Iran and holds Iranian, U.S. and Canadian citizenship. On Monday, her fiancé, Todd Barker, called for her immediate release.

Todd Barker, Parvaz’s fiancé: “Every day that goes by is a significant event, and we just desperately want to hear that Dorothy is safe. The geopolitical environment is very complicated, and I understand that, and I don’t cast aspersions on anybody. But my relationship with Dorothy is very simple, and I know that people can understand my love of her. I’m going to be married to her, and I need to speak with her.”

Arkansas Man First to be Convicted under Hate Crime Act

May 17, 2011

An Arkansas man has pleaded guilty to committing a federal hate crime for taking part in a car chase intended to cause a vehicle driven by Hispanic men to crash. Nineteen-year-old Sean Popejoy’s plea makes him the first person to be convicted of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was enacted in 2009. Popejoy now faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Both Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., died as the result of violent hate crimes committed more than a decade ago.

Memorial Held for Civil Rights Attorney Leonard Weinglass

May 17, 2011

Friends and family of the late civil rights attorney, Leonard Weinglass, gathered in New York City on Friday for a memorial. Speakers included Weinglass’s close friend Tom Hayden. Weinglass represented Hayden during the infamous Chicago Seven trial.

Tom Hayden: “He had this passion to defend people against the bullying powers, whether they were the state, the intelligence agencies, the corporations, whomever. And because he had this professionalism about him, combined with the passion of an activist, he was our last, best hope. He was always looking for the argument that would convince the jury to nullify the case, or convince one juror, one, to refuse to convict.”

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