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HeadlinesMay 24, 2011

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Supreme Court Orders California to Reduce Prison Population

May 24, 2011

The Supreme Court has ordered California to reduce its prison population by nearly 40,000 prisoners due to inhumane conditions. In a five-to-four ruling, the court said conditions in California’s prison system are “incompatible with the concept of human dignity,” causing “needless suffering and death.” The decision upholds a lower court ruling ordering the California prison system to reduce overcrowding. According to court documents, at least one California prisoner “needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies.” The state currently imprisons some 140,000 people and has a prisoner suicide rate that at times has been 80 percent higher than the national average. California has two years to comply with the ruling but could seek more time.

Tornado Death Toll in Missouri Hits 116

May 24, 2011

The death toll from the massive tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri, Sunday night has risen to 116 with hundreds of people reported injured. Local officials expect the body count to rise as rescue workers continue to search for survivors. A third of the city has reportedly been destroyed. Some 2,000 buildings were struck by the storm, including a high school and a nursing home. Among the worst hit was St. John’s Regional Medical Center, where people in the first floor emergency room were sucked out of windows and into the parking lot, killing five patients. Nearly a mile wide, the tornado is one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

NATO Hits Tripoli with Heaviest Bombing to Date

May 24, 2011

NATO warplanes have launched the heaviest bombardment to date of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in the two-month-old campaign against the regime of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. At least 15 air strikes struck the city earlier today, triggering massive explosions. The Gaddafi regime says at least three civilians were killed and 150 wounded. The bombing comes as the United States and its NATO allies are throwing more support behind Libyan rebels. On Monday, the U.S. State Department’s top Middle East envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, visited the rebel headquarters in Benghazi. Meanwhile, France and Britain have announced plans to deploy attack helicopters for operations against Gaddafi’s fighters.

Libya Campaign Could Violate War Powers Law

May 24, 2011

The Obama administration is facing questions over whether the U.S. role in the attack on Libya is violating federal law. Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the President has 60 days to deploy the armed forces without congressional approval. The 60-day window passed on Friday. The White House has maintained it does not need congressional backing for what it calls a “limited” operation like the Libya attack. But in a letter to Obama last week, a group of Republican senators warned Obama about the 60-day deadline and urged him to seek congressional approval. Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, says the Libya operation marks the first time any president has violated the War Powers Resolution’s provisions on either the 60-day window or on obtaining congressional backing.

Owner of Japanese Nuclear Plant Confirms Additional Meltdowns

May 24, 2011

The owner of Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has confirmed there were additional meltdowns of fuel rods at three of the plant’s reactors in the days following the tsunami and earthquake. Tokyo Electric Power Co. had previously acknowledged a meltdown at the Number One reactor, but now says meltdowns also occurred at Numbers Two and Three.

Netanyahu Protested at AIPAC Speech

May 24, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to insist on retaining large swaths of the occupied West Bank under any future peace deal with Palestinians. Speaking before the annual summit of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Netanyahu repeated his line that Israel’s internationally recognized 1967 borders are “indefensible.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they’re prepared to make peace with a Jewish state. Tomorrow in Congress, I’ll describe what a peace between a Palestinian state and a Jewish state could look like, but I want to assure you of one thing: it must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.”

Netanyahu was interrupted several times by peace activists with the group Move Over AIPAC. Some of the protesters were assaulted after unfurling banners and chanting “occupying land is indefensible.”

Protester: “Occupying land is indefensible! Occupying land is indefensible!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Do you think they have these protests in Gaza? What a way to get a standing ovation! Thank you.”

European Union Sanctions Assad over Crackdown

May 24, 2011

The European Union has imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid a continuing crackdown on anti-government protesters. The E.U. enacted a weapons embargo and travel restrictions on top Syrian officials earlier this month, but had left Assad’s name off the list. The United States imposed similar sanctions last week. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the Syrian crackdown.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “By our best estimate, nearly 1,000 people have now been killed, and that is against the backdrop of President Assad talking about reform while his security forces fire bullets into crowds of marchers and mourners at funerals. This cruelty must end, and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people must be honored.”

6 Killed in Yemen Clashes

May 24, 2011

At least six people have died and dozens have been wounded in clashes in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Guns, tanks and rocket-propelled grenades were used in the fighting, making it one of the deadliest flare-ups between government forces and opposition members since protests spread throughout Yemen in January. Meanwhile, in the city of Ibb, pro-government forces opened fire on the headquarters of the largest member of Yemen’s opposition coalition. The violence came just one day after President Ali Abudullah Saleh backed out of a deal to end his 33-year tenure.

Obama Praises Irish Peace Process

May 24, 2011

President Obama is in Britain as part of his ongoing European tour. Obama left Ireland earlier than scheduled on Monday to avoid an ash cloud forming from an Icelandic volcano. Speaking before a large crowd in Dublin, Obama praised the Irish peace process.

President Obama: “And this is a nation that met its responsibilities and inspired the entire world by choosing to see past the scars of violence and mistrust to forge a lasting peace on this island. And President Clinton said at this very spot 15 years ago, 'Waging peace is risky.' I think those who were involved understood the risks they were taking, but you, the Irish people, persevered, and you cast your votes, and you made your voices heard for that peace.”

Chile Begins Exhumation of Allende’s Body

May 24, 2011

The Chilean government has exhumed the body of former Chilean President Salvador Allende to help determine the cause of his 1973 death. Allende was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup. His official cause of death was listed as suicide, but it has long been speculated he was assassinated by the forces of General Augusto Pinochet. Allende’s family requested the exhumation last month. This is Allende’s daughter, Isabel Allende.

Isabel Allende: “As a family, we want to express, above all, our satisfaction for the advances in the judicial process to establish the truth about what happened on that tragic September 11, 1973, and especially in regards to the circumstances surrounding the death of President Allende.”

Sudanese Troops Seize Disputed Region

May 24, 2011

Sudanese forces have seized control of the disputed border region of Abyei in an ongoing spat with Southern Sudan. Sudanese officials have rejected a U.N. call to withdraw from the region, saying they will not leave until a new peace accord is signed. Southern Sudanese voters backed independence from the north in a vote earlier this year. The Abyei region lies on the border of north and south Sudan, and both sides have laid claim to the area. The U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, warned of escalating conflict.

Princeton Lyman: “I think the danger of further conflict in Abyei is serious. There is some fighting going on now down toward the southern border, where southern forces are still inside Abyei and are fighting Sudanese armed forces. So, the danger of further clashes is very great. I don’t think that means that they’ll go to general warfare between the two, but any kind of warfare, and especially over an area — an issue as emotional and difficult as Abyei, is a very dangerous prospect.”

Saudi Woman Arrested for Defying Driving Ban

May 24, 2011

In Saudi Arabia, a woman has been arrested on charges of inciting defiance of a nationwide ban on female driving. Manal al-Sharif, a 32-year-old computer security consultant, was detained after posting footage of herself driving a vehicle on the video-sharing website YouTube. An online campaign has begun urging support for al-Sharif’s case. Saudi women’s groups have scheduled a protest for next month, during which they plan to drive in defiance of the ban.

Supreme Court Rejects Gitmo Appeal over Torture

May 24, 2011

The Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from prisoners at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, seeking to prevent their transfer to countries where they could face torture. Dozens of prisoners in the case had asked for a 30-day window to challenge their transfer to countries where they have a reasonable fear of torture or ongoing imprisonment. The case was rejected on the grounds U.S. government assurances that prisoners will not face torture were deemed to suffice.

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