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HeadlinesJune 13, 2011

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FBI Grants Agents Increased Freedom to Investigate Without Firm Evidence

Jun 13, 2011

The New York Times is reporting the FBI is giving its agents new leeway to infiltrate organizations, search household trash, use surveillance teams and search databases in domestic investigations. FBI agents will now be able investigate people and organizations “proactively” without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Syria: Thousands Flee to Turkey Following Military Attack, Government Reportedly Deploys Helicopters

Jun 13, 2011

More than 5,000 thousand Syrian civilians have fled into Turkey following a Syrian military attack on the city of Jisr al-Shughour. Meanwhile, Syrian helicopter gunships reportedly opened fire on peaceful protesters in the city of Maarat al-Numaan. The attack marked the first reported use of air power to quell protests in Syria’s popular uprising.

Obama Administration Approved $200M in Military Sales to Bahrain in Run-Up to Violent Crackdown

Jun 13, 2011

Newly released government data shows the Obama administration approved $200 million in military sales to Bahrain last year just months before the Gulf nation launched a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Part of the military sales involved the sale of rifles, shotguns and assault weapons. There have been a number of developments in Bahrain. Dozens of doctors and nurses were put on trial today for treating injured protesters. Two former Shiite lawmakers were tried on Sunday for calling for regime change. And a 20-year-old Bahraini poet has been sentenced to a year in prison. Ayat al-Gormezi was arrested earlier this year when she read a poem at a protest appealing for democratic rights and criticizing the monarchy.

Soaring Costs of U.S. Involvement in Libya Set to Exceed $750 Million

Jun 13, 2011

A leaked Pentagon memo has revealed the cost of the U.S. military involvement in Libya is soaring and is set to soon exceed the Pentagon’s initial estimate of $750 million. In other Libya news, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is examining whether Goldman Sachs and some other financial companies violated bribery laws in dealings with Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund.

U.N.: May Deadliest Month for Afghanistan Civilians in Ongoing War

Jun 13, 2011

Newly released United Nations statistics show that at least 368 civilians died in Afghanistan in May, making it the deadliest month for civilians in the nearly decade-old war. The United Nations said it is concerned the civilian death toll will continue to increase over the summer. The United Nations also said militants were responsible for the vast majority of the deaths. Forty-five deaths were blamed on Afghan and NATO-led forces.

$6.6 Billion Shipped to Iraq Alleged Stolen; Possibly “Largest Theft of Funds in National History”

Jun 13, 2011

Federal auditors now believe as much as $6.6 billion earmarked for Iraq might have been stolen in the early years of the Iraq war in what is now being described as possibly “the largest theft of funds in national history.” Between 2003 and 2004, the United States shipped $12 billion in cash to Iraq in what was the biggest international cash airlift of all time. For years, the Pentagon has been unable to account for where more than half the money went. The Los Angeles Times reports Iraqi officials are now threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program.

Imprisoned Iran Activist Dies Following Hunger Strike

Jun 13, 2011

A longtime Iranian journalist and activist has died of a heart attack after spending 10 days on hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin prison. Hoda Saber had been held since the disputed 2009 elections.

Bombing Follows Third Consecutive Election of Turkish Prime Minister

Jun 13, 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party has scored a third consecutive election victory. In a victory speech, Erdogan pledged to work with opposition parties to rewrite Turkey’s constitution.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan: “We will write a civilian, free constitution which braces all parties of the society together. Everybody will find himself in this constitution. East will find himself, west will find himself.”

Soon after the Turkish election results were announced, a bomb exploded in southeast Turkey, injuring 11 people. Kurdish independent candidates made a strong showing in the election, with 36 of them winning seats in the 550-seat assembly. Turkish professor Cengiz Aktar says the Kurdish conflict will be one of the biggest issues facing the Turkish government.

Cengiz Aktar, senior analyst and professor at Bahcesehir University: “It’s good that the Kurdish party, through independent candidates, made to the parliament with more deputies than in the previous legislature, and it is definitely an asset for the future dialogue. But the dialogue doesn’t really depend on them. The dialogue depends chiefly and mainly on Mr. Erdogan, whether he will accept to sit at table.”

U.S. Works to Deploy Secret Internet, Mobile Phone Systems for Dissidents

Jun 13, 2011

New details have emerged about a secret U.S. effort to deploy shadow internet and mobile phone systems overseas to give political dissidents a way to communicate with the world free of government censorship. The New York Times reports the project involves developing what has been described as an “Internet in a suitcase” that would allow dissidents to use “mesh network” technology to create an invisible wireless web without a centralized hub. Part of the effort is being led by Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative at the New America Foundation. Meinrath described part of the project on Democracy Now! in April.

Sascha Meinrath, New America Foundation, Open Technology Initiative Director: “So we’ve been working on a number of technologies to develop distributed communication systems, so that you can turn cell phones, for example, into a medium that doesn’t need to go through a cell tower, a central location, but communicate in a peer-to-peer manner, directly with one another. And so, you can imagine if you daisy-chain a lot of these together, you can actually have an entire network built out of the already existing hardware that doesn’t need a central authority.”

Most Wanted al-Qaeda Operative in Africa Killed in Somalia

Jun 13, 2011

Somali forces have killed a lead suspect in the 1998 U.S. embassy attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed had been described as Africa’s most wanted al-Qaeda operative.

Mexico Anti-Violence Protesters Arrive in U.S., Demand Change from American People, Government

Jun 13, 2011

A caravan of Mexican anti-violence protesters arrived in the United States over the weekend. Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, led the traveling protest, which began last week south of Mexico City and ended in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. Sicilia demanded the United States end the Merida Initiative, which provides training and support for the Mexican army in its “war on drugs.” The Mexican military has been criticized for contributing to the nation’s violence since President Felipe Calderón militarized the drug war in 2006. Sicilia also called on the American people to recognize their own role in fueling drug violence by purchasing and consuming narcotics. To date, more than 35,000 people have died in Mexico as drug cartels and the Mexican government struggle for control of the region. Javier Sicilia began speaking out after the murder of his son.

Javier Sicilia, Mexican poet and peace convoy leader: “We are asking for a national security law for the whole country and also for different forms of taking care of our own citizens, of which there are many ways. We are also asking for more money and investment into our students and for more opportunities for our students. We need to stop feeding violence and start feeding education and culture.”

Republican Presidential Contenders Set to Debate in New Hampshire

Jun 13, 2011

A number of Republican presidential contenders will debate in New Hampshire tonight. Participants include former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney; former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Texas Rep. Ron Paul; Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann; former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum; and pizza mogul, Herman Cain.

Rep. Anthony Weiner Refuses to Resign amid Ongoing Internet Scandal

Jun 13, 2011

New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner is continuing to resist calls from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to resign. Last week, Weiner admitted to having what he described as “inappropriate” and “explicit” conversations with six women over Twitter, Facebook, email, and occasionally on the phone. Weiner checked into a treatment center on Saturday, a day after the gossip website, TMZ, published photos of Weiner posing in what appears to be a locker room with a towel around his waist.

Photos Released of Wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Jun 13, 2011

Photos of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords were posted to the congresswoman’s Facebook page over the weekend. The images are the first to be made public since Giffords was shot pointblank in the head in an assassination attempt in January.

Hundreds Protest Release of Police Officer Convicted of Killing Unarmed Man

Jun 13, 2011

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Oakland on Sunday hours after BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle was released from jail. On New Year’s Day in 2009, Johannes Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed train passenger named Oscar Grant. Last year, jurors convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years, but his prison term was shortened.

Government Adds Formaldehyde to List of Known Carcinogens

Jun 13, 2011

The U.S. government has added formaldehyde to a list of known carcinogens, despite years of lobbying by the chemical industry. Formaldehyde is a substance found in plastics and often used in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. The decision comes just months after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration warned that a hair-care product, Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, contained unacceptable levels of formaldehyde, and salon workers have reported headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes, vomiting and asthma attacks after using the product and other hair-straighteners. The government also said Friday that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer. Leading the lobbying effort against labeling formaldehyde as a carcinogen has been the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, is one of the country’s top producers of formaldehyde.

New Zealand Suffers Second Major Earthquake Since February

Jun 13, 2011

The New Zealand city of Christchurch has been hit with another strong earthquake. Fifty buildings were destroyed, but no fatalities were initially reported. In February, 181 people died in another quake to hit the city.

American Admits to Fabricating Blog Detailing Life of “Gay Girl in Damascus”

Jun 13, 2011

An American graduate student has admitted he was the author behind the popular blog, “A Gay Girl in Damascus.” Over the past several months, 40-year-old Tom MacMaster wrote the blog pretending to be a Syrian-American lesbian named Amina Arraf who was involved in the Syrian protest movement. Last week, the blog made international headlines when it appeared that Amina was detained by Syrian security forces. The website, Electronic Intifada, exposed the hoax on Sunday.

“The Book of Mormon,” Eve Ensler Take Home Honors at Tony Awards

Jun 13, 2011

The Broadway musical, “The Book of Mormon,” won nine Tony Awards on Sunday. The playwright Eve Ensler won a special Tony Award for her humanitarian work.

Eve Ensler “And I really plead with all of us to see the theater as this vehicle and to remember why we were drawn there and to be more bold, more daring and more outrageous.”

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