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HeadlinesSeptember 28, 2011

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Study: Workers Facing Costlier Health Premiums

Sep 28, 2011

New figures show healthcare costs for insured working Americans continue to rise. An annual study from the Kaiser Family Foundation reports premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage rose nine percent for family plans and eight percent for individual ones. The rate of Americans to lose employer-sponsored health coverage also increased from last year.

Listeria Outbreak Kills 13 in U.S.

Sep 28, 2011

The death toll from an outbreak of listeria in the United States has reached at least 13 people. The Centers for Disease Control says 72 infections have been reported in 18 states. The outbreak is linked to tainted cantaloupes from the Denver-based company, Jensen Farms. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, says the outbreak reinforces the need for regulations to bar pathogens from produce. Melons are said to have caused 36 outbreaks of food-borne disease since 1990.

Study: 30,000 Cases of Border Patrol Abuses Since 2008

Sep 28, 2011

A new study shows undocumented immigrants are reporting higher numbers of abuses by U.S. border patrol guards along the border with Mexico. The “Culture of Cruelty” study from the Arizona humanitarian group No More Deaths cites 30,000 cases of human rights abuses in short-term immigration detention between 2008 and 2011. The allegations range from border agents denying food and water to detainees, deliberately separating families, and forcing immigrants to sign removal orders. The report concludes the border guards’ alleged abuses meet the international definition of torture.

Report: FBI Keeps Names on Terrorist Watch List Despite Exoneration

Sep 28, 2011

Newly released documents show the FBI is permitted to keep people on its “terrorism watch list” even if they have been cleared of terrorism-related crimes. The New York Times reports cleared individuals can remain on the list if the FBI harbors a “reasonable suspicion” they could be linked to terrorism. Civil rights advocates argue the finding undermines the legally protected assumption an individual is innocent until proven guilty. The Bureau’s database includes roughly 420,000 names, including approximately 8,000 Americans.

Gaddafi Reported to Be Near Algerian Border

Sep 28, 2011

Senior officials within Libya’s interim government believe Col. Muammar Gaddafi is hiding out in the southern region of the country, possibly near the Algerian border. On Tuesday, Libya’s revolutionary forces delivered $16 million to the remote southern city of Sabha in an effort to flush out encamped Gaddafi loyalists. Pro-Gaddafi forces also still hold the towns of Bani Walid and Sirte. The White House, meanwhile, has extended a program to secure and destroy Libya’s stockpile of surface-to-air missiles. Libya possessed approximately 20,000 of the missiles before the uprising began in February. In Belgium, a NATO spokesperson said Libya’s National Transitional Council has taken control of securing Gaddafi’s chemical stockpile.

Roland Lavoie: “The NTC is now controlling facilities containing Libya’s remaining stockpile of chemical and nuclear-related agents. We are confident that allies and international organization that are in contact with the NTC are working to ensure that Libyans’ governing authorities can take full control of any proliferation, sensitive material that is left, and that they start planning for their safe disposal.”

Israel Authorizes 1,100 New Settlement Homes

Sep 28, 2011

The Israeli government has authorized the construction of 1,100 new homes in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank. The move comes just days after the Palestinian Authority submitted its request for international recognition of a Palestinian state in the entire Occupied Territories, which contains the massive settlement blocs Israel continues to expand. It also comes just days after President Obama gave strong backing to the Israeli government in his speech before the United Nations that blasted the Palestinians’ statehood bid. During his remarks, Obama made no mention of Israeli settlements or human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories. At the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered mild criticism of the new building plans, calling them “counterproductive.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We believe that this morning’s announcement by the government of Israel approving the construction of 11 housing units in East Jerusalem is counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties. As you know, we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which would undermine trust, including, and perhaps most particularly in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative by either side.”

Both Israel and the United States have urged the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations instead of pursuing statehood, but Palestinians have demanded an end to settlement expansion as a precondition. A spokesperson for the Israeli group Peace Now said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shunning the basis for peace.

Hagit Ofran: “Netanyahu is trying to persuade the world not to approve the unilateral step of the Palestinians in the U.N. Netanyahu himself is doing a unilateral step in promoting another big plan in East Jerusalem, and the message of the Netanyahu government is unfortunately that they don’t want to go to peace, but they want to go to more settlements.”

U.N. Official: Palestinian Authority Ready to Govern State

Sep 28, 2011

Debate on the Palestinian statehood bid continues at the United Nations Security Council. On Tuesday, the top U.N. official for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, all but endorsed the statehood effort, telling Council members the Palestinian Authority is ready to govern a new state and that the obstacles to peace are only “political.”

B. Lynn Pascoe, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs: “The Palestinian Authority is capable of running the state. The strong international consensus was clear at the meeting of the ad hoc liaison committee on 18 September here in New York. The meeting confirmed the assessments of the World Bank, the IMF and UNSCO of the capability of the Palestinian Authority. The efforts to rebuild robust state institutions and revive the Palestinian economy have brought real security and economic improvements.”

Hundreds Protest U.S. in Pakistan

Sep 28, 2011

Hundreds of people rallied in several towns in Pakistan on Tuesday to protest recent U.S. criticism of the Pakistani government. Last week, the nation’s top military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistani intelligence of backing the Haqqani militant group that’s believed to have carried out the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul. A protest leader said the United States will face violence if it carries out more unilateral military action inside Pakistan.

Sirajul Haq: “We are announcing that we will turn the tribal areas and every inch of Pakistan into a graveyard for America. Hear this from us.”

Bahraini Court Upholds Sentences for Protest Leaders

Sep 28, 2011

A Bahrain court has upheld the sentences of 21 activists for their involvement in the nation’s popular uprising. The prisoners include eight prominent political figures sentenced to life on charges of trying to overthrow the Gulf nation’s Sunni rulers. The ruling comes just after the Obama administration announced plans to sell $53 million worth of military equipment to Bahrain, including armored vehicles as well as bunker buster and wire-guided missiles. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally and home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Republicans Launch New Probe of Planned Parenthood

Sep 28, 2011

Republican lawmakers have launched a new probe as part of what critics call a targeted effort to ultimately shut down the group Planned Parenthood. Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, has ordered Planned Parenthood to hand over more than a decade’s worth of documents as part of an investigation into whether the group has used tax dollars to fund abortions. Planned Parenthood offers a number of reproductive and women’s health services at its hundreds of clinics nationwide; federal law bans taxpayer funds from funding abortions. Stearns wants the group to hand over internal audits, state audits, and an accounting of how the group separates its abortion-related services. In a statement, Planned Parenthood said: “This is about harassment and intimidation of America’s leading provider and advocate of women’s health care… This is about a pattern of politically motivated attacks designed to eliminate Planned Parenthood once and for all.”

Danish Firm Protests Drug Use in Florida Execution

Sep 28, 2011

A Danish drug company is protesting the planned use of one its anesthetics in an execution set for tonight in Florida. In a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott, the company Lundbeck says it is “adamant” in its opposition to use of the drug pentobarbital in the execution of Cuban national Manuel Valle. Doctors and experts have warned pentobarbital is untested and could cause extreme suffering on death row prisoners as they are killed.

Postal Workers Hold Nationwide Protests Against Cuts, Funding Mandate

Sep 28, 2011

Postal workers held rallies across the country on Tuesday to back legislation that would repeal a benefit-funding mandate they say lies behind the Postal Service’s financial woes. A 2006 law has forced the USPS to become the only agency required to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over just a 10-year span. The American Postal Workers Union says the requirement accounts for 100 percent of the service’s $20 billion in losses over the previous four years, without which the service would have turned a profit. A Democratic-backed measure before Congress would undo the mandate. Republicans meanwhile are trying to push a bill that would establish an unelected board to overhaul the USPS and likely force mass layoffs. The postal workers’ union says protests were organized Tuesday in every congressional district.

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