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HeadlinesApril 19, 2012

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CIA Seeks Widened Authority for Yemen Drone Strikes

Apr 19, 2012

The CIA is seeking White House approval for a radical expansion of its drone strike program inside Yemen. According to the Washington Post, CIA chief David Petraeus has asked President Obama to give the CIA authority to launch drone attacks against terror suspects, even if it does not know the identities of those who will be killed. The capability would allow for drone strikes based on a vast range of factors, including whether intelligence officials decide they are observing “suspicious behavior.” The sweeping leeway to launch attacks has already been in effect in Pakistan, where U.S. drones have killed hundreds of civilians. According to the website, “The Long War Journal,” 198 suspected militants and 48 civilians have been killed in 27 U.S. strikes inside Yemen since 2009.

New Photos Show U.S. Soldiers Posing with Dead Afghans

Apr 19, 2012

The Los Angeles Times has published two photographs that show U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses and body parts of Afghans during a 2010 deployment. In one of the photos, a soldier from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division poses with a dead insurgent’s hand on his shoulder. In another, soldiers pose alongside the mangled corpse of a suicide bomber. On Wednesday, the Obama administration condemned the photos, but also criticized the Los Angeles Times for publishing them despite pressure from the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said his department had tried to block the photos’ publication.

Leon Panetta: “This is war. And I know that war is ugly, and it’s violent. And I know that young people, sometimes caught up in the moment, make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that. That’s—I’m not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people. We had urged the L.A. Times not to—not to run those photos. And the reason for that is those kinds of photos are used by the enemy to incite violence, and lives have been lost as a result of the publication of similar photos in the past. We regret that they were published.”

India Tests Long-Range Nuclear Missile

Apr 19, 2012

India says it has successfully launched an intercontinental missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The Agni-V has a range of more than 3,000 miles, meaning it could reach China and Europe. India joins six other countries that are believed to have such long-range missiles, including the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Israel. India has developed its nuclear capability with the tacit backing of the United States, which lifted a ban on nuclear trade with Delhi in 2008, despite the Indian government’s refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iraq: Dozens Killed in Massive Wave of Attacks

Apr 19, 2012

At least 36 people have been killed in a series of blasts across Iraq. More than 20 bombings were reported in cities and towns across the country in what appeared to be a wave of coordinated attacks. More than 100 people were wounded.

Bahraini Forces Crack Down on Protesters Ahead of Auto Race

Apr 19, 2012

Thousands of people marched in Bahrain on Wednesday ahead of the Formula One racing championship set to take place amid an ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The International Automobile Federation, or FIA, has come under criticism for staging the annual event in a boost for the ruling Sunni monarchy. Activists have accused Bahraini forces of using excessive force to disperse the protest. Earlier today, a Bahraini opposition group posted a series of photographs on Twitter it said showed demonstrators badly wounded in the crackdown.

Activists Demand Release of Bahraini Hunger Striker

Apr 19, 2012

Another protest was held Wednesday calling for the release of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a jailed activist who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months. Bahraini police fired stun grenades in a bid to clear the crowd. Alkhawaja’s wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, gave an update on her husband’s condition and criticized Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone for ignoring his plight.

Khadija al-Mousawi: “He calls every day for five minutes, and that’s a relief for me. At least I know that he’s OK. And that’s why today’s telephone call is the most important call for me. And he stopped IV (drip) and minerals and glucose from this morning — sorry (wipes tears). What makes me angry, people who — people like Ecclestone, who decides to come to Bahrain because he thinks everyone is happy. I can assure him that I am not happy, my family is not happy.”

Ban Accuses Syria’s Assad of Flouting Ceasefire

Apr 19, 2012

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is accusing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of failing to meet the terms of an international peace plan. In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban says Assad’s forces are flouting the ceasefire with continued attacks on opposition areas. Ban also called for the deployment of hundreds of additional international monitors to observe the situation on the ground. The head of the current monitoring team, U.N. Colonel Ahmed Himmiche, called for time to build trust with all sides of the conflict.

Col. Ahmed Himmiche: “Our mission, as you know, is establish liaison with the Syrian government, the Syrian security forces, and also with other parties. To establish this liaison, I mean, we need time, we need trust. We need to build confidence and trust within all the parties in order to achieve our task. I think we are in, I mean, just — I mean, this is our third day. We are engaging — I mean, both engaged, and that means liaison with both the authorities and also with the other parties, and I think we’ll achieve our mandate, if you help us and explain our mandate, because there are a lot of expectations that are beyond a team of 30 military observers.”

Israeli Minister Admits Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel Should Be “Wiped Off the Map”

Apr 19, 2012

A top Israeli official has acknowledged that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said that Iran seeks to “wipe Israel off the face of the map.” The falsely translated statement has been widely attributed to Ahmadinejad and used repeatedly by U.S. and Israeli government officials to back military action and sanctions against Iran. But speaking to Teymoor Nabili of the network Al Jazeera, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor admitted Ahmadinejad had been misquoted.

Teymoor Nabili: “As we know, Ahmadinejad didn’t say that he plans to exterminate Israel, nor did he say that Iran policy is to exterminate Israel. Ahmadinejad’s position and Iran’s position always has been, and they’ve made this — they’ve said this as many times as Ahmadinejad has criticized Israel, he has said as many times that he has no plans to attack Israel. He simply said that if you hold a referendum in this part of the world with everybody who lives here, he will accept the outcome of that referendum.”

Dan Meridor: “Well, I have to disagree, with all due respect. You speak of Ahmadinejad. I speak of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani, Shamkhani. I give the names of all these people. They all come, basically ideologically, religiously, with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ’We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right. But 'It will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor that should be removed,' was said just two weeks ago again.”

Teymoor Nabili: “Well, I’m glad you’ve acknowledged that they didn’t say they will wipe it out.”

Honduran Farmworkers Launch Occupation for Land Rights

Apr 19, 2012

In Honduras, farmworkers have launched a coordinated occupation nationwide in a major action to assert their land rights. Marking the International Peasant Day of Struggle on Tuesday, thousands of families began squatting on over 46 square miles of farmland. The farmers say the occupied land is public property exploited by wealthy ranchers. The peasant rights group Via Campesina says the largest occupation is taking place on Honduras’s Caribbean coast, where around 1,500 farm workers have occupied land held by a sugar plantation.

GOP House Panel Votes to Slash Food Aid Programs

Apr 19, 2012

A Republican-controlled House panel has voted to approve around $33 billion in cuts to food assistance programs over a 10-year period. The move by the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee would tighten rules for qualifying for government food aid and repeal a 2009 increase to the program instead of cutting subsidies for U.S. farmers. Democrats say the measure is dead on arrival in the Senate.

EPA Issues First-Ever Curbs on Fracking Air Pollution

Apr 19, 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued its first-ever regulations aimed at curbing rampant air pollution from the controversial gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking releases a range of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals into the air, including benzene, hexane and methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. The standards come after widespread complaints of health problems and air pollution from those who live near gas drilling sites. Following objections from the oil and gas industry over the potential cost of the regulations, the EPA has given the industry nearly three years to install technology that will allow it to capture some of the worst pollutants. Companies will be allowed to continue burning or “flaring” methane into the air until January 2015.

Multi-Billion-Dollar BP Settlement Outlined in Court Filings

Apr 19, 2012

The terms of a multi-billion-dollar settlement between oil giant BP and those affected by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have been disclosed in hundreds of pages of documents filed in federal court. The broad terms of the settlement appear unchanged since the agreement was reached last month. The deal includes an estimated $7.8 billion in payments for economic loss and medical claims to victims of the oil disaster, many of whom are still living with the consequence of the spill. The settlement also includes $600 million in payments to lawyers involved in the massive suit. Friday is the second anniversary of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and sent nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Judge Leaves Trayvon Martin Case After Complaints by Zimmerman Team

Apr 19, 2012

A Florida judge has removed herself from the Trayvon Martin murder trial following complaints from the attorneys of accused killer George Zimmerman. The judge, Jessica Recksiedler, is married to an attorney who is a law partner of a Florida lawyer hired by CNN to provide legal commentary on the case. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. will take Recksiedler’s place.

UC Davis Police Chief Resigns over Pepper-Spraying

Apr 19, 2012

The police chief at the University of California, Davis, has resigned over the controversial pepper-spraying of student Occupy protesters last November. The incident sparked a nationwide outcry after video was posted online showing a campus police lieutenant repeatedly pepper-spraying students in the face from only a few feet away as they sat on the ground. The police chief, Annette Spicuzza, was among a number of top officials faulted by a university-appointed task force in a report last week.

3 Secret Service Agents Forced Out in Prostitution Scandal

Apr 19, 2012

Three Secret Service employees are being forced out of the agency following a prostitution scandal that erupted last week and overshadowed President Obama’s trip to Colombia. Three employees are leaving the agency while several others are reportedly on administrative leave. Both U.S. military and Secret Service personnel were reportedly involved in bringing prostitutes to a Cartagena hotel. One agent reportedly got into a dispute with a prostitute after trying to pay her less money than he had initially agreed to.

Portland Man Strips Naked to Protest Airport Screening

Apr 19, 2012

A man who stripped naked at an airport security checkpoint in Portland, Oregon, earlier this week said his act was a form of protest against airport screening measures. John Brennan told the Associated Press he was being “nude, but not lewd” and cast his actions as political speech. Brennan was arrested and initially charged with disorderly conduct and indecent exposure after stripping naked at Portland International Airport. Brennan says he decided to strip when he was pulled aside after he had gone through a metal detector and a patdown. His actions come amid mounting criticism over airport security measures, including concerns over the health impacts of full-body scanners used in many airports.

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