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HeadlinesAugust 14, 2012

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Texas Gunman Kills 2 in the 3rd Major U.S. Shooting in Under a Month

Aug 14, 2012

A shooting in College Station, Texas, near Texas A&M University on Monday has left three people dead, including the gunman, and wounded four others, at least one of them seriously. The shooter, 35-year-old Thomas Caffall, reportedly attacked a constable who had come to his home to serve him with an eviction notice, killing him as well as a bystander before being shot dead by police. The shooter’s mother, Linda Weaver, has said she had been worried about her son, who was having mental health “difficulties.” The tragedy marks the third major shooting in the United States in less than a month, pushing gun control advocates to demand action. On Monday, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released a letter urging presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer to ask President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney to present plans for addressing gun violence. The letter notes more than 32 people are murdered with guns every day in the United States.

Obama Chides Ryan on Farm Aid in Iowa

Aug 14, 2012

President Obama hit the campaign trail on Monday with a swing through Iowa. Unveiling a new $170 million measure to address the ongoing drought, Obama called newly minted Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan a leading congressional opponent of aid to struggling farmers.

President Obama: “I am told that Governor Romney’s new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa the next few days. He is one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. We’ve got to put politics aside when it comes to doing the right thing for rural America and for Iowa.”

Paul Ryan Heckled at Iowa State Fair

Aug 14, 2012

Paul Ryan also campaigned in Iowa on Monday in his solo campaign debut as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Speaking at the Iowa State Fair, Ryan was heckled by demonstrators who told him “stop the war on the middle class.”

Paul Ryan: “I think it’s become — so, you know what? It’s funny. It’s funny because Iowans and Wisconsinites, we like to be respectful of one another and peaceful with one another and listen to each other. These ladies must not be from Iowa or Wisconsin.”

Ryan was speaking on the same stage where Mitt Romney infamously told a group of hecklers that “corporations are people” one year ago.

Romney: Obama Running Dishonest Campaign

Aug 14, 2012

Mitt Romney campaigned in the key battleground state of Florida, where he accused President Obama of running a dishonest campaign.

Mitt Romney: “And so, with a record which has been as disappointing as the record that he has demonstrated over the last four years, the president’s campaign has resorted to a very unusual tactic. It’s smear. It’s dirt. It’s distortion. It’s deception. It’s dishonesty. It diminishes the — it diminishes the office of the presidency itself. The kind of campaign we’re going to wage is one that talks about how we can keep America strong, create more jobs, balance our budget, put Americans into homes that they can afford.”

Syrian Rebels Claim Downing of Syrian Jet

Aug 14, 2012

Syrian rebels are claiming to have shot down a Syrian military aircraft for the first time. Amateur video released Monday appears to show the captured pilot of a Syrian fighter jet apparently downed near the Syria-Iraq border. Syrian state media has rejected the rebels’ claim, saying the plane crashed due to “technical problems.”

U.N. Monitor: Both Sides Causing Civilian Deaths in Syria

Aug 14, 2012

The United Nations humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, is visiting Syria today for talks on delivering aid to areas besieged by ongoing fighting. On Monday, the head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, Babacar Gaye, said attacks from both sides of the Syrian conflict are causing a major civilian toll.

Babacar Gaye: “It is clear that violence is increasing in many parts of Syria. The indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the government and targeted attacks by the opposition in urban centers are inflicting a heavy toll on innocent civilians. None of the parties has prioritized the needs of civilians.”

Exxon Mobil Oil Spill Hits Niger Delta

Aug 14, 2012

The oil giant Exxon Mobil has acknowledged a new oil spill off the coast of southern Nigeria. Residents of Akwa Ibom state have reported seeing oil deposits massing along the coastline. Exxon says the size of the leak remains unclear. Akwa Ibom is a part of the Niger Delta region, which a U.N. report one year ago said will already need 30 years and around $1 billion to at least partially recover from environmental damage caused by major oil companies.

U.S. Sanctions Could Hinder Earthquake Aid to Iran

Aug 14, 2012

Iranian-American advocacy groups are raising concerns harsh U.S. sanctions on Iran will greatly hinder international donations for victims of this weekend’s double earthquakes. More than 300 people were killed and thousands more wounded when the earthquakes struck northeast Iran on Saturday. On Monday, the National Iranian American Council issued a statement warning the severe U.S. measures against Iran raise “serious concerns that humanitarian relief will be hindered.” A U.S. ban on financial transactions to Iran has left donors with the sole option of hoping family remittances are passed on to victims or aid groups inside Iran. The Iranian government is facing heavy criticism for its response to the earthquake. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has gone ahead with an overseas trip instead of visiting the affected areas, most of which remain without electricity and running water.

Ecuador to Reveal Decision on Julian Assange’s Asylum Bid This Week

Aug 14, 2012

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has announced his government will likely reveal this week whether it plans to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum. Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden and ultimately, he says, to the United States. On Monday, Correa said a decision is pending after heavy deliberation.

President Rafael Correa: “I’ve read reports that say, 'Why are we taking so long?' The process has to be revised. The position of the United States must be looked at … that there will be a secret tribunal over there, that there could be the death penalty. This requires a great amount of information, and we have to analyze international law in order to take an informed decision that is completely responsible, and obviously, a sovereign decision.”

Soldier Gets 6-Month Sentence for Hazing Death of Pvt. Danny Chen

Aug 14, 2012

The second of eight U.S. soldiers court-martialed in the death of Army Private Danny Chen has reached a plea deal that will see him discharged and spend six months behind bars. A 19-year-old Chinese American, Chen allegedly took his own life just weeks after he was deployed to Afghanistan last October. His family says Chen had been abused by comrades on an almost daily basis including racist hazing, with soldiers throwing rocks at him, calling him ethnic slurs and forcing him to do push-ups or hang upside down with his mouth full of water. On Tuesday, Specialist Ryan Offutt pleaded guilty to maltreatment and hazing in return for evading the more serious charges of negligent homicide. He was sentenced to six months confinement and will be discharged from the military for bad conduct. Reacting to the sentence, Elizabeth OuYang of the civil rights group OCA-New York said Offutt’s punishment could send a message to prevent future hazing.

Elizabeth OuYang: “This sentence will not bring back Danny Chen. Danny’s life was cut short at age 19. But what this sentence and verdict can do is send a loud message to superiors that they will be punished and punished severely, including discharge from the military, if they engage in similar types of misconduct.”

Mexican Activists Kick Off U.S. Caravan Calling for End of Drug War

Aug 14, 2012

A peace caravan led by Mexican activists kicked off a month-long, cross-country journey in Los Angeles on Monday to call for an end of the U.S.-backed drug war. The Caravan for Peace is organized by Mexican poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed by drug traffickers last year.

Javier Sicilia: “As a poet, I’ve always said that poets are the voice of the tribe. And what I’ve done, what I think is important, is to give voice to many of the forgotten, many of the victims. And through that voice, we’ve been able to put into the center of the consciousness of the country and the political consciousness the people who are victims of this war and the necessity for justice, the need to have justice and to create peace.”

Los Angeles was the first of around 20 stops for the peace caravan in its journey across the United States.

DNC to Transfer Money from Bank of America to Union-Owned Amalgamated Bank

Aug 14, 2012

The Democratic National Committee has announced plans to transfer its banking activities from the bailed-out financial giant Bank of America to the union-owned Amalgamated Bank. The DNC has worked with Bank of America for years but is said to be making the switch as part of an effort to reduce ties to Wall Street. President Obama’s re-election campaign continues to use Bank of America, and the firm is helping cover the costs of hosting the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, next month.

Houston Janitors End Strike with Deal to Raise Wages

Aug 14, 2012

Janitors in Houston have ended a more than month-long strike with an agreement on a new labor contract to increase their pay. The strike began in July after workers making $8.35 an hour said they faced harassment and intimidation when they rejected an offer that would have raised their pay by just 50 cents an hour over five years. The Service Employees International Union says the janitors have ratified a new contract that will raise their hourly wages by one dollar over four years.

Nobel Laureates Condemn NBC’s New Military-Themed Reality Show

Aug 14, 2012

Nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates are voicing opposition to NBC’s new military-themed reality TV show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” saying it glorifies war and violence. The program, which was advertised during the Olympics and premiered Monday, has a cast list ranging from Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, to Olympic skiing gold medalist Picabo Street. Celebrities are paired with former members of the armed forces and go through military-style training, including shooting weapons. The show has been billed as a way to honor veterans. But in the protest letter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the other laureates say the show “pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. … Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining,” they wrote. On Monday, a group of demonstrators rallied outside NBC’s New York headquarters to demand the program’s cancellation.

Melissa Corbett: “These types of game shows are definitely used as tools for recruitment. I mean, the military spends millions of dollars trying to recruit young men into service, young men and women into service. And I think these kind of shows make it look so much more fun and interesting, and it makes people want to go out there and do it.”

Anna Berlinrut: “My son is in a real war. He’s not in a game. He doesn’t win any prizes. If he’s lucky, he’ll come home with his life and with all of his limbs and with his sanity.”

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