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HeadlinesAugust 15, 2012

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Syrian Rebels Behind Major Bombing in Damascus

Aug 15, 2012

Rebel fighters have claimed responsibility for a major bombing in the Syrian capital of Damascus. A number of explosions were reported earlier today in an area housing military facilities, including the Syrian regime’s Central Security Command. The blasts apparently occurred near the hotel for U.N. observers, but Syria’s opposition says it only intended to strike regime targets. The Syrian government says just three people were wounded, but rebels claim the toll could be far higher. The attack came amidst a visit to Syria by the United Nations humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos.

Valerie Amos: “Clearly the situation has got worse since I was here in March. We will, through our partners, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who, as you know, have been doing an extremely good job trying to make sure that people who need help get help, we will continue to support them but also work to scale up our own efforts.”

Afghanistan Sees Deadliest Day for Civilians This Year

Aug 15, 2012

At least 43 people were killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday in a series of bombings and shootings. The worst attack came in the southwestern province of Nimruz, where a suicide bomber killed 29 people and wounded 57 others. It was the deadliest day for Afghan civilians this year.

Correa: No Decision Yet on Assange’s Asylum Bid

Aug 15, 2012

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa says he has still not reached a decision about whether to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In a tweet, Correa said: “Rumor of asylum to Assange is false. There is still no decision in this respect.” He was responding to a report in The Guardian newspaper quoting an unnamed official who said the decision had already been made. The reporter, Irene Caselli, has stood by her story, which says Assange was offered asylum in Ecuador months ago, before he entered the Ecuadorean embassy in London in June. Assange is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden and ultimately, he says, to the United States. Correa has previously said he would release a decision on Assange soon, possibly this week.

Court Filing Details Harsh Treatment of Manning at Quantico

Aug 15, 2012

A newly published court filing details the harsh treatment faced by alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning while he was imprisoned at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, for about nine months in 2010 and 2011. Manning is accused of leaking a trove of documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, but his defense team argued in a motion late last month that all charges should be dismissed due to Manning’s “unlawful pretrial punishment.” According to the filing, Manning was kept in a six-by-eight-foot cell for 23 to 24 hours a day and banned from lying down or even leaning against the wall when he was not sleeping. The filing says Manning was woken up at 5 a.m. and forced to remain awake until 10 p.m. Lawyers accuse the officers at Quantico of using Manning’s mental health as an excuse to keep him in “the functional equivalent of solitary confinement,” despite multiple objections by psychiatrists. Guards reportedly checked on Manning every five minutes and woke him up at night if they could not see him clearly. He was required to eat all his meals alone with only a spoon, made to sleep with a tear-proof security blanket that irritated his skin, and forced to request toilet paper every time he wanted to use the bathroom. In addition, the complaint alleges Manning was not allowed to have any personal items or to exercise in his cell. If Manning’s treatment is found by a judge to have been illegal, he could theoretically receive credit on the amount of time served in custody or even see his charges dismissed outright.

New Policy Takes Effect to Halt Deportation of Immigrants Brought to the U.S. as Children

Aug 15, 2012

A new federal immigration policy takes effect today that could eventually stop the deportation of as many as 1.76 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Beginning today, students, veterans and others under the age of 31 may be eligible for a two-year reprieve from deportation if they meet certain conditions. Speaking on Democracy Now! last week, Thomas Shea of the New York Immigration Coalition explained what the Obama administration’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will mean for undocumented youth.

Thomas Shea: “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is not a pathway to legalization, a pathway to the green card or a pathway to citizenship, unlike the DREAM Act. If Congress had passed the DREAM Act, it would be a pathway to people getting their green card. And Deferred Action for Childhood of Arrivals is just really a determination by the immigration authorities that we’re not going to deport you. You are — we could deport you from the United States, but we’re not going to start deportation proceedings against you, or if you’re in deportation proceedings, we’re not — we’re going to stop the deportation proceedings against you, or if you have…”

Amy Goodman: “For how long?”

Thomas Shea: “For two years. And during that two-year period, you could get a work permit.”

Congressional Primaries Held in 4 States

Aug 15, 2012

The makeup of a number of congressional races this November was decided on Tuesday with primaries in four states. In Wisconsin, former Governor Tommy Thompson clinched the Republican nomination to square off against Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the race to fill the seat of outgoing Democratic Senator Herb Kohl. In Florida, Tea Party challenger Ted Yoho pulled off a major upset by defeating 12-term incumbent Rep. Cliff Stearns in the Republican primary. Stearns is known for leading the Republican efforts to investigate the group Planned Parenthood in Congress over the past year. He is refusing to concede the race. In Connecticut, former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon defeated the more moderate Rep. Christopher Shays for the Republican nomination in the primary to replace outgoing Senator Joe Lieberman. McMahon will square off against Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy.

Obama, Romney Trade Barbs over Energy Policy

Aug 15, 2012

On the campaign trail, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney traded barbs over energy policy on Tuesday during separate appearances. Speaking during a second consecutive day of campaigning in Iowa, President Obama said Romney has failed to support renewable power sources such as wind.

President Obama: “He said that new sources of energy like wind are imaginary. His running mate calls them a fad. During a speech a few months ago, Governor Romney even explained his energy policy this way — I’m quoting here — 'You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.’ That’s what he said about wind power: 'You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.’ Now, I don’t know if he’s actually tried that; I know he’s had other things on his car. But — but if he wants to learn something about wind, all he’s got to do is pay attention to what you’ve been doing here in Iowa.”

Romney meanwhile stumped in Ohio, where he said President Obama’s energy policy has fallen short in its support for coal mining.

Mitt Romney: “One promise he kept was with regard to energy. He said if he is elected president and his policies get put in place, the cost of energy would skyrocket. That’s one he’s kept. He also said you can go out and build a new coal plant if you want, but if you do, you’ll go bankrupt. That’s another promise he’s intent on keeping. His vice president said coal is more dangerous than terrorists. Can you imagine that? This — yeah, this tells you precisely what he actually feels and what he’s done.”

Standard Chartered Bank to Pay $340 Million to Settle Claims of Hiding Iran Transactions

Aug 15, 2012

The British bank Standard Chartered has agreed to pay a $340 million fine to New York’s financial regulator to settle allegations of hiding hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions linked to Iran. New York’s Department of Financial Services says Standard Chartered Bank “schemed” with Iran’s government despite U.S. economic sanctions to hide tens of thousands of transactions over nearly a decade, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. The bank is in talks to pay similar fines in other states.

Judge Throws Out Suit on FBI’s Muslim Spying

Aug 15, 2012

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing the FBI of civil liberties violations by using an informant to spy on several California mosques. Former informant Craig Monteilh has acknowledged posing as a Muslim convert to collect the personal information of mosque members and even record their meetings and conversations. But on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney threw out the case, saying it would risk disclosing government secrets. Two groups representing the plaintiffs — the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations — say they plan to appeal.

Greenpeace Warns of Dangers of New Arctic Oil Drilling

Aug 15, 2012

The environmental group Greenpeace is ramping up efforts to oppose oil drilling in the Arctic. The Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom is set to become the first company to produce Arctic oil through drilling operations in the Pechora Sea. On Tuesday, Greenpeace warned an oil spill there would cause irreparable damage, threatening some 50,000 square miles. Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo said the group plans to continue to challenge drilling platforms in the Arctic.

Kumi Naidoo: “Our political leaders are in denial about how serious the problem is. I mean, right now, if we look at the actual impacts that are happening, the U.S. in July, hottest ever recorded temperature in — from the time temperatures were — have actually kept, 15 states with drought. Given the urgency, we do not make any apologies for the need for peaceful, nonviolent direct action that actually gets our political leaders and our business leaders to recognize that time is fast running out and that we have to act with greater urgency and with a greater level of ambition, if we are to avert catastrophic climate change.”

Brazilian Court Halts Construction of Dam Opposed by Indigenous Groups

Aug 15, 2012

A Brazilian court has again halted construction on a major hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest. The $11 billion Belo Monte dam project was approved for construction over the objections of indigenous communities who have brought numerous challenges, citing environmental concerns and the fear of mass displacement. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Brazil ruled that the government must consult with indigenous groups before the project can resume.

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