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HeadlinesAugust 21, 2012

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Todd Akin Vows to Remain in Senate Race Despite Firestorm from “Legitimate Rape” Comment

Aug 21, 2012

Republican Rep. Todd Akin is vowing to remain in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race, despite widespread calls from within his own party to drop out. Akin sparked a national controversy over the weekend after he told an interviewer that women are somehow capable of blocking an unwanted pregnancy during what he called a “legitimate rape.” On Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney joined top Republican leaders in denouncing Akin’s comments and asked him to bow out of the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee also declared it would withdraw support for Akin, as did the Republican advocacy group Crossroads GPS. Today is the deadline for Missouri Senate hopefuls to withdraw from contention, meaning Republicans could field a different candidate if Akin complies with their demands. But instead, Akin has vowed to remain in the race and on Monday launched a fundraising drive to support his embattled campaign.

Romney Accuses Obama of False Claims on GOP Tax Plan

Aug 21, 2012

President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney continue to trade barbs on tax issues: namely, Romney’s refusal to release his returns and Obama’s contention that Romney’s tax policies would burden the middle class. At a town hall event in New Hampshire, Romney accused Obama of falsely claiming the Republican tax plan favors the wealthy.

Mitt Romney: “It seems that the first victim of an Obama campaign is the truth. And it has been — it has been sad and disappointing. Frankly, you know, when I became the presumptive nominee, the president called me and congratulated me on becoming the presumptive nominee and said that America deserves an honest debate about the future course of the country, and I agreed. I’m waiting to hear him begin that, because all we’ve heard so far is one attack after the other. And, frankly, they’re not — they’re typically not honest.”

Obama Defends Call for Romney to Release Tax Returns

Aug 21, 2012

Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Obama defended his repeated calls for Mitt Romney to release his tax returns.

President Obama: “The American people have assumed that if you want to be president of the United States, that your life’s an open book when it comes to things like your finances. You know, I’m not asking him to, you know, disclose every detail of, you know, his medical records, although we normally do that, as well. But, you know, I mean, this isn’t sort of overly personal here, guys. This is pretty standard stuff. I don’t think we’re being mean by asking you to do what every other presidential candidate has done, right?”

Correa: U.K. Raid to Grab Assange Would Be “Diplomatic Suicide”

Aug 21, 2012

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has warned Britain risks “diplomatic suicide” should it decide to raid Ecuador’s London embassy to nab WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On Monday, Correa said any violation of Ecuador’s diplomatic rights would undermine the status of British consular offices worldwide.

President Rafael Correa: “It would be a suicide for the United Kingdom to enter the Ecuadorean embassy. It would set a precedent that would allow later on for the U.K.’s diplomatic premises in other territories to be violated in every corner of the planet. It would be quite terrible, a disastrous precedent.”

Ecuadoreans Show Support After Gov’t Grants Asylum to Julian Assange

Aug 21, 2012

Britain has threatened to enter the Ecuadorean embassy in London to seize Julian Assange following Ecuador’s approval of Assange’s bid for political asylum. On Monday, a group of demonstrators marched in Ecuador to support their government’s decision.

Edmundo Andrade: “His life is practically at risk, and our country, Ecuador, is one of the countries that most respects human rights. We are backing this decision and welcoming Julian Assange to our country.”

U.S. Denies Role in Assange Extradition Case

Aug 21, 2012

Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sex crimes. He and his supporters say he is ultimately seeking to avoid being handed over to the United States to face punishment for publishing leaked U.S. government documents. On Monday, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland rejected Assange’s concerns.

Victoria Nuland: “Well, let me start with the fact that he is making all kinds of wild assertions about us, when, in fact, his issue with the government of the United Kingdom has to do with whether he’s going to go stand — you know, face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks. It has to do with charges of sexual misconduct. So he is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue, which is whether he’s going to face justice in Sweden, which is the immediate issue. So that case has nothing to do with us. It’s a matter between the U.K., Sweden, and now Ecuador has inserted itself.”

Obama Threatens Military Action if Syria Uses Chemical Weapons

Aug 21, 2012

President Obama has warned Syria of U.S. military action should the regime of Bashar al-Assad use chemical weapons. Speaking at the White House on Monday, Obama said any chemical warfare by Syria would be his “red line.”

President Obama: “We have put together a range of contingency plans. We have communicated, in no uncertain terms, with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would — that would change my calculations significantly.”

Japanese Reporter Killed in Syria

Aug 21, 2012

In Syria, a Japanese reporter covering the country’s civil war has been killed in the city of Aleppo. Mika Yamamoto was embedded with the opposition Free Syrian Army when she was caught in the middle of a gun battle on Monday. Yamamoto was the fourth foreign journalist to die in Syria since March 2011.

Ethiopian Prime Minister, U.S. Ally Meles Zenawi Dies at 57

Aug 21, 2012

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died of an undisclosed illness while seeking medical treatment abroad. The 57-year-old Meles was a key U.S. government ally in Africa who had been criticized for his record on human rights and accused of killing opponents and rigging elections. Meles’ deputy prime minister will be sworn in to replace him.

Venezuela: At Least 20 Dead in Prison Gunfight

Aug 21, 2012

At least 20 people have been killed in a gun battle between prisoners in a Venezuelan jail. It is unclear how the violence began or how the prisoners were able to obtain weapons. The killings marked the latest incident in a spate of prison riots inside Venezuela.

Court Rejects Parts of Immigration Laws in Georgia, Alabama

Aug 21, 2012

In a pair of mixed rulings, a federal appeals court has struck down key parts of two tough immigration laws in Alabama and Georgia but upheld other controversial sections, including so-called “show me your papers” provisions. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision of Alabama’s law requiring public schools to check the immigration status of students who enroll and blocked the state’s requirement that immigrants carry a registration document at all times. Judges also said the laws’ opponents were likely to succeed in challenging provisions in both states that would make it a crime under certain circumstances to knowingly transport or harbor undocumented people. But the court ruled Alabama police could continue demanding immigration documents during stops from those they suspect of being in the country illegally and paved the way for Georgia to begin enforcing a similar “show me your papers” provision. The court decisions follow a similar mixed ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June that overturned some parts of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law S.B. 1070, but upheld the “show me your papers” provision, which critics say legalizes racial profiling.

U.S. Soldier Demoted, Sentenced to 3 Months for Hazing Death of Pvt. Danny Chen

Aug 21, 2012

The third of eight U.S. soldiers court-martialed in the death of Army Private Danny Chen has been demoted to sergeant and sentenced to three months confinement, with credit for 90 days already served. 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 Friday, Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas was found guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to prevent Chen’s hazing and making false statements to investigators. In response to Dugas’ punishment of a demotion and confinement, Elizabeth OuYang, president of the civil rights group OCA-NY said: “The military justice system cannot deliver justice. [Dugas’] failure to ensure the physical well-being of Private Chen cost Danny his life.”

GOP Congressmember Apologizes for Nude Swim in Israel

Aug 21, 2012

A Republican congressmember has apologized to his constituents after a report emerged saying he had gone skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee during a fact-minding trip to Israel last year. Several Republican members of Congress took a late-night swim in the sea, some reportedly motivated by religious fervor. But Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas apparently went a step further by jumping into the sea naked. The late-night incident, which also involved alcohol, drew a strong rebuke at the time from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and reportedly prompted the FBI to investigate for inappropriate behavior. More than 80 members of Congress were on the trip, which was sponsored by a charity affiliated with the pro-Israeli government lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

Report: Longtime Civil Rights Activist Richard Aoki Was FBI Informant

Aug 21, 2012

A newly disclosed report from the FBI claims a longtime civil rights activist who died in 2009 served as a government informant. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, Richard Aoki covertly filed intelligence reports on his fellow activists in the Bay Area after first being recruited by an FBI agent in the 1950s. Aoki was an early member of the Black Panther Party and later served as a field marshal for the Panthers. He helped train Panther members in handling firearms before the group’s infamous shootouts with Oakland police in the 1960s. Aoki went on to become an educator, working for 25 years at a community college before his suicide in 2009. Two years before his death, Aoki had denied being an informant when asked in an interview. A number of Aoki’s fellow activists have also cast doubt on the claims. But intelligence records released by the FBI list Aoki as an informant dating back to 1967.

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