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HeadlinesAugust 22, 2012

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Akin Defies Calls from GOP Leaders to Leave Senate Race

Aug 22, 2012

Republican Rep. Todd Akin has refused to drop out of Missouri’s Senate race, defying calls from leaders of his own party who say he could hurt GOP chances this November. Akin sparked a national controversy over the weekend after he told an interviewer that women are somehow capable of blocking pregnancy during what he called a “legitimate rape.” Republicans from presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Karl Rove to Senate leaders urged Akin to withdraw before a Tuesday deadline for Missouri candidates. But on Tuesday, Akin told radio host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee he plans to continue his bid.

Rep. Todd Akin: “Certainly, the institutional side of the party is very lined up. I do receive continuing calls from other congressmen and people who are very supportive of what we’re trying to do. And I guess my question is: Is there a matter of some justice here? That I misspoke one word in one sentence in one day, and all of a sudden, overnight, everybody decides, 'Well, Akin can't possibly win.’ Well, I — you know, I don’t agree with that. The Americans that I know, the people I know in Missouri — when you make a mistake, nobody expects us to get every word perfectly. And you tell 'em you're sorry, you look 'em in the eye and say, ’I didn't mean to hurt anybody’ — I really didn’t. And yet, on the other hand, there’s a cause here. There’s a cause about the very heart of what America is.”

In a message posted to his Twitter account Tuesday night, Akin told supporters: “Donations are pouring in. Thank you for standing up against the liberal elite.”

GOP Embraces Abortion Ban for Party Platform

Aug 22, 2012

Despite calls from top Republicans for Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to drop out of the Senate race, the party has further entrenched its extreme stance on abortion in a vote on its platform for next week’s convention in Tampa. On Tuesday, the Republican platform committee approved language backing a constitutional ban on abortion without calling for exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The platform declares: “The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed.”

Court Overturns EPA Rules for Coal Plant Emissions

Aug 22, 2012

A federal appeals court has overturned the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to reduce emissions of dangerous chemicals from coal-burning power plants. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would have sharply limited emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide at plants in 28 states. The EPA has estimated the rules could save up to 34,000 lives per year and result in tens of billions of dollars in health benefits. But after a major push by utilities and corporate groups, the appeals court ruled in a 2-to-1 decision the regulations exceed the EPA’s authority. In a statement, the Natural Resources Defense Council urged the EPA to appeal the ruling, saying: “This decision allows harmful power plant air pollution to continue to aggravate major health problems and foul up our air. This is a loss for all of us, but especially for those living downwind from major polluters.”

Attack Damages Joint Chief Chair’s Plane in Afghanistan

Aug 22, 2012

In Afghanistan, an aircraft used by the chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, was damaged on Tuesday when militants fired on a U.S. base. A NATO spokesperson said Dempsey was not on board when the attack took place.

Günter Katz: “Last night two rounds hit Bagram airfields, and actually they caused damage to an ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) helicopter and the C-17 transport airplane of General Dempsey. He was already in his room by that time, so he was not affected at all. Some of the shrapnels of those rounds damaged actually also the C-17 of General Dempsey, so he took another C-17 in order to continue his trip then out of Afghanistan.”

Dempsey was in Afghanistan for talks following a recent spate of attacks on NATO soldiers by Afghan troops. Shortly after the attack, he left Afghanistan on a different aircraft.

Clashes over Syria Conflict Kill 8 in Lebanon

Aug 22, 2012

At least eight people have reportedly been killed and 75 wounded after fighting broke out in the Lebanese city of Tripoli between groups with opposing views of the conflict in Syria. Violence erupted Monday night between Sunnis in Tripoli who oppose the Syrian regime and Alawites loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, activists in Syria say government troops backed by tanks have attacked a Damascus neighborhood, killing at least 11 suspected rebels. And footage filmed by Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto in the hours leading up to her death in Syria has been released. Gunfire can be heard in what is believed to be the last image captured by Yamamoto before she was shot and fatally wounded in Aleppo.

Correa Calls for Talks on Assange’s Fate

Aug 22, 2012

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has called for talks with the British government on the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Britain has threatened to enter the Ecuadorean embassy in London to seize Assange after Ecuador granted his asylum bid last week. Assange is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden and ultimately, he says, to the United States. On Tuesday, Correa maintained Ecuador remains “open to dialogue” and said a deal could be reached if Sweden assures Assange he won’t be sent to a third country.

President Rafael Correa: “The Ecuadorean government has never prevented him to not to respond to Swedish authorities. What we have only requested is that he is not extradited to a third country. If that assurance is given, I’m sure that Mr. Assange would refuse the asylum and would return to Sweden to collaborate with the investigation in course.”

South African Official Apologizes for Massacre of Striking Miners

Aug 22, 2012

South Africa’s defense minister has apologized for the police killing of 34 striking workers at a mine last week. The victims were killed more than a week after walking off the job at the Marikana platinum mine in a call for higher pay. Police say they opened fire after workers tried to attack them with machetes, but the miners have accused the police of committing a massacre. South Africa’s minister of police initially defended the killings, sparking outrage. In a visit to the mine on Tuesday, South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula issued an apology, saying: “I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.” During a tense parliament session on Tuesday, the head of the opposition party, Congress of the People, called for top officials to be held accountable.

Mosiuoa Lekota: “Was it the minister of police? Was it the commander of the — who was this person who is above the Constitution? Who had the authority to decide that this right to life will be suspended today for this moment and therefore shoot?”

The shooting marked the worst mass killing in South Africa since the end of apartheid. South African President Jacob Zuma has announced a week of national mourning, as well as the formation of a commission of inquiry.

U.S. Eases Sanctions to Allow Iran Earthquake Aid

Aug 22, 2012

The Obama administration has announced it will temporarily lift sanctions for U.S.-based groups that want to send financial aid for the earthquake relief effort in Iran. More than 300 people were killed and thousands more wounded when the earthquakes struck northwest Iran earlier this month. Iranian-American groups had warned that harsh U.S. sanctions on Iran would greatly hinder international donations for victims. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department issued an order saying it will allow U.S.-based groups to donate money to Iran until early October.

Court Rules Texas Can Cut Off Planned Parenthood Funding

Aug 22, 2012

A federal appeals court has upheld Texas’ effort to defund Planned Parenthood and exclude it from a government-funded health program for low-income women simply because they also provide abortions. The decision on Tuesday reverses a lower court ruling that temporarily blocked the ban. The Texas program offers cancer and health screenings as well as birth control services to some 130,000 low-income women, about 40 percent of whom are served through Planned Parenthood. In a court filing defending the ban earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had compared Planned Parenthood to a terrorist organization, writing: “[The] First Amendment does not prohibit application of federal material-support statute to individuals who give money to 'humanitarian' activities performed by terrorist organizations.” In a statement, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said: “[This case] has never been about Planned Parenthood — it’s about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams. It is shocking that politics would get in the way of women receiving access to basic healthcare.”

Report: Secret NYPD Muslim Spy Unit Failed to Yield a Single Lead

Aug 22, 2012

The New York City Police Department has admitted its elaborate CIA-aided efforts to spy on Muslim neighborhoods over a period of more than six years through a secret police unit failed to yield a terrorism investigation or even a single lead. The NYPD spy program included efforts to infiltrate Muslim student groups, send informants into mosques, eavesdrop on conversations and create databases showing where Muslims lived, worked and prayed. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for its series revealing how the NYPD conducted widespread spying on Muslim Americans throughout the eastern United States without evidence of wrongdoing. The AP now reports court records unsealed Monday show information collected by the NYPD’s secret Demographics Unit did not spark a single investigation.

California Slaughterhouse Shut Down After Graphic Video of Cow Abuse

Aug 22, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has shut down a slaughterhouse in California following the emergence of graphic video showing the flagrant abuse of cows. The animal rights group Compassion Over Killing posted video showing the cows at the Central Valley Meat Company being dragged by one leg on their way to being slaughtered, as well as being electrically prodded and shot in the head.

Study: U.S. Wasting Up to 40% of Its Food

Aug 22, 2012

A new study claims U.S. residents are wasting nearly every other bite of food they consume. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans are wasting up to 40 percent of the nation’s food supply to the tune of $165 billion per year. Wasted food is said to account for up to a quarter of all freshwater consumed and 23 percent of emissions of methane gas.

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