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HeadlinesNovember 12, 2013

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U.N. Launches $300 Million Appeal for Philippines; Aid Slow to Reach Victims

Nov 12, 2013

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $300 million to bring relief to people in the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms recorded in world history. According to the United Nations, more than 11 million people have been impacted. John Ging, operations manager of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the relief effort is focused on both the living and the dead.

John Ging: “There are estimated 660,000 people that have been displaced by this typhoon, and now all of our efforts are of course on mobilizing very quickly, and on a huge scale, a response. Entire areas have been completely and utterly decimated, so keeping those alive, as well as dealing with the corpses, you know, they’re concurrent priorities, and already teams are on the ground dealing with that, and more teams are on their way.”

Many Filipinos both inside and outside the country are mourning family members killed by the storm. One evacuee described how she lost her daughter.

Evacuee: “Only a few moments, just a few moments, and we would all be saved, but I accidentally let go of my child’s hand. I guess it was her sacrifice so it won’t be difficult to escape, because she knew that if I kept carrying her, both of us would drown.”

The death toll remains unknown, but more than 10,000 people are now believed to have died in the hard-hit city of Tacloban alone. The Philippines government has responded to the crisis in the city in part by imposing a curfew, deploying armored vehicles and establishing checkpoints to thwart so-called looting by residents desperate for food and supplies after losing everything. Many residents of Tacloban and other more remote areas have yet to see much-needed aid amid continued rainfall, blocked roads and other hurdles fueled by the devastation. The United States and Britain, meanwhile, have sent warships to the Philippines to assist in the relief effort. The storm has formed a powerful backdrop to the U.N. climate change summit in Poland, where Philippines lead negotiator Naderev “Yeb” Saño has launched a hunger strike to call for urgent action on climate change.

Storm Kills At Least 100 in Somalia’s Puntland Region

Nov 12, 2013

The government of Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region is appealing for international aid following a tropical cyclone that reportedly killed at least 100 people over the weekend. According to a government statement, “entire villages have been destroyed and more than 100,000 livestock lost, endangering the livelihoods of tens of thousands of local people.”

Cambodia: 1 Killed in Police Crackdown on Striking Garment Workers

Nov 12, 2013

In Cambodia, riot police violently cracked down on striking garment workers earlier today, killing at least one woman and wounding several others. Reuters reports 37 people were arrested. Workers at the factory, which supplies clothing to H&M and Gap, are demanding better pay and working conditions.

Bangladesh: Garment Workers’ Protest Shuts Down 100 Factories

Nov 12, 2013

In Bangladesh, police fired rubber bullets and water cannons at thousands of garment workers who took to the streets to protest low wages. The protest shut down more than 100 factories. Calls for better wages and conditions in the Bangladeshi garment industry have escalated since a building collapse killed more than 1,100 workers in April.

Haqqani Network Leader Shot Dead in Pakistan

Nov 12, 2013

A top leader of the Haqqani militant group was shot dead Sunday night outside a bakery on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The Haqqani network is a key force in the insurgency currently battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The victim, Nasiruddin Haqqani, was the son of the group’s founder, the brother of its current leader and a top fundraiser for the group. No one has claimed responsibility for his killing.

HRW: Syria Used Incendiary Weapons in Dozens of Attacks

Nov 12, 2013

Human Rights Watch has accused the Syrian Air Force of using incendiary weapons dozens of times over the past year. The alleged attacks include one in the northern province of Aleppo that killed 37 people at a school. A doctor who treated victims of that attack described what she saw.

Dr. Saleyha Ahsan: “The skin was hanging off them. At some point, as I was tending to one patient, it was difficult to work out what was skin and what was fabric, the way that it was literally just hanging. What I saw in Syria in August stands alone in terms of the cruelty, the extent of the devastation, the severity of the injuries that I saw and also the tragedy of the lack of infrastructure to deal with these kind of casualties on the ground.”

Report: Asylum Seekers in U.S. Unable to Work, Obtain Aid

Nov 12, 2013

A Human Rights Watch report released today details the plight of asylum seekers who flee abuses in their home countries to seek shelter in the United States. According to the report, released with researchers at Seton Hall University, the United States is the only country in the developed world that denies both work authorization and government aid to asylum seekers. One rape survivor from Rwanda said she was unable to work for four years while her asylum claim was pending, a situation that “kills you emotionally,” she said.

Report: Fewer Than 50,000 Enrolled on Obamacare Site

Nov 12, 2013

The Wall Street Journal reports fewer than 50,000 people had successfully enrolled in private health insurance through the new federal website as of last week, a month after it launched. That is a tenth of the Obama administration’s estimated target of 500,000 enrollees for the month of October. The administration had estimated seven million people would enroll before the deadline at the end of March, but the site has been beset by technical failures. The government has not released official enrollment figures, merely confirming that roughly 700,000 people have completed applications across all 50 states using both federal and state-run websites. A separate tally of 12 of the 14 states running their own exchanges found roughly 49,000 enrollees.

Documents Show NSA Spied on OPEC

Nov 12, 2013

Documents from Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have spied on OPEC, the coalition of countries that controls the global oil market. Der Spiegel reports both the NSA and GCHQ have infiltrated OPEC’s computer network. Among their discoveries, NSA analysts determined Saudi Arabia had released incorrect oil production figures. Der Spiegel found, “The typical 'customers' for such information were the CIA, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Energy, which promptly praised the NSA for confirming what it had suspected for years.” The NSA also received permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor.

Kerry Declines to Elaborate on JFK Assassination Views

Nov 12, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry has declined to elaborate on his beliefs regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this month. During an interview with NBC that aired last week, Kerry indicated he supports the idea of a conspiracy surrounding Kennedy’s death. He was questioned about those remarks Sunday by NBC’s David Gregory.

David Gregory: “Mr. Secretary, a final question before you go. You gave some comments in light of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy to NBC News that have now been widely broadcast and reported on. And in those comments, you said this: 'To this day, I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.' That certainly would be surprising to a lot of people that those are your views. Would you care to elaborate?”

John Kerry: “No. (Laughter.) I just have a point of view. And I’m not going to get into that. It’s — you know, it’s not something that I think needs to be commented on, and certainly not at this time.”

David Gregory: “Do you think the conspiracy theories — his involvement with Russia, motivation from the Soviet Union or Cuba — are valid at some level?”

John Kerry: “David, I’m not going to go into it. It’s just inappropriate, and I’m not going to do more than say that it’s a point of view that I have. But it’s not ripe or worthy or appropriate for me to comment further.”

Right-Winger Avigdor Lieberman Reinstated as Israeli Foreign Minister

Nov 12, 2013

In Israel, right-wing hardliner Avigdor Lieberman has been reinstated as foreign minister following his acquittal on corruption charges. Lieberman is a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who kept the post open for Lieberman during his trial on accusations of promoting a diplomat who tipped him off about a criminal probe. Lieberman’s return could deal a further blow to U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, which Lieberman has openly criticized. He has also drawn allegations of racism for suggesting, for example, that areas inhabited by Arab citizens of Israel become part of a future Palestinian state while Israel keeps West Bank settlements.

Detained Greenpeace Activists Transferred 800 Miles to St. Petersburg

Nov 12, 2013

In Russia, the 30 people detained in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic drilling were placed on a train bound for detention centers in St. Petersburg Monday, a more than 800-mile journey from the northern city of Murmansk, where they were previously held. The 28 activists and two journalists are facing charges of “hooliganism” which carry up to seven years in prison. But Greenpeace says earlier piracy charges, which carry an even longer sentence, were never officially lifted.

Pussy Riot Member Out of Contact Since Transfer to Heart of Siberia

Nov 12, 2013

The husband of jailed Pussy Riot member Nadia Tolokonnikova says he has not heard anything from or about his wife for more than three weeks since authorities said she was being transferred to a prison colony deep in Siberia. Tolokonnivoka had denounced “slavery-like conditions” at the penal colony in Mordovia, east of Moscow, where she was previously held. Her husband said the new penal colony is nearly 3,000 miles away. He told the Los Angeles Times “the system is taking its revenge on her for her rebellion against its lawlessness. They are deliberately torturing her right now by such a long transit.”

Romania Rejects Gold Mine Project After Mass Protests

Nov 12, 2013

The Romanian government has rejected a Canadian firm’s plan to build what would have become Europe’s largest open gold mine. According to the Associated Press, the plan included “razing four mountains and creating a lake of cyanide.” Romanians had staged mass protests against the mine, saying the cyanide used in the mining process could poison animals and water supplies.

Train Carrying 2.7 Million Gallons of Oil Derails in Alabama

Nov 12, 2013

A train that derailed and exploded in rural Alabama late last week was carrying roughly 2.7 million gallons of crude oil. The head of the rail company, Genesee & Wyoming, said the train included 90 cars carrying 30,000 gallons of oil each. About 25 cars derailed, dumping oil into the wetlands and sending flames shooting 300 feet into the sky. While the incident gained relatively little mainstream attention due to a lack of injuries and claims it did not pose a major environmental risk, Reuters called it “the most dramatic [accident] of its kind in the United States since trafficking of crude by rail began to increase with the growth of shale oil production three years ago.”

Autopsy: African-American Woman Killed on Michigan Porch Was Shot in Face

Nov 12, 2013

The autopsy of a 19-year-old African-American woman shot dead on a porch where she had reportedly gone to seek help after a car crash has revealed she died of a gunshot wound to the face. Renisha McBride was killed in a largely white area of suburban Detroit earlier this month. Family members say she was racially profiled by the white homeowner, who has not yet been publicly identified or charged. He told police his gun accidentally fired at McBride, whom he believed was trying to break into his home.

4 Dead in Brooklyn Murder-Suicide Involving Iranian Rock Band

Nov 12, 2013

In Brooklyn, New York, three Iranian musicians were shot dead early Monday, allegedly by a fourth musician who then turned the gun on himself. Two of the victims were brothers and members of the band Yellow Dogs, which was previously part of the underground music scene in Iran. Police say the alleged shooter was kicked out of another band, the Free Keys, in a dispute over money last year.

Texas: Prosecutor to Serve 10-Day Term for Hiding Evidence in Case That Sent Innocent Man to Jail

Nov 12, 2013

In Texas, a former prosecutor and judge will be disbarred and spend 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to hiding evidence in a trial that sent an innocent man to prison for nearly 25 years. It is reportedly the first time ever in U.S. history a prosecutor has been sent to jail for withholding such evidence. The case involved Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted in 1987 of murdering his wife. He was released in 2011 after DNA evidence exonerated him. The lead prosecutor in the case, Ken Anderson, was charged with withholding evidence that could have proved Morton was innocent, including observations by Morton’s young son who witnessed the attack and said Morton was not home at the time. On Friday, Ken Anderson pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. On top of his 10-day term, he will serve 500 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine. Michael Morton celebrated in court.

Michael Morton: “The only thing that I want as a baseline is for Ken Anderson to be off the bench and for him to no longer practice law. And both of those things have happened and more. My number one motivating factor here is that what happened to me will not happen to you. And by what happened today, we’ve succeeded.”

Michael Morton spent nearly a quarter century in jail before being exonerated in 2011.

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