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HeadlinesNovember 20, 2013

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Iran Nuclear Talks Resume in Geneva; Senators Delay Sanctions Vote

Nov 20, 2013

Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are resuming today in Geneva. Iran would see a limited relief of international sanctions in return for a suspension of nuclear activities. In a video address, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the talks would succeed if Iran is treated on “equal footing.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “This past summer, our people chose constructive engagement through the ballot box. And through this, they gave the world a historic opportunity to change course. To seize this unique opportunity, we need to accept equal footing and choose a path based on mutual respect and recognition of the dignity of all peoples, and more so, on the recognition that no power, however strong, can determine the fate of others.”

On the eve of the Geneva summit, a bipartisan group of senators agreed to delay a vote on new sanctions against Iran while the talks take place. President Obama spoke after hosting the senators at the White House.

President Obama: “Let’s test the proposition that over the next six months we can resolve this in a diplomatic fashion, while maintaining the essential sanctions architecture and, as president of the United States, me maintaining all options to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons. I think that is a — a test that is worth conducting.”

A new poll released Tuesday shows Americans support a negotiated deal with Iran by a ratio of two to one.

Afghanistan Seeks U.S. Apology in Long-Term Security Pact

Nov 20, 2013

The White House and Afghanistan are reportedly close to an agreement that would allow continued U.S. raids even after most American troops withdraw in 2014. Under the deal, the United States would continue raiding Afghan homes under “extraordinary circumstances” to save lives. In return, the Afghan government has asked President Obama to write a letter apologizing for U.S. operations that have killed or injured Afghan civilians. The Obama administration is reportedly considering the demand. But speaking on CNN, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the United States will not apologize to Afghanistan.

Susan Rice: “No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan. Quite the contrary, we have sacrificed and supported them in their democratic progress and in tackling the insurgency and al-Qaeda. So, that is not on the table.”

U.S. and Afghan officials are rushing to complete the security pact so it can be put to a vote by a council of Afghan elders known as a loya jirga. As part of the agreement, the United States is seeking to maintain a number of military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills 3 in Yemen; CIA Confirms Child Death

Nov 20, 2013

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen has killed three people. The victims were described as alleged al-Qaeda fighters hit as they traveled in a vehicle. The attack came as a delegation of Yemenis appeared before a congressional panel to testify on the impact of drone strikes. One of the speakers, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, lost his brother-in-law and nephew in a U.S. attack last year. According to the Los Angeles Times, CIA officials recently confirmed a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed a young boy in June. The victim was the younger brother of a militant also killed in the attack.

28 Killed, Dozens Wounded in Iraq Bombings

Nov 20, 2013

At least 28 people have been killed in a spate of bombings today across the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Dozens more were injured.

Hundreds Protest Military Rule in Egypt

Nov 20, 2013

Hundreds of people rallied in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of a deadly government crackdown on protesters in 2011 and 2012. A group of demonstrators clashed with state forces after chanting “down with military rule.” At least one person was reportedly killed.

NSA Unlawfully Shared Intel with Gov’t Agencies

Nov 20, 2013

New disclosures show repeated violations by the National Security Agency in its collection of Americans’ private information. One declassified ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court says the NSA improperly shared personal email addresses and other information with other government agencies. In an opinion addressing the NSA’s unlawful intelligence sharing, FISA court judge John Bates wrote: “NSA’s record of compliance with these rules has been poor … Most notably, [the] NSA generally disregarded the special rules for disseminating United States person information outside of NSA until it was ordered to” by the FISA court. Despite these violations, FISA court judges allowed the NSA’s data collection to continue.

Indonesia Recalls Ambassador to Australia over NSA Spying

Nov 20, 2013

Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia in the latest diplomatic fallout to result from the leaks of Edward Snowden. Recent disclosures show the National Security Agency used Australia as part of its global spying operations. Australian intelligence agencies reportedly tried to tap the phone of Indonesia’s president and other top officials. Australian embassies across Asia were reportedly involved in a surveillance ring led by the United States.

Justice Dept. Finalizes $13 Billion Settlement with JPMorgan

Nov 20, 2013

The Justice Department has finalized a $13 billion settlement with the banking giant JPMorgan Chase over the sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities at the heart of the financial crisis. The settlement includes $4 billion in relief for struggling homeowners. It is the largest-ever penalty any single company has paid to the federal government. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled the settlement on Tuesday.

Eric Schneiderman: “Not only will Chase have to pay the largest settlement ever levied against a financial institution, but it has admitted in our statement of facts that its own employees, employees of Bear Stearns and employees of Washington Mutual made material misrepresentations to the investing public about a large number of residential mortgage-backed securities that they issued prior to the crash in 2008. This settlement is a major victory in the fight to hold accountable those who were responsible for that crash.”

The settlement closes a number of federal and state probes into JPMorgan’s sale of toxic mortgage securities. The bank could still face prosecution on criminal charges of fraud. It is also the target of at least nine other government investigations.

Report Warned Obama Admin of Health Site’s Use of Contractors

Nov 20, 2013

A newly disclosed report shows the Obama administration was warned about problems with the federal healthcare website as early as last spring. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company detailed a number of problems with the site, including a “significant dependency on external parties/contractors.”

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Texas Abortion Ban

Nov 20, 2013

The Supreme Court has declined to block implementation of the Texas abortion law that has forced the closure of a dozen clinics. The law requires abortion providers to obtain onerous hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles. The measure is just one piece of the law that sparked a people’s filibuster and a marathon stand by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis over the summer. The law also imposes rigid restrictions on pill-induced abortions and a 20-week ban. In a 5-to-4 decision, justices declined to overturn an appeals court ruling that allowed it to take effect this month. In a bid to support the remaining Texas abortion clinics struggling to meet the new requirements, a group of female New York comedians held an online telethon Monday dubbed “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose.” The event raised $50,000.

Albuquerque Voters Reject 20-Week Abortion Ban

Nov 20, 2013

Voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have rejected a measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. The ban was defeated 55-to-45 percent in a special election that saw a high turnout. It was the first time an abortion ban has been put to a municipal vote in the United States. In a statement, the group NARAL Pro-Choice America said: “We hope today’s resounding defeat of this abortion ban sends a clear message to the extreme forces now trying to impose their agenda on cities around this country.”

Senate GOP Blocks 3rd Straight Judicial Nominee

Nov 20, 2013

Senate Republicans have blocked another of President Obama’s judicial nominees. The Senate failed to overcome a filibuster to confirm Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Wilkins is Obama’s third consecutive nominee to the court blocked by Republicans.

Republican Rep. Henry Radel Arrested for Cocaine Possession

Nov 20, 2013

Republican Rep. Henry Radel of Florida has been arrested on charges of possessing cocaine. In a statement, Radel says he suffers from alcoholism and is seeking professional help.

U.S. Official: No Indictment of WikiLeaks Founder “So Far”

Nov 20, 2013

A U.S. government official has claimed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not currently under sealed indictment. Assange has reportedly been the target of a three-year grand jury investigation in Virginia. Speaking to The Washington Post, an anonymous law enforcement official said: “Nothing has occurred so far. But it’s subject to change … The investigation is ongoing.”

Zimmerman Arrested for Aggravated Assault; Freed on Bail, Ordered to Give Up Weapons

Nov 20, 2013

George Zimmerman, the man who killed unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, has been released on bail one day after his arrest on charges of domestic violence and aggravated assault. Zimmerman’s girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, has accused him of pointing a shotgun at her and trying to choke her. Zimmerman was released on $9,000 bond and ordered to stay away from Scheibe, as well as any of his firearms. He will also have to wear an ankle monitor.

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