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HeadlinesDecember 13, 2013

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Yemen: U.S. Drone Kills 17 People Traveling to Wedding

Dec 13, 2013

A U.S. drone attack in Yemen struck a group of people who were traveling to a wedding on Thursday, killing at least 17. A Yemeni security official said some of the dead may have been members of al-Qaeda, but most were civilians. The attack occurred in a remote area near the central town of Rada. It was at least the second U.S. drone strike in Yemen this week after an attack in an eastern province killed at least three people on Monday.

Ukrainian Official: Gov’t Will Sign EU Pact Following Protests

Dec 13, 2013

In Ukraine, mass protests are continuing over the government’s decision not to sign a trade pact with the European Union. But speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Ukraine’s first deputy prime minister said Ukraine will sign the deal soon.

Serhiy Arbuzov: “We listen to the Ukrainian people, and our negotiations will continue. Ukraine will soon sign this Association Agreement with the European Union, taking into account the national strategic interest.”

Thai Military Chiefs to Meet with Protest Leader

Dec 13, 2013

Thailand’s military chiefs have agreed to meet with the leader of a mass protest movement seeking to replace the government with an unelected council. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has dissolved Parliament, but is resisting calls for her immediate resignation. Protesters remain camped outside of her offices in Bangkok.

U.N. Confirms Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

Dec 13, 2013

The United Nations has released a long-awaited report confirming chemical weapons were likely used in Syria in five out of seven of the attacks it investigated. The attacks include the well-known incident in Ghouta and two others that appeared to target Syrian soldiers. The United Nations did not say who it believed was behind the attacks.

Report: U.S. Man Who Vanished in Iran Was Working for CIA

Dec 13, 2013

A new report says an American captured in Iran nearly seven years ago was working for the CIA. Robert Levinson disappeared after arriving on the Iranian island of Kish to spy on the Iranian government. The CIA told Congress and the FBI he did not have a relationship to the agency at the time. But the Associated Press reveals Levinson went to Iran at the behest of CIA analysts. Officials have cast the mission as a rogue operation, saying the analysts lacked the authority to authorize it. But the analysts claim many people knew about it. The Associated Press says it confirmed Levinson’s CIA ties in 2010, but agreed to delay revealing them three times at the behest of the Obama administration, which said it was pursuing leads for his return. There has been no sign Levinson is alive for nearly three years.

Uncle of North Korean Leader Executed for Treason

Dec 13, 2013

North Korea says the uncle of its leader, Kim Jong-un, has been executed for plotting a military coup. The state-run news agency said Jang Sung-taek was killed Thursday after being convicted of treason. He was previously seen as one of North Korea’s most powerful figures.

House Passes Budget Deal; Boehner Slams Far-Right Groups

Dec 13, 2013

The Republican-led House has approved a bipartisan budget deal to avert another government shutdown. The bill eases across-the-board spending cuts, replacing them with new airline fees and cuts to federal pensions. In a concession by Democrats, it does not extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people, which are set to expire this month. House Speaker John Boehner denounced far-right groups that have criticized the bill.

John Boehner: “Frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers. I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility. You know, they pushed us into this fight to defund 'Obamacare' and to shut down the government. Most of you know, my members know, that wasn’t exactly the strategy that I had in mind. But if you’ll recall, the day before the government reopened, one of the people at one of these groups stood up and said, 'Well, we never really thought it would work.' Are you kidding me?”

The House also passed a Pentagon bill that would keep Guantánamo open and keep military sexual assault cases within the chain of command, while making it more difficult for commanding officers to toss out verdicts.

U.S. General Who Opened Guantánamo Says Prison Should Close

Dec 13, 2013

The U.S. general who opened Guantánamo in 2002 is calling for the prison to be closed. In an article published by the Detroit Free Press, retired Major General Michael Lehnert wrote: “In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong. We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked [on 9/11] by our actions in Guantánamo, both in terms of detention and torture. Our decision to keep Guantánamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.” Lehnert also criticized what he called an “unwise and unnecessary ban” on transferring prisoners to the United States, which is part of the new Pentagon bill.

Mandela Memorial Signer Says He Has Schizophrenia

Dec 13, 2013

The sign-language interpreter who was accused of botching Nelson Mandela’s memorial service says he was suffering hallucinations as a result of schizophrenia. Thamsanqa Jantjie defended his credentials, but said he saw angels entering FNB Stadium in Soweto, where he stood on stage next to President Obama and other world leaders. He apologized for his signing, which apparently amounted to gibberish.

Thamsanqa Jantjie: “It was the most terrible day of my life. As you have seen the results, it came to the whole newspapers, but in brief, on that day in question, my state of — my physical state was not fine, but it’s not a justification of everything, but it’s just, I want to put it in the clarity that I was not fine on the day in question.”

A South African official said the owners of the company the interpreter worked for appear to have vanished.

Mandela Lies in State for Final Day; Tens of Thousands Line Up to Bid Farewell

Dec 13, 2013

Tens of thousands of people have continued lining up to pay their last respects to Nelson Mandela as his body lies in state in Pretoria for a third and final day. Mandela will be transferred this afternoon to his childhood home in Qunu where he will be buried on Sunday.

Israel Shelves Plan to Expel Bedouin Arabs

Dec 13, 2013

Israel has shelved plans for a mass expulsion of Bedouin Arabs following massive protests. The so-called Prawer Plan would raze Bedouin villages in the Negev desert and replace them with Israeli settlements, displacing tens of thousands of people.

Ecuador Shuts Down Group Opposed to Amazon Oil Drilling

Dec 13, 2013

The Ecuadorean government has shut down an environmental group that opposed its plans to allow oil drilling in swaths of the Amazon rainforest. The Pachamama Foundation says police closed the group’s offices last week and presented them with a resolution saying the group was dissolved. The group was one of many protesting plans to drill in Yasuni National Park, an area renowned for its biological diversity.

Wealthy Texas Teen Gets Probation for Fatal Crash After “Affluenza” Defense

Dec 13, 2013

A Texas teenager from a wealthy family who killed four people while driving drunk will avoid a prison sentence following claims he suffered from “affluenza.” Sixteen-year-old Ethan Couch was speeding with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit during the June crash. Prosecutors sought a 20-year sentence, but Couch was sentenced to 10 years’ probation after a psychologist testified his wealthy parents had not set limits on his behavior. CNN’s Anderson Cooper questioned the psychologist.

Anderson Cooper: “A 14-year-old African-American child was sentenced by the same judge a year or two ago. This 14-year-old killed one person, punching him. That person fell and hit his head on the sidewalk and died. That African-American child got a 10-year sentence, got sent to the juvenile justice facility. I mean, why should there be a separate system just because you have money?”

Dick Miller: “I don’t think there is a separate system. This young man will be a ward of the state for 10 years, Anderson.”

Anderson Cooper: “He’s on probation.”

Dick Miller: “Ten years that if he missteps anytime, that judge can send him to the penitentiary.”

Couch will reportedly be attending a rehab facility that costs $450,000 a year.

Domino’s Workers Reinstated Following Protests over Unfair Wages, Treatment

Dec 13, 2013

In New York, a Domino’s Pizza store has agreed to reinstate 25 workers who say they faced retaliation for protesting unfair wages and treatment. The workers say managers cut their delivery shifts after they participated in a nationwide day of action to demand a living wage last week. Worker Bairon Solorzano said he was forced to work longer shifts inside, where he doesn’t receive tips.

Bairon Solorzano: “I told them that’s not fair. I’m not making enough money here. I have to go out and do deliveries, because that’s where I make my money. They said, 'No, go finish your job.' So, they did the same thing to another guy. They told him, 'Go wash the dishes. Don't go outside until you finish doing the dishes.’ So we all got together and said this is an abuse. They’re retaliating against us right now.”

The workers walked off the job in protest Saturday night and were then barred from returning to work. On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the store had agreed to reinstate the workers.

Newtown Families Mark 1 Year Since Massacre

Dec 13, 2013

Saturday marks one year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed six educators and 20 first-graders. On Thursday, relatives of gun violence victims from around the country gathered for a vigil at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Gilles Rousseau, father of slain Sandy Hook teacher Lauren Rousseau, addressed the gathering.

Gilles Rousseau: “We are here today with the common goal of remembering our loved ones and seeking to make our world a safer place. Acts of kindness and efforts to promote just cause are the best way to keep the memory of the victim of gun violence alive. I will remember.”

Crowd: “We will remember.”

Since Newtown, Congress has not passed any legislation on gun control, apart from the extension of a decades-long ban on plastic guns. A recent New York Times analysis found nearly two-thirds of gun laws passed by states since Newtown have loosened gun restrictions.

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