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HeadlinesDecember 16, 2013

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Mandela Laid to Rest in Home Village

Dec 16, 2013

Nelson Mandela was laid to rest on Sunday as South Africa bid farewell to the leader of its long walk to freedom. Mandela was buried in his home village of Qunu 10 days after his death at the age of 95. South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela’s struggle for justice will carry forward.

South African President Jacob Zuma: “Whilst your long walk to freedom has ended in the physical sense, our own journey continues. We have to continue building the type of society you worked tirelessly to construct. We have to take your legacy forward. In doing so, we’ll continue drawing lessons from your very rich and extraordinary life.”

More than 100,000 people visited Mandela’s coffin as it lay in state over the past several days.

Syrian Air Strike Kills Dozens in Aleppo

Dec 16, 2013

At least 125 people were reportedly killed on Sunday when Syrian government warplanes bombed rebel areas in the northern city of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the dead included 28 children. The attack comes just over a month before peace talks between the two sides are set for Geneva.

Obama on Newtown Anniversary: Push for Gun Control “Won’t Come from Washington”

Dec 16, 2013

Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed six educators and 20 first-graders. Newtown residents held quiet remembrances after asking the news media for privacy. In his weekly address, President Obama said only political mobilization from concerned Americans can bring about stricter gun control.

President Obama: “We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved and valued and cared for. And as we do, we can’t lose sight of the fact that real change won’t come from Washington. It will come the way it’s always come: from you, from the American people.”

Student Gunman Wounds Classmate, Takes Own Life at Colorado School

Dec 16, 2013

On the eve of the Newtown anniversary, a teenage gunman left a fellow student in critical condition before taking his own life at a high school in Colorado. Police say the shooter, Karl Pierson, entered Centennial’s Arapahoe High School heavily armed with the intent of harming a teacher who had disciplined him earlier in the year.

Grayson Robinson, Arapahoe county sheriff: “He was armed with a shotgun. The individual also had a bandolier of multiple rounds of shotgun ammunition strapped across his body, and he was also armed with a machete — a very large knife. The individual also carried a backpack with him as he entered the school. We now know as a result of our investigation that inside that backpack were three incendiary devices.”

The victim, 17-year-old Claire Davis, was shot in the head and remains in critical condition. The shooting took place just eight miles from Columbine High School, where two students killed 13 classmates and staff before taking their own lives in 1999.

Flooding Displaces Thousands in Gaza Strip

Dec 16, 2013

At least 10,000 Palestinians were displaced over the weekend after a rare winter storm caused massive flooding. United Nations spokesperson Chris Gunness said the recovery effort was further hindered by the long-running Israeli blockade.

Chris Gunness: “Gaza has become a disaster zone, with water as far the eye can see, in certain areas two meters high, stranding tens of thousands of people. UNRWA has been working 24/7, 4,000 workers working 'round the clock. We've distributed 5,000 liters of fuel so that the pumping stations can work. And we’re taking people to UNRWA facilities. But this is disaster relief under blockade, under occupation. It’s very, very problematic.”

In response, Israel has allowed an emergency shipment of fuel into Gaza donated by the Qatari government. The fuel will restart Gaza’s lone power plant, which was forced to shut down in October. The move will give Gaza residents eight hours of power at a time, followed by eight hours of blackouts.

Chile Elects Bachelet to Return to Office

Dec 16, 2013

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has won a return to office in a second round of presidential elections. Bachelet defeated her right-wing challenger in Sunday’s runoff with 62 percent of the vote.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet: “The victory in this round isn’t one person. It’s a collective dream that triumphs. It’s your voices that we heard throughout all of Chile during these months that has won. It’s the voice of the citizens who have marched in the streets for years expressing their demands with courage and who have set ambitions and a path for our country.”

Bachelet served from 2006 to 2010 as Chile’s first female president. She ran this time on a platform of tackling income inequality and reforming a constitution dating back to the regime of General Augusto Pinochet, when she herself was a political prisoner. Her campaign pledges include a hike in corporate taxes from 20 to 25 percent and the eventual transition to free higher education. Bachelet will take office in March.

EU Suspends Ukraine Talks as Protests Continue

Dec 16, 2013

Thousands of people continue to rally in Ukraine as anti-government protests enter their fourth week. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is facing a massive campaign to resign over his rejection of a trade pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Yanukovych is set to visit Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week. On Sunday, Sens. John McCain and Christopher Murphy voiced support for the protesters at their hub in Kiev’s Independence Square.

Sen. Christopher Murphy: “We are here to tell you that the American people and the United States Congress stands with the people of Ukraine.”

Sen. John McCain: “I am a Republican. Senator Murphy is a Democrat. We are here together speaking for the American people in solidarity with you.”

The Ukraine government pledged to resume talks as the protests grew, but the EU now says it has suspended negotiations over the government’s unreasonable demands.

Thousands Protest Gay Sex Ban in India

Dec 16, 2013

Thousands of people rallied in India on Sunday in protest of a renewed ban on homosexual sex. The ban was first struck down four years ago, but reinstated last week after India’s Supreme Court upheld a section of the penal code dating back to 1860. Protests were held in cities across the country.

Protester: “We are all here today, all the minority, as well as the mainstream population of Calcutta. Everyone has joined hands to stand for human rights and to stand against Section 377, which is absolutely against human rights in all respect.”

NSA Officials Differ on Snowden Amnesty

Dec 16, 2013

A top National Security Agency official has said the government should consider offering amnesty to Edward Snowden. Rick Ledgett told CBS News amnesty could perhaps be granted if Snowden were to return all the documents he obtained.

John Miller, CBS News: “Given the potential damage to national security, what would your thought on making a deal be?”

Rick Ledgett: “So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about. I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

John Miller: “Is that a unanimous feeling?”

Rick Ledgett: “It’s not unanimous.”

Ledgett is heading the NSA’s task force into Snowden’s leaks. In the same segment, however, Ledgett’s superior, NSA chief Keith Alexander, said he opposes amnesty for Snowden.

Gen. Keith Alexander: “This is analogous to a hostage-taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10, and then say, 'If you give me full amnesty, I'll let the other 40 go.’ What do you do?”

John Miller: “It’s a dilemma.”

Gen. Keith Alexander: “It is.”

John Miller: “Do you have a pick?”

Gen. Keith Alexander: “I do. I think people have to be held accountable for their actions, because what we don’t want is the next person to do the same thing — race off to Hong Kong and to Moscow with another set of data, knowing they can strike the same deal.”

According to The New York Times, NSA officials reviewing the Snowden leaks are still unaware of exactly how much information he took from their systems.

Kansas Technician Arrested for Airport Bomb Plot

Dec 16, 2013

A Kansas airport technician was arrested on Friday after trying to carry out an alleged bomb plot. Prosecutors say Terry Loewen used his security access to drive a truck he thought was carrying explosives onto the tarmac of the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. But the explosives had been built with undercover FBI agents who ensured they were inert.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom: “The criminal complaint which was filed today in U.S. federal district court alleges that Mr. Loewen spent months developing a plan to use his access card to the airport to drive a car loaded with explosives to the terminal. It’s alleged that he planned to pull the trigger on the explosives himself and die in the explosion as a martyr. Agents arrested him at about 5:40 a.m. as he attempted to use his access card to enter the tarmac and to deliver the vehicle loaded with what he believed to be high explosives.”

As in previous cases that have raised questions of entrapment, the FBI agents who posed as Loewen’s accomplices supplied him with the materials he thought were bombs. Loewen is said to have been a Muslim convert who was radicalized by reading jihadist websites. He left a note for his family saying he intended to “cause maximum carnage and death.”

White House: Missing American in Iran Didn’t Work for U.S. Gov’t

Dec 16, 2013

The White House faced scrutiny over the weekend following the revelation a missing American captured in Iran was working for the CIA. Robert Levinson disappeared in 2007 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 it emerged last week Levinson went to Iran at the behest of CIA analysts. On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney avoided questions on Levinson’s CIA ties.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “Bob Levinson was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing in Iran. As there is an ongoing investigation into his disappearance, I am not going to comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran. I’m not going to fact-check every allegation made in the story you reference, a story we believe it was highly irresponsible to publish, and which we strongly urged the outlet not to publish out of concerns for Mr. Levinson’s safety. I’m also not going to say anything that might further harm our efforts to bring Mr. Levinson home safe, which has been our goal for the six-and-a-half years he has been missing.”

The White House can apparently claim Levinson did not work for the U.S. government because he was technically a CIA contractor. There has been no sign Levinson is alive for nearly three years. The Obama administration says it continues to seek Levinson’s return through “a number of different channels.”

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