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HeadlinesFebruary 20, 2013

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U.N. Warns Syrian Humanitarian Crisis “Getting Worse” as Typhoid Outbreak Confirmed

Feb 20, 2013

The United Nations continues to warn of a growing humanitarian crisis as a result of Syria’s unrelenting civil war. On Tuesday, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said much of the rebel-held north remains cut off from direly needed aid.

Valerie Amos: “The situation in Syria is getting worse. The violence is causing widespread destruction and having a devastating impact on the lives of ordinary Syrian women, men and children. We are crossing conflict lines, negotiating with armed groups on the ground to reach more people in need, but we are not reaching enough of those who require our help.”

The World Health Organization is now reporting a typhoid outbreak in a rebel-held area of the northeastern province of Deir ez-Zor. The WHO says some 2,500 people have caught typhoid because they have been forced to drink from a contaminated section of the Euphrates River. In some of the latest violence, at least 31 civilians were killed Tuesday in a Syrian regime bombing of the city of Aleppo. Fourteen children were reportedly among the dead.

Palestinian Prisoners Refuse Meals in Support of Hunger Strikers

Feb 20, 2013

In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, protests are continuing in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. On Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinian detainees refused meals in solidarity with four hunger-striking prisoners. Hundreds of people, meanwhile, rallied across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, drawing fire from Israeli troops of tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. The prisoners include Samer Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 200 days, drinking only water. On Tuesday, an Israeli court ordered Issawi to remain behind bars indefinitely. His lawyer announced the decision.

Jawad Boulos: “The decision is to reject the appeal of the defense to release Samer immediately and to keep him behind bars until the last verdict, which will be given maybe in two weeks’ time.”

Issawi and another hunger-striking prisoner were initially released under the 2011 deal that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, only to be re-arrested and returned to an Israeli prison last year. Israel has refused to disclose the reasons for their re-arrest, and they could each face at least 20 more years behind bars.

Greek Workers Stage Anti-Austerity National Strike

Feb 20, 2013

Millions of workers have walked off the job in Greece today in a one-day strike against fiscal austerity. It was the latest in a series of actions against the wage cuts and tax hikes imposed as a condition of Greece’s international bailout. Tens of thousands of people marched on the Greek parliament in Athens in the largest anti-austerity protest so far this year.

Supreme Court to Review Limits on Individual Campaign Donations

Feb 20, 2013

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up what’s being described as the most pivotal campaign-finance case since the landmark Citizens United decision of 2010. On Tuesday, the court agreed to hear the challenge of a Republican activist who wants to lift the cap on individual donations to candidates, political parties and political action committees. The activist, Shaun McCutcheon, has joined with the Republican National Committee to contest the combined donation cap of $123,000 for campaigns during each election cycle. The case will be heard in October.

Obama: Automatic Cuts Under Sequester “Will Hurt Our Economy”

Feb 20, 2013

President Obama held a public event with a group of firefighters and police officers on Tuesday to pressure Republicans on the upcoming round of automatic budget cuts under the sequester. Obama wants Republicans to end tax breaks mostly for the wealthy to avoid the $85 billion in spending cuts set to take effect on March 1 under a previous budget deal. In his remarks, Obama said the cuts will cause major economic damage.

President Obama: “These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. So, now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice: Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and healthcare and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special-interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations? That’s the choice.”

A new analysis from the economist group Macroeconomic Advisers warned on Tuesday the sequester will slow economic growth by more than half a percentage point and result in the loss of 700,000 jobs.

North Carolina Cuts Jobless Benefits, Rejects Federal Aid

Feb 20, 2013

North Carolina has enacted a new law imposing major cuts to aid for the unemployed. Jobless benefits will be slashed by nearly one-third, and recipients will have less time to collect them. In addition to gutting state benefits, the bill also rejects millions of dollars in additional federal aid. North Carolina currently has the nation’s fifth-highest official unemployment rate, at 9.2 percent. The measure takes effect on July 1. In a statement, the North Carolina Justice Center denounced Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and state lawmakers, saying: “Hundreds of thousands of jobless workers thrown out of work through no fault of their own will face deepening poverty as a result of this decision.”

Death Row Prisoner Wins Stay of Execution in Georgia

Feb 20, 2013

A death row prisoner in Georgia has been granted a last-minute stay of execution. Warren Hill was set to be put to death for the murder of a fellow prisoner while serving a life sentence for fatally shooting his girlfriend. But a federal appeals court granted a last-minute reprieve, citing expert opinion Hill is mentally disabled. All three doctors who originally said Hill failed to meet the legal definition of “mentally retarded” have since reversed their opinion. Hill would have been the first prisoner executed in Georgia since Troy Anthony Davis in 2011. The ruling marks only a temporary delay, and Georgia can still appeal for the execution to proceed.

Dept. of Education Panel Says School System Burdening Low-Income Children

Feb 20, 2013

A federal commission has found U.S. education policies are burdening students from low-income families. In a new report, the Equity and Excellence Commission concluded: “No other developed nation has inequities nearly as deep or systemic; no other developed nation has … so thoroughly stacked the odds against so many of its children.” The panel goes on to call for greater investments in public education, better training of teachers, equality in allocating funds, and a new push for more ethnically diverse schools. The commission was created by the Department of Education, but its findings largely reject the department’s bipartisan education reform effort, saying the focus on charter schools and standardized testing has been “poorly targeted.”

4 Dead in California Shooting Spree

Feb 20, 2013

Four people are dead after a shooting spree on Tuesday in the California area of Orange County. Over the course of an hour, unemployed part-time student Ali Syed shot and killed a woman in her home and two commuters at random before taking his own life.

Activists Disrupt Wastewater Fracking Site in Ohio

Feb 20, 2013

Environmental activists shut down a wastewater site in Ohio on Tuesday in a protest against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. One demonstrator climbed a 30-foot pole at the GreenHunter Water storage facility, stopping trucks from dumping fracking wastewater. The site’s operators want to increase its capacity for dumping and transporting fracking waste. Ten people were arrested in Tuesday’s demonstration.

Palestinian Filmmaker Behind “5 Broken Cameras” Detained at LAX Ahead of Oscars

Feb 20, 2013

A Palestinian filmmaker and his family were detained at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday after arriving to attend this weekend’s Academy Awards. The filmmaker, Emad Burnat, is nominated in the Best Documentary category for “5 Broken Cameras,” which documents the growth of a resistance movement to the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. In a series of Twitter messages, the filmmaker Michael Moore said immigration officers told Burnat he would not be allowed to enter the country even after he showed them his Oscar invite. Burnat and his family were eventually released after Moore phoned Academy attorneys. Moore quoted Burnat as saying: “It’s nothing I’m not already used to. When [you] live under occupation, with no rights, this is a daily occurrence.”

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