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HeadlinesMay 14, 2013

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Obama Admin Secretly Obtains Trove of Associated Press Phone Records in “Unprecedented Intrusion”

May 14, 2013

The Associated Press says the U.S. Department of Justice has secretly obtained a trove of journalists’ phone records in what AP’s chief executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” The Obama administration seized records for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. More than 100 reporters work in the offices. The records were from April and May of 2012. Among those whose records were obtained were Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, three other reporters and an editor, all of whom worked on a May 7, 2012, story that revealed details about a CIA operation in Yemen which stopped an alleged terror plot. AP had delayed publication of the story at the government’s request. It is believed the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into the source of information contained in the story. CIA Director John Brennan has faced questions over whether he is the source, a claim he denies. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, AP chief executive Gary Pruitt said: “There can be no possible justification for such an over-broad collection … These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources … and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Search for Bodies at Collapsed Garment Building in Bangladesh Ends; Death Toll at 1,127

May 14, 2013

The search for bodies in the rubble of a collapsed garment factory building in Bangladesh has ended with the death toll at 1,127. The collapse was one of the worst industrial disasters in history. For nearly three weeks rescuers have combed through the wreckage of the eight-story Rana Plaza building outside Dhaka. The last body was recovered Sunday night. On Monday, roughly 100 garment factories near Dhaka were shut down amid protests over the death of a 22-year-old garment worker whose body was found Friday inside a factory. A police official said Parul Akter had committed suicide.

Worker Describes 17 Days Trapped in Garment Building’s Rubble

May 14, 2013

The 19-year-old worker who spent 17 days trapped in the rubble of the Rana Plaza factory building before emerging on Friday recounted her experience Monday. Reshma Begum said she will never again work in a garment factory.

Reshma Begum: “During all those days, I only had four pieces of biscuit and a little water. I could not get anything else there. There were some people on the next floor. They all died. They were all shouting, but I could not find them. They were shouting, 'Sister, save us!' I tried but could not find them. It was all God’s will. I was not afraid. I don’t know where I got so much mental strength.”

European Firms Commit to Plan for Improving Bangladesh Factory Safety

May 14, 2013

Several major firms that profit from low wages in Bangladesh have signed onto a plan requiring them to help pay for fire safety and building improvements at factories. Those who backed the plan Monday include Sweden-based H&M, the largest purchaser of Bangladeshi garments; British firms Primark and Tesco; and Spain’s Inditex, which owns the Zara chain. The legally binding contract requires companies to conduct independent safety inspections, pay for repairs and end dealings with factories that refuse to improve safety. The apparel company PVH, which agreed to sign on last year, is the only U.S. company to embrace the plan. Wal-Mart — the second-largest producer of clothing in Bangladesh — and the Gap have not signed on.

Report: Acting IRS Commissioner Knew About Targeting of Right-Wing Groups in May 2012

May 14, 2013

Reports have emerged that acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller knew more than a year ago that tea-party and other right-wing groups received extra scrutiny by the agency but failed to inform Congress of the issue. Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting the focus on right-wing groups extended to officials in Washington, D.C., and at least two other agency offices. The IRS has apologized to the groups after revealing organizations with the terms “tea party” or “patriots” in their names were singled out by the IRS division responsible for investigating those seeking to qualify as charities. President Obama addressed the reports on Monday.

President Obama: “I can tell you that if you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous. It is contrary to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable, and it’s got to be fixed.”

Supreme Court Sides Unanimously With Monsanto in Seed Patent Case

May 14, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of Monsanto in a case about the use of its patented seeds. Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman had been ordered by a lower court to pay more than $84,000 after planting a mix of seeds he bought from a grain elevator. Some of the plants contained Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant genetic trait known as Roundup Ready, which is found in roughly 90 percent of U.S. soybeans. Monsanto accused Bowman of using their technology without paying for it, and the Supreme Court agreed, finding farmers must pay Monsanto every time they plant its seeds. While the case could have wide implications beyond agriculture, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that Monday’s ruling was “limited — addressing the situation before us, rather than every one involving a self-replicating product.”

Minnesota Governor to Sign Bill Allowing Same-Sex Marriage

May 14, 2013

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed to sign legislation today making the state the 12th to allow same-sex marriage. The state Senate voted in favor of the bill on Monday. Same-sex couples in Minnesota will be able to get married beginning in August.

Document Reveals New Protocol for Force-Feeding Guantánamo Hunger Strikers

May 14, 2013

Al Jazeera has published a U.S. military document outlining updated procedures for force-feeding prisoners currently on hunger strike at Guantánamo. The document reveals hunger strikers are forced to wear a mask over their mouths as they sit shackled in a chair for as long as two hours while a feeding tube is inserted through their nostrils. Afterwards, prisoners are placed in a “dry cell” without running water and observed for at least 45 minutes to ensure they do not vomit. If they do vomit, they are returned to the chair. More than 100 prisoners are participating in a hunger strike that began in February. At least 29 are being force-fed. On Monday, a coalition of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling for an end to force-feeding at Guantánamo, saying it constitutes “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and violates the Geneva Conventions.

Obama, Cameron Vow to Increase Pressure on Syrian Gov’t

May 14, 2013

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are pledging to work together to ramp up pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama spoke after a meeting with Cameron during the British leader’s visit to Washington.

President Obama: “Together, we’re going to continue our efforts to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to provide humanitarian aid to the long-suffering Syrian people, to strengthen the moderate opposition, and to prepare for a democratic Syria without Bashar al-Assad. And that includes bringing together representatives of the regime and the opposition in Geneva in the coming weeks to agree on a transitional body, which would allow a transfer of power from Assad to this governing body.”

Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder

May 14, 2013

A Philadelphia jury has found abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell guilty of three counts of first-degree murder for the killings of fetuses that were reportedly born alive in an unsanitary clinic described by prosecutors as a “house of horrors.” Gosnell was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the death of a 41-year-old patient who was allegedly given an overdose of anesthesia. Gosnell’s abuses have been condemned by both sides of the abortion debate. Anti-choice critics have used the case to demonize abortion providers, while pro-choice groups say it highlights the need to preserve access to safe, affordable care for all. Ilyse Hogue, head of the pro-choice group NARAL, called the Gosnell case “a peek into the world before Roe v. Wade.” In a statement she said: “Anti-choice politicians, and their unrelenting efforts to deny women access to safe and legal abortion care, will only drive more women to back-alley butchers like Kermit Gosnell.” Gosnell could face the death penalty.

Court Delays Unrestricted Sale of Emergency Contraception

May 14, 2013

A federal appeals court has agreed to delay the sale of emergency contraception without a prescription for people of all ages. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman had rejected the administration’s bid to delay his order that the “morning-after pill” be made available without restrictions while it appeals his decision. But on Monday the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York granted the delay at least until it takes up the issue later this month. Judge Korman has accused the Obama administration of blocking access to the morning-after pill for political reasons, noting that it would be among the safest over-the-counter medications in existence.

Former Guatemalan Dictator Ríos Montt Hospitalized After Fainting

May 14, 2013

Former Guatemalan military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt has been taken to a military hospital after fainting while en route to a court hearing. Montt was jailed Friday to begin an 80-year sentence for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role the killings of more than 1,700 Ixil Mayan people in the early 1980s.

Mexican Authorities Arrest 2 for Beating Death of Malcolm Shabazz

May 14, 2013

Authorities in Mexico say they have arrested two men accused of fatally beating Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X. Police say Shabazz was 29 when he died at a bar in Mexico City last Thursday. The two men arrested are waiters at the club. Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Ríos said Shabazz and labor rights activist Miguel Suárez had disputed a nightclub bill for more than $1,200 before Shabazz was hit.

Rodolfo Ríos: “From evidence, Mexico City’s attorney general concluded that David Hernández Cruz and Manuel Alejandro Pérez de Jesús, among other participants, took the life of Malcolm Lateef Shabazz, who died as a result of a trauma caused by a blunt object, from a blunt edge. Those responsible were admitted and put before a penal judge for their suspected responsibility for homicide and aggravated robbery.”

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