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HeadlinesMay 15, 2013

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Holder Defends Monitoring of AP Phone Records

May 15, 2013

Attorney General Eric Holder is defending the Justice Department’s seizure of the work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press. The phones targeted included the general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. The action likely came as part of a probe into the leaks behind an AP story on the U.S. intelligence operation that stopped a Yemen-based al-Qaeda bombing plot on a U.S.-bound airplane. Critics say it could mark the biggest intrusion on freedom of the press under President Obama. Holder called the monitoring a necessary step for national security.

Eric Holder: “This was a very serious — a very serious leak, and a very, very serious leak. I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976, and I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen. It put the American people at risk. And that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk. And trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think, required very aggressive action.”

Holder says he recused himself from the probe into the leak last year to avoid a conflict of interest. He will appear before lawmakers today to answer questions on the case.

Wal-Mart Linked to Collapsed Bangladeshi Factory; The Gap Rejects Safety Pact

May 15, 2013

The retail giant Wal-Mart has been tied to the collapsed Bangladeshi industrial building where more than 1,100 workers died last month. The New York Times reports documents found in the rubble show a contractor had hired one of the building’s factories to produce jeans for Wal-Mart stores. The contract was over a year old, and Wal-Mart maintains it was not using the factory when the collapse occurred. On Tuesday, Wal-Mart reaffirmed its rejection of a plan requiring firms that profit from low wages in Bangladesh to help pay for fire safety and building improvements at factories. Wal-Mart says it is conducting its own safety review of its Bangladeshi factories and will post the results in six months. On Tuesday, six more companies, including Carrefour, Marks & Spencer and El Corte Inglés, signed on to the plan, which requires companies to conduct independent safety inspections, pay for repairs and end dealings with factories that refuse to improve safety. In addition to Wal-Mart, another major U.S. retailer, Gap, is refusing to adopt the plan unless it drastically reduces the liability of companies found to be in violation. In response, the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent monitor, said: “Gap’s demand is that the agreement be made unenforceable — and therefore meaningless.”

Russia Expels Alleged CIA Spy Caught Recruiting

May 15, 2013

Russia has expelled a U.S. diplomat who it says is a CIA spy. The official, Ryan Fogle, worked in the U.S. embassy in Moscow in a low-level position. Russian officials say he was detained after trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer with cash and a letter offering up to $1 million a year. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: “While our two presidents have reaffirmed their willingness to expand bilateral cooperation … such provocative Cold War-style actions do not contribute to building mutual trust.” The United States has not denied that Fogle worked for the CIA.

3 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

May 15, 2013

Three U.S. soldiers have been killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan. Tuesday’s attack occurred in Kandahar, the same province where five U.S. troops died in a similar incident earlier this month.

Minnesota Gov. Signs Same-Sex Marriage Law

May 15, 2013

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has signed into law a measure making his the 12th state to allow same-sex marriage. Dayton signed the bill in front of thousands of supporters outside the State Capitol in St. Paul.

Gov. Mark Dayton: “Our country’s most important progress has been to extend those equal rights and protections to everyone. That progress has often been difficult, controversial and initially divisive. However, it has always been the next step ahead to fulfilling this country’s promise to every American. So it is now my honor to sign into law this next step for the state of Minnesota to fulfill its promise to every Minnesotan.”

Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law will take effect in August.

Fort Hood Sexual Assault Coordinator Accused of Abuses

May 15, 2013

The U.S. Army coordinator of sexual assault prevention at Fort Hood, Texas, is being investigated for sex crimes. The unnamed sergeant first class is accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment. He is the second man in the military’s sexual assault prevention effort to be accused this month. The head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, was charged with sexual assault for groping a woman in a Virginia parking lot last week.

Warren Questions Regulators, Justice Dept. on Lack of Wall Street Prosecutors

May 15, 2013

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has asked top government officials to explain the absence of Wall Street prosecutions. In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department and the Federal Reserve, Warren questioned the government’s preference for reaching settlements with big banks accused of financial wrongdoing instead of holding them to account in court. Warren writes: “If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law.”

Fast-Food Workers Strike in Milwaukee

May 15, 2013

A series of strikes by fast-food workers nationwide is spreading today to Milwaukee. Workers are walking off the job in a call for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to unionize without intimidation. Milwaukee is the fifth city to see a fast-food workers strike in six weeks, following Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago and New York City.

Undocumented Immigrants Protest Deportations at Illinois Jail

May 15, 2013

A number of undocumented immigrants were arrested in Illinois on Tuesday after protesting in front of an immigration jail. Organizers say the rally at the Broadview Detention Facility was held to demand an immediate end to the record-high deportations under President Obama. Protesters blocked a road in front of the jail by joining themselves together with pipes, chains and locks.

Former Head of Hispanic Outreach for Florida GOP Switches Parties over “Intolerance”

May 15, 2013

The former head of Hispanic Outreach for the Republican Party in Florida has announced he is switching parties to the Democrats. In a statement, Pablo Pantoja said: “It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality.”

Cooper Union Students Continue Tuition Protest

May 15, 2013

In New York City, students at Cooper Union are occupying the president’s office for an eighth day after the school announced an end to more than a century of free tuition for undergraduates. Cooper Union was one of the last private schools in the United States to offer free tuition. The sit-in began last Wednesday.

Victoria Sobel, Cooper Union student activist: “Our current demand is that the president of Cooper Union, Jamshed Bharucha, step down. We have unfulfilled demands from the previous actions, which include a change in governance, including new faculty and student representation and voting rights on the board, and reaffirmation of the mission statement of the school, which includes the full tuition scholarship. My message to other students in this country is that occupation of institutional space should definitely be very firmly on the spectrum of possibilities in a diversity of tactics campaign.”

Seattle Teachers Win Campaign Against Standardized MAP Test

May 15, 2013

Following months of protest, high schools in Seattle, Washington, will no longer have to issue standardized reading and math tests. Superintendent José Banda said the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test is now optional for high schools, but those refusing the test must find another way to gauge student performance. In January, teachers at Garfield High School began a boycott of the test, saying it was wasteful and being used unfairly to assess their performance. The boycott spread to other schools, with hundreds of teachers, students and parents participating.

Angelina Jolie Reveals Double Masectomy for Breast Cancer; Firm Owns Mutation Gene

May 15, 2013

Actress Angelina Jolie has revealed she recently underwent a double mastectomy after finding out she had a roughly 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Jolie writes: “I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.” The test revealing Jolie had a mutation in a gene called BRCA1, or Breast Cancer 1, costs more than $3,000. The firm Myriad Genetics owns patents on BRCA1 and a similar gene, BRCA2, meaning it has the authority to stop all research on the genes — and is the only company that can conduct the test. The American Civil Liberties Union argued against these patents before the Supreme Court earlier this month, and a decision is expected in June.

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