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HeadlinesMay 21, 2013

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Dozens Dead in Oklahoma Tornado

May 21, 2013

The estimated death toll from Monday’s massive tornado in Oklahoma stands at more than 91 people, including 20 children. Some 200 people were also wounded. [ Editor’s Note: After broadcast, the Oklahoma medical examiner revised the death toll down to 24, including 7 children.] The storm tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, leveling two elementary schools, a hospital and scores of homes. Rescue crews continue to dig through the rubble in a bid to find survivors. One witness said the tornado was so powerful it tore open a cellar door.

Ricky Stover: “We thought we died, because we were inside the cellar door, we locked the cellar door once we saw it coming, it got louder, and next thing you know, you see the latch coming undone, and we couldn’t reach for it, and it ripped open the door. And just glass and debris started slamming on us. And we thought something — we thought we were dead, to be honest.”

Monday’s storm marked the deadliest tornado to hit the United States since 161 people were killed in Joplin, Missouri, two years ago. President Obama has declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, ordering the deployment of federal aid.

Guatemalan Court Overturns Genocide Verdict for Ex-Dictator Ríos Montt

May 21, 2013

Guatemala’s top court has overturned the genocide conviction of former U.S.-backed military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In a historic verdict earlier this month, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years for genocide and crimes against humanity in the killings of more than 1,700 Ixil Mayan people in the early 1980s. But in a 3-to-2 ruling Monday, the Guatemalan constitutional court dismissed all the case’s proceedings dating back to a month ago. It was then that the court first annulled the case amidst a dispute between judges over jurisdiction. In the run-up to its latest decision to overturn, the court had come under heavy lobbying from Ríos Montt supporters, including Guatemala’s powerful business association, CACIF. Ríos Montt remains in a military hospital where he was admitted last week. His legal status is now up in the air. He will likely be released into house arrest, and it is unclear when or if he will return to court.

Foreclosed Homeowners Arrested at Justice Department Protest for Bank Prosecutions

May 21, 2013

Dozens of people rallied outside the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on Monday to protest the government’s failure to prosecute big banks for wronging millions of homeowners. Groups including Occupy Our Homes and the Home Defenders League organized the rally to demand punishment for bank misdeeds ranging from predatory lending to wrongful foreclosures. A group of demonstrators with underwater mortgages helped barricade the Justice Department building’s front doors. At least 17 demonstrators were arrested, but some managed to spend the night outside to continue their protest today.

Report: Banks Lagging on Settlement Payments for Mortgage Wrongdoing

May 21, 2013

New figures show major U.S. banks are withholding billions of dollars in money they owe to victimized homeowners. According to The Washington Post, less than half of the $5.7 billion that banks owe from nearly 30 government-brokered settlements has been paid out.

Report: CIA to Transfer Drone Program to Pentagon

May 21, 2013

The CIA is reportedly planning on gradually shifting control of its drone program to the Pentagon. Citing government sources, Reuters says the shift will occur in stages with the CIA continuing to carry out strikes in Pakistan. President Obama is expected to discuss the drone program and other “counterterrorism” efforts in a speech on Thursday.

White House Defends Tracking of Fox News Reporter

May 21, 2013

The White House is defending its latest publicly known case of targeting a journalist. The Justice Department tracked Fox News reporter James Rosen’s phone records and State Department visits, and even received a search warrant to read his personal emails. Rosen was investigated for obtaining details of a secret government report in 2009 on North Korea. The report warned the North Korean regime would likely respond with more nuclear tests if the U.S. managed to win additional U.N. sanctions. The government has named Rosen a potential “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in its case against Rosen’s alleged source, State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the Rosen case directly, but said President Obama stands behind efforts to crack down on leaks.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “He is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be able to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information. He is also, as a citizen and as commander-in-chief, insistent that we protect our secrets, that we protect classified information, and that leaks — that we take very seriously the leaks of classified information because leaks can endanger the lives of men and women in uniform and other Americans serving overseas for our country.”

The James Rosen case emerged just days after it was revealed the Justice Department seized the work, home and cellphone records of almost 100 AP reporters and editors without a court warrant.

Obama Hosts Burmese Leader at White House

May 21, 2013

President Obama has hosted the head of the Burmese military junta in a historic visit. Thein Sein is the first Burmese leader to visit the White House in nearly 50 years. His trip follows Obama’s visit to Burma late last year as part of U.S. efforts to ease sanctions in return for political reform. Obama said Monday’s talks yielded progress on the release of Burmese political prisoners and stopping recent anti-Muslim violence.

President Obama: “President Thein shared with me the manner in which he intends to continue to move forward on releasing more political prisoners, making sure that the government of Myanmar institutionalizes some of the political reforms that have already taken place, how rule of law is codified so that it continues into the future, and the process whereby these ethnic conflicts that have existed are resolved, not simply by a ceasefire but an actual incorporation of all these communities into the political process.”

Survey: Scientists Have 97% Consensus Human Activity Causes Climate Change

May 21, 2013

A new survey of the scientific community has found near unanimous agreement that human activity causes climate change. Citing the work of more than 29,000 scientists in peer-reviewed journals, the survey’s authors say the consensus on human-caused global warming stands at 97.1 percent. Addressing the efforts by industrial polluters to fund climate skepticism, the study’s lead author, John Cook, said: “There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception.”

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Begins at U.N.

May 21, 2013

The United Nations has opened its annual two-week gathering on the plight of indigenous people worldwide. The chair of the 12th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Paul Sena of Kenya, helped kick off the proceedings.

Paul Kanyinke Sena: “What we are doing here is not actually fighting our governments, because in Africa, for example, there is always the misconception that we are here to complain, complain, complain. No, we didn’t come to complain, but we are trying to look for solutions that can also — supportive in those governments in trying to address issues of concern to indigenous peoples.”

Poverty in U.S. Suburbs Exceeds Urban Areas

May 21, 2013

A new study shows more people are living in poverty in U.S. suburbs than in urban areas. According to the Brookings Institution, the number of low-income residents in the suburbs rose 64 percent to 16.4 million from 2000 to 2011. Urban areas saw an increase of 29 percent to 13.4 million during the same period.

Senate Report Says Apple Avoids Billions in Taxes

May 21, 2013

The tech giant Apple is being accused of a massive tax-dodging scheme that saved it tens of billions of dollars. A bipartisan Senate report says Apple avoided paying U.S. taxes on $44 billion in income between 2009 and 2012. The report describes a massive and unprecedented web of affiliates spanning several continents. The subsidiaries were used to hide the company’s profits even in countries where Apple had no employees.

Protest Against School Closings Leads to Arrests at Chicago City Hall

May 21, 2013

Nearly two dozen people have been arrested at Chicago’s City Hall in a protest against school closures. The demonstrators staged a sit-in to denounce Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close 54 public schools, mostly in African-American neighborhoods. The sit-in followed a march of hundreds of people in downtown Chicago. The board of the Chicago Public Schools is slated to vote on the closure plan Wednesday.

Landmark “Stop and Frisk” Trial Concludes in NYC

May 21, 2013

A class action trial challenging the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy has concluded after two months. Plaintiffs in the case argued the NYPD’s practices are unconstitutional and unfairly target people of color. Nearly 90 percent of people stopped by police in 2011 were black and Latino, and nine out of 10 were neither arrested nor ticketed. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin expressed interest in ordering police to wear cameras so their actions can be fully documented. Judge Scheindlin also criticized the effectiveness of “stop and frisk,” telling city attorneys: “You reasonably suspect something and you’re wrong 90 percent of the time.” A ruling is expected in the coming months.

Hundreds Honor Gay New Yorker Shot Dead in Apparent Hate Crime

May 21, 2013

More than 1,000 people marched in New York City’s West Village Monday to denounce anti-gay violence following an apparent hate crime that left one man dead. Mark Carson, a 32-year-old gay African American, was with a male companion when a gunman confronted the pair and followed them for several blocks. The gunman yelled an anti-gay remark before opening fire. The suspect, Elliot Morales, has been detained and charged. On Monday, marchers honored Carson’s life by marching from the LGBT Community Center to the site where he was killed.

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