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HeadlinesMay 29, 2013

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U.S. Drone Strike Reportedly Kills Taliban Commander in Pakistan

May 29, 2013

A U.S. drone strike in Pakistan has killed at least four people and injured four others. The attack earlier today hit a home in the tribal region of North Waziristan. Pakistani officials say the strike killed the Pakistani Taliban’s second in command, Wali-ur-Rehman, though the claim has not been verified. It was the first U.S. drone strike inside Pakistan since the country’s elections earlier this month. It was also the first since President Obama’s major counterterrorism speech last week vowing new guidelines for drone warfare under his watch. The attack in Pakistan also comes as the Pentagon has confirmed a U.S. drone crashed off the coast of Somalia on Monday.

U.N. Rights Chief Criticizes Drone Warfare, Guantánamo

May 29, 2013

In her most forceful comments to date on the use of armed drones, the U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, called their use “profoundly” disturbing.

Navi Pillay: “I also continue to be profoundly disturbed at the human rights implications of the use of armed drones in the context of counterterrorism and military operations, with an increasing number of states seeking to acquire such weapons. I urge all states to be completely transparent regarding criteria for deploying drone strikes, and to ensure that their use complies fully with relevant international law. Where violations do occur, states should conduct independent, impartial, prompt and effective investigations, and provide victims with an effective remedy.”

Pillay’s comments came during her opening address to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. During her remarks, she also renewed her call for the United States to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Navi Pillay: “I have repeatedly urged the government of the United States of America to close Guantánamo Bay in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law. I therefore acknowledge President Obama’s statement last Thursday outlining practical steps towards closing the detention facilities, such as the lifting of the moratorium on transferring relevant detainees to Yemen. I encourage the United States to ensure that all such measures are carried out in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law.”

Computer Hacker Jeremy Hammond Pleads Guilty in Stratfor Case

May 29, 2013

The computer hacker Jeremy Hammond has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for hacking into the computers of the private intelligence firm Stratfor. Facing the prospect of decades behind bars on a number of computer fraud charges, Hammond admitted to being a member of the group Anonymous and to stealing files from Stratfor, as well as other government and corporate sites. Some five million Stratfor emails ended up on the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, shedding light on how the private intelligence firm monitors activists and spies for corporate clients. In a statement, Hammond said he accepted the plea deal in part to avoid an overzealous prosecution that could have resulted in at least 30 years in prison. He has already served 15 months, including weeks in solitary confinement. Of the hacking of Stratfor, Hammond said: “I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors.”

Online Currency Site Indicted for “Staggering” Money Laundering

May 29, 2013

Federal prosecutors have indicted the operators of the digital currency exchange Liberty Reserve for what they say could be the largest money laundering scheme in U.S. history. The Costa Rica-based firm is accused of helping criminals worldwide launder more than $6 billion in illicit funds. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, unveiled the charges.

Preet Bharara: “Liberty Reserve was intentionally created and structured to facilitate criminal activity. It was essentially a black market bank. As alleged, Liberty Reserve deliberately operated in a way to attract and aid criminals who wished to use digital currency to break the law and to launder the proceeds of their crimes, serious crimes including credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography and even narcotics trafficking. All told, Liberty Reserve allegedly processed 55 million separate financial transactions and laundered a staggering $6 billion dollars in criminal proceeds.”

Five of the seven suspects have been arrested so far, including two who will likely face extradition proceedings from Spain.

Wal-Mart Workers Begin Longest Strike to Date

May 29, 2013

Workers at Wal-Mart stores in three states have launched what organizers are calling their longest strike to date. The group, OUR Walmart, says around 100 workers in Florida, Massachusetts and California have begun walking off the job for an unprecedented series of “prolonged strikes” against worker retaliation. The current wave of strikes could continue through next week, when workers and activists are expected to protest at Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas.

Wal-Mart Pays Over $100 Million Fine for Dumping Hazardous Waste

May 29, 2013

Wal-Mart has pleaded guilty to illegally dumping hazardous waste including pesticides, bleach and fertilizer in California and Missouri. Wal-Mart will pay fines of more than $82 million on top of the $29 million it paid in related cases three years ago.

U.S.-Russia Split on Military Aid to Syrian Regime, Rebels

May 29, 2013

U.S. differences with Russia over Syria are widening just as the two powers seek to convene global talks on ending the more than two-year conflict. On Tuesday, the United States said it backed a European Union decision to provide weapons to Syrian rebels while condemning Russia’s move to send anti-aircraft missiles to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell spoke in Washington.

Patrick Ventrell: “We disagree with and we condemn the continued supply of Russian weapons to the regime, and this includes all class of weapons. And we’ve been clear throughout and very direct with the Russian government about that. We’ve seen how the regime uses those arms. When we’re talking about the opposition, that’s a different group. And clearly we have people who are defending themselves in the face of an enormous onslaught and a despicable onslaught of violence against them.”

2 U.S. Embassy Staffers Shot in Venezuela

May 29, 2013

Two staffers at the U.S. embassy in Venezuela have been wounded in an overnight shooting. The incident took place at a strip club in the capital Caracas. The pair work in the support staff in the office of the U.S. defense attaché.

Obama, Christie Tour Sandy-Hit Jersey Shore

May 29, 2013

President Obama visited New Jersey’s famed Jersey Shore boardwalk on Tuesday to observe the progress of recovery efforts seven months after Superstorm Sandy. Both Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowed to continue working for the devastated areas in Sandy’s path.

Gov. Chris Christie: “While I’m thrilled at the progress that we’ve made the last seven months — and we got a chance to show the president some of that earlier today up in Point Pleasant — I also made sure that he understood there’s still a lot more work to do for the people of our state, and I am not going to let anything or anyone get in between me and the completion of the mission to restore and recover our great state.”

President Obama: “Part of the reason I wanted to come back here was not just to send a message to New Jersey, but send a message to folks in Oklahoma: When we make a commitment that we’ve got your back, we mean it. And we’re not going to finish until the work is done.”

Report: Red Cross Hasn’t Spent Majority of Sandy Funds

May 29, 2013

The Associated Press reports that after seven months, the Red Cross still has not spent more than a third of the $303 million it raised to help Sandy victims. The Red Cross was the top recipient of donations in Sandy’s wake but has come under criticism for a lax response. The group says it has held onto most of its Sandy donations in order to provide relief for long-term needs.

Bachmann Won’t Seek Re-election to House

May 29, 2013

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has announced she will not seek re-election to a fifth term. Bachmann ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year and has not ruled out a second bid in 2016.

Saudi Boston Bombing Victim Speaks Out for First Time

May 29, 2013

The Saudi national initially described in media reports as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has spoken out about his ordeal. Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi was initially held as a “person of interest” under police guard after suffering serious wounds at the scene of the bombing. He was subsequently questioned and had his home searched by police. Speaking to the Islamic Monthly, Alharbi said he was harmed both by the bombings and by wrongful speculation in the media.

Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi: “I’ve been trying to just forget it and all these stuff. … But I couldn’t forget. I am double injured from the explosion, then from the media. So, it’s not easy to forget. Because you just going to write my name and search about [me], you are going to think that I am from al-Qaeda and, like, terrible things.”

Facebook Pledges to Confront Anti-Women Hate After Boycott

May 29, 2013

Facebook has agreed to change its policies on content promoting rape following a viral grassroots campaign by feminist activists. The social media site had come under fire for allowing posts that back violence against women despite banning other forms of hate speech. Using the Twitter hashtag #FBRape, tens of thousands of people targeted Facebook’s sponsors, leading some to pull their ads. On Tuesday, Facebook announced it would work with Women, Action and the Media and other feminist groups to update its policies.

Judge in Trayvon Martin Case Rejects Bids by Zimmerman’s Defense

May 29, 2013

The judge overseeing the pretrial hearing of Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman has rejected a number of key bids by the defense. Zimmerman faces at least 25 years in prison for killing Trayvon, an African-American teenager who was unarmed and walking alone. On Tuesday, Judge Debra Nelson denied a request by Zimmernan’s attorneys to present testimony about Trayvon’s use of marijuana, his school history and his text messages during Zimmerman’s upcoming murder trial. Prosecutors had argued the testimony would be irrelevant and used to tarnish the dead teenager’s reputation. A bid to delay the trial was also denied.

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