The surge of sectarian violence in Iraq is continuing with at least 33 people killed on Thursday in yet another wave of attacks. According to the United Nations, more than 500 people were killed in Iraq this month, while more than 700 died in April, marking the bloodiest month there in nearly five years. Starting today, a ban on cars bearing certain types of license plates is in effect in the capital Baghdad as authorities attempt to stop a rash of fatal car bombings.
Several U.S. news outlets are boycotting an offer by Attorney General Eric Holder to meet for closed-door talks about the Obama administration’s policies for secretly spying on the press. The meetings follow revelations the Justice Department seized phone records linked to roughly 100 Associated Press journalists, as well as the private emails of a Fox News reporter. The New York Times reports Holder has begun internal deliberations about tightening the rules for seizing such records. Holder invited the Washington bureau heads of major news outlets to meet this week for off-the-record talks, meaning none could report on what was said. Fox News and the Associated Press both refused to attend, as did CNN, NBC, CBS, The Huffington Post, The New York Times and McClatchy Newspapers. But some outlets agreed to Holder’s terms, including The Washington Post, Politico, ABC and USA Today.
As the bloody conflict in Syria continues to deepen, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed “in principle” to attend international talks in Geneva. But Assad said any deal reached at the meeting would need to be approved by the Syrian people.
President Bashar al-Assad: “Very simply, our only condition is that any agreement as a result of any meeting inside or outside Syria, including the conference, should be subject to the opinion of the Syrian people, a referendum for the Syrian people. This is our only real condition. Anything else has no value. This is why we will go to this conference feeling comfortable. We have no worries. They can put anything up for discussion on the table, but nothing will be implemented without the opinion of the Syrian people. And we are the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, so there is nothing we are afraid of.”
The opposition group Syrian National Council said Thursday it will not attend the peace talks next month. A spokesperson said: “The talk about the international conference and a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place.”
The Pakistani Taliban is vowing revenge against the government for its alleged complicity in a U.S. drone strike that killed the group’s deputy chief. A spokesperson said the group was canceling its offer of peace talks and accused the Pakistani government of providing information that helped the CIA find Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, who was killed by a drone on Wednesday in North Waziristan, along with six other people.
The father of a Chechen man shot dead while being questioned by an FBI agent has spoken out about his son’s killing. Ibragim Todashev was reportedly unarmed when he was killed last week during an interrogation over his alleged links to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. On Thursday, Abdulbaki Todashev displayed photographs of his son’s corpse and said he was shot seven times. He accused the FBI of “tormenting” his son for eight hours and called for those responsible to be put on trial.
Abdulbaki Todashev: “At the moment, I want justice, and I want there to be an investigation, so that these people are tried under American law. These are not FBI agents, but bandits. I cannot call them anything else. And they must be tried.”
Law enforcement officials have provided differing accounts of the episode, with some initially claiming Todashev had a knife. Unnamed officials are now saying he flipped over a table and lunged at an agent with a metal pole before being shot.
The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for what it calls “careful scrutiny” of James Comey, the former Bush administration official reportedly tapped to head the FBI. In a statement, the ACLU says Comey approved some of the Bush administration’s “worst abuses” while he served in the Justice Department under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Comey has received praise for refusing to reauthorize the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program while serving as acting attorney general in Ashcroft’s place. But Comey had previously signed off on the spy program when it began, allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens without court warrants. Comey’s objection to reauthorization focused on an unspecified element of the spy program, and he ultimately gave his backing after the Bush administration agreed to make changes. In its statement, the ACLU also criticized Comey for approving U.S. torture techniques including waterboarding, as well as for helping oversee the prolonged indefinite detention of U.S. citizen José Padilla without charge or trial. The ACLU concludes: “Although Comey … deserves credit for courageously stopping the reauthorization of a secret National Security Agency program, he reportedly approved programs that struck at the very core of who we all are as Americans.”
Thousands of protesters with the activist movement “Blockupy” have blocked access to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, in a protest against European austerity. The demonstrators were confronted by scores of police in riot gear. The action comes as the unemployment rate in the eurozone jumps to a new record of 12.2 percent. More than 19 million people in Europe were out of work in April.
Hundreds of garment workers in Cambodia protested Thursday outside a factory that makes clothes for Nike. The workers, most of them women, have been striking to demand a $14-a-month pay increase. At least 23 garment workers were injured Monday by military police wielding stun batons. The workers outlined their demands, with one describing how she miscarried following the clash with police.
Oum Sreysoth: “I was pushed by the military policemen and fell on the ground in front of the factory that day, and then I lost the baby.”
Mao Pov: “I protested to demand more pay, because the current pay is not enough for my daily spending. Also, the factory owner and the Ministry of Labor agreed to increase the pay by 14 U.S. dollars (per month). However, the factory promised to increase our pay by 9 U.S. dollars (per month), but we want all of the $14 U.S. dollars.”
Fast food workers in Seattle, Washington, have become the latest to walk off the job as part of a growing nationwide push for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to unionize without harassment. The strike by workers from Taco Bell, Subway, Burger King and other chains began Wednesday night and shut down several stores. It was the seventh such action in eight weeks.
A U.S. bankruptcy court has ruled the mining company Patriot Coal can break its agreements with unions and slash worker pension and healthcare benefits in a bid to cut costs after it filed for bankrupcy last year. The United Mineworkers of America union has vowed to appeal the ruling, which would see thousands of active and retired mine workers lose their benefits.
The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper has fired its entire photography staff. Twenty-eight employees, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, lost their jobs Thursday in what management said was a push to prioritize online video.
CNN is reportedly closing its bureau in Iraq. According to the website Mediabistro.com, CNN was the last U.S. TV news organization to maintain a Baghdad bureau.
A new Pew Research Center report says a record number of mothers in the United States are now the primary breadwinners for their families. Among households with children under 18, 40 percent are now supported by women as the top earner, nearly quadruple the amount a half century ago. A quarter of homes with children are headed by single moms. On Thursday, right-wing pundit Erick Erickson drew outrage for his response to the report about the rising number of female breadwinners. Speaking on Fox News to host Lou Dobbs, he said the shift was undermining supposed biological roles for males and females.
Erick Erickson: “Liberals who defend this and say it’s not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role. We, as people in a smart society, have lost the ability to have complementary relationships in nuclear families, and it’s tearing us apart.”
El Salvador’s health minister has reportedly given permission for an ailing woman to undergo a C-section to end a pregnancy her doctors say is killing her. The 22-year-old woman, known as “Beatriz,” told the AFP she will have surgery next week. She suffers from lupus and kidney problems and is carrying a roughly six-month-old fetus that lacks a brain and cannot survive. Her case drew international outrage as she begged for her life for several weeks under El Salvador’s strict abortion ban. The decision to allow surgery came one day after the country’s Supreme Court rejected her plea for an abortion and the same day that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica ordered El Salvador to provide her with life-saving care. Speaking from the hospital, Beatriz said: “What they did to me was not right. They made me suffer by waiting all this time here in the hospital.”