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Deadly violence is continuing in Egypt days after the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Earlier today at least 42 people were reportedly killed at the military site where Morsi is being detained. The Muslim Brotherhood says the victims were holding a peaceful sit-in when gunmen opened fire, wounding more than 500 people. The victims included women and children. The Egyptian military says it returned fire after being attacked by armed assailants. The Brotherhood has denounced the shooting as a “massacre” and is calling for an uprising against the military. Today’s shooting was the deadliest in a wave of violence that’s left dozens killed and more than 1,000 injured since Morsi was forced out of office last week.
Russian lawmakers are encouraging National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden to accept asylum in Venezuela after an offer by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Speaking to a military parade on Friday, Maduro contrasted his asylum offer to Edward Snowden with the U.S. refusal to deport former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted for the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro: “Who is the terrorist? A government like us, who seeks to serve the young Snowden, a figure of humanitarian asylum, from persecution by the American empire? Or the United States government, that protects with political asylum Luis Posada Carriles, a confessed convicted murderer and terrorist who is wanted by Venezuela for the bombing of the Cubana plane in 1976?”
Bolivia and Nicaragua have also expressed their willingness to grant NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum. The offers to Snowden came after a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted to Austria after France and Portugal barred it from their airspace over false suspicions that Snowden was on board. After hosting an emergency summit of Latin American leaders, Morales threatened to close the U.S. embassy in Bolivia.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: “If it were necessary, I would close the U.S. embassy in Bolivia. We are not in need of a U.S. embassy in Bolivia. We do not need its pretext of cooperation or diplomatic relationship. They come to conspire against us from inside and out.”
In the latest of Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed this weekend the National Security Agency has systematically tapped into Brazil’s telecommunication network and indiscriminately intercepted, collected and stored the email and telephone records of millions of Brazilians for years. The Brazilian government says it has “deep concern” over the report and has asked the U.S. embassy for an explanation.
The National Security Agency’s wholesale gathering of U.S. phone records was enabled by a previously unknown decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. Under the PATRIOT Act, businesses can be forced to turn over customers’ records if investigators can prove they’re “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The Wall Street Journal reports that in a series of orders dating back to the mid 2000s, the FISA Court, or FISC, endorsed an expansion of the word “relevant” to mean “an entire database of records on millions of people.” In interviews, the Senate’s two leading critics of NSA surveillance, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, confirmed that the expansion of what constitutes “relevant” is what they’ve meant in long accusing the government of a “secret interpretation” of the PATRIOT Act.
Protests were held across the United Statess on the Fourth of July to protest warrantless and sweeping government surveillance. The rallies were called by the new group Restore the Fourth, a reference to the constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure. Hundreds of marchers turned out in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center is filing an emergency petition today asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the National Security Agency’s collection of millions of phone records. The group says their lawsuit is the first to directly challenge the authority of FISA courts to authorize the collection of phone data under the PATRIOT Act.
As the outcry over National Security Agency spying continues, the U.S. Postal Service is now under scrutiny for a surveillance program of its own. The New York Times has revealed the postal service has been carrying out a Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, which photographs every piece of mail in its system. Around 160 billion envelopes, packages, and postcards were documented last year. The contents are never read without a warrant, but they allow investigators to learn key information including “names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations.” The information was reportedly used to nab the suspect recently accused of mailing ricin-laced letters to President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Leslie James Pickering, a former activist with the Earth Liberation Front who now owns a small bookstore in Buffalo, recently learned his mail was being monitored after a surveillance order was accidentally delivered to his door.
Federal aviation officials say the plane that crashed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday was flying too slow to make a landing. Two people were killed and scores were injured when an Asiana Airlines jet from Seoul hit a seal wall and then skidded for hundreds of feet before catching fire. Eight of the wounded are in critical condition. The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, said the pilot made a failed attempt to abort the landing after coming in at too slow a speed.
Deborah Hersman: “We need to take a closer look on the raw data on the flight data recorder, as well as corroborate that with radar and air traffic information, to make sure that we have a very precise speed. But again, we’re not talking about a few knots here or there; we’re talking about a significant amount of speed below 137.”
Asiana Airlines says it has ruled out mechanical failure and is focusing on the pilot, who reportedly had little experience flying the Boeing 777 involved. Meanwhile, on Sunday 10 people were killed when a floatplane crashed at an airport in Alaska. No survivors were found.
At least five people have been killed and more than 40 are missing after a train carrying crude oil derailed and crashed into the center of a small Canadian town. Dozens of buildings in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, were set on fire and destroyed. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the town looks like a “war zone.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “Just, once again, I did see — I have been to one visit of the site. For people who aren’t here, you know, it looks like a war zone here. A large part of the downtown has been destroyed. It’s just — it is really just terrible. There has been loss of life, as we all know, and there are still many, many people missing.”
The train had apparently been parked without an engineer when it rolled downhill, coming loose from the tracks and crashing into the town. The trains were carrying crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. In a statement, Greenpeace Canada said the derailment highlights the dangers of unregulated oil shipments by train. Greenpeace said: “This is more evidence that the [Canadian] government continues to put oil profits ahead of public safety.”
The incident came as activists and indigenous groups in the western Canadian province of Alberta wrapped up a two-day “Tar Sands Healing Walk.” Participants staged an eight-mile march and healing ceremony to acknowledge the damage of tar sands oil mining on the land and on local communities.
A group of 70 mostly European retailers has agreed to allow safety inspections at their Bangladeshi garment factories within nine months. The inspections come as part of a landmark safety pact adopted following the April factory collapse that killed 1,129 garment workers in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. As part of the new pledge, the companies have agreed to pay for renovations and safety improvements if inspectors uncover flaws. A number of major U.S. retailers have refused to sign on to the safety agreement, including Wal-Mart, Gap and Target.
Defense attorneys and Islamic leaders are urging the Obama administration to suspend the force-feeding of hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay prisoners as the month-long fast of Ramadan begins today. The U.S. military says it plans to acknowledge Ramadan by only force-feeding the prisoners at night. In a legal filing, attorneys for four prisoners with the human rights charity Reprieve urged the U.S. government to agree to a court-backed decree ensuring the protection of the prisoners’ religious rights.
In a video released by Reprieve, the hip hop artist and actor Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, voluntarily undergoes a force-feeding similar to those at Guantánamo. In a disturbing sequence, Bey screams for help before the force-feeding is stopped. At least 40 of Guantánamo’s estimated 120 hunger strikers are being force-fed.
Wisconsin has become the latest state to impose new restrictions on the right to abortion. On Friday, Republican Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed a measure that would require women to undergo an ultrasound and hear aspects of the fetus described before obtaining an abortion. The bill would also force abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a step that can be impossible in part because some hospitals oppose abortion. The law is set to take effect today, but Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed suit seeking to block implementation. The groups’ lawsuit says the measure would force two of Wisconsin’s remaining four abortion clinics to shut down. Republican lawmakers in Texas, meanwhile, are reviving their attempt this week to push through legislation that would shut down nearly all of the state’s abortion clinics and ban abortion 20 weeks after fertilization. The first attempt was defeated in an historic filibuster led by State Senator Wendy Davis last month.
The Center for Investigative Reporting has revealed nearly 150 female prisoners in California were surgically sterilized without required state approvals from 2006 to 2010. There may be roughly 100 additional cases dating back to the late 1990s. Prisoners reported being coerced into the sterilizations by medical staff. One woman said a prison doctor “made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.” While such sterilizations require approval from top state medical officials, no requests have come before the committee responsible. The revelation has recalled an era decades ago when prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were systematically sterilized in California and other states.
Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has announced a political comeback. Spitzer says he will run for city comptroller in New York City’s upcoming civic elections. He was forced to resign as governor in 2008 over his patronage of a prostitution ring. Before then, Spitzer also served as New York state attorney general, where he was known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street” for his pursuit of prosecutions and investigations against big banks.
Defense attorneys for George Zimmerman have begun presenting their case after prosecutors wrapped their side on Friday. Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges for the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager. On Friday, Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and his older brother, Jahvaris Fulton, told the jury that a voice briefly heard screaming for help on a police phone call was Martin’s.
Prosecutor: “Ma’am, that screaming or yelling, do you recognize that?
Sybrina Fulton: “Yes.”
Prosecutor: “And who do you recognize that to be, ma’am?”
Sybrina Fulton: “Trayvon Benjamin Martin.”
Jahvaris Fulton: “I guess I didn’t want to believe that it was him. So that’s why during that interview I said I wasn’t sure. I guess it was — listening to it was clouded by shock and denial and sadness. I didn’t really want to believe that it was him.”
Zimmerman’s attorneys later called family members to testify they believe the voice was his. The trial continues after the presiding judge rejected a defense motion to dismiss.