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HeadlinesAugust 20, 2013

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U.S. Knew in Advance About Detention of Glenn Greenwald’s Partner

Aug 20, 2013

The Obama administration has acknowledged it had advance notice British officials were going to detain David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has revealed the National Security Agency’s massive spy practices. Miranda was held Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport under Section 7 of the British Terrorism Act for nine hours — the maximum time he could be detained without charge. White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the United States knew about his detention ahead of time.

Josh Earnest: “There was a heads-up that was provided by the British government. So this — again, this is something that we had an indication was likely to occur, but it’s not something that we’ve requested. And it’s something that was done specifically by the — by the British law enforcement officials there.”

Judge to Deliberate Sentence for Bradley Manning

Aug 20, 2013

Army Col. Denise Lind says she will begin deliberating the prison sentence for whistleblower Bradley Manning today. Manning faces up to 90 years in prison for leaking troves of secret documents to WikiLeaks. Government prosecutors said Manning should be sentenced to 60 years, saying he “deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life” in prison. Manning’s defense lawyer said his sentence should not surpass 25 years, the period of time after which many of the leaked documents would have been declassified automatically.

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Leader Arrested; Journalist Shot Dead

Aug 20, 2013

Egypt’s interim government has arrested top Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie amid an ongoing crackdown against supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Badie and his deputy are due to stand trial later this month on charges of inciting the murders of protesters outside the Brotherhood’s headquarters in June. Badie’s son was among those shot dead in protests on Friday. Roughly 900 people have been killed since security forces raided two pro-Morsi encampments last Wednesday. On Monday, security forces shot dead the head of a provincial office of the state newspaper Al-Ahram. According to Reuters, Tamer Abdel Raouf was killed when forces opened fire on a car they mistakenly believed was trying to escape a checkpoint that was enforcing a curfew. Reporters are exempt from the curfew. Another journalist was wounded.

Report: U.S. Secretly Halted Military Aid to Egypt

Aug 20, 2013

The Daily Beast is reporting the Obama administration has decided to temporarily suspend disbursement of most direct military aid to Egypt, as well as the delivery of weapons and some forms of economic aid. The report cited the office of Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, head of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, saying military aid has been temporarily halted. Officials have reportedly said the administration is operating as if the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has been designated a coup, even while publicly avoiding the term. The New York Times reported Sunday that the State Department had placed a hold on financing for economic programs directly involving the Egyptian government, a claim spokesperson Jen Psaki denied.

Jen Psaki: “To be clear, we have not made a policy decision to put a blanket hold on economic support, on the Economic Support Fund, ESF, assistance. Clearly, that review is ongoing, as we’ve talked about in here quite a bit. That review includes military assistance, security assistance. It also includes economic assistance. But we have not made a decision to put a blanket hold.”

Tens of Thousands of Syrians Flee into Iraq

Aug 20, 2013

Tens of thousands of Syrians are flooding into Iraq to escape fighting in Syria’s northeast. According to the United Nations, roughly 30,000 Syrians have crossed into Iraq since Thursday, when the border crossing was reopened, marking one of the largest mass migrations in the two-year conflict between anti-government rebels and President Bashar al-Assad. Nearly two million Syrians have fled since the conflict began.

U.S. Agents Defend Questioning of 9/11 Suspect at Guantánamo Hearing

Aug 20, 2013

At Guantánamo Bay, pretrial proceedings have resumed for five prisoners accused of aiding the September 11 attacks. On Monday, two federal agents defended the interrogation methods used on one of the prisoners, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, claiming that even though they spoke to him in English and his primary language was Arabic, he understood them and knew that he could stop talking at any time. The Guantánamo defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the purported mastermind of 9/11. All five men say they were tortured at secret CIA prisons.

U.S. Sergeant to Be Sentenced for Murders of 16 Afghan Civilians

Aug 20, 2013

The sentencing phase is opening this week in the trial of U.S. Army Sergeant Robert Bales, who has pleaded guilty to murdering 16 Afghan civilians during rampages on two villages last March. A number of Afghan civilians are due to testify. Bales could face up to life in prison.

Pakistan: Musharraf Charged with Murder of Benazir Bhutto

Aug 20, 2013

A court in Pakistan has charged former military leader Pervez Musharraf with murder in connection with the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto died in a suicide attack in 2007. Musharraf ruled Pakistan until 2008. He recently returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile. Musharraf has denied the charges, claiming they are politically motivated.

Japan: Fukushima Tank Leaks 300 Tons of Radioactive Water

Aug 20, 2013

The operator of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said today about 300 tons of water contaminated with high levels of radiation have leaked from a storage tank into the ground. It is reportedly the worst leak to date from the tanks. On Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Company said two workers were found to be contaminated with radioactive particles, marking the second time in a week radiation has been detected on workers.

Russia’s Anti-LGBT Crackdown Sparks International Outcry Ahead of Olympics

Aug 20, 2013

International outcry is continuing against Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights. A new law allows Russian authorities to fine anyone accused of promoting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” One provision allows gay or pro-LGBT foreigners to be detained and then deported. Another new law bans the international adoption of Russian-born children by same-sex couples and single people living in countries that allow same-sex marriage. And there are reports of another measure in the works that could lead to the removal of children — even biological ones — from LGBT families. Graphic footage has emerged from Russia showing vigilantes brutalizing LGBT activists. The laws have sparked protests around the world with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place in Sochi, Russia. Two female Russian athletes made headlines this past weekend when they kissed on the medal stand after winning a relay event at an international competition in Moscow. But Kseniya Ryzhova told The Guardian the pair were just celebrating — not protesting.

Same-Sex Marriages Begin in New Zealand

Aug 20, 2013

New Zealand has become the latest country to begin conducting same-sex marriages. A couple from Australia was among dozens who got married on Monday after they won a tourism competition to wed in New Zealand.

Trent Kandler: “We’re both honored to have been able to come to a country that we respect and that respects us for who we are and respects everyone for who they are. And, you know, we’re going back to Australia, and, yes, technically, our marriage won’t be recognized. But you know what? In the back of our heads, we know that New Zealand believes in us, and New Zealand is behind us all the way, so that’s what’s really important.”

Oscar Pistorius Indicted for Premeditated Murder

Aug 20, 2013

In South Africa, Olympic athlete and double-amputee Oscar Pistorius — known around the world as “the Blade Runner” — has been indicted for premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend at his home in February. Pistorius could face a life sentence at his trial in March. His girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, would have turned 30 on Monday.

Toronto Police Officer Faces Murder Charge in Fatal Shooting of Teen

Aug 20, 2013

In Canada, a police officer is facing second-degree murder charges for the killing of an 18-year-old on an empty streetcar in Toronto. Sammy Yatim’s death last month sparked mass protests after video showed police standing outside the streetcar while Yatim stood inside, apparently holding a knife. Nine shots were fired, and Yatim was then Tasered. He died from gunshot wounds. Constable James Forcillo was expected to turn himself in and appear in court today after Ontario’s police watchdog announced the charges. In a statement, Yatim’s family called for the continued investigation of other police at the scene. “Over 20 uniformed police officers were present, and no one stepped forward to stop the gunshots or offer any mediation,” the family said.

Judge Approves Force-Feeding of California Prison Hunger Strikers

Aug 20, 2013

In California, a federal judge has ruled prison doctors can begin force-feeding some prisoners participating in a weeks-long hunger strike to protest long-term isolation and other harsh conditions. The judge’s order permits the force-feeding of prisoners deemed incapable of making medical decisions. It also allows prison officials to ignore the written directives of some prisoners who have refused such treatment based on claims the prisoners signed the “do not resuscitate” orders under coercion. Force-feeding has been condemned as a form torture by the United Nations. At its peak, the California hunger strike included some 30,000 prisoners. About 130 are currently participating.

FCC Caps Rates for Prisoner Phone Calls Following Decade-Long Struggle

Aug 20, 2013

Many prisoners in the United States will be paying less money for interstate phone calls after the Federal Communications Commission issued a long-awaited cap on exorbitant prisoner calling rates. The decision earlier this month followed a more than decade-long campaign by prisoners and their families to lower the rates. One of the leaders was Martha Wright, who said she spent about $1,000 per year to cover calls from her incarcerated grandson. Before the FCC decision, a 15-minute interstate call could cost more than $17. Now, collect calls will be capped at 25 cents per minute, or $3.75 for a 15-minute call.

CDC: Number of U.S. Lyme Disease Cases 10 Times Higher Than Reported

Aug 20, 2013

New government data reveals the number of Lyme disease cases in the United States may be about 10 times higher than previously reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, while only about 30,000 cases are reported to the agency. A recent study in the journal Science linked the loss of biodiversity from human-impacted climate change to the increased spread of Lyme disease and other infectious illnesses.

New Jersey Becomes 2nd State to Ban Anti-Gay “Conversion” Therapy

Aug 20, 2013

New Jersey has become the second state in the country to ban so-called conversion therapy purportedly aimed at turning LGBT teenagers straight. Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law Monday, citing widespread evidence of the treatment’s harmful effects, including depression and suicide. Critics say the so-called therapy shames LGBT teens and amounts to child abuse.

NYC: Interracial Couple Beaten by Men Who Shouted Racist, Anti-Gay Slurs

Aug 20, 2013

An interracial couple says they were assaulted outside a bar in Queens, New York, by a group of men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs. Billie and Jacob James-Vogel say they were leaving Billie’s birthday celebration early Saturday with a gay friend when the attack happened. Billie James-Vogel spoke to NY1.

Billie James-Vogel: “When I think about the slurs, the N word and the F word, it hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It breaks my heart. I see these guys rushing my husband, on top of my husband. I try to get them off of my husband. One of them grabs me and throws me to the ground. The back of my head bounces off the concrete sidewalk, and I black out.”

New York City police have arrested one man on charges of assault and harassment. Anti-gay attacks appear to be on pace to double this year in New York City. The NYPD says it has investigated 68 bias attacks against LGBT people so far in 2013, up from 54 in all of 2012. The attacks include the killing of 32-year-old Mark Carson in Greenwich Village in May.

Oklahoma Judge Blocks Law Restricting Access to Emergency Contraception

Aug 20, 2013

A judge in Oklahoma has blocked a law requiring women under 17 to obtain a prescription in order to buy Plan B One-Step, a form of emergency contraception, while a lawsuit against the law proceeds. Such restrictions on the drug were recently lifted by the Obama administration following a more than decade-long struggle by feminists. Plan B One-Step is now available over the counter without a prescription to women of all ages. However, in a little-reported move, the administration granted exclusive rights to the pharmaceutical company Teva to sell the Plan B One-Step without age restrictions for the next three years, meaning the only over-the-counter option available to younger women will cost $50 versus the cheaper cost of a generic brand.

Al Jazeera America Launches “Fact-based, Unbiased and In-depth News” Channel

Aug 20, 2013

The new television channel Al Jazeera America launches today. The U.S. branch of the Qatar-based network Al Jazeera boasts some 900 staffers and will air in roughly 48 million homes, reaching about half of all U.S. TV subscribers. In a conference call last week, acting chief executive Ehab Al Shihabi promised “a new channel unlike the others … Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” he said. “There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.”

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