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HeadlinesSeptember 24, 2013

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Kenya: Conflicting Reports Emerge About Standoff at Nairobi Mall

Sep 24, 2013

Conflicting reports are emerging about the bloody four-day standoff between Kenyan authorities and Islamist militants at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Kenyan officials claim they have taken control with all hostages freed. But the Somali militant group al-Shabab has claimed its fighters are holding their ground with live hostages inside the mall, which it said was littered with “countless” dead bodies. Witnesses say gunshots have continued to ring out. Some 68 people died in the initial assault over the weekend, which al-Shabab said was revenge for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. Among those killed was the great Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor. Kenya’s foreign minister said the attackers included “two or three” Americans and a British woman. President Obama responded to the tragedy on Monday.

President Obama: “I want to express personally my condolences to not only President Kenyatta, who lost some family members in the attack, but to the Kenyan people. We stand with them against this terrible outrage that has occurred. We will provide them with whatever law enforcement support that is necessary. And we are confident that Kenya, which has been a pillar of stability in Eastern Africa, will rebuild.”

The crisis led judges at the International Criminal Court to adjourn the war crimes trial of Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who, along with President Uhuru Kenyatta, is facing charges for allegedly orchestrating violence in Kenya after the disputed 2007 elections.

Report: U.S. Has Restarted Deportations to Somalia

Sep 24, 2013

The focus on al-Shabab comes amid news the United States has quietly begun deporting people to Somalia for the first time in years despite ongoing violence there. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports 33 Somalis have been deported since last year.

Former FBI Agent to Plead Guilty to Being AP Source

Sep 24, 2013

A former FBI agent and contractor has agreed to plead guilty to being the source for an Associated Press report that revealed a foiled bomb plot in Yemen, led to the uncovering of a double agent and prompted the Obama administration to secretly subpoena the phone records of Associated Press journalists. Under the agreement, Donald Sachtleben will serve more than three-and-a-half years in prison for the disclosure. Separately, Sachtleben has agreed to plead guilty to child pornography charges that carry an even longer sentence. Officials seized Sachtleben’s computer in May 2012, days after the leak, as part of the child pornography case. But federal investigators say they did not connect Sachtleben to the AP disclosures until after they secretly obtained a trove of phone logs from AP reporters in what the news agency’s president termed a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” involving offices where more than 100 journalists worked. Sachteleben’s prosecution is the eighth related to leaks under President Obama. Before his presidency, there were only three such cases in all of U.S. history.

Kerry to Meet with Iranian Foreign Minister at U.N.

Sep 24, 2013

Iran’s foreign minister will meet this week with diplomats from six other countries, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, to discuss Iran’s disputed nuclear program. It is expected to mark the highest-level in-person meeting between representatives of the United States and Iran since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief for the European Union, announced the plan on Monday after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Catherine Ashton: “We talked about a number of important issues but focused on the nuclear issue. We had a good and constructive discussion. Foreign Minister Zarif will join the E3+3 meeting later this week, which I will be chairing, in order to have a short discussion. And we have agreed that we, he and I, will meet with our teams in Geneva in October.”

The White House has said it’s open to a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Obama, both of whom are addressing the U.N. General Assembly today.

Egyptian Court Bans All Muslim Brotherhood Activities

Sep 24, 2013

An Egyptian court has banned all activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and its spinoff groups and ordered its assets to be seized. The group has 10 days to appeal the ban. It comes as part of a crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi by the military-backed government that has seen some 1,000 killed and 2,000 arrested, including many of the Brotherhood’s leaders. The court issued the injunction after lawyers for the leftist Tagammu party accused the Muslim Brotherhood of “terrorism.” The Brotherhood has been banned for most of its 85-year history.

U.S. Military to Stop Releasing Tally of Guantánamo Prisoners on Hunger Strike

Sep 24, 2013

The U.S. military says it will stop reporting the number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay after its official tally has dropped to just 19 prisoners. Eighteen of the prisoners are listed for force-feeding with nasal tubes. The hunger strike against indefinite detention began in February. At its peak, the military counted 106 participants, while prisoner attorneys said the number was higher, with nearly all 166 prisoners taking part. The strike forced President Obama to publicly address his failure to deliver on a promise to close Guantánamo. Last month, two prisoners were moved to Algeria in the first transfer out of Guantánamo in nearly a year.

Chiquita Seeks Dismissal of Lawsuits over Paramilitary Killings in Colombia

Sep 24, 2013

The produce company Chiquita is asking a federal appeals court to dismiss lawsuits brought against it by thousands of Colombians who hold the company responsible for the murders of their loved ones at the hands of paramilitaries. Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to giving funds to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as the AUC, a right-wing paramilitary alliance supported by top leaders and blamed for killing tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, beginning in the late 1990s. Chiquita is seeking protection from the lawsuits, in part citing last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the ability of people outside the United States to sue corporations for human rights abuses in U.S. courts. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is the former general counsel of Chiquita. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he represented the company in lawsuits related to Chiquita’s dealings in Colombia.

Pussy Riot Member Begins Hunger Strike over “Slavery-Like Conditions” in Penal Colony

Sep 24, 2013

A member of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot has launched a hunger strike to protest harsh conditions in a Mordovian penal colony where she is serving a two-year sentence for protesting Russian leader Vladimir Putin inside a Moscow cathedral. In an open letter, Nadia Tolokonnikova describes “slavery-like conditions,” including beatings carried out with the approval of prison officials and sewing work shifts that last 17 hours. Tolokonnikova’s husband, Peter Verzilov, said she has also faced death threats.

Peter Verzilov: “Before this situation unfolded in the last several weeks, Nadia tried to change the situation internally, from inside the prison. But obviously she understood that this was impossible, and at the end of her efforts, they just led to a murder threat from the prison administration.”

Tolokonnikova is one of two members of Pussy Riot now in penal colonies for the group’s “punk prayer” protest in 2011, when they danced and exhorted the Virgin Mary to get Putin out. The second member, Maria Alyokhina, staged an 11-day hunger strike earlier this year.

Angela Merkel Wins Re-election in Germany Despite Global Protests Against Austerity Policies

Sep 24, 2013

In Germany, Angela Merkel is moving to form a new coalition government after winning a third term as chancellor. Merkel has been criticized for pushing harsh austerity policies that have sparked mass protests in countries across Europe, including Greece, Spain and Ireland.

IRS Official at Center of Vetting Scandal Resigns

Sep 24, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service official who became the focus of a scandal over the targeting of political groups has resigned. Lois Lerner was reportedly set to be ousted by an internal review board. She came under fire from Republicans earlier this year for heading a division that gave extra scrutiny to political groups, particularly those tied to right-wing causes.

Family of College Student Killed by NYPD Files Lawsuit over Police Handling of Emotionally Ill

Sep 24, 2013

The family of a 28-year-old African college student shot dead by New York City police last year has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking changes in how police respond to people with mental health issues. According to the lawsuit, Mohamed Bah was shot at least eight times in his own home in Harlem after his mother called 911 seeking an ambulance to bring her son to the hospital because he seemed depressed. While Bah insisted he was fine and asked police to leave, they allegedly yelled at him over a period of hours, taunted him, kicked his door and eventually forced the door open, tasered him, fired a bean bag and then fatally shot him. Bah’s mother says police ignored her repeated pleas to speak with her son. Police later accused Bah of stabbing two officers. The lawsuit seeks a shift in NYPD policies after a “long series of wrongful death incidents” involving people with emotional disturbances. The suit was filed by the same lawyers who represent the family of Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old Marine veteran shot dead in his home by White Plains police in 2011 after accidentally activating his medical alert pendant. Click here to see our extensive coverage of the Chamberlain case.

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