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The top military officer in the United States has said he is considering sending U.S. combat troops back to Iraq. Testifying before a House panel, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said the United States could send a “modest” number of troops to help Iraqi forces retake Mosul and other areas seized by Islamic State militants.
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “There’s some places along the path that I think will be fairly complex terrain for them, including, for example Mosul, and eventually as they need to restore the border between Iraq and Syria. I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we’re certainly considering it.”
Dempsey’s comments come after President Obama has repeatedly vowed not to send combat troops back into Iraq. Obama has already asked Congress to approve a $5.6 billion plan that would involve doubling the U.S. troop presence in Iraq with an additional 1,500 “noncombat” personnel. Dempsey spoke a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi fired 26 Iraqi military commanders for incompetence and corruption.
President Obama is reportedly considering executive action that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. According to news reports, Obama could announce the plan as soon as next week. A key component could prevent the deportation of parents whose children are U.S. citizens. The report comes as a majority of House Democrats have sent a letter to Obama calling for him to take action on immigration reform. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has vowed to fight any such action “tooth and nail.”
An immigrant advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over President Obama’s record number of deportations. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network says the Obama administration has violated the law by failing to respond to a rule-making petition the group filed earlier this year seeking relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.
House lawmakers are expected to pass legislation today to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Senate is expected to vote next week on a similar pro-Keystone bill backed by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Landrieu is facing a tough battle to keep her seat in a runoff next month against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who also happens to be the sponsor of the pro-Keystone bill in the House. The Keystone XL pipeline would bring carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. It has been in the works for more than six years amidst mass protests over its potential to accelerate climate change.
Congressional Republicans have elected new leaders following sweeping victories in the midterm elections. As expected, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell will head the new Republican-led Senate as majority leader. House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner have been re-elected to their posts. On the Democratic side, Nevada Senator Harry Reid will continue to lead his party, now as minority leader. And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been given a newly created position in the Senate’s Democratic leadership which will see her serving as a liaison to progressives groups.
As Congress met on Capitol Hill, workers who typically serve them food went on a one-day strike to push for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to form a union. In a historic first, workers from the U.S. Capitol building joined hundreds of fellow food-service and cleaning workers from the Pentagon, Smithsonian and other sites. In February, President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour, but workers say that is still not enough to survive in the nation’s capital.
In California, Wal-Mart workers have staged a historic sitdown strike which organizers say is the first of its kind in the company’s history. The workers sat down in a Los Angeles Wal-Mart with tape placed over their mouths to protest what they say are illegal attempts by the company to silence their demands for better jobs. Workers at more than 2,000 Wal-Mart stores have signed a petition calling for a $15-an-hour wage and full-time hours with protests planned across the country on Black Friday. A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found the six heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune make as much as the bottom 79 percent of black families in the United States combined.
Liberia has lifted a state of emergency to curb the spread of Ebola after registering a decline in the disease. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made the announcement Thursday.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “In our estimation and that of those with whom we have consulted, the progress we have witnessed, coupled with the various measures and ongoing interventions, all of which can be continuously adopted and sustained under the relevant provisions of the public health law, have combined to reposition our efforts to sustain the fight against the virus until it is finally eradicated from our country.”
The news in Liberia comes as the West African nation of Mali has confirmed a second outbreak of Ebola after containing an initial one. Meanwhile, clinical trials of Ebola treatments are due to begin next month at centers run by Doctors Without Borders in Guinea and Liberia. The trials will test drugs made by firms in Japan and the United States.
Israel has reportedly banned a Norwegian doctor from entering Gaza for the rest of his life. Dr. Mads Gilbert provided medical aid to Gazans during this summer’s Israeli assault. He worked at Al-Shifa Hospital and appeared on Democracy Now! after the hospital came under attack by the Israeli army. Israel has also vowed to deny entry to Gaza to representatives from the U.N. Human Rights Council seeking to investigate potential war crimes committed during the assault, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians. On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah and announced steps aimed at reducing tensions in Jerusalem.
A United Nations panel has criticized the excessive use of force by police in the United States two days after hearing testimony from the parents of Michael Brown, the African-American teenager shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. U.N. expert Jens Modvig questioned the mechanisms in place for holding police officers accountable.
Jens Modvig: “There are disturbing patterns of excessive force on part of police officers, especially towards African Americans and other persons of color, which seem to demonstrate that the current mechanisms of accountability are insufficient. We have information that many federal investigations against police officers for unlawful and excessive use of force were closed without criminal charges because they did not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to give rise to a federal criminal prosecution for the police officers involved.”
As U.S. officials defended the country’s record on human rights before the U.N. panel, a group of youth activists from Chicago rose to their feet with their hands in the air to stage a silent protest. They wore T-shirts bearing the name of Dominique Franklin, a 23-year-old who died in June after police tasered him during an arrest for stealing a bottle of vodka. A member of the group We Charge Genocide, Malcolm London, said the response by U.S. officials at the hearing has been inadequate.
Malcolm London: “Every day in the States, in the city of Chicago, We Charge Genocide has a report that is online for anyone who wants to view it, that documents every single day that police violate rights, abuse, sexually assault, murder and kill, particularly people who look like me, who are black and who are brown, and that is devastating. And what the state brought today does not at all cover, end or answer those questions and is inadequate. And while we’re dying in the streets, and the State Department is patting themselves on the back because they let us stand in a room? We’re not fighting for the right to stand in this room. We’re fighting for the right to be alive.”
The U.N.’s scrutiny of the United States came as part of a periodic review of U.S. compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Other questions posed by the panel focused on solitary confinement and sexual assault of prisoners in the United States, as well as the U.S. failure to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and its delay in releasing videos of hunger-striking prisoners being force-fed there.
The American Psychological Association is launching a review to determine whether it colluded with torture carried out by the U.S. government. Psychologists played a key role in the George W. Bush administration’s torture and interrogation program, helping to develop techniques and monitor sessions. The new probe was prompted by revelations in the new book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter James Risen. Risen reveals how after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the APA formed a task force that backed the continued role of psychologists in the torture program. One APA official wrote an email expressing gratitude to an intelligence official for influencing the decision, saying: “Your views were well represented by the very carefully selected task force members.”
The international soccer organization FIFA has issued a report clearing Russia and Qatar of corruption in their bids for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022. The move came despite records of illegal payments by Qatari officials, which were noted in the report, and the destruction of computers and disappearance of emails related to Russia’s bid. The announcement caused an internal rift within FIFA after the investigator whose evidence was used in the report denounced the conclusions, calling them “incomplete and erroneous.”
A new report by the Department of Homeland Security details the cascading series of mistakes which allowed a man carrying a knife to scale a fence and enter the White House. The report obtained by The New York Times found the Secret Service’s alarm systems and radios malfunctioned. One officer stationed with an attack dog did not see the suspect, Omar Gonzalez, mount the fence, because he was in his van talking on his cellphone. The scandal led to the resignation of Secret Service director Julia Pierson last month.
President Obama is reportedly poised to announce billions in aid to help poorer countries deal with the impacts of climate change. According to The Guardian, the Obama administration will announce up to $3 billion over the next four years for the Green Climate Fund. Poorer countries have long called for the funds as part of a global deal to curb emissions. The announcement comes as world leaders gather in Brisbane, Australia, for the G20 summit.
On Thursday, anti-poverty campaigners with the group Oxfam donned the masks of Obama and other world leaders as they called for the leaders at the G20 summit to take action against global wealth inequality. Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said the gap between rich and poor is increasing.
Helen Szoke: “What we see are that many countries in the world are not getting the benefits of the profits that are gleaned, for example, by multinational companies. The G20 are in a position to make decisions around global tax reforms. There’s already been recognition that we have to deal with the issue of tax havens. Now, this is just one of the many things that can be done to actually ensure that we continue to lift people out of poverty.”
In Hawaii, two agribusiness giants are suing Maui County over a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Monsanto and Dow are asking a federal court to block the law, which was passed as a ballot initiative earlier this month. It imposes a moratorium on cultivating GMO crops until they are proved to be safe.
The former CEO who oversaw a mine in West Virginia that was the site of the worst coal mining disaster in four decades has been indicted on criminal charges. The explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 people, and subsequent investigations found rampant safety violations. More than four years after the explosion, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has been charged with four criminal counts for deceiving inspectors and flouting safety standards in order to “make more money.”
A new report reveals the Justice Department is sweeping up data from vast swaths of the population by flying planes equipped with devices that mimic cellphone towers. According to The Wall Street Journal, the seven-year-old program, run by the U.S. Marshals Service, allows the government to trick tens of thousands of cellphones into reporting their location and identifying information over the course of a single flight. While the program is designed to target criminal suspects, it is reportedly ensnaring massive numbers of innocent Americans. The device can also interrupt calls on certain phones.
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