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NYC Mayor de Blasio Calls for Halt in Protests After Officer Killings

Dec 23, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a pause in demonstrations over police killings of unarmed African Americans until after two slain New York City Police Department officers are laid to rest. Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were ambushed in their patrol car in Brooklyn Saturday by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a man with a history of mental health issues and multiple arrests. Speaking before a nonprofit police group, de Blasio said political events should be delayed until after the funerals.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “I think it’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time. In the coming days, two families prepare for funerals. Two families try to think about how to piece their lives back together. That should be our only concern: How do we support them? So I would ask any organizations that were planning events or gatherings that are about politics and protest, that could be for another day.”

Sister Says Police Shooter Was Suicidal, Needed Help

Dec 23, 2014

The sister of the shooter who killed two New York City Police Department officers says her brother suffered from mental illness and should have received help. Ismaaiyl Brinsley fatally shot himself after killing the officers. Earlier in the day, he had shot and injured his girlfriend. His sister Jalaa’i Brinsley, spoke to reporters.

Jalaa’i Brinsley: “He was an emotionally troubled young man, and he was suicidal. Clearly something’s wrong. He should have been offered help in the system, right? But he wasn’t.”

NYPD Commissioner: Police Animosity Toward Mayor “Part of Politics”

Dec 23, 2014

Mayor de Blasio has visited the families of the slain NYPD officers and vowed to attend the funeral for Officer Rafael Ramos this weekend. The funeral for the second officer has not been scheduled. The move comes as de Blasio faces animosity from the city’s largest police union over his response to police brutality and racial profiling, including his remarks about fearing for his biracial son, Dante, and training him to take special care in police encounters. Speaking at a news conference alongside Mayor de Blasio Monday, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said the animosity is part of politics.

William Bratton: “Some of you have been around this town for a while. Can you point out to me one mayor that has not been battling with the police unions in the last 50 years? Name one. Name one. So the experience of this mayor in terms of some cops not liking him is nothing new. It’s part of life, it’s part of politics. And it is what it is. This is New York City. We voice our concerns, and we voice our opinions.”

Eric Garner’s Daughter Visits Memorial for Slain Officers

Dec 23, 2014

The NYPD officers’ murders have been soundly condemned by the families of unarmed African Americans recently killed by police and the protest groups that have sprung up in response. On Monday, Emerald Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, visited a makeshift memorial for the slain officers in Brooklyn. Her father was killed when New York City police wrestled him the ground in a banned chokehold and pinned him down while he repeatedly said he could not breathe. Emerald Garner called for protests over the death of her father and others to remain peaceful.

Emerald Garner: “My message here is to keep everything peaceful. We stand together as one. This country is — we are all one. We are not divided. We’re not separating. We’re all standing together. There will be continued peaceful protesting. I believe that everyone will keep it peaceful and protest in the right manner.”

Milwaukee Cop Fired over Killing of Mentally Ill Black Man Will Not Face Charges

Dec 23, 2014

In Wisconsin, a prosecutor has decided not to bring charges against a white police officer who fatally shot a mentally ill African-American man. In April, Milwaukee Officer Christopher Manney responded to a call about a man sleeping in a park. Before Manney arrived, two other officers had already spoken to the man, Dontre Hamilton, and found he was not causing a problem. But Manney said Hamilton resisted when he tried to frisk him, sparking a confrontation, during which Hamilton grabbed Manney’s baton and hit him. Manney opened fire, shooting Hamilton 14 times. The shooting led to Manney’s firing for violating the police department’s policy for handling people with mental illnesses. But on Monday, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said Manney acted in self-defense.

John Chisholm: “After carefully analyzing the investigation, the forensic evidence in the case, the law and the conclusions of both the local use of force expert and Mr. Kapelsohn’s report, I have come to the conclusion that criminal charges are not appropriate in this case, and I am releasing all of the information related to this investigation so that you, the public, can see all the facts related to this decision.”

The shooting of Dontre Hamilton has sparked mass protests in Milwaukee, including a highway shutdown Friday which resulted in 74 arrests. The Justice Department has announced a federal review of the case.

U.S. Rejects North Korea’s “Absurd” Call for Joint Probe of Sony Hack

Dec 23, 2014

The United States has rejected as “absurd” North Korea’s call for a joint investigation into the hack of Sony Pictures. The Obama administration says the hack was carried out by North Korea in retaliation for Sony’s comedy “The Interview” about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a claim North Korea denies. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power spoke at the U.N. Security Council, which considered North Korea’s human rights record for the first time ever on Monday.

Samantha Power: “North Korea also threatened the United States with serious consequences if our country did not conduct a joint investigation with the DPRK into an attack that they carried out. This is absurd. Yet it is exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from a regime that threatened to take, quote, 'merciless countermeasures,' end-quote, against the U.S. over a Hollywood comedy, and has no qualms about holding tens of thousands of people in harrowing gulags. We cannot give in to threats or intimidation of any kind.”

North Korea Loses Internet Connection

Dec 23, 2014

North Korea lost its connection to the Internet completely Monday. The Internet failure began just hours after President Obama threatened a “proportional response” to the hack of Sony Pictures, although it is unclear if there is any connection. The White House and State Department declined to say whether the United States was involved in the Internet outage.

Nicaragua Begins Canal Project That Could Displace Tens of Thousands

Dec 23, 2014

Nicaragua has announced the start of construction for a $50 billion canal project which has been fiercely opposed by indigenous groups and other local residents. The canal, which is being built by a Hong Kong-based firm, would cut through Nicaragua, connecting the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and passing through the region’s largest freshwater source. Protesters say it will displace tens of thousands of people and destroy huge swaths of the rainforest.

Oklahoma to Resume Executions; Arizona to Abandon Drug Used in Botched Killings

Dec 23, 2014

In the United States, a federal judge has ruled Oklahoma can resume executions following a botched killing in April. Attorneys for death row prisoners had objected to Oklahoma’s procedures, including its use of the sedative midazolam, following the execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed in apparent agony during a 43-minute ordeal. But a judge ruled Oklahoma can move ahead with four executions planned for early next year. The state of Arizona, meanwhile, has said it will attempt to stop using midazolam as part of its execution cocktail, instead seeking out stocks of pentobarbital, which has been in short supply after its European manufacturer objected to its use in executions. In July, Arizona prisoner Joseph Wood received 15 doses of midazolam during a nearly two-hour-long botched execution which saw him repeatedly gasping for air.

Judge Rejects Wage Hike for Home Health Workers; NLRB Says McDonald’s Punished Protesting Workers

Dec 23, 2014

A federal judge has struck down a new regulation that would have increased pay for many home healthcare workers. Industry groups had sued over rules issued by the Obama administration last year to guarantee minimum wage and overtime pay for home health workers. The ruling follows a victory for low-wage workers in the fast-food sector. On Friday, the National Labor Relations Board announced 78 charges against McDonald’s and several of its franchise operators for illegally punishing and threatening workers who joined the national movement for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The move is particularly significant because it considers McDonald’s a joint employer, which would make it responsible for labor violations at its franchise restaurants.

New York Rep. Michael Grimm to Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud

Dec 23, 2014

New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to tax fraud in a move that could see him face at least two years in prison and place him under pressure to resign. In April, Grimm was accused of concealing more than $1 million in revenue and failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee pay at his fast-food health restaurant in New York City. News outlets are reporting Grimm will plead guilty today to a single count of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. The charges came as part of a wider probe into Grimm’s campaign finances, which made national headlines when Grimm threatened to throw a NY1 reporter off a balcony for asking him about the investigation.

Newly Freed Member of Cuban 5 Impregnated Wife from Prison with U.S. Help

Dec 23, 2014

The wife of one of the members of the Cuban Five who was just released from prison after 16 years is expecting a baby, due in about two weeks. Gerardo Hernández, the baby’s father, is one of the three former Cuban intelligence agents released as part of a prisoner swap amidst thawing ties with Cuba last week. While he was not allowed conjugal visits, Hernández was able to impregnate his wife by having his frozen sperm transferred to her in Panama, a process authorized by U.S. officials, funded by the Cuban government and facilitated by a staffer for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. The process reportedly helped set a softer tone between Cuba and the United States which culminated in the resumption of diplomatic ties and the release of two U.S. prisoners, including USAID contractor Alan Gross. And Gerardo Hernández and his wife, Adriana Pérez, are now expecting a baby girl.

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