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HeadlinesDecember 31, 2014

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Canada: 9 Dead in Mass Domestic Violence Killing

Dec 31, 2014

In Canada, nine people are dead including two children in what authorities are calling a mass episode of domestic violence. The murders of eight people followed by the apparent suicide of the suspect mark the worst mass murder to hit Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton. The victims were found in two separate homes, and the suspect, who had a lengthy criminal record, was later found dead in a restaurant. Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht spoke after the killings.

Rod Knecht: “This series of events are not believed to be random acts, and there is no risk to the broader public. And these events do not appear to be gang-related, but rather tragic incidents of domestic violence.”

1st Remains of AirAsia Flight Victims Returned to Indonesia

Dec 31, 2014

Indonesian officials have confirmed bodies and debris found in the Java Sea off the coast of Borneo are from a passenger plane carrying 162 people which went missing en route to Singapore. Several bodies have been recovered, and at least two have arrived back in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, where the AirAsia flight departed from on Sunday.

Yemen: Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 33

Dec 31, 2014

In central Yemen, a suicide bomber has killed at least 33 people at a gathering of Shiite Houthi rebels. The governor of Ibb province, which is controlled by the Houthis, was reportedly among those injured in the attack.

Gambian President Returns Home After Apparent Coup Bid

Dec 31, 2014

The president of the West African nation of Gambia has returned home after an apparent coup plot while he was out of the country. President Yahya Jammeh says he remains in control of Gambia after a gun battle which reportedly threw the capital Banjul into chaos. The alleged plotters, including a former army commander, were killed. President Jammeh, who rose to power in a military coup in 1994 has faced at least two previous coup plots. He has also faced international criticism for his repression of LGBT people and political opponents. The failed coup has sparked fears of a crackdown.

Russia: Conviction of Opposition Leader Sparks Mass Protests

Dec 31, 2014

Russia has seen one of its largest anti-government demonstrations in years after a leading opponent of President Vladimir Putin was convicted of fraud. Alexei Navalny, a prominent blogger and lawyer, was given a suspended sentence, while his brother was sentenced to prison on what his supporters say are trumped-up charges. After his sentencing, Alexei Navalny broke house arrest to attend an anti-government rally, where he was detained and returned to his home. As many as 250 others were arrested. Earlier today 18 protesters, including members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, were detained after spending the night near Moscow’s Red Square. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke condemned the sentencing of the Navalny brothers.

Jeff Rathke: “We are troubled by the guilty verdict handed down in the latest action against Alexei and Oleg Navalny. The decision is a disturbing development, in our view, and it appears to be designed to further punish and deter political activism. This appears to be another example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices.”

Bahrainis Protest Detention of Shiite Opposition Leader

Dec 31, 2014

Bahraini forces have fired tear gas on protesters who gathered outside the home of a detained opposition leader. Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the main Shiite group opposed to Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, was arrested on Sunday after leading a rally. The United Nations and European Union have criticized Salman’s arrest, with the U.N. human rights chief calling for his immediate release. The Obama administration says it is looking into the charges against Salman and has called for him to be treated equally under the law. Bahrain is a close U.S. ally, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

U.N. Rejects Palestinian Resolution After U.S., Israeli Maneuvering

Dec 31, 2014

The United Nations Security Council has rejected a resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories within three years, following U.S. and Israeli pressure against it. The draft resolution also called for a peaceful solution between Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state within 12 months. Of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, only the United States and Australia voted against the measure. But it needed nine votes to pass and only received eight after Nigeria decided at the last minute to abstain from voting. The Guardian reports both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, to ask him to oppose the measure. The United States was expected to veto the measure if it passed. The vote comes amidst widening support for Palestinian statehood, with an increasing number of European countries taking steps to recognize Palestine. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power explained why the U.S. objected.

Samantha Power: “Today’s staged confrontation in the U.N. Security Council will not bring the parties closer to achieving a two-state solution. We voted against this resolution not because we are indifferent to the daily hardships or the security threats endured by Palestinians and Israelis, but because we know that those hardships will not cease and those threats will not subside until the parties reach a comprehensive settlement achieved through negotiations.”

U.S. Releases 5 Guantánamo Prisoners to Kazakhstan

Dec 31, 2014

The Obama administration has released five more prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. The prisoners include two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen who have been held for a dozen years without charge. They have all been sent to Kazakhstan for resettlement. Their release brings the total number of prisoners at Guantánamo to 127.

Somalia: Al-Shabab Intel Chief Confirmed Killed in U.S. Strike

Dec 31, 2014

Somali officials have confirmed a U.S. airstrike killed the intelligence chief of the militant group al-Shabab. The Pentagon had announced the strike, but did not identify the target. Somali officials say the leader, Abdishakur Tahlil, was killed along with two other senior al-Shabab members. An earlier U.S. strike in September killed the leader of al-Shabab, sparking a deadly revenge attack on an African Union base in the Somali capital Mogadishu last week.

NYPD Launches “Work Stoppage” to Protest Mayor Bill de Blasio

Dec 31, 2014

New York City police officers have reportedly launched a “virtual work stoppage” in protest of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments on racial profiling and police brutality. According to the New York Post, traffic tickets and summonses for minor offenses have dropped 94 percent over the same period last year after the murder of two police officers earlier this month. Parking violations dropped 92 percent, and drug arrests dropped 84 percent. In response to the Post numbers, The New York Times issued its second editorial in two days criticizing the NYPD’s protests of de Blasio. The Times wrote: “What New Yorkers expect of the Police Department is simple: 1. Don’t violate the Constitution. 2. Don’t kill unarmed people. To that we can add: Do your jobs.”

De Blasio Meets with NYC Police Union Leaders in Bid to Ease Ties

Dec 31, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio met with police union leaders on Tuesday in a bid to ease ties. Following the meeting, the head of the largest police union, Patrick Lynch, who has previously accused de Blasio of having “blood on his hands,” said the meeting had failed to produce a resolution.

Patrick Lynch: “There were a number of discussions, especially about the safety issues that our members face. There was no resolve. And our thought here today is that actions speak louder than words, and time will tell.”

While police have focused on the issue of officer safety, a new report finds the current fatality rate for police on the job is .014 percent. The number of officers killed by firearms rose 56 percent this year over 2013, but remains far below historic highs and has steadily dropped over time.

Prosecutor Who Failed to Indict Cop in Eric Garner Killing Mulls Run for Grimm’s House Seat

Dec 31, 2014

In New York, the Staten Island district attorney who failed to produce an indictment of a police officer for the chokehold killing of unarmed African American Eric Garner has said he is seriously considering a run for the House seat vacated by Rep. Michael Grimm. Just hours after Grimm announced he is stepping down after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion, District Attorney Daniel Donovan, a Republican, said his phone had been “ringing off the hook” with people urging him to run. Donovan was soundly criticized for failing to secure an indictment of Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who was caught on video wrestling Garner down in a banned chokehold. Garner died after repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Idaho: 2-Year-Old Kills Mother at Wal-Mart After Finding Gun in Purse

Dec 31, 2014

In Hayden, Idaho, a two-year-old boy has accidentally shot and killed his mother with a gun he found in her purse. The boy and his mother were shopping at Wal-Mart with family members when the accident took place. The woman, who was later identified as 29-year-old Veronica Rutledge, reportedly had a permit to carry the concealed gun.

Harvard Law School Found in Violation of Title IX for Mishandling Sexual Assault

Dec 31, 2014

The Obama administration has found Harvard Law School, President Obama’s alma mater, violated the federal statute Title IX by mishandling cases of sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Education announced Harvard Law School had agreed to reform its policies and procedures following a four-year probe, which marked one of the department’s longest-running investigations over sexual violence. In one case highlighted by the government, Harvard took over a year to make a final decision after a student issued a complaint, ultimately barring the alleged victim from participating in an appeal and then dismissing the case. Meanwhile, Harvard College remains under federal investigation for its response to sexual assault, as do scores of other colleges across the country.

Dr. Theo Colborn, Expert on Health Impacts of Fracking Chemicals, Dies at 87

Dec 31, 2014

The world-renowned scientist Dr. Theo Colborn, one of the leading experts on the health and environmental impacts of chemicals used to extract oil and gas, has died at the age of 87. In 2003, at the age of 76, Colborn founded the Endocrine Disruption Exchange to disseminate scientific evidence related to endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with development. In 2010, Theo Colborn appeared on Democracy Now! and spoke about her research on endocrine disruptors and the chemicals used to extract natural gas through fracking.

Dr. Theo Colborn: “These are the chemicals that can get into the pregnant woman and enter the womb, while her baby is developing in her womb, and alter how those children are born. And this is our big concern today, because we’re facing major pandemics of endocrine-driven disorders — simple things like ADHD, autism, diabetes, obesity, early testicular cancer, endometriosis. These are all endocrine-driven disorders that we’re very concerned about. And these products are being injected underground, for centuries, maybe, to stay before they surface, and also coming back up.”

Colborn died on December 14 at home in Paonia, Colorado.

Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Leading Voice for Peace, Dies at 93

Dec 31, 2014

Rabbi Leonard Beerman, a leading voice for social justice, peace and the rights of Palestinians for over six decades, has died at the age of 93. In 1947, just before the founding of Israel, Beerman lived in Jerusalem and joined the Haganah, the Jewish militia, an experience which helped transform him into a lifelong pacifist. He soon moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a rabbi and embarked on decades of activism, from opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s to criticizing Israel’s recent assault on Gaza. In 2007, he presented The Nation Institute’s Ron Ridenhour Award to President Jimmy Carter. In his introduction, he spoke about striving for change.

Leonard Beerman: “In this endeavor, there is no guarantee of victory, but there is a choice: One either collaborates with the enemy, with whatever is, with whatever is miserable or inhumane, with whatever is unjust, with whatever demeans the life of any human being, even those we call our enemies, or one joins the resistance and insists upon being among those who strive to diminish the store of insult and agony in the world.”

Beerman died last Wednesday in Los Angeles from congestive heart failure. He was 93 years old.

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