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HeadlinesDecember 09, 2014

Senate Report Details U.S. Torture at Secret Prisons; Embassy Security Heightened Ahead of Release

Dec 09, 2014

The Senate Intelligence Committee is releasing today portions of its long-awaited report on the CIA torture and extraordinary rendition program under President George W. Bush. The report marks the first public account of how the CIA abused foreign prisoners at secret prisons overseas. The United States has heightened security at embassies worldwide in anticipation of blowback over its findings. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said despite the security fears, the Obama administration supports the report’s release.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “There are some indications that this, that the release of the report, could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world. So the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the globe. But that said, and this is the last key part, that said, the administration strongly supports the release of this declassified summary of the report.”

The report out today summarizes the investigation’s findings in 480 heavily redacted pages. The full 6,200-page report remains classified. The conclusions include finding the CIA issued incorrect claims about how many prisoners it held and subjected to torture; actively avoided or impeded congressional and federal oversight, even by lying; ignored internal critiques; and misled the public on the extent of its abuses and the intelligence gained as a result. The report also exposes previously undisclosed torture tactics, including repeatedly dunking prisoners in tanks of ice water, and threatening them in one case with a buzzing power drill and in another with a broom stick to be used for sexual assault. The report concludes the torture techniques provided no major intelligence gains.

Citing “Erosion of Trust,” New York AG Seeks Authority to Probe Police Killings

Dec 09, 2014

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has asked for the authority to probe all police killings of unarmed civilians. Schneiderman cited public outcry following the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “Last week, after learning that a grand jury declined to indict anyone involved in her husband’s death, Esaw Garner was quoted as saying, quote, 'Oh, my god, are you serious?' Her words reflected more than just her own deeply personal pain. They reflect the sense of many New Yorkers and many Americans that our justice system does not provide equal justice for everyone, specifically to people of color killed during encounters with law enforcement. That erosion of trust and confidence must be addressed, and it must be addressed now. … I’m calling on the governor to immediately issue a temporary standing order authorizing my office to investigate the circumstances surrounding cases in which unarmed civilians are killed as a result of the actions of a police officer or a peace officer.”

NYC Protests Continue over Garner Decision with Bridge Blockade, Arena Protest

Dec 09, 2014

Protests continue over the grand jury decision not to indict a New York City police officer for Eric Garner’s death. Monday began with a sit-in on the Verrazano Bridge that blocked morning rush-hour traffic between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Protesters carried signs reading “Eric Garner,” “Mike Brown” and “Black Lives Matter.” Later in the day, dozens of people including city council-members staged a “die-in” on the steps of City Hall. And at night, hundreds of people gathered outside an NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, blocking traffic and marching for several hours.

Jawole Zollar: “I think that we’ve just reached a tipping point where people are pissed, and I think, as young people, and for the most part they are peaceful, and they’re organized in a powerful way. And I think it’s very heartening to me to see it.”

Damon Davis: “I’m out here in solidarity with these people, for their struggle. It’s the same as it is in St. Louis. A lot of us came down, because it’s just like people from New York came to St. Louis, so we’re just standing together with the people.”

The protest continued long after the game as demonstrators marched into a nearby shopping center and then across the bridge into the streets of Manhattan.

Lebron James, Other NBA Players Don “I Can’t Breathe” Shirts

Dec 09, 2014

Organizers dubbed the protest the “Royal Shutdown,” in reference to the attendance at the game of the British royal couple, Prince William and his wife Kate. In an act of solidarity, players from both teams — including the league’s top player, Lebron James — wore T-shirts bearing Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has called on players to respect the league’s endorsement deals and only wear warm-up attire made by sponsor Adidas.

Over 1,000 March, Block Highway in Berkeley Protests

Dec 09, 2014

Other cities taking part in the ongoing protests Monday included Berkeley, California, where more than 1,000 people marched in the streets and shut down a highway. A group of protesters also blocked an Amtrak train after marching on a railroad track.

Obama Urges Vigilance to Overcome “Deeply Rooted” U.S. Racism

Dec 09, 2014

President Obama has weighed in on the latest outbreak of protests following the Eric Garner decision. Speaking to the network BET, Obama referenced his recent meeting with Ferguson activists to say that “deeply rooted” racism will take a long time to defeat.

President Obama: “What I told the young people who I met with — you know, we’re going to have more conversations like this over the coming months — is, this isn’t going to be solved overnight. This is something that is deeply rooted in our society, it’s deeply rooted in our history. When you’re dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you’ve got to have vigilance, but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time, and you just have to be steady, so that you don’t give up when we don’t get all the way there.”

Protests are expected to continue throughout the week, including a national march on the White House this Saturday.

Family of Tamir Rice Files Federal Lawsuit over Fatal Shooting by Police

Dec 09, 2014

The family of slain 12-year-old Tamir Rice has filed a federal civil rights suit against the city of Cleveland and the two officers involved in his death. Rice was playing inside a park with a toy gun that had the plastic strip removed when an officer pulled up and immediately opened fire. On Monday, Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, spoke out along with family attorney Benjamin Crump.

Samaria Rice: “Tamir was a bright child. He had a promising future, and he was very talented in all sports — soccer, basketball, football. He played the drums. He drew. He played video games. He was a great swimmer. The community loved him. He was a helper at the school and at the rec. And, you know, everybody just loved him.”

Benjamin Crump: “This scenario cannot happen again in America. We cannot have children playing cops and robbers on the playground and police officers coming and claiming their lives because they are not equipped to deal with and encounter with a kid and a toy gun. They are supposed to de-escalate, not escalate a situation. And everything you see in that video escalated the situation.”

The Rice family says the officers did not administer first aid on Tamir after he was shot, and that Tamir’s 14-year-old sister was tackled and handcuffed after she arrived at the scene. The family wants the case to go straight to trial instead of before a grand jury.

U.N. Launches Record $16 Billion Appeal for Humanitarian Aid

Dec 09, 2014

The United Nations has launched a record appeal to meet the needs of tens of millions of people in humanitarian emergencies worldwide. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos unveiled the more than $16 billion request.

Valerie Amos: “In the plans that we are launching today, a combined 78 million people are considered in need of humanitarian assistance, and we aim to respond to the urgent needs of 57 million of them. This does not include the nine countries in the Sahel and Djibouti; we will launch those appeals in February. We require $16.4 billion to meet the needs in the appeal that we are launching today.”

The number of people in dire need during 2014 has nearly doubled to a record 102 million from 54 million last year.

Aid Groups Asks Rich Nations to Take in Syrian Refugees

Dec 09, 2014

The U.N. appeal for increased humanitarian aid comes as a group of aid organizations has called on rich nations to offer refuge to at least 5 percent of Syria’s 3.2 million refugees, some 180,000 people.

U.S. to Keep Additional 1,000 Troops in Afghanistan in Early 2015

Dec 09, 2014

The United States will keep an additional 1,000 troops in Afghanistan on top of the nearly 10,000 already committed to remain beyond this year. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the move during a visit to Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: “President Obama has provided U.S. military commanders the flexibility, the flexibility to manage any temporary force shortfalls that we might experience for a few months as we allow for coalition troops to arrive in theater. This will mean a delayed withdrawal of up to 1,000 U.S. troops, so that up to 10,800 troops, rather than 9,800, could remain in Afghanistan through the end of this year and for the first few months next year. But the president’s authorization will not change; it will not change our troop’s missions or the long-term timeline for our withdrawal.”

Hagel says the change is temporary and will not change the long-term timeline for withdrawing troops. The announcement comes amidst a surge in Taliban attacks over the past several months.

Rolling Stone Backs Off UVA Rape Report; Roommate Stands by Accuser

Dec 09, 2014

Rolling Stone magazine has walked back a report about a pattern of sexual assault and impunity at the University of Virginia. The article centered on a student named Jackie who says she was gang-raped at a fraternity and then ignored by school officials. On Friday, Rolling Stone issued a statement acknowledging discrepancies in the story and raising questions about its source, saying: “our trust in her was misplaced.” After receiving criticism for appearing to blame a rape accuser, Rolling Stone revised its statement to say the mistakes were its own. The magazine says it did not try to interview the alleged perpetrators out of respect for Jackie’s wishes. While several details remain unsubstantiated, the fraternity itself has not denied a sexual assault took place. Jackie’s former roommate, Emily Clark, has spoken out in her defense, writing: “While I cannot say what happened that night, and I cannot prove the validity of every tiny aspect of her story to you, I can tell you that this story is not a hoax … Something terrible happened to Jackie at the hands of several men who have yet to receive any repercussions.”

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