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HeadlinesFebruary 17, 2014

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Jury Deadlocks on Murder Charge in Michael Dunn Trial

Feb 17, 2014

A Florida jury has convicted Michael Dunn of three counts of attempted murder for opening fire on a car of unarmed black teenagers during an argument over loud music at a gas station in Jacksonville. But the jury deadlocked on the charge of first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, causing the judge to declare a mistrial on that count. Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, reacted to the verdict.

Lucy McBath: “It’s sad for Mr. Dunn that he will live the rest of his life in that sense of torment, and I will pray for him, and I’ve asked my family to pray for him. But we are so grateful for the charges that have been brought against him. We are so grateful for the truth.”

After shooting Davis, Dunn, who is white, fled the scene, went to a hotel with his fiancée and ordered pizza. He never called the police. Dunn claimed he saw Davis brandish a shotgun, but police never found a gun, and Dunn’s fiancée testified Dunn never mentioned a shotgun before his arrest. The jury in the trial was two-thirds white and did not include any black men. We’ll have more on the case after headlines.

Syria Talks End with Little Progress

Feb 17, 2014

The second round of peace talks aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict has ended in deadlock in Geneva. U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi apologized to the Syrian people.

Lakhdar Brahimi: “I’m very, very sorry, and I apologize to the Syrian people that their hopes, which were very, very high, that something will happen here — I think that the little that has been achieved in Homs gave them even more hope that maybe this is the beginning of the coming out of this horrible crisis they are in. I apologize to them that, on these two rounds, we haven’t helped them very much.”

Bahraini Activist Zainab Alkhawaja Released; Protests Mark 3rd Anniversary of Uprising

Feb 17, 2014

In Bahrain, human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been released after nearly a year behind bars. Her release came on the heels of rallies marking the third anniversary of the pro-democracy protests that began on February 14, 2011. Protests against the Sunni regime have been crushed by martial law and a U.S.-backed invasion of Saudi Arabian forces. Scores of people were arrested ahead of protests on Friday, when police fired bird shot and tear gas at demonstrators. Tens of thousands of people defied the crackdown to march on Saturday. Zainab Alkhawaja is the daughter of activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who remains in prison serving a life sentence. After her release, Zainab Alkhawaja told journalists, including the Associated Press, that global attention should focus, not on her, but on Bahrain’s estimated 3,000 other political prisoners. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is a close ally of the United States.

Ethiopian Pilot Diverts Plane to Geneva in Bid to Seek Asylum

Feb 17, 2014

Police in Switzerland say the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Rome took control of the plane and landed it in Geneva earlier today in a bid to seek asylum. The unarmed co-pilot reportedly locked himself in the cockpit when the pilot went to use the bathroom. He could face charges of hostage taking that carry up to 20 years in prison.

Trapped South African Miners Refuse to Be Rescued Due to Fear of Arrest

Feb 17, 2014

In South Africa, a dozen miners were rescued and then arrested Sunday after they became trapped while working illegally in an abandoned gold mine. A number of other miners have refused to be rescued out of fear they will also be arrested. There were reports more than 200 miners may still be inside.

Report: NSA Played Role in Spying on U.S. Law Firm amid Trade Dispute with Indonesia

Feb 17, 2014

A new report based on leaks by Edward Snowden reveals the National Security Agency played a role in the monitoring of a U.S. law firm that represented the Indonesian government during trade disputes with the United States. According to The New York Times, the NSA’s Australian counterpart told the NSA it was spying on trade talks between the United States and Indonesia, including potentially privileged communications between Indonesian officials and the U.S. law firm, Mayer Brown. The document notes the Australian agency “has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested U.S. customers.” The report by James Risen and Laura Poitras bolsters claims by Snowden and others that the NSA and its allies conduct spying for economic gain.

Kerry Compares Climate Change Deniers to “Flat Earth Society”

Feb 17, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Indonesia, where he has sought to downplay the reports of spying on Indonesian officials. On Sunday in Jakarta, Kerry urged Indonesia to take action against climate change, calling it “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

John Kerry: “Now, President Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society.”

Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the United States. Kerry’s remarks followed a spate of extreme weather that scientists say is fueled by climate change. A snowstorm blanketed parts of the northeastern United States with more than a foot of snow on Saturday, following an earlier winter storm that killed at least 25 people.

Anti-Drone Activist Says He Was Tortured During Captivity in Pakistan

Feb 17, 2014

A Pakistani anti-drone activist and journalist who was abducted from his home earlier this month says he was tortured while being kept blindfolded in a basement cell. Karim Khan went missing just before he was due to travel to Europe to speak out about U.S. drone strikes, one of which killed his brother and son in 2009. He was taken captive by up to 20 men, some in police uniform. He was released on Friday. Khan told Al Jazeera his captors hung him upside down, hit his feet with a leather strap and beat him. But he vowed to continue speaking out against U.S. drone strikes.

Karim Khan: “My mission, you know, I will, inshallah, continue it, and I will not leave it, and if anybody do anything, I will never leave this, my mission.”

Watch our reports about Karim Khan, including clips of him from the film, “Wounds of Waziristan.”

Report: U.S. Seeking New Drone Bases in Central Asia

Feb 17, 2014

A new report says the Obama administration is making plans to launch drone strikes from bases in Central Asia in case the United States is forced to withdraw from Afghanistan this year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a long-term deal to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Unnammed U.S. officials told the Los Angeles Times the CIA’s ability to launch drone strikes in Pakistan would be greatly hindered by the loss of drone bases in Afghanistan. The plan to shift to bases further north could involve the use of a new jet-powered drone called the “Avenger,” which is faster than the current Predator and Reaper drones.

Ugandan President to Sign Anti-Gay Bill; Anti-Gay Mob Attacks 14 in Nigeria

Feb 17, 2014

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has indicated he will sign a bill punishing repeated homosexual acts with terms of up to life in prison. U.S. evangelicals have helped spur anti-LGBT fervor in Uganda, with some even reportedly helping to draft the new law. President Obama has warned Museveni that signing the law could “complicate” relations with the United States. A similar law recently passed in Nigeria, where an anti-gay mob attacked 14 men on Saturday in the capital Abuja.

Michael Sam Supporters Form Human Barrier to Block Anti-Gay Protest

Feb 17, 2014

In the United States, students at the University of Missouri formed a human barrier to silently block a protest by the right-wing extremist Westboro Baptist Church against football player Michael Sam, who recently announced he is gay. Wearing “Stand with Sam” pins, hundreds of Sam’s supporters lined up along the sidewalk near the campus football arena. University of Missouri sophomore and protest organizer Kelaney Lakers spoke to local news station KRCG.

Kelaney Lakers: “We’re both Christians. And the thing is, is that God is love. God is love. And what they’re doing is hateful, but just the fact that they are being hateful and that that is a sin, we’re also supposed to show love to them.”

Sam is poised to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Actress Ellen Page Comes Out as Gay, Gets Standing Ovation at Human Rights Campaign Conference

Feb 17, 2014

The actress Ellen Page, known for her roles in the films “Juno,” “Inception” and “The East,” has become the latest celebrity to come out as gay. Page received a standing ovation when she made the announcement during a speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference in Las Vegas on Friday.

Ellen Page: “Loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. And I know many of you have struggled with this, and I draw upon your strength and your support in ways that you will never know. And I am here today because I am gay.”

Volkswagen Workers Reject Union in Blow to U.S. Labor

Feb 17, 2014

In a blow to organized labor in the United States, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have voted against forming a union. The United Auto Workers had sought to represent plant workers in what would have been its first presence at a foreign-owned U.S. factory. But the union faced intense opposition from Republican lawmakers, including threats suggesting the plant might miss out on future subsidies or on a new SUV line if the union succeeded. Outside groups also played a role; the D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform funded more than a dozen local billboards urging an anti-union vote.

Greenwald, Poitras Among Winners of 2013 George Polk Award

Feb 17, 2014

Four journalists who revealed the National Security Agency’s vast web of spying have been awarded the 2013 George Polk Awards in Journalism. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post were among the winners announced on Sunday. Other winners include Matthieu Aikins, for uncovering “convincing evidence” that a U.S. Army Special Forces Unit killed 10 Afghan civilians in Wardak Province. Aikins spoke about his report for Rolling Stone, called “The A-Team Killings,” on Democracy Now! in November.

Matthieu Aikins: “But the question really is: Who else knew about these incidents beforehand? How is it possible that at least one level in the chain of command above this unit could not have known that there were war crimes? There was serious evidence of war crimes in Wardak province. And if they weren’t involved in a cover-up, then they must have at least been willfully blind.”

Search our website to watch all of our recent interviews with Aikins, Greenwald and Poitras.

Lawyer for Edward Snowden Detained at Heathrow Airport

Feb 17, 2014

Even as the journalists who broke the stories based on Edward Snowden’s leaks were awarded one of journalism’s highest honors, a lawyer who represents Snowden was detained while going through customs at London’s Heathrow Airport. Jesselyn Radack told Firedoglake she was subjected to “very hostile questioning” about Snowden and her trips to Russia. Radack was also told she was on an “inhibited persons list,” a designation reportedly used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to require further vetting of certain passengers. Last August Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained for nearly nine hours at Heathrow under a British anti-terrorism law. After the George Polk awards were announced, Greenwald tweeted, “In the U.K. government, this is known as the George Polk Award for Excellence in Terrorism.”

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