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HeadlinesFebruary 20, 2014

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Truce Breaks Down in Ukraine; Clashes Kill 21

Feb 20, 2014

In Ukraine, a short-lived truce between the government and opposition protesters has broken down amid the bloodiest period in the months-long uprising. At least 21 people have died today alone in clashes between protesters and security forces. President Obama addressed the crisis on Wednesday.

President Obama: “I want to be very clear that as we work through these next several days in Ukraine, that we are going to be watching very carefully, and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters. We’ve said that we also expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful, and we’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation, recognizing that, along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line.”

We’ll have more on the crisis in Ukraine after headlines.

Trial Opens for 3 Detained Al Jazeera Journalists in Egypt

Feb 20, 2014

The trial opens today in Egypt for three detained Al Jazeera journalists who are accused of terrorism-related charges. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were arrested in late December. Their case has drawn global condemnation against Egypt’s military-backed regime for clamping down on freedom of speech. Greste’s brother, Andrew Greste, spoke to reporters on Wednesday.

Andrew Greste: “He’s in a cell with Baher and Mohamed, so the three of them are sharing a cell together. They’re allowed one hour of exercise a day. So the conditions are pretty tough. But I think probably the most difficult thing for him is the mental challenge of staying positive and focused and not allowing the conditions that he’s living under to become overwhelming and depressing.”

In total, 20 journalists are set to go on trial today, including eight who are in custody.

Nebraska Judge Voids State’s Approval of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

Feb 20, 2014

In a victory for opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a judge in Nebraska has voided the state’s approval of the pipeline route. District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy struck down a 2011 law that allowed Gov. Dave Heineman to approve the pipeline’s passage through Nebraska, saying the decision should have been left up to a state commission. The pipeline would funnel tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, but critics say it would fuel climate change and threaten the health of communities in its path. Obama has yet to issue a decision on whether to approve the pipeline.

More Coal-Waste Leaks Found in North Carolina, West Virginia

Feb 20, 2014

Federal prosecutors have issued more than 20 subpoenas to North Carolina’s environmental agency as part of a criminal probe into a coal-ash spill by Duke Energy. The subpoenas follow reports the agency blocked lawsuits against Duke Energy, where North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory worked for 28 years. Earlier this month, a leaking pipe caused one the worst coal-ash spills in U.S. history. On Tuesday, state regulators announced they had found a second leak containing unsafe levels of arsenic at the same site. Meanwhile, yet another coal-waste spill was reported in West Virginia. State regulators said snow melting into waste ponds caused contaminated water to overflow into a nearby creek.

U.S. Approves Loan Deal for 1st New Nuclear Power Plant in 30 Years

Feb 20, 2014

The Obama administration has approved $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to back construction of the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years. The Vogtle nuclear plant is currently under construction in Waynesboro, Georgia. The announcement comes as the administration investigates a radioactive leak at a nuclear waste site in New Mexico.

Bahraini Activist Faces Possible Return to Prison

Feb 20, 2014

In Bahrain, court proceedings against human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja were postponed on Wednesday until March 3. Alkhawaja could return to prison after she was released on Sunday following nearly a year behind bars. She spoke to Democracy Now! on Tuesday, the day before she was due back in court.

Zainab Alkhawaja: “We’re calling for a country where every Bahraini is respected, every Bahraini is treated equally. We’re calling for a country where we feel we have rights, where we feel we have dignity, where people can’t step all over us, can’t torture and kill and get away with these things. We’re living in a country, basically, where the criminals are the most powerful people in the country, and where a lot of us actually feel proud when we’re in jail, because we know that in Bahrain, when you go to jail, it means you did something right and not wrong.”

The pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain marked its third anniversary last Friday. Bahrain is a close ally of the United States, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

FCC to Rewrite Net Neutrality Rules for Equal Internet Access

Feb 20, 2014

U.S. regulators have announced they will not appeal a court ruling that struck down rules promoting equal access to the Internet. Instead, the Federal Communications Commission says it will rewrite the regulations on net neutrality, which force Internet providers to provide all content at equal speeds. A court rejected the rules last month after a legal challenge by Verizon.

Documents Tie Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to Secret Email System

Feb 20, 2014

A trove of newly released documents has raised new questions about ties between the campaign of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his former post in county office. Walker served as Milwaukee County executive while running for governor in the 2010 election. Two of Walker’s aides have been criminally convicted of conducting campaign business on the taxpayer dime. Documents unsealed Wednesday reveal just how closely Walker and his aides blurred campaign and official business. They link Walker to a secret email routing system used by his county staff and show he directed county staff to hold daily strategy calls with campaign aides. The revelations come as Walker eyes a potential presidential bid in 2016.

Juror in Trial of Michael Dunn Speaks Out

Feb 20, 2014

A member of the jury in the trial of Michael Dunn for killing African-American teenager Jordan Davis during a dispute over loud music says she believes Dunn got away with murder. Dunn, who is white, shot at the vehicle carrying Davis and his friends 10 times. He then fled the scene, went to a hotel with his fiancée and ordered pizza. He never called the police. The jury deadlocked on the murder charge Saturday, but convicted Dunn of three counts of attempted murder, meaning he faces a minimum of 60 years in prison. A juror identified only as Valerie was interviewed by ABC’s Byron Pitts.

Byron Pitts: “You think Michael Dunn had options?”

Valerie: “Oh, yes, sir.”

Byron Pitts: “What were his options, do you think?”

Valerie: “Roll your window up, ignore the taunting, put your car in reverse, back up to the front of the store, move a parking spot over. That’s my feeling.”

The juror said three out of her 12 fellow members ultimately felt Dunn was justified in killing Davis. Dunn claimed Davis had a gun, but police never found one.

New York Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty in Case That Feds Turned Down

Feb 20, 2014

A man charged under New York State terrorism laws in a case that raised claims of entrapment has accepted a plea deal to serve 16 years in prison. Jose Pimentel was arrested in 2011 and accused of being an “al-Qaeda sympathizer” who was trying to build a bomb. But federal authorities, including the FBI, declined to join the case, saying Pimentel did not appear predisposed or capable of carrying out an attack. Defense attorneys say he was entrapped by informants who gave him food, shelter and marijuana. He pleaded guilty just days before his trial to avoid a possible life sentence.

New York Agrees to Reform Use of Solitary Confinement in State Prisons

Feb 20, 2014

The state of New York has agreed to limit its use of solitary confinement in prisons. Under an agreement with the New York Civil Liberties Union, the state’s prison system will become the largest in the country to ban solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure for those under 18. The deal also curbs the use of solitary confinement for pregnant and developmentally disabled prisoners. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “New York State has done the right thing by committing to comprehensive reform of the way it uses extreme isolation, a harmful and inhumane practice that has for years been used as a punishment of first resort in New York’s prisons.”

Texas Suspends Abortion Provider Under Harsh New Law

Feb 20, 2014

Authorities in Texas have suspended the license of a Houston doctor who has provided abortions for 40 years after he failed to comply with the state’s harsh new anti-choice law. Dr. Theodore Herring had failed to meet the law’s requirement to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Critics say such privileges are medically unnecessary and can be impossible to obtain because abortion providers do not admit enough patients to meet hospital minimums and because some hospitals oppose abortion. In related news, doctors at the only remaining abortion clinic in North Dakota have obtained hospital admitting privileges, which are also required under that state’s law.

Pennsylvania Mother Faces Criminal Charges for Buying Abortion Medication for Daughter

Feb 20, 2014

A mother in Pennsylvania is facing multiple criminal charges for ordering medications to induce abortion on the Internet and giving them to her 16-year-old daughter. Jennifer Whalen said she could not find a nearby abortion clinic and did not realize she needed a prescription for the medications. The use of self-induced medication abortions appears to be on the rise in states where restrictions are making it harder to access legal abortion.

Pussy Riot Members Beaten by Cossack Militia

Feb 20, 2014

In news from Russia, a video released Wednesday shows members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot being whipped by Cossack militia as they tried to film a music video in Sochi, where the Olympics are underway. Maria Alyokhina described her injuries.

Maria Alyokhina: “I have marks. I have a bruise here. My fingernails are broken. And in my eyes and nose I have tear gas, which they sprayed into our eyes.”

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