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HeadlinesFebruary 24, 2014

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Ukraine in Crisis Following Ouster of President

Feb 24, 2014

Ukraine is in a state of crisis after the country’s democratically elected president was ousted Saturday following months of street protests that left at least 82 people dead. The acting government has issued an arrest warrant for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych after he fled the capital Kiev. Protests have centered on Yanukovych’s decision to strengthen ties with Russia instead of Europe, a direction that acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said will now change.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov: “The mission of the new government is to stop Ukraine from heading into an abyss; stabilize the exchange rate; guarantee the timely distribution of wages, pensions and aid; return the trust of investors; help the development of business and the creation jobs. Another priority is returning to the European integration course, the fight for which Maidan started with. We must return to the family of European countries.”

The United States and Europe have both pledged aid to the new government in Ukraine. We’ll have more on the crisis after headlines.

Egypt Gov’t Resigns in Possible Step Toward Sisi Presidential Bid

Feb 24, 2014

Egypt’s interim prime minister has announced the mass resignation of his government. The sudden resignation of the entire Cabinet paves the way for Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to run for president after renouncing his post as defense minister. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi has reportedly been asked to remain in his post until a new prime minister is found.

Thailand: 4 Killed in Attacks on Opposition Protests

Feb 24, 2014

In Thailand, four people were killed and dozens wounded over the weekend in gun and bomb attacks at anti-government protests. Three of the dead were children. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has condemned the attacks.

Hundreds of Thousands Join Rival Protests in Venezuela

Feb 24, 2014

In Venezuela, hundreds of thousands took to the streets for rival marches for and against President Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has accused his right-wing rivals of fomenting a coup with support from the United States, a claim the White House rejects. At least 10 people have died in the clashes.

Sinaloa Cartel Leader “Chapo” Guzmán Arrested in Mexico

Feb 24, 2014

Mexican authorities have arrested the head of Mexico’s largest drug cartel. Joaquín Guzmán, nicknamed “El Chapo,” was arrested in a condominium building in the resort town of Mazatlán. Guzmán has been imprisoned before, but escaped in 2001, reportedly using a laundry cart. Mexico’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam described how Guzmán was previously able to elude capture.

Jesús Murillo Karam: “This operation over the last month had very definitive moments that led to his arrest. Between the 13th and 17th of February, several homes which he used were discovered, and in some of those homes, which is what complicated the arrest, we discovered that it was connected by several tunnels to seven homes, not only connected by several tunnels, but he always used the city’s drainage system. The doors to the home where he was found were reinforced with lead, and that caused several minutes of delay in opening them, allowing for an escape through the tunnels.”

The United States aided the investigation and will seek Guzmán’s extradition to the United States. Last month, the Mexican newspaper El Universal reported U.S. drug agents had previously held extensive secret negotiations with the Sinaloa cartel, reportedly agreeing not to interfere with its activities or actively to prosecute Chapo Guzmán and other leaders, in exchange for information about rival cartels.

Taliban Gunmen Attack Afghan Army Base; Obama Mulls Plan for 3,000 Troops to Stay

Feb 24, 2014

In Afghanistan, Taliban gunmen attacked an Afghan army base on Sunday, killing 21 soldiers in the worst single assault on Afghan forces since 2010. The attack comes as President Obama considers how many U.S. troops to keep in Afghanistan beyond this year. The Washington Post reports numbers could range from 10,000 to 3,000 to zero. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a deal to maintain U.S. troops beyond 2014.

Pentagon to Scale Back Army, Keep Funding for Special Operations

Feb 24, 2014

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is set to release a plan today to scale back the U.S. Army to its smallest force since before World War II. Ahead of the plan’s release today, unnamed officials told The New York Times the plan would protect funding for Special Operations and cyberwarfare.

U.N. Passes Resolution for Aid Access in Syria

Feb 24, 2014

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution calling on both sides of the Syrian conflict to allow delivery of humanitarian aid. The resolution was supported by Russia and China, who have vetoed past resolutions. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed its passage.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Profoundly shocking to me is that both sides are besieging civilians as a tactic of war. Some 200,000 people are under siege in government-controlled areas, and 45,000 in opposition-controlled areas. More broadly, this resolution highlights again the urgent need to end the conflict.”

On Sunday in Syria, Abu Khalid al-Suri, a rebel commander with close ties to the head al-Qaeda, was killed in a suicide attack carried out by a rival group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Russia: 7 Sentenced to Prison Terms for Anti-Putin Protest

Feb 24, 2014

A Russian court has sentenced seven people to prison terms ranging from two-and-a-half to four years for protesting President Vladimir Putin in Bolotnaya Square in 2012. An eighth person received a suspended sentence. The defendants were found guilty Friday and sentenced today, the day after the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained for protesting outside the court along with more than 100 others.

Netflix to Pay Comcast for Faster Access in Potential Threat to Net Neutrality

Feb 24, 2014

The video-streaming site Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for faster and more direct access to its subscribers. The deal comes just 10 days after Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner, merging the largest and second largest cable and broadband providers. The latest deal could have major implications for net neutrality, the principle of equal and open access to the Internet. Last week federal regulators said they would not appeal a court decision striking down rules on net neutrality, instead saying they will issue new rules –- a proposal media reform advocates say is toothless under the current legal framework.

Detroit Bankruptcy Plan Slashes Worker Pensions

Feb 24, 2014

Detroit’s emergency manager has floated a proposal to slash worker pensions and retiree benefits in a bid to bring the city out of bankruptcy. Under a plan filed in federal bankruptcy court on Friday, police and fire retirees would see their pensions cut 10 percent, while other retired city workers would see their pensions cut 34 percent.

Ugandan President Signs Anti-Gay Bill

Feb 24, 2014

Uganda’s president has signed a bill criminalizing homosexuality. The measure punishes repeated homosexual acts with terms of up to life in prison. U.S. evangelicals helped spur anti-LGBT fervor in Uganda, with some even reportedly helping to draft the new law.

Hundreds Protest Anti-Gay Bill in Arizona; Illinois Same-Sex Couples Wed

Feb 24, 2014

In Arizona, hundreds of people rallied outside the State Capitol Friday to demand Gov. Jan Brewer veto a bill they say legalizes discrimination against LGBT people. The bill passed by both houses of the state Legislature last week would allow businesses to deny service to LGBT people by citing religious beliefs. Protester Megan Abhau condemned the bill.

Megan Abhau: “It feels like it opens the door for discrimination in a huge broad spectrum the way the bill is written, that, I mean, I feel like we could be kicked out of a restaurant. I am not shy about my activism in the LGBT community at all.”

The Arizona bill is similar to ones that recently failed in Idaho and Kansas, and to one under consideration in Utah. In Illinois, meanwhile, gay couples rushed to get married Friday after a federal judge ruled same-sex weddings could begin in Cook County, where a lawsuit was filed. A law legalizing same-sex marriage in all of Illinois takes effect in June.

Jason Collins Joins Nets, Becoming 1st Openly Gay NBA Player

Feb 24, 2014

Basketball player Jason Collins has signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets, officially becoming the first openly gay player in the NBA. The contract is Collins’ first since he came out last April.

Oil Spill Shuts Down Section of Mississippi River

Feb 24, 2014

In Louisiana, a barge carrying crude oil collided with another vessel in the Mississippi River Saturday, shutting down a 65-mile stretch that includes the Port of New Orleans. An oil sheen was seen on the surface of the river, but it is unclear how much oil was spilled.

Report: Regulatory Failures Fuel Unsafe Conditions in Texas Oil Fields

Feb 24, 2014

A new investigation has uncovered how failures by federal regulators to address safety concerns in Texas oil and gas fields have fueled unsafe conditions that have killed hundreds of workers. The Houston Chronicle reports 65 oil workers died in Texas in 2012 alone amid a decades-long failure to implement safety procedures for the industry. The report found inspectors lack relevant training and do not have the authority to shut down oil and gas sites, even if they find life-threatening conditions.

Exxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Texas Fracking Project Due to Property Value Concerns

Feb 24, 2014

In news from Texas, the CEO of ExxonMobil has joined a lawsuit against a fracking-related project due to fears it could affect the value of his multimillion-dollar home. Exxon is the largest gas producer in the United States, relying heavily on fracking, which involves blasting water and chemicals deep into shale rock. But The Wall Street Journal reports CEO Rex Tillerson has joined a lawsuit to block a water tower in Bartonville, Texas, that would provide water for fracking, on the grounds it would create a “noise nuisance and traffic hazards.” Residents of other fracked areas have complained about the industry’s other impacts, including the poisoning of their water by toxic chemicals.

Obama Renews Call for Minimum Wage Hike; Gap Promises $10 Minimum Wage

Feb 24, 2014

President Obama is renewing his call for Congress to raise the minimum wage. Two recent polls show more than 70 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. Obama raised the issue in his weekly address on Saturday.

President Obama: “Right now there’s a bill before Congress that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It’s easy to remember: '10-10.' That bill would lift wages for more than 16 million Americans without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending. But even though a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans across the country support raising the minimum wage, Republicans in Congress don’t want to give it a vote.”

Last week, the clothing retailer Gap announced it would set a minimum wage of $10 an hour for its U.S. workers in 2015.

4 Shot Dead at Native American Tribal Hearing in California

Feb 24, 2014

In the latest mass shooting in the United States, a woman is accused of killing four people at the Cedarville Rancheria tribal headquarters in northern California on Thursday. The accused shooter, Cherie Lash Rhoades, was a former tribal chairwoman who was the subject of a federal probe into missing funds. She allegedly opened fire at a hearing where tribe members were considering her eviction, killing four people, including her brother, nephew and 19-year-old niece.

Guggenheim Protest Highlights Plight of Migrant Workers in Abu Dhabi

Feb 24, 2014

In New York City, activists staged a protest inside the Guggenheim Museum Saturday night to draw attention to the plight of migrant workers building a new Guggenheim franchise in Abu Dhabi. The group Gulf Labor says migrants from South Asia work in what is essentially indentured servitude. During the museum’s pay-what-you-wish hours on Saturday night, the activists lined multiple stories of the museum’s spiral balconies, chanting and dropping banners with slogans including “1% Museum.”

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