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HeadlinesFebruary 25, 2014

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U.S., Russia at Odds over Legitimacy in Ukraine

Feb 25, 2014

Ukraine is delaying the formation of a new government until Thursday following the ouster of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych after months of protests that killed dozens of people. The Obama administration has indicated it no longer recognizes Yanukovych as Ukraine’s leader and has pledged financial support to Ukraine. President Yanukovych had come under fire for strengthening ties with Russia instead of Europe. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has rejected the interim government.

Dmitry Medvedev: “Strictly speaking, there is no one to talk to there. The government doesn’t exist. There are big doubts about the legitimacy of a whole series of organs of power that are now functioning there. Some of our foreign partners, our Western partners, think differently, that those are legitimate bodies. I don’t know what constitution and what laws they have been reading. It seems to me it is an aberration to call legitimate what is essentially the result of an armed mutiny.”

Pakistan Strikes Kill 30 in North Waziristan

Feb 25, 2014

Pakistani officials say the Pakistani military has conducted air strikes on North Waziristan, killing at least 30 people. The northwestern region is also a frequent target of U.S. drone attacks. The bombings come after talks between Pakistan and the Taliban broke down last week.

Pentagon Budget Expands Special Ops, Cuts Benefits

Feb 25, 2014

The Pentagon has outlined a five-year budget plan that would shrink the number of active-duty soldiers to its smallest size since before World War II while expanding the number of special operations personnel. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined the proposal on Monday.

Chuck Hagel: “These recommendations will adapt and reshape our defense enterprise so that we can continue protecting this nation’s security in an era of unprecedented uncertainty and change. As we end our combat mission in Afghanistan, this will be the first budget to fully reflect the transition DoD is making for after 13 years of war.”

Under the plan, the number of active-duty soldiers would decrease to about 450,000, but special operations forces would increase by about 6 percent to nearly 70,000. The plan also includes cuts to military benefits.

Heavy Smog Grips Beijing

Feb 25, 2014

Residents of Beijing are suffering through a sixth day of heavy smog. On Monday, authorities issued the second-highest level of pollution alert for a second time after it was used for the first time ever on Friday. During an orange alert, children and the elderly are warned not to go outside. Dozens of factories have shut down in a bid to curb pollution.

U.S. Urges Uganda to Repeal Anti-Gay Law

Feb 25, 2014

The Obama administration is calling on Uganda to repeal an anti-gay law that imposes a life sentence for repeated homosexual acts and makes it a crime not to report gay people to authorities. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney criticized the law after it was signed by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday.

Jay Carney: “We will continue to urge the government of Uganda to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world. What I can tell you about steps the United States might take in response is that we are undertaking a review of its — of our relationship with Uganda in light of this decision.”

Uganda is a key ally of the United States in Africa.

Arizona Republicans Who Voted for Anti-Gay Bill Now Want a Veto

Feb 25, 2014

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is facing pressure from within her own party to reject a bill allowing businesses to deny service to LGBT people. Three Republican state senators sent Brewer a letter urging her to veto the bill just days after they voted for it, along with the rest of the state Senate’s Republican caucus. The senators wrote that public outcry over the law was causing Arizona “immeasurable harm.”

GOP State Senator in Virginia Refers to Pregnant Women as “Hosts”

Feb 25, 2014

A Republican state lawmaker in Virginia is under fire after using the term “host” to refer to pregnant women. State Senator Steve Martin posted the comment on Facebook in response to a message from a pro-choice group urging him to change his policies on abortion. He wrote, “once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it to remain alive.” He later edited the post, changing the word “host” to “bearer of the child.” He told Huffington Post his remarks had been taken the wrong way and were meant to be sarcastic. Women’s health advocates plan to rally in the Virginia Senate gallery today wearing shirts that say “Not a Host.”

NYC Backs Off Plan to Remove Homeless from Subways

Feb 25, 2014

New York City has backed off on a plan to remove homeless people from subway stations following a public campaign against the planned sweep. Advocates for the homeless were on patrol early Monday morning to ensure people could remain in subways, where they are staying warm. Participants at a rally on Sunday said homeless people should not be forced to choose between shelters and jail.

Daniel Sanchez, Copwatch: “I graduated from Stuyvesant High School, which is known as one the greatest high schools in this city, and six months later, I was sleeping on the MTA trains. So I want to be clear to those of you who might be watching this and feel that this isn’t an issue that’s connected to you. I never thought I was going to end up homeless. Most New Yorkers are one paycheck away from homelessness. So understand that at any given time, a couple of bad breaks, and you could be in these same situations.”

The protest in New York City comes amid a nationwide crackdown on the homeless. Across the United States, more than 50 cities have adopted laws against camping or food sharing that make it harder for homeless people to survive.

Whistleblower Group Reports Suspicious Break-in at D.C. Office

Feb 25, 2014

A Washington, D.C.-based whistleblower group has reported a suspicious break-in at their office. The Project on Government Oversight says unknown people appear to have broken in, shuffled papers on employees’ desks and attempted to open a file cabinet, all while leaving computers and other valuable items behind. Police determined the break-in was related to the group’s work, which centers on exposing waste, fraud and abuse by the government, particularly by the Pentagon.

Rep. John Dingell, Longest-Serving Member of Congress, to Retire

Feb 25, 2014

The longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history has announced he will retire at the end of this term after 59 years. Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell is known as a champion of single-payer healthcare and a pioneer of early environmental laws, although he resisted some regulations in defense of Detroit’s auto industry. Dingell has also criticized the deadlock in the current Congress, famously saying during the partial government shutdown last October, “The American people could get better government out of monkey island in the local zoo.” He announced his retirement Monday.

Rep. John Dingell: “Like many of you, I have found great disappointment in this Congress. I want you to know this is not the reason that Debbie and I are leaving the Congress. We are leaving it for quite a different reason, and that is, we want to enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet and contentment amongst the people that we have known and loved for so long.”

Dingell’s wife, Debbie Dingell, is reportedly considering a run for her husband’s seat.

Greenwald: Spy Agencies Manipulate Information, Attack Reputations of Targets Online

Feb 25, 2014

A new report based on leaks by Edward Snowden reveals new details of how Western spy agencies manipulate information online. Writing at TheIntercept.org, Glenn Greenwald describes the tactics of a secret unit inside Britain’s top spy agency called JTRIG, or Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group. JTRIG’s self-identified goals are to discredit targets by posting fake material — including, for example, fake blog posts purporting to be by a victim of the target — and to manipulate online discourse. A newly revealed document titled “Disruption: Operational Playbook” lists tactics like “false flag operation,” or posting material online, then falsely attributing it to someone else. The targets appear to include those suspected of “hacktivism,” meaning online acts of political protest. “The broader point,” Greenwald writes, “is that … these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats.”

New NSA Source Emerges in Germany

Feb 25, 2014

Another source within the National Security Agency appears to have emerged. The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday that the NSA increased its spying on senior German officials after President Obama ordered a halt to spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel. The report cites a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany.

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