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President Obama is holding an emergency meeting with G7 leaders in the Netherlands today following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The session comes as the Russian government continues to strengthen its control, seizing more Crimean bases and detaining Ukrainian commanders. Earlier today, the Ukrainian government said it’s ordered all of its forces to withdraw in the wake of Russia’s annexation. On Sunday, the top NATO commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, warned Russia has amassed enough troops on Ukraine’s eastern border to threaten more post-Soviet states.
Gen. Philip Breedlove: “If Russia is worried about a country moving towards the West, the way to solve that is an incursion, a frozen conflict. And now no one wants to think about bringing that nation aboard into NATO because it might mean conflict with Russia.”
Russia has rejected claims it seeks to invade other countries. Today’s meeting at The Hague is the first stop in Obama’s week-long overseas tour, which also includes a sit-down with Pope Francis in Italy and a trip to Saudi Arabia.
The latest disclosures from Edward Snowden show the U.S. has hacked into the servers of a Chinese company it’s accused of a similar type of activity. The targeted company, Huawei, has essentially been blacklisted in the U.S. after being labeled a threat to national security. But the newly disclosed leaks show the NSA has created “back doors” into Huawei’s networks — the same activity it’s warned Huawei could help carry out against the United States. The NSA’s spying included accessing the emails of top company executives.
The Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee continues a campaign to paint NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as a Russian spy. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, Congressmember Mike Rogers claimed everyone in the U.S. intelligence community believes Snowden is “under the influence” of Russian agents. Rogers also attemped to link Snowden to Russia’s interference in Ukraine.
Rep. Mike Rogers: “We know today no counterintelligence official in the United States does not believe that Mr. Snowden, the NSA contractor, is not under the influence of Russian intelligence services. We believe he is. I certainly believe he is today. … I do believe there’s more to this story. He is under the influence of Russian intelligence officials today. He is actually supporting, in an odd way, this very activity of brazen brutality and expansionism of Russia. He needs to understand that. And I think Americans need to understand that. We need to put it in proper context.”
Rogers has yet to offer any evidence to back up his claims that Snowden spied for Moscow. Snowden remains in Russia after failing to win asylum in several other countries.
Former President Jimmy Carter meanwhile has revealed he limits his own email use out of fear he’s spied on by U.S. intelligence. In an interview with NBC News, Carter says he avoids emails when corresponding with foreign leaders — instead using old-fashioned “snail mail.”
Jimmy Carter: “That has been extremely liberalized and, I think, abused by our own intelligence agencies. As a matter of fact, you know, I have felt that my own communications are probably monitored. And when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write the letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it … because I believe if I send an email, it will be monitored.”
In the same interview, Carter said President Obama has never called him to ask for advice. Carter cited as the reason his stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, where he has called for “equal treatment” of Israelis and Palestinians. That, he suggested, has put him at odds with official U.S. policy.
The U.S. has sent a deployment of soldiers and military aircraft to Uganda in a claimed effort to assist in the hunt for rebel warlord Joseph Kony. The African Union has led a campaign to defeat Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, a group notorious for kidnapping children, forcing boys to become fighters, and using girls as sex slaves. The Washington Post reports the U.S. has sent around 150 special forces troops and four military aircraft. The U.S. soldiers are ordered not to engage in combat unless in self-defense. The Obama administration says the deployment won’t affect a review of U.S. ties with Uganda following the country’s enactment of an anti-LGBT law last month.
An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges of murder. The accused were part of the protests against the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last summer. Their convictions mark a new escalation of the military regime’s crackdown on Morsi supporters, which has led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests.
Two leading Egyptian activists have been freed, meanwhile, after over 100 days behind bars. Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman are among a group of activists charged with violating the military regime’s anti-protest law. They and 23 others have been released on bail but still face a trial that resumes next month.
Three Palestinians were killed and at least seven others wounded on Saturday when Israeli forces raided the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin. One of the dead was a militant leader targeted for arrest. Several innocent bystanders were injured with gunshot wounds. Palestinians say the deaths bring to at least 60 the number killed in Israeli raids on the Occupied Territories since the start of U.S.-backed peace talks last summer.
At least eight people have died and 18 others are missing following a massive landslide in Washington state. A local fire chief said the accumulation of mud and debris has slowed the attempt to find survivors.
Fire Chief Travis Hots: “Seven people were transported to area hospitals with injuries as a result of this slide. There’s three confirmed fatalities at this time. At this, today’s operational period, our number one priority is responder safety. We’ve got this huge square-mile mud flow up there that is basically like quicksand. It’s extremely fluid. It’s moving. And we suspect that there’s people out there, but it is far too dangerous to get responders out there on that mud flow.”
A large clean-up operation is underway in Texas after an oil spill in Galveston Bay. Over 168,000 gallons have spilled since Saturday from a barge that collided with a ship. Coast Guard Captain Brian Penoyer said the oil spill threatens to move offshore.
Brian Penoyer: “The collision itself did release a significant amount of oil, and that quantity of oil is not only in the Galveston Bay, but now, as the winds and the tides drive it out, proceeding out and offshore.”
The ship was carrying thick marine shipping oil. The spill falls along a route flown by birds as part of their seasonal migration.
Around 300 same-sex couples exchanged vows in Michigan over the weekend after marriage equality was briefly legalized. On Friday, a federal judge overturned Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, ruling it unconstitutional. LGBT couples swarmed Michigan county clerk’s offices the following day.
Jayne Rowse: “I’m overwhelmed. We’re going to actually be a legalized family, a recognized family by everybody.”
April DeBoer: “This is what we’ve wanted for our family and families like ours, and we are just so happy and proud that Michigan is now on the right side of history and that we were able to stand up and say this wasn’t fair.”
The ceremonies were short-lived when the initial ruling was frozen later on Saturday after Michigan appealed. Michigan is the latest state to have its gay marriage ban struck down, following similar rulings in Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah.
Three separate probes have reportedly cleared an FBI agent of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Chechen man questioned for his ties to the Boston Marathon bombers. Agents were questioning Ibragim Todashev at his Orlando, Florida, apartment last May when he allegedly tried to attack them. After multiple anonymous claims Todashev was armed, it later emerged the circumstances were unclear. But investigations by three parties — the FBI, the Florida prosecutor and the Justice Department — have all concluded the agent followed proper guidelines. An exposé by The New York Times last year found the FBI has cleared its agents in every single shooting incident dating back two decades.
A Mexican woman who crossed the border with her children to protest record deportations has been released from custody. Elvira Arellano became famous when she sought sanctuary for a year in a Chicago church before being deported in 2007. She crossed into California last week with dozens of others. In a statement, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance said: “Other mothers in her exact same position remain in detention, proving that the Department of Homeland Security is more concerned with its public image than rational, consistent policy.”
A new report has revealed high rates of bullying against children who are part of the Sikh religious community. In a report titled “Go Home, Terrorist,” the Sikh Coalition says more than half of Sikh children are bullied in school. Among Sikh children who wear turbans, 67 percent are bullied, a level more than twice the national rate.
The Army whistleblower imprisoned for leaking a trove of secret documents to WikiLeaks has petitioned a Kansas court to change her legal name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. Manning said in August she identifies as a woman, but she remains in a men’s prison at Fort Leavenworth, where she is serving a 35-year sentence.
The CEO of Netflix is defending net neutrality — the principle of open and equal Internet access. Last month, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for faster and more direct access to its subscribers, a move seen as a threat to net neutrality. In a blog post Thursday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote: “Some big [Internet Service Providers] are extracting a toll because they can — they effectively control access to millions of consumers and are willing to sacrifice the interests of their own customers to press Netflix and others to pay. … While in the short term Netflix will in cases reluctantly pay large ISPs … we will continue to fight for the Internet the world needs and deserves.”