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HeadlinesMay 14, 2014

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Nigeria Opens Door to Talks with Boko Haram on Kidnapped Girls

May 14, 2014

The Nigerian government has reversed its rejection of talks with Boko Haram militants on freeing the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls held captive for more than a month. On Tuesday, Nigerian Special Duties Minister Taminu Turaki said he is open to negotiations, including over the girls’ fate. The Nigerian government had previously dismissed an apparent offer from the Boko Haram to free the girls in return for the government’s release of the group’s jailed members. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed U.S. forces are flying surveillance planes over Nigeria in a bid to find the girls. Carney also voiced opposition to ransom talks with the Boko Haram, but said the United States will follow Nigeria’s lead.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We’re focused on working with the Nigerian government to locate and bring home those girls. That includes a team of individuals that I itemized yesterday. It also includes manned reconnaissance flights that I can confirm we are conducting in cooperation with the Nigerian government. When it comes to the approach to Boko Haram in this case, Nigeria of course has the lead, and we play a supporting role. It is the policy of the United States to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, and that includes ransoms or concessions.”

Daily protests continue in Nigeria for the girls’ return. In Lagos, women’s rights activist Joei Odumakin vowed to march on the town where the girls were seized if they are not returned safely.

Joei Odumakin: “The girls must be rescued now, and that should be done while they are still alive. And that is the essence of this protest, and that’s why all of us are gathered here. And we are kickstarting with Lagos on Tuesday. We are moving to the east on Wednesday. That’s Enugu. Wednesday, we’ll be in Lokoja. Thursday, we’ll be in Onitsha, Onitsha and Kaduna. We are going to be in Jigawa. At the end of 14 days of the nationwide protests, if nothing is done, God forbid, all of us are going to protest half-naked inside Chibok. We are going there, and we are ready to lay down our lives.”

Over 200 Killed in Turkish Mining Blast

May 14, 2014

At least 205 people have died in an explosion at a coal mine in western Turkey. Hundreds of workers are trapped inside, and the death toll could rise. It is believed to be the worst-ever industrial accident in Turkish history. The International Labor Organization says Turkey has the world’s third-highest rate of worker deaths.

U.N. Envoy for Syria Resigns After 2 Years

May 14, 2014

The United Nations envoy for Syria has resigned after two years of failed efforts to mediate an end to the country’s civil war. Lakhdar Brahimi will formally step down at the end of the month. Brahimi offered parting words after his final address to the Security Council.

Lakhdar Brahimi: “I am sure that the crisis will end. The question is only, and this everybody who has a responsibility and an influence in the situation have to remember, that the question is: How many more dead? How much more destruction there is going to be before Syria becomes again the Syria we have known? The new Syria that will be different from the Syria of the past, but it will be the Syria we have loved and admired for many, many years.”

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 150,000 people and left millions displaced. Brahimi had repeatedly threatened to step down as talks between the Assad regime and opposition rebels failed to get off the ground. On Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Brahimi’s efforts.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Mr. Brahimi has long been recognized as one of the world’s most brilliant diplomats as well as outstanding proponent of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. That the objective to which he applied his extraordinary talents has proven elusive is a tragedy for the Syrian people. That his efforts have not received effective support from the United Nations body that is charged with upholding peace and security, and from countries with influence on the Syrian situation, is a failure of all of us.”

Idaho Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down

May 14, 2014

A federal judge has overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage — the latest in a series of marriage equality rulings sweeping the country. Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale ruled the Idaho ban violated couple’s equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment. The decision comes days after a marriage equality ban was struck down in Arkansas, prompting hundreds of weddings by same-sex couples.

Court Stays Texas Execution over Prisoner’s Mental Disability

May 14, 2014

A federal appeals court has stayed the execution of a Texas death row prisoner who was set to die Tuesday night. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Robert James Campbell is protected from the death penalty because he’s mentally disabled. Campbell’s execution was set to be the nation’s first since the botched killing of an Oklahoma death row prisoner last month. Defense attorneys had initially tried to stay the execution over the secrecy of the lethal injection drug.

Missouri Protesters Challenge Bill Extending Abortion Wait

May 14, 2014

The Missouri State Senate has passed a bill to extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. The bill passed early Tuesday morning despite a filibuster by State Senator Scott Sifton. Protesters have gathered outside the Missouri State Capitol to launch a “women’s filibuster” against the bill, which they call a threat to women’s health. They have stayed overnight for two nights and are vowing to remain for 72 hours, until Thursday afternoon. The bill now heads back to the Missouri House, which has already passed a similar bill. If it’s enacted, Missouri would become the third state with a three-day waiting period, along with Utah and South Dakota.

Clerk: Conyers Doesn’t Qualify for Primary Ballot

May 14, 2014

Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan could be left off his district’s upcoming primary after failing to gather enough signatures. The Wayne County elections clerk, Cathy Garrett, says Conyers is more than 400 valid signatures shy of the 1,000 needed to get on the August ballot. Garrett says Conyers’ petition falls short because he did not collect enough signatures from registered voters. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging that requirement. If the ruling stands, Conyers could run as a write-in candidate. First elected in 1964, Conyers is the House’s second-longest-serving incumbent.

Ras Baraka Elected Mayor of Newark

May 14, 2014

In New Jersey, Councilmember Ras Baraka has been elected mayor of Newark, the state’s largest city. Baraka is the son of the Amiri Baraka, the legendary African-American poet who died earlier this year. Ras Baraka addressed a victory rally of supporters Tuesday night.

Ras Baraka: “We need to bring the city back together again. We choose hope, not fear. We choose transformation, not cynicism. Today is the day that we bring every ward together, that we create neighborhoods into one city.”

Baraka follows the two-term mayor Corey Booker, who stepped down last year after joining the U.S. Senate.

ICC Revisits War Crimes Probe of British Soldiers in Iraq

May 14, 2014

The International Criminal Court has reopened a preliminary investigation of war crimes allegations against British troops in Iraq. Two European human rights groups have filed complaints on behalf of dozens of Iraqis alleging 60 unlawful killings and more than 170 cases of torture and abuse. Britain is the first Western country to face a preliminary probe at The Hague. The United States is immune from scrutiny because it is not a court member.

Openly Gay NFL Player Introduced with New Team

May 14, 2014

The National Football League’s first openly gay player was formally introduced on Tuesday days after making history with his selection in the league’s collegiate draft. Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams months after coming out publicly. At a news conference with his new team, Sam was asked to offer advice in light of the obstacles he faced to coming out.

Reporter: “Michael, what’s the message that you have for anyone that might be dealing with their own personal struggle, whatever it may be, and they’re looking for the courage and the inspiration to just face it head-on?”

Michael Sam: “It’s OK to be who you are, whether you’re gay, straight, black or white. It’s OK to be comfortable in your own skin.”

Peace Activist, Broadcaster Acie Byrd Dies at 77

May 14, 2014

The peace activist and radio commentator Acie Byrd has died at the age of 77 following a battle with cancer. Byrd was among an estimated quarter of a million U.S. military personnel exposed to radiation from U.S. nuclear tests that took place from 1945 to 1962. Byrd was exposed to hydrogen bomb testing in the mid-1950s in the Pacific. He became a leading advocate for fellow atomic veterans, calling for healthcare compensation and a comprehensive test ban treaty. In 1977, Byrd was one of the founding members of Pacifica station WPFW in Washington, D.C., where he served as a local and national commentator and board member for many years.

“Searching for Sugar Man” Director Dies at 36

May 14, 2014

The Swedish filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul has died at the age of 36. Bendjelloul won the best documentary Academy Award last year for his debut film, “Searching for Sugar Man,” about the U.S. musician Sixto Rodriguez.

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