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HeadlinesMay 19, 2014

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Dozens Killed, Thousands Displaced in Record Balkans Flooding

May 19, 2014

Dozens of people have been killed and tens of thousands have been displaced after unprecedented flooding in the Balkans. An estimated three months’ worth of rain hit the region in just three days. About one-third of Bosnia’s land mass has been submerged, affecting an estimated one million people. Dangerous water levels have threatened flooding at two of the country’s power plants. Thousands are without water and electricity. The flooding has also washed away warning signs near the thousands of land mines that remain from the 1992 to 1995 war. A recent European Union report warned countries are at greater risk of flooding due to human-driven climate change.

Renegade Forces Launch Attacks in 2 Libyan Cities

May 19, 2014

Dozens of people were killed in Libya over the weekend in attacks by forces loyal to a renegade former general. Khalifa Haftar, who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi, launched an offensive in Benghazi in what he called a bid to root out Islamist militants. Haftar’s forces also stormed the Libyan Parliament building in Tripoli, demanding the government’s suspension. The Libyan government has accused Haftar of attempting a coup.

West African Countries Declare “War” on Boko Haram

May 19, 2014

West African countries have declared a “war” on the militant group Boko Haram following last month’s kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls. At a meeting in Paris, heads of state from Nigeria and its neighbors declared the Boko Haram a threat to all of Africa. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan likened the group to al-Qaeda.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan: “Boko Haram is no longer the local terror group with some religious sentiment that started in Nigeria in 2002 to 2009 — sorry, from 2002, 2004. From 2009 to date, it has changed and is operating clearly as an al-Qaeda organization. It can better be described as al-Qaeda in West and Central Africa. It’s no longer the Boko Haram that came with the sentiment that Western education is prohibited and that women must not go to school.”

Jonathan has faced sustained calls to resign in the aftermath of the kidnapping. Protests continued over the weekend seeking accountability for the government’s delayed response. Bala Usman of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign said her group will demand a face-to-face meeting.

Bala Usman: “We have written him a letter informing him that we wish to see him. We are requesting for an audience. We have not yet gotten confirmation, but even without a confirmation we intend to march to the president on Thursday to ask him questions as citizens, to demand to know what is Nigerian government doing towards the rescue operations of our girls.”

Funerals Held for Slain Palestinian Nakba Demonstrators

May 19, 2014

Funerals were held in the occupied West Bank over the weekend for two Palestinians shot dead during the annual Nakba Day protest. The father of 17-year-old Nadim Nuwara called on Israel to try his son’s killer in court.

Siam Nuwara: “As we bemoan over our son, our solace is that our son is a martyr in heaven. He died for his homeland. He died for his family and his people. He died in the Nakba Day. Israel will face its day, because it is an unjust state which shoots boys holding stones. And this man who shot my son must be tried for the sake of justice and for my son’s dignity. If he will not be tried, Israel will face its day. Our children will grow up and take revenge for my son, and take back our homeland, God willing.”

Another Palestinian shot in the protests was left in critical condition. Last week marked the 66th anniversary of the Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced during the period around Israel’s declaration of statehood.

California Gov. Expects “Worst” Ever Drought Following Wildfires

May 19, 2014

California says it is preparing for its worst drought season ever after the wildfires that engulfed 20,000 acres around San Diego. Thousands of evacuees returned home over the weekend after firefighters contained the blaze. Speaking to ABC News, California Gov. Jerry Brown said thousands of additional firefighters will be needed in a state on the “front lines” of climate change.

Gov. Jerry Brown: “We’re getting ready for the worst. Now, we don’t want to anticipate before we know, but we need a full complement of firefighting capacity. The state’s climate appears to be changing. The scientists tell us that definitely. So, we’ve got to gear up here. … We here in California are on the front lines. We’ve got to deal with it. We’ve already appropriated $600 million. We have 5,000 firefighters. We’re going to need thousands more. And in the years to come, we’re going to have to make very expensive investments and adjust. And the people are going to have to be careful of how they live, how they build their homes and what kind of vegetation is allowed to grow around them.”


Judge Orders Halt to Force-Feeding of Guantánamo Prisoner

May 19, 2014

A federal judge has ordered the military to stop force-feeding a hunger-striking prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab is among the dozens of prisoners who have refused to eat in protest of indefinite imprisonment and harsh conditions at Guantánamo. On Friday, District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ordered a halt to the force-feeding and told the military to preserve video footage of the practice until a hearing this week. It is the first time a court has blocked a force-feeding since the Guantánamo hunger strike began more than a year ago.

AT&T Buys DirecTV for $48.5 Billion

May 19, 2014

The telecom giant AT&T has agreed to buy satellite television operator DirecTV in a $48.5 billion deal. It is the second major media takeover this year following the merger of Comcast and Time Warner, which remains up for federal approval. In a statement, the media reform group Free Press said the AT&T-DirectTV deal would hurt consumers and stifle competition, calling it a result “of more than a decade of shortsighted FCC policies that have encouraged consolidation over competition.”

GM Fined $35 Million for Hiding Safety Defect

May 19, 2014

The auto giant General Motors has been hit with a $35 million fine over its concealment of a safety defect linked to hundreds of deaths. GM began recalling millions of vehicles this year, despite knowing of a faulty ignition switch in its vehicles at least a decade earlier. The Transportation Department fined GM on Friday as part of its probe into the defect, one of several investigations underway by government agencies and Congress. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said GM’s silence caused deaths.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx: “We know no one is perfect, but what we cannot tolerate, what we will never accept, is a person or a company that knows danger exists and says nothing. Literally, silence can kill. What we now know is that GM knew about this issue years before this past February. Since at least November of 2009, GM has had information linking ignition switch problems with airbags failing to deploy. They had that information, and they told no one.”

GM recalled another 2.7 million vehicles last week, bringing the total this year to 12.8 million.

Arkansas Supreme Court Halts Same-Sex Marriages After Appeal

May 19, 2014

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted same-sex marriages one week after a state judge struck down a ban on marriage equality. Hundreds of couples obtained licenses in the days after the initial ruling. But Arkansas justices put those unions on hold Friday pending the outcome of a state appeal. The case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which set off a wave of state marriage equality rulings after overturning to the Defense of Marriage Act last year. Idaho also saw its marriage equality ban struck down last week, but same-sex marriages have also been put on hold as a court weighs a state request to appeal.

Missouri Death Row Prisoner Seeks Filming of Execution

May 19, 2014

A Missouri death row prisoner is seeking to have his execution captured on videotape for potential evidence of cruel and unusual punishment. Russell Bucklew is set to die this week for a 1996 murder. Bucklew’s attorneys want the execution filmed in case he survives and wants to pursue legal action, or if he dies and his state wants to file a claim. They argue his chances of suffering a painful death are heightened by a rare medical condition that has left him with vascular tumors partially blocking his airway. A doctor who examined Bucklew says he will be “at great risk of choking and suffocating.” A botched execution in Oklahoma last month left the prisoner writhing in pain on the gurney before dying 45 minutes later of a heart attack. Steven Hawkins of Amnesty International said videotaping would help lift the veil of secrecy surrounding executions.

Steven Hawkins: “At this point, there have been journalistic accounts of people writhing, accounts of people saying they can’t breathe, and just when it gets bad, the state closes the curtain. We want to stop that curtain from being closed so that the public can see firsthand just how barbaric, how torturous executions are, even under these so-called humane lethal injection procedures.”

A lawsuit filed by several media outlets last week called on Missouri to disclose the “type, quality and source” of lethal injection drugs.

Black Labor Organizer, Educator General Baker Dies

May 19, 2014

The labor organizer and educator General Baker has died. A founder of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Baker helped organize wildcat strikes at Detroit auto plants in the 1960s. He was also one of the first public draft resisters during the Vietnam War.

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