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HeadlinesMay 21, 2014

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Suspected Boko Haram Bombing Kills 118 in Nigeria

May 21, 2014

At least 118 people have been killed and 45 wounded in a twin bombing in the Nigerian city of Jos. Suspicion has focused on the Boko Haram, the militant group behind hundreds of attacks including last month’s kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls. The bombing comes days after western African nations declared war on the Boko Haram at a summit in Paris. An adviser to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan outlined plans for a multinational force to root out Boko Haram militants.

Reuben Abati: “The heads of state have agreed that each country will contribute one battalion of troops to the international force set up to patrol the border areas, in line with the resolution of the Lake Chad Commission. France, the United States and the United Kingdom will extend technical assistance to achieve this objective, that the countries will come together to put in place an effective border management regime, and that no effort will be spared to stop the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the supply of arms and equipment made available to terrorists.”

On Tuesday, activists in the Nigerian capital of Abuja continued a protest demanding the girls’ release.

Oby Ezekwesili, Bring Back Our Girls: “Terrorism is no longer a national problem. Terrorism is a global problem, and it’s got to be taken — you know, it’s a global public bad. So, when you have a global public good, everybody shares of it; when you have a global public bad, everybody is affected by it in a nasty way. And so everybody is connected to a common humanity. So whatever threatens one of us threatens all of us. And the idea that other nations are helping us to solve this problem is one that every one of us must welcome.”

U.S. Vows to Halt Vaccination, Health Ruses in CIA Operations

May 21, 2014

The Obama administration has vowed to stop using health workers and fake vaccination programs in clandestine operations. The move comes in response to the fallout from the CIA’s fake vaccination campaign in its search for Osama bin Laden. The Taliban subsequently banned immunization efforts and launched a string of deadly attacks on medical workers, helping fuel a polio outbreak inside Pakistan. In a letter to the deans of 12 U.S. public health schools, White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said the CIA stopped the practice last August.

Obama Admin to Release Secret Memo Justifying Drone Strikes on U.S. Citizens

May 21, 2014

The Obama administration says it will release the secret government memo that authorizes the killings of Americans overseas. A federal appeals court ordered the memo’s disclosure last month following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times seeking the legal basis of U.S. drone strikes. The lawsuit came after the U.S. killed the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan in Yemen, despite having never charged any of them with a crime. The White House decided not to appeal the ruling after several senators vowed to hold up a judicial nomination of the memo’s author, David Barron. But the memo’s release will be delayed as the administration redacts extensive portions it says contain classified information.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Same-Sex Marriage Ban

May 21, 2014

A federal judge has struck down Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, the latest in a series of marriage equality victories sweeping the country. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit from same-sex couples that at the time marked the first case seeking to overturn a gay marriage ban on the state level since the U.S. Supreme Court decision rejecting the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, 13 other courts have upheld marriage equality. With Tuesday’s ruling in Pennsylvania, same-sex marriages are now legal in the entire northeastern United States.

Missouri Death Row Prisoner Wins Stay of Execution

May 21, 2014

A Missouri death row prisoner has won a stay of execution to avoid becoming the first to be executed since Oklahoma’s botched killing last month. Russell Bucklew was scheduled to die by injection for killing a Missouri man during a crime spree in 1996. Defense attorneys asked for a stay because Bucklew suffers from a medical condition that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, as well as tumors in his nose and throat. His attorneys said he could have experienced great suffering during the execution process. On Tuesday night, just over an hour before Bucklew was scheduled to die, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued an order halting the execution. Alito did not explain his reasoning, but Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster issued a statement indicating the full Supreme Court will consider the case on Wednesday. Alito’s move came after the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay on the execution granted earlier in the day by a smaller panel of the court. Bucklew could still be executed Wednesday night if the full Supreme Court rejects his appeal.

Republicans Defeat Tea Party Challenges in Primary Votes

May 21, 2014

Primaries were held in six states Tuesday to select candidates for the upcoming midterm elections. A number of Republicans staved off tea party challenges, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell will face Kentucky’s secretary of state, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. In her victory address, Grimes rejected McConnell’s attempts to link her candidacy to President Obama.

Alison Lundergan Grimes: “President Obama is not on Kentucky’s 2014 election ballot. Nothing about this election will change who is in the White House, but we can change who is an Washington, D.C., and finally put someone for the commonwealth of Kentucky. Senator McConnell, this race is between you and me. That’s the name that appears on the ballot.”

Oregon Counties Vote to Ban GMO Crops

May 21, 2014

In a closely watched ballot measure on primary day, voters in two small Oregon counties approved bans on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. The bans call for the removal of all GMO crops within 12 months. At least one of the measures is subject to a legal challenge under a new state law barring such bans. Oregon’s wheat exports were disrupted last year after a strain of Monsanto biotech wheat was discovered in a contaminated field.

VA Widens Probe of Clinics in Cover-Up of Veteran Deaths

May 21, 2014

The inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding a probe into the lethal delays of medical treatment for U.S. servicemembers at facilities nationwide. The VA has come under scrutiny after it emerged health clinics in Arizona and Colorado used elaborate schemes to hide records of patients who waited too long for care, causing dozens of deaths. Some 10 facilities were under investigation last week, but the number has now more than doubled to 26. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is meeting with President Obama today at the White House. The Obama administration has so far rejected calls for Shinseki’s firing.

General Motors Recalls Another 2.4 Million Vehicles over Ignition Defects

May 21, 2014

General Motors has recalled an additional 2.4 million cars over a safety defect linked to hundreds of deaths. GM began recalling its vehicles just this year despite knowing of a faulty ignition switch in its vehicles at least a decade earlier. It’s now recalled 13.6 million vehicles in the United States and 15.2 million worldwide. The Department of Transportation fined GM $35 million last week as part of a series of government probes into its concealment of the deadly ignition flaws.

Video Shows Israeli Killings of Unarmed Palestinian Youths

May 21, 2014

The Israeli military is being accused of unlawfully killing two unarmed Palestinian youths following the release of video footage showing the attacks. The two victims were killed during annual Palestinian rallies in the occupied West Bank marking the Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced during the period around Israel’s declaration of statehood. On the tapes, the first victim is shot as he walks down a street with his hands by his side. The second victim is shot as he walks away from a protest area with his back turned. Rifat Kassis of the group Defence for Children International called on the Israeli government to launch an investigation.

Rifat Kassis: “Watching the video and through our documentation, the final conclusion for us is that neither of the children posed any threats to be deserved to get killed. This is one thing. Second thing, we noticed also that they were several hundred meters far, the shot came from far. And what we, as DCI, we ask upon the Israeli government to open an impartial investigation and let the people and the world know about what happened exactly that day.”

NYU Apologizes for Harsh Treatment of Workers at Abu Dhabi Campus

May 21, 2014

New York University has apologized after a report detailing harsh abuses of migrant workers at its newly completed campus in Abu Dhabi. According to The New York Times, hundreds of workers were beaten up, jailed and deported after striking for higher pay last year. Workers paid recruiting fees of up to a year’s worth of wages just to get hired. Many had to work up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to earn the wages they were promised. They were forced to live in squalor, crammed into filthy and crowded apartments. Many are still awaiting the back pay they’re owed. In a statement, NYU said: “To any worker who was not treated in line with the standards we set and whose circumstances went undetected and unremedied, we offer our apologies.” The New York Times report was censored in the United Arab Emirates, with local distributors pulling all copies of the newspaper on the day the story was published. The New York Times says its local partners deemed the report “too sensitive.”

Activist Destroys $500 Million Worth of Student Debt Records in Chile

May 21, 2014

In Chile, an activist says he has destroyed student debt records worth $500 million. Francisco Tapia, known as Papas Fritas, or “French fries,” says he stole the papers from the for-profit Universidad del Mar and burned them in an “act of love” in order to free the students from loan debt. The rise of privatized education in Chile began under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, and the costs for higher education are now among the highest in the world. Meanwhile, in the United States, a new study shows student debt has increased more rapidly at schools with the highest-paid presidents. The report by the Institute for Policy Studies looked at public universities with the highest executive pay rates and found that administrative spending outstripped spending on scholarships by more than two to one.

German Nuclear Physicist Hans-Peter Dürr Dies at 84

May 21, 2014

The German nuclear physicist, Professor Hans-Peter Dürr, has died at the age of 84. Dürr received a Right Livelihood Award for his critique of the Strategic Defense Initiative — a Reagan-backed defense system against potential nuclear attacks — and for his work to convert high technology to peaceful uses. In an interview with Democracy Now!, Dürr spoke about how he convinced the famous physicist Werner Heisenberg not to help build a nuclear reactor in Germany.

Hans-Peter Dürr: “That I did not want, because I knew that the reactor is very easily to get in a military way. So I wanted to go to the philosopher Heisenberg. And when I arrived in Göttingen, he said, 'I have to tell you, I'm not allowed to take the laboratory to Munich, where I’m coming from. It’s too close to Russia. They put to in Karlsruhe, a little further west. So, I have decided I will not do anything with the reactor, but I will go to Munich, and I will only do the philosophical part.’ And exactly that, what was my dream.”

Hans-Peter Dürr, dead at the age of 84. He died in Germany. He was a student of Hannah Arendt at the University of California, Berkeley, after World War II.

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