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HeadlinesMay 23, 2014

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Records Show Close Monitoring of Occupy Protests by Fusion Centers

May 23, 2014

A new report reveals how closely state and local law enforcement officials at so-called fusion centers across the country were monitoring the day-to-day activities of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A trove of emails and reports obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and provided to the New York Times reveal a massive, coordinated effort by federal and local officials along with security contractors, corporate interests and military staff to share minute details about peaceful Occupy protests and speaking events. Fusion centers have received hundreds of millions in federal funds since their creation after 9/11, but a Senate subcommittee report found they have failed to yield any significant information for fighting terrorism.

Thailand: Army Summons Political Figures After Coup

May 23, 2014

The Thai army has summoned more than 100 political figures, including ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, after taking power in a coup. On Thursday, the military suspended the constitution, banned gatherings of more than five people, closed schools and imposed a curfew, saying it had to restore order following months of anti-government protests. The Obama administration says it is “reviewing” its military aid to Thailand, a top regional ally.

Ukraine: Fighting Kills 13 Soldiers Ahead of Election

May 23, 2014

In eastern Ukraine, fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels has killed at least 13 soldiers just days before Sunday’s national elections. Pro-Russian forces have been seeking to stop the vote in Ukraine, which they view as illegal.

Syria, Russia Veto Resolution to Send Syrian Conflict to ICC

May 23, 2014

China and Russia have blocked a resolution to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court. Top U.N. officials have collected a list of figures to target for indictment on war crimes charges, mostly from the Syrian government. U.S. Ambassador the U.N. Samantha Power deplored Russia’s opposition.

Samantha Power: “My government applauds the vast majority of members of this council who voted to support and the some 64 countries who joined us in co-sponsoring this effort to refer these atrocities to the International Criminal Court. Sadly, because of the decision by the Russian Federation to back the Syrian regime, no matter what it does, the Syrian people will not see justice today. They will see crime, but not punishment.”

The United States agreed to back the resolution after ensuring Israel would not face prosecution related to its occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights, which it seized in 1967.

U.S. House Passes Diluted Version of Surveillance Bill

May 23, 2014

On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers have passed a diluted version of a bill to curb dragnet surveillance by the National Security Agency by keeping telephone metadata in the hands of phone companies. But critics, including The New York Times editorial board, say the bill has been so weakened under pressure from the Obama administration that it could allow much of the bulk surveillance to continue. In fact, an analysis by The Washington Post found half of the 152 lawmakers who co-sponsored the original bill have turned against the latest version. Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin acknowledged some weaknesses.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner: “Let me be clear: I wish this bill did more. To my colleagues who will lament the changes, I agree with you. The privacy groups who are upset about lost provisions, I share your disappointment. The negotiations for this bill were intense. We had to make compromises. But this bill still does deserve support. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”

Senate Confirms Drone Memo Co-Author to Appeals Court

May 23, 2014

The Senate has confirmed a judicial nominee who co-authored memos providing the legal justification for killing U.S. citizens abroad. David Barron, a former Justice Department official, will serve on the First Circuit Court of Appeals despite opposition over his role in the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. The vote in his favor was cast along party lines.

IRS Delays Rules on Political Activity by Tax-Exempt Groups

May 23, 2014

The Internal Revenue Service is delaying the release of new rules aimed at limiting political activity by tax-exempt groups. The delay means the rules will not be in place before the next election. The agency said it is revising the rules after receiving a record number of comments. Last year the IRS faced a scandal over accusations it gave extra scrutiny to right-wing groups.

FBI to Begin Recording Interviews with Suspects

May 23, 2014

The FBI and a number of other federal agencies will soon begin recording interviews with suspects in custody under a new directive from the Justice Department. FBI agents have previously been banned from making such recordings without approval. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the shift on Thursday.

Eric Holder: “Creating an electronic record will ensure that we have an objective account of key investigations and interactions with people who are held in federal custody. It will allow us to document that detained individuals are afforded their constitutionally protected rights.”

Tennessee Governor Signs Measure Allowing the Electric Chair

May 23, 2014

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a measure allowing the state to execute prisoners using the electric chair, if lethal injection drugs become unavailable. The move comes as Wyoming lawmakers consider allowing execution by firing squad. States are seeing a shortage in death penalty drugs after European makers have barred their use in executions. Lawsuits challenging the replacement drugs used under states’ secrecy laws have successfully delayed several executions.

3 of 5 Abortion Clinics in Louisiana Threatened by New Bill

May 23, 2014

Three out of five abortion clinics in Louisiana could close under a new anti-choice bill similar to measures in Texas and other states. The bill requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a step that is often impossible, in part because providers send so few patients to hospitals. The bill passed the state Legislature Wednesday, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he looks forward to signing it.

Man Charged with Holding Girl Captive for 10 Years

May 23, 2014

In California, a man has been charged with kidnapping a 15-year-old girl and holding her captive for 10 years. Authorities say Isidro Garcia drugged the victim, who is a Mexican immigrant, then abducted her, told her her family would be deported if she tried to return, forced her to marry him, sexually assaulted her multiple times and fathered her child. The victim reportedly reconnected with her sister and mother before going to the police. A spokesperson for the Orange County prosecutor said the victim felt trapped.

Farrah Emami: “We need to keep in mind that this is a victim who has been held against her will for 10 years. She’s been convinced that she was alone and this was her only ally. And, you know, she has been in a very, very difficult situation, and the fact that she found the courage to come forward is wonderful.”

Student Files Federal Complaint Against Brown University over Handling of Sexual Assault

May 23, 2014

A Brown University student has filed a federal complaint against the school over its handling of sexual assault. Lena Sclove says she was raped and strangled last year by a fellow student. A university panel found the student responsible, but he was only suspended for a year and was allowed to remain on campus for half that time. Sclove has filed charges accusing Brown of violating Title IX and the Clery Act. Her complaint will likely add Brown to the list of at least 55 colleges and universities under federal investigation for their handling of sexual violence. It comes as Brown celebrates commencement and its 250th anniversary this weekend. Click here to watch the Democracy Now! interview with Lena Sclove.

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