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HeadlinesDecember 22, 2015

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Number of Refugees Entering Europe Tops 1 Million

Dec 22, 2015

The number of refugees who have entered Europe this year has topped 1 million. The International Organization for Migration said the tally marks a fourfold increase over last year. It’s the greatest exodus of people since World War II. The vast majority have arrived by sea. Nearly 3,700 people have drowned or remain missing after attempted sea crossings. Most of the refugees are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, countries ravaged by war. Click here to see our report on refugees of U.S. wars who are living in France’s largest refugee camp.

U.N. Commissioner: Those Who Reject Syrian Refugees Are “Best Allies” of Extremists

Dec 22, 2015

Speaking before the U.N. Security Council Monday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said people who reject Syrian refugees are the “best allies” of extremists like the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

António Guterres: “Those that reject Syrian refugees, and especially if they are Muslim, are the best allies of the propaganda and the recruitment of extremist groups. We must not forget that—despite the rhetoric we are hearing these days—refugees are the first victims of such terror, not its source. They cannot be blamed for a threat which they’re risking their lives to escape.”

Afghanistan: 6 U.S. Soldiers Killed by Suicide Bomber

Dec 22, 2015

In news from Afghanistan, six U.S. soldiers have been killed by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle in Bagram. Two other soldiers and a U.S. contractor were wounded. Afghan police may also have been injured. The Taliban has claimed responsibility. It was the deadliest attack on Americans in Afghanistan since August. It comes amid fierce fighting in southern Helmand province, where the Taliban has overrun a key district.

Human Rights Watch Calls for Criminal Probe of U.S. Hospital Strike in Afghanistan

Dec 22, 2015

Meanwhile, in other news on Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch has called for the U.S. military bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz to be investigated as a possible criminal act. In a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Human Rights Watch says, “If the current investigation does not include a criminal inquiry, we call on you to order a criminal investigation.” The attack killed 42 people. Doctors Without Borders has called for an independent probe.

HRW: U.S.-Backed Strikes in Yemen Appear to Violate International Law

Dec 22, 2015

Human Rights Watch has also accused the United States of flouting the laws of war by failing to investigate unlawful strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Human Rights Watch says the U.S.-backed coalition carried out at least six apparently unlawful airstrikes in residential areas of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in September and October, killing 60 civilians. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said, “How many civilians will die in unlawful airstrikes in Yemen before the coalition and its U.S. ally investigate what went wrong and who is responsible? Their disregard for the safety of civilians is appalling.” Despite a ceasefire, scores of people have been killed in Yemen over the past week. To see our interview with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Yemen, you can go to

Iraqi Forces Launch Bid to Seize ISIS-Held Center of Ramadi

Dec 22, 2015

Iraqi forces have reportedly stormed the center of the key city of Ramadi, which fell to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in May. The attempt to retake Ramadi began in November. Iraqi officials have vowed to clear ISIS from the city within 72 hours.

Lindsey Graham Suspends Campaign After Push to Intensify War

Dec 22, 2015

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has suspended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In a video message, Graham said his campaign has successfully increased support for ramping up the war against ISIS.

Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Four months ago, at the very first debate, I said that any candidate who did not understand that we need more American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIL was not ready to be commander-in-chief. At that time, no one stepped forward to join me. Today, most of my fellow candidates have come to recognize this is what’s needed to secure our homeland.”

Grand Jury Fails to Indict Anyone for Death of Sandra Bland in Texas Jail Cell

Dec 22, 2015

In Texas, a grand jury has failed to indict anyone in the death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman found dead in her Waller County jail cell in July. Bland was arrested July 10 by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, who accused her of failing to signal a lane change. Dash cam video of her arrest shows Encinia forcibly removing Bland from her car and threatening to “light [her] up” after she refused to put out her cigarette. She can later be heard accusing police of slamming her head into the ground and saying she has epilepsy, to which Trooper Encinia replies, “Good.” Bland had recently moved to Texas to start a job at Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater. But she was found hanging from a trash bag in her cell three days after her arrest. Her family and supporters have disputed authorities’ claim her death was a suicide. Speaking Monday, special prosecutor Darrell Jordan said the grand jury will reconvene next month.

Darrell Jordan: “It has been a very, very long day, for us, as well as the grand jury. After presenting all the evidence as it relates to the death of Sandra Bland, the grand jury did not return an indictment. The grand jury also considered things that occurred at the jail, and did not return an indictment. There are other issues that the grand jury is still considering, and they will take up those issues when we return next month.”

Sandra Bland’s family says they have been shut out of the grand jury process and only learned of Monday’s decision from news reports.

Sanders: “Sandra Bland Would Be Alive Today If She Were a White Woman”

Dec 22, 2015

In a statement, Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that [Sandra Bland], like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today if she were a white woman. We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system.”

Retrial of Baltimore Officer for Freddie Gray’s Death Set for June

Dec 22, 2015

In Maryland, a judge has scheduled the retrial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter in the death of Freddie Gray for June 13. Porter was the first of six officers to be tried over Gray’s death. A family attorney says Gray’s spine was “80 percent severed at his neck” from fatal injuries sustained in police custody in April. Officer Porter’s case ended in a mistrial last week after a jury deadlocked on charges including involuntary manslaughter. Porter’s new trial date is after those of the other five officers, meaning he will likely decline to testify at those trials, presenting a hurdle for prosecutors who had hoped to call him as a key witness.

Nevada: Woman Who Drove into Crowd was Stressed, Living in Car

Dec 22, 2015

In Nevada, a 24-year-old woman is facing murder charges after police say she intentionally ran her car onto a sidewalk on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, killing one person and injuring dozens more. Lakeisha Holloway told authorities she was under extreme stress because she had been chased by security guards out of parking lots where she was trying to sleep in her car. She had been living in her car with her three-year-old daughter for about a week.

Mall of America Sues Black Lives Matter Activists to Stop Protest

Dec 22, 2015

Meanwhile, the Mall of America has sued eight activists with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis in an attempt to block a protest scheduled for tomorrow over the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark. Part of the suit requests the activists delete social media posts promoting the protest. Last year a Black Lives Matter protest at the mall drew over 2,000 people. Police have said Jamar Clark was shot after a scuffle with officers who responded to a report of an assault. But multiple witnesses have said Clark was shot while handcuffed.

Texas Teen Spared Jail in “Affluenza” Drunk-Driving Case Disappears

Dec 22, 2015

A manhunt is underway for an 18-year-old white Texas teenager convicted of killing four people in a drunk-driving crash in 2013. Ethan Couch was not sentenced to any time in jail after a trial where a psychologist claimed he had “affluenza”—meaning his wealthy background purportedly prevented him from understanding the consequences of his actions. Couch was sent to an expensive rehab facility instead. After he missed a check-in with his probation officer, officials are concerned Couch may have fled the country. They are also searching for his mother, who may have fled with him.

California: White Trump Supporter Arrested for Plotting to Bomb Muslims

Dec 22, 2015

In Richmond, California, police have arrested a white man accused of building homemade explosive devices in order to bomb local Muslims. William Celli was arrested Sunday after police said he threatened members of the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County. Celli is a vocal supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States. In October, Celli posted on social media that he would “follow [Trump] to the end of the world.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations has released a new report finding a greater frequency of vandalism and other acts targeting mosques this year than in any other year on record. Of 71 incidents reported this year, 29 occurred after the November 13 attacks in Paris.

Obama: Trump “Exploiting” Anxieties of “Blue-Collar Men”

Dec 22, 2015

Meanwhile, President Obama has accused Donald Trump of “exploiting” the anxieties of “blue-collar men.” In an interview with NPR, Obama said the combination of demographic changes, flatlining wages and other economic hurdles “means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear. Some of it justified, but just misdirected. I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that.”

Bill Cosby Sues Women Who Accused Him of Sexual Assault

Dec 22, 2015

Comedian Bill Cosby has filed a lawsuit against model Beverly Johnson, accusing her of falsifying her claim Cosby drugged and tried to rape her in the 1980s. Last week, Cosby sued seven of his other accusers for defamation. Cosby is accused of drugging and raping scores of women over multiple decades. More than 50 women have come forward with allegations against him.

R. Kelly Storms Out of Live Interview After Questions About Sexual Abuse Reports

Dec 22, 2015

Meanwhile, another high-profile figure accused of sexual abuse—musician R. Kelly—walked out of a live interview Monday after a host asked him about repeated accusations that he sexually abused minors. HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani questioned him about the claims.

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani: “What do you say to the multiple fans, the many fans who are watching and listening, that say there have been multiple accusations against you, against young women in Chicago, and they are concerned about your past, and that’s impacting them from purchasing your music sales?”

R. Kelly: [talking over Modarressy-Tehrani] “I say I love my fans. I say I love my fans. I say I love all of my fans. People that are against me, people that are with me, I love them all. I love them all. It doesn’t matter who they are. If they hate me, they love me, they want to destroy me, whatever, I love them all. And I love you, too.”

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani: “You don’t need to give me any of your love, sir.”

R. Kelly: “I love everybody.”

U.S. Softens Ban on Blood Donation by Gay Men; Critics Say “Ridiculous” Double Standard Remains

Dec 22, 2015

The Obama administration has lifted its blanket ban on blood donations by gay men—saying they can now donate blood but only if they haven’t had sex with another man in the past 12 months. The Food and Drug Administration said it made the decision in response to the latest science on HIV transmission. But critics say the policy is still biased. Colorado Congressmember Jared Polis, who co-chairs a caucus of openly gay congressmembers, told Reuters, “It is ridiculous and counter to the public health that a married gay man in a monogamous relationship can’t give blood, but a promiscuous straight man who has had hundreds of opposite-sex partners in the last year can.”

Ohio Bill Would Force Women to Specify Burial or Cremation for Fetal Tissue

Dec 22, 2015

And in Ohio, Republican lawmakers have announced plans to introduce legislation requiring women who have miscarriages or abortions to specify burial or cremation arrangements for their fetal or embryonic tissue. Indiana and Arkansas have recently passed similar requirements. The move comes after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine spent months investigating Planned Parenthood following heavily edited, anti-choice videos surrounding Planned Parenthood’s donation of fetal tissue to medical researchers. As in multiple other investigations, Ohio turned up nothing.

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