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HeadlinesDecember 23, 2015

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Yemen: U.S.-Backed Campaign Behind “Disproportionate Amount” of Strikes on Civilians

Dec 23, 2015

The U.S-backed, Saudi-led coalition faces increasing condemnation for airstrikes the United Nations says are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Yemen’s ongoing conflict. Nearly 6,000 people have died and at least 70 health clinics have been bombed since the Saudi-led bombing began in March. Speaking at the U.N. Security Council, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said a disproportionate amount of attacks on civilians are carried out by the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein: “I have observed, with extreme concern, the continuation of heavy shelling from the ground and the air in areas with a high concentration of civilians, as well as the perpetuation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure, in particular hospitals and schools, by all parties to the conflict, although a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by coalition forces.”

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the Security Council the Obama administration has urged the Saudis to abide by international law. But the U.S. continues to back the airstrikes with intelligence and weapons, including a billion-dollar deal to restock Saudi Arabia’s air force arsenal, which was depleted by its bombing campaign in Yemen. The sale included thousands of air-to-ground munitions and “general purpose” bombs. The United States has also reportedly sold internationally banned cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia now being used in Yemen. This comes as a new report by the United Nations and the International Office of Migration says more than 2.5 million people are internally displaced inside Yemen.

Drone Strikes Kill 4 in Yemen

Dec 23, 2015

Meanwhile, also in Yemen, tribal sources say a U.S. drone strike killed four people in the central Nata district Tuesday. This comes as Somali government officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike hit al-Shabab training camps in the Lower Shabelle region overnight Tuesday. The number of casualties has not been reported.

Afghanistan: British Soldiers Deployed to Helmand Province

Dec 23, 2015

In Afghanistan, British soldiers have been deployed to Helmand province amid fighting between Afghan government soldiers and Taliban forces in the city of Sangin. The British troops join U.S. special operations soldiers, who were sent to Helmand weeks ago.

Afghanistan: One of First Openly Gay Female Soldiers Killed in Suicide Bombing

Dec 23, 2015

Meanwhile, new details about Monday’s deadly suicide bombing near the Bagram Air Base show that one of the six U.S. soldiers killed was Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, one of the first openly gay female servicemembers. She had spent years working to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and died one day before the fifth anniversary of its repeal.

U.S. Authorities Bar British Muslim Family from Visiting Disneyland

Dec 23, 2015

In Britain, U.S. authorities have sparked outrage by barring a British Muslim family headed to Disneyland for vacation from boarding their flight to Los Angeles. The family of 11 had already been granted travel authorization. Family members say they were given no explanation for why they were turned away from the plane at London’s Gatwick Airport. The airline says they will not be refunded the more than $13,000 cost of their flights. Another British Muslim traveler, imam and lecturer, Ajmal Mansoor, was also turned away from his U.S.-bound flight two days later.

After 28 Years in Prison, Man Convicted Based on Dream Testimony Walks Free

Dec 23, 2015

In Denver, Clarence Moses-EL has been released from prison after serving 28 years for a crime he has always maintained he did not commit. In 1989, Clarence Moses-EL, who is African-American, was sentenced to 48 years in prison after a woman said she dreamed he was the man who raped and beat her in the dark. The victim was raped and badly beaten in her apartment. Initially, the victim named three men she had been drinking with that night as her possible attackers—none of them was Clarence Moses-EL. But police never investigated any of those men, because, a day and a half later, the victim said she had a dream that Moses-EL was the one who raped her. The police threw out a rape kit and any possible evidence, like bed sheets and her clothes. This summer, one of the three men she originally named confessed. On Tuesday afternoon, Moses-EL was released to a crowd that included his wife, son and several of his 12 grandchildren, whom he had never met as he did not want them to see him in prison. Moses-EL’s retrial is set for June 2016. To see our interview with Moses-EL’s lawyer and the editor of The Colorado Independent, go to

Sandra Bland’s Family Calls for Criminal Charges Against Trooper Encinia

Dec 23, 2015

In Chicago, the family of Sandra Bland has called for criminal charges against Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, who violently arrested the 28-year-old African-American woman after accusing her of failing to signal a lane change on July 10. Bland was found dead in a Waller County jail cell three days later. Her family and supporters have disputed authorities’ claim her death was a suicide. Dash cam footage from the arrest shows Encinia forcibly removing Bland from her car and threatening to “light [her] up.” The family’s call for criminal charges comes one day after a grand jury said it would not issue any indictments in connection with Bland’s death inside the jail cell. Although the prison officers won’t face charges, Officer Encinia could still be indicted when the grand jury reconvenes next month. We’ll have more on the case with Sandra Bland’s family and their lawyer after headlines.

NYPD Officer Who Shot Unarmed Ramarley Graham Received $25K in Raises

Dec 23, 2015

Meanwhile, in New York, public records show the police officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Ramarley Graham has received nearly $25,000 in raises since firing the fatal shot almost four years ago. Graham, an 18-year-old African American, was unarmed when Officer Richard Haste shot him dead inside the bathroom of his grandmother’s home. Haste was initially charged with manslaughter, but a judge later threw out the indictment on procedural grounds. A second grand jury elected not to indict. Officer Haste has been on desk duty since killing Graham. A federal investigation into possible civil rights violations in the case is ongoing.

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl Arraigned on Charges of Desertion

Dec 23, 2015

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years in Taliban captivity, has been arraigned on charges related to his disappearance from a U.S. base in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl was released by the Taliban last year in exchange for five Guantánamo prisoners. He has said he walked off his post in an attempt to reach another U.S. base and report wrongdoing in his unit. The Army officer who investigated his case testified against any prison time and recommended Bergdahl go before a special court-martial, where his maximum possible punishment would be a year behind bars. But he has instead been ordered to a general court-martial where he faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

Colombia Legalizes Medical Marijuana

Dec 23, 2015

In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has signed a measure legalizing and regulating medical marijuana in the latest move by a Latin American country to reverse course on the U.S.-backed war on drugs. Uruguay legalized marijuana in 2013, and medical marijuana legalization bills are being considered in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Ecuador Opens Chinese-Owned Copper Mine Despite Resistance

Dec 23, 2015

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, operations have begun at the billion-dollar Chinese-owned Mirador open-pit copper mine. It’s the first large-scale copper mine in Ecuador. The mine has faced massive resistance by the indigenous Shuar people, who say they were not consulted and have been forced off their lands by its construction. In November 2014, leading anti-mining activist José Isidro Tendetza Antún was found dead only days before he was due to speak out against the Mirador mine at the U.N. climate summit in Lima, Peru. He was found buried with his arms and legs bound and with signs of torture. Activists have accused the Ecuadorean authorities of complicity in his murder. Speaking a year before his death at the assembly of the communities of the south of Ecuador in December 2013, Tendetza urged the community to stay united against threats to their ancestral territory.

José Isidro Tendetza Antún “Compañeros, here united, we have to continue forward. Compañeros, if we are not united, we don’t have value. Compañeros, now is the time. Now is the time to say 'enough!' to this corruption that comes to us and the threats to our territory in the Ecuadorean Amazon.”

Israeli Embassy to Source All Holiday Gifts from Settlements in Occupied Territories

Dec 23, 2015

The Israeli ambassador to the United States has announced that all holiday gifts from the embassy this year will be deliberately sourced from settlements in the Occupied Territories in an effort to counter the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. In a major victory for the BDS campaign, the European Union recently announced that some goods produced in Israeli-occupied land must be labeled “made in settlements.”

Editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal Resigns After Sheldon Adelson Takeover

Dec 23, 2015

The top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has resigned less than two weeks after billionaire and major Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson secretly bought the newspaper for $140 million. Editor Michael Hengel resigned days after the Review-Journal published an article indirectly critical of its new owners. Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke reacted to the resignation, tweeting: “I’ve never used the word noble before but then I’ve never worked for someone as noble and ethical as Mike Hengel.”

Hillary Clinton Sources Say Bernie Sanders May Top 4th Quarter Fundraising

Dec 23, 2015

In news from the campaign trail, fundraising sources for Hillary Clinton say they believe that Bernie Sanders has raised more money during the fourth quarter of this year than Clinton’s campaign. This comes only days after Sanders’ campaign announced it has received 2 million individual campaign contributions, putting it on pace to break President Obama’s record.

Donald Trump Sparks Outrage over Comments About Clinton, Journalists

Dec 23, 2015

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has continued to spark outrage and concern over his rhetoric. Speaking at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump repeatedly said he hates journalists, but that he wouldn’t kill them. This clip begins with Trump referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump: “And then they said, you know, he’s killed reporters. And I don’t like that. I’m totally against that. By the way, I hate some of these people, but I’d never kill them. I hate them. No, I think—no, these people, honestly—I’ll be honest, I’ll be honest—I would never kill them. I would never do that. Ah, let’s, well, no, I wouldn’t. I would never kill them. But I do hate them.”

At the same campaign rally, Donald Trump sparked criticism with continued sexist comments against rival candidate Hillary Clinton. First he began talking about Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate, saying: “What happened to her? … I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.” Then he began talking about Hillary Clinton’s loss to President Obama during the 2008 presidential race, saying: “She was favored to win—and she got schlonged. She lost.” “Schlong” is the Yiddish word for penis. In response, Jennifer Palmieri, the communications manager for Clinton’s campaign, tweeted: “We are not responding to Trump but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should.”

Clinton Faces Pushback After Campaign Says She is “Just Like Your Abuela”

Dec 23, 2015

And candidate Hillary Clinton sparked criticism of her own Tuesday after her campaign website posted a list of “7 ways Hillary Clinton is just like your abuela.” Thousands of Latinos quickly took to Twitter to list the ways that Hillary Clinton was not just like their grandmother. Both the hashtags “#NotMiAbuela” and “#NotMyAbuela” quickly went viral, as people denounced what they saw as “Hispandering” by the Clinton campaign. Many drew attention to the funding Clinton’s campaign received from private prison corporations with government contracts to run for-profit detention centers for undocumented immigrants. Others drew attention to Clinton’s statements on CNN last year calling for the United States to send back children fleeing violence in Central America who have reached the U.S. border.

CNN reporter: “Should they be able to stay here? It’s safer.”

Hillary Clinton: “Well, it may be safer, but that’s not the answer. I do not”—

CNN reporter: “So should they be sent back?”

Hillary Clinton: “Well, first of all, we have to provide the best emergency care we can provide. We have children five and six years old who have come up from Central America. We need to do more to provide border security in southern Mexico.”

CNN reporter: “So you’re saying they should be sent back now?”

Hillary Clinton: “Well, they should be sent back as soon as it can be determined who responsible adults in their families are.”

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