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HeadlinesMay 11, 2015

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Report: Obama Admin Lied About Tracking, Killing of Osama bin Laden

May 11, 2015

A new report says the Obama administration gave a false account of the hunting and killing of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was shot dead four years ago this month in a U.S. raid on his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The White House claimed at the time the U.S. operatives entered from Afghanistan without Pakistan’s knowledge. But investigative reporter Seymour Hersh says top Pakistani military leaders knew about the operation and provided key assistance. The U.S. also claimed it helped locate bin Laden by tracking his personal messenger. But Hersh reports a former Pakistani intelligence officer identified his whereabouts in return for the bulk of a $25 million U.S. bounty. Pakistani intelligence was reportedly aware of bin Laden’s location and held him “prisoner” at the Abbottabad compound since 2006. Hersh’s article also questions the U.S. account of bin Laden’s shooting, saying there was never a firefight inside the compound and that bin Laden himself wasn’t armed. A retired American official says U.S. claims of finding a trove of information from bin Laden’s computers and documents was a “hoax” to give the false impression he was still operationally important. Questions are also raised about whether bin Laden was actually buried at sea, as the U.S. claimed.

Saudi Arabia Intensifies Bombing Before Yemen Truce Begins

May 11, 2015

A five-day ceasefire is set begin in Yemen on Tuesday after Houthi rebels accepted a proposal from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government offered the truce last week amid mounting criticism that its military campaign and blockade of Yemen has caused massive civilian suffering. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the pause could be renewed if it lasts.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir: “We announced that we were looking at a five-day ceasefire in Yemen for humanitarian purposes in order to allow the flow of humanitarian assistance to Yemen. We have made a decision that the ceasefire will begin this Tuesday, May 12, at 11 p.m., and will last for five days and will be subject to renewal if it works out.”

The Houthis say they hope the pause will lead to political talks under the guidance of the United Nations. The Saudi-led coalition has escalated airstrikes before the truce takes effect, bombing the compound of the Houthi-allied former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the capital Sana’a. The attack came just after the Saudi government declared the province of Saada a military zone and ordered all its residents to flee. In a statement, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator warned the threat to Saada could be “a contravention of international humanitarian law” that has “put countless civilians at risk.”

Saudi’s King Salman to Skip Gulf Leaders’ Meeting with Obama

May 11, 2015

Saudi Arabia meanwhile has announced its new leader, King Salman, will skip a key meeting of Gulf nations hosted by President Obama this week. Obama had called the summit in a bid to address the concerns of Middle East allies over the proposed Iran nuclear deal. The White House had said King Salman would be attending. But in what is being described as a message of protest over the Iran talks, Saudi Arabia said Sunday it will send lower-level officials.

Justice Dept. Opens Probe of Baltimore Police; Indicted Cops Ask Prosecutor to Step Down from Case

May 11, 2015

The Justice Department has launched a probe of the Baltimore Police Department for a potential pattern of unconstitutional policing in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the investigation.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch: “Today, the Department of Justice is opening an investigation into whether the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law. This investigation will begin immediately and will focus on allegations that Baltimore Police Department officers use excessive force, including deadly force; conduct unlawful searches, seizures and arrests; and engage in discriminatory policing.”

The Justice Department probe comes as attorneys for the six officers indicted over Freddie Gray’s death are challenging the role of Baltimore’s top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby. On Friday, defense lawyers filed a motion demanding Mosby recuse herself because of alleged conflicts of interest and “egregious” violations. Mosby has rejected those calls and vowed to remain on the case.

U.S. Tells U.N. Panel It Must “Do Better” on Civil Rights in Wake of Police Killings

May 11, 2015

The U.S. has acknowledged to a United Nations panel it must do more to tackle police brutality and racism in the wake of a string of police killings of unarmed African Americans. Speaking to the United Nations Human Rights Council today in Geneva, James Cadogan, an official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said the deaths of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and several others have “challenged us to do better and to work harder for progress.” He added, “We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil rights laws live up to their promise.”

Obama Defends TPP from Progressive Critics Ahead of Key Senate Vote

May 11, 2015

The Senate is poised to hold a key procedural vote on a measure that would give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The 12-nation pact would encompass 40 percent of the global economy and is being negotiated in secret. Critics say the deal would hurt workers, undermine regulations and expand corporate power. Speaking to Yahoo News, President Obama rejected Democratic criticism of the TPP, including a warning from Senator Elizabeth Warren that it could roll back financial regulations.

President Obama: “Think about the logic of that, right? The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2007 and 2008, and then I sign a provision that would unravel it? I’d have to be pretty stupid. And it doesn’t make any sense. … Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else, and, you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

In her criticism, Warren singled out the proposed investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. The process would allow foreign corporations to challenge countries’ key regulations before an international tribunal. If Obama is granted fast-track authority, Congress would be able to accept or reject the TPP but not make any changes.

Ebola Outbreak Declared No More in Liberia After Weeks Without New Case

May 11, 2015

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia has officially been declared over. The World Health Organization says Liberia has gone 42 days without a new Ebola case, the threshold for deeming the outbreak at an end. More than 4,700 people were killed in Liberia, the most of any country. Some 300 to 400 new cases were being reported each week during the outbreak’s peak last year. The two other worst hit countries, Guinea and Sierra Leone, continue to report new cases, but at their lowest levels this year so far.

Rival Militias Strike Peace Deal in Central African Republic

May 11, 2015

Rival militias in the Central African Republic have reached a peace deal with the government after two years of fighting. The country has faced a crisis since March 2013 when Muslim Séléka rebels seized power, sparking a backlash from Christian armed groups. Thousands have died, and nearly a million have been displaced. The peace accord calls on the 10 main militias to disarm, integrate into the army and potentially face charges of war crimes.

Report: Obama to Delay Keystone XL Pipeline

May 11, 2015

President Obama was greeted with protests against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Friday during a visit to South Dakota. A member of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance said activists were heeding Obama’s call on Americans to engage in politics.

Aldo Seoane: “I think it’s us enforcing our rights, our freedom of speech, and to be able to address the president. He actually made a statement encouraging people to seek change and to address it head on.”

Obama has delayed a final decision on the Keystone XL multiple times during his presidency. There are now reports he will wait until after Canada’s federal election in October so as not to be seen as interfering in Canadian politics. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has urged Obama to approve the pipeline.

Snowden Docs Show U.S. Deemed Top Al Jazeera Reporter a Member of Al-Qaeda

May 11, 2015

Leaked documents from Edward Snowden show the U.S. government labeled an Al Jazeera journalist a member of al-Qaeda. According to The Intercept, Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan was put on a watchlist of suspected terrorists in 2012. Zaidan has spent years reporting on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and has interviewed several top figures, including Osama bin Laden. In a statement, Zaidan dismissed the U.S. claims, saying: “To assert that myself, or any journalist, has any affiliation with any group on account of their contact book, phone call logs, or sources is an absurd distortion of the truth and a complete violation of the profession of journalism.”

4 Arrested in Fatal Shooting of Mississippi Officers

May 11, 2015

Four people have been arrested in Mississippi for the murder of two police officers. The victims were shot dead during a traffic stop on Saturday. Two of the suspects are charged with capital murder.

Storms Cause Death, Damage in Midwest, South

May 11, 2015

Extreme weather has brought tornadoes and severe thunderstorms to several U.S. states. At least two people have been killed in a storm in Arkansas, while more than two dozen have been wounded in the Texas town of Van. Tornadoes also hit parts of South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma over the weekend.

Bill Clinton Admits 1994 Crime Bill Helped Fuel Mass Incarceration

May 11, 2015

Former President Bill Clinton has acknowledged policies under his watch have led to over-incarceration. Speaking to CNN, Clinton admitted faults with his 1994 crime bill, which imposed harsher sentences for drug offenses and expanded the number of prisons and police.

Bill Clinton: “The problem is, the way it was written and implemented, we cast too wide a net. We have too many people in prison. And we wound up putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives. I strongly support what [Hillary Clinton] is doing, and I think any policy that was adopted when I was president in federal law that contributed to it should be changed.”

Bill Clinton’s comments come after Hillary Clinton criticized mass incarceration and called for drug sentencing reform in a speech last month, her first major address since announcing her presidential campaign.

Cuomo Orders Emergency Protection of NY Salon Workers After Exposé on Exploitation, Health Risks

May 11, 2015

And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered emergency measures to protect workers in the state’s nail salons, following a New York Times exposé on the widespread exploitation of manicurists, many of whom have developed illnesses linked to chemicals in nail products. The Times investigation found manicurists in New York routinely work without wages or are forced to pay fees in order to work, toiling for shifts of 10 to 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, for far below the minimum wage. They suffer from miscarriages, cancer, and respiratory and skin ailments. In response to the report, Governor Cuomo announced a new task force to investigate nail salons, institute new rules to protect workers from chemicals and educate workers about their rights.

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