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HeadlinesMay 06, 2015

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Houthis Claim Dozens Killed in Saudi Strikes on Northern Yemen

May 06, 2015

Houthi sources are claiming dozens of civilians have been killed or wounded in Saudi Arabia’s latest strikes on northern Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition says it carried out the attacks after Houthi rebels fired across the border, killing three people. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Saudi Arabia today to discuss a “humanitarian pause” to the more than month-long air campaign. The U.N. has warned Yemen faces the collapse of its basic civilian infrastructure because an internationally backed arms embargo has prevented the delivery of fuel and food.

Amnesty: Syrian Regime Committing “Crime Against Humanity” in Barrel Bombing of Aleppo

May 06, 2015

Amnesty International is accusing the Syrian regime of “crimes against humanity” in its barrel bomb attacks on the city of Aleppo. A new report says barrel bombs killed some 3,000 civilians last year and more than 11,000 since 2012. Amnesty’s Philip Luther unveiled the findings.

Philip Luther: “Barrel bombs are essentially oil drums with TNT and shrapnel inside. And when civilians hear the hissing sound so characteristic of barrel bomb attacks, they essentially know they’ve got two minutes, two minutes in which they can try and seek refuge. Between January 2014 and March 2015, they’ve recorded 3,000 civilian deaths, while recording at the same time only the deaths of 35 fighters. That’s a 99 percent civilian casualty rate.”

The report comes as relentless government attacks have forced one of Aleppo’s main hospitals to shut down. The group Doctors Without Borders says it’s unclear if the al-Sakhour hospital will be able to reopen due to heavy damage.

Obama Admin: Unclear If ISIL Behind Texas Attack; $20M Bounty for Top Leaders

May 06, 2015

The Obama administration says it’s too soon to determine if the self-proclaimed Islamic State was behind Sunday’s attack on an anti-Islam event in Texas. The two gunmen were shot dead; no one else was killed. On Tuesday, ISIL said the two were “soldiers” of the group, and warned that “future attacks are going to be harsher and worse.” But it remains unclear if ISIL played any role beyond inspiring the gunmen with calls for violence. At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said an investigation continues.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “This is still under investigation by the FBI and other members of the intelligence community to determine any ties or affiliations that these two individuals may have had with ISIL or other terrorist organizations around the world. So it’s too early to say at this point.”

The State Department meanwhile has announced a $20 million bounty for four top ISIL leaders.

Attorney General Lynch Meets with Gray Family, Police in Baltimore

May 06, 2015

Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in Baltimore Tuesday in her first official visit since taking up the position late last month. Lynch met with the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody sparked a wave of protest and led to the indictment of six officers. Later in the day, Lynch addressed a gathering of police.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch: “I have watched the police of this city, and I know that there are difficulties. I know that we have struggles. And we are here to help you work through those struggles in a way that will hopefully be the best and most productive way for this department. But to all of you who are on the front lines, I just want to say thank you. Really, you are representing all of law enforcement when you are out there. You are allowing peaceful protest. You’re helping people rebuild. You’re helping people clean up. You really have become the face of law enforcement.”

In addition to the criminal indictment, the Justice Department is investigating whether Gray’s arrest violated his civil rights.

ACLU: Gov’t Surveillance Planes Monitored Baltimore During Unrest

May 06, 2015

The American Civil Liberties Union is raising questions about the appearance of government surveillance planes in the skies over Baltimore amid protests over Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, a Cessna plane registered to “NG Research” flew loops around West Baltimore, where protesters burned cars and a CVS earlier in the week. Another plane with no tail number flew wider loops around the area on Saturday night. An anonymous government official told The Washington Post the flights were aerial support Baltimore police officials requested from the FBI. The planes reportedly use infrared technology to monitor people’s movements.

AZ Judge Rules Undocumented Students Eligible for In-State Tuition

May 06, 2015

An Arizona judge has ruled undocumented students granted a reprieve from deportation are eligible for in-state college tuition. Tuesday’s decision by Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson says immigrants with deferred status are considered lawfully present in the U.S. and are not barred from receiving public benefits. The ruling applies to undocumented youths known as “DREAMers,” who received status under President Obama’s DACA program.

Clinton Prepared to Go “Further” than Obama Exec Orders on Immigration

May 06, 2015

On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said she will go “even further” than President Obama has in his executive actions on immigration, if Republicans keep blocking comprehensive reform. Clinton spoke Tuesday to a crowd of high school students in Nevada.

Hillary Clinton: “I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for you and for your families across our country. I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put DREAMers, including those with us today, at risk of deportation. And if Congress continues to refuse to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further.”

Huckabee Enters GOP Presidential Field for 2016

May 06, 2015

On the Republican side, former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee has announced his bid for the presidency. In his kickoff address, Huckabee invoked an anti-abortion and anti-LGBT message.

Mike Huckabee: “But we’ve lost our way morally. We’ve witnessed the slaughter of over 55 million babies in the name of choice, and we are now threatening the foundation of religious liberty by criminalizing Christianity and demanding that we abandon biblical principles of natural marriage. Many of our politicians — many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it.”

U.S. to Resume Diplomatic Presence in Somalia After 20+ Years

May 06, 2015

The U.S. has announced it will resume a diplomatic presence in Somalia after more than 20 years. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a video statement to coincide with his surprise visit to the country on Tuesday.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “The world cannot afford to have places on the map that are essentially ungoverned. That is why Somalia’s return to effective government is an historic opportunity. In recognition of the progress made and the promise to come, I am pleased to announce that the United States will begin the process of establishing the premises for a diplomatic mission in Mogadishu.”

Kerry’s visit was confined to the perimeter of the Mogadishu airport, where he met with top officials for about three hours.

U.S. Approves 1st Ferry Service to Cuba in More than 50 Years

May 06, 2015

The Obama administration has approved a U.S.-based ferry service to Cuba, the first in more than a half-century. Four Florida companies have been granted licenses to carry passengers and cargo to Cuba after the Treasury Department lifted a ban on Tuesday. The move follows last month’s historic meeting between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro at a regional summit in Panama.

PEN Honors Charlie Hebdo Amid Protest from Dozens of Writers

May 06, 2015

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has been awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award at the PEN American Center gala in New York City. The newspaper was honored months after the massacre at the paper’s offices in Paris, which the gunmen called revenge for cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo editor Gérard Biard accepted the award to a standing ovation.

Gérard Biard: “I perfectly understand that a believer can be shocked by a satirical cartoon about Muhammad, Jesus, Moses or even the pope. But growing up to be a citizen is to learn that some ideas, some words, some images can be shocking. Being shocked is a part of democratic debate. Being shot is not.”

The award to Charlie Hebdo sparked a major controversy among PEN members. Several prominent writers, including Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, and Rachel Kushner, pulled out of the gala in opposition to what they called Charlie Hebdo’s targeting of Muslims and other persecuted communities. Those writers and some 200 other PEN members also signed a letter of protest. Calling the massacre “sickening and tragic,” the letter says: ”PEN is not simply conveying support for freedom of expression but also valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.” In response, Biard, the Charlie Hebdo editor, said: “We have always been anti-racist, and we fight against all discrimination.”

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