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HeadlinesJune 24, 2015

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Senate Set to Pass TPP “Fast-Track” Bill Despite Protests

Jun 24, 2015

The Senate is expected to vote today to give President Obama “fast-track” authority to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal through Congress. The secretive deal involves 12 countries and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 60 to 37 to end debate on the measure, setting up today’s final vote. Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders blasted the move.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “In my view, this trade agreement will continue the policies of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), permanent normal trade relations with China, agreements that have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. We need a new trade policy in America, a policy that represents working families and not just the big money interests. I strongly disagree with the majority leader, who called this a great day for America. It is not a great day. It’s a great day for the big money interests, not a great day for working families.”

South Carolina Lawmakers Vote to Consider Removing Confederate Flag

Jun 24, 2015

South Carolina lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to consider removing the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state Capitol in the wake of the massacre of nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston. The vote came as hundreds of protesters rallied against the flag, which was embraced by the white shooting suspect, Dylann Roof. Charleston City Council President J. Elliott Summey was among those calling for the flag to go.

J. Elliott Summey: “And the lord don’t want that flag flying on our state House grounds. It’s time for the Senate and the House to act, and if they don’t do it today, the word will be that we’ll be back, and we’re going to keep coming back until that flag is down and put in a museum. It’s time for South Carolina to show the world who we are as a people.”

Slain pastor Clementa Pinckney is lying in state at the South Carolina Capitol today. It’s unclear if the Confederate flag will remain flying outside. In a Twitter post, South Carolina Representative James Clyburn wrote: “Current SC law may require 2/3 vote to remove the Confed Battle flag but legislators could change that law w/ a simply majority.”

Multiple States, Companies Take Steps Against Confederate Flag

Jun 24, 2015

Protests against the Confederate flag have spread. Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn has called for removing the Confederate emblem from the state flag, while Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took steps to remove it from vanity license plates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has boosted calls to remove Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ bust from the Kentucky state Capitol. Companies including Wal-Mart, Amazon, eBay, Sears and Etsy say they will ban Confederate flag products, and Google said it would remove the flag from its shopping service and ads.

Report: Non-Muslim Extremists in U.S. Kill Far More Than Muslims

Jun 24, 2015

A new tally has confirmed white supremacists and other non-Muslim fanatics have killed far more people in the United States since 9/11 than Muslim extremists. The report by the research center New America finds, since 9/11, white supremacists, antigovernment extremists and other non-Muslim figures have killed nearly twice as many people as Muslim extremists. Despite the intense focus by the Obama administration on Muslim communities, non-Muslims have carried out 19 terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001, while Muslims have been responsible for only seven.

Snowden Documents Reveal Details of U.S. Drone Strike on Doctor

Jun 24, 2015

British documents from Edward Snowden reveal how U.S. officials ordered a drone strike in Yemen to kill a doctor they believed was working with al-Qaeda in 2012. The documents, reported by The New York Times and Guardian, show how a joint U.S., British and Australian program called Overhead supported the strike. Officials believed the doctor was surgically implanting explosives in operatives. The news has raised questions about the extent of British involvement in the U.S. drone program.

Nigeria: 42 Killed in Boko Haram Attacks on Villages

Jun 24, 2015

In northeastern Nigeria, at least 42 people have been killed following attacks by Boko Haram militants on two villages. The attacks Monday and Tuesday coincided with two deadly suicide bombings in nearby areas, one by a girl believed to be 12 years old.

Syria: ISIL Destroys Ancient Palmyra Shrines

Jun 24, 2015

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has destroyed two ancient shrines around the Syrian city of Palmyra. Pictures appear to show the shrines being blown up and reduced to rubble. ISIL seized the 2,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site in May.

France Summons U.S. Envoy After WikiLeaks Reveals NSA Spied on Presidents

Jun 24, 2015

France has summoned its U.S. ambassador following revelations by WikiLeaks the United States has spied on the past three French presidents. Documents published by WikiLeaks show the National Security Agency spied on President François Hollande and his two predecessors from 2006 to 2012, including listening to and recording cellphone conversations. The revelation follows prior disclosures by Edward Snowden the United States bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

Greek Prime Minister Meets with Creditors in Brussels

Jun 24, 2015

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is meeting with European creditors today in Brussels in a bid to avoid default at the end of the month. In a Twitter post today, Tsipras said some creditors have not accepted Greece’s latest proposals for aid, which include restricting early retirement and increasing the sales tax and pension contributions. Protesters have continued to call for Tsipras’ Syriza party to comply with their election pledge to end austerity.

U.S. Sending Military Equipment to 7 European Countries

Jun 24, 2015

The United States will deploy tanks and other weaponry across seven countries in Eastern Europe. Speaking during a visit to Estonia, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said each set of equipment would be enough for a military company or battalion.

Ash Carter: “We will temporarily stage one armored brigade combat team’s vehicles and associated equipment in countries in Central and Eastern Europe. This pre-positioned European activity set includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery. Estonia, as well as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, have agreed to host company- to battalion-sized elements of this equipment, which will be moved around the region for training and exercises.”

The announcement comes a day after Carter said the United States would send troops and equipment for a new NATO rapid-response force to guard against potential Russian aggression.

U.N. Peacekeepers Accused of Child Abuse in Central African Republic

Jun 24, 2015

United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have been accused of sexually abusing street children in the capital Bangui. U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the allegations are under investigation.

Stéphane Dujarric: “Medical care and assistance is now being provided to the alleged victims. If the allegations are substantiated, this would constitute a grave violation of U.N. principles and the code of conduct for U.N. peacekeepers. The member states would be requested to take swift and appropriate punitive action.”

The news comes after an internal U.N. report surfaced in April detailing the alleged sexual abuse of children by French and African troops in the Central African Republic. The report was leaked to French prosecutors by a U.N. whistleblower who was suspended, making him the only person so far to be punished over the allegations.

U.S. to Allow Private Ransoms for Hostages

Jun 24, 2015

The Obama administration is poised to change its policy on private ransoms for hostages. While the United States will continue its policy of refusing to pay ransoms to groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State, it will stop threatening to prosecute families who raise private ransoms for their loved ones. The mother of U.S. journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIL last year, said the government threatened prosecution if her family tried to raise his ransom.

Texas: Hundreds of Detained Immigrant Women, Children Stage Protest

Jun 24, 2015

Video has emerged showing hundreds of immigrant women and children being held at a private, family detention center in Dilley, Texas, protesting during a tour of the facility by Democratic lawmakers. Footage shot Monday by a congressmember and posted by BuzzFeed shows the women and children chanting “Libertad” and holding protest signs made from pillowcases and bedsheets.

Judge Orders Deported Guatemalan Woman, Child Returned to U.S.

Jun 24, 2015

A federal judge has ordered authorities to return a woman and her 12-year-old daughter to the United States after they were deported to Guatemala on Friday. The judge said he would have blocked the deportation if he had known it was going to happen. The pair were victims of domestic violence who had been held in a Pennsylvania detention center for a year.

Honduras: Miguel Facussé, “Palm Plantation Owner of Death,” Dies at 90

Jun 24, 2015

In Honduras, Miguel Facussé, dubbed “the palm plantation owner of death,” and one of Honduras’ wealthiest and most powerful figures, has died at the age of 90. Facussé and private security guards with his company, Dinant, were accused of taking part in violent land grabs and dozens of murders of campesino land activists in Honduras’ Aguán Valley as he sought to expand his palm oil fortune. Diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks showed the United States knew of Facussé’s role in cocaine trafficking but continued funding Honduras’ military and police, who reportedly worked closely with Facussé’s guards. Facussé backed the 2009 coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya; his personal airplane was used to fly Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas out of Honduras against her will, a story Rodas later told through a translator on Democracy Now!

Patricia Rodas: “I was expelled from my country by the military. They came to my house. I was taken prisoner by the air force of Honduras. And then, later, they deported me at midnight, and they transferred me in the airplane. Apparently, this airplane belonged to Miguel Facussé, the plane in which I was transferred.”

In response to Facussé’s death, Chuck Kaufman of the Alliance for Global Justice told Colorado radio station KGNU, “A prince of darkness has returned to hell.”

Argentina: Military Chief Accused of 1976 Human Rights Abuses Resigns

Jun 24, 2015

In Argentina, the head of the military has resigned, citing personal reasons. Major General César Milani was appointed head of the army in 2013 by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner despite charges he was involved in human rights abuses, including torture and the disappearance of a soldier, dating back to 1976, when Argentina’s military dictatorship came to power.

NYC: Stonewall Inn, Site of Historic LGBT Uprising, Becomes a Landmark

Jun 24, 2015

And here in New York City, the Stonewall Inn, the site of an uprising that helped launch the modern LGBT movement, has been granted landmark status by a city commission. The Stonewall uprising began the morning of June 28, 1969, when members of the gay community decided to fight back against a New York City police raid on the Greenwich Village gay bar. Stacy Lentz, co-owner of the Stonewall Inn, praised its new landmark status.

Stacy Lentz: “On that particular night, they had enough. They were fed up. And it was the first time that people from LBGT backgrounds actually stood up and kind of said, ’We’re queer, we’re here, get used to it,’ shut the police inside and started throwing pennies and that thing. They call it a riot, but it was pretty peaceful, for the most part, you know, a few cars overturned and those kind of things and throwing things. But for the most part, though, people gathered for three days after that. And the next year, there was actually the first LBGT pride parade.”

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