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Friday, June 21, 2013

Brazilian President Holds Emergency Meeting Over Protests

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff held an emergency cabinet meeting today in the capital city of Brasilia, to discuss the country’s unprecedented civil unrest. According to police estimates, more than 1 million Brazilians swarmed in the streets of at least 80 cities yesterday. In several cities, protests devolved into violent clashes as people demanding an end to corruption and the dissolution of the social safety net faced tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. Scores of people were injured in last night’s demonstrations, and at least one person was killed, when a motorist rammed his vehicle into a crowd of demonstrators in Ribeirão Preto. Much of the violence was meted out at the hands of Brazilian police; injured protestor Michele Menezes said, “I was leaving a peaceful protest and it’s not thugs that attack me but the police themselves.” Despite such threats, protestor Fernanda Szuster said, “I saw some pretty scary things, but they’re not going to shake me. There’s another march on the 22nd and I’m going to be there.” While no official comment was made after the conclusion of today’s meeting, the President is expected to make a radio address later today.

Over 500 Dead in Indian Monsoon

More than 500 people have perished in the monsoon rains in Northern India. At least 5,000 others have gone missing. The rains in Uttarakhand state alone have been the heaviest in at least 60 years; floods and landslides have demolished buildings while obliterating roads and bridges throughout the area. Brimming with temples and shrines for more than a handful of major religions, Uttarakhand, often referred to as “the Land of Gods,” attracts large numbers of pilgrims from around India to its mountainous reaches. Those pilgrims, most without many means or comforts, are now engulfed in the torrential rains and flash floods. The worst affected area is around the Kedarnath Temple, which usually sees hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year. Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that while the Indian Army has evacuated more than 33,000 pilgrims in the past few days, another 50,000 people were still stranded along the remote mountain path. State Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat visited the area and was alarmed by the destruction, “The center of faith has turned into a burial ground. Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact.”

Criminal COmplaint Filed Against Snowden

U.S. federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint against the National Security Agency contractor who has admitted to leaking a cache of documents which revealed the scope and breadth of a number of secret surveillance programs. While there was never any doubt the U.S. Justice department would opt to prosecute Edward Snowden, today’s filing gave prosecutors the basis to ask Hong Kong to arrest Snowden. Prosecutors will now have 60 days to file what is likely to be a secret inditement, after which the U.S. will be able to ask Hong Kong to extradite the whistleblower. This comes as a new set of documents released by Snowden illuminate the rules regarding warrantless NSA surveillance. According to these documents, the NSA collects, processes, retains, and disseminates the contents of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails under a wide range of circumstances. And despite the Obama administration’s suggestions to the contrary, Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, found that “there’s a lot of leeway to use ‘inadvertently’ acquired domestic communications,” for instance, for criminal inquiries. The Guardian also published a Snowden leak suggesting the British spy organization GCHQ has tapped fiber-optic cables that carry phone and internet traffic and is sharing vast quantities of personal information with the NSA.

U.S. Army Junks Billions in Equipment

As the U.S. armed forces leave Afghanistan, around 2,000 Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles are being turned into scrap. Currently the U.S. Army has roughly $25 billion in military equipment located in Afghanistan. The majority of that will be shipped back to the U.S. at a cost of roughly $3 billion in transportation fees. Over $7 Billion of a equipment worth of equipment will however be destroyed, as it is surplus or would be too costly to repatriate. In a statement about the junking project, Alan Estevez, the assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said “MRAPs have served us well in the current war, but we will not need all that we bought for Iraq and Afghanistan in the future.” The average MRAP cost roughly $1 million. When the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq, much of its surplus equipment was given to the Iraqi government. But according to Raymond V. Mason, the Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, “the Afghan economy and military can’t absorb some of the things the Iraqis did,” Mason said the Pentagon is loath “to give [the Afghans] a lot of equipment that they can’t handle and could compound their challenges.”

Weekend Read: Gagged by Big Ag

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a video of savage mistreatment at the MowMar Farms hog confinement facility where Shawn Lyons worked as an entry-level herdsman. Lyons was the first person ever convicted of criminal livestock neglect, Big Ag is making sure he’ll be one of the last. Ted Genoways writes in Mother Jones.

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