A woman who worked on the drone program penned a Guardian editorial bashing politicians and defenders of the growing unmanned aircraft industry. Heather Linebaugh writes that she wants to ask them, "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" She also notes the lack of data released on the number of civilian deaths and faulty technology by the government, and points out that the operator's camera view is so pixelated it's almost always difficult to detect whether or not someone is actually carrying a weapon. "The UAVs in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection," Linebaugh writes, "and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue."
A federal judge in New York decided late last week that the NSA’s mass collection of phone data is lawful. In his opinion on the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Judge William Pauley argued that the program was part of the government’s post 9/11 attempt to adapt “to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world.” Pauley additionally wrote that, “The collection of breathtaking amounts of information unprotected by the Fourth Amendment does not transform that sweep into a Fourth Amendment search,” referring to the prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure.
UPS already acknowledged being behind in delivery orders for Christmas, but that hasn’t stopped people from shaming the company all day. The UPS Facebook page is inundated with scornful posts, including one particularly angry message: “Beyond angry. We have not left the house all day & have been nervously pacing. This was supposed to be my son's big gift. Never showed up, thanks for nothing." Another customer vented to NBC: “UPS ruined my Christmas,” Katherine McEachen told NBC. The last time UPS failed to deliver a large number of packages was in 2004 due to an ice storm. UPS recognized its failure today, releasing a statement saying “UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments... the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed.” Politicians are calling for full refunds for customers impacted by the delay.
Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson defended his remarks Sunday in his first public appearance since his interview with GQ, in which he called gays “sinful.” “I will not give or back off from my path, because you conquered death, Father, so we are not worried about all the repercussions,” Robertson said, according to an online report. Robertson spoke to a small group at White’s Ferry Road Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, and his eldest son, Pastor Allan Robertson, later addressed the congregation. “Well, we’ve had quite a week. Shot some ducks, done some shopping, ignited a national controversy,” Allan Robertson said. Meanwhile, Cracker Barrel reversed its ban onDuck Dynasty merchandise, issuing a statement saying it had “listened” to customers who “told us we were wrong.” It is still not known whether A&E will continue with its suspension of Robertson.
Uganda’s parliament passed a bill late last week that toughens punishment for homosexual acts--making it a crime worth life imprisonment in some cases. Not reporting gay people is also punishable by a prison sentence according to the bill. The bill has passed to the desk of President Yoweri Museveni, who likely knows that signing it into law will cause an international outcry, as world leaders have already condemned it.
Target is looking into a breach in credit and debit card security involving information for millions of customers that began on Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving,) and may be ongoing. An investigation has been launched by Target, major credit card companies, and the Secret Service, according to a source involved. Customers have not yet been notified of the breach because their information is encrypted and Target has not commented on the issue.
While the use of antibacterial hand soap and body wash is widespread in the U.S., the FDA proposed on Monday requiring manufacturers to prove the products are more effective than regular soap and water in terms of preventing germs, and that the use of the products does not have long-term consequences. "Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water,” said the agency. In addition, it pointed out that there is some research showing that long-term use can lead to bacterial resistance and hormonal effects.
A district court ruling has found key parts of Utah’s polygamy-prohibiting law unconstitutional, setting a new legal precedent in Utah and effectively decriminalizing polygamy. The U.S. District Court judge sided with the polygamous family of Kody Brown, who became famous on TLC’s reality series Sister Wives. Judge Clark Waddoup ruled that the part of the law that made cohabitation illegal was a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and wrote that the issue comes down to “religious cohabitation.” Simply living together does not amount to being legally “married,” wrote Waddoup.
The public will no longer be privy to information about the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay after a wave of media attention prompted detention camp officials to implement a media blackout. Military officials stopped releasing figures on the number of prisoners partaking in the hunger strike, which grew to around 100 in June, and will refuse journalist requests. “It’s (the strikers') desire to draw attention to themselves, and so we’re not going to help them do that,” Cmdr. John Filostrat said, the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo's director of public affairs.
Protesters in Kiev, Ukraine toppled a statue of Lenin as demonstrations in Ukraine stretched into their third week on Sunday. After pulling out of the proposed deal to strengthen ties with the European Union, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, a move that had many worried that Yanukovych will agree to join a customs union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Although many in the western part of Ukraine support strengthened ties with the EU, the country depends on Russia for its energy supplies—and Russian gas supplier, Gazprom, says Ukraine has fallen behind on its payments.
President Obama urged Republican lawmakers to extend the unemployment benefits that are set to expire later on this month, saying “it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” The jobless rate in November fell to 7 percent, the lowest since Obama took office. But if Congress doesn’t act before they go on holiday, around 1.3 million Americans will see their unemployment benefits run out. “All because Republicans in this Congress—which is on track to be the most unproductive in history—have so far refused to extend it,” said Obama. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it would cost about $26 billion to extend the benefits through next year. “Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy,” said Obama.
With little violent crime, Iceland’s police have never killed someone in an armed police operation prior to Monday of this week when officers fatally shot a 59-year-old man. According to reports, the man was firing a shotgun in his apartment, and failed to respond to police attempts to reach him and stop his shooting. Subsequently, police fired tear gas canisters and then shot the man, who is believed to have been alone. "Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man," said Icelandic police chief Haraldur Johannessen. In 2009, the most recent year GunPolicy.org has data for, there were just four gun-related deaths in Iceland compared to 31,347 in the United States. Taking into account population size, Iceland had about one gun-related death per 80,000 people as opposed to one per 10,000 in the United States.
In what lawyers are describing as an "unprecedented" case, social workers in an English city removed a baby from its mother before it was born. In August 2012, a High Court order ruled for an unnamed Italian woman, in Britain for work, to be sedated and undergo a caesarean section apparently without her knowledge or consent. The woman had been held at a psychiatric facility for five weeks after undergoing a panic attack, and is now requesting her 15-month-old daughter be returned to her, though she is set to be placed for adoption. The case has led to numerous questions, including when a woman can be forced to have a C-section, how the case would have turned out if the woman was British, and whether this could occur in other countries. In the U.S., declaring a fetus a "child" and using that status to deprive pregnant women of their right to control their own medical care has become downright routine. Susan Faludi sounded the alarm in her book Backlash, when she covered the 1987 case of Angela Carder, a cancer patient who died after George Washington University Medical Center obtained a court order to force her to have a C-section at 26 weeks gestation against her family's wishes.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced late last week that the United States has offered to provide destruction technology, operational support, and financing to destroy the most dangerous stash of Syria’s chemical weapons. According to the offer, the weapons would be destroyed aboard an American Navy ship using hydrolysis by December 31. The weapons make up 55 percent of Syria’s stockpile. The OPCW will make the final decision on whether to let the U.S. act on its offer during the middle of the month.