The Justice Department has released 15 pages of completely blacked-out material in response to a request for information about how text messages from cellphones are intercepted. The American Civil Liberties Union says the Obama administration is reading emails and other electronic communications without a warrant, despite a court ruling against the practice. In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request on the issue, the Justice Department released a memo with black rectangles covering every bit of text except the title, sender and recipient. ACLU spokesperson Josh Bell told ABC News: “We got very little information about the policy on text messages. [The document] does not even show the date, let alone what the policy is.”
Hundreds of fast-food and retail workers staged a one-day strike in Milwaukee on Wednesday as part of a national effort for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to unionize without intimidation.
Jennifer Epps-Addison: “Fast food and retail, it’s one of the fastest-growing industries. It’s one of the most profitable, with $200 billion in profits. And yet these are the lowest-paid workers in our economy. They’re standing up and saying, ‘Our families can’t survive on $7.25 an hour.’”
Workers gathered in large numbers outside restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell, holding signs and chanting slogans. Milwaukee is the fifth city to see a fast-food workers strike in six weeks, following Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago and New York City.
Hundreds of fast-food workers in Detroit are walking off the job today to demand a $15-an-hour wage and the right to unionize without intimidation, as such demands continue to spread to fast-food restaurants across the country. Employees from at least 60 stores, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Subway, are expected to take part in the action. Detroit is the fourth city to see such a strike over the past five weeks after workers in St. Louis walked off the job earlier this week, following similar actions in Chicago and New York.
Minnesota state House lawmakers have approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The state Senate is expected to pass the measure, and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign it into law. Eleven other states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage, including Rhode Island and Delaware, which both passed laws this month.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has signed legislation he says is aimed at making the city “the most LGBT-friendly” in the world. The landmark bill includes the first-ever tax incentives for businesses that offer health coverage for life partners and transgender health needs. It extends rights to same-sex partners in medical decision making and requires health insurance for city employees to cover transgender health costs, including sex-change surgeries.
In a victory for workers, the New York City Council has passed a bill requiring businesses to grant five paid sick days per year. Bill sponsor Gale Brewer hailed the measure as “one of the most progressive pieces of legislation ever in history.” The bill is a compromise that exempts smaller businesses and delays the requirement from coming into effect if the economy is bad. Sick-pay legislation had been blocked for three years by Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor and had faced increasing pressure to bring the issue to a vote. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to veto the bill, but it appears to have enough support to override his veto; just three council members voted against it Wednesday, with 45 voting in favor. Roughly 1.3 million workers in New York City are docked pay if they stay home sick — that is four in 10 employees. The bill would cover roughly 925,000 of them.
Around 50 students held a sit-in at New York City’s Cooper Union on Wednesday to protest an end to the school’s longstanding tradition of free tuition for undergraduates. The school recently announced it will begin charging up to $20,000 after more than 100 years of being tuition-free. Student activist Victoria Sobel spoke inside the office of Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha.
Victoria Sobel: “The action began as a sit-in in Jamshed Bharucha’s office this morning at 11 a.m. The plan was to intercept the president and read this statement to him. Right now we have more than half of the signatures of the School of Art for students, so that is a majority of the students voicing no confidence in Jamshed Bharucha. So, for us, it began as a sit-in. And his absence has marked it as an occupation. He is no longer welcome in this office space. It is one that’s been reclaimed by the students, for the students, for this school. It’s not about tuition. It’s about repealing tuition. It’s about reclaiming administrative spaces and re-examining the roles of administration within a school context.”
The sit-in marked the latest action in nearly two years of protests from students and faculty to preserve Cooper Union’s tuition-free policy. Watch Democracy Now! video coverage from the protest.
The Justice Department appears to be continuing a policy of disregarding search warrants when seeking to monitor activity on the Internet. The American Civil Liberties Union says internal documents show federal prosecutors and the FBI believe they are not compelled to obtain court-approved warrants to review emails and instant messages. The U.S. attorney’s office in New York circulated a memo saying a subpoena signed by a prosecutor, not a judge, is sufficient. By contrast, the IRS has publicly vowed to abandon warrantless spying of Internet use.
Three peace activists have been convicted for infiltrating the U.S. government’s lone site for handling and processing weapons-grade uranium last July. Calling themselves the “Transform Now Plowshares,” the three cut through fences to paint slogans and throw blood on the wall of the Y12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Y12 facility processes uranium for new hydrogen bombs and makes nuclear warheads. On Wednesday, a jury found the three activists — 83-year-old nun Sister Megan Rice, Vietnam War veteran Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed — guilty of damaging a so-called “national defense” site. The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Closing arguments are underway in Guatemala’s historic trial of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. The first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide, Ríos Montt is charged with overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. On Wednesday, prosecutors asked for Ríos Montt to be sentenced to 75 years in prison. Defense lawyers are expected to give closing arguments today. We’ll have more from Guatemala with journalist Allan Nairn later in the broadcast.