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'2014 Was A Catastrophic Year,' Amnesty International Says

Human RightsGovernments "must stop pretending the protection of civilians is beyond their power," Amnesty International says in its human rights report for 2014. The group faults the U.S. on a range of issues, from the use of excessive force by police to rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

"Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians," Amnesty says. "And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need."

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America's Deadly Transgender Backlash

transgender deaths in USThe anti-LGBT backlash is here, and transgender populations are suffering the most—even though they hadn’t won that many legal victories in the first place. They’re getting the backlash before winning anything to lash back against.

Let’s start with the worst. Five transgender women of color have already been murdered in 2015, and just last weekend, a (white) transgender woman was stabbed to death by her own father.

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Here's What's Being Done To Get Child Laborers Working 16-Hour Days Off Of U.S. Tobacco Fields

child tobacco laborAdvocates are speaking out on behalf of child workers' health and well-being after a bill that would have regulated Virginia's tobacco farming industry failed to pass last week.

Minors would not be allowed to work directly with tobacco plants or their dried leaves, had Virginia House Bill 1906 passed, NBC 29 News reported. Children working on family farms as part of tradition would have been exempt from the law.

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Lead U.N. investigator of 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict resigns over bias allegations

Willliam SchabasWilliam Schabas, the head of a United Nations investigation into the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, has resigned due to bias allegations for his previous work with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The investigation seeks to determine if potential war crimes were committed in the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The panel's inquiries, sanctioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council, are set to be released in March.

Israel has refused to cooperate with the investigation and accused Schabas of "clear and documented bias."

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Meet Alfreda Bikowsky, the Senior Officer at the Center of the CIA’s Torture Scandals

Alfreda Bikowski torturerNBC News yesterday called her a “key apologist” for the CIA’s torture program. A follow-up New Yorker article dubbed her “The Unidentified Queen of Torture” and in part “the model for the lead character in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’” Yet in both articles she was anonymous.

The person described by both NBC and The New Yorker is senior CIA officer Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. Multiple news outlets have reported that as the result of a long string of significant errors and malfeasance, her competence and integrity are doubted — even by some within the agency.

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The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings

Torture program not just tortureHuman experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.

At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”

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U.S. Closes Afghanistan Prison, No Longer Has Custody Of Detainees

Parwan detention centerThe United States on Wednesday released the final three detainees from the Parwan Detention Center in Afghanistan, ending the U.S. operation of any prisons in the country after more than a decade of war, the Pentagon said.

Two of the detainees, including Redha al-Najar, were transferred into Afghan custody for possible prosecution, while the third wasn't considered a threat and is seeking resettlement in another country.

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