Connecticut becomes 17th state to abolish death penalty
April 25th, 2012
03:20 PM ET

Connecticut becomes 17th state to abolish death penalty

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law Wednesday that abolishes the death penalty, making his state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth in five years to usher in a repeal.

The law is effective immediately, though prospective in nature, meaning that it would not apply to those already sentenced to death. It replaces the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release as the state's highest form of punishment.

"Although it is an historic moment - Connecticut joins 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action - it is a moment for sober reflection, not celebration," Malloy (pictured) said in a statement.

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Filed under: Connecticut • Crime • Death Penalty • Justice
March 27th, 2012
12:59 PM ET

Pope's Havana visit raises questions of whom he'll meet

Wrapping up his visit to Santiago de Cuba and bound for Havana, Pope Benedict XVI has sparked widespread speculation that he will meet with the island's former President Fidel Castro.

Church officials say Benedict is scheduled to meet again with President Raul Castro, along with his family. The meeting could include Raul Castro's famous older brother, who stepped down from power in 2006 after battling illness, though it is not clear if that will occur.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also arrived on the island over the weekend, reported by Cuban state television to be in Cuba for radiation treatment for cancer.

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'Underwear bomber' sentenced to life in prison
The U.S. Marshals Service released a photo of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab after his arrest in 2009.
February 16th, 2012
03:11 PM ET

'Underwear bomber' sentenced to life in prison

[Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET] A Nigerian man who pleaded guilty to trying to bring down a Christmas Day 2009 flight with an explosive device hidden in his underwear was sentenced to life in prison Thursday.

Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, 25, pleaded guilty in October to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, among other charges. Shortly before he was sentenced Thursday in a federal courtroom in Detroit, he argued a life sentence - for which prosecutors were arguing - would be "cruel and unusual punishment," as well as unconstitutional.

The judge rejected his argument.

U.S. officials say the terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula helped plot the bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which was heading from the Netherlands to Detroit. Authorities say AbdulMutallab, a passenger, tried to ignite an explosive device that was hidden in his underwear shortly before the plane landed, but passengers and flight crew members subdued him and extinguished flames after the device briefly set him on fire.

The plane was carrying 289 people.

"As this investigation and prosecution have shown, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a remorseless terrorist who believes it is his duty to kill Americans," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a Justice Department news release after Thursday's sentencing. "For attempting to take the lives of 289 innocent people, he has been appropriately sentenced to serve every day of the rest of his life in prison.

"Today's sentence once again underscores the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in both incapacitating terrorists and gathering valuable intelligence from them."

When pleading guilty in October, AbdulMutallab told the court that he aimed to avenge "the killing of innocent Muslims" and "U.S. tyranny and oppression of Muslims."

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February 3rd, 2012
11:29 AM ET

Komen reverses decision to stop Planned Parenthood funding

The Susan G. Komen foundation has reversed a controversial decision not to renew funding for Planned Parenthood projects for breast cancer screenings, the group said in a statement Friday.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," the group said.

"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities," the group  said.

The announcement comes three days after Komen, a group supporting breast cancer research, said it would stop the funding, saying that it decided it would no longer fund groups under federal investigation. Congress in September began investigating whether Planned Parenthood, a prominent family planning organization, illegally used federal funds to provide abortions.

But on Friday, Komen said that it would "amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."

"Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer.  Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process," the group said.

Some Planned Parenthood supporters had alleged the decision to withhold funding also had to do with abortion. Anti-abortion advocates around the country had questioned the Komen foundation about its grants for months, prompting the foundation to release a statement last year saying that "Komen funding is used exclusively to provide breast cancer programs."

In Washington, at least 22 Senate Democrats signed a letter calling on Komen to reconsider its decision.

CREDO, which describes itself as the largest corporate donor to Planned Parenthood, said Thursday that 250,000 of its members had signed a petition urging the Komen foundation to reverse its decision.

"The move is clearly connected to attempts by Republicans in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood," the organization said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood said funding from the Komen foundation has largely paid for breast exams at local centers. In the last five years, grants from the group have directly supported 170,000 screenings, making up about 4% of the total exams performed at Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide, according to the group.

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August 8th, 2011
11:40 AM ET

NATO: Downed chopper reportedly fired on by rocket-propelled grenade

Coalition forces embroiled in a firefight with insurgents in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday had called for assistance, but instead had to race to the crash scene of a downed NATO helicopter carrying their reinforcements, officials said Monday.

Everyone inside the CH-47 Chinook was killed, marking the worst single-day loss of American life since the beginning of the Afghan war, NATO reported.

The inbound helicopter - loaded with 30 U.S. service members, a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan troops - crashed after being "reportedly fired on by an insurgent rocket-propelled grenade," the statement said.

Twenty-five of those on board were U.S. special operations forces, including 22 Navy SEALs. Five air crew members were also on board.

Until Monday, military officials had been largely tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding the crash, which occurred in the rugged Tangi Valley area of Wardak province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul.

U.S. President Barack Obama is also expected to make a statement to reporters Monday that will include comments about the loss of the 30 U.S. service members, a White House official said.

The events leading up to the crash began when insurgents - armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles - engaged in small arms fire with coalition forces on the ground, NATO reported. ISAF forces were carrying out an operation targeting a known Taliban leader in the area.

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July 31st, 2011
08:37 AM ET

Suspected Taliban spy arrested in Kabul, officials say

A suspected Taliban spy who worked at the Afghan Defense Ministry headquarters in Kabul has been arrested after allegedly leaking critical security information to insurgents, officials said Sunday.

Gul Mohammad was arrested last week following a month-long investigation that allegedly uncovered his plans to organize suicide attacks on key Afghan and international installations, according to National Directorate of Security spokesman Litfullah Mashal.

Among the locations to be targeted were the International Security Assistance Force headquarters and an NDS building as well as an Afghan military outpost and police station in Kabul.

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July 24th, 2011
01:22 PM ET

8-year-old boy hanged because father wouldn't help militants, officials say

An 8 year-old boy was hanged by militants in Afghanistan's Helmand province after the boy's father - a police officer in the southern city of Gereshk - refused to comply with militants' demands to provide them with a police vehicle, officials said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the hanging, saying "this action is not permitted in any culture or any religions," according to a statement Sunday, which provided details of the incident.

Karzai said he has ordered local authorities to root out the militants and arrest them "as soon as possible." The boy was kidnapped Friday. It was unclear when he was killed.

The incident comes amid a recent wave of attacks on local officials who are considered anti-Taliban. Read the full story

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Terrorism
July 2nd, 2011
12:23 PM ET

Rhode Island governor signs civil union bill into law

In a move largely seen as a compromise over the rights that can be afforded to gay and lesbian couples, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Saturday signed into law a bill that legalizes civil unions, making his state the fifth in the nation to allow them.

The bill - which was signed just over a week after New York legalized same-sex marriage - will take effect later Saturday, according to the governor's spokesman Christian Vareika.

The law will provide same-sex couples with a host of new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and greater ease of inheritance.

Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012. California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada also allow for "comprehensive domestic partnerships," largely considered an equivalent to their civil union counterparts.

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June 29th, 2011
08:34 PM ET

Rhode Island legislature passes same-sex civil union bill

Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-same couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the state's lower house on May 19, affords same-sex couples a host of new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and greater ease of inheritance.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor. If signed, the law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the country to allow civil unions between same-sex couples.

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June 26th, 2011
12:59 PM ET

Cheering new marriage law during New York pride parade

Forty-two years after a police raid sparked rioting and perhaps the birth of the American gay rights movement, New Yorkers geared up for the city's annual pride parade Sunday in what many expect to be a celebration of same-sex couples' newly-acquired right to wed.

The parade is expected to meander along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and pass the famous Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village where the rioting took place in 1969. The parade was set to begin at noon ET.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Friday that made New York the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. The new law more than doubles the number of Americans living in states that permit such unions.

The measure will take effect 30 days after it was signed, providing same-sex couples with new rights that include employer health benefits, inheritance laws and a host of new tax benefits.

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Reaction to killing of Osama bin Laden
May 2nd, 2011
10:29 AM ET

Reaction to killing of Osama bin Laden

[Updated at 10:29 a.m. ET] The following is reaction from politicians and others around the world to Sunday night's news that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a raid involving the U.S. military on a compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan:

Iran Foreign Ministry:  The Islamic Republic of Iran hopes that the death of Osama bin Laden will put an end to war and the killing of innocent people and restore peace to their region, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. The IRNA website reports Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that foreign countries now have no excuse for military buildup in the region to fight terrorism."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: The death of Osama bin Laden sends a message to the Taliban in Afghanistan that "you cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us. But you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda" and participate in a peaceful political process. Bin Laden's death comes at a time of "great movements toward freedom and democracy" in the Middle East and elsewhere, she said. "There is no better rebuke to al Qaeda and its heinous ideology," she said. "The fight continues and we will never waiver." Some doubted bin Laden would ever be caught, she said, but "this is America. ... We persevere, and we get the job done."

CIA Director Leon Panetta: Today, we have rid the world of the most infamous terrorist of our time. A US strike team stormed a compound in Abottabad, Pakistan and killed Usama Bin Ladin. Thankfully, no Americans were lost, and every effort was taken to avoid civilian casualties. Nothing will ever compensate for the pain and suffering inflicted by this mass murderer and his henchmen. But just as evil never rests, neither does good. May the fact that Usama Bin Ladin no longer inhabits the earth be a source of comfort for the thousands of families, here in America and around the globe, who mourn the victims of al-Qa'ida's barbarity. Within our Agency family, our thoughts turn to those who died fighting to make this day possible. Our brothers and sisters who gave their lives in the war against al-Qa'ida—from Mike Spann to our heroes at Khowst—are with us, in memory and spirit, at this joyful moment. In all that we do, they are our constant inspiration. My deepest thanks and congratulations go out to the officers of our CounterTerrorism Center and Office of South Asia Analysis for their outstanding expertise, amazing creativity, and excellent tradecraft. I also extend my profound appreciation and absolute respect to the strike team, whose great skill and courage brought our nation this historic triumph. The raid was the culmination of intense and tireless effort on the part of many dedicated Agency officers over many years. Our men and women designed highly complex, innovative, and forward-leaning clandestine operations that led us to Bin Ladin. One operation would yield intelligence that was carefully analyzed and then used to drive further operations. Along with our partners at NGA, NSA, and ODNI, we applied the full range of our capabilities, collecting intelligence through both human and technical means and subjecting it to the most rigorous analysis by our government's leading experts on Bin Ladin and his organization. Persistent hard work produced the results that the American people expect of their intelligence service: We gave President Obama and his team accurate, relevant, timely intelligence—providing the information and insight they needed at key points as this mission developed. I offered my personal thanks to the President for his willingness to make the courageous decision to proceed with the operation. Though Bin Ladin is dead, al-Qa'ida is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must—and will—remain vigilant and resolute. But we have struck a heavy blow against the enemy. The only leader they have ever known, whose hateful vision gave rise to their atrocities, is no more. The supposedly uncatchable one has been caught and killed. And we will not rest until every last one of them has been delivered to justice. Remember how you felt in the anxious hours after the attacks of September 11th , and how our Agency vowed to run to ground a vicious foe. Whether you were here at the time or were inspired to serve at CIA in the months and years that followed, take heart in knowing that our Agency is doing its essential job for the American people, and for all humanity. A promise has been kept. And a war will be won. God bless the United States of America.

Mexico Ministry of Foreign Relation: The Government of Mexico reiterates its deep conviction that terrorism is a criminal activity that must be fought decisively by the international community because it represents a serious threat to global peace and stability and causes many innocent lives to be lost. That's why the Government of Mexico recognizes the efforts carried out by the Government of the United States to fight against and capture Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. These efforts have resulted in his defeat and death during an operation by U.S. armed forces in Pakistan. This is an act of great significance in the efforts to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism which threatens peace and international security, in particular the one practiced by one of the most cruel and bloody terrorist organizations which has acted against the civilian population and which has caused the loss of many innocent lives, including Mexican citizens in the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney: "The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American forces is a victory for the United States and a tremendous achievement for the military and intelligence professionals who carried out this important mission. Their tireless work since 9/11 has made this achievement possible, and enabled us to capture or kill thousands of al Qaeda terrorists and many of their leaders. I also want to congratulate President Obama and the members of his national security team. At this moment when bin Laden has been brought to justice, we especially remember the sacrifice of the young Americans who've paid the ultimate price in defense of the nation, as well as the nearly 3000 Americans who lost their lives on 9/11. Al Qaeda remains a dangerous enemy. Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on. We must remain vigilant, especially now, and we must continue to support our men and women in uniform who are fighting on the front lines of this war every day. Today, the message our forces have sent is clear - if you attack the United States, we will find you and bring you to justice."

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh: "I welcome it as a significant step forward and hope that it will deal a decisive blow to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The international community and Pakistan in particular must work comprehensively to end the activities of all such groups who threaten civilized behavior and kill innocent men, women and children."

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper: In my nearly 50 years in intelligence, never have I seen a more remarkable example of focused integration, seamless collaboration, and sheer professional magnificence as was demonstrated by the Intelligence Community in the ultimate demise of Osama bin Laden. The careful, diligent work of CIA, NGA, and NSA was simply incredible. It is with great pride and admiration that I offer thanks to all of the dedicated men and women of our community who worked so tirelessly in this achievement. I want to thank the President for his cool, decisive leadership. The Intelligence Community will never waver in our continued commitment to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies. God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh: The government of Iraq supports international efforts to combat terrorism. The Iraqi government is feeling greatly relieved with the success of U.S. forces over the killing of the leader of al-Qaeda (Osama bin Laden) during a military operation carried out in its efforts to combat terrorism. The crimes committed by al-Qaeda terror organization, that Iraqi people and other peaceful nations have suffered from, represents a major threats to the safety and security of the international community. Iraq stresses its support of any international effort to eradicate the poles of blind extremism and terror elements who terrorized safe communities with their crimes.

Esam El Erian, Muslim Brotherhood official spokesman: We see that Osama's death especially after the revolutions in the region, as a new beginning for a normal relationship with the United States in the Middle East so that the US can finalize the peace treaty and recognize Palestine as an independent nation, allow the return of Palestinians to their land, withdraw of US forces from the region and start a new relation with the Arabs. We would like to put behind us the old image portrayed by the 9/11 attacks which has mixed politics, religion and media.

Statement on Saudi Press Agency: "An official source has expressed the hope of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the extermination of the terrorist head of Al Qaeda is a step towards the reinforcing of the international efforts to combat terror and breaking up its cells. And the extinguishing of the misleading school of thought it rests on. "

Former President George W. Bush: "This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton: "I congratulate the president, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous al Qaeda attacks."

British Prime Minister David Cameron: "The news that Osama bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world. Osama bin Laden was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities the world has seen - for 9/11 and for so many attacks, which have cost thousands of lives, many of them British. It is a great success that he has been found and will no longer be able to pursue his campaign of global terror. This is a time to remember all those murdered by Osama bin Laden, and all those who lost loved ones. It is also a time too to thank all those who work round the clock to keep us safe from terrorism. Their work will continue. I congratulate President Obama and those responsible for carrying out this operation."

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Guantanamo detainee sentened to life for Africa bombings
January 25th, 2011
02:09 PM ET

Guantanamo detainee sentened to life for Africa bombings

A federal judge sentenced Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani to life without parole on Tuesday for his role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 people and left thousands wounded.

He is the first Guantanamo detainee tried in U.S. civilian court, having been convicted by a federal jury in November on a single conspiracy charge to destroy buildings and property at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"Finally, 12-and-a-half years after those devastating and despicable attacks, Ahmed Ghailani will pay for his crimes," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.

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Storms kill 6 in Arkansas, Missouri
December 31st, 2010
05:05 PM ET

Storms kill 6 in Arkansas, Missouri

[Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET] A line of fast-moving storms and possible tornadoes stretching from the Gulf Coast states to Illinois left at least six people dead Friday and caused widespread damage to homes and businesses, as forecasters warned of more potentially severe weather.

Three people died in the small northwestern Arkansas town of Cincinnati, which reported power outages after the strong storm went through, said Ann Upton, the county's emergency management deputy.

Two additional fatalities occurred in Dent County, Missouri, according to Salem police spokeswoman Wanda Suhr.

Another storm-related death occurred at a home just north of Rolla, Missouri, about 106 miles southwest of St. Louis, according to Phelps County Emergency Management spokeswoman Sandy North.

The storm also left 12 people injured and caused damage in Benton County, Arkansas, near the state lines with Oklahoma and Missouri, officials said.

[Initial post, 11:19 a.m. ET] At least three people were killed and five critically injured after a suspected tornado hit northwestern Arkansas Friday morning, authorities said.

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Bloomberg to probe allegations that workers delayed NYC snow clean-up
December 30th, 2010
02:24 PM ET

Bloomberg to probe allegations that workers delayed NYC snow clean-up

Four days after a monster blizzard blanketed much of the northeastern United States, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will investigate whether sanitation workers intentionally delayed clean-up efforts
over frustrations regarding city-wide budget cuts.

"It would be an outrage if it took place," Bloomberg said Thursday, stressing that his administration's primary focus is clearing streets in the city's outer boroughs. Some neighborhoods remained snowbound for days after the storm.

Rumors swirled across New York on Thursday that sanitation officers ordered rank-and-file workers to slow down clean-up efforts in retaliation for the city's belt-tightening measures.

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July 3rd, 2010
06:08 PM ET

Report: Cuban hunger striker 'in danger of dying'

Cuban opposition activist and longtime hunger striker Guillermo Farinas is "in danger of dying," state media reported on Saturday.

In a rare move, a Cuban state-run website - Cubadebate - published an interview with Armando Caballero, head of intensive care at Arnaldo Milian Castro University Hospital where Farinas is being treated.

Caballero said Farinas is "conscious [and] oriented," but his frail condition has doctors "on edge," according to the website.

Caballero also said that Farinas has gained weight because of vitamins and nutrients being fed to him intravenously, despite the fact he has abstained from solid food for more than 120 days. The article touted the high level of care the 48-year-old psychologist and writer has reportedly been receiving at the hospital near his home in Santa Clara.

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May 26th, 2010
07:41 AM ET

Gulf oil spill could foul Cuban waters

Fisherman Mario Lopez has relied on the waters off Cuba's northern coasts for decades.

His sun-baked skin and leathery hands testify to his years fishing under hot the Caribbean sun in a village east of Havana.

As an oil spill looms to the north, Lopez and other fisherman are uneasy.

"This, for us, is very worrisome," he said, pushing up a sweat stained Miami Dolphins hat from his brow. "The truth is we're worried about what we're going to do."

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May 19th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

Cuban migrants illegal in their own country

"I was caught because I was an illegal," explained a bicycle taxi driver as he gripped the rusted blue handle-bars of his vehicle in Havana's Central Park. "And because I'd been here several times before, I was deported back."

But the driver working his trade in the capital city did not arrive in Cuba from another country. Instead he is among the thousands who have come from rural provinces in search of work and a place to live - but who have been deported back because of "Decree 217."
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May 19th, 2010
04:22 PM ET

Cuba says private farmers can deal directly with suppliers

In the latest loosening of government involvement in Cuba's still predominantly state-run economy, private farmers in the country will be allowed to bypass the government bureaucracy and purchase goods directly from suppliers.
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May 10th, 2010
06:16 PM ET

Rights activist: Cuban blogger released from prison

Independent Cuban journalist and blogger Dania Garcia has been released from prison, according to the head of Cuba's independent Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
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Filed under: Cuba • Human rights
May 2nd, 2010
09:33 AM ET

Workers hit the streets on May Day in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) - Thousands packed Havana's Revolution Square on Saturday for International Workers' Day, drawing hoards of Cuban demonstrators, spectators, and trade unionists from around the world - including the United States and the United Kingdom.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Brian Hattsberger, a British labor unionist in attendance, wiping the sweat from his brow with his red labor hat. "It's just amazing." FULL POST

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