News from North America, Friday 31st May 2013

BBC News: “Surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has recovered enough to walk, his mother says.

In an interview for the Associated Press, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said her son told her in a phone call that he and his brother, killed in a police manhunt after the blasts, were innocent.

Mr Tsarnaev, who was shot and injured during the manhunt, is currently being held in a prison hospital.”

Reuters: “Authorities intercepted a threatening letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama that was similar to ones sent to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Secret Service said on Thursday.

Letters sent to Bloomberg and his gun control group contained material believed to be the deadly poison ricin and contained a reference to gun control, New York police said on Wednesday.

A Secret Service official said the letter sent to the White House was similar but did not elaborate. The White House mail screening facility turned it over to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Secret Service official said on condition of anonymity.”

CNN: “The father of a 27-year-old man shot dead by an FBI agent said Thursday that accounts he has heard about the killing make no sense.

Ibragim Todashev was fatally shot early May 22 during questioning about a 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts, as well as his relationship with deceased Boston Marathon bombings suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Todashev admitted to his direct role in slashing three people’s throats in Waltham and said Tsarnaev was involved as well, a federal law enforcement official told CNN.”

The Guardian: “A US woman has been killed in fighting in Syria, according to her family.

Nicole Mansfield, a convert to Islam, died while apparently fighting with the opposition against government forces, though the specifics of her death were as yet unclear.”

Reuters: “A Lebanese immigrant in Chicago on Thursday was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for plotting an attack and planting what he thought was a bomb near the city’s Wrigley Field baseball park.

Sami Samir Hassoun, 25, pleaded guilty last year to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and an explosive device after he placed what he thought was a homemade bomb in a garbage can in the north-side neighborhood during a busy Saturday night, according to court records.”

ABC News: “Havana is forcefully condemning a U.S. government decision to keep Cuba on its annual list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry calls it an “arbitrary and unilateral” ruling that cynically aims to justify the 51-year economic embargo and placate the Cuban exile lobby.

It says Cuban soil will never be used to accommodate terrorists or organize violent acts against any nation.”

The Department of State’s report, Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, can be accessed here.

LA Times: “Attorneys who worked with James Comey, expected to be nominated as FBI director, offer praise. But some civil rights groups are skeptical of his record in the George W. Bush administration.”

Washington Post: “Tea party groups over the past few weeks have suddenly and successfully pressured Republican governors to reassess their support for a rare bipartisan initiative backed by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s public schools.

Activists have donned matching T-shirts and packed buses bound for state legislative hearing rooms in Harrisburg, Pa., grilled Georgia education officials at a local Republican Party breakfast and deluged Michigan lawmakers with phone calls urging opposition to the Common Core State Standards.

The burst of activity marks the newest front for the tea party movement, which has lacked a cohesive goal since it coalesced in 2010 in opposition to Obama’s health-care initiative.”

Research: Journal of Politics: ‘Stereotypes of Muslims and Support for the War on Terror’ by John Sides and Kimberly Gross. “We investigate Americans’ stereotypes of Muslims. We distinguish specific dimensions of stereotypes and find that negative stereotypes relating to violence and trustworthiness are commonplace. Furthermore, these stereotypes have consequences: those with less favorable views of Muslims, especially in terms of violence and trustworthiness, are more likely to support several aspects of the War on Terror. Our findings contrast with some previous research that emphasizes the role of a generalized ethnocentrism, rather than specific stereotypes of Muslims, in explaining public opinion in this domain. We argue that citizens do use specific stereotypes when there is a close correspondence between the dimension of the stereotype and the policy in question.”

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