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Obama to meet with San Bernardino shooting victims

WASHINGTON (AP) – Continuing a grim ritual of his time in office, President Barack Obama plans to meet with families of victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the White House said Wednesday. The meeting in Southern California is set for Friday. It was added to Obama s long-scheduled trip to Hawaii for Christmas vacation.

While he is en route to Honolulu, the president will stop in San Bernardino, California, to visit privately with the families of the victims of the terror attack in San Bernardino that occurred earlier this month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. Fourteen people were killed and 21 others were injured at a workplace holiday party in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 by a gun-wielding husband-and-wife team. Federal authorities say the pair had become self-radicalized in the years before Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, opened fire on Farook s co-workers. The couple was killed during a subsequent shootout with police.

During a televised address in the anxious days after the shootings, Obama said authorities had found no evidence that the American-born Farook and his Pakistani wife had carried out instructions from an overseas-based terrorist organization or that they were part of a broader conspiracy based in the U.S.

But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West, Obama said from the Oval Office. So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people. The shootings closely followed the Nov. 13 attack on Paris that left 130 people dead and for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility. Both attacks have heightened public fears about future attacks on U.S. soil, concerns that Obama has tried to allay with the rare Oval Office address on administration efforts to counter the threat from the Islamic State group, as well as a series of public appearances by the president this week.

Obama met with his national security team at the Pentagon on Monday, instead of their usual location in the White House Situation Room. He followed the meeting with a public update on the effort to counter IS, saying the U.S. and its partners were going after the group harder than ever. Obama also plans to visit to the National Counterterrorism Center in suburban Virginia on Thursday for an annual, pre-holiday briefing that in past years has been held at the White House. The pair of attacks has also led to calls for tighter visa screenings for people entering the U.S. and for the immigrant brides-to-be of American citizens. Malik came to the U.S. in 2014 on a K-1, or fiancee visa. Obama has also called on Congress to pass legislation to block firearm sales to people whose names are on the federal no-fly list for air travel. Obama has vowed to call for new gun-control measures after every mass shooting. The White House is considering acting to expand gun background checks without congressional approval.

Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said last week that the president has asked his team for a proposal soon. She said the recommendations will include measures to expand background checks. Friday s stop will be the latest in a grim ritual Obama has performed since taking office seven years ago: visiting communities stricken by deadly mass shootings to offer solace to grieving relatives, beginning with the shooting at Fort Hood in Texas near the end of his first year. Most recently, in October, Obama met privately with families of the victims after a student gunman killed eight students and a teacher at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, before turning the gun on himself.

During a previously scheduled trip to Paris last month to attend an international climate conference, Obama laid a rose at a memorial outside a concert hall where many of the victims in that attack were killed.

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Walmart, Whole Foods, and Slave-Labor Shrimp

On Monday, a major AP investigation shook the seafood-loving public[1] when it implicated several major American food purveyors with selling shrimp that had been peeled using slave labor in Thailand. The list of the companies involved, as well as the scope of the labor abuses, which involved children, is staggering. For now, here s the former:

U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It also entered the supply chains of some of America’s best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast, which are sold in grocery stores from Safeway and Schnucks to Piggly Wiggly and Albertsons. AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.

As Roberto Ferdman of The Washington Post points out[2], this is neither the first[3] nor the second time[4] in recent years a spotlight has been shone on shrimping practices in Thailand. He adds that this latest report holds that such abuses are still rampant in the Thai shrimp industry and chastised major markets for not keeping shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves out of their food system. As the AP reports, shrimp remains a key part of Thailand s $7-billion seafood-export business. On Tuesday, Red Lobster, which has a popular annual promotion called Endless Shrimp, became one of the few companies to deny buying shrimp[5] from illicit processors. We are confident based on our findings and assurances from Thai Union that our seafood supply was not associated with the abusive pre-processing facilities, the company said in a statement[6]. In a vague tweet, Whole Foods also denied selling shrimp that is peeled using slave labor.

After thorough investigation, we’re confident Thai Union shrimp at our stores did not come from illicit processing facility

Whole Foods Market (@WholeFoods) December 15, 2015[7]

The company later clarified[8] that it does not sell the kind of shrimp specified in the AP report. All our shrimp is either raw with the shell on, or cooked in the shell and then peeled in approved production facilities, CNN reported. Nevertheless, Whole Foods isn t severing its relationship with Thai Union. The company said it would support a Thai Union pledge to bring all of its shrimp-processing operations in-house by the end of 2015. Walmart, on the hand, did not deny[9] that its supply chain may have involved forced labor.

We are aware of the Associated Press story, and we were horrified by the conditions and treatment of workers the reporters uncovered. The ethical recruitment and treatment of workers in the industry as a whole is extremely important to us, which is why we are working hard to form coalitions and partnerships that will help lead to sustainable improvements in the industry.

But, after so many expos s, it s getting increasingly easy to ask if anything will really change. In a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, Martha Mendoza, one of the four AP reporters who worked on the six-month investigation, concluded this[10]: There is more oversight in seafood to protect dolphins than there is to protect humans.


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Suspect in military base security breach charged in Ohio

CINCINNATI (AP) – A man accused of ignoring guards instructions to stop at a security gate at Ohio s largest military base last month, prompting evacuations, has been charged in federal court, base officials said Wednesday. A statement from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton said charges were filed in U.S. District Court against Edward Novak, 32, of the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek. Authorities said Novak on Nov. 24 also entered a secure building without authorization before he was challenged by employees. They said he didn t have a weapon. Charges against Novak include trespassing, assault, inducing panic and making false alarms, according to court records. The other counts are operating a vehicle under the influence, failure to comply with a lawful order, fleeing and eluding a police officer and disorderly conduct.

Court records did not list an attorney for Novak. Calls to his home on Wednesday were met with a busy signal.

After reviewing all the facts and consulting with our attorneys, we felt filing these charges is in the best interest of the Air Force and the safety of all Wright-Patt employees, said Col. John Devillier, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson AFB Installation Commander.

Base officials said the security response required last month hindered operations at the base for several hours. Devillier has said authorities plan to revise and upgrade security measures, such as adding barricades and winding traffic lanes. Authorities are also considering tactical and procedural changes.