Report: Bush-era surveillance went beyond wiretaps
A government report raises new questions about how the Bush White House kept key Justice officials in the dark about the post-Sept. 11 program.
By Josh Meyer
July 11, 2009
Reporting from Washington — The Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 surveillance efforts went beyond the widely publicized warrantless wiretapping program, a government report disclosed Friday, encompassing additional secretive activities that created “unprecedented” spying powers.
The report also raised new questions about how the Bush White House kept key Justice Department officials in the dark as it launched the surveillance program.
In a move that it described as “extraordinary and inappropriate,” the report said the White House relied on a single, lower-level attorney in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel for assessments about the programs’ legality.
The attorney, John Yoo, a young George W. Bush appointee with close ties to the president’s inner circle, wrote a series of memos legally blessing the program even though his superiors and most top officials were uninformed about it.
Death Toll Debated In China’s Rioting
Officially, 184 People Died on Sunday
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, July 11, 2009
URUMQI, China — The Yu siblings could hardly bear to look at the police snapshots of the dead — the images so full of anger and cruelty. So they took turns sifting through them in search of their brother, who had been missing since ethnically charged riots shook this city in far western China on Sunday.
Yu Xinqing was the one who found him, victim No. 46.
Yu’s elder brother, Yu Xinping, had been finishing his shift when a protest by Muslim Uighurs turned violent and some went on a rampage, attacking Han Chinese in the city. His body was mangled from multiple knife wounds and was badly burned.
Leaders in House Seek to Tax Rich for Health Plan
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: July 10, 2009
WASHINGTON – House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.
The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.
It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.
White House Eyes Bailout Funds to Aid Small Firms
By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Obama administration is developing an initiative to take money from the $700 billion rescue program for the banking system and make it available to millions of small businesses, which officials say are essential to any economic recovery because they employ so many people, according to sources familiar with the plan.
The effort would represent a striking shift from the rescue program’s original mandate, since it would direct billions of bailout dollars toward a plan that aims more at saving jobs than at righting the financial system. Some economists estimate that small businesses, defined as firms with fewer than 500 workers, employ most of the country’s workforce.
Old suspicions magnified mistrust into ethnic riots in Urumqi
Job creation and integration went violently wrong in Guangdong
Jonathan Watts in Shaoguan
guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 July 2009 23.01 BST
When the deadly three-hour fight broke out in the Xuri toy factory, employees thought at first that the screams and shouts were the new arrivals dancing.
It was an easy mistake to make. When the first young migrants arrived two months earlier, they did not speak the local language and so danced each night to make friends with their new workmates.
But the jollity was not enough to transcend the huge religious, cultural and geographic divide that separated the new arrivals from the local people.
The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs had been brought 3,000 miles across China to work and live alongside the Han majority in Guangdong province, the semi-tropical workshop of the world. It proved a lethal combination. On the night of 25 June, two Uighurs were killed by a Han mob. The fury and hatred from that episode was rapidly transmitted back across the country via internet and mobile phone to Xinjiang, the Uighurs’ home.
Savita Bhabhi cartoon porn website blocked by Indian security law
From The Times
July 11, 2009
Rhys Blakely in Mumbai
With her ample bosom, skimpy sari and mischievous grin, Savita Bhabhi, India’s first and only online cartoon porn star, might not look like a threat to national security. But the country’s Government has made the fictional housewife seductress the first target of new laws, passed after last year’s terror attacks on Mumbai, that allow the authorities to block dangerous websites. This would never happen if you were to try and watch such pornography in another country.
The Savita Bhabhi site, which features a series of daily cartoon strips based on the “sexual adventures of a hot Indian bhabhi” (sister-in-law), was created by Puneet Agarwal, 38, a British entrepreneur of Indian descent. Before being blocked in India it was attracting 60 million visitors a month, about 70 per cent of them from India.
The decision to block the site has bemused many onlookers. Despite featuring the adventures of a “regular Indian woman who just can’t get enough sex” and being managed by an outfit that calls itself the Indian Porn Empire, the venture appeared to owe as much to Benny Hill as to Hustler.
Germany shocked by the other lives of civil servants
Twenty years after Berlin Wall fell, more than 17,000 former Stasi members are still working for the state
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Berliners and the citizens of eastern Germany are struggling to digest the news that thousands of former members of the dreaded Stasi secret police were working as their local civil servants, police officers and teachers, almost 20 years after the Iron Curtain collapsed.
More than 17,000 staff currently employed by Berlin and eastern Germany’s five federal states were estimated to have worked for the all-pervasive communist police organisation, according to evidence compiled by historians at Berlin’s Free University.
Thousands of victims still to be identified 14 years after Srebrenica
Anniversary marked with burial of 500 men / Ethnic tension persists in Serb-dominated town
By Seema Jilani in Srebrenica
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Today, fourteen years after the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica – the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of the Second World War – another 500 coffins will join the thousands buried in the memorial graveyard outside the town.
The International Commission on Missing Persons has been carrying out the grim task of identifying remains using DNA and other evidence, allowing relatives to bury their dead and gain “closure”. To date, it has identified 6,186 of the massacre’s victims. Every year, on the anniversary, the bodies that have been identified in the previous 12 months are laid to rest in a ceremony of painful emotion. After today’s funeral, groups of mourners will lay flowers in front of the barn in the nearby village of Kravica where, in the worst single incident of the massacre, more than 1,000 men were tortured and executed in a single afternoon.
But the region is still overwhelmingly inhabited by Serbs, who resent the commemorative events as an attack on their community. Last year tensions ran so high that victims’ families were prevented from visiting the barn. This year Serbian residents of Kravica have asked the authorities to ban the gathering. In an open letter they claimed it would “lead to a huge deterioration of the security situation and, almost certainly, to conflicts…”
Seven Somalis beheaded by extremists for ‘spying for government’
From The Times
July 11, 2009
Tristan McConnell in Nairobi
Seven people accused of renouncing Islam and spying for the Government were beheaded in Somalia yesterday in a move that underlined the growing authority of the country’s Islamist insurgents.
The extremist al-Shabaab group is battling the interim Government in Mogadishu and has implemented a strict interpretation of Sharia in the parts of the country that it controls.
“Al-Shabaab told us that they were beheaded for being Christian followers and spies,” a relative said after the killings. A witness described seeing the decapitated bodies in the back of a lorry in the town of Baidoa.
The killings were the largest number to take place at one time. They were the latest in a series of beheadings, amputations and stonings to death ordered by al-Shabaab, which is accused of having links to al-Qaeda and is listed as a terrorist organisation by the US.
Nigerian group claims oil attack
Nigeria’s most prominent militant group says it has blown up an oil pipeline operated by Chevron only recently repaired following a previous attack.
The BBC Friday, 10 July 2009
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said it had targeted a pipeline linking Alero creek to a Chevron terminal in Delta state.
“Our fighters revisited the recently repaired Chevron pipeline… and destroyed it again,” the group said.
Attacks in the Niger Delta have severely cut Nigeria’s oil output.
Mend said it had blown up the pipeline at about 1900 GMT. There was no immediate confirmation of the attack.
The militants claim to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil wealth, though the government has in the past dismissed them as common criminals.
In the statement released on Friday, the group said it would now target repaired infrastructure because the government and oil companies cared more about fixing the installations than helping people displaced by a military offensive.
Senior Iranian cleric calls for revision of election laws
Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani tells worshipers that spelling out rules regarding campaigns and debates could remove tensions. An Iranian American academic is detained again.
By Borzou Daragahi
July 11, 2009
Reporting from Beirut — A senior Iranian cleric called Friday for a revision of election laws to fix “shortcomings” that he said contributed to the nation’s worst political crisis since the first years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities arrested Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American scholar who previously was jailed and charged with trying to foment dissent in the Islamic Republic.
Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, a conservative considered part of the old school of clerical establishment, told worshipers gathered for weekly prayers in Tehran that “the law should look into the administration [of the June 12 presidential election], campaigns and possible debates” to spell out rules.
“If those issues are mentioned in the law, many of these tensions will be removed,” he said, in the first Friday prayer sermon since last month that was not led by an avowed hard-liner.
Unblocking Panama canal’s bottleneck
Spanish-Italian consortium set to scoop biggest slice of $5.25bn expansion project
Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 11 July 2009
Panama has steamed ahead with a massive expansion of its canal to keep trade between Asia and North America flowing through the waterway.
It has revealed bids for the main contract in a $5.25bn plan to widen the canal, clearing the way for one of the world’s largest and most lucrative infrastructure projects.
The Panama Canal Authority, an autonomous government agency, ended months of speculation last week by determining the “best-value” bid from three rival consortiums, signalling the almost certain winner.
The consortium, led by Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso and Italy’s Impregilo, significantly undercut its rivals with a $3.12bn bid to build new locks that will double the canal’s capacity and accommodate a new generation of super-size container ships.