Obama invokes ‘state secrets’ claim to dismiss suit against targeting of U.S. citizen al-Aulaqi
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 25, 2010; 1:49 AM
The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.
The U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al-Qaeda there.
Government lawyers called the state-secrets argument a last resort to toss out the case, and it seems likely to revive a debate over the reach of a president’s powers in the global war against al-Qaeda.
Empty Your Medicine Cabinet
With prescription-drug abuse on the rise, what do you do with old bottles of painkillers?
The numbers on prescription-drug abuse aren’t getting any better. Stats released by the government last week show an increase in the percentage of Americans using prescription stimulants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and painkillers for “nonmedical reasons”-up from 2.5 percent in 2008 to 2.8 percent last year. That’s 7 million people. Most worrisome: the biggest users are in the 18- to 25-year-old set, some of whom probably popped their first Vicodin in their early teens.
Gas Blasts Spur Questions on Oversight of Pipelines
By ANDREW W. LEHREN
Published: September 24, 2010
At a Christmas Eve gathering in 2008, a natural gas explosion in a suburban Sacramento neighborhood killed a 72-year-old man and injured his daughter and granddaughter. Investigators determined that Pacific Gas and Electric was to blame for a leak, but federal and state regulators never cited the utility for safety violations.
It was one example of what many experts and studies say is weak oversight of gas pipelines in the United States, a problem that has contributed to hundreds of pipeline episodes that have killed 60 people and injured 230 others in the last five years.
Federal workers become flash point in midterm elections
By Lisa Rein
Friday, September 24, 2010; 11:51 PM
From her sixth-floor office at the National Science Foundation in Arlington County, Carter Kimsey earns $155,500 a year helping to conceive and oversee federal research grants to the nation’s smartest scientists.Kimsey doesn’t see herself as overpaid. But now, the 63-year-old civil servant and almost 2 million other federal workers are in the cross hairs during this midterm election season. With 14.9 million Americans unemployed and private-sector wages stagnant, Republicans hoping to win back Congress in November have seized on the salaries and size of the federal workforce as symbols of overspending by the Obama administration.
Family fiefdoms blamed for tainting Italian universities
By Michael Day in Milan Saturday, 25 September 2010
The decline of Italy’s universities, none of which currently appear in the world’s top 200, is a constant source of lament among the country’s chattering classes.
But the reason for this sorry state is laid bare by new research that shows the extent of nepotism in higher education. The grip of family fiefdoms is being blamed for a nationwide brain drain.
The investigative magazine L’Espresso and the newspaper La Repubblica have revealed the astonishing degree to which lecturing jobs are kept in the family in Italy’s sclerotic higher education system.
EU defense ministers advocate military cooperation as austerity measure
European Union defense ministers have taken a step towards agreeing on intensified military cooperation in the 27-nation bloc at a meeting in Belgium. The move could save billions from national defense budgets.
European defense ministers meeting in Belgium have discussed the need to step up military and defense cooperation in a bid to cut billions of euros from domestic defense budgets.
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was among those who championed the idea of closer cooperation on defense at the meeting in the city of Ghent, but acknowledged that any such plan would face significant obstacles.
“We should join our forces more, but we also have to see the hurdles,” Guttenberg said. “These are national hurdles. In Germany, for example, parliament has to agree to every foreign mission.
How far away is a Middle East peace deal? It could be as little as 13 miles
With Jewish settlements the biggest barrier to any agreement, Catrina Stewart visits Ariel, deep inside the occupied West Bank
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Unfurling a large map of the West Bank, Palestinian cartographer Khalil Tafakji picks out Ariel, a large Jewish settlement that lies deep in the occupied West Bank.
With his finger he traces an outline of Israel’s vision for annexing this area that would, he says, effectively carve a Palestinian state into two halves.
A small town of 20,000 residents, Ariel is just a short drive from Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean coastline along a purpose-built highway. It boasts an impressive sports centre and a new theatre that is to open shortly, and its college was recently upgraded to a university.
US and Iran fire salvos at the UN
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
NEW YORK – The United Nations was turned into a battleground for the United States and Iran on Thursday as President Barack Obama justified sanctions by accusing Tehran of failing to come clean on its nuclear intentions, while hours later his Iranian opposite number President Mahmud Ahmadinejad insinuated that the US government may have instigated the 9/11 atrocities to rationalize the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
With his calls for an independent UN committee to investigate the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, Ahmadinejad may have set the clock back, given the UN’s backing of US anti-terrorism efforts that in retrospect deserved critical scrutiny.
Afghan women break barriers in a male bastion: the army
Despite social taboos and other hurdles, a group of 29 become the first to graduate from an officer-candidate program mentored by U.S. troops. Officials hope to eventually go from a few hundred to 30,000 female soldiers.
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times
September 25, 2010
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan – One by one, each smartly uniformed member of the class stood at full attention, brandished a graduation certificate and uttered the ritual call-out: “I will serve Afghanistan!”
But for the first time, the proud group of newly commissioned army officers was made up entirely of women. The 29 second lieutenants were the first female recruits to complete a 20-week officer-candidate program mentored by U.S. troops.
Power struggle rages in North Korean regime
A fierce battle is being waged behind the scenes for control of North Korea as Kim Jong-il prepares to anoint his successor, it has emerged.
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Factional in-fighting has broken out between Chang Song-taek, the rogue state’s second-in-command, and a group of senior reform-minded officials, according to a source who has recently met people at the highest levels of the North Korean government.
The battle between the two sides comes as Kim Jong-il, the 68-year-old “Dear Leader”, is in frail health and no concrete succession plan has yet to emerge.
Chang, 64, is married to Kim’s sister and “always believed the crown would be his [one day]”, according to the source. His ambition may yet be fulfilled, since many observers believe he could take charge of North Korea as a regent while Kim’s third son, the 28-year-old Kim Jong-un, gains experience.
UN warns Sudan over referendums
Meeting in New York addresses concerns over preparations for next year’s planned independence vote in the south.
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2010
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has warned Sudan that two looming self-determination votes, which could see the breakup of Africa’s biggest nation, must be “peaceful” and “free of intimidation”.
At the start of a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Friday, Ban said that the international community has “clear expectations” about the polls.
“We expect the referendum to be peaceful, with an environment free of intimidation and infringement of rights … we expect both parties to accept the results and to plan for the consequences,” Ban said.
The UN chief said the “stakes are high for Sudan, for Africa and for the international community”.
South Africa strike sends students beyond the classroom to learn
South Africa’s strike by teachers has prompted students to fall behind in preparations for exams. They’re turning to mobile phone programs to catch up.
By Ian Evans, Correspondent / September 24, 2010
Cape Town, South Africa
Turn on your cellphone and the lesson will begin.
That’s the unusual instruction given to thousands of school children in South Africa who have turned to mobile handsets to plug gaps in their math curriculum after a nationwide strike by teachers.
The bitter three-week strike by teachers and other civil servants over pay ended three weeks ago. However, students have protested across the country, complaining they did not have enough time to prepare for exams.
Mexico drug war toll: 10th mayor slain, another wounded
By Tim Johnson | McClatchy Newspapers
MEXICO CITY – As if Mexicans needed more evidence that criminal groups are trying to hijack the political life of the nation, it came with a ferocious triple-whammy punch in the past 24 hours.
Assailants shot and seriously wounded the mayor-elect of a town in the border state of Chihuahua Friday afternoon, less than a day after commandos in Nuevo Leon state executed a sitting mayor, making him the 10th municipal chief slain so far this year.