Admin Seeks to Block "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" Repeal; Pentagon Vows Compliance

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to suspend her ruling ordering the US military to stop enforcing the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law barring openly gay men and women from the armed forces. Judge Virginia Phillips of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California issued an injunction against the ban this week, one month after ruling it’s unconstitutional. On Thursday, the Justice Department asked Phillips to stay the injunction and said it would file an appeal to have it overturned. The administration claims it opposes the ban but wants it to remain in effect until the military concludes a review. The move came just as the Pentagon said it would obey Phillips’s order and immediately suspend any investigations or discharge proceedings against gay and lesbian soldiers.

Judge OKs Challenge to Healthcare Law

A federal judge has ruled key elements of a Republican-backed multi-state lawsuit against the federal healthcare law can go to trial. On Thursday, US District Judge Roger Vinson said twenty states and the National Federation of Independent Business can proceed with their challenge to health insurance mandates and penalties for those who don’t purchase coverage.

US Confirms Backing of Afghan-Taliban Talks

The Obama administration has confirmed reports it’s backing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. US-led forces have allowed the movement of senior Taliban leaders to attend negotiations with Afghan officials. Speaking at a NATO summit in Brussels, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US supports Afghan reconciliation.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "We have always acknowledged that reconciliation has to be a part of the solution, ultimately, in Afghanistan, and we will do whatever we can to support that process. I think one of the principles that we have established with President Karzai is transparency with one another as this process goes forward, so we are in very close consultations with President Karzai and the Afghan government."

In an interview with Al Jazeera today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he’s had unofficial meetings with Taliban leaders. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said any talks with the Taliban are in the early stages.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "On the reconciliation front, this is a much more complex effort that is just beginning. There are a lot of different strains to it that may or may not be legitimate or borne out as producing any bona fide reconciliation."

ICC Petitioned to Probe Israeli Attack on Gaza Flotilla

Turkish lawyers representing victims of Israel’s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla have petitioned the International Criminal Court to investigate the Israeli military for war crimes. Nine people were killed in the May 31st attack, including nineteen-year-old Turkish American Furkan Dogan. On Thursday, Dogan’s father, Ahmet Dogan, urged the Obama administration to back an ICC probe.

Ahmet Dogan: "The rights of my son are not being protected. I urge the USA to defend the rights of my son because he is an American citizen. I want the minister of foreign affairs to contact me. Even animal rights are protected in the USA, but not my son’s rights. Why are the people that killed my son not being prosecuted?"

Neither the US nor Israel are signatories to the International Criminal Court. The petition comes one month after a UN Human Rights Council probe accused Israeli forces of "willful killing" and torture in the attack and said Israeli officials should face international prosecution.

Ahmadinejad: Israel Will "Disappear"

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued his first state visit to Lebanon Thursday in the southern region bordering Israel. Speaking before a crowd of thousands, Ahmadinejad said Israel would one day "disappear."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Let everyone know that the Zionists will cease to exist. You have been able to let the enemy taste defeat and introduced despair into the hearts of the devil and the hearts of the Zionists. And today there is no choice for the Zionists except to surrender to the reality or to return to their original homelands.’’

UN: DRC Troops Committing Rape

The United Nations is warning Democratic Republic of Congo troops are committing rape and murder in the same areas where rebel forces carried out mass rapes just weeks ago. On Thursday, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, told the Security Council that DRC troops had carried out abuses in the Walikale region. Between 300 to 500 women, girls and babies were raped when Rwandan and Congolese rebels stormed villages there in July and August. Wallström said Walikale residents are being terrorized because their region has valuable minerals.

Margot Wallström: "The mass rapes in Walikale demonstrate a nexus between the illicit exploitation of natural resources by armed elements and patrons of sexual violence. It is evident that communities in lucrative mining areas are at particularly high risk. The mineral wealth that should be the source of their prosperity is instead the source of their greatest suffering. I encourage more concerted attention on this aspect. Therefore, mass rapes that occurred in Walikale should also be investigated from the angle of the competition over mining interests as one of the root causes of conflict and sexual violence."

US Agents Spying through Social Networking Sites

Newly released documents show government agencies have engaged in domestic spying through popular social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a 2008 memo from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service instructed agents to befriend petitioners on social networking sites to monitor them for unlawful activity. The memo says, "Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuels a need to have a large group of ’friends’… and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don’t even know. This provides an excellent vantage point for [us] to observe the daily life of beneficiaries and petitioners who are suspected of fraudulent activities." The documents also show the Department of Homeland Security monitored posts on a wide range of websites to analyze public communication during President Obama’s inauguration. In addition to popular social networking sites, government agents also tracked activity on news sites such as NPR, the political commentary site Daily Kos, and dating sites for African Americans and Latinos.

Torture-Linked Psychologist Awarded Military Contract

A psychologist whose theories helped form the basis of the CIA torture program has been awarded a $31 million no-bid military contract. Salon.com reports Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has signed on to help US soldiers cope with the psychological strain of multiple combat tours. A former president of the American Psychological Association, Seligman gave a 2002 address at the Navy’s SERE school in San Diego on his theory of "learned helplessness." In the 1960s, Seligman experimented on dogs and found that by shocking a dog repeatedly and randomly, he could brutalize it emotionally into a state of complete passivity. His research was later used for the Bush administration’s torture methods known as "enhanced interrogation techniques."

2 Convicted of Hate Crime in Beating Death of Mexican Immigrant

Two white Pennsylvania residents have been convicted of a hate crime in the 2008 beating death of a Mexican immigrant. On Thursday, a federal jury found Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky guilty of violating the civil rights of Luis Ramírez when they and four others beat him in the town of Shenandoah. Witnesses say the assailants brutally beat Ramírez while yelling racial slurs. The two face up to life in prison.

WikiLeaks: US Committing Financial Warfare

And the whistleblowing group WikiLeaks is accusing the US of targeting it with financial warfare. Speaking to The Guardian of London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the company responsible for collecting the group’s donations terminated its account after the US and Australia placed WikiLeaks on blacklists. The company, Moneybookers, dropped WikiLeaks less than a week after the Pentagon threatened to target the group over its release of thousands of military documents on the Afghan war.

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