Rupert Murdoch has won his bid to take over The Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, the board of directors of Dow Jones & Co. approved a $5 billion deal to bring The Wall Street Journal into Murdoch’s News Corp. media conglomerate. Murdoch’s holdings include the Fox network, Fox News channel, the 21st Century Fox movie studio, MySpace.com, The Times of London, the New York Post, the “American Idol” franchise, HarperCollins, TV Guide, The Weekly Standard, National Geographic television, and several satellite networks. A reporter for The Wall Street Journal told the Los Angeles Times, “People are aghast that this could have happened. … It’s a sickening realization to know that this really great iconic newspaper is [not only] no longer going to be independent, but is also going to be controlled by a man whose values are inimical to ours.”
The nation’s top intelligence official has confirmed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping was only one part of a broader surveillance program. In a letter to Senator Arlen Specter, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell says President Bush’s 2001 executive order authorizing the spying included a number of intelligence activities separate from the administration’s Terrorist Surveillance Program. Invoking the warrantless spying, McConnell writes: “This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged.” The letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from perjury charges. Gonzales has claimed a legal dispute in 2004 did not focus on the warrantless spying but on other intelligence activities.
A U.S. attorney has revealed he appeared on the administration’s infamous firing list just eight days after ignoring a senior Justice Department official’s plea to back off a case against the drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Roanoke prosecutor John L. Brownlee said former Deputy Attorney General Chief of Staff Michael Elston urged him to delay a guilty plea he had secured following a lengthy investigation. Elston’s attorney says he was acting on orders from former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. Purdue Pharma was ordered to pay over $600 million in fines this week for misleading the public about the addiction risks of its painkiller OxyContin.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates continue their Mideast tour. On Tuesday, Rice and Gates were in Egypt followed by Saudi Arabia. The trip comes on the heels of the Bush administration’s plan to give military aid worth more than $43 billion to Israel and Egypt and another $20 billion to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Rice defended the aid package during her stop at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “The United States is determined to assure our allies that we are going to be reliable in helping them to meet their security needs. We have a lot of interests in common in the fight against terrorism and extremism in protecting the gains of peace processes of the past and in extending those gains to peace processes of the future.”
Rice goes on to Israel today, followed by the Occupied Territories, where she will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. It’s Rice’s first visit there since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. Congressional Democrats have raised opposition to the aid package — but only as it applies to Saudi Arabia.
Democratic Congressmember Jerrold Nadler: “The Bush administration’s plan to sell to Saudi Arabia $20 billion worth of arms raises serious red flags. The administration must realize that despite its rhetoric to the contrary, Saudi Arabia is not our friend.”
The U.N. Security Council has approved a joint U.N.-African Union force of up to 26,000 troops for Darfur. The resolution invokes Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter to back the use of force to protect civilians in the area. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the measure.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “By authorizing the deployment of a hybrid operation for Darfur, you are sending a clear and powerful signal of your commitment to improve the lives of the people of the region and close this tragic chapter in Sudan’s history.”
Up to 400,000 people have been killed and two million displaced in the conflict between Sudanese-backed militias and Darfur’s rebel groups.
In Afghanistan, Taliban captors have killed a second South Korean hostage among the initial group of 23 kidnapped last month. The fate of the surviving 21 is unknown as another deadline passed earlier today. Meanwhile, peace activists continue to rally in Seoul for the withdrawal of South Korean troops from Afghanistan.
South Korean peace activist Oh Hye-ran: “The Taliban kidnapped the Koreans because South Korean troops have been dispatched there. We’re here to urge the Defense Ministry to promptly withdraw our troops.”
Australia is refusing to apologize for wrongly jailing an Indian-born doctor for nearly a month following the failed car bomb attacks in Britain and Scotland. Mohammad Haneef was detained after officials alleged he had provided material support to the suspects. Speaking in the Philippines, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer rejected calls for an apology.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer: “We are not apologizing to anybody for protecting the Australian people. We owe no one an apology. We would only owe the Australian people an apology if we were soft on terrorism or investigating issues pertaining to terrorism which would be of some concern to the police.”
A retired Army general has been censured for his role in the military cover-up of the friendly-fire death of former Army Ranger and professional football player Pat Tillman. Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger is said to have misled investigators probing Tillman’s shooting. The military initially announced Tillman had been killed by Taliban fighters but later conceded he died by fratricide. Kensinger is the highest-ranking military official to be punished in the Tillman case so far. Several others have successfully avoided scrutiny. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is among a slate of current and former officials set to testify before a House Oversight hearing today on Tillman’s death. The developments comes on the heels of newly released documents showing Army medical examiners tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether Tillman was deliberately shot. Tillman’s bullet wounds were so close together that it appeared he was cut down by an M-16 fired from about 10 yards away.
In news from Iraq, at least 17 people were killed today in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. Another 32 people were wounded. The Pentagon also announced the deaths of three U.S. troops in a roadside bombing near Baghdad.
U.S. commanders meanwhile are touting last month’s U.S. death toll as a sign of progress on the ground. Seventy-seven servicemembers were killed in July, the lowest monthly total since November. But the July total is also the highest over the five Julys since the U.S. invasion. The July death toll one year ago was 43.
In other Iraq news, Iraq’s Oil Ministry has issued a government-wide directive not to deal with Iraq’s unions. Iraq’s oil workers went on strike in June over a proposed oil deal backed by the United States. The unions say the deal would hand too much control to foreign corporations.