A federal judge has ruled the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program was illegal and in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the federal district court in San Francisco ruled the government illegally intercepted the phone calls of an Oregon-based Islamic charity called Al Haramain in 2004. Both the Bush and Obama administrations had tried to dismiss the suit claiming a trial could result in the release of state secrets. But Judge Walker rejected the state secrets argument. Attorney Jon Eisenberg said the ruling marks an “implicit repudiation of the Bush-Cheney theory of executive power.”
International donors have pledged $9.9 billion for the reconstruction of earthquake-ravaged Haiti over the next several years. Meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, over fifty nations and international organizations made the pledges after the Haitian government unveiled a long-awaited rebuilding plan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the aid would assist a historic reconstruction.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “What we envision today is a wholesale national renewal, a sweeping exercise in nation-building on a scale and scope not seen in generations.”
Meanwhile, in related news, at least thirty Haitians who were evacuated to the United States after the earthquake have been locked up in immigration detention centers since their arrival in Florida. Some of the earthquake survivors arrived on US military planes only to be detained for not having visas. None of the detained Haitians have criminal histories. The New York Times reports legal advocates have been trying for weeks to persuade US officials to release the earthquake survivors from detention. Lawyers at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center say the detainees have received little or no mental healthcare for the trauma they suffered during the earthquake.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany have agreed to begin talks on imposing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “I think all the members of the P5+1, as well as every other member of the United Nations, is open to negotiated solutions. We happen to think that action in the Security Council is part of negotiation and diplomacy that perhaps can get the attention of the Iranian leadership.”
Up until now, China had opposed any consideration of new sanctions. President Obama has called for a new round of sanctions against Iran within the coming weeks.
The US military, meanwhile, has reportedly test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The US made no public announcement of the test, but officials told the Associated Press it took place last week during a joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia.
Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for Monday’s suicide bombings in the Moscow subway that killed at least thirty-nine people. Umarov posted a video warning that attacks on Russia would continue. He said, “I promise you the war will come to your streets, and you will feel it in your own lives and on your own skin.”
The Associated Press has obtained evidence that the Vatican was warned nearly fifty years about pedophile priests in the ministry. On August 27, 1963, the head of a Roman Catholic order that specialized in the treatment of pedophile priests wrote to Pope Paul VI recommending the removal of pedophile priests from active ministry and the defrocking of repeat offenders. The 1963 letter was released by attorneys who represented more than 500 victims of clergy abuse in their record-breaking $660 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2007.
A new study says nearly two out of every three male youths jailed in Afghanistan are physically abused. The children’s rights organization Terre des Hommes says its findings are based on interviews with 40 percent of all those jailed in Afghan juvenile detention centers. One hundred thirty out of 208 males youths said they had been beaten since their arrest.
A new survey from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition has raised new questions about the Obama administration’s $75 billion Home Affordable Modification Program. The program is designed to provide financial incentives for mortgage lenders and servicers to reduce monthly payments for struggling homeowners. The survey found white homeowners are almost 50 percent more likely to receive a loan modification under the mortgage program than African Americans or Latinos. Meanwhile, loan servicers foreclose on delinquent African American borrowers more quickly than white or Latino borrowers.
Another New Orleans police officer has been indicted for his role in the Danziger Bridge incident, during which officers shot six citizens, killing two, days after Hurricane Katrina. Michael Hunter was indicted on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and providing false information about a felony. Two other former New Orleans police officers have already pleaded guilty to similar offenses.
And food justice advocates are criticizing President Obama’s recent appointment of a top pesticide industry executive to a key trade position. The executive, Islam Siddiqui, was named the US Trade Representative’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator in a spate of recent appointments. Siddiqui is a former vice president and lobbyist at CropLife America, a group of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto and Dow Chemical. A coalition of over eighty environmental, family farm and consumer advocacy organizations had campaigned against his nomination.
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