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September 2, 2011

Documents regarding post-9/11 prisoner transport flights released

Documents regarding post-9/11 prisoner transport flights released

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Friday, September 2, 2011

September 11 attacks
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During a court case between two US charter aircraft companies, documents have been released detailing flights chartered by the US government from private sector companies in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to transport prisoners suspected of links to terrorism.

The documents, totalling more than 1,700 pages, were released as part of a court case dating to 2007 between Sportsflight and Richmor Aviation. The case concerned over US$1.15 million Richmor claimed it was owed by Sportsflight to cover costs associated with flights operated for the US government by DynCorp, another company involved in what have been dubbed rendition flights. Both companies referenced the practice in their legal arguments.

Details within the files, including flights of aircraft, correspond to known flights made as part of the program; for example, one file matches the transportation of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, to Cairo, where Omar claimed he was tortured. Another matches the transportation of Encep Nuraman, an Indonesian terrorist.

Other disclosures include that DynCorp, a major government contractor, was the main contractor for the rendition flights; Dyncorp had not been previously linked to the program. It was also revealed that letters from the US State Department were used to provide diplomatic cover for the operations, as well as evidence that the letters were possibly not genuine, since an official that signed them does not seem to exist.

According to the files, Richmor, working with DynCorp, provided private jets and crews to the US government between May 2002 and January 2005, at a rate of about once a month. The planes were provided with State Department letters claiming their operations were “global support for U.S. embassies worldwide,” and signed by a Terry A. Hogan, whom an Associated Press investigation failed to locate.

The rendition flights were operated by DynCorp, which used aircraft supplied by Richmor, while Sportsflight and another broker, Capital Aviation, handled the finances.


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August 16, 2011

Up to 74 reported dead after Iraq bombings

Up to 74 reported dead after Iraq bombings

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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As many as 74 people are reported to have been killed after a series of bombings across Iraq on Monday, with another 250 injured.

A total of thirteen bombs were set off, including car bombs, suicide bombers, and stationary bombs planted along roads. The worst attack was in the city of Kut, where a pair of bombs killed 37 people. A roadside bomb had exploded, followed by a car bomb once security personnel and other bystanders began to arrive at the scene of the first explosion. A witness to this attack said that “I was on my way to my shop in the market and suddenly I felt myself being thrown to the ground.”

Bombs also were detonated in the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf; up to eleven people were killed in the two cities. In Tikrit, suicide bombers attacked an anti-terrorism facility, killing three policemen. Explosions were also reported in Baghdad, Taji, Balad, Kirkuk and Iskandiriyah. The total death toll has ranged from “at least 60,” according to the BBC, to “at least 74,” according to The Guardian.

The bombings largely targeted Shia Muslim areas of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq, an extremist group composed of Sunni Muslims and with ties to Al-Qaeda, has been named as a possible perpetrator of the attacks. However, no group has yet claimed responsibility.

A security spokesperson in Baghdad said that other planned attacks had been disrupted, saying that “[t]oday’s attacks were not a surprise.”


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August 13, 2011

Shell reports oil leak at North Sea platform

Shell reports oil leak at North Sea platform

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Environment
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Image: Manchot sanguinaire.

Oil producer Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed that the Gannet Alpha oil platform, located 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland, has suffered a leak from an underwater pipeline between the wellhead and platform.

Shell issued a statement regarding the incident, saying that “We can confirm we are managing an oil leak in a flow line that serves the Gannet Alpha platform. […] We have stemmed the leak significantly and we are taking further measures to isolate it. The subsea well has been shut in, and the flow line is being depressurised.” The company has thus far refused to comment on the exact size of the leak, saying that was “not a significant spill.”

According to a Shell spokesperson, a remote submarine was deployed after a sheen was noticed in the water surrounding the platform; since then, a craft has been brought in to monitor water conditions in the area.

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has begun an investigation of the leak, with the Scottish government and Marine Scotland also involved in monitoring the situation.


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July 17, 2011

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticizes Turkey over human rights concerns

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticizes Turkey over human rights concerns

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Politics and conflicts
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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday that the recent actions by Turkey to arrest and detain journalists in the country, as well as planned Internet restrictions, are “an area of concern” for her.

Clinton is on a two-day visit to Turkey and made some of her comments during a news conference on the Turkish CNN channel during an event where she answered questions from Turkish citizens. Answering a question regarding the issue, she said that “I do not think it’s necessary or in Turkey’s interests to be cracking down on journalists and bloggers and the Internet […] it seems to me inconsistent with all the other advances that Turkey has made.”

In a press conference jointly held with Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, Clinton suggested that Turkey could serve as an example for Arab countries currently undergoing governmental changes. She said that “people in the Middle East and North Africa are seeking to draw lessons from Turkey’s experience” and that “democratic development also depends on responsible leadership.”

According to Turkish media groups, upwards of 60 journalists are being held based on dubious evidence, though government officials say that only 26 are imprisoned, all on charges separate from their activities in the media. In some recent arrests, authorities have cited anti-terror laws as justification. Separately, the government plans next month to place filters on Internet traffic in the country, which could allow for monitoring of individual users. Such human rights concerns have long served as a stumbling block for Turkey’s attempts to join the European Union.


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June 24, 2011

Libyan rebels in Misrata restrict press freedoms

Libyan rebels in Misrata restrict press freedoms

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Friday, June 24, 2011

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Rebel authorities in the Libyan city of Misrata have begun implementing tighter restrictions on foreign journalists in the city this week, in response to fears that spies for President Muammar al-Gaddafi may be among them.

Under the new restrictions, reporters have been barred from traveling to the front lines of the conflict, denied access to high-speed internet links and ordered to use translators approved by Misratan officials. Additionally, reporters accredited by the rebel government based in Benghazi, the National Transitional Council, are no longer recognized as such by local officials and are required to register with Misrata authorities or face deportation.

According to Mohammed Durat, an official in charge of the Misrata media center, the changes have come about because authorities “are afraid of spies from Gaddafi.” He also said that the new restrictions are intended to benefit reporters, saying that “[w]e are caring about you, we don’t want you to get any bad thing” and that “[y]ou should be happy about this.”

Morale in Misrata has fallen in recent weeks, after rebel forces have failed to expand the area they control after a month of fighting and are suffering increasing casualties. In the urban areas, after a month of reletive calm, pro-Gaddafi forces have again begun shelling buildings, with minimal response from NATO forces, despite a declaration on June 14 that NATO helicopter strikes would be carried out if civilian targets were attacked.



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June 12, 2011

Up to 31 reported dead as Libyan government troops attack Misrata

Up to 31 reported dead as Libyan government troops attack Misrata

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Libya
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Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2009

Pro-Muammar al-Gaddafi forces attacked Libya’s third-largest city of Misrata for much of Friday, killing up to 31 rebel fighters in the most violent day since the city came under rebel control in April.

Most of the fighting took place just west of the city, where Gaddafi’s troops launched an attack with both infantry troops and four tanks, as well as lighter weaponry, such as rockets and mortars. Rebel fighters were reportedly able to repel the assault, destroying two tanks and advancing by about 6 miles (9.7 kilometres).

Estimates of those killed by the fighting varied from as low as 22 to as high as 31, with up to 60 more reported injured, according to doctors in Misrata, making Friday the deadliest day for rebel troops since they gained control of the city.

The new assault appears to be in response to NATO helicopter attacks against Gaddafi.

While NATO aircraft attacked both communications and military equipment on Thursday night, there were no strikes by coalition aircraft during the fighting on Friday. One rebel fighter said: “I don’t know why NATO didn’t bomb. [The tanks] were very easy to see.” While NATO has been criticized by rebels for failing to provide support, one unnamed official said that NATO is “in Libya to protect civilians. The rebels have proved themselves to be very courageous but we are not there to act as their air force.”


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May 30, 2011

Egypt opens border crossing with Gaza

Egypt opens border crossing with Gaza – Wikinews, the free news source

Egypt opens border crossing with Gaza

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Monday, May 30, 2011

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Egyptian authorities reopened the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Saturday, allowing Palestinians unrestricted access out of the Strip for the first time since June 2007.

The opening of the crossing was one of the conditions of a peace agreement that Egypt and Palestinian political groups Hamas and Fatah agreed to last month. Under the new crossing rules, all Palestinian citizens except men between the ages of eighteen and forty will be able to pass through the border unrestricted, while men in that age range will have to possess a visa in order to enter Egypt. All people crossing the border are also required to have a Palestinian ID card. The crossing will be open daily except Fridays and holidays from 0900 to 2100 local time.

The last time there was an open crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt was prior to June 2007, when Hamas gained control of Gaza, and Egypt and Israel closed their borders in response. Since then, only about 300 people have been allowed through the Egyptian border each day, usually those in need of medical facilities and students.

The crossing will allow only people through; no commercial traffic will be permitted and everyone who passes through will be searched.

Israel has raised concerns about the opening of the border, claiming that weapons will be smuggled through. The country’s vice prime minister, Silvan Shalom said that the opening of the border “is a dangerous development that could lead to weapons and al-Qaida smuggling in Gaza.”

A spokesperson from Hamas called the opening of the crossing “a courageous and responsible decision which falls in line with Palestinian and Egyptian public opinion.” He said that Hamas hopes “it is a step towards the complete lifting of the siege on Gaza.”

An Egyptian government spokesperson, Menha Bakhoum, said that the decision to open the crossing was made in order to “ease the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”



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May 29, 2011

Fiat plans to buy majority stake in Chrysler

Fiat plans to buy majority stake in Chrysler

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Economy and business
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Fiat announced on Friday that it intends to purchase the six percent of automaker Chrysler that the US government currently owns, which would give the Italian company a 52 percent majority stake in Chrysler.

According to Fiat’s announcement, the company has told the US Treasury that it intends to use its option to buy the share in Chrysler held by the US government, a deal that will be finalized by June 10. If a price is not agreed on by that time, Fiat will pay the average of the estimates of two investment banks.

In 2009, Fiat bought a twenty percent stake in Chrysler, which had just exited bankruptcy, and has since increased its holding to 46 percent, expected to increase to 57% by the end of this year.

According to analyst Maryann Keller, the deal is a good one for both companies, as “[n]either one has the ability to compete alone in the kind of global environment that they face.” Analyst Rebecca Lindland said that the move will also benefit the companies by getting “them out from underneath any hint of government ownership and any of that negativity that went along with the bailout.”


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April 23, 2011

U.S. drones enter Libya conflict

U.S. drones enter Libya conflict – Wikinews, the free news source

U.S. drones enter Libya conflict

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Libya
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A Predator drone.
Image: U.S. Air Force/Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt.

The first attacks carried out by United States Predator drones in Libya reportedly occurred today, as the Pentagon confirmed a strike carried out by the U.S. Air Force but declined to give further details.

According to Pentagon spokesperson Darryn James, a captain in the U.S. Navy, the attack happened sometime Saturday, but withheld other information. According to the Pentagon, “common practice” regarding drone operations is to provide no more information than to confirm an attack. NATO later revealed the target was a multiple rocket launcher in the Misrata area. A statement from NATO said that, “[t]he MRL system had been used against civilians in Misrata.”

Robert Gates, the US Defense secretary, announced Thursday that President Barack Obama had given permission for drones to be used in the conflict due to their “unique capabilities.” Previously, drones had been used only in a surveillance role.

General James Cartwright, an official with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that drones have an “ability to get down lower and therefore, to be able to get better visibility, particularly on targets that have started to dig themselves into defensive positions,” a benefit in Libya, where pro-Gaddafi forces are increasingly taking cover near civilian populations. Drones are able to make more precise attacks, which lowers the risk of civilian casualties in such areas.


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April 9, 2011

Gbagbo forces reported to have gained ground in Ivorian city of Abidjan

Gbagbo forces reported to have gained ground in Ivorian city of Abidjan

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

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According to the United Nations, forces loyal to disputed Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo have resumed fighting in the city of Abidjan. According to reports, the troops regained control of parts of the city.

After a brief lull in fighting, while it was reported that Gbagbo officials were negotiating a surrender, violence resumed. A U.N. official said that Gbagbo forces “clearly used the lull of Tuesday as a trick to reinforce their position,” and now control the Plateau and Cocody regions of Abidjan.

Gbagbo forces are reportedly using heavy weaponry, including rocket launchers and grenade launchers, as well as tanks and armored troop transports. The French ambassador’s house was reportedly attacked, resulting in counter-strikes by French helicopters. Gbagbo forces deny being involved in the attack.

Toussaint Alain, an advisor to Gbagbo, has denied reports that Gbagbo forces are in possession of heavy weapons, claiming that previous French attacks had destroyed their weaponry. He said that “France is just looking for a pretext to get rid of President Laurent Gbagbo.”



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