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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton Takes Responsibility for Libya Attack

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for the security and intelligence failures that led to the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The attacks resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American diplomatic officers. “I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world – 275 posts. The President and the Vice President wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and risks and the needs”, said Clinton during an interview with the CNN news channel. Her remarks come after Vice President Joe Biden was asked if he thought the attacks represented a major intelligence failure during the vice presidential debate last week. He answered that he was not aware any extra security had been requested in Libya.

U.K. Home Secretary Blocks Hacker Extradition to the U.S.

The U.K. government has blocked the extradition of hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States, saying he would be at risk if he faced trial in the U.S. for hacking NASA and Pentagon networks. He would face up to 60 years if convicted, having caused more than US$700,000 in damages to U.S. military systems in what a U.S. prosecutor called “the biggest military computer hack of all time”. McKinnon admitted to hacking into the Pentagon and NASA, but claimed he was only looking for evidence of UFOs. “I have concluded that Mr. McKinnon’s extradition would give rise to such a risk of him ending his life that a decision to extradite would be incompatible with Mr. McKinnon’s human rights”, said U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May in a statement to parliament.

Attorney General Vetoes Disclosure of Prince Charles Letters

The Attorney General of the U.K., Dominic Grieve, has blocked the release of letters written by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, to seven government departments because their release would hamper his “preparation for kingship” and would undermine “his future role as Sovereign” because they contained “particularly frank” and “most deeply held personal views and beliefs”. The letters had been requested by Guardian journalist Rob Evans under a Freedom of Information request. He wanted to see how the Prince had influenced government through his correspondence. Lord Rogers, a Labour peer who had projects axed because of private interference by the Prince of Wales, said that “the only way for Charles to be a public figure is for him to act publicly. It is not democratic to cover up his interventions”.

Cuba to Allow Residents to Travel Without Exit Visas

The government of Cuba announced on Tuesday that it would no longer place restrictions on residents travelling abroad and that exit visas would not be needed after January 2013. A statement published in the state newspaper Granma clarified that Cuban citizens would now only need a valid passport and a current visa issued by the destination country. The government also announced that Cubans could now spend up to 24 months abroad on private trips and that any extensions should be requested from the local Cuban diplomatic representation. Not all Cubans would benefit from the changes, according to the text: “measures to preserve the human capital created by the Revolution will be maintained so as to confront the talent theft undertaken by the powerful”. The shift in the country’s travel restrictions comes as the government seeks to open up the economy, allowing Cubans to buy and sell property for the first time in 50 years.

Art Heist at Rotterdam Museum Nets Works by Monet, Picasso

Seven paintings by famous modern artists were stolen from a museum in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, in an overnight heist. The works of art taken were Pablo Picasso’s “Tête d’Arlequin” (1971), Henri Matisse’s “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune” (1919), Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge, London” (1901) and “Charing Cross Bridge, London” (1901), Paul Gauguin’s “Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancée” (1888), Meyer de Haan’s “Autoportrait” (circa 1889) and Lucian Freud’s “Woman with Eyes Closed” (2002). A spokesman for Rotterdam police said that “the alarm system in the Kunsthal was supposed to be state of the art, but somehow the people responsible for this found a way in and a way out and found the time to take seven paintings”. Jop Ubbens, the chairman of the Dutch branch of Christie’s auction house, said that the paintings were worth several million euros, but that one of the paintings might have been taken in error. “The least well-known is Meyer de Haan, which looks like a Gauguin”, said Ubbens.

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