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Monday, July 1, 2013

New Documents Suggest U.S. Spies on Allies

Newly revealed documents suggest the U.S. National Security Agency is actively engaged in spying on U.S. allies in Europe. According to one top-secret document, at least 38 foreign missions and embassies have been compromised, including the French, Italian, and Greek embassies. A mass of programs enabled U.S. intelligence agencies to obtain secret trade and policy discussions from nominal U.S. allies around the world. Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, demanded an explanation, saying that if confirmed, the NSA’s action “was reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war”. This weekend, Der Spiegel uncovered evidence suggesting the NSA was also actively spying on European Union and German government buildings from NATO offices. Today, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry attempted to attenuate the allegations, “I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs and national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contribute to that,” Kerry told journalists. “All I know is that is not unusual for lots of nations.”

SCAF gives Egypt 48 Hours Until it Intervenes

Hours after millions of Egyptians mustered in the streets of Cairo and other major cities demonstrating for and against President Mohamed Morsi, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Military commander of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced that the Egyptian government and it’s opposition must “meet the demands of the people, and it gives everyone 48 hours as a last chance to carry the burden of the ongoing historic circumstances that the country is going through.” Sissi went on, “If the demands of the people are not met within the given period of time, [the military] will be compelled by its national and historic responsibilities, and in respect for the demands of Egypt’s great people, to announce a roadmap for the future, and procedures that it will supervise involving the participation of all the factions and groups.” It is not clear if the SCAF is demanding Morsi’s resignation from the presidency. But according to Wael Nawara, co-founder of the liberal Dustour party, “it’s highly unlikely that Morsi will be able to make a deal with the opposition in 48 hours” adding “that effectively means that the military will basically appoint some kind of transition government.” The SCAF ruled Egypt directly during the period between the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the election of Mohamed Morsi.

Firefighters Perish in Arizona Blaze

Nineteen members of an Arizona hotshot firefighter crew perished in the Yarnell Hill wild-fire, 90 miles north of Phoenix. The crew, trained to fight fires with hand tools, faced typical conditions, when suddenly they were encircled as a gust of wind swirled and the fire surged, said Peter Andersen, a former Yarnell fire chief who was helping the firefighting effort. “The smoke had turned and was blowing back on us,” Andersen said. “It looked almost like a smoke tornado, and the winds were going every which way.” According to the National Fire Protection Association, yesterday’s losses mark the highest death toll among firefighters from a U.S. wild land blaze since 29 men died battling the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles, and the largest loss of firefighters period since September 11th, 2001. Officials have ordered the evacuation of Yarnell and the adjoining town of Peeples Valley. The two towns are southwest of Prescott and home to roughly 1,000 people. At least 200 structures have been destroyed, in and around Yarnell. At press time the fire was completely un-contained, and at least 8,400 acres have been consumed by driving flames.

Former Chadian Dictator Arrested

Hissène Habré, the former U.S.-backed dictator of Chad, has been arrested this weekend in Senegal, on charges relating to the torture and murder of thousands of his political opponents during his reign in the 1980s. Habré fled to Senegal in 1990 after he was deposed by the forces of Chad’s current dictator, Idriss Déby. Since his arrival, he had been protected by successive Senegalese administrations. The prosecutions of Chad’s resurgent opposition, which sentenced him to death in 2008, and those of Belgium, have been largely moot, until the African Union forced Senegal to create a special war-crimes court for the express purpose of jailing Habré. Even still, the Habré-sympathetic administration of Abdoulaye Wade stymied the call for justice until his presidential term ended. Current Senegalese president Macky Sall established the Extraordinary African Chambers to halt the previous administration’s stalling earlier this year; the Chamber is expected to bring Habré to trial next year. “I have been waiting more than two decades to see Hissène Habré in court,” said Clément Abaifouta, president of the Association of Victims of the Crimes of Hissène Habré’s Regime (AVCRHH) who, as a political prisoner during Habré’s rule, was forced to dig mass graves and bury hundreds of other detainees. “We are finally going to be able to confront our tormentor and regain our dignity as human beings.”

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