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Monday, October 21, 2013

New NSA Revelations Anger Allies

The French government summoned the US ambassador today after revelations that the NSA had collected 70.3 million French telephone records over a 30-day period. According to documents obtained by Le Monde, when a phone call is made, it automatically triggers the recording of the call. They also suggest that, while the NSA’s targets are not yet known, they were not limited to those possibly associated with terrorist activities, but to prominent people in business, politics and the French state administration. France has said it will press for new Europe-wide data privacy rules this week.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government has condemned US spying after a separate report on Sunday that the NSA had accessed the e-mail system of Mexico’s “Presidencia” domain, used by members of former president Felipe Calderon’s cabinet. Calderon now joins Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador on the list of Latin American politicians and governments targeted by the NSA.

JP Morgan to Pay $13 Billion for Financial Crisis Role

America’s largest bank is close to finalizing a $13 billion settlement with US authorities to settle most, but not all, of the ongoing investigations into its mortgage business. Currently at issue is whether the bank sold mortgages that it knew were riskier than they appeared. While this would be the highest settlement ever paid to the federal government, it is unlikely JP Morgan will actually end up paying the full $13 billion. For instance, banks are often able to manipulate mandated “relief for struggling homeowners,” because the settlements leave it up to the banks to decide the form of homeowner relief and to calculate its value. The settlement does, however, leave open the possibility for criminal charges (the $13 billion would only cover the civil suits).

JP Morgan is facing more than a dozen investigations globally, from alleged bribery in China to possibly manipulating benchmark interest rates set in London.

More Toxic Fukushima Leaks

Radioactive water overflowed the barriers this weekend after Fukushima operator Tepco underestimated how much rain would fall over the weekend. The barriers, meant to contain spills from storage tanks, trapped rainwater in ponds, 11 of which overflowed. The ponds were apparently still full from the typhoon that hit Japan earlier this week and Tepco was not able to pump the rainwater out fast enough.

Plans to decontaminate six towns and villages near Fukushima – originally due to be completed by next March – have to be delayed by up to three more years.

Australian Wildfires Threaten to Merge

Firefighters have been battling some of the most destructive wildfires ever to hit New South Wales, which now stretch across a 190-mile front. 15 separate fires remain out of control, and the worst may be yet to come with hot, windy weather predicted to return this week. The three most dangerous blazes are threatening to merge and the government has declared a state of emergency.

Updates on Ongoing Africa Crises

In northeastern Nigeria, suspected members of Boko Haram dressed in army uniforms murdered 19 civilians at a roadblock this Sunday. In Boko Haram’s base, however, the group has been largely defeated by local civilian vigilantes, who have been more effective than the army. Some worry that the army is dedicated to preserving the conflict, not ending it, as a way to preserve their funding.

Mozambique’s military has captured the jungle base of opposition leader Alfonso Dhlakama, in an attack that aimed (but failed) to assassinate him. Dhlakama’s Renamo party says the attack “puts an end” to the 1992 peace deal with the government, which ended the country’s decades-long civil war.

In South Sudan, 78 people were killed by suspected members of David Yau Yau’s rebel group; thousands of cattle were stolen and 24 people, mostly children, were abducted. The targeting of cattle and civilians suggests that the attack may have been part of an inter-ethnic revenge cycle in the region.

CCTV footage has emerged of Kenyan soldiers looting the Westgate Mall during last month’s siege by al-Shabab militants. The secretary of the interior said an investigation is under way, though no results have been released yet.

drive-by shooting targeted a wedding party outside of a Cairo church and killed 4 people, raising fears that the Egyptian military’s crackdown on Islamists is creating a nascent insurgency of extremists.

Peace talks between M-23 rebels and the Democratic Republic of Congo have stalled after disagreements Sunday over amnesty for the rebels.

 

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