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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Senior Pakistan Officials Endorsed Drone Strikes

Top-secret CIA documents obtained by The Washington Post show that top Pakistani officials have received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts for years with such regularity that they became a matter of diplomatic routine. The memos document the program’s escalation from a campaign aimed at a relatively short list of top al-Qaeda officials to a broader assault against a wide variety of militant groups. They also reveal the depth of the distrust and dysfunction that characterize US-Pakistan relations, detailing Pakistan’s  attempts to undermine the CIA and arguments about Pakistani intelligence’s ties to the very militant groups being targeted.

The Pakistani government has responded by repeating its opposition to US drone strikes. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took office in June, met with Obama today and urged him to end the drone strikes. Understandably, they are deeply unpopular in Pakistan.

Still No Compensation for Victims of Factory Collapse

Six months after the Rana Plaza garment factory building collapsed in Dhaka, more than 15 brands whose clothes were produced there have yet to agree to pay long-term compensation for the injured workers or the families of the thousands who died. Only the clothes retailer Primark has offered long-term compensation for injured workers and their relatives. 92% of the survivors of the collapse have not yet returned to work. Of those, 63% suffer from injuries such as amputations and paralysis that make work physically impossible. Almost all say they remain deeply traumatized.

The three separate factory safety deals signed by various retailers, which vary widely in terms of their rigorousness, have yet to lead to a single inspection of any Bangladesh garment factory.

NSA Tapped Phones of 35 World Leaders

A confidential memo shows that the NSA monitored the calls of 35 world leaders after being given their numbers by an official in a different US government department. The NSA apparently encourages senior officials to share the contact information of leading foreign politicians so the agency can add them to its surveillance network.

Anger is growing among US allies about the extent of NSA surveillance – and, specifically, of them. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in response to allegations the US had spied on her cell phone, “Spying between friends, that’s just not done.”

Multinational Forces Launch Operation in Mali

French, Malian and UN forces have launched a “large-scale” operation in northern Mali aimed at preventing the resurgence of Islamist rebels. This will be the first time significant forces will be working together to sweep identified areas in three northern regions and “will last as long as it’s needed.”

While the Islamists were routed by French, Malian and UN troops, they have begun to coordinate widespread attacks again; just yesterday, a suicide attack killed two UN peacekeepers.

Federal Court Strikes Down NY State’s Limit on Donations

A federal court ruled today that a conservative group supporting Republican Joseph Lhota for mayor of New York City can accept contributions of any size. If the state’s limit on contributions to independent political committees is ultimately struck down, the governor’s race next year will likely see an influx of super PACs, leading them to dominate campaigns throughout the state. A similar thing has happened to judicial races, which have been affected by unprecedented amounts of spending by special interest groups and political parties.

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