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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FISA Court Rulings on NSA Released

Newly-declassified government documents released yesterday reveal the secret court order that authorized the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans’ e-mail and internet data. The FISA court ruled in 2004 that metadata – but not the content of e-mails – could be collected in bulk. The presiding judge in 2009, however, found that the NSA had been systematically collecting data that the court had not authorized for collection. The documents show that the NSA also shared this data with other government agencies and knowingly  violated specific court-ordered procedures meant to protect Americans’ privacy.

Bosnian War Crimes Court Releases 10 Convicts

Survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of over 8,000 Muslims during Bosnia’s civil war expressed their anger today, when the state war crimes court said that it had freed 10 men convicted of war crimes – 6 of whom took part in the massacre.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July that the men had been tried under a more stringent criminal code than the one in place when the crimes were committed. This case is just the latest to cast doubt on the attempts to attain justice for the war crimes committed during that war.

Nepal’s Election

Nepalis voted today to elect a new Constituent Assembly to write a long-delayed constitution. The vote is the second since country’s 10-year-old Maoist revolt ended in 2006; the first assembly failed to create a constitution. Officials said turnout was 70%, despite sporadic violence that disrupted some voting, including a roadside bomb that exploded near a polling station.

JP Morgan Pays $13 Billion in Mortgage Settlement

JP Morgan Chase has finalized a civil settlement with the Justice Department today over its misleading of investors during the housing crisis. It is the largest settlement ever between the US government and a corporation. As part of the settlement, the bank admitted it had made “serious misrepresentations to the public.”

$4 billion will go to homeowners hurt by JP Morgan’s practices, while $9 billion will be used to settle federal and state civil claims. Crucially, it does not absolve the bank or its employees from facing criminal charges.

Bombings and Clashes in Lebanon, Somalia, Egypt, Haiti

Two coordinated suicide bombings at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut killed 23 and wounded over 140 to send a “message of blood and death” to Hezbollah and the Iranian government, both of which support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A Lebanon-based al-Qaeda-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, threatened additional attacks unless Iran withdraws from Syria.

In Somalia, members of al-Shabab detonated a car bomb at the entrance to a police station near the Somalia-Ethiopia border, then opened fire on police and civilians with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The base belonged to the UN-mandated African Union force, which has been working to drive al-Shabab out of Somalia’s major towns.

Supporters and opponents of Egypt’s army-backed government clashed in Tahrir Square on the anniversary of bloody clashes with security forces in 2011, when demonstrators protested against the military council that had taken over after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Activists vandalized a recently-unveiled state memorial dedicated to those slain protesters, angry at what they see as the army’s attempt to co-opt their movement.

Thousands took to the streets in Haiti after President Michel Martelly failed to hold national and local elections, which are now two years overdue. Protesters demanding that Martelly resign clashed with the police, setting up barricades of burning tires and throwing stones as police fired tear gas into the crowd.

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