EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 26, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Debate over America’s national security apparatus, muted after 9/11, is now back at full roar

WASHINGTON (AP) — After 9/11, there were no shades of gray. There are plenty now.

The vigorous debate over the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, underlined by a narrow House vote upholding the practice, buried any notion that it’s out of line, even unpatriotic, to challenge the national security efforts of the government.

Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, joined in common cause against the Obama administration’s aggressive surveillance, falling just short Wednesday night against a similarly jumbled and determined coalition of leaders and lawmakers who supported it.

It’s not every day you see Republican Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi facing off together against their own parties’ colleagues — with an assist from Rep. Michele Bachmann, no less — to help give President Barack Obama what he wanted. But that’s what it took to overcome efforts to restrict the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush warned the world “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” period, and those few politicians who objected to anything the U.S. wanted to do for its national security looked like oddballs.

80 dead, 31 critical after Spain train crash blamed on high speed; 1 American among the dead

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain (AP) — A Spanish train that hurtled off the rails and smashed into a security wall as it rounded a bend was going so fast that carriages tumbled off the tracks like dominos, killing 80 people and maiming dozens more, according to eyewitness accounts and video footage obtained Thursday.

An Associated Press analysis of video images suggests the train may have been traveling at twice the speed limit, or more, along that curved stretch of track. The unanswered question is: Why?

Spain’s government said two probes have been launched into the train’s derailment Wednesday night on its approach to this Christian festival city in northwest Spain, where planned celebrations in honor of one of Jesus’ disciples gave way to a living nightmare.

The regional government in Galicia confirmed that police planned to question the 52-year-old train driver, in Santiago de Compostela’s main hospital with unspecified injuries, as both a witness and as a possible suspect, but cautioned that possible faults in safety equipment were also being investigated.

The Interior Ministry raised the death toll to 80 in what was Spain’s deadliest train wreck in four decades. The Galician government said 94 others remained hospitalized in six regional hospitals, 31 of them — including four children — in critical condition.

Zimmerman juror says she owes Martin’s parents apology but law tied her hands on acquittal

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The second juror to speak publicly told ABC News in an interview made available Thursday that she feels George Zimmerman got away with murder for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, but that there wasn’t enough evidence at trial to convict him under Florida law.

Juror B29 told Robin Roberts that she favored convicting Zimmerman of second-degree murder when deliberations began by the six-member, all-female jury.

“I was the juror that was going to give them a hung jury,” she said. “I fought to the end.”

But by the second day of deliberating, she realized there wasn’t enough proof to convict the 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer of a crime.

“George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can’t get away from God,” she said. “And at the end of the day, he’s going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with.”

Officials: Cafe bombings, fake roadblock assault and other attacks kill at least 42 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Emboldened militants in Iraq set up their own checkpoint to kill drivers and bombed crowded cafes Thursday in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 42 people, authorities said.

More than 550 people have been killed in violent attacks so far this month, according to an Associated Press count, as violence continues during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The speaker of Iraqi parliament even has acknowledged that insecurity in the nation likely will get worse after a massive al-Qaida-claimed prison break freed hundreds of inmates.

The deadliest attack Thursday happened when a bomb exploded inside a crowded cafe north of Baghdad, killing 16 diners and wounded 20 others.

Iraqi police said that the blast targeted Noufel cafe near the town of Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

Ahmed Ibrahim, a government employee, was shopping near the targeted cafe when he heard a thunderous explosion.

US scales down drone program in Pakistan, tightens targeting in response to criticism

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United States has drastically scaled back the number of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and limited strikes to high-value targets in response to growing criticism of the program in this country.

Those actions appear to have temporarily appeased Pakistan’s powerful generals, who publicly oppose the covert CIA strikes, U.S. officials said. But some officials are still worried about pushback from Pakistan’s new civilian leaders, who took power in June with a strong stance on ending the attacks altogether.

The future of the drone program is likely to be a key item on the agenda during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan, which is expected soon.

Only 16 drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan so far this year, compared with a peak of 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012, according to the New America Foundation, a U.S.-based think tank.

The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called “signature strikes” — hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behavior, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current U.S. intelligence official and a former intelligence official briefed on the drone program.

US: 4 Russians, 1 Ukrainian hacked corporations over 7 years, losses in hundreds of millions

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian have been charged with running a sophisticated hacking organization that penetrated computer networks of more than a dozen major American and international corporations over seven years, stealing and selling at least 160 million credit and debit card numbers, resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Indictments were announced Thursday in Newark, where U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman called the case the largest hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.

Princeton-based Heartland Payment Systems Inc., which processes credit and debit cards for small to mid-sized businesses, was identified as taking the biggest hit in a scheme starting in 2007 — the theft of more than 130 million card numbers at a loss of about $200 million.

Atlanta-based Global Payment Systems, another major payment processing company, had nearly 1 million card numbers stolen, with losses of nearly $93 million, prosecutors said.

The indictment did not put a loss figure on the thefts at some other major corporations, including Commidea Ltd., a European provider of electronic payment processing for retailers. The government said hackers in 2008 covertly removed about 30 million card numbers from its computer network.

Countering the Supreme Court: Justice Department to challenge states on voting rights changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration opened an aggressive new front in the battle over voter protection Thursday, singling out Texas for legal action and promising broader efforts to come after last month’s Supreme Court ruling that wiped out a major provision of the Voting Rights Act.

It was the administration’s first legal response to counter the justices’ 5-4 decision, but Attorney General Eric Holder pledged that “it will not be our last.”

In a speech to the National Urban League in Philadelphia, Holder called the Voting Rights Act “the cornerstone of modern civil rights law” and said that “we cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve.”

Texas Republicans suggested the administration effort was more about politics.

“This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda,” Sen John Cornyn said after Holder’s speech.