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Eye 1

Attacks in Iraq kill 51, injure many others

The death toll from a series of bombings and a shooting across Iraq has risen to 51, with many more injured, Iraqi security and hospital sources say.

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The site of a car bomb blast in Baghdad, Iraq
Sunday's blasts began with a parked car bomb which exploded in the city of Kut -- 60 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Six people were killed and 15 others wounded in that attack, The Associated Press reported.

The attack was followed by another car bomb outside the city which targeted construction workers, killing five and wounded 12 others, police officials said.

One of the deadliest attacks took place in the Shia-populated neighborhood of al-Ameen in southeastern Baghdad. Police said a bomber blew himself up inside a cafe, killing at least 11 people and wounding 25 others.

A shooting also broke out near the northern city of Mosul, when a gunman attacked police guarding an oil pipeline. At least four people were killed and five others wounded in the incident.

Other attacks were carried out in the cities of Hillah, Madian, Aziziyah, Mahmudiyah, Nasiriyah, Tuz Khurmatu, Najaf, and Basra on Sunday. Reports said that most of the car bombs hit Shia-majority areas.

Eye 1

Syria: Egypt has joined Israeli-US club

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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi addresses a rally in Cairo on June 15, 2013
Syria says by announcing the cutting off of all diplomatic relations with Damascus the Egyptian government has joined the Israeli-US club, which is conspiring against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing a public rally in Cairo on Saturday, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced, "We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian" government.

He said that his government would close the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, adding that it would also recall the Egyptian charge d'affaires from Damascus.

"The Syrian Arab Republic condemns this irresponsible position," the official news agency SANA reported on Sunday quoting an unnamed government official.

Morsi had joined the "conspiracy and incitement led by the United States and Israel against Syria by announcing the cutting of ties yesterday," the official said.

Gold Coins

France prohibits sending currency, "coins and precious metals" by mail

Mark O'Byrne, GoldCore writes:

In new legislation which was enacted May 23rd, the French government decreed that it is forbidden to send all forms of currency - coins and cash and all forms of precious metals - coins, bars and jewellery by mail.

The legislation was published on Legifrance, the French government entity responsible for publishing legal texts online and can be seen here.

It was not announced by the government and not covered in the media. There were no communications and nobody in the government justified or explained this decision.

Briefcase

Former employees accuse Bank of America of lying to homeowners and rewarding foreclosures

bank of america forclosures

Bank of America customers at a Bank of America machine.
Bank of America employees regularly lied to homeowners seeking loan modifications, denied their applications for made-up reasons, and were rewarded for sending homeowners to foreclosure, according to sworn statements by former bank employees.

The employee statements were filed late last week in federal court in Boston as part of a multi-state class action suit brought on behalf of homeowners who sought to avoid foreclosure through the government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but say they had their cases botched by Bank of America.

In a statement, a Bank of America spokesman said that each of the former employees' statements is "rife with factual inaccuracies" and that the bank will respond more fully in court next month. He said that Bank of America had modified more loans than any other bank and continues to "demonstrate our commitment to assisting customers who are at risk of foreclosure."

Six of the former employees worked for the bank, while one worked for a contractor. They range from former managers to front-line employees, and all dealt with homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure through the government's program.

When the Obama administration launched HAMP in 2009, Bank of America was by far the largest mortgage servicer in the program. It had twice as many loans eligible as the next largest bank. The former employees say that, in response to this crush of struggling homeowners, the bank often misled them and denied applications for bogus reasons.

Eye 1

NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants

Keith Alexander
© Getty Images
NSA Director Keith Alexander says his agency's analysts, which until recently included Edward Snowden among their ranks, take protecting "civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day."
National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls, a participant said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."

If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Eye 1

Australian government building new center for 'data deluge' snooping

Australian data centre
© Andrew Meares
Security centre: The rapidly expanding volume of Australian data and intelligence has required construction of a high-security communications and data centre at HMAS Harman.
Facility hints at Australia's involvement in data collection.

The Australian government has been building a state-of-the art, secret data storage facility just outside Canberra to enable intelligence agencies to deal with a ''data deluge'' siphoned from the internet and global telecommunications networks.

The high-security facility nearing completion at the HMAS Harman communications base will support the operations of Australia's signals intelligence agency, the top-secret Defence Signals Directorate.

Privately labelled by one Defence official as ''the new black vault'', the data centre is one of the few visible manifestations of Australia's deep involvement in mass surveillance and intelligence collection operations such as the US National Security Agency's PRISM program revealed last week by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

War Whore

United States of Israel: U.S. House passes NDAA amendment bill to ensure Israel can 'remove existential threats'

House of Representatives
© Bloomberg
National Defense Authorization Act instructs U.S. to take 'all necessary steps' to help Israel defend its vital national interests, among them preventing a nuclear Iran.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense authorization bill that would make it U.S. policy to take "all necessary steps" to ensure Israel is able to "remove existential threats," among them nuclear facilities in Iran.

"It is the policy of the United States to take all necessary steps to ensure that Israel possesses and maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests," said the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act passed Friday.

Bad Guys

UK planned war on Syria before unrest began: French ex-foreign minister Roland Dumas

Roland Dumas
© Unknown
Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas
A former French foreign minister says Britain had been planning a war against Syria some two years before to the unrest broke out in the Arab country.

The statement by Roland Dumas came during a recent interview with French Parliamentary TV network, LCP.
"I'm going to tell you something. I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria," said Dumas.

He continued by saying, "This was in Britain not in America. Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate."

Chess

Putin warns British Prime Minister David Cameron against arming Syrian rebels as UK weighs options

Putin Cameron
© AFP Photo / Pool / Anthony Devlin
"I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras. Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?" – Putin
Russia and UK still have very different approaches to the Syrian crisis, British PM Cameron said after meeting Putin adding that the decision to arm rebels is yet to be made. Russia's President warned against such a move citing rebels' atrocities.

"The blood is on the hands of both parties" of the conflict, not only Bashar Assad's government but also the rebels, Russia's President Vladimir Putin stressed at the press conference at 10 Downing Street.

"I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras," Putin said referring to a video footage on the Internet of a rebel fighter eating the heart of a government soldier. Later however it was concluded the fighter was holding a lung.

"Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?" he said adding that it does not correspond with international humanitarian norms.

Magnify

Scholars, authors wary of government review of Canadian history

Conservative government's latest foray into the history books has raised questions among historians
Harper, the new historian
© Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has spent $28 million commemorating the War of 1812, and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has started a "thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects of Canadian history."
Canadian history has a reputation for being dull, but our nation's past is arousing passions in Ottawa of late.

The federal government has spent $28 million commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a program that some critics say was an extravagant exercise in drumming up patriotism.

The Conservative government's latest foray into the history books has also divided opinion. Last month, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage started a "thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects of Canadian history."