Puppet MastersS

Target

NYPD Muslim spying operation takes 'security' to an unjustified extreme

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© Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
How many more lawsuits will it take for the NYPD to cease monitoring American citizens without a good explanation?

The New York Police Department's Muslim surveillance operation, set up under the direction of an ex-CIA operative, deployed undercover officers and informants in mosques, schools, restaurants, and bodegas throughout the city to spy on the daily lives of thousands of Americans.

Reams of information about innocuous activity landed up in police files. Unsurprisingly, these indiscriminate operations have proven ineffective. NYPD Intelligence Chief Thomas Galati made no bones about the fact that a key part of the program never turned up a lead worth pursuing.

After the Associated Press revealed that the NYPD had placed entire American Muslim neighborhoods under surveillance, police commissioner Raymond Kelly vigorously defended the program.

Bizarro Earth

Wealthiest U.S. colleges suing students over default loans

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© Reuters / Kevin Lamarque
Graduate student borrowers are defaulting on almost US$1 billion in federal loans that were given out to the poor. US colleges such as Yale, Penn State and George Washington are coming after them in the courts, suing for nonpayment.

All three colleges have pursued lawsuits against students who defaulted on their Perkins loans. The exact number of lawsuits is not known, but just last year alone the University of Pennsylvania filed at least a dozen lawsuits over the Federal Perkins Loan, Bloomberg reported.

Colleges are suing to collect unpaid Perkins Loans, given out by individual colleges to students who demonstrate extreme financial hardship.

Colleges depend on repayment of money to finance the new Perkins loans and so when graduates fail to pay back the borrowed sum, the current students are put at risk of not receiving new loans.

Between June 2010 and 2011 students defaulted on $964 million in Perkins loans, 20 per cent more than five years ago, Bloomberg reports.

Cell Phone

Maryland cell phone tracking bill in motion

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© Reuters / Nacho Doce
Officials may gain access to intimate knowledge of the whereabouts of cell users in Maryland. Phone records could be handed over without a search warrant if a new bill passes. A civil liberties group has labeled the proposal 'invasive'.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has criticized government plans to allow law enforcement officials automatic access to these records, testifying against the intrusive tracking bill, House Bill 377 , on Tuesday. The bill is currently being considered by the Maryland House Judiciary Committee.

Law enforcement officials must obtain a search warrant prior to accessing such information, insisted ACLUM.

"Of all of the recent technological developments that have expanded the surveillance capabilities of law enforcement agencies at the expense of individual privacy, perhaps the most powerful is cell phone location tracking," said the national American Civil Liberties Union last September, in response to knowledge they obtained that numerous police departments were tracking the devices without a search warrant anyway.

Eye 1

UK planning broad online domestic spying regime

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© AFP Photo / Rainier Ehrhardt
UK officials plan to monitor Britons' online activities by placing surveillance devices on the country's telecom networks, a Parliamentary report says. The program would keep tabs on which websites were visited as well as who contacted whom.

On Tuesday the British Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee published the report outlining a massive, national surveillance program based in the country's very electronic infrastructure. The report does not specify the number of so-called "probes" to be installed across Britain's telecommunications networks, but says it would be part of a regime stockpiling information on nearly every move Britons make online.

The new program will go beyond just keeping tabs on the Brits. If anyone abroad communicates online with someone in the UK then it will allow surveillance of their personal information as well, stretching the program's geographical reach.

Pistol

Legal gun owner arrested for chambering round at Connecticut Chuck E. Cheese

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A Connecticut woman was arrested at the children's restaurant Chuck E. Cheese in Newington on Monday after she was accused of pulling her gun and chambering a round while threatening another mother.

According to Newington police, 30-year-old Tawana Bourne brandished a .380 semi-automatic handgun and chambered a round while arguing with another woman, the New Haven Register reported. Both women were at the restaurant with children.

Restaurant employees quickly called police, who separated the women and confiscated Bourne's handgun. Police said that Bourne had a legal Connecticut permit to carry the weapon.

USA

Family Research Council President links homosexuality to pedophilia as reason for Boy Scout ban

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CNN host Soledad O'Brien on Wednesday told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins that he could be "on the wrong side of history" after he defended the Boy Scouts' ban on LGBT members by suggesting that homosexuals were more likely to be pedophiles.

As the Boy Scouts of American national board was set to decide if local organizations would be allowed to include gay members on Wednesday, O'Brien asked Perkins if there was "a possibility that you're wrong" because "historically there have been core values that in retrospect turned out to be flawed?"

"You're comparing immutable characteristics with characteristics that are not immutable," Perkins explained. "In part, their policy has been to protect boys, to create obviously not a perfect environment, but one that is in line with what the parents want, to ensure their children are safe when they go out in these scouting activities."

Cult

Report: Catholic laundries enslaved women and girls in Ireland as recently as 1996

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© Shutterstock
Taoiseach Enda Kenny fails to formally apologise for involvement over female enslavement causing more outrage

After more than seven decades of exploitation and a 10-year struggle for justice, Ireland on Tuesday admitted its role in the enslavement of thousands of women and girls in the notorious Magdalene Laundry system, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology from the government.

A long-awaited report headed by Senator Martin McAleese said there was "significant state involvement" in how the laundries were run - a reversal of the official state line for years, which insisted the institutions were privately controlled and run by nuns.

But the Irish Premier Enda Kenny's failure to give the women and their supporters a full, formal, public apology in the Dail on Tuesday afternoon has infuriated the victims and their supporters, who said such an approach risked undermining Ireland's attempt to right a historic wrong. Instead Kenny stated his "regret" about the stigma hanging over the women.

Eye 2

Karl Rove: 'God bless President Obama' for killing U.S. citizen al-Awlaki

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Republican strategist Karl Rove ripped the media on Tuesday for attacking Bush administration officials who justified the use of torture. He also praised President Barack Obama for using drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens.

The former Bush adviser said on Fox News that officials like Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Jay Bybee and others were "excoriated" and "hounded" by liberals and the media. Yet the Obama administration has faced little criticism for justifying the use of drone strikes against U.S. citizens.

Snakes in Suits

Tennessee Republican compares homosexuality to 'shooting heroin'

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The author of the so-called "Don't Say Gay Bill" said Tuesday that homosexuality was "very dangerous" and compared it to injecting heroin.

During an tense interview with TMZ, Tennessee state Sen. Stacy Campfield (R) said homosexuality was dangerous because of HIV/AIDS.

"The homosexual community gets AIDS at a 50 times higher rate than the heterosexual community," he claimed. Campfield said AIDS was such large problem in Africa because sodomy was more prevalent in that part of the world. He added that sodomy was a "deadly thing to do."

Dollar Gold

BP hit with new $34 billion Deepwater Horizon claim from southern state governments

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Latest demand comes from local and southern state governments, including Louisiana and Mississippi, hit hard by pollution following 2010 blowout

BP has been hit by a new $34bn (£21.7bn) claim for alleged economic losses and punitive damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest demand comes from local and southern state governments, including Louisiana and Mississippi, hit hard by the pollution that followed the blowout on the BP-operated Macondo well in April 2010.

BP described the methodology for calculating the claims as "seriously flawed" and the oil company said it was confident it would not have to make additional financial provisions.

BP refused to say what provisions it has already made for the $34bn claims, but admits to having taken a further $4.1bn "charge" in the final three months of 2012, bringing the total amount set aside so far to $42.2bn.