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Republican Congressman Proposes Tracking Freedom of Information Act Requests

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© Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse — Getty
Darrell Issa of California.
Washington - Representative Darrell Issa calls it a way to promote transparency: a request for the names of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, business executives, journalists and others who have requested copies of federal government documents in recent years.

Mr. Issa, a California Republican and the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, says he wants to make sure agencies respond in a timely fashion to Freedom of Information Act requests and do not delay them out of political considerations.

But his extraordinary request worries some civil libertarians. It "just seems sort of creepy that one person in the government could track who is looking into what and what kinds of questions they are asking," said David Cuillier, a University of Arizona journalism professor and chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. "It is an easy way to target people who he might think are up to no good."

Megaphone

US: Frances Fox Piven defies death threats after taunts by anchorman Glenn Beck

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Socialist academic Frances Fox Piven has been relentlessly targeted by Glenn Beck as a threat to the American way of life.
Leftwing academic speaks out amid hate campaign led by Fox News host Glenn Beck

Frances Fox Piven is not going into hiding. Not yet.

The 78-year-old leftwing academic is the latest hate figure for Fox News host Glenn Beck and his legion of fans. While she has decided to shrug off the inevitable death threats that have followed, she is well aware of the problem. "I don't know if I am scared, but I am worried," she told the Observer as she sat in a bar on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

"At the start I thought it was funny, but now I know that is dangerous... their paranoia works better when they can imagine a devil. Now that devil is me."

For the past three weeks Beck has relentlessly targeted Piven via his television and radio shows as a threat to the American way of life, seizing on an essay that she and her late husband wrote in 1966 as a sort of blueprint for bringing down the American economy.

Called The Weight of the Poor, it advocated signing up so many poor people for welfare payments that the cost would force the government to bring in a policy of a guaranteed income. For Piven, a committed voice of the left, known in academic circles but little recognised outside them, it was just one publication in a lifetime dedicated to political activism and theorising.

Pistol

UK businessmen charged in 'AK-47 conspiracy' by the world's biggest arms dealer!

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Gary Hyde is accused of trying to break the US arms embargo on China.
US court papers allege that three directors of UK firms tried to break embargo by selling thousands of Chinese assault rifle parts

The shadowy world of Britain's arms dealers has been thrust into the spotlight after the directors of two companies based in York and Kent were charged with conspiring to illegally export to the US hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition for AK-47 assault rifles in breach of an American embargo.

Court documents filed in the US claim that British businessman Gary Hyde and his associate Karl Kleber fraudulently imported more than 5,000 Chinese-produced AK-47 drum magazines into the US from the UK via Germany.

The alleged deal backfired, however, after US agents received a tip-off that the drums, each of which holds 75 rounds, had come from China, the subject of a US import ban on weapons.

The complex nature of the alleged deal, made via a multitude of companies based in several countries, provides a rare insight into the byzantine world of international arms brokers, which critics maintain is insufficiently monitored by western governments. "It's a deeply alarming case that demonstrates yet again why arms brokering, small arms and ammunition trafficking must be at the heart of efforts to secure a new global arms trade treaty," said Oliver Sprague, UK arms programme director at Amnesty International.

Pistol

Azeri embassy staff killed in Egypt by unknown assailants

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© Unknown
Demonstrators shout anti-Mubarak slogans during a protest at the Egyptian embassy in London January 29, 2011.
An Azerbaijani embassy worker has been killed in Egypt as the country is gripped by six days of bloody protests against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

The man, who worked as an accountant at the Cairo embassy, was killed Saturday evening as he was returning home from work, an Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Sunday.

He could provide no further detail, although other reports said that the man had died of a gunshot wound.

In Egypt, the popular uprising against the government of Mubarak is continuing.

Pharoah

Exodus: Saudi to evacuate citizens from Egypt

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© AP
Saudi Arabia is prepared to send airplanes to evacuate its citizens from Egypt as anti-government protests escalated across the North African country.

Saudi Arabia along with, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan organized 10 additional flights to evacuate their citizens, officials at Cairo International Airport said.

Earlier in the day, the US Embassy issued a travel warning for its citizens to leave Egypt as soon as possible.

So far, more than 100 people have been killed across Egypt in demonstrations which started on Tuesday and are being continued for the sixth day.

No Entry

Egypt shuts down al-Jazeera operations

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© Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
Al-Jazeera journalists gather at the channel's bureau in Cairo today. Egypt has ordered a shutdown of al-Jazeera's operations, the country's state broadcaster said.
Egypt today shut down the operations of the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, blaming it for encouraging the country's uprising - and demonstrating that the repressive powers of central government are still functioning.

The state-run Mena news agency reported that the information ministry had ordered "suspension of operations of al-Jazeera, cancelling of its licenses and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff, as of today".

The Egyptian government has never made a secret of its dislike for the channel, but the final straw may have been an interview it broadcast yesterday with the popular cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who called on the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, to leave the country immediately.

Al-Jazeera has faced interference with its communications from Egypt since Friday.

Footprints

Israel evacuates envoys' families in Egypt

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Israel repatriated families of its diplomats in Egypt on Saturday in response to the unprecedented street protests in the Arab state with which it has a 1979 peace deal.

"A special aircraft brought back to Israel on Saturday the families of diplomats and other official envoys, as well as about 40 Israelis on private visits to Cairo who wished to leave," said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

The Israeli ambassador to Egypt remains in the country.

Israel on Saturday kept a low profile over the unfolding events in Egypt, where protesters have pressed for the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, fearful of being accused of interfering.

But a senior official expressed concern over the possible fall of Mubarak.

Cult

9/11 - Mission Accomplished

bush,blair
© AFP
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke


Having researched the 9/11 cover-up full-time for several years and done my bit as an activist, I had finally decided to withdraw in utter frustration at my seeming inability to open as many eyes as I would have liked. Following a rather long hiatus, I find myself back in the saddle.

Especially in the face of these ongoing illegal wars that continue to devour lives at a sickening rate, I've come to realize that efforts to help expose the truth behind 9/11 must transcend personal considerations. Given that it is 9/11 that lies at the root of this horrific slaughter of innocents in distant lands (now well over a million), I truly believe this is a vitally important, selfless, pursuit that embodies the highest form of patriotism and public service imaginable.

Besides, it is impossible to function normally in the "matrix" once you've swallowed the red pill. There's simply no going back to the world of illusion when Truth stares you in the face at every turn. I am cursed with a constitution that will not allow me to drift along pretending all's well when I know beyond a doubt we've been deceived en masse by a cadre of criminals in our midst.

Sherlock

US: Medical examiner: Homicide victim John Wheeler died of 'blunt force trauma'

John Wheeler
© U.S. Air Force
John Wheeler
Toxicology "didn't play a role" in his death, officials said.

Homicide victim John P. Wheeler III, a former Pentagon official and presidential aide whose body was discovered Dec. 31 in a Wilmington landfill, was beaten to death in an assault, the Delaware medical examiner's office announced today.

The official cause of Wheeler's slaying was "blunt force trauma,'' agency spokesman Karl Kanefsky said about a case that has drawn worldwide media coverage.

Police reiterated today that the case remains under investigation but acknowledge they cannot fill in critical gaps in the murder mystery.

Within hours of the grisly New Year's Eve discovery, state pathologists had ruled that the 66-year-old New Castle resident was a homicide victim, but until today authorities had been mum on the cause of his death -- an unusual posture in Delaware, where such information is usually released promptly.

The four-week delay has helped fuel rampant speculation that Wheeler, a defense consultant and expert on chemical and biological weapons, was poisoned by enemies -- a theory that persisted in part because he was seen stumbling around Wilmington in the days before he died and officials said they were awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

Arrow Down

Will There be a Chocolate Drought? World's Supply of Sustainable Cocoa Could Run Out by 2014

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© unknown
No-go: Fairtrade training schemes for farmers have ground to a halt because of political unrest in Africa
The world faces a chocolate 'drought' over the next few years, an expert warned yesterday.

Political unrest in the Ivory Coast, where 40 per cent of the world's cocoa beans are grown, has 'significantly' depleted the number of certified fair trade cocoa farmers.

Many have fled the West ­African country, while fair trade training programmes have also come to a halt.

Fairtrade training programmes have ground to a halt because of the danger farmers face in rural areas.

The situation is already affecting chocolate manufacturers, who are facing the highest cocoa prices for over 30 years.

Prices jumped by 10 per cent this month alone. Analysts are predicting they could soon hit $3,720 per metric tonne - a level last seen in January 1979.

It follows a curb on international cocoa exports initiated earlier this week by the country's new president, Alassane Ouattara.

Angus Kennedy, the editor of Kennedy's Confection and a leading British chocolatier, said chocolate producers are facing 'one of the biggest challenges to hit the industry in recent history'.