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US: Bradley Manning's Attorney in WikiLeaks Case Seeks Presiding Officer's Recusal

© Mark Wilson / Getty ImagesPfc. Bradley Manning (middle) is accused of disclosing diplomatic cables and intelligence reports to WikiLeaks.
The military pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning opened contentiously Friday, with his defense attorney arguing that the presiding officer lacked the impartiality to render fair judgment in a case growing out of the release of a trove of government secrets to WikiLeaks last year.

Manning, 23, could face the death penalty or life in prison if he goes to trial and is found guilty of all charges related to the alleged leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents.

His attorney said Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, a reservist who also works for the Justice Department, could not be unbiased, citing that department's ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.

"That simple fact alone, without anything else, would cause a reasonable person to say, 'I question your impartiality,' " the attorney, David E. Coombs, told Almanza, who works in the child exploitation unit of the Justice Department.

Almanza, formally known as the investigating officer in the hearing, rejected a request for recusal after considering it during a recess. He said his unit has no involvement in the case or in national security issues.

Wall Street

US: Protesters Occupy Goldman Sachs

vampire squid goldman sachs
© Robert Johnson — Business Insider"The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity..." -Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

It is not warm on West Street at 8:30 AM on December 12, and the wind coming simultaneously off the Hudson River to the west and New York harbor to the south doesn't make it very much balmier. But if 50,000 people can take to the streets of Moscow because they object to their democracy being gamed by the elites, Occupy Wall Street won't let a little chill get in its way.

The reason several hundred protesters have congregated on West Street is that Goldman Sachs can be found there. And, today, Occupy Wall Street has gone squidding just outside. The idea comes from Matt Taibbi's "nailed-it" description of the banking giant as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." Many umbrellas sporting makeshift tentacles and ad hoc hats with angry squid eyes cap the march, which leaves simultaneously from two locations: City Hall and Zuccotti Park.


UK: Supreme Court Grants Assange Right to Appeal

J Assange
© Paul Hackett/Reuters
Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks, won a new reprieve on Friday when the Supreme Court here agreed to hear his appeal on an order extraditing him to Sweden to answer accusations of sexual misbehavior.

In the latest maneuver in a legal battle that has lasted over a year, the Supreme Court set his appeal date for February. If the Supreme Court rejects his argument, Mr. Assange will still be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, according to a statement by Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, acting for the Swedish prosecutors' office. If that court declined to take the case, he would be returned to Sweden.

Mr. Assange has been living under house arrest at a friend's country mansion in eastern England as the case grinds along. In earlier hearings, his lawyers claimed that sending him to Sweden would be "unfair and unlawful." But three lower courts approved the extradition. The statement from the Supreme Court on Friday said a panel of three senior judges had "granted permission to appeal and a hearing has been scheduled for two days, beginning on February 1, 2012."

Che Guevara

Defectors Undermine Chinese Village Stand

© Agence France-PresseResidents of Wukan rally to demand the government take action over illegal land grabs and the death of a local leader while in police custody.
The first cracks have appeared in the resolve of Wukan, the rebel Chinese village that has defied a police siege for five days.

Wukan, about 150 kilometres east of Hong Kong, in Guangdong Province, rose up after the December 11 death of a villager while in police custody.

Local officials said Xue Jinbo, 42, died of heart failure. He was ''suspected'' of leading more than 400 villagers to ''vent their anger'' over a land dispute, the official Xinhua news agency said.

About 30 residents have gone over to the government's side, according to sources in the village, and are trying too persuade others to join them.

The group are offering rice and cooking oil, both increasingly scarce, to villagers who are willing to leave their signatures on a blank document that could be used to show support for the government's actions.


Egypt: Eight Killed in Unrelenting Cairo Clashes

Eight people have been killed as clashes between troops and protesters in central Cairo spilled over into a second day, Egyptian state television said on Saturday.
© Reuters/Amr Abdallah DalshProtesters throw stones at army soldiers as they take cover at the cabinet near Tahrir Square in Cairo December 16, 2011.

It also said that 303 people had been wounded in the unrest in the capital, whose centre has turned into a smoke-filled battleground in some of the most violent clashes since a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak last February.

Egypt's Dar al-Iftah, the body that issues Islamic fatwas (edicts), said one of its senior officials, Emad Effat, was among the dead, state news agency MENA said.

Clashes around government offices and parliament raged on after nightfall on Friday, with protesters throwing petrol bombs and stones at soldiers who used batons and what witnesses said appeared to be electric cattle prods.

The violence has sharpened tensions between the ruling army and its opponents, and clouded a parliamentary vote set to bring Islamists, long repressed by Mubarak, to the verge of power.

Light Saber

U.S. man arrested for attacking fellow customers with lightsaber

© unknown
We understand that some super-realistic toys can blur the line between what's real and what's pretend, but this man probably should have known better.

A man in Portland, Ore., was arrested for an alleged assault against three people in a local Toys R Us store on Wednesday night. His weapon of choice? A blue lightsaber.

According to Oregon Live, the 33-year-old man started swinging the toy at other customers and someone called 9-1-1 to report the wannabe Jedi. The man walked out to the parking lot, still holding the lightsaber, and continued to swing it at police officers when they attempted to arrest him. The officers tried using a Taser on the man, but it didn't work.


European Police Smash Online Child Porn Ring

© Agence France-Presse/Thomas CoexA French policeman investigates sensitive content during a hunt for online paedophiles. Police in 22 European countries swooped on 112 suspects for allegedly sharing "the most extreme form" of online videos of children being sexually abused and raped, policing agency Europol said Friday.
Police in 22 European countries swooped on 112 suspects for allegedly sharing "the most extreme form" of online videos of children being sexually abused and raped, policing agency Europol said on Friday.

"So far in 22 countries we have identified 269 suspects with 112 arrests," Europol director Rob Wainwright said at a press conference at the agency's headquarters in The Hague.

"The operation targeted those sharing the most extreme forms of video material, which included babies and toddlers being sexually abused and raped," he said.

"I have no doubt that the number of suspects will increase in time."

Much of the material seized during some of the house searches in the probe, dubbed "Operation Icarus", is now awaiting forensic examination for follow-up investigations, Europol's top official added.


US: Case of Accused Army Leaker Carries High Stakes

Bradley Manning
© EPAArmy Pfc. Bradley Manning, in an undated file photo.
The U.S. military is making its case for why Army Pfc. Bradley Manning should be court-martialed on charges of endangering national security by stealing and leaking an enormous trove of government secrets.

Manning, 23, was to make his first public appearance Friday at the opening of his pretrial hearing at Fort Meade. The Army post near Washington is, ironically, home to U.S. Cyber Command, the organization whose mission includes protecting computer networks like the one Manning allegedly breached by illegally downloading huge numbers of classified documents in Iraq.

He is suspected of giving the documents to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that last year began publishing the materials.

The hearing was expected to last through the weekend and possibly beyond. Manning's lawyer asserts that the documents' release did little actual harm.

The case has spawned an international movement in support of Manning, who is seen by anti-war activists as a hero who helped expose American mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. To others he is a villain, even a traitor, who betrayed his oath of loyalty by deliberately spilling his government's secrets.


US: Controversial Air Force Casket Photo Prompts Investigation

© unknownThis controversial photo has launched an Air Force investigation
The Air Force has launched an investigation into a controversial photo that shows several non-commissioned officers posing with an open casket, in which a fellow airman poses with a noose around his neck and chains over his body.

The Air Force Times received a copy of the photo over email, which includes the caption, "Da Dumpt, Da Dumpt .... Sucks 2 Be U." The casket is similar to those used to transport deceased U.S. soldiers home from the battlefield.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the paper that investigators were mounting an inquiry of the grief the image might cause for families of fallen service members. "We take this matter seriously. [Air Education and Training Command] has initiated a commander directed investigation," Donley said in a statement.


Cold shutdown': Japan reactor now stable, PM says

Tokyo - The tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has reached a "cold shutdown" and is no longer leaking substantial amounts of radiation, Japan's prime minister said Friday.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's announcement marks a milestone nine months after the March 11 tsunami sent three reactors at the plant into meltdowns in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

"Even if unforeseeable incidents happen, the situation is such that radiation levels on the boundary of the plant can now be maintained at a low level," Noda said at the government's nuclear emergency response meeting.

However, experts noted that the plant remains vulnerable to more problems and will take decades to decommission the plant.

Located 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, the plant was wrecked on March 11 by a huge earthquake and a tsunami that exceeded 45 feet in some areas, which knocked out its cooling systems, triggering meltdowns and radiation leaks.

The crisis displaced some 100,000 people. Officials are to start discussing allowing some residents to return to less contaminated areas. A 12-mile zone around the plant is expected to remain mostly off-limits for years.

Comment: If a person breezed pass the title, they might have got the impression there was only one reactor at the Dai-ichi power plant.
© Unknown

How much Radiation leaked out Mr. Prime Minister? "Substantial amounts of radiation." Do you have some form of measurement for each type of Radiation that leaked?

How is it possible that "radiation levels on the boundary of the plant can now be maintained at a low level" is it a new technology, hocus-pocus-alakhazam, or are you just blowing smoke Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda?

So far as "unforeseeable incidents" happening, there was an unforeseeable Earthquake/Tsunami. Is it now that, even if a repeat were to happen, that everything will somehow now endure?