Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ACC questionable for dropping Abul Hossain:World Bank

The Feb 20 report was published on World Bank website on Tuesday. This report was handed over to Finance Minister AMA Muhith a few days back.

The three-member panel, led by Louis Moreno-Ocampo, filed the report where it said the ACC investigation did not appear to be full and fair.

“The Panel maintains that there were no legal reasons to exclude the name of the former Minister of Communications from the initial list of persons under investigation.”

“The Panel agrees with the decision to pursue a formal investigation of the seven named individuals” who allegedly tried to take bribes for themselves and others by favouring Canada-based SNC Lavalin and its partners inthe tender process for construction supervision consultant.

However, the report said “that a final assessment of the adequacy of the ACC’s investigative activities should be done at the end of its investigation”.

Brazil leader acknowledges social protests

Brazil’s president has embraced an outbreak of protests against her government across the country, after the South American country saw some of its biggest ever rallies earlier this week.
Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil’s 1964-85 dictatorship, said on Tuesday that the protests were evidence of a vibrant democracy and acknowledge the need for better public services and more responsive governance.
"The massive size of yesterday's protests prove the energy of our democracy, the force of the voice of the street and the civility of our population,'' she said.
"My government hears the voices clamouring for change, my government is committed to social transformation," she said.
"Those who took to the streets yesterday sent a clear message to all of society, above all to political leaders at all levels of government."
The demonstrators are demanding better education, schools and transport after mass protests across at least seven cities on Monday, which intensified after clashes with police in Sao Paulo.
Demanding more
Many of them have begun to demand more from their government and are angry that billions of dollars in public funds are being spent to host the World Cup and Olympics while few improvements are made on infrastructure elsewhere.
The office of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Brazilian authorities on Tuesday to exercise restraint in dealing with the social protests in the country and called on demonstrators not to resort to violence in pursuit of their demands.
The UN body said it welcomed the statement by Rousseff that peaceful demonstrations were legitimate.
A survey by the Datafolha polling agency suggested a large majority of participants at the Sao Paulo protest on Monday night had no affiliation with any political party and nearly three-quarters were taking part in the protests for the first time.
Local news media estimated more than 240,000 people participated in demonstrations Monday night that were mostly peaceful.
However, violence was seen in Rio de Janeiro, where 20 officers and 10 demonstrators were injured in clashes, and in the cities of Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte.
State legislature attacked
The vast majority of Rio's protesters were peaceful, but a group had attacked the state legislature building and set a car and other objects ablaze.
As the group moved on to the state legislature building, footage broadcast by the Globo television network showed police shooting into the air.
At least one demonstrator in Rio was injured after being hit in the leg with a live round allegedly fired by a law nforcement official.
Protests also were reported in the cities of Curitiba, Vitoria, Fortaleza, Recife, Belem and Salvador.
Monday's protests came not only during the Confederations Cup but just one month before a papal visit, a year before the World Cup and three years ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The unrest is raising security concerns and renewed questions over Brazil's readiness to host the mega-events.

NSA chief defends US spying programme

The head of the US National Security Agency has defended government's sweeping electronic surveillance programmes and said it had helped disrupt possible attacks more than 50 times since September 11, 2001.

Justifying the spying programmes that were disclosed by contractor Edward Snowden earlier this month, General Keith Alexander said on Tuesday he would give lawmakers classified details of all of the thwarted incidents within 24 hours.

He said the public disclosure of spying programmes caused "irreversible" damage to national security and helped America's enemies.

"I think it was irreversible and significant damage to this nation," General Keith Alexander said at a House of Representatives Intelligence Committee hearing.

Asked whether the disclosures by Snowden had helped America's enemies, Alexander replied: "I believe it has and I believe it will hurt us and our allies."
Alexander spoke at a rare open Capitol Hill hearing.
At the hearing, both the FBI and leaders of the House Intelligence Committee have come out in vigorous defence of the NSA programmes.

'Foiled plots'

Deputy FBI director Sean Joyce said that the government's surveillance of telephone and Internet communications foiled plots including one to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.

Michigan Republican Representative Mike Rogers, who will preside over an open hearing of the intelligence panel later on Tuesday, said he expected NSA head to declassify additional information about the programme.
The Obama administration already has declassified data crediting the NSA programme with breaking up a planned attack on New York City's subway system.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama defended the NSA as legal and transparent in a lengthy TV interview.
"We're going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place ... that their phone calls aren't being listened into; their text messages aren't being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Yahoo is the latest company to disclose how many requests for user data it has received from US government agencies, putting the number between 12,000 and 13,000 in the six months that ended on May 31.

US identifies Guantanamo indefinite detainees

The Obama administration has publicly identified for the first time 46 prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base whom it wants to hold indefinitely without charge or trial because it says they are too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted.
The Defence Department released the names on Monday after the Miami Herald newspaper and a group of Yale Law School students sued for its release in a US District Court in Washington.
The list also names nearly two dozen prisoners who have been recommended for prosecution, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is already on trial for his alleged role in the September 11, 2011, attack, and Hambali, an alleged Indonesian "terrorist leader".
Those on the list are prisoners who have been held without charge under the Authorised Use of Military Force act passed by Congress and signed by President George Bush in 2001, according to a spokesman for the Pentagon, Army Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Breasseale.
The prisoners on the list were first reviewed by an administration task force of lawyers, military officers and intelligence agents.
Indefinite detainees
In a 2010 report, the task force declared 48 Guantanamo prisoners too dangerous to release. However, the report said they could not be tried, either because there was no evidence linking them to specific attacks or because evidence against them was tainted by coercion or abuse.
On the list were 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, three Saudis, two Kuwaitis, two Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali.
Two of the Afghans died after the list was compiled, one from suicide and the other from a heart attack.
That leaves 46 of the 166 Guantanamo prisoners designated as indefinite detainees.
The Guantanamo detention camp was set up in 2002 to hold prisoners captured in US counterterrorism operations overseas.
President Barack Obama recently called it a stain on America's reputation and reiterated his intent to close it.
He said his administration would appoint a pair of envoys from the State and Defence departments to work on that.
Following up on that promise, the State Department announced on Monday the appointment of Clifford Sloan, a veteran Washington lawyer, to work as its envoy to negotiate the repatriation or resettlement of 86 prisoners who have been cleared for transfer or release.
Pre-trial hearings
The announcement came as five prisoners charged with plotting the 9/11 attacks on the US appeared in the war crimes tribunal at the Guantanamo base for a week of pre-trial hearings.
Defendants in the death penalty case include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of funding and training the hijackers.
All five defendants appeared adequately fed, suggesting they have not joined more than 100 other detainees who have waged a four-month hunger strike in protest at the failure to resolve their fate after more than a decade of detention at Guantanamo.
They sat quietly in the courtroom as their lawyers questioned a retired admiral who previously oversaw the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal.
The lengthy and at times tedious questioning was aimed at showing the admiral and other military officials meddled in attorney-client communications, which are supposed to be confidential.
Hidden microphones
The hearing was the first in the case since February, when camp officials revealed that what appeared to be smoke alarms in the huts where defence lawyers met the defendants were actually microphones.
Camp officials insisted that they never listened to or recorded attorney-client meetings at the detention camp and said the microphones have since been disabled.
In addition to the five defendants in the 9/11 case, the Obama administration had planned to try about 36 prisoners in the war crimes tribunal.
But the chief prosecutor in the tribunals, Army Brigadier-General Mark Martins, told Reuters news agency last week that number would be scaled back to about 20 - including the 9/11 defendants and seven cases that have already been completed.
He had planned to charge many of the others with providing material support for terrorism but a US appeals court ruled last year that was not internationally recognised as a war crime when the acts in question took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Stuntwoman sues News Corp over hacking

A stunt double for Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie has sued Rupert Murdoch's beleaguered media empire News Corp over allegations its British newspapers hacked her phone, the first lawsuit in the US against the company since a hacking scandal broke out two years ago.

The lawsuit filed on June 13 by professional stunt double, Eunice Huthart, said reporters from News Corp's tabloids The Sun and the defunct News of the World, hacked her mobile phone while she was working for Jolie on location in Los Angeles.

A spokesman for News Corp declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Huthart's lawsuit said the hacking occurred in 2004 and 2005 while she was in the United States and Britain and resulted in lost voice messages that she never received.
The missing voice mails provided information later used in news reports, according to the court document in US District Court in California.
Huthart is seeking unspecified damages.
Huthart's mobile phone number, account number and personal code appeared in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, who was imprisoned in Britain for six months in 2007 for illegally intercepting phone messages at the request of News of the World.
The weekly paper was shut down in July 2011 after it emerged it had illegally accessed the mobile phone voice messages of hundreds of high-profile figures, including missing teenager Milly Dowler who was later found murdered.

Deadly blast marks Afghan security handover

A deadly blast in the west of Kabul that left at least three people dead has marked the formal handover of nationwide security from the US-led NATO coalition to Afghan forces.
The handover of responsibility on Tuesday is a significant milestone in the nearly 12-year war against Taliban and other armed groups and marks a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role. 
It also opens the way for their full withdrawal in 18 months.
The ceremonial handover was, however, marred by an explosion that targeted the convoy of Mohammed Mohaqiq, a prominent ethnic Hazara lawmaker. Mohaqiq is said to have survived the blast.
General Mohammad Zahir, chief of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Division, said three people were killed by the bombing and another 30 were wounded - including six bodyguards.
"The roadside bomb targeted the Mohaqiq convoy, but he safely passed. One of his vehicles was damaged," Zahir said.
Handover ceremony
The blast came as hundreds of local and international officials gathered on the capital's outskirts to mark the beginning of the final phase of security transition to Afghan forces across the nation.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the formal handover. "Our security and defence forces will now be in the lead," he said in a speech.
"From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces."
Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general, said the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would help militarily if and when needed but will no longer plan, execute or lead operations. 
"The main effort of our forces is shifting from combat to support," he said in speech during the ceremony. 
"By the end of 2014, our combat mission will be completed. At that time, Afghanistan will be fully secured by Afghans," he said
Following the handover, Afghan forces will now have the lead for security in all 403 districts of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
Until now, they were responsible for 312 districts nationwide, where 80 percent of Afghanistan's population of nearly 30 million lives.
After the handover, 100,000 NATO forces will play a supporting and training role, as Afghan soldiers and police take the lead in the fight against armed groups.

Doubts remain, however, over the ability of the 350,000-strong Afghan forces to thwart the Taliban, and the NATO military coalition will retain an important role in logistics and air support as well as in combat when required.
Recent attacks have demonstrated the Taliban's ability to strike at Kabul, as the country prepares for next year's presidential elections and the NATO withdrawal by the end of 2014.
Less than a week ago, a deadly suicide car bomb struck a bus carrying employees of the Supreme Court in Kabul and killed at least 17 people.

The blast on June 12 also injured 40 others, according to officials.

The total of 3,092 civilians killed or wounded between January 1 and June 6 this year was 24 percent higher than the same period last year, according to UN figures

Torrential rains devastate north Indian state

Rescue efforts are under way after torrential rains and floods washed away buildings and roads, killing at least 64 people in north India, with thousands of pilgrims stranded in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, officials have said.

The Indian Air Force scrambled a dozen helicopters to reinforce a military-backed rescue mission in the worst-hit state of Uttarakhand, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Local government officials in the state capital Dehradun said they were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.
"So far, we have found 54 bodies and 17 others are still missing," top disaster management official Piush Rautela told the AFP news agency by telephone.
"The situation is really very bad out there. More than 600 buildings have toppled or been swept away and there are 75,000 people including pilgrims stranded at various places."
"Certain areas are still unaccessible to us," he added, speaking from a control room in Dehradun which is monitoring rescue and relief missions.
More than 10,000 pilgrims stranded along a mountain pass leading to a Hindu religious site were being evacuated by helicopter after roads to the pilgrimage spot were blocked by landslides.
The army was also working to evacuate thousands from popular locations in Dehradun, Uttarkashi and Rishikesh.
A military statement said five airbases in northern India have been activated to speed up operations.
Pilgrimage trips cancelled
Television footage showed bridges, houses and multi-storey buildings crashing down and being washed away by the swirling waters.
As many as 250,000 people are thought to be in danger. The hilly terrain has made rescue operations difficult.
A giant statue of Lord Shiva could be seen submerged up to its head in the tourist hub of Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.
Rising water levels in some towns have also swept away cars, earthmoving equipment and even a parked helicopter, as a result of the surprise rains which began lashing the region on Saturday.
Authorities have cancelled pilgrimage trips, fearing further rains and landslides in the state, often referred to as the "Land of the Gods" because of its many Hindu temples and Hindu religious sites.
Wildlife, including deer, could be seen struggling for safety against the tide.
"Right now our priority is to save as many lives as possible and the scale of destruction will be assessed later," Routela said from Dehradun.
The state government was also readying food parcels and drinking water to be dropped by helicopters to the remote villages.
The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke with officials in Uttarakhand and promised "all assistance in rescue and relief operations" in the the stricken state, the premier's office said in a statement mailed to AFP.
Thousands stranded
In the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh state, the death toll from rain-related accidents stood at 10, said a state government official from the capital Shimla.
About 1,500 people, including 150 foreign holiday-makers, were stranded in the state which is a popular tourist destination, the official added.
Efforts were under way to try to reopen the major roads to rescue those cut off by the rains, said JM Pathania, a top administrative official of Kinnaur district of the state.
The monsoon, which India's farming sector depends on, covers the subcontinent from June to September, usually bringing some flooding.
But the heavy rains arrived early this year, catching many by surprise. The country has received 68 percent more rain than normal for this time of year, data from the India Meteorological Department shows.
Two hydropower stations that supply the region have also been shut down as a safety measure.
The River Ganges and its tributaries are flowing above the danger mark in several areas in Uttarakhand.

Afghan officials to talk with Taliban in Doha

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that his government will send representatives to Qatar soon to discuss peace with the Taliban, a day after it was reported that the group was set to open its political office in Doha.
The announcement on Tuesday is the first significant step towards reaching a ceasefire in the 12-year-old war against the armed group.
"Afghanistan's High Peace Council will travel to Qatar to discuss peace talks with the Taliban," Karzai said in Kabul, referring to the council he formed in late 2010 to pursue talks with the armed group.
Karzai was speaking at a ceremony in which the international military coalition marked its final handover of security to Afghan forces.
There was no immediate comment from Taliban.
Al Jazeera had earlier reported that Taliban would open a political office in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Tuesday.
Until earlier this year, Karzai was strongly opposed to the Taliban having a meeting venue outside Afghanistan, but the US has pushed for the Taliban to be present at the negotiating table.
In March, Karzai met Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and discussed "issues of mutual interest," the state news agency QNA said, without elaborating on the substance of their talks.
Members of the Taliban arrived to Doha about one year ago to establish the office from which they could engage in negotiations with representatives of Washington, in the hope of eventually achieving direct Afghan-to-Afghan talks with the government of President Hamid Karzai.

But as early as March of this year, the Taliban seemed far from ready to forge peace by laying down their arms.

Suicide blast targets funeral in Pakistan

A suicide bomber has targeted a funeral procession in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 29 people, including a legislator, and wounding more than 30 others, police have said.

The attack took place in the town of Sher Garh in Mardan district during funeral prayers for the owner of a local compressed natural gas (CNG) station, Abdullah Khan.

The blast, which police said appeared to target the politician, highlights the security challenges facing the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, sworn in earlier this month after winning the May 11 general election.
The death toll was confirmed to Al Jazeera by Shaukat Yousafzai, the information minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK).
Some of the wounded are in a serious condition and have been rushed to hospitals in Mardan and Peshawar. There were more than 100 people at the time of the funeral, according to sources. 
A witness told Pakistan's Dunya television that 700 to 800 people were attending the funeral when the bomber detonated the device.
"We all fell down after the blast,'' he said. "There were bodies and wounded everywhere.''
Years of fighting
Imran Khan Mohmand, a lawmaker and provincial assembly member from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was also believed to be killed.
Mohmand ran in Pakistan's May 11 parliament elections as an independent candidate and later supported PTI - the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
He is the second member of the assembly killed today. Earlier, Farid Khan of the same party was killed in Hangu district.
The carnage poses a challenge for the newly-installed provincial government of Imran Khan, who campaigned on a platform that he would negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban to bring an end to the years of fighting and attacks in northwestern Pakistan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is on the frontline of a seven-year Taliban insurgency and borders the semi-autonomous tribal belt, where US drone strikes have targeted Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.

G8 summit fails to deliver on tax reforms

The main focus of the second day of talks at the G8 conference has been about cracking down on international tax evasion.
Leaders want to keep pressing for legislation to cut down on the criminal use of shell companies.
However, they did not take firmer action for now to tighten rules on tax evasion and money laundering.
Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland.