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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ - NYTimes.com

Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ - NYTimes.com

By CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.

By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens.

Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban. “As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the Senate, on a 63-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts to block a final vote on the repeal bill.

The vote marked a historic moment that some equated with the end of racial segregation in the military. It followed a review by the Pentagon that found little concern in the military about lifting the ban and was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.

Supporters of the repeal said it was long past time to end what they saw as an ill-advised practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to serve their country.

“We righted a wrong,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut who led the effort to end the ban. “Today we’ve done justice.”

Before voting on the repeal, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States at a young age, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements including passing a criminal background check.

The 55-41 vote in favor of the citizenship bill was five votes short of the number needed to clear the way for final passage of what is known as the Dream Act. The outcome effectively kills it for this year, and its fate beyond that is uncertain since Republicans who will assume control of the House in January oppose the measure and are unlikely to bring it to a vote.

The Senate then moved on to the military legislation, engaging in an emotional back and forth over the merits of the measure as advocates for repeal watched from galleries crowded with people interested in the fate of both the military and immigration measures. “I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying earlier that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Monday.

The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the Senate diminished.

It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of banning gay men and lesbians entirely from military service. Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide, activists who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.

“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad day in history. “I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”

He and other opponents of lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would prove disruptive.

“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said about the policy. “It is working very well.”

Other Republicans said that while the policy might need to be changed at some point, Congress should not do so when American troops are fighting overseas.

“In the middle of a military conflict, is not the time to do it,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia.

Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over the ability to debate the measure.

In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.

The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days while some other procedural steps are taken. In addition, the bill requires the defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the repeal “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”

Because of the uncertainty, Mr. Sarvis appealed to Mr. Gates to suspend any investigations into military personnel or discharge proceedings under the policy to be overturned in the coming months.

Mr. Lieberman said the ban undermined the integrity of the military by forcing troops to lie. He said 14,000 members of the armed forces had been forced to leave the ranks under the policy.

“What a waste,” he said.

The fight erupted in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration and has been a roiling political issue ever since. Mr. Obama endorsed repeal in his own campaign and advocates saw the current Congress as their best opportunity for ending the ban. Dozens of advocates of ending the ban — including one wounded in combat before being forced from the military — watched from the Senate gallery as the debate took place.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed Republican complaints that Democrats were trying to race through the repeal to satisfy their political supporters.

“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” Mr. Levin said. “I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.”

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a crucial proponent of the repeal, noted that some Republicans had indicated they might try to block Senate approval of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia because of their pique over the Senate action on the ban.

“How’s that’s for statesmanship?” Mr. Reid said.

Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants - NYTimes.com

Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants - NYTimes.com

The Senate on Saturday blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, including passing a criminal background check.

The vote by 55-41 in favor of the bill, which is known as the Dream Act, effectively kills it for this year, and its fate is uncertain. The measure needed the support of 60 senators to cut off a filibuster and bring it to the floor.

Supporters said they were heartened that the measure won the backing of a majority of the Senate. They said they would continue to press for it, either on its own or as part of a wide immigration overhaul that some Democrats hope to undertake next year and believe could be an area of cooperation with Republicans, who will control a majority in the House

Most immediately, the measure would have helped grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students and recent graduates whose lives are severely restricted though many have lived in the United States for nearly their entire lives.

Young Hispanic men and women filled the spectator galleries of the Senate, many of them wearing graduation caps and tassels in a symbol of their support for the bill. They held hands in a prayerful gesture as the clerk called the roll and many looked stricken as its defeat was announced.

President Obama had personally lobbied lawmakers in support the bill. But Democrats were not able to hold ranks.

Five Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill. They were Democratic Senators Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jon Tester of Montana.

And three Republicans joined the balance of Democrats in favor of it: Robert Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Mr. Obama, in a statement, called the outcome “incredibly disappointing” and said that he would continue fighting to win approval of the bill.

“It is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts.”

“The Dream Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts,” he said, adding, “It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today but my administration will note give up.”

In a floor speech, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, a main champion of the Dream act, urged a yes vote. “I want to make it clear to my colleagues, you won’t get many chances in the United States Senate, in the course of your career, to face clear votes on the issue of justice,” he said.

“Thousands of children in American who live in the shadows and dream of greatness,” he said. “They are children who have been raised in this country. They stand in the classrooms and pledge allegiance to our flag. They sing our ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as our national anthem. They believe in their heart of hearts this is home. This is the only country they have ever known.”

At a news conference after the vote, Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado and a former superintendent of the Denver school system, said he was thinking about all the students he knew there, as he cast his vote in favor of the bill.

“Please don’t have up,” Mr. Bennet said. “Don’t be disappointed because we couldn’t get our act together.”

But opponents of the measure said it was too broad and would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“As part of this legislative session there has been no serious movement to do anything that would improve the grievous situation of illegality at our border,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. “Leaders in Washington have not only tolerate lawlessness but, in fact, our policies have encouraged it.”

Mr. Sessions added, “This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.”

Ms. Murkowski, in a statement, chastised Democrats for bringing the bill to the floor when it was “doomed to fail” but said that she broke with most Republicans because the legislation was important.

“I support the goal of the Dream Act which is to enable children who were brought to the United States by their parents to earn citizenship through service in the armed forces or pursuit of higher education,” Ms. Murkowski said. “ I do not believe that children are to blame for the decision of their parents to enter or remain in the United States unlawfully. The reality is that many of these children regard America as the only country they ever knew. Some were not even told that they were unlawfully in the United States until it came time for them to apply for college. America should provide these young people with the opportunity to pursue the American dream. They have much to offer America if given the chance.”

Ms. Murkowski also expressed an openness to dealing with the wider immigration issue. “ I firmly believe that Congress needs to embrace the wider immigration question, starting with securing our borders, and I plan to work with my colleagues on this issue in the new Congress,” she said.

Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Advances - NYTimes.com

Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Advances - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Capping a 17-year political struggle, the Senate on Saturday cleared the way for repealing the Pentagon’s ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.

By a vote of 63 to 33, with six Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate acted to cut off debate on a measure that would let President Obama declare an end to the Clinton-era policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gay members of the armed forces to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret. The vote indicated that there was easily enough support to push the measure to final passage.

“By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the cloture vote. “And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”

The vote put Congress at the brink of a historic moment that some equated with the decision to end racial segregation in the military. It followed a review by the Pentagon that found little concern in the military about ending the ban and that was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.

Backers of the repeal said it was long past time to end what they saw as a discriminatory practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to serve their country.

“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying on Friday that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Monday.

The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the Senate diminished.

It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of banning gay men and lesbians entirely from military service. Activists said it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide.

Opponents of lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would prove disruptive.

“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said of about the policy. “It is working very well.”

Other Republicans said that while the policy might be need to changed at some point, Congress should not intrude on the issue now when American troops are fighting overseas.

“In the middle of a military conflict, is not the time to do it,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia.

The vote to lift the ban came after the Senate blocked — and effectively killed for this year — a measure that would have allowed some younger illegal immigrants to gain legal status by attending college or serving in the military.

Backers of that measure, known as the Dream Act, said it would have aided those who, through no fault of their own, were brought into the country illegally by their parents. But opponents said the initiative had the potential for fraud and amounted to a path to amnesty. The vote was 55 to 41, five votes short of the 60 necessary for the measure to advance.

Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over the ability to debate the measure.

In a last-ditch effort, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing the ban. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.

The Senate must take a second vote to approve the repeal and send it to President Obama for his signature. The repeal would not take effect for at least 60 days while some other procedural steps are taken. In addition the bill requires the defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the repeal “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”

Mr. Lieberman said the ban undermined the integrity of the military by forcing troops to lie. He said 14,000 members of the armed forces had been forced to leave the ranks under the policy.

“What a waste,” he said.

The fight erupted in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration and has been a roiling political issue ever since. Mr. Obama endorsed repeal in his own campaign and advocates saw the current Congress as their best opportunity for ending the ban. Dozens of advocates of ending the ban — including one wounded in combat before being forced from the military — watched from the Senate gallery as the debate took place.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed Republican complaints that Democrats were trying to race through the repeal to satisfy their political supporters.

“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” Mr. Levin said. “I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Congress Passes Tax Cut and Unemployment Package - NYTimes.com

Congress Passes Tax Cut and Unemployment Package - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Congress at midnight Thursday approved an $801 billion package of tax cuts and $57 billion for extended unemployment insurance. The vote sealed the first major deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans as Democrats put aside their objections and bowed to the realignment of power brought about by their crushing election losses.

The bipartisan support for the tax deal also underscored the urgency felt by the administration and by lawmakers in both parties to prop up the still-struggling economy and to prevent an across-the-board tax increase that was set to occur if the rates enacted under President George W. Bush had expired, as scheduled, at the end of the month.

Administration officials said Mr. Obama would sign the package into law on Friday.

The final vote in the House was 277 to 148 after liberal Democrats failed in one last bid to change an estate-tax provision in the bill that they said was too generous to the wealthiest Americans and that the administration agreed to in a concession to Republicans. The amendment failed, 233 to 194.

Supporting the overall measure were 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans; opposed were 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans.

The bill extends for two years all of the Bush-era tax rates and provides a one-year payroll tax cut for most American workers, delivering what economists predict will be a needed lift. The Senate approved the package on Wednesday by 81 to 19.

The White House and Republicans hailed the deal as a rare bipartisan achievement and a prototype for future hard-bargained compromises in the new era of divided government.

But the accord also showed that policy-makers remain locked in an unsustainable cycle of cutting taxes and raising spending that has proven politically palatable in the short term but could threaten the nation’s fiscal stability in years ahead.

Some Republican critics of the deal had said the Bush-era rates should be extended permanently, complaining that to do otherwise would create economic uncertainty. But some analysts said that such certainty was an illusion, given the longer-term problem with the deficit.

“Republicans are talking a lot about certainty,” said Matthew Mitchell, a research fellow and tax policy expert at George Mason University. “But even if they had won some sort of a victory where they got the current tax rates written in stone, spending is on such an unsustainable path in terms of entitlements, it really isn’t certain at all.”

The temporary nature of the deal, however, could lend momentum to broader efforts to overhaul the tax code and tackle the deficit. With the tax debate now scheduled to resume at the height of the 2012 presidential election, some lawmakers said they hoped the fiscal landscape could be redrawn and the cycle of lower taxes and higher spending brought to a halt.

Throughout the debate in recent weeks, lawmakers in both parties expressed unhappiness with the tax agreement, and that there seemed to be an increasing recognition of a need to tackle the long-term problems.

In recent days, 22 senators — 12 Democrats, 9 Republicans and 1 independent — signed on to a resolution pledging to “devise a comprehensive plan for addressing the fiscal concerns of our nation” by focusing on “tax reform, spending restraint and debt and deficit reduction” in 2011.

That pledge suggested lawmakers might want to avoid repeating this debate in two years, and instead focus on proposals to clean up the tax code and potentially reduce rates for individuals and corporations alike, while simultaneously trying to bring spending in line.

“The era of deficit denial is over,” said Bruce Reed, the executive director of Mr. Obama’s bipartisan commission on reducing the national debt. “They’re just having a big year-end close-out.”

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, for example, voted against the tax deal on Wednesday even though he is a champion of lower taxes. But Mr. Coburn, as a member of the debt commission, voted in favor of its blueprint for reducing the debt through 2020.

Mr. Coburn had proposed an alternative to the tax deal on Wednesday, seeking to reduce its cost using a number of strategies endorsed by the commission.

As the House moved toward approving the tax package, liberal Democrats railed against it and delayed the final vote by several hours after briefly objecting to the terms of debate.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, accused Republicans of forcing Democrats “to pay a king’s ransom in order to help the middle class.”

Many of the Democratic opponents said the package would do too much for the wealthy, and warned that the payroll tax cut could undermine the stability of Social Security.

“It’s a huge giveaway to the super-rich in tough economic times,” said Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who called the plan “craziness.”

Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, said, “This legislation creates too few jobs and too much debt.”

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, said he feared the one-year cut in the Social Security payroll tax, to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent on income up to $106,800, would weaken Social Security because Republicans would insist on it being made permanent, and Democrats would relent. “We know that politically once you make that tax cut it will be impossible to restore it,” Mr. Nadler said.

Some Republican critics said the package would add too much to the deficit, and they objected to maintaining extended jobless aid without offsetting the cost with spending cuts elsewhere.

But most Republicans said they supported the deal.

“We are crawling out of the worst economic downturn in generations,” said Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, who will be the majority leader next year. “The choice is to act now or impose a $3.8 trillion tax increase.”

Mr. Cantor also reminded Republicans to recognize the limits of their new House majority. “We could try to hold out an pass a different tax bill, but there is no reason to believe the Senate would pass it or the president would sign it if this fight spills into next year,” he said.

Even some fierce conservatives said they were putting aside reservations about the overall cost to back the plan. “I am going to fight to put this nation back on the road to fiscal sanity,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, announcing that he would vote aye.

In the Senate, Democrats on Thursday night abandoned efforts to pass a $1.2 trillion spending bill to finance the federal government through Sept. 30, and said they would accede to Republicans demands for a short-term stop-gap measure instead.

Senators said the stop-gap bill would run through the early part of next year, at which point Republicans will have greater leverage over spending decisions.

Senate Republicans had pledged to stop the spending measure, even though it included millions of dollars for projects that they had requested, and had threatened to force the entire bill, which is more than 1,900 pages, to be read aloud on the Senate floor.

Mr. McConnell, in floor remarks, praised the Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member, for its work on the spending bill that he and other Republicans blocked.

Carl Hulse contributed reporting.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

BBC News - Anonymous Wikileaks activists move to analogue tactics

BBC News - Anonymous Wikileaks activists move to analogue tactics

Online activist group Anonymous has once again changed tactics in its campaign to support Wikileaks, eschewing web-based attacks.
At least one faction of the group has urged supporters to plaster the streets with pro-Wikileaks propaganda on 18 December.
The group had earlier attacked websites of firms they accused of colluding with governments to censor Wikileaks.
The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is investigating the web incidents.
Now Operation Paperstorm, as it is known, aims to get volunteers to print pro-Wikileaks posters and plaster them across towns and cities.
It has asked supporters to distribute the material on Saturday - when many people will be in town centres finishing off their Christmas shopping.
Volunteers have been translating the posters in to different languages.

Low tech attacks

The campaign is another example of Anonymous going low-tech.
Earlier this week, people associated with the group began a campaign to flood the fax machines of PayPal, Mastercard and Amazon with copies of secret memos published by Wikileaks.

The firms were targeted after refusing Wikileaks' custom and had previously had their websites attacked.
Within Anonymous there has been a growing consensus to change tactics, Phill Midwinter, who describes himself as an active member of the collective, told BBC News.
"We don't want to annoy or make life difficult for internet users," he said.
Paperstorm was one of "about 10" initiatives that would enable Anonymous to publicise the leaked cables and the case of Bradley Manning, the US Army intelligence specialist being held in conjunction with the leaks, said Mr Midwinter.
"They're examples of how we can use crowd-sourcing to get our message across, without doing anything illegal," he added.
But while some connected with Anonymous seek less inflammatory options to express their opinion other than attacking websites, others may be about to launch new ones.
Several programmers have posted updated versions of the tool, LOIC, used to launch the initial denial-of-service attacks.
These bombard websites with page requests until the servers are unable to cope, effectively taking the page offline. The group has had mixed success with its efforts to take websites offline.

One of the new tools, Hive Mind LOIC, has been adapted so that it can be controlled from a central source, such as a Twitter feed.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it was investigating a string of attacks, which Anonymous claimed to have carried out.
A Met spokesman confirmed that earlier this year it "received a number of allegations of 'denial-of-service' cyber attacks against several companies by a group calling themselves Anonymous".

Earlier this year a series of attacks hit the websites of organisations that targeted web pirates.
"The Metropolitan Police Service is monitoring the situation relating to recent and ongoing denial of service attacks and will investigate where appropriate," it said.

WikiLeaks Founder Ordered Freed as Court Rejects Appeal - NYTimes.com

Julian Assange, WikileaksImage by New Media Days via FlickrWikiLeaks Founder Ordered Freed as Court Rejects Appeal - NYTimes.com

LONDON — A London court ordered on Thursday that Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks be released on bail while he fights extradition to Sweden on alleged sex offenses.

The High Court decision reversed a ruling two days ago to deny bail. The terms Thursday included strict conditions on where he may live until another hearing on Jan. 11.

The hearing was formally separate from Mr. Assange’s role in the publication of some 250,000 American diplomatic documents and came as federal prosecutors in Washington looked for evidence that would enable them to charge him with helping with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.

The American prosecutors believe that if he did so, they could charge him as a conspirator rather than a passive recipient of the documents.

Mr. Assange’s court appearance in London, however, is related to allegations of sexual misconduct on three occasions with two young Swedish women in Stockholm last August, something he denies. Swedish prosecutors say they want him to be returned to their country to question him in connection with accusations that he broke Swedish rape and other laws.

Mr. Assange has said the encounters were consensual but his accusers say they ceased to be consensual when a condom was not being used.

Wearing an open white shirt and a dark suit, Mr. Assange appeared in an ornate dock in Courtroom 4 of the High Court on Thursday with several well-known press-freedom advocates, including the Australian journalist John Pilger, in the public areas.

The struggle in Britain’s courts began last week when Mr. Assange surrendered to the police and was at first denied bail as a flight risk. On Tuesday, Judge Howard Riddle ordered him freed on $315,000 bail, but he remained in custody as prosecutors appealed the decision.

Reporters at the High Court said that Mr. Assange’s representatives were obliged to deposit that amount in cash to allow him to go free if the appeal against his bail is overturned.

Unlike at the earlier hearing, reporters at the High Court said the judge hearing the appeal had ruled against their sending electronic messages via Twitter from the courtroom.

The Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that the appeal was initiated by British prosecutors, not their Swedish counterparts, who said they had “not got a view at all on bail.”

The case has become bitterly divisive among supporters and critics of Mr. Assange — and the focus of much attention by media outlets around the world. Scores of reporters, photographers and camera crews gathered outside the High Court as Mr. Assange arrived in a white armored prison services truck. The bail hearing started at around 6:30 a.m. Eastern time.

“The arguments are going to be the same arguments” as at Tuesday’s hearing, Mr. Assange’s British lawyer, Mark Stephens, told reporters on Thursday outside the High Court, close to London’s theater district. Mr. Stephens complained that his client was “being held on a punishment regime.”

Bail was granted on Tuesday after a friend of Mr. Assange’s offered to allow him to stay at a lavish country mansion in Suffolk, in eastern England, an hour from London. According to the bail conditions, Mr. Assange must spend every night at the mansion, Ellingham Hall, a 10-bedroom Georgian home on a 650-acre estate owned by Vaughan Smith, the wealthy founder of the Frontline journalists’ club in London.

According to Britain’s Press Association news agency, Mr. Smith told reporters outside the court: “It would be terrible if he doesn’t get bail. He needs an appropriate address. He needs a safe place. I think we all need to stand up and say where we stand on this.”

Geoffrey Robertson, one of Britain’s most prominent lawyers, who is assisting Mr. Assange’s defense team, described it in court as less house arrest, more “mansion arrest.” But Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, will also be electronically tagged to track his movements and must agree to curfews — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Additionally, he will be stripped of his passport and will be required to present himself to the police every evening.

His incarceration has not ended the flow of classified American diplomatic cables, mostly between American diplomats abroad and the State Department in Washington. Earlier, WikiLeaks published confidential American material relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents were made available to newspapers including The New York Times.

Ravi Somaiya reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

U.S. Tries to Build Case Against WikiLeaks Founder - NYTimes.com

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3Image via WikipediaU.S. Tries to Build Case Against WikiLeaks Founder - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.

Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him.

He said the special server’s purpose was to allow Private Manning’s submissions to “be bumped to the top of the queue for review.” By Mr. Lamo’s account, Private Manning bragged about this “as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks.”

Wired magazine has published excerpts from logs of online chats between Mr. Lamo and Private Manning. But the sections in which Private Manning is said to detail contacts with Mr. Assange are not among them. Mr. Lamo described them from memory in an interview with The Times, but he said he could not provide the full chat transcript because the F.B.I. had taken his hard drive, on which it was saved.

Since WikiLeaks began making public large caches of classified United States government documents this year, Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Mr. Assange with a crime. Among other things, they have studied several statutes that criminalize the dissemination of restricted information under certain circumstances, including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.

But while prosecutors have used such laws to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment’s strong protections of speech and press freedoms.

Last week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said he had just authorized investigators to take “significant” steps, declining to specify them. This week, one of Mr. Assange’s lawyers in Britain said they had “heard from Swedish authorities there has been a secretly impaneled grand jury” in northern Virginia.

Justice Department officials have declined to discuss any grand jury activity. But in interviews, people familiar with the case said the department appeared to be attracted to the possibility of prosecuting Mr. Assange as a co-conspirator to the leaking because it is under intense pressure to make an example of him as a deterrent to further mass leaking of electronic documents over the Internet.

By bringing a case against Mr. Assange as a conspirator to Private Manning’s leak, the government would not have to confront awkward questions about why it is not also prosecuting traditional news organizations or investigative journalists who also disclose information the government says should be kept secret — including The New York Times, which also published some documents originally obtained by WikiLeaks.

“I suspect there is a real desire on the part of the government to avoid pursuing the publication aspect if it can pursue the leak aspect,” said Daniel C. Richman, a Columbia law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It would be so much neater and raise fewer constitutional issues.”

It has been known that investigators were looking for evidence that one or more people in Boston served as an intermediary between Private Manning and WikiLeaks, taking a disc of files he had copied from a computer while deployed in Iraq and somehow delivering it to the Web site.

But Mr. Lamo said Private Manning also sometimes uploaded information directly to Mr. Assange, whom he had initially sought out online. The soldier sent a “test leak” of a single State Department cable from Iceland to see if Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks were who they claimed to be, Mr. Lamo said.

“At some point, he became satisfied that he was actually talking to Assange and not some unknown third party posing as Assange, and based on that he began sending in smaller amounts of data from his computer,” Mr. Lamo said. “Because of the nature of his Internet connection, he wasn’t able to send large data files easily. He was using a satellite connection, so he was limited until he did an actual physical drop-off when he was back in the United States in January of this year.”

Still, prosecutors would most likely need more than a chat transcript laying out such claims to implicate Mr. Assange, Professor Richman said. Even if prosecutors could prove that it was Private Manning writing the messages to Mr. Lamo, a court might deem the whole discussion as inadmissible hearsay evidence.

Prosecutors could overcome that hurdle if they obtain other evidence about any early contacts — especially if they could persuade Private Manning to testify against Mr. Assange. But two members of a support network set up to raise money for his legal defense, Jeff Paterson and David House, said Private Manning had declined to cooperate with investigators since his arrest in May.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks is taking steps to distance itself from the suggestion that it actively encourages people to send in classified material. It has changed how it describes itself on its submissions page. “WikiLeaks accepts a range of material, but we do not solicit it,” its Web site now says.

It also deleted the word “classified” from a description of the kinds of material it accepts. And it dropped an assertion that “Submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law,” now saying instead: “Submitting documents to our journalists is protected by law in better democracies.”

WikiLeaks is also taking steps to position itself more squarely as a news organization, which would it easier to invoke the First Amendment as a shield. Where its old submissions page made few references to journalism, it now uses “journalist” and forms of the word “news” 23 times.

Another new sentence portrays its primary work as filtering and analyzing documents, not just posting them raw. It says its “journalists write news stories based on the material, and then provide a link to the supporting documentation to prove our stories are true.”

Senate Passes Compromise Tax Plan by Wide Margin - NYTimes.com

Senate Passes Compromise Tax Plan by Wide Margin - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday approved the $858 billion tax plan negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders — the first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise.

The vote was 81 to 19, as Democrats yielded in their long push to end the Bush-era lowered tax rates for high-income taxpayers, and Republicans agreed to back a huge economic stimulus package, including an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a one-year payroll-tax cut for most workers, with the entire cost added to the federal deficit.

The bill goes next to the House, where Democratic leaders said they expected to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday. They predicted that it would be approved this week, despite lingering opposition among rank-and-file Democrats who are still intent on making changes to a provision that grants a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates. Republicans have said they will not accept any change.

“A tremendous accomplishment,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, declared shortly before the vote on Wednesday. “Whether you agree with all the contents of the bill or not, everyone should understand this is one of the major accomplishments of any Congress where two parties, ideologically divided, have agreed on a major issue for the American people.”

The two-year tax measure will touch virtually every American — poor and rich, old and young, married or single, with children or living alone, and even those who die. And, with a reprise of this year’s contentious debate now slated for the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, the bill is likely to be a precursor to a broader effort by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s labyrinthine tax code and begin tackling the long-term deficit.

The tax plan would extend all of the lowered income tax rates enacted under President George W. Bush, as well as the 15 percent rate on capital gains and dividends, which were due to expire at the end of this month. And it would set new estate tax parameters, including an exemption of $5 million per person, or $10 million per couple, and a maximum rate of 35 percent. All these provisions would last for two years.

The estate tax lapsed entirely this year, but was set to return on Jan. 1 with an exemption of $1 million per person and a maximum rate of 55 percent. House Democrats were particularly infuriated by the White House’s agreement on the estate tax, which provides a more generous exemption and lower rate than many of them wanted.

The bill would also keep jobless aid flowing to the long-term unemployed for an additional 13 months, maintaining extended limits, which now range from 60 weeks in states with less than 6 percent joblessness to 99 weeks in states where the unemployment rate is more than 8.5 percent. Benefits normally last for just 26 weeks.

The one-year payroll tax cut would reduce to 4.2 percent the 6.2 percent Social Security tax levied on income up to $106,800. For a family with $50,000 in annual income, the cut would yield tax savings of about $1,000. For a worker paying the maximum tax, it would provide savings of $2,136.

The bill also contains an array of other tax breaks for individuals and businesses, aimed at pumping up the economy. It continues a college tuition credit for some families, an expanded child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. It also includes a two-year adjustment to the Alternative Minimum Tax to prevent as many as 21 million more households from being hit by it, and it contains a provision allowing businesses to write off some kinds of expenses more quickly.

The tax deal was sealed in back-channel talks between Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It offered a glimpse of a new power dynamic that is likely to characterize the next two years, as Republicans take control of the House and occupy six additional seats in the Senate.

Many Democrats had reacted furiously to the proposal, but ultimately bowed to the political reality that Republicans, by making big gains in the November elections, had also won the upper hand in the tax debate. Some Democrats said they had concluded that the White House had won important concessions that would help middle-income Americans and potentially give a big lift to the still-struggling economy.

Democratic opponents of the plan said it would overly benefit the wealthiest Americans and not do enough for the working-class and the poor, and that the money used to continue reduced tax rates on the highest incomes could be better spent on other steps to stimulate the economy.

The bill met with opposition as well from some Republicans, who said it was too expensive and would add dangerously to the deficit at a time when many public officials are worried about the nation’s rising debt.

The Senate’s overwhelming approval of the tax plan was a brief flash of bipartisan cooperation amid the deep partisan acrimony in the waning days of the 111th Congress. The tax plan was supported by 43 Democrats, 37 Republicans and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent. Opposed were 13 Democrats, 5 Republicans and Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent. Both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Sanders caucus with the Democrats.

Ahead of the tax vote on Wednesday, Mr. McConnell denounced the effort by Democrats to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would finance the government through the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2011.

Mr. McConnell called on Democrats to approve a stop-gap spending measure that would last only through the early part of next year instead, and to abandon everything else on their agenda and adjourn for the year.

“We should accomplish the most basic function of government — we can at least vote to keep the lights on around here,” he said. “Pass the tax legislation and keep the lights on,” Mr. McConnell said. ““Everything else can wait.”

Democrats, however, are refusing to back down on any of their priorities, which include the omnibus spending bill, the New Start arms control treaty with Russia, a bill to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring open service by gay soldiers, and an immigration measure that would create a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants brought to the United States as young children.

Mr. Reid said that the Senate would be in session on Sunday in a push to finish work on all of these legislative items, but Republicans were maneuvering aggressively to thwart him. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he would force a complete public reading of both the Start treaty and the more than 1,900-page spending bill, potentially locking up the Senate floor for more than 24 hours.

U.S. Air Force blocks NYT, Guardian over WikiLeaks | Reuters

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...Image via CrunchBaseU.S. Air Force blocks NYT, Guardian over WikiLeaks | Reuters

he U.S. Air Force has blocked employees from visiting media websites carrying leaked WikiLeaks documents, including The New York Times and the Guardian, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Major Toni Tones, a spokeswoman at Air Force Space Command in Colorado, said the command had blocked employees whose computers are connected to the Air Force network from accessing at least 25 websites that have posted WikiLeaks documents.

The Air Force "routinely blocks Air Force network access to websites hosting inappropriate materials or malware (malicious software) and this includes any website that hosts classified materials and those that are released by WikiLeaks," she said.

The Air Force move comes as the U.S. government seeks to minimize the damage from WikiLeaks' release of 250,000 State Department cables through media outlets and on its own website.

The cables released last month, which reveal blunt, sometimes derisive depictions of foreign governments and leaders, have been an embarrassment for Washington.

Past releases this year by WikiLeaks contained sensitive information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Washington said compromised national security and put people at risk.

The Pentagon had already prohibited its employees from viewing WikiLeaks documents online, no matter how widely they are published, but it has not blocked access to websites that post leaked cables.

Pentagon officials have instructed employees they "shouldn't access the WikiLeaks site because the information there is still considered classified," said Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Michael Moore Pledges $20,000 Towards Julian Assange's Bail - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

Michael Moore Pledges $20,000 Towards Julian Assange's Bail - Political Hotsheet - CBS News

Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, could have Michael Moore to thank if he makes bail - at least in part.

After his first request was denied last week, Assange was granted bail in a London court Tuesday, though he will remain in custody pending an appeal of the ruling by Swedish prosecutors.

The court set bail at 240,000 British pounds, or $378,840, but included strict monitoring conditions to go along with it, including wearing an electronic monitoring device, staying at a registered address, checking in with London police daily and observing curfews.

Black segregation in US drops to lowest in century  | ajc.com

Racial segregation in the United StatesImage via WikipediaBlack segregation in US drops to lowest in century | ajc.com

WASHINGTON — America's neighborhoods became more integrated last year than during any time in at least a century as a rising black middle class moved into fast-growing white areas in the South and West.

Still, ethnic segregation in many parts of the U.S. persisted, particularly for Hispanics.

Segregation among blacks and whites fell in roughly three-quarters of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas as the two racial groups spread more evenly between inner cities and suburbs, according to recent census data.

The findings are expected to be reinforced with fresh census data being released Tuesday on race, migration and economics. The new information is among the Census Bureau's most detailed releases yet for neighborhoods.

"It's taken a Civil Rights movement and several generations to yield noticeable segregation declines for blacks," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who reviewed the census data. "But the still-high levels of black segregation in some areas, coupled with uneven clustering patterns for Hispanics, suggest that the idea of a post-racial America has a way to go."

The race trends also hint at the upcoming political and legal wrangling over the 2010 census figures, to be published in the spring. The data will be used to reallocate congressional districts, drawing new political boundaries. New Hispanic-dominated districts could emerge, particularly for elected positions at the state and local level. States are required under the Voting Rights Act to respect the interests of minority voting blocs, which tend to support Democratic candidates.

Milwaukee, Detroit and Syracuse, N.Y., were among the most segregated, all part of areas in the Northeast and Midwest known by some demographers as the "ghetto belt." On the other end of the scale, cities that were least likely to be segregated included Fort Myers, Fla., Honolulu, Atlanta and Miami.

Hispanic integration was mixed. There was less Hispanic-white segregation in cities and suburbs in many large metros such as Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, according to preliminary census figures. But in many smaller neighborhoods, large numbers of more recently arrived Hispanic immigrants are believed to be clustering together for social support, experts said.

The findings on segregation are partly based on a demographic index that tracks the degree to which racial groups are evenly spread between city and suburb. The index ranges from 0 to 100, with 60 or above generally considered highly segregated. That index found that for large U.S. metros in 2009, the black-white segregation reading was 27, down from 33 in 2000 and the lowest in generations.

Other findings:

—Overall, Asians showed less residential segregation from whites compared with blacks and Hispanics, but results varied widely by geography. Asians were most segregated in large metros such as Greensboro, N.C., and Stockton, Calif. They were most integrated in Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, due partly to the movement of more affluent Asians to suburbs.

—New Orleans was among metros with the largest decline in city-suburb segregation among blacks and whites since 2000, due largely to the exodus of low-income blacks from the city after Hurricane Katrina.

—Other large metros showing less segregation included those with technology-based economies, such as Boston, Seattle, Houston, Austin, Tex., and San Francisco, which attracted middle- and upper-income blacks to their suburbs.

Still, the recent gains in racial integration are somewhat limited, said John Logan, a sociologist at Brown University who has studied residential segregation. He noted that black-white segregation remained generally high in areas of the Northeast and Midwest. In those areas, there is slow population growth and white flight from increasingly minority neighborhoods is still common.

As for Hispanics and Asians, while residential movement out of ethnic neighborhoods has been increasing, those numbers have generally been surpassed by the arrival of new immigrants into traditional enclaves.

"The political implications of these trends are great in the long run — majority black districts will become harder to sustain, while more majority Hispanic districts will emerge, especially for state and local positions," Logan said.

The figures come from previous censuses and the 2009 American Community Survey, which samples 3 million households.

Due to incomplete 2009 data, the analysis of racial segregation omits seven metro areas: Sarasota, Fla., Greenville, S.C., Harrisburg, Pa., Jackson, Miss., McAllen, Texas, Portland, Maine, and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

___

Monday, December 13, 2010

Richard C. Holbrooke, Giant of Diplomacy, Dies at 69 - NYTimes.com

Richard HolbrookeImage via WikipediaRichard C. Holbrooke, Giant of Diplomacy, Dies at 69 - NYTimes.com

Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009 and a diplomatic troubleshooter in Asia, Europe and the Middle East who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, died on Monday evening at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

He was 69 and lived in Manhattan.

His death was confirmed by an Obama administration official.

Mr. Holbrooke was taken to the hospital on Friday afternoon after becoming ill while meeting with Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton in her Washington office. Doctors found a tear to his aorta, and he underwent a 21-hour operation that ended early Saturday. Mr. Holbrooke had additional surgery on Sunday and had remained in very critical condition until his death.

Mr. Holbrooke’s signal accomplishment in a distinguished career was his role as the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. It was a diplomatic coup preceded and followed by his peacekeeping missions to the tinderbox of ethnic, religious and regional conflicts that was formerly Yugoslavia.

More recently, Mr. Holbrooke wrestled with the stunning complexity of Afghanistan and Pakistan: how to bring stability to the region while fighting a resurgent Taliban and trying to cope with corrupt governments, rigged elections, fragile economies, a rampant narcotics trade, nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the presence of Al Qaeda, and presumably Osama bin Laden, in the wild tribal borderlands.

His tenure in the Obama administration had mixed reviews. President Obama sent in more troops, as Mr. Holbrooke had wanted, but there was little military or civic progress. Mr. Holbrooke’s relationship with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was icy. He clashed with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander fired last June. Some experts said that merely avoiding disaster would have been a triumph. But many said the tenacious Mr. Holbrooke was the right man for the job.

A brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter with a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger, Mr. Holbrooke dazzled and often intimidated opponents and colleagues around a negotiating table. Some called him a bully, and he looked the part: the big chin thrust out, the broad shoulders, the tight smile that might mean anything.

But admirers, including generations of State Department protégés and the presidents he served, called his peacemaking efforts extraordinary.

When he named Mr. Holbrooke to represent the United States at the United Nations, President Bill Clinton said, “His remarkable diplomacy in Bosnia helped to stop the bloodshed, and at the talks in Dayton the force of his determination was the key to securing peace, restoring hope and saving lives.” Others said his work in Bosnia deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

Few diplomats could boast of his career accomplishments. Early on, Mr. Holbrooke devoted six years to the Vietnam War: first in the Mekong Delta seeking the allegiance of the civilian population, then at the embassy in Saigon as an aide to Ambassadors Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., and finally in the American delegation to the 1968-69 Paris peace talks led by W. Averell Harriman and Cyrus R. Vance.

Mr. Holbrooke was the author of one volume of the Pentagon Papers, the secret Defense Department history of the Vietnam War that catalogued years of American duplicity in Southeast Asia. The papers were first brought to public attention by The New York Times in 1971.

As assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Carter administration, Mr. Holbrooke played a crucial role in establishing full diplomatic relations with China in 1979, a move that finessed America’s continuing commitment to China’s thorn in the side Taiwan and that followed up on the historic breakthrough of President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 visit to China.

During the Clinton presidency, Mr. Holbrooke served as ambassador to Germany in 1993-94, when he helped enlarge the North Atlantic alliance; achieved his diplomatic breakthroughs in Bosnia as assistant secretary of state for European affairs in 1994-95; and was chief representative to the United Nations, a cabinet post, for 17 months from 1999 to 2001.

At the United Nations, he forged close ties to Secretary General Kofi Annan, negotiated a settlement of America’s longstanding dues dispute, highlighted conflicts and health crises in Africa and Indonesia and called for more peacekeeping forces. After fighting erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1999, he led a Security Council delegation on a mission to Africa. He also backed sanctions against Angolan rebels in 2000.

While he achieved prominence as a cabinet official and envoy to many of the world’s most troubled arenas, Mr. Holbrooke’s was frustrated in his ambition to be secretary of state; he was the runner-up to Madeleine K. Albright, Mr. Clinton’s choice in 1997, and a contender when Mr. Obama installed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the post in 2009.

Foreign policy was his life. Even during Republican administrations, when he was not in government, he was deeply engaged, undertaking missions as a private citizen traveling through the war-weary Balkans and the backwaters of Africa and Asia to see firsthand the damage and devastating human costs of genocide, civil wars and H.I.V. and AIDS epidemics.

And his voice on the outside remained influential — as the editor of Foreign Policy magazine from 1972 to 1977, as a writer of columns for The Washington Post and analytical articles for many other publications, and as the author of two books. He collaborated with Clark Clifford, a presidential adviser, on a best-selling Clifford memoir, “Counsel to the President” (1991), and wrote his own widely acclaimed memoir, “To End a War” (1998), about his Bosnia service.

Mr. Holbrooke also made millions as an investment banker on Wall Street. In the early 1980s, he was a co-founder of a Washington-based consulting firm, Public Strategies, which was later sold to Lehman Brothers. At various times he was a managing director of Lehman Brothers, vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston and a director of the American International Group.

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was born in Manhattan on April 24, 1941, to Dr. Dan Holbrooke, a physician, and the former Trudi Moos. He attended Scarsdale High School, where his best friend was David Rusk, son of Dean Rusk, the future secretary of state. Richard’s father died when he was 15, and he drew closer to the Rusk family.

At Brown University, he majored in history and was editor of the student newspaper. He intended to become a journalist, but after graduating in 1962 he was turned down by The Times and joined the State Department as a foreign service officer.

In 1964, Mr. Holbrooke married the first of his three wives, Larrine Sullivan, a lawyer. The couple had two sons, David and Anthony. They were divorced. His marriage to Blythe Babyak, a television producer, also ended in divorce. In 1995, he married Kati Marton, an author, journalist and human rights advocate who had been married to the ABC anchorman Peter Jennings until their divorce in 1993.

After language training, he spent three years working in Vietnam. In 1966, he joined President Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House staff, and two years later became a junior member of the delegation at the Paris peace talks. The talks achieved no breakthrough, but the experience taught him much about the arts of negotiation.

In 1970, after a year as a fellow at Princeton, he became director of the Peace Corps in Morocco. He quit government service in 1972 and over the next five years edited the quarterly journal Foreign Policy. He was also a contributing editor of Newsweek International and a consultant on reorganizing the government’s foreign policy apparatus.

He worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in 1976, and was rewarded with the post of assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs. When Ronald Reagan and the Republicans took over the White House in 1981, Mr. Holbrooke left the government and for more than a decade focused on writing and investment banking.

When President Clinton took office in 1993, Mr. Holbrooke was named ambassador to Germany. He helped found the American Academy in Berlin as a cultural exchange center.

He returned to Washington in 1994 as assistant secretary of state for European affairs. His top priority soon became the horrendous civil war in the former Yugoslavia, a conflict precipitated by the secession of Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia. Massacres, mass rapes and displaced populations, among other atrocities, were part of campaigns of “ethnic cleansing” against Muslims.

After months of shuttle diplomacy, Mr. Holbrooke in 1995 achieved a breakthrough cease-fire and a framework for dividing Bosnia into two entities, one of Bosnian Serbs and another of Croatians and Muslims. The endgame negotiations, involving the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia, unfolded in Dayton, Ohio, where a peace agreement was reached after months of hard bargaining led by Mr. Holbrooke.

It was the high-water mark of a career punctuated with awards, honorary degrees and prestigious seats on the boards of the Asia Society, the American Museum of Natural History, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Council on Foreign Relations, Refugees International and other organizations. He was 59 when he left the United Nations as the Clinton administration drew to a close.

But there was to be one more task. As Mr. Obama assumed office and attention shifted to Afghanistan, Mr. Holbrooke took on his last assignment. He began by trying to lower expectations, moving away from the grand, transformative goals of President George W. Bush toward something more readily achievable.

But his boss and old friend, Mrs. Clinton, expressed absolute confidence in him. “Richard represents the kind of robust, persistent, determined diplomacy the president intends to pursue,” she said. “I admire deeply his ability to shoulder the most vexing and difficult challenges.”

Malaysia's Anwar in bid to stem WikiLeak effect - The China Post

Anwar Ibrahim has been critical of the New Eco...Image via WikipediaMalaysia's Anwar in bid to stem WikiLeak effect - The China Post


KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Monday moved to stem the impact on his sodomy trial of US cables released by WikiLeaks claiming he had sex with a male aide in a honey trap set by enemies.
Anwar's lawyer Sankara Nair told AFP he will file a complaint with the court hearing Anwar's sodomy case over articles in the local media which could affect the former deputy premier's ongoing trial.

Most newspapers in the country carried the allegations on their front page with influential Malay daily Utusan running a headline stating: "Singapore spy agency verifies sodomy act".

"Clearly it's a case of sub-judice, it's hearsay and conjecture, intelligence reports are not based on facts generally, they are based on rumours and I have served in the security services before so I know that the last thing you do is to trust such a report," said Nair.

"The judge must call up the newspapers and ask them to explain why they wrote the piece and to show their proof. If they can't do this then they will be cited for contempt," he added.

"If this is not sinister then it is totally unethical reporting. I have advised my client to file a lawsuit against these papers as well."

The leaked US state department cables from November 2008 were given to Australia's Fairfax media group, which reported Sunday the Australian and Singapore intelligence agencies' assessment of Anwar's ongoing case.

"The Australians said that Singapore's intelligence services and (former prime minister) Lee Kuan Yew have told ONA (Office of National Assessments) in their exchanges that opposition leader Anwar 'did indeed commit the acts for which he is currently indicted'," the cable read.

"ONA assessed, and their Singapore counterparts concurred, 'it was a set-up job and he probably knew that, but walked into it anyway'," according to the cable.

Anwar, 63, has vehemently denied sodomising his aide, 25-year-old Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, claiming he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

He faces 20 years in prison if found guilty of sodomy, a serious crime in Muslim-dominated Malaysia.

Human Rights Watch has urged Malaysia to drop the charges against Anwar, condemning the case as a "charade of justice".