Sunday, May 31, 2015

Surveillance Powers Lapse With No Deal In Senate

John McCain, (R-Az.), is surrounded by reporters as he walks to the Senate Chamber to begin a special session to extend surveillance programs, in Washington, Sunday, May 31, 2015. Senate Republicans say they've been unable to make a deal to extend contested anti-terror provisions. As a result, the post-Sept. 11 programs will expire at midnight.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Security Agency lost its authority at midnight to collect Americans' phone records in bulk, after GOP Sen. Rand Paul stood in the way of extending the fiercely contested program in an extraordinary Sunday Senate session.
But that program and several other post-Sept. 11 counter-terror measures look likely to be revived in a matter of days. With no other options, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an about-face, reluctantly embraced a House-passed bill that would extend the anti-terror provisions, while also remaking the bulk phone collections program.
Although the lapse in the programs may be brief, intelligence officials warned that it could jeopardize Americans' safety and amount to a win for extremists. But civil liberties groups applauded as Paul, who is running for president, forced the expiration of the once-secret program made public by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which critics say is an unconstitutional intrusion into Americans' privacy.
The Senate voted 77-17 to move ahead on the House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act, which only last weekend fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. For McConnell, it was a remarkable retreat after objecting ferociously that the House bill would make the bulk phone collections program dangerously unwieldy by requiring the government to search records maintained by phone companies.
"It's not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it's now the only realistic way forward," McConnell said. The White House backs the House bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement: "The Senate took an important — if late — step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly."
But the Senate adjourned without final action on the bill after Paul asserted his prerogative under Senate rules to delay a final vote for a couple of days. And a couple of hours later, the midnight deadline came and went.
"This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? ... I'm not going to take it anymore," Paul declared on the Senate floor hours earlier, as supporters wearing red "Stand With Rand" T-shirts packed the spectator gallery.
Paul's moves greatly complicated matters for fellow Kentuckian McConnell, who has endorsed him for president, and infuriated fellow Republicans. They exited the Senate chamber en masse when Paul stood up to speak following the procedural vote on the House bill.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained to reporters that Paul places "a higher priority on his fundraising and his ambitions than on the security of the nation." Paul, for his part, asserted that, "People here in town think I'm making a huge mistake. Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me."
In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also lapsed at midnight: one, so far unused, helps track "lone wolf" terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones. McConnell tried Sunday to extend just those provisions for two weeks, but Paul objected.
The House bill extends those two provisions unchanged, while remaking the bulk collection program so that the NSA would stop collecting the phone records after a six month transition period, but would be authorized under court order to search records held by phone companies.
The FBI's use of the Patriot Act to collect hotel, travel, credit card, banking and other business records in national security investigations would also be extended under the House bill. Law enforcement officials say the collection of those business records is more valuable than the better-known bulk phone collections program. Ongoing investigations would be permitted to continue even though authority for the programs has lapsed.
Rebooting the phone collections program would take about a day. CIA Director John Brennan was among those warning that letting the authorities lapse, even for a time, will make America less safe. "Terrorist elements ... are looking for the seams to operate within," Brennan said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''This is something that we can't afford to do right now." He bemoaned "too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue" and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.
For Paul, the issue represents a potent political opportunity, and his presidential campaign has been sending out numerous fundraising appeals focused on it. A super PAC supporting him even produced an over-the-top video casting the dispute as a professional wrestling-style "Brawl for Liberty" between Paul and President Barack Obama — even though Paul's main opponent on the issue is McConnell.

Demolition Of Torched HQ Of Mubarak's Old Party Begins

The former ruling National Democratic Party's headquarters, which was looted and burned during the January 25th uprising in 2011, is demolished by authorities, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, May 31, 2015.


CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian workers, using construction drills and cranes, began Sunday to demolish the former headquarters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak's now-defunct party, a towering structure which was torched by protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's rule.
The military's corps of engineers started bringing down the National Democratic Party's headquarters — a prime piece of real-estate alongside the city's central Tahrir square, adjacent to the Egyptian Museum and overlooking the Nile.
The fate of the 56-year old property — which originally housed the offices of the Cairo municipality — has been a contentious issue, with various government bodies bickering over its future. Rights groups and the family of the building's architect have campaigned to stop the demolition.
Mahmoud M. Riad, the grandson of the architect and himself an architect, said the building was registered with the government as a landmark in the mid-2000s as one of the first to blend modernist architecture with art-deco, and Arab styles.
The demolition violates the law on dealing with registered landmarks, Riad said, explaining that an earlier attempt to demolish the building was stalled. "There are a lot of different factors that make this building an iconic one that needs to be preserved and adoptively used," said Riad, who is collecting signatures on a petition to stop the demolition. "It is one of the most studied pan-Arab modernist buildings. It started a new wave by Egyptian architects who were trying to create a new identity."
The deputy governor of Cairo told the state-owned Al-Ahram Online site that the municipality had issued the demolition permits. For protesters, the building was a charred reminder of the revolt against Mubarak's 29-year reign. The building was set ablaze on Jan. 28, 2011, when protesters overwhelmed Mubarak's police forces and took control of Tahrir Square.
"The NDP building was one of the last remaining physical reminders of the (2011) revolution," activist Sherief Gaber tweeted. Lamenting the failure of the pro-democracy movement to take hold in Egypt, Gaber wrote: "The state is in the process of erasing even that."

It's A Wrap For CBS' Bob Schieffer At 'Face The Nation'

In this photo provided by CBS News, Bob Schieffer interviews former Florida Gov.Jeb Bush in Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday, May 30, 2015. Jeb Bush said Saturday that Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is "wrong" on his efforts to end post-Sept. 11 surveillance laws used against suspected spies and terrorists. Bush, a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, called for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act enacted under the presidency of his brother George W. Bush. The interview will air on the May 31, 2015 edition of “Face the Nation” (Rob Hendin/CBS News via AP) NO SALES, NO ARCHIVING


WASHINGTON (AP) — Bob Schieffer won't see you next Sunday when CBS' "Face the Nation" airs with a new lineup of politicians and pundits.
He moderated his final broadcast Sunday after 24 years, ending a journalism career that started at age 20 at a radio station in Fort Worth, Texas. During the show, the 78-year-old Schieffer said he tried to "remember that the news is not about the newscaster, it's about the people who make it and those who are affected by it. I'll be honest, I'm going to miss being in the middle of things."
He said he would never forget the trust that he said viewers placed in him and "how nice you were to have me as a guest in your home over so many years." It's been the news that mattered for Schieffer, and Sunday's show reflected that — timely interviews with CIA Director John Brennan and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. In recent years, "Face the Nation" has been highly competitive in the ratings with its network rivals.
From the time he was in the 9th grade and saw his byline in the school paper, Schieffer wanted to be a reporter. "When I was a young reporter, I wanted to work for CBS because Walter Cronkite was my hero, and I got a chance to do that," he said. "And after I was here a while, I wanted to be the moderator of 'Face the Nation' and I got to do that, and did it for 24 years. Maybe it's because I just love the news, but at the time I thought every job I ever had was the best job in the world."
And that's the way it was on Schieffer's farewell.

Refugees Fear History Is Repeating Itself In Burundi

Refugees who fled Burundi's violence and political tension arrive in Kigoma, Tanzania, rafter making the journey on Lake Tanganyika. More than 90,000 have fled Burundi because they are afraid of getting caught in the violence which many have witnessed before.


KAGUNGA, TANZANIA, (AP) — As a teenager Joseph Nakaha fled with his parents to neighboring Tanzania when ethnic-based fighting erupted in Burundi after independence in 1962. In 1972, he was a refugee again and then in 1993 when civil war broke out, he and his wife and grandchildren again fled the country.
Now 67, Nakaha is a refugee once again. With political tensions rising in Burundi ahead of the June 26 presidential elections, Nakaha is not taking any chances. Nakaha, his wife, eight of his children and eight grandchildren, fled from Makamba in southern Burundi to the fishing village of Kagunga in Tanzania.
This is the fourth time he has been a refugee and he is fed up. "I am asking the Tanzanian government to give us land because Burundi is no longer our home. There is a problem every year," he said. Nakaha is among more than 90,000 who have fled Burundi because they are afraid of getting caught in the violence which many have witnessed before.
Burundi, a central African country of 10 million with rolling lush green landscapes, has had a history of political upheaval characterized by coups, assassinations and ethnic-based fighting. The country has experienced four coups.
Based on its violent past many fear that history could be repeating itself this year due to the simmering unrest in the capital over President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in office. "The prospect of a third term for President Nkurunziza calls into question the preservation of peace in Burundi. The president is risking it all by trying to force his name on the ballot, against the Catholic Church, civil society, a fraction of his own party and most external partners," said the International Crisis Group in a report in April.
Weeks of street protests have hit Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, since the ruling party announced on April 25 that Nkurunziza would run for president again. At least 20 people have died and 471 injured in the continuing protests, according the Burundi Red Cross.
The protests gave rise to an attempted coup, led by a general who had been fired by Nkurunziza as intelligence chief. The coup attempt was crushed within 48 hours and most of the alleged plotters arrested or killed except for the suspected coup leader, Maj. Godefroid Niyombare, whose whereabouts remain unknown.
Many fear the current turmoil will return Burundi to the violence that has plagued its history. Burundi descended into chaos soon after independence from Belgium in 1962. Ethnic violence pitting the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu tribes was triggered by the ouster of a Tutsi monarch Mwambutsa IV.
The country has seen waves of violence by Hutus against Tutsis and vice versa. In 1972 a Hutu uprising was crushed leading to the deaths of an estimated 100,000. In 1993 there was an ethnic-based civil war following the assassination of the country's first democratically elected President Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu. That conflict lasted until 2005 and caused the deaths of some 250,000 people. Nkurunziza, a Hutu, was elected by parliament to lead the country and he was re-elected in 2010.
Now with Nkurunziza's bid for a third term, violence and tensions have risen again. Burundi's Constitution states that a president elected by a direct vote can only serve two terms. Nkurunziza maintains he is eligible for a third term because parliament elected him for his first term, not a direct vote.
An opposition leader who was among those calling for the protests was killed in a drive by shooting Saturday and two people were killed in a grenade attack on Friday. Unlike previous political upheavals the protests in Bujumbura do not seem ethnic-based as both Tutsi and Hutu are opposing the president's bid for a third term.
Protesters have vowed to continue with the demonstrations that have forced businesses to close in the capital for nearly five weeks. Nakaha says it is better to be living in a makeshift tent of torn old sacks in at Kagunga refugee camp in Tanzania than to face the threat of violence at home in Burundi.
Even though the camp has a shortage of food and an outbreak of cholera, which has killed 29 people in less than two weeks, Nakaha said it is better than Burundi because the volatile political situation makes it too dangerous.
"It's better to be a refugee in a foreign country than a patriot in your own country," he said.

OPEC Oil Output In May Reaches Highest Since 2012 -- Survey

REUTERS UK


* Supply rises by 60,000 bpd to 31.22 million bpd
* Iraq's exports stay above 3 million bpd, near record
Saudi Arabia keeps output above 10 mln bpd, near record
* OPEC meets on June 5, unlikely to alter output target

LONDON, May 31 (Reuters) - OPEC oil supply in May climbed further to its highest in more than two years as increasing Angolan exports and record or near-record output fromSaudi Arabia and Iraq outweighed outages in smaller producers, a Reuters survey showed.
The boost from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries puts output further above its target of 30 million barrels per day (bpd), underlining the focus of top exporterSaudi Arabia and other key members on market share.
OPEC supply rose in May to 31.22 million bpd from a revised 31.16 million bpd in April, according to the survey, based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants.
The group meets on Friday and is not expected to alter policy as oil has risen to $65 a barrel from a low close to $45 in January and there are signs of slowing growth in the higher-cost supplies that have been eroding OPEC's market share.
"Anything but a renewed confirmation of the production target at the forthcoming OPEC meeting would be a major surprise," Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.
"The rapid rise in U.S. crude oil production has been stopped and the oil price has recovered considerably."
If the total remains unrevised, May's supply would be OPEC's highest since it pumped 31.53 million bpd in August 2012, based on Reuters surveys.
The biggest increase came from Angola, which exported 58 cargoes in May, more than originally planned in April, according to loading schedules.
Top exporter Saudi Arabia has not reduced output from April's record high of 10.30 million bpd, sources in the survey said, as it meets higher demand from export customers and in domestic power plants.
Of the countries with lower output, Libya posted a decline as more supply was disrupted by unrest, and production in Nigeria slipped because of pipeline leaks that prompted Royal Dutch Shell's local venture to declare force majeure on exports from the Forcados stream.
Iraqi exports, which have helped push OPEC output higher this year, look set to have fallen slightly short of April's record level, according to this survey.
Although Iraq increased its northern exports further following a deal between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government, flows declined from the south, which produces the bulk of Iraq's oil.
Further increases are expected in later months, said a source familiar with Iraq's exports.
"We should do better in the second part of the year to close the gap between planned and the current figures," he said.
For a table on OPEC output, click on (Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Israel's Knesset Includes More Women Than Ever Before

By Oren Liebermann, CNN
Jerusalem (CNN)Israel's newly elected Knesset is barely two months old, and for all the challenges it has faced -- including international pressure for a two-state solution, a struggle to form a coalition, and a plan to segregate buses that brought widespread criticism -- the legislative body is already enjoying one major success: There are more women in Knesset now than there have ever been before.
"If you don't have women around the table, then decisions are made according to what's convenient for men, not what's convenient for women," said Rachel Azaria, a first-term Knesset member with the Kulanu party.
"Every Knesset, one after another, the number of women have been growing," said Azaria, "and this is part of the way things are moving ahead. And I hope that one day we will be 50%. I think that will happen."
Of the 120 Knesset members, 29 are women, who come from all across the political spectrum. Of the 10 parties in the Knesset, only the two ultra-Orthodox parties have no women.
The decision to keep women out of the party may have contributed to another ultra-Orthodox party's failure to reach the electoral threshold required to sit in the Knesset. Eli Yishai's Yachad party failed to garner enough votes to pass the percentage of blockage, which stands at 3.25%.
"There was a strong protest on behalf of ultra-Orthodox women who demanded from their own parties and said, 'We will not vote for you if you do not let us represent ourselves and give us our own representation,'" said Merav Michaeli, a Knesset member with the Zionist Union party.
    In 1970, Golda Meir became Israel's first -- and last -- female prime minister. Since then, women have gained seats in Knesset, but they remain a minority, and they are still a very small part of the Cabinet.
    The Knesset is 24.2% female, which puts it ahead of the United States, where 19.4% of Congress is female, but behind the United Kingdom's 29.4%. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Rwanda leads the world in female representation. Rwanda's Chamber of Deputies is 64% female.
    Many women in Israel's Knesset want to require parties to have at least 40% women, which would more accurately mirror the general population. Now, only the left-wing Meretz party would meet that requirement.
    "I think it's my responsibility as a legislator to help women who cannot break this -- it is not a glass ceiling, it is an iron gate," said Michaeli, who introduced the legislation to require parties to increase the representation of women. "It's our responsibility to take care of equality, to make sure that equality is not a matter of choice, but rather a mandatory issue."

    Watchdog Says Ex-Nazis Got $20.2 Million In Social Security

    Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, addresses a gathering of Indonesian immigrants at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in Highland Park, N.J. More than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards and others who may have participated in the Third Reich's atrocities during World War II collected $20.2 million in retirement benefits, according to the Social Security Administration's inspector general. Maloney, a New York Democrat, requested the inspector general look into the scope of the payments following an investigation by The Associated Press. "This report is another reminder that we must never forget the atrocities committed by the Nazis," Maloney said Saturday, May 30, 2015, in an emailed statement.


    WASHINGTON (AP) — In a forthcoming report triggered by an Associated Press investigation, the top watchdog at the Social Security Administration found the agency paid $20.2 million in benefits to more than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards, and others who may have participated in the Third Reich's atrocities during World War II.
    The report, scheduled for public release this week and obtained by the AP, used computer-processed data and other internal agency records to develop a comprehensive picture of the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts paid out. The Social Security Administration last year refused AP's request for those figures.
    The payments are far greater than previously estimated and occurred between February 1962 and January 2015, when a new law called the No Social Security for Nazis Act kicked in and ended retirement payments for four beneficiaries. The report does not include the names of any Nazi suspects who received benefits.
    The large amount of the benefits and their duration illustrate how unaware the American public was of the influx of Nazi persecutors into the U.S., with estimates ranging as high as 10,000. Many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. and even became American citizens. They got jobs and said little about what they did during the war.
    Yet the U.S. was slow to react. It wasn't until 1979 that a special Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations, was created within the Justice Department. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., requested that the Social Security Administration's inspector general look into the scope of the payments following AP's investigation, which was published in October 2014. On Saturday, she said the IG's report showed that 133 alleged and confirmed Nazis actively worked to conceal their true identities from the U.S. government and still received Social Security payments.
    "We must continue working to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust and hold those responsible accountable," Maloney said in a statement. "One way to do that is by providing as much information to the public as possible. This report hopefully provides some clarity."
    AP found that the Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. in exchange for Social Security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their benefits. The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a way to expel former Nazis.
    By March 1999, 28 suspected Nazi criminals had collected $1.5 million in Social Security payments after their removal from the U.S. Since then, AP estimated the amount paid out had grown substantially. That estimate is based on the number of suspects who qualified and the three decades that have passed since the first former Nazis, Arthur Rudolph and John Avdzej, signed agreements that required them to leave the country but ensured their benefits would continue.
    The IG's report said $5.6 million was paid to 38 former Nazis before they were deported. Ninety five Nazi suspects who were not deported but were alleged or found to have participated in the Nazi persecution received $14.5 million in benefits, according to the report.
    The IG criticized the Social Security Administration for improperly paying four beneficiaries $15,658 because it did not suspend the benefits in time. The report also said the Social Security Administration "properly stopped payment" to the four beneficiaries when the new law banning benefits to Nazi suspects went into effect. The agency did, however, continue payments to one suspect because he was not subject to the law.
    The Social Security Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in informal comments to the IG, the agency and the Justice Department said the pool of 133 suspects included individuals who were not deported and may not have had any role with the Nazis. The Justice Department requested the report only include the names of 81 people it had provided to the IG and who had conclusively determined to be involved in the Nazi persecution.
    Follow Rising on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidrising and Herschaft at http://twitter.com/HerschaftAP and Lardner at http://twitter.com/rplardner

    Saturday, May 30, 2015

    Suicide Bomber, Rocket Grenades Kills 30 In Nigerian City

    Rescue workers work at the scene of an explosion in Maiduguri, Nigeria, Saturday, May 30, 2015. A bomb exploded Saturday afternoon near Maiduguri's main market, after the city was attacked before dawn by Islamic extremists using rocket-propelled grenades, that killed at least 13 people, according to reports from local residents.


    MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA (AP) — A suicide bomb blast outside a mosque and rocket-propelled grenades that exploded into homes as people slept killed at least 30 people in the Nigerian city Maiduguri on Saturday, residents and officials said.
    The explosion killed people who were prostrating themselves for afternoon prayers outside the mosque, including traders from the nearby crowded marketplace in the largest city in Nigeria's troubled northeast, survivors said.
    Trader Ali Bakomi said the bomber was pushing a wheelbarrow and pretending to be an itinerant trader when he joined them. Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima toured the scene where one wall was reduced to rubble and another was splattered with blood. Officials told him the bomber killed himself and 16 other people.
    Earlier Saturday, rocket-propelled grenades killed at least 13 others in the city and injured more, according to resident Idrissa Mandara. Such grenades are a new tactic that has brought terror to the city that is the birthplace of Boko Haram.
    Mari Madu, another resident, said he counted 40 thunderous blasts that began around 1 a.m. before he lost count. "Each time they fired into the town, we saw bright sparkling flashes which moved with great speed ... One of the blasts shook my roof so badly that I thought it must have landed on my house," he said.
    Several homes were destroyed in the suburb Dala-Lawanti, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the city center, he said. He counted 13 people killed in his compound: six men, five children and two women.
    An intelligence officer said Boko Haram was firing the rocket-propelled grenades. Soldiers fired heavy assault rifles in response, said the officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not supposed to give information to journalists.
    Civilian self-defense fighters patrolled until dawn to ensure the Islamic extremists did not get through barriers of sandbags and trenches, said one of the fighters, Abbas Gava. The nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeastern Nigeria has killed an estimated 13,000 people. Maiduguri's population of 2 million has swelled with hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been forced from their homes.
    A multinational offensive this year forced the insurgents from towns where they had declared an Islamic caliphate but suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks continue. On Friday, twin explosions at a village wedding venue killed seven people.
    Nigeria's military says Boko Haram's main fighting force is trapped in the northeastern Sambisa Forest. But the insurgents keep attacking Maiduguri, which is 200 kilometers (125 miles) away. At his inauguration Friday, Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to crush the extremists. Buhari said he will move the headquarters for the war against Boko Haram from Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria, to Maiduguri.
    Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Abuja, Nigeria.

    Friday, May 29, 2015

    THE LATEST: Handshake For Palestinians, Israeli Soccer Chiefs

    Activists have set up wooden crosses during a protest called "Red Card for FIFA. No World Cup in Qatar without Workers rights!" that was organized by the Swiss trade union UNIA in front of the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, May 29, 2015. The demonstrators ask FIFA to improve conditions for workers at the stadium's construction sites. (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)


    ZURICH (AP) — The latest on FIFA developments:
    4:10 p.m. (1410 GMT; 10:10 a.m. EDT) It took several awkward minutes, but finally there was a handshake between the Israeli and Palestinian soccer chiefs at FIFA's congress in Zurich. Applause broke out after the handshake Friday between Jibril Rajoub and Ofer Eini, the respective soccer association presidents of the Palestinians and Israel.
    Eini made the offer after Rajoub withdrew a motion to ask FIFA to suspend Israel from world soccer and both sides pledged to work together to overcome their differences. But Eini had to wait for several minutes while FIFA debated vote procedure, before walking over to Rajoub's seat to get the handshake done.
    3:45 p.m. (1345 GMT; 9:45 a.m. EDT)
    The Palestinian soccer federation has withdrawn its motion asking FIFA's congress to suspend the Israeli soccer association from FIFA and world soccer.
    Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian soccer body, said he decided upon that action after talking to many of FIFA's 209 members, who urged unity over discord.
    The Palestinians say Israel restricts the movement of players in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has cited security concerns, especially regarding movement in and out of Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
    Rajoub told the delegates "I am here to play football rather than play politics. I don't want to score goals, I want to end suffering."
    Israel said it was delighted at the move and would work together with the Palestinians in the best interests of world soccer.
    3:20 p.m. (1320 GMT; 9:20 a.m. EDT)
    FIFA delegate Iesha Johansen of Sierra Leone has given a moving statement of thanks to FIFA, President Sepp Blatter, the English soccer delegation and others for their financial and emotional support as her nation struggled to fight the world's worst-ever outbreak of Ebola.
    "Football is more than just a game, it is about bringing people together," she told delegates Friday at the FIFA congress in Zurich. "We all need to give peace a chance."
    More than 11,000 people have died since the Ebola epidemic emerged in Guinea in December 2013. Guinea and Sierra Leone are now the only West African countries still reporting new Ebola cases.
    2:55 p.m. (1255 GMT; 8:55 a.m. EDT)
    Ahead of a FIFA debate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly defended his nation.
    On FIFA's agenda Friday in Zurich is a proposal by the Palestinian soccer federation to suspend the Israeli soccer federation from FIFA and world soccer. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has said he does not support the request.
    Netanyahu says on his Facebook page that the dispute "stems from their very objection to our existence."
    The Israeli leader says "if FIFA harms Israel, it will be harming itself. Other countries, too, will use FIFA to settle scores with their adversaries, and instead of the spirit of international sport that is supposed to transcend politics, we will get the destruction of soccer."
    2:30 p.m. (1230 GMT; 8:30 a.m. EDT)
    British Prime Minister David Cameron says FIFA president Sepp Blatter must resign and "the sooner that happens the better."
    Asked about the FIFA scandals at a joint press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Cameron said it was "unthinkable" that Blatter was the right person to take the world soccer body forward after this week's corruption accusations.
    Cameron added: "Frankly, what we have seen is the ugly side of the beautiful game."
    Merkel called for FIFA to make a clean break with corruption but stopped short of saying that Blatter should resign.
    Blatter is running for a fifth, four-year term as FIFA president later Friday against challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Most European nations back the prince but Blatter is expected to win anyway.
    2:10 p.m. (1210 GMT; 8:10 a.m. EDT)
    Qatar is defending its integrity in its first statement since Swiss police on Wednesday opened a criminal investigation into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to Qatar.
    Qatar's World Cup committee says "our aim through hosting the FIFA World Cup is to utilize the positive power of sport to unify people" and to show the region's passion for soccer.
    The statement said Qatar has "fully complied with every investigation that has been initiated concerning the 2018/2022 bidding process and will continue to do so." It added "we conducted our bid with integrity."
    Qatar, which is building a huge amount of infrastructure to host the World Cup, has been strongly criticized by worker's groups for its poor treatment of foreign workers.
    1:45 p.m. (1145 GMT; 7:45 a.m. EDT)
    Swiss police say a bomb threat has been made against the venue where the FIFA congress is being held. Zurich city police spokesman Peter Sahli says a police operation is ongoing but declined to provide further details.
    An AP reporter at the scene says the Hallenstadion's concert hall auditorium was cleared but the building itself was not evacuated.
    FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said "an anonymous threat against the FIFA congress was received." The meeting then resumed after lunch.
    1:40 p.m. (1140GMT; 7:40 a.m. EDT)
    The math is simple for FIFA's presidential election — and it favors incumbent Sepp Blatter.
    FIFA's 209 members will be choosing a new leader later Friday, either giving 79-year-old Blatter a fifth, four-year term in office or electing his 39-year-old challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
    To win in the first round of voting, a candidate needs at least two-thirds of the vote — that's 140 votes if all 209 members voted. If no one candidate reaches that, only a simple majority is needed in the second round to win.
    Africa has 54 votes, Europe has 53 votes, Asia has 46 votes, North and Central America and the Caribbean have 35 votes, Oceania has 11 votes and South America has 10 votes.
    While most of Europe is backing the prince, Africa, Asia and Oceania are strongly backing Blatter, who is also expecting some support from North, Central and South America.
    1:25 p.m. (1125GMT; 7:25 a.m. EDT)
    Britain's Serious Fraud Office says it is assessing "material in its possession" relating to allegations of FIFA corruption.
    It said Friday it stands ready to "assist ongoing international criminal investigations" related to FIFA corruption. On Wednesday, U.S. officials indicted 14 people in a FIFA corruption probe that arrested seven FIFA officials in Zurich.
    The Serious Fraud Office would not comment on the material it is holding. Several British-based international banks, however, are mentioned in the U.S. indictment of FIFA officials.
    The fraud office is responsible for handling complex, major investigations into financial wrongdoing. The announcement stops short of announcing that proof of criminal activity has been found.
    12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT; 6:30 a.m. EDT)
    FIFA President Sepp Blatter is calling for unity among FIFA's 209 members as the world soccer body holds its annual Congress in Zurich and prepares to elect a leader for the next four years.
    Blatter on Friday acknowledged a tumultuous week — one in which 14 FIFA officials were indicted for corruption by U.S. authorities and seven of them arrested in Zurich. In addition, Swiss authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
    Blatter says these events "have unleashed a true storm." Still he says "I am appealing for team spirit and unity so we can move forward together. It may not always be easy but it is for this reason that we are gathered here together today to tackle the problems."
    Blatter, 79, is running for a fifth term against 39-year-old challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. The vote is taking place later Friday.
    12:05 p.m. (1005 GMT; 6:05 a.m. EDT)
    The head of FIFA's financial oversight panel has challenged world soccer officials to change the culture of the scandal-hit sport.
    Swiss industrialist Domenico Scala told FIFA members Friday at their meeting in Zurich that cleaning up their culture must become "part of a new DNA" for the organization. Scala said delegates should ask themselves if they "would be comfortable if my conduct appeared in the media?"
    As chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee since 2012, Scala has monitored all FIFA's spending and commercial contracts.
    11:50 a.m. (0950 GMT; 5:50 a.m. EDT)
    A small group of protesters are demonstrating in Zurich outside the FIFA Congress hall, chastising FIFA for not doing more to prevent the abuse of migrant workers as Qatar builds the infrastructure needed to host the 2022 World Cup.
    Signs reading "fans against apartheid" were put up by fans of Premier League champion Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham, among others.
    Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, says FIFA President Sepp Blatter should resign amid all the corruption charges and Swiss authorities should place FIFA under judicial supervision.
    But she also said in a statement this week that despite the FIFA corruption charges "the world also mustn't forget that migrant workers in Qatar are still being worked to death ... FIFA has failed to make labor rights a condition of Qatar hosting the World Cup and impoverished workers there are paying the price."
    10:30 a.m. (0830 GMT; 4:30 a.m. EDT)
    Germany's Justice Minister has been quoted as saying that FIFA's decision to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar can't stand if it turns out that votes were bought.
    Swiss authorities announced this week that they have opened a criminal probe into alleged wrongdoing by soccer officials during the 2010 vote on who should host those two World Cups.
    Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the German daily Bild in an interview Friday that "the awarding of a World Cup shouldn't depend on who pays the highest bribes."
    Maas also said FIFA President Sepp Blatter is the wrong man to investigate alleged graft inside his own organization, one that he has led for 17 years. Maas was quoted as saying that FIFA needs "a fresh start."
    10:17 a.m. (0817 GMT; 4:17 a.m. EDT)
    The FIFA presidential election pitting Sepp Blatter against Prince Ali bin al-Hussein will be decided by a full slate of 209 national soccer federations.
    FIFA member federations voted 183-16 to allow Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Montserrat and South Sudan to take part in the presidential ballot later Friday. Their participation was in doubt because of eligibility rules requiring federations to have played in at least two FIFA competitions in the previous four years.
    South Sudan was a "special case" because it joined FIFA only in 2012, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.
    Prince Ali's home federation, Jordan, withdrew a request to speak to the hall.
    In 2011, only 206 of a then 208-strong membership were eligible to vote when Blatter was the only candidate. He got 186 of the 203 valid votes cast.
    09:56 a.m. (0756 GMT; 3:56 a.m. EDT)
    A pro-Palestinian activist briefly disrupted the FIFA congress after President Sepp Blatter's opening address.
    An activist held up a red card and shouted "Red card to racism!" to draw attention to a campaign that aims to stop Palestinian players from being detained by Israeli security forces. Blatter called for security to remove the demonstrator.
    Israeli security officials say a Palestinian player was briefly detained last week while leaving the country because he had served as a courier for Hamas in the past.
    Item 15 on the FIFA agenda is a proposal by the Palestinian soccer federation to suspend the Israeli soccer federation from FIFA and world soccer. Blatter has said he does not support the request. Israel says the Palestinians are trying to politicize soccer.
    09:10 a.m. (0710 GMT; 3.10 a.m. EDT)
    FIFA President Sepp Blatter seemed to be ahead in a small straw poll of soccer officials arriving for their election congress on Friday.
    It's a small sample, but most delegates prepared to give opinions as they entered seem to be loyal to Blatter, the FIFA president of 17 years, despite the latest slew of corruption allegations rocking the sport. Delegates from Curacao, Belize and Malawi said they were supporting Blatter.
    Blatter's opponent, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, has promised a fresh start for FIFA and can expect strong support from Europe. Still, he must pick up votes from the Caribbean and Africa to post a serious challenge.
    Prince Ali's supporters hoped to gain momentum in the fallout from the U.S. and Swiss federal probes of soccer corruption which were unleashed in Zurich on Wednesday.
    FIFA's 209 member federations will vote on Friday afternoon.
    09:05 a.m. (0705 GMT; 3:03 a.m. EDT)
    Whoever wins the FIFA presidential election Friday won't have to face media questions immediately after their victory, according to FIFA.
    FIFA has canceled a news conference that was scheduled to take place following the congress. A replacement news conference is now scheduled for Saturday morning after a meeting of the newly-composed FIFA executive committee.
    That executive session should decide to allocate qualification slots by continent for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
    FIFA President Sepp Blatter is seeking to extend his 17-year reign for a fifth term. He is being challenged by Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

    Thursday, May 28, 2015

    Uber, Lyft Push Back Against NYC Regulations

    Uber drivers and their supporters protest in front of the offices of the Taxi and Limousine Commission in New York, Thursday, May 28, 2015. Uber and Lyft are pushing back against a New York City effort to regulate app-based car services. The proposal before the Taxi and Limousine Commission would require car services that riders can summon with their phones to comply with many of the rules that govern the yellow cabs they compete with.


    NEW YORK (AP) — Representatives of Uber and Lyft warned Thursday that a New York City effort to regulate app-based ride-hailing services will stall innovation and threaten competition.
    The regulations "will be crushing to our thousands of drivers," Michael Allegretti, New York head of public policy for San Francisco-based Uber, said at a public hearing of New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission.
    But commission Chairwoman Meera Joshi said the proposed rules changes are minor adjustments to existing regulations that have been mischaracterized by opponents. She said a requirement that car-service companies inform the commission of updates to their apps would not mean, as critics have charged, that Uber and the other app-based companies would have to divulge technical information.
    "It's not software, it's not source code or any advanced programming," Joshi said. She said requiring the companies to submit trip data to the commission would not invade passengers' privacy. "We're not requiring the submission of any passenger information or any information about lifestyle and habits at all," Joshi said. "Simply date, time and location of pickup."
    Representatives of the app-based car industry and its backers argue that the rules would be burdensome to the industry. "Will you, the TLC, set the global standard for embracing the future or undermine that progress by unfairly targeting transportation innovation?" Allegretti asked.
    Diana Dellamere, a public policy manager for Lyft, criticized a proposal limiting the number of electronic devices that a driver can use to two. Some drivers work for multiple companies and have a phone for each company.
    "Drivers who might want to experiment with different companies ... will be forced to choose, and of course they will choose the biggest company," she said. The regulations address issues including fares, airport pickups and the availability of wheelchair-accessible cars.
    Ryan Wanttaja, assistant general counsel for the taxi commission, said passengers would have to agree in advance to so-called "surge pricing," which forces riders to pay a premium during high-demand times. He said apps would have to include a way to request a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
    TLC officials said they are working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the region's airports, to move car service vehicles to designated lots at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports so that they don't clog traffic.
    A few dozen Uber drivers rallied outside the commission's Manhattan headquarters before the hearing, chanting "We love Uber!" Drivers for Uber, yellow taxis and traditional, non-Internet-based car services packed the hearing room and applauded or booed the speakers.
    The commission may vote on the regulations at its June 18 meeting.

    Ex-US Speaker Charged In Relation To Payment Of Hush Money

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., sits for a portrait in his Capitol Hill office. On Thursday, May 28, 2015, federal prosecutors indicted Hastert, 73, on bank-related charges.


    CHICAGO (AP) — Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in hush money to keep an unidentified person silent about "prior misconduct" by the Illinois Republican who was once third in line to the U.S. presidency, according to a federal grand jury indictment handed down on Thursday in Chicago.
    The indictment, which does not describe the misconduct Hastert was allegedly trying to conceal, charges the 73-year-old with one count of evading bank regulations as he withdrew tens of thousands of dollars at a time to make the payments. He is also charged with one count of lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual bank withdrawals.
    Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment with a person at Hastert's Washington, D.C., office. It was not immediately returned. Hastert did not immediately return a message left on his cellphone seeking comment, or respond to an email.
    Hastert withdrew a total of around $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts from 2010 to 2014, and then provided it to the person identified in the indictment only as Individual A. Hastert allegedly agreed to pay the person $3.5 million, but never apparently paid that full amount.
    The indictment notes Hastert was a high school teacher and coach from 1965 to 1981 in suburban Yorkville, about 50 miles west of Chicago. While the indictment says Individual A has been a resident of Yorkville and has known Hastert most of his life, it doesn't describe their relationship.
    The indictment says Hastert agreed to the payments after multiple meetings in 2010. It says that "during at least one of the meetings, Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier" and Hastert agreed to pay Individual A $3.5 million "in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A," the indictment says.
    The indictment says that between 2010 and 2012 Hastert made fifteen $50,000 withdrawals of cash from bank accounts at Old Second Bank, People's State Bank and Castle Bank and gave cash to Individual A around every six weeks.
    Around April 2012, bank officials began questioning Hastert about the large withdrawals, and starting in July of that year, Hastert reduced the amounts he withdrew at a time to less than $10,000 —apparently so they would not run afoul of a regulation designed to stop illicit activity such as money laundering , according to the indictment.
    Among the focuses of the FBI investigation was whether Hastert, in the words of the indictment, was "the victim of a criminal extortion related to, among other matters, his prior positions in government." The court document does not elaborate.
    Investigators questioned Hastert on Dec. 8, 2014 and he lied about why he had been withdrawing so much money at a time. He told investigators he did it because he didn't trust the banking system, the indictment alleges.
    "Yeah ... I kept the cash. That's what I am doing," it quotes Hastert as saying. Hastert was a little known lawmaker from suburban Chicago when chosen to succeed conservative Newt Gingrich as speaker. Hastert was picked after favored Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston resigned following his admission of several sexual affairs.
    As speaker, Hastert pushed President George W. Bush's legislative agenda, helping pass a massive tax cut and expanding Medicare prescription drug benefits. He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker, making him the longest-serving Republican House speaker.
    Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm