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Russia Demands U.S. Explanation Over Blacklisted Singer

By Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s foreign ministry asked the United States on Thursday to explain why it had imposed sanctions on a well-known singer and supporter of President Vladimir Putin, calling the move “unacceptable”.

The U.S. Treasury Department this week named Grigory Lepsveridze as one of six people it said were linked to a “Eurasian crime syndicate” called the Brothers’ Circle.

The Treasury added him to its list of blacklisted people, meaning U.S. citizens were barred from doing business with him, and any assets he had in the United States were frozen.

Lepsveridze, who performs under the stage-name Grigory Leps, dismissed the allegation.

Russia’s foreign ministry said Washington’s accusation broke “the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence”.



President Obama Halted NSA Spying On IMF And World Bank Headquarters


By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has ordered the National Security Agency to stop eavesdropping on the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as part of a review of intelligence gathering activities, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.

The order is the latest move by the White House to demonstrate that it is willing to curb at least some surveillance in the wake of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of programs that collect huge quantities of data on U.S. allies and adversaries, and American citizens.

The NSA’s surveillance of the Washington-based IMF and World Bank has not previously been disclosed. Details of such spy programs are usually highly classified.

In response to Reuters inquiries, a senior Obama administration official said, “The United States is not conducting electronic surveillance targeting the headquarters of the World Bank or IMF in Washington.”

Read more: http://www.euronews.com/newswires/2188950-obama-halted-nsa-spying-on-imf-and-world-bank-headquarters/

Obama Tilts Federal Judiciary Back Toward Democrats

WASHINGTON — The federal judiciary — long the province and priority of Republicans — is turning more Democratic.

The number of active federal judges named by Democratic presidents will draw even Friday with the number named by Republicans, following two retirements. The next of President Obama's nominees to be confirmed by the Senate will tilt the balance in Democrats' favor; that majority will grow for the remainder of his term.

The trend is particularly noteworthy at the appeals courts, 10 of which had a majority of Republican appointees by the end of George W. Bush's presidency. Although the Supreme Court remains 5-4 in Republicans' favor, judges named by Democratic presidents now dominate seven appeals courts, and two more are split down the middle.

"It is an important milestone," says Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel. "It is a good indicator that the president is making his mark on the courts."

The federal courts — particularly the 13 appeals courts — often set precedents in areas ranging from national security and economic regulation to abortion, immigration, voting rights, affirmative action, gun control and gay marriage.



Republican Infighting Over the Farm Bill Infuriates Farmers

The next battle in the GOP civil war opened Wednesday as members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees sat down to hammer out differences over two versions of the Farm Bill. The massive piece of agriculture and nutrition legislation usually sails through both chambers, but it has become the latest litmus test for powerful conservative interest groups to decide whether individual Republican lawmakers are really conservative enough.

As farmers and ranchers in conservative districts have urged their congressmen to pass the bill this year, Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity have all pushed conservatives to vote against it, tagging it as wasteful, bloated spending. The decision by the three groups to label the Farm Bill as a “key vote” on their legislative scorecard over the summer led to a rebellion among House Republicans that sank the legislation until House leaders split it into two pieces, with agriculture funding moving forward and nutrition assistance, in the form of food stamps, getting slashed by $40 billion in a separate bill.

Rarely mentioned in the political sparring over the Farm Bill are the farmers themselves, who have long supported their own Republican members of Congress. Now they are becoming collateral damage in the ongoing battle between the party’s warring factions that has ground crucial legislation like the Farm Bill and immigration reform almost to a halt and left some farmers worrying about their futures.

“Most of our members would be quick to point out that frustration is an apt word that they’re feeling,” says Dale Moore, executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau. “You throw in the budget debates that have tied a lot of things up in knots, it gets so people are saying they just have to see something get done.”

Political pressures, especially on Republicans, are making a tough Farm Bill even harder to pass, Moore says. “The issue is Republican members who get targeted as not being conservative enough,” he says. “They’re already driving on the stripes on the right-hand side of the road just before you before you get to the shoulder. How much farther to the right do you have to get?”



Putin Repeals Orders On Missile Shield Cooperation With NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invalidated the order of 2011, which set up an interdepartmental working group at the Russian presidential administration to develop missile defense cooperation with NATO.

He also repealed the presidential decree of April 25, 2012, "On the Repeal of the Russian President's Order 'On the Special Representative of the Russian President for Missile Defense Interaction with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)'."

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was the special representative and headed the interdepartmental working group. The president's order was posted in the official legal data portal.

Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_10_31/Putin-repeals-orders-on-missile-shield-cooperation-with-NATO-1479/

Boy Who Was 10 When He Killed His Neo-Nazi Father Committed To California Juvenile Facility

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A California judge ruled Thursday that a 13-year-old boy who was 10 when he killed his neo-Nazi father will spend at least the next seven years in a state juvenile facility.

Judge Jean R. Leonard said the maximum the boy can serve would be until he is 23. He’ll be eligible for parole in seven years

The decision came after prosecutors and defence attorneys argued for months about the best placement to assure his safety and rehabilitation.

His attorneys say the boy was severely abused and has serious emotional and learning disabilities from a brutal and twisted childhood.

The Riverside County boy shot Jeffrey Hall, 32, at point-blank range as he slept on a sofa on their home on May 1, 2011, after a night of drinking.



Kerry To Mideast, Europe On Damage Control Mission

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry is hitting the road again, this time on a damage-control mission to the Middle East and Europe where rancor is high over U.S. strategies in Syria, Egypt and Iran as well as American surveillance activities revealed by ex-NSA analyst Edward Snowden.

Kerry will leave Washington this weekend for Saudi Arabia, Poland, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco, the State Department said on Thursday. With tensions between the U.S. and many of its allies rising, the department acknowledged that at least parts of the nine-day trip might be difficult.

"The secretary overall believes that rolling up his sleeves and having personal diplomacy is the way that we should continue to approach either issues we work together on, global challenges, or issues where there may be concerns as it relates to the intel-gathering reports," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

At his first scheduled stop in Riyadh, Kerry will confront multiple spats with the Saudis over resolving the continuing conflict in Syria, nuclear negotiations with Iran and President Barack Obama's decision to withhold significant amounts of U.S. assistance to Egypt.

In his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah, Kerry "will reaffirm the strategic nature of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, given the importance of the work between our two countries on shared challenges, and the leadership Saudi Arabia provides for the region," Psaki said.



Snowden Disclosures Fuel Europe's Privacy Fears

Although it has been six months since the first disclosure by Edward Snowden, the public revelations of the scope and scale of the capabilities of the National Security Agency do not appear to be slowing down.

Based on new leaked information, the NSA has recently been accused of eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany.

This information, along with accusations of intercepting phone calls by other high-ranking foreign officials, comes at a critical time as the European Union deliberates new data protection regulations. For over a decade, the data protection regulations of the European Union and its member states have represented the most stringent of their type in the world.

Germany, in particular, has been at the forefront in enforcing these laws. These regulations generally prohibit the transfer of personal data of EU citizens to any country that lacks adequate data protection safeguards unless approved by the citizen's member state.

Beginning in 2012, the EU initiated a process to further strengthen its approach to the protection of personal data and to ensure unified treatment and enforcement across all of its member states. In response to these new reports of government surveillance, the US can expect a critical review of its status as a permitted recipient of EU personal data.



Iraqi PM: Terror 'Found A Second Chance' In Iraq, Asking For New U.S. Aid

Posted: Oct 31, 2013 4:50 AM EDT

AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Terrorists "found a second chance" to thrive in Iraq, the nation's prime minister said Thursday in asking for new U.S. aid to beat back a bloody insurgency that has been fueled by the neighboring Syrian civil war and the departure of American troops from Iraq two years ago.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a packed auditorium at the U.S. Institute of Peace that he needs additional weapons, help with intelligence and other assistance, and claimed the world has a responsibility to help because terrorism is an international concern.

"If the situation in Iraq is not well treated, it will be disastrous for the whole world," said al-Maliki, whose comments were translated from Arabic. "Terrorism does not know a single religion, or confession, or a single border. They carry their rotten ideas everywhere. They carry bad ideas instead of flowers. Al-Qaida is a dirty wind that wants to spread worldwide."

The new request comes nearly two years after al-Maliki's government refused to let U.S. forces remain in Iraq with legal immunity that the Obama administration insisted was necessary to protect troops. President Barack Obama had campaigned on ending the nearly nine-year war in Iraq and took the opportunity offered by the legal dispute to pull all troops out.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq between the 2003 invasion and the 2011 withdrawal. More than 100,000 Iraqi were killed in that time.



Israel Strikes Syrian Air Base to Destroy Missiles, CNN Reports

By Tony Capaccio and Jonathan Ferziger - Oct 31, 2013

Israel carried out air strikes in Syria, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified discussing security matters.

Israeli warplanes struck a Syrian base near the Mediterranean port of Latakia, targeting missiles that were earmarked for the Hezbollah militant group, according to reports by CNN and Al-Arabiya television.

Arabiya said Israel carried out another attack around Damascus late yesterday, without saying where it got the information. Israeli officials declined to comment and the U.S. official didn’t provide additional details.

It was at least the fifth report of Israeli strikes on Syrian targets this year, none of which were confirmed by the Jewish state. Syria has issued threats of retaliation after previous incidents, without carrying them out. President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to do so is constrained because he’s battling rebel militias in a 2 1/2-year civil war that has left more than 100,000 dead.

The Associated Press reported that the attack near Latakia was aimed at destroying Russian-made missiles.


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