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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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US presidential debates: abortion, climate change and other missing issues

Category : Business

Obama and Romney faced off for nearly five hours over three meetings, but what of the key issues that were left undebated?

One could have been forgiven for assuming that, in the course of four and a half hours of combined presidential debates, all policy bases would have been covered.

Big Bird, binders full of women and battleships all featured, after all.

But a surprising number of major issues failed to warrant a mention in any of the three head-to-heads. Here’s a guide to what was not discussed – and the candidates’ stances on the forgotten topics.

Gay rights

Despite Obama making a high-profile U-turn on the issue of gay marriage just months ago, the topic of same-sex unions didn’t get a look in. The closest Obama got to an attack was a snide jab at Romney getting his social policies from the “1950s”.

Where they stand:

Obama: Has pushed through a progressive agenda in terms of gay rights, having jettisoned the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of previous administrations. His conversion to being pro same-sex marriage has been welcomed by the LGBT community, as has his direction to government bodies not to defend the Defence of Marriage Act (Doma) in the courts.

Romney: His agenda of gay rights has been built on shifting sands over the years. In the mid-1990s he told Log Cabin Republicans that he supported “full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens”. But he has veered towards social conservatism over the last year, repeatedly asserting his belief that “marriage is between a man and a woman”. He has said he will defend Doma.

War on drugs

America’s war on drugs could have been brought up in the debate on domestic agenda or in the foreign policy encounter.

But despite absorbing massive federal funds – some $51bn annually, according to the Drug Policy Alliance – no mention was made of America’s longest war.

Where they stand:

Obama: The White House has failed to scale down the expensive enforcement-based approach on drugs legislation. Obama has also come out against legalisation. He did, however, bring in legislation to reduce the disparity between sentences given to those caught with crack cocaine, compared to users of powder cocaine. He has also diverted more funds to prevention and treatment programmes.

Romney: Likewise anti-legalisation, Romney blames demand in the US for the cross-border violence in Mexico. In a recent forum organised by the Univision TV Network, the Republican reportedly said that the US president has to make “a priority of reducing demand in this country and communicating to our young people, and older people, that when they use these illegal drugs, they are contributing to the deaths of people around the world”.

Climate change

In the course of the presidential debates, the topics of gas prices and energy independence came up. But neither candidate turned the issue around to green energy and the issue of climate change.

Where they stand:

Obama: Has pledged to reduce emissions which cause global warming and hit out at sceptics, warning at the Democratic national convention: “Climate change is not a hoax.” Obama has also pumped money into the green sector through government grants and loans.

Romney: Has called for the phasing out of subsidies for the wind industry and has mocked Obama for wanting to help “heal the planet”. Although not an outright denier, Romney has said that we “do not know what’s causing climate change on this planet”.

Domestic surveillance

Discussion on homeland security during the first debate failed to nail the candidates on creeping surveillance of US citizens.

Where they stand:

Obama: According to the American Civil Liberties Union there has been a 60% increase in electronic surveillance under Obama’s watch. He also extended the controversial patriot act, with authorises the wiretapping of US and non-US citizens.

Romney: Has said that he supports the patriot act. Meanwhile as governor of Massachusetts he advocated the wiretapping of mosques and carrying out surveillance on foreign students.


With the economy very much central in the election campaign, it is surprising that some of the main victims of the recession – homeowners left underwater by falling house prices and those foreclosed on – didn’t get a look in.

Where they stand:

Obama: Has introduced legislation that has helped millions of struggling homeowners, but not as many as he would have hoped. The home affordable modification programme has helped an estimated 1 million families refinance their home loans, but it’s goal was to help up to 4 million.

Romney: Has criticised attempts to interfere with the housing market. Indeed his free-market approach appears to extend to giving no help to those facing repossession. “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom,” he said in reference to housing.


The issue came up in the vice-presidential debates, but despite both presidential candidates looking to secure a larger chunk of the female vote, abortion made no impact on their encounters.

Where they stand:

Obama: Is pro-choice. “I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right,” Obama said in January, ahead of the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Romney: Has flip-flopped on the issue over the years but now says he is opposed to abortion, except in the case of incest, rape and if the mother’s life is endangered.

Queen’s speech: all the bills and what they mean

Category : Business

The government unveiled a legislative programme ranging from Lords reform to libel and family justice

Lords reform

A bill to reform the House of Lords has been included in the Queen’s speech as one of three constitutional bills, but severe doubts remain that the reforms will reach the statute book, as David Cameron’s aides continue to pour cold water over the plans.

Tory MPs are expected to mount a rebellion, with Labour support, over the debate timetable for the bill and the need for a post-legislative referendum. The Liberal Democrats are for the moment relieved that the bill has made the programme. Ministers stressed on Wednesday that the reform could go through only if there was cross-party consensus.

The government set out areas of agreement between it and the joint committee: a mainly elected chamber, members elected on a system of single transferable vote, staggered elections with one-third coming up for renewal at a time, peers to serve 15-year terms, current peers to leave in stages, a reduced number of peers, and powers to expel peers. PW

Constitutional reform

The Cabinet Office is also stewarding a bill to switch from household to individual voter registration, a measure promised by the outgoing Labour government.

The new register is due to be in place by 2014. The Cabinet Office gave no details of whether electoral registration officers would still be able to impose fines on individuals who refuse to co-operate. There is deep concern that even more poor people will fall off the register. The number of registered voters in turn determines the shape of parliamentary constituencies.

The move away from registering on the electoral roll by household will be phased in from 2014, and by 1 December 2015 everyone on the electoral register will be registered under the new system.

In addition, the Cabinet Office says work will on winning Commonwealth agreement to reform the rules governing succession to the crown will continue. These reforms would remove the right of men to have preference over women in succession to the crown, and also remove any discrimination against Catholics. PW

Social care

Elderly people and disabled adults will be given more power to make decisions about the care and support they receive under a social care bill.

Building on a report by the Law Commission, which aimed to simplify an “often incoherent patchwork” of 60 years of social care law incomprehensible to all but a small legal fraternity, the bill will require local authorities to fit services around users’ needs, rather than expecting them to fit in with what is available.

The commission last year also said it was time to place a duty on councils to investigate abuse and neglect of adults, allow direct payments to be used to fund residential care and improve “portability” of entitlement to care and support services if people move from one council area to another.

Existing laws scattered around at least a dozen acts will be consolidated in a single statute, supported by new regulations and guidance.

The legislation will create a London health improvement board and establish Health Education England and the Health Research Authority as non-departmental public bodies.

But more fundamental reform that campaigners say is needed to end a “crisis” in England’s care system will not appear until the much delayed publication of a white paper, expected in the summer. Significantly, the Queen’s speech includes only a draft care and support bill, which makes no mention of financial arrangements for care. RR

Children and families

More flexible leave for parents, father-friendly access arrangements following relationship breakups, faster adoption processes and better help for special needs pupils will be included in a new children and families bill, designed to be a central plank of government policy.

Focusing on the shakeup of family justice to deliver a “fairer” system for parents, ministers signalled that the government did not accept last year’s family justice review, which warned against introducing a legal presumption of shared parenting. The review said such a move could create an “unacceptable risk of damage to children”.

However, the Queen’s speech included a consultation on legal options to strengthen the law in England and Wales to ensure that, “where it is safe and in the child’s best interests”, both parents are able to have a relationship with their sons and daughters after they split up.

The bill also sets out plans to speed up adoption and care proceedings and give more support to disabled children. The bill will create a six-month time limit for family courts in England and Wales to reach decisions on whether children should be taken into care and will require the court to take into account the impact of delays on the child. Many social workers argue that they are unable to tackle delays in other parts of the system – such as family courts.

In another long-trailed announcement, the new bill will stop local authorities in England from delaying adoptions in the hope of finding a perfect racial match for the child if there are couples waiting to adopt. RR

Justice and security

The government has accelerated plans to expand secret hearings into civil courts. Rather than moving to the preparatory white paper stage, a justice and security bill will be put through parliament this session.

The government has come under severe pressure from MI5 and MI6 to draw up a law imposing a system of secret courts ever since it was disclosed that the security and intelligence agencies had been involved in the brutal treatment, and knew of the torture, of UK residents and citizens detained by the CIA.

So-called closed material procedures would allow sensitive evidence to be given in court but not seen by all the participants. Defendants or claimants and their courtroom representatives would be barred from the closed part of the hearing, removing the adversarial nature of the justice system.

Human rights groups and many lawyers, including those vetted to represent alleged victims of wrongful behaviour by MI5 and MI6, are alarmed at the proposals, warning that evidence that cannot be tested in court may be unreliable and could lead to miscarriages of justice.

Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, has said the powers are needed to reassure other countries, particularly the US, that they can continue to share intelligence without fear of it being exposed in British courts. The bill is designed to ensure courts can consider all the evidence in civil claims made against the government, so that the government does not have settle cases that it believes have no merit. OB and RNT

Communications data

The bill to track everyone’s email, Facebook, text and internet use has proved to be one of the most controversial within the coalition and has been slow-streamed in the government’s legislative timetable after last-minute coalition talks.

The measure, criticised by civil liberty campaigners as a “snooper’s charter”, has been taken out of a more general Home Office and Ministry of Justice-sponsored crime and courts bill, which ministers need to get on to the statute book as fast as possible.

The decision to have a separate bill follows Nick Clegg’s insistence that it must be accompanied by the “strongest possible safeguards”. These are expected to include case by case oversight by a surveillance commissioner, a review of existing measures to protect the security of everyone’s data and the publication of a privacy impact statement.

Clegg has also promised that the internet tracking proposal will not be “rammed through parliament” and that open parliamentary hearings will be held to examine draft clauses of the legislation. The proposal has also attracted sharp criticism from the Tory libertarian right, with the former shadow home secretary David Davis calling it an “unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people”.

The Home Office confirmed that the communications data bill was to be published in draft and slow-streamed in the government’s parliamentary timetable.

A briefing note said it would establish an “updated framework for collection, retention and acquisition of communications data” in the face of rapid technological change.

The Home Office said “strict safeguards” would include a 12-month limit on storing the data and measures to protect the data from unauthorised access or disclosure. The information commissioner will continue to oversee the destruction of this confidential data after 12 months. AT

Banking reforms

The government signalled its determination to press ahead with banking reform in the Queen’s speech but intends to provide more details on 14 June when George Osborne delivers his Mansion House speech.

The white paper outlining how the government intends to force banks to detach their high street and investment divisions will be published alongside the chancellor’s set-piece speech next month.

In the speech, the Queen said: “Measures will be brought forward to further strengthen regulation of the financial services sector and implement the recommendations of the independent commission on banking.”

The commission, chaired by Sir John Vickers, also included recommendations on bolstering competition among high street banks by making it easier to move bank accounts. There were also proposals about “depositor preference”, which would allow savers to get their money back when a bank goes bust before other creditors – a move that is intended to reduce the need for taxpayer bailouts. Despite lobbying by the banks for this to be avoided, the government is expected to press ahead with the change. JT

Libel reform

A draft defamation bill was subject to close scrutiny in the last parliamentary session but now appears as fully developed proposals in this year’s legislative agenda.

The bill is intended to abolish costly trials by jury in most libel cases, curb online defamation through a new notice and takedown procedure, reduce so-called “libel tourism” and make it more difficult for large corporations to sue newspapers.

Lord Mawhinney, chairman of the joint Commons and Lords committee on the draft defamation bill, said current libel laws were “far too expensive, which is a barrier to all but the richest”.

In its response to the committee’s report, the government agreed to replace the test of “substantial harm” to reputation with a stricter test of “serious harm” that would have to be established in defamation cases.

“The bill will rebalance the law to ensure that people who have been defamed are able to protect their reputation, but that free speech and freedom of expression are not unjustifiably impeded by actual or threatened libel proceedings,” the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

“It will ensure that the threat of libel proceedings is not used to frustrate robust scientific and academic debate, or to impede responsible investigative journalism.”

The bill would create a new statutory defence of responsible publication on matters of public interest, refining what was previously known as the Reynolds defence in libel cases.

On libel tourism, the bill will, according to the MoJ, tighten “the test to be applied by the courts in relation to actions brought against people who are not domiciled in the UK or an EU member state”.

Judges will be free to decide when it is in the interests of justice to hold a jury trial in defamation cases. OB

Crime and courts

The separate crime and courts bill will set up the National Crime Agency from next April, speed up immigration appeals and strengthen the powers of UK Border Force officers. It will also include proposals to introduce television cameras into courts, reform judicial appointments and allow magistrates sitting on their own to operate from community centres and police stations to deal with low-level uncontested cases within days or even hours of arrest.

News broadcasters have welcomed the inclusion in the Queen’s speech of a government undertaking to introduce legislation to allow them to film court proceedings.

In a joint statement, Sky News, ITN and the BBC said: “Following years of campaigning, we welcome this historic reform that marks an important step for democracy and open justice.

“The presence of cameras in our courtrooms will lead to greater public engagement and understanding of our legal system. We look forward to working closely with the judiciary and the government to ensure that justice will now truly be seen to be done.”

Broadcasters have been campaigning for this reform for several years. AT and JD

State pensions

Plans for a flat-rate state pension initially worth about £140 a week were included in the Queen’s speech as part of a shakeup that will also bring forward an increase in the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Under the pensions bill, the basic state pension (currently worth up to £107.45 a week) and state second pension (also known as S2P, and formerly known as Serps) will be replaced by a single scheme, which the government says will cost no more than the existing system.

The reforms follow concerns that people are not being encouraged to save enough for their old age as they are being put off by the current system, which is too complex.

The government paper said it was “committing to ensuring that the state pension age is increased in future to take into account increases in longevity”. RJ

Public sector pensions

Ministers are pressing ahead with their controversial reforms of public sector pensions before a new strike on Thursday by tens of thousands of workers.

A public service pensions bill was included in the Queen’s speech, despite continued opposition from unions, who say the changes mean millions of workers will have to “work longer, pay more and get less” at retirement.

Civil servants, lecturers, health visitors, Ministry of Defence staff, immigration officers and off-duty police officers will be among those staging walkouts and taking part in other forms of protest on Thursday.

The government paper said: “It would establish a common framework across public service pension schemes. The changes would also ensure provision is sustainable.” RJ


Small donations bill

Designed to allow charities, notably small charities, to claim additional payments to help boost their income. Charities will no longer have to collect gift aid declarations on small donations, but will instead receive a top-up payment for donations of £20 or less. This will allow them to claim 25p for every £1 collected in the UK up to £5,000. However, charities will need a three-year track record of successfully claiming gift aid to be eligible for the scheme, to avoid fraud. There will be a limit on payments to charities that are linked to others. Those that benefit from the scheme will need to continue to make gift aid claims.

Energy bill

Reform of the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity and ensure prices are fair.

Enterprise and regulatory reform bill

Legislation will be introduced to reduce regulations on businesses, repealing legislation considered unnecessary and limiting state inspections. Competition law will be reformed with the aim of promoting enterprise and fair markets, and a Green Investment Bank will be established.

Groceries adjudicator bill

An independent adjudicator will be established to ensure supermarkets deal fairly and lawfully with suppliers.

Draft local audit bill

A draft bill will be published setting out measures to close the Audit Commission and establish new arrangements for the audit of local public bodies.

European Union (approval of treaty amendment decision) bill

Parliament’s approval will be sought for the agreed financial stability mechanism within the euro area.

Croatia accession bill

This will seek the approval of parliament for the anticipated accession of Croatia to the European Union

ICBS, Ltd. (ICBT: OTC Link) | Identascan Corporation, seeking developing partner with government security agencies.

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New York, Montreal,

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Selling arms and snooping technology is no way to help democracy, Cameron | Eric King

Category : Business

Any business deal that makes Britain complicit in extrajudicial killings, censorship and torture abroad is a Faustian pact

In September last year, David Cameron told the UN general assembly: “As people in north Africa and the Middle East stand up and give voice to their hopes for more open and democratic societies, we have an opportunity – and I would say a responsibility – to help them.” The Arab spring uprisings had provided a chink of light for those living under repressive regimes, and it was now up to western democracies to help them throw open the door to a bright new future.

Yet over the past six months, the British government seems to have reconsidered its foreign policy priorities. Cameron is currently touring south-east Asia on a trade mission, promoting British weapons and defence technology with several representatives from major arms manufacturers in tow. Today he was in Indonesia, announcing a multimillion-pound deal with the national airline and praising “an inspiring democracy” – despite the Indonesian government’s dubious attitude to peaceful demonstration and religious freedom, and reports of torture and extrajudicial executions by the country’s security services. Britain’s “responsibility” for advancing democracy abroad has taken a backseat to our need for foreign cash injections, as the economy limps along with little hope of recovery before the next general election.

Among the businesses accompanying the prime minister on his trip is the defence, security and aerospace company BAE Systems. BAE has faced dozens of accusations of corruption and bribery over the past two decades, and has been dogged by controversy over its dealings with repressive governments in Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Chile and Indonesia. The company was also involved in the manufacture of cluster bombs, weapons that kill indiscriminately and can present a serious danger to civilians for decades after a conflict. In 2008 the UK and more than 90 other countries signed the convention on cluster munitions banning their use, development, production, stockpiling, retention and transfer.

As well as selling conventional arms such as bombs, guns and military aircraft, BAE Systems also provides surveillance and interception technology, primarily through its subsidiaries Detica and ETI. Detica enjoys close ties with the government and is consistently promoted by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), a government department created to “enhance the competitiveness of companies in Britain through overseas trade and investments”. Both Detica and ETI provide mass surveillance technologies capable of intercepting entire populations’ communications. These kinds of systems allow non-democratic governments to target journalists and human rights campaigners, silence political dissidents and crush non-conformist thought. In short, they allow dictatorships to flourish.

Parliamentary questions have been asked about Detica’s involvement with the deposed Tunisian regime, but since the UK does not currently operate a system of licensing the exports of surveillance technologies, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had no answers. However, evidence has emerged that another British company – Gamma International, headquartered in Andover – offered for sale a portfolio of IT intrusion software called FinFisher to Mubarak’s regime shortly before the Egyptian revolution began. The company said it had not supplied any products to the Egyptian regime.

FinFisher works by sending the target a fake iTunes update. Once this is downloaded, the user can take complete control of the target’s computer, listening to VoIP calls, reading emails, viewing Facebook activity and operating built-in cameras and webcams. The threat to human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists – who tend to consider Skype a safe and secure means of communication even when they distrust email and mobile phones – cannot be exaggerated.

In November 2011, Privacy International wrote to Cameron asking what the government was doing to control exports of these dangerous technologies from the UK. Cameron’s foreign affairs secretary, John Casson, responded: “Please be reassured that the government is actively looking at this issue and that we are working within the EU to introduce new controls on surveillance equipment.” However, while there has been much discussion of a new export licensing regime to prevent British products being sold to abusive foreign governments, thus far there has been no concrete progress – and it’s starting to look like any measure that restricts exports is unlikely to be popular with the prime minister.

The impact of the global financial crisis on the UK has been significant, and foreign trade will likely play an important part in our economic recovery. But we need to remember that any business deal that makes Britain complicit in extrajudicial killings, censorship and torture abroad is a Faustian pact – however lucrative.

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North Sea gas leak extinguished, says Total

Category : Business

French oil and gas giant says surveillance flights and satellite surveys show gas leak on Elgin platform is out

The flare on the North Sea oil platform stricken by a gas leak has extinguished itself, the oil company Total has said.

Total said evidence that the flare had gone out came from surveillance flights and from vessels close to the exclusion zone.

The company said: “Total can this morning confirm that the flare on the Elgin platform has extinguished itself.

“We received the first indication that the flare may be out at 12.07 yesterday from our first surveillance flight of the day. The news was then reaffirmed at 16.36 following our second flight of the day.

“We received what we consider final confirmation at 08.20 this morning, when our sea vessels on location reported no further flare activity through the night.”

The company has said there was minimal risk from the flare, which was burning about 150 metres above sea level.

About 200,000 cubic metres of gas has been escaping every day from the Elgin platform, about 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen, Philippe Guys, Total UK managing director, said.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he said there has been “little change” in the past five days.

Proposals to stop the leak include “killing” the well with mud and drilling relief wells which could take as long as six months.

Two drilling rigs have stopped work on other wells in the area.

Guys added: “The question has been asked if there could be similar problems with other wells on Elgin. What I can tell you is that when the platform was evacuated, all other wells were left in a safe condition.”

Spotter planes have been making three flights a day over the rig.

The gas is coming from a rock formation below the sea, underneath the Elgin platform. It is then escaping into the air from a leak on the platform at the top of the well, about 25 metres above sea level.

Surveillance video shows George Zimmerman from the night he killed Trayvon Martin –

Category : Stocks

ABC News
Surveillance video shows George Zimmerman from the night he killed Trayvon Martin
BY FRANCES ROBLES ABC News has obtained exclusive police surveillance video of George Zimmerman taken the night he shot and killed Miami-Dade teen Trayvon Martin. The video shows a handcuffed Zimmerman being taken out of a parked police cruiser and
Lawyer: Trayvon's family seeking 'simple justice'USA TODAY
In Trayvon Martin case, a complex portrait of shooter emergesLos Angeles Times
Spike Lee retweets erroneous Zimmerman addressCNN
Chicago Tribune

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BRS Labs Granted U.S. Patent for Behavioral Recognition System

Category : Stocks, World News

AISight(R) 3.0 Video Surveillance Technology Brings Advanced Machine Intelligence to Physical Security Industry

Read the original here: BRS Labs Granted U.S. Patent for Behavioral Recognition System

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BRS Labs Granted U.S. Patent for Behavioral Recognition System

Category : Stocks, World News

AISight(R) 3.0 Video Surveillance Technology Brings Advanced Machine Intelligence to Physical Security Industry

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Officer’s final minutes shown in Ottawa murder trial

Category : World News

Const. Eric Czapnik ran into the Ottawa Hospital looking for emergency treatment as he fought to save his own life, surveillance video showed in the trial of a former Mountie who is accused of killing Czapnik.

Read the original here: Officer’s final minutes shown in Ottawa murder trial

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Documents expose NYPD ‘mosque crawlers’

Category : World News

New documents expose breadth of controversial New York surveillance programme targeting Muslims across state lines.

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