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Tuesday, Nov 25th

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Obama limits ex-presidents' discretion on records

President Barack Obama issued an executive order Wednesday that limits the ability of former presidents to block the release of sensitive records of their time in the White House. Obama's action in his first full day in office overturned an earlier order issued by George W. Bush that prompted a federal lawsuit.

Obama said former presidents may ask to have certain documents kept private, but they no longer may compel the National Archives to do so. Obama's executive order also makes clear that neither former vice presidents nor relatives of former presidents who have died have authority to keep records private.

Bush's executive order was issued in November 2001. A federal judge ruled parts of it invalid in 2007. Obama's order revoked it entirely.

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NSA Spied on Journalists?

In an exclusive interview tonight on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," former NSA analyst Russell Tice says that the agency under the Bush administration secretly collected communications data on civilians, including journalists. Following is a transcript of tonight's interview:


OLBERMANN: It has taken less than 24 hours after the Bush presidency ended for a former analyst at the National Security Agency to come forward to reveal new allegations about how this nation was spied on by its own government, exclusively here on COUNTDOWN.

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Letter to President Obama on UN Convention Against Torture

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to avoid the disregard for international legal obligations that condemned your predecessor.

The issue concerns investigating or prosecuting torture.

The United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) in 1994. Article 12 of the CAT provides: “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

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China passes national health care plan

China's State Council, or Cabinet, passed a long awaited medical reform plan which promised to spend 850 billion yuan (123 billion U.S. dollars) by 2011 to provide universal medical service to the country's 1.3 billion population.

The plan was studied and passed at Wednesday's executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.

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Israel accused of executing parents in front of children in Gaza

One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.

Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.

He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.

A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a "massacre".

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How Israel drowns dissent

Last week, at the height of Operation Cast Lead, a group of Israeli firemen threw their hats into the political ring, albeit in somewhat undiplomatic and uncivilised fashion. During a peaceful anti-war vigil outside a Tel Aviv air force base, several members of the fire brigade turned on one protester, drenching her relentlessly with water from their hoses, before approaching her and ordering her into the station in order to "give us all head".

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Israel 'admits' using white phosphorus munitions

The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had privately admitted using phosphorus bombs, and that the Judge Advocate General's Office and Southern Command were investigating.

The Times first accused Israeli forces of using white phosphorus on January 5, but the IDF has denied the charge repeatedly. Phosphorus bombs can be used to create smoke screens, but their use as weapons of war in civilian areas is banned by the Geneva Conventions.

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Bush Administration Policy Cost Small Businesses Over a Trillion Dollars in Federal Contracts

There is no way to know exactly how many billions of dollars in federal contracts American small businesses lost during the eight years of the Bush Administration. During President Bush's tenure, administration officials went to extreme lengths to make it difficult, if not impossible to obtain the government's records on small business contracting.

Under Bush, the United States Department of Justice went to federal court on several occasions to fight Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the specific names of firms that had received federal small business contracts.

Since 2003, 15 federal investigations have found that Bush Administration officials have diverted billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms and thousands of other large businesses in the U.S. and Europe. (http://www.asbl.com/documentlibrary.html)

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Historical Mystery of Bush's Presidency

One can only solve the mystery of how George W. Bush became President - and inflicted so much damage - by taking into account the collaboration of Washington's political and media Establishments, notes Robert Parry.

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