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Sunday, Nov 19th

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New details in CIA detainee's death

More than seven years ago, a suspected Afghan militant was brought to a dimly lit CIA compound northeast of the airport in Kabul. The CIA called it the Salt Pit. Inmates knew it as the dark prison. Inside a chilly cell, the man was shackled and left half-naked. He was found dead, exposed to the cold, in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002.

The Salt Pit death was the only fatality known to have occurred inside the secret prison network the CIA operated abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. The death had strong repercussions inside the CIA. It helped lead to a review that uncovered abuses in detention and interrogation procedures, and forced the agency to change those procedures.

Little has emerged about the Afghan's death, which the Justice Department is investigating. The Associated Press has learned the dead man's name, as well as new details about his capture in Pakistan and his Afghan imprisonment.

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The Rage Is Not About Health Care

When Social Security was passed by Congress in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, there was indeed heated opposition. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Alf Landon built his catastrophic 1936 presidential campaign on a call for repealing Social Security....When L.B.J. scored his Medicare coup, there were the inevitable cries of “socialism” along with ultimately empty rumblings of a boycott from the American Medical Association.

But there was nothing like this. To find a prototype for the overheated reaction to the health care bill, you have to look a year before Medicare, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both laws passed by similar majorities in Congress; the Civil Rights Act received even more votes in the Senate (73) than Medicare (70). But it was only the civil rights bill that made some Americans run off the rails. That’s because it was the one that signaled an inexorable and immutable change in the very identity of America, not just its governance.

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Abrupt end of college tuition help angers military spouses

The Pentagon was overwhelmed by the number of applicants, which had grown from an average of about 10,000 a month to 70,000 in January alone as the nation's economy continued to sputter. Money for the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program, known as MyCAA, was rapidly running out. Rather than ask Congress for more cash, Pentagon officials decided to close the program to new applicants and stop payments to those who were already enrolled.

"This was probably, in my view, a mistake," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee last week, adding that while he expected the program to resume, it eventually could end up costing $1 billion to $2 billion.

Gates said the Pentagon had budgeted $61 million for the program in the current fiscal year and had requested $65 million in the next fiscal year.

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Cancer question complicates 9/11 compensation deal

Of all the illnesses people fear might be caused by toxic dust from the World Trade Center, nothing scares people like cancer. Hundreds of people are suing New York City over cancer diagnoses they received after working at ground zero.

A judge last week rejected a $575 million legal settlement for thousands of sick 9/11 responders in part because he thought it should contain more money for cancer victims.

Yet, statistics show that cancer rates among those who worked in trade center rubble are in line with rates among the general public. The three major research efforts tracking the health of ground zero responders have so far failed to turn up evidence linking any type of cancer to the dust.

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Earth 'entering new age of geological time'

Humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes on the planet that we may be ushering in a new period of geological history.Through pollution, population growth, urbanisation, travel, mining and use of fossil fuels we have altered the planet in ways which will be felt for millions of years, experts believe.

It is feared that the damage mankind has inflicted will lead to the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth’s history with thousands of plants and animals being wiped out. The new epoch, called the Anthropocene – meaning new man – would be the first period of geological time shaped by the action of a single species.

Although the term has been in informal use among scientists for more than a decade, it is now under consideration as an official term.

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Drugs, terrorism and shadow banking

They look like a credit or debit card but are not linked to a bank account, can in many cases be loaded anonymously, are not “monetary instruments” under U.S. law, and were labelled “the ideal instrument for large-scale drug trafficking and money-laundering operations” in a 2006 analysis by the National Drug Intelligence Center.

It predicted that drug traffickers, narco-terrorists and other criminals would increasingly rely on stored-value cards — “superior to established methods of money laundering” — because they could be used without fear of documentation, identification, law enforcement suspicion or seizure.

In other words, a shot in the arm of the global money laundering industry, an illicit enterprise that accounts for between 2 and 5 percent of the world’s GDP, according to an estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The Center’s dark warnings did little to curb the rapid growth of the stored-value card industry — more than $300 billion a year by some estimates.

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US Air Force biofuel flight test a success

The U.S. Air Force’s initial test of a 50 percent Camelina biofuel in an A-10 Thunderbolt II was successful, an aviation milestone as a military or civilian aircraft had not been flown until now using a biofuels blend in all engines, according to the agency.

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Texas newborn denied health insurance over pre-existing condition

New federal legislation that will prevent insurance companies from denying children coverage based on a pre-existing condition comes too late for the Tracys. The legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama this week, won't go into effect until September.

Without surgery, babies with this condition often die soon after birth, although some may live as long as a year, said Dr. Steve Muyskens, a pediatric cardiologist.

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Court: Seattle police OK to Taser pregnant woman

A federal appeals court says three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket.

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