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Friday, Jun 22nd

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Pope Benedict apologises for Irish priests' sex abuse

Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. In a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, he acknowledged the sense of betrayal in the Church felt by victims and their families.

The Pope said there had been "serious mistakes" among bishops in responding to allegations of paedophilia. The pastoral letter is the first statement of its kind by the Vatican on the sexual abuse of children. It follows revelations of paedophilia within the Irish Catholic Church, which have rocked the institution.

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TVNL Comment: "Serious mistakes?"  How about serious CRIMES?  Just asking...

6 Billion Dollars Later: The Afghan Cops that Couldn't Shoot Straight

America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster.

Poor marksmanship is the least of it. Worse, crooked Afghan cops supply much of the ammunition used by the Taliban, according to Saleh Mohammed, an insurgent commander in Helmand province. The bullets and rocket-propelled grenades sold by the cops are cheaper and of better quality than the ammo at local markets, he says.

It's easy for local cops to concoct credible excuses for using so much ammunition, especially because their supervisors try to avoid areas where the Taliban are active. Mohammed says local police sometimes even stage fake firefights so that if higher-ups question their outsize orders for ammo, villagers will say they've heard fighting.

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Iraq: Women's rights in danger

Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq, women working in the public and government sectors were entitled to receive a year's maternity leave under family laws enforced by the former Saddam Hussein leadership. In the seven years since the US-led invasion which ousted Saddam, however, maternity leave has been cut to six months.

Since the Personal Status Law was enacted on July 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women have enjoyed many of the rights that Western women do. But the statutes governing the status of women since 1958 have been replaced with Article 2 of the new Iraqi Constitution, which states that "Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation."

Sub-head A says "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam." Under this Article the interpretation of women's rights is left to religious leaders. Yanar Mohammed, a women's rights campaigner in Iraq, believes that the US has "let go of women's rights" in the war-ravaged country.

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Murdoch's hunger for power is a looming threat to democracy

So media power and political power achieve an ever greater degree of merger, just as in Italy, but let us be quite clear that Murdoch's primary interest is commercial, as it has been ever since he bought into the News of the World 41 years ago. Already we see the pressures that the Murdoch family will bring to bear on David Cameron if he becomes prime minister. On Friday the Times, which now barely disguises its pro-Sky agenda, ran an editorial on the BBC's cuts, accusing its websites of "dumping free content on to markets where its rivals have no public subsidy". The phrase bears an uncanny resemblance to James Murdoch's MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh last year when he talked about the BBC "dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market." The editorial read as if the Times editor James Harding had been taking dictation.

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Federal Judge Orders More Talks on 9/11 Deal

The federal judge overseeing litigation between the city and workers at ground zero on Friday rejected a settlement reached by the two sides, telling lawyers that it did not provide enough compensation to plaintiffs and needed to be renegotiated under his supervision.

The decision by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, in a hearing in United States District Court in Manhattan, came only a week after the settlement was announced after six years of legal maneuvering. It provided for payouts of $575 million to $657.5 million in cases filed by some 10,000 rescue and cleanup workers who say they suffered health damages from toiling at ground zero after the 2001 terrorist attack.

"This is no ego trip for me,” Judge Hellerstein told a packed but hushed courtroom moments after hearing emotional testimony from some of the plaintiffs. "This is work. I will preside over a process that’s fair.”

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Ex-Pfizer Worker Cites Genetically Engineered Virus In Lawsuit Over Firing

Medical experts will be watching closely Monday when a scientist who says she has been intermittently paralyzed by a virus designed at the Pfizer laboratory where she worked in Groton opens a much anticipated trial that could raise questions about safety practices in the dynamic field of genetic engineering.

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Ashcroft Can Be Held Accountable for Post-9/11 Wrongful Detention

The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit charging that former Attorney General John Ashcroft is personally responsible for the wrongful detention of an innocent American, Abdullah al-Kidd, can go forward, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today. The ruling denies Ashcroft's request that his appeal be heard by the entire court and upheld the court's September 2009 decision that the federal material witness law cannot be used to detain or investigate suspects where no probable cause exists for criminal charges. The ruling also held that Ashcroft does not have immunity in this case and can be held personally liable for the wrongful detention of al-Kidd.

Today's ruling affirms the court's September 2009 ruling that found that the material witness law may only be used when an individual is genuinely sought as a witness and where there is a real risk of flight. The court ruled that the law does not allow an end-run around the constitutional requirements for arresting someone suspected of a crime. Ashcroft had appealed the ruling.

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Silvio Berlusconi caught out trying to stifle media

The new transcripts, published in Italy for the first time yesterday, suggest that Mr Berlusconi telephoned a commissioner on the country's independent broadcast regulator, Agcom, after he learned that a show examining corruption cases against him was due to go out on state broadcaster Rai.

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Glaxo funded backers of 'danger' drug (Avandia)

More than nine out of 10 scientists who backed a drug at the centre of a safety scare had financial links to the pharmaceutical industry, a study has found.

The disclosure will renew concern about the influence of the multinational companies on patient safety, where a warning about a drug can wipe billions from their balance sheets.

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