Egypt tycoon gets death for singer’s slaying
Associated Press
2009-05-21 02:39 PM

An Egyptian court has convicted and sentenced to death a prominent real estate mogul and lawmaker for the slaying of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim, in a case that sparked a media frenzy across the Middle East.

Hisham Talaat Moustafa, who is close to President Hosni Mubarak’s eldest son, Gamal, was accused of paying a former Egyptian police officer $2 million to kill Tamim in Dubai. Authorities say Moustafa and Tamim were lovers.

The former officer, Mohsen el-Sukkary, was also sentenced to death Thursday in a court session that quickly descended into chaos after the verdict was read.

[ . . . ]



National Archives loses hard drive with Clinton era records

By Mike M. Ahlers and Elaine Quijano


The National Archives has lost a hard drive containing large volumes of Clinton administration records.

Officials at the Archives say they don’t know how many confidential records are on the hard drive. But congressional aides briefed on the matter say it contains “more than 100,000” Social Security numbers, including one belonging to a daughter of then-Vice President Al Gore. It also contains Secret Service and White House operating procedures, the staffers said they were told.

The hard drive was last seen in the National Archive’s complex in College Park, Maryland, sometime between October of last year and the first week of February. It was discovered missing in late March, prompting a thorough search for the small, 2.5 pound device, the Archives said. When it could not be located, the inspector general’s office opened a criminal investigation.

On Wednesday, the Archives announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to its return.

[ . . . ]

The device is described as a two terabyte Western Digital MY BOOK external hard drive, measuring 6.5 x 2.1 x 5.4 inches.

More than 110 4-millimeter tape cartridges were copied onto the hard drive. The records included records from the Clinton Administration Executive Office of the President.

The inspector general said at least 100 people had access to the area where the hard drive was left unsecured, and that janitors, visitors and others also passed through the area.

[ . . . ]


updated 4 hours, 1 minute ago


5 Alabama police officers fired over beating caught on camera

Five police officers brutally kicked and beat an unconscious suspect after a high-speed chase through Birmingham, Alabama, in an incident caught on camera and discovered a year later.

* Footage believed to have been shot in January 2008 after 50-mile chase
* Beating occurs after car rolls over, ejecting unconscious man onto ground



updated 4 hours, 57 minutes ago

Includes Video from the actual cruiser camera on the link page above


FY 2010 Budget for the State Department
Secretary Clinton (May 20): “By using all the tools of American power – the talent of our people, well-reasoned policies, strategic partnerships, and the strength of our principles – we can make great strides against the problems we’ve faced for generations, and address the new threats of the 21st century. This comprehensive approach to solving global problems and seizing opportunities is at the heart of smart power. And the President’s 2010 budget is a blueprint for how we intend to put smart power into action.” -Full Text -Best Places to Work -FY2010 International Affairs Budget





A secret stealth tax is being put on every call to a mobile phone

Thursday May 21,2009
By Dana Gloger

A SECRET stealth tax is being slapped on every call to a mobile phone, it was revealed last night.

Operators are charging up to five pence a minute to phone a mobile, even if the call is made from a landline.

But it costs the companies less than one penny to connect the calls, meaning they are raking in £2.5billion a year from the fees known as mobile termination rates.

Few consumers are aware of the charges, which make up 80 per cent of the cost of phoning a mobile phone from a landline. Customers are also charged more for calls from their mobile if they are phoning somebody on a different network.

John Petter, managing director of consumer BT retail, said: “People are not aware of this issue, so it is not unreasonable to call it a stealth tax.

“It is very unfair and particularly cruel on people who do not have a mobile phone, such as some elderly people.

“These people are subsiding the profits of the mobile phone companies, even though they are not even their customers.”

[ . . . ]

“It has also proved extremely tough for small businesses who often have to call their customers on mobile numbers.”

Mr Petter blasted the charges as “extremely outdated” and said they had been introduced when mobile phone companies had first been set up. “The fees date back to when these firms were building up their networks to help them cover their start-up costs. But now they are multi-national, multi-billion pound firms, not cash-strapped businesses and they should be giving customers a fairer deal.”

Yesterday, BT joined forces with UK mobile phone operator 3 to launch the Terminate the Rate campaign, which calls for the MTRs to be scrapped.

[ . . . ]

“Mobile termination rates might sound like the obscure pre-occupations of telecom nerds or geeks but their effect is to impose an unfair tax on every household and business and organisation in the UK,” he said.

“They fatten the profits of the big four mobile players at the expense of real competition and innovation.”

[ . . . ]

The part-time freelance consultant in fashion marketing said: “Cree started using the landline when her credit ran out. She ran up huge bills calling mobiles. My phone bill went up from £60 to £190 a month.”

HR manager Claire Thompson, 31, from Surbiton, south-west London, said that the MTRs meant that her retired grandparents could not afford to call her on her mobile.

“They won’t contact me on my mobile as they are worried about getting a huge bill. I had a landline installed so they can call me on that.”



Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

[From – ]


there is also online chat – contacts – ask dumb questions and make suggestions opportunities form the above page link –


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2009 Secretary Clinton’s Remarks > Remarks by Secretary Clinton: May 2009
FY 2010 Budget for the Department of State

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Washington, DC
May 20, 2009

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Senator Gregg, Senator Specter, Senator Bond. I’m very pleased to be here with you and to have this opportunity to discuss in some detail both the threats and the opportunities facing our country.

When I appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee a few weeks ago with Secretary Gates, we both emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to the challenges we face. We know we are confronting instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and the Middle East; we have transnational threats like terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change; and we have urgent development needs ranging from extreme poverty to pandemic disease, all of which have a direct impact on our own security and prosperity.

Now, these are tough challenges, and we would be foolish to minimize the magnitude of the task ahead. But we also have new opportunities. By using all the tools of American power – the talent of our people, well-reasoned policies, strategic partnerships, and the strength of our principles – we can make great strides against the problems we’ve faced for generations, and address the new threats of the 21st century. This comprehensive approach to solving global problems and seizing opportunities is at the heart of smart power. And the President’s 2010 budget is a blueprint for how we intend to put smart power into action.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget request for the State Department and USAID is $48.6 billion, a 7 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2009 funding levels. We know this request comes at a time when other agencies are experiencing cutbacks and the American people are experiencing economic recession. But it is an indication of the critical role the State Department and USAID must play to help advance our nation’s interests, safeguard our security, and make us a positive force for progress worldwide.

Our success requires a robust State Department and USAID working side-by-side with a strong military. To exercise our global leadership effectively, we do need to harness all three Ds – diplomacy, development, and defense.

And this budget supports the State Department and USAID in three critical ways: First, it allows us to invest in our people; second, implement sound policies; and third, strengthen our partnerships. We know it represents a major investment. And we pledge to uphold principles of good stewardship and accountability.

Let me begin with people. The men and women of the State Department and USAID may have the world in their hands, but too many are trying to balance all the balls they have in the air. Many key positions at posts overseas are vacant for the simple reason we don’t have enough personnel. In Beijing, 18 percent of our Embassy positions are open. In Mumbai, 20 percent. In Jeddah, 29 percent. And we face similar staffing shortages here at the Department in Washington as well as USAID.

We need good people and we need enough of them. That’s why the President’s 2010 budget includes $283 million to facilitate the hiring of over 740 new Foreign Service personnel. This is part of a broader effort to expand the Foreign Service by 25 percent.

The staffing situation at USAID is even more severe. In 1990, USAID employed nearly 3,500 direct hire personnel to administer an annual assistance budget of $5 billion. Today, the agency’s staff has shrunk by roughly a third, but they are tasked with overseeing $13.2 billion. To provide the oversight that taxpayers deserve and to stay on target of doubling our foreign assistance by 2015, we simply need more people, good people, to do the jobs we’re asking them to do.

We need personnel with the right skills to respond to the complex emergencies of the 21st century. And that’s why we’re requesting $323 million for the Civilian Stabilization Initiative, and that includes expansion of the Civilian Response Corps. This group of professionals will help the United States stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict and civil strife.

Now, with the right people in the right numbers, we’ll be able to implement the policies that we think are right for our country, and we’re focusing on three priorities: first, urgent challenges and regions of concern, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq and Iran, and the Middle East; second, transnational challenges, such as the one that Senator Gregg just referred to, and development assistance.

Now, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, our efforts center on the President’s goal to dismantle, disrupt, and defeat al-Qaida. And we know this requires a balanced approach that takes more than military might alone. So we’re expanding civilian efforts and we’re ensuring that our strategy is fully integrated and adequately resourced.

We’re helping Afghans revitalize their country’s agricultural sector. In study after study, what we have found is that agriculture is still the mainstay for a country that is largely rural. It was once a major source of jobs, and in fact, of export revenue. Afghanistan was considered the garden of Central Asia. Unfortunately, that has been devastated by years of war and civil strife. We’re supporting the Pakistani military as they take on the extremists who confront their country’s stability. We’re making long-term investments in Pakistan’s people and the democratically elected government through targeted humanitarian assistance. And in both of these countries, we are holding these governments and ourselves accountable for progress toward defined objectives.

Finally, we’re seeking resources to deploy a new strategic communication strategy. I would love to get into more detail with you on this, but just suffice it to say, we are being out-communicated by the Taliban and al-Qaida. That is absolutely unacceptable. It is not only true in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but as Senator Bond, who is focused on Southeast Asia knows, it’s there as well. We have to do a better job of getting the story of the values, ideals, the results of democracy out to people who are now being fed a steady diet of the worse kind of disinformation. And even more than that, seeing the media used by these extremists to threaten and intimidate every single night, just as it used to be used in Iraq until we put a stop to it.

As we move forward with the responsible redeployment of our combat forces from Iraq, this budget provides the tools we need to facilitate the transition to a stable, sovereign, and self-reliant Iraq. I was recently in Iraq and we are very focused on implementing the strategic framework that went along with the Status of Forces Agreement so that we do what we can to help increase the capacity of the Iraqi Government.

And as you know, we’re working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to advance our goal of a two-state solution, a future in which Israel and its Arab neighbors can live in peace and security.

In addition to these urgent challenges – and there are others that I haven’t had time to mention –we face a new array of transnational threats, none more important than the one Senator Gregg highlighted, but we have others as well: energy security, climate change, disease. The United States is not immune from any of these transnational threats. And we’ve got to develop new forms of diplomatic engagement. We cannot send a special envoy to negotiate with a pandemic, or call a summit with carbon dioxide, or sever relations with the global financial crisis. But what we can do is use our ability to convene, to create pragmatic and principled partnerships. We’re working through the Major Economies Forum in preparation for the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. We’re deploying new approaches to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. We’re now a full partner in the P-5+1 talks. And as you know, the President and I have launched a six-year, $63 billion Global Health Initiative to help combat the spread of disease.

Development will play a critical role in what we try to do. And I think we have underplayed the importance of development in creating both goodwill among people and stronger partnerships with governments. We’re going to be asking for $525 million for maternal and child health, nearly 1 billion for education, 1.36 billion for addressing the root causes of food insecurity, and 4.1 billion for humanitarian assistance, including care for refugees, displaced persons, and emergency food aid. We really believe this will advance our values. And I know, Mr. Chairman, you agree with us on that.

Our smart power approach will rely on partnerships, and that begins with our own government. We are seeking an unprecedented level of cooperation between our agencies. Secretary Gates highlighted this cooperation when he testified before you last month. These partnerships are critical. If we’re going to be successful in addressing food security, then we’ve got to get everybody who deals with food aid and sustainable agriculture in the same room, around the same table, hammering out the American approach, not the State Department or the USAID or the USDA or some other approach. It’s got to be a team. And we’re trying to forge those teams. We think it will make us more efficient and cost-effective at the same time.

We’re also looking to revitalize our historic alliances in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, strengthen and deepen our bilateral ties with emerging regional leaders like Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, and India, and we are working to establish more constructive and candid relationships with China and Russia.

We’re asking for $4.1 billion for contributions to multilateral organizations and peacekeeping efforts. This is a good down payment for us, because for every peacekeeper that the United Nations puts in the field, like the ones I saw in Haiti a few weeks ago, it saves us money. We don’t have to intervene, or walk away, turn our back and live with the consequences.

We’re also expanding our partnerships beyond traditional government-to-government efforts. We’re working with women’s groups and civil society, human rights activists around the world, and we’re encouraging more people-to-people cooperation. I believe this may be one of the great new tools that we have in our diplomacy. Last week, I announced the creation of a Virtual Student Foreign Service that will bring together college students in the United States and our embassies abroad to work on digital and citizen diplomacy initiatives.

But finally, we must rely on sound principles to guide our actions, and we are committed to practicing what we preach. And that includes having an accountable government here at home.
We’re working to make the State Department more efficient, transparent, and effective. For the first time, we have filled the position of Deputy Secretary for Resources and Management. And we’re going to be reforming our processes in both the State Department and USAID.

Mr. Chairman, we’re pursuing these policies because we think it’s in America’s interests. No country benefits more than the United States when there is greater security, democracy, and opportunity in the world. And no country carries a heavier burden when things go badly. Every year we spend hundreds of billions of dollars dealing with the consequences of war, disease, violent ideologies, and vile dictatorships.

Since last testifying before this Committee, I’ve traveled around the globe, covering many miles and many continents. And I can assure you there is a genuine eagerness to partner with the United States again in finding solutions. Our investment in diplomacy and development is a fraction, a tiny fraction of our total national security budget. But I really believe our country will make very few investments that do more, dollar-for-dollar, to create the kind of world we want for our children. By relying on the right people, the right policies, strong partnerships, and sound principles, we can have a century of progress and prosperity led by the United States of America.

And Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to present the President’s budget request. And I look forward to answering your questions.

# # #



EXTRA: Moved by Biden’s speech, Bosnian offers him land
Posted : Thu, 21 May 2009 08:53:50 GMT
Author : DPA
Category : News

Sarajevo – When US Vice president Joe Biden told Bosnian leaders they must finally turn away from nationalism and face the future, he touched the heart of a frustrated man who now wants to thank him by giving him land, local media reported Thursday. “When I hear him speak in (Bosnian) parliament, I was thrilled. He is the only one to speak realistically and honestly … he plainly uplifted my soul,” said the 52-year-old man, Hazim Imamovic.

Imamovic, a resident of Olovo, a town 50 kilometres northwest of Sarajevo, wants to give Biden 1,000 square metres of his land, hoping that the US politician would “come here and build a holiday home.”

The US embassy in Sarajevo said in a statement that Biden would be informed, but also that it was “highly unusual” for US officials to receive such offers.



EU-China summit deadlocked on problem areas – Update

Prague - The European Union and China on Wednesday hit deadlock at a summit in Prague which had been meant to highlight their reconciliation, as they failed to agree common language on any of the key points dividing them. As the two sides failed to b...
Posted : Wed, 20 May 2009 16:59:48 GMT
Author : DPA
Category : Europe (World)
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Prague – The European Union and China on Wednesday hit deadlock at a summit in Prague which had been meant to highlight their reconciliation

, as they failed to agree common language on any of the key points dividing them. As the two sides failed to bridge their differences on a number of contentious issues, including Myanmar, North Korea, Taiwan, climate change and trade liberalization, China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao called on the EU to expand “practical cooperation”. “

The most important thing is to stick to the principles of mutual respect and not interfere in each others internal affairs,” the Chinese premier told a news conference

after the summit. And he also urged the 27-member bloc “to ensure that our bilateral relationship will not be adversely affected by individual incidents.”

Ahead of the summit, diplomats close to the preparations said that each side had proposed a lengthy statement agreeing a common position on the contentious issues. The EU draft stretched to 10 pages of detailed diplomatic text, while China’s draft was seven pages long.

The rival drafts showed “significant differences” over the controversial issues, diplomats said. And in two hours of talks, EU leaders and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao failed to overcome those differences and agree a common position on any of the main topics.