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December-30-2011-575.jpgPhotograph via Flickr by Anders Bachmann.

Court upholds spying law, revives suits over NSA “dragnet”

December 29, 2011—The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today the federal government can be sued for the National Security Agency’s warrantless “dragnet” of Americans’ telephone conversations and e-mails. But in a separate opinion, another three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based court upheld the 2008 law that gave telecommunications companies immunity for aiding the NSA in its hunt for terrorists.

Appeals court OKs law giving telecom companies immunity for government’s surveillance program

December 29, 2011—A federal appeals court on Thursday said a 2008 law that granted telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the National Security Agency with an email and telephone eavesdropping program is constitutional. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling. The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies’ customers.

Strait of Hormuz standoff continues as Iran films U.S. aircraft carrier

—Video played on state television

December 29, 2011—Iran claimed to have successfully taken surveillance footage of a U.S. aircraft carrier near the Strait of Hormuz today as both countries raised the stakes in their standoff over the critical oil route. Admiral Habibollah Sayyari’s statement came as Iranian ships, helicopters and submarines continued a 10-day war game exercise designed to give credibility to the country’s threat to close the Strait if the West moves ahead with sanctions. The drill is underway in international waters near the Strait and only a few hundred miles from America’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

Gov’t request for nuclear storage facility site sends shockwaves through Fukushima

December 29, 2011—The government’s request that an interim facility to store soil and other waste contaminated with radiation be built somewhere in Futaba county near the crippled nuclear power plant sent ripples of concern through local governments and residents in Fukushima Prefecture. On Dec. 28, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono met and asked local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture for permission to build an interim storage facility somewhere in Futaba county in which two municipalities host the troubled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

MoD forced to update combat war games to cope with expectations of PlayStation generation

December 29, 2011—The MoD has been forced to dramatically update simulated combat training to cope with the expectations of the PlayStation generation, it has been revealed. New recruits are so used to playing ultra-realistic combat games on consoles that they are losing concentration on “dated” training simulations. Troops sent to Afghanistan have been trained on Virtual Battlespace2—a spin-off from the commercially-available Operation Flashpoint—that can test reactions to coming under enemy fire.

Man in Afghan army uniform kills 2 NATO troops

December 29, 2011—NATO says a man wearing an Afghan army uniform has killed two service members in eastern Afghanistan. The alliance says the two NATO troops were killed on Thursday when the man turned his weapon against them. The shooting appeared to be the latest in a series of attacks by members of the Afghan security forces against their coalition “partners.”

Russia scolds United States for human rights abuse

December 28, 2011—Russia sought to undermine the authority of the United States as a global judge of human rights on Wednesday with Moscow’s first report to detail allegations of torture, phone tapping and abuse by the U.S. government. Criticizing the United States for double standards, Russia said President Barack Obama had failed to shut the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and accused the White House of sheltering officials and CIA operatives from prosecution. “The situation in the United States is far from the ideals proclaimed by Washington,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a 63-page report—“On the situation with human rights in a host of world states”—posted on its Web site.

6 years later, Katrina victims fight FEMA debts

December 28, 2011—When the Federal Emergency Management Agency mailed out 83,000 debt notices this year to victims of Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 storms, one of the letters showed up in David Bellinger’s mailbox. 63-year-old Bellinger, who is blind, needed a friend to read it and break the news that FEMA wants him to pay back more than $3,200 in federal aid he received after Katrina. FEMA is seeking to recover more than $385 million it says was improperly paid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma… At least some of the overpayments were due to FEMA employees’ own mistakes, ranging from clerical errors to failing to interview applicants, according to congressional testimony.


This link roundup originally appeared at

  Christine Larusso: Best 2011 Microessay on Poetry: Poet Rachel Zucker asks us to demand sentimentality. Because we’re human, dammit. More
  Asseem Chhabra: 10 Best Films of 2011: 2011 was filled with 3-D, childhood favorites, franchises reboots, and existential indies, but what stood out most were the human dramas. More
  Jillian Steinhauer: Best Political Art of 2011: The American soldiers honored in artist Jane Hammond’s Fallen installation are remembered as individuals instead of as a statistic. More
  Susie Linfield: The Best and the Worst Events of 2011: As 2011 draws to a close, the world is faced with a host of uncertainties of what will come next. More


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