NSA shifts to e-mail, Web, data-mining dragnet

The National Security Agency was once known for its skill in eavesdropping on the world’s telephone calls through radio dishes in out-of-the-way places like England’s Menwith Hill, Australia’s Pine Gap, and Washington state’s Yakima Training Center.

Today those massive installations, which listened in on phone conversations beamed over microwave links, are becoming something akin to relics of the Cold War. As more communications traffic travels through fiber links, and as e-mail and text messaging supplant phone calls, the spy agency that once intercepted telegrams is adapting yet again.

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Despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts Wall Street fears a big US bank is in trouble

Global stock markets may have cheered the US Federal Reserve yesterday, but on Wall Street the Fed’s unprecedented move to pump $280 billion (£140 billion) into global markets was seen as a sure sign that at least one financial institution was struggling to survive.

The name on most people’s lips was Bear Stearns. Although the Fed billed the co-ordinated rescue as a way of improving liquidity across financial markets, economists and analysts said that the decision appeared to be driven by an urgent need to stave off the collapse of an American bank.

“The only reason the Fed would do this is if they knew one or more of their primary dealers actually wasn’t flush with cash and needed funds in a hurry,” Simon Maughan, an analyst with MF Global in London, said.

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British Teachers Told To Rewrite Iraq Invasion History

Britain’s biggest teachers’ union has accused the Ministry of Defence of breaking the law over a lesson plan drawn up to teach pupils about the Iraq war. The National Union of Teachers claims it breaches the 1996 Education Act, which aims to ensure all political issues are treated in a balanced way.

Teachers will threaten to boycott military involvement in schools at the union’s annual conference next weekend, claiming the lesson plan is a “propaganda” exercise and makes no mention of any civilian casualties as a result of the war.

They believe the instructions, designed for use during classroom discussions in general studies or personal, social and health education (PSE) lessons, are arguably an attempt to rewrite the history of the Iraq invasion just as the world prepares to mark its fifth anniversary.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the NUT, said: “This isn’t an attack on the military – nothing of the sort. I know they’ve done valuable work in establishing peace in some countries. It is an attack on practices that we cannot condone in schools. It is a question of whether you present fair and balanced views or put forward prejudice and propaganda to youngsters.”

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Global “Oil Shock” Rattles World Stock markets

Cleaning up the mess that Mr Greenspan left behind was never going to be easy. Banks and brokers around the world face more than half-trillion dollars in write-offs as a consequence of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, which is spreading from the US property market and roiling global stock markets. It’s toppled the US economy into a recession and the tremors are also rattling Asian stock markets.

Roughly $7 trillion has been wiped from world stock markets since the beginning of the year amid fears of a severe US economic recession and financial institutions reporting more mega losses. “The market crisis will preoccupy us well into 2008,” he said German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck on Feb 15th. “The financial risks securitized by banks contained packaged explosives,” and he accused rating agencies of having a conflict of interest in the role they played in the process.

So far, the Bernanke Federal Reserve has pumped more than half-a-trillion dollars into the markets with open market operations and special emergency lending schemes, to help cushion the blow to the US economy and stock markets. However, there’s evidence that the Fed’s prescription for dealing with the sub-prime debt crisis, is actually making matters much worse, and leading to “Stagflation.”

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Bear Stearns gets emergency funds

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Bear Stearns is one of the best-known US Wall Street firms

US bank Bear Stearns has got emergency funding, in a move that raises fears that one of Wall Street’s biggest names is on the verge of collapsing.

JP Morgan Chase will provide the money to Bear Stearns for 28 days with the Federal Reserve of New York’s backing.

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Right now, feds might be looking into your finances

Banks tip off government to possible money laundering, fraud

WASHINGTON – Each year, federal agents peek at the financial transactions of millions of Americans – without their knowledge.

The same type of information that raised suspicions about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is reviewed every day by authorities to find traces of money laundering, check fraud, identity theft or any crime that may involve a financial institution.

As concerns about fraud and terrorist financing grow, an increasing number of suspicious deposits, withdrawals and money transfers are being reported by banks and others to the federal government. Banks and credit unions as well as currency dealers and stores that cash checks reported a record 17.6 million transactions to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in 2006, according to a report from the network, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department.

“I don’t think Americans understand that their financial transactions are being reported and routinely examined,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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House agrees to rare secret session on spy bill

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives abruptly postponed a vote on a spy bill on Thursday after Democrats agreed to a Republican request to hold a rare secret session to discuss classified security matters.

The vote was reset for Friday.

The bill would revamp a 1978 surveillance law and reject President George W. Bush’s demand that phone companies that participated in his warrantless domestic spy program begun after the September 11 attacks be immunized from lawsuits.

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Climate change soon could kill thousands in UK, says report

Climate change could lead to a heatwave in the south-east of England killing 3,000 people within the next decade, a Department of Health report said today.It put the chances of a heatwave of that severity happening by 2017 at 25%.

Without preventative action, the report said that a nine-day heatwave, with temperatures averaging at least 27 degrees over 24 hours, would cause 3,000 immediate deaths, with another 3,350 people dying from heat-related conditions during the summer.

It predicted that there would be an increase in skin cancers due to increased exposure to sunlight and that, over the next half century, air pollution could lead to an extra 1,500 deaths and hospital admissions a year.

While malaria outbreaks were likely to remain rare, the report – Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – said health authorities would need to be alert to the dangers posed by possible larger outbreaks of malaria in continental Europe.

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Eggborough power station, near Selby. The report says climate change
could lead to a heatwave in the south-east of England killing 3,000 people.
Photograph: John Giles/PA

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Polar ice pack loss may break 2007 record

TREND: Ocean currents, global warming and wind combine to leave the Arctic ice fragile. New data this winter on Arctic winds and currents indicate that next summer’s ice loss at the North Pole may be even greater than 2007’s record-setting shrinkage.

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