China sacks top official in corruption crackdown

ABC – China has sacked top economic official Jiang Jiemin as head of the body overseeing the country’s state-owned companies. Xinhua news agency has reported the official was removed for “suspected serious disciplinary violations”, a phrase commonly used in China to refer to corruption. Read article

Former generals go on trial in Turkey

Al Jazeera – The trial has opened in Turkey of alleged “post-modern coup” plotters accused of toppling the government 16 years ago. Ismail Hakki Karadayi, former chief of general staff, is among the 103 suspects, 37 of them in jail, who will be asked to defend themselves at an Ankara court against accusations of “overthrowing the Turkish government by force”. Read article

Azerbaijan accused of pre-election crackdown

Aljazeera – Azerbaijan has intensified a crackdown on activists and journalists to stifle criticism of long-term leader Ilham Aliyev before presidential elections in October, campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said. Authorities in the oil-rich South Caucasus nation have arrested dozens on trumped-up charges, dispersed anti-government rallies and adopted laws curbing freedom of speech and assembly in the past 18 months, the organisation said in a report. Azeri authorities could not be immediately reached for comment, but Baku has repeatedly denied abusing human rights in the past. Read Article

Egypt to try ex-President Morsi for inciting murder

BBC – Egypt’s state prosecutor says he has referred ousted President Mohammed Morsi for trial on charges of inciting the murder of protesters. The accusations relate to violence outside the presidential palace in Cairo last December when at least seven people were killed in clashes. Fourteen other members of the Muslim Brotherhood are to stand trial on the same charges. Read article

Tunisians protest as political crisis deepens

Al Jazeera – Thousands of Tunisians have marched through their capital, calling for the government to resign as the nation’s political crisis deepens. Saturday’s march was the culmination of a week of protests organised by a coalition of opposition groups known as the National Salvation Front (NSF), calling for the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the assembly elected in 2011 to write the constitution. It attracted fewer people than two similar protests held earlier this month – 10,000, according to police estimates. Read article

Anti-military protesters rally across Egypt

Al Jazeera – Thousands of Egyptians opposed to military rule have marched through districts of Cairo and other cities to demand the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, ignoring warnings that security forces would open fire if protests turned violent. After a relative lull following the arrests of many Muslim Brotherhood leaders, the Friday rallies were the movement’s biggest show of defiance since clashes two weeks ago in which hundreds of protesters were killed. Read article

Hundreds of Iraqis protest against lawmaker privileges

Reuters – Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq on Saturday against generous pension payments to lawmakers in a county where many are still struggling to get jobs and basic services. Police surrounded the rare demonstration in the capital and security forces armed with batons, teargas and water canon broke up one gathering in the southern city of Nassiriya, witnesses and security forces said. The protests marked widespread anger at the monthly payments of thousands of dollars and other benefits to government and parliamentary officials. Read Article

Troops deploy to restore order in protest-hit Colombia

AFP — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered troops on to the streets of Bogota as well as highways on Friday, after violent protests in support of striking farmworkers left two dead. Within hours, leaders of farm workers in a key province near Bogota began calling on their followers to lift roadblocks around the country, saying in a statement they had reached “partial agreements” with the government. Read article

CIA’s budget worth $15 billion according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden

ABC – Secret documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have revealed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has become the largest US spy organisation, with a budget worth nearly $US15 billion ($16.8 billion). Snowden exposed the government’s “black budget” for the 2013 fiscal year to The Washington Post. It shows the agency is using the money to expand intelligence, cyber sabotage and overseas covert operations. Read article

Jindal Opposes Suit Against Oil Industry, Groups Question Campaign Donations

AP — A group of environmental and public interest organizations said Wednesday that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s staunch opposition to a lawsuit against scores of oil, gas and pipeline companies over coastal erosion is motivated by more than $1 million he has received over the years in contributions from the oil industry. “He is selling out our state so he can raise money for his political campaigns,” Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said in a statement issued during a news conference called to show support for the lawsuit. Read article

Egypt: Islamist protest dwindles amid crackdown

DW – Egyptian police have fired tear gas at dozens of Islamist protesters in a Cairo square while streets elsewhere remained largely empty. Earlier, gunmen had fired at a police station, killing an officer. Egyptian authorities continued their clampdown on Islamist protesters on Friday by using tear gas at a Cairo square to disperse about 150 demonstrators. Key roads had been blocked off with barbed wire laid by the army. Read article

Report: US bugged UN headquarters

Al Jazerra – The US National Security Agency bugged the United Nations’ New York headquarters, German weekly magazine Der Spiegel has reported. Citing secret US documents obtained by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel said on Sunday the US systematically spied on other states and institutions. In the summer of 2012, NSA experts cracked the UN video conferencing system’s codes, according to one of the documents cited by Der Spiegel. “Within three weeks the number of decoded communications rose to 458 from 12″, the magazine said. Der Spiegel said UN’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, was among those targeted by the US. Internal files also show the NSA spied on the EU legation in New York after it moved to new rooms during the autumn of 2012. Among the documents copied by Snowden from NSA computers were plans of the EU mission, its IT infrastructure and servers. Read Article

Thailand to appeal after Philip Morris wins tobacco case

Reuters – The Thai government plans to appeal a court victory by tobacco giant Philip Morris to keep larger health warnings off cigarette packets for sale in Thailand. The Central Administrative Court ruled last Friday to temporarily suspend a new health ministry regulation requiring tobacco warning labels to cover 85 percent of the visible pack, up from 55 percent now. Read article

PNG loses billions to government corruption

ABC – The head of the Papua New Guinea’s Anti-Corruption Taskforce says huge amounts of money have been lost through government corruption and mismanagement in the past six years. Sam Koim says his office estimates that more than seven billion Kina have been siphoned off since 2007. Read article

UN to confront US over claims its agents spied on high-level video calls

ABC – The United Nations will approach the US government over a media report that its intelligence agents spied on video conferences held by top UN officials, a spokesman said on Monday. “We are aware of the reports, and we intend to be in touch with the relevant authorities on this,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters, adding that this meant the US administration. Read article

Tens of thousands of Filipinos protest “pork barrel” funds

Reuters – Tens of thousands of Filipinos angry at official corruption marched through the center of Manila and other cities to demand the abolition of a misused fund for legislators’ pet projects, the biggest protest aimed at Benigno Aquino’s government. Aquino came to office in 2010 on a good governance and anti-corruption platform and consistently enjoys popularity ratings of more than 70 percent, but the Philippines remains one of the most corrupt countries in East Asia.

Indian parliament passes food security bill, as Sonia Gandhi hospitalised

ABC – India’s Parliament has passed its Food Security Bill, which provides subsidised food to nearly 70 per cent of the population, with the aim of wiping out endemic hunger and malnutrition across the country. The flagship $US18 billion program was adopted by the lower house after a nine hour debate. Read article

Russian opposition leader Navalny detained after campaign rally

DW – One of Russia’s opposition leaders has been briefly detained after a campaign rally in Moscow. Alexei Navalny is standing for mayor against the candidate backed by President Vladimir Putin. Navalny was detained immediately after leaving the stage of a campaign event. Ten technicians who were working to dismantle the stage were also arrested, according to members of the Navalny campaign. Read article

Brotherhood leaders to go on trial in Egypt

Reuters – Three leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood go on trial in Cairo on Sunday on charges of inciting lethal violence during unrest that preceded the army’s overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi. Mohamed Badie, the Islamist movement’s “General Guide”, and his two deputies, Khairat al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumy, will not attend the High Court session, the state news agency MENA said. Read article

Tunisian protesters demand government go, but numbers fall

Reuters – Thousands of Tunisians crowded a square in Tunis on Saturday to put pressure on the Islamist-led government to step down as it works towards crisis negotiations with the secular opposition. The protest, meant to kick off a week of rallies against the ruling Ennahda party, brought together about 10,000 protesters according to police estimates, far fewer than the 100,000 who crowded the same square early this month. Read article

Pressure Rises on Hamas as Patrons’ Support Fades

NY Times -The tumult roiling the Arab world had already severed the lifeline between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and two of its most important patrons, Iran and Syria. Now, the dismantling of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood by the new military-backed government that ousted the Islamist president has Hamas reeling without crucial economic and diplomatic support. Over the past two weeks, a “crisis cell” of ministers has met daily. With Gaza’s economy facing a $250 million shortfall since Egypt shut down hundreds of smuggling tunnels, the Hamas government has begun to ration some resources. Read article