Report blames Rumsfeld for detainee abuses

A report released Thursday by leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee said top Bush administration officials, including Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, bore major responsibility for the abuses committed by American troops in interrogations at Abu Ghraib in Iraq; Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; and other military detention centers.

The report was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican. It represents the most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody, and it explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.

The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other episodes of abuse. [continued…]

Islamabad arrests militants’ leader

Pakistan last night arrested the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for the Mumbai attacks, as fears grew that the country was not doing enough to curb militants.

Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, last night told parliament that India had acted so far “with the utmost restraint”, but that “much more needs to be done” by Pakistan.

“The use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy is no longer acceptable,” he said.

Late last night, Pakistan placed Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, under house arrest, according to interior ministry officials. [continued…]

India presses Pakistan on terrorism but finds its own options limited

Even as Indian officials on Thursday lambasted Pakistan as the “epicenter” of terrorism and dismissed its crackdown on extremist groups as inadequate in the wake of last month’s attacks in Mumbai, they all but ruled out the prospect of a military confrontation.

Rather, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told members of Parliament that it would take time for India to turn off the tap of support for militant groups operating across the border, and that war was “no solution.”

“We shall have to patiently confront it,” he said. “We have no intention to be provoked.”

His words signaled India’s delicate and somewhat circumscribed options. If it were to carry out even limited military strikes against Pakistan, it would be likely to lose the support of its allies, namely the United States, which fears that Pakistan would then divert troops from its western border with Afghanistan to its eastern one with India. [continued…]

Taleban tax: allied supply convoys pay their enemies for safe passage

The West is indirectly funding the insurgency in Afghanistan thanks to a system of payoffs to Taleban commanders who charge protection money to allow convoys of military supplies to reach Nato bases in the south of the country.

Contracts to supply British bases and those of other Western forces with fuel, supplies and equipment are held by multinational companies.

However, the business of moving supplies from the Pakistani port of Karachi to British, US and other military contingents in the country is largely subcontracted to local trucking companies. These must run the gauntlet of the increasingly dangerous roads south of Kabul in convoys protected by hired gunmen from Afghan security companies.

The Times has learnt that it is in the outsourcing of convoys that payoffs amounting to millions of pounds, including money from British taxpayers, are given to the Taleban. [continued…]

Global boiling

By now we all know what’s in store for us if we continue on our emissions-happy path: increasingly hotter days, horrific droughts and floods, angrier storms, acidic ocean waters that will dissolve coral reefs, and a surging sea level that will swallow our coastal cities. Still, that scenario is a virtual sunny day by the pool compared to the cataclysmic climate picture being drawn by some scientists. Never mind carbon dioxide emissions. Let’s talk about the vast stores of carbon hidden deep beneath our feet.

During the last year, geoscientists have held several workshops and conferences to discuss what is known — and the great deal that isn’t — about the “deep carbon” cycle. Next week, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, scientists plan to hold a special session devoted to one potentially frightening aspect of that cycle: a strange little substance known as methane hydrate.

Methane hydrates, or clathrates, are icelike gas deposits buried under permafrost and deep below the seafloor. Some researchers fear that the hydrates are on the verge of melting en masse and belching out a cloud of methane gas that will send global temperatures skyrocketing. [continued…]

Former Nasdaq chairman charged with fraud

Former Nasdaq chairman Bernard Madoff was arrested Thursday and charged with a single count of securities fraud for allegedly operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme from his investment advisory business, federal authorities said.

Madoff, 70, operated the advisory business separately from his Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, a securities broker dealer with its principal office in New York City, the Department of Justice said.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Madoff appeared in court Thursday and bail was set at $10 million bond. The bond was signed and Madoff was released.

According to the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court of Southern New York, two senior employees of the securities broker firm told investigators that Madoff ran the advisory business from a separate floor of the securities firm offices. One of the senior employees said that Madoff kept the advisory business’ financial records under lock and key and was “cryptic” about its business.

A document filed by Madoff with the Securities and Exchange Commission early this year said the advisory business served between 11 and 25 clients and had about $17.1 billion in assets, the complaint said.

But on Wednesday, the complaint said, Madoff told senior employees that the advisory business was a fraud, that he was “finished,” had “absolutely nothing,” that “it’s all just one big lie” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme.”

Madoff said the business had lost about $50 billion and that he planned to turn himself in to authorities in a week. But, the complaint said, he told the employees he wanted to distribute the $200 million to $300 million he had left to certain selected employees, family and friends. [continued…]

Hedge funds face big losses in Madoff case

Christopher Miller, chief executive of London hedge fund ratings agency Allenbridge Hedgeinfo, said: “Some very big investor names are involved in this. The scheme could only work if enough investors were subscribing for him to pay money out. Some of the world’s biggest hedge funds have been hit by this. There will be a monumental impact for the hedge fund industry, it could be larger then Enron.

“Some investors in Madoff’s funds face 100% write-downs on the money they invested, they will suddenly be nursing full write-downs in December. When people realize the magnitude of this it will be fizzing around the stratosphere.” [continued…]

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