Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Jailed Cuba dissident dies in hunger strike

HAVANA (Reuters) - A 31-year-old jailed dissident, Wilmar Villar Mendoza, died on Thursday in eastern Cuba from the effects of a 56-day hunger strike and what fellow opposition activists believe was mistreatment by the Cuban government, a Cuban human rights activist said.
Villar launched his hunger strike shortly after he was arrested in November, put on trial and sentenced to four years in prison for crimes including disobedience, resistance and crimes against the state, said Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights.
He said Villar joined an opposition group in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba called the Cuban Patriotic Union last summer and had been an active dissident since then.
He was placed in solitary confinement under difficult conditions which, combined with his hunger strike, caused serious health problems that led to his death, Sanchez told Reuters.
He was been taken to a hospital in the city of Santiago de Cuba on January 14 as his condition deteriorated, and died there.
"We hold the Cuban government categorically responsible because he died under their care. We consider this another avoidable death," he said.
Cuba drew international condemnation when another imprisoned dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in February 2010 after an 85-day hunger strike.
President Raul Castro said Zapata was just a common criminal, but his death is believed to have contributed to Castro's decision in the summer of 2010 to release 130 political prisoners in a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.
Zapata was classified a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International, but Villar's case has drawn little attention.
The Cuban government has not yet said anything about Villar's death, but pro-government blogger Yohandry announced it in his blog, saying "the delinquent Wilmar Villar Mendoza died."
He predicted the death would bring criticism of Cuba from opponents of the Cuban government in the United States.
"The scavengers are beginning to arrive. Another campaign against Cuba starts to take off," he wrote.
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted the news of Villar's death and asked "How many more have to die? How many more?"
(Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Todd Eastham)

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Iran says scientist's killer may have used U.N. info

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran charged on Thursday that assassins who killed an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran last week may have used information obtained from the United Nations.
Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, 32, was killed by a motorbike hitman who put a magnetic bomb on his car on a street during the morning rush hour on January 11. Iran, at odds with Western governments over its nuclear program, has accused U.S. and Israeli agents of being behind the killing.
Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador Eshagh Al Habib said there was a "high suspicion that ... terrorist circles used the intelligence obtained from United Nations bodies, including the sanctions list of the Security Council and interviews carried out by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) with our nuclear scientists, to identify and carry out their malicious acts."
Ahmadi-Roshan recently met with IAEA inspectors, Al Habib told the Security Council, "a fact that indicates that these U.N. agencies may have played a role in leaking information on Iran's nuclear facilities and scientist."
He also accused the world body of failing to observe secrecy over its inspections of nuclear facilities.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said he was looking into the allegations. The Vienna-based IAEA is the U.N. nuclear watchdog and has played a key role in trying to determine whether Tehran's atomic program has military dimensions.
The murder of Ahmadi-Roshan was the fifth daylight attack in two years on technical experts involved in Iran's nuclear program, which Western countries believe is aimed at producing an atomic weapon but Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.
The United States has denied involvement in the killing and has condemned it, as has U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An Israeli minister also said this week that Iran's charges of Israeli involvement were "completely baseless."
The Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities. Its list of sanctioned individuals does not include Ahmadi-Roshan, but does name another scientist, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, wounded in a Tehran car bomb blast in November, 2010.
Al Habib, addressing a Security Council debate on justice and the rule of law, said it was "odd" that the council had said nothing about attacks on Iranian scientists. "Is it the way to advance the rule of law at the international level?" he asked.
(Reporting By Soren Larson and Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Carla Npsg  -  6:27 PM  -  Public
SOPA Protests's profile photoSOPA Protests originally shared this post:
#AnonProtest #SOPA #PIPA #megaupoad #US

Anonymous strikes back after feds shut piracy hub Megaupload

(CNN) -- "Hacktivist" collective Anonymous on Thursday took credit for taking down U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and music company websites following arrests in one of the federal government's largest anti-piracy crackdowns.
Federal agents earlier arrested the leaders of and shut down the popular hub for illegal media downloads.

Hours later, some of Megaupload's fans turned the table on the feds. Anonymous said it set its sights on the U.S. Department of Justice and apparently knocked the agency's website offline. The FBI's website was down, too.
A Justice Department spokesperson, who refused to be identified, said its Web server was "experiencing a significant increase in activity, resulting in a degradation in service."

"The department is working to ensure the website is available while we investigate the origins of this activity, which is being treated as a malicious act until we can fully identify the root cause of the disruption," the spokesperson said.
The website glitches came soon after various Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous took aim at the agency.

Anonymous' favorite weapon for these attacks is what's called a "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attack, which directs a flood of traffic to a website and temporarily crashes it by overwhelming its servers. It doesn't actually involve any hacking or security breaches.

"One thing is certain: EXPECT US! #Megaupload" read one tweet from AnonOps that went out midafternoon.

One hour later, the same account tweeted a victory message: "Tango down! & #Megaupload"
A tweet from AnonymousIRC read, "In a world where govts just keep on pushing their malicious agendas, we're no longer ready to play nice. We do not forgive!"
It was the largest attack ever by Anonymous, according to an Anonymous representative, with 5,635 people using a networking tool called a "low orbit ion cannon." A LOIC is a software tool that aims a massive flood of traffic at a targeted site.

Universal Music's website also went down Thursday afternoon. The music company had been locked in a legal battle with Megaupload over a YouTube video that featured many of Universal Music's signed artists promoting Megaupload's site.
Warner Music Group's site was down Thursday evening.
The websites of the Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America were out of action Thursday afternoon, but they appeared to be back up later in the evening. On Twitter, AnonOps, one of the main communications channels for the leaderless Anonymous collective, took credit for the crashes.

A spokesman for RIAA confirmed that the organization's website was intermittently offline. But he cast the attack as a minor hiccup.
"The fact that a couple of sites might have been taken down is really ancillary to the significant news today that the Justice Department brought down one of the world's most notorious file-sharing hubs," he said.

The Anonymous attack came soon after the Justice Department announced the indictment of seven individuals connected to Megaupload for allegedly operating an "international organized criminal enterprise responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of copyrighted works."

Authorities said the operation had generated more than $175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue and the sale of premium memberships.
According to the indictment, Megaupload, which launched in 2005, was once the 13th-most visited website on the Internet, serving as a hub for distribution of copyrighted television shows, images, computer software and video games.
The site's popular MegaVideo subsidiary was widely known in tech circles for its copious selection of pirated content, including recent movies and episodes of hit TV shows.

Four of those indicted were arrested Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand, at the request of the United States. Three others remain at large.
The individuals indicted are citizens of New Zealand, Germany, Slovakia and the Netherlands. No U.S. citizens were named. However, Megaupload has servers in Ashburn, Virginia, and Washington, which prompted the Virginia-based investigation.

To shut down Megaupload, federal authorities executed 20 search warrants in eight countries, seizing 18 domain names and $50 million worth of assets, including servers in Virginia, Washington, the Netherlands and Canada.
The news comes as lawmakers have turned their attention to anti-piracy legislation. Protests erupted both online and offline this week against two bills under consideration in Congress: the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect IP Act (PIPA).

The bills are aimed at cracking down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host or facilitate the trading of pirated content. But the legislation has created a divide between tech giants, who say the language is too broad, and large media companies, who say they are losing millions each year to rampant online piracy.
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Murdoch company to pay hacking damages in 36 cases

LONDON (AP) — Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper company on Thursday agreed to pay damages to 36 high-profile victims of tabloid phone-hacking, including actor Jude Law, soccer player Ashley Cole and former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
In settlements whose financial terms were made public, amounts generally ran into the tens of thousands of pounds (dollars) — although Law received 130,000 pounds (about $200,000) to settle claims against the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, and its sister paper, The Sun.
News Group Newspapers admitted that 16 articles about Law published in the News of the World between 2003 and 2006 had been obtained by phone hacking, and that the actor had also been placed under "repeated and sustained physical surveillance." The company also admitted that articles in The Sun tabloid misused Law's private information — although it gave no further details.
Law's lawyer said Thursday the acts had caused "considerable distress ... distrust and suspicion."
Law was one of 60 who have sued News Group Newspapers after claiming their mobile phone voicemails were hacked. Other cases settled at London's High Court on Thursday include those of former government ministers Chris Bryant and Tessa Jowell, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, ex-model Abi Titmuss and Sara Payne, the mother of a murdered girl.
Law's ex-wife and actress Sadie Frost received 50,000 pounds (about $77,000) in damages plus legal costs for phone hacking and deceit by the News of the World. Bryant received 30,000 pounds (about $46,000) in damages plus costs, while Prescott — a prominent member of the Labour Party — accepted 40,000 pounds (about $62,000).
After each statement, News Group lawyer Michael Silverleaf stood to express the news company's "sincere apologies" for the damage and distress its illegal activity had caused.
The claimants described feeling mistrust, fear and paranoia as phone messages went missing, journalists knew their movements in advance or private information appeared in the media.
Frost said the paper's activity caused her and Law to distrust each other. Rugby player Gavin Henson said he accused the family of his then-wife singer Charlotte Church of leaking stories to the press.
Other claimants included Guy Pelly, a friend of Prince William, who was awarded 40,000 pounds (about $62,000), and Tom Rowland, a journalist who wrote for one of Murdoch's own newspapers, the Sunday Times. He received 25,000 pounds ($39,000) after News Group admitted hacking his phone.
In some cases the company admitted hacking into emails, as well as telephone voice mails. Christopher Shipman, son of serial killer Harold Shipman, had emails containing sensitive legal and medical information intercepted by the News of the Word. He was awarded "substantial" undisclosed damages.
The slew of settlements is but one consequence of the revelations of phone-hacking and other illegal tactics at the News of the World, where journalists routinely intercepted voicemails of those in the public eye in a relentless search for scoops.
The wide-ranging scandal prompted Murdoch to close the 168-year-old paper in July and several of his senior lieutenants have since lost their jobs.
British politicians and police have also been ensnared in the scandal, which exposed the cozy relationship between senior officers, top lawmakers, and newspaper executives at Murdoch's media empire. A government-commissioned inquiry set up in the wake of the scandal is currently investigating the ethics of Britain's media — and the nature of its links to police and politicians.
The settlements announced Thursday amount to more than half of the phone-hacking lawsuits facing Murdoch's company, but the number of victims is estimated in the hundreds. Mark Lewis, a lawyer for many of the phone hacking victims, said in an email that the fight against Murdoch wasn't over.
"While congratulations are due to those (lawyers) and clients who have settled their cases, it is important that we don't get carried away into thinking that the war is over," Lewis said. "Fewer than 1 percent of the people who were hacked have settled their cases. There are many more cases in the pipeline. ... This is too early to celebrate, we're not even at the end of the beginning."
Many victims had earlier settled with the company, including actress Sienna Miller and the parents of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, who were awarded 2 million pounds (about $3.1 million) in compensation.
Associated Press Writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report.