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News in Brief: WikiLeaks Shows DEA Has Global Reach, and More …

WikiLeaks Shows DEA Has Global Reach

WikiLeaks Shows DEA Has Global Reach

New WikiLeaks cables show that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has become a global intelligence organization with power over much more than narcotics, The New York Times reports. The DEA’s wiretapping operation is allegedly so expansive that governments around the world have asked for the agency’s help in spying on their political enemies. Panama President Ricardo Martinelli allegedly send a message to his country’s American ambassador asking for the DEA’s expertise, stating, “I need help with tapping phones.” In Mexico, military leaders issued pleas for closer collaboration with the agency because they had little faith in their own country’s police forces.

Cash-Strapped Cities Charging Nonprofits With Fees

The Wall Street Journal reports that some state and local governments facing big budget deficits have started charging nonprofit organizations with taxes meant to raise funds for improving city services. Houston, Texas, residents avoided a “drainage fee” that would have charged all property owners a tax to help improve the city’s roads and storm-water systems; while Minneapolis, Minnesota, recently passed a bill to charge a street light fee. Despite protests from coalitions of nonprofit organizations, Houston Mayor Annise Parker told The Wall Street Journal, “Everyone who contributes to drainage issues has to share in the cost of correcting those issues … if we take away one broad category, somebody else will have to pay significantly more. It’s a zero-sum game.”

No Timetable to Close Guantanamo

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged on Sunday that the Obama administration has no new timetable to close the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, according to The Miami Herald. One of President Obama’s first executive orders was to have the camps emptied by January 22, 2010, but Gibbs told CNN’s State of the Union, “It’s certainly not going to close in the next month … I think part of this depends on the Republicans’ willingness to work with the administration on this.” A new executive order is also reportedly in the works to allow for the indefinite detention of four dozen detainees that a task force decided could not be convicted, but were still too dangerous to release. Currently, three of the 174 prisoners in Guantanamo have been convicted of crimes.

Clinton Questions Russia’s Judicial System After Former Tycoon’s Conviction

According to Reuters, Secretary Clinton said that former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s theft conviction raises questions about the country’s political influence over its courts. Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering on Monday in a second trial, after having been sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud in 2005. “This and similar cases have a negative impact on Russia’s reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate,” Clinton stated after the conviction, and said that the State Department will “monitor the appeals process.” Khodorkovsky’s supporters say that the Kremlin singled him out for punishment because he funded opposing political parties.

New York Times Compares Jon Stewart to Edward R. Murrow

The New York Times compared Jon Stewart to Edward R. Murrow after the comedian devoted his December 16 show to the 9/11 first responders bill, which faced a potentially devastating filibuster at the time of the episode. Stewart’s support for the bill on his December 16 show and previous episodes is often referred to as “advocacy journalism,” the Times said, which echoes the influence Murrow had during Sen. Joe McCarthy’s excessive anti-communist actions in the 1950s. Murrow reported on the case of Air Force Lt. Milo Radulovich, who was discharged after being charged as a communist sympathizer, and his broadcast led to Radulovich’s reinstatement. Kenny Specht, founder of the New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation, told The New York Times, “I don’t even know if there was a deal, to be honest with you, before his show … I’ll be forever indebted to Jon because of what he did.”