#HEADLINES: Obama's New Carbon Emissions Rules, NSA Collecting Faces, US Training Anti-Terror Troops in Africa, FL Atty Gen: Gay Marriage Would "Impose Significant Public Harm", Russia and 2 Neighbors Form Economic Union, Obama Admin Sides with Banks in Madoff Case, Palestinians Fear Encroaching Settlement Bloc
|Jeff Swensen / Getty Images|
"How can Obama do this without Congress? He'll be working through the Environmental Protection Agency, which already has the legal authority to regulate US greenhouse gases.
"Since 2009, the EPA has used that authority to ratchet up fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks. Then, last year, the agency imposed strict carbon standards on anyone who wants to build a new coal or gas plant in the future.
"Now the agency is going even further. The EPA's newest proposal will require the nation's power plants to cut their carbon-dioxide emissions 25 percent in the 2020s and 30 percent by 2030 — compared to 2005 levels."
|U.S. Marshalls Service via|
Associated Press / Reuters
"The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.
"The agency intercepts 'millions of images per day' — including about 55,000 'facial recognition quality images' — which translate into 'tremendous untapped potential,' according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show."
"The secretive program, financed in part with millions of dollars in classified Pentagon spending and carried out by trainers, including members of the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force, was begun last year to instruct and equip hundreds of handpicked commandos in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali.
"The goal over the next few years is to build homegrown African counterterrorism teams capable of combating fighters like those in Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls last month. American military specialists are helping Nigerian officers in their efforts to rescue the girls."
"Earlier this year eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Florida for failing to recognize their marriages that were performed in other states. Today, Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi's office filed a response asking a judge to throw out the lawsuit.
"Bondi's main reasoning: Gay marriage would 'impose significant public harm.'
"According to the Associated Press, Bondi points to the 2008 constitutional amendment that banned the state from recognizing any form of same-sex relationships that was passed by voters, and also claims recognizing gay marriage would cause problems for the state's pension and health insurance program."
"The presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus formally signed an agreement on Thursday to create a limited economic union — an alliance hobbled by the absence of Ukraine but one long pursued by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to confirm his country as a global economic force.
"'Today we are creating a powerful, attractive center of economic development, a big regional market that unites more than 170 million people,' Mr. Putin said during the ceremonies. He underscored the significant energy resources, work force[sic] and cultural heritage of the combined nations.
"Sitting at a table with his two fellow leaders in front of their respective flags, Mr. Putin said that the group, formally known as the Eurasian Economic Union, had the potential to create a global transportation hub joining the trade flows of Europe and Asia.
"While that may eventually prove to be the case, the alliance that comes into force on Jan. 1 will be a pale imitation of what the members first envisioned: an eastern version of the 28-member European Union."
"Picard had also sued Madoff's primary banker, JPMorgan Chase, seeking some $19 billion in damages. Earlier this year, Chase agreed to pay $543 million to settle the case, but the appeals involving the remaining banks have continued. The banks have denied wrongdoing, and argue that Picard has no standing to sue them on behalf of Madoff's clients.
"On the latter point, the administration agrees.
"'Customers are entitled to bring — and have already brought — their own suits against respondents for allegedly facilitating Madoff's fraud,' according to the filing. 'If (Picard) were permitted to pursue the same claims while standing in the customers' shoes, that could raise complicated problems.'"
|Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters|
"Palestinians in the village of Kufr al-Deek in the northern occupied West Bank awoke on Sunday to see Israeli earth-movers busily flattening the top of a nearby hill.
"Locals say it is their privately-owned land and that the Israeli government is preparing to build a new Jewish settlement outpost there.
"They fear it will help consolidate a bloc of Israeli towns, plunging almost halfway into the occupied territory, which they say will deny them a viable future state."