BBC investigating other allegations of sexual abuse

LONDON –- The head of the scandal-hit BBC said Tuesday that the broadcaster is investigating allegations of sexual abuse or harassment against several of its staff members, apart from recent revelations about a popular children’s show host who may have molested scores of young girls over decades.

Under pointed questioning by members of Parliament, Director General George Entwistle acknowledged that the British Broadcasting Corp.’s reputation and integrity have been badly undermined by the snowballing scandal over the late Jimmy Savile, the star presenter now suspected of having been a serial child molester.

“This is a gravely serious matter,” Entwistle said, “and one cannot look back at it with anything other than horror.”

He also said that a BBC news program’s probe into accusations against Savile should not have been shelved by a senior editor who considered the story too weak. That editor was forced to step down Monday pending the outcome of an independent inquiry into why the investigation was called off weeks before the segment was to be broadcast late last year, around the same time that the BBC aired glowing tributes to Savile, who had died a couple of months before.

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Wounded Pakistani girl Malala now able to stand but battling infection

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for championing the right of girls to education, has been able to stand for the first time since the attack and is communicating by writing, a British hospital official said
LONDON -- Malala Yousafzai, the teenage education-rights campaigner who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan, has been able to stand for the first time since the attack and is communicating by writing, a British hospital official said Friday.

But the 14-year-old whose plight has aroused international concern is still fighting an infection caused by the bullet that entered her skull, burrowed through her jaw and lodged in her shoulder blade, said David Rosser, medical director at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in central England. Malala was flown to the hospital this week to receive treatment.

Rosser said she continued to show signs of improvement since waking from a long anesthesia.

"One of the first things she asked the nurses was what country she was in," he told reporters, adding: "She's closer to the edge of the woods, but she's not out of the woods."

The teenager was shot in a school bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where she had risen to prominence by courageously advocating the right to education for girls despite the fanatical Taliban's sway over the region. The Taliban has vowed to finish her off, prompting tight security at the Birmingham hospital.

PHOTOS: Pakistani teen shot by Taliban

But far from quashing Malala's cause, the attack sparked huge rallies across Pakistan and the rest of the world on her behalf. Rosser said she was "keen to thank people" for their outpouring of support and wanted the world to be kept apprised of her condition.

He said that scans had shown some damage to her brain, which was grazed by the bullet. But encouragingly, "at this stage we're not seeing any deficit in terms of function. She seems to be able to understand; she has some memory. ... She's able to stand. She's got motor control, so she's able to write."

Malala appears to have some recall of the attack, but those around her are refraining from bringing up the topic, Rosser said.

"From a lot of the work we've done with our military casualties, we know that reminding people of traumatic events at this stage increases the potential for psychological problems later," he said.

A tube in her trachea makes it impossible for her to speak, but the hospital is trying to arrange for her to listen to her father on the phone. Her family remains in Pakistan; efforts are underway to bring them to Britain to be at her bedside.

Rosser said the girl would require a couple of weeks of recuperation before surgeons try to reconstruct the damaged part of her skull and possibly her jaw.

"It would be over-optimistic to say that there are not going to be further problems," Rosser said. "But it is possible she’ll make a full recovery."


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-- Henry Chu

Photo: Women in the British city of Birmingham hold a vigil Thursday for wounded Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who is receiving treatment at a hospital in the city. Credit: Gavin Fogg / AFP/Getty Images

Britain blocks extradition of hacker who broke into Pentagon computers

Britain announced that it would not extradite Gary McKinnon, a confessed computer hacker wanted by the U.S. for hacking into Pentagon computers and other sensitive networks
LONDON -– In a case that has dogged Anglo-American relations for a decade, Britain announced Tuesday that it would not send a confessed computer hacker to the United States to face charges in connection with a spectacular break-in of the Pentagon's computer system and other sensitive networks around the time of the 9/11 attacks.

British Home Secretary Theresa May told lawmakers that Gary McKinnon, 46, would not be extradited to the U.S. because of his mental health problems, which include suicidal thoughts and Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Shipping him out of the country for prosecution would breach McKinnon's human rights, even though he stands accused of "serious crimes," May said.

The politically fraught decision by Washington's closest ally is likely to rouse the ire of U.S. officials, who have sought McKinnon's extradition for years. They say that McKinnon's repeated hacking of U.S. military computers, which he admits, caused serious damage and sparked a network crash soon after the 9/11 attacks.

McKinnon maintains that he broke into the computers to look for secret government evidence about UFOs and extraterrestrial life. His case has become something of a cause celebre in Britain, where many see him as a misguided, psychologically disturbed but ultimately harmless computer nerd up against the might of a prosecution-happy American judicial system.

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Pakistani girl shot by Taliban arrives in Britain for treatment

LONDON -- A Pakistani teenager who was wounded by Taliban gunmen opposed to her support of education for girls arrived in Britain on Monday for medical care and rehabilitation.

Malala Yousafzai, 14, was transported by air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates from the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi to Birmingham in central England and taken to the Queen Elizabeth hospital. She will receive post-trauma treatment, skull reconstruction and neurological rehabilitation for damage caused by a bullet that penetrated her skull.

The newly built hospital where she will be treated is Britain’s main receiving unit for military casualties, specializing in the treatment of firearms and burns victims. A brief hospital statement announcing her arrival said she was “currently stable and being assessed by a team of multi-specialist doctors,” including “clinicians from neurosurgery, imaging, trauma and therapies.”

PHOTOS: Malala Yousafzai

Medical director David Rosser said Malala will be treated by a team whose long experience in battlefield wounds predates the opening of the hospital. “We’ve taken every British battle casualty for over 10 years now,” he told reporters.

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Scotland to vote on independence in 2014

Scottish voters will go to the polls in 2014 to decide whether Scotland should become an independent nation. A referendum agreed to by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond will allow voters to decide whether to end more than three centuries of union of Scotland with England and Wales
LONDON –- Scottish voters will go to the polls in 2014 to decide whether Scotland should end more than 300 years of union with England and Wales and become an independent nation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond announced an agreement Monday on a referendum that could see the biggest political shakeup in the British Isles since Ireland threw off British rule in the previous century.

Though the exact wording on the ballot is to be decided, the people of Scotland will essentially be given the option to say yes or no to remaining part of the United Kingdom. A vote in favor of secession would dissolve the marriage of Scotland to England and Wales that has been on the books since 1707.

Signing the agreement in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, Cameron said a referendum would pave the way "so that the biggest question of all can be settled: a separate Scotland or a United Kingdom? I will be making a very positive argument for our United Kingdom. It is now up to the people of Scotland to make that historic decision. The very future of Scotland depends on their verdict."

The deal between Cameron and Salmond entailed compromises from both sides.

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Pakistani girl shot by Taliban being moved to Britain for treatment

Supporters of Malala Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The 14-year-old Swat girl shot by Taliban gunmen because of her advocacy for girls' education is being flown to Britain for treatment likely to include surgery to repair damage to her skull and neurological rehabilitation, the Pakistani military said Monday.

Malala Yousafzai is being transported in an aircraft equipped with specialized medical equipment and supplied by the United Arab Emirates. Pakistani doctors in consultation with international medical experts concluded that “Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received,” according to a statement issued by the Pakistani military.

Malala’s family was consulted before the decision was made to transport her to Britain, the statement said.

PHOTOS: Malala Yousafzai

The bullet pierced her left temple, causing damage to her skull, and lodged near her spine, Pakistani military officials have said. Doctors told Pakistani media last week that she did not suffer any significant brain damage. They have described her condition as serious but improving. Last week, surgeons removed the bullet from her neck.

“It was the view that if Malala was going to be transferred overseas to a center which could provide the required integrated care, then it should be during this time window, while her condition was optimal and before any unforeseen complications had set in,” the statement said.

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Five British troops charged with murder in Afghan incident

Philip-hammondLONDON — Five Royal Marines have been charged with murder in an allegedly unlawful death in Afghanistan last year, defense officials said Sunday, marking what is believed to be the first time that the British military has taken such a step since the conflict began more than a decade ago.

Authorities have disclosed few details of the incident in question, saying only that no civilian was involved and that the death occurred after “an engagement with an insurgent.”

The five marines are being held in Britain as prosecutors pursue a potential court-martial, officials said. Four other service members who were arrested have been released without charge pending further investigation.

British media outlets reported that the arrests stemmed from video found on the laptop of one of the suspects by civilian police in Britain. But the exact nature of the images remains unclear.

The marines reportedly belonged to the 3 Commando Brigade, which was deployed last year in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, an area of intense fighting. British media said that seven members of the brigade were killed in action in Afghanistan during a six-month stretch in 2010.

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond pledged that any abuse would “be dealt with through the normal processes” of military justice.

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WikiLeaks and Anonymous spar over fundraising campaign

Julian Assange

If politics often makes strange bedfellows, fundraising can make just as strange enemies, WikiLeaks found this week. The secret-spilling website ended up at odds with the loose network of hackers known as Anonymous after WikiLeaks introduced a pop-up window seeking donations.

The window showed up when Internet users tried to reach newly leaked files, including an advertised 13,734 emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor about Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.

To get the window to go away, it appeared users had to donate or share the link through Twitter or Facebook. Some users said they could evade the campaign by disabling Javascript or that the window vanished after repeated attempts to reach WikiLeaks documents.

After the fundraising campaign went live, members of Anonymous denounced the window as a “paywall,” saying it was wrong to hinder access to leaked files. The hacking collective has usually been an ally of WikiLeaks, seeing its quest to reveal government and corporate secrets as a common cause.

“This, dear friends will lose you all allies you still had,” one Anonymous Twitter account declared. A longer statement, linked through another Anonymous account, said WikiLeaks had become “the One Man Julian Assange Show,” straying from its core mission of revealing vital information.

WikiLeaks countered on Twitter that the window wasn’t a paywall, pointing out that users could also share or tweet the campaign. It later removed the pop-up without added comment. Members of Anonymous greeted the decision with approval, with one major account writing that the two groups were still friends.

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Supporters of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange ordered to pay his bail

Nine supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were ordered by a British judge to pay his bail now that he has fled inside the Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extraditionLONDON -- The cost of helping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fight allegations of sexual assault became painfully real Monday for a group of supporters who were ordered by a British judge to pay money they had pledged for his bail now that he has fled inside the Ecuadorean Embassy.

Nine of the anti-secrecy campaigner's backers are on the hook for about $150,000 among them because he jumped bail in June by putting himself out of the reach of British police. Assange, 41, sought asylum inside the embassy in central London to evade extradition to Sweden, which wants to question him in connection with allegations that he sexually abused two women last year.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said Monday that the nine supporters had "failed in their basic duty" to ensure that Assange did not abscond.

The group had acknowledged making no attempt to persuade him to give himself up, out of sympathy with his fears that the Swedish investigation was merely a pretext to spirit him to the United States to face possible charges of espionage in connection with WikiLeaks' release of thousands of classified government files.

Vaughan Smith, at whose country mansion Assange stayed for months under a form of house arrest, told the court that for him and the eight others to urge the now-fugitive to quit the embassy would have been "a very public betrayal."

Riddle wrote in his judgment that he felt "real respect" for the nine backers' convictions.

"In declining to publicly (or as far as I know privately) urge Mr. Assange to surrender himself, they have acted against self-interest. They have acted on their beliefs and principles throughout," Riddle wrote in his judgment. "In what is sometimes considered to be a selfish age, that is admirable."

But he said the integrity of the bail system needed to be upheld. Moreover, it should have been clear to the nine supporters that Assange, who had vowed to fight extradition tooth and nail, posed a substantial flight risk, Riddle said.

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Radical cleric, 4 others extradited to U.S. for terrorism trials

Supporters of radical Muslim cleric protest ahead of his extradition
LONDON -- A radical Muslim cleric who applauded the Sept. 11 attacks and four other terrorism suspects were bundled onto U.S. government planes at a British military base early Saturday and extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges, a British official confirmed.

Abu Hamza Masri and four other terrorism suspects left RAF Mildenhall air base on two planes that had flown in from Washington and New York, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The extradition brought to a close a years-long legal battle waged by Masri to evade U.S. justice for allegedly trying to set up a training camp in Oregon for anti-U.S. insurgents to be sent to the fight in Afghanistan. Masri, who had called  during incendiary sermons at a London-area mosque for nonbelievers to be put to death, on Friday lost his final legal bid to avoid being shipped to the United States to face charges. He is also accused of taking part in kidnappings of Western tourists in Yemen.

"I am pleased the decision of the court today meant that these men, who used every available opportunity to frustrate and delay the extradition process over many years, could finally be removed," Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement.

Abu Hamza MasriShe said Britain and the U.S. had "put plans in place so that tonight these men could be handed over within hours of the court's decision. It is right that these men, who are all accused of very serious offenses, will finally face justice."

Britain’s High Court rejected Masri’s last-minute petition to block his extradition on medical grounds. The judges said there was an “overwhelming public interest” in seeing the extradition carried out and that there was no reason the controversial imam could not find adequate treatment in the U.S. for his ailments, including depression and diabetes.

In addition to Masri, the judges cleared the way for four other terrorism suspects to be extradited, including two men accused of involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Masri, who has only one eye and uses metal hooks for hands, is notorious for his militant sermons. He exasperated the British and U.S. government for years with his continued appeals to British and European courts against being sent to the U.S.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, upheld previous rulings in favor of Masri’s extradition, a decision seen as an important victory for transatlantic relations and cooperation in counter-terrorism matters. Last month, the same court rejected Masri’s appeal to revisit the case.

After their defeat in the Strasbourg court, Masri’s lawyers filed a last-ditch appeal to Britain's High Court, pleading for extradition to be suspended because of their client’s deteriorating health. Masri was  in a British prison serving a seven-year sentence for inciting racial hatred when he was taken to the RAF base late Friday.


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Photo: Demonstrators protest Friday outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London against the extradition of five terrorism suspects to the United States. Radical cleric Abu Hamza Masri and the other four were flown from Britain early Saturday to the U.S. Credit: Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images

Insert: Abu Hamza Masri in 2003. Credit: Adrian Dennis / European Pressphoto Agency


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