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April 16, 2009 at 10:00 PM
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Holder: No trial for harsh CIA questioning

WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- CIA agents who used harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists won't be prosecuted, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

"It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," Holder said in a release.

The Justice Department released four previously undisclosed Office of Legal Counsel opinions issued to the CIA in 2002 and 2005. Holder said after a review, the Office of Legal Counsel decided to withdraw the opinions, meaning they no longer represent the views of the office.

Documents released by the government Thursday described authorized interrogation techniques that include "water dousing" combined with "other techniques, such as stress positions, wall standing, the insult slap, or the abdominal slap," The New York Times reported, citing writings of Stephen Bradbury, who served as acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Thursday's document release included a 2002 memo prepared by Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee that provides legal authorization for proposed CIA interrogation techniques, the Times said.

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a statement saying the legal opinions authorizing the harsh interrogation techniques "inaccurately interpreted" the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture.

"I find it difficult to understand how the opinions found these interrogation techniques to be legal," she said. "For example, waterboarding and slamming detainees head-first into walls, as described in the OLC opinions, clearly fall outside what is legally permissible."

"The president has halted the use of the interrogation techniques described in these opinions, and this administration has made clear from day one that it will not condone torture," Holder said. "We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law."

Holder said he told the CIA the government would represent any employee in a state or federal judicial or administrative action brought against the employee based on such conduct, as well as provide representation in an international setting.


Obama, Calderon strike accord on energy

MEXICO CITY, April 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. and Mexican presidents Thursday discussed more cross-border efforts to address global warming and economic competitiveness.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met in Mexico City a day ahead of the Summit of the Americas that begins Friday in Trinidad and Tobago.

Calderon highlighted points in the two efforts, such as goals for carbon emissions and creating green jobs, agreeing that "we must act very soon to fight against climate change."

A clean energy future "is a priority for the United States and I know it's a priority for President Calderon," Obama said, adding that the two countries are establishing a bilateral framework on clean energy and climate change.

Through the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, the two leaders agreed on the importance of promoting clean energy, combating climate change and the value collaborating to reach these goals. The framework also will allow for political and technical cooperation and information exchanges.

Among other things, the framework will focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation, market mechanisms, green jobs, and low carbon energy technology development and capacity-building, the White House said in a news release.

Calderon said he and Obama discussed cooperative economic efforts, strengthening border infrastructure and increasing cooperation in customs "so we have a more efficient trade."

"We don't have to compete among ourselves," Calderon said, "but compete as partners" in other parts of the world.

Obama and Calderon also said cooperation is essential to fight the violent drug battle along the border.

"You cannot fight this war with just one hand," Obama said during a joint news conference with Calderon in Mexico. "If we partner effectively, I'm confident we're going to make progress" to reduce drugs flowing north and cash and arms for cartels flowing south.

If the two countries are able to stop the flow of drugs, illicit money and guns they will improve safety and security along the border, Calderon said.


Report: Pattern of major W. Africa drought

NEW YORK, April 16 (UPI) -- Mud layers and dead trees preserved at the bottom of a lake in Ghana show a pattern of devastating droughts in West Africa, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers who studied Lake Bosumtwi said that the droughts that appear to be linked to weather cycles in the Atlantic occur every 30 to 65 years, The New York Times reported. But they also found evidence of much longer droughts, the most recent one lasting from 1400 to 1750.

While their evidence of drought patterns over the past 3,000 years comes from one lake, the team said there is other evidence that the patterns affect a wide area where millions of people now live. Most of them are poor, living in rural areas where they depend on farming small plots for subsistence.

The report by a team headed by Timothy M. Shanahan of the University of Texas at Austin and Jonathan T. Overpeck of the University of Arizona was published Friday in Science.

Kevin Watkins, director of the U.N. Human Development Report office, said that even a delay in the arrival of the rainy season can mean catastrophe for many African farmers.


N.Y. governor plans same-sex marriage bill

NEW YORK, April 16 (UPI) -- New York Gov. David Paterson announced plans Thursday to introduce legislation that would make same-sex marriage legal in the state.

Paterson, the first black governor of the state, compared discrimination against blacks to that against homosexuals, The New York Times reported.

"We have all known the wrath of discrimination, we have all felt the pain and insult of hatred," he said. "We stand to tell the world that we want equality for everyone. We stand to tell the world that we want marriage equality in New York State."

A large group of politicians joined Paterson for a news conference in his New York City office. They included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who became an independent after running as a Republican and plans to seek a third term as a Republican.

"It is not the state's place to define marriage in a way that excludes a segment of the population from the legal benefits associated with marriage, and that's why I'm here today," he said.

New York has said it would recognize gay marriages contracted elsewhere.

The Assembly passed legislation introduced by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007, but it stalled in the state Senate.

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