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Blackwater Guards Surrender On Manslaughter Charges

blackwater_logo.jpgFive private security guards working for the American firm Blackwater fired machine guns and grenade launchers against unarmed Iraqi civilians, some who had their hands up, US prosecution lawyers said today. The five face 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter, lawyers announced, following last year’s shooting which killed 17 Iraqis. They are also charged with using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence. The five guards surrendered today and were due to ask a federal judge for bail. A sixth guard for the US contractor has admitted in a plea deal to killing at least one Iraqi in the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. The killings occurred as the guards attempted to protect a convoy of US diplomats. The bloodshed damaged relations between the Iraqi government and the Bush administration and private security firms were accused of acting trigger-happy, operating with legal impunity. [via THE GUARDIAN]

BIG BROTHER: How Nuns Get Added To The Terrorist Watch List

big_brothersepia.jpgReporting from Takoma Park, Md. — To friends in the protest movement, Lucy was an eager 20-something who attended their events and sent encouraging e-mails to support their causes. Only one thing seemed strange.  “At one demonstration, I remember her showing up with a laptop computer and typing away,” said Mike Stark, who helped lead the anti-death-penalty march in Baltimore that day. “We all thought that was odd.”  Not really. The woman was an undercover Maryland State Police trooper who between 2005 and 2007 infiltrated more than two dozen rallies and meetings of nonviolent groups. Maryland officials now concede that, based on information gathered by “Lucy” and others, state police wrongly listed at least 53 Americans as terrorists in a criminal intelligence database — and shared some information about them with half a dozen state and federal agencies, including the National Security Agency. Among those labeled as terrorists: two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist and a registered lobbyist. One suspect’s file warned that she was “involved in puppet making and allows anarchists to utilize her property for meetings.” [via LOS ANGELES TIMES]

Christie Hefner Resigns As Chief Of Troubled Playboy Empire

playboy_bunny_logo_image_picture_magazine.jpgPlayboy Enterprises says Christie Hefner, the daughter of founder Hugh Hefner, is stepping down as chairman and chief executive. Playboy Enterprises Inc. has named Director Jerome Kern to serve as interim non-executive chairman while it looks for a replacement. Hefner joined Playboy in 1975 and was named chairman and CEO in 1988. She will stay on as CEO until Jan. 31, 2009, and remain on the board until a new CEO joins the company. In a statement, Hefner said the leadership change was her decision, but it follows signs of trouble for the Chicago-based publishing and entertainment company. In October, Playboy said it planned to cut 55 employees and eliminate 25 vacant positions due to the troubled economy. [via LOS ANGELES TIMES]

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