Washington (CNN) — The FBI has launched an investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. after a report that employees or associates may have attempted to hack into phone conversations and voice mail of September 11 survivors, victims and their families, a federal law enforcement source told CNN Thursday.
“We are aware of the allegations and are looking into them,” said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigation. “We’ll be looking at anyone acting for or on behalf of News Corp., from the top down to janitors,” to gather information and determine whether any laws may have been broken.
Because the investigation just began, it’s too early to say when the first interviews will be conducted, the source said, adding the probe is a “high priority.”
New York Rep. Peter T. King, a Republican, earlier this week asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the possibility that journalists working for Murdoch may have tapped into the phones of 9/11 victims and relatives.
News Corp. said Thursday it had no comment on the FBI investigation or the possibility of congressional hearings.
Concerns appear to be traceable to a story published Wednesday by the Mirror, a British tabloid that includes a section it describes as “gossip gone toxic.”
The newspaper cited “a source” who referred to a former police officer who now works as a private investigator. “The investigator is used by a lot of journalists in America and he recently told me that he was asked to hack into the 9/11 victims’ private phone data,” the source reportedly told the newspaper. The source told the Mirror the request came from News of the World, the newspaper at the center of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain.
By Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who have used a cellphone for more than a decade do not appear to be at increased risk of a type of non-cancerous brain tumor, a large study suggests.
Looking at data on more than 2.8 million Danish adults, researchers found that those who’d used a cellphone for 11 to 15 years were no more likely than newer users or non-users to develop an acoustic neuroma.
Acoustic neuromas, also known as vestibular schwannomas, are non-cancerous, slow-growing tumors that form on the main nerve running from the inner ear to the brain.
They can cause symptoms like ringing in the ears, dizziness and balance problems; in a small number of cases, they can grow large enough to press against the brain and become life-threatening.
Although they are not cancerous, acoustic neuromas are considered important in the ongoing question of whether cellphones carry any brain cancer risk.
“Of interest is that acoustic neuromas grow in the area of the brain where greater energy emitted from the cellphones is absorbed, compared to other areas of the brain,” explained Dr. Joachim Schuz, who is with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and led the new study.
So it might be expected that if cellphones were a cause of brain tumors, people who’ve used them for a long time might have an increased risk of acoustic neuroma — especially on the side where they typically hold their phone.
But that wasn’t the case, Schuz’s team reports in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Among the nearly three million Danish adults they had data for, just over 800 were diagnosed with acoustic neuroma between 1998 and 2006. And those who’d used cellphones the longest — at least 11 years — had no greater risk than shorter-term users or non-users.
On top of that, Schuz said in an email, there was no indication that long-term cell users had larger-than-expected tumors. Nor did they have a tendency to develop acoustic neuromas on the right side, where most held their phone.
Still, the findings are not the final word on cellphones and acoustic neuroma.
One problem, according to Schuz, is that even long-term cellphone users had not been using their devices all that long.
Acoustic neuromas generally grow slowly, and years may pass between a person’s first symptoms and a diagnosis, Schuz noted.
“As most cellphone users started their use only from the early 1990s onwards,” he said, “we have only up to 15 years of observation time of larger numbers of users — which is perhaps too short to see an effect, if there is any.”
There are also other types of brain tumors. Most studies on cellphones and brain cancer have failed to find an association, but some research has suggested there might be one.
A large international study last year found that the heaviest cellphone users — averaging 30 minutes a day for 10 years — might have an increased risk of glioma, a cancerous form of brain tumor.
And in May, the IARC released a report that classified the radiofrequency waves emitted from cellphones as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans — based on what it called “limited evidence” of a link to glioma and acoustic neuroma.
The current study was considered in the IARC’s review, Schuz said.
The problem with all of these studies is that they can only show — or fail to show — a correlation between cellphone use and brain tumors. They do not prove cause and effect.
And many researchers believe that the radiofrequency waves from cellphones are not capable of causing tumors.
However, since cellphones are now ubiquitous — there are nearly 5 billion subscribers worldwide, according to the IARC — experts generally agree that ongoing studies of any health risks from heavy, long-term use are needed.
And with “virtually everyone” being a cell user today, Schuz said, those studies will have to compare heavy daily users with less-intense users.
He noted, though, that even though people are spending more and more time on their phones, the devices’ “average output power” appears to have gone down over time.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/o3zq3o American Journal of Epidemiology, online June 28, 2011.
Indian police are searching for clues into who was behind three co-ordinated bomb blasts that killed at least 17 people in Mumbai in an evening rush hour attack.
Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s home minister, said on Thursday that all groups “hostile to India” were being treated as possible suspects behind the attacks.
The government’s official press office lowered the death toll from Wednesday’s attacks to 18 from an earlier figure of 21 killed, although the number may change again.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Kumar, reporting from Mumbai, said that details of the attack were still “sketchy”.
“As of now, there hasn’t been any official line on who could be behind these attacks, but there is speculation that this could be the act of Indian Mujahideen or Lashkar-e Taiba (an armed Pakistani group),” said Kumar.
“But there hasn’t been any official line put out by the government authorities or the security authorities.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts. Indian Mujahideen are described by security analysts Stratfor as “a relatively amateurish group that’s been able to carry out low to medium intensity attacks”.
The bombings were the biggest attack on Mumbai since a 2008 assault on the city by gunmen which killed 166 people. That attack was blamed on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba, raising tensions with neighbour and nuclear rival Pakistan.
Newspaper headlines voiced a mix of resignation and outrage over the latest attacks on a city of more than 10 million that is home to India’s main stock exchange .
“Attacked. Again,” said the Hindustan Times. “We’re All sitting ducks,” said the Economic Times.
The blasts come as Manmohan Singh, the beleaguered Indian prime minister, struggles to get past a series of corruption scandals and a resurgent opposition that has led to policy paralysis in Asia’s third largest economy.
A cabinet reshuffle this week was criticised as too little, too late.
India’s stock and commodity exchanges opened as normal on Thursday.
Schools were also open close to the sites of the bombings and public transport was operating, although heavy monsoon rains led to delays and cancellations of train services during the morning rush hour.
Blasts targeted crowds
The bombings, centred mainly on south Mumbai’s jewellery market area, were described by Chidambaram as “terror attacks”.
“This is another attack on the heart of India, heart of Mumbai. We will fully meet the challenge, we are much better prepared than 26/11,” Prithviraj Chavan, the state’s chief minister, told NDTV on Wednesday evening, referring to the 2008 attacks.
U.S. nuclear plants should be hardened to better withstand earthquakes and other extreme emergencies that could lead to a radioactive release, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Japan Task Force has recommended.
The task force’s 90-page report on the implications of Japan’s nuclear disaster said that an accident involving damage to reactor cores and uncontrolled escape of radioactivity was “inherently unacceptable.” It called for a dozen actions to improve plant safety and redefine NRC regulations governing severe emergencies. The report was delivered to commission members and key congressional committees yesterday and will be released to the public today.
“Continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety,” the task force of NRC experts said. “However, the Task Force also concludes that a more balanced application of the Commission’s defense-in-depth philosophy using risk insights would provide an enhanced regulatory framework that is logical, systematic, coherent and better understood,” according to a summary released by the NRC last night.
The dozen recommendations include:
Requiring that equipment and procedures are in place to keep reactor cores and spent fuel pools cool for at least 72 hours after an emergency, and that backup power is available to run cooling systems for at least eight hours if power from the outside grid or emergency generators is lost in a “station blackout” emergency. Some U.S. plants have a four-hour backup power capability. The 72-hour requirement would be new.
Requiring that emergency plans address accidents involving multiple reactors on the same site. Current regulations generally center on single-reactor emergencies.
Adding seismically protected systems and instrumentation to assure continued cooling of spent fuel pools, including at least one source of electric power that can operate cooling pumps and instruments at all times.
Requiring hardened vent designs for Mark I and Mark II reactors, the models at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex where three units suffered explosions tentatively blamed on hydrogen that leaked from vent systems.
Strengthening regulatory oversight of plant safety “by focusing more attention on defense-in-depth requirements.”
The Japan task force headed by NRC veteran Charles Miller will meet with NRC commissioners July 19 to review the report, and will hold a public meeting on its recommendations July 28.
A suicide bomber has killed four people at a memorial service in Kandahar for the assassinated half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Officials say the bomber apparently hid explosives in his turban and detonated them near the entrance of the mosque.
President Karzai was not present at the memorial. Four of his other brothers were but escaped unharmed.
Ahmad Wali Karzai, a controversial but key figure in Nato’s battle against the Taliban, was killed by his bodyguard.
President Karzai flew into Kandahar for his brother’s funeral on Wednesday, but left the city before Thursday’s service.
No group has so far admitted carrying out the mosque attack.
The governor of Kandahar province, Toryalai Wesa, said 15 people were injured.
Another explosion later hit the centre of Kandahar, killing one person and injuring several others, said the police chief of Kandahar.
Indian intelligence agencies had detected no threat of any impending attacks on Mumbai before three blasts shook the city on Wednesday.
Home Minister P Chidambaram said those who carried it out had “worked in a very clandestine manner”.
The three near-simultaneous explosions, during Mumbai’s evening rush hour, killed 18 people and injured dozens.
The attacks are the deadliest in India since 2008, when gunmen killed 165 people in a three-day raid in Mumbai.
Indian cities have been placed on high alert and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged the people of Mumbai “to remain calm and show a united face”.
The authorities are not saying who they think could be behind the bomb attacks in Mumbai. Home Minister P Chidambaram says all groups hostile to India are being looked at.
This obviously includes home-grown militant outfits like the Indian Mujahideen (IM), who have been blamed for a number of blasts in the past. Many security analysts already believe the explosions – possibly caused by improvised bombs – carry the fingerprints of such a group.
The latest attack also raises questions about whether intelligence has again failed Mumbai, a charge Mr Chidambaram denies. He says security measures in the city have been beefed up since the 2008 attacks and local police have foiled a “number of terrorist threats” since then.
But the fact that Mumbai seems to be targeted relentlessly by groups is extremely disquieting news for its residents and authorities alike.
Biswas: Why Mumbai again and again?
Pakistan-based militants were blamed for the November 2008 attacks and peace efforts between the two countries were derailed. Pakistan’s government was quick to condemn the latest bombings.
The United Nations also condemned the attack, describing it as “heinous”.
The rebels in Benghazi to the east have been stalled for months, still some 700 miles from Tripoli across the Gulf of Sirte. They’re pinned down too in Misrata, also east along the coast, in no shape to move toward the capitol.
But in the Nafusah Mountains southwest of Tripoli, rebel forces have made significant progress in the past several weeks, aiming now for the Gadhafi army garrison town of Garyan, less than 60 miles from the heart of the Gadhafi regime.
There’s brave talk: “Yes, we are ready to attack soon at Garyan,” Col. Juma Ibrahim told us in an interview in the town of Zintan.
London (CNN) — Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks is to testify before lawmakers next week, but News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch has said he is unable to attend, a spokeswoman for a British parliamentary committee said Thursday.
Murdoch’s son James, who heads the News International newspaper group, said he could not appear before August 10 or 11, the spokeswoman for the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee said.
A House of Commons official told CNN that the deputy serjeant-at-arms has been dispatched to serve a summons to Rupert and James Murdoch requesting their attendance.
The committee issued a statement saying it wants all three to appear “to account for the behaviour of News International and for previous statements made to the committee in Parliament, now acknowledged to be false.”