Nation and World Briefs
The Associated Press | August 30,2014
Ruling on Texas abortion law
A federal judge has thrown out new abortion restrictions that would have banned the procedure at most Texas facilities where women can legally end a pregnancy.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Friday sided with abortion clinics that challenged one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2013.
The law would have required the clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards by Sept. 1. That would have left seven places for women to get an abortion in Texas, down from the 19 facilities that abortion-rights groups say are currently available.
The lawsuit was the latest challenge to tough new anti-abortion laws sweeping across the U.S.
The state is expected to appeal.
New dilemma on Russia sanctions
Western business connections are complicating efforts to bring economic sanctions against executives and companies closely aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. A prime example: the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund that’s escaped sanctions in spite of international efforts to punish Russia for its incursions in Ukraine.
A sanctioned Russian bank funds the RDIF, and a top Putin aide serves on one of its board. The fund’s international advisory board, meanwhile, is stocked with blue-chip American and European private equity executives, among them Stephen Schwarzman of The Blackstone Group LP, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management LLC and David Bonderman of TPG Capital LP.
The chief executive of a French state-controlled investment company, Caisses de Depots, is listed as one of its supervisors — as is former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
The fund has done deals with BlackRock Inc. and General Electric Co., which partnered with the fund to build small power plants for industrial users across Russia. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s One Equity Partners joined an Illinois tire company to buy a manufacturer of agricultural and industrial tires. European investors took stakes in telecommunications firms, information technology consultants and health care companies. In total, more than $6 billion from blue-chip foreign companies have flowed in.
President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are considering new economic sanctions against Russia over its apparent invasion of Ukraine. There is no evidence that the Russian Direct Investment Fund would be a target, but the situation with the sanctions-free RDIF illustrates the Obama administration’s struggle to achieve conflicting goals — punishing Putin’s circle without damaging U.S. companies doing business in Russia.
Officials face intelligence nightmare
The case of Mehdi Nemmouche haunts U.S. intelligence officials.
Nemmouche is a Frenchman who authorities say spent 11 months fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria before returning to Europe to act out his rage. On May 24, prosecutors say, he methodically shot four people at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels. Three died instantly, one afterward. Nemmouche was arrested later, apparently by chance.
For U.S. and European counterterrorism officials, that 90-second spasm of violence is the kind of attack they fear from thousands of Europeans and up to 100 Americans who have gone to fight for extremist armies in Syria and now Iraq. The Obama administration has offered a wide range of assessments of the threat to U.S. national security posed by the extremists who say they’ve established a caliphate, or Islamic state, in an area straddling eastern Syrian and northern and western Iraq, and whose actions include last week’s beheading of American journalist James Foley. Some officials say the group is more dangerous than al-Qaida. Yet intelligence assessments say it currently couldn’t pull off a complex, 9-11-style attack on the U.S. or Europe. However, there is broad agreement across intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the immediate threat from radicalized Europeans and Americans who could come home to conduct lone-wolf operations. Such plots are difficult to detect because they don’t require large conspiracies of people whose emails or phone calls can be intercepted.
–The Associated Press