Murdoch admits to hacking, rues NOTW cover-up

Media baron Rupert Murdoch, appearing before a judicial inquiry into phone-hacking allegations at the now-defunct News of the World, admitted on Thursday that people’s mobile phones were illegally hacked and even conceded there had been a cover-up at the newspaper, though he denied he had been a part of this. It was the second day that Murdoch – owner of Star TV in India and chairman of the $60 billion media conglomerate News Corporation – was giving evidence at London’s Royal Courts of Justice. Under a patient, polite, but piercing inquisition by the lead counsel, Robert Jay, the 81-year-old tycoon could no longer keep denying or not remembering.

Playing the victim, Murdoch said, “There was a cover-up. I think the senior executives were shielded from anything that was going on there. But there is no question in my mind that maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that, someone took the charge of cover-up.” He came close to naming those he suspected, describing one as a “clever lawyer and a drinking pal of the Times when Murdoch bought it in 1981 – and sacked him within a year – was scathing in his criticism of Murdoch’s deposition.

Evans alleged that Murdoch had told the then news editor of the Times the promises of editorial independence given to avoid his bid for the paper being referred to the British Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) “weren’t worth the paper they were written on”.

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Women sue former US defence secy over rape during training

Two women have filed lawsuits against a former secretary of defence and other top officials, alleging they were raped while studying at two of America’s elite service academies, and that the Pentagon and the colleges did nothing to prevent it. In the case, brought at federal court in New York, the former female cadets who attended West Point, the US army college and its naval counterpart at Annapolis claim their careers were ruined by the attacks. They are seeking not only sweeping reforms, but unspecified financial damages.

Named as defendants are Robert Gates, secretary of defence between 2006 and 2011, and the current secretaries of the army and navy, as well as the former superintendents of both academies. They are accused of being “personally responsible” for “systemically and repeatedly” ignoring “rampant sexual harassment”. The US military establishment, says the lawsuit, has a “high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and zero tolerance for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment.”

On Monday West Point and Annapolis insisted they had strong procedures in place to deal with rape and sexual harassment. The Pentagon would not directly address the alleged incidents, but Leon Panetta, Gate’s successor at the Pentagon, last week ordered new steps to curb thousands of sexual assault cases in the military. The women claim that while they were assured the cases were being followed up, nothing was done, and the alleged perpetrators were unpunished.

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Truce holds, guns fall silent in Syria

A fragile ceasefire brokered by the UN took hold in Syria on Thursday with regime forces apparently halting widespread attacks on the opposition. But there were reports of scattered violence and the government defied demands to pull troops back to barracks. UN secretary-general BanKi-moon said the onus was on president Bashar al-Assad’s regime to keep the peace.

“As of this moment, the situation looks calmer,” he told reporters in Geneva. But the ceasefire is “very fragile” and a single gunshot could derail the process,” he said. Ban will now ask the UN Security Council for speedy deployment of an observer mission, said special envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the truce. In the hours after the 6am deadline, a civilian was reported killed and the state run news agency said “terrorist groups” launched a roadside bomb that killed a soldier. But there was no sign of the heavy shelling, rocket attacks and sniper fire that have become routine.

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