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News Wrap: Taliban Attack Kills Six U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

July 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Taliban claimed responsibility today for a roadside bombing that killed six American troops in Afghanistan. The troops’ armored vehicles hit a bomb planted in Wardak Province in the east yesterday. Insurgents have been using the area as a gateway into Kabul.

Meanwhile, donor nations meeting in Tokyo pledged $16 billion in aid for Afghanistan. But they urged the Afghan government to do more to improve human rights, particularly for women.

The power struggle in Egypt between the newly elected president and the military continued to unfold. President Mohammed Morsi ordered the parliament to reconvene, but that move was rejected by the highest court. Instead, it ruled the military’s decision to disband parliament last month was final and binding. The country has been in political turmoil for nearly 17 months, when longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

International envoy Kofi Annan tried to revive peace efforts in Syria today. He met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, where the two agreed on an approach to restore calm.

We have a report narrated by Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.

ALEX THOMSON: Homs today and what amateur cameramen there said was sustained shelling yet again.

Certainly, government armor is seen moving and firing on these deserted streets. A couple of hours’ drive south, and in the capital, Damascus, Kofi Annan again raising hopes of peace, recognizing his peace plan on the ground is ignored.

KOFI ANNAN, former U.N. secretary general: They reassured me of the government’s commitment to the six-months — six-point plan which, of course, we should move ahead to implement in a much better fashion than has been the situation so far.

ALEX THOMSON: And a brief public appearance for President Bashar al-Assad. He was asked to comment on America’s role in supporting the armed opposition here.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, president of Syria (through translator): They offered the umbrella and political support to those gangs to create de-stability — or to destabilize Syria.

ALEX THOMSON: And while others, not least Kofi Annan, describe Syria as being at a turning point, the president himself says he’s not for turning.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD: A president shouldn’t run away from challenge, and we have a national challenge now in Syria. A president shouldn’t escape.

ALEX THOMSON: In this civil war, more than 17,000 people have now been killed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One of Syria’s key allies, Russia, announced today it will not sell new weapons to Syria anymore. That’s at least until the crisis there has stabilized. However, Russian officials will continue to keep previous weapons contracts.

International election observers in Libya declared the weekend vote a success. Nearly 1.8 million Libyans went to the polls on Saturday in the country’s first free national election in 60 years. The vote count is ongoing, with official results expected later this week. Preliminary results suggest a strong showing for Mahmoud Jibril, the Western-educated interim prime minister.

Fatal flooding in Russia over the weekend didn’t come with adequate warning, the Russian emergencies minister admitted today. Torrential rains and floodwaters inundated the Black Sea region early Saturday, killing more than 170 people. Residents were forced to flee their homes in the middle of the night, as up to a foot of rain fell in less than 24 hours.

Across much of the United States today, people got a little relief from a record-setting heat wave. A cold front pushed across the Plains states bringing stormy weather and damage, along with cooler conditions to the eastern half of the country. The streak of triple-digit temperatures caused the deaths of at least 48 people.

Cell phone tracking by law enforcement agencies is on the rise, based on a report made to Congress by cell phone carriers. Carriers handed over information on more than 1.3 million requests last year alone.

For more on this, I’m joined by Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times.

Eric, your report raises a lot of privacy concerns, including ones that the carriers are feeling. Help us understand that.

ERIC LICHTBLAU, The New York Times: Well, what we found in these reports is that the carriers themselves are rejecting a fair number of demands for records that police and law enforcement agencies are making.

These are cases where the carriers say, you know, there’s not a true emergency when they demand these records, or a court order may not be signed when it’s supposed to be signed, or they may not have even gone to a judge.

So, these are cases that Congressman Markey, who had asked for this data, describes as a digital dragnet that could wrap in lots of unintended people into police investigations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, are these the modern-day wiretaps?

ERIC LICHTBLAU: It’s looking that way.

The number of wiretaps is actually going down, while other areas of cell phone surveillance, like GPS locating devices and text message collection and things like that, are way, way up. And the main reason is that those other types of things are much, much easier for cops to get than standard wiretapping, which requires court orders, is pretty time-consuming legally. It’s been now very, very easy for them to get these other types of cell phones surveillance.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Very briefly, what happens to all that data if I happen to be near a cell phone tower that a law enforcement agency dumped all the data from?

ERIC LICHTBLAU: Well, if the police or the DA or whomever is asking for a dump of cell phone data within a certain tower, they will get back hundreds, maybe thousands of names of people who were within a certain area at a certain time of day.

That then goes into a database that becomes part of the investigative file. The problem is that there are very inconsistent standards as to how long that can be retained for. The hope and the policy in some departments is that it’s destroyed as soon as they’re sure that it’s not relevant to the investigation, but that certainly doesn’t happen at all times.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Eric Lichtblau from The New York Times, thanks so much.


HARI SREENIVASAN: Arguments began today in U.S. district court in Washington over whether Texas can require voters to show photo identification at polling places.

The Obama administration blocked the law last year, saying it was unfair to minority voters. Texas then sued the U.S. government, citing political motives. The law is one of several recent disputes over the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices. The Supreme Court upheld a similar photo I.D. law in Indiana in 2009.

Nearly 50 years after their plane went down, the remains of six airmen who disappeared during the Vietnam War were buried at Arlington National Cemetery today. The remains were buried in a single casket, after being discovered last year by American and Laotian search teams. For decades, family members knew only that the plane sent out a mayday signal while flying over Laos. All six servicemen were given posthumous promotions by the military.

On Wall Street today, stocks slipped in a light day of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 36 points to close at 12,736. The Nasdaq fell more than five points to close above 2,931.

The Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine died on Sunday of kidney failure in Los Angeles. Borgnine played more than 200 film and TV roles, and worked up until the end. He won an Academy Award in 1955 for his portrayal of a lonely Bronx butcher who falls in love in the film “Marty.”

ERNEST BORGNINE, actor: No, ma, I don’t want to go to Stardust ballroom, because all that ever happened to me there was girls made me feel like I was a bug. I got feelings, you know. I had enough pain. No, thanks, ma.


ERNEST BORGNINE: No. I’m going to stay home tonight and watch “The Hit Parade.”

ACTRESS: You’re going to die without a son.

ERNEST BORGNINE: So, I will die without a son.

ACTRESS: Marty, put on the blue suit, huh?

ERNEST BORGNINE: Blue suit, gray suit. I’m just a fat little man, a fat ugly man.

ACTRESS: You’re not ugly.

ERNEST BORGNINE: I’m ugly, I’m ugly, I’m ugly.


ERNEST BORGNINE: Ma, leave me alone!

HARI SREENIVASAN: Ernest Borgnine was 95 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.