Fed belatedly discloses top ‘discount window’ borrowers

A lawyer for the Federal Reserve dropped off CD-ROMs containing nearly 25,000 pages of previously undisclosed loan documents at the Washington, D.C., office of Bloomberg News this morning, marking the end of a three-year struggle to compel the Fed to disclose exactly who borrowed from its “discount window” during the financial crisis.

In April and May 2008, Bloomberg reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Fed asking for details on who received loans during the crisis. What followed was more than two years of litigation between Bloomberg, the Fed and a group of the nation’s biggest banks, culminating in the Supreme Court rejecting an appeal from those banks and forcing the Fed to make today’s disclosure.

Last September, Alison Stewart sat down with one of those Bloomberg reporters, Bob Ivry, to talk about trying to uncover the true cost of the Fed’s actions throughout the crisis.

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‘Cairo 6, 7, 8’ exposes sexual violence in a changing Egypt

The actress Boshra portrays one of three women facing sexual harassment in Egypt in Mohamed Diab's "Cairo 6 ,7, 8."

When hundreds of women recently protested against dictatorships in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, it seemed that an era of oppressive governments with sexist traditions might be coming to an end.

The excitement was short-lived.

On March 9, International Women’s Day, a group of women were groped and harassed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after marching for social justice. Last week, Amnesty International reported that another group of 18 women who were arrested during protests in Tahrir Square were taken by the military, tortured by electric shocks, subjected to strip searches and given “virginity tests.”

According to an Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights study in 2008, 83 percent of women have been sexually harassed in Egypt, as well as an astounding 98 percent of foreign women living in Cairo. (The study defines sexual harassment as unwanted sexual conduct that results in physical or psychological abuse.) Yet, due to a lack of cultural and legal support, only a small percentage of cases are taken to the police.

Director Mohamed Diab captures this grim reality in his new feature, “Cairo 6,7,8,” showcased in this year’s New Directors/New Films series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The film is based on real-life experiences of sexual harassment faced by three Egyptian women.

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Libya updates: Key Gadhafi aide defects; rebels dismiss concerns of extremism

Update | March 31 One of Moammar Gadhafi’s closest aides, described as the Libyan autocrat’s “political strong man,” has defected to Britain, reportedly on his own volition and without a deal for immunity, officials said Thursday.

Moussa Koussa, Libya’s foreign minister and the West’s key partner in its dealings with Libya over the years, was said to be cooperating with British officials. The defection dealt a serious blow to the faltering Gadhafi regime and suggested that more defections may be imminent. Another top Libyan official, Ali Abdussalam el-Treki, fled to Egypt on Thursday.

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Photo: A messenger meets Mercury

The first photo of the surface of Mercury from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), seems to have redefined the term “cruisin”. The spacecraft was launched on August 3, 2004, but has been lapping the inner solar system for the past 6.6 years. A dozen laps, to be exact, around and around and around. On March 17, 2011, the MESSENGER finally made a move after years of just cruising by, and entered the orbit of the planet closest to the sun, Mercury. It’s mission is to conduct a yearlong study of the planet by mapping its entire surface.

At 5:20 a.m. ET on Mar. 29, 2011, MESSENGER captured the first image from a spacecraft of the surface of Mercury. Over the next six hours, it captured 363 more, then sent all the images back to NASA.

From the time it launched in 2004 until it arrived in orbit around Mercury two weeks ago, the spacecraft will have traveled 4.9 billion miles, at an average speed of approximately 84,500 miles per hour. During the yearlong orbital phase alone, it will travel 22.7 million miles. Eventually, years after the planet has been mapped, and the official mission has been concluded, the MESSENGER will lose its ability to maintain orbit and crash onto the very surface it traveled so far to reach.

Who are the Libyan rebels? And should we give them weapons?

Libyan rebels gesture on a checkpoint in Al-Egila, east of Ras Lanuf in eastern Libya on Sunday. Photo: AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

Updated | March 31 Libyan opposition fighters retreated once again Wednesday from clashes with government forces in Sirte, Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown and a loyalist stronghold. It’s the second time in Libya’s uprising that the rebels have pushed westward, only to be turned back by Gadhafi’s regime.

The developments have international officials debating their next steps in the military campaign against Gadhafi’s forces. President Obama and others have called repeatedly for the autocrat’s ouster, but have also ruled out the possibility of expanding the mission to include regime change. “We went down that road in Iraq,” Obama said in a national address this week.

Military leaders say they are conducting “due diligence” on rebel leaders to determine how they might be able to help the opposition without putting troops on the ground. They maintain, though, that they aren’t communicating with the rebels, out of fear of expanding the military campaign beyond the “civilian protection” mission sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.

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Photo: Another look at King’s killer

Sheriff William N. Morris Jr. escorts James Earl Ray in the Shelby County Jail in Memphis, Tenn. Photo: AP/Shelby County Register's office

In June 1968, 40-year-old James Earl Ray was captured at London’s Heathrow Airport and extradited to the United States to stand trial for the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Today, in anticipation of the 43rd anniversary of King’s death, the Shelby County Register’s office in Tennessee released a series of newly rediscovered photos documenting scenes from Ray’s incarceration following his arrest.

The register’s office discovered a bundle of these long-forgotten photos in 2007, along with letters that Ray had written to his family while in detention. The county’s Register of Deeds, Tom Leatherwood, told the Associated Press that while the documents do not bring about any new revelations of the murder, they provide an intimate portrait of a momentous event in the nation’s history.

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Photo: Trading smoke for slopes

A group of Falmouth, Maine, firefighters ski down a slope on their way to the starting line before competing in the 21st Annual Firefighter's Fundraising Race on March 27, 2011, at the Sunday River ski resort in Newry, Maine. Teams of five wearing firefighting gear carried a 50-foot hose while negotiating a giant slalom race course. The Wolfeboro, N.H., fire department took first place, with teams from Livermore Falls and Bethel, Maine, taking second and third. The race benefits the Maine Handicapped Skiing program. Photo: AP/Robert F. Bukaty

Egyptian-American blogger arrested in Syria, accused of spying during protests

Mohamed Radwan was arrested during protests in Damascus on Friday.

The Syrian government detained a dual Egyptian-American citizen during protests in Damascus Friday and accused him of fomenting unrest as part of a foreign plot to undermine the country’s stability.

Mohamed Radwan, 32, was at an anti-government protest outside the Umayyad Mosque in the capital city last week when he was detained and taken to an undisclosed location, according to family members. He later appeared on Syrian state television in what seemed to be a forced confession, admitting that he had “visited Israel in secret” and that he had “received money from abroad in exchange for sending photos and videos about Syria,” according to the official Syrian news agency.

Family members interviewed by Need to Know Monday said they had heard few details  about his detention, including where he was being held and why. “The Syrians are being extremely tight-lipped about this,” Tarek Radwan, Mohamed’s brother, said in an interview from Washington, D.C. “No one has had access to him. We don’t know where he’s being held, or who’s holding him. So it’s very worrisome.”

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California Guard facility draws scrutiny, criticism

As the U.S. opens another international fighting front in Libya, Air National Guard crews from eleven states have been mobilized to support Operation Odyssey Dawn. National Guard contributions to the country’s ongoing wars have been invaluable, but that doesn’t exempt their operations from oversight. Investigative reporter Charles Piller of the Sacramento Bee has been keeping a close watch on the California National Guard — one of the largest Guard forces in the country, with an annual budget of roughly $1 billion.

Photo of condemned structures at Camp Roberts. Photo: SacBee.com/Manny Crisostomo

In February, Need to Know highlighted Piller’s work in a report on financial misconduct in the California Guard. Yesterday, the Bee published a new installment of his investigative series that tells the story of Camp Roberts, California’s largest Guard base. According to Piller’s investigation, “decades of deferred maintenance and neglect” at the facility have led to unsafe and unsanitary conditions for soldiers training for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report said that some structures lack heat or air conditioning, despite below-freezing temperatures in winter and blazing California summers. And in at least one building, raw sewage “routinely” overflows from shower drains and toilets.

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