- - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

UNITED KINGDOM

Former execs challenge Murdochs’ testimony

LONDON | Four former News International executives challenged statements made to Parliament by their bosses - Rupert and James Murdoch - with one saying Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch wrongly blamed outside lawyers for improperly investigating his company’s phone hacking scandal.

Jonathan Chapman, the former director of legal affairs with News International, said the elder Mr. Murdoch made a mistake when he blamed the London law firm Harbottle & Lewis for failing to uncover the scope of the hacking scandal back in 2007.

News International is the British arm of Murdoch’s News Corp.

“I don’t think Mr. Murdoch had his facts right,” Mr. Chapman told lawmakers. “He was wrong.”

Mr. Chapman was one of four executives fielding questions Tuesday from Parliament’s media committee about what they knew and when. All cast doubt on key aspects of the testimony given by Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, earlier this summer.

The hacking scandal has devastated the family’s British newspaper arm, leading to the closure of the News of the World tabloid and the arrests of more than a dozen of its former journalists. On Tuesday, News International announced 110 job cuts across its surviving titles.

AFGHANISTAN

Family confirms death of American civilian

KABUL | An American civilian working with the Army Corps of Engineers was strangled to death in Afghanistan, officials and family members said Tuesday.

Carrie Hughes told the Associated Press that military officials came to her house in South Carolina on Monday to inform her that her father, James W. “Will” Coker, had been killed.

Mr. Coker is the third Pentagon civilian killed in 10 years of war in Afghanistan, said Maj. Monica Matoush, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

BANGLADESH

India, Bangladesh agree to deeper cooperation

DHAKA | Bangladesh and India agreed Tuesday to cooperate in trade and to resolve border disputes, but left river water sharing and transit issues for further discussions.

The two countries signed several agreements, including a protocol to deal with conservation of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, and its endangered tigers. The two South Asian nations share the Sundarbans.

They also decided to demarcate disputed border areas and increase cooperation in the fields of fisheries and renewable energy.

The agreements came during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Mr. Singh and Mrs. Hasina are working to reach agreement on their disputed 2,545-mile border.

However, a hoped-for deal on sharing water from the River Teesta flowing between their countries was not signed because of last-minute objections from the Indian state of West Bengal.

ITALY

Nationwide strike piles pressure on government

MILAN | A nationwide strike against austerity measures brought Italy to a near halt on Tuesday, piling pressure on Silvio Berlusconi’s government as it tries to convince nervous markets that it can produce and enforce a credible deficit-cutting plan.

Late Tuesday, the government got a sorely needed boost when Italy’s main industrial lobby Confindustria voiced support for the latest version of the flip-flopping austerity plan, which among other things would increase the value-added sales tax to 21 percent from 20 percent.

Previously, Confindustria had publicly criticized the plan as failing to do anything to spur economic growth.

The government, meanwhile, said it would tie passage of the $68 billion tax cut and austerity plan to a vote of confidence, as Mr. Berlusconi seeks to enforce discipline in his often unruly coalition.

The government said the “grave international context of the financial crisis” made the decision necessary.

JAMAICA

Government to sign anti-crime pacts with Cuba

KINGSTON | Jamaica’s top security official announced Tuesday that he will lead a delegation to Cuba this week to sign agreements strengthening cooperation against drug trafficking and other crimes.

Security Minister Dwight Nelson said the pacts are intended to increase intelligence sharing about the “movement of guns and drugs and the groups involved in their movement between the two countries.”

Jamaica is the Caribbean’s largest source of marijuana for the U.S. and a transshipment point for cocaine from South America to North America and Europe. The island’s gun-smuggling networks are also a long-standing security concern.

Mr. Nelson said that although the two Caribbean neighbors have collaborated since 2006 in tracking and capturing Jamaican traffickers, a formal relationship is likely to improve the flow of information.

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