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Israeli court rejects appeal
for detainees’ release

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals for the release of two Palestinian prisoners who have been on a hunger strike for 69 days to protest their incarceration without formal charges, sharpening concern for their lives and raising the specter of widespread unrest in the event of a death.

Barring a last-minute deal, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an advocacy group that has been monitoring the condition of the two men, said the court ruling was “the effective equivalent of handing down a death sentence.”

The judges said they had found no justification to intervene in the cases of Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahleh, 33, both residents of the West Bank accused of working with Islamic Jihad, an extremist organization. The court upheld the practice of imprisonment without charge — called administrative detention — if used sparingly. Yet the judges expressed unease over aspects of these particular cases and suggested that the authorities consider alternative approaches.

Citing classified evidence against Halahleh, the court said he had been engaged in transferring money for Islamic Jihad. But since Halahleh will have been in detention for almost two years when his current term ends in June, the court said, any further extension should be based on a more thorough investigation.

Diab, who previously spent years in prison on charges of military activity, according to court documents, was last detained in August 2011.

—Isabel Kershner, The New York Times

US thwarts Al-Qaida plot to attack plane, officials say

WASHINGTON — U.S. counterterrorism forces recently thwarted an apparent plot to bring down a commercial plane, seizing a new, more sophisticated explosive device designed to be worn by a passenger, government officials said Monday.

Officials said the plot had been based in Yemen and appeared to be a second attempt at the kind of attack that failed in 2009 when a passenger on a flight to Detroit tried to set off an explosive hidden in his garments.

The explosive, which contained no metal parts and had a more sophisticated triggering device, may have been designed by the same bomb-maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, they said. The officials did not say they had captured the bomber or any other individuals, and it was not clear whether anybody had been identified or whether a suicide bomber had been recruited yet.

Officials said intelligence and counterterrorism forces had known of the plotting for quite a while, giving them some confidence of being able to prevent an attack. But it appeared to be a significant indication of a lingering desire and capability to attack U.S. interests.

A senior law enforcement official said it was unclear if more of the devices existed but had not been recovered.

—John H. Cushman Jr, The New York Times

Google violated Oracle
patent, jury decides

In a split decision that all but guaranteed continuing litigation, a U.S. District Court jury in San Francisco on Monday decided that Google infringed on the overall structure of software copyrights held by Oracle, but also said that Google had not violated other important parts of Oracle’s software known as Java.

The limited decision means Google will not have to redesign its Android operating system — which would have slowed the march of Android-powered phones that have steadily gained market share against Apple’s iPhone. Oracle had sued Google claiming Google violated its copyrights to Java when it built the Android operating system.

With 300 million Android smartphones, Android is now the world’s dominant mobile software system.

Oracle, which is likely to receive only modest damages for the copyright violation, will seek to have Google obtain a license to use Java, something Google does not want to do because it could make Oracle influential in future versions of Android. In a statement after the verdict, Oracle said “every major commercial enterprise — except Google — has a license for Java.”

—Quentin Hardy and Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times

Biden ‘comfortable’ with gay marriage

Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday that he was “comfortable” with same-sex marriages, a position that appeared to go beyond the “evolving” views that President Barack Obama has said he holds on the issue.

“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties,” Biden said in an appearance on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.”

Many gay and lesbian voters, while generally supportive of Obama, have grown frustrated with his reluctance to take a clear stand for same-sex marriage. He has come under increasing pressure to do so from gay donors, one of his more lucrative fundraising sources.

In 1996, as a candidate for the state Senate in Illinois, Obama wrote on a candidate’s questionnaire that “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages.” But after he became president, the White House said that he was referring to civil unions, which he does support.

Obama has said since his views on gay marriage were “evolving” but has also said individual states should set policy related to it.

Biden prefaced his remark in his NBC interview by saying, “The president sets the policy,” and his aides later indicated that the views he expressed were his own.

—Brian Knowlton and Michael Barbaro, The New York Times