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US joins suit over Texas voter law

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Thursday escalated its efforts to restore a stronger federal role in protecting minority voters in Texas after the Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down part of the Voting Rights Act, announcing that the Justice Department would become a plaintiff in two lawsuits against the state.

The Justice Department said it would file paperwork to become a co-plaintiff in an existing lawsuit brought by civil rights groups and Texas lawmakers against a Texas redistricting plan. Separately, the department said, it is filing a new lawsuit over a state law requiring voters to show photo identification.

In both cases, the administration is asking federal judges to rule that Texas has discriminated against voters who are members of a minority group, and to reimpose on Texas a requirement that it seek ‘preclearance’ from the federal government before making any changes to election rules.

—Charlie Savage, The News York Times

Mubarak removed from Egyptian prison

CAIRO - Egypt’s military-appointed government removed former president Hosni Mubarak from a Cairo prison Thursday, a day after an Egyptian court ruled that he could no longer be incarcerated, injecting a volatile new element into the political crisis that has been roiling the country.

Egyptian state media said a helicopter carrying Mubarak took him from the Tora Prison to the Maadi Military Hospital. He was transferred exactly seven weeks after his Islamist successor, Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, was deposed by the armed forces and detained indefinitely.

An Egyptian appeals court on Wednesday ordered him released pending trial on a series of corruption and other charges, but the military regime stepped in, invoking its military powers and saying he would be held under house arrest upon his release.

—Rod Nordland, The New York Times

For Mali’s new president, corruption issue lingers

DAKAR, Senegal - Mali’s greatest enemy now that it has elected a new president may not be the one that drew the alarmed attention of the West - Muslim extremists and their allies in the North - but an older one that officials, experts and activists say laid the groundwork for the country’s recent implosion.

Corruption and impunity at every level of the state, but especially at the top, destroyed the army, undermined government institutions and persisted unchecked under the former president, whose ouster in a military coup in 2012 created a disarray that the Islamists capitalized on to take over the North.

The new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, elected in a 78 percent landslide last week, vowed ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption in an interview at his home in the capital, Bamako, before the election. But Keita, as prime minister in the 1990s, has been touched by allegations of lavish, questionable spending in an old Finance Ministry report, recently exhumed by a local paper in the capital.

—Adam Nossiter, The New York Times

Police in China arrest British executive

SHANGHAI - Police in Shanghai have arrested a British investigator who specialized in advising foreign investors on fraud, cheating and other business risks in China, a spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Beijing said Wednesday.

The investigator, Peter Humphrey, has been held by the Shanghai police since early July. He is managing director of ChinaWhys, a risk management consulting firm that has done work for GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical group that is facing graft and bribery allegations in China, raising speculation that his detention might be linked to that case.

A spokeswoman for the British Embassy, Hannah Oussedik, would say only that he had been formally arrested. ‘We can confirm the arrest of a British national, Peter Humphrey, in Shanghai, China, on Monday, 19th August,’ Oussedik said in a brief telephone interview. ‘We are providing consular assistance to the family.’

One person who knows Humphrey and who asked not to be identified said he appears to have been arrested in connection with his work for GlaxoSmithKline.

‘It’s a hugely political thing. They’re just using him as a lever to force the pharmaceutical industry to lower prices,’ said the person who knows Humphrey.

—David Barboza, The New York Times

Rupee suffers another record low

HONG KONG - The beleaguered Indian rupee continued its steep descent Wednesday, hitting a record low of 64.54 to the dollar amid global nervousness about the timing and scale of the Federal Reserve’s likely scaling back of its bond-buying program.

The 2 percent drop took the Indian currency’s decline since early May to 20 percent, raising worries about the impact it will have on the country’s substantial import bills and on an already large current account deficit.

Indian stocks also dropped. The Sensex index closed down 1.9 percent and the Nifty ended 1.8 percent lower. Both indexes have dropped more than 10 percent since late July.

Signs that the U.S. central bank will reduce its bond purchases soon set off big outflows of cash from emerging markets around the world in May, and the reverberations continued Wednesday. A drop in the Indonesian currency sent the rupiah to 10,755 per dollar, its lowest level since April 2009. The South African rand and Brazilian real likewise are now at their weakest level since early 2009. Indonesia also has a large current account deficit.

In India, however, the rupee’s latest decline comes on top of a slide that began in 2011, when mounting signs of reform gridlock began to cast a serious pall over the once-rosy India story.

—Bettina Wassener, The New York Times