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Friday, June 21, 2013

NSA, U.K. Surveillance More Extensive Than Thought

While provisions are in place to help remove U.S. citizens and residents from data collection, new documents revealed there are multiple instances in which the NSA can use data collected from U.S. citizens without a warrant. For example, the NSA does not need a warrant to retain and use any “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain information on cybersecurity or criminal activity, usable intelligence, a threat to people or property or are simply encrypted. NSA’s analysts have the power to decide which entities are targeted under its foreign surveillance powers, without recourse to courts or superiors. The documents also revealed that the U.K. has secretly tapped the world’s fiber-optics cables, allowing them access to recordings of phone calls, e-mail contents, Facebook posts and web history. The information is then shared with the NSA.

Syrian Rebels Receive Shipment of Heavy Arms

Syrian rebels claimed to have received a shipment of heavy arms that could “change the course of the battle on the ground.” This news follows reports of Saudi-funded anti-tank missiles and small arms being delivered to Aleppo, where the rebels are besieged.The U.S. decision to offer “direct military support” to the rebels seems to have prompted other nations to increase their assistance. The deliveries are made through the rebels’ Supreme Military Council, reflecting hopes that this renewed firepower could shift the balance of power away from the Islamists, who have been rapidly shunting other rebel groups aside. Nevertheless, political infighting between opposing rebel factions has delayed the distribution of humanitarian aid (although none seem to have gone to known terrorist groups or corrupt hoarders), and the same may hold true for weapons.

Brazil’s Protests Turn Violent

A backlash against Brazil’s nationwide protests grew on Friday after the rioting and vandalism on Thursday night, when over a million people rallied in the streets throughout Brazil’s cities. For the first time, much of the violence was generated by the protesters themselves, not a heavy-handed police response. The Free Fare Movement in São Paulo, which organized the initial protest against bus fare hikes, said it would not organize any additional protests for now and expressed regret about the rise of violence. As the movement is decentralized, this will not completely halt the protests, but it reflects the sentiment of many Brazilians – they support the protesters’ goals but feel things have gotten out of control. President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency Cabinet meeting to deal with the unrest.

Smog over Singapore Worsens, May Last Weeks

The Pollutant Standards Index hit a record high of 401 in Singapore on Friday and 400 over one part of Indonesia. A PSI reading above 300 is considered “hazardous,” and the Singapore Government Guidelines warn that if a reading above 400 lasts for more than 24 hours, it could be “life-threatening.”  The smog has become so thick that residents cannot see out of their windows and the Singapore’s National Environment Agency has begun posting hourly PSI updates. The issue has strained relations between Indonesia and Singapore. Indonesia’s president announced that “all the country’s resources” would be committed to putting out the slash-and-burn fires in Sumatra that have caused the smog, while the Singaporean prime minister warned that depending on the weather, the current situation could last for weeks.

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