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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NSA program collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

A National Security Agency program helps analysts search emails and online chats of millions of people, documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden showed.  It is called XKeyscore and it is can be used without any prior authorization to do so, according to the revelations in the Guardian. US officials denied anyone could be spied from an average computer, but this program seems to be exactly the case. Analysts can search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, language or the type of browser.

Training materials for XKeyscore show that all analysts have to do is fill in a simple on-screen form with a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel. The documents say the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as metadata. The NSA documents say that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured because of XKeyscore.

U.S. economy accelerates in the second quarter

U.S. economic growth did better than specialists expected in the second quarter and made way for the Federal Reserve to cut back its monetary stimulus. According to the Commerce Department, gross domestic product grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate. In the first-quarter the expansion was of 1.1 percent. Economists polled by Reuters expected 1.0 percent increase in GDP figures. That information made U.S. Treasury debt prices fall and the dollar advance against other currencies.

The improvement between April and June is credited to rebound in business spending, export growth and a moderation in the pace of decline in government outlays. It could have been better, according to the Commerce Department, if it weren’t for a slowdown in consumer spending. It is the third straight quarter that GDP growth in the U.S. is below 2 percent. Figures are expected to improve in the second semester because the fiscal burden will probably ease.

Latin Americans refuse to back the IMF on Greece

Led by Brazil, eleven Latin American countries refused to back an IMF decision to keep bankrolling Greece. They see risks of non-repayment. The abstention was announced by the Brazilian representative in an unusual public statement. The IMF executive board decided to release 1.7 billion euros of rescue loans to Greece. That raised to 28.4 billion euros ($37.6 billion) the total of funds committed to Greece.

The IMF itself published a report to point out that if Greek reforms don’t work and European governments withdraw their support, then Athens’ “capacity to repay the Fund would likely be insufficient”. The Europeans and the United States, which have a majority of voting rights at the executive board, solidly back Greece. Athens used almost 90 percent of its 240 billion euro bailout since mid-2010.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders referred to trial in Egypt

Three top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including their fugitive spiritual leader, were referred to trial by Egyptian prosecutors. The accusations are of inciting the killing of protesters last month, during massive protests against and for the coup that overthrew the government of Mohammed Morsi. The decision is the latest move against the Islamist group that backed Morsi, who became very unpopular and was ousted by the military.

The three referred to trial are the leader Mohammed Badie, his deputy Khairat el-Shater and senior leader Rashad Bayoumi. Prosecutors accuse them of inciting the killing of at least eight protesters outside their Cairo headquarters. On Tuesday EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met captive Morsi and said he is “well”. Protests for and against the Muslim Brotherhood administration have rocked the country in the last weeks.

Large turnout for crucial election in Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans flocked to polling stations to vote in a election that could end up in another spat between 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61. Polling booths opened at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), but there isn’t a forecast for the announcement of the results. Mugabe, who has been in office for 33 years and promises to stay there for the next five, has denied allegations of vote-rigging.

Tsvangirai is a former opposition leader who teamed up with the president’s party in an uneasy coalition. They decided to share power after a deal struck with regional leaders because of Zimbabwe’s violent election in 2008. There are more than 9,000 polling stations across the country and 6.4 million voters in the nation. The U.S. government has already raised concerns about the vote. Zimbabwe’s coalition government is effectively dissolved.




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