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Friday, October 25, 2013

Brazil and Germany to Call on UN to Restrain US Espionage

Brazilian and German diplomats met in New York on Friday with a group of Latin American and European governments to discuss a possible draft resolution calling on the UN to expand to the internet the privacy rights contained in the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights, first adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1976. “The covenant was formulated at a time when the internet didn’t exist. Everyone has the right to privacy and the goal is to this resolution is to apply those protections to online communications”, said a diplomat familiar with the talks. The move comes after revelations in the German media that the US had spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone and earlier assertions that it had also spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s electronic communications. “This is an example of the very worst aspects of the Snowden disclosures. It will be very difficult for the US to dig out of this, although we will over time. The short term costs in credibility and trust are enormous”, said a former defence official to Foreign Policy, which first broke the story.

Labour May Consider Renationalising Railways

Britain’s railways could be renationalised under a future Labour government after the party’s shadow transport secretary, Mary Creagh, said that she was “open” to ideas. “We don’t rule anything out”, said Creagh. The party could shift its rail policy because of current public discontent about a rise in fares as well as doubts about the costs of the proposed high-speed line linking London to the north. Labour is reportedly more interested in allowing state-run non-profit companies to bid on rail franchises when licenses come up from renewal instead of a wholesale nationalisation as carried out by the Attlee government in 1948. The East Coast mainline is publicly owned and has been making profits, a situation that has led some unions to call for the renationalisation of other lines.

Americans Kidnapped by Pirates Off Nigeria

The Nigerian military was attempting on Friday to rescue two US citizens kidnapped off the country’s coast, a recent haven for pirates. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for all crew kidnappings worldwide in the first nine months of 2013, with 32 occurring off Nigeria. “Yes, we are aware that they are missing, but we still do not have any information on the whereabouts of the men. But we have deployed search-and-rescue teams who are currently combing the creeks. We are doing our best to find them”, said military spokesman Kabiru Aliyu. The ship itself, an oil supply vessel, was not taken by the pirates, indicating that the victims had been taken inland. “We believe this was an act of piracy. At this point, we do not have information that would indicate this was an act of terrorism. Obviously, our concern at this point is for the safe return of the two U.S. citizens”, said US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Saudi Women Plan Driving Protest

Saudi women are planning to take to the roads on Saturday to challenge the kingdom’s ban on female driving, nearly one month after female members of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, the country’s legislative body, asked King Abdullah to allow women to drive. “Driving is such a visible and symbolic thing. It’s not like women on the shura council – you cannot see that and you cannot see advances for women in the workplace. Many conservatives feel that if women get the right to drive then that’s it, the last bastion of male control will fall. I think it should lead to other changes. That’s why those who oppose it are so vehement. And that’s why the government is treading so carefully. It does not want to cause a big uproar”, said writer Maha al-Aqeel to the Guardian. The country’s Interior Minister, Turki al-Faisal, told a local newspaper that the kingdom’s cyberlaws banned political dissent and would apply to anyone supporting the campaign, as well as stressing that “all gatherings are prohibited” in Saudi Arabia.

Weekend Read: Confessions of a Drone Warrior

“He hunted top terrorists, saved lives, but always from afar. He stalked and killed countless people, but could not always tell you precisely what he was hitting. Meet the 21st-century American killing machine. who’s still utterly, terrifyingly human.” In GQ.

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