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Monday, November 4, 2013

Snowden Clemency Brouhaha

Over the weekend, a spate of U.S. politicians roundly refused to offer former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden any form of clemency. The chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Rogers, called clemency for Snowden a “terrible idea.” According to Rogers, “He needs to come back and own up.” Amnesty International issued a statement today lambasting this line of reasoning, saying, “any potential trial of whistleblower Edward Snowden would amount to political persecution if it covers his revelations about the US government’s human rights violations.”

Oddly, according to Glen Greenwald, the reporter who has worked closely with Snowden to release the myriad documents showing the U.S. National Security Agency and its various global analogs have engaged in wholesale spying on normal civilians, Edward Snowden has not sought clemency. Snowden did, however, publish a manifesto defending his actions, in Sunday’s Der Spiegel. In it, Snowden suggests, “Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested.”

Massive Cache of Art Stolen By Nazis Recovered

According to Focus magazine, roughly 1,500 pieces of modernist artwork were quietly confiscated from the Munich flat of Cornelius Gurlitt in 2011. The works, likely pilfered from jewish owners by Nazis or seized directly from the artists buy the Third Reich for being “degenerate art”, include pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde.

Gwendolen Webster, an art historian who has spent time studying stolen art, suggested that while finding was “absolutely staggering for historians”, it created significant legal quandaries. One of the reasons German authorities may have remained secretive about their seizure for nearly 2 years, is that they should expect a significant number of restitution claims from around the world. For instance, one of the pieces, a Matisse, used to belong to art dealer Paul Rosenberg, whose family has spent many years attempting to retrieve the works stolen from Rosenberg. “We are not willing to forget, or let it go,” said Marianne Rosenberg, Paul Rosenberg’s granddaughter. “I think of it as a crusade.” If the provenance of the art works cannot be established, Focus writes that they might still be returned to the suspect.

Cuba Bans 3D Movie Cinemas

Despite 2008’s move to relax prohibitions on private enterprise by Raul Castro, Cuba has ordered the immediate closure of a number of cinemas and video-game salons. State-run newspaper Granma released a government memo saying, “Cinematic exhibition (including 3D rooms) and computer games will cease immediately in whatever kind of private business activity.” Still, the memo said this was not “a step backward.” “Quite the contrary, we will continue to decidedly advance in the updating of our economic model.”

A number of young Cubans demurred. One such resident of Havana, Yosvany said, ”I think a lot of people won’t agree with this ban. 3D cinema was something new and popular.”

Brazil Spied on U.S. and Other Embassies

According to Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo, the Brazilian intelligence service targeted U.S., Russian, Iranian and Iraqi diplomats and roughly ten years ago in the capital Brasilia. These revelations come as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been an ardent critic of the United States’ vast espionage operations. Brazil’s Institutional Security Cabinet, confirmed the allegations in a statement, but noted their spying operations, involving basic surveillance diplomats and diplomatic properties in Brazil, were “in absolute compliance” with legislation governing such practices.

Just last week, Brazil asked the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a resolution calling for all countries to institute and protect the right to privacy guaranteed under international law. The draft bill emphasizes that illegal surveillance and interception of communications, as well as the illegal collection of personal data, “constitute a highly intrusive act that violates the right to privacy and freedom of expression and may threaten the foundations of a democratic society.”

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