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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, February 7, 2014 at 10:23 AM

The plans to reform the NSA that President Obama laid out in his speech in January are taking shape. On Wednesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reportedly approved a new procedure, whereby the NSA will seek court approval before accessing records it already has collected.

Speaking of surveillance, a U.S. diplomat was overheard in a moment of, er, candor: Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was recorded making disparaging remarks about the European Union—remarks we won’t reproduce here on Lawfare.  You can read all about it in the Guardian; Nuland’s office has since apologized for the remarks made during her phone conversation with the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

Russia is not pleased with the United States’ misstep, and has taken the opportunity to denounce Washington’s involvement in the ongoing Ukrainian crisis—thus only increasing U.S.-Russia tensions as the Sochi Olympics kick off.

Despite insisting that there is no security threat concerning the Sochi Winter Olympics, the United States has banned passengers flying from the United States to Russia from carrying on any liquids of any size. It seems tensions are flaring over even the most benign of issues … like yogurt.  According to the Washington Post, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has pushed to have Chobani, a brand of yogurt, shipped off to Sochi—thus far to no avail.

Both sides of the Syrian conflict have agreed to a temporary ceasefire in the city of Homs, in order to aid a United Nations and Red Cross effort to evacuate civilians from the besieged city. An estimated 3,000 people are trapped in the Old City quarter of Homs. A new round of Syrian peace talks is set to start on Monday in Geneva, reports the Guardian.  

Meanwhile, Senator Tim Kaine (D–VA) is spearheading an effort to convince Congress that the United States should take a more active role in the Syrian conflict.

Politico follows the rough path that Senators Gillibrand (D–NY) and McCaskill (D–MO) have faced pushing their bill to drastically overhaul the military’s sexual assault policy. Both Senators seem relatively optimistic at the chances of getting enough votes to overcome a filibuster and win Senate approval.

Talks between the Pakistani government and the Taliban began yesterday. Neither side took questions from the media after the meeting, but described the talks as “friendly and cordial.” That said, there are worries—per this BBC report—that the talks cannot yield much and might point to Pakistani weakness.

Over 2,000 people were evacuated from a neighborhood in Hong Kong yesterday when an American wartime bomb was discovered in a construction site. The weapon was apparently dropped on Hong Kong—which was then Japanese-occupied territory—by the U.S. Navy during the Second World War.

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