Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Friday, November 1, 2013, 2:49 PM

Breaking News: The Pakistani Taliban says its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, has been killed in a drone strike. More to come on this, I’m sure. Read coverage by the BBC News, or the New York Times in the meantime.

There has been a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport - LAX. At least three people are dead. The gunman is now in custody. The Los Angeles Times has live updates.

More revelations on the United States’ surveillance activities: apparently Australia has been helping the United States' with its snooping. Multiple Australian embassies, mostly in Asia, were used to spy on foreign leaders. This information comes from---you guessed it---documents leaked by Edward Snowden (and, it seems, also by a former Australian official). Most Australian diplomats were unaware, apparently, that their embassies and diplomatic missions are being used as bases for this US-led global spy network.

Secretary of State John Kerry has said that, in some cases, NSA surveillance may have “gone too far,” according to a BBC News report. In the same breath, however, America's chief diplomat also defended the need for increased surveillance to thwart terrorist attacks. Talk about mixed messages.

We told you yesterday that Edward Snowden has been offered a new job at a big Russian Internet firm. The AP updates us, and reports that Snowden is working with a German lawmaker, Hans-Christian Stroebele, to try to convince the United States to drop its charges of espionage against him. He would, according to Stroebele, in the meantime, be happy to help Germany in its investigation of alleged U.S. surveillance of Angela Merkel and other activities in Germany.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are pouring resources into better protecting their data systems, in light of information which suggests that the NSA was able to hack into their databases. The Times has the story.

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel seemed like great friends before this week.  That was then?  The Times has a a piece on the consequences, for that relationship, of the United States’ eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel’s phone.

Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the FISA Improvement Act of 2013 in an 11-4 vote. Privacy groups and civil liberties advocates have slammed the bill, introduced by Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), claiming it doesn’t do enough to curb the NSA’s power. A representative from the ACLU goes as far as to say that the bill is a “congressional stamp of approval” for the NSA’s widespread surveillance activities.

A group of six large tech firms - Google, Apple, Facebook, America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft - submitted a letter to Congress yesterday calling for more checks on the NSA's authority. Politico covers the story.

Reuters is reporting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has turned to Russian banks to help fund his regime. He aims to get around sanctions imposed by the United States government. Although the U.S. lawmakers have tried to get Russian banks to agree to black-list the Assad regime, some banks have refused and elected instead to strengthen their ties to Syria's government.

From The Guardian: the United States is accusing Israel of allegedly attacking a shipment of Russian missiles that was headed to Syria. The cache was intended for a Hezbollah base. The Israeli government has not commented on the allegations, which are sure to strain U.S.-Israeli relations.

The United States isn’t the only party annoyed with Israel. The latter has just announced that it will go through with a big settlement project in the West Bank and Jerusalem, ignoring sharp criticism from around the world.

Foreign Policy looks into the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel, two of the United States' most “special” allies.

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, said yesterday that he will ask President Obama for help in eradicating resurgent Al-Qaeda militants in his country. The two leaders are meeting at the White House today. The Washington Post Editorial Board thinks the President should take a hard stand with the Prime Minister, and hold him accountable for the mess.

A wave of suicide bombings in Tunisia poses a challenge to the country’s new government. Some worry that it cannot stabilize the country and mitigate the violence between hard-line religious groups there.

RealClearWorld put together an interesting listicle that tries to answer the question: Will Obama Bomb Iran? The question was posed to variety of Middle East experts. Here’s what they had to say.

Jonathan Schanzer of The National Interest has a great piece on Turkey’s relationship with Iran and what it could mean for international security and American efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program.

The Associated Press is reporting that the United States will be involved with the clean up of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

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