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Daily Archives: 01/04/2011

(eff.org) Commentary by Katitza Rodriguez – This week the Council of Europe’s expert committee on new media (MC-NM) met in Strasbourg to examine the comments received on the draft recommendation and proposal for guidelines for search engines.

In written comments, EFF urged the Council of Europe to revise its recommendation and guidelines to ensure that they promote transparency on search records requests, protect privacy vis-à-vis the government, and preserve freedom of expression rights, including readers’ rights to read information online. EFF also commented favorably on language that acknowledges that search engines play a central role as intermediaries by enabling the public to seek, impart and receive information and ideas worldwide.

Because search engines play a central role as intermediaries, search engine records contain sensitive information about a person’s intellectual, political, cultural, religious, psychological, and physical (health) beliefs, conditions and actions that can be of interest to state actors and civil litigants. These search records pose the most obvious privacy threat, since they represent some of the most sensitive data about individuals. Other potential threats to personal data come in the form of subpoenas, unauthorized access, civil litigants’ requests, computer hackers, and compelled disclosure of search records to law enforcement and national security investigators.

EFF has asked the Council of Europe to:

• Recommend Member States adopt strong legal safeguards and due process before disclosure of individuals’ search records to governmental entities. Government should allow search engines to notify the person whose search record is sought.

• Ensure that search engines adopt reasonable efforts to notify the person whose search records are sought, unless search engines are prohibited from doing so by law or court order. If possible, agree to a timetable for disclosure to the party requesting data in order to provide a reasonable opportunity for the individual to file an objection with a court before disclosure.

• Ensure that transparency about the disclosure of citizens’ search records pursuant to a governmental request applies to search engines. For instance, the guidelines should encourage search engines to publicly disclose an accounting of the nature and frequency of governmental requests for access to search records.

• Encourage search engine providers to offer users the option of searching anonymously on the Internet, and that search engines should enable site-wide SSL to protect users’ information and communications from eavesdropping.

In order to ensure individuals’ freedom of expression rights — especially readers’ rights to read information available on the web — EFF has asked Council of Europe to strengthen the guidelines to say:

• A search engine is not required to conduct any kind of ex ante filtering or blocking and will not be penalized for failure to do so.

• A search engine will not be held liable for failure to remove content upon an extra-judicial request, and that Member States establish processes in their national laws for timely, preliminary judicial review of challenged content.

• A search engine is permitted to clearly disclose to individuals whenever search results have been limited or affected by an action of law and/or by a self-regulatory action of the search engine, and to disclose an accounting of the nature and frequency of governmental orders for content removal, blocking, or filtering.

• A search engine does not need to conduct any kind of filtering or blocking that would constitute monitoring of its service, or affirmatively seek facts indicating illegal activity. Moreover, investigation and monitoring is likely to lead search engines to over-block in order to avoid any possibility of litigation, which means lawful content will inevitably be taken down.

• Self-regulation mechanisms should not include a requirement for a search engine to monitor and police their customers. Self-regulatory guidelines should not curtail individuals’ freedom of expression rights, as well as readers’ rights to access information free from surveillance.

We look forward to hearing back from the Council of Europe after the current meeting in Strasbourg, and hope to see these values upheld.

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Source: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/03/eff-council-europe-ensure-privacy-transparency-freedom-expression

(alternet.org) Japan’s National Police Agency said Monday that 10,901 people are confirmed dead and 17,649 are reported as missing. An estimated 1,000 children have died or are missing from the disaster.

Police have identified 8,030 of the bodies and they say the number of dead and missing is still expected to rise in some coastal areas.

The government has set up an evacuation area around the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the northeast with a 20 kilometer (12 mile) radius.

Estimates of people in shelters and refugee centers around the country as of Monday range from 180,868 to more than 240,000.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reports that poor sanitation conditions at evacuation centers in Miyagi prefecture are cause for concern. Local media also reports that hospitals in the areas are reporting a steady increase in cases of nausea, gastroenteritis, and diarrhea which is evidence that sanitary conditions are deteriorating in the centers.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism 15 sewage systems in the affected prefectures are not functioning or are damaged.

The latest OCHA report, issued Monday, says a shortage of fuel is hindering efforts to bring relief workers into the affected areas as well as move evacuees out to areas that were not affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Because of the amount of debris, the lack of fuel and restricted access on the roads until recently, emergency workers have been unable to move people to centers where they could receive assistance.

As a result, relief workers are desperately trying to provide a regular supply of food, water, warm clothing, and medicine to 2,000 evacuation centers, as well as provide critical medical, mental health and sanitation services.

In a radius between 20 and 30 kilometers from the nuclear plant, the government has advised residents to remain indoors, and also to consider evacuating. Still, people have started to return home or shift to larger shelters seeking more assistance.

A total of 186,724 households in the northern part of Honshu island still had no power on Monday, said the Tohuku Electric Power Company.

At least 360,000 households in nine prefectures are still without running water, according to the health ministry.

For the thousands of people who are living in their homes without electricity and water, there is no access to basic supplies unless they are able to receive it from one of the bigger evacuation centers, OCHA reports.

The National Police Agency said 18,423 buildings have been completely destroyed.

The government last week estimated damage from the earthquake and tsunami at 16 trillion to 25 trillion yen (US$198 billion to $309 billion). The higher estimate would make it the world’s costliest natural disaster.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry says 133 countries and 39 international organizations have offered their assistance.

The UK will send bottled drinking water to Japan in response to a shortage of safe drinking water, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell confirmed today.

100 tonnes of bottled water will be distributed to people living in the Ibaraki prefecture, following an urgent request from the Japanese authorities. The water will be sent from Hong Kong and is due to arrive in Japan today.

“Over two weeks on from this terrible disaster, many people are still in the midst of a crisis,” said Mitchell. “The destructive nature of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami has damaged essential infrastructure and left many without water.”

The cleanup required amounts to a major operation. In hard-hit Miyagi prefecture alone, the debris amounts to roughly 15 to 18 million tons, which is equivalent to 23 years worth of waste for the prefecture, has capacity to dispose of only 0.8 million tons per year.

Read more: http://www.alternet.org/world/150421/28,500_dead_or_missing;_power,_water,_fuel_in_short_supply/?page=2

(csmonitor.com) Even as Qaddafi gains on the battlefield, Western officials say his regime is “crumbling” from the inside. A trusted family envoy reportedly met with British officials in London this week.

Tripoli, Libya

Col. Muammar Qaddafi has gained the upper hand on the Libyan battlefield, even as British and other Western officials maintain that his regime is “crumbling” from the inside.

Benefiting from a change in tactics, Colonel Qaddafi’s forces have made significant gains against rebels with more nimble units that are harder for Western allies to target by air. Rebels, now lacking the curtain of airstrikes that paved their rapid westward advance last weekend, appear to be relinquishing their determination to battle Qaddafi’s forces all the way to Tripoli.

An opposition leader said today that rebel forces would agree to a cease-fire if the Libyan leader pulled his loyalists out of cities and allowed peaceful protests.

The condition for the cease-fire is “that the Qaddafi brigades and forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom,” said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the opposition’s Benghazi-based interim governing council.

Despite the apparent offer, the rebel aim remained toppling Qaddafi, to “liberate and have sovereignty over all of Libya with its capital in Tripoli,” said Mr. Abdul-Jalil, according to the Associated Press.

Qaddafi family envoy meets with British officials

In Britain, the defection of one of Qaddafi’s closest confidantes this week and a trusted Qaddafi envoy for confidential talks in London have shifted focus from the war front to the level of support the Libyan leader still commands from his inner circle.

Mohammed Ismail, a senior aide to Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, has held secret talks with British official in recent days – with speculation about negotiating a safe exit.

The report, which first appeared in the Guardian newspaper late Thursday, came as one of Qaddafi’s most senior confidantes of 30 years – former intelligence chief and foreign minister Moussa Koussa – defected late Wednesday, with more lined up to follow.

The British Foreign Office said it would not “provide a running commentary” on its contacts with senior Libyans, though a western diplomatic source told the Guardian: “There has been increasing evidence recently that the sons want a way out.”

Though subsequent reports cast doubt on Mr. Ismail’s visit, saying it was personal and not mandated by Qaddafi, news of the meeting – together with Mr. Koussa’s defection – have given weight to comments by Western officials that Qaddafi’s regime is fraying at the seams.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Koussa’s defection shows “fear right at the very top of the crumbling and rotten Qaddafi regime.”

“The message that was delivered to [Ismail] is that Qaddafi has to go, and that there will be accountability for crimes committed in the international criminal court,” the Guardian quoted the Foreign Office as saying.

US Navy chief: Harder to attack Qaddafi forces now

The US, France, and other allied nations have also stated clearly their desire for Qaddafi to go – even though regime change is not part of the mandate of the March 18 United Nations Security Council resolution, which calls for “all necessary means” to protect civilians.

Along the front lines, reports emerged of rebel forces attempting to mobilize anew against loyalist units, which have shifted tactics to minimize damage from coalition airstrikes. In many cases, loyalist forces have swapped their heavy armor – which is easily targetable by allied aircraft – for open-backed battlewagons and other vehicles that resemble those used by the rebels.

That change has complicated allied strikes in recent days, according to US Navy Chief of Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, who told Monitor editors in Boston on Thursday that Qaddafi’s forces had broken into smaller and more nimble units that are not easily distinguishable from the rebels.

“The coordination that is required for attacking, particularly small [loyalist] units, is not there simply because of the nature of the presence – or lack thereof – that’s on the ground,” said Admiral Roughead.

It was not clear how the presence of small teams of CIA operatives, now reported to be active in rebel-controlled territory in eastern Libya to help with targeting and identifying rebel needs, might begin to address that problem.

Rebels move heavy weapons, trained officers to front

Friday morning there were signs that the rebels – who in four days have been pushed back some 150 miles along the contested Mediterranean coastal road – were reassessing their military effort and moving more weapons toward the oil town of Brega.

Reuters quoted rebels in Ajdabiyah saying that only heavy weaponry was being allowed at the front, and that more trained officers would be using it. That decision comes after days in which television footage has showed panicked mass retreats, and exposed the rebels as disorganized, poorly equipped, and prone to fear.

“Only those who have large weapons are being allowed through. Civilians without weapons are prohibited,” volunteer rebel fighter Ahmed Zaitoun told Reuters.

“Today we have officers coming with us. Before we went alone,” Mr. Zaitoun told the news agency. He pointed to man stopped at the checkpoint: “He is a young boy and he doesn’t have a gun. What will he do up there?”

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0401/Libyan-rebels-offer-cease-fire.-Does-Qaddafi-have-the-upper-hand