During video testimony to the Council of Europe, whistleblower Edward Snowden reiterated that the NSA targets human rights groups
, including those in the USA, for surveillance. It uses its Xkeyscore technology to "fingerprint" communications from these groups and targets them for deep surveillance. Groups that have been targeted in this way include UNICEF and many others.
Sulka sez, "A Finnish MEP (Anneli Jäättenmäki) visited US and got told that given ACTA has been prepared entirely outside of Congress and isn't ratified, it's probably not legally binding towards US. The process has also been similar in other countries (Finland included), so it's questionable if the treaty has any power."
I visited Washington in the European Parliament, the Liberal andCentre Group Presidency with the beginning of the week. We met with U.S. Congressional representatives and financial experts. One of the most talked subjects had anti-counterfeiting agreement, Acta.
We heard some unexpected information. U.S. Congress senator responsible for ACTA foreign trade committee chairman Ron Wyden, said he'd tried to find out if Acta is binding towards US or not. Congress has been kept outside of the process for forming the treaty, and the senator has received no response to his inquiries.
We also got to hear that the U.S. government does not intend to give Congress a vote on the agreement as it would collapse in Congress, which is a pretty worrying rationale. According to the U.S. law, Congress always deals with international agreements.
The U.S. government characterized in a reply to Wyden that ACTA is a bilateral trade agreements and as such has no effect on U.S. law. The big question remains as to whether the Acta at all binding on the United States.
The European Commission assumes that Acta is binding on the signatory countries. ACTA's credibility is seriously at stake if its signatories can apply it as they see fit.
The EU Commission and the European Parliament have given ACTA to the EU Court of Justice for review. ACTA was negotiated in secret, and the parties have failed to tell the agreements content. It is right that the agreement's effects of fundamental rights of citizens are being reviewed.
This Agreement shall come into force only after ratification of the European Parliament and all Member States. Now the ratification of the Treaty appears to be rather distant matter.
Actasta uusia yllätyksiä
Michael Geist sez, "The U.S. government just concluded a consultation on whether it should support Canada's entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. The TPP raises significant concerns about extension of copyright and overbroad protection for digital locks, so staying out might be a good thing. However, the IIPA, which represents the major movie, music, and software lobby associations, sees this as an opportunity to force Canada to enact a Canadian DMCA and to implement ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It has told the US government to keep Canada out of the talks until those laws are passed, adding that any exception to protect Canadian culture will not be included in the TPP."
TPP is the second coming of ACTA, the last round of incalculably evil, back-room copyright shenanigans. This seems like a pretty big miscalculation from America's copyright-pushers: "If you don't pass the crazy, awful copyright laws we've demanded, we won't let you be a part of our suicide-by-copyright-pact." Say it ain't so!
US Copyright Lobby Wants Canada Out of TPP Until New Laws Passed, Warns of No Cultural Exceptions
On the eve of the enactment of Spain's harsh new copyright law, El Pais has published a leaked letter from the US Ambassador to the outgoing Spanish president ordering him to enact the copyright law America's industry wants to see, or face trade sanctions.
Spain's new law establishes a Syrian/Chinese style censoring firewall that blocks websites on the basis of unproven copyright claims, and mirrors the matching provisions of the proposed US Stop Online Piracy Act, making censorship into one of today's leading American exports.
In a letter dated 12 December and obtained by Spanish newspaper El Pais, US ambassador Alan Solomont wrote to the outgoing Spanish president expressing his concern about the lack of movement on a online piracy bill, known as the Sinde law.
"The government has unfortunately failed to finish the job for political reasons, to the detriment of the reputation and economy of Spain..." In his letter, Solomont issued veiled threats, reminding its recipients that Spain is on the Special 301, the US trade representatives' list of countries that do not provide "adequate and effective" protection of intellectual property rights. Spain risks having its position on the list "degraded", and could join the real blacklist of "the worst violators of global intellectual property rights."
US pressured Spain to implement online piracy law, leaked files shows
The Guardian reports on life for visible minorities under Alabama's new "immigration" law that allows the police to detain and question "suspicious" (that is, brown) people and arrest them if they don't have immigration papers -- even if they're American-born US citizens. Many people of Hispanic origin have walked out of their jobs in protest, while others are fleeing the state:
Even families legally entitled to be in the country are being caught. Cineo Gonzalez was shocked a few weeks ago when his six-year-old daughter came home from school carrying a printout. It gave details of HB56 and its implications, under the heading: "Frequent questions about the immigration law."
Gonzalez is a US permanent resident, having come from Mexico more than 20 years ago. His daughter is an American citizen, having been born in Alabama. Both are entirely legal. Yet she was one of only two children in her class – both Hispanic in appearance – who were given the printout.
Why was she singled out, Gonzalez asked the deputy head teacher. "Because we gave the printout to children we thought were not from here," came the reply.
Gonzalez is a taxi driver. Soon after the law came into effect, he began getting calls from Hispanic families. "People started asking me for prices. How much would it cost to go to Indiana? How much to New York? Or Atlanta, or Texas, or Ohio, or North Carolina?"
According to the US Dept of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child in a middle-income family has increased by 40 percent over the past ten years. Every major category of child-rearing expense has seen steep increase: day-care, education, food, gas, medical insurance, and so on. At this rate, childrearing may become a luxury item for America's increasingly wealthy super-rich.
"It takes half of my paycheck to pay for my child care -- you start to feel like, Is this even worth it?" said Anna Aasen, a mother of two from Roseburg, Ore.
The rising cost of raising a child
In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded the median annual rent payments in every single state, according to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA.
"It defies logic," said Linda Smith, NACCRRA's executive director. As more families are priced out of licensed child care services, the health and safety of those children are put in jeopardy, she said.
For Stephanie Serafini, 38, licensed day care for her two children comprises about 30% of her $39,000 annual income. Serafini pays a particularly high rate for care because her oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD.
It is by far Serafini's largest monthly expense, but also the one with the least flexibility. "Other bills don't get paid," she admitted. "If you don't have day care you don't work."