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3/30/15

Leave Facebook if you don't want to be spied on, warns EU

The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, finding that current Safe Harbour legislation does not protect citizen’s data.

The comments were made by EC attorney Bernhard Schima in a case brought by privacy campaigner Maximilian Schrems, looking at whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if sent to the US in a post-Snowden revelation landscape.

“You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one,” Schima told attorney general Yves Bot in a hearing of the case at the European court of justice in Luxembourg.

When asked directly, the commission could not confirm to the court that the Safe Harbour rules provide adequate protection of EU citizens’ data as it currently stands.

he case, dubbed “the Facebook data privacy case”, concerns the current Safe Harbour framework, which covers the transmission of EU citizens’ data across the Atlantic to the US. Without the framework, it is against EU law to transmit private data outside of the EU. The case collects complaints lodged against Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Microsoft-owned Skype and Yahoo.

Schrems maintains that companies operating inside the EU should not be allowed to transfer data to the US under Safe Harbour protections – which state that US data protection rules are adequate if information is passed by companies on a “self-certify” basis – because the US no longer qualifies for such a status.

The case argues that the US government’s Prism data collection programme, revealed by Edward Snowden in the NSA files, which sees EU citizens’ data held by US companies passed on to US intelligence agencies, breaches the EU’s Data Protection Directive “adequacy” standard for privacy protection, meaning that the Safe Harbour framework no longer applies.

Read more: Leave Facebook if you don't want to be spied on, warns EU | Technology | The Guardian

3/29/15

IRAN: Tehran ′conditionally willing to accept new nuclear constraints′

Sources familiar with talks on Iran's nuclear program say Tehran may accept sharper curbs on it if they are of shorter duration. Israel has meanwhile again slammed the proposed deal.

The sources said Tehran could agree to operate only some 6,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment as against the around 10,000 currently in operation, if the limitation were to tend toward the lower end of the 8-15 year range that is being discussed.

Their comments come as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif holds talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, with several international counterparts in a bid to hammer out a preliminary deal by a self-imposed Tuesday deadline.

The deal, to be finalized by the end of June, would see Tehran cutting back its nuclear activities - which many Western countries fear are aimed at creating atomic weapons - in return for the scrapping of economic sanctions.

In view of the Tuesday deadline, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on all parties at the talks to make a final big effort, saying that the last stretch was "the hardest, but the most decisive."

Read more: Tehran ′conditionally willing to accept new nuclear constraints′ | News | DW.DE | 29.03.2015

Middle East:: Arab League summit wraps up with plan for pan-Arab force

Arab leaders have agreed to try to form a joint military force to tackle regional crises. Saudi Arabia is already leading a coalition of Arab countries that have been conducting airstrikes against rebels in Yemen.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (pictured above), who hosted the two-day Arab Summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, told the final session of the gathering that the leaders had agreed in principle to form the pan-Arab force. He said a high-level committee would be formed to work out the details of implementing the force.

Other Egyptian officials said it was to include up to 40,000 elite troops backed up by fighter jets and warships. However, it wasn't immediately clear how many of the Arab League's 22 member states were prepared to contribute to the proposed force.

Much of the discussion over the past two days focused on Yemen, which the elected president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, fled late last week, before traveling to Sharm el-Sheikh.

With Shiite Muslim Houthi forces advancing on President Hadi's power base of Aden in the south of the country, Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, along with several other Arab nations, launched a bombing campaign against the rebels four days ago. So far though, there was little evidence that the air campaign had stopped the Houthi advance.

Read more:: Arab League summit wraps up with plan for pan-Arab force | News | DW.DE | 29.03.2015

France - The ‘moderate’ imam who claims ‘all women are selfish’

An imam in France has claimed in a sermon that selfishness is part of “the nature of women”, comments that have shocked all the more because of his reputation as a progressive influence on Islam in the country. “No matter how much good you bestow upon a woman, she will deny it. Her selfishness drives her to deny it.”

These were the words of Imam Mohamed Khattabi, delivered during a Friday sermon at the Aicha Mosque in Montpellier, southern France, on March 6, two days before International Women’s Day.

Standing high in the mosque’s minbar (pulpit), Khattabi continued: “This holds true for all women, whether Western, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. This is the nature of women.

“If a woman overcomes her nature and acknowledges [the truth] … Allah grants her a higher place in paradise. But if she succumbs to her nature, and refuses to acknowledge the man's rights – or rather, the goodness that man bestows upon her – she is destined to go to [hell]…”

Read more: France - The ‘moderate’ imam who claims ‘all women are selfish’ - France 24

3/28/15

Soccer -European Championship: Wesley Sneijder rescues Netherlands for stoppage-time draw vs. Turkey

Holland continued to struggle in their European Championship qualifying campaign as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Turkey at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday March 28.

Burak Yilmaz fired Turkey into the lead thanks to a deflection in the 37th minute and Holland had to wait until second-half stoppage time for Wesley Sneijder to score the equaliser which saw them narrowly avoid their third defeat in Group A.

The result left them six points adrift of leaders Czech Republic and one point ahead of Turkey in third place, five behind Iceland who defeated bottom side Kazakhstan 3-0 earlier in the day.

Read more: Wesley Sneijder rescues Netherlands for stoppage-time draw vs. Turkey | FOX Sports

Space Research: Russia & US agree to build new space station after ISS, work on joint Mars project

In a landmark decision, Russian space agency Roscosmos and its US counterpart NASA have agreed to build a new space station after the current International Space Station (ISS) expires.

The operation of the ISS was prolonged until 2024.

“We have agreed that Roscosmos and NASA will be working together on the program of a future space station," Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov said during a news conference on Saturday.

 Read more: Russia & US agree to build new space station after ISS, work on joint Mars project — RT News

Nuclear Negotiations: Iran appeals to world leaders as nuclear deadline nears

Iranian President Hassan Rohani appealed to world leaders including US President Barack Obama on Thursday as part of an intense diplomatic push to ensure that a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program can be reached ahead of a deadline next week.

Rohani wrote to the American president, US officials confirmed, as well as to the leaders of the five other powers heading efforts to resolve the 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Talks on the subject resumed in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Thursday.

Negotiators are racing against the clock to meet a March 31 deadline by which it is hoped a framework for a deal can be agreed.

Read more: Asia-pacific - Iran appeals to world leaders as nuclear deadline nears - France 24

Middle East - Mideast's religious minorities at risk of 'genocide'

Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East are being targeted and some are facing a possible "genocide" by Islamic State militants, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the UN on Friday.

Speaking at a UN Security Council debate, Fabius said an "action charter" was needed to address the threat from the Islamic State group.

"We are witnessing a true genocide," Fabius said. "The Islamic State group in particular kills, enslaves or exiles people who don't think like them, especially Christians. It's not enough to raise awareness – we need to implement concrete solutions to protect these vulnerable populations."

Read more: Middle East - Mideast's religious minorities at risk of 'genocide' - France 24

Middle East: Why the U.S. Is Fighting Beside Iran in Iraq and Against It in Yemen - by Karl Vick

Tehran and Washington share an interest in re-establishing state authority in Iraq, but in Yemen their agendas diverge

Just to set the scene: In Iraq on Wednesday March 25, U.S. warplanes began providing air cover to Iranian-backed militias in Tikrit, in a joint effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) coordinated through the Iraqi government.

On the same day, 1,200 miles to the south in Yemen, the U.S. was providing guidance to Saudi pilots bombing Shia insurgents who are supported by Iran. So the U.S. was bombing Iran’s enemies in one country, and helping to bomb Iran’s allies in another.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, American and Iranian diplomats were resuming their intense talks about how to contain Tehran’s nuclear program. Both sides insisted the negotiations were confined to matters atomic, nothing else. And that’s a good thing, because the ever-complex Middle East has never looked more so than it does at this moment.

Read more: Why the U.S. Is Fighting Beside Iran in Iraq and Against It in Yemen | TIME