US Internet User Data Still Unprotected

Washington, March 29 (Prensa Latina) US Internet access providers still have today the possibility to sell their customers' personal data to third parties without the obligation to obtain explicit permission.

As the Senate did last week, yesterday the House of Representatives approved with 215 votes in favor and 205 against the annulment of a regulation of the Federal Communication Commission that regulated the matter.

The text, which came out in 2016, had not yet come into force, newspaper reports said, adding that the new rule should be signed by President Donald Trump in the coming days.

By its part, civil right defender organizations criticized the decision of Congress because it allows the uncontrolled dissemination of personal data.

Among such information -they exemplified- religious beliefs, political positions, sexual orientation and health states of users can be revealed.

According to Natasha Duarte, from the Center for Democracy and Technology, these issues are among the most intimate in a person's life, and consumers must be able to control what companies do.

Users' data belong to consumers, not to providers, Democrat John Lewis wrote on the social network Twitter.

In his opinion, personal information should not be sold for profit by entities that offer access to the so-called network of networks.

  • Published in World

Trump wading into Mideast quagmire over Turkey and Kurds in Syria

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave notice this week that the Trump administration was stepping up its military involvement in Syria and Iraq. But the military road map he laid out is in danger of leading the US even deeper into problems.

Most problematic perhaps is the fact that US forces are deepening their alliance with Kurdish militants in northern Syria. That has grave implications for a rupture with Washington’s key NATO ally Turkey, as well as the danger of an eventual confrontation with Syrian government forces.

Tillerson, the top US foreign policy official, was addressing leaders of the 68-nation American-led coalition gathered in Washington on plans to defeat Islamic State (IS or ISIS) terrorism.

Recall that President Trump had made signature promises during his election campaign that he would “knock the hell out of ISIS” – as well as “drain the swamp” of government inefficiency in Washington DC.

Keeping to his word about coming up with a master plan to defeat terrorism, the Trump administration this week announced a much more vigorous military intervention in Syria and Iraq than was seen under President Barack Obama.

@StateDept Secretary Tillerson outlines progress, successes in fight against ISIS.

The irony, however, is that while Obama spent eight years trying to get the US out of a quagmire in the Middle East created by his predecessor, GW Bush, now President Trump seems to be heading right back into the morass. Even more ironically is that Trump had used his inauguration speech on January 20 to say that his administration was done with “nation building” and costly military interventions overseas.

At least from what Tillerson announced this week during the coalition summit, it would appear that US military forces are preparing to occupy areas of Syria and Iraq for the long term. Said Tillerson: “The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS.”

There seems little ambiguity about what that entails. US troops are being committed to, if not nation building, then “region building” within countries.

Secretary of State Tillerson added: “Local leaders and local governments will take on the process of restoring their communities in the wake of ISIS with our support. The development of a rejuvenated civil society in these places will lead to a disenfranchisement of ISIS and the emergence of stability and peace where there was once chaos and suffering. But none of this will happen automatically. We all need to support this effort.”

Granted, it could all be just grandiose hot air from Washington, which will blow away as soon the military going gets tough.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration appears to be indeed wading deeply into the Middle East.

The clearest sign was the major airlift this week by US forces of Kurdish insurgents to Raqqa, the strategic ISIS stronghold in Syria. Up to 1,000 US marines were reportedly involved in the operation. The development evidently goes beyond Pentagon claims that its troops are acting merely as “military advisers” to Kurdish fighters. American forces are digging in as part of the anticipated offensive to take Raqqa.

And if the plans laid out by Tillerson are held to, then the US troops will remain in the area to help the Kurds build governance. The same goes for other areas in northern Syria and Iraq where American forces are deployed to “liberate from ISIS”.

Turkey is claiming that US military supplies to Kurdish militias have been boosted. It appears that Washington has decided to throw its weight behind the Kurds as the most effective fighting force against the Islamists. Previous attempts by the US to organize Sunni Arab formations have reportedly proven lackluster, to say the least.

However, in backing the Kurds, the Trump administration is risking a rupture with NATO ally Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly warned of a “collision course” if Washington persists in working with the Kurds. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are viewed by the Ankara government as “terrorists” affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based inside Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party fear that the Syrian Kurds will form an autonomous state in northern Syria, which in turn will serve to bolster the separatist Kurds across the border in Turkey.

When Turkey launched its incursion – dubbed Euphrates Shield – into northern Syria last August, the main reason cited by Ankara was to contain Kurdish militants and prevent them gaining a foothold around the Euphrates River.

Now it appears to Ankara that the US is sacrificing its longtime alliance by taking up arms with the Kurds – a sworn enemy of Turkey.

Reuters quotes one senior Turkish official fuming with exasperation, saying: “It appears that the US may carry out this operation with the YPG, not with Turkey. And at the same time the US is giving weapons to the YPG. If this operation is carried out in this manner there will be a cost for Turkey-US relations, because the YPG is a terrorist organization.”

In a separate report, another senior Turkish security official said Ankara had given Washington an ultimatum on the issue: “Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us… This message was delivered to the Americans.”

Turkey is demanding that the US backs Arab militias belonging to the so-called Free Syrian Army. But past experience has shown these units to be unreliable. Besides, the die seems to have already been cast, with Washington moving decisively to align with the Kurds.

US airlifts Syrian fighters in bid to surround in

If the Trump administration holds to its plan, as outlined this week by Rex Tillerson, of deploying US troops to consolidate self-governing areas, then the American presence with the Kurds will inevitably be for the long haul. That is going to intensify strains between Ankara and Washington. Just when Erdogan was hoping that the new Trump administration might be more amenable than the Obama one, which he fell afoul with over Syrian policy and the attempted coup in Turkey last July.

But a potential quagmire for Trump does not stop there. Syrian President Bashar al Assad recently warned that any US troops present in his country would be viewed as “aggressors”.

If American troops were to set up long-term missions to help the Kurds around Raqqa and northern Syria, it seems only a matter of time before the Syrian national army will be compelled to challenge the presence of US forces in the country. Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies have repeatedly said that Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity are inviolable.

Thus if Trump tries to make a gung-ho success of policy in the Middle East – and let’s face he needs to show some achievement given his domestic woes – his administration is liable to encounter multiple snafus. From the Turks, Kurds and Syrians, not to mention serious implications with regard to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Trump is already having wearisome trouble draining the swamp in Washington. The last thing he needs is to wade further into a Middle East quagmire.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

USA: Shaky press freedom

Journalists from major US media outlets were blocked from meeting with White House spokesman Sean Spicer.

This unprecedented incident happened last Friday, after they had been summoned to attend the press briefing.

The news was reported from NY by Presenter Carolina M. Adalid, who cited among those media outlets: The New York Times, BBC, Politico, Los Angeles Times and CNN.

According to Adalid, the event takes place in the context of the “war” the Trump administration is waging against press media.

She thinks, like many observers, that this official onslaught is increasing.

Last week’s unsuccessful meeting with spokesman Spicer has an informal character now and replaces the one usually carried out with questions and answers between the president’s press secretary and those “political correspondents”.

Carolina Adalid recalls that the setback of last Friday took place hours later that Trump lashed out again at the press.

According to her, he called them “fake news media”, the enemy of the American people.

Experts recall that this anti-journalistic crusade is not new, because he has carried it out since his stage as republican presidential pre-candidate.

Trump tries to soften the expression “enemies”, by saying it’s aimed at those who produce “fake news”.

He includes several sources, whose journalists were banned from covering the briefing with the presidential spokesman last Friday.

When did the head of state, who has been increasingly cornering the activity of his press men and women, speak like that?

Thus Carolina Adalid wrote, before an audience “that applauded his comments on the outlets”, which do not represent the people.

Other reports highlighted the attendance at the press briefing with Spicer of journalists from outlets with less scope and with more conservative style.

Also allowed to access the meeting were TV networks such as NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News, as well as British Agency Reuters.

However, another official spokeswoman, Stephani Grisham, dared to deny there was a blockade on certain media outlets.

But, according to The Hill, a publication headquartered in Washington, also barred from attending, the White House handpicked the journalists.

Spokespeople from several organizations stated that some received invitations for the meeting, but others didn’t.

Carolina Adalid denounced that members of the Secret Service “asked” the journalists from the excluded news outlets to leave the area.

Two entities, The Associated Press (AP) and Times Magazine, decided not to participate at the briefing in solidarity with the barred outlets.

In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) issued its rejection for the incident.

Jeff Mason, its president, told CNN: “We are not satisfied” how the meeting has been handled.

Dean Baquet, The New York Times executive editor, recalled that nothing like this has “ever” happened in his long history covering news under different governments”.

Washington’s propaganda has referred to freedom of the press and prosecuted other countries severely for many years.

But now, as a sample button, United States rigorously selects those who attend or not a meeting with the president’s spokesperson.

And this happens, when its links with the media are plunged into deep chaos, hence how a shaky democracy works.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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