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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 29, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Mulls Spying Constraints

The Obama administration is considering ending its surveillance of allied heads of state, a move that came one day after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called for a "total review of all intelligence programs" (AP). White House officials said President Obama was not briefed on many details of the National Security Agency's spying programs, but some current and former intelligence officials said the practices were approved by the White House and State Department (LATimes). Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose mobile phone was allegedly tapped by the NSA, said the spying issue shouldn't hinder EU-U.S. trade negotiations despite calls from her own party to freeze talks (DeutscheWelle).


"The damage is hard to overstate. This is not just the US bugging a head of government who happens to be a close ally and Europe's pivotal leader. She also grew up under the German Democratic Republic and the surveillance of the Stasi secret police. She is right to regard this revelation as a serious breach of trust," writes the Financial Times in an editorial.

"There is much talk today about the risks of a new era of American isolationism and a lack of U.S. leadership in the world. It is important to remember that isolationism can be triggered not only by a potential retreat from global affairs, but also by the rather imprudent use of America's hard and soft power on the world stage," writes Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg for Project Syndicate.

"We are not reassured by the often-heard explanation that everyone spies on everyone else all the time. We are not advocating a return to 1929 when Secretary of State Henry Stimson banned the decryption of diplomatic cables because 'gentlemen do not read each other's mail.' But there has long been an understanding that international spying was done in pursuit of a concrete threat to national security," the New York Times writes in an editorial.


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China Suspects Tiananmen Crash a Suicide Attack

Chinese police are looking for two suspects, possibly ethnic Uighurs from the restive Xinjiang region, who might be connected to an attack on Tiananmen Square on Monday that killed five people and injured dozens (Reuters).

NORTH KOREA: Recent satellite images suggested major construction work at a main missile launch site in North Korea, which could allow the country to use larger rockets (Telegraph).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Six Party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.



India Raises Interest Rates to Curb Inflation

India's new central bank governor raised interest rates for the second consecutive month by 0.25 percent to 7.75 percent in order to check inflation, which hit 6.46 percent in September (Hindu).

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan villagers killed a man suspected of planting a roadside bomb that killed eighteen people on their way to a wedding on Sunday (Guardian).



Egyptian Athlete Stripped of Medal for Morsi Support

An Egyptian kung fu champion was stripped of his gold medal and banned from representing his country after being photographed at a competition in Russia wearing a T-shirt with a symbol showing solidarity with supporters of the ousted president Morsi (BBC).

SYRIA: The World Health Organization confirmed an outbreak of polio in Syria and said the risk is high for the spread of the debilitating virus in the region (al-Jazeera).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the conflict in Syria and the global response.



U.S. Steps Up Effort to Capture Kony

The United States has intensified support for African forces searching for Joseph Kony, the Lord's Resistance Army warlord infamous for recruiting child soldiers, and is advising African troops in Congo, Uganda, and South Sudan in order to capture the leader, thought to be hiding in the Central African Republic (WaPo).

SOMALIA: A U.S. military strike in Somalia hit a vehicle carrying senior members of al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked group, killing a bomb specialist, according to U.S. officials (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of al-Shabab.



France's Hollande Faces Tax Revolt

President Francois Hollande, whose most recent polls made him the country's most unpopular leader, is facing a public backlash against his tax hikes, from farmers protesting a trucking tax to soccer stars who are refusing to play a round of matches because of a millionaire tax (Bloomberg).

SWITZERLAND: UBS was ordered by Switzerland's financial regulator to increase the amount of capital it holds to deal with continued litigation and compliance risks (FT).



Fed Taper Unlikely Amid Dimmer Economic Outlook

After the sixteen-day partial government shutdown and some lackluster economic data, few analysts expect the Federal Reserve to reduce its $85 billion a month bond-buying program when it meets this week, a reversal of the consensus expectation held in mid-September (AP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the role of the U.S. Federal Reserve.



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