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Violence as Ukraine anti-protest law enacted – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Violence as Ukraine anti-protest law enacted – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

A controversial anti-protest law has come into effect in Ukraine, despite violent rallies against the legislation that have taken place for the past two days, ignoring an appeal for calm by President Viktor Yanukovych.

The new law, which bans all forms of protests, was published in the official Golos Ukrainy, or Voice of Ukraine, newspaper, raising fears that the government would use excessive force to quell dissent.

Opposition and and the West have condemned the bill, demanding that it be reversed, but the interior ministry said at least 32 protesters had been arrested in the most recent round of demonstrations.

Yanukovych made a call for calm on Monday, when demonstrators braved sub-zero temperatures and clashed with police over new anti-protest laws.

A statement issued on the presidential website said: “When peaceful actions have escalated into mass riots accompanied by demolition, arson and violence, I am confident that such phenomena threaten not only Kiev but the whole of the Ukraine. I call for dialogue, compromise and peace in our native land.”

The situation was tense in Kiev, with protesters occasionally charging against police lines guarding the passage to government buildings, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

The violence, which began on Sunday, came after Yanukovych pushed through an anti-protest law that significantly increased fines and imposed jail terms for unauthorised street protests.

The new law also prohibits activists from wearing helmets or masks to demonstrations, curbs free speech and limits the ability to investigate or monitor the activity of officials, including judges.

Sunday’s fighting left about 200 people wounded.

Reconciliation talks

In an attempt to find a compromise, opposition leader and former boxer Vitali Klitschko travelled to Yanukovych’s home outside Kiev to meet him.

The president received Klitschko and promised on Monday to create a special commission of officials set up by national security council secretary Andriy Klyuyev to solve the crisis. The move was announced by Klitscko’s party, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, and the presidency.

The presidency said the new commission would meet the opposition but there was no sign that the meeting had taken place as of Monday evening.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels deplored the continued violence, saying the government was at fault for adopting the repressive laws.

The White House urged an end to the fighting, with US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urged “all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation”.

“The US will continue to consider additional steps – including sanctions – in response to the use of violence,” Hayden added.

Obama Said to Favor Limits on Spying on Foreign Leaders – Bloomberg

Obama Said to Favor Limits on Spying on Foreign Leaders – Bloomberg.

Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg
The administration is fighting a domestic and international backlash over revelations the NSA spied on leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

President Barack Obama will call for tighter limits on U.S. spying on foreign leaders in response to a global uproar over government surveillance, according to an administration official familiar with the proposal.

The restrictions are part of an Obama plan to curb National Security Agency spying exposed last year in documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden. With the proposal, to be announced as soon as next week, the administration is seeking to rein in U.S. surveillance without sacrificing its ability to use electronic intelligence gathering to fight terrorism.

It’s unclear how far Obama will go to limit spying on foreign leaders, and the official who confirmed the restrictions on condition of anonymity declined to provide further details. White House officials have suggested that Obama may be willing to curtail snooping on allies while preserving the ability to listen on leaders from hostile nations.

The administration is fighting a domestic and international backlash over revelations the NSA spied on leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (GOOG), hacked into fiber-optic cables to get data from Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), and intercepted Americans’ communications without warrants. Most of the spying was exposed by Snowden, who’s in Russiaunder temporary asylum.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

White House officials have suggested that U.S. President Barack Obama may be willing to…Read More

A White House panel reviewing U.S. surveillance programs recommended in a report last month the creation of new criteria for spying on foreign leaders, including determining whether electronic surveillance is necessary and whether there are other means to obtain the needed information.

Obama Meeting

Obama plans to unveil the changes without waiting for a separate independent privacy board to release its finding on whether the collection of bulk phone records is legal. He’s widely expected to call for putting a privacy advocate on the secret court that oversees the NSA programs, and is considering limits on the government’s ability to collect and store phone records.

A meeting Obama held yesterday with the five members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, all of whom he nominated, “was a useful opportunity for the president to hear the group’s views,” Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement.

The board said after the meeting that it plans to issue a report by late January or early February on whether the collection of bulk phone records is legal and recommendations on “the right balance between national security and privacy and civil liberties.”

Not Waiting

Obama isn’t waiting for that report, which could run counter to his decisions. He will announce his proposals for altering NSA surveillance programs before his annual State of the Union address on Jan. 28, and perhaps as early as next week, according to an administration official familiar with the deliberations who requested anonymity in discussing the matter.

Obama thanked members of the privacy board for “their thoughtful work” and “made clear that it will be factored into the administration’s thinking” as decisions are made, Hayden said.

The president and his aides previously have hinted at a willingness to reduce spying on some foreign leaders and create a public advocate to represent privacy concerns before the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Obama is “still in the process of deliberating,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday. He is using meetings with stakeholders this week to shape his decisions and “appreciates very much the opinions and counsel he’s getting on these matters,” Carney said.

Review Panel

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology recommended in its reportlast month putting limits on the NSA, including prohibiting the agency from collecting and storing billions of phone records. Instead, the data should be held by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)AT&T Inc. (T) and other U.S. carriers or another third party and only accessed by the NSA with a court warrant, the panel said.

The panel also recommended legislation allowing Google, Facebook Inc. (FB) and other Internet companies to publicly release information about government orders compelling them to turn over data about their users, and how many users are affected.

Carney said in October that the U.S. wasn’t monitoring, and wouldn’t monitor going forward, Merkel’s communications, after a backlash following revelations that the U.S. had spied on friendly foreign leaders including Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

While Obama called Merkel yesterday to wish her a speedy recovery following a ski accident, a White House statement about the call did not mention any discussion of his upcoming NSA announcement.

Privacy Advocates

Obama plans to meet today with top lawmakers on the Senate and House judiciary and intelligence committees. Separately, privacy advocates from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Open Technology Institute and Cato Institute plan to meet with White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler.

“I would certainly hope the president is adopting the bulk of the panel’s recommendations, which were generally favorably received within the privacy community,” David Sobel, senior counsel for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a phone interview.

Privacy advocates will be disappointed if Obama doesn’t make significant changes, Sobel said. “In light of the review panel’s findings, it’s difficult to see how that approach would be justified,” he said.

Tomorrow, White House staff members will meet with executives from technology companies to discuss U.S. surveillance programs, according to an administration official who asked not to be identified discussing the meeting.

Senate Testimony

The intelligence review panel’s five members are scheduled to testify about their recommendations before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 14.

The privacy board said it also plans to release a separate report on an NSA program that compels Internet companies to turn over data on users.

Under that program, the NSA can intercept the communications of innocent Americans without a warrant, as long as they aren’t the target of a counterterrorism investigation. A warrant is required by law if an American citizen becomes the target.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington atcstrohm1@bloomberg.net; Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net; Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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