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The French parliament has adopted a formal motion declaring burkas and other forms of Islamic dress to be “an affront to the nation’s values.” Some have accused criminals, from terrorists to shoplifters, of wearing veils to disguise themselves.

A ban, which could be introduced as early as the autumn, would make France the second country after Belgium to outlaw the Islamic veil in public places.

But many have criticised the anti-burka lobby, which includes the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for stigmatising Muslim housewives.

Read the entire article at the Times Online UK


AP: Salazar urges splitting energy agency

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to split up an Interior Department agency that oversees offshore drilling, as part of its response to the Gulf Coast oil spill, The Associated Press has learned.

An administration official who asked not to be identified because the plan is not yet public said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will urge that Congress approve splitting the Minerals Management Service in two. One agency would be charged with inspecting oil rigs, investigating oil companies and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties.

Currently, the Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department, is responsible for collecting more than $10 billion a year from oil and gas drilling and with enforcing laws and regulations that apply to drilling operations.

Some critics have said the two roles are in conflict and are one reason the agency has long been accused of being too cozy with the oil and natural gas industry.

An internal investigation in 2008 described a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by workers at the agency. The investigation by Interior’s inspector general found workers at the MMS royalty collection office in Denver partied, had sex with and used drugs with energy company representatives. Workers also accepted gifts, ski trips and golf outings, the report by Inspector General Earl E. Devaney said.

Devaney decried “a culture of ethical failure” and an agency rife with conflicts of interest.

Read the full article here

Bloomberg: Oil-Spill Agency Fetches $13 Billion Amid ‘Cozy’ Ties

New York Times: Sex & Drugs & the Spill

AP: NYC’s Bloomberg in London to view transit CCTV

LONDON – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in London to observe the network of security cameras on the city’s transport system.

Bloomberg was shown around a closed-circuit television facility at Westminster Underground station by London Mayor Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

There are 12,000 cameras on London’s subway system, and city officials tout their role in combating crime and terrorism.

Bloomberg has expressed enthusiasm for London’s network of security cameras, one of the world’s largest.

The surveillance “ring of steel” around London’s central business district was the inspiration for a 3,000-camera system in lower Manhattan. A similar system is planned for midtown.

Some cite the Times Square bomb plot as an example of why New York needs such surveillance.

AP: Iraq boosts security after deadliest day this year

BAGHDAD — Iraq boosted security around Baghdad and the rest of the country Tuesday, a day after a string of attacks across the country killed 119 people and wounded hundreds.

The sheer breadth of the attacks, stretching from cities in the north to the normally peaceful southern port of Basra, was a blow after recent victories against insurgents and raised questions about the militants’ enduring strength.

Across Baghdad, as helicopters buzzed through the skies, new checkpoints were established, especially in the east side of the city. In the past, however, boosted security has often lapsed within a few days.

South of Baghdad, around the provincial capital of Hillah where the most devastating attack took place, authorities beefed up manpower at checkpoints and searched cars more frequently.

At least 50 people died in Hillah after a pair of car bombs exploded at a factory, luring over rescuers and onlookers, many of whom were then killed by a suicide bomb.

New York Magazine: City Shutters La Esquina
Aileen Gallagher

Cancel those La Esquina plans: The restaurant is temporarily closed. “The Department of Buildings has determined that conditions in this premises are imminently perilous to life.” According to photos submitted by a Grub Street tipster, it’s the restaurant itself that’s the source of the trouble. “It is hereby ordered that all persons occupying any part or parts of the structure located at CELLAR LEVEL (EATING AND DRINKING ESTABLISHMENT) vacate such … parts of the premises forthwith.”

A closer reading of the vacate order gives us pause: “There is imminent danger to life or public safety … in that at cellar level arranged for over 284 occupants with wood combustible ceilings and inadequate Egress (illegal Egress through intervening spaces on 1st floor.” But why now? La Esquina has always been in a combustible basement with inadequate egress. Either someone just got around to inspecting them, or the Department of Buildings is in a crackdown kind of mood today.

Times Online UK: 40 bloggers who really count

BBC: Voters head to polls for UK general election

New York Times: Britons Go to Polls in Tight Race for Parliament

The New York Times: As the Oil Threatens, Lowering the Boom

Grub Street: Popbar’s Shtick: Gelato, Sorbetto, and Fro-Yo on a Stick

Wall Street Journal: Near Ground Zero, a Mosque Moves In and Meets the Neighbors

New York Magazine: Hip-Hop’s New Business Model: Major-Label Rappers Stay ‘Independent’

Politico: Washington Post shifts leftward online

Telegraph UK: China to force internet users to register real names

60 Minutes: Chef Jose Andres

New York Times Magazine: All the Obama 20-Somethings

Limelight Marketplace: No longer a Nightclub, leave your glow sticks at home

Grub Street: Beard Predictions: Best New Restaurant

Gucci Mane: Man Ghost-Rides His Tractor to Gucci Mane

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Glitch Exposed Private Chats

Facebook Inc. scrambled to fix a software flaw that gave users’ unintended access to their friends’ private instant messages.

Jessica Vascellaro has breaking news that Facebook says it is fixing a bug that permitted some users’ chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible to their friends.

The popular Internet hangout Wednesday temporarily shut down its instant-messaging function while it investigated the problem and patched its system.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company said the bug was caused by an update to its software and was in effect “for a limited period of time,” which a spokesman described as “hours.”

The spokesman said the company was still investigating how many users had chats exposed and believes the number is small.

“Someone would have to go through multiple steps to see anything—log-in, go to their privacy settings, use the preview tool, type in a friends name,” he said.

Facebook has had its fair share of bugs, partly reflecting frequent changes and additions to the company’s website. But some incidents have escalated to major embarrassments, because of their potential to allow peeks at personal information that Facebook’s users may not have intended to be widely viewed.

In one incident earlier this year, Facebook misrouted the private messages of a small number of users.

The incidents don’t seem to be affecting the site’s growth. Last month, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the 400 million-person service was adding users at its fastest-ever rate.

But the slip-ups could continue to serve as fodder for critics and regulators investigating how Facebook handles its users’ data more broadly.

The latest bug, which also revealed a user’s pending friend requests, was buried in a feature that allows account holders to see whether certain parts of their profile are hidden or accessible to one of their friends.

Facebook designed the feature to help enhance privacy by allowing users to see how their profile appears to others. But some users began reporting Wednesday that while accessing the feature, they were able to see other users’ live chats.

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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote address at the f8 Developer Conference last month.

News of the problem was reported by technology blog TechCrunch, which said it had been tipped off to the issue by a Facebook user.

Criticism of Facebook’s privacy practices keeps piling up. A new feature that allows users to indicate information they “Like” on the Web and share the information back on Facebook has drawn criticism from privacy advocates and lawmakers.

Some have voiced concerns that consumers aren’t aware of how the information will be shared. Facebook has been defending the feature, saying users must decide whether they want use the “Like” feature to note other Web sites.

Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, says that the site has had a lot of “grave privacy bugs” over the years.

While Facebook has gotten better about plugging them, he notes that the most recent problem was particularly troubling because a user could “really exploit it by accident.”

A Facebook spokesman said the company will “continue to invest tremendous resources— both in terms of top engineering talent, infrastructure and software—to protect people’s information and to enforce the privacy decisions make on Facebook.”

“It is important to recognize that no system is perfect and no company avoids errors all of the time,” he continued, “but we are committed to investigating all mistakes and to learning from them.”