UN Expert Urges States to Work Towards Cyber Surveillance Treaty

The world needs an international treaty to protect people’s privacy from unfettered cybersurveillance, which is being pushed by populist politicians preying on fear of terrorism, according to a U.N. report debated on Wednesday.

The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the U.N. independent expert on privacy, Joe Cannataci, said traditional privacy safeguards such as rules on phone tapping were outdated in the digital age.

“It’s time to start reclaiming cyberspace from the menace of over-surveillance,” Cannataci told the Council.

With governments worldwide demanding data from firms such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, it did not make sense to rely entirely on U.S. legal safeguards, and creating an “international warrant” for data access or surveillance would unify global standards, he said.

“What the world needs is not more state-sponsored shenanigans on the Internet but rational, civilized agreement about appropriate state behavior in cyberspace,” the report said. “This is not utopia. This is cold, stark reality.”

Cannataci was appointed as the first “Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy” in 2015, following the uproar caused by revelations by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. security contractor who once worked at the U.S. mission in Geneva.

His report was submitted last week, before the latest publication by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks of what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions of hacking techniques of smartphones and other gadgets.

The United States did not react to Cannataci’s report, but many countries welcomed it and agreed that online privacy standards should be as strong as offline standards.

China’s diplomat at the Council said rapid technological advances and the “drastic increase worldwide in the violation of privacy” made it urgent to enhance protection, while Russia’s representative said Cannataci’s report was “extremely topical”.

Venezuela, Iran and Cuba all welcomed Cannataci’s work and criticized international surveillance.

A draft legal text was being debated by activists and “some of the larger international corporations” and was expected to be published within a year, Cannataci said.

In his report, he criticized populist laws that intruded on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

He said such sweeping but unproven powers were based on fear alone, and compared them to U.S. President Donald Trump’s order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

“The level of the fear prevents the electorate from objectively assessing the effectiveness of the privacy-intrusive measures proposed,” he wrote.

“Trying to appear tough on security by legitimizing largely useless, hugely expensive and totally disproportionate measures which are intrusive on so many people’s privacy – and other rights – is patently not the way governments should go.”

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In Pictures: International Women’s Day

Today, woman around the world are celebrating International Women’s Day.  U.N. agencies are calling for greater efforts to ensure gender equality and end hunger and poverty.

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‘Hamilton’ US Tour Led by Actor Who Vows a ‘Gritty’ Take

You may not particularly recall Nov. 16, but Broadway actor Michael Luwoye will never forget it.

It was a Wednesday and he certainly earned his salary that day. Luwoye played the title role in the mega-hit musical “Hamilton” at the matinee and then suited up a few hours later to play Aaron Burr that evening.

“I knew that this would happen, at some point. I was prepped and a little excited to do that. So it was one of those moments of just, ‘Let’s just go!'” he said. “It was much more exhilarating than I’d imagined it would be.”

Luwoye is the first person to play both pivotal roles on the same day, and audiences across the country will soon be getting a chance to see why he was entrusted with the responsibilities.

The 26-year-old Alabama native stars as Alexander Hamilton in the “Hamilton” national tour, which kicks off this month with a 21-week stand in San Francisco, followed by a 21-week engagement in Los Angeles.

“It’s incredible how much people love this show and they haven’t seen it. So it warms my heart to know that more people will be able to see it with this tour,” Luwoye said.

Luwoye is the fifth actor to play Hamilton and promises a strong take on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s striving Founding Father. “My Hamilton is pretty gritty. I feel like that fire that Hamilton has, I feel like I capture that very well,” he said.

Thomas Kail, the Tony Award-winning director of “Hamilton,” said he watched and listened to Luwoye audition for Hamilton with a memorable take on the striving song “My Shot.”

“It was one of those moments when you sit up straight in your chair and you know that you are witnessing something,” said Kail. “We throw a lot of material at people when we’re auditioning and there are certain people who rise to meet that. And he just rose to meet it.”

Miranda’s multiple award-winning take on the nation’s first U.S. treasury secretary has a varied score, ranging from pop ballads to rap battles to sexy R&B. It has been cheered for reclaiming the nation’s founding story with a multicultural cast.

Luwoye, born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, went to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and decided to make performing a career as a junior in college. His credits include playing a Ugandan dreamer in off-Broadway’s “Invisible Thread” and Peter Tosh in a bio-musical of Bob Marley in Maryland.

When “Hamilton” was first being created downtown, he initially auditioned for the dual roles of Hercules Mulligan/James Madison. He didn’t get it – the roles went to Okieriete Onaodowan – but Luwoye kept auditioning, learning new characters and eventually impressing with his Hamilton and Burr.

Luwoye got the call that he’d won the part of the Hamilton alternate on Broadway when he was working as a caterer. “I was in the middle of putting on my tuxedo,” he said. “Once I hung up the phone, I was like, ‘I have a lot of words to learn.'”

Then came that pivotal winter day when on the same day he played both the chatty, workaholic Hamilton and his political nemesis, the sly and careful Burr, which he considers a harder part. Luwoye said doing both made the show more clear.

“Hamilton and Burr onstage mirror each other,” he said. “Hamilton gets to express a lot more and is very, very fast – that fire is lit under him and he just goes. Burr has the same drive but has to do it a lot slower. The story is not about him. He’s telling the story and so his moments are not the priority in the storytelling.”

Luwoye has packed up his Brooklyn apartment and flown to San Francisco where company members include Joshua Henry as Burr and Rory O’Malley as King George III. “I don’t really have words for this, to be very honest,” he said.

One thing is certain: His catering days are done.

“I think so,” he said with a smile. “I think so.”

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Scarlett Johansson Files for Divorce from Romain Dauriac

A lawyer for Scarlett Johansson’s husband Romain Dauriac says he’s “shocked” that the star filed for divorce.


Johansson’s filing in a New York City court on Tuesday states that her marriage to Dauriac is “irretrievably broken.” The move follows a January announcement that the couple split last summer after less than two years of marriage.


Johansson asks for joint custody of the couple’s toddler daughter in the filing, but also wants the child to live with her. Dauriac’s lawyer, Hal Mayerson, says he’s taken aback by the request because he has been the “primary parent” for Rose while Johansson has been involved with her career.


Johansson’s representatives and attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.


Johansson was previously wed to actor Ryan Reynolds from 2008 to 2011.


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Silicon Valley Offers Muted Reaction to New Travel Restrictions

When the Trump administration issued its executive order in Janurary restricting travelers from certain countries, many tech companies and their employees were quick to express their objections.

But now, with the new executive order out limiting travel to the U.S. for people from six countries, the response from Silicon Valley has been largely muted.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, Facebook and Microsoft has so far remained quiet.

In reaction to the first travel executive order, the three companies were among 100 U.S. tech firms that filed a legal brief in opposition. At the time, Google said 76 of its employees were affected by the executive order.

Still, some firms, such as Uber, Lyft, Mozilla and Airbnb, were quick to express their objections to Monday’s executive order.

Lyft, the ride-hailing firm, plans to meet with the American Civil Liberties Group this week to discuss how “we can further support their efforts,” Logan Green, Lyft’s CEO, said in a statement. The company gave the civil liberties organization $1 million in January.

“Our sentiment has not changed: President (Donald) Trump’s immigration ban is unjust and wrong,” an Uber spokesperson said. “We will continue to stand up for those in the Uber community affected.”

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted a tribute to his grandfather, “Thinking of great grandfather Issac Benioff who came to US from Kiev as Refugee. W/O him no @Salesforce (2M jobs/200B GDP) or@GameOfThrones!” (Benioff’s cousin, David, is the co-creator of the hit TV series.)

Tech lobbying group and trade organizations have largely stayed mum about the limited travel ban.

One exception is TechNet, which represents tech firms such as Facebook and Apple. It put out a statement this week saying that “unfortunately, just like the first order, this new policy singles out individuals based on their country of origin and will adversely impact technology workers who live and work in our nation.”

The industry has been anxiously waiting for the Trump administration’s revamp of the H-1B visa program, which Silicon Valley uses to hire skilled workers. Late last week, the administration jettisoned an aspect of the H-1B visa application process called “premium processing,” which allowed companies to pay extra for their visa applications to be expedited.

That change underscored the uncertainty in the industry over how the Trump administration will ultimately handle both work visas and travel restrictions.

“What’s next?” said Evan Engstrom, executive director of Engine, an advocacy and research group focused on tech startups.

“What everyone is concerned about is what anti-immigration policies are going to be more expansive,” Engstrom said.

It’s a point echoed by a Yahoo executive.

“American businesses like Yahoo need certainty, particularly around the ability to hire and retain top talent. A piecemeal approach leaves question marks for companies and employees,” April Boyd, a Yahoo vice president and head of global public policy, said in a statement. “We encourage the administration to work with Congress on a thoughtful, lasting approach to bring positive change to the current immigration system.”

Each April 1, the U.S. holds a lottery for 65,000 H-1B visas and 20,000 additional visas for foreign students with master’s degrees. Last year, there were requests for more than 200,000, a record figure.

But critics say skilled-worker visa programs have hurt American workers. Companies have used them, they say, to hire foreign workers who are not highly skilled and who are paid lower than market rate wages.

The biggest users of the H-1B program have been outsourcing firms that provide IT consulting.

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