Chatter: Where else is the US government snooping?





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Prism. 1) A transparent body used to refract a beam of light. 2) A medium that distorts whatever is viewed through it. 3) The US government's secret program to mine Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and other tech giants for users' "private" data. 

It's a definition we learned within 24 hours of finding out that the National Security Agency had gained wholesale access to Verizon customers' phone records, and like that discovery, came courtesy of leaked confidential documents. Washington's top intelligence official has since confirmed that PRISM exists – and berated the media for exposing it to the public. But anyone who, like the snoops, has been watching closely will know that the government surveilling its citizens and others is nothing new. Welcome to the Bush-Obama era, where Big Brother is most definitely watching.


Protesters, go home. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, protesting Turks' least favorite person, has urged them to get off the streets. Arriving in Istanbul late last night, the PM told his supporters (he has some) that the protests against his government "bordered on illegality" and "must come to an end as of now."

Sure, that'll do it. Especially when Erdogan has insisted that the plan to build over Istanbul's Gezi Park — the move that roused the public's anger in the first place — will go ahead. To no one's surprise, protesters don't seem to have taken his advice.

Peace on the Korean peninsula? The governments of North and South Korea have already set a date for their upcoming summit, a day after they agreed to hold their first high-level talks in years. It seems North Korean negotiators can't wait to see their Southern counterparts, proposing June 9 — this Sunday — for a preliminary "working-level" meeting.

The only detail yet to be thrashed out is the venue: North Korea wants the talks to take place at the Kaesong industrial complex it shares with South Korea and which, crucially, lies north of the border; South Korea has suggested the Panmunjom border zone where, symbolically enough, the Korean War armistice was signed.

When Barack met Xi. The heads of the world's two largest economies are set to begin their first presidential summit today, at California's excitingly named Rancho Mirage. 

Concerns about Chinese hacking, trade battles, tension between the two nations' militaries and the thorny issue of North Korea are all on the agenda — but aside from the heavy stuff, the supposedly informal meeting is a chance for Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping to kick back, admire the view, and get along. After all, it'll make the next three-and-a-half years a lot easier if they do.


Plastering over the Troubles. Talk about putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem: Northern Ireland, host to this year's G8 Summit later this month, has been busy giving derelict buildings a face-lift before the world's leaders fly in. Not by actually, y'know, fixing anything, but by putting stickers on empty store fronts. An abandoned butcher's? With one handy, window-sized sticker you can turn it into a gleaming, well-stocked meat counter. 

Locals, not surprisingly, haven't taken the government's skin-deep solution too kindly.  "In six months' time how are these shops going to look?" asked one. "They'll just be pieces of paper blowing around the ground."