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News in Brief: Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Continue to Rise, and More …

Civilian casualties have increased by nearly 31 percent in the first six months of the year, according to a United Nations report, with the majority of deaths caused by insurgents fighting the government and the American-led coalition.

Civilian casualties have increased by nearly 31 percent in the first six months of the year, according to a United Nations report, with the majority of deaths caused by insurgents fighting the government and the American-led coalition. Seventy-six percent of civilian casualties were attributable to “anti-government elements,” an increase of 53 percent over the same period in 2009, reported The New York Times. Staffan de Mistura, the top United Nations official in Kabul, called the information a “wake up call for us.”

Critics Fear Google Creating a Two-Tiered Internet System; Google Offices in South Korea Raided

Google and Verizon have jointly issued a proposal that could radically restructure the internet, appearing to promote the idea of net neutrality – equal access to all types of information online for all users. But Democracy Now! reports that their proposal contains a massive loophole, which would exempt Internet access over cellphone networks, wireless and any future new subscription from net neutrality protections. Jason Rosenbaum, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said he was concerned that the move would create a two-tiered system, allow more corporate control over the Internet and adversely impact free speech online.

“We’ve already seen how corporate control over networks can lead to political discrimination. So, there was a text message sent out by NARAL Pro-Choice that was blocked by wireless carriers, because the wireless carriers disagreed with the message. When you have internet activities or various online activities running on a corporate-controlled network, you’re opening the door to these kinds of censorship. It’s very much a free speech issue, very much a civil rights issue.”

Others feared the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be left with little bite. Craig Aaron, managing director of Free Press, a media advocacy group, told ProPublica, “the pact to end the Internet as we know it” rendered the FCC a “toothless watchdog” The FCC did not comment on the proposal.

Meanwhile, Google offices in South Korea have been raided as part of an investigation into data collected by the company’s Street View cars, with computers and hard drives seized from the Seoul offices. A statement released by the Korean National Police Agency, which sent 19 officers to Google premises Tuesday, released a statement saying the police “have been investigating Google Korea on suspicion of unauthorized collection and storage of data on unspecified Iinternet users from Wi-Fi networks.” South Korea is only one of many countries, including the United Kingdom, investigating the data held by Street View cars, reported The Guardian UK. Google had admitted to accidentally intercepting fragments of personal data through Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries, amounting to 600 MB.

Former Sen. Ted Stevens Aboard Downed Plane in Alaska

A plane with former Alaska Sen. Todd Stevens and nine other people, including former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, has crashed near Anchorage, reported The Associated Press. The condition of all the passengers is unknown, but reports from the Alaska National Guard spokesman say there have been five fatalities.

Barak Accepts Responsibility for Gaza Flotilla Raid

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday he took “overall” responsibility for the deadly raid of the Gaza aid flotilla, but said the military must accept blame for the execution of the internationally condemned operation, which left nine Turkish activists dead. Barak gave evidence on the second day of the Turkel commission hearing investigating the operation, reported The Guardian UK. “I carry overall responsibility for everything that took place in the systems under my command. I carry responsibility for the orders given on the political level,” Barak said, but “the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) worked out the how.” He continued. “If the decision was right, then the gap between what we wanted and what happened is the execution.”

Landslides in China, Flooding in Pakistan Continue

More than 700 people have died in landslides in north west China, reported The BBC, with the worst flooding in decades making it one of the deadliest incidents in the country. A frantic search continues for more than 1,000 people missing among the rubble of collapsed buildings.

In Pakistan, the number of people affected by large-scale flooding now exceeds 13 million. This is more than the combined total of people affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake put together, though with a far lower death toll. At least 1,600 people have died in Pakistan, reported Democracy Now!.

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