Pouring rain did not dampen the atmosphere at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, where thousands gathered to commemorate the late Nelson Mandela, including approximately 100 international leaders. President Obama used his speech to call world leaders, and the people of Africa, to action. ”We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” he said. Surprisingly for what was predicted to be “the biggest funeral in history,” a huge number of seats were empty. The ceremony started nearly an hour late. Other speakers include South African President Jacob Zuma, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and President Raúl Castro of Cuba.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Eight of the world’s most powerful technology companies have signed an open letter condemning the NSA and calling for an overhaul of surveillance culture in an unprecedented political statement from a collective of international corporate heavyweights. The signatories, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, are worth a total of $1.4 trillion. They called for greater government transparency, restricting access to individuals’ private information and freedom of information across national borders via the Internet. The results of an independent review of the NSA are due next week.
Source: The Guardian
South Asian workers in Singapore rioted after a van driven by a Singaporean native struck and killed an Indian man. The protestors clashed with police and torched cars. This sudden eruption of civil unrest brings an underlying cultural tension to light, between Singapore’s ethnic Chinese majority and immigrant workers from Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. These groups are sharply divided and rarely share living and working space. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has vowed to prosecute the rioters, who face up to 10 years in prison and caning.
Source: Al Jazeera
The WHO and UNICEF have launched an ambitious campaign to deliver polio vaccines to 23 million children in the Middle East. This follows the confirmation of 17 cases among children in Syria. The $30 million campaign aims to vaccinate all children under age five, but many inside Syria remain unreachable due to the ongoing civil war. One official called for all parties to cooperate with temporary pauses in hostilities in the coming six months to allow vaccination drives. Polio is close to being eradicated worldwide, but challenges persist, as OZY reports.
French soldiers killed in Central African Republic. (BBC).
Nevadans are trapped in snow. (CNN).
Putin dissolves national Russian news agency without explanation. (Al Jazeera).
Congress extends ban on plastic guns. (Big Story).
More than 500 leading authors call for digital bill of rights. (The Guardian).
On International Human Rights Day, perhaps it’s worth noting that the U.S. is one of only 21 nations worldwide that has the death penalty. As GlobalPost writes, a study published earlier this year shows that America executes more people annually than Yemen and Afghanistan, too. Other nations have made great strides since the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed 65 years ago, but there’s still a lot of room to improve.
At least five have died — some reports say more — and everything from beer to mattresses has been nicked as law enforcement officers agitate for more pay, to match inflation. Violence has shaken 19 of 23 of the nation’s provinces, and at least one police officer has died. One national official dubbed the crimes “treason.” But solutions are tough in a county that sees some 30 percent annual inflation.
The U.S. government has finally sold its last General Motors shares, after one of the biggest and most fought-over bailouts in history. Both the Bush and Obama administrations worked to bolster GM with an original investment of $49.5 billion, but the Detroit-based automobile company still suffered losses of $10.5 billion. Nevertheless, the 2009 bailout had a significant impact, saving an estimated 1.2 million jobs. Chairman Dan Akerson said that GM would now adopt a more international outlook. The U.S. government’s position as a major shareholder was thought to discourage foreign investment.
News reports across the U.S. warned of the knockout game, which allegedly involves urban teens punching unsuspecting strangers to see if they can knock them unconscious with a single blow. But it appears that the game may be a fabrication rather than a trend. One woman whose knockout game story received national exposure was apparently assaulted by her boyfriend. Another victim, James Addlespurger, believes that the media sensationalized his isolated assault. “I feel exploited,” he says. ”People need a label. If they’re selling toothpaste or CDs, or news stories, they need a label.”
Facebook users know that awkward moment when a “like” isn’t quite appropriate. If a loved one passes away, for example, a cheery thumbs-up seems like poor form, but how else can users show support? This issue arose at Facebook’s recent compassion research day. Company engineers devised a “sympathize” button, which would replace the “like” button if a negative emotion was flagged. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t feel that this is the right moment to launch. Apparently Zuckerberg wants us to stew in social uncertainty a little longer.
Leonardo DiCaprio will enter a team in the inaugural season of Formula E, a racing championship featuring only electric cars. The competition aims to boost publicity for clean-energy vehicles. The award-winning actor and environmentalist co-founded a Monaco-based team with Gildo Pallanca Pastor, the owner of electric-car manufacturer Venturi Automobiles. While the endeavor may have its glamorous side, DiCaprio says there is a serious aim behind the project, cautioning “the future of our planet depends on our ability to embrace fuel-efficient, lean-energy vehicles.” The series kicks off in September 2014 and will run in 10 major world cities.
Four quarterbacks and two running backs have been invited to attend next Saturday’s Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. The pool of finalists is the largest since 1994. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the odds-on favorite to win college football’s most prestigious prize, now that a sexual assault investigation has concluded without charges. Winston set freshman records by passing for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns this year while leading FSU to the BCS National Championship Game. He would be the second straight freshman quarterback to win the award after Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel — a finalist again this year — hoisted the trophy in 2012.