♦ Backroom political pressure has kept drone funding intact despite doubts over reliability.
♦ The war in Syria is turning out to be good business for people smugglers.
♦ Israel is set to approve a Gaza gasfield deal, though there is scepticism about the likely success of the plan.
♦ An election app in Azerbaijan accidentally released results before voting actually started. Read more
♦ The value of the drone market has soared to more than $5bn in just a few years, helped by Pentagon and CIA reliance. However, privacy worries are threatening the burgeoning domestic market.
♦ The fourth-largest auction house in the world is run by Wang Yannan, the daughter of former Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang and child of the cultural revolution. Its success has come from Chinese collectors and investors seeking art that might have destroyed lives during the cultural revolution.
♦ The “Death to America” slogan has been a feature of public life in Iran for more than three decades, but Hassan Rouhani’s push for moderation has prompted calls for the slogan to be dropped.
♦ Some Republicans are sceptical that a default would actually be a catastrophe for the US.
♦ David Gardner thinks Bashar al-Assad’s diplomatic luck could run out as the “killing machine grinds forward”.
♦ Islamists entering Syria are starting to prefer transit towns, with good food and video games, to the fighting front.
♦ Gulf states are going to test people to “detect” homosexuals entering their countries. Read more
♦ Ben Bernanke and the markets appear to be friends again, which might make tapering easier.
♦ George Bizos, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer, recalls the good times they shared.
♦ Chris Giles argues that, “After almost a century of gradual social progress and narrowing of wealth and opportunity gaps, Britain is slowly recreating a rentier society, where a family’s property ownership matters more than anything else.”
♦ Wolfgang Schäuble wants to leave a legacy in Europe, but his boss, Angela Merkel, is proving to be one of the obstacles between him and EU reform.
♦ Nasser al-Awlaki, a former minister of agriculture and fisheries in Yemen, is petitioning the US government to explain why they killed his grandson, a US citizen.
♦ Amy Davidson ponders what Trayvon Martin could have done to avoid getting into an altercation with George Zimmerman: “There is an echo, in what people say Martin should and shouldn’t have done, of what people say to women when bad things happen to them in dark places.”
♦ Mohamed Morsi hasn’t been seen since he was taken into custody – when do international circles start considering him a political prisoner?
♦ Bassem Youssef takes on the recent coup in Egypt: “Humanity has now become an isolated island among wild waves of discrimination and extremism.” Read more
♦ Pharmaceutical companies are worried that the battle in India over patents will inspire other emerging economies to change their laws and make it more difficult to register or extend patents.
♦ Joshua Foust makes the liberal case for drones: “a lethal autonomous drone could actually result in fewer casualties and less harm to civilians.”
♦ The US military has seen a baffling rise in suicide numbers from 10.3 per 100,000 troops in 2002, to above 18 per 100,000 now.
♦ Gazans have a real taste for KFC and one entrepreneur has set up a business smuggling the fried chicken in from El Arish, Egypt. “Despite the blockade, KFC made it to my home”, says one satisfied customer. Read more
Rand Paul (Getty Images)
Rand Paul’s marathon filibuster last week – aimed at holding up the confirmation of John Brennan as head of the CIA – was much more than a parliamentary stunt. It has opened up interesting new debates and divisions on the future direction of US foreign policy.
Senator Paul’s highlighting of the Obama administration’s use of drones for “targeted killings” of terrorist suspects, has established an unlikely alliance between the libertarian right and the liberal left. Until Paul took up the drones issue, it was mainly the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union, who were making the running in criticising the drone strikes. But, as Paul illustrated, there is a good libertarian case for suspicion of the over-mighty covert state. Even more interestingly, Paul’s stand placed him directly at odds with the neoconservative wing of his own Republican Party.
The Wall Street Journal has denounced Paul for appealing to “impressionable libertarian kids” – a condemnation quoted with approval by John McCain, one of the party’s leading foreign-policy hawks.
Conveniently for President Obama, this argument between the two wings of the Republican Party places the president somewhere in the middle. He will never be as hawkish as the Republican neocons, many of whom are pressing for intervention in Syria, an assault on Iran and denouncing cuts in the Pentagon budget. On the other hand, the president’s expansion of the drone war and his unwillingness to rein in the burgeoning national-security apparatus makes him very far from being a “libertarian kid”. Read more
John Brennan – Barack Obama’s nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director – testifies before the Senate intelligence committee today. The hearing offers a rare moment of public scrutiny of the government’s expanded use of drones to kill suspected terrorists, which has returned to the news this week.
By Shannon Bond in New York with Geoff Dyer in Washington. All times are GMT.
A police officer asks protesters to move to the sidewalk during a demonstration in front of a Raytheon company building in Florida in August 2012 (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The CIA’s drone programme may be classified as covert, but it is increasingly in the public spotlight. On Thursday, John Brennan – Obama’s nominee for CIA director, and the driving force behind the White House’s drone strategy – will appear before the Senate. As Geoff Dyer points out, Brennan’s confirmation hearing will offer a rare moment of public scrutiny of the war on terror – and the ethics of targeted killings.
In the FT