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Leadership questions plague Britain’s Labour Party

LONDON — Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, appeared to have Prime Minister David Cameron on the ropes. Cameron had just lost a vote in Parliament on a nonbinding motion to consider military action in Syria over chemical weapons, the first time in at least a century that a prime minister had not gotten parliamentary support for war. Cameron threw in the towel.

But Miliband, whose own position on the issue kept shifting, did not seize the moment, neither that night, Aug. 29, nor in the next days. He neither spoke convincingly to the nation about the nature of its alliances, its foreign policy or its values, nor did he attack Cameron effectively for mismanaging the entire issue. Both major party leaders showed themselves unable to master their own restive parties.

After three years as head of Labour, Miliband, 43, has not managed to convince the British public that he is prime ministerial material. Questions about his leadership will hang over his party’s annual conference, which begins Sunday.

“He became leader a few months after his party was rejected comprehensively,” said Peter Kellner, a political analyst who runs a polling firm, YouGov. “He was a cabinet minister and close to Gordon Brown, so he was implicated in the wider reputation of a government that failed. Any new Labour leader would have trouble combating that.”

—Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle, The New York Times

EU officer killed in Kosovo

PARIS — A Lithuanian customs officer in Kosovo working for a European Union mission there was shot dead Thursday in the Serb-dominated north, European Union officials said.

The European Union mission that oversees judicial affairs in northern Kosovo said in a statement that the shooting took place early Thursday during a routine staff rotation. It said a murder investigation was underway. Bernd Borchardt, head of the mission, called the attack an unequivocal “ambush,” said Stojan Pelko, a European Union spokesman.

Pelko said by telephone from Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, that six customs officers traveling in two cars were returning from a border crossing when one of the cars was fired on, critically wounding the Lithuanian customs officer. He was dead on arrival at a hospital. Pelko said the other officer in the car, a Czech, had no visible wounds, but had been taken to the hospital.

He said it was not known how many people were involved in the attack and that the area had been sealed by police officers. “We don’t know who shot him, and the perpetrator escaped,” he said. “We are asking citizens for any information they can provide and we are looking for witnesses.”

—Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times

California bill provides reset button for youngsters’ online posts

SAN FRANCISCO — Kids. The reckless rants and pictures they post online can often get them in trouble, by compromising their chances of getting into a good college or even landing them in jail.

Now California legislators are trying to solve the problem with the first measure in the country to give minors the legal right to scrub away their online indiscretions. The legislation puts the state in the middle of a turbulent debate over how best to protect children and their privacy on the Internet, and whether states should even be trying to tame the Web.

Critics of an eraser law see pitfalls. They warn that in trying to protect children, the law could unwittingly put them at risk by digging deeper into their personal lives. To comply with the law, for example, companies would have to collect more information about their customers, including whether they are younger than 18 and whether they are in California.

There are also practical concerns. If other states pass similar laws, companies would be forced to devise multiple policies for the underage residents of different states — confusing consumers and creating unwieldy requirements for Web businesses.

—Somini Sengupta, The New York Times