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Julian Assange: Edward Snowden is ‘marooned in Russia’

Edward Snowden — the fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor — appears to be stuck in Moscow, unable to leave without a valid American passport, according to interviews Sunday with two men who had sought to aid him: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.

Snowden, 30, arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport last weekend, after previously taking refuge in Hong Kong. Moscow was only supposed to be a stopover. WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, had said Snowden was headed on to Ecuador — whose leftist president has been critical of the United States — and that he would seek asylum there.

Now, however, both men said Snowden is unable to leave.”

IRS targeted groups critical of government, and who educated about the constitution. Not just Tea Party groups

At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials singled out for scrutiny not only groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.””

The Real Spending Problem - NY Times Op-Ed

Each year, the government doles out tax breaks worth $1.1 trillion. That is more than the cost of Medicare and Medicaid combined. It is more than Social Security. It tops the defense budget, and it tops the budget for nondefense discretionary programs, which include most everything else.”

[Chart] Who are the Super PACs’ Biggest Donors? - ProPublica

Just How Useless Are The Political Media? - Vice.com

"The biases of typical national campaign-trail reporters have nothing to do with liking Democrats or hating Republicans. They’re as indifferent to candidates and ideologies as rats are to what kind of cheese they’re eating. Above all, these people obsess over the election “narrative,” which can be shaped to favor one or the other candidate and which only occasionally has a glancing resemblance to reality…

This would be merely amusing if the media’s fixation with “narrative” didn’t actually affect the race. But it does. While a lot of people watched the first Obama-Romney debate, lots of people also did not watch; many only heard about it via media chatter and maybe from their friends/family/acquaintances. What major pundits say really does make a difference, unfortunately, since conventional wisdom trickles down to voters who don’t have the interest or the time to pay attention—all they’ll hear is Romney “exceeded expectations” or Obama looked “unpresidential,” and they won’t know that those verdicts were arrived at on Twitter 20 minutes into the debate by people largely disinterested in substance or policy.    

U.S. Military Is Sent to Jordan to Help With Crisis in Syria - NY Times

WASHINGTON — The United States military has secretly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there handle a flood of Syrian refugees, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons and be positioned should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict…

The Obama administration has declined to intervene in the Syrian conflict beyond providing communications equipment and other nonlethal assistance to the rebels opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But the outpost near Amman could play a broader role should American policy change. It is less than 35 miles from the Syrian border and is the closest American military presence to the conflict.

Officials from the Pentagon and Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, declined to comment on the task force or its mission. A spokesman for the Jordanian Embassy in Washington would also not comment on Tuesday.”

Interactive: How Obama's Civilian Drone Death Claims Stack Up (They Don't) - ProPublica

In an effort to minimize official civilian death tolls from these strikes, in which hundreds of innocent people have been killed in Pakistan alone, several administration officials told the Times that the administration is effectively counting “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,” barring “explicit” posthumous intelligence proving their innocence.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/report-obama-redefines-militant-avoid-counting-civilian-drone-172500804.html

More info: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/obama-drone-deaths-pakistan-discrepancy

So you mean to tell me that if some 18+ year old is in a room arguing against militarism with a true militant at the time of a drone strike, they’re instantly a militant? I think something’s wrong there…

Sam Harris On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God

The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. No apologies necessary. Muslims must learn that if they make belligerent and fanatical claims upon the tolerance of free societies, they will meet the limits of that tolerance. And Governor Romney, though he is wrong about almost everything under the sun (including, very likely, the sun), is surely right to believe that it is time our government delivered this message without blinking.”

I agree with that statement, however, I don’t think an attack on a US embassy, OUR embassy, regardless of one’s political affiliation, an attack which took the lives of dedicated United States citizens is the proper time to take shots at your political adversary.

Pot could be tax windfall, but skeptics abound - Huffington Post

"_ Colorado’s campaign touts money for school construction. Ads promote the measure with the tag line, "Strict Regulation. Fund Education." State analysts project somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects a $60 million boost by 2017.

_ Washington’s campaign promises to devote marijuana taxes to drug abuse prevention and treatment, as marijuana backers try to reassure nervous citizens that they want to prevent teen use. Washington state analysts have produced the most generous estimate of how much tax revenue legal pot would produce, at nearly $2 billion over five years.

_ Oregon’s measure, known as the Cannabis Tax Act, would devote 90 percent of recreational marijuana proceeds to the state’s general fund. Oregon’s fiscal analysts haven’t even guessed at the total revenue, citing the many uncertainties inherent in a new marijuana market. They have projected prison savings between $1.4 million and $2.4 million a year if marijuana use was legal without a doctor’s recommendation.

"We all know there’s a market for marijuana, but right now the profits are all going to drug cartels or underground," said Brian Vicente, a lawyer working for Colorado’s Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol."

Earth’s richest 1,000 individuals now control as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people on the planet. This super elite uses its vast wealth to control the media, influence politicians, and bend laws to their favor.

"America is currently engaged in the most expensive presidential contest in world history. In the United States, money doesn’t just talk – it dictates. How can we hope to make progress on the path to sustainability when the road is blocked by barricades of bullion backed by battalions of billionaires? How do we break through the political gridlock?

Dave Brower’s wife, Ann, once put a wise spin on this dilemma. “What we need,” she said, is “a cure for greedlock.”

Earth’s richest 1,000 individuals now control as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people on the planet. This super elite uses its vast wealth to control the media, influence politicians, and bend laws to their favor. In the US, the wealthy dominate our government: 47 percent of US representatives are millionaires, as are 67 percent of US senators. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Congressional wealth has increased 11 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Not only is our economy out of balance with nature, our economy is also out of balance with the practical limits of physical and fiscal reality. As the Occupy movement has indelibly framed it, we are now a society divided not only by haves and have-nots, but we are a nation – and a world – divided into the 99 percent and the 1 percent.

Imagine if a tree were engineered like the US economy – with half of its mass centered in the top 10 percent of its height and 40 percent of its mass concentrated in the very topmost branches. Whether redwood or oak, such a tree would not be stable in a windstorm. It would be destined to topple. Of course, nature has better sense.”

Richard Branson Is The Man; Tells Us How To Win The War On Drugs - Huffington Post

With states as our innovators we know what we need to do on drug reform. Which is good, because the cost of the alternatives has gotten completely out of hand. The U.S. currently spends no less than $51 billion — per year — on the war on drugs. That’s double what Apple profited last year. It’s a horribly depressing number when you think how far even a fraction of that money would have gone if invested in prevention and rehabilitation efforts. With so much rhetoric on the economy in this election year, it is startling that no one has looked to drug reform to unlock resources.

A large portion of the money spent on the war on drugs goes toward criminalization. I recently had the privilege of spending time with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. I was shocked when he pointed out that back in the 1970s there were only 300,000 people in prison in the U.S.! Forty years later, the number of people incarcerated — 2.3 million — is greater than the population of Houston, Texas. He attributes much of the increase to American drug policy, with minorities taking the hardest hit. Stevenson shared that 1 in 3 black men in the U.S. will be incarcerated between the ages of 18 and 30. (Michelle Alexander has written a book, The New Jim Crow, which illustrates how the war on drugs has in fact created this system of mass incarceration.)

A focus on criminalization also undercuts future economic development. A recent Pew study revealed that incarceration reduces former inmates’ earnings by 40 percent — further devastating their families and their communities.

This type of blanket incarceration dismisses root causes, disenfranchises millions and most likely results in repeat offenses rather than cleaning up the problem. We need new approaches that treat drug use as a health issue and not a criminal one.”

Barack Obama on women’s health care. That’s what’s up

(Source: beybad, via the-crunge)

Carney denies Obama said all US troops out of Afghanistan by 2014, accuses reporters of playing 'gotcha' - Politico

TOLEDO, Ohio — President Obama did not rule out a future U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan when he told a campaign rally in Colorado Sunday that all U.S. forces would be out by the end of 2014, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.”

How can you say two different things in one day? They didn’t even wait one day to change their story. Talk about frustrating…

Washington Post Op-Ed: Romney and Ryan, running against themselves

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have one big problem that must have Barack Obama walking on air: They’re running against themselves.

Between Ryan’s convention speech, in which he denounced Obama policies and maneuvers that closely resemble some of his own, to Romney’s relentless humility, the Republican ticket consists of two men trying hard to be anything but who they are.

It’s baffling.

Ryan has been called out on some of his statements that were not-quite-true, or at least not complete. These were simple, factual misrepresentations that could be easily checked — and were — or that were well known to those who know a little about recent history.

In one instance, Ryan criticized Obama for ignoring the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission. What Ryan didn’t mention is that he served on the commission and that he voted against its proposals.

There’s nothing wrong with either of those facts except their omission. His criticisms would have carried more weight had he mentioned them and elaborated. What’s wrong with saying, “I served on the commission and, while I had problems with it and voted against it, it was the right approach. We just didn’t go far enough, and the president simply looked the other way.”

Or words to that effect. Instead, Ryan ignored his role in the process, essentially deleting his participation and his past. Whom does this serve? Certainly not the Romney/Ryan ticket, which now risks being perceived as less than straightforward. This is crucial, given a recent Gallup poll that found Obama leading Romney (48 percent to 36 percent) on the question of who is more trustworthy.

In another example, Ryan criticized Obama’s plan to cut $700 billion from the growth of Medicare. Ryan’s own plan also calls for $700 billion in cuts, though with different details. Why not acknowledge this? Everyone knows it — unless Ryan believes that his audience isn’t really up to speed — so why not set the record straight?”