Category - Newswire

Lindsey Graham starts national campaign from home

USA Today, By Mary Troyan, June 1

Washington — Sen. Lindsey Graham has never lost a race.

In consecutive elections since 1992, he has wooed South Carolina voters with a combination of bootstrapped beginnings, a quick wit, pragmatism and ferocious debating skills.

On Monday, he returns to his boyhood hometown in Pickens County to announce his most ambitious campaign to date — for the Republican presidential nomination.

His perfect record at the ballot box — one election to the South Carolina House, five to the U.S. House and three to the U.S. Senate — has made him the most powerful Republican in South Carolina.

[…]

In talking to CBS in May about his presidential campaign, he said in his typical blunt and occasionally inflammatory way, “I’m running because the world is falling apart.”

US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns

AP, By Cara Anna, May 22

United Nations — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to “cynically manipulate” the process by setting a deadline for Israel and its neighbors to meet within months on a Middle East zone free of such weapons.

The now-failed final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the U.N. secretary-general to convene the Middle East conference no later than March 2016, regardless of whether Israel and its neighbors agree on an agenda.

Israel is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never publicly declared what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons program. A conference might force Israel to acknowledge it.

Since adopting a final document requires consensus, the rejection by the United States, backed by Britain and Canada, means the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for the next five years has been blocked after four weeks of negotiations. The next treaty review conference is in 2020.

Fatal police shootings in 2015 approaching 400 nationwide

Washington Post, By Kimberly Kindy, May 30

In an alley in Denver, police gunned down a 17-year-old girl joyriding in a stolen car. In the backwoods of North Carolina, police opened fire on a gun-wielding moonshiner. And in a high-rise apartment in Birmingham, Ala., police shot an elderly man after his son asked them to make sure he was okay. Douglas Harris, 77, answered the door with a gun.

The three are among at least 385 people shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete.

“These shootings are grossly under­reported,” said Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving law enforcement. “We are never going to reduce the number of police shootings if we don’t begin to accurately track this information.”

Supreme Court to decide on 13 cases over next few weeks

June is final month of Supreme Court’s annual term

Al Jazeera, By Sara Hassan, June 1

June is the final month of the Supreme Court’s annual term before the summer recess begins. Over the next few weeks, the Court will make decisions on 13 major cases. Among the issues up for debate are same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and religious freedom.

[…]

Obergefell vs. Hodges deals with the issue of same-sex marriage, and whether or not the 14th amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires individual states to allow it, as well as, recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed out-of-state.

[…]

Another closely-watched case is King vs. Burwell, which could deliver a huge setback to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” The law offers subsidies to people who need help paying for health coverage, requiring them to buy it through an exchange established by the state, but only 14 states have set up their own exchanges. Four plaintiffs are claiming that the subsidies in the remaining 36 states are illegal, putting health insurance subsidies for about 7.5 million Americans at stake.

[…]

There are other important cases up for debate that are being followed closely. Glossip vs. Gross looks into whether the use of the drug Midazolam violates the 8th amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Walker vs. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans looks at whether or not the 1st amendment protects controversial messages on specialty license plates, such as the use of the Confederate flag image. Michigan vs. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will decide if the EPA has the authority to force coal and power industries to sharply reduce hazardous emissions. The City of Los Angeles vs. Patel will decide if requiring motel owners to keep guest registries for police inspection violates the 4th amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Watchdog, the Whistleblower, and the Secret CIA Torture Report

VICE News, By Jason Leopold, May 19

On June 9, 2010, a CIA employee working on a secret review of millions of pages of documents about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program contacted the CIA’s internal watchdog and filed a complaint. The employee had come to believe that the CIA’s narrative about the efficacy of the program — a narrative put forward by not just CIA officials, but also then-President George W. Bush — was false.

The CIA employee made the discovery while she was working on the Panetta Review. Named for former CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Panetta Review is a series of documents that top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee say corroborates the findings and conclusions of the landmark report they released last December about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program — that the torture of detainees in the custody of the CIA failed to produce unique and valuable intelligence, and that it was far more brutal than the CIA let on.

Panetta ordered the review in 2009 just as the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it would probe the efficacy of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. CIA employees were tasked with evaluating the cache of documents about the torture program that the agency turned over to the committee during the course of its probe; their goal was to compile the graphic and noteworthy aspects of the torture program — like the fact that detainees were fed rectally — on which the committee might focus.

UN says encryption vital to free speech, calls on US govt to end ‘backdoor’ push

RT, May 29

Data encryption is essential to free speech, as it provides the privacy and security necessary in today’s digital age, a new UN report states. It calls on the US Congress to prohibit Washington from requiring companies to provide “backdoor access.”

“Encryption and anonymity, separately or together, create a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,” says the report [MS-Word doc] written by David Kaye, a special rapporteur in the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next month, comes as many governments attempt to put “backdoors” in encryption software to assist law enforcement.

Kaye speaks out against such backdoors in the report, calling on the US Congress to “prohibit the Government from requiring companies to weaken product security or insert back-door access measures.”

Venezuelans mass for year’s largest anti-government protests

AP, By Hannah Dreier, May 30

Caracas – Thousands donned white and took to the streets in cities across the country Saturday in the biggest show of frustration with Venezuela’s socialist administration since a wave of bloody anti-government protests a year ago.

The day of marches was called less than a week ago by imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. In a video leaked from his prison cell, Lopez urged demonstrations to demand a firm date for this year’s legislative elections and freedom for jailed opposition politicians like himself who human rights groups consider political prisoners.

A Harvard-educated former mayor, Lopez has been jailed for 15 months in connection with his leadership of the spring of 2014 protests that resulted in dozens of deaths on both sides of Venezuela’s yawning political divide.

The opposition coalition did not endorse Saturday’s rallies, underscoring longstanding fissures among critics of the country’s 16-year socialist government. Before his imprisonment last year, Lopez clashed with other high-profile politicians, including moderate opposition leader Henrique Capriles, about the wisdom of organizing nationwide protests.

Bill C-51: Canada’s new McCarthy era where advocating for action against climate change is terrorism

ThinkPol.ca, By John Bennett, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada, May 31

First, I’d like to acknowledge the terrible incidents that took place last fall here in Ottawa and in Quebec and share our deepest sympathies for the families. We are very much aware of the threats and support all appropriate measures to protect Canadians. However, we are concerned about Bill C-51 because it casts too broad a net and will very likely undermine the freedoms it is supposed to protect.

The Sierra Club Canada was founded back in 1892, making us probably the oldest conservation organization in North America. We’ve been active in Canada for over 50 years, and we have a number of chapters and groups across the country. We are a volunteer-led, democratic organization. Our members elect the board of directors in annual elections, and our volunteers work along with staff to preserve and protect our natural environment.

Although we employ a wide range of tactics to draw attention to important issues, it’s a clear policy of Sierra Club Canada Foundation to only engage in legal activities. To my knowledge, no one has broken the law in the name of the club in the last hundred years.
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Major Victory Over Copyright Trolls: A Deeper Look

EFF, By Mitch Stoltz, May 27

As we announced this morning, a federal appeals court handed copyright trolls a major defeat today by taking away one of their most powerful tactics: the ability to sue large groups of John Doe defendants together with minimal evidence. Now that the dust is clearing, we’re filling in the details.

This case, AF Holdings v. Does 1-1058, is one of the few mass copyright cases to reach an appellate court, and the first to look into fundamental procedural problems that have tilted the playing field firmly against the Doe Defendants. With this decision on the books, we suspect that even more federal trial courts will say “No” to the sordid business of cookie-cutter lawsuits seeking seeking cash payouts from dozens or even hundreds of Internet subscribers.

This appeal was brought by several internet service providers (Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and affiliates) with amicus support from EFF, the ACLU, the ACLU of the Nation’s Capitol, Public Citizen, and Public Knowledge.

On the other side was notorious copyright troll Prenda Law. Prenda, and other groups like it, wanted to use the courts’ subpoena power to identify Internet subscribers, then shake them down for $2,000-$4,000 “settlements.” They assuredly didn’t want to invest the time and expense needed to actually figure out who, if anyone, likely infringed a copyright. Trolls use court processes not to enforce their rights or to protect a legitimate business, but to make a profitable business out of groundless threats and intimidation.

Boing Boing: Appeals court nukes the copyright troll business-model

Ancient jawbones put new species on the human family tree, researchers say

CNN, By Laura Smith-Spark, May 28

Meet Australopithecus deyiremeda, a newly discovered species of hominin that sheds light on our earliest ancestors, scientists say.

In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers say their discovery in Ethiopia of teeth and jawbones dating back between 3.3 million and 3.5 million years supports the idea that several hominin species coexisted during this period.

The remains show clear similarities to “Lucy,” the famous 3.2 million-year-old remains of the species Australopithecus afarensis, found in 1974.

But, the researchers say, there are sufficient differences in the jaw architecture and size and shape of the teeth to mean that this is a new species, indicating that our ancestry is more complicated than previously thought.

Also, The Onion: 2.8-Million-Year-Old Cycle Of Human Cruelty Continues Unabated On Elementary School Playground

Rick Santorum to Launch Second White House Bid

Republican former senator seeks to appeal as a champion of the working class.

The Wall Street Journal, By Rebecca Ballhaus, May 27

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is set to launch his second presidential campaign in Pittsburgh Wednesday, attempting to bolster his reputation as a social-issues warrior with an appeal as a champion of the working class.

Mr. Santorum hopes outreach to lower-income Americans, combined with his base of support among evangelical Christians and the party’s most conservative voters, will propel him ahead of better-funded candidates with establishment backing.

The strategy builds on his 2012 bid as a lunch-bucket conservative with a populist economic tone and a focus on social issues, an image that appealed to voters who felt eventual nominee Mitt Romney was insufficiently conservative.

“There’s a real opportunity for a candidate to come forward with a plan that’s going to provide upward mobility for everybody and unite the country in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month.

The first repeat is tragedy, right?

Why Is The U.S. Desperate To OK Slavery In Malaysia?

Huffington Post, By Akbar Shahid Ahmed, Ryan Grim & Laura Barron-Lopez, May 26

Washington – On Friday night, in an impressive display of dysfunction, the U.S. Senate approved a controversial trade bill with a provision that the White House, Senate leadership and the author of the language himself wanted taken out.

The provision, which bars countries that engage in slavery from being part of major trade deals with the U.S., was written by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). At the insistence of the White House, Menendez agreed to modify his language to say that as long as a country is taking “concrete” steps toward reducing human trafficking and forced labor, it can be part of a trade deal. Under the original language, the country that would be excluded from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership pact is Malaysia.

But because the Senate is the Senate, it was unable to swap out the original language for the modification. (The chamber needed unanimous consent to make the legislative move, and an unknown senator or senators objected.) So the trade promotion authority bill that passed Friday includes the strong anti-slavery language, which the House will now work to take out to ensure that Malaysia (and, potentially, other countries in the future) can be part of the deal.

Observers are left with a deeper question: Why, in the year 2015, is the White House teaming up with Republican leaders essentially to defend the practice of slavery?

[…]

But Malaysia also borders what is effectively China’s jugular vein: the Strait of Malacca.

Via Naked Capitalism: America’s First Black President Throwing Slaves Under the Bus on TPP

In Spain’s Seismic Elections, ‘It’s the Victory of David Over Goliath’

The country’s political landscape has changed beyond recognition, with left-wing parties gaining everywhere.

The Nation, By Bécquer Seguín & Sebastiaan Faber, May 26

“It’s the victory of David over Goliath,” said Ada Colau in front of an ecstatic crowd just before midnight on May 24. Colau, the former spokesperson of Spain’s anti-eviction movement (PAH) and the country’s most visible face of popular outrage against austerity, is likely to be the new mayor of Barcelona.

Spain’s local and regional elections have changed the country’s political landscape beyond recognition. Marking an end to thirty years of two-party dominance, they have shifted majorities everywhere to the left. The unprecedented rise of two new political forces—Podemos (“We can”) on the left, and Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) on the right—has siphoned traditional votes from the Socialist Party (PSOE) and, especially, the ruling Popular Party (PP). The PP, although it remained the largest party, lost some 2.5 million votes and, with them, the ability to govern in the majority of Spain’s autonomous regions as well as the cities of Madrid, Valladolid, and Valencia. The PSOE, for its part, has positively spun its otherwise unremarkable electoral showing by proclaiming itself the “top political force on the left.” Among the casualties of the seismic shift are a handful of longstanding smaller groups, including the United Left (Izquierda Unida).

To be sure, the new situation will take some getting used to. Spain now has four major national parties. Throughout the country, coalition governments will be the new norm. And looming over the difficult negotiations to build governing majorities are this fall’s national elections. Spain’s future hangs in the balance, and any misstep could prove costly.


The Guardian – Comment is free: The British left must learn to speak a new language – Spanish, Owen Jones

‘Politics has nothing to do with being right,” says the pony-tailed Spanish political phenomenon Pablo Iglesias. “Politics is about succeeding.” And succeed is what the Spanish left does.

The fortresses of Madrid and Barcelona fell in regional elections this weekend, now set to be ruled by two feminist radicals who are implacably opposed to austerity and the free market order. Movements linked to Podemos – the party led by Iglesias which was formed only last year – has mounted the biggest challenge to Spain’s two-party system since the restoration of democracy four decades ago. Spain has one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, but economic growth has not rescued the defenders of a grotesquely unequal order.

Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’

New York Times, By Adam Liptak, May 26

Washington — The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”

The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

Southeast Asia maritime build-up accelerates, raising risks in disputed seas

Reuters, By Siva Govindasamy, May 25

Southeast Asian nations are prioritizing spending on their navies and coastguards amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, but as their capabilities grow, so does the risk that any confrontation in the contested waterway will be harder to contain.

Annual defense spending in Southeast Asia is projected to reach $52 billion by 2020, from an expected $42 billion this year, according to IHS Janes Defence Weekly.

The 10 nations of Southeast Asia are expected to spend $58 billion on new military kit over the next five years, with naval procurement comprising a large chunk, it said.

Much of this equipment is likely to be used in and around the South China Sea, where Beijing’s creation of artificial islands has alarmed some Asian countries and stoked tension between China’s navy and the U.S. air force.

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