Edward Snowden told the European Union's Parliament that the U.S. was too busy monitoring online video games when it let the accused Boston marathon bombers and the so-called "underwear bomber" slip through its fingers.
“Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the ‘Underwear Bomber,’ was allowed to board an airplane traveling from Europe to the United States in 2009," Snowden said in his teleconfernce testimony to the European Union’s Parliament last Friday, notes USNews.com.
"The 290 persons on board were not saved by mass surveillance, but by his own incompetence, when he failed to detonate the device,” added Snowden. “While even Mutallab's own father warned the U.S. government he was dangerous in November 2009, our resources were tied up monitoring online games and tapping German ministers. That extraordinary tip-off didn't get Mutallab a dedicated U.S. investigator. All we gave him was a U.S. visa.”
Snowden them slammed the U.S. for ignoring the accused Boston marathon bombers.
“Despite the Russians specifically warning us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the FBI couldn't do more than a cursory investigation, although they did plenty of worthless computer-based searching, and failed to discover the plot [in which] 264 people were injured, and 3 died," Snowden said. "The resources that could have paid for a real investigation had been spent on monitoring the call records of everyone in America.”
Snowden also said the NSA works hard to find loopholes in U.S. law as well as foreign laws to allow bulk data-gathering.
Snowden said the NSA works, “very hard to search for loopholes in laws and constitutional protections that they can use to justify indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance operations that were at best unwittingly authorized by lawmakers.”
Snowden, who currently lives in Russia, asked for asylum from the European Union countries during his testimony, but a motion to grant him asylum was voted down, likely because of pressure from the United States, notes The Guardian.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Ind.) is trying to get Snowden removed from speaking via Skype at the upcoming South by Southwest event in Austin, texas, reports Politico.com.
Sources: The Guardian, USNews.com, Politico.com
Republican lawmakers in South Carolina want to cut the budgets of the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina (USC) Upstate because the schools offer courses that include gay-themed books.
The S.C. State House of Representatives voted in February to reduce funds for the College of Charleston by $52,000 and the University of South Carolina Upstate by $17,162, noted the Christian Science Monitor.
The money could be voted back in on March 10 when lawmakers vote on their 2014-2015 fiscal budget.
State Rep. Garry Smith (R), who proposed the cuts, said he got a letter from an offended voter whose 17-year-old daughter is going to the College of Charleston.
"I think the university has to be reasonable and sensible to the feelings and beliefs of their students," Smith told CNN. "That was totally ignored here. I was trying to hold the university accountable."
"Their stance is 'Even if you don't want to read it, we'll shove it down your throat,'" claimed Smith. "It's not academic freedom, it's academic totalitarianism."
However, the College of Charleston says that if a student is offended, he or she can could move to another class where "Fun Home," a book about the author coming out as a lesbian, is not assigned.
USC Upstate assigned the book "Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio" as summer reading for freshmen, but says students can take the class (without the book) in their second year if they want to.
Smith says many people have told him that they support the proposed cuts against the schools.
"They appreciate me taking a stand," said Smith.
President Barack Obama’s just-released budget for the 2015 fiscal year includes raising over $1 trillion in the next decade by closing up tax code loopholes.
USA Today reports that the $3.9-trillion budget proposal includes tax cuts for some taxpayers, particularly low-income Americans, beginning in 2018. Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit will help 13.5 million low earners keep more of their wages.
Of the 175 revenue proposals, 28 of which are new, Obama proposed exclusion Pell grants from income taxes, expected to save taxpayers $8.9 billion over 10 years, and made sole proprietors and other owners of professional services firms pay more taxes by declaring less in corporate profits. That proposal would take in $37.8 billion extra in Social Security and Medicare taxes over the same period.
"The budget secures that revenue through tax reform that reduces inefficient and unfair tax breaks and ensures that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street, is paying their fair share," Obama said in his budget message to Congress.
Rep. Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of Congress’ chief tax-writing committee, released a draft of similar legislation but kept the distribution of tax burden the same, without increasing taxes for the wealthy and decreasing them for the poor.
"Unfortunately, the president's budget adds more complexity to the tax code and increases taxes for more Washington spending," Camp criticized in a statement. "That is the wrong direction."
Both proposals seek a new tax on banks, with Camp’s anticipating $86 billion in revenue and Obama’s featuring a $56-billion "financial crisis responsibility fee" over the coming decade.
The budget, which the New York Times called a “Populist Wish List and an Election Blueprint,” also contains proposals for more efficient TSA lines at airports, training for law enforcement to respond better to mass shootings, and $75 million for mental health programs aimed at young people.
The story of a woman subjected to a shockingly invasive cavity search at the hands of Customs and Border Protection — and then made to foot the $5,000 bill — is receiving renewed attention as the ACLU builds momentum behind the case.
The woman filed a lawsuit against CBP and the hospital where the search was performed, the University Medical Center of El Paso, for the six-hour anal and vaginal cavity search she endured in December 2012. The breach of bodily privacy was conducted because a drug dog jumped on the 54-year-old woman, an American citizen referred to as “Jane Doe,” at the Texas/Mexico border. When the woman refused to sign a consent form at the end, she was billed more than $5,000. The bill has since been waived.
Ives, a lawyer for the ACLU, appeared on the radio show On The Media to speak about the case.
"Whether or not this reflects a pattern of practice [at CBP] is not yet clear," the woman's attorney, Laura Schauer Ives, told The Huffington Post. "But that the agents felt emboldened to do this, I think, is telling."
The incident is nothing short of assault, Schauer Ives says, and “an excuse for abandoning constitutional principles.”
The complaint details the lasting trauma of the hours-long search.
“Her labia, vaginal opening, and anus were left raw and sore and she felt violated, demeaned and powerless as a result of the searches," it reads. "Since her ordeal, Ms. Doe has not been able to be physically intimate with her husband. When she is in public, she feels as if everyone is staring at her, so she avoids public spaces and stays at home whenever possible. She still cries when she thinks about this incident."
Meanwhile, the CBP has issued the following comment: "CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe.”
Former Arkansas governor and current Fox News host Mike Huckabee told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference today that God created the United States and that most Americans agree.
Huckabee did not cite any verses from the Bible or any other evidence that God created America during his speech (video below).
"I know there's a God, and I know that this nation would not exist had He not been the midwife of its birth," Huckabee said, according to RightWingWatch.org. "If this nation forgets our God, then God will have every right to forget us."
Huckabee then recalled a false prediction made by Ruth Bell Graham, the Rev. Billy Graham's late wife, in the 1960s that God would strike down the United States over the sexual revolution, which did not happen.
"There is no other way to explain our history other than by His hand of providence," said Huckabee. "In the hearts of most Americans, deep down, we know it to be true."
According to Politico.com, Huckabee also attacked Hillary Clinton over the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, by misquoting her (video below).
“With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, it does make a difference why [Americans in Benghazi] died and who did it,” stated Huckabee.
However, Clinton never said that it doesn't make a difference why Americans died or who did it, but was instead referring to the personal motivation of the terrorists, which is only known to the terrorists themselves.
Politfact.com notes that on May 8, 2013, Clinton had enough of Sen. Ron Johnson's, R-Wis., claims that the Obama White House lied about the Benghazi attack and said, "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."
During his speech yesterday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told the audience a story about a child who did not want a free school lunch.
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson "once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program," Ryan claimed. "He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand."
The conservative National Review called Ryan's speech a "moving story that explains the difference between hard work and dependency."
However, Ryan's story is not true, noted The Washington Post, which did some extensive fact checking.
According to the Post, Anderson told the story during a congressional hearing in 2013 and claimed she had spoken to the boy herself.
However, the Post notes the story is very close to parts of a book entitled "An Invisible Thread."
The book describes an executive who offered a homeless boy money to eat for the week or a lunch made for him each day in a brown paper bag.
The homeless boy chose lunch in brown paper bag, which, he said, meant "somebody cares."
A spokesman for Anderson told The Washington Post that she "misspoke" and was actually speaking of a TV interview she had seen with Maurice Mazcyk, the boy from "An Invisible Thread."
The Washington Post notes that school lunches are not mentioned in "An Invisible Thread."
"I have just learned that Secretary Anderson misspoke, and that the story she told was improperly sourced," Ryan wrote yesterday on his Facebook page. "I regret failing to verify the original source of the story, but I appreciate her taking the time to share her insights.
"I want people to think about what they can do to make the world a kinder world," Laurie Schroff, author of "An Invisible Thread," told The Huffington Post. "I don't care about Republicans and Democrats. But we are talking about children that need to be fed. Cutting school lunch programs doesn't accomplish that."
Ryan has advocated cutting school lunch programs, reported The Huffington Post.
President Barack Obama ordered the first Western sanctions of Russia in response to the country’s military takeover of Crimea. European leaders are now deciding how far to take their own sanctions.
The Associated Press reports that Obama announced the sanction midday Thursday and then spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone for an hour. In speaking to the White House and Putin, Obama emphasized that the United States could not condone Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
"Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve," Obama said at the White House. "That's what we're going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis."
Obama told Putin that diplomacy was still an option if Russia retreated to its base in Crimea and Ukraine and Russia held direct talks.
The European Union imposed sanctions Thursday as well, suspending talks with Putin about an economic agreement that would allow Russian citizens to travel to EU countries without a visa. European leaders balked, however, when it came to harsher sanctions like freezing assets or issuing travel bans to officials. Many European countries depend on Russian oil and gas, and Russian investors hold a significant stake in the banks of certain countries, such as Britain and Cyprus.
"The solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine," read the EU summit statement. "It would be a matter of great regret if Russia continued to refuse to participate in a productive dialogue with the government of Ukraine."
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said a second round of sanctions could follow if the first ones fail, according to the Guardian.
The Crimean government just decided to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia. It has said it will hold a referendum in 10 days, a move condemned by the Ukrainian government and international leaders.
A new Public Policy Polling survey revealed Thursday that Sen. John McCain is the least popular senator in the country, with an approval rating of only 30 percent among Arizona voters.
McCain scored low with both Republicans and Democrats.
Some 44 percent of Arizona voters disapprove of McCain’s job performance and 16 percent aren’t sure, according to the left-leaning poll.
Among fellow Republicans, McCain has only a 35 percent approval rating. Among Democrats, his approval rating is only 29 percent.
Though the Republican senator isn’t up for reelection until 2016, the poll suggests his time as a congressman is up. While he hasn't announced another run, McCain said he is still considering reelection.
McCain has served in the U.S. Congress since 1982. He was elected to the Senate in 1986.
PPP conducted the poll among 870 registered Arizona voters.
During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference today, National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre warned the audience about a dystopian world where criminals run rampant, Americans fear for their lives and the U.S. government won't protect anyone.
"We fear for the safety of our families," said LaPierre (video below). “I’ve never been worried about his country until now. We fear for the safety of our families. It’s why neighborhood streets that were once filled with bicycles and skateboards and laughter in the air now sit empty and silent.”
According to RightWingWatch.org, the stone-faced LaPierre warned, "There are terrorists, and there are home-invaders, drug cartels, car-jackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
LaPierre then asked the Obama-hating crowd, "Do you trust this government to protect you?"
The crowd replied, "No!"
"We are on our own," announced LaPierre. "That is a certainty. There is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want!”
The NRA has made numerous fear-mongering claims in the past in an effort to get gun owners to believe the federal government is after them, buy guns and support the NRA, which is financially backed by the $12-billion gun manufacturing industry, noted The Huffington Post in 2013.
Democracy Now! reported in 2013 that the NRA has gotten as much as $38 million in support from gun companies since 2005 (video below).
During his speech today at the Conservative Political Action Conference today, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., claimed that low income children who got free lunches at school had unloving parents at home.
According to RawStory.com (video below), Ryan first made the false claim that the Affordable Care Act "will discourage millions of people from working."
Ryan then claimed he knew of a boy from a low-income family who got free lunches via a government program, but "didn’t want a free lunch."
“He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids,” stated Ryan. “He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.”
However, Ryan failed to mention that the left wants to increase the federal minimum wage for working Americans to $10.10 and lift them out of poverty, which he opposes.
According to ThinkProgress.org, Ryan claimed earlier this year that raising the minimum wage for working Americans was "inflationary" and would cost jobs but failed to provide any evidence.