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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Russia: U.S. Demands To Hand Over Edward Snowden Are ‘Ravings And Rubbish’

By Alexei Anishchuk and Thomas Grove

MOSCOW/NAANTALI, Finland (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Tuesday a former U.S. spy agency contractor sought by the United States was in the transit area of a Moscow airport but ruled out handing him over to Washington, dismissing U.S. criticisms as “ravings and rubbish”.

In his first public comments since the fugitive flew in on Sunday, he appeared to make light of the affair around Edward Snowden, whose flight from U.S. authorities is becoming an increasing embarrassment for President Barack Obama. Asked by a journalist about the affair, he smiled fleetingly.

“I myself would prefer not to deal with these issues. It’s like shearing a piglet: there’s a lot of squealing, but there’s little wool,” he told a news conference in Finland.

His refusal to hand back Snowden risked deepening a rift with the United States that has also sucked in China and threatens relations between countries that may be essential in settling global conflicts including the Syrian war.

Putin said the 30-year-old American was in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and, not having gone through passport control, was free to leave.



Coalition Plans To Punish Those Who Boycott Israel

The charge that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel is anti-semitic fails its only salient test. The target of BDS is not Jews or Judaism, but militarism and lawlessness, argues Jake Lynch.


The number two in the incoming government has vowed to use the coercive power of the state to stifle dissent on a contested policy issue.

In Uzbekistan? Equatorial Guinea? No – Australia.

According to Julie Bishop, shadow foreign minister and deputy Liberal leader, I and other supporters of an academic boycott of Israel will be penalised under the Coalition, by having our access to public research funds summarily cut off.

It appears to be a gesture to pro-Israel groups, who are backing what they – like everyone else – assume will be the winner in September's federal election. Prominent members of both main parties, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, have signed the 'London declaration on combating anti-semitism', but Labor has resisted calls to use the machinery of government to enforce its claims.

Chief among them are that calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel are themselves a form of anti-semitism.



Chuck Hagel Celebrates LGBT Pride month At Pentagon Event

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel marked June as LGBT Pride month at an event at the Pentagon today, describing gay and lesbian servicemembers as "integral to America's armed forces."

It was a first for Hagel, who was confirmed as defense secretary in February, and a historic moment for the Department of Defense, marking the first time a defense secretary has attended a Pentagon Pride event.

"Our nation has always benefited from the service of gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsmen, and Marines. Now they can serve openly, with full honor, integrity and respect. This makes our military and our nation stronger, much stronger," Hagel said at the 30-minute event, that was also attended by White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning. "The Department of Defense is very proud of its contributions to our nation's security. We're very proud of everything the gay and lesbian community have contributed and continue to contribute. With their service, we are moving closer to fulfilling the country's founding vision, that all of us are created equal."

The mere thought of a sitting secretary of defense attending a Pride month event for out servicemembers would have been inconceivable a few years ago, as Fanning, who is gay, noted. "Just two years ago, you couldn't openly serve in the military, and today we have had the secretary of defense kick off our Pride celebration," Fanning said. "Your presence here today means more than you could possibly understand."

But since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military has taken steps to embrace out gay servicemembers.



Edward Snowden: History Will Be Kind To Him (Guardian UK Editorial)

Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago, was smeared and denounced at the time

The Guardian, Tuesday 25 June 2013 16.54 ED

No government or bureaucracy loves a whistleblower. Those who leak official information will often be denounced, prosecuted or smeared. The more serious the leak, the fiercer the pursuit and the greater the punishment. Edward Snowden knew as much before contacting this newspaper to reveal some of the things that troubled him about the work, scope and oversight of the US and British intelligence agencies. He is unlikely to be surprised at the clamour to have him locked up for life, or to have seen himself denounced as a traitor.

It was also quite predictable that Snowden would be charged with criminal offences, even if there is something shocking in the use of the 1917 Espionage Act – a measure intended to prevent anti-war speech in the first world war by treating it as sedition. On the available evidence Snowden's almost certain motive for speaking out was far removed from anything resembling espionage, sedition or anti-Americanism. His attempts to stay beyond the clutches of US law may involve travel to countries with a poor record on freedom of expression. But his choice of refuge does not, of itself, make him a traitor. As Buzzfeed's Ben Smith has written ("You don't have to like Edward Snowden": "Snowden's personal story is interesting only because the new details he revealed are so much more interesting. We know substantially more about domestic surveillance than we did, thanks largely to stories and documents printed by The Guardian. They would have been just as revelatory without Snowden's name on them."

America is blessed with a first amendment, which prevents prior restraint and affords a considerable measure of protection to free speech. But the Obama administration has equally shown a dismaying aggression in not only criminalising leaking and whistleblowing, but also recently placing reporters under surveillance – tracking them and pulling their phone and email logs in order to monitor their sources for stories that were patently of public importance.

There is a link to the material Snowden has leaked, and to his stated motive for doing so. In a world of total monitoring – where intelligence agencies aspire to collect and store every single email, text message and phone call – serious investigative reporting becomes difficult, if not impossible. Normal interchanges between sources and journalists cannot take place in such a world. Officials who were once willing to talk are already chilled. In future they would be silenced. Thanks to Edward Snowden we are beginning to glimpse what another NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake, has described as "a vast, systemic institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan surveillance state that has clearly gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism".



Iran And Israel Are Similar, After All

The two countries are alike historically, in their tension between religious extremism and freedom and in their dramatic struggles between the public’s desire for change and the opposition of calcified elements of the regime.

By Sefi Rachlevsky | Jun.25, 2013

Iran and Israel are more similar than either of their regimes would be willing to admit. They are similar historically, similar in their tension between religious extremism and freedom, similar in their dramatic struggles between the public’s desire for change and the opposition of calcified elements of the regime.

Those who seek to belittle what happened in the Iranian election are trying to hide the sun with their hands. Whatever happens in the future, the fact that a sweeping majority voted for change, and that the regime didn’t play games with the results, is significant. Those who try to claim there’s a formal, deterministic answer to the question of who makes the decisions don’t know what they’re talking about. In the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is formally the one who decides, but in reality, party chairman Aryeh Deri has often been the decision maker. In Israel, the cabinet and the prime and defense ministers are formally the ones who decide whether to go to war, but in reality, when all the heads of the security services are opposed − for instance, to attacking Iran − this matters.

In Iran, too, despite the formal structure, outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad carried weight, and he and his messianic cult even came close to taking over the entire government. It’s true that Hasan Rowhani’s election as his successor raises the chances of Iran going nuclear, but it delays the process and creates a good chance of a moderating change in the regime.

And we mustn’t get confused: The danger lies in the combination of messianic extremism and nuclear arms. An Islamic state that contains extremist elements, proliferates nuclear know-how and has dozens of nuclear bombs isn’t a future catastrophe, but something that already exists. It’s called Pakistan. And Israel didn’t attack it.



China Rejects U.S. Accusation On Snowden

BEIJING, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The United States' accusation against China on fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden's departure from Hong Kong is groundless and China will not accept it, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

"The accusation that the U.S. side made against the Central Government of China fell short of proof. The Chinese side will absolutely not accept it," spokeswomen Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"The U.S. side's doubt about the lawful operation by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is totally unreasonable," she said.

"We hope the U.S. side will work with China to earnestly implement the important consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries, strengthen dialogue and cooperation, manage and control disputes and conflicts and advance bilateral relations constantly," she said.

Commenting cyber security issues, Hua said China opposes any form of cyber attacks and the use of double standard.



16 Killed, 33 Wounded In Fresh Bomb Attacks In Iraq

Source: Xinhua

BAGHDAD, June 25 (Xinhua) -- At least 16 people were killed and 33 others wounded in the latest bomb attacks on Tuesday in Iraq, the police said.

A roadside bomb exploded near a football playground in Baquba, capital of Diyala province in eastern Iraq, killing eight young people and wounding 18 others, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The same source said an improvised explosive device struck a minibus in the Zafaraniyah area in southern Baghdad, killing four people and injuring 15 others.

Meanwhile, in the northwestern province of Nineveh, a bombing attack on an Iraqi army patrol killed four soldiers, he added.

Read more: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-06/26/c_132486127.htm

Venezuela Not To Bow To Any Superpower: President

CARACAS, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelans have an independent country that does not bow to any superpower, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Monday.

Maduro made the remarks at an event held in Valencia, capital of central Carabobo state, to mark the 192nd anniversary of a historic battle for independence.

"We have a true homeland, because we have a country with men and women educated with the values of (independence hero Simon) Bolivar. We have a true homeland, because we have an independent republic that does not kneel in front of any empire in the world," he said.

The Battle of Carabobo cinched Venezuela's victory in its struggle for independence from colonial Spain.

Venezuelans "can today commemorate the glories of that immortal battle as a free and independent nation on the road to socialism," said Maduro.



Jim Hightower: Poverty’s New Home

It’s been nearly 50 years since poverty in America was a front-burner issue on our nation’s political agenda – and it’s time to move it up again.

Even as those at the top of our society have grown fabulously richer in the past decade, those in the economic middle have seen incomes stagnate and fall, opportunities decline, and poverty become not about someone else, but about them. Numbers that were not even imaginable half a century ago are now our cold reality – 50 million poor people, 51 million more who are “near poor,” almost one-in-four children under five years old living in poverty, and no sign of this mass decline decelerating.

The face of American poverty, however, has changed somewhat. In the sixties, the poor had largely been born into it and were out of most people’s sight – tucked away in backwater rural counties and isolated urban ghettos. This kind of poverty persists, but today’s big jump in numbers comes from families that have been knocked down from a middle-class life – dismayed to find themselves among the long-term unemployed, grabbing at temporary low-paying jobs, and buying meager groceries with food stamps.

These are the new poor, but they also constitute a new demographic phenomenon: The suburban poor. Once the secure base of the middle-class, suburbs have become the fastest-growing home of American poverty. Since 2000, the number of suburban poor has surged by 64 percent, twice the rate of urban poor. By 2011, America’s suburbs held three million more poor people than were in our core cities.



U.S. Said to Explore Possible China Role in Snowden Leaks

By John Walcott - Jun 25, 2013
U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Edward Snowden’s leaks may be a Chinese intelligence operation or whether China might have used his concerns about U.S. surveillance practices to exploit him, according to four American officials.

The officials emphasized there’s no hard evidence yet that Snowden was a Chinese agent or that China helped plan his flights to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, directly or through a witting or unwitting intermediary. Rather, they are duty-bound to probe such a worst-case scenario for the U.S., said the officials, who are familiar with the case and asked not to be identified to discuss classified intelligence.

President Barack Obama said the U.S. is working with other nations to gain custody of Snowden on espionage charges, as administration officials chastised China for letting him leave Hong Kong for Moscow and pressed Russia to turn him over on the assumption that he’s still there.

“We’re following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure that rule of law is observed,” Obama told reporters at the White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday in New Delhi that it would be “deeply troubling” if Russia had advance notice of Snowden’s arrival in Moscow and “notwithstanding that, they make the decision willfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law.” He warned both Russia and China of “consequences” for their actions.


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