Row over British police officer buying shoelaces has cost £500,000, lawyer says

Ciaran Fagan reports for the Leicester Mercury:

A complaint about a police officer buying shoelaces while on duty spiralled into a seven-year dispute costing the public an estimated £500,000.

A shopper saw the uniformed officer buying laces while on duty in the Melton area in August 2008.

The man reportedly told the officer he should not be shopping while on duty. The policeman is said to have replied that he needed the laces for his police-issue boots.

The exchange is thought to have lasted no more than one minute, but was to have long-lasting consequences for both of them.

The Crown Prosecution Service, lawyers, the courts and the force’s professional standards department all became involved in what followed, and the officer and the man are said to have suffered long-term stress because of it.’

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U.S. drug cops took a college kid’s life savings and now 13 police departments want a cut

Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post:

In February 2014, Drug Enforcement Administration task force officers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport seized $11,000 in cash from 24-year-old college student Charles Clarke. They didn’t find any guns, drugs or contraband on him. But, according to an affidavit filled out by one of the agents, the task force officers reasoned that the cash was the proceeds of drug trafficking, because Clarke was traveling on a recently-purchased one-way ticket, he was unable to provide documentation for where the money came from, and his checked baggage had an odor of marijuana.

Clarke’s cash was seized under civil asset forfeiture, where cops are able to take cash and property from people who are never convicted of — and in some cases, never even charged with — a crime. The DEA maintains that asset forfeiture is an important crime-fighting tool: “By attacking the financial infrastructure of drug trafficking organizations world-wide, DEA has disrupted and dismantled major drug trafficking organizations and their supply chains, thereby improving national security and increasing the quality of life for the American public.”

But the practice has become contentious, in part because agencies are generally allowed to keep a share of the cash and property they seize. In cases like Clarke’s, where local and federal agents cooperate on a seizure, federal agencies typically keep at least 20 percent of the assets, while local cops split the remainder among themselves. Critics argue that this creates a profit motive and leads to “policing for profit.”‘

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Everyone Gets Cosmetic Procedures, Says Time – and by “Everyone” They Mean Almost No One

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Time: Nip. Tuck. Or Else“Now everyone gets work done. Will you?” reads the front-page teaser for Joel Stein’s piece about plastic surgery, “Nip. Tuck. Or Else. Why You’ll Be Getting Cosmetic Procedures Even if You Don’t Really Want To,” in the June 29, 2015, edition of Time.

The bandwagon effect continues inside: “Not having work done is now the new shame,” Stein writes. “Cosmetic surgery has become the new makeup.” He quotes a young-adult novelist: “This is the first generation that thinks about plastic surgery as almost a given.”

Stein’s article concludes:  “All of our friends are going to have to keep up with us. And then all of their friends, until everyone is getting every procedure they possibly can.”

Even by the standards of newsweekly hyperbole, this is ridiculous.’

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Cuba first to ​eliminate mother-to-baby HIV transmission

Lisa O’Carroll reports for The Guardian:

Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby, the World Health Organisation has announced.

The WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, said it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.

Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.

HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain, said the WHO.’

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June Playlist

Israel’s new kamikaze drone

Yoav Zitun reports for Ynet News:

Still from simulation video (Photo: Aeronautics)[…] It contains a 2.5 kilogram warhead with 4,000 tungsten fragments that can powerfully scatters over a radius of 25 meters.

The UAV is designed less for collecting intelligence than for homing in on a target and damage control when a UAV fails to strike a target.

The K1 is designed for surgical strikes on targets like light vehicles or terrorist cells. The UAV can also explode in the air slightly above the target.

It has the capability to remain airborne for two to two-and-a-half hours, relatively silently. Unlike other UAVs in the world, the K1 can return to its handlers and land nearby unscathed in the event that the mission is cancelled at the last moment.’

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Robert Mundell, evil genius of the euro

Greg Palast wrote for The Guardian in 2012:

John Maynard Keynes in 1944 at the UN International Monetary Conference in Bretton Woods, NHThe idea that the euro has “failed” is dangerously naive. The euro is doing exactly what its progenitor – and the wealthy 1%-ers who adopted it – predicted and planned for it to do.

That progenitor is former University of Chicago economist Robert Mundell. The architect of “supply-side economics” is now a professor at Columbia University, but I knew him through his connection to my Chicago professor, Milton Friedman, back before Mundell’s research on currencies and exchange rates had produced the blueprint for European monetary union and a common European currency.

[…] The euro would really do its work when crises hit, Mundell explained. Removing a government’s control over currency would prevent nasty little elected officials from using Keynesian monetary and fiscal juice to pull a nation out of recession.

“It puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians,” he said. “[And] without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”

He cited labor laws, environmental regulations and, of course, taxes. All would be flushed away by the euro. Democracy would not be allowed to interfere with the marketplace.’

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Will the Greek Referendum Force the Troika Back to the Bargaining Table? Interview with Dimitri Lascaris and Leo Panitch

‘Dimitri Lascaris and Leo Panitch discuss the possible consequences of a ‘no’ vote in the July 5th referendum on the bailout conditions offered by international creditors.’ (The Real News)

Joseph Stiglitz on the “criminal responsibility” of Greece’s creditors

Simon Shuster writes for TIME:

A few years ago, when Greece was still at the start of its slide into an economic depression, the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz remembers discussing the crisis with Greek officials. What they wanted was a stimulus package to boost growth and create jobs, and Stiglitz, who had just produced an influential report for the United Nations on how to deal with the global financial crisis, agreed that this would be the best way forward. Instead, Greece’s foreign creditors imposed a strict program of austerity. The Greek economy has shrunk by about 25% since 2010. The cost-cutting was an enormous mistake, Stiglitz says, and it’s time for the creditors to admit it.

“They have criminal responsibility,” he says of the so-called troika of financial institutions that bailed out the Greek economy in 2010, namely the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. “It’s a kind of criminal responsibility for causing a major recession,” Stiglitz tells TIME in a phone interview.

Along with a growing number of the world’s most influential economists, Stiglitz has begun to urge the troika to forgive Greece’s debt – estimated to be worth close to $300 billion in bailouts – and to offer the stimulus money that two successive Greek governments have been requesting.

Failure to do so, Stiglitz argues, would not only worsen the recession in Greece – already deeper and more prolonged than the Great Depression in the U.S. – it would also wreck the credibility of Europe’s common currency, the euro, and put the global economy at risk of contagion.’

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Greek debt crisis is the Iraq War of finance

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote for The Telegraph earlier this month:

[…] If we want to date the moment when the Atlantic liberal order lost its authority – and when the European Project ceased to be a motivating historic force – this may well be it. In a sense, the Greek crisis is the financial equivalent of the Iraq War, totemic for the Left, and for Souverainistes on the Right, and replete with its own “sexed up” dossiers.

Does anybody dispute that the ECB – via the Bank of Greece – is actively inciting a bank run in a country where it is also the banking regulator by issuing this report on Wednesday [June 17]?

It warned of an “uncontrollable crisis” if there is no creditor deal, followed by soaring inflation, “an exponential rise in unemployment”, and a “collapse of all that the Greek economy has achieved over the years of its EU, and especially its euro area, membership”.

The guardian of financial stability is consciously and deliberately accelerating a financial crisis in an EMU member state – with possible risks of pan-EMU and broader global contagion – as a negotiating tactic to force Greece to the table.

It did so days after premier Alexis Tsipras accused the creditors of “laying traps” in the negotiations and acting with a political motive. He more or less accused them of trying to destroy an elected government and bring about regime change by financial coercion.’

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Greece on the brink: Paul Mason on what happens next?

Paul Mason vlogs from Athens and asks: How will the bailout referendum help the country in its ongoing debt negotiations? (Channel 4 News)

The Iran I Saw

Christopher Schroeder, author of Startup Rising, writes for Politico:

[…] This is a tale of two Irans. This is, specifically, the tale of the other Iran.

The tale we hear most often focuses on natural resources like oil as their greatest asset or nuclear power as their greatest threat—a narrative frozen in time, stretching back decades with remembered pain on both sides. For many Americans, the reference point for Iran is still centered on the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran over 35 years ago; for others, it has focused on Iranian support for destabilizing regional actors against our interests and costing lives.

At the same time, of course, Iranians have their own version of this tale: Many remember well U.S. support for a coup of their elected leadership, our support for a dictatorial regime and later encouragement of a war in Iraq that cost nearly a half-million Iranian lives.

Politics, power, mistrust: This is one version of how the media frames discussion of Iran. It’s very real, and it has much caution and evidence to support it.

But there’s another tale, one I saw repeatedly in my trip there last month. It was my second visit within the year, travelling with a group of senior global business executives to explore this remarkable and controversial nation.’

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Lessons from Iceland’s “pots and pans revolution”

Philip England writes for The Independent:

[…] Whether nationalising banks, jailing bankers, imposing controls on the movement of capital out of the country or holding two national referendums on whether or not to pay back foreign debtors, Iceland’s response to their devastating financial crash bucked all trends. Yet, six years later, the approach seems to have been a resounding success. In March, the IMF praised Iceland for being “one of the top economic performers in Europe over the past several years in terms of economic growth [with] one of the lowest unemployment rates”, and for being on course to pay back its IMF loans early.

However, since May 2013 the right-wing parties that set the conditions for the banking crisis have been back in power and some worry that they may be reverting to their old ways. Earlier this month the government proposed lifting capital controls by the end of the year (but said it would impose a one-off 39 per cent tax on investors withdrawing their money from the country). If Iceland sees a return to crony capitalism, then the economic bounce-back could be a short-lived phenomenon.

In the long run then, what may turn out to be a more significant outcome of the revolution is the cluster of citizens’ initiatives that emerged, dedicated to improving the way democracy works. Rather than focusing on banking reform, the post-revolution push from Icelandic civil society has been on fundamental democratic reform. The logic runs: why treat the symptoms of a system that has become corrupt when you can tackle the disease itself?’

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Journalist jailed in Zimbabwe for starting newspaper without government permission

The Associated Press reports:

Newspaper readersThe attorney for a Zimbabwe journalist says his client was convicted of publishing a newspaper in a southern town without government permission and sentenced to eight months in prison.

Several newspapers and radio stations have already been closed under Zimbabwe’s harsh media laws and dozens of journalists have been arrested over the past 15 years.

Defense lawyer Martin Mureri said his client Patrick Chitongo was only putting together a dummy version of the paper to apply for a license. They plan to appeal the conviction.

Although several privately owned newspapers are in circulation, the government is the largest media owner, running over a dozen national and community newspapers as well as enjoying television monopoly.’

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US cable from 1976 on ensuring continued access to Saudi petroleum

READ THE FULL CABLE…

Interview with British soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan on his survival and recovery

‘A soldier who suffered third-degree burns to 70% of his body during a roadside ambush in Afghanistan in 2006 has told the Victoria Derbyshire programme about the experience. L/Cpl Martyn Compton, from Staplehurst, Kent, was the sole survivor of the attack, in Helmand Province. He was twice shot in the leg in the same incident, and has since undergone hundreds of operations to reconstruct parts of his body. L/Cpl Compton was given a medical discharge from the Army in October 2014, and is now hoping he can earn enough through sponsorship to take part in endurance race Le Mans as part of the first disabled team.’ (BBC News)

80% of sunscreens either don’t work or have ‘worrisome’ ingredients, says EWG study

Alexandra Sifferlin reports for Time:

New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that many Americans aren’t protecting their skin as much as they should. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked people how often they use sunscreen when out in the sun for over an hour and only 14% of men said they regularly slathered on sunscreen. Women, at 30%, were twice as diligent about putting on sunscreen—while men were more likely than women to report never using sunscreen.

The problem isn’t only compliance. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2015 sunscreen guide on Tuesday, which reviewed more than 1,700 SPF products like sunscreens, lip balms and moisturizers. The researchers discovered that 80% of the products offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A,” they say. Oxybenzone is a chemical that can disrupt the hormone system, and some evidence suggests—though not definitively—that adding vitamin A to the skin could heighten sun sensitivity.’

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#AlbumoftheWeek ~ Among the Living by Anthrax (1987)

Among the Living is the third studio album by influential thrash metal band Anthrax. Often considered the weakest of the ‘Big Four’ thrash metal bands, this album is not only their defining moment but also a defining album within the genre. It was released during a period of a few years where the other ‘Big Four’ thrash metal bands also came out with their defining albums: Metallica with Master of Puppets, Megadeth with Peace Sells… and Slayer with Reign of Blood. Drummer Charlie Benante has referred to it as their “signature album, the one record that really pushed us over the edge.” Anthrax were probably the second hardest hitters of the genre after Slayer and this album shows it with its relentless aggression. But despite its fast riffs and powerful drumming, its also fun while managing to maintain a decent groove. Despite the vocals not being the greatest, some of the lyrics are socially conscious but are also balanced against less serious topics. This can be seen in the two singles that the album produced: ‘I Am the Law’ (a Judge Dredd tribute) and ‘Indians’ (about the treatment of Native American Indians, the video of which appeared frequently on MTV at the time). The iconic cover art was designed by the same artist behind Master of Puppets, illustrator and painter Don Brautigam.

Stand Out Tracks: Caught In A MoshEfilnikufesin (N.F.L.); Indians; One World

Humanitarian Warriors

Chase Madar writes for the London Review of Books:

Harold Koh is the former dean of Yale Law School and an expert in human rights law. As the State Department’s senior lawyer between 2009 and 2013, he provided the Obama administration with the legal basis for assassination carried out by drones. And despite having written academic papers backing a powerful and restrictive War Powers Act, he made the legal case for the Obama administration’s right to make war on Libya without bothering to get congressional approval. Koh, who has now returned to teaching human rights law, is not the only human rights advocate to call for the use of lethal violence. Indeed, the weaponisation of human rights – its doctrines, its institutions and, above all, its grandees – has been going on in the US for more than a decade.

Take Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, former director of Harvard’s Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy and self-described ‘genocide chick’, who advocated war in Libya and Syria, and argued for new ways to arm-twist US allies into providing more troops for Obama’s escalated but unsuccessful war in Afghanistan. This last argument wasn’t successful in 2012, though she was at it again recently when interviewed on Charlie Rose. Or there’s Sarah Sewall, another former director of the Carr Centre, who was responsible for the material on human rights in the reworked US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Or Michael Posner, the founder of Human Rights First, now a business professor at NYU, who, as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour in Obama’s first term, helped bury the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations to investigate atrocities committed during Israel’s 2008-9 assault on Gaza. Or John Prendergast, a former Human Rights Watch researcher and co-founder of Enough, an anti-genocide group affiliated with the Centre for American Progress, who has called for military intervention to oust Robert Mugabe.’

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Remember When Hillary Clinton Was Against Gay Marriage?

Editor’s Note: People saying “what’s wrong with Hillary changing her mind” clearly don’t get it. She changed her mind because she wants votes. If public opinion was still against same-sex marriage, Hillary likely would be too. She was against it for all those years and is now acting like she’s been leading the charge to legalise it all along. Politicians hijack popular movements for their own benefit, people should stop acting like she “deserves credit” for pining her name to this one. She deserves no credit because she hasn’t done anything besides turn up waving a rainbow flag after all the hard work has been done. 

Sam Biddle writes for Gawker:

Hillary Gay MarriageHillary Clinton wasted no time in co-opting today’s historic Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage as a promotional device for her presidential run. “Proud to celebrate,” Clinton declared on Twitter, despite the fact that relatively recently she thought same sex marriage should remain illegal.

This video is from 2004, when Clinton was a senator. In it, she says ‘I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”

A decade prior, she stood by her husband as he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, a piece of legislation that codified gay America’s second-class status. So it’s fair to say that Hillary Clinton has had a longstanding opposition to gay marriage—either that, or she was too afraid to speak truthfully about her convictions for political reasons, which is really just as bad. Only in 2013, as a presumptive 2016 presidential contender, did Clinton reverse her stance.’

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Orwell’s Triumph: Joshua Cohen and Novels of Surveillance

Sam Frank writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Orwell’s Triumph: How Novels Tell the Truth of SurveillanceWhen government agencies and private companies access and synthesize our data, they take on the power to novelize our lives. Their profiles of our behavior are semi-fictional stories, pieced together from the digital traces we leave as we go about our days. No matter how many articles we read about this process, grasping its significance is no easy thing. It turns out that to understand the weird experience of being the target of all this surveillance — how we are characters in semi-true narratives constructed by algorithms and data analysts — an actual novel can be the best medium.

Book of Numbers, released earlier this month, is the latest exhibit. Written by Joshua Cohen, the book has received enthusiastic notices from the New York Times and other outlets as an ambitious “Internet novel,” embedding the history of Silicon Valley in a dense narrative about a search engine called Tetration. Book of Numbers was written mostly in the wake of the emergence of WikiLeaks and was finished as a trove of NSA documents from Edward Snowden was coming to light. Cohen even adjusted last-minute details to better match XKeyscore, a secret NSA computer system that collects massive amounts of email and web data; in Book of Numbers,Tetration has a function secreted within it that automatically reports searches to the government. As Tetration’s founder puts it, “All who read us are read.”’

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France, Up in Arms Over NSA Spying, Passes New Surveillance Law

Martin Untersinger reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - If You Can’t Beat ’Em: France, Up In Arms Over NSA Spying, Passes New Surveillance LawOn Wednesday, France woke up to find that the National Security Agency had been snooping on the phones of its last three presidents.

Top-secret documents provided by WikiLeaks to two media outlets, Mediapart and Libération, showed that the NSA had access to confidential conversations of France’s highest ranking officials, including the country’s current president, François Hollande; the prime minister in 2012, Jean-Marc Ayrault; and former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

Yet also today, the lower house of France’s legislature, the National Assembly, passed a sweeping surveillance law. The law provides a new framework for the country’s intelligence agencies to expand their surveillance activities. Opponents of the law were quick to mock the government for vigorously protesting being surveilled by one of the country’s closest allies while passing a law that gives its own intelligence services vast powers with what its opponents regard as little oversight. But for those who support the new law, the new revelations of NSA spying showed the urgent need to update the tools available to France’s spies.’

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Think it’s cool Facebook can auto-tag you in pics? So does the government

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology, which had been the stuff of hypothetical privacy nightmares for years, is becoming a startling reality. It is increasingly being deployed all around the United States by giant tech companies, shady advertisers and the FBI – with few if any rules to stop it.

In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google launched facial recognition to mine the photos on your phone, with both impressive and disturbing results. Facebook’s Moments app can recognize you even if you cover your face. Google Photos can identify grown adults from decades-old childhood pictures.

Some people might find it neat when it’s only restricted to photos on their phone. But advertisers, security companies and just plain creepy authority figures have also set up their own systems at music festivals, sporting events and even some churches to monitor attendees, which is bound to disturb even those who don’t give a second thought to issues like the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.’

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U.S. private prisons hold inmates longer but no reduction in crime seen, study finds

‘Financial incentives have been found as the main motivation for private prisons to maximize the lengths of inmate stays, but the results are not saving states very much money or reducing crime, according to research done by the University of Wisconsin. Anya Parampil speaks with Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a prison reform activist, about the study.’ (RT America)

ISIS, a year of the caliphate: Have US tactics only helped to make Islamists more powerful?

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

The “Islamic State” is stronger than it was when it was first proclaimed on 29 June last year, shortly after Isis fighters captured much of northern and western Iraq.

Its ability to go on winning victories was confirmed on 17 May this year in Iraq, when it seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and again four days later in Syria, when it took Palmyra, one of the most famous cities of antiquity and at the centre of modern transport routes.

The twin victories show how Isis has grown in strength: it can now simultaneously attack on multiple fronts, hundreds of miles apart, a capacity it did not have a year ago. In swift succession, its forces defeated the Iraqi and Syrian armies and, equally telling, neither army was able to respond with an effective counter-attack.

Supposedly these successes, achieved by Isis during its summer offensive in 2014, should no longer be feasible in the face of air strikes by the US-led coalition. These began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with US officials recently claiming that 4,000 air strikes had killed 10,000 Isis fighters. Certainly, the air campaign has inflicted heavy losses on Isis, but it has made up for these casualties by conscripting recruits within the self-declared caliphate, an area the size of Great Britain with a population of five or six million.’

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Major Strikes on Three Continents Spark Fears of Growing ISIS Reach

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

The first Friday of Ramadan was a bloody one indeed, with three major attacks on three continents, coming even as a major ISIS attack on the Kurdish city of Kobani was leaving nearly 200 civilians dead. A bombing claimed by an ISIS affiliate on a Shi’ite mosque in Kuwait killed 27, 39 more were killed in a strike by apparent ISIS gunmen at a Tunisia resort. Another attack, in Paris, left one man dead.

Of the three attacks, only the one in Kuwait has been conclusively linked to ISIS, and the suspect in the French strike was a Salafist, but killed his boss, so it may have been coincidental timing. Still, these attacks are fueling growing international fear about ISIS’ considerable reach.

ISIS has made considerable territorial gains over the past two years, carving out a “caliphate” across both Iraq and Syria, and holding roughly half of the entire area of Syria. They hold oil-rich territory, cities of millions, and are about to issue their own currency.’

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Defense secretary “not confident” Guantanamo will be closed under Obama

Kristina Wong reports for The Hill:

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter cast doubt Tuesday on whether the Guantanamo Bay detention facility can be closed before President Obama leaves office.

“I’m not confident, but I am hopeful,” Carter said in an exclusive interview with CBS News.

The closure of the U.S. military prison in Cuba was a campaign promise Obama made in 2008, but Congress has imposed restrictions on detainee releases through annual defense policy bills.

Carter said earlier this month he was working on a proposal to send to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

McCain has said he is willing to work with the administration to close the facility if the administration submits a plan that can be approved by Congress.’

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Cenk Uygur On Obama’s Gay Marriage Flip-Flopping

Cenk Uygur discusses Barack Obama’s political games regarding his positions on gay marriage. Obama was initially a supporter of gay marriage but pretended he was against it back in 2008 before “evolving” to support it again in 2012. This flip-flopping was done in order to gain votes and raise funds depending on the political race he was running at that time.

Today’s Court Ruling, Though Expected, is Still Shocking – Especially for Those Who Grew Up LGBT in the U.S.

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Today’s Court Ruling, Though Expected, is Still Shocking – Especially for Those Who Grew Up LGBT in the U.S.By a 5-4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that laws denying same-sex couples the right to marry violate the “due process” and “equal protection” guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. With or without the court ruling, full-scale marriage equality was an inevitability thanks to rapid trans-ideological generational change in how this issue was perceived; today’s decision simply accelerated the outcome.

All the legal debates over the ruling are predictable and banal. Most people proclaim – in the words of Justice Scalia’s bizarre and somewhat deranged dissent – that it is a “threat to democracy” and a “judicial putsch” whenever laws they like are judicially invalidated, but a profound vindication for freedom when laws they dislike are nullified. That’s how people like Scalia can, on one day, demand that campaign finance laws enacted by Congress and supported by large majorities of citizens be struck down (Citizens United), but the next day declare that judicial invalidation of a democratically enacted law “robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

Far more interesting than that sort of naked hypocrisy masquerading as lofty intellectual principles are the historical and cultural aspects of today’s decision. Although the result was expected on a rational level, today’s ruling is still viscerally shocking for any LGBT citizen who grew up in the U.S., or their family members and close friends. It’s almost hard to believe that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Just consider how embedded, pervasive and recent anti-gay sentiment has been in the fabric of American life.’

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UN Official: ‘Gaza reconstruction could take 30 years’

The National reports:

‘Gaza reconstruction could take 30 years’Gaza reconstruction is moving at a “snail’s pace” and at this rate, it would likely take 30 years to rebuild the extensive damage from last summer’s Israel-Hamas war, a senior UN official said. Roberto Valent, the incoming area chief of a UN agency involved in reconstruction, blamed the delays on the slow flow of promised foreign aid and continued Israeli curbs on the entry of building material to Gaza.

Speaking in the Gaza City office of the UN Development Programme, he said his tour of destroyed neighbourhoods this week was “very, very disheartening”.

Israel and Egypt have severely restricted access to Gaza since the militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

After last year’s 50-day war, Israel allowed the import of some cement and steel under UN supervision to ensure the materials would not be diverted by Hamas for military use.

Mr Valent said on Wednesday that the system is too slow and Israel must open Gaza’s borders to allow for the speedy rebuilding or repair of 141,000 homes he said suffered minor to severe damage or were destroyed.’

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