Archive for June, 2013


Sun Jun 30, 2013 6:24AM


Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa says Russia will make the decision about the destination of American intelligence whistleblower who has holed up in an airport in Moscow.

 

“At this moment, the solution of Snowden’s destination is in the hands of Russian authorities,” Correa said in an interview with the private Oromar channel late Saturday.

 

Snowden arrived in Moscow’s international airport from Hong Kong last Sunday. The U.S. has revoked his passport to prevent him from travelling. However, he has applied for asylum in Ecuador.

 

According to the law in Ecuador, asylum requests can be processed only when the applicant is in Ecuadorian territories.

 

Snowden, a former analyst at the National Security Agency, has revealed top secret intelligence documents about the U.S. surveillance programs in the country and abroad. He faces charges of espionage and theft of government property.

 

Correa said Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador on the advice of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who released hundreds of thousands of U.S. classified documents three years ago. Also wanted by the U.S., Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since last year.

 

Correa spoke with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden early Saturday. In his weekly address, the Ecuadorian leader said Biden had asked him to “please reject” Snowden’s asylum request. He said he would consult the U.S. on making any decision about the application but added Quito would have the final say regarding the issue.

 

MA/HJ

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Corporate Control and Double Standards

Rafael Correa, the Press, and Whistleblowers

by ADAM CHIMIENTI

Once again, we are witnessing a growing frustration with “tiny” Ecuador. The United States government is clearly not happy with what would be the latest diplomatic slap in the face coming from the South American country, i.e. the pending arrival of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in the coming days. Beyond the United States’ government though, the US press corps are also seemingly up in arms. Why are they so angry? Well, it appears that they are indignant over the perceived hypocrisy of President Rafael Correa.

Claims of Hypocrisy

According to an article from The Atlantic (and another similar one from NPR here), the Ecuadorian leader “has created a safe space for foreigners like Assange — and now possibly Snowden –[but] he doesn’t do the same for dissenters within his own country.” News agencies like NBC News and The Atlantic think this is “interesting” and want to know ‘Why Ecuador?’ Such inquiries naturally turn to the NGOs, who are also less than pleased with this unruly little country. Freedom House, the Committee to Protect Journalists and others are upset that this very week, the one-year anniversary of Assange being holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (and the same week that the Snowden asylum request is being reviewed), the Ecuadorian National Assembly has passed a Communications Bill that detractors claim is a major blow to a free press.

For several of the opposition figures and US-based observers, Ecuador’s new media legislation has sealed the deal on the stasi-like state that they imply or openly charge Correa has been dreaming about for years. In other words, transparency advocates like Assange and Snowden are compromising their credibility by associating with the Correa government. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the right-wing terrorist supporter/US Congresswoman representing Miami, has been busy tweeting as much. The Ecuadorian government, however, asserts that the bill is meant to place more media power in the hands of public groups and move away from privately owned media monopolies.

Meanwhile, the Council of Hemispheric Relations, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Heritage Foundation all say that Ecuador must be punished for this latest insult to the US government. James Roberts of Heritagelashed out at the South American leader on June 24, writing in the National Review Online:

“Rafael Correa has demonstrated a blatant disregard for international standards of justice. That kind of conduct may not be surprising from a man who seeks to don the mantle of Chávez, but it should not be rewarded with trade preferences.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how a figure like Correa would have been dealt with a few decades back, but it appears that the more heavy-handed approach is not really possible at the moment, much to the dismay of the powerful and connected.

Returning to the issue of freedom, has the defiant president of Ecuador used the National Assembly to pass a law that NPR, The Atlantic and others tell us will be used to make the country less transparent and more hostile to journalists who only wish to be free to monitor the government and act as a check on state power? Well, let’s hold off on the most absurd elements of irony here for a moment and address the issue at hand.

About a Coup

It should certainly not be regarded as a good thing if the case was simply a cut-and-dry example of authoritarian overreach. Freedom of the press, as we are learning with the Snowden case, has seemingly never before been so important, or so contentious for that matter. However, the Ecuadorian issue is not so simple and it was certainly complicated after a day of crisis nearly three years earlier when factions of the National Police and armed forces attacked the president of Ecuador on September 30, 2010. The event was widely regarded as a coup attempt. What exactly went down is still somewhat unclear. There was a dramatic showdown between Correa himself and police officers that were angered by a supposed attempt to cut their pay. What is for certain, though, is that it was a countrywide, well-coordinated attempt to shut down the National Assembly, the two major airports in Guayaquil and Quito and eventually a hospital where the president was being treated for wounds. Furthermore, the plotters were also attacking journalists throughout the country, and most of these were pro-government reporters working for public media outlets.

The opposition press has taken an active role in attempts to discredit Correa since he first ran for president. He has elaborated on his views of the press and they are certainly not very congenial. In 2012, during a public TV interview in Spain, Correa said, “one of the main problems around the world is that there are private networks in the communication business, for-profit businesses providing public information, which is very important for society. It is a fundamental contradiction.”

One of the issues that NGOs and journalists have cited in their litany of complaints about Ecuador’s endangered freedom of the press actually stems from the 2010 police and military uprising. During the chaos that ensued during the alleged coup attempt, one reporter from the paper of record in Guayaquil took the opportunity to claim that Correa had ordered police to fire on a crowd of innocent onlookers caught up in the melee, presumably aiming to provoke anti-government sentiments. The claim turned out to be completely unsubstantiated. The government fined the journalist and his paper El Universo some $40 million for defamation but later withdrew the charges. Consider what might have happened in the US if the Los Angeles Times or Washington Post would have falsely claimed that Barack Obama had personally ordered military or police forces to fire on a crowd of protesters and innocent people were injured as a result somewhere in Washington, D.C It would be difficult to imagine a reporter and his editors ever committing such a stupid move, but if they had, there would have been some serious consequences. Alas, this is not really too shocking in the context of a sensationalist Latin American press.

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Ecuador offers U.S. rights aid, waives trade benefits


Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino (center L) talks to reporters before a function at a hotel in Singapore June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

QUITO | Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:06am EDT

(Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist government thumbed its nose at Washington on Thursday by renouncing U.S. trade benefits and offering to pay for human rights training in America in response to pressure over asylum for former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The angry response threatens a showdown between the two nations over Snowden, and may burnish President Rafael Correa’s credentials to be the continent’s principal challenger of U.S. power after the death of Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.

In a cheeky jab at the U.S. spying program that Snowden unveiled through leaks to the media, the South American nation offered $23 million per year to finance human rights training.

The funding would be destined to help “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said. He said the amount was the equivalent of what Ecuador gained each year from the trade benefits.

“Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits,” he said.

An influential U.S. senator on Wednesday said he would seek to end those benefits if Ecuador gave Snowden asylum.

Snowden, 30, is believed to be at Moscow’s international airport and seeking safe passage to Ecuador.

 

Read More  Here

 

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Ecuador tells U.S. to send its position on Snowden in writing


People spend time in a waiting room at the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport June 26, 2013. REUTERS-Sergei Karpukhin

WASHINGTON | Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:29am EDT

(Reuters) – Ecuador said on Wednesday the United States must “submit its position” regarding Edward Snowden to the Ecuadorean government in writing as it considers the former U.S. spy agency contractor’s request for asylum.

Ecuador, in a statement from its embassy in Washington, said it would review the request “responsibly.”

“The legal basis for each individual case must be rigorously established, in accordance with our national Constitution and the applicable national and international legal framework. This legal process takes human rights obligations into consideration as well,” the statement said.

“This current situation is not being provoked by Ecuador,” the embassy said.

Snowden, 30, a former employee of the U.S. contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, appears to be still in hiding at a Moscow airport awaiting a ruling on his asylum request from the tiny South American nation’s leftist government.

 

Read More Here

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Putin rules out handing Snowden over to United States


Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is seen during a news broadcast on television at a restaurant in Hong Kong June 26, 2013. REUTERS-Tyrone Siu

MOSCOW | Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:10am EDT

(Reuters) – A former U.S. spy agency contractor sought by Washington on espionage charges appeared on Wednesday to be still in hiding at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and the national airline said he was not booked on any of its flights over the next three days.

Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew on to Moscow on Sunday, evading a U.S. extradition request. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he was in the transit area of the airport and he had no intention of handing him to Washington.

“They are not flying today and not over the next three days,” an Aeroflot representative at the transfer desk at Sheremetyevo said when asked whether Snowden and his legal adviser, Sarah Harrison, were due to fly out on Wednesday.

 

Read More  Here

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Ecuador denounces US ‘double standards’

Sun Jun 30, 2013 2:1AM

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa

 

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has denounced U.S. “double standards” over granting asylum to fugitives.

 

Correa said Saturday that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had asked him in a telephone call not to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, the fugitive former CIA contractor wanted in the U.S.

 

In a weekly television address, Correa rebuked the Obama administration for hypocrisy, pointing to the case of brothers Roberto and William Isaias, both of them bankers, whom Ecuador is seeking to extradite from the U.S.

 

“Let’s be consistent,” Correa said. “Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here.”

 

Earlier this month, Snowden revealed massive U.S. surveillance programs sparking a scandal in America. Washington is now seeking the extradition of the leaker, charged with espionage and theft of government property in his home country.

 

Snowden is currently in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. Reports say he could consider seeking asylum from Ecuador, where he was planning to travel to after leaving Russia.

 

“The moment that he arrives, if he arrives, the first thing is we’ll ask the opinion of the United States, as we did in the Assange case with England,” Correa said in his television address. “But the decision is ours to make.”

 

Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been given asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London. Wikileaks revealed classified documents it received from former U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq.

 

Secret documents provided by Snowden show the United States has spied on various European Union institutions and offices as well.

 

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington, New York and Brussels.

 

AHT/ARA

 

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Martin Schulz, the head of the European Parliament

The head of the European Parliament has demanded that the United States provide full clarification over a report disclosed by American whistleblower Edward Snowden alleging that Washington spied on EU offices.

Martin Schulz said on Saturday that the revelation would have severe impacts on the ties between the EU and the US if proven true.

“On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations,” Schulz stated.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the leaked documents showed that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington, New York and Brussels.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Der Spiegel: “If these reports are true, it’s disgusting.”

“The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately,” said Asselborn.

Former US defense analyst Wayne Madsen told Press TV on Saturday that some European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and Britain, have secret agreements with Washington to hand over the private data of their citizens to the National Security Agency.

Snowden is currently in a transit zone at Domodedovo International Airport in the Russian capital, Moscow, after the United States revoked his passport to prevent him from travelling further. Snowden has asked Ecuador for asylum.

In the beginning of June, Snowden leaked documents, which revealed that the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been secretly gathering information of American citizens and other people all around the world.

CAH/HSN/HMV

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US reportedly bugged EU offices, computer networks, according to Der Spiegel magazine

 

The United States has been accused of bugging European Union offices and accessing EU computer networks, according to secret documents cited in German magazine Der Spiegel.

The allegations are based on a “top secret” document from the National Security Agency (NSA), dated September 2010, that was allegedly stolen by fugitive Edward Snowden.

The document, which has been seen in part by Der Spiegel journalists, is said to outline how the NSA listened to conversations and phone calls by bugging EU offices.

It also details how the agency spied on internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations.

Without citing sources, the magazine also reported that security officers at the EU had noticed several missed calls and traced them to NSA offices within the NATO compound in Brussels more than five years ago.

A spokesman for the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence had no comment on the story.

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, says if the report is correct it will have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the United States.

 

Read More  Here

 

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Sherif el-Hagaty (left) coordinates the Tamarod campaign in Cairo’s Kobri el Kobba district. (Photo: Perrine Mouterde)
© Perrine Mouterde

Millions of Egyptians have signed up to the Tamarod – or rebellion – campaign, which is calling for an early presidential election to mark President Mohammed Morsi’s first anniversary in office on June 30.

By FRANCE 24 (video)
Perrine MOUTERDE reporting from Cairo (text)

A group of around 30 demonstrators line a street in the Kobri el Kobba district of Cairo, holding up posters that say “Tamarod” – or rebellion in Arabic. In the thick of Cairo’s traffic, passing motorists honk to show their support for the cause.

Walaa, a young demonstrator dressed in a flowing all-black cloak and veil noted that a year ago she voted for Mohamed Morsi in the first presidential election after the fall of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Residents of Kobri el Kobba display their support for the Tamarod campaign. (Photo: Perrine Mouterde)

“Since then, nothing has changed – nothing,” says the single, unemployed young woman. “The situation is even worse, both internally and in our external relations. The Muslim Brotherhood listens to the people when they need their votes and then they forget about us. They have divided Egyptians.”

Disappointed by the government, Walaa now supports the Tamarod campaign.
Launched in early May by a group of young people – including a few members of Kefaya, one of Egypt’s oldest opposition movements – Tamarod is a signature campaign calling for an early presidential election since, the organisers claim, Morsi has lost the trust of the Egyptian people.

Over the past few weeks, the movement has spread quickly across the country.

The petition, which is available on the Internet, has been printed and photocopied by volunteers, who collect signatures at traffic intersections, markets and metro stations in Cairo and other towns and cities. Several opposition parties have also opened their premises to the campaign and have mobilised their members. Tamarod organising committees have been formed in towns and cities such as Ismailia, in eastern Egypt, and Kafr Zayat, a city 90 kilometers north of Cairo.

On the movement’s Facebook page, which at last count had nearly 400,000 fans, activists post pictures of signatories from Aswan, in southern Egypt, to Sharm El Sheikh, in the Sinai.

The organizers say they have already collected nearly 15 million signatures. That’s 2 million more than the 13 million voters who handed Morsi a slim 52% victory in the June 2012 run-off vote against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak.

‘There is no work, no security, no state’

In the Kobri el Kobba district of Cairo, Fahed Hosni, 22, fills out the Tamarod form, supplying his name, national identity card number and governorate. “Mohamed Morsi is not the right person to lead the country,” he explains. “He has not delivered on any of the demands of the revolution.”

The Tamarod petition calls for an early presidential election. (Photo: Perrine Mouterde)

Signing the petition on the hood of a car, Haifat Anwar Habib agrees. “Anyone could do better than Morsi,” he notes. “The Muslim Brotherhood is not interested in doing what is best for Egypt, but to establish their Islamist project.”

Like many Egyptians, Habib finds daily life getting harder each day. Egyptian authorities are still awaiting a $4.8 million IMF loan, which was agreed in principle two years ago.

Negotiations for the loan have run into repeated snags, with the IMF calling for more robust reforms. With economic growth down from a pre-2011 average of 7% to around 2% after the uprising, plummeting foreign reserves, rising unemployment and inflation, Egypt’s economy has been battered and is only being kept afloat by loans from Qatar and other regional states.

Read More  and Watch Video Here

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Fears of a civil war growing as Egyptians prepare for day of reckoning over Mohamed Morsi

Seven die, hundreds are injured, as rivals organise massive rallies on anniversary of president’s rule

Egypt protest 2013 Mohamed Morsi supporters

Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi shout anti-opposition slogans outside the Rabia el-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo, not far from the presidential palace, on Saturday. Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

Egypt‘s leading Islamic institution has warned of a possible civil war as clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi spread across the country on Saturday – exactly a year after his inauguration as the first democratically elected president.

Egypt’s fate feels as uncertain as at any point since the 2011 uprising, which toppled Hosni Mubarak, with repeated rumours of military intervention.

At least eight people have died and more than 600 have been injured in fighting between Morsi’s Islamist allies – who argue that his democratic legitimacy should be respected – and his often secular opponents, who say that he has not shown respect for the wider values on which a successful democracy depends.

But with at least four attacks nationwide on offices of the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group from which Morsi hails – divisions are being increasingly drawn on ideological grounds. Anger is directed not just at Morsi, but at the Brotherhood, which is considered a partner in his eventual aim of restructuring the state along more religious lines. A former Brotherhood MP was killed in fighting earlier in the week.

The US has warned its citizens to defer non-essential travel to Egypt and told non-emergency diplomatic staff to leave. Cairo’s main airport was crammed on Saturday, with all international flights reportedly fully booked.

“We’re here to bring down the Murshid’s regime,” said Saad el-Aswany, a builder from Aswan attending an anti-Morsi protest in Tahrir Square. The Murshid is the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader, and members of the opposition think his office is the real power behind Morsi’s throne. “Banish the Murshid and all who are with him,” shouted thousands alongside him, many waving Egyptian flags.

Five miles away, hundreds of thousands were waving the same national flag – but with a different vision of what it represented. “Islam, Islam,” chanted those who had descended on the capital to support their president. “Islam in spite of liberalism.”

“I’m here for Islamic law first, and democracy second,” said Moustapha Sabry, a maths teacher who follows the strict Salafi form of Islam.

Cairo remained relatively calm on Saturday as tens of thousands of people, both supporters and opponents of Morsi, were engaged in relatively peaceful sit-ins. But with deaths in several provincial cities, there are mounting fears over stability — especially since Morsi’s opponents have promised to mobilise millions on Sundayto force him from office. Protest organisers said a petition calling on Morsi to quit had collected 22 million signatures, although the figure, which amounts to 40% of the electorate, could not be verified.

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Tamarod surpasses 22 million signatures

  /   June 29, 2013

The group proposes a six-month transitional road map

The Tamarod campaign announced on Saturday that they had collected over 22 million signatures in their petition campaign to withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi and hold early presidential elections in a press conference. (Photo by Aaron T. Rose)

The Tamarod campaign announced on Saturday that they had collected over 22 million signatures in their petition campaign to withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi and hold early presidential elections in a press conference.
(Photo by Aaron T. Rose)

By: Salma Abdullah

The Tamarod campaign announced on Saturday that they had collected over 22 million signatures in their petition campaign to withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi and hold early presidential elections in a press conference.

“The president lost his legitimacy when he didn’t follow the law or the constitution and when he put the interests of his group before those of the Egyptians,” said Tamarod founding member Mohamed Abdel- Aziz .

The group proposed a six-month transitional road map where they hand power to an independent prime minister who would head a technocratic government. The head of the constitutional court would be assigned the duties of the president, but with limited powers, until holding presidential elections.

The statement added that the National Defence Council would have the authority to fulfil its national security responsibility towards the country.

Tamarod spokesperson Mahmoud Badr said that they would close all Tamarod branches and their headquarters would instead be located in the squares all over the country, adding that they would release a statement everyday at 10 pm detailing what is happening around the country.

Badr said that the 30 June protests are a continuation of the 25 January revolution. “Tamarod wouldn’t be the leader, it is the Egyptian people who will lead us,” Badr added.

Badr asked people to participate in 30 June protests saying, “The petitions without the sit-ins and protests would be useless.”

The starting points of the 30 June marches include marches in Heliopolis, Shubra, Nasr City, Ein Shams and Al-Matareya that will head to the Presidential Palace, while marches from Mostafa Mahmoud mosque, Haram and Giza will head to Tahrir Square.

Badr condemned any attempts to drag people into violence and accused the Brotherhood of using violence in the past saying that, “Egyptians wouldn’t fear their terrorism.”

Nadia Henry, a former Shura member, announced the resignation of eight members from the Shura council, stating, “We have decided to be on the people’s side from the very beginning,” she said. She added that they stood against the draft judiciary law, and supported the ministry of culture sit-in from the first day.

Read More Here

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Nine Egyptian MPs resign ahead of anti-Morsi protests

Members of the Egyptian Shura Council attend a meeting in Cairo. (file photo)

Members of the Egyptian Shura Council attend a meeting in Cairo. (file photo)
Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:17PM GMT
7
LAST UPDATE
Nine secular Egyptian MPs have resigned from the acting parliament ahead of Sunday’s demonstrations against President Mohamed Morsi.

The MPs said on Saturday that they had resigned from the Shura Council, the upper house of Egyptian bicameral parliament, in support of the Egyptian people, Ahram Online reported.

The Shura Council took over legislative duties after parliament was dissolved in June 2012 by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the country’s then ruling military council.

According to Shura Council speaker Ahmed Fahmy, a number of other MPs also reigned but their resignations are yet to be accepted.

In a televised address on June 26, Morsi said the polarization of the country’s political life is “threatening to paralyze” Egypt.

He acknowledged that he had made some mistakes during his first year in office but called for national reconciliation, saying that he was open to cooperating with the opposition on constitutional reform.

On June 27, Egypt’s main opposition coalition — the National Salvation Front (NSF) — rejected the president’s offer and called instead for early elections.

The NSF claimed that Morsi had failed to take responsibility for the country’s deep political polarization and failed economy.

The opposition group Tamarod (Arabic for Rebellion) has called for mass demonstrations on Sunday, which marks Morsi’s first year in office, to demand his resignation and early presidential elections.

Several political groups say the government is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition also accuses Morsi of deviating from the 2011 revolution that toppled the Western-backed regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi’s supporters, however, say the president is cleansing Egyptian institutions of corruption but he needs time to realize the ideals of the 2011 revolution.

“We gave them a chance to lead a reconciliation but they didn’t. The resignation comes to support the popular trend in Egypt,” said MP Mona Makram Ebeid, who resigned on Saturday.

Ihab al-Kharatt, the head of the human rights council at the Shura Council, said some 22 deputies had quit.

“We resigned in support of 22 million Egyptians who withdrew their confidence from Morsi,” Kharatt stated, referring to a petition launched by the opposition group Tamarod which says it has gathered 22 million signatures to demand Morsi’s ouster and a snap presidential election.

GJH/AS

 

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Eva and Stanley. © Charlotte Boitiaux/FRANCE 24
© Charlotte Boitiaux/FRANCE 24

Despite protests elsewhere, many locals in the township of Soweto have been looking forward to the arrival of Barack Obama, who was due to visit the nearby University of Johannesburg on Saturday to meet with South African students and entrepreneurs.

By Catherine VIETTE (video)
Charlotte BOITIAUX , reporting from South Africa (text)

The noise is deafening, the smell of burnt food overpowering. It is 10 am on Saturday, June 29, and already Bara, Soweto township’s largest market, is in full swing.

Just a few hundred metres away lies the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg, where US President Barack Obama is expected to make an appearance later in the day as part of his first ever visit to South Africa.

The voice of James Blunt rings out from an old CD player sitting on the pavement and resonates around the market stalls.

“An American singer for the arrival of an American,” says the CD player’s owner, Edward, though Blunt is actually British.

“I know that the US president comes to us today, I’m happy,” he says as he sits cross-legged in front of a pile of clothes which he sells for 20 rand (1.50 euros) apiece.

‘He is an African’

Edward is just one of many locals looking forward to Obama’s arrival and the economic rewards it could bring for the region.

“If you see him, tell him to come here with even more business,” says Stanley, a 78-year-old South African wearing a black cap to shield himself from the sun as the day begins to warm up.Standing next to him, his friend Eva is also looking forward to the President’s visit.”We need jobs, and that’s something he can provide,” she says with a laugh.

There is also a sense of pride among some South Africans at welcoming the first ever black US president to their country.

“He is an African” says Petruce enthusiastically, speaking in Zulu while handing out flyers for his stall where he sells DVDs at 10 rand (75 cents) each.

“I think he treats people well, he is a man of peace like Mandela. Economics is fine, but respect for human beings is better,” he adds.

Mandela has spent the past three weeks in a Pretoria hospital where his health is said to be in a critical condition. But for both Petruce and Eva, there is no sense that the timing of Obama’s visit is in any way disrespectful.

“Life must go on,” says Eva, “I do not think Mandela would have wanted us not to give him a warm welcome, he wouldn’t have liked that.”

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Barack Obama to face protests in South Africa after years of laissez-faire

Trade unions, students and Muslim groups are among those determined to give the US president a bumpy landing

Barack Obama meets Desmond Tutu during a visit to South Africa in 2006

Barack Obama, then a rising Democrat senator, meets Desmond Tutu during a visit to South Africa in 2006. Photograph: Obed Zilwa/AP

Symbolism will hang heavy this weekend when Barack Obama visits Soweto, the cradle of South Africa’s black liberation struggle, and Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela, who remained in critical condition in hospital last night, languished for years, plotting his nation’s rebirth.

Obama should not expect red-carpet treatment from all South Africans, despite the historic affinity between the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements. Workers, students and Muslim groups are among those determined to give Obama a bumpy landing when he descends on Africa‘s biggest economy.

“NObama” is the cry from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist party, which have called for “all workers” to join mass protests including a march on the US embassy in Pretoria on Friday.

Academics and students have vowed to boycott the University of Johannesburg’s award of an honorary law doctorate to Obama. The Muslim Lawyers’ Association has called for the president to be arrested as a war criminal.

While these may appear fringe group stunts that US presidents face all over the world, South Africa is an unusual case. Cosatu and the Communist party form a “tripartite alliance” with the governing African National Congress (ANC) and expect to be heard. Cosatu in particular, with 2.2 million members, is central to the ANC’s election machinery and well rehearsed in mobilising demonstrations that have been known to turn violent. The secretary general of the Communist party, Blade Nzimande, doubles as the country’s higher education minister and the ANC has plenty of self-professed communists and Marxists with a flair for anti-western rhetoric.

Obama is a target for those who prefer to blame South Africa’s malaise of inequality and joblessness on global capitalism rather than the ruling ANC.

Bongani Masuku, Cosatu’s international relations secretary, said: “Obama is perpetuating American foreign policy. The US is an empire run on behalf of multinational companies and the ruling class of America. US foreign policy is militarising international relations to sponsor and make their own weapons.”

Many in Africa had impossibly high hopes for Obama, the son of a Kenyan. But Masuku added: “I’m not disappointed because I didn’t expect anything. It’s not about the individual; it’s not about the race he came from. It’s about the class he represents. It’s like he’s the gatekeeper for white monopoly capital. He promised things we knew he wouldn’t be able to do.”

Guantánamo

That view is not confined to militant union organisers but extends to some members of the revered struggle generation. Denis Goldberg, who stood trial with Mandela in 1963-64 and was sentenced to life in prison by the apartheid regime, said: “I don’t like the idea of Guantánamo Bay; I think this is reprehensible.

“The unending assumption of depending on Chinese credits to finance your wars elsewhere – I think it’s outrageous what’s going on. I don’t have final answers but we need to ask questions of the big powers – all of them.”

Such is Cosatu’s influence on the ANC that its attacks on the US – from Palestine and Guantánamo Bay to the “ruthless and savage looting of our natural resources” – have sparked warnings of a diplomatic rift.

Ian Davidson, shadow international relations minister for the opposition Democratic Alliance, said: “This is President Obama’s first state visit to South Africa and is a significant event for the country to further our relations with the United States. It should not be blighted by Cosatu’s cheap political-point scoring. This move by Cosatu is an embarrassment to South Africa.”

On the surface, US-South African relations are cordial and have improved since the presidencies of George Bush and Thabo Mbeki, though Washington’s intervention in Libya alienated many here. But while many young South Africans were caught up in “Obama-mania” five years ago, those with longer memories bitterly recall Ronald Reagan’s failure to oppose apartheid.

Tom Wheeler, a former South African diplomat who began work in Washington just before the Kennedy assassination 50 years ago, said: “There’s a gut anti-Americanism and anti-westernism that lurks in some of the communities. It may be a hangover from the days when a lot of ANC people travelled to the Soviet Union, and America was regarded as the great colonialist.”

A demonstration is planned for the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus on Saturday, where the president will meet young African leaders in a “town hall” event.

With first lady Michelle and their daughters, he will then travel to Cape Town to visit Robben Island and meet retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, never shy of speaking his mind on western warmongering.

Mandela

Perhaps the only living South African more famous than Tutu is Mandela. Obama has met him once, in a Washington hotel in 2005. The prospect of the first black US and South African presidents coming face to face is a spin doctor’s dream, but could backfire if the ailing Mandela is seen to be exploited.

Goldberg, 80, said: “I think it would be such an intrusion on an old man who’s ill. We exploit Nelson Mandela and I object to that. We need to respect this great man’s privacy because people go to see Nelson Mandela not to support Nelson but to gain support for themselves, and this is exploitation.”

Speaking from Washington, Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said: “While we’re in South Africa, we are going to be very deferential to the Mandela family in terms of any interaction that the president may have with the Mandela family or with Nelson Mandela.

“Ultimately, we want whatever is in the best interest of his health and the peace of mind of the Mandela family. And so we’ll be driven by their own determinations in that regard.

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DETROIT FREE  PRESS

Anti-Obama protests dispersed by South Africa police

An Anti Obama March Is Held Ahead Of The President

Anti-American demonstrators march through the streets while protesting against the official visit of U.S. President Barack Obama June 28, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. Organized by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, about 800 people marched through Pretoria to voice their opposition to Obama and U.S. policy in South Africa and around the world. / Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Anti-American demonstrators march through the streets while protesting against the official visit of President Barack Obama June 28, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. / Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

JOHANNESBURG — Police fired rubber bullets and a stun grenade into a crowd of hundreds of protesters waiting for President Obama to arrive at the University of Johannesburg on Saturday.

The crowd quickly scattered as police officers walked up the street pushing protesters away with shot guns.

“I feel my rights are being infringed,” said 24-year-old Bilaal Qibr, who was at the protest. “We can’t protest anymore. Personally, I feel like this is an extension of the U.S.”

Protests have been planned at the university over Obama’s visit and the news that he is expected to receive an honorary doctorate when he speaks later Saturday.

“They don’t believe Obama deserves that award. The U.S. position and its relationship with Israel has created a problem,” said Levy Masete, president of the Student Representative Council. “The students say, ‘Stop the oppression in Palestine,’ and you want to honor this man who is making this oppression possible.”

“He’s here for our African resources,” said Nomagugu Hloma, 19, a student at what she called the “sell out” university. “Hands off our gold, oil, diamonds and land,” she said.

South Africa’s biggest trade union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) also said they would be protesting, while the Muslim Lawyers Association called for the president’s arrest for war crimes.

“I’m disappointed with President Obama,” said Putase Tseki, the COSATU chairman of Gauteng province in Johannesburg. “He promised he would (change) his foreign policy, he was going to resolve Palestine and close Guantanamo. I would say I was positive four years ago, but now I don’t know.”

The “feeling of being let down” helped stem the protests, says William Beinart, an African studies professor at Britain’s University of Oxford.

Anti-American demonstrators dance and sing before marching through the streets to protest against the official visit of U.S. President Barack Obama June 28, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. Organized by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, about 800 people marched through Pretoria to voice their opposition to Obama and U.S. policy in South Africa and around the world. / Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Updated today at 4:56 PM

SEATTLE  — A heat wave began Friday in Western Washington is expected to continue until mid-week.

An excessive heat watch is in effect from Monday morning through Monday evening for the Everett, Seattle and Tacoma areas.

Temperatures will rise to the upper 80s Sunday and to the low 90s Monday. Overnight lows will be around 60.

The record for July 1 at Sea-Tac Airport is 87 degrees, set most recently in 1995. And the record for July 2 is 92, set in 1968.

Temperatures east of the Cascades may break 100 on Monday and Tuesday.

In Spokane, weekend temperatures in the 90s are expected during the Hoopfest 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The event is expected to draw 28,000 players and up to 200,000 people downtown. They are being warned to drink plenty of fluids to avoid heat-related problems.

The downside of great weather is the risks some people take to enjoy it at rivers, lakes and beaches in Washington. Keep in mind the water in rivers, lakes and the Puget Sound is cold.

“Most hot weather deaths are from drowning because rivers are fed by melting snow,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Burke. “You go in and get into trouble right away.”

Read more about how to make water safety a priority during hot weather.

Authorities also are advising people to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses and not to leave children or pets in cars. Pet safety information

Also, make sure that you have enough water for you as well as anyone with you. Staying hydrated will help you avoid heat stroke. CDC heat stress information

Watch Video Here

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Punishing heat wave hits western U.S.

Updated 9:26 PM ET

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. Scorching heat blistered the Southwest on Saturday, where highs between 115 and 120 degrees were expected for parts of Arizona, Nevada and California through the weekend.

Forecasters said temperatures in sunbaked Las Vegas could match the record of 117 degrees Saturday; as of late afternoon, it was 115 degrees. Phoenix hit 119 degrees by mid-afternoon, breaking the record for June 29 that was set in 1994. And large swaths of California sweltered under extreme heat warnings, which are expected to last into Tuesday night — and maybe even longer.

Dan Kail was vacationing in Las Vegas when he heard that the temperature at California’s Death Valley could approach 130 degrees this weekend. He didn’t hesitate to make a trip to the desert location that is typically the hottest place on the planet.

“Coming to Death Valley in the summertime has always been on the top of my bucket list,” the 67-year-old Pittsburgh man said. “When I found out it might set a record I rented a car and drove straight over. If it goes above 130 I will have something to brag about.”

The forecast called for Death Valley to reach 128 degrees Saturday as part of a heat wave that has caused large parts of the western U.S. to suffer. At 4 p.m. PDT, the temperature was 122 degrees. Death Valley’s record high of 134 degrees, set a century ago, stands as the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

Play Video

West to get even hotter

Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli of CBS Station WFOR Miami reported Saturday evening that we are going to see a prolonged heat wave continue for the next several days in the desert southwest. Sunday could see high temperatures near 130 degrees in Death Valley and these temperatures are going to be very slow to cool down over the next several days — that heat wave is going to stick around.

A couple hours south in Baker, the temperature was expected to peak at 120 degrees in the road tripper’s oasis in the Mojave Desert on Interstate 15. The strip of gas stations and restaurants between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is known by travelers for the giant thermometer that often notes temperatures in the triple digits.

This graphical forecast provided by the National Weather Service shows projected high temperatures across the United States for June 29, 2013.

This graphical forecast provided by the National Weather Service shows projected high temperatures across the United States for June 29, 2013.

/ National Weather Service

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SEATTLE — The city of Seattle wants to find a better solution for its homeless encampments, but the plan by city leaders to shut-down Nickelsville has homeless advocates making a last stand.

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

Posted on June 28, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Updated yesterday at 6:29 PM

 

Where should Seattle’s homeless go?  It’s a question that is coming to a head now that the illegal tent city called Nickelsville is being forced to close.

Some want to legalize up to three homeless encampments on public and private land. The camps would have about 100 people each and be strictly regulated.

But, what neighborhoods?  It will be a tough sell.

Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata sponsored the ordinance.

“As long as it’s not permanent, well managed, and doesn’t decrease public safety,” he said.

Tent cities are allowed at religious sites, like church parking lots. In the past decade, some 30 churches have hosted the homeless.

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Mac Slavo
June 29th, 2013
SHTFplan.com

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Putin

Rumors have circulated for years about the possibility of foreign troops being deployed on U.S. soil in the event of a widespread declaration of a national emergency. For quite some time there have been anecdotal reports to support the claim that the  U.N., Russia and other nations would be used in a policing capacity should some critical event befall our nation.

The fear should such a scenario take place has been that these soldiers would act under the banner of their own flags, ignoring the fundamental protections afforded to our citizens, leaving Americans under the jurisdiction of people who don’t speak our language or respect our fundamental rights to self defense, to be secure in our homes, and to be presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.

Up until this point, nothing has ever been confirmed in writing, so officially no such foreign assistance has ever been agreed to. Thus, Americans had nothing to worry about.

All of this changed last week when representatives of Presidents Barrack Obama and Vladimir Putin met in Washington D.C., and not a single US-based news source reported it.

press release posted on The Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense and Emergencies reports that the United States and Russia will now cooperate in disaster response operations that will include the exchange of “experts” during “joint rescue operations,” a term that has been broadly defined under the new agreement.

This includes rescuers, trainers and even military “security” teams:

Several documents signed during joint work of Russian Emergency Ministry and FEMA

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry and the USA Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are going to exchange experts during joint rescue operations in major disasters. This is provided by a protocol of the fourth meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Working Group on Emergency Situations and seventeenth meeting of Joint U.S.-Russia Cooperation Committee on Emergency Situations, which took place in Washington on 25 June.

The document provides for expert cooperation in disaster response operations and to study the latest practices.

In addition, the parties approved of U.S.-Russian cooperation in this field in 2013-2014, which envisages exchange of experience including in monitoring and forecasting emergency situations, training of rescuers, development of mine-rescuing and provision of security at mass events.

At the end of the meeting the parties expressed their satisfaction with the level of cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States in the area of emergency prevention and response and agreed to develop it in order to respond efficiently to all kinds of disasters.

Source: Emergency Command of Russia via Prepper Website

The President of the Unites States has just authorized the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy foreign troops on U.S. soil during a mass event that encompasses an any number of disaster scenarios, including but not limited to declarations of martial law.

Should our country come under threat, something the Pentagon and US military have been simulating for years, we can now fully expect soldiers speaking broken English forcing their way through our front doors in similar fashion to what we saw in the wake of the Boston bombings.

 

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Author: Mac Slavo
Date: June 29th, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to http://www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

 

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Eric Blair
Activist Post

After the initial surge of web traffic to alternative news websites following The Guardian breaking the NSA spying story, traffic has slowed considerably despite the continued interest in the NSA story as well as other alternative headlines.

This dramatic drop in traffic may be due to broad censorship by the Department of Defense on “millions of computers”.

What began as a rumor that the military brass was ordering soldiers not to view news about the whistleblower revelations that the NSA is spying on all Americans has swelled into a confirmed military-wide censorship campaign using a high-tech computer filtering system.

The US News and World Report is reporting that the DoD is blocking access to all articles related to the NSA scandal from all DoD computers. The filter reportedly effects millions of computers and potentially thousands of alternative news and civil liberties websites.

According to U.S. News:

The Department of Defense is blocking online access to news reports about classified National Security Agency documents made public by Edward Snowden. The blackout affects all of the department’s computers and is part of a department-wide directive.

“Any website that runs information that the Department of Defense still considers classified” is affected, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told U.S. News in a phone interview.

According to Pickart, news websites that re-report information first published by The Guardian or other primary sources are also affected.

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50,000 dead Oregon bees to be honored in memorial service

 

Published time: June 28, 2013 20:17

Bees collect nectar from a flower (AFP Photo / Joe Klamar)

Bees collect nectar from a flower (AFP Photo / Joe Klamar)

 

 

Just days before National Pollinator Week, tens of thousands of bees fell from the trees and were found dead at a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Ore. A state investigation found that an insecticide coined “Safari” was to blame, and Oregon now has a 180-day ban of 18 pesticides containing the chemical dinotefuran.

More than 50 poisoned European linden trees have been covered with netting to prevent further bee deaths, and the Oregon State Agricultural Department is still investigating whether or not there was a violation of state or federal pesticide laws.

Meanwhile, Portland resident Rozzell Medina is hosting a memorial to commemorate the bumblebees. The July 30 event will take place in the Target parking lot to “memorialize these fallen lifeforms and talk about the plight of the bees and their importance to life on Earth,” Medina wrote on the event’s Facebook page. There will be food available for attendees.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity for people to see that this is not just a news item,” Medina told The Oregonian. “With a lot of these ecological catastrophes, they become so abstract that people become scared to feel them.”

The number of bee deaths marks the world’s largest recorded mass die-off of bumblebees. Scientists intiailly estimated that 25,000 bees died in Wilsonville, but that figure doubled after a more accurate assessment, executive director of the Xerces Society Scott Hoffman Black told the Los Angeles Times.

Last week, a second, but smaller mass die-off occurred in Hillsboro, Ore. City officials estimated that at least 100 bees died beneath a linden tree in the downtown area. Investigators linked the Safari insecticide to both the Hillsboro and the Wilsonville die-offs.

 

Read More Here

 

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Old copies of The Times with supplements (Wikimedia Commons)

Old copies of The Times with supplements (Wikimedia Commons)

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Mac Slavo
June 2nd, 2010
SHTFplan.com

What good is a government if they can’t regulate every aspect of your life? From the same lawmakers that brought us the Detroit economic calamity comes a new bill, aimed at controlling the flow of information to the unsuspecting public even more than the mainstream does now.

A Michigan lawmaker wants to register reporters to ensure they’re credible and have “good moral character.”

State Sen. Bruce Patterson is introducing legislation that will regulate reporters much as the state regulates hairdressers, auto mechanics and plumbers. Patterson, who also practices constitutional law, says the general public is being overwhelmed by an increasing number of media outlets — traditional, online and citizen generated — and an even greater amount of misinformation.

“Legitimate media sources are critically important to our government”, he said.

He told FoxNews.com that some reporters covering state politics don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re working for publications he’s never heard of, so he wants to install a process that’ll help him and the general public figure out which reporters to trust.

“We have to be able to get good information,”he said.   “We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source”.

According to the bill, reporters who register will have to pay an application and registration fee and provide a “Board of Michigan Registered Reporters” with proof of:

– “Good moral character” and demonstrate they have industry ethics standards acceptable to the board.

– Possession of a degree in journalism or other degree substantially equivalent.

– Not less than 3 years experience as a reporter or any other relevant background information.

– Awards or recognition related to being a reporter.

– Three or more writing samples.

Government registration and licensing requirements of journalists and reporters will be determined by a board of higher-educated bureaucratic intellectuals who’ll have the power to determine if a wanna-be reporter has the necessary writing skills, ethics and good moral character to be allowed to disseminate their views to the public.

Had a law like this been passed by King George in the late 1700′s, would reporters and commentators like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine been approved by the journalist licensing board? Or, would a board instituted by the king have found that Franklin’s and Payne’s morals and ethics ran counter to those of the Empire? Since both of these men published their views under anonymous pen names, the information and claims made could not possibly have been – what did Mr. Patterson call it – oh yes, “legitimate.”

At the very least, however, Mr. Paine would have certainly subscribed to the fairness doctrine, publishing the monarchy’s opposing views right next to his patriotic diatribes in Common Sense.

President Obama, who recently suggested that news and information on blogs, talk radio, and cable, is difficult to sift through and figure out who’s telling the truth, would likely support Mr. Patterson’s bill on a federal level. Once a reporter is licensed, the public would have the comfort of knowing that the writings, opinions, and insights being presented have been thoroughly sifted, filtered and edited to ensure the information is truthful and easy to understand.

The same population of gullible idiots that require government intervention when it comes to smoking cigarettes, drinking sodas, and salt intake, also need to be told what news they can consume.

We couldn’t possibly let the consumer gather as much information from various news sources and make their own interpretations based on opinions, video, and audio excerpts – that would be way too easy and cost-effective.

While Senator Patterson believes that it is important for the government to have legitimate media sources because they are critical to our government, radio talk show hosts like Neal Boortz disagree:

The media isn’t supposed to be important to the government, you ignoramus Democrat; it’s supposed to be important to THE PEOPLE.

Disclaimer: Neither Mac Slavo or SHTF Plan are actively licensed or registered. We are not journalists or reporters. The information above is illegitimate until such time that a governing board approves our credentials, including but not limited to, our morals, ethics, grammatical and spelling ability, and journalistic background. Use of this information, disinformation, and misinformation is at your own risk.

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Author: Mac Slavo
Date: June 2nd, 2010
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to http://www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

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Michigan To License Journalists?

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Michigan Senator introduces bill to require journalist licensing, “moral character” a factor

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Reporters to need government licenses?

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Glenn Greenwald DESTROYS David Gregory. With Newsmen Like You…..

Published on Jun 23, 2013

Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald took Meet The Press host David Gregory head on in an interview Sunday morning, after Gregory asked if Greenwald would be criminally culpable for “aiding and abetting” NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

“I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” Greenwald said. “The assumptions in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I’ve aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced, being co-conspirator in felonies for working with sources.”

“If you want to embrace that theory,” Greenwald continued, “it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information, is a criminal. It’s precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It’s why the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, as a result of the questions you just mentioned.”

Gregory was very unhappy at being personally implicated in Greenwald’s answer. “The question of who’s a journalist may be up for debate, in regards to what you’re doing” Gregory said. “Anybody who’s watching this understands that I was asking a question. That question has been raised by lawmakers, as well. I’m not embracing anything. But obviously I take your point.”

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