Horticulturist Trying To Save Giant Sequoia Planted By Muir

MARTINEZ, Calif. (UPI) — Conservationists in California say they are looking for a way to save the life of a giant sequoia planted by author and naturalist John Muir in the 1880s.

The 70-foot-tall tree, hand-planted by Muir on his homestead 35 miles northeast of San Francisco — which is now a national historic site — is dying of an airborne fungus, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Horticulturist Kevin Park said he is working on saving the tree and may pursue creating a genetic replica, or cloning, the Muir tree.

Tree cloning is fairly common around Muir’s homestead, but the task is usually performed on younger trees and is not successful on older ones, said William Libby, professor emeritus of genetics and forestry at the University of California Berkeley.

“We’ve cloned thousands of them in the 1- to 2-year-old class and never missed,” said Libby, who is on the research committee of the Save the Redwoods League. “When you get to 6 [years old], you get some that don’t work. By the time they’re 20, most don’t work. We’ve never [cloned] one beyond 80.”

Park said he read this year the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive — a non-profit based in Michigan — has successfully cloned trees planted by George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Park has since sent the group healthy cuttings from Muir tree.

“John Muir himself had a hand in bringing it from the Sierra,” Park said of the dying tree. “To me, it’s a symbol of him and his love for the mountains, down here in the hot Alhambra Valley.”

Gasoline Prices Stay High In United States

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States is 3.7 percent higher than a month ago, AAA reported.

The travel service organization reported a national average price of $3.63 for Monday, a 4 cent decline from the previous week but 13 cents higher than the same time last month.

Chicago had the highest price per gallon for the Lower 48 states with an average of $4.10. The area has experienced higher-than-average gasoline prices because of refinery issues in the Midwest.

The Lundberg Survey of retail gasoline prices, released Sunday, said the national average was $3.67, the Chicago-Sun Times reported. The survey is based on information from nearly 2,500 retail fueling centers and is different from the information obtained by AAA.

The U.S. Energy Department said it expects gasoline prices to average approximately $3.50 per gallon for the season.

Consumers are seeing higher prices at the pump because of increases in oil prices caused mainly by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, analysts say.

Should American Taxpayers Spend More Money On Welfare Or Prison?

Researchers from Rice University and Louisiana State University illustrated in a recent study that domestic policy encouraging a welfare and police state simultaneously are economically unworkable and do damage to the very people the policies were intended to help.

The study, “Intended and Unintended Consequences of Prison Reform,” examines the impact of Federal court orders condemning prison crowding and the outcomes among States following these orders as incarceration rates continue to rise in the United States. The researchers found that court-mandated efforts by the Federal government to improve living conditions in prisons resulted in less welfare funding for poor Americans.

“When courts are effective in increasing spending on prisoners, the legislature has to increase taxes or cut spending in other programs, given states’ balanced budget requirements,” said Richard Boylan, professor of economics at Rice. “As a result, most of these increases in spending come at the expense of welfare spending and/or other social programs.”

Before courts stepped in, States that ended up being court ordered to improve living conditions spent about 72 percent per inmate of what was spent by States that were not ordered to make prison improvements. The mandates resulted in increased correctional expenditures across the board, to 87 percent per prisoner during the year in which the court order was issued and reaching 102 percent two years after the court order.

The court actions led to lower inmate mortality rates (20 percent decrease), fewer prisoners per capita (12 percent decrease) and all-around better prison living conditions. But the results of the study show that these court orders resulted in a 22 percent decrease in the amount of money available for State welfare programs and other initiatives that could keep poorer Americans out of prison in the first place.

Boylan hopes that the research will underscore the unintended consequences of increased prison spending.

“These results are a classic example of the unintended consequences of well-intentioned policymaking in the face of limited resources, where helping one vulnerable population ends up harming another,” Boylan said.

According to U.S. Census figures, one in 142 Americans is currently in prison, and one of every 32 Americans is either in prison or on parole from prison. That makes for 6.7 million Americans involved in the corrections system. There are nearly 47 million current recipients of food stamps in the United States.

Test Tube Burger On Someone’s Menu

A hamburger made from test tube-grown “beef” is on someone’s menu for this week.

The so-called beef for the burger is the product of a Dutch professor whose work was financed by an anonymous businessman and the Dutch government. It was created from stem cells stripped from a cow’s muscle that were incubated in a nutrient broth, stretched on a machine to simulate exercise and stimulate growth, then minced with lab-grown animal fat. The final, uncooked product is said to be gray with a slippery texture similar to squid or scallop. The financier may be the first to eat the lab-created slime.

The developer’s goal is to create alternatives to cattle that consume “70 percent of agricultural capacity,” according to Professor Mark Post, and that will be less expensive. Scientists say it’s possible this slime product will be sold to the public in 10 years.

The proper healthy alternative, of course, is to consume less beef and if you must eat beef then to eat only free range beef that isn’t fed or injected with steroids, hormones and antibiotics. The proper alternative is to consume very little meat and to eat only organically grown poultry or fish that is not fed or injected with steroids, hormones and antibiotics. Focus instead on whole, fresh vegetables, as much raw as possible.

This alternative is also the best way to avoid Obamacare. But at all costs, avoid and reject lab-created so-called “foods.”

Public, Lawmakers Must Seize The Day And Defeat The NSA

Despite suffering a close defeat last week during a House vote on an amendment to defund certain portions of the National Security Agency’s data collection efforts, privacy advocates in the United States are in a better position to gain public support for dismantling portions of the Nation’s surveillance apparatus than they have been in years.

“This was the closest vote I’ve ever seen post-9/11 in regard to reeling in the NSA apparatus,” Amie Stepanovich, director of the Domestic Surveillance Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told The Hill after the vote. “The numbers on this vote show there’s incredible interest in reforming these programs. I don’t think it matters that it didn’t pass.”

And members of Congress aren’t the only ones who seem to be changing their minds about the need for such invasive spying to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations that the security agency is involved in broad data collection affecting virtually every American has, according to recent polling numbers, made fewer Americans trust that the NSA is seeking information only on terror suspects.

According to numbers from Pew, 56 percent of Americans believe that Federal courts should do more to limit what telephone and Internet data the government can collect as part of anti-terrorism efforts. Seventy percent of those polled expressed concern that the government uses the data for purposes other than investigating terrorism.

Overall, 47 percent of those polled believed that the government has gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties, while 35 percent were more concerned that policies have not gone far enough to protect the country.

Pew also indicates that Republicans and Democrats share similar concern over civil liberties violations:

The increase in concern about civil liberties has taken place across the board, with double-digit shifts in opinion among nearly all partisan and demographic groups. Republicans prioritized security over civil liberties by a 58%-25% margin in 2010. Today, Republicans are as likely to say their bigger concern is civil liberties (43%) as security (38%), a balance of opinion nearly identical to that among Democrats (42% civil liberties, 38% security).

With growing public concern over government spying, and subsequent political pressure on politicians to act, privacy advocates in Congress — like Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who authored last week’s amendment, or Senator Ron Wyden, who has been talking about intelligence agencies violating Americans’ privacy for years — will have a better chance of defeating those lawmakers who find government spying agreeable.

“If we don’t take a unique moment in our constitutional history — in our political history — to fix a surveillance system that [is] just off the rails, I think we’ll regret it,” Wyden told reporters for The Washington Post Friday.

And for those still unwilling to believe that the U.S. surveillance system has truly grown out of control, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, the original publisher of Snowden’s leaks, said he would release more information this week detailing how low-level NSA employees can listen to the phone calls and read the emails of American citizens without court approval.

“And what these programs are, are very simple screens like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address and it does two things: it searches a database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered,” Greenwald said on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Sunday.

President Phony

With his poll numbers plummeting, President Barack Hussein Obama used some of the last days before he departs for another multimillion-dollar vacation to try to deflect attention away from the scandals that have defined his tenure in the Oval Office. According to the President: “With an endless distraction of political posturing and phony scandals and Lord knows what, Washington keeps taking its eye off the ball.”

While his Thursday remarks do not represent the first time a Democrat has tried to minimize the damage Obama’s mendacity has done to his credibility, they do beg a rather obvious question: To which scandal was he referring?

In trying to hide from the consequences of his failures, Obama issued a blanket “phony.” But last week, his press secretary, Jay Carney, used “phony” to describe the Obama Administration’s very real deployment of the Internal Revenue Service as a political weapon. That particular assault on liberty began in Cincinnati and has now stretched all the way to the White House Counsel’s office — all despite a series of paper-thin denials from the President and his accomplices. However, given that the scandal is actually currently growing, I’m not sure “phony” works in this scenario.

Back in May, at a joint conference with a visibly uncomfortable British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama called the continuing probe into the Administration’s ever-changing narrative on the Benghazi, Libya, massacre and subsequent cover-up a “sideshow” borne of “political motivations.” I suppose the murder of four Americans was political — at least from the terrorists’ perspective. And there’s no doubt that the decision to throw Ambassador Susan Rice under the bus following her YouTube2012 tour was absolutely political. Throw in the fact that Obama allegedly missed the whole thing because he was busy grubbing for cash in Las Vegas, and I suppose you have a sideshow. But there is no doubt that Benghazi happened, so “phony” doesn’t really apply.

Attorney General Eric Holder has recently developed distaste for violence, as evidenced by pronouncements to the NAACP in the wake of the acquittal of assault victim George Zimmerman on murder charges. However, Holder was found in contempt of Congress for his repeated fabrications and stonewalling regarding the disastrous Operation Fast and Furious, a so-called “gun walking” program that cost the lives of two Federal agents and hundreds of Mexicans while arming narcoterrorists at our expense. Operation Fast and Furious and its subsequent fallout certainly meet the definition of “scandal,” but certainly do not meet the definition of “phony.”

The National Security Agency eavesdrops on Americans without cause. The Justice Department wiretaps, hacks and surveils journalists. Hell, your name was probably red-flagged for visiting Personalliberty.com. We live in an era during which the President of the United States has declared war on the Bill of Rights. Our resistance to his tyrannical aspirations is “politically motivated,” but it is hardly “phony.”

–Ben Crystal

Police Kill 95-Year-Old Nursing Home Resident With Taser, Bean Bag Shot

A 95-year-old resident of a Chicago-area assisted-living nursing home was killed after police attempted to subdue him Friday with a Taser and bean bag rounds shot from a gun.

According to a press release issued by the police department in Park Forest, Ill., officers were called to assist with subduing 95-year-old John Warna, allegedly combative because he did not want to be restrained and forced to undergo an “involuntary” medical procedure at the Victory Centre of Park Forest, the assisted-living facility where he resided.

Warna allegedly had held the medical staff at bay with a long shoehorn and a walking cane. When police arrived, he allegedly dropped the shoehorn and picked up a 12-inch kitchen knife.

After resisting the cops’ demands that he put down the knife and cane and surrender for his treatment, Warna was shot with a Taser, but apparently he remained undeterred. So the cops fired bean bag rounds at Warna, which indeed forced him to drop the knife. He was taken into custody and transported to an Oak Lawn hospital, and remained responsive in the immediate aftermath of the ordeal.

However, he died early Saturday from stomach bleeding. The Cook County medical examiner’s office attributed the bleeding to “blunt force trauma” to his midsection caused by the bean bag shots. The examiner ruled the man’s death a homicide.

Bean bag rounds are made of lead shot, which is encased in a fabric bag. They can be fired from a traditional shotgun, and, like Tasers, are used to immobilize noncompliant suspects. Fired at close range, bean bag rounds typically cause traumatic injuries, such as broken ribs and internal bleeding.

Nursing home staff said Warna had not been an unruly resident before Friday’s incident.

The Park Forest Police Department is reviewing the incident. Other than the press release, which was emailed to The Chicago Tribune, there has been no other official statement from Park Forest Police Chief Clifford Butz. The Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit is also reviewing the case.

Congress Moving To Kill Citizen Journalism

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling on Congress (and voters who elect Senators and Congressmen) to back off a pair of bills that take direct aim at the freedoms of bloggers, independent journalists and small media outlets to gain access to information while protecting their sources.

Introduced in May, the pair of bills (H.R. 1962 and S.B. 987) attempt to define who “journalists” are in such a way that favors the mainstream media while excluding just about everybody else. That’s accomplished with the phrase “covered person,” which the legislation goes on to define as someone who makes his living from researching and reporting the news or who regularly researches and reports news.

The problem with that, says EFF, is that the legislation seeks to endorse a professional class of journalists — ironically so, since the professional class of journalists is often most ineffectual, as industry maverick Gay Talese once observed. Why can’t Congress just do the Constitutional thing and submit to the idea that anyone, at any time, can be a “journalist?” If today’s lawmakers just have to fill their time in Washington by drafting more legislation, why can’t they at least do a little less harm by simply defining the practice of journalism instead of the person engaged in it?

If these bills–support for which the White House reaffirmed in its DOJ report–pass without change, Congress effectively will create two tiers of journalists: the institutional press licensed by the government, and everyone else. That’s a pretty flimsy shield if what we are really trying to protect is the free flow of information.

…So what’s the solution? Congress should link shield law protections to the practice of journalism as opposed to the profession. Not only does this fix ensure that bloggers and freelancers are not categorically denied access to the protections to which they should be entitled under the law, but also it addresses lawmakers’ concerns, recently voiced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a June 26 op-ed, that in the absence of a legal definition of journalist anyone can claim to be one, thereby diluting the law by stretching it beyond any relevant boundaries. We can have a line in the sand; it simply needs to be one that is meaningfully tied to what journalism actually is…

It won’t be long before each bill comes up for a vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to begin marking up its version of the bill within a week. The House already has referred its version to two judiciary subcommittees. And the legislation, of course, has President Barack Obama’s full support.

Will The Detroitization Of America Change Anything?

As the Detroitization of America continues with the official bankruptcy of Detroit itself, many conservative economists, like my friend Steve Moore, believe that it might be the best thing that could ever happen to the Motor City. The thinking is that Detroit’s corrupt politicians and public employee piggies may finally be forced to realize that reality yields to no one.

Lots of luck. The sad fact is that the greed and avarice of the public sector is insatiable, which is why it never learns anything. Just as the Federal government committed a crime by stealing from shareholders and handing over a big chunk of General Motors stock to the very workers who bankrupted the company in the first place, then took your money to make sure that those same workers could continue living the good life, so, too, will the Federal government not hesitate to take your money to bail out the entire city of Detroit.

Oh, it might result in some minor, temporary adjustments for public employees; but, long term, nothing will change. In fact, supposedly free-market economist Larry Kudlow says that Detroit should eliminate or drastically cut back on its highest-in-the-country property taxes on homes, highest-in-the-country commercial property taxes and second-highest-in-the country industrial property taxes. And, for good measure, Michigan should drastically lower its corporate tax rate.

All of that sounds good, except for one problem: Kudlow is only advocating that these cuts be temporary — perhaps three to five years! Then, once the reduced theft allows both Detroit and Michigan to get back on their feet, bring on the high taxes again and let the taxpayer-funded public-employee party swing back into full gear.

In other words, do what produces solvency only temporarily — until you get back to the point where you can afford to once again do what doesn’t workIt reminds me of the RINOs who keep insisting that you don’t raise taxes during a recession, implying that it’s fine to do so when times are good. The reason you don’t raise taxes in a recession is because higher taxes are bad for the economy. So if they’re bad for the economy, why would you want to raise them during a healthy economy? To make it unhealthy?

We already know that handing people free stuff doesn’t break the poverty cycle; and Detroit and San Bernardino and Stockton, Calif., are just the tip of the bankruptcy iceberg. Wake up, Americans: The entire country is broke! The best-kept economic secret in the world — and those who have figured out the power game work hard to keep it a secret — is that the best hope by far for the masses escaping grinding poverty is through capitalism.

All this should remind do-gooders once again that the world runs on individuals pursuing their self-interest. It has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with human nature. Thus, self-interest drives things in both communist and capitalist countries.

Self-interest is simply a basic human trait — perhaps the most basic of all human traits — and is neither good nor bad. It is, in fact, neutral. The only question is whether it is used to create or destroy. Those who use it to create are a benefit to society. Those who use it to destroy cause both pain and poverty.

Henry Ford helped make Detroit what it once was — a thriving metropolis of 1.8 million people by 1950 (down now to a beleaguered city of about 700,000) — by revolutionizing the automobile industry. But he didn’t do it for altruistic purposes. He did it to build a successful company for himself and his family. He succeeded and, thanks to that omnipresent invisible marketplace hand, everyone in Detroit, the State of Michigan and throughout the country was better off for his success. His was a positive example of using one’s self-interest to create.

Of course, the far left will never accept the verdicts of history or any kind of empirical evidence that threatens their grip on power. So they employ their self-interest for social-engineering purposes.

Bankrupt cities come into being through the implementation of an arrogant, destructive self-interest idea — that some people are more qualified than others to organize society in a way that assures “social justice” will prevail. Social justice is, of course, an abstract — and a subjective one at that. One person’s idea of social justice might be equal material well-being for all, while another person’s idea is a society where everyone keeps 100 percent of what he earns through voluntary transactions in the marketplace.

Government grows primarily by redistributing wealth. Armies of workers are needed to administer redistribution programs, and government makes sure they are highly paid and highly pensioned (not to mention highly perked). These armies of workers — recipients of stolen loot from taxpayers — ultimately bankrupt their cities. Then, of course, they cry foul when the money runs out.

While it is true that the United States could slip into a dictatorship as a result of runaway inflation or a massive Great Depression (whether a result of an impeccably carried-out Cloward-Piven plan or through sheer stupidity), the likelihood is that the public-employee redistribution game will continue indefinitely.

That means Detroit will not change its ways after making its way through bankruptcy court — nor will San Bernardino, Stockton, nor bankrupt States like California, New York and Illinois. Because so long as their socialist allies in Washington are in control, they can simply extract the money from the good folks in places like Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas and bail out the same States, cities and municipalities over and over again.

Not to worry, though. Remember what Lord Keynes told us about the long run. At least he gave us a certainty we could all look forward to.

–Robert Ringer

The Taller A Postmenopausal Woman, The Greater Risk Of Cancer

NEW YORK (UPI) — The taller a postmenopausal woman, the greater her risk for developing cancers of the breast, colon, kidney, ovary, rectum and thyroid, U.S. researchers say.

Geoffrey Kabat, senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, said the study involved 20,928 postmenopausal women, identified from a larger group of 144,701 women recruited to the Women’s Health Initiative.

“We were surprised at the number of cancer sites that were positively associated with height. In this data set, more cancers are associated with height than were associated with body mass index,” Kabat said in a statement.

“Ultimately, cancer is a result of processes having to do with growth, so it makes sense that hormones or other growth factors that influence height may also influence cancer risk.”

Some genetic variations associated with height are also linked to cancer risk, and more studies are needed to better understand how these height-related genetic variations predispose some men and women to cancer, Kabat said.

The study found for every 10-centimeter — 3.94 inches — increase in height, there was a 13 percent increase in risk of developing any cancer. Among specific cancers, there was a 13 percent to 17 percent increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon, while there was a 23 percent to 29 percent increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid and blood.

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Ultraviolet Sunlight, Household Chores Can Put Eyes At Risk

BETHESDA, Md. (UPI) — Sunlight’s ultraviolet rays can damage some tissues in the eye, a U.S. eye expert says.

Rachel Bishop, an eye doctor at the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, says sunlight’s ultraviolet rays can damage some tissues in the eye.

“It can lead to changes that produce a great deal of discomfort on the surface of the eye,” Bishop said in a statement. “We understand now that it can lead to increased rates of cataract.”

Bishop recommends sunglasses marked for at least 99 percent protection against potentially harmful ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays. These ultraviolet rays can also raise the risk of skin cancer, so covering your eyes works like covering your skin — to give you the benefit of good times outside while reducing your risk of serious trouble later, Bishop said.

In addition, Bishop said everyday chores such as lawn mowing, car repairs and household improvements are the largest cause of eye trauma and everyone should buy a pair of safety goggles to keep debris away from eyes while gardening.

Shock Poll: Americans Want To Mind Their Own Business

Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. should mind its own business concerning foreign policy, and should allow other countries to mind theirs without our intervention – whether for good or ill.

According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of Americans – a historic high ever since the poll began in the early 1960s – believe the United States should worry only about the United States.

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According to Pew, Americans’ resentment at recent Presidential Administrations over Mideast interventionist policies has fostered an unprecedented degree of isolationist philosophy among average Americans.

“Getting the American public’s attention, let alone commitment to deal with international issues is as challenging as it has ever been in the modern era,” said Pew Founding Director Andrew Kohut. “Feeling burned by Iraq and Afghanistan and burdened by domestic concerns, the public feels little responsibility and inclination to deal with international problems that are not seen as direct threats to the national interest. The depth and duration of the public’s disengagement these days goes well beyond the periodic spikes in isolationist sentiment that have been observed over the past 50 years.”

Wyden Says Your Smartphone Is Tapped; Kokesh Held Without Bond; TSA Offers PreCheck To All; Infidels Eat Crescent Rolls On Highway To Hell; Americans Want Out Of Mideast— Personal Liberty Digest ™ P.M. Edition 7-29-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

Worry About U.S. Smartphone Surveillance, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden Says

Americans should be worried that their smartphone use, text messages and Web surfing as well as phone calls, can be logged by Washington, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said over the weekend. Read More… 

Veteran, Activist Adam Kokesh Held Without Bond In D.C.

A Washington D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Former Marine and Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, who is accused of openly carrying a shotgun in D.C.’s Freedom Plaza, to be held without bond during a preliminary hearing Monday. Read More… 

TSA: Avoid Getting Your Junk Grabbed For $85 And A Background Check, Sometimes

Are you tired of getting grabbed in the crotch every time you board an airplane? Well, a change in Transportation Security Administration policy means that you can avoid the grope line—that is, for $85 and a background check. Read More… 

Syrian Fatwa Ordered Against Evil…Crescent Rolls

A new fatwa in the Syrian city of Aleppo targets people who dare to eat croissants, highlighting residents’ growing fear that the freedom once proffered by the Syrian “revolution” has come to naught. Read More… 

Shock Poll: Americans Want To Mind Their Own Business

Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. should mind its own business concerning foreign policy, and should allow other countries to mind theirs without our intervention – whether for good or ill. Read More… 

TSA: Avoid Getting Your Junk Grabbed For $85 And A Background Check, Sometimes

Are you tired of getting grabbed in the crotch every time you board an airplane? Well, a change in Transportation Security Administration policy means that you can avoid the grope line — that is, for $85 and a background check.

The TSA announced Monday that the fee-based PreCheck expedited screening process, which was previously only available to frequent fliers of specific airlines, will come available to the general public this fall.

According to the TSA, the enrollment process will be as easy as filling out an online application and writing a check:

When available, the application will be a two-step process:

  1. Fill out an online application.
  2. Verify identity and provide fingerprints at a TSA Pre✓™ enrollment center.

Applicants may pay the anticipated $85 enrollment fee online, or at an enrollment center. There is a five-year term of eligibility, after which members will need to re-apply. TSA expects the vetting process to take approximately 2-3 weeks. A U.S. passport is not required to enroll. The first two enrollment locations, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Indianapolis International Airport (IND), will open in fall 2013 with plans to expand to additional enrollment sites nationwide.

The TSA, however, makes clear on its website that it reserves the right to randomly pat down passengers who enroll in the PreCheck program.

“TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening in order to retain a certain element of randomness to prevent terrorists from gaming the system,” officials with the agency note.

Also, individuals who commit certain offenses, “such as violations involving fraudulent documents, firearms, explosives, or other prohibited items at an airport or on board an aircraft are likely to be denied expedited screening for a period of time.”

Syrian Fatwa Ordered Against Evil…Crescent Rolls

A new fatwa in the Syrian city of Aleppo targets people who dare to eat croissants.

According to an interview at China’s English-language Sina news website, one man who’s frustrated with the growing post-revolutionary power of Islamist extremists in Syria explains how fundamentalists are tightening their grip on local rule to an absurd extent.

“Al-Nusra Front fighters come up every day with a new unimaginable fatwa, or religious edict,” such as the fatwa against croissants, said the Syrian, identified only as “Ahmed.” The fundamentalists claim croissants are particularly relished by European infidels as a celebratory food (because of their “symbolic” crescent shape), which they allegedly tear into with gusto to commemorate historic victories over the Muslims.

Syrians originally inspired by a revolution they hoped would ensure stability and expanded freedoms are now taking to the internet to criticize al-Nusra’s growing intolerance of behaviors that fall outside various factions’ interpretations of sharia law. Other recent fatwas have involved women drivers, unveiled young girls, smoking and even listening to music.

Islamic fundamentalists continue to take control of large parts of Aleppo and other northern towns, which are being ruled by a cabal of “chieftains” who regard all of Syria as a “liberated Islamic emirate.”

“We were looking for more freedom and felt the revolution would give us more benefits… However, we now feel we are moving backwards and will soon return to the medieval era,” said one Syrian woman, adding that there’s nothing liberating about the land’s stale, Islamist-hijacked “revolution.”

“How could they bring us freedom if they (the al-Nusra rebels) themselves are captives held by the extremists?” she said.

 

Veteran, Activist Adam Kokesh Held Without Bond In D.C.

A Washington D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Former Marine and Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, who is accused of openly carrying a shotgun in D.C.’s Freedom Plaza, to be held without bond during a preliminary hearing Monday.

Kokesh was charged with possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms while possessing a firearm following a police raid that occurred because of a protest video the activist posted to YouTube on the Fourth of July. Authorities reportedly raided the activist’s home because he released a video showing himself loading a shotgun in the middle of Freedom Plaza.

During the hearing, Kokesh’s attorney argued that the video was nothing more than political theater. But, the judge disagreed, ordering that Kokesh be held until his next court appearance.

“I consider your client to be a very dangerous man,” the judge said. “This is not a political statement.”

Kokesh is expected back in a D.C. courtroom Aug. 13.

Many Millionaires Say They Don’t Feel Rich

NEW YORK, (UPI) —  Millionaires say they are not so financially comfortable they can do whatever they want, when they want to, a U.S. survey found.

UBS Wealth Management Americas surveyed 4,450 investors with $1 million or more in investable assets and found that most of them said they didn’t feel rich, the New York Post reported.

Just 30 percent of respondents said they felt wealthy — most said they won’t consider themselves wealthy until they have at least $5 million in assets.

About 80 percent of respondents said part of the reason why they do not feel wealthy is because they are offering financial assistance to their adult children, grandchildren and older parents, the survey found.

“Investors are telling us that wealth isn’t just about money. It’s about being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it,” said Emily Pachuta, head of Investor Insights, UBS Wealth Management Americas. “if you ask, ‘What is wealthy?’ we observe that it’s about having no financial constraints — holding a lot of cash, taking care of family.”

Cumulus May Drop Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Report Says

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  Cumulus Media is planning to drop conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its U.S radio stations at the end of the year, Politico said.

The decision not to renew the radio personalities’ contracts comes after negotiations between Cumulus and Premiere Networks, the division of Clear Channel that distributes Limbaugh and Hannity’s shows, stalled.

At the heart of the dispute is the cost of the distribution rights for the two high-rated programs, Politico said.

“Cumulus is not in a position to comment about negotiations with talent under contract, no matter what the rumor of the day might be,” a representative told the Washington newspaper.

Limbaugh’s representative was not immediately available for comment while Hannity did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Politico said.

Controversial Quote To Be Removed From MLK Monument

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  A controversially paraphrased quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., is being removed rather than replaced, officials said.

The memorial, which opened in August 2011, features the quote “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness,” which is a paraphrased version of a line King delivered during a sermon at an Atlanta church.

What King actually said was, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

The paraphrased version caused a stir, as some thought it made King sound egotistical.

“He had no arrogance at all,” poet Maya Angelou told the Washington Post in 2011. “He had a humility that comes from deep inside. The ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely.”

Those who designed the monument said the entire quote wouldn’t have fit on the statue, so they decided to abbreviate it.

“We sincerely felt passionate that the man’s own eulogy should be expressed on the stone,” said the memorial’s chief architect, Ed Jackson Jr. “We said the least we could do was define who he was based on his perception of himself: ‘I was a drum major for this, this, and this.”

Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said sculptor Lei Yixin will now remove the quote from the monument, CBS News reported.

“The plan to remove, instead of replace, the quote was recommended by the original sculptor … as the safest way to ensure the structural integrity of the memorial was not compromised,” Salazar explained.

U.S. Cities Looking To Shed Retired Employees’ Healthcare Costs

DETROIT, (UPI) —  Financially hurting cities are watching Detroit to see if the bankrupt city’s proposal to shed retiree healthcare benefits is feasible, The New York Times said.

Detroit officials, looking to pare billions of dollars in municipal government overhead, are proposing to move retirees too young to qualify for Medicare into health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, the Times reported Sunday.

Chicago, Stockton, Calif., and Sheboygan County in Wisconsin are among the local governments planning or at least thinking about a similar move and the nascent trend has some retirees worried, the Times said.

In Chicago, a plan floated in May would cut some of the city’s 11,800 retirees and their families not eligible for Medicare out of city coverage by 2017. Some of those retirees may obtain insurance through new employers or through their spouses’ workplaces, but others will likely head to the insurance exchanges.

“With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, our retirees will have more options to meet their healthcare needs,” said Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We will ensure that they have all the information needed to navigate the options available going forward, while saving vital taxpayer dollars.”

“There’s fear and panic about what this means,” said Michael Underwood, a 62-year-old retired Chicago police officer with diabetes and Parkinson’s disease who is part of a group suing Chicago over its plan to phase out many retirees from city coverage in the next few years. “I was promised healthcare for myself and my wife for life.”

A Pew Charitable Trusts study this year determined 61 major U.S. cities are saddled with $126 billion in retiree health costs, with 94 percent of it unfunded, the Times said. The new health insurance exchanges created under ACA, which are meant to help uninsured people afford coverage, are a potential new option for local governments trying cope with the problem, the Times said.

“The Affordable Care Act does change the possibilities here dramatically,” said Neil Bomberg of the National League of Cities. “It offers a very high-quality, potentially very affordable way to get people into healthcare without the burden falling back onto the city and town.”

Should a significant number of local and state governments take that path, however, Timothy S. Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University who closely follows the law, said, “that’s going to be a huge cost for the United States government, and it’s mandatory spending.”

Worry About U.S. Smartphone Surveillance, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden Says

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  Americans should be worried their smartphone use, text messages and Web surfing as well as phone calls, can be logged by Washington, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden warns.

“The government will not state clearly what the rules are with respect to tracking Americans on their cellphones, and I have asked this repeatedly at public hearings in the Intelligence Committee,” the Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers.”

“I can’t get into the details of any specific operation, or whether it’s being conducted, but … having that computer in your pocket increases the potential that certainly people could be tracked 24/7,” he told the program, which aired Sunday.

“Under the Patriot Act, the government’s authority to collect is essentially limitless.”

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which decides how intrusive the government can be in the name of national security, must be overhauled, he said. The court has expanded its powers beyond what Congress envisioned in establishing it in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — yet many court processes remain the same as they were 35 years ago.

“I think, in many particulars, the FISA Court is just anachronistic,” he said. “They’re using processes that simply don’t fit the times.

“When the FISA Act was passed in the ’70s, nobody envisioned, for example, some of the astounding reach that the court has gone to with respect to the Patriot Act. And in its definition of ‘relevance,’ the statute talks about relevance and nowhere does it even suggest that you could collect the phone records of millions and millions of law-abiding Americans.”

The New York Times reported Monday the movement afoot in Congress to rein in the NSA has gained a decidedly bipartisan flavor, with Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., starting to formulate legislation in the House Judiciary Committee.

“There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here,” Lofgren said.

Sensenbrenner said Friday he would have a bill ready by the time lawmakers finish their August vacation, the Times said. He said the legislation would place restrictions on who can be targeted for surveillance, give companies permission to reveal their dealings before the secret court that monitors the surveillance and make changes to the court itself, the newspaper said.

Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have taken up the issue in the Senate

“We’re talking through it right now,” Chambliss told the Times.  “There are a lot of ideas on the table, and it’s pretty obvious that we’ve got some uneasy folks.”

Wyden said he would likely support legislative proposals to overhaul the secretive court.

He said he supported a bill introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., which would give the president the power to nominate judges for the court, subject to Senate approval.

The existing law gives that power to the chief justice of the United States, currently John Roberts, whose decisions are final.

Roberts has chosen 10 of the court’s 11 judges.

The New York Times reported Friday Roberts, more than his predecessors, has chosen judges with conservative and executive branch backgrounds. Critics say these backgrounds make the court more likely to defer to government arguments domestic spying programs are necessary.

“It’s the most one-sided legal process in the United States. I don’t know of any other legal system or court that really doesn’t highlight anything except one point of view,” Wyden said.

“When that point of view — the executive point of view — essentially dominates the thinking of the new judges, you’ve got a fairly combustible situation on your hands,” he said.

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told NBC’s “Meet the Press” the U.S. National Security Agency doesn’t spy on Americans.

People reveal more information about themselves when they mail a letter than what the U.S. National Security Agency collects with its surveillance, he said.

“In this program, zero privacy violations, 54 violent terrorist attacks thwarted. That’s a pretty good record. That’s a great record,” he said. “And that tells me this is one program that works to protect your privacy and live up to our constitutional obligation in Congress that says we must provide for the general defense of the United States.”

He said when a suspected terrorist’s phone number shows up in the NSA’s dragnet domestic surveillance, “what we do about it is say, oops, that’s bad. We’re going to give this to the FBI to determine who that person even is. And so that’s the way we protect their privacy. And that’s why there’s been zero privacy violations with this. And it’s been able to be used to stop 54 violent terrorist acts.”

Pope: ‘Who Am I’ To Judge Gays Seeking Christ

ROME, (UPI) —  Homosexuals can and should be accepted into the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Monday as he returned from a triumphant weeklong visit to Brazil.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” The New York Times said Francis asked in response to a reporter’s question.

The pope’s comments were made during an 80-minute press conference with reporters on his flight back to Rome, his first meeting with press since he was named pontiff in March.

He also defended gays from discrimination, RTE News reported.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this [orientation] but that they must be integrated into society,” he said.

“The problem is not having this orientation,” he added. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

Francis had spent the previous week in Brazil participating in activities marking World Youth Day. His final mass Sunday — an open-air event on Copacabana Beach — was estimated to have drawn as many as 3 million people, The Times reported.

“I profoundly thank all those who have worked to make WYD a success and I embrace all of you who were present,” the pontiff said in a Twitter message on his return home, Italy’s ANSA news service reported.

“I will always place my hopes in the young people of Brazil and in the young around the world,” Francis told a crowd at Rio de Janeiro’s as he prepared to fly back to Rome. “Through them, Christ is preparing a new springtime all over the earth.”

Pope: God Judges Gays – Not Me; Carter To Visit North Korea; EMTs Wait Hours For New York Cops; Take Down That American Flag; FRANKENMEAT! – Monday Morning News Roundup 7-29-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Pope Francis has said gay people should not be marginalized but integrated into society. Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” Source: BBC…
  • Former President Jimmy Carter is planning to visit North Korea soon to try to win the release of Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen held for committing crimes against the reclusive state. Source: Reuters…
  • An injured veteran of the war in Afghanistan has been told to take down the American flag she has flying from her balcony by her apartment’s management company. “I was very upset and very offended by it,” said Jen Elliott. “We live in America. Why shouldn’t we fly our flag proudly?” Source: CBS Sacramento…
  • Frustrated EMTs in New York City are sometimes stuck waiting for hours watching over dead bodies — lengthy delays that make city ambulances unavailable for emergencies for long stretches of time. The NYPD said there’s not much they can do to speed things up on their end. Source: New York Daily News…
  • The world’s first test-tube burger will be served in London next week. It is made from meat grown in a laboratory, rather than cattle raised in pastures. The 5-ounce ‘Frankenburger’ is made from 3,000 tiny strips of meat grown from the stem cells of a cow. The raw meat is said to be grey with a slippery texture similar to squid or scallop. Source: Daily Mail… 

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