Experiment Shows Dogs Can See Colors, Not Just Black And White

MOSCOW (UPI) — Russian scientists say they’ve shown dogs can differentiate colors, contradicting a long-held assumption they’re only able to see in black and white.

For much of history, it has been believed dogs’ ability to differentiate between different colored objects was actually due to differences in brightness, not the actual color.

Recent research showing dogs have two types of cones in their eyes led scientists at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the Russia Academy of Sciences to suspect they could distinguish colors.

Humans have three kinds of cones, which allows for seeing all three primary colors.

With only two, dogs should be able to see some colors, but not others, the researchers thought — blues, greens and yellows, for example, but not reds or oranges — and they designed an experiment to test that.

First they trained several dogs to respond to one of four different colored pieces of paper, light or dark yellow and light or dark blue, by putting paper pairs in front of feed boxes that contained meat.

The dogs soon learned that certain colors meant a treat.

Next, the researchers placed pieces of paper with the color the dogs had been taught to respond to in front of a feed box, along with another piece of paper that was brighter, but of a different color, to see if a dog trained to respond to light blue would respond to dark blue instead of light yellow.

A majority of the dogs went for the color identifier rather than brightness identifier most of the time, the scientists said, proving they were able to distinguish color and were not relying on brightness difference to find their food treat.

The research was reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

FDA Proposes Tighter Safety Rules For Food Importers

SILVER SPRING, Md. (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday proposed rules to increase safety of imported food, with one FDA commissioner calling it a “big step.”

“This is a big step. It’s part of the transformation effort of the U.S. food system toward prevention,” said Commissioner Michael Taylor, who backed the new rules.

The new rules are subject to a 120-day comment period and could be changed or delayed due to comments received.

But the rules are already long-delayed, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The rules were part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2011.

Until now, the rules stalled, however, at the White House Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond to requests for comment on why processing the rules became delayed, the Journal said.

The rules require importers to meet the same safety standards as domestic food distributors.

Importers, who will be audited to see if they are complying with the rules, will have to monitor their suppliers to see what they are doing to cut down on food risks.

Imported foods have been blamed for numerous disease outbreaks, including sushi from India that sickened 400 people in 2012 and an incident in which 16 people became sick this after eating tahini, a sesame paste, from Turkey.

Both of those outbreaks were caused by salmonella bacteria.

Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the government, currently, is able to check only about 2 percent of the food imports for safety concerns.

“This is a big deal in our view,” Olson said.

Eurozone Leading Indicators Rose In June

BRUSSELS (UPI) — The Leading Economic Index for the 17 nations that share the euro as currency rose 0.5 percent in June, the Conference Board said Friday.

The index climbed after gaining 0.1 percent in April and 0.4 percent in May, the economic research firm said.

The index is a comparison to the average monthly index in 2004, which was assigned an index value of 100. For the eurozone, the index now stands at 107.5.

For the region, the index has made gains in five of the past six months.

“June saw the Leading Economic Index for the eurozone rise for the third straight month, increasing the odds for a recovery in the second half of 2013,” said Bert Colijn, economist for Europe at The Conference Board.

“Even as business and consumer confidence grows, however, continued financial stability in the Euro Area remains vital for economic growth. Any renewed uncertainty would be a large setback for a recovery,” Colijn said.

Gas In The City Averaged $3.63 Per Gallon In June

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon in handful of U.S. cities in June and averaged $3.63 around the country’s metropolitan areas, the government said Friday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said prices topped $4 per gallon in Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit, as well as in Gary, Ind., Kenosha, Wis., Ann Arbor and Flint, Mich., and Riverside, Calif.

The bureau said the lowest prices in cities around the country were in the South region, where prices averaged $3.37 per gallon, the lowest price out of four regions.

Prices in cities in the Northeast averaged $3.59 per gallon while prices in the Midwest averaged $3.84.

The highest prices among U.S. cities were in the West where the average West urban price was $3.86 in June.

Study Says Women Genetically Prefer Funny Men

STANFORD, Calif. (UPI) — Women are genetically equipped to appreciate men who can make them laugh, researchers at California’s Stanford University School of Medicine say.

The researchers said they scanned the brains of 22 males and females between the ages of 6 and 13 while the study subjects viewed humorous videos, such as people falling down and animals performing tricks, the Daily Mail reported Friday.

The subjects were also shown “positive” clips, such as dancers and snowboarders, and “neutral” clips of nature and children riding bikes.

MRI scanning of the children’s brains discovered the girls’ brains showed more heightened activity during the humorous videos, indicating they were feeling stronger mirth and positive feelings than the boys.

“Our data for the first time disclose that sex differences in humor appreciation already exist in young children,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers said their findings suggest women are genetically predisposed to prefer men who can make them laugh “because the female brain, and particularly the reward circuit, is biologically better prepared to respond accordingly.”

The study is published in the journal Social Neuroscience.

Leave Numbers-Based Suspicion To Vegas – Not The NSA, FBI and DOJ

What does it mean to be “51 percent” certain that something is true? It means you’re more certain than not – but certainly not certain. It might mean you’re fine with admitting you’d been wrong, if it turns out the other 49 percent in that simplistic ratio proved correct.

When the National Security Agency (NSA) or a Federal law enforcement entity – whether it’s the Department of Justice, FBI or Department of homeland Security – starts querying its massive computer databases for specific “non-U.S. persons” as defined by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), all they need is a 51 percent suspicion that the person they’re about to secretly track online isn’t an American citizen.

From the original Washington Post story that revealed details about the NSA’s PRISM internet spy program:

Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to make quarterly reports of any accidental collection of U.S. content, but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”

Those of you who gamble: if an oddsmaker told you to bet your fortune because he was “51 percent sure” that your sports team would cover the spread, would you flinch when he told you the 49 percent of doubt was “nothing to worry about?”

When and if Congress revises the bevy of laws governing what the NSA, DOJ, FBI and DHS can and can’t do, it needs to leave numeric-based probability to the Vegas bookies – and leave it out of the burgeoning U.S. surveillance state.

Black Bear Walks Into A Colorado Bar

ESTES PARK, Colo. (UPI) — A black bear wandered into a Colorado bar recently, sniffed around and left without the human patrons even noticing, video shows.

The bruin, estimated at about 350 pounds and about 6 feet tall when standing on its hind legs, entered a back door of Lonigans Saloon Nightclub and Grill about 9:15 p.m. July 18 and nosed around for a time before exiting the way he came in, the Estes Park Trail-Gazette reported earlier this week.

The bear’s visit would have gone unreported if not for a man walking by outside who saw it and security camera footage that captured it for posterity.

Passerby Daniel Lyell said he spotted the bear going from garbage bin to garbage bin in the parking lot.

“I wanted a photo, and before I knew it, he was headed into Lonigans,” Lyell said. “I went in after him and tried to alert the patrons by yelling ‘bear’ but no one noticed. I called for the bear when he was just about to enter the middle bar area. He hesitated and then listened to me the second time. He turned around and went out the door behind me.”

“Nobody even knew it was there,” Lonigans owner David Callahan told the newspaper. “I just missed seeing it. I was cleaning up and had just taken out the trash.”

Callahan said his bartender also just missed running into the bear after she had gone to the rear of the saloon.

The owner said it’s the second time a bear has come into his establishment, the last time four or five years ago, the newspaper said.

“I almost bopped him on the nose,” Callahan said in recalling the first incident, adding it is probably time to make some changes to that door.

ProPublica: Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified

This article, written by Cora Currier, was originally published by ProPublica,  July 26, 2013, 10:13 a.m.

In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.”

So who exactly are those associated forces? It’s a secret.

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded 2013 but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”

“Because elements that might be considered 2018associated forces’ can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. “We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks.”

It’s not an abstract question: U.S. drone strikes and other actions frequently target “associated forces,” as has been the case with dozens of strikes against an Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.

During the May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said he was “not sure there is a list per se.” Describing terrorist groups as “murky” and “shifting,” he said, “it would be difficult for the Congress to get involved in trying to track the designation of which are the affiliate forces” of Al Qaeda.

Sheehan said that by the Pentagon’s standard, “sympathy is not enough2026. it has to be an organized group and that group has to be in co-belligerent status with Al Qaeda operating against the United States.”

The White House tied Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and “elements” of Al Shabaab in Somalia to Al Qaeda in a recent report to Congress on military actions. But the report also included a classified annex.

Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written on this question at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon’s reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak. “If the organizations are 2018inflated’ enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?” Goldsmith said. He added that there is “a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name.”

The law underpinning the U.S. war against Al Qaeda is known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and it was passed one week after the 9/11 attacks. It doesn’t actually include the words “associated forces,” though courts and Congress have endorsed the phrase.

As we explained earlier this year, the emergence of new or more loosely-aligned terrorist groups has legal scholars wondering how effectively the U.S. will be able to “shoehorn” them into the AUMF. During the May hearing, many lawmakers expressed concern about the Pentagon’s capacious reading of the law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described it as a “carte blanche.”

Obama, in his May speech, said he looked forward “to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But he didn’t give a timeframe. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced an amendment that would sunset the law at the end of 2014, to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was voted down the same day, 185 to 236.

The AUMF isn’t the only thing the government relies on to take military action. In speeches and interviews Obama administration officials also bring up the president’s constitutional power to defend the country, even without congressional authorization.

 

Swedish Police Put Seized Drug House Up For Sale On Auction Site

OSTRASK, Sweden (UPI) — Swedish police are attempting to sell a house seized in a drug raid on Blocket, the country’s version of auction site eBay.

A district court ruled police became the owners of the five-bedroom Ostrask property when it was seized by authorities during an investigation that discovered marijuana plants were being cultivated and sold in the home, Swedish news agency TT/The Local.se reported Friday.

Police said there has been little interest in the house thus far.

The Blocket listing makes no mention of the home’s previous owners or their extra-legal activities.

“The property should be carefully examined before a purchase is carried out. Come to the opening if you are considering buying,” the listing reads.

Police lawyer Erik Lindstrom told the Folkbladet newspaper he was surprised by the decision to list the seized house online.

“I’ve never heard of anything like it,” he said.

French Police Seize 66 Tons Of Eiffel Tower Miniatures

PARIS (UPI) — French police said a crackdown on illegal street peddling in Paris led to the seizure of 66 tons of miniature Eiffel Tower figurines in a suburban warehouse.

Investigators said the investigation this week led to the seizure of the figurines from a Bourget warehouse, which allegedly supplied the items to about 100 illegal street vendors in Paris, The Local.fr reported Friday.

Police estimated the seized merchandise to be worth $233,000.

The raid also resulted in officers seizing about $206,900 in cash and about $26,500 worth of coins.

Police said a 41-year-old Chinese woman and her 40-year-old brother are suspected of being the ringleaders of the illegal street vending network and were arrested Tuesday. The pair supplied the illegal street vendors with merchandise via their shop in Paris’ 3rd Arrondissement.

Halliburton Destroyed Evidence In BP Spill; Pays $200,000 Fine

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to accept a guilty plea from Halliburton Company to a charge of destroying evidence in the aftermath of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Halliburton will also serve three years of probation, and, despite admitting to destroying evidence, has pledged to cooperate with all remaining criminal investigations into the circumstances surrounding the explosion. The settlement agreement is pending court approval.

As part of its oil field support role, Halliburton helped British Petroleum (BP), which owned a majority stake in the Macondo oil well, in sealing taps through a technique called “cementing.”

DOJ alleged that Halliburton had advised BP to use 21 metal collars to help ensure the effectiveness of the cementing process at the Macondo well, but that BP elected to use only six. DOJ accused Halliburton of destroying evidence held in computer simulations that demonstrated using a smaller number of collars didn’t pose a disproportionate safety risk.

According to the government, Halliburton recommended to BP that the Macondo well contain 21 centralizers, metal collars that can improve cementing, but BP chose to use six.

The government said that, during an internal probe into the cementing after the blowout, Halliburton ordered workers to destroy computer simulations that showed little difference between using six and 21 centralizers. Efforts to forensically locate the simulations were unsuccessful, the government said.

BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion late last year as part of a settlement in which it pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges related to the deaths of the 11 workers who lost their lives in the disaster. Transocean Deepwater Inc., which owned another large stake in the well, agreed to pay $1.4 billion in fines.

Both companies are also involved in ongoing civil litigation, with findings that have so far exacted hundreds of millions of dollars out of billions of dollars in funds each company set aside in anticipation of a deluge of civil claims.

Halliburton, which is also named in the civil litigation, voluntarily agreed to give $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as part of Thursday’s criminal settlement.

Justice Department Says NSA Leaker Won’t Face Death Penalty

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Former national security contractor Edward Snowden will not face the death penalty for releasing classified document, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Holder said the Justice Department assurances “eliminate” claims by Snowden, accused in the United States of espionage, that he should be granted asylum or treated as a refugee, CNN reported.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin had said Snowden would “no doubt” stop leaking secret U.S. intelligence if he were given temporary asylum in Russia.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had “expressed a firm intention to not allow” further leaks, RIA Novosti reported.

“And I have no doubt this is how it will be, no matter how the situation develops,” Peskov said.

Washington has called on Moscow to reject Snowden’s request for asylum and send him to the United States for trial. Peskov said the former National Security Agency contractor would not be handed over to U.S. authorities, Voice of America reported.

Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, told NBC’s “Today” show Friday he was “extremely disappointed and angry” by the way his son has been portrayed.

He charged many in Congress had made a “concerted effort” to “demonize” his son so they didn’t have “to talk about the fact that they had a responsibility to ensure that these programs were constitutional.”

“The American people don’t know the truth,” he said. “The truth is coming.”

Bush: Shaving My Head For Boy, 2, Was ‘Right Thing To Do’

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (UPI) — Former president George H.W. Bush says shaving his head in a show of support for a 2-year-old boy with leukemia was the “right thing to do.”

The 41st president got a shiny dome earlier this week in honor of Patrick, the son of one of the Secret Service agents in his protection detail.

“A lot of agents shaved their heads,” Bush told granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, a contributing correspondent to the “Today” show. “I said, ‘Well why not me?’ It was the right thing to do.”

Bush and more than 20 men in his protection unit shaved their heads to show solidarity with the toddler. He said he hoped his action brought “a little happiness” to the boy.

Shaving his head also had personal meaning to the former president and his wife, Barbara. Their daughter, Robin died from leukemia when she was 3.

U.S. Prison Population Declines For Third Straight Year

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. prison population declined in 2012 for a third consecutive year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.

The number of inmates in state and federal prisons dropped by 1.7 percent, from an estimated 1.59 million in 2011 to 1.57 million in 2012, The New York Times said Friday.

California, which has been released state prison inmates under court order due to overcrowding, accounted for 55 percent of the reduced U.S. prison population last year.

New York, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, among other states, had inmate population decreases of more than 1,000 each.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the non-profit research group Sentencing Project, based in Washington, said it was significant the overall prison population had fallen in three consecutive years.

“A year or even two years is a blip and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but three years starts to look like a trend,” he said.

However, Mauer said the number of incarcerated people in the United States is still “dramatically higher” than in other countries, and the changes are “relatively modest compared to the scale of the problem.”

Natasha Frost, associate dean of Northeastern University’s school of criminology and criminal justice, said the report signals “the beginning of the end of mass incarceration.”

Senator Burr Opposes Government Shutdown To Fight ACA

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., says the idea of shutting down the U.S. government to block healthcare reform implementation is “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

Support is building among congressional Republicans for using a continuing resolution — providing funding for routine government operations — as leverage in their campaign to block implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is among the loudest voices supporting the stand, The Hill reported Friday.

Burr said Thursday stopping the funding in not achievable, and argued Republicans risk taking the blame if the government is shut down over the issue.

“I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” said Burr. “As long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be law. Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable through shutting down the deferral government.”

Senator Warns Cruise Lines To Improve Reporting Of Onboard Crimes

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has put cruise lines “on notice” they must do a better job of reporting criminal incidents that occur on cruise ships.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, called for stricter reporting guidelines after the committee released a report that only 31 alleged crimes had been publicly disclosed on a Coast Guard website since 2011, NBC News reported Thursday.

Cruise lines have reported 959 incidents to the FBI during that same period, the Senate report said.

Executives of Carnival Corp., Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises told the committee during a hearing Wednesday they would report all alleged crimes that occur on their vessels.

In a prepared statement, Rockefeller expressed skepticism about the cruise lines’ pledge.

“I have been assured repeatedly by the industry that things will get better,” he said. “Take a look at the events over the past 16 months and tell me if this is what you think better looks like. Cruise lines are on notice that the safety and protection of passengers is now their number one priority, whether they like it or not.”

The cruise lines voluntarily agreed to post reports of alleged crimes reported as far back as 2010 on their website by Aug. 1 regardless of whether an investigation is open or closed.

A statement on Carnival’s website says the possibility of a criminal incident aboard their ships is “remote.” Of the 4 million passengers the cruise line expects to carry in 2013, the website says, “the number of alleged incidents is a small fraction of those carried.”

Hillbilly High School Under Fed Fire; Jet Setter In Chief Costs Taxpayers Millions; College Students Okay With Infanticide; FBI Ignored Boston Bomber Warnings; Government Demands Internet User Passwords—TGIF Morning News Roundup 7-26-2013

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

  • Political correctness: The U.S. Department of Education has officially opened an investigation into allegations that an Arizona high school’s campus-wide “Redneck Day” amounted to a Federal civil rights violation. Source: The Daily Caller
  • President Obama’s speeches are already costing taxpayers well over $1 million – and probably closer to $2 million – as the president jets around the country campaign-style to drum up support for his agenda. Source: White House Dossier 
  • What’s going on here?: Several students at George Mason University (GMU) signed a petition on Wednesday demanding lawmakers legalize “fourth trimester” abortions. Source: Campus Reform 
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation officials ignored warnings about the radical origins and nature of the mosque frequented by the Tsarnaev brothers for years before this April’s deadly Boston Marathon bombings. Source: The Daily Caller 
  • The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users’ stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed. Source: CNET 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Edward Snowden: Traitor Or Hero?

In today’s column, I’m going to share an extraordinary email exchange between a former U.S. Senator and Edward Snowden, the infamous betrayer of Washington secrets. I think I can promise that it will cause you to look at this controversy in a whole new way.

By now, you can almost feel a bit sorry for Snowden, the whistle-blower extraordinaire who has been forced to remain in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a month. I’ve been stuck at a lot of different airports over the years, and it was never fun. And none of them, thank God, was in Russia.

Now comes word that the Russian authorities will finally permit Snowden to leave the airport while they consider his application for asylum. I have no idea why it took so long. Like bureaucracies everywhere, the ones in Moscow apparently move at their own glacial pace.

So what do you think? Is Snowden a traitorous dog who deserves the harshest penalties the United States can impose on him (if U.S. authorities can ever get their hands on him, that is)?

Or is he an authentic American hero who sacrificed a comfortable life to bring us the truth about how far our government has gone to snoop on all of us? Even the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, who supposedly knew all about the secretive surveillance being carried out by the National Security Agency and other government watchdogs, say they have been shocked to learn of the extent of what was going on.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask more than 1,000 liberty lovers what they thought of Snowden. I was the master of ceremonies at something called FreedomFest, an annual conference that describes itself as “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” Most of the attendees would probably describe themselves as libertarians, although traditional conservatives were certainly well-represented, both in the audience and at the podium.

When I asked the audience for their opinion of Snowden and what he did, I expected them to be fairly evenly divided. It was not even close. Fewer than 10 percent raised their hands when I asked if they thought he should be prosecuted for revealing state secrets. The overwhelming majority — by a rough estimate, more than 85 percent of the audience — said he deserved our praise and thanks for helping to expose what one speaker referred to as “the surveillance state.”

Shortly after returning home, I received a fascinating email exchange between Snowden and a former politician I remember fondly. Gordon J. Humphrey was a two-term Senator from New Hampshire. Here is the message he sent Snowden, via Glen Greenwald, the writer for The Guardian in London who broke the story of Snowden’s incredible disclosures:

Mr. Snowden,

Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms (sic) way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.

Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion.

I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere.

Kindly acknowledge this message, so that I will know it reached you.

Regards,
Gordon J. Humphrey
Former United States Senator
New Hampshire

Humphrey received the following email from Snowden. Its authenticity was also confirmed by Greenwald.

Mr. Humphrey,

Thank you for your words of support. I only wish more of our lawmakers shared your principles – the actions I’ve taken would not have been necessary.

The media has distorted my actions and intentions to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations and instead focus on personalities. It seems they believe every modern narrative requires a bad guy. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, in such times, loving one’s country means being hated by its government.

If history proves that be so, I will not shy from that hatred. I will not hesitate to wear those charges of villainy for the rest of my life as a civic duty, allowing those governing few who dared not do so themselves to use me as an excuse to right these wrongs.

My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people – agent or not – and I have no intention to do so.

Further, no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).

You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.

With my thanks for your service to the nation we both love,

Edward Snowden

So what do you think of that? When he talks about media distortions that are being done “to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations,” Snowden sounds like a columnist for Personal Liberty Digest™, doesn’t he?

And when he wonders if “loving one’s country means being hated by its government,” he sounds like many of our readers.

Right now, there’s only one thing keeping me from coming down 100 percent on the side of “hero.” And that is the path Snowden has chosen to follow since those first incredible disclosures.

When the story first broke, I was impressed that this obscure contractor was willing to turn his life upside down to expose the truth about the NSA’s massive surveillance efforts. “Good for him,” was my first reaction. What an incredibly brave thing to do, I thought, knowing that he would immediately become the declared enemy of the most powerful government on Earth.

But it’s not civil disobedience if you’re not willing to face the consequences of your actions. I hoped that Snowden would come back to the United States and face his accusers in an open and public trial. Instead, he fled to China and then on to Russia — two countries that aren’t exactly known for a commitment to the freedom of their own citizens. And if he ever gets permission to leave Russia, he’s indicated that he might like to settle in Venezuela or Bolivia — two countries that are a lot closer to a “dictatorship of the proletariat” than anything resembling the Constitutional protections that we have long taken for granted.

What’s next? Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian attorney, told CNN: “As far as I know, he’s planning to stay in Russia to learn Russian culture, Russian language and (to) live here.” If he does, it won’t be anything like his life in Hawaii before all this happened, where Snowden himself said he lived in “paradise.”

Our government has asked Russia to extradite Snowden back to the United States, but it doesn’t sound like Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of granting that request. (There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.) Putin has said that Snowden will need to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wants to remain in the country.

Meanwhile, both Venezuela and Bolivia have said they would be delighted to grant asylum to Snowden. And Nicaragua has said it would do so “if circumstances permit,” whatever that means.

Oh, and one more thing. When Greenwald contacted Humphrey, to confirm the authenticity of his original email, Humphrey expanded on what he wrote Snowden:

I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the U.S. Government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.

Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out.

Count me among those willing to speak out. I’d love to see us bring to justice those officials who have “abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States.” Wouldn’t you?

In the meantime, I think we owe Snowden a huge “thank you” for what he’s done to expose the Big Brother surveillance taking place in what used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now it seems we’re the not-so-free and the not-very-brave.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Forget The Drones: Massive Spy Blimps Set To Hover Over Northeastern U.S.

Pretty soon, a pair of massive high-tech Army blimps will be floating over the greater Washington, D.C., area to provide 24-hour, 360-degree surveillance. And as testing and advancement of the airship surveillance technology continues, the eyes in the sky could have the ability to keep an eye on folks spanning hundreds of acres, from North Carolina to Niagara Falls and beyond.

blimp

The massive blimps, developed as a part of Raytheon’s Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, will initially allow the Army to see for 320 miles in any direction from 10,000 feet off the ground.

“JLENS uses advanced sensor and networking technologies to provide 360-degree, wide-area surveillance and precision target tracking,” the Defense Department found in an unclassified audit.

The blimps are capable of monitoring targets on land, water or in the air with a trove of powerful onboard surveillance equipment. In a press release, Raytheon said the JLENS surveillance radar can “simultaneously track hundreds of threats.”
 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni3MKJNSLOk&w=853&h=480]

Raytheon touts the blimps as a way for militaries to have surveillance equipment out of high in the sky and out of danger while carrying “powerful radars that can look deep into enemy territory.”

But if enemy territory brings to mind visions North Korea or sandy places full of religious fanatics, think again.

After a six-week-long “test-drive” in the Utah wilderness, the Army will fly Raytheon’s enormous JLENS airships from the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where the twin-radar system will begin a long-term trial watching over Washington, D.C., and nearly a dozen States, stretching from the mid-Atlantic into New England.

Obama’s Racial Hypocrisy: Trayvon ‘Could Have Been Me’ But I’m Nominating Ray ‘Stop And Frisk’ Kelly, King Of Racial Profiling

Why would President Barack Obama nominate a man to a top security post who, by the President’s own standard, would have profiled him as a potential criminal on the streets of New York City as a younger man? And by implication, why does he endorse the idea that it’s fine for cops to randomly stop and frisk people based on their race, but that it’s a civil rights crime if a private citizen on neighborhood watch patrol might have done the same thing?

The President’s nomination of New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to replace departed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano came only days before Obama joined his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, along with friends in the entertainment industry and the NAACP, in the public immolation of an exonerated George Zimmerman.

For the Left, Zimmerman is a dead-horse straw man target, an involuntary Bull Connor figure who ought to be receiving royalty payments from people like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jay-Z — and now Obama – who have ridden his unassuming coattails to a re-emergence as race-baiting firebrands whose relevance depends on how successful they are at bringing out the worst in the characters of uninformed people. Obama seized an opportunity to do just that, telling the Nation: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

The President’s July 19 comments are actually remarkable for the extent to which they betray Obama’s dismissal of black-on-black violence (blame history), his self-identity (our President is, first and foremost, a “hyphen”-American who’s been feared by white women on the street) and, most tellingly, his propensity to group people into a racial category and proceed to speak for their behaviors, beliefs and feelings (“black folks interpret…understand…get frustrated…”):

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied.

Like Sharpton and Jackson, Obama is now speaking on behalf of American blacks, a gesture he knows automatically implies a divisive wedge that exempts one American from believing he shares — and that he should share — common ground with another. That’s vile, especially coming from the elected leader of the free world.

Equally vile is the brazen hypocrisy of burnishing the reputation of Kelly. With vocal support from otherwise-liberal New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Kelly has expanded the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” practice into a racial profiling juggernaut, requiring street cops to randomly pick out black and Hispanic individuals because they’re black and Hispanic and to frisk them without probable cause that they’re involved in anything criminal. Bloomberg notoriously said last month that the cops were stopping too many white people and not enough minorities — even though minorities comprise nearly 90 percent of all NYPD stops.

For Reason’s Jacob Sullum, something in Obama’s Janus-like positions on Zimmerman and Kelly doesn’t gibe:

The juxtaposition of [the President’s] comments suggests Obama would rather attack an easy target than confront issues with much clearer implications for equality under the law.

In contrast with Zimmerman, who has never been credibly accused of shooting Martin because of his race, Kelly is named in a federal lawsuit that charges the NYPD with routinely violating the Fourth and 14th Amendments through a program of street stops that target blacks or Hispanics 87 percent of the time. The number of such stops septupled during Kelly’s first nine years as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s police commissioner…

… As Obama noted on Friday, “there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws—everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.” In New York City under Ray Kelly, that history is still being made.

The Magician’s Rabbit And Bureaucratic Idiocy

The long arm of the Federal government has reached inside Marty Hahnes’ magic hat and pulled out a handful of bureaucratic idiocy.

Hahne performs magic shows for children in southern Missouri under the name of Marty the Magician. For his big finale he pulls a rabbit out of a hat — a time-honored magic trick with little risk to the rabbit, magician or audience.

In 2005, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector cornered him after a show. She asked to see his license. “License for?” Hahne asked. “The rabbit,” was the reply.

To keep his rabbit in the magic act Hahne was told he had to purchase a $40 annual license, take the rabbit to the veterinarian and submit to surprise home inspections. And for a kicker, if Hahne planned to take the rabbit out of town for an extended period of time, he had to submit an itinerary to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His rabbit travels with him in a small cage adorned with USDA-mandated stickers, indicating which end is up.

But this year, the idiocy got worse. To keep his rabbit license, Hahne was told he had to submit a disaster plan covering what would happen with his rabbit in the event of every conceivable emergency: fire, flood, tornado, faulty air conditioning, ice storm, power failure.

Luckily for Hahne, a professional disaster plan writer heard about his plight and offered to write a plan for his rabbit. It must be completed by July 29. As of last week, it was 28 pages long and growing. But it was still short, considering what the USDA requested it include, according to Kim Morgan, the professional who volunteered to write the plan.

While Hahne, thanks to Morgan, is responding with a serious plan, some other magicians are responding to the requirement with all the seriousness it deserves. “I’ll take a piece of paper and put down, ‘Note: take rabbit with you when you leave.’ That’s my plan,” magician Gary Maurer said.

The original law requiring the licensing dates back to 1966 and applied to laboratories that used animals in research. But the paper-shufflers in Washington, D.C., and the psychopathic elected class expanded the law with amendments and regulations so that the original four-page law grew so that there are now 14 pages just for rabbits. It grew exponentially under George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina and now applies to all licensed exhibitors.

And you think you live in a free country?