Conservatives: The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

Conservative Americans like to think they are defending the founding principles of the United States, defending individual rights and the Constitution. They are doing no such thing.

Don’t get me wrong. Conservatives study, express, believe in and support American principles. But defending? No.

Conservatives are a lot like a militia. The notion of a militia goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire. It is that armed property owners will fight tooth and nail against anyone coming to unjustly take their property from them. For that reason, they are a reliable defense against invading armies, insurrections or other overt threats. But they are not willing to go on the offense when they are not directly under attack. They would much rather tend the farm or business and care for their families than go make trouble for someone else.

Current threats to America’s principles and Constitution are not overt. Enemies of the people work quietly, relying on media silence, to adjust the laws of the Nation until the American Constitution is no longer in effect. Conservatives exercise their right to free speech, protesting and waving around signs. They formed the Tea Party to get a couple of people elected to ineffectual defensive positions in the government. What is the effect? Insidious forces continue fundamentally transforming the American system until it no longer resembles the American way.

Constitutionally prohibited actions include importing tens of millions of foreigners to outvote Americans, making schools into gun-free zones to make children into easy targets, infringements against 2nd Amendment protected firearms, suppression of free Christian expression, a massive surveillance system and developing a police state.

If Conservatives were actually interested in defending America and the supreme law of the land, they would be doing to our corrupt politicians what those mobs in Egypt did to Mohammed Morsi — forcefully removing from power the corrupt politicians. This has been done before in the United States; and it has, for a time, restored the rule of law.

The most obvious example is the American Revolution. For years, the Founders protested abuses of their Rights by their own government. But people in power happily ignored the protests. Ultimately, the problem was resolved when the people took up arms and forcefully removed from power anyone abusing their rights and the rule of law. The result was the U.S. Constitution, with an admonition that the people have a Republic only if they can keep it.

More recently, the Battle of Athens, Tenn., demonstrated the necessary remedy to abusive public servants. Stuffing the ballot boxes, corrupt politicians had eliminated fair elections. The townspeople protested; they appealed to other levels of government; they received no help. So they took up their military firearms (those protected by the 2nd Amendment) and set out to kill their politicians and the police officers defending them. Wisely, the politicians surrendered. Fair elections and the rule of law were restored.

With massive election fraud occurring today, is it any wonder that anti-American politicians are scrambling to disarm the American people?

Conservatives (Americans who believe in American principles) can wave signs and protest all they like with no effect. Under totalitarian rule, they are simply ignored. The rapid transformation of the United States into a leftist state continues unabated. It’s all well and fine to talk about having the 2nd Amendment to protect one’s rights, but only through direct action can that be accomplished.

Otherwise, the American people will lose their Republic. If they wait to act until government agents in uniform knock on the door to take their arms, it will be too late.

Sometimes, the best defense is not defense.

Think about it; demand accountability.

–Victor Sayre

A US~Observer exclusive used by permission.

Tyrannical Trifecta: Obama’s Phony Leadership, Holder’s Phony Justice And Congress’ Phony Concern

President Barack Obama, in a speech Wednesday, blamed political posturing and phony scandals for Washington’s inability to get much done to benefit the American people.

The President wants America to know that he has many plans for improving the economy, “But with this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball,” he said. “And I am here to say this needs to stop. (Applause.) This needs to stop.”

There’s one burning question: Which scandals does the President consider phony?

Lawmakers, pundits and average Americans have spent the past 10 months trying to figure out what happened leading up to and after the murder of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the hands of Islamic extremists in Benghazi, Libya.

Still, the White House has not provided any real answers. That’s likely because admitting that a cover-up of executive failures was orchestrated to protect the Obama campaign would reveal that the Benghazi scandal is more tangible than even Obama’s harshest critics originally believed.

Later, the State Department intimidated officials who knew the truth of what happened in Benghazi –and others who knew about misconduct in the agency.

In May, it was revealed that the Internal Revenue Service has frequently singled out American citizens and groups with conservative political leanings for increased scrutiny. During a Congressional oversight hearing on the matter, Lois Lerner, IRS director of Exempt Organizations, invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Obama axed IRS chief Steven Miller, who was already nearing the end of his term, with great fanfare. And the agency blamed the scandal on low-level employees and vowed to do better.

But no real consequence emerged. No massive tax-reform effort. No massive cuts to the agency, even after further damning reports about IRS officials wasting troves of taxpayer money on lavish conferences.

Furthermore, Americans still don’t know why the IRS commissioner visited the White House 118 times during Obama’s tenure, compared to one visit during the previous Presidential Administration. Nor do they know why a top IRS aide made more than 300 visits to the Presidential residence. One White House meeting between Obama and a high ranking IRS official occurred on April 23, 2012, two days before a new set of advice on how to scrutinize tea party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status was sent to the IRS exempt organizations determinations unit .

In 2011, Americans learned that Federal officials were involved in an attempt to vilify firearms by handing them to Mexican drug cartels. The effort, dubbed Fast and Furious, came to a head when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the operation, lost track of hundreds of firearms, many of which have been linked to crimes, including the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

Americans wanted to know who was responsible, as firearms smuggling and dealings with dangerous criminal elements are certainly not the business of Federal officials on the taxpayer dime.

Unfortunately for information seekers, Attorney General Eric Holder absolved the ATF of any wrongdoing and absolved himself of any wrongdoing. And President Obama basically said that, by order of executive privileged, Americans shouldn’t expect answers because it would damage national security.

Luckily, this is a Nation built on the idea that a well-informed public is an absolute necessity to the greater good of all citizens. That means, protected by the 1st Amendment, America’s journalists have the power to hit the streets and find out the answers to the questions that the White House refuses to acknowledge.

Those journalists do need to be sure, however, that they never run afoul of Obama’s all-seeing Administration, a fact duly noted by The Associated Press revelation that the Justice Department seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to The AP and its journalists in April and May 2012. The Federal government collected personal and work-related information from more than 100 journalists.

When government officials won’t talk about their gross misconduct and the American press is intimidated by a bully Federal government, it seems all hope is lost for American citizens concerned about the state of the Nation and seeking answers. But there are still ways for the public to come upon pertinent information about how the government is abusing them.

Whistle-blower Edward Snowden recently revealed that the National Security Agency is constantly collecting the electronic communications data of virtually all Americans. Meanwhile, Snowden has taken refuge in Russia to avoid Federal retribution for revealing the government’s dirty little secret. The White House was forced to acknowledge the leak and promised that the Department of Justice would investigate.

The same Department of Justice that looked into Fast and Furious. The same Department of Justice that said it is looking into the IRS malfeasance. The same Department of Justice that secretly spied on American journalists. The same Department of Justice that will likely skewer Snowden if he is ever captured.

And, except for a few standouts, Congress is complicit in all of the above-mentioned scandals because legislators have made no tangible effort to force answers out of the Administration. Hearings happen, questions are asked, but then — as illustrated with the defeat of Representative Justin Amash’s defund the NSA amendment, Wednesday — nothing is done to protect Americans from the growing executive and its vast abuses of power.

Obama is partially right that something is phony in Washington, but it certainly isn’t the growing list of scandals surrounding his Administration. It is his leadership, and that of the almost the entire political class in Washington, that is truly phony.

Poll: Vote Congress Out, But Trust Congress Over Obama

If there’s anything to the results of a new voter poll, the 2014 midterm elections will see the entirety of today’s House of Representatives, along with every Senator who’s up for re-election, kicked out of office.

A nationwide poll conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows 57 percent of Americans would choose to throw the “bums” out, including their own elected representatives.

A staggering 83 percent of respondents said they aren’t satisfied with the job Congress is doing. That’s far fewer than those who’ve tired of President Barack Obama, whose numbers — 50 percent disapprove; 45 percent approve — still continue to reflect a steady decline from a high of 53 percent approval in December.

The poll asked voters a follow-up question:

If there were a place on your ballot that allowed you to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including your own representative, would you do this, or not?

And 57 percent said “yes.” That’s the highest number of dissatisfied respondents the poll has seen over the course of seven iterations since March of 2010.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. Voters have demonstrated that they are often willing to break with personal ideology in order to return to Washington a local representative who’s amassed some clout that benefits their own districts, while simultaneously begrudging Congressmen with similar views who hail from other districts and other States.

But Americans’ disgust with partisan gridlock in Congress is far and away the biggest reason people say they’re disappointed with Washington politics. Asked to rank eight reasons for their dissatisfaction in order from most to least important, 44 percent ranked Congressional ineffectiveness either first or second. By contrast, cuts to programs “that help the poor” were ranked among the top two reasons by only 20 percent.

As a strange statistic shows, people may be fed up with Congress as a whole, but they still — at least in theory — would rather Congress take the lead in setting national policy than allow the President to do it. Of those surveyed, 48 percent said Congress should set the tone on shaping policies, while only 38 percent said Obama should continue to take point. And of those who prefer Congress over Obama, an overwhelming majority said they want the House Republican majority to lead the way, rather than the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Feds Raid ‘Legal’ Pot In Washington; Obama’s Reporter Buds Love His Thoughts; Majority Agrees With Affirmative Action; Tea Party Students Spurned At Speech; How Congress Can Leash The NSA— Personal Liberty Digest ™ P.M. Edition 7-25-2013

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

ProPublica: Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping

Although the House defeated a measure that would have defunded the bulk phone metadata collection program, the narrow 205-217 vote showed that there is significant support in Congress to reform NSA surveillance programs. Here are six other legislative proposals on the table. Read More… 

Obama: Reporters Say My Ideas Are ‘Great’

Who needs state media when you have the MSM?  President Barack Obama told an Illinois audience Wednesday that reporters are sympathetic toward his policies, but that they advise him Congressional Republicans will never let those good ideas take root and blossom. Read More… 

College Republicans Banned From Obama’s Campus Speech

A group of College Republicans who held tickets to an on-campus economy speech by President Barack Obama was denied admittance after civilly protesting the President’s fiscal policies in the hours leading up to the event. Read More… 

Feds Raid Legal Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Washington

Despite State legalization and promises from President Barack Obama that raiding medical marijuana facilities was not a priority of the Federal government, medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Gig Harbor, Washington were raided by Drug Enforcement Agency agents on Wednesday. Read More… 

Poll: Most Americans Support Affirmative Action

Two-thirds of Americans think college applicants should be admitted based solely on merit, yet most approve of affirmative action, according to the results of a recent poll. Read More… 

Researchers Seek Metal-Coating Secrets Of Ancient Gold-, Silversmiths

ROME (UPI) — Italian researchers say ancient craftsmen created metal-coating techniques 2,000 years ago that have never been matched, even today.

Writing in the American Chemical Society’s journal Account of Chemical Research, scientists in Rome say understanding these sophisticated metal-plating techniques from ancient times could help preserve priceless artistic and other treasures from the past.

While scientists have made good progress in understanding the chemistry of many ancient artistic and other artifacts, Gabriel Maria Ingo and his colleagues said, little is known about how gilders in the Dark Ages and other periods applied lustrous, impressively uniform films of gold or silver to intricate objects.

Using the newest analytical techniques to uncover the ancients’ artistic secrets, the researchers discovered gold- and silversmiths 2,000 years ago developed a variety of techniques, including using mercury like a glue to apply thin films of metals to statues and other objects.

The method used to apply real gold and silver was also sometimes used fraudulently, they said, to make cheap metal statues look like solid gold or silver.

The findings confirm “the high level of competence reached by the artists and craftsmen of these ancient periods who produced objects of an artistic quality that could not be bettered in ancient times and has not yet been reached in modern ones,” the researchers said.

Western Demand For Cashmere Said A Threat To Endangered Asian Species

NEW YORK (UPI) — Some of the planet’s rarest large mammals may become “victims of fashion” as the cashmere trade threatens ecosystems, U.S. conservationists say.

Expanding goat herds meant to increase profits for the cashmere trade in Western markets could see wildlife icons from the Tibetan Plateau to Mongolia suffer, the Wildlife Conservation Society reported Wednesday.

Species at risk include the snow leopard, wild yak, chiru, saiga, Bactrian camel, gazelles, and other already endangered species of remote Central Asia, the society said in a release.

Goats from this region produce high-quality fibers that, when processed into cashmere, are highly sought by western consumers.

The growth in goat herds is bringing increasing conflicts with pastoralists, predation by dogs on wildlife, retaliatory killing of snow leopards preying on goats and displacement of wildlife away from critical food habitats, experts said.

A study has used date from fieldwork in India, western China, and Mongolia and builds upon economic data including herder profits, changes in livestock numbers, and the relative abundance of wildlife, researchers said.

“The consequences are dramatic and negative for iconic species that governments have signed legislation to protect, yet the wildlife is continually being squeezed into a no-win situation,” said lead study author Joel Berger, a biologist for the society and professor at University of Montana.

“Herders are doing what we would do — just trying to improve their livelihoods, and who can blame them?”

Conservationists are urging a dialog among the garment industry, cashmere herders and wildlife groups to address and mitigate the impacts.

“In the absence of commitment across global and local scales, the iconic wildlife of the world’s highest mountains and great steppes will cease to persist as they have for millennia,” Peter Zahler, the society’s deputy director for Asia programs, said.

“Rather than serving as symbols of success, these species will become victims of fashion.”

Bird Native To Russia Unexpectedly Shows Up In Southern California

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (UPI) — A species of bird native to the Siberian tundra has made a rare appearance in California, ImperialBeachPatch.com reported.

Bird enthusiasts have been flocking to Imperial Beach in San Diego Country to see a Lesser Sand Plover, the news website said.

It is the first known visit of the plover to the area and only the third time it’s been spotted in Southern California.

A native to the Russian tundra that normally spends it summers somewhere between Southeast Asia and Australia, the California sighting is the first in the San Diego area and only the third ever recorded in California, experts said.

The bird, also known as the Mongolian Plover, has been drawing crowds.

“I’ve seen people looking at this bird that have come from Colorado and New Mexico,” said Guy McCaskie, an Imperial Beach resident and member of the California Rare Birds Committee, a group that verifies rare bird sightings.

“People will come from a long distance to see a bird of this quality.”

Japanese University Says Science Papers Should Be Retracted For Errors

TOKYO (UPI) — The University of Tokyo says it’s urging one of its research groups to retract 43 published papers because they contain falsified data and other irregularities.

The papers were published by a group at the university’s Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences led by Shigeaki Kato, a widely known endocrinologist in charge of a national project that was granted more than $200 million in funding between 2004 and 2009.

Kato, who resigned from the institute last year, denied involvement in any falsifications but said in an interview with The Mainichi Shimbun he “would accept the university’s decision.”

The university said it began an investigation after allegations were made by an outside source.

The university discovered fabricated data including Photoshopped and partially deleted materials in 165 papers published after Kato’s arrival in 1996, officials said.

The investigators concluded 43 papers on a range of subjects from fat-cell increases associated with obesity to DNA multiplication through cell division should be retracted, and another 10 needed to be revised.

University officials said they believed Kato wasn’t directly involved in falsification of the data but the way he managed the research resulted in misconduct.

Kato said he was in charge of checking experimental results and revising papers.

“I think my team members rushed to obtain successful results,” he said. “I’m sorry for troubling the university, the institute, and the science committee and I’m working on retracting the papers.”

More than 20 researchers are listed as co-authors of the papers in question.

“The papers damaged the university’s social credibility while greatly affecting the future of young researchers,” a member of the investigation panel said.

Cold Spring Weather Catastrophic For Poland’s Stork Populations

WOLSZTYN, Poland (UPI) — A cold spring decimated Poland’s stork population, with 80 percent of young storks perishing in some areas of the country, conservationists said.

Bird watchers said despite ample sources of food and numerous live hatchings, many young birds died of cold and exposure, Polskie Radio reported Thursday.

In one traditionally popular habitat of white storks in southwestern Poland, 26 pairs had nested this year but only six pairs managed to raise a total of nine hatchlings, ornithologists said.

Violent rains and sudden spells of cold weather in June may have also brought on fungal infections, a common problem in damp weather, they said.

Storks in western Poland were hardest hit, and conservationists said they were hoping storks raised in central and eastern Poland — which escaped the worst of the spring weather — would help rebuild the decimated populations in the western part of the country within three to four years.

Bird watchers said it has been the worst year from storks in Poland since 1997, when much of the country was hit by flooding.

Food Advocates: Some Reddish Dye In Yogurt Made From Bugs

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Strawberry, Cherry, Boysenberry and Raspberry flavors of Dannon’s “Fruit on the Bottom” line get their color from an insect, a U.S. non-profit group says.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, said Dannon uses carmine — a dye extracted from the dried, pulverized bodies of cochineal insects — to give fruit-flavored yogurt their pink color.

The dye is used in the Strawberry flavor of Dannon’s Oikos brand of Greek yogurt, two flavors of Dannon’s Light and Fit Greed use the extract, as do six of its Activia yogurts.

However, Dannon uses other natural colorings, such as purple carrot juice, in its Danimals line of yogurts marketed to children, CSPI said.

CSPI’s Chemical Cuisine guide to food additives says “certain people should avoid” carmine since a small percentage of consumers can have reactions ranging from hives to anaphylactic shock after eating it, Jacobson said.

“I have nothing against people who eat insects, but when I buy strawberry yogurt I’m expecting yogurt and strawberries, and not red dye made from bugs,” Jacobson said in a statement. “Given the fact that it causes allergic reactions in some people, and that’s it easy to use safer, plant-based colors, why would Dannon use it at all? Why risk offending vegetarians and grossing out your other customers?”

The cochineal is a scale insect native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico. It lives on cacti and produces carminic acid used make carmine dye used as a food coloring and for cosmetics, especially lipstick.

Itching Can Have Hundreds Of Causes, But Therapies For Most

ROCHESTER, Minn. (UPI) — There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for persistent itching, but there are therapies for most types of severe or persistent itching, U.S. researchers say.

The Mayo Clinic Health Letter reported itching can have hundreds of possible causes, but itching with a rash could be the result of dry skin, allergic reactions, skin disorders, or infectious diseases such as chickenpox or shingles.

Treatments vary due to the cause of the rash and include:

— Oral antihistamines ease itching due to allergies or hives. Corticosteroids help with itching caused by skin inflammation.

— Medicated cream is applied to the affected areas and covered by wet cotton cloths. This approach often is effective when other therapies fail.

— The skin is exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light several times a week over the course of weeks or months.

Itching that occurs without a rash can be the result of diseases such as liver disease, kidney failure, anemia, some cancers and many other conditions; medications such as narcotic pain relievers and some cancer medications; and nerve dysfunction such as pinched or irritated nerves, the newsletter said.

Treating the underlying condition or adjusting medications can provide relief, but anti-depressants may be helpful in select situations where other therapies haven’t worked.

A number of topical creams and ointments can help relieve an itch immediately. Options include topical anesthetics such as lidocaine or benzocaine and ointments and lotions such as peppermint, camphor or calamine.

When itching persists, it’s a good idea to check with a physician for a diagnosis and treatment, the newsletter said.

ProPublica: Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping

This article, written by Kara Brandeisky, was originally published by ProPublica,  July 25, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

Although the House defeated a measure that would have defunded the bulk phone metadata collection program, the narrow 205-217 vote showed that there is significant support in Congress to reform NSA surveillance programs. Here are six other legislative proposals on the table.

1) Raise the standard for what records are considered “relevant”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reportedly adopted a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act, ruling that all the records in a company’s database could be considered “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The leaked court order compelling a Verizon subsidiary to turn over all its phone records is just one example of how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted the statute.

Both Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have introduced bills requiring the government to show “specific and articulable facts” demonstrating how records are relevant.  Similarly, legislation introduced by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., would require any applications to include an explanation of how any records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.

2) Require NSA analysts to obtain court approval before searching metadata

Once the NSA has phone records in its possession, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has explained that NSA analysts may query the data without individualized court approvals, as long as they have a “reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts” that the data is related to a foreign terrorist organization.

A bill from Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., would require the government to petition the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every time an analyst wants to search telephone metadata. From there, a surveillance court judge would need to find “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the search is “specifically relevant to an authorized investigation” before approving the application. The legislation would also require the FBI to report monthly to congressional intelligence committees all the searches the analysts made.

3) Declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions

Right now, court opinions authorizing the NSA surveillance programs remain secret. Advocacy groups have brought several Freedom of Information Act suits seeking the release of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court documents, but the Justice Department continues to fight them.

Several bills would compel the secret court to release some opinions. The Ending Secret Law Act 2014 both the House and Senate versions 2014 would require the court to declassify all its opinions that include “significant construction or interpretation” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under current law, the court already submits these “significant” opinions to congressional intelligence committees, so the bill would just require the court to share those documents with the public.

The bills do include an exception if the attorney general decides that declassifying an opinion would threaten national security. In that case, the court would release an unclassified summary of the opinion, or 2014 if even offering a summary of the opinion would pose a national security threat 2014 at least give a report on the declassification process with an “estimate” of how many opinions must remain classified.

Keep in mind, before Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the Justice Department argued that all “significant legal interpretations” needed to remain classified for national security reasons. Since the leaks, the government has said it’s now reviewing what, if any, documents can be declassified, but they said they need more time.

4) Change the way Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are appointed

Current law does not give Congress any power to confirm Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges. Instead, the chief justice of the United States appoints the judges, who all already serve on the federal bench. The judges serve seven-year terms. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed all 11 judges currently serving on the court 2013 ten of whom were nominated to federal courts by Republican presidents.

A bill introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would give the president the power to appoint surveillance court judges and give the Senate power to confirm. The president would also choose the presiding judge of the surveillance court, with Senate approval.

Alternatively, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., has offered a bill that would let the chief justice appoint three judges and let the House Speaker, the House minority leader, the Senate majority leader, and the Senate minority leader each appoint two judges.

5) Appoint a public advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Currently, the government officials petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court do not face an adversarial process. Surveillance targets do not have representation before the court, and they are not notified if a court order is issued for their data.

In 33 years, the surveillance court only rejected 11 of an estimated 33,900 government requests, though it the government has also modified 40 of the 1,856 applications in 2012. 

Two former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges 2013 Judge James Robertson and Judge James Carr 2013 have argued that Congress should appoint a public advocate to counter the government’s arguments. Carr wrote in the New York Times, “During my six years on the court, there were several occasions when I and other judges faced issues none of us had encountered before. [2026]Having lawyers challenge novel legal assertions in these secret proceedings would result in better judicial outcomes.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has promised to introduce a bill that would provide a “special advocate” to argue on behalf of privacy rights and give “civil society organizations” a chance to respond before the surveillance court issues significant rulings.

The surveillance court can actually invite advocates to argue before the court, as the Supreme Court did when the Obama administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  

“There’s nothing in law that would prevent the FISA court from hiring an advocate as an additional advisor to the court, except the need to obtain security clearances for that advocate, which would have to be granted by the executive branch,” explained Steven Bradbury, who served as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice from 2005 to 2009.

Bradbury has argued that the surveillance court may not need a permanent public advocate because its legal advisers already fulfill that role.

6) End phone metadata collection on constitutional grounds

The Justice Department has maintained that mass phone metadata collection is “fully consistent with the Fourth Amendment.” That reasoning is based on the 1979 Supreme Court decision Smith v. Maryland, where the Court found that the government does not need a warrant based on probable cause to collect phone records. The Court reasoned that whenever you dial a phone number, you voluntarily share that phone number with a telecom, and you can’t reasonably expect a right to privacy for information shared with third parties. As a result, the Court ruled that the collection of phone records is not a “search” and does not merit protection under the Fourth Amendment.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced a bill declaring that the Fourth Amendment “shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause” 2014 effectively shutting down the NSA’s phone metadata collection program.

Study: Some Hot Sauces From Mexico May Contain Lead

LAS VEGAS (UPI) — A study of 25 bottles of imported hot sauces from Mexico and South America found 16 percent contained lead levels, researchers say.

Shawn Gerstenberger and Jennifer Berger Ritchie of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the hot sauces were purchased from local ethnic markets, grocery stores and a swap meet. Product selection included a variety of manufacturers and types.

Bottles were shaken for 60 seconds and analyzed for lead concentrations and pH levels. The lead content of the packaging was also evaluated because lead content in packaging has been known to leech into and contaminate other food products, the researchers said

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B; found four brands of hot sauces exceeded 0.1 parts per million lead, the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standard for unsafe levels of lead in candy. All four of these brands were imported from Mexico, but were from four different manufacturers, the study said.

There is no known safe level for lead exposure.

In young children, lead poisoning has been known to cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and even seizures, comas and death in extreme cases, the researchers said.

“The results indicate the need for more rigorous screening protocols for products imported in Mexico, including an applicable standard for hot sauce,” Gerstenberger said in a statement.

Marijuana Use In Adolescence May Cause Permanent Brain Harm

BALTIMORE (UPI) — Regular marijuana use in adolescence, but not adulthood, may permanently impair brain function and cognition, U.S. researchers say.

Senior author Asaf Keller, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said regular marijuana use in adolescence might also increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

“Over the past 20 years, there has been a major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with some evidence that use in adolescence could be damaging,” Keller said in a statement.

“Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 were at greater risk of permanent cognitive deficits, and had a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.”

Study co-author Sarah Paige Haughwout, a research technician in Keller’s laboratory examined cortical oscillations — patterns of the activity of neurons in the brain — in mice.

Young mice were exposed to very low doses of the active ingredient in marijuana for 20 days, and then allowed  to return to their siblings and develop normally. The experiment was repeated in adult mice never before exposed to the drug.

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found cortical oscillations and ability to perform cognitive behavioral tasks remained normal in the adult mice, indicating it was only marijuana exposure during the critical period of adolescence that impaired cognition through this mechanism.

“We looked at the different regions of the brain,” Keller said. “The back of the brain develops first, and the frontal parts of the brain develop during adolescence. We found the frontal cortex is much more affected by the drugs during adolescence. This is the area of the brain controls executive functions such as planning and impulse control. It is also the area most affected in schizophrenia.”

U.S. Areas With A High Well-Being Index Have Lower Heart Risk

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Adults living in U.S. metropolitan areas with the lowest well-being index are about twice as likely to report having a heart attack, a survey indicates.

The findings are based on an analysis of more than 230,000 interviews across 190 metropolitan areas conducted in 2012 of U.S. adults aged 18 and older, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

An average of 5.5 percent of U.S. adults living in the 10 metro areas with the lowest well-being reported having had a heart attack, compared with 2.8 percent of residents in the 10 metro areas with the highest levels of well-being.

The metropolitan ares with the highest well-being index scores in 2012 included: Lincoln, Neb.; Boulder, Colo., and Provo-Orem, Utah. Those with the lowest Well-Being Index scores included Charleston, W.Va.; Huntington, W.Va./Ashland, Ky./Ironton,Ohio, and Mobile, Ala.

Of the approximately 3 million U.S. adults living in the 10 metro areas with the lowest well-being, about 161,000 experienced a heart attack. If these cities experienced the same rate of heart attacks as what is found in the 10 metro areas with the highest well-being, nearly 80,000 fewer residents would be heart attack victims, Gallup said.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey was conducted nationwide Jan. 2-Dec. 29, 2012, with a random sample of 353,563 adults. The margin of error ranged from 1 percentage point to 6.5 percentage points.

Jobless Claims Climb In Week, Up By 7,000

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Labor Department said first-time jobless benefits claims rose by 7,000 to 343,000 in the week that ended Saturday.

The four-week rolling average fell, dropping by 1,250 to 345,250.

The previous week’s first-time claims figure was revised higher from 334,000 to 336,000.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week that ended July 13 were in Georgia, where claims rose by 7,027, California with 6,799 additional claims and Texas with 6,001 new claims.

The largest decreases were in Michigan, down by 11,969, New York, down by 4,743 and New Jersey, where first-time claims fell by 4,477.

U.S. Housing Market Exhibits More Signs Of Recovery

IRVINE, Calif. (UPI) — The U.S. housing market is improving bit by bit as data from a first-ever Residential Sales report from RealtyTrac shows, a company executive said.

“The U.S. housing market is slowly but surely moving toward a more normalized and sustainable pattern after a flurry of institutional and cash buyers flocked to residential real estate last year,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

Institutional buyers, measured by the number of sales to non-lending entities that purchased at least 10 properties in the last 12 months, rose to 9 percent of all residential sales in June, up from 8 percent in May, but down from 10 percent in June 2012, the firm said.

Institutional buying pushes up prices quickly and often snatches up the best inventory available in a local market, Blomquist said.

In turn, as prices go up, institutional investors fade back into the woodwork.

“Rising home values should continue to unlock more non-distressed inventory while also pricing institutional investors out of more markets, which, combined with rising interest rates, will cool off the pace of price appreciation,” Blomquist said.

The Residential Sales Report showed other signs of a market in recovery.

The report found the national median sales price in June was $168,000, up 3 percent from May and up 5 percent from June 2012.

The median price for distressed homes — homes in foreclosed or bank-owned — was $120,000, while the median price of non-distressed homes was $181,500, RealtyTrac said.

Short sales, which are sales at a price below what is owed on the mortgage, fell to 14 percent of all residential sales in June, down from 15 percent in May, but up from 8 percent in June 2012.

In five western city markets the annual increase in median sales prices topped 20 percent, including Sacramento, Calif., where the median price rose 35 percent in 12 months and San Francisco, where the median price rose 30 percent.

The median price rose 27 percent in Los Angeles, 26 percent in Las Vegas and 25 percent in Phoenix, the report said.

But short sales, a sure sign of a wobbly market, are still occurring in significant numbers.

Short sales, which are sales at a price below what is owed on the mortgage, fell to 14 percent of all residential sales in June, down from 15 percent in May, but up from 8 percent in June 2012.

In June, 30 percent of all sales in Nevada were borrowers selling short. In Florida, short sales accounted for 29 percent of all sales. In Maryland, it was 21 percent and in Tennessee and Arizona, short sales made up 19 percent of the total.

Obama: Reporters Say My Ideas Are ‘Great’

Who needs state media when you have the MSM?  President Barack Obama told an Illinois audience Wednesday that reporters are sympathetic toward his policies, but that they advise him Congressional Republicans will never let those good ideas take root and blossom.

“It’s interesting, in the run-up to this speech, a lot of reporters say that, well, Mr. President, these are all good ideas, but some of you’ve said before; some of them sound great, but you can’t get those through Congress. Republicans won’t agree with you,” said Obama in Galesburg, Ill.

In fact, Republicans like Obama’s ideas too – they just won’t say so out loud, for fear of their constituents and other Republicans, he added.

“I know because they’ve said so. But they worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for cooperating with me. Now, there are others who will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or in some cases because, sincerely, they have a fundamentally different vision for America.”

H/T: The Hill http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/313445-obama-reporters-tell-me-my-ideas-are-great

Durable Goods Orders Rose In June

WASHINGTON (UPI) — New orders for durable goods climbed higher than expected in June, the U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday.

Durable goods orders jumped 4.2 percent to $244.5 billion in June, coming in well above the consensus forecast that called for a 0.5 percent increase.

It was the third consecutive month in which growth exceeded expectations and the fourth month out of the past five in which fresh orders for factories rose.

In May, new orders rose 5.2 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau said orders for big-ticket transportation items — ships, trucks, planes and railroad cars — also rose for the fourth month out of the past five, climbing by $9.9 billion or 12.8 percent to $87.1 billion.

Excluding transportation orders, durable goods orders still rose slightly. Without defense included, new orders rose 3 percent, the Bureau said.

Shipments of durable goods, down in two of the past three months, declined slightly after rising by 1.3 percent in May, the monthly report said.

Unfilled orders, also up four of the past five months, rose by 2.1 percent to $1,029.4 trillion.

The Commerce Department revised figures for May. New orders were revised from $485 billion to $488.9 billion. Shipments were revised from $483.6 billion to $484.1 billion. Unfilled orders in May was revised from $1,004.8 billion to $1,008 billion.

Chevrolet Impala Wows Consumer Reports

YONKERS, N.Y. (UPI) — Consumer Reports said the 2014 Chevrolet Impala earned the best scores in its class, making a U.S. model the top large sedan for the first time in 20 years.

The product testing organization praised the Impala’s handling, braking and its “refreshingly intuitive and easy to use” interior controls. “When pushed to its handling limits, the Impala proved secure, responsive, balanced, and easy to control,” CR said.

Further, the Impala has gone from a “mediocre” score of 63 to an “excellent” score of 95, Consumer Reports said.

“That places it not only at the top of its ‘Large Sedan’ category, but also among the top-rated vehicles Consumer Reports has tested. Only two vehicles have a higher test score – the [all-electric] Tesla Model S hatchback and the BMW 135i coupe,” Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports, however, said the 2014 could not be placed in its “Recommended” category, because it was too new to have met other requirements, including doing well in government crash tests and in the company’s Annual Auto Survey.

But Jack Fisher, director Consumer Reports automotive testing, said the Impala was “one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance,” for the U.S. automobile industry.

“We’ve seen a number of redesigned American models — including the Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee — deliver world-class performance in our test,” he said.