Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Army Broadens Inquiry Into WikiLeaks Disclosure - NYTimes.com

Army Broadens Inquiry Into WikiLeaks Disclosure - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Army investigators are broadening their inquiry into the recent disclosure of classified military information to include friends and associates who may have helped the person they suspect was the leaker, Pfc. Bradley Manning, people with knowledge of the investigation said Friday.

Two civilians interviewed in recent weeks by the Army’s criminal division said that investigators were focusing in part on a group of Private Manning’s friends and acquaintances in Cambridge, Mass. Investigators, the civilians said, apparently believed that the friends, who include students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, might have connections to WikiLeaks, which made the documents public.

It is unclear whether the investigators have specific evidence or are simply trying to determine whether one person working alone could have downloaded and disseminated tens of thousands of documents.

The Army has charged Private Manning with disclosing a classified video of an American helicopter attack to WikiLeaks, as well as more than 150,000 classified diplomatic cables. Military officials said Friday that the private was also the main suspect in the disclosure to WikiLeaks of more than 90,000 classified documents about the Afghan war, some of which were published this week by The New York Times, the German magazine Der Spiegel and the British newspaper The Guardian.

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room | Wired.com


Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room | Wired.com

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.


The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.





Friday, July 30, 2010

With Recovery Slowing, the Jobs Outlook Fades - NYTimes.com

With Recovery Slowing, the Jobs Outlook Fades - NYTimes.com

The nation’s economy has been growing for a year, with few new jobs to show for it. Now, with growth at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter and federal stimulus measures fading, the jobs outlook appears even more discouraging.

“Given how weak the labor market is, how long we’ve been without real growth, the rest of this year is probably still going to feel like a recession,” said Prajakta Bhide, a research analyst for the United States economy at Roubini Global Economics. “It’s still positive growth — rather than contraction — but it’s going to be very, very protracted.”

A Commerce Department report on Friday showed that the economy had grown at a faster pace earlier in the recovery, expanding at an annual rate of 5 percent at the end of 2009 and 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Consumer spending, however, was weaker than initially believed.

Many economists are forecasting a further slowdown in the second half of the year, perhaps around an annual rate of 1.5 percent. That is largely because businesses have refilled the stockroom shelves that they had whittled down during the financial crisis, meaning there will not be much need for additional inventory orders.

Fiscal stimulus policies are also expiring, which may further drag on growth. And individual stimulus programs like expanded unemployment benefits have faced huge political battles each time they have come up for extension in Congress.

Many Questions About Damaged Japanese Tanker - NYTimes.com

Many Questions About Damaged Japanese Tanker - NYTimes.com

Shipping officials said Thursday that they were examining the hull of a Japanese oil tanker that was mysteriously damaged this week as it traversed a strategically vital waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. The ship’s owner has said that it may have been attacked.

With the tanker docked in the United Arab Emirates, the owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and port officials puzzled over what had shattered windows on the vessel, knocked off a lifeboat and punched a dent into its hull. The damage was apparently inflicted early Wednesday morning in the Strait of Hormuz, a passageway for shipping much of the world’s oil from the Middle East.

Mitsui officials said that crew members on the ship, the M. Star, had seen a flash and heard an explosion. They also dismissed earlier speculation by officials in Iran and Oman that the damage had been caused by a “freak wave.”

“We have not reached a conclusion, but we still suspect the tanker was hit by a blast,” Masahiko Hibino, a safety official with the shipping line, said at a news conference in Tokyo, according to Agence France-Presse.

The shipping company told reporters it was continuing to investigate, with help from Britain’s Maritime Trade Operations and the United States Navy. This spring, the United States and other countries aided South Korea’s investigation into an explosion that sank one of its warships, with the inquiry ultimately placing blame on a North Korean torpedo.

BBC News - July is deadliest month of Afghanistan war for US

BBC News - July is deadliest month of Afghanistan war for US

American forces have experienced their deadliest month in the nine-year-old Afghan war, with 63 US service members killed in July.

June's record of 60 was surpassed after it was confirmed three soldiers killed in the south of the country on Thursday were Americans.

Meanwhile, hundreds of UK and Afghan troops launched a major offensive against the Taliban in Helmand.

Casualties have risen as the war escalates against a resurgent Taliban.

US President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan last December.


Related articles by Zemanta

China's "shame parade" ban reflects better protection of rights, dignity: expert - People's Daily Online

China's "shame parade" ban reflects better protection of rights, dignity: expert - People's Daily Online

China's recent ban on "prostitute parades" may showcase the country's growing respect for human rights and dignity during law enforcement, especially for criminal suspects, a political advisor said in Beijing Thursday.

The "shame parades" had not only been humiliating, but also were in violation of Chinese laws and regulations, said Cao Yisun, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Earlier this week, China's Ministry of Public Security published a notice demanding police authorities end the public shaming of prostitution suspects by parading them through the streets and other humiliating practices.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Says She's Going To Sue Blogger : NPR

Shirley Sherrod Says She's Going To Sue Blogger : NPR

Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she will sue a conservative blogger who posted an edited video of her making racially tinged remarks last week.
The edited video posted by Andrew Breitbart on his BigGovernment.com website led Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to ask Sherrod to resign, a decision he reconsidered after seeing the entire video of her March speech to a local NAACP group. In the full speech, Sherrod spoke of racial reconciliation and lessons she learned after initially hesitating to help a white farmer save his home.
She said she doesn't want an apology from Breitbart for posting the video that took her comments out of context, but told a crowd at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention that she would "definitely sue.''




Rangel to Stand Trial on Ethics Violations - NYTimes.com

Charles B. RangelImage via Wikipedia
Rangel to Stand Trial on Ethics Violations - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The House ethics committee laid out 13 charges of House rules violations against Representative Charles B. Rangel on Thursday, and began the process for a rare public trial on the charges.

The move came after Mr. Rangel, a veteran congressman, failed to reach a settlement to avoid the rare and potentially embarrassing proceeding before the committee gathered at 1 p.m.

Mr. Rangel’s lawyers continued to hope they could still settle the case.

The charges against Mr. Rangel, a Democrat from Harlem, include multiple breaches of the House ban on accepting gifts of more than $50 and of the requirement that members act at all times in a way that reflects creditably on the House.

Committee members struck a somber but determined tone in their brief public meeting, expressing affection for Mr. Rangel while at the same time saying they needed to uphold the integrity of Congress, especially given its dismal standing with the public. More...

News Analysis - Ruling Against Arizona a Warning for Other States - NYTimes.com

News Analysis - Ruling Against Arizona a Warning for Other States - NYTimes.com

A federal judge in Arizona on Wednesday broadly vindicated the Obama administration’s high-stakes move to challenge that state’s tough immigration law and to assert the primary authority of the federal government over state lawmakers in immigration matters.

The ruling by Judge Susan R. Bolton, in a lawsuit against Arizona brought on July 6 by the Justice Department, blocked central provisions of the law from taking effect while she finishes hearing the case.

But in taking the forceful step of holding up a statute even before it was put into practice, Judge Bolton previewed her opinions on the case, indicating that the federal government was likely to win in the end on the main points.

The decision by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to throw the federal government’s weight against Arizona, on an issue that has aroused passions among state residents, has irritated many state governors, and nine states filed papers supporting Arizona in the court case.

But Judge Bolton found that the law was on the side of the Justice Department in its argument that many provisions of the Arizona statute would interfere with federal law and policy.

Gov. Jan Brewer said the state would appeal the decision.

Although Judge Bolton’s ruling is not final, it seems likely to halt, at least temporarily, an expanding movement by states to combat illegal immigration by making it a state crime to be an immigrant without legal documents and by imposing new requirements on state and local police officers to enforce immigration law.

“This is a warning to any other jurisdiction” considering a similar law, said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund , which brought a separate suit against the law that is also before Judge Bolton.

The Arizona law stood out from hundreds of statutes adopted by states in recent years to discourage illegal immigrants. The statute makes it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry documents proving their legal status, and it requires state police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they detain for another reason, if there is a “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant.

The mere fact of being present without legal immigration status is a civil violation under federal law, but not a crime.

Arizona’s lawyers contended that the statute was written to complement federal laws. Judge Bolton rejected that argument, finding that four of its major provisions interfered or directly conflicted with federal laws.

The Arizona police, she wrote, would have to question every person they detained about immigration status, generating a flood of requests to the federal immigration authorities for confirmations. The number of requests “is likely to impermissibly burden federal resources and redirect federal agencies away from priorities they have established,” she wrote.

While opponents of the Arizona law had said it would lead to racial profiling, the Justice Department did not dwell on those issues in its court filings. But Judge Bolton brought them forward, finding significant risks for legal immigrants and perhaps American citizens. There is a “substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens,” she wrote, warning that foreign tourists could also be wrongly detained.

The law, she found, would increase “the intrusion of police presence into the lives of legally present aliens (and even United States citizens), who will necessarily be swept up” by it. Judge Bolton was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Hannah August, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said, “While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement.”

Some critics said Judge Bolton had decided too quickly. Peter Schuck, a professor of immigration law at Yale, said Judge Bolton should have allowed the law to go into effect, which it was scheduled to do on Thursday, before issuing an order that curbed the power of a state legislature.

“She rushed to judgment in a way I can only assume reflects a lot of pressure from the federal government to get this case resolved quickly,” he said.

Now Judge Bolton’s ruling has shifted the political pressure back onto President Obama to show that he can effectively enforce the border, and to move forward with an overhaul of the immigration laws, so that states will not seek to step in as Arizona did.
______________________________________________________
The federal government has already regulated in the area of immigration law triggering the U.S. Constitutions preemption provisions. which prohibits state regulation in an area of law where the federal government both has the power to regulate and has chosen to regulate. Secondly the Arizona statute raises serious 14 Amendment due process issues because it creates a subclass of people who may be targeted by this law. The inherent racial profiling built into the enforcement features of this statute are counter to the very purpose of the 14 Amendment which was put in place during Reconstruction in an attempt to end the denial of equal civil rights and disparate treatment of African Americans based upon their race.

This ruling was a victory for the United States Constitution and a defeat for demagoguery. We do have a border security problem but ill conceived and racially discriminatory statutes like the one adopted in Arizona are not the answer to this problem nor are they the American way. We do not have to sacrifice our values and moral principles to secure our borders. Thank goodness this federal court agreed.

John H. Armwood

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.


The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.


But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.


Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL."


Many Internet service providers have resisted the government's demands to turn over electronic records, arguing that surveillance law as written does not allow them to do so, industry lawyers say. One senior administration government official, who would discuss the proposed change only on condition of anonymity, countered that "most" Internet or e-mail providers do turn over such data.


To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security. The proposal is "incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting," said Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel.


The critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. "You're bringing a big category of data -- records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review," said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.


Rangel to Dems: Drop me if you must - Jonathan Allen and John Bresnahan - POLITICO.com

CHARLES RANGEL: COMBAT VET OF KOREA IS ONE OF ...Image by roberthuffstutter via Flickr
Rangel to Dems: Drop me if you must - Jonathan Allen and John Bresnahan - POLITICO.com

A subdued Charles Rangel started to tell colleagues Wednesday that he expects them to be with him only as long as they can.

It’s a favorite phrase of the ethics-embattled New York Democrat that means one politician shouldn’t sink his or her own political fortunes to help another.

“I know you love me,” Rangel quipped to one junior Democrat. “But love yourself more.”

Not even his colleagues know what Rangel will do Thursday, when the House ethics committee reveals what is expected to be a scathing slate of allegations of wrongdoing to open the congressional version of a trial.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Judge Blocks Key Parts of Immigration Law in Arizona - NYTimes.com

Judge Blocks Key Parts of Immigration Law in Arizona - NYTimes.com

PHOENIX — A federal judge, ruling on a clash between the federal government and a state over immigration policy, has blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law from going into effect.

In a ruling on a law that has rocked politics coast to coast and thrown a spotlight on the border state’s fierce debate over immigration, United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix said some aspects of the law can go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.

The parts of the law that the judge blocked included the sections that called for officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge Bolton put those sections on hold until the issues are resolved by the courts.

The judge’s decision, which came as demonstrators opposed and supporting the law gathered here and after three hearings in the past two weeks in which she peppered lawyers on both sides with skeptical questions, seemed unlikely to quell the debate.

The ruling came four days before 1,200 National Guard troops are to report to the Southwest border to assist federal and local law enforcement agencies there, part of the Obama administration’s response to growing anxiety over the border and immigration that has fed support for the law.

Lawyers for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who signed the law and is campaigning on it for election, were expected to appeal, and legal experts predict the case is bound for the United States Supreme Court.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gulf Surface Oil Vanishing Quickly - NYTimes.com

Gulf Surface Oil Vanishing Quickly - NYTimes.com

The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected, a piece of good news that raises tricky new questions about how fast the government should scale back its response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone, though there continue to be sightings of tar balls and emulsified oil here and there.

Reporters flying over the area Sunday spotted only a few patches of sheen and an occasional streak of thicker oil, and radar images taken since then suggest that these few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf.

John Amos, president of SkyTruth, an advocacy group that sharply criticized the early, low estimates of the size of the BP leak, noted that no oil had gushed from the well for nearly two weeks.

“Oil has a finite life span at the surface,” Mr. Amos said Tuesday, after examining fresh radar images of the slick. “At this point, that oil slick is really starting to dissipate pretty rapidly.”

The dissolution of the slick should reduce the risk of oil killing more animals or hitting shorelines. But it does not end the many problems and scientific uncertainties associated with the spill, and federal leaders emphasized this week that they had no intention of walking away from those problems any time soon.

The effect on sea life of the large amounts of oil that dissolved below the surface is still a mystery. Two preliminary government reports on that issue have found concentrations of toxic compounds in the deep sea to be low, but the reports left many questions, especially about an apparent decline in oxygen levels in the water.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Afghanistan war logs: tensions increase after revelation of more leaked files | World news | The Guardian

Afghanistan war logs: tensions increase after revelation of more leaked files | World news | The Guardian

Afghanistan war logs: tensions increase after revelation of more leaked files
• Coalition commanders hid civilian deaths, war logs reveal
• US, Afghanistan and Pakistan trade angry accusations
• Leak poses 'very real threat' to US forces - White House
David Leigh and Matthew Taylor
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 July 2010
larger | smaller

The Pentagon said it was conducting an investigation into whether information in the logs placed coalition forces or their informants in danger. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
Tensions between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan were further strained today after the leak of thousands of military documents about the Afghan war.

As members of the US Congress raised questions about Pakistan's alleged support for the Taliban, officials in Islamabad and Kabul also traded angry accusations on the same issue.

Further disclosures reveal more evidence of attempts by coalition commanders to cover up civilian casualties in the conflict.

The details emerge from more than 90,000 secret US military files, covering six years of the war, which caused a worldwide uproar when they were leaked yesterday.

The war logs show how a group of US marines who went on a shooting rampage after coming under attack near Jalalabad in 2007 recorded false information about the incident, in which they killed 19 unarmed civilians and wounded a further 50.

In another case that year, the logs detail how US special forces dropped six 2,000lb bombs on a compound where they believed a "high-value individual" was hiding, after "ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area". A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died.

Other files in the secret archive reveal:

• Coalition commanders received numerous intelligence reports about the whereabouts and activity of Osama bin Laden between 2004 and 2009, even though the CIA chief has said there has been no precise information about the al-Qaida leader since 2003.

• The hopelessly ineffective attempts of US troops to win the "hearts and minds" of Afghans.

• How a notorious criminal was appointed chief of police in the south-western province of Farrah.

Speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London yesterday, Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, the website which initially published the war logs, said: "It is up to a court to decide clearly whether something is in the end a crime. That said, on the face of it, there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gibbs: WikiLeaks not comparable to 'Pentagon Papers' - Ben Smith - POLITICO.com

Gibbs: WikiLeaks not comparable to 'Pentagon Papers' - Ben Smith - POLITICO.com

The White House is doing its best to quash the idea that WikiLeaks' Afghanistan logs are in any way comparable to the Pentagon Papers — even as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's claims they are "the nearest analogue" to the explosive Vietnam-era revelations.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs brushed aside the notion, telling reporters just now that the 1971 leak of the Pentagon's Vietnam strategy deliberations was "policy" as opposed to the 91,000-plus Afghanistan reports, which were "a series of one-off documents."

"I don't see they are in any way comparable," Gibbs told reporters at today's briefing.
More...
______________________________________


________________________________________
Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst who released the pentagon papers in 1971, appeared on MSNBC today with Dylan Ratigan.  He said he fears for the safety of Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, who is reportedly on the verge of leaking secret State Department cables.  The Daily Beast reports that Assange is currently being sought by the Pentagon, and Ellsberg advises him not to reveal his whereabouts. (via WikiLeaks)



Enhanced by Zemanta


Next step for Wikileaks: Crowdsourcing classified data - Computerworld

Next step for Wikileaks: Crowdsourcing classified data - Computerworld

WASHINGTON - The release on Sunday by Wikileaks of more than 90,000 documents about military operations in Afghanistan may just be the start of problems for the U.S. government.

The online publication of the documents, which offer an inside -- and potentially embarrassing -- look at the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009, represent a failure by the U.S. to control its classified data from insider threat. And it throws open to the whole world a chance to crowdsource the information the documents contain.

With that in mind, Wikileaks' Editor-In-Chief Julian Assange on Monday urged intrepid researchers to cull the documents for information that the group -- and three publications given access to them -- have yet to uncover. Assange said that Excel, one of the formats in which the material was released, might be the best way to sort through it.

During a news conference that was webcast, he even guided would-be researchers, saying they could use a search term such as "children" to parse the data for casualty reports.

When mining the documents for information, it's important search for something "quite broad...," he said. "Don't tell the data what your prejudices are, but rather let the data tell you what it is."

Now that the secret data has been made public, Assange said he expects academics, students and computer programmers to "come in and do a better job than we have with this presentation."

House leaders squeeze Rangel - Mike Allen - POLITICO.com

House leaders squeeze Rangel - Mike Allen - POLITICO.com


The Rachel Maddow Show - Tea Partier not so sure about Bachmann

Rachel Maddow in Seattle.Image via Wikipedia
Last week we watched as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) launched and re-launched and re-re-launched her congressional Tea Party Caucus. It was kind of a circus of who's-in-who's-out. Now Debbie Landis, from the Nevada Tea Party group Action Is Brewing, sounds like she'd just as Bachmann left her folks alone:

The danger of becoming a recognized political force, she said, is that individual leaders emerge, sometimes for the wrong reason. Landis said Bachmann and leaders of the Tea Party Federation and Tea Party Nation have selfish motives.

"People are trying to establish themselves as a leader for a personal agenda, either for profit or politics," Landis said. "In some cases that's not bad for the Tea Party movement. But the message that the Constitution is the only leadership the movement needs is being lost."

U.S. Senate passes 'libel tourism' bill - Blog - Committee to Protect Journalists

U.S. Senate passes 'libel tourism' bill - Blog - Committee to Protect Journalists

This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill shielding journalists and publishers from “libel tourism.” The vote on Monday slipped past the Washington press corps largely unnoticed. Maybe it was the title that strove chunkily for a memorable acronym: the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act. Journalists and press freedom defenders outside the United States did, however, pay attention to the legislation, which they hope will spur libel law reform in their countries.

The bill, which is expected to sail through the House of Representatives and become law soon, protects U.S. journalists and writers from libel suits filed by repressive governments or wealthy tycoons in foreign jurisdictions such as England, where the law is heavily skewed in favor of the plaintiff. I wrote about the practice, known as libel tourism, last year.

Ehrenfeld's book sparked a libel tourism action.
The Senate vote comes after a long campaign by Israeli-American author Rachel Ehrenfeld who found herself slapped with a multi-million-dollar defamation suit by a Saudi billionaire she accused of funding terrorist groups. No problem, you’d think, if the suit was filed in a U.S. court, where the Saudi financier would have to prove Ehrenfeld’s material was false. But this action was brought in London, the libel tourism capital of the world, where the court would demand that Ehrenfeld prove her accusations were true.

Under the new U.S. law any such libel tourism judgment will be unenforceable in the United States. “This will make a difference in how other countries, people in other countries will look into suing Americans,” Ehrenfeld told CPJ. “It’s a victory for everybody who writes in America.”

It’s also a weapon for libel reform advocates overseas.

VA allowing medical marijuana at some of its clinics | National | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

VA allowing medical marijuana at some of its clinics | National | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

WASHINGTON — Patients treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics will be able to use medical marijuana in the 14 states where it's legal, according to new federal guidelines.
The directive from the Veterans Affairs Department in the coming week is intended to clarify current policy that says veterans can be denied pain medication if they use illegal drugs. Veterans groups have complained for years that this could bar veterans from VA benefits if they were caught using medical marijuana.
The new guidance does not authorize VA doctors to begin prescribing medical marijuana, which is considered an illegal drug under federal law. But it will now make clear that in the 14 states where state and federal law are in conflict, VA clinics generally will allow the use of medical marijuana for veterans already taking it under other clinicians.