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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Italian Navy opened fire on human traffickers in the Mediterranean Sea last fall as thousands of migrants, including sub-Saharan Africans and Syrians, made desperate bids to sail to Italy. On April 10, Navy chief Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi revealed details of the operation to rescue migrants at sea, which has employed submarines, frigates, amphibious transport dock ships, helicopters and drones and picked up 18,546 migrants since October. Due to the war in Syria, the fallout from the Arab Spring revolts in North Africa, and poverty and political instability in sub-Saharan Africa, thousands are seeking a new life in Europe. De Giorgi said 42,925 migrants made it to Italy by sea in 2013, a 224 percent rise over the previous year. "This is a biblical exodus, and turning them back is not part of our mission," he said.


U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black has ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states, but he put a hold on his order for the time being. "Ohio's marriage recognition is facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances," Black said in an order he announced verbally 10 days ago. "It is this court's responsibility to give meaning and effect to the guarantees and of the U.S. Constitution and all American citizens and that responsibility is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority." read more


Daniel Gross, The Daily Beast: This a pretty benign time for the global economy. Interest rates are uniformly low. The U.S., China, and Japan -- the three largest economies in the world -- are all growing. Developing markets in Africa are surging. The European debt crisis seems to have ended. In this climate, one of the only ways to get a recession is to engineer one. Which is precisely the trick Vladimir Putin may have just pulled off with Russia's $2 trillion economy. read more


One of the darkest episodes during the U.S. occupation of Iraq last decade is finally resulting in the prosecution of private American security guards who killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in a single incident. The name Blackwater became famous after the 2007 event in which guards from the security firm's Raven 23 unit opened fire in Baghdad's Nisour Square on September 16. The shootings, which the Iraqi government said were unprovoked, killed 14 people and wounded 20 others. The guards claimed they came under attack from insurgents while carrying out their duties for the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), which had hired the firm. The trial is scheduled to begin June 11, AP reports.


The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama's health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said. The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said. read more


A Florida single mother who died after she no longer qualified for Medicaid has become a rallying cry in the battle over Obamacare. Charlene Dill, 32, collapsed and died March 21 at a stranger's home while working as a vacuum cleaner salesman. The mother of three young children had stopped taking medication for a heart condition after her yearly income of $9,000 exceeded the maximum to get Medicaid coverage. Dill would have been covered by Medicaid if Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) had not rejected the program's expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act. read more


Twenty-one years ago, rancher Cliven Bundy stopped paying his grazing fees. ... His personal grievance with federal authority doesn't stop with the BLM, though. "I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada," Bundy said in a radio interview last Thursday. "I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don't recognize the United States government as even existing." Ironically, this position directly contradicts Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution.


It appears that the anti-government activists protesting the Bureau of Land Management's actions against a Nevada cattle rancher were considering using women as a human shield if a gun battle had erupted during the standoff. Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who joined more than 1,000 other protesters alongside Cliven Bundy, said on Fox News, "We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it's going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers."


A Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region, U.S. military officials said Monday. In the first public account of the incident, the officials said the Russian Fencer made 12 passes, and flew within 1,000 yards of the USS Donald Cook, a Navy destroyer, at about 500 feet above sea level. The U.S. warship issued several radio queries and warnings using international emergency circuits, but the Russian aircraft did not respond. read more


What if the United States has been waging the wrong war against the wrong enemy for the last 13 years in Afghanistan? Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall concludes just that in her new book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014. Gall said that Pakistan -- not Afghanistan -- has been the United States' real enemy. "Instead of fighting a very grim and tough war which was very high in casualties on Afghans, as well as NATO and American soldiers, the problem wasn't in the Afghan villages," Gall said. "The source of the problem, the radicalization, the sponsoring of the insurgency, was all happening in Pakistan." read more


Joan McCarter, Daily Kos: Brian Beutler catches the latest Obamacare fauxrage from Fox News: millions of people won't be able to sign up for health insurance until November. So all those young people who Republicans, and Fox News, told that they shouldn't be signing up because freedom are now deprived of freedom by having to wait until the next open enrollment period. Here's Fox News: "There is yet another ObamaCare surprise waiting for consumers: from now until the next open enrollment at the end of this year, most people will simply not be able to buy any health insurance at all, even outside the exchanges." read more


Militants struck near the heart of the Nigerian state early Monday, bombing a bus station in the capital of Abuja. At least 71 people were killed in a blast that ripped through dozens of vans and coaches. Top Nigerian officials, whose offices are a short distance away, immediately attributed the bombing to the Islamist group Boko Haram. Monday's blast occurred around 6:30 a.m. as the bus station, in the working-class neighborhood of Nyanya, five miles southwest of the center, was packed with commuters.


John Cook, the editor of The Intercept, was asked what kind of reporters he's seeing to hire at the news site, which is financially backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and has journalist Glenn Greenwald as one of its founders. His answer in a comment on the site: "Not white. Not male. Fast. ... Beat-wise, intelligence and national security are obviously important to us at the initial stages, but I'm more interested in good capable people who can apply their skills to all manner of stories than subject-area experts."


The Congressional Budget Office has reduced their estimate of the cost of Obamacare over the next 10 years by more than $100B. They credit lower than expected increases in premiums and an increase in the number of people covered by employer based plans reducing projected subsidy payments. The report also states that Obamacare is projected to result in a overall decrease in the projected federal budget deficit.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Washington Post and The Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize in public service Monday for revealing the U.S. government's sweeping surveillance efforts in stories based on thousands of secret documents handed over by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. The Pulitzer for breaking news was awarded to The Boston Globe for its "exhaustive and empathetic" coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that followed. The awards are American journalism's highest honor. The winning entries about the NSA's spy programs showed the government has collected information about millions of Americans' phone calls and emails based on its classified interpretation of laws passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.


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