Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of Congress | CNBC

By Carmen Chapell

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of the Capitol.

The New York Democrat, along with other incoming freshman lawmakers, is trying to usher in a culture of openness that is enabled by a vast social media following. With nearly 3 million followers combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez has used the platforms to involve her supporters during the transition period before she takes office.

Her enthusiastic and often pugnacious transparency campaign has earned her praise from inside and outside the Beltway. Yet it has also drawn criticism from several corners, including from President Donald Trump’s eldest son. Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t given any indication that she will let up, however.

In a series of pictures and videos on Instagram dubbed “Congress Camp,” she gave an inside look into new-member orientation, from choosing an office to voting for House leadership, while also showcasing the unique quirks of life on Capitol Hill.

“Guys, there are secret underground tunnels between all of these government buildings!” she whispers in one video. In another post, she polls her followers on whether she should choose an office with more space or one “close to our friends.”

But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t just focusing on the novelty of her experience. Last week, she tweeted sharp criticism of an orientation for new members of Congress hosted by Harvard. The event featured corporate CEOs but no labor representatives.

“Our ‘bipartisan’ Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance,” she tweeted. “Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where’s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?”

Fellow freshman member Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., echoed her criticisms. Tlaib said that Gary Cohn, former chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and former Goldman Sachs executive, told the new members at orientation that they don’t “know how the game is played.”

“No Gary, YOU don’t know what’s coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits,” Tlaib tweeted.

‘Those little things are very real’

Ocasio-Cortez rose to the spotlight after defeating longtime incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Queens and the Bronx. A self-identified Democratic socialist, she ran on a liberal platform and chose to emphasize her identity as a young woman of color. The 29-year-old’s victory in the general election anointed her as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about her new role have also renewed longstanding debates on the financial challenges facing members of Congress and their staff. She has made it personal by revealing her own insecurities about her finances during the transition period.

“I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real,” she told The New York Times in an interview.

Many lawmakers struggle with the cost of living in Washington, D.C., even on the $174,000 congressional salary, going so far as to sleep in their offices to save on rent costs.

Ocasio-Cortez has also made it a point to talk about the economic conditions of congressional staff. Last week, she tweeted: “It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility.'”

Low salaries as well as the prevalence of unpaid internships, which are often the first step to a full-time role, are seen as barriers to a more diverse congressional staff. Ocasio-Cortez pledged to pay her office’s interns $15 an hour, inspiring other lawmakers to make the same commitment.

She has also shared experiences that reveal the growing pains of an increasingly diverse Congress. “People keep giving me directions to the spouse and intern events instead of the ones for members of Congress,” she tweeted during orientation.

The changing face of Congress

Ocasio-Cortez is just one of the 42 women, 38 of them Democrats, part of Congress’ freshman class. They are being heralded as the faces of a new “Year of the Woman.” Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Michigan’s Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress, while Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat, is the first black woman elected to represent Massachusetts. Ocasio-Cortez posted a picture of the four women together on Instagram last month, captioning it “Squad.”

As a result of her high profile, Ocasio-Cortez’s unabashed takes on congressional life have frequently come under fire.

Eddie Scarry, a writer for the Washington Examiner, disputed Ocasio-Cortez’s account of her financial hardships based on her clothing choices.

“Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now,” Scarry tweeted. “I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” The tweet has since been deleted after widespread backlash.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., condemned the media for what he viewed as preferential treatment in coverage of Ocasio-Cortez. As a freshman congressman in 2011, Duffy received negative reactions after telling a constituent that he struggles to pay his bills.

“Hmm which headlines and article does media give to GOP and which to a Dem?” Duffy tweeted alongside screenshots of articles referencing himself and Ocasio-Cortez.

Last week, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, shared a doctored image on Instagram in which Ocasio-Cortez asks, “Why are you so afraid of a socialist economy?” In the post, President Trump responds, “Because Americans want to walk their dogs, not eat them.” Trump Jr. captioned the meme “It’s funny cuz it’s true!!!”

Ocasio-Cortez fired back, tweeting: “Please, keep it coming Jr – it’s definitely a ‘very, very large brain’ idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.” Democrats have made clear that they plan to use their new subpoena power in the House to further investigate potential Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The representative-elect has also received praise for revealing parts of the political system that are typically left in the shadows.

Actress Kerry Washington, who stars in the political drama “Scandal,” commended Ocasio-Cortez’s behind-the-scenes revelations, tweeting, “@Ocasio2018 speaking truth to power. Sharing the NEEDED #BTS of our democracy at work. So grateful.”

“I’m learning more details about how the House actually works over the past two weeks than I ever did in the past 20 years,” one follower tweeted in reply to Ocasio-Cortez.

“Thank you so much for giving us the window into the inside baseball of Congress,” another follower said.

Paul Musgrave, assistant professor of political science at University of Massachusetts Amherst, praised Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter for “treating voters as neither super-sophisticated DC insiders, nor as people who can’t be trusted to make up their own minds, but rather as people who are curious and intelligent but who aren’t experts in DC process.”

“Sometimes,” he added, “you don’t need a new theory of politics to make change, just a willingness to state the obvious.”

Source: CNBC


Trump administration says it won’t return children to immigrant parents in custody, but a judge orders families be reunited | LA Times

Hours after a Trump Cabinet member told Congress that the administration would not reunite migrant children with parents still held in immigrant detention facilities, a federal judge in San Diego ordered the government to begin doing just that.

In a preliminary injunction issued late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite nearly all children under age 5 with their parents within 14 days and older children within 30 days.

The administration’s actions related to separating families “belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution,” the judge wrote. “This is particularly so in the treatment of migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers and small children.”

The order appears to set the stage for a legal clash over a crisis that was created by the White House and has sown increasing levels of fear and confusion.

Earlier Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, testifying on Capitol Hill, said the only way parents can quickly be reunited with their children is to drop their claims for asylum in the United States and agree to be deported.

If parents pursue asylum claims, administration officials planned to hold them in custody until hearings are complete — a process that can take months and in some instances years because of a backlog of several hundred thousand cases.

And while that process takes place and the parents are in custody, their children would not be returned to them, Azar said, citing current rules that allow children to be held in immigrant detention for no more than 20 days.

“If the parent remains in detention, unfortunately, under rules that are set by Congress and the courts, they can’t be reunified while they’re in detention,” Azar told the Senate Finance Committee. He said the department could place children with relatives in the United States if they can be located and properly vetted.

Azar’s department has custody of 2,047 children separated from their parents after they were apprehended crossing the border illegally since May. That’s when the Trump administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that required prosecution of all adults crossing the border — and separate detention of any minors with them.

His statement brought angry protests from Democrats and immigrant advocates.

“The administration is holding children hostage to push parents to drop their asylum claims,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tweeted.

The uncertain fate of the children, and wrenching reports of their plight, has created a political firestorm for the White House and a nightmare for the families affected. In some cases, parents have been deported without their children, or infants and young children have been moved to distant states while their parents await court processing.

The “zero tolerance” policy already has run partially aground over a lack of resources. On Monday, Border Patrol officials announced they had stopped handing over immigrant parents for prosecution because they were running out of beds. The reversal means newly apprehended families, in theory, could be released pending their court dates.

The limit on how long children can be held in immigrant detention facilities stems from a 1997 court ruling known as the Flores settlement. The administration has asked a federal judge to modify those rules and allow families to be held together in custody for longer periods.The Obama administration made a similar request in 2015, but a judge refused.

The White House has also asked Congress to change federal law to allow longer detentions. That process is moving slowly, and President Trump has proved an uncertain ally for Republican leaders, vacillating as to whether he wants new legislation or not.

The House is scheduled to vote on a Republican-drafted bill on Wednesday that would overhaul the immigration system, but its prospects are dim — and it almost certainly would die in the Senate.

Last-minute arguments over what should be in the bill led one of its lead sponsors, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), to declare the measure essentially dead.

“At the end of the day it is very clear that the Republicans cannot pass an immigration bill,” Denham said late Tuesday. “I think it’s a very clear message that Democrats and Republicans need to work together on an American solution. That’s the only way this is going to get done.

If the bill fails, as expected, the House may take up narrower legislation focused specifically on family separation. But Congress is set to recess on Thursday for an extended Fourth of July holiday, so the schedule will allow just hours to consider that proposal.

Trump signed an executive order last week that he said would halt the separation of parents and children by detaining families together. Since then, his administration has struggled to articulate a plan to reunite families.

Over the weekend, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services released a joint statement saying they had come up with a central database to link families and were working on ensuring children stayed in contact with their parents.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Health and Human Services officials refused to say whether they were still receiving children taken from parents at the border. The government has not released data on the ages of children in custody, nor how many in total have been separated or released.

Jonathan White, head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department, said only that the department was working with other agencies “to facilitate reunification with a child as soon as that is practical.”

He suggested the department’s sole responsibility for now “is to determine whether the child has a safe place to go.”

White said his office knew “the status, whereabouts and care of every child” in its custody. “We have always known where all the children are,” he said.

But Azar conceded in his Senate testimony that the department has not yet been able to put all the parents in communication with their children.

“We want every child and every parent to be in communication at least twice a week so that they’re talking, by Skype or by phone,” he said. “We want this to happen.”

He also warned that if parents remain in a detention facility and the agency gives custody of a child to someone else — a relative in the U.S., for example — the parents eventually might have to go to court to get the child back.

“We cannot sort of pull a child back from a relative. We don’t have the legal authority,” he said.

Lawyers decried officials’ decision not to reunite children with their parents in detention as inhumane.

Jodi Goodwin, a south Texas immigration lawyer who mobilized a rapid-response team of attorneys to aid immigrant parents detained at the Port Isabel Detention Center on the Texas Gulf Coast, said officials needed to release parents with ankle monitors or bond so that they can be reunited with their children.

“That’s the only way to end the tragedy that has happened,” she said.

Zenen Jaimes Perez of the Texas Civil Rights Project said parents were so desperate they would waive their rights, drop their asylum claims and agree to deportation, not understanding that even that choice does not guarantee they will see their children again. Of the 400 parents his organization has interviewed, only four have been reunited with their children, he said.

“We know a lot of people are making these decisions under duress, with no counsel, and that is particularly cruel,” he said.

As families grappled with that choice, 17 states — including California — and the District of Columbia filed suit against the administration over its detention policies. The case joins a growing pile of lawsuits against the administration’s policies.

The continued action in Congress and the courts will keep the emotion-charged family separations in the public eye as lawmakers return to their districts four months before the midterm election.

Trump has blamed Democrats for the stalemate in Congress, but he has given wildly mixed signals about what he wants from Republicans.

The president initially said he opposed the compromise bill, then told Republican lawmakers he was “1,000%” for immigration legislation, and then tweeted that Republicans “should stop wasting their time” by trying to pass an immigration bill before the November election.

House Republican leaders acknowledged that they still don’t have the 218 votes needed to pass the compromise bill despite holding 235 seats in the chamber. They blamed Democrats, however, for not supporting their bill.

“Why doesn’t a few Democrats move over? If they are honest about wanting to secure the border, here is the opportunity,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) said Monday on Fox News.

Few Democrats are inclined to help rescue Trump from a crisis he created. Moreover, Democrats had no role in crafting the bill.

“It’s just a bad bill. It has nothing to do with even being locked out of the process — it’s just a bad bill,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) said.

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) wouldn’t discuss a proposed bill targeting only the family separations. A Senate proposal would add 225 immigration judges and expedite court proceedings for families, and there are indications that plan could get a vote this week.

Ryan said he wants to “do as well as we possibly can” in Wednesday’s vote, adding, “If that doesn’t succeed, then we’ll cross that bridge.”

Source: LA Times

Edward Snowden asylum: US ‘disappointed’ by Russian decision | The Guardian

Edward Snowden's lawyer

By in Moscow, , and in Washington

Edward Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena shows a copy of a temporary document allowing the whistleblower to cross the border into Russia. Photograph: AP

The White House expressed anger and dismay on Thursday after Russia granted temporary asylum to the American whistleblower Edward Snowden and allowed him to leave the Moscow airport where he had been holed up for over a month.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, almost certainly taken personally by President Vladimir Putin. He said Moscow should hand Snowden back and hinted that Barack Obama might now boycott a bilateral meeting with Putin in September, due to be held when the US president travels to Russia for a G20 summit.

Carney added that Snowden had arrived in both China and Russia carrying with him thousands of top secret US documents. He said: “Simply the possession of that kind of highly sensitive classified information outside of secure areas is both a huge risk and a violation.

“As we know he’s been in Russia now for many weeks. There is a huge risk associated with … removing that information from secure areas. You shouldn’t do it, you can’t do it, it’s wrong.”

With US-Russian relations now at a cold war-style low, Snowden slipped out of Sheremetyevo airport on Thursday afternoon. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Russia’s federal migration service had granted him temporary asylum for one year. Snowden had left the airport to stay at an undisclosed location with expatriate Americans, he added.

Putin made no immediate comment. But having weighed Russia’s options for some weeks, he appears to have decided that Snowden’s propaganda value outweighs any possible US repercussions. Obama’s already floundering attempts to “reset”, or improve, relations with Moscow are in effect over.

In a statement released by WikiLeaks, Snowden thanked the Russian authorities and accused the US of behaving illegally. He made no explicit mention of the trial of Bradley Manning, who this week was convicted of espionage and faces 136 years in jail.

Snowden said: “Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning.”

He added: “I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”

Snowden has been given a temporary Russian travel document, with his name in Cyrillic and a fresh passport photo. “This gave him the right to temporary asylum on the territory of the Russian Federation, Kucherena said, holding up a copy of the document. US authorities had cancelled his American passport.

Security officials said Snowden officially crossed the border into Russia from the airport’s transit zone at about 3.30pm local time. Russia had apparently not informed the US of the move in advance. The state TV channel Rossiya 24 showed a photograph of Snowden’s departure, as he clambered into a grey unmarked car.

Despite being pictured from behind Snowden was instantly recognisable wearing his trademark grey shirt and carrying a black backpack. Next to him was Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks representative who accompanied him last month on his flight from Hong Kong.

Kucherena declined to provide details on where Snowden was heading, citing safety concerns. “Since he is the most hunted person in the world, he will address the question of security today,” he told journalists.

The former NSA employee will himself choose his place of residence and forms of protection, he added. Previously, some speculated that the Russian government was keeping Snowden hidden, although the whistleblower and his lawyer have denied that, adding that he has had no contact with Russian security services.

The whistleblower’s father, Lon Snowden, had reportedly been planning to visit his son. Kucherena said on Wednesday that he was sending an invitation to Snowden’s father so he could obtain a Russian visa. Kucherena told Rossiya 24 on Thursday that he would be speaking to the father later in the day to arrange his visit.

US authorities have repeatedly called on Moscow to return the fugitive to face charges in America. Last week America’s attorney general, Eric Holder, sent a letter to Russia’s justice minister promising that Snowden would not be tortured and that he would not face the death penalty if handed over to the US.

Russian officials previously said they had no jurisdiction to return Snowden, as he was not officially located on Russian territory, and that the US had not filed an official extradition request.

The Kremlin did not immediately comment on Snowden’s temporary asylum. Putin has previously said repeatedly that to remain in Russia, Snowden must stop activities harming the United States. His lawyer suggested that fresh revelations published by the Guardian on Wednesday and Thursday had come from documents that Snowden had already given the paper before Putin made his comments.

Russia’s decision has emboldened hawkish critics of the White House, who have long dubbed Obama’s attempts to improve relations with Putin as naive and inappropriate. In a statement on his website, Senator John McCain said: “Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia.”

He proposed in response to expand the Magnitsky Act list of banned Russian officials, push for Georgia’s acceptance into Nato and implement US missile defence programmes in Europe.

At the White House, Carney made it clear that President Obama was frustrated by the decision by Russia to allow Snowden to enter the country, and that a planned presidential summit was now in jeopardy.

Obama is scheduled to travel to Russia in September for at meeting of G20 leaders in St Petersburg. He also planned to meet Putin for a bilateral summit during the trip in what would have been a sign of improving relations between the two powers.

That meeting is now under review. “Obviously this is not a positive development,” Carney said. “We have a wide range of interests with the Russians. We are evaluating the utility of the summit.”

Amnesty International called for the focus to switch from Snowden’s asylum plight to the “sweeping nature and unlawfulness” of the US government’s surveillance programmes.

Widney Brown, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty, said in a statement: “Now that Edward Snowden has left the airport and has protected status in Russia, the focus really needs to be on the US government’s surveillance programs. Snowden would not have needed temporary asylum but for revealing the sweeping nature and unlawfulness of a massive system of domestic and international surveillance by the United States government.”

A survey showed that 43% of Russians supported granting Snowden asylum and 51% approved of his whistleblowing activities. Kucherena said he had received numerous letters from Russians offering Snowden lodging, protection and money, as well as from women interested in Snowden romantically.

Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s most popular social network, VKontakte, invited Snowden to come work as a programmer at the network, in a post on his VKontakte page on Thursday.

Source: The Guardian

Jimmy Carter Defends Edward Snowden, Says NSA Spying Has Compromised Nation’s Democracy | The Huffington Post

jimmy carter edward snowden

Former president Jimmy Carter speaks at dedication ceremonies for the new George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

Former President Jimmy Carter announced support for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden this week, saying that his uncovering of the agency’s massive surveillance programs had proven “beneficial.”

Speaking at a closed-door event in Atlanta covered by German newspaper Der Spiegel, Carter also criticized the NSA’s domestic spying as damaging to the core of the nation’s principles.

“America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time,” Carter said, according to a translation by Inquisitr.

No American outlets covered Carter’s speech, given at an Atlantic Bridge meeting, which has reportedly led to some skepticism over Der Spiegel’s quotes. But Carter’s stance would be in line with remarks he’s made on Snowden and the issue of civil liberties in the past.

In June, while Snowden was scrambling to send out asylum requests from an airport in Russia, Carter appeared to back the former NSA contractor’s efforts to remain out of U.S. custody.

“He’s obviously violated the laws of America, for which he’s responsible, but I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far,” he told CNN, saying that nations were within their right to offer asylum to Snowden. “I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.”

Snowden has been hard-pressed to find support among U.S. politicians. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have declared Snowden a traitor who deserves to be prosecuted for his leaks. The White House has also been persistent in its attempts to bring him into custody. Last week, the administration criticized Russia for facilitating a meeting between Snowden and human rights activists. Snowden has since applied for temporary asylum in the nation, following complications surrounding transit to the Latin American nations that he’d been considering.

Source: The Huffington Post

A desperate protest by prisoners at Guantánamo has shamed Barack Obama

GuantanamoHungerStrike“YOU have to hand it to some of these IRA boys,” Margaret Thatcher once remarked of the republican hunger-strikers who embarrassed her in 1981. “What a terrible waste of human life!” she said of the ten who died. Since some of the hunger-strikers at Guantánamo Bay are being force-fed through nasal tubes, Barack Obama may be spared Mrs Thatcher’s grief. But he has been shamed by their desperate gambit all the same. The protest is a reminder of one of his most glaring failures in office.

Officials count 100 hunger-strikers; lawyers for the detainees say there are 130; on any reckoning, a majority of the 166 remaining inmates are starving themselves. Through their lawyers, detainees complain of a rougher regime since the army took over guard duties from the navy last autumn. In particular they allege that their Korans were mistreated during an inspection in February, when the hunger-strike began (prison authorities vigorously deny that). A cell-block raid by guards on April 13th (provoked by the covering up of security cameras), during which some prisoners were shot with rubber pellets, hardened rather than broke the strikers.

But the underlying cause is simpler, and more personal. “The reason they’re willing to die”, says Carlos Warner, a federal defender who represents 11 of the detainees, “is President Obama.”

Mr Obama said this week that Guantánamo “hurts us in terms of our international standing.” That echoed the view he espoused when, on his second day in office in January 2009, he ordered the prison to be closed within a year. Its existence since 2002, he said, had “likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained”—an opinion eventually shared by assorted veterans of George W. Bush’s administration. And yet the only Guantánamo-related closure so far has been the shutting, in January this year, of the diplomatic office charged with resettling the inmates.

Mr Obama blames Congress—with some justification. It thwarted his original plan to transfer the detainees to a facility in Illinois. Then, either out of concern for national security, a yen to embarrass the president, or both, in clauses inserted into successive defence-spending bills Congress made it difficult for officials to transfer anyone anywhere. Difficult, but not impossible: Mr Obama can authorise transfers using a presidential waiver. He has chosen not to. (After a bomb plot with links to Yemen at the end of 2009, he also chose to halt transfers there—and most of the remaining prisoners are Yemeni.) He evidently calculated that, given the battles he is already waging with Congress, Guantánamo was one he could do without.

That stalemate has been an especial let-down for the 86 residual prisoners who, in 2010, were slated for transfer out of Guantánamo by a presidential review; some had already been designated for transfer under the previous administration. Many of these men claim to have committed no offence except being in the wrong place—Afghanistan—at the wrong time, or to have been sold to American forces for the bounties they offered. One such, and one of the hunger-strikers, is Shaker Aamer, a British resident picked up in Jalalabad in 2001 and allegedly tortured. His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, points out that the British government is well-equipped to monitor Mr Aamer should he be repatriated.

According to the review, many of these men were low-level fighters rather than total innocents. But none has been charged with a crime—and most have been at Guantánamo for over a decade. In fact, only seven of the 779 prisoners who have passed through the camp have been convicted by its military tribunals (and two of those verdicts have been challenged). Of those still there, only three have been convicted and only six currently face trial, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11th attacks. Subject to multiple legal challenges, beset by scandals over hidden microphones and leaked defence documents, the tribunals are now regarded as a failure even by those untroubled by their dubious legal status. As Mr Obama pointed out, federal courts have proved a much more effective forum for prosecuting terrorists.

The result, at the camp, is near-total stasis. No new prisoner has arrived since 2008; none has left for over a year. Parole-style hearings planned for the group not designated for either trial or transfer have yet to begin. Prisoners have lawyers, but there is little the lawyers can do for them. This bleak situation, says Mr Stafford Smith, is worse than being on death row.

Last chance?

Beyond the feeling of personal betrayal by Mr Obama, the detainees also sense—correctly—that the attention of the foreign leaders, human-rights watchdogs and United Nations officials who once energetically protested at their predicament has wandered. The outrage that the manacled, blindfolded, jumpsuited figures first provoked has dimmed. Drone warfare has become a much bigger human-rights preoccupation. And yet, unpropitious as it might seem, the prisoners also fear that this may be their last chance to get out.

Mr Warner says that if, with the president’s views and legal background, Mr Obama “can’t get this done, I don’t know who could.” It is hard to see a future presidential candidate matching his troublesome pledge to shut the prison. And for Mr Obama as well, time is running out. Even if he chose to use his waiver powers, and leant on other governments to accept detainees, the diplomacy, including gathering the necessary assurances on security and humane treatment, would take time.

Meanwhile the Guantánamo authorities are seeking an extra $200m for refurbishments, on top of annual running costs that wildly exceed those for ordinary prisons. They are planning new medical facilities to care for elderly detainees.

This week Mr Obama vowed to re-engage with Congress. “I’m going to go back at this,” he promised. He should hurry. Once Guantánamo was a byword for an overmighty executive and the excesses of Mr Bush’s “war on terror”. Under Mr Obama it has become a victim and a symbol of the paralysing divisiveness of American politics. “It’s going to get worse,” he said this week. “It’s going to fester.”

Source: The Economist

Lost in Translation: An Important Note for International Reckoners | The Daily Reckoning

Buenos Aires, Argentina – If you’re planning a vacation to the United States of America in the foreseeable future, you would do well to refrain from employing any confusing colloquialisms in your social media updates prior to departure.

For Australians, that means no “cracking onto” members of the opposite sex…no getting “off one’s face”…no “tearing it up”…no “little rippers” and, we would think, no “barrakking” for anyone.

Our Irish friends will likewise wish to steer clear of referring to anything as “the gas,” from declaring intentions to “eat one’s head off” and from “throwing shapes,” “sucking diesel” or otherwise “effin’ and blindin’.”

We can only imagine to what extent our English Reckoners shall have to curb their delightfully colorful lingo to ensure a stateside journey (even relatively) free of let or hindrance at the gate, though we imagine no measure of self-censorship will be sufficient to guarantee a transit experience free of at least a touch of “Ye ol’ Liberty Grope.”

What’s all this caper then, eh? What’s the apple, the score, the bleedin’ apple core?

Apologies for the loose linguistics, weary reader. But a point begs its making; a point two British (would-be) tourists, Leigh Van Bryan and Emily Bunting, discovered the hard way just last week.

Apparently rather chuffed at the upcoming prospect of a wee jaunt over the pond, Van Bryan and Bunting engaged in a bit of online banter before their big trip to the US. Mistake number one. The two were perhaps unaware that the Department of Homeland Security routinely trolls the global social media digital waves, setting up accounts to listen in on prospective threats to…um…the “Homeland.”

We can only imagine the hysterical frenzy that whipped around the DHS H.Q. when they discovered what Van Bryan, 26, had posted.

“Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America x”

Not that it should matter, but “destroy” is popular English slang for “party”…an easily Googlable fact, one would think, for the highly skilled heroes manning the control tower at the Twitter and Facebook Counter Terrorism and Special Operations Unit for Liberty and Freedom of the Homeland… Patriot… Liberty… uh, never mind.

After making their way through passport control at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) last week, the pair were promptly detained by armed guards/heroes/patriots. But the real trouble was still to come.

The two were then informed that the DHS was on to their scheme to “destroy” (read: party in) America and (Could it be? No! Sweet Mother of Mercy!) their sick and twisted plot to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe!

“3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”

The pair explained that the tweet, which the DHS had considered a grave matter of national security was, actually, a reference from Family Guy, a popular television show produced in the Homeland itself…behind patriot lines!

“They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party,” explained Bunting. “I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh’s lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe. I couldn’t believe it because it was a quote from the comedy Family Guy which is an American show.”

Department of Homeland Security staff, brave unwavering professionals as they are, were not deterred from their mission.

“It got even more ridiculous because the officials searched our suitcases and said they were looking for spades and shovels. They did a full body search on me too” explained Bunting.

Perhaps because grave-robbing spades and shovels have little to do with (most people’s idea of) partying, the DHS were unable to find any in the pair’s luggage or, strangely enough, on their person. Nevertheless, this was no time to take chances:

“I kept saying to them they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet but they just told me ‘you’ve really f***** up with that tweet boy’.”

Van Bryan, apparently thought to be the leader of the non-existent operation, was then cuffed, thrown in a cage inside a van and whisked away to a location where he could not be of harm to Homeland citizens. Read more…

Source: The Daily Reckoning

14,000 Coloradans move $100M into credit unions | The Colorado Independent

By Jon Collins

As the social media-sparked Bank Transfer Day approaches, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) reports that over 650,000 people have joined credit unions in the last four weeks. In Colorado, the group reports 14,000 new accounts and $100 million in new deposits.

Credit unions nationally have added $4.5 billion in new accounts since the end of September, CUNA says, reporting that four out of every five credit unions affiliated with the group report that the increase is due to attempts by big banks to raise fees on customers or Bank Transfer Day, a movement birthed by social media that will take place tomorrow.

Bank Transfer Day organizer Kristen Christian explained the logic behind the movement on the group’s Facebook page.

“I started this because I felt like many of you do. I was tired—tired of the fee increases, tired of not being able to access my money when I need to, tired of them using what little money I have to oppress my brothers & sisters. So I stood up. I’ve been shocked at how many people have stood up alongside me.” Christian wrote. “Me closing my account all on my lonesome wouldn’t have made a difference to these fat cats. But each of you standing up with me…they can’t drown out the noise we’ll make.”

Big banks like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank have also taken flak for attempting to impose additions fees on customers who use debt cards, although many of the banks have withdrawn their plans due to public outcry.

Credit unions are member-owned and non-profit; they typically have fewer fees than corporate banks. Credit unions across the country, including some in Minnesota, have been offering special promotions and extending hours in preparation for Bank Transfer Day, CUNA said. Minnesota’s Affinity Plus launched the aggressive “ditch your bank” campaign in early October,

“Our struggling economy is not the disease, it’s the symptom,” according to Affinity Plus’ campaign. ”There is mounting evidence to prove that big banks with their profit-at-all-costs agenda are actually making our collective disease worse by systematically making choices that undermine the efforts of regulators and ordinary people like us to make changes and get back to a state of health.”

Occupy Wall Street has also helped cement the focus on banks. In Minnesota, Occupy Wall Street has targeted big banks for a series of demonstrations focused largely on the banks’ role in the foreclosure crisis.

“We’re focused more on the needs of our clients and less on the bottom line,” said Joy Audet, director of corporate communications for the credit union association in Colorado.

Scot Kersgaard contributed to this article.

Source: The Colorado Independent