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Business Insider – Politics

  • Retired Supreme Court Justice: Marijuana Should Be Legalized
    (Politics - April 25 2014 - 3:47 AM:)

    Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says he thinks the federal government should legalize marijuana.

    The 94-year-old retired justice tells NPR that public opinion has changed on the issue.

    Stevens also says that there isn't much distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages. He says that the prohibition against alcohol in the early 20th century is generally thought not to have been worth the cost and that he believes that will be how marijuana is viewed in the future.

    Stevens is the author of a new book, "Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution," in which he proposes banning capital punishment and limiting gun rights.

    NPR will air its interview with Stevens on the program "Weekend Edition Saturday."

    ___

    Online:

    NPR: www.npr.org

    Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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  • The State Department Is Getting Ruthlessly Mocked For Tweets Of 'Hashtag Diplomacy'
    (Politics - April 25 2014 - 3:30 AM:)

    Forget sanctions, military options, or tough talk. The State Department is now hitting Russia with bizarre tweets.

    Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Twitter account tweeted this out early Thursday:

    Screen Shot 2014 04 24 at 8.15.45 PM

    The #UnitedForUkraine hashtag was created by the State Department to spread awareness of the situation in Ukraine — with Russia still bearing down on the eastern border. 

    "I don’t know what effect this is supposed to have," former State Department diplomat James Lewis told Mashable last month when asked about the Twitter campaign. "It's a hashtag. What’s it going to do? For this situation, it’s not a useful tool."

    But with an official Russian account appropriating the hashtag for itself, Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, later tweeted this:

    Screen Shot 2014 04 24 at 8.14.06 PM

    Well, it wasn't long before mocking tweets towards the "promise of hashtag" hit. Twitter erupted with snark.

    Here's a sampling:

    Is it a UN Hashtag Resolution @statedeptspox? https://t.co/5Hla8Hq6LX

    — Ben Howe (@BenHowe) April 25, 2014

    "No bastard ever won a war by hashtagging 4 his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard hashtag 4 his country." - Patton

    — John Schindler (@20committee) April 25, 2014

    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers—for whoever retweets my hashtags today shall be my brother.

    — Tom Nichols (@TheWarRoom_Tom) April 25, 2014

    "Once more unto the hashtag, dear friends, once more."

    — Geoffrey Skelley (@geoffreyvs) April 25, 2014

    In the reboot of Captain Planet, it would be "With our powers of hashtag combined..."

    — Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) April 25, 2014

    I promise I will do my hashtag

    — Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon) April 25, 2014

    Hashtags are diplomacy by other means.

    — Ian (@iboudreau) April 25, 2014

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  • A Little Girl Tried Getting Her Unemployed Father A Job — By Giving Michelle Obama His Résumé
    (Politics - April 25 2014 - 12:20 AM:)

    michelle obama hugs little girl

    A 10-year-old girl at the White House for the annual "Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" tried her best to get her father a job, handing Michelle Obama his résumé after being called on during a question-and-answer session.

    In a ceremony in the East Room, which hosted children of Executive Office employees, the girl told Obama, "My dad's been out of a job for three years and I wanted to give you his résumé."

    The first lady was surprised, saying "Oh my goodness" before giving her a hug. She told the crowd that "it's a little private, but she's doing something for her dad."

    The White House wouldn't comment on the matter further, but Obama promised to deal with the matter later, according to AP.

    Obama took the resume with her after she left the event, ABC reported.

    Here's video:

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  • John Kerry Just Gave Russia A Final Warning
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 10:33 PM:)

    John Kerry

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry provided Russia with a stern warning Thursday evening: Start complying with the de-escalation agreement brokered last week in Geneva, or face the wrath of new U.S. sanctions.

    Kerry delivered a terse statement from the State Department's briefing room late Thursday, during which he blasted Russia for not taking a "single step in the right direction" toward de-escalation. He criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for what he called outlandish claims that the Internet is a "CIA plot." And he accused Russia of waging a propaganda campaign, led by "propaganda bullhorn" network Russia Today.

    "What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized," Kerry said. "If Russia continues in this direction, it will not only be a grave mistake — it will be an expensive mistake."

    Kerry's comments came on the same day U.S. President Barack Obama said during a press conference in Japan that new sanctions were "teed up." On the ground in eastern Ukraine, the crisis escalated, as Russia embarked on new military drills along the Ukrainian border after Ukraine said it had killed up to five pro-Russian militants.

    Putin warned Ukraine's actions would "have consequences," after which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the new military drills. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry gave Russia a 48-hour ultimatum to explain its military drills.

    A week after the deal in Geneva was reached, however, Kerry praised Ukraine as being the only country to "keep its word."

    "The window to change course," Kerry said, "is closing. We are ready to act."

    NOW: The State Department Is Getting Ruthlessly Mocked For Tweets Of 'Hashtag Diplomacy'

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  • Dem Congressman Blasts 'Lost Cause' Clarence Thomas
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 10:03 PM:)

    Hakeem JeffriesNew York Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries addressed fierce criticism that the Supreme Court's only African American justice, Clarence Thomas, faced after he helped uphold Michigan's ban on affirmative action in state university admissions. 
    "I've long since given up on seeing anything productive from Clarence Thomas," Jeffries said during a roundtable discussion at his office in Brooklyn Thursday. "He's a lost cause as far as I'm concerned and is more reactionary than conservatives like Justice Alito or Justice Scalia."
    The Supreme Court preserved Michigan's ban by a 6-2 vote Tuesday with Thomas part of the majority.
    Jeffries said he thought the court's decision would not benefit Michigan's schools.
    "It was a troubling decision in that it did not recognize the value of diversity generally in terms of enhancing the academic environment," said Jeffries. "I think that diversity is a value that the Supreme Court should embrace, but that decision certainly moves in a different direction." 

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  • Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy Doubles Down On Racist Comments In Train Wreck Press Conference
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 9:34 PM:)

    Cliven Bundy

    Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy doubled down on patently racist comments he made in a newspaper interview, during a rambling press conference from his ranch Thursday afternoon.

    Bundy was unapologetic about the New York Times story published Thursday in which he was quoted openly wondering whether African Americans were "better off" as slaves than receiving government assistance.

    He defended himself from some of the backlash against the remarks by saying he was simply "a-wondering" whether blacks were "better off" enslaved and hadn't expressed an opinion on whether that was true. Bundy also claimed he had "worked with black people." Throughout the press conference, he repeatedly used the term "Negro," a phrase he also used in his interview with The Times.

    "I said I’m wondering if they’re better off under government subsidies," Bundy said. "And their young women are having the abortions and their young men are in jail, and their older women and their children are standing, sitting out on the cement porch without nothing to do, you know. ... And so, in my mind, I’m wondering, are they better off being slaves in that sense, or are they better off being slaves to the United States government, in the sense of the subsidies. I’m wondering. And the statement was right."

    He continued digging further, at times talking about how he thought it was worthy to wonder whether blacks were "better off" under slavery because "their men [had] something to do" and they could have been "happier at home, with their gardens and their chickens."

    "They're not slaves no more. They seem to be slaves to the welfare system," Bundy said. "Slavery's about when you take away choices from people."

    Bundy's comments have caused many prominent supporters to abandon his cause throughout the day, including Fox News host Sean Hannity, who called the statements "repugnant," and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who said the comments were "offensive."

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  • Why Prescription Pills Are By Far The Biggest Drug Problem In America
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 9:19 PM:)

    PainKiller

    The abuse of heroin in America has gotten a lot of attention lately, but there's another type of drug that is abused far more widely and kills more people than heroin and cocaine combined: prescription pills.

    According to a 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey, prescription drugs were the second-most abused substance behind marijuana. Cocaine, hallucinogens, and inhalants were also more commonly used than heroin.

    This chart shows illicit drug use among people ages 12 and older in the month before the survey:

    Illicit drug use in past month

    As the chart illustrates, prescription pills greatly outstrip heroin in terms of raw numbers — 6.8 million people abused prescription pills over the course of one month, while only about 300,000 used heroin.

    Politicians and drug officials have called heroin use an "epidemic," but there isn't any recent national data that backs up that language. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't consider heroin use to be at epidemic levels yet, a spokesperson told Fusion just last month.

    That's not to say that heroin isn't a growing problem.

    Heroin overdoses have indeed been on the rise in New England and some other parts of the country, and the drug is particularly dangerous because users don't always know how pure it is or what other drugs it might be cut with.

    Interestingly, the driving force behind the increase in heroin use is actually America's prescription drug problem. A recent SAMHSA study found that four out of five people who recently began using heroin had previously used painkillers illegally.

    The chart below shows that among people who were introduced to illicit drugs in 2012, 17% first used pain pills, while only 0.1% first used heroin:

    Drug initiations 2012

    Treatment for painkiller abuse has been on the rise over the past decade.

    The chart below shows the number of people whose most recent drug abuse treatment was for painkillers:

    Painkiller treatment

    The rise of prescription painkillers started in the late 1990s, when doctors began prescribing them more as part of an effort to promote "compassionate care" and to find ways to treat chronic pain.

    While the rise in painkiller prescriptions also caused addiction and abuse to spike, some people who have chronic pain need opiates to live productive lives. They say laws restricting painkiller distribution have made it more difficult for them to get medication they use responsibly to manage their pain.

    SEE ALSO: Why Heroin Is Spreading To US Suburbs

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  • Congressman Jokes The NSA Is 'Probably Listening' To His Conversations
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 9:13 PM:)

    Hakeem Jeffries

    New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries thinks reforming the NSA is one of the few things members of both parties can agree on — and perhaps that's because they don't want the intelligence agency spying on them. 

    "It is an issue where Democrats and Republicans in large measure are in agreement that there's significant reform necessary related to what the NSA has been doing," Jeffries said at a roundtable for local reporters at his office in Brooklyn Thursday. "I'll be the first person to say, in my humble opinon, the NSA is out of control and I say that with full knowledge of the fact that the NSA is probably listening to this conversation right now."

    His comment earned laughs from the assembled reporters.

    Jeffries is a Democrat who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has been examining the issue of NSA reform. He described it as a prime example of an issue with bipartisan support. 

    "There are others who are as passionate, if not more passionate about the need to reform the NSA who are Tea Party libertarians and Republicans whose questioning of the NSA's programs are just as sharp, just as intense, just as probing as Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee," said Jeffries. 

     

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  • Congressman Admits Congress Probably Won't Get Anything 'Significant' Done Until After November
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 8:27 PM:)

    Hakeem Jeffries

    Rep. Hakeem Jeffries doesn't expect Congress to get much done this year.

    Jeffries explained why he doesn't expect much from Congress during a roundtable with local reporters at his district office in Brooklyn Thursday. The New York Democrat predicted there won't be any "significant legislative matters tackled" in Congress until after the midterm elections in November.

    Jeffries gave his grim prognosis after Business Insider asked whether he supports killing the "Carried Interest" tax loophole, which allows certain hedge fund and private equity profits to be taxed at a lower rate. Both President Barack Obama and Republican Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, made budget proposals that included eliminating the loophole earlier this year. However, in spite of this bipartisan support, the financial industry seemed confident any plan to eliminate Carried Interest would not come to fruition.

    Jeffries said he believes eliminating Carried Interest is "one of the most reasonable proposals that should be put on the table and seriously evaluated," However, he also said powerful corporate interests will fight Carried Interest and any other "serious" tax reform "ferociously" and would be particularly successful since this is a midterm election year. 

    "There are a lot of entrenched interests in Washington D.C. and a lot of people with significant economic power who will be impacted by changes to the tax code such as the Carried Interest adjustment that are going to weigh in ferociously to prevent some things from happening, particularly in an election year," said Jeffries.

    And tax reform isn't the only initiative Jeffries doesn't expect Congress to work on until after the November elections.

    Jeffries went on to say immigration reform is the only "significant" issue with any chance of being addressed in Washington before the end of the year. He attributed this to both the House Republican majority and the Senate Democrats being more concerned about their respective positioning than consequential legislation.  

    "No one thinks at this moment that anything major will occur prior to November, because I think the House majority wants to protect its situation. And many have actually said that they don't expect significant things to occur this year," explained Jeffries. "The Senate is also in a precarious situation and I think they'll proceed responsibly, but also with caution. And so, it's likely that we're not going to see any significant legislative matters tackled, perhaps short of comprehensive immigration reform, which is still somewhat a possibility, until after the November midterms."

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  • Here's What Really Happened In The Armenian Genocide That Obama Refuses To Acknowledge
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 7:43 PM:)

    Armenian genocideFor the sixth year in a row, President Obama has failed to acknowledge the Armenian genocide — something he promised to do as both a senator and a presidential candidate. While his statement Thursday invoked the Armenian term for the atrocity, Meds Yeghern, it avoided the word "genocide" entirely.  

    Obama might have avoided this term so that he doesn't offend Turkey, which sits on much of the same land as the former Ottoman Empire, where the genocide against the Armenians occurred.

    "[Obama] has made unambiguous statements as a senator and in his presidential campaign to fully recognize the genocide ... But he has avoided using the actual word for obvious reasons: pressure from Turkey, whom the U.S. considers an important ally," Rouben Adalian, director of the Armenian National Institute, told Business Insider.

    Considered one of the first mass killings in the 20th century, the Armenian genocide took the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians living in present-day Turkey. It occurred in two phases: enslaving and massacring able-bodied males and deporting women, children, and the elderly to the Syrian Desert to die of thirst and starvation.

    The Young Turks, a Turkish nationalist party in the Ottoman Empire, perpetrated the killings. These radical leaders wanted a separate Turkish state, free of Armenians and other ethnic or religious minorities. While Turkey didn't technically exist during the genocide, many refer to the Ottoman Empire as the Turkish Empire because Turkish groups founded the territory, of which a large part became their present-day country. 

    The genocide officially began on April 24, 1915, now a day of worldwide commemoration. Then, the Turkish government arrested more than 200 Armenian community leaders and sent them to prison, where the majority were summarily executed. Even earlier, though, reports of the Young Turks torturing and enslaving Armenians began circulating.

    That first wave of killings lasted until 1918. At the end of World War I, peace took hold for little more than a year. In 1920, the Turkish Nationalists — who opposed the Young Turks but shared a common ideology — began persecuting the Armenians once more. The second period of the Armenian genocide lasted until 1923.

    Armenian genocideDespite the escalating war, the international community responded almost immediately. In May 1915, Great Britain, France, and Russia all warned the Young Turks of the repercussions for their crimes against humanity. A strong public outcry took place in the U.S., and the victorious Allies eventually demanded that the Ottoman government prosecute the Young Turks. Relief efforts to save Armenian refugees from starvation sprouted all over the globe.

     

    The Turkish government not only refuses to label the event as a genocide but it also ignores many of the historical facts. In a statement Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used words like "inhumane" and "establishing compassion," The Globe and Mail reported. But Erdogan, like Obama, didn't use the word "genocide."

    "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed," Obama said today. As a senator and a presidential candidate, he labeled the event a "genocide" multiple times. But as soon as Obama took office, that word disappeared from his statements.

    Currently, 21 countries have passed legislation officially acknowledging the killings of the Armenian people during World War I as a genocide, according to the Institute. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "embraced the truth," as her statement today urged others to do. Most important, virtually all the Armenian communities worldwide stem from survivors of this genocide. But it's important to continue spreading international awareness that the atrocity was indeed a genocide.

    "The worldwide occurrences of these mass atrocities is incredibly worrisome ... [Obama's acknowledgment] is an important step because it would hold government leaders responsible for their actions, especially when there have been gross violations of human rights," Adalian said.

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  • Head Of Russian Propaganda Network Declares Ukraine Dead On Twitter
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 7:18 PM:)

    Margarita Simonyan

    Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia's English-language television network, Russia Today, posted a tweet in the wee hours of Thursday morning in which she appeared to declare Ukraine dead. The tweet, which was written in both Russian and English translates to "R.I.P. Ukraine:"

    Украина. R.I.P.

    — Маргарита Симоньян (@M_Simonyan) April 24, 2014

    Russia Today did not immediately respond to a request from Business Insider asking what Simonyan's message meant.

    The network's coverage of Russia's military action in Ukraine has earned widespread criticism, including internally. In March, RT anchor and correspondent Liz Wahl resigned during a live broadcast after claiming the network "whitewashes the actions of Putin."

    "Russian intervention in Crimea is wrong and indeed, as a reporter on this network, I face many ethical and moral challenges," Wahl said. 

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  • Harry Reid Goes Off On 'Hateful Racist' And Hypocritical 'Moocher' Rancher Cliven Bundy
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 5:43 PM:)

    harry reid

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday blasted Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose racist rant was captured in an interview with The New York Times.

    In a lengthy statement issued Thursday afternoon, Reid referred to Bundy as a "hateful racist" and suggested he "mooched" and profited off government-held land. And Reid, who represents Nevada in the U.S. Senate, called on Republican leaders to denounce Bundy's "hateful, dangerous extremism."

    "I used to live in North Las Vegas and it is home to some of the hardest-working people I have ever met — men and women who embody the American dream by working hard every day to build a better life for themselves and their families," Reid said in the statement.

    "By contrast, Cliven Bundy has spent decades profiting off government land while refusing to pay the same fair use fees as his fellow ranchers. Today, Bundy revealed himself to be a hateful racist. But by denigrating people who work hard and play by the rules while he mooches off public land he also revealed himself to be a hypocrite.

    "To advance his extreme, hateful views, Bundy has endangered the lives of innocent women and children. This is not a game. It is the height of irresponsibility for any individual or entity in a position of power or influence to glorify or romanticize such a dangerous individual, and anyone who has done so should come to their senses and immediately condemn Bundy. For their part, national Republican leaders could help show a united front against this kind of hateful, dangerous extremism by publicly condemning Bundy."

    In the New York Times interview, Bundy openly wondered if African-Americans might have been "better off" as slaves, referring to them as "the Negro." The comments caused many Republican politicians, who had offered him support in his fight with the federal government, to quickly distance themselves from the 67-year-old rancher. 

    "I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom," Bundy said in the interview.

    Bundy's recent standoff with the federal government exploded on the national scene this month, as activists flocked to his ranch to support him. 

    His now high-profile fight with the federal Bureau of Land Management dates to 1993 when the BLM eliminated livestock grazing in the area, citing the protection of an endangered tortoise species. That was when Bundy decided to stop paying grazing fees. Now, the agency says he owes more than $1.2 million. A federal judge first ruled in 1998 that Bundy was trespassing on federal land. Last year, a federal judge ruled the agency could remove the cattle.

    The BLM, among others, says Bundy is breaking the law. Bundy says the land is his property, and he has accused the federal government of being overreaching and oppressive.

    Reid has been one of Bundy's most ardent critics, at one point calling Bundy and his armed supporters "domestic terrorists." 

    "This is not a game," Reid said Thursday, again urging Republicans to publicly denounce Bundy's remarks.

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  • FCC Chairman Promises He's Not Trying To Ruin The Internet
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 5:25 PM:)

    Tom Wheeler FCC chairman

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler attempted to clear the air today about newly proposed FCC rules on net neutrality.

    Wheeler's proposal says online content providers like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc., are allowed to pay Internet providers for direct access to you. That means you'll get faster streams of your content and your Internet provider will get more money.

    This really aggravates proponents of net neutrality, the notion that all content distributed online should be treated equally. The fear is that Internet providers will be able to favor some content sources over others, especially if they own that content through their own streaming services. Imagine if your cable provider created its own streaming-video service and provided it to you at full speed, but slowed down rival services like Netflix or Hulu. That would stink. It would also set up a messy precedent that would make it harder for other streaming services without the backing of Internet providers to get started.

    In his statement today, Wheeler tried to assure everyone that his proposal won't damage the state of the Internet. He said Internet providers won't be allowed to block or slow down legal content and aren't allowed to "harm the Internet" or "favor traffic from an affiliated entity." 

    In short, the new FCC proposal says all content will be treated equally over the Internet. It's just that some content will be treated more equally than others if the owners pay Internet providers directly.

    Here's the problem with that. 

    The proposal still favors big companies like Netflix that can afford to pay Internet providers for direct access to customers. Other competitors may not be slowed down, but they won't be able to compete on the same level as the big guys. That hurts competition and innovation.

    Here's Wheeler's full blog post explaining the proposal:

    There has been a great deal of misinformation that has recently surfaced regarding the draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we will today circulate to the Commission.

    The Notice proposes the reinstatement of the Open Internet concepts adopted by the Commission in 2010 and subsequently remanded by the D.C. Circuit. The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule. The Notice does follow the roadmap established by the Court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an Open Internet and asks for further comments on the approach.

    It is my intention to conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.

    To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted.

    Incorrect accounts have reported that the earlier policies of the Commission have been abandoned. Two points are relevant here:

    The Court of Appeals made it clear that the FCC could stop harmful conduct if it were found to not be “commercially reasonable.” Acting within the constraints of the Court’s decision, the Notice will propose rules that establish a high bar for what is “commercially reasonable.” In addition, the Notice will seek ideas on other approaches to achieve this important goal consistent with the Court’s decision. The Notice will also observe that the Commission believes it has the authority under Supreme Court precedent to identify behavior that is flatly illegal.

    It should be noted that even Title II regulation (which many have sought and which remains a clear alternative) only bans “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”

    The allegation that it will result in anti-competitive price increases for consumers is also unfounded. That is exactly what the “commercially unreasonable” test will protect against: harm to competition and consumers stemming from abusive market activity.

    To be clear, this is what the Notice will propose:

    That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;

    That no legal content may be blocked; and

    That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.

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  • Here Are The Parts Of Ukraine Where Putin Might Invade To 'Protect Ethnic Russians'
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 5:09 PM:)

    Last week, Russian President made an argument that parts of eastern and southern Ukraine are part of "Novorussia," an area gradually conquered by Russia in the late 18th century and made part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union, in 1922.

    "It’s new Russia. Kharkiv, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows," Putin told reporters. "Then for various reasons these areas were gone, and the people stayed there — we need to encourage them to find a solution."

    Basically, Putin wants those regions of Ukraine where ethnic Russians live to be in the Kremlin's orbit after a popular revolution toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and a West-leaning government was formed.

    Screen Shot 2014 04 24 at 6.18.12 AM

    Currently, pro-Russia separatists who are suspected of being led by Russian special forces have commandeered several towns in these regions. Ukrainian authorities have killed at least two militants in an effort to reclaim a town in Donestsk, prompting Russia to ramp up military exercises on the border.

    If tensions continue to escalate, expect more talk of "Novorussia" as Putin continues to insist that he has the right to intervene militarily in east Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russians.

    SEE ALSO: Putin Makes Worrying Comments About Novorussia

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  • Kidnapped Vice Journalist Has Been Released From Captivity By Pro-Russian Militia
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 5:03 PM:)

    Simon Ostrovsky

    Simon Ostrovsky, the Vice journalist who was taken by pro-Russian militia in Ukraine Tuesday, has been released, a Vice spokesperson confirmed.

    "VICE News is delighted to confirm that our colleague and friend Simon Ostrovsky has been safely released and is in good health," the spokesperson said in a statement. "We would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time. Out of respect for Simon and his family's privacy, we have no further statement at this time."

    According to the CBC's Jean-François Bélanger, the journalist with whom Ostrovsky is currently traveling, Ostrovsky is en route to the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Ostrovsky told Bélanger he was "beaten" and blindfolded by his captors, but then "treated well." He was described as in good spirits after his release.

    He tweeted a little more than an hour after reports of his release:

    I'm out and safe. Thank you all for your support. Had no idea I had so many good friends.

    — Simon Ostrovsky (@SimonOstrovsky) April 24, 2014

    Ostrovsky was taken by the pro-Russian militia in the town of Slavyansk on Tuesday, the self-proclaimed "People's mayor" of the town, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said at a press conference. 

    representative for the militia confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that the pro-Russian insurgents were still holding Ostrovsky. When asked why, she said only that he was "suspected of bad activities." The militia insisted throughout the ordeal that Ostrovsky was not a "hostage," but they had refused to let him leave. They made it clear they were not happy with his reporting, which has provided an on-the-ground look at the Ukrainian crisis.

    The U.S. State Department said Wednesday it was "deeply concerned" about Ostrovsky's apparent kidnapping.

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  • Why Politicians Care More About Old People Than Young People In One Chart
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 4:41 PM:)

    The U.S. Census Bureau is out today with new data on young-adult voting trends in presidential elections since 1964. And though the research finds an uptick in recent young voter engagement, there's still a significant gap between young-adult participation through voting when compared with older age groups.

    There's perhaps no better evidence of this than in the disparity between each age group's share of the eligible population in the U.S. compared with the percentage of the age groups that vote.

    Here's the chart from the Census:

    Census voting chart

    In 2012, the most recent presidential election, people aged 18-29 made up only 15.4% of the eligible voting population. However, 18- to 29-year-olds account for 21.2% of the population — a difference of 5.8% reflected in the chart. 

    Older age groups, by contrast, account for a much larger share of the voting population than they represent overall. People aged 45-64, for example, account for 35.6% of the eligible population. But they represented 39.1% of the 2012 voting population. Those aged 65 and older made up 19.1% of the eligible population. But they, too, over-represented their age group at the ballot box — 22.3%.

    "Overall, younger Americans have consistently under-voted at the polls relative to their eligibility. The magnitude of these differences has fluctuated over time," writes Thom File, the author of the study.

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  • The 22 Most Miserable Countries In The World
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 3:51 PM:)

    Venezuela protestAccording to a analysis published by the Cato Institute, Venezuela holds the disreputable top spot as the most miserable nation in the world.

    The 90 countries listed in the misery index were selected based on data from the Economist Intelligence Unit and calculations from Steve Hanke, a professor of Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University.

    The formula used to compile the list involves inflation, lending rates, and unemployment rates minus year-on-year per capita GDP growth.

    Venezuela's much higher misery score of 79.4 is much higher than every other country except Iran (61.6), and the top 22 countries are above 25 on the index.

    Inflation is the major contributing factor plaguing three of the top four nations listed. The other countries are either hampered by high unemployment or interest rates. 

    Here is the top 28 (and here's the full study):

    Screen Shot 2014 04 24 at 11.54.42 AM

    SEE ALSO: The 18 Most Corrupt Countries In The World

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  • Lawyer Kills Himself After Allegedly Staging Dozens Of Fake Slip-And-Fall Accidents
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 3:02 PM:)

    Andrew Gaber, insurance fraudA lawyer who allegedly recruited dozens of accomplices to fake slip-and-fall accidents killed himself before police could arrest him for fraud, the Philadelphia Daily News reports.

    Andrew H. Gaber, 52, shot himself because police were coming to arrest him Wednesday after a two-year grand-jury investigation exposed his allegedly massive insurance fraud.

    Over seven years, Gaber allegedly recruited helpers to scope out the perfect places with pavement defects to fake their falls, focusing on areas with well-insured properties and no surveillance cameras. Gaber’s 46 accomplices, either arrested already or being sought by police, allegedly played the roles of both slip-and-fall victim and accident witness. 

    All benefited from the settlement of 24 out of 43 false insurance claims, raking in a total of $382,000, according to the Daily News. For each case, police say, Gaber’s cut was at least 40%, helpers received $100 to $500, and “clients” who faked their falls received money from the insurance company settlements.  

    Many of those who allegedly helped Gaber cheat 21 insurance companies are believed to be homeless and drug abusers. Investigators say the homeowners of a single residential block helped crack the case, holding community meetings after they noticed a suspicious pattern of slip-and-fall incidents outside their well-insured homes. 

    SEE ALSO: CNN Asks Why Male Trial Lawyers Around America Are Killing Themselves

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  • Putin Just Called The Internet A 'CIA Project' — Here's Why
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 2:19 PM:)

    obama putin

    On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Internet originally was a "CIA project" and "is still developing as such."

    The comments sound paranoid, but they actually serve Putin's aims well.

    Today, Russia is leading the charge for breaking up the Internet as it currently functions by running Web traffic through servers in each respective country.

    "In two years we may get a completely different Internet," Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov told BI. "It might be a collection of Intranets instead of one Internet. Actually I think it's very possible."

    Earlier this week, Russia's parliament passed a law requiring foreign Internet services such as Gmail and Skype to keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year. This would create a Russian 'Intranet' that would be separate from the globally-interconnected Web, much like social media website VKontakte now serves as Russia's Kremlin-allied Facebook outside of Facebook.

    Russian law already dictates that Russia's security services can monitor particular phone conversations or Internet communications after an FSB agent gets a warrant that he only has to show to superiors.

    If all Internet traffic in a given country were routed through domestic servers, then communications including emails and Web searches would potentially be fair game to that country's intelligence services.

    "The key word here is pressure — whether it is aimed at journalists, activist groups, or global online platforms," Soldatov wrote in March. "Russia has already provided a cohesive, detailed and well thought out blueprint for turning the Internet into a collection of national intranets."

    And because of the disclosures of Edward Snowden, Putin is starting to get his way.

    "Like the Russian government, which is currently using the Snowden disclosures to justify bringing global online platforms and services under Russian jurisdiction, many countries are beginning to support the concept of national sovereignty in cyberspace," Soldatov wrote, noting changes in the stances of Brazil and Germany after disclosures from Snowden's cache.

    To resist the influence of the alleged CIA project that is the Internet, Putin added, Russia needs to "fight for its interests" online. Those interests include radically changing the Word Wide Web.

    SEE ALSO: Why Putin Is Able To Screw With The US At Every Turn

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  • Rick Perry Dismisses Question About Nevada Rancher's Racist Remarks
    (Politics - April 24 2014 - 2:13 PM:)

    Rick Perry

    In an interview with CBS This Morning Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry discussed the situation at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada and racist comments made by the man at the center of the recent standoff there, rancher Cliven Bundy. Perry said Bundy's remarks were a "side issue" and pointed to a land dispute in Texas with the same federal agency Bundy battled in Nevada, the Bureau of Land Management.  

    "I don’t know what he said but the fact is Cliven Bundy is a side issue here compared to what we’re looking at in the state of Texas," Perry said. "He is an individual—deal with his issues as you may. What we have in the state of Texas, I don’t get distracted about, is the federal government is coming in and attempting, from our perspective, to take over private property. And you must—f this country’s to stay the land of freedom and liberty, private property rights must be respected."

    In an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, Bundy claimed blacks would be "better off as slaves." CBS This Morning co-anchor Norah O'Donnell had asked Perry for his thoughts on Bundy's "very inflammatory racial comments."

     

    Update (2:41 p.m.): In an email to Business Insider, Perry's spokesman Felix Browne said the Governor has now read Bundy's remarks and thinks they are "reprehensible."

    "He hadn’t yet read them at the time at the time of the interview," Browne said. "He has now had a chance to read Bundy’s comments and he thinks they are reprehensible and disagrees with them in the strongest possible way."

    Earlier in his appearance on CBS This Morning, Perry more generally discussed Bundy's standoff with BLM officials that attempted to round up his cattle after he refused to pay fees for grazing on federal land.

    "I think Cliven Bundy is a side story. The federal government and how the federal government deals with these issues of private citizens, whether it’s on the public lands or whether, in the state of Texas we have a big issue about whether this is private land or this is public land. And rather than sending armed troops, I don’t think that is the way that the government should be handling any of these things with its own citizens," said Perry. "We saw a huge debacle in Waco, Texas back a decade plus ago with how they dealt with that issue. I hope our government officials are very, very wise and use common sense when it comes to these issues of conflict within the borders of the United States dealing with something that should be able to do be dealt with in a substantially less-confrontational way."

    In the wake of Bundy's headline-making showdown with the federal government Texas Republicans, including Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running to succeed Perry when his term ends next year, have raised alarms about what they say is a BLM plan to take 90,000 acres along the Red River

    Other national conservatives have expressed support for Bundy's cause. On Thursday, two of Bundy's more prominent Republican supportersSen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada both issued statements saying they disagreed with his comments. 

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