Amateur hour

Shorter Question Everything

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4WIY2DoN-g

Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi completely shredded John Boehner and Eric Cantor after they tried to blame her for the their own failure to pass the Farm Bill. “What is happening on the floor today was a demonstration of major amateur hour. They didn’t get results and they put the blame on somebody else.”

Farm bill 195-234: 62 Republicans in the House voted against it but who do the Republicans blame? The Democrats, of course. D’s wouldn’t vote for it because the cuts to food stamps were too severe, while the R’s voted against it because the cuts weren’t severe enough.

NSA

Guardian has an agenda: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Thursday that there is “context that’s been missing” from the Guardian’s reporting on the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs, accusing the news organization of having an “agenda.” During an appearance on CNN, McCaskill said the Guardian, who first broke the story on the NSA’s broad phone records collection, had distorted facts about the controversial programs. “I think the Guardian has an agenda,” McCaskill told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I respect the fact that the Guardian is putting this information out there and that it’s been leaked, I get that’s the role of journalism. At the same time there’s been an awful lot of distortion around the facts of this information that’s come to light and an awful lot of context that’s been missing.”

• Hiring screeners at Booz Allen Hamilton, a contractor for the National Security Agency, found possible discrepancies in a resume submitted by Edward Snowden, but the company still employed him, a source with detailed knowledge of the matter said on Thursday. Snowden, who disclosed top secret documents about U.S. surveillance of telephone and Internet data after leaving his job as a systems administrator at an NSA facility in Hawaii, was hired this spring after he convinced his screeners that his description of his education was truthful, said the source, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. It is unclear precisely which element of Snowden’s resume caused personnel officials at Booz Allen Hamilton to raise questions about his background. Also unclear is how he satisfied their concerns.

Health

HIV is being used as a possible cure for cancer. A neat video about how researchers are using a modified HIV virus – yes, the virus that causes AIDS – to fight cancer. In the case detailed in the video, a little girl named Emma is now in remission from leukemia as a result of the so-far successful treatment.

Republicans link IRS conspiracy theories to Obamacare. On June 13, Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Dave Camp sent a seven-page letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asking for a mountain of documents. There were nine specific demands for all manner of communications and documentation among treasury employees related to various aspects of the IRS “scandal.” But request number eight is the sore thumb of the bunch. “All documents and communications sent by, received by, or copied to any employee of the Department of the Treasury between January 1, 2009, and the present referring or relating to the establishment of the IRS Affordable Care Act Office and the corresponding personnel and staffing decisions for the Affordable Care Act Office.” Obamacare has nothing to do with the sloppy practices of workers in the IRS’s Cincinnati office. Still, that hasn’t stopped Republicans from making the rhetorical link between the two. Number eight of the Issa-Camp letter is the very definition of a fishing expedition, and it is the first time the IRS scandal and Obamacare have been officially linked in a congressional investigation. And it is a barely disguised attempt to find something—anything—that could be used to undermine President Obama’s greatest legislative accomplishment.

US

Ted Cruz’s Father Bribed An Official To Come To U.S. In a report Thursday on NPR about how Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father shaped his vision on immigration, his father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, an immigrant from Cuba, said that while he “came to this country legally,” he basically bribed an official to get to the United States. “A friend of the family — a lawyer friend of my father basically bribed a Batista official to stamp my passport with an exit permit,” the elder Cruz said.

Stay classy, Republicans: An Illinois Republican official resigned Thursday, after writing a vicious attack on a biracial, female congressional candidate–calling her the “love child” of the Democratic National Committee, destined to work for “some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires.” The target was Erika Harold, a former Miss America and Harvard Law graduate who is seeking the Republican nomination for the 13th congressional district in central Illinois. Montgomery County GOP Chairman Jim Allen referred to Harold as “miss queen,” and said that she was “being used like a street walker,” whose “pimps are the DEMOCRAT PARTY and RINO REPUBLICANS.” Allen sent the email to the conservative website Republican News Watch, which posted the text in full and called it a “racist rant.”

Syria

Syria spillover violence threatens cease-fire with Israel. The spillover of violence from the Syrian conflict into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is threatening to jeopardize the decades old cease-fire between the two countries and spark a regional conflict. A series of mighty Israeli airstrikes, apparently on weapons convoys heading from Syria towards President Bashar Assad’s allies in the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, has shattered the fragile truce that has existed along the border since 1973.

• Despite months of laboratory testing and scrutiny by top U.S. scientists, the Obama administration’s case for arming Syria’s rebels rests on unverifiable claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, according to diplomats and experts. The United States, Britain and France have supplied the United Nations with a trove of evidence, including multiple blood, tissue and soil samples, that U.S. officials say proves that Syrian troops used the nerve agent sarin on the battlefield. But the nature of the physical evidence — as well as the secrecy over how it was collected and analyzed — has opened the administration to criticism by independent experts, who say there is no reliable way to assess its authenticity.

Canada

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can remain in office after Canada’s Supreme Court declines to hear an appeals court decision throwing out his conviction on conflict of interest charges. Prosecution sought to restore a lower court ruling that found Ford violated conflict of interest laws by participating in a city council vote absolving him of the need to return funds he solicited using city letterhead when he was a councilman. The lower court ordered him removed from office. Ford appealed and a Divisional Court subsequently overturned the removal order in January. The Supreme Court on Thursday did not comment on their decision.

Charity didn’t authorize release of Trudeau letter to Tory MP. Nearly a week after finding itself at the centre of the simmering controversy over Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s past part-time gig on the paid speakers’ circuit, the board of directors of the Saint John-based Grace Foundation has finally broken its silence and provided their side of the story — and it’s one that likely won’t show up in the next round of Conservative talking points. In a written statement, Foundation chair Ian Webster reveals that, while the board members “are deeply distressed about many statements made from various persons,” they are “most concerned” by the remarks made by Fundy-Royal Conservative MP Rob Moore — who was, of course, the PMO-designated spokesperson for the story when they were shopping it to reporters last week. According to Webster, “there was never any intention for this .. to become a political topic of discussion on the floor of the House of Commons” — and what’s more, the board “did not authorize any member or agent to approach the Honourable Member for Fundy-Royal or any political person on this matter.”

The head of TRIUMF at the University of B.C. is leaving for the top job at America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics research in Chicago. Nigel Lockyer, director of TRIUMF laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and a professor of physics and astronomy at UBC, has been selected to become the next director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Chicago announced Thursday.

Russia

• More than 6,000 people were evacuated in central Russia overnight after a series of massive explosions at an arms depot blew out windows and sparked a fire, the emergency situations ministry said Wednesday. The blasts began Tuesday night and continued for hours during an operation to dispose of old munitions at the depot near the town of Chapayevsk in the Samara region about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) southeast of Moscow.

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