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22 Aug 2014

A prosecutor says he'll dismiss a firearms charge against a man who contends he was following the advice of Vice President Joe Biden when he fired a shotgun in the air to chase off intruders

Clark County's prosecutor said Tuesday he will dismiss a firearms-related charge against a Vancouver man who said he was merely taking Vice President Joe Biden's advice on how to defend his property from car prowlers. Instead, the man will be prosecuted for obstructing a police officer.
Jeffrey C. Barton, 53, made international news when he told journalists: "I did what Joe Biden told me to do. I went outside and fired my shotgun in the air."
That is a reference to the vice president's answer to a question in February 2013 about home defense. Biden responded that Americans don't need to own semiautomatic weapons because a couple blasts from a shotgun will scare off intruders.
Barton's comment, dubbed the "Joe Biden defense," was circulated widely among Second Amendment activists, and also landed a two-minute segment on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
Barton was scheduled to be tried next week in Clark County District Court on a misdemeanor charge of illegally discharging a firearm in connection with the incident at his home. But Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik said Tuesday he has doubts that a jury would be persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that Barton violated the law when he fired shots into the air in a county-designated no-shooting zone.
"A person, even in a no-shooting zone, still has the right to defend their person or their property," Golik said. "In this case, based on the facts, there is a reasonable argument that Mr. Barton may have been defending his person and property when he fired in the air."
However, the firearms charge will be replaced with a charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer, Golik said.
Golik said ethical guidelines prevent him from discussing specific reasons for the new charge.
"Based on (Barton's) conduct, we are going to pursue the obstruction charge," he said.
According to Washington law, a person commits the crime of obstruction by willfully hindering, delaying, or obstructing any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.
Deputy Prosector Greg Harvey, who is handling the case, has not yet filed paperwork on the new charge, which will outline supporting facts. He was out of the office Tuesday and not available for comment.

The identities of two of the most well-known architects of the CIA's torture program have been scrubbed from the Senate's report

Some familiar names will be missing from the Senate Intelligence Committee's long-awaited report on the CIA's torture program, VICE News has learned.
Notably, two retired Air Force psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, who have been credited with being the architects of the CIA's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," have their names redacted in the 480-page executive summary of the report, according to current and former US officials knowledgeable about the contents of the document.
That's because the CIA has never formally acknowledged their roles — nor has the agency ever declassified any aspect of their involvement with the program. The CIA hired Mitchell and Jessen as contractors in 2002 to train interrogators and to develop an "alternative" set of interrogation methods for Abu Zubaydah, the CIA's first high-value detainee who was captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan in March 2002. Later, Mitchell and Jessen formed a company, Mitchell Jessen and Associates, and were contracted by the CIA to continue working on the torture program. Mitchell and Jessen reportedly personally took part in the waterboarding sessions of CIA detainees.
Those details, however, were uncovered by investigative journalists and human rights researchers — in the decade since the first revelations about the torture program came to light, they have never been confirmed by the CIA.
Mitchell's and Jessen's work with the agency ceased in mid-2009 when then-CIA Director Leon Panetta ended their contractual arrangement with the agency. Underscoring the ongoing secrecy surrounding Mitchell and Jessen's past work, the CIA recently responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by VICE News for the agency's contracts with the psychologists' now defunct firm by issuing what is known as a Glomar response, which means the CIA would neither confirm nor deny that such records exist.
One version of the Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary had apparently identified Mitchell and Jessen by name, and a copy of the panel's findings and conclusions obtained by McClatchy Newspapers included a bullet point that said: "Two contract psychologists devised the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and were central figures in the program's operation."
But, according to current and former intelligence officials and committee staffers knowledgeable about the report, the CIA has insisted that the executive summary exclude any reference to Mitchell and Jessen by name, despite the fact that their roles in the program have been widely reported. The issue is part of a larger battle that has surfaced in recent weeks between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the intelligence community's redactions in the executive summary that the committee's chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said were excessive.

Things That Today's Kids Will Never Understand (26 pics)

Rediscovering the First Color Photographs of the United States

An American Odyssey is a new 612 page book published by Taschen that revisits photochrom and photostint postcard images from the private collection of Marc Walter. Originally produced by the Detroit Photographic Company between 1888 and 1924, these images were created using a photolithographic process that predated the autochrome by nearly 20 years, offering people the very first color photographs of the United States.

Five myths about presidential vacations: "During his eight-year presidency, Bush did take 879 days of vacation, including 77 trips to his Texas ranch. So far, Obama has taken about 150 days off."

You would think that one thing Americans could agree on is that the leader of the free world could occasionally use a day off. But even presidents’ vacations can be controversial, as partisans argue over whether the time away is detrimental to the nation. With President Obama and his family enjoying their annual summer trek to Martha’s Vineyard, let’s examine five myths about presidential vacations.
1. Presidents get vacations.
“Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery,” Nancy Reagan once said in defense of her husband’s frequent trips to his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif.
In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don’t so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go. Some 200 people accompany a president on vacation — including White House aides, Secret Service agents, military advisers, and experts in communications and transportation — to ensure that, while on vacation, the president can do nearly everything he could accomplish in Washington. 
He continues to receive daily intelligence and national security briefings while on vacation. Presidents also continue to tape weekly radio broadcasts, hold news conferences, attend political fundraisers and occasionally, as Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan did, entertain British royalty.
Vacations don’t stop presidents from making major decisions. For example, Reagan was enjoying a quiet weekend at Camp David when he decided to fire striking air-traffic controllers in 1981.
2. Presidential vacations harm the national agenda.
This past week, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank accused Obama of “tone deafness” for going forward with his vacation while the world was in crisis. But when is the world not in crisis?
A vacation can provide a president with that most precious and rare of commodities in the Oval Office: time to relax and think — including time to think about how to deal with a crisis.
Shortly after his reelection to a third term in 1940, Roosevelt was criticized for taking a 10-day fishing trip in the Caribbean while Britain was under assault by Nazi Germany. But FDR used that rare opportunity for reflection to devise his ingenious Lend-Lease program, which would provide vital aid to Britain to stave off the Nazi attack.
Presidents often feel the need to assure Americans that they’re using their vacations productively. Karl Rove, adviser to President George W. Bush, always alerted the media to the scholarly books the president intended to read while on vacation.
It is also unlikely that Obama would have held a news conference on Iraqthis past week had he remained in Washington, but he did so while at Martha’s Vineyard to refute claims that he was seemingly “detached as the world burns.”
3. George W. Bush took more vacation days than any other president.
During his eight-year presidency, Bush did take 879 days of vacation, including 77 trips to his Texas ranch. So far, Obama has taken about 150 days off. But our founders were away even more.
During his first two years in office, President John Adams was criticized for making two lengthy trips to his home in Quincy, Mass., taking him away from the capital, which was then Philadelphia, for a total of eight months. Adams left Philadelphia to avoid a yellow-fever outbreak and then to care for his ill wife, Abigail. And his absence came at a time when the United States nearly went to war with France.
Even during the Civil War, historian Matthew Pinsker points out, President Abraham Lincoln spent 25 percent of his time, including fully half of 1862, at the Soldiers’ Home near Washington’s Petworth and Park View neighborhoods. Pinsker says Lincoln especially enjoyed going there on hot days because the cottage where he stayed was shaded and the slightly higher elevation picked up cool breezes absent from the White House.
There seems to be no correlation between vacation days and a president’s legacy. No modern president took less vacation than Jimmy Carter (79 days), while Ronald Reagan spent 335 days at his beloved California ranch. President John F. Kennedy spent nearly every weekend of his shortened presidency at one of his family’s several properties. FDR made 134 trips to Hyde Park and spent an additional six months of his presidency in Warm Springs, Ga., where he treated symptoms of his polio. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing at Warm Springs on April 12, 1945.
4. Taxpayers foot the bill for presidential vacations.
Presidents pay for their own and their families’ lodging, food and incidentals while on vacation, which may be why they generally prefer to stay at properties they own, as guests of wealthy friends or at the official presidential retreat at Camp David.
But since presidential vacations are always working vacations, taxpayers cover what it takes to keep the commander in chief working. Lodging and meals are an extra cost, but taxpayers pay the salaries of White House staffers and Secret Service agents whether the president stays in Washington or not, so a presidential vacation does not significantly increase personnel costs.
The biggest additional expense is the use of Air Force One and the support aircraft needed to haul all the equipment and ground transportation the president needs. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the cost of operating Air Force One is nearly $180,000 per hour. Ultimately, a presidential vacation can cost taxpayers an additional $1 million or considerably more than if the president had just stayed put in the White House. How significant this is within a $3.5 trillion federal budget is something voters can decide for themselves.

Florida college student, 22, killed by stray bullet fired by cops in Orlando shootout

As Florida cops gunned down an armed felon outside an Orlando nightclub, one of their stray bullets killed an innocent college student.
The shooting outside Vixen Bar claimed the life of Maria Fernanda Godinez, 22, early Tuesday even though Orlando Police Department officers’ intended target was Kody Roach, 23, an intoxicated man who kicked out of the club by employees moments before for threatening to shoot patrons, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“I have a gun-wielding maniac,” one of the club’s employees told 911 dispatchers as Roach banged on the door with the pistol just before 1 a.m. “He set it on the bar top and he wielding it many times. I had to throw him out.”
The next moments quickly led to tragedy for Godinez, described by the Sentinel as a student at the University of Central Florida and native of Guatemala. 
WFTV reports bouncers kept Godinez and other club-goers inside as Orlando officers rushed to the scene and found an irate Roach outside.
Roach was ordered to drop the weapon, but he refused and the officers shot him with a stun gun. It apparently had little to no effect on him, because it didn’t knock him over and he instead began to raise his arm.
At this point, it’s not clear whether Roach was moving his arm to grab the wired prongs off his chest or point his weapon at the police, but the group of three officers didn’t take any chances.
They opened fire before Roach could attempt a single shot.
The officers ultimately fired nine shots and critically wounded Roach, but two bullets went astray. One hit an officer in the leg and the other went through the club’s door and found Godinez inside.

21 Aug 2014

Suicide Tourism: Terminally ill Britons now make up a nearly one quarter of users of suicide clinics in Switzerland. Only Germany has a higher numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ visiting institutions to end their own lives

Terminally ill Britons now make up a nearly one quarter of users of suicide clinics like Dignitas in Switzerland, new figures have shown.
Only Germany has a higher numbers of ‘suicide tourists’ visiting institutions to end their own lives.
Between 2008 and 2012, 126 Britons chose to die in Zurich, the majority at Dignitas, and a handful via less well known clinics, like Exit.
In 2012, 29 people from the UK travelled to Switzerland to end their own lives, the highest number ever and around one per fortnight.
Experts from the University of Zurich used data from the Zurich Institute of Legal Medicine and the figures were analysed by Oxford University.
They found that the number of people travelling to Switzerland to take their own lives had risen by 40 per cent in four years. In 2008 there were 123 cases of suicide tourism which had increased to 172 by 2012.
Dr Charles Foster, who teaches medical law and ethics at Oxford University, said ‘getting another country to do your dirty work’ had stopped the UK being forced to confront the issue.
“England has been able to outsource its assisted suicides to Switzerland,” he said.
“That has meant that it has had the luxury of being able, usually, to avoid confronting directly the difficulties associated both with liberalising and with not liberalising the existing English law.
“If Switzerland is happy to continue providing this facility, then however intellectually dishonest it may be to allow her to siphon off all our own English pain, fear, angst and debate, it is likely to do less harm overall than introducing any conceivable assisted suicide law in England.”
But charities and campaigners said it was unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to end their own lives.
“Britons forming the second largest group of European residents travelling abroad to Switzerland to die - at a rate of about one per forthright - it does reinforce that there is a problem with the law in this country,” said Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying.
“It’s clearly unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to die through a lack of safeguarded choice in this country.”
The study found that women were more likely to take their own lives than men. 58.5 per cent of ‘suicide tourists’ were women. The average age of those using these services was 69 - although the ages of people seeking help ranged from 23 to 97.
Neurological diseases including paralysis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis were the most common reasons for assisted suicide - accounting for 47 per cent of cases.
In Switzerland, assisted suicide is legal as long as the helper does not personally benefit from the death.
In Britain the 1961 Suicide Act makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales. Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years in prison.
However in 2009 Debbie Purdy asked judges to rule on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he took her to Dignitas, and the Director of Public Prosecutions said it would be unlikely that charges would be brought in such circumstances.

The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults

The U.S. Government wants to hire more people like Mikey Dickerson. He’s the former Google engineer the White House recently tapped to lead the new U.S. Digital Service.
Dickerson has impeccable credentials. He comes from one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies. He flew into Washington a year ago to salvage the disastrous website. And by all accounts, he did an amazing job. Now, his White House on-boarding has become a kind of recruiting tool for Uncle Sam. And just for good measure, the feds want all the techies out there to know Dickerson wasn’t forced to do that amazing job in a suit and tie.
In a White House video, Dickerson says he is asked one question again and again by people curious about his new job. They “want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day,” Dickerson explains in the video. “Because that’s just the quickest shorthand way of asking: ‘Is this just the same old business as usual or are they actually going to listen?’” 
When it comes to computers, the federal government has a nasty reputation for prizing ISO standards and regulatory checkboxes above working code. The video is the White House’s best effort at saying it’s going to get real and hire people based on what they can do, not how they dress for work. Ben Balter, who spent some time as a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow a few years back, tells us he had to code in suit and tie.
According to the Dickerson, that’s changed. He isn’t showing up in a T-shirt, but he’s free to wear a wrinkled button-down and comfortable pants.

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