Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Obama hit by Snowden setbacks with China, Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) ? For President Barack Obama, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's globe-trotting evasion of U.S. authorities has dealt a startling setback to efforts to strengthen ties with China and raised the prospect of worsening tensions with Russia.

Relations with both China and Russia have been at the forefront of Obama's foreign policy agenda this month, underscoring the intertwined interests among these uneasy partners. Obama met just last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and held an unusual two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California earlier this month.

Obama has made no known phone calls to Xi since Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong earlier this month, nor has he talked to Putin since Snowden arrived in Russia.

Former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said it wasn't clear that Obama's "charm offensive" with Xi and Putin would matter much on this issue. The U.S. has "very little leverage," she said, given the broad array of issues on which the Obama administration needs Chinese and Russian cooperation.

"This isn't happening in a vacuum, and obviously China and Russia know that," said Harman, who now runs the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Both the U.S. and China had hailed the Obama-Xi summit as a fresh start to a complex relationship, with the leaders building personal bonds during an hour-long walk through the grounds of the Sunnylands estate. But any easing of tensions appeared to vanish Monday following China's apparent flouting of U.S. demands that Snowden be returned from semi-autonomous Hong Kong to face espionage charges.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in unusually harsh language, said China had "unquestionably" damaged its relationship with Washington.

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," Carney said. "We think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem."

A similar problem may be looming with Russia, where Snowden arrived Sunday. He had been expected to leave Moscow for a third country, but the White House said Monday it believed the former government contractor was still in Russia.

While the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, the White House publicly prodded the Kremlin to send Snowden back to the U.S., while officials privately negotiated with their Russian counterparts.

"We are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States," Carney said.

The U.S. has deep economic ties with China and needs the Asian power's help in persuading North Korea to end its nuclear provocations. The Obama administration also needs Russia's cooperation in ending the bloodshed in Syria and reducing nuclear stockpiles held by the former Cold War foes.

Members of Congress so far have focused their anger on China and Russia, not on Obama's inability to get either country to abide by U.S. demands. However, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in an interview with CNN on Monday that he was starting to wonder why the president hasn't been "more forceful in dealing with foreign leaders."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed the White House's frustration with China. "That kind of action is not only detrimental to the U.S.-China relationship but it sets a bad precedent that could unravel the intricate international agreements about how countries respect the laws ? and particularly the extradition treaties," the possible 2016 presidential contender told an audience in Los Angeles.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong after seizing highly classified documents disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of U.S. phone and Internet records. He shared the information with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. He also told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." SMS, or short messaging service, generally means text messaging.

Snowden still has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said over the weekend.

Hong Kong, a former British colony with a degree of autonomy from mainland China, has an extradition treaty with the U.S. Officials in Hong Kong said a formal U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with its laws, a claim the Justice Department disputes.

The White House made clear it believes the final decision to let Snowden leave for Russia was made by Chinese officials in Beijing.

Russia's ultimate response to U.S. pressure remains unclear. Putin could still agree to return Snowden to the U.S. But he may also let him stay in Russia or head elsewhere, perhaps to Ecuador or Venezuela ? both options certain to earn the ire of the White House.

Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said she expected Putin to take advantage of a "golden opportunity" to publicly defy the White House.

"This is one of those opportunities to score points against the United States that I would be surprised if Russia passed up," Hill said.

___

Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/obama-hit-snowden-setbacks-china-russia-070516653.html

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98% Mud

All Critics (149) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (146) | Rotten (3)

For at least three-quarters of the way, this is a fine film, and one that kids and parents could see together.

There is an enchanted-fairy-tale aspect to Mud, but its bright, calm surface only barely disguises a strong, churning undercurrent.

A modern fairy tale, steeped in the sleepy Mississippi lore of Twain and similar American writers, and with a heart as big as the river is wide.

Nichols has a strong feeling for the tactility of natural elements-water, wood, terrain, weather.

Nichols takes his time with the story, dwelling on how the boy is shaped by the killer's tragic sense of romance, yet the suspense holds.

"Mud" isn't just a movie. It's the firm confirmation of a career.

Just like its lead character, this film is packed to the brim with sadness, swagger and soul.

All the women in this movie are shrews, liars and/or emasculators.

Mud is a moving exploration into the nature of manhood, with superb performances, striking location and engrossing story creating a mesmerising and heartfelt coming of age drama.

A stripped back approach to tracking the process of growing up, but lacks the faith to see the plan executed to the end

Nichols takes his time unravelling Mud and Ellis's entwined fates, but his characters are so rich that it's well worth being in their company.

In its energy and nuance, Mud seems like the kind of film Hollywood would've made in the Seventies, and would've continued to do if not for the advent of market-conscious filmmaking.

More than a mere tribute to Twain and Dickens: this has all the makings of a modern classic.

An extremely sophisticated and progressive examination on how adolescent masculinity is defined by often-contradictory cultural attitudes towards femininity.

Mud is as beautiful to watch as it is to listen to, and feel kinship to, whether you're from the South or just Southern at heart.

In Jeff Nichols, America has a champion of the religious and working class. With the schism between the right and left in the U.S. growing ever larger... his ascent couldn't have come at a better time.

This is a film with a great naturalistic style and captivating performances and which does just about everything right.

Jeff Nichols writes characters with depth, nurtures strong performances form his cast and allows the screenplay's backwater setting to effectively create tone and texture.

This is American cinema at its very best as Huckleberry Finn meets Stand By Me.The two boys are terrific and McConaughey is sensational as Mud, dazzlingly frazzled as the hunted and haunted man on the run.

Up till just past the three-quarter mark, Mud is one heck of a nifty psychological fable.

The Southern-fried drama "Mud" is an electrifying example of what happens when you merge a crackerjack yarn with a very specific setting, and then pour on the heat with riveting performances.

McConaughey and Sheridan 's acting skills, as well as those of the entire supporting cast, make this movie better than it ought to be.

It gets under our skin because Nichols gives us time to come to know Mud's island like the places we knew as children.

As Mud might say, it's a hell of a thing.

The boys are so skillfully played that Mud also plays like cinema verite. Nichols' fluid camerawork suggests a documentary-style approach. That helps these young lads transform into flesh-and-blood characters who get our attention and support.

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Source: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mud_2012/

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NSA leaker's global flight appears stalled for now

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) ? Edward Snowden's stop-and-start flight across the globe appeared to stall in Moscow as the United States ratcheted up pressure to hand over the National Security Agency leaker who had seemed on his way to Ecuador to seek asylum.

In Ecuador's most extensive statement about the case, the foreign minister hailed Snowden on Monday as "a man attempting to bring light and transparency to facts that affect everyone's fundamental liberties."

The decision whether to grant Snowden the asylum he has requested is a choice between "betraying the citizens of the world or betraying certain powerful elites in a specific country," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters while visiting Vietnam.

But what had been expected to be a straightforward journey to this South America nation dissolved into uncertainty by day's end. Snowden didn't use a reservation for a Havana-bound Russian airline flight that could have served as the first leg of a trip to safety in Ecuador, and his allies would not say where he was or what changed. Patino said Tuesday that he didn't know Snowden's exact whereabouts.

In Washington, the White House demanded that Ecuador and other countries deny Snowden asylum. It also sharply criticized China for letting him leave Hong Kong, and urged Russia to "do the right thing" and send him to the U.S. to face espionage charges.

A high-ranking Ecuadorean official told The Associated Press that Russia and Ecuador were discussing where Snowden could go, and the process could take days. He also said Ecuador's ambassador to Moscow had not seen or spoken to Snowden. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Ecuadoreans debated whether accepting Snowden would be a step too far for leftist President Rafael Correa, who has won wide popularity with oil-funded social and infrastructure programs while picking public fights with his country's main export market, the U.S. Correa has expelled U.S. diplomats, shuttered an American military base and offered refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London to Julian Assange, praising the founder of Wikileaks for publishing reams of leaked secret U.S. documents. Assange has embraced Snowden and WikiLeaks experts are believed to be assisting him in arranging asylum.

With unprecedented international attention focused on Ecuador, many citizens said they felt giving asylum to Snowden would be courting trouble for no reason, particularly with a key U.S. trade agreement up for renewal in coming weeks.

"I think it's just being provocative," said Blanca Sanchez, 50, who sells cosmetics in the capital, Quito. "He needs to take responsibility for himself. This isn't our problem."

U.S and Ecuadorean officials said they believed Snowden was still in Russia, where he fled Sunday after weeks of hiding out in Hong Kong following his disclosure of the broad scope of two highly classified counterterror surveillance programs to two newspapers. The programs collect vast amounts of Americans' phone records and worldwide online data in the name of national security.

Assange declined to discuss where Snowden was but said he was safe. Assange said Snowden was only passing through Russia and had applied for asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and possibly other countries.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. had made demands to "a series of governments," including Ecuador, that Snowden be barred from any international travel other than to be returned to the U.S. The U.S has revoked Snowden's passport.

The White House said Hong Kong's refusal to detain Snowden had "unquestionably" hurt relations between the United States and China. While Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy from the rest of China, experts said Beijing probably orchestrated Snowden's exit in an effort to remove an irritant in Sino-U.S. relations.

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Moscow to "do the right thing" and turn over Snowden.

"We're following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure that the rule of law is observed," President Barack Obama told reporters when asked if he was confident that Russia would expel Snowden.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. was expecting the Russians "to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged."

Carney was tougher on China.

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," he said. "And we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. ... This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said China had harmed its relationship with the U.S. by allowing Snowden to leave Hong Kong. China's move set a "bad precedent" that could unravel extradition treaties or other legal agreements between countries, she said Monday in Los Angeles.

Assange and attorneys for WikiLeaks assailed the U.S. as "bullying" foreign nations into refusing asylum to Snowden. WikiLeaks counsel Michael Ratner said Snowden is protected as a whistleblower by the same international treaties that the U.S. has in the past used to criticize policies in China and African nations.

Ecuadorean analysts said accepting Snowden could jeopardize tariff-free access to U.S. markets for Ecuador's fruit, seafood and flowers. U.S. trade, which also includes oil, accounts for half of Ecuador's exports and about 400,000 jobs in the nation of 14.6 million people.

The U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act requires congressional renewal soon and hosting Snowden "doesn't help Ecuador's efforts to extend it," said Ramiro Crespo, director of the Quito-based financial analysis firm Analytica Securities. "The United States is an important market for us, and treating a big client this way isn't appropriate from a commercial point of view."

At the same time, high oil prices, a growing mining industry and rising ties with China may give Correa a sense of protection from U.S. repercussions. Many of the Ecuadoreans who re-elected Correa in February with 57 percent of the vote see flouting the U.S. as a welcome expression of independence, particularly when it comes in the form of granting asylum.

"This person who's being pursued by the CIA, our policy is loving people like that, protecting them, perhaps giving them the rights that their own countries don't give them. I think this is a worthy effort by us," said office worker Juan Francisco Sambrano.

In April 2011, the Obama administration expelled the Ecuadorean ambassador to Washington after the U.S. envoy to Ecuador, Heather Hodges, was expelled for making corruption allegations about senior Ecuadorean police authorities in confidential documents disclosed by WikiLeaks.

American experts said the U.S. will have limited, if any, influence to persuade governments to turn over Snowden if he heads to Cuba or nations in South America that are seen as hostile to Washington.

"There's little chance Ecuador would give him back" if that country agreed to take him, said James F. Jeffrey, a former ambassador and career diplomat.

Snowden is a former CIA employee who later was hired as a contractor for the NSA. In that job, he gained access to documents that he gave to The Guardian and The Washington Post to expose what he contends are privacy violations by an authoritarian government.

Snowden also told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." He is believed to have more than 200 additional sensitive documents in laptops he is carrying.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/nsa-leakers-global-flight-appears-stalled-now-051718996.html

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The Restaurant of the Future Was Going to Revolve You

The Restaurant of the Future Was Going to Revolve You

Today's restaurants love automation. Whether it's conveyor belt sushi, iPad ordering or drones that bring your food right to the table, restaurant owners are always looking for a gimmick that attracts customers and might just save them some money. But back in the 1920s, an inventor in Michigan had his own idea for automating the restaurant of the future ? instead of bringing the food to the customers, how about bringing the customers to the food?

Read more...

    


Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/oxu7HMsPPG4/the-restaurant-of-the-future-was-going-to-revolve-you-552797287

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Monday, June 24, 2013

AP Source: Clippers land new coach in Doc Rivers

(AP) ? A Boston Celtics official tells The Associated Press that a deal to allow Doc Rivers to coach the Los Angeles Clippers has been agreed to.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal was contingent on NBA approval and negotiations between Rivers and the Clippers over a new contract.

Rivers had three years and $21 million remaining on his deal with the Celtics, but he has expressed reluctance to coach through a rebuilding process. The 2008 NBA champions appear to be headed for one after losing in the first round of the playoffs this season.

The teams were also discussing a deal that would send Kevin Garnett to the Clippers, but NBA commissioner David Stern said he wouldn't approve a deal in which coaches were traded for active players.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/347875155d53465d95cec892aeb06419/Article_2013-06-23-BKN-Clippers-Rivers-/id-9c90dd2fe1484456b302030a45d8dd16

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edward Snowden heads for asylum: Does the US have any options?

Faced with espionage charges, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden left Hong Kong Sunday for asylum, reportedly in South America. This could leave the US with few options as it tries to prosecute the man who leaked details about top secret surveillance programs.

By Brad Knickerbocker,?Staff writer / June 23, 2013

A banner supporting Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, is displayed in Hong Kong's business district. Snowden has left Hong Kong seeking asylum in another country.

Kin Cheung/AP

Enlarge

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, aided by the WikiLeaks whistleblower organization, has left his hideout in Hong Kong and is hop-scotching his way to South America ? all of which has left US officials scrambling for recourse following their failure so far to bring Mr. Snowden back to the US for prosecution on charges of espionage.

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"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel," Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement Sunday. Neither the White House nor Secretary of State John Kerry had any more to say on the subject by midday.

According to reports by Chinese and Russian news agencies, Mr. Snowden is traveling by commercial air ? first to Moscow, then to Havana, and finally to Caracas, Venezuela, where he is expected to be granted asylum.

?Mr. Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally,? WikiLeaks said in a statement Sunday. ?He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.?

Meanwhile, as he was beginning the latest leg on his journey from relative obscurity to worldwide notoriety, the former NSA contractor was revealing more of what he says is a vast network of US surveillance of telephone and Internet information around the world.

In an interview piece published Sunday, the South China Morning Post quoted Snowden as saying the US government is hacking Chinese mobile phone companies to steal millions of text messages.

?There?s far more than this,? Snowden said, referring to his earlier claims that the US had targeted Hong Kong and mainland China. ?The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data.?

It?s just the latest twist in a saga that began earlier this month when Snowden revealed himself as the former NSA analyst who?d exposed top secret US surveillance programs ? first to the Washington Post and the British newspaper the Guardian, then via a 12-minute video in which he declared, ?I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things.?

Since then, he?s been praised as a heroic whistleblower by supporters and reviled as a traitor by critics and many US lawmakers eager to see him returned to this country for prosecution.

The situation had left President Obama in the tricky position of balancing national security in a post-9/11 world with the rights of privacy cherished by most Americans as well as Obama?s own calls for openness in government.

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/feeds/csm/~3/-rg0AV5wBUA/Edward-Snowden-heads-for-asylum-Does-the-US-have-any-options

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Officials: Suicide attack kills 4 northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) ? Officials say a suicide car bomb in northern Iraq has killed at least four people.

A police officer says the bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a police patrol in a village outside the city of Mosul on Saturday morning. He says that three civilian bystanders and one policeman were killed, and six people were wounded. Mosul is 360 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

With violence spiking sharply in recent months to levels not seen since 2008, al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups have been gathering strength in Mosul and surrounding cities.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/officials-suicide-attack-kills-4-northern-iraq-085528210.html

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