NSA bulk phone records collecting to expire – at least for a while – we hope


“What do we do, now?”

Even as the Senate remains at an impasse over the future of US domestic surveillance powers, the National Security Agency will be legally unable to collect US phone records in bulk by the time Congress returns from its Memorial Day vacation…

The administration, as suggested in a memo it sent Congress on Wednesday, declined to ask a secret surveillance court for another 90-day extension of the order necessary to collect US phone metadata in bulk. The filing deadline was Friday, hours before the Senate failed to come to terms on a bill that would have formally repealed the NSA domestic surveillance program…

It represents a quiet, unceremonious end to the most domestically acrimonious NSA program revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, in a June 2013 exposé in the Guardian – effectively preempting a bid by GOP leader Mitch McConnell to retain it. But McConnell and other Senate Republicans intend to continue their fight to preserve both that program and other broad surveillance powers under the Patriot Act…

I hope no one expected leading Republicans to support unfettered privacy for Americans other than themselves.

“The Senate is in gridlock, but the tides are shifting,” Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office said Saturday. “For the first time, a majority of senators took a stand against simply rubber-stamping provisions of the Patriot Act that have been used to spy on Americans…

It is unclear how the House will vote if its choices are pushed to the extremes that the Senate impasse has set up: all the post-9/11 domestic surveillance powers under the Patriot Act or none of them.

The NSA and the Obama administration have conceded that the bulk domestic phone records collection has never stopped a terrorist attack. Even though the administration has taken as a fallback position the line that the FBI surveillance powers under Section 215 are crucial for domestic counterterrorism, a Justice Department inspector general’s report issued on Thursday “did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders.”

I was heartened by the actions of a New Mexico Senator I haven’t followed as well or as long as I have Tom Udall. That is Martin Heinrich. I wasn’t surprised by Rand Paul’s grandstand opposition. After all, he’s running for president. Heinrich has nothing to run for other than re-election and that is with a base that is highly dependent on government funding for every military-industrial gewgaw since the invention of the Cold War.

Apprehensive as I am of Democrats who talk like they’re prepared to stand up for working class families and constitutional rights, civil rights and civil liberties – Martin Heinrich appears ready to walk the walk, as well.

Keeping up with Mexican drug cartels — New Generation


Click to enlargephotos from Getty, EPA, etc.

A shootout between members of a powerful drug cartel and Mexican security forces in the western state of Michoacan left at least 40 people dead Friday, according to Mexican officials.

The violence unfolded in the morning near the town of Tanhuato, along Michoacan’s border with the state of Jalisco, a troubled region where two drug cartels have waged a long-running battle and where attacks against Mexican authorities have recently spiked.

Mexican authorities offered few details Friday afternoon about the killings, which involved the New Generation cartel of Jalisco and a convoy of federal police and soldiers. The governor of Michoacan, Salvador Jara, said on a radio address that at least one policeman died, as well as 42 gunmen, although those numbers were not confirmed…

A priest at a nearby church, Manuel Navarro, said that he and his parishioners could see black smoke rising at the scene of the violence but that the townspeople continued to work and go out in the streets.

“The people must be scared,” he said. “But what are we going to do?

The New Generation cartel has grown into one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs and has been involved in several large-scale attacks against authorities in recent months. In April, the group ambushed a convoy of state police officers as they drove through a rural gorge, killing 15 of them. This month, gunmen shot down a Mexican military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing six soldiers.

Over the past two years, the gang has battled Michoacan’s dominant cartel, the Knights Templar, as well as members of the citizens militia group that emerged there to combat the drug gangs’ killing and extortion. Authorities in Jalisco have expressed concern that they are not getting enough help from the federal government to halt the expansion of the New Generation cartel.

I have no idea what “army” is needed to sort out the history of Mexico’s corruption. It is as deeply ingrained within the structure of everyday life and governance as any failed state in history.

Although the comparative casualty rate of Federales vs gangsters was pretty impressive this time. Ahem, assuming this account is the truth.

A childhood vaccine that reduces risk of leukemia

Young children are routinely vaccinated against Haemophilus influenza type B, or HiB, a bacterium that can cause meningitis and other serious problems. But the HiB vaccine has an added benefit: It reduces the risk for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, the most common childhood cancer, and now scientists know why.

Dr. Markus Müschen, the senior author of a new study published in Nature Immunology, explained that in infants, the immune system is more “nimble” than in older people. If they are exposed to HiB early in life — in day care, for example — their immune response is usually, but not always, well controlled, fighting the bacterium without causing serious illness.

But using a mouse model, Dr. Müschen and his colleagues found that in some cases, infection with the HiB bacterium triggers a vigorous immune reaction that activates two enzymes. These enzymes can cause mutations in certain types of blood cells, driving them into malignancy. When this happens, children are more likely to develop leukemia when they are 5 to 7 years old.

Dr. Müschen, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said that the effect of the vaccine was a 20 percent reduction in risk for leukemia. “This seems small,” he said. “But it’s highly significant in large populations. Whatever activates the immune system early in life reduces the risk for ALL.”

It ain’t going to seem small to the parents of young kids who didn’t get leukemia.