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President Maduro Dances Salsa While Venezuela Suffers

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With hunger and violent crime gripping the country and the opposition calling for his head, this is Maduro’s new strategy for winning hearts and minds. That is an uphill battle; most Venezuelans would like him to leave power.

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelans are running short of food, medicine and patience, but fear not: President Nicolas Maduro is here to cheer them up — by dancing salsa.

“People say I’m crazy for dancing salsa.” 

— President Nicolas Maduro

Grinning under his black mustache, the burly, towering socialist swivels his hips and twirls his wife Cilia Flores in front of the cameras.

“Hands up everybody who dances salsa! Admit it, we’re all crazy!”

“People say I’m crazy for dancing salsa,” he said on one recent broadcast.

“Hands up everybody who dances salsa! Admit it, we’re all crazy!”

With hunger and violent crime gripping the country and the opposition calling for his head, this is Maduro’s new strategy for winning hearts and minds. That is an uphill battle; most Venezuelans would like him to leave power.

“He is ridiculous. It’s offensive. He is laughing at the people. Instead of spending money on television programs, he should be bringing us medicine.”

— Euro Bermudez, 62, coming out of a bank in Caracas after collecting his pension

Wednesday was a case in point as Maduro celebrated his 54th birthday with a live performance by old-school salsa greats El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico.

“What a surprise!” the president exclaimed before taking the first lady for a spin, dancing to the classic “Me libere.”

A former bus driver, Maduro has often sung and danced at campaign rallies.

But his continued capering amid the crisis, and his recent launch of a dedicated salsa radio show, seem like bad taste to some weary citizens.

“He is ridiculous. It’s offensive. He is laughing at the people,” said Euro Bermudez, 62, coming out of a bank in Caracas after collecting his pension.

“Instead of spending money on television programs, he should be bringing us medicine.”

Spoof photo “memes” of Maduro online have shown him dancing in various inappropriate settings: at the scene of a crime or in a long queue for food. Read the rest of this entry »

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FOIA FAIL: Obama Administration Sets Records for Failures to Find Files When Asked

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People who asked for records under the Freedom of Information Act received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, setting a record.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a record for the number of times its federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a new Associated Press analysis of government data.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate when someone waits months, or perhaps years, to get a response to their request – only to be told that the agency can’t find anything.”

— Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed last year. Such cases contributed to an alarming measurement: People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record. In the first full year after President Barack Obama’s election, that figure was only 65 percent of cases.

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“It seems like they’re doing the minimal amount of work they need to do. I just don’t believe them. I really question the integrity of their search.”

— Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter at Vice News and a leading expert on the records law

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday he was not familiar with the figures showing how routinely the government said it can’t find any records, although the Justice Department also highlighted them in its own performance report. Earnest said federal employees work diligently on such requests, and renewed his earlier complaint that the U.S. records law has never applied to Congress since it was signed into law 50 years ago by President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat.

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“Congress writes the rules and they write themselves out of being accountable,” Earnest said. He urged reporters “to continue the pressure that you have applied to Congress to encourage them to subject themselves to the same kinds of transparency rules that they insist other government agencies follow.”

The new data represents the final figures on the subject that will be released during Obama’s presidency. Obama has said his administration is the most transparent ever.

The FBI couldn’t find any records in 39 percent of cases, or 5,168 times. The Environmental Protection Agency regional office that oversees New York and New Jersey couldn’t find anything 58 percent of the time. U.S. Customs and Border Protection couldn’t find anything in 34 percent of cases.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate when someone waits months, or perhaps years, to get a response to their request – only to be told that the agency can’t find anything,” said Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The IRS’ computer crash may go down in history next to the eighteen and a half minute gap in the Watergate tapes, which was supposedly caused by a mistake by Richard Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods.

The IRS’ computer crash may go down in history next to the eighteen and a half minute gap in the Watergate tapes, which was supposedly caused by a mistake by Richard Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods.

It was impossible to know whether more requests last year involved non-existent files or whether federal workers were searching less than diligently before giving up to consider a case closed. The administration said it completed a record 769,903 requests, a 19 percent increase over the previous year despite hiring only 283 new full-time workers on the issue, or about 7 percent. The number of times the government said it couldn’t find records increased 35 percent over the same period.

“It seems like they’re doing the minimal amount of work they need to do,” said Jason Leopold, an investigative reporter at Vice News and a leading expert on the records law. “I just don’t believe them. I really question the integrity of their search.”

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during news conference in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington

In some high-profile instances, usually after news organizations filed expensive federal lawsuits, the Obama administration found tens of thousands of pages after it previously said it couldn’t find any. The website Gawker sued the State Department last year after it said it couldn’t find any emails that Philippe Reines, an aide to Hillary Clinton and former deputy assistant secretary of state, had sent to journalists. After the lawsuit, the agency said it found 90,000 documents about correspondence between Reines and reporters. In one email, Reines wrote to a reporter, “I want to avoid FOIA,” although Reines’ lawyer later said he was joking. Read the rest of this entry »


Psychedelics: Ready for a Medical Comeback 

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In Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and the United States, researchers with no evident countercultural tendencies are conducting research that is finding psychedelic drugs a valuable adjunct to psychotherapy in treating addiction, post-traumatic stress and the depression or anxiety that often comes with terminal illness.

Melissa Healy reports: New research on the use of psychedelic drugs as treatment for a range of mental disorders appears to be throwing open doors of perception long closed within the medical community, says a new analysis in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal.

“Experimental therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs have been tightly controlled, requiring extensive screening of prospective patients, close monitoring during medication use, and extended follow-up.”

For several decades, the North American medical establishment has classified psychedelic drugs — including lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) — as drugs of abuse with little to no medical purpose or means of safe use.

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“But for all of that, when psychedelics such as MDMA have been tested in conjunction with psychotherapy for PTSD, or psilocybin for alcohol dependence, ‘relatively time-limited interventions’ have been shown to have enduring benefits.”

That, four researchers argue, is changing.

[Also see – LSD, Reconsidered for Therapy]

[More – Psychedelics: Poised for a Comeback]

In Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and the United States, researchers with no evident countercultural tendencies are conducting research that is finding psychedelic drugs a valuable adjunct to psychotherapy in treating addiction, post-traumatic stress and the depression or anxiety that often comes with terminal illness.

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“It’s been a cautious road, but one that’s data-driven. A big factor is really that enough time has passed for the sensationalism to kind of simmer down and for sober heads to say, ‘Hold on, let’s look at the evidence.'”

While most are small-scale pilot studies, larger trials are planned — and “more and more people are becoming interested and even jumping into the field to start trials themselves,” said senior author Matthew W. Johnson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Read the rest of this entry »


Congress Acts To Reign In ‘Agents Gone Wild’

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Grassley is calling for a zero-tolerance policy on soliciting prostitutes.

Congress is finally using protection after several embarrassing stories about very sexually active federal law enforcement agencies.

“The majority of federal law enforcement agents serve our nation honorably and bravely. However, in recent years there have been some episodes of agents gone wild, which raise serious concerns about the culture at federal law enforcement agencies, most notably at the Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Administration.”

— House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte

The Department of Justice issued a memo Friday to all justice department employees telling them not to solicit prostitutes even if they are in a country where it is legal, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is saying it isn’t enough.

Grassley is calling for a zero-tolerance policy on soliciting prostitutes.

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“There is no place in the federal government for employees who purchase sex,” Grassley said in a statement Monday. “This memo itself says that such activity ‘creates a greater demand for human trafficking,’ but fails to impose a sufficiently serious policy that would deter employees from engaging in this practice.  The memo is a good first step, but more needs to be done.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte will hold a hearing Wednesday entitled “Analyzing Misconduct in Federal Law Enforcement” to get to the bottom of all the problems surrounding the Justice Department, particularly it’s employees high libido. Read the rest of this entry »


Acid Test: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Pursues MDMA as Treatment for Psychological Disorders

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MAPS and PSTD: Scientific MDMA research works against the stigma associated with psychedelics

Known as “ecstasy” or “molly,” MDMA may soon be an effective treatment against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).acid-test

[Order Tom Shroder’s book “Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal” from Amazon.com]

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is attempting to legalize MDMA as a prescription for certain illnesses. In a newsletter sent to their constituents on March 16, MAPS said it had received approval from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on Friday, March 13 for a Schedule I license for Phil Wolfson, M.D., the principal investigator in a new MAPS study. This isn’t the only time the license has been awarded to MAPS — this is currently the seventh MDMA clinical trial with DEA approval.

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“MDMA reduces activity in the amygdala where fear is processed and it increases activity in the frontal cortex where people put things in association and context. So people are able to look at traumatic memories.”

“Obtaining DEA approval was the last step in the complex, arduous, and lengthy
process of getting approval for our study,” Dr. Wolfson said in the newsletter.

This was the final step before initiating experiments regarding the safety and effectiveness of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses. MAPS had already received approval from the Institutional Review Board, FDA and the Research Advisory Panel of California to conduct the phase-2 study.

“They’re able to separate out that it was happening then and not now. We’re saying that MDMA itself is not the medicine. It’s MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.”

— MAPS founder Rick Doblin, in an interview with CNN

Connor McKay, president of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter at Northeastern, said this type of scientific research works against the stigma associated with psychedelics. McKay will also be welcoming the founder of MAPS, Rick Doblin, and former Washington Post Editor Tom Shroder, author of “Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal,” to Northeastern on April 3 to discuss psychedelic research.

“I think studies like this play an important role…both medical and personal. It gives a personal story to these treatments. It gives medical legitimacy to these substances.”

— Connor McKay, president of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter at Northeastern

“I think studies like this play an important role … both medical and personal. It gives a personal story to these treatments. It gives medical legitimacy to these substances,” McKay said. “I don’t think people are going to stop using MDMA recreationally. I think people will see it as abusing medicine … rather than ‘you’re just doing drugs.’ This will open the medical discussion about these substances.”

MDMA, chemically called 3,4-Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, is typically sold as ecstasy or molly, but these can contain adulterants or other substances. In a 2006 study by Vanderbilt University, only 39 percent of tablets sold as ecstasy were pure and 46 percent had no MDMA at all. Read the rest of this entry »


HOT GOVERNMENT SEX: DEA Agents also Arranged Hookers for Secret Service

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Susan Crabtree reports: Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Colombia who allegedly engaged in “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels also arranged for paid sex for at least two Secret Service agents traveling to the country to protect President Obama in 2012.

The Justice Department inspector general uncovered the DEA’s sex parties after allegations arose about misconduct by the Secret Service and DEA agents in the Newspaper-legs-red-tint2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia. The IG on Thursday released a 97-page report detailing the allegations, including an explosive charge that local drug cartels funded the “sex parties.”

“Many of the contacts deleted had telephone numbers that the OIG was able to link to sexual services websites in Colombia.”

While the allegations about the DEA facilitating paid sex for Secret Service agents in Colombia is not new, the Washington Examiner obtained detailed information through a Freedom of Information Act request last fall about how three DEA agents stationed in Cartagena allegedly made the arrangements.

According to a DOJ Office of Inspector General report of the investigation, on the night of April 13, 2012, three DEA agents stationed in Cartagena, Colombia, had dinner with at least two Secret Service agents at a local restaurant and invited them back to one of the agent’s government-furnished apartments for drinks afterward.

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“The pair retreated to a spare bedroom where the woman performed oral sex during the massage, according to the report. The OIG determined that after the encounter took place, one of the DEA agents provided the woman a ‘wad’ of pesos in exchange for $50 in U.S. currency, which one of the agents provided the woman for her services.”

The OIG report is redacted to exclude the names of the DEA and Secret Service agents involved.

During the dinner, at least one agent was on his cell phone texting or emailing women, and two women joined the group after the meal.

Back at the apartment, one of the women offered an agent a massage, and one DEA agent interceded and negotiated a price of 150,000 Colombian pesos or $75 U.S. dollars for the massage.

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According to one Secret Service agent‘s account in the report, before the pair retreated to a spare bedroom, one of the DEA agents allegedly offered the Secret Service agent two condoms “in case you need them.”

The DEA agent who rented the apartment denied providing the condoms.

“When confronted with that information, the two Secret Service agents admitted to paying for and receiving ‘erotic massages’  that included oral sex.” 

The Secret Service agent in question denied being interested in sex at first and said he shoved the condoms into his pocket because he didn’t want to refuse them.

The pair retreated to a spare bedroom where the woman performed oral sex during the massage, according to the report. The OIG determined that after the encounter took place, one of the DEA agents provided the woman a “wad” of pesos in exchange for $50 in U.S. currency, which one of the agents provided the woman for her services. Read the rest of this entry »


AND YOU WEREN’T INVITED: DEA Agents Allegedly Participated in Wild ‘Sex Parties’ Funded by Drug Cartels, Report Finds

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DEA agents allegedly participated in “sex parties” funded by drug cartels, report finds. Read more…

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The Techno-Militarization Of America

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  writes:  Remember last year? Edward Snowden! NSA! Shock! Horror! Dismay!

Looking back I’m amazed we all seemed so surprised. Over the last decade, pretty much every arm of American authority invoked “homeland security” as an excuse to acquire boatloads of new technology, and used it to help expand their power and authority to unprecedented levels. There is nothing at all exceptional about the NSA’s massive overreach. It was only keeping up with the Joneses — FBI, DEA, Border Patrol, police forces everywhere — who have all been busy doing exactly the same thing.

The impoverished city of Oakland is spending more than $10 million on a “Domain Awareness Center” surveillance hub for its cops, and cameras that track every license plate they see. Baltimore and NYC track license plates, too. Meanwhile,according to the LA Times, “Unmanned aircraft from an Air Force base in North Dakota help local police with surveillance,” and Motherboard reports: The Border Patrol’s fleet of Predator drones were loaned out 248 times in 2012, to “unnamed sheriff’s departments, the Department of Defense, the DEA, the Texas Rangers, and even the Bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs.”

Read the rest of this entry »


CHILL: Obama Administration blocking whistleblower book on ATF scandal

obama-angry1 ALICIA A. CALDWELL reports: The Obama administration is blocking a federal law enforcement agent from publishing a book about the failed “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling sting operation because of concerns that the book would negatively affect morale, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.

The ACLU charged that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is worried that the book proposed by an ATF agent would hurt relationships with other U.S. law enforcement agencies.

In a six-page letter to ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, the ACLU said the bureau’s decision to block the book proposed by Special Agent John Dodson was a violation of his First Amendment rights. The ACLU described Dodson as a whistle-blower.

According to the letter, the ATF denied Dodson’s request to try to publish a book about his version of the Fast and Furious scandal because the bureau predicted it would have “a negative impact on morale in the Phoenix (Field Division) and would have a detrimental” impact on ATF relationships with the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The ATF didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Read the rest of this entry »