“There is an urgency to the situation. There has been an urgency to the situation for two years.” Benjamin J. Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser, regarding the situation in Syria on Thursday, June 13, 2013
WEEK OF JUNE 10, 2013
Nation: The whistleblower has revealed himself.
Remember PRISM? Going public on Sunday, Edward Snowden identified himself as the source behind the disclosures about the nation’s surveillance programs. In a 12-minute online video interview he disclosed his reasoning, saying he chose to take this action because “the public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.” With investigations pending, Snowden fled to Hong Kong, saying he plans on staying in the city and fighting extradition. Meanwhile, the director of the National Security Agency defended his agency and the secret data-surveillance programs on Wednesday during a Senate hearing on cybersecurity, saying those government efforts had prevented dozens of terrorist attacks in recent years. The drama continues.
World: The U.S. role in Syria has intensified.
After completing a “deliberate review,” the Obama administration has confirmed that Syrian President Bashar Assad did in fact use “chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year” and that the attacks have resulted in the death of over 100 people. This changes the game, since President Obama has called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line” for action on the part of the United States. As a result, the administration has announced it will provide direct support to rebel opposition forces in the country for the first time. Until now, the United States has limited its support to non-lethal supplies and aid, but it will now provide weapons to help the outgunned rebels fight back against a government backed by Hezbollah and Iran.
Politics: Things were looking up for immigration reform again… maybe.
In a rare show of unity, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to take up debate on a broad bipartisan immigration reform effort. Unfortunately once the debate began, the Senators found themselves in disagreement. From procedural squabbles to full-blown arguments over an amendment that would broaden the requirements for border security, and some worry could jeopardize the timeline for a path to citizenship, Democrats and Republicans quickly retreated to their respective sides of the aisle. Debate continued Thursday, with varied hope of success. Some worry that though the bill might pass the Senate, it won’t make it through the House without some significant changes.
Business: Think you are helping when you donate money? Think again.
CNN teamed up with the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting to showcase the results of a yearlong study that identifies the worst charities in America. The #1 offender is a group called Kids Wish Network, which raises millions of dollars a year in the name of dying children and their families, but spends less than 3 cents on the dollar actually helping those kids. The remaining goes to operating expenses and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to attract more donations. The lesson? Check in to those charities before you give. There are some really great causes out there that have equally fantastic organizations backing them up.
Science: It’s official: the human gene may not be patented.
In a unanimous ruling on Thursday, the Supreme court ruled that isolated human genes may not be patented. This decision has immediate benefits for some breast and ovarian cancer patients and long-lasting repercussions for biotechnology research. Patents had been held exclusively by a single genetics company, one which a Justice declared in the decision, “To be sure it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.” The decision will allow other scientists and laboratories to provide genetic diagnostic testing, leading to lower costs and greater access. A win for everyone.
Women’s Affairs: Plan B contraception restrictions lifted.
Late Wednesday, a federal judge ruled in favor of making the morning-after pill available to women of all ages without a prescription. The Obama administration said it would reverse its long-standing insistence of enforcing age restriction (limiting sales to those 17 and older) and would comply with the ruling. When finalized, this move will end a long-running dispute over emergency contraception dating back to the beginnings of the George W. Bush presidency. Moving forward, the pill will be sold over the counter, not behind the pharmacy.