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The Wrap: From NSA spying to the Christmas tree tax that won’t die, the week that was

- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2013

It was revealed that millions of innocent Americans have been subjected to NSA wiretaps as part of secret program to uncover terrorists plots. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said that the U.S. would sign an international arms treaty.

On the international stage, China is countering U.S. military strategy in Asia by arming western hemisphere states.

Here’s a recap, or wrap, of the week that was from The Washington Times.

• Scope of phone records seizure causes alarm; data collection goes beyond Verizon

The Obama administration on Thursday defended its secret seizure of the phone records of millions of U.S. citizens as part of counterterrorism efforts, while privacy advocates blasted the move as illegal and a debate erupted in Congress over the intended scope of a key surveillance law.

In a new development, the National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies in real time, obtaining audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails and other information, various news outlets reported. The program is code-named PRISM.

• Crowd stunned after valedictorian rips up speech, recites Lord’s prayer

A South Carolina valedictorian garnered wild applause after he ripped up his pre-approved speech and delivered the Lord’s prayer at his high school graduation on Saturday.

The act was apparently in protest of the Pickens County School District’s decision to no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies, Christian News reported. Officials said the decision was made after the district was barraged with complaints by atheist groups.

• ‘Prism’ a vital program used to collect personal Web data, Clapper insists

The National Security Agency is gathering Internet users’ personal data from the computer servers of at least nine large Web service providers under a top secret program called “Prism,” the director of national intelligence said Friday.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect,” James R. Clapper said in a statement, adding that the program is “subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress.”

• New book: Bill Clinton forges secret deal with ‘incompetent’ Obama

Noted political writer Edward Klein claims in his latest book that former President Bill Clinton dismissed President Obama as inept and incapable of performing the duties of the White House — but that he formed a secret deal to give him an endorsement for office anyway. ...

In the book, Mr. Klein writes that several sources attributed Mr. Clinton as saying: “I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama. I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever. Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent. He’s an amateur.”

• International gun grab: U.S. to sign U.N. arms treaty

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Monday the United States will sign on to a U.N. treaty on arms control, over the objections of many in Congress who say the global document would clamp down on America’s Second Amendment.

The U.S. “welcomes” the next step in treaty ratification, Mr. Kerry said in a statement reported by Fox News and issued the same day the United Nations held a formal signing ceremony on New York.

• Army’s new robotic bird drone is so realistic it gets attacked by hawks

A robotic bird created for the U.S. Army for use as a miniature spy drone is so convincing that it has been attacked by hawks and eagles, according to researchers.

The Robo-Raven, as the solar-powered, remotely piloted surveillance aircraft is called, was designed and built at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Robotics Center — an interdisciplinary research establishment in the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. The center posted a video of a test flight this week.

• Ex-Minn. Gov. Jesse Ventura sues Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s widow

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has decided to substitute Chris Kyle’s wife, Taya, in a defamation suit he has filed against the slain Navy SEAL.

Mr. Ventura last year sued the decorated sailor, who authored “American Sniper,” claiming that the book’s description of a California bar fight defamed him, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

• GOP revives Obama's Christmas tree tax

The Heritage Foundation reports that the Republican-controlled House has revived President Obama’s proposed Christmas Tree Tax — a 15 cent fee on every freshly cut Christmas tree.

The House agriculture committee adopted an amendment allowing the tax to go forward as part of the major farm bill that’s winding its way through the chamber.

• Rising Red tide: China encircles U.S. by sailing warships in American waters, arming neighbors

China has been quietly taking steps to encircle the United States by arming western hemisphere states, seeking closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties to U.S. neighbors, and sailing warships into U.S. maritime zones.

The strategy is a Chinese version of what Beijing has charged is a U.S. strategy designed to encircle and “contain” China. It is also directed at countering the Obama administration’s new strategy called the pivot to Asia.

• White House scrubs Michelle Obama’s confrontation with LGBT protester

The Washington Times reported on Tuesday that first Lady Michelle Obama confronted a gay rights protester after she was interrupted about ten minutes into her speech at a campaign fundraiser in D.C.

But important elements of the exchange have been left out of the official White House transcript.

• Al Qaeda weapons expert: U.S. ambassador to Libya killed by lethal injection

An al Qaeda terrorist stated in a recent online posting that U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed by lethal injection after plans to kidnap him during the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi went bad.

The veracity of the claim by Abdallah Dhu-al-Bajadin, who was identified by U.S. officials as a weapons expert for al Qaeda, could not be determined. However, U.S. officials have not dismissed the terrorist’s assertion.

 

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