Yes, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange still has asylum inside the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he has resided for more than a year. That hasn't stopped him from staging news conferences, issuing statements and making broadcast appearances — so many that Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa reportedly has sent Mr. Assange a letter requesting that he stop using the embassy as a backdrop while making fun of politicians in Australia, the whistleblowing activist's home turf. He has founded his own political party and is running for office in Australia himself.
There must be some asylum cachet at work here. Along with being named a juror in an international film festival this week, Mr. Assange also appeared with former Texas lawmaker and presidential hopeful Ron Paul on the, uh, Ron Paul Channel, an online subscription-based news network that went live a few weeks ago. Via split screen in a two-part series, the pair discusses freedom of information issues, investigative journalism, government accountability and officials who pursue whistleblowers while war criminals "go unpunished."
"This interview gives our subscribers an opportunity to see unfiltered and honest dialogue between two leaders in the freedom of information movement," a spokesman tells Inside the Beltway. "They discuss ideas that are rarely brought up by the mainstream media. Ron Paul's interview with Julian Assange is the type of conversation that folks come to the Ron Paul Channel to hear."
The content — including a petition to President Obama to "Stay out of Syria" that drew 50,000 signature in three days — puts the channel "out front," he says.
And landing Mr. Assange as a guest?
"Ron Paul and Julian Assange were eager to speak with each other. We are very pleased with the how the interview came together," the spokesman concludes.
HEADLINE DU JOUR
"Obama's Half-Assad War"
— from American Spectator contributing editor George Neumayr, who declares President Obama "has become the 'armchair weekend warrior' he once decried."
THE VICTIM FACTOR
History is on the minds of Republican lawmakers who say U.S. military intervention in Syria is a bad idea. They have other notions when it comes to President Bashar Assad.
"The only thing that will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in the future is for the Syrian people to remove him from power. The strike the administration wants us to approve I do not believe furthers that goal. And in fact, I believe U.S. military action of the type contemplated here might prove to be counterproductive," Sen. Marco Rubio told his peers during Senate floor Wednesday.
"After a few days of missile strikes, it will allow Assad to emerge and claim that he took on the United States and survived," the Florida Republican added.
"Let us not forget the failed efforts of former President Clinton in 1998. He sought to punish Saddam Hussein through a limited bombing campaign for violating U.N. sanctions over the development of weapons of mass destruction," says Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican.
"After surviving four days of attacks, Saddam Hussein emerged unscathed and, in fact, stronger to continue his reign of brutality. Like Saddam Hussein, Assad is already portraying himself to the United Nations as a victim and to his people as a hero for standing up to the United States."
RED LINE BLUES
From our That's-a-Shame Desk comes the reactionary tweets from those amused or incredulous over President Obama's declaration on Wednesday that "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line" against the use of chemical weapons.
"Forget Blame Bush! Blame EVERYBODY!!! Oh, except, of course, the guy who actually said it: Barack Hussein Obama!!!" (enthusiastic actor James Woods.)
"Whose Red Line is it Anyway? A fantastic film with Richard Dreyfuss as president." (CNN host Jake Tapper, in a theoretical mood)
"Time for Congress to draw a real red line for Obama." (Investor's Business Daily columnist Andrew Malcolm)
WHERE'S THE 9/11 FLAG?
The American flag that was raised by three resolute firefighters over the smoldering rubble of the Twin Towers almost a dozen years ago is missing. So say Shirley Dreifus and Spiros Kopelakis, the owners of that very flag, who claim it mysteriously disappeared after the iconic moment. The "ground zero" flag that toured the nation and flew over Yankee Stadium as a "rebuke to terrorism" is not the original.
The claim is examined in "The Flag" a 90-minute documentary that debuted Wednesday on CNN with repeat broadcasts Sunday and Wednesday. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani, first responders and Thomas Franklin, the New Jersey-based photographer who actually took the famous image, are among the many interviews.
"This is the icon of the century, this flag," Mr. Kopelakis says in the film, urging politicians to "try and find this flag."
Just in time to counter former President Bill Clinton's push Wednesday to support the Affordable Care Act comes some push back from the Republican National Committee. "Countdown to the Obamacare train wreck" says Obamacosts — a new GOP website that is counting down the hours until enrollment begins in the new program on Oct. 1.
"With less than a month to go before this disastrous law begins to take full effect, Democrats bear sole responsibility for ObamaCare's costs. The RNC will ensure voters hold them accountable in 2014 by providing the facts and highlighting real stories from real people from now until election Dday," says an emphatic committee chairman Reince Priebus.
The site provides a blinking countdown clock, of course, plus a guide to incoming increased health care costs for states by ZIP code, news updates, video clips and a public petition demanding Congress repeal Obamacare. Find it here: Obamacarecosts.org.
POLL DU JOUR
• 75 percent of Americans say that most public opinion polls are "biased in some way."
• 67 percent "don't value" public opinion polls.
• 66 percent nevertheless "pay attention" to them when it comes to picking a political candidate.
• 54 percent would trust a poll from a nonpartisan foundation.
• 54 percent would trust a poll from a news organization.
• 50 percent would most trust a poll from an academic center.
• 45 percent would trust a poll from a polling company.
• 31 percent would trust one from a political party or candidate.
• 17 percent say polls have a liberal bias, 4 percent say they favor the conservative cause.
Source: A Kantar poll of 1,011 U.S. adults conducted July 24- Aug. 4 and released Wednesday.
• Leery comments, skeptical observations to email@example.com
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