Thursday, October 10, 2013

The VA killed Heather McDonald's husband (Ava)

Ava here, filling in for Trina to cover the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing today.  Some people think it's fun going to hearings.  Not really.  Frequently, they're dull.  There are also the ones like today that just tear your heart out.

Heather McDonald is a young widow.  Her husband, Scott McDonald, died at the age of 35.  Why?  Because the VA just fed him pills instead of treating him.  He's dead because of the VA.

It wasn't bad enough that they killed her husband, the VA then denied her survivor's benefits for 9 months, causing her to lose their home and car.

Heather McDonald:  My husband never accused me of having the ability to keep my mouth shut.  I was going with him [to VA doctor's appointments] regardless of what they said because my husband's medications fluctuate in such a way -- especially for his PTSD -- My husband was no longer Scott McDonald.  I didn't know who the man was that I was married to.  He had become angry and violent.  And in the months prior to his death, we finally thought we had found a remedy.  And he was back to himself.  He was back to being a father and a husband.  But he had been labeled 80% disabled.  He jokingly would say he didn't mind being a Soccer Dad.  But I could see that he was broken.

No, sitting through that is not fun.  And it's strange because I sat through the hearing and I'm telling you about her pain but I read multiple news outlets reporting on this.

And they don't convey the pain.  That wasn't her only moment sharing.  C.I. grabs some of it in the snapshot today.

But I see outlets that don't get into her pain -- or Kimberly Stowe Green's pain.

But they invent 'happy moments' to tie bows around the hurt, bright, shiny Christmas bows.  Such as 'reporting' that the VA witnesses 'encouraged' Heather McDonald to continue sharing her story. 


Like she has any choice.  She's in pain and in mourning and they killed her husband and what they offer today is 'share your story!'  And some supposed members of the press run with that crap.

No, it's not fun attending hearings.  It's frustrating.  It's about 7 years of promises of improvement on the part of the VA but it never comes, the improvements never come, the promises are empty and the same issues are still being discussed (but not fixed).

Heather McDonald:

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday: 

Thursday, October 10, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, for the fifth day in a row there are corpses in the streets of Iraq,  Nouri's government executes more people -- and surpasses last year's total, Ed Snowden is honored in Russia, the VA's new motto appears to be "Addiction gets you out the door!," Barack's war on the press and whistle-blowers gets called out, and more.

We noted something this morning but did so at the end of an entry.  Then Glenn Greenwald's Tweets were forwarded:

  • It's hard to imagine how this scathing indictment from of Obama admin's press attacks isn't big news:

  • So we're going to put  an excerpt from the report at the top.  This is from Leonard Downie Jr. and Sara Rafsky's "The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America"  which was published today by the Committee to Protect Journalists:

    In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues.
    Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.
    Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans’ telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources. “I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts,” he said.

    It's an important issue and we'll note a whistle-blower later in the snapshot.  For now, Scott Alan McDonald died because of the VA.  His widow Heather McDonald explained what happened to Congress this morning.

    Heather McDonald:  For 15 years, he served honorably in the uniform of his country and was proud to serve as a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic and Crew Chief for MEDEVAC Unit.  Bosnia, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan are only a few of the war-torn countries he dedicated his life to changing.  In his career, he experienced heartache, unimaginable violence, death and the overall devastating effects of war.  He saw many of his fellow soldiers give the ultimate sacrifice -- narrowly escaping many times himself.  He loved his country and what the American flag stands for.  He was a brothers in arms to thousands of fellow soldiers and a truly remarkable man that never met a stranger.  Scott had larger than life expectations for his children.  And because of his commitment and honor, in January of 2011, we married.  On April 30, 2011, Scott's career with the army came full circle and he hung his uniform up for good. He began seeking the treatment from the VA for back pain and mental illness.  The Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, Ohio immediately started prescribing medications beginning with ibuprofen, nurofen, meloxicam and graduating to vicodin, klonopin, celexa, Zoloft, valium and Percocet.  This is where the rollercoaster began.  My husband was taking up to 15 pills a day within the first six months of treatment.  Every time Scott came home from an appointment, he had different medications, different dosages, different directions on how to take them.  And progressively over the course of a year and a half of starting his treatment, the medications had changed so many times by adding and changing that Scott became changing.  We researched many of the drugs that he was prescribed online and saw the dangerous interactions that they cause.  Yet my husband was conditioned to follow orders.  And he did so.  On September 12th of 2012, Scott attended another of his scheduled appointments.  This was when they added Percocet.  This was a much different medication than he was used to taking and which they prescribed him not to exceed 3,000 milligrams of ibu -- acetaminophen, I'm sorry.  Again, my husband followed orders.  Approximately zero-one-hundred hours on the 13th of September, I arrived home from my job.  I found Scott disoriented and very lethargic.  I woke him and asked him if he was okay?  He told me he was fine and that he just took what the doctors told him to take. At approximately zero-seven-thirty, I found my husband cold and unresponsive.  At 35-years-old, this father of two was gone.  I ask  myself why everyday.  And when I ask the VA why more tests weren't performed to make sure he was healthy enough, they responded by saying: "It is not routine to evaluate our soldiers' pain medication distribution."  A simple "I am in pain" constitutes a narcotic and a "This isn't working" constitutes a change in medication.  I was sickened and disturbed by their response and I decided at that point no one else should die.  I have no doubt that if the proper tests were being performed on our men and women, I would not be here today -- because my husband would be.  I have no doubt that for thousands of the soldiers that have fallen after coming home from war would be here today.  [Wiping tears] I'm sorry.  As the silent soldiers and spouses of our military members. we almost expect the possibility that they won't come home from war.  But we cannot accept that they fight there for their country and after the battle is over they come home and die.

    A study published last year in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that, "Among patients receiving care from the Veterans Health Administration, death from accidental overdose was found to be associated with psychiatric and substance use disorders. The study findings suggest the importance of risk assessment and overdose prevention for vulnerable clinical subpopulations."  That study was published in January of 2012.  Does no one in the Veteran Affairs Department know how to read?  Clearly, they don't know how to take action but are they at least literate? 

    Nine months before Heather lost her husband, a peer-reviewed, medical study was published warning of what was taking place.  Where was VA Secretary Eric Shineski?  Mismanaging again?

    It has been one scandal after another under Shineski.  It really is time he resigned. Heather McDonald was testifying before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health -- US House Rep Dan Benishek is the Chair of the Subcomittee and US House Rep Julia Brownley is the Ranking Member -- as part of the first panel retired Air Force member Kimberly Stowe Green, retired Sgt Joshua Renschler and retired 1st Sgt Justin Minyard.  Panel two was Dr. Pamela Gray, Claudia J. Bahorik, and the VA's Dr. Steven G. Scott.  The third panel was the VA's Dr. Robert Jesse accompanied by Robert Kearns.

    Kimberly Stowe Green's husband, like Heather's husband, should be alive.  He went in for back surgery.  That's not usually life threatening.  But what the VA did before that ensured that it was.

    Kimberly Stowe Green: My husband Ricky Green died as a result of the VA's skyrocketing use of prescription pain killers.   On behalf of my husband, my self and our two grieving sons, I want to ask this Committee to do all that it can to prevent other veterans from dying in the same manner that my husband died. My husband died on October 29, 2011 -- at the age of forty-three -- four days after lower back surgery.  The Arkansas State Crime Lab and it's medical examiner performed an autopsy and determined that the cause of death was mixed drug intoxification complicating recent lumbar spine surgery.  My husband died because of the prescription pain and sleeping medications that the VA and its doctors prescribed for him and dispensed to him out of the VA pharmacy.  In treating Ricky's service-connected back pain, the VA doctors wrote prescriptions for the following drugs.

    She noted the 2010 VA clinical practice guidelines have not been fully implemented and they're not being followed.  What does Eric Shineski say to that?  More to the point, what does US President Barack Obama say to that?  How many screw ups is Shinseki going to rack up before his inability to do his job results in his resignation?

    Kimberly Stowe Green stated, "Ricky survived serving in combat zones in his over 20 years of military  service but he could not survive the VA and its negligent treatment of him."

    Iraq War veteran Josh Green survived a mortar attack in Iraq and the pain from the wounds led the VA to prescribe one pill after another -- he was taking 13 pain killers at one point.  The result?  The VA medical treatment left him with liver damage and no feeling in his left leg.  (Heather McDonald noted her husband had Stage II liver failure but it was "only discovered by the coroner.") That is awful and the VA owes Green much more than an apology.  But something else should be registering.  If it's not, let's note this statement from Green about Percocet, "And what happened was, the more I took it, the less it worked because my body became tolerant to it. 

    Do you get it yet?

    Do you get the problems that are being created under Shinseki?  The problems that will cost millions to clean up and will be harrowing for the veterans going through it?

    You can't just dispense pain killers like they're Flintstone chewables or candy out of Pez dispenser.  This attitude was overcome long ago everywhere except the VA.  It's why former First Lady Betty Ford went public and set up The Betty Ford Center.

    When it comes to addiction, there may not be a more vulnerable population than veterans.  The reasons for that are they are taught to mask the pain while serving and, as both widows pointed out, to follow orders -- the following of orders often carries over the medical treatment from the VA.  The VA doctors are prescribing like it's 1947 and, as a society, we've never heard of pain killer addiction. 

    People in pain need help and need treatment.  They do not, however, need to develop an addiction because a bunch of lazy or quack doctors don't want to do their job.

    Under Shinseki, the prescriptions are killing veterans, yes.  But also under Shinseki, the prescriptions are resulting in addictions that will have be treated years from now.

    That's unacceptable -- from a health standpoint and from a taxpayer standpoint. 

    Shinseki is supposed to be on top of things.  He shouldn't need a Congressional hearing to take action.

    It was really distressing to hear Josh Green detail his objections to the pills and how, when he would raise these objections, he would be prescribed more pills.

    Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran Justin Minyard suffered from chronic back pain (tied to a 72 hour continues shift at the Pentagon, searching for any survivors after the Pentagon was hit on 9-11).  The existing back pain was amplified by his later service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The treatment?  Pills, pills and more pills.  That's all the VA offered him.  He explained, "My life revolved around when is my next pill, when is my next dosage increase and when can I get my next refill?  At my worst point I was taking enough pills daily to treat four terminally ill cancer patients."

    Repeating, this isn't just medical malpractice with effects people see and feel now, this is medical malpractice that is turning veterans into addicts.  That is unacceptable.  Civilian doctors prescribing in this manner risk loss of license and criminal charges but the VA just looks the other way. The VA motto appears to be: "Addiction gets you out the door!"

    Ranking Member Julia Brownley:  I think we all owe you deep apologies for not responding to your needs the way you have defended our country and, Ms. McDonald, I include you and thanking you for your service to our country and being married to your spouse and supporting him through this process -- that you, too, need to be thanked for your service.  So thank you all.  I think this is obviously a very important topic and hearing your individual stories is, I think, important for the American people to hear.  I wanted to ask a question -- my first question anyway -- and this question is more directed to Mr. Green and Mr. Minyard.  I was wondering about your experiences and maybe experiences from other wounded warriors that you may know -- regarding the continuity of treatment from the army to the VA and perhaps from one VA facility to another VA facility?

    Josh Green: I'll answer that.  To the best of my knowledge  -- again, I've walked alongside countless veterans over the last several years on a volunteer capacity and walked them through attempting to navigate the VA health care system to get the best care possible.  In my experience, it takes quite often a door kicker mentality to get veterans the care that they need.  I've hand walked them to a physician's door, to a social worker's door, to a mental health practitioner's door and said, "This person needs help today."  And that's the way we've been able to make some things happen in people's lives.  To answer as quick as possible: No.  There's not good continuity of care from one facility to another.  There's not good continuity of care from DoD to VA.  You know, as I spoke on my specific experience leaving DoD and entering VA care, my medications weren't on the VA formulary so they completely changed my medication regime and put me on more harmful medications which ended up causing me to backslide in my recovery which took the army three years to establish.  As far as -- There's a veteran that I work with currently that has left Portland, a VA facility in Oregon and moved into Washington state.  And upon entering Washington state American Lake VA Hospital, he was told that his medications are not able to be purchased through the American Lake VA Hospital because they don't have the budget for the non-formulary medication that the other facility had.  And this was again a medication that took six years to figure out the best thing for him and they're not going to purchase it anymore  which is causing him to backslide in his pain management.  So short answer is no, there's not good continuity of care.

    Ranking Member Julia Brownley:  Thank you.  And I think I said Mr. Green and I apologize.  I meant Mr. Minyard if you had any additional comments in terms of continuity of treatment?

    Justin Minyard:  Ma'am, with all due respect, I would not, in my opinion, and through my experience, I would not place the word "continuity" anywhere in a sentence that contains other nouns "DoD" and  "VA."  To give you a quick answer --

    Ranking Member Julia Brownley:  Yeah?

    Justin Minyard:  -- the systems, to me --

    Ranking Member Julia Brownley:  I hear you.

    Justin Minyard:  -- don't work.

    Help me out here.  Since 2009, what presidential cabinet level person is supposed to have been addressing "seamless transition" from DoD to VA?

    That would be Shinseki.

    And yesterday, he was just so concerned in the House Veterans Affairs Committee about the shutdown, he bled for any who suffered, you understand.  He'd just hate to think of anyone not receiving their benefits or survivors benefits from the VA because of the shut down.

    Spare us your crocodile tears, Shinseki. 

    Heather McDonald:  After my husband's death, I did contact the VA.  Almost immediately -- the VA itself told me that I needed to immediately start the process to claim my husband's death pension to help my family.  What doing that immediately does I don't know.  It took 11 months to start receiving any retroactive pay from my husband's pension.  I lost my home.  I lost my car.  When I asked them during the-the filing of the claim, the VA asked me whether I felt my husband's death was service-connected or not?  First, that's not my decision.  Every pill he put in his mouth was due to an ailment or an injury he received either in theater due to his service for his country.  So, yes, that makes it service connected.  Why it took 9 months for them to make a decision and a rating on that?  No, I was simply told, "I'm sorry, Mrs. McDonald, this is the process.  It takes time.  There's a huge backlog."  I feel like the VA right now is proud of themselves because they're saying, "The backlog is going down.  The amount of claims are lessening."  Well of course they are.   Because they're dying.  They're not receiving treatment anymore because they're not here to receive it.

    Turning to the topic of Iraq, today the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the violence:

    MEPs strongly condemned the recent acts of terrorism and sectarian violence in Iraq, calling on the authorities "to facilitate a full and swift independent international investigation (...) and to cooperate fully with that investigation". All leaders and players in society should "start to work together to end the bloodshed and ensure that all Iraqi citizens feel equally protected", adds the resolution. MEPs also voiced concern about the spill-over of violence from the Syria conflict to Iraq.

    And violence today?   National Iraqi News Agency reports the corpse -- well the head -- of a 25-year-old woman was discovered dumped in Kirkuk.  Alsumaria adds the head was found in piles of waste next to a building.  Corpses dumped and discarded were one of the most common traits of the 2006 to 2007 period popular known as the "civil war" (ethnic cleansing).  They began popping up regularly in the last months.  A new development this week?  Starting Sunday, every day has resulted in reports of at least one discovered corpse.  It was every few weeks, then every two to two and half weeks, then every two to three days.  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and today -- five days in a row.

    In other violence, NINA reporters 1 activist was shot dead in Ramadi ("a supporter of the Ramadi sit-in protest"), an Anbar car bombing injured one police officer, a Falluja bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, an armed Falljua attack left 1 police captain dead and another police member injured, a Falluja sticky bombing left two people injured,  1 man was shot dead in Kirkuk, the Salah al-Din military post announced they killed 2 suspects, and an attack on Mosul's al-Mowselya TV channel left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead.  All Iraq News reports 2 suspects werte shot dead in Tikrit by police forces and  3 police officers were shot dead in Mosul.  Alsumaria reports a Mosul roadside bombing injured a taxi driver, 2 Baghdad bombings claimed 3 lives and left twelve people injured, 1 person was shot dead in Baghdad (gun had silencer), and 1 shop owner in central Baghdad was shot dead.

    In other violence, Reuters notes 42 people have been executed by the 'government' in Iraq this week.  This is not good news or anything to be proud of.  Iraq has no real judicial system.  Some executed this year would have likely been released is Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law slate did not keep objecting to the amnesty bill which should have passed a long time ago.  As Human Rights Watch noted at the start of this month,  "In order to successfully identify and arrest those responsible for the attacks, Iraqi authorities should reform their judicial system and revise their draconian anti-terror law."   UNAMI issued the following statement:

    Baghdad, 10 October 2013 – UNAMI notes with concern that between 8 and 9 October, 42 people sentenced to death were executed, among them one woman, as confirmed by the Ministry of Justice of Iraq on 10 October.
    UNAMI reiterates its call on the Government of Iraq to adopt a moratorium on the implementation of all death sentences, pursuant to UN General Assembly resolutions 62/149 (2007), 63/168 (2009) and 65/205 (2010), and to consider ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with a view to the eventual abolition of the death penalty.

    Al Jazeera notes the 42 executions bring the total for the year to at least  132.  The year is not even over and already Iraq has topped itself in executions, 129 is the number of executions in 2012 (see this Amnesty International report).

    Yesterday's State Dept press briefing found spokesperson Marie Harf insisting that she'd have an answer today with regards to flights through Iraqi air space to Syria.  She apparently forgot.  She did, however, make time to obsess over Ed Snowden.  She's like a cock hound on him.  From today's press briefing:

    QUESTION: Snowden?

    MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Back in the news.

    QUESTION: Yeah, amazing. He – because we haven’t heard much from him for quite a while. But his father’s there and it just raises this issue – number one, if you had anything to say about that, period. But it raises that issue of he is the father, so it’s an immediate family member, but is there anything legally that he is precluded from doing when he’s there? I mean, can he – because after all, Snowden, Jr., is on the lam. So can he --

    MS. HARF: Is there anything his father is precluded from doing, or else --

    QUESTION: Yeah. Like can he meet – would it be a violation of some type of law to meet with his son?

    MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. And the father really isn’t our concern, and even the father meeting with the son really isn’t our concern. Our concern really is Edward Snowden returning to the United States. He’s accused of very serious charges here, and he’ll be accorded full due process and protections applicable under U.S. law. It’s not really our – I think our concern about the meeting or our place to comment on it, and I don’t think we’re focused on his father at all in any way. I think we would just encourage Mr. Snowden to return.

    QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously it would be kind of a legal question. Is there really something – like, if you were to meet with, I don’t know, a terrorist to be in collusion with a --

    MS. HARF: I will take the legal question. I don’t think there is, but let me ask my experts.

    QUESTION: Just for the future, it might be interesting.

    MS. HARF: Yeah. No, it’s a good question.

    QUESTION: And then also, is there anything – any update on consular access?

    MS. HARF: No.

    QUESTION: Has he talked with U.S. officials?

    MS. HARF: No, he has not.

    QUESTION: Nothing?

    MS. HARF: Nothing.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS. HARF: To my knowledge, nothing. No.

    QUESTION: So you have --

    MS. HARF: Scott --

    QUESTION: You have no reaction or – to the visit by – or no comment on the visit of Mr. Snowden to --

    MS. HARF: Well, I mean, the reaction is the same it’s always been. Mr. Snowden needs to return to the United States to face these charges. Yeah, I really don’t have anything to say about the specific meeting with his father. It’s just not really what we’re focused on.

    QUESTION: He didn’t contact anybody, as far as you know, within the Administration to say he was going?

    MS. HARF: His father?

    QUESTION: Yeah, the father.

    MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that question. I don’t know --

    QUESTION: I’m just wondering if he – if it was perhaps timed by – that he might have had some discussions --

    MS. HARF: Did he have to get a visa with --

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS. HARF: I just – I have no idea. I can try to find out. I don’t think so, though.

    QUESTION: Okay. I just wondered. He might have had discussions with somebody. He might be carrying a message to his son.

    MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. Nothing at all like that. No, nothing.

    For the record, any American citizen with a valid passport can travel to Russia.  There's no permission needed from the US government.  There is no war between Russia and the US -- though there appears to be a war against information and knowledge.

     Ed Snowden  is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."

    The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack's appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the 'explanations' offered, "None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there's a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything."  As US House Rep John Conyers noted, "But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned."  Barack couldn't deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for "a national conversation."  He's always calling for that because, when it doesn't happen, he can blame the nation.  It's so much easier to call for "a national conversation" than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off "a national conversation" then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say "thank you."  August 1st, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

    The Voice of Russia reports, "Four whistleblowing advocates from the United States met with Edward Snowden in Moscow Wednesday and gave him an award for truth-telling. As seen on the photo published by Getty Images Snowden received the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award (SAAII) alongside UK WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, who took Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow and obtained his asylum, and the United States government whistleblowers including Coleen Rowley (FBI), Thomas Drake (NSA), Jesselyn Raddack (DoJ) and Ray McGovern (CIA)."  The Oxford Union explains, "The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence confers an award each year to a person exemplifying the courage, persistence and devotion to the truth of CIA analyst Sam Adams.  Many distinguished past award winners include prominent whistleblowers and former intelligence agents.Caro Kriel (AP) quotes Jesselyn Raddack stating, "He spoke very openly about a whole range of things, a number of which I won't get into here, but it certainly didn't involve any kind of manipulation by the Russian government or anyone else for that matter.  He definitely is his own person and makes his own decisions and says and does what he wants to."  Raddack is with the Government Accountability ProjectFred Weir (Christian Science Monitor) reports:

    Interviewed on the Kremlin-funded English-language television network RT Thursday, the four whistleblowers agreed that Snowden looked "remarkably well" and was in fine spirits "considering the pressures" of his situation.
    "This is an extraordinary person. He's made his peace with what he did, he's convinced that what he did was right, he has no regrets and is willing to face whatever the future holds for him," Mr. McGovern told RT.
    Snowden's lawyer, Kucherena, has told Russian media that his client "has a girlfriend," is making great progress in learning the Russian language, and may soon find a job to keep him occupied in Russia.
    Reached by telephone on Thursday by the Monitor, Kucherena offered nothing but a good-natured scolding.
    "You must admit that when American politicians demand that human rights should be observed and talk about democratic freedoms, it's a sheer contradiction when we see the fact that everybody is bugged and their emails are read," he said.

    Along with receiving the award (announced in July) yesterday, Ed has another visitor in Russia.  Phil Black ands Ben Brumfield (CNN) report:

    The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden told reporters in Moscow that he thinks his son deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
    He arrived there Thursday for his first visit with his son since the former government IT contractor fled the United States after leaking National Security Agency spy program details to the media.
    Members of the European Parliament nominated Snowden in September for the Andrei Sakharov Prize, which honors figures who stand up to oppressive powers. The prize was awarded to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai on Thursday.

    Becky Evans (Daily Mail) reports on Lon Snowden's visit hereRIA Novosti adds:

    Edward Snowden’s future and exact current whereabouts remain shrouded in mystery, but his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena says the former US intelligence contractor was not in talks to seek asylum in any other countries and has received several offers of work.
    Kucherena, speaking to Rossiya-24 news channel alongside Lon Snowden, said Edward Snowden would be open to extending his one-year asylum status in Russia.

    Lastly, tomorrow is The International Day of the Girl Child.  UNICEF notes:

    The International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated on 11 October, a day designated by the United Nations for promoting the rights of girls, and addressing the unique challenges they face. The inaugural day in 2012 focused on the issue of ending child marriage. As the lead agency for the Day, UNICEF, in consultation with other United Nations agencies and civil society partners, selected Innovating for Girls’ Education as this year’s theme, in recognition of the importance of fresh and creative perspectives to propel girls’ education forward and building on the momentum created by last year’s event.

    As the nature and scale of barriers facing girls becomes more complex, innovative strategies are needed to give girls an education that prepares them for the challenges of the 21st century. As the world evaluates the gaps that still remain in achieving global goals for gender equality in education and defines an agenda that moves beyond the Millennium Development Goals, it is critical that innovation brings about solutions for improving girls’ education that are not only more creative, but also more effective, efficient, sustainable and just.

    sara rafsky