On the News With Thom Hartmann: NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden Granted a One-Year Asylum in Russia, and More

In today’s On the News segment: NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted a one-year asylum in Russia; as climate change increases temperatures around our planet, many species of plants and animals are finding it more difficult to survive; Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy wants some answers from the N.S.A.; and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. After more than a month of being stuck in a Moscow airport, NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted a one-year asylum in Russia. Snowden managed to slip out of the Russian airport unseen, and then fled to a secret location. When asked where Snowden would be going, a Russion lawyer representing the whistleblower told reporters, “He is the most wanted man on planet Earth. What do you think he is going to do? He has to think about his personal security. I cannot tell you where he is going.” At this time, there are no reports of what Edward Snowden prepares to do next, however it’s reported that he will travel to one of the South American countries that have offered him permenant asylum. International media outlets have stated that Snowden’s case has caused tension between the United States and Russia, but a Kremlin official said ties between the two nations would not suffer over the “relatively insignifcant” case. International relations with several other nations, China, Brazil, and France, have, however, been strained since news of the NSA spying program broke. Even the European Union, a United States ally, has expressed serious concerns over the U.S. monitoring computer traffic. And, diplomatic discussions will continue between leaders who want answers from the U.S. about international surveillance. When Edward Snowden released classified NSA documents, he started a world-wide discussion about privacy, and the overreach of power by the United States government. His journey to safety is far from over. With the news of Snowden finally being free from the airport, Wikileaks tweeted, “We would like to thank the Russian people and all those who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle – now the war.”

In screwed news… As climate change increases temperatures around our planet, many species of plants and animals are finding it more difficult to survive. But, there are a few species that thrive in a hotter environment, and it isn’t good news for humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a rare brain-eating organism called N. fowleri is becoming more common because of global warming. While the infection used to be quite rare, with only 32 cases between 2002 and 2011, the organism is popping up more often, and in more locations than ever before. Two recent fatalities happened in Minnesota, which is more than 500 miles farther North than ever reported in the U.S. The N. fowleri amoeba may still be uncommon, but it isn’t the only parasite that thrives in warmer weather. Perhaps a brain-eating organism will provide some food for thought for those who continue to stand in the way of protecting our planet.

In the best of the rest of the news…
Republicans still love to criticize the General Motors bail out, but they won’t be able to find much fault with the auto maker’s line of vehicles. For the first time in three decades, G.M. ranks number one on the J.D. Power & Associates Initial Quality Study. David Sargent, J.D. Power vice president of global research, said, “If you were to ask me the question, what corporation has the best quality in the entire industry, the answer would be General Motors.” Not only did government intervention save General Motors, and protect American jobs, it paved the way for a great line of cars being built right here in America.

North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory thinks cookies are a fair trade for healthcare. After hours of protesting an anti-abortion bill outside the governor’s mansion, activists were surprised to see Governor McCrory and four of his security guards bringing cookies to protesters at the mansion’s gates. The gesture did not go over well with activists, who returned the cookies uneaten, with a note saying, “We want women’s health care, not cookies.” While there’s no way to know what Governor McCrory was thinking, the delivery of baked goods was interpreted by the protesters as an inappropriate 1950’s-like gesture. Protesters then began chanting, “He Pat, that was rude. You wouldn’t give cookies to a dude.” Social media sites shared the story quickly, and online users shared their disapproval, using hashtag, “Let them eat cookies.”

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy wants some answers from the N.S.A. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Leahy pressed the security agency for more proof that invasive government surveillance has actually prevented “terrorist events.” After reviewing a classified list of events that were allegedly detected by the domestic spying program, Senator Leahy said, “If this program is not effective, it has to end. So far, I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen.” Apparently, Leahy is not buying the NSA’s line about surveillance programs keeping our country safe. As Ben Franklin said, “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.” And, according to Senator Patrick Leahy, the temporary safety we’re getting, is not worth giving up our privacy.

And finally… It’s quite common for a person’s final wish to include spreading their ashes in a beautiful place. But, Jason Leach of Scarborough, England has another idea. After experiencing some wind-related mishaps during ash-spreading memorials, he came up with what he calls, “a more dignified ending” – having his ashed pressed into a vinyl record. The independent music producer believes that his idea offers a new way for people to remember their loved ones, so he founded the company “And Vinyly” to offer the service to others. Mr. Leach said he didn’t expect much from his new business venture, but he’s now working around the clock to fill the hundreds of requests that are pouring in. People seem to love the idea of preserving their lost relatives – along with their favorite songs and stories – on these unique keepsakes. In this age of digital music, here’s even more proof that vinyl is dead.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, August 1, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.