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Friday, November 1, 2013

$5 Billion Food Stamp Cuts Begin Today

Millions of impoverished Americans will be forced to get by with less government assistance after the temporary increase created by the Obama administration in 2009 lapses. Spending for the program will be reduced by $5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year and another $6 billion over 2015 and 2016.

The cuts come at a time when the need for food assistance is particularly high: About one in seven Americans relies on food stamps. New York City’s largest single-site emergency food provider served 25% more people in the past 3 months than it did in the same period last year. This lapse in food stamp funding alone will put a dent of around .1% in the annual growth rate of America’s gross domestic product (currently hovering at just 2%).

And it’s likely to get worse, since the House version of the federal farm support program is proposing $39 billion cuts to the program over the next decade; the Senate plan cuts $4 billion over the same period.

Head of Pakistani Taliban Killed in Drone Strike

A stream of reports say that an American drone strike has killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, today. While previous reports of his death have proved false, a high-ranking Taliban official, Pakistani intelligence and militant commanders in the tribal belt have all confirmed his death.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Pakistani Taliban – Mehsud’s second-in-command was captured last month. The attacks come the same day the Pakistani government announced it was sending a delegation to North Waziristan to begin peace negotiations with the Taliban. Because the Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella for various jihadist groups, it is far from clear what effect Mehsud’s death will have on the peace talks.

Snowden Offers NSA Testimony, More Fallout

Edward Snowden has said he would like to testify before the US Congress about the NSA and is willing to help German officials investigate US spying in Germany, if the US drops its espionage charges against him. Although Germany has an extradition agreement with the US, it has welcomed the offer. A disputed legal report has argued Germany could refuse an extradition request if it were shown to be “of political character.” Amid Europe’s outrage at US spying, however, more documents show that Britain’s GCHQ has worked closely with German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services, developing methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic in their own countries.

Meanwhile, NSA chief Keith Alexander is currently risking a confrontation with the State Department after publicly blaming diplomats for requesting that foreign leaders be placed under surveillance.

Thai Amnesty Bill Passes Lower House

Thailand’s Parliament has moved one step closer to granting amnesty for offenses committed during the political turmoil following the ouster of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thousands are protesting in the streets at the news, renewing fears of another outbreak of violence. The entirety of the opposition walked out of the chamber, refusing to vote, leaving the bill to be passed by the remaining 310 lawmakers from the ruling coalition. The bill will now go before the Senate, where its success is less assured.

Opponents claim the bill is an attempt by Shinawatra, whose sister is now prime minister, to return to politics after he fled in 2008 to escape corruption charges.

NYC Stop-And-Frisk Overhaul Blocked

A federal appeals court halted the sweeping changes to the New York Police Department’s practice of ‘stop-and-frisk’, attacking the case’s trial judge in strikingly personal terms and removing her from the case. Bizarrely, the city’s lawyers had not asked for her removal or raised any ethical objections in the case. As a result, the NYPD will not be subject to federal monitoring during the appeals process, nor will it be required to implement the reforms.

This development comes after the attorney general announced an investigation into the disturbing pattern of certain customers (specifically, African-Americans) being followed, interrogated, handcuffed and falsely accused of credit card fraud by cops after making large purchases at Macy’s and Barney’s.

Weekend Read: How Supreme Court Decision on Voting Rights Act is Affecting State Laws

What former preclearance states have done since the Supreme Court ruling. Via ProPublica.


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