dana liebelson

Dana Liebelson

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Dana Liebelson is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Her work also appears in Marie Claire and The Week. In her free time, she plays electric violin and bass in a punk band.

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Obama Administration Won't Comment on Ecuador Bugging Claim

| Wed Jul. 3, 2013 7:51 AM PDT

Update: Ecuador claims that the bug came from the Surveillance Group Limited, one of the largest private surveillance companies in the United Kingdom. Ecuador is asking the UK for help on further investigations. The company has denied the claim.

Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patiño has claimed that a hidden microphone was recently found in the country's embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is taking refuge. Patiño has yet to provide further details about the alleged bugging, but the AFP reports that he plans to publicly point the finger at the country he believes was involved on Wednesday. Obama administration officials tell Mother Jones they will not comment on Patiño's allegations or say whether the United States was involved in any bugging of the embassy. And a spokeswoman for the Ecuadorean Embassy in London says, "At the moment, there's nobody saying anything more." 

The allegations come at a tense moment, as the international intrigue involving Edward Snowden and Assange, who is assisting the former former National Security Agency contractor in his quest for asylum, increases. Recent reports based on documents leaked by Snowden reveal that the United States has bugged European Union diplomats in the United States and spied on members of the G20 summit in London.

In a statement (in Spanish) posted on the web site of Ecuador's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Patiño said: "We regret to say that this is another testament of the loss of ethics at the international level." He added, "We are infiltrated from all sides." 

The device was allegedly found in the office of ambassador Juan Falconi Puig during a routine sweep, according to AFP and the Australian newspaper the Age. Many sensitive discussions have taken place in the office, including conversations between Patiño and Assange. 

The allegations come as former Snowden seeks asylum in Ecuador—a request that the country says it will not consider unless Snowden manages to reach Ecuadorean territory. Ecuador also continues to shield Assange from extradition to Sweden, where he's wanted for questioning in connection with a sexual assault investigation. Last night WikiLeaks tweeted a comment on the alleged bugging and the news that a flight from Moscow carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales was diverted to Austria after several European countries refused to allow the jet cross their airspace, believing that Snowden might be on board: 

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, says she has "no comment" on the incident. But she notes that the issue of who supposedly planted the bug "is a question for Ecuador." Asked if the US had any role in the bugging, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined comment. 

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Dramatic Filibuster in Texas Defeats Anti-Abortion Bill

| Tue Jun. 25, 2013 10:15 AM PDT

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: Planned Parenthood Federation of America President (and native Texan) Cecile Richards announced via Twitter that the abortion bill did not pass.

UPDATE 11:50 p.m.: After State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) led a captivating all-day filibuster, the Senate concluded in chaos. The session was, by law, supposed to end at midnight. It appeared likely to finish without a vote, until Republican leadership forced one in the closing minutes, over the chants of protesters. The final vote, however, did not come until just after midnight local time–when the session was supposed to be over. Not long after, the legislature appeared to change the time stamps on the vote on its website. Senate Democrats and Republicans were still hashing out what exactly went down several hours later. Check out the Texas Tribune for up-to-the-minute coverage.

Texas Democrats launched a 13-hour filibuster in the state Senate on Tuesday to block a GOP-backed bill that would dramatically limit abortion access in the Lone Star State. The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation, even in cases of rape and incest, and creates strict new building codes for abortion clinics that threaten to shut down nearly all of the state's providers.

The bill passed through the House on Monday despite a 12-hour delay by Democrats and a citizens' filibuster that brought hundreds of protesters to the State Capitol in Austin. "I saw the future of Texas last night, and it is not apathetic," Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told The Huffington Post.  "It is ready for a change."

State Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) introduced Senate Bill 5 in a special 30-day session that Texas Governor Rick Perry called, in which only a simple majority is needed to send the bill to the floor instead of the usual two-thirds majority. Today is the last day of the session, so filibustering past midnight will kill the legislation, unless Perry decides to call another session. The bill caps abortion access at 20 weeks, even though the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade allows abortions up until the point that a fetus can live outside the womb (which is usually considered to be 24 weeks gestation). A dozen other states have already passed laws banning abortion after 20 weeks, but the laws have been struck down as unconstitutional in Arizona and Idaho.

The bill also requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Finally, the bill requires clinics to comply with building codes designed for out-patient surgery centers found in hospitals, a provision that the bill's opponents say would force most of the state's remaining abortion providers to close. Only five of the state's 42 clinics are expected to be able to comply with the new standards—in a state of 26 million people where women already travel an average of 43 miles to get an abortion. Texas clinics have already taken a heavy financial hit in the last two years, as legislators slashed state funds and refused federal Medicaid money in an attempt to shut down Planned Parenthood providers.

Last Thursday, more than 700 protesters, many of them women who had traveled from other parts of Texas, showed up to protest the bill and waited in line to testify for hours. When the chairman tried to end the public testimony, this happened:

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) is leading Tuesday's filibuster (in pink sneakers) and is expected to hold the floor and speak—without bathroom breaks—until the Senate adjourns at midnight. This isn't her first rodeo: In 2011, Davis temporarily stalled a plan from Governor Perry that would have slashed $5.4 billion from public schools, turning her into something of an overnight celebrity. That filibuster, however, was only a little over an hour. According to the Texas Observer, Texas Democrats knew that the abortion bill would pass through the House, but they delayed it Sunday night so that Democrats in the Senate would have time to launch a filibuster.

Senate rules require a 24-hour waiting period before the Senate can debate the bill. So House Democrats hoped to delay SB 5 long enough to give Senate Democrats a chance to filibuster the bill

"There's an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that," the Senate's Democratic leader, Kirk Watson (D-Austin) told The Star-Telegram. "It's important that a woman [like Davis] who's the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help."

The protesters plan to continue to camp out in the capitol building throughout the filibuster.

Fri Nov. 22, 2013 10:26 AM PST
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