SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Before there was Edward Snowden and the leak of explosive documents showing widespread government surveillance, there was Mark Klein — a telecommunications technician who alleged that AT&T was allowing U.S. spies to siphon vast amounts of customer data without warrants.
Klein’s allegations and the news reports about them launched dozens of consumer lawsuits in early 2006 against the government and telecommunications companies. The lawsuits alleged invasion of privacy and targeted the very same provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that are at the center of the latest public outcry.
That was seven years ago, and the warrantless collection continues, perhaps on an even greater scale, underscoring just how difficult the recently outraged will have in pursuing any new lawsuits, like the one the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the government on Tuesday in New York federal court.
“I warned whoever I could,” Klein said in telephone interview from his home in Alameda, a city across the bay from San Francisco. “I was angry then. I’m angrier now.”
All the lawsuits prompted by Klein’s disclosures were bundled up and shipped to a single San Francisco federal judge to handle. Nearly all the cases were tossed out when Congress in 2008 granted the telecommunications retroactive immunity from legal challenges, a law the U.S. Supreme Court upheld. Congress’ action will make it difficult to sue the companies caught up in the latest disclosures.
A brewing threat from Iowa to Mid-Atlantic: massive thunderstorms, high winds, hail, derecho
WASHINGTON (AP) — A gigantic line of powerful thunderstorms could affect one in five American on Wednesday as it rumbles from Iowa to Maryland packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds.
Meteorologist are warning that the continuous line of storms may even spawn an unusual weather event called a derecho (duh-RAY’-choh), which is a massive storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. Wednesday’s storms are also likely to generate tornadoes and cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Bill Bunting, operations chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
The risk of severe weather in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, is roughly 45 times higher than on a normal June day, Bunting said. Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Louisville, Ky., have a risk level 15 times more than normal. All told, the area the weather service considers to be under heightened risk of dangerous weather includes 64 million people in 10 states.
“It’s a pretty high threat,” Bunting said, who also warned that the storms will produce large hail and dangerous lightning. “We don’t want to scare people, but we want them to be aware.”
Wednesday “might be the worst severe weather outbreak for this part of the country for the year,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground.
Turkish prime minister to meet with Istanbul park activists, as gov’t pushes to end protest
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister is scheduled to meet with a group of activists protesting over re-development of an Istanbul park that has sparked the country’s biggest anti-government protests in decades.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s talks will come after clashes between police and protesters at Istanbul’s Taksim Square lasted into the early hours of Wednesday. Police also used tear gas to disperse protests in the capital, Ankara.
Erdogan has warned that he will put an end to the gatherings, which he says are hurting Turkey’s image and economy.
The protests erupted on May 31 after a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in by activists objecting to a project replacing the park with a replica Ottoman-era barracks. They have become Erdogan’s biggest challenge since he came to power a decade ago.
Court appearance scheduled for Cleveland man charged with kidnapping, raping 3 missing women
CLEVELAND (AP) — A man accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade was scheduled for his first court appearance Wednesday to answer to hundreds of charges, including rape and kidnapping.
Ariel Castro is charged with kidnapping the three women and keeping them — sometimes restrained in chains — along with a 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of them.
A grand jury charged Castro with two counts of aggravated murder related to one act, saying he purposely caused the unlawful termination of one of the women’s pregnancies. He also was indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.
Last week’s 142-page indictment covers only the period from August 2002, when the first victim disappeared, to February 2007. Prosecutors say the investigation will continue and they are leaving the door open to pursuing a death penalty case against Castro.
News that the women had been found alive electrified the Cleveland area, where two of the victims were household names after years of searches, publicity and vigils. But elation soon turned to shock as allegations about their treatment began to emerge.
Seoul rolls up red carpet for scrapped talks with North Korea but rivals may try again
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea dismantled the meeting table, pulled down the placards and rolled up the red carpet. Its intended guest, North Korea, has stopped answering the phone.
The rivals’ much-anticipated meeting, which had been set for Wednesday, collapsed before it even began. But while the last-minute cancellation over a protocol dispute shows the Koreas’ deep mutual mistrust, they may have more reasons than not to eventually unpack the meeting gear and get back to negotiations.
New South Korean President Park Geun-hye is under pressure to make good on her campaign promises to reverse a deterioration of ties under her hard-line predecessor. A high-level meeting would validate her attempt to combine a tough line against provocations with commitments to provide aid and steady calls for dialogue.
North Korea is interested in reviving the two economic projects that were to be the main focus of the meetings, both as an emblem of reconciliation and as a source of foreign investment and hard cash. Pyongyang may also be feeling a pinch from its only major ally, China, which has clamped down on cross-border trade and financial dealings in a show of displeasure over a recent spike in tensions.
“Even though a cooling-off period at this point is inevitable, it is still possible for a different level of the South-North talks to take place as time passes,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korea studies of Dongguk University in Seoul.
Father of Snowden’s girlfriend says he’s ’shocked’ by news; says daughter is ’holding on’
LAUREL, Md. (AP) — The father of the girlfriend of Edward Snowden described the leaker of national secrets as a shy and reserved man with convictions, but said Tuesday he’s “still shocked” by the news about him.
Jonathan Mills, speaking to reporters Tuesday evening outside his home in Laurel, Md., described 29-year-old Edward Snowden as “very nice. Shy, and reserved.”
“He’s always had strong convictions of right and wrong, and it kind of makes sense. But still shocked,” Mills said, describing his reaction to the news about Snowden.
Mills also said his daughter, Lindsay, who has been dating Snowden for four or five years, is holding on amid the national controversy. Jonathan Mills says he has texted his daughter, but that he did not know where she was.
Mills also said he last saw his daughter two months ago, when she came to visit for a week.
North Korea cracks down on defections, swelling prisons with those caught trying to flee
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s prison population has swelled in recent years with those caught fleeing the country under a crackdown on defections by young leader Kim Jong Un, according to defectors living in South Korea and researchers who study Pyongyang’s notorious network of labor camps and detention centers.
Soon after he succeeded his father as North Korean leader, Kim is believed to have tightened security on the country’s borders and pressured Pyongyang’s neighbor and main ally, China, to repatriate anyone caught on its side of the frontier. In interviews with The Associated Press and accounts collected by human rights groups, North Koreans who have managed to leave the country say those who are caught are sent to brutal facilities where they now number in the thousands.
“They are tightening the noose,” said Insung Kim, a researcher from the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights who gets to interview most defectors soon after their arrival in South Korea. “This is to set an example to the North Korean people.”
The plight of those caught fleeing the North was highlighted last month when nine young North Koreans were detained in Laos, a key stop along a clandestine escape route through Southeast Asia that had previously been thought safe. Instead, the Lao government turned them over to Pyongyang. While the high-profile nature of their repatriation might offer them some protection, human rights group fear for them.
“Forced repatriation from China is a pathway to pain, suffering, and violence,” according to “Hidden Gulags,” an exhaustive 2012 study on the prison camps by veteran human rights researcher and author David Hawk. “Arbitrary detention, torture and forced labor are inflicted upon many repatriated North Koreans.”
Supporters of immigration turn to vote-counting and amendments as bill advances in Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Backers of far-reaching immigration legislation are turning their attention to courting support and counting votes after the Senate pushed the contentious bill over early procedural hurdles.
Two votes to place the bill formally before the Senate and open for amendments each drew more than 80 votes Tuesday, reflecting a bipartisan desire to debate the legislation to remake the nation’s immigration laws and open the door to citizenship to millions.
Despite the lopsided votes, Republicans served notice they will seek to toughen the bill’s border security provisions and impose tougher terms on those seeking to gain legal status. “This bill has serious flaws,” said their party leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
At the White House, President Barack Obama insisted the “moment is now” to give the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally a chance at citizenship and prodded Congress to send him a bill by fall.
At its core, the bill sets out a 13-year journey to citizenship for the millions of immigrants who arrived in the country illegally through the end of 2011 or who overstayed their visas. The bill also requires a tighter border to prevent future illegal immigration.
Baby Bounce: Birth of royal infant may help sluggish UK economy
LONDON (AP) — British officials are hoping that the impending royal birth will produce a bouncing baby buoy for the economy.
With the Duchess of Cambridge due to give birth to an heir to the throne next month, it’s time for citizens and groups to consider how to best mark the moment.
Happy occasions often boost consumer confidence, sparking a spring in the step that leads right to the shopping mall for street party snacks, summer frocks and suntan lotion. And happy national occasions with the royal family and a new heir hit an emotional jackpot in Britain — boosting national pride along with tea, cakes and commemorative china.
“Royal fever is more intense now, actually,” said Pauline Maclaran, a professor of marketing and consumer research at Royal Holloway and the co-author of “Tiaras, Tea Towels and Tourism: Consuming the British Royal Family,” which will be published by the University of California Press. “At a time of crisis, when there is financial depression, people look for something to lift themselves.”
Britain really could use some consumer confidence right now. The economy is so flat no one has any idea how to pick it up. It grew last quarter at the less-than-stunning rate of 0.3 percent.
Big Freedia, New Orleans ’Queen of Bounce,’ to star in reality TV show on Fuse network
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The singer and dancer known as Big Freedia is taking his hypersexual, booty-shaking moves from the streets of New Orleans to cable television.
The openly gay performer, whose real name is Freddie Ross, has landed his own reality show on the Fuse network.
“Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” will focus on Ross and the New Orleans music scene known as “bounce” — a fusion of hip-hop and quick, repetitive dance beats with heavy bass.
Bounce music often includes call-and-response vocals, a nod to early rap and New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian roots music.
Big Freedia is one of the few bounce artists with international exposure, having toured in the United States, Europe, Australia and other countries.