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Lawmakers want to curb spy agency abuses

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Congress to consider intelligence-gathering reforms.

Reforms needed to restore public confidence

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate want to ban bulk collection of Americans’ records, shield Americans from warrantless searches of their communications and install a constitutional advocate to argue significant cases before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.

The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act would halt the erosion of constitutional liberties resulting from invasive surveillance activities and the secret legal interpretations that have allowed this surveillance to proliferate, according Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and other supporters of the bill, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Continue reading

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Environment: Fukushima radiation plume to reach U.S. West Coast next year

Debate rages over potential health, environmental impacts

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By Summit Voice

The radioactive ocean plume from the 2011 nuclear plant disaster at Fukushima, Japan, will reach the shores of the U.S. sometime in 2014, but is likely to be harmless, according to a new paper in the journal Deep-Sea Research 1.

While atmospheric radiation was detected on the US west coast within days of the incident, the radioactive particles in the ocean plume take considerably longer to travel the same distance.

In the paper, researchers from the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and others used a range of ocean simulations to track the path of the radiation from the Fukushima incident. Continue reading

Court acknowledges that government made ‘substantial misrepresentations’ of surveillance programs

Released FISA Court document raises Fourth Amendment issues

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A heavily redacted FISA Court ruling from 2011 confirms that U.S. spy agencies have been violating the privacy rights of American citizens.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Far from just passively collecting long lists of telephone numbers, U.S. spy agencies actively worked to intercept communications by tapping into fiber-optic cables, going well beyond the bounds of programs authorized by a secret intelligence court.

The revelations came this week, as intelligence officials released a previously classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Activities court ruling confirming what had already been leaked via other sources — that the government is spying on Americans with no connection to terrorism. The document shows that the NSA acquires more than 250 million internet communications each year. Continue reading

Study: Obesity more deadly than believed

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Those fatty foods are deadlier than you thought.

New analysis says obesity a factor in 18 percent of deaths among 40- to 85-year-olds

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — You may want to think twice before taking a bite of that Bic Mac.

A new study shows that obesity is more deadly that commonly assumed. During recent decades, obesity contributed to 18 percent of deaths among black and white Americans between the ages of 40 and 85. This finding challenges the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which puts that portion at around 5 percent.

“Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” said lead author Ryan Masters, PhD, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy.” Continue reading

House effort to curb NSA snooping fails on close vote

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U.S. Rep. Jared Polis helped lead a charge against intrusive snooping by the NSA.

There’s rowing political momentum to curtail data gathering by spy agencies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bipartisan push to limit sweeping data collection by the National Security Agency narrowly missed approval in the House this week. The close vote shows that Congress is moving closer to exercising more oversight and to protecting the civil liberties and privacy of millions of American citizens.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) co-sponsored the amendment to a defense spending bill. The measure (H.R. 2397) would have limited the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone data to people who are subject of an NSA investigation. The amendment failed on a vote of 205 to 217. Continue reading

Red flag fire warning in SW Colorado

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Hot and dry conditions in the Four Corners have prompted a red flag warning.

Record-high temps possible Sunday and Monday

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While a cool and wet spring prevailed in the north-central mountains, it’s a different story in the southwestern part of the state, where a prolonged period of above normal temperatures and minimal precipitation have left fuels ready to burn at lower elevations.

Parts of the Four Corners area  will be facing significant fire danger this weekend and early next week as temperatures rise to record or near-record highs. A Red Flag warning is in effect from 1 p.m. through 8 p.m. for the San Juan mountains below 9,000 feet and extending into the Jemez Mountains and the upper Rio Grande Valley of northern New Mexico.

Winds will gust up to 30 mph with relative humidity values in the lower teens combining to create critical fire conditions. Any fires that start are likely to spread rapidly, according to the National Weather Service.

Strong high pressure over the desert Southwest has already led to record highs in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and the heat wave is expected to intensify. For western Colorado, temps are expected to run about 10 degrees above average Sunday and nudge up to near record levels Monday.

 


 

National Recreation Trail systems grows by 650 miles

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Get out and hike!

Feds designate new trail segments in 28 states

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with looking forward to summer, hikers have another reason to rejoice. Top federal officials this week announced the designation of 28 new national recreation trails, adding almost 650 miles of trails to the National Trails System.

“From coast to coast, the National Trails System helps connect American families with the wonders of the great outdoors,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “These 28 new national recreation trails, established through partnerships with local communities and stakeholders, connect federal, state and local lands and waters to provide access to inexpensive, enjoyable outdoor activities for all Americans,” Jewell said.

The announcement was timed to coincide with June 1, National Trails Day, which was marked by hundreds of organized activities including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications all around the country. Continue reading

Memorial Day USA — Remember!

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Remember …

FRISCO — Far from being just a day for cookouts and picnics, Memorial Day is somber remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price throughout the course of our country’s history. And the toll is high — as many as 848,000 combat deaths and up to 1.3 million counting other war related causes.

The U.S. Civil War remains the country’s costliest in terms of lives lost, claiming 625,000 casualties, with men dying at the rate of 599 per day. The U.S. suffered about 405,000 casualties in bloody World War II, with about 416 deaths per day, followed by World War I (116,000 deaths), The Vietnam War (58,000 deaths), The Korean War (36,000 deaths) and the Revolutionary War (25,000 deaths).

The U.S. Naval Department maintains an online library with detailed information about U.S. military casualties throughout the country’s history.

Along with the incalculable loss ans suffering of the families of those casualties, there’s also a huge economic cost associated with that loss of life. By some estimates, the deaths in the Iran and Afghanistan campaigns cost the U.S. economy about $44.6 billion, according to a Harvard study. And since the government decided to finance those military actions almost exclusively with borrowed money, the total cost may reach an estimated $4 to $6 trillion. Continue reading

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper temporarily blocks death penalty for convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap

Executive order cites concerns about Colorado’s capital punishment system

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Convicted murderer Nathan J. Dunlap got a temporary reprieve from the death penalty, as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper exercised his authority to make a final review of the death sentence.

Dunlap, then 19, killed five people at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Aurora in 1993.

Hickenlooper cited concerns about possible flaws in the administration of Colorado’s death penalty, as well as a national and international trend toward abolishing the death penalty, as reasons for his decision. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Scientists slam feds on possible wolf de-listing

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Wolves are recovered in Yellowstone, but a possible plan to take them off the Endangered Species List is highly controversial. Photo courtesy Yellowstone NP.

Leaked plan doesn’t live up to intent of Endangered Species Act

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A group of prominent scientists with expertise in wolf biology is taking issue with a draft plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. The document was leaked a few weeks ago, eliciting widespread criticism from wildlife advocates.

Federal wildlife agencies are under intense pressure from states to turn over wolf management. Congress has already set the stage for political interference in the wolf recovery process, and that step has put the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service at the edge of a very slippery slope. Any proposal to de-list wolves is likely to face significant opposition and legal challenges from conservation advocates. Continue reading

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