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via Huffington Post

LONDON — Embattled WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange took refuge Tuesday in Ecuador’s embassy in London and is seeking political asylum, his organization and the South American nation said.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the leftist government of President Rafael Correa was weighing the request. He did not indicate when a decision might be made.

The move comes less than a week after Britain’s Supreme Court rejected Assange’s bid to reopen his attempts to block extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of sexual misconduct during a visit to the country in mid-2010. He denies the allegations.

“I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application,” Assange said in a brief statement.

WikiLeaks confirmed its leader’s request for political asylum on its Twitter account, but calls, texts, and emails seeking further comment from Assange and other WikiLeaks members weren’t immediately answered.

Ecuador’s mission in London said Assange will “remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government,” while his application is considered.

“The decision to consider Mr Assange’s application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden,” the embassy statement added.

Assange’s legal struggle to stay in Britain has dragged on for the better part of two years, clouding his website’s work exposing the world’s secrets.

Patino told a news conference in Quito that Assange had written to Correa, a U.S.- and European-trained economist who is closer to Venezuela than the United States, saying he was being persecuted and asking for asylum.

He said that Assange, who is Australian, had argued that “the authorities in his country will not defend his minimum guarantees before any government or ignore the obligation to protect a politically persecuted citizen.”

Assange said it was impossible for him to return to his homeland because it would not protect him from being extradited to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition,” Patino said in a reference to the United States.

Assange, 40, claims the U.S. has secretly indicted him for divulging American secrets and will act on the indictment if Sweden succeeds in extraditing him from Britain.

In the letter, he accused Swedish officials of “openly attacking me” and investigating him for political crimes, according to Patino, who did not take questions from reporters.

The foreign minister said his country would consider the asylum request “taking into account the respect for the norms and principles of international law as well as Ecuador’s policy of protecting human rights.”

Earlier this year, Assange launched a television talk show built around the theme of “the world tomorrow.” Among other guests, he interviewed Correa and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

Assange received offers of asylum during each of those sessions, which were broadcast on the Russia Today channel, according to a woman who was present during the shows and familiar with the offers. The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

It was not immediately clear if the offers came directly from the presidents themselves, although Marzouki told Assange during the show: “If you ever have some problems you’ll be welcome in Tunisia.”

Correa has himself been assailed by human rights and press freedom activists for using Ecuador’s criminal libel law in sympathetic courts against journalists from the country’s biggest newspaper, El Universo, who he says represent oligarchists seeking his ouster. This month, he told his Cabinet ministers not to grant interviews to members of privately owned media.

Correa’s government has also been leading a campaign by leftist Latin American nations that critics say aims to weaken the powers of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In November 2010, Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister said the country was offering residency to Assange. However, Correa told reporters the following day that neither he nor Patino had approved the offer and that it would need to be studied.

Assange and Wikileaks shot to international prominence in 2010 with the release of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents including diplomatic cables and a hard-to-watch video that showed U.S. forces gunning down a crowd of Iraqi civilians and journalists whom they had mistaken for insurgents.

Australian authorities have investigated WikiLeaks’ conduct, but concluded that Assange broke no Australian law.

Last month, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her country could not protect Assange, a former computer hacker, from other countries’ justice systems. Her foreign minister, Bob Carr, said Washington had said nothing to indicate an indictment was planned there.

via PinkNews.co.uk

The Danish parliament has approved equal marriage laws 85 to 24 today, reports said today.

Members of the sole house of the Folketing approved the gender-neutral marriage legislation today after an opposition amendment creating a separate system of marriage for gay couples under different terminology was rejected yesterday.

The new law is due to come into effect on 15 June this year, b.dk reported.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, to which 80 percent of the Danish population belongs, will be able to perform marriage ceremonies under the new laws. New rites were written up by ten of the Church’s eleven bishops in a spirit of “good cooperation”, Bishop Kjeld Holm said.

Gay couples will be able to marry in churches of their choice but priests will not be obliged to perform weddings. They would, however, need to help the couple find a priest who would marry them at the church under the new laws.

Kim Klaus Wyon-Sergeant, an editor living in Denmark told PinkNews.co.uk: “Members of the Christian Democrats (a party that is not represented in parliament) plan to sue the state, believing that the law infringes on their freedom of religion. However experts say they dont have much of a chance since the law specifically allows ministers of the church to abstain from presiding over same-sex marriages.”

Denmark’s current system of registered partnerships for gay couples was the first of its kind in the world when it was enacted in 1989.

Manu Sareen, the Minister for Equality and Church and Nordic Cooperation in the coalition government of the Social Democrats, Social Liberal Party and Socialist People’s Party said of equal marriage: “It’s liberalism, it’s diversity, it’s equality, it’s tolerance and it’s so beautiful.”

Mr Sareen announced the government’s intention to legalise gay marriages in October last year.

via Mashable

Losing your iPhone is worse than losing your wallet these days, considering all the information we store on it. But does it require a 10-man police hunt?

Berkeley, Calif. Police Chief Michael Meehan and a crew of 10 police officers searched for his son’s missing cellphone on taxpayer dollars this January after it went missing from the boy’s unlocked locker at school.

After that, eight members of the department’s drug task force worked on overtime to track down the cellphone, which was equipped with the Find My iPhone tracking software.

The search was unsuccessful, but did succeed in stirring up more controversy for the police chief.

In March, Meehan sent a sergeant to a reporter’s home at around 1 a.m. to ask for changes to an online article, Inside Bay Area reported.

The city of Berkeley hired a San Francisco law firm to investigate the chief’s actions that night.

Another issues with the January incident is that no report was filed. “At minimum there should have been a police report. If a department is going to put people onto an investigation, they should have a police report,” said Michael Sherman, vice chairman of the Berkeley Police Review, according to Inside Bay Area.

A spokesperson from the department said it’s not “uncommon” for patrol officers to track a stolen phone if they get an active signal while on the streets.

The Berkeley Police Department offers these guidelines for phone theft cases online. It did not respond to our request for comment.

If you walked into your local police department to report a missing cellphone and had the cellphone finder app, do you think the police in your area would jump on the case right away? Tell us in the comments.

Johannes Mehserle, the former BART cop who spent nearly a year in prison for shooting dead Oscar Grant at BART station in 2009, asked an appeals court today to overturn his conviction so that he can get a job in law enforcement again.

Attorneys representing Mehserle said he should not have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter because all he did was “make an error,” and that this prosecution was nothing more than politics.

“This was simply an accident,” attorney Michael Rains told KTVU in front of the courthouse today. “In California … we know that police officers have made this same accident in nine other cases, there have been no other criminal prosecutions. This was an accident, not a crime.”

Mehserle was convicted in 2010 for the shooting death of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day in 2009. Mehserle says he didn’t mean to shoot Grant, who was unarmed and lying face down on the Fruitvale BART platform when he was killed. Mehserle argued in court that he meant to grab for his Taser, but accidentally pulled out his gun and fired one shot in Grant’s back, killing him instantly. The shooting was recorded by other BART passengers, which was used as evidence in his trial.

The emotionally charged trial pitted the black community against local law enforcement, at times provoking violent protests in Oakland. However, a jury finally decided that while Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, his actions were grossly negligent and certainly criminal.

The tension between police and the community increased when Mehserle served only 11 months of his two-year sentence, after he was released last year on good behavior.

Although, things could get even more strained if the court grants Mehserle’s request, and he eventually is back on the streets, enforcing the law.

via Slate

President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage for the first time on Wednesday, saying that he thought it was important for him to “go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

The president delivered the news in a sit-down interview with ABC News‘ Robin Roberts that came one day after North Carolina became the 30th state in the nation to approve a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts.

ABC is expected to make the most of its big get by spacing out clips from it over a handful of its news programs, but the network broke into its daytime programming to air the excerpt in question shortly after the interview wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, the White House reportedly scrambled to set-up the interview to give Obama the chance to discuss his views on gay marriage, which had previously been described as “evolving” by the president and his team. The afternoon press briefing at the White House was also canceled, an indication that the president was likely to make news during his ABC sit-down.

Obama’s election-year endorsement of gay matrimony comes in the middle of a week that has seen the issue at the center of the national conversation, thanks in large part to Vice President Joe Biden’s Sunday suggesting that he was “absolutely comfortable” with allowing gays and lesbians to wed.

Those comments, along with similar ones from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, appeared to energize many on the left and increase liberal pressure on President Obama to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage, something he had previously opted against while at the same time lending his support to the notion of civil unions.

In The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, Obama wrote that it was his “obligation not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society, but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided.” (Politico has a solid look back at Obama’s somewhat varying stances on the issue over the years here.)

It’s unclear exactly what impact Obama’s new gay-marriage position will have on November’s election. While his decision to leave the sidelines on the issue will likely energize many on the left, it’s also sure to rally the conservative base.

new poll released this week found that 50 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to wed, while 48 percent opposite it. The issue is particularly polarizing along party lines with 65 percent of Democrats supporting legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with only 22 percent of Republicans who do so. Perhaps a particularly important takeaway, however, was that 57 percent of independents said gay marriage should be legal. You can read more from the poll results here.

We’ll have more on Obama’s decision to endorse gay marriage soon, likely starting withWeigel and the XX Factor.

Hey Friends, we know today many of you are observing May Day, especially in Oakland where there is a General Strike going on.  We are just asking all of you to make wise decisions out there and be careful, for yourself and the small businesses located in areas of protest. We too, believe in the power of the people.  Please don’t lose sight of what we are protesting for.  Have a great May Day out there.

(04-06) 05:09 PDT Oakland, Calif. (AP) –

The founder of a Northern California medical marijuana training school raided by federal agents says he’s giving up ownership of his Oakland-based pot businesses.

Richard Lee, who has been instrumental in pushing for ballot measures to legalize the drug, says it’s time for others to take over.

Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided his downtown Oaksterdam University on Monday. Agents also raided Lee’s home.

The purpose of the raids hasn’t been disclosed.

The school offers classes to would-be medical marijuana providers in fields ranging from horticulture to business to the legal ins-and-outs of running a dispensary. It does not distribute marijuana.

The 49-year-old former rock-band roadie and paraplegic tells the Los Angeles Times                       ( http://lat.ms/HqS4PW) he’s worried he could face major federal drug charges.

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