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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.

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