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Western couple held in Afghanistan

The videos offer the first and only clues about what happened to Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle after they lost touch with their families 20 months ago while traveling in a mountainous region near the capital, Kabul. U.S. law enforcement officials investigating the couple's disappearance consider the videos authentic but say they hold limited investigative value since it's not clear when or where they were made.

The video files, which were provided to the AP, were emailed to Coleman's father last July and September by an Afghan man who identified himself as having ties to the Taliban but who has been out of contact for several months. In one, a subdued Coleman — dressed in a conservative black garment that covers all but her face— appeals to "my president, Barack Obama" for help.

"I would ask that my family and my government do everything that they can to bring my husband, child and I to safety and freedom," the 28-year-old says in the other recording, talking into a wobbly camera while seated beside her husband, whose beard is long and untrimmed.

Last of Original Group of Navajo Code Talkers Dies
The language he once was punished for speaking in school became Chester Nez's primary weapon in World War II.

Before hundreds of men from the Navajo Nation became Code Talkers, Nez and 28 others were recruited to develop a code based on the then-unwritten Navajo language. Locked in a room for 13 weeks, they came up with an initial glossary of more than 200 terms using Navajo words for red soil, war chief, braided hair and hummingbird, for example, and an alphabet.

Nez never tired of telling the story to highlight his pride in having served his country and stress the importance of preserving the Navajo language. The 93-year-old died Wednesday morning of kidney failure with plenty of appearances still scheduled, said Judith Avila, who helped Nez publish his memoirs. He was the last of the original group of 29 Navajo Code Talkers.

Supreme court rejects attempt to block same-sex marriage in Oregon
The US supreme court on Wednesday refused to halt same-sex weddings in Oregon after a federal judge declared the state's ban unconstitutional. A federal appeals court is considering whether a group opposed to gay marriage can intervene in the case.

The order follows an emergency appeal by the National Organization for Marriage that seeks to overturn US district judge Michael McShane's 19 May ruling that declared Oregon's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The group had unsuccessfully tried to intervene in the lower court proceeding after Oregon attorney general Ellen Rosenblum declined to defend the same-sex ban.

The group filed its request with Justice Anthony Kennedy and he referred it to the full court, which denied the request without comment.

'Walmart moms' walk off the job in protest at pay and conditions
Working mothers at Walmart staged a series of strikes on Wednesday in protest over wages and conditions at the world's largest retailer, as a new report claims the company's top executives received $104m in taxpayer subsidies over a six-year period.

The majority of mothers working at Walmart, which drew a $16bn profit last year, earn less than $25,000 a year.

This week, a study by thinktank Demos detailed how 1.3 million women working in retail live on or near the poverty line. It said that if the major retailers in the US raised wages to the equivalent of $25,000 for full-time work, it could lift almost half a million women out of poverty or near-poverty.

Germany opens inquiry into claims NSA tapped Angela Merkel's phone
Germany's federal prosecutor has defied public expectations by opening an investigation into the alleged tapping of Angela Merkel's mobile phone by the US's National Security Agency (NSA).

Federal prosecutor Harald Range announced on Wednesday: "I informed parliament's legal affairs committee that I have started a preliminary investigation over tapping of a mobile phone of the chancellor."

Merkel had complained to Barack Obama in person about the alleged tapping of her phone last October, but the federal court's investigation, which will be against unnamed persons, would constitute the first formal response to the affair. The German government has reportedly announced its support for the investigation.

The Karlsruhe-based court's decision comes as a surprise, not least since it appeared that both the German and the US governments had over recent months successfully calmed the waves stirred up by the revelations.

The Wisconsin girls, Miranda rights and minors: a blind spot in US law
Two 12-year-old girls are facing up to 65 years in prison for attempted murder after confessing, without attorneys or parents present, to stabbing their friend 19 times as part of murder plot apparently designed to appease an imaginary internet monster.

That no attorneys or parents were present during interrogation may be surprising, but it shouldn't be. Twelve-year-olds may not be able to drive, vote or sign a contract, but in most states, Wisconsin included, they can waive their constitutional rights against self-incrimination.

Waukesha police captain Ron Oremus said of the girls’ confession: "If they didn't request, we're not providing [counsel] … That might happen at a different point when they're charged. That did not happen on our end.”

The two girls are being tried as adults, under a Wisconsin law that compels prosecutors try homicide defendants older than 10 in adult court.

But in most states, even children charged with juvenile crimes aren’t offered protections such as having a parent present before questioning, according to juvenile law experts. This is despite research that found children often don’t understand Miranda rights and are more prone to give false confessions.

800 babies buried in septic tank at Irish home for unmarried mothers
Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961.

Historian Catherine Corless, who made the discovery, says her study of death records for the St Mary's home in Tuam in County Galway suggests that a former septic tank near the home was a mass grave.

The septic tank, full to the brim with bones, was discovered in 1975 by locals when concrete slabs covering the tank broke up.

Until now, locals believed the bones mainly stemmed from the Great Irish famine of the 1840s when hundreds of thousands perished.

Must Read Blog Posts


The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party by Matt Stoller, Vice

What Excuse Remains for Obama’s Failure to Close GITMO? by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

Obama’s Climate Plan Is Leaking Methane by Nick Cunningham, Oil Price

America's Last Prisoner of War by Michael Hastings, RollingStone (h/t bobswern)

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac


Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.

Dalai Lama

Stupid Shit by LaEscapee

So We All have Warts

Cross posted at Docudharma and The Stars Hollow Gazette and Voices on the Square

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