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Hunter Walker

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Hunter

Over a week after the Guardian and the Washington Post first reported that leaked documents showed the National Security Agency accessed user data from nine major tech companies, the extent of those businesses' involvement in the surveillance program is still far from clear. Though many of the companies linked to the program quickly issued strongly-worded statements denying they gave any government agency direct access to users' information, experts say questions remain about their exact role in the classified PRISM data collection program.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo marked the six month anniversary of the Newtown, Conn. school shooting on Friday by sending an email to supporters calling on members of Congress "to renew their commitment to passing common sense gun control legislation."

A bipartisan bill that would have expanded background checks on gun sales failed in the Senate in April. Since then, gun control advocates have pushed to revive attempts to pass background check legislation.

"Since Sandy Hook, another 4,000 people have died from gun violence, while Washington remains paralyzed. Today, I call on members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to renew their commitment to passing common sense gun control legislation because parents in this country shouldn’t have to wait for the next tragedy for Washington to act," Cuomo wrote.

In his email, Cuomo, who has at times sought to emphasize his desire to establish New York as a leader on "progressive" policies, also highlighted the gun control legislation he passed in January in New York.

Read Cuomo's full email below:

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

Six months ago today, twenty children and six teachers went to school and never came home. In the aftermath, our nation stood together, heartbroken to learn of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

Today, New Yorkers stand with our neighbors in Connecticut and send our prayers and condolences to the families who lost loved ones. We will never grasp the pain and anguish that these families endured and continue to experience as they grieve.

As our nation collectively mourned the unthinkable act that occurred on December 14th, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School signified a long-overdue wake-up call for our country to finally address the reality of gun violence in our society. Across the nation, several states including New York overcame the outsized voices of the guardians of the status quo and passed common sense gun safety reform that bans lethal assault weapons and helps keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

 

Yet since Sandy Hook, another 4,000 people have died from gun violence, while Washington remains paralyzed. Today, I call on members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to renew their commitment to passing common sense gun control legislation because parents in this country shouldn’t have to wait for the next tragedy for Washington to act.

 

Sincerely,
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

 

Days after the shootings last December in Newtown, Conn., the investment firm Cerberus Capital Management announced it wanted to sell the company that made the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the massacre. However, ridding itself of one of the nation's largest gun companies in the wake of a school shooting would not be easy.

Today, six months after the massacre, the deal for Freedom Group, a conglomerate of smaller companies that make guns, bullets, and shooting accessories, may finally be nearing completion after Cerberus' owner, Stephen A. Feinberg, made an offer to buy the gun giant from his own fund, a rare move that comes with conflict-of-interest questions.

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In a lengthy New York Times profile published Thursday, former New York City congressman and current mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner raised eyebrows for a line in which he was quoted taking credit coining the phrase "Obamacare" to describe President Barack Obama's healthcare reform plan. In the story, Weiner described Obamacare as "a term, by the way, that I coined."

However, as the Atlantic Wire noted in 2011, a search of LexisNexis shows the phrase "Obamacare" first appeared in early 2007 in press coverage and commentary on the 2008 presidential election. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney became the first politician quoted using the term when he gave a campaign speech criticizing Obama in September 2011.

Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for Weiner's mayoral campaign, told TPM his comments were taken out of context and were meant to indicate Weiner was the first Democrat who reclaimed the phrase "Obamacare" and put it in a positive light.

"The New York Times has - and has always had -- the full context and meaning he was trying to convey. Up till then, the right had used the term as a pejorative. He realized that running from the term was a mistake and eventually so did the White House and the Obama campaign," Morgan said.

President Obama's aides and supporters began using the term "Obamacare" early last year.

Morgan also provided what she said was Weiner's full quote from the interview with the Times: "Obamacare -- a term by the way that I coined and used proudly long before the administration decided it was a good idea. And I got yelled at by the White House for using it and then they eventually reached the place where they used it."

The director of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control group said on Wednesday that the organization was "ready to compromise" on firearms legislation in Congress in hopes of making progress on the issue this summer.

"We remain ready to compromise," Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said during a conference call with reporters, "as long as that compromise is one that saves lives and doesn't weaken the current system and kind of meets the moment when the public is really focused on this issue and ready to make generational progress. If we can do that before the August recess that would be a good thing for the country."

A measure that was championed by the group failed to gain traction earlier this year in the Senate. It would have required background checks on purchases of firearms at gun shows and through the internet.

Though Glaze said he hopes to see the Senate pass a similar background check bill "before summer ends," he vowed the group will be "back in September ready to continue the fight" if it does not.

 

A blog authored by Edward Snowden's girlfriend provides potential answers to several questions about the NSA leaker's time working for the agency in Hawaii. The blog, which has since been deleted, also indicates Snowden may have enjoyed a final visit with his family before seeking refuge in Hong Kong last month.

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With the promise of more news stories to come based on National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's unprecedented leak, NSA brass are probably fully aware of what's coming next, according to a former top official.

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who was the director of the NSA from 1995 until 2005, told TPM Tuesday that agency officials likely know exactly which classified files were accessed and potentially leaked by Snowden. Hayden also said it's possible the number of documents leaked by Snowden number in the thousands and he's "surprised" at the sensitive nature of the material that's been leaked so far.

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The deadline for candidates to file for the special election to fill the Senate seat formerly occupied by the late Frank Lautenberg passed at 4 p.m. Monday. As the deadline approached, Steve Lonegan remained the only well-known Republican who has declared his intention to enter the race. Lonegan is a former mayor with a colorful history who, most recently, has been leading a local activist group funded by the Koch Brothers.

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On Sunday afternoon, just as the news broke that Edward Snowden, the man who leaked classified documents about NSA surveillance programs to newspaper reporters, had sought refuge in a Hong Kong hotel, Michael Bloomberg's office announced the mayor would be meeting with Hong Kong's top politician, C.Y. Leung Monday. However, just a few hours after the meeting with Leung was announced, Bloomberg's office released a schedule update that said it was "being rescheduled."

Bloomberg's office has not responded to a question from TPM about the reason for the scheduling change. The initial schedule described the meeting between Bloomberg and Leung as a "courtesy visit" where reporters would be permitted to take pictures, but not ask questions. 

Leung is Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. He is the head of government in Hong Kong, which is overseen by the People's Republic of China. 

Snowden's revelation that he was responsible for the NSA leak and had left the United States for Hong Kong raised the question of whether the government there will allow him to be extradited. Hong Kong has an extradition agreement with the U.S., but there is a provision in the treaty that allows the central Chinese government in Beijing to veto an extradition request. Chinese officials have not yet indicated how they will proceed if the U.S. requests Snowden's extradition.

 

TPMLivewire

Ted Cruz: Thanks, Obama

Ted Cruz's career in Washington has been defined thus far by his efforts to dismantle President Obama's signature legislation. On… Read More →