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News Wrap: Edward Snowden Hits Hurdles in Hunt for Asylum

July 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The Obama administration announced today it is delaying the employer mandate portion of the health care law for one year until 2015. The law requires businesses with more than 50 employees to either provide health insurance or pay a penalty. The administration said it was responding to employers’ concerns about the complexity of the law.

The National Security Agency leaker, Edward Snowden, ran into a number of hurdles today as he tried to find a place to go.

For more than a week now, Snowden has been stuck inside a transit area at this Moscow airport. He no longer has a U.S. passport and American officials want him extradited for releasing classified documents. According to the wesbite WikiLeaks, Snowden has applied for asylum in 20 countries. And in a statement, the 30-year-old criticized U.S. efforts to keep him in limbo.

It read in part — quote — “The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person.”

One of the nations Snowden reached out to is Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro discussed Snowden’s case today during a trip to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He gave no sign that he would accept Snowden’s asylum application, but he applauded his actions.

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuela: The revelations of this young man have great value. He must be protected by international human rights. What crime has he committed? Did he kill anyone? Did he plant a bomb and kill anyone? No. Much better. He has prevented wars.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Maduro also avoided questions on whether he would fly Snowden back with him to Venezuela. Snowden had asked for asylum in Russia, but today he dropped that request because Russia would only consider letting him stay if he stopped the leaks.

In Brunei, Snowden was also a topic of conversation between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

QUESTION: Will Russia give Edward Snowden asylum?

SERGEI LAVROV, Russian Foreign Minister: Don’t shout at me, please.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: We will have a chance to talk about a lot of things.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As Snowden awaits his fate in Moscow, several nations were quick to deny his big for asylum, including India and Poland.

There was more fallout from the NSA leaks today with an apology from the national director of intelligence to Congress. In March, James Clapper was asked if the NSA gathered data on millions of Americans, and answered that it didn’t happen willingly. He acknowledged in a letter today that was — quote — “clearly erroneous.”

About 2,500 Syrians are believed to be trapped inside the embattled town of Homs as fighting there raged for another day. That’s according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who urged both sides to avoid any further civilian casualties. Elsewhere, new shelling was reported in a rebel-controlled district on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus. Thick plumes of smoke could be seen rising above the area. At least 11 people were killed.

Bombings and clashes killed more than 50 people across Iraq today. Seven militants also died. Most of the attacks targeted Shiite areas. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Iraq has seen a spike in violence in recent months. At least 2,000 people have died since the start of April.

Taliban suicide bombers attacked the gates of a NATO supply compound in the Afghan capital today, killing seven people. The force of the explosion carved a massive crater into the ground and damaged a nearby guard tower. It was the latest in a series of incidents targeting key sites around Kabul, in spite of the Taliban’s move to take part in peace talks.

More and more airline passengers are going to the airport with guns, many of them loaded. That was the finding of an Associated Press analysis of Transportation Security Administration data from 2011 to the present day. In the first six months of this year, TSA screeners found nearly 900 guns on passengers or in carry-on bags. That’s a 30 percent increase over the same time last year.

Cars and trucks raced off the sales lots in June at a pace not seen since before the recession. Ford led the pack with a 14 percent boost in sales compared to a year ago. Chrysler gained eight percent, and General Motors was up 6.5 percent. Japanese automakers also did well, with Nissan up 13 percent and Toyota up 10 percent. The soaring sales were attributed to low interest rates, wider credit availability and new models.

Home prices in the U.S. jumped the most in seven years. In May, they were up more than 12 percent over a year ago according to a real estate data provider. Initially, the good economic news had a positive impact on Wall Street, but then stocks headed south as turmoil in Egypt grew. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 42 points to close at 14,932. The Nasdaq fell a point to close at 3,433.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Judy.