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Misnamed ‘Freedom’ legislation

The proposed USA Freedom Act was billed in some quarters as “sweeping” reform of controversial data collection practices by the National Security Agency that were publicly disclosed 18 months ago by Edward Snowden, who was then an intelligence contractor with the spy agency.

Recalling Nelson Rockefeller

WASHINGTON — Seen through the prism of subsequent national experience, Nelson Rockefeller resembles a swollen post-war automobile — a land yacht with tail fins, a period piece, bemusing and embarrassing. He remains, however, instructive.

Net neutrality and the Internet balancing act

Everyone from giant Internet service providers to lone “Twilight” fan-fiction writers seems to love “net neutrality.” But few who genuflect toward the phrase can make real sense of the bureaucratic battle raging in and around the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its frequently maligned chairman, Thomas Wheeler.

Pope calls for family resurrection

WASHINGTON — News that Pope Francis will visit the U.S. next year for the triennial World Meeting of Families brings elation to Catholics, excitement to pope watchers — and perhaps a little chagrin to some who too soon interpreted Francis’ broad compassion as a precursor to doctrinal changes related to marriage.

Islamic State fight calls for new congressional authorization

When President Barack Obama declared in September the United States would be part of an international effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, he said vaguely that he welcomed congressional support but insisted he already had the necessary legal authority to act. It soon emerged that the administration was relying for that authority on two extremely thin legal reeds: the 2001 resolution in which Congress authorized the use of force against the architects of 9/11 and a 2002 resolution authorizing force to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” — the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, that is.

Holder must take active role in Ferguson

Last week, President Barack Obama issued a statement mourning the death of John Doar, a former Justice Department lawyer who risked his life standing between protesters and police in Mississippi in the 1960s. The context and issues today in Ferguson, Missouri, are different, but there remains a role for the federal government to play.

Justice, Congress are begging each other to reform pot laws. So why hasn’t either budged?

WASHINGTON — The crowning inconsistency of the federal drug control system has always been the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance under federal law, which makes it among the Worst of the Worst drugs as far as the DEA is concerned — literally as bad as heroin, and worse than cocaine! Drug reform advocates have pushed the DEA to change its position for years, citing decades of research on the relative harmlessness of weed compared with other drugs — including alcohol — but the agency hasn’t budged, even as public opinion has rapidly evolved.

Why the GMO future troubles me

Like many people, I’ve long wondered about the safety of genetically modified organisms. They’ve become so ubiquitous that they account for about 80 percent of the corn grown in the United States, yet we know almost nothing about what damage might ensue if the transplanted genes spread through global ecosystems.

OK, Congress, this may be your last chance to fix the NSA

One of the most striking things about the trove of classified NSA files that Edward Snowden made public last year is that the agency was mostly doing what it was told. Its spying operations — so staggering in scale, in variety, in sophistication — had generally been vetted by lawyers, tolerated by Congress, endorsed by the White House and approved by a court.