Venezuela’s President Maduro offers asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday he had decided to offer asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has petitioned several countries to avoid capture by Washington.

“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American, Edward Snowden, so that in the fatherland of (Simon) Bolivar and (Hugo) Chavez, he can come and live away from the imperial North American persecution,” Maduro told a televised parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.

Snowden is believed to be holed up in the transit area of a Moscow international airport.

Costa Rican legislature accidentally passes gay marriage legalization

The measure would require the president’s signature to become law.

Villalta                       Alberto Font San Jose lawmaker José María Villalta

Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly on Monday passed a measure – by accident – that could legalize same-sex civil unions as part of a larger bill, lawmakers noted on Tuesday.

Conservative lawmakers voted for the bill’s passage without recognizing the included language that could be interpreted to change the definition of marriage, according to the daily La Nación. Lawmakers immediately called for President Laura Chinchilla to veto the bill.

José María Villalta, a lawmaker from San José, inserted the language into the bill. Villalta is a member of the leftist Broad Front Party. The language confers social rights and benefits of a civil union, free from discrimination, according to La Nación.

Villalta attached the measure to a reform of the Law of Young People, which covers various social services for young people and laws governing marriage.

“During the discussion in the first debate, we explained that the Law of Young People should be interpreted with this sense of opening to gays and no one objected,” Villalta said, according to La Republica.

Conservative politicians such as Justo Orozco, a member of the evangelical National Renovation Party, slammed the measure.

“That preference is not a right,” Orozco said, according to La Nación. “It’s a stunted development of sexual identity. It can change like alcoholism, tobacco addiction.”

Carlos Avendaño, a lawmaker from another evangelical party, the National Restoration Party, threw cold water on the measure. According to La Prensa Libre, Avendaño said the measure is a mirage because the law already established that marriage unions are between a man and a woman.

“The reference that is here is for heterosexual partners,” Avendaño said.

Marco Castillo, president of the Diversity Movement, said he was optimistic about the bill’s passage. However, for civil unions to survive, it would have to survive a constitutional challenge in the court.

“It is a big step forward for gay rights in Costa Rica,” Castillo said in a phone interview.

The legislation comes one day after thousands marched for gay marriage in San José. In 2011, Chinchilla said she would not oppose gay marriage if the courts allowed, but she has not campaigned on the issue. A poll at that time said 73 percent of Costa Ricans opposed same-sex marriage.

Currently, five Latin American countries recognize same-sex unions. Argentina and Uruguay recognize gay marriage, while Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador recognize same-sex unions, according to the Washington Post.

Nelson Mandela in permanent vegetative state

Nelson Mandela’s doctors say he is in a permanent vegetative state, CBS News  reported.

The ailing anti-apartheid icon has been on life support in a Pretoria  hospital and breathing with the help of a respirator. He checked into Mediclinic  Heart Hospital on June 8 for a recurrence of a lung infection, and his condition  has gradually worsened.

Meanwhile, a family feud over the remains of Mandela’s three children  reached a resolution Thursday when the bodies were reinterred at their original  resting site — the same place where the ailing South African revolutionary  wishes to be buried.

A family feud over the remains of Mandela’s children ended Thursday as the bodies were returned to their original resting place.ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

A family feud over the remains of  Mandela’s children ended Thursday as the bodies were returned to their original  resting place.

The bodies were laid to rest again in a ceremony that included the singing  of hymns at Qunu, Mandela’s hometown.

The burial was the culmination of an embarrassing sideshow that has  mesmerized South Africa as Mandela likely enters his final days.

“My grandfather like myself would be highly disappointed in what is  unraveling,” said Mandla  Mandela, the oldest male Mandela heir and a tribal chief.

Oamohetswe Mabitsela, 4 months old, is placed by his mother next to a picture of Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital.Ben Curtis/AP

Oamohetswe Mabitsela, 4 months old,  is placed by his mother next to a picture of Nelson Mandela outside the  Mediclinic Heart Hospital.

The grandson had moved the bodies of Makaziwe Mandela, Madiba Thembekile  Mandela, and Makgatho Mandela to his village of Mvezo — Nelson Mandela’s  birthplace — in 2011.

Fifteen of Mandela’s family members said the bodies were moved without their  consent and pursued court action to have the bodies moved.

An expert on the Xhosa culture of Mandela’s family, Mlawu Tyatyeka, said the  court case over the graves was decided quickly because the family knows that  Mandela will soon die.

The former wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela Madikizela, arrives at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital on July 4 in Pretoria, where the former South African president  is  hospitalized.
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty  Images

The former wife of Nelson Mandela,  Winnie Mandela Madikizela, arrives at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital on July 4 in  Pretoria, where the former South African president  is  hospitalized.

“It’s not a case of wishing him to die. It’s a case of making sure that by  the time he dies, his dying wish has been fulfilled,” he said.

“We have a belief that should you ignore a dying wish, all bad will befall  you.”

Mandela’s wife said the former president is sometimes uncomfortable but  seldom in pain while being treated.