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Friday :: October 31, 2014

Halloween Open Thread

Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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Theo Padnos' Remarkable Account of Captivity and Torture

In the New York Times, Peter Theo Curtis, aka Theo Padnos, provides a detailed and fascinating account of his 2 years as an Al Nusra hostage in Syria. He is now home in Vermont, having been released in August, days after the James Foley execution, when Qatar finalized negotiations with al Nusra for his release, reportedly after Qatar paid a big ransom (which Qatar denies.) al Nusra is every bit as brutal as ISIS, and their only differences, according to Padnos, are over which one will control Syria's oil fields.

Padnos' account of his abuse and captivity is very compelling reading. So are his timeline and description of the Free Syrian Army "moderate rebels" and al Nusra's second in command, Abu Mariya (or Maria) al Qahtani, which is what I focus on below: [More...]

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A Small But Perceptible Shift in U.S. Global Drug Policy

This doesn't seem to have picked up as much traction in the U.S. as it has elsewhere, and it may not be huge, but it does represent a shift in stance on the U.S. global war on drugs.

Robert Brownfield, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, speaking at a foreign press conference in New York on October 9, while discussing the third of the four pillars of global drug policy, said (Full text here):

Things have changed since 1961. We must have enough flexibility to allow us to incorporate those changes into our policies … to tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.

[More...]

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Thursday :: October 30, 2014

Thursday Open Thread

Sorry everyone, I've been swamped at work and didn't know the last open thread was full. Here's a new one, all topics welcome. I'll be back soon.

Update: Have any of you had trouble accessing TalkLeft today? I am, and our webmaster says others have too. We are trying to figure out if it's a network issue or a server issue. Thanks.

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Wednesday :: October 29, 2014

Flak Over FBI and DEA Impersonations

The FBI and DEA's impersonation tactics have been facing a lot of criticism lately. First, there was the case of the cocaine defendant in New York who has filed a lawsuit to stop the DEA from impersonating her on Facebook. The DEA used photos and personal information from her seized cell phone to set up a fake Facebook account in order to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating information.

Then there was the disclosure a few days ago that in 2007, the FBI created a fake Associated Press article, put a spyware tool in it and sent it to the My Space account of a Seattle teen suspected of making bomb threats. [More...]

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Tuesday :: October 28, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

Our last open thread is full. Here's a new one, all topics welcome.

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Robel Phillipos: Guilty Verdict on Five of Nine Alleged Statements

Robel Phillipos has been found guilty of making five of the nine false statements alleged in the Indictment. The jury found he lied about both false statements charged in Count 1 and three of the nine statements charged in Count 2. He will remain on bond and house arrest through sentencing.

Shorter version: He did not lie about what he saw or heard in the dorm room. He lied about not being in the dorm room at all, and learning afterwards that his friends had taken the backpack from the dorm room. He did not lie when he denied discussing get rid of the backpack with his friends. The jury rejected the FBI's "written confession" by Robel. [More...]

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Monday :: October 27, 2014

John Cantlie Gets a Day Pass From ISIS Jail

ISIS hostage John Cantlie was let of out of ISIS jail to take a road trip to Kobane to make a new video. He also got to shed his orange jumpsuit and wear a nice black shirt.

You can view the video at Daily Motion here. Cantlie is quite animated as he shows off Kobane in the background and explains why the U.S. and its coalition won't succeed in controlling Kobane.

His hair is longer, and while his face appears haggard, his mood is quite upbeat and his delivery is very enthusiastic. He's either gotten quite adept at using a teleprompter, or he's a naturally gifted speaker who doesn't need one. If we didn't know he was a hostage, he could easily be taken for a network news reporter.

What would account for his enthusiasm? Perhaps ISIS rewarded him for his video work with a get out jail free card, rather than just a day pass. I hope so.

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Monday Open Thread

I'll be in court today, which means a new open thread for you. Please be civil.

If you are interested in the Marysville WA school shooting, and learning the "cast of characters, I highly recommend you read this 3,000 word post, with photos, that I posted yesterday. Some of the media outlets have tried, but they tend to misidentify at least one of the principals involved, which I think is bad journalism. So i spent three days combing the FB, Twitter, and Instagram accounts of the kids and their siblings and parents, to compile a chronology and a "who's Who" list with photos and links to their twitter accounts, as well as a rundown of the media theories making the rounds as to Jaylen's possible motive, so you can read the source documents for yourselves. You needn't read it all in one sitting, but I spent a lot of time on it and think it is a handy guide for those wanting to learn more about the shootings, the relationship between individuals in the group, and the community reaction to the shootings and to Jaylen Fryberg.

Again, this is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Sunday :: October 26, 2014

The Elusive Motive Behind the Marysville, WA Shooting

Update: After this was posted, the media announced that Gia Soriano passed away at 9:30 pm Sunday evening. R.I.P. Gia.

Orignal Post:

The school shooting in Marysville, Washington is a very sad and somewhat confusing story. Jaylen Fryberg’s motive remains mysterious. (Note: This is a very long post.)

The few media outlets which have attempted to decipher the relationships between Jaylen and his cousins and friends, provide conflicting information. What we know is that two teenagers are dead: Jaylen and Zoe. Four more, Gia, Shaylee and Jaylen’s two cousins, Andrew and Nate, remain in the hospital. Gia, Shaylee and Andrew are in critical condition. Nate is in serious condition, but conscious and communicating. He was shot in the jaw and tweeted a few hours ago that this is the worst pain he has felt in his life. (Added: He has also tweeted he forgives Jaylen.) [More...]

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ISIS: The Torture Before the Beheadings

The New York Times has a new article on the torture that preceded the beheadings of the journalists ISIS held captive. I'm going to read it as soon as Homeland is over. Here's a place to discuss it and all ISIS related news.

Update: There is also a new episode of hostage John Cantlie's video series, Lend Me Your Ears. You can watch it here.

“Some of us who tried to escape were waterboarded by our captors, as Muslim prisoners are waterboarded by their American captors.”

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RCMP Update on Parliament Attack and Zehaf-Bibeau

The RCMP has issued an update on the investigation into the Parliament Shooting and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. According to the Toronto Star, saying Zehaf-Bibeau had recorded himself on video before the attack "that amounts to “persuasive evidence” that his attack had been “driven by ideological and political motives.” The RCMP statement is here.

The video is not being released, but the statement contains no such evidence. It says he obtained the knife he was carrying from his aunt's property where he had buried it years earlier. The gun is an old an uncommon gun and they are unsure of its origin. They believe he financed the attack from his own savings, when he worked for oil fields in Alberta. [More...]

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Saturday :: October 25, 2014

Saturday Open Thread

What's on your minds today? Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Friday :: October 24, 2014

4th Day of Jury Deliberations in Robel Phillipos Trial

The jury is in its fourth day of deliberations in the trial of Robel Phillipos, the friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with two counts of making a false statement to federal officials in a terror investigation. Count One pertains to his statements to authorities on April 20, 2013, and Count 2 relates to statements made on April 25, 2013.

One of the reasons it may be taking so long: The jury must be unanimous as to any particular false statement he made. While there are only two counts, there are two allegedly false statements in the first count and seven in the second count. The jury has to discuss and arrive at a consensus on each. [More....]

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Zale Thompson's Hatchet Attack on Police in Queens

Zale Thompson of Queens, New York attacked four recent police academy graduates with a hatchet on the street in Queens yesterday as they were posing for a picture. The incident was caught on tape. One officer was struck in the head and is in critical condition. Another officer was struck in the arm and was treated and released from the hospital. The other two officers shot at Thompson, who died at the scene.

Authorities are pouring over his social media contacts to determine the motive for the attack and whether he has links to terrorists like ISIS. As far as I can tell, he's a militant whose cause is the oppression of African Americans in America, not religious oppression. He's interested in Africa and America, not the Middle East. I see nothing to indicate he cares about Sharia law. [More...

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