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Monday :: December 22, 2014

NY Times Calls for Prosecution of Torture Higher-Ups

The New York Times has joined the call for a criminal investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Bush Administration's torture policy.

[A]ny credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have sent a letter to Eric Holder asking him to appoint a special prosecutor. [More...]

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R.I.P. Legendary Joe Cocker

R.I.P., Joe Cocker. He has died of lung cancer at age 70. He moved to Crawford, Colorado (in Delta County) in the mid-1990's where he and his wife Pam built the Mad Dog Ranch.

Cocker lived with his wife, Pam, on a 240-plus-acre plot he called "Mad Dog Ranch," named after his 1970 "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" tour, where they moved in 1995 from California. The 17,000-square-foot home they built was host to personal concerts and a garden where, in a juxtaposition to the hard-partying, drug-using reputation he held in the 1970s, the rocker tended to his tomatoes.

In Crawford, a town of less than 400 about 50 miles southeast of Grand Junction, Cocker became a well-known and well-liked member of the community, separated from his days connected to the Rock and Roll greats of which he belonged.

Here's a profile of his non-rock star life there (from the Denver Post in 2008.) [More...]

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Monday Open Thread

Busy day at work today. I blogged a lot this weekend, so scroll down if you haven't read the posts.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

Who is leaving town for the holidays? I'll be right here.

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New Report on Surveillance of Mumbai Plotters

Pro Publica, the New York Times and Frontline have a joint report on the failure of India and the UK to connect the dots regarding plotters of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The report is largely about Zarrar Shah (real name Abdul Wajid), the chief technology guy for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and cites documents released by Edward Snowden. It also notes the failure of the U.S. to connect the dots on David Coleman Headley. Headley is serving 35 years for his role in the attacks, after making a cooperation deal with the Government to avoid the death penalty. (Headley is the twice convicted heroin dealer who became a DEA informant and with the Government's blessing, was allowed to go to Pakistan and let off supervised release early. The Transcript is here.) [More...]

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Sunday :: December 21, 2014

Holidays: Remembering to Heart Your Favorite Bloggers

December likely is the month that bloggers balance the ledger sheet and reassess their time commitment to blogging because of the financial drain. How many hours were spent blogging, how much money did it cost in lost income from their day job and how much did the blog earn from donations? When they do, the blogosphere runs the risk of losing them. They may be news junkies, policy wonks or activists, but they live in the same capitalist world that you do.

So, as you're putting a little something in the pocket of your doorman, housekeeper, hairstylist, secretary, whomever.....think about the bloggers whose sites you read day after day either for enjoyment or enrichment, and please make a note to add them to your gift list. If ever there was a month to do it, this is it.

If you would like to contribute to TalkLeft, I certainly would appreciate it, and you can do so via credit card or paypal. [Links below]

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Police Union President Blames Protesters and Mayor for Officers' Murder

Just when the police were about to get some sympathy as a result of the killing of two Brooklyn police officers, the President of the Police Union, Patrick Lynch, takes to the microphones and outlandishly claims there's blood on the hands of protesters and the Mayor. Think Progress has the video.

What a ridiculous claim. The protesters in New York and the Mayor had nothing to do with these killings. The only person responsible is a man from Atlanta with several outstanding warrants who was fleeing Baltimore after having shot his girlfriend. His depraved acts have nothing to do with the thousands of New Yorkers who protested peacefully, or the Mayor, who endorsed their right to do so.

Rabble-rouser Lynch deserves nothing but a Bronx cheer. The NYPD should get a better spokesman. Lynch is a disgrace.

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Saturday :: December 20, 2014

Two Brooklyn Police Officers Shot and Killed

Two Brooklyn police officers who were sitting in their patrol car were shot and killed by a lone gunman from Baltimore. The gunman shot himself in a nearby subway station. The Daily News has a graphic photo of him alive on a stretcher as he was removed from the subway station. He has reportedly since died.

The shooter, identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, boasted about wanting to kill cops in the hours before he ambushed the officers outside the Tompkins Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant about 3 p.m. Saturday.

“I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours...Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” Brinsley wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of a silver handgun.

Hours earlier, Brinsley allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend in Baltimore. Brooklyn police confirm both officers are dead.

Whatever the grievance with police, it is unacceptable and wrong to physically attack them. Vigilante justice is no justice at all.

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ISIS Plays Up Public Killings and Punishment

There have been a slew of ISIS videos showing public killings and punishment the past few days. Some take place after prayers when the public areas are already crowded. ISIS is clearly trying to impress upon the public that spying and failure to go along with its rules will result in swift and merciless punishment.

It has been using vehicles with crucifixion crosses attached. The other day it drove through town with a Syrian man alive and attached to the cross. His offense, according to ISIS supporters on Twitter: He had laid out beacons for the Syrian Army showing it where to bomb. ISIS says civilians were killed by the bombs. (SITE says the beacons were laid out to assist the air strikes.) Even though the video does not show the Syrian's execution, I won't post the link. But I will post some screenshots so you get the idea of the size of the crowd it is playing to.

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4 Afghan Guantanamo Detainees Return Home

Four more detainees have left Guantanamo. They are Mohammed Zahir, Shawali Khan, Abdul Ghani and Khi Ali Gul. All are from Afghanistan and were returned to Afghanistan.

There is no requirement that the Afghan government further detain the men.

There are 132 detainees left at Gitmo, including 64 who are eligible for transfer. 8 are Afghanis, and Afghanistan's High Peace Council has requested their repatriation as well.

Obama issued a statement yesterday criticizing Congress for blocking the transfer of detainees. He said closing Gitmo is a "national imperative":
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TRAC Releases Full Report on ISIS Mass Beheadings of Syrians

Via the Daily Mail: TRAC (Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium) and the UK-based think tank Quilliam have released their full report on the video of the black-clad ISIS executioner and 21 of his compadres beheading 22 Syrians that ISIS identified as pilots.

The report finds several mistakes in the video. It suggests that "Jihadi John" had a body double. It finds Peter Kassig was killed earlier, likely by a bullet. It identifies a few of the killers. [More....]

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Friday :: December 19, 2014

Ferguson DA Interview: Says Some Witnesses Lied

Ferguson DA Rob McCulloch broke his silence today. In an interview, he said that he thinks some grand jury witnesses lied.

[McCulloch] acknowledged that witnesses he did not believe to be truthful had come before the jurors. Mr. McCulloch said that one female witness, who provided testimony that appeared to bolster Officer Wilson’s account of events, “clearly wasn’t present” when the shooting occurred.

....[He] added that the grand jury also heard from other witnesses whose testimony was also in doubt. “It went both directions,” he said.

McCulloch said he decided to let them testify even though he thought they were lying. He wanted the grand jury to hear everything. [More...]

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Obama Says Sony Made a Mistake in Canceling "The Interview"

President Obama said today that Sony made a mistake in deciding to cancel "The Interview."

That's not who we are. That's not what America's about....We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States...

...Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they do when they start seeing a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like. Or even worse, imagine if producers or distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

...The company shouldn't have been deterred from releasing its movie "any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack, any more than Boston didn't run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm."

Obama said he wished Sony called him before making the decision. Good to know that Sony can just pick up a phone and get put through to the President. Can any other corporations do that?

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Staples Hacked, More Than 1.2 Million Credit Cards Affected

It may be time soon to go back to paying by check or in cash. There was another breach announced today: Staples Office Supplies. If you shopped there between July and September, this is for you.

Staples said on Friday that an investigation showed that the criminals used malware that may have allowed access to information for transactions at 115 of its United States stores. That includes cardholder names, payment card numbers, expiration dates and card verification codes. The company is offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, to customers who might be at risk.

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FBI Authorized Negotiations With ISIS in Bid to Free Peter Kassig

In what may be one of the most fascinating articles I've read this year, the Guardian (writers Shiv Malik, Ali Younes, Spencer Ackerman and Mustafa Khalili )reports play by play details of an attempt by the FBI, working with prominent activist New York lawyer Stanley Cohen, to free Peter Kassig. The FBI authorized and paid for Cohen and a translator to travel to Kuwait and Jordan to negotiate with ISIS for Kassig's release. There would be no ransom or prisoner release, but Cohen had come up with other terms ISIS might approve of.

At the time of the rescue effort, Cohen was awaiting sentencing on criminal tax charges, having plead guilty in April, 2014 to two indictments, one in the Northern District of NY and one in the Southern District. The Southern District case was transferred to the Northern District for sentencing. His plea agreement called for an agreed upon sentence of 18 months. A few weeks after his return from the rescue effort, he was sentenced to 18 months as agreed, and is scheduled to report to prison on January 6. A few days ago, his request for a delay was denied. [More...]

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Friday Open Thread

It's the end to a busy week for me. Our last open thread is about to be filled. Here's a new one, all topics welcome.

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