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Tuesday :: April 15, 2014

Pistorius Testimony Over, Back to Expert Witnesses

Oscar Pistorius has completed his testimony. The prosecutor picked apart every little detail hoping to show his version of events was not possible. The state is pushing an alternate theory, however, it sounds like it's nothing more than "it might have happened this way." He didn't get Oscar to admit that any of the elements of his theory were correct. The state's theory is predicated on an argument between the couple, and given Oscar's denial and the lack of any other witnesses present, I don't see how the theory can be considered proved in any way, let alone by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Here is the state's version, succinctly put on Twitter by reporter Barry Bateman, who has been in the courtroom every day:

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Monday :: April 14, 2014

Monday Night Open Thread

Tonight is the first night of Passover, the inspirational holiday that celebrates freedom and the release of the Jews from slavery in Egypt 3,000 years ago. The full story is here. Our best wishes to all who are observing.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Mexico AG: Unhappy with Zambada-Niebla Deal, No Plan to Extradite El Chapo

Murillo Karam, Attorney General for Mexico, gave an interview today to Radio Fórmula during which he expressed displeasure with DOJ's recent plea deal with Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa co-leader Ismael Zambada-Garcia. (The details of Zambada-Niebla's plea agreement are here.)

He also said Mexico presently has no intention of extraditing Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the U.S. ("no tenemos ninguna intensión de mandarlo a Estados Unidos.") He added that Mexico still hasn't received a formal extradition request for Chapo's extradition. [More...]

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Guardian and WaPo Win Pulitzers for NSA Coverage

The Guardian and Washington Post have won gold medal Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of the National Security Agency's secret electronic surveillance program. The announcement is here. The full list of winners, with citations, is here.

For a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site through the use of its journalistic resources, including the use of stories, editorials, cartoons, photographs, graphics, videos, databases, multimedia or interactive presentations or other visual material, a gold medal.

Awarded to The Washington Post for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.

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Jury Selected for Abu Hamza Trial in New York

Jury selection began this morning in the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, aka Abu Hamza al-Masri.

The 55-year-old Mustafa also will face a life sentence if he is convicted of conspiring to support al-Qaida by trying in 1999 to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., by arranging for others to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and by ensuring there was satellite phone service for hostage-takers in Yemen in 1998 who abducted two American tourists and 14 others. Four hostages were killed.

Jurors were questioned about Abu Hamza's physical appearance. He has no hands and only one eye: [More....]

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Chelsea Manning Clemency Rejected, Appeals to Begin

Military District of Washington commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan has rejected Chelsea Manning's request for clemency and reversal of his conviction. The press release is here. Chelsea's case will now go to the the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) for appellate review. She has excellent new civilian lawyers for the appeals, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward.

Nancy and Vicent gave a presentation last night at the Georgetown Law Center to Chelsea's supporters. Firedoglake has the details.[More...]

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Sunday :: April 13, 2014

Sunday Open Thread

It's a rainy Sunday here, about to turn to 4 to 7 inches of snow. Sorry for the lack of posting, I've been busy trying to assemble a few pieces of outdoor furniture for my balcony, listening to Spanish tapes and composing a "comment" for the FCC about whether it should eliminate the two year exemption for new television networks to comply with close-captioning rules, when the new network is part of a big network (like MundoFox.) The FEC's 153 page order of February, 2014 in which it requests comments is here. To submit a comment, start here. The proceeding is Case CG 05-231.

I think it's absurd that MundoFox doesn't have close captions, even in Spanish, on a multi-million show like "El Capo." (The only captions are when someone speaks in English, then they translate that.) El Capo is a production of MundoFox, RCN Television and Fox International. [More...]

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Thursday :: April 10, 2014

Thursday Night Open Thread

I'm about to start watching "El Capo." Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Zambada-Niebla's Plea Agreement

The Government today released the plea agreement of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael Zambada-Garcia, in his Illinois case. The agreement was signed a year ago. The press release is here.

The plea agreement is here. He's cooperating, so what would otherwise be a life sentence will be less than that. He's also agreeing to a forfeiture of more than $1 billion.

His guidelines are so high -- offense level 51 (the sentencing table only goes up to level 43) -- that even with a Criminal History Category of I (meaning no significant priors), his guidelines are life in prison (not even 30 to life, or any range at all - just life.)

Since he's been cooperating and will continue to cooperate as requested, the Government anticipates moving for a reduction to a lesser sentence. It also sounds like he's in or will be in the witness protection program, since the agreement says the Government will recommend he and his family be allowed to stay in the U.S. at the end of his sentence. [More...]

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Oscar Pistorius's Cross-Examination

The press seems to be fawning over prosecutor Gerrie Nel and his "bully-ish" cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius. I was not impressed. I was glad the Judge called him out over his inappropriate sarcasm and laughter and claims Oscar's emotional outbursts were manufactured.

“You possibly think this is entertainment. It is not,” she told Nel. “Please restrain yourself.”

I don't think he proved Pistorius is lying about his account. Nel is trying to get Pistorius to admit to Nel's interpretation of the facts, and when he won't, because he doesn't agree with Nel's interpretation, he blasts him as a liar and murderer and tells him to accept responsibility.

It's not the prosecutor's job to tell a defendant to accept responsibility for the crime for which he's on trial and denies committing. It's his job to ask questions and test his version of the facts.

Unless a defendant's story is so rehearsed it never changes, there are obviously going to be minor discrepancies. It's not surprising that Oscar's memory is better on what led up to the shooting than during the moments of trauma afterwards when he realized Reeva was dead. [More...]

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Steven Colbert to Replace David Letterman

Late night TV viewers are about to get a new choice -- Steven Colbert has been tapped to replace the retiring David Letterman.

Good choice.

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Wednesday :: April 09, 2014

Freedom of Speech: Freedom of Protest

With the resignation of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla after protests, both within and without the Mozilla organization, led, yet again, to mass confusion about the most basic principles of free speech rights. Today, a new shunning, this time of anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was to receive an honorary degree from Brandeis University, will no doubt add to the confusion.

It so happens I agree with the "shunning" of Eich but disagree with the shunning of Hirsi Ali (I am pretty strongly anti-organized religion.) But my personal views on the relative merits of these actions is really not to the point -- free speech rights include the right to criticize and yes, shun.

Let me give the most obvious example that in fact everyone agrees with this conception (that non-state actors can shun, boycott, protest, etc. anyone for their speech) - imagine an accomplished person in any field espousing the view that interracial marriage should be outlawed. Who do you suppose would protest in defense against calls for removal of such a person from a position of public leadership? No one, that's who. And therein lies the point - we all agree that lines can be drawn. We often disagree with where the lines are drawn.

Let's discuss the line drawing on the flip.

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Tuesday :: April 08, 2014

Tuesday Open Thread

I've got a busy work day today. Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Monday :: April 07, 2014

Oscar Pistorius Takes the Stand

After a week of recess due to the illness of of one of the judge's fact-finders, the Oscar Pistorius trial resumed today, with the defense calling Dr. Botha The topics ranged from the angle of the bullets to when Reeva last ate and emptied her bladder. When he was done, Oscar took the stand.

From the reporters in the courtroom I follow via Twitter: [More...]

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Australia TV to Air Paid Interview with Inmate on Schapelle Corby

Jailhouse snitches are notoriously unreliable. In this country, they are a major contributor to wrongful convictions.

That isn't stopping 10 News in Australia. It's about to air a paid interview with Bali 9 inmate Renae Lawrence, doing 20 years (after narrowly avoiding the death penalty) for smuggling heroin into Bali with 8 other people. She had 2.5 kilos strapped to her body. Two of the nine are waiting for the executioner, and six are doing life.

Reportedly, Renae will claim that during a period when she and Schapelle shared a cell (with several other women), Schapelle confessed to her that she knew the drugs were in her boogie-bag. I don't buy that for a second. [More....]

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