Wednesday :: January 18, 2017

Down to the Wire for Two Gitmo Detainees

Ten more Guantanamo detainees have been transferred. They were accepted by Oman. (I don't think they are Oman citizens, as the Oman Government's press release refers to them being accepted for temporary residence on a humanitarian basis. ".... considering their humanitarian conditions, 10 people who have been pardoned arrived to the Sultanat".

[Added: Their identities have now been released. 8 are from Yemen and 2 from Afghanistan. Two were victims if mistaken identity.]

They were among the final 19 cleared for release. That means 9 detainees remain who are cleared for release. Of them, 3 are expected to leave this week, one each to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and possibly Italy. If all 9 are transferred, that would leave 36. Of these, 7 are set for military tribunals, 3 have been convicted, and 26 are determined to be too dangerous for release and subject to indefinite detention.

But there are two that have been cleared for release who weren't included on Obama's last notice to Congress. Their fate is up in the air.

Why? Probably an unfortunate bureaucratic lapse. Their lawyers filed habeas actions this past week in the District of Columbia. [More...]

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Tuesday :: January 17, 2017

Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning Sentence (And 200 Plus More)

President Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. Manning will only have to serve four more months --She will be freed May 17.

Manning was one of 273 people granted clemency or pardons today, according to the White House.

His totals: 1,385 grants of clemency and 212 pardons.

With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any President in this nation’s history. President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants – which includes 504 life sentences – is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.

That's what you call change. Thank you, President Obama. [More...]

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Monday :: January 16, 2017

Turkey Arrests Suspected Shooter in Reina Nightclub Attack

Update: The Governor of Istanbul now says the suspect Masharipov has confessed and was definitely acting for ISIS. No mention of an outside intelligence agency being involved.

Turkish police and intelligence agents arrested the suspected shooter in the New Year's Eve massacre at the Reina nightclub. He is Abdulgadir Masharipov, a native of Uzbekistan. Police have had him under surveillance for the past 5 days.

Here's the weird part. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş today said the Reina nightclub shooting was not just an ISIS attack, but a coordinated intelligence attack using a paid ISIS terrorist (Masharipov). He said the shooter was motivated by money, not ideology. Police recovered $150,000 at the scene of the arrest, which they believe is the amount he was to be paid. [More...]

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Critics of Trump Get Blunt and Blunter

I try to avoid name-calling and personal attacks on this site, even when it comes to my opinion of public figures. With Donald Trump, it's hard, because most words that come to mind when I think of him are not words that I would publicly write.

Some critics don't self-restrict. Here's Richard Cohen in the Washington Post -- the first paragraph says it all. The rest is on admittedly unlikely scenarios of how to remove him from office.

But at the end, even Cohen retains some hope that at least part of the Trump disaster will be avoided because a few of his cabinet picks are "good people." [Really? Who?] [More...]

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Turkey's Best Asset: #SaltBae

Turkey has the hottest, most sensual butcher, chef/restaurateur ever. His name is Nusret Gökçe, and his Instagram videos have now gone viral. Bruno Mars posted a photo of them together last week. Then James Corden did the hilarious clip above, which pretty much sums him up. He's been dubbed #SaltBae on Twitter (reflecting his signature move with salting meat.) Here's his Twitter page. You can scroll also through his posted Instagram photos and videos. He now has a million and a half Instagram followers and Corden's clip has been seen more than 1 million times.

He's been prominent in Turkey and Dubai for a while -- he and his partners own a chain of steakhouses called Nusret ET with restaurants in Istanbul and other places in Turkey, and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE. (The resturants' instagram account adds "soon the world.")[More...]

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Sunday :: January 15, 2017

SNL Cold Open and Open Thread

Alec Baldwin has so many funny lines and faces in last night's SNL cold open. Enjoy.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Tuning Out Donald Trump

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker writes on the Music Donald Trump Can't Hear. He has a point.

There is no song to describe UnPresident Elect Donald Trump because he has no music in his soul. The emotional state he triggers in so many of us, other than his under-informed, radical right supporters, ranges from sickening to terrifying. As the caption to the graphic accompanying the New Yorker article says,

There is an abyss between the man about to assume power and the best shared traditions of the country he represents.

This is not a time to reach out or accept him or the incoming Administration. Kudos to those bailing on Washington this week for other parts of the country. Tens of millions of us will blocking him out at home, with a firm hand on the remote control at all times to ensure he doesn't slip into our consciousness. [More...]

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Saturday :: January 14, 2017

Saturday Open Thread: No Inauguration News Here

In the "things I am not reporting on and couldn't care less about" department: UnPresident Elect Donald Trump's inauguration. I'm going to do other things and put up a few open threads until its over. After that, I will do my best to ignore him for the next four years, except for anything non-defamatory that could lead to his impeachment or resignation. You can discuss him in open threads, of which this is one. Insults and name calling will be deleted and violators put it time out.

A person I'm not finding sympathetic these days is Julian Assange. He and WikiLeaks are about as welcome on my computer screen as James Comey. (He's in the news because he's offering to allow himself to be extradited to the U.S. if Obama grants clemency to the former soldier Chelsea Manning. (As if he'll have a choice once the worm turns at DOJ.) I do support clemency for Chelsea Manning, I'm just not buying an altruistic motive by Assange. [More...]

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Thursday :: January 12, 2017

Receiver Sets Price for Trump Tower in Toronto

Toronto's Trump Tower, another mega property Trump sold his name to and managed ended up in the hands of a receiver in November. The receiver has just offered it for sale and bids start at $298 million.

A group of owners in the property, who claim to be the victims of misleading marketing, are suing the property’s developer, Talon International and the business organization owned by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, which manages it and licensed the use of its name on the property.

There have been three court actions on the property -- including one trying to remove Trump's name and cancel his management contract.

On Tuesday, an Ontario court placed the Trump International Hotel and Tower into receivership after the owners failed to make debt payments for more than a year. That came after a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal for Ontario found last month that the project’s investors had been deceived. And in a third legal action, the hotel’s owners tried to remove the Trump name from the building and cancel his company’s contract to manage the hotel.

Shortly after it opened in 2012, the building began "shedding glass."

For the first of many times, the police had to close the surrounding streets because of falling debris.


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Wednesday :: January 11, 2017

Guantanamo Turns 15 Today

Guantanamo turns 15 today. Democratic legislators have sent a letter to Obama urging him to shut it down so Trump can't further abuse it. The letter is here.

A letter sent to the White House on Wednesday by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and obtained by the Guardian, warns of “torture’s resurgence” under the Trump administration unless Obama fulfills his thwarted “laudable” pledge to close Guantánamo.


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Trump to Let Sons Control His Assets

Donald Trump says as a conflict avoidance measure, he will put his assets in a trust, to be run by his sons Donald and Eric, and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

He will even hire a "conflict adviser" to determine if new deals pose a conflict. (Will this be an independent contractor or a Trump employee?)

Trump will place the majority of his assets—including cash, real estate and licensing entities—into a trust controlled by his sons by January 20th, she said. The trust agreement includes the hiring of an ethics adviser who must evaluate all new deals the Trump Organization makes that could pose possible conflicts of interest. The company will make no new foreign deals, but can work domestically.

“He will only know of a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees it on TV,” Dillon said.

What if one of his sons or someone else tweets about it? Donald will refrain from picking up the phone to tell them what he thinks? Right.

I hope some government agency will be monitoring every communication device accessible to Trump (and his wife when they are in the same city.) Sounds like a perfect job for the DEA since the FBI under Comey seems paralyzed by partisanship.

Jared Kushner will do something similar -- he will sell some assets, turn some over to his brother, and put others in a trust run by his mother.

Ivanka will no longer work for Trump and she will give up control of her company (that sells shoes made in China and Ethopia. Probably a good idea.)

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Tuesday :: January 10, 2017

Russia's Alleged Not So Secret Dossier on Trump

Here's the dossier compiled by a British operative on Donald Trump, for the benefit of Russia. courtesy of Buzzfeed, which says the material is unconfirmed and there are some errors (although the ones they cite are very minor, like misspelling Alpha as Alfa.)

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.

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Tuesday Open Thread

It's a jail day for me, which means an open thread for you.

All topics welcome.

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When Terror Victims Sue Twitter Over ISIS

A few months ago, a federal judge in California tossed a lawsuit by the family of a terror victim, finding Twitter isn't liable for ISIS rhetoric.

Yesterday, the families of some of those who died in European attacks for which ISIS has taken credit filed a 90 page lawsuit against Twitter. It's case No. 17-cv-00122-PAC in the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs are Cain and Gonzalez.

I'm still reading the Complaint, which begins with a detailed history of al Zarqawi and continues through the formation of the first iteration of ISIS and subsequent changes. It has imported photos into the document, such as the photo of Nick Berg as he was about to be killed by presumably Zarqawi and others, and the photo of the first flag of ISIS.


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100 MPH Winds in Colorado Springs

I thought the winds were bad here Christmas Day, but yesterday they were just outrageous. They hit 100 mph in Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs Airport recorded an all-time record wind gust of 80 mph at 12:02 p.m. and a gust of 101 mph was recorded at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station earlier in the day.

The El Paso County Courthouse was evacuated and closed for the day after the powerful gusts ripped chunks of roofing from the top of the 5-story building. Tejon Street and Vermijo Street were closed, and deputies used shields to protect people from the debris as they escorted them out of the building. The courthouse is scheduled to reopen at noon Tuesday.

The photo above is from a news video (available here) that aired on KRDO, Channel 13, the local ABC affiliate in the Springs. The good stuff starts at 39 seconds in, after the reporters stop yakking. In the video you can see the wheels lifting off the ground as the truck sways on the highway.

There's also a viewer taken short clip in the video of a big tree going from standing upright, to swaying, to boom, it's yanked out from the ground by its roots. Below are screengrabs of the three stages. [More...]

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