Our last open thread is full. Here's a new one, all topics welcome.
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Following threats by hackers to launch attacks on theaters who show "The Interview", a comedy movie by Sony Pictures about a planned assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Sony announced yesterday it is canceling the release of the film. The announcement followed decisions by several movie chains not to show the movie. Sony has no plans to release the film in the future.
Some criticize Sony's cancellation saying they are giving in to cyberterrorists, and it's a slippery slope. Others say better safe than sorry.
According to Reuters, the U.S. believes North Korea, not keyboard terrorists sitting in their parents' basement, is behind the Sony hacks and threats.
Why didn't Sony just release it to cable "On Demand", Netflix, iTunes and Amazon?
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President Obama issued 12 pardons and 8 sentence commutations today. Some of the commutations went to those serving life sentences under the old, unduly harsh crack cocaine guidelines.
The full list is here.
These are the first commutations under Obama's new clemency guidelines.
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After 50 years, the U.S. has restored ties with Cuba.
After 18 months of secret talks, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on Tuesday on a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce.
The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches. The Vatican and Canada facilitated the deal.
Obama is also calling for an end to the embargo. Republicans aren't happy with that and Congressional approval is necessary to lift it. There was also a prisoner exchange: [More...]
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Thanks to the passing of a little known amendmment inserted via amendment into the omnibus spending bill by by sponsors Rep. Dana Rorsbacher and Samm Farr, the DEA will be unable to conduct medical marijuana raids in states that allow medical pot. That's 32 states plus the District of Columbia.
Here's the actual text: [More...]
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Your turn. Our last open thread is full. All topics welcome.
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Roman Polanski, now represented by Alan Dershowitz, among others, has filed a motion to close his Los Angeles case once and for all.
The request by Mr. Dershowitz to represent Mr. Polanski opened what promises to be a broad legal and public-relations effort to lift the threat of extradition and jail time from Mr. Polanski, now 81. He was first charged with raping a 13-year-old girl, who has since identified herself as Samantha Geimer, in 1977.
The LA Times has more on the 133 motion here.
The new motion alleges bias by the judge who presided over the 2008 court proceedings. It also alleges recent unethical conduct by prosecutors. [More....]
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It's a done deal. President Obama has signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill.
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ISIS released an official statement explaining Sharia law punishments (also known as Hudud) today. It says it is wants people to be forewarned. It also says it will not be lenient on violators, and has even imposed the punishments, including death, on its own members.
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India Home Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement to Parliament about the arrest of Shami Witness yesterday.
"The interrogation of Mehdi Biswas has indicated that his activities were limited to posting and reposting of pro-ISIS (as the IS was previously known) material on his Twitter account and social media sites," the minister said.
...He used to visit prominent IS-related sites, mostly those in the Arabic language, and then used Web-based tools to translate the contents into English and repost the material on his Twitter account, Rajnath told Parliament.
He didn't call Shami a terrorist or jihadist, instead describing him as someone who "interacted with people on social networking sites 'on matters related to jihad'." He portrayed him as more "swagger than substance."
Other senior Indian officials told the Telegraph police would not have arrested Shami but for the media pressure. [More...]
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I've got another busy day today. Here's a new open thread. All topics welcome.
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The CTC (Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point) has a new 105 page report on the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL, now known as IS.) The report is called "The Group That Calls Itself a State: Understanding the Evolution and Challenges of the Islamic State" and the full report is available here.
The report examines ISIS' rise, activities, and weaknesses. Shorter version: To defeat ISIS, it's important to look past the brutality and examine its governance record, and highlight the shortcomings in it. There will be no defeat and surrender. The best we can hope for is that after a generation or two, they will become irrelevant.
In case you don't have time to read 105 pages, I'll summarize the report and highlight the parts I found most significant below. [More...]
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On behalf of Sony, lawyer David Boies has written a letter to media organizations (available here)threatening to sue them if they publish the materials hackers obtained from its computer network.
Can Sony win such a lawsuit? Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy analyzes the issue and concludes "Probably not, at least as to most of the information that media outlets would want to publish."
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It has been 17 months since the public has seen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. At the request of prosecutors, he will make his first court appearance since July, 2013 this week. I wrote a long post on his incredibly restrictive jail conditions back in April, 2013, describing the SAMS ("special administrative measures") imposed on him.
Yahoo News has a detailed update, which I highly recommend reading. [More...]
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Pope Francis's Secretary of State met with John Kerry today. He relayed the Pope's offer to use his international contacts to find alternative placement for Guantanamo detainees.
The pope made clear his feelings on the kind of abuses associated with Guantanamo in October, when he railed against the "penal populism" that led to countries facilitating torture, using the death penalty and incarcerating people without trial.
"These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising... the principle of placing human dignity above all else," he said.
Pope Francis is also a harsh critic of life sentences, which he says are a "hidden death penalty," and solitary confinement, calling it "physical and psychological torture". [More...]
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