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Wednesday :: December 17, 2014

Wednesday Open Thread

Your turn. Our last open thread is full. All topics welcome.

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Tuesday :: December 16, 2014

Roman Polanski Files Motion to Close L.A. Case

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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Obama Signs $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

It's a done deal. President Obama has signed the $1.1 trillion spending bill.

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Official ISIS Statement Explaining Sharia Punishments

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.

There are 11 punishments. Thanks to Arabic and Islamic affairs expert Pieter van Ostaeyen for publishing the English translation, which was done by Abu Musab. [More...]

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India May Be Softening Stance on Shami Witness

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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Tuesday Open Thread

I've got another busy day today. Here's a new open thread. All topics welcome.

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New Report on ISIS: Focus on the Governance, Not Just the Violence

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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Monday :: December 15, 2014

Sony's Threatens to Sue Media Who Publish Hacked Materials

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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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: 17 Months Later

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 Offers Help for Closing Guantanamo

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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Sorrow in Sydney

The hostage situation at the chocolate shop and cafe in Sydney did not end well. The store manager and a woman lawyer with three children were killed, along with the lone gunman, who was not a member of any extremist group. He had no ties to any terror organization.

Police stormed the cafe this morning. The gunman was Man Haron Monis, who was well known to authorities for his extremism and mental instability.

[He is] an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh known for sending hate mail to the families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. He was charged last year with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, but had been free on bail.

He was facing more than 40 sexual assault charges.[More...]

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Life After Guantanamo in Uruguay

The Miami Herald has 26 great photos of several of the six recently released Guantanamo detainees in Uruguay. The AP has this article on their new lives.

These men were held for 12 years and cleared for release in 2009. No charges were ever brought against them. I was glad to see some of them smiling in the photos. They are learning Spanish, taking hikes, walking along the beach, shopping for food, and cooking at barbecues.

Thank you Uruguay. [More...]

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Sunday :: December 14, 2014

Sunday Night Open Thread

Looks like an supporter of an Islamic militant group has taken between 13 and 50 people hostage at a chocolate shop in Sydney. He's making the hostages stand at the window with a black Islamic flag (that does not appear to match ISIS's flag. The news says it's an Islamic Shahada flag.) Here's a picture of the guy. Police say he may have an IED.

Update on Khalid el-Masri, the German shoe salesman who was mistaken for an al Qaeda operative and kidnapped by the CIA and tortured. I wrote about a few days ago. (I've been writing about him since 2005, the posts are collected here.) His lawyer says his life is destroyed.

Here is the latest on the Shami Witness investigation. He faces more questioning in Bengaluru where he is being held, but the investigation will primarily take place in New Delhi. [More...]

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Mass Arrests of Erdogan Media Critics in Turkey

Turkey conducted mass raids of journalists and a media organizations today. The targets of the raids were those who support Fethullah Gulea, a U.S. cleric and opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More from The Guardian here.

Among the 31 people arrested: Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily newspaper. The paper is known for its exposure of government corruption.

Those held include an executive of Samanyolu television, also seen as close to Gulen, as well as a TV director, producers, scriptwriters and some police officers. Arrest warrants were issued for a total of 31 people, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Among the offenses charged: "Using intimidation and threats" to "form a gang to try and seize state sovereignty", "forgery" and "slander."

I was watching this develop on the newspaper's Twitter feed last night. The raids were expected and 2,000 people gathered outside the Zaman's headquarters in support of the media and particularly the editor. Check out this short video. [More...]

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GW Bush: Forget the Torture Report, CIA are Patriots

Former President GW Bush was interviewed on CNN about the Torture Report. He said:

Whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it's way off base..... The CIA are patriots and ...."really good people and we're lucky as a nation to have them.

We're luckier not to have GW Bush in charge anymore.

Update: Memo to GW Bush: It's not cool to defend those who commit rape and forced sodomy. "Good people" don't threaten to rape or cut the throat of another person's mother. These "good" CIA officers have also put our military at risk to have the same done to them. As Afghan President Ashrafn Ghani correctly observed, "When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane."

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