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Saturday :: July 19, 2014

Saturday Morning ISIS Update

While ISIS got overshadowed by other events this week, it's still on a tear, wreaking havoc in both Iraq and Syria. It announced today it seized the Assad military airport in Deirezzor city and the army there is trying to flee.

ISIS is also getting tougher on Shari'a law enforcement. Their women's unit is patrolling for women who don't dress appropriately. How would you like to be confronted by this group? ISIS is getting tougher about Shari'a law violators: Thursday it stoned an adulteress in the Tabaqa market area in Raqqa. Friday, it stoned another one to death near the football stadium. These were public events, and well attended. One of the events was even made wheelchair accessible (see the photo.) Are we supposed to take that as a sign of how caring they are for the disabled among them?

Question: Were these really adulteresses or just wives of ISIS enemies? The photos were posted on an official ISIS page. [More...]

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Friday :: July 18, 2014

Sentencing Commission Makes Reduction in Drug Sentences Retroactive

Update: Here is Attorney General Eric Holder's press release endorsing the Sentencing Commission's action.

At my direction, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying federal inmates of the opportunity to apply for a reduction in sentence immediately. This is a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden on our overcrowded prison system.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted today to make the upcoming two level decrease in drug offense levels under the sentencing guidelines retroactive to cover those already serving sentences. Here is the press release.

The effective date for reductions for those already serving sentences will be delayed until November, 2015, so that courts can consider public safety risks. In other words, the retroactive application is not mandatory. Inmates can begin filing motions in November, 2014, but the reduction won't go into effect until November, 2015.

[More...]

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Obama Blames Pro-Russian Separatists, Putin Blames Ukranians

The blame game continues as to who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. President Obama blames the pro-Russian rebels. So does British Prime Minister David Cameron. Russian President Putin blames the Ukranian armed forces. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk urged Western leaders to 'bring justice to those b*******' who brought down the flight. Obama also said that one American with dual citizenship with the Netherlands was on board.

Republicans in Congress are already using the tragedy to call for an increase in defense spending. This tragedy does not call for a military response by the U.S. This is not our fire, we didn't start it, it wasn't directed at us, and whether it was pro-Russian rebels or the Ukranians, they weren't intending to attack the United States. We can help with the investigation into who shot down the plane (which we are already doing)and press for a cease-fire and restitution for the families of the victims from those ultimately deemed responsible, but using the tragedy to call for increased military spending by the U.S. is just political gamesmanship.

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Thursday :: July 17, 2014

"Shot Out of the Sky": 1 American, Multiple Children on Board

Update: Later information shows either 1 American was on board.

Among those on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which was shot down over the Ukraine, near the town of Grabovo, not far from the Russian border: 9 Britons, 23 Americans (later revised to 1 or 3) and 80 children. All 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers were killed. The passengers were from all over: 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 38 Malaysians. Also: 11 Indonesians, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. Some of those aboard were headed to an AIDS conference in Melbourne.

Here's a reason it's nice to still have print publications: Check out the front page of Friday's Independent, "Shot Out of the Sky." [More...]

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Thursday Open Thread: Stop the Amber Alerts

Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

Update: Is there any way to stop Amber alerts from interrupting TV shows? It's bad enough we get weather warning interruptions that don't involve Denver or its surrounding counties, but Amber alerts are just too much. Is there some law that authorizes them? Was it a Joe Biden bill? I also resent the flashing Amber alerts on the highway -- they force you take your eye off the road and are dangerous. If the networks are going to allow interruptions for public service messages, they should at least limit them to emergencies that affect everyone. If there was a campaign, Stop the Amber Alerts,, I'd sign in an instant. [More...]

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Journalist: Mexico's Government More Dangerous than Drug Cartels

Prominent journalist Anabel Hernandez, author or the Mexican best selling non-fiction book “Los Señores del Narco” (translated into English as “Narcoland,”) says Mexico's officials are more dangerous than the leaders of the drug cartels.

What I have learned in nine years of investigation into drug trafficking is that a general, a public security secretary or a governor is more dangerous than Chapo Guzman himself. They are the ones that betray the country, that sell the state to organized crime and they should face exemplary punishments. … If there are no exemplary punishments against the Mexican political and business class who permit people like Chapo Guzman to exist, then nothing is going to change and we are just going to be repeating this story of death, sometimes with more violence, sometimes with less, but always with the Mexican state under control of drug traffickers. We have to break this cycle.

On President Nieto: [More...]

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Verdict Watch: Azamat Tazhayakov Jury Deliberations

From the last question asked by jurors deliberating the fate of Azamat Tazhayakov, it appears they are close to a verdict.

During opening arguments, Tazhayakhov's lawyer asked them to "give the kid a shot." Did they? Stay tuned.

Here's the court's verdict form. It mispells Dzhokhar. Here's the five page verdict form the Government wanted.

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Federal Judge Rules CA Death Penalty Unconstitutional

A federal judge in California has ruled California's death penalty system is unconstitutional. He says a death sentence in California is nothing but a penalty of "life with the remote possibility of death." The opinion is here. Since the penalty is so rarely carried out (no one has been executed since 2006), "the death penalty is about as effective a deterrent to capital crime as ther /> possibility of a lightning strike is to going outside in the rain."

This is a problem that has festered in California for years. A major problem, as the judge notes in yesterday's opinion, is California's refusal to adequately fund lawyers. While many media articles briefly mention this, it is a significant part of the judge's decision. [More...]

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Tuesday :: July 15, 2014

Homeland Security Pitches "If You See Something" Campaign at MLB Game

The Department of Homeland Security sent out a tweet today:

“If You See Something, Say Something™” materials will be visible during tonight's @MLB All Star Game

My response:

T-shirt available here.

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Monday :: July 14, 2014

Hamas Rejects Egypt's Proposal for Cease Fire

Egypt proposed a cease-fire plan for Israel and Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted it and will bring it to a vote before the Israeli Security Cabinet in the morning. (Added: The Israeli Security Cabinet has now approved it.) cabinet has approved it.)

Hamas has rejected it.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri already rejected the proposal late Monday night on the grounds that "we are still under occupation and resistance is the right of our people."

Here is the text of Egypt's proposal.

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Tone Deaf Dick Cheney

The years have not changed Dick Cheney, who in my view was the worst Vice-President in American history.

His latest: The war in Iraq was the right thing to do, and we should spend more on defense and less on the needs of the American people.

"[Defense dollars] ought to be our top priority for spending. Not food stamps, not highways or anything else," Cheney said.

Thank goodness he's irrelevant.

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Monday Open Thread

Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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Sunday :: July 13, 2014

Sunday Open Thread

I'm spending this beautiful day outdoors. Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Sunday Middle East Developments

ISIS is back in action. The reporters, analysts and ISIS supporters I read on Twitter and on their websites say ISIS this weekend took Dhuluiya, and Ishaqi and Barwānah. They blew up the bridge from Dhuluiya to Balad. They have the army boxed in at Samarra. They've also been advancing on the 8th Brigade base near Ramadi and Tikrit and made another try for Haditha, although they havent' gotten the dam.

There's an interesting article here on the synergy between the tribes and ISIS that is strengthening their ability to overthrow Malik's government and shi'a rule. If those issues weren't so important, they might not have hooked up to the extent they have, since usually, the tribes would have plenty of differences with ISIS.

[More...]

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Saturday :: July 12, 2014

NY Judge Rules Bitcoins Subject to Money Laundering Statutes

U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest was not impressed with the legal arguments made by Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht in his bid to dismiss his drug and money laundering charges. In a 51 page ruling, available here, she denied the motion. Among her rulings: Bitcoins are close enough to currency to count as money for the purposes of the money laundering statute. [More...]

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