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Monday :: May 18, 2015

Elian Gonzalez Would Like to Visit U.S.

Elian Gonzalez is all grown up in Cuba. In his first U.S. interview (which took place in Cuba), he says he is grateful to the U.S. and would like to visit one day.

He said while he disagrees with his mother's decision to leave Cuba, he feels she fought hard to keep him alive on the boat and is grateful to her for saving his life.

Elian is now 21 and engaged to his high school sweetheart.

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President Obama Gets His Own Twitter Account

President Obama finally got a personal Twitter Account. Here's his first tweet:

Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.

As of now, he has 275,000 followers and is following 65 agencies and people.

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Saudi Arabia is Hiring: Executioners

Saudi Arabia is seeking to hire executioners for the implementation of Shariah Law. Here's the application (use google translate). It refers to them as "Perpetrators of Retribution."

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Lindsay "The Sky Is Falling" Graham Announces Presidential Bid

Uber-Hawk Lindsay Graham has officially entered the Republican fray to be the party’s nominee for President.

The perennial Henny Penny says, “The world is falling apart.” He’s “worried about an attack on our homeland.” His crystal ball tells him another 9/11 attack is on our doorstep unless we send ground troops to Iraq and Syria.

There are now more than 20 Republicans vying for the nomination. According to the Telegraph,

In recent weeks Republican divisions over foreign policy have been laid bare as the party tries to reconcile its instinctive belief in a strong, indispensable America with the costly failure, in terms of both blood and treasure, of George W Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Lindsey Graham has succeeded Rudy Giuliani as politics' biggest threat to freedom and American values. Even though he has zero chance of winning the nomination, he should be tracked and monitored.

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192 Arrested in Waco Biker Killings

Police in Waco have arrested 192 people in yesterday's biker killings at the Twin Peaks Restaurant.

Apparently, 165 - 175 of them are being charged with organized crime. Bond for those who have appeared in court has been set at $1 million.

Some of those killed were struck by law enforcement bullets.

The two groups involved were the Bandidos and the Cossacks.

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Sunday :: May 17, 2015

Loss of Ramadi

The New York Times, among many others, say the loss of Ramadi is ISIS' biggest victory of the year. Once again, the Iraqi army fled.

The fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State, despite intensified American airstrikes in recent weeks in a bid to save the city, represented the biggest victory so far this year for the extremist group, which has declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the vast areas of Syria and Iraq that it controls. The fall of Ramadi also laid bare the failed strategy of the Iraqi government, which had announced last month a new offensive to retake Anbar Province, a vast desert region in the west of which Ramadi is the capital.

“The city has fallen,” said Muhannad Haimour, the spokesman for Anbar’s governor. Iraq's response today is to vote to send in the Iranian backed Shi'a militia.

ISIS also gained a huge cache of weapons the fleeing Army left behind, that had been sent by the U.S. and Russia to Baghdad. [More...]

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Saturday :: May 16, 2015

Doubt Cast On Role of Killed ISIS Money Man

Update: Door Number Three: Abu Sayyaf, aka Mohammed Shalabi, is said to be a Jordanian Salafist leader . More here.

Update: The Syrians say it launched a raid at the same place -- the al Omar oil fields in Deir Ezzor -- and killed ISIS' oil minister. The Syrians say he is a Saudi (not Tunisian as the U.S. claims) named Abu al-Taym al-Saudi,.

So both the Syrians and the U.S. launched independent raids at the same time and place and both killed an IS financial leader? This is not making sense.

The U.S. says it didn't coordinate with Syria. And no one has heard of "Abu Sayyaf", the name the U.S. originally provided.

The name Abu Sayyaf has rarely been mentioned in Western reports about the extremist group and he is not known to be among terrorists for whom the U.S. has offered a bounty. The name was not known to counterterrorism officials who study IS and does not appear in reports compiled by think tanks and others examining the group's hierarchy.

Now there are reports he is also known as "Abu Muhammad al Iraqi" and "Abd al Ghani."[More...]

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Friday :: May 15, 2015

Jury Sentences Tsarnaev to Death on Some Counts

The jury has returned a sentence of death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Counts 4,5,9,10,14, and 15. See Jim Armstrong on Twitter for each finding.

Added:

The counts on which the jury voted for death pertain solely to Lingzi Lu and Martin Richard. The jury did not return death verdicts on counts with Officer Sean Collier or Krystle Campbell.

On the mitigating factors:

  • Only 3 jurors agreed he would not have committed the offense but for Tamerlan.
[More...]

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Bin Laden Aide Sentenced to Life in Prison

Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi and alleged top aide to Osama bin Laden, was sentenced to life in prison today for his role in the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.

He was not charged with helping to plan the attacks, which killed 224 and injured more than 4,000. Instead, prosecutors said he was bin Laden's "bridge to the West" in London, disseminating the al Qaeda leader's violent messages to media outlets and sending supplies to the group's members in Africa.

Related: From VICE: Why anti-terror proposals going after extremist ideas are counter-productive.

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ISIS Takes Control of Ramadi

ISIS launched an attack today on Ramadi in the Anbar province, and seized control of the city, including the police headquarters and army compound. Why Ramadi is important:

Ramadi controls the only significant routes to Baghdad from Syria and Jordan, a vital means of resupply for ISIS. Ramadi sits on the Euphrates River; the dam in Ramadi and the reservoir south of the city regulate usage of the river’s water for a significant portion of southern Iraq. Ramadi is the biggest population center in the Sunni heartland and is the seat of the powerful Dulaymi tribe, a major part of the Iraqi Sunni population ISIS needs support from if it wants to be a nation-state.... Ramadi is important because it means including the Sunnis in the governance of Iraq

[More...]

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Brain Injury Leads to "Accidental Genius"

GMA has a really interesting article about a female rancher in Colorado who suffered a traumatic brain injury and is now an "accidental genius" in art and music.

[N]ow she is a gifted artist and poet. She enjoys spending time puzzling over mathematical equations. She can “see” sounds and “hear” colors when she listens to music, although she is extremely sensitive to light.

She remembers nothing about her prior life. She doesn’t even recognize her own mother.

The brain works in such interesting and at times unexpected ways. There are stroke victims who suffer from aphasia who cannot speak in words but can sing them.[More...]

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Thursday :: May 14, 2015

Thursday Night Open Thread

Our last open thread is full, and I'm about to watch Senor de los Cielos. Here's a new one, all topics welcome.

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ISIS Leader Al Baghdadi's New Message

ISIS released a new audio message by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi today. You can read the English version here (MS Word Document) or here. It's called "March Forth Whether Light or Heavy."

It strikes me as a pep talk and foreign recruitment effort. There's remarkably little about the West. It's mostly a shout-out to fighters in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Khorasan, Indonesia, the Caucasus and Africa and a call for them to join the war. [More...]

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Wednesday :: May 13, 2015

Tsarnaev Jury to Consider 21 Mitigating Factors

The jury is now deliberating the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Court has published the 24 page verdict form on PACER.

There are 21 mitigating factors the jury must consider, but they are not limited to those factors. Each juror can come up with additional mitigating factors on his or her own and assign whatever weight to the factors he or she deems appropiate. [More...]

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Defense Closing in Tsarnaev Trial

Judy Clarke is about to deliver her closing argument in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I'm following Reporter Jim Armstrong on Twitter. Worth mentioning: As Clarke goes through the mitigating factors, keep in mind they do not have to relate to the commission of the offense. [More...]

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