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Monday :: July 13, 2015

Obama Commmutes 46 Drug Sentences

President Obama has issued 46 grants of clemency to drug offenders.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals. But the overwhelming majority had to be sentenced to at least 20 years,” he said, noting that in his letters to them he made sure they needed to make different choices now that they were free.”But I believe that at its heart, America’s a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

This isn't even on my front page of Google News, I had to search for it. Google needs a new algorythm or whatever they use to decide what's important enough for the front page and top stories.

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El Chapo: Post-Escape Photos on Airplane

Blog de Narco has received three photograghs purporting to show Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman-Loera after his escape from Altiplano prison in Almaloya de Juarez. While it cannot verify the photos, it did use software that established they were not edited or photo-shopped.

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Sunday :: July 12, 2015

"El Chapo" Escapes From High Security Prison

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has done it again! He's escaped from the high security prison in Altiplano, through a tunnel. Several prison workers are being held.

The articles say if he makes it home to Culiacan in the mountains, he's unlikely to be captured. [More...]

The tunnel was built from a 50 centimeter hole in the shower. It then widened, and extended for a mile. It was about 33 feet deep.

President Nieto is in France, and his Administration will be very embarrassed by this.

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Saturday :: July 11, 2015

Saturday Open Thread

Our last open thread is full, here's a new one, all topics welcome. Please try not to hog the thread so everyone has the opportunity to start new discussions. There's no reason for anyone to comment 20 or 30 times in a single thread. It's called blog-clogging. And no insults to each other please.

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Friday :: July 10, 2015

The West "Just Doesn't Get" ISIS

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of news site Rai al-Youm and the author of several books on Islamic extremism including this new book on ISIS, has a column today about how the West still doesn't comprehend ISIS.

He says The West and the invasion of Iraq are responsible for the creation and expansion of ISIS. ISIS is a bigger threat than al Qaida ever was, but we cannot defeat ISIS militarily.

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Defense Rests in James Holmes' Aurora Theater Shooting Trial

The defense has wrapped up its case in the Aurora theater shooting trial of James Homes. The jury will decide whether he was insane at the time of his killing rampage.

After playing jurors a video of the defendant naked and running head-long into a cell wall, and another of him thrashing around in restraints at a hospital, the defense rested.

The prosecution said it would not present any rebuttal case. Attorneys from both sides will make closing arguments on Tuesday

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Appeals Court Affirms Conviction of Ex-Gov. McDonnell

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the corruption convictions of Virginia former Governor Robert McDonnell. The opinion is here. McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison and has been free pending appeal. What he did:

Over the course of five weeks of trial, federal prosecutors sought to prove that former Governor of Virginia Robert F. McDonnell (“Appellant”) and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, accepted money and lavish gifts in exchange for efforts to assist a Virginia company in securing state university testing of a dietary supplement the company had developed. The jury found Appellant guilty of eleven counts of corruption and not guilty of two counts of making a false statement.

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Thursday :: July 09, 2015

Thursday Open Thread

Busy at work. Here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Tunisia Building Border Fence, U.S. Starts Online Messaging Campaign

Tunisia is building a border fence on its border with Libya to keep out ISIS.

The barrier will cover 168 kilometers (105 miles) — about one-third of the border — and will include fencing, a sand wall, trenches and surveillance posts.

The U.S. has partnered with the UAE to launch a new online messaging campaign called the Sawab Center to counter ISIS' message.

The Sawab Center will use direct online engagement to counter terrorist propaganda rapidly and effectively, including messages used to recruit foreign fighters, fundraise for illicit activities, and intimidate and terrorize local populations. The Sawab Center will increase the intensity of online debate by presenting moderate and tolerant voices from across the region and amplifying inclusive and constructive narratives.

The UK is asking British citizens to leave Tunisia as another attack is feared.

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Tuesday :: July 07, 2015

"Hacking Team" Hacked: Exposes Extent of Intercepts

The Hacking Group, a company in Italy which provides tracking software used by the DEA and anti-drug forces in other countries, has been hacked. It's emails have been published, including one that shows the DEA has been intercepting every IP address in Colombia. More here.

VICE reports the Hacking Team is now in emergency mode, urging customers to stop using its products. The Hacking Team's website is here. A spreadsheet showing its customers and revenues is here.

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New Report on Rising Heroin Use and Deaths

The Centers for Disease Control released a report today, "Vital Signs: Demographic and Substance Use Trends Among Heroin Users — United States, 2002–2013." The press release is here.

It finds increased heroin use, particularly among users of pain pills and cocaine, and increased heroin-related deaths.

Predictably, the report calls for more restrictions on pain pills. The U.S. always gets it backwards when it comes to drugs.

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Monday :: July 06, 2015

Monday News and Open Thread

President Obama just held a news conference on ISIS. I only caught the last 10 minutes. He said we would continue what we've been doing, and that we can't defeat ISIS militarily, we have to defeat their ideology.

Update: The part of his speech I missed: "We will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria." I think that's a waste of resources -- there is no "moderate" opposition.

In Iraq news, the Iraqi military dropped a bomb by mistake on Baghdad, killing and wounding civilians. Iraq says its Russian fighter jet malfunctioned, releasing the bomb.

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Sunday :: July 05, 2015

Egypt Bans Reporters' Use Of ISIS Terminology

Egypt's Foreign Ministry has issued a new style guide for media coverage of terrorism. It bans the use of the words "ISIS, ISIL or Islamic State." It instructs reporters not to use any religious based terms when referring to terrorist groups, including "jihadists", "Islamists" or "fundamentalists." Reporters cannot refer to leaders of these groups with the label "Sheikh" or "Emir."

How are reporters supposed to refer to the groups? The guide says the acceptable terms include "terrorists, extremists, criminals, murderers, savages, slaughterers, assassins, radicals, fanatics, rebels" and a few others.

You can read the new rules here.

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Saturday :: July 04, 2015

The Targeted Killings of the Al Harzi Brothers in Iraq and Syria

On June 23, the Pentagon announced Tunisian Ali al Harzi, who was a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack, was killed in an airstrike in Mosul, Iraq on June 15. Yesterday, the Pentagon announced his brother, Tariq al Harzi, (pictured above) was killed in an airstrike in Syria on June 16. I wrote a long post on the background of the al Harzi brothers here, commenting that Tariq seemed to be the more significant of the pair.

But there's more to Tariq that I find interesting and hasn't been reported in Government reward listings or OFAC notices: Tariq was a champion boxer in Tunesia who lost a leg in a 2004 U.S. bombing attack in Fallujah in Iraq. Human rights groups said he was tortured for three months by Iraqi intelligence at Abu Ghraib. (He later told his father the Americans had treated him well.) U.S. detention records list him as #009 654. [More...]

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Fourth of July Open Thread

As America celebrates Freedom and Independence today, here are some thoughts on what they mean.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone. I hope you all have a great day planned. When you return, please tell us about it.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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