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Kerry Calls Syria Vote "Munich Moment"

Ostensibly, the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, seems to have no idea what the job entails. NBC reports:

Secretary of State John Kerry told House Democrats during a Monday conference call that they face a "Munich moment" as they weigh whether to approve striking Syria to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons, two sources with knowledge of the call told NBC News. The phrase is a reference to the 1938 Munich Pact that ceded control of part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany -- a moment that history has harshly judged as an appeasement of Adolf Hitler that preceded World War II.

Personally, I think Kerry's phrasing is despicable, implying that those who disagree with his assessment of the right course of action in Syria are like those who appeased Hitler in the 1930s. It smacks of the worst rhetoric in the runup to the Iraq Debacle.

But more importantly, it simply is not something a Secretary of State should be saying. If diplomacy is required at some point in this situation, how is the Secretary of State to carry it out, given his intemperate, to put it kindly, remarks? He does not seem to possess the temperament for the job.

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Obama Asks Congress for Syria Strike Approval

President Obama today said he has asked Congress to vote on launching a strike on Syria when it returns Sept. 9. John Boehner says the vote will be the week of September 9.

Obama said he believes he has the authority to act without congressional approval, but asked lawmakers to weigh in and shoulder the responsibility for the decision.

“The country will be stronger if we take this course,” Obama said. “We should have this debate.”

Yesterday, Obama released this 4 page summary of a U.S. report detailing intelligence on the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government on Aug. 21. [More...]

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US Plans Missile Attack on Syria

Here are some details of the planned military strike on Syria. The UK is expected to assist the U.S. Tomahawk missiles are likely.

The blitz may last 48 hours.

The missiles would be unleashed to destroy Syrian President Bashar Assad’s command and control facilities, weapons delivery centres, intelligence bases and military training camps.

A former Syrian military official who has since defected says chemical weapons stockpiles are unlikely to be targeted. [More...]

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Why The UK Detention of Miranda Was Unlawful

Via Shayana Khadidal, this excellent post by Jack of Kent, who appears to be a British attorney, regarding the detention of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport The gist:

What section 40(1)(b) says:

So schedule 7 provides a limited power to question and a limited power to detain. Both the powers to question and to detain are conditional on the purpose of whether a person falls within section 40(1)(b) of the 2000 Act.

So the next question is fundamental – what does section 40(1)(b) say?

Section 40(1)(b) is a definition clause, and it provides the following definition of “terrorist”:

a person who…is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
Section 40(1)(b) thereby is a limiting definition – the questioning (and any period of detention) under schedule 7 is for seeing if a person falls within this definition. Accordingly, any questioning (and any period of detention) which is not for this specified purpose is outside the scope of the provision. [Emphasis supplied.]

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Schapelle Corby Approved for Parole

Update here.

The Bali Corrections Board approved Schapelle Corby for parole Friday. The remaining paperwork could take a few months, and while not a guarantee, it seems she will be released. She has to remain in Indonesia until a year after her sentence expires in 2015, and will live with her sister Mercedes. In March, the Australian Government gave Indonesia a guarantee she would not not violate parole.

Schapelle Corby has been imprisoned since her arrest in October, 2004. She was sentenced to 20 years in 2005, later reduced to 15. She became eligible for parole in 2012. [More...]

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Kim Dotcom Speaks at NZ Protest Rally, Crowd Cheers

Meet the new Kim Dotcom, New Zealand activist for privacy rights, fighting against expansion of government surveillance and U.S. drone strikes and for the rights of whistleblowers.

Kim Dotcom spoke at a rally of thousands of New Zealanders (video here) who had gathered to voice their opposition to a bill expanding Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)surveillance authority and information sharing with law enforcement.

Dotcom said it was very important for people to understand the GCSB is a subsidiary of the NSA and spying for the Americans, feeding them information for its war on terror to locate targets for drone strikes.

Dotcom tells the crowd the U.S. didn't want him spied upon because they thought he was a terrorist or a threat to national security, but because a handful of billionaires in Hollywood didn't like his business. The crowd cheers its approval. He asks, "Why would they spy on me?" [More...]

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Kate, William and the Royal Baby

Here's a video of Kate and William showing their new baby to the crowd gathered in front of the hospital. They are very warm and gracious.

When they left the hospital, Prince William put the baby in a car seat in the back of their personal vehicle and the couple then drove off.

No limousine, no throngs of security agents, and the couple walked right up to the public and chatted. How refreshing.

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Princess Kate Delivers Healthy Baby Boy

Update: It's a boy.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, also known as Princess Kate, has entered a London hospital in the early stages of labor.

This is really big news in England. The media has been camped outside the hospital for days.

Following tradition, after the baby is born, a notice with details will be posted on the easel pictured above.

The formal announcement that a baby has been born will be made in a statement driven by car from the hospital across London and posted on an easel in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

There will also be a 41-gun salute.[More...]

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Old News: Hitler's Soldiers Given Meth

So many news organizations today are writing about Hitler's soldiers being given meth-like pills. The articles seem to emanate from a Der Spiegel article this Sunday.

But this isn't news. Even Der Speigel wrote about it in 2005 -- recounted here.

Back in 2003, it was reported that the U.S. Air Force gave speed pills (dexedrine) to its pilots in Afghanistan to combat fatigue.

An Air Force physician sang the praises on Thursday of amphetamines used by two U.S. fighter pilots who bombed a Canadian infantry unit in Afghanistan, saying fatigue, not ``speed,'' kills. Col. Pete Demitry of the Air Force Surgeon General's office told reporters that Dexedrine, which the Air Force provides for pilots making long flights, was a life saver, not a dangerous drug that distorts judgment as attorneys for pilots William Umbach and Harry Schmidt have argued.

[More...]

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Dueling Briefs Filed in Megaupload Case

Here is the Government's latest salvo in the federal criminal case in Virginia against Kim Dotcom and his partners. Here is Dotcom's Rebuttal. Torrent Freak has a good explanation without the legalese as to what it's about.

More interesting to non-lawyers is #kimdotcom's announcement today that Megaabox is ready for launch. [More...]

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Israel Airstrikes in Syria

Israel has not yet officially confirmed the news, but everyone else, from the BBC to Al Jazeera to the New York Times, is reporting that Israel launched an airstrike in Syria. An Israeli spokesman says:

“Israel is determined to prevent the transfer of chemical weapons or other game-changing weaponry by the Syrian regime to terrorists, specially to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

U.S. officials on the other hand say:

US officials say the Israeli air strike happened overnight Thursday into Friday, but the aircraft did not enter Syrian airspace. [More...]

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NY U.S. Attorney and John Yoo Banned From Russia

Russia has responded to the U.S. issuing a list of sanctioned Russians yesterday by putting out its own list of U.S. officials engaged in human rights violations.

The list includes Bush torture memo author John Yoo and Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, David Addington, and some Guantanamo officials. I wonder why they left Dick Cheney off the list.

Russia's list also includes Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who prosecuted Viktor Bout and pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko (African drug sting case.) [more...]

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Was The Iraq War Worthwhile? Ask An American

Jeffrey Goldberg writes:

Was the Iraq Invasion Worthwhile? Ask an Iraqi

In a recent interview with the New York Times, the writer Toni Morrison said, I dare you to tell me a sane reason we went to Iraq. Her request is not unreasonable.

Indeed. Does Goldberg then provide a "reasonable" answer? Not in my mind. Instead he decides that to answer Morrison's question of whether the Iraq war was worthwhile for the United States, he needed to ask an Iraqi:

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Cuban Embargo "Should Be Lifted For All"

So sayeth conservative blogger Patterico:

I am not a fan of the policy of prohibiting people from traveling to Cuba. I understand the purpose of the ban, but I am generally for freedom. My default position is that we should be able to travel where we want to travel.

But wait, there's more:

But if the ban should be lifted, it should be lifted for all not just those who are friends with Obama.

Hmm. I' going to Cuba this summer and I'm not "friends with Obama." How am I managing that? Why I'm a Cuban- American that's how. If it should be ok for me to go, why shouldn't it be ok for Beyonce and Jay-Z?

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R.I.P. Margaret Thatcher

Ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died. The BBC is providing live coverage of the world's reaction.

She died after suffering a stroke at the Ritz Hotel, where she had been staying since December. She was 87.

She was Britain's first female Prime Minister, and served in that capacity from 1979 to 1990.

R.I.P.

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