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Update on Bali Drug Case: Co-Def. Gets 6 Years

When British matron Lindsay Sandiford was sentenced to death in Bali last week, I said my sympathies weren't all with her because it appeared after she got busted, she worked with police to set up four innocent people up to take the fall as her suppliers in the syndicate, by claiming they orchestrated her smuggle. She knew if charged, they be facing the same penalty: death. And she did it anyway. Luckily for the others, the cops seem to have figured out she wasn't telling the truth.

The reasons I doubted her story are here.

Three of the four were sentenced before her to relatively light terms -- 5 years, 4 years and 1 year -- all for possession of minor amounts of drugs they had in their homes at the time of arrest. They were cleared of being involved in Lindsay's smuggling deal. [More...]

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British Mule Sentenced to Death in Bali

Even though Lindsay Sandiford cooperated with police, ratting out others (who may not have been involved), and even though prosecutors asked for a 15 year sentence, a court in Bali has sentenced 51 year old Sandiford to death for smuggling 5 kilos of cocaine in from Bangkok.

I told the whole sordid story here, including how Sandiford led police on a wild goose chase for 6 days trying to do a controlled delivery and lay the drugs off on someone. Her victims: a British couple with a 6 year old daughter. [More...]

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Susan Rice and the 'judgment' question

Susan Rice is certainly capable and tough. One person who has spent a lot of time with Rice is struck by her “bristling certitude.” A former U.S. ambassador told me, “Rice does not know how to be unblunt.” But it is her judgment at critical moments — as displayed on whether to reopen the Sudan embassy or in her handling of the talking points on the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans — that troubles me. - Roger Cohen, NYTimes [Emphasis supplied.]

The B words and Susan Rice are becoming more and more commonplace. In a remarkable column in the New York Times, for the first time that I can remember, Roger Cohen expressed concern about "bristling certitude" and "bluntness." His concern is regarding the supposed "bristling certitude" and "bluntness" of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. But what, to use Susan Collins' favorite word, "troubles" him, or so he writes, is Rice's judgment. Oh really? I did a quick Google search and the closest thing I find from Cohen on the CONDOLEEZZA Rice judgment issue was this:

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South Korea Dumps Jill Kelley, Gives Prestigious Award to Psy

These days, Tampa housewife Jill Kelley can't win, and South Korean rapper Psy can't lose.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it is rescinding her "title" of Honorary consul because she used it for personal gain.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun told South Korean reporters during a visit to Washington that Kelley inappropriately used her title for personal gain.

"It's not suitable to the status of honorary consul that (she) sought to be involved in commercial projects and peddle influence," Kim said, according to Yonhap news agency.

Psy, meanwhile, can do no wrong. (background here.) The South Korean Culture Ministry announced a few weeks ago it would be awarding Psy with the prestigious Okgwan Order of Cultural Merit, awarded for “outstanding meritorious services” to the arts. [More...]

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Hamas Steps Up Bombings, Truce Plans in Jeopardy

Update: Reuters reports a ceasefire has been agreed to.

Yesterday a truce between Israel and Hamas seemed very close. Hillary Clinton traveled from Israel to Egypt for further truce talks. Today, a truce seems less likely. As to what's changed?

Hamas has stepped up its rocket launches into Israel, firing 80 missles into southern Israel in the past 24 hours. 20 were intercepted, in Ashkelon, Beersheba, Be'er Tuviya, Hof Ashkelon and Ashdod.

A package bomb was placed on a bus in Tel Aviv today (no deaths, several injured, seems to be the work of amateur terrorists). On al Aqsa (Hamas) TV: "G-d willing, we will soon see black body bags."

In Gaza yesterday, a Hamas gunman executed 6 people believed to be Israeli collaborators. The bodies were then tied to a motorcyle and dragged through the streets. Photos here, video here. [More...]

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Israel-Gaza Day 6

The fighting continues as do truce talks. According to Israel Defense Forces:

Today 67 rockets fired from #Gaza hit #Israel. Overall, more than 650 rockets hit Israel in the last six days.

Israel says Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields. (Video here and here.)They are prepared to move to ground attacks if the rocket attacks don't stop.

The Iron Dome has stopped about 90% of the rockets fired into Israel. Here's how the Iron Dome works. [More...]

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Israel and Hamas: Bombings Intensify

Israel has called up 75,000 reservists and struck Hamas Government buildings. Hamas has claimed credit for firing rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said some 150 rockets fired from Gaza had hit Israel since Friday and at least 83 more were intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Gaza is a small place with a lot of people, and there have been at least 38 civilian casualties, some of them children. Israel says it is acting in self-defense, and the rockets Hamas is firing at them come from Gaza.

This morning, Hamas fired 20 rockets at Israel. Israel says Operation Pilar Defense will continue. [more...]

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Jailed Iranian Blogger Died After Torture, Iran to "Investigate"

Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti, was arrested on October 30 for cybercrimes and dead a week later. He had been interrogated and according to an Iranian prosecutor, his body showed signs of torture in several places.

Before he died, Behesti wrote this letter to the head of Evin Prison. Yesterday, Iran announced an investigation into Behesti's death. More here.

Three of his interrogators were arrested. [More...]

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50 Years Ago Tomorrow: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Read Bob Stein's wonderful piece on the day President Kennedy announced to the American People the presence of nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Open Thread.

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State Dept . Evacuates US Personnel From Tunisia and Sudan

The State Department has ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Tunisia and Sudan and advises Americans not to travel to either country.

On September 15, 2012, the Department of State ordered the departure of all dependents of U.S. direct hire personnel and all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Sudan, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum.

...On September 14, 2012 the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Tunisia, following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis

The fastest way to get updates on State Department advisories is probably through its twitter feed. Here is the State Department's list of countries with current warnings.

The FBI says it is too dangerous to send agents into Libya right now to investigate the embassy attack. [More...]

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President Obama To Speak At 10:35

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking now.

President Obama to speak at 10:35 a.m. from the Rose Garden at the White House. Watch here.

Mitt Romney, speaking before the President, after expressing condolences, quickly pivots to making a political statement. In my view, Governor Romney's political statements are ill timed, at best. Now he is taking questions about the midnight statement his campaign released attacking the U.S. consulate in Cairo. Romney's appearance is, to me at least, a disgrace. Tomorrow is plenty of time to play politics. Today is not the day for this. Poor taste, to put it mildly.

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US Ambassador To Libya Killed

NYTimes:

The United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed along with three of his staff in an attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi Tuesday night by an armed mob angry over a short American-made video mocking Islam’s founding prophet, the White House and Libyan officials said on Wednesday.

In a statement confirming the four fatalities, President Obama said he strongly condemned the killing — the first death of an American envoy abroad in more than two decades — and had ordered increased security at American diplomatic posts around the world. Previous accounts of the events in Benghazi had spoken of only one death among State Department officials.

“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” Mr. Obama said, calling Mr. Stevens “a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States” who had “selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi” and, as ambassador, “supported Libya’s transition to democracy.”

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Julian Assange Speaks from Embassy

Update: Assange spoke from a balcony. He looked healthy. He called for an end to the U.S. war against whistleblowers:
"The United States must vow it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful"

Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange is scheduled to give a statement today at 2pm London time from the Ecuadoran embassy.

How will he do it without stepping outside where British police are waiting? [More...]

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Russian Female Punk Rockers Sentenced for Hooliganism

The three female members of the Russian punk rock group "Pussy Riot" were sentenced to two years in prison today following Judge Marina Syrova's 3 hour reading of the verdict, finding them guilty of "hooliganism." What is hooliganism? From the verdict: [More...]

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How Will Julian Assange Get Out of the Embassy?

Some experts weigh in with some possibilities on how Julian Assange will get out of the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and whether Britain would revoke Ecaudor's status under a little if ever used law and go in and seize him.

Among the possibilities being discussed: Having him escape in an oversized diplomatic bag or crate. another one:

Ecuador could name Assange its representative to the United Nations. That would make him immune from arrest while traveling to U.N. meetings around the world. Assange could be stripped of his role as representative by the U.N. General Assembly, but in the meantime would be protected.
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