Wednesday Night Open Thread

It's barbecue night here. Which means an open thread for you. All topics welcome.

The ACLU has a lot of news today I didn't get to blog about.

And, in the mail: a new novel, The Legal Limit, about a drug offender who faces a moral quandry and laws that always do justice. I can't tell yet if it's a pro-prosecution book or not. If you've already read it, let me know:[More...]

And Human Rights Watch has a new report showing we need to amend a 13-year-old federal law that denies prisoners equal access to justice.

The 46-page report, "No Equal Justice: The Prison Litigation Reform Act in the United States," addresses a law passed by Congress in 1996 that singles out lawsuits brought by prisoners for a host of burdens and restrictions that apply to no one else. The report shows that as a result of the law, many cases brought by prisoners seeking the protection of the courts against dangerous conditions of confinement, or a remedy for sexual assault or other abuse by staff or inmates, have been thrown out of court.

The grill is ready. This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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    Now (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by andgarden on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:11:55 AM EST
    this is the kind of article I like to see!

    This just ticks me off (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:21:32 AM EST
    . . . allows administration personnel to take leave to care for sick partners and requires the government to recognize their partners as household members when determining overseas housing allocations for State Department employees, among other things.

    That was already covered by Hillary. Along with the fact the other benefits aren't exactly "new".

    Geeze, I couldn't even get through the first paragraph. Back to try again . . .


    I like the framing of the article (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by andgarden on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:24:11 AM EST
    "sorry, not good enough!"

    I agree there. (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:31:40 AM EST
    I just came over to add this:

    For instance, Mr. Berry said, United States medical facilities overseas would now be open to the partners of State Department employees.

    That was also in Hillary's announcement/change at the State Dept.

    Woman's groups need to adopt the "sorry, not good enough" attitude. I think we are all sick of crumbs, and now getting pretty darn sick of the "game". I just wish the "feminists" would step up more. bravo for you that you are getting the "not good enough" word out. (I hope that came out the right way! seriously, I'm glad we're hearing this message!)


    So much for avoiding ... (none / 0) (#16)
    by FreakyBeaky on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:47:33 AM EST
    ... the hot-button culture war issues, which are just so 1990s ...

    Some things you just can't duck.  Shouldn't have tried.


    I thought his comments (none / 0) (#20)
    by lilburro on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:56:13 AM EST
    at the signing were extremely weak.

    And why the f*ck can't he apologize for that stupid brief?  I realize he can't go around apologizing for everything the DoJ does, but if he doesn't act on DOMA quickly (and he isn't indicating he will) then the lack of apology will continue to be a source of anger in the LGBT community.


    btw (none / 0) (#21)
    by lilburro on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 09:25:16 AM EST
    John Cole is still astonishingly unable to hold Obama accountable on gay rights issues.  And he's ignorant on the subject to boot.

    Hey! Did you see this? (none / 0) (#30)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:49:04 AM EST
    Gillibrand's dairy @DK regarding DADT?

    I urge everybody to... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 09:26:11 AM EST
    take a second to send some good vibes eastward to Iran...the land of the yearning to be free and the home of the insanely brave.  Link

    Freedom loving people the world over stand with you....get up, stand up, don't give up the fight.

    It almost brings a tear to a jaded eye....awe inspiring stuff.

    From the WTF files... (5.00 / 0) (#25)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:05:07 AM EST
    A Maine high school senior says he was denied his diploma because he bowed during graduation and blew a kiss to his mother.


    How utterly stupid.  A time of celebration and this kid is punished for acknowledging his Mother?  What is wrong with people?

    One last power trip... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:11:53 AM EST
    on the boy before he goes off in the world?  Maybe the principal didn't feel he was properly broken down.

    I guess my whole senior class was lucky to get ours...we did the beach-ball thing with an inflatable sex doll...and that was a catholic school!  


    Yeah... (none / 0) (#27)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:17:22 AM EST
    ...our entire Senior class would have probably all ended up in the pokey in today's world.  

    I'll tell you what though, if it would have been my Mom, that principal would be wishing they'd never been born right about now.  


    Graham/Lieberman Victory... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Anne on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:27:13 AM EST
    From Think Progress:

    Last night, the Senate passed by unanimous consent a bill that would prevent the release of controversial photos of alleged U.S. abuse of prisoners and detainees. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), was proposed as standalone legislation after it was stripped from a war funding supplemental bill by House Democrats.

    I am just sick about this.  Sick and disgusted.

    Unanimous consent - the coward's tool.

    Change? (none / 0) (#33)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 11:02:54 AM EST
    Another example of "change you can believe in". Politician's on both sides are still more concerned with covering their a**es than truth, transparency or the Constitution.

    All of our lecturing the rest of the world about human rights and it turns out we can't practice what we preach. And of course the two sponsors of the bill are among the leaders in hypocrisy.


    Our Senate (none / 0) (#42)
    by ruffian on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 03:37:46 PM EST
    Some real profiles in courage there. Just ridiculous.

    Strong Rumors (5.00 / 0) (#36)
    by CoralGables on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 11:57:13 AM EST
    that the Minnesota Supreme Court will rule on Coleman today.

    The WaPo fires Dan Froomkin. (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Anne on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 03:30:47 PM EST
    Really sorry to learn about this, as Froomkin was about the only one there who spoke truth to power, regardless of who was holding it.

    Glenn posts:

    One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama -- i.e., someone who criticizes Obama from what is perceived as "the Left" rather than for being a Terrorist-Loving Socialist Muslim.  It just got a lot rarer, as The Washington Post -- at least according to Politico's Patrick Gavin -- just fired WashingtonPost.com columnist, long-time Bush critic and Obama watchdog (i.e., a real journalist) Dan Froomkin.

    What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry is that, as Calderone notes, Froomkin was easily one of the most linked-to and cited Post columnists.  At a time when newspapers are relying more and more on online traffic, the Post just fired the person who, in 2007, wrote 2 out of the top 10 most-trafficked columns.  In publishing that data, Media Bistro used this headline:  "The Post's Most Popular Opinions (Read: Froomkin)."  Isn't that an odd person to choose to get rid of?


    All of this underscores a critical and oft-overlooked point:  what one finds virtually nowhere in the establishment press are those who criticize Obama not in order to advance their tawdry right-wing agenda but because the principles that led them to criticize Bush compel similar criticism of Obama.

    Depressing; Froomkin did a great job.

    Hmmmmm (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 03:54:56 PM EST
    Wonder if there was political pressure.....? (Yes, tin hatty, but with these people, anything is fair game).

    Larry King hybrid (none / 0) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Jun 17, 2009 at 11:13:04 PM EST
    What a spectacle, Wolf Blitzer filling in for Larry King to do a show on Iran, but they've booked him a Larry King-style panel of Iranian-born TV entertainers to open the show with their political commentary.  <sound of teeth grinding>

    Aren't you just aching to know more than anything else about Iran what long-time Iranian exiles who are actors and TV entertainers think of all this?  (One of them just said admiringly that the young people in the streets with their cell phones and Twitter accounts were all born after he left the country.)

    Oy. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by nycstray on Wed Jun 17, 2009 at 11:48:25 PM EST
    Me was on cable watching Top Chef etc. :)

    How's your kitty?


    Kitty RIP (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:53:03 AM EST
    I posted on it yesterday back on the previous thread where I'd asked about toxoplasmosis.

    But tests came back Tuesday afternoon showing instead that she had raging feline infectious peritonitis-- untreatable, always fatal.  So I went immediately up to the hospital and after cuddling her for a while and telling her how beautiful she was and getting a nice purr from her, I held her while the vet ended her suffering.

    I brought her home and buried her today next to another lovely little cat I lost last November to a rare passing truck.  I'm getting to be quite a veteran at this.

    This disease is a terrible, cruel virus that's present harmlessly in many cats, but from time to time just mutates into this deadly form.  Piecing things together, the vet and I think she was probably suffering from it as long ago as March, but it's one of those insidious things that can produce only faint, vague symptoms until it reaches its climactic stage.

    The good thing is that she was essentially robustly healthy otherwise up until only a day before she completely succumbed to it.  It was only last week I was enjoying watching her racing madly around my property.

    Only 10 months old, which is just totally unfair.  But she enjoyed herself and had fun the last six months since I've had her, right up until only a couple of days before she died.

    I'm lucky, too, that I have a wonderful, wonderful vet who keeps up on the latest research, talks to me about these things like a colleague instead of a moron, and who sat with me for about 45 minutes while little Mollie took her last breaths and patiently and thoroughly answered all my questions.

    When I said something about how hard it must be for her to preside over these painful endings, she got red in the face and then suddenly began weeping herself, apologizing and saying it had been a particularly bad day for it.  So I found myself oddly hugging her and giving her comfort.  Give me a smart, conscientious, animal-oriented vet with a big heart any day.  I've had some truly bad ones in the past, so I'm terribly relieved to have found her.

    Thanks so much for caring.


    D@mn! I'm so sorry!! (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:09:49 AM EST
    and she was so young! {tears}

    Lordy, that would break my heart. And like you, I think I have veteran status with kitties. I lost 3 in a 2mo period in the fall of 2005 and one earlier in the year. I had lost kitties in the past, but all four were from a different "issue" in the same year. Veteran status doesn't make it any easier. I feel for you :(

    I also have a wonderful vet, very UTD on traditional, holistic eastern,etc and doesn't talk to me like a moron. It really, really helps. I've always been able to make informed choices, and I know how much that does help in times like this.

    I'm hoping Mollie has met my Joleen, Sierra, Rikki, Rock_er, Alex and Vinnie at the bridge and they are enjoying a good  romp through the grass. Rikki in particular will watch out for her, That's his specialty ;)

    I'm so, so  sorry for your loss :(

    R.I.P. sweet baby girl Mollie.


    Oh, I love that (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:46:14 PM EST
    mental image of them all playing together endlessly-- perhaps in a weedy field full of immortal and indestructible mice!  And lots and lots of ice cream and tummy rubs every day.

    You're so right about informed choices.  I lost a cat about five years ago because of mouth cancer, and her last days were made infinitely more horrible for her because the stinking, lousy vet at the time did not give me the information I could have acted on to spare her from the worst of it.  I don't really understand how some of these very bad vets manage to sleep at night with the amount of unnecessary suffering they cause.

    I was standing around a church lobby talking with some friends once when somebody brought out a tiny, trembling baby rabbit wrapped in a soft blanket, and a nun who was there beamed this transcendent smile of love and pleasure at the creature and reached out to pet it very, very gently and murmured softly "God bless a small heart."

    I'm not a believer, but that's so perfect I've always thought of it, God bless a small heart.



    Can my Sam, Katie, Chrissy, (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by vml68 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:53:43 PM EST
    Smudge, Scotty, Boomer and Luke join in the romp too?

    And Max, Murphy and Katmandu too? (5.00 / 2) (#43)
    by ruffian on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 03:41:08 PM EST
    And my dog Ruffian will keep them all amused. Dogs seem so silly to cats.

    So sorry Gyrfalcon. She sounds like a lovely kitty and I'm glad she had a good life with you, however brief.


    Dusty and Rosy, too.... (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 04:26:45 PM EST
    what a terrific image of all the kitties (and ruffian)....

    I'm so sorry about (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:36:14 AM EST
    your kitty.  My very solemn condolences.

    My 13.5 year old lab is pretty much on his way to the big dog park in the sky too, and we're just waiting for the sign.  Sometimes I wish it were clear-cut.  He still has the bright, smiling eyes and doggie sense of humor, but his neuro disease is getting fairly severe.  Sadly we may have to make the choice based on his care being just too much for us, literally losing an hour or two of sleep every single night taking care of him.  

    So your case is especially poignant for me.

    I hope you have great memories for comfort.


    Very Sorry (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by cal1942 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 02:24:53 AM EST
    Ten months old is unfair but no matter the age it's a terrible loss.

    Our little princess died last June at 17 and for some time my wife and I were immobilized with grief.

    I know how you feel.  There's something about losing a four-legged family member that's hard to put into words.  They are innocents, they depend on us to care for them, return absolute love in return and can't tell us what's wrong.  

    Frustrating and heart breaking.


    They are innocent (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:03:43 PM EST
    without "sin" of any kind, and if the world were fair, would always lead entirely happy and interesting lives.  I have some sort of spiritual context into which I can put human suffering, but not animal.  I find I can cope emotionally with having lost her, but not very well at all with what she went through those last couple of days.

    I wish I could have spared her that, but it wouldn't even have been possible to diagnose this with certainty before she came apart so badly because there's no lab test for it until autopsy, only a collection of test results that combined with this kind of great distress gives you a high degree of certainty.

    Thanks so much for all the sympathy and support.  I have my fingers crossed hard that my other two cats don't develop this after having been exposed to it for so long.


    Sorry about your kitty... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by desertswine on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 09:38:56 AM EST
    I have two myself.

    So sad to learn (5.00 / 3) (#24)
    by KeysDan on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 09:53:30 AM EST
    about your kitty.  Loss of our little Eve, a rescue cat who brings so much joy to our lives, would be hard to bear so I can only imagine your feelings.  Also, thank you for the reference to the article on gyrfalcons, it was appreciated.

    Really good vets are hard to find... (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by vml68 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:51:38 PM EST
    I had a really good vet when I lived in OH and I haven't found anyone to match him here in NJ. So while I take my animals for the routine stuff to vets here, if it is something serious I still make the trip back to OH to see him.

    I understand that entirely (none / 0) (#48)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 06:52:15 PM EST
    and would do the same thing if I were in your shoes.

    Part of it I think must be the local culture.  I was very surprised to discover that most of the vets up here in Vermont, whom you'd honestly think might be a bit backward, seem to be very much up to date and aware of recent advances in esoterica like cat nutrition and research on herbal and other supplements and readily use them.  Come to find out Vermont, perhaps like other rural states, I don't know, has a very, very strong culture of animal care.  The many shelters are all no-kill, well supported and flooded with willing adopters when they put out a call for help because of overcrowding.

    Back in the affluent and well-educated Boston suburbs, no such thing.  I finally found a wonderful caring vet my last year there, a superb diagnostician with a real feel for feline behavior especially, but she was completely and utterly ignorant of cat food issues and as dismissive of supplements as any hidebound old M.D.  And she was actually more advanced on many things than other vets I'd either dealt with or heard about.

    I was surprised to discover how few holistic vets there are here, but OTOH, there's going to be less demand for them since the regular vets are so tuned in and so totally animal-centered.

    We're so helpless in the fact of animal health issues, our only recourse is a really good vet.  I hope you can eventually find a good one nearer to home, but until then, I say hit the road when you need to.


    So very sorry about Mollie (5.00 / 2) (#45)
    by Spamlet on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 04:01:59 PM EST
    My condolences to you. May Mollie rest--and play--in peace with my own Dagmar, Theo, Nancy, Ivy, Junior, Mickey, and others dear to my heart.

    I loved (none / 0) (#3)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Jun 17, 2009 at 11:56:43 PM EST
    last week's show, with the girl scout critics.  Do they have girl scout critics this week too?

    Lost writers (none / 0) (#4)
    by andgarden on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:11:22 AM EST
    Not that interesting IMO.

    Too bad! (none / 0) (#14)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:37:14 AM EST
    Oh well.

    No, former contestants (none / 0) (#5)
    by nycstray on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:11:47 AM EST
    and the LOST writers/producer/etc.

    And they actually have two of the four female chefs on this show.

    The girl scouts were great! Of course, most kids are when you ask for their honest opinion, lol!~ I liked how the chef's reacted to their comments. I think that's what's fun about doing the Masters series. They have a bit of a different mind set and are also established enough that they have a different reaction. It's cute how tickled (or not) they get over the reviews. And they care about the charities they are playing for, as do most celebrities, but the cooking competition feels a bit more real than say, celebrity Jeopardy.


    The one chef (none / 0) (#15)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 01:39:47 AM EST
    can't remember his name...who made the little animals, the mouse..now he definitely knew his "audience," seriously thought about what kids would like.  He was great.

    And the kids were just amazing, such brilliant, interesting opinions.


    Hillary (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 12:28:57 AM EST
    Something we haven't talked about in a while (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:00:08 AM EST
    Education.  Seems that the Chicago way doesn't seem to be working for Chicago, and now, with Obama basketbal buddy Arne Duncan as the Secretary, is this what awaits us nationally?


    Cream City had eloquent things to say (none / 0) (#46)
    by Spamlet on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 04:02:58 PM EST
    about this very subject not so long ago, iirc.

    Dems dodge ban on lobbyists' cash (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 08:02:29 AM EST
    Really?  I'm SHOCKED! (we will ignore the quote about ugly girls)

    President Barack Obama's strict ban on lobbyist contributions will limit the haul from Thursday night's fundraising dinner for congressional Democrats, but organizers have found a way around it: a morning-after event at the same hotel where lobbyists -- and their money --will be welcomed with open arms.

    Invitations for the $5,000-per-person Issues Conference don't say it's an effort to skirt Obama's lobbying ban, but they walk right up to the edge.

    "Please note that the Friday Issues Conference is NOT subject to lobbyist restrictions, though the event is intended for personal contributions only," a finance official from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wrote in an e-mail sent to lobbyists Tuesday and obtained by POLITICO, bolding the entire sentence to underscore the clarification. "The Issues Conference is separate from the DSCC/DCCC events with President Obama."

    One prominent Democratic lobbyist unhappy with the situation described it vividly: "It's almost like the ugly girl that you want to call late at night -- but don't want to be seen with on a date."

    Obama refuses to appear at fundraising events where lobbyists are allowed to contribute money, so the Democrats can't collect lobbyists' cash at Thursday night's dinner. But since the president won't be at the morning-after event, congressional Democrats will be free to collect the lobbying dollars then that they couldn't take the night before.

    "Conservative" ? (none / 0) (#29)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:44:15 AM EST
    "Conservative" and "Republican" are not necessarily synonomous anymore - at least the public perception is changing.

    While the label "Republican" is polling about as low as it's ever polled, its part-time synonym -- "conservative" -- is the most popular ideological descriptor in politics.

    A Gallup poll this week found that the number of Americans defining themselves as conservative is at its highest point in 20 years, at 40 percent.

    That compared to 35 percent saying they are moderate and 21 percent saying they are liberal.

    Bout time... (none / 0) (#32)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:51:31 AM EST
    the Repubs haven't been a conservative party, at least fiscally, since the Goldwater days.

    Anybody know what to make of... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 10:50:12 AM EST
    the 134 billion (with a b) of USA I.O.U.'s two guys tried to smuggle into Switzerland?  Link

    I sure don't, but it is freakin' hysterical to me that we have so many IOU's floating around that 134 billion worth could just show up with no clue where it came from...assuming the paper ain't counterfeit.

    Can't help but think we're gonna crash and crash hard soon unless we stop borrowing yesterday and start paying these I.O.U.'s off tomorrow.  Unless it ain't real...can it be real?

    For those who believe POLLS (none / 0) (#34)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 11:14:20 AM EST
    Obama's ratings dropping. I hear some 5 pts in a week, but this summary at least breaks the numbers down into categories where people are reacting to his policies.

    The poll information starts around the 35 second mark.

    Some criminal law rulings from SC (none / 0) (#35)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 18, 2009 at 11:34:26 AM EST

    Court rejects DNA access claim

    Splitting 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an individual whose criminal conviction has become final does not have a constitutional right to gain access to evidence so that it can be subjected to DNA testing to try to prove innocence.  This was one of four final rulings the Court issued Thursday, leaving ten remaining.  The next release of opinions is expected on Monday.

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., writing for the majority in District Attorney's Office v. Osborne (08-6), noted that DNA testing provides "an unparalleled ability" to prove innocence or guilt, but its availability "cannot mean that every criminal conviction, or even every criminal conviction involving biological evidence, is suddenly in doubt."

    The task of writing rules to control access to DNA evidence "belongs primarily" to the legislature, the Chief Justice wrote.  Pursuing a "freestanding and far-reaching constitutional right of access" to DNA evidence through a civil rights lawsuit, Roberts wrote, would "short-circuit" efforts now being made by the federal government and many states to develop tools on access to such evidence.  "There is no reason to constitutionalize" access through the courts when elected officials are making "a prompt and considered" response to the DNA phenomenon, the opinion concluded.

    While the decision appeared to be focused on whether such a right of access exists after a criminal conviction has become final, when states presumably have more authority to shape their responses to new challenges to earlier convictions, the language used by the Court majority made it appear that the sweep of the decision may turn out to be considerably broader.

    Two of the Justices who joined the majority said in a separate opinion that they would have gone further in rejecting the DNA access claim in the case, asserting that such claims should not be pursued in a civil rights lawsuit, but through a habeas plea -- but then only after first trying the challenge in state court. (The Chief Justice's opinion assumed, without deciding, that the case had been properly pursued as a civil rights claim.)

    In an opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., he and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy also said that, if a defense lawyer fails to seek DNA testing during trial, and does so for tactical reasons, there is no constitutional right to seek access following conviction.  Justice Clarence Thomas joined them on that second point, but not on the need to pursue the habeas route.

    In another major ruling on criminal law, the Court, dividing 6-3, decided that if a jury finds an individual not guilty on some counts, but can't agree on the others, prosecutors may not try that individual again on the "hung" counts if they had a common element with those on which the jury acquitted.  The ruling came in a case growing out of the Enron Corp. scandal -- Yeager v. U.S. (08-67).  Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.  The Court, however, did not overturn the conviction on charges of insider trading and money laundering, but returned the case to the Fifth Circuit Court for further analysis.