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Aug. 29 2015 4:27 PM

Egypt Sentences Al Jazeera Journalists to Three Years in Prison

An Egyptian judge handed out what the New York Times characterizes as “unexpectedly harsh verdicts” against three journalists working for the Al Jazeera English news network by sentencing each of them to three years in prison. International rights groups immediately criticized the verdict that sentenced the journalists for operating without a press license and broadcasting “false news.” The verdict came as a surprise because Egyptian government officials had made it clear they did not like that the trial was going on because it had brought about so much international scrutiny on the country and its leaders.

Everyone expected that the retrial against Mohamed Fahmy, a naturalized Canadian, Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, and Peter Greste, an Australian who was deported earlier this year, was going to end the ordeal that the men had been facing since they were first arrested in December 2013. The judge, however, said that the defendants "are not journalists and not members of the press syndicate" and used unlicensed equipment to carry out their broadcasts, reports Reuters. Three Egyptians students also received the same sentence.


"It took a moment to sink in," Greste told the BBC in Australia shortly after the verdict was released. "It was disbelief, I guess. To be sentenced to three years in prison is just devastating. It is outrageous. It is so wrong on so many levels."

Amal Clooney, Fahmy’s lawyer who appeared in the courtroom for the first time on Saturday, said the verdict “sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Amnesty International also condemned the verdict saying it was the result of “farcical” proceedings.

Al-Jazeera journalists, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy (R) and Egyptian Baher Mohamed (C), both accused of supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in their coverage for the Qatari-owned broadcaster, sit in the defendants' cage during their trial in the capital Cairo on August 29, 2015.

Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

"Today's verdict defies logic and common sense,” said Al Jazeera Media Network's Acting Director General Dr Mostefa Souag. "Today's verdict is yet another deliberate attack on press freedom. It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary; rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media, they have compromised their independence for political reasons." The verdict will be appealed and the journalists are still holding out hope there could be a presidential pardon.

Even as Al Jazeera vows to do everything in its power to release the journalists, the network has also come under fire for the ordeal. In a June New York Times op-ed Fahmy accused the network of using the journalists as “unwitting pawns in Qatar’s geopolitical game.” He has filed a $100-million lawsuit against the network, accusing it of disregarding the safety of its employees.

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Aug. 29 2015 1:41 PM

Sheriff’s Deputy Murdered in “Execution-Style Killing” While Pumping Gas in Houston Area

Law enforcement agents are interviewing a person of interest in the killing of a uniformed sheriff’s deputy from the Houston area. Darren Goforth, 47, was apparently gunned down out of the blue at a gas station on Friday night shortly after working at a routine car accident, reports the Houston Chronicle. No charges have been filed yet against the person of interest, who was apparently turned in by his own mother.

Witnesses say the gunman approached Goforth from behind and shot him multiple times in the back, continuing to unload his weapon into the officer after he had fallen to the ground, reports USA Today. "It appears to be an unprovoked, execution-style killing of a police officer," Sheriff Ron Hickman said. “In my 45 years in law enforcement, I can't recall another incident so cold-blooded and cowardly.”


A memorial sprang up on Saturday morning at the Chevron station where Goforth was gunned down as people took balloons, flowers, candles and notes to the area. Although the gas station reopened after the incident, the pump Goforth was using when he was killed remained closed, reports the Associated Press.

Aug. 29 2015 12:21 PM

Trump: Women (Who Love Their Husbands) Can’t be Trusted to Keep National Security Secrets

Donald Trump was at it again last night at a fundraising event, where he took aim at everyone from Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton. He also found a new target: Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband Anthony Weiner. Speaking to a boisterous audience that was eager to clap and cheer everything the real estate magnate said, Trump called Weiner a “perv” and made fun of the sexting scandal that ended his political career using some weird hand gestures. All that seemed par for the course for Trump. But what appeared to be (yet another) new low for the most popular Republican presidential hopeful was the implication that a woman can’t be trusted to keep national security secrets if she is married and loves her husband. While talking about Abedin's access to Clinton's emails he said:

“If you think that Huma isn’t telling Anthony—who she’s probably desperately in love with in all fairness to Anthony because why else would she marry this guy? Can you believe it? Can’t see straight—Look, think of it, it’s coming through Huma, she’s got lots of stuff, lots of information and she’s married to a bad guy. … Do you think there’s even a five percent chance that she’s not telling Anthony Weiner—now of a public relations firm—what the hell is coming across? Do you think there’s even a little bit of a chance? I don’t think so…”

Trump then goes for the gold:

“Are there any women in this room who are in love with their husbands who wouldn’t be telling them everything?”

Lest you think this was an off-the-cuff remark taken out of context, Trump defended his attacks on Abedin and Weiner, reiterating to NBC News that she shouldn’t have access to confidential information. "I don't think she should have been part of the people receiving it, whether it's confidential, why would she be involved?" he said.

Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill defended Abedin. writing on Twitter that Trump “should be ashamed of himself” because “there is no place for patently false, personal attacks against a staff member.”

Trump donated $2,000 to Weiner in 2010, according to the Washington Post.

Aug. 29 2015 8:12 AM

Week in Photos

Revelers throw tomato pulp at each other during the annual tomatina festivities in the village of Bunol, near Valencia, Spain, on Aug. 26, 2015. Some 22,000 revelers hurled 150 tons of squashed tomatoes at each other, drenching the streets in red, in a gigantic Spanish food fight marking the 70th annual battle.


Photo by David Gray/Reuters

Zhang Honglin of China reacts after pulling up during the men’s 110-meter hurdles heats at the IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing on Aug. 26, 2015.


Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images


A rising sun illuminates the landscape on Aug. 22, 2015, near Bernbeuren, Germany.


Photo by Max Whittaker/Reuters

Fulton Hotshot Michael Turowski lights a controlled burn on the so-called Rough Fire in the Sequoia National Forest, California, on Aug. 21, 2015. In California, suffering its worst drought on record, about 2,500 people were forced to flee Christian camps east of Fresno at Hume Lake as the  Rough Fire crossed Highway 180, officials said.


Photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

Usain Bolt of Jamaica falls after being hit by a cameraman on a Segway as he celebrates after winning the men’s 200 meters final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing on Aug. 27, 2015.


Photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

Giant panda cubs rest inside baskets during their debut appearance to visitors at a giant panda breeding centre in Ya’an, Sichuan province, China, on Aug. 21, 2015.


Photo by Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images

Pickers work in the Moulin a Vent vineyard, near Chenas, Beaujolais, in eastern France, early on Aug. 26, 2015, during this year’s first Beaujolais harvest. Traditionally, grapes are harvested at the end of the night, when the temperatures are lower, to produce a “fruity and tender” wine.


Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Syrian migrants travel on a bus after arriving on a ferry carrying about 2,500 migrants from the Greek islands in the main port of Piraeus on Aug. 26, 2015, in Athens.


Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

A man crosses a street as a partially completed mural of Pope Francis is seen on the wall of a high-rise building in New York on Aug. 28, 2015. Francis will visit the U.S. Sept. 22 to 27, stopping in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.


Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People dance in the Cats Meow bar in the French Quarter on Aug. 27, 2015, in New Orleans. Tourists have returned as the town prepares to honor the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1,836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, on Aug. 29.


Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Performers dance during the Opening Ceremony for the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on Aug. 22, 2015. 


Photo by James Akena/Reuters

Sole Hope Executive Director Dru Collie speaks with children seated in a circle as they wear their new shoes soon after undergoing jigger removal and treatment in Kalebera village, Jinja district, eastern Uganda, on Aug. 6, 2015. The problem of jigger parasites, female sand fleas that burrow their way under skin, is widespread in the eastern, northern, and northeastern parts of Uganda. Left untreated, the parasite can lead to secondary infections that can be fatal. Encouraging people to cover their feet is part of the battle against the parasite; treatment includes a free pair of shoes, as very few of those affected are able to afford even sandals. 


Photo by Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of the hardline faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Confrence clash with Indian police during a protest following the house arrest of APHC leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, in Srinagar on Aug. 23, 2015. Geelani was placed under house arrest shortly before attempting to leave his residence to address a seminar organized by the APHC.  Police used tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse hundreds of supporters protesting Geelani’s arrest.


Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Depleted wetlands are seen on the edge of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, on Aug. 25, 2015.

Aug. 28 2015 5:58 PM

Japanese Porn Actress Will Appear in "Angel" and "Devil" Poses on Taiwan Metro Cards

I don't have anything to say about this story except that I promise I did not make it up. From the BBC:

Taiwan's capital is to introduce a pre-paid public transport card featuring the Japanese porn actress Yui Hatano, despite an outcry over using her image ... the firm said (in Chinese) it would go ahead with the planned release of the "devil" edition of the cards, which feature Ms Hatano dressed in black and looking sultry.
An "angel" edition of the card is expected to be released in mid-September after a re-design and "input from various parties", the company said.

Here's a SFW link to the image of the "angel" card.

Apparently Yui Hatano—and I learned this from Wikipedia, not by watching pornography—is famous in Taiwan because of her resemblance to (non-pornographic) model/actress/personality Lin Chi-ling.

Aug. 28 2015 5:42 PM

Why Hillary Is Finally Embracing the Inevitability Narrative She Tried to Avoid for So Long

Hillary Clinton spent the beginning of her campaign doing everything she could to avoid the perception that she believed her nomination was inevitable. But with Bernie Sanders continuing to draw massive crowds and the Beltway buzzing about the possibility of a late challenge from Joe Biden, Clinton’s camp is finally changing its tune.

Earlier this week, her allies gave Politico a sneak peek at the campaign's long-term primary strategy, one that includes what the outlet dubbed a “Super Tuesday firewall.” The message from Clinton-land was clear: Even if she stumbles out of the gates in Iowa or, much more likely, New Hampshire, Hillary won’t only survive, she’ll still be ready to deliver a knockout blow to Sanders by March 1, when 11 states—including delegate-rich Texas and Virginia—hold their nominating contests. “If it works,” Politico reported, “the former secretary of state will have wrapped up the party’s nomination before spring ends—with only 32 states and two territories having voted—thereby avoiding the kind of protracted battle that consumed much of 2008.”


Clinton’s muscle-flexing continued on Friday, with her senior advisers telling Bloomberg she has already secured 440 of the roughly 700 superdelegates who will be invited to the Democratic National Convention next summer. The total number of delegates who will decide the nomination is expected to be roughly 5,000—the vast majority of which will be selected by next year’s primaries and caucuses—but the 440 figure nonetheless represents about one-fifth of the delegates Clinton will need to claim the nomination. That’s a rather significant head start for a candidate who already has massive fundraising and organizational advantages over her rivals.

As Hillary knows better than most, there’s nothing preventing a superdelegate from pledging his support today and changing his mind tomorrow—but that hasn’t stopped her camp from effectively shouting “scoreboard” with the first official nominating contest still five months away.

The campaign’s new power pose makes sense. Earlier this year, Clinton was pretending to sweat to avoid looking like she was coasting to her party’s nomination. But now that the heat is on she’s eager to look calm, cool, and collected. There are plenty of good reasons to believe she really is—her current 20-point lead in national polls chief among them—but with her email scandal continuing to dog her campaign and with Biden weighing his options, more important than being confident is looking confident. And reminding her allies and enemies of all her organizational advantages will help her do just that.

Aug. 28 2015 5:09 PM

Alabama First Lady Files for Divorce From Sitting Governor After 50 Years of Marriage

Alabama first lady Dianne Bentley has filed for divorce from Republican governor Robert Bentley after 50 years of marriage, court records indicate. The two are both 72 years old. From

The filing cites "complete incompatibility of temperament" and states they have been separated since January. The filing also lists her address as Tuscaloosa and his as Montgomery ... The couple has continued to make public appearances together. Today, they were seen together at College Colors Day at the governor's mansion in Montgomery.

The cause of his separation from his wife was not disclosed, though court filings indicate the couple "nearly divorced" in 1999, says.

In what seems like a considerable stretch, a Democratic lawmaker named John Rogers is arguing that Bentley needs to take a leave of absence and appoint a temporary replacement because his personal life will otherwise distract him from budget negotiations:

"He needs to step away from the legislature. He is totally conflicted," Rogers said. "He can't work with the legislature to fashion a budget ... For this (the divorce) to happen at this time is unfathomable."

Bentley was first elected in 2010 and was reelected last year. (Alabama governors are limited to two terms in office.) He does not appear to have yet commented publicly on the news.

Aug. 28 2015 4:24 PM

This Black Driver’s Mistake Was Looking a Police Officer in the Eye

John Felton was driving to his brother’s house in Dayton, Ohio, on a recent night when he noticed a police car tailing him. Not wanting to give the officer any excuse to pull him over, Felton, who is black and was visiting Dayton from Michigan, tried to drive extra carefully. But the effort was insufficient: Soon after making a turn, Felton was forced to stop his car and show the officer his driver’s license.

It turned out Felton had not switched on his turn signal at the exact right moment; as you can see from the video Felton made of the encounter and sent to talk show host David Pakman, the white officer told him he had failed to signal within 100 feet of making his turn.


But why, Felton wanted to know, had the officer decided to follow him in the first place? That’s when the stop went from being an ordinary illustration of racial profiling to an extraordinary one.

"You made direct eye contact with me and held onto it when I was passing you," the officer told Fenton. The implication was that Fenton had marked himself as a suspicious character simply by looking at the officer.

Update, Aug. 28, 5:10 p.m.: The city of Dayton put out a statement about the incident, acknowledging that "making direct eye contact with an officer is not a basis for a traffic stop.” The statement implies—but doesn’t say outright—that in pulling Felton over for not signaling within 100 feet of a turn, the officer was complying with a Dayton police initiative called "Safe Communities Through Aggressive Traffic Enforcement,” aimed at reducing traffic-related fatalities. The statement also says that the police department "is in contact with Mr. Felton,” and that he "has agreed to a conversation with the officer, facilitated by the Dayton Mediation Center” that will "allow Mr. Felton and the Officer to discuss the specifics of the incident.”

For those who have been following the past year in race relations between police officers and black people, that will sound familiar: Making eye contact with cops was also what set off a chase in Baltimore that ended with Freddie Gray sustaining fatal injuries in the back of a van.

During a eulogy, the Rev. Jamal Bryant to say the following to Gray’s mother:

On April 12 at 8:39 in the morning, four officers on bicycles saw your son. And your son, in a subtlety of revolutionary stance, did something black men were trained to know not to do. He looked police in the eye. And when he looked the police in the eye, they knew that there was a threat, because they're used to black men with their head bowed down low, with their spirit broken. He was a threat simply because he was man enough to look somebody in authority in the eye. I want to tell this grieving mother ... you are not burying a boy, you are burying a grown man. He knew that one of the principles of being a man is looking somebody in the eye.

John Felton made it out of his encounter with the Dayton police officer with only a citation. As you can see from watching his video, he knew it could have been worse.

“No disrespect—I don’t have nothing against police officers,” Felton said after being pulled over. “But with all the shit that’s going on, that’s some scary shit, to have a police officer just trailing you.”

Not that he was surprised—you can hear him say “Didn't I say he was going to do this?” to his brother at the beginning of the interaction. Nor should he have been. According to the book Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, a sociological study of traffic stops in the Kansas City metropolitan area, black people are much more likely to be pulled over for so-called investigatory stops—in which the purported violation is extremely minor, like failing to signal, as opposed to serious, like driving drunk—than white people. As my colleague Jamelle Bouie wrote after the murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina—following a traffic stop for a busted taillight—the study found that more than half of all stops for blacks were for minor violations, as opposed to just 34 percent of stops for whites.  

Aug. 28 2015 3:41 PM

Former New Hampshire Prep Student Acquitted of Sexual Assault, Convicted of Other Felony

Former New Hampshire prep student Owen Labrie was acquitted of felony sexual assault charges involving a 15-year-old former fellow student Friday but convicted of statutory rape and of a felony charge of using a computer to "entice a child under the age of 16." Labrie's trial had involved accusations that he penetrated the younger student without her consent as part of a "Senior Salute" tradition—a tradition, more or less, in which seniors try to persuade younger students to have sex—at the prestigious St. Paul's school. From the AP:

The young man was acquitted of the most serious charges against him — three counts of felony rape, each punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. But he was found guilty of three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, using a computer to lure a minor for sex, and child endangerment.
Essentially, the jury cleared Labrie of forcible rape but concluded he did, in fact, have intercourse, oral sex and other sexual contact with the girl, and for that, it found him guilty of statutory rape, because she was underage and could not legally consent.

The accuser had testified in court that Labrie had penetrated her even after she said "No, no, no, keep it up here" during what had previously been a consensual encounter.

Labrie will face up to 11 years in prison during his sentencing and will reportedly have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Update, 2:50 p.m.: Some outlets, such as, are not describing the misdemeanor sexual assault charges that Labrie was convicted of as statutory rape per se—in New Hampshire, the site says, the term "statutory rape" usually refers specifically to felony sexual assault laws that apply if the perpetrator is more than four years older than the victim. Labrie was not four years older than his accuser, so he was instead convicted under a state law (one that falls under the colloquial understanding of "statutory rape" if not the specific New Hampshire sense of the term) which says any sexual contact with an individual under 16 is misdemeanor sexual assault even if it is consensual because anyone younger than 16 is too young to consent.

Aug. 28 2015 3:33 PM

Obama Again Tries to Convince Jews He Doesn’t Want to Destroy Israel

President Obama today spoke directly to American Jews in a webcast address cosponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations today. The event was something of a response to an address by Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month, in which the Israeli Prime Minister made his case against the nuclear agreement with Iran currently under consideration by Congress.

Obama made the now familiar case that the deal “doesn’t rely on trust, it relies on verification” and that supporting it does not require trusting Iran’s intentions. He said that disagreement between the U.S. and Israeli government over the deal “does not affect the core commitments we have to each other” and that “the commitment to Israel is sacrosanct and it is non-partisan. It always has been and it always will be.” Speaking to fears in Israel and the Jewish community about anti-Semitic rhetoric from the Iranian government, the president said, “I think that as an African-American, I understand that history teaches us that man can be cruel to man and you have to take threats seriously. But history also teaches us that sometimes the best security is to enter into negotiations with your enemies.


Obama has made many of these points before in press conferences and speeches since the deal was signed. The administration’s aggressive sales pitch for the deal has been premised on the notion that if critics only fully understood it, they would realize that it’s the best choice for the security of the U.S. as well as Israel. As the president told viewers today, “the more information, the more confident you’ll be that this is the right thing to do.” As I’ve written before, I think this premise is flawed.

No realistically conceivable deal was ever going to satisfy the critics now arguing against it. This opposition is not based on the specifics of the agreement. In part, it’s knee-jerk partisanship and pandering—at the moment it looks as if not a single Congressional Republican will support the deal—as well as an honest disagreement about the nature of the Iranian regime. President Obama and the agreement’s supporters believe that for all their many flaws, Iran’s leaders are rational actors who can be influenced through incentives. Netanyahu and opponents of the deal believe they are ideologically-driven, inveterate antagonists of the U.S. and Israel who will take any opportunity to cheat on their nuclear commitments and provoke terrorism.

Given this seemingly unbridgeable divide, as well as the fact that the deal now seems almost guaranteed to pass, it’s odd that Obama is even bothering to make such an aggressive sales pitch. Part of the reason, as shown by today’s event, is that many of the deal’s most prominent opponents are American Jewish leaders and organizations, many of whom have long suggested that this administration is less than forthright in its support for Israel—an allegation that clearly makes the administration uncomfortable, no matter how ludicrous they may find it.  

The debate over the deal has spawned a side debate over whether proponents of the deal have indulged in coded anti-Semitism by suggesting that opponents don’t have America’s best interests in mind. Some have also suggested that all the attention on the Jewish affiliations of anti-deal members of Congress like Chuck Schumer and Steve Israel crosses a line by suggesting that American Jewish leaders have dual loyalties.

This is silly. It’s not exactly a mystery that opponents of the deal have targeted Jewish members of Congress as well as those like Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey who represent significant Jewish constituencies. With AIPAC spending a record $1.67 million this year as it has lobbied against the deal, it’s hard to pretend pressure from pro-Israel groups isn’t a factor in this debate.

Speaking to the issue of tone, the president today argued “at no point have I ever suggested that someone is a warmonger” and said he believes their concerns are sincere. (This is, perhaps, a bit of a stretch.)  He also noted that Jewish New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who supports the deal, has been “attacked in ways that are appalling.”

Baseless or not, the White House would presumably like to avoid the impression that it’s blasé or even hostile to Jewish concerns, particularly heading into an election season where Obama and his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will be repeatedly bashed on the campaign trail for abandoning U.S. support for Israel. On the other hand, it’s the Jewish community as a whole isn’t actually that concerned about the deal. At least one recent poll suggested American Jews are more likely to support it than non-Jews.

Despite the opposition of some very prominent and vocal Jewish groups and representatives, the vast majority of American Jews are Democrats. As the president put it today, “I wouldn’t be sitting here if it weren’t for friends and supporters in the Jewish community.” That may not continue forever, but given polls showing younger American Jews with less of an attachment to Israel than their parents,  Netanyahu may ultimately have the bigger outreach problem.