Feds Putting Weapons in Citizens’ Luggage?

Here’s a weird one. Apparently the TSA is a bit under-worked and needs some excitement. Why not drop some weapons into unsuspecting passenger’s luggage and let the fun begin. NewsMax (whaaa?) has the story in “Feds Putting Weapons in Citizens’ Luggage?”:

“I’ve been to Europe, where they search your bags in front of you, and I have no trouble with that,” Grindle said. “But it makes me nervous having my bags searched without me being present, especially when inspectors are flipping things in my bags that don’t belong to me. What would stop them from putting illegal drugs in my bag?”

The best part is the response to this:

TSA mouthpiece Chris Rhatigan said the reports mystified her. “If I could answer that question, I’d be rich. They could have been honest mistakes. Perhaps the bags somehow popped open during their travels, and someone dropped something inside. I honestly don’t know.”

That’s right folks, your bags now have the mysterious ability to just pop open, which is convenient for someone to plant a weapon in there.

Feds Putting Weapons in Citizens’ Luggage? [NewsMax]

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iRaq: 10,000 Songs for the Doomed

More of these posters. It’s interesting that any pop-culture Iraq reference seems to also include iPod imagery.

iRaq poster

Whatever, we totally endorse political graffiti that makes a bold statement about the lack of mp3s in torture rooms.

Los Angeles war posters

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26 Former Reagan/Bush Sr. Officials: Bush Must Go

This is going to be the bombshell of the week for the Bush administration. A (mostly) non-partisan group of retired and former high-level government officials are going to be issuing a joint statement calling for Bush not to be re-elected in November. The statement will explicitly condemn Bush’s foreign policy. The Los Angeles Times has the scoop in “Retired Officials Say Bush Must Go”:

The document does not explicitly endorse Kerry, according to those familiar with it. But some individual signers plan to back the Democrat, and others acknowledge that by calling for Bush’s removal, the group effectively is urging Americans to elect Kerry.

“The core of the message is that we are so deeply concerned about the current direction of American foreign policy ?Ķ that we think it is essential for the future security of the United States that a new foreign policy team come in,” said Oakley.

Much of the debate over the document in the days ahead may pivot on the extent to which it is seen as a partisan document.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this spun as a partisan issue as a preemptive strike by the Rove team. But considering that only two of the twenty-six have actually endorsed John Kerry (frankly I don’t see how calling Bush’s policies a failure could be partisan), this strategy of attack may end up exploding back on the White House.

Retired Officials Say Bush Must Go [Los Angeles Times]

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Best Reason for Abiding by Geneva Conventions

I ran across what has to be the best reason for following Geneva Conventions. Lately I have been hearing a lot of arguments that counter with “this is war…” or “it’s just an anomaly…” (it’s not) and even “it’s not so bad, they do worse…”. Well those arguments now have a compelling counter-argument and reasoned response. Unlearned Hand examines it fully in “Reciprocal Torture is Not the Problem”:

If an Iraqi militiaman thinks he is going to be mistreated by the coalition, or shipped off without rights to a Caribbean island for indefinite detainment, he is much less likely to surrender. Why not simply fight to the death?

The best historical example is the final assault on Germany. German POWs were treated well by American and British forces, and our forces received relatively good treatment in return. But even more importantly for present purposes, as the German regime began to crumble, Germans were willing to surrender to American and British forces. By the end of the war we had over 400,000 POWs in America (German and Italian), not to mention thousands of prisoners still in Europe.

Truly the most insightful response to the subject of “why not” that I have seen to date.

Reciprocal Torture is Not the Problem [Unlearned Hand]

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Dogs Authorized at Abu Ghraib; Additional Photos

From the Washington Post story “Use of Dogs to Scare Prisoners Was Authorized”:

“The military intelligence officer in charge of Abu Ghraib later told investigators that the use of unmuzzled dogs in interrogation sessions was recommended by a two-star general and that it was ‘okay.'”

The three photos below were linked off on the sidebar. Remember, the Washinton Post has said it has nearly 1000 photographs in their possession from Abu Ghraib. Even if only 1/5 are of prisoner abuse, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. And you can bet they aren’t showing the worst of them, yet.

Abu Ghraib

rest of photos after the jump
see more…

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Pictures From Savannah G8

All I’m gonna say is: HA! G8 protest photos and comments by wangoed.com.

G8 these guys

G8 veteran

G8 protest

Photos from Savannah [wangoed]

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Daily Show on Ashcroft Memo Refusal

Note: this article contains dead links, the url is still in the hover/alt text. Keep the web working, curate content well!

Ah, time for some levity. Everything isn’t Under Control has a bit torrent links to the Daily Show clip on Attorney General John Ashcroft’s refusal to turn over memos to the Senate Judicial Committee.

Daily Show, Biden and Stewart

Senator Joe Biden’s upbraiding of Ashcroft and his reasons on why we signed the Geneva convention is one of the best moments I have ever seen a Senator have.

Daily Show clip: Stewart, Durbin, and Biden tear Ashcroft a new one [Everything isn’t Under Control] (via BoingBoing)

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Iraq: Sure it’s Democracy, For Some

Bad sign of a limited democratic election to come, the C.P.A. decided to bar Al Sadr from joining in the elections as a candidate. Which is really stupid if you think about it, because we had a great opportunity to get his people in line with our goal of democracy, but instead they’re going to be against the elections and trying to kill other candidates. The Guardian has the report in “US bans cleric from Iraq elections”:

Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, signed an order stating that, with immediate effect, members of illegal militias “will be barred from holding political office for three years after leaving their illegal organisation”.

[…]

The ban on the militia members taking part in political life is a gamble, since it carries the risk that it will increase Mr Sadr’s popularity and undermine the new government’s search for democratic credibility in the eyes of the sceptical Iraqi public

What if the French (who had been helping us) had stepped in when we were drafting our Constitution after the American revolution and said that members of the militia — namely one General George Washington — could not hold office. Do you think that would have been greeted with enthusiasm?

US bans cleric from Iraq elections [Guardian]

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State Dept. Global Terror Report: Double Plus Good

Terrorism GraphDamn, how Orwellian is this? The State Dept. puts out a report April 29th to Congress — “Patterns of Global Terrorism” — which paints a rosy picture of the War on Terror. Bush administration officials immediately hail it as objective proof that they are winning the war on terrorism. But then every scholar is studying the report and basically calling it a load of crap, so they have to revise the report. Los Angeles Times has the details in “U.S. Will Revise Data on Terror”:

Several U.S. officials and terrorism experts familiar with that revision effort said the new report will show that the number of significant terrorist incidents increased last year, perhaps to its highest level in 20 years.

“It will change the numbers,” said one State Department official who declined to comment further or be identified by name. “The incidents will go up, but I don’t know by how many.”

So we go from the best case scenario and a major decline which prompts everyone to say we are winning, to a complete reversal and possibly the worst report on annual terrorism in the past 20 years. Give this 3 months and Republican talking-heads be slamming anyone who even mentions the report as “liberal” and “defeatist” when the flip side is that they were gearing up to shove this in everyone’s face as defacto proof that the War on Terror was a success and Bush has done a superb job. And that, folks, is not right.

U.S. Will Revise Data on Terror [Los Angeles Times]

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Former Libertarian candidate raided by Joint Terrorism Task Force

Rick StanleyA large number of federal agents in Denver, Colorado raided the home and business of outspoken tax opponent, 2nd Amendment activist and former Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Rick Stanley. Stanley has pushed the limits of legal boundaries many times — wearing holstered firearms to rallies (wearing firearms is legal, but rallies are expressly prohibited) and challenging the constitutionality of the federal income tax — and this does not mark the first time he has been jailed or charged. But it does set a different precedent, it is the first time that a constitutional activist has been raided by a bevy of agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and may be charged under provisions of the notorious USA PATRIOT Act. Rocky Mountain News has part of the story in “Feds raid home of tax foe”:

Federal officials were tight-lipped about the raid.

“A court-ordered search warrant was executed as part of a criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI and the IRS and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the Colorado U.S. attorney’s office.

[…]

He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2002 as a Libertarian candidate.

During the campaign he contended that the incumbent and ultimate victor in that race, Republican Wayne Allard, should be tried for treason – and hanged if convicted – for voting for the federal Patriot Act after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

That statement and some of Stanley’s actions alarmed some Libertarian Party members, and the party censured Stanley.

Ironically, Stanley — a man bent on restoring the Constitution to it’s former prestige — seems to be falling under the same sword that is supposed to be reserved for capturing terrorists who are bent on usurping it.

Feds raid home of tax foe [Rocky Mountain News]

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American Coup D’etat?

First, this seems like a pretty good analysis, but take it with a grain of salt. Second, either a lot of people are buying into this (it is currently ranked #13 on Blogdex), or a lot of people wouldn’t mind if the CIA had a plan in place to take down the president. But the title may be a misnomer, because it appears that the only coup in the story is the White House imploding over an array of scandals (Abu Ghraib, the Plame Affair, WMDs, Chalabi, the list goes on). However it tries very earnestly to establish a clear picture of a CIA that has been actively thwarting White House misdeeds and is finally tightening the noose on what many would argue is a rogue administration. From the Wilderness has the run-down in “Coup D’etat: The Real Reason Tenet and Pavitt Resigned from the CIA on June 3rd and 4th”:

Both resignations [George Tenet (DCI) and James Pavitt, CIA Deputy Director of Operations (DDO)], perhaps soon to be followed by resignations from Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage, are about the imminent and extremely messy demise of George W. Bush and his Neocon administration in a coup d’etat being executed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The coup, in the planning for at least two years, has apparently become an urgent priority as a number of deepening crises threaten a global meltdown.

Based upon recent developments, it appears that long-standing plans and preparations leading to indictments and impeachment of Bush, Cheney and even some senior cabinet members have been accelerated, possibly with the intent of removing or replacing the entire Bush regime prior to the Republican National Convention this August.

Now, I’m not going to put much into this one since it’s a lot of speculation and relies heavily on unnamed sources, but it does seem to make a certain amount of sense. Consider it a theory, but not an entirely outlandish one.

link diffusion [Blogdex]
Coup D’etat [From the Wilderness]

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Pentagon wasted $100M on Unused Airline Tickets

Pentagon waste and fraudThere are two angles to this case: one is the $100M in identified waste on unused (and often refundable) airline tickets; the other is $8M in fraud between 2001 and 2002, a figure the GAO says “represent[s] only a small portion of the potential fraud”. CNN has the full story in “Report: Pentagon wasted $100M on unused airline tickets”:

The GAO estimated that between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department bought at least $100 million in tickets that were not used or used only partially by a passenger who did not complete all legs of a flight. The waste went undetected because the department relied on individuals to report the unused tickets. They did not do so.

[…]

While one GAO report focused on the unused tickets, the second investigation found potential fraud.

It said the department paid travelers for tickets the department already bought and reimbursed employees for tickets that had not been authorized.

[…]

Among the examples of potential fraud:

Within a nine-month period, an employee claimed reimbursement for 13 tickets paid for by the department, contending he did not know he received almost $10,000 more than he paid in travel expenses.

This can only be the tip of the iceberg. With a defense budget at nearly $600B, it’s no suprise that this kind of waste is going on, in fact I assumed it would be reported much higher. Veterans are having their share of the pie cut to the bone, while defense spending hits astronomical heights, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that what doesn’t get funneled out through private contracts is going to be looted by government employees.

Report: Pentagon wasted $100M on unused airline tickets [CNN]
The Defense Budget Is Bigger Than You Think [The Independent Institute]

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Reagan: Rewriting History for Political Whatever

Funny comic that was forwarded by Juicy Moot:

Reagan Cartoon

Editorial Cartoons by Kirk Anderson [BuzzFlash]

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Reagan: Separating Myth from Reality

Paul Krugman has a great editorial on how the media and spin-doctors are puffing up Ronald Reagan’s legacy into something it wasn’t. He dispels a multitude of inaccuracies in his New York Times op-ed “The Great Taxer”:

The first Reagan tax increase came in 1982. By then it was clear that the budget projections used to justify the 1981 tax cut were wildly optimistic. In response, Mr. Reagan agreed to a sharp rollback of corporate tax cuts, and a smaller rollback of individual income tax cuts. Over all, the 1982 tax increase undid about a third of the 1981 cut; as a share of G.D.P., the increase was substantially larger than Mr. Clinton’s 1993 tax increase.

The contrast with President Bush is obvious. President Reagan, confronted with evidence that his tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, changed course. President Bush, confronted with similar evidence, has pushed for even more tax cuts.

If the Bush Administration was planning on riding the Gipper’s death back into the White House, they would be better off fueling the conspiracy that Bush Sr. has a hand in this presidency (which I doubt). That would at least offer a modicum of a link between Reagan’s and Bush’s policies. Instead, the current Reagan love-fest only illustrates just how inept Bush is in comparison to Reagan, who was at least willing to admit mistakes and work to fix them. What we have now is a no apologies president and the great miscommunicator.

Reagan Bush
From the George W. Bush re-election website

The Great Taxer [New York Times]

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Abu Ghraib: Transcript of the Senate Judicial Hearing

Torture AshcroftIn a fervid exchange between Attorney General John Ashcroft and members of the Senate Judicial Committee, Ashcroft came close to claiming the 5th over memos that were requested from the Justice Department. PBS’s Online Newshour has the transcript in “Torture Argument”:

SEN. LEAHY: Has or has not been any order directed from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants, yes or no?

ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: I’m not in a position to answer that question.

SEN. LEAHY: Does that mean because you don’t know, or you don’t want to answer? I don’t understand?

ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: The answer to that question is yes.

[…]

ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: I have not invoked anything. I have just explained to you why I am not turning over the documents.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, D-Del.: Thank you very much. Well, General, that means you may be in contempt of Congress then. You got to have a reason not to answer our questions, as you know from you sitting up here. There may be a rationale for executive privilege that misses the point, but — but, you know, you have to have a reason. You are not allowed, under our Constitution, not to answer our questions. And that ain’t — that ain’t constitutional.

Ashcroft refused to turn over memos, yet did not invoke executive privilege, instead opting to bluff his way through with the excuse that “to provide this kind of information would impair the ability of advice-giving in the Executive Branch to be candid, forthright, thorough, and accurate”. It’s ass-covering at the highest level, and Ashcroft is well aware that if he had wrongly invoked executive privilege (and been found out later), he could be in more trouble than simply bluffing his way through it. I’m surprised none of the Senators had the wherewithall to simply call him in contempt, since his answer is in itself a rebuke of an open government.

Torture Argument [PBS’s Online Newshour]

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Gunner Palace: Iraq Embedded Documentary

This seems like a really good documentary to see and I am looking forward to hearing more about it’s release. It’s called Gunner Palace and is shot from the ranks of the 2/3 Field Artillery aka the “Gunner” Battalion. Here’s a couple of clips that are on the site, one is of a soldier freestyle rapping and the other films a young soldier play the Star Spangled Banner on an electric guitar in a surreal homage to Jimi Hendrix.

Freestyle RappingStar Spangled Baghdad

“For y’all this is just a show, but we live in this movie”

Gunner Palace [via This Modern World]
Baghdad Freestyle, 7 MB Solo Feat. (quicktime) [Gunner Palace]
Star Spangled Banner Baghdad Style, 11 MB SPC Stuart Wilf (quicktime) [Gunner Palace]

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More Enron Tapes: Corruption is Mere Marketing

Enron tapesThe saga of the Enron tapes continues to unfold in the latest installment of taped employees. In it, they contemplate just how awesome they are at swindling California out of billions of dollars and creating false crisises with which they manipulated prices and energy availability. CBS News reports in “More Enron Tapes, More Gloating”:

“They’re on the ropes today,” says another employee. “I exported like a f——g 400 megs.”

“Wow,” says another employee, “f–k ’em, right!”

[…]

“It’s called lies. It’s all how well you can weave these lies together, Shari, alright, so,” an employee is heard saying.

The other employee says, “I feel like I’m being corrupted now.”

The first employee adds, “No, this is marketing,”

“OK.”

More Enron Tapes, More Gloating [CBS News]

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RNC Protest Posters

I wanted to share these posters that I found at the No RNC Poster Project. Apparently their aim is on of “facilitating visual resistance against this summer?Äôs Republican National Convention”, held in New York this August. Some of these are damn funny, but for the most part it’s a rehash of the same tired anti-war chants that have been debunked over and over:

I Don't LoveYay RNC

Anyone know of any poster/anti-poster sites dedicated to resisting the Democratic National Convention in Boston?

No RNC Poster Project [via Wooster Collective]

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G8 Kick-off

G8 protestorWell, the G8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia is officially kicking off right now. In the city of Savannah (where I’m from, actually), the ratio of protestors to journalists is around 1:1, while the ratio of security is enough to make any kind of violent protest an utter failure. As such, many of the protestors seem confused and the whole ordeal has taken on a carnival air. Associated Press has an article on the kick-off with “Bush, G-8 Leaders Show Newfound Harmony”. The Guardian Unlimited has a rundown of the familiar G8 questions in “Q&A: G8 summit 2004″:

What are the big issues at this year’s G8?
Iraq and Middle East reform have eclipsed the official economic agenda of the gathering. The summit should get off to an auspicious start, with the UN security council poised to unanimously approve a resolution endorsing the June 30 handover of sovereignty to Iraq’s new government.

I can only imagine that the majority of these protestors are slack stoners (wait, I mean “Anarchists”) who think that throwing insults at police (who don’t want to be there) is going to account for anything. I guess we’ll have to wait until nightfall to see if either side decides to get violent.

More updates as they come in.

Bush, G-8 Leaders Show Newfound Harmony [AP]
Q&A: G8 summit 2004 [Guardian Unlimited]

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October Surprise

October Surprise!I’ve been waiting for this kind of site to come out. Essentially it’s a simple poll site which asks “What tricks will BushCo pull to attempt to win the election in November? Well, he’ll probably try something around or before October. Welcome to October Surprise!” Here’s the current results of the poll:

What Will Happen Before The Election?
41.8% – Osama bin Laden captured!
18.4% – Spectacular terrorist attack on US soil!
15.2% – Vote is threatened by terrorist attacks, vote suspended due to red alert.
8.4% – Diebold Election Systems fixes the vote in battleground states.
7.2% – Escalation in Israel, Iran, or North Korea. US opens a new war front.
4.9% – US pulls out of Iraq in October, leaving the UN in charge.
4.1% – WMD’s found in Iraq!

Total votes: 844

October Surprise (via BoingBoing)

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Taking the Low Road on Geneva Conventions

The Simon has a really interesting editorial on the side-stepping of Geneva Conventions by the Pentagon and how it applies to the War on Terror and Abu Ghraib. There’s even a provision that would render the complaint that terrorists are not covered under Geneva a moot debate. Read it in “The Geneva Convention Question”:

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

[…]

Perhaps more importantly, especially with the circulation of the Abu Ghraib photos, if the Bush Administration can legally prove the Geneva Conventions do not apply to terrorists, they avoid the risk of criminal trial under the War Crimes Act. The War Crimes Act is a little-known act passed by Congress in 1996 which prohibits grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, such as “outrages against personal dignity.”

Certainly a refreshing analysis of the scandal.

The Geneva Convention Question [The Simon]

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Cover-Up: More Memos on Torture

This whole Abu Ghraib thing just seems to be spiraling out of control as more memos keep finding their way out of the Pentagon and White House. This newest one lays the groundwork for torture as a self-defense measure, and makes me sick with it’s inferred message that the ends justify the means. The Wall Street Journal (free mirror at Infoshop News) reports in “Pentagon Report Set Framework For Use of Torture”:

“The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture,” the report advises. Such suffering must be “severe,” the lawyers advise, and they rely on a dictionary definition to suggest it “must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure.”

You know these bastards are evil when they’re arguing over the fucking semantics of torture. Also, check out Billmon’s take on the report in “Presidential Powers”:

Now I have to admit: The idea of using the Nuremberg trial as a field guide for committing war crimes and getting away with it has never occurred to me before. But then, I’m not a Bush administration legal appointee. It’s probably worth remembering, though, that the Nuremberg Tribunal wasn’t particularly impressed by the “I was only following orders” routine: 12 defendents hanged, 3 sentenced to life, 4 given long prison sentences, only 3 acquitted. If I were Donald Rumsfeld, I don’t think I’d like those odds.

Pentagon Report Set Framework For Use of Torture [Wall Street Journal]
“Presidential Powers” [Billmon]

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Abu Ghraib: Forced Nudity was Pervasive

Naked IraqisAs early as April 2003, there were hints that something was going on in Iraq that didn’t quite mesh with traditional American POW procedures. Iraqis who had been picked up for looting were being stripped naked, their clothes burned and chased naked through Baghdad by American soldiers. But that was only the first sign in Iraq of a pervasive military doctrine of nudity and taboo in an orchestrated effort to humiliate Iraqis. The New York Times has the details in “Forced Nudity of Iraqi Prisoners Is Seen as a Pervasive Pattern, Not Isolated Incidents”:

“It was not uncommon to see people without clothing,” Capt. Donald J. Reese, the warden of the tier where the worst abuses occurred, told investigators in a sworn statement in January. “I only saw males. I was told the `whole nudity thing’ was an interrogation procedure used by military intelligence, and never thought much of it.”

[…]

In late October, Red Cross monitors were so alarmed by the number of nude detainees that they halted their visit and demanded an immediate explanation.

“The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was `part of the process,’ ” the Red Cross wrote in a report in February.

This kind of widespread acceptance is not something that everyday soldiers are thinking up in unison across many units. The picture that is beginning to unfold is one of a Pentagon directive that supports the humiliation of civilians and combatants alike with little regard for due process or justice. This is definitely not the American government anyone should be apologizing for.

Forced Nudity of Iraqi Prisoners Is Seen as a Pervasive Pattern, Not Isolated Incidents [New York Times]

see more…

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