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Boston Bomber Sentenced to Death

May 15, 2015 in Blogs

By Jennie Matthew, Agence France Presse

21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will receive the death penalty.

Boston (AFP) – A US jury on Friday sentenced 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, one of the worst assaults on American soil since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

It took the jury more than 14 hours to choose death on six of 17 capital counts for the Muslim former university student of Chechen descent who came to the United States as a child and became a citizen.

Their only other option was life without the possibility of release in America's toughest “super-max” prison in Colorado, which some have dubbed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

The same 12-member panel of jurors convicted him on April 8 on all 30 counts relating to the April 15, 2013 bombings, the murder of a police officer, a carjacking and a shootout while on the run.

Three people were killed and 264 others wounded, including 17 who lost limbs, in the twin blasts near the finish line at the northeastern city's popular marathon.

Tsarnaev went on the run and was arrested four days later, hiding and injured in a grounded boat on which he had scrawled a bloody message defending the attacks as a means to avenge US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He showed no emotion as he stood, flanked by female lawyers and wearing a dark blazer with his hands clasped before him as the court clerk declared the death penalty verdict before a hushed room.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the sentence a “fitting punishment.”


- Death penalty opposition -

The verdict in the federal case came despite widespread local opposition to capital punishment in Massachusetts, a largely Democratic state that abolished the death penalty in 1947.

Prominent survivors, including the parents of the youngest victim Martin Richard, had also opposed the death penalty on the grounds that years of prospective appeals would dredge up their agony.

The Richard parents were among other victims and survivors who crammed into the courtroom on Friday to hear the verdict.

The jury's 24-page verdict form showed that few on the panel bought into the defense argument that Tsarnaev was …read more


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Five Things to Know about the Purple Line

May 15, 2015 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O’Toole

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is debating whether to approve or cancel Baltimore’s $3 billion Red Line light-rail line and suburban Washington’s $2.5 billion Purple Line. His administration has suggested he might approve these lines if the costs can be reduced. Here are five things he needs to know before he makes his decision.

1. No matter how much they say light rail will cost, it will always cost more. Department of Transportation reviews of projected and actual rail transit construction costs have found that almost all rail projects cost far more than projected, with average cost overruns of 50 percent and overruns on many recent projects of more than 75 percent. Rail planners also consistently overestimate ridership by an average of 70 percent.

2. Claims that light rail will pay for itself by generating new taxes from economic development are pure bunk. FTA-funded research has shown that “Urban rail transit investments rarely ‘create’ new growth, but more typically redistribute growth that would have taken place without the investment.”

Building these rail lines would have the same economic effect of digging two giant holes in the ground and filling them up again.”

Worse, the tax burden required to pay for rail transit can actually slow economic growth: on average, urban areas that spent more on transit improvements in the 1990s grew slower in the 2000s than ones that spent less. Not only will there be no new taxes to help pay for the rail lines, rail construction will pose an especially heavy burden on Baltimore, which doesn’t need another obstacle to urban recovery.

3. Maryland couldn’t afford to build new rail lines even if the construction cost were nothing. Existing transit lines in the Washington and Baltimore areas suffer from multi-billion-dollar unfunded maintenance backlogs. The problem is especially acute in Washington, where a 2009 crash that killed nine people and a 2015 incident of smoke in a tunnel killed one person can be directly traced to inadequate maintenance.

Instead of rehabilitating existing lines, northern Virginia is spending $6.8 billion on a rail line to Dulles International Airport; the District wants to spend $1 billion on clunky streetcar lines; and some people want to spend $2.5 billion on the Purple Line. It makes no sense to build more rail lines that taxpayers can’t afford to maintain when the existing lines are falling apart.

4. Transit riders care …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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American Prudishness Reaches Comical New Low: FOX NY Censors Breasts of a Picasso Painting

May 15, 2015 in Blogs

By Alan Yuhas, The Guardian

The Fox-owned TV station's decision to blur out part of the masterpiece drew mockery from the art world.

A local Fox news station has censored the breasts on a cubist painting by Pablo Picasso, prompting bemusement and ridicule from art critics and audiences.

Reporting on the record-setting, $179m auction of Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O), Fox 5, the New York affiliate of Fox, blurred the breasts of three women in the painting, despite the stylized and distinctly unrealistic portrayal of those women mostly through blocky shapes.

The network did not censor a pair of buttocks.

The  New York channel falls under the Fox umbrella network, owned by the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Observers, sometimes conflating the affiliate with the Fox News cable channel, derided the censorship of art.

— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz)May 14, 2015

Sexually sick minds @FOXTV: “Jerry Saltz: Why Did Fox Blur Picasso’s Naughty Bits?“

New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz tweeted: “how sexually sick are conservatives [and] Fox News?” Culture critic Aruna D’Souza sarcastically quipped: “Glad [Fox] is protecting its audience from Picasso’s smutty mind. Wouldn’t want to scare the children.” Art history blog Alberti’s Window tweeted: “Glad I didn’t pay $179 million for a Picasso painting that was ‘retouched’ by a Fox News employee.”

On Tuesday, Christie’s auction house sold the painting for $179m, a record for a painting that the auctioneer said could last a decade. The painting, featuring several nude women and was inspired by the work of 19th century artist Eugène Delacroix and one of 15 in a series.

…read more


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Marco Rubio’s Murderous Myth: Why His “Noble Lie” About American History Is So Dangerous

May 15, 2015 in Blogs

By Elias Isquith, Salon

The GOP contender espouses a make-believe version of American history. Here's why you should be alarmed.

As my colleague Simon Maloy has already noted, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a big policy speech on Wednesday, his first since announcing his intention to be the Republican Party’s next presidential nominee. The speech, which was billed as an attempt to define a “Rubio Doctrine” for U.S. foreign policy, was a substantive disaster. (Or at least it was to anyone who grimaced when, in 2012, Rubio described George W. Bush’s record as “fantastic.”)

Rather than get into the weeds of deconstructing Rubio’s rhetorical sleights of hand, which Simon did a masterful job of already, I thought it’d be worthwhile to spend a moment focusing on one specific line of Rubio’s address. It’s a line that delighted Rubio and his speechwriters so much, they gave it its own standalone tweet. And it’s a line that helps explain why this would-be president is campaigning with a truly extremist foreign policy “doctrine.” The line is as follows, and it is utterly insane.

Marco Rubio ‏@marcorubio

America is the first power in history motivated by a desire to expand freedom rather than its own territory.

If you can’t see embedded tweets for whatever reason, here’s the statement Rubio thought was so nice he’d make it twice: “America is the first power in history motivated by a desire to expand freedom rather than its own territory.” Please, gaze upon it. Study it. Luxuriate in it. Roll it over in your mind. Once you’ve done so, the next question should be obvious — at least if you’ve got a rudimentary understanding of U.S. history. That question, of course, is where to begin? Rubio’s packed so much wrong into just this one little sentence, it’s hard to know where to start.

One option is to forego the specific reasons why the tweet should be considered a crime against history and to concentrate instead on how, even on its own terms, it makes no sense. For example: The United States is a country, not a person; …read more


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Rep. John Lewis Reads His Own FBI File As He Makes The Case Against Government Spying

May 15, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

He knows from personal experience the dangers of unchecked state surveillance.

This morning, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) posted a photo to his Facebook page of him reading the FBI file on the activism of the civil rights-era Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he was part of.

Below the photo, he wrote, “Reading the FBI file on SCLC & myself, I am more convinced than ever that we cannot allow government surveillance.”

Recall that the federal government heavily monitored and infiltrated civil rights and antiwar organizations in the 50s and 60s – the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. himself was wiretapped by the Democratic administrations of Kennedy and Johnson. Earlier this week Lewis voted against the USA Freedom Act, which many have criticized as doing little to actually rein in NSA abuses.

…read more


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Rubio's Strangely Stale Foreign Policies

May 15, 2015 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Sen. Marco Rubio might fancy himself as a new type of leader for a new era, but his May 13 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations was trapped in the past.

Invoking John F. Kennedy’s final speech as president, more than 50 years ago, was bad enough. But Rubio’s overarching message—the Rubio Doctrine—amounts to warmed-over Cold War dogma, sprinkled with the language of benevolent global hegemony favored by so many Washington elites, but disdained by most Americans beyond the Beltway.

It is difficult to understand the depths of his political and strategic myopia.

Rubio misperceives the American public’s willingness to sustain the current model indefinitely, and therefore fails to appreciate the need for a genuinely new approach to U.S. global affairs. He minimizes the costs and risks of our current foreign policies, and oversells the benefits.

It is difficult to understand the depths of his political and strategic myopia.”

He ignores the way in which U.S. security assurances to a host of some-of-the-time allies have discouraged these countries from taking reasonable steps to defend themselves and their interests. And he fails to see any reasonable alternative to a world in which the United States acts—forever, it seems—as the sole guarantor of global security.

Specifically, Rubio pledged: “As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space.” (Any? Whew!)

To be sure, many people around the world may be happy to allow U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to attempt such an ambitious undertaking, and to have American taxpayers pick up the tab. It is reasonable to guess that most foreign leaders are anxious to preserve the current order—so long as the U.S. government provides for their defense, they are free to spend their money on other things.

But the fact that foreigners like this arrangement doesn’t explain why most Americans would. When Rubio calls for huge increases in the Pentagon’s budget, he is telling Americans that they should be content to accept higher taxes, more debt and less money to spend here at home, so that U.S. allies elsewhere can neglect their defenses and feed their bloated welfare states.

Americans, unsurprisingly, and by a wide margin, favor something else. A poll taken last year by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for example, found a mere 38 percent of Americans who considered “defending our allies’ security” to be a “very important” …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Five Rules for an Age of Terrorism, Nuclear Weapons

May 15, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

In this 15th year of war in Afghanistan, as the United States is becoming further entangled in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, we need a serious debate about whether we want to be permanently at war.

We can start by noting a few simple rules about war and foreign policy. First, war kills people. Especially in the modern world, it often kills as many civilians as soldiers. War cannot be avoided at all costs, but it should be avoided wherever possible. Proposals to involve the United States — or any government — in foreign conflict should be treated with great skepticism.

Second, war creates big government. That’s one reason libertarians and other believers in limited government have tried to avoid war. Throughout history, war has provided an excuse for governments to arrogate money and power to themselves and to regiment society.

We need a serious debate about whether we want to be permanently at war.”

During World Wars I and II, the United States government assumed powers it could never have acquired in peacetime — powers such as the military draft, wage-and-price controls, rationing, close control of labor and production and astronomical tax rates. Constitutional restrictions on federal power were swiftly eroded.

That doesn’t tell us whether those wars should have been fought. It does mean that we should understand the consequences of war for our entire social order and thus go to war only when absolutely necessary.

Third, the United States can no more police and plan the whole world than it can plan a national economy. Without a superpower threat to rally against, the political establishment wants us to deploy our military resources on behalf of democracy and self-determination around the world and against such vague or decentralized threats as terrorism, drugs and environmental destruction. The military is designed to fight wars in defense of American liberty and sovereignty; even the world’s largest bureaucracy is not well-equipped to be policeman and social worker to the world.

Fourth, our Cold War allies have recovered from the destruction of World War II and are fully capable of defending themselves. The countries of the European Union have a collective population of more than 500 million, a gross domestic product of $18 trillion a year and nearly 2 million troops. They can defend Europe and deal with internal problems such as the conflict in Ukraine without U.S. assistance. South Korea has twice the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Take Immigration Reform Past Talking Points

May 15, 2015 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

From Hillary Clinton’s Nevada speech in favor of immigration reform to Jeb Bush’s unwavering support for it, every presidential candidate in both parties is busy staking out a position on immigration.

The trouble is they’re using the same shopworn talking points they’ve always used. Rehashing the same arguments in front of a Congress that has repeatedly rejected them isn’t going to work. New reform ideas are needed.

Every immigration reform bill since 2002 has failed partly because they were essentially the same. They have all included the same three broad ideas: increase immigration enforcement, legalize some unauthorized immigrants, and liberalize legal immigration.

The first new idea is the merit-based green card category that was pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio in 2013 and promptly forgotten. That category would have issued up to 250,000 new green cards a year, half of them set aside for mid-skilled workers while the rest were for workers who possess skills like English or computer programming.

New ideas are out there. The question is whether Washington will take advantage of them.”

Allowing mid-skilled immigrants to even apply for green cards was so revolutionary and appealed to traditional American views of fairness in the immigration system that this reform was overlooked. It’s still a fresh idea that American voters, congressmen and senators haven’t seriously considered.

Another new idea is to reduce the role of the federal government by allowing states to create their own guest worker visa programs if they wish. American states have provided a democratic laboratory to test different policies like welfare reform, gun laws and tax policies — with some clear winners emerging. Why not apply that to immigration?

States could design migrant worker visas for any skill level for any occupation, entrepreneurs, investors, or those who want to buy real estate in blighted cities. Congress can then compare the outcomes among different states and choose the best policies based on experience. Or if the state system works even better than predicted, Congress could permanently hand guest workers over to the states.

America wouldn’t be stepping into the unknown here. Both Canada and Australia have their own provincial and state-based migration systems. According to a recent Cato Institute policy analysis, those systems are more responsive to local labor market demands than a one-size-fits-all federal program.

But state-based visas aren’t just a foreign idea. Since 2008, at least nine U.S. states have proposed to manage their own guest worker …read more

Source: OP-EDS