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Budding Movements in Canada and US Vow to Bring 'Sacrament' of Cannabis to the Masses

VICE News - 1 hour 6 min ago

After suffering a serious injury in a house fire more than four years ago, Robin Douglas was confined to a wheelchair and thought he would never walk again.

Depression and hopelessness took over. When he tried to kill himself, he knew he'd hit rock bottom.

That's when he turned to marijuana for salvation. A few months later, he no longer needed the wheelchair.

"My mind, body and spirit was healed." Douglas, 57, told VICE News Thursday from White Rock, British Columbia. "And every time I met with like-minded people who helped me use cannabis, we would smoke or eat it and be able to see things clearly."

In 2013, Douglas and his friends decided to share their experiences and start the Church of the Holy Smoke. He was elected lead pastor. "They call me the Pope of Pot," he said.

Members of the Church of the Holy Smoke — which Douglas says has grown to include 300 people across Canada — pitched a large tent behind Douglas' rental home to accommodate the dozens of people who congregate there daily to smoke and talk theology.

"We get a euphoria when we do it," he said. "Almost like a spiritual zen. Personally, I go into this almost comatose situation where I'm sitting there and I can actually feel everything around me. I believe in the Bible, the Qur'an, and the Book of Life, but Mother Earth put cannabis out there for us to use as a sacrament, just like wine."

They're facing new opposition, though, from the City of White Rock, which has ordered him to take the tent down by today — a demand Douglas is refusing. Whatever happens, he will continue with his mission to spread the sacrament of cannabis to Canadians and, eventually, have the church officially recognized as a religion. He is looking to the growing movement of marijuana churches in the US for inspiration and says pastors with his church are already in the process of opening churches in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.

But they will likely face many challenges along the way — just like other Canadians before them. In 2011, two Toronto ministers from the Church of the Universe, another church that believes in the sacrament of cannabis, were unsuccessful in their constitutional challenge of the country's marijuana laws. They were arrested in 2006 for selling weed to undercover officers. The judge ruled that while the pair seemed to be sincere in their beliefs, Canada's laws against possession and trafficking of marijuana were upheld.

And in another 2011 case, a federal judge ruled against a Vancouver man, also a member of the Church of the Universe, who tried to claim that smoking marijuana was part of his religious beliefs and that Canada's drug laws were discriminatory. The judge said the man failed to argue that his weed use had any relationship with religion.

Still, Douglas is optimistic his efforts will be successful in an appeal of such rulings and says he has applied for charitable status and has hired lawyers make the case that his church should be seen as such in the eyes of the government.

It's already happened south of the border, where The First Church of Cannabis was approved as a religious corporation in March, just after Indiana enacted its religious freedom law. That's despite the fact that marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes remains illegal in the state. The Church's founder and Grand Poobah, Bill Levin, listed cannabis as a sacrament — something used within religious practices — that church members grow themselves. According to its website, the church has more than 1,000 members worldwide.

"If someone is smoking in our church, God bless them," Levin told the Washington Post. "This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to life."

Last week, weed evangelists gathered in Denver, Colorado for the first-ever Congress of Cannabis Ministries, where people from all over the country learned how to start their own "cannabis friendly ministry."

"The legalization of cannabis is making it more likely we'll see churches like this come into the open," Steven Hager, organizer of the conference, told VICE News.

Hager is also founder of a closed group called Pot Illuminati that has long used cannabis as a religious tool, but he says he doesn't have plans to register it with the government.

"You are a religion if you say you're a religion, regardless of what the government thinks," said Hager. "I'm not collecting money, I'm not asking people to give me money, so I'm not filling out all that paperwork, because I don't have to. But I definitely support churches that do want to."

He says he would like to see more churches like Levin's crop up to "level the playing field" with established religions that enjoy tax exemptions and other benefits. "It's time we take control of religion again. Because marijuana has been a religious sacrament for centuries. The burning bush? The tree of life? Both cannabis. There's a misperception that cannabis used for spiritual purposes is new, but it's not."

But, he says he was disappointed with the turnout at the Congress, which means marijuana ministries still have a long way to go before they really take root in the mainstream.

As for Douglas, he's excited for the new chapter in Canadian religion.

"Everyone says I'm a walking miracle," said Douglas. "But no! I'm not a walking miracle. I was just given a purpose, a big purpose in life. And that is to promote Mother Earth's end and her most miraculous plant in this world. I want to share that with everybody else."

Follow Rachel Browne on Twitter: @rp_browne

Watch the VICE News documentary The Grass Is Greener here: 

Officials 'Increasingly Confident' Debris Is From MH370

VICE News - 1 hour 19 min ago

Officials from Malaysia, France, and Australia are saying a piece of an airplane wing that washed ashore on a remote French island in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday is most likely part of the missing Malaysian flight MH370.

The debris was loaded onto crates at the island's airport outside Saint Denis, CNN reported, and is being shipped to France, where experts will work to verify that the components belong to the missing plane. 

The piece of plane is leaving — Antoine Forestier (@a_forestier) July 31, 2015

On Friday, Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the underwater search for the plane, told CNN he is "increasingly confident, but not yet certain" that the wreckage is from MH370. The component appears to be a "flaperon" from the trailing edge of a 777 wing.

"The only 777 aircraft that we're aware of in the Indian Ocean that could have led to this part floating is MH370," Dolan said.

Similitudes incroyables entre le flaperon d

— Xavier Tytelman (@PeurAvion) July 29, 2015

The debris washed ashore on Wednesday on Reunion island, a remote landmass just east of Madagascar, roughly 3,800 miles from where the plane was last spotted near the southern tip of Vietnam before it vanished on March 8, 2014. Municipal employees found the fragment of an airplane wing, which is approximately two meters long and one meter wide, off the coast of Saint Andre, a community on the remote island.

Meanwhile, just hours after the debris was discovered, a volcano on the other side of the island began to erupt. The volcano is one the most active in the world, having erupted more than 150 times in the last 400 years. Though the latest eruption may lead to an evacuation of the island, officials in Paris said the debris is still expected to arrive in Toulouse, where aviation investigators will analyze it in detail next week. 

The plane's disappearance led to an international effort to canvass a nearly 23,000-square-mile search zone. The initial search involved 19 ships and 345 sorties by military aircraft. The effort cost nearly $94 million and is considered the most expensive search operation in aviation history.

The Beijing-bound plane flew northwest over Malaysia toward Vietnam, and was last seen somewhere in the vicinity of the Gulf of Thailand, according to Vietnamese officials. There were conflicting reports immediately after the plane's disappearance about when exactly air traffic controllers lost radio contact. At first, officials reported that they could no longer contact the plane two hours after takeoff, but the figure was later revised to one hour.

Flight — Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) March 8, 2014

Officials expressed confidence Friday that more details about the crash would soon emerge. Malaysian officials told the AFP that they are closer to "solving the mystery" of MH370.

"We are still working with our French and Malaysian colleagues to analyze all the information so we don't have certainty yet, but we hope that within the next little while we'll be able to get to that level of confidence," Dolan told the AFP. "We're hoping within the next 24 hours."

The Way Americans Eat - The Business of Life (Episode 8 Trailer)

VICE News - 1 hour 23 min ago

In the span of just a few generations, Americans have become obsessed with the way we eat. But while some of us are surrounded by farmers markets and Whole Foods outlets, some experts argue that a large percentage of the population is unable to afford or access healthy food. Can organic foods, GMOs, and greater access to fresh food save us? For the answer, we turn to a panel of experts, featuring Frederick Kaufman, Danielle Nierenberg, and Katherine Mangu-Ward.

Watch: What Happened to Middle Class America? (Episode 7)

Watch previous episodes of The Business of Life

We Might Be on the Verge of an Ebola Vaccine That Works

VICE News - 1 hour 41 min ago

A Canadian-made Ebola vaccine developed at rapid speed and tested in West Africa has proven 100 percent effective so far, leading officials to call it a potential silver bullet.

"We believe that the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine," doctor Marie Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at the World Health Organization, said at a press conference Friday.

The vaccine, developed by researchers at Canada's National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg, was tested on nearly 4,400 people in Guinea.

The researchers' strategy was to vaccinate neighbors, friends, and family of recently-identified Ebola patients, forming a ring of protection around the primary patient, Kieny explained. This would protect the contacts of the patient and prevent the disease from spreading further. The same strategy, called "ring vaccination," was used in the 1970s to successfully eradicate Small-Pox, she said.

Each ring of contacts was randomized to either be vaccinated immediately, or vaccinated after three weeks, and then the two groups were compared to determine whether the vaccine worked.

The trial is still ongoing, but the data so far shows that none of the 2,014 people who were vaccinated immediately developed Ebola after 10 days of vaccination. The 10-day period is key since some contacts who had already incubated the virus before that time may still have developed the disease, even if they immediately received the vaccine.

Of the 2,380 people in the control group who received the vaccine after three weeks, 16 developed Ebola.

However, she noted, there are currently very few Ebola cases in Guinea, so it is difficult to test the vaccine on additional rings to see further results. Researchers have decided to stop randomized trials on each ring, instead vaccinating everyone immediately. The next step is also to vaccinate teenagers and children, which wasn't done before due to lack of data on the vaccine's safety, she said.

"So we hope that by continuing the trial with this modification, with doing all the vaccination immediately, and also including younger people, we will be able to assist the Ebola response team, bringing Ebola transmission to zero in Guinea," Kieny said Friday.

The vaccine could potentially bring the largest Ebola outbreak in history to an end. The number of cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone has totaled 27,748 cases as of July 26. Over 11,000 people have died in the West African nations.

"This new vaccine, if the results hold up, may be the silver bullet against Ebola, helping to bring the current outbreak to zero and to control future outbreaks of this kind," the foreign minister of Norway Børge Brende said Friday. Norway helped fund the trial.

According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak appears to be slowing down. A July 29 situation report showed seven confirmed cases of Ebola in the week up to July 26, which is the lowest weekly total in over a year.

But the deadly outbreak isn't over yet. The WHO points to recent high risk events in Sierra Leone and Guinea, although it says no new cases have been reported in Liberia.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont

Watch the VICE News Documentary, The Fight Against Ebola here:

Saudi Arabia Has a Big Islamic State Problem

VICE News - 1 hour 53 min ago

For Saudi Arabia, fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State presents a double-edged sword. Not only does the kingdom face threats from terrorists on its soil, but IS poses a threat to the very core of the kingdom's beliefs system, as it has roots in a version of Islam — Wahhabism — that is taught in many Saudi schools and mosques.

On July 18, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) launched a wide-reaching domestic security operation that resulted in the arrests of 431 individuals accused of having links to the IS. Among the charges were plans to attack mosques, and security and government buildings, along with an unnamed diplomatic mission.

This arrest operation now joins a growing list of security incidents with links to IS, and includes the disruption of a plot to target the US embassy with a car bomb in March, the killing of police officers in April, and the suicide bombing of two Shia mosques in May.

While these incidents continue to highlight the operational reach of IS, they also underscore a more fundamental challenge for the government of Saudi Arabia: how to simultaneously fight IS abroad and at home.

Both remain daunting tasks given the number of active Saudi foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, which according to an estimate released by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) is now between 1,500 and 2,500 individuals — making Saudis the second largest group of foreign fighters on the ground with IS, after Tunisians.

Some of these fighters will inevitably return to Saudi Arabia, looking to establish domestic terrorist cells by spreading the message of IS in mosques and on the internet. This remains a core strategy of IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who refers to Saudi Arabia as Wilayat al Haramayn, or Province of the Two Holy Places, a reference to the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

"Saudi Arabia has religious significance for al Baghdadi's pretensions to rule over the Islamic caliphate," Philip Stack, principal analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk analytics firm, told VICE News. "[He] claimed jurisdiction over what he termed Wilayat al Haramayn in November 2014, [asserting] his direction over jihadists in Saudi Arabia."

This would not be the first time Saudi Arabia has had to combat a domestic jihadist uprising. In 1979, militants seized the Grand Mosque of Mecca, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi government. More recently, and coinciding with the invasion of Iraq by US forces in 2003, al Qaeda launched a violent three-year insurrection that targeted security forces, Westerners, and government officials.

Saudi Arabia's security services were eventually able to defeat the al Qaeda-led insurgency through a mixture of innovative counter-terrorism operations, such as printing the names of al Qaeda operatives in the press, and trying to rehabilitate jihadists through extensive religious re-education.

Watch the VICE News Documentary: Escape to the Islamic State

But IS isn't al Qaeda, and the number of Saudis now involved with IS and the resources available to them — in terms of both financing and personal appeal — has exceeded anything that was ever available to al Qaeda. The presence of IS across the border in Iraq, and to a lesser degree in Yemen, is also posing a unique challenge in containing the spread of extremism within Saudi Arabia.

And even though the objective of overthrowing the Saudi government has remained the same, the strategies being used by IS are evolving. They are now focused on the same kinds of sectarian attacks being used in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen — such as the targeting of Shia mosques.

"In Saudi, IS is most certainly in the beginning of the first stage: spite and burnout," Ghaidaa Hetou, of i-Strategic, a political risk consulting firm, told VICE News, referring to one of the two stages of IS's operational doctrine. "In this stage, one particular incident of [terror] will not capture a specific aim, but the aggregate of several incidents … will gradually, in their view, lead to a collapse of the system."

By engaging in these kinds of sectarian attacks, IS conforms to a well-known approach, one that will attempt to drive a wedge between the people they are attacking and the government that is supposed to protect them. By doing so, IS hopes to promote instability within Saudi Arabia by making the government appear weak and ineffectual.

And given the scope of the arrest operation on July 18, there is clearly a widening apprehension over IS penetration within Saudi Arabia.

"The support for IS is rising in [Saudi Arabia]," Hetou said.

This support originates from more than just social and political conditions, however, and is far more troublesome for long-term stability. Core tenets of the IS belief system, which include a hatred of Shia and executions for apostasy and adultery, all originate with Wahhabi religious teachings that have legitimized the Saudi government. More specifically, IS has taken the idea that apostates and heretics should be killed and combined that with the notion that just about any devout Muslim can deem someone else insufficiently pure or Islamic, and therefore apostate, and therefore subject to on-the-spot execution.

For people who have received their religious indoctrination in these Saudi schools and mosques, the next step into the extreme doctrines embraced by IS is not a huge one.

This has put the Saudi government in a precarious position.

"You look at the core tenets of Wahhabism and you look at the core tenets that have been espoused by IS and they are exactly the same," Akhil Shah, a counterterrorism and foreign policy analyst at the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told VICE News. "Groups like the Islamic State give young Saudis an identity. It takes place within the same ecosystem, ideology, and religious outlook."

Therefore, to fully undermine the ideological basis of IS, the Saudi religious establishment would have to subvert the doctrines that are nearly identical to those that support their own authority. Thus, theologically undermining IS risks undermining the legitimacy of the entire Saudi government.

This has left the Saudis with only a few options, such as reconciling with the minority Shia population or limiting the influence of religious ideologies that might resemble those of IS. Both of these choices inevitably support the narrative of IS, who claim that the Saudi government is not only corrupt, but also religiously compromised.

"They [IS] are revisionists with a clear political aim,"Hetou said. "They are motivated to 'correct the humiliating past … on the hands of the infidels and their puppets.' The Saudi authority is regarded as an American puppet."

For some in Saudi Arabia, this is all the incentive needed to seek out and support IS.

The circumstances required for IS to thrive in Saudi Arabia are currently sub-optimal. IS tends to mature in ungoverned spaces and failed states like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and the Saudi government is far from collapse. Nevertheless, for IS's vision of the caliphate to become fully realized, IS must be seen struggling for control of the spiritual capital of Islam, or the Wilayat al Haramayn. This means the terrorism and insurgency that is currently plaguing the Middle East is far from over in Saudi Arabia.

Follow Landon Shroder on Twitter: @LandonShroder

Washington DC Is Sinking — Literally

VICE News - 1 hour 58 min ago

VICE News is closely tracking global environmental change. Check out the Tipping Point blog here.

Washington DC is sinking: It's not just a metaphor for a dysfunctional government anymore.

Scientists have known for a while that sea levels are going up faster along the US mid-Atlantic coast than globally. As it turns out, the water's not only rising, but a huge bulge of land — driven upward in the last Ice Age — is now settling slowly downward along the Eastern seaboard.

As a result, Washington and much of the surrounding Chesapeake Bay region is expected to sink by about six inches between now and 2100 as seas get higher, according to a study published this week.

"We're in relatively early stage in this process," geologist Ben DeJong, the study's lead author, told VICE News. "This will continue for the foreseeable future."

It's not yet time to put a big set of rubber boots on Thomas Jefferson, or attach pontoons to Lincoln's chair.

DeJong's research focused on the marshy Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, on the eastern shore of the bay. Using a combination of core samples from the ground and laser imagery from aircraft overhead, he and his co-authors from the University of Vermont and the US Geological Survey were able to track how the land warped upward ahead of the glaciers, which reached as far as present-day New Jersey more than 20,000 years ago — and is gradually settling back now.

"What's kind of cool about this is it gives us a nice solid benchmark — a value of relative sea-level rise that we can pretty confidently hang our hat on," DeJong said. "At the very least, we have sort of a baseline value that we can superimpose on any of our estimates for sea-level rise based on climate scenarios."

That bulge not only includes the Washington area, it reaches southward as far as North Carolina, he said. The study appeared in an American scholarly journal, the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

It's not yet time to put a big set of rubber boots on Thomas Jefferson, or attach pontoons to Lincoln's chair. But it's one more thing planners will have to take into account in when planning to manage climate change in a city where sea levels are projected to rise as much as 15 inches by mid-century at current rates.

At that point, Washington — which sits more than 100 miles up the Potomac River from Chesapeake Bay — be faced with a minimum of $2 billion in real-estate losses, not counting infrastructure, monuments, and military installations like the Washington Navy Yard, a 2012 study by University of Maryland researchers found.

It's a problem that's already being seen around Norfolk, Virginia, where "double whammy" of sinking land and rising seas is eating away at the world's largest naval base, retired Navy captain Roger Toll told VICE News.

"Any garden-variety thunderstorm hits here, and your streets are flooded,"said Toll, who's now the director ofCoastal Resilience Research at Virginia's Old Dominion University. Right now, the federal government and communities along that stretch of coast are trying to figure out how to limit the worst damage and adapt to what's coming, and he called DeJong's research "a welcome study."

"We know we have a lot of uncertainties in the science and engineering because of the data inadequacies and the models," he said. "We don't have a whole lot of time, but we do have time to think though this in a deliberate way."

And Zoe Johnson, the climate change coordinator for the multi-agency Chesapeake Bay Program, told VICE News that DeJong's study bolsters what her organization has been seeing from its measurements.

Maryland's coast is could see nearly a foot and a half of sea-level rise by 2050 and possibly 4 feet or more by 2100, the commission noted in a climate-change plan released earlier this year. About 580 acres of land a year is being washed away, Johnson said. Islands that once had homes on them have slipped beneath the waves, and Baltimore and Annapolis have seen a nine-fold increase in low-lying streets being flooded, she added.

"We're already seeing some pretty significant impact in terms of nuisance flooding, frequent flooding, the amount of erosion affecting our coastal areas," Johnson said. 

Follow Matt Smith on Twitter: @mattsmithatl

Ed Morales on Puerto Rican Debt Crisis, Beth Haller on Disability Rights

FAIR - 2 hours 13 min ago
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MP3 Link

This week on CounterSpin: Puerto Rico’s governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, told the New York Times the island’s debt is “not payable.” The debt crisis has already meant closing schools, losing jobs and shutting off healthcare options, so what does it mean that on the mainland, what’s happening in Puerto Rico is just a business story–and not a story story? We hear about that from Ed Morales, author of Living in Spanglish and currently a lecturer at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.
Also on the show: If media couldn’t use phrases like “despite big strides, barriers remain,” it’s not clear they could even report on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The legislation made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in accommodation, transportation and employment, in order to encourage independent living and economic self-sufficiency. But with only some 20 percent of people with disabilities in the workforce, it’s very clear that barriers remain–and less clear that media are really committed to talking about them. Joining us to talk about that is Beth Haller, professor of mass communication at Towson University and author of Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media.

And first, as usual, we take a look back at the week’s press.



Fired Cincinnati Officer Released After Making Bail in Sam Dubose Killing

VICE News - 2 hours 16 min ago

The fired police officer charged with murder in the shooting of black motorist Sam Dubose during a traffic stop has been released from jail after posting bail.

On Thursday a judge set bail at $1 million for Ray Tensing, the University of Cincinnati officer who has pleaded not guilty to murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the death of Dubose on July 19. Two other officers who were present during the shooting been put on paid leave.

The Hamilton County Court clerk's website shows Tensing was allowed to post 10 percent of the bail, according to the Associated Press. A sheriff's spokesman says Tensing was released Thursday evening, shortly after appearing in court for his arraignment.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the Hamilton County courthouse Wednesday night, just hours after county prosecutor Joe Deters announced a grand jury's decision to indict Tensing. 

At the rally Wednesday night, Black Lives Matter movement protesters chanted slogans including "I am, I am, Sam Dubose," "No justice no peace," and "Charge the second officer."

Dubose's death comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers, although authorities haven't focused on race in the death.

Earlier on Thursday, highly-anticipated graphic footage taken from Tensing's bodycam was released to media and the public as the city braced for protests and the university canceled classes.

Two University of Cincinnati officers have been taken off duty pending an internal investigation into the video that shows them corroborating their colleague's false account of Dubose's death. 

University of Cincinnati's public information officer Lonnie Soury confirmed Thursday that Officers David Lindenschmidt and Phillip Kidd had been placed on paid administrative leave.

In the video, Tensing is heard saying to another officer, "He was dragging me," to which the other officer responded "Yeah, I saw that." But the footage shows that Tensing tried to open the car door and almost immediately fired a single shot, hitting and killing Dubose. The car then rolls down the road as Tensing chases after it.

Tensing's lawyer, Stew Mathews, has said that his client feared that he would be run over, and has called the murder charge "absolutely unwarranted."

He said that there are two sides to the case and that the much-viewed body camera video of the stop can be interpreted differently from the prosecutor's version.

At the Wednesday press conference, Deters called the shooting "senseless" and "the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make."

"It is our belief that he was not dragged," he told reporters. "If you slow down this tape you see what happens, it is a very short period of time from when the car starts rolling to when a gun is out and he's shot in the head."

On Thursday, new bodycam footage taken from the perspective of the responding officers was released. In one of the videos, Lindenschmidt can be heard recounting Tensing's version of events.

"They had a traffic stop, the guy took off on him, the officer got caught in his arm, cause the guy reached for something he thought, so he grabbed on the car, that officer went down when he got tangled in the car, and fired," Lindenschmidt says.

Tensing was taken into custody Wednesday, and was also fired by the UC police department. He faces life in prison if found guilty of Dubose's murder.

Do You Trust The Police? - The People Speak

VICE News - 2 hours 27 min ago

VICE News traveled around the world speaking to people about what they think about the police, and the role law enforcement should play in society.

Find out what people from Oakland, CA to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam had to say about about the cops.

Watch the People Speak on Church and State

Watch previous episodes of 'The People Speak'

Tell us what you think: share a post with the hashtag #vicenews on Twitter, or send us a Skype video message by following the instructions here.

With support from Skype. 

Beijing Is Awarded 2022 Winter Olympics, Despite No Snow and Human Rights Concerns

VICE News - 3 hours 6 min ago

Beijing today defeated Almaty in Kazakhstan to become the 2022 Winter Olympics host, despite its lack of natural snow and concerns raised by human rights campaigners.

The Chinese capital emerged victorious on Friday, with 44 votes to 40 in a secret paper ballot, making it the first city to be awarded both the winter and summer games.

Had it won, Kazakhstan would have been the first country to bring the games to Central Asia. But the "risky" option was beaten by Beijing, which was seen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a safe, reliable choice — despite Chinese officials having to insist that the city's pollution crisis would not be a problem.

Xu Jicheng, deputy director of Beijing 2022's press and communications department, said this week that "technically" the pollution in the city has been reduced and controlled. "We have seven more years to go and it will be sunshine and white clouds," he added.

Beijing has also faced fierce opposition from protesters, who said today's decision was "a slap in the face to China's besieged human rights activists."

"The Olympic motto of 'higher, faster, and stronger' is a perfect description of the Chinese government's assault on civil society: more peaceful activists detained in record time, subject to far harsher treatment," said Sophie Richardson, China director at NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"In choosing China to host another games, the IOC has tripped on a major human rights hurdle," she said.

In 2008, HRW said that the Beijing Olympics was tainted by a sharp increase in human rights abuses directly linked to China's preparations for the games.

"The run-up to the Beijing Olympics has been marred by a well-documented surge in violations of the rights of free expression and association, as well as media freedom," a HRW statement said.

"In addition, abuses of migrant construction workers who were pivotal to Beijing's infrastructure improvements have increased, as have evictions of Beijing residents whose homes were demolished to make way for that infrastructure. Those abuses reflect both the Chinese government's wholesale failure to honor its Olympics-related human rights promises, as well as the negligence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in ensuring that China fulfills its commitments."

But the IOC has insisted Beijing was awarded the 2022 Games because it fitted its new agenda for a "stronger focus on sustainability, legacy, and transparency."

Beijing and Kazakhstan's biggest city Almaty had both been considered longshots when the 2022 bid race opened two years ago, but after Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow, and Lviv pulled out for various reasons, the two were the sole remaining contesters.

Beijing plans to reuse several venues from the 2008 Olympics, including the "Bird's Nest" stadium and "Water Cube" arena. But the snow and sliding events will be at venues in Yangqing and Zhangjiakou, almost an hour from Beijing via a new high-speed rail line.

Watch the VICE News documentary, Pussy Riot Gets Whipped in Sochi:

The US Military Contractor Accused of Sex Crimes — Then Convicted of Espionage

VICE News - 3 hours 21 min ago

On Sunday, June 17, 2012, a contractor named Christopher R. Glenn accessed a classified computer network at the US military's Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B) in Honduras and began stealing defense secrets.

Glenn, a civilian working as a systems administrator at the military installation, amassed onto his hard drive copies of more than 1,000 email messages from the inbox of JTF-B's commander, along with several email attachments. Those included "Key Issues" papers on Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, along with reports on "Strategic Seminars" in which the Pentagon anticipated threats and responses. Many of the files were classified Secret.

At 1:55pm, Glenn overrode system safeguards and burned all the files onto a DVD. At 1:59pm, he erased the Windows log entries tracking his actions. He then shut down his computer.

Glenn would later admit to authorities that he took the DVD home, uploaded the files onto a network storage device, and encrypted them. Prosecutors believe he eventually allowed two foreign nationals, identified in court records only by the initials A.A. and Y.A.E., to remotely access the files.

He pleaded guilty last January to computer intrusion and willful retention of classified material. On July 31, he's scheduled for sentencing in US District Court.

His sentence, however, will not address what may be his most sensational crime.

Honduran prosecutors have formally accused Glenn of human trafficking and rape. Wilmer Barahona, a former legal advisor in the Honduran Attorney General's office who worked on the case, says that during his nine years in the unit assigned to crimes against children, he saw a lot of cruel abuse. But this case stood out.

"It was a foreigner doing it," Barahona told VICE News. "Up until that point, we hadn't seen something like that. We'd gone up against pederasts who abused children, but not in such a peculiar way."

* * *

A US magistrate judge from the Southern District of Florida wrote in a March 2014 detention order that Christopher R. Glenn appears to have "lived a life of deception for many years."

Glenn possesses a Florida license under his real name, but he has employed at least three aliases, including Derek John Michael, which he used to obtain fraudulent driver's licenses in Texas and California.

The US government has claimed he holds 11 foreign bank accounts, from Australia to the United Arab Emirates, containing a total of about $800,000. (Glenn denies this.) He "has an extensive history of foreign travel," the judge wrote in his order, "and has spent very little time in the United States."

Glenn declined through his attorney to speak to VICE News. But according to court records, he grew up in Buffalo, New York. His parents divorced when he was about 12, and he followed his father first to California, then to Mexico. His contracting career started with his first trip to Iraq in 2003.

In 2005, he was doing IT work for Blackwater in Iraq's Green Zone when he met a petite 19-year-old Iraqi college student named Majid Tarik Abdul. A part-time contractor, Tarik needed an Arabic language pack installed on her computer, she told VICE News. So she sought help from Glenn, who spoke Arabic well. The 6'1", 250-pound Glenn had a "pudgy" build and spoke with a lisp, she recalled, but he was engaging. After several weeks, she agreed to grab a meal with him at the Subway on base.

"He alters his personality to whatever you want to see or hear," she said. "And say what you want about him, he's very smart." He bragged often to Tarik about his "super-hacker" prowess.

A photo found during a raid of Glenn's Honduras compound. (Photo via La Tribuna)

The pair never dated in the American sense, but a few months after their first meeting, Glenn introduced himself to her family and asked for her hand in marriage. Tarik's mother liked the idea, suggesting to her daughter that this was Allah's plan for her.

In November 2005, the two married in Jordan, where they rented an apartment and lived for about a year while they waited for Tarik's US visa. She continued her studies, and Glenn worked on learning more Arabic. She marveled at her husband's memory as he learned to recite long excerpts from the Quran by heart, but she says he was hardly an observant Muslim, failing to pray five times a day or fast during Ramadan.

When Tarik's visa came through, the pair traveled briefly to Buffalo, where she met some of his family. Then they relocated to Chula Vista, California, just south of San Diego. There, she discovered her husband maintained alter egos — the landlord greeted him as Mr. Michael. Others called him Fernando Albergue. That's when she first heard him speak fluent Spanish.

A year into the marriage, Tarik says, she decided she wanted out — Glenn would fly into violent rages without warning. In November 2006, she was in Ft. Benning, Georgia preparing to ship out for another contracting stint in Iraq when she got a call from Glenn. She says he told her he'd just beaten up a former business associate and left him tied to a fence near the Mexican border. True or not, she was frightened. She told him the marriage was over and shipped out to Iraq a week later.

Glenn sent her a package of gifts — chocolate, perfume — then within a few days, she says, he called her on a military phone line, cursing her and threatening to take all of her money and break her legs if she didn't come back to him.

"He's on a completely different level of jacked-up," said Tarik, who eventually returned to America and became a US citizen. She's now remarried and a linguist in the Army Reserve.

Tarik hasn't been in touch with Glenn since their divorce in 2008. Without knowing about the sex crime accusations in Honduras, she told a story about their brief courtship in Iraq, when Glenn visited her family in Baghdad. While at their house, Tarik recalled, Glenn liked to take off his shirt and ask her sisters, ages 10 and 14 at the time, to scratch his back. Tarik says she dismissed it as a cultural difference, but found it strange.

"He was really creepy around them," she said.

* * *

On April 19, 2007, Glenn — then 26 — walked into the US consulate in Sydney, Australia with Khadraa Adeeb. She was six years his junior, an Iraq native who'd fled her homeland and become a naturalized Australian. They submitted a petition that day to launch her on the path to US citizenship.

Glenn and Adeeb, who claimed their romance began on a Muslim dating site, filled out their forms as a married couple, though they weren't married. Later, when the embassy suspected fraud and asked for more details, they turned in fabricated documents.

The pair officially married in April 2007, then moved to Camp Bucca, Iraq, the site of a notorious military prison that some now consider the birthplace of the Islamic State. Glenn got a job as an IT consultant for Al Barth, an Iraqi general contracting firm.

By December 2008, Glenn was facing scrutiny from the Army's Criminal Investigation Division for possible fraud, according to documents obtained by VICE News under the Freedom of Information Act [pdf below]. Acting on a tip, Army investigators spent months looking into Glenn. They took 14 sworn statements, searched his on-base residence, and analyzed the computer hardware he kept there.

They concluded that Glenn, aided in part by his wife, devised a scheme to make fake badges for Iraqi workers so they could walk through Camp Bucca without an escort. Glenn also made a fake Common Access Card, a federal civilian employee ID. Investigators reported that Glenn and Adeeb were thus able to steal fuel, meals from the dining facility, troop medical center visits, and Army Post Office services to the tune of more than $17,000.

Glenn admitted at the time that he stole postal services, but denied the rest. Camp Bucca's base commander, however, made an administrative finding that Glenn and Adeeb had "committed serious frauds upon the US government." The commander barred them from Camp Bucca and expelled them from all coalition facilities in Iraq. Glenn did not appeal the findings.

Army prosecutors decided not to refer the case to the Department of Justice; as of June 2008, only acts of military contractor fraud over $500,000 met the definition of "significant" cases that had to be forwarded to federal prosecutors, according to a Defense Department rule.

Glenn and Adeeb returned to Australia, where she found a job at the Australian Agency for International Development. Around this time, Glenn "became obsessed with gaining access to classified information," the government claims. According to court documents, he was teaching himself tradecraft — professional spy techniques — by purchasing books like Surveillance Countermeasures, How to Disappear, and A Time to Betray.

* * *

JTF-B is located on the Honduran Air Force's Soto Cano Air Base in the Comayagua Valley, a dry, flat expanse ringed by mountains and pine forest. It's home to more than 500 US airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines.

Most of the Comayagua Valley's 124,000 residents live in the municipality of Comayagua, a former Spanish colonial capital. By the middle of 2010, Glenn was there, staying on the town's southern edge at the five-story Hotel Plaza Futura. A hotel employee told VICE News that Glenn was an amiable guy who sometimes spoke in Arabic while he Skyped in the corridor. Adeeb visited him at least twice, but he received no other visitors, the employee said. Glenn did, however, make a friend at the hotel: Juan Angel Velasquez.

Glenn's compound. (Photo by Nicholas Phillips)

Velasquez was in his late twenties, with a broad face and faint moustache. A server in the hotel restaurant who spoke decent English, he was living with his girlfriend, Celenia Banegas, in the Colonia 21 de Abril, a poor suburb east of town. Velasquez owned a modest parcel of land of perhaps half an acre next door to his own home. He eventually sold the land to Glenn, who bought it using not his own name, but the name of a friend who lived overseas.

On that lot, Glenn began constructing a cinderblock compound that featured a high exterior wall, a roof over an open-air garage, and a two-story, three-bedroom residence. Glenn sometimes slept at Velasquez's house while it was being built.

* * *

Glenn's job at JTF-B was to implement Windows 7 and serve as systems administrator. He was subcontracted by the telecommunications firm Harris Corporation to do it. It's unclear how he got hired given his blemished record in Iraq — neither Harris nor the Army agreed to an interview — but court records show that when Glenn started his contract in February 2012, he was given Secret security clearance.

The methods he used to steal the commander's files were tricks "an average hacker should be able to do," said Sam Glines, CEO and co-founder of the Bay Area-based network security company Norse. For example, the government's forensic analysis showed that Glenn executed "packet sniffing and keyboard logging," or digital wiretaps, to pilfer the passwords he needed. He also set up an "SSH tunnel" to get through the firewall and burn his DVD. Glines called these operations "pretty standard."

"He could be super sophisticated," Glines told VICE News. "I can't say. A lot of the systems used by civilians or military don't have proper security controls."

Court records show that on July 19, a month after he stole the emails and attachments, Glenn's JTF-B machine "showed signs of a virus, as well as signs that the computer had accessed a malware site." A week and a half after that, security technicians asked him for the hard drive. He handed over two or three drives — he claims he was working with several at the time — but not the one with the virus.

When the technicians returned for that drive, prosecutors say, Glenn "tried to tamper" with it "and had to be physically restrained by a supervisor" so that they could confiscate it. Army investigators seized all the hardware at Glenn's JTF-B workspace on August 27.

Two days later, Glenn boarded a flight to Florida and reunited with Adeeb. On August 31 and September 19, the couple visited several ATMs and bank branches in West Palm Beach. Drawing from a joint account with Bank of America, they made multiple cash withdrawals in increments of less than $10,000. All told, they withdrew $43,200.

Glenn now claims he withdrew the money to invest in his house, explore other business ventures, and prevent Harris Corporation from revoking his pay over the malware incident. The government, however, alleges he "drained" his bank account to move assets around without being detected.

Despite his suspicious activity, Glenn flew in and out of Honduras several times for the next year and a half, according to an FBI affidavit. It's not clear why Glenn was never detained; the bureau declined to comment for this story. The feds finally arrested Glenn in West Palm Beach on February 27, 2014, with an indictment against him for violating the Espionage Act. But they lacked a key piece of evidence: The actual files he'd stolen. Those were sitting in his compound in Comayagua.

The FBI's Legal Attaché office at the US Embassy in San Salvador, which covers Honduras, told VICE News that FBI agents may legally search a US citizen's residence in a foreign country only if they have that country's permission.

The FBI needed to get inside Glenn's compound. And to do that, they needed the Hondurans.

* * *

Early on March 11, 2014 — two weeks after Glenn's arrest — a small convoy of pickups and SUVs without plates left the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa and snaked through the mountains. The convoy was on its way to a raid.

Inside one of the vehicles sat Barahona, the Honduran state legal advisor — and he had serious doubts about what was about to transpire. Barahona was travelling with his boss, a national prosecutor of crimes against children; a judge; some US-trained Honduran detectives; at least nine black-clad special-ops policemen; and a handful of FBI agents. They were headed to Glenn's cinderblock compound with a warrant accusing the American of rape and human trafficking. They'd been investigating him for months, according to court documents.

But as the team descended into the Comayagua Valley and sped past the entrance to JTF-B, Barahona believed the true motive for the search had nothing to do with sex crimes.

"The impression I had," Barahona told VICE News, "was that this was really a cleverly designed strategy [by the Americans] to get access to the evidence he had in his house."

Barahona suspected the Americans wished to search Glenn's compound for the stolen defense documents, but that lacking jurisdiction, they'd concocted a story about Glenn abusing local girls, which led to the raid, which the FBI had joined as advisors.

The convoy entered Comayagua and halted in a strip mall parking lot. Although Glenn was locked up in Florida, they were being careful. Days of surveillance in Colonia 21 de Abril had revealed no other potential threats inside the compound, which was fitted with two exterior security cameras and a double roll of razor wire. Still, members of a special-ops police unit were spearheading the maneuver.

A security camera at the compound. (Photo by Nicholas Phillips)

"The information we had was that there were guns in there," Mateo Galo, the Honduran prosecutor of crimes against children who joined the raid, told VICE News. "We were prepared for anything."

The convoy exited the strip mall, turned off Comayagua's paved streets, and drove up the main road of Colonia 21 de Abril. Just before 9:30am, the team pulled up at Glenn's compound. The presence of the notoriously corrupt Honduran police alarmed neighbors.

"I'm 74 years old," Maria Melba Bonilla later told VICE News as she discussed seeing the convoy that day. "I'm old enough to know when you see something like that, you go home and lock the door."

The search took four hours as Barahona sweat under his protective vest in the brutal sun. He was serving as a compliance witness; his task was to make sure the FBI agents respected Honduran law.

Technically, they did not, he told VICE News.

The agents climbed up to Glenn's master bedroom on the second floor of the compound. Next to the bed was a TV screen showing feeds of the surveillance cameras, two outside and two inside. There were pairs of women's underwear on shelves, and an empty bottle of Viibryd, an anti-depressant, next to the bed, the Honduran investigators wrote in their report.

There was also a Synology network attached storage device that had four 500 GB hard drives. According to Barahona, the Americans plugged their own device into it and made a backup even though they weren't specifically authorized by a judge to do so — which, he adds, amounts to tampering with evidence. (The FBI declined to comment on the assertion.)

On that Synology device, inside an encrypted compartment, the agents discovered the secret files Glenn had stolen from JTF-B, according to the plea agreement. Investigators also seized various discs in the house. One turned out to be the original DVD onto which Glenn had burned the stolen files.

The agents also made another discovery in the house — two Honduran girls, ages 16 and 18.

Several news photographers, tipped off by the cops, gathered in front of the compound, jostling for the chance to get pictures of the niñas. Galo's staff discreetly ushered the two girls into separate SUVs with tinted windows and drove them away from the compound for questioning clear of the press. At first, the girls revealed little; according to Galo, they said Glenn had been sending them messages and money through the wife of a fellow inmate in Florida.

"He was keeping them nice and calm" so that they wouldn't leave and report Glenn to the authorities, Galo said. The girls appeared shocked to learn that Glenn was in jail.

Barahona sat in the car with the 16-year-old as she told her story. She seemed protective of Glenn.

"She felt that instead of being her abuser," he said, "[Glenn] was her benefactor…. I got the impression that the whole thing about the girls — it was true. It wasn't just invented."

* * *

Honduran prosecutors believe that in 2012 and 2013, while Glenn was working at JTF-B, he sexually assaulted several girls from rural villages. At least six girls have told their stories to the FBI and Honduran investigators. Four girls claim Glenn lured them to his home, then drugged them until they blacked out. Two claim Glenn forcibly made them his "wives" in video-recorded ceremonies. And one of those girls claims Glenn sexually enslaved her for months.

The six girls who shared their stories in Honduran court didn't do so in person, but rather through a cámara gesell, or a closed-circuit interrogation system. A victim sits in a room with a psychologist who wears an earpiece. Using cameras and microphones, a judge or lawyer can interact with the girl only via the psychologist.

The girls were not always consistent, especially with names and dates. Galo believes some of them lost track of the passage of time because they were so cloistered. As one victim said in response to a question, "I don't have the exact date because I never left the house."

"They are vulnerable girls," Galo said. "They haven't had any schooling yet. So sometimes they get what's happening, and sometimes not."

Still, they agreed on certain details.

The first girls to allegedly encounter Glenn recalled him driving up in a red double-cabin Toyota Tundra pickup. Velasquez would accompany him and do most of the talking. The pair would tell villagers they worked for religious organizations and needed cooks and maids.

That's how Martina (not her real name), who is known in Honduran documents as witness C3, and who appears to be Victim 2 in an FBI affidavit, said it began for her.

Martina testified that the men came to her village on the afternoon of April 7, 2012. Velasquez promised her 3,000 lempiras — about $140 — for work at Lago de Yojoa, a volcanic crater lake popular with tourists. Her father frowned on the idea, but ultimately agreed to it. Martina's mother told her to pack her things and go.

The 15-year-old got into the vehicle with Velasquez and "Yusi" — Glenn's Muslim alias — and they all drove off. But they did not go to the lake. Instead, they drove her six hours away to Velasquez's house in Comayagua (Glenn's compound next door was still under construction), arriving at midnight.

The next day, Velasquez filled out a certificate and informed Martina she was going to marry Glenn. He assured the girl he'd already secured permission from her parents, though she would later find out that he'd done no such thing. Nor did Martina herself ever consent to marriage.

"I didn't tell them yes or no," she testified.

Velasquez filmed the ceremony. Afterwards, Martina recalled, "they gave me a pill… they told me it was a vitamin." She says she took it and soon lost consciousness.

She claims she woke up three days later — again, the girls appeared to have trouble discerning the passage of time — next to Glenn. She was wearing different clothes, with an aching abdomen and blood on the bed. Glenn told her to get up and wash his clothes. Martina asked to call her family. He said no. He kept her there for about a year, court records suggest.

Glenn's bedroom. (Photo via La Tribuna)

During the day, Glenn would leave the house, presumably to work at JTF-B. Martina, however, was not allowed to leave. Velasquez's girlfriend, Banegas, kept her company and bought her gifts like sandals, lotions, and soaps. Asked by the court what her duties were, Martina said she was forced to have sex with Glenn.

"He would pray," she said, "then he would tell me to take off my clothes, then he would grab me [and] throw me on the bed." She said he would also often get angry and beat her. She said he periodically gave her three small white "vitamins," which made her dizzy until she went to sleep.

Court records show Glenn traveled often during this period. At one point he returned with a burka, and forced Martina to wear it at all times — except when they took a trip to recruit other girls, which they did at least once.

That girl testified in Honduras as witness A1, and appears to be the same person the FBI calls Victim 1. She told a similar story of how the men recruited her, then "married" her to Glenn and drugged her. She said she woke up 15 hours later feeling nauseous. Walking, she testified, felt "uncomfortable." Glenn returned her to her village the next day, informing her that they were already "divorced," and that she shouldn't tell her mother what happened.

Sometime around March 2013, court records suggest, Martina's parents approached the police because they had not heard from their daughter in so long. Once Glenn learned the police were investigating, he told Velasquez to return Martina to her village for the Easter holiday.

Later, Glenn drove to the village to fetch her, but Martina would not get in his car. One witness told the FBI that Glenn gave Martina's parents rice, beans, and soda, while another said he gave them 25,000 Honduran lempiras (about $1,500) and told them to "build a new house." But Martina was adamant. She refused to return to the compound.

In October 2013, law enforcement agents in Comayagua received a tip that there was a foreigner in Colonia 21 de Abril living with minors, and that the minors could be heard crying inside the building. FBI agents stationed in Honduras as part of a transnational anti-gang unit began investigating, and eventually tracked down Martina.

As the investigators built their case, Glenn modified his tactics. He began broadcasting help-wanted ads on the radio to attract young girls to the house. Three of the girls interviewed by authorities said they responded to such an ad. Two were sisters.

They testified that they quarreled with each other one evening, so Glenn gave them white pills he called acetaminophen to calm them down. Both girls passed out in different rooms, and don't remember the rest of the night. One of the sisters testified she might have been raped, but said she wasn't sure.

"It would be good to know the truth," she said.

She was 14 years old on the night in question.

* * *

The girls' testimony was bolstered by evidence seized the day of the raid, including photos of what appear to be "wedding" ceremonies with Glenn and the girls, a black head scarf, a box of birth control pills, and a beige bag with "various bottles and boxes of drugs." Galo said these drugs, possibly Glenn's sedatives, were sent to the US for testing, but he had not yet received any results.

Galo said that after the raid, law enforcement officials gathered the girls in Tegucigalpa and recorded their statements. Then they transferred them to a state "protection center" for psychological evaluations. However, all six managed to escape — Galo said he doesn't know how — and are now back in their villages. Even if they refuse to cooperate further, he said, he can still use their sworn statements in court.

That includes potential cases against Glenn's former neighbors. Velasquez and Banegas were arrested during the raid and charged with human trafficking and other crimes. Authorities who searched their home next found several print-outs of Honduran legal codes, including sections dealing with the age of consent. The couple is currently behind bars in Honduras and awaiting trial.

"Everything they're saying is a lie," Velasquez's mother, Mercedes, told VICE News in March. "Nobody was kidnapped."

Mercedes, 73, lives around the corner from the compound. She says she taught Martina, Glenn's first "wife," how to cook beans.

"They haven't done anything bad," she said. "It was done without malice."

Other neighbors and shopkeepers told VICE News they'd never met the gringo. They'd only watched his red Toyota roll in and out of his compound. One family said they'd heard "Arab music" blaring from the compound in the wee hours, but nothing more.

Christopher Glenn is the first person prosecutors in Honduras have accused of a new variant of human trafficking crime created there in 2012: servile marriage. He may never face a Honduran judge, however. According to interviews and court documents, the FBI is trying to secure its own additional indictment against Glenn for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. If Glenn were convicted on such a charge in the US and served time for it on top of his espionage sentence, it's unclear if Honduras would still request his extradition.

Glenn "denies ever being sexually involved with minors" in his pleadings. He also denies any belief "that he can marry multiple wives under Islamic religion."

As of March, Glenn's compound was shuttered and empty. The only sign of previous habitation was a hen. It appeared to have tangled itself in the razor wire atop the cinderblock wall and died.

* * *

After his arrest, prosecutors allege, Glenn planned a jailbreak.

According to court records, interviews, and e-mails obtained by VICE News, Glenn was initially held in Palm Beach County Jail instead of the federal prison in Miami because it was closer to the site of his hearings. On the evening of September 19, 2014, a jail watch commander received a phone call from the FBI. An agent said that a jailhouse informant had warned that Glenn was plotting an escape. The alleged plan was to fake an illness, get transferred to a local medical facility, sneak out to safe houses, obtain fake travel documents, then flee to the Middle East.

The FBI agent was worried, however, that placing Glenn in lockdown — isolating him in his own cell under close watch — would effectively reveal the identity of the informant. So jail administrators simply mandated that Glenn be escorted by a tactical unit whenever he left the premises.

Glenn "categorically denies" any escape plot in his pleadings, calling it "absurd and patently false." He says an informant could've easily learned of his background from press coverage, then concocted the tale to curry favor with the authorities.

A spokesman for the US Marshal's Service said Glenn was transferred to the federal prison in Miami in February.

* * *

At a hearing for Glenn on March 4, 2014 in West Palm Beach, a man named Yarb Al-Ethary — initials: Y.A.E. — appeared in the courtroom. US Border Patrol agents arrested the 28-year-old Iraq-born New Zealander after the hearing. He agreed to an interview with the FBI, who summarized it in an affidavit.

Ethary said he considered Glenn a "close friend," and told agents he visited the Comayagua compound in 2013. (It was Ethary's name Glenn used to purchase the land.) While there, Ethary observed Glenn sharing a bedroom with girls, but he assumed they were over 18. Ethary was held for several months as a material witness in Glenn's case, then deported to New Zealand on an expired visa.

On March 13, 2014, the FBI arrested Glenn's then-wife, Khadraa Adeeb, in West Palm Beach. The bogus documents she and Glenn had submitted in 2007 to secure her naturalization were coming back to haunt her.

Adeeb had become a US citizen and enlisted in the US Army, and was training to serve as a petroleum laboratory specialist. She was indicted on several naturalization fraud charges, and in August she pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count. She was sentenced to time served, plus one year of supervised release. Court files don't reveal whether she testified against her now ex-husband, who, according to a judge's pretrial detention order, she believed was "cheating on her." She filed for divorce against Glenn in October, and it was finalized in December. Her attorney declined to make her available for an interview with VICE News.

* * *

Earlier this month, Glenn changed the story he'd told authorities. He insisted in new court filings that he "never intended" to steal the files, and never shared them with anyone. The Department of Justice disputes both accounts, arguing that his deeds could "cause serious damage to national security."

He admitted he burned an unauthorized DVD copy of the base commander's e-mail account, but only out of "an abundance of caution" in case the commander, who was transferring to Virginia, asked for it later. Glenn claimed he meant to shred the DVD the following week, but mislabeled it and failed to do so.

Assistant US attorney Ricardo Del Toro countered in a filing that Glenn's new claims "defy logic and common sense." The narrative failed to explain why Glenn copied only attachments related to the Middle East, then took the DVD to his home, then copied the files onto a hidden, encrypted compartment, then failed to return them.

Del Toro also accused Glenn of trying to tamper with evidence. The day after Glenn's arrest, he called his mother from a phone in Palm Beach County Jail and asked her to transmit a message to one of the girls still at the compound to disconnect his Synology device.

"I've got some pictures of me and Kadra [sic] that are private and I think they are gonna look through [them]," he reportedly said.

Disconnecting it, Del Toro wrote, would have "made it more difficult for law enforcement forensic experts to remotely access the device." Glenn claimed he was referring to a different device, and argued that if he had really wished to tamper with it, he would've had it destroyed.

The assistant US attorney wrote that the totality of what Glenn did "was not a single mistake, but rather an elaborate pattern of willful and egregious criminal acts spanning several years."

Del Toro conceded that it's "unclear" whether Glenn shared the stolen files with an agent of a foreign power, but such "would be a reasonable inference. Why else would he continue to lie about his crimes?"

Del Toro has asked that Glenn serve 11 years for his crimes, but a 19-year-old Honduran girl named Sinia says she hopes he doesn't. Sinia was one of the two girls inside the compound when police raided it. Glenn called her his "wife" in a court document filed July 28, adding that they "remain committed to each other." Glenn cited a letter [pdf below] that Sinia had purportedly written to the federal judge to request leniency for her husband. 

"We're not married under Honduran laws but we have a religious marriage document," Sinia wrote. "We have a daughter which I have to take care of…. It has not been easy to overcome all of this all by myself with a little girl and without food, without a job, and without a house. Thank you for everything Mr. Judge, and God bless you always."

Follow Nicholas Phillips on Twitter: @NPPeriodista


Letters from Glenn's mother and Sinia:

The 'Nowhere People' of India and Bangladesh Finally Have Somewhere to Go

VICE News - 4 hours 33 sec ago

As a visitor enters the enclave of Madhya Moshaldanga near the border of India and Bangladesh, excited children holding Indian flags encircle him and chant, "Bharat Mata ki Jai!" Victory for Mother India!

The enclave is on the Indian side of the border — but the people living there aren't Indian. Nor are they quite Bangladeshi, as they don't have citizenship there. Instead, they are known as "nowhere people."

According to the Indian government, they are among about 14,000 people currently living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves — parcels of land technically belonging to one country but encompassed by another — on the Indian side of the border. About 37,000 Indians live in 111 enclaves on the Bangladeshi side. Residents of the enclaves typically have no access to public services such as roads, power, schools, and hospitals. And they often face persecution from those living around them.

The population numbers derive from a census taken by India in 2011, but local NGOs and activists peg the population somewhere closer to 100,000. And they say another 50,000 people who fled their enclaves inside Bangladesh due to persecution live as refugees further inside India.

In May, India's parliament passed the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), ending a 40-year political deadlock and paving the way for statehood for the 50,000 stateless people living in the 166 enclaves, counter-enclaves, and counter-counter enclaves in India's Cooch Behar and Bangladesh's Rangpur districts. (Bangladesh's parliament approved the agreement soon after Prime Minister Muzibur Rahman signed it — in 1974.)

Under the terms of the deal, India will begin transferring its enclaves to Bangladesh, while Bangladesh will transfer its enclaves to India; as a result, the border between the two countries will be redrawn. Beginning today and lasting for the next 11 months, New Delhi and Dhaka will implement the LBA. The Indian government has allotted close to $50 million to aid enclave residents in the transition.

The boy, now 5 years old, is named Jihad in reference to the struggle his parents endured at his birth.

Those affected can choose in which country they wish to settle and have citizenship. A large number of Indian enclave residents plan to return to India proper, but most residents of Bangladeshi enclaves say they don't want to return to Bangladesh because they believe they face a brighter future in India.

This may very well be why people in Bangladeshi enclaves have been in a celebratory mood since the May announcement ("Bharat Mata ki Jai!"). Immediately after the passage of the LBA, residents of Madhya Moshaldanga rallied to celebrate their "freedom," ending up in the neighboring Indian village of Battala.

But Battala residents did not react well.

"A few men armed with bamboo sticks accosted us as our procession crossed the borders of the enclave, and asked if we had the legal permission to enter into Indian mainland," 25-year-old Jainul Abidin told VICE News. "They said, 'Go back or get ready to be beaten up.'"

As the sun went down, Abidin said, a group of men armed with knives and sticks invaded Madhya Moshaldanga, attacked the revelers, and set a house on fire.

"What enrages them is that we have been a soft target for them for decades," Abidin said. "They would come to our village and intimidate us. They would forcefully take away our cattle and standing crops, but we could not do anything as there was no rule of law that existed in the enclaves."

But to the surprise of Madhya Moshaldanga residents, Indian police arrested one of the men who'd attacked the village.

"This is just the beginning of the end of apathy for the enclaves people," said Deeptiman Sengupta of the Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee, which represents enclave residents. He said they will no longer have to bribe Indian officials or citizens to procure fake birth certificates and identification cards to gain access to public services.

Thirty-two-year-old Bangladeshi Abdul Rehman of Karola enclave says he can now get married. In 2013, Rehman was set to marry a woman in the neighboring village of Nadina. But when the bride's family learned that he hailed from a Bangladeshi enclave, they immediately cancelled the wedding and told the groom's party to "get the hell out of here," refusing to allow their daughter to move to the "God-forbidden land," he says.

"It was at that time I took a vow that I will marry only when I become a citizen of India," Rehman said.

In 2010, Asma Biwi got pregnant with her third child. While in labor, the 30-year-old was rushed to an Indian hospital where the authorities refused accept her. After activists from human rights groups stepped in, Asma was admitted to the hospital, but her family still made certain to fake the name and address of her husband, since they were residents of a Bangladeshi enclave.

The boy, now 5 years old, is named Jihad in reference to the struggle his parents endured at his birth.

There are different theories about how the enclaves came to be. One legend holds that they are the result of a 17th century chess match between the King of Cooch Behar in India and the Mughal Faujdar of Rangpur state in which they wagered their territories. A 2004 paper by the University of Melbourne's Brendan R. Whyte states the enclaves are the "result of peace treaties in 1711 and 1713 between the kingdom of Cooch Behar and the Mughal empire, ending a long series of wars in which the Mughals wrested several districts from Cooch Behar."

After the partition of India in the middle of the 20th century, which led to the formation of Pakistan and eventually Bangladesh, residents of the enclaves truly became nowhere people, and the absence of the rule of law turned the areas into a haven for criminals. Enclave residents on each side of the border became easy targets.

"We would be persecuted on a daily basis as Hindus are a minority there," said 50-year-old Subol Mondal, an enclave evictee who lived on an Indian counter-enclave inside Bangladesh. "Our women, land, cattle, and house were easy targets for religious fanatics who came in numbers with Bangladeshi security personnel."

Mondal now lives as a refugee in Gaisal, India.

"My heart says I should go back to my parental place in Bangladesh," he said. "But my mind says, 'Haven't you learnt a lesson from the past?'"

Follow Sanjay Pandey on Twitter: @sanjraj

Under Fire: Inside the Siege of Aden

VICE News - 5 hours 26 min ago

"They're firing at us. The Houthis are firing at us." We squatted on deck as rockets arced across the sea. It was late June, around 7am, and I was on a boat to Aden. 

The Yemeni city has been besieged by Houthi rebels since March, and subjected to a Saudi coalition-imposed sea blockade. So it is difficult to access. The Qatari aid shipment I was traveling on had made a pact with the Houthis to allow for safe passage, but they seemed to have abandoned the arrangement. 

The small shipment of supplies included medicine, surgical equipment, food, and oil for cooking. There were doctors and a local government official on board. Nobody was armed. The small crew spoke excitedly and debated turning back to Djibouti. After some deliberation, however, we transferred onto a smaller boat to get into port.

Photo by Medyan Dairieh

I was traveling to Aden to witness the effects of a three-month siege that was choking all supply routes into the city. Its residents are under attack from Houthi rebels who oppose exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi's government, which they drove from the capital Sanaa in February. The Houthis are attempting to make gains in the strategically valuable port in the south of Yemen. 

Airstrikes from a Saudi-led coalition — which has the support of the UK and US — as well as the arrival of reinforcements, have this week helped the self-designated Southern Resistance movement in the city recover lost ground from the Houthis, and reopen aid corridors.

The city is still facing a humanitarian crisis, however, brought on by four months of fierce fighting and the Houthis' stranglehold on the city's supply chains. 

Watch the VICE News documentary, The Siege of Aden here:

During my week in the port it became clear that Aden's residents are in urgent need of basic supplies. Food is scarce, with no rice, milk, or flour for bread. Trash is piling up in the streets, there are no toilets, and Dengue fever is rife. One government official told me that every day between 20 to 40 people die from the spread of illness. 

A plume of thick black smoke rising over the city heralded our arrival. It was an oil refinery, containing thousands of tons of fuel, that had been hit by a Houthi rocket. 

We were told it contained enough oil to support up to 7,000 families. "We have to let it burn out," Salem Al Ghadi, the refinery's head of security told VICE News, however. It is likely to burn for weeks, he said.

I was last in Aden a year ago. There were shops, electricity, internet, and a competent infrastructure. At night people congregated in the streets and sat outside cafes as if it was a European city.

Now, it has completely changed and shots ring out at all hours of the day. The city is full of bombed out, crumbling buildings, and none of the doctors working in the hospitals have been paid for months. The schools have become makeshift refugee camps.

Photo by Medyan Dairieh

"People are living in extremely difficult conditions due to the lack of essential services — lack of sanitation, food, and hygiene." Mahmood Ali Sadi, a local government official told me. "Everyday there are 20 to 40 new martyrs because of the spread of illness."

The people I met mostly said they wanted peace, safety, and stability — but they are willing to fight for it. There is not a significant military presence inside the city, but militias are organising and arming themselves to fight the Houthis.

"The defenders of the city are university students, architects, writers, businessmen, and normal people," Sadi added. "We don't have an army with which to fight against the occupiers of our land."

Indiscriminate shelling attacks on homes and civilians have hardened the population, and with the help of the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, they have been able to resist a Houthi takeover.

Photo by Medyan Dairieh

"The resistance in Aden and the rest of the southern areas would not have held for the past three months were it not for the people and their support," said Ali Saeed Al Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Southern Resistance movement. "Everyone agrees that these criminals can't be accepted and there is no way to coexist with them in any way."

Political parties across the spectrum had united to fight the Houthis, he added. The fierce resolve of the Southern Resistance movement may deepen divisions between the north and south, however. The city's militants are working with supporters of exiled President Hadi to drive out the Houthis, but many of them are southern separatists who oppose Hadi and want a split with the north of the country.

"If southern people wanted disengagement or separation or independence that is their guaranteed right," said Ahmadi. "It's time the people get back their right of self-determination and they will choose the formula they want."

As told to Ben Bryant 

Follow Ben Bryant on Twitter: @benbryant

Palestinian Baby Burnt to Death in Suspected 'Jewish Terror' Attack

VICE News - 6 hours 41 min ago

An 18-month-old baby, Ali Saad Dawabsha, has been killed and three of his family members seriously injured in a suspected "price tag" arson attack by Jewish settlers in the northern West Bank.

According to eyewitnesses, at least two masked men arrived at the Palestinian village of Douma at around 4am on Friday morning. The assailants smashed the windows of two houses, threw firebombs inside, and scrawled Hebrew graffiti on the wall reading "Revenge" and "Long live the Messiah." Locals claimed they saw the men flee in the direction of Ma'aleh Ephraim, a settlement nearby to the village.

The Israeli army has called the attack on Douma, close to the town of Nablus, an act of "Jewish terror."

"This was an intentional attack against civilians in their homes and nothing less than a barbaric act of terrorism," Peter Lerner, spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

Graffiti of the Star of David and the word "Revenge" written in Hebrew in Douma village. Photo via Rabbis for Human Rights 

One of the two attacked houses, which were set ablaze immediately by the firebombs, was empty at the time but inside the other the Dawabsha family were sleeping. According to eyewitnesses, Sa'ad Dawabsha was able to rescue his wife and four-year-old son but could not reach the infant in time. All three survivors have been hospitalized in moderate to severe conditions.

"Price tag" is the name given to attacks by Jewish extremists in revenge for actions against settlers taken by the Israeli government — literally exacting a "heavy price" in retaliation for perceived wrongs against their community. Palestinian villages are frequently the targets of settler violence, but left-wing activists and Christian holy sites have also been attacked.

Earlier this week Jewish settlers threw rocks at Israeli security forces and set tires on fire at Beit El, a settlement in the southern West Bank, after the army moved in to demolish two unfinished apartments that Israel's High Court had ruled were built without proper planning permission.

Post by Thursday, 30 July 2015.

In response to the unrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to build 300 new homes in the settlement, deemed illegal under international law, and also gave the green light to the construction of a further 500 Jewish housing units in occupied East Jerusalem.

The IDF told VICE News that it was "too early" to link Friday's attack on Douma to anger over Beit El but said that a combined task force of the Shin Bet security agency, Israeli police, and army were doing "everything possible" to find the perpetrators and prevent an escalation of violence in the area.

"We are taking necessary steps to deal with potential deterioration on the ground including increased military presence in the field and heightened security," added Lerner.

A destroyed room in the Dawabsha family home following an arson attack by Jewish extremists in the early hours of Friday morning. Photo via Rabbis For Human Rights

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2014 more than 300 acts of settler attacks on Palestinians resulted in injury or property damage; an average of six per week.

Zakaria Sedda, a field research coordinator for Rabbis for Human Rights, who visited Douma in the early hours of Friday morning said that attacks on the village by settlers were frequent.

"There have been many attacks here. They burn down houses, they pull up trees," he told VICE News. "They army and police don't dare do their jobs and investigate the terrorist attacks."

Investigations by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights NGO, have found that between 2005 and 2014 only 7.4 percent of more than 1,000 cases it helped Palestinians file with the Israeli police force resulted in an indictment. According to the organization more than 80 percent of cases were closed due to insufficient investigations by the police force.

A child's trousers lying in the charred rubble of the Dawabsha family home. Photo via Rabbis for Human Rights

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said that it holds the Israeli government "fully responsible" for the "assassination of the toddler."

"This is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to settler terrorism," said PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat.

On Thursday evening, in a separate incident, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremist Yishai Schlissel attacked a gay pride parade stabbing six participants, leaving two in a critical condition.

Schlissel was previously jailed for 12 years for knifing three men during the parade in 2005 but was released early.

Prior to Thursday's event he had talked to an ultra-Orthodox radio about how was "worthwhile to do something extreme" against the LGBT community. "These impure people want to defile Jerusalem," he said. "The objective — I need to stop this parade."

Follow Harriet Salem on Twitter: @HarrietSalem

VICE News Capsule - Friday, July 31

VICE News - 8 hours 23 min ago

The VICE News Capsule is a news roundup that looks beyond the headlines. Today: New Israeli measures to stop hunger-striking Palestinians, Nepal has an increased risk of landslides, Myanmar opens its prisons, and why Argentina's bus drivers are blocking a major highway.

Read "Israel Passes Prisoner Force-Feeding Law to Widespread Condemnation"

The Siege of Aden

VICE News - 9 hours 25 min ago

VICE News filmmaker Medyan Dairieh spent two weeks in Yemen's seaport city of Aden. Surrounded by Houthi militia rebels and under siege "from air, land, and sea," Adenis the focal point of the Yemeni Southern Resistance.

Amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis, enduring the chaos of near-constant shelling and menace of snipers, he films with refugees, local politicians, and a training camp teaching young Yemenis to continue fighting the Houthi forces.

Dairieh also visits the frontlines, where his group comes under incoming fire. The conflict is also taking its toll on innocent children and in a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital we witness the graphic cost of war.

Watch: Inside War-Torn Yemen: Sanaa Under Attack

North Korea Likely Supplied Scud Missiles Fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Houthi Rebels

As Yemenis Starve, Saudi Arabia is Accused of War Crimes in the Country

Hillary Clinton Fires Back at the New York Times

Mother Jones - July 30, 2015 - 11:09pm

The New York Times had a bombshell on its hands the other day: the paper of record reported that government investigators had asked the Justice Department to investigate possible criminal charges in relation to the emails Hillary Clinton kept on a private server. But the Times' scoop was way off. The government investigators had actually asked the Department of Justice to look into whether Clinton's emails that contained classified information might have been inadvertently released by the State Department. The story played right into the hands of Clinton's legion of enemies, who now had a cudgel to bang over the head of the presumptive Democratic nominee. The Times ended up changing its story, but that wasn't enough for the Clinton campaign. The campaign fired back at the Times on Tuesday with a near-2,000 word open letter to the paper's executive editor. They then posted the letter on hillaryclinton.com. Read the whole thing below:

Letter to the New York Times’ Dean Baquet

Dean Baquet
Executive Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, New York

July 28, 2015

Dear Mr. Baquet:

I am writing to officially register our campaign’s grave concern with the Times' publication of an inaccurate report related to Hillary Clinton and her email use.

I appreciate the fact that both you and the Public Editor have sought to publicly explain how this error could have been made. But we remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made. We feel it important to outline these concerns with you directly so that they may be properly addressed and so our campaign can continue to have a productive working relationship with the Times.

I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was. The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing "criminal" from the headline and text of the story.

To review the facts, as the Times itself has acknowledged through multiple corrections, the paper's reporting was false in several key respects: first, contrary to what the Times stated, Mrs. Clinton is not the target of a criminal referral made by the State Department’s and Intelligence Community's Inspectors General, and second, the referral in question was not of a criminal nature at all.

Just as disturbing as the errors themselves is the Times' apparent abandonment of standard journalistic practices in the course of its reporting on this story.

First, the seriousness of the allegations that the Times rushed to report last Thursday evening demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication.

The Times' readers rightfully expect the paper to adhere to the most rigorous journalistic standards. To state the obvious, it is hard to imagine a situation more fitting for those standards to be applied than when a newspaper is preparing to allege that a major party candidate for President of the United States is the target of a criminal referral received by federal law enforcement.

This allegation, however, was reported hastily and without affording the campaign adequate opportunity to respond. It was not even mentioned by your reporter when our campaign was first contacted late Thursday afternoon. Initially, it was stated as reporting only on a memo – provided to Congress by the Inspectors General from the State Department and Intelligence Community – that raised the possibility of classified material traversing Secretary Clinton's email system. This memo — which was subsequently released publicly — did not reference a criminal referral at all. It was not until late Thursday night – at 8:36 pm – that your paper hurriedly followed up with our staff to explain that it had received a separate tip that the Inspectors General had additionally made a criminal referral to the Justice Department concerning Clinton's email use. Our staff indicated that we had no knowledge of any such referral – understandably, of course, since none actually existed – and further indicated that, for a variety of reasons, the reporter's allegation seemed implausible. Our campaign declined any immediate comment, but asked for additional time to attempt to investigate the allegation raised. In response, it was indicated that the campaign "had time," suggesting the publication of the report was not imminent.

Despite the late hour, our campaign quickly conferred and confirmed that we had no knowledge whatsoever of any criminal referral involving the Secretary. At 10:36 pm, our staff attempted to reach your reporters on the phone to reiterate this fact and ensure the paper would not be going forward with any such report. There was no answer. At 10:54 pm, our staff again attempted calling. Again, no answer. Minutes later, we received a call back. We sought to confirm that no story was imminent and were shocked at the reply: the story had just published on the Times' website.

This was, to put it mildly, an egregious breach of the process that should occur when a major newspaper like the Times is pursuing a story of this magnitude. Not only did the Times fail to engage in a proper discussion with the campaign ahead of publication; given the exceedingly short window of time between when the Times received the tip and rushed to publish, it hardly seems possible that the Times conducted sufficient deliberations within its own ranks before going ahead with the story.

Second, in its rush to publish what it clearly viewed as a major scoop, the Times relied on questionable sourcing and went ahead without bothering to seek corroborating evidence that could have supported its allegation.

In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton. Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many "degrees of separation" for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times.

Times' editors have attempted to explain these errors by claiming the fault for the misreporting resided with a Justice Department official whom other news outlets cited as confirming the Times' report after the fact. This suggestion does not add up. It is our understanding that this Justice Department official was not the original source of the Times' tip. Moreover, notwithstanding the official's inaccurate characterization of the referral as criminal in nature, this official does not appear to have told the Times that Mrs. Clinton was the target of that referral, as the paper falsely reported in its original story.

This raises the question of what other sources the Times may have relied on for its initial report. It clearly was not either of the referring officials – that is, the Inspectors General of either the State Department or intelligence agencies – since the Times' sources apparently lacked firsthand knowledge of the referral documents. It also seems unlikely the source could have been anyone affiliated with those offices, as it defies logic that anyone so closely involved could have so severely garbled the description of the referral.

Of course, the identity of the Times' sources would be deserving of far less scrutiny if the underlying information had been confirmed as true. However, the Times appears to have performed little, if any, work to corroborate the accuracy of its sources' characterizations of the IG's referral. Key details went uninvestigated in the Times' race to publish these erroneous allegations against Mrs. Clinton. For instance, high in the Times' initial story, the reporters acknowledged they had no knowledge of whether or not the documents that the Times claimed were mishandled by Mrs. Clinton contained any classified markings. In Mrs. Clinton's case, none of the emails at issue were marked. This fact was quickly acknowledged by the IC inspector general’s office within hours of the Times' report, but it was somehow left unaddressed in the initial story.

Even after the Times' reporting was revealed to be false, the Times incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction.

Our campaign first sought changes from the Times as soon as the initial story was published. Recognizing the implausibility that Mrs. Clinton herself could be the subject of any criminal probe, we immediately challenged the story's opening line, which said the referral sought an investigation into Mrs. Clinton specifically for the mishandling of classified materials. In response, the Times' reporters admitted that they themselves had never seen the IG's referral, and so acknowledged the possibility that the paper was overstating what it directly knew when it portrayed the potential investigation as centering on Mrs. Clinton. It corrected the lead sentence accordingly.

The speed with which the Times conceded that it could not defend its lead citing Mrs. Clinton as the referral's target raises questions about what inspired its confidence in the first place to frame the story that way. More importantly, the Times' change was not denoted in the form of a correction. Rather, it was performed quietly, overnight, without any accompanying note to readers. This was troubling in its lack of transparency and risks causing the Times to appear like it is trying to whitewash its misreporting. A correction should have been posted promptly that night.

Regardless, even after this change, a second error remained in the story: the characterization of the referral as criminal at all. By Friday morning, multiple members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (who had been briefed by the Inspectors General) challenged this portrayal—and ultimately, so did the Department of Justice itself. Only then did the Times finally print a correction acknowledging its misstatement of the nature of the referral to the Justice Department.

Of course, the correction, coming as it did on a Friday afternoon, was destined to reach a fraction of those who read the Times' original, erroneous report. As the Huffington Post observed:

"…it's unlikely that the same audience will see the updated version unless the paper were to send out a second breaking news email with its latest revisions. The Clinton story also appeared [on] the front page of Friday's print edition."

Most maddening of all, even after the correction fixed the description of the referral within the story, a headline remained on the front page of the Times' website that read, “Criminal Inquiry is Sought in Clinton Email Account." It was not until even later in the evening that the word "criminal" was finally dropped from the headline and an updated correction was issued to the story. The lateness of this second correction, however, prevented it from appearing in the paper the following morning. We simply do not understand how that was allowed to occur.

Lastly, the Times' official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling.

In a statement to the Times' public editor, you said that the errors in the Times' story Thursday night were "unavoidable." This is hard to accept. As noted above, the Justice Department official that incorrectly confirmed the Times' initial reports for other outlets does not appear to have been the initial source for the Times. Moreover, it is precisely because some individuals may provide erroneous information that it is important for the Times to sift the good information from the bad, and where there is doubt, insist on additional evidence. The Times was under no obligation to go forward on a story containing such explosive allegations coming only from sources who refused to be named. If nothing else, the Times could have allowed the campaign more time to understand the allegation being engaged. Unfortunately, the Times chose to take none of these steps.

In closing, I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times. But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future.


Jennifer Palmieri
Communications Director
Hillary for America

Cc: Margaret Sullivan,
Public Editor
New York Times

What We Learned About Donald Trump By Playing His Board Game

Mother Jones - July 30, 2015 - 8:52pm

Donald Trump's preparation for the upcoming Republican presidential primary debate is "low key, absolutely low stress," adviser Chuck Laudner told the Washington Post on Wednesday. "This isn't 50 consultants locked in a war room, with a fake podium and cardboard cutouts of the other candidates, playing the game of Risk."

Maybe that's because Trump has a different board game of choice—his own. In 2004, as his reality television show The Apprentice was just getting underway, he unveiled the latest in a long line of short-lived ventures. (Hello, Trump Steaks.) It's called TRUMP: The Game, and according to an introductory letter from the billionaire that was included in a set I recently acquired for $4 on Amazon, "the object of the game is to make the most money." Surprise!

Live the fantasy! Feel the power! And make the deals! Photo by Tim Murphy

Much like his presidential campaign, TRUMP: The Game was a reboot of an earlier failed Trump venture, a 1988 Milton Bradley product also called TRUMP: The Game. The tagline for that was "It's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win!" A television ad for TRUMP: The Game 1.0 boasted that all proceeds from the game would be donated to charity. (This was his Paul Newman phase, evidently.) The 2004 version abandoned the charitable pretense, and replaced the old tagline with a bolder, fresher take: "IT TAKES BRAINS TO MAKE MILLIONS. IT TAKES TRUMP TO MAKE BILLIONS."

Did I have the brains to make millions? Did I have the TRUMP to make billions? Was I, in fact, Donald Trump? I recruited three Mother Jones political reporters—Pat Caldwell, Pema Levy, and Molly Redden—to help me take TRUMP: The Game for a spin.

Here are a few things you should know about the game:

  • It's for three to four players. Cramped and short-lived—it's the Trump Shuttle of board games. This is a great game if you don't have very many friends.
  • The box specifies that TRUMP: The Game should only be played by adults. (If you are a child reading this, please stop now.) What? Is this is a board game about pre-nups? Is scalp-reduction surgery involved? If it's for adults, why is an oversized six-year-old on the cover? I kept waiting for the game to reveal some darker, truer, more adult nature, but it never did.
  • The dice have six sides. Five of the sides have the traditional numbers on them. But the sixth side just has a big letter T on it, for "Trump." Anytime you roll a "Trump," you get to steal something from someone else.
  • But you don't roll the dice very often—maybe once every few turns, depending on your strategy. TRUMP: The Game borrows the architecture of a classic game, Monopoly, and then renovates it until there's nothing left but a flashy facade.
  • The most exciting part of the game is bidding on properties. Like Monopoly, you buy properties and try to make money off of them. Trump recommends buying as many properties as you can! But there are only seven properties (including a luxury residence, an international golf course, and a casino—only the finest and most luxurious properties are for sale here), so you can't really do that. It's not possible, either, to simply attach your name  on the side of someone else's building in big letters and just own a penthouse there.
  • When a property goes up for sale, players take turns raising their bids or taking a pass, until someone has outbid everyone else. Then that person own the property. Unless someone else ejects that person from the bidding by playing a card that says "You're fired!" (Actually it says, "YOU'RE FIRED! You are out of the bidding and you cannot fire anyone!" Since when can people who have just been fired fire other people?)
Don't get any ideas! Tim Murphy
  • If you've been fired, you can get back into the bidding by playing a special card featuring Donald Trump's face. This is, for some reason, not called "the Trump Card." Instead it's called a "The Donald"—definite article included. Like "The Gambia." There are 16 You're Fired! cards but only four The Donalds, meaning that bidding wars often consist entirely of people playing the "You're Fired!" card over and over and over. The unemployment rate in Donald Trump's game is 75 percent. I don't know why you can fire people who don't even work for you. But this is how capitalism works.
A "The Donald." Tim Murphy
  • Instead of paying taxes to the government, there is a card that, if played, forces other players to pay property taxes to you. ("Trump Tip: I would play this on someone with more than one property.") That is not a tax. That is just a shakedown.
  • At the end of the game, the person with the most money wins. Fair. What's weird is that there's basically no way to lose money, short of occasionally paying taxes to other people. Instead of losing money when you land on properties owned by rivals, as in Monopoly, you take money from the bank that doesn't belong to you (don't worry about paying it back) and give that money to the player who owns the property. All overhead costs are covered by the banks. The result: the bank is sinking much of its money into a giant real-estate bubble. What could go wrong?
  • Trump, apparently pressed for time, borrowed the color-coded currency from Monopoly—the lowest denomination is white; the middle is green; the highest is orange. The major difference is that the lowest denomination is $10 million and the highest is $100 million. He basically took Monopoly money, stuck his face on it, and added a bunch of zeroes.
Tim Murphy

Continue Reading »

Corroborating Cops in Sam DuBose Case Were Involved in Another Death of Unarmed Black Man

Mother Jones - July 30, 2015 - 7:31pm

University of Cincinnati Police Officers Eric Weibel and Phillip Kidd corroborated Officer Ray Tensing's seemingly false account of what happened before he shot and killed unarmed black man Samuel DuBose on July 19. After damming body cam footage was released, Tensing was charged with murder. But questions remain about Weibel and Kidd's role. And this is not the first time the duo have been involved in the death of an unarmed black man. According to the Guardian, in 2010 they were involved in another police brutality case.

Kelly Brinson, a 45-year-old mental health patient at Cincinnati’s University hospital, suffered a psychotic episode on 20 January 2010 and was placed inside a seclusion room at the hospital by UC officers. He was then shocked with a Taser three times by an officer and placed in restraints. [Kelly] then suffered a respiratory cardiac arrest and died three days later.

Brinson's family filed a a civil suit against UC police (and the hospital), accusing the officers involved in the incident of excessive force and of acting with "deliberate indifference to the serious medical and security needs of Mr. Brinson." While neither Kidd nor Weibel deployed the Taser, they were involved in restraining Brinson, and were therefore two of the seven police officers named in the suit.

More MoJo coverage on policing:

Following the death of Samuel DuBose after what should have been an innocuous traffic stop, both Kidd and Weibel corroborated Officer Tensing's claims that he had been "dragged" by DuBose's car, which is what prompted him to shoot the unarmed 43-year old. Kidd, who was standing behind Tensing during the incident, filed a report saying he saw Tensing get dragged by the car. Weibel, who was also on the scene, submitted another narrative corroborating these statements. "Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord drag Officer Tensing, and that he witnessed Officer Tensing fire a single shot," Weibel wrote. He added, "I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface."

The body cameras of both Tensing and Kidd, however, show something very different. "It is our belief that he was not dragged. If you slow down this tape you see what happens, it is a very slow period of time from when the car starts rolling to when a gun is out and he’s shot in the head," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Wednesday when announcing the Grand Jury's decision to indict Tensing on charges of murder.

No surprise that Brinson's family is upset at the parallels. As the Guardian explains:

The revelation that officers Weibel and Kidd provided the corroboration for Tensing's account of the incident was met with anger by Brinson’s family members, who told the Guardian on Thursday that if both officers had been disciplined correctly in 2010, the death of DuBose might have been avoided.

Brinson's brother told the Guardian that their family had been told that the officers were "supposed to be fired" after his death. But the case was eventually settled out of court for $638,000 and the officers were kept on. Since the body cam footage of the DuBose killing was released, Kidd has been placed on administrative leave. On Thursday Tensing plead not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. The judge set his bond at $1 million.

Decades After Europe and the US, Canada Approves the Abortion Pill

VICE News - July 30, 2015 - 6:40pm

After a two-and-a-half-year wait, the Canadian health authority has approved an abortion pill that's used in nearly 60 countries worldwide.

Following a series of delays, Health Canada announced this week the drug mifepristone will be available in January 2016 through a doctor's prescription — prompting cheers from abortion advocates and warnings from pro-lifers. 

Experts tell VICE News the newly approved drug will be safer and more effective than the current cocktail of harsh pills prescribed for medical abortions, but it won't necessarily mean an end to issues of access to abortion in Canada.

Abortion is legal in Canada, but access is patchy. One province, Prince Edward Island, has no abortion clinics, so women and trans people aiming to terminate their pregnancies must leave the island for surgery. For patients seeking non-surgical abortions, it can be tough to find physicians who will prescribe abortion pills, meaning patients rely on word of mouth to access medical abortions in PEI.

If a patient finds a willing doctor, the physician can prescribe a cocktail of misoprostol, an abortion pill with spotty results when used alone, and a harsh drug called methotrexate that is also used to treat cancer.

Mifepristone, on the other hand, is recognized as the "gold standard" for medical abortions, according to its manufacturer Linepharma International Limited. Also known as RU-486, the drug works by suppressing progesterone, and is safe to use up to nine weeks of pregnancy.

It was first approved in France in 1988, in Britain in 1991, and in the United States in 2000. Despite its ubiquity around the world, in Canada its approval has been somewhat controversial. The pill was denounced by Jim Hughes, the national president of Campaign Life Coalition, as a "human pesticide which kills the pre-born child and harms women."

But as one OBGYN told VICE News over the phone Thursday, it's shocking mifepristone wasn't approved earlier in Canada.

"It's not a revolutionary new drug," said Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, who practices in Nova Scotia. "It's been well accepted that Canadian women have the right to control their reproduction, and medication like this has been sitting there for three years during the approval process when it's not a revolutionary therapy."

Health Canada's delayed approval of mifepristone had to do with politics, she believes, not the safety of the drug.

"It's something that clearly falls in the realm of politicking. And I continue to be outraged that women's reproductive health, particularly in the Maritime provinces, are held hostage by politicians, very few of whom have a uterus," she said. 

But a spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose told VICE News in an email Thursday that "drug approval decisions are arms-length decisions made by Health Canada officials based on analysis by Health Canada scientists."

And in a statement to VICE News, Health Canada said the "rigorous" review of the drug followed standard regulatory processes and timelines. "Health and safety is Health Canada's primary concern," a spokesperson said. "The time period for the review is what would be expected given the complexity of the submission."

Mifepristone has been studied specifically as an abortion pill and has been found to be safe for that purpose, MacQuarrie explained, while drugs doctors previously prescribed, like misoprostol, cause bleeding but may not actually end the pregnancy.

Another pregnancy-terminating drug doctors lean on, methotrexate, is used for chemotherapy and certain types of arthritis. It's also not guaranteed to cause a completed abortion.

"It's a harmful drug," MacQuarrie said of methotrexate. Doctors prescribe it "because we have no alternative."

If the drugs don't work, a surgical abortion is usually necessary. In a recent case that made international headlines, PEI woman Courtney Cudmore was prescribed abortion pills, but was then denied emergency room care when the drugs didn't work properly.

"It's just not ideal," MacQuarrie continued about the drugs doctors currently prescribe. "We wouldn't allow a lung infection to be treated with an antibiotic that's not appropriate for treating that lung infection, right? We wouldn't do that because that's not the right drug for that cause. So I don't know why we would have a different standard of care for women who need abortions."

She is hopeful that mifepristone's approval will help eliminate some barriers that exist in Canada regarding abortions.

Abortion Rights Network spokesperson and psychologist Colleen MacQuarrie echoed that sentiment, but said there's still a long way to go.

"There's still some serious issues that need to be solved on the ground here," she told VICE News. "Mifepristone is not a panacea at all. I think the cost of it will be potentially prohibitive and we'll still be looking at local access issues."

She said the ARN put in a request to Health Canada to find out why the approval was taking so long and the health authority told them it was an administrative issue, not a political issue. "There wasn't any sort of malfeasance happening around that — it was just a matter of making sure all the i's were dotted and t's were crossed," she said.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont

Watch the VICE News Documentary, Abortion Rights in Ireland:


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