Tag Archives: New York Times

Obama Uses Speech to Urge Caution on Syria

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Members of Congress returned to work Wednesday, relieved that President Obama called off a vote on military action in Syria.

The Senate ended its consideration of a resolution authorizing military force against the Syrian government.

During his address from the East Room of the White House on Tuesday night, the President did not say how long he would wait to see if President Bashar al-Assad relinquishes control of the weapons that he used to gas his own people, and he did not detail the steps that the United States would demand from Syria as proof that the diplomatic efforts were more than a delaying tactic to avoid a bomber strike.

Via The New York Times.

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Estrogen Drives Men’s Life Changes Too, Study Finds

The New England Journal of Medicine

The New England Journal of Medicine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Estrogen, the female sex hormone, plays a bigger role in men’s bodies than previously thought, and falling levels contribute to men’s expanding waistlines.

Until recently, testosterone deficiency was considered nearly the sole reason that men undergo the familiar physical complaints of midlife. Falling levels of estrogen regulate fat accumulation, according to a study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. Both hormones are needed for libido.

Via The New York Times.

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Why are Chemical Weapons a “Red Line”?

English: Aerial photograph of a gas attack lau...

English: Aerial photograph of a gas attack launched by the Germans against the Russians circa 1916 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chemical weapons, rarely used since World War I, have emerged as an issue after the massacre in Syria last month, that killed nearly 1,500 people, men, women and children.

As in World War I, that represents only a small fraction of the more than 100,000 lives that have been lost during the two and a half years of Syria’s civil war.

Why does the killing of 100,000 or more with conventional weapons elicit little more than a concerned shrug, while the killing of a relative few from poison gas is enough to trigger an intervention?

Whatever the reasons for the distinction, it has long been recognized.

Roughly 16 million people died and 20 million were wounded during World War I, yet only about 2% of the casualties and fewer than 1% of the deaths are estimated to have resulted from chemical warfare.

Nevertheless, the universal revulsion that followed World War I led to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons. The protocol is one of the few treaties that have been almost universally accepted. Syria is a signatory.

No Western army used gas on the battlefield during the global slaughter of World War II. Hitler, himself gassed during World War I, refused to order its use against combatants, however willing he was to gas non-combatant Jews, Gypsies and others.

There have been only a few instances of gas being used since 1925, and in each case the perpetrator never admitted it. In the first two cases, gas was used by authoritarian regimes against those they considered lesser races. In 1935-36, Mussolini used several hundred tons of mustard gas in Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. In 1940-41, the Japanese used chemical and biological weapons in China, where poison gas shells are still being dug up at the expense of the Japanese government.

Via The New York Times.

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“Syrian Electronic Army” Hacks NYT, Twitter in Most Recent Round of Attacks

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

The New York Times is feeling the effects of a Tuesday attack on its Website. The Syrian Electronic Army claimed the hack, as well as a similar attack on Twitter.

Tuesday’s intrusions were the most advanced in a series of attacks on high-profile media organizations, including The Washington Post and the Associated Press.

As of Wednesday morning, the Times’ s site was still inaccessible for many users, prompting the newspaper to also publish stories to an alternate Website.

Via The Washington Post.

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Why the Vodka Boycott Won’t Actually Help Russia’s Gays

Stolichnaya vodka

Stolichnaya vodka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America’s “only advice columnist,” Dan Savage, has called for a boycott of Russian vodka to protest attacks on gays by anti-gay legislation backed by President Vladimir Putin. Over at The New York Times, Mark Lawrence Schrad has written about why the boycott might backfire.

First, boycotting vodka does nothing for Russia’s LGBT population. It’s totally symbolic . Symbolic boycotts are important, but so is knowing the effects of your actions.

Second, a boycott allows Pres. Putin to portray America as a specter intent on violating Russian sovereignty and morals. Polls show that two-thirds of Russians consider homosexuality unacceptable. This conservative context, Schrad argues, allows Pres. Putin to portray himself as the defender of traditional Orthodox Christian values fighting off a threat from the liberal West.

Third, the Kremlin’s reliance on vodka is largely over, making efforts to enforce the boycott ineffective. (For example, Stolichnaya, which is distilled in Latvia and owned by the SPI Group in Luxembourg, has been the primary target. In fact, the owners of SPI fled Russia years ago.)

Have you participated in the boycott of Russian vodka?

Via NYT.

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Holder Announces Changes to Federal Criminal Policies

English: Official portrait of United States At...

English: Official portrait of United States Attorney General Eric Holder Español: Retrato oficial de Fiscal General de los Estados Unidos Eric Holder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday, the Obama administration moved to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases.

In a speech to the American Bar Association, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the policy a step to curb taxpayer spending on prisons and correct unfairness in the justice system. “Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” AG Holder said. “It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”

AG Holder also introduced a set of policies that would leave more crimes to state courts, increase the use of drug-treatment programs, and expand the “compassionate release” program for elderly inmates.

Under the new policy, prosecutors will not be able to write the specific amount of drugs when drafting indictments for drug defendants who meet the four following criteria: (1) the conduct did not involve violence, use of a weapon, or sale to minors; (2) they are not leaders of a criminal organization; (3) they have no significant ties to gangs or cartels; or (4) they have no significant criminal history.

It is unclear whether cases that have not yet been adjudicated will now be recharged.

Via NYT.

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Secure E-mail Companies Shut Down in the Wake of Government Monitoring Scandal

911: President George W. Bush Signs Patriot Ac...

911: President George W. Bush Signs Patriot Act, 10/26/2001. (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

Ladar Levison was still a teenager when Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, and he came up with the idea for an e-mail service for people who care about privacy.

“I’ve always sort of believed it’s important for Americans to have private conversations with other Americans,” Levison said in a telephone  interview with The New York Times, “and not fear that their conversations were being monitored by the government.”

His company thrived until Thursday, when he shut it down, saying that he did not want to be “complicit in crimes against the American people.” He is offering little in the way of explanation; he is under a gag order that has led him to give up e-mail altogether.

After Levison’s announcement, the Maryland company Silent Circle said it would also close its secure e-mail service. The company had not been served with a government order, but in a pre-emptive bid to protect customers’ data, Silent Circle obliterated everything in its server.

Via NYT.

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Kristof Tackles Tale of 12-Year-Old Forced into Prostitution

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 30JAN10 - Nicholas D. Krist...

Nicholas D. Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times, USA is captured during the session 'Redesign Your Cause' of the Annual Meeting 2010 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 30, 2010. Copyright by World Economic Forum. swiss-image.ch/Photo by Monika Flueckiger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you think sex trafficking only happens in faraway places like Nepal or Thailand, then you read Nicholas Kristof‘s latest article in The New York Times.

The article recounts an interview he had recently with a sex trafficking expert.

Mr. Kristof calls her Brianna. She turned sixteen years old yesterday, and she grew up in New York City.

When she was twelve years old, she got into a fight with her mom and ran out to join friends. A friend’s older brother told her she could stay at his place.

When she tried to leave in the morning, he said, “You can’t go; you’re mine.” He told her that he was a pimp, and that she was now his property.

The pimp locked her in the room and alternately beat her and showed her affection. He advertised her on Backpage.com and on other Web sites.

Backpage accounts for about 70% of America’s prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a trade organization. Backpage cooperates with police and tries to screen out ads for underage girls, but that didn’t help Brianna.

Village Voice Media owns Backpage. When Mr. Kristof wrote recently about the ownership of Backpage, invested firms erupted in excuses and self-pity and raced to liquidate their stakes.

Mr. Kristof met Brianna at Gateways, a treatment center for girls who have been sexually trafficked. It’s thirty-five miles north of New York City, on a sprawling estate overseen by the Jewish Child Care Association. Gateways has accepted girls as young as eleven. Virtually all the girls were sold on Backpage, according to the center’s director.

Gateways has only thirteen beds, and the need is so great that it turns away girls every day.

The public sometimes assumes that teenage girls in the sex trade are working without coercion. Most aren’t physically imprisoned by pimps, but threats and violence are routine. The girls explain that they didn’t try to escape because of a complex web of emotions, including fear of the pimp, affection, and a measure of Stockholm syndrome.

Once, Brianna says, she looked out her window, and there was her mother on the street, crying and posting “missing” posters with Brianna’s photo. She tried to shout to her through the window, but her pimp grabbed her by the hair and yanked her back, threatening to kill her if she called out.

Pimps warn girls to distrust the police, and often they’re right. Bridgette Carr, who runs a human-trafficking clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, tells of a girl who went missing. A family member found the girl on Backpage and alerted authorities. Police “rescued” the girl by handcuffing her and detaining her for three weeks.

That mind-set has to change. Police and prosecutors must target pimps and johns, not teenage victims. Trafficked girls deserve shelters, not jails, and online emporiums like Backpage should stop abetting pimps.

Via The New York Times.

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Filed under National, Sick Sad World, War on Women

ACLU: Police Use Cellphone Tracking without Warrants

mobile phone masts

mobile phone masts (Photo credit: osde8info)

Law enforcement tracking of cellphones has become a powerful tool for police, with hundreds of departments using it with little or no court oversight.

The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to find a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts, or provide other services.

The police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders.

Civil liberties advocates say cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. Many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, but some claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments.

The documents open a window into a cloak-and-dagger practice that police officials are wary about discussing. The A.C.L.U. documents show that the practice is in much wider use than officials have acknowledged.

The issue has taken on new legal urgency in light of a Supreme Court ruling in January finding that a Global Positioning System tracking device placed on a suspect’s car violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches. While the ruling did not involve cellphone, it raised questions about the standards for cellphone tracking.

Via The New York Times.

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Anthony Shadid Dies in Syria at 43

Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent, died on Thursday at forty-three.

Mr. Shadid spent most of his life covering the Middle East, as a reporter with The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. At his death, from what appeared to be an asthma attack, he was on assignment for The Times in Syria.

Mr. Shadid’s work centered on ordinary people forced to pay an extraordinary price for living in the region — or belonging to the religion, ethnic group or social class — that they did.

He was known most recently for his coverage of the Arab Spring.

Mr. Shadid’s work entailed great peril. In 2002, as a correspondent for The Globe, he was shot in the shoulder while reporting in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Last March, Mr. Shadid and three other Times journalists were kidnapped in Libya by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces. They were held for six days and beaten before being released.

Later, as his family was being stalked by Syrian agents, Mr. Shadid interviewed Syrian protesters who had defied bullets and torture to return to the streets.

Mr. Shadid, who became fluent in Arabic only as an adult, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from the University of Wisconsin in 1990.

He was the author of three books, “Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats and the New Politics of Islam”; “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War”; and “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East”.

Via The New York Times.

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