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After a pre-Christmas week full of massive backlash for caving to a vague and unsubstantiated threat by hackers supposedly from North Korea, Sony has reversed course and decided it will allow The Interview to be shown after all – thus all but ending what Senator John McCain absurdly called “the greatest blow to free speech that I’ve seen in my lifetime probably”.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s unequivocally good news that North Korea (or whoever hacked Sony) won’t succeed in invoking a ludicrous heckler’s veto over a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen, but there are far greater threats to our freedom of speech here in the United States. For example, Sony itself. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Researchers and reporters had long counted the total number of prisoners who cycled through Guantanamo at 779, but the Senate intelligence committee’s report on CIA torture revealed that there was one more previously unknown detainee. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, also known as prisoner 212, was held at a secret black site at Guantanamo Bay, according to the report, bringing the total number of detainees to 780.

That al-Libi was held by the CIA is long established.  After all, al-Libi’s name is notorious as the source of bad information used by the Bush administration to tie Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda to support the US invasion of Iraq — information he provided while being tortured in Egyptian custody, and later recanted. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Brave New Films has put Robert Greenwald’s anti-Fox News documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism online in its entirety.

The film charts the rise of Fox News, outlining the marketing-based techniques that make the channel such “compelling” viewing — the “Fox News Alert,” the blurring of journalism and commentary, and the deceptive use of the chyron, i.e. the lower third of the viewing area on a typical television screen. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Almost three years ago, millions of Internet users joined together to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a disastrous bill that would have balkanized the Internet in the name of copyright and trademark enforcement. Over the past week, we’ve been tracking a host of revelations about an insidious campaign to accomplish the goals of SOPA by other means. The latest development: Google has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of an overbroad and punitive subpoena seeking an extraordinary quantity of information about the company and its users. The subpoena, Google warns, is based on legal theories that could have disastrous consequences for the open Internet.

The subpoena was issued after months of battles between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. According to the lawsuit, Hood has been using his office to pressure Google to restrict content accessible through the search engine.  Indeed, among other things, he sought “a “24-hour link through which attorneys general[]” can request that links to particular websites be removed from search results “within hours,” presumably without judicial review or an opportunity for operators of the target websites to be heard.”  As Google states, “The Attorney General may prefer a pre-filtered Internet—but the Constitution and Congress have denied him the authority to mandate it.” [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

The NYPD is the biggest police force in the country, with over 34,000 uniformed officers patrolling New York’s streets, and 51,000 employees overall — more than the FBI. It has a proposed budget of $4.6 billion for 2013, a figure that represents almost 15 percent of the entire city’s budget.

NYC’s population is a little over 8 million. That means that there are 4.18 police officers per 1,000 people. By comparison, Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. with 3.8 million people, has only 9,895 officers–a ratio of 2.6 police per 1,000 people. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

A new poll conducted by Gallup found that 13 percent of Americans believe racism is the country’s most important problem, up from just 1 percent in November. It’s the highest that number has been since the Rodney King verdict in 1992.

The sharp rise follows national outrage and a wave of protests that swept the nation in response to the failure by two separate grand juries to indict two white officers who killed two black men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Earlier this month, PNM, New Mexico’s largest electricity provider, proposed a distributed solar generation fee that could cost new solar installers $30 a month to connect to the grid. PNM considers the fee to be part of a greater “fairness issue” in which customers with rooftop solar systems aren’t paying their share of the fixed costs needed to maintain power lines and other elements of the grid.

“With solar customers who don’t use a lot of energy, other customers are actually picking up a greater piece of the cost,” Susan Snyder Sponar, senior communications representative at PNM, told ThinkProgress. Sponar said that most of the costs for maintaining their grid are not in fixed customer charges, but in energy charges. Since solar customers are generating a lot of their own energy, they aren’t paying the full cost of keeping the grid at the ready. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

A white Milwaukee police officer fired after killing a mentally ill black man in April won’t face criminal charges, the top county prosecutor said Monday, a decision that prompted the U.S. attorney to later announce a federal investigation of the incident.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said Christopher Manney won’t be charged because he shot Dontre Hamilton in self-defense. Manney is at least the third white police officer across the country to avoid charges in the past month after a confrontation that led to a black man’s death. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.”  In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life.

Garner, a 43-year-old black man suspected of illegally peddling loose cigarettes, died in July after a white officer put him in a chokehold. His death, and that of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, has sparked a slew of nationwide protests against police tactics. On Saturday, those tensions escalated after a black gunman, who wrote of avenging the black deaths on social media, shot dead two New York policemen. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog


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