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‘RAIN OF TERROR’: The real threat to free speech
Jan 10th, 2015 by Warren Swil

Self-censorship 

on the rise in wake of

France’s nightmare

Charlie Hebdo doesn’t skewer only Muslims. “Sony kissing the big fat ass of Pyongyang’s big moron and killer” is a rough translation of this cover. Click image to enlarge.

The horrific three-day terrorism spree in France this week has evoked a spirited and widespread debate over limits to offensive speech.
Did the target of the initial attacks – satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – go too far? Was coverage of its provocative work – especially in legacy US media ­– too timid?
Purists argue the antidote for offensive speech is more speech, not censorship. But the specter of self-censorship arose when many media – even The New York Times ­– found the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo too offensive to republish. Gratuitous provocation was just too hot for some to handle.
It’s a delicate balancing act. Anyone who claims to have a simple answer is simply misguided.


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Time to end ‘war on drugs,’ starting with marijuana

NYT’S CALL FOR LEGAL POT DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH
While The New York Times’ prominent series of editorials calling for legalizing marijuana is laudable, it misses the real target.
The conversation should not start and end with pot. We need to mobilize in support of the proposition that substance abuse in general is not a matter for the criminal justice system at all.
Instead, it is a public health issue. Civilized countries have long moved in this direction. The US needs to evolve from incarcerating substance abusers to treating them.


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Villain of Iraq invasion makes astounding comeback

CHALABI SEEN AS POSSIBLE CONTENDER FOR PRIME MINISTER SLOT
One of the most villainous players in the disastrous 2003 US invasion of Iraq has made an astounding comeback.
The resurrection of Ahmad Chalabi was, ironically, capped with a front-page story and photo in The New York Times today.
It reminds us of one the main reasons Iraq finds itself in such an impossible quandary today and the role US media played in getting it there.


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Turbulence rocks two of world’s top journalism institutions

EXIT OF TOP EDITORS REFLECT EXISTENTIAL STRUGGLE AT LE MONDE, THE TIMES
The media landscape on both sides of the Atlantic was rocked this week when the top editor of the French newspaper Le Monde and also that of The New York Times – both the first women to hold those jobs ¬– left amidst acrimony.
The changes signal rough sailing for these bastions of traditional media as they both struggle to make the transition to the digital era.
Hopefully the internal squabbles will be a harbinger of better days ahead.


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OBAMA UNSCRIPTED: Careful, thoughtful foreign policy the right prescription

PRESIDENT RECOGNIZES LIMITS OF U.S. POWER IN MODERN WORLD
In a rare candid moment, President Obama revealed a thoughtful, realistic assessment of the US role in the modern world in unscripted remarks in the Philippines on April 28.
The punditocracy – both left and right – is wrong.
The president was absolutely correct in his assessment that thought leaders have failed to learn the lessons of the past decade as the US fought two disastrous and expensive wars with negative blowback for America and the world.


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Spy vs. Spy: Journalists honored as target pilloried

Criticism directed at the National Security Agency ricocheted around cyberspace after an anonymously sourced Bloomberg story said the agency “exploited” the Heartbleed security bug for years.
Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras – the journalists who first obtained documents from Edward Snowden revealing the NSA’s massive spying operations – visited the US for the first time since their blockbuster reporting to receive the prestigious Polk Award in a ceremony on Friday.


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UKRAINE CONUNDRUM: For the US, the ultimate irony

With the world on tenterhooks as the old cold war foes face down over Ukraine, the US is caught in a bind.
Almost everyone knows about the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses. This week we were treated to the international spectacle Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Russia of doing the same in Ukraine.
What is a poor superpower to do when it no longer has any moral authority?


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The great unraveling of Middle East nation-states

NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS BECOMING INCREASINGLY IRRELEVANT
Recent events in Iraq and its neighbors have once again put the focus on the diminishing role of nation states in the turbulent region.
With diminishing influence, the center will not hold.
The world is witnessing the disintegration of the nation-states born out of the remnants of Ottoman Empire a century ago.
Nowhere is there the political will to intervene. It is a calamity of gargantuan proportions, but the west is just an observer. Until, of course, we are drawn into the conflagration because of the inevitable global fallout.


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WAR ON DRUGS: Could beginning of the end be at hand?

COLORADO POT LEGALIZATION MAY BE STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION
The beginning of legal cultivation and sales of marijuana in Colorado may be the most hopeful sign in America.
Many national initiatives begin at the state and local level (the minimum wage is another current example) and eventually work their way up to become federal law.
If the Colorado experiment proves to be a success, it may lead the way to a more sober view of drug policy first in other states and then, perhaps many years from now, at the federal level.
It is way past time to end the 40-year-old “war on drugs.”


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As new year nears, a word for our times: surveillance

PRIVACY MOVES TO TOP OF AGENDA, LIKELY TO REMAIN THERE
As the clock ticks down to a Gregorian-calendar new year, we can look back and see the term “surveillance” as the most discussed and analyzed during the past 12 months.
As we ponder what’s ahead for the new year, one of the items at the top of our list should be our notion of privacy. The line between public and private has become blurred beyond recognition. Most are only subliminally aware of this.
This is a vitally important topic for each and every one of us as we enter a new calendar year.
Let us hope it is a happy new year.


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