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  • The US may have helped foil a coup against one of the worst governments in the world

    gambia

    The Washington Post just published a definitive account of the events surrounding the December 2014 coup in Gambia. 

    And it casts an unflattering light on the US's role in the failed attempt at overthrowing the country's long-serving dictator.

    Gambia is a country of 1.5 million people and is less than half the size of Connecticut. It has no critical natural resources, and is considered peripheral to vital US interests. The coup changed that, if only temporarily.

    The plot against president Yahya Jammeh, who took power in a 1994 coup, was hatched on US soil, by American-Gambian dual citizens, including 3 US military veterans, one of them a former platoon leader during the Iraq War who was killed during the assault on State House in Bangui on December 30, 2014.

    This made the plotters subject to US criminal prosecution under the Neutrality Act, an 18th century law which prohibits prohibits individuals in the US from conspiring to overthrow governments with which the US is not at war.

    The US's jurisdictional reach turned a coup in a small and obscure nation into a potential policy dilemma. The plotters were attempting to overthrow one of the most oppressive leaders on earth: In addition to running an absolute dictatorship, Jammeh has threatened to slit the throats of homosexuals and cultivated ties with US geopolitical rivals like Iran and Venezuela. America isn't in a state of war with Jammeh, but few would seriously argue that he's any kind of friend to the United States.

    The Washington Post report gives the fullest picture yet of how the US handled the situation. Faced with a group of US citizens plotting against an unjust regime in a country far removed from US geopolitical objectives, the US government sided against the conspirators even before the failed plot was executed — but without apprehending any of them or directly warning the Gambian government of what was in store.

    Instead, the US, whose law enforcement agencies had been tracking some the plotters, may have tried to hamper their travel by looping in a neighboring state through which some of the conspirators were planning on transiting.

    The Gambia

    According ot the Post, "the State Department alerted authorities in a West African country near Gambia that" a US-based exiled Gambian general who served as head of the coup's military planning was "returning to the region — in hopes that local officials could intercept him and prevent any possible bloodshed." The FBI had already been monitoring this plotter, who was actually visited by federal agents before he left for West Africa in December of 2014.

    There were other signs that the US government was on to the coup plot: One plotter who had traveled to West Africa in early December received a phone call from a federal agent "asking where he was." 

    jammeh gambiaThe Post reports that the US avoided drawing the Gambian government into its handling of the impending coup, out of fear that Jammeh would use the information of a coming putsch as a pretext for an internal crackdown.

    But the Post reports that Jammeh may have had some kind of advanced warning of the plot, since the Gambian government effectively concealed the fact that State House was far more heavily protected than the putschists believed it to be. 

    As the Post puts it, "hints surfaced that Gambian officials had received a tip that a plot was afoot."

    The article implies that the US had some partial knowledge of the coup, but didn't want to directly bail out such a problematic government. Whether by design or not, Jammeh found out about the coup anyway. The US enforced rule of law stateside and helped preserve an ever-precarious and coup-prone West African state system, all without the moral hazard of direct collaboration with the region' most severe tyrant.

    And the result — a failed coup attempt, and the charging of 5 plotters under US law, 4 of whom have already pled guilty to conspiracy charges — is a queasy reminder of where the US government believes its interests really lie.

    Gambia

    Without any compelling US objectives at stake, the US decided it would act in a way that reduced the chances that an American-originated plot against one of the worst tyrants on earth would end successfully.

    “People need to know: Is this the kind of person who needs to be protected by the country that claims to be a beacon of hope?” one of the plotters who pleaded guilty, Former US Airman Papa Faal, told The Washington Post.

    The ingrained bias towards a recognized government — regardless of that government's repugnance — determined the US's course of action, even in a situation where the US had few tangible diplomatic, economic, or political equities at risk.

    A similar and equally cynical principle was at play when President Barack Obama posed for a photograph with Jammeh during the African Leaders Summit in August of 2014. To rebuff Jammeh at a historic summit of African heads of state would have been tantamount to treating him as something less than a legitimate leader of a fellow sovereign government. This possible breach of basic diplomatic protocol was considered less savory than the spectacle of the US president posing a violently homophobic authoritarian despot.

    US actions before the failed coup may have been indirectly protected the regime, even when the stakes are the lowest. Indeed, Gambia's obscurity may provide US policymakers the cover they've needed to avoid making any serious decisions about the place.

    SEE ALSO: The story of a US veteran who died trying to topple an African dictatorship

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  • Donald Trump: 'I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney'

    AP382545944587

    Donald Trump doesn't think Mitt Romney can compete with his business success.

    In an interview with The Des Moines Register published Monday, the real-estate mogul and TV personality dissed other wealthy men who have campaigned for president.

    "I'm the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody's ever been more successful than me. I'm the most successful person ever to run. Ross Perot isn’t successful like me. Romney — I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney," Trump said.

    Romney ran for president in 2008 and was the GOP nominee in 2012. Ross Perot mounted two third-party campaigns in 1992 and 1996. Like Romney and Perot, who poured millions into their own races, Trump has indicated he would be willing to self-fund his 2016 presidential campaign if he runs.

    In addition to his comments about Romney, Trump also had a creative answer when The Register asked him about the Islamic State jihadists (also known as ISIS) in the Middle East.

    "I have an absolute way of defeating ISIS, and it would be decisive and quick and it would be very beautiful. Very surgical," Trump said.

    However, Trump, who has accused other Republican White House contenders of stealing his campaign slogan, wouldn't elaborate on his plans to prevent them from being taken by other candidates.

    "If I tell you right now, everyone else is going to say: 'Wow, what a great idea," he said. "You're going to have 10 candidates going to use it and they’re going to forget where it came from. Which is me."

    Click here to check out his full interview with The Register.

    SEE ALSO: Donald Trump tried to replace the 'cheap tent' outside the White House with a $100-million ballroom

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  • These are the incredible four-tube night-vision goggles SEAL Team Six wore during the Bin Laden raid

    navy seal classifed googles bin laden 4 tubeThe 2011 assault on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan exposed two of the US military's top-secret weapons programs, the MH-X Silent Hawk helicopter and highly modified night-vision goggles. 

    Each elite soldier on the raid was issued a pair of $65,000 four-tube night-vision goggles (NVGs), SEAL Team Six member Matt Bissonnette writes in his book "No Easy Day."

    Bissonnette participated in the May 2nd, 2011 raid on the compound in which the Al Qaeda chief was killed.

    "Unlike some of the conventional units, we had NVG's with four tubes instead of the usual two. This allowed us a field of view of 120 degrees instead of just 40 degrees. The standard goggles were like looking through toilet paper tubes," Bissonette writes.

    The secret helmet-mounted system gave SEALs an unprecedented ability to see in complete darkness while navigating through the heart of enemy territory.

    According to Defense One, the "Ground Panoramic Night Vision Goggles" are manufactured by L-3 Warrior Systems Insight division in Londonderry, New Hampshire. 

    The Pentagon has spent approximately $12.5 million since 2010 on this elite military eyewear, according to Defense One.

    four tube navy seal goggles

    SEE ALSO: The 19 most game-changing weapons of the 21st century

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  • King Salman is overhauling the birthplace of Saudi Arabia's ideology

    DIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Arabia's recently crowned King Salman is making the birthplace of his government's ruling ideology into a tourist attraction, according to The New York Times.

    A massive complex with parks, restaurants, museums, coffee shops, and a foundation near the capital of Riyadh will be finished in two years and take $500 million to build.

    The Times notes that the development, which will be in the town of Diriyah, is a "pet project" of Salman's that's meant to "reinforce the royal family’s national narrative." The complex will showcase the Saudi kingdom's conservative religious ideology, referred to as Wahhabism, that has been criticized for being intolerant and fundamentalist.

    Saudi officials are trying to promote a positive image of Wahhabism with the vast new complex.

    "It is important for Saudis who are living now, in this century, to know that the state came from a specific place that has been preserved and that it was built on an idea, a true, correct and tolerant ideology that respected others," Abdullah Arrakban, an official who is working the project, told the Times.

    Screenshot 2015 06 01 12.53.54Diriya is where the founder of Wahabist ideology first convinced the tribe that became Saudi Arabia's ruling family to promote his ideas.

    "The Saudi-Wahhabi pact goes back to the eighteenth century when Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), the founder of the Wahhabi-Salafischool of Islam traveled to Diriya, the stronghold of the Saudi tribe, and struck a deal with its chief," according to Robert G. Rabil in the National Interest.

    Rabil writes that "the pact served the interest of both parties by expanding their respective political and religious influence throughout the regions of Najd and Hijaz."

    Hijaz is the eastern region of Saudi Arabia that's home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medinah.

    This complex in Diriya could be just as much about projecting the royal family's authority as it is about honoring the country's religious roots, the Times notes. The Saudi government has destroyed or ignored other historical sites.

    "Diriyah is extremely important in this because for the Saud, it all started there and they want to say that the Arabian Peninsula had no history before them," Madawi al-Rasheed, who has written books on Saudi history, told the Times."

    A general view shows the four-faced clock, atop the Abraj Al-Bait Towers, stands over the holy Kabaa as hundreds of thousands of Muslims circle the Kaaba inside and outside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, late Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011.

    This isn't only instance of the Saudi royal family putting its distinct stamp on a place of historical or religious significance.

    Mecca, the Saudi Arabian city Muslims from all over the world travel to for the annual hajj pilgrimage, is also undergoing a wide-scale redevelopment, the Associated Press reported last year.

    Skyscrapers, "monumental luxury hotel towers," and malls have replaced centuries-old neighborhoods, according to the AP. Historic sites have been destroyed to allow for this building boom.

    One architect called it "Mecca-hattan."

    The development has been criticized for going against that which it seemingly seeks to promote — religion. The AP noted that critics say the new buildings rob Mecca of its "more than 1,400-year-old message that all Muslims, rich or poor, are equal before God as they perform the rites meant to cleanse them of sin."

    The newly constructed malls five-star hotels in Mecca, however, cater to the wealthy.

    As in Diriyah, the Saudi monarchy is behind the changes. The AP reported that Mecca is a "key source of prestige" for the kingdom.

    SEE ALSO: The Saudis went nuclear on their Obama snub

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  • Hillary Clinton is announcing her presidential campaign again

    Hillary Clinton New Hampshire

    Hillary Clinton is having an "official campaign launch" event on Roosevelt Island in New York City on June 13. According an email from the Clinton campaign, the event will include a "major speech" at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms memorial park. 

    Clinton's launch comes just over seven weeks after she announced her presidential campaign in a video released on April 12. At the time of her initial announcement, her campaign said Clinton would spend "6 to 8 weeks in a 'ramp up' period where her team will start to build a nation-wide grassroots organization, and she will spend her time engaging directly with voters." During that time, Clinton held small events focused on discussions with local residents in key primary states.

    Her speech on Roosevelt Island will mark the beginning of the next phase of her 2016 White House bid. Other candidates including Clinton's Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have used a similar strategy of holding multiple announcement and launch events to generate buzz for their campaigns. 

    A Clinton campaign official said her speech "will lay out her view of the challenges facing this country and her vision and ideas for moving the country forward." They also described her reasoning for choosing a memorial to President Roosevelt as the location for the event.

    "Throughout her career, Hillary Clinton has been inspired by FDR’s belief that America is stronger when we summon the work and talents of all Americans and has long admired Eleanor Roosevelt as a role model," the official said.

    The speech will be open to members of the public who can register for tickets here.

    In the evening following her event, Clinton will be holding an "organizing meeting" with volunteers and supporters in Iowa, a crucial primary state. Over the next four days she will travel to other early primary states, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

    "This early state schedule reflects Clinton's plan to work for and earn every vote," the official said. 

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  • I grew up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and the government scares me more than terrorists

    Uncle Sam American Flag Parade

    I was 12 on September 11, 2001.

    That day was the first of my political memory, for all intents and purposes. There are snippets here and there of Clinton-era nights of watching CNN, but I was too young to understand bombing Kosovo. And certainly too young to understand Monica Lewinsky.

    The first time I ever remember feeling and understanding politics was after I watched the Twin Towers burn to the ground. The next day I did not feel that I was less free, but more. It was then that I learned what it felt to be patriotic.

    That changed a month later. The passing of the Patriot Act, in October 2001, was probably the first time that I thought deeply about what it meant to lose one’s freedom (many thanks to my mother for endless hours of lefty radio during that period). We did it voluntarily. That there was not more outrage confused me.

    I didn’t at the time understand everything, but it struck me as very wrong that I should let the government surveil me in the name of protecting me against people who “hated my freedom.”

    At 12, I only knew the idealized history of American democracy. The Patriot Act didn’t seem to fit into this idea that I had of Patrick Henry-type “Give me liberty or give me death!” American values.

    I have over time come up with a a more nuanced view of what goes on in Washington. I’m okay with the government redistributing wealth, for instance. Wish it would do it more, even. But I’ve never been given a good reason to reverse my cynicism regarding the government’s fundamental inability to protect the liberties I was (apparently) born with. It has not really, in my lifetime, given me good reason to.

    This morning I sit in shock knowing that certain members of the Senate actually stood up for civil liberties, largely because of the work of a man named Edward Snowden. I’m suspicious that anything will actually change (see the Zombie Patriot Act).

    But for once in my life the government voted on whether or not to extend surveillance on Americans, and I don’t feel total and complete despair. I’m still dazed. It feels nice, although I don’t have much hope it will continue.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I was 12 it is this: Terrorists didn’t — and still shouldn't — scare me. But the government should.

    SEE ALSO: There is a good argument for why the creator of Silk Road shouldn't go to prison

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  • The ISIS economy just got a huge boost

    palmyra

    The US is trying to choke off the Islamic State's revenue streams in Iraq and Syria. But the biggest slice of the ISIS budget may come from taxing the "Caliphate's" captive population, a source of wealth for the group that's harder for international actors to control.

    While it's almost impossible to know the exact breakdown of the Islamic State's balance sheet, experts estimate that its biggest source of revenue is taxation. This means that its seizure of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi could give the group's funds a big boost since both cities still have civilian populations. 

    The US has been targeting ISIS' oil revenues and donations from "overseas benefactors." But that still leaves ISIS free to collect millions in taxes, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    The Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) has claimed territory across Syria and Iraq, forcing those who stay in those areas to pay taxes to the jihadist militants, sometimes in return for government-like services.

    For example, sources in Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city Islamic State militants overran in May, told The New York Times that after executing perceived enemies, the group fixed the city's power plant, turned on the water pumps, and handed out free bread.

    This is all part of the group's long-term strategy to gain a foothold and establish authority in the areas it claims to govern. ISIS wants to create an implicit social contract with those living in its self-proclaimed "caliphate," or an Islamic empire that aims to unite the world's Muslims under a single religious and political entity.

    By collecting taxes from residents and providing civil services in return, ISIS appearst to behave like a government, creating a greater sense of legitimacy for the group's rule. But there's a thin line between taxation and extortion in the Islamic State.

    "ISIS makes most of its money from plunder," Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in May. "We’re seeing that over and over again. They go from one town to the next and knock over a bank or several banks and go house to house and extract whatever is of value."

    "It's a racket," Schanzer said. "And that's how ISIS continues to survive and thrive."

    ISIS

    Analysts at the nonprofit RAND Corporation estimated that in 2014, ISIS raked in $600 million from extortion and taxation and $500 million in money stolen from Iraqi banks.

    In addition to giving ISIS added legitimacy, this fundraising strategy helps to sustain the group financially so it can continue its rampage across the Middle East.

    ISIS also makes money from looting and selling antiquities on the black market, and Palmyra is known for its ancient ruins and museums.

    Schanzer noted that the porous border between Turkey and Syria could make it difficult to police smuggling.

    "You’ve got these fairly lawless borders, borders that have been exploited repeatedly," Schanzer said. "So the assumption is that we’ve got easy smuggling routes [to bring] illicit goods over the border."

    SEE ALSO: TAKFIRINOMICS: How ISIS funds its caliphate

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  • Iraq's incompetent military is in even worse shape than it appears

     Iraqi Special Operations Forces ramadi

    On June 10, 2014, Mosul, which is Iraq's second-largest city, fell to ISIS as the Iraqi army fled. Today, Iraq's national military is in even worse shape, and may have as few as 5,000 "effective troops" under its command, according to Politico

    Despite over a decade's worth of US training and military support for the Baghdad government, along with 11 months of US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and the mobilization of Iranian-backed Shiite militias to fight the jihadist group, ISIS has continued to gain ground in the country. 

    At the end of May, ISIS overran the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi. The loss of the city, located only 77 miles from Baghdad, spurred US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to comment that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had "no will to fight." 

    The battle for Ramadi had been ongoing for months. At the time of ISIS' seizure of the city, the ISF were estimated to have had a force of approximately 2,000 soldiers, further augmented by a coalition of tribal fighters and Iraqi police. ISIS was able to take the city with between 400 and 800 militants. 

    The loss of Ramadi signals ISIS' continued strategic momentum nearly a year after seizing Mosul. But it also highlights the Iraqi military's complete state of disarray. The majority of the ISF is not battle-ready. And the units that have the necessary training and equipment to take on ISIS are exhausted and demoralized. 

    "About a month before Ramadi fell ... I pointed out that Iraq had perhaps 10,000 combat effective troops spread among three special forces units," Mitchell Prothero, McClatchy's Iraq correspondent,  writes for Politico. "[T]hese effective units were exhausted after a year of being plugged into every military need that arose around the country." 

    "Today, the Iraqi government would be lucky if 5,000 of its effective troops are still in fighting shape," Prothero concludes

    RTX1EI5CThose 5,000 to 10,000 special forces offer the Iraqi government's best chance at defending against ISIS attacks throughout the entirety of the west and north of the country. But even the capabilities of these troops are severely limited by the logistical failings of the rest of the Iraqi military. 

    During the defense of Ramadi, the various ISF units reportedly failed to coordinate their actions leaving sections of the city open to attack, the Washington Post reports. At the same time, a shortage of supplies forced the few Sunni tribal units fighting alongside the ISF to buy ammunition and weapons on the black market. 

    These factors, taken together with ISIS' brutally effective battlefield tactics, which included the use of multi-ton suicide car bombs, routed the ISF forces defending Ramadi. In the face this collapse, even the highly capable Iraqi special forces — trained and largely established by US Special Forces — were forced to retreat. 

    Photojournalist Ayman Oghanna, who was embedded in Ramadi with Iraqi special forces two days before the city fell, told NPR that although the group had the will to fight it was not able to defend an entire city against an ISIS assault as the rest of the ISF fled. 

    "The numbers, at this point, are irrelevant." What really matters, said Oghanna, are the number "who ... are going to stay there and fight ISIS?"

    Oghanna added that the troops that stayed to defend the city were capable of overmatched: "[T]he only people who remained behind were Iraq's Golden Division — the ISOF, their Special Forces. And their numbers are far smaller." 

    ISIS Islamic State Iraq Syria map

    This melting away of the ISF in the face of increasing ISIS pressure has forced Baghdad rely on so-called Popular Mobilization Units — Shiite militias controlled to a varying degree by Iran. Although these units have had success dislodging ISIS from Tikrit and Amerli with the assistance of the ISF, Kurdish Peshmerga, and US airstrikes, their sectarianism and connection to Tehran may actually deepen the country's sectarian fault lines. 

    The Shiite militias have burned down Sunni villages and barred Sunni internally displaced persons from returning to their homes, further antagonizing Iraq's largest sectarian minority group. 

    This reliance upon Shiite militias, assisted by the continuing breakdown of Iraq's national military, foreshadows a country with eroding sovereignty, intractable sectarian rivalries, and an ever-thinning veneer of central authority — problems that will likely haunt Iraq long after ISIS is defeated.

    SEE ALSO: ISIS' favorite tactic for overrunning cities is brilliant, devastating, and insane

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  • Business Insider UK is hiring an evening news editor

    BI UK Office7

    Business Insider UK is hiring an evening news editor. We are looking for individuals who have excellent news instincts, who are cool under pressure, and who are comfortable writing, editing, and publishing stories on their own.

    The evening news editor will:

    • keep an eye out for breaking news and write several stories a night, as well as prepping and publishing contributor content 
    • be in charge of story placement on the front page, including picture selection and writing snappy headlines
    • edit and publish stories from other news reporters

    The ideal candidate is a news addict with at least a few years of editorial experience who is willing work night and early morning hours (6 p.m. GMT - 3 a.m. GMT), Monday through Friday. The evening news editor has the potential to work remotely. 

    APPLY HERE with your resume and cover letter if interested.

    Please note this position is based out of our London office, located near the Old Street and Shoreditch High Street tube stations.

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  • Rand Paul blames 'heat of battle' for claiming his critics secretly hope for a terrorist attack

    AP661198193425

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) quickly backed off a comment he made on Sunday that some of his critics "secretly want there to be an attack" against the US. 

    "I think sometimes in the heat of battle, hyperbole can get the better of anyone. And that may be the problem there," Paul said in a Monday morning "Fox News" interview. "The point I was trying to make is that I think people do use fear to try and get us to give up our liberty."

    The 2016 presidential candidate spearheaded the latest congressional dustup by using procedures to stall the reauthorization of parts of the Patriot Act. Certain provisions of the controversial surveillance bill — notably the National Security Agency's controversial bulk records collection surveillance program — temporarily expired on Sunday. Paul blasted the motives of unnamed "people" during his floor speech.

    "People here in town think I'm making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me. One of the people in the media the other day came up to me and said, 'Oh, when there's a great attack, aren't you going to feel guilty that you caused this great attack?' " Paul said then.

    Paul was repeatedly pressed during his subsequent Fox News interview about whether he stood by this quote. However, the libertarian-oriented senator would only speak in broad terms about the "heat of battle" and a potential "hyperbole" on his part. 

    "I think sometimes going after people's motives — and impugning people's motives — is a mistake. And in the heat of battle, I think sometimes hyperbole can get the better of all of us," he said, citing the "completely untrue" claim that the Patriot Act was needed to investigate the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. "I think we need to have an intelligent debate. And I think sometimes hyperbole gets the best of us, I think is the best way to put it."

    Asked a third time on whether he would specifically retract his attack, Paul reiterated his previous statements on the matter.

    "I think by calling it 'hyperbole,' that means I may well have exaggerated the case," he said.

    SEE ALSO: Republicans are torching Rand Paul for letting the Patriot Act expire

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  • Striking photos from the villages surrounding Chernobyl, taken by people who still live there

    01 Disposable Citizens

    On April 26, 1986, a catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine sent radioactive particles into the air, distributing toxic pollution over a vast area. It has gone down as one of the worst disasters of its kind.

    Thirty-one people died in the blast, and the long-term effects have been felt ever since. Cancer and other radiation-exposure problems still plague citizens, and contamination in their water and soil remain a burden.

    No people know these problems better than those who live near the "Nuclear Exclusion Zone," the area within a 19-mile radius of the plant, where radiation levels are still exceedingly high. Some 350,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes after the accident, and many still form a community on the edge of a wasteland.

    Photographer Thom Davieswho is also a trained geographer and ethnographer, has been working to understand and document this community since 2008. As part of his studies, Davies gave people who lived close to the exclusion zone disposable cameras and asked them to document their everyday lives in their extraordinary surroundings.

    "The photographs give a rare glimpse into the unseen realities of everyday life in this post-atomic hinterland," Davies says of the project, called "Disposable Citizens." "No one understands the realities of Chernobyl like those who live there."

    "There is something truly enigmatic about nuclear landscapes," Davies says when asked why he is drawn to nuclear radiation zones. "They are places where broken science and everyday life have collided, leaving disputed consequences and many unanswered questions."



    As a geographer first and a photographer second, Davies tells Business Insider he is "fascinated by the relationship people have with landscape, and in a post-atomic space such as Chernobyl, this relationship becomes strained and contested."



    "The invisibility of radiation adds another layer of mystery to these places and the communities who live there," he adds.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider






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  • One of Brazil's biggest footballing legends is leading a corruption investigation into the 2014 World Cup

    Romario of Brazil holds the trophy aloft after the World Cup final against Italy at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, California, USA. Brazil won the match 3-2 on penalties.

    Brazil on Sunday opened an inquiry into allegations of corruption at the World Cup it hosted last year, and the man spearheading the investigation is a World Cup winner himself, the Financial Times reports.

    Romario helped lead Brazil to victory in the 1994 World Cup in the United States, winning the Golden Ball award for best player and scoring five goals along the way.

    The former Barcelona striker, nicknamed "Shorty" in his playing days for his 5ft 6in stature, is seen as one of the greatest players in modern football, coming 5th in FIFA's online Player of the Century poll back in 1999.

    These days, however, he's more concerned with politics. He was elected to Brazil's senate in 2010 on a socialist ticket and since taking office he's been a vocal critic of FIFA. 

    He's also heavily criticised last year's Brazilian World Cup, calling it the "lie cup" and blasting Brazil's football federation in the press. Romario believes hosting the Cup was a waste of money as well as a corrupt exercise. 

    Now in the wake of FIFA corruption arrests last week, he led the effort to open a congressional inquiry into allegations of corruptions at the Brazilian World Cup last year, the FT writes.

    At his height in the 1990s, Romario was as renowned for his ego and social life as he was for his skills on the pitch. Memorable Romario quotes include: "The day I was born, God laid eyes on me and said: 'That's the man.'" and "I'm like money, at the end of the day everybody quite likes me." 

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  • America's secret elite warriors explained in one infographic

    recon marines

    The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees roughly 70,000 operators, support units, and civilians from each of the military's sister service branches.

    America's elite soldiers, work under a shroud of secrecy to carry out high-risk missions with swift precision, laser focus and firm perseverance.

    Operators work in up to 80 countries with sometimes less than 48 hours notice to accomplish assignments in counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, capture and assassinations of wanted peoples, and training of foreign forces.

    Working with the military's most advanced technology and weapons, the projected FY2015 budget for US Special Ops forces is approximately $9.9 billion. 

    The following graphic lists the strengths of each unit and how these elite warriors combine their skills to serve the interests of global security.

    SOCOM

    SEE ALSO: 18 Things Navy SEALs Never Leave Home Without

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  • Republicans are torching Rand Paul for letting the Patriot Act expire

    AP591168834640 (1)

    Republicans, furious at Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), are accusing him of jeopardizing national security to further his presidential campaign.

    Paul used Senate procedure to successfully — and temporarily — block the chamber's push to renew parts of the Patriot Act on Sunday.

    This caused three sections of the controversial surveillance bill, including the National Security Agency's bulk records-collection program, to expire early Monday morning.

    Needless to say, GOP senators who believe the NSA needs robust powers are not pleased. Politico documented many of their gripes.

    "I know what this is about — I think it's very clear – this is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise," Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said. "He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation."

    Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) further accused Paul of theatrics last month, when the Kentucky senator launched a 10-1/2-hour filibuster that stalled the NSA bill.

    "He could only raise money filibustering," Heller was quoted as saying.

    Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who has endorsed Paul's presidential campaign, accused the bill's critics of waging a "campaign of demagoguery and disinformation," according to The New York Times.

    Rand Paul Republican Leadership Summit

    Though being so heavily criticized by fellow Republicans could easily be a blow to a GOP presidential candidate, Paul is waging an unconventional path to the nomination. The libertarian-oriented senator has repeatedly blasted the Patriot Act for what he refers to as its "illegal" spying operations, and he was unapologetic in the face of Sunday's attacks against him.

    "Tonight we stopped the illegal NSA Bulk data collection," Paul said in a statement. "This is a victory no matter how you look at it. While some will use fear and intimidation tactics, I believe there is nothing that prevents our intelligence community from continuing to safely guard our nation, while also respecting our Constitution."

    As his critics charged, Paul did use his campaign against the bill as a fundraising tool:

    The expiration of the Patriot Act provisions may last only a few days as the Senate works through its procedures. But Paul's statement argued the delay still represented a win.

    Paul said the victory "might be short-lived, but I hope that it provides a road for a robust debate, which will strengthen our intelligence community, while also respecting our Constitution."

    SEE ALSO: Edward Snowden just endorsed Rand Paul's big surveillance filibuster

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  • The 10 most important things in the world right now

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    Hello! Here's what you need to know for Monday.

    1. Russia released a blacklist of 89 European Union politicians barred from entering the country in response to the EU's sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea last year.

    2. The Burundian government said on Sunday it was open to postponing the coming parliamentary and presidential elections by at least a month and a half amid violent protests sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term.

    3. The International Monetary Fund has lowered its growth projection for Ukraine to minus 9%, largely because of the "unresolved conflict in the East."

    4. Key parts of the Patriot Act, which allows the US government to collect phone records, expired after midnight on Monday after the Senate failed to reach a deal Sunday night to extend the program.

    5. Beijing's ban on public smoking takes effect Monday with the introduction of fines for those who light up in restaurants, offices, or on public transportation.

    6. The US is giving Vietnam $18 million (£11.7 million) to buy patrol boats to strengthen its maritime defence, following increased Chinese activity in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

    7. Japan on Saturday proposed a system of round-the-clock safety patrols in the South China Sea, where tensions of have risen over China's land-reclamation projects around the disputed Spratly archipelago.

    8. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday named former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as the governor of Ukraine's southern Odessa region.

    9. The European Central Bank meets Wednesday, when analysts will be listening for what president Mario Draghi has to say about the situation in Greece.

    10. Just as the outbreak in West Africa is slowing down, one of the world's top Ebola scientists has warned that the deadly virus will strike again in 10 to 20 years.

    And finally ...

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  • This is how you know China is worried

    The Chinese economy is slowing, the housing market has ground to a halt, the banking sector is laden with debt, and the Shanghai Composite is swinging wild — hitting new highs on Monday only to drop 6.5% on Thursday.

    As you can imagine, the Chinese government is worried. So it's preparing its people for hard times the only way it knows how, in a way that looks like bizarre political theater to outsiders.

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  • The FIFA arrests show how far Qatar has fallen in the past 5 years

    Qatar World Cup

    The US Department of Justice's charging documents against 14 individuals accused of bribery and racketeering in conjunction with their roles at FIFA, soccer's international governing body, barely mention Qatar.

    Nevertheless, the accusations don't reflect well on the oil- and gas-rich Persian Gulf monarchy that won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

    If the allegations made by DOJ prosecutors are accurate, the hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup, the 2011 FIFA presidential election, and a number of South American soccer tournaments were tainted by nearly $150 million in bribes. It's difficult to believe that Qatar's World Cup bid was any cleaner than the rest of the apparently sordid day-to-day business of FIFA.

    Indeed, a 2014 report from former US federal prosecutor Michael J. Garcia found certain FIFA officials were paid $1.5 million each to vote to award Qatar the tournament. FIFA suppressed the publication of Garcia's report, and the organization's only response to the mounting evidence of an illicit sale of the 2022 bid has been to insist Qatar's hosting of the World Cup will not be revoked or even reassessed.

    It is possible Qatar's hosting rights will be able to weather the most intense legal scrutiny to which FIFA has ever been subjected. FIFA is obviously loath to strip the Middle East of its first World Cup — if the soccer world's sanctioning body is willing to hold the 2022 tournament during the European club season and tolerate widespread labor abuses during the event's preparations, it seems unlikely its plans will be swayed by accusations that haven't even made it to a courtroom yet.

    At the same time, the arrests fit into a larger trajectory for the Gulf emirate. Qatar once represented a fresh alternative to the traditionally staid and stability-minded governments of the Persian Gulf. The Qatari monarchy built Al Jazeera into the most important media force in the Middle East, often shattering the region's state-held monopolies on the flow of information. During the Arab Spring, Qatar supported entities like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia's Ennahda, betting that the opening of the Middle Eastern political space that started in 2011 would result in a wave of elected Islamist governments.

    Outside the Middle East, Qatar hosted peace talks over the future of Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, attempted to broker agreements between the pariah state of Eritrea and its neighbors, and agreed to host the political office of the Afghan Taliban. Qatar attempted to make itself politically indispensable through maintaining relations with terrorist entities and pariah states — while also hosting Al Udeid Air Base, one of the most important US military installations in the Middle East.

    Egypt President Mohammed MorsiThat balance hasn't exactly held.

    The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood governments in Egypt and Tunisia dealt a blow to Qatar's prestige, while Al Jazeera was essentially expelled from Egypt over Qatar's support for the Brotherhood. Qatari officials are widely accused of supporting Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria (Nusra head Abu Muhammad al Jawlani granted a rare exclusive interview to Al Jazeera Arabic on Wednesday). The peace in Darfur hasn't held, and Al Jazeera's expansions into the US and Turkish markets have floundered.

    Qatar's World Cup bid was once an unmistakable sign that Qatari hard and soft powers were one of the major emerging forces on the global scene. The decline of the public's perception of the Qatari World Cup, now considered an ill-gotten humanitarian catastrophe, has mirrored the drift in the country's standing more generally.

    Wednesday's FIFA arrests further suggest there was never any sustainable policy undergirding Qatar's unorthodox and outsize global ambitions. The controversy over the bid is the end result of the world's misplaced hope that the apparently pro-American, peace-minded, Al Jazeera-broadcasting regime in Doha would be able to deliver on its desire to be an influential and constructive player on the world stage.

    The World Cup bid may have delivered the tournament to Qatar, but with these serious allegations, the games will not necessarily come with the prestige the country once hoped for. Instead the tournament will only expose how unready Qatar was to become a serious global player, and how badly the rest of the world misjudged it.

    SEE ALSO: How the fall of the Soviet Union sparked Iran's nuclear program

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    NOW WATCH: This air base in Qatar carries out American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria








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  • Al Qaeda's strategy in Syria is working

    Jolani nusra

    Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, the head of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, granted an exclusive interview to Al Jazeera Arabic this week, sitting in an ornate chair with his back to the camera and a hood covering most of his face.

    The group he leads, Jabhat al Nusra, is perhaps the most powerful and effective fighting force in the Syrian opposition and is playing a decisive role in the rebel movement's gains in northern Syria.

    As former Israel Defense Forces intelligence officer and Terrogence analyst Waleed Rikab told Business Insider, Nusra has a strategy of gradually co-opting more secular or nationalist Syrian rebel groups, both by making itself an indispensable battlefield ally and by exhibiting a willingness to cooperate with non-jihadist or non-Islamist opponents of the Assad regime.

    The Jolani interview shows just how much that strategy has paid off — for both Nusra and the broader Al Qaeda network.

    In the interview, Jolani took a conciliatory approach to Syria's minorities, vowing not to actively persecute the country's Christian and Druze populations. On the Alawites, the minority religious sect to which Syrian President Bashar Assad and many of his top lieutenants belong, Jolani said he didn't consider Alawites to be his "brothers" but said he had no current desire to carry out genocidal reprisal attacks.

    He eschewed Takfirism, or the radical-Islamist idea that all individuals who do not adhere to strict, fundamental Islam should be killed, even if they consider themselves to be practicing, observant Muslims. He said explicitly that Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had prohibited Nusra from using Syria as a base to plan and execute attacks against Western targets, meaning the group has been ordered to focus its efforts solely around the Syria conflict.

    Al Qaeda Nusra Front

    In the interview, Jolani tried to make Nusra seem like a reasonable alternative to Assad while not backing down from its Al Qaeda affiliation or permanently repudiating more extreme aspects of jihadist ideology. The interview shows that Nusra — and, by extension, Al Qaeda — has a plan to edge into the mainstream of the Syria conflict and thus into any post-Assad political dispensation.

    It's evidence that Al Qaeda has a sophisticated long game — and that it's playing it effectively.

    "Jolani is communicating to the audience and to his own supporters that Nusra is a revolutionary force inside of Syria that's fighting for the Syrian people and that isn't directly concerned with the West, except to express its condemnation that the West has effectively chosen the wrong side in the Syria war," Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider.

    According to Cafarella, Nusra has "undertaken an effort to create an image of greater tolerance" as part of Jolani's larger effort to "consolidate Nusra's position at the forefront of emerging rebel governance, particularly in northern Syria."

    Nusra isn't moderate in any sense: The group would like to establish an emirate in Syria that could eventually become part of a larger Al Qaeda-ruled caliphate. And it wants to use that emirate — which would be ruled along fundamentalist Islamic grounds — as a jumping-off point for attacks on both neighboring secular governments and the West.

    Nusra has stayed attuned to local concerns and delayed the implementation of its more radical and alienating policies. In doing so, the group has co-opted the Syrian civil war into Al Qaeda's global program.

    "Nusra believes very much in the acquisition of local support as a precondition for the emergence of the Islamic emirate," Cafarella said. Compared with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which has already declared a caliphate, Nusra is "patient and willing to scale its behavior in order to avoid alienating the population."

    Syria Control Map 22 MAY 15One of the interview's more ominous glimpses into the dangers of this long-term strategy related to the flag placed prominently on a table between Jolani and his interviewer. According to Cafarella, the miniature banner included Al Qaeda's name and described Nusra as "the Al Qaeda franchise in Al Shams [the Levant], Jabhat al Nusra."

    At a time when Nusra is at its strongest, and has positioned itself as one of the Syrian conflict's most important actors, the group could gain a degree of international acceptance and open the way for more pragmatic cooperation with the international community if it ditched or otherwise toned down its Al Qaeda affiliation.

    Instead, its top leader is flaunting his Al Qaeda connections in a high-profile television interview.

    The Syria conflict is one of the main drivers of Al Qaeda's resurgence, and the war is enhancing the prestige of a terrorist network that President Barack Obama once said had been "defeated." Its leaders in both Syria and Pakistan understand that the next phase of Syria's destructive, four-year-long conflict will most likely play out to their advantage.

    SEE ALSO: The FIFA arrests show how far Qatar has fallen

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  • One issue could dominate upcoming elections in Latin America

    enrique pena nieto

    This year, tens of millions of voters will go to the polls in several Latin American countries shaken by violence and stuttering economies.

    But the issue that decides their vote may be as close as the nearest faucet.

    In Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia, governments are preparing for local and national elections as water shortages, droughts, and ineffective water distribution networks compound the adversity already facing their citizens. 

    In Mexico, elections on June 7 will select the entire lower house of congress, nine state governors, and 17 state legislatures. The embattled president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has received widespread criticism for unpopular economic reforms and continuing violence, and faced accusations of corruption leveled against him and his administration.

    Against this backdrop, millions of Mexicans have struggled to secure clean water. Residents of neighborhoods near Mexico City have been refused water supplies, even as shopping malls around them receive a permanent supply.

    Throughout Mexico, some 14 million people lack water in their homes, including those near the capital in Mexico state as well as residents of Guerrero state, which has been the scene deadly violence over the last year.

    A constitutional measure in 2012 declared water to be a human right in Mexico. Yet the public and the government continue to struggle over how water is apportioned. A groundswell of criticism forced Peña Nieto’s governing party, PRI (which holds a slim majority in the lower house), to table a measure that would have raised rates, allowed the inheritance of water concessions, and allotted water for fracking.

    Mexicans have also protested local and municipal governments that turn water supplies over to private groups that raise rents and prevent research into pollution, which is a common problem in Mexico and throughout the region.

    Mexico water protest

    Venezuelans, too, have demonstrated against failures in government-run water networks. Residents who feel underserved by the national water company, Hidrocapital, have protested by shutting down roadways near the capital, Caracas.

    Water insecurity is not new to Venezuela: Poor urban citizens, the governing PSUV party’s traditional base of support, complained last year that they went months without water. Venezuelans will vote to elect the entire 165-seat parliament in yet-to-be scheduled elections later this year.

    “Many Latin American governments at the federal and local levels have known that water crises were possible or even likely, but did not make the necessary investments until the crisis was upon them,” said James Bosworth the director of analysis at Southern Pulse, an advisory firm focused on Latin America. 

    In Venezuela’s case, those crises have been spurred on by drought. Prolonged droughts last year caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of cattle, exacerbating food shortages. As summer approaches this year, climbing temperatures indicate that experience could be repeated. (The Brazilian city of São Paulo, home to some 20 million people, has also endured drought exacerbated by mismanagement and poor infrastructure.)

    Moreover, water mismanagement in face of climate challenges could have knock-on effects for Venezuela’s infrastructure. If, as Bosworth noted, “the levels in the Guri reservoir in Venezuela fall too low, it will cut several dozen MW of power from the [hydroelectric] system and lead to a serious crisis in the country.” Failures in Venezuela’s electrical grid have already led to national rationing plans.

    venezuela

    Colombians will vote in local elections starting in late October. Success in the country’s municipalities will be necessary for President Juan Manuel Santos if he and his governing coalition hope to maintain control over negotiations with the FARC, Colombia’s longstanding leftist rebels.

    This electoral effort could be hindered in the poverty-stricken northern department of La Guajira, where 84% of the population has no access to clean water.

    Contaminated water stocks have taken a heavy toll on La Guajira’s mostly indigenous population. “More people die from drought and dirty water in Colombia than from the armed conflict,” Fernando de la Hoz, National Institute of Health director, told Vice in April. “And the risk of dying from illnesses related to water is four or five times higher in La Guajira than anywhere else in the country.”

    La Guajira is arid region home to many extractive industries. Emphasis on extracting natural resources, like gas and carbon, over supplying water and other goods as well as allegations that corrupt officials siphon off royalties meant for citizens could shape voting later this year.

    Colombia La Guajira police

    La Guajira is just one department in Colombia, but Bolivia’s recent history shows that a local dispute over water can upend the political order of an entire country. In 1999, Bolivia’s government agreed to give water rights in Cochabamba, the third-largest city, to a foreign consortium.

    The poorly implemented privatization plan and the government’s harsh crackdown on protests that followed sparked a social movement that forced the country’s traditional political class out and replaced it with current president Evo Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party.

    Water-related tensions have yet to reach the level of conflict, but have arisen elsewhere in the region.

    “Nicaragua and Costa Rica have sparred over the use of water, dredging and construction along the Rio San Juan. Argentina and Uruguay had some serious tensions over the potential construction of a pulp mill that could have polluted a border river,” Bosworth said in an email to Business Insider.

    South America is home to one-third of the world’s renewable water resources, and the vast majority of Latin Americans can access clean water. But the population that cannot — specifically those living in poor urban areas and in rural areas beyond the reach of government services — amount to tens of millions of people who could affect drastic political change this year.

    global water scarcity 2012

    Technologies like desalinization and policies like rationing have helped the region use water more efficiently, but, as Bosworth points out, water stocks are strained by more than people’s daily use.

    “Agriculture, the extractive industry and manufacturing use far more water than residential areas. The policies that governments implement on those sectors have a far greater impact than encouraging people to take shorter showers and water their lawn less.”

    But in Latin America, like most of the world, government moves slowly. Until they go to the polls, many in the region may have to hope for a different kind of intervention.

    “The only hope that remains for us is that God, our father, decides that it rains,” said Verónica Cañizales, an official in Vargas state, Venezuela, where municipalities are experiencing water levels 50% below normal. 

    SEE ALSO: California has adopted its first mandatory water cutbacks as the drought drags on

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  • It's absurd that the Silk Road founder got a life sentence without parole — we are incarceration nation

    ross ulbricht

    On Friday, a 31-year-old man who started a website where people bought and sold drugs and engaged in other illegal behavior got sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    The man, Ross Ulbricht, was convicted of seven felonies, including trafficking drugs on the internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, running a continuing criminal enterprise, computer hacking, and money laundering. 

    Those are indeed all serious crimes. And, having been convicted of them, Ulbricht certainly deserves some punishment.

    But life in prison without parole?

    Come on.

    It's time we Americans woke up to the fact that our desire to be "tough on crime" has gone way past the point of fairness and usefulness and is now just ruining lives and consuming precious resources that could be far better used elsewhere.  

    It's also time for Americans to admit that our strategy in the "war on drugs" — criminalization and punishment — is not only misguided and arbitrary but has also utterly failed.

    Incarcerated AmericansAmerica's prison population has exploded in the past 40 years. Thanks in part to the "war on drugs" and mandatory sentencing, more than 2 million Americans are now in jail — about one in every 100 adults.  

    That's the second-highest rate of per capita incarceration in the world, second only to the Seychelles. (The Seychelles!)

    In total, about 3% of Americans are either in jail or have a family member in jail.

    Leaving aside fairness and utility, this mass incarceration isn't free: Each imprisoned American costs the rest of us an estimated $31,000 a year to keep behind bars.

    The main justifications for our draconian sentences, meanwhile — deterrence and prevention — are also not working, especially when it comes to illegal drugs.

    Incarceration rate

    More than 40 years after we launched the "war on drugs," America is still hooked. The root cause of this ongoing consumption, importantly, is not that we haven't yet caught and jailed everyone who sells drugs. It's that Americans love drugs. And if we have demonstrated anything over the past 40 years, it's that we'll risk and spend almost anything to get them.

    Then there's the absurd and arbitrary distinction we draw between bad drugs (illegal, immoral) and good drugs. (Sell everywhere! Serve at every party and restaurant!). Alcohol and cigarettes, which also "hook" people, destroy health and lives, and cause death and harm to those who don't use them (second-hand smoke, drunk driving, abused families) are legal, billion-dollar industries, and these drugs are available and consumed everywhere. 

    The only difference between them and illegal drugs is that they're legal and regulated.

    Some people argue that Ulbricht deserves his life sentence because that's what a gangland "drug pusher" from a poor community would have gotten and Ulbricht shouldn't be treated any differently. Fine. But the folks who sell drugs on the streets shouldn't be getting life sentences without parole for drug offenses, either.

    Others argue that Ulbricht deserves his life sentence because he actually tried to have people killed — there were reports of "murder-for-hire" solicitations in the initial allegations. If that's true, that's a valid consideration.

    But "attempted murder" is not generally punished with life without parole. And, more importantly, no one should be sentenced for crimes they aren't even charged with committing, much less convicted of.

    Ulbricht's life sentence won't deter others from giving Americans access to the drugs they want. It won't "protect" society. It won't "serve justice" in some moral or cosmic sense. It will just waste another life behind bars and cost nonincarcerated taxpayers about $2 million over Ulbricht's 50-year remaining life expectancy — $2 million that could be much better spent on something else.

    It's time we finally acknowledged that.

    SEE ALSO: The Silk Road creator deserved a harsh sentence — but not this harsh

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    NOW WATCH: Here's the incredible story behind the guy who was just sentenced to life for creating the 'eBay for drugs'








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