Did Religious Discrimination Against Islam Land Serial’s Adnan Syed In Jail?

December 17, 2014 by  
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When he found himself in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Adnan Syed made a conscious choice to “be a better Muslim.”

At least that’s what he told Sarah Koenig, host and executive producer of Serial, the podcast that has brought the 15-year-old murder of Hae-Min Lee back to light. Like many young people, Syed initially identified as Muslim just because his parents were part of the faith. As an adult, however, he has reportedly thought more deeply about what it means to believe in God.

“Now he can say that for nearly half his life, he’s lived like he’s supposed to,” says Koenig in Episode 9 of the immensely popular series. “He knows it’s a rationalization of his situation, but it’s been the most helpful one.”

Syed is currently serving a life sentence for a murder he claims he had nothing to do with. The prosecutors and police were supposed to handle the investigation without giving in to any kind of religious bias. But Koenig has repeatedly raised the question of whether prejudiced views of Syed’s Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith may have tainted the way they presented the case to the jury.

The specter of prejudice reared its ugly head in a report written by a cultural consultant for the detectives in charge of the case. One of its conclusions stated that “it acceptable for a Muslim man to control the actions of a woman by completely eliminating her.” Another part of the report claimed that “within this harsh culture, he has not violated any code, he has defended his honor.”

Koenig made sure to mention that she wasn’t sure if the report influenced the detectives’ investigation.

But Rabia Chaudry, Syed’s friend, is completely convinced that religious discrimination helped lead to Syed’s conviction.

Chaudry, a lawyer and a Security Fellow for the New America Foundation, was the one who initially brought Syed’s case to Koenig’s attention. Chaudry knew Syed back when he was a lanky 17-year-old honor student at Baltimore County’s Woodlawn High School.

She’s been blogging about the case after every episode. Chaudry spoke with The Huffington Post about the part that religion played in Syed’s case.

Tell me about Syed’s faith. Was religion important to him as a teen?
I think Adnan was a typical child of religious parents — parents who are really religious and connected to the mosque and local community. There are certain expectations for you to be at the mosque at certain times — you get pulled in. But everyone has their own levels of rebellion. It’s very rare to find a teen who is a deeply religious person — how often does that happen in any faith community? Very often, all of us feel an obligation to faith at first because of your parents, but then you grow into your religion as an adult. That’s what happened with Adnan. The faith aspect is something that has kept him anchored after his incarceration and helped him find a community in prison. As a teen, he was just typical. Religion was something he had to deal with.

In one of his interviews, Syed said that perhaps if he’d been a good Muslim from the beginning, by not smoking pot or hanging out with the wrong crowd, these things wouldn’t have happened to him. How did you feel when you heard that?

That is maybe the closest I’ve ever heard him come to feeling some kind of regret. Adnan is one of those people who is self-reflective enough that he takes responsibility first and looks to blame others second. It’s not something a lot of people do and it was hard to hear. Because even though he said that, it is literally a part of Muslim creed that God decrees everything. There’s a passage in the Quran that says even if the whole world conspires for something to benefit you or harm you, it wouldn’t happen unless it was God’s will. So on some level, it’s your personal responsibility to do what’s best, but then you have to let go and let God and realize that for some reason, this was God’s will. I’ve always heard Adnan balance that at the end of every appeal. He’s always said that in the end, God is his judge. It’s really in God’s hands.

How is Syed’s faith now? How does he live it out?
It’s interesting because there’s a conversion phenomenon happening in prisons. A lot of people convert to Islam in prison. Everyone looked up to him in prison because he was authentically Muslim — born and raised in it. It encouraged him to take on that leadership role. Any measure of practice would have been more conservative than where he was before. Islam inside the prison system versus outside in the community, I think they are different things. I can’t say I know Adnan’s place on the spiritual spectrum. But in general, most Muslims in prison, whether converts or not, tend to be on the more conservative religious end.

Do you think his Muslim faith made a difference in the trial?
Absolutely. I think because the state didn’t have proper evidence to connect him to the trial, they needed something like this. The religious factor was their ‘hole in one.’ After Adnan was arrested, my own brother was questioned by police. He was questioned about religious practices, like dating in Islam. And my brother’s like, “What the hell is this about?”

They didn’t make this a straight-up ex-boyfriend case, which they easily could have done. It was heavily influenced by religious bias.

Do you think Sarah Koenig did a good job in her portrayal of Muslims on the podcast?
I think she did a good job. She focused at least 75 percent of her time on things other than faith, even though that was a main part of the state’s case. For me and Adnan, that part was obviously unconstitutional. But if you want to get to the meat and potatoes in the case, you need to look at the lack of evidence, at the timeline given by the state, and Sarah spends most of her time doing that.

I was worried when this show started that the public would look at us as weird religious people. And that hasn’t happened. I am amazed by that. People have in fact been outraged by the religious bias. It’s disgusting to them. They’re not looking at Adnan as a weirdly religious person — even though that’s what the prosecution did at the time.

I think Serial has already humanized Muslims in a way that a lot of pointed PR campaigns aren’t able to do. People are just not interested in the [religious bias] aspect of the case. It’s a non-issue for most people. And now, I get to go on interviews and talk about the case and the prosecution without having to talk about religion. As someone who has worked as a Muslim advocate, it’s nice to not have to talk about this stuff. It shows a level of growth and sophistication in America after 9/11.

What’s your hope for Syed?
Much of my hope has already been fulfilled. There are a lot of legal openings, thanks to Sarah’s work, one of them being the Innocence Project. New life has been breathed into this case and that’s what I wanted. I hope the public stays on it until there are some real results.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jennifer Lawrence Is The Most Googled Celebrity Of 2014

December 16, 2014 by  
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Kim Kardashian wasn’t the only one who had a shot at “breaking the Internet” this year. From the celebrity nude photo leaks to the “fascinating” Amal Alamuddin (now Clooney), people spent a lot of time typing celebrities’ names into Google all year long. Here are the top 10 most popular celebrities worldwide in 2014, according to Google’s annual Year In Search report:

So there is a chart that Beyonce and Taylor Swift didn’t make this year. The year-end list is very different from last year’s global list of most-searched people, as Jennifer Lawrence is the only one to make the list both in 2013 and again 2014:

For more of the search engine’s Year In Search report, head over to Google Trends.

Rolling Stone Writer Contacting UVA Students As Magazine Reviews Disputed Article

December 15, 2014 by  
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NEW YORK — Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of a now-disputed Rolling Stone story on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, hasn’t spoken publicly as her explosive story has unraveled over the past two weeks.

While Erdely has ignored interview requests, including from The Huffington Post, she has reportedly been contacting students she quoted in the story — some of whom she never approached before publishing the piece in November.

On Dec. 5, Rolling Stone issued an editor’s note acknowledging discrepancies in the story featuring UVA student Jackie’s description of a horrific gang rape at a fraternity house. While apologizing, Rolling Stone did not fully retract the article and has said it is reviewing what happened.

Erdely relied primarily on the account of a woman she referred to as Jackie, and apparently did little to corroborate information provided to her by Jackie. Erdely and Sean Woods, her editor, initially said Erdely tried reaching the alleged attackers for comment before publication, but was unable to. However, Rolling Stone has since acknowledged she didn’t try.

In the 9,000-word article, Erdely also said three friends of Jackie — identified as “Randall,” “Andy” and “Cindy” — discouraged Jackie from reporting the crime. The students have recently disputed Erdely’s description of events and have said she never contacted them before publication. In the article, Erdely wrote that “Randall” declined to comment out of loyalty to his frat.

Ryan Duffin, a 20-year-old student identified in the story as “Randall,” told The Associated Press on Sunday that he “couldn’t help but notice that everything that the article said about me was incorrect.” Duffin told the AP that he started dialing the police on the night of the alleged attack, but Jackie begged him not to.

Duffin, Kathryn Hendley and Alex Stock — the latter two previously identified as “Cindy” and “Andy,” respectively — said that Erdely “told them she is re-reporting the story,” according to the AP. Hendley also said that Erdely apologized to her.

Rolling Stone’s top editors have gone silent over the past 10 days, as other news organizations continue to poke holes in its story. Founder and editor Jann Wenn, managing editor Will Dana, and Woods, the magazine’s deputy managing editor, have not any given interviews in that time.

Melissa Bruno, a spokeswoman for the magazine, told The Huffington Post that the magazine “is conducting a thorough internal review of the reporting, editing, and fact-checking” of Erdely’s story. Bruno did not comment specifically as to whether Rubin herself is re-reporting the story, or if that task is being left to others at the magazine.

Typically, news organizations assign reporters and editors not involved in a disputed or discredited story to re-report it in an effort to figure out what went wrong. The New York Times, for instance, assigned several reporters to investigate the work of plagiarist Jayson Blair. Last year, CBS News tapped Al Ortiz, an executive overseeing executive standards and practices, to conduct the review of a discredited “60 Minutes” report on the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

While it’s unclear if Erdely is independently contacting students now or is officially part of the magazine’s attempt to re-report the story, she’s not the only reporter from Rolling Stone looking into it. Stock told The Washington Post that another Rolling Stone reporter had contacted him, too.

Alex Pinkleton, a student and rape survivor who spoke to Erdely for the article, said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that she believes something traumatic happened to Jackie, but faulted the reporter for not adequately vetting the account. She said Erdely’s “intentions were good” in writing on sexual assault on campus, but that the “job was done poorly.”

“I am upset with that aspect of it, but I also know that she was trying to come from a point of advocacy,” Pinkleton said. “But as a reporter, you can’t be like an advocate and support a story and listen to it and think everything is true and then report on it without trying to figure out if it’s true. My job as an advocate was never to question Jackie’s story or question the details, because I didn’t need to. But the role that she’s in as a reporter, she needed to do that.”

Pinkleton said Erdely recently emailed her, but she did not respond to the writer.



Bill Cosby Says He Expects ‘Black Media’ To Remain ‘Neutral’ Over Sexual Assault Allegations

December 14, 2014 by  
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Bill Cosby says he hopes the black media will remain neutral in light of his recent sexual assault allegations, according to a report by Page Six.

“Let me say this. I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind,” Cosby told Page Six in a phone interview on Friday.

This is not the first time the 77-year-old comedian has taken a dig at the media for its coverage of the allegations against him. In a video interview with the Associated Press on Nov. 6, Cosby initially declined to comment on the alleged sexual assaults, and then pressured the reporter not to air the footage if he wanted to maintain his “integrity.”

“Of what value will it have? I would appreciate it if it was scuttled,” Cosby told the reporter, while still on camera and wearing a microphone. “I think if you want to consider yourself to be serious, that it will not appear anywhere.”

“We thought, by the way, that since it was AP it wouldn’t be necessary to go over that question with you. We thought the AP had the integrity to not ask,” he continued.

Cosby, who has been accused by more than 20 women of sexual assault spanning four decades, expressed similar sentiments about the media in an interview with Florida Today on Nov 21.

“I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos,” he told the publication. “People should fact check.”

Despite a growing number of allegations against Cosby, he has never been charged with a crime.

15 Magical Moments That Happened At The 2014 iHeart Radio Jingle Ball

December 13, 2014 by  
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As the classic song goes, it’s “Christmas time in the city” and the lyrics couldn’t have been more true last night, as your favorite stars officially welcomed the holidays during the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball in New York City.

The concert included epic performances by Pharrell, Charli XCX and of course, new(ish) New Yorker Taylor Swift, who also rang in her 25th birthday while on stage at Madison Square Garden. But in case you missed it, we’ve rounded up the most *~mAgIcAl~* six-seconds-or-less moments that took place.

1. When this girl showed off her sick dance moves while rocking out with Pharrell:


3. That time when everyone was losing their shizz to “Shake It Off” — and that one dude in the back was just not feeling it:

4. When Charli XCX boomed and clapped like a goddess:

5. When Ariana Grande danced in reindeer antlers:

6. When Shawn Mendes adorably serenaded the crowd, making everyone ~swoon~:

7. When T-Swift glittered in a plaid crop top while singing “We Are Never Ever, Ever Getting Back Together”:

8. When Ari blew the crowd a kiss:

9. When Jessie J looked like she was having the best night of her life dancing to “Bang Bang”:

10. When Rita Ora couldn’t hear herself because there was so much noise:

11. When Gwen Stefani and Pharrell sparked the fire together on stage:

12. When the boys of 5 Seconds of Summer casually hung out in a snow globe:

13. When Ansel Elgort giggled while biting a heart-shaped lollipop:

14. When Nick Jonas paused to take a Very Important phone call:

15. When Ariana rapped Nicki Minaj’s part like a pro in “Bang Bang”:

Slay, Ari, slay.

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‘We Tortured Some Folks,’ But ‘That’s Not Who We Are’

December 12, 2014 by  
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Last August, President Barack Obama admitted to the press: “we tortured some folks.” But he also added that torturing people “is not who we are.” His CIA director, John Brennan, calls the CIA torturers “patriots.” So which is it? Are they “patriots,” deserving of our admiration, or sadists who engaged in acts that are contrary to “who we are?”

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary report on CIA torture concludes that at least 26 of the people the CIA contractors tortured were innocent of any ties to terrorism whatsoever.

One of the CIA contractors, James Mitchell, was on TV lately where he was called the “architect” of the torture program. His Spokane, Washington company, Mitchell, Jessen, and Associates, received $81 million in taxpayer money for services rendered.

CIA Director John Brennan argues that people like Mitchell and his business partner, Bruce Jessen, were doing legitimate intelligence work. But isn’t it also possible that these “patriots” were acting out their post-9/11 revenge fantasies against a bunch of Arabs and Afghans who fell into their clutches about whom they knew very little?

Mitchell and Jessen had no specialized knowledge of Al Qaeda or international terrorism; they didn’t speak Arabic or Pashto, and had no experience interrogating prisoners.

What they did know about as psychologists was how to drill down into the human psyche. And they knew how to reverse engineer the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) techniques designed to help U.S. personnel counter torturers. They applied the same appalling techniques to their own interrogations. Given their lack of qualifications to head such an endeavor it’s likely Mitchell and Jessen were just winging it.

Can we get our $81 million back?

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney might have “authorized” the torture program, but it’s still a war crime that violates the Convention Against Torture, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.S. Constitution. Letting the people responsible for torture ride off into the sunset free of any criminal charges throws out the window international and domestic law, as well as almost everything we’ve learned from the Nuremberg Trials, Hannah Arendt, or the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

One of the CIA’s “black” (secret) torture sites was located at Guantanamo, which should raise some thorny legal issues because, unlike Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Afghanistan, or Thailand, the Supreme Court has ruled that Guantanamo is considered “U.S. soil.”

Absent any criminal prosecutions, the only conclusion we will be left with is that these guys really are “patriots” and torturing people really is “who we are.” But we shouldn’t need “experts” like Max Boot, Joe Klein, or other apologists for torture to judge the morality of turning to torturers posing as “doctors” to root out suspected terrorists.

The morality and ethics of whether or not the CIA can torture people in our name are non-negotiable. There is no argument that can be made to justify this atrocity. The corporate media are treating torture as if it’s just another “issue” like immigration reform or the federal budget. It isn’t. You cannot justify the unjustifiable. People who attempt to apologize for torture done in their name are embarrassing themselves; raising their heads to be counted as barbarians at the gate.

We don’t fight against terrorists to become more like them, but to maintain our differences. And after all of the criticism the Arab and Islamic world has gotten for being behind the West in embracing the Enlightenment from the Sam Harrises and Bill Mahers, our own government tossed out any semblance of Enlightenment thinking against torturing prisoners going back to Voltaire and Beccaria.

Not long ago Alan Dershowitz was advocating “torture warrants,” whereby judges could issue a legal justification for torture. I suppose that would be better than what we had: the CIA acting in secret and employing contractors to torture people willy-nilly.

Mitchell and Jessen and their underlings weren’t going after any “ticking time bombs.” They wanted to use coercion to get the names of other potential bad guys. The Senate report shows that they routinely kept prisoners in solitary confinement in a dark hole for up to 47 days just to “soften them up” before asking them any questions. So much for disarming the “ticking time bomb.” The report also shows that any real intelligence gleaned from the interrogations came before prisoners were subjected to torture.

One of the creepiest revelations from the Senate report is the description of a torturer who has broken down one of his subjects through water-boarding and other “techniques” to the point where he can merely raise an eyebrow or snap his fingers and that broken human being would willingly go over to the water board and strap himself in. That’s straight out of Orwell’s 1984.

Mitchell and Jessen (and a number of other agents who are still receiving government salaries) engaged in “interrogating” their prisoners with beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, dark and cold or light and hot environments, rectal feeding, rectal hydration, sensory overload or sensory deprivation, and any other humiliating abuse that leapt into their imaginations.

One prisoner under their charge died of hypothermia on a cold concrete floor after being shackled to a post stripped of his pants.

The torture report sort of gave the country another “teachable moment.” But will we learn anything other than how “awesome” is the United States?

In recent news cycles since the report was made public we’ve seen the corporate media clearly go in damage control mode. The networks and cable TV stations apparently see it as their responsibility to provide journalistic “balance,” as if torture is just another “issue” to bloviate about with talking points and a bifurcated “pro” and “con” frame. They bring on their shows people like former CIA director Michael Hayden (who has lied to Congress) and other torture apologists and propagandists to spin the story out of existence.

During the George W. Bush years there was a brief public debate about whether or not waterboarding was “torture.” The late Christopher Hitchens, who was an important intellectual cheerleader for the Iraq War and an advocate for an aggressive “war on terror” wasn’t convinced that waterboarding was torture so he agreed to have it done to him. A few other reporters also willingly subjected themselves to waterboarding as a publicity stunt to “see what it was like.” I doubt if any pro-torture reporter or intellectual would agree to undergo rectal feeding as Hitchens did with waterboarding to find out if it’s really “torture.” We won’t see Dick Cheney on teevee with a blender and an enema bag any time soon.

I’ll ask again: Can we get our $81 million back?

The United States claims to uphold “universal” values such as democracy and human rights while trampling the principle of “universalism,” which holds that all nations, big or small, powerful or weak, must respect international law. Allowing CIA career employees or contractors to get away with torturing people free from legal accountability telegraphs to the rest of the world that the United States reserves unto itself the right to commit war crimes.

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the Italian fascists used to attack the gastrointestinal tracts of their left-wing opponents by pouring castor oil down their throats or administering castor oil enemas. Rectal feeding to punish and humiliate has been around for a while; but the trains ran on time.

Since it appears that the CIA torturers never will be brought to justice it makes it more likely that sometime in the future, with the nation facing a new peril, a different cast of “patriots” might direct these kinds of “enhanced interrogation techniques” closer to home. Maybe next time their targets won’t be foreigners suspected of terrorism but will be American citizens who hold political views they don’t like. And the black sites, instead of being located in places like Lithuania or Poland, might be in Peoria or Tulsa.

15 Teens To Watch Out For In 2015

December 11, 2014 by  
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2014 was a great year for teens, with young people creating new social media trends, starting innovative businesses and making incredible art — all while balancing the everyday stresses of being a teen.

As we head into 2015, plenty of up-and-comers are poised to surprise, entertain and inspire the world with their voices and their creativity. Here are 15 of our favorites:

1. The teen activists who have been protesting the Eric Garner and Michael Brown decisions

new york student protest

Teens have been on the front lines of protests against grand jury decisions on the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. From New York to Colorado, hundreds of high school students have marched for justice. Expect them to stay vocal as we move into 2015.

2. Hailee Steinfeld, 18

hailee steinfeld

This teen got her impressive start as the world’s toughest girl in the Coen brothers’ “True Grit,” but we suspect 2015 just might be her year. She’s starring alongside Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson in the much-anticipated “Pitch Perfect 2,” which will be out in May. She has several other films in the works, and recently nabbed a role in upcoming YA film, “The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight.”

3. Alexey, 17


Alexey was a nominee for the 2014 International Children’s Peace Prize for his amazing work on the front lines of the crusade for justice for LGBTIQ rights in Russia. He is one of the most important voices on “Children-404,” an online community for Russian queer teens to share support and solidarity. When the founder of Children-404 came under attack for spreading “gay propaganda,” Alexey formed a protest movement in response, and the case was closed after just a few days. Though he’s been attacked twice during his activism, he continues to fight bravely.

4. Shawn Mendes, 16

shawn mendes

After rising to fame on YouTube, this musician’s hit single “Life of the Party” debuted on the top 40 and with an upcoming tour with T-Swift, this 16-year old is set to take off into 2015 at lightning speed. Right now, he’s hard at work on his debut album, due out sometime next year.

5. Brendan Jordan, 15

queen l

The charming teen caught everybody’s attention when he vogued behind newscasters reporting on the opening of a mall. The Internet went wild for him, appearances on the talk show circuit followed, and American Apparel just cast in him their latest ad. Of his newfound fame, he told The Huffington Post: “The biggest change, though, is that I can finally be heard. I strongly throw a message out there of equality, freedom, love, self-acceptance and absolutely no judgment.”

6. “Unlocking The Truth” bandmates, Malcolm Brickhouse, 13, Jarad Dawkins, 12, Alec Atkins, 13

First discovered in 2012, the Brooklyn metal band is taking off at lightning speed, playing in huge national festivals like 2014′s Warped Tour. Unlocking the Truth also became the youngest band to ever play at Coachella this year. After opening for bands like the Guns & Roses, the teens signed a 1.7 million dollar multi-album contract with Sony this past July.

7. Willow, 14, and Jaden Smith, 16

willow and jaden

The Smith kids have been in the public eye for quite some time, but this year they really started to stump/intrigue us with their kind of amazingly-weird interview with The New York Times. They got some Internet flack for it, but when Vice asked a bonafide philosopher to explain their comments, he called the Smiths “well-educated, if a little New Agey.”

They’re giving us plenty to talk about, but they’re also making some great art: each recently dropped a new album. Jaden won some cred for his album, ‘Cool Tapes Vol. 2,’ and Willow’s three-song EP, “3,” has generated some incredible feedback. Jaden claims he’s got more music on deck, and we’re pretty stoked to see what both Smiths have in store.

8. The teens of “The Arts Effect NYC”

the arts effect

The teen girl theater troupe uses the power of theater to make change through projects like their play, “Slut.” They’ve taken their work around the globe and designed a workshop for sexually exploited youth. Even with so much on their plate, they somehow found the time to respond awesomely to TIME’s proposed feminist ban.

9. Zendaya, 18


The singer and actress first rose to fame with a role on the Disney show “Shake It Up,” and 2015 just might be her biggest year yet. She’s returning to the small screen with upcoming TV show, “Undercover,” which premiers in January and will also be releasing her second album.

10. Jules Spector, 14

The young feminist has been vocal about the potential of teens to change the world in the Internet age. She started the blog Teen Feminist, where she writes about a wide rane of feminist issues. She was also a featured speaker at the 2014 Women Moving Millions summit, and was one of the featured “loud women” role models, alongside Kim Gordon and Natasha Lyonne, honored by the feminist Internet learning startup, “School for Doodles.”

11. Suman Mulumudi, 15


The teen made waves in 2014 for his invention of the game-changing smartphone app, Steth IO, that turns your phone into a stethoscope and heart rate monitor. Now, he’s working on improving Steth IO, developing new medical technology and acting as CEO of his startup, StratoScientific.

12. Becky G, 17

becky g

It’s been a big year for the YouTuber-turned-pop-star, with a popular music video, an AMA performance and a opening gig on Katy Perry’s tour. She’ll kick off 2015 with a performance on “Pitbull’s New Year Revolution” broadcast, followed up by her eagerly-awaited debut album release early in the year.

13. Elle Fanning, 16

elle fanning

It’s been awhile since Elle Fanning was known as merely “Dakota’s younger sister.” This past year, Elle was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for her role in the hit, “Maleficent.” Now, she’s gearing up for an even busier 2015, with upcoming film releases for “Trumbo,” costarring Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston and “Three Generations,” in which she’ll portray a transgender teen.

14. Zoey, 12

TK gifs
Source:Logo TV

Not yet a teen, but she will be in 2015! Zoey was one of four stars of Laverne Cox’s recent documentary “Trans Teen,” where she bravely put her life on screen to show America the strife that trans teens face. In the after-show, Zoey and her mom talked to Laverne Cox about the difficult Zoey’s had in school, and what it’s like to be young in a trans-phobic world.

15. Erik Finman, 16


The Internet boy wonder turned a $1,000 check from his grandma into a $100,000 fortune by investing in Bitcoin back in 2012. He used the profits to fund his career as an entrepreneur and started Botangle, an online video tutoring service. Erik dropped out of high school and is now hard at work expanding his empire. He gave an epically inspirational speech at the 2014 TEDXTeen event in London, which you can check out below.

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Rick Perry Thinks People Will Forget About His Famous ‘Oops’ Moment

December 10, 2014 by  
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Outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) thinks that obituary writers won’t include one of his most famous gaffes and one of the most memorable moments from his failed 2012 bid for the presidency in his obituary.

The gaffe came during a 2011 Republican presidential debate when Perry couldn’t remember one of three federal agencies that he wanted to eliminate. Pressed to name the third agency by the debate’s moderator, CNBC’s John Harwood, Perry admitted that he couldn’t and simply said “oops.”

When Harwood recently asked Perry whether he thought the moment would be included in his obituary, Perry said that he didn’t think it would.

“It is great political satire and comedy, but it won’t be on the obituary,” Perry told Harwood. “One of the errors that I made was in not being prepared. You know, I was a little arrogant and that had as much to do with my demise as a candidate as forgetting a third agency of government.”

Perry is considering another presidential run in 2016, and told Harwood that he would decide by May or June of next year. Perry has been trying to remake himself as a more humble, wonkier candidate than the one who stumbled through the debate three years ago. As he considers another campaign, Perry has not shied away from addressing his gaffes, but has said that he sees them as a learning experience.

“I am so glad that I held my hand up and said ‘here am I, send me,’ in 2011,” Perry said during a question and answer session after a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in October. “It was one of the most difficult, frustrating, processes I’ve been through in my life.”

Watch the full interview between Harwood and Perry above.

CIA Misled Media To Shape Coverage Of Torture, Senate Report Finds

December 9, 2014 by  
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NEW YORK — The CIA provided “inaccurate” information to journalists in effort to shape coverage of its detention and interrogation program, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bombshell torture report.

The report, of which a 500-page summary was made public Tuesday, included graphic details of CIA torture techniques and described how the agency misled the White House and Congress about the effectiveness of the methods in extracting useful intelligence. At times, the CIA also misled the media.

The Senate committee found that author Ronald Kessler and former New York Times reporter Douglas Jehl were provided “inaccurate claims about the effectiveness of CIA interrogations, much of it consistent with the inaccurate information being provided by the CIA to policymakers at the time.” The report also found that a 2005 NBC “Dateline” story, which included both on-the-record and off-the-record claims from intelligence officials, featured “inaccurate” information touting gains from use of torture, according to the summary.

The classified disclosures to Kessler and Jehl were authorized, so there were no subsequent leak investigations, according to the report summary. There also is no record of a criminal investigation into the leak to “Dateline,” suggesting those classified disclosures were sanctioned as well.

The CIA’s public affairs office cooperated with Jehl on a March 2005 article he co-wrote with David Johnston. In the article, an unnamed senior U.S. official claims that “the intelligence obtained by those rendered, detained and interrogated have disrupted terrorist operations” and “saved lives in the United States and abroad.”

The report summary described how the CIA “decided to cooperate again” with Jehl in late 2005 for an article that would have appeared to portray the agency’s interrogation program in a flattering light. According to the report summary, Jehl “provided the CIA with a detailed outline of his proposed story, informed the CIA that he would emphasize that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques worked, that they were approved through an inter-agency process, and that the CIA went to great lengths to ensure that the interrogation program was authorized by the White House and the Department of Justice.”

Jehl, now foreign editor of The Washington Post, did not comment directly on the committee’s findings, but broadly defended his work during that period.

“As a national security reporter for The Times in 2005, I worked aggressively to pursue and publish stories about the CIA’s harsh interrogation of terrorist suspects, at a time when those details remained highly classified,” Jehl said. “I am proud of the work that my Times colleagues and I did in bringing these CIA practices to light. I was not interviewed for the Senate report, and would never comment on reporting that was based on confidential conversations with current and former U.S. government officials.’’

The leak to Kessler for his book, The CIA At War, wasn’t investigated either, because it didn’t contain “first time disclosures” and because the CIA’s public affairs office “provided assistance” for it, according to the report summary. The CIA cooperated again with Kessler in 2007 for another book in order to “push back” against the FBI. The CIA believed the FBI was overstating its role in fighting terrorism and the effectiveness of its own interrogation of suspects. After consulting with the CIA, Kessler wrote how the agency “could point to a string of successes and dozens of plots that were rolled up because of coercive interrogation techniques.”

“The statements in the revised text on the ‘successes’ attributable to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were similar to CIA representations to policymakers and were incongruent with CIA records,” the report’s summary concluded.

Kessler told The Huffington Post that his interaction with the CIA on these books wasn’t out of the ordinary. He said he had similarly gone directly to the FBI in the course of his reporting.

“I solicited their cooperation,” Kessler said. “Of course they told the story they wanted to tell. It was standard reporting. Nothing nefarious.”

Kessler said the committee’s report is a “fraud” and waste of taxpayer dollars. “When it comes to its effectiveness, Leon Panetta, to me, has closed the case,” Kessler said, a reference to the former CIA director’s past statements on the use of torture techniques.

In his recent book, Panetta wrote that “we got important, even critical intelligence from individuals subjected to these enhanced interrogation techniques.” He also wrote that it’s unknown “whether those were the only ways to elicit that information.”

NYTimes Dealbook’s Dishonest Salvo at Elizabeth Warren Over Calling Out an Unqualified Nominee for Treasury Post

December 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

What is striking is the way that Sorkin and his colleagues have launched what amounts to a media war against Warren in defense of Weiss, and have shameless resorted to a drumbeat of Big Lies in the hope that their messaging will stick. The fact that they can’t even mount a proper case on its merits speaks volumes about Weiss’ qualifications for the job.

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