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Alberto Nisman’s Death Exposes Tainted Justice System (Al-Jazeera America)

Thousands of people took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Wednesday to participate in a silent march in solidarity with Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who accused the government of a massive cover-up last month and turned up dead just before he was supposed to testify before Congress a few days later.

The circumstances of his death were mysterious and remain so. Earlier this month, forensic experts found the DNA of another, as-yet unidentified person in Nisman’s apartment, where he apparently committed suicide on Jan. 18. Last week another federal prosecutor said there were legitimate grounds to investigate Nisman’s allegations that the president and her foreign minister conspired with Iran to protect suspects in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Since so little is known about the nature of Nisman’s death — and, for that matter, the validity of his accusations against the government — Wednesday’s march has given rise to all manner of insinuation about what, exactly, is motivating demonstrators. The government has accused them of plotting to destabilize the state. And others are calling the march an electoral campaign in a swipe at opposition politicians and government figures who are looking to brand (or rebrand) themselves in the run-up to the presidential election later this year.

At the center of the debate both about the march and what Nisman’s death portends for Argentina is a group of prosecutors who worked alongside Nisman in the Public Ministry and are organizing the demonstrations. They have disavowed any political agenda, even if by marching they’re implicitly criticizing the government.

Keep reading: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/2/18/prosecutors-death-exposes-argentinas-tainted-justice-system.html

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Argentina Debates Intelligence Reform (Al-Jazeera America)

One week after the mysterious death of a state prosecutor who had accused the government of a major crime, the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced one of her government’s most sweeping policy reforms to date. She wants to dissolve the country’s Intelligence Secretariat (SI) and replace it with a new organization. Lawmakers and advocates have been trying for years to overhaul Argentina’s intelligence services but could never buck the entrenched institutional order. Now that the president is involved, the government has called for a special session of Congress to debate her proposal, and a Senate vote is expected Thursday.

Opposition parties, however, have refused to attend hearings on the law and vow to boycott the vote; they have decried the reform effort as the self-serving project of a beleaguered president. “The government is proposing a change in name only,” said Manuel Garrido, a congressman from Buenos Aires. “All the government’s doing is taking attention away from the Alberto Nisman case,” he added, in reference to the dead prosecutor.

Last month Nisman accused the president and her foreign minister of covering up a recent government agreement struck with Iran to protect suspects in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The perpetrators of the attack have never been brought to justice, and state-led investigations have crumbled because judges and prosecutors with close ties to the intelligence community have repeatedly been charged with corruption.

Keep reading: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/2/11/argentina-votes-on-sweeping-intelligence-reform-after-prosecutors-death.html

Elementary (The New Yorker)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar walked through the lobby of his hotel on Central Park South recently, doing his best impression of someone with a low profile. He swerved to avoid a chandelier (low clearance for a former N.B.A. center), then bumped into an old friend who’d been a coach with the Chicago Bulls. Handshakes, camera flashes. Finally, Abdul-Jabbar wriggled free. “I have somewhere to be,” he said, adjusting a white cashmere scarf over his blue pin-striped suit. He ducked through a doorway, took a few loping steps to the curb, and scrunched into the back of a black Suburban.

He was late for cocktails at the Yale Club, where the Baker Street Irregulars, an eighty-one-year-old Sherlock Holmes society, was hosting its annual dinner. Abdul-Jabbar—a Sherlockian since he began reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks, in 1969—was making his inaugural appearance. Earlier that week, Abdul-Jabbar had announced that he would soon publish his first novel, “Mycroft Holmes,” a thriller about Sherlock Holmes’s older brother. Conan Doyle’s Mycroft is old and haggard, “world-weary,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “We want to see how he was before he took his lumps from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

The car crept through midtown, and Abdul-Jabbar said, “I’m curious just to see who these people are.” He did an impression of Jonny Lee Miller, the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, on the CBS show “Elementary.” “I am not a nice man. I am acerbic. I get things done in my style,” he said, in a plummy English accent.

Keep reading: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/elementary

Waiting for the Garner Grand Jury (The New Yorker.com)

On July 17th, New York City policemen wrestled a forty-three-year-old man named Eric Garner to the ground in front of a beauty salon on Staten Island. They claimed to have seen Garner selling cigarettes illegally, something he’d been known to do. But not this time, he protested. “I did nothing,” he said. “I’m just here minding my own business, officer. … Please, just leave me alone!” Despite Garner’s pleas, Daniel Pantaleo, a plainclothesman wearing cargo shorts and a baseball cap, came up behind him and put him in a chokehold; while Garner writhed on the pavement, three other cops rushed in to cuff him. Garner was a large man—six feet three inches tall and three hundred and fifty pounds—and asthmatic. Within seconds he was unconscious, and within minutes, dead. He gasped his last words: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

Many of us have watched this scene, in a widely circulated video shot by a bystander. When Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, found out about the video on the night of her son’s death she felt, for a moment, a sense of relief. “I said to myself, ‘There is a God,’ ” she told me when we met at her Staten Island home this past weekend. At least there was clear evidence of what had happened to her son, Carr thought, although she could not bring herself to watch it.

Five months later, the video is at the center of the deliberations of a New York City grand jury, which is expected to decide any day whether there is enough evidence for prosecutors to bring charges against the police officers and proceed to trial. New York is one of some thirty states that usually rely on a grand jury to decide whether a felony case should go to trial. (Other states tend to have a judge make that determination.) The threshold for going to trial—probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed—is low, but prosecutors have notoriously wide latitude in terms of what they choose to present to a grand jury. Carr told me that her main concern, particularly after Ferguson, is that protracted deliberations mean that the prosecutor is essentially trying the case before the grand jury.

Keep reading: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/waiting-eric-garner-grand-jury

The World’s First Reddit Party (The New Yorker.com)

Last summer, Erik Martin, the general manager of the link-sharing site Reddit, whose job requires him to oversee online conversations about everything from My Little Pony to Islamic State propaganda, noticed something strange. A Spanish political party that he’d never heard of was using the Web site to organize. “We’ve never seen anyone use Reddit as an organizing tool, not like this,” he said. The party, called Podemos (We Can), was only a few months old at the time, but it had created a subreddit—in effect, a party home page hosted by Reddit—with more than two thousand subscribers and significant traffic. About two hundred people were visiting the page at any given time, and there were a million page views in the month of July alone. “This was all in a market”—in southern Europe—”where Reddit is not even that popular,” Martin said. On the party’s page, an array of filters directs users to caches of videos, proposals, debate topics, and news. There are “digital assemblies” (a sort of virtual plebiscite), “Ask Podemos” (question-and-answer sessions with party leaders), and “Podemos Plaza” (a freewheeling discussion via message board). The other day, one user linked to a grim news item meant to spawn a local protest initiative: the municipal government of Madrid had dedicated a plaza to Margaret Thatcher.

When Martin and I spoke over the summer, he admitted that he didn’t know much about Podemos: Was it a serious party with serious prospects or was it a group of idealistic interlopers? That question has been on the lips of Spaniards for months.

A Court Closes in Brooklyn (The New Yorker.com)

The Talmud has nothing to say about basketball, but it does include a word or two about the Sabbath. At a hardwood half-court on Eastern Parkway, in Brooklyn, there’s no shooting, screen-setting, or rebounding allowed between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, when the sound of squeaking sneakers and dribbled balls might disrupt the prayerful. The court belongs to a raggedy neighborhood gym called Eastern Athletic, which, for the past twenty-eight years, has leased the top six floors of the oldest reform synagogue in the borough.

John Turturro, the actor and director, has been playing at Eastern Athletic for more than twenty years, shoving and sparring on weekday mornings with a close-knit group of gym regulars. “It’s like therapy, only much cheaper than going to a psychiatrist,” he said between jump shots, while warming up for a recent morning pickup game. He was wearing gray Capri sweats and red-tipped CP3 sneakers. “You come here and get your ass kicked.”

It wasn’t immediately clear who would be administering the treatment. The elevator walls were covered in signs advertising “Shabbot for Tots” and a lesbian Jewish film night. The court, which has been there since the temple was established, in 1926, is walled off from a phalanx of weight machines and exercise equipment of nineties vintage. Two elderly men were sprawled on the floor, their legs splayed over medicine balls. An oldies station played over a patchy speaker system to a mostly empty house.

Keep reading: http://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/court-closes-brooklyn

Ciudad Juárez — A Documentary Mythology (The Guardian)

In September 2013 a woman in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, wrote an email to a local news outlet claiming responsibility for the murder of two bus drivers. She signed the note with a curious nom de guerre: “Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers”. The email announced that these killings were reprisals, an act of revenge for all the women who had been brutalized along Juárez bus routes over the years. Since the 1990s, hundreds of young women were disappearing in Juárez: kidnapped, raped, killed, then discarded in the desert.

The murders were too widespread to attribute to any single person or group. And yet, it was worse to consider the murders for what they were: a social trend, an epiphenomenon, a case of bloody mass misogyny. Some of the city’s bus drivers are said to have been involved in the rash of murders, as they ferried lone, vulnerable women to and from the factories where they worked, at odd hours of the night and on remote, dark stretches of desert road. It was believed that the men driving these buses had ties to drug cartels, or else committed barbarities simply because they could get away with them.

Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers, soon captured the attention of the international press, and before long local authorities were investigating. The pursuit was short-lived. It began to look like her initial email was a hoax, but even so Diana’s myth spread just the same. Her notoriety had made her real. Local residents told journalists that they admired her, that her killings were justified; some even seemed to take solace in the fact that she was out there – somewhere – meting out justice.

Keep reading: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/sep/03/juarez-play-review-murders-life-cartel-violence