Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dina Lohan Avoids Jail for Drunken Driving

Dina Lohan Avoids Jail for Drunken Driving

Dina Lohan Avoids Jail for Drunken Driving

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 11:06 AM PDT

MINEOLA, N.Y. — The mother of actress Lindsay Lohan won’t go to jail for speeding and driving drunk on a New York highway.

A judge ordered Dina Lohan on Tuesday to pay over $3,000 in fines and fees. She’ll also perform 100 hours of community service and participate in an anti-drunken driving program.

Her driver’s license remains suspended. The 51-year-old’s sentence includes a requirement that she install an alcohol-detecting ignition lock on her vehicle.

Lohan pleaded guilty in April to aggravated driving while intoxicated and speeding in Nassau County on Long Island in September. She has said she was fleeing paparazzi.

State police say Lohan, who lives in Merrick, was driving 77 mph in a 55-mph zone. They say her blood-alcohol level was 0.20, more than double the legal limit.

How to Change Course in Central African Republic

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Recent outrages in Bangui, the war-torn capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), lay bare that the world is dangerously close to failing the country once again.

On March 25, three Muslim boys went to play an interfaith football match in the city. Before they could reach the stadium, they were caught by fighters from the anti-balaka, the predominantly Christian militia. The boys were murdered and mutilated on the street, their chests cut open, their hearts ripped out and their penises cut off.

Just three days later, armed Muslim youths retaliated by attacking a church sheltering thousands of displaced persons. They used grenades and sprayed gunfire into helpless crowds, killing at least 15 and wounding 30. In response to the attack, youth pillaged and vandalized one of Bangui's last mosques. The fear that the anti-balaka and mobs of civilians will unleash their fury on the remaining Muslims of CAR, of which 80% have been forced to flee or have been killed, is palpable.

These gruesome attacks are part of a long-simmering socio-political crisis that has mobilized religious and ethnic communities against one another since December 2012. A cycle of tit-for-tat violence between the Séléka, the predominantly Muslim rebel alliance that overthrew the government of former President Francois Bozize in March 2013, and the anti-balaka, which surfaced in force in response to Séléka exactions against non-Muslims in CAR, has been devastating for civilians. Thousands of other lives have been lost, and there may be countless untold atrocities.

Warnings of the inadequacy of the response have been ringing for months. The 2,000 French troops and 5,800 African Union (AU) peacekeepers on the ground have been unable to quell rising violence and stem atrocities in CAR. They are overstretched and under-resourced. The response to the church attack is telling: AU troops were called, but arrived too late. While a 600- to 800-strong European Union force is currently deploying to patrol the airport and surrounding districts in Bangui, this is simply not enough.

With violence increasing in Bangui and the interior of CAR, drastic action must be taken. First, protection on the ground must be enhanced. Sites sheltering displaced persons, particularly churches and the few remaining mosques, must be permanently protected. AU and French forces have a mandate to use "all necessary means" to protect civilians; they should not hesitate to do so and disarm and neutralize armed groups threatening civilians.

The UN Security Council has mandated the deployment of a 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation to respond to the situation. But troops and police will only start deploying on September 15, 2014, and only through April 2015. CAR civilians can't wait that long. The Security Council should consider amending the mandate of the mission to get UN forces on the ground before September. The Security Council favored a flexible mandate for the mission that adapted to the realities on the ground; it's time to demonstrate that flexibility in the name of protecting civilians.

The UN Secretary-General's call for an additional 3,500 troops to bolster the AU and French troops must also be answered. Sizeable troop and police contributions from a few Western governments would have an immense impact on the ground. Additional African countries should also join the AU force, and the U.S. and EU countries should continue to assist them.

But troops alone will not be enough. The interim government is struggling immensely and needs urgent support from donors to revive it. Targeted investment in building the judicial capacities of the state and supporting local justice mechanisms is needed to help break the cycle of impunity. International experts should also be swiftly dispatched to CAR to assist the government in its mediation and reconciliation efforts. Finally, only 31% of the UN's appeal for humanitarian aid has been funded – donors must own up to their outstanding pledges as the impending rainy season adds further misery to CAR's displaced.

The world has a track record of failure in CAR. Unless we quickly change course, 20 years from now we'll be lamenting the insufficient response to yet another preventable tragedy in the heart of Africa. Conscience demands we write a new script in CAR.

Evan Cinq-Mars works with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Egypt’s Ex-Army Chief Declared New President

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:41 AM PDT

CAIRO — Egypt’s former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was officially declared the next president Tuesday, winning elections to replace the Islamist leader he removed from the post last year.

The Election Commission announced the results of last week’s election, saying el-Sissi won a landslide victory with 96.9 percent of the vote, with turnout of 47.45 percent. El-Sissi garnered 23.78 million votes, while his sole rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, got 318,000 — lower than the 1.4 million invalid ballots cast in the polling.

After the announcement, several hundred people gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square set off fireworks, cheered and sang pro-military songs.

El-Sissi’s victory was never in doubt, but the career infantry officer had pushed for a massive turnout as well to bestow legitimacy on his ouster last July of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the ensuing crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist supporters.

“It’s a historic moment for the Egyptian history and for Arab nations’ history,” said Karem Mahmoud, head of el-Sissi campaign, told state TV.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, a major backer of el-Sissi and a relentless opponent of the Brotherhood, quickly congratulated him and said his victory would mean an end to the turmoil of the past three years since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in a 2011 popular uprising.

“This is a historic day,” the king said in a letter on the Saudi state news agency. “the brotherly egyptian people has suffered in the past period of chaos. Some of those short sighted called it the creative chaos.” He called for donors conference to help Egypt “get out of the tunnel,” referring to its wrecked economy.

El-Sissi’s vows of stability drew him widespread support — fanned by months of fervent nationalist rhetoric praising him in almost all Egyptian media. The retired military chief removed Morsi on July 3 after massive protests by the president against the Islamist president and his Muslim Brotherhood, and since then, media have depicted el-Sissi as the nation’s savior.

Critics, however, fear the career military man will bring back aspects of Mubarak’s authoritarian rule. Since Morsi’s ouster, new laws have clamped down on protests, and during his campaign el-Sissi showed little tolerance for dissent that might disrupt his drive to impose stability. On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced plans to increase surveillance of the Internet for a variety of “dangers” — ranging from extremism to “humiliating mockery” of officials.

El-Sissi’s victory was dented by the extraordinary means used by the military-backed government to drum up a large turnout for the election. After signs that the turnout on the first of two scheduled days of voting on Monday was a lowly 15 percent, the government declared the next day a national holiday to free people to go to polls. The election commission threatened to slap fines of $70 — a hefty sum for most Egyptians — on those who did not vote.

When Tuesday polling still seemed low, the commission abruptly extended the election to a third day. The state made bus and train travel free to allow migrants to return to home districts to vote. Throughout the day, TV networks berated Egyptians as “ungrateful” and “traitors” for not voting.

Turnout on the third day was 10 percent, said Anwar el-Assi, the commission’s president. He said the third day was added because a heat wave the first two days kept many voters from the polls.

El-Sissi has said it will take 25 years to bring a real democracy to Egypt and has spoken out against too many freedoms that cause turmoil, amid an already shrinking space for political activity. That has raised many Egyptians’ fears that his presidency will bring an increased clampdown on dissent and a return of police power.

In the latest sign, Egypt’s most popular satirist Bassem Youssef announced Monday the cancellation of hiss landmark weekly TV show, Egypt’s answer to Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” which lambasted presidents and politicians. He blamed pressure on the station airing it and a climate in the country that no longer accepts satire.

In more alarming step, the Interior Ministry, in charge of police, announced plans to set a new surveillance system over the Internet to monitor social networking sites for a wide range of forms of dissent, as well as for extremist activity. On Monday, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim announced the plans, insisting they did not aim to infringe on freedom of expression.

But an Interior Ministry document on the plans published by the pro-military newspaper Al-Watan listed a wide variety of perceived threats on social media, which the document said is used to express “contempt for religion,” ”spread rumors and tarnish facts with bad intentions,” ”humiliate through mockery”, ” and encourage “extremism, violence, rebellion, rallying for demonstrations, sit-ins and illegal strikes.”

“In light of such grave and dangerous security challenges,” the document said, “the ministry decided to set up a system to spot security dangers on social media through expansive search process.” The document said the ministry had asked companies to present bids to set up the monitoring system.

Social media were one of the main vehicles for engineering the 2011 uprising that led to Mubarak’s fall and the collapse of its police apparatus.

Hazem Abdel-Azem, a former IT official and now a member of el-Sissi’s presidential campaign, told the private CBC TV network that previously the ministry monitored the Internet “manually” and that now it is looking for “a new system.”

The announcement raised a storm of outrage on Egyptian social media sites. Some activists, however, said the plans may aim more to intimidate, since monitoring software is widely available on line.

“I think the report was only meant to create panic among users of social media,” said Hossam el-Hamalawy, an activist in the Revolutionary Socialists, in a comment on his Facebook page.

Florida Judge Deals Out Justice With His Fists

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:31 AM PDT

It took less than 30 seconds for a public defender and a judge to take a courtroom dispute “out back” and settle the disagreement mano a mano.

Closed-circuit camera footage shows a debate about “docket sounding” escalating into openly stated desires to beat and bludgeon one another. "You know if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now,” Judge John Murphy says to public defender Andrew Weinstock.

“You know what? I’m the public defender, I have a right to be here,” replied Weinstock.

“I said sit down,” the judge says. “If you want to fight let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.”

Moments later the two men walk off screen and presumably out back, where cursing and loud pounding noises can be heard from inside the courtroom. Public Defender Blaise Trettis told Florida Today that Murphy grabbed Weinstock and punched him in the head.

Only the judge returns from the scuffle winded. “I will catch my breath eventually,” he says. Applause from those in the courtroom can be heard.

Public Defender Blaise Trettis told Florida Today “I hope it’s not a reflection on Judge Murphy’s really outstanding legal career,” Trettis said, adding, “If it’s true, you know, I think it’s really an uncharacteristic, isolated incident.”


Behind Creepypasta, the Internet Community That Allegedly Spread a Killer Meme

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:29 AM PDT

First they were called chain emails, and they were sent by people like your weird aunt who always wore a Big Dog t-shirt.

An online version of physical chain letters, chain emails propagated hoaxes and urban legends by convincing people they would either receive a monetary reward for forwarding the emails, or that they would fall on bad luck if they didn’t. As the web grew, chunks of copy-and-pasted text proliferated outside of emails, on message boards and Usenet groups and social networks, eventually becoming an integral part of the Internet’s history. Now, one viral urban legend kept alive by copy and pasting has allegedly driven two 12-year-olds in Wisconsin to try to kill their friend.

Chain emails in the 1990′s resonated with readers the same way that modern “clickbait” headlines do now: Appeal to a reader’s emotional side, and they’re far more likely to share whatever it is you’re peddling. Tell them something terrible will happen to them if they delete it, or that sharing a feel-good story about a blind dog will make them a better person, and suddenly you have a viral sensation. Chain emails were one of the first vehicles for web virality. And aside from vicious spammers and people who tried to convince you to hand over your bank account information, they were (and are) mostly harmless.

Around 2006, viral copy-and-pasted text was coined “Copypasta” by the online community 4chan, and began splintering into different genres. Copypasta’s most popular genre is Creepypasta, bits of copy-and-pasted text that convey scary stories and unsettling urban legends. Creepypasta writers take popular urban legends—remember the legend of Bloody Mary?—or create entirely new subjects and fashion online stories with the intent to totally freak out the reader. They’re basically short, shareable user-generated ghost stories that can focus on anything from the especially gruesome, like murder and suicide, to the creepy and otherworldly, like aliens and zombies. The most popular hangout for writers of this genre is the Creepypasta Wiki, where they can trade stories and connect with each other.

Creepypasta hit peak popularity with a 2010 New York Times story, but it still lives on. Popular Creepypastas include Ted the Caver, stories about a man spelunking a mystery cave, and Lavender Town Syndrome, a series about a fictional town that tried to cover up mass child suicides. Slender Man, who is arguably the most well-known Creepypasta character, is the reason the two Wisconsin 12-year-olds allegedly attempted to fatally stab their friend: in order to pay tribute to him.

Though Slender Man originated on online forum Something Awful, the majority of tales about him live on the Creepypasta Wiki. There are so many that the Wiki no longer accepts new stories about him. And now that Creepypasta has been thrust into the spotlight for horrifying reasons, the owners of have released a statement addressing the attempted murder.

In the statement, admin “derpbutt” (yep, that’s the name he uses) says he tried to nudge Slender Man out of the community, but not because he thought it was dangerous:

I've been trying to encourage writers here to break out from the serial killers and Slenderman cliches that tend to overrun the Creepypasta fandom, though my motivation was less that I believed Slenderman was harmful (the Jeff the Killer fangirls and spin-offs, I did find somewhat troubling – I've mentioned before that I feel romanticizing serial killers is not really something I feel comfortable with promoting via publishing all the Jeff love stories and self-inserts that people tried to submit; the only Jeff spin-off I did let through was one that I felt had a decidedly non-romantic view) but more because I view this website as a place for people to become better writers and readers

A Creepypasta Wiki administrator who goes by the username Sloshedtrain also chimed in with a blog post called “Fiction, Reality, and You.”

“This wiki does not endorse or advocate for killing, worship, and otherwise replication of rituals of fictional works,” Sloshedtrain wrote. “There is a line of between fiction and reality, and it is up to you to realize where the line is. We are a literature site, not a satanic cult.”

Jonah Hill Apologizes for Homophobic Slur on Paparazzi

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:25 AM PDT

Actor Jonah Hill gave an extensive apology on the Howard Stern Show Tuesday morning for a homophobic slur he fired off at a paparazzo this weekend.

A video posted on TMZ captured the star shouting, “Suck my d***, you f*****!”

Hill, who will soon appear in the comedy sequel 22 Jump St, apologized for his “disgusting” words and clarified that he was upset because “from the day I was born, and publicly, I’ve been a gay-rights activist.” Hill said that what truly disappointed him was that the word he used wasn’t a part of his daily lexicon, as he grew up with gay family members and will stand in a gay friend and coworker’s wedding.

“This person had been following me around all day, had been saying hurtful things about my family, really hurtful things about me personally,” Hill explained. “And I played into exactly what he wanted and lost my cool. And in that moment, I said a disgusting word that does not at all reflect how I feel about any group of people… I'm not at all defending my choice of words, but I'm happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say and how those words — even if you don't intend them — and how they're rooted in hate and that's bullshit and I shouldn't have said that.”

When a Very Pregnant Amy Poehler Met Rising Star Jon Hamm

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:19 AM PDT

It’s safe to assume that your favorite actors are all friends with one another. (Or, in the case of Paul Rudd, best friends with everyone ever.) If you assumed that was the case for Jon Hamm and Amy Poehler, it turns out you’d be correct. When Hamm — riding high off the conclusion of Mad Men‘s second season — hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time, he left quite the impression on Poehler, who was very, very pregnant at the time. Here’s what Poehler had to say in her soon-t0-be-released memoir, Yes Please:

Jon Hamm was hosting Saturday Night Live, his first time, and I was just getting to know him, and we were doing a sketch, a Mad Men sketch, I was dressed in an old-timey way, in a big dress, and I was huge. And I had, my plan was that I was gonna do the Jon Hamm show and I was due the next day. And it was an example of the beginning of what children do to you, which is they fuck up all your plans. So I remember saying to my doctor, Dr. G, ‘I’m gonna do the show and I’ll come in Sunday, and maybe we’ll do it Sunday/Monday.’

I did the sketch, I was shooting with Hamm on Friday, and I called my doctor ’cause at the end there you kind of have to call in every day, and the receptionist was crying. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and she said, ‘Oh, he passed away last night.’

I was due the next day. So it’s my first kid, I’m in a Mad Men outfit, I turn to everybody and I hysterically start crying, and a really pregnant woman crying is terrifying. So, juicy tears just like squirting out of my eyes. And it was like the punch line to a joke, it’s like, my doctor just died and I’m due tomorrow. And Jon Hamm, who I am just getting to know, comes over and puts his hands on my shoulder and is like, ‘This is a really important show for me. I’m gonna need you to get your shit together.’ And I laughed so hard, I probably peed myself – I believe that going through crying to laughing adds like five years to your life.

To summarize: Amy Poehler and Jon Hamm are both the best, and even though you’ll probably never have friends this funny or cool, at least you’ll be able to enjoy stories like this. Yes Please is currently slated for an Oct. 28 release.


“Eat Less, Exercise More” Isn’t The Answer For Weight Loss

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:17 AM PDT

You’ve heard it before: To lose weight, simply eat less and exercise more. In theory, that makes sense. Actually, it’s not just in theory—science has proven that burning more calories than you consume will result in weight loss. But the trouble is that this only has short-term results. For long-term weight loss, it simply doesn’t work, say renowned obesity experts in a recent JAMA commentary.

Ultimately their argument is this: stop counting calories. “We intuitively know that eat less exercise more doesn’t work. It’s such simple advice that if it worked, my colleagues and I would be out of job,” says Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children's Hospital. “The uncomfortable fact is that an exceedingly small number of people can lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off following that advice.”

Blaming excess weight on people simply not changing their eating habits goes back thousands of years. Sloth and gluttony are two of the seven deadly sins, after all. But Ludwig and Dr. Mark L. Friedman of the Nutrition Science Initiative in San Diego, argue that this mindset disregards decades of research on the biological factors that control body weight. And they are not just talking about the role genetics play. They say we should stop viewing weight as something separate from other biological functions—like hormones and hunger and the effects of what foods we eat, not just how much of them.

What, then, is causing the obesity epidemic? The authors say it’s refined carbohydrates. Sugar and processed grains like white bread which have become ubiquitous in our diets, and one of the reasons refined carbs is the prime culprit is that we’ve spent far too long chastising fat. “We have to forget the low-fat paradigm,” says Dr. Ludwig. “Some high fat foods like avocado, nuts and olive oil are among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat.”

Refined carbohydrates spike insulin levels. Insulin, as Ludwig describes, is the granddaddy of anabolic hormones. Basically, when you eat a lot of refined carbs, like say, a 100-calorie pack of Oreos, it causes a surge of insulin that will trigger your fat cells to soak up calories—but there are not enough calories and nutrients to provide the energy that our bodies need. The brain recognizes this discrepancy and triggers a hunger response that also slows our metabolism. We are then going to want to eat more.

Instead of counting calories, we should be focusing on the quality of the food we consume, says Ludwig. “If you just try to eat less and exercise more, most people will lose that battle. Metabolism wins,” says Ludwig. “Simply looking at calories is misguided at best and potentially harmful because it disregards how those calories are affecting our hormones and metabolism—and ultimately our ability to stick to a diet.”


Police: Thieves Steal $15,000 Worth of Legos

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:11 AM PDT

Last month at Toyworld, a massive toy store north of Melbourne, Australia, robbers removed the store's glass door panes, walked in, removed a CCTV hard drive, and stole $15,000 worth of Lego kits in two separate raids with the help of an escape van, according to police, AAP reports. In the thefts, Legos were the only goods taken—specifically, Lego Technics, the brand's robotics line, and Lego City toys.

The professionalism of the operation suggests that the theives could be "could be part of a syndicate that are specifically targetting Lego," according to Australia's 3AW Radio. In fact, there's a rash of Lego crime going on, and not just because the Police Building Kit is apparently on a lunch break. Legos are highly portable and easily resold, plus they're more popular than ever as of late—the Lego Movie has earned over $400 million worldwide.

Either the robbers are capitalizing on a trend for commercial toys to profitably break the law in the Lego black market, or they were just inspired by the movie to create their own version of Legoland. And if it's the latter, can we really blame them?

How the Bergdahl Story Went from Victory to Controversy for Obama

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:08 AM PDT

Rarely has a story turned on the White House as quickly as the case of Bowe Bergdahl’s release.

It was a rare Saturday afternoon presidential announcement—and a most unusual one. Barack Obama appeared outside the White House in the spring sunshine with the parents of Bergdahl, an American soldier been held captive by the Afghan Taliban since 2009, to announce their son’s freedom.

“This morning, I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that after nearly five years in captivity, their son, Bowe, is coming home,” Obama said. “He wasn't forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin. And he wasn't forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”

The first round of media coverage was triumphal, reflecting the president’s tone. “Obama Welcomes Release of Captured Soldier” proclaimed the Washington Post. ABC trumpeted “The Remarkable, Top-Secret Deal with the Taliban to Free US Soldier.”

An NBC story concluded with this uplifting exchange between Obama and Bergdahl’s mother: “Embracing President Obama later, she could be heard saying, ‘Yes, it's a good day.’” Top administration officials chimed in with a flurry of celebratory tweets. In a fell swoop, the political media’s obsession with the resignation of Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki had been replaced with a stirring new drama.

It wasn’t long, however, before the many shades of gray that define the deal to release Bergdahl came to light. Republicans, military veterans and political analysts questioned everything from the price—five once-senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay—paid for Bergdahl, to Obama’s failure to give Congress expected notice of the deal, to Bergdahl’s own complicated story, one of possible desertion in a war zone.

By Tuesday, a reporter traveling with Obama in Poland even seemed to imply that the president hadn’t known the full details of Bergdahl’s story when he first announced the deal on Saturday: “I wanted to ask you if you have learned more about the circumstances of Sergeant Bergdahl's capture, and whether he could be facing punishment given that the Pentagon has concluded that he left his unit?”

“The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is we don't leave our men or women in uniform behind,” Obama replied, adding that “regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don't condition that.”

Current and former administration officials say the White House knew full well how politically charged and complicated the Bergdahl deal would be (even if, as the sources suggest, they may have underestimated the bitterness of his fellow combat veterans). Which is why some wonder why it was presented in such an uplifting fashion, with little or no effort to pre-empt the inevitable criticisms.

“Why not roll out the announcement in a low key fashion?” asks a former White House official, “e.g., no personal statement from Obama, no appearance with the family, no tweets on what a great day this is?”

Compounding the question of tone was national security advisor Susan Rice’s comment on ABC’s This Week that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction,” a phrase that White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to endorse at a Monday briefing that might’ve left Carney nostalgic for last week’s VA mania.

White House officials would not comment on their media strategy. But Tommy Vietor, a former national security council spokesman, strongly disputed the idea that the White House had oversold the Bergdahl deal. “We should be celebrating the return of Bowe Bergdahl, it’s a wonderful thing,” Vietor said, adding: “This is an important event in the history of the Afghan war. And also it’s a complicated effort. I think you need to explain to the American people what happened and why it’s important. You have a chance to make your case and explain it, and you know there are going to be complications so you do it in as robust a way as you can.”

Vietor says Republicans would have pounced on Obama regardless of how the news was disclosed. “It’s probably inevitable that there were going to be political criticisms, though I think it’s shocking the degree to which Republicans are going after Bowe and his family.”

Bergdahl’s parents add one more shade of gray to the story. Their presence at the White House on Saturday was the apparent product of coincidence: the couple had visited the capitol for a Memorial Day event and then stayed in town for meetings in Congress. Had they been at home in Idaho when the deal was announced, they likely would not have flown to Washington to appear with Obama—and a key visual element of the drama, replayed endlessly on television, might not have occurred.

That’s relevant given that conservatives are now accusing Robert Bergdahl of developing Taliban sympathies. The elder Bergdahl has said he grew his long beard, in the style of some devout Muslims, to better emphathize with his son’s captors. In hopes of communicating with them online, he also learned Pashto, and spoke a few words of the Afghan language at the White House Saturday—prompting a bemused smile from President Obama. Above all, critics point to a recent (and subsequently deleted) tweet in which Robert Bergdahl wrote: "I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen." [sic]

One might forgive the parent of a hostage for saying whatever he thinks his son’s captors want to hear. Whether it makes sense to associate the president with that parent is, seemingly like everything to do with the Bergdahl saga, a more complicated question.

With reporting by Zeke Miller and Tessa Berenson


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