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Monday, June 30, 2014

Sentencing Due for Man Who Tried to Aid al-Qaida

Sentencing Due for Man Who Tried to Aid al-Qaida


Sentencing Due for Man Who Tried to Aid al-Qaida

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:08 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES — A California man who used Facebook to connect with al-Qaida and planned to train its fighters in Pakistan was scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 25, of Garden Grove, pleaded guilty in December to one count of attempting to assist a known terrorist organization.

The crime carries a penalty of up to 15 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release. He was scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter, who earlier voiced doubts about how Nguyen could have helped al-Qaida.

Nguyen’s attorney requested a shorter sentence by citing 14 other terrorism-related cases in which most received less than eight years in prison.

Between August and October 2013, Nguyen met several times with a man he thought was an al-Qaida recruiter but who was actually working for the FBI, according to court documents. Nguyen told the recruiter he was born to wage jihad and he agreed to travel to Pakistan via Mexico in order to train 30 al-Qaida fighters.

Nguyen was arrested at a Santa Ana bus terminal in October while waiting for a bus bound for Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Nguyen had a passport with a false name, along with a hard drive containing 180 weapons training videos, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Nguyen’s admission was outlined in a plea agreement filed in federal court.

Nguyen, who also went by the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, said he had traveled to Syria and for five months fought with rebel forces opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. While in Syria, Nguyen offered his services to al-Qaida but was turned down, according to federal prosecutors.

The World Cup Tactical Trend Yielding the Most Success

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:06 AM PDT

sportsillustrated

By Liviu Bird

The most interesting tactical trend at the 2014 World Cup has been an increase in nations using systems with three center backs. Teams starting matches with these systems have won 11 matches, lost three and drawn four, and all three of the losses were against teams using a similar system.

After Surviving Group, USA Out to Set New Standard

The re-emergence of three-back systems may have been a direct response to the tiki-taka trend sparked in Spain nearly a decade ago. The Spanish system favors central overloads by the midfielders, a false No. 9 and central wingers, leaving fullbacks to provide width in attack. Systems with just two or three central midfielders end up overwhelmed, but playing one less in the back allows for an extra in midfield.

After a certain point, a central overload becomes stifling. A 5-on-2 situation is conducive to keeping the ball in tight spaces, but 5-on-5 means passing lanes disappear. That's how the Netherlands beat Spain 5-1 in their rematch of the 2010 final to open Group B play.

USA vs. Belgium Stadium Primer: Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova

Stefan De Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi played the man-marker roles, tracking runners into midfield, while Jonathan De Guzmán and Nigel De Jong acted as destroyers in holding roles. The wingbacks recovered and pinched in to maintain a solid back line when De Vrij and Martins Indi tracked runners, and Spain couldn't establish a rhythm in possession.

Upon regaining possession, the wingbacks bombed forward, exploiting space created by the opposition's overlapping fullbacks. Daley Blind turned in a Man of the Match performance with two assists.

The Dutch struggled against Australia for the same reason they succeeded in the first match: their 5-3-2 is set up to counterattack, which provided the perfect antidote to Spain's system, but it didn't help the Oranje push the tempo against an inferior Australian side. Louis van Gaal moved to 4-3-3 in the second half to secure the victory after allowing Australia to control the tempo and expend energy in the first.

Louis van Gaal’s Methods Make the Dutch World Cup Contenders Again

Similarly, van Gaal moved to 4-3-3 after Mexico took a 1-0 lead in their round of 16 match on Sunday. Again, the system switch provided numbers in attack, and, along with the timely introduction of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Robin van Persie, was the difference in winning on two late goals. Against Mexico and Australia were the only matches in which the Oranje possessed the ball more than 50 percent of the time, at 55 and 52 percent, respectively.

In the final group match, Chile attacked for most of the game, but van Gaal's team scored twice in the last 15 minutes to win 2-0 when La Roja tired and dropped off, much as Mexico did as a response to being up 1-0 with just 30 minutes remaining.

Chile was a perfect contrast to the Dutch with its high-pressure system based on collective work rate. In the round of 16 on Saturday, Brazil only completed 69 percent of its passes in the first 90 minutes before Jorge Sampaoli's side ran out of gas again and played to survive extra time without losing.

In Chile, the three-back system started with Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed "El Loco" for the radical tactical permutations he implemented with the national team. Bielsa is a theorist akin to a quantum-mechanical physicist, his strategies detailed like NASA launch code.

Sampaoli is one of many managers influenced by Bielsa. The list also includes Pep Guardiola, Gerardo Martino and Diego Simeone, whose Atlético Madrid team best resembles Sampaoli's Chile in its defensive strategy and lethal counterattack.

Sampaoli built on Bielsa's system, but the chief feature remains: high defensive pressure that leads to immediate vertical play upon regaining the ball. Chile doesn't play much in the central channel in possession. Instead, the wingbacks and attackers pull wide to find space created by the Chilean defensive swarm in the middle.

The players' work rate allows the team shape to shrink and expand rhythmically depending on the location of the ball and the match situation. The center backs pull wide when building out of the back, and all three are comfortable with the ball at their feet, also advancing into midfield. Out of possession, the entire team squeezes centrally and applies pressure.

Heartbreak for El Tri: Three Thoughts on the Netherlands’ win over Mexico

The difference in Chilean players' average positions against Spain and the Netherlands shows the team's dichotomy. Against Spain, the forward line stayed central to prevent easy play out of the back, with the wingbacks pressuring the Spanish fullbacks. Against the Dutch, Chile controlled most of the possession, necessitating a wider starting position from each player.

Against Spain, the shape could be best described as 3-4-1-2, with two holding midfielders screening the center backs and Arturo Vidal running the central channel to connect midfield and attack on both sides of the ball.

Miguel Herrera: Mexico is Going Home, and So Should the Referee

Against the Netherlands, it was closer to 3-3-1-3, the fringe players forming a circle around the field with Charles Aránguiz and Marcelo Díaz running the middle. (Coaches with possession philosophies will immediately recognize the shape as a field-encompassing rondo.)

Chile's downfall was the same as Simeone's Atlético in the Champions League final. It's extremely difficult to play at the intensity necessary for a high-pressure system for 90 minutes, let alone 120. Simeone's team gave up a back-breaking goal in extra time and ended up losing in a landslide, and while Sampaoli's troops never conceded that goal to Brazil, they were physically spent and had to cling to the possibility of winning in penalties, spending most of the final half-hour inside their own defensive third.

Costa Rica's three-back system also suffocates the middle defensively, playing a box-shaped central midfield. The Ticos' shape becomes a flat 5-4-1 when the opponent gains obvious control in its own defensive third, using visual cues to pressure in midfield.

In attack, right-sided center back Óscar Duarte pushes higher than the left side, allowing wingback Cristian Gamboa to push higher and Bryan Ruíz to tuck in from the right wing alongside Joel Campbell on the front line.

Against Italy, Andrea Pirlo was pressured immediately any time he received the ball. With two Ticos as holding midfielders, one could always step to the ball, the indented winger on each side working to support his partner.

The three-back system is engrained in Italian culture, with catenaccio taking hold in the 1980s. The diamond midfield and 4-1-4-1 formations Cesare Prandelli used in recent times also packed the middle of the field, but he played 5-4-1 in the final group match against Uruguay, intensifying the effect.

Italy started with a triangle midfield and two strikers, moving to a diamond and a lone forward after halftime. Uruguay countered with its own three-back system, but instead of adding numbers in the middle, it played with a flat line of three midfielders who limited forward ball circulation and limited service to Pirlo.

Cutting off Italy's ability to go through the middle meant the Azzurri resorted to long, diagonal balls and crosses into the penalty area. Uruguay kept numbers back, winning every aerial duel in its own 18-yard box and limiting Italy to two successful crosses on 18 attempts.

Uniquely, Mexico's three-back system is not about central overloads but wide isolation. Wingbacks Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layún have freedom to get forward faster, and the top points of the midfield triangle, Héctor Herrera and Andrés Guardado, pull wide to create two-on-one situations.

Brazil Survives, Outlasts Chile in Emotional, Tense Knockout Clash

The trend mostly applies on the left side, through Layún and Guardado. As the ball moves from the middle to the flank, Guardado runs wide to create the isolation. In the middle, forwards make third-man runs to exploit gaps in the opposition back line as defenders adjust.

Layún also cuts inside to combine or take long shots. At the same time, he rarely leaves the team exposed defensively. He was one of Mexico's hardest workers this World Cup, recording the largest number of sprints in all four matches.

El Tri's system presents a double-jeopardy situation to opponents: either defend the 2-on-1 and leave the middle open for the central midfielders and forwards to receive service, or leave the wide spaces open and allow easy combinations and crosses.

Defending and defensive-oriented tactics are alive and well among successful teams, even in a tournament of high-scoring matches and an era that has seen more goals than any before it.

The Netherlands — favored to make at least the semifinals — and Costa Rica won their groups with defense-heavy schemes, and Chile's prowess without the ball was a perfect example of using an opponent's possession to the defensive team's advantage. At the same time, every team with a three-back system has provided moments of explosive offense on par with those fully engrained in the tiki-taka philosophy.

With the widespread knowledge of tactics in an age of technology and reflection, football may not see new advancements in that area. Instead, old ideas are likely to resurface and evolve to modernity through slight tweaks — man-marking center backs who can also build out of the back or teams that high pressure not just for 45 or 90 minutes at a time, but for tournaments and seasons in their entirety thanks to modern fitness training.

In a World Cup where new technologies are all the rage, whether it's in the Brazuca, training regimens or player tracking that provides seemingly endless analytics, it's the decades-old idea of playing three center backs that has been the most intriguing development.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

The World Cup Is the Most Talked-About Event in Facebook History

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:02 AM PDT

The World Cup is not only netting record ratings on television—it's breaking boundaries on social media too. The soccer tournament is now the most-discussed event ever on Facebook, having racked up more than 1 billion interactions from 220 million users between June 12 and June 29, according to Reuters. That puts the event ahead of this year's Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and Academy Awards combined.

In support of the event, Facebook launched a dedicated Page that offers live updates of matches in progress and gathers photos and media reports from the World Cup. The company is in the midst of a battle with Twitter to become the destination where people discuss live TV events online. Twitter has its own World Cup portal and announced Friday that 300 million tweets related to the tourney had been posted since group play started. The figure is double the number of tweets sent during the 2012 Summer Olympics. By the time a World Cup champion is crowned on July 13, these social media companies will already be big winners thanks to the huge traffic the matches have driven to their sites.

Officials: Israel Finds Bodies of Kidnapped Teens

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:00 AM PDT

(JERUSALEM) — Security officials say the Israeli military has discovered the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped in the West Bank earlier this month.

They say the bodies were found Monday near the village of Halhul, near the location where the teens disappeared on June 12.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in exchange for releasing the information ahead of a formal announcement.

The search for the teens has become a national obsession, setting off a frantic manhunt and large crackdown on the Hamas militant group.

Amanda Bynes’ New York Bong-Tossing Case Dismissed

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:47 AM PDT

NEW YORK — The bong-tossing case against Amanda Bynes was dismissed Monday after the actress complied with the judge’s orders to stay out of trouble and go to counseling.

Bynes, 28, was charged last year with reckless endangerment and marijuana possession. Building managers called police because they said she was smoking pot in the lobby of her Manhattan residence. When officers entered her 36th-floor apartment, they said they saw her heave a bong out the window.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Lori Petersen sealed the case after the dismissal. Bynes’ lawyer appeared in court; she was not present.

The court previously had said the charges would be dismissed if Bynes stayed out of trouble and went to counseling twice a week. Attorney Gerald Shargel submitted an affidavit saying Bynes had complied with the court’s requirements.

“She did her counseling and it’s now all behind her,” Shargel said outside court.

In February, Bynes pleaded no contest to alcohol-related reckless driving for clipping a Los Angeles County sheriff’s patrol car in April 2012. She was sentenced to three years of probation and three months of attending alcohol education classes.

She received psychiatric treatment last year after authorities said she set a small fire in the driveway of a home in Thousand Oaks, California.

Bynes was 13 when she landed her own hit variety program, “The Amanda Show” on Nickelodeon. She went on to star in the TV series “What I Like About You” and several movies, including “What a Girl Wants,” ”Hairspray” and “She’s the Man.”

She has publicly stated that she has retired from acting. Her last film credit was 2010′s “Easy A,” which starred Emma Stone.

Religious Groups Divided on Hobby Lobby Ruling

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:42 AM PDT

On Sunday night, Hobby Lobby was simply a craft store. On Monday morning, it became the champion of religious liberty for conservative faith groups across the country.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 split decision on June 30 that closely-held corporations can hold religious views under federal law, meaning that religious for-profit companies can refuse to pay for the employee contraceptive coverage required by President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

Conservative Christian voices immediately praised the ruling and offered their prayers of thanksgiving. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the ruling, "one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation." Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator and Republican presidential candidate, described it as "a tremendous victory for our freedom of conscience." Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted "Hallejulah" within seconds, and then "Gave proof through the night that our First Amendment’s still there." Soon after, Moore posted on his blog, "This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets for joy."

A supporting chorus of the faithful around the country quickly added to the rejoicing. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Monday a "great day for the religious freedom of family businesses." George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God church, commended the court "for recognizing that individuals do not surrender their religious freedom rights when they incorporate as a closely held, for profit business." Brian Fisher, president of Online for Life, stated, "No person or entity should be forced to provide baby-killing drugs to their employees." Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, explained that the decision does not stop here: "I do believe that while this outcome validates this fundamental right, the many threats in both culture and society make religious liberty the quintessential civil rights issue of the 21st century."

It would be a mistake, however, to believe that all religious groups are pleased with Monday's ruling. Many religious leaders, Christian and non-Christian, see the decision as a setback for both the freedom of faithful practice and access to health care for which they have advocated for years. "The Court has privileged bosses and their corporations–who now are allowed to exercise religious belief, even though a corporation can’t sit in a pew–over women," said Rev. Dr. Althea Smith-Withers, who chairs the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, whose members include the American Jewish Committee, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ. "Contraception is a moral good, a fact supported by the various denominations and organizations that make up our coalition. It’s a shame that it may be out of reach for the women who need it the most."

Union Theological Seminary president Serene Jones called the decision a loss for Christians who desire to be faithful. "As a Christian, I believe that God creates human beings individually, and that the mark of our individual blessedness before God is our souls," she said in a statement. "I am horrified by the thought that the owners of Hobby Lobby as Christians think their corporation has a soul, and I'm even more appalled that the Supreme Court agrees."

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, is concerned that corporate owners now have more faith and health-related protections than their employees. "It is fairly stunning that the Supreme Court in today's Hobby Lobby ruling held that a corporation's owners can extend their religious preferences to the corporation's employees regardless of their employees' religious views," Campbell says. "It raises the serious concern about employees being able to get needed services."

The divide is a reminder that conservative religious groups are celebrating a broader victory. Yes, they transformed a dispute about health care coverage requirements into a symbolic case about religious freedom. But they have had few big culture war wins in recent years, especially as public opinion shifts in favor of marriage equality. The Hobby Lobby ruling—handed down on the last day of LGBT Pride month—is a bright spot for conservative Christians who feel besieged by cultural values they do not share.

The case's broader religious freedom implications, however, may be more limited than many victors might hope. The decision is based on a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the First Amendment more broadly. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, was careful to clarify the ruling is restrained in scope. "This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g. for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs," he wrote in the ruling. "Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice."

Israeli TV Stations Say Bodies of 3 Israeli Teens Kidnapped in West Bank Have Been Found

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:37 AM PDT

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli TV stations say bodies of 3 Israeli teens kidnapped in West Bank have been found.

How John Roberts’ Supreme Court Is Slowly Bridging the Political Divide

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Nine years into his service as Chief Justice, John Roberts may finally have shaped the nation's highest tribunal into a "Roberts Court." The term that ended on Monday was a reflection of goals that Roberts set during his 2005 confirmation hearings—more unanimous opinions, for example, and a more modest idea of the Supreme Court's role in society.

Despite two 5-to-4 splits on the final day of term, in cases involving union dues and the Affordable Care Act, the Roberts Court delivered unanimous opinions in more than 60 percent of the cases decided this year, the highest percentage in decades. That doesn't happen by accident. As the eminent Constitutional authority Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School has noted, a number of these 9-to-0 opinions contain significant disputes just beneath the surface. The Roberts Court is placing high value, in a time of polarized government, on finding common ground in spite of real philosophical differences.

And there was something distinctive about those 5-to-4 calls on the final day, as well. Faced with sharp splits that could not be papered over, Roberts assigned the same associate justice to write both of the opinions: Samuel Alito.

Alito is a fascinating judge—that is, if modesty and predictability happen to fascinate you. Arguably the purest conservative on the Court, Alito disdains the sort of flashy, rhetorical disagreement perfected by Antonin Scalia and former Justice John Paul Stevens, the dueling dissenters of the earlier Rehnquist Court. His Monday rulings reflected both his conservatism and his judicial modesty. In a case challenging the power of public employee unions to impose fees on non-members, Alito's opinion went against the union. But he stopped well short of the sweeping blow that anti-union politicians and pundits were hoping for.

Likewise, in a case asking whether the owners of private corporations can be forced to provide contraception methods that offend their religious beliefs, Alito anchored a majority in favor of the owners. But his opinion was hedged throughout. Questions of how the ruling might apply to publicly traded corporations, or whether it might apply to other religious convictions, were left for another day.

In 2005, Roberts famously compared this narrow approach to a baseball umpire calling balls and strikes. The umpire is not making a blanket ruling covering every conceivable pitch. The idea is to frame a strike zone and apply it consistently on a pitch-by-pitch basis. The fact that Alito wrote both of the last-day opinions suggests that he's the justice that Roberts wants behind the plate on the close calls. This matters because the Chief Justice has so few powers, and one of the most important is that when the Chief is part of the majority, he gets to choose the writer.

By such small increments, change comes to the Supreme Court. It is, by its nature, a slow-moving institution. And the Chief Justice is the least powerful of the leaders of the branches of American government—just one of nine voices, all with an equal say in which cases the Court will hear and how they will be decided. But step by step, opinion by opinion, Roberts is stamping his image on the institution. The term that ended on Monday put us clearly into the Roberts Court era.

Suarez Apologizes for Biting Opponent at World Cup

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:35 AM PDT

RIO DE JANEIRO — Luis Suarez has issued an apology to Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini for biting him during a World Cup match and vowed never to do it again.

The Uruguay striker says in a statement posted on Twitter on Monday that “I deeply regret what occurred,” and that “the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.”

Suarez was banned from all football for four months after the incident, which occurred during Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy in their group-stage game in Brazil. He had denied wrongdoing in a statement to FIFA, saying he simply collided with Chiellini’s shoulder.

Suarez apologized to Chiellini and “the entire football family,” and said “I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like (this).”

 

What If the New York Times Experimented on You Like Facebook?

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:09 AM PDT

Suppose a major media outlet had used you, unwittingly, in an experiment to study how its content could affect your emotions? Suppose The New York Times, or ABC News–or TIME magazine–had tweaked the content it displayed to hundreds of thousands of users to see if certain types of posts put readers in a certain frame of mind. The outcry would be swift and furious–brainwashing! mind control! this is how the biased media learns to manipulate us! It would be decried as not just creepy but professionally unethical. And it’s hard to imagine that the publication’s leadership could survive without promising it would never happen again.

Facebook, we recently learned, did just that: in a study conducted in 2012, the company adjusted the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users to display more positive or negative status updates, to determine whether and how the changes would affect users’ emotions. There was indeed an outcry; we may love spinning on the hamster wheel of social media but no one likes being an unwilling guinea pig. And one of the Facebook researchers behind the study apologized–well, sort of: he was sorry, anyway, “for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused.” But the company also noted that its users agree to this sort of thing when they agree to the terms of service. What? Don’t tell me you don’t read every terms of service you click on!

Sorry, that’s not good enough. As a company, Facebook may have every legal right to pursue its own interests–here, trying to ensure that its user experience is as engrossing as possible. But as one of the biggest filters through which people now receive news (along with update on their cousins’ dogs having puppies), Facebook has as much ethical obligation to deliver that experience without hidden manipulation as does a newspaper.

I know, I know: Facebook has said, repeatedly, that it is a tech and not a media company. I don’t blame it! If I were trying to sell stock in my own enterprise, I wouldn’t call myself a media company either.

But semantics aside, for practical purposes, the social media giant is definitely in the media business, whatever other businesses it’s also in. Facebook’s choices and mysterious algorithms increasingly affect the flow of traffic to news sites, and there fore how those sites package and choose their offerings. (Whether you ever see this post, and many others, will often depend on how well it carries on Facebook.) That Facebook is not mainly a media-content creator makes it no less massive a factor in the media ecosystem. And as such, it can’t complain about being held to a code of media ethics.

Let’s face it, Facebook is no more likely to really suffer from this blowup than over the past controversies over its privacy policies. But if it’s able to beg off from following the standards of media conduct while exerting a ever-greater influence over media, the rest of us will suffer. Facebook can put whatever it wants in the fine print. That shouldn’t keep us from saying that this kind of grossness is wrong, in bold letters.

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