Al-Qaida Suspect Appears In Federal Court In Pennsylvania

Ali Charaf Damache, known as “Black Flag,” arrives at the courthouse in Waterford, Ireland, in 2010. Damache appeared in a Philadelphia federal courtroom Friday on terrorism-related charges.

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Peter Morrison/AP

An al-Qaida-linked suspect who prosecutors say conspired to murder a Swedish cartoonist has been charged in federal court in Philadelphia, despite the Trump administration’s vow that alleged terrorists would be tried in military courts.

Prosecutors say Ali Charaf Damache, 52, an Algerian-born Irish citizen also known as “Black Flag,” was allegedly part of an Ireland-based cell that included Colleen R. LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman known as “Jihad Jane.” LaRose pled guilty in a U.S. court in 2011 to conspiracy and terrorism-related crimes. She is serving a 10-year sentence.

Friday’s court appearance for Damache, who is believed to be an al-Qaida recruiter, was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Boente and Lappen said Damache was being charged with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists.

Damache had been fighting extradition from Spain, where he was arrested in 2015 at the request of U.S. officials. He was first arrested in Ireland in 2010, but later released. Prosecutors say Damache and his co-conspirators were involved in a foiled plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had published a derogatory drawing of the Prophet Muhammad.

The New York Times writes that Damache appeared in federal court on Friday, where he waived his right to a swift arraignment. He said he had no cash or assets and that he needs his “legal representative that has been recommended by the Irish ambassador.”

Damache is the first foreign terrorism suspect brought to the U.S. since the start of the Trump administration six months ago.

As NPR’s David Welna reported days after the November election, Trump vowed of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to “load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”

And, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited the detention facility on July 7. “It is important for the Department of Justice to have an up-to-date understanding of current operations,” a DOJ spokesman said in a statement at the time. “The purpose of the trip is to gain that understanding by meeting with the people on the ground who are leading our government-wide efforts at GTMO.”

According to a Times story from 2013:

“Mr. Damache arrived in Ireland in 2000 and married an Irish woman in 2002. The relationship ended in 2008 and he then married an American citizen, Jamie Paulin Ramirez. Ms. Ramirez has pleaded guilty in the United States to charges of conspiring with Colleen LaRose, also known as Jihad Jane, to support and train terrorists.”

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Judge Promises Reduced Jail Time If Tennessee Inmates Get Vasectomies

As General Sessions Judge for White County, Tenn., Sam Benningfield says the vast majority of cases he hears are drug-related offenses. The opioid epidemic has hit the state especially hard — resulting in more than 1,400 drug overdose deaths there in 2015 alone, according to the CDC — and he felt an unusual solution would be necessary to drive home the dangers of illegal drugs for would-be parents.

So in May, Benningfield issued a standing order: If inmates at the White County Jail undergo a form of long-term contraception for free — a vasectomy for men or a nexplanon implant for women — they can shave 30 days off their sentence.

“I’m trying to help these folks begin to think about taking responsibility for their life and giving them a leg up — you know, when they get out of jail — to perhaps rehabilitate themselves and not be burdened again with unwanted children and all that comes with that,” Benningfield tells CBS News.

Others have not seen his order in the same light. After a local News Channel 5 report earlier this week, the order earned national headlines — and significant criticism, both in the county and beyond state lines.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the state American Civil Liberties Union, condemned the offer as “unconstitutional” in a statement:

“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional. Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it. Judges play an important role in our community — overseeing individuals’ childbearing capacity should not be part of that role.”

The decisions surrounding long-term contraception “are personal in nature,” Bryant Dunaway, the district attorney for the county, told News Channel 5 — “and I think that’s just something the court system should not encourage or mandate.”

But Benningfield, who is also offering two days credit to any inmate who attends a state-run education program on neonatal abstinence syndrome, tells CBS that this order “is not forced on them.”

“It seemed to me almost a no-brainer,” he says. “Offer these women a chance to think about what they’re doing and try to rehabilitate their life.”

Citing the White County Sheriff’s Department, CBS reports at least 24 women have already had the procedure, a toothpick-sized implant that prevents pregnancy for up to three years, and 38 men have signed up to undergo a vasectomy.

It is not the first controversial attempt in Tennessee to tackle the dangerous combination of pregnancy and illegal drugs. For roughly two years, state lawmakers criminalized drug use by pregnant women under legislation known as the “fetal assault” law. But lawmakers let the measure expire last year after finding it often dissuaded addicted women from seeking prenatal care, for fear they’d be jailed.

As for Benningfield’s standing order, the Tennessee Department of Health says it objects to the program.

“We do not support any policy that could compel incarcerated individuals to seek any particular health services,” department spokeswoman Shelley Walker said in a statement to Reuters on Friday.

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Episode 785: The Starbury

Stephon Marbury wears a pair of his Starbury sneakers on the Coney Island boardwalk.

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Kenny Malone/NPR

When Stephon Marbury was eight years old, the Nike Air Jordan sneakers came out. Kids everywhere wanted to fly like Michael Jordan on the basketball court, and they wanted to wear the sneakers with his name on them too. But they were pricey. Stephon couldn’t afford them. Lots of kids couldn’t. For years, he wondered if there was a different way.

Two decades later, he had a chance to try a different way himself. When he was an NBA star, Marbury got approached by clothing company Steve & Barry’s. They had a crazy idea for a sneaker, and they thought Marbury might be just the celebrity to get behind it.

Today on the show: The story of what happened when an athlete used his name not to make a shoe more expensive than it needed to be, but to make it as cheap as humanly possible.

We look at this experiment and the strange problems that arise when you make a shoe that’s so much cheaper than the competition. We also find out what Stephon Marbury is doing right now, on the other side of the world, with another big plan to try a different way of doing things.

Music: “When The Lights Come On,” “Blammo,” “Money Never Change Us,” and “Get It Get It.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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Kentucky Must Pay Attorney Fees For Couples Who Sued Kim Davis Says Judge

A federal judge on Friday ordered Kentucky taxpayers to pay more than $220,000 in attorney fees for same-sex couples and others who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses.

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Taxpayers in Kentucky must pay more than $200,000 in attorney fees for the couples who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses, to avoid having to give them to same-sex couples.

In July 2015, four couples — two same-sex and two opposite-sex — and represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Davis.

“Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples. The buck stops there,” U.S. District Judge David Bunning wrote Friday.

Bunning said the county and Davis herself were not responsible for paying the $222,695 in attorneys’ fees.

Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton explains to our Newscast unit, “The court said the state should be held responsible because Kentucky officials had the right to take action against Davis, but didn’t.”

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But Davis, citing her religious beliefs, refused to comply, even spending a brief stint in jail for contempt of court. Bunning was the judge who ordered Davis jailed for five days.

The case grabbed national headlines. Davis met with Republican candidates for president and even with the pope.

By December, 2015, Gov. Matthew Bevin ordered that Kentucky marriage licenses need not be printed with the name of the county clerk who issued them. That appeared to settle the issue for Davis, who proceeded to issue marriage licenses without her name.

Davis’ attorney says his client will appeal Friday’s ruling, according to The Association Press.

“The judge ruled Davis lost the case. Attorney Mat Staver said they did not lose. He said the case was dismissed as moot after the state legislature changed the law in 2016 to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses.”

William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a statement, “We are pleased with today’s ruling, and we hope this serves as a reminder to Kentucky officials that willful violations of individuals’ civil liberties, such as what occurred here, will not only be challenged but will also prove costly.”

The Lexington Herald Ledgerreports that the state has not decided whether it will appeal.

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In Putin's Russia, An 'Adhocracy' Marked By Ambiguity And Plausible Deniability

Russian President Vladimir Putin leads a cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Wednesday.

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Alexei Nikolsky/AP

When Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet Natalia Veselnitskaya last summer, she was introduced to him as a “Russian government attorney” with dirt on Hillary Clinton. After it turned out that Veselnitskaya couldn’t deliver the goods, the meeting ended quickly.

But the fact that Trump Jr. didn’t even question that the meeting had been billed as part of Russia’s support for his father has hardly dispelled suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Veselnitskaya insists she wasn’t working for the Russian government — and the Kremlin denies any knowledge of her. Proving the contrary is practically impossible.

So is it just another big nothing burger after all?

Not so fast.

Trump Jr. may have found the meeting a waste of time, but Veselnitskaya’s seemingly hapless visit to Trump Tower fits into a larger pattern of freelance political activity that has come to characterize Putin’s Russia.

From Russian “volunteers” fighting in eastern Ukraine to “patriotic hackers” launching cyber-attacks on the United States, non-government actors with no formal ties to the Kremlin provide official Moscow with a cushion of plausible deniability.

Veselnitskaya may very well have been on a fishing expedition in Manhattan to see what she could angle, says Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague.

Donald Trump Jr. may have found his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, shown here in Moscow in November, a waste of time. But Veselnitskaya’s visit to Trump Tower fits into a larger pattern of freelance political activity that has come to characterize Putin’s Russia.

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Yury Martyanov/AFP/Getty Images

“That’s precisely the kind of thing you can then take back to Moscow and leverage. At that point, you suddenly become interesting for the Kremlin. So this is a classic case of political entrepreneurship from an individual rather than some long-term, planned intelligence operation,” says Galeotti.

“In the West,” he says, “we’re used to a system in which people’s job titles actually tell you what they do. Russia has become rather different, de-institutionalized. It’s become what I have called an ‘adhocracy.’ “

In that sense, Aras Agalarov, the Russian real estate magnate whose son was mentioned as the organizer of the Veselnitskaya meeting, may have been on a similar mission — even though he calls the whole story “fiction.”

Agalarov already knew Trump Sr. from their time together putting on the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. That relationship would have made Agalarov a logical middleman for any outreach to candidate Trump.

“It appears that there was an attempt by the Agalarov family to provide a specific service. Whether that service was volunteered by the Agalarovs or it was, let’s say, prompted by somebody else – that is something that we have no idea about,” said Vladimir Frolov, a Russian political analyst.

“So there are really very murky questions,” he said. “But you don’t have to be a Russian government employee to perform a service for the Russian government.”

Journalist Mikhail Zygar says that it would be inaccurate to call Agalarov “an oligarch” or “Kremlin-connected” as he lacks the requisite business clout and political influence.

Asserting that someone like Veselnitskaya or Agalarov is linked to the Kremlin is an oversimplification, Zygar says, since “there is no exact center of decision-making” in Moscow.

In his 2016 book All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin, Zygar argues that power in Russia is actually very diffuse, with an army of government officials trying to anticipate what Putin wants — without necessarily getting a direct order. In other words, Russia is ruled by a kind of collective Putin.

“They usually do not say anything directly. They always hint,” said Zygar. “They would never say, ‘Please steal those billions of dollars or please murder those journalists.’ They would say, ‘Do what you have to do. You know your obligations, please fulfill them.’ “

Unwritten agreements and non-state initiatives were on full display in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. While the seizure of Crimea in 2014 was a Kremlin-guided operation, the ensuing war in eastern Ukraine was largely unleashed by Russian soldiers of fortune funded by private money from Moscow, according to Zygar.

Just as the Russian government still claims it is not militarily involved in Ukraine, it denies any involvement in cyber-attacks targeting the U.S. presidential election last year.

Yet in June, Putin suggested that “patriotically” inclined hackers may have felt Russia was being slighted and taken matters into their own hands.

“Hackers are free people, like artists,” he said.

Russia’s loose system of command-and-control creates a filter of plausible deniability for the Kremlin, says analyst Frolov.

“It’s very convenient. Even if things fail, there’s no direct fallout – negative fallout – for the Russian government,” he says.

It would be wrong to view Russia as a country ruled from the top down, says Galeotti, whose research focuses on Russia’s security agencies. He says plenty of initiatives come from the bottom up — from people who may have only informal connections to the government — and then the Kremlin picks and chooses the ones it likes.

On the surface, an “adhocracy” may appear more nimble than ponderous Western democracies.

But Galeotti warns that in the long term, such a system could turn Russia into a pariah state — and make every Russian businessperson or diplomat a suspected Kremlin agent.

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A Future Of Gadgets Without Power Cords? Not So Fast

Morris Kesler, chief technology officer at WiTricity, shows how a wireless charging pad can be installed on a table.

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Jesse Costa/WBUR

It’s an appealing future — powering up your gadgets without all those annoying charging cables.

Researchers have been pursuing this future for years. Samsung has been integrating wireless charging into Galaxy phones. Apple is reportedly planning for wireless charging for its next iPhone. And this month, Dell released the first laptop that can be charged wirelessly.

Some experts say wireless power could transform consumer electronics as much as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technologies have. But making wireless power a standard consumer feature is a big technological — and a bit of a psychological — challenge.

The matter of time

If you pop into a Starbucks in Boston, you might notice little circle power mats on the table. They’re for charging your cellphone, specifically the Samsung phones that came out after 2015. You place the phone on the mat and it powers the phone without the need for a wire.

Borui Lee has one of those Samsung phones, sitting on one of the power mats. But if you ask him how often he uses one of these pads, he starts laughing.

“Like zero!” he says. “I come to Starbucks like maybe once a month and I use it if I have my phone there.”

Lee says when he first bought his phone, he was so excited about the wireless-charging feature that he bought a personal power mat. But then: “I used it for about three months before going back to my wired charger.”

Lee’s complaint is time. He says it feels like charging with the wire goes double the speed — plus, his phone came with a rapid-charging wire that works even faster. At the Starbucks, he says his phone has been on a power mat for about an hour and charged up only by some 20 percent.

Laptop breakthrough

A tech company called WiTricity says it’s developing wireless power that is faster than what you see at Starbucks.

WiTricity spun out of MIT about a decade ago and has collaborated with Dell on a new laptop, called the Latitude 7285, that charges wirelessly through magnetic resonance technology.

“The power source, which is the pad that the laptop sits on, creates a magnetic field that the laptop uses to charge,” WiTricity Chief Technology Officer Morris Kesler explains.

He says the mat charges the laptop just as fast as a traditional power cord, but here’s the catch: Even though you can ditch the power cords for the laptop, the charging mat still has to be plugged in to function. So you can’t exactly wirelessly charge on the go.

“The idea is you might have one of these on your desktop,” Kesler says. “You might have one in a conference room where you just put your device down there and it charges. You might have one at home. … The convenience is, I don’t have to worry about plugging and unplugging and carrying an adapter with me.”

This, of course, adds up: Each mat costs $200.

Dell’s Kelli Hodges says the new laptop is a specialty product for now, catering to workplaces more than general consumers, helping Dell assess the market.

“I would say for it to become part of the mainstream of what we’re doing, I think you’re looking at probably two years out,” she says.

Overcoming reluctance

WiTricity’s Kesler says the Dell laptop is just the beginning.

He imagines this utopian future where wireless charging is all around us. You drive your electric car into a garage, where wireless charging pads are on the floor. You open the door to the house and throw your cellphone on the kitchen counter, where wireless charging tech is built into the countertops.

That future is still far off, though the new laptop could be an important step for the industry, according to IHS Markit analyst David Green, who covers the wireless power sector.

In 2016, just under 240 million devices with wireless charging capabilities shipped worldwide, he says. “But growth can be massive,” Green adds. “By 2025, you’ll be talking over 2 billion devices a year will ship with wireless charging.”

The biggest challenge, Green says, will be to convince people to give the new technology a try.

“There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, whereby a consumer doesn’t really want to know about something convenience-based because they feel what they do right now is fine,” he said. “When people do start using it, they love it. So the difficulty is getting it into that first use.”

Back at Starbucks, Lee says despite his preference for the fast-charging wire, he believes that people will want wireless charging. But what he really wants is portability — not something built into a table, but something he can carry with him — essentially the freedom to charge wherever, whenever.

For now, that is still sci-fi.

Asma Khalid leadsWBUR’s BostonomiX team, which covers the people, startups and companies driving the innovation economy. You can follow them @BostonomiX.

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20 Attorneys General Write To Trump, Urging Him To Keep DACA

Citing concern for the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who’ve been granted protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 19 of his colleagues are asking President Trump to keep the program running.

In a letter to the president, Becerra and the other attorneys general are urging Trump to refuse a request from Texas and nine other states that wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the Trump administration to rescind DACA, which was established by President Obama in a June 15, 2012, memorandum.

Instead, the state officials say, the president should defend the program that benefits “Dreamers” — people brought to the U.S. illegally as children — by providing a legal framework for them to live and work in the country. More than 200,000 DACA grantees live in California.

Becerra wrote to Trump:

“You have repeatedly expressed your support for Dreamers. Today, we join together to urge you not to capitulate to the demands Texas and nine other states set forth in their June 29, 2017, letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That letter demands, under threat of litigation, that your Administration end the DACA initiative. The arguments set forth in that letter are wrong as a matter of law and policy.”

In that June 29 letter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the DACA program is unlawful, writing, that it “covers over one million otherwise unlawfully present aliens.”

Paxton and his allies from Tennessee, Louisiana, and other states sent the letter after Trump made headlines by reversing himself on a campaign promise to dismantle DACA. In June, the Department of Homeland Security revoked DAPA — the similar Obama-era program that protected the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents — but the agency left DACA intact.

“We’re going to take care of everybody,” Trump told ABC at the time. “But I will tell you, we’re looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we’re looking at it with great heart.”

In the letter Becerra sent to the White House on Friday, he wrote:

“Mr. President, now is the time to affirm the commitment you made, both to the ‘incredible kids’ who benefit from DACA and to their families and our communities, to handle this issue ‘with heart.’ You said Dreamers should ‘rest easy.’ We urge you to affirm America’s values and tradition as a nation of immigrants and make clear that you will not only continue DACA, but that you will defend it.”

Becerra was joined by attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.

The issue is also the subject of new legislation on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, the bipartisan “Dream Act” was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who want to offer a path to permanent legal status to people who arrived in the U.S. as children, can pass a background check, and otherwise fit the DACA criteria.

Graham also said he’s unsure how a federal court might rule on the legal challenge to the president’s power to grant legal residency to hundreds of thousands of immigrants. But, he said, “These DACA kids have come out of the shadows at the invitation of their government.”

Saying those young people deserve to be treated fairly, Graham added, “If you told them to go back home, they would go to where they were raised. They’re no more connected with a foreign country than I am.”

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