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Words Nov. 24

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This case will set a precedent for the trial of Karl “Turdblossom” Rove:

“WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — A defense attorney asked a judge to bar any references to his client’s nickname in his upcoming murder trial, saying jurors might think someone called Scuz is, well, skuzzy.

“Demetrius ‘Scuz’ Fiorentino, 31, is charged with the April 2004 shooting death of Joel ‘Wellz’ Taylor, 19, during a botched drug deal in a Coatesville crack house. In his request Friday to Common Pleas Judge Phyllis Streitel, defense attorney Laurence Harmelin cited the dictionary definition of scuzzball as ‘an unpleasant, dirty or dangerous person; creep’ and skuzzy as ‘dirty, shabby or foul in condition or nature.’

“But Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Finnegan said it would be nearly impossible for witnesses to identify the defendant without using his nickname. ‘All of these witnesses are going to have to call him by the name they know,’ she said. ‘We’re not calling him a scuzzball or skuzzy. … It’s “Scuz” because that is his nickname.’ …

“The judge did not immediately rule on the requests.”

One man’s torture is another man’s harsh interrogation:

“According to the Washington Post, the CIA has been using a private jet to ferry suspects with false identities and fake social security numbers to countries which ‘use harsh interrogation methods outlawed in the United States.’ ”

Jacqueline Bacon wrote in Extra! magazine about the American media’s reluctance to call torture by its name when our side is the one doing it. She notes that the Wall Street Journal and NPR’s “Morning Edition” are among those who’ve euphemistically described what happened at Abu Ghraib as “abuses.” And: “After describing the horrific practice of ‘water-boarding’ — forcing a strapped-down victim under water to the point of drowning — the Wall Street Journal editorial page asked ‘Is that “torture”?’ ”

On “Morning Edition,” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz asked whether “placing a sterilized needle under somebody’s fingernails for 15 minutes, causing excruciating pain but no permanent physical damage” qualified as torture. His interviewer did not respond.

Journalists might find those questions difficult, or pretend to. Victims would not.

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