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Return of Brittney Grenier sparks controversy over prisoner swaps. By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: American basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, walks after the court’s ruling in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia, August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia N.

Written by Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerli

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The release of American basketball star Brittney Grenier on Thursday in exchange for a convicted Russian arms dealer re-posed an age-old question: Does a prisoner exchange do more harm than good?

Amid the celebrations following Greener’s return, some critics, including members of Congress and federal law enforcement, have argued that such trade only encourages foreign countries to target Americans to gain leverage over the United States.

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Families of those detained abroad reject this argument, saying there is no solid evidence to support this and that the US government should focus on deterring and punishing governments that unjustly detain or imprison US citizens.

The plight of American detainees abroad came to prominence after Greener’s arrest in February, and as the families ramped up their publicity efforts, concluding that years of quiet diplomacy had done little to bring back their loved ones.

Details of Griner’s release highlight the agonizing tradeoffs facing the Biden administration. After months of negotiations — which US officials hoped would bring home both Grenier and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who accuses Moscow of spying — Russia was only willing to release Graner.

That trade meant the release of Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen. One of the world’s largest illegal arms dealers who was caught after a global manhunt was contacted by US authorities.

“The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is parity between the Brittney Greeners of the world and people like Victor Bout, the so-called ‘dealer of death,’” said Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chair of the Democratic Party. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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“We must stop inviting dictatorships and rogue regimes to use Americans abroad as bargaining chips.”

Arrests at altitude

The arrest of Americans abroad is nothing new. From the Soviet Union’s capture of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in the 1960s to the Iran hostage crisis in the 1970s and the more recent imprisonment of American citizens in North Korea, Iran and China, administrations have grappled with the question of if and when to negotiate.

The problem has become acute, as some governments appear to be using arbitrary detention as a negotiating tactic. In one such case in 2016, North Korea detained American university student Otto Warmbier during a dispute with the international community over missile launches in that country. Warmbier died a few days after his return.

At the same time, friends and families of American detainees are putting public pressure on the administration. Brittney Grainer’s arrest in February in Moscow for possession of electronic cigarette cartridges containing cannabis oil sparked an outpouring of support from fans, celebrities and politicians calling for her release and criticizing the Biden administration for not doing more.

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Many families argue that the United States should be willing to negotiate and ignore the argument that prisoner exchanges lead more countries to take over Americans.

“I’m not aware of any concrete evidence that this will encourage more hostage-taking. And I think the important thing to stress is executive power,” said Harrison Lee, the son of Chinese American Cai Lee, who has been held by China since 2016. The thing that President Biden brought up, and it’s very clear in stipulating pre-emptive punitive measures that can be imposed on these countries.”

In July, Biden signed an executive order authorizing US government agencies to impose financial penalties and other measures on those involved in the wrongful detention of Americans.

Families say they have not seen strong enforcement of the order.

The United States does not provide an official figure for the number of American citizens detained abroad, but the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named after an American journalist who was kidnapped and killed in Syria, says more than 60 American citizens are unjustly detained in some 18 countries.

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slippery slope

Beyond the question of whether prisoner swaps motivate incarcerations, the administration also faces criticism from law enforcement, with some questioning the wisdom of trading high-profile convicts like Bute.

“I don’t think you’re negotiating with terrorists, it’s a slippery slope, and it doesn’t end well,” said Robert Zachariasevich, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration agent who helped lead the team that captured Bout.

“I’ve spoken to so many people throughout the Department of Justice at all levels. They are frustrated, disillusioned, and disenfranchised.”

Management acknowledges the difficulties.

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“Negotiations for the release of illegal detainees are often very difficult — and that’s just the fact — partly because of the price that must be paid to bring Americans home to their loved ones and partly because the immediate results can seem unfair or arbitrary,” said White House spokeswoman Karen Gunn. Pierre after the news of Graner’s release.

Those difficult choices meant that Washington could either leave Whelan in Russian custody or return empty-handed after months of negotiations. Whelan’s family described the situation as a “disaster”.

“Where are all these people with their other solutions on how to bring the Americans back?” asked Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister. “What’s the alternative? Yes, it’s terrible to send someone like Viktor Bout back, sure, but that means we’re bringing Americans home.”

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MicroStrategy is at its lowest level since 2020 after the sales were revealed

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(Bloomberg) — Shares of MicroStrategy touched their lowest level since August 2020 after the enterprise software company, which in recent years has been known as the largest buyer of bitcoin, revealed its first sale of the token.

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The stock fell 1.1 percent to $136.63 on Thursday, down 75 percent this year. Bitcoin rose less than 1% to around $16,590 and is believed to have fallen 64% since the start of the year.

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In a filing on Wednesday, MicroStrategy said it acquired approximately 2,395 Bitcoin between the beginning of November and December 21 through its subsidiary MacroStrategy, and paid out approximately $42.8 million in cash. It then sold 704 of the tokens on Dec. 22 for a total of about $11.8 million, citing tax purposes, before buying another 810 of them two days later.

Matt Malley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co. Step down as CEO. This news means they don’t seem to want to do that anytime soon.”

Overall, MicroStrategy held about 132,500 bitcoins worth over $4 billion USD as of December 27th. The company paid an average purchase price of $30,397 per bitcoin.

“Given MicroStrategy’s $2.4 billion in leverage, we believe the company may have a lot of leverage over Bitcoin, and may face some liquidity risk,” Jefferies analyst Brent Thiel wrote in a note on Wednesday. Thill has an “underperform” rating on the stock and a price target of $110.

Over the years of the pandemic, MicroStrategy has become well known for its Bitcoin takeovers, largely led by Saylor. Earlier this year, Saylor stepped down from that role and now serves as CEO at the company and continues to lead its bitcoin strategy.

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MicroStrategy was trading around $120 before Saylor first announced the company’s Bitcoin purchases in 2020. The stock reached an all-time high of $1,315 in February 2021.

(Updates to include the stock’s closing price in the second paragraph.)

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Bankman-Fried May File Petition in New York Federal Court Next Week Before Judge Louis Kaplan By Cointelegraph

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Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is set to appear in court on the afternoon of January 3 to enter a lawsuit over two counts of wire fraud and six counts of conspiracy against him related to the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, according to Reuters. mentioned on December 28, citing court records. Bankman-Fried will appear before District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan.

Judge Kaplan was appointed to hear the case on December 27 after the original judge in the case, Ronnie Abrams, Resigned herself because of connections between FTX and the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, where her husband is a partner. The company provided advisory services to FTX in 2021.