Monday, December 14, 2009

Knowingly Lethal

by digby

Another person dies of "excited delirium," the disease that only hits people in police custody. This time it was a man booked on suspicion of using methamphetamines who got into s struggle at the police station.

Interestingly, this happened in a police department which seems to be fairly sensitive to the potential lethality of taser shock:


Officers have used Tasers on other suspects, and the department tracks those incidents, Doane said. Statistics weren't immediately available.

Doane said officers are careful to monitor anyone they shock with a Taser for possible medical problems. After a strenuous fight, there's a lot of adrenaline shooting through the body, he said. Officers are trained to look for changes in breathing or any type of distress. Anyone who has been shot with a Taser must be medically cleared after the incident, he added.

Read on...

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Jailing juveniles

Sensible fixes to youth crime and delinquency policies

Monday, December 14, 2009

THE SENATE Judiciary Committee should embrace a bill scheduled for debate on Thursday that institutes needed reforms in how the nation deals with youth who run afoul of the law.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act does not impose federal strictures on state and local entities, but it provides funds for those that choose to comply with the legislation's guidelines. In this way, the Justice Department, which administers the act, can provide incentives to states to comply with what it considers best practices.

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This is an editorial from today's Washington Post. Tom

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Pregnant, in Prison and Denied Care

By Rachel Roth

Over the past year, incarcerated women and their allies have achieved a remarkable string of victories against inhumane treatment. First, they persuaded the Bureau of Prisons to issue a new policy in October 2008 limiting the use of restraints on women who are in labor, giving birth or recovering after childbirth; the Marshals Service, which transports people in federal custody, followed suit. Next, they won legislation in the spring and summer of 2009 restricting the use of restraints on pregnant women in New Mexico, Texas and New York. Finally, they successfully petitioned the US Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit for a rehearing of the full court in a case from Arkansas, which resulted in a ruling in October that shackling women in labor is unconstitutional.

These developments send a strong signal to the rest of the country to stop subjecting women to this dangerous and degrading practice. But what happens to pregnant women in prison before they wind up in chains at a hospital?

When women are brought to a hospital in shackles, the pain and humiliation they endure likely caps months of difficulty from being pregnant behind bars, months without adequate prenatal care or nutrition, or even basics like a bed to sleep on or clothes to accommodate their changing shape.

Read on...

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25 Days In Federal Prison For Littering? Border Patrol Cracking Down on Human Rights Activists

By Jessica Weisberg, AlterNet. Posted December 14, 2009.

Walt Staton was dropping off water jugs for people who attempt the often deadly trek into Arizona from Mexico when the Feds ticketed him for "knowingly littering."

On Friday December 4th, an Arizona District Court judge told Walt Staton, a 28 year-old seminary student, that he might be facing 25 days in a federal prison. His crime was "knowingly littering" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

One day last December, Staton and a friend named Victor Ceballos, loaded 70 plastic water jugs into the back of a truck and drove from Tucson to outer stretches of Sonora desert. Temperatures in the desert are extreme, reaching 120 degrees during summer months and dropping below 30 degrees in the winter. Many people who attempt the four-day trek between the Mexico border and Phoenix do not survive; this year, a human rights group found the remains of 206 people. The main causes of death, the group believes, are heat overexposure or hypothermia, but corpses decompose so quickly in the desert that it is often impossible to tell.

Read on...

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There Is No ‘Humane’ Execution

Published: December 13, 2009

This is what passes for progress in the application of the death penalty: Kenneth Biros, a convicted murderer, was put to death in Ohio last week with one drug, instead of the more common three-drug cocktail. It took executioners 30 minutes to find a vein for the needle, compared with the two hours spent hunting for a vein on the last prisoner Ohio tried to kill, Romell Broom. Technicians tried about 18 times to get the needle into Mr. Broom’s arms and legs before they gave up trying to kill him. Mr. Biros was jabbed only a few times in each arm.

Ohio adopted the single-drug formula after the botched execution. It may well be an improvement over the three-drug cocktail, or may not. (Death penalty advocates who hailed it as less painful have no way, obviously, of knowing that.) But the execution only reinforced that any form of capital punishment is legally suspect and morally wrong.

Read on...

A New York Times editorial. Tom

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New York Finds Extreme Crisis in Youth Prisons

Published: December 13, 2009

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

Family Court judges have been urged to send only dangerous youths to the juvenile prisons.

ALBANY — New York’s system of juvenile prisons is broken, with young people battling mental illness or addiction held alongside violent offenders in abysmal facilities where they receive little counseling, can be physically abused and rarely get even a basic education, according to a report by a state panel.

The problems are so acute that the state agency overseeing the prisons has asked New York’s Family Court judges not to send youths to any of them unless they are a significant risk to public safety, recommending alternatives, like therapeutic foster care.

“New York State’s current approach fails the young people who are drawn into the system, the public whose safety it is intended to protect, and the principles of good governance that demand effective use of scarce state resources,” said the confidential draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Read on...


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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lawyers Fight to Halt Ohio Execution Condemned as Human Experimentation

Lethal injection involves anaesthetic used on pets • Change of method follows previous failures in state

by Ed Pilkington

[The death chamber in Lucasville, Ohio. The state opted for the new procedure after a botched attempted execution in September. (Photograph: Kiichiro Sato/AP)]The death chamber in Lucasville, Ohio. The state opted for the new procedure after a botched attempted execution in September. (Photograph: Kiichiro Sato/AP)

Lawyers acting for a prisoner on death row in Ohio were scrambling to delay his scheduled execution tomorrow morning using a new method of lethal injection that is widely used to put down pets. The procedure has never been tried out on humans and is tantamount, critics say, to human experimentation.

Barring last-minute appeals and stays of execution, Kenneth Biros, 51, will be put to death using a massive overdose of an anaesthetic. It would be the first time that a single-drug lethal injection had been administered, in contrast to the triple-drug cocktail that has become the norm in the 37 American states that have death row prisoners.

Read on...

Notice this story is coming from the Guardian/UK. I'll check to see if the U.S. media is covering it. Tom

Update: Ohio inmate becomes 1st to die under 1-drug method.

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StatsCan: Imprisonment rate up 1% in 2008-09

By THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA — Canada’s incarceration rate increased 1% in 2008-09, driven largely by a continued increase in the number of adults held in provincial and territorial jails while awaiting trial or sentencing.

Statistics Canada reports that on any given day, an average of 37,425 adults and 1,898 youth aged 12 to 17 were in custody in Canada, for a total of 39,323 inmates.

Read on...

Here is the link to the Stats Can Document. Tom

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Public Enemy

by digby

They would have had to shoot him:

An "out of control" 10-year-old foster child was shocked with a Taser and arrested by sheriff's deputies Monday in Pueblo West.

Capt. Jeff Teschner, head of patrol at the Pueblo County Sheriff's Department, said Wednesday that the deputies involved were justified in their use of force.

[...]

Mondragon said that when deputies arrived, the boy ran away from them holding a 2-foot-long pipe.

"This lad, we have a long history of (him) running away. I don't know what his entire psychological profile is, but obviously he has emotional distress," Teschner said.

Read on...

The police seem to be getting more and more comfortable using Tasers for more and more reasons. Tom

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Gun Control Issue Reveals a Changing Canada

Published: December 6, 2009

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Women in Ottawa observed the 20th anniversary on Sunday of a shooting spree that left 14 women dead at a college in Montreal. Parliament's response to the crime was a long-gun registry, which requires the registration of rifles and shotguns.

OTTAWA — Like public health care, Canada’s tight gun-control laws help distinguish the country from its powerful neighbor to the south. But as Canadians commemorated the 20th anniversary of one of the country’s most notorious shooting sprees on Sunday, their Parliament was on course to eliminate one of its most significant gun-control measures.

A long-gun registry, which requires the registration of rifles and shotguns, emerged largely from public revulsion over the massacre in 1989.

A decade before the Columbine high school shootings set off a national debate on gun violence in the United States, an angry, unemployed 25-year-old armed with a semiautomatic hunting rifle stormed the École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal. Shouting “I hate feminists,” the gunman separated the female students from the men and killed 14 women before killing himself.

Read on...

A Dec. 6 opinion piece from the New York Times. Tom


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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10 Ways to Spot an E-Mail Scam

by Chris Morris


The increasing flood of e-mail hitting your inbox can lower the guard of even the most cautious person. In the rush to keep up with important notes, it's easier than ever to fall prey to the scam artists and identity thieves who lurk online.

E-mail scams and phishing attempts evolve constantly, hoping to take advantage of the latest trends and current events. Although the e-mails change, the people behind them inadvertently send up the same warning signs again and again. We dug through mountains of spam to find the most prevailing trends. We've collected some actual scam e-mails and highlighted the warning signs to help you spot a hustle the next time one lands in your inbox.

Read on...

Might be a good idea to read through this article. Tom

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Supreme Court Sends ACLU Torture Photos Case Back to Appeals Court

ACLU Will Continue to Press for Photos' Release

WASHINGTON - November 30 - The U.S. Supreme Court today sent back to an appeals court a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union for the release of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in 2008 that the photos must be released to the public, but Congress recently enacted legislation that permits the Secretary of Defense to exempt the photos from FOIA. Defense Secretary Gates invoked that legislation earlier this month. The Supreme Court has now vacated the Second Circuit's original decision and ordered that it reconsider the case in light of the new legislation and Secretary Gates' certification.

"We continue to believe that the photos should be released, and we intend to press that case in the lower court," said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU. "No democracy has ever been made stronger by suppressing evidence of its own misconduct."

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Goldman Staff Packing Pistols to Defend Against Peasants

http://z.about.com/d/civilliberty/1/0/G/1/-/-/beheading500.jpg

French Revolution

As Jim Chanos, who pointed out this Bloomberg piece “Arming Goldman With Pistols Against Public,” remarked, “Well, it appears that Goldman’s Best and Brightest may be hedging their goodwill built up by doing ‘God’s work’.”

I’ve heard the expression, “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel,” but I can’t recall an exhortation that links faith with carrying firearms (although I suppose that gap in my knowledge may reflect a cloistered upbringing). The only heavily armed observant types I can think of in the US are the Branch Davidians, and we know how that movie turned out. Goldman has always been a cult, but one has to wonder what models they are now channeling.

In all seriousness, having grown up in a parts of the country where hunting season (deer and turkey) were a big deal, I get nervous when people who have little or no history of using firearms start toting them. There are rules most people who use guns routinely are taught, and my experience is that those individuals are far more careful than newbies who have seen way more movie and TV gunplay than real world use.

If you are worried about self defense, programs like this one (I’m not endorsing it , just using it as an example) are a safer and more effective solution to the real problem (what good is your pistol if you are jumped from behind?)

Read on...

Do Goldman Sachs employees know something about coming social unrest that we don't know? Tom

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Civil cases against judges involve emotional suffering

Former Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. (front, from left), who face trial on criminal charges in the "kids-for-cash" kickback scheme, also are defendants in civil suits.
MARK MORAN / Citizens' Voice
Former Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. (front, from left), who face trial on criminal charges in the "kids-for-cash" kickback scheme, also are defendants in civil suits.

WILKES-BARRE - There's the 16-year-old boy charged with driving without a license and presenting false identification to police in 2007. He was jailed for eight months, and during that time the court garnisheed a $598 Social Security survivor's check he had been receiving since his father's death.

There's the 14-year-old boy who stole loose change from unlocked cars and was sent away in 2007 for a year; when he was released, he was so anxious and depressed he had to drop out of school and now receives homebound instruction.

There's the 14-year-old girl who was jailed for more than a year in 2005 for punching another girl in school; she was emotionally distraught by the incarceration and today has permanent scars from self-mutilation.

Read on...

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Tiger's Best Reason To Lie

If he admits she hit him, she could end up in jail, whether he likes it or not.

Tiger Woods and his wife Elin. Click image to expand.In his defensive half-apology yesterday, Tiger Woods went out of his way to turn his wife, Elin Nordegren, into the heroine of his latest adventure. The "rumors" that she scratched up his face and smashed the rear window of his Escalade were "malicious" and "false," he said. In fact, she "acted courageously when she saw I was hurt." Should we believe him?

News reports have mentioned the big, obvious reason why Woods would want to erase the image of his wife in a jealous rage wielding a golf club. His endorsement deals, reportedly worth billions, depend on his reputation as a "boring" guy, as he likes to call himself, a family man with a wife and two kids and no bouncy, boozy mistress or other tabloid bait in his life. But there is another less obvious reason for Woods to lie (if that's what he's doing): Because of Florida's domestic-violence laws, admitting to the police that Nordegren in any way harmed him would virtually guarantee that the glamorous Elin would be led out of their mansion in handcuffs, even if he protested it.

Read on...

Does anyone know? Is Tiger obligated to speak to the police? Does he have the right to remain silent? Tom

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

State Courts at the Tipping Point

Published: November 24, 2009

State courts are not just another government agency. They are at the center of the nation’s legal system and enforcement of the rule of law, handling more than 95 percent of all civil and criminal litigation. This vital institution — constitutionally, an independent, co-equal branch of government — has been spiraling into crisis as cash-starved states struggle with huge deficits.

In a sobering speech earlier this month at a gathering of the New York City Bar Association, Margaret Marshall, the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, warned that because of budget cuts in tough economic times, state courts across the country stand at “the tipping point of dysfunction.”

Chief Justice Marshall’s sense of alarm is well founded. Reductions in financing have led to some overdue efficiencies that states might not have made if the recession had not forced their hands. But in too many cases, the cuts are already impeding core court functions, forcing court closures, shortened court hours and a tangible narrowing of access to justice.

Read on...

A New York Time editorial from Tuesday. Tom

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Feeling Nervous? 3,000 Behavior Detection Officers Will Be Watching You at the Airport This Thanksgiving

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted November 24, 2009.

Nearly 100,000 passengers were pulled aside by TSA behavior watchers last year, and it remains to be proven whether you can spot terrorists by the looks on their faces.

Here's a question to ponder the next time you're taking off your shoes at airport security: Can you spot terrorists by the look on their faces?

For the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the answer is yes. For the past few years, airports across the country have been using what many call "behavioral surveillance" to weed out potential hijackers among us, by covertly examining travelers' facial expressions and body language as they go through security. Unlike those airport employees who herd us along as we remove our shoes and relinquish all liquids over three ounces (with dubious results), this new program, named "Screening Passengers by Observational Techniques," or "SPOT," is carried out by TSA employees who have been trained to monitor travelers' faces and movements. As Americans head out of town this holiday season, more than 3,000 "Behavior Detection Officers" will be at 161 airports nationwide, watching our every move.

Read on...

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Black Teacher May Get 15 Years in Prison for Cutting in Line at Wal-Mart

By Devona Walker, The Loop. Posted November 25, 2009.

This is not how our criminal justice system is supposed to operate.

Think about the story of Heather Ellis, then think about the fact that half of the people in the United States prison system are Black folks, even though we make up just 13 percent of the population. Then, ask yourself if our criminal justice system is operating the way it's supposed to operate.

Three years ago, Heather Ellis, a college student at the time, was waiting on line at Wal-Mart. She decided to get into another line, then got into a verbal altercation with customers. The cops were called. And she is facing a possible 15-year sentence in prison.

Black folks keep focusing on Ellis' background — she's a young school teacher with no record. Seemingly a good person, right? While that is true, my point is that should be irrelevant. Even if Ellis were a convicted felon, even if she had been stuffing DVDs down her pants, she should still not be facing 15 years in prison. Our criminal justice system is supposed to work for all of us, not just the good Blacks, not just those of us with character above reproach.

Read on...

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

All power to the people

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_RUn30y-EIlA/SwhsScVAcEI/AAAAAAAAANI/lTqSc-Qc5pY/s1600/Kunstler.jpg

And speaking of lost causes… there’s a fascinating new documentary making the rounds that you might want to keep an eye out for. William Kunstler: Defending the Universe is a sometimes stirring, sometimes confounding but ultimately moving portrait of the iconoclastic and controversial defense lawyer who was sort of the Zelig of the radical Left throughout most of the 1970s. Somehow, he became THE key legal champion for the Chicago 7, The Black Panther Party, anti-war activist Father Daniel Berrigan, the American Indian Movement and the ill-fated inmates who initiated the Attica prison riots.

However, beginning sometime in the 1980s (for reasons known only to himself, or perhaps just merely in keeping with the inherently contrarian nature of a defense lawyer) he slowly but surely turned to The Dark Side (at least in the opinion, and to the chagrin, of many of his professional cohorts and former “co-conspirators”). He started to take on high-profile cases involving clients who were, well, decidedly less sexy to the dedicated followers of fashionable radical chic; terrorists (including the chief planner of the first World Trade Center attack and the man accused of murdering Rabbi Kahane), mobsters (John Gotti and other Gambino family associates), notorious murderers (L.I. Railroad killer Colin Ferguson) and rapists (the Central Park jogger assault case)-to name a couple.

Read on...

You'll have to scroll down a bit to get to the Kunstler article.... Tom

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Daily Kos TASERS: How Police & TASER, Inc. Bamboozle The Press

Restrictions on police stun guns by publik15.
he following is an excerpt from an article instructing Law Enforcement personnel how to explain to the media why Taser victims die from Excited Delirium, a non-existent medical condition.

When law enforcement administrators are confronted by the
media event surrounding a Sudden In-Custody Death (SICD), they
often do not know what to say. Many times, what the chief says
during an unplanned media event will haunt that chief for a long
time and provide a basis for unpleasant cross-examination during
a civil trial.

Police & Security News; SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2007 VOL. 23 ISSUE 5 (PDF)

The article deals with language and terms.

For example, do not say, "The officer shot
the man with an ECD." ECDs are not firearms, but the word "shot"
will imply that notion. Instead, say the ECD was "deployed." Also,
do not use the word "tased," as this not only negatively impacts
the trademark, TASER
, but it also helps to perpetuate the use of
this improper word, and it sounds unprofessional in reports and in
print. Again, simply say, "deployed."

Read on...

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Friday, November 20, 2009

This Seeming Brow of Justice

By Samuel Moyn

Michael Sandel teaching "Justice" JUSTIN IDE/HARVARD NEWS OFFICE JUSTIN IDE/HARVARD NEWS OFFICE

Every fall they pack Sanders Theatre to the rafters. A spellbinding philosopher takes the stage before a rapt crowd of Harvard students, and soon enough the cavernous space becomes a classroom where the bright shades of Aristotle, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant and John Rawls are summoned to have their say on the enduring questions. What is the good life? Is pleasure the highest end, or is something else? Are acts moral because they lead to good consequences, or because they are done on principle? To keep the discussion grounded, the class--called simply "Justice," it now regularly enrolls more than 1,000 undergraduates--is asked to confront these quandaries in the context of hard cases brought to life by the philosopher's trademark hypothetical situations or policy dilemmas culled from newspaper articles.

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This is a nice read for a Sunday morning. Tom

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Cop Tases 10-Year-Old Girl

Arkansas mother suggested stun gun treatment for unruly daughter



NOVEMBER 18--An Arkansas cop tasered an unruly 10-year-old girl after her mother called police to report that the child was crying, screaming, and refusing to go to bed. The tased girl, Kiara Medlock, is about 65 pounds and 4' 6", according to her father. Anthony Medlock, a truck driver who does not live with the fifth grader and her mother, provided TSG with a recent photo of his daughter, which can be seen at right.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Manhattan TransferThe right's nonsensical arguments against trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Click image to expand.
Opposition to the Obama administration's plan to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his confederates in a federal court in New York City is hardening into two camps. One is concerned that we may be unwittingly playing into the terrorists' hands. The other is incensed that we already have. What both camps share, besides a kind of unhinged logic and complete disregard for the legal process, is an obsessive fascination with the accused. The result is a broad willingness to sacrifice our commitment to legal principles in favor of the symbolic satisfaction of crushing the hopes and dreams of a motley group of criminals.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, firmly in the first camp, is hopping mad that we are poised to make all the suspect's dreams come true. As he said on ABC's This Week: "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when he was first arrested, asked to be brought to New York. I didn't think we were in the business of granting the requests of terrorists."

Read on...

There is also a fear that as all the torture evidence gets entered into court, George Bush and his buddies might face some legal jeopardy. Tom

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What Makes a Prison "State of the Art"?

Thompson Correctional Center. Click image to expand.
Federal officials visited a correctional center in Thomson, Ill., on Monday, to see if it might be appropriate for housing detainees from Guantanamo Bay. A statement from the governor's office described the prison as a "virtually vacant, state of the art facility." What makes a prison "state of the art?"

A triangle shape, in part. Modern prisons are generally designed with three sides, no more than two stories of cells lining the perimeter, and communal activities like dining in the center. The shape supposedly allows guards stationed in the middle to see every corner of the building, with better sight lines than you'd get from a rectangular layout. (The triangle design came into fashion in the United States after World War II and soon spread to other countries.)

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Texas Accounts for Half of Executions in US but Now Has Doubts Over Death Row

Overturned convictions and growth of DNA forensic evidence shake state's rock-solid faith in capital punishment

by Chris McGreal in Livingston

["Old Sparky", the decommissioned electric chair in which 361 prisoners were executed between 1924 and 1964, at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas. (AFP/File/Fanny Carrier)]"Old Sparky", the decommissioned electric chair in which 361 prisoners were executed between 1924 and 1964, at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas. (AFP/File/Fanny Carrier)

Even in Texas they are having their doubts. The state that executes more people than any other by far – it will account for half the prisoners sent to the death chamber in the US this year – is seeing its once rock-solid faith in capital punishment shaken by overturned convictions, judicial scandals and growing evidence that at least one innocent man has been executed.

The growth of DNA forensic evidence has seen nearly 140 death row convictions overturned across the US, prompting abolition and moratoriums in other states that Texas has so far resisted.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

U.S. Deports Lou Dobbs

CNN Host Had Been Living Illegally In Country Since 1961

Lou Dobbs

Luis Miguel Salvador Aguila Dominguez, alias "Lou Dobbs," is escorted by DHS agents to the airport to be sent back to Mexico.

WANTAGE, NJ—Acting on anonymous tips from within the Hispanic-American community, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on Wednesday deported Luis Miguel Salvador Aguila Dominguez, who for the last 48 years had been living illegally in the United States under the name Lou Dobbs.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, federal agents stormed the undocumented immigrant's home in an evening raid just hours after the 64-year-old newscaster suddenly announced that he was resigning from CNN, and immediately placed him on an Aeromexico flight departing from Newark Liberty Airport.

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Shocking. Tom

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

BCCLA demands policy for VPD Olympic sonic gun

A representative for the Vancouver Police Department confirmed to the BCCLA last week that the VPD has acquired an LRAD (Long Range Acoustical Device) crowd control weapon for the 2010 Olympics. He advised that the VPD would be using the device to ensure that police instructions were clearly heard. The sonic gun fires a concentrated beam of sound at its targets that can cause hearing damage and temporarily disrupt vision.

BCCLA President Robert Holmes pointed out that even as the Taser inquiry has not yet reported back, police are acquiring another high tech device that could be used to cause grievous pain. “This crowd control weapon was obtained without any public discussion and without any defined policy for its safe and proper use being set in advance. Tasers were also brought in through such an ill-considered and backwards approach.”

Read on...

That's right folks. Fresh after being tested on citizens in Pittsburgh during the G20 summit, Vancouver Police rushed right out to get the latest high tech citizen torture device. Glad I'm not planning on attending the Vancouver Olympics. If you are, take your ear plugs. Tom

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Feds Wanted Private Data on All Visitors to Liberal News Site

By Daniel Tencer, Raw Story. Posted November 11, 2009.

A Justice Department subpoena requesting information on visitors to an independent news site is raising serious privacy concerns.

A Justice Department subpoena requesting all available information on all visitors to an independent news site is raising serious privacy concerns, and questions about how much information the US government is storing about its citizens' news reading habits.

Privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation has released an extensive report on a "bogus" attempt by a US attorney in Indiana to get Indymedia.us, an independent left-leaning news site, to hand over all the data it had about all the users who visited the site on a particular day.

Further adding to civil libertarians' and privacy watchdogs' concerns is the fact that the Justice Department ordered Indymedia to keep silent about the request.

Read on...

And have the feds requested any data from any conservative, rightwing hate sites? Tom

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Ugly Truth: Most U.S. Kids Sentenced to Die In Prison Are Black

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted November 11, 2009.

The U.S. stands alone in the world in condemning thousands of juveniles to life without parole. And race is a huge factor. Will the Supreme Court even consider it?

This is the second in a two-part series on juvenile life without parole. Read Part One here.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases that could have major implications for the way juvenile offenders are treated in our criminal justice system. Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida both involve men who are serving life without the possibility of parole for crimes they were convicted of as teenagers -- crimes in which no one was killed.

Joe Sullivan was only 13 years old when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 72-year-old woman in her Pensacola, Fla., home, hours after he and a group of older teenagers robbed her house. Sullivan, who reportedly suffers from mental disabilities, insisted that, while he participated in the robbery, he did not commit the rape. But his co-defendants, 15-year-old Michael Gulley and 17-year-old Nathan McCants, 17 pinned the crime on him. Both were tried as juveniles; Sullivan was tried as an adult.

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The Trouble With ‘Zero Tolerance’

Editorial

Congress took a reasonable step in 1994 when it required states receiving federal education money to expel students who brought guns onto school property, but states and localities overreacted, as they so often do. They enacted “zero tolerance” policies under which children are sometimes arrested for profanity, talking back, shoving matches and other behavior that would once have been resolved with detention or meetings with the students’ parents.

This arrest-first policy has been disastrous for young people, who are significantly more likely to drop out and experience long-term problems once they become entangled in the juvenile justice system. It has led to egregious racial profiling, with black and Hispanic students being shipped off to court at a higher rate than white students. And it has been a waste of time for the police to haul off children to the courts when they should be protecting the public from real criminals.

School officials who want to back away from the failed zero tolerance policy are looking to a farsighted model developed in Clayton County, Ga., a fast-growing enclave south of Atlanta. Its juvenile courts were nearly overwhelmed by students referred from their schools — mainly for minor offenses like fistfights and disruptive conduct.

Read on...

A New York Times editorial from today. Tom

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A National Disgrace

Editorial

Two courts, one in Italy and one in the United States, ruled recently on the Bush administration’s practice of extraordinary rendition, which is the kidnapping of people and sending them to other countries for interrogation — and torture. The Italian court got it right. The American court got it miserably wrong.

In Italy, a judge ruled that a station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency and 22 other Americans broke the law in the 2003 abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, a Muslim cleric who ended up in Egypt, where he said he was tortured.

Two days earlier, a federal appeals court in Manhattan brushed off a lawsuit by Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was seized in an American airport by federal agents acting on bad information from Canadian officials. He was held incommunicado and harshly interrogated before being sent to Syria, where he was tortured. He spent almost a year in a grave-size underground cell before the Syrians let him go.

Read on...

A New York Times editorial. Tom

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Business of Intelligence

Corporate intelligence-gathering harkens back to COINTELPRO

by Tim Groves

TORONTO—In the US, a new model of law enforcement has emerged in which police, military, security contractors and large corporations are collaborating on intelligence gathering. Are the 2010 Olympics ushering this new paradigm into Canada?

The security committee for the 2010 Olympics Task Force, based in Washington State, is at the forefront of planning US security efforts for the games. According to The Globe and Mail this group brings together government agencies from both sides of the border, more than 100 from the US and 17 from Canada.

Documents acquired by The Dominion reveal that this committee consists of not only the US Military, Canadian Forces, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but also “Pacific Northwest Private Sector Company Volunteers.” The amount the US will spend on Olympic security has not been disclosed.

Read on...

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Moral panic in the dock

I can think of nothing worse than reshaping the criminal justice system to prioritise victim

David Wilson

Over the past 24 hours victims' champion Sara Payne has been pleading for government to "redefine" and "reshape" the criminal justice system to give greater priority to the victims of crime – even though she acknowledges that her own experience of the justice system has always been positive.

Not only has it been hard to escape Payne – whose daughter Sarah was murdered in 2000 by the known paedophile Roy Whiting, and who has since that awful crime campaigned for a "Sarah's Law" to give parents information about convicted child sex offenders – but it also remains difficult to be seen to criticise her position. To do so appears insensitive and cruel, although frankly if we want to take her seriously we must leave sentiment behind and expose her thinking to a much more critical analysis than it has so far received.

Should the criminal justice system be reshaped towards victims? I can think of nothing worse. Surely we want to prioritise what is reasonable, proper and proportionate in relation to those cases which come before the courts, as opposed to the inevitable emotion that some victims of crime – for all the right reasons – inspire. Leave reason and proportionality behind and we are on the slippery slope towards state-sanctioned vigilantism in our courts, with the law being administered according to media sensation and moral panic.

Read on...

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Forever Young

Joe Sullivan. Click image to expand.
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear a case testing whether the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits sentencing a teen to life in prison without parole. Punishment is generally deemed "cruel" if it's more than "graduated and proportional." It is constitutionally "unusual" if imposed so infrequently "that a national consensus has developed against it." If those concepts sound squishy and vague to you, well, you can just imagine what Antonin Scalia is feeling right now.

The seeds for this particular constitutional battle were sown in Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in a 2005 case, Roper v. Simmons, banning capital punishment for juveniles. That case hinged on the growing national consensus against executing teens, bolstered by scientific studies finding teenage brains to be underdeveloped in ways that make their owners less culpable than adults. The question for the court this time around is not just whether teens are really different from adults but whether being sentenced to die in prison is truly all that different from being sentenced to die there by lethal injection.

Read on...

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HBO’s “The Wire” Earns Credits


Harvard students will be able to watch the “The Wire” for class credit next year.

At a panel last night, stars of the HBO hit series joined Harvard professors in discussing the applications of the show—which depicts the struggles of urban life in Baltimore—in understanding and combating real urban social issues.

“‘The Wire’ has done more to enhance our understanding of the systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the poor than any published study” Sociology Professor William J. Wilson said.

Read on...

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Powerful Idea on Youth Violence

Published: November 4, 2009

As a former beat cop, Ron Huberman, the new chief of public schools in Chicago, learned long ago that violence among young urban people could not be solved simply by hauling ever larger numbers of children off to jail.

With the prompting and support of his boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mr. Huberman is trying a new approach to the violence that has killed and maimed hundreds of young people and turned Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods into precincts of terror and despair.

The ambitious plan will offer mentoring, counseling and jobs to high-risk students. To determine who they are, Mr. Huberman analyzed the cases of more than 500 young people who were killed or wounded in gun violence over the last two years. The analysis suggests that nearly 10,000 of the city’s 113,000 high school students are at risk of becoming victims of gun violence and need help.

Read on...

A New York Times editorial. Tom

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A faith-based prison is pushed

The privately run lockup would have only Christians on its staff.

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Published: 11/2/2009 2:22 AM

WAKITA — This tiny town near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line north of Enid may soon own the country's only all-Christian prison, with Christian administrators, employees, counselors and programs.

The idea is backed by Wakita's leaders, has some support from state officials, and, its founders believe, is able to pass constitutional muster.

"If Chicken Little doesn't come to town, we'll be open in 16 months," said Bill Robinson, the founder of Corrections Concepts Inc., a Dallas nonprofit prison ministry that is spearheading the project.

Mayor Kelly George said officials of this town of 380 were fully behind the project and have done everything they need to make it happen.

Read on...

Does this sound like a good idea? Tom

Update: Another story about this prison.

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Man tased as his house burned - No kidding!

Tue Nov 03, 2009 at 02:04:15 PM PST

Tasing in America has gone out of control. Last night I learned about how a Minneapolis Police officer tased a man with his hands on a squad car. Yes, the officer used a Taser on the mans neck while he was in a non-combative stance, and his hands on the squad car.

Now we learn that a man was tased outside of his home, as his house burned.

Get this, According to Sarah Steimer at at Kent News Net the resident, Mike Bartlett, said he was returning from downtown for his cell phone when he noticed his sister's room on fire. He ran in to make sure she was not there and continued to find his friends in the basement and alert them of the fire. He said his cousin's girlfriend was sleeping upstairs so he went back in the house to retrieve her.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Know Your Rights: What to Do If You're Stopped by the Police

July 30, 2004
Know Your Rights: What to do if You're Stopped by the Police

To fight police abuse effectively you need to know your rights. There are some things you should do, some things you must do and some things you cannot do. If you are in the middle of a police encounter, you need a handy and quick reference to remind you what your rights and obligations are.

Print this page and carry it in your wallet, pocket, or glove compartment to give you quick access to your rights and obligations concerning police encounters. Download the PDF.


Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions.

Don't get into an argument with the police.

Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.

Read on...

This came up in an earlier Crimbrary post. This is dated (2004) and is American. I'll see if I can find something similar for Canada and post in an update. Tom

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Ten Things You Can Do to Reduce Incarceration

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Criminologists have found that when too many people are incarcerated the crime rate actually increases. Imagine if we spent some of the $60 billion a year prisons cost on education, job training and healthcare. Paul Butler, a law professor, former federal prosecutor and author of Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice suggests ways to undo the damage caused by overincarceration.

If you have state specific resources send them to nationtenthings@gmail.com.

1 Do your jury duty. If you are a juror in a non-violent drug case, vote not guilty. Jury nullification--an acquittal based on principle--is perfectly legal. The framers intended jurors to be a check on unjust prosecutions and bad laws. Click here for more information.

2 Pay a kid to graduate. A report by the RAND Corporation found that paying students to finish high school prevented more crime than the toughest sentencing laws. Dropping out of school creates a high risk of ending up in jail. Work with your community group or place of worship to create a program to pay at-risk students to graduate from high school.

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Can Our Shameful Prisons Be Reformed?

By David Cole

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/31/46442359_cf7bc5c5d2.jpg

With approximately 2.3 million people in prison or jail, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world—by far. Our per capita rate is six times greater than Canada's, eight times greater than France's, and twelve times greater than Japan's. Here, at least, we are an undisputed world leader; we have a 40 percent lead on our closest competitors—Russia and Belarus.

Even so, the imprisoned make up only two thirds of one percent of the nation's general population. And most of those imprisoned are poor and uneducated, disproportionately drawn from the margins of society. For the vast majority of us, in other words, the idea that we might find ourselves in jail or prison is simply not a genuine concern.

For one group in particular, however, these figures have concrete and deep-rooted implications—African-Americans, especially young black men, and especially poor young black men. African-Americans are 13 percent of the general population, but over 50 percent of the prison population. Blacks are incarcerated at a rate eight times higher than that of whites—a disparity that dwarfs other racial disparities. (Black–white disparities in unemployment, for example, are 2–1; in nonmarital childbirth, 3–1; in infant mortality, 2–1; and in net worth, 1–5[1]).

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Schools' zero-tolerance policies tested

By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

Parents and elected officials across the USA are demanding that schools slacken zero-tolerance policies that are meant to reduce violence because strict adherence has lead to some students being forced out of school for bringing items such as eyebrow trimmers and a Cub Scout's camping tool to campus.

The most recent high-profile case involved Zachary Christie, a 6-year-old who was suspended for five days on Sept. 29 after he brought a camping utensil that was part knife, fork and spoon to Downes Elementary in Newark, Del. School officials considered it a dangerous instrument and suspended the boy, adding that he couldn't return to Downes until he completed at least 45 days at an alternative school.

"I think it's crazy that they don't use common sense," says Debbie Christie, Zachary's mother and the school's PTA co-president.

As news of Zachary's case spread, the school began to receive hundreds of calls protesting its decision.

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16-Year Old Got Life Without Parole for Killing Her Abusive Pimp -- Should Teens Be Condemned to Die in Jail?

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted October 31, 2009.

Two cases in the Supreme Court could alter the fates of over 2,500 people serving life without parole for crimes they committed as teenagers.

This article is the first in a two-part series about juveniles and harsh sentencing.

Sara Kruzan was 11 years old, a middle school student from Riverside, Calif., when she met a man -- he called himself GG -- who was almost three times her age. GG took her under his wing; he would buy her gifts, take her and her friends rollerskating. "He was like a father figure," she recalls.

Despite suffering severe bouts of depression as a child, until then, Kruzan was a good student, an "overachiever" in her words. But her mother was abusive and addicted to drugs; as for her father, she had only met him a couple of times. So, more and more, GG filled in.

"GG was there -- sometimes," she said. "He would talk to me and take me out and give me all these lavish gifts and do all these things for me …" Before long, he started talking to her about sex, giving her his expert advice on what men were really like and telling her that she didn't "need to give it up for free."

Read on...

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Supreme Court of Pa vacates 6500 juvenile convictions.

Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 10:04:17 PM PD

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled late Thursday that almost all juvenile delinquency cases heard by former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella from Jan. 1, 2003 to May 31, 2008 must be thrown out.
Ciavarella took millions in kickbacks to incarcerate juvenile offenders in private detention facilities.

This is an excellent link about this story, one of the most egregious abuses of judicial power (outside of appointing Bush President) in the history of the United States.

http://www.abcnews.go.com/...

Ciavarella and Michael Conahan ,who was serving as president judge of the Luzerne County Common Pleas Court, a position that allowed him to control the county-court budget, entered a plea deal that would have them serve 7 year sentences. The federal judge presiding over the case, 83-year-old Edwin M. Kosik, last month rejected the plea agreements Ciavarella and Conahan had signed in exchange for their admissions of guilt.

Read on...

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Justices will scrutinize life sentences for youths

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 29, 2009

It did not take long for the judge to determine that the convicted rapist in front of him was irredeemable.

"He is beyond help," Judge Nicholas Geeker said of Joe Harris Sullivan. "I'm going to try to send him away for as long as I can."

And then Geeker sentenced Sullivan to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At the time, Sullivan was 13 years old.

Now, 20 years after that sentencing in a courtroom in Pensacola, Fla., the Supreme Court will consider whether Sullivan's prison term -- and what his supporters say is an only-in-America phenomenon of extreme sentences for juveniles -- violates the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Read on...

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Witness to an assault: Must you report it?

By Alan Gomez, USA TODAY

Police investigating the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a school dance are finding that a California law may make it impossible to prosecute as many as 20 people who saw the rape and did nothing.

A state statute requires that people must report to police any information they have about the sexual assault of children under the age of 14. There is no law requiring people do the same for victims over that age.

"The fact that our victim missed that age by a very short time …" said Richmond Police Lt. Mark Gagan. "It's just very offensive that there's no statute we can use to show that we condemn their behavior."

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How Could It Be Against the Law to Spread Public Information?

By Charles Mostoller, AlterNet. Posted October 29, 2009.


An activist shared on Twitter what he heard on his police scanner, and now faces serious federal investigation.

The hazmat team rushed into Elliot Madison's home in Queens, N.Y., and headed straight for the kombucha tea brewing in a corner, assuming that the outspoken anarchist was concocting a chemical weapon.

Now Madison, 41 -- who is under investigation by a federal grand jury for violations of a rarely used anti-riot statute -- has denounced the probe as politically motivated and in violation his constitutional rights.

Madison was arrested on Sept. 24 at a hotel outside Pittsburgh, accused under Pennsylvania law of aiding protesters at the G20 Summit by listening to a police scanner and then sending out Twitter feeds on the location of police, helping protesters to avoid arrest.

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Seems like Obama's Department of Justice is picking up right where George Bush's left off - Tom

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Task Force: Signing of Hate Crimes Measure Is Historic

"Laws embody the values of our nation, and through the enactment of this hate crimes law, our country has — once and for all — sent a clear and unequivocal message that it rejects and condemns all forms of hate violence, including crimes motivated by hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

— National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey

WASHINGTON - October 28 - President Obama today signed federal hate crimes legislation into law. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will help protect people against violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, gender, national origin and disability by extending the federal hate crimes statute. It will provide critical federal resources to state and local agencies to equip local officers with the tools they need to prosecute hate crimes. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey will attend the commemorative event later today at the White House.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Freakonomics" Authors Tell You How to be a Good Prostitute

Posted by Sady Doyle, Comment Is Free at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2009.


The men behind "Freakonomics" offer a stunningly shallow and flawed view of sex work as a career option for women.

Good news, ladies. You, too, can make millions by charging for sex! And you'll just have a slam-bang, gee-golly splendiferous time doing it, too -- at least if you absolutely adore the sort of men who pay for it. Be warned, however: Disliking those men will consign you to the minimum-wage ranks of sex professionals, forever longing for the big bucks you could be earning, had you only an appropriately chipper attitude.

Such is the advice of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, of Freakonomics fame. They are back with a new book, Superfreakonomics, and recently they unveiled a bit of it in the form of an excerpt about how to succeed as a prostitute.

Freakonomics, of course, is the science of choosing an appropriately wacky or controversial subject (sumo wrestlers, abortion), applying a little economic analysis to it and coming up with a shocking conclusion that will make people blog about you. In that respect, the how-to-charge-for-sex piece was a no-brainer. Expressing any opinion about prostitution will bring on outrage (and attention) from one corner or another, no matter what your opinion turns out to be. Of course, if you are aiming for maximum impact, it helps to be -- as Levitt and Dubner are -- really, stunningly, remarkably wrong.

Read on...


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teaching The Kids A Lesson

by digby



Following up on my post earlier today about the new "warning label" on the tasers, here's some rather disturbing news on the same subject:

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Board of Juvenile Affairs on Friday moved ahead with plans for legislation and rules to allow the use of pepper spray and Taser devices in secure facilities.

[...]

Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Okay, said he intends to sponsor legislation that would allow OJA staff to use chemical spray and or Tasers to protect themselves and obtain control of juveniles in a facility.

Read on...

[Critics, including civil-rights lawyers and human-rights advocates, called the training bulletin an admission by Taser that its guns could cause cardiac arrest. They called it a stunning reversal for the company, which for years has maintained that the gun was incapable of inducing a cardiac arrest. (Image: Metro.co.uk)]Critics, including civil-rights lawyers and human-rights advocates, called the training bulletin an admission by Taser that its guns could cause cardiac arrest. They called it a stunning reversal for the company, which for years has maintained that the gun was incapable of inducing a cardiac arrest. (Image: Metro.co.uk)

And don't forget this story from Taser Inernational. Tom

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Spiritual Misguidance

October 21, 2009 6:06 PM

PrayIf you're going to find religion while committing an armed robbery, the least you should do is leave the scene without violating any of the Ten Commandments. Otherwise you look like a hypocrite.

Gregory Smith, pictured, entered an Advance America Cash store, pointed a gun at a clerk and soon asked her to pray with him, according to police in Indianapolis, IN who have surveillance video of Smith on bended knee in prayer with the victim (seen at right).

Read on...

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Judges reject California plan to cut prison crowding

The panel threatens to impose its own plan if the state does not submit an acceptable one within three weeks.

October 22, 2009

Cramped

Crowded conditions at the state prison in Lancaster. A three-judge federal panel has given the Schwarzenegger administration three weeks to come up with an acceptable plan for reducing the California prison population. (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times / March 2, 2007)


Reporting from Sacramento - Three federal judges on Wednesday forcefully rejected a Schwarzenegger administration proposal to ease prison overcrowding, threatening to impose their own plan for reducing the inmate population if the state does not submit an acceptable one within three weeks.

The panel said California officials had failed to comply with their order to produce a plan to pare the number of state prisoners by 40,000 within two years. The judges agreed to postpone a decision on a request by inmates' lawyers to hold Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in contempt of court for defying the earlier order, issued Aug. 4.

The state's plan, submitted Sept. 18, also failed to specify how much lower the number of inmates would be after six, 12, 18 and 24 months, as the judges had demanded.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Screams, Flames Among Horrors of Botched US Executions

by Lucile Malandain

[Signs against the death penalty are seen in front of the Supreme Court in Washington DC in 2008. (AFP image)]Signs against the death penalty are seen in front of the Supreme Court in Washington DC in 2008. (AFP image)

WASHINGTON — US executions are meant to be clinical and humane, but for some they end up resembling medieval torture, complete with the smell of burning flesh, screams, and scenes so gruesome that witnesses faint.

"We put animals to death more humanely," reporter Carla McClain said of a 1992 execution she witnessed, in which Donald Eugene Harding writhed and thrashed in an Arizona gas chamber for over 10 minutes before dying.

Last month, Romell Brown became only the second man to leave a US execution chamber alive, after 18 failed attempts to administer the lethal injection.

Read on...

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In a switch, police invite scrutiny of racial profiling

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

DENVER — By the time police Sgt. Robert Motyka responds to the disturbance call at a local hospital emergency room, the man at the reception counter is clearly agitated.

His speech is unintelligible. He becomes frantic as the officer slowly approaches, urging him to calm down. In a blur of flailing arms, the man reaches for something in his back pocket.

Motyka has no time to consider the possible consequences of one of the most potentially combustible scenarios in America: a confrontation between a black man and a white officer.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

DOJ to Issue New Guidelines on Medical Marijuana Busts

By Jeralyn, Section Crime Policy


Bump and Update: Here is the text of the DOJ memo.

The Department of Justice is sending out a three page memo to prosecutors in the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana with new guidelines for prosecutions. According to unnamed officials,

... [the memo] emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.

Without a doubt? Sounds like there's some wiggle room. [More...]

At the same time, the officials said, the government will still prosecute those who use medical marijuana as a cover for other illegal activity. The memo particularly warns that some suspects may hide old-fashioned drug dealing or other crimes behind a medical marijuana business.

Read on...

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Playing God? Texas Jury Consulted Bible Before Sentencing Man to Death

Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 12:30 PM on October 16, 2009.


Khristian Oliver is set to be executed next month, after jurors used Old Testament passages to determine whether he should live or die.

Last week I wrote about Texas Governor Rick Perry's craven attempts to cover up proof that he signed off on the execution of an innocent man. Crazy, yes? But crazier than a pack of jurors who consult the Bible before deciding whether to sentence someone to death?

From Amnesty International:

Khristian Oliver, 32, is set to be killed on 5 November after jurors used Biblical passages supporting the death penalty to help them decide whether he should live or die.
Amnesty International is calling on the Texas authorities to commute Khristian Oliver's death sentence. The organization considers that the jurors' use of the Bible during their sentencing deliberations raises serious questions about their impartiality.
A U.S. federal appeals court acknowledged last year that the jurors' use of the Bible amounted to an "external influence" prohibited under the U.S. Constitution, but nonetheless upheld the death sentence.

Read on...

Remind me to not visit Texas. Tom

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Swine flu prisoner's dilemma

Posted on: October 16, 2009 6:18 AM, by revere

Via Crof's blog (invaluable, as always) I learned of the decision of Massachusetts state health officials to vaccinate state prisoners before the rest of the population:

Prison officials warn that inmates could quickly spread the flu if not inoculated -- particularly those in high-risk groups such as AIDS patients.

Middlesex Sheriff James DiPaola told the Boston Herald that prisons were the perfect flu "breeding ground."

DiPaola dealt with riots in a Cambridge jail when rumors of swine flu spread there. (AP)

State legislators are already complaining that there are other, more vulnerable groups that deserve to be at the head of the line. That's probably true, but like a lot of things about flu, this one raises some knotty questions which we can choose to ignore but which we shouldn't. Let me raise a couple of them.

Read on...

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Facial Profiling

Can you tell if a man is dangerous by the shape of his mug?

Illustration by Charlie Powell. Click image to expand.

On Nov. 27, 2008, Indian police interrogators came face to face with the only gunman captured alive in last year's bloody Mumbai terror attacks. They were surprised by what they saw. Ajmal Kasab, who had murdered dozens in the city's main railway station, stood barely 5 feet tall, with bright eyes and apple cheeks. His boyish looks earned him a nickname among Indians—"the baby-faced killer"—and further spooked a rattled public. "Who or what is he? Dangerous fanatic or exploited innocent?" wondered a horrified columnist in the Times of India. No one, it seems, had expected the face of terror to look so sweet.

The notion that a man's mug reveals his character is an age-old bias. Since Aristotle, people have thought it possible to infer personality traits from the face and body, an art known as physiognomy. The practice grew popular in the years after the American Revolution, when a Swiss enthusiast published a series of illustrated pocket guides to help readers interpret faces on the go. Soon, it was plain to everyone that a man's greatness was prefigured in his face. (George Washington's big schnoz, for example, signaled strength and foresight.) Over the next 150 years, a gang of enterprising physiognomists set about using the new "science" to identify society's bad apples, too.

Read on...

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AbortionWorldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress

Acknowledgments
Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress was
written by Susheela Singh, Rubina Hussain, Akinrinola
Bankole and Gilda Sedgh, all of the Guttmacher Institute,
and Deirdre Wulf, independent consultant. The report was
edited by Peter Doskoch and copyedited by Haley Ball;
Kathleen Randall supervised production.
The authors thank the following colleagues for their comments
and help in developing this report: Elena Prada and
Michael Vlassoff, for reviewing the literature; Alison
Gemmill, for providing research support throughout the
project; and Ann Biddlecom, Sharon Camp, Susan A.
Cohen, Leila Darabi, Patricia Donovan, Stanley K.
Henshaw, Ann Moore, Cory L. Richards and Gustavo
Suárez, for reviewing drafts of the report. Special thanks
are due to Jacqueline E. Darroch and Stanley Henshaw
for assistance with data interpretation and to Evert
Ketting for providing data from various European countries.
All are affiliated with the Guttmacher Institute,
except for Elena Prada and Evert Ketting, who are independent
consultants.

Read on...

Here's a link to a story about this report if you don't want to wade through the complete report: Tom

Worldwide abortion rates fall

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Behind Montana Jail Fiasco: How Private Prison Developers Prey On Desperate Towns

With the unraveling of the deal for the shadowy American Private Police Force to take over and populate an empty jail in Hardin, Montana, it's pretty clear that the small city got played by an ex-con and his (supposed) private security firm.

But an investigation by TPMmuckraker into how Hardin ended up with the 92,000 square foot facility in the first place suggests that, long before "low-level card shark" Michael Hilton ever came to town, Hardin officials had already been taken for a ride by a far more powerful set of players: a well-organized consortium of private companies headquartered around the country, which specializes in pitching speculative and risky prison projects to local governments desperate for jobs.

The projects have generated multi-million dollar profits for the companies involved, but often haven't created the anticipated payoff for the communities, and have left a string of failed or failing prisons in their wake.

Read on...

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