Friday, April 27, 2012

Crime: Germany announces plans for gun registry

Germany's parliament is establishing a weapons registry. The decision came on the tenth anniversary of a school massacre, but is part of an EU plan for Europe-wide gun registration.

On the morning of April 26, 2002, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from Gutenberg High School in the eastern German city of Erfurt began a deadly rampage. Over the course of two hours, he systematically stalked his former school's corridors and classrooms. The perpetrator killed 12 teachers, one secretary, one police officer and two students before taking his own life. Germany's first school shooting put the country into a state of shock, and triggered an earnest debate on how to toughen gun laws.

Exactly ten years after the massacre, Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, decided to establish a central weapons registry. It will gather information from the 600 offices that issue weapons permits throughout Germany in one place.

Read on...

How America Lost Its Collective Mind in the Drug War

By any measure; economically, morally, democratically, we are the worse for pot prohibition.

Towards the beginning of the cult classic Dazed & Confused, a high school senior named Slater, inquires of baby-faced freshman Mitch, "are you cool?" What Slater was really asking--in this ode to 1970s youth and the counterculture--was do you smoke pot?

Ahh the 70s. Back before the Reagan Revolution kicked the kooky, corrupt and thoroughly counterproductive War On Drugs into high gear. Suddenly this country lost its collective mind, suffering a lapse in judgment that vaunted well past ill-advised and just beyond "they have weapons of mass destruction" to what might best be labeled "the mind of Ted Nugent."
p
By any measure; economically, morally, democratically, we are the worse for allowing special interests, from private prisons to the security industry, take us down this road. It has spiritually hollowed us out, while erecting a prominent prison culture that makes The People's Republic of China seem like Woodstock.

Police who lie: False testimony often goes unpunished

The first time Toronto police Det. Scott Aikman deceived the court, a judge denounced his “misleading” testimony and threw out a cocaine charge against a man.
The second time, Det. Aikman’s story explaining why he and his partner searched a minivan led to the acquittal of four suspects accused of masterminding an international credit-card data-theft ring.

Aikman “either fabricated or concealed evidence” to justify the van search, the judge said. The four suspects, charged with a total of 321 offences, walked free. Was Aikman disciplined for his conduct in court?

“No. Of course not,” said Aikman, explaining to the Star that he had done nothing wrong.
A coast-to-coast Toronto Star investigation found more than 120 police officers have been accused by judges of outright lying, misleading the court or fabricating evidence since 2005. Many of the officers have gone unpunished.

Read on...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Police who lie: How officers thwart justice with false testimony

Visibly nervous, papers shaking in their hands, Toronto police officers Jay Shin and Joseph Tremblay testified under oath that they stopped Delroy Mattison's Chrysler Intrepid on the afternoon of July 18, 2011, because they saw him using a cellphone.

The officers were lying, just not very well.

In Mattison's trunk that summer day were a stainless steel .357 Smith & Wesson revolver and 31 bullets. Mattison, who had a previous conviction for armed robbery, was on his way to a drug deal. Under the law, these officers needed a reason to stop and detain Mattison. Without one, they would never have found the gun.

The problem is they never seized a cellphone or noted the existence of one in paperwork filled out at the scene. That night, a third officer snapped photos of the impounded Chrysler's interior, none showing a phone.

Read on...

Quebec Spring: Students Back on the Streets in Ongoing Struggle Against Tuition Hikes

Breakdown in talks over tuition fee increases leads to continuing fury on the streets

Montreal erupted last night as talks between students and the government over university tuition hikes broke down, leading to a continuation of the students' 10-week strike. Protesters hit the streets once again, and they were met with riot police resulting in 85 arrests.

The breakdown happened when one of the student groups, CLASSE, which represents half the students on strike, was excluded from the talks.

CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois slammed the move, saying, "The government is using the old strategy of divide and conquer." And added, "The minister is trying to weaken the student movement."

Read on...

The Ghost of Joe McCarthy Slithers Again

Echoing the unsubstantiated claims by Joe McCarthy during the 1950s that communists had infiltrated the top ranks of the American government, Republican Rep. Allen West stated earlier this week that he believes that more than 75 members of the House Democrats are members of the Communist Party.

We’ve talked at times about George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, and the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today. Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw Congressman Allen West of Florida on the news.

A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”
He replied, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

Read on...

The Supreme Court Would Like To See Your Papers

The justices say Arizona’s immigration law has nothing to do with race—except when it pleases them.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court tells the U.S. solicitor general in the opening seconds of his presentation that “No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?,” we will not be hearing a case about racial profiling. That is especially true when the solicitor general agrees. Never mind that a significant amount of the discussion over the constitutionality of Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the infamous state immigration law, ends up poring over both racial profiling and Fourth Amendment law. But you can forget that; those issues are not before the court today.

 Among the provisions of the controversial law that was copied by five other states and enjoined by a federal appeals court last year is the “papers please” provision requiring state police to check the legal status of anyone stopped lawfully but who they believe to be in the country illegally. It does lead one to wonder what kinds of thin, pretextual stops might worry a Supreme Court justice. The case recycles last month’s leading Supreme Court advocates in the health care cases, with Paul Clement returning for his role as the Reasonable States-Rights Guy, and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli reprising his role of Sober Gentleman Advocate From Another Era, which at this moment in Roberts Court history feels like a guy who brings a butter dish to a gunfight. Verrilli looks like he wants to be any place but listening to Justice Antonin Scalia—the justice most likely to be pulled over for impersonating a paid Fox News contributor—analogizing the right to demand papers of suspected illegal immigrants to the Framers’ guarantee that the states’ rights to police their own borders included “inspecting incoming shipments to exclude diseased material.”

Read on...

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Port Huron Statement: Still Radical at 50

Students for a Democratic Society meeting 1963
Members of Students for a Democratic Society raise their fists at the 1963 SDS National Council Meeting in Bloomington, Ind. (Photo by C. Clark Kissinger)

 A half-century after the Students for a Democratic Society adopted their seminal manifesto, 14 activists–including three people who helped shape the statement–assess its legacy.

For five days in June 1962, members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) gathered at a UAW camp near Port Huron, Mich., for the group’s first national convention. The result was The Port Huron Statement: a 25,700-word manifesto that articulated the fundamental problems of American society and laid out a radical vision for a better future. It marked a seminal moment in the development of the New Left.

Today, the Occupy movement has lit a match not unlike the one struck at Port Huron. To mark the 50th anniversary of Port Huron–and what we hope is the dawn of an enduring youth movement–In These Times asked 14 activists, ranging in age from 21 to 72, including three people who attended the Port Huron convention, to reflect on what that statement offers us today. Their responses follow, preceded by the portion of the statement they found significant. –The Editors

Read on...

fyi - Bill Ayers is the final comment in this story.  Tom

The Most (And Least) Violent U.S. States: Report

Violence and its aftermath cost the U.S. economy some $460 billion last year, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace's second annual United States Peace Index, released on Tuesday.

Those costs - which include direct burdens like medical care for victims and the prison system and indirect factors like lost productivity - vary widely by state, with the most peaceful states bearing the lowest burden and the most violent spending
far more.

A state's level of peacefulness is not the only factor that determines the economic toll of violence; its population and level of overall economic activity also has a strong influence.

Read on...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

5 Supreme Court Decisions Pandering to Christianity

In these five cases, the Supreme Court dropped the ball on separation of church and state. 

In theory, the Supreme Court is where Americans turn to protect their rights when all else fails. The high court is supposed to be beyond the reach of politics, and more importantly, beyond the reach of popular will. After all, just because many Americans want something doesn’t mean it’s constitutional.
This is true especially in matters of religion. Despite what many Americans believe, the majority does not rule when it comes to religion. Core freedoms depend on no vote. Most people in your town may sincerely believe that compelling students to say Christian prayers or learn creationism in public schools is a desirable – but that doesn’t make it legal.

In the main, the Supreme Court has done a pretty good job of upholding the separation of church and state. The high court has put the brakes on mandatory religious worship in public schools and barred direct tax support of sectarian enterprises.

But the court has made a few missteps along the way. That’s inevitable because as much as we’d like to think that the court is not a political institution, presidents do use the power of appointment to shape the bench, beyond their own terms in office.

Here are five cases where the Supreme Court dropped the ball on separation of church and state.




Canadian police officers overworked, understaffed, stressed-out: survey

Canada's police officers may be well-paid, but they are paying dearly in terms of their mental and physical health, according to the findings of a major study of officer wellness to be released Tuesday by Ottawa's Carleton University.
The study, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, says officers are stressed-out and stretched thin like never before — facing long hours, constantly changing shifts, understaffing, more complex caseloads and a lack of career-development opportunities, as well as growing family pressures at home.
Managers can no longer expect officers to "suck it up," the researchers warn, adding that police agencies likely will see greater absenteeism, more long-term disability and benefits payouts, and more difficulties attracting and retaining officers if they ignore these work-life balance issues.
"I'm afraid a lot of the young people won't stay," Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, told Postmedia News.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Getting Paid 93 Cents a Day in America? Corporations Bring Back the 19th Century

Nearly a million prisoners are working in call centers, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73. 

Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. It can be found across broad stretches of the American economy and around the world.  Penitentiaries have become a niche market for such work.  The privatization of prisons in recent years has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain.

Prisoners, whose ranks increasingly consist of those for whom the legitimate economy has found no use, now make up a virtual brigade within the reserve army of the unemployed whose ranks have ballooned along with the U.S. incarceration rate.  The Corrections Corporation of America and G4S (formerly Wackenhut), two prison privatizers, sell inmate labor at subminimum wages to Fortune 500 corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, and IBM.
These companies can, in most states, lease factories in prisons or prisoners to work on the outside.  All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day. 

Shutdown of Kingston Pen clears path for Alcatraz North

The shuttering of Canada’s oldest prison has opened up the possibility of turning the Kingston institution into a tourist destination comparable to Alcatraz.
The federal government announced the cost-saving measure of closing the aging Kingston Penitentiary last week. The shutdown will begin next year and will be complete by 2014-15.

The maximum-security institution, on the shores of Lake Ontario, a short drive from downtown, has housed the likes of Paul Bernardo, Russell Williams and Clifford Olson. Notorious inmates, riots and daring escapes have dominated public attention throughout the Pen’s 177-year history in Kingston – but it has also been a steady source of hundreds of jobs for the community.
Once the fortress closes, it could bring something else to Kingston, if there’s support and funding to ensure it isn’t left dormant.

Read on....

How America Came To Torture Its Prisoners

I read nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents about America’s abuse of prisoners since 2001. Here is what I learned.

It began with one document.
On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush sent a 12-page Memorandum of Notification to his National Security Council. That memorandum, we know now, authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to set up and run secret prisons. We still don’t know exactly what it says: CIA attorneys have told a judge the document is so off-limits to the courts and the American people that even the font is classified. But we do know what it did: It literally opened a space for torture.
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit—a lawsuit the New York Times has called “among the most successful in the history of public disclosure”—we now know much of what happened in those secret spaces the Bush administration created. Under that litigation, the American Civil Liberties Union gathered nearly 140,000 formerly classified documents from the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, and the CIA that detail the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody in the “War on Terror.” My job, as the author of the website www.thetorturereport.org and then of the book The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program, was to dig through that incredible trove of documents and figure out for myself what, exactly, my country had done.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cue RoboCop Jokes: Meet South Korea’s New Robot Prison Guards

Last November, South Korea unveiled plans to test out robot prison guards intended to monitor inmates for suicidal and violent behavior.

Now Reuters reports that South Korea has started testing the machines.

"By using the 3D depth camera, it will detect every detail of actions happening inside through a window. So, when there is an unusual behaviour, it's going to analyse it and report the problem to the control system. Therefore, correctional officers will run and arrive at the scene in time,” Lee Baik-Chul, chairman of the Asian Forum for Corrections, told Reuters.

Read on...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

40 Years in Solitary Confinement: US 'Pushing Boundaries of Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment'

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been in solitary in Angola Prison since 1972

Herman Wallace, left, and Albert Woodfox in Angola prison in Louisiana.

Today marks the dark anniversary of 40 years of solitary confinement of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace at Angola Prison in Louisiana.

Amnesty International will hand over a 65,000-signature petition to Louisiana Governor Jindal today demanding an end to Woodfox and Wallace's solitary confinement.

The 40-year isolated incarceration of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace "pushes the boundaries of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and flies in the face of international standards to which the US is a party,” stated Everette Harvey Thompson, Southern Office Regional Director of Amnesty International USA.

Describing the cell he's lived in for 40 years, Herman Wallace says, "I can make about four steps forward before I touch the door."

Read on...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ottawa axes rehabilitation program for prison ‘lifers’

Convicted murderers are among the ranks of federal workers losing their jobs through budget cuts.

The Globe and Mail has learned that one of the many federal programs that will be cut in its entirety is LifeLine, a program aimed at helping people with life sentences – or “lifers” – successfully re-integrate into society once they’ve been paroled.

At a starting salary of about $38,000, the program hires and trains successfully-paroled lifers to mentor other lifers who are still incarcerated or who have been recently released on parole.

“It’s too bad about the LifeLine. It helped me out a lot. It kept me out of prison,” said Peter Wozney, 44, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder when he was 16 and has been successfully paroled since August of 2009.

Read on...

Brady Campaign Statement on Romney's Appearance at NRA Convention

Statement of Brady Campaign President Dan Gross on GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's appearance at the NRA convention:

WASHINGTON - April 13 - "Mitt Romney has already established a clear reputation for flip-flopping and pandering to win votes, and that is just what he is doing by speaking at the NRA convention. This time he is going too far. He is proudly aligning himself with a lobby that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans every year, a lobby that uses a mentality of fear and paranoia, tinged with just the right amount of racism, to promote its sole agenda of selling more guns, with no concern for who buys those or how they are used. As the nation focuses on the arrest of George Zimmerman, Mitt Romney is pandering to the very people who put the gun in his hands. I'm sure Romney will have a lot of very "American" things to say about supporting the Constitution and the right to bear arms and our founding fathers. None of those things have anything to do with what the gun lobby does. In fact, I could not think of anything less "American" than appearing at the convention of a lobby that is responsible for killing so many of our citizens."

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative and grassroots affiliate, the Brady Campaign and its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence.

We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.

Is gun control dead?

Monday marks five years since the massacre at Virginia Tech, where a mentally ill student, Seung Hui Cho, used two handguns he had bought legally to kill 32 people and wound 25 others. Other than a relatively minor law to improve the national database used for background checks, no significant gun-control legislation followed that tragedy.

Since then, there have been several mass shootings, including additional school rampages and the attempted assassination last year of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).Yet there remains little political will to reform this country’s flawed gun-safety rules — unless, of course, someone is proposing to make access to guns easier.

But if gun control is dead politically, it remains alive and well in the courts, despite a few high-profile Supreme Court rulings. For all the talk of America’s gun culture, we also have a gun-control culture. Gun control is as much a part of America’s DNA as the Second Amendment and the six-shooter.

Read on....

This is from a Washington Post editorial. Tom

Mitt Romney Courts Big Tin Foil

Mitt Romney

In the last four years, the National Rifle Association has accused President Barack Obama of plotting to ban handguns, quintuple the price of ammunition, eliminate the entire legal construct of "self defense," and working with the United Nations to do everything short of taking Charlton Heston's Glock from his cold dead hands—although surely that will come in due time. Few organizations have done as much of the nation's leading gun lobby to gin up right-wing fears about the President's secret motives—a sinister agenda that could end, NRA president Wayne LaPierre warned in February, with the end of freedom and the collapse of America as we know it.

Their reward: A meeting on Friday with the man who just might be the next President. For the NRA, Mitt Romney's speech at their annual convention in St. Louis (alongside luminaries like Ted "suck on my machine gun" Nugent) was continued validation of their privileged status in national politics; for Romney, it was a reminder of just how far he's willing to go prove to conservatives he's one of them. Even if it means speaking to a group whose recent rhetoric would make the Birchers blush.

Read on...

Too many gun nuts

How Pro-Gun Laws Swept The Nation Since 2009: A Guide

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R)

Trayvon Martin’s death may have opened a nationwide dialogue about the wisdom of lax gun laws. But that hasn’t slowed down the National Rifle Association. The absolutist Second Amendment group remains firmly on offense, representing a movement that has crushed its political adversaries so thoroughly that even tragic tales can’t slow its juggernaut.

At its annual convention in St. Louis, Mo. this weekend, NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, decried the “sensational reporting from Florida,” referring to stories about Martin, an unarmed teenager recently who was shot to death in late February. NRA Executive Director Chris Cox defended the state’s “stand your ground” law that may ultimately let shooter George Zimmerman off the hook, declaring, “Castle doctrine can literally save your life.”

Read on...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Anti-bullying strategy launched by Guelph Police

Sergeant Doug Pflug’s muscles grew in response to bullying.

The brawny officer opened up Tuesday about his own victimization at the hands of bullies during the launch of the Guelph Police Anti-Bullying Strategy. In elementary school, bullies derided him with the nickname “Fatty Pflug” and made him fear for his life.

A number of officers, a leading anti-bullying crusader and a recently bullied brass bear, all wore pink T-shirts for the launch in front of Macdonald Stewart Art Centre. The gallery’s Begging Bear was pushed over about a year ago and damaged.

The police strategy includes support for Alix Vander Vlugt’s Speak Out organization, and its Pink Shirt Day, which goes Wednesday.

Read on...

UC Davis Pepper Spray Report Released: Campus Police Force 'Very Dysfunctional'

Pepper spraying incident 'should and could have been prevented'

Months after students at UC Davis were filmed being soaked in pepper spray and arrested by police in riot gear after peacefully protesting at their university, a UC Davis 'task force' has finally released a report on the incident today.

The report includes a number of criticisms against police and administrative action on the day stating, "The pepper spraying incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been prevented." The report is critical of the actions of Police Chief Annette Spicuzza. It states, “the command and leadership structure of the UCDPD is very dysfunctional.”

The 190-page Reynoso Task Force Report said the use of pepper spray was “not supported by objective evidence and not authorized by policy.”

Read on....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2nd-Degree Murder Charge in Shooting

The Florida special prosecutor announced a second-degree murder charge on Wednesday against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Angela B. Corey, the prosecutor, said Mr. Zimmerman, 28, a crime watch volunteer, was in the custody of law enforcement officers in Florida. He is accused of fatally shooting Mr. Martin, an unarmed teenager, in a case that has captivated the country and brought to the fore issues of race, violence and precisely what constitutes self-defense.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Ms. Corey said. She added, “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition.”

“We will continue to seek the truth about this case,” she said.

Ms. Corey opened the news conference by saying that she had spoken to Trayvon Martin’s parents shortly after she took on the case, and that the investigation was driven by “the search for justice for Trayvon.”

Read on...

The awful repercussions of "Stand Your Ground"

The shooting of Trayvon Martin has justifiably put a focus on the insanity of "Stand Your Ground" gun laws. With reports in that George Zimmerman is in custody and will be charged with 2nd-degree murder leading to a raft of right-wing outrage, it's important to remember that the Right's rush to defend Zimmerman comes not only out of racial resentment, but out of a fear that these Wild West gun laws might be re-examined.

CNN has done stories focusing on other problematic cases in which Stand Your Ground has played a role. One of more troubling may be the recent shootings in Tulsa:

One possible motive that has been raised in the Tulsa Good Friday shooting spree, which left three dead and two critically wounded, is the 2010 killing of suspect Jacob England‘s father, Carl England, allegedly by Pernell Jefferson. Reporting on that 2010 incident has been unclear, but a review of contemporaneous news accounts and court records show echoes and shadows of the killing of Trayvon Martin, including an apparent connection to the “Stand Your Ground” laws that Martin’s case has put into focus.

Read on....

Toronto and Ottawa would benefit from drug injection sites: study

Both Toronto and Ottawa would benefit from designating places for the most extreme addicts to inject drugs safely.

That’s the conclusion of the Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment, an extensive study from Ahmed Bayoumi, from the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital, and Carol Strike, at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Toronto needs three supervised injection facilities, the study suggests; Ottawa, which has one of the highest levels of new HIV infection rates due to injection-drug use, needs two, the study finds.

And, the study suggests, the sites should be in places where the addicts already are.

The study has been years in the making: It was born out of a 2005 request from the city of Toronto’s drug use research group to look into whether a supervised consumption site would make sense for Canada’s largest urban area, and was later expanded to include Ottawa.

Read on...

Cheerleading for Monsanto? The Shocking Lack of Difference Between Oxford University Press and Fox News

Why is an esteemed academic press publishing books that lack even a basic citation of sources?

Eighteen months ago I read a book that changed my life. Yeah, yeah, I know... sounds corny. But it's not what you think. This book changed my life not because of what it said but because of what it didn't say

On a nothing-special summer afternoon in 2010, I sat in the Cambridge Public Library preparing a speech on something I'd been studying for decades. I plugged "world hunger" into the library's computer. Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know popped up.

Perfect, I thought. I knew I would have differences with the book because I'd just read a critique of the views of its author, Robert Paarlberg, by my daughter Anna Lappé on the Foreign Policy website. But I'm always eager to know how those with whom I disagree make their case. Noticing that Food Politics was published by Oxford University Press, I felt confident I could count on it being a credibly argued and sourced counterpoint.

So I began reading.

"I couldn't believe my eyes" doesn't do justice to the shock I experienced.

Read on...

Punishment and Profits: Immigration Detention

Fault Lines investigates the business of immigrant detention in the US.

Immigration is a key issue in the US presidential election, with the Republican candidates trying to demonstrate their tough stance on undocumented immigrants.

But under the Obama administration, the detention and deportation of immigrants has reached an all-time high.

Every day, the US government detains more than 33,000 non-citizens at the cost of $5.5mn a day. That is a lot of money for the powerful private prison industry, which spends millions of dollars on lobbying and now operates nearly half of the country's immigration detention centres.

Read on...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trayvon Martin Case: George Zimmerman's Attorneys Quit, Said Client 'Disappeared'

George Zimmerman's attorneys said in a press conference this afternoon that they will no longer be representing him. The attorneys claim that Zimmerman repeatedly rebuffed their legal advice, and that they have now lost contact with him.

Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, Zimmerman's lawyers, said that they had "lost contact" with Zimmerman, and said that he reached out to both Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, to have a conversation but would not share the details of that discussion.

"George called Sean Hannity of Fox News off the record and he was unwilling to tell us what was said," Uhrig said.

Sonner said that Zimmerman had stopped responding to their phone calls, and that they did not know exactly where he was, although they thought that he was no longer in Florida.

Read on...

Torture probe

Writing about the strip-search decision the other day, I said:

This is punitive, anyone can see that. They are "breaking down" suspects with humiliation to make them docile and afraid. There is no reason to grant the police blanket permission to do this except for a naive belief that anyone who is arrested must be guilty of something.
Scott Horton points out in this article called "The High Court’s Body-Cavity Fixation" that this is a well documented technique,

Just as the Florence decision was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are performed, it explains, to make the prisoner “feel uncomfortable and degraded.” Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence, well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now, thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse repertoire in the United States. Something to consider the next time you walk Fido without scooping up his droppings—a cop may well be watching, ready to seize the opportunity to invade your rectum.

Read on....

Bring the Justices Back to Earth

GIVEN the very real possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn the Affordable Care Act, liberals are concerned that the right-wing tilt of five justices and lifelong appointments ensure a decades-long assault on the power of Congress. This is especially likely given the relative youth of the bloc’s conservative members: an average of 66 years old, when the last 10 justices to retire did so at an average age of 78.

The situation brings to mind a proposal voiced most prominently by Gov. Rick Perry during his run for the Republican presidential nomination: judicial term limits.

The idea isn’t new. High-ranking judges in all major nations, and all 50 states, are subject to age or term limits. The power to invalidate legislation is, in a sense, the ultimate political power, and mortals who exercise it need constraint. So why not the highest court in the land?

Read on...

This is a New York Times op-ed. Tom

Monday, April 9, 2012

'Civil Rights' Group Patrolling Sanford Florida

That's That was the title at Fox 35 in Orlando. No joke. This is not a headline from The Onion. White supremacists are now just another group in Amerika, fighting for their civil rights.

The good folks at Fox might want to open a history book sometime and read up on the most infamous of these National Socialist groups.

Florida members of the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement tells FOX35 they are patrolling the streets of Sanford.

The white rights organization says several Sanford citizens have called on them fearing their safety.

The group's commander talked with FOX35 Saturday about their presence in the now racially divided Florida town where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.

Read on...

Fox News stinks. Tom

7 Rules for Recording Police

Things you should and shouldn't do when armed with a camera against the police.

Last week the City of Boston agreed to pay Simon Glik $170,000 in damages and legal fees to settle a civil rights lawsuit stemming from his 2007 felony arrest for videotaping police roughing up a suspect. Prior to the settlement, the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Glik had a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.” The Boston Police Department now explicitly instructs its officers not to arrest citizens openly recording them in public.

Slowly but surely the courts are recognizing that recording on-duty police is a protected First Amendment activity. But in the meantime, police around the country continue to intimidate and arrest citizens for doing just that. So if you’re an aspiring cop watcher you must be uniquely prepared to deal with hostile cops.

If you choose to record the police you can reduce the risk of terrible legal consequences and video loss by understanding your state’s laws and carefully adhering to the following rules.

Read on...

Stand Your Ground laws coincide with jump in justifiable-homicide cases

When Billy Kuch knocked on the wrong door, he had a cigarette in one hand and a shirt in the other. The homeowner, Gregory Stewart, stepped outside, stood his ground, fired a round from his semiautomatic into Kuch’s chest, and in the eyes of the state of Florida, committed no crime.

Three years after that shooting, in a Land O’ Lakes subdivision called Stagecoach Village, Kuch is alive but damaged by his injuries and the shock of being shot at point-blank range. Stewart is free but lying low, still sought out by neighbors and others who want him to account for his actions.

“I have no problem with people owning guns to protect themselves,” says Bill Kuch, Billy’s father. “But somehow, we’ve reached the point where the shooter’s word is the law. The victim doesn’t even get his day in court. I don’t think most Americans realize it, but that’s where we are.”

In Florida and across the country, “Stand Your Ground” laws — the same kind of legislation that authorities cited for not arresting a neighborhood-watch volunteer after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in February — have coincided with a sharp increase in justifiable-homicide cases.

Read on...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Way of The Gun

Iconic characters from crime fiction's most popular writers reflect on their tools of the trade.



JOE PIKE, Businessman

GUN: KIMBER CUSTOM II MODEL 1911 .45 ACP

“The best semiautomatic combat pistol made. The lowered ejector port, full-length guide rail, beveled magazine well and superb tolerances give outstanding out-of-the-box accuracy and reliability. The big .45 ACP bullet is heavy and slow, but that’s what you want. A lighter, faster bullet will punch through a man, carrying its energy with it. A .45 hollowpoint flattens and dumps its energy into the target like a truck T-boning a Prius. You don’t need to double-tap with the .45. One shot will knock a big man off his feet. LAPD SWAT uses the Kimber. USMC Special Operations Command (Force Recon) uses it. I use it. That’s all you need to know.”

WRITER: ROBERT CRAIS

Read on...

A Police Officer Was Forced To Release Pepper Spray. At 4 Year Old.

Update:

A four year old girl was pepper-sprayed by Santa Monica College Campus Police last evening. All in the name of public safety, of course.


Photobucket

It wasn't just students protesting tuition hikes who were blasted with pepper spray by campus police at Santa Monica College yesterday. This child -- apparently a 4-year-old girl -- was also hit. The students, and child, were pepper-sprayed to prevent them from "storming" -- i.e. attending -- a board of trustee's meeting.
What dire threat prompted this reenactment of John Pike's famous "spray heard round the world." ? Someone with a gun? Rocks thrown? Tens of thousands threatening to storm the Bastille? Hoodies donned? Someone shouting "Hella, Hella Occupy" ? Nope. Much worse than any of that. A bunch of people wanted to go to a meeting to protest class cutbacks.

Read on....

Chancellor asks Santa Monica College to put two-tier plan on hold

Does anyone know if UofT campus police are armed with pepper spray or tasers?
Tom

Russia working on electromagnetic radiation guns

zombies
A scene from Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies.

WHILE many believed it to be an April Fool's Day joke, Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia has been testing mind-bending psychotronic guns that can effectively turn people into zombies.

The futuristic weapons - which attack their victims' central nervous system - are being developed by scientists and could be used against Russia's enemies and even its own dissidents by the end of the decade.

Mr Putin has described the guns, which use electromagnetic radiation like that found in microwave ovens, as entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals.

Plans to introduce the super-weapons were announced by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov.

While the technology has been around for some time, MrTsyganok said the guns were recently tested for crowd control purposes.

Read on...

Another neat crowd control device. Tom

Old Behind Bars

Life in prison can challenge anyone, but it can be particularly hard for people whose bodies and minds are being whittled away by age.

Prisons in the United States contain an ever growing number of aging men and women who cannot readily climb stairs, haul themselves to the top bunk, or walk long distances to meals or the pill line; whose old bones suffer from thin mattresses and winter’s cold; who need wheelchairs, walkers, canes, portable oxygen, and hearing aids; who cannot get dressed, go to the bathroom, or bathe without help; and who are incontinent, forgetful, suffering chronic illnesses, extremely ill, and dying.

Using data from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Human Rights Watch calculates that the number of sentenced federal and state prisoners who are age 65 or older grew an astonishing 94 times faster than the total sentenced prisoner population between 2007 and 2010. The older prison population increased by 63 percent, while the total prison population grew by 0.7 percent during the same period.

Some older men and women in prison today entered when they were young or middle-aged; others committed crimes when they were already along in years. Those who have lengthy sentences, as many do, are not likely to leave prison before they are aged and infirm. Some will die behind bars: between 2001 and 2007, 8,486 prisoners age 55 or older died in prison.

This report is the first of two that Human Rights Watch plans to issue on the topic of elderly prisoners in the US.[1] It presents new data on the number of aging men and women in prison; provides information on the cost of confining them; and based on research conducted in nine states where prisons vary significantly in size, resources, and conditions, offers an overview of some ways that prison systems have responded to them. The report tackles some policy considerations posed by incarcerating elderly inmates, and raises the human rights concerns that must be addressed if sound policies are to be developed for the criminal punishment and incarceration of older prisoners, both those who grow old in prison and those who enter at an advanced age.

Prison officials are hard-pressed to provide conditions of confinement that meet the needs and respect the rights of their elderly prisoners. They are also ill-prepared—lacking the resources, plans, commitment, and support from elected officials—to handle the even greater numbers of older prisoners projected for the future, barring much needed changes to harsh “tough on crime” laws that lengthened sentences and reduced or eliminated opportunities for parole or early release.

Read on...

How Do Police Rule Out Foul Play?

Also, why don’t they just call it “murder?”

French academic and political adviser Richard Descoings was found dead in his room at New York’s Michelangelo Hotel on Tuesday. Blood was coming out of his mouth, and his cell phone was discovered on a lower-floor landing. Police told reporters they have not ruled out foul play. How would they rule out foul play?

By looking for internal injuries. Most mysterious deaths come from natural causes, accident, or suicide, but even when there are no signs of violence police often make a point of saying they cannot rule out foul play until there’s been an autopsy. Medical examiners sometimes find hidden, superficial clues, such as a small gunshot wound in the victim’s scalp, that escaped police notice. They also check the inside of the victim’s body for evidence of a violent attack. It’s possible to fatally damage someone’s organs without leaving major bruises on his abdomen, for example, and strangulation can cause internal hemorrhaging and damage to neck muscles without leaving a mark on the skin. Advanced toxicology methods can uncover a case of homicidal poisoning, though these are quite rare. (Jeffrey Dahmer is probably the best known poisoner of recent years. He used chloroform and other chemicals to kill some of his victims.)

The medical examiner considers the likelihood of natural or accidental death by reviewing the deceased’s medical background. A history of drug abuse or heart disease can guide the examination and go a long way toward ruling out foul play.

Read on...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Police Pepper-spray Santa Monica Students

Mobs of students disrupt a Board of Trustees meeting upset over a highly controversial plan to offer pricier classes. Trustee calls the use of pepper spray a "black eye" on the college. Administrators will launch an investigation.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

If George Zimmerman Were on Trial

Which evidence about the shooting of Trayvon Martin could a jury hear?

As new information continues to surface about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, we’re hearing a lot about how the facts are dividing rather than uniting us. As David Carr points out, as social media and the Internet take over the conversation, what you make of Martin’s use of the Twitter handle @no_limit_nigga, or the hard-to-hear 911 call in which Zimmerman may or may not have used a racial epithet, has a lot to do with your own predilections. Most of us have staked out a position by now. We have a gut sense about whether Martin was killed for little or no reason, or whether Zimmerman truly acted in self-defense, as he claims. We read the evidence in a way that confirms our instincts.

But let’s imagine for a moment that Zimmerman gets arrested, stands trial for homicide, and argues self-defense in court. That is what I still think should have happened, with or without Florida’s Stand Your Ground law (though it’s true that the law hasn’t helped). If Zimmerman is ever tried by a jury (instead of by public opinion), what evidence would be admitted? What would the jury likely hear in deciding whether to convict Zimmerman for Martin’s death?

I asked a few defense lawyers and criminal law experts that question—Dana Bazelon (my sister) and Paul Messing, a law firm colleague of hers; Harlan Protass (a Slate contributor); and Rachel Barkow at New York University Law School, who enlisted her colleague and evidence professor Erin Murphy. Here’s what they had to say, going through the evidence I asked them about, piece by piece.

Read on....

ACLU Says Supreme Court Decision Upholding Strip Searches for Any Offense Puts Privacy Rights of Millions of Americans at Risk

The American Civil Liberties Union today said a split Supreme Court ruling that people arrested for even minor offenses can be subjected to a strip search puts the privacy rights of millions of Americans at risk.

“Today’s decision jeopardizes the privacy rights of millions of people who are arrested each year and brought to jail, often for minor offenses,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU. “Being forced to strip naked is a humiliating experience that no one should have to endure absent reasonable suspicion. Jail security is important, but it does not require routinely strip searching everyone who is arrested for any reason, including traffic violations, and who may be in jail for only a few hours. ”

“The practical impact of the decision remains to be seen,” Shapiro added. “Ten states prohibit strip searching minor offenders as a matter of state law, and those laws are unaffected by today’s opinion. In addition, the Court was careful to recognize that strip searches may still be unconstitutional under certain circumstances.”

“The best way to preserve the privacy of the millions of Americans who are arrested each year for minor offenses,” Shapiro said, “is not to put them in jail in the first place. Instead, we should be using cheaper and more effective alternatives to incarceration.”

Read on...

New VPC Study Details How Lax Concealed Carry Laws Are Designed to Boost Gun Sales

Study Contains Gun Industry, NRA Quotes; Examples of Gun Industry Ads Including Kel-Tec Pistol Used In Trayvon Martin Shooting

April 2 - The lethal shooting of unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by concealed handgun permit holder George Zimmerman is the predictable result of an aggressive decades-long campaign by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to promote lax concealed carry laws and attendant "Shoot First" laws that boost gun industry sales according to a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) report,“Never Walk Alone”--How Concealed Carry Laws Boost Gun Sales" (http://www.vpc.org/studies/ccwnra.pdf).

Faced with a decades-long decline in household gun ownership, the firearms industry has worked to exploit these NRA-backed laws to re-sell old customers and entice new ones. As Tanya Metaksa, then-chief lobbyist for the NRA told the Wall Street Journal in 1996--"The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit--our efforts have created a new market."

Today, ads for concealed carry or "personal-defense" handguns permeate gun publications--both industry- and consumer-focused. The January 2012 issue of the NRA's monthly activist magazine, America's 1st Freedom, contains an ad for the very model of handgun used by Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin--the Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol. The ad features an array of the pistols in different finishes and urges readers to "Pick your favorite color." Described by its manufacturer as being designed with "maximum concealability in mind," the PF-9 is "one of the lightest and flattest 9mm ever made." An ad for a similar Kel-Tec concealed carry pistol, the P-32, in the July 2011 issue of Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement features the handgun lying on a table next to the owner’s car keys and spare change. Characterizing the handgun as "compact protection," the ad warns, "Don’t leave home without it!" On its website Kel-Tec states that it specializes in "handguns for concealed carry by law enforcement personnel and qualified citizens...." All of the company’s employees are members of the National Rifle Association.

Read on...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Georgia, out of its mind

Another day, another abomination for women's rights:

After an emotional 14-hour workday that included fist-fights between lobbyists and a walk-out by women Democrats, the Georgia House passed a Senate-approved bill Thursday night that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks.
The bill, which does not contain rape or incest exemptions, is expected to receive a signature from Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Commonly referred to as the “fetal pain bill” by Georgian Republicans and as the “women as livestock bill” by everyone else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.

The bill as first proposed outlawed all abortions after 20 weeks under all circumstances. After negotiations with the Senate, the House passed a revised HB 954 that makes an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies or those in which the woman’s life or health is threatened.

Read on...

Tyler and Trayvon

IN 2009 President Obama signed a federal bias crimes law named for the victims of two gruesome 1998 atrocities: the young gay man who was tortured, lashed to a fence and left to die; and the black man chained to the back of a pickup by white supremacists and dragged until he was dismembered. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act joined a 40-year accumulation of statutes declaring that crimes committed with a mind full of racial spite or anti-Semitism or homophobic hatred should be punished more severely than identical crimes committed for greed or vengeance.

Today the notion is embedded in our culture. Almost every state has some variety of hate crime law. The most recent F.B.I. count, for 2010, reports 6,628 “criminal incidents” involving bias — instances where local authorities judged that the offender was motivated by hatred of a particular group. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld disparate penalties for bias crimes in 1993. The A.C.L.U., after years of resisting, endorsed a hate crime bill in 2005.

But the fact that it is constitutional and commonplace does not quiet the nagging sense that hate crime legislation resembles something from an Orwell dystopia. Horrific crimes deserve stern justice, but don’t we want to be careful about criminalizing a defect of character? Because our founders believed that democracy requires great latitude for dissent, America, virtually alone in the developed world, protects the right to speak or publish the most odious points of view. And yet the government is authorized to punish you for thinking those vile things, if you think them in the course of committing a crime.

Read on...

This is an New York Times op-ed. Tom