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Showing posts from October, 2013

Urban Shield: 'The Epitome of State Repression' Coming to Town Near You

Meeting of SWAT teams and military contractors from around the world faces local opposition in Oakland, CASWAT teams, police forces, and military contractors from across the world will converge in Oakland, California this weekend—October 25-28—for a little-known 'Urban Shield' global training exercise and weapons technology expo that is bankrolled by millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security and arms manufacturers and is billed as a program to fight 'terrorism.' They will be met on Friday by protesters from over 30 Bay-Area community and peace and justice organizations who say this gathering, that stands at the nexus of global and domestic militarization, is not welcome in their city.

"What Urban Shield represents to us is the epitome of state repression that has been impacting communities of color and immigrant communities for decades," said Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in an interview with Common Dream…

For-Profit Prisons Are Big Winners Of California's Overcrowding Crisis

When America's largest private prison company opened a 2,000-bed facility in a barren stretch of the Mojave Desert in southeastern California in 1997, there was no guarantee that any inmates would ever reside there.

California's exceptionally powerful prison guard union was waging a fierce campaign against private prison companies, telling voters that the facilities were poorly run and that the industry would take away union jobs. "Public safety should not be for profit," Don Novey, president of the prison guard union, told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time.

Still, David Myers, the president of Corrections Corporation of America, a Nashville-based giant of the for-profit prison industry, believed his company's decision to build a prison in that remote corner of the state would eventually pay off.

"If we build it, they will come," he predicted.

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Texas Judge Resigns After Allegedly Texting Advice To Prosecutor During Trial

Texas Judge Elizabeth Coker allegedly sent private texts to a prosecutor during a trial she was presiding over, in order to help that attorney obtain a guilty verdict. Although Judge Coker has not admitted to these allegations, she signed a “VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT TO RESIGN FROM JUDICIAL OFFICE IN LIEU OF DISCIPLINARY ACTION” on Monday rather than face further sanction.

According to Coker’s agreement to resign, she allegedly texted then-Assistant District Attorney Kaycee Jones during a trial “to suggest questions for the prosecutor to ask during the trial; to ensure that a witness was able to refresh his memory and rehabilitate his testimony . . . and to discuss legal issues pertinent to the case.” Despite Judge Coker’s alleged breach of judicial impartiality, Jones was unsuccessful in obtaining a conviction.

This incident aside, Jones successfully defeated a longtime incumbent judge to join Judge Corker on the Texas bench. She was sworn into her new judicial role by Coker. Judg…

Outrage: "Cash for Kids": Firms Behind Juvenile Prison Bribes Reach $2.5 Million Settlement in Civil Suit

Two judges who were found guilty of bribing are in prison now.

We turn to the latest news in the so-called "kids-for-cash" scandal in Pennsylvania, in which judges took money in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to for-profit youth jails. In 2011, former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted of accepting bribes for putting juveniles into detention centers operated by the companies PA Child Care and a sister company, Western Pennsylvania Child Care. Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, are said to have received $2.6 million for their efforts. Now the private juvenile-detention companies at the heart of the kids-for-cash scandal in Pennsylvania have settled a civil lawsuit for $2.5 million. The state has also passed much-needed reforms aimed at improving its juvenile justice system and ensuring such abuses are not repeated. We are joined in Philadelphia by Marsha Levick, chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, which helped ex…

How a 1983 Murder Created America's Terrible Supermax-Prison Culture

On Oct. 22, 1983, inmates aligned with the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang murdered two corrections officers at the United States Penitentiary near Marion, Ill. The reverberations from those killings are still being felt in the American prison system. The murders sent Marion into lockdown for 23 years, ushered in the era of the modern Supermax prison, and normalized the chilling idea that the only rational way to deal with violent or notorious prisoners is to lock them up in small, isolated cells and throw away the key.

In 1983 Marion was the toughest penitentiary in the federal prison system. The maximum-security complex housed some of the country’s most violent inmates, and the worst of those were put in Marion’s “control unit.” Getting placed in the control unit was akin to being buried alive. Inmates were confined to their small cells for almost 23 hours a day. When they left their cells, they were shackled, guarded, and under constant surveillance. The conditions th…

Jim Crow II

A history of the fight for voting rights and the movement to restrict them once again.

In 1962, Bernard Lafayette Jr., a slim, erudite, 21-year-old civil rights activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was looking for a new assignment. He’d just finished exams at Nashville’s Fisk University, where he was one of a pioneering group of students who had desegregated Nashville’s lunch counters during the sit-ins and integrated interstate bus travel with the Freedom Rides. During the latter mission, Lafayette was beaten in Birmingham and arrested in Jackson, and he narrowly escaped death when his bus was attacked by white supremacists in Montgomery.

In the summer of 1962, Lafayette visited SNCC’s headquarters in Atlanta. SNCC executive secretary James Forman showed him a large map with tacks in places where the group was active. One place—Selma, Alabama—had a large X over it. SNCC had abandoned the city, Forman told Lafayette, because the organizing wo…

The Scholars Who Shill for Wall Street

Academics get paid by financial firms to testify against Dodd-Frank regulations. What’s wrong with this picture?

Professor Todd Zywicki is vying to be the toughest critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new agency set up by the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law to monitor predatory lending practices. In research papers and speeches, Zywicki not only routinely slams the CFPB’s attempts to regulate bank overdraft fees and payday lenders; he depicts the agency as a “parochial” bureaucracy that is “guaranteed to run off the rails.” He has also become one of the leading detractors of the CFPB’s primary architect, Elizabeth Warren, questioning her seminal research on medical bankruptcies and slamming her for once claiming Native American heritage to gain “an edge in hiring.”

Zywicki’s withering arguments against financial reform have earned him guest columns in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times and on TheNew York Times’s website. Lobbyists repr…

Men on Domestic Violence: 'Society Empowers Men to Abuse ... I'm Sorry We Failed You'

Editor's Note: A nationwide, month-long letter-writing campaign called #31forMarissa has just finished its third week. The campaign encourages men to write about domestic violence, sharing stories that deal with the action, reaction and inaction of men in their family or community, and the legacy of that behavior. Every single day throughout October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #31forMarissa will publish these letters of support to Marissa Alexander. The letters will then be sent to Alexander, a Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in jail after firing a warning shot at a wall near her abusive husband. She neither hit nor hurt anyone. Below is a compilation of excerpts from this past week’s letters. AlterNet will publish a weekly compilation of the letters. Click  here for more information on the campaign and to read the first full letter.

Join AlterNet as it engages in a conversation across generation, race and gender when it leads a Twitter chat…

Native-Born Americans More Likely To Commit Crimes Than Immigrants, Study Finds

A Pew Research Center report released last week found that second generation immigrants have “striking similarities” to their native-born, non-Hispanic white counterparts when it comes to committing crime. In fact, when it comes to crime rates, second-generation offenders are merely “catching up” to the native-born population.

Biance E. Bersani conducted the study using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, and found that criminality peaks at the age of 16 for 25 percent of the native-born population and a little less than 25 percent for second-generation immigrants. Meanwhile, 17 percent of 16 year old first-generation immigrants committed crime. Overall, first-generation immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than second-generation and native-born, non-Hispanic whites.

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Pot Legalization Effort Moves Eastward To Maine

Advocates of recreational marijuana use are looking to an upcoming vote in Maine as an indicator of whether the East Coast is ready to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington by legalizing cannabis.

Voters in Portland are being asked whether they want to make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess -- but not purchase or sell -- up to 2.5 ounces of pot. The Nov. 5 vote is being eyed nationally as momentum grows in favor of legalizing marijuana use.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports legalization, says it targeted Portland because it's Maine's largest city and because, unlike many other states and cities, it has an initiative process to get the referendum on the ballot. Organizers hope passage of the Portland initiative could spur similar results in other liberal Northeast cities.

"I think there's national implications, keeping the momentum that Washington and Colorado started last November in ending…

4 Police Brutality Victims’ Families Share their Stories Before National Day of Protest

While police brutality is gaining national attention, the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation will take place for its 17th year on Tuesday in nearly 50 cities across the country.

The protest was first organized in 1996, by a diverse coalition of groups and individuals who wanted to bring about resistance to police brutality on a national level.

Kathie Cheng, an organizer with the coalition, said that while national dialogue around police brutality declined after 9/11, there has since been a resurgence as more people are standing up and documentation has increased.

The coalition also works on the Stolen Lives Project, which monitors killings by law enforcement agents.

Cheng said the October 22 rally is important in reminding people that police are supposed to serve the people, not behave in a brutal fashion.

She said, “If there isn’t a very visible alternative to how people see police brutality,…

Bouncers Beat Patrons, and Cops Look the Other Way

The night of the beating, the beach bar pulsed with drunken euphoria. It was well past midnight on that cool December evening last year, a moment for celebration for two Canadians who ambled inside Dirty Blondes. One of the men, Erik Kormos, a yacht captain, had just gotten engaged to marry, so he and his friend Ernesto Palij, a chef, barhopped through this throbbing row of bars along A1A near its intersection with Las Olas Boulevard. Now, nestled into chairs around the bar, they ordered what would be the first of many drinks.

One hour melted into the next. Then, around 4 a.m., the two friends heard screaming and stepped outside to investigate. There, in an alley, two women — short skirts, messy hair, bloodied — thrashed at each other with nails and knuckled fists.

"Yo, man, do your job!" the 42-year-old Palij remembers yelling at a nearby bouncer standing at the melee's edge. "They're going to kill each other! Do something!"

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6 Reasons Privatization Often Ends in Disaster

Private systems are focused on making profits for a few well-positioned people. Public systems, when sufficiently supported by taxes, work for everyone in a generally equitable manner.
The following are six specific reasons why privatization simply doesn't work.

The Profit Motive Moves Most of the Money to the Top
The federal Medicare Administrator made  $170,000 in 2010. The president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas made over  ten times as much in 2012. Stephen J. Hemsley, the CEO of United Health Group, made almost  300 timesas much in one year, $48 million, most of it from company stock.

In part because of such inequities in compensation, our private health care system is the most expensive system in the developed world. The  price of common surgeries is anywhere from three to ten times higher in the U.S. than in Great Britain, Canada, France, or Germany. Two of the  documented examples: an $8,000  special stress test for which Medicare would have paid $554; and a $…

Were Brutalist Buildings on College Campuses Really Designed to Thwart Student Riots?

Chances are good that if you went to college in the United States after, say, 1975, your campus featured at least one imposing, bunker-like concrete building in the architectural style known as “Brutalism.” Colorfully translated from Le Corbusier’s purely descriptive term béton brut (or “raw concrete”), Brutalist architecture—as it was developed and practiced during the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s by architects like Alison and Peter Smithson in the U.K. and Paul Rudolph in America—favored heavy, solid shapes cast in intricately textured reinforced concrete , sharp angles, and a general sense of what architecture historians describe as “heroism” or “monumentalism.” Along with the contrastingly sleek vocabulary of glass and steel articulated by Mies Van Der Rohe, Brutalism is what probably comes to mind when people are presented with the term “High Modernism” in the context of architecture.

During its heyday, Brutalism was both big and big, especially at universities eager to demo…

Victim’s House Burned Down After She Accuses Football Star Of Rape

The Steubenville rape case attracted national attention last year because of how extraordinary — and terrible — that story was: A young girl was victimized first by her teenaged rapists, and then by the town itself, which engaged in the worst kind of victim-blaming and rushed to the defense of her attackers, who were athletes for the town’s pride and glory, the high school football team.

But in the months since that case first came to light, national attention has turned to more and more cases like Steubenville’s. Just this weekend, another, eerily similar story emerged — this time in the town of Marryville, Missouri.

The Kansas City Star published on Sunday their remarkable, seven-month investigation into an eerily similar story that unfolded last year in the small, northwestern Missouri town of Maryville. In this case, though, the rape victim never got to see her horror story go to trial — and the family’s terror hasn’t ended; they’ve even had their house burned down…

Chronicle of a Death Retold

It will be an anniversary draped in black crêpe and ribboned with old newsreels, a day of somber re-appraisals by the usual bores and lurid speculations by the usual loons. But beneath the cacophony, not all of it generated by Chris Matthews’s yap, will rest the severed feeling of irretrievable, inexplicable loss. Fifty years ago, on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated riding in a motorcade cruising through Dallas’s Dealey Plaza, the top of his head torn off by a rifle shot fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, his brain matter spilling into the lap of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, whose pink suit and pillbox hat colorize our memories of a noir nightmare unfolding under a noonday sun. Like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in 1941, and the destruction of the Twin Towers, in 2001, J.F.K.’s assassination was one of those unifying, defining moments when everyone alive remembers where they were when the news struck, shattering …

Supreme Court will tackle affirmative action once again

An affirmative action backlash that began in California and migrated to Michigan has now reached the Supreme Court, with university admissions and more potentially on the line.

In one of the new term’s highest-profile cases, the court on Tuesday will consider a Michigan ballot measure that bans the use of race in public university admissions. Inspired by a similar measure in California, the Michigan policy has divided other states, while giving court conservatives their latest chance to roll back race-based preferences.

“This measure was so polarizing that it created a racial divide,” Mark Rosenbaum, the chief counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said Thursday. “Instead of healing the nation’s wounds, it actually opens those wounds.”

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Richard Posner’s Law and Economics in Action

Richard Posner is a major force in the law and economics movement, which attempts to apply the methods of economics to the analysis of laws and regulations. He is also a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which gives him the means to impose his ideas on the real world. I’m not quite sure what the “methods” of economics are, and certainly there is little in real world outcomes to show the value of economics. Still, Posner soldiers on. This is from his 1985 article in the Columbia Law Review, An Economic Theory of the Criminal Law:
My analysis can be summarized in the following propositions:
1. The major function of criminal law in a capitalist society is to prevent people from bypassing the system of voluntary, compensated exchange-the “market,” explicit or implicit-in situations where, because transaction costs are low, the market is a more efficient method of allocating resources than forced exchange. Market bypassing in such situations is inefficient — in t…

The Far-Right Christian Movement Driving the Debt Default

If the U.S. breaches its debt ceiling this week, bringing with it the global financial panic economists predict, leaders of a little-known far-right movement called Christian Reconstructionism can claim partial responsibility. Their goal: to eradicate the U.S. government so that a theocratic Christian nation emerges to enforce biblical laws.

That's right -- laws out of the Book of Leviticus prohibiting adultery, homosexuality, and abortion, with penalties including death by stoning.

The key leader of this movement is Gary North, founder of the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler, Texas. He's a long-time associate of Ron Paul, intellectual godfather of the Tea Party movement -- the very people responsible for Congressional deadlock over the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate.

Paul and North go way back. North served on Paul's first congressional staff in 1976, and North describes himself as Paul's "original staff economist." Earlier…

15 years after Matthew Shepard's murder, his mother looks ahead

Every year, the day sneaks on up Judy Shepard to deliver its sucker punch from the past: The 12th of October. The day Matthew died.

"It hits you and you say to yourself: Oh, this is the day," she says. "This is why I feel so terrible."
Fifteen years ago this week, gay college student Matthew Shepard was pistol-whipped and left for dead: unconscious, barely alive, lashed to a jagged wooden fence outside this small prairie city by two men disgusted by his homosexuality. A passerby mistook the diminutive, 105-pound Shepard for a scarecrow — a forlorn and unthinkable image that still haunts a generation of Americans.

Judy Shepard refuses to associate her son with that image or with the date that he died, six days after the attack. Instead, she summons memories of her eldest boy on Dec. 1, his birt…

Correctional Service Canada Launches New Research Website

Research at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) helps make direct links between research findings and implications for our institutions, community sites and the public. CSC research helps offenders work towards successful reintegration and assists staff in identifying effective strategies to work safely and efficiently. Check out our Research Spotlight for new research that will be highlighted throughout the year. CSC's broad research portfolio includes projects in areas like:

Offender population profiles Mental health issues – screening, population profiles and treatment Women and Aboriginal offender needs Institutional and community operations and security 
We use quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches, including data analysis and interviews with staff and offenders. Our studies can involve a quick, data-driven profile or can consist of a multi-year and multi-phase research study. Our research often involves CSC staff from national and regional headquarters,…

Conscience Creep

What’s so wrong with conscience clauses?Just before they shut down the federal government this week, opponents of President Obama’s health care law attempted to tweak the thing with a one-year delay of Obamacare, a repeal of the medical-device tax, and a "conscience clause" that would have allowed employers to decline to offer their workers birth control coverage if it offended their religious or moral preferences. As Amanda Marcotte noted Tuesday, this effort reinforces the “view of the employer-employee relationship, in which apparently your boss' beliefs and views are supposed to be in the mix when you're making personal decisions about how you have sex and procreate.”  But what’s really wrong with conscience clauses? We all have consciences and laws that exist to protect us from being forced to violate our religious and ethical principles should be welcome on the left and right. The problem isn’t conscience clause legislation so much as what we might…

New exhibit to showcase photos of Montreal prostitutes who worked in North America’s Sin City in the 1940’s

Their eyes convey a mix of emotions — dismay at being busted, surprise, sheepishness, smugness. Some even betray a glimmer of recognition, one that suggests they’ve crossed paths before with the policeman doing the booking.

Next month, Montrealers will get a rare glimpse of the mug shots of prostitutes and madams entered as exhibits in the 1954 Caron inquiry to crack down on corruption, gambling, brothels and boozing in the place known as North America’s Sin City during the Second World War.

The spread of disease among troops waiting in Montreal before they were dispatched to fight in Europe was notorious.

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The Moderates Who Lighted the Fuse

THE government shutdown is the work of the so-called kamikaze caucus of about 40 Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives. But why is the body of the Republican Party in thrall to its erratic right foot? Maybe the real blame should go to the far more numerous non-Tea Party Republicans, from Speaker John A. Boehner down, who have been unable or unwilling to restrain the radicals.

Behind this question lies another. Why are Republican legislators like Peter T. King of New York and Devin Nunes of California unwittingly repeating the errors of a previous generation of moderate Republicans who elevated Newt Gingrich to party leadership? 
It was Mr. Gingrich who pioneered the political dysfunction we still live with. His inflammatory rhetoric provided a model for the grandstanding guerrilla warfare of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. And his actions — particularly his move to shut down the government in 1995 and 1996 — undermined popular trust and ushered in the present po…

Abortion, Big Money In Elections, And Eleven Other Huge Cases The Supreme Court Will Hear Next Term

It’s become a cliché at the beginning and end of each Supreme Court term to comment on how important the term is or will be, and how the justices are hearing a myriad of major cases. And certainly after two terms featuring high profile cases on health care, immigration, voting rights and marriage equality — in addition to under the radar decisions blasting worker and consumer rights — there can be little doubt of the Court’s immense power to do harm (and its less frequently exercised power to do good).

The term that begins this fall, however, has the potential to be even more significant that the previous two. By this time next year, fair housing law could be neutered, unions could be hobbled, billionaires could be free to spend millions to put their favorite candidates in office, and the right to choose an abortion could be meaningless. With a wave of their hand, five conservative justices could achieve outcomes that Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Sheldon Adelson could neve…

Quebec’s euthanasia law reopens national right-to-die debate

The euthanasia debate has jumped onto the political agenda, with the country’s health ministers calling for discussion on allowing physicians to help patients end their lives. Even the federal government, which has steadfastly refused to change the Criminal Code to allow assisted suicide nationally, is ready to join the conversation.

The sudden eagerness to talk about what had once been a taboo topic marks a U-turn for politicians, who have previously avoided the subject even as the public has vigorously debated it and polls have indicated majority support for doctor-assisted death. The burgeoning discussion parallels the country’s steady demographic shift, as the population ages and baby boomers enter old age.

It was sparked in part by a proposed Quebec law that would allow physicians to help patients die under certain circumstances – a measure that, if it stands, could open the door to provinces taking action on euthanasia without Ottawa’s help. The debate was also prom…

New Toronto jail, with state of the art, eco-friendly features, set to open

A new detention centre will soon become the largest correctional facility in Ontario and will boast several eco-friendly measures and unique features such as space for aboriginal smudging ceremonies.

The Toronto South Detention Centre has space for up to 1,650 inmates – about 500 more than the capacity of the facilities it’s replacing, the Toronto West Detention Centre and the Toronto Jail, known as the Don Jail.

The new, state-of-the-art facility, which will hold people awaiting trial and those sentenced to provincial terms of less than two years, is expected to open in the next few weeks.

The vast institution has 43 different types of units, including a special handling unit for the most high-risk offenders, a mental-health assessment unit and medical beds.

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2 Percent Of Counties Perform Majority of U.S. Executions

Just two percent of U.S. counties have been responsible for a majority of executions since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a death penalty moratorium in 1976. And about two percent of U.S. counties house the majority of current death row inmates, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The findings add to the body of evidence that suggest the death penalty is applied arbitrarily, with factors such as location andrace having more bearing on a death sentence than the severity of the crime.

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