Thursday, August 28, 2014

After Police Abuses Caught on Video, a New Guide Teaches How to Best Archive and Distribute Footage

Cases like Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and Michael Brown have helped fuel demands for police accountability. We are joined by a guest who has advice for the growing number of people filming police abuse with their smartphones and video cameras, particularly with respect to how to properly preserve such video. Yvonne Ng is senior archivist for WITNESS, a group that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She co-authored their resource, "Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video."

Part 2: Yvonne Ng on the "Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video"

10 September: Join the Internet Slowdown

September 10th is the Internet Slowdown. Let's show the world what's at stake if we lose net neutrality.

Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’

The cease-fire announced Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian factions — if it holds — will end seven weeks of fighting that killed more than 2,200 Gazans and 69 Israelis. But as the rival camps seek to put their spin on the outcome, one assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation that won’t be publicized is the U.S. military’s. Though the Pentagon shies from publicly expressing judgments that might fall afoul of a decidedly pro-Israel Congress, senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity offered scathing assessments of Israeli tactics, particularly in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

One of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at Fox News caught U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”
Rain of high-explosive shells

Kerry’s comment followed the heaviest bombardment of the war to that point, as Israeli artillery rained thousands of high-explosive shells on Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. A high-ranking U.S. military officer said that the source of Kerry’s apparent consternation was almost certainly a Pentagon summary report assessing the Israeli barrage on which he had been briefed by an aide moments earlier.

According to this senior U.S. officer, who had access to the July 21 Pentagon summary of the previous 24 hours of Israeli operations, the internal report showed that 11 Israeli artillery battalions — a minimum of 258 artillery pieces, according to the officer’s estimate — pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during a seven-hour period at the height of the operation. Senior U.S. officers were stunned by the report.



How CNN’s Coverage of the Ferguson Protests Became About CNN

When Mike Brown was killed by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, no one could have predicted the social upheaval that was to follow. Police shootings have become a weekly occurrence in America that rarely stay in the public eye or the national news cycle for more than a day or two. But when Ferguson exploded, and it became apparent that the community would not be mollified by the standard response from elected officials, it quickly turned into a big story that left the mainstream media scrambling to provide coverage.

During the first days of protest, the images and video coming out of Ferguson came from independent media, photographers, videographers, and live stream operators in the St. Louis area via social media sites. People like St. Louis Alderman Antonio French became a trusted “on the ground” media source as the events in Ferguson unfolded and showed the world that news coverage was no longer the province of corporate media juggernauts.

As “rioting” and “looting” became the story, and video and images spread throughout the internet, news outlets started pouring into Ferguson. Overnight, dozens of news outlets appeared in Ferguson with their large cameras and production vans and created a large “media area” to establish their presence and declare to the residents of Ferguson that the media had arrived.

CNN went one step further than other corporate media outlets by sending Don Lemon, their most popular and most well-known African American news anchor. And while this might have made sense from a production standpoint, it really began the downward spiral of the changing narrative in Ferguson.

No longer was the story about an unarmed black teenager killed by a white police officer…it became about Don Lemon’s experience there as a black man in a racially charged environment. The residents in Ferguson had been dealing with racism and police harassment for decades, but once Don Lemon was pushed by a police officer and heard racial slurs being uttered by members of the National Guard, his incredulity at it happening to him became the centerpiece of the CNN coverage for days to follow.


How To Use Your Smartphone In A Protest

Most of us participate in social activism with the best intentions. We want change for the better. But far too often the tension caused by the inevitable tragedies that precursor uprising overflows into violence. What then, comrades? How can we hope for the best, while preparing for the worst?

Your smartphone is a Swiss army knife of protest enabling applications.


Congress' Response to Ferguson Is Finally Here

The news: After weeks of clashes between protesters and heavily armed riot police in Ferguson, Mo., following the police killing of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown, one senator has a simple solution to help prevent future law enforcement excesses: mandatory body cameras for all uniformed officers whose departments receive federal funding.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told the Springfield News-Leader that such a program requirement would constitute a "great legacy" stemming from Brown's death. She condemned the heavy-handed police crackdown on protesters, particularly officers who threatened reporters, and said that the body cams would protect police officers following legal guidelines for use of force, while reassuring community members that their rights would be respected.

Currently, video evidence usually only covers the tail end of a police incident, McCaskill told the News-Leader: "It gives the impression the police officer has overreacted when they haven't. If the police officer has a small body cam, then not only is the community reassured that's someone not being treated unfairly, it protects that police officer from being accused of treating someone unfairly."

McCaskill plans to chair hearings next month on the militarization of police in the U.S., which will hopefully include a discussion of body cameras. 


Time Warner Cable Internet Outage Affects Millions

Early risers on the East Coast were greeted with an Internet outage on Wednesday morning. For Time Warner Cable users, this is hardly an unfamiliar occurrence; what makes Wednesday’s outage remarkable is that it affected a large number of the 14.5 million T.W.C. customers nationwide.

A representative for the company said in a statement that the outage occurred at 4:30 A.M. Eastern Time, and that it happened “during our routine network maintenance.”

“An issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services,” the company said, adding that it was largely resolved within an hour and a half. (Naturally, users reported issues for some time after that.)

Experts say the limited number of Internet service providers—and unimpressive bandwidth speeds—available to many Americans is a major issue. “This outage sheds light on one of the most significant challenges facing the United States: our lack of a plan for world-class, stable, resilient communications capacity,” Susan Crawford, a professor at Cardozo Law School, visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and former adviser to the Obama administration told VF Daily. “The cable operators—particularly the giant Comcast and the number two, Time Warner Cable, who themselves hope to merge—have gradually consolidated and control every element of the network infrastructure carrying their services.”

Time and time again, the United States ranks below other developed nations when it comes to Internet infrastructure, broadband penetration, and speed. In 2013, President Obama announced a plan for “Four Years of Broadband Growth,” aimed at tackling some of these issues. Wednesday’s outage provides an obvious—and ominous—reminder that the nation’s networks are not exactly shored up.


New Policy Proposal: Reform Federal Grants to Modernize Law Enforcement

New York, N.Y. – Last week the ongoing crisis in Ferguson, Mo. prompted President Obama to call for a review of federal programs that send military equipment and money to police departments. A new policy proposal released today from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law suggests he go further. The president should make broader reforms to federal grants across the country that fund state and local law enforcement.

Specifically, the president should use his executive authority to recast all federal grants for criminal justice in a “Success-Oriented Funding” model, in which the flow of dollars is linked to the achievement of clear goals. Recent events have shown that grant programs run by the federal government have a powerful role in shaping the behavior of law enforcement.

“The question is not whether police should have more money or less money,” said report co-author Inimai Chettiar. “But rather what they do with that money. Washington should not be in the business of giving out funds without knowing or condoning their ultimate use. When these dollars flow on autopilot, they have contributed to an explosion in arrests and imprisonments, often without accompanying public safety benefits.”

“This is a moment for strong executive leadership to examine grants that encourage harmful law enforcement practices or have unclear goals, and recast them in a way that reduces crime and violence without encouraging unnecessary force, whether through police behavior or undue focus on arrests and incarceration,” said report co-author Nicole Fortier. “The administration has a real opportunity here to affect meaningful change, without recourse to Congress.”

Federal grants for criminal justice send at least $3.8 billion to states and localities each year, money that flows to police departments, prosecutors, courts, prisons, and reentry programs, often with little oversight. Grants for national security send billions more.

Success-Oriented Funding would require that federal grant money is only awarded to states and localities with clear goals in mind. A recipient’s success at achieving those goals would be measured, and the distribution of future grant money could be premised on their success at doing so. Even in cases where funding streams do not allow grant money to be conditioned on meeting targets, by communicating priorities to grant recipients, federal agencies can affect their behavior.

Click here to read the full policy proposal, Success-Oriented Funding: Reforming Federal Criminal Justice Grants.

Click here to read more about the Brennan Center’s work to reform the criminal justice system.

To set up an interview or for more information, contact Naren Daniel at 646-292-8381 or

Losing Ground: Southeast Louisiana is Disappearing, Quickly

Scientists say one of the greatest environmental and economic disasters in the nation’s history is rushing toward a catastrophic conclusion. ProPublica and The Lens explore why it's happening and what will be lost if nothing is done to stop it.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Outlines of the Gaza Truce: Immediate Steps and Future Talks

Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Tuesday to an Egyptian-brokered plan to end the fighting in Gaza after 50 days of combat in which more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, 64 Israeli soldiers and five civilians in Israel were killed.

Following are the broad parameters of the agreement, which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been working on through indirect talks in Cairo over recent weeks.

As part of the deal, both sides have agreed to address more complex issues dividing them - including the release of Palestinian prisoners and Gaza's demands for a sea port - via further indirect talks starting within a month.

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