Friday, October 9, 2015

North Charleston settles with Walter Scott family for $6.5 million

The family of Walter Scott will get a settlement of $6.5 million from the city of North Charleston, the largest such payout in the recent high-profile killings of black men by police officers.

With members of Scott’s family seated in the audience, City Council unanimously voted Thursday to approve the settlement, which City Attorney Brady Hair called “the largest settlement for this type of case in the state of South Carolina,” adding that he feels it’s in line with settlements on similar cases nationwide.
Scott, 50, a black man, was shot April 4 by white North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. Cellphone video captured by a passerby showed the officer shooting Scott in the back.
Although the killing sparked protests at City Hall, there was no violence as there has been in other cities where similar incidents have occurred, such as Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore. City officials and family members credited the peaceful response of the public and the city’s swift action in arresting Slager with facilitating a settlement.

Nobel Foundation Sued For Not Giving Peace Prize To Peace Advocates

The controversy over peace prizes disconnected from the specific peace vision of Alfred Nobel is now coming to a head in a lawsuit initiated by Mairead Maguire, a Nobel laureate; David Swanson, USA; Jan Oberg, Sweden; and the Nobel Peace Prize Watch. None of the members of the Board of the Nobel Foundation had responded when the time limit set in a notice of litigation expired on Tuesday. The plaintiffs have retained attorney Kenneth Lewis, Stockholm, to have the Stockholm City Court declare the prize to the EU an illegal use of the Foundation´s funds. In December 2012 the members of the Board of the Nobel Foundation did not heed protests from four Nobel laureates, Mairead Maguire, Perez Esquivel, Desmond Tutu, and the International Peace Bureau, who in a letter had warned that “The EU is clearly not ‘the champion of peace’ that Alfred Nobel had in mind when he wrote his will.”


Winnemem Wintu Fight For Cultural Survival In Northern California

At a sacred fire in the ancient village site in Coonrod, Chief Caleen Sisk raised a glass of ceremonial water towards a soaring Mount Shasta. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe members gathered for a Fire and Water ceremony at sunrise to pray for the return of their revered salmon and for the health of their sacred spring in Mount Shasta and surrounding waterways. “Salmon are life. They bring life, and they should be back on this land again,” said Chief Sisk, spiritual leader of her tribe. The Winnemem Wintu are known as the Middle Water People, their identity tied spiritually to a sacred spring on Mount Shasta, a river that once flowed here unfettered and the Chinook salmon that flourished in the waters.


Blacked Out Pages: U.S. Government Snubs ACLU Over Targeted Killing FOIA

The United States government gave the American Civil Liberties Union the equivalent of the middle finger in response to a request for records on the “targeted killing program.” An eight-page letter from Director for National Intelligence James Clapper to the chairs of the Senate intelligence committee, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, was disclosed. The senators were chairs during 2013 and 2014. However, all eight pages were completely blacked out. That is, except for one full sentence, which makes the response even more offensive: “We hope this information has been helpful and look forward to continuing to work with the Committee on this bill.” It is not the first time the ACLU has received this kind of response from a government agency.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Battle Over FCC's Net Neutrality Rules May Redefine Free Speech

The Federal Communications Commission's defense of its rules regulating broadband services in court incorporates a free speech element that could have wide implications for how the internet should function and how we are able to access it.


It's President Obama's last chance to close Guantanamo‏

Year after year, President Obama has committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. It’s nearly his final year in office and the prison remains open.

The current 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would make closing Guantanamo even more difficult. Vetoing this bill may be President Obama’s last chance to take action.
Urge President Obama to stay true to his promise and veto the defense authorization bill.
Take Action

We know the necessary steps to close Guantanamo, but time is running out. If President Obama doesn’t veto the defense authorization bill, it will be nearly impossible to transfer detainees to secure facilities in the United States and more difficult to transfer them to other countries, including the 53 detainees currently cleared for release.

It is imperative that President Obama veto the defense authorization bill and follow through on his commitment to close Guantanamo.

President Obama is at a crucial crossroads. Will he veto the bill and finally close Guantanamo, or allow it to forever be a stain on his legacy?
Raha Wala
Senior Counsel, Defense & Intelligence
Human Rights First

A Step Toward Justice in the Release of 6,000 Prisoners

When a nation locks up as many people as indiscriminately as the United States does, even big numbers start to lose their meaning.
Take 6,000. That’s how many federal prisoners are to be released over a four-day period beginning Oct. 30 by the Justice Department, following a decision last year by the United States Sentencing Commission to reduce sentencing guidelines for many nonviolent drug crimes.
It is being called one of the largest discharges of inmates from federal prisons in American history. If this sounds frightening, perhaps a little perspective would help. For starters, more than 2.3 million people are behind bars in America. More than 10,000 of them are released from state and federal prisons every week, and more than 650,000 every year.
The department’s announcement is just a small part of a much broader effort to shrink overcrowded prisons and scale back unjustly long sentences. After conducting multiple hearings, the commission voted unanimously in April 2014 to reduce sentencing guidelines for many lower-level drug offenders. In July 2014 it voted to apply reductions to inmates serving unjustly long sentences, many of which were based on the weight of drugs involved, rarely a good measure of the seriousness of someone’s role in a drug-selling operation.
This reduction — for which an estimated 40,000 current prisoners will be eligible over the next five years — was supported by, among others, the Justice Department, Republican and Democratic members of Congress, and police chiefs in major cities.

Hillary Clinton Opposes Obama’s Trans-Pacific Trade Deal

Hillary Rodham Clinton dealt a significant blow to President Obama in his efforts to secure approval from Congress on his signature trade agreement, saying on Wednesday she could not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade pact that she bolstered as secretary of state and that liberals in the Democratic Party have vehemently opposed.

After months of delicately avoiding expressing an opinion on the controversial trade deal, Mrs. Clinton said the agreement in its current form did not meet her high bar for protecting American workers, the environment and advancing national security.
Her opposition to the trade pact comes just before next Tuesday’s first Democratic presidential debate and represents the latest and most potentially damaging break with Mr. Obama.

The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods

...when ProPublica attempted to measure, for the first time, the prevalence of judgments stemming from these suits, a clear pattern emerged: they were massed in black neighborhoods.

The disparity was not merely because black families earn less than white families. Our analysis of five years of court judgments from three metropolitan areas — St. Louis, Chicago and Newark — showed that even accounting for income, the rate of judgments was twice as high in mostly black neighborhoods as it was in mostly white ones.

These findings could suggest racial bias by lenders or collectors. But we found that there is another explanation: That generations of discrimination have left black families with grossly fewer resources to draw on when they come under financial pressure.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What You Need to Know About the New Federal Prisoner Release

...The change in federal sentencing guidelines applies to a limited group of people. It does not provide relief to the roughly 208,000 people held in state prisons for drug convictions, which constitutes the majority of people serving time for such crimes in the United States.
It’s also separate from President Barack Obama’s efforts to grant clemency to certain nonviolent drug offenders, which resulted in the early release of 46 nonviolent drug offenders this summer, bringing the total number of prisoners granted clemency by President Obama to 89.
And finally, those sentenced under federal mandatory minimums are also restricted in the sentence reduction they could receive. “There are very few ways a prisoner can get out from under a mandatory minimum,” said Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. For example, a conviction for possessing 500 grams of cocaine triggers a 5-year minimum sentence, but other circumstances, such as possession of a gun, could garner additional prison time under the old sentencing guidelines. Any sentence reduction someone in that situation would be eligible to receive could not dip below 5 years total, since that’s the floor of the mandatory minimum. According to data released by the Sentencing Commission in June 2015, federal judges have denied re-sentencing to over 2,000 prisoners, and 520 of those denials were issued because the person was ineligible due to a mandatory minimum.
Since mandatory minimums are statutory, only Congress can reduce them—and lawmakers are currently considering a bill to do just that.