Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Prosecutors Practice Racism in US Courts

...This year has seen an explosion of outrage at the murders of unarmed people of color at the hands of the police. The anger at the cops has been coupled with an outcry against the unwillingness of prosecutors to pursue charges against police officers in cases like those of Eric Garner in New York City or Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Now, questions are coming to the fore about how prosecutors fit into the racist system of criminal justice that many call the New Jim Crow.

A new study released by the Women Donors Network (WDN) reveals that out of 2,437 elected prosecutors, 95 percent are white and 79 percent are white men. Sixty percent of states have zero elected Black prosecutors. In 14 states, all elected prosecutors are white.

More:  http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32570-prosecutors-practice-racism-in-us-courts

As Obama Visits Arctic, Alaskans Urge Him to Reverse Shell Oil Deal

Weeks after approving Shell's plans to drill in Alaska, President Obama is heading to the state to warn about the dangers of climate change. "Alaska's glaciers are melting faster, too, threatening tourism and adding to rising seas," Obama said in his weekly address. A protest is scheduled today in Anchorage to urge Obama to reverse his decision on Shell and stop all exploratory drilling in the Arctic. We speak to Richard Steiner, an Alaskan marine conservation biologist, who is speaking at the "Our Climate, Our Future" rally.


The Turning Point Towards a Low-Carbon Future

The news last week that the Australian Newcastle city council had voted to divest from fossil fuel stocks was one of those signposts that historians will some day cite to mark the greatest economic transition in human history.

A young councillor, Declan Clausen, was able to grasp the truth that eludes the Australian federal government and indeed so many world leaders: coal—and oil and gas—are not the future and they’re barely the present. We’re suddenly and decisively, in a one-way transition to a renewable future and the only question—perhaps the most important question humans have ever faced—is whether we can make that transition fast enough to save the planet.

You can tell that coal is the past by asking any scientist with a working knowledge of the planet’s climate system. 2015 will be the hottest year in the planet’s recorded history, a landmark that comes with the requisite fire and flood. July was the hottest month ever measured on earth. New data from the most important climate scientist, NASA veteran James Hansen, concludes that on its present emissions trajectory, sea levels could rise 10 feet (three meters) this century.

More:  http://ecowatch.com/2015/08/31/bill-mckibben-low-carbon-future/


Rising tensions in Bolivia over oil and gas exploitation on indigenous lands

On August 19, members of the People’s Guarani Assembly of Takova Mora blocked a main highway in the Chaco region of Bolivia demanding their right to free, prior and informed consent regarding oil extraction on their communal lands. The Government responded by sending in 300 police who broke up the demonstration by force.
Using tear gas and batons, police then raided the nearby community of Yateirenda--where many of the demonstrators had fled--damaging property and violently arresting 27 people, including 2 youth aged 14 and 17.
According to eye witnesses,
The behaviour of the police was more like that of mercenaries who raided the community without any arrest warrant, attacked houses and used violence to detain leaders.
All 27 detainees were released the following day; however, 17 of them were given extrajudicial sanctions (medidas sustantivas) to prevent them from participating in road blocks or being involved in any events related to the Takova Mora conflict.
This confrontation takes place amidst rising tensions between the Government of Evo Morales and Indigenous Peoples, environmental advocacy groups and civil society organizations critical of his extractivist policies.

Prison Vendors See Continued Signs of a Captive Market

...For prison vendors, this would appear to be a historically awful moment. Sentencing reform has been gaining momentum as a growing number of diverse voices conclude that the tough-on-crime ethos that was born 40 years ago, and that led to a 700 percent increase in the prison population since 1970, went too far. Mandatory minimum laws, many of them passed at the state and federal level in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s locked people away for decades, often for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses. Those laws have had a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, who tend to serve longer sentences than whites.
...My goal ambling through the oddly colorful bazaar in Indianapolis for three days was to see what effect — if any — [the] much discussed change was having on the hard-nosed bottom line. Was anyone here experiencing a slump, or even bracing for one? Nobody wants businesses to suffer financially, but if you think the current incarceration system is a calamity, there is no way around it: Bad news for these companies is good news for the country. And if change was coming, or had already arrived, these vendors would be among the first to know.

Trailer for “Fixing the System"

Last week, VICE and HBO released a trailer for Fixing the System, an upcoming special on criminal justice in the US that will air on September 27.

The special offers a panoramic perspective on crime and punishment, and will follow all of the key elements in America's sprawling justice system, including prisoners and their families, members of the judiciary, and community reformers.

It will be hosted by VICE founder and correspondent Shane Smith, and will also feature President Barack Obama's historic tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma in July, where he met with inmates and prison officials.

More:  https://news.vice.com/article/watch-the-trailer-for-the-vice-on-hbo-special-report-on-americas-criminal-justice-system

Watch the trailer:


Appeals court deals blow to lawsuit over NSA’s bulk phone data collection

An appeals court in Washington dealt a setback Friday to an activist’s lawsuit against the government over the legality of the National Security Agency’s call records program, ruling that the plaintiff has not proved his standing to sue.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that ­public-interest lawyer Larry Klayman, the founder of Freedom Watch, has not proved that his own phone records were collected by the NSA — and so has not met a condition of bringing the lawsuit. It sent the case back to a lower court for further deliberation on the issue.

The panel’s ruling also reversed a ban on the NSA’s collection that had been imposed — and temporarily stayed — by a district court judge in December 2013.

More:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/dc-circuit-overturns-ruling-against-nsa-bulk-collection-program/2015/08/28/d91c1876-4d92-11e5-84df-923b3ef1a64b_story.html

Can We Trust Crime Forensics?

The criminal justice system has a problem, and its name is forensics. This was the message I heard at the Forensic Science Research Evaluation Workshop held May 26–27 at the AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. I spoke about pseudoscience but then listened in dismay at how the many fields in the forensic sciences that I assumed were reliable (DNA, fingerprints, and so on) in fact employ unreliable or untested techniques and show inconsistencies between evaluators of evidence.

The conference was organized in response to a 2009 publication by the National Research Council entitled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, which the U.S. Congress commissioned when it became clear that DNA was the only (barely) reliable forensic science. The report concluded that “the forensic science system, encompassing both research and practice, has serious problems that can only be addressed by a national commitment to overhaul the current structure that supports the forensic science community in this country.” Among the areas determined to be flawed and in need of more research are: accuracy and error rates of forensic analyses, sources of potential bias and human error in interpretation by forensic experts, fingerprints, firearms examination, tool marks, bite marks, impressions (tires, footwear), bloodstain-pattern analysis, handwriting, hair, coatings (for example, paint), chemicals (including drugs), materials (including fibers), fluids, serology, and fire and explosive analysis.

More:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we-trust-crime-forensics/

Sunday, August 30, 2015

‘Can’t Breathe, Can’t See’: Struggling to Live Through Wildfires

The impact of wildfires lasts well beyond the time when the last ember is extinguished. Communities are affected, as are individuals and industries. Nearly every segment of tribal life is affected and some will continue to be for years to come.

Jackie Richter on the Colville Reservation talks of the North Star Fire and how life has changed already and what she foresees. “Most of the time our visibility has been about 200 yards and on Tuesday it was more like 100 feet. You can’t hardly drive it’s so bad. Everyone is exhausted because we’re having to work so hard just to breathe. Many of us, including me, have been evacuated at one point or another. It’s been catastrophic up here. There’s not a corner of this county that fire hasn’t touched. It’s a large county, one of the largest in the nation. Our elders talk about never seeing anything like it.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/08/28/cant-breathe-cant-see-struggling-live-through-wildfires-161560

Mackinaw, MI: Pipe Out Paddle Protest on 06 September: Flotilla & Labor Day Bridge Walk to Shut Down Enbridge Line 5