Tuesday, March 31, 2015

South Dakota officials to stop violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody cases

On March 30, 2015, in a sweeping victory for Indian families, a federal court ordered South Dakota officials to stop violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings on several grounds.

In a 45-page ruling, Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken wrote that "Indian children, parents and tribes deserve better," agreed with all seven of the ACLU's claims, and ordered the state to:
  • Provide parents with adequate notice prior to emergency removal hearings
  • Allow parents to testify at those hearings and present evidence
  • Appoint attorneys to assist parents in these removal  proceedings
  • Allow parents to cross-examine the state’s witnesses in the hearings
  • Require state courts to base their decisions on evidence presented during these hearings.
 The court also found that the state violated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law designed to ensure the security and integrity of Indian tribes and families. The law is intended "to curb the alarmingly high rate of removal of Indian children from Indian parents."

More:  https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/oglala-sioux-tribe-v-van-hunnik

Attorney General Restricts Use of Asset Forfeiture in Structuring Offenses

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Attorney General Restricts Use of Asset Forfeiture in Structuring Offenses
New Policy Limits Seizing Cash Deposited in a Way to Avoid Triggering Bank Reports to Most Serious Cases
As part of the Department of Justice’s comprehensive, ongoing review of the asset forfeiture program, Attorney General Eric Holder today issued a policy focusing the use of asset forfeiture authorities on the most serious illegal banking transactions, restricting civil or criminal forfeiture seizures for structuring until after a defendant has been criminally charged or has been found to have engaged in additional criminal activity, in most cases.

“With this new policy, the Department of Justice is taking action to ensure that we are allocating our resources to address the most serious offenses,” said Attorney General Holder.  “Appropriate use of asset forfeiture law allows the Justice Department to safeguard the integrity, security and stability of our nation’s financial system while protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.  And as we continue our comprehensive review of the Asset Forfeiture Program, we will stay focused on deterring criminal activity, assisting victims of wrongdoing and defending the rights of our citizens.”

Structuring generally occurs when, instead of conducting a single transaction in currency in an amount that would require a report to be filed or record made by a domestic financial institution, the violator conducts a series of currency transactions, willfully keeping each individual transaction at an amount below applicable thresholds to evade reporting or recording.  In addition to being a stand-alone offense, structuring is a crime that often occurs in connection with other criminal activity.

Under the new policy, in the absence of criminal charges, judicially authorized warrants to seize bank accounts involved in structuring can only be obtained if the prosecutor first develops probable cause of additional federal criminal activity and that determination is approved by a supervisor.  Otherwise, a prosecutor may ask a judge to issue a seizure warrant only if either the U.S. Attorney or the Chief of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section personally determines that seizure would serve a compelling law enforcement interest.

In addition, the new policy imposes important protections after a seizure has taken place.  The policy requires a prosecutor to promptly direct a seizing agency to return funds if the prosecutor determines that there is insufficient admissible evidence to prevail in a criminal or civil trial.  The policy also imposes a 150-day deadline to file a criminal indictment or civil complaint against the seized funds, or otherwise directs a return of the full amount of the seized funds.  Finally, the policy requires a formal, written settlement agreement vetted by a federal prosecutor for settlements of structuring offenses.

This new policy is the most recent result of the department’s ongoing review of the Asset Forfeiture Program to ensure that asset forfeiture – a critical law enforcement tool – can continue to be used to appropriately take the profits out of crime and return assets to victims, all while safeguarding civil liberties.

The policy was developed by the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division and the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.  The policy applies to all Department of Justice attorneys.

Attorney General's Memorandum and the Structuring Policy Directive

Forfeiture (civil & criminal)
Updated March 31, 2015

Rest for the King, No Rest for Native Americans

Richard III's body was a treasure house for science and history. Discovered in 2012 under a Leicester parking lot, the skeleton of the last English monarch to die in battle quickly became the subject of intense public scrutiny. The archaeological study of the remains provided vital historical answers to the king's controversial life and death. Just several bones and teeth offered science a wealth of data about the king's origins, movements, lifestyle and diet. Yet, Richard III's fate was not to be preserved in a museum but returned to a grave.

The silence of scientists on Richard III's reburial is deafening. It stands in stark contrast to how so many regard the reburial of Native American human remains in museums. Around the world archaeologists have resisted the return of skeletons for decades -- arguing that they are needed for science. Even nearly 25 years after the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became federal law, only 27% of the Native skeletons in U.S. museums have been offered for return. More than 100,000 skeletons continue to sit on shelves. In Europe, only in the last few years have the first sets of Native American remains come home.

Then again, the silence is not especially surprising. The double standard for White and Indian bodies has a long and established tradition.

More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/american-anthropological-association/rest-for-the-king-no-rest-for-native-americans_b_6946396.html

Honoring Cesar Chavez's Birthday by Supporting the Farm Workers for Whom He Gave His Life

Countless communities across America honor civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez on his March 31 birthday with annual commemorations. It's an official holiday in California and several other states. All manner of public places have been named for him.

The Chavez family and farm worker movement are grateful for all these recognitions, which continue to grow 22 years after his passing in 1993. But he said that if the union he helped build didn't survive his death, then his life's work would have been in vain. The United Farm Workers carries on Cesar's legacy every day by aggressively helping farm workers organize, negotiate union contracts and win new legal protections.

Activists and elected officials in San Francisco will honor Cesar Chavez on the day he would have turned 88 by standing with some of the farm workers for whom he dedicated his life.

Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will use Tuesday, March 31, to enter an epic battle by farm workers seeking implementation of their union contract against a giant Central Valley grower -- reminiscent of 1960s farm labor fights. The lawmakers will vote on a measure calling on giant Gerawan Farming to honor a United Farm Workers contract issued in 2013 by a neutral mediator and approved by the state. Gerawan, one of the nation's largest tree fruit and grape growers, sells its produce across the U.S. under the Prima label. The Fresno-based company, with more than 5,000 workers, is illegally avoiding millions of dollars in pay increases and other benefits by refusing to honor the union contract.

More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arturo-s-rodriguez/cesar-chavez-birthday_b_6970022.html

Iran Case Is So Secret It Can't Go On

Imagine that someone has wronged you, and you sue them. Then the government magically appears in court and asks that your suit be dismissed because, for reasons it won't tell you, state secrets might be dredged up in the course of the litigation. You have no idea what they're talking about. But after secret discussions with the judge from which both you and the defendant are excluded, the court dismisses your suit.

This Kafkaesque scenario couldn’t happen in the U.S., right? Not until Monday, it couldn’t. But a federal judge in the Southern District of New York just did exactly this, dismissing a defamation suit by Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis against a shady advocacy group called United Against Nuclear Iran.

More:  http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-03-25/iran-case-is-so-secret-it-can-t-go-on

Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Slapped False Murder Convictions on Young Black Men

...A 2005 report published by the Northwestern University School of Law traced the first documented use of "snitch testimony" in the United States to 1819, when the state of Vermont convicted Jesse Boorn for murder based on testimony from his cellmate. The cellmate told a judge that Boorn confessed to the crime inside their jail cell while awaiting his trial. In exchange for testifying, the cellmate was freed after Boorn's trial, and Boorn was sentenced to the gallows.

This basic reward system underpinning jailhouse informant testimony persists into the present day. It's not difficult to imagine why a prisoner informant would lie about overhearing a confession if it means real material benefits.

"Informants lie primarily in exchange for lenience for their own crimes, although sometimes they lie for money," according to a report from Golden Gate University Law Review. While informants are motivated to falsify testimony for material reward, prosecutors are often motivated to make those informants sound believable to a judge. Testimony from a single jailhouse informant is enough to convict a person for a charge as serious as murder, according to Valerie Newman, assistant defender in Michigan's State Appellate Defender Office.

More:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/29950-ring-of-snitches-how-detroit-police-slapped-false-murder-convictions-on-young-black-men

Defying Criticism, Arkansas Legislature Passes Bill on Religious Freedom

Despite intensifying criticism from business leaders both within and outside of Arkansas, the state legislature on Tuesday passed its version of a measure billed as a religious freedom law, joining Indiana in a swirl of controversy that shows little sign of calming.

The bill, passed when the General Assembly concurred on three amendments from the State Senate, now goes to the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who expressed reservations about an earlier bill but more recently said he would sign the measure if it “reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states.” The Arkansas Senate passed the measure last week.

While there were several attempts up until the last minute to add a clause to the bill that would explicitly bar discrimination of gays and lesbians, a measure that Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana pledged to add in a news conference on Tuesday, the sponsors of the bill in the General Assembly rejected such moves.

More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/01/us/governor-mike-pence-defends-indiana-religious-freedom-restoration-act.html

Defense rests in Boston Marathon bombing trial

Boston (CNN)The defense in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rested Tuesday afternoon after presenting only four witnesses.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.
The defense case lasted less than two days, while the prosecution presented more than 90 witnesses over the course of a month.

Obama Commutes 22 Drug Sentences, Instantly Doubling The Number Of Commutations He's Issued

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 22 individuals on Tuesday, more than doubling the number of commutations he has issued in the six-plus years he's been in office.

The men and women granted the reprieves had been imprisoned under an "outdated sentencing regime," the administration concluded. Eight of the 22 inmates had been sentenced to life imprisonment and would have died behind bars.

Leading up to Tuesday's announcement, the president has tried to revamp his administration's approach to clemency, telling The Huffington Post in a recent interview that he felt recipients should more broadly reflect the entire applicant pool and not lean toward well-connected white-collar criminals. Those granted clemency on Tuesday were all sentenced to jail for intent to distribute an illegal drug, with 14 of those cases involving possession or distribution of cocaine.

"Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society," White House counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement shared in advance with The Huffington Post. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years -- in some cases more than a decade -- longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

The president sent a letter to each of the commutation recipients encouraging them to take advantage of their post-prison opportunity. An administration official said that this was the first time Obama has sent such letters during his presidency.

More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/31/obama-commutations-drug-sentences_n_6978826.html

We must not ignore the Ohio prisoners on hunger strike

There’s a reason prisoners go on hunger strike to protest. It is as simple as it is grim: what else can they do? When most every form of life is controlled, confined, and denied, all that is left is bare life. It is a dreadful thing indeed, when the available sites of political resistance are reduced to a human’s own digestive tract. As such, every concerted hunger strike and every circumstance that prompts a hunger strike deserve our attention. Right now, that means we should focus on the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

Inmates at the prison, the state’s highest security facility, have entered their second week of a hunger strike. Nine inmates have refused meals since March 19 in protest of restrictions placed on recreation and prison programs, including bans on religious gatherings for certain prisoners. According to prison spokespeople, the “range restriction” practice now in place means that most inmates cannot move around their enclosed housing units, and highest-security inmates are currently banned from all group programming (including GED classes and group religious worship).

More:  http://fusion.net/story/111854/we-must-not-ignore-the-ohio-prisoners-on-hunger-strike/

Focusing on boy’s death, US rests in Tsarnaev trial

Prosecutors in the federal death-penalty trial of admitted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rested their case, just after noon, after calling 92 witnesses over 15 days of testimony.

...The trial is expected to resume Tuesday morning as the defense team continues to present its case. So far, defense lawyers have called two witnesses whose testimony was meant to place a focus on Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, who they say was the mastermind behind the bombings. The blasts injured more than 260 and killed three people: Martin Richard, the son of a well-known Dorchester family; 23-year-old Lingzi Lu, a Boston University graduate student from China; and Krystle Marie Campbell, a 29-year-old from Arlington.

More:  http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/03/30/tsarnaev-jurors-hear-evidence-about-deaths-martin-richard-and-lingzi/bSUO16VluOwTap9HqfYndO/story.html

Pharmacy Groups Balk at Supplying Lethal Injection Drugs

Death-penalty states scrambling to find drugs for lethal injections are facing a new hurdle: two groups that represent compounding pharmacists have told their members to stop making the killer cocktails.

The American Pharmacists Association voted Monday to oppose participation in executions, declaring that helping put prisoners to death violates the goals and oath of the profession. The move comes a week after the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists adopted a similar stance. Neither policy is binding, but they could dissuade specialty pharmacists — now the only source for lethal injections in many states — from selling their products to prisons for executions.

"It adds to the difficulty," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment. "It's unfortunate that groups such as this would allow themselves to be dragged into a political dispute."

More:  http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/pharmacy-groups-balk-supplying-lethal-injection-drugs-n332656

March2Justice In New York City

On Monday, April 13th, 2015, Justice League NYC and friends from across the country, will gather in New York City to MARCH to the nation's capital - stopping in key cities and towns along the route for local rallies and mobilization. The MARCH2JUSTICE will culminate in a large Rally & Concert on The National Mall in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 21st. Justice League NYC will MARCH2JUSTICE with our coalition partners to deliver a "Justice Package" of criminal justice reform legislation that will end racial profiling, demilitarize our police forces, and invest in our communities. We MARCH in solidarity with our elders, our youth, our incarcerated brothers and sisters, and the families and communities of those impacted by police brutality.

More:  https://www.popularresistance.org/62862/

Glenn Ford, Wrongfully Convicted And Dying Of Cancer, Denied Restitution For 30 Years On Death Row

Glenn Ford was imprisoned nearly half his life for a murder he didn't commit. Now, the 65-year-old has been denied restitution for his nearly 30 years on Louisiana's death row.

Caddo Parish District Judge Katherine Dorroh on Friday denied Ford compensation, saying that while Ford did not commit the murder that led to his wrongful imprisonment, he was "proven to be guilty of lesser crimes and was not an innocent man." The judge said Ford knew about plans for the robbery that led to the killing and didn't stop it. Further, he attempted to destroy evidence by pawning items taken in the robbery and tried to find buyers for the murder weapon used by men Ford implicated in the murder.

"While Mr. Ford does not have the blood of Isadore Rozeman on his hands, he did not have clean hands," Dorroh wrote in her nine-page order.

Ford's attorney, Gary Clements, said the court's conclusion is akin to denying compensation for "jaywalking in front of the house where a crime happened."

"Truth is, if you pawned jewelry, you would never spend 30 years on death row," Clements told The Huffington Post Monday.

More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/30/glenn-ford-restitution_n_6972158.html

U.S. To Commit To 28 Percent Emissions Cut As Contribution To Climate Treaty

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a highly anticipated announcement, the United States will offer a roughly 28 percent emissions cut as its contribution to a major global climate treaty nearing the final stages of negotiation, according to people briefed on the White House's plans.

The U.S. plans to announce its commitment Tuesday, the informal deadline for nations to submit their contributions to the United Nations. Although the goal of 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 isn't new — President Barack Obama first unveiled it last year during a trip to Beijing — the U.S. proposal has drawn intense interest from the vast majority of countries that have yet to announce how deeply they'll pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of the treaty.

Obama's pledge constitutes the opening offer by the U.S. as world leaders strive to reach a climate deal powerful and ambitious enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. In the works for years, the treaty is set to be finalized in Paris in December. If it's successful, it will mark the first time all nations — not just wealthier ones like the U.S. — will have agreed to do something about climate change.

As part of its proposal, known to climate negotiators as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, the U.S. will also assert that its contribution is both ambitious and fair, said the individuals briefed on the U.S. proposal, who requested anonymity because the proposal hasn't been announced.

More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/30/us-emissions-cut-climate-treaty_n_6973566.html

Religious Protection Laws, Once Called Shields, Are Now Seen as Cudgels

When the federal government adopted a religious protection act in 1993, same-sex marriage was not on the horizon.
An informal coalition of liberals and conservatives endorsed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it seemed to protect members of vulnerable religious minorities from punishment for the exercise of their beliefs. The federal legislation was set off by a case in which two followers of the Native American church were fired and denied unemployment benefits because they took part in ceremonies with peyote, an illegal drug.
Twenty states, including Indiana last week, have since passed their own versions of religious freedom laws.
But over time, court decisions and conservative legal initiatives started to change the meaning of those laws, according to liberal activists. The state laws were not used to protect minorities, these critics say, but to allow some religious groups to undermine the rights of women, gays and lesbians or other groups.
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/us/politics/religious-protection-laws-once-called-shields-are-now-seen-as-cudgels.html

Former FBI Special Agent Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Bribery And Obstruction Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, March 30, 2015
Former FBI Special Agent Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Bribery And Obstruction Scheme
Co-Conspirators Sentenced to 24 Months and 13 Months in Prison for Their Roles
A former FBI special agent was sentenced today to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $70,000 for soliciting and accepting bribes to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation into an alleged kickback scheme involving a defense contractor, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen of the District of Utah and Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
“FBI agents—like all federal law enforcement—must be above reproach, but former Special Agent Lustyik sold his badge and position of public trust to the highest bidder,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “This sentence serves as a stark reminder that no one is above the law.  Corrupt officials who break the law and breach their oaths will be prosecuted and sent to prison, even if they come from within the ranks of federal law enforcement.”

“These three defendants attempted to thwart a significant criminal investigation in Utah,” said U.S. Attorney Christensen.  “Two of these defendants were entrusted with protecting our citizens and upholding the law.  Their conduct, in particular, stands in stark contrast to the integrity and sacrifice of the men and women in our military and law enforcement ranks and their sentences today send a powerful message that no one is above the law.”

“Today’s sentencings represent important steps toward justice in this case,” said Inspector General Horowitz.  “Department of Justice employees and their associates must be held accountable when they abuse their authority and betray the public’s trust.”

Robert G. Lustyik Jr., 52, of Sleepy Hollow, New York, a 24-year veteran of the FBI, pleaded guilty to all charges in an 11-count indictment on Sept. 29, 2014.  Specifically, Lustyik pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and obstruction, eight counts of honest services wire fraud, obstruction of a grand jury investigation and obstruction of an agency proceeding.

Lustyik’s co-defendants, Michael L. Taylor, 54, of Harvard, Massachusetts, and Johannes W. Thaler, 51, of New Fairfield, Connecticut, were also sentenced today to 24 months in prison and 13 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in this scheme.  Thaler was also ordered to forfeit $70,000, joint and several with Lustyik.  U.S. District Senior Judge Tena Campbell of the District of Utah imposed all three sentences.

Lustyik and Thaler both pleaded guilty for their involvement in a similar bribery scheme in the Southern District of New York.  Thaler was sentenced to 30 months in prison in that case, and will serve the two sentences consecutively.  Lustyik is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30, 2015, in the Southern District of New York.

According to court documents, from October 2011 to September 2012, Lustyik and Thaler conspired to use Lustyik’s official position as an FBI counterintelligence special agent to obstruct a criminal investigation into Taylor, a businessman who owned and operated American International Security Corporation.  Taylor was under investigation for allegedly paying kickbacks to obtain a series of contracts from the Department of Defense worth approximately $54 million.  Taylor promised Lustyik and Thaler that, in exchange for their help, he would provide them cash and multimillion dollar business contracts.  In an email message, Taylor told the two men, “I’ll make you guys more money than you can believe, provided they don’t think I’m a bad guy and put me in jail.”

According to court documents, Lustyik attempted to obstruct the investigation into Taylor by identifying Taylor as an official FBI confidential source in an effort to persuade the FBI, the Justice Department and the prosecutors and law enforcement agents in Utah that Taylor’s usefulness to the government outweighed the government’s interest in prosecuting him.  Indeed, Lustyik emphasized that indicting Taylor would threaten the nation’s security.  Lustyik also sought to take steps to directly intervene in the investigation by interviewing key witnesses.

According to court documents, the defendants boasted about the success of their scheme.  In one email message, Lustyik wrote to Taylor, “The rate this is going.  I will be indicted way before u ever are !!”  Lustyik wrote separately to Thaler, “I can leave [the FBI] in June.  But I’m afraid to if [Taylor] gets indicted n I’m not an agent I’m no help.  Has he mentioned giving me‐u a salary?”

Taylor admitted at his plea hearing that, as part of this conspiracy, he offered Lustyik a six-figure salary and a share of the proceeds from various multi-million dollar business deals he was pursuing.  Acknowledging this, Lustyik wrote to Taylor, “Let’s just get Utah over with and get stinking rich,” to which Taylor replied, “Getting stinking rick [sic], we are well on the way with that so I have the ball.”

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.  The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Peter Koski and Trial Attorney Maria Lerner of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Trial Attorney Ann Marie Blaylock of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.  Trial Attorney Scott Ferber of the National Security Division’s Counterespionage Section also assisted in the prosecution.
Updated March 30, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mumia is Hospitalized, no information given to family


UPDATE 03/31/2015: Mumia is awake and was able to speak with his wife and brother. He is still in ICU and is very sick. Keep calling and demand Mumia get proper health care.

UPDATE 03/31/2015: Authorities have relented due to overwhelming international pressure. Visitation has been granted to family and friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A press conference scheduled for 11:00 this morning has been pushed back.

Release: Mumia is Hospitalized, no information given to family
Contact: Betsey Piette
International Action Center

Mumia is hospitalized without visitation or contact
For Immediate Release
Who: Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM 8335
What: Mumia is held in Hospital with no information given nor visitation for family
Where: Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, PA
When: Since 1pm, March 30, 2015

At 1pm EST today, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal had a medical emergency and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, PA.

Weary of events such as the recent death of MOVE leader Phil Africa, who passed away under suspicious circumstances at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, PA in January, supporters of Mumia immediately travelled to the hospital to learn more about his condition. Mumia’s brother Keith Cook, who was part of a delegation to the PA Capitol today to challenge the Revictimization Relief Act, denying First Amendment rights to PA prisoners, was not allowed to visit his brother. Even Mumia’s wife has received almost no information and has not been allowed to visit Mumia.

In an attempt to learn more about Mumia’s condition, around 15 supporters of Mumia are feet away from Mumia’s hospital door at the Schuykill Medical Center, yet four police officers are standing in their way from answers. Hundreds of supporters have called SCI Mahanoy Superintendent John Kerestes, which led his office to turn off his phone line, forcing concerned people to leave messages.

Mumia’s life is in danger. We encourage media and people concerned with Mumia’s health to contact the following individuals and institutions responsible for the health care of PA prisoners and demand answers and family visitation rights in this urgent case.

Call SCI Mahonoy Superintendent John Kerestes (570-773-2158) and DEMAND that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s family be able to see him. Take care to refer to Mumia by his legal name – Wesley Cook, #AM 8335.

Richard Ellers
Director, PA Department of Corrections Health Care Services
(717) 728-5311

John Wetzel
Secretary, PA Department of Corrections
(717) 728-4109

Schuylkill Medical Center
700 E Norwegian St, Pottsville, PA
(570) 621-4000


Can’t Fix the System’s Use of Forensic Science Without Fixing the Science

...For years, despite lacking a proper scientific foundation, many forensic practitioners have offered either unvalidated evidence or grossly exaggerated the value of the evidence, particularly in forensic disciplines that examined pattern, impression and trace evidence, e.g comparison of bite marks, shoe prints, bullets and hair.

The National Academy of Science acknowledged this problem in 2009, concluding that “with the exception of D.N.A., no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

The problem, however, will not be cured by reliance on D.N.A. testing for most cases, there is no biology to test. But the other forensic disciplines never underwent the extensive basic and applied research, voluminous peer review and Food and Drug Administration approval because, unlike D.N.A., they never had a clinical application. They were primarily developed by law enforcement solely for criminal investigation.

More:  http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/03/30/robert-durst-handwriting-and-judging-forensic-science/cant-fix-the-systems-use-of-forensic-science-without-fixing-the-science

Reproductions of Artwork by Leonard Peltier

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Oil Paintings by Leonard Peltier

Follow CL Peltier Art Gallery's board Oil Paintings - Art by Leonard Peltier on Pinterest.

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Criminalizing Poverty: A Toxic and Growing Phenomenon

Bilking the poor has ushered in an era of offender-financed criminal justice services, a phenomenon that has become a toxic lifeline for many local governments. It has also spurred the growth of private companies whose bottom lines are forged by providing probation services and operating jails and prisons.

Being poor in America has never been easy. Since the advent of poverty programs, stigmatizing poor people -- particularly people of color -- has been a major item in the playbook of conservative politicians. These days, however, the actions of local governments are making being poor that much more difficult.

According to a new Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) report titled, "The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty", “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans.”

More:  http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/criminalizing-poverty-a-toxic-and-growing-phenomenon

Whistleblowers Have a Human Right to a Public Interest Defense, And Hacktivists Do, Too

The United States' war on transparency is making it an outlier in the international community. Just this week, a high-level European human rights body "urged" the United States to allow NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to return home and be given a meaningful chance to defend himself.

International human rights law has been clear for decades: anyone engaged in exposing gross abuses through whistleblowing and publishing is entitled to protection. Yet, the Obama administration has waged war on transparency, prosecuting more people for disclosing information to the press than Richard Nixon and all other U.S. presidents combined.

Not a single one of those prosecuted has been allowed to argue that their actions served the public good. Chelsea Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, exposed human rights abuses worldwide and opened an unprecedented window into global politics. Her disclosures are to this day cited regularly by the media and courts. Thomas Drake exposed massive NSA waste, while John Kiriakou exposed waterboarding later admitted to be torture in the recent Senate CIA Torture Report. The story of Edward Snowden's disclosures of widespread NSA surveillance recently won an Oscar.

Whistleblowers cannot argue that their actions had positive effects, known as a "public interest defense." The United States treats disclosures to the press as acts of spying -- no matter what good they lead to. In response, European and international human rights bodies are urging the United States to adopt better protections for whistleblowers.

More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-shenkman/whistleblowers-have-a-hum_b_6903544.html

China Appears to Attack GitHub by Diverting Web Traffic

HONG KONG — The Chinese government has long used a sophisticated set of Internet filters known as the Great Firewall as a barrier to prevent its citizens from obtaining access to foreign websites with information it deems threatening.
But in a recent series of attacks on websites that try to help Internet users in China circumvent this censorship, the Great Firewall appears to have been used instead as a weapon, diverting a portion of the torrents of Internet traffic that flow through it to overload targeted websites.
In doing so, the Chinese government is taking advantage of and damaging one of China’s own Internet companies: Baidu. The attacks appear to hijack ad and analytics traffic intended for Baidu, China’s largest search company, and then send that traffic to smaller websites in what is known as a distributed denial of service or DDoS attack. The huge flow of traffic has the effect of crashing the sites.
The aggressive new strategy shows vividly how Beijing is struggling to balance its desire to control the flow of information online with the aim of encouraging the growth of its tech sector.
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/technology/china-appears-to-attack-github-by-diverting-web-traffic.html

School-To-Prison Pipeline in Indian Country

ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Watch:   http://mediasite.law.asu.edu/media/Play/d30fb600c3034f898c60b60179e915161d

          School-To-Prison Pipeline in Indian Country
          Recorded: 3/27/2015 8:00:00 AM
          Duration: 8:18:42

Why Solitary Confinement is Modern Day Torture

As of 2013, there were 80,000 men and women in solitary confinement in the United States, some of them as young as 14 years old. In this illustrated op-ed video, artist Molly Crabapple explains the psychological and physical trauma suffered by those forced to spend 22-24 hours a day alone — sometimes for arbitrary reasons, like reading the wrong book, or having the wrong tattoo — in a grey, concrete box. (According to the U.N. 15 days in solitary is torture.) “There is no limit to how long someone can be held in solitary confinement,” says Crabappple. “And very little evidence is needed to justify holding a person in solitary indefinitely.”


Our Native Boys and Young Men

Are Native Youth Being Pushed into Prison?

Former Federal Agents Charged With Bitcoin Money Laundering and Wire Fraud, Were Part of Baltimore’s Silk Road Task Force

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, March 30, 2015
Former Federal Agents Charged With Bitcoin Money Laundering and Wire Fraud
Agents Were Part of Baltimore’s Silk Road Task Force
Two former federal agents have been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and related offenses for stealing digital currency during their investigation of the Silk Road, an underground black market that allowed users to conduct illegal transactions over the Internet.  The charges are contained in a federal criminal complaint issued on March 25, 2015, in the Northern District of California and unsealed today.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California, Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the FBI’s San Francisco Division, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) San Francisco Division, Special Agent in Charge Michael P. Tompkins of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General Washington Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lori Hazenstab of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General in Washington D.C. made the announcement.

Carl M. Force, 46, of Baltimore, was a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun W. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, was a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service (USSS).  Both were assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force, which investigated illegal activity in the Silk Road marketplace.  Force served as an undercover agent and was tasked with establishing communications with a target of the investigation, Ross Ulbricht, aka “Dread Pirate Roberts.”  Force is charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest.  Bridges is charged with wire fraud and money laundering.

According to the complaint, Force was a DEA agent assigned to investigate the Silk Road marketplace.  During the investigation, Force engaged in certain authorized undercover  operations by, among other things, communicating online with “Dread Pirate Roberts” (Ulbricht), the target of his investigation.  The complaint alleges, however, that Force then, without authority, developed additional online personas and engaged in a broad range of illegal activities calculated to bring him personal financial gain.  In doing so, the complaint alleges, Force used fake online personas, and engaged in complex Bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation.  Specifically, Force allegedly solicited and received digital currency as part of the investigation, but failed to report his receipt of the funds, and instead transferred the currency to his personal account.  In one such transaction, Force allegedly sold information about the government’s investigation to the target of the investigation.  The complaint also alleges that Force invested in and worked for a digital currency exchange company while still working for the DEA, and that he directed the company to freeze a customer’s account with no legal basis to do so, then transferred the customer’s funds to his personal account.  Further, Force allegedly sent an unauthorized Justice Department subpoena to an online payment service directing that it unfreeze his personal account.

Bridges allegedly diverted to his personal account over $800,000 in digital currency that he gained control of during the Silk Road investigation.  The complaint alleges that Bridges placed the assets into an account at Mt. Gox, the now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan.  He then allegedly wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the United States mere days before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox’s accounts.    

Bridges self-surrendered today and will appear before Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James of the Northern District of California at 9:30 a.m. PST this morning.  Force was arrested on Friday, March 27, 2015, in Baltimore and will appear before Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan of the District of Maryland at 2:30 p.m. EST today.
The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s San Francisco Division, the IRS-CI’s San Francisco Division, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General in Washington D.C.  The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network also provided assistance with the investigation of this case.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathryn Haun and William Frentzen of the Northern District of California and Trial Attorney Richard B. Evans of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

Criminal Complaint
Updated March 30, 2015

Last Week's News in Indian Country

A recap of the stories that mattered most in Indian country:

ALL STAR: Nike unveiled its spring 2015 N7 apparel collection featuring Yankee centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

BETTER ENERGY: Eleven tribal communities are receiving a total of $6 million toward renewable energy projects and technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced.

SHOW OF CULTURE: At Mile 17 of this year’s Los Angeles Marathon, runners saw and heard something a little different: a powwow dancer and a drum group. It was a subtle reminder that they were on Gabrielino Tongva land—and that the land’s first inhabitants are still here.

ROLL 'EM: Longmire, the popular crime series set in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, has begun filming its much-celebrated fourth season in Santa Fe, Las Vegas (NM), and other north New Mexico locations.

HATERS GONNA HATE: As the Republican-lead Senate in Colorado is expected to kill a bill that would regulate Native American mascots in the state, the bill sponsor continues to be inundated with hate mail.

MR. JONES GOES TO WASHINGTON: Keanu Jones' short film "Giving Back the Navajo Way" was one of 15 that screened in the 2015 White House Film Festival. Jones, an 18-year-old high school senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, was on hand at the screening, and got to meet President Obama.

FAIR PAY: The Ho-Chunk Nation asserted their sovereign authority to establish a base minimum wage of copy0 an hour for their workforce.

UGLY INCIDENT: A shop clerk's response to a Native American woman protesting the sale of culturally appropriated items has drawn caustic debate online.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/03/29/week-was-big-stories-indian-country-march-29-2015-159803

U.S. Attorneys Michael Cotter and Damon P. Martinez to Lead Attorney General’s Native American Issues Subcommittee

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, March 30, 2015
U.S. Attorneys Michael Cotter and Damon P. Martinez to Lead Attorney General’s Native American Issues Subcommittee
Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the appointment of U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter for the District of Montana and U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez for the District of New Mexico as the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC). 

“Throughout my tenure as Attorney General, the Native American Issues Subcommittee has been a critical source of expertise, guidance, and inspiration in addressing the department’s goals of reducing crime and strengthening communities across Indian country,” said Attorney General Holder.  “As public servants from districts with significant responsibilities related to tribal nations, Mike Cotter and Damon Martinez possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise that will serve to promote the mission of the NAIS and benefit Indian country as a whole.  I am confident that, with their dedication, their vision, and their leadership, we will continue to deliver on this department’s important work and to fulfil this nation’s historic relationship of trust and cooperation with Native American and Alaska Native people.”

U.S. Attorney Cotter was appointed to the NAIS in 2009.  He replaces U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon of the District of North Dakota.  The District of Montana has served as a successful example of the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian Country Initiative.  Prosecutors are assigned to individual reservations and travel monthly for meetings with tribal and federal partners.  The strategy includes utilizing tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, tribal prosecutors who focus on domestic violence matters.  Prosecutors also participate in bi-monthly case meetings with tribal prosecutors and law enforcement, as well as develop cross-disciplinary trainings, such as presentations to first responders on the new federal strangulation statutes in Indian Country.

As part of ongoing Initiative efforts, Assistant U.S. Attorneys facilitated the creation of and continuing work by the Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs), which are comprised of prosecutors, law enforcement, as well as medical and social service providers.  The SARTs represent a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to responding to sex crimes that occur on reservations.

U.S. Attorney Martinez, who was appointed to the NAIS in May 2014, has continued and expanded the implementation of the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian Country Initiative and other federal initiatives in New Mexico which is home to 22 Indian pueblos and tribes.  Through the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project, sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, federal prosecutors train tribal prosecutors and officers in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques so that every viable sexual and violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both.  Working with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, New Mexico has established one of the first HIDTA drug task forces in Indian Country.  It also supports two Indian Country Project Safe Neighborhood programs that focus on reducing gun violence in tribal communities.  Under the Attorney General’s Smart on Crime Initiative, the District of New Mexico has been working with an interdisciplinary team to develop one of the nation’s Indian Country reentry programs which will be launched in May of this year.  Prosecutors also partner with BIA to train tribal, local and state officers so that they may be commissioned as special federal officers of the BIA and enhance public safety in the District’s tribal communities by enforcing federal law.

The AGAC was created in 1973 to serve as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys and to advise the Attorney General on policy, management, and operational issues impacting the offices of the U.S. Attorneys.  The NAIS is made up of U.S. Attorneys from across the U.S. whose Districts contain Indian Country or one or more federally recognized tribes.  The NAIS focuses exclusively on Indian Country issues, both criminal and civil and is responsible for making policy recommendations to the Attorney General of the U.S. regarding public safety and legal issues that impact tribal communities.
Tribal Justice
Updated March 30, 2015

Costs of Inmate Phone Calls Are Under Scrutiny

...The cost of a 15-minute call is $12.95, although Mr. Kofalt is in a prison only a few hours’ drive from his wife’s home in Franklin, Pa. The cost for a similar non-prison call would be about 60 cents.
And every time Ms. Kofalt deposits $25 into the prison phone account, the private company that runs the system charges her $6.95.
“I don’t drive,” said Ms. Kofalt, 39, who works as a home health care aide and lives with her 19-year-old son, his girlfriend and their two children. “This is all we have. The people in jail did wrong, but the only people being punished are the families.”
Until the 1990s, inmates could place and receive calls to lawyers and family members at rates similar to those outside prison walls. But the prison phone system is now a $1.2 billion-a-year industry dominated by a few private companies that manage phones in prisons and jails in all 50 states, setting rates and fees far in excess of those established by regular commercial providers. The business is so considerable — some 500 million prison and jail phone calls totaling more than six billion minutes in 2014 — that it has caught the eye of private equity firms.
...Now, after years of complaints from prison-rights groups and families of the incarcerated, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating the financial intricacies of the industry, which has been largely unregulated.
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/us/steep-costs-of-inmate-phone-calls-are-under-scrutiny.html

Let's make the "Surveillance State" history‏

Since 2001, the government has used the Patriot Act to claim enormous, terrifying new powers to spy on Americans.

And with some of the Patriot Act's most controversial provisions set to expire this spring — including one that the NSA claims lets it collect private data about all of our phone calls — we have a big opportunity to put a stop to widespread, indiscriminate surveillance.

Many of these provisions were only supposed to be authorized for a number of years. Unfortunately, Congress has allowed itself to be backed into a corner on rubberstamping reauthorization of the law year after year.

We can't let that happen again. Click here and tell Congress we need to repeal the Patriot Act, not rubberstamp its reauthorization.

After the leaks by Edward Snowden, even the original Patriot Act author Rep. James Sensenbrenner has said that the authority claimed by the government to spy on Americans far exceeds the intent of the law.

Good news: last week, Representatives Mark Pocan and Thomas Massie introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which would repeal the Patriot Act and restore our constitutionally protected civil liberties.

Sure, getting a full repeal of the Patriot Act will be an uphill battle. But Congress won’t move to restore our civil liberties unless we demand it.

Ask Congress to support the Surveillance State Repeal Act — it takes just a second.

Let’s make the Patriot Act history.

Indiana Boycott Urged After 'Religious Freedom' Law Passes

Activists have encouraged a boycott of Indiana after the US state enacted a "religious freedom" law, which they say discriminates against gay people. Supporters say the law prevents the state from forcing people to provide services contrary to their religion. Similar bills are being considered across the US as court rulings have made gay marriage legal in more states. Several groups plan to do less business with the state, and celebrities criticised the law on Twitter. The National Collegiate Athletic Association said it was "especially concerned" about how the law would affect its employees and student athletes. Next week, the NCAA will host the finals of its annual basketball tournament in Indianapolis, the state's capital and its largest city. On Friday, Arkansas moved closer to passing a similar "religious freedom" measure.

More:  https://www.popularresistance.org/indiana-boycott-urged-after-religious-freedom-law-passes/

Too fast on requiem for White House FOIA?

A notice the Obama administration placed in the Federal Register earlier this month seemed to confirm once and for all what many transparency advocates have treated as a given for years: The White House is beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.

Well, not so fast.
The formal notice, awkwardly made public as many transparency advocates were celebrating Sunshine Week, officially withdrew long-dormant regulations that once created procedures for FOIA requests to part of the White House known as the Office of Administration. The George W. Bush White House actually stopped processing such requests about a decade ago. (They sat on one of mine for several years before sending a short letter saying they had no intention of fulfilling it.)

The glimmer of hope for FOIA backers involves not the relatively mundane Office of Administration, but the much more interesting National Security Council. It processed FOIA requests for a time, but was declared off limits by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1996.

A City University of New York legal clinic filed a FOIA lawsuit in 2013 challenging the rationale of that ruling: that the NSC is only an advisory body and doesn't make decisions. The suit was tossed out by a federal judge in Brooklyn, but an appeal pending at the 2nd Circuit has gotten a boost from an unexpected source: the so-called torture report the Senate Intelligence Commitee released last December blasting the CIA's detention and interrogation program for terror suspects.

More:  http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2015/03/too-fast-on-requiem-for-white-house-foia-204693.html

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret from the Public

A key section of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has been leaked to the public. The New York Times has a major story on the contents of the leaked chapter and it’s as bad as many of us feared.

Now we know why the corporations and the Obama administration want TPP, a huge “trade” agreement being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries, kept secret from the public until it’s too late to stop it.

The section of TPP that has leaked is the “Investment” chapter that includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses.

More:  http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/03/28/now-we-know-why-huge-tpp-trade-deal-is-kept-secret-from-the-public/

Tribes See Name on Oregon Maps as Being Out of Bounds

Grant County, a mountainous patch of eastern Oregon, has few Native Americans, but maps point to a different past, marking a spring, a rock, three meadows and several creeks with “squaw” in their names.
Calling the term offensive, nearby tribes have asked for name changes, and state law is on their side. But what may seem like a simple matter has turned into a dispute with the county’s white leaders that has dragged on for years, and may have years to go. Oregon and many other states have learned the hard way that erasing objectionable place names is slow and difficult at best, risks opening old wounds, and can divide people along racial lines over what is offensive and whose history the names should reflect.
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/us/tribes-see-name-on-oregon-maps-as-being-out-of-bounds.html

SOA Watch Spring Action: Growing Stronger Together

School of the Americas Watch is mobilizing this April for our Spring Days of Action (SDOA). Our 2015 SDOA theme is "Growing Stronger Together - Resisting the 'Drug War' Across the Americas". Will you help us take the message to Washington, DC? Join us for actions in the streets and halls of Congress to hasten the end of the Drug War and its accompanying destruction. Part of social change is grassroots power, and we'll be having a welcome party, congressional visits, critical mass bike ride, concert, movement strategy session, and more!

More:  https://www.popularresistance.org/soa-watch-spring-action-growing-stronger-together/

Moneyballing Justice: "Evidence-Based" Criminal Reforms Ignore Real Evidence

Proponents of the new wave of "criminal justice reform" claim that their efforts are nonpartisan, non-ideological and "evidence-based."

This "evidence-based" frame asserts that mass incarceration and "overcriminalization" will be remedied by a handful of sentencing reforms affecting "low-level" offenders. An essential element of such reform is the widespread use of "evidence-based risk-assessment" instruments to purportedly help authorities objectively determine who is "dangerous" - and therefore must remain in prison - and who is not.

This isn't a miracle cure; it is a lavishly funded public relations campaign advancing unfettered free-market "solutions" to criminal justice dilemmas and the politics of austerity. "Bipartisanship" is driven by a right-wing agenda and support from a constellation of libertarian and neoliberal economic interests. It is funded by Koch Industries and a handful of foundations and deep-pocketed donors. Yes, some high-profile people and groups considered liberal have signed on - but to messaging and strategic direction already established by the right.

More:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/29818-moneyballing-justice-evidence-based-criminal-reforms-ignore-real-evidence

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform

On Thursday, more than 600 law makers, criminal justice leaders and influencers gathered together in a sold-out crowd to agree on one thing: now is the time for Criminal Justice Reform.

With one in 100 Americans currently incarcerated at costs upwards of $80 billion per year, political leaders from across the political spectrum united for reform. From ALEC and Koch Industries to ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance, the summit served as the launchpad for unlikely alliances in 2015.

The summit - hosted by Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, Donna Brazile and Pat Nolan - brought together more than 90 speakers to share insights and innovative solutions to our country’s mass incarceration problem.

Watch the full summit (8+ hours of footage).


Roads Blockaded To Highlight Missing & Murdered Women

"There is no democracy and we the people have an obligation to demand justice for all. The current status quo in so called Canada serves only the elite few while the majority of Canadians are financial slaves to the system. Politicians do not represent the people, nor have they ever. Indigenous communities know this all too well and have been actively resisting subjugation since contact with the first colonizers who illegally imposed their jurisdiction through covert biological warfare and the ongoing genocide implemented with the residential school system." Despite the blockade happening far east in the city nearly out of city limits on a bitter cold and windy day, it had a profound effect on the city. It hit all of the news stations, was all over the radio and there were calls coming in from people asking what was happening on Portage. There weren't huge numbers, but it had its own impact.

More:  https://www.popularresistance.org/video-roads-blockaded-to-highlight-missing-murdered-women/

Guantánamo’s Charade of Justice

LAST week, we learned that, only months into the job, the official in charge of the military courts system at Guantánamo Bay was stepping down, after judges ruled he had interfered in proceedings. The appointment of an interim replacement was the sixth change of leadership for the tribunals since 2003.
This is yet another setback for the military commissions, as they tackle two of their highest-profile cases: the joint trial of the chief planner of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and four alleged co-conspirators, and the trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused in the bombing of the American destroyer Cole.
That’s not all. Besides the revolving door at the convening authority’s office, six military attorneys have served as chief prosecutor for these courts over the same period. (I was the third.)
Think about that for a moment. If a professional football team was on its seventh head coach and sixth quarterback in less than a dozen years, that team would almost certainly be a loser.
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/28/opinion/guantanamos-charade-of-justice.html

Rethinking Intelligence: Are National Security Programs Actually Working?‏

This week, Michael German spoke with former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin and technology expert Babak Pasdar about the problems surrounding intelligence programs launched without proper evaluation or research on whether the programs will work. Experts have found that the NSA's bulk collection program, the TSA's behavioral detection programs, and the FBI's “suspicious activity reporting” programs have done little to keep Americans safe.  

“The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act passed by Senate Intelligence Committee last week is an example of this phenomenon,” Michael German said. “Experts agree that the bill would do little, if anything, to reduce the large data breaches we’ve seen in recent years. If passed by Congress, it would further weaken electronic privacy laws and ultimately put our data at greater risk.”

“When the U.S. weakens [encryption] standards, they weaken the integrity of all internet communications, they weaken the integrity of all electronic communications,” Babak Pasdar said. “So if they have access to it, chances are somebody else will get access to it.”

“Not enough attention is paid to [a problem] until there's a crisis,” Clark Kent Ervin said. “If oversight bodies worked as they should, and if due attention were paid to it by Congress and the American people, then we would jettison programs that are ineffective and we would enhance programs that have proved to be effective.”

Watch and read the interviews here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A conversation I didn't expect‏

I'm a reporter who covered the police beat in Baltimore. Today, I make television shows. And last Friday, my phone rang. Someone on the other end told me that the President of the United States wants to have a conversation about criminal justice policy in America.

In his effort to try to reconsider some of the sentencing excesses and the levels of incarceration that have become so problematic in America, the President wanted to discuss these issues with me -- particularly because a lot of them were rooted in a television show that we did several years ago called "The Wire." In that show, we were trying to explore what the drug war has become in America and what it was costing us as a society.

So I went to Washington earlier this week and sat down with the President. We shared our experiences, our perspectives on the drug war, and the changes we hope to see.


Amanda Knox and Ex-Boyfriend Are Acquitted of Murder by Italian Court

Italy’s highest court acquitted Amanda Knox and her Italian former boyfriend of murder on Friday, throwing out all charges and ending a long-running courtroom drama over the killing of a British student in 2007.
The ruling was a shock in Italy, where the convictions had been expected to be upheld in the death of the student, Meredith Kercher. It the second time that the court, known as the Supreme Court of Cassation, has vacated an appellate court ruling in the case.
Gasps went up among spectators in the Rome courtroom, where after 10 hours of deliberation, the presiding judge, Gennaro Marasca, announced the decision. The reasoning behind the decision is to be made public within 90 days.

More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/28/world/europe/amanda-knox-trial.html


Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison

For years, conditions inside the United States’ only federal supermax facility were largely a mystery. But a landmark lawsuit is finally revealing the harsh world within.

...It hadn’t been easy for Jones to transition back to a life of freedom. He managed to stick it out, he said, because he was determined not to return to the place where he spent the final eight years of his last sentence: the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colo., known more colloquially as the ADX. The ADX is the highest-security prison in the country. It was designed to be escape-proof, the Alcatraz of the Rockies, a place to incarcerate the worst, most unredeemable class of criminal — “a very small subset of the inmate population who show,” in the words of Norman Carlson, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “absolutely no concern for human life.” Ted Kaczynski and the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph call the ADX home. The 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is held there, too, along with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef; the Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols; the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; and the former Bonanno crime-family boss Vincent Basciano. Michael Swango, a serial-killing doctor who may have poisoned 60 of his patients, is serving three consecutive life sentences; Larry Hoover, the Gangster Disciples kingpin made famous by rappers like Rick Ross, is serving six; the traitorous F.B.I. agent Robert Hanssen, a Soviet spy, 15.
Along with such notorious inmates, prisoners deemed serious behavioral or flight risks can also end up at the ADX — men like Jones, who in 2003, after racking up three assault charges in less than a year (all fights with other inmates) at a medium-security facility in Louisiana, found himself transferred to the same ADX cellblock as Kaczynski.
Inmates at the ADX spend approximately 23 hours of each day in solitary confinement. Jones had never been so isolated before. Other prisoners on his cellblock screamed and banged on their doors for hours. Jones said the staff psychiatrist stopped his prescription for Seroquel, a drug taken for bipolar disorder, telling him, “We don’t give out feel-good drugs here.” Jones experienced severe mood swings. To cope, he would work out in his cell until he was too tired to move. Sometimes he cut himself. In response, guards fastened his arms and legs to his bed with a medieval quartet of restraints, a process known as four-pointing.
More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/magazine/inside-americas-toughest-federal-prison.html

Agent Orange Funding Opens Door to US Militarism and Covert Action in Vietnam

The use of Agent Orange constitutes a war crime with devastating effects on the people in Vietnam not only during the war but even today. The U.S. military knew that its use of Agent Orange would be damaging, but, as an Air Force scientist wrote to Congress, “because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned.”

Ecocide was committed when “the U.S. military sprayed 79 million liters of herbicides and defoliants over about one-seventh of the land area of southern Vietnam.” The 2008-2009 President’s Cancer Panel Report found that nearly five million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in “400,000 deaths and disabilities and a half million children born with birth defects.”

No one has been held accountable for this crime. U.S. courts have blocked lawsuits brought by the people of Vietnam, and the United States has never paid adequate war reparations to assist in caring for the victims of Agent Orange or to clean up the environment.

In recent years, however, the U.S. has begun to fund cleanup and treatment programs for Agent Orange victims. The timing of this change in policy comes as the U.S. military has been building a relationship with the Vietnamese military as part of the so-called “Asian Pivot.” Yet this relationship has been impaired by the United States’ failure to properly deal with Agent Orange.

Funding for Agent Orange damages is being used to open the door to greater U.S. military involvement and influence in the region, but it will also allow an expansion of U.S. covert operations in Vietnam that set the stage for the U.S. to install a “friendlier” government, if necessary for U.S. hegemony in the region.

More:  http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/03/27/agent-orange-funding-opens-door-to-us-militarism-and-covert-action-in-vietnam/

Solidarity Not Fear: World Social Forum Opens In Tunisia

Tens of thousands of people marched in the pouring rain through Tunisia's capital on Tuesday to kick off the 14th World Social Forum—a global gathering of civil society movements—and bring the message of peace and solidarity to the site of last week's deadly attack on the National Bardo Museum. "The march is really inspiring, and despite the rain, the energy is very high," Mai-Stella Khantouche, member of the California-based Causa Justa/Just Cause, told Common Dreamsover the phone from the demonstration as it proceeded to the museum. "There are so many different organizations and people here coming together to show solidarity," added Khantouche, who is attending the Forum as a delegate with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

More:  https://www.popularresistance.org/solidarity-not-fear-world-social-forum-opens-in-tunisia/

Oakland Has Read 4.6 Million License Plates Tracking People

OAKLAND, Calif.—If you have driven in Oakland any time in the last few years, chances are good that the cops know where you’ve been, thanks to their 33 automated license plate readers (LPRs).

 Now Ars knows too.
In response to a public records request, we obtained the entire LPR dataset of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), including more than 4.6 million reads of over 1.1 million unique plates between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The dataset is likely one of the largest ever publicly released in the United States—perhaps in the world.
After analyzing this data with a custom-built visualization tool, Ars can definitively demonstrate the data’s revelatory potential. Anyone in possession of enough data can often—but not always—make educated guesses about a target’s home or workplace, particularly when someone’s movements are consistent (as with a regular commute).