Thursday, April 30, 2015

How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about

Several industries have become notorious for the millions they spend on influencing legislation and getting friendly candidates into office: Big Oil, Big Pharma and the gun lobby among them. But one has managed to quickly build influence with comparatively little scrutiny: Private prisons. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)


Baltimore Police Finish Inquiry Into Death of Freddie Gray

The Baltimore police have finished their investigation into how a young man suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody, and have handed their findings off to prosecutors, officials said Thursday.

The announcement opens a new phase in a case that has riveted the city, sparking demonstrations and unrest, as the focus shifts to the new, relatively untested state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby. Her office will fold the police findings into its own investigation.

But officials continued to warn that completion of the police inquiry would not translate into new revelations for the public about what happened on April 12 to Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died. The Police Department has stated that it will not disclose what it has found, and Ms. Mosby’s office has said that it does not expect to make any significant release of information until it has assembled a more complete picture of the incident.

If the state’s attorney decides it wants to prosecute any of the officers involved, it will take its case to a grand jury to seek an indictment. In all, criminal charges could still be months away, if they come at all.


Stop Fast Track from getting more votes‏

Bad news first: Fast Track legislation to ram through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has now passed out of committee in both the U.S. House and Senate, and it’s moving fast.
Now the good news: just this morning, the House Majority Leader admitted that “the votes aren’t there yet” to get this anti-democratic, censorship-enabling legislation passed.
But both the Obama administration and corporate-backed Republican leadership are working together to spread propaganda and claim there is “nothing secret” in the TPP – while the entire text is still classified! Worse, they are literally bribing reps with a fancy dinner if they vote for the Fast Track bills.
The vote is going to be painfully close. Every second counts and every voice matters. Will you speak out today?
This is a huge opportunity. If we can defeat Fast Track legislation in the U.S., it’s very likely that the entire TPP will fall apart. This is our chance to change history and to make it clear we won’t accept a future where decisions that affect our lives are made by governments in secret.

'The wHOLE': New Web Series Examines Solitary Confinement

 "The wHOLE," [is] a new dramatic web series created to shed light on what many call the inhumane and tortuous practice of placing men, women and children in a cell, alone, with no human contact for 24 hours a day and, in some well-documented cases, for up to 30 years at a time.


Prison Labor Company Features Promo Video Touting “Best-Kept Secret in Outsourcing”

Searching for the “best kept secret in outsourcing,” one that can “provide you with all the advantages” of domestic workers, but with “offshore prices”? Try prison labor!

That’s the message of Unicor, also known as Federal Prison Industries, a government-owned corporation that employs federal workers for as little as 23 cents an hour to manufacture military uniforms, furniture, electronics and other products.

Though FPI markets itself as an opportunity for inmates to obtain skills training, critics have attacked the program as exploitative. Small business owners have also complained that FPI’s incredibly low wages make it impossible to compete.

What’s more, businesses that partner with FPI are organized and regularly lobby the government on prison-related issues. Their trade group, the Correctional Vendors Association, lobbied Congress last year on the Justice Safety Valve Act, a bipartisan bill giving judges the power to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum, including in drug-related cases.


Rally to Be Held In Sioux Falls Asking President Obama to Reject Keystone XL Pipeline

PRESS ADVISORY: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Contact: Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network Organizer: (507)412-7609 or Sabrina King, Dakota Rural Action Organizer: (605)939-0527
Sioux Falls, SD – A rally will be held in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at 3:30pm Friday May 1st, in advance of President Obama’s visit to the state one week later.

The rally is intended to send a message to the President from Indigenous communities and non-native South Dakotans asking him to reject the Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Formal press release with location will be sent Friday morning.

The Indigenous Environmental Network is an international environmental justice non-profit that works with tribal grassroots organizations to build the capacity of Indigenous communities.

Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots family agriculture and conservation group that organizes South Dakotans to protect our family farmers and ranchers, natural resources, and unique way of life.


Bill Blocks Attempt To Close Gitmo, America's Most Expensive Prison

WASHINGTON -- The annual price tag for holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is nearing $4 million per inmate, but Congress advanced a defense bill early Thursday that again prevents President Barack Obama from closing the notorious facility.

In the early morning during work on the massive National Defense Authorization Act of 2016, the House Armed Services Committee voted down an amendment that would have freed the White House to begin dispersing the prisoners held at Gitmo, about half of whom have been deemed by the military and intelligence community to pose no threat to the United States.

The amendment had been offered by the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), who has tried for years to close the expensive facility, estimated to be the costliest in the world.


Men Who Attacked Malala Sentenced To Life In Prison

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced 10 men to life in prison on Thursday for the 2012 attack on teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai, the BBC reported.

Yousafzai was just 15 years old when she was shot in the head while riding her school bus in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley because she angered the Taliban by publicly campaigning for girls' education. The attack, which drew international attention, also wounded two of her school friends.

Authorities said the defendants were all members of the Pakistani Taliban, ITV News reported.


The Port Of Oakland Will Shut Down To Protest Police Violence

It will mark the first time in more than a decade that the Port of Oakland employees have stopped work with the approval of business owners, according to a person familiar with the port's labor operations. The protests come during a growing national debate and protests over police violence, most recently with death of a 25-year-old Freddie Gray of Baltimore. Port of Oakland longshoremen, represented by International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Local 10 division, are leading the protests. "We're going to be marching on Friday," said Melvin Mackay, president ILWU Local 10. "It's about the police doing the right thing."


Obama Administration Steps Back From Effort to End Federal Death Penalty

A botched execution in Oklahoma brought national attention to the issue, public opinion polls began to shift and President Obama, declaring that it was time to “ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions,” directed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to review capital punishment.
At the Justice Department, a proposal soon began to take shape among Mr. Holder and senior officials: The administration could declare a formal moratorium on the federal death penalty because medical experts could not guarantee that the lethal drugs used did not cause terrible suffering. Such a declaration would have pressured states to do the same, the officials reasoned, and would bolster the legal argument that the death penalty is unconstitutionally cruel punishment.
But the idea never gained traction, and Mr. Obama has seldom mentioned the death penalty review since. Now, as the Supreme Court considered arguments Wednesday over whether lethal injection, as currently administered, was unconstitutional, the obstacles the Obama administration faced provide vivid examples of just how politically difficult the debate remains.

Join the Oscar Lopez Rivera Contingent on May Day!

JOIN The Oscar Lopez Rivera Contingent on May Day!

Friday May 1st, 2015 Union Square

5pm: Contingent comes together in front of the Staples on Union Square located at 5 Union Square West

5:30pm:  We march with our brothers and sisters in the Labor and the Immigration rights movements!

Join the Oscar Lopez Rivera Contingent on May Day!  We will be proudly waving our Puerto Rican flags, giving out literature about Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, and supporting the demands ofour brothers and sisters in the May 1st Coalition:

No more police terror!
We want jobs, $15 an hour and a union!
End militarization of the border & police departments
Legalization, not deportations!
From the Philippines, Venezuela, Syria, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Palestine Solidarity Not War!

The same forces that protect the police when they abuse our communities, keep workers' wages low, attack Cuba and Venezuela, and oppress the 99% are the same forces that have colonized Puerto Rico and kept OscarLopez Rivera, an innocent man, in jail for nearly 34 years.  Same Struggle, Same Fight!

Join the Oscar Lopez Rivera Contingent and stand in solidarity with the PEOPLE!

Contingent Sponsors: The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign; New York Solidarity with Vieques; El Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico-NYC; El Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores-NYC; Hector Lopez, Green Party;  National Lawyer’s Guild;  El Colectivo de;Saulo Colon, Educator/Activist; Not4Prophet and AGIT Army;  Jesus Mangual, Activist/Artist;  and El Partido Independentista Puertorriqueno-NYC, List still in formation...

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign
Telephone: 718-601-4751

Longtime prisoner Leonard Peltier gets new ally, his son, in fight for freedom

Leonard Peltier, to some, is the country's most unjustly convicted political prisoner. To others, he's a cop killer who should never again see the light of day.

Either way, nearly four decades after his conviction for killing two FBI agents in a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Peltier remains incarcerated at a federal maximum-security prison in Florida.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both denied Peltier's applicants for grants of clemency. Barring that action from President Obama, the 70-year-old Indian activist and self-taught, prolific prison artist is likely to die behind bars.

Chauncey Peltier, 49, a life-long Oregon resident and Leonard Peltier's oldest son, is fighting to make sure that doesn't happen.

Long reluctant, on the advice of his father, to get involved in the "political stuff," the younger Peltier has just taken over as interim head of the Who is Leonard Peltier Defense Committee – the most prominent of several international groups advocating for Peltier's release.

The committee is trying to generate a worldwide push for clemency, as well as carrying on an informational campaign rooted in the notion that Leonard Peltier was wrongly convicted.

"Now matter how someone looks at my dad's case, it's clear that he's served more than enough time," said Peltier, who grew up in the Hillsboro area and now lives in Banks. "It's time to set him free."


Visit CL Peltier Art Gallery at

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

5 Ways It's Become a Crime to Be Poor in America, Punishable by Further Impoverishment

New report details perverse policies that are driving more people into hopeless, inescapable poverty.

The criminalization of America’s poor has been quietly gaining steam for years, but a recent study, “The Poor Get Prison,” co-authored by Karen Dolan and Jodi L. Carr, reveals the startling extent to which American municipalities are fining and jailing the country’s most vulnerable people, not just punishing them for being poor, but driving them deeper into poverty.

Read about five troubling trends from the report that show us how the government is financially abusing poor people.


Co-Sign the "No Keystone XL" Unity Letter

President Obama has already vetoed legislation that would have forced approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Now we're waiting for his final decision on whether to reject the pipeline for good, which could happen any day.

This could be the last chance to make our voices heard at the White House against the Keystone XL.

That pipeline -- the linchpin of the oil industry's Tar Sands invasion, would transport a river of toxic and dirty tar sands oil from Canada through America's heartland to the Gulf coast for export.

That's why a group of artists, politicians, actors, scientists and musicians have joined together to sign a Unity Letter to the President. The letter sends this powerful message: We stand united against any attempt to approve the Keystone XL.

Robert Redford, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, climate scientist James Hansen, Kyra Sedgwick, Naomi Klein, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and dozens more have already signed.

Please add your name to theirs now -- and show the President that the American people will have his back as he rejects the Keystone XL.

National Security Whistleblowers Call for Repeal of Patriot Act

Prominent national security whistleblowers are calling for the full repeal of the USA Patriot Act, charging that under that legislation the federal government has decimated the U.S. Constitution and warning that unless action is taken, there is no end in sight to government secrecy and manipulation.

The group, which included former National Security Agency (NSA) official William Binney and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, appeared Monday at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to voice their backing for H.R. 1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was recently introduced by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

The bill would repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 while installing a number of provisions to safeguard people's privacy and force the government to account for surveillance activities. The legislation was introduced as Congress debates key segments of the Patriot Act, Secs. 206 and 215, which are due to expire on June 1.

During the press conference, former NSA senior executive and whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was among those present, said that following the attack on September 11, 2001, the federal government under former President George W. Bush and later under President Barack Obama "chose in great secrecy to unchain itself" from the U.S. Constitution.

Drake added that the individuals prosecuted by Obama's unprecedented "war on whistleblowers," who brought national attention to the encroaching national security state, are "the canaries in the Constitutional coal mine."


Video Visitation: Ripping Off Prisoners and Their Families One Minute at a Time

Video visitation is a phenomenon that "has been quietly sweeping the nation's state prisons and county jails," a report by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) pointed out. "Currently, more than 500 facilities in 43 states and the District of Columbia are experimenting with video visitation," according to the non-profit, non-partisan PPI.

Earlier this year, the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) released Screening Out Family Time: The for-profit video visitation industry in prisons and jails, "its first comprehensive national survey of the video visitation industry." Maya Schenwar, Truthout's editor-in-chief and the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, discussed the report in a mid-February piece.

Bernadette Rabuy, Policy and Communications Associate with PPI, and co-author of the report (along with Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, and a co-author of the Prison Policy Initiative's oft-cited previous expose Please Deposit All of Your Money: Kickbacks, Rates, and Hidden Fees in the Jail Phone Industry), told The Real News Network's Eddie Conway that while video visitation has its upside – allowing family members living far from their imprisoned relatives to stay in touch – it also is "being implemented to replace traditional visits."


Confronting Mass Incarceration in the Heart of a Red State

Not long after protests erupted in Ferguson, the Kochs became increasingly vocal about mass incarceration. They helped to sponsor several recent conferences on criminal justice reform that have created a buzz about "bipartisanship" on the issue. One was a summit in Washington, DC, featuring Newt Gingrich and Van Jones. The Charles Koch Institute, the billionaire's philanthropic arm, held two panels on criminal justice, one in Atlanta, Georgia, and the other in Tallahassee, Florida. Their lead spokesperson on the topic is longtime Koch attorney Mark Holden, who appeared at the recent criminal justice confabs.

Yet in Wichita, where Charles Koch lives in his expansive mansion, a referendum to decriminalize marijuana was passed without any of his help. This campaign was won with no big money, only the tenacious organizing of a handful of local activists. A $25,000 donation was recently made to a youth mentoring organization in Wichita by Koch Industries, with Holden saying this would help the disadvantaged, "especially in our hometown." Yet the Kochs, who rarely stay out of politics, have remained silent on the marijuana initiative, which has been in the news cycle for the past year.


Journalists Face Most Deadly and Dangerous Period in Recent History

According to a report released on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that terrorist groups and governments have made recent years the most dangerous period to work as a journalist. Targeted by both terrorists and national security agencies, journalists across the world have been subjected to kidnapping, torture, murder, government surveillance, censorship, and imprisonment. As Islamic State continues releasing videos of beheaded reporters, the number of journalists detained in jails worldwide has more than doubled since 2000.

In its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press: Journalists caught between terrorists and governments, the CPJ reported that the incessant war on terror has escalated the risk to journalists’ lives as many of their murders remain unsolved. With the advent of mass electronic surveillance, journalists must now employ extreme countermeasures in order to protect the identities of their sources and often succumb to self-censorship while working in abject fear of arbitrary detention.

“From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information—an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes,” wrote CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in the review’s foreword.


Palawan: Stop Blaming Indigenous Peoples’ Farming Practices (Kaingin) for Deforestation

Recent years have seen an exponential increase in land deals across the Philippines with the conversion of large expanses of land with crops mainly intended for export. Meanwhile, traditional upland farming practices implemented through swidden ('slash-and-burn') technology--known locally as kaingin or more appropriately uma--are demonized and antagonized through restrictive legislation. This is despite the fact that the latter fosters local self-sufficiency and plays a fundamental role in the livelihoods and worldviews of Indigenous societies.

Palawan, known as the "Philippine last Frontier", in spite of its unique recognition as a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve, has not been spared from massive investments in extractive resources and industrial agriculture, especially oil palm and rubber. And yet, Indigenous Peoples and upland dwellers continue to be blamed for causing massive deforestation and ecological disaster.

Not surprisingly, the recent front cover of a well known Philippine Newspaper (The Daily Inquirer, May 9 issue) holds a headline accompanied by a powerful image that easily conflates all upland peoples as criminal agriculturalists.


Nonviolence as Compliance

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city's publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city's police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

...Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and "nonviolent." These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it's worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?


There's Nothing Funny About Adam Sandler's Demeaning Portrayals of Indigenous People

According to an April 23 Indian Country Article, "Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six."

Allison Young, a Navajo woman and former film student from Dartmouth, protested the film's demeaning portrayals of Indigenous people. She talked with Indian Country about the situation:

"When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted," she said. "I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, 'If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.' I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."
"Nothing has changed," said Young. "We are still just Hollywood Indians."

"Just Hollywood Indians" is a resounding lamentation, considering the Tinseltown legacy of disseminating negative images of Indigenous people. Think of all the movies that have historically come out of Los Angeles that demonize Indigenous people as "uncivilized" enemies of US "Manifest Destiny," - or the present-day films that portray them as one-sided characters (often alcoholics). The impact of these degrading images, as they embed themselves in the minds of movie viewers, does incalculable harm to the original inhabitants of what is now called the United States.

The debasing of Indigenous people goes back to the myth that "America" was "discovered" by Europeans, and that the Indigenous population was a sub-human population that needed to be killed or placed in so-called reservations. This toxic narrative - used to justify the colonization that created the United States as it exists today - is alive and well, thanks in part to Hollywood's generally insidious portrayals.


Here’s Hillary Clinton In 1994 Talking Up Tough-On-Crime Legislation

“There will be more police on the street, a hundred thousand more police officers, with flexibility given to local communities to determine how best to use them.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for ending “the era of mass incarceration.” Clinton’s remarks, as noted by many in the media, specifically reject the “tough-on-crime” mantra and legislation advocated by her husband during his time as president.
The shift in rhetoric and policy around criminal justice issues has been significant over the last two decades. In fact, 21 years ago, Hillary Clinton as first lady spoke to a conference for female police officers where he pushed her husband’s agenda in New York.

At the time, Clinton said the 1994 crime bill — which called for 100,000 more police officers, more prisons, and harsher sentencing for crimes, and enacted stricter gun laws — would “make a difference in your lives as police officers and in the lives of the communities you serve.”

“We will be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders — three strikes and you’re out. We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door,” remarked the then-first lady.

Clinton also noted that the crime bill would help build more prisons.


Hillary Clinton: It's time to confront 'hard truths' about race and justice

Hillary Clinton on Wednesday made an emotional plea for America to come to terms with “hard truths” about race and justice, and laid out some concrete proposals as a start.

The remarks from Clinton marked the first policy-driven speech from the Democratic front-runner since she announced her presidential campaign earlier this month.

Read more:

Commissary funds needed for Leonard

Leonard Peltier is dependent on the kindness of others to help him meet his expenses inside. Please contribute to his commissary fund so he can purchase toiletries, stamps, paints, etc. You can donate by mail or MoneyGram or Western Union. Visit for details.

Thank you.

Bernie Sanders To Launch Presidential Campaign

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will launch a campaign seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 on Thursday.

Sanders will be the first official challenger for the Democratic nomination to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who launched her campaign earlier this month.


Time to let Section 215 of Patriot Act expire

Almost 14 years ago, the government passed a law that has been used to collect information about your most intimate communications. But we finally have a chance to stop it in the next few weeks.

Congress is set to make a crucial decision about the future of our government’s surveillance powers that will impact everyone in America, including you. It will decide whether to renew Section 215 of the Patriot Act or let it die.

Section 215, one of the worst parts of the Patriot Act, is what the NSA uses to collect virtually all of our call records – including who called whom, when, and for how long.

Along with two other parts of the law, Section 215 is set to expire on June 1st – but it won’t die without a fight. There are still those in Congress, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who want to reauthorize 215 and even extend it for five more years.

It’s time to let unconstitutional and unwarranted government surveillance die. Urge Congress to let Section 215 of the Patriot Act expire – and help restore our privacy.

Under Section 215, the NSA has records on your phone conversations – with your mom, your boss, and even your therapist – whether or not you’ve done something wrong.

The call records program was the first of Edward Snowden’s disclosures, and it sparked a much-needed debate about the failures of government oversight. Since then, the program has been declared unconstitutional by a district court and ineffective by a review panel appointed by the president himself.

Even the legislator who wrote the Patriot Act believes the surveillance is unlawful and the NSA’s use of Section 215 is intrusive in ways never intended by Congress.

Why would we agree to give this law five more years?

Tell Congress that we all want common-sense limits on the government spying – rather than automatic and unconstrained expansion.

The automatic expiration date on Section 215 and other parts of the Patriot Act was put in place for a reason.

It’s time to put an end to some of the most unlawful, ineffective, and far-reaching government surveillance in American history.
It’s time for Section 215 to fade into history.

Thanks for taking action,

Anthony Romero
American Civil Liberties Union

Encrypting Your Laptop Like You Mean It

If you want to encrypt your hard disk and have it truly help protect your data, you shouldn’t just flip it on; you should know the basics of what disk encryption protects, what it doesn’t protect, and how to avoid common mistakes that could let an attacker easily bypass your encryption.


Nearly Two Years After Snowden, Congress Poised to Do Something — Just Not Much

Members of Congress appear ready to use a rare moment of leverage over the NSA to place modest limits on only one of the many mass surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden.

The USA Freedom Act of 2015, a long-awaited compromise bill negotiated by House and Senate Judiciary Committee members, was unveiled Tuesday. The bill calls for the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by the National Security Agency to be replaced with a more selective approach in which the agency would collect from communications companies only records that match certain terms. The bill also requires more disclosure — and a public advocate — for the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

But nearly two years after Snowden gave the public a rare and extensive view into the U.S. surveillance state, Congress is doing nothing to limit NSA programs ostensibly targeted at foreigners that nonetheless collect vast amounts of American communications, nor to limit the agency’s mass surveillance of non-American communications. The limited reforms in the new bill affect only the one program explicitly aimed at Americans.


Fix our criminal justice system

Congress has two current avenues to enact bipartisan “smart-on-crime” reforms.
First, lawmakers can update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Last reauthorized in 2002, the act supports a state- and community-based approach, with emphasis on prevention and early intervention. Reauthorizing legislation should require states to end jailing of youths for non-criminal status offenses, implement steps to reduce racial disparities in the juvenile justice system and strengthen access to counsel. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) proposed reauthorizing legislation last year and have indicated their intention to reintroduce the bill soon.

Second, Congress can enact reforms that reduce reliance on incarceration and promote public safety. Bills such as the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 would reform mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and incrementally expand ways for judges to sentence below mandatory minimums. There are ongoing bipartisan discussions toward a criminal justice bill that would include parts of the Smarter Sentencing Act. We believe that serious sentencing reforms are necessary to any significant reform bill.


Pa.'s Mumia Abu Jamal-inspired 'revictimization' law is 'manifestly unconstitutional,' U.S. judge rules

Calling it "manifestly unconstitutional," a federal judge on Tuesday overturned a new state law that proponents said was designed to prevent criminals from "revictimizing" those harmed by their wrongdoing.

In ruling against the Revictimization Relief Act, U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner found that the law, enacted last year, is too broad, too vague and blatantly violates the free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution.

Backers of the law already are mustering for an appeal of Conner's ruling, however.


Interview: David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish

David Simon is Baltimore’s best-known chronicler of life on the hard streets. He worked for The Baltimore Sun city desk for a dozen years, wrote “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” (1991) and with former homicide detective Ed Burns co-wrote The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood1 (1997), which Simon adapted into an HBO miniseries. He is the creator, executive producer and head writer of the HBO television series “The Wire” (2002–2008). Simon... spoke with Bill Keller on Tuesday.


Candidate Clinton to unveil criminal justic reforms today

Hillary Clinton unveils criminal-justice reforms in Manhattan this morning - A Clinton aide: "Calling for an end to the era of mass incarceration, Hillary Clinton will deliver the keynote address at the 18th Annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University ... She will address the tragic situation in Baltimore and lay out a broader vision for criminal justice reform that will include specific policy proposals.

"'End the Era of Mass Incarceration' -- the need to reform our criminal justice system by changing the way we approach punishment and prison, including reforms to probation and drug diversions, increasing support for mental health and drug treatment, and pursuing alternative punishments for low level offenders, especially young people.

"Body Cameras for Every Police Department in the Country -- the need to use innovative strategies to fight crime and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they represent, and specifically call for every police department in the country to have body cameras to improve transparency and accountability in order to protect those on both sides of the lens.

"She will also discuss the hard truth and fundamental unfairness in our country that today African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms."

Apache Rally On McCain’s Home Turf Over Land Grab

 Members of Arizona’s San Carlos Apache Tribe are not giving in to a giant conglomerate that wants to take its ancestral land so it can be mined. This past weekend, the tribe held the Save Oak Flat Street Fair in Tucson, Ariz. — named for its ancestral and sacred land — to bring more attention to the project it believes will forever contaminate and harm the pristine and hallowed environment of the Tonto National Forest, about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix. “It was [Sen. John] McCain’s home turf there,” Tribal Elder Sandra Rambler said in a phone interview with TheBlot Magazine. “He was really blasted. It’s bringing more awareness. We’re not going away.” The campaign is called “Apache Stronghold” and provided information in pamphlets, posters, newsletters and other formats to residents. Members of San Carlos Apache and other tribes from Arizona and other states joined in the street fair event.


The Brutality Of Police Culture In Baltimore

In Baltimore, where 25-year-old Freddie Gray died shortly after being taken into police custody, an investigation may uncover homicidal misconduct by law enforcement, as happened in the North Charleston, South Carolina, killing of Walter Scott. Or the facts may confound the darkest suspicions of protestors, as when the Department of Justice released its report on the killing of Michael Brown. What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses.


2,009 Orgs Call On Congress To Oppose Fast Track Authority For TPP

An unprecedentedly united movement of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, Internet freedom and other organizations escalated their campaign to defeat Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today with a joint 2,009-group letter urging Congress to oppose it. As the TPP text leaks revealed that the pact replicates and expands on the most damaging provisions of past U.S. trade pacts, thousands of organizations nationwide have educated their members about the TPP’s threats to American jobs and wages, food safety, affordable medicines, the environment, financial stability and more.


Net neutrality: Commission tries to break deadlock

The compromise proposal strikes a balance between competing plans from the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

European Commission negotiators have proposed restrictions on when broadband providers can give certain services higher priority than others, according to internal documents seen by POLITICO.

As part of negotiations over the so-called Connected Continent package, the Commission last week proposed letting Internet service providers sell some services separately from regular Internet access in order to ensure high-quality transmissions.

The compromise, however, comes with a catch: Internet service providers would only be permitted to set aside space on their networks for special services if regular customers wouldn’t suffer. Special services also could not be used as a substitute for what is available on the open Internet.

The position strikes a balance between the European Parliament, which wants strict definitions of such specialized services in order to preserve the equal treatment of customers, and that of the Council of the European Union, which would prefer a principles-based approach without hardline definitions.


California Governor Orders New Target for Emissions Cuts

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday dramatically ramping up this state’s already ambitious program aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, saying it was critical to address what he called “an ever-growing threat” posed by global warming to the state’s economy and well-being.

Under Mr. Brown’s order, emissions would have to be reduced by 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2030. Under existing state law, emissions are supposed to be cut back by 80 percent over 1990 levels by 2050, and Mr. Brown said this tough new interim target was essential to helping the state make investment and regulatory decisions that will assure that goal is reached.

Mr. Brown’s order marks an aggressive turn in what had already been among the toughest programs in the nation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the law put into place by Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state was required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 on the way to reach the 2050 target; California is already well on its way to meeting the 2020 goal, and may exceed it, officials said Wednesday.

“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached — for this generation and generations to come,” Mr. Brown said.

The order is the latest effort by Mr. Brown to position California as a leading force in the world’s effort to address climate change. In his State of the State address in January, the governor called for reducing gas consumption by cars and trucks by up to 50 percent over the next 15 years.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grassley Signals Openness to Some Sentencing Reform

Under pressure from a bipartisan coalition of criminal justice reform advocates, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday he is willing to consider some cuts to federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, but that across-the-board cuts were off the table.

Speaking at a press conference at the National Press Club, Grassley addressed questions of whether he would use his power as Senate Judiciary chairman to block sentencing reform bills, such as the Smarter Sentencing Act.

“Over the last several months I’ve been accused of being a road block to sentencing reform,” Grassley said in his prepared remarks. “Let me be clear. I have told my colleagues and the White House that I’d like to sit down and talk about how we can move forward. I’m ready to address some of these issues. What I’m not willing to do is an across the board cut in mandatory minimums. I agree that some should be cut. But, I also think that some should be raised. “

“With a heroin epidemic strangling some of our communities, and white collar criminals getting paltry sentences, the last thing we need is to take away a tool that law enforcement and prosecutors use to get the bad guys,” Grassley continued.


Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm

WASHINGTON — Since his first homily in 2013, Pope Francis has preached about the need to protect the earth and all of creation as part of a broad message on the environment. It has caused little controversy so far.
But now, as Francis prepares to deliver what is likely to be a highly influential encyclical this summer on environmental degradation and the effects of human-caused climate change on the poor, he is alarming some conservatives in the United States who are loath to see the Catholic Church reposition itself as a mighty voice in a cause they do not believe in.
As part of the effort for the encyclical, top Vatican officials will hold a summit meeting Tuesday to build momentum for a campaign by Francis to urge world leaders to enact a sweeping United Nations climate change accord in Paris in December. The accord would for the first time commit every nation to enact tough new laws to cut the emissions that cause global warming.

Amid Violence, Factions and Messages Converge in a Weary and Unsettled Baltimore

BALTIMORE — The middle-aged woman buried deep in a crowd of protesters near the intersection of North Fulton and West North Avenues held up a yellow sign with black lettering. One side issued a demand: “Stop the lethal force.” The other provided what could be seen as an ominous warning: “Pow pow you reap what you sow.”
All around, not far from the Gilmor Homes, the public housing development where Freddie Gray was arrested before suffering a spinal cord injury in police custody, the battle between chaos and calm raged.
Young men, some in surgical masks, pulled cases of water from a looted convenience store while peaceful protesters from 300 Men March, a local anti-violence group, tried to persuade women and children to go back inside after ambulances slowly moved through streets marked by burned or abandoned cars.
“This is what you have from years and years of police brutality and abuse in this city,” said Deontrae Lucas, standing near a car burning outside her house. “It’s just now boiling over.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

Maryland Governor Declares Emergency in Baltimore and Activates National Guard

In response to violence in Baltimore, Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.

Rioters looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks on Monday, hours after Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who has become the nation’s latest symbol of police brutality, was laid to rest amid calls for justice and peace.

At least seven officers were injured, Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk of the Baltimore police told reporters.

State police were sent to the scene, and officers from surrounding counties were also brought in to respond.


Experts Warn of "Cataclysmic" Changes as Planetary Temperatures Rise

This month's anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) dispatch begins with the fact that recently released National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show that this March was, by far, the hottest planetary March ever recorded, and the hottest January to March period on record as well.

We are watching unprecedented melting of glaciers across the planet, increasingly high temperature records and epic-level droughts that are now becoming the new normal: Planetary distress signals are increasing in volume.


Awaiting Justice: Indigenous Resistance in the Tar Sands of Canada

On April 11, 2015 there were dozens of rallies across Canada demanding true leadership to deal with the climate crisis we face around the world. The federal Harper government continues to be a climate laggard refusing to address the need to reduce our carbon emissions and violate Indigenous peoples rights with its zealous pro-tar sands agenda. For the first time in Quebec, Indigenous peoples led the march to show our resolve to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth and demand justice. As I stood before a crowd of 25 000 people from across Canada, I spoke of the contamination, despair and detrimental impacts my family and many other communities face from resource extraction happening in our homelands of Northern Alberta.


Obama Finally Gets Angry at Climate Science Deniers and It’s Hilarious

President Obama's Anger Translator at the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner (Full video)

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at Swearing-In by Vice President Joe Biden

Washington, DC
Monday, April 27, 2015
As I look out over all of you gathered here today, my overwhelming reaction is one of profound gratitude.  I must, of course, thank the President for his faith in me in asking me to lead the department that I love to even greater heights.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your presence and your comments here today, and for your steadfast support and wise counsel throughout the process.  I also must thank Senators Schumer and Leahy for their support, over the years and now, and for making the floor of the U.S. Senate a welcoming place for me and my family.  And of course, my wonderful family.  As you can see, we’re quite a force multiplier!

Many of you have come to know my father through this process.  He has been at every hearing and every vote.  But he didn’t just start now.  I remember looking up as a young Assistant U.S. Attorney starting my first trial and seeing him there – and he came to every one thereafter.  He has encouraged me in all things, even when my choices were not the ones he would have made for me.  In that, he has been the best of fathers.  Without him, I would not be here today, being sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States, just one week after his 83rd birthday.

And my mother, who could not be here today but is never far from my thoughts or my heart.  She grew up in a world where she was always told what she could not do or could not be, but always knew in her heart that she could soar.  She did what would have seemed impossible in the small North Carolina town of her youth.  She raised a daughter whom she always told, whatever the dream, whether lawyer, prosecutor or even Attorney General, “of course you can.”

I must also thank my wonderful husband, who has supported all of my choices and my dreams.  I would not trade his love and support for all the riches in the world – because to me, they are all the riches in the world.

Thanks also go to my colleagues and friends here in the department, in the Eastern District of New York, and beyond.  But even more than that, tremendous thanks go to the literally thousands of people, many of whom I have never met, who have expressed their support throughout the process.  From the sisterhood of my sorority and all the Greeks who came together, to churches and schools and people on the street who have stopped me and said just a word or two – please know that those few words sometimes made all the difference in the world to me as I traveled this road.

I thank you all, as I prepare to join once again with the outstanding people of the Department of Justice.  I have been privileged to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you twice before from the Eastern District of New York.  You are the ones who make real the promise of justice and redress for all Americans.  I am honored beyond words to step into the larger role today as your Attorney General, as we continue the core work of our mission – the protection of the American people.

All of the people here at the department are here because at some point in our lives, we all said, “I want to be a lawyer.”  “I want to be a law enforcement officer.”  “I want to be a federal agent.”  “I want to be someone’s hero.”

At the heart of that – for me and for all of us – whether attorney or agent, staff or principal – is the desire to leave this world a better place for us having been a part of it.
The challenge in that – for you, for me, for all of us that love this department and love the law – is to use the law to that end.  To not just represent the law and enforce it, but use it to make real the promise of America, the promise of fairness and equality, “of liberty and justice for all.”  We are all just here for a time – whether in this building or even on this earth.  But the values we hold dear will live on long after we have left this stage.  Our responsibility, while we are here, is to breathe life into them; to imbue them with the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.
I know this can be done.

Because I am here to tell you, if a little girl from North Carolina who used to tell her grandfather in the fields to lift her up on the back of his mule, so she could see “way up high, Granddaddy,” can become the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, then we can do anything.

We can imbue our criminal justice system with both strength and fairness, for the protection of both the needs of victims and the rights of all.  We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them.  We can protect the most vulnerable among us from the scourge of modern-day slavery – so antithetical to the values forged in blood in this country.  We can protect the growing cyber world.  We can give those in our care both protection from terrorism and the security of their civil liberties.  We will do this as we have accomplished all things both great and small – working together, moving forward, and using justice as our compass.
I cannot wait to begin that journey.

Thank you all for being here, both today and in my life.

Thank you.
Updated April 27,

Loretta Lynch Sworn In As U.S. Attorney General

WASHINGTON -- Loretta Lynch was sworn in as U.S. attorney general on Monday, becoming the first African-American woman to fill the position.

"It seems like such an understatement to say my heart is full, but it is," Lynch said. "I have to thank the president for his faith in me and asking me to lead the department that I love to even greater heights."

Lynch, who until now was U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was confirmed by the Senate last week after months of GOP delays. Many Republicans voted against her confirmation, not because she lacks the qualifications but because they are mad about President Barack Obama's recent executive action on immigration. Lynch will defend the action in her new role.


Last week's news of importance to Indian Country

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

NOT FUNNY: Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production to protest a script they found disrespectful and insulting. ICTMN obtained a page from the script as well as video of a heated discussion in which producers told concerned actors "If you are overly sensitive about it… then you should probably leave."

WORKING WITH WEED: Another California tribe has announced its venture into the medical marijuana business. The Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians in Thermal, about 32 miles southeast of Palm Springs, recently entered into a partnership with Red Crow, a Native-owned cannabis company that designs, builds, manages and finances marijuana growing facilities for medical purposes.

CANDIDATE COMES COURTING: Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton is once again vying for the Native American vote. Hidden deep in her campaign’s website, Native Americans in support of Clinton can join a "Native Americans for Hillary" group.

A MUST READ: University of Colorado Professor Elizabeth A. Fenn's book, Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People, won the Pulitzer Prize on April 20 for piecing together the rich history of the Mandan people of the Dakotas.

NIGA CHAIR CONFIRMED: After a year-and-a-half in the dual role of acting chairman and vice chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri was confirmed by the Senate to serve as chairman of the gaming regulatory agency for a three-year term.

TRY AGAIN: On Monday, a TV network based in Montreal launched a French-language music show titled Pow Wow, but after 24 hours of social media backlash, ICI Radio-Canada Télé was forced to change the show’s name.

WE HAVE A WINNER: With a margin of more than 10,000 votes, Russell Begaye easily defeated a two-term former president during Tuesday’s special presidential election on the Navajo Nation.

FUNDS FOR NAGPRA: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation grants totaling $74,348 went out on April 14 to assist in the repatriation of human remains and sacred objects, objects of cultural patrimony and funerary objects, the National Park Service announced.


UN Special Rapporteur: We Must Hear Directly From World’s Indigenous Peoples

When Filipino Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Igorot) was appointed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People June 2, 2014, she became the first woman and the first indigenous person from a developing country to hold this three-year position. As such, she brings unique perspectives to the UN’s human rights mandate to assess the condition of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples worldwide. In 1996, Tauli-Corpuz founded the nongovernmental organization Tebtebba, which has engaged with the U.N. on Indigenous Peoples rights, sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity. She was among those who lobbied for more than 20 years before the U.N. General Assembly finally adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. She was the Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) from 2005 to 2009. Tauli-Corpuz talked about her role as U.N. Special Rapporteur in an exclusive interview with ICTMN.


Long-awaited trial begins for Aurora movie theater shooting defendant

CENTENNIAL — Precisely 1,011 days after the attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, the trial that will decide what is justice for one of America's most notorious killers begins on Monday.

The reckoning starts just after noon, when prosecutors and defense attorneys take turns giving their opening statements to the newly seated jury and three years of secrets begin to spill out in an Arapahoe County courtroom during a four-hour span.

Until now, the case has hung in a kind of cocoon.

Key evidence was kept sealed. Investigators remained mum.

To the public outside, the most basic understanding of the attack remained elusive.

Calculated killings or acts of insanity? Preventable tragedy or unforeseeable horror? A man who deserves treatment or execution?


Industries Dedicated To Getting Your Privacy Back

Low-tech protections against widespread surveillance have been gaining ground... Though initially designed as a tongue-in-cheek solution to prying eyes and cameras, Becky Stern’s Laptop Compubody Sock offers a portable, peek-free zone to laptop users, while the CHBL Jammer Coat and sold-out Phonekerchief use metal-infused fabrics to make personal gadgets unreachable, blocking texts, calls and radio waves. For people willing to sport a bit more hardware in the name of privacy, the Sentient City Survival Kit offers underwear that notifies wearers about real-life phishing and tracking attempts, and its LED umbrella lets users “flirt with object tracking algorithms used in advanced surveillance systems” and even “train these systems to recognize nonhuman shapes.”


Houma Nation's 30 Year Campaign For Federal Recognition

On the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the United Houma Nation (UHN) of southern Louisiana is taking yet another stand in its 30-year campaign to win recognition, launching a petition this week calling on the Obama administration to support the tribe's fight for federal recognition. The UHN is an indigenous tribe with 17,000 members residing in a six-parish area along the Gulf Coast where the land is literally slipping away from under them. Due to coastal erosion, southern Louisiana is losing over 16 square miles of land per year, or the equivalent of one football field every hour. "The United Houma Nation is severely affected by coastal erosion, sea-level rise, and the lack of corporate and government accountability around the pollution of their traditional lands and waters," the petition states.


Mumia’s Condition Grave: Take Action

 Mumia Abu-Jamal was seen today by his wife and his condition has worsened. He, is gravely ill. We are asking everyone to call the prison. Right now. It may be late, but call whenever you get this. Mumia needs 24 hour care and supervision. He can not be in this condition in general population. In this state he may not be able ask for help, he may lose consciousness. He is too weak. (He was released from the infirmary two days ago). His condition: He is extremely swollen in his neck, chest, legs, and his skin is worse than ever, with open sores. He was not in a wheelchair, but can only take baby steps. He is very weak. He was nodding off during the visit. He was not able to eat- he was fed with a spoon. These are symptoms that could be associated with hyper glucose levels, diabetic shock, diabetic coma, and with kidney stress and failure.


Copper Mine To Destroy Unique, Sacred Area

For centuries, Linda Thomas' ancestors walked this rugged landscape near modern-day Superior as she does today. "We have always harvested acorns and berries and had ceremonies here," says Thomas, who lives in the small Apache town of San Carlos about 50 miles away. "My granddaughter won't be able to come here and do that anymore if it's . . . it's going to be poisoned." Thomas talks of her granddaughter as wind whips through the 5-year-old's hair, both of them standing on a hill of rocks and cactus overlooking sites at the Oak Flat campground. Thomas says the child's Apache name is Zuhnabah. The girl says her name is Serenity, which Thomas agrees also is her name. Yavapais and Apaches used this land for generations.


Million Moms March, May 9th: Praying with our Feet

On May 9th Black mothers from across the United States will converge on Washington, DC to demand an end to the murder of unarmed husbands, sons and more frequently their daughters by police terror and white vigilantes. Frederick Douglas once said: “I prayed for twenty years (during captivity) but received no answer until I prayed with my leg.” Hundreds of mothers are coming to Washington, DC to pray with their feet and demand an end to the killings of their children. Maria Hamilton, founder of Mothers for Justice United will lead the Million Moms March for Justice. Hamilton’s son, Dontre (31) was killed by Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney on April 30, 2014.


How Activists Exposed The World Bank’s Secret Courts

There’s an international awakening afoot about a radical expansion of corporate power — one that sits at the center of two historic global trade deals nearing completion. . . . The system of closed-door trade tribunals has been around for decades now, nestled like a ticking time bomb into hundreds of smaller bilateral trade agreements between nations. But not so long ago, the trade tribunal system wasn’t the stuff of high-profile op-eds by U.S. senators. It was virtually unknown except among a small cadre of international lawyers and trade specialists. The case that brought the system into broad public view was born 15 years ago this month on the streets of a city high in the Andes. How that case was won holds powerful lessons today for the battles over the TTIP, the TPP, and the effort to hand global corporations enormous new legal powers.


‘By Blood’ Tackles the Untold Legacy of Slave-Owning Cherokees

It’s an obscure part of antebellum history, but members of no fewer than five Native American tribes participated in chattel slavery. Before they were driven from their lands in what’s now known as the U.S. South, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole nations all had members who bought and sold black people as property.

In 1838 and 1839, when the U.S. government forced the Cherokee, the largest tribe, to relocate from their land east of the Mississippi River to what is now known as Oklahoma, enslaved black people, black spouses of Natives and mixed children joined them.

Some 30 years after this forced march that Natives called the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Nation was divided by the Civil War. Some supported and even fought for the Confederacy, while others sided with the Union.

The Cherokee eventually signed the Treaty of 1866, an agreement with the federal government that granted enslaved black people who were freed voluntarily or by law "all the rights of the Native Cherokee." In addition, "all free colored persons" and their descendants who were living on Cherokee land or set to return in six months received these rights.

With a population about 300,000 members, the Cherokee Nation determines its citizenship not by blood quantum, but by whether an ancestor is on what’s called the Dawes Rolls. In those records black Cherokees were designated as Freedmen without consideration of their lineage. As a result, the tribe has always questioned their membership. In a 2007 special election that resulted in a change to the Cherokee constitution, a majority of voters chose to strip some 30,000 Cherokee Freedmen of their tribal citizenship. These Freedmen have lost access to the healthcare, education and housing benefits funded by the billion-dollar Cherokee casino industry.

The Cherokee Freedmen are the topic of a new documentary, “By Blood," which is on the festival circuit and due to hit select theaters in August. Colorlines spoke with Marcos Burbery who co-directed the film with Sam Russell.


Junk Science at the F.B.I.

The difficulty now is in identifying and addressing the remaining cases quickly and thoroughly. Most of the convictions are decades old; witnesses, memories, and even evidence may be long gone.
And courts have only made the problem worse by purporting to be scientifically literate, and allowing in all kinds of evidence that would not make it within shouting distance of a peer-reviewed journal. Of the 329 exonerations based on DNA testing since 1989, more than one-quarter involved convictions based on “pattern” evidence — like hair samples, ballistics, tire tracks, and bite marks — testified to by so-called experts.
While the F.B.I. is finally treating this fiasco with the seriousness it deserves, that offers little comfort to the men and women who have spent decades behind bars based on junk science.

White House Takes Cybersecurity Pitch to Silicon Valley

SAN FRANCISCO — President Obama’s newly installed defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, toured Silicon Valley last week to announce a new military strategy for computer conflict, starting the latest Pentagon effort to invest in promising start-ups and to meet with engineers whose talent he declared the Pentagon desperately needed in fending off the nation’s adversaries.
Mr. Carter immediately acknowledged, though, the need to rebuild trust with Silicon Valley, whose mainstays — like Apple, Google and Facebook (whose new headquarters he toured) have spent two years demonstrating to customers around the world that they are rolling out encryption technologies to defeat surveillance. That, of course, includes blocking the National Security Agency, a critical member of the military-intelligence community.