Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bipartisan Criminal Justice Overhaul Proposal Expected As Soon As Thursday

The proposal will not go as far as some reform advocates may like, the sources say. For instance, the plan would create some tough new mandatory minimum sentences, after pressing from Grassley. It stitches together proposals that would allow inmates to earn credits to leave prison early if they complete educational and treatment programs and pose a relatively low risk to public safety along with language that would give judges some more discretion when sentencing nonviolent offenders.


Sainthood of Junípero Serra Reopens Wounds of Colonialism in California

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. — A group of teenagers huddled at the foot of a statue of Junípero Serra at the Carmel Mission on Monday, there to pay homage to the Spaniard who helped colonize California in the 18th century. Only a day earlier, vandals had toppled the six-foot figure and doused it with paint, writing “saint of genocide” on a nearby triangle of stone. But now the statue was upright and scrubbed clean for visitors.
Catholic Church officials said the vandalism was the first of its kind at the mission, timed to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, during which he elevated Father Serra to sainthood at a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The attack also came just hours before parishioners planned to honor Father Serra, a revered former Carmel resident whose celebrity attracts thousands of tourists each year to this quiet hamlet along Monterey Bay.
The police continue to investigate what they have called a hate crime. And the episode threatens to inflame a decades-old wound between the Roman Catholic Church and Native Americans who contend that Father Serra was more oppressor than saint. Historians agree that he forced Native Americans to abandon their tribal culture and convert to Christianity, and that he had them whipped and imprisoned and sometimes worked or tortured to death.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Native Leaders Remark on Shell & Arctic Drilling Announcement

September 29, 2015
Kandi Mossett:, 701-214-1389
Faith Gemmill:, 907-750-0188
Justin Finkbonner:, 360-441-7832
Allison Warden:

September 29, 2015 – Royal Dutch Shell has announced its plans to abandon its attempts to drill for oil off Alaska’s northwest coast, citing disappointing results from exploratory wells. Native American leaders who have been campaigning against the Shell project and other extreme energy developments share their thoughts on the announcement made yesterday:

Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), based in Alaska, remarks: “This is an amazing result of the fight to defend the Arctic. Insane energy policy plans, such as Shell’s risky Arctic Drilling endeavors which promote more extraction of fossil fuels at a time of climate crisis gave birth to a peoples movement to stand up for the Earth and her finite resources. Today I honor all that took on this fight and stood with us. The fight to protect the Arctic is far from over, but this is definitely a victory for the people, especially the Inupiat who have been on the forefront of protecting the Arctic ecosystem, which sustains their ancestral whaling way of life. We hope that Royal Dutch Shell and other companies realize Arctic Drilling should be totally scrapped since the risks outweigh the benefits.”

Kandi Mossett, Native Energy & Climate Campaign Organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network shares: “Today we celebrate a victory as Shell abandons its drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea; due in part to the courageous people on the ground pushing back against the corporation in the fight to protect all those in the seas who can’t speak for themselves. However, our Indigenous communities remain ever vigilant knowing the big picture fight is not over as we are mindful of our continued struggle to protect the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). We will not truly celebrate a major victory until Shell and other oil corporations drop their plans for Arctic drilling altogether, and we vow not to rest until that occurs.”

Justin Finkbonner, Community Organizer & Skipper of the Lummi Youth Canoe Family states: “The Lummi Youth Canoe Family is more than happy to hear about the news this morning to find out that Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company is removing from the Arctic, “for the time being”. With this news though, I’m afraid that Shell will go to Congress to seek funding from the taxpayers to pursue oil at a later date. We were honored to have shared paddles with the organized efforts from other environmental organizations such as leaders and fishermen from the Northern Slope territories, Chairwoman Cecile Hanson of the Duwamish Tribe, former Vice Chair Deborah Parker of Tulalip Tribes, The Back Bone Campaign, Greenpeace, Climate Solutions and even Seattle City Council Members Kshama Savant to paddle during the Shell NO Protest in Seattle.”

Allison Akootchook Warden, Iñupiaq Artist and Community Organizer remarks: “The Iñupiaq People have been in the Arctic for thousands and thousands of years, living off the land and the sea. Today, Shell pulled out of our waters, hopefully never to return. This is a huge victory for our People and our traditional ways of life. It is too risky for Shell to be in our waters, where the bowhead whale thrives and takes care of us. I am so thankful for all the work of all the people who fought Shell drilling in our fragile and beautiful environment. The Iñupiaq culture will continue to thrive as we live off of the land and ocean as our Ancestors have for thousands of years. Today is a big victory for the Iñupiaq People and my heart is overjoyed to hear about Shell’s decision to pull out. Yay hey hey!”


Pope Hasn't Revoked Vatican Doctrine of Discovery, the Basis for European Seizure of the Americas

September 25 article in The Huffington Post by Julian Brave NoiseCat identifies a linchpin essential to understanding the legal framework that allowed the US slaughter and conquest of Native Americans.

The precedent begins with legal Papal Bulls that sanctified - prior to the landing of Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492 – the subsequent brutal Spanish and Portuguese seizure of South America and the Caribbean. It was the Vatican's assertion of a divine right to lands occupied by “heathens” that ultimately became the legal basis for the ruthless United States expansion westward through the theft of land occupied by Indigenous peoples.

Based on what is known as the Doctrine of Discovery, the Vatican issued a series of decrees in the 15h Century, providing so-called divine authority for the beginning of slave trafficking, among other merciless acts of empire expansion, carnage and profiteering. Eventually, the Papal Bulls condoned - “in God's name” - the seizure of the Americas by European Christians, for exploitation of their mineral and agricultural riches - and for the brutalization, torture, killing and enslavement of Indigenous peoples in the name of Christ.


The Fight Against Mass Incarceration Goes Global

[This] week, the U.N. Human Rights Council will formally adopt the first-ever U.N. report on mass incarceration. In this groundbreaking report, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights brings global attention to the root causes of over incarceration and overcrowding in prisons. A draft resolution that is expected to be adopted by the council will express concern about the “negative impact of over-incarceration and over-crowding on the enjoyment of human rights.” The ACLU worked with other groups to bring this issue to the attention of the Human Rights Council. With considerable movement for criminal justice reform right now, it is the perfect time for the U.N. to issue recommendations on how to reduce the prison and jail population worldwide taking into account human rights obligations and commitments. In the report, the high commissioner outlines a human rights-based approach for criminal justice reform that puts the human dignity of the person at the forefront.


Shell Exits Arctic as Slump in Oil Prices Forces Industry to Retrench

As oil prices have continued their steady decline this year, rig after rig has been shut down, costing thousands of jobs in the United States. Yet major oil producers have been loath to pull the plug on their most ambitious projects — the multibillion-dollar investments that form the backbone of their operations.
Until now. On Monday, Royal Dutch Shell ended its expensive and fruitless nine-year effort to explore for oil in the Alaskan Arctic — a $7 billion investment — in another sign that the entire industry is trimming its ambitions in the wake of collapsing oil prices.
The announcement was hailed as a major victory by environmentalists, who had fought the project for years, only to be stymied by pressure inside and outside the industry to increase domestic oil production.
But at a time when global markets are glutted with oil, thanks to the advent of new drilling techniques, the announcement also confirmed major oil companies’ increasing willingness to turn their backs on the most expensive new drilling prospects in the Gulf of Mexico and suspend plans for new projects in Canada’s oil sands.

Covert Electronic Surveillance Prompts Calls for Transparency

Law enforcement officials across the United States have become enamored of the StingRay, an electronic surveillance device that can covertly track criminal suspects and is being used with little public disclosure and often under uncertain legal authority. Now, though, some states are pushing back, and are requiring the police to get a court order and local consent before turning to the high-tech tool.
Washington, Utah and Virginia recently approved laws requiring court orders for the use of such cell-site simulators by state and local police officers. California lawmakers this month approved such legislation by a wide margin. The California law would also require police agencies to get City Council approval before employing the devices, and to disclose on an agency website that they use the technology. Similar bills have been introduced in Texas and in Congress.

Monday, September 28, 2015

“Confinement is not the same thing as exclusion.”

Pope Francis, visiting inmates at a Philadelphia jail, encourages them, and corrections officials, to focus more on rehabilitation. The Guardian Related: Read the Pope’s remarks in full. Time More: The Pope and a prisoner in the photo of the day. The Washington Post.

DEA agents kept jobs despite serious misconduct

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has allowed its employees to stay on the job despite internal investigations that found they had distributed drugs, lied to the authorities or committed other serious misconduct, newly disclosed records show.

Lawmakers expressed dismay this year that the drug agency had not fired agents who investigators found attended “sex parties” with prostitutes paid with drug cartel money while they were on assignment in Colombia. The Justice Department also opened an inquiry into whether the DEA is able to adequately detect and punish wrongdoing by its agents.

Records from the DEA’s disciplinary files show that was hardly the only instance in which the DEA opted not to fire employees despite apparently serious misconduct.

Of the 50 employees the DEA's Board of Professional Conduct recommended be fired following misconduct investigations opened since 2010, only 13 were actually terminated, the records show. And the drug agency was forced to take some of them back after a federal appeals board intervened.



Massive Mexico Protest for Missing 43 Students on Rainy Anniversary

Thousands marched through Mexico City this Saturday in a solemn and spirited commemoration of the first anniversary of the disappearance of 43 student teachers that continues to spark mass indignation one year on.

"Today we can say that we are not alone," said Felipe de la Cruz, spokesman for the parents of the missing students who headed the march. "We are going to walk together and we are going to be so organized that there is no army that can stop us."

People lining the capital's emblematic Reforma Avenue applauded as the parents marched by, leading the demonstration towards a rally in the massive Zócalo plaza in the center of the city as a persistent drizzle developed into steady rain.



Latest Crime Stats Released

Today, the FBI is releasing the 2014 edition of its annual report Crime in the United States, a statistical compilation of offense, arrest, and police employee data reported voluntarily by law enforcement agencies that participate in the Bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. This latest report reveals that the estimated number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement to UCR’s Summary Reporting System during 2014 decreased 0.2 percent when compared with 2013 data. And the estimated number of property crimes decreased 4.3 percent from 2013 levels.

What’s new this year? For one, the 2014 publication includes the inaugural Federal Crime Data report, which contains traditional UCR data from a handful of federal agencies, as well as FBI arrest data on human trafficking, hate crimes, and criminal computer intrusions.

Also included for the first time in Crime in the United States is UCR’s second report of human trafficking data submitted by state and local law enforcement.

It is expected that law enforcement participation in data collection for both reports will expand over time, which will help provide a more complete picture of those crimes.



Goodbye Madrid: Catalans vote for an ‘adios’ to Spain

Only hours after the polls closed in Catalonia on September 27, it is clear that we are feeling the rumble of tectonic change. This promises to rock not just Spain, but to throw the European Union into a state of ferment at a time when Brussels has, to put it mildly, much too much on its plate already.


Indigenous Leaders to Pope: Rescind the Doctrine Of Discovery

Ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Philadelphia, indigenous leaders from across the Americas -- from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in upstate New York to the Qom Nation in Argentina and many places in between -- have gathered in the city to urge the pontiff to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of papal bulls from the 15th century that justified European colonization of newly "discovered" lands. One particular papal bull, issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1455, authorized Christian nations "to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all ... enemies of Christ," take their land and "reduce their persons to perpetual slavery." The doctrine played a central role in centuries of colonization the world over and resulted in immense loss of land and life by indigenous peoples across the Americas.


Pope Francis At The United Nations

Saving the planet is part of helping the poor and the excluded, Pope Francis told a UN summit. The pontiff called for a ban on nuclear weapons and chastised international finance and ‘ideological colonization’ for making the world worse. Addressing the UN Sustainable Development Summit on Friday, the head of the Roman Catholic Church made a nod to the importance of the UN, now that technology has enabled humanity to overcome distance and frontiers and “all natural limits to the exercise of power.” “Technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities,” the Pope said, praising the achievements of the UN in containing that potential as “lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness.”


SOA Watch Actions: Resist Empire, Create Peace

Join us this November 20-22, on the 25th anniversary of our movement, to connect with activists and organizers from across the Americas. Our continental movement will converge in Georgia to call for the closure of the School of the Americas and the closure of Stewart Detention Center, one of the largest private for-profit immigrant prisons in the country. It is incumbent upon us to continue making the connections between SOA violence and the root causes of migration. Join us as we continue to denounce the failed U.S. policies, which have left a brutal legacy of impunity and Human Rights violations throughout the hemisphere.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Nation: Special issue on the Roberts Court‏

On the tenth anniversary of John Roberts becoming Chief Justice of the United States, The Nation brings together some of America’s foremost legal scholars, commentators, and practitioners to assess the harm the Roberts Court majority has done to everyday Americans, what is likely to happen as the Court begins its new term, and what’s at stake for the Supreme Court in the 2016 elections.


On Final Day, Pope Meets Prisoners and Bishops Ahead of Mass

PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sexual abuse in a private meeting on Sunday, and called himself “overwhelmed by the shame,” pledging that “every one responsible will be held accountable.”
“I regret this profoundly,” he said, speaking to bishops and seminarians on the last day of his trip to the United States. “God weeps!”
The pope said survivors of abuse by priests “have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. Humbly, we owe each of them and their families our gratitude for their immense courage for making the light of Christ shine over the evil” of child sex abuse by priests, according to an early translation.

Here's How to Cop Watch

In academic circles, copwatching is considered a form of sousveillance, which translates from the French to “watching from below” and refers to recording or monitoring of authorities, like the police. (Surveillance, by comparison, translates to “watching from above” and refers to being monitored by authorities.) Through copwatching, communities are learning that, depending on which way the cameras are facing, they can become a powerful tool in court or in advocacy. While the state trains its gaze on communities to “keep them safe,” members of the public are increasingly aware that it is the watchers who need to be watched. Here, we break down what copwatching is, and how to do it.


VICE on HBO: "Fixing the System," on Sun., Sep. 27

This Sunday, September 27, VICE on HBO will release their special report, "Fixing the System," which details the mounting civil rights crisis taking place in our criminal justice system. The special also follows President Barack Obama on his historic tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma—the first time in history that a sitting president has visited a federal prison.

In this comprehensive special report VICE founder and correspondent Shane Smith accompanies Obama on his visit as he speaks with inmates. Shane also interviews members of the judiciary and community reformers about the current failings of the way we deal with crime in our country, and the challenges that lie ahead for those who want to change it.

The special will air on HBO this Sunday, September 27 at 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT.


Against Odds, Seeking Hope for Mexican Students Who Vanished a Year Ago

...the facts are as scattered and unknown as the whereabouts of the victims. Remains of just one of the students have been identified with certainty, those of Alexander Mora. Investigators know neither the location of the remaining 42, nor what happened to them. The case struck a nerve with the Mexican public, a tragic distillation of the tangle of corruption and complicity that governs life in parts of Mexico. In this case, the suspected involvement of local law enforcement and powerful drug gangs tore open the lives of 43 families whose children were studying to become rural teachers.
An outside panel of experts that reviewed the investigation concluded that the night the students disappeared, federal police and army officers were aware of the violence and did not intervene.
On Saturday, at least 50,000 marched through the city to commemorate the tragedy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Statement by Leonard Peltier, International Tribunal of Conscience

Greetings my friends and relatives,

As I look past my prison cell door, I contemplate the many doors and walls that are between myself and freedom. Despite having been twice recommended for transfer to a medium security facility since coming to USP Coleman I, I am currently warehoused in a maximum security facility in Florida. These maximum security prisons are each surrounded by a high wall. For us inside there is no horizon.

As I think about these physical obstacles to my own freedom, I wonder how many walls are between YOU and freedom. How many of these walls are invisible—like the imaginary borders created by colonizers, power brokers, and governments—that are nothing more than obstacles to the free migration of Indigenous Peoples?

I’m greatly honored to be an absentee participant in this International Tribunal of Conscience. I notice that the 43 disappeared students from the Rural Teacher´s College in Guerrero have long since faded from the news cycle. It is imperative that these young people, who were mostly from Mexico´s poorest Indigenous communities, are never forgotten. Perhaps the students involuntarily serve as a reminder that our collective struggles are far from over. Death squads are still prevalent, and it is always the poor and most vulnerable people who endure the most suffering and injustice. These death squads are the same around the world as they all serve the same master—greed—that spurs humans to torture, terrorize, and kill others, forgetting that we are truly all related.

One aspect of my case that is not widely known is that in the 1970’s there were these same death squads on the Indian reservations. Corrupt tribal police, were armed and propped up by federal forces. Prior to the firefight on the Pine Ridge Reservation on June 26, 1975,—an incident for which I have now served nearly 40 years in prison—some 60 people who were connected with the resurgence of our traditional spiritual practices and renewed struggle for sovereignty were murdered or disappeared. During the preceding 5-month period, more incidents of violence were reported on the reservation than in the rest of South Dakota combined. In the subsequent search for my codefendants and myself, the people of Pine Ridge were terrorized by these paramilitary groups led primarily by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Innocent people were intimidated, threatened, and brutalized. To date, none of these acts of terrorism have been fully investigated.

On behalf of myself and the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, I wish to thank the organizers of the International Tribunal of Conscience, the National Lawyers Guild, and our hosts at New York University. I encourage all defenders of human rights to continue to work together on our common issues in the struggle for our existence.

In the Spirit Of Crazy Horse…


Leonard Peltier

First Nations Women Shut Down Tar Sands Pipeline Hearing

Chanting "No tar sands on stolen native lands," First Nations women disrupted and shut down a Montreal public hearing on the controversial Energy East pipeline on Wednesday night, the latest in a resistance campaign against the massive project proposed by the Alberta-based TransCanada Corporation. "What we want TransCanada to understand is that no means no. This is Kanien’ke, this is Mohawk Land, and we are tired of occupation, we are tired of environmental disaster," declared Amanda Lickers, who hails from the Seneca-Haudenosaunee community, at Wednesday's hearing. "This is our land and we are going to protect it." Four Indigenous women took the stage and hoisted a banner reading, "No consent, no pipelines" as dozens of protesters cheered them on. The action successfully shut down the hearing, and while police were called, no arrests were made


Healing The Wounds Of Native American Tragedies On Turtle Island

The Black Lives Matter movement has made a significant impact in part because African Americans are a visible presence in America’s large urban areas. By contrast, Native Americans are more easily ignored since they often live in more rural areas and on reservations. Native American culture, and often Natives themselves, remain a source of ridicule in contemporary North American culture in a way that other groups are not, at least not in such open fashion. For example, sports teams nationwide still proudly flaunt racist names and symbols referring to Native American peoples and traditions. Now, issues of police accountability are opening the public's eyes to the continuing struggles of North America’s First Peoples and other groups unfairly targeted by law enforcement.


Indigenous Leaders Want Pope Francis To Rescind Bull Justifying Imperialism

Pope Francis has apologized for the "grave sins" committed "against the native peoples of America in the name of God." And he voiced his support for indigenous rights during his speech to Congress. But some indigenous leaders are asking the pope to take actions to rescind and repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, which provided religious justification for European colonial conquest.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional?

...Breyer is hardly the first Supreme Court justice to invite constitutional debate about the death penalty. Several members of the Court that brought back the death penalty in 1976 later came to reject it. Nixon appointee Lewis Powell told his biographer that the death penalty should be abolished. Another Nixon appointee, Harry Blackmun, wrote in 1994 that he would no longer “tinker with the machinery of death.” And in 2008, John Paul Stevens wrote that his review of hundreds of cases had persuaded him that the penalty is both profoundly unworkable and unconstitutional.   What has Breyer learned to put him in such company? Plenty. In his dissent, he argued that the death penalty is seriously unreliable and arbitrary in application; he believes the long delays undermine its penological purpose; and he is convinced that we have executed the innocent.


Taxpayers are paying $60 for every pot plant the DEA destroys in Oregon

The Drug Enforcement Administration spent $960,000 to destroy marijuana plants in that state in 2014 as part of its "Cannabis Eradication Program," according to a recent report by NBC affiliate KGW in Portland, Ore.

That year, the DEA succeeded in removing 16,067 pot plants from Oregon, which at first blush sounds like a lot of weed. But when you do the math, that works out to a cost to taxpayers of $60 per uprooted plant. That is a lot when you consider that nationally, it costs the DEA *ahem* $4.20 to eliminate a single marijuana plant under this program.

The DEA has budgeted $760,000 in marijuana eradication funds for Oregon this year, according to KGW. Considering that marijuana is now legal in that state, many Oregonians — including some members of Congress — are questioning whether that's a sensible endeavor. They are trying to defund the federal anti-pot program that costs about $18 million a year overall.


Prison Without Punishment

Germany allows inmates to wear their own clothes, cook their own meals, and have romantic visits. Could that enlightened approach to rehabilitation ever work in the United States? Here’s TMP’s Maurice Chammah, in a piece published in collaboration with Vice, on what we can learn about incarceration from our friends in Europe.


Court magistrate proposes denying Mumia urgent medical care

Late in the day on Friday September 18th, United States Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Karoline Mehalchick issued a proposed order denying Mumia Abu-Jamal’s motion for preliminary injunction and his 1st Amended complaint seeking immediate treatment for active Hepatitis C.

In a calculated attempt to deny lifesaving health care and effective arguments on Mumia’s behalf, Judge Mehalchick preemptively issued this “proposed order” before Mumia’s lawyers had the opportunity to respond (as allowed by court local rules) to the Pennsylvania Department of Correction's (DOC) opposition.


Police Program Aims to Pinpoint Those Most Likely to Commit Crimes

Predictive policing combines elements of traditional policing, like increased attention to crime “hot spots” and close monitoring of recent parolees. But it often also uses other data, including information about friendships, social media activity and drug use, to identify “hot people” and aid the authorities in forecasting crime.

...The use of computer models by local law enforcement agencies to forecast crime is part of a larger trend by governments and corporations that are increasingly turning to predictive analytics and data mining in looking at behaviors. Typically financed by the federal government, the strategy is being used by dozens of police departments — including Los Angeles, Miami and Nashville — and district attorneys’ offices in Manhattan and Philadelphia.
At a time when many police departments are under fire for aggressive tactics, particularly in minority neighborhoods, advocates say predictive policing can help improve police-community relations by focusing on the people most likely to become involved in violent crime.
Civil liberties groups take a dim view of the strategy, questioning its legality and efficacy, and asserting that it may actually worsen the rapport between the police and civilians.

China to Announce Cap-and-Trade Program to Limit Emissions

WASHINGTON — President Xi Jinping of China will make a landmark commitment on Friday to start a national program in 2017 that will limit and put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, Obama administration officials said Thursday.
The move to create a so-called cap-and-trade system would be a substantial step by the world’s largest polluter to reduce emissions from major industries, including steel, cement, paper and electric power.
The announcement, to come during a White House summit meeting with President Obama, is part of an ambitious effort by China and the United States to use their leverage internationally to tackle climate change and to pressure other nations to do the same.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Other 1%: Healing the Wounds of Native American Tragedies on Turtle Island

The Black Lives Matter movement has made a significant impact in part because African Americans are a visible presence in America's large urban areas. By contrast, Native Americans are more easily ignored since they often live in more rural areas and on reservations. Native American culture, and often Natives themselves, remain a source of ridicule in contemporary North American culture in a way that other groups are not, at least not in such open fashion. For example, sports teams nationwide still proudly flaunt racist names and symbols referring to Native American peoples and traditions.


Native Groups Protest Pope Francis' Canonization of Junípero Serra Over Role in California Genocide

Pope Francis' decision to canonize the 18th century Spanish missionary Junípero Serra has drawn a strong protest from many indigenous groups. Serra founded nine of the 21 missions in California that later were the basis of what is now the modern state. Hundreds of thousands of people died after the missionaries arrived. According to historian Alvin Josephy, what happened in California "was as close to genocide as any tribal people had faced, or would face, on the North American continent." We speak to Valentin Lopez, chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. He's been leading efforts to oppose Pope Francis' decision to canonize Father Junípero Serra.

Here's How Much More the US Spends on Medicine Than Everyone Else, in 6 Charts:

Turing Pharmaceutical founder Martin Shkreli drew attention to major price gouging when he jacked up the price of a life-saving AIDS drug earlier this week, but the pharmaceutical industry has actually been doing this for years. As a result, medication in the U.S. is absurdly expensive compared with other countries.

Here's How Much More the US Spends on Medicine Than Everyone Else, in 6 Charts:

Colombia peace deal with Farc rebels 'within six months'

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the Farc rebel group have set a six-month deadline to sign a peace deal.
President Santos and the rebel leader known as Timochenko shook hands in Cuba, where the two sides have been holding peace talks since 2012.

On Wednesday, they reached agreement on how to punish human rights abuses committed during the conflict.

The issue had been seen as one of the biggest hurdles on the road to peace.


LA made history declaring a state of emergency over homelessness

Los Angeles has become the first city in the nation to declare a public emergency in response to a boom in the number of homeless people on its streets, the New York Times reported.

The street-dwelling population has grown so large that it constitutes a city within a city: Officials estimate about 26,000 people roam Los Angeles unsheltered.

The crisis has grown so dire that the mayor and a number of City Council members proposed Tuesday that the city spend $100 million in the next year on permanent housing and shelters, Reuters reports.

"This city has pushed this problem from neighborhood to neighborhood for too long, from bureaucracy to bureaucracy," Mayor Eric Garcetti said, according to Al Jazeera America. "Every single day we come to work, we see folks lying on this grass, a symbol of our city's intense crisis."


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Moral Action on Climate Justice

This Thursday join thousands on the National mall to see Pope Francis address Congress and support his moral call for climate justice.

7AM to 12:30 PM, between 3rd and 7th Street on the National Mall, Washington DC.

See the speech live, for free, on Jumbotrons and be there just footsteps from the Speaker's Balcony when Pope Francis addresses the crowd.

We'll also be joined by an all-star line up of musicians, religious leaders and climate justice activists.

DC's only free, un-ticketed public event for the pope will demand that our leaders #FollowFrancis and take bold action for climate justice.

#FollowFrancis and flood the National Mall on this historic occasion!

Speakers: The Most Reverend Pedro Jimeno Barreto Archbishop of Huancayo, Dolores Huerta, Reverand Barber;

Featuring Performances: Moby, Sean Paul, Natasha Bedingfield, Christina Grimmie, Eric Paslay, Victoria Justice, Q'orianka Kilcher and Toby Gad.

Guest Emcee: Chevy Chase.

Please show up to support Pope Francis and show the world that acting on climate change isn't just an economic and political issue—it's our moral imperative.

See you on September 24th!

-- Earth Day Network

Senator Hatch Pushes For Criminal Justice Reform That Includes ‘Mens Rea’

This afternoon, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, delivered an important speech on the Senate floor arguing that any criminal justice reform effort that is truly worthy of the name ought to include mens rea reform (also referred to as criminal intent).

I recently argued, as have other Heritage scholars, that there is a pressing need for such a reform and that this essential reform has been missing, at least so far, from the discussions that are currently ongoing on Capitol Hill about how to forge a bipartisan, bicameral compromise on meaningful criminal justice reform.

Hatch noted that there are nearly 5,000 federal criminal statutes and an estimated 300,000 criminal regulatory offenses – it is, in fact, a dirty little secret that nobody knows precisely how many there are – and that “[t]he upshot is that there are who-knows-how-many crimes on the books that the average person had no idea about and that criminalize conduct no reasonable person would think was wrong.” Many of these laws and regulations, Hatch added, “contain inadequate mens rea requirements, or even no mens rea requirements at all.”


Senator Hatch on Criminal Justice Reform: It's time to fix mens rea requirements

Tech Firms Flood Court In Support Of Net Neutrality

Major tech companies and other supporters of the Federal Communications Commission’s new Internet rules are expected to flood the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit on Monday with arguments in favor of the regulations. Monday is the deadline for supporters of the FCC’s net neutrality regulations to file their friend of the court briefs, defending the agency against a lawsuit from Internet service providers who are challenging the commission’s authority to create the new rules. Dozens of groups in the Internet and telecommunications industries have staked out their positions on the FCC’s decision to reclassify Internet service as a “telecommunications service,” rather than its previous classification as a less regulated “information service.” The new designation gave the FCC more authority to regulate conduct from Internet service providers — like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T — that control the lines that allow customers to browse the Internet and stream video.


Take Action: Ayotzinapa One Year Later

September 26 will mark one year since the enforced disappearances of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. A few weeks ago, we sent an email asking our supporters to join in, create, or send information about actions across the U.S. and Canada to commemorate the first anniversary of the Ayotzinapa state crimes. From New York to L.A., Toronto to Topeka, and other cities in between, the responses have been inspiring and the list of actions next weekend continues to grow! NEW, IMPORTANT EVIDENCE - A long awaited report on the Ayotzinapa disappearances by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI Report) was released on September 6. The experts’ findings are damning, and erase all doubt - the Mexican government has been lying and covering up for the crimes of its security forces for almost a year.


Hillary Clinton Announces Opposition to KXL, Native Leaders Respond

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2015
A. Gay Kingman,, 605-484-3036
Dallas Goldtooth,, 708-515-6185
Paula Antoine,, 605-828-0740
Faith Spotted Eagle,, 605-481-0416
Waniyetuopi Bud Lone Eagle, Sr.,
Byron Buffalo,, 605-200-2614
Greg Grey Cloud,, 1-855-942-2669
Dustina Gill,

At a town hall meeting in Iowa yesterday afternoon, Hillary Clinton finally gave her position on the Keystone XL pipeline, telling the crowd, “I oppose it. I oppose it because I don't think it's in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”

Clinton’s statement is being met with skepticism and guarded celebration by grassroots Native American leaders of the Oceti Sakowin, also known as the Great Sioux Nation. The pipeline has not received consent from the Oceti Sakowin tribal nations of the Great Plains to cross their treaty lands, it does not have legally permitted routes in South Dakota or Nebraska, and it has faced a growing opposition nationwide. Now, with Clinton joining fellow Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in opposition to this tar sands pipeline, all focus now lies on President Obama to deliver the final blow and reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
Gay Kingman, Executive Director of Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association Coalition of Large Tribes: "Tribal leaders of the Great Plains have long stood in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. We were disappointed when Hillary Clinton took a stand supporting KXL as Secretary of State but we are happy to hear of her changed position now opposing the tar sands pipeline. Hillary Clinton’s new stance reflects the clear facts that this pipeline is all risk with no rewards for the people of this land. Now, it is time for President Obama to end this debate once and for all and reject KXL."
Dallas Goldtooth, of Indigenous Environmental Network: “It is great to see Hillary Clinton finally make the right choice on Keystone XL. Her position switch on KXL is a direct testament to the sustained action and movement of our frontline Indigenous communities along this pipeline route. She once stood against Oceti Sakowin people on this issue, now she sings a different tune. We, along with our allies, made this happen. Now it is President Obama's turn see the writing on the wall and reject this dirty tar sands pipeline, once and for all.”
Oyate Wahacanka Woecun (Shield the People), Rosebud Sioux Tribe: “We recognize the importance of Hillary Clinton renouncing and opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. KXL will negatively impact our cultural, historical and burial sites; it will be a major environmental, public health and safety hazard, and most importantly it will be a threat to the non-negotiable rights of our women and children. President Obama, time to act, reject Keystone XL.”
Faith Spotted Eagle, of Ihanktonwan Treaty Council spokesperson: “Hillary's switched opinion on KXL is a plus for our climate change efforts, however, given her previous support of this pipeline, our celebratory reaction as Oceti Sakowin people remains guarded. Hillary is like sand cherries to us, moving in whatever direction the strongest wind is blowing . She knows how to harvest votes. It’s ok though, we from the Oceti Sakowin appreciate her new position on Keystone XL. Mr. Obama, reject the pipeline now.”
Waniyetuopi Bud Lone Eagle, Sr.,  Pte Ospaye Headsman: “Hillary Clinton's announcement that she opposes the Uncekila Sapa (Black Serpent), aka the Keystone XL pipeline, is another coup counted on TransCanada, and other environmental terrorist corporations. However, only when the Presidential permit is denied and the project scrapped in it's entirety can we claim victory over the Uncekila Sapa. When that day comes I would personally invite our allies to a victory celebration in my home, Bridger, South Dakota, a frontline community in this fight against KXL.”
Byron Buffalo, Pt'e Ospaye Headsman: “Hillary Clinton, your stance opposing Keystone XL pipeline is encouraging yet is met with skepticism. The Indigenous people of America stand strong against the Black Snake known as KXL. We implore you to not only voice your opposition but to actively seek ways to stop the climate destroying corporations  that believe continued mutilation of our earth is the only way progress can be made. All we have this one earth, we must ALL protect it, for we, ALL living beings, are truly ALL related. Mitakuye Oyasin.”
Greg Grey Cloud, of Wica Agli: “Hillary Clinton is just now realizing that foreign tar sands crude, by way of the Keystone XL pipeline, is NOT for the American people. However, I see yet another political ploy taken as a wrongful gain to run for president. I reserve my celebration for the moment President Obama takes action and rejects the permit for KXL.”
Dustina Gill, Community Advocate, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota:  "Hillary Clinton’s recent stance against KXL attests to the threat this pipeline poses and highlights the efforts of numerous organizations and citizens of the Oceti Sakowin who have dedicated themselves to this fight against the tar sand pipeline. Those efforts have been critical in making this a national issue and getting presidential candidates on board with the climate movement. Now I too, like thousands of others, anxiously away the President’s decision to reject this pipeline."


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Human Rights Experts to Visit U.S. to Document Race Discrimination and Poverty

The Inter American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) will visit the cities of Miami, Orlando, Sanford, New Orleans, and St. Louis/Ferguson between September 21-25, 2015 to gather information related to the issue of police violence against African-Americans and the problem of racial discrimination in general. The main findings from the visit will be included in a report issued by the Commission analyzing the use of police force against African-Americans in the United States and its human rights implications. They will also be examining the issue of poverty and incorporate these findings in a hemispheric report currently being prepared by the Commission analyzing human rights issues related to poverty. Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, which serves as President and Rapporteur on Racial Discrimination for the IACHR, is leading this visit. 


How to Censor Yourself Before the Government Even Has a Chance

Given that these four men without criminal records or any other obvious reason for government suspicion were, like my partner and me, put on the no-fly list leads me to wonder about the other 21,000 people on that list, including at least 500 Americans. (In fact the overall number could turn out to be as high as 44,000, according to "60 Minutes," or even 48,000, according to the Associated Press. We just don't know because, like so much else in our new post-9/11 world, information about the list remains classified.)

What did all those other people on the list do or refuse to do? How have their lives been damaged? And how dangerous are they really? My partner and I certainly had no intention of turning our airplane into a terrorist weapon. What are the odds that any of the other 21,000 or 44,000 or 48,000 people did? And if potential airplane bombers or hijackers do exist, what are the odds that any of them are actually on the FBI's list? After all, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber," wasn't. Neither was the infamous "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. All this list-making has been marked by an odd - and dangerous - combination of intrusion and incompetence.


America will be a little more holy today

Pope Francis lands in Washington, D.C., for his jam-packed trek up the East Coast.
    • On Thursday, he’ll become the first pontiff ever to address a joint session of Congress, and GOP lawmakers are already praying he left his progressive rhetoric in Rome. Lawmakers who support the Holy See’s agenda were warned not to show it via fist bumps, handshakes or selfies.
    • Excitement is building over what wise words the pope will have for the U.S. On his visit to Cuba over the weekend, he surprised everyone by veering way off-script and offering millennials helpful advice like don’t commit your life to defeatism and don’t be a wuss.

With Little Fanfare, FBI Ramps Up Biometrics Programs (Yet Again)—Part 2

FBI Plans to Populate its Massive Face Recognition Database with Photographs Taken in the Field

As Privacy SOS reported earlier this month, the FBI is looking for new ways to collect biometrics out in the field—and not just fingerprints, but face recognition-ready photographs as well.

The FBI recently issued a request for quotations (RFQ) to build out its mobile biometrics capabilities. Specifically, it’s looking for software that can be used on small Android-based mobile devices like Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets to collect fingerprints and face images from anyone officers stop on the street.

If the plan goes through, it will be the first time the FBI will be able to collect fingerprints and face images out in the field and search them against its Next Generation Identification (NGI) database. According to the RFQ, FBI’s current mobile collection tools are “not optimized for mobile operations” because they are large and are limited in scope to determining if a person has “possible terrorist links (in the U.S. or abroad) or is likely to pose a threat to the U.S.”


With Little Fanfare, FBI Ramps Up Biometrics Programs (Yet Again)—Part 1

FBI Combines Civil and Criminal Fingerprints into One Fully Searchable Database

Being a job seeker isn’t a crime. But the FBI has made a big change in how it deals with fingerprints that might make it seem that way. For the first time, fingerprints and biographical information sent to the FBI for a background check will be stored and searched right along with fingerprints taken for criminal purposes.

The change, which the FBI revealed quietly in a February 2015 Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), means that if you ever have your fingerprints taken for licensing or for a background check, they will most likely end up living indefinitely in the FBI’s NGI database. They’ll be searched thousands of times a day by law enforcement agencies across the country—even if your prints didn’t match any criminal records when they were first submitted to the system.

This is the first time the FBI has allowed routine criminal searches of its civil fingerprint data. Although employers and certifying agencies have submitted prints to the FBI for decades, the FBI says it rarely retained these non-criminal prints. And even when it did retain prints in the past, they “were not readily accessible or searchable.” Now, not only will these prints—and the biographical data included with them—be available to any law enforcement agent who wants to look for them, they will be searched as a matter of course along with all prints collected for a clearly criminal purpose (like upon arrest or at time of booking).


Judge allows DNA tests for Angola 3's Albert Woodfox in 1972 Angola guard's murder

Albert Woodfox, the last of the “Angola Three,” suffered a series of courtroom defeats in Louisiana Monday. He may have to stand trial a third time for the 1972 killing of a guard.


Life Without Parole: For Juveniles, 5 Tough Counties

Just five counties in America are responsible for a quarter of the nation’s juvenile life-without-parole sentences, a new report alleges, more evidence of the power local prosecutors have over incarceration rates and the lives of young inmates. The Supreme Court is about to tackle the constitutionality of such sentences, TMP’s Beth Schwartzapfel reports.


Signature needed: Give Native Americans back their sacred land‏

Tell Congress: Give Native Americans back their sacred land. Click here to sign the petition.

For years, Resolution Copper has sought access to a copper deposit in eastern Arizona at a site called Oak Flat, which has been home to the San Carlos Apache Nation’s traditional acorn and medicinal herb collecting and religious ceremonies for centuries. Oak Flat itself is a significant cultural site for the San Carlos Apache. The mountain's waters feed Gaan Canyon, a significant cultural and religious site. The location also includes Apache Leap, an escarpment of equal cultural importance.

The San Carlos Apache fear their sacred lands will collapse or be damaged by the intensive block cave mining Resolution Copper proposes; however, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

Last Congress, Arizona’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake snuck a swap provision into a must-pass defense spending bill, knowing President Obama couldn’t reject it. Now, the San Carlos Apache are facing complete and permanent destruction of their sacred sites.

The line on treating Indian Country2 with disrespect must be drawn. It’s time for Congress to do the right thing and uphold its commitment to Native Americans and protect their sacred lands.

Will you join me and add your name to my petition urging Congress to give Native Americans back their sacred land at Oak Flat?

Thank you for your support.

Rep. Raul Grijalva

Join USHRN for the UPR Social Media Day of Action!‏

Join USHRN and the UPR Taskforce for a social media day of action on Thursday, September 24th - just two days away! We invite individuals, grassroots, and national organizations to join us over FaceBook and Twitter to lift up our disappointment in the U.S.' response - and that we demand more. As the USHRN Coordinating Center wrote in our statement on the U.S. Government's response to the recommendations:

"We reject the U.S. Government’s assertion that ending racism and all other forms of discrimination, the end of excessive force by police, and ensuring right to healthcare, among other recommendations, are to be recognized as ideals that may never be attained. We reassert that they are necessary measures that deserve concrete, comprehensive, and intersectional action if the U.S. intends to ensure and affirm human rights. Indeed, there are countries around the world that have made significant progress on these fronts. Lip service and piecemeal responses are, and never have been, enough."

For suggested tweets and Facebook posts:

USHRN Coordinating Center Statement on US Reponse to the 2015 UPR

The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is deeply disappointed by the response of the US Government to the 343 human rights recommendations made during the 2015 Universal Periodic Review (UPR).   The UPR is based on the recognition that no country is above human rights law. Yet, in its response to the UPR recommendations, we see a perspective of US exceptionalism from the US Government with its assertion that it only supports recommendations that the US is in the process of implementing or already taken action on. This suggests that there is no room for improvement - a position that not only runs counter to the hard work of civil society to dismantle structural barriers to equality in the US but also threatens to undermine the UPR process itself.

The Obama Administration has refused to support the recommendations to abolish the death penalty, institute a moratorium on the death penalty to examine discriminatory impacts, or even have transparency around the drugs used for lethal injection. We dispute the notion that the federal government's hands are tied on the death penalty. As we recently saw in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case in Massachusetts, the federal death penalty can be enacted in any state including those that do not have the death penalty.
Moreover, the majority of countries in the world have abolished the use of the death penalty. In a continued practice of double standards, the US again refuses to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. On economic, social, and cultural rights, the US falls back on the premise that they are to be realized progressively without mentioning that international law also dictates that countries must use their maximum available resources to realize these rights.  The US is still the world's wealthiest economy yet we have the second highest child poverty rate of any industrialized countries,  1 in 6 people are food insecure, there is no mandated maternity leave policy, and tens of thousands cut off from the human right to water.

The Obama Administration inaccurately insists that domestic civil rights law is in compliance with US obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). While CERD has always been stronger than domestic anti-discrimination laws, the Supreme Court ruling in the 2001 Sandoval case that eliminated a private right to action for discriminatory impact, the lack of intersectional understandings around the gender related dimensions of racial discrimination, and the lack of a proactive and comprehensive action plan to end racial discrimination in all aspects of life all dispute this claim.

We reject the US Government’s assertion that ending racism and all other forms of discrimination, the end of excessive force by police, and ensuring right to healthcare, among other recommendations, are to be recognized as ideals that may never be attained. We reassert that they are necessary measures that deserve concrete, comprehensive, and intersectional action if the US intends to ensure and affirm human rights. Indeed, there are countries around the world that have made significant progress on these fronts. Lip service and piecemeal responses are, and never have been, enough.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Can We Wait 88 Years to End Mass Incarceration?

By many measures, there is growing momentum for criminal justice reform. Changes in federal drug-sentencing policy, passed by Congress in 2010, will help to reduce sentence lengths and racial disparity. We hear less "tough on crime" rhetoric and budget-conscious conservatives are embracing sentencing reforms. The Attorney General has criticized aspects of the criminal justice system and directed federal prosecutors to seek reduced sanctions against lower-level offenders.

In light of this, one would think we should celebrate the new figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing a decline in the U.S. prison population for the third consecutive year. This follows rising prisoner counts for every year between 1973 and 2010. BJS reports that 28 states reduced their prison populations in 2012, contributing to a national reduction of 29,000. Beset by budget constraints and a growing concern for effective approaches to public safety, state policymakers have begun downsizing unsustainable institutional populations.

The break in the prison population's unremitting growth offers an overdue reprieve and a cause for hope for sustained reversal of the nearly four-decade growth pattern. But any optimism needs to be tempered by the very modest rate of decline, 1.8 percent in the past year. At this rate, it will take until 2101 -- 88 years -- for the prison population to return to its 1980 level.


A Letter to Pope Francis: You are about to enter Philadelphia’s largest jail. Here is what you should know.

The facility is dangerously overcrowded. Inmates are subjected to humiliating treatment, including beatings that have been recorded on video. And local officials are constantly battling with judges and federal investigators over the pace of reform. It is a microcosm of America’s debate over the state of corrections.

A letter from The Marshall Project to Pope Francis:

Empire Files: Tortured & Enslaved, World's Biggest Prison

The Empire holds by far the most prisoners than any other country on earth, in both absolute numbers and per capita. Abby Martin explores the dark reality of America's prisons: their conditions, who is warehoused in them, and the roots of mass incarceration. Featuring interviews with Eddie Conway, former political prisoner unjustly incarcerated for 44 years, and Eugene Puryear, author of "Shackled and Chained, Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America."

George W. Bush Made Retroactive N.S.A. ‘Fix’ After Hospital Room Showdown

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush sought to retroactively authorize portions of the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 surveillance and data collection program after a now-famous incident in 2004 in which his attorney general refused to certify the program as lawful from his hospital bed, according to newly declassified portions of a government investigation.
Mr. Bush’s effort to salvage the surveillance program without changes did not satisfy top Justice Department officials, who threatened to resign. But the newly disclosed passages of a report by inspectors general of six agencies suggest that the confrontation in the hospital room came after the Justice Department identified several problems, including a “gap” between what Mr. Bush had authorized the N.S.A. to collect and what the agency was collecting in practice.
A leak of government documents in 2013 revealed that the fight had been partly about the legality of the N.S.A.’s collection of data about Americans’ emails in bulk. But the latest disclosure shows that the Justice Department had additional concerns.

Oregon’s Legal Sale of Marijuana Comes With Reprieve

Oregon was not the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, which happened through a state ballot vote last November, nor is it the largest. But in preparing to begin retail marijuana sales next month, it is nonetheless blazing a profoundly new trail, legal experts and marijuana business people said.
“Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is,” said Jenny M. Roberts, a professor of law at American University in Washington, D.C., who specializes in criminal law and sentencing.
Many states in the past few years have begun to rethink the implications of harsh drug or mandatory sentencing laws that led to high incarceration rates and costs, revising rules so people who have righted their lives can escape the stigma of a criminal record.