Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Department Of Homeland Security Is Buying 450 Million New Bullets

Mar. 28, 2012

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office is getting an "indefinite delivery" of an "indefinite quantity" of .40 caliber ammunition from defense contractor ATK.

U.S. agents will receive a maximum of 450 million rounds over five years, according to a press release on the deal.

The high performance HST bullets are designed for law enforcement and ATK says they offer "optimum penetration for terminal performance."

This refers to the the bullet's hollow-point tip that passes through barriers and expands for a bigger impact without the rest of the bullet getting warped out of shape: "this bullet holds its jacket in the toughest conditions."

Police face racism scandal after black man records abuse

Crown Prosecution Service reviews decision not to charge officers heard boasting of strangling 21-year-old black man, Friday 30 March 2012

Scotland Yard is facing a racism scandal after a black man used his mobile phone to record police officers subjecting him to a tirade of abuse in which he was told: "The problem with you is you will always be a nigger".

The recording, obtained by the Guardian, was made by the 21-year-old after he was stopped in his car, arrested and placed in a police van the day after last summer's riots.

The man, from Beckton, east London, said he was made to feel "like an animal" by police. He has also accused one officer of kneeling on his chest and strangling him.

In the recording, a police officer can be heard admitting he strangled the man because he was "a cunt". Moments later, another officer – identified by investigators as PC Alex MacFarlane – subjects the man to a succession of racist insults and adds: "You'll always have black skin. Don't hide behind your colour."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service on the basis that three officers, including MacFarlane, may have committed criminal offences.

The CPS initially decided no charges should be brought against any of the police officers. However on Thursday, the service said it would review the file after lawyers for the man threatened to challenge the decision in a high court judicial review. MacFarlane has been suspended.

Sen. Leahy: Supreme Court thinks corporations can be president

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Thursday that corporations could be elected president according to the rationale of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“I remain troubled today that the Supreme Court extended to corporations the same First Amendment rights in the political process that are guaranteed by the Constitution to individual Americans,” he said at a hearing on the DISCLOSE Act of 2012. “Corporations are not the same as individual Americans. Corporations do not have the same rights, the same morals or the same interests. Corporations cannot vote in our democracy.”

According to the Supreme Court’s logic, we should elect corporations to public office, Leahy said.

“This country has elected General Eisenhower as president, shouldn’t we elected General Electric as president? We know we like to elect a lot of yahoos as vice president, why not elect Yahoo as a corporation as vice president. ”

“Vermonters and Americans across the country have long understood that corporations are not people in this political process,” he continued. “Unfortunately, a very narrow majority on the Supreme Court apparently did not.”

The controversial Citizens United ruling struck down key provisions of the federal McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and gave rise to super PACS, which have caused campaign spending by outside groups to skyrocket. Super PACs have also exploited a loophole that allows them to postpone the disclosure of their donors until after the elections they participate in.

Author Alice Walker On How Killing is Symptom of Unaddressed Racism

Hundreds Converge on ALEC Headquarters Demanding Justice for Trayvon Martin

March 30, 2012

The killing of Trayvon Martin brought hundreds of people to the headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) Thursday to rally against the extremist legislation that the organization pushes, and the deadly real-life consequences it has. George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Martin in February, could be protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was later ratified by ALEC as a model for other states and supported in over two dozen legislatures by numerous ALEC politicians.

A diverse coalition of advocacy organizations, watchdog groups, activists, and national leaders stood in front of ALEC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to protest the "Kill at Will" legislation, which was written by ALEC corporate member the National Rifle Association (NRA). The groups protesting at the event included the National Urban League, the NAACP, ColorOfChange, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, ProgressNow, the Center for Media and Democracy/, Common Cause, People For the American Way, ProgressNow, Presente, Public Campaign, UltraViolet, Faith in Public Life,Organization leaders locked out of ALEC's headquarters. the National Council of Churches, USAction,, and others.

Leaders of the groups attempted to deliver a letter asking the ALEC chairmen of the public and private boards to "fully disclose ALEC's financial relationship with all NRA entities, including any contributions, sponsorships, in-kind support or other support ALEC has received, and we ask your joint board to pledge to desist from supporting and promoting lethal 'Shoot First' legislation." (ALEC’s board chairs are Indiana Rep. Dave Frizzell and the head of the lobbying firm CenterPoint 360, W. Preston Baldwin.) The leaders were locked out of ALEC's headquarters.

Participants at the rally held signs that read: "I am Trayvon Martin," "Don’t Shoot me -- I’m a Mom," "(A)LEC (L)obbying (E)xemplifies (C)orruption," and others. The Nation Magazine’s John Nichols called the convergence in DC a "renewed civil rights coalition," noting that beyond the "Kill at Will" legislation, which has provoked a vibrant national conversation on racial profiling, ALEC promotes other legislation that targets minorities, including restrictive "voter ID" laws.

The spread of “Suspicious Activity Reporting”

Suspicious Activity Reporting asks citizens to keep an eye out on their neighbors -- and it's spreading

Friday, Mar 30, 2012

Crime in Los Angeles is a gritty enterprise, and donning an LAPD badge has historically involved getting your hands dirty. Long before the New York Police Department was spying on Muslim students, the LAPD was running a large-scale domestic spy operation in the 1970s and ’80s, snooping on and infiltrating more than 200 political, labor and civic organizations including the office of then Mayor Tom Bradley. Today, the LAPD isn’t quite so aggressive, but it still employs a directive titled Special Order 1, which permits police officers to deem what is “suspicious” and then act on it.

SO 1 enables LAPD officers to file Suspicious Activity Reports on observed behaviors or activities. Where things get murky, however, is how SAR guidelines categorize constitutionally protected, non-criminal and commonplace activities such as using binoculars, snapping photographs and taking notes as indicators of terrorism-related activity. The SARs are coupled with the LAPD’s iWatch program, a campaign the police pioneered to encourage regular citizens to report “suspicious” activity, including “a person wearing clothes that are too big or too hot for the weather,” or things that just plain old don’t “look right.”

Far from being merely a local phenomenon, the standardized program that the LAPD developed in 2008 served as the lead model for a National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative. “Success” stories from the LAPD’s program are used in national training material, and the LAPD touts it as “the first program in the U.S. to create a national standard” for terrorism-related procedures.

According to the Information Sharing Environment, the nationwide SAR initiative “establishes a standardized process whereby SAR information can be shared among agencies to help detect and prevent terrorism-related criminal activity.” Personal data that is collected on these individuals is treated as criminal intelligence. The rapidly expanding and dangerously intrusive network houses personal data on thousands of Americans. “The level and the rate at which local law enforcement is expanding its intelligence-gathering activity is very alarming,” said Ameena Mirza Qazi, deputy executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-LA. “We as community advocacy groups hope to continue to work with law enforcement and encourage them to maintain their community policing models working with communities to identify criminal behavior.”

Tim DeChristopher's stint in prison's 'hole' raises questions about solitary confinement

By Elizabeth Stuart, Deseret News
Published: Thursday, March 29 2012

Tim DeChristopher’s stint in solitary confinement didn’t last long. Shortly after Rolling Stone broke the news that the climate activist had been locked up for using the word “threat” in an email correspondence, the phone lines at the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., were clogged with thousands of calls protesting his treatment.

“Rolling Stone got him out,” Patrick Shea, DeChristopher’s lawyer, announced after he was quietly moved back to the minimum security camp where he is serving a two-year sentence for a pair of 3rd degree felonies.

But for most of the 25,000 Americans in solitary confinement, things aren’t so easy. DeChristopher’s treatment illustrates what some see as a disturbing trend in the American criminal justice system. While solitary confinement was designed to keep the general prison population safe from volatile inmates, prisoner advocates say many prisons instead use isolation as a disciplinary tool.

“What would have happened to Tim if no one was watching?” Shea said.

People don’t need to be deemed a safety threat to get sent to solitary confinement, Christopher B. Epps, Mississippi’s commissioner of corrections, told Public Radio International.

“It is a punishment,” he said. “And a lot of times, if you don’t have an accountability system in place … they could be placed in there for something as simple as not cleaning up their area or breaking chow line.”

Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?

Tell me again how all the chemicals and hormones in our food and water are harmless.

Published: March 30, 2012

One day last year when her daughter, Ainsley, was 9, Tracee Sioux pulled her out of her elementary school in Fort Collins, Colo., and drove her an hour south, to Longmont, in hopes of finding a satisfying reason that Ainsley began growing pubic hair at age 6. Ainsley was the tallest child in her third-grade class. She had a thick, enviable blond-streaked ponytail and big feet, like a puppy’s. The curves of her Levi’s matched her mother’s.

“How was your day?” Tracee asked Ainsley as she climbed in the car.

“Pretty good.”

“What did you do at a recess?”

“I played on the slide with my friends.”

In the back seat, Ainsley wiggled out of her pink parka and looked in her backpack for her Harry Potter book. Over the past three years, Tracee — pretty and well-put-together, wearing a burnt orange blouse that matched her necklace and her bag — had taken Ainsley to see several doctors. They ordered blood tests and bone-age X-rays and turned up nothing unusual. “The doctors always come back with these blank looks on their faces, and then they start redefining what normal is,” Tracee said as we drove down Interstate 25, a ribbon of asphalt that runs close to where the Great Plains bump up against the Rockies. “And I always just sit there thinking, What are you talking about, normal? Who gets pubic hair in first grade?”

Fed up with mainstream physicians, Tracee began pursuing less conventional options. She tried giving Ainsley diindolylmethane, or DIM, a supplement that may or may not help a body balance its hormones. She also started a blog, the Girl Revolution, with a mission to “revolutionize the way we think about, treat and raise girls,” and the accompanying T.G.R. Body line of sunscreens and lotions marketed to tweens and described by Tracee as “natural, organic, craptastic-free products” containing “no estrogens, phytoestrogens, endocrine disrupters.”

None of this stopped Ainsley’s body from maturing ahead of its time. That afternoon, Tracee and Ainsley visited the office of Jared Allomong, an applied kinesiologist. Applied kinesiology is a “healing art” sort of like chiropractic. Practitioners test muscle strength in order to diagnose health problems; it’s a refuge for those skeptical and weary of mainstream medicine.

Voices of Choice -- Dr. Mildred Hanson on Pre-Roe Abortions

In House speech, Rep. Gwen Moore recounts being raped

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) on Wednesday recalled her own experiences of being sexually abused during a speech in favor the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“Violence against women is as American as apple pie,” she said on the House floor. “I know, not only as a legislator, but from my own personal experience. Domestic violence has been a thread throughout my personal life, up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who’s been raped.”

“When this bill came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with all of the Republican senators — all of the guys — voting no, it really brought up some terrible memories for me.”

Moore recounted a childhood experience in which boys sat in a locker room and bet that she “couldn’t be had.”

“And then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn’t going to be so willing, completed a date-rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys,” she continued. “I mean, this is what American women are facing.”

Rough Justice: UK protester almost killed by cops faces jail

Maggie, Unapologetic: Race-Baiting Memo Made NOM “Sound Too Big For Our Britches”

March 30, 2012

Maggie Gallagher appeared on MSNBC today and refused to defend the language in NOM‘s race-baiting memos — but refused to apologize for any of NOM’s race-baiting actions. Denouncing the language in the previously-sealed court documents supplied by the National Organization For Marriage that HRC uncovered this week, Gallagher did defend her organization’s actions and associations with virulently anti-gay minority leaders, but sought to minimize the perception of the role NOM plays — despite spending years positioning herself and the organization she created as the pre-eminent leaders in the fight against same-sex marriage. Gallagher refused to apologize for any of the projects in the internal NOM corporate documents, included those that included race-baiting.

“This was an in-house document. I don’t like the language because I think it makes us sound way too big for our britches,” Gallagher told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts. “The truth is what we’ve done since 2009, when that was described, is reach out and work with people across lines of different races, different creeds and different colors who believe we need to protect marriages, the union of husband and wife. I would never want to think that any of the minority leaders whether it’s my hero, [New York State Reverend and] Senator Rubén Díaz from the Bronx, or the bishops from the church of God in Christ, the largest black pentecostal denomination, or any other leaders. You know, I’m — it makes me seem more — NOM seem more powerful than it is. It’s insulting to suggest the African-American or Latino leaders are standing up because NOM is manipulating them. The only reason anyone stands up for marriage at this point in this culture is out of principle because we believe it’s a good thing and we’re fighting for what we think is right.”

Also appearing in the segment was GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger, who is openly gay and has battled NOM for years. Karger, which The New Civil Rights Movement reported earlier today, stated NOM is ”manipulating not just race baiting and doing things to divide and conquer but also inserting themselves into a federal election which they also have not reported any money, and I’m looking at filing charges against them on that as well.”

Everyone at the Table: Local Foods and the Farm Bil

Published March 28, 2012

The local foods movement in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, but still represents a small portion of the overall food system. How can local food systems continue to grow and remain sustainable?

Every five years, Congress revisits farm and food policy in the U.S. through debate and reauthorization of the Farm Bill. For much of the last 40 years, farm policy has focused on promoting on-farm efficiency, developing domestic and foreign markets and supporting efforts by agribusiness to gain dominance of the global food market. These policies succeeded in making the U.S. a global leader in the production of a handful of commodities, and have dramatically impacted farmers, rural communities, the foods we eat and the environment.

Escalated efficiency, specialization and technological advances have increased the average size of farms significantly but have left far fewer farmers on the land. Farm Bill programs, coupled with trade policies supportive of corporate-led globalization, have played a major role in industrializing agriculture and concentrating the food production and processing industries.

Dissatisfied with the heavy reliance on agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals utilized in large-scale, industrial agriculture, many people have turned to purchasing their food from local sources that they know and trust. Their reasons are many: Foods grown for nearby markets are often harvested at the peak of ripeness and delivered while fresh and flavorful. Buying locally builds relationships between growers and eaters that aren’t possible when food is run through complicated supply chains across long distances. Short supply chains allow for greater transparency about how food is grown and processed.

Still other consumers are concerned about the large carbon footprint left by food produced on industrial-scale farms, processed by multi-national food conglomerates and transported around the globe. Buying locally grown foods can support area farmers and rural economies while building a sense of place and community.

The Court and Health Care

If Big Labor Would But Fight, Millions Would Join Them on the Ramparts

An open letter to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO

by Ralph Nader
Published on Friday, March 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Dear Mr. Trumka,

You have come to your leadership position of our country’s labor federation of unions with 13 million members the hard way. Starting by working in the coal mines, then becoming a lawyer, heading the United Mine Workers, then becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO before assuming your present position in 2009, who can pull rank on you in the formal labor movement?

Yet, the AFL-CIO’s public leadership in three major areas has been far less effective than one would expect. I am referring to your less than assertive response to President Obama: 1) turning his back on raising the federal minimum wage; 2) failing to advance his card check promise to you in 2008; and 3) dropping the ball on backing long-overdue safety and health responsibilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

I say this with the awareness of your group’s public stands in favor of these three crucial matters to working families. But as you well know, there is a very marked difference between being on-the-record, as the AFL-CIO is, and being on-the-daily ramparts pushing these issues, as your organization is not.

Even just making a statement, however, took a back seat in your March 13, 2012 endorsement of Barack Obama for a second term as president. In what ways has Mr. Obama “moved aggressively,” as you declared, “to protect workers rights, pay, health and safety on the job?”

He has neither championed nor pressed Congress, when the Democrats were in control in 2009-2010, to give you card check which you have long-said was needed to reverse the serious decline and expand the ranks of organized labor by millions of workers (you told me this in 2004).

Second, Mr. Obama appointed an excellent head of OSHA and then betrayed OSHA – an agency that has estimated 58,000 workplace-related American deaths a year from disease and trauma! That is over 1000 people a week, every week, on the average.

Continue reading at:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Fleetwood Mac

Secret NOM documents reveal disgraceful, racist, anti-family strategy

NOM's evasion of race-baiting scandal is as bad as the controversy itself

By Alvin McEwen
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reposted with Permission (actually at Alvin's urging to spread this one around)

NOM's evasion of race-baiting scandal is as bad as the controversy itself

Brian Brown of NOM
The National Organization for Marriage's president, Brian Brown, has responded today specifically to the race-baiting scandal which has engulfed the organization:

"Let me be the first to say that the tone of the language in that document as quoted by the press is inapt. Here's something I know from the bottom of my soul: It would be enormously arrogant for anyone at NOM to believe that we can make or provoke African-American or Latino leaders do anything. The Black and Hispanic Democrats who stand up for marriage do so on principle—and get hit with a wave of vituperative attacks like nothing I have ever seen. We did not cause it, nor can we claim credit for these men and women's courage in standing up in defense of our most fundamental institution: marriage."

Do those talking points sound familiar? They should if you read this blog. This is what NOM founder Maggie Gallagher said in the comments section of a National Review blog post she authored (the same blog post in which she asserted that the controversy was the subject of a slow news day):

Let's put up the comparison, shall we (emphasis on the important portions is done by me).

Brian Brown today:

"Let me be the first to say that the tone of the language in that document as quoted by the press is inapt. Here's something I know from the bottom of my soul: It would be enormously arrogant for anyone at NOM to believe that we can make or provoke African-American or Latino leaders do anything. The Black and Hispanic Democrats who stand up for marriage do so on principle—and get hit with a wave of vituperative attacks like nothing I have ever seen. We did not cause it, nor can we claim credit for these men and women's courage in standing up in defense of our most fundamental institution: marriage."

Maggie Gallagher just a few days ago:

"The documents used language which I would call 'inapt' - - in part because it's tremendously vain to think that I or NOM or any other white Christian conservative can manipulate black and latino church leaders. I don't think so. They speak out of their own convictions and become subject to tremendous vituperative for doing so."

You have to be kidding me! If they expect this to be some sort of credible explanation of NOM's attempt to drive a wedge between the black and gay communities, then Gallagher and Brown failed.

Almost word for word, these two folks say the same thing. 

 Apparently the leaking of the confidential documents detailing NOM's plan of divide and conquer got members of the organization scared witless. 

How else can you explain this sadly cobbled explanation? It's bad enough when one of them says it because it doesn't even address the point of NOM's discovered plan. But when both Gallagher and Brown repeat the same explanation almost word-for-word, there is a certain disturbing robotic function to it. It's like they are reading from a script. There is nothing real about this explanation. It's plastic.

It simply demonstrates cynical  and rushed planning devoid of integrity or honesty, much like the original plan which got NOM into trouble in the first place.

Brooklyn DA accused of failing to tackle Orthodox Jews' cover-up of sex abuse

Critics say Charles Hynes has failed to wrest control from rabbis who refuse to co-operate with secular authorities, Thursday 29 March 2012

A systemic cover-up of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclaves continues to obstruct justice for young victims, despite claims by religious leaders and the Brooklyn district attorney that the problem is in hand.

A long-standing culture of non-cooperation with secular justice by Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jews keeps many child sex offenders out of the courts and at large in their communities.

Victim advocates say Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes has failed to wrest control from rabbinic leaders, who continue to hamper efforts to uncover abuse. Hynes' recent claim to have radically increased prosecution rates for these crimes has drawn scorn from critics.

Brooklyn's Jewish communities, home to the largest number of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, are insular and close-knit. They maintain their own shadow justice system based on religious halachic law, enforced by religious courts known as the beit din. In recent years, they have also established their own community police force, the Shomrim.

Like the Catholic bishops before them, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis who lead these communities are charged with the concealment of crimes stretching back decades, and of fostering a culture where witnesses are silenced through intimidation.

On House Floor, a Sweatshirt in Honor of Trayvon Martin

It is a small ray of hope, a small voice saying perhaps all is not lost knowing that Bobby Rush, former Black Panther Party member is in the House of Representatives.

March 28, 2012

Breaching House decorum, Representative Bobby L. Rush donned a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses on the House floor on Wednesday in honor of Trayvon Martin, the teenager fatally shot in Florida in a case that has gained national attention.

During the short morning speeches granted lawmakers each day, Mr. Rush, an Illinois Democrat, condemned what he said was the role of racial profiling in the death of Trayvon, who was unarmed when he was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in February. Trayvon’s parents attended a House forum on racial profiling on Tuesday.

“I applaud the young people all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the real hoodlums in this nation, particularly those who tread on our laws wearing official or quasi-official clothes,” he said as he removed his suit coat to reveal a gray hooded sweatshirt.

“Racial profiling has to stop, Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Rush continued. “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

Seeing Mr. Rush pull up the hood on his sweatshirt, Representative Gregg Harper, Republican of Mississippi, who was presiding, called on Mr. Rush to stop his speech for violating the House dress code. Banging the gavel, Mr. Harper cited the rule prohibiting hats and called on the sergeant-at-arms to enforce it, as Mr. Rush continued speaking over him, quoting the Bible.

Bank of America Is a “Raging Hurricane of Theft and Fraud”

By Matt Taibbi
Tuesday, 27 March 2012

There are two things every American needs to know about Bank of America.

The first is that it's corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.

The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it's a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers.

But Bank of America hasn't gone out of business, for the simple reason that our government has decided to make it the poster child for the "Too Big To Fail" concept. Because it is considered a "systemically important institution" whose collapse would have a major, Lehman-Brothers-style impact on the economy, two consecutive presidential administrations have taken extraordinary measures to keep Bank of America in business, despite a staggering recent legacy of corruption schemes, many of which were simply overlooked by regulators.

This is why the question of whether or not Bank of America should remain on public life support is so critical to all Americans, and not just those millions who have the misfortune to be customers of the bank, or own shares in the firm, or hold mortgages serviced by the company. This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests.

Migrants left to die after catalogue of failures, says report into boat tragedy

Council of Europe investigator says deaths of migrants adrift in Mediterranean exposes double standards in valuing human life, Wednesday 28 March 2012

A catalogue of failures by Nato warships and European coastguards led to the deaths of dozens of migrants left adrift at sea, according to a damning official report into the fate of a refugee boat in the Mediterranean whose distress calls went unanswered for days.

A nine-month investigation by the Council of Europe – the continent's 47-nation human rights watchdog, which oversees the European court of human rights – has unearthed human and institutional failings that condemned the boat's occupants to their fate.

Errors by military and commercial vessels sailing nearby, plus ambiguity in the coastguards' distress calls and confusion about which authorities were responsible for mounting a rescue, were compounded by a long-term lack of planning by the UN, Nato and European nations over the inevitable increase in refugees fleeing north Africa during the international intervention in Libya.

The Guardian first exposed the tale of the "left-to-die" migrant vessel in May last year, after gathering testimony from the voyage's few survivors. Having set sail from Tripoli in the dead of night, the dinghy – which was packed with 72 African migrants attempting to reach Europe – ran into trouble and was left floating with the currents for two weeks before being washed back up on to Libyan shores. Despite emergency calls being issued and the boat being located and identified by European coastguard officials, no rescue was ever attempted. All but nine of those on board died from thirst and starvation or in storms, including two babies.

The report's author, Tineke Strik – echoing the words of Mevlüt Çavusoglu, president of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly at the time of the incident – described the tragedy as "a dark day for Europe", and told the Guardian it exposed the continent's double standards in valuing human life.

District Court Permanently Blocks Oklahoma Ultrasound Law, Expect A Supreme Court Battle

by Robin Marty, RH Reality Check
March 29, 2012

The 10th Circuit Federal Court has just issued a permanent injunction on a 2010 Oklahoma law that would require all women terminating their pregnancies to first undergo a mandatory ultrasound. The news, which is no doubt welcome to the women in and around Oklahoma who will no longer have to endure the added financial stress and emotional pressure of an unwanted, medically-unnecessary ultrasound, also sets up what is likely to be the next big battle -- this time, before the Supreme Court.

With the 10th Circuit ruling that it "is an unconstitutional special law because it addresses only patients, physicians and sonographers dealing with abortions and does not address them concerning other medical care," while the 5th Circuit rules that mandatory ultrasounds are constitutional in Texas, the only way to resolve the conflicting rulings is an appeal to the highest court.

Lawyer and reproductive rights author Jessica Mason Pieklo states:
"Today's decision in Nova Health Systems v. Edmonson represents an important win for women and health care practitioners across the state of Oklahoma and affirms the right of women to make critical health care decisions without unnecessary and demeaning intrusion and oversight by the state."

Woman unhappy with care at St. Mary's hospital is arrested for trespassing, dies in jail

Being poor and or a member of anyone of a number of despised minority groups in the US can be a capital offense. Especially if you are in desperate need of medical care.

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2012

She yelled from a wheelchair at St. Mary's Health Center security personnel and Richmond Heights police officers that her legs hurt so badly she couldn't stand.

She had already been to two other hospitals that week in September, complaining of leg pain after spraining her ankle.

This time, she refused to leave.

A police officer arrested Brown for trespassing. He wheeled her out in handcuffs after a doctor said she was healthy enough to be locked up.

Brown was 29. A mother who had lost custody of two children. Homeless. On Medicaid. And, an autopsy later revealed, dying from blood clots that started in her legs, then lodged in her lungs.

She told officers she couldn't get out of the police car, so they dragged her by her arms into the station. They left her lying on the concrete floor of a jail cell, moaning and struggling to breathe. Just 15 minutes later, a jail worker found her cold to the touch.

Rough Justice: UK protester almost killed by cops faces jail

OWS: 'The rich, don't be surprised we are angry!'

Finally, OWS gets police to arrest the people in suits

March 26, 2012

Sometimes justice requires a little imagination. On Saturday, when much of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York was loudly denouncing police violence against minorities and protesters, a small group of environmentalists dreamed up a way to get the police to focus on the crimes of the 1 percent, to the point of arresting five corporate suits on United Nations property.

Granted, those five were actually members of the OWS affinity group Disrupt Dirty Power, which used Saturday’s action (billed as a “mock’upation”) to launch a month of actions targeting the “corrupt partnership between Wall Street, politicians and the business of pollution.” Police officers seemed thrown for a loop as they tore down tents bearing corporate logos and cuffed people who claimed to be from Bank of America and ExxonMobil. Compared to the rowdy anti-NYPD march earlier that afternoon, this time, the cops had more of a chance to think about what side they’re really on.

As the action began around 5 p.m., the police presence was focused on the small group of OWS protesters gathered in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a few blocks away from U.N. headquarters. The officers must have noticed the signs and banners, heard the people’s mic, observed the silly improv performance skewering corporate polluters and thought they were in the right place. But if they had paid closer attention, they might have seen where things were going.

At one point, a couple of “representatives” from Bank of America addressed the crowd, satirizing the bank’s all too real connection to the U.N. and its upcoming Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro this June. One of them announced:

Healthcare Jujitsu

By Robert Reich
Monday, March 26, 2012

Not surprisingly, today’s debut Supreme Court argument over the so-called “individual mandate” requiring everyone to buy health insurance revolved around epistemological niceties such as the meaning of a “tax,” and the question of whether the issue is ripe for review.

Behind this judicial foreplay is the brute political fact that if the Court decides the individual mandate is an unconstitutional extension of federal authority, the entire law starts unraveling.

But with a bit of political jujitsu, the President could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare system – Medicare for all.

Here’s how.

The dilemma at the heart of the new law is that it continues to depend on private health insurers, who have to make a profit or at least pay all their costs including marketing and advertising.

Yet the only way private insurers can afford to cover everyone with pre-existing health problems, as the new law requires, is to have every American buy health insurance – including young and healthier people who are unlikely to rack up large healthcare costs.

The reason I'm helping Chris Hedges' lawsuit against the NDAA

By placing journalists in jeopardy for reporting on 'terrorists', the Homeland Battlefield Bill has had a chilling effect on media work, Wednesday 28 March 2012

I have discussed the terms of the Homeland Battlefield Bill – also known as the National Defense Authorization Act – with numerous other journalists, writers, and members of democracy-supporting organizations across the political spectrum, from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to the Tenth Amendment Center. I have also discussed the bill with various political leaders, including city council members and legislators, who span the political spectrum in the United States. They all agree that the bill can potentially affect an American journalist who meets with and publishes reports on individuals connected to organizations deemed terrorist by the United States government.

To state the obvious, I do not support terrorism or any terrorist groups. I do not believe acts of violence against civilian populations are an appropriate way to achieve political, or any other change. I have never supported or condoned the actions of any terrorist organization.

I do, however, believe that a properly functioning media should report on newsworthy items, including discussions with and beliefs professed by various groups, including persons whom the United States government has labeled as terrorists. I believe part of my job involves meeting with, discussing ideas with, and publishing stories about persons and groups who have, or are under threat of being, labeled a terrorist or terrorist group.

My understanding of the bill, however, has forced me to decline to meet with certain newsworthy individuals, and groups of people, for fear that my communications with them and publishing articles on these individuals could be considered to be providing material support to a terrorist or terrorist organization. I have forgone meeting with individuals, and reporting on facts and stories, that I otherwise believe are newsworthy, and contribute to a healthy national discourse – for no other reason than to avoid potential repercussions under the bill.

I wish to highlight several instances of my having had to decline to meet with individuals in situations in which, under the normal conditions of my profession, meeting them, and potentially interviewing them, would have led to investigative articles for publication that I believe would have served the public interest.

If the Mandate Fails, Single Payer Awaits

on March 27, 2012

There is much consternation in liberal circles this afternoon, as the arguments before the Supreme Court about health care reform’s crucial individual mandate don’t seem to have gone very well. “A bad day for Obamacare’s supporters,” writes Ezra Klein. “I think this law is in grave, grave trouble,” said Jeffrey Toobin.

I tend to give more credence to the accounts that things weren’t actually that bad—the questioning during these proceedings is not predictive of the final outcome, and Justice Anthony Kennedy has plenty of room to side with the government—but it’s worth considering what would happen if, indeed, the individual mandate is junked.

To give a nickel-version of the dispute here: under health care reform, the federal government will begin requiring people to purchase private health insurance in 2016, or face a $695 penalty. (People who can’t afford it would get an exemption). Opponents of the law argue this is an unconstitutional coercion of individuals by the federal government, while the administration argues it is within Congress’s right to require the purchase of health insurance under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The reasoning is that the federal government clearly has the power to regulate the health insurance industry under that clause, as it spans every state in the nation.

If the Court strikes down the mandate, then the part of health care reform that forbids health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions would almost certainly be repealed. If the government forbid those denials but didn’t force people to first buy a plan, then plenty of people would just wait until they got sick to buy insurance.

This would be a critical blow to one of the central premises behind health care reform. Re-instituting the individual mandate would be unconstitutional. So what then?

One obvious option, besides just doing nothing and allowing health care costs to continue their exponential growth while more people lose coverage, is a single-payer health insurance plan. There is no doubt about the constitutionality here—the government is clearly allowed to levy taxes to fund public benefits. Medicare, for example, is not challengeable on the same grounds as Obama’s health care reform.

The New American Dream - Winning the lottery!

New Customs Rule Would Treat Same-Sex Couples As Families


WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration proposed on Tuesday to recognize same-sex couples as families on customs forms, a small but significant step, supporters said, toward equal recognition by the federal government.

"It's very insulting to come to the United States as an American citizen with your partner or your spouse and be told you cannot be treated as a family," Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, said of the rule. "It is a symbolic step forward toward making sure that gay and lesbian couples will no longer be subjected to a different standard and they're no longer invisible in the process."

The proposed rule change, which was posted to the Federal Register website on Tuesday, would expand the definition of a family for the purpose of customs forms for entering the United States. Under the current rule, same-sex partners must file separate forms rather than entering as a family, even if they are legally married. Heterosexual couples are only required to fill out one form.

It would be among the first wave of changes by the administration to recognize same-sex families as part of an initiative of President Barack Obama to allow for equal treatment to gays and lesbians by federal agencies.

The Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages authorized by individual states. But the proposed rule change does not address same-sex marriage specifically but rather broadens the definition of families generally. The definition would also be expanded to cover foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings and guardian situations.

Texas accuses anti-death penalty charity Reprieve of fomenting violence

Extraordinary escalation in war of words as Texas prison service accuses charity group of behaving like a prison gang

in New York, Wednesday 28 March 2012

Texas, America's most prolific practitioner of the death penalty, has launched an extraordinary attack on the international anti-death penalty charity Reprieve, accusing it of intimidating and harassing drug companies and likening the group to violent prison gangs responsible for the eruption of prison riots.

The attack comes from the Texas department of criminal justice, TDCJ, which each year carries out the lion's share of executions in America. In a letter to the attorney general of Texas, Greg Abbott, the TDCJ accuses Reprieve of "intimidation and commercial harassment" of manufacturers of medical drugs used in lethal injections.

In astonishingly vivid language, the TDCJ says that Reprieve, which is headquartered in London, "crosses the line from social activists dedicated to their cause to authoritarian ideologues who menace and harass private citizens who decline to submit to Reprieve's opinion on the morality of capital punishment by lethal injection".

Reprieve's tactics present the risk, the Texas prison service claims, of violence. "It is not a question of if but when Reprieve's unrestrained harassment will escalate into violence against a supplier."

In the most colourful accusation, the TDCJ compares the human rights organisation to gangs operating in Texas prisons. It writes that Reprieve's methods "present classic, hallmark practices comparable to practices by gangs incarcerated in the TDCJ who intimidate and coerce rival gang members and which have erupted into prison riots".

Stand Your Ground to Stop the Violence

What can be done to stop needless violence like the killing of Trayvon Martin?

posted Mar 27, 2012

For far too long, violence targeting young people of color has been tolerated, even condoned, in the United States. The killing of Trayvon Martin is part of a horrific history—one that can only be stopped if all of us, of all colors, take a stand. That means standing up to individual acts of violence, but also to systematic efforts to make our laws friendly to big corporations that profit from guns and violence.

Slavery was where it all started, of course. But Reconstruction, when former slaves were promised opportunities for education, full citizenship, and livelihoods, gave way quickly to a backlash that returned many former slaves to miserable conditions and forced labor. Michelle Alexander, in her book, The New Jim Crow, recounts how variably enforced laws—vagrancy, for instance—were used to lock up large numbers of African Americans for nothing more than walking while black. Convicts were often forced into labor not unlike that of slaves, leased out to plantations, railroads, lumber camps, and corporations.

African Americans who found fault with this system—or who committed such infractions as daring to succeed in business or failing to yield to a white person on a sidewalk—could find themselves dead, victims of domestic terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Fast forward to February 26, 2012, when Trayvon Martin, age 17, returning to his father’s fiancée’s home in Sanford, Fla., after buying a bag of candy and an iced tea, was followed by a neighborhood watch member, shot, and killed.

Although he admitted killing Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman has not been arrested. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the use of deadly force is allowed if someone “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent harm or to avert a “forcible felony.”