July 2008 Archives

In a new fashion statement high school will require any student breaking dress code to wear prison garb.

A school in Texas will force students who don't follow the rules to wear prison-like jumpsuits in a controversial move this coming school year. Gonzales High School has new navy blue jumpsuits that students will wear if they break the dress code.
Violators will be forced to wear the jumpsuit for the day, the report said.Some parents said the jumpsuits will make students feel like prisoners but the district said it's just a way to keep the children dressed appropriately for school.A school board official said it's "worth a try" because it's a way to keep the district's conservative values intact.
thanks to jonathan turley

Little rock, Arkansas man sentenced to 15 years after getting caught stuffing packs of frozen meats in his sweat pants.

THV.com reports

A Little Rock man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing meat from a supermarket by stuffing his pants.

Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Ken Casady says 47-year-old Darrell Shells was convicted of Robbery, a class "B" felony. Authorities say Shells attempted to steal several packages of meat from Kroger on Military Road in Benton by hiding them in his pants.

As he tried leaving the store, he was confronted by store employees and a struggle ensued. During the confrontation, Shells yelled "grab the gun" to a man that appeared to be waiting for him in a vehicle. Witnesses stated that the person Shells was yelling to simply moved over to the driver's seat and drove off.

Benton police officers arrived at the scene quickly and arrested Shells. Shells was wearing sweat pants under his jeans and had socks tied around the bottom of the sweats to prevent items from falling out of his pant legs.

Police recovered six packages of catfish fillets, five packages of bacon and a 32-ounce package of sausage from Shells pants. Authorities learned that Shells would sell the items at a discount.

thanks to jgodsey

State legislature withholding the right to vote for all variety of  forms of "moral turpitude".

NY times reports

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Alabama elections officials Monday over what it says is an overly expansive policy disenfranchising felons, amid concern from voting rights groups nationwide that voting lists are being culled with too great alacrity by many states.

Like virtually all states, Alabama restricts the rights of many felons to vote, but in Monday's suit the group contends the state is going beyond even its own laws. People convicted of nonviolent offenses like income tax evasion or forgery are at risk of being turned away by voter registrars in Alabama, the A.C.L.U. says.

Alabama does not bar all felons from voting, only those convicted of crimes involving "moral turpitude." In 2003, the civil liberties group says, the State Legislature clearly defined what those crimes are: murder, rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, incest, sexual torture and nine other crimes mainly involving pornography and abuses against children.

At issue in the lawsuit is not the list enacted in law but an expanded "moral turpitude" list developed by the state's attorney general, Troy King, in 2005. That list includes about a dozen additional offenses, most of them nonviolent, and several including the sale of marijuana.

The A.C.L.U. contends that the attorney general's list violates the Alabama Constitution, saying only the Legislature can decide what crimes fit the "moral turpitude" category. Georgia, by contrast, bars those convicted of moral turpitude from voting but promulgates no list of crimes fitting that definition. A.C.L.U. officials say that results in a "blanket" policy of disenfranchisement.

Across the nation, about 5.3 million people cannot vote because of their convictions, according to a 2004 estimate by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit research group supporting more liberal sentencing and voting policies. Voting rights groups are especially watchful this year because under a 2002 federal law, states are now coordinating lists to find felons and people who have died or moved, allowing easy -- rights groups say too easy -- purging of voters.

Thanks to Matt Welch, Reason Hit and run

Then arrested and held in jail for 26 hours for "resisting arrest". As the cyclist's lawyer said, "the video speaks for itself.

thanks to jgodsey

35 Years in Solitary Confinement

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Three Black Panther party members finally let out of isolation at Angola prison, Louisiana, where each had been held since the early 70s.

New American media reports

The only thing that's different about the barbaric treatment of Robert King Wilkerson, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox from that of thousands of other American prisoners is that they had the dubious distinction of being held in solitary confinement longer than any other known prisoners in American prison history. The three men were held in isolation for more than three decades in the Angola, Louisiana prison.

The ludicrously long solitary confinement of the three former Black Panthers, known as the Angola 3, sparked international rage, was condemned by Amnesty International, prompted a congressional visit, and resulted in civil suits and endless court appeals. The three prisoners were convicted in the 1972 slaying of an Angola prison guard.

There was no physical evidence linking them to the murder. They were convicted on the testimony of a serial sex offender serving a life sentence. Despite information that prison officials withheld evidence from jurors, relied on tainted testimony, and the subsequent recanting of their testimony against the men by prosecution witnesses, the three face yet another round of court fights.

Since the early 1990s, thousands of prisoners have been locked up in tiny cells for days, weeks, months and even years on end. They are kept in the cells for up to 23 hours, with limited visiting and exercise privileges. The trend toward dumping problem inmates in solitary confinement has become standard penal procedure in many prisons. In fact, the penchant for isolating prisoners has sparked a mini-boom in the building of isolation cell prisons, where hundreds of inmates serve virtually their entire sentence in solitary confinement.

Thanks to Progressive Review Freedom Beat

In an Illinois inquisition dating back at least 25 years the People's Law office in Chicago is documenting dozens of cases of prisoners in prison for decades on the basis of confessions coerced under torture.

Alternet reports

Michael Tillman was 20, with a 3-year-old daughter and an infant son, when he was brought into the Area 2 police station on Chicago's South Side for questioning. His mother, Jean Tillman, says that although he had gotten into some trouble with the law as a youngster, he had been on the straight-and-narrow, working as a janitor and paying his bills, since he and his girlfriend had their first child. That was July 22, 1986.

He hasn't been home since.

Tillman is one of at least 24 African-American men that the People's Law Office in Chicago claims are still serving sentences for crimes they say they confessed to only after enduring hours of torture at the hands of Chicago police officers under Commander Jon Burge between 1972 and 1992. Although 10 of Burge's victims have been pardoned or given new trials after their illegally obtained confessions were exposed, the vast majority of the 100-plus cases have yet to be reviewed by the state of Illinois. Those men have either served out their sentences, died in custody or, like Tillman, continue to live their lives behind bars, hoping that one day they will have a fair trial.

According to Tillman's 1986 trial testimony, when he arrived at the Area 2 police station in the predawn hours of July 21, 1986, Detectives Ronald Boffo and Peter Dignan took him to a second-floor interrogation room and pressed him for information about the murder of 42-year-old Betty Howard, whose body was found the day prior in the apartment building Tillman oversaw. When he told the detectives that he knew nothing about the murder, he says that Boffo and Dignan, along with three other officers, became abusive. Without ever reading him his Miranda rights, he says they handcuffed him to the wall, hit him in the face and punched him in the stomach until he vomited blood. During the course of what appeared to be three days, rotating pairs of officers brought him to the railroad tracks behind the station and held a gun to his head, suffocated him repeatedly with thick plastic bags, poured soda up his nose and forced him into Dumpsters outside of the apartment building, ordering him to search through the rubbish for a murder weapon until, according to Detective John Yucaitis, Tillman confessed to the crime.

According to Tillman's mother, she, her husband and an attorney they called for counsel were all denied access to her son during his three days of interrogation.

Thanks to the Agitator
 The Arenec County Town Crier", an anonymously published local newsletter, has gone out six times a year for many years to about a thousand homes, ranting against and lampooning local officials, but never endorsing a particular candidate. Yet county politicians, abetted by sheriff and local prosecutors, are attempting to shut down the little publication for violating election laws prohibiting anonymous distribution of campaign literature and "malicious information about candidates", threatening misdemeanor charges which involve fines and possibly jail.

MLive.com reports

An underground newsletter that routinely criticizes elected officials in Arenac County is under scrutiny for potential election law violations.

As Michigan's election season heats up, local candidates are stepping forward to say they're fed up with political attacks printed in the "Arenac County Town Crier."

The Town Crier, written and mailed anonymously, goes to a few hundred, perhaps even 1,000 Arenac County homes about six times yearly, local authorities estimate. The newsletter is known for assailing officials for their perceived incompetence as well as moral and even legal derelictions.

This week, a criminal complaint against the Town Crier is headed for the Secretary of State's investigative arm, according to Arenac Sheriff Ronald Bouldin. The complaint alleges that the newsletter violates state election law precisely because its authors are anonymous.

State election law requires that anyone who prints or circulates false or malicious information about a candidate for public office must identify himself, Bouldin said.

The sheriff won't investigate the complaint himself, he added, because he's often targeted by the Crier.

"I can't look into it because I'm party to it," said Bouldin, who is running for re-election. "I want the investigation impartial, not political."

So Bouldin forwarded the complaint to the Michigan's election authorities, the Secretary of State in Lansing. As of Wednesday, the office hadn't received the Town Crier complaint, but a spokesman said another had arrived.

Bouldin's wife, Donna Bouldin, submitted a complaint against a Web site titled "sheriffbouldinmustgo.com," the department spokesman said.

The latter complaint, like that against the Town Crier, alleges that the enterprise is illegal because its sponsors go unnamed. Secretary of State investigators, meanwhile, will review the evidence to decide whether an inquiry is warranted, the spokesman said.

Bouldin is hardly alone in believing the Crier complaint to be founded. Arenac Clerk Rick Rockwell, the county's head election official, agrees that the newsletter oversteps state law.

"My opinion, and I'm sure I'll be disputed in the next Town Crier, is that the newsletter violates election laws," Rockwell said.

But not all agree. Arenac's police officers' union, for example, long a Bouldin critic, contends that neither the Crier nor the anti-Bouldin Web site are illegal.

"I think Arenac County residents are exercising their First Amendment rights," said Dan Kuhn, Police Officers Association of Michigan vice-president and agent for Arenac County.

"They're not saying vote for or don't vote for someone. They're criticizing elected officials who opened themselves up to criticism. I think they have that right. This is America."

But a growing number of political candidates who've endured Town Crier lampooning think it's their rights that have been abridged.

Arenac County Commissioner Joseph Sancimino, for example, complained in June to Michigan's Democratic Party head. His June 11 letter calls the Town Crier "disgusting trash" that degrades and slanders with false information.

Adams and Au Gres Township supervisors, too, Hubert Fisk and Don Pawlaczyk respectively, filed written complaints against the Crier with the county clerk, also in June.

"It needs to be taken care of," Pawlaczyk said Wednesday. "This kind of misinformation hurts people, especially now, right in the middle of an election cycle.

"The newsletter is so deceptive, it's hard for a politician to even address it," he added.

Pawlaczyk and others who have suffered the Crier's wrath are offering a reward. At least some alleged victims have pooled a $1,000 cash reward "for the first person who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of conspirators" behind the underground Town Crier, Pawlaczyk said.

Election law violators, for their part, face a misdemeanor charge carrying a maximum $1,000 fine and 93 days in jail.

"In my mind, it's political advertising," Bouldin said of both the Crier and Web site. "My interpretation of the law is that you have to sign political ads."

On Oct. 26 of last year, a 22-year-old Afghani journalist named Jawed Ahmad, working for Canadian Television, was arrested in his own country by the U.S. military. He was called to the Kandahar Airport, purportedly by a Canadian Television colleague (none reported contacting him that day), and promptly detained by American forces. He has been held without charges or trial for the past eight months in the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base, just north of Kabul. He is one of 12 journalists detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, according the Paris-based press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders.

SF Gate reports

It is becoming less unusual to hear of American journalists abroad who are detained, kidnapped or even killed in the line of duty. But for local journalists across Africa, Asia and the Mideast, kidnapping, detentions and threats to their families are disturbingly familiar.

Journalists from these places assume a target on their backs the moment they pick up a pen, and conduct their work dodging the scopes of local mafias, corrupt officials - and now, the U.S. government.

On Oct. 26 of last year, a 22-year-old Afghani journalist named Jawed Ahmad, working for Canadian Television, was arrested in his own country by the U.S. military. He was called to the Kandahar Airport, purportedly by a Canadian Television colleague (none reported contacting him that day), and promptly detained by American forces.

He has been held without charges or trial for the past eight months in the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base, just north of Kabul. He is one of 12 journalists detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, according the Paris-based press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders.

The trend is not only potentially disruptive to efforts to promote democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also may be illegal, particularly in the light of a recent Guantanamo ruling that held at least one offshore detention center accountable to the U.S. Constitution.

That's why the Stanford Law School International Human Rights Clinic has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ahmad against the U.S. government. Clinic project leader and attorney Barbara Olshansky said that Ahmad committed no crime, and that his detention is a threat to both the rule of law, and to free speech.

"In the United States, we believe that freedom of the press is an essential component of our democracy, but it appears that under military order, the U.S. government is detaining foreign journalists without basis and without due process," Olshansky said. "That runs afoul of our beliefs and the law. It also interferes with our ability as citizens to get uncensored press reports from combat zones."

The Stanford Human Rights Clinic is petitioning for Ahmad's right to a fair trial.

Olshansky, who has been litigating Guantanamo cases since their inception, said the Bagram detention center is an even "darker, larger black hole than Guantanamo." Prisoners there report torture and beatings, she said.

Jawed Ahmad's brother, Siddique Amhad, fears that the journalist has been mistreated. Following a videoconference arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross in January, Siddique said his brother had lost weight, had a broken tooth and appeared as though he had been beaten.

According to Siddique, Ahmad said the military told him he was detained for having Taliban contacts in his phone.

It is impossible to know for certain why Ahmad is in prison. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing and the U.S. Justice Department is unwilling to comment on the case.

Ahmad and his brother are well-known among journalists, according to colleagues. Carlotta Gall, the Afghanistan and Pakistan bureau chief for the New York Times, has worked alongside Ahmad, and she told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he had nothing more than other journalists by way of contacts with the Taliban.

"Speaking with combatants in an asymmetrical theatre of war is absolutely legitimate," said Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Journalists seek out all sides. I am sure that Canadian Television would have demanded reporting from all sides."

Man on the way to Florida with his wife for their fiftieth anniversary dragged to the "see-through" room when his artificial knee sets off metal detector.

CBS Chicago reports

In Chicago, people like Robert Perry are subjected to exhaustive security checks. He was patted down, his wheel chair was examined and his hands were swabbed, all in public view in a see-through room at the security checkpoint. Perry, 71, is not alone

"It's humiliation," Perry said.

Perry was also taken to a see-through room by a TSA agent when his artificial knee set off the metal detector.

"He yelled at me to get the belt off. 'I told you to get the belt off.' So I took the belt off. He ran his hands down over and pulled the pants down, they went down around my ankle," Perry said.

At that point, Perry was standing in his underwear in public view. He asked to see a supervisor. That made things worse.

"She was yelling 'I have power, I have power, I have power," Perry said. The power to stop him from flying to Florida with his wife that day to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

"It makes you feel like you have no rights," Perry said.

Perry said he always alerts TSA agents about his metal knee and wonders why they can't just check his leg.

"If somebody told me that I would save the people on the airplane by taking my pants off out in public out there, I wouldn't mind doing it, but this was not necessary," Perry said.

TSA officials said that when the metal detectors go off, their agents must resolve what caused the alarm. But experts have said it's important to use common sense when balancing security and customer service.

Carlos Villarreal, former director of security for the Sears Tower, said proper training is crucial. "When you're wanding somebody and you can identify which part of the body set of the alarm, that should be sufficient to clear a person," Villarreal said.

But all too often, it's not enough for 16-year old Michael Angone. She frequently flies as a member of the Chicago Children's Choir.

"I've had to completely take my pants off and show them like my entire leg," Angone said.

As a baby, Angone was diagnosed with cancer. Her parents, both Chicago police officers, had to have her leg amputated. She said she always warns TSA security agents that her prosthetic leg will set off the metal detector, but many insist on doing an embarrassing full body pat-down.

"I feel like I'm being felt up in public," Angone said.

Her father Bob Angone wanted to know, "What's the reason for all the feeling up, you know the groping at the back of the neck, the chest, underneath the bra, all the groping on her body, her buttocks?"

CBS 2 News asked the TSA those questions, but got no answers.

"The key word here is reasonable, and they have gone off the track. They are not reasonable," Bob Angone said.

The TSA declined to comment on the Angone and Perry cases, but the agency has announced that soon, passengers who set off an alarm that cannot be resolved will have a choice: Agree to a physical pat-down or what some believe is an even worse invasion of privacy.

With apparently no time to bother with the city's runaway murder rate (first in the nation) New Orleans district attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson is clogging the city's courts and jails with non-violent offenders,mostly small-time marijuana users, often with possession of under a gram.

Orleans City business reports

This is the second story in a three-part series on how police and prosecutors are spending

public resources seeking lengthy sentences for non-violent, low-level crimes.

Shortly after Keva Landrum-Johnson took over as district attorney following Eddie Jordan's resignation Oct. 30, hundreds of new felony cases flooded the public defenders office, overwhelming the 29 defense attorneys.

After New Orleans regained its title as the nation's murder capital, the public demanded its city leaders crack down on violent crime. By filing hundreds of new felony cases each month, it appeared as if the new DA heeded their call.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case, said Steve Singer, chief of trials for the Orleans Public Defenders Office.

The flood of new felony charges didn't target murderers, rapists or armed robbers -- they targeted small-time marijuana users, sometimes caught with less than a gram of pot, and threatened them with lengthy prison sentences.

The resulting impact has clogged the courts with non-violent, petty offenses, drained the resources of the criminal justice system and damaged low-income African-American communities, Singer said.

"We hardly have enough lawyers to handle the serious, violent cases, and now we're jamming up the entire system with marijuana cases," Singer said. "We never used to see this happen, then all of a sudden every second and third marijuana offense starts coming in as a felony."

Change in tactics

Landrum-Johnson's decision to accept felony charges on people arrested for second and third marijuana possession offenses is a dramatic break from the tactics of former DAs Jordan and Harry Connick.

Thanks to Stop the Drug War

Winnfield, La. police report claims 21 year old dead man Scooter Pikes was an asthmatic, high on PCP and crack (except autopsy showed he had no drugs in his system). Police report also claims Pikes resisted arrest, except the police report itself said Pikes was handcuffed on the ground and multiple witnesses at the grocery store reported that Pikes said repeatedly ""Please, you all got me. Please don't Tase me again " as he was being executed.

The Chicago Tribune reports.

 At 1:28 p.m. last Jan. 17, Baron "Scooter" Pikes was a healthy 21-year-old man. By 2:07 p.m., he was dead.

What happened in the 39 minutes in between--during which Pikes was handcuffed by local police and shocked nine times with a Taser device, while reportedly pleading for mercy--is now spawning fears of a political cover-up in this backwoods Louisiana lumber town infamous for backroom dealings.

Even more ominously, because Pikes was black and the officer who repeatedly Tasered him is white, racial tensions over the case are mounting in a place that's just 40 miles from Jena, La. Jena is the site of the racially explosive prosecution of six black teenagers charged with beating a white youth that last year triggered one of the largest American civil rights demonstrations in decades. And in a bizarre coincidence, Pikes turns out to have been a first cousin of Mychal Bell, the lead defendant in the Jena 6 case.

No novelist could have invented Winnfield, a place so steeped in corruption that they built a local museum to try to sanitize it all...

Here in the birthplace of two of Louisiana's most colorful and notorious governors--Huey and Earl Long--the police chief committed suicide three years ago after losing a close election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-buying.

Just four months later, the district attorney killed himself after allegedly skimming $200,000 from his office budget and extorting payments from criminal defendants to make their cases go away.

The current police chief is a convicted drug offender who got a pardon from Edwin Edwards, the former Louisiana governor who is serving time in federal prison for corruption convictions.

All of that tangled history is now wrapped up in the Pikes case, because Scott Nugent, the officer who Tasered him, is the well-connected son of the former police chief who killed himself--and the protégé of the current chief, who hired him onto the force.

"A lot happens in this town and it just gets swept under the rug," said Kayshon Collins, Pikes' stepmother, who has participated in several local protests over the case. "What the police did to Scooter just isn't right. They would never have Tasered a white kid like that." The official police version of what happened to Pikes on that brisk January afternoon reads like a sad but familiar story in Winnfield's local newspaper.

Nugent spotted Pikes walking along the street and attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for drug possession, according to Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter. Pikes took off running, but another officer cornered him outside a nearby grocery store. Pikes resisted arrest and Nugent subdued him with a shock from a Taser.

Then on the way to the police station, Carpenter related to the newspaper, Pikes fell ill and told the officers he suffered from asthma and was high on crack cocaine and PCP. The officers called for an ambulance, but Pikes later died at the hospital.

Six months later, the Winnfield police are standing by that story. Meanwhile, the Louisiana State Police are investigating the case, and no charges have been filed against Nugent or two other Winnfield police officers who assisted him in arresting Pikes, although the City Council did decide to fire Nugent from the force in May.

Winn Parish District Atty. Chris Nevils says he expects to present the case to a grand jury after he receives the results of the state police investigation.

But there is already abundant evidence contradicting the official police version of the incident.

An autopsy determined there were no drugs in Pikes' system and that he did not have asthma, according to Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner.

Moreover, Pikes did not resist arrest, and he was handcuffed while lying on the ground, according to Nugent's police report of the incident. It was only after Pikes refused Nugent's command to stand up that the officer applied the first Taser shock in the middle of his back, Nugent wrote.

Several more Taser shocks followed quickly, Nugent stated, because Pikes kept falling down and refusing to get back up. Grocery shoppers who witnessed the incident later told Pikes' family that he had pleaded with Nugent: "Please, you all got me. Please don't Tase me again."

Thanks to Alternet

Attorney General Michael Mukaskey, titular head of the Department of Justice, seeks to  bar federal courts from allowing Guantanamo detainees to be brought to the US for trials and to block court access to intelligence gathered and used to detain the suspects.

Raw Story reports

A top Democratic senator is accusing the Attorney General of trying "to create an election-year security issue where there isn't one."

Congress, and not judges, should decide how to give Guantanamo Bay detainees their day in court, the attorney general said Monday in calling for new laws governing how foreign terror suspects seek their release.

It's doubtful, however, that Congress will approve the legal measures Attorney General Michael Mukasey wants before the end of the election-season year.

A federal court in Washington is currently working on rules for judicial hearings for about 200 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban foot soldiers who charge they're being illegally held at the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. A Supreme Court ruling last month gave the detainees the right to challenge their capture in U.S. civilian courts.

"With so many cases, there is a serious risk of inconsistent rulings and considerable uncertainty," Mukasey, himself a former federal judge, told an audience at Washington think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

Left to the courts to decide, Mukasey said, many of the cases could wind up in appeals that would further delay the hearings. "It hardly takes a pessimist to expect that, without guidance from the Congress, different judges on even the same court will disagree," he said.

Critics immediately called Mukasey's request an attempt to go around the Supreme Court with legislation that also would face lengthy legal challenges. The court's June 12 ruling said Congress' earlier efforts to intervene in detainee cases were unconstitutional.

"What Mukasey is doing is a shocking attempt to drag us into years of further legal challenges and delays," said Vincent Warren, executive director for the Center for Constitutional Rights. The group has helped find lawyers to represent the detainees.

"Congress should be a part of the solution this time by letting the courts do their job," Warren said.

In a statement sent to RAW STORY, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) complains that "The Attorney General's comments today appeared to be an attempt to create an election-year security issue where there isn't one."

"Our federal courts are capable of handling these cases, and no dangerous detainees held at Guantanamo will be released anytime soon," Feingold's statement continued. "By repeatedly mishandling these cases, the administration has delayed justice from being served. If congressional action is needed to clean up the mess the administration created at Guantanamo, it should be taken alongside a new administration that doesn't have such contempt for the rule of law."

Mukasey said Justice Department attorneys are hopeful and available to help Congress craft legislation. He said lawmakers should feel spurred, and not delayed, by the election year to pass the laws. Judges have said they want to set rules governing the detainees' hearings by year's end.

Among the rules Mukasey is seeking:

-Barring federal courts from allowing the detainees to be brought or released into the United States. He said detainees could participate in the court hearings by video link from Guantanamo if necessary. "Many of them pose an extraordinary threat to Americans," he said.

-Protecting counterterror intelligence gathered and used to detain the suspects from being turned over to courts.

-Prohibiting detainees charged with war crimes from challenging their capture until after they stand trial. Additionally, detainees should not be allowed to appeal their imprisonment under more than one legal standard.

-Assigning one federal court, and one judge, to oversee the detainee release cases to make sure they are heard in a coordinated effort.

-Underscoring that the United States has the authority to detain suspects it has identified as enemy combatants. "The United States has every right to capture and detain enemy combatants in this conflict, and need not simply release them to return to the battlefield - as indeed some of them have," Mukasey said.

Music giant declares that whether uploaded videos on video sharing sites are protected by the "fair use" doctrine is irrelevant to their power to issue takedown notices for copyright infringement.

Wired Threat Level reports

Universal Music told a federal judge here Friday that takedown notices requiring online video-sharing sites to automatically remove content need not consider whether videos are protected by the "fair use" doctrine.

The doctrine permits limited use of copyright materials without the owner's permission.

The music company made the argument Friday as part of a lawsuit brought by a Pennsylvania woman whose 29-second video of her toddler dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" was removed last year after Universal sent YouTube a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The act requires the automatic removal of material a rights holder claims is infringing its copyrights. If it isn't removed, legal liability can be placed on YouTube or other video-sharing sites. But the act also allows the uploader -- in this case, the Pennsylvania mother of the dancing toddler -- to demand the video return online.

Universal did not challenge Stephanie Lenz's assertion that the video was a "fair use" of Prince's song. After being taken down for six weeks, the video went back online last year, having now generated about half a million hits.

The courthouse dispute on Friday centered on a rarely used clause in the DMCA -- originally approved by Congress in 1998 -- allowing victims of meritless takedown notices to seek damages in a bid to deter such notices and breaches of First Amendment speech.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the woman's law firm, asked U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel on Friday to award attorneys' fees and other unspecified monetary damages under Section 512 of the DMCA.

In what Fogel said was a "case of first impression," Universal attorney Kelly Klaus said Universal or other copyright holders are not liable for damages when somebody asserts fair use to reverse a takedown notice.

Klaus and the judge agreed that damages have been awarded when a sender of a takedown notice falsely represents copyright ownership. But in this case, Universal owns the rights to Prince's song.

"Are you saying there cannot be a misuse of a takedown notice if the material is copyrighted?" Fogel asked Klaus.

"I don't think 'fair use' qualifies," Klaus answered.

That's what Charles C. Lynch former Managing Caregiver for the City Sanctioned Dispensary in Morro Bay California is facing on federal charges as he trial begins this Tuesday July 22nd.

The Friends of Charles C. Lynch report

Charles C. Lynch is the former Managing Caregiver for the City Sanctioned Dispensary in Morro Bay California. The Dispensary opened in April 2006 and operated without incident until it was raided by the DEA and the local Sheriff's Department on March 29, 2007. Lynch was not arrested during the raid. Upon return to the dispensary Lynch and his employees found a message from Law Enforcement saying 'All Hippies Die'.

The Dispensary later reopened after the City reissued Lynch's business license, but was once again shutdown after the landlord received notice of possible foreclosure by the Federal Government if the Dispensary was allowed to continue operations. The Dispensary permanently closed in May of 2007.

Lynch was later arrested on July 17, 2007 and taken to the Federal Detention Center in Los Angeles where he spent 4 days and 3 nights in Federal custody. His loving and trusting family posted $400,000 bond to free him on July 20 2007. Lynch was arraigned on August 6th 2007 and pleaded Not Guilty to Federal marijuana charges. Lynch is currently out on bail wating for trial at his home in Arroyo Grande, California.

July 20, 2007 Charles Lynch was released from Federal Detention after his family posted a $400,000 bail. He was placed under house arrest and could only leave the house during 1-5pm Monday through Friday. He was also required to wear an Electronic Monitoring System and spend two hours a day charging the bracelet. Also he was subject to surprise house searches and intensive drug testing by the Federal Pre Trial Services Department.

On December 12, 2007 Charles Lynch was placed on House Detention where he was allowed to leave the house between the hours of 6am and 10pm.  He was still required to wear the Electronic Monitoring System and to spend two hours a day charging the bracelet. Also he was still subject to surprise house searches and intensive drug testing by Pre Trial Services.

On April 29, 2008 after 9 months and 10 days the House Arrest and House Detention of Charles Lynch was ended.  He is still subject to surprise home searches and intensive drug testing where he has to call in everyday to see if he is required to report to drug testing the next day. Also he must report to Pre Trial Services twice a month in LA and call twice a week.

On June 11, 2008 www.reason.tv aired a documentary on Lynch's case. The documentary is narrated by Drew Carey and features one of Lynch's patients, Owen Beck. Owen was seventeen when he and his parent's came to Lynch's dispensary for services. One of Lynch's conditions for his business license from the City of Morro Bay stated that no one under 18 years of age is allowed in the dispensary unless accompanied by a parent. Owen was 17 when he visited Lynch's dispensary and suffered the amputation of his leg due to cancer. Under federal Law anybody under 21 is considered a minor. The government has charged Lynch with Distributing Marijuana to minors for cases similar to Owen's.

Charles Lynch's Trial is set for July 22, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA.  Click here for directions to the Federal Court House. Supporters are encouraged to attend the trial.

Thanks to Reason hit and run

To view the Drew Carey documentary on this case click here

Figuratively twisting the arm of the first amendment Judge pressures Washington Times investigative reporter Bill Gertz by ordering him to court to "justify" the "newsworthiness" of his confidential sources or face contempt of court charges.

The NY Sun reports

A federal judge in California who has ordered a prominent reporter to divulge his confidential sources for an article about a spying investigation is now planning unusual and potentially open-ended questioning of the journalist's reporting techniques, prompting concern from First Amendment advocates.

In May, Judge Cormac Carney, who sits in Orange County, ordered a national security reporter for the Washington Times, William Gertz, to appear in court and identify his sources for an article about planned charges in a case involving suspected espionage on behalf of China. The judge said the articles appeared to disclose secret grand jury information.

Lawyers for Mr. Gertz moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that no protected grand jury information was disclosed and that forcing the reporter to give up his sources could interfere with his ability to gather news. In response, Judge Carney said he plans to go forward with the hearing next week and wants to hear directly from the journalist about why confidential sources are essential to his reporting.

"The Court gathers from Mr. Gertz's brief in support of his motion to quash that he may be unwilling to disclose the identity of the source(s)," the judge wrote in an order filed Monday. "Regardless of whether Mr. Gertz discloses his sources, the Court expects that Mr. Gertz will be prepared to testify regarding the newsworthiness of this case and, more particularly, the reasons why maintaining the confidentiality of his sources is critical to his ability to engage in investigative reporting."

A lawyer for Mr. Gertz, Charles Leeper, said the reporter would appear at next week's hearing. The attorney said he was not concerned that the judge's inquiry would become a free-ranging exploration of the techniques employed by Mr. Gertz, a journalist who has made a specialty of obtaining and publishing classified information. "I can't imagine the judge has that in mind," Mr. Leeper said.

Other advocates for journalists were less sanguine. "It is very, very troubling," the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Lucy Dalglish, said. She said journalists often submit affidavits about their work, but are rarely subjected to live questioning by a judge about amorphous concepts such as newsworthiness.

Legal storefront housing a collective and outreach group for medical-marijuana patients ransacked by cops. Though finding no evidence of any violations of state law  and making no arrests they proceeded to seize 12 ounces of marijuana buds and a large container of the less-potent leaf called "shake," along with over 500 confidential patient files containing people's medical records and medical-marijuana prescriptions. The next day, after loud public complaints they "return" the files, presumably without keeping copies.

The Seattle Times reports

Seattle police returned hundreds of patient files and a computer hard drive to Martin Martinez Thursday evening, two days after they raided his University District storefront where he runs a collective and outreach group for medical-marijuana patients.

Prosecutors have told Martinez he won't face any charges and the investigation is now closed.

"Nothing is going to happen. It's done," said Douglas Hiatt, Martinez's lawyer, who went to the Seattle Police Department Thursday to pick up the files and other belongings.

But police have so far refused to return about 12 ounces of marijuana and two bongs seized during Tuesday's bust, Hiatt said.

According to Hiatt, a police-department attorney has promised that the drugs and water pipes won't be destroyed until Hiatt can raise the issue with King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg or take the matter to court.

"It's really the principle -- if you have the legal right to have something, the police shouldn't be able to take it away from you and not give it back," Hiatt said.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for Satterberg, confirmed the files' return and that Martinez would not face criminal charges but referred questions about the seized marijuana to Seattle police, who couldn't be reached Thursday.

In a written statement, Satterberg said police "acted appropriately" and were right to seize items from Martinez because "they reasonably believed that they showed an effort to distribute marijuana in violation of state law."

But the statement also acknowledges that Martinez, who suffered severe neurological damage in a motorcycle accident in 1986, "is authorized to possess marijuana for medical purposes," and that the amount of pot seized by police was arguably within the 60-day supply limit the state medical-marijuana law provides.

Seattle police searched Martinez's office on Northeast 50th Street after neighbors complained of a strong odor of pot in the building. After obtaining a search warrant, they carted off the pot and the files, which included detailed medical histories and medical-marijuana prescriptions. They also broke down part of a wall in search of marijuana plants. They didn't find any.

Documents obtained in suit show state police's Homeland Security and Intelligence Division sent out an extensive network of covert operatives to infiltrate and monitor meetings, email discussions, forums and rallies, entering peace activists names into database for drug traffickers and terrorists.

Baltimore Sun reports:
Undercover Maryland State Police officers repeatedly spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in recent years and entered the names of some in a law-enforcement database of people thought to be terrorists or drug traffickers, newly released documents show.

The files, made public yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, depict a pattern of infiltration of the activists' organizations in 2005 and 2006. The activists contend that the authorities were trying to determine whether they posed a security threat to the United States. But none of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs - some with agents' names and whole paragraphs blacked out - mention criminal or even potentially criminal acts, the legal standard for initiating such surveillance.

State police officials said they did not curtail the protesters' freedoms.

The spying, detailed in logs of at least 288 hours of surveillance over a 14-month period, recalls similar infiltration by FBI agents of civil rights and anti-war groups decades ago, particularly under the administration of President Richard M. Nixon....

The state police's Homeland Security and Intelligence Division sent covert agents to infiltrate the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Using a fake e-mail address and an alias, an undercover agent joined the e-mail list of the death penalty group, the documents say. Agents also monitored the group's organizational meetings, public forums and events in churches, as well as rallies on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis and in Baltimore outside the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, known as "SuperMax."

Most of the spies' reports were innocuous. After an Aug. 24, 2005, gathering of the Evans group, an undercover officer wrote in a log: "The meeting concluded with members talking about trying to get the man running for Baltimore County State's Attorney to commit to his plans regarding the death penalty in the county."

Baltimore County was responsible for more capital punishment cases than any other Maryland jurisdiction at the time.

Another entry about the Evans group revealed that agents had spent 50 hours of "investigative time" shadowing its members in March, April and May 2005. The entry mentioned that a May 25, 2005, meeting of the group was attended by Max Obuszewski, a former Peace Corps member and longtime activist who moved to Baltimore in 1983, and Terry Fitzgerald, who heads the anti-death penalty coalition and established the Evans group.

Both attended yesterday's news conference.

State police appeared to have been specifically tracking Obuszewski's activities. His name, the documents show, was entered into the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area database, even though there was "not a scintilla of evidence" that he deserved to be listed, said Rocah, the ACLU attorney.

"Mr. Obuszewski has devoted his entire life to peace," Rocah said. "If there is anyone in the world who is further from a terrorist, it is hard for me to imagine."

Obuszewski agreed. "You cannot get more insulting than to call me a terrorist," he said. Besides, he went on, the groups he belongs to hold open meetings and publicize their schedules. "Why would someone come to those meetings and pretend to be someone else? Why are government agencies targeting pacifists?"

One reason, he theorized, is that local police agencies need funds from the federal government, and surveillance of supposed "terrorists" might be a good way to keep getting the money. No matter the reason, the news that the Bush administration keeps about 1 million names on a terrorist watch-list is disheartening, Obuszewski said, since so many people cannot possibly warrant inclusion.

In February 2006, the national ACLU and its affiliates filed multiple federal Freedom of Information requests seeking records of Pentagon surveillance of anti-war groups around the country. Using information from a secret Pentagon database, NBC News reported that a unit of the Department of Defense had been accumulating intelligence about domestic organizations and their protest activities as part of a mission to track "potential terrorist threats."

Minneapolis judge's ruling will keep protesters well out of sight and mind of Xcel Center Republican conventioneers and the media.

Reporters committee for Freedom of the Press reports

A federal judge in Minnesota yesterday rejected protesters' requests to get closer than 84 feet from the Republic National Convention, as currently allowed under a St. Paul city protest permit.

As The Associated Press reported, Judge Joan Erickson wrote that the request for closer proximity, from the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, created security hazards.

The coalition estimates that 30,000 to 50,000 participants wanted to get closer to the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention will take place, and parade from the Capitol later in the day when delegates will be there to notice.

But the city protest permit keeps them at least 84 feet away from Xcel's entrances and orders them to clear the area by mid-afternoon, according to The AP.

Under First Amendment case law, the government may regulate expression only in a content-neutral, narrowly tailored way. Such restrictions must serve a significant state interest and leave open alternative channels of communication. 

The RNC protest policy met these requirements, Erickson wrote in the opinion.

The coalition's attorney, Teresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The AP the coalition has not yet decided whether it will appeal Erickson's decision.

Nelson said the ruling weakens the First Amendment and may discourage protesters from attending the march.

City officials claim current practices offer "unprecedented access" to protesters and say the 84-foot rule balances protesters' rights with those of the delegates, The AP said.

Protestors face similar roadblocks in attempts to be heard at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, set to begin on Aug.25. Current plans for the DNC will keep protesters nearly the length of three football fields away from entrances to the Pepsi Center.

ACLU attorneys will challenge the DNC policy at trial on July 29.  

Blind Woman Tased by Dayton Police

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WHIO-TV Dayon reports

Dayton police said they went to an apartment building on Fernwood Avenue looking for a robbery suspect and ended up tazing the man's mother who is legally blind.The incident happened on Fernwood Avenue Thursday.Police said 49-year-old Denise Harris refused to talk with them and became combative, striking out at an officer. According to officers, when they tried to arrest her, she resisted and they tased her.Neighors said the officers used unnecessary force on the blind woman, who is also suffering from diabetes and cancer.Sgt. Charles Anderson said Harris will be charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, but the incident is under investigation.Harris was taken to the hospital by an ambulance to be checked out.
Irving, Texas police cuff and jail drivers for not being able to produce current insurance card or having out of date local address on license.

WFAA-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth reports:

Those driving down the road without an insurance card of driver's license with a correct address may find themselves in jail if they get pulled over by Irving police.

In fact, it happened to two women who were pulled over by the same two Irving cops last weekend. Both women said their traffic stops turned into a nightmare.

Mikki Stokes, of Irving, said she was headed to the store for some sour cream when she was stopped by two Irving police officers.

She was initially stopped for not making a complete stop when exiting the parking lot. Stokes second offense was that her current address was not on her Texas driver's license. However, she said she never dreamed that those two minor offenses would result in her being cuffed and stuffed into the backend of a squad car.

"And I was like, 'Is this something that someone with no criminal record would get arrested for, that's never been in trouble for anything [and] that's not a persistent offender?" she said. "I've never been in trouble before. Why are you arresting me for this? And they were like, 'We can arrest you for anything.'"

Two hours later it was Leanna Onstott, of Fort Worth, who became the next target of the same two officers.

"And he said, 'You are under arrest,'" she said of when she was pulled over without have proper proof of insurance in her car. "And he turned me around and put handcuffs on me and I was just like, 'Is this really happening? I mean, can they do this?'"

Onstott was originally pulled over for creeping her car past the pedestrian crossing line.

Neither woman had outstanding warrants or had ever been to jail. Yet, Stokes said she spent two hours behind bars. Onstott said she spent five hours in jail before posting a $600 bond. However, none of that was what Onstott said was the worst part of her arrest.

"They asked me to take off my clothes," she said.

Onstott was then forced to put on jail clothes.

Both women have filed internal affairs complaints against the two Irving officers Daniels and McPherson. While Irving police officials said their concerns are being taken seriously and will be thoroughly investigated, they also said the officers were within their rights to make the arrests.

Department of Homeland Security appears to be seriously weighing using "immobilizing" GPS bracelet that works like a stun gun when activated on all flyers.

The Washington Times reports

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal, Inc. website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers (video also shown below).

This bracelet would:

• Take the place of an airline boarding pass

• Contain personal information about the traveler

• Be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

• Shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes
The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it's referred to, would be worn by every traveler "until they disembark the flight at their destination."  Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if the passenger got out of line.

Thanks to Fourth Amendment blog
The Dept.of Justice's "Office of Professional Responsibility", whose mission is to monitor the conduct of the Department's actions and investigations to provide public oversight, still exists. But it's stopped issuing public reports.

The LA Times reports

Justice Department lawyers and investigators have come under more scrutiny after the Sept. 11 attacks than at perhaps any time since Watergate. Questions have been raised about the administration's strategies for going after terrorism suspects and about whether politics was allowed to taint the department's core mission to provide equal justice under the law.

But the internal unit that polices the lawyers' conduct has been operating under a growing shroud of secrecy, shutting down what were once regular, public disclosures about its activities.
The Office of Professional Responsibility historically has attracted little attention because of its focus on the department's everyday civil and criminal matters. Now, however, it is taking on some of the weightiest issues in government -- examining the role Justice's lawyers played in formulating administration interrogation policies for suspected terrorists and in endorsing a National Security Agency program of warrantless electronic surveillance.

It has been thrown the task of deciding whether department lawyers engaged in selective prosecution of Democratic political figures. It also is looking into lawyers' involvement in a decision four years ago to deport a Canadian citizen to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured. That case has emerged as one of the most infamous examples of a policy known as rendition, in which suspected terrorists are transferred to other nations for interrogation.

The OPR has broad power to recommend disciplinary action, including dismissal, if it finds that any of the Justice Department's 10,000 lawyers have violated ethics rules or other regulations. But officials have declined to say whether even one government lawyer has been found to have engaged in professional misconduct in connection with the war on terrorism -- despite often fierce criticism from civil liberties groups, defense lawyers and judges.

The ethics watchdog has exonerated department lawyers in at least two high-profile terrorism-related investigations.

According to a redacted copy of a confidential OPR report obtained by The Times, the office found that department lawyers had not engaged in misconduct in connection with the controversial practice of using special warrants to round up and incarcerate men after Sept. 11 who were considered witnesses to crimes. Human rights groups said the technique was a way to illegally detain, sometimes for months, dozens of Muslims whom the government suspected but could not prove were engaged in criminal activity.

The report, issued more than a year ago, concluded: "Department of Justice attorneys involved did not misuse the material witness statute, and thus did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment."

The OPR also exonerated department lawyers in connection with the case of Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim attorney in Portland, Ore., who was detained when the FBI erroneously linked his fingerprints to detonators involved in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. In 2006, the government apologized and paid Mayfield a $2-million settlement. The OPR action was made public by the Justice Department without elaboration.

But the resolution of most matters investigated by the OPR remains closely guarded, even in cases where courts have found evidence of serious prosecutorial misconduct.
Thanks to Alternet

Toddlers who turn their noses up at spicy food marked for racist attitudes by government sponsored UK agency. Tell Tale signs: children of as young as three who say "yuk" in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

London Telegraph reports:

The National Children's Bureau, which receives £12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says "yuk" in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

The guidance by the NCB is designed to draw attention to potentially-racist attitudes in youngsters from a young age.

t alerts playgroup leaders that even babies can not be ignored in the drive to root out prejudice as they can "recognise different people in their lives".

The 366-page guide for staff in charge of pre-school children, called Young Children and Racial Justice, warns: "Racist incidents among children in early years settings tend to be around name-calling, casual thoughtless comments and peer group relationships."

Thanks to j godsey

Under new state law possession of BB pellet gun merits automatic 3 year sentence

Central Jersey.com reports

Caught speeding in Highland Park in April in his father's Acura RSX, Ryan Narciso found out the hard way about a recent change in a New Jersey gun law that could send him to prison for three years.

The 20-year-old sales clerk at a shop at Menlo Park Mall and former Middlesex County College student had a pellet handgun in the car, according to an indictment filed last week in Superior Court, New Brunswick.

The gun, a Gamo P-23, was sitting under the rear window of the 2004 coupe. Looking like a larger-caliber handgun, the firearm drew a quick response from the bicycle-patrol officer who stopped Narciso for doing 40 mph in a 25-mph zone. With gun drawn, the officer arrested him.

Narciso's father, an architect, bought the pellet gun at a garage sale a few years ago to fend off squirrels that made their way into the attic of the families home on Mount Pleasant Avenue in Edison, the father and Narciso's lawyer, Amilcar Perez of Perth Amboy, said.

Under a new state law, Narciso's possession of the weapon qualifies as a Graves Act offense. Narciso could face what prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys call a "hard three," meaning three years with no prospect of parole.

But a state official Wednesday acknowledged that the draconian measure made its way into law by mistake.

City that Houses the Liberty Bell Makes Giving Tours of the Historic District Illegal Without Government Permission.

North Country Gazette reports:

May the city of Philadelphia subject tour guides to hundreds of dollars in fines for engaging in unauthorized talking?


This is the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) seeks to answer in a federal lawsuit filed July 2, two days before Philadelphia celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 


The suit is brought on behalf of three Philadelphia tour guides--Mike Tait, Josh Silver and Ann Boulais--seeking to overturn a law enacted in April that will make it illegal for anyone like them to give a tour of much of the city's downtown area without first passing a test and obtaining a government license--without, in essence, getting the government's permission to speak.  Effective in October, unlicensed tour guides can face fines of up to $300 per violation and have their businesses shut down.


"The government cannot be in the business of deciding who may speak and who may not," said Robert McNamara, a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm with a history of defending free speech and the rights of entrepreneurs.  "The Constitution protects your right to communicate for a living, whether you are a journalist, a musician or a tour guide.  It makes no more sense to let city officials decide who is allowed to talk about history than it would to let them decide who is allowed to talk about sports."


The new law makes it illegal to give a tour for compensation of the city's main tourist area without first submitting a written application, paying a fee, providing proof of insurance and passing a written examination in order to be granted a license to tour.  The program will be administered and the test developed by an administrative agency to be named by the mayor's office.  No test has been made public.


The law is targeted at speech and applies only to someone who guides or directs people within the city or offers to do so while "provid[ing] information on the City's geography, history, historic sites, historic structures, historic objects or other places of interest."  The program also discriminates against small or independent tour operators.  The law gives the administrative agency complete discretion to exempt large operators--who would be better able to cope with the costs of regulation--from the testing requirements, provided the companies have training programs that are "equivalent." 


The irony of forbidding people to talk about Philadelphia's history--including the history of the Framers' enshrining fundamental American liberties in the Constitution--is not lost on Mike Tait, Josh Silver and Ann Boulais, three Philadelphians who make their living by telling visitors and natives about the history, culture and architecture of the place they love. 


A more efficient means of fighting "tax cheats", or a license for government auditors to launch fishing expeditions on hundreds of thousands of legitimate businesses?

Legislation on the way to sailing through Congress would require electronic payment card processors to report all credit and debit card transactions of businesses identifying their TIN (Taxpaper ID) or Social Security number for single proprietor small business enterprises. This information will go to the IRS for all merchants, regardless of any suspicion of illegal tax cheating activity.

Business First reports

Congress is on the verge of requiring payment card processors to tell the Internal Revenue Service how much money merchants receive through credit card and debit card transactions.

The Bush administration thinks this kind of third-party reporting of revenue would encourage more businesses to report their income accurately. This could help close the gap between what the government is owed in taxes and what it actually collects.

Congress views the requirement as an easy way of raising revenue to pay for other tax cuts or additional government spending. It estimates the proposal could raise nearly $10 billion over 10 years.

Both the House and the Senate included the reporting requirement as a revenue-raiser in separate bills that appear headed for passage: House legislation to shield 21 million taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax (H.R. 6275) and Senate legislation to help homeowners and the housing industry (H.R. 3221).

Thanks to Lew rockwell.com

Social worker and county sheriffs seize Jesus Bejarano and Cheila Herrera's 20 month old daughter in the middle of the night and place their week old son in state custody on the basis of a false positive urine tox screen.  

The LA Daily News reports

Awakened by late-night pounding and his doorbell ringing, Palmdale resident Jesus Bejarano found a social worker and two sheriff's deputies demanding he turn over his 20-month-old daughter, Kelly.

The social worker said Bejarano's 29-year-old wife, Cheila Herrera, had tested positive for amphetamines and PCP at Antelope Valley Hospital after giving birth to the couple's son a week earlier.

Their son, Jesse, who was born prematurely and was still at the hospital, had already been placed in protective custody.

"It was terrible," Herrera said of the Feb. 14 ordeal. "It was pretty shocking to us. We didn't know what to do or say. We called my mom, saying, `They are taking our baby away.'

"We started calling friends, but no one we know has gone through something like this. We were crying. We thought, oh my God, they took our baby."

Last month, the couple sued Los Angeles County government for unspecified damages, saying Herrera had never used drugs and the social worker ignored a battery of expensive tests that proved the initial drug-test results were wrong.

Experts say the case highlights widespread problems with California's system of drug-testing pregnant mothers, using urine-screening tests that produce false-positives up to 70percent of the time, and inconsistent compliance by hospitals with a state law designed to regulate the process.

"The system sounds problematic ... because they are doing urine-only screens,and if they are not doing confirmation tests, they are going to have a lot of false positives," said Dr. Barry Lester, a national expert on drug-exposed babies and a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Experts say that in recent years a similar sweep has focused on "meth babies." Up to 80percent of mothers in Los Angeles County whose babies are taken tested positive for methamphetamine, a drug that experts say produces very high rates of false positives.

In Los Angeles County, the number of infants removed from mothers who tested positive for drugs at hospitals nearly tripled from 209 in 2003 to 568 last year, according to county data. California officials said they do not track similar figures statewide.

The Palmdale case comes two decades after concerns about "crack babies" swept tens of thousands of children into child-protective systems across the nation. Today, many medical experts say those concerns were overblown, with children showing no consistent birth defects or brain damage after being born to mothers who tested positive for crack use.

Connie Heerman, an Indiana high school teacher with 27 years experience, has been given an 18 month suspension by the Perry Township school board for using an award winning text book, the Writer's Diary, based on true stories from a successful inner-city writing workshop. The book, celebrated as a model for transforming young lives, was made into a film with Hilary Swank last year. However it contains a few cuss words which offended a single school board member who apparently persuaded the other six officials on the board to ban Heermann from teaching the book, though (not yet) to remove it from school libraries.

The Guardian reports

An Indiana teacher who used a much lauded bestseller, The Freedom Writers Diary, to try to inspire under-performing high-school students has been suspended from her job without pay for 18 months.

The effective book ban by the school authorities in Perry Township has outraged teachers and education reformers.

The Writers Diary, a series of true stories written by inner-city teenagers, was put together by a teacher, Erin Gruwell, and has been celebrated as a model for transforming young lives. It was made into a film with Hilary Swank last year.

Connie Heermann, a teacher for 27 years, sought permission to introduce the book to her students last autumn after attending a training workshop held by the Freedom Writers Foundation. "If you read the whole book you will see how these inner-city students grow and change and become articulate, compassionate, educated young people who want to do something good in their lives despite the environment in which they were raised," she told the Guardian. "I thought my students would very much relate to those kids."

Her head agreed and Heermann got written permission from nearly 150 parents, but the Perry Meridian high school board urged her to wait for its decision.

Teachers' union officials say that a single board member objected to swearing in the book. The school board member allegedly persuaded the other six officials to ban Heermann from teaching the book. It remains available in school libraries.

Heermann and the union say there was no explicit ban on the book when she handed it out to pupils on November 15. But later that day she received an email from the board advising her not to teach the book. "That was the pivotal moment of my life, when I saw how my students were taken with the book, how they loved it, and then I am told not to let them read it? I said no," she said.

After being threatened with dismissal, Heermann was eventually suspended.

Thanks to j godsey
State troopers to  set up checkpoint patrols on roadways to spot drivers not using hands free cellular devices.

Sacramento Bee reports:

California Highway Patrol officers are holding roving and fixed patrol posts along area roadways to ensure motorists are abiding by the new law, which took effect today.

The law requires drivers 18 and over to use hands-free cell phone devices while operating a vehicle. Drivers under 18 are now prohibited from using any cell phone device while driving.

CHP officers will be posted along several area roadways and highways Tuesday.

In Sacramento County, officers were posted at 6 a.m. at the intersection of Arden Way and Fair Oaks Boulevard. Officers also were to patrol from 7 to 9 a.m. along Highway 99 from Elk Grove Boulevard to Florin Road.

In Placer County, officers were stationed at 6 a.m. at the intersection of Auburn-Folsom Road at Douglas Boulevard in Granite Bay. Officers also were to be posted from 7 to 10 a.m. on Highway 28 at Kings Beach, from 3 to 8 p.m. on Interstate 80 at Castle Peak and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. eastbound Interstate 80 at Highway 174 in Colfax.

In El Dorado County, officers were to be stationed from 7 to 10 a.m. at El Dorado Hills Boulevard between Highway 50 and Olson Lane and from 7 to 10 a.m. on Highway 50 at the agriculture checkpoint in South Lake Tahoe.

CHP officers also will be stationed from 3 to 5 p.m. on Highway 99 at Lincoln Way in Yuba City; from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Highway 49 at Martell Road near Jackson; at noon on Highway 99 at Mangrove Avenue in Chico; and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Brunswick Basin area near Highway 49 in Grass Valley.

Drivers stopped will be educated about the new law and may be issued citations or given a "stern warning," officials said.

Citizens group is calling for an investigation, claiming 22-year-old Emmanuel College student David Woodman, on the way home from a bar after celebrating the Celtics NBA championship, was tackled  and beaten into a comatose state by eight officers on a street corner after saying "Wow, it seems like there's a lot of crime on this corner", eventually dying from his injuries. The Boston police department is insisting that no excessive force was used against Woodman who was holding only a plastic beer cup.

The Boston Globe reports:
Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis vowed this afternoon that there would be a thorough and transparent investigation of the arrest of David Woodman on last month, but said an initial review found that officers acted appropriately.
The 22-year-old man stopped breathing while in custody during the June 18 celebration of the Boston Celtics NBA championship and died on Sunday.

"It appears from the evidence we have reviewed thus far that officers did not use excessive force," Davis said during a 10-minute press conference at police headquarters. "No [pepper] spray or batons were used in this incident."

Investigators are building a timeline to try to determine what occurred early that morning to David Woodman, a former Emmanuel College student who was living in Brookline. Davis said it is unclear when officers noticed the student's medical distress and began CPR. It was sometime between 12:47 a.m. when police first called for an ambulance for an intoxicated reveler, and 12:53 a.m. when officers called EMS a second time because Woodman had stopped breathing.

"We're rebuilding the incident from the officers' statements as well as witnesses statements," Davis said. "That's as specific as I can be right now."

There was a struggle with Woodman that ultimately involved eight police officers and one supervisor, all of whom were treated at a hospital for stress, which is common, Davis said. The commissioner extended his condolences to the family of Woodman.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino called earlier today for a expedited investigation because it is "best for the family and Boston police that we have all the facts known as quickly as possible."

Howard Friedman, a Boston lawyer who represents the Woodmans, said this afternoon that he has asked the US Attorney's office to have the FBI investigate. The family has scheduled a press conference later this afternoon.

Woodman's parents told the Globe that their son did not receive prompt medical attention while lying unconscious, face down on Brookline Avenue with his hands cuffed behind his back. They also accused police of failing to give them a full account of what happened.

In a story published in today's Globe, Boston police said they immediately administered cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, flagged an ambulance after noticing Woodman was in distress, and did everything they could to help him before he was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But Jeffrey and Cathy Woodman of Southwick say their son must have been deprived of oxygen for at least four minutes because he suffered significant brain damage.

"We don't know what happened," said Jeffrey Woodman, contending that police have left them with more questions than answers. "We are left to surmise that something occurred while he was in police custody that stopped his heart."

Woodman said his son had a preexisting heart condition, but he led an active life and had been playing basketball earlier that day. He said doctors told him his son's heart was functioning normally.

Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he understands the family's anguish, "but nothing those officers did that night caused his death."

He said that the officers, who have not been identified publicly, have cooperated with the investigation, and that the family's questions will be answered.

David Woodman, who was charged with drinking in public and resisting arrest, remained hospitalized after the incident and awoke June 23 from a medically induced coma. His parents said he recognized them but had difficulty communicating and whispered, "What happened?"

He smiled at a Globe reporter during a brief visit Thursday, spoke softly to his parents, and appeared confused. A large scrape was visible near his right eye. On Saturday, he was asking to go home, according to his parents, who believed he would survive and face lengthy rehabilitation.

At 2:30 a.m. Sunday he died at the hospital. The family is awaiting autopsy results.

Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said Conley "pledged a thorough and impartial review of the facts."
The Boston Police Department launched an internal investigation shortly after the incident into how the officers handled Woodman and will join the district attorney's office in investigating his death, Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the Boston police, said yesterday. Several officers were treated for stress and have returned to work, she said.

"Based upon what we know thus far we do not believe that any excessive force was used and we do believe officers responded reasonably," Driscoll said in an interview Friday.

The commissioner tried to meet with Woodman's family June 18 but was turned away at the hospital by staff who said the family didn't wish to see him, according to Driscoll.

Cathy Woodman said she was alone with her son, who was on life support with scrapes that looked like road burns all over his face, and felt too overwhelmed to meet with Davis.

David Woodman, who had been a history major at Emmanuel College and planned to return in the fall after taking a semester off, was walking from a bar with friends after the game when they passed about 10 or 12 uniformed officers at the corner of the Fenway and Brookline Avenue, according to two friends who spoke on the condition they not be named.

According to one of the friends, as Woodman passed the officers, he said, "Wow, it seems like there's a lot of crime on this corner."
Officers grabbed Woodman, who was carrying a plastic cup of beer, and as they struggled to handcuff him pushed him face down onto the ground, according to Woodman's friend.

"He wasn't being a punk or anything like that," said the friend. "I don't understand why the officers used such brute force to arrest him."
Woodman's friends said an officer yelled at them to leave, saying they would be arrested if they didn't.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Gitmo? "Enemy combatants? Nope,just business as usual for US citizens in the California state prison system.

Alternet reports

On Sept. 4, 21-year-old Joshua Pomier will have served nearly four years in a detention center near San Bernardino, Calif. Pomier is charged with multiple counts of car theft and robbery. There are two deeply troubling problems with the amount of time he has spent behind bars. One, he has not been convicted of any of the crimes he's charged with. He had barely turned 18 years old when he and another juvenile were arrested for the crimes in September 2004. Pomier and family members vehemently protest his innocence. The even more tormenting problem is not Pomier's guilt or innocence, but the absurdly long length of time that he has been jailed awaiting disposition, any disposition, of the charges leveled against him.

His bail was set at nearly a half million dollars, and there have been several delayed court dates. During that time, he has been relentlessly pressured to accept a plea bargain that will require him to serve a lengthy prison sentence. Pomier has refused, and continues to protest his innocence.

Pomier is African American, and his dragged out incarceration without being convicted of anything is not unusual. In fact, he's a near textbook example of how thousands of mostly black and Latino young adults and juveniles languish for months, even years, in America's jails with high or no bail, receive shoddy or non-existent legal counsel, and are browbeaten and even threatened by harried, overworked, and often indifferent public defenders and prosecutors to accept deals.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice estimates that on any given day, nearly 30,000 youth between the ages of 14 and 18 years old are locked down in juvenile detention centers nationally for interminably long periods awaiting disposition of their cases. Even with the plunge in juvenile and adult crime, the numbers of youth and young adults incarcerated for lengthy pre-detention jail time nearly doubled in the 1990s. During the same time, the rates of excessive pre-trial detention time dropped for white youth.

The young adult defendants are nearly always faced with excessively high bail, and for juveniles, no bail. In the juvenile system, most states do not permit bail. Juveniles are considered wards of the court, and pretrial release is solely at the discretion of the judge. High bail, or lack of bail, clog court calendars, and overcrowded jails virtually ensure that defendants such as Pomier get lost in the system without any disposition of their case. In one study, the Sentencing Project found that blacks on average were held for a year or more without any action on their case.

Yet another example of the caging of American protest, a mockery of the notion of free assembly.

The Denver post reports:

The fence around the public demonstration zone outside the Democratic National Convention will be chicken wire or chain link, authorities revealed in U.S. District Court today.

That may allow protestors to be seen and heard by delegates going in and out of the Pepsi Center during the convention.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and several advocacy groups have filed an amended complaint to their lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service and the city and county of Denver that says protestors and demonstrators may have their First Amendment rights violated by security restrictions.

The ACLU has said it wants to avoid the conditions that existed during the 2004 convention in Boston, where protesters were caged, infuriating First Amendment advocates.

Thanks to Raw Story

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