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  • RuralRebel 1:06 pm on July 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    U.S. to declassify documents on spy programs, surveillance court

    WASHINGTON |
    Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:31pm EDT

    (Reuters) – U.S. spy agencies plan to release newly declassified documents as early as this week about the National Security Agency surveillance programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden, and also material related to a secret intelligence court, a U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday.

    The declassified documents were intended to provide the public more information about the programs as part of a commitment by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for greater transparency, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

    The documents would also include information about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the official said. That court operates in secrecy in making decisions on government surveillance requests.

    The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that senior U.S. officials said one of the orders the administration plans to declassify was issued by the FISA court in April and directed Verizon Communications to turn over a large number of Americans’ phone records.

    The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper the order would be made public before a Wednesday morning hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee where officials from the NSA, Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were to testify.

    General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, said he was glad the government was taking action to declassify more information.

    “I think it is the right thing. I think it helps articulate what we are trying to do and why we are trying to do it,” he told Reuters in Las Vegas where he is scheduled to speak at the Black Hat conference of cybersecurity experts on Wednesday.

    “I think the more we can give to the American people, the better. We always have to balance security of the nation with transparency. But in this case I think it is a good thing,” Alexander said.

    Snowden’s release of information about the NSA surveillance programs to American and European media outlets sparked an uproar over revelations last month that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected data on phone calls and other communications of Americans and foreign citizens as a tool for fighting terrorism.

    The move to declassify more information about the surveillance programs, which intelligence officials say have helped thwart terrorist attacks, comes as some lawmakers seek curbs in response to privacy concerns.

    Snowden has been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act and is stuck at an airport in Russia while seeking asylum in a country that will not hand him over to the United States.

    (Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington and Jim Finkle in Las Vegas; editing by Andrew Hay, Mohammad Zargham and Jackie Frank)

    http://www.reuters.com

    imageWhy are so many of our news articles written by people with foreign names?

     
  • RuralRebel 12:56 pm on July 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dianne Feinstein, National Security Agency, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence   

    None of your business 

    For Congress, ‘it’s classified’ is new equivalent of ‘none of your business’

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reportedly gave its approval last week to an Obama administration plan to provide weapons to moderate rebels in Syria, but how individual members of the committee stood on the subject remains unknown.

    There was no public debate and no public vote when one of the most contentious topics in American foreign policy was decided – outside of the view of constituents, who oppose the president’s plan to aid the rebels by 54 percent to 37 percent, according to a Gallup Poll last month.

    In fact, ask individual members of the committee, who represent 117 million people in 14 states, how they stood on the plan to use the CIA to funnel weapons to the rebels and they are likely to respond with the current equivalent of “none of your business:” It’s classified.

    Those were, in fact, the words Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the committee, used when asked a few days before the approval was granted to clarify her position for her constituents. She declined. It’s a difficult situation, she said. And, “It’s classified.”

    She was not alone. In a string of interviews over days, members of both the Senate intelligence committee or its equivalent in the House were difficult to pin down on their view of providing arms to the rebels. The senators and representatives said they couldn’t give an opinion, or at least a detailed one, because the matter was classified.

    It’s an increasingly common stance that advocates of open government say undermines the very principle of a representative democracy.

    “It’s like a pandemic in Washington, D.C., this idea that ‘I don’t have to say anything, I don’t have to justify anything, because I can say it’s secret,’” said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank.

    “Classified” has become less a safeguard for information and more a shield from accountability on tough subjects, said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

    “Classification can be a convenient pretext for avoiding difficult questions,” he said. “There’s a lot that can be said about Syria without touching on classified, including a statement of general principles, a delineation of possible military and diplomatic options, and a preference for one or the other of them. So to jump to ‘national security secrecy’ right off the bat looks like an evasion.”

    Syria is not the only topic where public debate has been the exception because a matter was classified. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., spoke last week about the frustration he felt because he could not tell his constituents that he believed secret rulings from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had expanded the collection of telephone and Internet data far beyond what many in Congress thought they had authorized.

    “Months and years went in to trying to find ways to raise public awareness about secret surveillance authorities within the confines of classification rules,” Wyden said at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank. Had it not been for a leak of a secret court order on the collection of cellphone metadata by former National Security Agency contract worker Edward Snowden, the program might still be beyond discussion, Wyden noted.

    But the classification barrier may not be as watertight as committee members make it out to be. Senate Resolution 400, which established the intelligence committee in 1976, has a section specifically devoted to committee oversight of the classification system, which is directed by the executive branch. If a member of the committee feels that classified information is of valid public interest, he or she can ask that it be declassified.

    “The Select Committee may, subject to provisions of this section, disclose publicly any information in the possession of such committee after a determination by such committee that the public interest would be served by such a disclosure,” the resolution reads.

    When Wyden was asked if he ever used that provision to attempt to get information declassified during his time on the committee, he said “I don’t know which specific provision you’re talking about.”

    Certainly, trying to determine how individual committee members feel about Syria policy can be frustrating. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mark Warner, D-Va., refused to state a clear opinion, citing classification.

    Others expressed general opinions, though they would say nothing about just what the Obama administration had proposed. Sometimes it was difficult to know from their comments if they were in favor or opposed. “I’m worried we’re behind the curve,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., “(We should get involved) only if we’re ahead of the curve.”

    A rare exception was Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine. He spoke candidly about his personal views on American involvement. “We need to be involved to some extent in helping out the opposition,” he said. He called training an imperative, said anti-tank weapons need to be included in any arms shipments, and he hinted that the U.S. should consider strikes against some Syrian government resources, if that became necessary.

    The answer didn’t reveal any details of the administration’s plans, but it did offer a clear picture of where he stood. Later, King explained what he thought were the rules about discussion of Syria.

    “I think the specifics of the administration’s plan, and the specifics of the actions of the committee, are classified, and should remain confidential,” he said. As for members’ opinions, however, that’s not classified.

    But, he said, “That’s their call” on whether to talk about it or not.

    Harper, of the Cato Institute, said the tendency for lawmakers to cite classification also sheds light on a pattern of legislative deference to the executive branch, which determines what is and isn’t classified, that undercuts the concept of checks and balances.

    “The government works because of a chain of oversight,” Harper said. “Secrecy gets in there and it breaks those chains. So the public can’t oversee Congress. Congress can’t oversee the executive branch. Within executive branch agencies, oversight breaks down. It’s utterly corrosive of democratic processes that we otherwise take for granted.”

    Refusing to state an opinion on a classified matter robs people of the chance to objectively assess whether an elected official is representing their interests.

    “Nobody’s opinion is classified,” said Aftergood. “There may be specific facts or details of either military operations or intelligence sources that are properly classified, but one’s opinion about current events or about preferred outcomes is absolutely not classified.

    “And to say that it is is disingenuous or dishonest.”

    wpid-smiley-emoticon-853-3d-icons-emoticon.gifOnly thing I would add here is, too bad as much attention on Congress wasn’t put on Obomber as well. This crap isn’t in a vacuum! !

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com

     
  • RuralRebel 12:40 pm on July 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Who needs Bush when we have Obomber 

    Obama Calls Income Gap ‘Wrong’ — After Widening It
    Obamanomics: The president has been decrying the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S. to help sell his retread tax-and-spend proposals. But those policies have already produced record levels of income inequality.

    In his speech in Illinois last week, and at events since, Obama described income inequality in the starkest terms. “This growing inequality is morally wrong,” he said, and “undermines the very essence of America.”

    To be sure, income inequality is a standard trope for liberals, who always use it to advocate more wealth redistribution.

    And Obama’s latest focus neatly coincides with his plans to push for more federal spending and taxes on the “rich” in coming budget battles.

    But what Obama conveniently leaves out of his sermons is that income inequality has grown faster on his watch than any time in the past two decades, at least.

    Research by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez shows that since the Obama recovery started in June 2009, the average income of the top 1% grew 11.2% in real terms through 2011.

    The bottom 99%, in contrast, saw their incomes shrink by 0.4%.

    As a result, 121% of the gains in real income during Obama’s recovery have gone to the top 1%. By comparison, the top 1% captured 65% of income gains during the Bush expansion of 2002-07, and 45% of the gains under Clinton’s expansion in the 1990s.

    The Census Bureau’s official measure of income inequality — called the Gini index — shows similar results. During the Bush years, the index was flat overall — finishing in 2008 exactly where it started in 2001.

    It’s gone up each year since Obama has been president and now stands at all-time highs.

    It’s worth underscoring that the growing income gap under Obama isn’t the result of the rich getting fabulously richer. Nor is it any sort of indictment of “trickle down” economics.

    Instead, it is the direct result of Obama’s historically weak economic recovery, which has left the rest of the country falling behind while the wealthy have managed to make gains.

    Census data show, for example, that the poorest 20% of families saw their real average income continue to fall each year from 2009 to 2011 — the last year for which the Census has data — while the top 20% recouped losses suffered in the recession.

    The evidence of decline among the nation’s most vulnerable shows up elsewhere. There are 2.7 million more people in poverty than there were in 2009.  And 14 million more are on food stamps today than in 2009. And after four years of economic recovery, there are still 4.3 million long-term unemployed.

    Meanwhile, researchers have found that high-paying jobs lost during the recession are being replaced, if at all, largely by low-paying jobs in the Obama recovery.

    All this is in stark contrast to previous economic recoveries, which generally saw at least some income gains across the Census Bureau’s income groupings.

    Despite this record, Obama’s answer is simply to increase the dose of the very same treatments — more government spending, more taxes, more intrusions into the marketplace in the name of “shared prosperity” — that hobbled the recovery and produced the very misery he now claims he can fix.

    In other words, Obama is selling snake oil. And that’s what’s morally wrong.

    news.investors.com

     
  • RuralRebel 12:34 pm on July 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Kerry to stall for next election….just keeping from going to UN 

    US hosts Israel, Palestinians for peace talks
    WASHINGTON (AP) – Diplomats long have stressed the urgency of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet as a new round of Mideast peace talks begins, Secretary of State John Kerry thinks there are more reasons than ever to move quickly.

    In Kerry’s thinking, time is running out.

    Even if Israel wanted to, it would be difficult to remove mushrooming Israeli West Bank settlements whose population has doubled since 2000. Demographers have warned that it will be only a matter of a few years until Arabs outnumber Jews in the Holy Land. And last year, the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – a move that could let the Palestinians take their complaints over settlements to the International Criminal Court.

    The new round of talks, which resume Tuesday in Washington, follows six months of shuttle diplomacy to restart negotiations that broke down in 2008. An attempt to restart them in 2010 failed after a single day. And before that, scores of diplomats have failed to broker peace.

    (AP) Israel’s Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, second left, Palestinian chief…
    Full Image
    After five years of diplomatic stalemate, there has been a flurry of activity in recent days to set the stage for the talks that all sides agree will be difficult.
    On Sunday, the Israeli parliament voted to free 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners – some who killed or wounded Israelis – in four stages linked to progress in the talks, expected to last nine months. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took heavy criticism from conservatives and families of those killed by the prisoners. One protester outside Netanyahu’s office held a sign depicting a prison release form that was stamped with handprints made of red paint to symbolize blood.

    On Monday, Kerry announced that Martin Indyk, who played key roles in the Clinton administration’s multiple – but unsuccessful – efforts to broker peace between Israel and Syria and Israel and the Palestinians, has assumed day-to-day responsibility for negotiations.

    The Israeli side is led by chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who was active in the George W. Bush administration’s ill-fated peace talks with the Palestinians in Annapolis, Md., and Yitzhak Molcho, a veteran adviser to Netanyahu who was part of the Israeli team involved in Obama’s two previous attempts to broker negotiations.

    The Palestinian team is led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and President Mahmoud Abbas’ adviser, Mohammed Shtayyeh, both of whom have been major players in failed negotiations with the Israelis since 1991.

    (AP) Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, is seated with Israel’s Justice Minister and chief…
    Full Image
    Kerry spoke for about 45 minutes with representatives from the Israeli negotiating team late Monday and then for another period of about 45 minutes with the Palestinian side before sitting down for dinner on the top floor of the State Department. While he talked with the Palestinians, the Israeli team relaxed on an eighth-floor terrace overlooking the illuminated Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
    The 90-minute dinner was billed as an Iftar meal, which breaks the day of fasting for Muslims during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. They sat at a rectangular table – five U.S. officials lining one side and the two Israeli and two Palestinian negotiators on the other – to dine on sweet corn and shell bean soup, grilled grouper, saffron risotto, summer vegetables and apricot upside-down cake.

    “We’re happy to welcome you. It’s really wonderful to have you here – very, very special. We have, obviously, not much to talk about at all,” Kerry joked after the participants sat down shortly after 9 p.m. at the table topped with a mint green cloth and goblets of mango iced tea.

    The State Department would not disclose details of the discussions, saying only that they were “constructive and productive.”

    Livni told Israeli media there was a “good environment” at the dinner. “I think we are starting talks out of a deep belief that it is in the interest of both sides and I really hope that it will continue that way,” she said.

    (AP) Israel’s Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, second from left, Palestinian chief…
    Full Image
    While reaching an agreement “won’t be easy,” Livni said, “I mainly believe that giving up is not an option for us. This is an Israeli interest.” She declined to offer details, citing “a main agreement that everything that is said in the room remains in the room.”
    Livni arrived in Washington by train from New York City, where she met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

    “There is a lot of cynicism and skepticism and pessimism, but there is also hope,” she told The Associated Press after meeting with the secretary-general.

    Shibley Telhami, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland who is familiar with the State Department’s work to restart the talks, said Israel’s decision to release Palestinian prisoners was an important gesture that buys time and builds confidence. But gestures are “not going to transform the mistrust,” he added.

    “I think there are two types of people – those who think a two-state solution is no longer possible and those who think that while it might be possible, there’s not much time left to do it. The reason being? Settlements, especially in east Jerusalem,” said Telhami, who served as adviser to Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell during Obama’s first term.

    (AP) Secretary of State John Kerry, left, is seated with Israel’s Justice Minister and chief negotiator…
    Full Image
    The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem – territories Israel captured in 1967. Since that war, Israel has built dozens of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, now home to more than a half-million Israelis. That makes a partition deal increasingly difficult, some say impossible.
    Some Palestinians already have lost faith in a two-state solution because of the encroachment of Israeli settlements.

    “I think the possibility of a two-state solution died a long time ago,” said Diana Buttu, a Ramallah-based analyst and former legal adviser to Abbas and Palestinian negotiators. “To believe in a two-state solution, you have to believe that Israel will remove settlements.”

    She is not hopeful and says the two parties are “miles apart.”

    While the Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, they have accepted the principle of limited land swaps to allow Israel to annex some of the dozens of settlements it has built. Palestinian officials reiterated Monday that they received U.S. assurances that Washington considers the 1967 lines the basis for border talks.

    Abbas also sought a freeze in settlement building. While there will be no freeze, Israel has agreed to slow down settlement construction and refrain from announcing new projects, according to a senior Palestinian official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a gag order Kerry slapped on negotiators.

    In exchange, the Palestinians have vowed not to go to the United Nations as long as talks are under way.

    The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in November to upgrade the Palestinians from a U.N. observer to a nonmember observer state, a move vehemently opposed by the U.S. and Israel. Recognition as a state gives the Palestinians the right to apply for membership in U.N. and other organizations, including the International Criminal Court.

    Population is another issue that is making some people in the region wary of a future without peace.

    Early this year, the Palestinian statistics bureau estimated that Arabs will outnumber Jews in the Holy Land by the end of the decade, a scenario that could have grave implications for Israel.

    The demographic issue is a main argument for Israeli backers of creation of a Palestinian state. They say relinquishing control of the Palestinian territories and its residents is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a democracy with a Jewish majority.

    Setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel, however, has eluded both sides for two decades.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that Kerry “believes that time is not our ally.”

    “As time passes, the situation on the ground becomes more complicated, mistrust deepens and hardens and the conflict becomes even harder to resolve,” she said. “It allows for vacuums to be filled by bad actors who want to undermine our efforts.”

    Monday marked Day No. 1 of final status negotiations on a nine-month timetable with the idea that if progress is going well, talks could be extended. “They have agreed to work together through the course of that time and the secretary absolutely feels that time is of the essence,” Psaki said, adding that nine months does not represent a deadline or cutoff date.

    Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

     
  • RuralRebel 12:16 pm on July 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Wake up guys, the war is over! – m.NYPOST.com 

    Wake up guys, the war is over!

    image

    July 30, 2013
    These North Korean VIPs probably just bought themselves a one-way ticket to re-education camp by snoozing through the Great Successor Kim Jong-un’s big bash!Yawns and shut eyes dominated a show at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang over the weekend, as North Korea marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.Patriotic events — usually marked by over-the-top cheering masses — were staged across the hermit kingdom, celebrating what the North hails as a standoff with the United States.

    http://m.nypost.com/p/news/international/wake_up_guys_the_war_is_over_KNuE2I8MzqJVfuWLLhI16L

     
  • RuralRebel 6:32 pm on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Better get this straight! 

     
  • RuralRebel 3:35 pm on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    Court Forces Mennonite Company to Comply With HHS Abortion Mandate 

    by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 7/29/13  

    A federal appeals court issued a ruling Friday forcing a Mennonite-owned company to comply with the HHS mandate, which compels companies to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

    In a 2-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, owned by a Mennonite family, must adhere to the mandate. The company has 950 employees.

    “Since Conestoga is distinct from the Hahns, the Mandate does not actually require the Hahns to do anything,” wrote Judge Robert Cowen. “All responsibility for complying with the Mandate falls on Conestoga … It is Conestoga that must provide the funds to comply with the Mandate—not the Hahns.”

    “Our decision here is in no way intended to marginalize the Hahns’ commitment to the Mennonite faith,” Judge Cowen continued. “We accept that the Hahns sincerely believe that the termination of a fertilized embryo constitutes an intrinsic evil and a sin against God to which they are held accountable, and that it would be a sin to pay for or contribute to the use of contraceptives which may have such a result. We simply conclude that the law has long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself.”

    Judge Thomas Vanaskie, an Obama appointee, joined Cowen in the decision, according to a report on it.

    Creating a direct split among federal appeals courts and thus enhancing chances that the Supreme Court will take on the issue, the Third Circuit Court ruled on Friday that a family-owned, profit-making business cannot challenge on religious grounds the new federal health care law’s mandate of birth control health insurance for its workers.   The two-to-one decision by the Philadelphia-based court conflicts with a recent ruling by the Denver-based Tenth Circuit Court.

    Judge Jordan, in a dissenting opinion that ran to more than twice the length of the majority opinion (sixty-six pages, compared to thirty), said the majority’s conclusions rested on “a cramped and confused understanding of the religious rights preserved by congressional action and the Constitution.”

    Jordan, whom President George W. Bush appointed to the bench, went after the Obama administration.

     This judge hit the nail on the head. This is exactly how the left hoodwinks the non-thinkers….

     

    At oral argument, counsel for the government insisted that “abortifacient” is a “theological term,” and that, “for federal law purposes, a device that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus,” like Plan B and Ella, “is not an abortifacient.” There was something telling in that lecture, and not what counsel intended. One might set aside the highly questionable assertion that “abortifacient” is a “theological” and not a scientific medical term, which must come as a surprise to the editors of dictionaries that include entries like the following: “abortifacient [MED] Any agent that induces abortion.” …

    Whether a fertilized egg, being acted upon by a drug or device, is aborted after implantation or is never implanted at all is not pertinent to the Hahns’ belief that a human life comes into being at conception and therefore the destruction of that entity is the taking of a human life. That belief is the point of this case, and the government is in no position to say anything meaningful about the Hahns’ perspective on when life begins.

    But counsel’s comment during argument does say something meaningful about the government’s desire to avoid anything that might smack of religion in this case involving questions of religious freedom.

    The government evidently would like to drain the debate of language that might indicate the depth of feeling the Hahns have about what they are being coerced to do. “Keep the conversation as dry and colorless as possible,” is the message. Don’t let anything that sounds like “abortion” come up, lest the weight of that word disturb a happily bland consideration of corporate veils and insurance contracts. Like it or not, however, big issues – life and death, personal conscience, religious devotion, the role of government, and liberty – are in play here.

     
  • RuralRebel 1:21 pm on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    FDA : Steroids in one vitamin B supplement 

    07.27.13
    FDA : Steroids in one vitamin B supplement
    By David Simpson, for CNN

    (CNN) – Federal regulators warned consumers to avoid one brand of vitamin B dietary supplement because it contains potentially harmful anabolic steroids.

    Preliminary lab tests showed the product, Healthy Life Chemistry By Purity First B-50, contains methasterone, a controlled substance, and dimethazine, the Food and Drug Administration said.

    “Products marketed as a vitamin but which contain undisclosed steroids pose a real danger to consumers and are illegal,” said Howard Sklamberg, director of the FDA’s compliance office.

    Regulators received 29 complaints associated with the product, including fatigue, muscle pain and cramps, and liver and thyroid problems, the FDA said.

    Women also reported unusual hair growth and missed menstruation, and men reported impotence and low testosterone.

    Some patients were hospitalized, the FDA said in a statement, but no deaths were reported.

    Anyone who used the product and has symptoms should seek medical care and report the case to the FDA, regulators said.

    The product manufactured by New-York based Mira Health Products Ltd is sold online and in stores. The company has not issued a response to the warning.

     
  • RuralRebel 1:15 pm on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cincinnati Enquirer, Eric Cantor, , Ohio   

    Rally presses Boehner on immigration 

    by Alex Coolidge, The Cincinnati Enquirer

    SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Hundreds of supporters of immigration reform rallied here Saturday to urge House Speaker John Boehner to push for a broad path to citizenship.

    Religious leaders, union officials, legal advocates, residents and busloads of out-of-town supporters gathered in a parking lot downtown and later marched to City Hall, where the West Chester Township congressman has a local office.

    “We’re here to ensure that pathway to citizenship is part of a bill that emerges and gets voted on quickly,” the Rev. Troy Jackson, director of Ohio Prophetic Voices, told the crowd.

    “We don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. We know looking back to the civil rights era there were a lot of people sitting on their hands and we say ‘shame on them – we must act,'” said Jeff Cook, a professor of Bible and urban ministry from Cedarville University, who also spoke.

    The rally drew a diverse crowd, both locally and from out of town.

    “As a nation of immigrants, I think there should be a path for citizenship,” said Derek Alvarado, a Springfield resident and middle-school teacher.

    Also in the crowd, listening to the speakers was Ester Arteaga, 44, of Louisville, who came on one of six buses of supporters.

    A U.S. citizen naturalized from Guatemala two years ago, she said she was here to ease the path for others who want to live peacefully and work in America.

    A receptionist for an immigration lawyer, Arteaga, her husband and two sons all sought citizenship at the same time. It took nine years.

    “We came here for a better life for our kids,” she said. “We’re so happy to be citizens and we want others to have it.”

    She worries for less fortunate family members.

    Her husband’s brother, a former accountant, lives in Oklahoma; undocumented, he works in a furniture factory.

    “Immigration reform is the right thing to do – workers should be able to come out of the shadows and not be exploited,” said Bill Dudley, director of strategic campaigns for the UFCW.

    At a press briefing two days ago, Boehner said his colleagues want immigration reform, too.

    “House Republicans are committed to fixing a broken immigration system,” he said. “We’re working on a common-sense, step-by-step approach to ensure that the American people have confidence that we’re addressing these issues openly and honestly. Our focus is on getting the policy right, so we fix our immigration system once and for all, and help our economy grow.”

    The rally outside Boehner’s office was one of three events scheduled for this weekend. Other rallies were set to target House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill.

    image..Thanks for the free advertising

    Boehner and other GOP leaders have rejected a Senate-passed immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Instead, the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to advance a series of narrowly focused bills related to border security and other immigration issues.

    This week, a House subcommittee debated a proposal that would offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children but would not do the same for their parents who knowingly broke the law.

     
  • RuralRebel 12:30 pm on July 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Holder busy causing crime to continue 

    Some Chiefs Chafing as Justice Department Keeps Closer Eye on Policing
    image
    Mayor John Engen, left, of Missoula, Mont., and the police chief, Mark Muir, second from left, listened last year as Thomas E. Perez, an assistant attorney general, described a federal investigation into the city’s handling of sexual assault cases.
    KURT WILSON / MISSOULIAN

    By ERICA GOODE
    July 27, 2013
    When Justice Department officials announced the results of a two-year investigation into civil rights violations at the Miami Police Department this month, it was the 11th time in two years that the federal government had put a local law enforcement agency on notice that it must change its ways or face a federal lawsuit.

    Cities from New Orleans and Seattle to Missoula, Mont., and East Haven, Conn., are grappling with similar federally mandated changes after investigations into their police departments. In Miami, the Justice Department found a pattern of the use of excessive force — in an eight-month period in 2011, eight young black men were shot and killed by the police. This month, the Justice Department announced a sweeping settlement forcing Puerto Rico to change 11 areas of policing, including the use of excessive force, searches, stops and the handling of domestic violence. It was, the department said, “among the most extensive agreements ever obtained.”

    Civil rights violations by police departments have been subject to investigation by the federal government since 1994, when Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. But federal intervention has become far more common and much broader in scope under the Obama administration, a development proudly highlighted on the Justice Department’s Web site.

    During Mr. Obama’s first term, the department initiated 15 investigations into troubled law enforcement agencies, almost twice the number carried out in the last four years of the Bush administration. While early investigations focused narrowly on the use of excessive force and racial profiling, recent inquiries have taken on a host of other issues, including the treatment of the mentally ill, the handling of sexual assault cases and unconscious bias of officers.

    Last year, the department extended its purview further, announcing its intention to investigate a district attorney’s office over the handling of sexual assault cases. The Missoula County attorney, Fred Van Valkenburg, has so far declined to cooperate, arguing that under state law, the Justice Department has no standing to investigate his office.

    “In my mind, these people have never run into somebody who told them ‘no,’ ” Mr. Van Valkenburg told an audience at a City Club Missoula luncheon in June. The National District Attorneys Association has sent a letter objecting to the investigation to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

    Civil rights lawyers and criminal justice experts have hailed the Justice Department’s increased activism.

    “Justice Department litigation has really set a national standard,” said Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and the author of “The New World of Police Accountability.” He said the investigations — and the resulting settlements, known as consent decrees — send a message to police departments that “there are some minimal things you have to do to be professional, and here are the things you need to do in order to achieve that.”

    And some police officials whose departments have been the target of Justice Department investigators say the consent decree that resulted was beneficial. “I think they’re extremely effective,” said Robert McNeilly, a former chief of the Pittsburgh Police Department, the first agency to enter into a consent decree after the 1994 law was passed. To comply with the decree, the department increased accountability and increased training. Among other things, it instituted an early warning system to identify officers who were at high risk of using excessive force.

    But the federal intervention has also caused frustration among some police chiefs, who say the government should work to find a cheaper and more efficient process. Consent decrees, they say, can drag on for years and impose huge cost burdens on cities that are least able to afford them.

    In Detroit, which declared bankruptcy on July 18, a consent decree imposed to correct a range of serious problems including the use of excessive force, false arrest, illegal detention and failures in investigation and training is in its 11th year. In New Orleans, city officials asked the Justice Department to come in but are now contesting the consent decree, saying its measures are too expensive to carry out.

    “We don’t disagree with the objectives at all,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization based in Washington that conducts research on policing and recently issued a report on federal civil rights investigations into police departments. “What we find issue with is the mechanics of the process.”

    In addition to cost, the issues addressed in the forum’s report included concerns that standards for compliance set by the Justice Department were sometimes unreasonably high, 95 percent in some instances; that the process was often adversarial rather than collaborative; and that there was a lack of measures to tell whether the federal intervention was effective.

    Some police chiefs also complained that the Justice Department, in its eagerness to promote best practices in new areas, in some cases investigated police departments that, their chiefs argued, were not clearly in violation of constitutional standards.

    In Montana, federal investigators found that the Missoula Police Department “discriminates against women in its response to sexual assault,” according to the letter of findings issued by the Justice Department. But Mark Muir, Missoula’s police chief, contended that the government had offered no objective evidence that his department had met the criteria for discrimination set by the courts, or even that Missoula’s record in handling sexual assault cases was worse than that of other comparable cities.

    “I’ve got to tell you, Missoula, Montana, is not one of the worst of the worst in any respect,” Chief Muir said. But, he said, once a police department has been singled out by the Justice Department, “they pay a huge price in terms of their reputation and their effectiveness in the community.”

    In some cases, consent decrees can also make it more difficult for departments to focus on fighting crime, some chiefs said. William J. Bratton, who as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 2002 to 2009 steered it through seven years of a 13-year consent decree, says he has no doubt that in some cases intervention by the Justice Department is necessary.

    “The state of American policing is not where it should be,” Mr. Bratton said. But, he continued, “there is a tension, and it is felt by police chiefs, between the constitutional policing that we’re obligated to provide to operate within the law and the obligation to provide public safety in terms of controlling crime and disorder.”

    The Los Angeles department has won praise for its transformation into a model police agency under the consent decree, which was entered into after the Justice Department found pervasive corruption in the Rampart community division. But other cities, with fewer resources and inconsistent leadership, might not fare as well, Mr. Bratton said.

    He and other police chiefs also expressed concern about the monitors who oversee the enforcement of settlements, noting that monitoring has in itself become a kind of cottage industry. Monitors, either individuals or firms, who submit proposals and are chosen by a federal judge, are paid as long as a consent decree continues, amounting to sums that can run into the millions of dollars. As a result, critics say, they have little incentive to bring the process to a speedy close.

    Sheryl Robinson Wood, a lawyer appointed in 2003 to oversee Detroit’s compliance with its consent decree, resigned in 2009 after it was disclosed that she was having an affair with the mayor at the time, Kwame M. Kilpatrick. The city sued to recover the $10 million it had paid Ms. Robinson Wood and her employers, Kroll International and two law firms. At the time of her resignation, the Police Department was only in 36 percent compliance with the decree.

    Roy L. Austin Jr., the deputy assistant attorney general who supervises the special litigation office in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said the costs of civil lawsuits are also high to cities. The Justice Department, he said, does not take a one-size-fits-all approach to its investigations, and takes into consideration how effective a department is in solving its own problems.

    But, he said, “You have departments that are so troubled that to sit back and wait, based on our experience, for them to address what are enormous problems is going to leave people with their rights violated for a long time before those problems are addressed.”

    Mr. Wexler and others, however, said that for agencies with specific problems whose leaders are eager to make changes, a more collaborative approach might be cheaper and just as effective.

    One such method was tried in Las Vegas last year after a series of local newspaper articles on officer-involved shootings over 20 years by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The agency entered into a voluntary agreement with the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office, which offers technical assistance to police departments but has no enforcement power. The Police Department is putting in place the recommendations of the resulting 154-page report.

    Still, said Dr. Walker, of the University of Nebraska, so many federal investigations have now been conducted that no American police department really has an excuse for engaging in practices that violate civil rights.

    “In the year 2013, no police department should be in a position where it can be sued by the Justice Department,” he said. “The past records indicate what problems they need to be aware of and what to do about such problems if they have them.”
    image Do a good job and we will send you tanks….to use against…..the “right” people!!!

     
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