Category Archives: News

New York City’s Biggest Marijuana Problem Is the Police

from November 21, 2014 at 09:30AM

Paul Stein (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Paul Stein (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Vice:

A few months ago, I was on a road trip with some friends in upstate New York when we were stopped and searched by state troopers who deployed a drug-sniffing dog. They pulled us all out of the car and tore through our rented minivan, discovering a small plastic baggy with about a gram of weed in it. When they turned up the bag, my homies and I—all young, brown men—instinctively held our hands out to our sides, palms out, as a show of surrender.

The cops started laughing. One of them approached me and said, “I get it. You’re coming from the city, it’s a long drive, you brought a little weed to smoke on the way. Put your hands down. It’ll be fine.” My friends and I exchanged quizzical glances. We’re all used to getting the third degree when it came to drugs and cops.

Read the rest

The post New York City’s Biggest Marijuana Problem Is the Police appeared first on disinformation.

Read more at: disinformation

Obama’s Executive Action Will Protect 5 Million Undocumented Immigrants

from November 20, 2014 at 06:21PM

On Thursday evening, President Barack Obama announced his hotly anticipated executive action on immigration, which will keep nearly 5 million undocumented residents from being deported. Even though the sweeping measure has elicited threats of retaliation from congressional Republicans, Obama said he moved forward because comprehensive immigration reform is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-dominated Congress next year.

"I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty," the president said in his speech. "Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today—millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty—leaving this broken system the way it is."

A year and a half ago, a bipartisan immigration bill passed in the Senate but died in the House. The bill likely had enough Republican and Democratic votes to pass in the House, but Speaker John Boehner, catering to his tea partiers, refused to bring the measure to the floor. If signed into law, the legislation would have provided legal status to about 11 million undocumented immigrants. Here’s a look at who benefits most from Obama’s executive action—and who has lost out, thanks in part to GOP obstructionism.

Undocumented parents of children who are US citizens or permanent residents: "Undocumented immigrants…see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart," the president said. "It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it." His executive action will offer temporary legal status to the undocumented parents of children who are US citizens or permanent residents and allow them to apply for work permits—as long as they have lived in the United States for at least five years, pass a background check, and pay taxes.

DREAMers: The president’s move will broaden the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which had temporarily protected from deportation some 1.2 million young people who were brought into the country illegally as children—as long as they entered the country before June 15, 2007. Now, children who came to the United States before January 1, 2010, will be eligible to apply for deferred-action status. The so-called DREAMers (named after the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) can apply for employment visas, though there is no direct path for them to lawful permanent residence or citizenship. To the dismay of immigration activists, the executive action does not extend benefits to the hundreds of thousands of parents of DREAMers.

Families: Often US citizens and legal permanent residents are separated for long stretches of time from family members who are awaiting legal permanent resident status. The executive action will expand a waiver program that will reduce the time these families spend apart.

Noncriminal undocumented immigrants: Obama’s executive action shifts all of the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement resources toward deporting undocumented immigrants who are criminals—instead of deporting undocumented immigrants who pose no such threat. "We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security," Obama said. "Felons, not families." The president’s order also guts an existing program called Secure Communities, which requires police to share arrestees’ fingerprints with federal immigration officials, who can use the information to deport suspects who are here illegally, even if they turn out to be innocent. The program will be replaced with another devoted to deporting only those convicted of criminal offenses.

Highly skilled workers: Skilled workers who have had their legal permanent resident application approved often wait years to receive their visas. Obama’s order will allow these people to move and change jobs more easily.

Immigrants with pending cases: As part of the president’s executive action, the Justice Department will implement immigration court reforms to quickly process the massive backlog of cases.

Immigrant victims of crime: Obama is directing the Department of Labor to expand the number of visas available for victims of crimes and human trafficking.

The Border Patrol: Obama’s executive action shifts resources to the border, though it doesn’t specify how much more money will be flowing to Customs and Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along the southern border. (The Senate bill would have allotted some $30 billion over 10 years to hiring at least 19,200 extra border patrol agents.)

Entrepreneurs: The executive action will make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs—who show a potential to create jobs in the United States and attract investment—to immigrate to the US, though there was no mention how the administration will achieve this.

Undocumented immigrants who have been here since 2011: The failed Senate immigration bill would have allowed immigrants without papers—and their children and spouses—to apply for provisional legal status, if they have been in the United States since the end of 2011. These immigrants could have eventually applied for citizenship.

Undocumented agricultural workers: Under the Senate bill, undocumented agricultural workers would have been eligible for legal immigrant status if they had worked at least 100 full days between 2010 and 2012. The bill would have created a path to citizenship for these farmworkers.

Ag workers with papers: The Senate bill would also have created a new temporary work visa called the W visa for farmworkers. The new program would have permitted these laborers to eventually apply for permanent resident status without an employer’s sponsorship. Less-skilled non-farmworkers could have also applied for a W visa.

Other types of legal immigrants: The Senate bill would have set up a new system that would grant visas to up to 250,000 foreigners a year. Foreign nationals would have accumulated points based on their skill level, education, and employment background. The new system would have cleared the current backlog of applicants for family-based or work visas.

Foreigners attending American universities: More foreigners graduating from American universities in the fields of science, math, and technology would have been able to apply for permanent visas.

Immigrant detainees: If the Senate bill had okayed by the House, unaccompanied minors, mentally disabled immigrants, and other vulnerable people going through the detention and deportation process would have been granted free legal representation. The bill would have limited the use of solitary confinement in immigrant detention facilities.

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones

House Republicans Choose White Men to Head 20 of 21 Committees

from November 21, 2014 at 12:50PM

Oops, they did it again. The Republican Party, despite vowing to be more inclusive of women and minorities, has chosen white men to lead all but one House committee.


The sole exception among the 21 committee chairs will be Representative Candice Miller (R-Michigan), who will again lead the House Administration Committee.


Over in the Senate, all but one standing committee will be led by a man. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will probably take over the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


Democrats were quick to criticize the appointments. “Republicans promised to be more welcoming to women—but passed over women to give every single new committee chairmanship to a white man,” Spokeswoman Emily Bittner at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

House Republicans Just Picked 21 Committee Chairs. 20 Are Men. (by Daniel Newhauser, National Journal)

Republican Push To Promote Women Stumbles As White Guys Sweep Committee Chairs (by Michael McAuliff, Huffington Post)

In House of Representatives, Republicans Remain the White Man Party (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

House Republican Committee Leaders: White Men 19; Everyone Else 0 (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Read more at: News – AllGov

Goldman May Hear Harsh Words at Hearing, But Has Backed Many on Panel

from November 20, 2014 at 01:29PM
As Goldman Sachs prepares for more unwelcome publicity tomorrow at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, these things are certain: The financial giant’s many lobbyists will be working in overdrive, and the company’s million-dollar PAC will be considering writing checks to a host of lawmakers — some of them on the House or Senate Banking Committees.…

Read more at: OpenSecrets Blog

Charticle: Good News About America (Really!)

from November 19, 2014 at 06:45PM

Since we in the journalism/commentary business tend to find negative developments in the world more newsworthy than positive ones, every once in a while it’s nice to offer up some good news. The recent release of the annual FBI crime statistics offers just such an opportunity. Crime is not just down over the long term, it seems to be declining every year; in almost every category you can find, crime was down between 2012 and 2013. It’s down in cities and suburbs, in violent and non-violent offenses, in north and south, east and west.

Now, it should be said that compared to most of our peer countries, America is still a terrifying hellscape of chaos and cruelty. We have about 17 times as many murders per capita as they do in Iceland, where apparently everyone’s too busy huddling together for warmth to kill each other. But let’s look at some charts, shall we? First up is overall violent crime:

The average American is only half as likely to be a victim of violent crime as he or she was two decades ago. Here’s murder:

Here’s robbery:

And here’s car theft:

That’s a 63 percent decline in car theft over those two decades. Perhaps the fact that this is the category with the largest drop has something to do with the ubiquity of car alarms. (Remember The Club? Back in the day it didn’t stop some dude from repeatedly breaking into my car to steal change and, most disturbingly, use my Chapstick, but that’s its own story). In any case, for all the fear-mongering about things that harm almost none of us like terrorism and Ebola, life in the United States is quite a bit safer than it used to be. So take heart.

Read more at: The American Prospect

Israeli mayor bans Arab workers from his city, prompts outrage

via Euronews

The mayor of Israeli city Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, has imposed a partial ban on employing Arab-Israeli workers in his city. That has prompted outrage from across the Israeli political spectrum.

His move is part of a reported wave of oppression targeting Palestinians amid mounting security concerns.

Yuval Steinitz, a politician from Israel’s right-wing Likud party said: “We have to be very careful to keep Arab-Jews relations as good and normal as possible, and therefore it’s quite concerning. Most Israeli Arabs are loyal to the State of Israel.”

The Arab workers are building bomb shelters in nursery schools in Ashkelon which is close to Gaza Strip.

Many Israeli building workers come from the country’s Arab community, which makes up around 20 percent of the population.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said she had asked the attorney-general to examine the mayor’s move, which came two days after two Palestinians killed four rabbis and a police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Shimoni dismissed the threat of legal action.

“Whoever thinks this is illegal can take me to the Supreme Court,” he told Israel’s Channel Two television. “I prefer, at this time, to be taken to the Supreme Court, and not, God-forbid, to be taken to a funeral of a kindergarten child.”

Some people in this Jerusalem market were stunned by the mayor’s move.

“It’s a type of racism,” explained Palestinian labourer Eyad Daaneh. “Arabs and Jews are the same. You are a human being and I am a human being. It doesn’t matter if you are an Arab or Jew.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has recently lashed out against his country’s Palestinian minority, has blasted the mayor’s discrimination against Arab Israelis.


UN: Nearly 1,000 deaths since Ukraine truce

via Al Jazeera

Almost 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine since a ceasefire came into effect in September, an average of 13 people a day, according to the UN.

A new report from the UN monitoring team in Ukraine said at least 4,317 people have been killed, up from the 4,042 deaths reported in October, from mid-April until November 18.

The number of internally displaced people has sharply increased to 466,829, compared to 275,489 as of September 18, the report said.

The list of victims keeps growing. Civilians, including women, children, minorities and a range of vulnerable individuals and groups continue to suffer the consequences of the political stalemate in Ukraine.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Allegations of serious human-rights abuses by armed groups including torture, detention, executions, forced labour and sexual violence that “are of a systematic nature and may amount to crimes against humanity”, were also outlined in the report, released by the UN human rights office in Geneva.

It says the standoff between government troops and pro-Russian rebels battling in eastern Ukraine “is becoming increasingly entrenched, with the total breakdown of law and order and the emergence of parallel governance systems” in Donetsk, the largest city under separatist control, and in the rebel-controlled section of the Luhansk region.

“The list of victims keeps growing. Civilians, including women, children, minorities and a range of vulnerable individuals and groups continue to suffer the consequences of the political stalemate in Ukraine,” Zeid Raad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

Counting the 298 people who died in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July, the overall toll since mid-April, when fighting started, stood at 4,317 deaths as of Tuesday.

Russia, meanwhile, reacted sharply to a US official’s comment that the US should consider supplying weapons to Ukraine.

“We repeatedly heard confirmations from the [US] administration that only non-lethal weapons would be delivered to Ukraine. If there is a change in this policy, then this is a highly destabilising factor that could seriously influence the balance of power in the region,” Alexander Lukashevich, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.

Tony Blinken, US deputy national security adviser, told a US Senate committee on Wednesday that strengthening Ukraine’s forces is “something we should be looking at”.

The Obama administration has resisted supplying arms to Ukraine, although there is broad support in Congress for doing so.

US Vice President Joe Biden was due in Kiev later on Thursday in advance of Friday’s anniversary of the start of the Maidan protests against the former pro-Kremlin regime which eventually led to the conflict in the east.

Egypt considers pardons for Al Jazeera staff

via Al Jazeera

Egypt’s president has said the possibility of granting presidential pardons to two Al Jazeera journalists jailed since last year is being considered.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in an interview on Thursday that the fate of two of the three jailed Al Jazeera staff was “under study”.

“If we find that this is appropriate for Egyptian national security, then we will do it,” Sisi told the French broadcaster France 24.

A spokesperson for Doha-based Al Jazeera Media Network said: “The Egyptian authorities have it in their power to release our journalists. World opinion expects this to happen speedily, and for all three to be freed.”

Sisi issued a decree last week allowing him to repatriate foreign prisoners, raising the prospect that Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian, and Peter Greste, an Australian national, could be released.

The third Al Jazeera journalist, Baher Mohamed, would not be expected to benefit as he is an Egyptian national.

Fahmy, Mohamed and Greste have been imprisoned in Egypt for 327 days, after being falsely accused and then found guilty of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The journalists have repeatedly said that they are being punished for just doing their jobs.

Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed received an additional three years for having a spent bullet in his possession, which he had picked up at a protest.

Al Jazeera has dismissed the allegations and has repeatedly called for the release of its staff.

Human rights groups condemned their trial as a sham, Western governments decried the verdict, and the UN has questioned Egypt’s reputation and the independence of its judiciary.

Calls for the release of the Al Jazeera staff have previously been made by the White House, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the European Union, the Australian government and more than 150 rights groups, including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute.

The three journalists are scheduled to appear in court on January 1, 2015, to appeal against their convictions.

Al Jazeera

Supreme Court Refuses To Block Gay Marriages In South Carolina

via TPM News

The high court on Thursday denied a request by Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson. He had wanted the marriages blocked while he challenges a judge’s recent decision that opened the way for the marriages.

On Wednesday, the first marriage licenses were issued in Charleston and a lesbian couple exchanged vows on the courthouse steps.

South Carolina is one of nearly three dozen states where gay marriages have taken place. In Montana on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

New anti-gay bill drawn up in Uganda

via Al Jazeera

Ugandan politicians have said they have drawn up new anti-gay legislation with cross-bench support, and hope to present it before parliament by the end of the year.

The move comes nearly a year after Ugandan MPs passed a bill that would have seen homosexuals face up to life in prison. The bill was later struck down by the constitutional court on a technicality.

“We are going to retable it, the committee has done its work,” Latif Ssebaggala, MP, told AFP news agency on Thursday.

Ssebaggala is a member of the team drafting the bill, which also includes Vice President Edward Ssekandi.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under a 1950s penal code which remains in force and prescribes jail for those found guilty of homosexual acts.

Cecilia Ogwal, the opposition chief whip, said they would support the bill.

“As long as homosexuals target and take advantage of our children and vulnerable people, the opposition will support an anti-gay law presented to us,” she said, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper.

According to a leaked copy of the new draft bill, MPs have focused on outlawing the “promotion” of homosexuality, something that activists said made it far more repressive and wide-reaching, with a proposed sentence of up to seven years in jail.

Activists have cautioned the East African nation that the revival of such legislation will result in violence against gays.

The bill “should be presented to the public before Christmas”, the Monitor said quoting politicians, although others suggested there would not be time, with only 11 sitting days left before holidays.

President Yoweri Museveni has been under pressure for several months from his own party to ensure that anti-gay legislation is passed.

Last month, however, Museveni, who signed off on the original bill, indicated that he was having second thoughts.

He argued that Uganda needed to consider the impact on trade and economic growth.

Critics said Museveni signed the previous law to win domestic support in advance of a presidential election scheduled for 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.

Although very popular domestically, the previous law was branded draconian and “abominable” by rights groups and condemned by several key allies and donors including the EU and US.