Category Archives: News

Hundreds March for Nieto and Others Killed by Police

from December 21, 2014 at 07:28PM
For the nine month anniversary of his death the family and friends of Alex Nieto took the streets once more Sunday night for a march to a spot they had gathered several times before: the place on Bernal Hill where the 28-year-old was killed by police officers in March, 2014. They were joined by roughly 200 people as well as the families of a five other victims of police involved…

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The 3 Ambassador Nominees who have Waited the Longest for Confirmation are all Black

from December 20, 2014 at 02:25PM

Now that George Tsunis has withdrawn his name as ambassador to Norway, the three would-be ambassadors who have waited the longest for their Senate confirmations all have one thing in common: they’re all African American.


All three are also considered political, rather than career Foreign Service, appointments. John Estrada, President Barack Obama’s choice for Trinidad and Tobago, has waited the longest of anyone: 504 days. He is a former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the highest-ranking enlisted Marine, and a native Trinidadian. After leaving the service, he worked at Lockheed Martin as a senior manager.


Cassandra Butts, selected to represent the U.S. in the Bahamas, has waited 308 days. She is a former law school classmate of Obama’s at Harvard who worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Harris Wofford (D-Pennsylvania) and Representative Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri). She also has worked for the NAACP and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank.


The next ambassador to Costa Rica, S. Fitzgerald Haney, has waited 161 days. Haney’s background is in finance, and has no diplomatic experience. But he has given substantial amounts of money to Obama’s presidential election campaigns. He contributed $30,800 to the Obama Victory Fund for the 2008 election and $75,800 to the group in the 2012 cycle and has given to other Democratic races as well.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Ambassadorial Confirmation Scorecard (by Charles Clark, Government Executive)

Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago: Who Is John Estrada? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas: Who Is Cassandra Butts? (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica: Who Is S. Fitzgerald Haney? (by Steve Straehley and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Read more at: News – AllGov

86 Firearm Deaths a Day in U.S.; 60% are Suicides

from December 20, 2014 at 02:30PM

On any given day in the United States, an average of 86 Americans die as a result of gunfire. The majority of the deaths are self-inflicted, according to data from a new public health study (pdf) on gun violence.


Garen Wintemute at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program says in his research that the nation experienced 313,045 deaths from 2003 to 2012.


His study, published in the Annual Review of Public Health, also found that 60% of these deaths were suicides. “Suicide is far more common than homicide and its rate is increasing,” Wintemute wrote. “The homicide rate is decreasing.”


He also noted that firearm violence is a “large and costly public health problem in the United States for which the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than a decade.” Even when the homicide rate was far higher than now, it was outpaced by the suicide rate, according to the study.


“Compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has uniquely high mortality rates from firearm violence,” he added.


The 313,045 deaths are more than the number of Americans killed in World War II, and “outnumber the combined count of combat fatalities in all other wars in the nation’s history.” In terms of economic costs, firearm injuries consumed $174.1 billion in 2010 alone, according to Wintemute.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States (by Garen J. Wintemute, Annual Review of Public Health)

Most Gun Deaths in U.S. are Suicides (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Read more at: News – AllGov

EPA Declines to Classify Coal Ash as Hazardous Waste

from December 21, 2014 at 02:30PM

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday finally announced federal rules for the disposal of coal ash, the toxic waste product of electric power generation. However, the decision came as a disappointment to those who had hoped the substance would be classified as hazardous waste.


EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rules, which will cover 1,425 coal ash ponds and landfills in 37 states, will treat coal ash the same as common household waste. That designation comes even though coal ash contains chemicals such as arsenic, chromium, mercury, and lead.


“We feel EPA had a golden opportunity and a clear mandate,” Lisa Evans, a senior attorney at the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, which handled the coal ash litigation against the EPA, said according to the Center for Public Integrity. “They squandered it.”


Coal ash is often disposed of by being dumped by power companies into ditches or lagoons, which are then filled with water. The sludge often escapes into lakes and streams, as it did in February when 39,000 tons of coal ash from a Duke Energy plant polluted the Dan River in north central North Carolina.


“This is the worst-stored material we have in the country,” Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, told ClimateProgress. “Not everybody knows that the world’s leading country is allowing the storage of millions of tons of industrial waste containing toxic substances to take place in unlined pits filled with water, directly beside our nation’s water resources and our drinking water reservoirs.”


The new regulations will mandate groundwater monitoring around the dump sites and liners installed in new dumps. Old dump sites that don’t meet structural standards or that have already polluted waterways will be closed.


“We are better off today than we were yesterday. There were no federal coal ash standards,” Evans said. “But they represent a weak compromise that we hope can be strengthened in the future.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Coal Ash No Worse Than Everyday Trash, EPA Rules (by Kristen Lombardi, Center for Public Integrity)

Industry, Environmentalists Brace for EPA Coal Ash Ruling (by Alan Neuhauser, U.S. News and World Report)

America’s Second-Biggest Form Of Waste Is About To Be Federally Regulated For The First Time (by Emily Atkin, ClimateProgress)

EPA Announces First National Regulations to Safeguard Disposal of Coal Ash (EPA)

Read more at: News – AllGov

In Nieto Case, Key Facts Still in the Dark

from December 20, 2014 at 11:00PM
On the longest, darkest night of the year, the Committee for Justice for Alex Nieto, a group that has organized frequent actions since the 28-year-old was killed by San Francisco Police officers in March, will hold a procession Sunday to commemorate the nine month anniversary of the officer-involved death. For artist and activist Adriana Camarena, the night of the Solstice is an especially fitting time to mark the tragic anniversary….

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Surveillance Video Shows Sheriff’s Deputy Beating Man At SF General

via SFist


Deputy Lewelling. Photo: Facebook

A San Francisco Sheriff’s deputy was arrested in connection with beating a man in a waiting room at SF General and then falsifying reports to cover it up. As ABC 7 reports, 33-year-old Deputy Mike Lewelling turned himself in Friday evening and is now out on a $138,000 bail bond after the DA’s office came up with enough compelling evidence to charge Lewelling with four felonies and a misdemeanor.

Lewelling has been charged with perjury, filing a false police report, filing a false instrument and assault under the color of authority, as well as misdemeanor battery after surveillance video emerged showing him beating a man who walked with a cane in a hospital waiting room on November 3. As the Chronicle reports, Lewelling filed a report saying he had been hit by the man with the cane, however the video showed otherwise.

The victim had been sleeping in a chair in the emergency room’s waiting area about 5 a.m., waiting for a doctor’s appointment, when prosecutors said the video showed Lewelling approaching the victim and engaging him in conversation as he woke up.When the victim tried to walk away with the help of his cane, the video showed Lewelling grabbing the back of his collar, shoving him back into the seat and knocking his cane away, the district attorney’s office said.

The video then showed Lewelling grabbing the man’s throat and choking him before placing him under arrest, prosecutors said.

Lewelling has been on the force for five years, and on hospital-patrol duty since last December.

Given that, how could he have not known that his actions would have been caught on camera?

The Sheriff’s Department, which has also been under fire in the last year following the tragic death of Lynne Spalding at the same hospital — a case in which she went missing in the hospital and ultimately died, and which was just settled out of court last week — issued a statement saying, “The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department places paramount value in maintaining the public trust bestowed upon peace officers. To that end, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is committed to holding its employees accountable for their conduct.”


Peshmerga assault frees Yazidis trapped for months on Mount Sinjar

via Euronews

In Iraq’s Kurdistan region a two-day military assault by Peshmerga forces has helped free hundreds of minority Yazidi people who have been trapped on Mount Sinjar for months.

They’ve been on the mountain since ISIL militants stormed Sinjar in the north of Iraq in August.

The Kurds have yet to take back the actual town of Sinjar from ISIL. Evacuating the Yazidis is the first step.

“This operation will of course continue to clear all the areas that are still under the control of ISIL but the details of that, or the timing of that, I am not at liberty to discuss at the moment,” explained Masrur Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council.

“But hopefully, our hope is, that all those people (the Yazidis on Sinjar Mountain) will eventually be able to go back to their own homes and villages and towns. But those that are in need of evacuation now, a corridor has been opened to evacuate those people,” Barzani added.

The assault was backed by US airstrikes. The head of Iraqi Kurdistan’s security council said that one hundredISIL fighters had been killed.

US central command said airstrikes in Iraq also targeted Mosul and Ramadi.

New York City Cops Seek Federal Court Approval to Mass Arrest Protesters Without Warning

from December 19, 2014 at 11:09AM

A legal fight from Occupy resurfaces amid 2014′s police brutality protests.

As New York Mayor Bill de Blasio takes high-profile steps to try to curtail abusive policing—sympathizing with protesters over Eric Garner’s death and vowing to reform the notorious Rikers Island prison—the city’s Law Department is going back to federal court to seek new authority to make mass arrests at protests.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has agreed to meet in full to reconsider an August ruling that sided with protesters and chastized the New York Police Department for the way it herded and arrested 700 Occupy protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in fall 2011. It concluded that the cops violated the protesters’ constitutional rights and the police did not have “cause” to arrest them.

“This decision will frustrate, not further, the work of police attempting to facilitate peaceful demonstrations while ensuring both the safety of demonstrators and those among whom demonstrations are staged,” the City’s rehearing brief argued.

Attorneys representing the protesters say the NYPD seeks renewed power to make mass arrests after entrapping protesters, as was the case in October 2011, when police walked calmly beside Occupy marchers from lower Manhattan onto the bridge. As a majority on the lower Appeals Court panel noted, most protesters did not hear any arrest warning from police and felt they were led by cops onto the Brooklyn Bridge to continue their march.    

“This is the most significant and most defining legal case on protesters’ rights in the last 40 years, since the mass arrests of May Day 1970,” said Carl Messineo, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJ) legal director, which represented the protesters. “Mayor De Blasio seeks the authority to arrest today’s protesters in the same manner Mayor Bloomberg falsely arrested Occupy Wall Street protesters by the hundreds.”

“The City of New York has waged a major legal battle and expended enormous resources in this fight against the constitutional rights of Occupy Wall Street protesters who were illegally arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in October 2011,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, PCJF’s legal director. “This case was not just about vindicating the rights of those who were arrested, but ensuring that people can demonstrate peacefully without suddenly being arrested and taken to jail.”  

The city’s legal briefs seeking a new hearing say the NYPD needs to make split decisions about arresting people at mass protests that do not need permits to march. It adds there is “significant coordination among this office: [the NYC Law Department’s Appeals Division] our client, the City Police Department; and the Mayor’s Office” in seeking a new federal court hearing to regain that authority.

“We are pleased that the full court has decided to hear the case,” Law Department Spokeswoman Kate Ahlers said Thursday. She declined further comment. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request to comment.

The Court’s decision to rehear the case comes at an awkward time for Mayor de Blasio.

New York City’s police-related politics are often shrill and brutal. After Garner’s death in Staten Island from a police chokehold and being left facedown on a sidewalk where he could not breathe, de Blasio expressed sympathies for the Garner family. De Blasio said he had to “literally train” his mixed-race son, Dante, about how to handle himself with police. The city’s Patrolmens Benevolent Association’s quick response was to circulate a flyer for cops to sign requesting the mayor not attend their funeral if killed on the job.

Meanwhile, de Blasio appears to be focused on the most high-profile police issues. This week, he toured the Riker’s Island jail for the first time as mayor and vowed to support reforms, but that came as the U.S. Attorney planned to sue over prison conditions. Like the PBA’s response to the mayor’s comments on Garner, the prison guards’ union leader has mocked complaints about the jail.

On Friday, de Blasio is scheduled to meet with organizers of the Garner protests.  

The city’s October 6 legal brief filed with the Second Circuit argues that he NYPD should be free to arrest protesters whenever they want—and have legal immunity for what might be policing decision that infringe on protesters’ constitutional rights.

“Even if it were true that some demonstrators might reasonable have concluded that they had been authorized to enter onto the Bridge—due to their distance from the bullhorn when warnings were given, the crowd noise around them during the warnings, and their observations of demonstrators ahead of them from their particular vantage point—this would not mean that those individuals had in fact received legal permssion to enter onto the roadway,” wrote Zachary Carter, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. “The [qualified immunity] doctrine is designed to protect reasonable but mistaken judgments, and does not expect omniscience from officials as a condition of its application.”

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said the NYPD simply wants to make mass arrests without notice.

“That is what the courts were ruling on,” she said, “simply the fact that police cannot mass arrest people withiut notice and opportunity to comply with an order; notably as here they were led and escorted out onto the bridge. So by seeking to overturn that order [by the U.S. District Court ruling finding the arrests unconstitutional] New York City is seeking that power to conduct sweeping mass arrests without people having any clue that they’ve done anything wrong and are going to be arrested, and no opportunity to comply with any order that they should disperse.”

The city’s Law Department has previously issued statements that confirm Verhyeden-Hilliard’s assessment.

Last January, the city agreed to pay $10.3 million to settle claims with 1,600 people who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in Manhattan. In its press release, the NYC Law Department touted that its “successes” included “defeating the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction that would have restricted the Police Department’s future actions by requiring the City to adopt guidelines on mass arrests” and “affirming police officers’ authority to make large group arrests in demonstration settings.”  

Meanwhile, In Ferguson     

Last week, a U.S. District Court in Missouri sided with protesters on a similar issue. Judge Carol Jackson issued a temporary restraining order blocking local police from using tear gas, smoke, pepper spray or other chemical agents without first giving a clear warning and a clear means of exit. In sum, that court also found that police cannot spontaneously go after protesters without warning—which is what the NYPD is now seeking in another federal court.

The Missouri ruling came in a case brought by a coalition of local and national civil rights groups led by Advancement Project. They sued after St. Louis area police used excessive force on protesters this August who were angered by the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man shot by a white Ferguson Police Department officer.

“The ruling sends a strong message that police acting under the Unified Command must respect the rights of protesters to demonstrate, and cannot use excessive tactics to curtail their message,” Denise Lieberman, Senior Attorney with Advancement Project, said.  “Police overreach was exactly what people were protesting in the first place.”

Back in New York City, it is an open question what Mayor de Blasio might do reverse couse on the city’s lawsuit seeking immunity when making mass arrests. The City’s Law Department has a deep history of fighting and winning in court against new restrictions concerning police tactics, as shown by the 2004 GOP Convention settlement. The mayor’s spokesman for police affairs did not respond to AlterNet’s requests to comment, but the mayor clearly has the executive authority to drop the suit if he wanted. 



Read more at: Alternet

“This Is Not a War! It’s a 12-year-old Boy”—Crowd Erupts When Cop Beats Handcuffed Boy (VIDEO)

from December 19, 2014 at 11:17AM

Shocked onlookers try to intervene, yell at NYPD cops and keep recording.

The cell phone video of Eric Garner may not have resulted in a trial for the police officers who choked him to death, but New Yorkers are still recording incidents of police using over-the-top force against African Americans.

In a recent video recorded by an onlooker on the streets of New York City, Several large uniformed cops have a young African-American boy subdued and pinned against a car, when a white plainclothes police officer runs up and throws several punches at the immobilized boy. There is absolutely no reason of justification for this as the video clearly shows.

The bystanders erupt in horror, especially a particularly outspoken woman.

“He’s 12!” she shouts. “Why would you do that? After everything that’s happened! I’m a lawyer – I’m writing all this down.”

“Stop it, get off of him!” yells another. 

“You guys…need a different profession. Go to war, this is not a war, this a twelve year-old kid!” said a woman standing on the sidewalk facing the officers, who did not respond to her. Another boy is pinned by other officers against another car. He noticeably cries out in pain as the officers yank his hands behind his back.

The woman who captured the video is actually actress Sarah Donegy. She explained on the YouTube page where it was posted that the incident started when officers accused the two boys being arrested for pushing a classmate down.  Donegy said that the victim was questioned and said that the boys being arrested were not the ones who pushed him.

This and other videos being shot around New York City signal that residents, and particularly African American ones have reached a point where they will not allow these brutal arrests to go down undocumented, and unprotested. It is just one of the ways people are fighting back.

The New York Police Department has engaged its Internal Affairs unit to investigate the officer caught throwing the punches. While the onlookers say the boy being beaten is 12 years-old, the police are claiming he is 16.

Watch the video of the incident:

Read more at: Alternet

Only fraction of Gaza pledged aid delivered

via Al Jazeera

Two months after donors pledged $5.4bn to help rebuild Gaza after the war between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian, UN and other officials say barely two percent of the money has been transferred.

The conference in Cairo had been hailed as a success, with Qatar promising $1bn, Saudi Arabia $500m and the United States and the European Union a combined $780m in various forms of assistance.

Half was expected to go to rebuilding houses and infrastructure in the Palestinian enclave destroyed during seven weeks of Israeli military campaign, and the rest to support the Palestinian budget.

But of the total, only $100m or so has been received, according to UN and other officials. While the EU and the US have accelerated some funding that was already in the pipeline, very few new pledges have come to fruition.

“We have received funding and pledges of approximately $100 million for shelter and repair,” said Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.

“That money will be largely finished in January 2015. We have a shortfall [for shelter and homes] of $620 million and we are going to run out right in the hardest part of winter.”

Details of donor commitments are often hard to pin down as the headline figure frequently includes money set aside earlier but not yet paid out.

While that is the case with some of the funds for Gaza, particularly from the EU and the United States, the Arab states were in most cases making new commitments of support. Officials said they had been among the worst at following through.

“The Arab countries haven’t paid anything until now,” Mufeed al-Hasayna, the Palestinian housing minister, said this month. “The Europeans just a few millions, maybe something from the Swedes.”

It was not clear what happened to promises of $200m from each of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In part, officials said, the problem is that it always takes time for donors to follow through on their commitments.

It is also difficult to transfer money to Gaza since Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, remains in control. The money was supposed to go to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which planned to resume responsibility in Gaza and administer the money. That has not yet happened.