Right-Wing Media Jump to Defend Montana Candidate After He Assaults a Reporter

from May 25, 2017 at 08:43AM http://bit.ly/2r2Vjun

After Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Congress in Montana, was charged with assaulting a journalist, some right-wing media figures and outlets immediately came to his defense, attacking the reporter as a “hack."

Montana congressional candidate “charged with assault” against a reporter

AP: Montana GOP candidate charged for “allegedly grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground.” Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana’s congressional seat, was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking a journalist, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The AP story quoted an article by Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who was a witness at the scene, writing that Gianforte grabbed The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs “by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground,” and "then began to punch Jacobs.” The AP also noted that an audio recording of the assault shows that it occurred after Jacobs asked Gianforte “about the GOP’s health care bill” which was followed by a “crashing sound” before Jacobs can be heard saying Gianforte “‘just body-slammed him.” From the May 25 AP report:

The Republican candidate in the nationally-watched election Thursday for Montana’s sole congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground.

[…]

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin made the announcement shortly before midnight Wednesday in a written statement, about six hours after the attack on reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. Gianforte would face a maximum $500 fine or 6 months in jail if convicted.

Gianforte was in a private office preparing for an interview with Fox News when Jacobs came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

The Fox News crew watched in astonishment as, after Jacobs pressed him on the GOP health care bill, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna wrote in an article. She added that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs.

In an audio recording posted by the Guardian, the reporter asks the congressional candidate about the GOP’s health care bill, which was just evaluated hours earlier by the Congressional Budget Office.

“We’ll talk to you about that later,” Gianforte says on the recording, referring Jacobs to a spokesman.

When Jacobs says that there won’t be time, Gianforte says “Just–” and there is a crashing sound. Gianforte yells, “The last guy who came here did the same thing,” and a shaken-sounded Jacobs tells the candidate he just body-slammed him.

“Get the hell out of here,” Gianforte says. [The Associated Press, 5/25/17]

Right-wing media jump to Gianforte’s defense

Daily Caller’s Derek Hunter: “What kind of a wuss files charges over broken glasses? Someone who wants to influence an outcome, that’s who.”

 

What kind of a wuss files charges over broken glasses? Someone who wants to influence an outcome, that’s who. #JournalismIsDead

— Derek Hunter (@derekahunter) May 25, 2017

[Twitter, 5/24/17]

Infowars: Jacobs is a “long-standing Democratic operative” and a “hack reporter” whose account “sounds rather exaggerated.” Infowars cross-posted a piece from Information Liberation titled “Liberal Guardian Journalist Interferes In Montana Election, Gets Body Slammed.” The piece claimed that Jacobs is a “long-standing Democratic operative” and a “hack reporter” whose account “sounds rather exaggerated.” The piece also asserted, “The clip would perhaps be interesting if they didn’t manipulatively edit out their actual interaction with a blatant jump cut in the middle.” From the May 25 post:

Far-left liberal journalist Ben Jacobs was reportedly “body slammed” on Wednesday by GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte on the eve of Montana’s special election to decide who will succeed Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke.

Jacobs is a long-standing Democratic operative, as Chuck Johnson exposed last year.

[…]

The clip would perhaps be interesting if they didn’t manipulatively edit out their actual interaction with a blatant jump cut in the middle.

Regardless, the same hack reporter attacked Gianforte from the right by asking him why he only reluctantly supported Donald Trump. Gianforte was noticeably angry.

[…]

Fox News journalists witnessed the body slamming[.]

[…]

Sounds rather exaggerated. [Infowars, 5/25/17]

GotNews: Jacobs is “a former minion for the Iowa Democratic Party” with “a history of opposing his political opponents’ freedom of speech.” GotNews alleged that Jacobs is “a former minion for the Iowa Democratic Party now operating as a Guardian reporter” who has “a history of opposing his political opponents’ freedom of speech.” From the May 24 post:

A former minion for the Iowa Democratic Party now operating as a Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, assaulted Montana Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte on Wednesday. Jacobs has a history of opposing his political opponents’ freedom of speech, as GotNews reported in October. [Got News, 5/24/17]

Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell: "Jacobs is an obnoxious, dishonest first class jerk. I’m not surprised he got smacked."

Jacobs is an obnoxious, dishonest first class jerk. I’m not surprised he got smacked.

— Brent Bozell (@BrentBozell) May 25, 2017

[Twitter, 5/25/17]

NewsBusters’ Tim Graham: “Let’s ask why on Earth a House candidate in Montana should have to answer questions from a reporter for a BRITISH newspaper????”

 

Let’s ask why on Earth a House candidate in Montana should have to answer questions from a reporter for a BRITISH newspaper????

— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) May 25, 2017

[Twitter, 5/24/17]

Laura Ingraham: “Politicians always need to keep their cool. But what would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man?”

Politicians always need to keep their cool. But what would most Montana men do if "body slammed" for no reason by another man?

— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 25, 2017

 

Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?

— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 25, 2017

[Twitter, 5/24/175/24/17]

Professional troll Mike Cernovich: “Has Ben Jacobs ever disavowed political violence by the left? If not, why does media suddenly care?”

Has Ben Jacobs ever disavowed political violence by the left? If not, why does media suddenly care?

— Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) May 25, 2017

[Twitter, 5/24/17]

Fox & Friends repeated Gianforte’s claim that “the men both fell.” Fox & Friends’ Jillian Mele reported on the assault by neglecting the witness accounts, one of which was reported by Fox News’ own reporter Alicia Acuna, and repeating Gianforte’s claim that “the men both fell.” From the May 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

JILLIAN MELE: Hours before the polls open in the Montana special election, a GOP congressional candidate is charged with assault. Greg Gianforte defending himself after he’s accused of body-slamming a Guardian reporter. The candidate says that reporter tried to push a phone in his face before this happened.

[…]

MELE: Quite a scene. Gianforte’s campaign says the men both fell. [Fox News, Fox & Friends5/25/17; FoxNews.com, 5/24/17]

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

Reports: Trump Praised Philippine President’s ‘Job On The Drug Problem’

from May 23, 2017 at 09:15PM http://bit.ly/2riGy7E

In a private phone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last month, President Donald Trump praised the way Duterte has handled drug crimes in the Philippines, according to reports in the Washington Post and The Intercept.

Duterte’s crackdown on drug-related crimes has led to a significant increase in extrajudicial killings and Duterte has publicly threatened to kill drug suspects.

Trump praised Duterte for his “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” according to the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the transcript produced by the Philippine government.

“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump added, per the Post.

Trump told Duterte that he is a “good man,” according to a transcript from the Philippine government obtained by the Intercept.

“Thank you Mr. President,” Duterte then told Trump, per The Intercept. “This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

Trump then appeared to make a comment about former President Barack Obama.

“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump told Duterte, according to the Washington Post.

In the White House’s official readout of the call released in April, the administration said Trump and Duterte “discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.”

Read more at: All TPM News http://bit.ly/1kKyqV3

Yet Another Video Shows U.S.-Funded White Helmets Assisting Public Executions in Rebel-Held Syria

from May 23, 2017 at 08:05PM http://bit.ly/2ri4mbX

The shocking regime change scandal mainstream media refuses to touch.

Syria Civil Defense, popularly known as the White Helmets, can be seen in a new video assisting in a public execution in a rebel-held town in Syria. It is at least the second such execution video featuring members of the Nobel Prize-nominated group.

The White Helmets have received at least $23 million in funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a wing of the State Department. The British Foreign Office and other European governments have pitched in as well.

Frequently cited as an invaluable source of information by major Western media outlets, the group was the subject of an Academy Award-winning 2016 Netflix documentary, The White Helmets.

Endorsements from A-list Hollywood celebrities like George Clooney and Justin Timberlake, as well as Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, have followed.

Large corporate media networks have yet to report on the dark side of the White Helmets, however, and films like the widely celebrated Netflix feature function as uncritical commercials for the group, helping to keep the public in a state of ignorance about the domination of the Western-backed Syrian armed opposition by extremist Salafi jihadist groups, and about the civil conflict in general.

While CNN and other outlets rely heavily on footage taken by White Helmets members, not one major Western media outlet has reported on the latest execution video starring the group’s uniformed members.

The video, which Syrian opposition activists uploaded to Facebook, shows three men from the White Helmets rushing into the center of a crowd, mere seconds after an alleged criminal was shot in the head, and removing the body on a stretcher. A member of the White Helmets can be seen celebrating along with the crowd of onlookers.

WARNING: This video features violence that may disturb viewers.

The men in the video were clearly identified by their signature white helmets, along with vests embroidered with the Syria Civil Defense logo.

The public execution took place in the small city of Jasim, in Syria’s southern Daraa province — which is often described as a hub for "moderate" rebels. Activists posted the video on May 16 on the Facebook page Coordination of the City of Al-Harra, Mother of the Martyrs, a site for the opposition in the neighboring city of Al-Harra.

Two days later, Syria Civil Defense released a carefully crafted statement admitting its members were involved in the execution. The statement noted that a tribal council in Jasim had asked the White Helmets "to humanely dispose of the body of a person that had been sentenced to death, by the local court, for murder." The group said it had "conducted an investigation" into the execution, and in response dismissed a White Helmet leader, while temporarily suspending two other team members.

Executing an Oscar-worthy performance

This is not the first time the White Helmets have appeared as participants in a public execution.

A jarring execution filmed in 2015 in the rebel-held town of Haritan shows two members of Syria Civil Defense waiting just off camera while a member of Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, reads out a death sentence, before shooting a man dressed in street clothes in the head. Seconds later, the White Helmets team tosses the man’s body onto a stretcher and scrambles away.

WARNING: This video features violence that may disturb viewers.

The 2015 video prompted a carefully worded statement by the organization, condemning the killing and claiming its members were simply fulfilling their task by performing “the emergency burial of the dead.”

A British public relations outfit called the Syria Campaign was hired by an influential British-Syrian billionaire, Ayman Asfari, to market the White Helmets to the Western public. As Max Blumenthal has reported for AlterNet, the Syria Campaign was itself the creation of a slick New York City- and London-based public relations firm called Purpose. Among the PR group’s greatest achievements was fundraising for the widely celebrated Netflix documentary.

This year, the makers of the film were awarded with an Oscar for Best Documentary Short. As he received the honor before millions of viewers around the world, director Orlando Einsiedel read a prepared statement from Read al-Saleh, the director of the White Helmets: “Our organization is guided by a verse in the Quran: ‘To save one life is to save all of humanity.’”

But the execution videos call into question the White Helmets’ claims to act as an impartial, life-saving rescue organization, and raise serious questions about the motives of its funders and promoters within public relations firms and mainstream newsrooms.

‘Hidden soldiers’ of al-Qaeda and ISIS?

The White Helmets operate exclusively within the armed Syrian opposition, working closely with al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and even ISIS. The British journalist and ISIS hostage John Cantlie inadvertently exposed the group’s relationship with ISIS when he referred to a White Helmets team as “the Islamic State’s fire brigade” in a propaganda video he was forced to participate in.

Videos and photos of White Helmets members posing triumphantly on the corpses of Syrian soldiers and joining fighters in accosting an alleged political opponent have circulated throughout social media.

In March 2015, the extremist-sympathizing opposition media outlet Sarmeen posted a video featuring the White Helmets gleefully joining a chant with Salafi jihadist fighters in Idlib, as they fire a fusillade of bullets into the air.

A member of Syria Civil Defense grabs a flag from one of the militants and begins waving it: a black flag with the shahada in white letters, a common Salafi jihadist symbol, emblazoned with the name of Jaish al-Sunna, an extremist Islamist militia that is allied with Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate and that has reportedly recruited child soldiers with the help of the al-Qaeda-linked fundamentalist Saudi warlord Abdullah al-Muhaysini.

Another upload to YouTube, posted the same day by the rebel media outlet, shows White Helmets joining the extremist militants in songs and chants.

Al-Muhaysini, the ideological leader of Syria’s Salafi jihadist rebels, has repeatedly praised the White Helmets. The Saudi warlord, who has been implicated in numerous war crimes in Syria, including mass executions of captured Syrian soldiers, insisted in an interview that there is no difference between the “mujahideen” (Salafi jihadist fighters) and the White Helmets. He even favorably described Syria Civil Defense members as mujahideen.

In May 2015, a White Helmets member named Muawiya Hassan Agha posted a grotesque video to Facebook (since deleted) that showed extremist Syrian rebels torturing two captured soldiers they later executed. Agha had also been filmed celebrating the capture of Idlib by al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. Rumors circulated that Agha was dismissed from the White Helmets when his involvement in the atrocities came to light.

This March, a leader of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the powerful newly rebranded al-Qaeda-led rebel coalition in Syria, hailed the White Helmets in a special video message as the “hidden soldiers of the revolution.”

For more coverage of the White Helmets scandal, read Max Blumenthal’s two-part investigation here and here, and Gareth Porter’s expose of White Helmets misinformation.

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

Trump Administration Says It Isn’t Anti-Science As It Seeks to Slash EPA Science Office

from May 24, 2017 at 04:12AM http://bit.ly/2rVlccO

by Lisa Song

When the city of Toledo temporarily lost access to clean drinking water several years ago after a bloom of toxic algae, the Environmental Protection Agency sent scientists from its Office of Research and Development to study health effects and formulate solutions.

The same office was on the front lines of the Flint water crisis and was a critical presence in handling medical waste from the U.S. Ebola cases in 2014.

Thomas Burke, who directed ORD during the last two years of the Obama administration and was the agency’s science adviser, calls the office the nation’s “scientific backstop in emergencies.”

President Trump’s 2018 budget would slash ORD’s funding in half as part of an overall goal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent.

A statement from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not directly address the cuts to ORD, but offered broad defense of the proposed agency budget, saying it “respects the American taxpayer” and “supports EPA’s highest priorities with federal funding for priority work in infrastructure, air and water quality, and ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.”

ORD has no regulatory authority, but it conducts the bulk of the research that underlies EPA policies. ORD scientists are involved in “virtually every major environmental challenge the nation has,” Burke said. Diminishing the role and input of the office, he said, risked leaving the country “uninformed about risks and public health.”

“In time, you’re flying blind,” he said. “Everything becomes a mystery.”

Trump’s budget, released Tuesday, reflects the president’s wish list. The numbers likely will change by the time it goes through the congressional appropriations process, but the proposed cuts are consistent with the administration’s push against environmental regulation and scientific funding. Many of the cuts fall on agencies involved with climate change research, including the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters in a Tuesday briefing that the budget reduces climate science funding without eliminating it.

“Do we target it? Sure,” Mulvaney said in response to a reporter’s question. “Do a lot of the EPA reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes. Does it mean that we are anti-science? Absolutely not. We’re simply trying to get things back in order to where we can look at the folks who pay the taxes, and say, look, yeah, we want to do some climate science, but we’re not going to do some of the crazy stuff the previous administration did.”  

Much of the EPA’s climate research takes place in the Office of Air and Radiation, which is separate from ORD. But ORD studies the strategic, long-term effects of climate change, including the effects on agriculture and the oceans, Burke said.

Christine Todd Whitman, a former EPA administrator who worked for George W. Bush from 2001 to June 2003, said the proposed ORD cuts are more drastic than anything she can remember.

Whitman said she expects Congress will restore much of the funding, but she worries about the message behind the budget.

“A budget to me was always a policy document,” she said. Regardless of what Congress does, this administration’s policy “indicates to me [that] they’ll be looking for other ways to … stifle the research and slow it down,” she said.

OMB and the EPA did not return requests for comment about the ORD cuts.

ORD is one of several EPA programs listed under a section of the budget called “2018 major savings and reforms.” The others include EPA enforcement (24 percent cut); Superfund, which cleans up toxic waste sites (30 percent); categorical state grants (45 percent); and funding for watershed protection, energy efficiency and voluntary climate programs, which would be eliminated.

The budget states the ORD reductions would allow the EPA to “focus on core Agency responsibilities … At lower funding levels for the Office of Research and Development, the Agency would prioritize intramural research activities that are either related to statutory requirements or that support basic and early stage research and development activities in the environmental and human health sciences.”

Whitman and Burke said ORD already does that — and halving the budget would make it virtually impossible to meet EPA’s regulatory mandate.

ORD is “the backbone of the scientific research that goes on,” Whitman said. “Every regulation promulgated by EPA is based in science.”

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he worries Congress will use the budget to justify serious but less drastic cuts to the agency. This administration’s philosophy seems to be “if you don’t measure it, you don’t have to be held accountable for it.”

ORD also helps regional EPA offices. Michael Mikulka, president of AFGE Local 704, a union representing scientists, engineers and attorneys at EPA’s Region 5 office (in the Great Lakes area), said he relies on ORD’s Cincinnati lab for advice on toxic waste cleanup. “If their staff is cut significantly, there would be less people to advise us.”

Burke said ORD was always going to be a target. The office came under fire from environmentalists in 2015 when it released a draft study that said hydraulic fracturing had no “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water. After considering comments from the EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board, the report authors reversed their findings, concluding there was insufficient evidence to support their previous statement. This time, the report was widely criticized by the oil and gas industry.

ORD is also home to the IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) program that sets exposure guidelines for chemicals. The program has been criticized for dragging its feet and bowing to the interests of the chemical industry.

As Trump Slashes EPA, Worry Over the Fate of an Agency Doing Similar Work

Will the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ work on the effects of pesticides, chemicals and cancer-causing compounds be undamaged by the new administration? Read the story.

“I’m very concerned the IRIS program will be zeroed out,” Burke said. “There’s an endless challenge by polluters to delay the science.”

But aside from a few high-profile issues, much of ORD’s work takes place under the radar. The office has laboratories all over the country, working on air pollution, ocean acidification and vehicle emissions.

One of ORD’s lesser-known responsibilities is dealing with homeland security. “God forbid, if we have to clean up a water supply after a terrorist activity, it [would be] in this office,” Burke said.

Whitman said the EPA was tasked with cleaning up the Hart Senate Office Building in 2001 after then-Sen. Tom Daschle received an envelope containing anthrax powder. Whitman remembers asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a safe standard of anthrax exposure. The CDC didn’t know, she said, so ORD did the research and set it at zero.

“These are the kinds of things you lose” when you de-fund the “national nerve center of the science challenges facing not just the EPA, but all the states and all the communities,” Burke said.

Help us investigate: If you have experience with or information about the EPA or other environmental agencies, email lisa.song@propublica.org. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

Read more at: ProPublica: Articles and Investigations http://bit.ly/1lISYtS

White Policeman Fired for not Killing Black Man with Gun

from May 23, 2017 at 10:25PM http://bit.ly/2rVnCrY

By Jeffery Robinson, ACLU Deputy Legal Director and Director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality, American Civil Liberties Union

 

“I am not going to shoot you, brother.”

 

In what world do those words being said by a police officer result in that officer being fired? You don’t have to go down the rabbit hole in search of a place where up is down, left is right, and war is peace.  All you need do is go to Weirton, West Virginia.

 

Police Officer Stephen Mader was fired from his job for not killing a Black man when he could have. He’s now in a battle that seems both absurd and highlights the absurdity of our times: He has to sue to regain his reputation and his right to work because he did not kill a suicidal man who was “armed” with an unloaded gun.

 

That’s right — an unloaded gun.

 

R.J. Williams was grappling with depression when his former girlfriend called 911 and reported that Mr. Williams had an unloaded gun and was suicidal. Officer Mader, however, arrived on the scene before that information was even relayed to law enforcement, so he was going to have to rely on his training in the absence of this information. How his use of that training steered his actions tells vital things about police training and police action.

 

When Mader pulled up, Mr. Williams brought his hands from behind his back, revealing his gun. Mader was facing a Black man with a gun, without backup, at night, on the street. We’ve seen this story before. We’ve seen how it usually plays out: The police kill another Black man. Excuses are made for the officer who shot, and the media cycles through its outrage or lack thereof. Then the nation returns to business as usual. It’s the callous cycle of Black killing.

 

So why didn’t Mader shoot to kill?

 

This is a deceptively simple question with important, complex answers that reveal the problems with our criminal justice system.

 

Given the reality of policing in America, his refusal to shoot an “armed” Black man could not have come from fear of prosecution. In 2015, the Guardian reported that police in America killed 1,145 people. There were 18 prosecutions.  Black men were killed at twice the rate of whites, and Black men between 15-34 years of age were killed at five times the rate of whites in the same age group. Unarmed Black men are killed by police every year and the consequences are frighteningly similar — leave with pay until the “no charges to be filed” decision is announced and then head back to work — sometimes with a promotion. Prosecution is the last thing Mader had to worry about. So if it wasn’t fear of prosecution, what was it?

 

The answer: He followed his training and had a deep respect for the sanctity of life.

 

Mader did not shoot because he did what conscientious law enforcement leaders say every officer should do. He analyzed the full situation. By taking into account all the factors he could, he consequently saw more than a Black man with a gun.  He saw a person in distress who was not acting aggressively. R.J. Williams never aimed his gun at Officer Mader. Having been trained in the military in deescalation tactics, Mader followed his training.

 

Instead of yelling, “GET ON THE GROUND OR I WILL BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF,” he calmed his voice and spoke slowly and softly. He engaged.  He listened to what Williams was saying, which amounted to repeated pleas to “just shoot me.” He evaluated Williams’ demeanor. Even though the dispatcher failed to say that the gun was not loaded, Mader came to that conclusion.

 

Mader understood that he was facing someone who was trying to commit “suicide by cop.” He saw someone in intense pain, not someone looking to hurt him. Officer Mader showed the bravery and compassion we should value in every police officer. “I’m not going to shoot you, brother,” he told R.J. Williams. Then two other officers arrived on the scene, and the situation worsened.

 

Mr. Williams began to raise his hand with the gun, and one of the newly arrived officers shot and killed him. Officer Mader’s assessment that the gun was unloaded were confirmed when the gun was checked. By this time, Mr. Williams had indeed committed suicide by cop. The situation should have been deescalated. Deescalation saves lives. Full stop.

 

His training served Officer Mader well, and it led him to make the right decision. His department did not serve him well. It fired him for making the right decision. That is what’s wrong with the criminal justice system today as seen on a community level with law enforcement.

 

In Chicago, Laquan McDonald had a knife in his hand and was shot 16 times in 14 seconds. The situation was not deescalated.  In Camden, New Jersey, a man with a knife in his hand was approached by police and instead of killing him they followed him for several minutes, clearing people out of harm’s way, until they could tackle him and take him into custody with no one injured, no one killed. The situation was deescalated by police.

 

Respect for life and adherence to deescalation techniques is what we should expect from our police officers. It’s why training is critically necessary. It saves lives.  

 

We should not fire cops who act heroically. We should not fire cops who use their training to protect community members, even when — no, especially when — they are in distress.

 

Officer Mader did everything in his power to preserve life that night in Weirton, West Virginia. He resisted the impulse to respond with force. He was on his way to saving Mr. Williams’ life when the other two officers arrived.  If we mean what we say about the need for deescalation in police departments around America, Stephen Mader deserves our thanks.  He deserves our praise.

 

But most importantly, he deserves his job back.

 

This article reprinted by permission of the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

To Learn More:

Shootings by L.A. Police Are Nearly Double This Year, but Info Is Limited (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Black Men: 6% of Population; 40% of Unarmed People Shot to Death by Police This Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

High-Profile Police Shootings of Blacks Bring About Shift in Perception of Race in the U.S. (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Police Shoot to Death One Unarmed Person Every 3 Days in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

How Many People are Killed by Police? Crowdsourcing Identifies the Officer-Involved Killings Government Doesn’t Count (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

Most Police Shootings Don’t Lead to Prosecution of Police (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Half of People Killed by Police are Mentally Ill (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Read more at: News – AllGov http://bit.ly/SBRNmn

Russians Bragged That They Could Use Michael Flynn to Influence Trump, CNN Reports

from May 19, 2017 at 11:43AM http://bit.ly/2qdI0Dq

Russian officials believed that Michael Flynn was an ally whom they could use to influence President Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday night. The  network cites "multiple government officials" who were aware of conversations within the Russian government that were intercepted during the 2016 campaign.

"This was a five-alarm fire from early on," one former Obama administration official said, "the way the Russians were talking about him." Another former administration official said Flynn was viewed as a potential national security problem.

The conversations picked up by US intelligence officials indicated the Russians regarded Flynn as an ally, sources said. That relationship developed throughout 2016, months before Flynn was caught on an intercepted call in December speaking with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. That call, and Flynn’s changing story about it, ultimately led to his firing as Trump’s first national security adviser.

Flynn resigned from the position of National Security Adviser in February, 18 days after then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with the Russian ambassador and, as a result, could be a target of blackmail. 

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/1tZ6E7y

Supreme Court Strikes Down North Carolina’s Racial Gerrymander

from May 22, 2017 at 01:40AM http://bit.ly/2qIRIRH

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down North Carolina’s congressional map, finding that the Republican legislature unconstitutionally used race in drawing district lines that reduced the voting power of minorities.

In the 5-3 decision, with ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joining the four liberal justices in the majority, the court ruled that North Carolina unconstitutionally packed African American voters into two districts, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, did not participate in the ruling.

"This decision by Justice [Elena] Kagan is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in Southern states," election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog Monday morning. "That Justice Kagan got Justice Thomas not only to vote this way but to sign onto the opinion (giving it precedential value) is a really big deal."

The Republican majority in North Carolina’s legislature drew the contested congressional district map in 2011. It added more African Americans to two districts that already had significant black populations and had consistently elected the representatives—all Democrats—favored by most black voters since the 1990s. Voters in those districts sued, claiming the lawmakers had intentionally reduced African American voting power elsewhere in the state. States are generally not allowed to use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines.

To justify their changes to one of those districts, the 1st Congressional District (CD1), Republican lawmakers claimed they were complying with the mandate of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), which states that minority voters must be able to elect representatives of their choosing. In a brief to the Supreme Court, the legal team defending the Republican map argued that past voting behavior in CD1 could not predict future voting, particularly since the 2011 map added nearly 100,000 people to the district. A federal district court disagreed in February 2016 and ruled the use of race in drawing CD1 unconstitutional.

A map of CD1 shows the lengths Republicans went to in order to fill it with as many African Americans as possible. A brief from the lawyers for the citizens fighting the map describes the district as "a behemoth sprawling from the rural Coastal Plain to the City of Durham, extending tendrils to sweep in pockets of African-American voters."

Kagan’s majority opinion found that the state unconstitutionally used race in drawing the map for CD1. "Although States enjoy leeway to take race-based actions reasonably judged necessary under a proper interpretation of the VRA, that latitude cannot rescue District 1," she wrote. "Neither will we approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence and whose raison d’être is a legal mistake."

Specifically, the Supreme Court found that the state’s argument that the VRA could be used to pack black voters into a district was not supported by the law. "[W]e further uphold the District Court’s decision that §2 of the VRA gave North Carolina no good reason to reshuffle voters because of their race," the opinion states.

The 12th Congressional District (CD12) is even more curiously constructed. It is 120 miles long but only 20 miles across at its widest point—making it so thin as to be barely perceptible on a map. CD12 has long been serpentine, but the new map exacerbated its strange shape. It doesn’t contain any whole counties or cities, but rather portions of six counties and 13 towns and cities. The Republican legislature explained its shape by saying it was based on partisan, not racial, concerns. The goal was to make it even more overwhelmingly Democratic in order to help Republicans win surrounding districts—a tactic that is presumably legal because states are allowed to consider partisanship when drawing districts. But in its February 2016 ruling, the federal district court found that race was the predominant consideration in drawing CD12 as well.

The Supreme Court deferred to the district court’s decision on CD12. "[W]e uphold the District Court’s finding of racial predominance respecting District 12," Kagan wrote. "The evidence offered at trial, including live witness testimony subject to credibility determinations, adequately supports the conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for the district’s reconfiguration."

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the 2011 map has served Republicans well in North Carolina even as it has made its way through state and federal court. In 2012 and 2014, when the statewide vote was closely divided, Republicans won 10 of the state’s 13 House seats. In 2016, with a slightly tweaked map, Republicans kept that 10-3 advantage, even as Donald Trump barely won the state and a Democrat, Rory Cooper, won the governorship.

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/1tZ6E7y

Texas Goes After Trans Kids With Its Latest Bathroom Bill

from May 22, 2017 at 08:19AM http://bit.ly/2qOGjQE

Earlier today the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to give final approval to legislation that would force transgender students in public schools and public charter schools to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex assigned at birth or a bathroom that’s separate from other students—ultimately prohibiting them from using the facility that best matches their gender identity.

The move comes in the final days of a tense legislative session that ended as it began: debating the economic, moral, and personal stakes of a so-called "bathroom bill." And it seemed, as recently as last week, as though the session might end without passing the long-debated legislation, prompting Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to threaten to force a special session if lawmakers failed to pass the bill.

Part of the hold up in the House was the sweeping nature of the Senate’s bathroom bill, passed back in March, which aims to prohibit transgender people from using the bathroom most appropriate for them in all public buildings and public schools, while simultaneously prohibiting localities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances. Conservative lawmakers in the House bristled at the legislation not out of concern for civil rights, but for state finances. The Texas Association of Businesses estimated the initial proposal could lose the state $8.5 billion per year. When North Carolina passed legislation barring transgender people from using the bathroom that best matches their gender identity and nullifying local nondiscrimination ordinances, businesses relocated and major revenue-generating events were rescheduled in other states. So, instead of voting on the more extreme Senate legislation, SB 6, Texas’s House amended a bill focused on school emergency operations, SB 2078. To become law, their amendment focused solely on schools. Now it’s kicked back to the Senate for approval.

Even still, narrowing the scope of the bill did little to placate Democrats, who say this legislation is about a lot more than bathrooms. "White. Colored. I was living through that era…bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), a black woman, according to the Texas Tribune. "America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all."

Many Republicans, including the representative who authored the amendment, reject that assessment and insist the legislation isn’t discriminatory. "There is absolutely no intent, and I would argue nothing in this language discriminates against anybody," said Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall). "We want to make sure we provide definitive guidance to our school districts."

Beyond fears for students’ civil rights, the bill’s opponents also point out that this kind of legislation is dangerous for transgender youth, who are at a heightened risk for having depression, having anxiety, or attempting suicide compared to the general population, something linked to the discrimination they face. Access to the appropriate facilities plays a role in mental health outcomes: a 2016 study in the Journal of Homosexuality found that being denied access to housing and bathrooms that match one’s gender identity in college increased a transgender person’s risk for suicide.

It’s also clear that separate, segregated facilities are not equivalent to being able to use the appropriate bathroom. The bleak reality for trans students has been driven home by a five-year-old transgender girl and her mom, who have become the public faces of the Texas fight and profiled by several media outlets. Kai Shappley had an accident when the gender-neutral bathroom she was supposed to use in the nurse’s office was locked. "As a mom, you don’t want your kid to become bitter and jaded, and so you tell them it’s not your fault and it happens," her mother said in an interview with Fusion earlier this year. "But in your head, you’re like ‘What the hell? Nobody could get her to a potty?’" (The school says there’s no evidence the accident happened.)

"There is no moral middle ground on discrimination," said Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller in a statement. "Either you discriminate, or you don’t. This amendment, if it becomes law, would leave transgender students even more vulnerable to being stigmatized and bullied simply because they are different."

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/1tZ6E7y

Michael Flynn Is Pleading the Fifth

from May 22, 2017 at 02:59AM http://bit.ly/2rMLRbO

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn will invoke the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday and refuse to comply with a congressional subpoena, according to the Associated Press. The Senate intelligence committee had asked Flynn for documents in his possession that might relate to the committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election.

It’s not a surprising move—Flynn was not expected to turn over the documents without immunity, "because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so," according to the AP. Last week, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the intelligence committee, prematurely said Flynn would not cooperate.

It’s unclear how Republicans will respond to Flynn’s decision. The intelligence committee could ask Congress to vote on whether to hold Flynn in contemptan option that would force Flynn to face possible fines or jail time if he continued to withhold the documents. "I’m not going to go into what we might or might not do," Burr said last week when asked what the committee would do next if Flynn refused to cooperate with the investigation. "We’ve got a full basket of things that we’re willing to test."

Meanwhile, Democrats on the House’s oversight committee are increasing pressure on Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to subpoena the White House for documents on how the White House vetted Flynn, which the committee asked for two months ago. "The White House is obstructing our investigation on the Oversight Committee, covering up for General Flynn, and refusing to produce a single document that Chairman Chaffetz and I asked for in a bipartisan letter two months ago," Rep. Elijah Cummings (R-Md.), ranking member of the committee, said in a statement over the weekend. "I have prepared a subpoena that the Chairman could sign today." Cummings says if Chaffetz doesn’t want to issue the subpoena himself, he should allow committee members to take a vote on it.

Chaffetz isn’t always so shy about using the power to subpoena—he asked for the FBI’s full investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and just last week demanded that the FBI hand over the Comey memos, which detail President Donald Trump’s attempts to curb the federal investigation into Flynn, according to an explosive report last week from the New York Times.

Update, 3:32 p.m. ET: Former Trump campaign associates Paul Manafort and Roger Stone turned in documents Monday for the Senate intelligence probe according to NBC News.

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/1tZ6E7y

FBI’s Russia investigation now targeting top White House official

from May 19, 2017 at 07:11AM http://bit.ly/2q4Zulp

Hacking FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The relentless rush of Trump-related leaks continued on Friday, as the Washington Post revealed that the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign has now focused in on a high-level employee currently working out of the White House.

Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper did not name the senior Trump administration staffer but said that the individual had become a “significant person of interest.”

Mike Flynn, Trump’s former top national security adviser, was forced to resign after his ties to the Russian government were publicly revealed and he was shown to have lied to Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he’d had with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

According to a Wednesday report from the New York Times, Flynn informed Trump’s transition team on January 4th that he was under federal investigation for his ties to Russia and other foreign governments. Despite knowledge of the probe, the incoming administration decided to go forward with plans to hire Flynn as the National Security Advisor, a position that gave him access to America’s highest military and intelligence secrets.

According to the Times, Brandon Van Grack, a veteran espionage prosecutor, is leading a grand jury investigation that has recently been issuing subpoenas.

The larger Russia investigation is separate from the inquiry into Flynn’s previous work and may not result in criminal charges if the individuals involved were only found to have breached government protocol rather than federal laws.

In the Post story, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was quoted denying that investigators would find anything incriminating toward the former Trump campaign.

“As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” Spicer said.

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com