Rush Limbaugh Flees for His Safety After Calling Hurricane Irma a Liberal Hoax

from September 8, 2017 at 01:49PM http://bit.ly/2xTX1yz

Two days ago, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said that Hurricane Irma’s news coverage was a ploy to create “fear and panic,” and predicted that the storm probably wouldn’t impact the major population centers of South Florida.

It took Limbaugh about a day to change his mind.

On Thursday, the bag of bluster announced that he’d be going to be taking a hiatus from his Palm Beach, Florida, house and studio, leaving someone else to handle his show.

Limbaugh’s previous statements indicated that he was unsure that there would be serious devastation to areas — it was all media hype! — and, on Thursday, he stood by those remarks. He argued that, if you’re not going to be in the eye of the storm, it won’t be as bad as the media and government say it would be.

So when they say “hurricane category 4, maximum sustained winds 155 miles,” there is a place where that is happening, but it’s not very large. It’s not the whole hurricane. But all of this is done on purpose because — and once it’s committed to, once you reach the three-day forecast range, which we’re in now, 72 hours out, once you reach that, they’re committed.

But even as Limbaugh cast doubt on the government’s forecasts, he heeded them in case they were right.

They’re committed to it. It’s part of the way they warn. Even if they think that it’s gonna turn and be offshore east, they can’t move that track in advance of that happening, because they can’t be sure. If they were to move that track offshore east, say tonight at five o’clock, in two hours, and it moves and they’re right, but then late Saturday night it makes a jog left back over land, they would be in deep doo-doo, because people believe them too. And they can’t afford now that they’ve invested and committed to a landfall in south Florida, they have to stick with that until the hurricane makes a move that is off that track. They can’t make a move now because of the model.

President Donald Trump‘s seaside resort Mar-a-Lago has also been ordered to evacuate as Irma, a ferocious category 4 storm, approaches Florida.

Last year, Limbaugh revealed how damaging a category 4 storm would be.  He also blamed Obama for part of the panic during Hurricane Matthew, while admitting that yes, being in a hurricane is actually pretty bad!

Now, we’ve lived through Category 2s here, and they are devastating.  You lose power and you lose your phone lines and trees are blown over and the roads are impassable, and there’s some home damage, depending on the construction of the home and how old it is.  It’s not pretty.  Category 1 even can feature some of that.  Category 4, like is headed for the East Coast of Florida right now could be catastrophic if it comes ashore.

Just remember: Even Rush Limbaugh listens to the meteorologists.

 

Jeremy Binckes is Salon’s Cover Editor. 

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

SF arts institution celebrates 40 years of making art and community

from September 8, 2017 at 08:42AM http://bit.ly/2wQmVGG

A community hub that began as an empty furniture store will celebrate 40 years of supporting artists this Saturday as the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts throws its 40th Anniversary Gala.

The focus and feel of the center has shifted dramatically through the decades, from its international political roots to its role as a community center for local artists to grow.

The center was founded in 1977 in a definitively political way, its funding the result of a concession by the city granted to neighborhood activists who were incensed at the upcoming construction of the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. That investment, activists and artists argued at the time according to Cary Cordova’s book The Heart of the Mission, pandered to the tastes of affluent suburbanites rather than the cultural needs of neighborhoods.

With help from city funding the building at 2868 Mission Street was purchased and turned into a cultural center with strong support for a Nicaraguan revolution right from the start. Cordova reports in her book that Sandinista poet Ernesto Cardenal spoke at an opening ceremony that drew some two thousand people and included a baptism ceremony proclaiming to shield the children from “spirits of greed, capitalism, egoism and Somoza.”

Even its logo proclaimed its rebellious nature – tezcatlipoca, a jaguar that according to Adrian Arias’ 2003 documentary about the center “represented anti-establishment art.”

“It was political times, not just in the U.S. but throughout Latin America, and I think the Mission and the Mission Cultural Center reflected that historical moment,” said Alejandro Murguía, a poet, the center’s first director and more recently a San Francisco State University professor.

By the time Arias made that documentary for the center’s 25th anniversary, the Cultural Center had established itself as a hub for dance, printmaking, and music – serving as a performance space open to many young musicians who later made a name for themselves right alongside established musicians, much as it does today.

In the year leading up to that milestone, the gallery space found itself in need of some serious elbow grease, according to its incoming curator at the time, Patricia Rodriguez.

About a year before the center’s 25-year anniversary, she had been hired on to do some typing work to get her feet under her as she returned to San Francisco. Instead, she was told she would be managing the gallery, and found it not up to snuff.

“I looked around and the walls were painted yellow and there were a lot of drips on the floor,” she recalled, plus a somewhat laissez-faire attitude to exhibiting in which artists who wandered in looking to exhibit were simply told to choose a spot on the wall and hang their work.

While archival footage points to ample participation in classes and workshops, Rodriguez remembered exhibitions attracting a less enthusiastic crowd. At one opening, she estimated some 35 people showed up.

“There was a big table like a kitchen, with hot beans and soup and all these people were lined up to eat and once they ate this hot food, they split. They weren’t there for the art,” she said. “And I said, oh no, there’s something wrong with this picture.”

So Rodriguez got to work. She convinced her employers to patch the holes, clean up the drips, paint the walls white and generally get the gallery to sparkle. She reached out to, then followed up, and followed up again, with artists she knew. The result was a 25th anniversary exhibition that drew several hundreds, she said.

Programs at the center continued to develop and grow, particularly as it began to charge admission for some events, Rodriguez said. The annual mole contest was started, press releases began finding their way to the local newspapers’ fax machines, and young artists came in for access to mentors. Rodriguez would sit down with them for hour-long sessions and help them polish their portfolios and send them to the galleries downtown to see who was making and exhibiting the kind of art they liked.

“Some of them disappeared and I never saw them again, but once in awhile I’d get someone who would come back and say, guess what, I just won an award in Sacramento,” she said.

Rodriguez spent 10 years at the cultural center as its curator, eventually moving on to teach again, but acknowledges the work of her current successor, Angelica A. Rodriguez, and the continuing role of the cultural center as a focal point for the community.

“It is a really vital center for the community in all aspects, from conventions to music to arts to children,” she said. “and then of course they’re part of the Carnaval, which always participate in.”

Carnaval and Día de los Muertos were also elements of the local culture the center was intimately connected with. In Arias’ documentary, Cordova says some of the dancers and artists who launched San Francisco’s carnaval events also participated in work at the center, and collaborations between the cultural center and the neighborhood arts organizations helped plan the first Día de los Muertos processions.

As it prepares for its 40th year, the cultural center has maintained that role as a supporter of the local arts – including local photographer Lou Dematteis.

“As an artist overall I really appreciate the support at the Mission Cultural Center has really extended throughout its whole time of being in existence,” Dematteis said. While he wished the center could find more support to update its various systems and infrastructure, he praised it for being consistently willing to foster talent and help artists grow – including his daughter who, like her father, has exhibited her photography there.

“I think providing the facility to be able to exhibit, that in itself, that’s a growing process for an artist,” he said. “I think every time you have to prepare your work for an exhibit and actually go through it and make prints and put them up on the wall, that’s a very important learning experience.”

From the start and through its modern function, the center has promoted art from a plethora of cultures, looking beyond the Mexican and Chicano art that was flourishing at the time of its founding to works influenced by cultures across Latin America. Now, it is a constant – a stability it didn’t have in its early days.

“Obviously at the beginning it was exactly the opposite, no budget, no staff, day to day operations with no real sense of stability,” Murguía said. “That was the constant struggle in that sense.”

Now it’s an anchor.

“I just think it’s so important that these kinds of anchor arts and cultural organizations and spaces are still here and continuing to function and be vital parts of the community,” Dematteis said.
You can get tickets to the Gala here.

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

Could this Russian-born Trump donor be the key to a cryptic Manafort note?

from September 1, 2017 at 11:16AM http://bit.ly/2vXArZb

Simon Kukes, former chief executive of Russian oil giant Yukos, speaks at a November 2003 news conference in Moscow. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Yesterday, NBC News reported that notes written by Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort during a June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower included cryptic references to political contributions and the Republican National Committee.

According to the report, the notes were turned over to both House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, for their respective investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

Who or what the note might be a reference to is still a mystery. But as far as any Russian money might be concerned, it would be illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to candidates in U.S. elections.

A Russian-born American citizen, on the other hand, could certainly make a donation, which is why one major Republican donor’s 2016 contributions merit a fresh look.

Meet Mr. Kukes

Born in the Soviet Union, Simon Grigorievich Kukes emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. He spent time in academia in the Houston area and also worked for some oil and gas companies. By the 1990s, he was back in Russia where, in 2003, he became the head of Yukos Corp., a now-defunct oil company once owned by the Russian government. In ascending to the position, Kukes replaced the wealthiest man in Russia, a Putin foe named Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was charged with fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison in what Forbes described as “Vladimir Putin’s most notorious power grab.”

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Simon Kukes in 2000. (Photo: Kremlin.ru)

Kukes only lasted a year at Yukos. Afterward, he bounced from oil company to oil company. Eventually, he landed back in Houston for a job at Nafta Consulting, which focuses on “creating cross border opportunities between companies in the U.S. and Russia,” according to the company’s website.

And Kukes, it seems, is no stranger to greasing a few palms to influence officials. CIA documents released in 2003 claim that “Kukes said that he bribed local officials,” an accusation which he has denied. Despite his possible willingness to use money to sway officials and being a U.S. citizen since the 1970s, Kukes had no history of political contributions before 2016. That changed, in a big way, when Donald Trump ran for president.

Timing is everything

In early March 2016, Kukes gave $2,700 – the maximum amount possible – to Donald Trump’s primary campaign. Then in late June, Kukes began a veritable flood of contributions, largely to a joint fundraising committee called Trump Victory, whose primary beneficiaries included not only Trump’s campaign but the Republican National Committee and a handful of other state-level GOP committees.

All told, Kukes contributed $283,283 during the 2016 cycle. More than 99 percent came after the Trump Tower meeting in June.

The timing is important because between Kukes’ initial donation in March and the deluge of contributions from June to September, two critical things had happened. First, in early May, Trump won the Indiana Republican primary and became his party’s presumptive nominee. Second, on June 9, the fateful meeting between Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a group of Russians took place in Trump Tower.

The meeting had been set up by an entertainment publicist named Rob Goldstone as a part of the Russian government’s “support for Mr. Trump,” according to an email to Donald Trump Jr.

In the email, Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the Russian attendees at the meeting would provide information that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” While Trump Jr. has maintained that nothing came of the meeting, this is where Manafort apparently jotted the note about a political contribution and the RNC. Two weeks later, Simon Kukes – who happens to be the former owner of a $1.7 million condo in Trump Parc – began contributing tens of thousands of dollars to Trump and the Republican Party.

Whether or not Kukes’ decision to give more than a quarter of a million dollars to Trump and the Republican Party is related to the notes Manafort jotted down that day is unclear. The OpenSecrets Blog has reached out to Kukes but had not received a response by the time of publication.

What is clear, however, is Kukes isn’t bashful about his financial support for President Trump or his connections to the Russian oil and gas industry. The “In the News” section of Nafta’s website includes a link to the OpenSecrets Blog’s previous reporting about Kukes’ contributions, which seemingly welcomes the publicity.

The post Could this Russian-born Trump donor be the key to a cryptic Manafort note? appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Read more at: OpenSecrets Blog http://bit.ly/1vZELhI

Trump Revives Program Providing Local Police With Surplus Military Equipment

from August 28, 2017 at 04:13AM http://bit.ly/2eNhQ7R

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will revive a program that provides local police departments with surplus military equipment such as high-caliber weapons and grenade launchers, despite past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were inflaming confrontations with protesters.

Trump plans to sign an order undoing an Obama administration directive that limited police agencies’ access to camouflage uniforms, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition and other items. Attorney General Jeff Sessions planned to make the announcement Monday at a national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the groups that had long urged Trump to revive the military program.

Trump’s new order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.

The changes are another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that federal support of local police as key to driving down violent crime.

National police organizations have been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.

Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.

Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement Sunday night that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.

“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.

“The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.

The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.

Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

Sessions has said he believes boosting morale among police can help curb spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street. Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.

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

Trump Preps to Remove Limits on Military Gear to Police

from August 27, 2017 at 07:58PM http://bit.ly/2gwOzSx

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is preparing to restore the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies under a program that had been sharply curtailed amid an outcry over police use of armored vehicles and other war-fighting gear to confront protesters.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to the gear that includes grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms and ammunition.

Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a Monday speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.

The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.

National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.
Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear when during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.
Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.
The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature” intended to protect officers from danger.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.

Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street. Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.

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

Paid actors, a fake publicist, and retweeted bots: Trump habitually uses deceit and propaganda to shape perceptions

from August 28, 2017 at 05:36AM http://bit.ly/2wmHSGq

Donald Trump

(Credit: Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits help shape the media and public narrative about his administration, which is why his record of retweeting and quote-tweeting accounts with suspicious bot or sock-puppet activity raises concerns.

A Media Matters study of an archive of Trump’s Twitter account revealed that over the past year, Trump has on a handful of occasions propped up praise from accounts that feature suspicious bot activity or that have since been suspended or deactivated. If he’s unintentionally promoting bots, it shows gullibility and a lack of basic due diligence on his part that is terrifying in someone as powerful as the president. And if he’s promoting such tweets intentionally, that shows how shamelessly Trump resorts to propaganda in an effort to bolster his image, set narratives, distract the public from damaging news, spin stories in his favor, and provide talking points for far-right media networks with no regard for reality.

Trump’s history of using deceit to manipulate the media and project self-advantageous messages indicates that there’s perhaps nothing accidental about his tendency to retweet bots. For three decades, starting in the 1970s, Trump infamously pretended to be a fictional publicist named John Miller and used that pseudonym to plant pro-Trump stories in the media. In June 2015, Trump paid actors to cheer for him during his announcement that he would run for president, during which he called Mexican immigrants rapists. Trump has said that he retweets for a reason and that the retweets are an endorsement “to a certain extent.” This doesn’t leave much room to question the intentionality behind his insidious strategy.

Automated social media accounts are said to have played a role in the 2016 presidential election, an issue that the Senate is still investigating. During Trump’s campaign, his digital operations — many aspects of which were manned by the recently reinstated head of Breitbart.com Steve Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica and Jared Kushner’s and Brad Parscale’s Project Alamo — focused on building a loyal audience that was mostly isolated from anti-Trump narratives and was predisposed to distrusting the press and any unfavorable media coverage. For this loyal audience, Trump’s retweets of praiseful bot or sock-puppet accounts reinforce what they already feel; it’s like reading the positive blurbs of a book they know they like. So they enthusiastically endorse him by retweeting them, thus becoming important magnifiers in the propaganda loop.

Even when he’s not retweeting bots, Trump has provided a platform to right-wing media trolls via his retweets, regaling them with a veneer of legitimacy that eclipses their awful records of propagating conspiracy theories, engaging in attention-grabbing stunts, and leading their followers in harassment campaigns against journalists. Others in Trump’s orbit have taken a similar approach on social media, as evidenced by Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, who has access to Trump’s account. Scavino has repeatedly used his own account to smear and attack Trump’s political and media opponents. In one instance, he violated the Hatch Act by engaging in political activity as a federal employee.

While Trump’s Twitter habits provide entertaining fodder and endless material for headlines, they should also give some insight into the terrifying — yet transparent — ways the administration is manipulating reality. And this manipulation is consistent with the way Trump has consistently drawn on chicanery to shape perceptions about him.

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

Trump was working on a real estate deal in Moscow during presidential campaign: report

from August 28, 2017 at 06:19AM http://bit.ly/2wQN0FU

Campaign 2016 Trump

(Credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A new report indicates that President Donald Trump may have been involved in a major Russian real estate deal at the same time that his presidential campaign was entering high gear.

The Trump Organization spent time in late 2015 and early 2016 attempting to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to a report by The Washington Post. Real estate developer Felix Sater touted the plan to Trump with the promise that he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about the then-candidate. The report also claimed that Sater wrote to the executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen, “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’”

Despite Sater recommending that Trump visit Russia during this period, the candidate never did so, and the project was ultimately abandoned due to difficulties obtaining the necessary permits and land.

As the Post also reported:

White House officials declined to comment for this report. Cohen, a longtime Trump legal adviser, declined to comment, but his attorney, Stephen Ryan, said his client “has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with both the House and Senate intelligence committees, including providing them with documents and information and answering any questions they may have about the Moscow building proposal.”

If true, the planned Trump Tower in Moscow would have been far from the president’s first business tie to Russia. After suffering from multiple bankruptcies and being unable to obtain loans from American banks, Trump turned to Russian sources of financing for projects ranging from Trump SoHo to a real estate development in Toronto. Even Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was well-known to have lucrative business deals with Russian oil interests during his tenure as CEO of Exxon.

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

Donald Trump is making local policing militarized again

from August 28, 2017 at 10:41AM http://bit.ly/2xKrGhL

President Donald Trump’s decision to increase the transfer of military weapons and equipment to America’s state and local police forces is being met with sharp criticism from civil liberties proponents. And so, the White House is pushing back on Trump’s decision to turn your local community police department into a perpetual SWAT team.

In a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”

He added, “The executive order the president will sign today will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal. And we will save taxpayer money in the meantime.”

That decision is being slammed by civil liberties groups.

“We have an epidemic in the United States of police using excessive force, particularly against people of color, with injuries and deaths mounting,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a statement.

It defies logic to arm the police with weapons of war — grenade launchers, high-caliber assault weapons, and more — but that’s precisely what President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have decided to do.

Three years ago this month, the nation witnessed a highly militarized, violent crackdown by police on protesters in Ferguson. Today’s executive order erases the sensible limits placed by the Obama administration after Ferguson on the kinds of military equipment flowing from the federal government to local police and into our neighborhoods. Tensions between law enforcement and communities remain high, yet the president and the attorney general are giving the police military-grade weaponry instead of practical, effective ways to protect and serve everyone.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been an outspoken opponent of the militarization of America’s police since as far back as 2014, unleashed a Twitter storm to protest the decision.

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

ICE wants to destroy records that show abuses and deaths of immigrants in custody

from August 29, 2017 at 11:57AM http://bit.ly/2vpK2YA

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has sent a request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to “approve its timetable for retaining or destroying records related to its detention operations.”

ICE is seeking to receive permission to destroy 11 different types of which include “sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody,” according to the ACLU. “Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs; regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities and communications from the public reporting detention abuses.”

“An entire paper trail for a system rife with human rights and constitutional abuses is at stake,” the organization wrote.

ICE’s tactics have a well-documented history of controversy and abuse, and they have only broadened under President Donald Trump. But even less is known about what takes place to suspects held in the agency’s custody. NARA has “provisionally approved” ICE’s requests for terminating records.

“In cases of sexual assault and death, for example, NARA states that these records ‘do not document significant actions of Federal officials,’” the ACLU wrote. “It’s hard to believe that the actions of a federal official are not significant in the death or sexual assault of an individual who is in federal immigration custody.”

NARA added that in cases of sexual assault, the “information is highly sensitive and does not warrant retention.”

“Keeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year,” the ACLU argued.

The news comes after Trump recently pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was notorious for his racism and aggressively hunting Latinos. It was a move that strongly appealed to key factions of his base. Trump has again recently insisted his campaign promise that Mexico will eventually pay for a wall that would span the U.S.-Mexico border, though there are no actual plans for them to do so.

“If the Trump administration has its way, the number of immigrants in detention will increase, detention conditions will deteriorate further and more people will be subjected to life-threatening circumstances and denied their most basic rights,” the ACLU explained. “ICE shouldn’t be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye.”

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

Man Charged With Beating Black Man In Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally

from August 29, 2017 at 12:01PM http://bit.ly/2iH0XQn

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A man charged in connection with the beating of a black man in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the day of a white nationalist rally has been arrested, authorities in Georgia said.

Alex Michael Ramos, 33, turned himself in Monday evening to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Lawson Bittick told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Ramos faces one count of malicious wounding in the attack on DeAndre Harris, which was captured in photos and video that went viral. The Aug. 12 attack by a group of men left him with a concussion, abrasions and contusions across his body, as well as a head laceration that required staples, a knee injury and a fractured wrist, according to his attorney.

Ramos will have an extradition hearing Tuesday, said Bittick, who didn’t know if Ramos has an attorney. Bittick said Ramos is an unemployed construction worker, and Charlottesville police said when they announced the charge that his last known address was Marietta, Georgia.

In an interview with Atlanta TV station WGCL, Ramos said he’s not a white nationalist.

“I was there because, pretty much, I’m a conservative. … There were some non-racist members who were going to a free speech rally,” he said.

Ramos said that he hit Harris once and that others beat him with sticks and shields. He called the incident “a defensive attack.”

Harris’ attorney, S. Lee Merritt, has said Harris, a 20-year-old special education instructional assistant, attended the rally with friends to show his opposition to the white nationalist groups.

A member of Harris’ group began arguing with a white supremacist over a Confederate flag, Merritt said in a statement. Harris intervened just as the white supremacist attempted to spear his friend with the flag’s pole, the statement said.

Harris tried to retreat but was pushed to the ground by a man holding a shield with the symbol of a white supremacist group, and the group of men swarmed him, beating him with blunt objects, according to the statement.

Another man accused in the beating, Daniel Borden, 18, of suburban Cincinnati, appeared by video Tuesday and declined to waive extradition to Virginia, where he also faces a charge of malicious wounding. Hamilton County Magistrate Michael Bachman set bond at $100,000 and scheduled a Sept. 29 hearing.

Attorney Greg Berberich has said Borden’s family expects him to be exonerated.

Merritt said he intended to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against all parties responsible for the attack in the coming weeks.

Ramos and Borden were identified through the efforts of journalist and activist Shaun King, who has been posting photos and video of the assault on social media and offered a reward, Merritt said.

“With information including affiliated organizations, clear photographs, and recordings, it is disappointing that the combined efforts of federal and local agencies have failed to lead to either the identification or arrest of additional suspects,” Merritt said in the statement.

Meanwhile, a Ku Klux Klan member charged with firing a gun during the rally remained in Baltimore County pending extradition.

Randy Mentzell, the county Department of Correction’s commitment manager, said she didn’t know when Richard Preston, 52, would be transported to Virginia.

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