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

Rights group disputes account of US raid in Yemen, saying five civilians died

from May 24, 2017 at 06:00AM http://bit.ly/2qliU5s

London-based human rights group cites local sources, who say the raid went wrong from the start when US Navy Seals opened fire on a 70-year-old man

Five civilians were killed in a US Navy Seal raid in Yemen against al-Qaida militants, a human rights organisation said on Wednesday.

US central command that the raid on Tuesday had killed seven members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) in Marib governorate, “through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes”.

Continue reading…

Read more at: World news | The Guardian http://bit.ly/2pJ7Aoj

Concerns over Trump still allowing his company to profit from foreign officials

from May 24, 2017 at 05:30AM http://bit.ly/2qXaiUP

Documents show the president is continuing to risk violating the constitution’s emoluments clause, which forbids US officials from being paid by a ‘foreign state’

Donald Trump will continue to risk violating the US constitution by allowing his company to profit from foreign government officials, according to documents released by Congress on Wednesday.

Executives at the president’s hotel business said they were not prepared to make efforts to check whether customers worked for overseas states, in part, because this would be awkward for the Trump brand.

Continue reading…

Read more at: World news | The Guardian http://bit.ly/2pJ7Aoj

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

US army ‘lost track of $1bn worth of arms’

from May 24, 2017 at 02:06AM http://bit.ly/2rRe81R

The US army has failed to monitor over $1bn worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq, Amnesty International says in a report citing a 2016 US government audit.

The now-declassified document by the US Department of Defence (DoD) audit, was obtained by the rights group following Freedom of Information requests.

The audit reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment on hand in Kuwait and Iraq.

Some records were incomplete, while duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and the lack of a central database increased the risk for human-error while entering data.

READ MORE: ISIL won’t be defeated on the battlefield

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” says Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher, in the report.

The rights group says in the report that its own research has “consistently documented” lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command, which had resulted in arms winding up in the hands of armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep occurring,” Wilcken said.

‘Irresponsible transfers’

The military transfers were part of the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF), a programme that appropriated $1.6bn to provide assistance to military and other security services associated with the government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces.

The transfers included small arms and heavy weapons, machine guns, mortar rounds and assault rifles.

“This effort is focused on critical ground forces needed to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL [also known as ISIS] in Iraq, secure its national borders and prevent ISIL from developing safe havens,” the DoD said in a report justifying ITEF.

Is the international community indirectly enabling war crimes in Iraq?

“If support is not provided American interests in the region would be undermined.”

In response to the audit, the US army has pledged to implement corrective actions.

“This occurred during the Obama administration as well, and groups such as Amnesty International repeatedly called on irresponsible arms transfers to be tackled, as the weapons were not only falling into the hands of groups like ISIL but also pro-Tehran Shia jihadists fighting for the Iraqi government,” Tallha Abdulrazaq, a security researcher at the University of Exeter, told Al Jazeera via email.

“While ISIL certainly needs to be fought, if this is achieved by hurling arms at groups that are just as extreme as the militant group, how does that resolve the situation?”

Amnesty International has urged the US to comply with laws and treaties to stop arms transfers or diversion of arms that could fuel atrocities.

“This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to urgently shore up checks and controls,” Wilcken said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Read more at: Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/1FQbY1B

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

Judge Orders Government to Provide Evidence About Internet Surveillance

from May 23, 2017 at 01:24AM http://bit.ly/2qX0Lx1

We’re finally going to get some honesty on how the NSA spies on innocent Americans’ communications.

A federal judge late last week in Jewel v. NSA, EFF’s landmark case against mass surveillance, ordered [PDF] the government to provide to it all relevant evidence necessary to prove or deny that plaintiffs were subject to NSA surveillance via tapping into the Internet backbone.   This includes surveillance done pursuant to section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act since 2008, which is up for renewal this year. It also includes surveillance between 2001-8 conducted pursuant to the Presidents Surveillance Program.  

In 2016 the Court had ordered that the plaintiffs could seek discovery. After over a year of government stonewalling, the Court has now ordered the government to comply with a narrowed set of discovery requests by August 9, 2017. The discovery is aimed at whether plaintiffs’ communications were subject to the mass NSA program tapping into the Internet backbone called Upstream.  The court also ordered the government to file as much of its responses as possible on the public court docket.  

The Jewel v. NSA case continues to mark the first time the NSA has been ordered to respond to civil discovery about any of its mass surveillance programs.  Since the first EFF case against NSA mass surveillance was launched in 2006, the government has abandoned or dramatically reduced three of the four key programs addressed by the lawsuit: 

What’s left, at least that the public is aware of at this time, is the interception and use of communications flowing over the Internet backbone at key junctures. Thanks to the new order, the U.S. government will, for the first time, have to answer to privacy concerns about the remaining Internet surveillance methods and their impact on Americans.

    The NSA must tell the Court whether its 702 Upstream surveillance touches the communications of millions of Americans.

    It’s been a long, slow road, but the NSA has been forced to reduce its mass spying in the United States in major ways.  This has come through a combination of litigation pressure, ongoing activism and public concern, technological efforts to encrypt more of the Internet, Congressional pressure, and a steady stream of information coming out about its activities including from government investigations spurred by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Mark Klein. EFF will continue to push forward with the litigation and all of EFF’s other efforts until all Americans who rely on the Internet can feel safe that they can communicate online without NSA having broad access to their communications.

    San Francisco attorney Richard Wiebe argued the matter for the plaintiffs.  Also assisting EFF with the case are attorneys from the firm Keker, Van Nest and Peters, Thomas Moore III, James Tyre and Aram Antaramian.

    Related Cases: 

    Read more at: Deeplinks http://bit.ly/1o1WYaJ

    UN panel releases draft treaty banning possession and use of nuclear weapons

    from May 22, 2017 at 09:51AM http://bit.ly/2rKnjRI

    States would have to destroy any nuclear weapons they have and would be forbidden from transferring them

    A United Nations-backed panel has publicly released a draft treaty banning the possession and use of all nuclear weapons.

    The draft treaty is the culmination of a sustained campaign, supported by more than 130 non-nuclear states frustrated with the sclerotic pace of disarmament, to prohibit nuclear weapons and persuade nuclear-armed states to disarm.

    Continue reading…

    Read more at: World news | The Guardian http://bit.ly/2pJ7Aoj