Category - Human Rights

Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage, Putting Country in Vanguard

New York Times, By Danny Hakim & Douglas Dalby, May 23

Dublin — Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.

With ballots from 34 out of the 43 voting areas counted, the vote was almost two to one in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. All but one of the districts that were counted voted yes, and it appeared to be statistically impossible for opposition votes to overcome the ayes.

Turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million people eligible to vote cast ballots. Government officials, advocates and even those who had argued against the measure said that the outcome was a resounding endorsement of the constitutional amendment.

Irish Times: Marriage Referendum
Irish Times: Marriage Referendum Results
Irish Times: Ireland becomes first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote

China: Massive Protest in Linshui Intense Repression and Resistance

Revolution News, By Jennifer Baker, May 16

Linshui County, China – Tens of Thousands of residents of the southwestern county of Linshui gathered in the morning and marched about 3km. Photos posted by the protesters on social media also showed violent attacks by a police tactical team(SWAT)and the resistance that followed lasted all day and well into the night.

The residents want (need) to have a proposed railway linking Dazhou to Chongqing pass through their county in the centre of Sichuan. The county currently has no railway, waterway, or airport.

Rage built up last week after residents found out that the authorities favor another plan – that the railway stretching more than 200km will instead by-pass Linshui and be routed through the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s hometown Guangan, to the west of Linshui.

Human rights practices inform Chicago ordinance in police torture case

The Chicago Reporter, By Adeshina Emmanuel, May 6

Over a period of nearly 20 years, Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his “midnight crew” allegedly tortured at least 118 people, forcing them to make confessions.

The police officers beat the victims, burned them with lit cigarettes and handcuffed them to hot radiators. They tied plastic bags over their heads and nearly suffocated them. They put cattle prods on their genitals and in their mouths and electrocuted them.

The officers’ behavior, human rights experts say, is what one would expect in a dictatorship, not a democracy.

On Wednesday, the City Council approved an ordinance to compensate Burge’s victims, most of them African-American men, and their families. The reparations ordinance is the first of its kind in the country to address police abuse. The measure draws from the United Nations Convention against Torture and human rights practices around the world, especially in nations that overcame the legacy of violent, repressive regimes.

Previously:
The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’
American Spring in Chicago
Cops Freak Out Over Free Speech in Vermont

The “War on Cash” in 10 Spine-Chilling Quotes

Wolf Street / Naked Capitalism, By Don Quijones, April 27

The war on cash is escalating. As Mises’ Jo Salerno reports, the latest combatant to join the fray is JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., which recently enacted a policy restricting the use of cash in selected markets; bans cash payments for credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans; and disallows the storage of “any cash or coins” in safe deposit boxes. In other words, the war has moved on from one of words to actions.

Here are ten quotes that should chill the spine of any individual who cherishes his or her freedom and anonymity:

1. Kenneth Rogoff (from the intro to his paper The Costs and Benefits to Phasing Out Paper Currency):

Despite advances in transactions technologies, paper currency still constitutes a notable percentage of the money supply in most countries… Yet, it has important drawbacks. First, it can help facilitate activity in the underground (tax-evading) and illegal economy. Second, its existence creates the artifact of the zero bound on the nominal interest rate.

In other words, cash (not money) is the source of all evil and must be destroyed because governments can’t trace its every movement, and it represents a limiting factor on central banks’ ability to continue their insane negative-interest-rate experiment.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Toward Absolutist Capitalism

Naked Capitalism, By Lambert Strether, April 20

There are many excellent arguments against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), two of which — local zoning over-rides, and loss of national sovereignty — I’ll briefly review as stepping stones to the main topic of the post: Absolutist Capitalism, for which I make two claims:

1) The TPP implies a form of absolute rule, a tyranny as James Madison would have understood the term, and

2) The TPP enshrines capitalization as a principle of jurisprudence.

Zoning over-rides and lost of national sovereignty may seem controversial to the political class, but these two last points may seem controversial even to NC readers. However, I hope to show both points follow easily from the arguments with which we are already familiar. Both flow from the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, of which I will now give two examples. more

MoJo Explicator: Here’s What You Need to Know About the Trade Deal Dividing the Left

152 Innocents, Marked for Death

New York Times Editorial, April 13

However much Americans may disagree about the morality of capital punishment, no one wants to see an innocent person executed.

And yet, far too often, people end up on death row after being convicted of horrific crimes they did not commit. The lucky ones are exonerated while they are still alive — a macabre club that has grown to include 152 members since 1973.

The rest remain locked up for life in closet-size cells. Some die there of natural causes; in at least two documented cases, inmates who were almost certainly innocent were put to death.

How many more innocent people have met the same fate, or are awaiting it? That may never be known. But over the past 42 years, someone on death row has been exonerated, on average, every three months. According to one study, at least 4 percent of all death-row inmates in the United States have been wrongfully convicted. That is far more than often enough to conclude that the death penalty — besides being cruel, immoral, and ineffective at reducing crime — is so riddled with error that no civilized nation should tolerate its use.

Florida House Overwhelmingly Passes Religious ‘License To Discriminate’ Adoption Bill

Think Progress, By Zack Ford, April 9

On Thursday afternoon, the Florida House of Representatives voted 75-38 to pass a bill (HB 7111) that would allow the state’s adoption agencies to engage in any kind of discrimination if serving a particular family violates its “religious or moral convictions or policies.” The state contracts with several private agencies to manage its child-placement services, some of which are religiously affiliated. Under the bill, the state could not revoke a license nor refuse any funding to these agencies based on their decision not to place children with certain families.

Unlike how the “religious freedom” bills played out in Arkansas and Indiana, proponents of Florida’s legislation were quite open during this week’s debates about the bill’s discriminatory intentions. On Wednesday, Rep. David Richardson (D) spearheaded efforts to undermine the bill with various amendments that would have carved out nondiscrimination exemptions. His first amendment would have prevented the state from funding organizations that discriminate; the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) responded, “This amendment does the exact opposite of the entire bill. I was ask that you vote it down.” It was, in fact, voted down 38-78.

From there, other members introduced separate amendments carving out discrimination exemptions for specific classes: one for race, one for marital status, one for sexual orientation, one for gender, etc. Among the amendment sponsors was Rep. Janet Cruz (D), who explained, “I have a daughter who’s gay and I want to make sure she’s never discriminated against if she decides to adopt a child.” In each case, Brodeur offered a substitute amendment — each of which was identical — adding instead only the words, “An act by a private child-placing agency under this subsection does not constitute discrimination.” The substitute amendments passed every time as the House essentially voted in favor of discrimination based on all of those classes.


Indiana’s Pence to sign bill allowing businesses to reject gay customers

CNN, By Eric Bradner, March 25

Washington – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is set to sign into law a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of “religious freedom.”

The move comes as Pence considers a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — and just a year after Pence and socially conservative lawmakers lost their first policy battle against gay Hoosiers. In 2014 they had sought to amend Indiana’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages — but were beaten back by a highly-organized coalition of Democrats, traditionally right-leaning business organizations and fiscally focused supporters of Pence’s predecessor, former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels.

This year, though, the Republican-dominated state House and Senate both approved the “religious freedom” bill, and Pence plans to sign it into law in a private ceremony Thursday, his spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

CBS: Salesforce CEO Says Company Is ‘Canceling All Programs’ In Indiana Over LGBT Discrimination Fears
WISH: San Francisco mayor bans publicly-funded travel to Ind. over new law
Think Progress: When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia
Reuters: Angie’s List halts expansion of Indianapolis headquarters over new state law that targets gays

Kingdom of Shadows–the aftermath

I spent the last three days watching Bernardo Ruiz’s Kingdom of Shadows at the SXSW movie festival in Austin. I appear in the film, along with a nun from Monterrey, Mexico and an agent from the Department of Homeland Security in El Paso.

After screenings, we took questions from the audience, but sessions were too short to adequately address issues related to the subject matter of the film—the effect of drugs and drug prohibition on our societies.

Read More

Racist, homophobic texts by San Francisco police trigger case reviews

Los Angeles Times, By Joseph Serna & Lee Romney, March 17

A slew of racist and homophobic text messages exchanged between San Francisco police in a fellow officer’s corruption case has forced prosecutors and defense attorneys to review an estimated 1,000 criminal convictions for potential bias, officials announced Tuesday.

The messages were revealed in a motion by the U.S. attorney’s office opposing bail for Ian Furminger, a former San Francisco police officer who was recently sentenced to 41 months in prison on various corruption-related charges and was scheduled to surrender next month pending an appeal.

The texts, sent between 2011 and 2012, allegedly involved four other officers and denigrated minorities and gays.

“In order to ensure our criminal justice system is fair and equitable, my office is conducting an immediate assessment of every prosecution within the past ten years where these officers were involved,” said San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon in a statement.

Public defender Jeff Adachi on Tuesday estimated that could amount to at least 1,000 cases among the five officers. Officials identified more than 120 in just the last two years, he said.

China’s Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife

New York Times, By Chris Buckley, March 11

Hong Kong — Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

Tensions over what will happen when the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79, dies, and particularly over who decides who will succeed him as the most prominent leader in Tibetan Buddhism, have ignited at the annual gathering of China’s legislators in Beijing.

Officials have amplified their argument that the Communist government is the proper guardian of the Dalai Lama’s succession through an intricate process of reincarnation that has involved lamas, or senior monks, visiting a sacred lake and divining dreams.

Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet. Their anger welled up on Wednesday, as it had a day earlier.

Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.

“Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” said Mr. Zhu, formerly a deputy head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which oversees dealings with religious and other nonparty groups. He now leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, or National People’s Congress.

Cruel and Inhuman: UN Slams US as Only Nation that Sentences Children to Die In Prison

Special Rapporteur Juan Méndez notes US policy violates international human rights law.

Common Dreams, By Sarah Lazare, March 10

A United Nations human rights expert strongly condemned the U.S. on Tuesday for being the “only State in the world that still sentences children to life imprisonment without the opportunity for parole,” thereby imposing cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

Juan Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture, made the comments in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva—building from his previous censure of cruel incarceration practices in a nation that locks up more people than any other country in the world.

Méndez noted that the U.S. practice of imposing life sentences on children in cases of homicide violates international law on numerous fronts, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Life sentences or sentences of an extreme length have a disproportionate impact on children and cause physical and psychological harm that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment,” he wrote.

Al Jazeera: UN expert slams US as only nation to imprison kids for life without parole

Not Guilty: Flood Wall Street Protesters Vindicated By Manhattan Court

Judge rules NYPD violated demonstrators’ First Amendment rights

Common Dreams, By Sarah Lazare, March 6

In a ruling on Thursday hailed as a vindication, a Manhattan court has determined ten climate activists “not guilty” on charges related to a thousands-strong climate protest that “flooded Wall Street” in New York City’s financial district in September of last year.

Over 100 people—including one dressed as a polar bear—were arrested at the civil disobedience, which took direct aim at the role of capitalism in driving global warming and overall planetary destruction. Timed to coincide with a United Nations summit of heads of state and corporate leaders, the direct action followed the People’s Climate March, which featured over 400,000 participants and was led by communities from the front-lines of the climate crisis.

[…]

According to a statement from protesters, New York City Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum ruled that the dispersal order issued by the New York Police Department constituted an unlawful violation of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

Going beyond the “not guilty” ruling, however, Mandelbaum also took judicial notice of the fact that climate change is real, human-made, and requires drastic action. Defense Attorney Martin Stolar said that this acknowledgment is “unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.”

Ferguson Police Routinely Violate Rights of Blacks, Justice Dept. Finds

New York Times, By Matt Apuzzo, March 3

Washington – Ferguson, Mo., is a third white, but the crime statistics compiled in the city over the past two years seemed to suggest that only black people were breaking the law. They accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of all arrests.

The racial disparity in those statistics was so stark that the Justice Department has concluded in a report scheduled for release on Wednesday that there was only one explanation: The Ferguson Police Department was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents.

The report, based on a six-month investigation, provides a glimpse into the roots of the racial tensions that boiled over in Ferguson last summer after a black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer, making it a worldwide flash point in the debate over race and policing in America. It describes a city where the police used force almost exclusively on blacks and regularly stopped people without probable cause. Racial bias is so ingrained, the report said, that Ferguson officials circulated racist jokes on their government email accounts.

Google warns of US government ‘hacking any facility’ in the world

Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress

The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, February 18

New York – Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.

In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.

The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.

Huh.

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