Category - USA

United States of America

Alone in Alabama: dispatches from an inmate jailed for her son’s stillbirth

Since becoming one of a growing number of women in the state sentenced for ‘chemical endangerment’, Amanda Kimbrough has sent letters from prison

The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, October 7

New York – On 29 April last year Amanda Kimbrough sat down in her cell inside the notoriously tough Tutwiler women’s prison in Wetumpka, Alabama, and began writing a letter in which she described her feelings of loss and remorse. It was a poignant moment, as six years earlier to the day her only son Timmy had been born prematurely and had died from complications at birth after only 19 minutes.

“Tim Jr would be six years old [today],” she wrote, “and not a day goes by I don’t think of him. While I was out we keep his grave decorated and kept up, my husband and family do while I’m here.”

That Kimbrough – Alabama offender 287089, as the state branded her – should be thinking of her son on the anniversary of his death needs no explanation. But the poignancy of the letter is heightened by the knowledge that it was because of Timmy’s stillbirth at 25 weeks that she was locked up in the first place.


Later, the profound legal issues raised by the case would rise up through appeals all the way to the Alabama supreme court, the highest judicial panel in the state, where it would set a new precedent. In effect, it renders all pregnant women vulnerable to prosecution for any harm they might cause their fetus at any time after the moment of conception.

ProPublica: Take a Valium, Lose Your Kid, Go to Jail

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached

New York Times, By Jackie Calmes, October 5

Atlanta – The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.

But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.
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Possible U.S. airstrike hits Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan; at least 19 dead

Washington Post, By Tim Craig, October 3

Kabul – U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including three children, in an incident that will likely raise new questions about the scope of American involvement in the country’s 14-year war.

In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said an airstrike “partially destroyed” its trauma hospital in Kunduz, where the Afghan military has been trying to drive Taliban fighters from the city.

The airstrike killed at least 12 Doctors Without Borders staff members, the group said. Three children were also reportedly killed. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, including 19 staff members and 18 patients and caretakers. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.

“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law,” Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Nicolai called for an independent investigation into the incident: “We demand total transparency from Coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage.’”

Under a Farmer’s Field: A Woolly Mammoth in Michigan

New York Times, By Nicholas St. Fleur, October 2

Buried beneath a Michigan farmer’s soy field were the butchered remains of a woolly mammoth. Paleontologists think that the skull, tusks, jaws and other parts that they uncovered on Thursday were stored there by early humans in a primitive fridge more than 10,000 years ago.

Last Monday James Bristle, the farmer, came across what he thought was a fence post while digging in his yard, only to discover that it was actually a rib, according to The Ann Arbor News. He contacted researchers from the University of Michigan to investigate, and together they unearthed the prehistoric beast.

Daniel Fisher, a paleontologist who led the dig, said the mammoth most likely roamed the area 11,700 to 15,000 years ago, and was around 40 years old when it died.

In addition to the skull and tusks, the team also recovered vertebrae, a pelvis, shoulder blade pieces and one kneecap. Missing from the find were most of the mammoth’s fore and hind limbs, which the team presumed were either buried elsewhere or had already been eaten.

NASA to hold urgent press conference to announce major science finding from Mars

News.Com.Au, By Matthew Dunn, September 28

Speculation that NASA’s Curiosity Rover has found life on Mars has been thrown into overdrive with the space agency announcing an urgent press conference.

In a press release, NASA said it would be holding a conference to detail “a major science finding from the agency’s ongoing exploration of Mars”.

This is not the first time NASA has used a press conference to announce a groundbreaking discovery, with the space agency doing the same earlier this year to reveal it had discovered the Earth-like planet Kepler-452b.

Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA, and Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program, will be leading the announcement.

Think Police Can’t Use Illegally Obtained Evidence Against You? Think Again.

Thanks to the Roberts Court, there’s no penalty for ignoring a key 4th Amendment protection.

The Nation, By Paul Butler, September 24

Hudson v. Michigan (2006) is one in a series of cases in which
 the Roberts Court has blessed police officers with extraordinary power. This power authorizes cops to engage in the kind of violent and undemocratic policing that make places like Ferguson and Baltimore look less like American cities and more like the outposts of some totalitarian regime.

The scandal, it turns out, is not bad-apple cops. The scandal is that the conservative justices on the Roberts Court have provided the legal framework for black lives not to matter to the police.

The Constitution be damned: This was apparently the perspective of a Detroit police officer named Jamal Good, who admitted that he routinely violated the long-standing requirement that police “knock and announce” their presence before entering a home. Good found that the Fourth Amendment—with its pesky insistence that searches be reasonable—limited his ability to obtain evidence, so he simply ignored it.

Usually, the Supreme Court decides whether there has been a violation of the Constitution. In Hudson, the Court faced a different question: When a cop admits that he has broken the rules, should there be any meaningful sanction? The issue was whether the classic remedy for Fourth Amendment violations—the “exclusionary rule,” which renders evidence collected through unconstitutional means inadmissible in criminal court—applies to the knock-and-announce rule. In a 5–4 decision, the Court held that it does not.

Speaker John Boehner to resign from Congress

USA Today, By Deirdre Shesgreen & Cooper Allen, September 25

Washington — In a shocking announcement, John Boehner told his GOP colleagues he will step down as House speaker and resign his Ohio congressional seat on Oct. 30.

The speaker had planned to serve only through the end of last year. But he changed his plans after former congressman. Eric Cantor, then Boehner’s deputy, lost in a primary in one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 cycle. That changed Boehner’s calculation.

House Speaker John Boehner to resign at end of October

Washington Post, By Mike DeBonis & Paul Kane, September 25

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), faced with a constant conservative rebellion, told Republicans Friday morning that he will resign at the end of October, according to aides and lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.

The resignation will end a nearly five-year reign as speaker, allowing House Republicans to approve a short-term government funding bill that will avert a shutdown of federal agencies. Boehner’s hold on the speaker’s gavel had grown increasingly unsteady amid threats from more than 30 Republicans that they would force a no-confidence vote in his speaker’s position, which would have forced him to rely on Democratic votes in order to remain in charge.

Boehner, who capped his career with Thursday’s address by Pope Francis, met with a handful of the most conservative Republicans after the papal address to lay out the plan to fund the government. But those rebels continued to agitate and threaten to force a vote at sometime in the near future to vacate his speakership.

A believer in the institution, Boehner decided to walk away on his own terms rather than relying on Democratic support or becoming the first speaker to lose the gavel midterm.

His likely successor is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.), [Wikipedia] the No. 2 GOP leader who has been in office less than 10 years. McCarthy has widespread support in the Republican Conference but many believe he lacks the political and tactical gravitas to be a force in the House.

The Wikipedia article for Kevin McCarthy has a section “Political Positions”:

In 2010 McCarthy signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes.

McCarthy does not support renewing the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., as he expects the private sector to take over the role.

McCarthy is pro-life and has received a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. He has voted against ObamaCare, to ban abortions, to stop taxpayer funding of abortion and has also voted repeatedly to defund ObamaCare and repeal it.

U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

The Intercept, By Glenn Greenwald, September 23

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.

Most of the world may be horrified at the selection of Saudi Arabia to head a key U.N. human rights panel, but the U.S. State Department most certainly is not. Quite the contrary: its officials seem quite pleased about the news. At a State Department briefing yesterday afternoon, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was questioned by the invaluable Matt Lee of AP, and this is the exchange that resulted:

QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.

MR. TONER: Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s — we would welcome it. We’re close allies. If we —

Will Hewlett-Packard’s past ties to Iran haunt Carly Fiorina?

MSNBC, By Aliyah Frumin, September 17

When it comes to Iran, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has cast herself as a tough-on-Tehran hawk. But as the Republican presidential candidate gains momentum, questions over the technology company’s past dealings with the Middle Eastern country – when Fiorina was at the helm – could come back to haunt her.

Despite a trade ban with Iran, HP reportedly used a Dubai-based subsidiary beginning in 1997 to sell hundreds of millions of dollars of products to the country. In fact, by 2007, HP printers made up 41% of the total market share in Iran. The story was first reported by the Boston Globe in 2008 and became a thorn in Fiorina’s side when she challenged Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010.

Boxer brought up the issue to msnbc on Wednesday night just before the debate. “What’s incredible is when she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, they were actually selling printers to Iran and there was an executive order that said no. And the [Securities and Exchange Commission] caught them. So she’s got so many problems. I say if the Republicans choose her, we’ll walk into the presidency.”

EPA accuses Volkswagen of cheating Clean Air Act, orders recall

MSNBC, By Tony Dokoupil, September 18

Volkswagen has been cheating federal emission standards since 2008 spewing as much as 40 times more pollution than allowed by equipping its cars with a “defeat device” that fools the official test, the Obama administration said on Friday.

The violations carry potential fines of more than $35,000 per vehicle, which means the German automaker is on the hook for as much as $18 billion, plus the cost of retrofitting nearly 500,000 recalled vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation to the company, citing two breaches of the Clean Air Act, and ordered the recall.

“These violations are very serious,” Cynthia Giles, an assistant administrator in the EPA’s enforcement office, told reporters on Friday. “Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health.”

The violations pertain to four-cylinder diesel engine Jettas, Beetles, Audi A3 and Golf models built between 2009 and 2015, and Passat models made between 2014 and 2015. “Volkswagen admitted that the cars have defeat devices,” the EPA said. In a statement to CNBC, Volkswagen said they are cooperating with investigation and are unable to comment further.

So awesome!