Category - USA: Domestic Issues

Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’

New York Times, By Adam Liptak, May 26

Washington — The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”

The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

Cleveland protests erupt after officer found not guilty in fatal shooting of two unarmed suspects

Reuters, By Aaron Josefczyk & Kim Palmer, May 24

Cleveland, OH – A Cleveland police officer was found not guilty on Saturday in the shooting deaths of an unarmed black man and a woman after a high-speed car chase in 2012, one in a series of cases that have raised questions over police conduct and race relations in the United States.

Judge John O’Donnell said Officer Michael Brelo, 31, acted reasonably in shooting the two suspects while standing on the hood of their surrounded car and firing multiple rounds through the windshield. Brelo, who was among a group of officers who fired on the car, was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Protesters took to Cleveland streets on Saturday night as police patrolled in riot gear. Cleveland police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia said that more than 20 people had been arrested.

AP Live Blog from last night: The Latest in Cleveland: Multiple arrests after verdict

Drenching rains force scores of rescues in Oklahoma City

Reuters, May 24

More than 70 people were rescued on Saturday after severe storms soaked Oklahoma during a month of record rainfall, authorities said.

The Oklahoma City Fire Department said in a statement it had rescued more than 70 people after the drenching storms triggered flash floods in the city.

The storms also spurred several small tornadoes throughout the day, causing limited damage, officials said.

CIA shuts down program using spy satellites to track climate change

Engadget, by Jon Fingas, May 23

For most of the past two decades, a handful of climate change scientists have had the CIA’s MEDEA (Measurement of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis) program as an ace in the hole: they could draw on classified info from spy satellites and subs to study global warming in extreme detail. However, they’ll now have to make do with alternatives. The agency has shut down MEDEA, saying that its projects to study the security implications of climate change “have been completed.” While the CIA says it’ll still “engage external experts” on the subject, it won’t be providing consistent access to its extremely accurate and rare data.

Whether or not the closure is a major problem depends on who you ask. There are doubts that the CIA is really a good leader in climate research, and it’s safe to say that the organization typically has its hands full with the espionage business. However, there are also concerns that officials are cutting off access to accurate info at the very moment when things are getting complicated — researchers need more data, not less. That may not be as much of an issue in the long run as non-classified satellites provide increasingly valuable findings, but the loss is still bound to hurt for at least a while.

Officers warned about more bikers possibly heading to Texas after brawl

CNN, By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Holly Yan, May 19

Waco – A memo has gone out to law enforcement in the wake of Sunday’s shooting, warning officers that members of the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle gangs reportedly had been instructed to arm themselves and travel to north Texas.

“Obviously it’s something we’re concerned about. We would encourage biker groups to stand down. There’s been enough bloodshed. There’s been enough death here,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday night.

[…]

When police responded — within 30 to 45 seconds because of their proximity — the bikers turned their weapons on law enforcement, he said.

“Our officers took fire and responded appropriately, returning fire,” the sergeant said.

[…]

According to a law enforcement source, preliminary information indicates that four of the bikers killed were killed by police gunfire. The investigation continues and the ballistics will be analyzed to determine for certain who was responsible for each shooting.

[…]

While the U.S. Justice Department characterizes the Bandidos as a “growing criminal threat” with at least 2,000 members in 14 countries, the motorcycle club’s website highlights noncriminal endeavors such as its Easter party in Germany or its toy drive in France.

Wild West Warfare in Waco

America’s escalating reliance on firearms as a means of settling petty arguments ratcheted up another level this weekend, when at least five biker gangs engaged in an all-out gun battle in Waco, Texas.  The matter at issue: a parking spot.  At least nine bikers were killed, and dozens more injured.

The original antagonists were the Cossacks Motorcycle Club of Texas, and the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, though at least three other motorcycle clubs from the Dallas/Forth Worth area rushed to the scene and participated in the shooting.  The scene of the shootout was a parking lot of a shopping mall in Waco, where the Twin Peaks Restaurant (think Hooters, but with a less suggestive name) serves as a biker hangout.  Management of the restaurant hosts a Bikers Night promotion every Thursday, and local police are so familiar with disputes arising between biker gangs at this restaurant, that they were at hand before Sunday’s shootout began.  In the end, though, the Waco police were unwilling or unable to mobilize their paramilitary forces to stop the shooting, though the police do report that several officers exchanged gunfire with the bikers and may have injured or killed some of them.

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Obama to set new limits on police use of military equipment

Reuters, By Julia Edwards, May 18

Reuters – President Barack Obama plans to put in place new restrictions on the use of military equipment by police departments, following unrest in U.S. cities over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers, the White House said on Monday.

Obama will ban police use of equipment such as explosive-resistant vehicles with tracked wheels like those seen on army tanks, the White House said in a fact sheet. For other types of equipment, such as MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) vehicles and riot shields, departments will have to provide added justification for their use.

Obama will announce the steps, which are the result of an executive order, during a visit later on Monday to Camden, New Jersey, where he plans to push efforts to encourage trust-building between police and the communities they serve.

Washington Governor Declares Drought Emergency

New York Times, By Kirk Johnson, May 15

Seattle, WA — Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency for Washington on Friday, with mountain snowpack at 16 percent of average and water levels in rivers and streams drying to a trickle not seen since the 1950s. He said that residents should also be prepared for an early and active fire season that could reach higher elevations in the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, where many spots are already completely clear of snow.

“We’re seeing things happen at this time of year we just have never seen before,” Mr. Inslee said in a news conference.

But he said that unlike other drought-stricken parts of the West, especially California, the problem here in the nation’s northwest corner falls primarily on agriculture and wildlife. The large metropolitan water systems serving Seattle and other cities on the state’s western edge, where most people live, are largely in good shape, with rainwater-based reservoirs and no immediate plans for water-use restrictions.

‘Historic’ Ruling States That Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Isn’t Sex Ed

Think Progress, By Tara Culp-Ressler, May 13

In a decision that’s being hailed as “historic,” a judge in California has ruled that health classes focusing exclusively on telling students to remain abstinent until marriage fall short of the state’s comprehensive sex ed requirements.

In his opinion, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black concludes that, given the high rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy in the U.S., medically accurate sexual health information is “an important public right.”

Black’s decision narrowly applies to about 40,000 students who attend the Clovis Unified School District. However, since his opinion represents the first-ever ruling on California’s decade-old sex education standards, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — whose legal counsel represented the plaintiffs in the suit — believes it sets an important precedent for the rest of the state.

“This is the first time that abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula have been found to be medically inaccurate,” Phyllida Burlingame, the director of reproductive justice policy at the ACLU, told the San Francisco Chronicle. She added that the ruling should send a strong message to other schools that “young people need complete, accurate health information required by law.”

Senate Cuts Deal To Pass Obama’s Secretive Trade Bills

Huffington Post, By Jessica Schulberg & Michael McAuliff, May 13

Washington – Senate leaders reached a deal Wednesday to push ahead with votes on President Barack Obama’s trade deals.

The agreement came after Democrats blew up an earlier agreement Tuesday over fears that key measures they have sponsored would fail, or never get votes.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday afternoon that leaders had found a way around the impasse by agreeing to let Democrats have votes on key trade enforcement measures before holding votes on the fast-track authority that Obama needs to finish new massive trade deals with Pacific Rim countries and Europe.

“I think that we’ve come up with something that is fair,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Illinois police to use drones at crime scenes, won’t call them ‘drones’

RT, May 13

Illinois State Police has been granted permission from the federal government to employ drones at crime scenes and crash sites in order to take photographs. However, law enforcement officials won’t use the word “drone” when describing their new tool.

That’s no accident, either. Police said that they want to stay away from the word “drone” because of the negative connotations people have come to associate it with. Specifically, the department said “it carries the perception of pre-programmed or automatic flight patterns, and random, indiscriminate collection of images and information,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Instead, police will refer to the drones as “unmanned aircraft.” Law enforcement also emphasized that the technology will not be used “for surveillance purposes” and noted that it worked with civil liberties groups to ensure that the privacy of Americans continues to be protected.

Sanders Raises $3 Million in Four Days; Will He Split the Party?

Naked Capitalism, By Gaius Publius, May 10

My headline has two parts (you can see it above) but the second is, for me, the most important and the most interesting. I’ve been writing about the split — the chasm, really — between progressives and “progressives” in the Democratic Party for at least a year, and Howie has been documenting the sins of money-bought “Democrats” like the DCCC since forever.

Some want that split to heal, and some want it to widen. Democrats who want it to heal are motivated by two main interests, it seems. One is the desire, understandable enough, to keep government out of the hands of Republicans, who really are the greater evil, if only by a little.

The other interest, though, is more insidious and far less defensible. If the party pulls together, those whose careers are tied to the success of its money-soaked DLC wing will see those careers advanced — in some cases, spectacularly.

The losers in all this? Unbailed-out mortgagees; students with crushing personal debt; the soon-to-explode bomb of poverty among soon-to-retire 401k-holders — the jobless; the poor; the barely-making-it in a Nike and Apple “made in Asia” economy. The bottom 80% who are going nowhere or going down. The traditional constituents, in other words, of the real Democratic Party as constituted in the pre–Bill Clinton years.

Who wants the split in the Democratic Party to widen? Anyone who wants progressive change in America at a non-incremental pace. And everyone, voter or activist, who no longer wants to reward “professional Democrats” — self-serving, money-serving women and men — for their constant and regular betrayals.

GOP head of Senate environment committee says carbon pollution is good for the Earth

Raw Story, By Eric W. Dolan, May 7

As carbon dioxide levels surpassed 400 parts per million globally, Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma headed to the Senate floor on Wednesday to explain the benefits of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Counter to the doomsday predictions of climate alarmists, increasing observations suggest a much reduced and practically harmless climate response to increased amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide,” he remarked. “Also missing from the climate alarmists’ doomsday scenarios and well-scripted talking points are the benefits from increased carbon that has led to a greening of the planet and contributed to increased agricultural productivity.”

Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, wondered why people didn’t understand that carbon pollution was good for the Earth.

“People do not realize that you cannot grow things without CO2,” he said. “CO2 is a fertilizer. It is something you cannot do without. No one ever talks about the benefits that people are inducing that as a fertilizer on a daily basis.”

Video at the link.

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

Surveillance planes spotted in the sky for days after West Baltimore rioting

Washington Post, By Craig Timberg, May 5

As Benjamin Shayne settled into his back yard to listen to the Orioles game on the radio Saturday night, he noticed a small plane looping low and tight over West Baltimore — almost exactly above where rioting had erupted several days earlier, in the aftermath of the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, in police custody.

The plane appeared to be a small Cessna, but little else was clear. The sun had already set, making traditional visual surveillance difficult. So, perplexed, Shayne tweeted: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the last few nights?”

That was 9:14 p.m. Seven minutes later came a startling reply. One of Shayne’s nearly 600 followers tweeted back a screen shot of the Cessna 182T’s exact flight path and also the registered owner of the plane: NG Research, based in Bristow, Va.

“The Internet,” Shayne, 39, told his wife, “is an amazing thing.”

What Shayne’s online rumination helped unveil was a previously secret, multi-day campaign of overhead surveillance by city and federal authorities during a period of historic political protest and unrest.

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