There is a good possibility voters in California will get a chance to reform their 1994 "three strikes" law this November. Supporters of the ballot initiative to reform the law claim they turned in signatures well in excess of the 500,000 required by[...]
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For the people of Liberia, I'm positive this took too long. Finally, Charles Taylor has been convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes. From the BBC: Taylor, 64, has been on trial for almost five years. "This is an incredibly significant decision," Elise Keppler from the campaign group Human Rights Watch told the BBC. "Charles
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The Justice Department will not prosecute the border patrol agent who shot and killed 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez-Guereca on the Mexico border on June 7, 2010 after smugglers hurled rocks at him. DOJ said in a press release late Friday that there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute the agent for either a homicide or a civil rights charge.
"This review took into account evidence indicating that the agent's actions constituted a reasonable use of force or would constitute an act of self defense in response to the threat created by a group of smugglers hurling rocks at the agent and his detainee," the press release said.
DOJ called their investigation "comprehensive and thorough" and said they interviewed over 25 law enforcement and civilian witnesses and reviewed "evidence from the scene of the shooting; civilian and surveillance video; law enforcement radio traffic; 911 recordings; volumes of CBP agent training and use of force materials; and the shooting agent's training, disciplinary records, and personal history."
Mexico had called on the U.S. to conduct a swift investigation and condemned the shooting. The family subsequently sued the government over the shooting. The agent involved has never been named.
Florida prosecutors said on Friday they were surprised to learn that George Zimmerman had raised more than $200,000 for his own defense in the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
But a week ago, those same prosecutors had a chance to grill Zimmerman's family about the fund and mostly took a pass.
The revelation about just how much money Zimmerman collected came on Thursday night when his attorney told CNN that his client managed to raise the cash in just a few weeks by using a crudely built website and a PayPal account.
The six-figure surprise was a major departure from what the Zimmerman family claimed during sworn testimony at a hearing last week.
Zimmerman, through his attorney, claimed poverty at the April 20 hearing about whether he should be released from jail on bond. His wife and parents testified they had little money on their own to pay a high bond amount if Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. decided to grant it.
But given the opportunity to question the family about the website, which was well publicized after it went live earlier this month, the special prosecutors who were picked by Gov. Rick Scott to handle the case spent so little time asking about it that they were unable to learn that Zimmerman socked away all that cash.
Assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda did ask the family members briefly about the website, which was called "The Real George Zimmerman" and offered a vague defense of the Feb. 26 killing in Sanford, Fla. But each one pleaded ignorance and the prosecutor quickly moved on.
"You don't have any knowledge of the web site, do you, in terms of the money?" de la Rionda asked Zimmerman's mother, Gladys Zimmerman.
"No," she replied.
His father, Robert Zimmerman, said likewise: "I have no idea if there's money, how much money or who has access to it."
His wife, Shellie Zimmerman, said the same: "Currently, I don't know."
When Zimmerman himself took the stand later in the hearing, de la Rionda didn't ask him about the funds. It's unclear whether the judge would have allowed the questions, however, since he greatly limited what Zimmerman was allowed to talk about.
In general at last week's hearing, de la Rionda and state attorney Angela Corey appeared to be caught off guard by several events. One of their lead investigators was called to testify and admitted he didn't expect to take the stand. Additionally, de la Rionda said at the time that he didn't expect so many facts about the night of the killing to be addressed at what was supposed to be a routine bond hearing.
But one of the questions left unanswered at the end was exactly who had control of the funds and how much was there.
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said he found out this week after he ordered his client to shut down the website. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman then asked him what to do with all the money.
Attorneys for Martin's family reacted with anger on Friday, saying Zimmerman had an obligation to disclose how much money he had available when he took the witness stand last week.
"George Zimmerman raised his right hand in court and swore to tell the truth. He swore to be honest," attorney Benjamin Crump told CNN. "He watched that whole proceeding and never once said a word to the court whether or not he had raised money on that website when he knew he had raised over $200,000. He kept claiming he was indigent so he could get a very, very low bond."
Indeed, despite the fact that prosecutors asked the judge to hold Zimmerman on a bond of no less than a $1 million, Lester ruled the defendant could be released from jail for $150,000. That meant Zimmerman's family would have to put together just $15,000, or 10 percent, to secure his release.
The family was able to come up with the money a little more than two days later. Zimmerman was released from a Seminole County, Fla., jail early Monday morning. According to the Sentinel, Zimmerman's attorney said $5,000 from the fund was used to help bail him from jail.
The attorneys for Martin's family demanded on Friday that Zimmerman be thrown back in jail because they believe he intentionally deceived the court.
Prosecutors have asked for Lester to at least reconsider the amount of the bond.
Lester said on Friday he would consider the prosecution's request and make a decision in the coming days. According to the Sentinel, he also told Zimmerman's attorney he wants to know more information about where the donations came from.
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Last week on his show, Fox host Bill O'Reilly and his guest Lou Dobbs decided to attack former Secretary of Labor and professor Robert Reich, calling him a "communist" who "secretly adores Karl Marx." O'Reilly was called out by Reich both on MSNBC and in a post he wrote at the Huffington Post here -- Why Anyone Should Care That Bill O'Reilly Calls Me a Communist .
Reich challenged O'Reilly to a debate both on Ed Schultz's show and in his column. O'Reilly's response? He was "obviously joshing around" and laughing when he called Robert Reich a Communist. Whether O'Reilly and Dobbs were joking or not, Fox intentionally confuses their audience by conflating the words Communist, Marxist and Socialist on a regular basis, with the worst being Glenn Beck when he was still on there, to the point that all of them are meaningless and nothing but a general slur or insult to be lobbed at liberals. The sad joke is that their audience doesn't know the difference between any of them. And I doubt most of their viewers thought O'Reilly was joking at the time.
h/t Media Matters
Congress is on the cusp of passing a new bill that could threaten any internet user’s civil liberties. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a digital equivalent of allowing the government to fight perceived threats by monitoring which books citizens check out from the library, passed the House yesterday and will now be taken up by the Senate.
Online advocates, fresh off their victory against the Stop Online Piracy Act, are now gearing up to oppose CISPA because of the disastrous effect the bill could have for private information on the internet. The bill’s opponents argue that it goes too far in the name of cybersecurity, endangering citizens’ personal online information by giving the government access to anything from users’ private emails to their browsing history.
As the fight in the Senate begins, here is everything you need to know about CISPA:
CISPA’s broad language will likely give the government access to anyone’s personal information with few privacy protections: CISPA allows the government access to any ?information pertaining directly to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity.? There is little indication of what this information could include, and what it means to be ?pertinent? to cyber security. Without boundaries, any internet user’s personal, private information would likely be fair game for the government.
It supersedes all other provisions of the law protecting privacy: As the bill is currently written, CISPA would apply ?notwithstanding any other provision of law.? In other words, privacy restrictions currently in place would not apply to CISPA. As a result, companies could disclose more personal information about users than necessary. Ars Technica writes, ?if a company decides that your private emails, your browsing history, your health care records, or any other information would be helpful in dealing with a ?cyber threat,? the company can ignore laws that would otherwise limit its disclosure.?
The bill completely exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act: Citizens and journalists have access to most things the government does via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a key tool for increasing transparency. However, CISPA completely exempts itself from FOIA requests. The Sunlight Foundation blasted CISPA for ?entirely? dismissing FOIA?s ?fundamental safeguard for public oversight of government?s activities.?
CISPA gives companies blanket immunity from future lawsuits: One of the most egregious aspects of CISPA is that it gives blanket legal immunity to any company that shares its customers? private information. In other words, if Microsoft were to share your browsing history with the government despite your posing no security threat, you would be barred from filing a lawsuit against them. Without any legal recourse for citizens to take against corporate bad behavior, companies will be far more inclined to share private information.
Recent revisions don?t go nearly far enough: In an attempt to specify how the government can use the information they collect, the House passed an amendment saying the data can only be used for: ?1) cybersecurity; 2) investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; 3) protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury; 4) protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and 5) protection of the national security of the United States.? This new version still “suffers from most of the same problems that plagued the original version,” writes Timothy Lee. Because terms like “cybersecurity” are so vague, the bill’s language could encompass almost anything.
Citizens have to trust that companies like Facebook won?t share your personal information: CISPA does not force companies share private user information with the government. That being said, Ars Technica makes the point that ?the government has a variety of carrots and sticks it can use to induce private firms to share information it wants.? For instance, many companies receive federal contracts or subsidies and would be hesitant to deny any request from the government that might jeopardize future business. Companies may not be legally required to turn over information, but they ?may not be in a position to say no.?
Companies can already inform the government and each other about incoming cybersecurity threats: While proponents of CISPA claim it?s needed to allow agencies and companies to share information about incoming cybersecurity threats, opponents of the bill point out that ?network administrators and security researchers at private firms have shared threat information with one another for decades.?
The internet is fighting back: The same online activists who fought hard against SOPA are now engaged in the battle over CISPA. Over 770,000 people have signed a petition by the online organizing group Avaaz that asks Congress to defeat the bill. Reddit, the news-sharing internet community that helped lead the fight against SOPA, is organizing again around CISPA.
Most Republicans support CISPA, while most Democrats oppose it: The House passed CISPA on April 26 on a mostly-party-line vote, 248-168. Among congressmen that voted, 88 percent of Republicans supported the bill while 77 percent of Democrats opposed it.
President Obama threatened to veto it: Recognizing the threat to civil liberties that CISPA poses, President Obama announced this week that he ?strongly opposes? the bill and has threatened to veto if it comes to his desk. Obama singled out the provisions that allow for blanket legal immunity and do not enough to safeguard citizens? private information.
The Mitt Romney campaign has made a lot of noise about their push for younger voters. Earlier this month, Romney told a crowd that young people “have to” vote for him in November, and in the last several days he has made a point to address issues like college affordability and student loan reform.
But his message may not be having its desired impact. Romney gave a speech at Otterbein University in Ohio today, and the crowd was…less than enthralled. It did however provide a stark contrast to President Obama’s recent college appearances, including one just yesterday at the University of Iowa. Compare the two events below:
Today, four U.S. senators introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2012, which complements similar House legislation introduced last year. The bill is designed to ensure that all people have equal access to healthcare, including people of color, people with disabilities, non-citizens, people for whom English is not their first language, and the LGBT community. As ThinkProgress has reported, LGBT people face unique inequities when it comes to healthcare access that intersect with the unfair obstacles other groups face. Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) intend for this bill to close those gaps.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaigned with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who presides over one of the least job-creating states in America, today at Otterbein College — a school that benefited from the passage of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus.
Otterbein received a grant worth more than $80,000 for a federal work-study program in July 2009. Ignoring that fact, though, Romney proceeded to attack the stimulus in his speech to students:
ROMNEY: Then there was the stimulus itself. $787 billion of borrowing. It could have been entirely focused on getting getting the private sector to buy capital equipment, for instance. That puts people to work. Or to hire people. Instead, it primary protected people in the governmental sector, which is probably the sector that should have been shrinking.
Romney also mixed up the facts about the stimulus. In calling the stimulus a hand out for government programs (which he said “probably should have been shrinking”), Romney ignores that the last three years were the worst on record for government job losses. In calling the stimulus a failure, he ignores its obvious successes: It saved or created millions of jobs, turned around economic growth, and pulled the American economy away from the precipice of collapse.
According to the Jerusalem Post (with slightly differing translations from Yedioth Ahronoth), Diskin referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense chief Ehud Barak as “our two messiahs,” going on to lambast the country’s leadership:
(T)hey are not fit to hold the steering-wheel of power. I have no faith in the current leadership in Israel and its ability to conduct a war. …
[Israel's leadership] presents a false view to the public on the Iranian bomb, as though acting against Iran would prevent a nuclear bomb. But attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster.
While a potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, and the nuclear non-proliferation regime, serious questions remain about the efficacy of strike — like Diskin’s — and its potential consequences. Leaving “all options on the table” to deal with the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapons push — one that neither American nor Israeli intelligence think Iran has decided on — the Obama administration, for the meantime, has pursued a dual-track of pressure and diplomacy aimed at yielding a negotiated resolution to the crisis.
Diskin’s not alone in his assessments — other analysts think attacking now could very well convince the Iranian leadership that they need a weapon for deterrence. The former Shin Bet chief is also joined by a bevy of other current and former top-ranking Israeli security officials. At the Huffington Post, Joel Rubin, the Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, offers a rundown:
In one of the most astounding public breaks by the Israeli national security establishment with a sitting prime minister, Netanyahu’s own military Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has stated that Iran’s leadership is rational. Gantz is not alone.
In the past several months, as Netanyahu has ramped up his rhetoric on Iran, senior Israeli national security leaders from the military and intelligence communities have pushed back. In addition to Gantz, the current head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency Tamir Pardo has stated that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. And many more retired military and intelligence leaders echo the same sentiment.
After Gantz’s public comments, Barak made a speech restating a harder Israeli line and adding that “chance(s) appears to be low” for a breakthrough during the upcoming talks between Iran and Western powers in late May. (HT: Ori Nir)