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NEWS ARCHIVES  [AUGUST 2013]







 
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HEADLINES



Syria - The Drum Beats of War - US Prepare Military Action
Private Bradley Mannning Sentenced to 35 years in Prison
Edward Snowden' New Release - From Russia with Spite
Egypt in Chaos  - on The Verge of Civil War
Federal Judge Struck Down Mayor Bloomberg's Stop-and-Frisk
  
 


August 31, 2013
 
The Drum Beats of War Are Getting Loud
 
The Middle East - Syria
 
 U.S. Prepares to Take Military Action Against Syria
 
News on possible Obama's White House against Syria are breaking fast. Following reports last week that use of chemical weapons had been detected in the two year-old civil war between Syrian rebels and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's military forces, President Obama announced plans for military actions against that country. The claims of hundreds of people having being killed by chemical weapons and the propaganda against Bashar Al Assad are running wild, and so are the disagreements about whether or not the United States should intervene in what has thus far been an internal Syrian conflict. 
 
Syrian Rebels: news about
 
Thousands of Syrian citizens have been killed since the beginning of this war, and thousands more have fled the country. But the Syrians are as divided among themselves as the international community is divided over what to do if anything. The divergence of views among U.S. leaders in Congress are even more pronounced. From the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Russia, China, and Iran have been opposed to any intervention by the United States Government. Yesterday, the English Parliament voted to keep England out of any military action that President Obama may decide to engage in against Syria. In response to Secretary of States, John Kerry passionate and eloquent presentation making a case for retaliatory military action, Russian President, Vladimir Putin blasted America's posturing in this conflict. Some in Congress are demanding that the President goes before Congress to request approval for any military action. United Nation Inspectors have left Syria, but today, in a press conference, a United Nation's spokesman could not confirm any knowledge as to which of the two warring parties in Syria may have used the chemical weapons. 
 
Syrian Civil War Destruction
It is highly anticipated and discussed in the media that Obama will order some type of military action, very likely in the form of targeted missile strikes against military or perhaps government targets in Syria. It has been difficult to measure American public opinion on this matter. It is clear that Americans are overwhelmingly against a war in the Middle East, but the President took to the airwaves yesterday to re-assure the public that whatever action he might take will be limited in nature. This has prompted commentators and public officials to wonder what will be accomplished by a limited intervention, but more critically how will other players in the region, such as Israel, Iran, and Hezbollah will respond to U.S. missiles raining down onto Syria. There is also the potential for any so-called limited intervention to degenerate into a long term involvement with no end-result or end-point in sight. After 13 years of war in the Middle East and the debacle created by George W. Bush in Iraq based on fabricated intelligence, world leaders are very suspicious of these new claims and reluctant to join in any new coalition for another war in the Middle East. At 2:00 PM EST today Obama made an on-camera statement in which he reiterated his determination to take military action, but also announced his evolved decision to seek approval and support from Congress prior to putting his plan for military action into motion.

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August 22, 2013
 
Private Bradley Manning Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison
 
 
Private Manning convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for leaking classified documents Shawn Thew_European PressPhoto Agency
 
Wednesday August 21, 2013, Military Judge, Col. Denise R. Lind of the Army, sentenced Private Manning to 35 years in prison in a case involving materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks included. The leaked documents included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which two journalist and civilians were killed. Mr. Manning who was also reduced in rank and dishonorably discharged by the judge had also turned over some 700,000 pages of classified documents and some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees who had been imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The leaked documents included hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Private Manning downloaded classified documents from a computer network to which he had access while deployed in Iraq in 2010. The documents were forwarded to WikiLeaks. Among other things, the files also exposed the abuse of detainees by Iraqi officers under the watch of American forces and showed that civilian deaths during the Iraq war were most likely significantly higher than official estimated. This action left the U.S. government grappling to limit damages from the leaks, including how to protect foreigners identified in some of the documents as having helped American diplomats and the military. There has been no evidence that anyone was killed because of the leaks.
 
As part of the sentence, Mr. Manning will also lose his military pay. The 35-year sentence was a comprise by the judge between the 60 year sentence the prosecutor had asked the judge to impose and the 20 years Pfc. Manning’s lawyer had requested from the judge. Following the Wikileaks’ scandal, Bradley Manning was charged with violating the Espionage Act, and following his conviction last month he pleaded guilty to lesser offenses and was facing up to 90 years in prison. Many in the media and politics, along with many Americans, believe the verdict is too harsh and some are asking for a pardon for the young Manning.  Some view the latest hardline and the prosecution whistleblowers as a chilling wind over the country, arguing that the government’s effort to clamp down on those who come forward with information they feel the country is entitled to know will keep a permanent veil over government overreach and secrecy.
 
The New York Times reported that, following the sentencing, a handful of supporters “called out” words of encouragement, as Mr. Manning was escorted by guards out of the courtroom. “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” one shouted. Another said, “You are a hero,” the New York Times reported. Pfc. Bradley Manning showed little or no expression throughout the proceedings and after the judge announced the sentence. The defendant made no statement after the sentence was read. His aunt and two cousins were present for the sentencing. His lawyer, Mr. Coombs, told the press, Mr. Coombs that he planned to apply for a presidential pardon next week and read a statement from Private Manning that he said would be included in his request. “I only wanted to help people,” Private Manning’s statement said, adding, “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.” A White House spokesman has been reported saying, his application will be considered “like any other application.” Mr. Coombs has also been reported saying that he had wept after they left the courtroom and that Private Manning told him, “It’s O.K.” The consensus among Military justice experts and media analysts is that with good behavior and time served, Mr. Manning is likely to spend an average of seven years in prison, if a pardon is not granted. 

 
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August 18, 2012 [Update]
 
Edward Snowden’s New Release 
From Russia with Spite
 
 
 
The Washington Post broke the news today that Edward Snowden has released a new set of classified documents showing that the National Security Agency (NSA) broke even more privacy rules than were previously revealed in classified documents Snowden leaked last month about the NSA's PRISM program.
 
Now leaving under temporary political asylum from Russia since releasing thousands of pages of secret NSA documents to the UK newspaper, The Guardian and to the Washington Post, Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor who worked for the agency as an analyst, turned over an internal audit and other top-secret documents containing details of illegal behavior by the NSA to the Washington Post.
                                                                                                                     Photo_villageviewpost.com
 
Edward Snowden's Released New Documents about NSA ViolationsFrom the beginning, Snowden made claims that he was in possession of more classified documents about the NSA’s highly classified surveillance program. Based on the documents that have been released so far by Snowden, the security agency used that program to swoop private information on millions of Americans by secretly intercepting or obtaining electronic and telephone data through major telephone companies and internet providers, including, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and others. The 29-year old released the documents from China, but then left China en route to South America, speculatively Ecuador, where he was offered asylum. Snowden, who has been charged with several criminal charges by the United States government, including espionage, became stranded in the Russian airport transit terminal after media reports that the U.S. was planning to intercept his flight out of Russia.
 
According to reports by the Washington Post, the new revelations about the NSA include unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order. These new violations do not involved instances of heave droppings, but instead they relate to over 2700 violations of surveillance law, and typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of US emails and telephone calls.
 
PRISM: The NSA's Secret Surveillance ProgramThese new documents highlight a lack of oversight by Congress, in that they include details and intelligence analysis that are not normally shared with Congress in mandated intelligence briefing. The new details were neither revealed to the FASA Court, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court that was created specifically to oversee the U.S. surveillance program under the Patriot Act after 9/11. As shocking as the NSA’s abuses have been, far more disturbing are the misleading statements that have been made by government officials and former intelligence officers as to what this program truly entails. One of the new documents shows that employees at the NSA were even instructed to remove certain details from the report and substitute generic words to replace the names of the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
 
Prior to Snowden’s decision to leak the documents, NSA officials, including the White House, had all along responded to reporters‘ questions about the program by saying that they cannot either confirm or deny its existence due to its level of classification. They also consistently denied in public and to Congress that they were conducting secret surveillance on Americans. This new development is sure to prompt more calls for transparency into the NSA’s super-secret surveillance program from the media, Congress, and from the public. Snowden's father, a former 40-year veteran analyst Lon Snowden, has flown to Russia to visit his son. Snowden has found support all around the world, and is being protected by human rights organizations, but these revelations have angered some U.S. allies, and soured U.S. Russia relations. U.S. public opinion on these issues appear to be mixed.   



August 16, 2013
 
Egypt in Turmoil  or Civil War?
Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Declared“Day of Rage”
 
Egypt has descended into chaos and violence, and appears to be on the verge of a civil war. After the military intervened earlier this month in the second uprising against President Mohammed Morsi and installed interim PM Hazem Beblawi, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to rise against what they considered a military coup. President Morsi was democratically elected by a majority of Egyptians a year ago in the wake of the Arab Spring, which resulted in the ouster of 30-year military dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
 
Egyptian Unrest
 
Egyptian Unrest -                                                                        Photo_presstv.ir
Millions of Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets in cities around the country on Friday, which they named “Day of Rage,” to protest the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood leader and former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. BBC's Jeremy Bowen reported hearing "Bullets pinging off the building just behind me," as Egyptians struggle to figure out how to end the violence and return the country to some semblance of normalcy. NBC is reporting more 80 people killed today in the bloodshed, but as in yesterday’s clash between protesters and Egyptian security forces and the military, the final death toll may not be known for some time, as many bodies remain unidentified. NBC has put the death toll at 47, and there have been unreported numbers of death in cities around the country. Opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and former president Morsi are also critical of the military action against the demonstrators.
 
Egypt Today - [Google Images]
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Protest
Several news organizations, including NBC news, reported yesterday that over 600 demonstrators were killed by live bullets yesterday in the protest, with many bodies in the morgue remaining unidentified, and thousand wounded. The Egyptian military also reported 46 security police killed in the confrontation. Today, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators took to the street with a large contingent of protesters trapped on a main bridge over the Nile River where they tried to cross heading to the Main Square into Cairo. Gunfire could be heard by reporters who observed people jumping off the bridge after the military set up a checkpoint at the entrance of the bridge. The situation in the country appears dire and it is not clear when any end might be in sight. The protesters have shown no sign of backing down in defiance of the military lock -own and violence.
 
President Obama has interrupted his summer vacation in Martha’s’ Vineyard to make a statement in which he strongly condemned the brutal crackdown and killing of demonstrators by the Egyptian military. He also announced that the routine joint-military training that was planned between the U.S. and the Egyptian military this month is being cancelled in protest against the killing of demonstrators. Bur the president also said, "America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That's a task for the Egyptian people. We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure.”
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Obama condemns the violence in Egypt
President Obama made a statement condemning the violence in Egypt and canceled joint military exercises with the country.
Many in the media and politicians have criticized the president for being “timid” in his response, when former President Morsi declared Marshall Laws and suspended the constitution in Egypt following his election in 2012. The president is also criticized for not calling the removal of Morsi a coup d’etat. Others call for the President to announce or threaten to cut the 1.3 billion dollars in military aid the United States give to Egypt each year. But the counter-argument is that a cut in aid to Egypt may not make any difference in influencing the behavior of the Egyptian military, given that Egypt receives at least 10 billion dollars from the golf states. But as Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement to Pakistan’s Geo TV, "The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos, into violence.” This was last month when millions of Egyptians returned to the Square where the Arab Spring was born in 2011 to demand the resignation of President Morsi. When Morsi refused to resign, he was forcibly removed by the Egyptian military headed by Defense Minister, Abdel Fattah El Sisi. This move infuriated the Muslim Brotherhood supporters, which brought about mass demonstrations in cities around the country this week. But this time Egyptian demonstrators have been met with brutality and live bullets from the Egyptian military.
 
 
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August 14, 2013                                                       Stop-and-Frisk Statistical Graph
graph on NY city  stop-&-frisk policy    
 
  New York Mayor Bloomberg's 
Hideous & Racist Stop-and-Frisk Policy Struck Down
 by Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin
 
 
 
Federal Judge Struck Down NY Mayor Micheal Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk
                                                                                                       Jude Shira A. Scheindlin
   Photo_Richard Drew [AP] 
 
Stop-and-frisk_Google Images  
 
New York Black Men Stopped-and-Frisked On Monday August 12, 2013, Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin struck down New York’s stop-and-frisk “policy” ruling that the New York Police Department tactics of violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city. In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin effectively rejected New York Mayor’s Michael Bloomberg and his administration’s argument that the tactics plays a major element in fighting crime in the city. In her ruling, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin found that the Police Department resorted to a “policy of indirect racial profiling” as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers’ routinely stopping “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.” The judge found that patrol officers have used the policy in the past 9 years “to stop innocent people without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing.” Bloomberg tries angrily and desperately to hang onto his racist policy under the pretense of safety, and he woe to pursue this bloody odious legacy through the courts. Ultimately, this scheme will be found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme; for it cannot survive any serious scrutiny by any person of conscience under the IV and the XIV Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
 
The judge’s ruling, in Floyd v. City of New York, a 2008 class-action lawsuit that represents the broadest legal challenge to the department’s practices, follows a two-month non-jury trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan earlier this year. But the stops were not the end of the problem, Judge Scheindlin found. After officers stopped people, they often conducted frisks for weapons, or searched the subjects’ pockets for contraband, like drugs, without any legal grounds for doing so. Also, she found that during police stops, blacks and Hispanics “were more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.”
 
“I also conclude that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,” she wrote, citing statements that Mr. Bloomberg and the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, have made in defending the policy. Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly have explained that disparity by saying it mirrored the disproportionate percentage of crimes committed by young minority men. But Judge Scheindlin dismissed the Police Department’s rationale. “This might be a valid comparison if the people stopped were criminals,” she wrote, explaining that there was significant evidence that the people being stopped were not criminals.
New York Stop & Frisk Plaintiffs Press Conference “To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of the people stopped are released without the officer finding any basis for a summons or arrest.” On the contrary, Judge Scheindlin found, the stops overwhelmingly involved minority men because police commanders had come to see them as “the right people” to stop. “It is impermissible to subject all members of a racially defined group to heightened police enforcement because some members of that group are criminals,” she wrote. The Plaintiffs in the case included Leroy Downes, Djibril Toure, Devin Almonar, and David Ourlicht were accompanied by Vince Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights in a press conference following the judge’s ruling. 
                                                                 
                               
 Stop & Frisk Plaintiffs' Press Conference
Photo_Ruth Frenson [The New York Times]
 
Mayor Michael Bloomberg 
and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly
Photo_NYC gov
 
New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg & City Police Commissioner Ray KelleyIn her 195-page decision, Judge Scheindlin concluded that the stops demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The stop-and-frisk policy, which has been in practice for 9 years under Mayor Bloomberg escalated in numbers with more than 1 million New Yorkers subjected to the practice. Mayor Bloomberg has consistently defended that policy as a foundation for success in lowering the crime rage and murders in New York, even though statistics for the country as a whole have shown the overall crime rate lowering. Bloomberg also argues, even after the ruling, that the practice “has saved the lives of thousands of young black and Hispanic men by removing thousands of guns from the streets.” In an angry and defiant statement, Bloomberg, accused the judge of “deliberately denying the city a fair trial” and said the city would file an appeal, adding “You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight… I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying.”
 
Judge Scheindlin ordered officers in at least five precincts across the city to wear cameras on their bodies to record street encounters. She also ordered a “joint remedial process,” including a process of community involvement to solicit public comments on how to reform New York police department department’s stop-and-frisk tactics. Judge Scheindlin went further and named  Peter L. Zimroth, a partner in Arnold & Porter L.L.P., and a former corporation counsel and prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the United States Constitution. This will effectively place the New York police department under judicial control and monitor at least through the appeal process or until the ordered reform is achieved. Judge Scheindlin’s ruling falls within the Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 ruling by the Supreme Court, which held that stopping and frisking was constitutionally permissible under certain conditions. But she found that important changes are needed to “protect the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.” The judge found that the New York police were too quick to deem “suspicious behavior” that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop.
Under the stop-and-frisk policy, 4.43 million stops were made between 2004 and the middle of 2012. About 83 percent of the stops between 2004 and 2012 involved blacks and Hispanics, even though those two demographics make up just slightly more than 50 percent of the city’s residents. Minorities are 85% more likely to be stopped based on subjective standards of suspicion whites. 89% of those stopped have been found to be completely innocent of any wrongdoing, and over 98% of the victims of stop-and-frisk carried no weapons of any sort. Judge Scheindlin noted that officers routinely stopped people partly on the basis of “furtive movements,” a category that officers have testified might encompass any of the following: being fidgety, changing directions, walking in a certain way, grabbing at a pocket or looking over one’s shoulder. “If officers believe that the behavior described above constitutes furtive movement that justifies a stop, then it is no surprise that stops so rarely produce evidence of criminal activity,” Judge Scheindlin wrote.
 
She found that in their “zeal” to identify concealed weapons, officers sometimes stopped people on the grounds that the officer observed a bulge in the person’s pocket; often it turned out that the bulge was caused not by a gun but by a wallet. “The outline of a commonly carried object such as a wallet or cellphone does not justify a stop or frisk, nor does feeling such an object during a frisk justify a search,” she ruled. She emphasized what she called the “human toll of unconstitutional stops,” noting that some of the plaintiffs testified that their encounters with the police left them feeling that they did not belong in certain areas of the city. She characterized each stop as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.” “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life,” she wrote.
 
Around the country, the decision has been heralded as step forward by some, and victory by others, for civil rights and the Fourth Amendment. 31 year-old, Lalit Clarkson, a plaintiff in the case, said after the ruling that “the stop-and-frisk policy criminalizes a whole race and community of people, just for going to work, going to get some food, going on a train to go downtown.” The decision, he said, represents the legal system’s validation of what the black community has known for a long time: that the stop-and-frisk tactics rely on racial profiling. As of Tuesday, Judge Scheindlin’s ruling appeared to have turned the focus of the discussion on stop-and-frisk in the New York City Mayoral race. Before the ruling, almost all of the candidates seemed to support some version of the policy, but after the ruling on Monday, the candidates juggled for a position on the side of the judge’s ruling.
 
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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Passed Executive Order
 Targeting Mandatory Sentencing 
to Halt the Expansion of the Uncivilized & Racist
 Prison Industrial Complex in America
Yes - We Can!
 
 
black justice (injustice icon)5 myths about Blacks & crimes debumkedthumblr images                                                                                                        lockupreform
America's Prison ProblemThe Prison Industrial Complex                      [Google Images]
                                                                                                                                                     
 
 
 
Prison Statistics                                                                                 Image_uspriso
 
The United States leads every country in the world in prison population. In fact, the U.S. houses 25% of the world's prisoners, over 3,000,000,000 people, more than any other country on earth. The mass incarceration began over 40 years ago with the failed war on drugs, which was an acronym for a war on Blacks and poor American citizens who are addicted to drugs, but cannot afford competent legal defense. The majority of the prison population is made up prisoners who have taken plea deals assisted by public defenders who advised them that going to trial, guilty or innocent might result in a longer sentence. Millions become entangled in a probation system that is designed to keep them in the criminal justice system through the use of various prosecutoral tricks and sometime misconduct. With the militarization of Police all over the country post 9/11, law enforcement in the U.S. found a new pastime, abuse and misuse of power and conspiring with prosecutors to send as many American citizens to prison as possible. Under this regime, every American is either a criminal a potential criminal, or a would be criminal, given that aside from the millions in prison, millions more have dragged through the criminal justice system, and many more millions are either on probation or on parole. With the near absolute immunity enjoyed by District Attorneys, prosecutors win in average 98.5% of all cases by employing all the tricks in the books. America fell in love with institutionalizing its citizens to the point where the prison system has been outsourced to mega corporations, which market prison models and means to fill them with low-level, non-violent, and at times first-time, offenders. Those mega companies and state and prison officials make money on both ends of this deal by collecting millions of dollars from the government to maintain prisons, while selling products that prisoners work to make at $1.00 a day. This is not only an immoral and abhorrent system, but it is slavery by another name. Many unaware and uninformed Americans continue to believe that most people in prison are there because they pose a danger to society. But looking back, they so-called war on drug was always meant to be a war on people, at least a certain group of people. Government cannot fight a war on a thing, and therefore, this scheme should have raised billions of red flags and made  bells ring from the beginning. It does not take much analysis to realize that this was on drug had derived from the same racist demonetization of Blacks as monsters, half-humans,  and criminal-minded that was dressed up as "tough on crime" and then mass incarceration by the grotesque law of minimum sentencing, which landed landed millions of people with minor offenses in prison for decades. Poor Whites have been swept up in this criminal enterprise that has ruined millions of life, destroyed families, and left children without parents.Naturally, Republicans have reveled in this tyranny, and Democrats have been complicit in this egregiousness, lacking the spine to do anything about this monstrosity. 
 
Photo_addictinginfo.org
Incarcerated Americans - Graphs
In a major speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco Monday August 12, 2013,  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder laid out Obama administration sentencing reform plans, some of which can be implemented by executive action, but some of which will require action in the Congress. The comprehensive sentencing reform package is designed to reduce the federal prison population not only through sentencing reforms, but also through alternatives to incarceration. “A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” Holder said. “However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it. Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason. We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.” On drug sentencing, Holder said he would direct US attorneys across the country to develop specific guidelines about when to file federal charges in drug offenses. The heaviest charges should be reserved for serious, high-level, or violent offenders, the attorney general said.There are currently more than 100,000 people incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses, or nearly half (47%) of all federal prisoners. The federal prison population has expanded an incredible eight-fold since President Ronald Reagan and a compliant Congress put the drug war in overdrive three decades ago, although recent federal prison population increases have been driven as much by immigration prosecutions as by drug offenses.“It’s time — in fact, it’s well past time — to address persistent needs and unwarranted disparities by considering a fundamentally new approach,” Holder told the assembled attorneys. “While I have the utmost faith in — and dedication to — America’s legal system, we must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is in too many respects broken. The course we are on is far from sustainable. And it is our time — and our duty — to identify those areas we can improve in order to better advance the cause of justice for all Americans.”One of those areas, Holder said, is mandatory minimum sentencing.“We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes.  Some statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case — reduce the discretion available to prosecutors, judges, and juries,” said the former federal prosecutor. ”Because they oftentimes generate unfairly long sentences, they breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They — and some of the enforcement priorities we have set — have had a destabilizing effect on particular communities, largely poor and of color. And, applied inappropriately, they are ultimately counterproductive.”In addition to reducing the resort to mandatory minimum sentencing and directing prosecutors to use their discretion in charging decisions, Holder will also order the Justice Department to expand the federal prison compassionate release program to include “elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences.”Beside the executive branch actions, Holder also committed the Obama administration to supporting sentencing reform legislation currently pending before Congress, specifically the Justice Safety Valve Act (Senate Bill 619), which would give federal judges the ability to sentence below mandatory minimums when circumstances warrant, and the the Smart Sentencing Act (Senate Bill 1410), which would reduce mandatory minimums for drug crimes, slightly expand the existing drug sentencing safety valve, and apply retroactively the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010′s reduction in the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity.“Such legislation will ultimately save our country billions of dollars,” Holder said. 
 
“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable.”Sentencing and drug reform advocates welcomed Holder’s speech and the Obama administration’s embrace of the need for criminal justice reforms, but also scolded the administration and lawmakers for taking so long to address the issue and for timidity in the changes proposed.“For the past 40 years, the Department of Justice, under both political parties, has promoted mandatory minimum sentencing like a one-way ratchet. Federal prison sentences got longer and longer and no one stopped to consider the costs and benefits,” said Julie Stewart, founder and head of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). “Today, at long last, the politics of criminal sentencing have caught up to the evidence. The changes proposed by the Attorney General are modest but they will make us safer and save taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.”“There’s no good reason, of course, why the Obama administration couldn’t have done something like this during his first term — and tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of Americans have suffered unjustly as a result of their delay,” said Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann in a message to supporters. ”But that said, President Obama and Attorney General Holder deserve credit for stepping out now, and for doing so in a fairly decisive way.”
 
Watch Attorney General Eric Holder Announcing Major Changes in Sentencing
 
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Watch Attorney General Eric Holder Announce Major Changes to Criminal Justice System
Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department's plan to no longer pursue mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders.Holder said that certain "drug offenders ...

 
 
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Views & Analysis
 
In this section, we will analyze important news and offer our own views and opinion on the issues of the day. We will approach those issues from angles that may not be covered by the larger news media. We encourage your feedback and comments via any of our multiple forms of contact. You may also leave comments regarding this page on our blog.
  
 
The George Zimmerman Murder Trial
 
 
July 5, 2013
 
No matter how you look at this, it was a great tragedy. One cannot help but to feel a great deal of sorrow for the parents of Trayvon Martin. A 17 year old armed with skittles and ice tea lost his life in a confrontation that was completely avoidable, and the burden to avoid this was on the older man, George Zimmerman, who initiated the fatal encounter in the first place. Racism is still alive and well in America. The trouble is, it has gone undercover, swept under the rug, where it has become much more dangerous, and sometimes deadly as in this case. This is not about all White America being racist. It is a story of the clash of two worlds, which by now should have been able to live together in greater peace and harmony. And what is truly unfortunately is that with a little bit of good will, such societal peace and harmony can be achieved. The worst part of this is, given the same set of circumstances and preconceptions and  prejudice, is that this could happen to anyone; and it will happen again just as things of this nature have happened before: black males getting shot for taking keys out of their pockets or for putting their hands in their pockets.
 
On that rainy winter night of February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman assigned 400 years of scapegoating, stigmatizing, demonizing, and degradation to young Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was armed and dangerous. He was out for trouble: "This guy looks like he's up to no good," he told the dispatcher; "he looks like he's on drug or something," he said. "They always get away." He then gave chase after Trayvon. As has been presented in Court, the evidence clearly shows that Trayvon was afraid that night. He did not know who Zimmerman was or why he was following him. Zimmerman on the other hand was in control of the situation the entire time. He called the Police and knew that the Police was on their way. They told him that. The Police did not need Zimmerman to go look for a street address, and Zimmerman knew this. The Police had his phone number, and as they approached the area they would have contacted him in order to find his location. That is what Police do. Zimmerman was safe in his car. He had a firearm on him, and from all indications, Trayvon was trying to get away from him. Rachel Jeantile, Trayvon's friend, who was on the phone with him testified in Court that Trayvon told her "I lost him." Clearly, Trayvon Martin was relieved when he thought he had lost Zimmerman. Therefore, it must be Zimmerman that sought out and caught up with Trayvon. 
 
Further analysis shows that Zimmerman's story is fabricated. He concocted that story while waiting for the police to arrive after killing Trayvon. He had been schooled in criminal justice. He was friendly with the police department. He fully expected to get away with this murder. The most outrageous part of this man's story is how Trayvon somehow became the incredible hawk, some sort of a superman. Supposedly, according to Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin was throwing punches like crazy, "bashing" Zimmerman's head into the pavement, and covering his mouth and nose with both his hands. And Trayvon was doing all of that while "straddling" on top of Zimmerman. The question is, What happened to Zimmerman's hands? Why could he not use his hands to defend himself? Why was a man armed with a semi-automatic weapon screaming for help like child? Those screams did not come from someone who was being beaten. Those were the screams of somebody who knew he was about to die and was yelling to save his life. And most of all, if everything happened the way Zimmerman described it, why did Zimmerman not pull his gun and hold it to Trayvon until the Police got there, even if he had to threaten to pull the trigger, if he was not so indifferent to this kid's life? He did not do that because in his mind, as shown in his various statements to police referring to Trayvon Martin as a suspect, he thought of Trayvon as someone whose life is not so precious after all.
 
In addition, From the beginning of this encounter until the end, Zimmerman made absolutely no effort to communicate with Trayvon in any manner that could have brought some understanding to him that Trayvon was not a threat. Had he simply identified himself and expressed concerns that he did not know Trayvon and was wondering what he was doing in the neighborhood, he would have found out that indeed Trayvon belonged there as much as he did.
 
Many in the media have already thrown in the towel about the prosecution case. It is true that the prosecutors in this case could have done a much better job for their victim and avoid many of the defense traps that they fell into. However, it is the jury that everyone should be worried about. It does not take a rocket scientist to see through this case. Zimmerman shows himself to be someone who can lie with a straight face and believe in his own lies to the point that he can repeat it over and over again without flinching. But Just as there would not have been any killing on that February nights had Trayvon Martin been White, there will not be a conviction if those jurors' minds are so poisoned with prejudice that they could actually conclude that a heavier and older man with a gun, a neighborhood watchman with a flashlight and a vehicle, a martial art student with a background in criminal justice was totally paralyzed and unable to use his words or any of his two hands during a purported struggle, except to pull the trigger in his gun and snuffed the life out of a teenager. And he said in an interview with Shawn Hannity of Fox News that if he had to do it all over, he would not change a thing. He has been sitting in Court showing absolutely no remorse or concerns, just waiting for his lawyers to get him off. Every human being of good will, Black or White, should be outraged by the circumstances of this case.    
 
 
 

 
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