Crime & Legal

DOJ Rescinds Policy Protecting Transgender People From Workplace Discrimination

by Zack Ford – Discrimination based on gender identity will no longer be considered discrimination based on sex. The Department of Justice will no longer argue that workplace protections on the basis of sex protect transgender people from discrimination. That’s according to a new memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions obtained by BuzzFeed Thursday. The new policy reverses a policy put in place in 2014 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder. The fundamental question is whether denying someone employment based on their gender identity (i.e. being transgender) constitutes discrimination on the basis of that person’s “sex,” as protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Holder held that trans people fall under that category, but Sessions has now reversed that and declared they no longer enjoy such protections. “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes, according to BuzzFeed. Under his view, the law only covers discrimination between “men and...

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San Francisco, Oakland Are Suing Five Major Fossil Fuel Companies Over Climate Change

By Brianna Acuesta – They estimate that the costs will be in the billions. San Francisco and Oakland just became the first major U.S. cities to file a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies in an effort to hold them accountable for the effects of climate change that the two highly-populated cities have already begun experiencing. Both cities foresee major construction and damages in the near future that needs to be prevented or fixed, and they have pointed to Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. These companies are among five of the biggest investor-owned fossil fuel companies. San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland city attorney Barbara J. Parker each filed their own lawsuit on the same day, both citing that the fossil fuel companies have known about their part in climate change since at least the 1970s or 1980s. According to the lawsuits, the companies took this information, which was confirmed by outside...

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The Psychological Ripple Effects of Mass Shootings

by Karin Kamp – A mental health professional talks about the emotional and mental fallout from the violence in Las Vegas. The latest mass shooting in America — the largest in modern history — has us once again questioning the role of guns in our society and our willingness to allow weapons and ammunition to proliferate throughout. Until Sunday, when a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas and killed 59 people and wounded hundreds more, the deadliest mass shooting happened in June 2016 at an Orlando nightclub, leaving 49 dead and many injured. Since then, there have been over 520 mass shootings, which the Gun Violence Archive defines as an event in which four or more individuals are shot at or killed in the same general time and location. How do these mass shootings impact all those involved as well as those who witness them from afar? We asked Sheila A.M. Rauch, Ph.D.,...

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Sheriff Who Ordered Aggressive Pat Downs of Students in Drug Raid Indicted for Sexual Battery

by Robby Soave – 900 searched, no drugs found. The Georgia sheriff who authorized intrusive pat downs for hundreds of students at Worth County High School earlier this year was indicted for sexual battery, false imprisonment, and violating his oath of office. Authorities will issue a warrant for Jeff Hobby’s arrest later this week, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Two deputies were also indicted. It is alleged that they groped male and female students, touching them inappropriately during the completely pointless search. No drugs were found on any of the 900 boys and girls subjected to the pat downs. Reason‘s Brian Doherty wrote up the details of the students’ lawsuit: According to the suit’s account of events, all the students “were confined either to their first-period classrooms, to the hallways immediately outside their classrooms, or to the gym” and their “cell phones were seized so that they could not reach their parents….During the lockdown and...

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Senate Investigation Update: ‘Collusion is still an open question,’ but Russian Interference is Sure

by Mark Sumner – Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr and ranking Democratic member Mark Warner appeared on Wednesday to give an update on the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While the committee was not ready to give definitive answers on any topic, they indicated that they were very close to closing out a few issues. An example: the original intelligence assessment indicating that Russia was behind actions to steal and distribute Democratic emails was accurate. While most of the focus was on the extent of the investigation to this point—over 100 interviews, over 100,000 documents, thousands of hours of evaluation—there were several points on which Burr and Warner would not give a definitive statement. In particular, when it comes to the central issue of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials, Burr would only say that the issue of collusion was “still open.” Burr had effusive praise...

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Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. Were Close to Being Charged With Felony Fraud

by Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott, ProPublica, and Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, WNYC – New York prosecutors were preparing a case. Then the D.A. overruled his staff after a visit from a top donor: Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz.   In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included emails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers. In one email, according to four...

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The World is Baffled by U.S. Gun Laws

by D. Parvaz – We take a look at global media response to the Sunday night massacre. After a mass shooting in Las Vegas left at least 58 dead and 500 people injured, most U.S. media focused on the usual stories: a cycle of shock, blame, and healing. The rest of the world, however, largely marveled at what on earth is wrong with Americans. Why are there so many mass shootings in a country that’s not mired in civil war? Why are people allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons? And how does law enforcement in the United States decide when a mass shooting is the act of a “lone wolf” (as shooter Stephen Paddock has been described) or emblematic of a larger problem? Almost all major international news outlets had a running list of the worst mass shootings in the United States — some going back to 1966 — but The New Zealand Herald...

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Congress Has Options for Protecting Mueller’s Investigation From Trump’s Wrath

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – Congress has options for protecting Robert Mueller and his special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian election interference, even if bipartisan legislation designed to prevent Mueller from being fired by the Trump administration fails to become law or is struck down by the courts. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, September 26, a panel of constitutional scholars gave differing opinions on whether two bills that would require a judicial review of a Justice Department decision to sack Mueller or any other special counsel would survive legal challenges, if Congress manages to pass them in the first place. Lawmakers introduced the bills in August after Trump unleashed angry tweets and other comments that left pundits wondering if the president would order the Justice Department to oust Mueller, just as the president fired former FBI Director James Comey. Trump has since said that he wouldn’t dismiss...

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Republicans Say it’s Too Soon to Talk About Guns After Las Vegas’ Shooting. How About Sandy Hook?

by Hunter – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has some notions on when we should be discussing new legislation to deal with the nation’s now near-daily mass shootings. Well that’s a shame. If it’s premature to talk about action after Las Vegas, though, perhaps we could instead use the opportunity to finally talk about legislative solutions to the Pulse Nightclub murders? It has been over a year since that day….. has enough time passed for the Senate to act? Specifically:  Sahil Kapur   @sahilkapur McCONNELL dismisses talk of new gun laws after Vegas massacre: “I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions.” 2:20 PM – Oct 3, 2017 What about the Umpqua Community College mass shooting, in Oregon? It’s been two years since that one, is it still premature? What about the race-motivated murders of black American churchgoers in South Carolina? What about Sandy Hook? The Virginia Tech mass murder killed 32—that was in 2007. Surely,...

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Mueller Looks for Ways to Pardon-proof His Case Against Trump

by Mark Sumner – Donald Trump has already demonstrated that he’ll pardon anyone, even if that person is clearly guilty and even if a sentence hasn’t yet been handed down. The pardoning of Joe Arpaio is a clear signal to those who took part in Trump–Russia that if they just keep their mouth’s shut, a nice pardon is waiting for them when the special counsel comes around. With that in mind, Robert Mueller has assigned one of his team to finding ways of stopping Trump’s pardon power from wrecking their case. Pre-emptive pardons are a distinct possibility now that current and former Trump advisers are under Mueller’s scrutiny. Trump himself has tweeted that everyone agrees the U.S. president has “complete power to pardon.” Some of those kinds of executive moves have been well studied, including Gerald Ford’s swift pardon of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton’s exoneration of fugitive financier Marc Rich. But the legal territory...

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Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock ‘had 42-arm arsenal’

Police dig into ex-accountant’s history to establish a motive, as Las Vegas residents honour mass shooting’s victims. The Las Vegas attacker accused of carrying out the worst mass shooting in modern US history had an arsenal of at least 42 weapons, US police have said, as they scour for clues to determine his motive. Perched into a sniper’s nest, Stephen Paddock fired into a crowd of thousands of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing at least 59 people and wounding 527 others. The 64-year old former accountant was later found dead in his hotel room, and police believe he killed himself. “We have recovered 23 firearms at Mandalay Bay and 19 firearms at his home in Mesquite,” Todd Fasulo, assistant sheriff, told reporters on Monday evening, a day after the shooting spree. Mesquite is about 120km northeast of Las Vegas. “The Las Vegas metropolitan police department is...

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The Supreme Court is Abandoning Legitimacy for Partisanship

by Ian Millhiser – What happens when the Supreme Court ignores the line between law and politics? Neil Gorsuch, the man who occupies a seat on the Supreme Court because Senate Republicans held it open until Donald Trump could fill it, is on a bit of a victory tour. Last week, the staunchly conservative judge spoke at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center — as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the center’s namesake and the man who orchestrated the strategy that placed Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, sat just a few feet away. McConnell, who also introduced Gorsuch, told the audience that he “could not have been happier” when Trump named Gorsuch to fill the seat the senator held open for more than a year. On Thursday, Gorsuch will speak to a conservative group at Trump’s D.C. hotel. By headlining this event, Gorsuch will personally enrich the very man who appointed him to...

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What More is There to Say on Gun Laws? (VIDEOS)

by BillMoyers.Com Staff – There comes a point where you feel like there’s nothing more to say about gun violence that hasn’t already been said. Over the years, we’ve done many, many stories on gun violence in America. In the days following the Sandy Hook massacre, Bill Moyers urged us to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre by name. He read out the names of all 26 victims and observed that “laws are hard to come by, civilization just as hard. But democracy aims for a moral order as just as possible — which means laws that protect the weak, and not just the strong.” On the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown, we explored the role of guns in America’s national psyche throughout history. And talked to Francine and David Wheeler, the parents of 6-year-old Ben, who died at Sandy Hook. The Wheelers became hopeful activists working doggedly for...

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White House’s Message to the Nation After Las Vegas Massacre: Don’t Discuss Gun Control

by Zack Ford – “The president has been clear: He’s a strong supporter of the second amendment.” During Monday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made clear the Trump administration is not interested in any immediate conversations on gun violence prevention legislation in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting that killed at least 58 and injured more than 500. “There’s a time and place for a political debate but now is the time to unite as a country,” Sanders said. Because an investigation is underway and a motive has not yet been determined, it would be “premature to discuss policy when we don’t know all the facts of what took place last night.” She likewise deemed it “premature” to call the shooting “domestic terrorism.” “I think that there will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”...

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US Parole Activists Aim to Overhaul a Failing System

by Jean Trounstine, Truthout | Report – The United States has the shameful reputation of being the world’s largest jailer, and as the Prison Policy Initiative reported in March, 2017, 2.3 million people are currently locked up in prisons and jails. This mass incarceration continues in spite of the fact that a Brennan Center for Justice report shows that crime is down and rates remain near historic lows. Furthermore, our punishment system extends beyond the prison walls and includes destructive parole policies. “Max Out,” a 2014 Pew Charitable Trusts report, details that over the past three decades, those sent to prison have been serving longer sentences. They are less likely to earn parole, the opportunity to finish one’s sentence in the community. This occurs in spite of the fact that research shows that longer sentences do not make us safer and do not prevent people from returning to prison, even as they cost more. But here’s...

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Bogus Stoned Driving Arrests Highlight Dubious Methods of ‘Drug Recognition Experts’

by Jacob Sullum – A lawsuit by three sober drivers who were busted for DUI questions the pot-detecting abilities of DREs. To the untrained eye, Katelyn Ebner seems completely sober during her 28-minute roadside encounter with Cobb County, Georgia, police officer Tracy Carroll, who has pulled the 23-year-old waitress over for failing to maintain her lane as she made a left turn. But Carroll, who was designated a “drug recognition expert” (DRE) after undergoing 160 hours of special training, perceives “numerous indicators” that Ebner is under the influence of marijuana. Ebner repeatedly assures him she does not “smoke weed” or “do any of that stuff” and volunteers to prove it by taking a drug test. “You’re going to jail, ma’am,” he replies. “I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.” Carroll does not need a magical drug test, because he is a magical drug test—or so the...

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The Last, Best Hope to End Partisan Gerrymandering

by Ian Millhiser – It all comes down to crucial Justice Kennedy. The United States of America is very bad at democracy. We have a president who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, a malapportioned Senate where the majority party represents close to 35 million fewer people than the minority party, and a House of Representatives that — in no small part due to gerrymandering — is firmly in Republican hands. In order to regain control of the House in 2018, Democrats will need to win the national popular vote by more than 7 points. That’s not impossible, but it’s hardly a free and fair election. Next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether to solve at least part of this problem. Gill v. Whitford asks the justices to hold that partisan gerrymanders violate the Constitution — a conclusion the Supreme Court has never really doubted — and, more importantly, to hold that the judiciary...

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‘You like that?’: St. Louis Cops Savagely Beat Handcuffed Filmmaker While Wife Watched, Suit Says

by Alan Pyke – Police leaders had initially boasted about owning the streets. On St. Louis’ most restless night of protests for some time, interim police chief Lawrence O’Toole seemed to embrace a tribal us-and-them attitude toward demonstrators in his city. Hours after reporters watched black-clad riot cops chant “Whose streets? Our streets!” at dispersing protesters, O’Toole boasted to press cameras that “police owned the night,” comments which Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) would criticize days later. It all may have seemed hollow posturing and harmless banter. But a new lawsuit illustrates the very real abuses that such a domineering mentality from law enforcement can foreshadow. O’Toole’s cops allegedly beat, taunted, and repeatedly maced a handcuffed filmmaker that Sunday night, singling the Kansas City man out from a herd of arrestees to punish him physically for recording them. Drew and Jennifer Burbridge sued the city on Tuesday, alleging the kind of unprofessional, illegal...

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Judge Rules Black Lives Matter Cannot be Sued by Police Officer and Fox News is not Happy About it

by Kelly Macias – The widespread anger and outrage this week incited by Donald Trump’s comments on the NFL protests has once again shown how hypocritical and racist so many Americans are. Americans, Republicans in particular, are all for free speech but when black people exercise it, it sends some of them into a violent frenzy.  It doesn’t matter who is doing the protesting, whether its black athletes or ordinary black citizens—they find any excuse to paint black protest as a danger to safety and democracy. This is especially true if violence occurs at a protest. Recently, a police officer in Baton Rouge tried to sue Black Lives Matter for injuries he sustained during a protest against police brutality in July 2016.  Along with suing DeRay Mckesson, an activist who attended the rally, the officer claimed that Black Lives Matter and Mckesson were responsible for inciting the violence that caused him harm. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that the officer cannot sue...

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The Shady Case That Put a Nashville Man in Prison for Over 20 years

by Aviva Shen – Witnesses say police threatened them into lying about a murder they never saw. Marquise Harris was leaving his family’s apartment one morning in 1992 to catch the school bus when a police officer stopped him outside his door. His parents had already left for work, but Nashville homicide detective Bill Pridemore asked the 13-year-old to talk in private. According to Harris, the detective wanted him to say he had seen another teenager, Cyrus Wilson, shoot a man outside his bedroom window. Harris said he didn’t know anything about the alleged altercation. “Then the detective grabbed my left arm and asked me in a loud tone, do I want to spend the rest of my life in prison for someone else’s mistake,” Harris recounted in a handwritten affidavit earlier this year. Pridemore told him he had enough evidence to arrest Harris as an accessory to murder if he...

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