Category Archives: Civil Rights

‘A Harrowing Warning’ to All as Hungary Hands Far-Right Leader Dictatorial Powers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

“We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close if not on the heels of a health epidemic.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-30-2020

Viktor Orban. Photo: European Parliament/flickr/CC

Human rights groups and activists issued dire warnings about the state of democracy in Hungary—and the rest of the world—after the nation’s parliament on Monday approved a sweeping emergency law handing far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán dictatorial powers as the European country battles the coronavirus pandemic.

The new law indefinitely suspends elections and parliament, imposes up to five years in prison for anyone who intentionally spreads what the government classifies as misinformation, and gives Orbán the authority to suspend laws by decree as he works to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The law easily passed Hungary’s parliament, which is dominated by Orbán’s far-right Fidesz party, by a vote of 137 to 53. Continue reading

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PG&E Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter for Sparking California’s Deadliest Fire

The California utility faced felony charges in connection with a 2018 wildfire that killed over 80 people.

By Olivia Rosane,   Published 3-24-2020 by EcoWatch

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for sparking the state’s deadliest wildfire, the company announced Monday.

The announcement comes a little less than a year after an investigation confirmed that power lines owned by the utility sparked the Camp Fire, which burned 153,336 acres, killed 85 people and scorched the town of Paradise.

“We cannot replace all that the fire destroyed, but our hope is that this plea agreement, along with our rebuilding efforts, will help the community move forward from this tragic incident,” PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson said in a statement reported by Reuters.

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“Nice Try, FBI”: Stay Fit While Quarantined With The Government’s Home Fitness App

Looking to stay fit? The FBI has an app for that.

By Emma Fiala, Published 3-26-2020 by The Mind Unleashed

All across the United States people are spending a lot more time in their homes and will be there for the foreseeable future.

As such, many people are looking for new activities to occupy their time, including ways of staying fit. Thankfully the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has an app for that.

Those of us who simply can’t do sit-ups and push-ups on our own and are somehow unable to download one of the numerous fitness apps out there that aren’t associated with the U.S. government finally have an option. Continue reading

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Walmart Was Almost Charged Criminally Over Opioids. Trump Appointees Killed the Indictment.

Even as company pharmacists protested, Walmart kept filling suspicious prescriptions, stoking the country’s opioid epidemic. A Republican U.S. Attorney in Texas thought the evidence was damning. Trump’s political appointees? Not so much.

By Jesse Eisinger and James Bandler. Published 3-25-2020 by ProPublica

Attorney General William P. Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Photo: Department of Justice (Public domain)

On a Tuesday just before Halloween in 2018, a group of federal prosecutors and agents from Texas arrived in Washington. For almost two years, they’d been investigating the opioid dispensing practices of Walmart, the largest company in the world. They had amassed what they viewed as highly damning evidence only to face a major obstacle: top Trump appointees at the Department of Justice.

The prosecution team had come to Washington to try to save its case. Joe Brown, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, led the group, which included Heather Rattan, an over-20-year veteran of the office who had spent much of her career prosecuting members of drug cartels. Continue reading

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‘Huge Victory’ for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as Federal Court Rules DAPL Permits Violated Law

“This is what the tribe has been fighting for many months. Their fearless organizing continues to change the game.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-25-2020

Photo: Standing Rock Occupation/Facebook

A federal judge handed down a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota on Wednesday, ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving federal permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The USACE must complete a full environmental impact study of the pipeline, including full consideration of concerns presented by the Standing Rock Tribe, the judge ruled. The tribe has asked the court to ultimately shut the pipeline down. Continue reading

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ICE Detainee Says Migrants Are Going on a Hunger Strike For Soap

In audio obtained by ProPublica, an ICE detainee described harrowing conditions as fears over coronavirus spread. The ICE detention center in New Jersey gives detainees one bar of soap per week. If they want more, they have to buy it.

By Dara Lind Published 3-23-2020 by ProPublica

 

In an audio recording obtained by ProPublica, an immigrant held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in New Jersey complains that he and other detainees are on a hunger strike to try to obtain soap and toilet paper in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — and that guards reportedly have told detainees, “Well, you’re going to have to die of something.”

The audio was recorded when Ronal Umaña, a 30-year-old immigrant from El Salvador currently being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey, placed a personal call to an advocate on Sunday. The advocate provided the audio to ProPublica. Continue reading

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Because of the Threat of Coronavirus Turning ICE Detention Into ‘Death Camps,’ Groups Rallying to Free Families Held Around Country

“ICE is making the pandemic more dangerous for everyone.”

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-22-2020

US – Canada border crossing. Photo: bbmcshane/flickr/cc

As legal advocates filed an emergency suit on behalf of families and children detained by ICE, activists around the U.S. demonstrated against the continuing detention of immigrants by the federal agency as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the nation.

The agency’s detention centers are known for their danger in spreading deadly disease to prisoners and it’s a matter of when—not if—the disease arrives at a facility and infects hundreds or thousands of people. Continue reading

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‘Oh Hell No’: DOJ Using Coronavirus Crisis to Push for Expansive Emergency Powers

“This is abhorrent (also: predictable).”

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-21-2020

Department of Justice Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Photo: Victoria Pickering/flickr/CC

The Department of Justice is using the coronavirus outbreak to ask Congress for sweeping emergency powers including suspending habeas corpus during an emergency, a power grab that was denounced by civil liberties advocates.

“Oh hell no,” tweeted Fletcher School professor Daniel Drezner. Continue reading

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Closing polling places is the 21st century’s version of a poll tax

Californians wait in line to vote on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

Joshua F.J. Inwood, Pennsylvania State University and Derek H. Alderman, University of Tennessee

Delays and long lines at polling places during recent presidential primary elections – such as voters in Texas experienced – represent the latest version of decades-long policies that have sought to reduce the political power of African Americans in the U.S.

Following the Civil War and the extension of the vote to African Americans, state governments worked to block black people, as well as poor whites, from voting. One way they tried to accomplish this goal was through poll taxes – an amount of money each voter had to pay before being allowed to vote. Continue reading

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With Nation Focused on Coronavirus, Rights Groups Warn Senate Against Handing Trump ‘Terrifying’ Spy Powers

“It’s unthinkable to extend these spying powers to the same agencies that have so often sidestepped safeguards and ignored Americans’ fundamental privacy rights.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-16-2020

Protesters carried signs at a march against mass surveillance on Oct. 26, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: EFF/Flickr/cc)

Ahead of a vote that could take place in the Senate as soon as Monday evening, civil liberties groups and federal lawmakers critical of mass surveillance spoke out against House-approved legislation that would reauthorize “abusive” and “dangerous” U.S. government spying powers that expired Sunday.

The Democrat-held House was widely criticized last week for passing the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6172), a bipartisan compromise negotiated by leaders in the lower chamber that includes the reauthorization of Section 215 powers that Congress established under the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, which federal agencies have used to justify the collection of Americans’ phone records. Continue reading

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