Tag Archives: Atrocities

Black Lives Matter Supporters Call Attention to Graphic Video of Arizona Shooting

“Consider that Shaver might well be alive if only the Mesa police department had long ago adopted reforms of the sort that Black Lives Matter suggests.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-9-2017

Daniel Shaver, left, was shot to death by Office Philip Brailsford, right, in January 2016. Prominent Black Lives Matter supporters have drawn attention to his death as the latest clear sign that major policing reforms are needed in the U.S. (Photo: @NolanHack/Twitter)

Black Lives Matter activists were among those who used social media on Friday and Saturday to call attention to the case of Daniel Shaver, a 26-year-old man who was shot to death by a police officer in Mesa, Arizona in January 2016.

A disturbing, graphic video of the shooting was released shortly after the officer who killed Shaver, who was white, was acquitted of second-degree murder.

The video shows Shaver following the officer’s instructions to crawl toward him and begging him not to shoot. Continue reading

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#TrumpToo: Amid Reckoning, Calls to Hold President Accountable Swell

Donald Trump has so far escaped the scrutiny of sexual assualt allegations levied at him that has come to other high profile figures. “That has to change now.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-8-2017

A sign held during the Jan. 21, 2017 Women’s March in Chicago. (Photo: bradhoc/flickr/cc)

The #TrumpToo movement, which is demanding accountability for President Donald Trump’s history of alleged sexual harassment and assault, is gaining more steam this week after the resignations of Democratic lawmakers Al Franken and John Conyers.

A MoveOn.org petition calling for a Congressional and Justice Department investigation into the claims against the president gathered over 150,000 signatures in a week, the group said. As of this writing, it has 161,405 signatures. Continue reading

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Trump Wants a Secret Spy Network Around the World to Fight the ‘Deep State’: Report

By Jake Anderson. Published 12-7-17 by The Anti-Media

Erik Prince and Donald Trump. Photo: The 4th Media

 

A new report by The Intercept contends that a group of pro-Trump operatives may be attempting to form a paramilitary spy network to oppose the “Deep State” intelligence community. According to their sources, the effort is being led by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer. They have received support and assistance from Oliver North. The proposals, which are reportedly being considered by the Trump administration, may create a rogue intelligence apparatus that reports directly to Trump and CIA Director Pompeo — and no one else.

Prince categorically denies the allegations, but a former senior U.S. intelligence official who claims to have firsthand knowledge of the proposals says the network would circumvent the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Continue reading

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Two Months After Nation’s Deadliest Mass Shooting, GOP House Passes ‘Dangerous’ Bill to Undermine Local Gun Control Laws

“If this bill becomes law, the body count of innocent victims killed by concealed carry permit holders will only rise.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-6-2017

Screenshot: ABC News

Gun control advocates denounced a House vote on Wednesday approving major legislation which would allow gun owners to carry licensed concealed weapons across state laws—effectively voiding gun control laws that prohibit hidden firearms in certain states.

The House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 in a 231-198 vote. The Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote that the law is “clearly aimed at undermining gun control efforts nationally,” while the National Rifle Association (NRA) called the measure its “highest legislative priority” for the year. Continue reading

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“We Don’t Want to Repress”: Police in Honduras Refuse Orders to Stamp Out Pro-Democracy Protests

“We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-5-2017

Photo: Heather Gies/Twitter

Amid widening violence and ongoing protests, members of the Honduras National Police force—including those within the U.S.-trained units known as the Cobras—say they are refusing  to obey orders from the right-wing government of the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has used the security forces to crackdown on demonstrators and imposed a curfew amid allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.

“We want peace, and we will not follow government orders – we’re tired of this,” a spokesperson for the police told reporters outside the national police headquarters on Monday. “We aren’t with a political ideology. We can’t keep confronting people, and we don’t want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people.” Continue reading

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Protests Planned Nationwide as Vote on FCC’s ‘Catastrophic’ Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Looms

Open internet supporters are demanding that lawmakers answer a simple question: “Do you stand for your constituents’ ability to communicate and connect, or do you stand for Verizon’s bottom line?”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-4-2017

“Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. (Photo: Battle for the Net)

With the FCC set to vote on chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to kill neutrality in just over a week, a diverse coalition—ranging from consumer protection organizations to progressive lawmakers to Harvard professors—is denouncing the FCC’s proposals and scheduling nationwide protests to combat the agency’s move to let massive telecom companies “cash in on the internet” at the expense of consumers.

This is the free speech fight of our generation and internet users are pissed off and paying attention,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents.” Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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The StingRay Spy Device Is Exactly Why the 4th Amendment Was Written

At least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays.

By Olivia Donaldson

Photo: The Desk

Imagine you are in the middle of your typical day-to-day activities. Maybe you are driving, spending time with family, or working. If you are like most people, your phone is at your side on a daily basis. Little do you know that, at any time, police and law enforcement could be looking at information stored on your phone. You haven’t done anything wrong. You haven’t been asked for permission. You aren’t suspected of any crime.

The StingRay

Police have the power to collect your location along with the numbers of your incoming and outgoing calls and intercept the content of call and text communication. They can do all of this without you ever knowing about it.

How? They use a shoebox-sized device called a StingRay. This device (also called an IMSI catcher) mimics cell phone towers, prompting all the phones in the area to connect to it even if the phones aren’t in use.

The police use StingRays to track down and implicate perpetrators of mainly domestic crimes. The devices can be mounted in vehicles, drones, helicopters, and airplanes, allowing police to gain highly specific information on the location of any particular phone, down to a particular apartment complex or hotel room.

Quietly, StingRay use is growing throughout local and federal law enforcement with little to no oversight. The ACLU has discovered that at least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays, but says that this “dramatically underrepresents the actual use of StingRays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.”

The Violation

Information from potentially thousands of phones is being collected every time a StingRay is used. Signals are sent into the homes, bags, and pockets of innocent individuals. The Electronic Frontier Foundation likens this to the Pre-Revolutionary War practice of soldiers going door-to-door, searching without suspicion.

Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International notes that, “there really isn’t any place for innocent people to hide from a device such as this.”

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The StingRay clearly violates these standards. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that restricting the government from violating privacy is essential for a free society. That’s why the Fourth Amendment exists. The StingRay is creating a dangerous precedent that tells the government that it’s okay for them to violate our rights. Because of this, freedom is quietly slipping out the window.

Little Regulation

Law Enforcement is using StingRays without a warrant in most cases. For example, the San Bernardino Police Department used their StingRay 300 times without a warrant in a little over a year.

In 2010, the Tallahassee Police Department used a StingRay in a warrantless search to track down the suspect of a crime. A testimony from an unsealed hearing transcript talks about how police went about finding their target. The ACLU sums it up well:

“Police drove through the area using the vehicle-based device until they found the apartment complex in which the target phone was located, and then they walked around with the handheld device and stood ‘at every door and every window in that complex’ until they figured out which apartment the phone was located in. In other words, police were lurking outside people’s windows and sending powerful electronic signals into their private homes in order to collect information from within.”

A handful of states have passed laws requiring police and federal agents to get a warrant before using a StingRay. They must show probable cause for one of the thousands of phones that they are actually searching. This is far from enough.

Additionally, there are many concerns that agents are withholding information from federal judges to monitor subjects without approval – bypassing the probable cause standard laid out in the Constitution. They even go as far as to let criminals go to avoid disclosing information about these devices to the courts.

If the public doesn’t become aware of this issue, the police will continue to use StingRays to infringe on our rights in secret and with impunity.

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson is a recent high school graduate that is currently opting out of college and participating in an entrepreneurial program called Praxis.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Editorial note: If you’d like to read about the current use of StingRays by the Trump administration, we ran an article on the subject back in May.

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Trump DoD Scraps Plan to Ban Cluster Bombs That Maim Children and Civilians Worldwide

“This is a profoundly retrograde step that puts the U.S. way out of line with the international consensus.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-1-2017

The new policy calls the weapons “an effective and necessary capability.” (Photo: mary wareham/flickr/cc)

The Pentagon made a decision that “beggars belief,” human rights groups said Friday, when it tossed out its plan to ban certain cluster bombs that leave a large percentage of lethal, unexploded munitions, which pose a significant risk to civilians.

“This is a profoundly retrograde step that puts the U.S. way out of line with the international consensus—cluster munitions are banned by more than 100 countries due to their inherently indiscriminate nature and the risks they pose to civilians,” said Patrick Wilcken, researcher on arms control and human rights at Amnesty International. Continue reading

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In US and Worldwide, Study Shows ‘Never a More Dangerous Time to Be a Journalist’

“Labeling reporting you don’t like as ‘fake news’ sends a signal to authoritarian leaders globally that it’s okay to crack down on the press.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-30-2017

Photo: Steve Sbraccia/Twitter

A new report finds that threats to global journalistic freedoms are at an all-time high, with attacks on the press being increasingly reported in democratic countries as well as under authoritarian regimes.

The freedom of expression advocacy group Article 19 and online database V-Dem compiled data from 172 countries between 2006 and 2016, rating each based on their levels of internet censorship, harassment and intimidation of journalists, media bias and corruption, and other indicators. Continue reading

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