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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Anonymous hackers target Zimbabwe government over WikiLeaks | Technology |

Robert Mugabe in 1991. Taken by myself.Image via WikipediaAnonymous hackers target Zimbabwe government over WikiLeaks | Technology |

Cyber attacks follow Grace Mugabe's decision to sue newspaper for publishing allegations contained in US embassy cables
David Smith in Johannesburg, Friday 31 December 2010 15.15 GMT
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Robert Mugabe's wife Grace is suing the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper for publishing information released by WikiLeaks that links her to the alleged trade in illicit diamonds. Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP
Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has become the latest victim of online attacks by supporters of WikiLeaks, it was claimed today.

Cyber activists said they had brought down government websites after Mugabe's wife sued a newspaper for publishing a WikiLeaks cable that linked her with the alleged trade in illicit diamonds .

The Zimbabwean government website was unavailable today, while the finance ministry website displayed a message saying it was under maintenance.

Anonymous, a loose-knit group that has vowed to paralyse sites that act against WikiLeaks, said on its website: "We are targeting Mugabe and his regime in the Zanu-PF who have outlawed the free press and threaten to sue anyone publishing WikiLeaks."

Grace Mugabe has launched a defamation suit against Zimbabwe's Standard newspaper for $15m (£9.5m) for publishing details released by WikiLeaks suggesting that she had gained "tremendous profits" from the trade in illicit diamonds.

The offending article quotes from a US embassy cable that alleged she was among a group of elite Zimbabweans making "several hundred thousand dollars a month" from the sale of illegal stones mined in the politically sensitive Marange district. Grace Mugabe denies the allegations.

Zimbabwe's attorney general has formed a commission to investigate the WikiLeaks cables with a view to bring charges of treason against anyone found to be colluding with "aggressive" foreign governments. This has been seen as a thinly veiled attempt to target the country's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Anonymous, a 1,000-strong group of activists, rallied on behalf of WikiLeaks after Amazon and other companies terminated business services with the website. It launched Operation Payback to give firms deemed hostile to WikiLeaks a "black eye".

The websites of Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and the company that hosted WikiLeaks were all brought down after severing ties with the whistleblowing site.

The Swedish prosecution office's website was also attacked after it pressed for the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, from the UK to face trial over alleged sexual offences.

Anonymous's so-called "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attacks, which bring down sites by overpowering them with repeated requests to load, are illegal in the UK.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

U.N. Mass Grave Probe Obstructed In Ivory Coast : NPR

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, 2007Image via WikipediaU.N. Mass Grave Probe Obstructed In Ivory Coast : NPR

Reports of dozens of bodies being dumped near a large forest in Ivory Coast first emerged as human rights groups warned that security forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo were abducting political opponents after the disputed election.

Now the United Nations believes up to 80 bodies may have been moved to a building nestled among shacks in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood. Investigators have tried to go there several times, and even made it as far as the building's front door before truckloads of men with guns showed up and forced them to leave.

Simon Munzu, the head of the U.N. human rights division, urged security forces Thursday to allow investigators inside. Gbagbo's government has repeatedly denied the existence of mass graves following violence over the disputed presidential runoff that has left at least 173 confirmed dead already.

"We would be the very first to say that these stories are false if they turn out to be false,'' Munzu said. "Our findings on the matter and their announcement to the world would have a greater chance of being believed than these repeated denials.''

Human rights groups accuse Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and torturing political opponents since the disputed Nov. 28 vote, which the U.N. said Gbagbo lost. U.N. investigators have cited dozens of reported cases of disappearances, and nearly 500 arrests and detentions.

Human Rights Watch said earlier this month that witnesses had described nightly raids in which people were dragged away in official vehicles to undisclosed locations.

The United Nations has said that security forces accompanied by masked men with rocket launchers also had prevented U.N. personnel from reaching the building. Munzu said witnesses have said between 60 and 80 bodies are believed to be inside.

A second mass burial site is believed to be located near Gagnoa in the interior of the country, the U.N. said. Those suspected victims are in addition to the 173 deaths already confirmed by the U.N. Gbagbo's allies say that several dozen of them are police or security forces killed by protesters.

The reports of mass graves raise new concerns about human rights abuses as Ivory Coast's neighbors discuss how to remove Gbagbo from power. Regional leaders initially threatened to consider military force if Gbagbo did not step down following a high-level delegation visit Tuesday.

ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, has sent combat troops to several nations in the past two decades. Defense officials from the member states met Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria, where the bloc is based.

However, the regional bloc instead decided to give negotiations more time, saying mediators would return to Ivory Coast next week.

Meanwhile, a fiery member of Gbagbo's Cabinet has urged supporters to seize a hotel where the internationally recognized winner of last month's election has been organizing a shadow government under U.N. protection.

Charles Ble Goude reportedly said that Alassane Ouattara, whom the United Nations declared the winner of the Nov. 28 vote, and his prime minister "have until January 1, 2011 to pack their bags and leave the Golf Hotel.''

"He who attacks Laurent Gbagbo will sorely regret it,'' the newspaper Le Temps reported Ble Goude as telling Gbagbo supporters in the Yopougon neighborhood, where a U.N. patrol was surrounded by a mob on Tuesday and one peacekeeper was wounded by a machete. "No one can remove our president from power.''

Ble Goude is Gbagbo's minister of youth and employment, known as the "street general'' for organizing a violent anti-French and anti-U.N. gang that terrorized the foreign population in Ivory Coast in 2004-2005. The beachside Golf Hotel is protected by some 800 blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers and hundreds of rebels loyal to Ouattara.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "deeply alarmed'' by Ble Goude's comments. Nesirky said that the troops guarding the hotel are authorized "to use all necessary means'' to protect their own personnel, the officials at the hotel and any other civilians staying there.

Ban also warns that an attack on the hotel could provoke widespread violence that could re-ignite civil war, and he calls on those planning to participate in the attack to "refrain from such dangerous irresponsible action,'' Nesirky said.

Under a peace deal after the 2002-2003 civil war, the U.N. was tasked with certifying the results of the election. The U.N. declared Ouattara the winner, echoing the country's own electoral commission chief. Gbagbo insists he won, pointing out that the Ivory Coast constitutional council declared him the winner. The council, which is led by a Gbagbo ally, did so after invalidating half a million ballots from Ouattara strongholds in the north.

The United States and other world powers have insisted Gbagbo hand over power to Ouattara. For many, the credibility of the international community is at stake if it is unable to ensure that Ouattara takes power.

Chaos in Ivory Coast, once a West African economic powerhouse with skyscrapers dominating this seaside commercial center, already has kept Gbagbo in power five years beyond his mandate.

Ivory Coast's new U.N. ambassador, Youssoufou Bamba, said he is worried about his country's future and is consulting with members of the Security Council ahead of a meeting next week on ways to help Ouattara assume power.

"We are on the brink of genocide,'' Bamba said after presenting his diplomatic credentials to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

U.S. human rights official, others condemn post-election violence in Ivory Coast

Laurent Gbagbo, Président de la République (Cô...Image via WikipediaU.S. human rights official, others condemn post-election violence in Ivory Coast

UNITED NATIONS - A top U.S. official said Thursday that as many as 200 people have died in post-election violence in Ivory Coast as followers of the incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, stepped up a campaign of violence and intimidation to help him cling to power.

Dozens more have been "tortured or mistreated, and others have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night," said Betty King, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

"President Alassane Dramane Ouattara is the legitimately elected leader of Cote d'Ivoire," she said, speaking at a special session of the rights commission.

The United States, France and key African states have launched an effort to recruit reinforcements for a U.N. peacekeeping force for Ivory Coast, which was divided by a 2002-2003 civil war. They have also sought to bolster the international standing of Ouattara, whose U.N. envoy was recognized by the world body Tuesday.

Gbagbo and Ouattara faced off in a Nov. 28 presidential runoff that was meant to reunite the country. Both men claimed victory, but the electoral commission declared Ouattara the winner. Worsening violence since then has forced more than 6,000 people to flee the country for safety in neighboring Liberia.

King called for investigations into reports of "enforced disappearances, targeted killings, arbitrary detentions and intimidation of those that opposed former president Gbagbo, as well as the discovery of possibly mass graves."

She also expressed concerns about reports that media controlled by Gbagbo are "broadcasting hate speech fabricating information, and calling for violence against members of the international community, members of particular ethnic groups and all Ivoirians that oppose former president Gbagbo."

The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and a bloc of West African states, called Ecowas, have recognized the electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the victor.

African governments, including Nigeria and South Africa, have taken the lead in trying to persuade Gbagbo to step down, offering the prospects of an exile in South Africa. But Gbagbo has refused to go, telling African mediators that he would only be willing to consider a power-sharing arrangement in which Ouattara served as his vice president, according to U.N. based diplomats.

In an attempt to force Gbagbo's hand, the United States and the European Union have imposed travel sanctions on Gbagbo, his wife, Simone, and more than a dozen of his close allies. On Wednesday, the World Bank President Robert Zoellick, following a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the bank had cut off funding to Ivory Coast and shut its office in Abidjan, the largest city.

"The political stalemate has been characterized by the use of excessive force by supporters of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo," said Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N.'s deputy high commissioner for human rights. "These acts are ominously reminiscent of the violence that blighted the country in 2004 and are blatant violations of obligations under international law."

"Unfortunately, it has been impossible to investigate all the allegations of serious human rights violations, including reports of mass graves, due to restrictions on movement by U.N. personnel," she said. "Indeed, the special representative of the secretary general was stopped at gunpoint as he sought to verify such allegations."

Egypt's Coptic Christians struggle against institutionalised prejudice | World news | The Guardian

Egypt's Coptic Christians struggle against institutionalised prejudice | World news | The Guardian

Clashes with security forces, triggered when the building of a church was halted, makes the sect feel strangers in their own country

Christmas is coming in Giza, but the neighbourhood is far from festive. The road to St Mary's, the half-built church in the neighbourhood of Al-Talbiyya, is strewn with giant clumps of concrete – all torn from the four-lane highway that towers above.

It was from this highway late last month that security forces launched a barrage of tear gas, live ammunition and handheld rocks upon thousands of Coptic Christians demonstrating below.

"Imagine how it feels to be standing in your own country with your own people, as the agents of your own government begin hurling bullets at you and your children," recalls Ayed Gad, a pharmacy worker.

The clashes, triggered when local authorities halted construction at St Mary's, left two young Copts dead. A priest described the government's actions as barbaric. "The police acted as if they were Israel and we were Hamas," Father Mina Zarif told a local newspaper.

It's been a hard year for Egypt's estimated 8 million Copts, the largest Christian community in the Middle East. It began with a drive-by massacre of churchgoers leaving midnight mass; it has ended with the deadly violence in Al-Talbiyya, along with election results that leave Copts with less than 1% representation in parliament.

In between there has been a bitter row over the alleged kidnapping of a priest's wife who wanted to convert to Islam, accusations by Muslim clerics that Christian places of worship are being used to stockpile weapons, and a high-profile spat between the Coptic pope and the Egyptian government over the church's right to regulate "personal status" issues among its members.

"Sectarian polarisation of Christians and Muslims stretches back over the centuries, but the problem of sectarian violence is a modern phenomenon," says Hossam Baghat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and a prominent human rights activist. "This year we've seen Muslim protesters shouting anti-Christian slogans after the Friday sermon, which is a very new and worrying development."

Baghat's campaign work concentrates on two areas: communal violence between Muslims and Christians, and the more humdrum problem of daily prejudice.

"The issue in Egypt is not just the torching of homes and attacks on monasteries, but also the everyday examples of employment discrimination and other non-violent manifestations of sectarianism," he claims.

Copts complain of being shut out of the higher echelons of business, politics and academia; despite notable exceptions such as the finance minister Youssef Boutros Ghali or the telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris, most Christians believe they are denied opportunities because of their religion – a state of psychological insecurity that has reinforced the entrenchment of sectarian identities.

Just down the road from St Mary's the church of St Paul's is tucked away down a dimly-lit side alley. Here, in a third-floor chapel and beneath the glow of energy-saving chandeliers, festive worshippers are engaging in the Coptic fast – abstaining from animal products for 43 days in preparation for the Advent – and pondering another institutional challenge to their community.

Every pew is packed solid, and it's been standing room only for evening services throughout the run-up to Coptic Christmas, which is celebrated on 7 January.

"Things have been getting more crowded since the late 1980s; to keep up with the growing size of our community we'd need at least three or four new churches – but of course they can't be built," says Nabil Girgis, a senior member of the congregation.

Egypt's Christians have played as big a part in the recent demographic explosion as their fellow Muslims, but whereas new mosques are built and renovated freely, Christians have to navigate a bewilderingly web of bureaucracy to secure permission for construction. There are an estimated 2,000 churches in Egypt today, alongside 93,000 mosques.

Some feel their very identity as Egyptians is being deliberately eroded by the state. Baghat expresses a victimisation that leaves Christians feeling "assaulted twice, once by their Muslim neighbours and then again when the powers-that-be side with the attackers".

Peter Gobrayel, a worshipper at St Paul's, said; "We are treated as second-class citizens in every way; the only interaction we have with the government leaves us feeling like failures, and of course that makes us feel like we don't belong.

"I fought for Egypt in the 1967 and 1973 wars, and was a PoW in Israel; you could say that I've spent the whole of my life on the frontline for my country. Now, speaking honestly, when I see the nation burning I just want to add petrol. I am an Egyptian first and foremost, and yet my country seems to want to eradicate me."

For Hossam Baghat, Copt-Muslim tensions will only be resolved when the government ends its security-driven response to sectarian violence and begins implementing the rule of law.

"The reaction of the state to sectarian trouble is always motivated primarily by their desire to impose 'quiet'; hence it is directed by the security services in a typically heavy-handed way," he argues.

In the aftermath of the Al-Talbiyya fighting, over 150 local Copts were taken to jail, prompting Pope Shenouda to withdraw to a rural monastery in protest.

"When you look at the big picture, it's so clear that the security apparatus is at the heart of the problem," says Baghat. "Their tactics are bad not only for democracy and human rights, but for long-terms security too."

Gobrayel agrees. "We just want to be treated like Egyptians, with our rights respected and our voices heard. These days it's hard to find anyone, Christian or Muslim, who gets treated like that."

Joint Statement UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression Joint Statement On Wikileaks

Joint Statement UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Joint Statement On Wikileaks

December 21, 2010 – In light of ongoing developments related to the release of diplomatic cables by the organization Wikileaks, and the publication of information contained in those cables by mainstream news organizations, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression see fit to recall a number of international legal principles. The rapporteurs call upon States and other relevant actors to keep these principles in mind when responding to the aforementioned developments.

1. The right to access information held by public authorities is a fundamental human right subject to a strict regime of exceptions. The right to access to information protects the right of every person to access public information and to know what governments are doing on their behalf. It is a right that has received particular attention from the international community, given its importance to the consolidation, functioning and preservation of democratic regimes. Without the protection of this right, it is impossible for citizens to know the truth, demand accountability and fully exercise their right to political participation. National authorities should take active steps to ensure the principle of maximum transparency, address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries and increase the amount of information subject to routine disclosure.

2. At the same time, the right of access to information should be subject to a narrowly tailored system of exceptions to protect overriding public and private interests such as national security and the rights and security of other persons. Secrecy laws should define national security precisely and indicate clearly the criteria which should be used in determining whether or not information can be declared secret. Exceptions to access to information on national security or other grounds should apply only where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information. In accordance with international standards, information regarding human rights violations should not be considered secret or classified.

3. Public authorities and their staff bear sole responsibility for protecting the confidentiality of legitimately classified information under their control. Other individuals, including journalists, media workers and civil society representatives, who receive and disseminate classified information because they believe it is in the public interest, should not be subject to liability unless they committed fraud or another crime to obtain the information. In addition, government "whistleblowers" releasing information on violations of the law, on wrongdoing by public bodies, on a serious threat to health, safety or the environment, or on a breach of human rights or humanitarian law should be protected against legal, administrative or employment-related sanctions if they act in good faith. Any attempt to impose subsequent liability on those who disseminate classified information should be grounded in previously established laws enforced by impartial and independent legal systems with full respect for due process guarantees, including the right to appeal.

4. Direct or indirect government interference in or pressure exerted upon any expression or information transmitted through any means of oral, written, artistic, visual or electronic communication must be prohibited by law when it is aimed at influencing content. Such illegitimate interference includes politically motivated legal cases brought against journalists and independent media, and blocking of websites and web domains on political grounds. Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action are not acceptable.

5. Filtering systems which are not end-user controlled – whether imposed by a government or commercial service provider – are a form of prior censorship and cannot be justified. Corporations that provide Internet services should make an effort to ensure that they respect the rights of their clients to use the Internet without arbitrary interference.

6. Self-regulatory mechanisms for journalists have played an important role in fostering greater awareness about how to report on and address difficult and controversial subjects. Special journalistic responsibility is called for when reporting information from confidential sources that may affect valuable interests such as fundamental rights or the security of other persons. Ethical codes for journalists should therefore provide for an evaluation of the public interest in obtaining such information. Such codes can also provide useful guidance for new forms of communication and for new media organizations, which should likewise voluntarily adopt ethical best practices to ensure that the information made available is accurate, fairly presented and does not cause substantial harm to legally protected interests such as human rights.

Catalina Botero Marino
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Frank LaRue
UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Cenk Uyger interviews Julian Assange 15 Minutes --Dylan Ratigan Show-MSNBC 12-22-10

YouTube - Cenk Uyger interviews Julian Assange 15 Minutes --Dylan Ratigan Show-MSNBC 12-22-10

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'This is done': Obama signs DADT repeal

'This is done': Obama signs DADT repeal

What A Billion Muslims Really Think.

Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think from Unity Productions Foundation on Vimeo.

Top secret America - The Washington Post’s Dana Priest takes viewers inside the security web monitoring America.

WikiLeaks: U.K. trained 'death squad' - U.S. news - WikiLeaks in Security -

WikiLeaks: U.K. trained 'death squad' - U.S. news - WikiLeaks in Security -

The British government has trained a paramilitary force accused of hundreds of killings in Bangladesh, according to leaked U.S. embassy cables.
The Guardian newspaper said the cables described training for members of the Rapid Action Battalion as being in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement."

One cable notes that U.S. training for the battalion in counterterrorism would be illegal under U.S. law because of human rights violations.

The newspaper said the battalion has been accused by human rights activists of being a "death squad" responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings since it was established in 2004. In March, the battalion's leader said it had killed 622 people in "crossfire."
The RAB's use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights groups, the Guardian said. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out killings.
However, the cables reveal that British and Americans officials favor bolstering the force to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh. One cable describes U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty as saying the battalion is the "enforcement organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation."

The British training began three years ago, The Guardian said, quoting the cables.
Asked by The Guardian about the training for the RAB, the Foreign Office said the UK government "provides a range of human rights assistance" in the country. However, the RAB's head of training, Mejbah Uddin, told the newspaper that he was unaware of any human rights training since he was appointed last summer.
In the most recent killings, the battalion reported that it had shot three men in separate incidents on Tuesday.

Seoul Eyes Crackdown on North Korean Internet Propaganda - PCWorld

Seoul Eyes Crackdown on North Korean Internet Propaganda - PCWorld

By Martyn Williams, IDG News Dec 22, 2010 3:40 am

The South Korean government plans to further restrict its citizens from accessing and relaying information on the Internet that is sympathetic to North Korea.

Outlining its plans for 2011, the country's Justice Ministry said it will "try to block North Korea's propaganda activity through social-networking services, such as Twitter."

The plans build on South Korea's existing Internet filtering and come at a time of increased tensions between the two neighbors.

Websites judged to be sympathetic to Pyongyang have been blocked by the South Korean government for several years. The sites are largely those of organizations based in China or Japan with links to North Korea. South Korean Internet users attempting to access the sites are redirected to a National Police Agency page indicating that the site is forbidden in South Korea.

Until recently, North Korean propaganda on social media networks wasn't much of a problem, but that changed in July when Uriminzokkiri, a China-based site with close ties to Pyongyang, opened a Twitter account.

The Twitter feed carried headlines and links to news stories on the organization's website. It was followed by a Facebook group and accounts on Flickr and YouTube. The Facebook page was quickly closed but the other accounts remain active.

Within a few weeks of its appearance, South Korean authorities moved to block access to the Twitter channel but the result was symbolic at best. While the account page is blocked, Twitter messages from the account can still be seen when the site is accessed via a secure HTTPS connection or via any of the hundreds of applications that use Twitter's API (application programming interface.)

The Twitter feed currently has 10,545 followers including some that appear to be in South Korea.

Under existing legislation, it is already illegal for South Koreans to take part in exchanges with North Korea without first getting permission from the South Korean government. The "Inter-Korea Exchange and Cooperation Act" provides for up to three years in prison or fines of up to 10 million won (US$8,660) for doing so.

The Justice Ministry hasn't detailed how it plans to limit the spread of North Korean propaganda in cyberspace, but this existing law could be part of its plans. Lawmakers said earlier this year that any attempts to communicate with North Korean social media accounts could be considered a violation.

The ministry also said it plans to crackdown on those circulating false reports on the Internet that could affect national security.

Earlier this month it indicted 19 people for spreading rumors in the wake of North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. The 19 sent text messages saying or implying the government was calling up reserve military forces, but the government never did.

(Hyuna Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.)

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New York Injury News- Georgia Woman Arrested for Wearing Hijab to Court Files Civil Rights Lawsuit - Injury News

New York Injury News- Georgia Woman Arrested for Wearing Hijab to Court Files Civil Rights Lawsuit - Injury News

Douglasville, GA—The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim woman who was arrested and booked for contempt of court after she refused to remove her hijab, a religious headscarf. The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Georgia on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 and names the city of Douglasville and the law enforcement officers who were involved in the incident as defendants, according to information provided by the Associated Press.
“I hope that no person of faith will ever have to experience the type of egregious treatment I suffered at any Georgia courthouse because of the expression of my beliefs,” said Lisa Valentine, who is being represented by the ACLU’s Georgia division.

Valentine reportedly escorted her nephew to a court hearing in Douglasville in December 2008, but was stopped before making it past the metal detector. Officers allegedly ordered Valentine to remove her hijab, explaining that headgear was restricted inside the courtroom.
When Valentine declined to do so and began walking towards the exit, court officers apparently arrested her. She was brought before a municipal court judge and sentenced to 10 days in jail for contempt of court. She was released less than 24 hours later.
Valentine contended, “I had no idea I was in for such a humiliating experience… This is who I am. Without it, it’s like taking off my shirt. It’s like being stripped of something that’s part of me.” Hijabs are head coverings, which are warn as a means of preserving the modesty of Muslim women.
Although officers initially claimed they were merely attempting to uphold courtroom provisions, which included one to prohibit headgear, Douglasville Police Chief Joe Whisenant allegedly described the incident as a misunderstanding of sorts.

The ACLU’s pending civil rights lawsuit claims the city of Douglasville and Valentine’s arresting officers “demonstrated reckless indifference” to her civil rights. The suit adds that Valentine was forced to remove her Hijab when she was booked.
The incident spurred a Douglasville judge to order that “special previsions” be made for individuals wearing religious headgear. In July 2009, the Judicial Council of Georgia voted on the matter, leading to new rules that permitted religious and medical headgear to be worn inside Georgia courtrooms.
When asked about the pending civil rights litigation, Douglasville Mayor Mickey Thompson alleged, “This one’s a surprise because I think we had worked with Ms. Valentine and I thought her concerns were addressed.”

Unspecified punitive damages and attorneys’ fees are being sought out in connection with the said civil rights violations.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thousands on HIV drugs desperate amid budget woes  |

Thousands on HIV drugs desperate amid budget woes |

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Cash-strapped states are cutting back on a program that provides free medicine to people with HIV, leaving thousands of patients to wonder where their drugs will come from and stirring fears of a return to the days when an AIDS diagnosis meant certain death.

At least 19 states have taken such steps as capping enrollment, dropping patients, instituting waiting lists, lowering the income ceiling for eligibility, and no longer covering certain drugs or tests.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program is funded by the federal and state governments and run by the states. It provides free drugs in all 50 states and U.S. territories. But because people are living longer with HIV and the recession has created more demand for the program, states have been unable to keep up.

"It's very frustrating to be stuck in this position at this age and not feel well and be wondering if I am going to die any differently than the people who I helped die in the '80s," said Stephen Farrar, 55, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has HIV and is going on Florida's waiting list. "Am I going to be one of those people?"

Health officials and advocates believe most people on ADAP's waiting lists are getting AIDS drugs free from pharmaceutical companies. But advocates say an unknown number are falling through the cracks of those programs, which provide only a patchwork of coverage and have widely varying income requirements.

AIDS drugs can be extremely expensive — a single one can cost more than $20,000 per year, and patients often need to take a cocktail of prescriptions to treat the disease or keep symptoms at bay.

In nine states, more than 4,500 people with HIV are on ADAP waiting lists or can't get into the program because enrollment is capped, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.

More than 300 people who had coverage were dropped this year, after five states lowered their income eligibility limits to as little as $21,000 per year. Hundreds more face the same fate by February if more states follow through on plans to cut their eligibility, the alliance said.

Several states have started covering fewer drugs — only AIDS medications, for example, but not drugs for conditions often developed by those treated for HIV.

The cutbacks have set off alarm among some HIV patients, with some people cutting pills in half to make them last longer, said Stephen Hourahan, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island, a state that was hit hard by the economic downturn and which instituted a waiting list this fall.

"There were stories of people calling us in a panic because they were afraid they were going to die if they didn't have their meds," he said.

Waiting lists have been instituted previously for the program, said Ann Lefert of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. But as demand has spiked, she said, the lists now are bigger than ever before.

The program had more than 168,000 people nationwide on its rolls in 2009, the most recent numbers available. The federal government spent $860 million on ADAP programs in the fiscal year that ends March 31, while states spent $336 million. In 2009, California, for example, spent $71 million, Texas $27 million and Illinois $14.5 million.

Nearly 1,400 people entered the program every month nationwide this year, compared with half that number in 2008, the alliance said. While many states have increased money sent to the program, it often hasn't been enough to keep up with demand, and they've had to cut services. Despite the greater need, 12 states have put less money into their drug programs.

Most people on ADAP don't qualify for Medicaid because they are not sick enough to be considered disabled. Some who do qualify can get only limited drug coverage; ADAP covers the gap.

Making sure patients with HIV take their medications faithfully is a high priority of health care workers because it reduces the chance they will develop resistance to drugs and may also lower the risk of transmission.

Farrar lost his health insurance this month, more than a year after losing his job doing hair and makeup at a Florida TV station. Once his final insurance-covered prescriptions run out, he will have to worry about filling 17 prescriptions — two AIDS drugs and the rest for related ailments, such as arthritis and wasting, a severe weight loss. He will be one of more than 2,400 patients on Florida's waiting list, which was started June 1.

The cuts hit even those with insurance because copays can reach $500 to $700 per month for a single drug, and ADAP often helps with those copays.

"This is a huge financial burden on folks, but there's not a whole lot we can do," said Kevin Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio AIDS Coalition. The state has more than 370 people on the waiting list and dropped more than 250 others from the program because of now-lower income limits.

The process for getting free drugs from pharmaceutical companies can be difficult to navigate because each has different rules, with some limiting patients' income to $21,000 per year and others covering patients who make up to $54,000.

Patients who take many drugs from different makers, like Farrar, have to qualify for multiple drug company programs. If they qualify for one but not another, they might have to change their drug regimen, which can affect their health.

Elaine Henderson, 39, of Cleveland, gets her single AIDS drug through a pharmaceutical company's free program but worries about what will happen if the company changes its requirements.

"Right now, I'm hoping that I'll be OK until ADAP is fixed. If not, then I'll be in trouble," she said.

During the summer, after several states instituted waiting lists, the federal government infused the program with $25 million, which helped some states eliminate waits. But that fell about $100 million short of what AIDS advocates estimated was needed, Lefert said. The House recently approved a $60 million increase for the year starting April 1, but it hasn't passed the Senate and would not solve the program's woes for the current fiscal year, Lefert said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said states must do their part to provide money, but given the economic slump, the federal government needs to step in and do more.

"Just to let people hang out there without any notion of where they're going to get their lifesaving treatments or drugs, it's really morally offensive," she said.

In the meantime, states are looking for ways to move money around in their budgets to cover ADAP.

Rhode Island was able to close its waiting list this month after finding money elsewhere in the budget. Florida's program, which has a deficit of $15 million to $17 million for the current fiscal year, hopes to do the same, but that probably would not happen until July.

But Sullivan, of the Ohio AIDS Coalition, said: "This is going to take a federal solution. To expect the states with their budget crises to bail this out is not realistic."

Farrar said he has written to his congressman and President Barack Obama about his plight.

"I'm in limbo. It's very stressful," he said. "I don't have much hope that it's getting any better."


December 16, 2010 06:13 AM EST

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Columbia j-school staff: WikiLeaks prosecution ‘will set a dangerous precedent’ | Poynter.

Columbia j-school staff: WikiLeaks prosecution ‘will set a dangerous precedent’ | Poynter.

Romenesko Misc.
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism faculty and officers tell President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that “while we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment” and that “as a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves.”

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

December 13, 2010

Dear Mr. President and General Holder:

As faculty members and officers of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, we are concerned by recent reports that the Department of Justice is considering criminal charges against Julian Assange or others associated with Wikileaks.

Journalists have a responsibility to exercise careful news judgment when classified documents are involved, including assessing whether a document is legitimately confidential and whether there may be harm from its publication.

But while we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment. Any prosecution of Wikileaks’ staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity.

As a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves.

The U.S. and the First Amendment continue to set a world standard for freedom of the press, encouraging journalists in many nations to take significant risks on behalf of transparency. Prosecution in the Wikileaks case would greatly damage American standing in free-press debates worldwide and would dishearten those journalists looking to this nation for inspiration.

We urge you to pursue a course of prudent restraint in the Wikileaks matter.
Please note this letter reflects our individual views, not a position of Columbia University or the Journalism School.


Emily Bell, Professor of Professional Practice; Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism

Helen Benedict, Professor

Sheila Coronel, Toni Stabile Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative;
Director, Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism

June Cross, Associate Professor of Journalism

John Dinges, Godfrey Lowell Cabot Professor of Journalism

Joshua Friedman, Director, Maria Moors Cabot Prize for Journalism in the Americas

Todd Gitlin, Professor; Chair, Ph.D. Program

Ari Goldman, Professor

LynNell Hancock, Professor; Director, Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship

Marguerite Holloway, Assistant Professor; Director, Science and Environmental Journalism

David Klatell, Professor of Professional Practice; Chair, International Studies

Nicolas Lemann, Dean; Henry R. Luce Professor

Dale Maharidge, Associate Professor

Arlene Morgan, Associate Dean, Prizes and Programs

Victor S. Navasky, George T. Delacorte Professor in Magazine Journalism; Director,
Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism; Chair, Columbia Journalism Review

Michael Schudson, Professor

Alisa Solomon, Associate Professor; Director, Arts Concentration, M.A. Program

Paula Span, Adjunct Professor

Duy Linh Tu, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice; Coordinator, Digital Media Program

Monday, December 13, 2010

10 Infamous Cases of Wrongful Execution | Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

10 Infamous Cases of Wrongful Execution | Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

There’s no doubt about it – the U.S. criminal justice system is not perfect. And those imperfections become apparent when someone is the innocent victim of the death penalty. Wrongful executions have been happening for hundreds of years, but until the advent of DNA evidence and improved forensics technology, these individuals have remained guilty as charged. Today, DNA evidence has exonerated and released 15 death row inmates since 1992, but only eight inmates have been acknowledged of their possible innocence after execution by the Death Penalty Information Center. Here are 10 infamous cases of wrongful execution that deserve a second look:

  1. Claude Jones: Claude Jones was executed in 2000 for the murder of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager, in San Jacinto County in 1989. On Nov. 14, 1989, Jones and another man were seen pulling into a liquor store in Point Blank, Texas. One stayed in the car while the other went inside and shot the owner. Witnesses who were standing across the road couldn’t see the killer, but Jones and two other men, Kerry Dixon and Timothy Jordan, were all linked to the murder. Although Jones said he never entered the store, Dixon and Jordan testified that Jones was in fact the shooter and they were both spared the death penalty. The deciding factor and only admissible evidence in Jones’ conviction came down to a strand of hair that was found at the scene of the crime. A forensic expert testified that the hair appeared to have come from Jones, and he was sentenced to death. Forensic technology was underdeveloped during the 1990 trial and it wasn’t able to match Jones’ DNA with the hair sample. Therefore, before his 2000 execution, Jones’ attorneys filed petitions for a stay of execution with a district court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and requested that the hair be submitted for DNA testing that was now possible, but all courts and former Texas Governor George W. Bush denied Jones and he was executed. In an attempt to prove that Texas executed an innocent man, the Innocence Project and the Texas Observer filed a lawsuit in 2007 to obtain the strand of hair and submitted it for DNA testing, which was determined to be the hair of the victim.
  2. Jesse Tafero: Jesse Tafero was executed by electric chair in 1990 for murdering two Florida police officers, Phillip Black and Donald Irwin. The murders occurred on Feb. 20, 1976, when Black and Irwin approached a parked car at a rest stop and found Tafero, his partner Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs, her two children and Walter Rhodes asleep inside. They were ordered to get out of the car when the officers saw a gun lying on the floor inside the car and, according to Rhodes, Tafero proceeded to shoot both officers and took off in their police car. They disposed of the police car and stole a man’s car, but were arrested after being caught in a roadblock. The gun was found in Tafero’s waistband, although it was legally registered to Jacobs. Tafero had been convicted of robbery and had served seven years of a 25-year sentence before being convicted for murder. Tafero and Jacobs claimed that Rhodes was the lone shooter, but Rhodes testified against them in exchange for a lighter sentence. Rhodes later admitted that he was responsible for the killings, but Tafero was still sentenced to death.
  3. Cameron Todd Willingham: Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for murdering his three young daughters by intentionally setting fire to the family home in Corsicana, Texas. The arson-murder case fueled much controversy about Willingham’s guilt, which was determined by the case’s primary evidence – the arson investigators’ findings. They determined that the fire was deliberately set with the help of a liquid accelerant due to specific burn patterns, laboratory tests and points of origin. Willingham maintained his innocence and appealed his conviction for years, but was executed at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville on Feb. 16, 2004. In 2009, the Texas Forensic Science Commission panel reevaluated the case and determined that state and local arson investigators used "flawed science" when they labeled the fire as arson. Although advances in fire science and arson investigations have improved since 1991, the year of the fire, experts now believe the Corsicana Fire Department was negligent in their findings. The science commission is still investigating the arson ruling, and if the judge clears Willingham, it would be the first time an official has formally declared a wrongful execution in Texas.
  4. Larry Griffin: Larry Griffin was executed in 1995 for a drive-by shooting that killed 19-year-old drug dealer Quintin Moss in St. Louis. Griffin immediately became a suspect because his older brother Dennis Griffin, another well-known drug dealer, was murdered just six months earlier. Moss was believed to have killed Dennis Griffin. Although there were a number of possible suspects in the murder of Moss, a witness account by a white man named Robert Fitzgerald, who claimed to have seen the shooting, knew the license plate number of the vehicle and could identify the gunman was all it took to have Griffin arrested. Fitzgerald was a convicted felon who had a long history of run-ins with the law, which raised concerns about the legitimacy of his story. During the 1993 hearing, Fitzgerald admitted to being unsure if Griffin was the man in the car after all. There were two key witnesses who wavered and a third person whose testimony could have helped Griffin, but was never contacted by either the defense or prosecution. Griffin continued to proclaim his innocence until his execution. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund investigated the case after Griffin’s execution and wanted to uncover more witness accounts that could support their claim that Missouri executed an innocent man.
  5. Ruben Cantu: Ruben Cantu was executed in 1993 for the murder-robbery of a San Antonio man at the age of 17. Cantu had no previous convictions, but was pinpointed as a violent murderer who shot one victim nine times, as well as shot the only eyewitness nine times with a rifle, but he lived to testify. Juan Moreno offered his testimony to police and identified Cantu as the shooter, but later recanted, admitting that he said Cantu out of influence and fear of authorities. Although the case had a compelling witness testimony, there was no physical evidence that linked Cantu to the crime. In addition, his co-defendant David Garza, who allegedly committed the murder-robbery with Cantu, remained silent and signed a sworn affidavit allowing his accomplice to be falsely accused. Cantu maintained his innocence until his execution and claimed that he had been framed in this capital murder case.
  6. David Spence: David Spence was executed in 1997 for murdering three teenagers in 1982 in Waco. Spence was convicted of raping, torturing and murdering two 17-year-old girls and murdering an 18-year-old boy. As the original allegations go, Spence was hired by convenience store owner Muneer Deeb to kill one girl and he ended up killing these three teens by mistake. Deeb was charged and sentenced to death, but later received a re-trial and was acquitted. Authoritative sources even had serious doubt about Spence’s guilt. Although there was no clear physical evidence to link Spence to the crime, prosecutors used bite marks that were found on one of the girl’s body and matched it to Spence’s teeth. Even jailhouse witnesses were bribed into snitching on Spence. Despite weak evidential support and jail mate testimonies, Spence was executed.
  7. Carlos De Luna: Carlos De Luna was executed in 1989 for the 1983 stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a Texas convenience store clerk. There were two eyewitnesses who played a key role in the conviction of De Luna. Before the murder-robbery, George Aguirre was filling up at the gas station where the crime occurred, when he saw a man standing outside the store slide a knife with the blade exposed into his pocket and enter. The man asked Aguirre for a ride to a nightclub, but he refused and went inside the store to warn Lopez about the suspicious man. Aguirre left and Lopez called the police to describe the man. As she was on the phone with a dispatcher, the man came back into the store and robbed her. The second witness, Kevan Baker, pulled into the station and heard bangs on the station’s window and saw a man struggling with a woman. As Baker approached the gas station, the murderer threatened him and took off. When police searched the area, they found De Luna not far from the station. He was shirtless and shoeless in a puddle of water and screamed, "Don’t shoot! You got me!" Both Aguirre and Baker confirmed De Luna was the man at the station. Little to no physical evidence was collected at the crime scene, including blood samples and fingerprints that could have helped De Luna. De Luna maintained his innocence and repeated that Carlos Hernandez was the actual killer. Despite Hernandez’s trouble with the law and repeated confessions to the murder, De Luna was executed.
  8. Joseph O’Dell: Joseph O’Dell was executed in 1997 for raping and murdering Helen Schartner. O’Dell was convicted on the basis of blood evidence and a jailhouse snitch. O’Dell represented himself and continued to proclaim his innocence in various unsuccessful appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court, Federal District Court and the Supreme Court. O’Dell requested that the state submit other pieces of evidence for DNA testing, but he was refused. Despite much effort and several appeals, the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and reinstated his death sentence. After his execution, Lori Urs, an anti-death penalty advocate and former wife to O’Dell, sought to further investigate the case and exonerate O’Dell based on mistaken blood matches, court opinions and refusal of DNA testing. However, the last of the DNA evidence from O’Dell’s case was burned in March 2000 and the appeals were laid to rest.
  9. Leo Jones: Leo Jones was executed in 1998 for murdering a police officer in Florida. Although Jones confessed 12 hours after the murder, he said that he was forced to say he did it during hours of intimidating police interrogation, where they threatened his life and made him play Russian roulette. One witness believed that the police department was out to get Jones because he had assaulted an officer once. The same two arresting officers were released from the department shortly after for using violence in other cases. Despite repeated appeals, other potential suspects and witness testimonies in support of Jones’ exoneration, the sentencing stood as is. Jones was also denied another method of execution and was killed by the electric chair.
  10. Timothy Evans: Timothy Evans was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of his daughter in 1949 at their home in Notting Hill, London. Evans maintained his innocence and repeatedly accused his neighbor, John Christie, of murdering his wife and daughter. The police investigation and physical evidence used to convict Evans was weak. After Evans’ trial and execution, Christie was found to be a serial killer who was responsible for murdering several women at his residence. There were massive campaigns to overturn Evans’ conviction and an official inquiry was conducted 16 years later. It was confirmed that Evans’ daughter had been killed by Christie, and Evans was granted a posthumous pardon. This case of injustice had a strong influence in the UK’s decision to abolish capital punishment.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Will Facebook, Twitter continue to support online freedom of speech? - International Business Times

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseWill Facebook, Twitter continue to support online freedom of speech? - International Business Times

The recent debate over the ethics of releasing the American cables by Wikileaks has spawned a new debate about freedom of speech on the internet.

The internet has been a god-sent boon for dissidents and freedom fighters, who wished to get across their message without resorting to underground presses and other ways. The first instance of what could be called the success of social networking sites like Facebook aiding this kind of activism was when the site was accused of participating in a plot against the Iranian government during a trial of protestors.

The question now, however, is how long and to what extent will these sites continue to support such agendas as their own while struggling against their corporate and profit-conscious mindsets.

Facebook currently has over 500 million users worldwide. Twitter has over 200 million users. These sites are closely being watched by investors to see how their revenue model grows. Being associated with unwanted conflicts hurts the market value as well as the brand value of these companies, which are now increasingly focussing on marketing and ad revenues.

Wikileaks, in contrast, is like journalists' tool for information.

Mastercard and Visa withdrew their support for the site, albeit citing possible violations of their policies in supporting the site early last week.

Many commentators believe that the two companies were feeling the pressure from the government, and had to act to preserve the goodwill of the government towards their debt-laden firms.

The two firms no doubt felt that pressure from both sides of the political aisle, as Attorney General Eric Holder promised to explore all legal options against WikiLeaks while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have branded him a "terrorist," Andy Greenberg said in Forbes.

Amazon Web Services, which rented web space to Wikileaks, and EveryDNS, an internet-addressing service, also withdrew their support for the website, making it clear they would not be associated with a site that could be committing "illegal activities."

Though the verdict on the legality of Wikileaks' action is still out, it is obvious that companies are protecting their commercial interests.

Which is why the reactions of Facebook and Twitter, the two most important online commodities, are being watched closely.

These two website were heralded as the promoters of freedom of speech. However, in recent times, Facebook has faced intense criticism over its privacy policies that is cashing in on users' information available on the site. Facebook has also begun to block messages containing "illegal links" such as torrents or copyright infringed material.

Neither of the two websites have made a statement about the content posted on their websites regarding the Wikileaks issue. But there have been complaints that Twitter was trying to block Wikileaks-related terms from its list of trending topics.

The website denied this report and stated that these topics fell off the trending list because "not enough people were talking about them."

Meanwhile, hackers have made it clear that their support lies with Julian Assange by launching a cyber attack on all the sites and services that withdrew support to WikiLeaks. On the other had, Facebook shut down a page on the website that belonged to the hackers, while it is still unclear where Twitter stands on the issue.

Various Twitter groups seemingly affiliated with the organization provide rough estimates of its influence: Anonops has nearly 10,000 followers; Operation Leakspin has more than 1,300 followers; Anonymous Operations has about 1,200 followers, Washington Post said in a report.

Anonymous is one of the groups that tried to shut down websites for disabling or suspending services to Wikileaks.

When contacted through Twitter, Anonymous members said in recent days they have been driven by fears of civil rights intrusions and totalitarian futures, the Post said.

Facebook and Twitter continue to play a strong role in freedom of speech in the internet age. Now, the world awaits reactions from the companies to see if they will let this continue or if they would let corporate interests take centre stage.