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Glenn Reynolds: For Next Attorney General, Reach Across Aisle

obama-holder-noJustice

Eric Holder has announced that he will be stepping down as attorney general as soon as a replacement can be named. And already, National Journal notes that with Holder’s departure, President Obama will be losing one of his few friends in new-schoolWashington.

“…Holder’s role has been not so much law enforcement as ‘scandal-goalie,’ ensuring that whatever comes out in the news or in congressional investigations, no one in the government will go to jail…”

[Glenn Reynolds' book The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]

As the article by George Condon notes, in choosing a friend, Obama was following in the footsteps of presidents going all the way back to George Washington, who named Revolutionary War comrades-in-arms to the slot.

“Writing in Above The Law, Tamara Tabo notes that Holder’s stonewalling, which led him to be the first attorney general ever found in contempt of Congress, has poisoned relations between the Justice Department and legislators, ensuring a rocky reception for whoever Obama names next.”

John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert to be attorney general, and Richard Nixon named his law partner, John Mitchell. In many ways, this makes sense: The attorney general of the United States is at the top of the law enforcement apparatus, and in that position, you want someone you can trust.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The FBI and NSA Hate Apple’s Plan to Keep Your iPhone Data Secret

Originally posted on TIME:

Apple released the iPhone 6 with a new, powerful encryption setting that should make it much harder for law enforcement and surveillance groups like the FBI and the NSA from accessing users’ emails, photos and contacts. After the Edward Snowden revelations last year, privacy-minded users may be happy about the new feature, but the law enforcement community is decidedly not.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, FBI Director James Comey criticized Apple’s encryption, which scrambles information on the new iPhone 6 using a code that could take “more than five-and-a-half years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers,” as Comey said.

Comey accused Apple of creating a means for criminals to evade the law, the New York Times reports. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law,” he said.

In…

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Heather Mac Donald on Obama’s Shameful New Low: Comparing American Cops with Islamic Terrorists

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The idea that the Ferguson riots were the result of a predatory police force tantamount to sectarian murderers in the Middle East is a poisonous calumny. The threat to America’s blacks comes almost exclusively from other blacks, not from the police.

President Obama has announced to the world that America’s police officers are as disruptive to civil society as Middle Eastern beheaders and Russian-backed rebels.

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“Obama is right about one thing: the world did take notice of the Ferguson riots, which were covered obsessively by CNN International, desperate to play up every wisp of alleged racism it could find.”

…Even a local newspaper in Salzburg, Austria, carried a fawning profile of America’s first black attorney general, Eric Holder, and his fight against police racism.

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“This last Saturday, a 14-year-old girl was killed on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey, in a drive-by gang shooting. She is the sixth homicide death in the area since a 12-year-old girl was shot in the head while riding a scooter in July…Obama and Eric Holder will have nothing to say about these homicides…” 

All the more important, then, for Obama to set the record straight. The idea that the Ferguson riots were the result of a predatory police force tantamount to sectarian murderers in the Middle East is a poisonous calumny. The threat to America’s blacks comes almost exclusively from other blacks, not from the police.

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“…In fact, the only government representatives who work day in and day out to stop the black bloodbath are police officers.”

Every year, thousands of African Americans are gunned down by other African Americans, with no attention from the media and local government officials. The homicide death rate for blacks in Los Angeles, for example, like in most other American cities, is ten times that for whites.

“Few are the departments that don’t try to forge bonds with their communities but their officers are still met with resistance, abuse, and hatred from criminals and their associates, and from ordinary people who have been fed a steady diet of anti-police propaganda.”

It’s not whites or police officers who are gunning down black Angelenos, it’s other blacks, killing in cold blood, also at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic homicide commission combined. Read the rest of this entry »


Sharyl Attkisson: Multiple Controversies Plagued Eric Holder Prior to Resignation

Attorney General Eric Holder To Resign

Sharyl Attkisson writes: The unexpected resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder follows a series of court rulings against his Department of Justice over its failure to produce documents related to the government’s “Fast and Furious” firearms operation.

Holder also has come under increasing congressional criticism for a tepid investigation of evidence that IRS officials deliberately targeted tea party and other conservative groups for greater scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

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Calling the government’s arguments for “even more time … unconvincing,” a federal judge this week refused to grant Holder’s Justice Department the additional time it requested to turn over a list of Operation Fast and Furious documents withheld under executive privilege exerted by President Obama.

The list is referred to as a “Vaughn index” and requires the Justice Department to justify document-by-document the reasons it hasn’t released the materials. This exercise alone often prompts the release of documents.

The Justice Department sought to delay the Vaughn index until one day before the Nov. 4 midterm elections. But the court ordered the index produced by Oct. 22 instead. The order comes in a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch. Read the rest of this entry »


Joshua Wong: Pro-Beijing Media Accuses Hong Kong Student Leader of U.S. Government Ties

Mr. Wong came to local fame in 2012 after his Scholarism group, made up of secondary school students, protested against a plan by the Hong Kong government to implement “patriotic education” classes in Hong Kong schools. 

Isabella Steger reports: The face of Hong Kong’s student democracy movement came under furious attack by a pro-Beijing newspaper today, upping the ante in the fight over the former British colony’s political future.

On Thursday, Wen Wei Po published an “expose” into what it described as the U.S. connections of Joshua Wong, the 17 year-old leader of student group Scholarism.

“This isn’t the first time that Beijing-friendly media have accused foreign countries of covert meddling in the former British colony.”

The story asserts that “U.S. forces” identified Mr. Wong’s potential three years ago, and have worked since then to cultivate him as a “political superstar.”

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“China’s government has long been concerned that Western intelligence agencies might try to exploit the city’s relatively more open political environment to push democracy in the rest of the country.”

Evidence for Mr. Wong’s close ties to the U.S. that the paper cited included what the report described as frequent meetings with U.S. consulate personnel in Hong Kong and covert donations from Americans to Mr. Wong. As evidence, the paper cited photographs leaked by “netizens.” The story also said Mr. Wong’s family visited Macau in 2011 at the invitation of the American Chamber of Commerce, where they stayed at the “U.S.-owned” Venetian Macao, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp.

When asked about Wen Wei Po’s allegations that he was being manipulated by U.S. forces, Mr. Wong denied the idea. “Of course it’s false,” Mr. Wong told China Real Time. In a subsequent statement posted online, Mr. Wong denied every detail in Wen Wei Po’s story. Read the rest of this entry »


Serial Killer Samuel Little Sentenced to 3 Consecutive Life Terms Without Parole


BREAKING: Anticipating Midterm Losses, Eric Holder Rushes to Step Down as Attorney General to Help Confirmation Effort

obama-holder-noJustice

Holder most wants to be remembered for his record on civil rights. In reality, he will be remembered as a divisive, combative, arrogant, partisan hatchet man for the administration, in a period marked by selective enforcement, stonewalling, evasion, and contempt. 

Two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR that Holder, 63, intends to leave the Justice Department as soon as his successor is confirmed, a process that could run through 2014 and even into next year. A former U.S. government official says Holder has been increasingly “adamant” about his desire to leave soon for fear that he otherwise could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama’s second term.

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“…some of that early glow faded in part due to the politicized nature of the job and in part because of Holder’s own rhetoric, such as a 2009 Black History Month speech where he said the country was ‘a nation of cowards’…”

Holder already is one of the longest-serving members of the Obama Cabinet and ranks as the fourth-longest tenured AG in history. Hundreds of employees waited in lines, stacked three rows deep, in early February 2009 to witness his return to the Justice Department, where he previously worked as a young corruption prosecutor and as deputy attorney general — the second in command — during the Clinton administration.

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“Even though the attorney general has his eyes on the door, the two sources say several more policy and enforcement initiatives are underway and could be announced soon.”

Five years later, violence erupted between police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after a white policeman killed an unarmed black 18-year-old. And this time, the White House dispatched Holder to speak his piece, in effect jump-starting that conversation and helping to settle nerves in the frayed community.

“For instance, Holder sent a memo to U.S. attorneys Wednesday urging them not to use sentencing enhancements known as “851” tools to gain leverage in plea negotiations with defendants — in essence, threatening defendants into avoiding trial with huge amounts of prison time.”

Another huge controversy — over his decision to try the Sept. 11 plotters in a New York courthouse in the shadow of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center — prompted venomous reaction from lawmakers, New York City officials and some victims’ families. Read the rest of this entry »


Reality Check: Despite Apple’s Privacy Pledge, Cops Can Still Pull Data Off a Locked iPhone

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A reminder to iPhone owners cheering Apple’s latest privacy win: Just because Apple will no longer help police to turn your smartphone inside out doesn’t mean it can prevent the cops from vivisecting the device on their own.

“I am quite impressed, Mr. Cook! That took courage. But it does not mean that your data is beyond law enforcement’s reach.”

–  iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski

On Wednesday evening Apple made news with a strongly-worded statement about how it protects users’ data from government requests. And the page noted at least one serious change in that privacy stance: No longer will Apple aid law enforcement or intelligence agencies in cracking its users’ passcodes to access their email, photos, or other mobile data. That’s a 180-degree flip from its previous offer to cops, which demanded only that they provide the device to Apple with a warrantto have its secrets extracted.

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In fact, Apple claims that the new scheme now makes Apple not only unwilling, but unable to open users’ locked phones for law enforcement. “Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access [your personal] data,” reads the new policy. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

“I can do it. I’m sure the guys in suits in the governments can do it. And I’m sure that there are at least three or four commercial tools that can still do this, too.”

But as the media and privacy activists congratulated Apple on that new resistance to government snooping, iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski offered a word of caution for the millions of users clamoring to pre-order the iPhone 6 and upgrade to iOS 8. In many cases, he points out, the cops can still grab and offload sensitive data from your locked iPhone without Apple’s help, even in iOS 8. All they need, he says, is your powered-on phone and access to a computer you’ve previously used to move data onto and off of it. Read the rest of this entry »


You’ve Been Served: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Mails First Amendment Warning to More Than 300 Colleges

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PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17, 2014—In a national certified mailing sent today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) warns the leaders of more than 300 of our nation’s largest and most prestigious public colleges and universities that they risk First Amendment lawsuits by continuing to maintain speech codes that violate student and faculty rights. The letters are being mailed from the main post office near Independence Hall in Philadelphia today to mark the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

“FIRE prefers to secure students’ and faculty members’ free speech rights by working cooperatively with colleges and universities. However, FIRE will not hesitate to turn to the courts when necessary.”

58 percent of our nation’s public colleges and universities restrict student and faculty speech with blatantly unconstitutional policies, and 38 percent more enforce policies that are too easily abused to silence campus speech,” said Will Creeley, FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy. “In July, FIRE launched our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project by announcing four lawsuits against institutions that have violated student and faculty First Amendment rights. Now we’re putting public colleges and universities across the country on notice—and inviting them to work with FIRE to fix flawed policies before they’re challenged in court.”

“Throughout our 15 years defending student and faculty rights, FIRE has consistently coordinated successful First Amendment challenges against unconstitutional speech codes.”

FIRE has posted online a sample letter to a public university with a speech code earning a “red light,” FIRE’s worst rating. Read the rest of this entry »


After 9 Month Probe Feds Find No Link Between Christie and Bridge Shutdown

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The U.S. Justice Department investigation into New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie’s role in “Bridgegate” has thus far uncovered no information he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York.

The September 2013 closures — where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee were shut down causing a traffic nightmare for commuters — has been the subject of several federal and state investigations.

Federal officials caution that the investigation begun nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that after nine months authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes.

According to one former federal prosecutor, who had no involvement in any of the probes into the bridge closure, investigations of this kind will often turn up a solid connection early in the inquiry. Read the rest of this entry »


It’s On: The Clowns Who Organized Occupy Wall Street Are Now Suing Each Other

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WASHINGTON — Activists who organized the dormant Occupy Wall Street movement are suing another activist for control of the main Twitter account, and one of the plaintiffs says there was no other option but to turn to litigation to solve the dispute.

“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court.”

– Marisa Holmes, video editor, part of the core organizing team of Occupy

The conflict centers around @OccupyWallStNYC, one of the main Twitter feeds that distributed information during the movement’s heyday in 2011. The OWS Media Group filed a lawsuit against organizer Justin Wedes on Wednesday, which is also the third anniversary of the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. The group, led by activist Marisa Holmes, is seeking control of the Twitter account as well as $500,000 in damages.

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The Twitter account, which used to be shared among several activists, is now under the control of Wedes, who explained his decision to take over the Twitter feed in a blog post in August:

A thread about “self-promotion” became just another shaming session. If we start from a place of assuming bad intentions – i.e. discouraging “self-promotion” over encouraging solid, relevant content – we will end up with rules that shame rather than empower. Group members took on the task of limiting others to “1 to 2 tweets per day” (or week) on a topic, a form of censorship that would never have been allowed in the earlier days of the boat. I had to say enough!

“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court,” Holmes, a video editor who was part of the core organizing team of Occupy, told BuzzFeed News. “And quite frankly if we go and beat him up then we could end up with countersuits against us, and that puts us in a more damaging position and we don’t really want to do that anyway.” Read the rest of this entry »


Apple will No Longer Unlock User’s Mobile Devices for Police, Even with Search Warrants

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The Washington Post reports: Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

big-brother-halfThe move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails and recordings. Apple once maintained the ability to unlock some content on devices for legally binding police requests but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said in the new privacy policy.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

As the new operating system becomes widely deployed over the next several weeks, the number of iPhones and iPads that Apple is capable of breaking into for police will steadily dwindle to the point where only devices several years old — and incapable of running iOS 8 — can be unlocked by Apple.

Apple will still have the ability — and the legal responsibility — to turn over user data stored elsewhere, such as in its iCloud service, which typically includes backups of photos, videos, e-mail communications, music collections and more. Users who want to prevent all forms of police access to their information will have to adjust settings in a way that blocks data from flowing to iCloud. Read the rest of this entry »


‘RAPE CULTURE': Female Nurse Who Had Sex With Medicated Man Awaiting Heart Transplant Being Sued for Damages

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The suit accuses the facility of negligence because the nurse had a history of such things.”

“A nurse entered his room and ‘initiated unsolicited sexual relations, including intercourse'”

While a man was lying in his bed in a southwest suburban hospital, medicated and waiting for a heart transplant, a nurse entered his room and “initiated unsolicited sexual relations, including intercourse,” according to lawsuit filed Monday.

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The lawsuit seeks $150,000 in damages

The patient and his wife filed the suit Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn was negligent in employing the nurse who “had a propensity to initiate unauthorized physical contact with patients,” the suit stated. The nurse, who was also named as a defendant, is accused of battery.

“The alleged battery happened Oct. 12, 2012, while the man was a patient in the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit waiting for a heart transplant.”

In January, the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation reprimanded a nurse of the same name as the defendant listed in the suit. The reprimand was brought on by her failing “to report having been terminated from a facility for crossing professional boundaries with a patient.”

Read the rest of this entry »


ABA Journal: Washington State Prosecutor Whose Bikini Photo was Reportedly Found in Inmate’s Cell Resigns $83,000-a-Year Job

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Martha Neil reports: A Washington state prosecutor whose bikini photograph wound up in the cell of a prison inmate has resigned from her $83,000-a-year job.

Marriya Wright also allegedly texted and called Matthew Baumrucker over 1,200 times during a period of a little over one month earlier this year. Authorities are now investigating whether Wright helped him avoid being taken into Spokane County custody on a warrant in a felony drug case at a time when he was otherwise lawfully at large, according to the Spokesman Review and KXLY. An earlier Spokesman Review article provides additional details.

At issue is a period in March when police were reportedly investigating an assault case and trying to serve the warrant in the drug case. A warrant says a witness told police that Baumrucker had spoken with a 26Baumrucker_t620woman named Marriya in a car at a gas station.

“He came to her, asking for help, and she tried to bring him into the church to help him make better decisions in the future.”

The witness said she overheard Marriya tell Baumrucker that he “needed to get his warrant taken care of.”

“Unfortunately she was in a position in her own life where this got out of control.”

– Wright’s attorney Chris Bugbee

Police said they later obtained surveillance footage showing that Baumrucker had entered Wright’s vehicle at that gas station. She allegedly did not turn him in. Read the rest of this entry »


Judge Strikes Down Ohio Law Criminalizing False Political Speech: Amicus Curiae Brief Filed on Behalf of the Plaintiff by P.J. O’Rourke

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Over at The CornerIan Tuttle has two items concerning an Ohio free speech court ruling:

An Ohio federal judge landed a blow for free-speech advocates on Thursday, striking down a law that gave the state government the right to regulate political speech it deemed false.

New Hampshire Voters Head To The Polls For State's Primary

Under the law, it was illegal to “post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.” According to U.S. District Court judge Timothy Black’s decision: “We do not want the government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth – for fear that the government might persecute those who criticize it. Instead, in a democracy, the voters should decide.”

Politico reports the details of the suit here.Lunch with PJ O'Rourke

National Review Online

Then there’s this:

P. J. O’Rourke’s Defense of Truthiness – O’Rourke’s brief here

noted [above] U.S. District Court judge Timothy Black’s ruling yesterday striking down an Ohio law that allowed the state election commission to censor “false” political speech.

The judge’s decision is a good one, but the best reading in the case is an amicus curiae brief filed on behalf of the plaintiff — by none other than right-wing humorist P.J. O’Rourke. “The case concerns amici,” he writes, “because the law at issue undermines the First Amendment’s protection of the serious business of making politics funny.” Read the rest of this entry »


Yahoo Prevails in Secretive Surveillance Court Battle

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The public is getting a broader glimpse at the still-secretive world of government data collection

Yahoo said Thursday it won release of 1,500 pages of documents filed in a secretive surveillance court. It said the documents stem from an unsuccessful lawsuit it brought in 2008 challenging the government’s right to demand user information.Yahoo Headquarters

“At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”

– Ron Bell, Yahoo’s lawyer

The company won a victory last year when portions of previously-closed documents were ordered public. As it noted Thursday, disclosures from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are “extremely rare.”

The documents are a public relations victory for Yahoo: They show it resisting orders to comply with the surveillance programs.

“Yahoo has not complied with the directives because of concerns that the directives require Yahoo to assist in conducting warrantless surveillance that is likely to capture private communications of United States citizens located in the U.S. and abroad,” Yahoo wrote in a legal document, arguing the orders violated “the privacy of U.S. citizens.”

The government put great pressure on Yahoo to comply with its order, the company said. Read the rest of this entry »


Senate Democrats’ Extremism on Display

George F. Will writes: Since Barry Goldwater, in accepting the Republicans’ 1964 presidential nomination, said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Democrats have been decrying Republican “extremism.” Actually, although there is abundant foolishness and unseemliness in U.S. politics, real extremism — measures or movements that menace the Constitution’s architecture of ordered liberty — is rare. This week, however, extremism stained the Senate.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 8: Lawmakers gather along with lobbying groups, Rudhdi Karnik from the Sierra Club, for a press conference to discuss a Constitutional Amendment on campaign finance reform overturning Citizens United, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Monday, September 8, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post) (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 8: Lawmakers gather along with lobbying groups, Rudhdi Karnik from the Sierra Club, for a press conference to discuss a Constitutional Amendment on campaign finance reform overturning Citizens United, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Monday, September 8, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Forty-eight members of the Democratic caucus attempted to do something never previously done: Amend the Bill of Rights. They tried to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech. They evidently think extremism in defense of the political class’s convenience is no vice.

The italicized names are of senators on the ballot this November. 

Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Thomas Carper (Del.), Robert Casey (Pa.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Al Franken (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Angus King (Maine), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.),Edward Markey (Mass.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Harry Reid (Nev.), John Rockefeller (W.Va.), Bernard Sanders (Vt.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Udall (Colo.), John Walsh (Mont.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Ron Wyden (Ore.).

But all 48 Senate co-sponsors are American rarities — real extremists.

The 48 senators proposing to give legislators speech-regulating powers describe their amendment in anodyne language, as “relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” But what affects elections is speech, and the vast majority of contributions and expenditures are made to disseminate speech. Read the rest of this entry »


Democracy in China: ‘The struggle for Hong Kong,’ or ‘The Great Leap Sideways’

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The territory’s citizens must not give up demanding full democracy—for their sake and for China’s

Chinese officials have called it a “leap forward” for democracy in Hong Kong. Yet their announcement on August 31st of plans to allow, for the first time, every Hong Kong citizen to vote for the territory’s leader has met only anger and indifference. Joy was conspicuously Xi-tall-Jinping-HTabsent. This is not because Hong Kong’s citizens care little for the right to vote, but because China has made it abundantly clear that the next election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, due in 2017, will be rigged. The only candidates allowed to stand will be those approved by the Communist Party in Beijing, half a continent away.

“Xi Jinping, the party chief and president, had the opportunity to use Hong Kong as a test-bed for political change in China. Had he taken this opportunity, he might have gone down in history as a true reformer. Instead, he has squandered it.”

At its worst, this risks provoking a disaster which even China cannot want. Democrats are planning protests. It is unclear how many people will join in, but the fear is that the territory’s long history of peaceful campaigning for political reform will give way to skirmishes with police, mass arrests and possibly even intervention by the People’s Liberation Army. That would disrupt one of Asia’s wealthiest and most orderly economies, and set China against the West. But even if, as is likely, such a calamity is avoided, this leap sideways is a huge missed opportunity not just for Hong Kong but also for the mainland. A chance to experiment with the sort of local democracy that might have benefited all of China has been missed. Read the rest of this entry »


Pistorius Ruling: Negligent but Not Guilty

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South Africa has no jury system. Masipa weighed the evidence and reached her verdict with the help of two assistants, called assessors. The judge had the last say on questions of law, while the decision of the majority held sway on questions of fact

SOUTH AFRICA – Robyn Dixon reports: Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympian who shot and killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year, was found “negligent” in the killing Thursday, but was acquitted of murder charges before the court recessed for the day without a final verdict.

Judge Thokozile Masipa halted the proceedings before delivering a ruling on a lesser charge of culpable homicide and said she would resume the proceedings on Friday.

“It’s clear that his conduct was negligent,”

Masipa said. But the judge said she did not find sufficient evidence to prove the prosecution’s contention that Pistorius intended to kill Reeva Steenkamp after the couple had an argument, though she did conclude that the athlete was negligent in firing his weapon four times through the door of the bathroom in his residence, in which Steenkamp had locked herself.

Pistorius admitted to firing four expanding bullets into the toilet cubicle off his bathroom. But he had insisted that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, fired unintentionally and not meaning to kill anyone.

“During the trial, Pistorius at times retched and vomited as the court heard testimony on Steenkamp’s horrific injuries, including a massive head wound, a shattered hip, a broken arm and a hand injury.”

In a nearly daylong hearing, Masipa found that Pistorius was negligent in firing his weapon and must have foreseen his actions would result in the death of the person inside. She also concluded that he failed to take reasonable steps to avoid that person’s death.

“At other times, he wept loudly, slumped with his head in his hands, or covered his ears.”

However, the judge stopped short of declaring Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide before concluding proceedings for the day.

After the initial finding clearing him of murder charges, Pistorius bent over and sobbed. Relatives and supporters crowded around him, and his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, one of his closest mentors, hugged him fervently. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIRAL] White Cop’s Random Encounter with Homeless Black Man Stirs Controversy

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Jessica Chasmar reports: An Indianapolis police officer’s random act of kindness has gone viral thanks to Indiana Pacers player Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert posted a picture of an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer, who had gotten out of his patrol car to give a pair of black boots to a homeless man near the 30th Street exit ramp off of Interstate 65, a local ABC affiliate reported.

Hibbert tweeted to his 334,000 followers Monday afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »


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