American Business and Politics: With Liberty and Justice for Some

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On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder, the country’s first African American AG, announced he was leaving the Department of Justice after five and half years in the role, Ryan Gorman reports, US Attorney General Eric Holder to step down. The 63 year old will remain with the Justice Department until his successor is named, but is certain about his departure , according to NPR. While the Obama administration wanted him to stay the full eight years, the final decision was Holder’s to make. According to the source who told NPR, Holder is leery about remaining much longer over fears he “could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama’s second term.” The decision was made over the Labor Day weekend by Holder and Obama. Possible successors include former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, according to the Wall Street Journal. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s name has also been mentioned in reports. Holder is the 82nd AG and worked as the deputy attorney general under President Clinton in the 1990s. His troublesome tenure, the fourth longest in history, was riddled with political infighting and racial divided across the nation, culminating with the Michael Brown shooting last month in Ferguson, Missouri. The AG was dispatched directly to the St. Louis suburb to handle he inquiry into the unarmed black teen’s death at the hands of white police officer Darren Wilson. Nedra Pickler reports, Holder resigning: Attorney general backed rights, in an emotional ceremony at the White House, Obama said Holder did a superb job and credited him with driving down both the nation’s crime and incarceration rate for the first time in 40 years. Obama said, “He believes as I do that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living and breathing principal. It’s about how our laws interact with our daily lives.” In a speech earlier this week, Holder described the dual personal perspective he brought to the job and how it applies to the Ferguson shooting. He said he has the utmost respect for police as a former prosecutor and the brother of an officer, but added, “As an African-American man who has been stopped and searched by police in situations where such actions were not warranted, I also carry with me an understanding of the mistrust that some citizens harbor.” Holder told the Associated Press in an interview that he’s not sure whether the Justice Department will finish its investigation into the shooting before he leaves. Holder said “I don’t want to rush them” and once out of office, he will direct attention to “issues that have animated me” during his tenure, including criminal justice and civil rights. Holder said his biggest regret was “the failure to pass any responsible and reasonable gun safety legislation after the shootings in Newtown and thought after the Connecticut shooting that the nation would embrace change that was “not radical but really reasonable” on gun ownership. As the article reports: “He was a lightning rod for conservative critics and faced a succession of controversies over, among other things, an ultimately abandoned plan to try terrorism suspects in New York City, a botched gun-running probe along the Southwest border that prompted Republican calls for his resignation, and what was seen as a failure to hold banks accountable for the financial system’s near-meltdown. Stung by criticism that the department hadn’t been aggressive enough in targeting financial misconduct, Holder in the past year and a half secured criminal guilty pleas from two foreign banks and multibillion-dollar civil settlements with American banks arising from the sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities. Even then, critics noted that no individuals were held accountable.” Jim Kuhnhenn sums up the legacy of the nation’s first black attorney general and one of President Barack Obama’s longest servicing Cabinet member in his article Holder’s legacy: counterterrorism to civil rights:

TERRORISM

“Holder declared that waterboarding was torture, ordered a review of CIA interrogations, and defended the use of drone strikes overseas. His Justice Department successfully prosecuted terrorism suspects, including Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. He was widely criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for his plan to try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged co-conspirators in New York, a plan he ultimately dropped.”

CIVIL RIGHTS

“He fought against voter ID laws, urged federal prosecutors to shy away from seeking mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent criminals, introduced new clemency criteria and backed proposals to give leniency to certain drug convicts. He also advanced legal protections for gay couples, declaring in 2011 that the Justice Department no longer would defend the constitutionality of a 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.”

DEATH PENALTY

“Though not a proponent of the death penalty, Holder approved pursuing capital punishment in numerous federal cases. But in the aftermath of a botched execution earlier this year in Oklahoma, Obama asked Holder to study the protocols used by states in applying the death penalty. The Justice Department already was reviewing practices used by the Bureau of Prisons and had placed a moratorium on federal executions.”

FERGUSON

“Holder became the administration’s point man in the federal response to the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. He ordered a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. In the shooting’s aftermath, Holder also enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement.”

FAST AND FURIOUS

“Holder became the first Cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress amid a dispute over document production in a long-running congressional investigation of a flawed law enforcement gun-smuggling probe along the Southwest border.”

MEDIA CRACKDOWN

“Under Holder’s watch, the Justice Department cracked down on news media reporting on national security matters. The department secretly subpoenaed phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors and used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist as part of a separate leak investigation.”

While Obama has received several blows in recent years to his Cabinet that ended with resignations, the fight for fairness and accountability in America seems to be on an upswing regarding business practices in the public and private sector. Janet McConnaughey reports, Businesses won’t have to return BP spill payouts, a federal judge Wednesday said that the oil giant BP must stand by its agreement with companies to compensate them for losses blamed on the 2010 Gulf oil spill. BP argues that the flawed funding formula enabled nearly 800 businesses to overestimate their spill related claims. Attorney Kevin Downey argued about 150 claimants should return a total of $185 million and overpayments to the rest haven’t been calculated. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agreed weeks ago to change the compensation formula for any future payments, but ruled Wednesday that a deal is a deal when it comes to the money BP has already paid out. Under that deal, claimants agreed not to sue, and BP agreed that no future court action could change their payments. Company spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “BP disagrees with today’s decision and will appeal it. We asked the Court, as a matter of equity and fairness, to order the return of excessive payments.” Barbier said he would rule later on the issue of compensation for cleanup workers whose chronic medical problems weren’t diagnosed until after the deal’s cutoff date of April 16, 2012. The settlement entitled cleanup workers with chronic conditions including rashes and breathing problems to receive up to $60,700 if the problems first surfaced within days of their cleanup work. Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst for Raymond James, said, “In 2010 and 2011, BP was willing to cut any deal necessary with anyone to reduce its legal risk. Now the company is taking a more assertive approach.” The judge’s ruling this month that BP showed gross negligence and willful misconduct added a new level of uncertainty around BP’s spill-related expenses, reducing its market value by $9 billion in a single day. BP’s total potential liabilities now include up to $18 billion in fines and penalties that could be imposed for violating federal pollution laws, and more than $27 billion BP says it has already paid to restore the coast and settle damage claims. The claims office said it has paid $4.1 billion to more than 50,700 people and businesses as of Wednesday, and it’s not done yet – the settlement fund is not capped. Meanwhile, the U.S. must pay $554 million to the Navajo Nation for mismanaging reservation resources and leaving the largest Native American tribe in the country at incredible disadvantages for decades, according to the AOL article, U.S. Will Pay $554M Settlement to Navajo Nation. The payout negotiated earlier this year is the largest payout to a tribe in U.S. history and tribal leaders say the payout is much needed, reports Ben Shelly via YouTube. Spread across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the Navajo Nation has more than 300,000 members. The region is rich with natural resources like oil, gas and coal, other resources like water and agriculture land are scarce, the Navajo Tourism Department state. In a video via Indian Country Today, the Navajo lawsuit from 1946 to 2012 said the U.S. didn’t negotiate the best deals from companies mining natural resources from the region and didn’t make sure the Navajos were compensated properly. A CCTV investigation in 2012 found that more than 40 percent of the nation’s members lived without running water or electricity. This is another in a long line of settlements by the Obama administration with Native Americans, who had tried in vain for generations to battle government practices and a system that dated back to the 1800s. The Washington Post reports many tribes with pending litigation wrote to President Obama in 2009 asking the administration to expedite settlements instead of going to court. On the minimum wage front, Claire Zillman reports, 101-year-old law puts minimum wage at heart of Wisconsin governor’s race, a complaint filed with thew state’s department of workplace development Wednesday, by 100 low wage workers and the group Wisconsin Jobs Now, argues that the state’s $7.25 minimum wage violates a 1913 law unique to Wisconsin that requires that the state minimum wage “shall not be less than a living wage,” which is defined as one that ensures “reasonable comfort, reasonable physical well-being, decency, and moral well-being.” The filing is an attempt to force the hand of Governor Scoot Walker on the state’s minimum wage and by law required the administration’s department of workplace development, whose secretary was appointed by Walker, must determine if there’s a basis for a minimum wage hike within 20 day. The timing of the filing comes amidst a fierce race between Walker, who opposes a minimum wage hike, and his opponent in the race for governor, Democrat Mary Burke. A Marquette Law School poll from late August showed Walker leading narrowly by three points. In a statement to Fortune, Walker’s office said the workplace development department is reviewing the complaint: “Governor Walker wants jobs in Wisconsin that pay two or three times the minimum wage. He is focused on finding ways to help employers create jobs that pay far more than the minimum wage or any other proposed minimum.” While the “living wage” law is unique to Wisconsin, there are four other states—California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts—that give the governor the power to increase the minimum wage, according to NELP. On Thursday, Tom Huddleston Jr. reported, Dow Jones plunges more than 260 points amid massive market sell-off, all 30 Dow companies lost value making it one of the worst trading days this year amid investor concern about global instability and the possibility of higher interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 264 points, or 1.5%, to close below the 17,000-point mark at 16,945.80. All 30 companies on the blue-chip index saw their shares drop. JPMorgan Chase JPM and UnitedHealth Group UNH saw the biggest declines among Dow Jones companies, dropping 2.4% and 2.3%, respectively. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell 1.6% and 1.9%, respectively, as each index has now declined in four of the past five days of trading. The reason for the fall as Huddleston Jr. reports is due the Obama administration announcement of regulations aimed at fighting corporate tax inversions and the U.S.-led airstrikes conducted in Syria. In addition, reports of a leadership change in China’s central bank and the announcement on Thursday by Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, that the U.S. Federal Reserve could start raising interest rates in spring 2015 sooner than expected has created uncertainty among investors.

While big names in the political and business arena suffered minor set back this week, the people in the trenches so to speak have been dealt an even bigger blow only adding to the already heightened racial tensions and well deserved criticism of the justice system. CNN reports, No indictment in police shooting death of Ohio man carrying air rifle, the grand jury in Ohio has decided not to indict police officers for an August shooting death of a 22 year old man carrying an air rifle at a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio. On Wednesday, prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said, “The grand jury listened to all the evidence, voted on it and decided that the police officers were justified in their use of force that day.” In a statement, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the U.S. Justice Department will review the shooting of Cincinnati resident John Crawford III: “Now that the state criminal investigation has finished, it is an appropriate time for the United States Department of Justice to look into whether any federal laws were violated during this shooting.” In a statement, Michael Wright, attorney representing the Crawford family, said: “It makes absolutely no sense that an unarmed 22-year-old man would be killed doing what any American citizen does every day: Shopping at a Walmart store. The Crawford family is extremely disappointed, disgusted and confused. They are heartbroken that justice was not done in the tragic death of their only son. The Crawford family feels they have been victimized all over again and once again request that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation into the tragic death of John H. Crawford, lll.” According to the report: “Crawford was shot and killed by police at a Walmart in Beavercreek on August 5 while carrying an air rifle through the store. Police responded to the scene after a witness called 911 and told dispatchers that Crawford was walking around with a rifle and ‘waving it back and forth.’ According to police, when officers arrived, Crawford did not comply with their commands to drop his weapon. He was shot twice, once in the elbow and once in the torso, Piepmeier said. Crawford died shortly after being transported to a nearby hospital. His death was ruled a homicide by gunshot wound to the torso, according to the local coroner’s office.” Prosecutors showed surveillance video from inside the store, which was made public on Wednesday. The two police officers involved, Sgt. David Darkow and Officer Sean Williams, have been on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but Darkow returned to active duty, according to Beavercreek city attorney Stephen McHugh. Williams will be assigned to administrative desk duty until a federal review of the circumstances surrounding Crawford’s death is complete, according to a statement. Wright said Walmart surveillance video and eyewitness accounts prove Williams “shot and killed Mr. Crawford while his back was turned and without adequate warning.” Beavercreek City Manager Michael Cornell and Police Chief Dennis Evers have requested that the FBI review the case to determine whether there were civil rights violations, the statement said. The nine-member grand jury, which convened on Monday, heard from 18 witnesses. An indictment on charges of murder, reckless homicide or negligent homicide would have required seven votes, Piepmeier said. Meanwhile, Ryan Gorman reports, White SC Trooper faces 20 years in prison for shooting unarmed black male, a newly released video shows a white South Carolina A State Trooper shooting an unarmed black male who was reaching for his driver’s license. Lance Corporal Sean Groubert, 31, was fired from the force and has been charged with a felony in the wrongful shooting of Levar Jones, who luckily survived the incident. Groubert pulled Jones over September 4 for a seat belt violation and shot the man without any provocation, according to The State. The former cop faces 20 years in prison if convicted. Jones was not armed and showed no aggression toward Groubert. Luckily, Jones was shot in the hip, but not seriously hurt and was released from the hospital by the time Groubert was fired last Friday. The disgraced officers was arrested Wednesday and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature with a bond set at $75,000, records showed. Unfortunately, the incident comes on the heels of other high profile cases that involved the shooting of unarmed black men by police this summer, most notably the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

As for the Ferguson, Missouri case, 47 days after the incident, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has apologized to the parents of the unarmed black teen shot dead by one of his cops, Ryan Gorman reports, Ferguson police chief apologizes for Michael Brown shooting — 47 days later. During a Thursday morning press conference, according to St. Louis television station KMBC, Jackson said, “I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street.” He added his investigators had to secure the crime scene and collect evidence, but the four hours Brown’s body laid in the street was unacceptable. Jackson ended by saying that the investigating officers meant no disrespect to the Brown family, the African American community or the people of Canfield, where Brown lived and was shot. The aftermath of the Brown shooting brought national attention as civil rights leaders and protesters took the streets to express their anger and clashed with police in the process. Regarding this matter, Jackson apologized for the inadequate protection for peaceful protesters as riots raged around them. He said, “The right of the people to peacefully assemble is what the police are here to protect. If anyone was exercising that right and is upset or angry, I feel responsible.” Things had calmed down in the weeks after Brown was laid to rest, however, flared again this week when his memorial caught fire. This lead to violence as protestors armed with guns, rocks and bottles attacked police, according to reports. Thieves vandalized and looted stores with one store was almost set on fire with gasoline. On Thursday, several protestors were arrested after Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson began marching with he crowd and a scuffle broke out near him, CNN and St. Louis television station KMOV reported. Carey Gillam reports, Police, protesters clash at rally in Ferguson, protestors have pledged continued civil unrest until Wilson is arrested and charged in Brown’s death, while a grand jury in St. Louis County is examining the case and the U.S. Justice Department. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s parents, declined to comment on Jackson’s apology. Brown’s parents were in Washington on Thursday calling for federal legislation requiring police officers to wear body cameras to document their activities.

U.S. Attempts to Fight Ebola, Ukraine Ratifies Landmark Deal Amid Russian Sanctions and U.S. Steps Up Plans to Fight ISIS as al-Qaeda Expands

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The ravages of the Ebola virus can easily be seen in West Africa six months on, but the outbreak has become more dire in recent weeks as death tolls rise and health officials warn of a potential global disaster. In an effort to contain the virus, the United States will send thousands of military personnel to aid the region’s crippled health care system which marks a major milestone in the effort to fight the disease. Nick Robins Early reports, 14 Numbers That Show The Magnitude Of The World’s Worst Ebola Outbreak, how devastating the medical crisis has become in West Africa through a collection of revealing stats on the fight against Ebola. The numbers are as follows:

2,400 – The number of estimated Ebola deaths as of Sept. 12, 2014.

4,784 – The total number of Ebola cases reported as of Sept. 12, 2014. Due to many unreported cases, this figure is thought to be less than the actual number of people infected with the virus.

2 – The age of the Guinean boy who some researchers think may have been “patient zero” in the Ebola outbreak. Scientists believe humans originally caught the virus from a sick animal.

5 – The number of West African nations that have reported cases of Ebola. A sixth nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has also suffered from an Ebola outbreak, although it is a different strain from the one that originated in Guinea.

12-18 – The number of months that U.S. scientists predict the outbreak will last under current conditions.

20,000 – The number of Ebola cases that the World Health Organization estimates could occur by the time the virus is contained. It should be noted, however, that these type of long-term projections are prone to uncertainties and can vary. A recent New York Times report says that researchers at various universities predict the number could be more like 20,000 in a single month.

12,750 – The total number of health workers that the World Health Organization has called for in order to stem the outbreak and treat people infected with the virus.

3,000 – The number of U.S. military personnel that the United States is expected to send to West Africa to assist in medical training, distribution of aid and the building of health care facilities.

$1,000,000,000 – The estimated global resources needed for the next six months in the fight against Ebola, according to U.N. officials. This is a 10-fold increase from just a month ago, and is what the U.N. says is needed just to keep the outbreak contained to tens of thousands of people.

400,000 – The number of home protective kits that the United States reportedly plans to distribute to the four West African nations most affected by the outbreak.

178 – The number of days since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization by Guinea’s health officials.

52 percent – The approximate fatality rate of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Given access to proper medical treatment, especially adequate fluid replacement, the fatality rate of the Ebola outbreak can be significantly lowered.

1,700 – The number of beds that the new U.S. aid effort will reportedly aim to set up in Liberia, one of the hardest hit nations.

0 – The number of beds currently available to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, according to World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan.

The Obama administration is preparing to send 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to aid in the Ebola crisis and supply logistical and medical support to local health care systems and boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat patients, according to Jim Kuhnhenn, US to assign 3,000 from US military to fight Ebola. President Obama announced the effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as the outbreak could spread and mutate into more easily transmitted disease. The announcement comes amid regional and aid organization appeals for the U.S. to increase their role in com batting the outbreak that has claimed 2,200 people. Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:

– Train as many as 500 health care workers a week.

– Erect 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.

– Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between U.S. and international relief efforts.

– Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.

– Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.

The officials, under the condition of anonymity, said the plan would cost $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa. In addition, they said it would take two weeks to get U.S. forces on the ground. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee, said, “This humanitarian intervention should serve as a firewall against a global security crisis that has the potential to reach American soil.” The countries hardest hit include Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, while the virus has reached Nigeria and Senegal. The U.S. will provide medics and corpsmen for treatment and training, engineers to help erect the treatment facilities and specialists in logistics to assist in patient transportation. The visit to the CDC by Obama came a day after the U.S. demanded international aid response to step up. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called Monday for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, warning that the potential risk of the virus could “set the countries of West Africa back a generation.” The meeting Thursday with the Security Council marks a rare occasion when a public health crisis is addressed rather than threats to peace and security, according to Power. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the council with World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan and Dr. David Nabarro, the recently named U.N. coordinator to tackle the disease, as well as representatives from the affected countries. The Senate also weighed in Tuesday with a hearing to examine the U.S. response and an American missionary doctor who survived the disease set to testify. Four Americans have been treated for Ebola in the U.S. after evacuation. The U.S. has already spent $100 million responding to the outbreak and offered to operate treatment centers for patients. Additionally, Obama will be briefed on cases of respiratory illness being reported in the Midwest where public health officials are monitoring a high number of reported illness associated with human enterovirus 68 in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere. Lauran Neergaard reports, Ebola survivor: No time to waste as Obama ups aid, on Tuesday, Dr. Kent Brantly told senators: “We can’t afford to wait months, or even weeks, to take action, to put people on the ground.” Under the plan, the government could end up spending $1 billion to contain the disease. Obama after his briefing with doctors from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and from Emory University, he said: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people affected, with profound economic, political and security implications for all of us.” World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said, “This massive ramp-up of support from the United States is precisely the kind of transformational change we need to get a grip on the outbreak and begin to turn it around.” Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors without Borders, said, “The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind and too many lives are being lost. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater concrete action on the ground, and we need it now.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Obama’s plan, his spokesman said in a statement, and called on the international community “to be as bold and courageous in its response as those who are on the front lines fighting this disease.” Congress still needs to vote on Obama’s request for $88 million more to help fight the disease including funding CDC work in West Africa through December and speeding development of experimental treatments and vaccines. Late Tuesday, the Obama administration submitted a request to reprogram $500 million in Pentagon money for the Ebola effort. Meanwhile in Britain, the Associated Press reports, 1st UK volunteer gets experimental Ebola vaccine, a former nurse has become the first person in the country to receive an experimental Ebola vaccine in an early trial to test its safety. Ruth Atkins, 48, received the shot Wednesday in Oxford, the first of 60 healthy volunteers in the U.K. who will receive the vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline and targets the Zaire strain of Ebola that caused the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. A trial of the same vaccine has already begun in the U.S. The vaccine is meant to spark the immune system’s production of Ebola antibodies and does not contain infectious material. In a statement, trial leader Adrian Hill of Oxford University, said, “Witnessing the events in Africa makes it clear that developing new drugs and vaccines against Ebola should now be an urgent priority.” Hill and colleagues hope the trial will finish at the end of 2014 and could be used to vaccinate health workers in West African if proven safe and effective. Faith Karimi reports, Ebola patients buying survivors’ blood from black market, WHO warns, desperate patients are buying blood from survivors of the virus on the black market, the World Health Organization warns. The WHO reports, “Studies suggest blood transfusions from survivors might prevent or treat Ebola virus infection in others, but the results of the studies are still difficult to interpret. It is not known whether antibodies in the plasma of survivors are sufficient to treat or prevent the disease. More research is needed.” Convalescent serum used to treat patients such as American aid worker Rick Sacra who received blood from Kent Brantly who survived Ebola has been effective. However, patients in affected nations are getting blood through improper channels which could lead to the spread of other infections such as HIV and other blood related ailments. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general, said this week: “We need to work very closely with the affected countries to stem out black market trading of convalescent serum for two reasons. Because it is in the interest of individuals not to just get convalescent serum without … going through the proper standard and the proper testing because it is important that there may be other infectious vectors that we need to look at.” Meanwhile, a French volunteer with Doctors Without Borders contracted Ebola in Liberia and will be taken for treatment in France by a private American plan, according to the organization.

In Ukraine, on Tuesday, lawmakers strengthened their ties to Europe and loosened control over the country’s rebellious east region where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels has left 3,000 people dead and returned Western and Russian relations back to the Cold War era, the Associate Press reports, Ukraine lawmakers ratify landmark deal with Europe. The deal lowers trade tariffs between Europe and Ukraine. requires Ukrainian goods to meet European regulatory standards and forces Kiev to undertake major political and economic reforms. President Petro Poroshenko called the vote a “first but very decisive step” toward bringing Ukraine fully into the European Union. In a live broadcast after the deal was made, Poroshenko said the protesters who died in clashes with riot police in Kiev and government troops who died fighting the rebels “have died not only for their motherland. They gave up their lives for us to take a dignified place among the European family.” He continued, “After World War II, not a single nation has paid such a high price for their right to be European. Can you tell me, who now after this will be brave enough to shut the doors to Europe in front of Ukraine?” Earlier Tuesday, parliament also approved laws granting temporary self rule to pro-Russian region in the east as well as amnesty for those involved in the fighting. One law calls for three years of self rule in parts of eastern Ukraine and for local elections in November. A separate bill calls for amnesty for those involved in the fighting in the east, but not those suspected or charged with crimes including murder, sabotage, rape, kidnapping and terrorism. The law could exclude those who tried to kill Ukrainian law enforcement officials and servicemen meaning many of the separatists who waged war for five months. Although Poroshenko did not mention the bills in his speech, he later said according to Interfax-Ukraine that he felt “we are obliged to take a step to ensure that the other side takes corresponding steps” toward peace. Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the rebels in the Donetsk region, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that the separatist leadership would study the measures, an unusually conciliatory statement compared to the rebels’ previous assertions that they aim for complete independence. The U.S. state Department and Vicd President Joe Biden congratulated Ukrainian lawmakers and leaders. Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman at the State Department, said, “By forging ahead with this agreement in the face of great challenges, Ukraine’s leaders have carried out the will of the Ukrainian people, who demonstrated their overwhelming support for further integration with Europe last winter and with their votes in the May 25 presidential elections.” The passage of the measures came as Poroshenko begins his first state visit to Canada and the U.S., where he will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday and is also scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly next week. Martin Schulz, the president of the EU Parliament, said, “The message this sends could not be clearer: the European Parliament supports Ukraine in its European vocation. The European Parliament will continue defending a united and sovereign Ukraine.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said the military will increase its forces in Crimea due to the “exacerbation of situation in Ukraine and increased foreign military presence near our borders.” Also on Tuesday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Russian ruble drops to historic low amid sanctions, Russian currency dropped to all time low against the dollars as investors worry bout the fallout of economic sanctions. The United States and the European Union last week imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia for its action in Ukraine such as blocking off Western financial markets to key Russian companies and limiting imports of some technologies. Economist Alexei Kudrin, who served as finance minister under President Vladimir Putin for 11 years until 2011, said Tuesday that the sanctions could send Russia’s economy into recession for one or two years. Interfax quoted him as saying, “The sanctions that have been imposed are going to have an effect (on the economy) for the next one or two years because they have limited opportunities for investment in this uncertain environment.” Vasilyeva reports: “Among the most recent sanctions, the United States on Friday tightened the maximum credit duration for a number state-owned Russian companies and banks to 30 days, effectively shutting off Russia from long-term loans. The U.S. and the EU indicated, however, they may reverse some of the sanctions if they see that Moscow is supporting peace process in Ukraine, where more than 3,000 died since mid-April.” Jitters over the impact of the US. EU sanctions were fueled by reports that the Russian government is preparing more import bans that could hurt Russian consumer spending. Russian in August imposed an import ban on dairy products, meat and vegetables from the European Union and the United States, causing prices to shoot up for selected foods.

While Ukraine tries to rebuild a fragile and devastated government, the U.S. continues to implement its plan for ISIS. U.S. officials on Monday said the United States took its first step in its plan to expand the fight against the extremist group, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces near Baghdad who were under attack, the Associated Press reports, First U.S. airstrikes in expanded Iraq fight. The U.S. Central Command said on Sunday two airstrikes were conducted in support of Iraqi forces near Sinjar and southwest Baghdad. The strikes authorized by President Barack Obama represent a new offensive against the group to protect not only U.S. interest and personnel, but directly support Iraqi forces fighting militants. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to stop American extremist from joining terrorist groups like ISIS during a presentation Monday, but details are a little fuzzy, according to the AOL article, Holder announces plan to stop Americans from joining ISIS. HOLDER VIA U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: “Ultimately the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective and inclusive ways to build a more just, secure and free society that all Americans deserve.” He said his plan will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders and U.S. attorneys in hopes of building a broad network to keep the nation safe. Other nations have taken steps involving local officials such as British Prime Minister David Cameron who asked his government to pass legislation that allows law enforcement to seize the passport of anyone suspected of traveling to support ISIS, while Germany banned its citizens from any activities supporting the group. The International Centre for Radicalization estimates more than 11,000 Western Europeans have traveled to fight with Syrian rebels. Maria Golovnna reports, New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack, Al Qaeda’s South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group. The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, said: “These mujahideen had taken control of the Pakistani ship, and they were advancing towards the American fleet when the Pakistani army stopped them. As a result, the mujahideen, the lions of Allah and benefactors of the Ummah, sacrificed their lives for Allah, and the Pakistani soldiers spoiled their hereafter by giving up their lives in defense of the enemies of the Ummah the Americans.” The naval yard on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast is a strategic facility at the cent of the U.S. Pakistani security, anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking cooperation. The Pakistani Taliban, allied with al-Qaeda, said the Sept.6 attack was carried out with the help of insiders leading to the arrest of a number of navy personnel on suspicion of collaborating with attackers. Back in the U.S., Republican controlled House voted to give U.S. military authority to train and arm Syrian rebels Wednesday, David Espo and Donna Cassata report, House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels. The provision will be added to spending legislation to assure the federal government runs normally after Sept.30 end of the budget year and final approval in the Senate may come as earl as Thursday. It grants Obama authority until Dec.11 and gives Congress plenty of time to return to the issue in a post-election session set to begin mid-November. The Senate will vote only once on the legislation combining approval for arming and training rebels with the no shutdown federal spending provisions. Testifying before a Senate Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry said the forces seeking to create an Islamic state ” must be defeated. Period. End of story.” The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. In France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that his country was ready to take part int he airstrikes in Iraq if needed, the Associated Press reports, France ready to participate in Iraq airstrikes. He spoke in Paris before President Barack Obama was expected to outline Washington’s plans for fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. France has said it will join a U.S. led coalition in Iraq and send arms to Kurdish authorities to fight militants. The French president and foreign minister are going to Iraq Friday and hosting an international conference Monday on how to stop the group and help Iraq. Fabius said that “we will participate, if necessary, in military air action” in Iraq, according to a text provided by the French Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Fabius said people should not refer to the group as the Islamic State since they do not represent Islam or a state and started to refer to the group Wednesday as Daesh, the acronym in Arabic for its full former name, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking to lawmakers, Fabius said “the determination of the Daesh butchers is strong. Ours must be even stronger.” Egypt’s top Islamic authority also said the group should not be called the Islamic State.

Minimum Wage Debate Intensifies As Election Nears, Ferguson Shooting Appears Black and White and Ku Klux Klan Finds a New Way to Recruit

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With re-elections and elections on the minds of many political hopefuls and political veterans, the minimum wage debate continues to heat up among incumbents and their would be opponents. As Jim Kuhnhenn reports, Obama: ‘Revving’ up economy calls for higher wages, President Obama on Monday renewed his push for a minimum wage increase from Congress delivering the speech on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for midterm congressional elections. He told a union crowd in Milwaukee: “America deserves a raise. By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office. The engines are revving a little louder.” The purpose of his pep talk was to help Democrats facing tough races and draw campaign contrasts with Republicans who maintain an increase would hurt small business and slow hiring. Despite no federal increase, 13 states raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year and adding jobs faster than those that did not. Obama gave his Labor Day speech in Wisconsin where the fight over collective bargaining rights of public employees has taken center stage. The Republican Governor, Scott Walker, recently stripped most public sector union members of their ability to collectively bargain and faces a tight re-election campaign with Democrat Mary Burke with election over two months away. The White House is encouraging Democrats to talk about the recovery as they head into November mid-term elections. The numbers for August included more than 200,000 jobs created per month for six consecutive months, a six-year high in auto sales, second-quarter economic growth that exceeded expectations and an expanding manufacturing sector, unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, dropping 1.1 points over the past year, and the stock market has nearly tripled in five years. According to the liberal Economic Policy Institute, there are significant weakness in the labor market including the long term unemployed, lower labor participation and real hourly wages fell from the first half of 2013 to the first half of 2014 for all income groups, except for a 2-cent increase for the lowest income level. A new survey by Rutgers University found that Americans are more anxious about the economy now than right after the recession ended. Meanwhile, Biden, speaking at the annual Labor Day parade in Detroit, said: “A job’s about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, it’s about your place in the community, it’s about who you are. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK.’ That’s what a job is about. You can’t do that unless you get a fair wage. If the middle class is doing fine, everybody does fine,” he said. “The wealthy get very wealthy, and the poor have a way up. Middle class … means you get to own your home. It means you get to send your kid to a decent school, that if they do well and they want to go to college, you can afford to send them to college. It means being able to take care of your parents if they get sick. it means maybe being able to save enough so you hope your kids never have to take care of you. The American people have not stopped dreaming. The American people have not walked away from what they believe they are entitled to. Just give them a chance — no handout, just give them a chance,” Biden said. “Once you give Americans a chance, they have never, never, never, never ever let their country down.” While the president and vice president talk about the minimum wage issue to people who deal with it everyday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has decided two months ahead of the midterm elections to live on Illinois’ minimum wage which is $8.25 an hour, according to AOL, Why Is Gov. Pat Quinn Living Off Minimum Wage For A Week? In addition, he said $79 is what someone living on minimum wage has left over after expenses such as taxes and housing. This is ahead of a November referendum to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour. ​The governor, who WFLD reports made $177,000 last year, has been supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Other Democrats who also support this cause include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. Many believe this is election motivated, according to the Chicago Sun Times, a recent poll found 38 percent of voters in Illinois support Quinn for re-election while nearly 51 percent of voters say they support his Republican challenger. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided. Gallup’s poll last year found 76 would vote for a hike. His Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner is also in favor of an increase with “pro-business reforms” that the Chicago Tribune reports would include tort reform, worker’s compensation reform and a cut in taxes for businesses.

While candidates worry about re-election, McDonald’s. Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants are expected to be targeted with acts of civil disobedience on Thursday as labor organizers escalate their campaign to unionize the industry’s workers, Candice Choi reports, Civil disobedience expected in fast-food pay fight. Kendall Fells, an organizing director for Fast Food Forward, said workers in a couple of dozen cities were trained to peacefully engage in civil disobedience ahead of this week’s planned protests. A spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, which has been spearheading the protests, said home health care aides will join the actions in some locations. The “Fight for $15” campaign has gained national attention at a time when growing income disparities have become a hot political issue with many workers only making $7.25 per hour equating to $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week. Catherine Fisk, a professor of labor law at the University of California in Irvine, said, “The goal is to persuade workers that it doesn’t have to be this way. The goal is to persuade consumers that it doesn’t have to be this way. This is about getting attention to the issue.” The National Restaurant Association, in a statement, said that the fast food protests are attempts by unions “to boost their dwindling membership.” The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests this week. Several lawsuits claiming wage theft by McDonald’s and its franchises have been filed in three states on behalf of workers. McDonald’s Corp. has said it would investigate the claims.

As the fight for fair wages continues, another fight for racial equality continues in the suburb of Ferguson as many do not see a gray area in the shooting of Michael Brown. Jesse Washington reports, No gray area: Beliefs shape view of Brown killing, many Americans see the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson as black and white with no gray area with many convinced there was no justification for Wilson to kill Brown because he was unarmed and others see it as justified because Brown threatened Wilson. In a CBS News and New York Times poll, 64 percent said they didn’t know enough to say if the shooting was justified and only half said they paid attention to the case. About 100 Wilson backers nearly all white gathered outside Barney’s Sports Pub in St. Louis late last month carrying signs like “Heroes Have A Right To Protect Themselves,” while a multiracial group of about a dozen Brown supporters stood across the street. Passing drivers honked in support of one side or the other, screamed obscenities, or raised middle fingers out of windows, Washington reports. Lou Manza, chair of the psychology department at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, said in an email: “If one were to view a police officer pointing a gun at someone, and they also view police negatively, they may very well ignore whatever events precipitated the officer drawing his/her weapon, even though that action may have been entirely justifiable. On the other side, if one has a favorable view of police, they’re going to ignore the alleged assailant’s behavior, and simply assume that the police officer is correct, despite the fact that the officer may very well be wrong and unjustified in their actions. Confirmation bias is a subtle but strong effect and once a belief is established, it can be VERY difficult to change it.” The same can be said for others cases filled with racial controversy such as O.J. Simpson, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin where people loked at the same information and came to different conclusions.

Meanwhile, one of the most infamous and oldest hate groups in the country, the Ku Klux Klan, appears to have stepped up its recruitment using the hot top of immigration as its platform, according to an AOL report, Ku Klux Klan steps up recruitment, focuses on immigration. Multiple CNN affiliated report the Ku Klux Klan spreads its new message using flyers and candy stuff ziploc bags to attract recruits in the past couple of month around the U.S. including the Hamptons in New York and neighborhoods in South Carolina, Texas and Orange County, California. According to KTLA, the flyers include “SAVE OUR LAND. JOIN THE KLAN.” According to WHNS, the KKK hotline recording say, “Be a man, join the Klan. Illegal immigration is the story of America. Always remember: if it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power.” Robert Jones, head of one of New York’s KKK chapters told the New York Times: “A lot of Americans are fed up with immigration right now. … This immigration problem… is destroying this place. I have never seen the Klan expanding the way it is now.” Despite those claims, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says since the 1970s, the historically violent group has been “weakened” due to internal problems, court cases and from the government stepping in.

Israeli Citizens Flee the Border, Ukraine Faces New Challenges, and New Threats to U.S. Security

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Tens of thousands of Israelis are fleeing their homes near the border of Gaza as fear and frustration grow in a war between Israel and Hamas that appears to have no end in site. The government on Monday has offered assistance in the first large scale voluntary evacuation in the eight week war with the school year fast approaching, Ian Deitch reports, Gaza attacks triggers Israeli exodus from border. Officials estimate 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left including hundreds on Monday. According to Gaza officials, the fighting has killed 2,100 Palestinians, leveled thousands of buildings and left tens of thousands displaced. The death toll on the Israeli side has remained low due to air raid sirens, bomb shelters and the Iron Dome missile defense system. In a TV interview Sunday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, “It is their right to leave, and we will assist them with temporary solutions. The state of Israel will not run away from terror organizations. It fights terror organizations.” Israeli education officials said the children will be absorbed into areas schools, but Tamir Idan, a regional council head in southern Israel, said schools will not open next week if rocket fire persists. The fighting in Gaza has caused more disruption to students as officials have delayed the start of classes which should of started on Sunday.The Israeli military said it carried out 65 airstrikes Monday, while the Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel. Palestinian health officials said seven people were killed, while one Israeli was wounded by Palestinian fire.

On Tuesday, meanwhile in Ukraine, Ukrainian military reportedly captured a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed into Ukrainian territory on a mission, but Moscow claims they ended up there by mistake, Andrei Makhovsky and Alessandra Prentice report, Ukraine Releases Footage Of Captured Russian Soldiers. In addition, the military reports pro-Russian separatist forces were shelling the town of Novoazovsk and buildings were ablaze with 12 Ukrainian soldiers killed and 19 wounded in the past 24 hours, according to military spokesman Andriy Lysenko. Earlier, the security services released video footage claiming that it shows testimonies from Russian paratroopers detained by the Ukrainian government forces while fighting with pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine. The video provides the strongest evidence so far to back up claims by Kiev that Russia is involved in the conflict and the intensified fighting in the east overshadowed the meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Russia denies giving military help and a Russian defense source, quoted by RIA Novosti, said the servicemen had strayed into Ukrainian territory by mistake during border patrol. Lysenko in a briefing stated, “It wasn’t a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out.” In the footage posted to Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation Facebook page, one of the soldiers who identified himself as Ivan Milchakov listed his personal details including the name of the paratroop regiment based in the Russian Town of Kostroma. In the video, he said: “I did not see where we crossed the border. They just told us we were going on a 70-kilometer march over three days. Everything is different here, not like they show it on television. We’ve come as cannon fodder.” Another man named Sergeant Aleksei Generalov said: “Stop sending in our boys. Why? This is not our war. And if we weren’t here, none of this would have happened. They would have sorted things out with the government themselves.” Social network pages appear to corroborate the men’s story that they are active in the Russian military. The Russian soldiers were detained with personal documents and weapons near Amvrosiyivka in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian state security service reports. Lysenko said Russian Mi-24 helicopters has fired on a border post Monday killing four border guards, while rebel forces backed by an armored column allegedly moved across the border from Russia attacked Novoazovsk on Monday aiming to open up a new front. In a Facebook post, Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said: “Officially they are on military exercises in various corners of Russia. In reality they are involved in military aggression against Ukraine.” The same day, Tuesday, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine sat down for talks meeting fact to face for the first time since June to discuss the fighting that has engulfed Ukraine’s east. Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Putin sits down with Ukrainian president for talks, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko were joined by the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan and three senior officials from the European Union in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. As talks began, Poroshenko said: “The fate of my country and Europe is being decided here in Minsk today. The interests of Donbass (eastern Ukraine) have been and will be taken into account.” Opening the meeting, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko urged both sides to “discard political ambitions and not to seek political dividend.” Ukraine wants the rebels to hand back the territory they captured in eastern Ukraine, while Putin wants to retain leverage over the mostly Russian speaking region so Ukraine does not join NATO or the European Union. THe fighting in eastern Ukraine began in April and has killed 2,000 people, 726 Ukrainian servicemen and forced 340,000 to flee, according to the U.N.

While internationally Ukraine has faced many challenges and criticism from rivals and allies, internal conflict has forced Poroshenko to dissolve parliament and call for new elections to take place quickly. Jim Heintz reports, Ukrainian president dissolves parliament, Ukraine’s president on Monday announced in a statement via his website that he has dissolved parliament and called for early elections on October 26. He said the move was in coherence with the Ukrainian constitution commenting that the ruling coalition collapsed several weeks ago. Poroshenko stated: “Many deputies who are in the Rada (parliament) are direct sponsors or accomplices, that is to say allies of the militant separatists….I have decided to prematurely end the authority of parliament.” Under the law, the election must be held within 60 days of the decree being published.

Back in the Middle East, the Associated Press reported, The US has begun surveillance flights over Syria, the White House and U.S. officials have announce surveillance flights over Syria following President Barack Obama approval, but has yet to approve military actions inside Syria due to lack of intelligence on the militants. Pentagon officials have drafted potential options for the president that include airstrikes, while one official said the administration needs reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights important to obtain data. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria. Dempsey explained: “Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture. The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have … some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward.” The U.S. began launching strikes against the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this month with Obama citing the threat to American personnel in the country and the humanitarian crisis in the north, while top Pentagon officials said the only way the threat from militants can be eliminated is to attack the group in Syria as well. The president has tried to avoid getting involved in Syria’s long standing bloody civil war, however, due to the execution of American journalist James Foley in Syria and the group threatening to kill other U.S. citizens held in Syria, the president has changed his tune. Dempsey said the U.S. has been meeting with allies in the region to help develop a better understanding of the threat and believes those talks are setting “the conditions for some kind of coalition to form.” Dempsey believes key allies in the region will join the U.S. in quashing the Islamic State group including Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Prior to the airstrikes in Iraq, the U.S. had already stepped up air surveillance of the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this year. In addition the administration run some surveillance missions over Syria when an attempted mission to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages failed earlier this summer. A top Syrian official said Monday any U.S. airstrikes without consent from Syria would be considered an aggression. Speaking in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters his government is ready to cooperate and coordinate with any side including the U.S. or join any regional or international alliance against the Islamic group. However, any action taken would be coordinated with the Syrian government adding: “Any strike which is not coordinated with the government will be considered as aggression.” He said Damascus has long warned of the threat of terrorism and the need to cut off resources and funding, but no one listened. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the west will “have to choose what is more important: to change the regime and satisfy personal antipathies with the risk that the situation will crumble, or find pragmatic ways to join efforts against the common threat, which is the same for all of us – terrorism.” Moscow and Damascus have been close allies for decades providing it will weapons and funding to help support Assad through the current conflict. Mustafa Alani, the director of the security and defense department at the Gulf Research Center in Geneva, said: “The Syrian government is trying to say they are on the same side as the international community. The old claim from Day 1 that the Syrians have tried to make is that they are fighting pure terrorism. There’s no revolution, no rebels, no opposition. I don’t see this sort of call being acceptable, especially on the regional level. The Americans might find themselves forced to cooperate under the table with the Syrians. But I don’t think Arab countries will accept Syria as a member of the club fighting the Islamic State.” Referring to the failed attempt at rescuing U.S. citizens held by the militant group, al-Moallem said: “Had there been prior coordination that operation would not have failed.” The minister did condemn the killing of James Foley, but asked: “Has the West ever condemned the massacres by the Islamic State … against our armed forces or citizens?”

The Nationwide Aftermath of the Michael Brown Shooting

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U.S. President Barack Obama has orders the examination of federal programs and funding allowing state and local enforcement to purchase military hardware out of concern at how much equipment was used during the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a senior Obama administration official on Saturday, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal report, Obama orders review of U.S. police use of military hardware. The review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and conducted in coordination with Congress. At the White House news conference Monday, Obama said he wanted to make sure police purchase equipment needed because there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.” A growing number of lawmakers have voiced concerned over the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs facilitated by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. House of Representative lawmakers defeated a bill to halt the 1033 program, which allows the purchase of this equipment, 355-62 vote in June, however concerns about the handling of the crisis in Ferguson have revived the reform effort. The article reports: “The Pentagon has transferred more than $4 billion of equipment including armored vehicles, tents, rifles and night-vision goggles to local and state agencies since 2006, of which about 36 percent involved new equipment. Over the past year alone, the Pentagon said, it has transferred some 600 armored military trucks known as MRAPS that were built for the war in Iraq. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded more than $35 billion in grants over the past decade.” U.S. weapons makers have been eying other markets for years to drum up business for their products developed for the military to offset declines in U.S. and European military spending.

Back in Ferguson, Michael Brown Sr., the fathers of the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a police officer, asked Sunday for protests to pause on the day of his son’s funeral, Mollie Reilly reports, Michael Brown’s Father Asks For Pause In Protests On Day Of Son’s Funeral. He told BuzzFeed, “I would like for no protesting going on. We just want a moment of silence that whole day. Just out of respect for our son.” Saturday marked the two week anniversary of the shooting with Brown’s father telling KSHB regarding officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown: “We’re hurt. There’s no telling what he’s doing. He has his life, but our son is gone.” Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree told NBC, “I think the first thing that needs to happen, you need to arrest Officer Wilson. He shot and killed a man, shot him multiple times. No one knows anything about him, no one knows why he did it.” The Christian Science Monitor points out not all agree that Wilson should be taken into custody as one law professor at Harvard was quoted as saying, “We should not arrest [Officer Darren Wilson] until there’s a substantial level of proof of criminality, even if it appeared that the police acted improperly.” Unfortunately, Missouri’s Defense of Jurisdiction statute fives police officers broad authority to use deadly force in cases when, “He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest” and when the subject “May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.” The Business Insider points out that if Wilson is charged for Brown’s death, his attorney can invoke the law by arguing that he believed Brown posed a serious threat to his life. Wilson’s supporters have started fundraising campaigns for the officer including a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $230,000 and two Facebook pages in support of Wilson have almost 100,000 likes. CNN reports, “It may be until mid-October before the panel gets through all of the evidence. That’s so important to see as much evidence as they can. So if this officer … is charged, it may not happen until then.” Until then, Salon notes that the prosecution has two choices: first, “immediately press charges, issue a warrant for the officer’s arrest and arrest Officer Wilson.” Or it could hold back, then “present the case to a grand jury and see if the grand jury will find probable cause to indict the officer.” Regardless of whether Wilson is soon arrested, the grand jury would still have to find probable cause before he would be indicted. Michael Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday.

As for the man of the hour, Darren Wilson remains a bit of mystery yet many have rallied around the somewhat disgraced officer thanks to the less than fair media coverage of the officer. Wilson supporters agree the media is a perpetrator believing he has been misrepresented and maligned since the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, according to Matt Sledge, Darren Wilson Supporters Rally To Bash Media, Ferguson Protesters. Sharon, one of many people who only offered a first name or no name at all said, “It takes two sides to every story, and I think he has gotten such a bad rap.” A 12 person grand jury began considering whether to indict Wilson for his role in Brown’s death on Wednesday with some supporters expressing sympathy for Brown’s family, while few others, seemed to think the 18 year old should be spared the rush to judgement that Officer Wilson received. There has been three nights of peace in Ferguson following days of violent clashes with police and protestors directly following the shooting. While both black and white protestors have come out every night in Ferguson, no African Americans appeared to attend the pro-Wilson gathering. The Washington Post reported Wilson worked previously at a department that was disbanded by authorities over racial tension in Jennings, Missouri, three years ago when Wilson was a rookie cop. The newspaper described the department as “a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority… not an ideal place to learn how to police.” The city council decided that tensions between officers and black residents were so bad that everyone had to be fired to build a new, more credible department. Just days after Brown was killed, Kajieme Powell, another black man was fatally shot by police after allegedly stealing energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. St. Louis Police said the man was armed with a knife, but raw video of the incident appears contradictory. Later last week, Lieutenant Ray Albers of the St. Ann Police was suspended after being filmed pointing a semi-automatic rifle at a protestor and threatening to kill him. On Aug. 22, St. Louis County officer Dan Page was removed from duty after a video of him making bigoted comments was released.

As Natasha Bach points out, Police Violence Has Been Going On Forever. No Wonder People Are Fed Up With It, the fact remains that the number of people killed by police annually is unknown, but we do know that five unarmed black men have been killed by police in the last month alone. Besides protestors protesting the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, they are voicing their anger at an old police problem namely the violence directed at black and brown people. Besides the Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell shooting, here are a few other instances of excessive force used by police nationwide from Bach’s report:

“The horrific beating of Rodney King by five police officers in Los Angeles in 1991 — and the subsequent acquittal of his assailants — sparked the L.A. riots of 1992, leading to 53 deaths, some at the hands of police. It was also a video introduction to police brutality for those in America who may have doubted its severity.

Twenty years later, a police beating or shooting has a decent chance of getting caught on camera — either the one on the phone in everybody’s hand or the surveillance camera pointing down at the street. The latter captured Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, being beaten to death by authorities in Fullerton, California, after being mistaken for a suspect in a series of car break-ins in the area. They, too, were acquitted.

Footage shows Oscar Grant being restrained by BART transit officers on the train platform in Oakland, California, following an altercation. Unarmed and lying on the platform, Grant was shot to death by James Mehserle, who claimed to have mistaken his gun for his taser. The alleged accidental death of Grant at the Fruitvale BART station was memorialized in last year’s film Fruitvale Station.

In June, Edgar Vargas Arzate was running from police in Santa Ana, California, near where Thomas was beaten, before surrendering in the front yard of a neighbor’s home. He was lying unarmed and face-down in the grass, but officers still savagely beat Arzate. When he was taken into custody, he was charged with assaulting an officer.

In July, Staten Island resident Eric Garner was suspected by the NYPD of selling untaxed cigarettes. When he refused arrest, an officer put the asthmatic man in a chokehold. Garner repeatedly screamed ‘I can’t breathe!’ and died soon after.”

Will Justice Be Served in Ferguson, Missouri?


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The video above shows the suburban St. Louis police officer who threatened to kill protestors with his weapon drawn in Ferguson is Lt. Ray Albers, according to his boss, Sebastian Murdock reports, CONFIRMED: Cop Who Threatened Ferguson Protesters Is Lt. Ray Albers. The 20 year police veteran and Army veteran of four was caught on video screaming at protestors, “I will fucking kill you,” while pointing his rifle at civilians, St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez told The Huffington Post Wednesday night. Jiminez said Albers told the chief he felt sick to his stomach and “should of known better.” He was placed on indefinite, unpaid suspension while an investigation is underway. Jimenez said, “It’s frustrating, because we told [our officers] before we went down there that there would be lots of people trying to antagonize to provoke them into saying something. Whether you’re a pedestrian or protesters, you have to be professional, and [Albers’] actions weren’t in any way, shape or form. He saw three to four suspects with bandanas on, and saw one of them raise a gun towards him. That made him draw his weapon up to the crowd, and he was scanning and moving that weapon back and forth, trying to asses the scene. … Him seeing the gun in the crowd, he had every right to protect himself in fear of danger until he assessed the scene. Most of the protesters are really good people, but there’s a small percentage of people that are out there trying to antagonize and make the protesters look bad. When he was asked the name, you need to be giving your name so they know who to contact. So when he said, ‘Go F yourself,’ that was uncalled for too.” On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said the day after two journalist were arrested while covering Ferguson: “Here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.” The explanation for so many journalist being arresting in Ferguson, according to Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol: “We’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not. And yes if I see someone with a $50,000 camera on his shoulder I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around and all you have is a cell phone because you’re from a small media outlet.” Legally, the police are within their rights as a general counsel for the National Photographers Press Association told The Poynter Institute that while reporters are protected by the first amendment, police can order journalist away from a dangerous area and non compliance with the order can lead to arrest. 48 news organizations have penned a letter to the Ferguson police force citing concerns for journalistic freedom and asking for increased transparency for law enforcement.

On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in Ferguson to meet with federal investigators and reassure residents of the racially torn suburb, Jim Suhr reports, Holder: ‘Change is coming’ after police shooting. The visit comes as a grand jury the same day in Clayton heard evidence to determine whether the officer who shot Brown would be charged. Outside the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, where the grand jury was convened, two dozen protestors gathers in a prayer circle, chanted and held signs asking prosecutor Bob McCulloch to step aside due to deep family connections with police cited by black leaders concerned about his ability to be impartial in the case of Darren Wilson who fatally shot Brown on Aug. 9. McCulloch’s father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for the St. Louis Police Department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect. The protests were subdued Tuesday night with smaller crowds, fewer confrontations and no tear gas. However, 47 arrests did occur mainly due to people defying orders to disperse. IN a letter published late Tuesday on the St. Louis Post Dispatch website, Holder promised a thorough investigation and the arrest patterns “must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended. And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.” The department has mounted an unusually swift and aggressive response to Brown’s death from conducting the independent autopsy to sending dozens of FBI agents to Ferguson to find witnesses to the shooting. As for the county grand jury, prosecutor’s spokesman Ed Magee said Wednesday that there is no timeline for how long the process could take, but it could be weeks. In a public statement, officials said, “We plan to learn from this tragedy, as we further provide for the safety of our residents and businesses and progress our community through reconciliation and healing.”

As for the officer responsible, an incomplete picture of Texas born Ferguson officer Darren Wilson has emerged since the Aug. 9 shooting as either an aggressor whose deadly gunfire constituted a daylight execution or a law enforcer wrongfully maligned for just doing his job according to Jim Suhr, Picture emerges of officer in Ferguson shooting. The Brown family’s attorney labeled Wilson as a murderer, though the investigation continues and no charges are filed. An online fundraising drive on Wilson’s behalf as of Thursday has raised $77,000 in donations. Former high school classmate and hockey buddy, Jake Shepard, said having talked to Wilson since the shooting: “I think he’s kind of struggling a little bit, but I think he’s doing OK. He didn’t really want to talk much about it. But I can tell you for sure it was not racially motivated. He’s not the type of person to harbor any hate for anybody. He was always nice, respectable and well-mannered, a gentleman. He doesn’t have anything bad to say about anybody, ever. He’s very genuine.” Similar depictions of Wilson have come from his boss, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.

The Situation in Ferguson Continues to Worsen as the National Guard Steps In

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On Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal medical examiner to do another autopsy on the black Missouri teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer that incited a week of peaceful and sometimes violent protests in suburban St. Louis, Nigel Duara and Jim Suhr report, Federal autopsy ordered in Missouri teen’s death. Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon cited a family member’s request and the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the case of 18 year old Michael Brown to explain the decision. In statement, Fallon explained: “This independent examination will take place as soon as possible. Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation.” Justice Department officials said a day earlier 40 FBI agents went door to door gathering information in the Ferguson, Missouri, neighborhood where the unarmed Brown was shot to death in the middle of the street on Aug. 9. Holder’s latest announcement followed the first night of state imposed curfew in Ferguson which ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police in riot gear used armored vehicles to disperse protestors. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson explained the protestors were not the reason for the escalated police reaction early Sunday after the midnight curfew, but a report of people who broke into a barbeque restaurant and took to the roof and a man flashed a handgun in the street as armored vehicles approached a crowd of protestors. The protests have been going on since Brown’s death intensified racial tensions between the black community and mostly white Ferguson Police Department, causing several clashes with police and protestors prompting Missouri’s governor to bring in the Highway Patrol to take over security. As the curfew arrived on Sunday, most left but some protestors refused to leave the area as officers announced over a loudspeaker: “You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately.” As officers put gas masks on, a chant from the crowd erupted: “We have the right to assemble peacefully.” A moment later, police fired canisters into the crowd including tear gas and smoke, according to what Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz told the Associated Press. Nigel Duara and Jim Suhr reports, Private autopsy reveals Brown was shot 6 times, the preliminary autopsy revealed Brown was shot six times including twice in the head. Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told the New York Times that one bullet entered the top pf Brown’s skull suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered the fatal injury. In addition, Brown was shot four times in the right arm and all bullets were fired into his front. David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights sections of Miami’s U.S. attorney’s office, said a federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises.” Back in Ferguson, the latest clashes happened three hours before Gov. Jay Nixon’s state imposed curfew as police shouted over bullhorns that the protest were no longer peaceful making it unclear why officers acted ahead of the deadline to get people off the streets.

Earlier in the day, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, whose agency is in charge of security in Ferguson, said he had met with Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.” He added: “When this is over. I’m going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby. “We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael’s going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.” Police had little to say about the encounter between Brown and the officer, except to say the officer and Brown were involved in a scuffled that resulted in Brown being shot and the officer being injured. However, witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple shots. The officer who shot brown was identified as Darren Wilson, a six year veteran of the force and had no prior complaints against him. Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting and the department will not say anything about his whereabouts. On Sunday, 150 people gathers in St. Louis to show support for Wilson as the crowd protested outside a TV station who broadcast in front of the officer’s home. The St. Louis Post Dispatch said the station, KSDK, apologized. The group composed mostly of police and relatives of officers carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts. Unfortunately, due to the tense situation escalating after the first night of the curfew, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Monday ordered the National Guard to the St. Louis suburb, Nigel Duara and Jim Suhr report, Mo. governor sends National Guard to Ferguson. Nixon said the National Guard will help restore peace and order to Ferguson where over the fatal shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown has entered its second week. Police defended their action toward protesters and only responded due to gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails. In a statement, Nixon said: “These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes.” Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is in command in Ferguson, said: “Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of response.”