What happened to America?!

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Courtesy of Jack Cluth on the blog, What Would Jack Do?

On Thursday, federal authorities filed an indictment in federal court in San Francisco charging FedEx with assisting two related online pharmacies by knowingly delivering painkillers and dangerous drugs to customers without prescriptions for ten years ending in 2010. Paul Elias reports, FedEx Charged With Knowingly Delivering Dangerous Drugs To Customers Without Prescriptions, that the Department of Justice announced the charges in Washington, D.C. demanding FedEx forfeit $820 million earned by assisting the illicit pharmacies. The Memphis, Tennessee based delivery company stands accused of shipping Ambien- a powerful sleep aid,  anti-anxiety medications Valium and Xanax and other drugs to customers without legitimate medical need and a lack of valid prescription. In a written statement, company spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said, “We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.” In addition, Fitzgerald said the DEA refused their request for a list of online pharmacies under investigation making it impossible for the company to know which companies are operating illegally. However, the Justice Department claims that federal officials told FedEx since 2004 that it was shipping dangerous drugs without prescriptions alleging that couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia warned executives about suspicious drug deliveries. Last year, rival company UPS paid $40 million to resolve similar allegations and took steps to block illicit online drug dealers from using their service. Both companies said in regulatory filings that they had been served with grand jury subpoenas between 2007 and 2009, Elias reports. The investigation came in response to the increase in online pharmacies launched in 2005 in San Francisco leading to  dozens of arrests, thousands of websites shuttered and tens of millions of dollars and pills seized worldwide. The executive director of Express Association of America, a trade group created by FedEx, UPS and three other service said there is no industry wide effort to address the policing of prescription drug deliveries. A federal jury in 2012 convicted three men of operating illegal pharmacies using FedEx and UPS to deliver drugs without prescriptions and seven others were convicted in San Francisco previously.

In Los Angeles, the Associate Press article, Lawsuit filed in LA woman’s pummeling by patrolman, a woman pummeled by a California Highway Patrol officer caught on video filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday. A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Marlene Pinnock names the commissioner of the CHP, the unidentified officer in the July 1 video and other officers as defendants. The video recorded by a passing driver shows Pinnock being repeatedly punched while being straddled by the officer. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock’s due process rights. In addition, Pinnock “suffered great mental and physical pain, suffering, anguish, fright, nervousness, anxiety, grief shock, humiliation, indignity, and embarrassment” and seeks monetary damages. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told the Associated Press: “We do have a good history at taking a look at our processes, procedures and conduct of our employees,” Farrow said. “That’s never been questioned until today.” He has met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times since the incident and pledge that an internal investigation will conclude in weeks rather than months. The CHP said Pinnock was walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown L.A. endangering herself and people in traffic and the officer was trying to restrain her. Pinnock had begun to walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation happened. The officer involved has been on the job one and half years and will be on desk duty until completion of the internal investigation, meanwhile, Pinnock remains hospitalized with head injuries. Nine drivers called 911 to report the beating, according to recordings the CHP released Thursday in response to public records request by the Associated Press. One caller said she appeared loaded, while another said she looked high or drunk. Pinnock claims in her suit that the CHP’s actions were an effort to shift blame by “misusing the criminal justice system to obtain privileged and private information to discredit (Pinnock) … or circumvent the discovery rules in civil rights violation matters.” The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters calling it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired.

While outrage and public distrust of the police in Los Angeles rages on, the justice system in Detroit leaves many shocked by the comments of one judge. According to Ed White, Judge tells young Detroit man he need a beating, a young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit motorist needed a father to beat the hell out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing a crime, a judge said Thursday. The shocking comment by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail. White reports that Callahan said Cummings needed a dad, “someone to discipline you. Someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.” Cummings and four others pleaded guilty to the assault on Steve Utash who was in a coma for days after the attack. Apparently, after the judge’s remark, the assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsay argued with the judge that the six month sentence was too light and many young black men without fathers don’t commit crimes. Callahan replied, a white judge himself: “Did I ever use the term ‘black’? It doesn’t matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red.” Despite the harsh tone, the judge said Cummings’ age and childhood were considered in the light sentence. As Callahan put it:”We’ve all been 19 years of age.”

While Cummings got off a little easier because of age for a vicious crime, a group of suburban white teens in Mississippi didn’t fair so well. A three year investigation into attacks on blacks in Mississippi’s capital of Jackson has grown to 10 indictments and six convictions, according to Jack Elliot, Hate crime investigation grows in Mississippi. The most recent indictments were made public Wednesday including two men and two women. The June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, who was ran over by a pick up truck outside a Jackson hotel, started a broader investigation into reports claiming groups of young white men and women drive from the mostly white Rankin Country into majority black Jackson to assault blacks. Prosecutors said the suspect using target the homeless or people under the influence of alcohol. John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon; Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs; Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges including conspiracy and committing a hate crime with each being released on a $100,000 bail. A tentative trial date is set for Sept. 15. Prosecutors said the assailants used their fists, beer bottles, sling shots and vehicles to attack. The assault on Anderson was caught by a hotel surveillance camera and received widespread attention after the video was obtained by news organization including the Associate Press. Four men pleaded guilty in the Anderson case and other offenses, while two other men pleaded guilty in other attacks.

While the justice system struggle to deal with the increase it seems in violent crimes and police department struggle to deal with the influx of criminals and public scrutiny, an old but constantly recycled issue has come up again with increasingly unjust consequences for some. What happened to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? If you can’t remember or don’t know, here’s a refresher:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Author: Emma Lazarus

Well sadly, since the Great Recession, many U.S. cities are trying to eradicate homelessness not in a humanitarian way but by making it illegal to be homeless according to Arthur Delaney, More Cities Are Basically Making It Illegal To Be Homeless. Citywide bans on things homeless people need to survive have increased according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Delaney reports, key finding from the survey of 187 American cities show that since 2011:

Citywide bans on camping in public have increased by 60 percent.

Citywide bans on begging have increased by 25 percent.

Citywide bans on loitering, loafing, and vagrancy have increased by 35 percent.

Citywide bans on sitting or lying down in particular public places have increased by 43 percent.

Bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119 percent.

The law center director Maria Foscarinis in a press release stated: “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces. Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.” According to government data, homelessness has declined 9 percent from January 2007 through January 2013 with 65 percent of the nation’s 610,042 homeless people staying in shelters any given night that month. Over those years, unsheltered homeless dropped by 23 percent. The law center report differs from government data noting it fails to account for several factors including jailed homeless people and other data suggest worsening homelessness such as a U.S. Conference of Mayors report that found a 4 percent increase in family homelessness from 2012 t0 2013.

NRA Believes Stalkers’ Have the Right to Bear Arms

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Wayne LaPierre (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

The National Rifle Association has now taken up the fight against federal legislation banning those convicted of domestic violence against dating partners and stalking from purchasing guns, according to Laura Bassett’s article on June 25, NRA Fights For Convicted Stalkers’ Gun Rights. The federal law already prevents persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from purchasing firearms. However, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) proposes the addition of convicted stalkers to the group and is in favor of expanding the definition of convicted domestic violence against “intimate partners” to include dating partners, according to legislation S. 1290 which she introduced. Bassett reports that two different senators’ aides confirmed that the NRA sent letters to lawmakers strongly opposing the measure even describing it as “a bill to turn disputes between family members and social acquaintances into lifetime firearm prohibitions.” The letter from the nation’s largest gun lobby also states that the measure “manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearm prohibitions.” Klobuchar in an email to HuffPost stated, “As a former prosecutor, I know how domestic violence and stalking can take lives and tear apart families. This is a commonsense bill that would protect victims and keep our families safe, and I will continue to work to move this legislation forward.”

Legislation has been gaining momentum in the states that would prevent all convicted domestic abusers from purchasing guns and even the NRA has relaxed its stance on such bills over the past year due to the fact one of its own top officials was convicted of domestic violence and prohibited from owning a firearm. However, the federal push for domestic violence gun bans has raised some red flags for the gun rights groupies e.g. Klobuchar, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have all introduced measures to expand and strengthen gun restriction for people who are convicted of domestic abuse or stalking or who have emergency temporary restraining orders issued. According to a report released last week by the Center for American Progress, stalkers and physically abusive dating partners are just as deadly as violent spouses. In addition, domestic abusers with access to guns are seven times more likely to kill their partners than those without access.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), a congresswoman who survived a gunshot to the head in 2011, met last week with House and Senate leadership, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, numerous other lawmakers and policy experts to discuss what Congress can do to protect women from gun violence committed at the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers, Basset reports. Giffords’ gun violence prevention PAC, Americans for Responsible Solution, found that women in gun friendly Texas favor a law requiring stalkers to turn in their firearms. Halyley Zachary, executive director of the PAC, told HuffPost:  “Protecting women from gun violence means ensuring we have laws that keep guns out of the hands of stalkers and domestic abusers. By opposing this commonsense bill, [NRA chief] Wayne LaPierre and the NRA leadership has once again shown it is out of step with the vast majority of Americans and responsible gun owners. Now, the question for NRA-backed candidates around the country is: do they share the NRA’s position?”

Gun Control Controversy: Looking at the Numbers Since Newtown

As of June 11, 2014 reported by Katy Hall and Jan Diehm of HuffPost:
“Clarification: Everytown used the following methodology: Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. Incidents in which guns were brought into schools but not fired there, or were fired off school grounds after having been possessed in schools, were not included. This list includes incidents meeting the above criteria that were brought to our attention after our School Shootings Analysis was issued on February 10, 2014. Incidents were identified through media reports, so this is likely an undercount of the true total.”

According to the article, All 74 School Shootings Since Newtown, In One Depressing Map, at least 74 school shooting have occurred during the 18 months since Newtown as tallied by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to pass gun control laws. The longest gap between shootings occurred during summer breaks from mid June to mid August with the most recent being at the beginning of June at a high school in Portland, Oregon where the gunman a student were reported dead. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, President Obama pushed for gun reform calling for stricter background checks that garnered great public support, but failed in the senate last year and Congress since has no plans to pass any gun legislation.

Besides the many school shooting in the news it seems every day, there have also been several domestic disputes and random shootings that have occurred as well begging the question: Why is no one doing anything to keep us safe? HuffPost reporter Kim Bellware reported on the 16th of June with the headline, Man Kills His Ex-Wife And Her Boyfriend At High School Reunion, about an Illinois man who shot and killed his ex-wife and her new boyfriend in front of a 100 witness while she was at her high school reunion. Another tragic shooting occurred at a Phoenix church fatally wounding and killing a clergyman. Associated Press reports that on June 11 a homeless ex-convict with a history of violence and drug abuse allegedly killed a clergyman with a handgun retrieved by another priest after he was hit with an iron rod.