Archive for January, 2014

Nations Largest Cocaine Smuggler Revealed: The DEA

For decades, it has been rumored the United States government was secretly sponsoring the smuggling of cocaine into the country. Federal officials have long denied such speculation, pointing out the billions of dollars spent intercepting drugs. Newly released documents, and testimony from Justice Department and DEA officials now show the stories of government running cocaine are true.

An investigation conducted in Mexico found the American government allowed that country’s largest drug cartel, Sinaloa, to operate without fear of persecution. That groups is estimated to be responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine coming into the country through Chicago. In exchange, the leaders of Sinaloa provided the DEA information on rival gangs.

The drug cartel working with the federal government is run by . He is considered to be the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. In addition to Chicago, his group also maintains cocaine operations in several major cities around the country.

Written statements were provided to a U.S. District Court in Chicago, confirming the alliance between the DEA and Mexico’s largest cocaine cartel. The written testimony, combined with other evidence, shows DEA officials met with leaders of the Sinaloa cartel more than 50 times between 2000 and 2012. This would mean DEA-authorized drug smuggling goes back to at least the beginning of the George W. Bush administration, and continued for year under Barack Obama.

Utah Is Ending Homelessness By Giving People Homes

Utah Is Ending Homelessness By Giving People Homes

It seems a tragic paradox that there  are more empty houses in the United States than there are homeless people,  yet 1,75,000 individuals still remain on the street, and almost 1/3 of them go  hungry every day. Overlooked by those with modern conveniences, it seems a  common occurrence for struggling souls on the street to be ignored in the midst  of crisis.

There is mixed reception on the issue. Some cities detest homeless people  lingering about in parks or around busy, metropolitan areas during the day:

  • City council members in Colombia,  South Carolina, were concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet” for  homeless people, therefore they passed an ordinance giving the homeless an  option to either relocate or get arrested. After backlash from police offers,  city workers, and advocates, however, the council later rescinded the  ordinance.
  • Philadelphia  passed a law that banned the feeding of homeless people on city  parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced they  would not obey it.
  • In 2013, the city of Tampa,  Florida – which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city – passed  an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping in  public, or “storing personal property in public.” The city later followed up  with a  ban on panhandling downtown, and other locations around the city.
  • In Raleigh,  North Carolina, the city asked religious groups to stop their  longstanding practice of feeding the homeless on city parkland. Not  surprisingly, religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather  than stop.

And then there are those who are fed up with the situation, adopting extreme  tactics to cope with the mess of frustration.

  • Earlier this month, Hawaii State Representative, Tom Bower, began walking  the streets of Waikiki district with a sledgehammer, smashing  shopping carts owned by homeless people. “Disgusted” by the city’s chronic  homelessness problem, he literally took matters into his own hands. But the  reception to his over-the-top actions gained him no popularity, therefore he  shortly thereafter declared, “mission accomplished”, and retired his  sledgehammer.

Refusing to acknowledge the homelessness crisis will not resolve the issue,  however.  That’s why Utah’s actions are so commendable.

In the past eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent,  and is on track to completely end homelessness by 2015.

How did this state accomplish such a noteworthy feat? Quite simply:  Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2013, the state  recognized that that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless  people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each  homeless person with an apartment and a social worker.

With this intelligence, the state began giving away apartments – with no  strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also receives  a case worker to help them become self-sufficient, but they can keep the  apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful, other states  are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

Perhaps Utah relied on a page from the 2009 report, Homes  Not Handcuffs to implement change. The National Law Coalition for the  Homeless used a 2004 survey and anecdotal evidence from activists to conclude  that permanent housing for the homeless is cheaper than criminalization. Housing  is not only more human, it’s economical.

Utah’s results show that all locations have the ability to implement  decidedly progressive solutions to solve problems like homelessness. No longer  can the non-glamorous issues be ignored; with the technological resources and  capability to care for global citizens worldwide, the time to progress as a race  and care for all inhabitants of the planet is now.


Homes Not Handcuffs

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The Truthseeker: ‘Unequivocal’ cell phones cause cancer

Mobiles ‘cooking the brain’; brain tumors become children’s number one killer illness; and leaked industry memo admits ‘wargaming’ the science.

Seek truth from facts with former senior White House adviser Devra Davis, Storyleak editor Anthony Gucciardi, ‘cell phone survivor’ Bret Bocook, Microwave News editor Louis Slesin, top radiation biologist Dariusz Leszczynski, and Ellie Marks, whose husband Alan’s suing the industry for his brain tumor.

Prison staff responsible for half of reported inmate sexual abuse cases

Prison staff responsible for half of reported inmate sexual abuse cases

Allegations of sexual abuse in US prisons are on the rise, and correctional staff are responsible for half of reported incidents, according to a new Department of Justice study. Meanwhile, prosecution for such abuse is very rare.

  The report released Thursday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics  deals with data collected and offered by administrators at  federal, state, and many county adult prisons. From 2009 to 2011,  administrators reported about 25,000 allegations “of sexual  victimization in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional  facilities,” the report states. Yearly totals in that time  span gradually increased, reaching 8,763 in 2011.

  The latest three-year count is up 11 percent from the Justice  Department’s previous report, which included 2007 and 2008.

  Prison staff were responsible for 49 percent of incidents  reported from 2009 to 2011. These are classified as staff sexual  misconduct (any sexual act aimed at an inmate from staff) or  sexual harassment (verbal statements of a sexual nature meant to  demean).

  The other 51 percent of allegations of non-consensual sex acts  (most serious) and abusive sexual contacts were those between  inmates. Of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, 18 percent of  substantiated incidents resulted in physical injury. Less than  one percent of staff-on-inmate victimization resulted in injury,  the report said.

  At the same time, the number of abuse allegations dismissed as  “unfounded” or “unsubstantiated” by prison  facility officials has increased. Only around 10 percent – or 902  – of incidents substantiated after investigation. This number has  not significantly changed since 2005.

  Prosecution for crimes committed by correctional staff are  extremely rare, the report shows. Over three-quarters of prison  staff responsible for sexual misconduct were allowed to resign  before an investigation concluded – leaving no record of the  offense – or were fired. Around 45 percent were referred for  prosecution. Yet, only one percent of perpetrators were  convicted.

“These findings point to a level of impunity in our prisons  and jails that is simply unacceptable,” said Lovisa Stannow,  executive director of prisoner advocacy group Just Detention  International, according to ProPublica.

“When corrections agencies don’t punish or choose to ignore  sexual abuse committed by staff members – people who are paid by  our tax dollars to keep inmates safe – they support criminal  behaviour,” Stannow added.

  Whether sexual abuse in prisons is on the rise or there are  simply more outlets for reporting victimization remains unclear.  Justice Department statistician Allen Beck, who prepared the  report, told ProPublica that the increase may be tied to  awareness of the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act.

“It’s a matter of speculation, but certainly there’s been a  considerable effort to inform staff about the dangers of sexual  misconduct, so we could be seeing the impact of that,” said  Beck.

  The Justice Department’s statistics – supplied by prison  administrators – contrast starkly with a 2013 survey of inmates  which showed that over 80,000 prisoners had been sexually  victimized by other inmates or staff in a two-year period.

“Inmates don’t report because of the way the institution  handles these complaints: they’re afraid if they do report, then  the staff will retaliate,” Kim Shayo Buchanan, law professor  at the University of Southern California, told ProPublica.


Verizon admits that governments request more customer information

Verizon admits that governments request more customer information

Verizon Communications this week became the first American company of its kind to publish information about the number of requests for user data they received last year from federal investigators and law enforcement agencies.

  Verizon’s so-called transparency report, released by  the telecom giant on Wednesday, reveals that local, state and  federal law enforcement agencies in the United States requested  customer information no fewer than 320,000 times during the last  calendar year. The country that sent in the second most requests  was Germany with 2,996.

“Overall, we saw an increase in the number of demands we  received in 2013,” the telecommunication company admitted,  “as compared to 2012.”

Within that batch from the US, Verizon acknowledged, were roughly  164,000 subpoenas, 70,000 court orders, 36,000 warrants and  roughly 50,000 emergency requests for information issued during  extreme circumstances.

  Around 7,800 of those court orders required Verizon to provide  authorities with customer information — either related to phone  or internet use — in real time, and another 1,500 or so wiretap  requests also compelled the company to let law enforcement  monitor the content transmitted either online or over the phone  as it happened. Around 14,500 warrants were received from  agencies interested in accumulating stored content from Verizon,  including but not limited to emails and text messages sent  through their service.

  Additionally, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation compelled  Verizon last year for customer information through National  Security Letters, or NSLs, between 1,000 and 2,000 times. The FBI  does not need to go to court to get a NSL authorized, Verizon  admitted, but rather must have a senior official certify in  writing that the information requested could be crucial to an  investigation. Companies are forbidden from explicitly  acknowledging how many NSLs they receive, however, and those  letters are regularly issued by the federal government with gag  orders that limit the customers in question from ever hearing  about a potential probe.

  During a speech from Washington, DC last week, US President  Barack Obama said that telecoms will be allowed in the future to  release more information to the public about top-secret NSLs — a  decision that Verizon hailed in their report.

“In the United States, the government is especially suited to  report the number of demands it makes from such companies,”Randal Milch, Verizon’s general counsel and executive vice  president of public police, law and security, wrote in an  accompanying   blog post published this week. A framework for the government  to tell Congress about the number of wiretap orders, pen register  and trap and trace orders, certain emergency requests and  national security letters already exists, he said, adding,  “The United States government should expand on this existing  framework and report annually on the numbers of all types of  demands made by federal and state law enforcement to  telecommunications and internet companies for data regarding  their customers.”

Milch’s remarks were echoed by the American Civil Liberties  Union, who endorsed their report but insisted more should still  be disclosed.

“We applaud Verizon for finally making it clear how much  information is being demanded by the United States government  without a warrant, including location information, and for also  pushing for even greater transparency,” Nicole Ozer of the  ACLU’s Technology and Civil Liberties officer   said when the report was issued.

  At the same time, however, Ozer admitted that Verizon’s latest  disclosure proved true one of the ACLU’s biggest fears.

“As we long suspected, the vast majority of the demands for  information lack a warrant,” she wrote.

  Also at issue, she added, was information about the actual number  of accounts that were surveilled through these requests. While  Verizon has indeed published numbers pertaining to the amount of  requests submitted to their company, nowhere in their report do  they say that each request is limited to a certain number of  customers.

“A single subpoena could, for example, request information  oneveryone,” TechDirt blogger Mike Masnick   wrote on Wednesday. “While that may be an extreme  example, the point is that the number of requests doesn’t really  tell you very much overall.”

Masnick went on to recall that a legal document disclosed by  former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden last year revealed  that the government had compelled Verizon for the telephony    metadata pertaining to millions of customers with a single  order authorized under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

“Where are the other Section 215 bulk-collection  orders?” ACLU staff attorney Alex Abdo tweeted earlier this  week. “Hard to have a ‘vigorous debate’ [without] them.”

Mr. Snowden is expected to answer questions from the public  during an online chat later on Thursday. His remarks will come  one week after Pres. Obama announced  a handful of changes to the National Security Agency documents he  helped disclose to the press starting last year.


Feds accuse Walmart of threatening, intimidating employees who protest company

Feds accuse Walmart of threatening, intimidating employees who protest company

Federal officials issued a complaint against Walmart Wednesday, formally charging the corporate monolith of breaking US labor law when it attempted to break up Black Friday protests organized by its workers.

  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is responsible  for enforcing labor laws that apply to businesses as well as  union organizations, accused Walmart of illegally threatening and  punishing workers who expressed interest in participating in the  post-Thanksgiving strikes.

  These allegations come on the same week that Occupy Wall Street  released internal corporate documents revealing how Walmart  allegedly works to keep unions out of its stores, including the  selective enforcement of company policy and purportedly illegal  actions like coercive interviews.

  In the days following the Black Friday demonstrations, company  employees in a number of states filed complaints with the NLRB.  The agency is known to generally prefer settling with companies  out of court, but the general counsel of the board “found  merit” with many of the claims and failed to reach an  agreement with Walmart executives.

  Among the complaints was one that accused company spokesman David  Tovar of threatening employees during an appearance on CBS  Evening News, when he said “there could be consequences”  for employees who attend the nationwide protests.

We’ve never seen a complaint against Walmart of this size or  scope, and we’re glad the NLRB is taking action,” said  Sarita Gupta, executive director of the labor organization Jobs  With Justice. “Walmart’s attacks on its own employees cannot  go unchecked.”

Dominic Ware is a former Walmart employee named in the complaint.  He told the Huffington Post he was fired after joining in  multiple California demonstrations last spring. Ware said he was  fired in July, and has since praised the NRLB’s decision to stand  up for people who had similar experiences to his own.

It’s just validating everything,” said the 27-year-old.  “There were people who doubted the truth of what we were  saying. To have it backed up by the federal government is just  unbelievable.”

Walmart has until January 28 to respond to the complaint, and the  company may still reach a settlement before that time.

Walmart now has the opportunity to share the facts in these  specific cases with an administrative law judge,” Brooke  Buchanan, a Walmart spokeswoman, told the Huffington Post.  “We’ve been in continued conversations with the NRLB on this  matter since it was announced in November, and we will continue  to be.”

OUR Walmart is one of the workers groups that advocates on behalf  of Dominic Ware and the thousands of employees who feel they have  been wronged by the company. OUR Walmart is not a union, but its  growing influence throughout the chain apparently has executives  worried enough that they compiled a training module seeking to  inform workers that OUR Walmart is “not really here to help  you.”

The documents, leaked to Occupy Wall Street from an unknown  source and published Tuesday, also pleaded with salaried managers  to “report union activity to the Labor Relations Hotline  immediately” and to “support Walmart’s position on how  we treat people.”

The training pages went on to suggest managers try to detect  “Early Warning Signs” that an employee is deviating from  the company line by listening for those who are “speaking  negatively about wages and benefits” or “ceasing  conversations when leadership approaches.”

To combat such a situation, managers should consult a list of  suggested talking points. One of which being: “In my opinion,  unions just want to hurt Walmart and make it harder to run our  business.”

A Walmart spokesperson confirmed to MSNBC that the slides were  authentic, saying only that “communications like these that  we’re talking about are important to make sure our associates are  receiving accurate and timely information.”

Parking violation turns into police assault caught on video – lawsuit


Parking violation turns into police assault caught on video – lawsuit

A Nebraska family filed suit Monday against dozens of police officers alleging that they turned a parking violation into a rough arrest and violating the family’s constitutional rights by breaking into a nearby home and confiscating video of the incident.

  Four Omaha police officers initially responded to a complaint on  March 21, 2013 that Octavius Johnson had parked his truck in the  wrong area of the street. A video of the incident recorded from  an upstairs window shows police throwing Johnson to the ground  and punching him multiple times as a number of other officers  rush to the scene.

He went around my neck, threw me to the ground, choked me  out to the point where I couldn’t breathe or speak,” Johnson  told KPTM-TV in Nebraska. “The officer told me to stop  resisting, punched me in the face and said ‘do you want to die  today.’”

Another officer pushes Octavius’ brother Juaquez, who is filming  the arrest on a camera phone, away from the scene. Juaqeuz then  escapes the officer’s grasp and sprints into a neighbor’s home  and is chased by a handful of police, who eventually confiscated  his phone.

  That video – which is thought to have been destroyed – has never  been made public. Yet the video captured from upstairs quickly  went viral after the incident, inspiring community demonstrations  and eventually the dismissal of the four officers caught on film.  Criminal charges were brought against two of those patrolmen for  either tampering with evidence or being an accessory.

  Octavius, 28, was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and  disorderly conduct, while Juaquez, 23, was charged with  obstructing officers and disorderly conduct.

Many of the police actions that took place that day are in  violation of our policies and do not represent how I want our  officers to conduct themselves,” Omaha Police Chief Todd  Schmaderer told reporters at a press conference days later.  “The final resolution will be fair to the citizens of Omaha,  the Omaha Police Department and the specific employees involved  so that we can move forward and restore any public trust that may  have eroded with this incident.”

If the Omaha police have rectified the situation, it has not been  enough of an effort to satisfy the Johnson family. With help from  the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) they filed suit seeking  damages for the anxiety and depression that have surfaced in the  months since. Eight officers were named in the suit and another  24 were unnamed.

This incident will live with our family for the rest of our  lives,” said Sharee Johnson, mother of the two young men.  “None of us can call 911 when we need help and believe that  police would be there to help us. We live in a city where we feel  we have no protection.”

Octavius Johnson, the man tackled from behind, told Omaha’s KMTV  that he’s grateful a childhood friend was able to capture the  incident on video.

I think we all know what would have happened if he wasn’t  there,” he said. “It would have been swept under the  rug.”