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If Mexicans Toasted The 4th Of July The Way Americans Toast Cinco De Mayo

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-03 14:05
Official beverage of America: Natural Light.

Every year on the 5th of May, Americans consume tacos and tequila in honor of -- wait, what is it for? ... oh, really? -- Mexico's military victory over France in the Battle of Puebla. If you're of Mexican descent, you've probably grown a little tired of U.S. stereotypes and misinformation about Cinco de Mayo. For the record, Mexico's Independence Day is actually Sept. 16.

Well, now the poorly researched holiday shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. Check out this Flama original video in which Mexicans celebrate the 4th of July in the same way that Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

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George Takei Calls Justice Clarence Thomas A 'Clown In Blackface' Over Marriage Equality Dissent

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-03 01:40
George Takei has come under fire this week for calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a “clown in blackface” over the judge's stance on marriage equality. However, the “Star Trek” actor insists that his comment was not racially motivated.

During an interview with Fox 10 Phoenix, Takei, who is gay, discussed the Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Takei said he was “angry” at Thomas, who dissented to the decision, for his position on the issue.

“He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court,” said Takei. “He gets me that angry. He doesn’t belong there.”

In his dissent, Thomas, who is black, wrote that “human dignity cannot be taken away by the government,” adding: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them.”

Takei, whose family was held inside a Japanese internment camp during World War II, took issue with this logic.

“For him to say slaves have dignity, I mean, doesn’t he know that slaves were in chains? That they were whipped on the back?” Takei said. “My parents lost everything that they worked for in the middle of their lives, in their 30s. His business, my father’s business, our home, our freedom and we’re supposed to call that dignified?… This man does not belong on the Supreme Court. He is an embarrassment. He is a disgrace to America.”

In the wake of the interview, Takei has been slammed for what has been called a "racist" comment -- an accusation that the 78-year-old fiercely rejects.

On Thursday, he wrote on Facebook:

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A few fans have written wondering whether I intended to utter a racist remark by referring to Justice Thomas as a "clown...

Posted by George Takei on Thursday, July 2, 2015




Takei elaborated on his thoughts in a op-ed for MSNBC.




“To say that the government does not bestow or grant dignity does not mean it cannot succeed in stripping it away through the imposition of unequal laws and deprivation of due process. At the very least, the government must treat all its subjects with equal human dignity,” he wrote. “It seems odd that Justice Thomas, as an African American, would be an opponent of marriage equality. His own current marriage, if he had sought to have it some fifty years ago, would have been illegal under then-existing anti-miscegenation laws. I cannot help but wonder if Justice Thomas would have felt any loss of dignity had the clerk’s office doors been shut in his face, simply because he was of a different race than his fiancée.”




Thomas is married to attorney Virginia Thomas, who is white.




William Shatner, who has been known to “feud” with Takei online, defended his “Star Trek” co-star on Twitter.




I am positive that George is not a racist. Let's stop the spin doctoring. https://t.co/LiolPBqufN

— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) July 2, 2015

In October 2008, a few months after California became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage (and a few weeks before Proposition 8 made it illegal again), Takei and his longtime partner Brad Altman tied the knot in Los Angeles.

The couple have been together for almost 30 years.

Watch Takei's interview with Fox 10 below:

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America -- What Do We After Do Charleston?

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2015-07-03 00:03

"For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labor. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . ." – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII


“The Negro race in America, stolen, ravished and degraded, struggling up through difficulties and oppression, needs sympathy and receives criticism, needs help and is given hindrance, needs protection and is given mob-violence, needs justice and is given charity, needs leadership and is given cowardice and apology, needs bread and is given a stone. This nation will never stand justified before God until these things are changed.” –“Declaration of Principles” of the Niagara Movement, a forerunner of the NAACP’s founding


I am a native South Carolinian. Charleston is my maternal ancestral home. My great grandmother was born during slavery. My great grandfather I have been told was a plantation overseer. Never have I been more proud and more ashamed of my dueling ancestral heritages than in the aftermath of the terroristic murders of nine Black Christians engaged in Bible study at Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a young White man infected by what Dr. King called, after President Kennedy’s assassination, “a morally inclement climate.”


The young White visitor to the weekly Bible study came with a troubled spirit and racial rage inflamed by a White supremacist website. He was enabled to become a mass killer by readily accessible and largely unregulated guns – over 310 million in citizen hands and only 4 million in America’s law enforcement and military hands. But his dastardly deeds were bathed in an amazing spirit of forgiveness among the victims’ families.


I hope this latest chapter in America’s pervasive history of domestic terrors against millions of Black citizens victimized by slavery and Jim Crow terrorism, denied full citizen rights throughout our history, relegated to subhuman three-fifths status in our Constitution and treated like beasts of burden to fuel our unjust economic system can be squarely confronted. Until the United States sees and cures its profoundly evil birth defects of slavery, Native American genocide, and the exclusion of all women and non-propertied men of all colors from our electoral process, these birth defects will continue to flare up in multiple guises to threaten our Black community’s and everyone’s safety, our nation’s future, and render hollow our professed but still inadequate commitment to ensuring equality for all.


Slavery was followed by thousands of lynchings and racially instigated terrorism through hate groups like the KKK during the Jim Crow era. And it continues to be reflected in the unjust racial profiling and killings of Black boys and men by law enforcement agents and a mass incarceration system. Millions of Black and Latino children and people of color are trapped in a cradle to prison pipeline lodged at the intersection of race and poverty. That Black children are the poorest, most miseducated, most incarcerated, most unemployed, and most demonized of any group of children in America is a continuing legacy of slavery and Jim Crow that must end now. Let’s seize this latest tragic racial terrorist act to confront our history and how we teach our history. And we must all act together to reject our present day racism in all its structural, cultural and hidden manifestations with urgency and persistence. We must pass on to our children and grandchildren a more honest and just nation and a future free of the violence of racism, poverty and guns.  


I believe we are called in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, the latest in a long and egregious history of unjust Black deaths, to confront the realities of our true history so that a new generation of White youths does not carry forth the poison of racial supremacy and White privilege. We also must act so that millions of Black, Native American and Latino children, soon to be the majority of our country’s children in a majority nonwhite world, do not have to continue to struggle against overt and covert culturally ingrained racism. We must firmly reject all symbols glorifying slavery and hatred that divide us. We must reject all efforts to subvert fair and democratic election processes including the precious right to vote. We must end mass incarceration and ensure equal justice under the law for all. We must confront massive inequality of wealth and income and end poverty, beginning with child poverty now.


It is time to commit America to become America and to close the gap between creed and deed. On this 4th of July let’s send a ray of hope throughout our nation and world that we are committed to honoring our dream of equality for all. What an amazing grace moment we have been given to help our nation move forward together.

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Oregon Bakery Fined For Refusing To Make Wedding Cake For Lesbian Couple

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 22:37
The owners of an Oregon bakery must pay a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, a state official ruled on Thursday.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian agreed with a preliminary ruling that Sweet Cakes by Melissa illegally discriminated against a Portland couple in 2013 by turning down their request based on their sexual orientation, The Oregonian reported.

A judge had ordered owners Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Crye and another $60,000 to her wife, Laurel Bowman-Cryer.

The Kleins had argued it was against their Christians beliefs to participate in a same-sex marriage. Supporters raised money for them earlier this year after an administrative law judge imposed the penalty.

The Bowman-Cryers, through their attorney Paul Thompson, said in a statement they were glad Avakian sent "a clear message that discrimination will simply not be tolerated in our state."

"This has been a terrible ordeal for our entire family. We never imagined finding ourselves caught up in a fight for social justice," they said.

"We endured daily, hateful attacks on social media, received death threats and feared for our family's safety, yet our goal remained steadfast. We were determined to ensure that this kind of blatant discrimination never happened to another couple, another family, another Oregonian," the statement continued. "Everyone deserves to be treated as an equal member of society."

An email to HuffPost, the bakery said the decision was wrong, adding, "Americans should tolerate diverse opinions, not use the government to punish fellow citizens with different views. This case has become a poster for an overpowered elected official using his position to root out thought and speech with which he personally disagrees."

The owners vowed in a Facebook post to appeal the decision:

"The final ruling has been made today. We have been charged with $135,000 in emotional damages, But also now Aaron has been charged with advertising. (Basically talking about not wanting to participate in a same-sex wedding) This effectively strips us of all our first amendment rights. According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech. We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced. We stand for God's truth, God's word and freedom for ALL americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight.

The Sweet Cakes website features quotations from Biblical passages, such as, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" from the book of Proverbs. It also explicitly states the bakery is interested in baking for weddings between a man and a woman.

"We here at Sweet Cakes strongly believe that when a man and woman come together to be joined as one, it is truly one of the most special days of their lives," the homepage said. "We feel truely [sic] honored when we are chosen to do the cake for your special day."

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A Long Ago Fourth of July

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 22:24
It was the Fourth of July, 1927. In 23 days I would be 5 years old. A neighbor was having a barbecue and our family was invited. I was told I could stay up late enough to see the fireworks, the fireworks my Uncle Jack was bringing. Unfortunately, Jack was smoking a stogie as he came up the lawn clutching a huge bag of fireworks under his chin. Maybe he opened his mouth to say "Hello," I don't know, but his cigar wound up in the fireworks, and Jack wound up in the hospital.

For some reason, I recall the adults that day more clearly than I do the other kids. There were six or eight sets of parents, men I'd not seen in shorts before, one with very hairy legs I thought of mowing. The ladies seemed to laugh more than the men and were louder. That went well, as I remember it, with the colors of their dresses, far more colorful than the menswear around.

I recall the parents as quite clubby, but there were two clubs, the men and the women. When they talked together I can hear them excitedly discussing Charles Lindbergh, who had just become the first man to cross the Atlantic alone in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis.

While all of what I described here remains in my memory there is only one split second incident that calls that July 4th, 1927 event to my mind. The backyard where the barbecue was taking place had a bush, or a line of bushes, call it a hedge, maybe three-feet tall. My father had gone into the house for something, for some reason, and as he was returning he faced the hedge and had to go around it. But he didn't. He jumped over it. Or he leaped. Or danced. I don't know if anyone else saw it but I did and it took my breath away. My memory has a dreamy quality in which my father is a combination of Johnny Weissmuller and Jesse Owens with a touch of Fred Astaire. I loved those men as well.

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This Is What The End Of European Democracy Looks Like

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 21:38
Underlying the question of whether European leaders and the Greek state will be able to come to terms amid the financial crisis is one even more fundamental: Is there room in Europe for democracy?

In January, Greek voters elected a government on a platform of anti-austerity, one that argued further cuts would not just be cruel to a people already experiencing 25 percent unemployment, but economically backward as well. European leaders have spent the five months since then doing everything they can to drive that Greek government from power.

Europe's modern experiment with democracy began with many fits and starts, but in recent years it seemed to cement itself. That appears to have been a mirage.

Greek Depression vs Great Depression pic.twitter.com/zyWts1lpcn

— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) July 2, 2015


If the troika of economic policy-setters succeeds in ousting the Greek government, it will send a clear message to other European Union countries: You are free to hold elections, but the government you elect can only do what we say.

By forcing Greece to accept their terms or leave the euro, leaders of wealthy eurozone nations want to prevent European democracies from stopping their austerity agenda, analysts say. In this interpretation, European leaders are intent on creating a political crisis that will drive Greece’s left-wing government from power, thus making it known from Spain to Ireland that resistance is futile.

Europe’s desire for a change of government in Greece has become especially apparent in recent days. European Parliament president Martin Schulz told the German newspaper Handelsblatt that his confidence in the Greek government had hit “rock bottom” and that the government should resign if the public votes “yes” in Sunday’s referendum on whether to accept the creditors' proposed bailout deal. Schulz suggested Greece’s creditors could negotiate the final details of a bailout deal with a provisional unelected technocratic Greek government in the interim period before new elections.

An anonymous senior German conservative took it one step further, saying many German lawmakers would not agree to a new bailout deal until the current, left-populist government leaves power. Among members of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, “there would be a lot of colleagues who would vote ‘no’ if [Greek finance minister Yanis] Varoufakis and [Greek prime minister Alexis] Tsipras are asking. For sure. Because there is simply no trust any more. They say, I am not going to give taxpayers’ money to Greece without a reliable partner,” he told the Times of London on Wednesday.

Calling Tsipras and Varoufakis “communists,” the lawmaker said, “We need a reliable partner who wants to do the job,” rather than the Syriza party. Although German chancellor Angela Merkel has left the door open to further negotiations, regardless of which Greek government is in power, she needs the votes of her conservative colleagues to get a bailout deal through the German parliament -- a task that was never going to be easy.

Schulz and the anonymous German parliamentarian claim they reached their conclusions only after losing faith in Syriza. But many analysts argue, with evidence to support their claims, that these latest statements were only making explicit what the creditors’ strategy has been all along: to force Greece’s democratically elected government to accept its terms, or find a new government that will. They have done this by applying consistent economic and political pressure on Greece’s government throughout negotiations, tilting the scales against Syriza and in favor of another austerity-laden bailout deal.

Grexit is a threat, not a choice.

First, the very threat of a “Grexit,” or Greek exit from the euro, only exists because the creditors want it to. There is nothing in eurozone rules that says a country that defaults on its debts is no longer entitled to use the euro currency. Instead, the most likely way a Grexit would occur is if the European Central Bank, which has been providing Greece’s banks with liquidity through its Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) program, sets the exit in motion by permanently cutting off its lending to Greek banks. That would force Greece to implement capital controls to prevent banks from running out of money, and then declare a new currency of unknown value -- in lieu of the euro or alongside it -- in order to regenerate liquidity in the country’s economy.

But much like the eurozone’s vague conditions for expelling a country, the ECB does not have concrete guidelines for making emergency lending available. In a November 2014 study commissioned by the European Parliament, Karl Whelan, an economist at University College Dublin and former economist at the Central Bank of Ireland, warned that the “rules for the provisions of credit via ELA” are “not at all clear” and “appear to be completely ad hoc."

Whelan and other economists, like former IMF senior manager Peter Doyle and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argue that this has enabled the ECB to turn on and off its lending on behalf of its preferred policy outcomes. For example, they are suspicious of the ECB's February decision -- shortly after Syriza took office -- to discontinue a waiver permitting Greece to use its junk-rated sovereign debt as collateral for loans, thereby increasing its borrowing costs. We have seen the ECB’s politicized standards play out in the past week as the ECB halted ELA transfers until after the July 5 referendum, and Greek authorities shuttered banks and severely limited daily withdrawals.

As a result, these economists describe a vicious cycle in which the ECB, by constantly warning of a Greek default and Grexit, makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy in order to turn up the pressure on the Greek government. The ECB’s warnings of a Grexit prompt panic and bank withdrawals, forcing Greek banks to rely on the ELA for liquidity. Then the ECB makes clear its willingness to cut off liquidity at a key moment, which shows its willingness to allow Greece to run out of money, worsening depositors’ jitters and deepening the country’s dependence on ELA loans.

By making the threat of a Grexit credible in this way, the ECB can choose to follow through with it, or can use it as a cudgel to force new concessions on Greece. Daniela Gabor, an international finance expert at the University of the West of England’s Bristol Business School, argues this approach never been more apparent than in the past week, when the ECB cut off ELA and forced Greece to implement capital controls until negotiations with creditors resume.

Gabor believes the cutoff was timed to scare Greek citizens into voting “yes” in the July 5 referendum on the creditors’ latest bailout proposal.

“It is a strategy of forcing the government to have the referendum with capital controls,” Gabor said. “That is a clear component of this strategy of trying any way to interfere with the political process and create as much panic and fear in the Greek population to vote ‘yes.’”

It “puts the Greek government in a very difficult position,” Gabor explained. “They know that this makes political legitimacy much more complicated.”


The above graph compares creditors' projections of how their reform prescriptions would affect Greece's economy in 2010 and 2012, compared with how the economy actually performed.

OK, but at least Greek citizens will get a vote on the creditors’ bailout deal, right?

Not exactly. Greece’s creditors are refusing to allow the Greek government to define the question being voted on in the referendum. The Greek government is presenting the referendum as a vote on the most recent bailout-for-austerity proposal by the creditors. Prime Minister Tsipras has said that a “no” vote, rather than signaling a desire to exit the currency union, would strengthen Greece’s hand at the negotiating table.

But top eurozone leaders like Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister and eurogroup chair, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, insist a "no" vote will endanger Greece’s membership in the eurozone. Since the eurozone nations, through the ECB, control Greece’s status in the currency union, this amounts to a thinly veiled threat.

That means Greek voters heading to the polls on Sunday must not only consider the merits of the European creditors’ most recent proposal, but also speculate about how the eurozone will interpret their votes. Polls show Greeks oppose austerity and support Syriza, but also back a deal that would keep them in the euro. But if Greeks believe they are being forced to decide between a euro on the creditors’ terms or no euro at all, they may be more likely to choose the former.

What would a deal that honors Greek democracy look like?

A deal that honors Greek democracy would allow the Syriza-led government to at least partly fulfill the platform on which it was elected: ending austerity policies that are hurting Greece economically, while preserving its place in the eurozone. In practice that means lowering Greece’s primary budget surplus, and in so doing, granting Greece the fiscal flexibility it needs to restore some of the economic activity it has lost over five years of austerity. The Greek economy has shrunk by more than one-quarter since 2008. Economists of many ideologies agree this contraction can largely be blamed on a combination of dramatic spending cuts and tax increases Greece enacted as a condition of bailout funds.

But in order for Greece to have lower annual fiscal targets and remain on a steady debt trajectory, it first needs significant debt relief from its creditors. The IMF’s own chief economist has admitted as much.

And it is virtually undisputed that Greece will never be able to pay back all of its debts in full. (Greece’s total public debt is equal to 177 percent of its GDP.) In fact, NSA-intercepted communication released by Wikileaks on Wednesday shows that German chancellor Angela Merkel admitted in October 2011 that the bailout was saddling Greece with unsustainable levels of debt.


Source: tradingeconomics.com

But Greece’s creditors have never once committed to relieving Greece’s debt burden as part of negotiations over unlocking the last tranche of bailout money Greece needs to make its upcoming debt payments. After Tsipras called the referendum vote last Saturday, European Commission president Juncker made a last-minute counter-offer that dangled the prospect of discussions of debt relief in the fall, pending Greece’s completion of another round of austerity-driven reforms. But Greece has reason to distrust creditors’ promises to address debt relief later. In 2012, they promised to consider debt relief if Greece implemented the reforms it was asking for, but never followed through after Greece did as it was told.

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Was the Twitter Attack on Bobby Jindal Racist?

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 21:04
Social media has been giggling since Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made the horrible blunder of inviting questions via the Twitter hashtag #askbobby.



The flames were fanned by young activist Zack Kopplin who has made it his mission in life to fight Jindal's imposition of creationism on Louisiana schools.

The vast majority of the questions were snarky trolling of the governor. It made for entertaining reading, interrupted every few hundreds tweets accusing the "left" or "liberals" of being racist for attacking Jindal. The strange thing was, in the thousands of tweets I read (they were so funny that it was kind of like eating pistachios -- hard to stop until the bag was empty), I didn't see any tweets that were racist.

The only snarky questions that even mentioned his race were from people of color, mainly South Asians, who questioned by Jindal whitewashed his official portrait and won't use his birth name of Piyush. In other words questions why Jindal seemed to want to hide his Indian origins. (Personally, I'll call Mr. Jindal whatever name he wants, the same courtesy I'd afford Caitlyn Jenner.) I don't like my birth name either and tend to introduce myself in social settings with my nickname.

I did not see any serious questions -- anyone trying to interrupt the litany of mockery by asking for real answers. And I also thought this spoke volumes: apparently no one could think of a question to #askbobby that might provoke an answer that would give the governor a chance to respond in a thoughtful and possibly even presidential way. And not one tweet that I saw attempted to defend or justify Jindal's appalling performance in running Louisiana.

And I did not see any tweets saying Jindal was an idiot for being of Indian ancestry. These tweets calling the attack on Jindal racist implied that any verbal attack on a nonwhite person is by definition racist. No; attacking an Indian for stupid positions isn't racist. I voted for a black man (Obama) but would mercilessly attack another black man (Ben Carson). My support of one and disdain for the other has nothing to do with the color of their skin. It has everything to do with their stances on important issues.

It's hard to call the trolling an "attack" when Jindal's campaign pinned the "Kick Me" sign on his back, but if Rick Santorum, Donald Trump or Mike Huckabee (all Caucasians, as far as I know) has a campaign manager as dumb as Jindal's who is willing to invite abuse by starting a Twitter Q&A, I think the sarcastic trolling will be largely the same.

And I have a secret that most liberals and I share. All us being equal, we'd vote for the person of color. Because straight white men are over-represented in government, give us a woman, minority or LGBT candidate and they will likely get our vote. But all else has to be equal. The left was not fooled into voting for a ticket that included Sarah Palin just because she is a woman. Nor would we vote for Ben Carson just because he's black. Although I consider myself a gay activist, I actively campaigned against a gay candidate for Congress last year because his positions and personality are so much in opposition to everything I believe in.

The fact that those on the right assume that any attack on a person of color is racist is in itself racist: It looks no further than the color of his skin. When I look at Bobby Jindal the first thing I think of isn't his color. It's the way he ignores what he learned to earn his degree in biology from Brown to pander to the creationist, homophobes he hopes will vote for him.

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The US Senate Fails Those Who Fight ISIS on Behalf of the World

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 20:47
While the Kurds applaud wholeheartedly the vote by the fifty-five Senators who supported arming the Kurdish Peshmerga directly in their courageous fight against one of the biggest evils facing humanity today, they deplore the vote by the forty-five who voted against the measure due to some totally indefensible reasoning. One wonders where those senators have been in the last year or so since ISIS started its vicious war against every national and religious group in the Middle East that have stood in their way. Even the semi-informed average citizen has heard of the savagery of ISIS and the bravery of the Peshmerga fighting them to keep both Kurdistan and the rest of the world safe from this modern-day scourge called ISIS.

The Iraqi army, which the US Congress and Administration support with all the weapons it asks for, ran away from the battlefield in Mosul and Ramadi despite its vastly superior numbers and capabilities, leaving ISIS enough weapons and ammunitions and supplies to last a big army several years to fight with. The US, on the other hand, is unwilling to directly arm the Peshmerga, the only fighting force that is standing up to ISIS, thus forcing it to depend on whatever weapons trickle down from Baghdad, knowing that the last thing Baghdad wants to see is any victory by the Peshmerga over ISIS. It may sound strange and unbelievable to an outsider, but the truth is that Arab Iraq, no matter who is in power, sees the Kurds as an equal threat as ISIS and wouldn't mind having ISIS around if it meant a weakening of the Kurds. Is this the kind of government that should be trusted with delivering to the Peshmerga their fair share of weapons?

Given the historic State Department anti-Kurd policies, there would have been very little chance for the current US Administration to listen to the Senate even if it had voted to supply the Peshmerga with arms directly. But that is beside the point, for the Senate should have taken the correct moral and political decision, which is to fully and in every way support those who are sacrificing their lives to fight a terrorist organization which is not only a threat to their own people but to the rest of humanity. Unfortunately, almost half of the Senators lacked the moral and political clarity and courage required of a leader and, instead, followed the erroneous advice of some out-of-touch bureaucrats.

The Kurds have many great friends and supporters in both the US House and Senate for which they are immensely grateful. However, some are still influenced by decades-old attitudes and policies that were dictated not by the truth about the Kurds but by erroneous information and outright lies about them created and perpetuated by the occupiers of Kurdistan and their supporters in the West. Otherwise, every policy-maker should ask this simple question: "Why on earth should the Kurdish people, numbering more than forty million and larger than two-thirds of the United Nations member states, be ruled by Arabs, Turks, and Persians? Why shouldn't they rule themselves by themselves in their own homeland that has been theirs for as long as recorded history" This is undeniable history. The Kurds were certainly living on their ancestral land of Kurdistan long before the Arabs and Turks came and invaded them and occupied their homeland, and they were there for as long as the Persians were in Persia. This is at the heart of all the issues relating to the Kurds. Had the Kurds been allowed to exercise their God-given right to live free in their own homeland, we wouldn't be discussing this issue right now.

The question of whether the Peshmerga should be armed directly or through the Iraqi government grows out of the notion of the so-called territorial integrity of Iraq, a concept that the Kurds cannot relate to, a country that was created by mistake and no longer exists except in the minds of those who are oblivious to what is happening on the ground. The Kurds have never felt part of Iraq, the country that has waged war on them from the day when that state was established.

It is past time that the US and other Western countries overhauled their policies towards the Kurds all over occupied Kurdistan and adopted a policy that is in line with Western values and ideals of freedom and democracy and the right of all people to be free from oppression and to rule themselves by themselves. This is what the Kurds deserve, no more no less. The US Congress is the logical place to launch this historic change.

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Black Church Fires In South Not Linked, No Criminal Act In South Carolina Blaze

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 20:31
GREELEYVILLE, S.C. (AP) — As social media buzzed about church fires in the South, investigators announced Thursday that weather caused a destructive blaze at a predominantly black church in South Carolina.

The State Law Enforcement Division said in a statement that investigators found no evidence of criminal intent in the fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, about 50 miles north of the "Mother Emanuel" church in Charleston where nine people were killed June 17.

The pastor at the rural black church targeted by the Ku Klux Klan 20 years ago had said he suspected lightning was to blame.

SLED says its conclusion was based on an examination of the scene, analysis of debris, witness statements and a lightning strike report.

"All of the factors led us to the conclusion that the cause of this fire was natural," SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.

While investigators look into other fires, a question is spreading online: #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches?

The answers could likely be no different than what causes other buildings to burn, according to analysts studying the incidents reported by fire departments nationwide.

More than half of fires at houses of worship from 2007 to 2011 were blamed on cooking equipment and heating and electrical systems, according to estimates by the National Fire Protection Association. The association based its estimate on data collected by the U.S. Fire Administration and supplemented with survey results. An estimated 16 percent were intentionally set, and some fraction of those were later deemed hate crimes. Those figures on fires at religious structures include a small number of funeral homes.

That's a much lower rate than attacks on schools: About half of all school fires are intentionally set. But it is twice the rate of attacks on homes, where about 8 percent of fires are intentionally set, according to the NFPA estimates.

"Perception matters," said Marty Ahrens, an analyst for the fire protection association. "We don't know all the causes of all the fires that have gone on this week. But if the church arsons had not happened so soon after the tragedy in Charleston, that horrible incident, would it have gotten the same level of attention?"

Although church fires have declined significantly in recent decades, they are not infrequent: Blazes at houses of worship happened, on average, 31 times a week across the nation, according to the data collected during the five-year period ending in 2011. If those trends still hold today, an average of five church fires could be intentionally set each week.

No one keeps a comprehensive, up-to-date tally of church fires in the United States, so it's possible to undercount the incidents.

By comparison, since the shootings in Charleston, authorities have investigated roughly a half-dozen fires at predominantly black churches in the Southeast, only three of which appear to be arson. So far, no evidence of hate crimes has publicly surfaced.

Investigators have found no potential links among the fires across five states, Justice Department spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement Thursday.

It's difficult to determine whether historically black churches burn more frequently than other churches. The best available government data doesn't distinguish churches by the predominant race of their congregations.

White supremacists in the South have burned black churches over the years as a political terrorism tactic. But some attacks on black congregations defy simple racial motives. For example, the task force formed by President Bill Clinton found that 37 percent of the people arrested for bombing or burning black churches in the 1990s were black themselves.

The same task force reported that many arsonists appeared to have non-racial motives, such as covering up other crimes, pyromania and other mental illness.

Churches may face special fire risks. For example, insurers have cautioned that church spires may attract lightning strikes, and churches may pose an easy target for arsonists, since many are vacant outside of weekly worship services.

Still, the estimated number of intentionally set fires at houses of worship and funeral homes has trended downward, falling 71 percent from 1,320 in 1980 to 380 in 1998, according to an NFPA analysis. That coincides with a general decrease in all fires at those structures.

The Rev. John Taylor, who is in his ninth year as the pastor of Mount Zion, said he immediately recalled the blaze two decades ago when he learned his rebuilt church was on fire again.

"Of course we thought about it. We wouldn't be human if we didn't," he said as he stood outside the building's charred shell. But as to the cause of the most recent fire, he said, "I really thought it probably was a lightning strike."

Greeleyville Mayor Jesse Parker was encouraging patience as investigators do their work.

"We'll just let them do their jobs and let them bring us the results of how it got started and we will accept the findings," he said.

___

Henry reported from Atlanta. Associated Press Writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Skip Foreman in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

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Weekend Roundup: How Will Greece Take Its Hemlock?

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 20:28
Ancient Greece was not only the birthplace of democracy, but also a deathbed of reason when a jury of 500 citizens condemned Socrates to die by hemlock poisoning for his impious attitude toward the order of the day. Defiant to the end, the philosopher voluntarily drank the poison himself in a suicidal display of dignity.

This weekend, Greek voters will decide in a referendum whether they will be force-fed more painful austerity, imposed by the jury of other European democracies, or, like Socrates, administer their own poison in a "no" vote that will likely push Greece out of the eurozone. Tragedy, too, such as we are witnessing today, had its origins in early Greek drama.

Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz and Martin Guzman argue that Greece will be better off administering the poison by its own hand. As they point out by examining the Argentine default in 2001, there is "life after debt and default." Manolis Glezos, the elderly firebrand of Syriza, writes from Athens that, in a democracy, "the people are the measure" of their fate.

Writing from Buenos Aires, Argentine economic historian Pierpaolo Barbieri and Dimitris Valatsas, argue the opposite. If they vote "no," Greeks "face the prospect of prolonged capital controls, severe political unrest and eventually a confiscation of ordinary citizens' savings to finance a government's withdrawal from the world." Writing from Brussels, Daniel Gros, author of "The Tale of Two Defaults," compares the Greek and Argentine experiences and speculates Greeks will swallow more austerity in order to remain in Europe. A survey of comments by Greece's European partners from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Italy to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy conveys the clear sentiment that Greeks should not be let off the hook for the kinds of structural reforms in pensions and the labor market they themselves have had to so painfully implement in their own countries.

Mohamed El-Erian, one of the most influential voices in the global bond market, worries that Europe may be caught in a "perfect storm" of Greek default, populist uprisings and Putin threatening from the East. Mark Weisbrot examines the highly unusual case of members of the U.S. Congress calling out the IMF for its heavy-handed austerity policies for Greece.

Writing from Athens, Alex Andreou praises Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, saying he "is what all leaders should actually be like" and calls on Greeks not to "blink." Financial analyst Dimitrios Giokas spells out the "devastating consequences" of returning to the drachma. Wharton School professor Mauro Guillén expects a "euro in flames" if Greece defaults with its European creditors. Lucia Annunziata writes from Rome that the Greek crisis has stripped the European Union of its technocratic mask and unveiled the reality of power politics. By calling on Greeks to vote "yes" in Sunday's referendum, she says, EU leaders are asking for Tsipras' head to be delivered "on a platter." Also writing from Athens, HuffPost Greece editor Pavlos Tsimas wonders what he is really being asked to vote on in the referendum.

Daniel Marans explains why German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be held responsible if Greece is forced out of the eurozone. HuffPost France examines how France's National Front is looking to capitalize on the "greferendum" and diagrams -- in an infographic -- what Greece's options are going forward. In photo essays, we look at how Greeks on the street are handling uncertainty and how they're preparing for the crucial referendum.

World editor Charlotte Alfred pulls together comments from a wide range of economists who argue that austerity is a dead-end policy for Greece. She also details the terrible state of the country's austerity economy and compiles a list with World editor Eline Gordts of the "10 Things You Need To Know About Greece's Week Of Crisis."

U.S. President Barack Obama calls for "a fair day's pay" for "a hard day's work" when employees work overtime. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg tells the graduating class at Tsinghua University in Beijing that we live in an interconnected world in which "nothing is someone else's problem." Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo joins former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in calling on cities to be vital players in the Paris climate talks. Ruth Fowler says being a mom in America is much harder than in Great Britain. In a unique take, MIT Media Lab's Cesar Hidalgo links the "computational capacity" of economies to the income they can generate.

Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji examines the fierce power politics behind the red lines Ayatollah Khamenei has drawn in the nuclear deal being negotiated with the West. Ali Khan Mahmudabad exposes the secret Saudi-Israeli talks aimed at blocking rising Iranian influence in the Middle East. In an interview, Trita Parsi tells us what Iranians really think about the nuclear negotiations. Haras Rafiq scores ISIS for turning Ramadan, the "month of celebrating peace," into "a month for jihadist attacks." World editor Nick Robins-Early asks Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Center whether ISIS is more powerful now than a year ago when it declared its caliphate. Writing from Tel Aviv, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi says ISIS is neither winning nor losing.

WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports on Egypt's uphill PR campaign to portray the state as winning the "war on extremism." She also reports on how police in Istanbul broke up a gay pride parade with water cannons. Our China correspondent Matt Sheehan ponders what Confucius would say about gay marriage.

In a podcast, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn, talks about the growing Chinese military presence in Africa. Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's widow, writes about how we can help educate and empower millions of marginalized girls worldwide. Futurist Vivek Wadhwa describes India's "leap" into mobile technology. In our Singularity series this week, we tell the story behind the first 3-D printing of a wrench in outer space. Finally, Fusion profiles Bree Newsome, the woman who climbed a flag poll to take down the Confederate flag outside the statehouse in South Carolina's Capitol.


WHO WE ARE

EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost's editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost's Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are Associate World Editors.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the "whole mind" way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council -- as well as regular contributors -- to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.

MISSION STATEMENT

The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

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Open Season on the Elites: Bernie Sanders Is Leading the Charge

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 20:01
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernard Sanders is drawing overflow crowds. He is garnering support at the grassroots level, and is raising "eye-popping" amounts of cash from small donors. Some of his enthusiastic adherents seem to believe there is no God but Bernie Sanders.

Part of the reason for this insurgence is not only what Sanders is proposing, but also who he is attacking. Insurrectionist candidates like Sanders often make a splash on the national radar by excoriating "the elites." On the Democratic side of the ledger, the elites are the "billionaire class" from Wall Street and multinational corporations. They are portrayed as having what Sanders calls: "unquenchable greed," and exerting too much influence over policy makers. Sanders told CNBC: "What I think is obscene, and what frightens me, is again when you have the top one-tenth of one percent owning as much as the bottom ninety."

Conservative insurgent candidates also can spark a firestorm of approbation by vilifying "elites." However, they take shots at a different kind of elite. They view elites in cultural rather than economic terms. An insurgent Presidential candidate can hit a nerve by lambasting academicians, liberal college students, intellectuals, and bureaucrats.

The left has a perpetual angst toward Wall Street and the concentration of wealth in the few. Populist insurgent candidates like Sanders exploit that enmity. As far back as 1892, James B. Weaver, the nominee of the liberal Greenback Party, fueled his populist candidacy by pitting working class Americans against the powerful. Like Sanders, he called for Federal Government action to narrow the economic disparity. Weaver bemoaned: "Our government has chartered thousands of corporations, turned them loose upon us and now permits them to commit from year to year... outrages upon our people."

While the Populist Party dissolved, many planks in their platform became enveloped in the Democratic Party. In 1896, the Party nominated William Jennings Bryan, who moved the message of the Democratic Party to the left, supporting a graduated income tax, an increase in social spending, and taking the nation off of the Gold Standard. Bryan branded himself as "The Great Commoner" and took on his own party and its relationship with Wallstreet. He avowed: "Our party should not defer to Wall Street and big business." Bryan's nomination forced establishment Democrats with close ties to Wall Street, including President Grover Cleveland, to support the third party candidacy of John M. Palmer.

U.S. Senator Huey Long (D-LA 1932-1935) became a cult figure for his declamations excoriating the influence of Wall Street on the political process. Like Bryan and Sanders, Long viewed both parties as beholden to the moneyed elites. Long exclaimed in 1932: "They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen." Before his assassination in 1935, Long was preparing for a primary challenge to Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who he viewed as too close to Wall Street. Long drew elephantine crowds from around the country. Roosevelt came to fear a potential challenge in his renomination bid in 1936 and his campaign commissioned the first ever nationwide poll, which showed that Long would garner about 6 million votes against Roosevelt.

More recently, during his 1992 bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination, former California Governor Jerry Brown drew legions of followers by railing against those at the top of the economic ladder. He called for dramatic reforms in the electoral and financial systems to level the playing field. His rhetoric was eerily similar to Sanders, and he drew similar crowds. Brown bewailed: "You have an incredible concentration of wealth that has no historic precedent . . . The 1 percent, who have been able to insulate themselves from this downward pressure on wages, this is the group that controls politics."

Interestingly, as the New Hampshire primary approached that year, one of Brown's opponents, Bill Clinton, adopted populist anti-elite rhetoric in part to distance himself from the New Hampshire front-runner and eventual winner Paul Tsongas, who was loathe to attack the upper classes. Clinton said that a vote for him would "send a message to Washington and Wall Street."

In 1968, Alabama Governor George Wallace, the nominee of the American Independent Party, won a largely blue-collar conservative following by exploiting the undercurrent of virulence they felt toward "cultural elites." Many were Democrats who had become disillusioned with "the new left." Many protested U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and many rejected contemporaneous American values. When heckled during a speech by a coterie of hippies, Wallace turned to them and averred: "You come up when I get through and I'll autograph your sandals for you. That is, if you got any on . . .. You need a good haircut. That's all that's wrong with you . . .. There are two four-letter words I bet you folks don't know: work and soap." The crowd awarded Wallace with an avalanche of applause. During stump speeches, Wallace would often draw thunderous applause by asserting that if he were to become President, he would: "bring all these briefcase-toting bureaucrats in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to Washington and throw their briefcases in the Potomac River."

That year, it was Wallace who filled the niche as the anti-elitist candidate, not the Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon. However, Nixon was a pioneer in challenging 'cultural elites.' In 1952, as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Nixon gave the Democratic Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, who often spoke in a professorial tone, the moniker, "egghead." Stevenson tried to make light of the attack, quipping: "Eggheads of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your yolks."

As President, Nixon deployed Vice President Spiro Agnew to "crack those elites." Following the 1969 Moratorium to end the War in Vietnam, Vice President Spiro Agnew revved up conservative populist indignation toward the intellectual elites. He told a Republican Party fundraiser in New Orleans: "A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." In an address to the California Republican State Convention delivered on September 11, 1970, Agnew excoriated the American news media, exclaiming: "In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club - The hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

More recently, even Republican Presidential nominees who earned Ivy League degrees employ the anti-elitist tactic. For example, in 1988, George H. W. Bush bashed his Democratic rival Michael Dukakis, asserting: "His foreign policy views born in Harvard Yard's boutique, would cut the muscle of defense."

Similarly, in 2012, Mitt Romney, who earned two advanced degrees from Harvard University, tried to tether Democratic President Barack Obama negatively to the institution. Romney declared: "I didn't learn about the economy just reading about it or hearing about it at the faculty lounge at Harvard."

Sanders is singing from the same hymnbook of past contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination by railing against "the economic elites." The caricature of the elitist, which effectuates indignation on the left, is the rapacious billionaire who has no regard for those economically less fortunate.

So far in the 2016 Presidential election cycle only Bernie Sanders has opened fire on the elites. It probably won't be long, however, before other candidates take aim at the elites, be they cultural or economic elites. Elites are always a very popular target for candidates.

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Bobby Jindal Gives Up Last Stand Against Gay Marriage Licenses In Louisiana

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 19:58
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has been relentlessly resisting the Supreme Court's historic decision that made same-sex marriage legal in every state. On Thursday, the federal trial court in New Orleans released a ruling that ended Jindal's nearly weeklong effort to hold out.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman officially struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban and directed all state agencies in Louisiana to recognize gay marriage, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Jindal's administration finally relented and agreed to abide by the ruling.

While most of the remaining states with gay marriage bans immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last Friday, the day of the Supreme Court ruling, state officials in Louisiana looked for ways to postpone the inevitable.

Jindal himself took a particularly extreme stance. Last Friday, the 2016 presidential hopeful denounced the Supreme Court and suggested it would be better to just disband the nation's highest court.

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” Jindal said. “If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.”

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell (R) meanwhile said that because the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling did not directly order states to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, "there is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana." Local court clerks were instructed to hold off for 25 days. Clerks across Louisiana issued licenses anyway, except in New Orleans. In the state's largest city, a state agency, which reports to Jindal, has control over marriage licenses.

Jindal argued that he wanted to wait until a lower court applied the Supreme Court's decision to Louisiana. On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit formally overturned Louisiana's gay marriage ban, seemingly giving Jindal the go-ahead.

But the governor persisted in his stall, releasing a statement indicating that he would wait for a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. When that court said this means you on Thursday, Jindal had no choice but to give up his resistance.

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U.S. To Reopen Embassy In Cuba, For Now Without An Ambassador

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 19:33
That the United States is finally ready to reopen its embassy in Cuba comes as little surprise; U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration had hoped to plant its diplomatic flag in Havana back in April, more than a half-century since the two nations severed relations. But Obama’s announcement Wednesday was absent a salient detail: a decision on who will serve as the ambassador.

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Reproductive Malpractice and the U.S. Military

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 19:16
Co-written by Alex Stein

It's been a century since the first woman enlisted in a non-nursing role in the United States armed forces, 30 years later that a federal law made women a permanent part of the military, and another 30 since all branches of the military except combat arms have been open to female officers. Today, servicewomen see combat almost as their male counterparts and a greater proportion of women are commissioned officers. Many start families while serving their country.

Remarkably, these servicewomen lack protection against even the most egregious malpractice during pregnancy. This frustrates their meaningful ability to exercise their reproductive rights and denies them the compensation necessary to care for children with disabilities. An outdated Supreme Court doctrine and congressional loophole leaves servicewomen unable to recover for the negligent prenatal care they receive in a military hospital. However egregious the malpractice and grave the suffering it causes, our law offers no recourse for the wrong done to the woman's procreative interest and to her child's physical and mental wellbeing.

Take the recent case of Captain Heather Ortiz, an active-duty servicemember in the U.S. Air Force who was admitted to a military hospital to deliver her baby by C-section. In preparation for that surgery, hospital staff made a critical mistake by administering Captain Ortiz drugs that reduced her blood pressure to dangerously low levels. As a result, her baby girl, I.O., was deprived of oxygen in utero and born with severe brain damage. I.O. requires around-the-clock supervision and care and likely will for the rest of her life. In a decision announced last month, however, the Tenth Circuit denied redress to Captain Ortiz and I.O. The Court lamented that "the facts here exemplify the overbreadth (and unfairness) of th[e] [Supreme Court] doctrine" that exempts the government from liability for injuries that are related to military service, "but [it] is not ours to overrule."

That "incident to service" exemption comes from a 1950 case, Feres v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held that the government pays no tort compensation for injuries that active servicemembers sustain due to negligence by others in the armed forces. The Court reasoned that a compensation program the Veterans Benefit Act established for injured and fallen soldiers works well enough and that tort claims shouldn't be permitted to stand between the army and its soldiers. But the Veterans program has a hole: it offers nothing for Captain Ortiz because her injured civilian child is not a veteran. Had Heather Ortiz been the civilian wife of a serviceman, Feres immunity wouldn't apply and the government would have to cover the expenses of I.O.'s severe incapacitation Because Captain Ortiz is a servicewoman, however, she and I.O. must go uncompensated.

Back in 1950, when women comprised just a tiny fraction of active servicemembers, the Supreme Court could not foresee this blatant discrimination. But should Captain Ortiz appeal her case to that high court, as her lawyers apparently plan to, there can no longer be any excuse to deprive servicewomen and their newborns of the compensatory relief they desperately need and squarely deserve.

Consider the 2001 case of Yvonne Smith, an active-duty member of the Air Force who was negligently denied fetal tests at a military hospital, "prevent[ing] [her] from discovering that [her son] Elijah would be born with a severe birth defect, and thereby depriv[ing] her of the choice to terminate the pregnancy." A federal district court in New Jersey concluded that Feres immunity precluded her claim because her injury "was incident to service."

Elijah was still allowed to sue because New Jersey is one of the four states that recognizes "wrongful life" as a child's independent injury. But the other forty six states forbid such suits so that courts won't have to determine "the relative benefits of an impaired life as opposed to no life at all." The result is that both a servicewoman and her child are deprived any legal redress.

If the Supreme Court declines an invitation to abolish Feres, there is still a way to fix this injustice. Congress should set up a fund for compensating children whose disabilities were caused by substandard care at military medical facilities. Establishing such a fund would eradicate the discrimination between tort victims and provide dedicated servicewomen and children like I.O. the resources they need and deserve.

Dov Fox and Alex Stein are law professors at the University of San Diego School of Law and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, respectively.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.










Reproductive Malpractice and the U.S. Military

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 19:16
Co-written by Alex Stein

It's been a century since the first woman enlisted in a non-nursing role in the United States armed forces, 30 years later that a federal law made women a permanent part of the military, and another 30 since all branches of the military except combat arms have been open to female officers. Today, servicewomen see combat almost as their male counterparts and a greater proportion of women are commissioned officers. Many start families while serving their country.

Remarkably, these servicewomen lack protection against even the most egregious malpractice during pregnancy. This frustrates their meaningful ability to exercise their reproductive rights and denies them the compensation necessary to care for children with disabilities. An outdated Supreme Court doctrine and congressional loophole leave servicewomen unable to recover for the negligent prenatal care they receive in a military hospital. However egregious the malpractice and grave the suffering it causes, our law offers no recourse for the wrong done to the woman's procreative interest and to her child's physical and mental wellbeing.

Take the recent case of Captain Heather Ortiz, an active-duty servicemember in the U.S. Air Force who was admitted to a military hospital to deliver her baby by C-section. In preparation for that surgery, hospital staff made a critical mistake by administering Captain Ortiz drugs that reduced her blood pressure to dangerously low levels. As a result, her baby girl, I.O., was deprived of oxygen in utero and born with severe brain damage. I.O. requires around-the-clock supervision and care and likely will for the rest of her life. In a decision announced last month, however, the Tenth Circuit denied redress to Captain Ortiz and I.O. The Court lamented that "the facts here exemplify the overbreadth (and unfairness) of th[e] [Supreme Court] doctrine" that exempts the government from liability for injuries that are related to military service, "but [it] is not ours to overrule."

That "incident to service" exemption comes from a 1950 case, Feres v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held that the government pays no tort compensation for injuries that active servicemembers sustain due to negligence by others in the armed forces. The Court reasoned that a compensation program the Veterans Benefit Act established for injured and fallen soldiers works well enough and that tort claims shouldn't be permitted to stand between the army and its soldiers. But the Veterans program has a hole: it offers nothing for Captain Ortiz because her injured civilian child is not a veteran. Had Heather Ortiz been the civilian wife of a serviceman, Feres immunity wouldn't apply and the government would have to cover the expenses of I.O.'s severe incapacitation Because Captain Ortiz is a servicewoman, however, she and I.O. must go uncompensated.

Back in 1950, when women comprised just a tiny fraction of active servicemembers, the Supreme Court could not foresee this blatant discrimination. But should Captain Ortiz appeal her case to that high court, as her lawyers apparently plan to, there can no longer be any excuse to deprive servicewomen and their newborns of the compensatory relief they desperately need and squarely deserve.

Consider the 2001 case of Yvonne Smith, an active-duty member of the Air Force who was negligently denied fetal tests at a military hospital, "prevent[ing] [her] from discovering that [her son] Elijah would be born with a severe birth defect, and thereby depriv[ing] her of the choice to terminate the pregnancy." A federal district court in New Jersey concluded that Feres immunity precluded her claim because her injury "was incident to service."

Elijah was still allowed to sue because New Jersey is one of the four states that recognizes "wrongful life" as a child's independent injury. But the other forty six states forbid such suits so that courts won't have to determine "the relative benefits of an impaired life as opposed to no life at all." The result is that both a servicewoman and her child are deprived any legal redress.

If the Supreme Court declines an invitation to abolish Feres, there is still a way to fix this injustice. Congress should set up a fund for compensating children whose disabilities were caused by substandard care at military medical facilities. Establishing such a fund would eradicate the discrimination between tort victims and provide dedicated servicewomen and children like I.O. the resources they need and deserve.

Dov Fox and Alex Stein are law professors at the University of San Diego School of Law and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, respectively.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.










'I'll Vote No With Both Hands:' An 85-Year-Old's Story Of Struggle In Greece

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 19:15



Penelope Tyraki and her granddaughter


Penelope Tyraki is 85 years old. She has 10 children and 17 grandchildren. She survived the Nazis.



This is how she remembers it: Early one morning, 75 years ago, German soldiers from Hitler's army banged on her door in Koxare, a small town on the island of Crete. Together with her father -- an Orthodox priest -- and her mother and brothers, she was hauled out of the house in her pajamas. They were thrust into the town's small church, where many of their neighbors were already waiting in similar conditions. After barring the gates, the soldiers locked them in and wired the building with explosives. They planned to blow it up with all the townspeople inside.



"We were terrified, even despite the fact that, as children, we didn't quite understand what was going on," she said. "At the last moment, the leader of the German soldiers got a phone call and that seems to have saved our lives. There weren't enough young men inside the church. We were just a few people. It wasn't worth wasting explosives on a bunch of old men, women and children. They took us out and led us to an elevated spot in town where they forced us to watch while they blew up each one of our homes. It was awful. Three days later, we came back to town, destroyed, and my parents and brothers picked up the charred remains of what had been our home, a beautiful home. I was left without a school and, even worse, without a future, without the possibility of an education."



"Why do they now want to do the same thing to my children and grandchildren? Justice, I only ask for justice," she says. "Write this down, please: Help us."



Tyraki's big blue eyes well up with tears, but she flicks them away with a swipe of her hand. At 85, she still transmits the strength and rage that can only be explained by that feeling of injustice that has lived within the majority of Greeks since 2010, a feeling that grew on Monday, when the government closed banks and markets.

They know -- the grandmother especially -- that a tough week awaits them. She was widowed when she was young and has 10 children and 17 grandchildren who have struggled to make ends meet since this financial crisis started destroying their lives five years ago.



She is sitting in her kitchen in the Ilioupolis neighborhood on the outskirts of Athens. The neighborhood, whose name means "City of Light," is a middle-class neighborhood that was upper-middle-class until five years ago, when the crisis prompted problems that sound a lot like the ones that Spaniards have: unemployment, mortgage defaults and plummeting home values. This evening, during the first week of the Greek corralito.

, Ilioupolis seems quiet. The stores are open and people greet each other, much like they do every day. Though perhaps there's a bit more complicity and solidarity, says Manuel, one of Tyraki's sons.



"Look, do you see anything out of the ordinary? Do you see people standing in lines or raiding stores? We are worried, but we are not scared," he says wearily. "The foreign camera crews don't come to this neighborhood. You know why? Because there's no news, just normality." He just arrived from one of his two jobs as a cook at Athens' oncology hospital. He is tired of watching news clips in which Greeks are portrayed as lazy bums who live off their pensions.



"We are so fed up with it," he says. "I think that now they are trying to scare off the tourists, since they must have realized they can't scare us. That would hurt us."



"I owe them nothing, absolutely nothing, and now they want to steal the future of my children and my grandchildren."

Tyraki insists that we eat something, that we drink; it is Greek hospitality asserting itself before we settle around the kitchen table -- her domain. She laughs somewhat bitterly at my question regarding her fear during that first day and the fear for her pension.



"Fear? Yes, I might be a bit scared, but hope weighs more. I've gone through a lot in this life. I became a widow and no one wanted to rent me a house because I had 10 children -- one died when he was young. All those kids would supposedly destroy any rentable place."



She puts her hand on Manuel, before continuing: "You see, this is one of my sons. My granddaughter is also here and the rest are out, working whatever jobs they can find. Do we look like bums or like people who will destroy a rented house? My father died shortly after the German occupation and my mother was left to raise her children in Crete, four children she couldn't send to school because it had been burned down. I couldn't go to school, and I will never forget that. My mother pulled us upward."

"When I was 12, I started working in a typography workshop. I didn't go to school, but I ended up setting books, sewing their backs and binding them. It was a wonderful and exhausting job. There were books of all kinds: the Bible, books for reading and books for studying. Some of that rubbed off on me. I loved sewing the backs onto books. Yes, true to my name, I honor sewing," she says. "My mother got sick because of something in the ink. This is my life. What do I owe the Germans, who already stole my childhood? I owe them nothing, absolutely nothing, and now they want to steal the future of my children and my grandchildren."



It's curious that Tyraki, who, like the majority of the Greeks, follows all the news in Greece as well as everything that is said from Brussels, blames the Germans -- specifically German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble -- before blaming Merkel or the European Union. She knows the Finns and the Danes back harsh measures against Greece, but the ghost of Nazi Germany has reappeared in her life since the austerity measures have been imposed on her country.



"You know why I believe in Tsipras or Varoufakis? Because they are young and they are not tainted by corruption. The old politicians, the previous governments, have sold out the Greek people. They sacrificed us while they stole and they forgot to defend us from the Germans and from all of Europe. I love Europe, you know? But I owe nothing to the Germans. Quite the opposite. When the war ended, I tried to forgive them, to understand that we had to assist them so it wouldn't happen again. All Europeans helped them, even those whose countries were occupied and razed by the Nazis. Why can't they now think about the Greeks, about the Greek people? Neither I nor my sons are corrupt. We didn't forge any state accounts. Let them hold accountable those who actually stole."



She starts getting agitated again, but she restrains herself: "I help my children with my pension. Five years ago, I received 900 euros [monthly] and a supplement of 400 euros for being a widow of an Orthodox priest. I could split it up then, especially to help some of my grandchildren with education. Now I receive 730 euros and 123 as a supplement. Yes, I know, you say that we have very high pensions compared to [Spain], but I assure you that I earned it, and that without my help over the past five years my family wouldn't have made it. Some of them live with me. They watch over me, we support each other, we eat together."



A million Greek households are supported by their grandparents' pensions.




Penelope Tyraki


"As Greeks, we don't want compassion. We want justice."

Penelope Tyraki calls Diana, one of her 17 grandchildren, who is on summer vacation. The girl, barely ten years old, walks into the kitchen and is surprised to see her grandmother's wet eyes, her tense face and the sadness in her voice. But when Tyraki realizes that she is affecting everyone around her, she straightens her back.



"As Greeks, we don't want compassion. We want justice. You know why I am mad? Because the rest of the Europeans don't want to help us. I don't mean the people, I mean your governments. There are Spanish political parties and people who support them, but governments like yours fear that the 'No' will win in Sunday's referendum, because if it is possible to resist here, then your governments might lose in your elections."



She opens the palms of her hands over the Formica table. They are old hands, stained by the marks of age, but they are clean and strong with a single ring, perhaps her wedding band.



"It's true that in Europe there are other people -- like yours -- who I support. But right now you are like we were before: with old and corrupt politicians. I know that if Merkel chose to, if she stopped listening to that Schäuble and those other hardliners, this would be fixed. I don't belong to any political party. I am Greek."



Next Sunday, Tyraki will vote oxi --'no'-- to the austerity measures demanded by Brussels. "It's not yes or no to the euro, we know that," she says. "But I will vote 'no' to those measures because if we have to leave the euro, I am aware that two or three very hard years await us. But we are used to that, and afterwards we'll have our own new politicians to find our way. We can't do this anymore. I don't see why I have to stand Schäuble or his accusing finger ordering me around anymore. I know that we must forgive. But never forget. I could tell Mr. Schäuble that perhaps his grandfather was one of the men who burned down my house, my school. My brothers were forced to move to North America. My uncles and my cousins died in the war or shortly after. Return to the drachma? Today a kilogram of feta cheese costs 5 euros. Do you realize all the numbers we need in order to buy everything we need? Five years ago it was less than half. Write this down please: I only ask for justice."



Penelope Tyraki leaves the table. She doesn't want to get agitated yet again in front of her son.



"One last thing," she says, turning around with a smile. "In Koxare, my town in Crete, the place where I was born and the place they razed, my childhood home is now the museum that houses the charred remains of all the homes that Hitler's troops burned down."



She would like to take Schäuble there.



This article originally appeared on HuffPost Spain and was translated into English.

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Ferguson Prosecutor Accused Of Misconduct Is Still Crusading Against Ferguson Arrestees

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 19:05
FERGUSON, Mo. -- “Did the protesters use the term ‘Fuck the police’?”

It’s late Tuesday morning, and perhaps 15 people are gathered in a room inside City Hall in this St. Louis suburb, a room that usually hosts meetings of the Ferguson City Council. Seated at the head of the dais, in the chair usually reserved for Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, is a man wearing a robe. Ferguson Municipal Court is in session.

Seated at one end of the dais, at the same level as the judge, is Ferguson Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Karr, who has held that part-time role since April 2011 and who also serves as Ferguson’s city attorney. Shortly after Karr was hired as Ferguson’s top prosecutor, according to a Justice Department investigation, Mary Ann Twitty, who was then Ferguson's city court clerk, complained in an email to Ferguson’s municipal court judge and police chief that the fines Karr was recommending for certain offenses -- like "derelict vehicle" and "failure to comply" -- were not high enough. “We need to keep up our revenue,” Twitty wrote.

Twitty is now gone, fired for sending racist emails. Also gone is former Ferguson Municipal Court Judge Ronald Brockmeyer, who, it turned out, owed tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes even as he was jailing people who couldn’t afford Ferguson’s stiff fines. Former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, who supervised the court employees and bragged about the revenue the municipal court was bringing in, has retired.

But Karr -- who by day works for Curtis, Heinz, Garrett and O’Keefe, one of several St. Louis law firms that profit off of the county's network of tiny municipalities desperate for revenue -- is still around. This week, the part-time prosecutor was going after three people who were arrested under questionable circumstances outside the Ferguson Police Department in the early morning hours of Aug. 14, 2014, just days after Darren Wilson, who was then a Ferguson police officer, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. In the court proceedings this week, Karr was seeking hundreds of dollars in fines for minor violations of Ferguson’s municipal code.

Many of the people who were arrested in Ferguson, figuring it was unlikely they'd receive fair treatment in a municipal court that was essentially a massive shakedown, ended up taking plea deals and forking over some cash to avoid wasting time and money on fighting the charges. The three who had their day in court this week -- Michael Powers, Meghan Flannery and Liz Peinado -- chose to take the more difficult route.

Powers, 30, serves as legislative director to the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, while Flannery and Peinado, both 25, work as educational program directors for a nonprofit organization run by St. Louis Alderman Antonio French. Last August, hours before Powers, Flannery and Peinado were taken into custody, French -- who would go on to gain notoriety for documenting the protests in Ferguson on Twitter -- was arrested and held at the Ferguson Police Department. A crowd gathered outside the building to await his release, some of them chanting: “Hell no, we won’t go / Till you free Antonio." Powers, Flannery and Peinado were at the scene.



It had been an eventful day. On Aug. 13, dozens of heavily armored officers with the St. Louis County Police Department and a variety of other law enforcement agencies swarmed a crowd of peaceful demonstrators who'd been marching down the street. In broad daylight, officers pointed sniper rifles at the crowd from atop armored vehicles. They ordered peaceful demonstrators to leave the area, and they arrested with abandon.

The tactics used by police that day have since been roundly condemned by policing experts and Democratic and Republican politicians alike, and a forthcoming expert report commissioned by the Justice Department asserts that the tactics only served to incite additional unrest. The police actions of Aug. 13 led Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) to take command out of the hands of the St. Louis County Police Department and put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge. The next day, under the direction of Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, officers in normal uniforms calmly and successfully policed the demonstrations. Protesters and police officers shook hands, shared hugs and took selfies.

In Ferguson Municipal Court this week, the unconstitutional police tactics of Aug. 13 and early Aug. 14, tactics that suppressed the free-speech rights of American citizens, didn’t seem to strike Karr as a big deal. She objected when John Ammann, a law professor at Saint Louis University School of Law who represented all three defendants, brought up the issue of intimidation. Karr instead kept the focus on the “violent protesters,” even though all three defendants were only charged with noise ordinance violations and failure to comply.

Ammann, seated at a plastic folding table about a foot lower than the judge and the prosecutor on the elevated platform, objected when Karr asked Ferguson police Officer Sean Gibbons whether protesters had yelled “Fuck the police.” Judge Donald McCullin sustained the objection, finding that Karr’s question was improper.

Gibbons, who was first hired by the Ferguson Police Department in 1996, admitted that he never actually saw the defendants yelling or actively protesting, even though he sought to charge them with noise ordinance violations. He claimed that Powers, Flannery and Peinado were told via loudspeaker that they were under arrest, but he acknowledged that it was possible they did not hear the announcement. He also said it was “very possible” that protesters were intimidated by the sight of heavily armed St. Louis County Police officers on top of armored vehicles.

Powers testified that he was trying that night to comply with police orders to disperse, but that he was barricaded in by armored vehicles. Powers said he asked a police officer how he should leave the area. Instead of offering assistance or instructions, Powers said, the officer told him to turn around and then arrested him.

Karr appeared unsympathetic.

“You couldn’t walk out of the area?” she asked Powers. “If you had done your research, you would have known that street was Tiffin.”

“We were not able to safely leave the area, in my judgment,” Powers replied.

Peinado did not testify, but she said in an interview with The Huffington Post that after the police ordered the crowd to disperse, she went back to the vehicle she'd shared with Flannery that day. She says she was in the passenger seat with her seat belt buckled when police surrounded the car.

“They tried to paint this overall picture of protesters being violent and throwing things. Having been there for several hours, that’s not what I witnessed,” Peinado said. “I definitely wasn’t one of them. In fact, I sat on the ground with my phone, not doing anything, on a public sidewalk.”

Peinado called Karr “aggressive,” and said this week's three trials were a waste of her time.

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong at all. I wholeheartedly know that I did not break any laws,” she said. “The fact that it’s almost a year later and I’m still going through this -- I want to be done with it. But I’m also not going to agree to say I did something that I didn’t do.”

Flannery, who described Karr’s pursuit of her case as a waste of resources, could be seen shaking her head several times during the trials. She said Karr was picking out “irrelevant” details.

“If they’re trying to make a show of persecuting somebody for being in Ferguson, I mean, I guess I could understand that,” Flannery said. “But I don’t understand why it’s been this long and this drawn out of a process.”

Flannery and Peinado are not the only ones critical of Karr, who as Ferguson’s city attorney has demanded tens of thousands of dollars from media organizations seeking city records. In fact, the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson’s municipal court accuses Karr of abusing her power.

The DOJ report says that Karr and her assistants “officially prosecute all actions before the court,” but that most cases are resolved “without trial or a prosecutor’s involvement.” It notes that in 2013, Karr -- who also worked as a prosecuting attorney in Hazelwood, Missouri -- had a red-light camera ticket dismissed there for Ronald Brockmeyer, the municipal court judge who would later be found to owe the government tens of thousands of dollars. That same year, Karr also had a prosecutor from another municipality dismiss a speeding ticket for the relative of a Ferguson Police Department patrol supervisor. Also in 2013, Karr had a parking ticket dismissed for the employee of a nonprofit day camp at the request of Ferguson Mayor Knowles.

Another case from 2014 prosecuted under Karr’s watch was even more troubling. A black family was at the park, and the parents allowed their small children “to urinate in the bushes next to their parked car,” according to the DOJ report. An officer stopped them, and decided to check the father for warrants. Per the report:

When the mother asked if the officer had to detain the father in front of the children, the officer turned to the father and said, “you’re going to jail because your wife keeps running her mouth.” The mother then began recording the officer on her cell phone. The officer became irate, declaring, “you don’t videotape me!” As the officer drove away with the father in custody for “parental neglect,” the mother drove after them, continuing to record. The officer then pulled over and arrested her for traffic violations. When the father asked the officer to show mercy, he responded, “no more mercy, since she wanted to videotape,” and declared “nobody videotapes me.” The officer then took the phone, which the couple’s daughter was holding. After posting bond, the couple found that the video had been deleted.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Ferguson officer who allegedly abused that family -- and who, a month later, allegedly arrested a passenger in a vehicle because he'd declined to provide identification -- had a history. The officer had previously been “found untruthful” during an official Ferguson Police Department investigation. Yet the “prosecuting attorney" -- it's not clear whether this refers to Karr or an assistant under her supervision -- "presented his testimony without informing [the father arrested in front of his children] of that fact,” according to the DOJ report. The father hired a lawyer and went to trial, but Brockmeyer, who was still Ferguson’s municipal court judge at that point, repeatedly interrupted the defending lawyer and threatened to hold him in contempt when he objected, according to the DOJ report.

This past January, the same officer was called as a witness in at least two other cases, the report says. According to his own police department, the officer was a liar. But the defendants were never told.

The court has yet to reach a verdict in the trials of Peinado, Flannery and Powers. Karr did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.

Mariah Stewart reported from Ferguson. Ryan J. Reilly reported from Washington.

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EU Proposal Adopts Net Neutrality Principles for 'Open Internet,' But Would Create Fast Lanes

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 18:30
A draft agreement released by the European Commission has many net neutrality advocates concerned that a loophole will destroy net neutrality in Europe by creating Internet "fast lanes."

In its public proposal, the European Commission would apply the fundamental principles of net neutrality to all broadband Internet services providing access to the Open Internet in Europe's single digital market: no blocking or throttling of legal online content, apps or services. All bits traveling over the networks the EU defines as the Open Internet would be treated equally. Prioritization, "degradation or discrimination" would all be be banned.

The sticky wicket lies in the creation of "specialized services," like "IPTV, high-definition videoconferencing or health care services like telesurgery." According to the EC's proposal, such services "use the Internet protocol and the same access network but require a significant improvement in quality or the possibility to guarantee some technical requirements to their end-users that cannot be ensured in the best-effort open Internet."

It's these specialized services that are raising red flags for advocates.

"'Specialized services' has always been a potential problem," Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, said in an interview. "On the one hand, regulators hate to ban anything completely. The argument is always that there might be some wonderful life-saving medical application or super awesome wonderful job-creating application that only works with prioritization. On the other hand, regulators also recognize that the exception can effectively nullify net neutrality if any application or content can simply be declared a 'specialized service.'"

The proposed rules would allow "zero rating," or sponsored data for some applications and services, which does not co-exist with strong net neutrality laws worldwide. Much of the flak that Facebook's Internet.org has faced around the world stems from this approach.

Some analysts, however, see a role for specialized services separate from the Internet the public uses.

"Some services require higher quality of service guarantees or lower latency," said Eli Dourado, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "You wouldn’t want your voice calls to degrade, your video game to lag, or God forbid, your telesurgery to stutter because someone on the network is bulk downloading files using Bittorrent. Application-specific prioritization is a reasonable way to ensure that network resources are used more efficiently."

In Dourado's view, the harm that Open Internet regulations seek to address is mostly hypothetical, but if such rules pass he supports explicitly allowing companies to provide services with different characteristics, as the EU has done. As with so many regulations, the devil will be in the finer details of the regulation. "Application of the 'specialized service' definition is always very concerning," said Feld. "The FCC, in its 2015 net neutrality order, did a lot to try to tighten up the definition so that providers couldn't simply evade the no-prioritization rule by using the magic words 'managed service,' the U.S. version of 'specialized service'."

Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, director of European affairs for the Center for Democracy & Technology, said in an interview that the agreement's text "has evolved through torturous negotiations between member states and Parliament." He cautioned that no one has seen the final text, only a fact sheet from the commission.

The Center for Democracy and Technology is open to the idea of specialized services separate from the public Internet, in theory, but is reserving judgment before it sees the final proposal to support or oppose the EU approach.

"While some net neutrality advocates are opposed to the concept on principle, CDT has consistently argued that ISPs and operators should have flexibility to innovate and experiment with new services on the condition that they do not harm the quality of the open Internet, and that they are not sold or used as a substitute for it," blogged Jeppesen. "The Regulation attempts to reflect these limitations, but CDT is troubled by reports that the exception for specialized services may be too vague and open-ended to maintain a clear distinction between Internet access service and specialized services, and ensure that the provision of such services does not leave the open Internet unharmed."

We've seen this movie before, but it may end differently this time. In the spring of 2014, a controversial Federal Communications Commission proposal that would have allowed broadband Internet service providers to charge for premium access to fast lanes touched off a raging controversy over regulation -- which eventually led to the enactment of far stronger Open Internet rules in the United States than just about anyone expected.

Unless there's a similar popular outcry, the European Parliament and the European Union Council are likely to formally approve the proposal -- which includes a crowd-pleasing announcement about the elimination of roaming fees by 2017 -- and see the new net neutrality rules go into effect by the end of April 2016.

The EU's eventual decision will influence regulatory decisions elsewhere. As telecommunication companies around the world move to create IPTV networks, the "Internet" the public has access to in many countries could end up looking like TV in the 20th century: channels of videos and approved software delivered to glowing screens, not a World Wide Web. The difference will be that the screens would be on billions of smartphones, not televisions, with personalized ads targeted to someone's demographics, search history, shopping habits and social data. How access to the Internet is regulated, monitored, shaped or throttled will have consequences for commercial, civic and social life everywhere.

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What's Motivating China's Military Push in Africa?

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 18:03
China is steadily expanding its military footprint in Africa, highlighted by the recent deployment of 700 combat-ready troops to join a multinational peacekeeping operation in South Sudan. In all, the People's Liberation Army and Navy now have an estimated 2,700 soldiers, sailors, engineers and medical staff stationed across the continent.

The number of troops deployed in Africa is extremely small, even insignificant, in the broader context of the massive Chinese military. However, a discernible trend is becoming increasingly apparent as Beijing expands the range of operations that its forces are engaged in Africa to include post-conflict stabilization (Mali), medical humanitarian missions (Liberia), ongoing conflict stabilization (South Sudan) and anti-piracy operations (Somalia) among others. In all, Chinese military personnel are now involved in 7 out of 9 UN peacekeeping operations on the continent, the most of any permanent Security Council member.

Although it will be a long time, if ever, that China's small military footprint will rival those of the United States and European countries in Africa, the steadily rising number of PLA/PLAN forces on the continent may indeed have profound consequences. Africa appears to be the theater of operations that is testing two bedrock principles of Chinese foreign policy:

1) The long-held non-interference doctrine

2) No overseas military bases

Former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn, who is also a prominent Sino-African scholar at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C., will publish a new research paper that explores what's motivating the Chinese military push in Africa and how it's being received by both Africans and the international community at large. Ambassador Shinn joins Eric and Cobus to discuss the new geopolitics of Chinese force projection in Africa.

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A Former Proponent of 'Traditional Marriage' Changes Camps

Huffingon Post Politics - Thu, 2015-07-02 17:53
Until very recently, I was an ardent partisan of the conservative view on marriage. By the time this column makes it out into the blogosphere, the Marriage Equality folks will almost certainly have marched up Capitol Hill and walked away with all the marbles.

And if not now, then very soon.

You have caught me alone and away from the so-called traditional marriage camp. In truth, I am AWOL. I have abandoned my position and now find myself wandering the battlefield of the culture war.

Look, in that blown out Fox (news) hole, it's the mangled corpse of Ben Carson's credibility.

A lot has happened to prompt my flight. I've met some gay people, for one. They're nice, and I can't help but want them to like me. It's hard to judge them when their relationships seem to be working out better than mine.

For two, I live in New Orleans. Being anti-gay marriage in New Orleans is like being the only Neo-Nazi in Tel Aviv.

That's not to say I'm bending to social pressure; rather, living among sincere real-life examples of my supposed enemy has thrown my own guile into sharp relief.

Finally, I've come to the realization that as a deeply religious person, my choice to let a 1,400-year-old book dictate how I live my life must seem strange to you, perhaps as strange as gay marriage seems to me.

Maybe we can find common ground in that strangeness?

As a young undergrad and student columnist, I defended the "one man, one woman" position with zeal. In doing so, I fear I wounded many people. I vowed never to do that again, and this is my first attempt at writing on the subject since those heady, self-righteous days.

It would be easy to take a week off and slide quietly back into the news cycle to comment on an issue that doesn't reveal the blood on my hands -- but in my experience, cowardice makes for bad punditry.

It's poetic irony that the Confederate flag would die in the same year that marriage equality is born.

This is my second contribution to HuffPost, my first was an appeal to my fellow Southerners to rise above and beyond General Lee's battle flag.

A call to surrender that racist emblem to history.

I guess that puts me in, what? The year 1866?

Above all else, I beg your patience. There are millions like me, we're not bad people -- just products of a different time and place.

I was raised by my grandparents. People born in Mississippi. In 1940.

I swear to God I am trying to be a better person. I hope you'll understand just how serious of an oath that is coming from the right.

I'd like to go back to the traditional marriage camp and let everyone know we've lost, but my former comrades have taken to the hills -- to prosecute a guerrilla war, no doubt.

I'm afraid nothing good will come of that.

This is your moment of triumph, and you've fought hard to get here. Let those of us on this side figure out how to deal with our strays -- or perhaps we could work it out together.

In parting, I would not blame you for refusing my surrender. All actions have an equal and opposite reaction, after all.

In fact, I do believe I see some shadowy figures... down there, in the comments section.

They appear to be erecting a gallows.

I wish we'd never had this goddamned fight, I wish I'd never been so callous.

Also on HuffPost:



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