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|Los Angeles Times
More alarmist drought talk...
Chance of 'megadrought' in U.S. Southwest now 50%, study concludes
The chance of a "megadrought" gripping the Southwest for more than 30 years has increased to 50%, scientists say, which means bad news for California's already parched landscape. The odds of a 10-year drought afflicting the southwestern U.S. have increased to 80%, according to a new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey. Whatever happens, California is likely to see prolonged drought and drier conditions, especially in the southern portion of the state, said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the study, which will be published next month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. The current drought, he said, is a preview of what will "happen in the future in climate change." Nearly 82% of California is experiencing "extreme" drought -- the fourth harshest on a five-level scale measured in a weekly U.S. Drought Monitor reports. But roughly 58% of the state of facing worse, "exceptional" drought conditions. Using climate model projections, researchers determined that prolonged drought would probably hit New Mexico and Arizona as well as California. On the other hand, the chances for the same conditions affecting parts of Idaho, Washington and Montana may actually decrease. The risk for a decadelong drought like the 1930s Dust Bowl is even more alarming because researchers say such events occur "on average once or twice per century."
Los Angeles Times
Russian President reminds the world that he has nuclear weapons
Putin casts Ukraine conflict as a World War II-like aggression inspired by the West
Evoking startling images of siege and empire, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday struck a defiant pose over the deployment of troops and tanks in eastern Ukraine, declaring that Russia has no plans for “large-scale conflicts” but reminding the world that he presides over a nuclear-armed state. “It's best not to mess with us,” Putin said, referring to Russian separatist fighters in Ukraine with a term that dates back to the era of the Russian empire — “New Russia militia” — and likening their battle with Ukrainian army forces to Soviet citizens' heroic resistance during the German Nazi siege of Leningrad. His comments, designed to cast the Ukraine conflict as a World War II-like aggression inspired by the West, came a day after President Obama warned of the mounting costs to Russians as their government deepens its involvement in eastern Ukraine. The Obama administration's new appeal to Russian public opinion probably reflects growing doubt that the U.S. can bring Putin to the negotiating table over Ukraine, as the Kremlin leader wages his own campaign designed to stoke Russians' nationalist pride and nostalgia for its the lost superpower status. “Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers,” Putin said during a visit to a Kremlin-sponsored youth camp, clearly aiming to marshal public support for a military campaign that has brought international isolation and increasingly stringent economic sanctions. Obama on Thursday warned that stricter sanctions would be forthcoming after NATO released satellite surveillance images showing Russian armored columns crossing into southeastern Ukraine.
More spin from racist mayor covering up for racist cops
Ferguson mayor on four-hour delay: ‘It was a crime scene’
The mayor of St. Louis suburb on Thursday said he has “not had an opportunity” to apologize to the family of a black teenager whose body was left in the street for hours after he was fatally shot by a police officer earlier this month. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said that Michael Brown’s body lay exposed on Canfield Drive after the Aug. 9 shooting because authorities wanted to avoid the appearance of an improper cover-up or investigation. “It was a crime scene that had to be investigated by a third party,” he said, explaining the hours-long delay in removing the 18-year-old’s body. Knowles spoke at a St. Louis Public Radio forum in a Ferguson church that was attended by residents from across the area, many of whom told him they felt disrespected by authorities, and disapproved of law enforcement tactics in the days that followed the shooting. Brown’s death sparked protests in the St. Louis region, and police responded to the demonstrations with tear gas and military-grade equipment. Funeral services for Brown were held earlier this week. Knowles said that the police department has received a batch of body cameras for officers, which will be used in patrols going forward. A Ferguson officer who said he was watching the church’s parking lot to make sure cars weren’t being broken into was wearing a camera Thursday night.
New York Times
Relentless Democrats Keep Pressure on Hapless Christie
Committee on Shut Lanes Subpoenas Cellphone Records of a Top Christie Aide
The New Jersey legislative committee investigating the mysterious closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September has subpoenaed a cellphone carrier in an effort to uncover text messages exchanged by Gov. Chris Christie and a top aide as the governor’s administration sought to contain the fallout from the ensuing scandal. The aide, Regina Egea, told the panel last month that she texted the governor in December after a legislative hearing at which employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, first rebutted the administration’s assertion that the lanes had been closed as part of a traffic study. The authority workers also said during the hearing that Mr. Christie’s staff at the agency had instructed them not to give notice of the lane closings to the police or public officials in Fort Lee, N.J., the town shut down for four days by the resulting traffic snarl. The town’s mayor maintains that the closings were political retribution for his refusal to endorse the governor for re-election. In the subpoena released on Wednesday, the committee asks AT&T to produce records of all calls and texts to and from the cellphone of Ms. Egea, the governor’s liaison to the authority, during December. The Democrats leading the panel, the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, have accused the governor’s office of withholding documents in response to their previous subpoenas. During her appearance before the committee last month, Ms. Egea was asked specifically by legislators why neither she nor Mr. Christie’s office had submitted the text in response to subpoenas for all records of communications related to the lane closings.
New York Times
Lawmakers Want Congress to Decide on Military Action Against ISIS
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday called for Congress to debate and vote on whether to authorize President Obama to take military action against Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, the lawmakers — Representatives Barbara Lee of California and James McGovern of Massachusetts, both Democrats, and Walter B. Jones, Republican of North Carolina — said it was time for Congress to weigh in on whether to give Mr. Obama the power to broaden what began as a limited military mission in Iraq. The number of American troops and airstrikes in Iraq has “increased significantly” while lawmakers have been on their August break, the three House members said, and the administration has begun weighing whether to expand the operation to Syria. “We all share concerns about the Islamic State’s (IS) brutal tactics and further destabilization of the region,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that they also supported the Iraq mission that Mr. Obama announced on Aug. 7. “But current military operations now underway in Iraq appear to be beyond the scope of these limited purposes, and even greater expansion is under discussion. “These are serious matters that require congressional debate and a vote on whether to authorize them,” the letter says.
Big business takes aim at corporate activists
"Shareholder democracy" long has been derided as an oxymoron, like "military intelligence" or "jumbo shrimp." Yes, corporate managements bow endlessly to the mandate that they act exclusively in the shareholders' interest, but in real life they treat the poor sap with a few hundred shares as hardly more important than the night janitor. So it's proper to ask why Big Business has been aiming its heavy artillery at a small clutch of shareholders who have the temerity to try to obtain for their fellows the right to vote at annual meetings on issues that might affect the value of their stock. Issues such as the structure of their companies' boards of directors, oversight of their chief executives' actions, the right to call special meetings — of shareholders — and so on. The shareholders include John Chevedden, 68, a former employee of Honeywell and Hughes Aircraft who lives modestly in Redondo Beach and submits about 20 or 30 shareholder resolutions for annual meetings per year; and James McRitchie, 66, a Sacramento-area small investor who sometimes teams up with Chevedden. In recent years, major corporations have started to file lawsuits, with limited success, to knock their resolutions off the agendas of their annual meetings. Recently the campaign seems to have stepped up. The conservative Manhattan Institute this year issued a lengthy report placing Chevedden, McRitchie and New York-based investor William Steiner among the leading "corporate gadflies" engaged in shareholder activism — calculating that the three are responsible for 70% of all shareholder proposals this year, and questioning their motives and success. (The Manhattan Institute's board of trustees comprises a pretty fair cross section of hedge fund and corporate aristocracy, starting with its chairman, the hedge fund executive Paul Singer.) The institute's report became the basis of an essay critical of the three last week in the New York Times by Steven Davidoff Solomon, a former corporate attorney now teaching law at UC Berkeley. His theme: "Corporate America is being held hostage by three people you have probably never heard of." This triumvirate is accused, implausibly, of holding multibillion-dollar corporations "hostage," causing big companies to be "irreparably harmed" (as EMC Corp. complained in a lawsuit against Chevedden and McRitchie this year), and acting out of "personal pique" (the Manhattan Institute). So it's only proper to place in perspective what they actually are doing and what they've achieved. "This is how companies are held accountable," Chevedden told me.
San Francisco Chronicle
After Hagel and Dempsey bleat like sheep about the danger of ISIS...
FBI: No credible threats to US from Islamic State
The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the U.S. homeland from the Islamic State militant group. An intelligence bulletin, issued to state and local law enforcement, says while there's no credible threat to the U.S. as a result of recent American airstrikes in Iraq, officials remain concerned that Islamic State supporters could attack overseas targets with little warning. U.S. law enforcement has been trying to identify Islamic State sympathizers who could help export the group's brand of violent jihad to the United States. U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group intensified after militants beheaded American journalist James Foley. The group called Foley's killing revenge for previous strikes against militants in Iraq.
San Francisco Chronicle
Police often provoke protest violence
"Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he's carrying an AR-15"
The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley. The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations. Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study's lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces. Some of the most contentious Occupy protests happened in Oakland, where the fallout is still being scrutinized.
Rambo cops the cause of rioting....? "Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he's carrying an AR-15."
Los Angeles Times
Officer "I'll f**king kill you!" suspended indefinitely
Idiot cop a perfect example of why mentally ill people should not have guns
A police officer who pointed his assault rifle at a demonstrator in Ferguson, Mo., and threatened to shoot has been suspended indefinitely, authorities said Wednesday. The unidentified officer from the St. Ann Police Department pointed his weapon after he became involved in an argument Tuesday night with the protester, according to Officer Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department. Schellman said a supervising officer intervened, ordered the officer to lower his weapon and took him away from the area. "The unified command strongly feel these actions are inappropriate, and not indicative of the officers who have worked daily, to keep the peace," according to a statement from the St. Louis County Police Department. A video of the incident, which the Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says is authentic, shows the officer pointing his rifle in several directions and shouting, "I'll ... kill you!" using an expletive, in response to comments made by a protester. Calls to St. Ann police officials seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Mentally ill people should not have access to guns. We should start by disarming this idiot cop.
School cops in L.A. side with NRA - But are they really arming themselves against us?
In Compton, school police can use semiautomatic weapons
It’s a place that’s been associated with gunfire at least since the release of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” in 1988: Compton, Calif., a city of 100,000 south of downtown Los Angeles, and a site of 1992 riots following the Rodney King verdict. Now, California public radio station KPCC reports some school police in Compton will be permitted to carry semiautomatic AR-15 rifles — the same kind of rifle used in a recent Oregon school shooting – in schools. The reason? School shootings, the school board said. According to a new school board policy, the weapons are to be used “in response to situations that clearly evidence a need or potential need for superior firepower to be used against armed suspects.” And: “Only those situations where the circumstances at hand are beyond the capabilities of the standard patrol sidearms (e.g., Long distances, suspects utilizing body armor, and/ or high powered, high capacity weapons) should be considered.” Police said the heavy firepower was necessary. “This is our objective — save lives, bottom line,” said Compton Unified School District Police Chief William Wu. Though the National Rifle Association called for “a good guy with a gun” in every school after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, Wu said not just any gun would do. Some in the community weren’t enthusiastic. “The school police has been very notorious in the community and in reality has never had to shoot anyone before,” said Francisco Orozco, a recent graduate and founder of the Compton Democratic Club, told KPCC. “So this escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary.”
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is nowhere to be found
For the past 12 days, he has been one of the most villainized men in the country. And he has virtually disappeared. It’s a matter of safety, some say. Since his name was released last week, Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, has remained holed up. He hasn’t been seen. He hasn’t been heard from. And any social media accounts he once had have been deactivated, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. One measly picture of him circulating around the Internet is an image released by the city of Ferguson. It shows a slightly-balding man in a blue police uniform apparently exiting a city-council meeting. “I can’t remember any time in the last 10 years, at least, where somebody’s completely gone into hiding, for fear of his life,” Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management in Los Angeles, told the Post-Dispatch. “Frankly, if I’d been advising his family, the first thing I would have said was, ‘hide.’ In the near term, saving his life is more important than anything else. … He’s had some advice to dive down a hole and take cover for now.”
Report: ISIS demanded $100M ransom for Foley
Islamic extremists demanded millions of dollars in ransom before brutally executing captured American photojournalist James Foley, according to a report. The U.S., unlike some European nations that have paid millions in exchange for their citizens, would not pay the terrorists. The family of Foley, who freelanced for the Boston-based GlobalPost news service and went missing in Syria in November, 2012, reportedly received an email last week from the Islamic militants. But it did not include any demands, GlobalPost Chief Executive Philip S. Balboni said Wednesday, according to The Boston Globe. Some fellow hostages with Foley were released after ransoms were paid, Balboni added. GlobalPost spent "millions" in an attempt to get Foley, Balboni said, according to the Globe. “There were monetary challenges that were not going to be easy to overcome," he said. Balboni told The Wall Street Journal the original demand for Foley was $132.5 million (100 million euros) but did not discuss the company's reply. ISIS is holding three other Americans as well as some British citizens, according to the Times. The U.S. made an unsuccessful attempt at rescuing the hostages this past summer, administration officials said Wednesday.
Islamic State claims it executed American photojournalist James Foley
The Islamic State militant group claimed Tuesday to have beheaded an American photojournalist in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. A video posted on YouTube, later removed, purported to show the execution of James Foley after he recited a statement in which he called the U.S. government “my real killers.” A second prisoner, said to be Steven Joel Sotloff, like Foley an American journalist who disappeared while covering Syria’s civil war, then appears in the video. The masked executioner, speaking in English with what sounds like a British accent, identifies Sotloff and says that “the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.” American intelligence officials believe the video is authentic but are continuing to evaluate it, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday morning. In a statement Tuesday, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said of the video: “If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available.” Foley, 40, was working in Syria for the Boston-based news Web site GlobalPost when he disappeared on Thanksgiving in 2012.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Gov. Nixon bringing in National Guard to help restore order in Ferguson
Gov. Jay Nixon announced early Monday morning that he was activating the National Guard to help restore order in Ferguson after a week of protests that have resulted in looting and violence some nights. At his press conference after another night of violent clashes with protesters, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson said new security steps were planned but declined to detail them. In response to one of the few questions that were allowed, he said those plans were still in flux but did not include bringing in National Guard troops. But Nixon announced a short time later he would bring in those troops. Johnson said the additional measures being put in place had been formulated in talks between himself, Nixon, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and Replogle, who is in charge of the Highway Patrol. Johnson, who was put in control of security on the North County city's streets last week, blamed a small group of agitators for the night's violence that included shootings, molotov cocktails and lootings. He said he believed those who instigated the violence came to what had been a peaceful protest determined to "provoke a response." Larger and larger groups of protesters have been showing up on the streets of Ferguson since the fatal shooting last weekend of Michael Brown, 18, by a Ferguson police officer.
New York Times
“We want to make sure people understand what this case is about: This case is about a police officer executing a young unarmed man in broad daylight”
Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Struck at Least 6 Times
Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a police officer, sparking protests around the nation, was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, a preliminary private autopsy performed on Sunday found. One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said. Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front. The preliminary autopsy results are the first time that some of the critical information resulting in Mr. Brown’s death has been made public. Thousands of protesters demanding information and justice for what was widely viewed as a reckless shooting took to the streets here in rallies that ranged from peaceful to violent. “People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day 1,” Dr. Baden said in an interview after performing the autopsy. “They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that.” Dr. Baden said that while Mr. Brown was shot at least six times, only three bullets were recovered from his body. But he has not yet seen the X-rays showing where the bullets were found, which would clarify the autopsy results. Nor has he had access to witness and police statements.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Nationwide outrage forces Ferguson to release killer cop's name
Police immediately ramp-up "blame the dead victim" spin machine
Ferguson authorities have identified Darren Wilson as the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager last Saturday. Documents released Friday also identify the teen, Michael Brown, as a suspect in a robbery at a convenience store a short time before the shooting. Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson released the officer's name Friday morning. Wilson is an 6-year veteran of the force. Brown, 18, was shot multiple times Saturday afternoon in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive. In his press conference, Jackson did not say Brown was a suspect in the robbery and did not say how that information connects to the Brown shooting investigation. The documents he released do name Brown and Johnson as suspects. He said he had been in touch with a contact for Brown's family before releasing the information. Some citizens attended the press conference and were upset Jackson spoke about a robbery. Chants of "No justice, no peace," broke out from some. "I am incensed," said Laura Keys, 50, of St. Louis. "I can't believe this is the tactic they are using, bringing up a robbery to make the victim look like he was the person who created this whole mess. Where's the footage?" Thursday Gov. Jay Nixon put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of the security in Ferguson and removed St. Louis County police. The change was dramatic and immediate, as Thursday night's police presence lacked gas masks, smoke bombs and military gear. Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, the patrol officer put in charge, walked and talked with protesters, exchanging hugs and answering questions.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"In an American city, people are being tear-gassed and snipers are pointing rifles at them"
St. Louis alderman released from jail after arrest during Ferguson protest
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French emerged Thursday morning from a night in jail after his arrest at the Ferguson protests to say that the police officers' "heavy-handed" approach on the streets is making the situation worse. French said police dragged him from his car Wednesday night but gave him no documentation that says why he was arrested. He was released about 7 a.m. today without having to post any bail. No police spokesman was available to explain why French was arrested. French said he should never have been locked up, nor should the dozen or so others at the jail overnight. "Inside that jail is nothing but peacekeepers," he said. "They rounded up the wrong people ... reverends, young people organizing the peace effort." Police arrested about a dozen people Wednesday night, including French and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly. Police used tear gas and sonic cannons to disperse the crowds. Today, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is scheduled to visit Ferguson in the wake of the growing protests. When a reporter asked French today how he went from being in his car to being arrested, he said: "They open your door and drag you out." "They just rounded up anybody they could see," he said.
New York Times
Hackers drop a dime on killer cop...
Anger Simmers in Missouri; Hackers Claim to Name Officer
After a fifth night of unrest in this St. Louis suburb, a group identifying itself as Anonymous, the computer hacking collective, disclosed Thursday what it said was the name of the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager on Saturday. Writing on Twitter, the group said it would publish additional information about the officer — including his photograph — if it did not receive a response from the St. Louis County Police Department, which is overseeing one of the investigations into the death of Michael Brown, 18. Mr. Brown was shot Saturday afternoon while walking from a convenience store with a friend. The name of the officer released by Anonymous could not be immediately confirmed. Calls to the Ferguson police and the St. Louis County police were not returned Thursday morning. On Wednesday night, Ferguson was buffeted by another round of protests over the shooting, and selective release of information about the incident, and especially the anonymity granted to the officer, has stoked frustrations in this largely African-American community north of St. Louis, where residents describe increasingly tense relations with the police. The police chief, Thomas Jackson, has repeatedly declined to identify the officer, who has been put on administrative leave. Despite persistent and increasingly angry calls from the public to release the officer’s name, Chief Jackson said the officer required protection after numerous death threats had been made. Computer hackers, saying they were outraged by police conduct, now have also joined the fray. On Wednesday, Anonymous, said on Twitter that it had broken into Ferguson’s municipal computer system. It released details about city workers and posted photos of Jon Belmar, the chief of the St. Louis County police who is conducting the investigation into the shooting, as well as his wife, son and daughter. It also posted his address and phone number. The group threatened to bring down city, county and federal networks if the police overreacted to rallies and protests.
“Everybody in this city has been a victim of driving while black”
Even before Michael Brown’s slaying in Ferguson, racial questions hung over police
When an unarmed black teenager and a police officer crossed paths here last weekend with fatal results, the incident cast a blinding spotlight on a small police department struggling for authority and relevance in a changing community. Since the shooting, the department has been criticized for how police have handled the response to the incident and for not disclosing key details, including the name of the officer involved. The department bears little demographic resemblance to the citizens of this St. Louis suburb, a mostly African American community whose suspicions of the law enforcement agency preceded Saturday afternoon’s shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who this week had been headed to technical college. But while the racial disparity between the public here and its protectors has come to define the violent aftermath of Brown’s death, the department’s problems stretch back years and include questions about its officers’ training and racial sensitivity. The office of Missouri’s attorney general concluded in an annual report last year that Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African Americans during traffic stops as they were whites. And late last year, the state chapter of the NAACP filed a federal complaint against the St. Louis County police department, whose officers are now assisting Ferguson’s force since the shooting, over racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests and other actions.
Los Angeles Times
Large employers see health costs rising 5% next year
“Rising healthcare costs remain a significant issue that needs to be constantly addressed”
Large employers expect their healthcare costs to jump 5% next year, and nearly a third of businesses will offer only higher-deductible plans to workers, a new survey shows. The annual report released Wednesday by the National Business Group on Health provides a good barometer of what employees at big companies can expect when health plan enrollment opens this fall. Overall, large employers estimate their health-benefit costs will rise by an average of 6.5% in 2015. But they anticipate holding increases to 5% after making changes to their coverage, such as shifting more medical costs to workers and expanding the use of high-deductible policies. Employers reported a similar 5% increase for 2014. Asked what’s driving up medical spending, employers cited high-cost patients, specific diseases and an uptick in spending for specialty drugs. Only 7% said the cost of complying with the federal Affordable Care Act was a leading factor.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Rambo cops declare war on suburban St. Louis community
Police use tear gas in Ferguson, people jam church for moment of silence
Tension stayed high and raw Monday as the St. Louis region waited for answers in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by a municipal police officer. In another day of fast-moving events, the FBI promised to investigate the killing of Michael Brown, 18, on Saturday by a Ferguson police officer. Brown’s parents called for an end to the violence while strongly disputing the police version of their son’s death. More than 1,000 people observed a moment of silence at a meeting called by the NAACP. Throughout the day, protesters continued to face off with police, and as the sun set, lines of police in riot gear fired tear gas to disperse protesters, telling them it was time to go home. By midnight, the situation was quiet. Two miles to the south, an overflow crowd observed a moment of silence at Murchison Tabernacle CME Church, 7629 Natural Bridge Road in Normandy. Cornell Brooks, the new national president of the NAACP, pleaded for calm as the community responds to the “unfolding drama.” “Martin Luther King did not live and die so that we might steal in the name of justice in the middle of the night,” said Brooks, who flew to St. Louis for the gathering, sponsored by the organization’s St. Louis County branch. The shooting and rioting have drawn international attention.
"A continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African-Americans”
Black lawmakers want DOJ to expand probe of slain Missouri teen
Several black lawmakers say the Justice Department should expand its investigation into the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo. The shooting on Saturday of Michael Brown, 18, raises “potentially serious concerns," the lawmakers said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. They said Brown's killing "may be part of a continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African-Americans.” The letter was signed by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Reps. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.). The St. Louis County Police Department “may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters involving law enforcement given evidence of racial profiling by that department in the recent past,” they said. “Only the federal government has the resources, the experience, and the full independence to give this case the close scrutiny that the citizens of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area deserve.” Brown, who was going to start college this week, was shot after a confrontation with police, who have said he attacked the officer. Police have not released the officer's name, and details about the incident remain unclear. Holder has already launched a federal probe. He said the Justice Department’s civil rights division would work with FBI agents from the St. Louis field office and the U.S. Attorney’s office on the investigation. Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt (R) and Claire McCaskill (D) had also called on the Justice Department to conduct a thorough review.
The St. Louis County Police Department “may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters involving law enforcement given evidence of racial profiling by that department in the recent past.”
The calculated madness of the Islamic State’s horrifying brutality
The glorification of extreme violence using social media is one of the defining aspects of the Islamic State
Last week, as the forces of the Islamic State crept within 40 miles of Irbil, fear settled over the urbane Kurdish capital. People had heard of the militants’ brutality — of the crucifixions, the beheadings, the mass killings. They were understandably frightened, Kurdish journalist Namo Abdulla told The Washington Post. Some began to flee. Others made for the mountains. The killers were coming. In the last week, images of the Islamic State’s savagery have been inescapable. News exploded yesterday of an image of a young boy, son to an Australian member of the Islamic State, hoisting a severed head beside his proud father. “This image, perhaps even an iconic photograph … really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday morning. “A seven-year-old child holding a severed head, with pride and the support and encouragement of the parent, with brothers there. This is utterly disgraceful and underscores the degree to which [the Islamic State] is so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups.” The glorification of extreme violence using social media is one of the defining aspects of the Islamic State. The Sunni militants wield savagery like a tool, analysts say. It’s neither extemporaneous nor undisciplined. It’s concerted. It’s tactical. It’s evil. And that’s the point. “There’s a strategic reason behind the executions,” wrote the Washington Institute’s Aaron Zelin. “And the gruesome pictures posted online for all to see.”
Vatican calls on Muslim leaders to condemn Christian persecution in Iraq
The Vatican has called on Muslim leaders to denounce unambiguously the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq – and hinted that it is considering breaking off dialogue with Islamic representatives if they fail to do so. In a statement on Tuesday, the department in charge of inter-religious dialogue said: "The dramatic situation of the Christians, the Yazidis, and other minority religious and ethnic communities in Iraq demands that religious leaders, and above all Muslim religious leaders, people engaged in inter-religious dialogue and all people of good will take a clear and courageous stance. All must be unanimous in their unambiguous condemnation of these crimes and denounce the invoking of religion to justify them." In a departure from its customary language in the highly sensitive area of inter-faith relations, the Vatican statement asked: "Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders, have? What credibility could the inter-religious dialogue [which has been] patiently pursued in recent years have?"
The fix is in...and this one is really blatant...consumers look pretty screwed
Comcast, Time Warner Cable help honor Mignon Clyburn amid merger review
Comcast and Time Warner Cable are sponsoring a dinner honoring FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at a time when the agency is weighing whether to approve a multibillion-dollar merger between the two companies. Comcast will pay $110,000 to be a top-level “presenting sponsor” at the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s annual dinner in September, at which Clyburn is receiving the “diversity advocate” award, according to a foundation spokeswoman. Time Warner Cable paid $22,000 in May to the foundation for the same event, according to a Senate lobbying disclosure filed at the end of last month. The foundation supports diversity in the cable industry. There are no rules preventing businesses from helping to honor regulators in this way, and both companies say they have supported the foundation for years. “I think that the timing is curious,” said Carrie Levine, research director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which noted the corporate sponsorships in a blog post Monday. “They’re honoring an FCC commissioner at the exact same time they’re trying to get approval for a merger. And that doesn’t look so good.” The contributions come as FCC and Justice Department officials review the $45 billion megadeal, which would give Comcast control of about 30 percent of U.S. pay-TV subscribers and about 40 percent of the country’s broadband market. The two firms are pitching the deal as a way to increase investment in cable and Internet technology, but public interest groups oppose the deal because they say the combined company will have too much control over the market.
New York Times
U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel
So Much for Nation Building - Baghdadi of ISIS Pushes an Islamist Crusade
When American forces raided a home near Falluja during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about. The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry. That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East. “He was a street thug when we picked him up in 2004,” said a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “It’s hard to imagine we could have had a crystal ball then that would tell us he’d become head of ISIS.”
Los Angeles Times
U.S. back to war in Iraq
Obama, hapless Reps just can't seem to get anything right in the Middle East
U.S. fighter jets bombed Sunni militant forces in northern Iraq Friday morning, launching the first major U.S. military action in the country since combat troops left three years ago. FA-18 Hornets dropped laser-guided bombs on artillery that had fired on Kurdish forces near Irbil, the Kurdish regional capitol. Militants of Islamic State, a breakaway Al Qaeda group, have been advancing toward the city in recent days. The attack occurred only hours after President Obama announced he had authorized air strikes to protect around 100 U.S. military advisors in Irbil and to halt the advance of the Islamist militants. Islamic State "was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil where U.S. personnel are located," Kirby said. "As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities," Kirby said, referring to the militant group by an acronym. He did not say if the artillery had been destroyed.
Los Angeles Times
Peace not good enough for Hamas
Palestinian militants lobbing dozens of rockets into Israel
As a three-day truce expired, fighting again broke out in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, with Palestinian militants lobbing dozens of rockets into Israel and the Israeli military firing back with fresh airstrikes. The Israeli army spokesman’s office said in a statement that “terror sites” across Gaza had been targeted following the resumption of Palestinian rocket fire. At least two projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s antimissile system, with others falling in open areas in southern Israel. In Gaza City, Israeli drones circled overhead, and the streets were empty by midmorning as most people stayed indoors, having hurried away from areas that were previously targeted. In southern Israel, authorities reimposed restrictions on large public gatherings in communities close to Gaza. “The renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable and shortsighted,” said army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner after Israel resumed its strikes. He blamed “Hamas’ bad decision to breach the cease-fire.” Hamas and its allies have fired more than 3,300 rockets and missiles into Israel during the past month, and Israel has raked the seaside strip with airstrikes and artillery fire aimed at destroying rocket launchers and infiltration tunnels.
Why Kirsten Gillibrand’s story didn’t surprise any woman on Capitol Hill
Does becoming a member of The Club mean you have to accept its rules? The buzz over a new book by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) this week has been all about her revelation that some of her male colleagues seem to have a fixation about her weight. She recounts that one expressed concern that she might become "porky;" another made the backhanded suggestion that she was pretty even when she was fat. Then came the debate: Was she under an obligation to name names? At least one reporter, Politico's John Bresnahan, found the allegation so farfetched that he tweeted that he didn't believe it really happened. (He has since apologized.) But to anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on Capitol Hill, none of this should seem surprising. Change comes far more slowly there than in just about any other workplace.
There Is No 5-Second Rule for the First Amendment, Ferguson
Tear gas, rubber bullets, and assault weapons; free speech zones, gags, and press pens: This is the arsenal of the police state. Some of these tactics are physical. The other ones—all the more pernicious for their quiet coercion—impose a veil of silence over the actions of law enforcement. And each of these weapons has been unleashed on the people of Ferguson, Missouri, since the killing of Michael Brown. The message was clear: The public is the enemy. And as we the people started getting that message, Ferguson starting working harder to shoot the messengers.
Los Angeles Times
A first step in reining in the National Security Agency
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has proposed a version of the bill that is significantly more protective of privacy than one passed by the House in May. Like the House bill, Leahy's proposal would end the NSA's bulk collection of telephone "metadata" — information about the source, destination and duration of phone calls that investigators can "query" in search of possible connections to foreign terrorism. For all its limitations, the USA Freedom Act is a testimony to the importance of informed public debate. Whatever one thinks of Snowden, his disclosures brought into the open a dramatic expansion of government power that had never been discussed openly by the people's representatives. As a result of his disclosures, liberal Democrats in Congress joined libertarian Republicans in pushing back against an overweening national security establishment. Even Obama was affected. Initially, he defended the phone records program, assuring Americans that "nobody is listening to your telephone calls." Eventually, however, he endorsed an end to the bulk collection program. His signature on the bill should be the beginning, but not the end, of an overdue recalibration of the balance between national security and personal privacy.
Make no mistake: We're back in an Iraq war
Every time Barack Obama thinks he has succeeded in establishing restraint as the central doctrine of his foreign policy, a new outburst of chaos in the Middle East draws him back in. Now it's Iraq, where the president thought he had disentangled the United States, only to see a new threat arise in the form of the terrorist army of the Islamic State. Obama has entered the United States in its fourth Iraq war. It won't be over quickly. As the president said, this is going to be a long-term project.
It's Not Too Late for Republicans to Win Latino Votes
The Republican Party can compete with Democrats for the votes of Latinos, even young Latinos, without alienating the majority of its voters. But to earn support from this fast-growing segment of the American population, these survey results suggest the party is going to need leaders and candidates strong enough to stand up to the few who have hijacked its policy on immigration.
Allan J. Lichtman
Who rules America?
"The public be damned!"
A shattering new study by two political science professors has found that ordinary Americans have virtually no impact whatsoever on the making of national policy in our country. The analysts found that rich individuals and business-controlled interest groups largely shape policy outcomes in the United States.
Prepare for a long war against the Islamic State
The hawks (including me) were wrong about a lot, but some got one thing right. It's going to be a long war. In the early days after 9/11, there was a lot of talk about a "clash of civilizations" and a long "existential struggle" facing the West. I once asked the late Christopher Hitchens what he felt on that terrible day and he said he felt no small amount of joy. Not for the suffering and death, but for the fact that the West finally had been awakened to the terrible but necessary struggle before us.
The one thing everyone in Israel seems to agree on: John Kerry blew it
Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
New York Times
A Stronger Bill to Limit Surveillance
The Senate is about to begin debate on a bill that could, at long last, put an end to the indiscriminate bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records and bring needed transparency to the abusive spying programs that have tarnished the nation’s reputation. The bill, to be introduced on Tuesday by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is a significant improvement over the halfhearted measure passed by the House in May. That legislation was notable for putting even Republicans on the record in opposition to the broad domestic spying efforts of the intelligence agencies, but its final version was watered down at the insistence of the White House. Over all, the bill represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power. The Senate should pass it without further dilution, putting pressure on the House to do the same.
Sorry, Americans, but sometimes democracy simply can’t bring peace
The United States has made this mistake over and over again. Americans keep prizing elections over reconciliation and peace. The result: It keeps leaving war zones paralyzed without any prospects for progress.
Supreme Court passes on significant environmental case
Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have sparked boisterous national debates that touch on the role of religion in health care and the power of unions to claim dues payments from workers. But sometimes the court’s refusal to rule on an issue also has a significant effect on public policy — although such “non-decisions” usually don’t lead to big public debates.
Internet's future at risk if corporations stifle competition
The business lobby often demands that government get out of the way of private corporations, so that competition can flourish and high-quality services can be efficiently delivered to as many consumers as possible. Yet, in an epic fight over telecommunications policy, the paradigm is now being flipped on its head, with corporate forces demanding that government squelch competition and halt the expansion of those high-quality services. Whether and how federal officials act may ultimately shape the future of America's information economy.
Moral clarity in Gaza
Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking. “Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.” Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity.
Geoffrey A. Fowler
Getting Rid of Cable TV: The Smartest Ways to Cut the Cord
Going without cable—or at least with considerably less of it—is easier than you think. Last week, I sliced my bill from $212 to $75 without giving up the stuff I really watch. Yes, cable and satellite companies lock away some content for subscribers. But you don't have to be an online pirate to see what you want. Broadcasters give away the most popular HD channels free over the air, and Internet video services like Hulu, "smart" TVs and streaming boxes make it possible to remain a full-fledged couch potato. None of this is as simple as clicking channel up and down on your cable remote. But for the app-savvy, Internet streaming wins not just because of price, but because of convenience. We should send Hollywood a message by voting with our credit cards for the content we want—delivered the way we want it.
Larry J. Sabato
Does the GOP need a FrankenCandidate?
Did you ever see the documentary A Perfect Candidate? It was about Oliver North’s 1994 challenge to U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb, a Democrat from Virginia. Despite the title, North turned out to be less than perfect; he lost to a scandal-wounded but resilient Robb despite a Republican tidal wave. There will never be a perfect candidate, unless brilliant genetic engineers assisted by Watson the computer decide to undertake the task in the distant future. Until then, parties are left with flawed human beings, those bundles of virtues and vices that get proctoscopic treatment during long campaigns.
The Children of the Drug Wars
Children from Central America have been making that journey, often without their parents, for two decades. But lately something has changed, and the predictable flow has turned into an exodus. Three years ago, about 6,800 children were detained by United States immigration authorities and placed in federal custody; this year, as many as 90,000 children are expected to be picked up. Around a quarter come from Honduras — more than from anywhere else.
The tea party’s embrace of martyrdom
Hiroo Onoda, the last imperial Japanese soldier to surrender after World War II, hid out in a jungle in the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe that the war was over. He finally turned himself in, wearing his sword, cap and patched uniform, in 1974. Onoda died this year at age 91, but his passion for lost causes lives on — in the person of Chris McDaniel, a failed Senate candidate in Mississippi. McDaniel gave an election-night speech with no concession. “There is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” he declared, vowing that he was “not done fighting.” Imperial Japan taught its soldiers that death was preferable to surrender. The tea party’s code is similar.
Is Obama’s Foreign Policy Too European?
I have long been a critic of the German foreign policy debate — of its freeloading on the American security umbrella, coupled with moral grandstanding whenever the Americans did things their way; of too much analysis of past events and not enough thinking about how to get things right in the future; of its tendency to take words as a substitute for deeds. That’s why I have usually given the Americans the benefit of the doubt: At least they took on problems nobody else was willing to tackle. But then, at the height of the Syria conflict and just after yet another of Barack Obama’s speeches, I suddenly understood the problem with this American president and his foreign policy. He sounded just like a German politician: all moral outrage, but little else to help end one of the most devastating civil wars of our age. President Obama, I thought with a sigh, has become European.
Border kids issue tells us who we are as a nation
This Independence Day weekend, memory takes me back to something my father said during a Fourth of July celebration many years ago. Days earlier, authorities had made a gruesome discovery. Coldblooded smugglers had left dozens of migrants to die in a railroad car. My dad and I were at a public event and, at the end of "The Star-Spangled Banner," he pointed at Old Glory and said: "See that flag. That's why those people died, trying to get here -- because of freedom and the kind of country we are." It's a good time to ask once again, what kind of country are we? In between parades and barbeques, Americans can show their patriotism by being on their best behavior. This didn't happen the other day in Murrieta. In that city about 90 miles north of San Diego, an angry mob holding placards and shaking fists terrorized a busload of about 140 children and mothers, while chanting "USA, USA." The sickening images remind us of the stakes involved with the "border kids" -- the estimated 52,000 young castaways from Central America who entered the United States uninvited in the last year and the tens of thousands of others likely to follow. This debate isn't just about what will become of often-unaccompanied minors. It's about something more important: What kind of country we've become.
How Obama's immigration push could hand the House to Democrats
Everyone assumes that Republicans will easily hold the House in November. The dominant storyline among the chattering classes centers instead on the possibility that Republicans could seize control of the Senate from Democrats. But the rapidly escalating immigration face-off between President Barack Obama and House Republicans raises the possibility that Democrats could win back the House — even if Republicans do take the Senate. How is that possible? It's simple: There are more competitive House races than Senate races in areas with significant Latino populations.
Beware the rush to help people die
The Medical Society of New Jersey, the state's largest physicians group, opposed a recently tabled bill for physician-assisted suicide. But it is pushing an alternative that may be just as bad: the Practitioner's Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, or POLST. POLST is a legally binding form with medical instructions that other healthcare providers, such as paramedics and nursing home staff, must follow if the patient is unable to speak because of illness. It gives more specific instructions than a living will or advance directive, and is said to be more effective because it comes from — and is signed by — a medical authority, such as the patient's doctor. Ideally, the patient gives permission for the form, but if the patient is unable to, a designated proxy can do so. I'm simply leery of the push for a better death before we've done all we can to promote a better life for those of us on the fringe.
I watched all the terrorist beheadings for the U.S. government, and here’s what I learned
ISIS’s delight in its gruesome exploits indicates the way its leaders would run their self-declared “caliphate” across a broad swath of Iraq and Syria. But their bloodthirstiness may prove to be the group’s downfall; after all, no other Iraqi insurgent organization or Sunni tribe subscribes to its fanatical agenda. It’s hard to imagine that any permanent political settlement there could tolerate such stunts for very long. The Sunni tribes of Iraq will eventually turn on ISIS, as they have done in the past. But when that occurs, expect even more bloodletting — and more gruesome videos.
The war on terror didn’t defeat al-Qaeda. But ISIS could
One of the great ironies of the current battle for Iraq is that for all the billions spent on the war on terror, all the bullets fired, all the lives lost, what may ultimately defeat al-Qaeda isn’t the United States or another Western power — but a group from within the jihadist movement. It didn’t take drones. Or the surge. It took a charismatic, emergent leader known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who recently threw off the yoke of al-Qaeda’s command and decided he and his militant pals would do their own thing.
Raoul Lowery Contreras
A 3-year-old is not a criminal
Is a three-year-old Honduran kid a criminal if he is carried across the Rio Grande in South Texas by a teenager who himself isn't carrying a passport from his native country with an visitor's visa, an I-94 form, attached to it? If not, who is the criminal in the current crisis on the border?
Sacramento Update Washington D.C. Update