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The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

US sheriff ‘targeted Hispanics’ December 16, 2011

Joe Arpaio is said to have helped shape the US debate over illegal immigration

A lawman known for his tough stance on immigration has routinely discriminated against Hispanics, according to a federal investigation.

A US Department of Justice report found Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office had flouted US civil rights laws by racially profiling Hispanics.

Violations included unlawful arrest and detention, discriminatory jail practices and denial of services.

It comes as the Supreme Court reviews Arizona’s tough immigration law.

Sheriff Arpaio has styled himself as America’s toughest sheriff, and has been known to jail inmates in tents and dress them in pink underwear.

The justice department investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) was launched during the administration of President George W Bush.

Published on Thursday, its report requires the office to reform its practices or lose millions of dollars in federal funding.

Continue reading the main story

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Arpaio’s own actions have helped nurture the sheriff’s office culture of bias”

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Thomas Perez
Department of Justice

The sheriff has until 4 January to say whether he will comply, or the federal government says it will sue him.

The justice department report says that in Maricopa County, Hispanics are four to nine times more likely to be pulled over by the police.

The sheriff’s office also treats all Hispanics as though they are in the country illegally, says the report.

It highlights how language barriers have been exploited by the sheriff’s deputies in the county jail.

Inmates with limited English were put in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours per day.

They were also locked in their jail cells for up to 72 hours for failing to understand commands in English.

The report cited a wide use by officers of racial slurs in emails and when speaking to inmates.

Sheriff Arpaio shot to national stature with his policy of putting prisoners in pink underwear

The justice department has said it is still investigating complaints of use of excessive force against Hispanics; sexual assault cases that were not properly investigated; and whether a “culture of bias” has deterred residents from reporting crimes.

The report links the malpractice to the sheriff himself.

“Arpaio’s own actions have helped nurture MCSO’s culture of bias,” Thomas Perez, head of the justice department’s civil rights division said.

“We found discriminatory policing that was deeply rooted in the culture of the department – a culture that breeds a systemic disregard for basic constitutional protections.”

He added that the justice department’s expert on racial profiling said this was the most serious case he had come across.

Republican presidential candidates have sought Sheriff Arpaio’s endorsement to boost their campaigns.

This year, the lawman backed Texas Governor Rick Perry, who denounced Thursday’s findings as politically motivated.

A federal grand jury has also, separately, been investigating abuse-of-power allegations at the sheriff’s office and especially within his anti-public corruption squad.

Meanwhile, legislation from Arizona that aims to crack down on illegal immigration is pending before the Supreme Court.

The law would enable police to demand proof of citizenship from those they stop or detain, and to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant.

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Nearly 1 in 5 US women have been victims of sexual assault, CDC finds December 15, 2011

A new survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday marked the beginning of a new annual project to look at how many women say they’ve been abused.

One expert called the new report’s estimate on rape and attempted rape “extremely high” – with 1 in 5 women saying they were victims. About half of those cases involved intimate partners. No documentation was sought to verify the women’s claims, which were made anonymously.

But advocates say the new rape numbers are plausible.

“It’s a major problem that often is under-estimated and over-looked,” said Linda James, director of health for Futures Without Violence, a San Francisco-based organization that advocates against domestic abuse.

It’s a startling number: 1 in 4 women surveyed by the government say they were violently attacked by their husbands or boyfriends.

Experts in domestic violence don’t find it too surprising, although some aspects of the survey may have led to higher numbers than are sometimes reported.

Even so, a government official who oversaw the research called the results “astounding.”

“It’s the first time we’ve had this kind of estimate” on the prevalence of intimate partner violence, said Linda Degutis of the CDC.

The CDC report is based on a randomized telephone survey of about 9,000 women.

Among the findings:

• As many as 29 million women say they have suffered severe and frightening physical violence from a boyfriend, spouse or other intimate partner. That includes being choked, beaten, stabbed, shot, punched, slammed against something or hurt by hair-pulling.

• That number grows to 36 million if slapping, pushing and shoving are counted.

• Almost half of the women who reported rape or attempted rape said it happened when they were 17 or younger.

Several of the CDC numbers are higher than those of other sources. For example, the CDC study suggests that 1.3 million women have suffered rape, attempted rape or had sex forced on them in the previous year. That statistic is more than seven times greater than what was reported by a Department of Justice household survey conducted last year.

There may be several reasons for the differences, including how the surveys were done, who chose to participate and how “rape” and other types of assault were defined or interpreted, said Shannan Catalano, a statistician with the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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Uzbekistan torture ignored by the west, say human rights group December 13, 2011

Western governments have turned a blind eye to criticism of torture and rights abuses in Uzbekistan to preserve relations with the state pivotal to supplying Nato forces in Afghanistan, according to a human rights watchdog.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic of 28 million people, had failed to keep promises to stop the use of torture, including electric shocks and simulated asphyxiation, in its criminal justice system.

“The west has to wake up to the fact that Uzbekistan is a pariah state with one of the worst human rights records,” Steve Swerdlow, HRW’s Uzbekistan researcher, said. “Being located next to Afghanistan should not give Uzbekistan a pass on its horrendous record of torture and repression.”

Uzbekistan’s relations with the US and EU soured in 2005 after a government crackdown on an uprising in the eastern city of Andizhan. Witnesses say hundreds were killed when troops opened fire on crowds.

Following harsh western criticism of the bloodshed and systematic human rights violations in the mainly Muslim nation, Uzbekistan evicted US forces from a key air base.

But Washington and its major allies have since reconciled with the country, which is a vital link in the supply line to Nato troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

President Islam Karimov, 73, has ruled his resource-rich nation with an iron fist for more than 20 years. He defends his authoritarian methods by saying he needs to forestall any rise of Taliban-style Islam.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Uzbekistan in October to thank Karimov for maintaining Uzbekistan’s role in a supply route that is becoming increasingly important since US ties with Pakistan deteriorated.

HRW said in March that Uzbek authorities had forced it to close its local office after obstructing its work. The group said its latest report, which cited numerous cases of torture, was based on more than 100 interviews conducted in Uzbekistan between 2009 and 2011.

An HRW spokesperson said: “The governments traditionally viewed as champions of the cause of human rights in Uzbekistan – the US, EU and its key members – have muted their criticism of the government’s worsening human rights record, including its continuing and widespread use of torture.”

Uzbek officials could not immediately be reached for comment. HRW said the use of torture appeared to be designed to break a detainee’s will to the point where they would sign a prepared confession or refrain from asserting their rights. It said it had heard several stories of detainees subjected to abuses to force them to confess to offences such as theft or to implicate others.

Citing one example, HRW quoted a criminal lawyer as saying his client who was “perfectly healthy” 10 days before had been tortured and forced to drop the services of independent counsel. “I noticed he couldn’t walk,” HRW quoted the lawyer as saying. “He quietly recounted that all his ribs were broken … He had lost hearing in one ear.”

The lawyer said he wanted to publicise the matter but the detainee refused, fearing for the safety of his family. In 2008, Uzbekistan introduced habeas corpus, a legal action through which a court is obliged to determine the lawfulness of a person’s detention. Karimov said the move showed the justice system was being liberalised.

But HRW said it had seen no improvement in Uzbekistan’s human rights record. Arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment remained rife, it added.

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The US national security smokescreen | Nancy Goldstein December 8, 2011

Ben Wizner, the litigation director for the ACLU’s national security project, cheerfully admits that its April 2011 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for 23 of the very same US State Department diplomatic cables we all read this time last year, when WikiLeaks released them to five newspapers including the Guardian, was “cheeky” – a way to foreground the “absurdity of the US secrecy regime”.

And so it has. Nearly eight months after the original FOIA request, the State Department has finally released … 11 cables. Federal censors have helpfully redacted them, making it easy to see, by a simple act of comparison (which the ACLU performs for us, here), precisely which sections the State Department wants hidden. Missing are a dirty dozen cables the government refused to release – despite those cables having already been leaked, published and analysed in virtually every major national and international media venue – again, because they were classified as secret or deemed to contain sensitive information.

Administration officials unleashed plenty of hyperbole and hysteria when the cables were first published. But it turned out that none of the information in them actually endangered American citizens, allies or informants. They did, however, prove embarrassing for the US and many foreign leaders. Because it turned out that claims about national security were often an excuse to prevent us from seeing our government engaged in unethical, unconstitutional and, sometimes, illegal practices. These ran the gamut from extraordinary renditions, detentions and torture to shaking down other governments in an attempt to influence their political processes and tamper with their criminal justice systems.

We learned that the same Obama administration that had refused to pursue the perpetrators of the Bush torture regime at home had also tried to put its thumbs on the scales of justice in Spain – aggressively attempting to prevent a counter-terrorism judge from trying the senior legal minds of the Bush administration for their part in the torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

We learned about the US attempt to scuttle the case of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, the greengrocer mistaken for a senior al-Qaida official. He was kidnapped, tortured, drugged, beaten and thrown into Afghanistan’s CIA-run Salt Pit prison, until – oops – they realised they had the wrong guy and dumped him in the Albanian outback. In public, Munich prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives involved in his abduction and torture, and Angela Merkel’s office called for an investigation. In private, the German justice ministry and foreign ministry both made it clear to the US that they were not interested in pursuing the case, emboldening the US to refuse to arrest or hand over the agents.

If the first part of the ACLU’s agenda in asking for the 23 already-leaked cables is to highlight what it calls a “penchant for excessive secrecy in defiance of all reason”, the second is to spotlight the way in which the Bush and Obama administrations abuse the state secrets privilege to keep illegal programs from being judicially reviewed.

When the ACLU challenged the CIA on behalf of el-Masri in 2005, a judge dismissed the case. The US government did not deny that he was wrongfully kidnapped. Instead, it successfully argued that his case be dismissed because litigation of his claims would expose state secrets and jeopardise American security. This despite the fact that, as el-Masri pointed out, “President Bush has told the world about the CIA’s detention program, and even though my allegations have been corroborated by eyewitnesses and other evidence.”

First the Bush administration and then the Obama administration successfully evoked the state secrets privilege to prevent the ACLU from filing a federal lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc, the folks who helped the CIA fly extraordinary rendition victims to secret sites where they were detained, tortured and interrogated. Again, the government claimed that further litigation would undermine national security interests, even though much of the evidence needed to try the case was already available to the public. And again, it appears to have won.

In the hall of mirrors that the US security regime has become, information that is not officially acknowledged cannot be used to hold government officials responsible in the courts. And an administration that can evade charges of misconduct, including torture, by hiding behind state secrets claims, even when all the details are publicly known, becomes the guardian of its own liability. That’s bad news.

Transparency and accountability are the oxygen of democracy. But don’t hold your breath waiting for this administration to respond to requests for either one.

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The NAACP exposes voter suppression schemes | Kay Dilday December 7, 2011

The NAACP will be sending a delegation to the United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights alleging a concerted effort to deny voting rights to black and hispanic Americans. Given how rarely anyone in the United States looks to the United Nations for justice, and how often the United States ignores the UN, this is both a significant and futile effort. But what’s at issue is so egregious that the NAACP has chosen to shout it from a global stage.

In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, the United States had one of the highest turnouts ever of black and Latino voters. Undoubtedly, this made a difference in the election: Obama won by a slim margin in many states that had traditionally voted Republicans. The high turnout of blacks and Latinos made the difference in crucial swing states like Florida, Ohio, Colorado and New Mexico. And southern states, which have a high percentage of blacks, are traditionally carried by the Republican party – but if enough blacks and Latinos vote, that isn’t the case.

It does not seem like coincidence, then, that since 2008, many of these states have introduced laws that make it much more difficult to register to vote and to actually vote. They have done this in the name of combating “voter fraud”. This poses the question: does the United States have a problem with voter fraud? Not that it can find.

The Bush administration launched an initiative to combat voter fraud. After a five-year effort by the justice department, they found no organised effort, brought charges in 132 cases and obtained prosecutions in about 86, as the New York Times reported in 2007, after summarising the Bush administration’s report on the subject. And numerous other reports have supported the Bush administration’s findings.

But even if the United States can identify a problem with voter fraud, why should anyone take issue with efforts to prevent it, the proponents of these laws ask. After all, proponents say, the laws won’t prevent legitimate voters from voting. Indeed, some of the laws sound reasonable at first: why shouldn’t a potential voter have to produce government-issued identification proving that they are who they say they are and that they live where they say they live, mandates a law passed by eight states and pending in more.

Since I grew up in the Mississippi, which passed such a law ostensibly to prevent fraud, I’ll look at the practical application of it. Mississippi’s population has the highest percentage of blacks in the country: 38%. Compared to the $65 I pay in New York, where I live now, a Mississippi driver’s license seems like a bargain at $21. Unless, of course, you are poor – which abut 35% of blacks are, with 57% of blacks in Mississippi earning less than $25,000 per year according to the 2000 census. Then, it might seem like too much to pay if you don’t have a car to drive.

Well, if you don’t want to pay for a driver’s license, you can obtain an ID card in Mississippi for only $13. But you then have to bring a copy of your state-issued birth certificate, which, if you don’t have it, costs $15. And even if you could afford it, if you were born poor and black in Mississippi in the first half of the 1900s, it’s very possible that you were barred from the white-only hospitals and have only anecdotal evidence of the date of your birth. In the United States, citizens are not required to carry any sort of ID card in their daily life; thus the national government does not issue one without a specific request or fee. Nonetheless, it is difficult for affluent people, involved in all of the trappings of middle-class life – car-owning and driving, check-writing, international traveling, etc – to understand that many people don’t have drivers’ licenses or passports and aren’t asked for them in their extremely localised, cash-transactional lives.

So, this very reasonable-sounding requirement means that many poor people, a disproportionate number of whom are black in Mississippi, will be unable to vote.

This particular law has to be examined closely for one to realise how disenfranchising it is for poor people, blacks and Latinos. Others, though, are just bald efforts to prevent poor people, predominantly people of color, from voting. There are laws, for instance, that prevent early voting, even though this is essential for low-income people who often have little control over their working hours. There are laws, also, that subject voter registrations efforts, which often bring in poor people on the margins of society, to onerous restrictions. This recently forced, for example, the League of Women Voters, one of the nation’s bedrock voting groups, to cancel their annual drive in Florida.

I doubt the NAACP expects to obtain justice by pursuing their case at the United Nations. But the push to limit the ability of poor people, blacks and Latinos to participate in the electoral process is so outrageous, that it must be loudly denounced in front of the nations of the world. I was born after the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s, when white southerners still tried to use billy clubs to prevent blacks from voting. My daughter was born just after the first black president was elected. I thought we were making progress in this country.

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