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St. Louis Cops Turn Dash Cam Off in Middle of Arrest, Brutally Beat Suspect

February 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

An officer yells, “Hold up. We're red right now, so if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait.”

A dash cam video capturing the arrest and subsequent tasing of a St. Louis man reveals how easily law enforcement can manipulate camera footage to defend its actions.

According to the police report cited by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cortez Bufford engaged in “aggressive” behavior and resisted arrest when cops pulled him over on the night of April 10, 2014. Video of the traffic stop reveals a more nuanced version of what really happened.

Officers Nathaniel Burkemper and Michael Binz pulled Bufford’s silver Ford Taurus over because of an illegal U-turn and in connection with a 911 call over shots fired near the Lafayette Square area of St. Louis. It’s hard to hear exactly what the officers say to Bufford in the dash cam video, but Burkemper can be heard saying, “I’m telling you right now” and “Let’s go.”

According to the police report, Bufford refused to get out of the car as requested. A passenger in the car was handcuffed without incident.

Burkemper eventually pulls Bufford out of the car, and at least seven other officers get involved in the scene. One officer in the video is shown kicking Bufford when he is on the ground. Bufford was also tased twice while on the ground. It appears there is no clear justification for using such force. Officer Kelli Swinton approaches Burkemper’s patrol car at 10:16pm and yells, “Hold up. Hold up, y’all. Hold up. Hold up, everybody, hold up. We’re red right now, so if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait.” The video ends eight second later.

The charges of resisting arrest and unlawful use of a weapon were dropped in August because the tape contradicted the police report, a lawyer for Bufford said. But a circuit attorney’s spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, disagreed, saying the case was dismissed because “the action of turning off the dash cam video diminished the evidentiary merits of the case,” according to the Post-Dispatch.

The video’s release, which St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Eureka! My Earthshaking New Study Reveals Root Cause of the Profoundly Stupid

February 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Susan Grigsby, Daily Kos

Understanding what has happened to the American psyche.

Can a vaccine be responsible for the profoundly stupid?

It is a question I have been pondering for the past week or two. Could a vaccine, specifically, the polio vaccine, have caused us to become profoundly stupid? Looking for evidence, like so many troubled young parents of today faced with a vaccination schedule, I turned to Google to find out. What I discovered was deeply disturbing.

The United States experienced an epidemic of polio in 1952, with 21,000, of the reported 57,628 cases resulting in paralysis. Clearly, a vaccine was needed. Fortunately, work was already underway.

In 1953, Jonas Salk published the successful results of his early inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) tests. Those results were so promising that …

“A nationwide testing of the vaccine was launched in April 1954 with the mass inoculation of school children. The results were amazing — 60-70 percent prevention — and Salk was praised to the skies. But suddenly, some 200 cases of the disease were caused by the vaccine and 11 people died. All testing was halted. It seemed that people's hopes were dashed until investigators found that the disease-causing vaccine all came from one poorly made batch at one drug company. Higher production standards were adopted and vaccinations resumed, with over 4 million given by August 1955. The impact was dramatic: In 1955 there were 28,985 cases of polio; in 1956, 14,647; in 1957, 5,894. By 1959, 90 other countries used Salk's vaccine.”

It changed the world. Albert Sabin soon developed an oral vaccine (OPV) using a weakened live virus, and in 1962 it was licensed for use in the U.S., and being cheaper, and less painful, it replaced the Salk vaccine by 1968. In 2000, with the virus wiped out in the United States, we switched back to the IPV vaccine amid concerns that the OPV vaccine might lead to cases of vaccine-related polio.

However, shortly after the polio vaccine had been widely administered, something very strange began to happen to the American psyche. The more I clicked, the more I learned about …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why We Can't Let the GOP Pretend to Be the Party of the Middle Class

February 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Sean McElwee, Salon

On a number of economic indicators, the country fares far better when a Democrat is in office.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, Republicans are trying to position themselves as the party of the middle-class. In a recent essay, Thomas Edsall 

In another recent study, Alan Blinder and Mark Watson find that on a number of economic indicators, the country fares far better when a Democrat is in office. GDP growth is 1.8 point higher under a Democratic presidency, unemployment is lower, corporate profits are higher, the S&P grows faster and wages grow faster. This difference is not found in other countries, suggesting that the particularly rabid nature of American conservatism may be an important factor. It could also be that the effect is purely luck (although there is evidence to suggest that left-wing governments can facilitate growth). But the fact that the economy grows faster under Democrats is not enough to explain why the middle-class fares better. As the chart below shows, much of the distribution leg-work occurs after taxes and transfers. This isn’t to say Democrats don’t shape the pre-tax distribution (they do), but rather that simple differences in market distributions of income can’t explain the difference.

As John B. Judis argued — contrary to his seminal proposition of an “Emerging Democratic Majority”  — the future now belongs to the Republican party. It’s increasingly likely that Democrats will continue to have a slight advantage in the electoral college, but struggle elsewhere, for reasons I’ve previously discussed. So, while Judis’ thesis that middle-class whites are dramatically shifting right is contestable, he raises an important point: Middle-class Americans like services but dislike taxes, and Democrats currently appear to be the party of taxes. And so, the struggle for Democrats is what Suzanne Mettler refers to as the “submerged state.” That is, the way the government actually benefits the middle class often goes unseen, while taxes, particularly the income tax, are very obvious. Mettler notes that our federal tax code is full of handouts like …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Black Mississippi Judge Opens a Can of Whoopass on White Murderers—And It’s Awesome

February 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Scott Kaufman, Raw Story

“What is so disturbing…is that these n*gger hunts were perpetrated by our children.”

The United States District judge tasked with sentencing the men responsible for murdering James Craig Anderson in Mississippi in 2011 asked them to sit down while he read a lengthy statement about the history of race relations in Mississippi, NPR’s Code Switch blog reports.

On June 26, 2011, Deryl Dedmon, Jr., John Aaron Rice and Dylan Wade Butler drove into Jackson, Mississippi — which they referred to as “Jafrica” — to “go fuck with some n*ggers.” They came across Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, and assaulted him while yelling “white power.” While Anderson was on the ground, Dedmon ran him over with his truck.

Two women who were involved in the altercation and who encouraged the trio to kill Anderson pleaded guilty to hate crimes charges in December for their role in the criminal conspiracy.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, one of only two African Americans to serve as a federal judge in Mississippi, spoke to Dedmon, Rice and Butler before sentencing them for the hate crime charges related to Anderson’s death.

“Mississippi has expressed its savagery in a number of ways throughout its history — slavery being the cruelest example, but a close second being Mississippi’s infatuation with lynchings,” he said.

Reeves compared the number of blacks who died via lynchings to other statistics commonly associated with tragedy in American culture. The 4,742 African Americans who were killed by lynch mobs “contrasts with the 1,401 prisoners who have been executed legally in the United States since 1976. In modern terms, that number represents more than those killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and more than twice the number of American casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom — the Afghanistan conflict. Turning to home, this number also represents 1,700 more than who were killed on Sept. 11.”

Quoting one Mississippi historian, Reeves noted that of “the 40 martyrs whose names are inscribed in the national Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL, 19 were killed in Mississippi.”

“Mississippi soil has been stained with the blood of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Super-Rich Don’t Care About Us—And That Will Be Their Downfall

February 16, 2015 in Blogs

By Oliver James, The Guardian

These billionaires get rich on the back of our taxes, but they give nothing in return.

The news this week that a bank helped wealthy customers to dodge taxes should not come as a surprise to many. The super-rich have long held some profoundly distorted ideas about the world. They are more than averagely likely to believe their achievements are the product of their superior brains and hard work. They may believe the Selfish Gene rhetoric that those with the best genes rise to the top of the pond, and at the bottom is genetic sludge. They are oblivious to any evidence to the contrary. They have no idea that had they been born on a sink estate they too would have sunk.

This is partly because the super-rich are no longer exposed to data and experiences that contradict their worldview. Flitting between their various homes around the world, they know nothing of our lives. They have never, ever had to sit on the phone waiting for the next available customer support agent – “your call really matters to us” – to try and fix their phone/Internet/energy bill issue.

Of particular concern is that they only consume media that support their worldview. Recently, an Oxbridge-educated CEO in all seriousness told me that there has been no increase in inequality in this country. My jaw was slack with amazement when another told me that “inner London secondary pupils have the best exam results of any in the world.” They are living in the la-la land Polly Toynbee and David Walker painstakingly exposed in their book Unjust Rewards.

Consider your response to the following information. About 15,700 under-two-year-olds live in a family that is classed as homeless, according to a new report. Homelessness adversely affects parental responsiveness, and early responsiveness has …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Congress Should Set Limits on Obama's ISIS War

February 16, 2015 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Last Saturday marked six months since President Obama unilaterally launched our latest war in the Middle East. We’ve since hit Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) targets with more than 2,000 airstrikes and we have 3,000 troops—or, as the administration prefers to call them, “military advisers,”—on the ground.

Last week, three months after he pledged to “begin engaging Congress over a new authorization for military force against ISIL,” the president finally filed the paperwork, sending Congress a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) designed to provide legal cover for what he’s been doing for more than half a year.

If we’ve learned anything from the history of past AUMFs (an open question), it’s that presidents will push the authority they’re given as far as language will allow—and possibly further. Last week’s draft resolution is no exception: What limits it purports to impose are largely illusory. If Congress were to pass it as drafted, it might end up ceding the president even vaster war powers than he’s claimed to date.

It’s not at all clear what the president’s strategy is in the fight against ISIS, or what victory is supposed to look like.”

The president’s draft AUMF does not limit military operations to Iraq and Syria, and it contains a broad “associated forces” provision that could open the door to the sort of endless target-list proliferation we’ve seen under the 2001 AUMF.  The 2001 resolution, passed by Congress three days after the 9/11 attacks and aimed principally at Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, doesn’t mention “associated forces,” yet two presidents have stretched its language to authorize an ever-expanding war against groups that didn’t exist on 9/11 and whose connections with “core” Al-Qaeda are ever more tenuous. The Obama AUMF, which would authorize force against allies of ISIS “successor entit[ies]” fighting our “coalition partners,” could prove even more malleable.

Consider this exchange between Senator Udall and Secretary of State John Kerry, in Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December:

UDALL: How should the authorization of force treat groups who have pledged their…allegiance to the Islamic State, including, as of December 2014, groups in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia?

KERRY: They should be associated forces. They fit under that category.

The danger of “mission creep” could hardly be plainer.

Moreover, what “limits” the Obama AUMF contains fully deserve the scare quotes. The resolution specifies …read more

Source: OP-EDS