You are browsing the archive for 2015 March 24.

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Sen. Rand Paul Introduces Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act

March 24, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul today reintroduced the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act. This legislation provides state governors with the power to regulate intrastate endangered species and intrastate threatened species. ‘This bill will better protect endangered species by allowing a more tailored response as implemented by the states. The Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act ensures that local needs will be considered in the regulation process and places the decision-making into the hands of the states by allowing them to choose whether regulation occurs on the state or federal level,’ Sen. Paul said. Click HERE to read the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act in its entirety. …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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This Phone Hacking Device Is out of Control

March 24, 2015 in Economics

By Adam Bates

Adam Bates

The New York Times published a troubling article on March 16 detailing the secrecy surrounding police use of Stingray cellular site simulators.

The technological capabilities of law enforcement are getting far ahead of our mechanisms for oversight and accountability.”

Essentially, these devices, which can be mounted on vehicles or carried by hand, mimic the signals of a cellphone tower to force cellphones in a given area to connect to the device. Both data on the phone (including numbers, texts, emails and any other data stored on the phone) and the phone’s physical location can then be accessed and recorded by police.

Additionally concerning is the extensive use of non-disclosure agreements by the Harris Corporation, which sells the devices, to prevent the public (and in some cases even judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors) from finding out how these devices are being used or even whether a given department owns any.

The preference for secrecy is so powerful that prosecutors have dropped serious criminal charges simply to avoid having the police use of Stingrays subjected to examination by defense attorneys or judges.

According to the Times,

The confidentiality has elevated the stakes in a longstanding debate about the public disclosure of government practices versus law enforcement’s desire to keep its methods confidential. While companies routinely require non-disclosure agreements for technical products, legal experts say these agreements raise questions and are unusual given the privacy and even constitutional issues at stake.

The stated reason for the secrecy is the common refrain that terrorists will circumvent the technology if they know what law enforcement is up to. However, a recent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report was unable to uncover a single instance of these devices being used to bring domestic terrorists to justice in any jurisdiction surveyed.

The ACLU report estimates that Stingrays are in wide and rapidly increasing use in law enforcement agencies across America. However, there appears to be very little oversight structure for police departments, legislatures or courts governing the use of these devices. In some instances, it seems that courts have even been unwittingly authorizing their use without the judge’s full understanding.

For instance, a sampling of applications for court orders from Florida law enforcement agencies informs the judge that the order is for cellphone records but doesn’t mention anything about how they’re to be obtained. Police claim such vague orders authorize Stingray deployment, but some judges have been <a target=_blank href="http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/06/legal-experts-cops-lying-about-cell-tracking-is-a-stupid-thing-to-do/" …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) Introduce House Version of Groundbreaking Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Legislation

March 24, 2015 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Bill Follows Historic Introduction of the CARERS Act by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Support for Letting States Set Their Own Marijuana Policies without Federal Interference Growing Rapidly in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC—Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) have introduced the House companion to a groundbreaking bill legalizing marijuana for medical use that was introduced in the Senate two weeks ago by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) co-sponsored the bill soon after.

March 24, 2015

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Sen. Paul Joins Megyn Kelly on Fox News- March 23, 2015

March 24, 2015 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Legislators Move against Mass Surveillance

March 24, 2015 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

Nearly two years after Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations about the scope of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs targeting the communications of Americans, Congress has yet to pass legislation to end those programs. Two House lawmakers have just offered a bill to do just that.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) are the House sponsors of the Surveillance State Repeal Act, a bill which would not only end the mass surveillance laws currently on the books (the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act), but also prevent the federal government from forcing tech companies to build NSA-exploitable flaws into smartphones, tablets, WiFi routers, and other devices. This so-called “back door” issue has become a major political controversy ever since FBI Director James Comey publicly criticized companies like Apple for building high-quality encryption into applications like iMessage. Privacy and security experts are in broad agreement that sound encryption is an essential privacy and online commerce tool, and the bill would prohibit the federal government from forcing companies to make products with defective encryption.

One of the most important public battles over the issue of security versus surveillance is about to begin.”

The bill would dramatically strengthen whistleblower protections for federal intelligence agency employees and contractors. This portion of the bill was inspired by the searing experience of former NSA senior official Thomas Drake, who, a decade before Edward Snowden came on the scene, attempted to alert Congressional investigators and the Defense Department’s own inspector general of waste, fraud and abuse. Despite complying with all laws and regulations for reporting such abuse, Drake was wrongfully prosecuted by the Justice Department. The bill would make this kind of retaliation a firing offence.

The SSRA would also improve congressional oversight of surveillance activities by mandating Government Accountability Office compliance audits to ensure that previously collected data on Americans is destroyed unless an American is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation.

The bill has the support of groups from across the political spectrum–from the libertarian-leaning FreedomWorks and Campaign for Liberty to progressive groups like CREDO Action, Demand Progress, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

In June 2014, portions of an earlier version of the SSRA were added as an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Department appropriations bill. The amendment, offered by Massie and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) A), included a prohibition …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Arizona Wants to Hide Names of Police Who Kill People

March 24, 2015 in Blogs

By Michael Arria, AlterNet

The state has produced a bill that will scale back police accountability even more.

GOP lawmakers in Arizona are reacting to the recent media attention to police brutality cases by attempting to scale back transparency. Arizona Senate Bill 1445 would prohibit law enforcement agencies from releasing the names of officers “involved in a use of deadly physical force incident that results in death or serious physical injury” for 60 days after the confrontation.

The bill has already been passed by Arizona’s House of Representatives, with only 13 votes against it, and is set to hit the Senate for a vote this week. If approved there, it would have to get signed off by Governor Doug Ducey, who has hacked away at state programs while earmarking millions of dollars for private prisons.

If it becomes law, this legislation would obviously erode an oversight apparatus that already barely exists. In a piece from last year, titled “Why It’s Impossible to Indict a Cop,” Brooklyn attorney Chase Madar wrote that, “The reality is, it is extremely difficult to get law enforcement to police itself, and self-regulation is here, just as it is in poultry processing or coal mining, a sick joke.”

Opponents of the bill have begun to rally in front of the Governor’s office, insisting that the bill would have devastating impact. “Police officers have an extraordinary power because they can detain, search, arrest and have the ability to shoot to kill,” Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, told the local news, “That is when the transparency and accountability needs to be the strongest.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Georgia Women Arrested Protesting Bill That Would Let Employers Fire Women Who've Had An Abortion

March 24, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

If the bill passes, the state could see a new wave of discrimination similar to Jim Crow.

In several states, Republican lawmakers are sponsoring bills that would allow employers to use “religious liberty” as an excuse to do whatever they want – including discriminate against customers or employees on the basis of religion.

Georgia's version of this religious liberty bill has already passed the state senate, but is running into trouble in the house, where even the speaker, a Republican, has expressed skepticism about the legislation.

Progressive activists in the state are leaving nothing to chance, realizing that if the bill passes, the state could see a new wave of discrimination similar to Jim Crow-style restrictions on African Americans. Some women's organizations are particularly concerned that right-wing employers could, for example, fire women who've had abortions.

On Monday, four women – Megan Harrison, Lorraine Fontana, Emma Stitt, and Jessica Reznicek – sought an audience with the bill's chief Senate sponsor, Republican Josh McKoon. Not only were the four women denied a meeting with McKoon, they were arrested.

The American Friends Service Committee shared a few photos of the arrests:

Four women sought an audience with the bill's chief Senate sponsor, Republican Josh McKoon. Not only were the four women denied a meeting with McKoon, they were arrested.

Photo Credit: 
American Friends Service Committee

Four women sought an audience with the bill's chief Senate sponsor, Republican Josh McKoon. Not only were the four women denied a meeting with McKoon, they were arrested.

<!– …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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California Lawyer Initiates 'Shoot the Gays' Measure

March 24, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Insane proposed measure was actually allowed to go forward.

A southern California lawyer recently submitted an extremely violent and homophobic measure for state review that would legalize state-sanctioned murder of any person who engages in sexual pleasure with someone of the same gender, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Matt McLaughlin paid the $200 fee late February to submit the “Sodomite Suppression Act” to California voters. The measure would make it a crime to advocate gay rights to audiences that include minors. Those convicted would face up to 10 years in prison.

What is the constitutionality of this ridiculous measure?

Well, under McLaughlin’s logic, that could only be determined by a state Supreme Court that is free of LGBT judges or their advocates. And if the state fails to take action on any conviction within a year, the act permits private citizens to step in as executioners. Another insane provision of the act requires that it be posted at every public school in the state.

As inhumane and sick as this bill is, there is little that California Attorney General Kamala Davis can do to stop McLaughlin from moving forward. Because he has paid his fee, the attorney general must prepare a title and 100-word summary of the initiative and forward it to the secretary of state for a 90-day period of public signature-gathering. Harris is scheduled to take this action May 4, according to the secretary of state website. It doesn’t seem like she has no authority to trash any ballot initiative, no matter how odd and insanely disgusting it is.

The McLaughlin’s proposal would need 365,000 valid signatures to make the 2016 ballot.

That said, besides being sick and inhuman, his act is unconstitutional. For one, people cannot be prosecuted from consensual sexual activity. Also, people can’t be locked up for expressing a point of view. Not that we need any research to defend against this mockery of a proposal, but a recent poll reveals that most Americans support same-sex marriage anyway. In California, a 2013 poll reveals that 61 percent of residents supported same-sex …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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This NY Bill Could Effectively Make You a Felon If You're Arrested During a Protest

March 24, 2015 in Blogs

By Adam Johnson, AlterNet

A subtle change in New York State law could stop #BlackLivesMatter in its tracks.

On Sunday, The New York Postand NY1 reported that the NYPD’s push to make resisting arrest a felony had officially been introduced as a bill before the New York State senate. After both Commissioner Brattonand NYPDpolice union simultaneously trial-ballooned a similar law change a few weeks ago, the plan to make “aggravated” resisting arrest a felony is officially moving forward after State Senator Tony Avella proposed Bill S04260, that would render anyone who “resisted arrest” more than twice in a ten year span a felon. As the Post spelled out:

Resisting arrest will lead to harsher penalties under legislation proposed by a Queens Democrat. State Sen. Tony Avella is behind a bill that would create a felony charge — “aggravated resisting arrest” — for people who have been convicted of resisting arrest twice in a 10-year period.

The justification for the new measures, in typical NYPD victim-blaming spin, is being presented a  a way of preventing future Eric Garners:

The legislation is in response to protests last December following a Staten Island grand jury decision not to charge a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

The bill is based off a letter the Lieutenants Benevolent Association sent to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in January requesting an “aggravated resisting” charge.

“This helps everybody,” LBA President Louis Turco told The Post. “Civilians don’t get hurt and officers don’t get hurt.”

Setting aside the now all-too-routine fact that police policy is largely directed by the unelected NYPD brass and then later driven through by compliant state legislators, such a policy would have deeply troubling implications. First off, making resisting arrest a felony would severely and disportionately affect communities of color. As WYNC reported last December, resisting arrest – like all facets of our justice system – is not applied evenly among class and race:

NYPD officers appear to be far more likely to file resisting arrest …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Plane With 150 on Board Crashes, All Feared Dead

March 24, 2015 in Blogs

By Eric Randolph, AFP

The worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades.

Paris (AFP) – A German airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board, in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades.

France's junior transport minister said there were “no survivors” from the crash of the Germanwings Airbus A320, a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, in a remote part of the Alps that is extremely difficult to access.

Civil aviation authorities said they lost contact with the plane, which was carrying 144 passengers and six crew, and declared it was in distress at 10:30 am (0930 GMT).

“The distress signal showed the plane was at 5,000 feet in an abnormal situation,” said Alain Vidalies, minister of state for transport.

Spanish King Felipe VI cut short his state visit to France on news of the tragedy, with a number of Spanish nationals believed to be among the dead along with Germans and possibly Turks.

French President Francois Hollande said the plane crashed in an area very difficult to access and rescuers would not be able to reach the site for several hours.

“I want to express all our solidarity to the families affected by this tragedy,” Hollande told reporters.

The plane was travelling from the Spanish coastal city of Barcelona to the German city of Duesseldorf when it went down in the ski resort area of Barcelonnette.

A witness who was skiing near the crash site told a French television channel he “heard an enormous noise” around the time of the disaster.

A French police helicopter dispatched to the site of the crash reported spotting debris in a mountain range known as “Les Trois Eveches,” which reaches 1,400 metres in altitude.

The government said “major rescue efforts” had been mobilised, but accessing the remote region would present severe challenges.

“The zone is snow-bound and inaccessible to vehicles, but could be overflown by helicopters,” said Vidalies.

The plane belonged to Germanwings, a low-cost affiliate of German airline Lufthansa based in Cologne which until now had no …read more

Source: ALTERNET