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Progressive prosecutors scored big wins in 2020

November 18, 2020 in Blogs

By The Conversation

by Caren Morrison, Georgia State University

Despite the broad political polarization in the United States, the 2020 election confirmed a clear movement across both red and blue America: the gains made by reform-minded prosecutors.

Running on progressive platforms that include ending mass incarceration and addressing police misconduct, candidates defeated traditional “law-and-order” prosecutors across the country.

Elected prosecutors – often called state’s attorneys or district attorneys – represent the people of a particular county in their criminal cases. Their offices work with law enforcement to investigate and try cases, determine which crimes should be prioritized and decide how punitive to be.

After decades of incumbent prosecutors winning reelection based on their high conviction rates or the long sentences they achieved, advocates for criminal justice reform began making inroads into their territory a few years ago. They did so mainly by drawing attention to local races and funding progressive challengers.

Birth of a movement

During her 2016 run for state’s attorney for Cook County, Illinois, Kim Foxx vowed to bring more accountability to police shootings and reduce prosecutions for nonviolent crimes.

She won, becoming the first Black woman to serve as state’s attorney in Chicago. It was also the first high-profile sign that this progressive prosecutorial approach was working.

Her victory was followed by the 2017 election of Larry Krasner as district attorney in Philadelphia. Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, had never prosecuted a case when he ran for office – a move that the city’s police union chief called “hilarious.”

But Krasner’s campaign platform – addressing mass incarceration and police misconduct – responded to a city saddled with the highest incarceration rate among large U.S. cities, nearly seven out of every 1,000 citizens. Krasner won with 75% of the vote.

As a criminal procedure professor and a former federal prosecutor, I have watched the desire for reform only grow since then.

Progressive candidates have pledged to transform a criminal justice system that has bloated prisons and disproportionately targeted people of color.

Black Lives Matter protests have also focused attention on how prosecutors make decisions – whom they prosecute and how severely, particularly in police violence cases.

Movement gains steam

Despite criticism of her first term – including her decision to drop the charges against actor Jussie Smollett for faking a hate …read more


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North Dakota is facing the world’s worst outbreak as Native communities condemn the COVID response

November 18, 2020 in Blogs

By Democracy Now

As COVID-19 rampages through the U.S., we look at how the rapid spread of the disease is affecting Native American communities, which have already faced disproportionate infection and death rates throughout the pandemic. “We’re having a lot of people perish. We’re having a lot of death, a lot of hospitalizations,” says Jodi Archambault, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and former special assistant to President Obama for Native American affairs. We also speak with Allie Young, founder of Protect the Sacred, who says the Navajo Nation has “worked hard to flatten the curve” of COVID-19 infections but is still vulnerable due to lax public health measures in nearby areas. “We have to travel to these territories where they’re not wearing masks, they’re not thinking about their neighbors who’ve been impacted,” says Young.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. This is The Quarantine Report, as we go to North Dakota, which currently has the highest COVID-19 death rate of any state or country in the world, with one in every thousand residents dead from the virus. South Dakota’s death rate is nearly as bad, after both state governments spent months downplaying the crisis, the Republican governors refusing to issue mask mandates, until just recently in North Dakota.

Over the weekend, facing rapidly spiking numbers, North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum finally declared a statewide mask mandate, limited indoor restaurant capacity, and shut down high school sports. The move came just a week after he said infected but asymptomatic healthcare workers should still work and treat COVID-19 patients at hospitals.

Meanwhile, the right-wing South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem, a close Trump ally, who welcomed him to Mount Rushmore, continues to deny the crisis, will not issue a mask mandate. A South Dakota emergency room nurse told CNN she’s treated many patients who deny COVID-19 is making them ill, even as they’re hospitalized and die of the disease.

As COVID-19 ravages the Dakotas, we turn to look at how the rapid spread of COVID-19 is affecting Native American communities, which have already faced disproportionate infection and death rates throughout the pandemic. We’re joined by Jodi Archambault. She’s a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the former special assistant to President Obama for Native American affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council. She is …read more


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Trump and Tucker Carlson got caught falsely accusing a living woman of voting while dead

November 18, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

As decisive a victory as President-elect Joe Biden has enjoyed — 306 electoral votes and a nationwide lead of at least 5.8 million in the popular vote — President Donald Trump and his allies are still hoping to overturn the election results in key battleground states. One of them is Georgia, where Trump’s campaign and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson wrongly accused a voter named Deborah Jean Christiansen of voting fraudulently. But CNN interviewed Christiansen, ascertaining that her vote was perfectly legitimate.

Trump’s campaign and Carlton both accused Christiansen of voting in the name of a dead woman. However, CNN reporters Konstantin Toropin, Daniel Dale and Amara Walker explain that in Georgia, there were two different women named Deborah Jean Christiansen. One of them died in 2019, but the other is alive and well and had every right to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

The two Georgia-based women, according to CNN, were “born in the same year and month but on a different day.” And CNN interviewed the Deborah Jean Christiansen who is still living and voted for Biden.

Toropin, Dale and Walker explain, “Christiansen answered the door when CNN showed up on Tuesday evening. Christiansen, a retired mental health counselor who moved from Nebraska to Georgia in September, said she voted for Trump in 2016 but came to regret the decision, then voted for Joe Biden in 2020. Christiansen said the false accusation from the Trump campaign is ‘just ridiculous,’ part of an effort by a ‘narcissist’ president to deny the obvious reality of his defeat.”

Christiansen told CNN, “The guy lost the election. He should be worried more about taking care of people, with this COVID-19 going on. He’s got a pandemic. Come on, Biden won. Let’s move on. Let’s help him transition.”

The following misleading tweets were posted by Trump or members of his campaign, and one of them has been flagged by Twitter as “disputed”:

According to Toropin, Dale and Walker, “It is not clear whether the Trump campaign intentionally or unintentionally mixed up the …read more


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John Bolton fears that Trump has an 'enemies list' that he is working through

November 18, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Critics of President Donald Trump predicted that after the presidential race, he would be firing some prominent officials he considered non-loyalists — even if he lost the election. Trump did lose the election, and just as those critics predicted, he has been firing non-loyalists — and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, during a C-SPAN appearance on Wednesday, told the Washington Post’s Robert Costa that he fears Trump has an “enemies list” of more people he plans to fire.

Trump’s post-election firings have included former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Christopher Krebs, who served as director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Krebs’ unforgivable sin, in Trump’s mind, was arguing that the election was free and fair and that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or errors as the president has been claiming.

When Costa asked Bolton for his reaction to the firing of Krebs, the former national security adviser responded, “I thought it was another bad mistake. There’s absolutely no justification for it. There wasn’t any justification to fire Mark Esper or the other top Defense Department officials…. There’s no reason to decapitate your national security team with less than ten weeks to go until the transition.”

Bolton added that Trump is causing “disruptions” to the United States’ national security when Biden’s inauguration is only two months away — and he predicted that more firings will be coming soon.

“What I fear is…. That’s there’s an enemies list in the White House of people still to fire and that there’s more to come,” Bolton told Costa. When the Post reporter asked Bolton if he knew for certain that such a list exists, Bolton responded, “No, no, I’m worried that there’s an enemies list. There probably is in Donald Trump’s head; I doubt that he’s written it out.”

Costa asked Bolton if he had any thoughts on the president’s “intent” and motivations for firing top officials like Esper and Krebs — to which Bolton responded, “There’s no legitimate reason for it. I’m sure the reason he fired Chris Krebs is that Krebs said there is no evidence, in cyberspace, of fraud, election hacking or other malfeasance — which is completely contrary to the fantasy world the president …read more


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How to save lives and save the economy: 7 key recommendations for the new surge of COVID-19

November 18, 2020 in Blogs

By AlterNet


2. Marc Siegel, “Coronavirus lockdowns don’t work,” Fox Business,

3. Nigel Farage, “Coronavirus ‘lockdowns don’t work’,” Fox Business,

4. Bradley Byrne, “Business and School Lockdowns Don’t Work,”

5. Richard Tice, “”Lockdowns don’t work”: Brexit Party chair on rebranding to be anti-lockdown voice,” LBC,

6. Robert Verbruggen,Lockdowns Don’t Work,” National Review,

7. Surjit S BhallaLockdowns don’t work. It remains a mystery as to why the world entered one“, The Indian Express,

8. “Lockdowns don’t work“, The Critic,

9. “COVID-19 pandemic in New York (state) Government Response,” Wikipedia,

10. Lisa Kaczke, “South Dakota health experts warn Mount Rushmore fireworks could cause coronavirus spike,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader,

11. Dhaval Dave, Andrew I. Friedson, Drew McNichols, Joseph J. Sabia, “The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19,”

12. The Eurostat ‘flash estimates’ for GDP, as released in the euroindicators news release (125/2020) on 14 August 2020

13. OECD’s quarterly national accounts data, available at OECD.stat. Data for economic losses by country are much less than perfect. But the IMF and a few other institutions have made attempts to collect the available indicators. As stated at Our World In Data, “In both cases, for References 12 and 13 above, the data relates to the percentage change in GDP compared with the same quarter of the previous year (Q2 2019). This is calculated using a volume measure of GDP and as such, is adjusted to account for inflation between the years. The data is also seasonally adjusted. Note that estimates of GDP are often subject to revision as more data becomes available to national statistical agencies. The pandemic has impacted agencies’ ability to collect information that inform their GDP estimates. Eurostat notes that this is likely to have impacted the quality of the data in some cases (see:” We would also caution that data on contingent guarantees in particular can be treacherous: many clearly have not been taken up in reality and that total losses on loans, equity injections, and such, …read more


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5 Legendary Wild West Outlaws

November 18, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Their iconic status endures, despite their history of violent crime.

Train robberies. Horse thievery. Cattle rustling. Shootouts. Cold-blooded murder.

The most notorious outlaws of the Wild West have long been romanticized as daring robbers and swashbuckling killers since their stories first hit early American tabloids. In many ways, their narratives have been shaped—in dime-store novels, TV shows and Hollywood films—to fit the frontier ideals of rugged individualism and pioneering spirit.

“Americans love an underdog, a person who stands up against perceived tyranny,” wrote Bill Markley in Billy the Kid and Jesse James: Outlaws of the Legendary West. “Jesse James and Billy the Kid personify that rebellious spirit. Americans overlook the crimes and see the romance of the rebel.”

We rounded up five of the 19th century’s most infamous outlaws, whose popular legends endure, despite their history of violent crime.

WATCH: Full episodes of .

The James legend grew with the help of newspaper editor John Newman Edwards, a Confederate sympathizer who perpetuated James’s Robin Hood mythology. “We are not thieves, we are bold robbers,” James wrote in a letter Edwards published. “I am proud of the name, for Alexander the Great was a bold robber, and Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte.”

But while he did steal from the rich, there’s no evidence James gave to the poor.

In 1881, the governor of Missouri issued a $10,000 reward for the capture of Jesse and Frank James. On April 3, 1882, at the age of 34, James was shot and killed by one of his accomplices, Robert Ford, who was found guilty of murder but pardoned by the governor.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About Jesse James

Billy the Kid

Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid

Legend says the Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid—cattle rustler, gunslinger, murderer, escape artist—killed 21 people before he turned 21 years old, his age at death. The reality may be closer to nine. But the early days of Henry McCarty, later known as William Bonney, “the Kid,” are murky.

Billy the Kid was likely born in New York City in 1859, later moving to Indiana, Kansas and Denver before his family settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Orphaned as a teen after his mother died of tuberculosis, Henry was separated from his brother and placed in foster homes. It wasn’t long before he fell into petty theft. After a …read more


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Did the Official 1912 Titanic Investigations Go Far Enough?

November 18, 2020 in History

By Greg Daugherty

A stunned world demanded answers. So did two relentless lawyers in the U.S. and Great Britain: Senator William Alden Smith and Lord Mersey.

When the RMS Titanic went down on the night of April 14-15, 1912, people on both sides of the Atlantic frantically awaited further news. The newspapers pieced together what little information they could obtain from wireless telegraph messages sent by the Titanic and other ships at sea, often relying on speculation to fill the gaps. More than one major paper assured readers that all the passengers had been saved and the wounded liner was slowly making its way to Nova Scotia. It wasn’t until the rescue ship Carpathia arrived in New York on April 18 that fuller details began to emerge. Even then, rumors were rampant.

Fortunately, for the sake of history, government officials in both the United States and Great Britain moved aggressively to find out what had happened and why. Their inquiries, beginning on April 19 and May 2 respectively, put on record much of what the world now knows about the disaster—that the ship was traveling too fast for the icy conditions, that its design made it more vulnerable to sinking than anyone realized, that it was carrying far too few lifeboats for the people onboard and much more.

READ MORE: Titanic by the Numbers: From Construction to Disaster to Discovery

An American Senator Begins the Probe

American Senator William A. Smith (1859-1932) of Michigan walking to the US Senate inquiry into the RMS Titanic sinking, 1912. The hearings, which took place in New York and Washington between April 19 and May 25, were the first to investigate the disaster.

Sen. William Alden Smith (R-Mich.), a lawyer by training, led the U.S. Senate inquiry. He wasted no time in rounding up key witnesses, in part out of concern that they would leave the U.S. and return to England before they could be questioned. Smith and his entourage met the Carpathia at its New York dock to serve subpoenas on the surviving members of the Titanic’s crew, the Carpathia’s captain and J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line and a survivor of the wreck.

The inquiry began the next morning at a New York hotel before moving to Washington, D.C. a few days later.

Smith would call 82 witnesses in all, including four Titanic officers, 34 crew members and 21 passengers. …read more


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Why Native Americans Have Protested Mount Rushmore

November 18, 2020 in History

By Jodi Rave

While Mount Rushmore is considered a treasured historic site for some Americans, to Native Americans, it can represent a stinging history.

The faces of four U.S. presidents gaze from a granite face mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. To some, Mount Rushmore is hailed as the “Shrine of Democracy.” To American Indians, the monument is typically considered a shrine of illegal occupation.

So while Mount Rushmore attracts some 3 million visitors annually as a tourist destination, it has also been the site of multiple American Indian protests and occupations. Among the most notable in the 20th century, were in 1970 and 1971, when Native American activists climbed and then occupied Mount Rushmore as a protest against what they declared as the theft and desecration of a spiritual site.

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie

The signing of a treaty between William T. Sherman and the Sioux in a tent in Fort Laramie, 1868.

Tribes such as the Shoshone, Salish, Kootenai Crow, Mandan, Arikara, and the Lakota have long lived around the Black Hills, a sanctuary the Lakota call “The Heart of Everything That Is.” Indigenous people knew the land centuries before white people had ever seen it, says Gerard Baker, a Mandan-Hidatsa Indian who served as Superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 2004 to 2010.

The Black Hills were reserved for the Lakota (also known as the Teton Sioux) in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. But the discovery of gold in the region prompted U.S. prospectors to soon overrun the area, and the government began forcing the Sioux to give up their claims on the land.

Warriors, including Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse led resistance against the land seizures, but, by 1877, the U.S. government had officially confiscated the land. Ever since, the Sioux and other American Indian activists have protested the U.S. government’s claim to their ancestral lands.

American Indian Protests of 1970s

On August 29, 1970, a group of Native Americans, led by the San Francisco-based United Native Americans, ascended 3,000 feet to the top of Mount Rushmore and set up camp to protest the broken Treaty of Fort Laramie. The following year, on June 6, 1971, a group of Native Americans, led by the American Indian Movement (AIM), occupied the carved Mount Rushmore to demand the 1868 treaty be honored. Twenty Native Americans—nine men and 11 women—were eventually arrested and charged …read more


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The Pilgrims' Miserable Journey Aboard the Mayflower

November 18, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

The Pilgrims faced cramped quarters, rough seas, limited food and numbing cold during their journey to America.

Sailing for more than two months across 3,000 miles of open ocean, the 102 passengers of the Mayflower—including three pregnant women and more than a dozen children—were squeezed below decks in crowded, cold and damp conditions, suffering crippling bouts of seasickness, and surviving on meager rations of hardtack biscuits, dried meat and beer.

“The boat would have been rolling like a pig,” says Conrad Humphreys, a professional sailor and skipper for a recreated sea journey of Captain William Bligh. “The smell and stench of illness and sickness down below, and the freezing cold on deck in the elements, it would have been pretty miserable.”

The Mayflower, like other 17th-century merchant ships, was a cargo vessel designed to haul lumber, fish and casks of French wine—not passengers. The 41 Pilgrims and 61 “strangers” (non-Separatists brought along as skilled craftsmen and indentured servants) who boarded the Mayflower in 1620 made for unusual cargo, and their destination was no less foreign. The ship’s square rigging and high, castle-like compartments were suited for short hops along the European coastline, but the Mayflower’s bulky design was a handicap for sailing against the strong Westerly winds of the North Atlantic.

“The journey would have been painfully slow with many days of being blown backward rather than forward,” says Humphreys.

READ MORE: Why Did the Pilgrims Come to America?

Incredibly, though, all but one of the Mayflower’s passengers survived the grueling, 66-day ordeal, and the Pilgrims even welcomed the arrival of a newborn baby halfway through the journey, a boy aptly named Oceanus. The Pilgrims’ joy and relief on catching sight of Cape Cod on the morning of November 9, 1620 was recorded by their leader William Bradford in Of Plymouth Plantation.

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof,” wrote Bradford.

READ MORE: What’s the Difference Between Pilgrims and Puritans?

From Two Ships to One

Pilgrims boarding the Mayflower for their voyage to America.

The Pilgrim’s arduous journey to the New World technically began on July 22, 1620, when a large group of colonists boarded a ship called the Speedwell in the …read more