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Florida Trial for Another White Man for Killing a Black Teen: Will Lightning Strike Twice or Will We Wake Up?

(The Root) — Just two days after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman, Jacksonville, Fla., lawyer Cory Strolla stood in the Florida State Court hallway and spoke to a huddle of reporters.

“I worry they’re going to say, ‘We lost Zimmerman, so let’s get Michael Dunn,’ ” Strolla said, referring to Florida State Attorney Angela Corey.

Strolla, an experienced defense lawyer, said he was worried that Dunn, his client, will get the punishment that Zimmerman did not. In November 2012, Dunn, a 46-year-old white Florida software developer, shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis, an unarmed black boy, after a verbal confrontation about loud music in a Jacksonville convenience-store parking lot. But victims-rights and gun control advocates, Jordan’s parents and others watching the case fear that Strolla is terribly wrong and another Florida civilian with a gun will not be punished for taking the life of yet another unarmed black teen because, like Zimmerman, Dunn says he was afraid.

Sometime between now and September, Dunn is expected to seek immunity — that’s an all-out free pass on any criminal or financial penalties — in a “Stand your ground” hearing in front of a Florida judge. Dunn will have to convince the judge that he feared for his life. If that effort fails, a Florida judge and jury in one of the most conservative and gun-loving parts of the state will wade through an admixture of stereotypes and suspicion, as well as Florida gun-possession and weapons-use policies, to determine Dunn’s fate.

Some combination of that same cocktail sent Zimmerman home a free man. So Jordan’s parents, gun control and victims-rights advocates are all asking the same question: Could it happen again?

“As crazy as that sounds,” said Sam Hoover, a staff attorney at the San Francisco-based nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “that’s a distinct possibility. The reality is that Florida law gives these shooters an escape.”

Zimmerman’s lawyers did not make an explicit “Stand your ground” claim before his trial began, but testimony about the law was introduced. And because it is a part of Florida’s legal code, “Stand your ground” language is included in the jury’s instructions, something that could not have happened before the 2005 law was passed.

Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a nonprofit lobbying group, bluntly described what could happen as Dunn’s case moves forward.

“What people have to understand is that ‘Stand your ground’ legalized murder,” he said. “If you happen to be a concealed-carry permit holder, well, you might get off scot-free, even if someone is dead.”

Jordan’s parents, already carrying the burden of losing their son to a legally armed and emboldened Florida civilian, are, like many other Americans, reeling from the Zimmerman verdict. They have, according to their lawyer, grown particularly close to Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Together, the two sets of divorced parents form a fraternity to which no one seeks entry. Both have lobbied Congress for gun control reforms and described concealed-carry permit laws and the “Stand your ground” laws as the legal equivalent of a plague. Right now, Jordan’s parents aren’t talking to reporters. They are trying to offer Martin and Fulton support while hoping and praying that a Florida court will see what happened to their son differently.

“The facts of the two cases are very different,” said John Phillips, a Jacksonville lawyer representing Jordan’s parents. “But the tragedy and the set of laws that I think we all saw last week compound the Trayvon Martin tragedy, they are the same. So it’s not clear — not in the way that it ought to be — how much Dunn really has to fear.”

Day at the Mall Ends Tragically

Nov. 23, 2012, Jordan and three friends set out on a parent-free trip to the mall. Davis’ friend, a teenager with access to a Dodge SUV, did the driving. On the way home, one of the four wanted to stop for a pack of cigarettes, according to police reports and court records.

While three of the boys, including Jordan, waited for the fourth to emerge from the convenience store, they listened to music. A black Volkswagen pulled up. The car’s driver, Dunn, told his girlfriend that he hated the “thug music” coming from the SUV next to them. The woman hopped out to grab a bottle of wine. It wasn’t long before Dunn barked at the teens in the SUV, telling them that their music was too loud.

One boy turned the music down. Jordan took off his seat belt and turned it back up. Dunn started yelling. Witnesses heard Dunn scream that Jordan could “not talk to me that way.” Within minutes, Dunn pulled a gun and, after positioning himself inside his car, fired at the SUV as its teenage driver attempted to flee. Eight of Dunn’s bullets punctured the car, coming dangerously close to the heads and limbs of the teenagers inside. Two entered Jordan’s body, lodging in his chest and groin. Dunn sped away from the scene.

The next time Ron Davis saw his son, the teen was lying in a hospital trauma room covered up to his chin with a white hospital sheet. Jordan was already dead.

Witnesses at the convenience store managed to jot down Dunn’s plate number. It didn’t take law enforcement long to find him at his Satellite Beach, Fla., condo, about two-and-a-half hours south of Jacksonville, and bring him in for questioning.

When they did, Dunn explained that the teens had “defied” his “orders.” Dunn’s initial lawyer also told local reporters that Dunn had fired on the car 10 times because he was certain he had seen the muzzle of a shotgun emerging from one of the SUV’s rear windows. And Dunn was certain that the black “men” in the car had summoned gang members to come to their aid. Dunn, said the lawyer (who has since been replaced by Strolla), had reason to fear for his life. Sheriff’s deputies in Jacksonville didn’t agree and arrested Dunn on the spot.

Law-enforcement officials investigating the shooting never found a shotgun and say that none of the teens, including Jordan, was armed. They were, in fact, the kind of smartphone- and video game-obsessed teens, model and average students, who had nothing to do with gangs, Jordan’s parents and their lawyer insist.

Jordan was a natural charmer with the looks to pull what Rolling Stone called a “smoking-hot girlfriend,” but also the manners, family and grades to make his friend’s parents welcome him into their homes. He was the son, Ron Davis said earlier this year, that every father wants and whose death would transform most parents into staunch and vocal opponents of Florida’s gun laws.

Florida Has the Most Concealed-Weapon Permits

Dunn’s alleged behavior confirms what gun control advocates like Kristen Rand, legislative director at the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, already think about the more than 1 million men and women in Florida – more than any other state – who have been given permission by the state to carry a concealed weapon.

“The whole theory was to put more guns in the hands of ‘good guys’ who were going to use those guns against ‘bad guys,’ and what we are seeing is, that has no basis in reality,” Rand said. “Concealed-carry permit holders, it seems, are a rather paranoid lot who regularly pull their guns on people, shoot people and escalate situations that might be a fistfight into a deadly situation.”

Rand admits that her opinion is not based on a definitive look at state data. National Rifle Association lobbyists have managed to bar the state from collecting or distributing anything more than the most basic information about permit holders. The Violence Policy Center does maintain its own database of shootings involving concealed-carry permit holders, based on what can be culled from news reports. All told, 516 people have been killed by shooters with concealed-carry permits, according to the center’s data.

Both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are a part of that victim list.

Still, Florida isn’t just one of 49 states with a concealed-carry law. It has been a sort of gun-policy laboratory for the NRA, said Hoover, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In 1987 Florida became the nation’s first “shall issue” state, meaning that law-enforcement officials are required to issue concealed-carry permits to almost everyone who requests one, Hoover said. (This is in contrast to a “may issue” state, where the applicant needs a reason to carry a gun.) People with felony convictions and those who have been committed to a mental hospital are the only exceptions. But smaller-scale criminals, stalkers and even people with known mental illnesses must be issued permits. The NRA pushed for the change, Hoover said.

“Stand Your Ground” Laws Don’t Deter Crime

Then, in 2005, the NRA convinced Florida’s legislators to change the state’s self-defense standard. When they did, not only did people in Florida become able to stand their ground in the face of danger, but state prosecutors also somehow had to prove that the shooter was not afraid in order to send the person to prison.

Today more than 30 states have adopted some version of the same “Stand your ground” law.

2012 Texas A&M University study found that “Stand your ground” laws in Florida and 19 other states didn’t deter violent crime. Instead, the study found a clear increase in homicides in those states — about 700 additional killings nationwide each year.

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Centerplate and Teamsters Reach Agreement for Employees at AT&T Park, Other SF Venues: New Pressure on Local 2 UNITE HERE to Bargain in Good Faith

San Francisco—Centerplate, one of the largest hospitality and concession companies in North America, and San Francisco’s Teamsters Local 853 recently announced the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement for 200 retail and food service employees working at AT&T Park, Candlestick, and the Cow Palace. The agreement, which extends through March 31, 2016, includes an immediate wage increase, a signing bonus and excellent health and welfare benefits.

The announcement comes as Local 2 Unite Here refuses to respond to Centerplate’s proposals for a wage increase and bonus for food service workers at AT&T Park and Candlestick. Rather than negotiating a fair deal with Centerplate, Local 2′s Union boss, Mike Casey, has stated for months he will not agree to Centerplate’s economic proposal while at the same time refusing to provide a counter proposal.

“Centerplate would like to thank the Teamsters for working with us to achieve a deal for our employees and provide our team with the wages and benefits they deserve,” said Sam Singer, spokesperson for Centerplate. “It is bizarre to us that we can come to terms with the Teamsters in a matter of hours for an agreement that provides for improved wages, while Local 2 continues to focus on irrelevant issues. We invite Local 2 to return to the table with a renewed sense of urgency to accept our proposal that immediately puts money in the pockets of our employees—their members,” said Singer.

The agreement reached between Centerplate and the Teamsters took a total of 6 hours and includes the following terms:

1)      An immediate $1.50 per hour increase and a minimum of a $.40 per hour increase in years 2 and 3 of the contract for Food Service workers;

2)      A $500 signing bonus for Food Service workers who worked at least 40 events last year;

3)      An immediate $1.40 per hour increase and a $.30 per hour increase for years 2 and 3 of the contract for Merchandise workers;

4)      A $100 signing bonus for Merchandise workers who worked at least 40 events last year; and

5)      A $5,000 increase in pension contributions per year, raising Centerplate’s annual pension contribution to $20,000 per year.

Last month, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, once again failing to make an economic counter proposal, thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park and Candlestick the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

“We hope this sends a clear message to Unite Here’s labor boss, Mike Casey, that it’s possible that we can reach a fair and reasonable deal, but that doing so requires both parties to focus on the best outcome for Centerplate’s employees, not on third parties,” said Singer. “These past few months, Mike Casey has spent almost as much time picketing and demonstrating as he has sitting at the negotiation table where a fair deal awaits Centerplate employees. Ultimately, it’s the employees who are paying the price. Centerplate’s deal with the Teamsters demonstrates again that we are willing to deliver bonuses, salary increases, and the health and welfare security that our employees deserve,” said Singer.

Under Union boss Casey, Local 2 continues to make non-economic demands outside of the concessionaire’s control and has threatened years of potential labor strife and demonstrations. In May, Local 2 was sued by Centerplate for attempting to illegally force the San Francisco Giants into signing a “successor addendum” that would bind the baseball team, and any future concessionaire at AT&T Park, to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under federal labor law, Centerplate officials said, because the foodservice employees at AT&T Park are employed by Centerplate and not the San Francisco Giants, who are being unfairly dragged into a fight that is not theirs to have.

As a seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part-time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. Most of these workers do not work enough hours to qualify for health benefits under Obamacare, but Centerplate has provided it to them all along.

To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A ratification bonus of approximately 4.5 percent—$500—for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012;
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of what already is the best compensation package in the industry;
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans; and
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families.

For months, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. Local 2 delayed requesting negotiations for nearly two years and, even after it first offered to bargain, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. Local 2’s actions and demands are an attack on our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park and Candlestick. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” Singer said.

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Virginia GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Wants To Outlaw Oral Sex, Even For Married Couples

Virginia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is now obsessed with oral sex in addition to his obsession with anal sex. Apparently he wants to spy on everyone’s bedrooms and arrest people who engage in either legal act, even if they are married couples.

Cuccinelli unveiled a new website on Wednesday dedicated to his cause of forever banning consenting adults from having oral and anal sex in the privacy of their bedrooms

His goal is “to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law,” ThinkProgress reports. “The rule, which makes felons out of even consenting married couples who engage in oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own homes, was struck down by federal courts after Cuccinelli blocked efforts to bring it in line with the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling.” That ruling struck down laws that intrude upon the personal and private lives of consenting adults. In other words, it is unconstitutional to arrest people for engaging in private sexual acts.

According to the Crimes Against Nature Law that Cuccinelli supports,

If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Cuccinelli claims the law is only aimed at child predators, prostitution, non-consenting actions, and public sex, but the problem is that there are provisions in the law, like the one above, that still criminalize sex acts performed by consenting adults, even though the Supreme Court has effectively struck those particular provisions down. But Cuccinelli wants to defy the Court and reinstate the law anyway.

One has to wonder how Cuccellini knows so much about “carnal knowledge” and why he is so obsessed with it. Did Cuccinelli have bad experiences in the past that led him to try and outlaw these sex acts for everyone? Perhaps he feels that since he can’t have a good time, no one else should be allowed to? Is he simply jealous? It just boggles the mind to wonder why Cuccinelli is so adamant about regulating what people do in the privacy of their own homes. And that brings us to another question. How will he enforce his law if he gets what he wants?

Unless Cuccinelli plans to hire a police officer to stand guard outside the bedrooms of every man and woman in the state, he will fail to stop consenting adults from engaging in the sex acts he despises. Of course, he could always use drones, which is frightening to think about. Is Cuccinelli literally going to spy on our bedrooms to find people breaking his law? Either option would require unprecedented man power, not to mention millions of taxpayer dollars. Simply put, it’s a waste of time and money to worry about what consenting adults do with each other in private. The state would be far better off targeting child molesters and rapists which everyone agrees should be arrested and punished.

This is what the Republican Party has turned into. The once proud party of small government and privacy now wants to use government to literally regulate what Americans do in their bedrooms, and there is a fundamental reason why. It’s called religious extremism.

Ken Cuccinelli once said, “I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that.” By “natural law” Cuccinelli means Christian law or Biblical law. He wants to bring Biblical law to the state of Virginia and force everyone to abide by it whether they are Christians or not. Such laws would strip women of their reproductive rights, ban same-sex marriage, ban unmarried couples from having sex, ban unmarried couples from living together, ban birth control, force women to submit to their husbands, and ban any sexual activities that fundamentalist Christians disagree with, including oral and anal sex. Such laws are also entirely unconstitutional and would destroy the civil laws in which this country was founded.

If Virginians don’t want to be spied on or arrested for what they do in the privacy of their own homes, Ken Cuccinelli is not the person they should vote for as Governor. He would put Bob McDonnell, aka “Governor Ultrasound,” to shame. If Ken Cuccinelli hates anal and oral sex so much, the answer is simply. Just don’t do it. But don’t try to use government and police resources and taxpayer money to stop every other consenting adult from doing it. Republicans are hypocrites for trying to legislate what we can and can’t do in our bedrooms. That kind of government is not “small government.” Only big government, REALLY big government, has the power to do such a thing. Millions of people would have to be spied on and arrested in order for Cuccinelli’s “natural law” to work. It would turn Virginia into a police state where Biblical law supersedes the Constitution. Is that what Virginians really want for their state?

From addictinginfo.com

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Major Victory for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. as Marin Court Allows Farm to Remain Open Until Federal Lawsuit is Resolved

Amy Trainer, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin executive director, discredited by false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Court makes favorable  judgement for DBOC

A Marin County Superior Court Judge put two orders by the California Coastal Commission on the back burner that would have forced the historic Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) to shut down prior to the resolution of a pending federal lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the court stayed the restoration order, recognizing that it was inappropriate for the Commission to act while the federal permit is still  under review by the Court,” said DBOC owner, Kevin Lunny.  “We are  troubled, however, that the Commission continues to misrepresent the oyster farm operations to the public and the Court. We are confident that theirmisrepresentations will be revealed for what they are—completely unfounded and contradictory with their own reports—when the hearing on the merits occurs,” he said.

In February 2013, the Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order against Drakes Bay, alleging that the historic farm was not complying with required standards and was harming harbor seals, eelgrass and the environment of Drakes Estero. These allegations were  repeatedly proven to be false by the Nation’s top scientists and the Commission’s own reports.

A special Commission Trip Report, prepared in 2007, directly contradicts the two major claims the Commission has made in court. The Commission argued that the oyster farm harms harbor seals because “there are boats cruising around near harbor seals”, but its report admits that “servicing the oyster bags located several hundred yards away from the haul-out sites probably would not result in disturbance to the seals.”  The Commission also argued that DBOC is “expanding” operations, but its own report admitted that the historical production cap was 700,000 pounds/year, a recommended level of production which DBOC has not violated.

Even the Commission’s own vice-chair, Steve Kinsey, has called the Commission’s treatment of DBOC “morally disturbing.” Kinsey stated that the Commission has “repeated the same disproven assertions that the operation was harming harbor seals and eelgrass” and “chosen to portray the Lunnys as irresponsible operators to aid and abet the Park Service’s myopic interest in terminating the lease.”

“With the support of our employees, thousands of environmentalists, community members and elected leaders around the nation, we will continue to fight and remain confident and hopeful that we will be successful in the next stages of our legal battle,” Lunny stated.

Recently,  Amy Trainer, Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, has been  exposed in a series of false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  Trainer has issued a series of false news releases and made statements regarding  the scientific evidence about the benefits of oyster farming.  She and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, were also behind the false statements that the DBOC was being funded by the conservative Koch brothers.  It has been proven there was no tie or link between the Koch brothers and DBOC and Trainer and her environmental group have been discredited.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, MarinCounty, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyesranching family, purchased Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  DrakesBaycurrently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. DrakesBayactively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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5 Million Farmers Sue Monsanto for $7.7 Billion

Launching a lawsuit against the very company that is responsible for a farmer suicide every 30 minutes, 5 million farmers are now suing Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros (around 7.7 billion US dollars).

The reason? As with many other cases, such as the ones that led certain farming regions to be known as the ‘suicide belt’, Monsanto has been reportedly taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges.

The farmers state that Monsanto has been unfairly gathering exorbitant profits each year on a global scale from “renewal” seed harvests, which are crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.

The practice of using renewal seeds dates back to ancient times, but Monsanto seeks to collect massive royalties and put an end to the practice. Why? Because Monsanto owns the very patent to the genetically modified seed, and is charging the farmers not only for the original crops, but the later harvests as well. Eventually, the royalties compound and many farmers begin to struggle with even keeping their farm afloat. It is for this reason that India slammed Monsanto with groundbreaking ‘biopiracy’ charges in an effort to stop Monsanto from ‘patenting life’.

Jane Berwanger, a lawyer for the farmers who went on record regarding the case, told the Associted Press:

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production.”

The findings echo what thousands of farmers have experienced in particularly poor nations, where many of the farmers are unable to stand up to Monsanto. Back in 2008, the Daily Mail covered what is known as the ‘GM Genocide’, which is responsible for taking the lives of over 17,683 Indian farmers in 2009 alone. After finding that their harvests were failing and they started to enter economic turmoil, the farmers began ending their own lives — oftentimes drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto provided them with.

As the information continues to surface on Monsanto’s crimes, further lawsuits will begin to take effect. After it was ousted in January that Monsanto was running illegal ‘slave-like’ working rings, more individuals became aware of just how seriously Monsanto seems to disregard their workers — so why would they care for the health of their consumers? In April 2012, another group of farmers sued Monsanto for ‘knowingly poisoning’ workers and causing ‘devastating birth defects’.

From Realfarmacy

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Daniels Denies Trying to Quash Academic Freedom

From the AP

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels on Wednesday denied trying to quash academic freedom while serving as Indiana’s governor, a day after an Associated Press report cited emails in which he opposed use of a book by historian and antiwar activist Howard Zinn.

Conservative free speech advocates rose to his defense, saying it was appropriate for Daniels to express concern about what was taught in the state’s public institutions. The leader of the school’s faculty senate, meanwhile, said it was too soon to say if the university’s professors would conduct a review of Daniels’ actions.

Emails published Tuesday by the AP show Daniels tried to ensure Zinn’s book was not used in Indiana’s K-12 classrooms and colleges and that he wanted to “disqualify the propaganda” he said was being taught to teachers in training at Indiana’s colleges.

In a statement posted on Purdue’s website on Wednesday, Daniels said, “In truth, my emails infringed on no one’s academic freedom and proposed absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint.”

“In fact, the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all. I merely wanted to make certain that Howard Zinn’s textbook, which represents a falsified version of history, was not being foisted upon our young people in Indiana’s public K-12 classrooms.”

The emails show, however, that Daniels ordered a “cleanup of what is credit-worthy” at Indiana’s colleges after he was told Zinn’s book was being used at an Indiana University summer course for teachers. And in another email unrelated to Zinn or K-12 classrooms, he discussed cutting funding for a program run by a university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

Daniels called the AP report “unfair and erroneous” in interviews with reporters at Purdue on Wednesday, but declined to speak with the AP. Neither he nor his spokesperson replied to questions about his statement’s focus on K-12 classrooms despite the emails’ references to classes taught at the state’s public universities.

Zinn was a historian, playwright and activist who taught political science at Boston University until retiring in 1988. His book, “A People’s History of the United States,” addresses American history from the viewpoint of those whose plights he said were often omitted from most history textbooks. It has been widely criticized by many conservatives and scholars and characterized by historian Eugene D. Genovese as “incoherent left-wing sloganizing.”

In an email on Feb. 9, 2010, obtained by the AP through a public records request, Daniels called the book “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.” He noted that it was widely used in high schools and colleges around the country.

His education adviser responded that the book was being used at Indiana University in a course for licensed teachers, who need such college credits to retain their license. Daniels quickly replied that the course should not be recognized for licensing teachers in Indiana.

Purdue spokeswoman Julie Rosa said Wednesday Daniels was questioning “whether the state should endorse through its regulatory approval ‘professional development’ training of already licensed teachers to use false history in their classrooms.”

The publication of the emails sparked reaction in higher education circles, with some educators expressing alarm that a top state official would try to censor teachings.

“It is ultimately bad for democracy. No head of state should engage in any form of censorship,” said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the Indiana University College of Education.

Purdue alumni who opposed Daniels’ selection last year renewed their call for his removal. They had earlier questioned his academic credentials and suitability for the position.

“I’m hopeful that this new information, which shows more people the side of Daniels we have always known existed, will energize people to work to have him removed,” said Aaron Hoover, a spokesman for Society for an Open and Accountable Purdue and a 2008 graduate.

But some doubted the email revelation would have much impact on Daniels beyond initial discomfort because they were written long before he took over at Purdue. He was named the university’s president in January after being unanimously selected by the board of trustees, most of whose members he appointed while governor. They reaffirmed their support for him on Wednesday.

“President Daniels has stated and demonstrated his complete commitment to freedom of inquiry and has been an emphatic voice for that freedom,” the board said in a statement.

Robert O’Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and a leading expert on academic free speech issues, said the broader response to the emails would depend on whether such expressions by Daniels were limited to his time as governor or continued after taking over at Purdue.

“I suspect there are some Purdue faculty who would give him a pass and others who would find it censurable,” O’Neil said.

David Williams, chairman of the Purdue University Senate, said he is waiting to see how the story is received before deciding to conduct any review of Daniels. He added he is confident Daniels has little power as president to quash dissenting views at the university.

“The academic side of Purdue University is controlled by the faculty. Period. End of story,” Williams wrote in an email.

Daniels emails reflect his effort to change how teachers are trained in Indiana, including pushing students away from colleges of education, which conservatives nationwide argue instill liberal ideology in their students. The effort stalled somewhat after Daniels left office, but is still being pushed by his appointees to the State Board of Education.

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, a group associated with conservative academic causes, said it was appropriate for Daniels to express concern about was taught in public institutions and to object to the use of Zinn’s book, which Wood called “trashy pseudo-history.”

“Faculty members make their own best judgments about what to teach and how to teach it,” Wood said. “But that’s not an absolute principle. They have to recognize that that academic freedom they enjoy comes with responsibilities.”

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San Bruno Commends Improved CPUC Recommendation to Punish PG&E, Demands Even Tougher Remedies from Regulators

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno today commended the latest legal filing by the California Public Utilities Commission’s safety division and called the improved penalty and fine proposal of $2.25 billion against Pacific Gas & Electric Company “a step in the right direction” to punish the utility for its gross negligence that caused the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire.

 

San Bruno officials have long demanded that PG&E pay the maximum for the tragic explosion and fire that took eight lives, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged scores more.  The City today said it will continue its push for additional remedies, including lifesaving fully automated safety shutoff valves and an independent safety monitor to serve as a watch dog for the completion of required system safety improvements.

 

San Bruno is also asking that the CPUC mandate that PG&E fund a Pipeline Safety Trust in California, an independent group that would advocate for pipeline safety and would serve as a legacy to the tragic explosion.  San Bruno has until Aug. 1 to file its formal response to the CPUC.

 

“The latest penalty proposal is a long-awaited step in the right direction for public safety, and we commend the attorneys within the CPUC’s safety division for exhibiting the courage to significantly strengthen the division’s previous, and inadequate, penalty recommendation,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “While we wholeheartedly support the tougher penalty and fine, the City of San Bruno will continue to fight for additional and ongoing safeguards to protect the public and help us ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

 

The City cautioned that it just received the CPUC safety division filing this morning and needs to review it thoroughly before fully commenting on the revised proposal.

 

The CPUC’s revised $2.25 billion penalty and fine proposal replaces the CPUC’s original — and now discredited — recommendation announced with much hype by Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division, in May but which was soon revealed to be 100 percent tax-deductible and littered with credits and perks to benefit PG&E, amounting in a net penalty of almost nothing for the utility.

 

Not one of the CPUC safety division’s senior attorneys agreed to sign the original penalty recommendation, calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.” Those attorneys were reassigned off the investigation as a result of their protest.

 

The shocking internal turmoil at the CPUC led San Bruno to call for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature and, ultimately, forced the recusal of the CPUC’s chief counsel and the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney.

 

The formerly reassigned attorneys returned to the investigation and last week they requested to withdraw the old filing and “correct certain inaccuracies,” characterizing the events as “unorthodox.”

 

The amended filing not only imposes a tough penalty of about $2.25 billion that will fund ongoing safety improvements but it also incorporates a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be diverted into the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for in the past.

 

And while city officials say they generally support the monetary component of the CPUC’s revised proposal, given the widespread dysfunction at the CPUC, they will continue to push for PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include funding for a California Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy organization, an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving fully Automatic Shutoff Valves.   The City also opposes the proposed $435 million credit to PG&E shareholders which effectively reduces the  penalty against PG&E to $1.815 billion.

 

“While we continue to applaud those CPUC attorneys who displayed exceptional courage in their effort to uphold justice for the people and victims of San Bruno, we believe the level of chaos and disarray at the CPUC is proof that additional, going-forward remedies are needed, specifically an Independent Monitor to oversee the CPUC’s activities and correct the overly cozy relationship with the CPUC,” Ruane said. “We will continue to fight for additional safeguards so that, as the legacy of the City’s involvement in this process, we can feel confident that the state’s regulatory and public utility systems are changed for the better.”

 

 

Contact: Connie Jackson, City Manager

Phone: (650) 616-7056

Sam Singer, Singer Associates

Office: (415) 227-9700

 

 

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Trayvon Martin’s Legacy

From the NY Times Editorial Board

It may not be possible to consider the case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday of all charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin, as anything but a sad commentary on the state of race relations and the battle over gun rights in America today.

Certainly it is about race — ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you at least a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.

While Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis, we would still be a country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms despite the Supreme Court’s sanguine assessment that “things have changed dramatically,” as it said in last month’s ruling striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. (The Justice Department is right to continue its investigation into whether Mr. Zimmerman may still be prosecuted under federal civil rights laws.)

The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of Florida’s now-notorious Stand Your Ground statute. Under that law, versions of which are on the books in two dozen states, a person may use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm — a low bar that the prosecutors in this case fought in vain to overcome.

These laws sound intuitive: who would argue that you may not protect yourself against great harm? But of course, the concept of “reasonable belief” is transformed into something deadly dangerous when firearms are involved. And when the Stand Your Ground laws intersect with lax concealed-carry laws, it works essentially to self-deputize anyone with a Kel-Tec 9 millimeter and a grudge.

It has been a bad year so far for gun control. But if anything, cases like this should be as troubling as the mass killings that always prompt a national outcry and promises of legislative remedy. We were heartened that President Obama, in his statement after the verdict was issued, took the opportunity to denounce once again “the tide of gun violence” sweeping the country.

In the end, what is most frightening is that there are so many people with guns who are like George Zimmerman. Fear and racism may never be fully eliminated by legislative or judicial order, but neither should our laws allow and even facilitate their most deadly expression. Trayvon Martin was an unarmed boy walking home from the convenience store. If only Florida could give him back his life as easily as it is giving back George Zimmerman’s gun.

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Gay Athlete to Risk Arrest, Deportation at Russia Olympics


Blake Skjellerup, a New Zealand speed skater who came out in 2010,

will be wearing a rainbow pin at the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014

A gay athlete is going to risk arrest and deportation at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia next year.  Blake Skjellerup, a 28-year-old New Zealand speed skater, will be wearing a rainbow pin to show his support for the maligned LGBT community in Russia.

It follows gay activists calling for a total boycott of the event, with some international organizations saying it is irresponsible for the International Olympics Committee to have chosen a country with a poor record on human rights.

Speaking to Vocativ, Skjellerup said: ‘The Olympics are an apolitical movement, however the Olympics is also a celebration of humanity and all sexualities are a part of humanity.

‘Being in a country like Russia where they have decided to introduce these new laws basically telling children that homosexuals don’t exist, It’s a massive step backwards for the LGBT human rights movement in the world, not just for Russia.’

Instead of throwing away the hard work he has done, Skjellerup wants to be seen as a guiding light for LGBT sport.

‘Having the presence of someone like myself who is just out and who is just being myself is far more important than not being there,’ he said.

President Vladimir Putin signed a nationwide bill into law last month banning ‘gay propaganda’. Under the law, any gay tourist can be arrested, held up to 14 days and deported from the country.

Skjellerup said: ‘I was in the closet for a long time and who I am now is who I really am and who I always will be, and I’m not going to tone down or change who I am just because I’ve gone to a different country.

‘If it gets me in trouble, then I guess so be it.’

From gaystarnews

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Roger Penrose Puts Prints on San Francisco Transit Center

Transbay Transit Center incorporates famed mathematicians design into newly approved façade

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) has received approval from Dr. Roger Penrose, the eminent British mathematical physicist, to incorporate his groundbreaking geometrical pattern in the design of the exterior walls of the future Transbay Transit Center (TTC) designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA). Dr. Penrose and PCPA are working in tandem to incorporate Dr. Penrose’s elegant design, known as the Penrose Rhombus Tiling, in the skin of the TTC. The design is remarkably simple but unique because it can be extended infinitely without repeating itself. The Penrose system is ideal for the perforations in the metal panels that will form the curved exterior of the Transit Center.

Discovered in 1974, the Penrose Rhombus Tiling was heralded by mathematicians and physicists ultimately helping to give birth to the new field of quasicrystals which spawned discoveries in material science and biology. Dr. Penrose’s discovery initially yielded designs that were only known to exist in synthetic materials. Patterns similar to Dr. Penrose’s design, however, have recently been found in natural materials such as those in meteorites. The rhombus pattern can be elegant and beautiful to the eye. When used at the scale of the new Transit Center, it creates a delicate, lace-like screen that is an ideal contrast to the monumental structure of the Transit Center. PCPA notes that the Penrose pattern on the exterior of the building will symbolize the interconnections among mathematics, science and art which are so deeply ingrained in the rich, technologically advanced culture of the Bay Area.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to incorporate Dr. Penrose’s mathematical pattern in the flowing design of the new Transbay Transit Center,” said Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Executive Director of the TJPA. “The addition of Dr. Penrose’s pattern to the skin of the Transit Center will provide additional educational opportunities for the public who visit the new station,” she said.

The Penrose tiling, with its non-repeating pattern, is well suited to the complex, curved form of the Transit Center exterior. To achieve the undulating sensation of the Transit Center exterior, PCPA has designed multiple metal panels of varying sizes and trapezoidal shapes that require seamless visual transitions from panel to panel—a visual effect that can be achieved only with a non-periodic pattern . The pearlescent white metal skin of the Transit Center will be perforated with the Penrose pattern, letting 35 percent of the wall surface remain open to light and air. The passenger experience from the inside will be one of openness and diffused light.

“I am delighted that the Transbay Transit Center has chosen to employ a non-periodic 5-fold quasi-symmetric mathematical pattern that I discovered in 1974, in order to adorn the exterior skin of their magnificent project, in this most impressive design,” said Dr. Roger Penrose. “The existence of such patterns was very unexpected, since they appear to violate the standard symmetry rules of crystallography. Yet they reveal hidden aspects of mathematical structure, some of which had been hinted at earlier in the works of the great 17th Century astronomer Johannes Kepler, and also, to some extent, in ancient Islamic designs,” he said.

Sir Roger Penrose is a British mathematical physicist and philosopher. Over the course of his career, Penrose has worked and collaborated with great minds such as Stephen Hawking and M.C. Escher. In 1988, Penrose and Stephen Hawking were both awarded the Wolf Prize for their contributions to the understanding of the universe. Penrose developed the famous “Penrose Triangle” which Escher used in much of his artwork, including his piece The Waterfall in 1961. He is currently the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of Oxford as well as an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. To learn more about Sir Roger Penrose and the Penrose Rhombus Tiling please visit: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/450252/Sir-Roger-Penrose

The Transbay Transit Center is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2017.

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America’s Cup Shocker in San Francisco: Louis Vuitton Wants its Money Back for Race Sponsorship

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, was not immediately available for comment.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

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Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers: How Audubon Society Used “White Out” To Change Boundries

MAYACAMAS MOUNTAINS, Calif. — A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s.

The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California.

They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains.

And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.”

“The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs.

But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses.

“Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home.  “We lost everything.”

Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible.

Another Blow

Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation.

To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment.

But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land.

“It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled.

Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon.

According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum:  “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.”

Mike’s brother, Phil Raynal, said that would have pushed family members’ new houses “approximately 300 yards up the hill, way up in an upper meadow – virtually impossible to build on.”

“This is the only flat area,” he said, pointing to the area around him where their houses had been.

Prows said Audubon then informed the families, “If you don’t agree, we’re going to go out and build a fence on that line, and if you try to interfere, we’re going to call the police.”

Legal Battle Begins

In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors.

And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them.

Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families.

But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.”

“That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said.

Phil and his family accuse Audubon of simply coveting their land.

“It really bothers me that they’d come up here and try to take something that’s ours,” Phil’s young son Ryan said.

So the families decided to fight, with Mike and Phil Raynal leading the way. They threw themselves into a years-long effort to prove the ancient boundaries were correct and their land was indeed theirs, not Audubon’s.

A Costly Fight

Their efforts cost them and their families hundreds of thousands of dollars across several years, and much more than just money but “thousands and thousands and countless hours,” Phil said, shaking his head.

The brothers for years cut their way through rugged brush to find the original surveyors’ landmarks, facing rattlesnakes, ticks, poison ivy, and exhaustion.

They both already had full-time jobs. This fight became another one. Mike’s daughter Danielle feels it cost her her father.

“I’ve lost a father pretty much,” she said. “Me and my dad were very close, and it’s been hard. We’ve all drifted apart.”

Some family members were not only spending every spare hour fighting to prove Audubon wrong. But while all this was working its way through the legal system, the families couldn’t rebuild and were cut off from their piece of paradise and all those family gatherings like they’d had for decades.

“You have family reunions. You’re always having holidays,” Danielle remembered as she recalled how the five families would spend months of each year together on the ranch.

“And then it’s just an abrupt stop,” she said.

“Everybody getting together. It was just absolutely amazing,” Danielle’s mother Carin Raynal recalled. “And this whole debacle has just torn all of it apart.”

Another family member, Bruce Young, testified in a sworn declaration.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the emotional stress and aggravation to which Audubon subjected me is the cause and underlying reason for the three strokes I have suffered and survived,” he said.

‘White Out’ Gate

Then another stunning surprise in 2010 after years of legal wrangling: Audubon caved and said it would accept the original property lines and let the families use the roads unimpeded.

“They completely capitulated,” Prows stated.

No one outside of Audubon knows why this capitulation, but one more shock was ahead. In 2012, the families’ lawyers discovered with a subpoena that at the start of all this, Audubon had held back from family members some of the surveying maps it had commissioned.

They had also altered the maps they presented to prove Audubon’s claim.

“Audubon had actually doctored the drawings that it showed to our clients,” Prows said. “It took white out, and we have emails from Audubon’s very top people talking about putting white-out on the maps – removing the lines that its surveyors had put on the maps that Audubon didn’t like, showing that the boundary really was in the right place all along.”

This screamed lies and coverup to the families.

“We actually call it ‘White Out Gate’ now,” Phil said.

He still gets mad thinking of those thousands of hours he and Mike spent researching, gathering documents, combing through the thick brush on their land.

“Really what sunk in was all those years – seven, eight years of hard work when they knew from day one this was never their property. Ever! They knew it,” Phil fumed.

“I couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” Mike Raynal said. “I wouldn’t do that to another human being, period.”

A Bid for Restitution

Now the families are suing for fraud. Audubon admitted in court documents it didn’t give them all the surveyor’s maps but said that was because not all were relevant. It said it did white out lines on the maps but only lines it said were extraneous.

Audubon calls this lawsuit frivolous, demanding the families pay its legal bills.

Family members refuse to give an inch because all these years of legal war have certainly cost them.

“It’s affected everybody mentally, physically, emotionally,” Carin Raynal said.

When CBN News asked repeatedly for an interview or written comments, Audubon suggested researching the court documents and would only give the following mission statement:

“Audubon is fully committed to its mission as a non-profit organization dedicated to faithful care of the earth. We believe that every person on earth is a steward of land, air, water and wildlife. We believe that safeguarding America’s great natural heritage builds a better world for future generations, preserves our shared quality of life, and fosters a healthier environment for all of us.”

Lea Raynal summed up her family’s feelings about Audubon: “They came in and stirred up all this mess, and we’re left with nothing.”

From a CBN News Report

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INSIDE MOVIES ‘Ender’s Game’ author Orson Scott Card responds to critics: The gay marriage issue is ‘moot’

Responding to reports of a nascent boycott against the upcoming movie version of his beloved 1985 sci-fi novel Ender’s Game because of his stated opposition to same-sex marriage, author Orson Scott Card has released a statement exclusively to EW. He declares the gay-marriage issue “moot” due to last month’s Supreme Court rulings. He also makes a plea for gay-marriage supporters to “show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

Here is his full statement:

“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”

The best-selling author has come under fire in some quarters for his stance on same-sex marriage. In 2009, he joined the board of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex unions. That year, he also wrote a piece in Mormon Times that railed against “dictator-judges” and argued, “Married people attempting to raise children with the hope that they, in turn, will be reproductively successful, have every reason to oppose the normalization of homosexual unions.”

Those views have prompted a backlash. In March, artist Christopher Sprouse backed out of plans to work on a Card-penned Adventures of Superman comic book for DC Comics. More recently, a small online group called Geeks OUT announced plans to boycott Summit’s upcoming $110 million Ender’s Game movie because of Card’s anti-gay-marriage views. “Hopefully, it will send a message that people who are actively vocal against the LGBT community don’t really have a place within the greater geek culture,” says Geeks OUT board member Patrick Yacco.

 

From Entertainment Weekly

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Penalties await gay couples trying to marry in Indiana

From NWIPolitics

A same-sex couple applying for a marriage license in Indiana, where gay marriage is expressly prohibited by law, could face up to three years in prison for submitting the application to their county clerk — even if it’s denied.

A 1997 state law declares it a Class D felony to submit false information on a marriage license application or lie about the physical condition, including gender, of a marriage license applicant.

Two men or two women seeking to marry inevitably would trigger the law, as the state’s electronic marriage license application specifically designates “male applicant” and “female applicant” sections for gathering required background data.

It’s not known how often Hoosiers, gay or straight, are prosecuted for submitting false information on a marriage license application.

In any case, the recently approved reform of the state’s criminal code will, starting July 1, 2014, drop the crime to a Level 6 felony, punishable by a maximum of 18 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000.

The law also penalizes clergyman, judge, mayor, city clerk or town clerk-treasurer who solemnizes a marriage between two people of the same gender. Those who conduct a gay marriage ceremony can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Across the country, elected officials and ordinary Americans have been rethinking their stances on gay marriage following two U.S. Supreme Court rulings last month.

Those decisions require the federal government recognize gay marriages performed in states where they are legal and upheld a federal court ruling striking down a gay marriage ban in the California constitution.

Indiana is poised for a two-stage fight next year over whether to add its existing ban on gay marriage to its state Constitution.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly must decide during the January-March 2014 legislative session whether to submit the proposed constitutional amendment — which also prohibits any form of civil unions — to Hoosier voters for ratification.

If lawmakers approve the amendment, supported by Gov. Mike Pence and other top Republican leaders, the question of a constitutional gay marriage ban will be on the Nov. 4, 2014, general election ballot.

Also part of Indiana’s law, a county clerk determined to ignore Indiana’s gay marriage ban would face comparatively minimal punishment if he or she issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The same law that makes it a felony to submit false information on a marriage license application declares it only a Class B misdemeanor for a clerk to issue a marriage license based on information the clerk knows is false.

But because the charge is not a felony the clerk would not face removal from office upon conviction — assuming the county prosecutor chose to file charges in the first place.

Judges also are authorized to suspend without conditions any punishment for a misdemeanor conviction or may place the person on probation for up to one year.

Recent polls have found a majority of Hoosiers oppose a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and civil unions, which is similar to the California constitutional amendment that was found to infringe on the 14th Amendment requirement of equal treatment under the law.

The origin of California’s constitutional amendment and the subsequent legalization of gay marriage in that state can be traced to a 2004 decision by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials, believing the state’s prohibition on gay marriage violated the constitution’s equal protection clause, to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The California Supreme Court halted the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples after a month, but legalized the marriages in a 2008 ruling that described marriage as a fundamental right that cannot lawfully be denied based on sexual orientation.

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Gay Marriage Financial Check List

After celebrating the Supreme Court’s historic rulings on gay marriage last week, it’s time for same-sex married couples to sit down and go over their finances.

That’s because legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as their straight counterparts. Married gay couples can file joint federal income taxes for the first time, and as spouses they won’t have to pay inheritance taxes when one partner dies.

But the decision still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What do couples who move to states that don’t recognize gay marriage do? Can they file taxes jointly? (Thirteen states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.)

It could take a few months before there are clear answers, says Lisa Siegel, a senior wealth planner at Wells Fargo Private Bank. The Internal Revenue Service says that it is reviewing the Supreme Court decisions, and will offer “revised guidance in the near future.”

But gay married couples can take action now by checking in with an adviser. Advisers may not have all the answers yet, but they can set out a plan and begin to get familiar with your circumstances, says Siegel.

FIND GOOD HELP

Before you start making financial plans, make sure the lawyer or accountant you hire has experience working with same-sex couples. “Ask them; it’s very important,” Siegel says.

Look for financial planners who have received the accredited domestic partnership adviser designation, or ADPA. You can search for planners with an ADPA designation here:http://apne.ws/12HkbAo.

Lambda Legal, a legal nonprofit that fights for equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, can refer you to lawyers if you call its help desk. Go to www.lambdalegal.org/helpfor the phone numbers.

Pride Planners, an organization of financial professionals that helps gay and lesbian people, has a search function on its websites to find financial planners and accountants in most states around the country. Go to PridePlanners.com to conduct a search.

CALL A TAX ACCOUNTANT

Married couples who filed separate federal income taxes in the past couple of years may be entitled to a refund, says Elda Di Re, a partner in Ernst & Young’s personal financial services group.

Ask a tax accountant to amend your past returns to determine if you would have gotten a refund if you had filed jointly. The IRS allows taxpayers to amend income taxes from the past three years.

Filing jointly is not always beneficial. Couples in which one person earns much more than the other could see a refund. But if both people have high incomes, they will probably pay more taxes than if they filed separately, says Mark Luscombe, an analyst at tax software and services company CCH.

It’s still unclear if the IRS will be giving out refunds, but experts expect the agency to allow couples to amend their returns. So ask your accountant to run the numbers now, or amend the returns yourself on any tax software you may have used.

Widowed individuals who were in same-sex marriages and paid inheritance taxes may be able to get money back, says Luscombe.

REVIEW YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS

Check with your employer and see who the beneficiary is on your 401(k) plan. 401(k) account holders should know that their spouse will automatically inherit the account, unless the spouse signs a waiver. So if couples want to make other arrangements, it needs to be outlined clearly in the beneficiary form and, if necessary, a waiver needs to be in place from the spouse, says Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JP Morgan Private Bank.

You should also check to see if your spouse is a beneficiary on your life insurance and any other retirement accounts, such as an individual retirement account, says Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JP Morgan Private Bank.

RE-EXAMINE REAL ESTATE DEEDS

Some married gay couples may have left spouses out of real estate deeds to avoid a gift tax, says Popovich. Same-sex married couples no longer have to pay gift taxes after the ruling. If you want to add a spouse to a real estate deed, speak to a lawyer.

REVISIT YOUR WILL

Now that married gay spouses don’t have to pay federal estate taxes on anything they inherit after a spouse’s death, married couples should review their will, says John Olivieri, a partner at law firm White & Case.

CHECK HEALTH BENEFITS

If your employer didn’t allow your spouse on your health insurance, it should now, says Frank Fantozzi, founder of Planned Financial Services. Find out whose benefits are cheaper, or which employer offers more coverage, and decide if you want a change.

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Louisiana Republican Introduces Bill To Ban LGBT Rainbow Flag From Public Buildings

From ThinkProgress

A city councilman in Louisiana is drafting a new set of ordinances that would ban the flying of rainbow flags on any public property after a constituent took umbrage with one such flag that was raised by a local LGBT organization.

In celebration of National Pride Month and the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act last month, members of the LGBT community in Lafayette, Louisiana gathered in Girard Park for the annual Pride in the Park celebration. Local paper The Daily Advertiser was there to cover the event, and ran a photo in the next day’s paper of participants hoisting the rainbow flag that has come to represent the LGBT community.

Ray Green, a veteran of the Korean War, saw the photograph and brought it to the attention of Andy Noquin, a City-Parish councilman, who is now drafting legislation that would outlaw the flying of the rainbow flag — and any other non-government flag — in any public venue.

Green, who served in the Korean War, told the Daily Advertiser that he found the flag offensive:

I did not go overseas and fight for our country so that we could come back and be subject to something like that, Green said Friday. “Several of us (veterans) feel that the flying of this flag is a poke in the eye of a way of life.”

Opponents of the proposed ordinance say no disrespect was intended, and were quick to point out that there are thousands of gay veterans who have fought for their country as well.

Green told the paper that while he is not “against the gays,” he is opposed to “the act itself.”

There already exists a firm set of federal laws that govern the flying of the American flag on public property, including a provision that says no flag may fly higher than the American flag on the same property. Organizers of the Pride in the Park event say that no American flags were removed while hoisting their own flag.

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Organizer Of Armed March Loads Shotgun In Middle Of Washington DC While Warning Of ‘Revolution’

From Think Progress

The libertarian activist Adam Kokesh who called for and then canceled an armed march on Washington uploaded a YouTube video on July 4 that shows him loading a shotgun in the center of Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C, near the White House. In the video, Kokesh cryptically warns, “We will not allow our government to destroy our humanity. We are the final American revolution. See you next Independence Day.”

It is illegal to openly carry a firearm, much less a loaded one, in the District of Columbia.

Kokesh initially planned to lead a July 4 march on Washington with loaded firearms to advocate for open carry and “to put the government on notice.” When he announced the original armed march on Washington, authorities thoroughly warned against it. But he later abandoned those plans in favor of raising an “army” of secessionist rallies held at state capitols.

Kokesh, who has also compared himself to Gandhi, has even implied violence as the end result. “Should one whole year from this July 4th pass while the crimes of this government are allowed to continue, we may have passed the point at which non-violent revolution becomes impossible,” he said in a statement.

The July 4 protests inspired by the gun activist were small in number and attendance. At one small protest in Concord, New Hampshire showed a man calling for a revolution with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder.

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Key ‘Obamacare’ provision delayed until 2015

from maddowblog

News from the Obama administration about the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Actcaused quite a stir last night, but it’s worth pausing to appreciate the extent of the impact.

In a significant setback for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative, the administration on Tuesday abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in his health care law’s mandate that larger employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties. The decision postpones the effective date beyond next year’s midterm elections. [...]

While the postponement technically does not affect other central provisions of the law — in particular those establishing health insurance marketplaces in the states, known as exchanges, where uninsured Americans can shop for policies — it threatens to throw into disarray the administration’s effort to put those provisions into effect by Jan. 1.

Well, maybe. Let’s back up and recap what this policy is all about, because I think some of the reactions to the one-year delay have been a little excessive. Maybe it’ll be easier to tackle this in Q&A form.

What’s the employer mandate? In practical terms, the policy name is a bit of misnomer — there is no actual “mandate.” Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees are told they need to offer health care coverage to their employees, but those who choose not to pay a fairly modest tax penalty. As of last night, that penalty won’t kick in, at the earliest, before 2015.

Won’t this mandate discourage those businesses from hiring? It’s been an important part of the criticism, but Obamacare extends all kinds of breaks to these employers to help subsidize the insurance and soften the blow of increased costs.

So is it a good policy or a bad policy? Opinions vary, of course, but plenty of folks, including some center-left health care advocates, have never been crazy about the idea, and see alternative approaches that can help reach the same goal.

But if the policy is delayed, won’t that mean a whole lot of Americans won’t get coverage until 2015? The problem is with the “whole lot” part of the question. The vast majority of employers in this category (about 96%) already offer health insurance to their workers, and the delay won’t affect them at all. What’s more, the delay won’t affect the creation of the exchanges, which should help bridge the gap — folks working for businesses that don’t offer coverage will still be eligible for subsidies they can use to buy insurance in their state marketplace.

But what if the exchanges aren’t ready in time? Well, that would be a bit of a problem. The fact that most of the nation’s Republican governors still hope to sabotage the law and deny Americans coverage has forced officials to scramble and there is an open question about whether the marketplaces will be ready in time.

If these affected workers are going to get subsidized coverage through the exchanges anyway, why have the policy at all? Primarily, the employer mandate helps pay for the Affordable Care Act. In fact, with the policy delayed, Obamacare will still reduce the deficit, but by about $4 billion less than previously estimated.

Does yesterday’s announcement have anything to do with the individual mandate we’ve heard so much about? No, that’s something different, and it remains very much in place.

Who benefits from the delay? As a political matter, Republicans are crowing about implementation troubles, but as a substantive matter, this appears to be a win for employers who’ve complained bitterly about the measure. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said repeatedly that this provision is discouraging private-sector hiring. (I rather doubt that’s true, but if it is, these employers should start hiring more in light of the newly announced delay.)

If the provision is proving to be some troublesome, why not replace it with an alternative provision? Plenty of reform proponents, including some credible folks on the left, would be happy to do this, but it would require Congress to work on a solution — and Congress is such a mess it can’t do much of anything anymore. In particular, congressional Republicans don’t want to correct Obamacare’s glitches to benefit consumers and employers; they want to destroy the law and go back to the dysfunctional mess that existed before.

Does the Obama administration have the authority to simply delay implementation of part of the law unilaterally? Apparently so. Ideally, the White House would work with Congress on something like this, but again, Congress no longer functions so the administration is using its regulatory authority, effectively telling the IRS, “Don’t enforce this part of the law.”

So what’s the bottom line? The newly announced delay doesn’t look good, and arguably causes the White House some political troubles, but as Jonathan Cohn explained, “In short, delaying the employer mandate probably won’t do much damage to the law’s basic goals — making health insurance more available and, over time, containing the rise of health care costs.”

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Homeland Security Formalizes End Of Ban On Green Cards For Gay Couples

“Effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse,” Napolitano writes.

 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday formalized the end of the ban on gay married couples being able to receive green cards based on their marriage.

The move followed news this weekend that at least one such petition — for a Florida same-sex couple married in New York — already had been approved.

In a statement, Napolitano said:

After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly. To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.

The change is a direct effect of the Wednesday Supreme Court decision ending the Defense of Marriage Act’s ban on the federal government recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages.

In addressing the first petition known to have been approved, the couple’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, told BuzzFeed on Saturday, “The approval of this petition demonstrates that the Obama administration’s commitment to recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages after the Supreme Court ruling is now a reality on the ground.”

In a Frequently Asked Questions section abut the implementation of Wednesday’s DOMA ruling, DHS answers two key questions:

Q1: I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national. Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa?

A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Q2: My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not. Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?

A2: Yes, you can file the petition. In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward.

 

From BuzzFeed

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Opponents of same-sex marriage are gearing up for a national battle to block gays and lesbians from tying the knot, saying the country is “perilously close” to legalizing such unions in all 50 states after recent Supreme Court decisions.

Those rulings last week allowed same-sex marriage to resume in California (the Proposition 8 case) and struck down a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages in the District of Columbia and the 13 states where such unions are legal.

“It’s very difficult to read the majority opinion in the Windsor case (DOMA) and not conclude that a majority of the court wants to impose same-sex marriage,” said Frank Schubert, political director of the National Organization for Marriage, which has led the fight to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

“We need to redouble our efforts to engage the American people in a large movement to preserve marriage, one that would serve notice to the court that if they seek to constitutionalize same-sex marriage they risk a massive public revolt,” he added. “It’s imperative on us to mobilize people across the country who believe in marriage and to explain to them how close we are to losing it.”

In the days since the court decisions, groups opposed to same-sex marriage have been meeting to craft the contours of what that national battle may entail, said Schubert. He declined to provide specifics but said it could include legislative and court actions

One thing is clear: they’ll need money to do that, Schubert said, particularly given how successful the same-sex marriage camp has been at raising cash for state by state contests.
All of the four votes on the issue last November went to the same-sex camp, which significantly outraised groups fighting gay marriage.

“One thing we need to do is figure out a way to tap into the broad community of faith and raise money,” Schubert said Friday. “And if we’re not successful at that, then we’re going to have a very difficult time being competitive in the state campaign marketplace.”

Other opponents of gay marriage have announced plans in the wake of Wednesday’s rulings: House Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) introduced legislation on Friday to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urged the state legislature to approve a popular vote for 2014 to ban gay marriage.

Pence wrote online that he was disappointed with the court decisions but grateful that the justices “respect the sovereignty of states on this important issue. These decisions preserve the duty and obligation of the states to define and administer marriage as they see fit. Thirty-five states have done just that, and the justices didn’t touch DOMA’s Section 2 – which allows states to define marriage. But questions quickly arose in the aftermath of the rulings about how gay and lesbian couples who legally wed in one state would be treated in another where same-sex marriage is banned.

“It’s a very natural follow-up lawsuit,” said Ken Klukowski, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, in a speech on Thursday. “I would be concerned as to how that case would come up. So I think we are right now one case away from Section 2 of DOMA likewise being struck down.” With that in mind, NOM’s Schubert said they have to adapt to the “new reality” and see what “changes we need to make in our approach.”

“We’ve got to meet the challenge of making this a national issue because that’s what it is now,” he said. “The reality prior to these decisions was that… if you want to win on marriage, you have to win it at the state level. And that is certainly still true, but it’s also true that we are perilously close to having the United States Supreme Court impose a view of marriage that we very much disagree with.”

Ryan Anderson, who opposes same-sex marriage and is a fellow at conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, said in an opinion piece published in The Daily Caller that those who share his views would need to “take a long view” that didn’t “look to immediate wins or losses.” He wrote they would have to “redouble” their “efforts at explaining what marriage is, why marriage matters and what the consequences are ofredefining marriage. The left wants to insist that the redefinition of marriage is ‘inevitable,’” he wrote

While opponents plot the way forward, same-sex marriage supporters said the wins gave them fuel. They aim to have a majority of Americans living in states where same-sex marriage is legal by 2016, and they believe the Supreme Court will ultimately give a final resolution to the issue.

They celebrated Wednesday night, but already had plans to get back to work the next day, said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. They, too, are focusing on state contests – such as trying to reverse bans in Michigan and Ohio, as well as push through same-sex marriage in Illinois and New Jersey.

“We need to put together smart, strategic campaigns but at the center of those campaigns are loving and committed couples who are making the case,” he said. “Honestly, that’s the secret weapon that our side has that our opponents don’t have. We have families who can share their real stories about why marriage is important to them … and our opponents can point to some amorphous fear that they have.”

Though the court’s decisions were disappointing for the anti-gay marriage side, Schubert did see a potential silver lining to them as they work to make their national case.

“We have an opportunity to play in states that are much stronger for us and (to) be able to engage people there in a way that we couldn’t before because in the past there’s not been a credible threat to marriage in Texas or South Carolina or any of these other states. Now there is,” he said. “Now the wolf is at the door and we are going to meet the challenge as aggressively as we can.”

 

From NBC News

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BART Strike Update: Former BART Director Michael Bernick Calls for Parties to Continue Negotiations, Not Strike

Oakland–Former BART Director Michael Bernick today called for BART management and unions to continue negotiations, if no agreement is reached by 12:00 a.m. July 1, according to a news release just issued by the transit district and its communications agency Singer Associates Public Relations and Public Affairs.

 “In 1991, 1994 and 2009 the parties continued negotiating past the strike deadline, and a settlement was reached without a strike. The same process at least should be tried this time,” said Bernick, who formerly served as  a director of the BART transit system.

The former director noted that the collective bargaining process by which the parties negotiate with the threat of a Bay Area transit strike needs to be changed by the state legislature. The same dynamics of negotiations to the end and threat of a transit strike have occurred in each of the negotiations over the past three decades. The current process is a disservice to Bay Area residents, and over the past negotiations has not resulted in better settlements for the BART workers.

Regarding the structure of a settlement,  Bernick noted that Governor Brown has set a structure for pension contributions that should guide BART negotiations.

Bernick also urged other politicians to stay out of the process. “The BART Board is a responsible body and should be given the authority to handle the negotiations.”

Bernick was elected to the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system in 1988 and soon began to note the lack of land development linked to rail. With UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero, he established a research center at UC-Berkeley focused on the link of land use and transit, and together they published a series of articles leading to their 1996 book, Transit Villages in the 21st Century.  The book helped to develop and popularize the transit village concept.

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California Man Faces 13 Years In Jail For Writing Anti-Big Bank Messages In Chalk

Jeff Olson, a 40-year-old man from San Diego, Calif., will face jail time for charges stemming from anti-big bank messages he scrawled in water-soluble chalk outside Bank of America branches last year.

The San Diego Reader reported Tuesday that a judge had decided to prohibit Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial.”

With that ruling, Olson must now stand trial on 13 counts of vandalism, charges that together carry a potential 13-year jail sentence and fines of up to $13,000.

“Oh my gosh,” Olson said on his way out of court on Tuesday. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

In an interview with San Diego’s KGTV, Olson maintained that “free speech is protected” and said he “was encouraging folks to close their accounts at big Wall Street banks to transfer their money local nonprofit, community credit unions.”

The Reader first broke news of the case over the weekend, reporting that Olson and his partner had been active in the campaign to encourage people to move their money as early as 2011. During one protest outside of a Bank of America branch, they drew the ire of Darell Freeman, vice president of Bank of America’s Global Corporate Security, who accused them of running a business with their demonstration.

Olson later began showing his opposition with chalk drawings outside various Bank of America branches. Security camera footage from the banks apparently recorded his actions, and he eventually got a call from San Diego’s Gang Unit in August 2012, when he gave up the artistic protests. The Reader reports that Freeman aggressively pressured city attorneys to bring charges against Olson until they announced that they would do so in April.

UPDATE: 6/26 – The San Diego City Attorney’s office emails along a statement on the case of People v. Olson:

1. This is a graffiti case where the defendant is alleged to have engaged in the conduct on 13 different occasions. The trial judge has already held that, under California law, it is still graffiti even if the material can be removed with water. Most graffiti can be removed. Also, the judge and a different pre-trial judge held that the First Amendment is not a defense to vandalism/graffiti. 2. The defense is trying to make this case into a political statement, which it is not. This is just one of some 20,000 criminal cases that are referred to us annually by the police department. We have prosecutors who decide whether to issue cases. They are professionals. The City Attorney was not involved in deciding whether to issue this case as is typical practice in prosecution offices for most cases. He hadn’t heard of this case until it was in the media. 3. The defense is whipping up hysteria about the prospect of 13 years in custody. This is not a 13 year custody case. It is a standard graffiti case compounded by the fact that the defendant is alleged to have done it on 13 separate occasions. Because there were 13 different occasions when the defendant allegedly engaged in the conduct, the law requires them to be set out separately in the complaint. This increases the maximum sentence, but it still is a graffiti case and nothing more. The courts routinely hear graffiti cases and handle them appropriately using judicial discretion. 4. It is not unusual for victims to contact police or prosecutors about a case. Our prosecutors are trained to focus only on their ethical standards in deciding whether to file a case. 5. We prosecute vandalism and theft cases regardless of who the perpetrator or victim might be. We don’t decide, for example, based upon whether we like or dislike banks. That would be wrong under the law and such a practice by law enforcement would change our society in very damaging ways.

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Morality study finds conservatives show a ‘general insensitivity to consequences’

When it comes to topics like abortion or assisted suicide, there seems to be no common ground between conservatives and liberals. Why is there such a noticeable rift between the two political orientations?

Research published June in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that religious individuals and political conservatives think about moral issues in a fundamentally different way than liberals.

The study by Jared Piazza of the University of Pennsylvania and Paulo Sousa of Queen’s University Belfast, which included a total of 688 participants, found religious individuals and political conservatives consistently invoked deontological ethics. In other words, they judged the morality of actions based on a universal rule such as, “You should not kill.” Political liberals, on the other hand, consistently invoked consequentialist ethics, meaning they judged the morality of actions based on their positive or negative outcomes.

“Does being religious or being conservative promote a rule-based ethic or does having a rule-based ethic promote religiosity and/or conservatism?” Piazza told PsyPost. “This question is difficult to answer definitively without running a longitudinal study, since you cannot really manipulate religious orientation, or being in possession of a deontological orientation, and then look at the consequences.”

The study’s cross-sectional methodology makes it impossible to say anything more than religion and conservativism are associated with deontological ethics. However, Piazza said prior research suggested that being religious underlies the adherence to deontological ethics

“I think it is more likely that being religious — and being religious in a particular way — is what promotes deontological commitments, and not the other way around,” he told PsyPost. “In a recent unpublished study I conducted with my colleague Justin Landy at Penn, we found that it is a particular sub-class of religious individuals that are strongly opposed to consequentialist thinking. Specifically, it was religious individuals who believe that morality is founded upon divine authority or divine commands, and that moral truths are not obtained via human intuition or reason, who were strong deontologists (i.e., they refused to find various rule violations as permissible even when the consequences were better as a result).”

“This suggests that not all religious individuals are non-consequentialists; that is, religion does not necessarily promote a deontological ethic, though many religious institutions do promote such an orientation,” Piazza added. “Instead, it may be that people who are skeptical about the capacity for human beings to know right from wrong in the absence of divine revelation that tend towards a rule-based morality. Though this begs the question of why some religious individuals tend to see morality in terms of honoring divine commands, while others accept that human intuition or reason may be an equally, if not more reliable, foundation. This is an interesting and complex psychological question which we don’t currently have an answer to.”

The participants in the study provided their moral position on killing, assisted suicide, torture, incest, cannibalism, malicious gossip, stealing, lying, deception, betrayal, breaking a promise, breaking the law, and treason. The researchers discovered that religious individuals and political conservatives showed a “general insensitivity to consequences.”

For instance, religious individuals and political conservatives tended to say that lying was never acceptable under any circumstances, while political liberals tended to say that lying was permissible or even obligatory if it resulted in greater good than bad.

There was a notable exception. When it came to torture, Piazza described American conservatives as “full-blown consequentialists.” But the same could not be said of religious individuals.

“In other words, political conservatives found torture acceptable when it brought about a greater good, but religious individuals found torture less acceptable even when it was a means to a greater good,” he told PsyPost. “Past research by Kevin Carlsmith and Avani Sood have shown that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view torture in the context of military interrogation as a form of retributive justice (i.e., the detainee ‘deserves’ to be punished because of their involvement in previous criminal activity), which may promote their more permissive stance towards torture, at least in this context. So one possibility is that conservatives in our study conceived of torture in the context of harsh military interrogations (i.e., it was the primary form of torture that came readily to mind), and this is what explains their consequentialist stance towards it.”

Eric Dolan, Originally published on PsyPost.

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McConnell: ‘Absurd’ to ban corporations from having same rights as ‘people’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Friday said that he opposed a constitutional amendment to ban corporations from having the same rights as people because the idea was “absurd.”

Speaking to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, McConnell accused President Barack Obama’s administration of using a “culture of intimidation” to stifle free speech.

Following the remarks, the Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay asked McConnell for his thoughts on a constitutional amendment proposed by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) to clarify that corporations are not “people” and restore Congress’ ability to limit corporate influence in elections.

“Well you have to give them some points for not hiding it,” McConnell quipped. “They are uncomfortable with corporate free speech obviously.”

“They were not uncomfortable with corporate free speech when corporations that owned newspapers or television stations were engaging in it. They only become uncomfortable with it when the Supreme Court said, why should there be a carve out for corporations that own the media outlet and for no one else?”

The Kentucky Republican concluded: “Its an absurd proposal and it won’t go anywhere.”

From the Raw Story

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Tester’s Constitutional Amendment: CORPORATIONS ARE NOT ‘PEOPLE’

 

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced a Constitutional Amendment clarifying that corporations are not “people,” restoring the right of Congress to limit corporate influence in elections.

In introducing his amendment, Tester is heeding the call of Montana voters, who voted overwhelmingly in November to direct Montana’s Congressional delegation to amend the U.S. Constitution to empower Congress to limit corporate spending in elections.

Tester’s amendment would overturn Citizens United, the unpopular 2010 Supreme Court decision which allows corporations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns with no transparency.

“Montanans expect real people and their ideas -not corporations and their money-to decide our elections,” Tester said. “The Citizens United decision undermines Montana values and distorts the democratic process. Montanans rejected corporate control of elections a century ago, and I’m proud to join them in standing up for our long-held values.”

Tester, a consistent critic of Citizens United, said today at a press conference that unlimited and undisclosed corporate spending warped 2012′s elections. He said holding corporations accountable would empower voters and support leaders willing to tackle the tough issues facing the country.

Tester is also co-sponsoring a Constitutional Amendment introduced by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall. Udall’s amendment specifically authorizes Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, while letting states oversee spending at their level.

Montana’s efforts to stand up to corporate influence in elections date back to the early 1900s, when wealthy mining corporations used their money to buy election outcomes. In response, Montana voters in 1912 passed an initiative limiting corporate influence-a law recently upheld by Montana’s Supreme Court, but overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

To alter the U.S. Constitution, an amendment must pass both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives by two-thirds majority before being ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

Tester’s Constitutional Amendment, which is co-sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), is available online HERE. Udall’s amendment is available online HERE.

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