Conservation groups say recent increases may be illegal Staff Report Conservation activists want to know why U.S. oil exports have been increasing despite a Congressional ban. According to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and ForestEthics, exports increased from 44,000 barrels per day in 2009 to 351,000 barrels per day in 2014. The lawsuit challenges the Bureau of Industry and Security, an agency within the Department of Commerce, for withholding documents related to its oil-export approval process. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The World Bank recently did a brave and very revealing piece of research. They asked their own staff to what extent they imagined poorer and richer people in three countries would agree with the statement: ‘What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me.’ Bank staff predicted that around 20 per cent of poor people would agree with the statement.
In fact, more than 80 per cent of poor people felt that what happened to them in the future depended on their own efforts – four times as many as the World Bank staff had predicted, and about the same proportion as richer people.
A report released Wednesday examining the pay practices of the 30 largest publicly held U.S. oil, gas, and coal companies concluded that pay incentives for the companies' chief executives encourages reckless behavior and is hastening a climate crisis.
The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.
While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed NSA documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.”
NEW YORK -- The rare indictment this week of a New York City police officer in the death of an unarmed black man raises the prospect of something even rarer: that the officer in question may actually be convicted.
Rookie NYPD officer Peter Liang, 27, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in the November death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley. He’s facing charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault and official misconduct.
Liang was released Wednesday on his own recognizance and is awaiting trial. His next court appearance is May 14. If convicted of second-degree manslaughter, the top charge, Liang could face up to 15 years in prison.
Columbia University Law professor Bernard Harcourt says that in order to convict Liang on a manslaughter charge, the prosecution will have to prove he had an “awareness of a significant risk,” yet chose to disregard that risk.
“It requires consciousness,” Harcourt said, adding that the prosecution will have to argue that Liang committed a “gross deviation from the kind of reasonable behavior” normally demonstrated by other police officers.
On Nov. 20, Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau, were in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, conducting what's known as a "vertical patrol" -- when officers walk up and down the stairs of the city's high-rise public housing projects.
According to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, Liang had a gun in his left hand and a flashlight in his right when he leaned against an eighth-floor door, opening it to the building’s darkened stairwell. That’s when Liang fired one shot, the bullet flying in a downward trajectory towards the seventh floor.
At that moment, Gurley and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Melissa Butler, were entering the stairwell from the seventh floor. The bullet ricocheted off a concrete wall before fatally striking Gurley in the chest, killing him.
“We don't believe [Liang] intended to kill Mr. Gurley," Thompson told reporters Wednesday, "but he had his finger on the trigger."
Liang fired the gun, Thompson added, “when there was no threat.” Thompson wouldn’t say whether the weapon was fired intentionally or by accident.
It’s NYPD protocol, Brooklyn assistant district attorney Marc Fliedner said in court Wednesday, to keep your finger along the barrel, not on the trigger itself.
That Liang drew his gun at all, and that he kept his finger on the trigger, could help towards establishing the conscious disregard for risk required for a manslaughter conviction.
Similarly, Harcourt said, the prosecution could point to reports that the officers weren’t supposed to be conducting a vertical patrol inside the Pink Houses in the first place.
The New York Daily News reported in December that Liang and Landau's commanding officer, Miguel Iglesias, had explicitly instructed them not to walk the stairs inside the Pink Houses. Harcourt said that if Iglesias had given that order because of a perceived risk -- the staircase being too dark or otherwise dangerous for vertical patrols -- then Liang’s decision to ignore that risk could help prove a certain recklessness.
Fliedner, the lead prosecutor in the case, did not mention the order in court Wednesday. He did say, however, that another report by the Daily News -- which claimed Liang texted his union representative right after the shooting -- was false.
According to Eugene O’Donnell, a former NYPD cop and retired Brooklyn prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, there’s a “heavy incentive” for Liang to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.
While manslaughter convictions in New York carry prison time, a conviction of criminally negligent homicide doesn't require it. Liang could plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide in exchange for the manslaughter charge getting dropped.
That would mean Liang likely wouldn't go to prison at all, O’Donnell said, but would get probation and probably lose his job as a police officer.
Criminally negligent homicide is a lesser charge than manslaughter because prosecutors only have to prove that the defendant “failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk,” Harcourt said. In other words: the defendant wasn’t conscious of a risk, but still acted negligently.
Liang’s lawyer, Stephen Worth, told reporters after the arraignment that Gurley's death was a terrible accident, but that his client didn’t do anything wrong.
"When this case was first investigated, it was determined to be an accidental discharge," he said. "It remains an accidental discharge today.”
“There is nothing reckless or criminally negligent about the way Officer Liang performed his duties that night," he added.
Eight years ago, thousands of dogs and cats died after being poisoned by tainted food. The world's biggest pet food companies pulled more than 100 different products from store shelves. There's still no official death toll from the Great Pet Food Recall, because the government doesn't track animal deaths. But experts estimate at least 8,000 pets died.
For Blue Buffalo, the carnage was an opportunity. In just five years, the company, which boasted of its "natural, healthy" products, had become one of the pet food industry's most powerful players. Its rise was no small feat in a heavily concentrated industry -- Mars Petcare and Nestle Purina together control about half of global sales, according to data from the trade publication Petfood Industry.
Blue Buffalo deployed a robust advertising budget to portray its products as more nutritious than those of its shoddy "big name" competitors -- a term it has used frequently in commercials. As the recalls dominated headlines, Blue Buffalo ran a new ad campaign online and in newspapers, informing concerned consumers its products were a safe alternative to those that had been taken off the shelves.
Lawmakers rally to block attacks on key environmental law Staff Report Conservation-minded lawmakers are rallying to counter the GOP’s seemingly endless attacks on the Endangered Species Act. In a letter to President Barack Obama, 91 members of Congress warned that Republicans are “doubling down” on their efforts to undermine protections for threatened plants and animals. Led by Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the lawmakers asked the administration to reject the many proposals that undermine the Endangered Species Act, including those weakening or blocking protections for specific imperiled species.
WASHINGTON -- A district court judge on Monday dismissed four corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his donor Salomon Melgen, but denied motions to toss out other charges including, notably, the senator’s solicitation of contributions for a super PAC.
Lawyers for the senator had asked the court to dismiss charges related to Menendez’s solicitation of $700,000 from Melgen for Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that made independent expenditures to support Menendez’s 2012 reelection.
The basis for dismissal offered by Menendez’s lawyers were the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United and 2013 McCutcheon decisions. Those two cases redefined corruption as only explicit bribery, excluding influence and access. The senator’s lawyers argued that this redefinition of corruption and Citizens United’s declaration that independent expenditures “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” provided freedom of speech protections for all “efforts to influence and obtain access to elected officials,” including any campaign contribution.
Judge William Walls disagreed, ruling that the charges related to the super PAC contributions made by a corporation run by Melgen and solicited by Menendez would stand. In his opinion, Walls writes that “the Constitution does not protect an attempt to influence a public official’s acts through improper means.” (Read Walls' decision here.)
While Citizens United may state that independent expenditures cannot lead to corruption, bribery statutes view the super PAC contributions made and their value in different, subjective terms.
“Notwithstanding the statement in Citizens United that independent expenditures have no actual value to candidates, a jury could find that Defendant Menendez placed value, albeit subjective, on the earmarked donations given to Majority PAC by Melgen,” Walls writes.
He goes to write, “Even if contributions to Majority PAC had no objective value to Menendez, they unquestionably had value to Majority PAC as an entity, and [the federal bribery statute] criminalizes corruptly seeking anything of value, even for another person or entity, in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act.”
Both California's air-pollution regulator and the EPA ordered Volkswagen to investigate and fix the problem in May 2014, and the company said it had worked on a software patch. Once again, the cars performed well in testing. And once again, real-world performance didn't match up. At that point, regulators started grilling Volkswagen's engineers about the discrepancy, and the company eventually cracked, admitting the existence of these defeat devices, which had been carefully hidden in the software code. Hence the scandal.
The two candidates currently attracting the most attention in the American presidential primaries seem to be polar opposites. First, there's self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders, who can pack entire arenas with as many as 20,000 supporters. And then there's a man who claims to possess $10 billion, Donald Trump, who is leading in the broad field of Republicans. The two do, however, have one thing in common: They reject the US campaign finance system. One out of conviction; the other because he has the resources to finance his own campaign.
But while the sense of an ending can draw out people’s finest selves, it can also, new psychological research suggests, bring out their darker side. This study concludes that, as people get closer to finishing an activity, they become more and more likely to deliberately deceive others for their own benefit. And they do this, the research shows, because they anticipate regretting a missed opportunity to cheat the system.
In 2014, there were 91,147 domestic violence victims in our state. Of those, more than 26,000 victims were located in Wayne County. There's no doubt that Michigan has a domestic violence epidemic on its hands.
To make matters worse, our laws and sentencing guidelines haven’t been updated in years. Once considered a leader in domestic violence protections, our state has now fallen significantly behind the rest of the country. Michigan has lagged behind long enough.
Screw the celebration. New Orleans hasn’t “come back.” That is, there are still the Bourbon Street bars serving “Hurricanes” to sloshed tourists and Mardi Gras when white Americans can catch trinkets from floats floating over the ghosts of the drowned.
New Orleans is back to 79% of its pre-flood population. Why am I not cheering? Because the original residents—that is, the majority of the pre-flood Black residents—are still wandering inAmerica’s cruel economic desert.
And the pols of Louisiana love it. Louisiana had a Democratic governor. The purge of the voter rolls by flood has changed that forever.
ost politically active Americans are aware of the massive amounts of money spent on political campaigns. And most are also aware that corporate dollars, which fund so-called superPACs (political action committees), give hundreds of millions every election cycle.
In fact, according to a new study by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for more transparent, open government, American corporations spent around $5.8 billion on elections between 2007 and 2012.
If that sounds like a big number – and it is – wait until you see what American corporations got in return.
Corporate investment in political campaigns pays big dividends
According to the foundation, corporations reaped nearly $4.4 trillion in returns for their investments.
The foundation looked at “influence and its potential results on federal decision makers” for six years – three before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and three years after the ruling. The study focused on the records of 200 for-profit corporations and companies that had active PACs and lobbyists.
“Their investment was enormous,” the report, titled, “Fixed Fortunes: Biggest corporate political interests spend billions, get trillions,” said.
In the 1960s, the Lyndon Johnson administration launched an official War on Poverty. Needless to say, poverty has emerged victorious. The noble and necessary aim of poverty reduction might have helped millions of people create lives of decency and dignity, and it might have helped America assimilate into the developed world as a fiscally responsible and morally honorable nation. But since they fail to widen the profit margin of the corporate class running America’s political system, poverty reduction programs are basically doomed.
As poverty worsens and spreads, with 25 million Americans constituting the working poor, poverty relief programs face elimination from austerity policymakers on the state and federal levels. In the absence of any war on poverty, America has demonstrated dedication and determination in its war on the poor. In a cruel combination of exploitative profiteering from poverty, and unapologetic hatred for the poor, state governments continue to pick the pockets of the impoverished, relegating low-income earners to a vicious cycle of punishment and recompense; life without parole in the poverty prison.
"Recent financial scandals highlight the devastating consequences of corruption. While much is known about individual immoral behavior, little is known about the collaborative roots of curruption. In a novel experimental paradigm, people could adhere to one of two competing moral norms: collaborate vs. be honest. Whereas collaborative settings may boost honesty due to increased observability, accountability, and reluctance to force others to become accomplices, we show that collaboration, particularly on equal terms, is inductive to the emergence of corruption. When partners' profits are not aligned, or when individuals complete a comparable task alone, corruption levels drop. These findings reveal a dark side of collaboration, suggesting that human cooperative tendencies, and not merely greed, take part in shaping corruption."
The collaborative roots of corruption Ori Weisela and Shaul Shalvi
FRANKFURT—Germany’s banking watchdog is concerned about the magnitude of attempted foreign-exchange manipulation at large domestic banks including Deutsche Bank AG and expects to conclude its investigation into possible misconduct by next year.
The individual cases of attempted currency manipulation are nothing to be “relaxed about,” Raimund Roeseler, the head of bank regulation at BaFin, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Mr. Roeseler didn’t rule out that the scale of currency manipulation might have a similar magnitude to that of the rigging of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.
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