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.
Lena Baker, an African-American mother of three holds the esteemed honor of being the only woman ever electrocuted in Georgia’s electric chair, she was also issued a pardon 6 decades after her 1945 death by execution.
Baker was convicted for the fatal shooting of E. B. Knight, a white Cuthbert, Georgia mill operator she was hired to care for after he broke his leg. She was 44 at the time of her execution.
FRISCO — A coalition of Native Americans say they’re “concerned at the lack of involvement of Tribes” in the current efforts to create a protective designation for the Bear’s Ear area in southeastern Utah’s San Juan County. The Native Americans say that, despite two years of dialogue with local stakeholders, San Juan County officials have failed to “reach out to, consult, and respond to feedback from Tribes within or outside of Utah.”
The concerns were expressed in an Aug. 5 letter from Diné Bikéyah — the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — to Utah congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, and highlights the complex tangle of issues surrounding several different land-protection proposals for the area, with some Native American tribes seeking a federal designation, while the strong local-control movement in Utah explores different alternatives.
The Salt Lake Tribune explained some of the maneuvering in an April 19 story, describing how the area is culturally important to nearly all Native Americans in the region.
WASHINGTON -- A new oligarchic era of American politics came into full view on Friday, as super PACs disclosed fundraising details showing billionaires bankrolling the 2016 presidential race to an unprecedented degree.
The unlimited-money super PACs account for one-third of all federal election funds raised in the first half of 2015 -- up from 4 percent at this time in the last presidential election. Three-quarters of all super PAC money came from more than 500 wealthy donors, corporations and unions in contributions above $100,000. More than half the money in the presidential race so far -- to super PACs and to campaigns -- came from donors who have given at least $100,000.
For the first time in more than a century, the majority of funding for a presidential election is coming in six-figure or larger checks from corporations and the wealthiest Americans. The presidential campaigns, limited to a maximum of $5,400 from a single donor, raised a combined $128 million. Super PACs supporting those candidates pulled in $260 million, with $208 million from those giving $100,000 or more.
When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn't a coincidence—that this was, like the Elliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at...
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.
Bill Maher took apart America's obscene worship of extreme wealth in this Friday's New Rules segment: Bill Maher excoriates the rich, 'What about the sick culture of wealth?':
Bill Maher went after the excesses of the rich on this week's Real Time. He started the segment with the dentist who paid over fifty thousand dollars to hunt a beloved lion in Africa. "When a dentist has sixty grand to drop on a safari," Bill Maher said. "That's when we know there is too much sugar in the soda."
He continued. "We do have a moral crisis in America," Bill Maher said. "But it does not come from saggy pants, or gay wedding cakes, or Hillary's emails. It comes from worshiping obscene wealth."
He went on to illustrate how the not so rich poses and performs the senseless deeds of the rich in order to have the semblance of the super rich. "In the game of America money counts for everything," Bill Maher said. "This is how you let other people know you won. Because you did something horrible and stupid that only rich people can get away with."Bill then made that prescient statement. "We always hear about the sick culture of poverty," he said. "What about the sick culture of wealth?"
Maher continued by giving examples of the wealthy and selfish -- the rich man who complains about trick or treaters from a different neighborhood, the Californians complaining about water rationing because they can afford to get as much as they need.
"I am sure that the majority of rich people have always been greedy and selfish," Bill Maher said. "But this crowd today takes it to a whole new level. Somehow it is not enough to spend lavishly on themselves. They have to actively take from others, their water, their benefits, the last bits of beauty in the world."
Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “A Dream Undone,” chronicles the history of recent successful efforts to undermine the Voting Rights Act. The passage of state measures which effectively restrict voting for some groups comes as the nation’s racial minority populations—blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and others—are showing increasing electoral clout.
Yet, restrictive voting provisions such as stringent Voter ID laws and limits to early voting and voting hours in heavily minority communities will not adversely impact voting in the way the provisions’ authors intend. As I state in my book, “ ... over the long haul, the effects of such attempts to suppress voters will pale in comparison to the larger demographic sweep of diversity that will shape the nation’s civic decision-making.”
Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”
Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.
Lacksadaiscal enforcement is a recipe for disaster Staff Report FRISCO — After a series of disastrous pipeline breaks, the National Wildlife Federation says it’s time to hold the federal government accountable for its failure to enforce basic requirements like regular inspections and update safety response plans for pipeline accidents.
It has been proven that big business and elites (that's the top 1% and up to you and me), have independent influence over Congress. The rest of us are ignored. Scientists have reviewed the data to show that across more than 1700 policy issues, Congress doesn't listen to us. They listen to them. The 1%.
Given this result, it can be fairly said that the 1% and only the 1% are writing public policy. Some have even gone so far as to identify the United States an oligarchy, not a democracy. I'm inclined to agree.
There are a few bright spots in Congress, though. Elizabeth Warren is working hard to show the hypocrisy of the conservative right, bought and paid for by Wall Street (I know, some of them are Democrats). Bernie Sanders is running for president and promoting crazy ideas like free education for everyone, a more progressive taxation system and even breaking up banks that are too big to fail. And then there is Rand Paul. He's a nut, but he's doing something I never thought I'd see anyone in Congress do - filibuster a bill to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
I spend far more time arguing on the Internet than can possibly be healthy, and the word I’ve come to loath more than any other is “opinion”. Opinion, or worse “belief”, has become the shield of every poorly-conceived notion that worms its way onto social media.
There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.
1. Is this actually an opinion?
2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?
I’ll help you with the first part. An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something. My favorite color is black. I think mint tastes awful. Doctor Who is the best television show. These are all opinions. They may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general population but they all have one thing in common; they cannot be verified outside the fact that I believe them.
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