Thursday, 30 July 2015

Number of people killed by police hits 664 in U.S. this year

The number of police-related fatalities in the U.S reached 664 in 2015, making the country’s police force one of the deadliest in the developed world, according to data from The Guardian, a British newspaper.
In the first five months of this year, 19 unarmed black men were shot and killed by the police in the U.S. The Guardian compares that with Germany, where 15 citizens of any race were fatally shot in the two years from 2010 to 2011.
California led the nation in the number of victims. So far this year, 107 people died in police-involved incidents in the state, significantly more than Texas, which came in second with 67 deaths. Florida was the third most deadly with 46. Per capita, Oklahoma tops the list with 29 deaths.
People killed by the police in the U.S. in 2015

By race, whites accounted for roughly half at 321 deaths and blacks followed with 174. However, blacks were twice more likely than whites to be unarmed when killed by the police, The Guardian said.
Of the 102 unarmed Americans killed between January and May, 15% were white, compared with 31.9% for blacks and 25.4% for Hispanics and Latinos.
A vast majority of the deaths involved guns. Twenty-three involved a vehicle, and 27 people died in police custody.
The statistics were compiled from police reports, news outlets, research groups and open-source reporting projects such as Fatal Encounters and Killed by Police as part of the newspaper’s The Counted project.
“The database will combine Guardian reporting with verified crowdsourced information to build a more comprehensive record of such fatalities,” the newspaper said.

FBI: Child Abuse 'Almost at an Epidemic Level' in U.S.

The bureau rescued 600 children last year

Tens of thousands of children are being sexually exploited each year in the U.S., according to an investigation by the BBC.
Despite rescuing 600 children last year, the FBI says child sex abuse is at epidemic levels where tens of thousands of children are believed to be sexually exploited in the country each year. “The level of paedophilia is unprecedented right now,” Joseph Campbell of the FBI told the BBC.
Campbell, who works in the Criminal Investigation Division, has seen individuals from all walks of life engaged in both child pornography and child exploitation, calling it a problem “almost at an epidemic level.”
Hundreds of American children are also being sold into sex, according to the BBC, where poverty and neglect are thought to be some of the main reasons why young kids are vulnerable to sex trafficking.
Jenny Gaines, who works at Breaking Free, a Minnesotan-based advocacy group that provides support for former sex workers, says many “manipulate and take advantage of underage girls.” Half the women who visit the support group were under the age if 18 when they were first sold for sex.

Average US vehicle age hits record 11.5 years

In the age of Apple's CarPlay, a lot of cars on the road still have tape decks.
The average vehicle in the U.S. is now a record 11.5 years old, according to consulting firm IHS Automotive, a sign of the increased reliability of today's vehicles and the lingering impact of the sharp drop in new car sales during the recession.

Drivers behind the wheel of older cars aren't enjoying some of the latest advanced safety features or infotainment systems that effectively turn cars into cellphones on wheels. Then again, they don't have to worry about hackers finding their way in to the car's computer network through the cassette or CD player.
IHS said U.S. registrations grew to a record 257.9 million cars and trucks this year, up 2 percent from a year earlier.

The average age of vehicles has been climbing steadily since IHS began tracking the number in 2002. As quality and reliability have improved, people have been holding on to their cars and trucks for longer. The average length of ownership for a new vehicle is now almost 6.5 years, IHS said. For a used vehicle, it's five years.

Cars and trucks now have the same average age, says Mark Seng, IHS Automotive's global aftermarket practice leader. For many years, cars had shorter lifespans than trucks, but their quality has now caught up.

Experts say there's no rule for how long to hold on to an old car or truck. A car with good reliability can go for 200,000 miles or more, which can easily last a decade for some motorists, says Doug Love, a spokesman for Consumer Reports.
The magazine doesn't recommend driving older cars without two key safety features introduced more than a decade ago: electronic stability control and side curtain air bags.

The aging car population could mean that Americans will be slow to adapt safety and semi-autonomous features that have car company executives and experts heralding a new age of the automobile. Adaptive cruise control arrived in the U.S. market in 2006, for example, but nine years later only 6 percent of all cars have it, according to a recent report from Boston Consulting Group. It will also take longer for much-hyped advances like CarPlay - which gives drivers access to their apps through the dashboard - to become commonplace.

But Seng says the auto industry should take heart. Even though the average vehicle age shows no sign of reversing, it is starting to plateau, since buyers have returned to the car market in big numbers. Sales of new cars rose from 12.7 million in 2011 to 16.5 million last year and are expected to reach or exceed 17 million this year. IHS thinks the average vehicle age will hit 11.6 years in 2016 but won't climb to 11.7 years until 2018.

Ferguson Prisoner Beaten by Cops Has Won His Appeal: "The Ferguson cops charged Henry Davis with destruction of property because he bled on their uniforms when they beat him."

Michael Brown’s killing brought to light the horrific case of Henry Davis, who was beaten by Ferguson cops, then charged with bleeding on them. Now he’s finally allowed to sue them.

The Ferguson cops charged Henry Davis with destruction of property because hebled on their uniforms when they beat him.
Then, as if fearing it might be outdone in ridiculousness, a federal district court ruled that Davis could not sue the cops for violating his Fourth Amendment rights because they had not injured him badly enough as he lay handcuffed on the jailhouse floor, a working man arrested on a traffic warrant in a case of mistaken identity.
“As unreasonable as it may sound, a reasonable officer could have believed that beating a subdued and compliant Mr. Davis while causing only a concussion, scalp lacerations and bruising with almost no permanent damage did not violate the Constitution,” the district court ruled in tossing out the case.
Davis appealed and his attorney James Schottel responded to absurdity with legal reasoning. He argued that the decisive factor was not the seriousness of Davis’s injuries but the nature of the officers’ actions.
The district court had ruled that the officers enjoyed “official immunity” because they “acted within their discretion and caused only de minimis [slight] injuries.”
Schottel contended that official immunity “does not apply to discretionary acts done in bad faith or with malice.”
The appeals court could not have been clearer in its response on Tuesday.
“We agree.”
The court went on to say, “That an officer’s conduct caused only de minimis injuries does not necessarily establish the absence of malice or bad faith as a matter of law.”
In recapping the case, the appeals court noted that Davis had been arrested by Police Officer Christopher Pillarick early on the morning of September 20, 2009. Davis was brought to what the appeals court calls “the crowded Ferguson jail.” Pillarick and Police Officer John Beaird escorted Davis to a cell where the only bunk was occupied.
“Davis requested a mat from a nearby stack,” the court says. “Pillarick refused because Davis was not cooperating. Davis refused to enter the cell.”
The cops radioed for backup. Police Officer Kim Tihen and Police Officer Michael White responded, along with Sergeant William Battard.
“The deposition testimony differs dramatically concerning what happened next,” the court says. “It is undisputed that White pushed Davis into the cell and a short, bloody fight ensued.”
The court notes that there is no video of the incident, but there is “testimony supporting a claim that White, Beaird and Tihen each beat or kicked Davis after he was handcuffed and subdued on the floor of the cell.” 
The court further notes, “After the incident, Beaird completed four complaints charging Davis with the offense of ‘Property Damage’ for transferring blood onto the uniforms of Beaird, Tihen, White, and Pillarick.”
The appeals court then summarizes the lower court’s contention that “a reasonable officer” could believe that in beating their handcuffed prisoner they were not violating the Constitution.
Here, too, the appeals court could not have been clearer in its response.
“We disagree.”
One of the cops, Tihen, had gone on to become a City Council member from the First Ward, filling a vacancy left by a two-term incumbent who had resigned after being disbarred as a lawyer for “unprofessional conduct.”
At the time, four of the five sitting members City Council were white. Tihen made it five of six in a town that was 70 percent black.
She and the rest of the council were in smiling attendance when the Ferguson police chief presented Police Officer Darren Wilson with an award for making a drug collar.
Wilson became known to the whole country after his encounter with 18-year-old Michael Brown.
In the uproar following Brown’s death, the Ferguson police department came under scrutiny. The beating of Davis reached public attention.
So did Tihen’s role in the incident.
And that may have been part of her reason for not seeking a second term.
Three people campaigned for the seat. The victor was a high-energy, goodhearted black woman named Ella Jones, who won after spending weeks canvassing from house to house.
“Every door that’s in the First Ward,” she told The Daily Beast.
A black man named Wesley Bell won a seat in the Third Ward, which made the City Council three and three race-wise.
Ferguson also got a black police chief.
And on Tuesday, the court of appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling and said Davis could go ahead with his excessive-force suit.

Monday, 27 July 2015

This Powerful Homemade Light Saber Can Be Made For Less Than $100 (8 gifs)

Imgur user Lassann built this light saber all by himself for less than $100. He used a laser cutter and a diode to create a weapon that's almost as cool as the real thing.

You Won’t Believe What Wannabe Cops In Massachusetts Got Additional Points For

The Methuen Police Department in Massachusetts, which reportedly “gave higher points to applicants who said they wouldn’t arrest a family member or an officer they knew” who had been caught engaging in drunken driving.

As a result, job applicants like Michael Phillips, 26, were bypassed.

“The City turned the interview process upside down,” Christopher C. Bowman, chairman of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, wrote in Phillip’s case. “There is simply no valid basis to award the highest points to candidates who express a willingness to apply one set of rules to strangers and another set of rules to friends and family members.”
According to The Boston Globe via Jonathan Turley, the department basically rewarded those aspiring cops who were willing to turn the other way in the face of corruption.
What’s even more shocking is the faulty logic they used to defend this stupidity. According to reports, for instance, when Phillip answered that “he would arrest his mother and father if he caught them driving drunk,” he apparently made department officials skeptical.
“This answer appears insincere and sounds like Mr. Phillips is trying to respond in the way he thinks the panel wants him to respond,” a letter regarding the department’s decision not to hire him read.

Furthermore, during a commission hearing, Police Lieutenant Michael Pappalardo (pictured below) bluntly admitted that “he wouldn’t believe anyone who claimed they would arrest their family and friends.” (H/T Photography Is Not A Crime)

This not-so-bright lieutenant seemingly believes that wannabe cops must possess a certain degree of corruption within them.
That makes zero sense whatsoever, but judging by his rhetoric, Pappalardo doesn’t have any common-sense to begin with!

1/5 of the Population of El Salvador and 1/4 of Mexico Now Live in U.S.

We know the illegal immigrant population of in the U.S. has exploded since the 1990s.  We also know it has grown dramatically since President Obama initiated his “open borders” policy to allow just about anyone to come here via the border with Mexico.
The “official” number of illegal aliens in the U.S. stands at 11 million, but now, new evidence suggests that that number is way below the number of those who are actually here.  Gateway Pundit reports:
Lax US border security and civil war in Central America have resulted in a massive influx of Salvadorean immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years.
One-fifth of the population of El Salvador now live in the United States.
Migration Policy reported:
Between 1980 and 1990, the Salvadoran immigrant population in the United States increased nearly fivefold from 94,000 to 465,000. The number of Salvadoran immigrants in the United States continued to grow in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of family reunification and new arrivals fleeing a series of natural disasters that hit El Salvador, including earthquakes and hurricanes.

By 2008, there were about 1.1 million Salvadoran immigrants in the United States. Salvadorans are the country’s sixth largest immigrant group after Mexican, Filipino, Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese foreign born.

The immigrant population from this tiny Central American country is now nearly as large as the immigrant population from much larger China. (As reference, China’s total population is 200 times larger and its territory is about 500 times larger than El Salvador’s.)
More than half of all Salvadoran immigrants resided in just two states, California and Texas, although they are also concentrated in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia (for more information on immigrants by state, see the ACS/Census Data tool on the MPI Data Hub)…
…About one of every five Salvadorans resides in the United States.
The 1.1 million Salvadoran immigrants in the United States represent about one-fifth (19.1 percent) of the total population of El Salvador (5.7 million in 2007 according to the Salvadoran Department of Statistics and Censuses).

Friday, 24 July 2015

The CEO of a mental health company in Michigan has been charged with embezzling more than $500,000 of company money to send to a psychic

The criminal case against fired Summit Pointe CEO Erv Brinker rests on what Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette alleged were fraudulent contracts with a Key West, Fla., man associated with a psychic palm reader.
In a press release after Brinker was arraigned Wednesday on two counts of Medicaid fraud conspiracy and one count of embezzlement by a public official, Schuette said his Health Care Fraud Division’s investigation revealed that “Brinker allegedly sent the $510,000 to a Key West psychic palm reader and her husband under the guise of health care consulting.”
The press release said “As CEO, Brinker had the authority to contractually bind Summit Pointe without Board approval and he allegedly signed the fraudulent contracts without the consultation of other employees. Additionally, Brinker did not notify the Board of Directors of the alleged contracts.”
Before Ingham County District Judge Richard Ball on Wednesday, Brinker, 68, of Delton stood calmly as he was formally charged and his attorneys waived a preliminary examination of the charges. The case was bound over to Ingham County Circuit Court for trial. A pre-trial hearing was set for Aug. 12.
The charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years in jail and a $5,000 fine on conviction.
Brinker attorney Matthew Vicari said the defense has been working with the attorney general’s office “for some months now.”
Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Schroder told the judge they were close to a plea-bargain agreement with Brinker.
Brinker was released on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond under two conditions named by Schroder and agreed to by the judge:
The first was that he could not have contact with Summit Pointe or its employees.
“Number two,” Schroder said, “That the defendant have no contact with any psychic, fortune-teller or palm reader.”
Tommy Eli of Key West was listed as a Summit Pointe contractor; his name was raised at the Feb. 17 meeting in which Brinker was fired.
At the public hearing, Brinker through his lawyer repeatedly refused to ask questions about Eli, declining to speak unless he was assured the information wouldn’t be used for potential criminal prosecution.
Summit Pointe’s lawyers alleged illusory contract services, saying they were unable to confirm Eli had any professional credentials and that they only found a one-page document as proof of work.
But they did know this: Eli received $510,000 in payments from Summit Pointe. He billed the agency for more than 1,100 hours of work from October 2012 to April 2013, some of which were claimed in invoices to have been conducted in person at Summit Pointe’s offices. The last payment — $265,000 — was sent by overnight courier to a Key West address, marked to the attention of Julie Davis.
The address is a psychic business. Davis is a psychic and tarot card reader, according to a business license filed with the city of Key West.
Eli did not return multiple calls from the Enquirer.
In his press release, Schuette was quoted as saying “Ensuring integrity in our health care system is critical to the safety of all Michigan citizens. Anyone attempting to skirt the law at the expense of patients and taxpayers will be identified and brought to justice. I would like to thank Summit Pointe for bringing this case to our attention and providing assistance and full cooperation to ensure this never happens again.”
After the arraignment, Summit Pointe sent a press release to the Enquirer saying the agency’s leadership and attorneys had worked for months with the Attorney General’s office. 
Board President Trae Allman was quoted in the release as saying, “When our board was informed of employee concerns about irregularities in contracting and expenditures, we engaged Fraser Trebilcock as independent counsel to conduct a careful, external investigation. What we found through that process increasingly disappointed and alarmed us as a board, and among a series of other necessary actions, we contacted the appropriate authorities. We are appreciative of the efforts of the Attorney General, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and we are relieved that this difficult chapter is finally over.”
Summit Pointe’s board fired Brinker for cause, alleging he created a defined-benefits pension plan without board approval and for his own personal benefit. Board members also said Brinker had “apparent  and actual conflicts of interest” with some of the agency’s vendors, and didn’t competitively bid million-dollar contracts that were granted to vendors with whom he had outside business ties. 
Brinker’s termination was the result of a nearly three-month internal investigation by Summit Pointe, which hired Lansing-based law firm Fraser Trebilcock Davis and Dunlap to help conduct the probe. Two other Summit Pointe executives — Chief Operating Officer Bob Lambert and Chief Financial Officer Leon Karnovsky — resigned during the investigation.
After Brinker’s dismissal, Summit Pointe has since worked to replace vacancies and rein in finances. The agency has cut off contracts with many vendors named in the lengthy resolution to fire Brinker, and has made changes to its community partnerships, including the discontinuation of running operations as the Custer Greens golf course.
Summit Pointe’s annual audit that was presented to the board in early June revealed weaknesses in financial reporting. Auditors didn’t issue an opinion because they were unable “to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence.” They also cited the ongoing investigation.

USA stops United Nations from inspecting its prisons

When U.S. President Barack Obama visited the El Reno Correctional Facility in Oklahoma last week to check on living conditions of prisoners incarcerated there, no one in authority could prevent him from visiting the prison. 
Obama, the first sitting president to visit a federal penitentiary, said “in too many places, black boys and black men, and Latino boys and Latino men experience being treated different under the law.”
The visit itself was described as “unprecedented” and “historic.”
But the United Nations has not been as lucky as the U.S. president was. Several U.N. officials, armed with mandates from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, have been barred from U.S. penitentiaries which are routinely accused of being steeped in a culture of violence.
Back in 1998, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, was barred from visiting three Michigan prisons to probe sexual misconduct against women prisoners.
Although she had made extensive preparations to interview inmates, Michigan Governor John Engler barred Coomaraswamy on the eve of her proposed visit.
The late Senator Jesse Helms, former chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blocked a proposed prison visit by Bacre Waly Ndiaye, head of the U.N. Human Rights Office in New York, who was planning to observe living conditions in some of the U.S. prisons.
Obama’s visit has prompted the United Nations to give another shot at seeking permission to visit the U.S. prison system.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong, have jointly called on the U.S. government to facilitate their requests for an official visit to U.S. prisons to advance criminal justice reform. 
“I look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Justice on the special study commissioned by the President on the need to regulate solitary confinement, which affects 80,000 inmates in the United States, in most cases for periods of months and years,” Méndez said early this week.
“The practice of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement inflicts pain and suffering of a psychological nature, which is strictly prohibited by the Convention Against Torture,” he said.
“Reform along such lines will have considerable impact not only in the United States but in many countries around the world,” he noted.
Hong, who leads the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said a visit to federal and state institutions “will be an excellent opportunity to discuss with authorities the ‘Basic Principles and Guidelines on the right to anyone deprived of their liberty to bring proceedings before a court’, and to promote its use by the civil society.”
The Working Group has already drafted a set of Principles and Guidelines that “will help establish effective mechanisms to ensure judicial oversight over all situations of deprivation of liberty.”
The document will be considered by the Human Rights Council in September.
According to published reports, there have been charges of unhealthy living conditions and physical beatings, specifically against minorities, including African-Americans and Latin Americans, in the U.S. jail system.
Last month, the administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District announced far reaching reforms, including the proposed appointment of a Federal Monitor to probe continued prisoner abuses in Riker’s Island, described as the second largest jail system in the United States.
Other measures include restrictions on the use of force by prison guards and the installation of surveillance cameras.
Asked whether U.N. Special Rapporteurs (UNSRs) have previously been permitted into U.S. prisons, Tessa Murphy at Amnesty International (AI), told IPS that Juan Mendez hasn’t visited any U.S. supermaximum facility prisons in his role as UNSR.
He has, however, visited Pelican Bay in California as an expert witness in ongoing litigation there.
She also said AI has called on the U.S. State Department to extend an invite repeatedly requested by the UNSR to visit the United States to examine the use of solitary confinement in federal and state facilities, including through on-site visits.
“AI believes this external scrutiny is particularly important in the case of ‘super-maximum’ security facilities where prisoners are isolated within an already closed environment. We continue to call for this access to be provided.”
She pointed out that AI has released several reports calling for access – based on an extensive body of work on long-term solitary confinement and its damaging effects.
Antonio M. Ginatta, Advocacy Director, U.S. Programme at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS it is a momentous time in the United States as it re-examines and moves to reform its criminal justice system. 
President Obama himself just spoke to the need for this reform, and specifically highlighted the harms caused by solitary confinement.
“Yet the State Department continues to fail to allow the Special Rapporteur on torture access to U.S. confinement facilities to review their use of solitary confinement. It’s as if they missed the President’s speech,” he said.
Ginatta said an invitation to the Special Rapporteur is years overdue.
“In light of the president’s speech and his visit to the El Reno prison, the U.S. Department of State should change course and immediately extend an unrestricted invitation to Special Rapporteur Mendez and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” he declared.
After his prison visit, Obama said: “My goal is that we start seeing some improvements at the federal level and that we’re then able to see states across the country pick up the baton, and there are already some states that leading the way in both sentencing reform as well as prison reform and make sure that we’re seeing what works and build off that.”
Providing details of its meetings with U.S. State Department officials, Amnesty International told IPS that in February it met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Director William Mozdzierz in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs to emphasise the importance of facilitating external scrutiny by the SRT as well as to hand over a petition to the State Department (with over 20,000 signatures, on the same issue.)
AI said SRT Mendez has provided them with a list of prisons he wishes to visit, including in Louisiana, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Secretary Mozdzierz, stressed to AI that the State Department has a strong national interest in ensuring that the United States lives up to international treaty obligations.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby emphasised how committed the U.S. government is in providing access for the SRT.
However, Secretary Mozdzierz emphasised that access to state prisons is dependent on the individual governors and state Attorney Generals being amenable, and there are no mechanisms by which the State Department can ensure a positive response.