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All The Precious Lives
By the SB Crew, Compiled With Dispatches from
Dec 21, 2012, 10:22

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While Sharing in National Mourning for Newtown Victims, Columnists Cite Less Emphasized Killings Of Other Children in the U.S. and Abroad.
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, was one of the victims in the Connecticut killings.
After losing both her father and her brother to gun violence in St. Louis and later being victimized by domestic violence, Goldie Taylor purchased a gun for her own protection. Three days after the recent Newtown massacre, Taylor wrote: "After my father and brother were murdered, owning a gun made me feel secure. Now it’s time to give it up." As President Obama vows new action on gun control, Taylor is writing about her own experience and the gun violence from Newtown, Connecticut, to the streets of Chicago, where nearly 500 people have been murdered this year, mostly by guns. Taylor, an MSNBC contributor and managing editor of "The Goldie Taylor Project," calls on the corporate media to do a better job reporting all gun-related killings, regardless of race, economic class and gender. Other journalists have noted the hypocrisy of the national mourning while we kill or arm others to kill children with drones and warfare in the Middle East.

Tennessee County to Reform Juvenile Justice System After Reports of Racial Bias
A Tennessee county linked to the discriminatory treatment of teenaged African-American suspects has signed a landmark agreement to reform its practices. The Justice Department said it had reached a deal with local officials to overhaul juvenile justice in Shelby County. A report earlier this year found Black teens were twice as likely to be detained than Whites and were often sent to adult criminal court for minor offenses. Juvenile suspects also attempted suicide at record rates and were detained in harsh conditions, including being tied to restraint chairs and left alone for far longer than allowed by law. Under the agreement, Shelby will be forced to carry out a series of reforms to avoid future lawsuits by federal prosecutors.

Citing Racial Justice Act, North Carolina Judge Voids 3 Death Sentences
A North Carolina judge has voided the death sentences of three prisoners after determining their ethnicity played a major role in their sentencing. Tilmon Golphin and Quintel Augustine, who are both African American, and Christina Walters, who is Native American, were each given life sentences without parole on Thursday after Judge Gregory Weeks ruled they were covered by the state’s Racial Justice Act. Judge Weeks wrote: "In the writing of prosecutors’ long buried in case files and brought to light for the first time in this hearing, the court finds powerful evidence of race-consciousness and race-based decision making."

Court Overturns Convictions of New Orleans Police Officers for Post-Katrina Killing
A federal appeals court has overturned the convictions of two former New Orleans police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an African-American man shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The first officer, David Warren, was convicted of shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover with an assault rifle. But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has voided Warren’s conviction, saying his trial should have been held separate from those of two other officers charged in the case. Another officer, Greg McRae, convicted of burning Glover’s body after he bled to death, also saw a key charge dismissed. Glover’s death was first detailed by investigative journalist A.C. Thompson of ProPublica.

Former IMF Head Strauss-Kahn Settles Sexual Assault Suit with Hotel Maid
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has reached an out-of-court settlement with the New York hotel maid who accused him of sexually assaulting her in May 2011. The claim by Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, forced Strass-Kahn to resign from the IMF and dashed his hopes of running for the presidency in his native France. After Monday’s hearing confirming the settlement, Diallo thanked supporters along with her attorney.

Nafissatou Diallo: "I just want to say I thank everyone who supported me, all over the world. I thank everybody. I thank God, and God bless you all. Thank you very much."

Kenneth Thompson: "Ms. Diallo is a strong and courageous woman who never lost faith in our system of justice. With this resolution, she can now move on with her life. And we thank everyone for their support and prayers."

Rice Withdraws Bid for Sec. of State over GOP Challenge
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has withdrawn her name as a potential successor to outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following weeks of Republican-led opposition. Republicans have campaigned against Rice’s potential appointment since her name surfaced earlier this year, accusing her of misleading the public about the deadly September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In a letter to President Obama, Rice said: "I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively ... However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly." Rice is expected to stay on as U.N. envoy while Obama could tap another rumored candidate, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. While the partisan clash over Rice focused on Benghazi, progressive critics had pointed to Rice’s hawkish foreign policy record while serving under the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well her financial interests in the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. The State Department’s head of security has resigned and three other officials have been dismissed in the wake of an inquiry’s findings on the attack.

U.S. Soldier to Face Court-Martial for Afghan Massacre
A military court has ruled U.S. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will face a court-martial for allegedly slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, in March. Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, while defense attorneys have argued that alcohol abuse, drug use and post-traumatic stress disorder all may have played a key role in fueling Bales’ actions. On Wednesday, Bales’ attorney, John Henry Browne, accused military leadership of responsibility for sending Bales to war.

John Henry Browne: "They should take responsibility for sending somebody to a high combat area who they knew had PTSD and post-traumatic — and, excuse me, a concussive head injury. He is disappointed, but he’s — he understands the gravity of the situation, and he’s working with all of us to try to avoid the first military execution in 50 years."

Bales’ pretrial hearing included video testimony from Afghans who survived the massacre, including several children who recalled watching their loved ones murdered. No date has been set for Bales’ trial.

Lawmakers Strip Indefinite Detention Ban from NDAA
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have dropped a provision that would ban the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens under the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA. The Senate approved an amendment to the NDAA last month that would prevent the military from imprisoning any U.S. citizen or permanent resident deemed a terrorism suspect without charge or trial. But according to the New York Times, congressional negotiators have dropped the provision in the effort to merge the bill’s House and Senate versions. The overall defense authorization act is expected to come up for a vote this week.

Report: Obama Admin Deported More Than 200,000 Parents of U.S. Citizens in About 2 Years
New figures show the Obama administration has conducted more than 200,000 deportations of parents with children who are U.S. citizens over a period of about two years. According to federal data, nearly a quarter of all deportations from July 1, 2010, to the end of this September were issued for parents with U.S.-citizen children. ColorLines reports the data appears to dash hopes that new guidelines issued for deportations last year would curb the separation of families by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The "prosecutorial discretion" guidelines instruct ICE agents to focus on certain immigrants, including those with criminal convictions, and to consider a person’s ties to the country and "whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent" when making deportation decisions.

New Jersey Residents Reach Settlement over Surprise Home Raids by ICE Agents
A group of New Jersey residents who say they were subjected to surprise predawn home immigration raids has reached a settlement with the federal government. Most of the plaintiffs were either citizens or lawful residents of the United States when they say armed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents entered their homes without warrants nor their consent. Some agents allegedly rounded people up from their bedrooms and issued threats and intimidation in a bid to arrest those living in the United States without documentation. One permanent resident said an agent demanded to know where the nonexistent "illegals" were hiding in her home and pointed a gun at her nine-year-old boy’s chest. The plaintiffs were awarded a total of $295,000 after filing the case in 2008. The pattern of raids apparently emerged from a policy implemented in 2006 called "Operation Return to Sender" under which teams of agents were ordered to increase their arrest quotas by about 800 percent over the course of a year. The Obama administration later removed the quotas.

Court Rules Peace Activists Can Sue over Spying by U.S. Military Informant
A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a lawsuit filed by peace activists in Olympia, Washington, over spying by a U.S. military informant who infiltrated their group. Declassified documents obtained by Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance revealed a man everyone knew as "John Jacob" was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. When Democracy Now! broke the story in 2009, one of the activists, Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, said Towery had personally admitted to the spying.

Brendan Maslauskas Dunn: "He admitted that, yes, he did in fact spy on us. He did in fact infiltrate us. He admitted that he did pass on information to an intelligence network, which, as you mentioned earlier, was composed of dozens of law enforcement agencies, ranging from municipal to county to state to regional, and several federal agencies, including Immigration Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security, the Army in Fort Lewis."

The exposure of the spying also led to disclosures of intelligence gathering and sharing about the activists by the Air Force, the federal Capitol Police, the Coast Guard and local and state police. In a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now ruled the activists can sue military officials for violations of the First Amendment and unlawful spying.

Iraq War Veteran Scott Olsen Sues Oakland Police for Head Injury
In California, an Iraq War veteran has filed suit against the Oakland Police Department for injuries sustained during an Occupy protest last year. Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull and was placed in a medically induced coma after authorities fired non-lethal projectiles into a crowd of demonstrators.

Protesters in New Jersey Picket Wal-Mart Cargo from Bangladesh
Dozens of protesters turned out at a New Jersey port to picket a container ship from Bangladesh carrying goods for the retail giant Wal-Mart. The demonstration was called in the aftermath of last month’s Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh that killed 112 workers. The factory had been used to make Wal-Mart apparel, and the company allegedly played a role in blocking the improvement of safety conditions there. Homeland Security and port police blocked the demonstrators from approaching the ship as it unloaded its cargo. The action came as the Bangladeshi government recommended criminal charges against the Tazreen factory’s owner for "unpardonable negligence" leading up to the fire.

CIA Torture, Rendition Victim Wins Landmark European Court Case
A German victim of CIA rendition and torture has won a landmark victory in European court. Khaled El-Masri was seized in Macedonia in 2003 as part of the CIA’s secret extraordinary rendition program. He was beaten, sodomized and held in a secret prison in Afghanistan for months before being abandoned by the CIA on a hillside in Albania. On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Macedonia’s transfer of Masri into CIA custody and ruled his treatment in U.S. custody "amounted to torture." European court judge Nicolas Bratza unveiled the verdict. A previous effort by El-Masri to sue Bush administration officials for his capture and torture was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2007. He has since brought a case against the CIA before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said: "Today’s ruling makes it harder for the United States to continue burying its head in the sand and ignoring domestic and global calls for full accountability for torture. [And] this remarkable decision will no doubt put greater pressure on European nations to fully account for their complicity."

Britain to Pay $3.5 Million Settlement to Libyan Rendition Victim
In Britain, another victim of CIA-tied rendition has been given a $3.5 million settlement from the British government. Sami al Saadi, a leading opponent of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was forcibly sent to Libya along with his wife and four children in 2004. In a joint operation between the United States, Britain and the Gaddafi-ruled Libya, Saadi and his family were forced onto a plane in Hong Kong and sent back to Libya, where they were all imprisoned and Saadi himself was tortured. Kat Craig, legal director of the British charity Reprieve, said Britain played a critical role in Saadi’s ordeal. Saadi was one of a number of Libyans rendered by the United States and Britain to Libya despite the knowledge they would be tortured. Evidence of the CIA’s collaboration with Gaddafi emerged after Gaddafi’s U.S.-backed ouster in 2011.

Senate Intel Committee Approves "Startling" Rendition Report
In related news, the Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a sweeping report on CIA rendition and torture under the Bush administration. The committee’s chair, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, said the nearly 6,000-page report provides "startling details" about U.S. kidnapping operations and secret prisons overseas, including "details of each detainee in CIA custody, the conditions under which they were detained, how they were interrogated, the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy — or inaccuracy — of CIA descriptions about the program." It’s unclear if the report will be publicly released.

After Laundering $800 Million in Drug Money, How Did HSBC Executives Avoid Jail?
The banking giant HSBC has escaped indictment for laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and groups linked to al-Qaeda. Despite evidence of wrongdoing, the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed the bank to avoid prosecution and pay a $1.9 billion fine. No top HSBC officials will face charges, either. Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, author of "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History," says, "You can do real time in jail in America for all kinds of ridiculous offenses," Taibbi says. "Here we have a bank that laundered $800 million of drug money, and they can’t find a way to put anybody in jail for that. That sends an incredible message, not just to the financial sector but to everybody. It’s an obvious, clear double standard, where one set of people gets to break the rules as much as they want and another set of people can’t break any rules at all without going to jail."

Justice Dept.: UBS Conduct in Libor Scandal "Astonishing"
The Justice Department has formally unveiled its $1.5 billion settlement with the Swiss banking giant UBS for the company’s role in the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, which provides the basis for rates on trillions of dollars in transactions across the globe. The rigging of Libor meant millions of borrowers paid the wrong amount on their loans. On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said UBS had played a key part in the reckless attempt to manipulate rates for profit. According to transcripts released by prosecutors, UBS traders openly bragged about their prowess at rate manipulation and the financial benefits it brought. In one online chat in 2009, a key ringleader in the case was told: "Think of me when [you’re] on [your] yacht in Monaco." The $1.5 billion fine is more than triple the fine paid by the first bank ensnared in the Libor case, Barclays. In paying it, UBS avoids criminal prosecution as well as potentially jeopardizing its parent company’s charter.

Federal Scientists Link Oil and Gas Fracking to Earthquakes in U.S.
A new federal study has found the drilling practice known as fracking can trigger earthquakes. The U.S. Geological Survey found that oil and gas operations caused the majority, if not all, earthquakes in certain areas of New Mexico and Colorado between 2001 and 2011. The report’s co-author, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Justin Rubinstein, called fracking "a societal risk [we] need to be considering."

Film "Harvest of Empire" Among Winners at International Documentary Awards
The documentary "Harvest of Empire," based on the book by Democracy Now!'s Juan González, has won an award for the best use of archival footage at the International Documentary Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. The film uses rarely seen archival material to reveal the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and today's immigration crisis. Other winners included "The Island President," about ousted Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed in a special environmental category, and "Searching for Sugar Man," about the musician Rodriguez, for best feature.

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