Tallahassee, Fla. – The U.S prison industrial complex is spiraling out of control as the prison crisis in America grows to pandemic proportions. While accounting for slightly less than 5 percent of the total global population, the U.S. incarcerates roughly 25 percent of people imprisoned worldwide.
Startling statistics from a nation that proclaims to be “the home of the free.”
The Prison Policy Initiative reports:
The U.S. incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. In fact, our rate of incarceration is more than five times higher than most of the countries in the world. Although our level of crime is comparable to those of other stable, internally secure, industrialized nations, the United States has an incarceration rate far higher than any other country.
Nearly all of the countries with relatively high incarceration rates share the experience of recent large-scale internal conflict. But the United States, which has enjoyed a long history of political stability and hasn’t had a civil war in nearly a century and a half, tops the list.
If we compare the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states and territories with that of other nations, for example, we see that 36 states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world.
Now, what we are learning is that the United States is not just imprisoning people at an outrageous pace, but that men and women are dying in these prisons at all-time highs, often at the hands of guards, in the most awful and brutal ways imaginable. The state of Florida, it appears, is ground zero for the deaths of prisoners, and the crisis is so deeply corrupt and out of hand that it needs immediate national intervention.
Florida, in 2014, recorded an all-time high of 346 inmate deaths inside of their prisons. Although the prison population has remained relatively steady the past five years, the death toll of prisoners reached an all-time high for the state in 2014.
Hundreds of these deaths inside of prison walls, from 2014 and previous years, are now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice due to the suspicious and systemic nature of the deaths, almost all at the hands of law enforcement officers.
This past September, thirty two law enforcement officials, including prison guards and officers, were fired across the state due to dozens of cases of negligence, abuse, corruption, and death, according to Reuters.
Simply losing ones job over allegations of poisoning, gassing, and beating inmates to death is not justice. These rogue law enforcers need to have an example made out of them. They should not only lose their jobs but they should be indicted, convicted of murder and given the maximum penalty allowed.
These agents of the state, given a great responsibility, have shown themselves to willingly prey upon the most vulnerable in our society and must be held accountable for their actions for justice to be served.
Yesterday three laws widely criticized by the opposition and human rights groups were approved in Spanish Congress. The Penal Code, the new Anti-Terror Law and the Law on Citizen Safety. The three new texts challenge freedom of expression in the streets and on the Internet. All three laws are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2015.
Law on Citizen Safety (Gag Law)
“The gag law is revenge against social movements that emerged after 15M” – Patricia Martin, Avaaz
Under the new Citizen Safety Law or Ley Mordaza (Gag Law) as human rights defenders have renamed it, public protests, freedoms of speech and the press and documenting police abuses will become crimes punishable by heavy fines and/or jail. Some key points on the Ley Mordaza:
- Photographing or recording police – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
- Peaceful disobedience to authority – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
- Occupying banks as means of protest – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
- Not formalizing a protest – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
- For carrying out assemblies or meetings in public spaces – 100 to 600€ fine.
- For impeding or stopping an eviction – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
- For presence at an occupied space (not only social centers but also houses occupied by evicted families) – 100 to 600€ fine.
- Police black lists for protesters, activists and alternative press have been legalized.
- Meeting or gathering in front of Congress – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
- Appealing the fines in court requires the payment of judicial costs, whose amount depends on the fine.
- It allows random identity checks, allowing for racial profiling of immigrants and minorities.
- Police can now carry out raids at their discretion, without the need for “order” to have been disrupted.
- External bodily searches are also now allowed at police discretion.
- The government can prohibit any protest at will, if it feels “order” will be disrupted.
- Any ill-defined “critical infrastructure” is now considered a forbidden zone for public gatherings if it might affect their functioning.
- There are also fines for people who climb buildings and monuments without permission. (This has been a common method of protest from organizations like Greenpeace.)
The Gag Law will also affect internet freedoms as tweets calling for demonstrations or protests may be subject to penalties and fines for organizers. While an individual user may not be considered “an organizer” it could also be construed to include anyone who disseminates a call to protest through any media, including social media.
“This is the worst cut of rights and freedoms since the Franco regime,” – Virginia Pérez Alonso, PDLI
As the Ley Mordaza makes it illegal to publish photos of the police or other authorities without permission, sharing those images on social media could also be considered a felony resulting in a fine up to 30,000 euros.
Reform of the Penal Code (Código Penal)
Reforms to the Código Penal include some vague and controversial wording that could have wider implications involving copyright, cyberactivism and online porn. Below we will outline some of the points in question.
Copyright and Downloads
Reform of the Copyright Act was already approved but the new Penal Code reform also covers cases of copyright infringement imposing a penalty of six months to four years in prison for those who, among other things, “facilitate access or localization” of works that are being shared without permission of the owners with the intention of obtaining a direct or indirect financial gain.
Another controversial section refers to those who “intentionally store copies of works” to be aimed at public communication which is a crime. Article 270 mentions imprisonment for those who provide methods or systems to remove anti-copy protection of specific content.
The new Penal Code imposes imprisonment from six months to three years those who, for commercial purposes, manufacture, import, put into circulation, design, produce, adapt or perform to facilitate the removal or circumvention of any technical device that was used to protect computer programs or any other works.
Revenge Porn & Child Pornography
The new Penal Code imposes penalties for revenge porn and child pornography. Under Article 197 terms of incarceration for revenge porn range from three months to one year. Article 189 contains new wording regarding the definition of child pornography referring to any material whether real or simulated whose protagonist “seems to be a minor” except in cases where they are proven to have been eighteen years or older at the time of depiction. It also explains that “accessing a sexually explicit website containing content that appears to be a minor may be grounds for arrest and trial.”
Together with the Citizen Safety Act, the new Penal Code will also criminalize online activism and organizing imposing sentences between three months to one year to those who “emit slogans or messages”, “incite any offense of disorderly conduct,” incuding “disturbing the public peace.”
Distribution or public dissemination through any medium, of messages or slogans that incite the commission of any offense of disorderly conduct under Article 557 of the Penal Code, or serve to reinforce the decision to carry them out shall be punished with a fine of three to twelve months or imprisonment from three months to a year.
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, Partido Popular and PSOE reached an agreement to amend the criminal code on terrorism which was also approved yesterday in Congress. The law again contains some vague language which leaves room for interpretation.
The new law uses a broad definition of “terrorism”: Among other things, cybercrime is now considered a terrorist act if the goal is to disrupt and/or disturb the public peace or cause a state of terror. For example, an attack on a Ministry website will now be a terrorist attack.
Viewing web pages with content targeted for or deemed as “suitable for terrorists” in a habitual manner can carry a penalty of two to five years in prison, but the law does not specify what is “habitual” or which websites are being targeted.
By expanding the definition of terrorism, it also expands what can be considered “glorifying terrorism” which can include for example tweeting certain content.
Glorification and public justification of crimes under Articles 572-577 or those who participated in its execution or performance of acts involving disrepute, contempt or humiliation of victims of terrorist offenses or their families, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to three years and a fine of twelve to eighteen months.
Paying for technological services could now be considered collaborating with terrorists.
Shall be punished with imprisonment from five to ten years and fined eighteen to twenty four months which takes place, soliciting or facilitating any act of collaboration with the activities or purposes of an organization, group or terrorist element, or commit any of the offenses covered by this chapter. In particular acts of collaboration of information or surveillance of individuals, […] the provision of technology services, and any other equivalent form of cooperation or assistance to the activities of organizations or terrorist groups, groups or individuals for the preceding paragraph.
Blocking content: The judge may order any service provider (search engines, etc.) to remove links to illegal content related to terrorism.
If the facts were committed through services or content accessible through the Internet or electronic communications services, the judge or court may order the removal of content or illicit services. Alternatively, you can order the service providers to withdraw illegal content, the search engines to abolish links pointing to them and providers of electronic communications services to prevent access to illegal content or services provided if they fulfill the following assumptions: a) When the measure is proportionate to the gravity of the facts and relevant information and necessary to prevent its spread. b) When it exclusively or predominantly diffuses the contents to which are referred to in the previous paragraphs.
Essentially, Spanish citizens should throw their computers out the windows, smash their hard drives to bits and never log on to the internet ever again. Forget about public organizing and any press freedoms that previously existed will be sharply curtailed once the new trifecta of insanely repressive laws goes into effect this coming July.
Anas Qdeh, 21, had no idea that waving the Palestinian flag and flashing the V sign is a crime for which he will be shot by the Israeli Occupation forces (IOF) which fired explosive bullets directly at his legs while he was with scores of citizens about 10 meters away from the security fence separating Khan Younis from 1948 occupied lands.
We will never give up on our land
Qdeh told the PIC reporter: “On Friday March 20, I headed to our land east of al-Sanati in Greater Abasan where many youths gather every Friday to stress that this is our land and that we will never give up on it even if Israel isolated it.
The IOF imposed a buffer zone adjacent to the security fence along the borderline with the Gaza Strip stretching for distances ranging from 300-700 meters deep into the Strip and shoots whoever enters it.
Qdeh clarified the circumstances of his injury saying: “One of my friends wanted to take a picture of me waving the Palestinian flag with the V sign while we were in our land which the IOF is preventing us from reaching in Greater Abasan east of Khan Younis. However, the IOF soldiers started shooting at us and I was hit with an explosive bullet.”
The bullet hit one of the youth’s legs, and the shrapnel scattered to hit his other leg and his cousin Fawzi Qdeh who was nearby. Anas lied on the ground profusely bleeding before he was rushed to hospital to be urgently treated.
His cousin Fawzi Qdeh, 23, said with a smile drawn on his face that a piece of shrapnel is still lodged in his left shoulder and doctors told him that it is difficult to extract it at this stage.
He clarified that he was rearing his goats in al-Santai lush fields, and when he saw the youths gathering and chanting he joined them to see what was going on and to take photos.
Every Friday, scores of Palestinians spontaneously gather near the security fence waving flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans.
RAMALLAH – Israeli forces briefly detained the governor of the Ramallah and al-Bireh district, Laila Ghannam, at the entrance of Nabi Saleh village in the northern Ramallah district on Saturday.
Soldiers reportedly threatened the governor of “direct targeting” if she continues to participate in the weekly march organized by the popular committee against settlements and the separation wall in Nabi Saleh.
Ghannam said “we will not be frightened of detention even if we are directly targeted; we will take part in the weekly march and will not be prevented from exercising our rights on our land.”
Ghannam was detained in a similar incident in February last year while travelling from Jericho to Ramallah.
She said then that her detention was a political message from the Israeli government to PA leaders that Israel wants to impose its authority in every way possible.
Earlier this month, a local activist committee reported that 11 Palestinians were injured during the weekly march when Israeli forces shot one Palestinian with live fire and beat ten others.
Three activists were also reportedly detained by Israeli forces during the march.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice called on Israel to stop construction of the separation wall within the occupied West Bank.
When completed, 85 percent of the wall will run inside the West Bank.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
Photo of Nabi Saleh girl injured by Israeli occupation forces during weekly demonstration on March 21, 2015, by International Solidarity Movement.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces conducted military training exercises in the Ramallah district earlier this week, according to Israeli media.
The Israeli force’s Territorial Brigade allegedly raided the town of Birzeit, just outside the central West Bank city of Ramallah, in what was reported by Israeli news source Haaretz as “preparation for a possible escalation on the ground.”
The forces engaged in a variety of potential scenarios including confronting violent mass demonstrations, shooting attacks, and use of live fire by members of Palestinian security forces.
While Haaretz reported the exercise was planned with the intention to cause “relatively little disruption to the routine of Palestinian life,” the account included a training exercise in the home of a Birzeit University college student, whose house was searched during the night while he stood in his pajamas with an Israeli soldier.
An Israeli army spokeswoman did not have any immediate information about the training, but told Ma’an she would look into recent military training activity in the area.
Birzeit is in Area A, falling under full control of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli forces repeatedly enter Area A despite their obligation by the Oslo Accords not to do so, most often in military raids launched on a near nightly basis to detain Palestinians.
Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din reported that Israeli forces have upheld the practice of using populated Palestinian areas for Israeli military drills since at least 2007.
The group filed a complaint against the Israeli Military Advocate General’s Corps in 2013, arguing that such military exercises “sow fear and panic and violate the security and dignity of the residents,” particularly because exercises are often not announced to Palestinian locals in advance, and thus it is not always clear to nearby residents that these are mere drills.
Legal Advisor for the West Bank declared in February 2014 that military training exercises were no longer authorized to be held in Palestinian villages without giving prior notification to the civilian population, however the rights group continues to criticize the practice.
An 800-page independent report commissioned by the US-friendly Colombian government and the radical left rebel group FARC found that US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.
The report was part of a broader historical analysis meant to establish the “causes and violence aggravators” of the 50-year-long conflict between the government and rebels that’s presently being negotiated to an end. As Colombia Reports (3/23/15) would spell out:
In his report, the historian [Renan Vega] cited one 2004 case in the central Colombian town of Melgar where 53 underage girls were sexually abused by nearby stationed military contractors “who moreover filmed [the abuse] and sold the films as pornographic material.”
According to Colombia’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo, the victims of the sexual abuse practices were forced to flee the region after their families received death threats.
Other Americans stationed at the Tolemaida Air Base allegedly committed similar crimes, but possibly also never saw a day in court due to an immunity arrangement for American soldiers and military contractors agreed by Washington and Bogota.
One case that has called most attention in Colombian media was that of a 12-year-old who in 2007 was raped by a US Army sergeant and a former US military officer who was working in Melgar as a military contractor.
Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and subsequently raped inside the military base by US sergeant Michael J. Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz.
However, prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were subsequently flown out of the country.
Thus far, however, these explosive claims seem to have received zero coverage in the general US press, despite having been reported on Venezuela’s Telesur (3/23/15), the British tabloid Daily Mail (3/24/15) and Russian RT (3/25/15).
But why? These aren’t fringe claims, nor can the government of American ally Colombia be dismissed as a peddler of Bolivarian propaganda. Indeed, the Miami Herald (9/3/09) documented the case of US Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz in 2009:
The US government has made little effort to investigate a US Army sergeant and a Mexican civil contractor implicated in Colombia in the raping of a 12-year-old girl in August 2007, according to an El Nuevo Herald investigation.
The suspects, Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor César Ruiz, were taken out of Colombia under diplomatic immunity, and do not face criminal charges in the United States in the rape in a room at Colombia’s Germán Olano Air Force Base in Melgar, 62 miles west of Bogotá.
So why no coverage? Certainly one of Washington’s stanchest Latin American allies co-authoring a blistering report about systemic US military child rape of a civilian population should be of note–if for no other reason than, as the report lays out, it undermined American military efforts to stop drug trafficking and fight leftist rebels:
However, prosecution officials were not allowed to arrest the suspected child rapists who were subsequently flown out of the country.
The case has caused major indignation among Colombians for years….
The special envoy will possibly have to deal with the role of the US military and its members in the alleged victimization of Colombians.
Yet here we are, over 72 hours since the Colombian and foreign press first reported on the allegations, and there’s a virtual media blackout in America over the case. Nothing on CNN, nothing on MSNBC, nothing in the New York Times or Miami Herald. Nothing in Huffington Post. Nothing in Fusion or Vice. Why?
As UK authorities and NATO officials stress the importance of clamping down on “false Russian” narratives in the media, perhaps our own media could stop providing a shining example as to why such anti-Western narratives are so often the only outlet for certain ugly truths.
It seems that a day rarely passes without news of a new atrocity committed by an increasingly notorious terrorist group. And, without fail, this news is accompanied by an increase in U.S. military interventions around the world.
While for many Americans, supporting intervention may come from a laudable sentiment – the desire to ‘do something’ in the face of widespread suffering – the situation on the ground is always more complicated than it appears, with various powerful interests intersecting. Now, under the guise of counterterrorism efforts – the U.S. military’s alibi of choice since 9/11 – the Pentagon is spreading its ever-expanding footprint throughout the African continent despite the understandably lackluster welcome they are receiving from many ordinary Africans on the ground.
The African front
Just as the specter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has led President Obama to continue indefinitely bombing the Middle East, “terrorism concerns” in Africa are leading to an ever greater American military presence on this otherwise neglected continent. Boko Haram and other radical Islamist groups are wreaking havoc in multiple African countries, taking advantage of states’ lack of resources, corruption or general ineptitude. The Nigerian terrorist group, which recently declared its allegiance to ISIS, now reportedly controls a territory roughly the size of Costa Rica, commands 4,000 to 6,000 well-equipped fighters, and is relentlessly pushing outwards in the region.
Much of this military ‘pivot to Africa’ has taken place under the auspices of the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM. Brought to life by renowned warmonger Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 and authorized by President George W. Bush the following year, AFRICOM aims to “build defense capabilities, […] advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity, according to their vague mission statement. The neoconservative founders should leave no doubt as to AFRICOM’s true motives, however: further military intervention, “national building”, and gaining a hold on Africa’s immensely valuable natural resources.
While Washington initially expected African countries to jump at the opportunity to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, outbidding each other for the contract, only Liberia offered to host a new base. Even close allies of the United States such as Nigeria and South Africa expressed their strong opposition to AFRICOM, with many claiming that the Pentagon’s new offensive is more about mineral and oil interests than peacekeeping or anti-terrorism activities. In the end, AFRICOM announced it would remain headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany for the “foreseeable future”.
America’s favorite dictator
The closest the U.S. has gotten to achieving Rumsfeld’s dream of occupying Africa is AFRICOM’s Camp Lemonnier drone base in the small East African country of Djibouti. Though poor in natural resources, what Djibouti offers is a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, north of anarchic Somalia and across from the Arabian Peninsula. Djibouti’s coastline is also among the most valuable for maritime commerce, bordering both the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
An impoverished country run by aging autocrat Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (or ‘IOG’) since 1999, Djibouti has based its economy around selling its strategic position to the highest bidder. So far, this seems to be the United States, who signed a 20-year lease on Camp Lemonnier in May 2014 at the cost of $63 million a year, plus an additional $7 million per year for “development aid”. However, IOG has additionally courted the Chinese, who are increasingly present in East Africa, even suggesting that Beijing construct their own military base in his small country. Playing one great power off another has not only allowed IOG and his clique to enrich themselves, it has also reinforced his position as dictator-in-residence, as the United States would not risk political instability in a country hosting its 4,000 troops and an undisclosed number of Predator drones.
The tragic but all too typical outcome of America’s military presence in Djibouti is that the population is even worse off. On one hand, civilians have even less hope of ever moving towards greater democracy and accountability from their government as IOG entrenches his position with backing from his powerful allies. Even if its GDP doubled in the last decade, 74% of Djibouti’s population still live on less than $3 a day, lack access to drinking water and are subject to grueling human rights abuses.
On the other, they have to fear the consequences of these allies’ military presence in their country. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a May 2014 suicide attack in the country’s capital, which killed a Western soldier and wounded 11 others. It was the first suicide bombing in Djibouti’s history and the terrorist group vowed others would follow. Furthermore, according to the UK website Drone Wars, there have been at least five drone crashes in Djibouti in the past five years and it goes without saying that the Djibouti population has not been asked how they feel about foreign drones circling overhead.
Boko Haram’s recent allegiance to ISIS will only increase the potential justifications for the Pentagon to extend its reach across the African continent but the Djibouti experience should remind us that military deployments only embroil the United States into further quagmires, make Washington dependent on questionable strongmen, and worsens the situation of the population on the ground.
Sonny Okello is a writer and social entrepreneur based in Uganda.
Topeka, KS — Drivers as well as their passengers in Topeka Kansas will soon be subject to a new policy requiring everyone to put their hands up during police stops.
Police say they are implementing this policy because “we all want to go home to our families, and this makes it safer for us to approach vehicles to gain that compliance. It gives us a chance to survive these encounters.”
However, the implications regarding this practice are horrid, and many residents are up in arms about being forced to be up in arms.
“Every day somebody’s getting shot by a police officer, and it’s like ‘oh my goodness, will I be next?’, or will I be okay?” said one resident.
Local officers are citing the three tragic shooting deaths of officers in a two year period as the reasoning behind this policy.
“As we all know, we’ve lost three officers in less than 2 years and as a result of that we’ve had to take a hard look at the way we’re conducting business, particularly as it relates to car stops.” said TPD School Resource Officer Matt McClimans.
While this policy may seem like it has good intentions, nearly every aspect associated with it is tyrannical.
First of all, this “policy” was not approved by the taxpayers. No citizens got to vote on its implementation, and it is going to be enforced with potentially deadly force.
Secondly, it treats ALL parties stopped by police as criminals.
One resident summed it up perfectly by saying, “Make us feel safe, not automatically make us feel like criminals.”
“To put my hands up, I mean, I just can’t see how people are not offended by that,” said one resident.
“I think that is too aggressive, and unnecessary, and I don’t agree with it,” said another.
“Police and community interactions are tough enough as it is and the more demands, the tougher it’s going to be, and the more problems you’re going to have,” explained a resident.
Besides treating everyone they come in contact with as a criminal, forcing people to put their hands up creates a slew of other problems as well.
How would someone hold the police accountable by filming their own interactions if they are forced to raise their hands? All too often innocent people are vindicated after being beaten and assaulted by police, only because a cell phone was recording. This would end that.
Imagine a situation in which someone tries to point their phone out of the windows while they attempt to raise their hands, the end result would not be pretty if officers mistook the phone for a gun.
What if a passenger in the vehicle is paralyzed, or temporarily disabled and they cannot raise their hands? Is this an immediate death sentence?
Finally, what about all the people who have been shot by police despite having their hands up? Looking through our archives here at the Free Thought Project, we can see that holding one’s hands up, most assuredly does not protect you from being shot by cops.
The bottom line is, while the deaths of these three officers are certainly tragic, treating every person stopped by police as a criminal is also tragic.
How about looking at WHY police are stopping people and look to reduce those interactions. Do the police really need to pull people over, en masse, for victimless crimes, such as seat belt violations?
Instead of treating everyone like criminals, why don’t police stop acting as strong arms for the state’s revenue collection racket?
British state ‘involved in mass murder on British soil, colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in 80 deaths between 1972 and 1978′
The state was involved in mass murder on British soil, a lawyer has told a coroner’s court.
The security forces colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in 80 deaths between July 1972 and June 1978 in Northern Ireland’s “murder triangle” in counties Armagh and Tyrone, Leslie Thomas QC said.
He said many were carried out by the Glenanne Gang of gunmen with the alleged involvement of soldiers and police officers.
Mr Thomas said it could take a year to hear inquests and compared the task to that of investigating the Hillsborough football disaster.
“If what we say is right this is the biggest involvement of state agents in mass murder on British soil,” he said.
He added: “We say that what the families of the bereaved want, quite simply can be put in a few words: they want the truth, they want the truth to come out, they want justice.”
Mr Thomas was addressing a preliminary hearing in Belfast of two inquests involving a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) bombing at the Step Inn in Keady in Co Armagh in 1976 during which Catholics Elizabeth McDonald, 38, and Gerard McGleenan, 22, died.
He said the same weapons were used in many of the Glenanne murders and the killers adopted the same modus operandi, accused the authorities of state-sponsored terrorism and claimed one individual involved in killing Ms McDonald should have been dealt with sooner.
He said: “The murder of Betty McDonald could have been avoided, could have been avoided had that individual been taken off the street earlier on or the weapons been taken off the street earlier on, or there had not been the collusion amongst state agents in covering up earlier murders then in terms of Betty McDonald’s right to life we say she may be still here today, living long into life with her husband.”
The UVF gang operated out of farms in Armagh and Tyrone in the mid 1970s when the Troubles were at their worst.
Lawyers for the victims have insisted only a public inquiry or an inquest covering all the deaths can get to the truth of the collusion claims. Senior coroner John Leckey said he was constrained by the resources available to his office.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) Historical Enquiries Team (HET) has found “indisputable evidence” of security force collusion in the group.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has declined to be represented at the inquest. No submission has been made to her seeking a public inquiry but Mr Thomas said the McDonald family was not surprised she allegedly did not want to be involved.
He added: “This is the biggest case of state collusion in mass murder of innocent individuals. This is a state murdering its own, you cannot get bigger than that, and therefore while one sees and understands and looks at what is happening in Hillsborough, if what we say has occurred on, lets face it, British soil, why should that not be investigated?
“British security agents being involved in deaths of British citizens, it does not get worse than that.”
Mother-of-three Ms McDonald and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) footballer Mr McGleenan were killed when a no-warning loyalist bomb detonated outside the Step Inn pub and nearby houses in August 1976. Twenty-five other people were injured.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC ordered the new inquest.
Mr Thomas acknowledged there had been convictions in some of the other killings he said were linked, but he added a narrow criminal investigation was not enough.
He said across the cases there had been a repetition of similar failings by the investigating authorities, a lack of criminal convictions, the killings happened in close proximity to each other, and created similar victims while pursuing similar modus operandi.
He added the deaths involved a similar group of individuals involved in a number of attacks.
“Many of those responsible were either serving or former members of the security forces. There were close ballistic links between the victims, the weapons used in many of the killings which originated within the Ulster Defence Regiment (a branch of the army recruited in Northern Ireland).”
He quoted the HET report: “Despite the obvious pattern and linkages between these offences, only cursory efforts have been made to investigate further.
“No determined efforts were made to investigate them in a meaningful fashion.
“This (Step Inn) bombing could have been prevented and should have been detected.”
Mr Thomas said precedents for a linked series of inquests were given by that into the deaths of Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko and Azelle Rodney, who was allegedly shot dead by Met Police.
He told Mr Leckey: “I can connect and join the dots in relation to various individuals who were named here to various atrocities, various bombings, various shootings, various matters and I can make the link on various weapons, various ballistics.
“This document enables me to tie up individuals.”
Harrisburg, PA– Hummelstown police Officer, Lisa J. Mearkle was charged with criminal homicide on Tuesday in the shooting death of 59-year-old David Kassick on February 2nd.
Mearkle shot Kassick as he laid face down on the ground in the snow, unarmed, during a routine traffic stop gone awry.
Mearkle had attempted to pull Kassick over for an expired inspection sticker, but the situation escalated when Kassick attempted to flee from the officer.
Eventually Mearkle caught up to the motorist close to his sister’s home where he was staying, but Kassick got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. As he was attempting to run away, he was incapacitated by the officer’s taser which she held in her left hand. With her right hand, she unnecessarily pulled out her service gun and shot the unarmed man twice in the back as he lay face-down on the ground.
The 36-year-old officer claims that she shot the unarmed man because he would not show his hands and she was concerned he may have been reaching in his jacket for a weapon, but the recording from the deployed taser paints a different picture.
District Attorney Ed Marsico has stated that it appeared from the recording that Kassick was simply trying to remove the stun gun probes from his back before his life was taken.
“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground, furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle,” the arrest affidavit reads.
A syringe was found near his body, and there were unspecified drugs as well as alcohol in his system when he died. His family has admitted that he has struggled with addiction, a personal problem which should not have cost him his life.
“Mr. Kassick is now dead as a result of a traffic stop, a routine traffic stop,” one of the family’s attorneys, Christopher Slusser, told the press. “He should not be dead. He should not have died as a result of that traffic stop. And the manner in which he was shot — you can infer from that what you will.”
Mearkle is currently free on $250,000 bail. She faces potential charges ranging from misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter to felony first-degree murder depending on what the prosecution decides when she is formally arraigned.
Dallas, Texas – Texas State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) is once again in the spotlight after submitting yet another Orwellian proposal, H.B. 985.
Villalba first raised the ire of civil libertarians by proposing a bill, H.B. 2006, which would have eliminated the religious exemption for vaccination, essentially creating a forced government vaccination program without exception.
More recently, Villalba was thrust into the national spotlight when he proposed H.B. 2918, which would usurp citizens of the ability to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. The bill would negate the people’s ability to create an accurate and impartial record of police interactions by restricting citizens from filming within 25 feet of an officer.
Now with H.B. 985, Villalba intends to give school officials the authority to force psychological screenings of students that teachers and staff diagnose as having mental health issues.
Once the process is set in motion by school officials, parents would be forced to take their child to a mental health professional within 30 days, under threat of suspension of the child from school.
“ …the requirement that the parent or guardian, before the expiration of the 30-day period, to avoid suspension of the student under this section, take the student to the nearest local mental health authority or a physician specializing in psychiatry to receive a mental health screening and a certificate of medical examination for mental illness, as described by Section 533.03522(c), Health and Safety Code, that contains the examining physician’s opinion that the student is not a danger to self or others.”
While under suspension the child would still receive an education, but they would be sent to an “alternative school.”
School administrators would be required under the law to provide the student’s name, address, and information regarding the complaint to the local mental health authorities and the police department upon verification of the complaint.
(i) A school counselor or a principal who receives notice
under. Subsection (b) about a student who subsequently is subject to
a notice of intent to suspend under Subsection (g) shall:
(1) provide the student’s name and address and
information concerning the conduct or statement that led to the
notice of intent to suspend to:
(A) the school district police department, if the
school counselor or principal is employed by a school district and
the district has a police department;
(B) the police department of the municipality in
which the school is located or, if the school is not in a
municipality, the sheriff of the county in which the school is
(C) the local mental health authority nearest the
Teachers have enough on their academic plates without them being forced to become armchair psychologists in the classroom.
Also, it is highly inappropriate and dangerous for unqualified teachers to play the role of child psychiatrists. Unless they’ve had special training and are certified to diagnose the disorders, it can also be illegal.
We are already witnessing the damage caused by parents believing teachers who think that every child who acts out in their classroom has ADHD. It’s called The Ritalin Explosion.
The idea that students’ personal information would be submitted to mental health facilities and police departments for complaints initiated and investigated by only school officials also causes serious concern.
Is it really necessary to criminalize kids based upon a teacher’s unprofessional assessment of a kids mental health? And what about the student that is mentally healthy, but simply defiant?
Perhaps rather than attempting to legislate away this perceived problem by criminalizing “problem” children, there is a better way. Villalba would have been better served by using his position to help create a program to build sustainable bridges of communication between parents and administrators that assist in identifying and combating mental health problems in students.
Instead, like so many tyrants before him, Villalba tries to solve complex problems using the force of the state.