Wednesday, 26 November 2014

U. S. Commission on Civil Rights Issues Statement on Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by bipartisan majority vote today issued the following statement upon the completion of the work of the grand jury and the State of Missouri's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of teenager Michael Brown.

We understand the disappointment and anger that many in Ferguson feel with regard to the decision of the grand jury not to return an indictment in the shooting death of Michael Brown. But our nation's commitment to the rule of law requires that the decision must be afforded our respect and we must abide by the decision. However, this does not mean that inquiries into the deeper issues of inequality and racial disparities raised by members of the African American community in St. Louis County and others in the aftermath of the shooting should end.

Conditions which deny individuals or groups equal protection under the law and which deny valuable opportunities for improvement are not the American way. The Commission applauds the citizens' work to educate the country about the tensions between communities and law enforcement that have long caused great loss. Although the grand jury has completed its work, the Commission encourages the continued work of citizens and community organizations to address these issues. We also note the ongoing, in-depth investigation of this matter by the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the issues of civil rights and police use of force is continuing. The DOJ investigation has been endorsed by this Commission.

As President Obama remarked, "In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear." The Commission has long championed reforms that would combat these tensions and implement more just and effective policing. In its 1981 report Guarding the Guardians and the 2000 update Revisiting Guarding the Guardians, the Commission raised concerns about law enforcement practices that deny equal protection and opportunity under the law to minority communities. Those members called on lawmakers and civic leaders to enact reforms that increase police accountability and reduce incidents of violence or injustice. We now call on lawmakers to revisit the themes in those 1981 and 2000 reports to review the need for independent community oversight of their law enforcement entities.

Just a few days ago, the Commission's Advisory Committee in Missouri voted to investigate the issue of interactions in Missouri between law enforcement and communities of color, particularly those interactions that involve the use of force. The Committee will take testimony from police, government officials, community members and experts on community and police interactions. It intends to hear directly from Missouri residents who have been affected by police use of excessive force. It will also examine current federal legislation related to discrimination on the basis of race in the administration of justice and make recommendations regarding their findings.

We fully endorse the Missouri Advisory Committee's approach. We especially support the notion of Missourians looking into the situation within their own communities. There is nothing more valuable than neighbors seeking to improve their way of life and the way of life of their fellow citizens and communities. We look forward to the results of their investigation. The Commission and its staff will do our part to support them as they proceed.

But while we feel some sympathy with those who feel disappointment with the grand jury decision, we cannot condone the violence and looting that has occurred. At the same time, the actions of a few individuals also cannot override the constitutional rights of citizens to peaceable assembly and protest in the days ahead. We urge restraint by all parties, law enforcement and protesters. We wish to express our condolences to the family of Michael Brown.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters and issuing an annual federal civil rights enforcement report. For information about Commission's reports and meetings, visit

SOURCE U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

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Saturday, 22 November 2014

First Nations Development Institute Applauds Navajo Junk-Food Tax

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, today sent its congratulations and appreciation to the Navajo Nation for passing – again – an increased sales tax on junk food sold on the reservation. 
The added tax on junk food, as well as the elimination of sales taxes on healthy foods, were the key legislative priorities of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA).  Both bills – together called the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 – were passed on January 30, 2014, but only the elimination of sales taxes on healthy foods survived and was signed into law. 

The first time the junk-food tax passed, it was vetoed by the Navajo Nation president.  But after the Navajo Nation Council again passed the added tax last week, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly today signed the legislation. With today's signing, both bills will now be law on the Navajo Nation. Now the Navajo Nation has become the first in the country on two fronts: 1) the first to eliminate a tax on local fruits, vegetables and water, aiming to increase access to fresh and healthy foods and, 2) passed a tax on junk food, including sugary beverages sold on the reservation, with revenue aimed at supporting health and wellness programs across the Navajo reservation. 

First Nations is happy to have supported DCAA in its successful efforts. 

"It has taken a long time, but we applaud the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance and appreciate its persistence, patience and great effort at getting these passed and signed, in what we believe to be the first special junk-food tax in both the U.S. and Indian Country, which makes it a trailblazing precedent as we attempt to address the root causes of diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease that are particularly rampant on reservations and in other Native American communities," said First Nations President Michael E. Roberts. "We commend DCAA and the Navajo Nation for proactively exploring legislative efforts to combat these detrimental health issues troubling Navajo and other Indian communities."

SOURCE First Nations Development Institute

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Chick-fil-A Suppliers Caught Torturing Animals On Hidden Camera By Mercy For Animals

Chick-fil-A is in hot water over new hidden-camera video exposing workers kicking chickens like footballs and scalding them alive in water at a supplier factory farm and slaughterhouse.

New covert video, recorded by undercover investigators with Mercy For Animals, shows workers carelessly grabbing birds and violently slamming them into transport crates and chickens hastily shackled upside down before having their throats, wings, and chests sliced open while still conscious. Mercy For Animals is now demanding that Chick-fil-A adopt strict new animal welfare standards to prevent future abuse.

Narrated by The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon, the disturbing video footage was taken at a chicken factory farm in Puckett, Mississippi, and a poultry slaughterhouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Both facilities are owned by Chicago-based Koch Foods—a major supplier to Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, the highest-selling quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the country.

Mercy For Animals is now calling on Chick-fil-A to implement meaningful animal welfare requirements for its suppliers, including shifting to slower-growing breeds to prevent obesity-related health problems in birds, providing birds with more space, clean litter, access to natural light, and environmental enrichments, and requiring suppliers to switch to less cruel controlled atmosphere killing (CAK) systems using inert gas to render animals unconscious prior to unloading and slaughter.

In addition to protecting animals from malicious cruelty and violence on factory farms, MFA's proposed animal welfare improvements would prevent animals from being scalded alive in hot water tanks at the slaughterhouse. Shockingly, the USDA estimates that as many as one million birds are scalded alive every year in this country. And despite the fact that poultry make up more than 90 percent of the animals killed for food each year in the U.S., they are excluded from the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, making extreme animal abuse and suffering commonplace at poultry slaughterhouses nationwide.

"Chickens are literally tortured to death before ending up in Chick-fil-A restaurants. They are crowded into filthy sheds, thrown and kicked by workers, and have their throats slit while fully conscious at the slaughterhouse. This is sickening abuse no company with morals should support," said MFA's president, Nathan Runkle. "Chick-fil-A has not only the power, but also the ethical responsibility, to end the worst forms of cruelty to animals in its supply chain."

To view the undercover video, visit SOURCE Mercy For Animals
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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Call for Uber to Fire Emil Michael following "dig up dirt on reporters who run uncomplimentary news stories" suggestion

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Federation of California today called on Uber to fire Senior Vice President Emil Michael, after news reports revealed that Mr. Michael recently suggested at a dinner attended by journalist that the $18 billion corporation should spend a million dollars on an investigation to dig up dirt on reporters who run uncomplimentary news stories.

The target of Emil Michael's proposed smear campaign is Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, who criticized Uber's advertising promotion that promised to pair riders in France with drivers it described as "incredibly hot chicks", linked to a website with models scantily clad in underwear.

It was also recently revealed that Uber violated the privacy of a BuzzFeed News reporter, Johana Bhuiyan, when the corporation's general manager in New York accessed her ride history without her permission.

"Uber's arrogance knows no bounds. Uber's contempt for privacy and a free press begins in its executive suite. The company endangers passengers by evading well-established transportation industry insurance, safety and fare regulations. It runs ads that are an invitation to sexual abuse of female drivers, and it contemplates dirty trick campaigns against those who dare to point out the company's many flaws," stated Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California. "Uber should fire Emil Michael. It's time for Uber to learn the rules of fair play that Americans expect."

This year, Uber hired a stable of lobbyists to fight consumer advocates who were supporting California legislation or PUC regulations that would have required transportation network corporations (TNCs) including Uber to provide adequate liability insurance the moment a driver began searching for a passenger. CFC and other consumer groups withdrew support when the legislation was amended to reduce TNC insurance liability requirements.

The non-profit Consumer Federation of California has fought for consumer rights since 1960.
SOURCE Consumer Federation of California

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Saturday, 8 November 2014

ACLU Awarded $50 Million by Open Society Foundations to End Mass Incarceration

The Open Society Foundations today awarded a grant of $50 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in support of its nationwide campaign to end mass incarceration. The campaign seeks to reform criminal justice policies that have increased incarceration rates dramatically during a period of declining crime —and exacerbated racial disparities. The nation's adult jail and prison population numbers over 2.2 million with one in 100 adults behind bars, the highest incarceration rate in the world. The ACLU intends to cut that number in half by 2020, with the most ambitious effort to end mass incarceration in American history.

"Reducing our nation's prison population by 50 percent may sound like a lofty goal. But Americans are recognizing that we can't arrest our way out of every social problem and, in fact, the overuse of our criminal justice system has been making matters worse," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle now see clearly the disastrous results of the 'tough on crime' politics of the 80s and 90s. The ACLU is partnering with allies across the entire political spectrum to take a new approach and get the work done."

"There are few organizations in the United States in such close alignment with our values and criminal justice reform goals as the ACLU," said Christopher Stone, President of the Open Society Foundations. "We are confident that our support of the already advanced state-level ACLU operations can truly transform thinking about public safety, move progressive and innovative legislation forward, and restore the trust of communities hit hardest by the overuse and abuse of our criminal justice system."

While the ACLU's most impactful work has typically been through litigation, this campaign signals a sea change for an organization with more than one million members and supporters, staffed state-based affiliates, and formidable legal muscle. It will build on the momentum created by state and national advocates, and on the analysis of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that in order to significantly lower prison rates, drug enforcement and sentencing laws should be revised. And, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has strongly endorsed reduced sentences for certain non-violent drug offenses, which would cut average sentences for federal drug offenses by 11 months.

In accepting the grant from OSF, Romero outlined immediate next steps the ACLU will take:
  • Bring transparency to the current crisis by assembling and disclosing state and local data around who is behind bars, for how long, and for what offenses 
  • Select 3 to 5 key states for 2016 action—those with the largest prison populations, most egregious sentencing, and a history of playing a consequential role in the election of the next president
  • Build state capacity in early primary and battleground states such as Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Colorado.
The announcement of increased funding for mass incarceration reform comes just days after a ballot measure – Proposition 47 – passed by an overwhelming 58% majority in California. The measure, which the ACLU aided with a $3.5 million investment, lowers personal drug use and small-scale property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and distributes the criminal justice savings to substance abuse and mental health treatment, anti-truancy programs, and victims' services.  Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 people will likely be eligible for re-sentencing and release from either state prison or county jail.

Former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, Senator Rand Paul and California businessman B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. also supported Prop. 47. The ACLU intends to tap into this type of bipartisan support with its broader campaign against mass incarceration, using this donation as a primer for increased political action on both the state and national level. 

Romero also announced that Alison Holcomb, architect of the ACLU of Washington's marijuana legislation, who directed the statewide campaign to pass it, will serve as the national director of the ACLU Campaign to End Mass Incarceration. Holcomb was also involved in the state legislature's passage of a 911 Good Samaritan drug overdose prevention bill and the launch of Seattle and King County's innovative pre-booking diversion program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). 

"We've had 40 years of widening the criminal justice net too far and have relied too heavily on punishment to address social and health problems," Holcomb said. "We've drained coffers and cut people off from jobs, housing, and family stability – the very things they need to succeed in society."

Romero concludes: "This exceptionally generous grant from the Open Society Foundations allows us and our partners to break the cycle that has destroyed families and devastated communities, by righting this source of injustice and ending mass incarceration."

For more information on ACLU's Campaign to End Mass Incarceration, go to:
SOURCE American Civil Liberties Union

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