Sex offenders are the new lepers. She fitted him with a GPS bracelet and drove him to the 88th Street bridge. "At least we could check on him," she said. "We could keep trying to find him a place. I'm sorry to say it, but it was the best we had to offer." On the fourth night, he cut off his monitor and fled.
community Service means Business!
3 May 2008
As gas and food prices rise, so does scrutiny of industry profits. But "food and energy companies have learned a lot since the 1970s about how to deal with public indignation," writes George Anders. In 1980, "Congress hit the energy industry with a windfall profits tax" that lasted until 1988. While Congress is holding hearings now, oil executives "are better at deflecting attention from their own companies, arguing that state-owned, foreign oil companies control most of the world's reserves, and that financial speculators" drive price fluctuations. As they prepare to announce their first-quarter 2008 earnings, Exxon Mobil executives are "hammering out possible responses to questions ... about the sheer size of the company's profit." The largest U.S. ethanol producer, Archer Daniels Midland, is holding conference calls decrying the "misguided attacks on biofuels," to "avoid being portrayed as the villain in rising farm-product prices." Oil companies "have hired plenty of lobbyists and supported trade groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute. ... Food companies may soon find themselves redoubling similar efforts of their own."
Anti-Drug Task Force Funding Leads to Police Corruption and Destruction of Lives
Posted April 29, 2008
In early March, a federally-funded narcotics task force struggling to increase its fiscal support carried out a crime sweep in 41 states. The sweep resulted in 4,200 arrests, with police seizing large amounts of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. Why a massive raid? Was it the aim of the task force to eliminate street narcotics in the name of a drug-free society? Nope. The cops were merely trying to protect their bottom line.
The operation, called the "Byrne Blitz," was carried out, mostly, to show the importance of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program. Byrne grants fund more than 4,000 police officers and prosecutors that support 750 drug enforcement task forces in 50 states. Fifty-six Attorneys-General joined twelve law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, to lead the charge for increased funding and gather support on Capitol Hill.The program's funds were drastically reduced by Congress in 2008 to $170 million--more than two-thirds of its 2007 funding and significantly lower than its 2002 budget of nearly $900 million.
The Byrne grant program has its critics, including the White House whose officials were quoted in the New York Times as saying that the program has not demonstrated results. I agree with the White House. In fact, I would take it a step further -- the Byrne program should not be funded at all. Dozens of major scandals exist, showing the pitfalls of the program that has clearly wasted billions of dollars and perpetuated racial disparities, police corruption, and civil rights abuses.
The most notorious example occurred in 1999 in Tulia, TX. Residents of this sleepy Texas town felt a mini version of a "Byrne Blitz" when 46 people were scooped up and arrested in a sting operation funded by the Byrne program. Tom Coleman, an undercover cop, conducted an 18-month, racially motivated sting that eventually earned him the "Outstanding Lawman of the Year" award from the Attorney General of Texas. The drug bust incarcerated almost 15 percent of the black population in Tulia, sentencing them to a total of 750 years in prison. Coleman was eventually discredited and found guilty of perjury. He was sentenced to 10 years probation. Thirty five of those arrested by Coleman were pardoned in 2003 by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a $5 million settlement from an eventual civil suit was awarded to those arrested in the Texas sting.
In 2002, a report issued by the ACLU of Texas named 17 scandals involving Byrne-funded, anti-drug forces in Texas. The tainted cases were rife with instances of falsifying government records, fabricating evidence and other abuses of power. Recent scandals in other states include the misuse of millions of dollars in federal grant money in Kentucky and Massachusetts, and false convictions based on police perjury in Missouri. The list goes on with additional abuses in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The Byrne grant program has been criticized for wasting tax dollars and failing to reduce crime. Several leading conservative groups, such as the American Conservative Union and Citizens Against Government Waste, have called on Congress to completely eliminate the Byrne program because it has been proven to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources.
The original intent of the Byrne program was to provide financial support to state and local governments to make communities safe and improve criminal justice systems. This surely is not the case, based on its history of corruption and the destruction of human lives. In this struggling economy, misguided policies from the federal government need to be eliminated, not supported.
Anthony Papa is author of 15 To Life: How I Painted my Way to Freedom, and a communications specialist for Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org).
Faced with chronic budget woes, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is taking aim at what some call "multiple municipal madness" — the large number of individual towns and school districts in the state. He's threatening to cut off funds to some towns if they don't merge with their neighbors to save money.
On May 7, 2008, more than one thousand grandparents and other relatives will gather at the U.S. Capitol for the Third National GrandRally for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children to expand public awareness of the important role they are playing for children who have become temporarily or permanently parentless. The GrandRally is a call for help to families, friends, community groups, state and national organizations, government agencies and elected officials.
Yesterday, Vermont's Lt. Governor and Senate President said the state needs to begin investigating why antipsychotics are being used so much in that state's children.
"Shumlin [Senate President] said the state needs to get active in stopping the sole reliance on antipsychotic medications for treatment of children and teenagers, just as law enforcement has cracked down on the use of these drugs for recreational use.
"'It should shock us all that we as a state have allowed and accepted that we are using powerful psychotic drugs on our children at an alarming rate,' said Shumlin, a Democrat from Windham County."
In a six-month period last year, the state's insurance program spent over $10 million on antipsychotics for people aged under 18, and about 6,200 kids and teens under 18 are being prescribed at least one psych med.
While the U.S. economy has been slowing, lobbyists have been making more than ever. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, "businesses, labor unions, governments and other interests spent a record $2.79 billion to lobby Washington in 2007, up 7.7 percent or $200 million in spending the year before." The automotive industry spent a new high of $70.3 million lobbying Congress in 2007; a 19.6% increase over 2006. The change was due in large part to efforts to oppose the enactment of higher fuel efficiency standards. General Motors was responsible for over $14 million in lobbying expenditures, while Ford spent $7.2 million, followed by Toyota with $5.9 million. But the auto industry was not the biggest spender. Trade groups like AARP and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, topped it. And GM came in fifth in spending by corporations, trailing General Electric, ExxonMobil, AT&T and Amgen. Center for Responsive Politics executive director Sheila Krumholz said, "At a time when our economy is contracting, Washington's lobbying industry has been expanding. Lobbying seems to be a recession-proof industry. In some respects, interests seek even more from our government when the economy slows."
If you've ever watched that episode of House where the good doctor nurses his hangover by hooking himself up to an IV drip and said to yourself "I wish I could do that," you're in luck. Now in Japan, even people who aren't wisecracking M.D.s can get an IV drip pick-me-up at Tenteki10. Located in swanky Ebisu, Tokyo, the IV drip cafe features walk-in service with bags of fluids starting at $20 a pop. Their menu is quite varied.
The cheapest option, the Basic Pack, contains a proprietary blend of saline solution and Vitamins B6, B12 and C. For a couple thousand yen more, a user can add on a combination of nine other drip bags, with options like Red Pack for an energy lift, Diet Pack for a metabolism boost and Placenta Pack for "rejuvenation."
The cafe is operated by a subsidiary of a medical clinic, but is unsurprisingly not covered by Japan's national health insurance. A doctor at Tenteki10 calls the IV drip service "preventive medicine" and stresses that it's an option for people to "raise their awareness of daily health management on their own." Right. As if anyone would go to an IV drip bar and then decide to exercise, eat right and get enough sleep. [Japan Today via DVICE]
2 May 2008
Americans have been borrowing aggressively to keep up with the rising cost of living. But with credit tightening for mortgages and credit cards, this may no longer be an option for many poor consumers. An economist says the credit crisis is a story of two different kinds of households.
Federal regulators are taking a stab at reining in "unfair and deceptive" bank tactics.
Three federal agencies have issued a proposed rule that would ban consumer-unfriendly
credit card issuer practices like double-cycle billing and unfair interest rate hikes.
Some unpopular bank overdraft fee policies would also be banned...MORE
Money for prisons, cuts for schools
The Florida Times-Union
May 1, 2008
Money for prisons, cuts for schools
by RON LITTLEPAGE
Millions of dollars for prisons, sure.
Money for schools, not so much.
The lock-'em-up Florida Legislature is set to approve a budget that includes $305 million to build three new prisons.
At the same time, spending for public schools would be cut by $332 million.
Hello. It's cheaper to educate the state's children - which leads to a good job and a stable life - than it is to put a criminal behind bars...MORE
1 May 2008
The earnings gap between the rich and the poor is widening in Canada, with incomes among recent immigrants showing especially dramatic declines in recent years, according to sweeping new census data. Earnings among the richest fifth of Canadians grew 16.4 per cent between 1980 and 2005 while the poorest fifth of the population saw earnings tumble 20.6 per cent over the 25-year time period, Statistics Canada said in its 2006 census release on income and earnings. Earnings among people in the middle didn't budge.
The Vodafone Foundation and the United Nations Foundation released a new
report on innovative uses of mobile technology by NGOs working to
achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. The report identifies
emerging trends in "mobile activism" through 11 case studies, and
highlights the results of a global survey of NGO usage of mobile technology.
Here's a taste of some of the findings from three of the case studies:
Cell-Life, a non-governmental organization based in Cape Town, South
Africa, created its "Aftercare" program to work with the public health
system and its health workers to provide home-based care for HIV/AIDS
patients receiving Anti-Retroviral Treatments.
Each Aftercare worker is assigned to monitor 15 to 20 patients. The
worker visits the patient in his or her home, and in a one on one
session discusses the patient's current treatment. Using their mobile
phones for data capture,
Aftercare workers record information about patient medical status, drug
adherence, and other factors that may affect a patient's ART therapy.
Aftercare workers then relay this information via text message to a
central Cell-Life database.
The data sent via text message reaches the Cell-Life server, where a
care manager uses a web-based system to access and monitor the incoming
The manager can also respond to Aftercare workers'
questions and provide supplemental information to improve patient care.
The information collected not only facilitates individual patient care,
but is also used to build a database of information on the severity and
prevalence of the South African AIDS epidemic in these regions.
While the UN tackles the global food crisis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour reminds us that marginalized groups must not be left out any efforts made, and the equality of food distribution and analysis of community needs must be ensured:
"More fundamentally, and for the more medium and longer term, the underlying inequalities and inabilities to access food must be addressed by a comprehensive solution. . . When we focus on those most in need, we must include not only the poorest but also those that are particularly vulnerable to discrimination on any other grounds, including gender, ethnicity, or disability."
Cost of Insurance Outpacing Income, Study Finds
Americans who get health insurance for their families through their jobs have seen their premiums increase ten times faster than their income in recent years, a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the report, Squeezed: How Costs for Insuring Families Are Outpacing Income (12 pages, PDF), found that, nationwide, the amount employees pay for family coverage increased nearly 30 percent from 2001 to 2005, while family policyholders' income increased just 3 percent. The report also found that the proportion of insurance premiums workers pay for family coverage remained constant at about 24 percent during that period, while the dollar amount that workers contribute increased by nearly $2,500.
According to the report, which was released to coincide with Cover the Uninsured Week, the number of private-sector employers nationwide who offered health insurance benefits to their employees fell by 30,000 from 2001 to 2005, with 4.1 million fewer people working for such employers. Meanwhile, the number of Americans with private health insurance fell nearly 2.4 million — or 6 percent — during the same period. According to the latest Census Bureau data, 47 million Americans do not have any health insurance.
30 April 2008
- Accelerate away slowly and avoid harsh braking - both use more fuel, estimated to be about 30% less with smooth driving
- Avoid using your air conditioner as much as possible - it can increase your consumption by 10%
- Keep to the speed limit - apart from it being the law it is also cheaper
- Avoid using a roof-rack or box or if you are on holiday take the box off when you arrive
- Make sure your tires are at the correct pressure: remember to check them when the car is cold, that is before not during a journey
- Don't sit and idle your car. When you start up move off immediately, don't wait for the car to "heat up". If you are driving smoothly it will do so no problem.
- Take out any unnecessary things from your car: the heavier the load the more fuel you use
- It is really worth shopping around for the cheapest local petrol/gas. It could save you as much as £100 a year.
- Avoid taking short trips - walk instead or take public transport, it is better for you and better for the environment
- Plan your journey to avoid delays such as traffic jams and road-works and avoid getting lost!
The next time you get in your vehicle you might want to consider the environmental impacts and start thinking about public transit. Consider the facts below:
- From 2000 to 2002, the number of recorded high-ozone days increased 18.5 percent.
- A regular rush-hour driver wastes an average of 99 gallons of gasoline each year.
- Drivers in one-third of U.S. cities spend more than 40 hours a year in stopped or slow-moving traffic.
- The average annual cost of the time lost in rush hour traffic is $1,160 per person.
- Transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada, accounting for about 25% of Canada's total emissions in 1997.
- In 2004, New Jersey had 600,000 more registered vehicles than drivers.
- In 2000, Canadian consumers spent 36 percent of retail spending on motor vehicles, gasoline, parts and services.
- American families spend 18 percent of their household budgets on transportation, making it the second largest household expenditure after housing (2004).
- The annual cost of driving a single-occupant vehicle is between $4,826 (for a small car) and $9,685 (for a large car), depending upon mileage. The annual average cost for public transportation for one adult ranges from $200 to $2,000, depending upon services used.
- In Canada, the annual average amount of money needed to own and operate a car is approximately 20 percent of average household income (over $9000/yr).
- Public transportation is twice as fuel-efficient as private automobiles, sport-utility vehicles, and light trucks.
- From 1985 to 2001, the percentage of people driving to work alone increased by 5.8 percent to represent 78.2 percent of all means of commuting.
- From 1985-2001, the percentage of carpooling declined by 4.4 percent and public transportation declined by 0.4 percent.
- In rush hour, one 40-foot bus can take the place of 21 cars.
- The National Safety Council (U.S.) estimates that riding the bus is over 170 times safer than an automobile.
- If one in ten Americans regularly used transit, reliance on foreign oil could decline by more than 40 percent.
- If one in five Americans used transit daily, carbon monoxide pollution would decrease by more than all the emissions from the entire chemical manufacturing industry and all metal processing plants in the U.S.
- Americans living in transit-intensive areas save $22 billion each year by using public transportation
- Public transportation generates 95% less carbon monoxide than private vehicles.
- Public transportation saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline, which is equivalent to the energy used to heat, cool, and operate one-fourth of all American homes annually.
29 April 2008
28 April 2008
Racism can be traced back to Western Europe, the heartland of the ideology of the superiority of the White man over the other races. One of the earliest prominent racist advocate was the Frenchman Gobineau, who thought that the superior human ought to have a white skin color, blue eyes and white hair. He taught that people of color were inferior. The German "philosopher" Hegel claimed that Africa, the Black continent, didn't have any history at all. Kant, the other great German "philosopher," suggested that Blacks represent the degeneration of human kind. That is why he assigns or parcels them out a lower rung in his anthropological stargazing. Adolph Hitler, jealous, angry, envious, and repudiated famously refused to hand over the Gold medal to the great U.S. athlete Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, because he had publicly mortified the Nazi regime by outperforming German athletes. In his book, "My Fight" Hitler wrote that humans with blue eyes, white skin and hair, were superior to others and were masters. All these racists never offered any objective evidence for their assertions. These claims have never been substantiated; they are mot based on facts, historical scholarship, or values. Rather, they are merely grounded on wishful thinking, figments of imagination, and trumped up stories, in most cases to justify and rationale plunder, enslavement, colonization, and privilege.
413-pound Broderick Lloyd Laswell was arrested for robbing and murdering Randy Walker and setting Walker's trailer home on fire, and has been kept in an Arkansas jail cell awaiting a capital trial. Eight months later, he's down to 308 pounds, but he's not grateful for the diet, and has sued for "hot meals" and more consistent portions. [AP/Arkansas Online, Apr. 27; Northwest Arkansas Morning News, Apr. 25 via ABA blog] Needless to say, the blogosphere isn't impressed.
27 April 2008
"Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona's Prisons and Jails" by Caroline Isaacs and Mathew Lowen. AFSC Arizona
The report is the first attempt to catalog the use and impacts of solitary confinement for adults and juveniles in the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections and the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail. The report is part of the national AFSC StopMax Campaign
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