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Law and Disorder June 19, 2017


Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Against Philadelphia Motel

Prosecutors have dubbed a Northeast Philadelphia motel the city’s “epicenter of human trafficking.” Recently, a lawsuit was brought against the Roosevelt Motel for the pimping of a teenage girl in one of its rooms for a period of two years. It’s the first lawsuit under a 2014 state law permitting victims of sex traffickers to sue hotels and motels where abuse occurs. The suit was filed on behalf of a 17-year-old girl known as M.B., who was sold into sexual slavery at the Northeast Philadelphia motel at age 14. The lawsuit alleges that she was prohibited from leaving and was forced to commit sex acts with approximately 1,000 men. The hotel is known by the District Attorney as the site of most trafficking investigation. The National Human Trafficking Hotline says that 7.5 thousand human trafficking cases were reported in 2016, including 151 in Pennsylvania and 193 in New Jersey. Almost three-quarters of those involve sex trafficking and nearly a third of sex-trafficking cases occurred in hotels and motels.

Guest – Attorney Nadeem Bezar of the law firm Kline & Specter in Philadelphia. His practice concentrates on medical negligence, catastrophic personal injury, and cases involving child abuse and human trafficking, sexual assault and Title IX violations on college and university campuses.

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Whistle-blower Protections: FBI Director James Comey

Nearly 20 million television viewers tuned in to hear former FBI Director James Comey testify before Congress on June 8, and explain that he recorded his conversations with President Trump because he did not trust him. Despite the Trump administration’s assertions to the contrary, most legal experts say that former FBI Director James Comey’s sharing the memos about his interactions with Donald Trump is perfectly legal. Several whistleblower attorneys are among those asserting that Comey’s handing over memos to a friend to be leaked to the press violated no laws. The information, they say, was neither classified nor secret as a matter of a federal law. And Comey revealed a matter of public interest and had a right to expose these facts anonymously.

Guest – Louis Clark, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Government Accountability Project in Washington, DC. The G.A.P. is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. It litigates whistleblower cases, helps expose wrongdoing to the public, and promotes government and corporate accountability. For four decades, GAP has assisted more than 6,000 whistleblowers.

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Politics, Influence And Journalism: Attorney Dave Saldana

For many, the word Watergate is synonymous with political corruption. The scandal was revealed when five burglars were caught by Washington police in the Democratic National Committee’s office on Jun 17, 1972, and ended with the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Richard Nixon was the first American president who felt compelled to resign because of the severity of the situation. The role of the press was critical in the episode, beginning with the Washington Post’s front page reporting. At first, the role of the television—with the notable exception of CBS, was scant.

The credit of responsible reporting goes largely to Washington Post editor Katherine Graham, and the Co-editor, Ben Bradlee as well as reporters Woodward and Bernstein. They covered the story at great threat to their lives and their families. The president and his staff in the White House made every possible effort to resist and downgrade the true news stories of the reporters. The Nixon staff had threatened the journalists with verbal attacks. It also created the Washington Star to counter the Washington Post and anti-government reporting. Nixon also sought the help of Federal Communication Commission to ban two TV channels in Florida. The presidential administration had devised such plans that the government officials began to avoid meeting Woodward and Bernstein.

Guest – Attorney Dave Saldana is an award-winning journalist and attorney, and longtime member of the National Lawyers Guild.

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Law and Disorder June 12, 2017


FBI Director James Comey Termination Fall Out

President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has many concerned about a possible impending threat to the independence of United States intelligence institutions. Trump’s action represents his most serious violation of political norms to-date. While the president does have the legal authority to fire the FBI director, who serves a 10-year term, it is usually only done under extraordinary circumstances. The administration has said publicly that Comey was fired because he mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. But that stands in stark contrast with the fact that in January Trump asked Comey to remain in his post. Perhaps more germane is that the dismissal comes less than two months after Comey announced in March that he has been overseeing an investigation into whether the Trump campaign and Trump’s associates coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

A few days before Comey’s dismissal, Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo of the NY Times reported that Comey: “asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.” Trump will now be able to appoint a new FBI director who will run the Russia investigation — an investigation that the president has repeatedly complained about. This has drawn comparisons to Richard Nixon’s efforts to cut off Watergate investigations.

Guest – Attorney Mike German a former FBI agent and a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. His work focuses on law enforcement and intelligence oversight and reform. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Mike served as the policy counsel for national security and privacy for the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office. A sixteen-year veteran of federal law enforcement, Mr. German served as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he specialized in domestic terrorism and covert operations.

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JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by Jim Douglass

JFK and the Unspeakable is the first book of 3 on the assassinations of the 1960s. Orbis Books has commissioned author James W. Douglass to write about the murders of JFK, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and his  the third will be on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. The heart of JFK the Unthinkable, is not how Kennedy was killed or how Kennedy became a threat to the systemic war machine, but why DID Kennedy die? Author James Douglass says Kennedy knew that he would die and had the guts to stand up to the system and take the hit. This narrative was lost for decades, obscured by disinformation about Kennedy’s character and the conspiracy of his assassination. One review summarizes Douglass’s book in this way : JFK’s belated effort to turn America from an armed culture of victory to a member of an international peaceful world was shot down in Texas for a reason.

Jim Douglass:

  • John F. Kennedy’s experience in WWII:  He was in the South Pacific, he volunteered. He was on that PT boat.
  • What happened on that PT boat, is that it got split into two by a Japanese destroyer. He lost brothers and friends at that time.  An extraordinary experience being adrift on the ocean warning other PT boats. The experience create a distrust in military authority.
  • He said that he wanted to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter to the winds.
  • As Kennedy said to his friends, “they figured me all wrong.”
  • The Unspeakable: the kind of evil and deceit that seems to go beyond the capacity of words to describe. The midst of war and nuclear arms race, the assassinations of Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcom X that the term was used.
  • JFK’s vision is articulated in the address June 10, 1963, arising from the turnaround of the missile crisis and Bay of Pigs. He wanted to move step by step into a disarmed world.
  • Nikita Khrushchev put that speech all over the Soviet Union.  The Cuban Missile Crisis is a deeply misunderstood part of our history, because it’s usually portrayed as Kennedy going to war with Nikita Khrushchev and beating him.
  • The truth was that Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were in over their heads, the US generals wanted nuclear war, because they had more warheads than the Soviets.
  • Nikita Khrushchev: We now have a common enemy from those pushing us toward war.
  • At that point the Cold War turned upside down because Kennedy and Khrushchev became closer to each other than either was toward their own military power system.
  • Vietnam: Kennedy’s military people would not give him an exit policy. He signed the withdrawal order from Vietnam before he was assassinated.
  • His friends said that he had an obsession with death. It was not an obsession but a real assessment that he was going to die. If you try to turn around a national security state that is dominating the world,
  • and you do so as president of the United States, of course you’re going to die. Kennedy knew that.
  • The book is a story on the deliberate destruction of hope, the vision of change, a turning of this country all of which was happening and had to be stopped. US Agencies killed Dr. Martin Luther King – 1999 Verdict
  • We’re in the same scene right now with Petraeus and McChrystal setting up Obama. They were dictating terms to Obama, unlike Kennedy, he did not face them down.
  • We need to get out ahead of Obama so that he can do something.

Guest – James W. Douglassauthor and a longtime peace activist and writer. James and his wife Shelley are co-founders of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington, and Mary’s House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Birmingham, Alabama.

Law and Disorder June 5, 2017


Reginald Dwayne Betts: Bastards of the Reagan Era

Toni Morrison said, “All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS. Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo.’ We’ve just dirtied the word ‘politics,’ made it sound like it’s unpatriotic or something.” “That all started in the period of state art, when you had the communists and fascists running around doing this poster stuff, and the reaction was ‘No, no, no; there’s only aesthetics.’ My point is that is has to be both: beautiful and political at the same time. I’m not interested in art that is not in the world. And it’s not just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”

Guest – Reginald Dwayne Betts, an award-winning poet. An honors student and class treasurer in high school, at age 16  he and a friend carjacked a man who had fallen asleep in his car. Betts was charged as an adult and spent more than eight years in prison, where he completed high school and began reading and writing poetry.  Betts’s first collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm won the Beatrice Hawley Award, and his memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, received the 2010 NAACP Image Award.  He’s had a Soros Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship and a Ruth Lilly Fellowship. In addition to attending Yale Law school, Betts was appointed by President Obama to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Jewish Voice For Peace: Deadly Exchange:  Ending US–Israel Police Partnerships, Reclaiming Safety

Like the United States, where it’s colonists settled upon, displaced, and controlled the Native American population Israel is also a settler colonialism state. It drove 750,000 Palestinians out when it was just established in 1948 and seized control of the land on the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza  in 1967 and has militarily occupied and controlled the Palestinian population of nearly 2,000,000 there since. Israel’s settler colonialism experience has provided it with valuable lessons and skills ripe for export to other state powers confronted with challenges of control. Despite the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel it has continued it’s illegal defiant and hostile commitment to expansion.

How does it get away with this? Jeff Halpern in his book “War Against the People” has written that “of the 157 countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations virtually all the agreements and protocols Israel has signed with them contain military and security components.”  The government of the United States and Israel have exchange programs that bring together American police, including the New York City police, ICE, the Border Patrol, and the FBI on the US side and soldiers, police and border agents from Israel.  We talk with Ari Wohlfeiler one of the leaders of Jewish Voice for Peace.  JVP has recently launched a campaign called “Deadly Exchange:  Ending US – Israel Police Partnerships, Reclaiming Safety.”  JVP has over 200 online supporters and over 60 chapters.

Guest – Ari Wohlfeiler, Deputy Director of JVP. He’s from Oakland, CA and before coming to JVP, he was the Development Director at Critical Resistance, and has worked extensively with grassroots organizations fighting the prison industrial complex.

 

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Law and Disorder May 29, 2017


President Donald Trump, Foreign Investment And Russian Oligarchs

There has been a huge clamor about Donald Trump’s election campaign getting help from Russia. But so far, no concrete evidence of this has been unearthed and the claim is as yet unsubstantiated. Last week, former FBI director Mueller, was named to head an investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. If this goes wide enough it will probably look into Donald Trump’s economic connections with billionaire Russians. In 2008, Donald Trump Jr said wealthy Russians were the most important investors in his fathers’ businesses. Our guest today, attorney James Henry, and economic investigative reporter, has written that after Donald Trump’s many bankruptcies, he was able to finance his businesses with funds from billionaire Russian oligarchs who had amassed great wealth by stealing Russian natural resources including gold, oil, natural gas and aluminum. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, publicly owned resources were granted by private owners. Some $ 1.3 trillion was taken out of the country and used by these oligarchs in foreign investments, including Trump’s properties. It is there for a possible that an investigation of Donald Trump will show that he violated US laws against racketeering, money laundering, and associated with organized crime figures?

Guest – Attorney James S. Henry, is a leading economist, attorney, consultant, and investigative journalist, who has written and spoken widely on the problems of tax justice and development finance. He can be found on Twitter at @submergingmkt. In the not-for-profit sector, Mr Henry has served as Senior Fellow, Columbia University Center for Sustainable Investment, where he has taught a graduate level workshop on Haiti and Banking for the Poor in the School for International and Public Affairs; Senior Advisor and global board member, Tax Justice Network; founder and steering committee member, TJN-USA; and Interim Chairman, Global Alliance for Tax Justice, a coalition of 81 NGOs in 37 countries.

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Ray McGovern: Leaked Not Hacked; US Deep State v.Trump

Former FBI director Robert Mueller has been appointed to investigate the allegation that Russia colluded with Donald trumps campaign in order to get him elected. While there is no concrete evidence of this, allegation is taken for good coin in the major media.  Powerful elements within the state apparatus – the FBI, CIA, NSA, – have been pursuing what has been called a “soft coup” against Trump using tactics from former FBI director J Edgar Hoover’s playbook. These include links that put the White House on the defensive; providing the imagery of criminality (without proof) ; and getting the rest of the political establishment and the media to turn on the administration. Donald Trump ran for office putting forward his position that United States should reach a better understanding with Russia.  This has been challenged by what has been referred to as the deep state, that is, the intelligence organizations in the military industrial complex. New York state Senator Charles Schumer said last month that if you mess with them, “the intelligence agencies have six ways from Sunday to get you.” Our guest, Ray McGovern, has written that “President Trump has entered into a high-stakes gamble in confronting the deep state and it’s media allies over the allegation of his colluding with Russia.”

Guest – Ray McGovern was a high-ranking CIA analyst for 27 years. His expertise was Russia and he had one on one briefings daily with President George Bush. He broke with the government under George W. Bush over the cooked intelligence used to rationalize America’s illegal war of aggression against Iraq and helped form the organization Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  His group issued a memorandum to President Obama which demonstrated that the Russians did not hack into the computers of the Democratic Party or Hillary Clinton and did not therefore influence the American election.  http://raymcgovern.com/

Law and Disorder May 22, 2017


 

Chicago Gang Intervention Programs: BUILD

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently vowed that the Justice Department has zero tolerance for gang violence. “If you are a gang member, he said, “we will find you,” “We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks, and seize your profits. We will not concede a single block or a street corner to your vicious tactics.” President Trump tweeted his approval of Sessions comments, saying “I promised to get tough and we are!” The administration’s efforts to crack down on gangs will mean more arrests and lengthy incarceration for young persons with little attention being paid to alternatives to detention and programs that will offer productive and meaningful choices.

In Chicago, where gang violence has received a great deal of media attention, one community-based organization has been working in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods to stem violence before it interferes with young peoples’ potential. In 1969 BUILD began working with gang-affiliated teenagers and now serves nearly 3,000 youth each year offering targeted services designed to prevent kids from joining gangs and also working with gang-involved youth to develop alternatives to this lifestyle. BUILD also works with young persons who are in contact with the justice system to provide alternatives to detention and assist with successful re-entry.

Guest – Martin Anguiano, BUILD’s Manager of Intervention Services . Martin has worked at BUILD since 1994. He oversees BUILD services to young people involved in, or at risk for involvement in, gangs and the juvenile justice system. He is trained in trauma-informed practices and certified in peace circle keeping. Martin holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Attorney Jim Lafferty On Trump Administration

Donald Trump has been in office now for over 100 days.  His cabinet and closest advisers constitute a group of generals, multimillionaires, and billionaires. It is the richest cabinet in American history.  His closest advisers and members of his family, an organizational set up that more resembles the mafia than past executive office inhabitants. His predecessor, Barack Obama, was a disappointment to many people who supported him eight years ago. He presided over US wars in the Middle East. His government overthrew the government of Libya,  the Ukraine, and Honduras. Domestically he failed to prosecute those guilty of torture, which is illegal under American and International law. He failed to close the offshore prison in Guantánamo, Cuba. He failed to prosecute the bankers who crashed the American economy in 2008.  He deported more people than any other president in American history. Now, with Donald Trump in office, people are asking the question, is he qualitatively different than Obama.  What is the continuity and what is the discontinuity between the Obama and Trump administrations?

Guest – Los Angeles National Lawyers Guild attorney Jim Lafferty. Jim participated as a lawyer during the civil rights movement in Mississippi.  He is a former executive director of the  National Lawyers Guild. He was a central leader in the movement against the war in Vietnam. For the last 30 years he was the head of theLos Angeles National Lawyers Guild, growing it into one of the most active an influential chapters in the United States.

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Lawyers You’ll Like: Paul Gattone

Arizona has long been Ground Zero for immigration controversies. It’s a state with one of the harshest immigration laws in the country, Senate Bill 1070. In the state capitol of Phoenix, immigrant rights groups have dedicated the past two decades to fighting the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for racial profiling, late-night raids and a “tent city” outdoor prison. Arpaio was voted out of office in 2016. But the state still has its share of threats to civil rights.

Guest – Attorney Paul Gattone of Tucson, Arizona. A Chicago native, Paul has spent over two decades in Ariona as a criminal defense attorney at the People’s Law Center and now in private practice. A longtime member of the National Lawyers Guild, Paul’s focus is in advancing and defending civil rights. He and his wife Joy also run a radical bookstore called Revolutionary Grounds.

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Law and Disorder May 8, 2017


Aging Prisoners and the Law Of Parole

The United States of America imprisons a higher proportion of its population than any other country in the world. Today America holds 2.3 million people behind bars. This has been called “mass incarceration.”  Part of the reason for mass incarceration is the system of parole, which many consider to be broken, especially in New York State. The purpose of incarceration is punishment. It is also rehabilitation. And third, it is an opportunity for a person to come to terms with what she did, and gain skills. This is why prisons are called “correctional facilities.” When a person has repaid society for her crime, has been rehabilitated, and does not pose a threat to the community they are supposed to be paroled.  But it actuality, this is not the way it works. In many cases, especially when the applicant for parole had committed a violent crime the sole criteria that the parole board examines is the nature of the crime that was committed. Something that convict cannot change. The latest example is the denial last month of parole to 67 year-old New York Prisoner Judy Clark who has been behind bars for 35 years for her role and driving the getaway car in the bungled 1961 Brinks armored car robbery which left to Nyack New York police officers and then I’m a truck driver dead. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in granting Judy Clark clemency so she would be eligible for parole, said “It was a hard political decision.”

I could hear Jimmy Breslin’s voice saying “she made a mistake – we all do. She learned, she paid the price, she spent her life in a cage, and she is now different. Jesus would pardon her. Who the hell made you better than Jesus? ”  A prominent local police chief Joseph Sinagara commented that “I don’t care what kind of model prisoner she was.”  Ms. Clark’s daughter, Harriet, said she understood the seriousness of the crime but believed the decision by the board was an injustice. “My mother did not kill anyone, and it’s hard for me to understand who is served by making her die in prison, which is what decisions like this eventually amount to.”

Guest – Professor Steven Zeidman is the Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at CUNY School of Law.  A graduate of Duke University School of Law, he is a former staff attorney and supervisor at the Legal Aid Society. Professor Zeidman is a member of American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section Council, and serves on the Board of Directors of Prisoners’ Legal Services and an Advisory Council created to help implement the remedial order in the Floyd v. City of New York stop-and-frisk litigation. He has served on several statewide commissions, including the Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services.

Guest – Laura Whitehorn , a former political prisoner who served 14 years for the distruction  of government property in connection with a 1983 bombing at the US Capitol where no one was injured. She was released in 1999. Laura Whitehorn is a leader in the Release Aging People in Prison Organization and has been active in challenging the New York state parole board’s intransigence.

Check the RAPP Events Page

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Lynne Stewart’s Memorial

Many attended Lynne Stewart’s memorial including Glen Ford, Hon. Charles Barron, Jeff Mackler, Pam Africa, Father Lawrence Lucas, Ralph Schoenman, Jess Sundin, Rev. Allison, Lamis Deek, Sara Flounders, Bob Lederer, Janine Otis Ensemble, Nat Turner – Poet, Atiba Wilson – Drummer, Dr. Patrice Turner and many more. We hear an impassioned speech by Chris Hedges.

Lynne Stewart: A Revolutionary Life Well-Lived – A Biographical Glimpse

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Law and Disorder May 1, 2017


Death Penalty Focus

The state of Arkansas had plans to execute 8 men in 11 days this April, rushing to do so before the expiration date of one of the drugs used for the lethal injections. The executions have been temporarily stayed by several court orders. Arkansas’s unseemly rush has raise anew questions about the efficacy, humanity, cost, and morality of the death penalty.  Statistically, it has an discriminatory impact on non-white, intellectually deficient, and poor people. The United States along with Saudi Arabia and China is one of the few countries in the world still using the death penalty.

Guest – Mike Farrell, actor and activist and the president and founder in 1988 of the San Francisco based organization Death Penalty Focus. DPF views the death penalty as an ineffective, cruel, and inappropriate response to the serious problem of violent crime. The organization provides information to the public, conducts media campaigns and is a resource to lawyers and educators across the country.

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Republicans Propose Medical Malpractice House Bill Limiting Damages Award

The Republicans in the House of Representatives recently introduced a bill to limit medical malpractice lawsuits brought by low income people on Medicaid and elderly people on Medicare. It would do so by limiting the amount they could recover for their pain and suffering caused by, for example, getting infected bedsores in a nursing home, a medication mixup, malnutrition, dehydration, or being the victim of a egregious medical errors such as when a foreign body is left inside a patient. More examples include when a baby’s brain is damaged, or when surgery is performed on the wrong body part.  The bill has the support of the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American Healthcare Association, a trade group for nursing homes.

The bill has several provisions that closely resemble legislation introduced by Tom Price,  President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.  When he was a House member from Georgia, Price, an orthopedic surgeon, championed legislation that would set limits on damages and make it easier for doctors to defend themselves and medical malpractice lawsuits.  For decades, Republicans have charged that there is a medical malpractice lawsuit crisis brought about by frivolous lawsuits.

Guest – Attorney Steven Pegalis, a trial attorney who represents patients and medical malpractice claims.  Attorney Pegalis is the author of the three volume textbook The American Law of Medical Malpractice.  He teaches the subject at New York Law School and is codirector of the New York Law School Health Law and Patient Safety Project.  Attorney Pegalis is the founding partner of Pegalis and Erickson and one of the nations foremost medical malpractice trial attorneys. He has practiced law for over 50 years.

Law and Disorder April 17, 2017


Update:

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US Bombs Syria

Donald Trump made two important promises during his presidential campaign: he vowed to not get involved in the Syrian Civil War where jihadist groups have been trying to overthrow the government of Assad for six years and the second promise he made during his campaign was to better relations with Russia which is a supporter of Assad and a strategic ally. Syria borders Russia to the south and has a warm water Mediterranean port.

Both these promises were broken on April 4, 2017 when President Trump illegally ordered the bombing by 54 Tomahawk missiles of the Shayrat Air Base in eastern Syria. The missile strike violated the United Nations charter, the convention against the use of chemical warfare, and United States law called the War Powers Act, not to mention Article 2 of the US Constitution. In support of his unilateral decision to bomb a sovereign nation with whom the United States is not at war,  President Trump claimed that he was motivated by learning of the horrible death of several children in the farm village of Khan Shaykhun.  The children died of an alleged poison gas attack which Trump claimed was carried out by the Assad government, which denies the charge. Without an impartial objective investigation required by The Chemical Weapons Convention,without going to the United Nations Security Council, and without any evidence, President Trump claimed that sarin, a poisonous nerve gas, was used by the Assad government.

Trump’s former critics who sprung to his defense included Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer, and Republican leaders John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the entire mass media including the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN.  Television reporter Brian Wilson use the word “beautiful” three times to describe the tomahawk missile explosions. Why did Trump reversed his position of not getting involved in the Syrian civil war? Why did he all the sudden take on Russia, to whom he had pledged better relations?

Guest – Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at IPS, working as a writer, activist and analyst on Middle East and UN issues. She is also a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. In 2001 she helped found and remains active with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She works with many anti-war organizations, and writes and speaks widely across the U.S. and around the world as part of the global peace movement. She has served as an informal adviser to several top UN officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

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A Chicago Cop is Accused of Framing 51 People For Murder

Fifty years ago the great comedian Lenny Bruce used to crack that “Chicago is so corrupt it’s thrilling.” It has become known as “the conviction capital of the USA.” Today retired Chicago detective is accused of framing at least 51 people for murder, most of them from Humboldt Park in Chicago, a working class predominately Puerto Rican neighborhood. He was on the force from the 1980s through the early 2000’s. Guevara’s alleged misconduct sent 48 men and one woman to be sentenced to a total of more than 2300 years in prison. Three were acquitted. Five received life sentences. Three were sentenced to death, but spared when in 2003 Governor George Ryan, disturbed by a rash of wrongful convictions, commuted all of the death sentences to life in prison or less. Two men died behind bars.The initial work in uncovering Guevara’s misconduct fell by default to a group of women, mostly working class mothers, aunts, and sisters with limited English and limited familiarity with the law.

As investigative reporter Melissa Segura has written in BuzzFeed, “armed with nothing more than dining room tables full of transcripts, police  reports, and post it notes, marking the cracks in cases against their love ones, together they identified patterns running through Guevara’s cases.” They achieved some victories.  They gave information to civil rights attorneys at the Loevy and Loevy Chicago law firm which helped free Juan Johnson who later went on to receive a record $21 million and a judgment against the city of Chicago because of Guevara’s misconduct. So far six men have had their convictions overturned, 12 others have been released, 29 say they were framed remade in prison. Detective Guevara’s Witnesses by Melissa Segura

Guest – Attorney Tara Thompson is the founder of the Exoneration Project at Loevy and Loevy. Following law school Tara worked as an associate in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office, where she represented clients in a variety of litigation matters, including a significant commitment to pro bono representation. She left Mayer Brown in 2006 to clerk for Judge Elaine Bucklo of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After completing her clerkship, she joined Loevy & Loevy in 2007.

Guest – Attorney Anand Swaminathan, is litigating the civil damage cases arising from the work of Guevara’s frame ups and which have demonstrated a pattern and practice of police misconduct. Since joining the firm, Anand has worked on a broad range of constitutional and civil rights cases, including wrongful convictions, the denial of medical care to inmates and detainees in jails and prisons, and retaliation for exercising free speech rights. Anand also works extensively on False Claims Act litigation, in which he represents whistle-blowers alleging military and other government contractor fraud, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, construction/contractor (MBE/DBE) fraud, bid-rigging, and tax fraud. Anand also represents whistleblowers in financial fraud cases under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and in complex fraud cases under other federal and state statutes.

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Carl Messineo Consent Decrees and Policing in the U.S.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department has sought to reform police practices considered discriminatory by using a statutory tool little known by the public and even less well understood. So-called “consent decrees” were established after the Los Angeles Rodney King riots, and allow the Department’s Civil Rights Division to sue local police forces that have been found to have “a pattern and practice” of using excessive force or violating individuals’ rights.

The DOJ launches an investigation into a police department’s operations, frequently after a high-profile incident – such as the 2014 shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. If the feds find that the departments operate with an ongoing pattern of abuse, they sue, in essence forcing the law enforcement groups to settle the cases and undergo a change to their culture to a degree deemed sufficient by the court and the DOJ.

Some of the more recent agreements, like those with the Baltimore and Ferguson Police Departments, are better known to the public, but others are not and many haven’t yet seen a resolution. Out of 19 investigations carried out since 2010, six are considered “ongoing.”

Jeff Sessions said in 2008 that “One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees. Consent decrees have a profound effect on our legal system as they constitute an end run around the democratic process.” The new Attorney General has threatened to do away with them.

Guest – Attorney Carl Messineo, co-founder of The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a nonprofit progressive legal organization based in Washington DC. The organization focuses on cases regarding free speech and dissent, domestic spying and surveillance, police misconduct, government transparency, and educating the public about their rights. In the “Founders Message,” the organization states, “As we look to the future, the Partnership will continue to be at the forefront of legal struggle, using the law to defend and create room for the peoples’ movement for progressive social change.”

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Law and Disorder April 10, 2017


 

The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey

April 24 marks the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide. Until recently, most Americans never heard of the genocide and rarely hear the individual stories of those who survived atrocities at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Journalist Dawn Mackeen came to learn the personal account of her grandfather Stepan Miskjian after reading notebooks that he had kept a century ago chronicling his story. She then embarked on a multi-year journey, using her research skills to scour newspapers and archives around the globe to recreate, and then actually retrace, his steps taken 100 years earlier through Turkey and Syria.

She has written an eye-opening book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey. It recounts not only her grandfather’s experience, but those of the approximately 1.5 million Armenians who were tortured and killed in the genocide that began in 1915. As many Armenian genocide survivors did, Dawn’s grandfather escaped just before the members of his caravan with were massacred by disguising himself as an Arab.

Guest – Dawn Mackeen is an award-winning journalist who spent nearly a decade researching and writing her grandfather’s story. Previously, she covered health and social issues for Salon, SmartMoney, and Newsday, where her investigative series on assisted living facilities’ poor care helped prompt legislative reform. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Sunday Times Magazine (London), the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Southern California.

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International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility

At the request of its member states, the United Nations economic and social commission for Western Asia commissioned a report on Israeli practices towards the Palestinian people and the question of apartheid. Apartheid is a crime against humanity under international law. The report found Israel in violation of three international laws. One of them, the  1998 Rome statute of the international criminal court states that “the crime of apartheid means inhumane acts committed in the context of AN institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The commission report concluded that Israel operates in an Apartheid regime against Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian refugees and exiles.The commission made recommendations to dismantle the apartheid regime. In response, Israel and its ally the United States of America had to report rejected and caused the resignation of the head of the commission.

We speak with two anti- apartheid activists. Both have just returned from an important conference on Israel held at the University of Cork, in Cork Ireland.  The conference had twice been prevented by pro Israeli forces.

Guest – Richard Falk is the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Guest – Author Joel Kovel, politician, academic, and eco-socialist. He has lectured in psychiatry, anthropology, political science and communication studies. He has published many books including the controversial Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.

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Partisan Gerrymandering In Wisconsin

In a backlash to the 2008 Obama election victory, two years later, in 2010, the Republican Party of Wisconsin won both houses of the legislature and the governorships. The Republicans then redrew the legislative map making it impossible for the Democratic Party to capture a majority of the legislative seats at any time in the decade,  no matter how many votes they get.  This is called partisan gerrymandering, the process of drawing distorted legislative districts to undermine democracy.  Now, in Wisconsin, instead of voters choosing their legislatures, the legislatures choose the voters. As a consequence people in Wisconsin have had their great university system harmed, right to work laws have been enacted wrecking their unions, and there has been substantial environmental damage.

Guest – Professor William “Bill” Whitford who recently retired as a Law Professor at the University of Wisconsin. He is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against partisan gerrymandering. His cases is likely to be heard in the Supreme Court. In the case Whitford v Gill 12, Wisconsin voters are challenging the constitutionality of the states Republican drawn legislative maps. Heretofore, the Supreme Court has been unwilling to get involved.  This case may change that and restore a measure of democracy to a broken system  in Wisconsin, and later elsewhere.

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Law and Disorder April 3, 2017


Trial Judge Rules Against 69 Year Old Palestinian Activist Rasmea Odeh

In 1969, when she was a 21 year old college student in Ramallah in the Israeli occupied territories on the West Bank,  Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman, was arrested for killing two Israeli University students with a bomb placed in a supermarket.  She confessed to the crime and served 10 years in prison, getting out in a prisoner swap. She came to United States 20 years ago, obtained citizenship, and settled in Chicago as a community organizer of immigrant Arab women.  Odeh was criminally charged two years ago by the federal government with “unlawful procurement of naturalization.” In her application, she omitted mention of the crime for which she was convicted in Israel. In her defense, she said that she could not remember, that she had post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being tortured in jail for 25 days and forced to sign a false confession. Her expert witness was not allowed to testify as to the PSTD and the torture.  The trial judge’s ruling on this was overturned by a Federal Court of Appeals. Last week she agreed to a plea arrangement where she would be stripped of her citizenship and deported rather than face a 5 to 7 year prison sentence and indefinite detention by ICE. She is 69 years old and does not know where she will be sent inasmuch as she cannot go home.

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch  had represented Rasmea Odeh. He is a partner at the Peoples Law Office in Chicago and a former legal director at the  Center for Constitutional Rights. After clerking for United States Court of Appeals Judge Otto Kerner, Mr. Deutsch went into private practice, joining People’s Law Office in 1970 where he has represented political activists and victims of police and government civil rights violations. His advocacy has taken him all around the world, including to hearings in the United Nations. He has tried many civil and criminal cases in federal and state courts, and has written and argued numerous appeals, including several in the United States Supreme Court.

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New York City Titanpointe National Security Agency Protest

There is a massive 550 foot tall gray granite and cement NSA spying hub hidden in plain sight in a windowless skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. At noon on April 15 an action is planned by a group called the Quiet American. It is an arts and politics journal based in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. They will perform a rite of exorcism on the building in order to, as their press release states, “to metaphysically purge the edifice of the data it hoards and to invoke a less maniacal version of citizen-government relations.”

The building is located at 33 Thomas Street where the action will take place. It is a windowless monolith that people say is “creepy as hell” and “a monument to the bottomless fear that locks us in permanent war”. The building was designed to withstand a nuclear assault and sustain its employees working there for two weeks.

Guest –  Eli Smith, a musician and activist from Brooklyn, who has helped organize the event. Eli Smith is also a folklorist and music producer who organizes the annual “Brooklyn Folk Festival”, a huge weekend music gathering now in its ninth year, and coming up at the end of April.

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Lawsuit Forces EPA Head To Release More Emails Exposing Fossil Fuel Ties

Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, was recently sued by the Center for Media and Democracy to force the release of emails exposing ties with fossil fuel backers and the Oklahoma Office of Attorney General.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), seeks an emergency injunction to prevent Pruitt from destroying any documents relevant to the group’s open records requests before his confirmation hearing. Since 2015, CMD filed seven records requests with Pruitt’s office seeking communications with Koch Industries and other coal, oil, and gas corporations as well as the corporate-funded Republican Attorney General’s Association.

Pruitt has yet to turn over a single document, despite acknowledging that his office has 3,000 emails and other documents relevant to CMD’s initial request. The Oklahoma Open Records Act provides that “the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government . . . so they may efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

The act also mandates that a public body “must provide prompt, reasonable access to its records.” With Pruitt seeking confirmation to become EPA administrator, these public records are essential for the U.S. Senate to do its job.

“There is no valid legal justification for the emails we received last night not being released prior to Pruitt’s confirmation vote other than to evade public scrutiny,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel for CMD. “There are hundreds of emails between the AG’s office, Devon Energy, and other polluters that Senators should have been permitted to review prior to their vote to assess Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.”

Guest – Arn Pearson, General Counsel and Policy Advisor from the Center for Media and Democracy. He previously served as the Vice President for Policy and Litigation at Common Cause. Arn has worked for more than 20 years developing federal and state policy and legal strategies around campaign finance reform, government ethics, corporate accountability, and tax reform.

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