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Law and Disorder February 23, 2015


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Palestine Not Recognized As State By U.S. Thus Allowed To Be Sued In Federal Court For Attacks on Israel
  • Michael Ratner: Why Is Obama Trying To Get An AUMF When The U.S. Is Already At War With ISIS? If Passed, The U.S. Under This Act Can Make War Everywhere
  • ICC En Vogue? – Hosts Talk About NBC Drama “Crossing Lines.”

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Pelican Bay Solitary Confinement Case Update

We bring you an update on the Pelican Bay Prison Solitary Confinement Case. As you may recall Pelican Bay Prison had more than 1000 prisoners in long term solitary confinement at 10-20 years or more. The Center for Constitutional Rights and its lead attorney Jules Lobel have been challenging this practice for a number of years since 2012. Recently, the state of California in an effort to blunt the lawsuit has transferred some of the named plaintiffs to other prisons. Their theory, once we’re rid of the plaintiffs maybe we’re rid of the lawsuit.  CCR and Jules Lobel went out to California to argue that this is not a Constitutional practice. That transferring a person from Pelican Bay to another prison in California should not blunt the lawsuit and in fact CCR we should be able to challenge solitary confinement in those prisons as well. The judge agreed and now the CCR case will not just challenge Pelican Bay Prison solitary confinement practices but those in other prisons throughout California.

Attorney Jules Lobel:

  • Because of 3 hunger strikes and our litigation the California prison officials are now instituting reforms. They realize they have to do something.
  • There are over 1000 people in solitary. When we started the case 500 people were there for over 10 years.
  • Because of the reforms they’ve made under pressure from our litigation there are now only 230. Still 230 people for over 10 years is a huge amount.
  • They’re also moving people out not only to general population prisons, but to other solitary units in other prisons. Other SHOES, its called Special Housing Unit.
  • Four of our ten plaintiffs are moving to another SHOE to a place called Tahachapi and the defendants say, they’re no longer part of your case.
  • That’s what the argument was about. The argument was about whether or not you can expand the case beyond Pelican Bay.
  • If you were at Pelican Bay and transferred to another prison, still in solitary, you’re still part of our class.
  • The judge accepted that we can expand the case, rejecting the state’s argument.
  • We bifurcated the trial so we could have a relatively quick trial on Pelican Bay. The fundamental question for Pelican Bay trial is whether keeping people for a prolonged period of time in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay is cruel and unusual punishment.
  • We also have a claim in that way that they are placed there. It violates due process.
  • These guys only get reviews every six years. So, you stay in your cell for six years and then after six years somebody comes and reviews whether you should be kept in solitary.
  • No state in the country has six years. Usually its 30 days, 90 days, six months, maybe at most a year.
  • California unlike most states puts people into solitary simply because they’re a member of a gang or associated with a gang.

Guest – Attorney Jules Lobel, has litigated important issues regarding the application of international law in the U.S. courts. In the late 1980’s, he advised the Nicaraguan government on the development of its first democratic constitution, and has also advised the Burundi government on constitutional law issues.  Professor Lobel is editor of a text on civil rights litigation and of a collection of essays on the U.S. Constitution, A Less Than Perfect Union (Monthly Review Press, 1988). He is author of numerous articles on international law, foreign affairs, and the U.S. Constitution in publications including Yale Law Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, and Virginia Law Review. He is a member of the American Society of International Law.

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Architect’s Human Rights Code of Ethics Petition

In our coverage of psychologists involved with torture continuing to hold their professional licenses to practice we look at a similar concern with licensed architects who design prisons, solitary confinement cells and death chambers. Research has show that the design of a prison can influence many aspects of prisoners lives including recidivism rates. Recently, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary confinement cells and death chambers.

Raphael Sperry:

  • In 2013 when the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture announced that spending more than 15 days in solitary confinement was a human rights violation and we’re aware that people in the United States are routinely held in solitary for years if not decades, and that there had been dozens of supermax prisons that housed thousands of people in those conditions, specially designed for that purpose, that really tipped the scales.
  • That was really shocking to realize the same tools that architects use everyday trying to make the world a better place for people can be used to torture and kill people.
  • The question of what constitutes a torture chamber is complicated. There are many buildings that have been used to house prisoners in solitary confinement that were never designed for that purpose.
  • There are a subset of prisons that are designed for solitary confinement. They’re usually called administrated segregation units.
  • Supermax prisons are the most egregious. There’s no space for people to eat together. There are no tables with seats clustered around them even.
  • The recreation spaces that prisoners have a right to go into for an hour a day, are shrunk down to size that they’re for just one person.
  • You guys are probably familiar with ADX Prison in Florence, the Federal Supermax which is supposed to be the most secure supermax in the United States.
  • In that facility they actually have showers in every cell. The prisoners then actually don’t have to get into the hallway. They might walk by somebody elses’ cell or walk by somebody elses’ cell to get to a shower.
  • The AIA has a code of ethics for members and it already had a statement saying members should uphold human rights in all their professional responsibilities.
  • It’s not directly enforceable. If members set out to design a space intended to kill somebody or to torture them or degrade them which is a human rights violation. AIA is not prepared to take any disciplinary action to someone who does that.
  • We were asking them to simply add a rule that clarified if a member designed a space that is intended for human rights violations specifically execution and prolonged solitary confinement that it would be clear they’re in violation of the code of ethics and then AIA could take disciplinary action that include censure and expelling them from the institute.
  • The National Board of Directors gets to set the ethics code for the whole organization including all the chapters. They took in our petition. They took in all the letters of support we sent in.
  • Then they didn’t communicate with us . . they referred it to an internal group. They never let us know who was on that panel. They sent a brief letter back to me head of the ADPSR saying that they weren’t going to make the change and they were concerned about potential anti-trust violations and how hard it would to enforce.
  • Lastly, they don’t want to restrict their members from designing any particular building type. I just found that to be the worst.
  • To me if you’re going to be a professional and take on the responsibility of protecting public health, safety and welfare every time you put your pencil down then there should be limits to what you do with that specialized knowledge.
  • To us its not a political issue, its a human rights issue and they said they’re an organization that’s for human rights. It didn’t seem right to us that they should pick and choose which human rights they’re ok with and which ones they would restrict.

Guest – Raphael Sperry, president of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), a 32-year old independent non-profit organization. He researches the intersection of architecture and planning with human rights with a special focus on prisons and jails, and advocates for design professionals to play a larger role in supporting human rights in the built environment. He directs ADPSR’s human rights advocacy, including ADPSR’s petition urging the AIA to amend their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct to address buildings that violate human rights. He was the first architect to receive a Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations, hosted jointly by the University of California at Berkeley College of Environmental Design and Berkeley Law School, in 2012. He is an active member of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice and a leader of its subcommittee on sustainability.He holds an M.Arch. from the Yale School of Architecture and a BA summa cum Laude from Harvard University.

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Law and Disorder February 16, 2015


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City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan

In early December of 2014, the Supreme court agreed to hear the case City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan. The case involves San Francisco police officers who reported to a group home to transport Teresa Sheehan, who was known to be mentally ill, to mental health facility. The situation ended with police firing six shots on Sheehan. She survived and filed a lawsuit arguing that officers had a responsibility under federal law to consider her mental disability. The case is not about police criminal liability, this one is about whether police are obligated to take special precautions in using deadly force, and also in entering an individual’s home without a warrant or permission. Read Michael Avery’s observation about details of case.

Attorney Michael Avery:

  • Teresa Sheehan is a woman in her mid-fifties who was living in a group home in San Francisco, a home for people with mental disabilities.
  • Officers came to the house and ended up shooting her five times at point blank range.
  • The case raises some issues for the federal courts in which the lower courts are in disagreement, and the court (Supreme Court) took the case hoping to resolve those disagreements.
  • The police came because the social worker had become concerned with Ms Sheehan, and wanted to send her to a hospital for 72 hours of evaluation and requested the assistance of the police in transporting her to the hospital.
  • Ms. Sheehan on the other hand didn’t want to be taken to the hospital, didn’t want the social worker in her room, did not want the police in her room, she just wanted to be left alone.
  • In the course of asserting her right to be left alone, she threatened the police and the social worker with a knife.
  • The police then ended up breaking through her door. Forcing open her door and when she was standing there with the knife, they tried to pepper spray her. That didn’t seem to have much effect on her and so they shot her five times.
  • Miraculously she survived but now she’s permanently disabled and disfigured. One of the bullets entered the left side of her temple, shattered her eye socket and then exited through her mouth causing serious injuries to her jaw.
  • Officers encounter people with mental disabilities extremely frequently. In large cities and towns in the United States its estimated 1 out every 15 people that the police interact with has some form of mental illness.
  • Officers are trained to try to diffuse the incident, not to threaten the person, to ask open ended questions, to listen to what the person has to say, try to establish some rapport with the person, respect the person’s space and not crowd the person, and at the same allow the incident to go on as long as it has to in order to have a peaceful resolution.
  • Several years ago I wrote an article called Unreasonable Seizures of Unreasonable People making the point that officers ought to be held to standard that requires them to follow their own training.
  • When I saw this case was in the courts, I volunteered to provide some assistance to the lawyers in connection with the brief they were writing.
  • There are two claims in the case. One is a claim under the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which is the part that says government cannot make unreasonable searches of our home or seizures of our person and the other is a claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • In effect they discriminated against her on the basis of her disability by not following their training and not making the accommodations that they were trained to make for a mentally ill person.
  • Secondly, the argument is, when they forced open the door to her apartment and entered and used deadly force against her, they were not behaving reasonably and that again is based on the same idea it would have been reasonable to follow their training. Frankly, they just threw their training out the window.
  • Oral argument is scheduled for March 23, 2015.

Guest – Civil rights lawyer Michael Avery,  professor at Suffolk University Law School and former president of the National Lawyers Guild from 2003 to 2006. He’s also worked with the National Police Accountability Project.

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Lawyers You’ll Like: David Kairys

David Kairy began his career at the Philadelphia public defender’s office in the late 1960s. Since then, he’s been a leader in effort to fight discrimination and protect individual rights, now he’s regarded as one of the nation’s preeminent civil rights attorneys. David is a professor at the University of Temple Law School, where he teaches civil rights and constitutional law. He has written several books, including Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer, which was published last year.

David Kairys:

  • We were of a number of young firms dedicated to civil rights and representation of progressive groups.
  • The Camden 28, caught in the act of breaking into a Camden, New Jersey draft board and destroying all of the files. This was a Catholic Left action.
  • FBI had informant in the group, who the FBI was paying on an hourly rate. The informant supplied the means to make the action happen.
  • One hundred FBI agents sat around and waited til they destroyed all the files in the office.  Many of the 28 were priests. There were more than 300 draft board raids during Vietnam.
  • Father Michael Doyle said when your government is napalming children, the place you should be is in jail.
  • Father Doyle and I strategized a way to start talking to the FBI informant Bob Hardy and eventually got an affidavit saying that the FBI manufactured this crime.
  • I filed the affidavit and it was on the front page of the New York Times.

Guest – David Kairys, Professor of Law, the first James E. Beasley Chair (2001-07), and one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers. He authored Philadelphia Freedom, Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer and With Liberty and Justice for Some and co-authored the bestselling progressive critique of the law, The Politics of Law, and authored With Liberty and Justice for Some and over 35 articles and book chapters. His columns have appeared in major periodicals, and he has been profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, and Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine. Kairys’s Public Nuisance Theory.

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Law and Disorder December 29, 2014


1082119862 Photo by Pete Souza The White House

U.S. Cuban Foreign Policy Changes Strategy: Normalizing Relations

We’re joined today by attorney Michael Krinsky, a partner in the famous law firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman. This the firm that almost has been from the beginning representing the government of Cuba. We speak with Michael about the dramatic reversal of policy and the recognition by the United States of the Cuban government and the eventual establishment of joint embassies. We also speak about the returning to Cuba of the three remaining anti-terrorist Cuban fighters who have been in American prisons for 16 years. Three men of the Cuban Five. That, plus we discuss the changing of the commercial relationships between the United States and Cuba.

Attorney Michael Kinsky:

  • It was an extraordinary moment. Word got around that Raul Castro was going to talk to the Cuban people on television at Noon, so everyone ran to find a television, including me.
  • I think many people expected Obama to take some minor measures to test the waters perhaps to get things moving.
  • Most people were quite surprised about the tone of his speech and what he said.
  • I happen to be at a conference of US and Cuban scholars, which were talking about US-Cuban relations, that’s where I saw President Castro’s speech. The first thing he said of course was the cuban heroes. The 3 of the remaining Cuban Five and the place broke into pandemonium. People jumped up literally hugging each other. People were crying, then they quieted down and they listened to the next thing.
  • And then when he said President Obama and I have agreed to reestablish normal diplomatic relations. There was silence. Then people half a second later absorbed and again there was a tremendous commotion.
  • People felt a sense of triumph. After 55 years of holding despite the Bay of Pigs, despite the economic blockade, despite the special period when the trade with the Soviet Union collapsed, they had held on. In the end, someone put it, the United States came to us.
  • You could see it in the streets, you could see it in the restaurants, you could see it in the offices. People were happy.
  • They were literally smiling for days afterward.
  • The embargo has been in effect for 54 years. It’s as comprehensive an embargo as this country has ever imposed, as any country has every imposed against any country.
  • It’s not simply the US saying we the United States won’t trade with Cuba. A major part of it is extra-territorial reach. The effort for Cuba to make trade with third countries difficult and impossible.
  • They can’t get US parts for their equipment.
  • They can’t use US dollars for international transactions, which is the currency of international trade.
  • Shipping to Cuba is made extremely difficult because of the US law that says if a ship goes to Cuba it can’t come to the United States for six months.
  • Everyone in Cuba lives on a daily basis what they rightfully call a blockade.
  • A blockade implies an effort to interrupt, disrupt trade between Cuba and a third country.
  • There is nothing there about Cuban products being sold in the United States. It’s all one way.
  • Cubans have developed a lot of innovative medical products that doctors are very excited about.
  • There was nothing in the announcements about regular airplane service between the two countries.
  • (Michael Ratner: The president has the authority to license almost everything, every economic transaction with Cuba at this point)?
  • Right export, import, financial transactions, loans, credits, investments, all of these things are within the president’s licensing authority.
  • The United States did not want a left wing socialist revolution to succeed in the Americas.
  • The theme publicly and internally in the US government, until about 1991, 1992 and then there was a shift. Then for the first time, the United States publicly started talking about the goal of US policy including the blockade was to change the internal character of the Cuban system. The Cuban government.
  • Civil liberties, free elections, free speech – those became for the first time the articulated goals of US policy.
  • Guantanamo Bay used to be a Naval Station for coaling, ships operated on coal then. There was a 99 year lease between a captive Cuban government and the United States.
  • I’m trying to find the right balance between a great deal of enthusiasm and not necessarily skepticism, but caution.
  • It was nice to see the State Department make reference to this, the United States has claims for the nationalization the properties of its companies in Cuba in the early days. Cuba has articulated it has much greater claims against the United States for the blockade and for acts of economic sabotage which have died actually over the years.
  • There are claims on both sides that have been articulated in the past.

Guest – Attorney Michael Krinsky, has been practicing law for forty-five years. For three decades, he has led the Firm’s representation of Cuba and other foreign governments, and their agencies and enterprises, as well as the Firm’s practice in the area of U.S. embargoes and export controls. Mr. Krinsky graduated from the University of Chicago’s College in 1965 and its Law School in 1968. After working with the American Civil Liberties Union in Newark, New Jersey, he joined the Firm in 1971.

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NYPD Unions Respond To Police Shootings, Says Protests At Fault

In the wake of the killing of two NYPD officers, a rift has widened amid police unions and the mayor of New York City. The New York City Police Benevolent Association Officers has suggested that the recent demonstrations against police misconduct and police violence have played a role in the execution style murders. To discuss the rhetoric from the police union and the tabloid media, we’re joined by attorney Jonathan Moore.

Attorney Jonathan Moore:

  • It is a critical moment here in New York City and around the country on the issue of dealing with over aggressive policing and the militarization of police, I think they go hand in hand.
  • We’ve been fighting this battle in New York for at least 15 years going back to the killing of Amadu Diallo and litigated the stop and frisk cases until the end of last year in to this year.
  • Police unions have been an absolute impediment to any reform of the police department in the city of New York over the last several years.
  • The union of that police department doesn’t reflect the membership anymore. The police department is close to being majority minority. Patrick Lynch is the vestiges of the old guard who never saw a police officer who did anything wrong.
  • The overwhelming majority of these protests have been peaceful and law abiding. They have not been about calling for the death of police officers. They’ve been about calling for fair bias-free, constitutional policing.
  • To use the death of these two officers as an attempt to stifle what as you say is growing mass movement, that hasn’t been seen in many years, is unfortunate and should be resisted.
  • I’m glad that people are out there, these are important issues.
  • The daily use of excessive force that goes on in many communities is never registered, never gathered by the police department. That’s a problem.
  • The systemic problem is a culture within the New York City police department that has adopted an us against them mentality.
  • There has to be a cultural change within the police department.
  • In 2011, the police department was doing close to 700 thousand stops and frisks a year. The fear was that if you impeded the stop and frisks in the way they were doing it. We of course they were doing it based on race, and the federal court found that.
  • Their alarmist response was if we stop doing stop and frisk, the crime rate will soar.
  • They did 50 thousand stop and frisks this year, that’s down 650 thousand. That’s because they made a change. They stopped imposing quotas on police officers.
  • By the way, on the pace of doing 50 thousand this year, and crime is still going down.
  • What does that tell you. It tells you for all these years, they were unnecessarily harassing and stopping and frisking, young black men and young Hispanic men, mostly in our communities for no good reason.
  • These unions blindly defend officers when they engage in misconduct and that hurts all police officers, all correction officers.
  • In an organization like the NYPD of 35 thousand sworn officers, there are going to be people who don’t do what they should do. They should be rooted out and removed from the police department.

Guest – Attorney Jonathan Moore, is a civil rights lawyer known for his work in the stop and frisk suit against the city and representing 3 of the 5 wrongly convicted men in the Central Park jogger case in 1989. He is now representing the family of Eric Garner, a father of six who died from a police choke hold.

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Law and Disorder December 8, 2014


Updates:

Michael Ratner: Is Congress’ Decision On Obama’s Plan To Close GTMO Really A Setback As Newspapers Report?

  • Congress was considering whether to allow Guantanamo detainees to be resettled in the United States.
  • That’s something Obama wants to do because so far he’s been unwilling to settle them in other countries.
  • That bill failed and so when we get the NDAA or whatever legislation it will be put in, it will have transfer restrictions of a sort but it will not permit detainees to be transferred to the United States.
  • Obama has had 6 years to make good on his promise that he would close Guantanamo in a year.
  • Guantanamo remains, more than 142 people. More than half 73, have been cleared for release.
  • On January 11, 2015, I urge all of us to get in the streets demonstrate and tell Obama to shut it down.

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Michael Ratner: The Right Livelihood Awards In Stockholm, Sweden

  • I just came back from Stockholm, Sweden where the Right Livelihood Awards, also known as the alternate Nobel Prize are given out annually.
  • Amy Goodman has received such an award. This time there were five awardees.
  • One of whom is Edward Snowden. That was one of the reasons I was there because who are involved in defending protecting whistleblowers were in Stockholm for that award.
  • The awards are not given by the Swedish government. Sweden is not a progressive government. It’s tied with Israel as the 3rd biggest arms dealer in the world.
  • Sweden did recognize that Palestine should be a state.

United Nations Committee May Question U.S. Officials On Handling Of Michael Brown Shooting

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Ferguson: It is Right to Resist, By Any and All Means Necessary

Two weeks after the non-indictment of former officer Darren Wilson over the killing of Michael Brown, protests continue nationwide from classrooms to places of work. Will a genuine movement gain traction in the wake of outrage and defiance to the grand jury decision? A movement coalescing against police violence will need to confront police, and resist the legitimacy of the state writes Glen Ford founder of the Black Agenda Report. He says the people of Ferguson’s mass violations of the curfews and countless decrees of the militarized city, county and state police were, by definition, illegal acts – which is what made the small town a model of resistance.

Glen Ford:

  • Not to belittle all the work people have put into this. There’s been a pent up energy that has been building and I mean for literally decades. We have to compare this explosion as you call it of activism to the period of quietude for decades even as the contradictions that led to Michael Brown’s murder and a multitude of murders kept on becoming more acute.
  • We have to understand that there were forces that were keeping a lid on the explosion, and finally those forces could no longer do so and we see the explosion in 170 or more cities.
  • Black folks have never trusted the police and never had any reason to trust the police. It’s never been about trust its been about power. The power of a community to protect its youth, its sons and daughters from being gunned down on the streets by these police or sucked up into the mass black incarceration machinery.
  • The helplessness has not been something inherent to black folks its because we’ve had a kind of fifth column in our midst that we at Black Agenda Report call the black misleadership class which has engaged in very enthusiastic collaboration with the same people who created this black mass incarceration state.
  • Back in June there was a vote in the house and the senate on a bill that would’ve prevented the Pentagon from transferring its weaponry and all of its militarized gear to local and state police departments.
  • Four out of five Congressional Black Caucus members either voted against that bill or abstained. 32 out of the 40 members, so 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus. I guess its fitting that they stand in for this black misleadership class. They were financing the murder of people like Michael Brown.
  • So, this is our problem, that these are the people that keep the lid on.
  • What should be an ongoing, not simmering distrust, but an ongoing explosion of resistance.
  • All of this started in terms of legislative form with the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration that was part of an omnibus crime bill that was passed in 1968 signed by Lyndon B Johnson which began by transferring massive federal resources to local police departments.
  • It’s been gradual, steady and now institutionalized.
  • This is the movement that does not yet have a name and it doesn’t have a name because its not yet clear about its objectives.
  • The response to this civil rights and black power movement was the mass black incarceration state.
  • Community control of the police and its a very very difficult subject. It was the subject that the Black Panther Party was born to tackle.
  • The community should be empowered to fire police, just like communities are being empowered through their mayor to fire teachers.
  • This movement can’t treat police as legitimate, that is coercive mechanisms of the state.
  • Their police, their security apparatus, their intelligence apparatus has to be seen and opposed as illegitimate.
  • He’s always in a huddle with President Obama (Al Sharpton) and that’s why I call him “king rat.”
  • The real ratting that he does is that he goes across the country and he makes an assessment of who is in opposition to the administration’s policy or mass incarceration order and then goes right back to the commander and chief of the regime and tells him who might be creating trouble and how those troublemakers can be neutralized. That’s the real rat.
  • Mass arrests and provocateurs and such. This is what Sharpton’s really talking about when he talks about the full weight of the president’s office.

Guest – Glen Ford, founder of the Black Agenda Report and many other media forums. Ford was a founding member of the Washington chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ); executive board member of the National Alliance of Third World Journalists (NATWJ); media specialist for the National Minority Purchasing Council; and has spoken at scores of colleges and universities.

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Ohio Republicans Push Law to Keep All Details of Executions Secret

Republican lawmakers in Ohio are rushing through one of the most extreme secrecy bills yet attempted by a death penalty state. It’s called HB 663 and it withhold information on every aspect of the execution process from the public, media and even the courts. Ohio has experienced four botched executions in eight years. The most recent was the 26 minute death of Dennis McGuire in January 2014. An experimental two-drug combination was used and it was reported that Dennis was gasping and fight for breath. Another aspect of HB 663 is that seeks to undermine strict distribution controls that have been placed on foreign companies that manufacture pentobarbital.

Attorney Mike Brickner:

  • They’re really trying to ram through the last few weeks of our lame duck session.
  • I think they want to resume executions here in the state of Ohio in 2015.
  • We’ve had a moratorium on executions since the beginning of 2014 when we had a botched execution of Dennis McGuire and the federal court has been trying to come with new protocol, new drugs that won’t lead to a botched execution.
  • I think the legislators want to move forward with the next scheduled execution in February so they’re trying to push it through as quickly as possible.
  • I think they’re interested in secrecy because of all the controversy that has plagued Ohio executions over the last decades.
  • I think this a natural concern from the government – when something is not going well, they want to hide it from the public.
  • Unfortunately that never really works out well for the government because when you operate in secret, the only things that follow are corruption, abuse, negligence and incompetence.
  • The legislation would shield anyone who really touches the lethal injection process from public records laws.
  • For those medical professionals who advise or assist on the executions, it would prevent the state licensing board from holding them accountable for violating their oath.
  • Unfortunately bad ideas often travel quickly. We have five states with secrecy legislation of some sort in place, we have 15 states that tried to enact secrecy legislation.
  • Compounding pharmacies are smaller companies, often one or two pharmacists. They make small batches of drugs made to order. They’re not regulated in any meaningful way by the FDA.
  • When they make these drugs in small batches, one batch could be more effective or less effective than another batch. When you’re talking about a lethal injection where you need to insure a humane and constitutional way, if you have a drug that’s being used in the lethal injection process that’s not effective, you have a very high chance of that person going through an execution that will violate our constitution.
  • We have to accept that the death penalty does exist in states like Ohio and if we are to have the death penalty then we need to make sure that it complies with our laws and that those who are subjected to the death penalty are not treated inhumanely and in a way that will violate our constitution.
  • I think we can do that while moving toward abolishing the death penalty.

Guest – Attorney Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Ohio. Brickner recently opposed the new bill in front of a committee at the Ohio State legislature. In 2013, Mike co-authored two reports focusing on the intersection of poverty and the criminal justice system. The Outskirts of Hope: How Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities chronicled how courts were illegally imprisoning low-income Ohioans because they could not afford to pay their fines. The report culminated in the Ohio Supreme Court increasing education and training for court personnel and issuing bench cards with clear rules for collecting fines and court costs.  He also co-authored and designed the ACLU’s April 2011 report, Prisons for Profit: A Look at Private Prisons. The report highlights the problems faced by other states who have privatized prisons, including: increased costs, safety problems, a lack of transparency, and increased recidivism.

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Law and Disorder December 1, 2014


Updates:

  • Hosts Discuss Mass Demonstrations In Wake Of Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict

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Mumia Abu Jamal Responds To Grand Jury Not Indicting Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson

We talk today about the wide scale pattern of police violence against people of color in the context of the grand jury decision in St. Louis, Missouri to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old African American. The decision sparked more outrage within the community of Ferguson and launched tens of thousands into the streets in cities across the country. The grand jury is comprised of 12 members and 10 out of the 12 would have to agree to indict. The grand jury had a number of choices, such as first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter. First degree murder would have required evidence that Wilson set out to kill Brown. Second degree murder charges were possible, but this choice was unlikely if jurors decided that Wilson was negligent when he shot Brown, they could have gone with a charge of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Mumia Abu Jamal:

  • When you think back through American history, there are actually few periods where you see this range of protest.
  • You’ll see throughout the 20th century protest. Think about April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and you saw protests all across the country over hundred cities.
  • And look what happened a few hours ago, perhaps a greater range of protest in over 170 cities tells you I think better than anything I can say, that things are very bad indeed for the African American community and their expectation of justice in this system.
  • Think about the weather, people coming out in the dire cold, right, to protest at night. That’s not an easy thing, people don’t do that easily and they do it at considerable risk and some danger.
  • That speaks to the depth of the feeling in their hearts that something is broken in the American justice system.
  • The recent midterm election was the lowest turnout since the 1940s. That says something about American discontent with the political system.
  • It actually reminds me about the demonstrations before the 2003 Iraq War, where all around the world in hundreds of countries you saw demonstrations that were unprecedented.
  • People feel that. Now that can dissipate until a new provocation.
  • This is the time where organizers should be on their p’s and q’s and out there taking phone numbers and taking emails and building lists.
  • To stand up at this moment, the first African American president in America’s history and talk about that people need to observe and respect the rule of law is I think frankly absurd.
  • Barack Hussein Obama was born August 4, 1961. In that year there were about 20 states that made it illegal for a white person to marry a black person.
  • People went to jail for what they called interracial fornication.
  • When you talk about the rule of law, you have to talk about the rule of right and the rule of wrong.
  • To quote John Africa, who said just cause its legal don’t make it right.
  • We live in a country that legalized slavery.
  • Many things are done in the name of law, but they’re wrong, they’re simply wrong.
  • I was reading in the USA Today last week, (I’m little behind in my reading) they said 461 people were killed by police in 2013.
  • This is something that’s systemic in the United States, and the people are trying to draw attention and I don’t think its successful, but its a damn good beginning.

Guest – Mumia Abu-Jamal is a renowned journalist from Philadelphia who has been in prison since 1981 and was on death row since 1983 for allegedly shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. After decades of appeals, he left death row in 2012 but is still facing a life sentence. He is known as the “Voice of the Voiceless” for his award-winning reporting on police/state violence brutality and other social and racial epidemics that plague communities of color in Philadelphia and throughout the world.

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Civil Forfeiture: Federal Government Seizes Property Of Business Owners

In May of 2013, two Internal Revenue Service agents seized the checking account of Carole Hinders and the 32 thousand dollar balance. Hinders was accuses of structuring her deposits to be less than 10 thousand dollars to avoid filing required government reports. This is a tactic often used by drug dealers and other criminals to move money around without detection. However, Carl Hinders owns a Mexican restaurant and her business is cash only. She did explain to the IRS agents that she made deposits almost daily to avoid having thousands of cash on hand. Hinders wasn’t charged with a crime, yet the IRS still seized the money. There are many cases of civil forfeiture similar to Carol’s where the property is taken without proper due process and investigation.

Attorney Larry Salzman:

  • Civil forfeiture is a set of laws that allow government agencies to take your property when they suspect its been involved in crime but they don’t need to charge you with any crime to take that property.
  • One of the incredible things about civil forfeiture is that the agencies that seize your money based on a mere suspicion actually get to keep that money to fund their agencies.
  • That’s true in most states and also for the federal law.
  • Every state is engaged in civil forfeiture. Minnesota had a reform. They no longer use strictly civil forfeiture, they’ll only take your property after you’ve been convicted of a criminal offense.
  • The federal government uses it (civil forfeiture) almost every major agency of the federal government, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, the DHS, ICE.
  • You can’t have both civil forfeiture and an impartial enforcement of the law if the agencies enforcing that law get the money.
  • In federal cases there’s another lack of due process. The federal agencies seize cash like a bank account, the law doesn’t provide any prompt post seizure hearings. So, there’s no right for you to quickly contest the validity of the seizure. You might wait a hear without your money before you get to see a judge.
  • It’s very hard to get it back because it means mounting a full scale defense in state or federal court against well funded prosecutors.
  • There’s that financial incentive, so the government is doing more and more of these civil forfeitures as their budgets are coming under constraint.
  • If local law enforcement involves themselves in a federal forfeiture action, they’ll get paid a bounty by the feds for their participation. That becomes a very meaningful part of police department budgets.
  • That equitable sharing program has ballooned from nothing to something over 450 million dollars a year given to local police departments.
  • We’re seeing it again with another set of clients. We have 3 brothers who own a convenient store distribution business on Long Island, the IRS again took 446 thousand dollars from them.
  • This is a modest business almost all of that money was money that was owed to vendors for inventory. They grabbed their bank account when it was its fullest basically. The allegation again was structuring.
  • There’s not even a civil forfeiture action that’s been filed, that’s a violation of law in itself the government’s committed.
  • Many of the worst aspects of civil forfeiture were ushered in on the premise that they were needed to combat drug trafficking but now we see civil forfeiture being used to treat legitimate small businesses like criminals, just because they’re making frequent cash deposits.

Guest – Attorney Larry Salzman is with the Institute for Justice. He joined the Institute in April 2011 and litigates cutting-edge constitutional cases protecting individual rights, including free speech, property rights, and economic liberties, in federal and state courts. He is originally from San Diego. His commitment to both entrepreneurship and law is reflected in his career prior to joining IJ.  Larry co-founded an ecommerce company with his family in 2000, while attending law school at night, and returned to the business for several years as CEO upon its sale in 2007. During the interim, he was an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, in Sacramento, California, litigating property rights cases in federal and state courts, and served as a clerk to Judge Bohdan A. Futey on the United States Court of Federal Claims. Larry received his law degree in 2002 from the University of San Diego, where he was Assistant Editor of the San Diego Law Review. He received an undergraduate degree in Finance from Arizona State University in 1993.

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Law and Disorder November 24, 2014


Updates:

  • RE/MAX Cashes In On Israel’s Illegal Settlements – Code Pink Calls For RE/MAX Boycott Campaign
  • US Senate Votes Down USA Freedom Act
  • Michael Ratner: President Obama Doesn’t Need Legislation To Stop The NSA, He Can Simply Direct the NSA Not To Collect Meta-Data

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Academic Freedom Case Gains Traction

Since the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees rejected Professor Steven Salaita’s candidacy for a tenured faculty appointment to the American Indian studies program, Salaita has been giving presentations about his case and the importance of academic freedom. Initially we reported here on Law and Disorder that Professor Salaita was un-hired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. Emails within the University revealed under Freedom of Information Act Requests show that it was outside pressure from donors that influenced the University of Illinois Chancellor’s decision to dehire Salaita.

Professor Salaita:

  • My Dad grew up in Jordan, my Mom in Nicaragua. I grew up in West Virginia.
  • I got my undergraduate and Master’s degree from a small regional college in south west Virginia called Radford University and I got my PhD in Native American Studies from the University of Oklahoma.
  • My interest in Native American studies developed from a Native American novel course I took in college. It generated a profound interest in the histories of settlement and dispossession in North America which struck me as similar in important ways to the forms of dispossession that Palestinians have suffered in the Middle East.
  • I submitted my application in October of 2012. I was offered the job in September of 2013. Signed the contract of October of 2013.
  • The contract was countersigned by university officials and it was made formal. At that point it was announced that I had accepted the job.
  • The process was nearly 2 years long from submission of the application to the signing of the contract.
  • Any search process in the humanities or social sciences starts with a search committee of 4-6 people. They’ll look over a candidate’s cover letter. They’ll examine a candidate’s scholarship and they’ll examine that scholarship in detail.
  • Once the search committee has made its selection it has to go to other committees throughout the university.  A committee composed of representatives from the college. In my case the college of liberal arts and sciences.
  • Because I was coming in with tenure I also had to be vetted by external referees, anywhere from 4 to 6. They basically read all of my scholarship. I had to send them all of my books, all of my scholarly articles, my teaching dossier.
  • Given the statements that Israeli leaders have made, “mowing the lawn in Gaza”, “putting the people in Gaza on a diet” and their long standing discourse about demographic threats and a surplus of Palestinians . . . its hard not to think about those statements and debates when Israel carpet bombs an area twice the size of Washington DC land area that’s also home to 1.8 million people – you can’t help but think its a sort of violence informed by something worse than mere military strategy.
  • A right-wing website run by (nominally) Tucker Carlson, the bow-tied gentleman formerly of Crossfire. He’s like he came out of a Republican lab. He wears a bow-tie his name is Tucker.
  • His website the Daily Caller, ended up publishing a standard right wing hit piece. We’ve seen them all. Salaita, his tweets are horrible, blah, blah, blah, and by the way he’s going to start a job at the University of Illinois.
  • Then the local rag in Urbana Champaign, the News Gazette picked up on the Daily Caller story and the controversy gained steam. The next thing I know I’m receiving an unceremonious termination letter from the chancellor.
  • She said she didn’t expect trustee approval so there was no need to show up.
  • They called me uncivil then it morphed into anti-semitic.
  • Uncivil – – It’s a term that’s deeply rooted in colonial violence, that always implies something sinister without ever having to explain its intent or its meaning.
  • It’s a wonderful term for shutting down debate. The entire southern hemisphere was colonized based on notions that they were uncivilized.
  • The support has been phenomenal. Sixteen departments at the University of Illinois have voted no confidence in the chancellor and the board of trustees.
  • I’ve also received support from the Center For Constitutional Rights, the Modern Language Association, a number of trade unions have passed resolutions condemning the university’s decision and demanding my reinstatement.
  • The impulse seems to shut down the debate or discussion before it even begins.
  • First of all we feel that its a matter of great import to the public interest that the university administration has arbitrarily taken an action that has had negative consequences for the reputation of the university and its ability to function normally.
  • As you know the university is undergoing a boycott. It’s normal functions are being disrupted.
  • Support Steven Salaita

Guest – Professor Steven Salaita,  former associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of six books and writes frequently about Arab Americans, Palestine, Indigenous Peoples, and decolonization. His current book project is entitled Images of Arabs and Muslims in the Age of Obama.Steven grew up in Bluefield, Virginia, to a mother from Nicaragua (by way of Palestine) and a father from Madaba, Jordan.  Books by Salaita

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Independent Investigation of APA Ties with Torturers Under Bush Administration

The nation’s largest organization of psychologists is set to conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government’s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration. In 2011 we reported on health professionals being front and center and complicit in the US policy of torture. The torturers relied heavily on medical opinion. Medical professionals provided sanitizing and rationalization for the infamous torture memos. During water boarding procedures, a doctor would be present. Psychologists were directly involved in the supervision, design and execution of torture at US military and intelligence facilities. This is a violation of state laws and professional ethics. These “health professionals” that were involved with torture still hold their professional licenses to practice.

Dr. Stephen Soldz:

  • At this point I think we all know there was a program of torture in the Bush Administration. CIA and the DOD at Guantanamo. Less known was that psychologists were central to it.
  • In the CIA, they designed the torture, they were also essential to the legal protection. The Justice Department torture memos basically said that if a health professional, a psychologist or physician is there and says that the interrogation won’t cause severe and long lasting mental harm, than it isn’t torture even if it causes harm.
  • In other words, their presence was a get out of jail free card.
  • As far as we can see it was central to the Bush Administration’s plans to indemnify themselves while engaging in torture.
  • The American Psychological Association apparently worked with the Bush Administration to provide protection for the psychologists who were involved.
  • The ethics code had been changed in such a way that it allowed psychologists to disobey the ethics code and follow governmental orders.
  • This was actually done before 911 and passed after 911.
  • We have been concerned if they (APA) had been complicit in various ways.       James Risen from the New York Times just published his new book Pay Any Price and one chapter in there provided direct documentary evidence that APA officials were working with the CIA and the Whitehouse to manipulate the ethics code to apparently allow psychologists to participate.
  • Michael Ratner: There was a committee appointed from the APA to look into the APA’s role as I recall . . . Dr Stephen Soldz: . . . to decide on whether psychologists participating in a national security interrogation was ethical – was consistent with the APA’s ethics code.
  • They (APA) were not directly involved as far as we know in torture, they were more involved in doing what the CIA and the White House wanted in terms of manipulating ethical understandings.
  • We, Amnesty and CCR have called for an independent investigation of the APA for a number of years. We’re glad the APA board has recognized the need.
  • They appointed a Chicago attorney who is a specialist in public corruption. We are cautiously optimistic but we have some concerns.
  • Its inappropriate for the APA board to appoint its own investigator of whether the APA did something wrong.
  • The time frame they gave of 5 months is awfully short for an investigation of this magnitude. We’re hopeful that the investigation will be wide ranging and comprehensive which is what is needed.
  • If the accusations in Risen’s book pan out, you have to look at his office (APA CEO) If he knew that means he approved of it. If he didn’t know that means he was incompetent.
  • This has been the issue that has divided the APA in the last decade.
  • What was most needed by the intelligence community was that it was ethical for the psychologist to participate in the interrogation.
  • One of the key people who was in the Bush White House at this time who is implicated is Susan Brandon who is now a top official in Obama’s high value detainee interrogation group.
  • If the Republicans win, torture will probably come back.
  • Since the Nuremberg trials where Nazi doctors were executed for conducting unethical experiments, informed consent has been the backbone of human subjects research.
  • Yet the APA put in this clause – – if laws or institutional regulations (that’s a very broad category institutional regulations) don’t require informed consent and psychologists don’t have to do it.
  • If my drug company says I don’t need informed consent . . .there’s no reason why the APA should get rid of informed consent for anything but the most trivial and harmless research.
  • They’ve never explained where this comes from and its still in effect.
  • Ethicalpsychology.org

Guest - Dr. Stephen Soldz,  psychologist, psychoanalyst, and public health researcher in Boston, and was a co-author of PHR’s report Experiments in Torture. He is the Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He was Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology (Psychiatry) at Harvard Medical School, and has taught at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston College, and Boston University.

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Law and Disorder November 17, 2014


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: U.S. President Barack Obama To Seek Additional War Powers From Congress

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IDFboat snapshot-20

ICC Says Gaza Still Occupied, Israel May Have Committed War Crimes, But Court Refuses To Hear

Attorney Michael Ratner:

  • When I’m in Berlin I see there’s a ICC decision by the prosecutor.
  • People probably remember the attack on the Gaza flotilla, particularly the Mavi Marmara. One of 8 boats that were sent from Europe and other places, Turkey, to try and break the blockade that Israel had imposed on Gaza.
  • Israel has been blockading Gaza forever essentially but it put in a very serious naval blockade in 2009 and no boats from the Mediterranean could approach within 20 miles of what Israel called its blockade.
  • The Gaza Flotilla was established in 2010 to try and break the blockade it had 8 ships, one was named the Rachel Corrie.
  • They were at least 80 miles away from Gaza, hadn’t even got into the blockaded territory when the Israeli commandos, the IDF made a raid on those boats.
  • Particularly on the Mavimarmara which was a Turkish boat – the fact that the boat was registered in Comoros gave the ICC jurisdiction over the raid.
  • People may recall the raid. Israeli commandos shimmied down on ropes from helicopters on to the Mavimarmara and they killed 9 people. A tenth died later.
  • Ultimately, Comoros made a complaint to the ICC that – Israel attacked this flotilla even outside the 20 mile blockade zone, they committed war crimes. War crimes in that they were attacking civilian boats. War crimes in that they were killing civilians.
  • Here I am sitting in Berlin thinking about the 76 anniversary of Kristallnacht, the tearing down of that wall, Raji Sourani from Gaza not being able to get in, and this ICC decision comes down.
  • The ICC prosecutor says there’s a reasonable basis that war crimes were committed by the IDF in their attack on the Gaza Flotilla.
  • The next sentence said as part of that finding Gaza was an occupied territory of Israel. That’s of great significance because when you’re an occupying force the laws of war apply. If you commit war crimes, if you kill people – civilians or intentionally targeting them or attack civilian objects.
  • The third sentence is while we find that there was a reasonable basis that the IDF committed war crimes and that Israel continues to occupy Gaza despite its claim in 2005 that it left Gaza we are not going to take jurisdiction and further investigate the case, because the crimes were not essentially severe enough, big enough, enough of them . . . and therefore we’re not going to take this case.
  • To look at them in an isolated way and not part of a stream of war crimes Israel has been committing since 1948 is outrageous.
  • The Situation on Registered Vessels of the Union of the Comoros, the Hellenic Republic and the Kingdom of Cambodia

Law and Disorder Co-host Attorney Michael Ratner,  President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.

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DSC_2420 fennerty-deutsch-odeh

U.S. Government Finds 67-year-old Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh Guilty

Earlier this summer we reported on Rasmea Odeh’s case. She’s a 67 year-old Palestinian American, community activist and teacher. In the fall of 2013, she was arrested by Department of Homeland Security for failing to disclose a 1969 conviction in an Israeli military court and charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization. Odeh, her father and fiancee were brutally tortured in an Israeli prison in 1969, which was related to a bombing in a Jerusalem supermarket. Israelis extracted a confession from Odeh and she spent 10 years in an Israeli prison where she was tortured and sexually assaulted.

Last week, Rasmea Odeh was found guilty of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement. And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial, because Judge Gershwin Drain made it nearly impossible for her defense.

 Attorney Michael Deutsch:

  • This case emanates from the FBI and the US Attorney in Chicago investigating the work of the Arab American Action Network and other people who were doing Palestine solidarity work in the Chicago area and throughout the Midwest.
  • They were bringing speakers here from Palestine to educate people
  • As a result of that work they were targeted by the FBI. Ultimately in September of 2010, the homes 7 activists were invaded. All their political material was taken. There was a Grand Jury that convened and 23 activists were subpoenaed and they also sought the records of the Arab American Action Network.
  • The U.S. Attorney of Chicago sent a request to Washington to look into the records of Odeh in Israel.
  • After several years, the Israelis came up with documents that showed she was arrested in 1969, put on trial by a military tribunal in the Occupied Territories.
  • . . found guilty, horrifically tortured, confessed as did her co-defendants, sentenced to life in prison, put in an Israeli prison, tried to escape in 1975, caught in a tunnel, trying to get out.
  • As a result of this they looked at her Naturalization application and saw that she said no as to whether she had ever been arrested, convicted or in prison and the commenced a criminal investigation and indicted her 9 years after she had gotten her citizenship. Months before a statute of limitations would have run on this charge.
  • We put forward a multi-level defense. One, we said that anything that was produced by the military court, the military judicial system was illegitimate, illegal – you’re tried by soldiers posing as judges. We said that she had been horrifically tortured and we had someone evaluate her over many days and hours, this woman who is one of the leading experts on torture said she (Rasmea) still suffers from PTSD.
  • That would have caused her when she filled out the application to cognitively block what had happened to her 40 years prior in Israel and therefore she wasn’t intentionally lying.
  • The judge refused all our motions, all our defense. He wouldn’t let her (Rasmea) testify about her torture, about her condition, or her innocence. All that was blocked by motions of the government.
  • We went to trial basically with our hands tied behind our backs.
  • What was a shock to me was the judge locked her up, pending sentencing. Now she sits in a county jail in Port Huron, Michigan for five months before the sentencing and obviously if the judge is not going to give her bail pending sentencing, he’s not going to give her bail pending appeal.
  • Judge Gershwin Drain who is African American who at first was kind of sympathetic and supportive and initially said we were allowed to put on our PTSD expert and put on a PTSD defense. Then all of a sudden the government put a move to reconsider, he changed his mind and basically gutted our trial.
  • We know of efforts all over the country to suppress student activity (around issues of Israel – Palestine)
  • We have to convince the judge to let her out on an appeal bond. Even after all that if she’s sentenced, she’s going to go to prison and then when she’s done with her prison sentence, they’re going to put in her into immigration prison and they’re going to deport her.

Guest – Attorney Michael Deutsch, 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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Food Chains Documentary Film Opens Nationwide This Week

The documentary film Food Chains opens nationwide in the United States this month. The film brings you into the world of a Florida farmworker led effort to hold responsible the 4 trillion dollar global supermarket industry. The CIW is doing so through the Fair Food program. That’s the program which partners growers and retailers to improve working conditions for farm laborers in the United States. For years, farmworkers often endure abuse, wage theft, and have been beaten and sexually harassed. Food Chains’ producers include Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser.  Find out about screenings and action to take at www.ciw-online.org

Saturday November 22 – 1:00pm: Screening of Food Chains & Post-film Panel CIW-Quad Cinema (34 W 13th St)  Food Chains also playing on Sat. Nov 22 at 7:45pm

Protest & March to Wendy’s Meet at Union Square Wendy’s (20 E. 14th St) Facebook

Guest – Gerardo  Reyes Chavez, has worked in the fields since age 11, first as a farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico, and then in the fields of Florida picking oranges, tomatoes, and watermelons. He joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a Florida-based human rights organization, shortly after his arrival in the United States in 2000, when his fellow farm worker roommates, who had previously escaped a violent slavery operation hidden in the swamp south of Immokalee, Florida, invited him to come to the CIW’s Wednesday evening community meetings.

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Law and Disorder November 3, 2014


Updates

  • Michael Ratner Reports On An Important Break In The Julian Assange Case
  • Michael Ratner: Longest Case Of Pre-Trial Investigation In Swedish History In Which The Prosecutor Has Simply Sat On Her Hands.
  • Michael Ratner: What Sweden Did Here Is Divert Attention From The Underlying Problem
  • Michael Smith: United Nations And The Cuban Embargo Vote 2014
  • Michael Ratner: Israeli Business Men Are All Over Cuba

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nisour3 susan

Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Baghdad Killings

Since 2003, private military contractors have been awarded millions of dollars each year by the U.S. Government in contracts. Many of the military contractor personnel have engaged in atrocious war crimes with zero accountability. Last week a federal jury convicted 4 former Blackwater private security contractors on manslaughter charges and 1 for manslaughter and murder of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The men were prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, a law that allows the U.S. courts to hear cases against contractors to the U.S. Department of Defense for crimes committed overseas. The men were originally hired as private security guards for U.S government employees. Lawyers for Blackwater, now known as Academi LLC argued that the men were simply returning fire to protect themselves.Several civil cases filed by victims injured in the shootings were settled in 2010.

Attorney Susan Burke:

  • I think the verdict sends a very loud and large message to the globe that the American judicial system can operate properly.
  • That American juries understand when they see war crimes, they understand when they hear about a massacre.
  • We began working before the Abu-Ghraib photos were leaked. It began when Bob Woodward wrote a story for the Washington Post that revealed that the Bush Administration had decided to use torture as an instrument in the war.
  • We viewed this outsourcing as a potential weak flank in a sense in order to use legal mechanisms, lawsuits in order to prevent this country from departing with its values.
  • We were putting the evidence together before the photos leaked and suddenly we had a lot more evidence to sue the 2 government contractors L3 and CACI that were involved in the Abu-Ghraib torture.
  • The Blackwater case fits into that rubrick where we brought several different law suits along with the Center for Constitutional Rights. We brought the seven law suits for the victims of the Nisour Square massacre as well as for many other victims.
  • If you think about we’re going to the home turf of the wrong doers. The corporations are based in Virginia actually, and so we sued them in their home turf.
  • There’s one (civil) case remaining that’s now being handled by Baher Azmy at CCR and they just got a win from the Fourth Circuit – again getting permission for the case to proceed.
  • The vast majority of victims have settled with L3 paying 5.25 million.
  • Blackwater is a mercenary company that basically earned over a billion dollars from the State Department.
  • They were not at Abu Ghraib rather they were providing security for all of the diplomats and other Americans in Iraq.
  • At the time they were owned by Erik Prince, operated without any oversight from the State Department and they were involved with a significant number of instances were unnecessary and excessive force was used.
  • Erik Prince ended up entering into a settlement and all of those folks obtained compensation.
  • Prince then sold the company, retained a revenue stream but the company became Academi.
  • As a nation we continue to use these mercenaries and we continue to lack any regulation or oversight.       Unfortunately, things didn’t change under the Obama Administration and under Secretary Clinton at the State Department
  • What’s happened is there’s this terrible pattern where these companies have a lot of political influence and they continue to get enormous contracts and the State Department continues to outsource security without have a vibrant, or robust oversight function.
  • Blackwater vehicles rolled into Nisour Square and they began to open fire with heavy automatic weaponry and they simply began to spray indiscriminatly. They began to shoot all over Nisour Square killing people nearby and injuring people as they fled. No provocation, no real reason they began shooting.
  • One of the Blackwater men, a man named Jeremy Ridgeway actually stepped and told the truth early on, pled guilty and explained how this was in fact just indiscriminate shooting for no reason.
  • In order to properly handle these matters I ended up creating my own firm.

Guest – Attorney Susan Burke, represented plaintiffs in those civil cases and she joins us today to talk about criminal case, the sentence and the supporting evidence.

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Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues

A powerful analysis on the use of drones for targeted assassination by the Obama Administration is explored in Professor Marjorie Cohn’s newly published book titled Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. It’s a collection of various disciplines including sociologists, legal scholars, and human rights activists that examine aspects of the U.S. policy of targeted killings with drones and other methods. The book documents civilian casualties, and discuses the first U.S. targeted killing lawsuit by the lawyer who brought the case.

Attorney Marjorie Cohn:

  • Drones have become the Obama Administration’s preferred weapon of choice.
  • We rarely see images of the victims of drone strikes the overwhelming majority of whom are civilians.
  • We don’t hear their stories because the media sanitizes their stories.
  • We really don’t have a sense of the devastation that is reeked by drones.
  • I thought it was important to put together a collection of different aspects of this drone policy. Is it legal? Is it moral? What are the political ramifications? Does it make us safer? Does it make us less safe?
  • That Authorization for the Use of Military Force was very limited, it was only limited to groups and countries that supported the 911 attacks and Congress specifically rejected the Bush Administrations request for open ended military authority to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism against the United States – and yet the Obama Administration has been relying on this as its legal authority.
  • Targeted extrajudicial killings off the battle field are illegal.
  • Richard Falk, the U.N. Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian Occupied Territories wrote a very and interesting and provocative chapter called Why Drones Are More Dangerous Than Nuclear Weapons.
  • Medea Benjamin talked about stories of victims in Pakistan and Yemen and the tolls drones take on communities. The horror, the terror that children are sleeping with drones hovering overhead.
  • Pardiss Kebriaei with the Center for Constitutional Rights that handled the first targeted killing case in the United States writes a chapter.
  • Tom Hayden writes the conclusion about stopping the drones.
  • Phyllis Bennis from the Institute of Policy Studies talks about the assassination as essential to the U.S. war strategy due to the militarization of our foreign policy.
  • John Quigley from Ohio State University talks about the blowback from drones and how they actually make us less safe because when people see their families blown up, they resent the United States even more.
  • He talks about the history of U.S. foreign policy and the resentment its caused in those countries against the United States.
  • He (Barack Obama) has even expanded the use of drones in Iraq and Syria. He’s also using piloted aircraft. He’s also using the AUMF which does not apply at all.
  • This ISIS and Khorasan, the current groups doing horrible things over there are not covered by the Authorization for the Use Of Military Force.
  • He’s actually acting beyond what Congress has authorized to say nothing of it violating the U.N. charter.
  • Only 4 percent of victims in Pakistan were members or even associated with Al-Qaeda which means the overwhelming number of 2400 who have been killed in Pakistan by drone strikes are civilians.
  • The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires the FAA to integrate into U.S. airspace by September of 2015 to legalize commercial drones and some government agencies to use small drones. This is very very worrisome because of the privacy considerations primarily.
  • There are two different drone strikes the U.S. carries out. One is called personality strikes, where they target suspected bad guys. They call them militants. That could mean anything.
  • No due process, just take em out.
  • The other type of attack is called signature strikes. That is a strike that is carried out in an area of suspicious activity. If you’re a male between the ages of 16-65 in a area of suspicious activity than you’re fair game, even though the Obama Administration doesn’t know your identity.
  • First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.
  • Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.
  • Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:
  • Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;
  • Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;
  • An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;
  • An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; andAn assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.
  • Finally, whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally – and on the way in which the United States can use force. The United States respects national sovereignty and international law.

Guest – Attorney Marjorie Cohn  former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She lectures throughout the world on international human rights and U.S. foreign policy. A news consultant for CBS News and a legal analyst for Court TV, she also provides legal and political commentary on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, Air America and Pacifica Radio.   In addition, Professor Cohn is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. Her latest book, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, was published in January 2011 by NYU Press.

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Law and Disorder October 27, 2014


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Obama Could Allow “Torture Light” Interpretation of U.N. Treaty on Torture
  • Michael Smith Returns From Argentina Book Tour, Describes How U.S Attempts To Destabilize Argentina Economy

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The Revictimization Relief Act (Muzzle Mumia)

Last Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Senate in a bi-partisan 37-11 vote, approved The Revictimization Release Act. This last minute controversial law was ignited by Mumia Abu Jamal’s commencement address delivered at Goddard College in Vermont. The law would grant crime victims or prosecutors acting on their behalf to file a civil action against an offender to seek injunctive relief to stop offenders or former inmates from engaging in conduct that would cause “temporary or permanent state of mental anguish” to the victim.

Mumia Abu Jamal is 60 years old. He’s in the general population at Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville. He has also given speeches at Evergreen State College in Washington and Antioch College in Ohio.

Attorney Bret Grote:

  • The Muzzle Mumia Law as it was called by the Harrisburg Patriot provides a cause of action for a victim of a personal injury crime to sue an offender in state court in Pennsylvania if that offender engages in conduct that “perpetuates” the effect of that crime on the victim. Later on in the statutes, that conduct is defined as including conduct that a temporary or permanent states of mental anguish.
  • It also provides for the district attorney where the conviction was secured or the state’s attorney general to essentially act as the private attorney for the victim in order to bring this suit.
  • It also does encompass not only speech about the crime whether its somebody like Mumia or Lorenzo Johnson or countless others who speak out about being framed up in Pennsylvania, but it doesn’t even make any exceptions for legal proceedings – and obviously people appealing criminal convictions can cause anguish to others.
  • There are standards and no definitions for the conduct that is at issue except in relation to its impact on the victim and to provide some context as I’m sure your listeners know why it was written this way is they needed to write a statute that would sweep so broadly so as to encompass things like Mumia giving a commencement address at Goddard College, which was used as a pretext for whipping up this frenzy at the state legislature.
  • It is a prior restraint on the freedom of speech but its written so broadly that Maureen Faulkner or the district attorney could conceivably go into court under this law.
  • The House Judiciary committee in discussing this law when it was introduced in committee raised the issue of would this allow a court to enjoin what they called third party vessels.
  • It could be Prison Radio, or it could be an individual who is authorized to speak to the media, or make a public statement.
  • It was passed 197-0 in the House Legislature, and 37-11 in the Senate.
  • It just shows you what takes precedence over any kind of adherence of the Constitution of the state or the United States, more than any law is allegiance to power amongst the political class, Pennsylvania politicians, attorney generals, district attorneys, are no strangers to Constitutional violations, its a normative practice for them.
  • Right now, I’m representing Mumia in this and Prison Radio and Robert Holbrook who is a juvenile lifer and Human Rights Coalition member and activist and writer.
  • Its unconstitutional under traditional over breadth analysis, it penalized lawful speech and its void for vagueness.
  • There is probably nothing that would be more traumatizing for an actual victim of a crime then to have to go through this process that they’ve laid out in the Revictimization Release Act.
  • They explicitly and exclusively focused on Mumia.
  • This legislation was introduced by a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Mike Verib, who was a former Philadelphia police officer now a state legislator. In the context of Mumia’s case they have been leading a lynch mob literally in the streets to snuff out his voice.
  • For decades the judge that presided over his trial was a Fraternal Order of Police member. They finance and vet the campaigns of every Supreme Court Justice in the state of Pennsylvania, the same with people running for office as governors.
  • Mumia is being used in this context to reestablish the narrative, the Fraternal Order of Police, the police, their political counterparts are righteous protectors of public safety and that they’re beyond question and beyond reproach in trying to reset the propaganda line that has been dislodged in the wake of the rebellions in Ferguson, Illinois.

Guest – Pennsylvania attorney Brete Grote,  a member of the Russell Maroon Shoatz legal team and cofounder and legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center. Bret has worked with the Human Rights Coalition since 2007 as an investigator, organizer, and researcher. He was the Isabel and Alger Hiss Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2012. He graduated from the University of Pitt Law School in May 2013 and was recognized as the school’s Distinguished Public Interest Scholar.

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Richard Falk: The Palestinian Future After Gaza

We hear a presentation by Richard Falk titled The Palestinian Future After Gaza. Richard Falk was presenting at the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, co-sponsored by Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. It’s given once a year in honor of the public intellectual and literary critic, Edward W. Said, who taught in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia from 1963 until 2003

Richard Falk is Albert G. Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton where he was a member of the faculty for 40 years. Since 2002 he has been associated with Global & International Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara as a research professor.

He was Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the UN Human Rights Council since 2008, and served on a panel of experts appointed by the President of the UN General Assembly, 2008-2009. He is Chair of the Board of Directors, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an NGO located in Santa Barbara.

He is also a member of the editorial board of several journals and magazines, including the American Journal of International Law, Third World Quarterly, Globalizations, The Nation, and The Progressive. Formerly, he was for many years North American Director of the World Order Models Project.

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Law and Disorder October 20, 2014


Updates:

  • Heidi Boghosian Updates Listeners On The Revictimization Relief Act

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Michael Smith Returns From Argentina Book Tour

Early October marks the 47th anniversary of Ernesto Che Guevarra’s capture and assassination in Bolivia. Co-hosts Michael Ratner and Michael Smith have authored the book Who Killed Che? How The CIA Got Away With Murder. Michael Smith has recently returned from a trip to Buenos Aires to promote the Spanish language version of the book. Michael explains how Che was a threat to the United States by helping Cuba take over their own economy and why its important to set the story straight about Che’s death. Review of Who Killed Che?

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Weekend of Resistance: Ferguson, St. Louis Protests and the National Lawyers Guild

Last weekend, thousands of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri just outside of St. Louis demonstrated during a long planned Weekend of Resistance to the militarized suppression of peaceful demonstrations against the the killings of unarmed black teenagers including Michael Brown two months ago. Demonstrators traveled from cites across the country to participate in protests against police violence – including sit ins and vigil marches. Meanwhile, National Lawyers Guild members have been providing legal support, legal observation and felony representation for people arrested during the weekend. We catch up with St Louis Lawyers Guild member attorney Maggie Ellinger-Locke who has been working long hours representing arrested demonstrators. There are 90 municipalities in St. Louis and Maggie also explains the challenges in helping those arrested get processed through a unique court system.

Attorney Maggie Ellinger-Locke:

  • People poured into the streets after the killing of Mike Brown and have pretty much been occupying various locations around the St. Louis area and protesting ever since.
  • We at the National Lawyers Guild have mobilized close to 100 legal observers at this point to come down and do the observing and training people who are local.
  • We’ve also been connecting people who are facing felony charges with representation as well as backing up the Arch City Defenders who are handling the bulk of the ordinance violations and charges.
  • In August there were lots of chemical weapons used, tear gas every night. I was tear gassed multiple times. Other major mobilizations that I’ve been to, they last a couple of days, maybe the duration of a week, but this has been a continued onslaught of less than lethal weapons.
  • There are a lot of difference agencies on the ground for law enforcement. There’s the Missouri Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department, The Sheriff’s Department and of course we have 90 different municipalities in St. Louis County, each with its own police force.
  • This is what it takes to fight back. People are out there every day on the streets.
  • We’ve had NLG members pour in from all over which has really been fun getting to know all these people.
  • Monsanto, which is based in Creve Coeur, Missouri, made a donation recently of a million dollars to various community groups doing work on the ground. On the other hand we’ll have a local pizza company board up and then the owner will train a gun on protesters to intimidate them.
  • The demands have varied depending on the organizations. Indicting Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown is at the top of everyone’s list. In order to achieve that you would have to have demand number 2 met which is that Don McCullough, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney recuse himself from this case. People think that he’s conflicted in that his father was a white police officer who was shot by an African American man and killed.
  • Another big demand is that the many many municipal charges that people are facing be dropped.
  • In addition we desperately need reform of our municipal court system. The structure is insane.
  • We’re hopeful that if we can demand jury trials for all of those arrested, we may in fact be able to crash the system.
  • We have 40 people now who are facing felonies.
  • The Organization For Black Struggle and  Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.

Guest – Attorney Maggie Ellinger-LockeNational Lawyers Guild member and activist, and a partner with Ellinger & Assoc., P.C., a Law Firm in O’Fallon, Missouri.

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Jon Burge, Torturer of Over 100 Black Men, is Out of Prison After Less Than 4Years

Last week former Chicago police commander Jon Burge who was convicted of lying about torturing more than 100 African-American men at Chicago police stations will be released from the Butner Correctional Institution and reporting to a halfway house in Tampa, Florida. This, as many listeners know is an ongoing story that we’ve been reporting on for many years with Attorney Flint Taylor with the People’s Law Office in Chicago who worked on the case representing some of the torture victims. We talk about why Jon Burge was released and his recent article titled Jon Burge, Torturer of Over 100 Black Men, is Out of Prison After Less Than Four Years. Flint reminds listeners that the total in financial damages to taxpayers from the torture of over 100 black men that Burge oversaw, and the ongoing pension payouts to his collaborating officers, exceeds $120,000,000.

 Attorney Flint Taylor:

  • Burge is a now notorious police torturer here in Chicago. He shot from detective up to commander of a police station based on torturing African-Americans suspects into giving confessions and sending many of them to death row and to life in prison.
  • Ultimately, we were, along with community activists, expose this pattern and practice of 100 cases of police torture.
  • This was by electric shock, by bagging people and other kinds of racist brutality.
  • We exposed it and nothing happened for many years. Ultimately the Feds, indicted Burge, several years ago, not for torture because the statute of limitations had run on that, but rather for perjury and obstruction of justice.
  • He was convicted by a predominantly white jury and ultimately sentenced to 41/2 years in the penitentiary.
  • After 31/2 years, he was permitted to go to a halfway house for 6 months.
  • What’s happening now? What’s happening with regard to the men who are still in the penitentiary, decades later, and there are almost 20 of them, based on tortured confessions.
  • How about the men who testified against Burge, who were his victims?
  • Those men, unlike Burge who gets a pension now, and the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld his right, even as a convicted felon to collect that money. These men get nothing, have nothing.
  • There are as many as 90 of those men on the streets now, with no health care, with no treatment for psychological damage.
  • The majority of city council members support at this point reparations for those men. The reparations for those men would be 20 million dollars.
  • The same amount of the money the city spent to defend Burge in the cases of the exonerated men.
  • We’re now at a sensitive stage, where the mayor, Emanuel has had to come out. He’s no friend to the anti-torture forces, and he’s been asked repeatedly on this.
  • He has played both sides against the middle, its time right now where he’s going to have to fish or cut bait.
  • We had the strong support of Karen Louis who was a wonderful challenger and she has now had to withdraw from the (mayoral) race because of “health issues.” She was a strong supporter of the reparations ordinance.

Guest – Attorney  G. Flint Taylor, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern Law School, is a  founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, an office which has been dedicated to litigating civil rights, police violence, government misconduct, and death penalty cases for more than 40 years.

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