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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Indecent proposition from New London police chief was 'chilling' says victim

Speaking publicly for the first time, Janelle Westfall said state laws failed her after New London's former police chief made her a proposition: If she posed nude for him, the underage alcohol charges against her would be dropped.

Because of Westfall's complaint, David Seastrand will never be allowed to serve as a police officer again. She also received a $70,000 settlement from the town.

But as she sat down with her father and lawyer on Friday to begin a push for new legislation to improve state laws, it was clear that she's still deeply troubled. Asked for her feelings, she began to cry, then paused.

"Scared," Westfall said. "It just bothers me that it happened, and that they couldn't prosecute (Seastrand). It bothers me that it could happen again to someone else."

more

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20141228/NEWS03/141229456

Torture, American-style

by Hugh Gusterson

As an anthropologist, I am fascinated by the term “enhanced interrogation.” It must surely take pride of place in the American lexicon of government euphemisms for violence, alongside such phrases from nuclear discourse as “collateral damage” (for the mass killing of civilians), “event” (for a nuclear explosion), “countervalue strike” (for the nuclear destruction of a city), “surgical strike” (a targeted strike with nuclear weapons), and “clean bombs” (nuclear weapons designed to optimize blast over radiation). As Carol Cohn notes in her classic article on the language of nuclear strategists, “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals,” “‘clean bombs’ may provide the perfect metaphor for the language of defense analysts and arms controllers. This language has enormous destructive power, but without emotional fallout.”

The same is true when it comes to “enhanced interrogation.” My dictionary tells me that “to enhance” is to “improve in value, quality, desirability, or attractiveness.” The word “enhanced” usually applies to images, food flavors, and consumer electronics, but why not torture as well? The rest of the world has classic torture, which involves electrodes, pincers, batons, and bloodstains. The United States, being exceptional, has enhanced torture, which involves rectal feeding (in other words, anal rape), no sleep for a week, “insult slaps,” ice-cold baths, stress positions, being locked in a box for 18 hours, waterboarding, and threats that your mother’s throat will be slit. But no bloodstains.

“Enhanced interrogation” is torture, American style. Exceptional torture. Torture that insists it is not torture. Post-torture? This uniquely American kind of torture has six defining characteristics.

First, it eschews tools used in medieval times or in Third World jails (with the exception of the centuries-old technique of waterboarding). If we are not using the classic tools of the torture trade—electrodes to the genitals, batons to the ribs—then, the theory goes, what we are doing cannot be torture. Above all, there must be no blood, burns, or scars, since these are the after signs of classic torture. American torture is cutting-edge and clean. It leaves no tell-tale marks.

more

http://thebulletin.org/torture-american-style7862

CNN/ORC Poll: Bush surges to 2016 GOP frontrunner

Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential frontrunner, surging to the front of the potential GOP pack following his announcement that he's "actively exploring" a bid, a new CNN/ORC poll found.

He takes nearly one-quarter — 23% — of Republicans surveyed in the new nationwide poll, putting him 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who tallied 13%.

Physician Ben Carson comes in third, with 7% support, and Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are both tied for fourth with 6%.

That marks a drop in support for all but Christie and Bush from the last CNN/ORC survey of the field, conducted in November.
That poll showed Bush in the lead, but only taking 14% of the vote, while Carson came in second with 11% and Christie tied Rep. Paul Ryan for fourth with 9% support.

more
http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/28/politics/bush-leads-gop-field-poll/index.html

Sen. Franken opposes Treasury Department nominee Antonio Weiss

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Sunday called on supporters to reject one of President Obama's nominees to the Treasury Department.

Franken criticized nominee Antonio Weiss in no uncertain terms, arguing Obama had nominated the wrong person for the job of Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance.

He argued Weiss would not put the middle class first, and that he was too close to Wall Street.

"Join me in asking the President to withdraw Antonio Weiss’s nomination," Franken wrote in an email to supporters on Sunday, with a link to the petition. "We need a nominee who will put the middle class first."

more

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/228141-franken-touts-petition-denouncing-obama-treasury-nominee

Republicans Are Blocking Ratification of Even the Most Reasonable International Treaties

The world got a present on Christmas Eve, when an international treaty to limit the sale of weapons to warlords and terrorists went into effect. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) aims to limit the number of civilians slaughtered around the world by requiring any country that sells weapons to establish the same kind of export criteria that the U.S. and other Western democracies have in place. It has been signed by 130 countries and ratified by 60, ten more than it needed to become effective. When the U.N. General Assembly put it to a vote last year, only three countries opposed the treaty outright: North Korea, Syria, and Iran.

While the Obama administration has signed the treaty, there is no chance it will get the 67 votes needed for Senate ratification. In October 2013, 50 senators sent the president a letter expressing their opposition to the ATT. They included every Republican except Mark Kirk, and five Democrats—Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor, Mark Begich, Mary Landieu and Kay Hagen. (Manchin was the only one of the Democrats who was not up for reelection last month, and all four that were lost.) So the Republicans stand together with the Axis of Evil 2.0 because the National Rifle Association opposes the treaty. The NRA sees it as a potential threat to gun ownership because it does not explicitly provide a guarantee of the “American people’s rights under the Second Amendment.”

In the Senate’s first two centuries, it approved more than 1,500 treaties. It rejected only 21; another 85 were withdrawn because the Senate did not take action on them. A treaty that is not approved, rejected, or withdrawn remains in limbo. At present, there are 36 treaties awaiting action by the Senate, dealing with everything from the protection of albatrosses to the testing of nuclear weapons.

While protecting waterfowl might seem like something reasonable people could agree upon, apparently no issue is too small for the foes of the imaginary threat of a world government.

more

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120646/ratification-arms-trade-treaty-others-blocked-republicans

Elizabeth Warren: can this scourge of Wall Street make it to the White House?

by Tim Adams
The Observer,

Elizabeth Warren is an unlikely looking rock star. The 65-year-old Massachusetts senator, with her winning smile, patient, hopeful manner and rimless glasses, is more convincing as the Oklahoma-born Harvard law professor she was for 20 years before regaining Ted Kennedy’s former seat for the Democrats in the upper house in 2013. Yet for the last year or so, “rock star” is undoubtedly the epithet that has tended to attach itself to her whenever she has stepped on to a stage. No progressive rally is currently complete in the US without Warren’s appearance before adoring fans of all ages. The message at each of these gatherings is that screamed by leading liberal donors as she took the microphone at the annual Democracy Alliance meeting in Washington DC last month: “Run, Liz! Run!”

For the time being, the senator is adamant that she has no plans to seek the Democratic nomination for a presidential campaign in 2016, but large sections of her party, particularly on the left, refuse to believe, in this instance, that no means no. It has long been assumed that a woman would lead the race to succeed Barack Obama at the end of his second term. Hillary Clinton remains the bookies’ favourite to follow her husband to the White House, but Warren’s odds are narrowing by the month. She talks, it seems, not only to beleaguered middle America but also both to the intellectual elite of the east coast, and the Hollywood elite of the west (Barbra Streisand and Danny DeVito are confirmed fans; Cher tweets that “Elizabeth Warren is my HERO!”) For the moment, Warren is performing that most elusive political trick, the one that Obama mastered in 2007: looking like the new, new thing.

There is solid basis for this perception. In her time in Washington, Warren has pushed through considerable reform, not least in her successful insistence on the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , the new independent agency designed to enforce transparency and fairness in financial services. Her rock star status, though, rests partly, naturally, on a couple of widely bootlegged viral video clips, her greatest hits. In the first, from a campaign speech in 2011, she delivers an impromptu retort to the capitalist ideal of the self-made man, and a fiery defence of redistributive taxation: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” she argues. “Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved the goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate… Now look, you built the factory and it turned into something terrific? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along…”

more

http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2014/dec/28/elizabeth-warren-can-scourge-wall-street-make-to-white-house

Mr. Fish Toon- In The Beginning

Sunday's Doonesbury- Sexual Violence

In Ferguson

by Darryl Pinckney

Forty years ago, in the days of “white flight” from American cities to the suburbs, Ferguson, Missouri was a “sundowner town”—black people did not drive through it at night because they knew they would be harassed by the white police force. Ferguson is now 65 percent black and low income, but its police force is still predominantly white and working class, approximately fifty-three white officers and three black officers. Although black people no longer sneak through town, the police treat young black men as either trespassers or ex- and future prisoners. The hip hop artist T-Dubb-O said that black males throughout the St. Louis area know how old they are from the tone of the police. “When you’re eight or nine, it’s, ‘yo, where are you going?’ and when it’s ‘get down on the ground,’ you know you’ve turned fifteen.”

The St. Louis city limits encompass a small area and Ferguson is one of ninety incorporated municipalities that immediately surround the “Gateway to the West,” each with its own mayor or manager. These local authorities raise money in significant part from fines levied against motorists. A police officer citing someone for a petty infraction is in reality a municipal worker trying to get paid. In addition to the municipalities, suburban St. Louis has a county government, with a council and a county executive. The outgoing county executive, Charlie A. Dooley, is black and a Democrat.

Voter turnout in Ferguson itself is low, but the remainder of North County (one of the four sections of St. Louis County) outvotes St. Louis city. (The city has a population of around 300,000; the county nearly a million.) Hazel Erby, the only black member of the seven-member county council, said that the city manager of Ferguson and its city council appoint the chief of police, and therefore voting is critical, but the complicated structure of municipal government is one reason many people have been uninterested in local politics.

A North County resident of middle-class University City for almost fifty years, Mrs. Erby said that she hadn’t discussed what Ferguson was like with her children when they were teenagers twenty years ago. Her son and two daughters told her not long ago, “We did, Mom.” Her district, which she has represented for ten years, is made up of thirty-eight municipalities, including Ferguson. She said that she never had “that conversation” with her son about how to compose himself when confronted by the police, but her husband recently told her, “I did.”

more

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jan/08/in-ferguson/

College hunt looms for first daughter Malia Obama

Soon first daughter Malia Obama will be the decider, choosing which colleges to apply to and which one to attend beginning in the fall of 2016, as her father's presidency winds down.

She wants to be a filmmaker, the president has said. Last summer news outlets said his 16-year-old daughter toured two northern California rivals: Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.

UC Berkeley, the state's flagship public university, is known as a liberal enclave, and it has a Department of Film & Media.

Stanford, a private university whose Palo Alto campus features towering palm trees, is more buttoned-down and boasts alumnae including first daughter Chelsea Clinton and Supreme Court justices such as the retired Sandra Day O'Connor. Obama's commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, is from Stanford — and like the first lady and the Obama daughters, is also from Chicago.

At Stanford, students can major or minor in film and media studies. Malia Obama is known as an athlete, especially at tennis, so she might be a good fit in "Nerd Nation," the unofficial nickname for the school's sports fans.
more

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-malia-obama-college-search-met-20141226-story.html#page=1

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