Nel's New Day

September 22, 2014

Courts, Laws Protect Domestic Abusers

Jessica Arrendale, 33, was found dead in her bathroom after her partner beat her with a baseball  bat, kicked in the locked bathroom door, and then shot her with an assault rifle. She saved her six-month-old daughter, Cobie by putting her in the toilet and leaning over it. Antoine Davis, a Iraq veteran, had been suffering from depression, according to his ex-wife. After killing Arrendale, Davis went to his infant daughter’s bedroom and killed himself. His two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were in the house. Police waited 13 hours until storming the townhouse. The infant has a traumatic head injury but is alive after being cared for hypothermia.

The death of Arrendale will join the number of women killed with a gun by an intimate partner—6,410 between 2001 and 2012, more than the number of U.S. military members killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The risk of a woman being the victim of homicide increases at least 500 percent when guns are present during the domestic violence crisis.

While people continue to be killed by guns either through intent or accident, the National Rifle Association has ramped up its attempt to put more money into the coffers of gun manufacturers. One of these efforts is hiring female gun enthusiasts as official NRA News commentators and the NRA Women’s TV Network, launched last year. Next month the NRA-hosted Women’s Leadership Forum Executive Summit will “celebrate the role of women as powerful leaders.”

One woman leader who NRA won’t celebrate is Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, attacked in the most recent issue of NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom. Conservative legal scholar and gun rights lobbyist Dave Kopel accuses Watts of being a front for a political group instead of a homemaker turned grassroots activist. Mother of five, Watts left her corporate PR executive position four years ago to be a consultant from her home. In 2010, she and her husband opened an art gallery. After Kopel’s denigration of Watts, he proceeds into the stale, false argument about how often good guys with guns stop the bad guys. But the major criticism is that “the willfully gullible media persist in portraying [Moms Demand Action] as an authentic social movement and Watts as a homemaker who just decided to do something about guns.”

Male NRA members support Kopel’s position. After the magazine posted an item on Facebook about Moms Demand Action “desperately bullying Kroger” over that company’s gun policy one commenter responded: “‘Moms Demand Action’ more like fat housewives that need to get a good dicking and get their ass back in the kitchen.” Another wrote, “Women are generally idiots.” Other responses: “Somebody needs to point out to these bitches that people who legally buy guns are not the ones going out and committing crimes”; and “They need to change their name to everyday nagging wives. That’s all they do. Seriously annoying.”

Desperate because they are not selling enough weapons for the gun manufacturers, the NRA has released two videos fantasizing young women as assault rifles. “Beauty Shots” shows NRA News commentator Colion Noir describing an attractive woman as she dresses in workout gear, swims, and stares seductively into the camera. Noir concludes, “She is Daniel Defense M4-A1.” The video was released three days after a college student killed seven people in Santa Barbara because of his rage at attractive young women. In a discussion of another video, Noir said, “The HK MR556 is that gun like that girl who’s unbelievably attractive, she has this presence about her that seems untouchable and she’s not apologetic about her beauty.” His female interviewer responded, “I like the comparison with the woman—the hot woman.”

The NRA sees women as an untapped source of gun buyers. Of the 70,000 people who attend its annual conferences, over 80 percent are men. As household gun ownership declines, male gun owners outnumber females by 3-1.

A common response from NRA supporters and people who refuse to believe in gun sense is that women should protect themselves with guns. Arrendale tried to protect herself with a baseball bat, but her killer took it away and beat her with it. Violence would most likely have happened if she had had a gun. There are many stories of men who purchase guns for wives and female partners before killing them with these weapons.

Equally—or perhaps more—tragic is the story of  Marissa Alexander, who fired one warning shot into the wall to ward off her abusive ex-husband as he threatened to attack her. The Florida woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Following George Zimmerman’s exoneration after he stalked and killed a black teenager, Alexander’s supporters were able to get her out of prison for a new trial. Now the prosecutor, the same person who gave such a weak case against Zimmerman’s defense, wants her in prison for 60 years. Florida has a new “Stand Your Ground” law that legalizes warning shots without first attempting to retreat. Yet Duval County Circuit Court Judge James Daniel has denied Alexander a hearing seeking immunity from prosecution.

No one knows how many other women are in prison because they defended themselves against abusers: no agency, including prison and court systems, keeps track of this statistic. A California prison study found that 93 percent of women who killed their significant others had been abused by them. In New York, it’s 67 percent.

Victoria Law reports that every domestic violence survivor in prison for defending herself had repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, sought help. One woman said that the police drove by and ignored the violence while her boyfriend beat her on the street. The only time that they arrested the boyfriend was for illegal drug paraphernalia—an overnight offense. Another woman said that every time she called the police that they would talk to the boyfriend and then allow him to return to abusing her. The abuser of a third woman was a police officer which left her nowhere to go for protection.

Law wrote:

“In Sin by Silence, a documentary about survivors incarcerated for defending themselves, sociologist Dr. Elizabeth Leonard explained that a battered woman is 75 percent more at risk of being killed after she leaves. She stays at that increased risk for the next two years. Feeling as if he’s losing control, batterers generally increase their level of violence. ‘Leaving does not stop the violence,’ states Dr. Leonard, in the film.”

Every women dealing with abuse knows that the choice is his life or hers. The difference between men and women is that men are exonerated and women are imprisoned.

Last month U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller was arrested for misdemeanor battery after his wife called 911 during his attack on her. He agreed to a 24-week domestic violence intervention program with no time behind bars and stays on the bench with his record expunged. Federal judges are confirmed by the Senate to lifetime terms, though the chamber can also remove them from office. Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee, was confirmed in 2002 with the support of GOP Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

Fuller issued this statement:

“This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court,” Judge Fuller said in a statement. “I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved.”

At this time, Shelby and Sessions both want Fuller to leave the bench, but they have not called for impeachment. Law enforcement and courts continue to protect men and incarcerate women. Marissa Alexander is still in prison for defending herself, as are thousands of other women. Jessica Arrendale is dead because of domestic violence, like thousands of other women. And the United States allows uncontrolled purchase and ownership of guns used for killing innocent people.

March 3, 2014

Media Skips Events: House Bills, Nuclear Energy, Venezuela, Marissa Alexander

This morning I woke up thinking that I hadn’t heard anything about U.S. House activities lately. That’s what the mainstream media has reported—nothing. But the GOP members are still busy. These are bills that they passed just last Thursday in what they call “Stop Government Abuse Week.” There was nothing about a “Help People Get Jobs Week.”

These five bills all attack the EPA by rendering the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act meaningless because downright repealing this act wouldn’t look good for them. With all the red tape of these proposed laws, the party of less government seems to be moving in the area of massive bureaucracy:

 

  • All Economic Regulations are Transparent (ALERT) Act.  The purpose of this is to make creating regulations more difficult, for example that one that “prohibits a rule from taking effect until the information required by this Act is posted on the Internet for not less than six months.”
  • Regulatory Accountability Act. Agencies would be required to choose the least costly rule possible after conducting estimates of all “indirect” costs (undefined) and benefits. Industry groups could then sue if they disagree. Anything is possible with this act: for example, incentivizing companies to transfer compliance online could be interpreted as an indirect cost from paper companies’ losing business. Of course, the least costly method of regulating asbestos would be posting warnings.
  • Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act.  Rules that affect small businesses are already reviewing proposed regulations, but this act would require all regulations from almost all regulatory agencies to go before a Small Business Review panel, even if the regulations would not affect these businesses.
  • Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act. The result of this act would be to put barriers to reaching agreements to settle lawsuits if an agency such as the EPA does not meet a deadline for issuing a regulation mandated by law.
  • Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act. These unfunded mandates would be on federal agencies to provide more reports on the financial impact on businesses and states of regulations.

 

This is a sample of what a GOP Congress could do to the country.

As I mentioned above, there was nothing in my newspaper about the bills that the House passed last week. The media has, from time to time, addressed the issue of newspapers disappearing across the country. I have fought the trend by subscribing to three newspapers, two dailies and my small town’s twice-weekly publication. As I see how these papers—even large ones from Portland and Eugene—concentrate on local issues or just the big headlines of the day such as the recent situation in the Ukraine, I question the money that I send them.

Here are a few stories that weren’t touched in any of my print newspapers:

On the same day that the House passed the above five bills, the Obama administration recommended that private companies should start looking for oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic coast, an area closed to drilling for decades. The industry has lobbied for three decades to lease ocean tracts from Delaware to Cape Canaveral (FL) and failed—until now. The current five-year plan preventing drilling ends in 2017, but an environmental impact study by the Interior Department decided that undersea seismic testing could begin at that time. That means that two federal agencies are considering the destruction of the environment through the Keystone XL Pipeline and Atlantic drilling.    

A few short articles have been released about the 100 tons of highly radioactive water that leaked from one of the more than 1,000 storage tanks because of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and is now moving toward North America’s west coast. Thus far, the waters off Canada are at an “acceptable” level, but the ocean currents keep moving radioactivity toward us. At the same time, Japan announced a major push to expand its nuclear energy program, and the Obama administration has approved $6.5 billion in loan guarantees for the country’s first new nuclear power plant in more than 30 years.  

While the government plans new nuclear plants, it ignores the dilemma of the old ones, faulty cleanup and failure to successfully store the spent nuclear fuel. Two whistleblowers about the troubled safety practices at the Hanford (WA) massively contaminated nuclear-waste site have been fired within the past few months. The 70-year-old plant has 53 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 underground tanks, many of them leaking radioactive materials into the ground. Both reported a design flaw that could lead to a hydrogen explosion or a nuclear chain reaction. Cleanup at Hanford costs taxpayers about $2 billion a year.

This past month an accident caused 13 employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad (NM) to inhale radioactive americium that concentrates in the bone, liver and muscle, and radioactive isotopes have been discovered a half mile away from the plant. The plant, containing more than 80,000 cubic meters of waste, has been closed for over two weeks after the discovery. The disaster may have been caused by a large piece of salt falling from the ceiling in the storage area and rupturing drums of waste. Potentially, more than the 13 workers could be at risk.

A few articles are finally beginning to trickle into the mainstream media almost a month after the beginning of the “unrest” in Venezuela protesting its new government with thousands of people marching through the streets of Caracas and clashing with police. Although my newspaper did mention this “unrest,” it skipped the part in which at least 17 people have been killed during the protests and countless others have been arrested.

Venezuela 

Perhaps mainstream media is staying quiet because of the reasons behind the protest—income inequality and oil. Plentiful oil destroyed the country’s agriculture, and rural people retreated to the cities where the wealthy gated their neighborhoods to keep them out. Protesters are fed up with rising prices, scarce goods, a crackdown on independent media, and colectivos, left over from the Chavez regime, who act as paramilitary groups attacking demonstrators. The debate—and the protests—stem from two visions of Venezuela and the way in which oil wealth should be distributed and spent. Should it go to social programs or policing?

On the other side of the world in Afghanistan, U.S. forces beat up a radio station owner who airs ads paid for by U.S. forces and threatened to kill him. Qazi Nasir Mudassir said that the U.S. special forces didn’t seem to know that his station is largely supported by pro-government ads paid for by the U.S. military and that he received death threats from the Taliban for running these ads. U.S. forces blamed the operation on Afghans.

White men shooting and killing other people in Florida is common, according to the news, and most of them escape guilty verdicts. When a black woman fired one shot in the wall of her Florida house because her abusive estranged husband was going to beat her up—and admitted it to the police—she went to prison. After the internet spread knowledge about Marissa Alexander’s 20-year-old sentence for defending herself, she received a new trial. An appeals court overturned the conviction.

Prosecuting attorney Angela Corey could have dropped the case, but she refused. Corey was also the prosecuting attorney in George Zimmerman’s case when the jury exonerated him. Now Florida prosecutors are asking for an additional 40 years—a total of 60 years in all.

Thus a black woman in fear for her life fires one shot, injures no one, and was sentenced to 20 years with the possibility of an additional 40 years. In the same state, a racist white man follows a black teenager, shoots and kills him, and gets off. And the media ignores the plight of the black woman.

I guess I’ll be cancelling at least one of my newspapers.

September 28, 2013

News Hiding among GOP Shutting Down the Government

The news media has been fixated about the possibility of the U.S. government shutting down with a sideways glance at the first conversation between a U.S. president and an Iranian president in 34 years. The latest comes from The Hill which reports that the House voted to move more quickly on the Continuing Resolution that the Senate sent back to them yesterday. (The article reports that “just a handful of Republicans and Democrats” voted against changing the rule: that “handful” is actually 191 votes—44 percent of the members.)

Rapid voting won’t help because the GOP is adding two amendments to the Senate’s version of the CR, one delaying Obamacare for one year and the other repealing the 2.7 percent tax on medical devices in Obamacare. Another addition is a “conscience clause,” meaning that anyone, for example pharmacists, could refuse preventative care for women. This evening they’re just sitting around delaying the vote. It’s gone beyond ideological to thumbing their noses at women’s rights.

One governor who wants Obamacare is Kentucky’s Steve Beshear who wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “My State Needs Obamacare. Now.”  Pointing out that Kentucky is among the sickest, most unhealthy state in the nation, he credits the Medicaid expansion and Kynect health exchange for providing affordable coverage to more than 600,000 Kentuckians, creating 17,000 jobs, and saving the state $800 million. He writes to his GOP senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and others:

“So, to those more worried about political power than Kentucky’s families, I say, ‘Get over it.’ Get over it … and get out of the way so I can help my people. Here in Kentucky, we cannot afford to waste another day or another life.”

Here’s other news that hasn’t receive attention because of the concentration on Ted Cruz’s and the Tea Party’s games:

The best news is that 32-year-old Marissa Alexander will receive a new trial after serving of her 20-year prison sentence in Florida. Over three years ago, her husband  broke through a locked door into the bathroom where she was hiding, grabbed her by the neck, and shoved her to the floor. She escaped into the garage but couldn’t escape. When she returned  into the house with a gun, her husband said, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” She fired the gun into the ceiling. The jury took 12 minutes to refuse her claims of self-defense. Firing a gun during a felony gives a mandatory 20-year sentence in Florida.

A state appellate panel reversed the conviction because the court had instructed the jury that she had to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The “stand your ground” law puts the burden of proof on the prosecutor. That’s the reason that the jury failed to award George Zimmerman a guilty verdict for killing Trayvon Martin. The appellate court also stated that Alexander didn’t have to prove she had been injured by her husband because he was not hurt in the shooting.

Alexander, who had no criminal record, had never been arrested, and she had a restraining order against her husband. She was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same prosecutor in the Zimmerman case.

The next time that conservatives snarl about the current president having used illegal drugs in the past, think about their hypocrisy. According to an advocacy group trying to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), at least 100 million “successful Americans” have used marijuana and “even more” think it should be legal. These include such high-profile conservatives as presidential wannabes Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and George W. Bush.

The same conservatives who want a “War on Drugs” also think that federal surveillance is important for their safety. A new audit of the Department of Justice finds that the statistics of terrorism have been overstated (aka falsified). In 2009, figures for terrorist convictions were inflated by 13 percent; in the next year, that rate of exaggeration doubled to 26 percent. The Department of Justice branch responsible for these figures, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), gave the reason as human error and “shoddy recordkeeping”—counting terrorists twice or counting those with dismissed charges as convictions. Convictions for non-terrorist crimes such as bank robbery, drug dealing, and animal fighting were also incorrectly classified as terrorist convictions. The insistence that NSA’s surveillance program disrupted 50 terrorist plots is equally false.

By not paying taxes, giant corporations have the money to sue countries around the world. Philip Morris has lawsuits against the Australian government to overturn public health laws aimed at reducing teenage smoking. Chevron has hired 2,000 lawyers in an attempt to avoid paying Ecuador $19 billion in damages due for the horrific oil spills they inflicted. Bayer is suing Europe to overturn their ban on bee-killing pesticide—all while investing millions with Monsanto to defeat an effort to label GM foods in the U.S.

While going through my email requests for petition-signers, I came across this gem. The National Football League (NFL), a $9 billion a year industry, is tax-exempt because it claims to be a non-profit organization. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, makes almost $30 million a year, more than the heads of Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart; the NFL controls more than $50 billion in contracts with television networks. Taxpayers fund stadiums where NFL teams play. The Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association aren’t tax-free: the NFL should have to pay taxes.

Allen West, famous for his sexist language while he was a one-term U.S. GOP representative from Florida, has left his job at Pajamas Media. There are two versions about why. West said he resigned. Others said that he was fired after he told a female staffer to “shut up” and called her a “Jewish American princess.” West described it as “an exchange.”

In closing most of its women’s clinics in Texas, legislators used the falsehood that the reason was women’s safety. Texas Tribune has now officially debunked that lie with a review of state inspection records for 36 clinics that provided abortions. Although auditors found 19 regulatory violations they claimed were risks to patient safety at six of the clinics not ambulatory surgical centers, none was severe enough to warrant financial penalties. The facilities’ corrective actions were sufficient to protect the patients. In the past five years, the Texas Medical Board took action for just three doctors who performed abortions, all for administrative infractions. During the past 15 years, however, the maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled.

The tiniest blip on the radar is probably the most dangerous news for people in the U.S. and the world. Secret negotiations for the proposed “free trade” agreement among over 12 countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to be concluded in October, will destroy the U.S.’s ability to make laws protecting the country. A drastic consequence is the dissolution of our internet freedoms. Provisions in this agreement, according to leaks, deal with intellectual property, including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and Internet intermediary liability. If passed, the TPP provisions will infringe on privacy, freedom of expression, and innovation on the Internet.

Specific risks would include blocking deaf and blind people from existing uses of the Internet; forcing service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards; kicking entire families off the Internet for minor copyright infringements; giving media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use and remove online content—including entire websites; and creating a parallel legal system of international tribunals that will undermine national sovereignty and allow conglomerates to sue countries for laws that infringe on their profits.

After individuals and organizations began protesting TPP, the negotiations went farther underground with no meeting announcements from the U.S. Trade Rep. There may have been one in September in Mexico City during which countries resistant to U.S. demands to sign onto the standards may have been strong-armed into doing so. .

Congress members in Peru have presented a motion to demand a thorough and public debate on current TPP proposals and for trade delegates to give a comprehensive report on the ongoing negotiations. Chilean Senators recently called for a public debate on TPP, requesting the President to provide “timely and accurate” information on the affects of the agreement on their country. In New Zealand, a Parliamentary member is demanding answers from the Prime Minister about the secrecy of the agreement and how its provisions could undermine consumer protection laws. Canadian Member of Parliament Don Davies has called on the Prime Minister to give Parliamentary Member access to the TPP, especially in light of documents revealing how a small group of industry associations have had special access to Canada’s negotiating position. The Malaysian Cabinet released a statement saying that it would not be bound by a fixed timeline on TPP and calling for more transparency in the process.

At this point, the timeline for TPP’s conclusion is ambiguous. The U.S. Trade Rep Michael Froman continues to claim that the U.S. will not force countries to rush a deal by any particular deadline, while also stating that the Obama administration has placed top priority on concluding the TPP before the end of the year.

My favorite: Two weeks ago when First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to encourage people to drink more water, Rush Limbaugh did his usual attack against her: “This is really absurd.  Drink more water?  It’s none of their business.  Why do they care?  You drink when you’re thirsty.” Hopefully, no one looks at Limbaugh as an example of someone in good health. At this point, one way to kill off conservatives would be for Michelle Obama to recommend breathing. Meanwhile, I’m trying to drink more water. It’s my personal protest against the right-wing conservatives.

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