Posts by Liz Goodwin
Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 1 day ago
Only one issue in Washington right now could bring together the Koch brothers’ top lawyer, an environmental activist, the former head of the NRA and Sen. Al Franken.
Criminal justice reform.
In a city best known for dysfunction and discord, the issue has stood out as a rare area of common ground between Democrats and Republicans.
And at a panel on reforming the criminal justice system hosted by the Constitution Project advocacy group on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the bipartisan array of speakers seemed genuinely nonplussed by the harmony across an otherwise gaping political divide.
Van Jones, the former Obama administration official and liberal commentator, was seated next to Mark Holden, Koch Industries’ general counsel and the face of the conservative mega-donors’ efforts to lower incarceration rates in the country. (The Koch brothers are planning to spend a reported $889 million during the 2016 election cycle, a figure that puts their operation in the same financial ballpark as the two political parties themselves.)
Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 9 days ago
Likely 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul delivered his own populist response to the State of the Union Tuesday night, calling for term limits for Congress, lower taxes for everyone and help for impoverished Americans in inner cities.
“The best thing that could happen is for us to once and for all limit the terms of all politicians,” Paul began, after declaring that America is "adrift."
The Republican from Kentucky quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying he has observed “two Americas” living separately in the nation, divided by poverty and race. “My trips to Ferguson, Detroit, Atlanta and Chicago revealed what I call an undercurrent of unease. There is a tension,” he said.
But Paul said strengthening social programs — the president’s suggestion — would not help that problem. “Those of us actively pursuing the American dream simply want government to get out of the way,” the senator said.
He also promised to put forward a constitutional amendment that would prohibit Congress from passing any law that exempts members of Congress.
“We have set up a privileged class in Washington, and Americans are sick and tired of it,” Paul said.
Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 24 days ago
Any New York City police officers refusing to make arrests or issue traffic violations to express their dissatisfaction with Mayor Bill de Blasio will face forceful consequences, the department’s top cop said Monday.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a press conference that while he is not convinced the NYPD's rank-and-file is engaging in an organized work slowdown, he is actively investigating a dramatic drop in arrests in recent weeks and will deal swiftly with any intentional slacking off.
“We’re watching that very closely,” Bratton said Monday of the dip in summonses and arrests. He’s ordering a “comprehensive review of what has been happening,” drilling down to the precinct and squad car level to determine who is working and who may be dropping the ball.
The number of summonses in the city is down 90 percent for the week ending Sunday, according to the Daily News, while arrests are down 56 percent compared to the year before.
“We’re not in a public safety crisis in New York City, by any stretch of the imagination,” Bratton said.
Liz Goodwin at Yahoo News 24 days ago
In the wake of the murder of two New York City police officers and a national debate about policing, the National Fraternal Order of Police is asking for the Congressional hate crimes statute to be expanded to include crimes against police officers. The union has more than 300,000 members.
Violence against police officers that is motivated by anti-police bias should be prosecuted as a hate crime, the nation’s largest police union is arguing in a letter to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders this week.
“Right now, it’s a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their skin, but it ought to be a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their uniform as well,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
“Enough is enough! It’s time for Congress to do something to protect the men and women who protect us,” Chuck Canterbury, the president of the union, said in a statement Monday. The group has long lobbied for harsher punishment for those who harm law enforcement officers.
According to FBI statistics, the majority of hate crimes are motivated by racial bias.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio faced a mix of boos and applause as he took the stage to address a graduating class of 884 newly minted NYPD recruits Monday. The speech at Madison Square Garden comes at a tense moment between the mayor and the NYPD. Hundreds of police officers turned their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of slain officer Rafael Ramos over the weekend, a sign of continued tension after police unions pinned blame for the murders of two cops on the mayor’s support of recent protests pushing for police reform. The unions have criticized the mayor for supporting protests in the city after a grand jury decided not to indict a NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Ramos and a second officer, Wenjian Liu, were murdered Dec. 20 by a man who appeared to be angry and seeking revenge for the police-involved deaths of Garner and Ferguson teen Michael Brown.
In the wake of two cop slayings in Brooklyn this weekend, police unions and their allies are blaming recent calls to bring more accountability to America’s police forces from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Obama administration.
Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, were shot dead while sitting in their patrol car Saturday afternoon by a man who officials say was out for revenge for the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The men’s deaths at the hands of police have caused nationwide protests against police brutality and sparked calls for reform from de Blasio and the Obama administration. These protests intensified after two separate grand juries cleared the policemen of charges of wrongdoing in both cases.
New York City and national police unions quickly blamed the push for reform — and certain politicians’ rhetoric — for inflaming tensions toward police. De Blasio said after the Staten Island grand jury declined to bring charges against the police officer in the Garner case earlier this month that it was a “painful day” for many New Yorkers, leaving some police officers feeling thrown under the bus.
Barbara Scrivner, 48, was called into the warden’s office Wednesday morning in a federal prison in Northern California and given life-changing news.
Twenty years into her three-decade sentence for selling small amounts of meth, President Barack Obama had decided to let her out of prison, her lawyer told her in a brief and emotional phone call. She started to cry.
The warden said that she’d be transferred to a halfway house close to where her daughter lives in Fresno, Calif., as soon as possible, to await her June 12 release date.
“I’m actually real excited,” Scrivner, who was 27 when she started serving her sentence, said Thursday.
Scrivner did not apply for relief through Clemency Project 2014 — her clemency petition was already pending when it began — but advocates say thousands of federal inmates have similar stories to hers and should qualify for shortened sentences. On Wednesday, Obama also shortened the sentences of seven other drug offenders who met the criteria the clemency project is looking for, and an administration official said more would be on the way.
President Barack Obama will shorten the sentences of eight prisoners serving time for nonviolent drug crimes and pardon 12 ex-convicts, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
The act of presidential clemency is traditional around Christmastime, but Obama’s action is part of his administration’s broader push to roll back harsh mandatory drug sentences that imprisoned people for decades for nonviolent drug crimes. The “tough on crime” drug laws contributed to America’s record of locking up a larger share of its population than any other nation in the world.
Scrivner’s attorney, Sam Kauffman, said his client cried when he called her to tell her she had received the commutation from the president. She still had more than four years of her sentence left to serve.
“It should have happened a long time ago, but what are you going to do?” Kauffman said.
In April, Scrivner told Yahoo she wanted to get out of prison to be there for her daughter, Alannah, who was just a toddler when she was sentenced.
"Ten years is a long time to be in prison. And now it’s been 20 years," Scrivner said at the time. "It just doesn't seem real to me.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s bombshell report on the CIA’s interrogation program has armed defense attorneys representing accused terrorists held in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay with a powerful argument against capital punishment and the integrity of the system in which they are being tried.
The report reveals that the men accused of planning the September 11 attacks, as well as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who’s on trial for plotting the USS Cole bombing, were subjected to what the CIA called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, which included waterboarding, rectal feeding, prolonged sleep deprivation and being shackled in “stress” positions for days at a time.
Lawyers for the men plan to request access to the full report — only 11 percent of which was declassified this week in summary form — and now have a road map of which CIA documents they will ask the military commissions judge to give them access to in order to prove that their clients were tortured to the point that they became psychologically unstable.
There’s some precedent for this argument.
Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder expressed disappointment Monday that the U.S. border is exempt from his new racial profiling ban, after the Department of Homeland Security rejected his plan as too risky.
The Justice Department’s new guidance, released Monday, forbids federal law enforcement officers from using race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity as a factor when deciding whom to stop or arrest and in FBI national security investigations — a significant expansion of the Bush-era ban on racial profiling and a keystone of Holder’s legacy.
A Justice Department official told reporters that the new guidance would be “one of the signature accomplishments” of Holder’s tenure.
But a big footnote in the policy, which was won by the Department of Homeland Security after weeks of negotiations, is marring the accomplishment, and frustrating Holder.
Police officers cannot ever use race or ethnicity as the sole basis for making an arrest or stop, but it can be used as one factor in their calculus, according to the Supreme Court.