10 things you need to know today: December 16, 2014

A man comforts a boy at the bedside of a student injured in the attack. 

A man comforts a boy at the bedside of a student injured in the attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

The Week

Taliban fighters kill over 100 children at a military school in Pakistan, Australian police end a gunman’s siege in Sydney, and more

1. Over 100 children die in Taliban attack on Pakistani military school
Taliban militants killed at least 126 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were students and teachers, in an attack at an elite public high school run by Pakistan’s army on Tuesday. Eight to 10 terrorists wearing military uniforms entered the school, which is on a Pakistan military installation, and began “indiscriminate firing,” said Pervaiz Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Two or three terrorists were killed, another blew himself up, but up to five were still in the school, holding scores hostage hours after the siege started. [The Washington Post]


2. Police end gunman’s siege in Sydney
Australian police stormed a Sydney cafe early Tuesday to end a siege by a gunman who had taken 17 employees and customers hostage 16 hours earlier. The alleged captor — Iranian-born Man Haron Monis, 50 — and two hostages died. One, cafe manager Tori Johnson, reportedly died trying to wrestle a shotgun from the gunman. The other, customer Katrina Dawson, died shielding a pregnant colleague. Monis, a self-styled Muslim cleric, was on bail after being charged with accessory to murder and sexual assault, but he was not on a terrorism watch list. [Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph]


3. Sandy Hook families sue maker of semi-automatic rifle used in school shooting
Families of nine first-graders and adults who died in the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Monday filed a lawsuit against the maker of the military-style, semi-automatic assault rifle used by the killer. Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the families and a teacher who survived the attack, said the Bushmaster Firearms International rifle used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza was designed for killing in combat, and should not be sold for home defense or hunting. [Hartford Courant, CNN]


4. U.S. opens its biggest detention center for immigrants
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday inaugurated the nation’s largest immigration detention facility on Monday. The 50-acre facility in South Texas is equipped to hold up to 2,400 people caught crossing the border from Mexico. President Obama has offered protection from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants, angering Republicans who say he overstepped his authority. Johnson presided over the detention center’s opening to call attention to other executive orders by Obama aiming to tighten border security. [The New York Times]


5. Manhunt continues after Pennsylvania killing spree
Pennsylvania authorities continued a manhunt overnight for a former Marine reservist, Bradley William Stone, suspected of killing six members of his family and seriously wounding another in towns near Philadelphia. The victims, who died in shootings at three separate locations, included Stone’s ex-wife, his former sister-in-law, brother-in-law, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and 14-year-old niece. Schools in the area were closed Tuesday as the search continued. [Philly.com,ABC News]


6. Senate confirms Vivek Murthy as surgeon general
The Senate on Monday confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as the nation’s 19th surgeon general despite objections by gun-rights advocates. At 37, Murthy became the third-youngest doctor to head the U.S. public health service. The British-born Murthy graduated from Harvard University and Yale University Medical School, and founded Doctors for America, which pushed for the Affordable Care Act and promotes HIV/AIDS education. He faced opposition from some conservatives over his support for an assault weapons ban, and his belief that “guns are a healthcare issue.” [Los Angeles Times]


7. Tens of thousands have died in a year of war in South Sudan, U.N. says
A year of war has killed tens of thousands of people in South Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday, a year after the fighting started in the capital city of Juba. As battles spread across the country, more than 1.9 million people were driven from their homes. Ban called on South Sudan’s leaders to reach an inclusive power-sharing agreement and stop putting their “personal ambitions” ahead of the newly established nation’s survival. [The Associated Press]


8. Russia hikes interest rates to halt ruble’s dive
Russia’s central bank raised a key interest rate to 17 percent in an emergency meeting early Tuesday aiming to prevent the collapse of the nation’s currency, the ruble. The currency took its biggest one-day plunge since 1998 on Monday as falling oil prices and economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis push the Russian economy into recession. The ruble regained as much as 10.8 percent — its biggest surge in 16 years — after the rate hike, only to weaken again hours later. [Bloomberg, Reuters]


9. Rare northern white rhino dies at San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo’s northern white rhino, Angalifu, has died, leaving only five of the animals left in the world. Zoo officials said Angalifu, estimated to be about 44 years old, had been under veterinary care for lack of appetite. Northern white rhinos are one of two subspecies of white rhinoceros. They once roamed the grasslands of East and Central Africa, but were hunted to the brink of extinction by poachers seeking rhino horns. There are about 20,000 southern white rhinos left. [NBC News]


10. Navajos buy back sacred artifacts at French auction
Members of the Navajo Nation outbid a French art collector to buy back seven sacred ceremonial masks for $9,000 at a Paris auction on Monday. The objects offered by the Drouot auction house also included dozens of Hopi kachina dolls. Hopi tribal leaders declined to bid, calling the sale appalling. Navajo leaders said they had to face reality and bid to recover their artifacts, which a medicine man named Jim said were “living and breathing beings.” [The Associated Press]

Why it matters that Dick Cheney still can’t define torture

Former Vice President Dick Cheney appears on “Meet the Press” in Washington, D.C. December 14, 2014, in this picture provided by NBC News. Cheney argued on Sunday that the CIA’s aggressive interrogation of terrorism suspects did not amount to torture, the man who provided the legal rationale for the program said that in some cases it had perhaps gone too far. | REUTERS/William B. Plowman/NBC News/Handout via Reuters (UNITED STATES

The Washington Post – Plum Line

When we learned late last week that Dick Cheney would appear on Meet the Press to discuss the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, I wrote this post suggesting some questions Cheney ought to be asked, the first of which is, “What is your definition of torture?”

Why is this question so important? Because torture advocates from the Bush administration and the CIA have always insisted that the things they did to prisoners — like the use of waterboarding or stress positions, the purpose of which is to induce excruciating pain — are not actually torture, and are therefore perfectly legal and morally unproblematic. This is one of the two pillars on which their advocacy rests, the other being that the torture program produced significant intelligence that couldn’t have been obtained any other way. And it’s precisely what could allow a future administration to start torturing prisoners all over again.

This has been something of a hobbyhorse for me for quite a while. But until this weekend I had never seen a high Bush administration official asked what the definition of torture is. That Cheney refused to answer wasn’t surprising, but what he did say was revealing nevertheless.

In a Twitter exchange on Friday, I promised Chuck Todd that if he asked Cheney for his definition of torture, I would send him a pie. It looks like I’ll have to make good on that pledge, because here’s how the interview began. Read Cheney’s responses closely:

TODD: Well, let me start with quoting you. You said earlier this week, “Torture was something that was very carefully avoided.” It implies that you have a definition of what torture is. What is it?

CHENEY: Well, torture, to me, Chuck, is an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York City on 9/11. There’s this notion that somehow there’s moral equivalence between what the terrorists and what we do. And that’s absolutely not true. We were very careful to stop short of torture. The Senate has seen fit to label their report torture. But we worked hard to stay short of that definition.

TODD: Well, what is that definition?

CHENEY: Definitions, and one that was provided by the Office of Legal Counsel, we went specifically to them because we did not want to cross that line into where we violating some international agreement that we’d signed up to. They specifically authorized and okayed, for example, exactly what we did. All of the techniques that were authorized by the president were, in effect, blessed by the Justice Department opinion that we could go forward with those without, in fact, committing torture.

To Todd’s credit, he kept trying to get Cheney to define torture. He asked Cheney about the “rectal feeding” that some prisoners were subjected to, and asked Cheney if that constituted torture; Cheney replied, “I’ve told you what meets the definition of torture. It’s what 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11.”

Cheney’s argument here – and this was hardly the first time – is that as long as al-Qaeda’s tactics are worse than ours, nothing we do is morally unjustified. His claim that “there’s this notion that somehow there’s moral equivalence between what the terrorists and what we do” is a classic straw man. No one’s asking whether the CIA’s torture program is better or worse than the September 11 attacks; that’s not how you make moral judgments. According to Cheney’s logic, if I approached him on the street, pushed him over and took his wallet, I could escape accountability by telling the judge that I did nothing wrong because it would have been much worse had I hit him over the head with a lead pipe and stolen his car.

Cheney never even attempted to define torture. But that definition isn’t some complex, arcane matter that you need a team of law professors to unravel. It’s very straightforward. Here’s the way U.S. law defines torture: “An act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.”

The United Nations Convention Against Torture — a treaty the United States signed and ratified — defines it in a substantively identical (if somewhat more verbose) way: “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

But even after this repeated questioning, we still don’t know how Dick Cheney or any other torture advocate defines it. Why not? It seems pretty clear. There is simply no definition that anyone could devise that wouldn’t apply to things like stress positions or waterboarding. Try to imagine one. Torture is the infliction of severe physical or mental suffering to obtain information or a confession — but only if it leaves a mark? Or only if it’s done by non-Americans? Any such definition would be absurd on its face.

So when people like Cheney are asked what the definition of torture is, they say, “September 11!” When asked what definition of torture wouldn’t apply to the particular techniques the CIA employed, they just repeat, “We didn’t torture” over and over. They not only defend torture as a means of obtaining intelligence, they sing its praises and insist that it was spectacularly successful, all without having the courage to call the thing by its true and only name.

After taking office, President Obama issued an executive order limiting interrogation to the techniques laid out in the Army Field Manual (which defines torture as “the infliction of intense pain to body or mind to extract a confession on information, or for sadistic pleasure”). The Field Manual specifically mentions stress positions and prolonged sleep deprivation, but its list of examples of torture is hardly meant to be exhaustive. As Greg hasnoted, it would be possible for Congress to pass legislation codifying that executive order into law.

But torture was already illegal, and the Bush administration did it anyway. All it required was a couple of administration lawyers willing to writememos saying, in essence, do whatever you want. In this case, the key memo was written by a lawyer named Jay Bybee, who wrote that if a technique of abuse didn’t cause “death, organ failure, or serious impairment of bodily functions,” then it wasn’t “severe” and therefore wasn’t torture. Jay Bybee sits today on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Every single Republican in the Senate, along with 25 Democrats, voted to confirm him to that position.

Even if those of us who believe the United States shouldn’t torture prisoners are getting the better of today’s argument, there is absolutely no reason to believe that in the right set of circumstances and with the right administration in power, we couldn’t start torturing prisoners again. Bush administration officials, from the former president and his vice president on down, have shown no remorse about their torture program; to the contrary, they’ve been effusive in their praise for it. No one associated with the program has been held accountable, legally or otherwise. Jose Rodriguez, the CIA officer who oversaw the program and destroyedvideotapes to keep Americans from seeing what it looked like, writes op-eds and makes the rounds of television programs promoting his version of history. George Tenet, who ran the CIA during both the torture years and the disastrous runup to the Iraq War, got the Medal of Freedom.

Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart famously said that while he couldn’t define pornography, he knew it when he saw it. We can define torture quite easily — indeed, the definition is widely agreed upon. Dick Cheney can’t define it, though. That’s because he wants to justify what he and his colleagues did in the past, and keep the door open to doing it again in the future.

In demanding apologies, police unions show white supremacy is a core value

Andrew Hawkins | screenshot from ABC 5


The above headline banner seems to reinforce my thoughts after posting the article preceding this one…

Daily Kos

Racism has a hard time hiding.People love to deny its very existence, but it just has a way of telling on itself. Those who harbor prejudice on the inside eventually can’t help but let it out in a way, so ugly and toxic, that you soon wonder how they kept it disguised for as long as they had.The leaked emails from Sony come to mind.While the overwhelming majority of African Americans see some level of racial discrimination and devaluing of black life in the police murders of unarmed men like Akai Gurley, Kendrec McDade, and Eric Garner, it’s become far too easy for police (and society) to deny race played even a small role in any of these homicides.

In essence, unless the police are recorded using the “n-word” or secretly walking out of a Klan meeting, they can effectively deny they have a racist bone in their body, but that’s not really how the new racism works in 2014. Racial slurs and Klan meetings are used less, but some reputable polls show the majority of Americans still hold some level of racist views against African Americans. Yet we’re expected to believe that those racist views are somehow never held by police and never play any role in the deaths of African Americans they kill by the hundreds year in and year out.

Like a leaking pen in the pocket of a white dress shirt, private racism just has a way of bleeding out into the public and making a mess of itself eventually. Few things smack of leaky-pen racism more than the police unions of Cleveland and St. Louis recently demanding apologies from athletes and sports franchises for wearing T-shirts showing solidarity with families of victims of police violence.

Within hours of Cleveland Browns player Andrew Hawkins coming out to his pre-game warm up with a T-shirt stating “Justice for Tamir Rice & John Crawford,” Jeff Follman, president of the Cleveland Police Union, issued a statement so incendiary that it was hard to believe. Speaking to the local Cleveland ABC affiliate, Follman said:

It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.

Follman, speaking to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, went on to say:

He’s an athlete. He’s someone with no facts of the case whatsoever. He’s disrespecting the police on a job that we had to do and make a split-second decision. He should stick to playing football and let us worry about law enforcement. The players don’t know what our job entails. Don’t judge us by what you’re reading in the media.

Let’s dissect these statements line by line.“It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law.”

First off, wearing a T-shirt stating “Justice for Tamir Rice & John Crawford” isn’t a declaration of knowing the law as much as it is a statement of support and solidarity for two families who lost cherished loved ones. Tamir was his mother’s youngest son and John was a young father of two, a beloved boyfriend, and the only son of his parents as well. Neither Tamir or John broke the law but both paid the harshest price possible at the hands of police.

Secondly, Andrew Hawkins, the player who wore the shirt, is an educated man who went to college for four years in Ohio, and played several seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals before moving up north to play for the Browns. The inference here is that Andrew, and other athletes, are somehow unable to know the law, that it is beyond their comprehension and that they are pathetic for thinking otherwise. In essence, Follman made it clear that he felt he was superior to NFL athletes from the very first words he uttered.

Lastly, why did Follman use the word pathetic in his statement to the press except to enflame tensions and be insulting?

“They should stick to what they know best on the field.”

Again, another unnecessary insult from Follman in which he basically states that athletes are one-dimensional humans who should shut up and play ball. Mind you, again, that Hawkins wore a very tame T-shirt showing solidarity with the family. It didn’t say “Fuck the police” or “Cop Killer” on it, but just had the names of two young victims of police violence. It’s hard not to hear racial undertones when a white man in authority tells a black man who stood up to stick to the field.

What Follman is also completely failing to understand is that African Americans have reluctantly become experts at all things related to police violence, ranging from how to avoid it, how to record and report it, and where it’s happening all over the country. Fifteen years ago most African Americans could only name one victim of police violence—Rodney King—but today that list is long and backed my narrative details.

“The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.”

First off, they are paid to do this. The police work for the Browns and for the people and are paid to do it. Working for the Browns is a privilege and doesn’t mean that the team or the players, because they’ve hired the Cleveland Police to do security, somehow then forfeit their right to stand up against injustice.

Secondly, the Cleveland Police Department was just cited for widespread abuse in a report from the Justice Department and is having oversight placed on it as a result. This is, sadly, the second time in 10 years they’ve been faced with such a designation.

Lastly, Timothy Loehman, the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, should’ve never been hired by the Cleveland PD in the first place. His performance records suggested he was never fit for duty.

Now, let’s deal with one final statement made by Follman because it’s an increasingly common refrain made not only by police but by their sympathizers.

“He’s someone with no facts of the case whatsoever.”

Whether Follman was speaking about the shooting death of Tamir Rice or John Crawford, the bottom line is this: scores and scores of facts are known. This notion that Hawkins or the public have “no facts of the case whatsoever” is ludicrous.

Every detail in the shooting death of John Crawford has been released and his death was filmed on security camera.

Regarding Tamir Rice, we see him shot and killed within two seconds of the police pulling up. We’ve heard the 911 call that stated the gun was probably a fake and Tamir looked like a kid. We’ve learned that Timothy Loehman was unfit to be an officer. We learned that they left Tamir there to die and put his sister in handcuffs.

To say that no facts are known is bullshit personified. It’s precisely because so many awful facts are known that Andrew Hawkins felt the need to wear that T-shirt in the first place. It’s precisely because so many awful facts are known about the Cleveland Police Department that men like him and protestors all over the country and the world feel like they must speak out and speak up for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.

A 12-year-old boy and a young father were killed in Ohio by police. Neither were breaking laws when they were killed. Everything about their deaths is tragic. Their families are grieving and the community is outraged. Instead of showing a level of support or shared grief, what the Cleveland Police Department has shown is that they don’t really have any true remorse whatsoever. By attempting to publicly shame Andrew Hawkins for standing with these families, what the police union has actually done is show its true colors.

Cleveland Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins delivers emotional response to Cleveland police union’s reaction to ‘Justice for Tamir Rice’ shirt


Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals

“My wearing of the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason to innocent people,” said Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins about wearing this T-shirt before Sunday’s game against Cincinnati | John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins defended his wearing a “Justice for Tamir Rice” shirt during warm-ups before Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

“My wearing of the T-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department,” Hawkins said. “My wearing of the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason to innocent people.”

Hawkins made the statement the day after Cleveland police union president Jeff Follmer called Hawkins’ shirt “pathetic” and said Hawkins should stick to playing football.

Follmer said on Monday that he took issue with Hawkins’ statements, especially ones that characterized some officers as “not-so-good.”

“What he doesn’t talk about is that our officers were in a situation because of another male’s actions, who tragically turned out to be 12,” Follmer said. “He doesn’t talk about the fact that (Rice) didn’t respond to our officer’s commands and tried to pull the gun from his waistband.”

The Browns responded by saying they respected both the police and their players’ rights to take on causes they feel are important.

Rice, 12, was fatally shot on Nov. 22 by rookie Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann less than two seconds after he arrived to investigate a complaint about the boy carrying what turned out to be an airsoft pellet gun.

Hawkins shirt read “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford” on the front and “The Real Battle for Ohio” on the back. Crawford, 22, was fatally shot by police on Aug. 5 while holding a toy rifle inside a Walmart in Beavercreek, outside Dayton.

Hawkins took no questions from the media after speaking for more than six minutes. He said he knew wearing the shirt could have consequences, including tarnishing his reputation. He said that realization scared him, but he needed to support Rice and his family.

“If I was to run away from what I felt in my soul was the right thing to do, that would make me a coward and I couldn’t live with that,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he thought about his 2-year-old son someday suffering the same fate as Rice.

“That little boy is my world,” Hawkins said, choking up. “My number one reason for wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin. And that scares the living hell out of me.”

Hawkins said he grew up respecting police, but was also taught to be wary of some officers.

“My mom also taught me just as there are good police officers, there are some not-so-good police officers who assume the worst of me without knowing anything about me for reasons I can’t control,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he believes there should be consequences for police officers who make mistakes and hurt people based on “preconceived notions or the wrong motives.”

Hawkins said he believes calls for justice means fair treatment for everyone involved. He said he has friends and family who are good police officers and called them “brave.”

“A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology,” Hawkins said.

John Yoo, author of interrogation memo and UC Berkeley law professor, says CIA maybe went too far

John Yoo (CNN)

The Raw Story

As former Vice President Dick Cheney argued on Sunday that the CIA’s aggressive interrogation of terrorism suspects did not amount to torture, the man who provided the legal rationale for the program said that in some cases it had perhaps gone too far.

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo said the sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and other harsh treatment outlined in a U.S. Senate report last week could violate anti-torture laws.

“If these things happened as they’re described in the report … they were not supposed to be done. And the people who did those are at risk legally because they were acting outside their orders,” Yoo said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”.

As Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel in 2002, Yoo co-wrote a memo that was used as the legal sanction for what the CIA called its program of enhanced interrogation techniques after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The memo said only prolonged mental harm or serious physical injury, such as organ failure, violated the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture. Aggressive interrogation methods like waterboarding fell short of that mark.

Yoo’s comments on Sunday contrasted with those of Cheney and former national security officials who invoke his memo to argue that the harsh treatment of detainees was legal.

“They specifically authorized and okayed what we did,” Cheney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

“No one tortured anyone else,” former CIA counter terrorism head Jose Rodriguez said on “Fox News Sunday”.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of 6.3 million pages of CIA documents, released on Tuesday, found that some captives were deprived of sleep for more than a week, at times with their hands shackled above their heads, while others were abused sexually.

“Looking at it now, I think of course you can do these things cumulatively or too much that it would cross the line of the anti-torture statute,” Yoo said on the C-SPAN television network.

He questioned whether the report’s findings were reliable, given it was produced only by Democrats who had a political incentive to cherry-pick the worst examples.

The report concluded the CIA misled the White House and the public about the program and failed to disrupt a single plot. Those findings have been disputed by former CIA officials.

Cheney said he was not concerned that the torture program ensnared victims of mistaken identity, and said he had no regrets.

“I’d do it again in a minute,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Frances Kerry and Stephen Powell)

Watch video of John Yoo’s appearance on CNN…

Editorial “Cartoon”: Scale of Injustice

So, this happened…

Ted sends political image which reads:  Law enforcement vs. people of color — let’s see what the scale of injustice tells us.

Sheila (me):  Thanks Ted…but my heart skipped a beat when I saw this…a bit much for me.  :( (Note: I’m an African American mother with FOUR sons and several grandsons.)

Ted’s replyIt is horrible to contemplate, but almost(?) too true to ignore.

So, I decided NOT to ignore reality…Thanks Ted.

BoA Forced To Pay $1M To Harassed Couple They Called 700 Times (VIDEO)

This is definitely a case of just desserts

Addicting Info

After receiving hundreds of calls over the span of four years, a Florida couple decided to do something about the harassment they received because they fell behind on their mortgage.

Nelson and Joyce Coniglio of Tampa were recently awarded $1,051,000 by a local judge, about $1500 for each of the 700 robocalls they received, plus lawyer and administrative fees.

They had attempted to stop the calls, even alerting Bank of America that they had hired an attorney, but the calls were “unrelenting.”

“The borrowers, the people who own those phones, you do have a right to privacy. And when they say to stop, you have to stop,” said the Coniglios’ attorney, David Mitchell.

The calls didn’t stop just at the home front, either. “We would be out to dinner and they would ring my mother’s cellphone, then they would call my dad’s cellphone and then when we got back to the house, there would be another message on the answering machine,” said  Jason Coniglio, their son.

This is not the first time Bank of America has payed out for their robocalls. They were forced to pay out over $32 million in a class action lawsuit in September of 2013, a result of calling bank members on their cell phones without their express consent.

In a pathetic attempt at spin, Bank of America claimed the recent calls to the Coniglios were there to “help” the homeowners.

“Bank of America has helped 2 million homeowners avoid foreclosure. Our calls to the Coniglios were not to collect a debt, but rather to help them avoid foreclosure after they fell behind on their mortgage payments in 2009,” Bank of America Senior Vice President Dan Frahm said. “Because our calls were not answered and our efforts to help the Coniglios avoid foreclosure were urgent, these calls continued. We are committed to help homeowners in need of assistance avoid foreclosure.”

The judge has rejected all the appeals which Bank of America has filed. At least they will now receive their mortgage payments from the Coniglios.

Fox & Friends Airs Misleading Footage To Suggest Al Sharpton Led Protesters Calling For “Dead Cops”

Make no mistake here, I am not an Al Sharpton fan, but this blatant misrepresentation of the facts is very dangerous territory but Fox News has done it for years with impunity.

Media Matters

Fox’s Clayton Morris: Al Sharpton Is “Calling To Kill Cops”

Video #1

But the footage of protesters chanting anti-police slogans was not from Sharpton’s December 13 march, whichThe Washington Post described as a “peaceful civil rights march led by families of the slain and organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.”

In a later segment flagged by liberal news site Raw Story, Fox sandwiched — without explanation — a clip of the “dead cops” chant in between two clips of Sharpton speaking at the “Justice for All” rally, conflating the two events.

Although an on-screen graphic identified the “dead cop” chant as coming from the New York City protest, co-host Tucker Carlson strongly implied that all the footage shown was from Sharpton’s event, stating, “Huh. So the first clip you heard people are saying, ‘We want the cops dead.’ And the second you heard Al Sharpton say ‘We’re not against the police.'”

Video #2

Co-host Clayton Morris later questioned Sharpton’s claim not to oppose law enforcement and suggested that Sharpton was “calling to kill cops.”

Video #3

MORRIS: But Al Sharpton says, “Wait, wait, wait a sec, you are blowing this out of proportion. We’re not anti-police at all.” Listen to Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON (CLIP): We’re not saying all police are bad. We’re not even saying most are bad. We’re not anti-police. But we’re anti-brutality and the federal government must have a threshold to protect that. Second, the Justice Department must have a division funded to deal with this. Thirdly, we must have the power of special prosecutors, not the local prosecutors.

MORRIS: So does that square with you? You’re not anti-police, but you’re calling to kill cops.

CARLSON: Well the guy has no idea what he is talking about.

MORRIS: And you’re anti-brutality too.

CARLSON: If you take seriously what he said, you can’t even understand it. It just doesn’t make any sense

10 things you need to know today: December 15, 2014

A hostage runs to safety. 

A hostage runs to safety. | (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

The Week

A gunman seizes hostages in Sydney, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wins big in Japan, and more

1. Five hostages escape Sydney cafe as standoff continues
Five people escaped the popular Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, six hours after a gunman walked in during rush hour and took an undetermined number of people hostage. Two people inside the cafe reportedly were forced to hold up a black sign saying, “There is no God but Allah,” in Arabic. Police locked down the blocks surrounding Martin Place, a plaza in the heart of Australia’s largest city, as negotiators worked to get the rest of the hostages freed. [Reuters]


2. Abe’s coalition wins big in Japanese elections
The ruling coalition of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a solid majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday. The victory gave the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed Komei party, four years with a two-thirds majority in the lower house to push for political reforms and Abe’s economic stimulus plan known as Abenomics. Abe said his top priority was steering the economy out of the recession it fell into after a tax increase in April. [The Washington Post]


3. Jeb Bush sparks fresh speculation by releasing policy book and emails
Jeb Bush rekindled speculation that he was preparing a presidential bid when he announced Sunday that he was releasing an e-book on policy and all of his emails from his tenure as Florida’s governor. Bush announced the moves in an interview broadcast Sunday by a Miami TV station. He said he would announce soon whether he would run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. “I have no clue if I’d be a good candidate,” he said. “I hope I would be.” [Fox News]


4. Suspect arrested in Auburn football player’s killing
Police in Alabama arrested Markale Deandra Hart, 32, on Sunday in connection with the murder of Auburn University football player Jakell Mitchell, 18. The freshman tight end’s girlfriend said he was arguing with someone outside a party when a third man pulled out a gun and opened fire, hitting him several times. He died after being rushed to a hospital. Mitchell had been redshirted this season so he could gain weight, but was expected to take on a big role for the team next year. [USA Today]


5. Haiti’s prime minister resigns
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced his resignation in a televised address Sunday night, a day after President Michel Martelly accepted the recommendation of a special commission that called for Lamothe to step down. The commission’s work was part of an effort to resolve a dispute surrounding overdue legislative and municipal elections in the impoverished Caribbean nation. The government has faced sporadic protests alleging corruption, but Lamothe said he was leaving with “a feeling of accomplishment.” [Aljazeera]


6. PetSmart agrees to $8.7 billion buyout
PetSmart on Sunday agreed to sell itself to investors led by private equity firm BC Partners for $8.7 billion. The deal, if it goes through, would be the biggest leveraged buyout of a company in 2014, a year that has been full of major mergers. The buyers would pay roughly $83 a share — a 6.8 percent premium over the pet supply retail chain’s Friday closing stock price. PetSmart runs more than 1,300 stores in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. [The New York Times]


7. Oil starts the week touching a new low
Oil prices continued a months-long slide on Monday, briefly hitting five-and-a-half-year lows. U.S. crude futures fell by more than 2.5 percent to as low as $56.25 a barrel before inching up again. Prices have fallen by more than 40 percent this year, and energy industry analysts expect further declines. “The template is still in place,” said IG market analyst Alastair McCaig. “Over-supply and dwindling demand mean that the pressure will still be on oil.” [Reuters]


8. U.S. Marine charged with murder in the Philippines
The government of the Philippines on Monday charged a U.S. Marine, Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, with the October murder of a transgender woman. The body of the victim, Jennifer Laude, was found in a motel room in a town northwest of Manila, apparently drowned in a toilet bowl. The case reignited debate over the handling of criminal accusations against American military personnel overseas just as the U.S. and the Philippines strengthened ties with an accord giving the U.S. access to Philippine military facilities. [The Associated Press]


9. Bryant passes Jordan on NBA scoring list
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan to move into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Sunday night. Bryant, 36, entered the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves needing just nine points to push ahead of Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls superstar, who scored 32,292 points over 15 seasons. Bryant, who has been in the basketball league for 19 years, finished the game with 26 points, pushing his career total to 32,310. He now trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). [USA Today]


10. Miss South Africa wins Miss World competition
Miss South Africa, Rolene Strauss, was crowned Miss World 2014 on Sunday before a global TV audience estimated at one billion. Strauss, a 22-year-old medical student, said she hoped to spread education through her home country. “I think I will brace myself for what’s about to happen,” she said. “It’s a huge responsibility.” Miss Hungary, Edina Kulcsar, was named runner-up, and Miss United States, Elizabeth Safrit, came in third in the 64th annual competition.  [Agence France Presse]

‘Sorry For The Inconvenience, We Are Trying To Change The World': Inside The Police Protests That Swept The Nation

Justice for All March

Think Progress

“Black people need to wake up,” D.C. recording artist Jeremy Woodson told ThinkProgress during the Justice for All March in the nation’s capital on Saturday.

During his interview, Woodson recounted being punched in the face by an officer during a traffic stop in neighboring Prince George’s County, MD two years ago. At the march, he talked about his experiences, networked with other marchers, and filmed footage for a music video.

Woodson said: “This stuff hasn’t stopped since slavery. Police need to stop harassing us and coming at us with so much anger and hostility. I’ve been experiencing this since I was a teenager. We do need the police in our neighborhoods but not if they’re going to have these negative attitudes toward our people.”

Woodson counted among the tens of thousands of people who gathered at Freedom Plaza in D.C. and walked east on Pennsylvania Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol. In New York, participants in the Millions March took over Fifth Avenue after meeting in Washington Square. Participants in both events still reel from the non-indictments of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who killed Brown, and the New York police officer who placed Garner in a deadly chokehold.

On Saturday, Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, thanked the tens of thousands who gathered blocks from the U.S. Capitol for their support during what may represent the changing of the tide. In standing in solidarity with the victims’ families, millions of people across the country have started a movement that has prompted action by the White House and sparked discussions about how the justice system treats people of color.

“It’s just so overwhelming to see all of you come stand with us,” Carr said. “Look at the masses – black, white, all races and religions. This is a history-making moment. We need to stand up at all times. Our sons are here with each and every one of you. We’ll come here for as many times as it takes. We’re here for justice. We hope that they heard our voices and yield to our demands because no justice, no peace,” said Carr in unison with marchers joining her in what has become a rallying cry in the last year.

In both cities, a sea of bold, colorful signs, posters, Pan-African flags, and thought-provoking drawings made for a historic gathering. Marchers expressed a desire for federal action on the issue of police misconduct as well as changes in the grand jury process, body cameras, and more punitive measures taken against officers who use excessive force.

Ryan Mitchell at the Millions March in Manhattan.

Ryan Mitchell at the Millions March in Manhattan. | CREDIT: RYAN MITCHELL

“Not all cops are bad, but by the same token, not all cops are good or just,” Ryan Mitchell, an educator who attended the Millions March, told ThinkProgress. Mitchell said that as a black man, he felt that he had to march to secure a better future for his children. “These marches are a push for new legislation and revised prosecution practices in cases of police misconduct. It’s also going to take the good cops to stop being silent and call their colleagues to task. The blue shield can no longer be immunity against misconduct.”

For Manhattan resident Andre Wilburn, the march on Fifth Avenue counted as another day in the trenches. Wilburn told ThinkProgress that he’s been pounding his feet on the pavement long before news of the non-indictment in the Mike Brown case broke last month. While he believes that the issue of police misconduct affects people of all races, it’s a particularly pressing issue for black people.

A family member of Kimberly Brown holding up a sign during the Justice for All March.

A family member of Kimberly Brown holding up a sign during the Justice for All March. | CREDIT: SAM P.K. COLLINS

“I have a whole lot of stories that I’ve heard from people,” Wilburn said. “I don’t know if it’s all racially motivated but it happens to anyone without a badge and gun. It’s a power struggle. I’m raising awareness about this issue because people aren’t treated well in the justice system.”

“I want to see justice for all black men,” Brown said. “The offices in these cases should have prosecuted as well as others who have gotten away with killing our kids. These days, I don’t go to bed peacefully until I know that my 25 and 27-year-old are home safely. The police put the dogs on my son when he had handcuffs. It’s game over now.”In D.C., Kimberly Brown joined her sister, nephew, niece, and a family friend as they chanted “No justice, no peace. No racist police” over a megaphone. Brown, who lives 30 minutes Northwest of Ferguson, said told ThinkProgress that she had no choice but to take the daylong car trip from Alton, Illinois to D.C. During her interview, Brown said that officers let their dogs loose on her son during a chase the week before and promised to pay the medical expenses if she didn’t take the matter to court.

While little information exists about the number of people who are killed by police each year, some organizations have been able to compile data about fatalities using articles on police-related killings. Killed By Police, for example, has tallied more than 1045 deaths this year. Many of those deaths will not make national headlines. Chanele Robinson, a participant in Saturday’s march, says she knows that feeling too well.

Robinson, who attended the march with her fiancé and nine-year-old son, lost her cousin in 2004 when police officers in Omaha, NE tasered him during a response to a call about a suspicious person walking through a neighborhood. Robinson said that since her cousin’s death, no officer has been charged and officers can still use tasers.

Chenele Robinson and her son hold signs during the Justice for All March in D.C.

Chenele Robinson and her son hold signs during the Justice for All March in D.C. | CREDIT: SAM P.K. COLLINS

At the march, she and her son waved their signs, emblazoned with his name “David Moss,” and listened as The Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Congressman Al Green, and others spoke. Robinson told ThinkProgress that she has encouraged her son – who has been frustrated by what he’s seen in the news – to be more civically engaged.

“We’re here to make our voices heard,” Robinson said. “I want to see equal justice. The process should work for everyone. I’m inspired by the young people here. I encourage my son to speak up and I want him to feel empowered. We have to appeal to the humanity in these cases because it’s an issue of humanity. I think everyone could relate to that.”



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