10 things you need to know today: July 31, 2015

Olivia Harris-Pool/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Beijing picked to host 2022 Winter Olympics
The International Olympic Committee on Friday selected Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Chinese President Xi Jinping made a last-minute promise that the Games would be “fantastic, extraordinary, and excellent.” The Chinese capital, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, beat out runner-up Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a secret ballot held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Beijing will be the first city to ever host both a Winter and Summer Olympics.

Source: The Guardian

2. Police say repeat attacker stabbed 6 at Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man named Yishai Schlissel was arrestedThursday for allegedly stabbing six marchers in Jerusalem’s annual Gay Pride Parade. Schlissel was released from prison three weeks ago after serving 10 years for stabbing and wounding three marchers in the 2005 Gay Pride Parade. After that attack, he reportedly told police he had tried to “kill in the name of God.” The parade has faced longtime opposition from Orthodox groups. One ultra-Orthodox news website called it “the Parade of Abomination.”

Source: The New York Times

3. University of Cincinnati cop pleads not guilty in fatal shooting 
Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing pleaded not guilty on Thursday in the July 19 fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man. Tensing, 25, was released on a $1 million bond. He was indicted on murder and involuntary manslaughter charges a day earlier. County prosecutor Joe Deters said Tensing shot DuBose in the head after stopping him for a missing license plate and “losing his temper.” Two other officers were placed on administrative leave.

Source: Reuters, Cincinnati Enquirer

4. U.S. investigates lion’s death as Zimbabwe requests hunter’s extradition
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it was investigating the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. That country’s wildlife minister, Oppah Muchinguri, said Friday his government was requesting the extradition of Minnesota dentist and hunter Walter James Palmer to face poaching charges. Palmer left Zimbabwe after the hunt, and said he relied on his local guides to ensure that he did everything legally. Some locals were puzzled by the “fuss” over the lion’s death.

Source: The New York Times, The Associated Press

5. Taliban confirms Mullah Omar’s death
The Afghan Taliban confirmed Thursday that its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died. The group said Omar had died “a while ago” from an unspecified illness. Afghan officials said he died two or three years ago. A source in Pakistan said the cause of death was tuberculosis. The Taliban said its No. 2 leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was taking over as leader of the Islamist group, which sheltered Osama bin Laden and was toppled by a U.S.-led coalition following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

6. Indiana clears Planned Parenthood after uproar
Indiana’s investigation of Planned Parenthood cleared the family planning organization of any wrongdoing in its handling of fetal tissue from abortions. Gov. Mike Pence (R) two weeks ago ordered a review of practices at three Planned Parenthood facilities — in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Merrillville — after an anti-abortion group released secretly recorded videos suggesting illegal sales of fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood says it follows all laws and never profits from fetal tissue donations.

Source: The Associated Press

7. Economy grew by 2.3 percent in second quarter
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the U.S. economy gained strength in the second quarter, growing at a 2.3 percent rate. The government also upgraded its estimate of first quarter GDP, saying it grew at a 0.6 percent rate instead of shrinking at a 0.2 percent rate as initially reported. Second quarter growth was slightly below economists’ expectations of a 2.6 percent rate, but it was strong enough to support Federal Reserve indications that the recovery is picking up steam.

Source: Reuters, Bloomberg

8. Palestinian toddler dies in arson attack blamed on Jewish extremists
A Palestinian toddler was killed when arsonists believed to be Jewish extremists torched two homes in a Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank early Friday. Four other people were injured. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack an act of terrorism. So did Palestinian leaders, but they blamed the Israeli government for creating an atmosphere of hate and incitement, saying it encouraged anti-Palestinian violence.

Source: The Washington Post

9. Judge rules chimps are not “legal persons”
A New York judge ruled Thursday that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, are not “legal persons,” as claimed by an animal rights group that asked the court to set them free. The Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in March arguing that the 8-year-old chimps were intelligent creatures, so keeping them at the State University of New York at Stony Brook amounted to illegal imprisonment. The Florida nonprofit group said it would appeal the ruling.

Source: NBC News

10. Nigerian troops free dozens held by Boko Haram
Nigerian soldiers rescued 71 girls and women from Boko Haram militants, the country’s military said Thursday. Many Boko Haram fighters reportedly were killed as troops fought their way into two of the Islamist extremist group’s camps. Some of the women said they had been held for a year. Many complained they were never given enough to eat. “I was waiting for death,” a woman in her 20s, Yagana Kyari, said. “They often threatened to kill us.”

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Harold Maass

Report: Fox Debate Rules “Generating Controversy” Among Network’s Staffers

Ailes

Roger Ailes | Fox News

MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA

New York magazine reports that Fox News’ rules for the upcoming Republican presidential debate are generating considerable controversy among staffers at the network.

Fox News has previously announced that the top 10 performers in national polls will qualify for the first debate, but the network has yet to provide clarity on which polls will be included in its tally.

Fox has described their debate as the “Cleveland Primary.” Supporters of candidates near the cutoff have been buying ad time on the network to reportedly increase their likelihood of qualifying for the debate.

Gabriel Sherman writes in New York that “inside Fox, the debate is generating controversy among Ailes’s senior ranks. “A Fox personality told the reporter that there is “total confusion” about the debate process, and accused Ailes and other executives of “making it up as they go along.” Another personality described it as “crazy stuff” where “you have a TV executive deciding who is in — and out — of a debate.”

According to Sherman, advisers for Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Rick Perry “have taken to lobbying Ailes and Fox executives to use polls that put their guy over the line.” A source close to the Perry campaign said that “GOP fund-raiser and Ailes friend Georgette Mosbacher recently called Ailes” on his behalf. Sherman notes that “Ailes is certainly hoping to produce the best television, which would give the unpredictable Perry the advantage.”

In recent days, Perry has been attacking current front-runner Donald Trump, who has benefited from Fox News promoting him. On-air personalities like Eric Bolling have reportedly been instructed by Ailes to defend the reality TV star despite the misgivings of network owner Rupert Murdoch.

A Kasich adviser told Sherman, “We don’t know what methodology they’re going to use. We’ve been asking the question and they haven’t shared.”

A “Fox insider” told him that “Roger likes Kasich,” who used to host a show on the network, and “knows it’ll look awful if the sitting governor isn’t on that stage.”

OLIVER WILLIS

Star Of Bloomberg’s Trump Supporter Vid: Wait, I’m No Trump Supporter!

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Bloomberg Politics

TPM LIVEWIRE

Jessica DeBurro was prominently featured in a video of the focus group posted to Bloomberg Politics’ website that showed 12 Granite State residents fawning over Trump’s everyman appeal and vast wealth. Bloomberg Politics described the focus group participants as “12 Republican and independent voters who are supportive of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy,” while co-managing editor John Heilemann, who led the focus group, further stated that the participants were Trump supporters whose “second choices in the Republican field ran the gamut from Jeb Bush and John Kasich to Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.”

But DeBurro, a data analyst, told TPM Thursday in a phone interview that she is actually a supporter of Carson’s and not Trump’s. She added that while all the participants in the focus group had listed Trump among their top three favored Republican presidential candidates, just one person was “100 percent a Trump supporter.”

It was not immediately clear why “With All Due Respect,” which has a troubled history of controversy and pratfalls, could not assemble 12 actual Trump supporters out of the entire state of New Hampshire or why Bloomberg Politics claimed it was a group of Trump supporters when, according to DeBurro, only one of the 12 is currently supporting the boisterous mogul.

While most controversy tied to the show has focused on Bloomberg Politics impresario Mark Halperin, DeBurro further alleged that interviewer Heilemann, Halperin’s co-host, pumped them to think of positive things to say about Trump which could then be edited together into a Trump fawn-a-thon. “What they’re taking is these snippets of us saying positive things to answer questions where they asked us to state a positive thing and then representing it as if we’re all his staunchest supporters,” she explained. “And we’re not.”

A Bloomberg Politics spokeswoman told TPM late Thursday that the focus group participants all identified as supporters of the billionaire, or at least as leaning toward supporting him.

“As part of our screening process, New Hampshire voters were asked who they would support if the primary were held today,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “Every person in our focus group answered saying they would either support Donald Trump, or lean towards supporting Trump.”

DeBurro is the first participant shown in the Bloomberg Politics video, offering that Trump “speaks the truth.” When Heilemann asked her to elaborate, she said: “when he talks about especially immigration control and the border, he really — he doesn’t care what people think.”

Later, she recalled being impressed by Trump’s business empire as a child.

“I knew that he was a wealthy, successful man and I remember asking my mother if I could write him a letter to ask him how he made his money so that I could do it too,” she said.

DeBurro told TPM that she believed the video was selectively edited and that the questions Heilemann asked were engineered to get the focus group participants to speak positively about the real estate mogul.

“The questions were geared mostly toward the positive,” she said. “They were all ‘tell me something you like about him’ or ‘what makes him appealing to voters.’ It was all positive-focused, not ‘what do you not like’ or ‘why do you like this other candidate better.'”

DeBurro said that focus group participants did voice concerns that Trump was a “hothead” and may “say something really stupid.” She added that she had the impression that the focus group would be talking about all the Republican presidential candidates until the focus group settled into the studio.

“They were looking specifically for conservative voters and they asked us for our three choices,” DeBurro recalled. “So I didn’t realize it was entirely about Trump until we got there and [Heilemann] said ‘Oh we’re going to talk about him, mostly.'”

CATHERINE THOMPSON

Police Misconduct Needs ‘Broken Windows’ Approach

THE HUFFINGTON POST

On the same day a female Los Angeles Police officer was sentenced to 36 months for delivering hard kicks to the groin of a handcuffed woman who later died, a homeless woman with mental illness was facing 25 years to life for merely picking up a police baton. How do we account for this disparity? How do we reconcile local prosecutors giving police officers the benefit of every real or imagined mitigating circumstance while civilians are routinely overcharged with crimes carrying the most severe penalties?

The woman with mental illness was at the scene of a fatal police shooting March 1 on Los Angeles’ Skid Row when a bystander’s video recorded her picking up the baton an officer had dropped shortly before the fatal shooting. She held the baton in the air but never advanced on any officers or threatened them with it. She could well have been adrift in a psychosis, not fully realizing what was taking place in front of her eyes. In any event, for picking up that baton, she was facing a 25-years-to-life sentence under California’s Three Strikes Law.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey has announced a plan to keep mentally ill people out of jail by getting them treatment, and she has directed her staff to review the charges against this woman. We can only wait to see what, if anything, that review will change. But we already know that the charge she still faces is outrageously excessive.

Police departments have adopted a zero tolerance, broken windows approach to combating crime. The theory is that preventing small or low-level crimes such as vandalism creates an atmosphere of order and vigilance that discourages more serious crimes. The theory and its benefits certainly have been questioned.

But what’s clear is the broken windows has never been brought to policing itself. As video proliferates, often disputing officers’ accounts of incidents, there is a growing sense of a police culture that is out of control and that has escaped meaningful scrutiny. If preventing low-level offenses sends the message that more serious offenses will not be tolerated, what’s the message when officers are virtually never charged let alone convicted for their misconduct?

We need look no farther than the case of Gabriel Carrillo who was handcuffed and beaten to a pulp when he went to visit his brother in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail. County prosecutors charged Carrillo with assaulting the deputies who had lied about the beating. He faced prison time had he been convicted, but a photograph of his bruised wrists convinced prosecutors that he had been handcuffed while being beaten. They dropped those charges on the eve of trial.

But it took federal — not local — prosecutors to get justice for Carrillo. Two deputies and a sergeant were charged with using unreasonable force and falsifying records, and two of them were charged with violating Carrillo’s civil rights. A federal court jury looked at those same photos of Carrillo’s wrists, concluded the deputies were lying and needed only four hours to convict all three.

In that case, photos tipped the balance against the deputies. Now video footage promises to be a game changer. Video from cell phones, police dash cameras and body cameras has become an important tool for assessing the truthfulness of officers’ reports, especially when their actions result in injury or death. That footage crucially also gives the public a look at what prosecutors saw before giving officers a pass.

A fatal police shooting in Gardena is a graphic, tragic example. City officials fought tooth and nail against releasing the video and agreed to pay a $4.7 million settlement with the understanding that the footage would be kept from the public. But a federal judge released it. And what a story it had to tell.

The video shows Gardena Police officers shooting an unarmed man who posed no visible threat. And it raises questions, serious questions–not just about the officers’ actions, but about the district attorney’s office so emphatically finding the shooting justified.

The images have the look of a cold-blooded execution. And the prosecutors’ exoneration has all the elements of farce.

In the past year, there have been 585 police shootings, but only four officers have been charged.
In all four cases there was video, whether from body or dash cams or civilian witnesses. To be sure, video does not ensure that there will be charges whenever there is misconduct. But even when prosecutors fail to bring charges, their decisions can be subjected to better scrutiny with the help of video.

Ultimately, we must wonder about the system we’ve set up, the incentives it creates, and the messages it sends when the “punishment” that is meted out against wrongdoers is in the form of civil damages awards that are paid for not by the officers but by their departments and in the end taxpayers.

U.S. Government To Lion-Killing Dentist: Hey, Can You Give Us A Call?

Cecil the lion in happier days in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.

Cecil the lion in happier days in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. | Credit: Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit/Associated Press

THE HUFFINGTON POST

Hey, Walter Palmer, the Obama administration wants to talk to you.

The severed head of Cecil the lion has now been located in Zimbabwe and turned over to officials there. However, the Minnesota dentist said to be responsible for Cecil’s killing is still unaccounted for, according to a U.S. government agency, which issued a statement on Thursday asking him to please, please give them a call.

“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of ‘Cecil the lion.’ That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead,” said Edward Grace, the agency’s deputy chief of law enforcement, in the statement.

“At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately,” Grace added.

Reuters reports that the Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into whether Palmer violated theLacey Act, which, among other things, makes it a federal crime to trade in wildlife killed in violation of foreign law.

So, if you see Palmer, please make sure he gets the message?

Walter Palmer in an undated photo with a leopard in Zimbabwe.

Walter Palmer in an undated photo with a leopard in Zimbabwe. | Credit: brentsinclair.blogspot.com

Arin Greenwood – HuffPost’s animal welfare editor.

Ted Cruz Hands Democrats 2016 Victory With Government Shut Down Threat Over Planned Parenthood

Ted Cruz CNN State Of The Union | ABC News screenshot

As nice as this headline sounds, I’m certain cooler heads will prevail within the GOP thus averting such a shut-down threat so close to an election year.

POLITICUS USA

Ted Cruz and House Republicans are teaming up to hand the White House to Democrats in 2016 by threatening to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood.

Politico reported:

In a Wednesday interview, Cruz said the GOP should go as hard as it can to block funding for Planned Parenthood, including the same strategy he tried to use to defund Obamacare in 2013: force the issue by blocking funding in a government spending bill that must pass by Sept. 30.

Asked whether he would support such a maneuver again, Cruz replied: “I would support any and all legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. We do not need a legislative show-vote.”….

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said dozens of House Republicans will back his effort to oppose any spending bill — whether a continuing resolution stopgap or longer-term funding package — that includes any money for Planned Parenthood.

“This is one of those line-in-the-sand type of issues,” Mulvaney said Wednesday. “Every time we say we don’t want to spend money on something, the answer is it will provoke a shutdown.”

The crew of Republican ideologues that caused the last government shutdown is prepared to do the same thing with the same result. Defunding Planned Parenthood is not a winning issue for Republicans. In fact, if Cruz takes the Republican Party down this path they can kiss the 2016 election goodbye.

Cruz has taken the wrong lesson from the 2013 shutdown. Republicans have deluded themselves into believing that there will be no consequences for the shutting down the government again. The electorate will be exponentially bigger in 2016, and it will be more Democratic. Republicans are already suffering from a huge gender gap with women voters, but if Cruz and Republicans shut down the government, they will be sending a message to women that their health does not matter.

Republicans are preparing to pander to a tiny segment of extremists in a party base that is already too small to win a presidential election on its own. Cruz is leading the Republican Party off the cliff and down a path to defeat in a desperate attempt to boost his flatlining presidential campaign.

In other words, Ted Cruz is willing to shut down the government if that is what it will take to get publicity for his presidential campaign.

Jason Easley

UN Report Card Gives US ‘Failing Grade’ on Human Rights

(Photo: amboo who?/flickr/cc

“These low grades suggest the U.S. has a long way to go before it is in compliance with international law,” said Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice. (Photo: amboo who?/flickr/cc)

COMMON DREAMS

Citing torture, detentions without trial, and police violence, the UN Human Rights Committee’s catalogs dismal performance by world power

A United Nations committee of independent monitors this week released a damning assessment of human rights in the United States, showing an overall dismal performance on issues from Guantanamo Bay detentions to mass surveillance to accountability for past atrocities—earning what the U.S. Human Rights Network called a “failing grade.”

The United Nations Human Rights Committee’s investigation was one of a handful of periodic reviews aimed at evaluating countries that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights established in 1976. In particular, the assessment measured U.S. implementation of the committee’s recommendations for improving the country’s human rights record.

The experts determined that the U.S. performance in 2014 was “relatively poor,” Vincent Ploton, head of external relations for the Geneva-based Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), told Common Dreams.

The agency delivers grades that range from “A” the “E.” The U.S. score for 2014 was summarized in the following graphic, compiled by CCPR. Ploton explained: “There is only one B1 grade, which means substantial action was taken.  C1 means that there was no implementation, and C2 is worse, as it means the information provided by the U.S. was not relevant to the recommendations. D1 means there was no response.”

graphic_0.jpg

The U.S. had no A grades, and “the fact that the CIA report was only partially published was likely the reason for the B1 grade,” noted Ploton, referring to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of post-9/11 CIA torture.

“These low grades suggest the U.S. has a long way to go before it is in compliance with international law,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, in a statement. The Brennan Center and Amnesty International previously raised concerns to the Committee about mass surveillance in the United States. “The Administration and Congress must take immediate steps to address the lack of intelligence oversight and restore the right to privacy in the digital age.”

The findings prompted immediate condemnation from human rights and social justice organizations based in the U.S., including the Dream Defenders, who joined a civil society delegation to Geneva last year to urge the repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws.

“It is shocking that after being given an entire year to address Stand Your Ground’s ‘incompatibility with the right to life,’ the United States has failed to act with a sense of urgency,” said Ciara Taylor, director of political consciousness for the Dream Defenders. “We see utter disregard for the lives of people of color in policies like Stand Your Ground, and in the daily actions of local law enforcement officials, who are positioned within the system to uphold these policies and the State’s many systems of oppression.”

“The Committee is right: the US is pressing forward with military commissions which violate international human rights standards,” declared James G. Connell III, an attorney for Guantanamo detainee Ammar al Baluchi. “Torture corrupts everything it touches, and these military commissions are no exception.”

And as journalist Kevin Gosztola wrote in his assessment of the UN report on Wednesday, “Detainees in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay remain in prison cells without charge or trial. There is no plan to abandon the dysfunctional and second-class legal system known as military commissions. Not only do those detainees lack rights to a fair trial, but they continue to endure torture and abuse as the political class in America ignores the fact that most never committed any crimes against the United States.”

Sarah Lazare

‘Just Ban Minorities': Conservatives React To Los Angeles’ High Capacity Magazine Ban (SCREENSHOTS)

ADDICTING INFO

On Tuesday, Los Angeles, California’s city council voted unanimously to ban firearm magazines that can cold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The city joins New York State in taking sensible measures to curb mass shooting violence in the United States.

The new ordinance, which Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised to sign, closes a loophole in a state law that already bans the sale and manufacture of high-capacity magazines. Residents will have 60 days to remove all high-capacity magazines from the city, or to turn them over to police who will destroy, transfer, or sell them.

“Mass shootings have become so endemic that we can all recite a litany of places where they have occurred: Columbine, Isla Vista, Chattanooga — they’ve become part of lexicon,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who wrote the measure. “We’ve become desperate to find some solution to the destabilizing effect of the fact that we have to fear these sorts of mass killings.”

According to the New York Times, “The law exempts on-duty police officers, members of the military who are issued such magazines, firearms dealers and people who more than 15 years ago obtained guns that can be used only with high-capacity magazines” — in other words, there are still many exemptions that will allow right-wing psychopaths to loophole their way to happiness.

Naturally, conservatives suggested an alternative: Get rid of “minorities” instead. On Fox News’ web site, the Right offered a number of objections to the law — with many revealing that the true problem is that they’re just scared of black people:

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Krekorian also wrote an ordinance requiring that guns be securely stored in a lockbox or disabled with trigger locks — another common-sense measure that will surely be decried as an “attack on white people.” The measure is expected to come to a vote next week with a possible amendment to both ordinances that exempts retired police officers.

Herein lies the truth of why the Right clings to its guns. It’s not a need to fight against a tyrannical government — Let’s face it, with modern military technology, Billy Bob is not going to have much success against a drone or a tank, no matter how many bullets he can load into his artificial penis.

Gun deaths increase with gun ownership, and the states with the largest number of guns have a gun murder rate 114% higher than those with lowest ownership rates, and for every time a gun is used in self-defense, there are “7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home” — so they certainly can’t reasonably expect that buying a gun will make them safer.

The real problem is that they need to protect against the hordes of “Mexican rapists” and “feral thugs” — at least in their woefully limited minds and hateful hearts.

10 things you need to know today: July 30, 2015

GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. Investigators try to confirm debris is from missing Malaysia Airlines plane
French authorities are studying a piece of plane debris that washed up on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean to determine whether it came from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The airliner vanished without a trace last year after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing with 239 passengers and crew members on board. Investigators could not immediately confirm that the debris came from the missing flight, although they were nearly certain it was from the same kind of plane — a Boeing 777.

Source: Reuters

2. University of Cincinnati cop indicted for killing of unarmed black man
A white University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge for the fatal July 19 shooting of an unarmed black man, Samuel Dubose, during a minor traffic stop. Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters released a video taken by the body camera of the officer, Ray Tensing, showing that he had not been dragged behind Dubose’s car as he claimed. “It was a senseless, asinine shooting,” Deters said.

Source: TIME, The New York Times

3. India hangs Yakub Memon for 1993 Mumbai bombings
India hanged Yakub Memon on Thursday for his role in a series of 1993 bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people. The country’s high court rejected a last-minute plea from Memon’s lawyers for a 14-day stay of his execution to give him time to prepare and say goodbye to his relatives. The carefully coordinated bombings devastated several neighborhoods and left more than 700 people wounded. Prosecutors said Memon helped finance and arrange logistics for the bombings.

Source: The New York Times

4. Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah indicted on corruption charges
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.) and four associates on a barrage of criminal charges stemming from an investigation of his failed 2007 Philadelphia mayoral bid. The 11-term congressman was charged with channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign and charities he controlled to pay off an illegal campaign loan and his son’s college debts. Fattah denied any wrongdoing, saying he was a victim of overzealous prosecutors.

Source: The Inquirer, Politico

5. UVa grads sue Rolling Stone over debunked rape article
Three Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brothers from the University of Virginiafiled a lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine on Wednesday for a now-retracted December 2014 article they said implicated them in an alleged gang rape. The three graduates — George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler — asked a New York federal court for more than $75,000 for “mental anguish and severe emotional distress.” Will Dana, Rolling Stone‘s managing editor, announced Wednesday he would leave the magazine in August.

Source: The Washington Post, The New York Times

6. Hunter charged in Zimbabwe for helping U.S. dentist kill lion
A court in Zimbabwe on Wednesday charged a professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, with failing to prevent an American bow hunter — Minnesota dentist Walter James Palmer — from killing a prized, protected lion known as Cecil. Palmer, who has left Zimbabwe, admitted to killing the animal but said he believed the hunt was legal and covered by all necessary permits. Palmer’s dental practice has temporarily shut down as he has faced intense criticism.

Source: Reuters

7. Royal Dutch Shell lays off 6,500 as low oil prices erode profits
Royal Dutch Shell announced Thursday that it was laying off 6,500 of its 94,000 employees worldwide as lower oil and gas prices reduced its profits. The company said its adjusted second-quarter earnings were $3.8 billion, compared to $6.1 billion for the same period last year. Shell said it was bracing for low oil prices to continue for an extended period, further squeezing its ability to invest in exploration and production.

Source: BBC News

8. Fed suggests economy will be ready for interest rate hike in September
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday indicated that it was cautiously optimistic that the U.S. economy was getting back on track, suggesting that it would be ready to raise interest rates from near zero in September. “The labor market continued to improve, with solid job gains and declining unemployment,” the Fed statement said. The government on Thursday releases the first of three estimates on second-quarter economic growth, which experts expect to be around a solid 2.7 percent.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

9. Planned Parenthood website hit by “extremists”
Planned Parenthood said “an attack by extremists” brought down its website on Wednesday. The news came as the organization faces fallout over the release of several undercover videos by an anti-abortion group in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss the sale of fetal tissue for medical research, which is legal unless done for profit. Also on Wednesday, a California court barred the anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, from releasing video of leaders of a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

10. Pollution threatens swimming and boating events in 2016 Rio Olympics
Waters where athletes will compete in swimming and boating events in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics have dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from sewage, according to an Associated Pressinvestigation. At Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, which was thought to have been cleaned up, tests showed 14 million to 1.7 billion adenoviruses per liter. Counts of 1,000 per liter cause alarm in Southern California. “What you have there is basically raw sewage,” marine biologist John Griffith said.

Source: The Associated Press

Harold Maass

“Sharing A Video On The Subject of Gun Violence”

Good afternoon TFC friends.  I got the following letter from someone and wanted to share it in its entirety:

Hi Sheila —

I first came across your blog from the posting: “The best thing to happen to gun safety in years snuck right under the noses of the NRA.”  And I thought you might enjoy this . . . it’s a music video which I think aligns with your values.  So, I thought you would appreciate its message, at the very least . . . and that you might feel compelled to share it with your readers on your blog, or through your social networks.
I’m a songwriter from Austin, TX . . . and this project is a collaboration with videographer, Paul Curreri.  It’s a photo montage of powerful images set to the song, Guns & The Crazy Ones.  The project was inspired by my own emotional fatigue at seeing gun violence stories leading the news day after day after day.  And my hope with the video is threefold:
– to stir up the viewers emotions, by humanizing the victims (and perpetrators) of gun violence, and by personalizing the debate
– to make it overwhelmingly obvious to anyone on either side of the debate that there’s an undeniable problem that needs addressing
– to create a shared cathartic moment from our collective exasperation
I feel as though there’s a certain ground swell of momentum that’s building right now, moving us towards some basic gun sense regulation.  And I’d like to do anything I can to contribute to that momentum.
I would be honored if you would be willing to give the video a peek.  And if you think it might touch the emotions of your readership, anything you might be willing to write about it, or share with your social media networks, would be most appreciated.  Here’s the link:
Guns & The Crazy Ones – https://youtu.be/l4Lcv5KKTK4
The video begins with the horror of the headlines and then moves through to the sorrow of those touched by the incidences.
Thanks so much for your time.  And thanks so much for all the work that you’ve done to raise people’s consciousness, and to fight the good fight, gently.
All the best —
Danny
As most of you know from my postings on the issue…I am for sensible gun control starting with “background checks”.
I explained to Danny that my activist days are pretty much over but I can certainly advocate a worthy issue.
So check out Danny’s message on You Tube.  I’m sure he’d appreciate it.  ks