10 things you need to know today: October 20, 2014

Fighter jets zoom above Kobani, Syria. 

Fighter jets zoom above Kobani, Syria. (AP Photo/Levend Ali)

The Week

1. U.S. airdrops weapons to Kurds fighting ISIS
The U.S. military on Sunday airdropped weapons and ammunition to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, near the besieged town of Kobani in Syria, on the Turkish border. The U.S. Air Force C-130 transport aircraft also dropped medical supplies. The material was supplied by Kurdish authorities in Iraq. The U.S. said its 135 airstrikes against ISIS in recent days had slowed the Islamist group’s offensive in the area. [Reuters]

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2. Obama attends his first campaign rallies two weeks ahead of November’s midterms
President Obama made his first midterm campaign appearances of the year on Sunday, plugging Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown in Maryland and Gov. Pat Quinn in Illinois. With just two weeks left before the November elections, Obama, who had been conspicuously absent from campaign season, spent as much time plugging the Democratic agenda as he did praising Brown, who is in a tight race against Republican Larry Hogan. Obama said voters know who Republicans are fighting for, “and it ain’t you.” [CBS Local, Chicago Tribuine]

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3. Sweden hunts for Russian sub in its waters
Sweden’s military said Sunday that it was investigating “foreign underwater activity” that was believed to be a Russian submarine that had entered the country’s waters without permission. Swedish media reported that the military had intercepted a message from a Russian mini-sub that appeared to have run into trouble in the Scandinavian nation’s territorial waters, but Russia said none of its vessels were facing any emergency situations. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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4. Health officials tighten Ebola protocols
The federal government is imposing strict new guidelines for handling Ebola cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday. The revised protocols will require health care workers treating Ebola patients to wear protective gear that leaves no skin showing. The move came a day after President Obama urged Americans not to panic, because the odds of an outbreak of the deadly disease in the U.S. are extremely low. [Mashable]

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5. Pope Francis beatifies reformer Pope Paul VI
Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI on Sunday in a ceremony that closed a two-week assembly of Catholic bishops, putting Pope Paul a step closer to sainthood. The gathering, or synod, revealed deep divisions among the church’s leaders over traditional Catholic teachings on homosexuality and marriage. Pope Paul, who died in 1978, led the church as it implemented many of the historic Vatican II reforms. Quoting Pope Paul, Francis said today’s church is adapting by “carefully surveying the signs of the times.” [The New York Times]

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6. Ex-Nazis have kept Social Security benefits even after being deported
Dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and former SS guards have collected millions of dollars in Social Security payments after being forced out of the U.S., according to an investigation by The Associated Press. The Justice Department used a loophole permitting the payments to persuade Nazi suspects to leave willingly, by promising they could keep Social Security benefits if they did not flee deportation. [The Associated Press]

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7. Dozens who had contact with Ebola patient declared healthy
Roughly 50 people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were declared risk-free on Sunday and Monday after completing 21 days of monitoring. Duncan’s fiancee, Louise Troh, was among those determined to be risk free. Troh had nursed Duncan in their apartment before he was admitted to the Dallas hospital where he died. The hospital apologized in full-page newspaper ads over the weekend for sending Duncan home the first time he went to the emergency room with a fever. [The New York Times, NBC News]

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8. Cowboy running back DeMarco Murray sets a rushing record
The Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray broke an NFL rushing record on Sunday by becoming the first running back in history to run for more than 100 yards in the first seven games of the season. Murray, 26, tied the six-game record set by Jim Brown in 1958 in the Cowboys’ defeat of the Seattle Seahawks last week. Murray then ran for 128 yards in Sunday’s win over the New York Giants. [Bleacher Report]

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9. Australia drops plan to isolate burqa wearers in Parliament
Australian lawmakers have backed down from a plan to make Muslim women wearing burqas or niquabs — traditional garments that conceal the face — sit behind protective glass screens when viewing proceedings in Parliament. Senate leaders had said the measure was “prudent,” but Muslim leaders, human rights activists, and opposition politicians said the restriction would needlessly alienate Muslims. The government said Monday that it would instead require women to temporarily remove head coverings during security screening. [The Wall Street Journal]

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10. Manning breaks NFL record for career touchdown passes
Peyton Manning threw his 509th touchdown pass on Sunday, setting an NFL record. Manning threw his 508th in the same game against the San Francisco 49ers with a 39-yard score in the first quarter, tying the old record set by Brett Favre. The record-breaker came in the next quarter, when Manning, 38, hit Demaryius Thomas to put their Denver Broncos ahead, 21-3. Manning went on to throw for another touchdown, giving him 510 before time ran out, and the Broncos won the game, 42-17. [USA Today]

Is it legal for the police to shoot an unarmed, surrendered citizen?

980 Pulitzer Prize, Spot News Photography, Jahangir Razmi of Ettela'at, Iran     Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's Islamic Revolution steamrolls over Iran, imposing his Shiite Muslim beliefs on the entire country and destroying

attribution: Jahangir Razmi/Creative Commons 2.0

Warning: Wonkish material ahead.  I personally love details and I hope a few people tackle the article because it’s very informative…

Daily Kos

Across the years in the United States, police officers have consistently been found not guilty in the shooting deaths of countless unarmed, non-violent citizens.Kendrec McDade comes to mind.

So does Amadou Diallo.

Sean Bell is another.

Add Ramarley Graham to that list.

John Crawford also fits this bill.

In each of these horrific cases, the victims were unarmed and not committing a crime, but police, with stories, far-fetched or otherwise, were able to convince juries that they reasonably feared for their safety. At the root of widespread anger in African-American communities over these cases is the idea that if a white officer imagines a threat, he is basically allowed to act on it, no matter how fictitious the threat may truly be. In the shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo and Kendrec McDade, officers successfully argued that they believed they saw Diallo and McDade not only possess guns, but actually fire them—even though both men were completely unarmed.

Considering the facts of Mike Brown’s shooting death at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, the question is, then, is it legal for a police officer who is reasonably aware that a citizen is unarmed, to shoot and kill that citizen if the citizen is incapacitated or has peaceably surrendered?

In the end, the shooting death of Brown and the case against Wilson may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Follow below for more.

Together, let’s look at two essential Supreme Court decisions, one very important Missouri statute, and one awful case of two unarmed men who were killed by police in St. Louis back in 2000.

Tennessee v. Garner, U.S. Supreme Court, Argued in 1985, Decision in 1985

(Read the decision in full here.)

In 1974, 15-year-old Edward Eugene Garner, a 110-pound African-American eighth-grader from Memphis, Tennessee, stole a purse with $10 in it. Running, he got to a chain link fence right before he was spotted by Elton Hymon, an officer with the Memphis Police Department. Hymon identified himself to Garner, told him to halt, and admittedly observed that Garner was unarmed. Garner decided to continue climbing the fence anyway. Hymon shot Garner in the back of the head and Garner died soon thereafter.

At that point in time, Tennessee law (and laws in 21 other states) allowed officers to shoot, fatally or otherwise, a fleeing suspect, in order to “effect an arrest.” The problem with the application of this law was that officers, trained to shoot to kill, ultimately served as judge, jury, and executioner of suspects with relative impunity. The arrest, in effect, was made impossible when the suspect was killed.

Cleamtee Garner, Edward’s father, refused to let go. He sued the city of Memphis, the mayor of Memphis, the officer involved, and the Memphis Police Department—all on grounds that his son’s rights were violated and that the use of deadly force against his son wasn’t just excessive, it was extreme.

A full nine years later, the 6th Circuit, a federal appeals court, sided with Garner and ruled that the law that allowed Hymon to shoot and kill Edward Garner should be struck down immediately because it violated the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures. Interestingly, current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, then an attorney in the Reagan administration, wrote a very strong 15-page brief arguing that the 6th Circuit Court had made the wrong decision. Emboldened by Alito’s stance, the city of Memphis appealed the ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling from the 6th Circuit, and clarified why in its decision:

The Court explained that shooting a fleeing felon dead is constitutionally unreasonable because “The intrusiveness of a seizure by means of deadly force is unmatched. The suspect’s fundamental interest in his own life need not be elaborated upon. The use of deadly force also frustrates the interest of theindividual, and of society, in judicial determination of guilt and punishment. Against these interests are ranged governmental interests in effective law enforcement …. we are not convinced that the use of deadly force is a sufficiently productive means of accomplishing them tojustify the killing of nonviolent suspects.”The Court went on to say, “The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead. The Tennessee statute is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against such fleeing suspects.”

“Officer Hymon could not reasonably have believed that Garner — young, slight, and unarmed — posed any threat. Indeed, Hymon never attempted to justify his actions on any basis other than the need to prevent an escape. The District Court stated in passing that “[t]he facts of this case did not indicate to Officer Hymon that Garner was ‘nondangerous.'” …. This conclusion is not explained, and seems to be based solely on the fact that Garner had broken into a house at night. However, the fact that Garner was a suspected burglar could not, without regard to the other circumstances, automatically justify the use of deadly force. Hymon did not have probable cause to believe that Garner, whom he correctly believed to be unarmed, posed any physical danger to himself or others.”

“It is not, however, unconstitutional on its face. Where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force. Thus, if the suspect threatens the officer with a weapon or there is probable cause to believe that he has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, deadly force may be used if necessary to prevent escape, and if, where feasible, some warning has been given. As applied in such circumstances, the Tennessee statute would pass constitutional muster.”

How Does Tennessee v. Garner apply to Darren Wilson and Mike Brown?Tennessee v. Garner is going to be huge in this case. In essence, Wilson has to prove that he used lethal force to kill Brown because he had a reasonable expectation that Brown was about to be a threat to him or others. While it is universally accepted by all sides that Brown was unarmed, it appears, from early police statements, that Wilson is claiming that Brown assaulted him and attempted to take his firearm before he fled on foot.

Three main factors in the Wilson case demonstrate that the officer did, in fact, violate the basic premise of Tennessee v. Garner:

1. Wilson stopped to make contact with Brown because Brown and Dorian Johnson were jaywalking. Jaywalking, of course, would never warrant a shooting death. Johnson and other eyewitnesses claim that Wilson, after passing them up on Canfield Drive, reversed back toward them in a rage, screeching his tires, and throwing open his door. Johnson and other eyewitnesses also claim that it was Wilson who was grabbing and pulling at the throat of Brown before Wilson pulled out his gun and shot Brown through the window of the SUV. If true, it is reasonable to expect that Brown and Johnson would flee for their safety. What recourse does a citizen have if they believe they are being harassed or assaulted by a police officer?

If none of that is true, and Brown did indeed assault Wilson and attempt to take his gun, it takes us to point No. 2.

2. Wilson shot at Brown’s back six times as Brown attempted to run away. It appears that shot No. 7 grazed Brown’s arm and caused him to turn around and surrender. Six eyewitnesses all agree that Brown, verbally and physically surrendered to Wilson. In essence, if Wilson had killed Brown while he was fleeing because Wilson believed Brown to be a threat to public safety, he’d have an easier defense, but that’s not what happened. His shots at the back of Brown weren’t fatal, so Wilson cannot claim his lethal shots at Brown, as stated in Tennessee v. Garner, were at a fleeing suspect whom he believed to be a danger to himself or society, which takes us to point No. 3.

3. Brown was shot six times. The first time Brown was shot was at Wilson’s SUV. We know the second time he was shot was shot No. 7 for two key reasons:

(a) Eyewitnesses reported they saw Brown get shot while he was running away, his body jerked, and then Brown turned around.

(b) Confirmed audio of the shooting has a three-second pause during which witnesses say Brown turned around to surrender. After the pause, only four more gunshots are heard. These four gunshots are not enough for him to be shot a total of six times while facing Wilson. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that shot No. 7 of 11, from behind, was the second time Brown was shot, and that shots No. 8 through No. 11 were the final four times he was shot.

All of the available autopsy results confirm that the two fatal shots to Brown were in his eye and on the crown of his head, which had to have been fired while Brown was falling. These fatal shots clearly violate Tennessee v. Garner on several levels.

(a) Brown was no longer fleeing when the final four shots were fired at him by Wilson, but was facing him and surrendering.

(b) Brown, missing one sandal, unarmed, shot once by the SUV, then again from behind, was facing Wilson—the opposite of a public safety risk. Wilson clearly paused and had enough time to quickly judge the risk, but proceeded to shoot anyway. Still, before firing the final fatal two shots to Brown’s head,  Wilson shot Brown twice more in his arms, making him even less of a safety risk to Wilson or anyone else. Eyewitnesses say that Brown, in visible pain, curled his arms to his stomach at this point. In spite of this, more lethal force was used and two fatal headshots ended Brown’s life.

The Killing of Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley by St. Louis Officers Robert Piekutowski and Keith Kierzkowski

No case, perhaps nationwide, better displays how easily a state and its local prosecutors can escape the rigors of the Tennessee v. Garner decision than the killing of Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley by two St. Louis police officers in 2000. The major players in this shooting, for anyone following the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, will feel a lot like deja vu.

The small town of Berkeley, Missouri, literally borders Ferguson. In 2000, the deputy commander of a countywide drug task force was none other than the current Ferguson chief of police, Tom Jackson. In what was then called a “drug sting,” police officers, on a sunny May afternoon, were tracking two young black men, Earl Murray and Ronald Beasley, at a local Delwood Jack In The Box restaurant.

The officers then claimed that Murray and Beasley attempted to run them over with the car they were in. Saying they feared for their safety, police fired 21 shots into their car and killed Murray and Beasley right there in the parking lot. Five major problems with the case then caused local citizens to be outraged.

1. It turned out that Murray and Beasley were completely unarmed.

2. Eyewitnesses claimed the car never moved forward an inch, and then a federal investigation actually proved that the car the officers claimed was going to hit them never moved forward.

3. The local prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, who is now in charge of the Darren Wilson case, greatly inflamed tensions by calling Murray and Beasley “bums”when commenting about why he just didn’t understand why the community cared so much.

4. Beasley, a father of three and the manager of a local auto shop, as it turned out, wasn’t even a part of the alleged drug sting and was determined to be a completely innocent bystander.

5. A grand jury, convened by McCulloch, in spite of the evidence submitted from the federal investigation that the car didn’t actually move forward, opted not to charge the officers.

Although this was 14 years ago, not only were Chief Tom Jackson and Bob McCulloch deeply involved, so was the Rev. Al Sharpton, who traveled to St. Louis in the aftermath to help lead citywide protests and argue for justice. The police, claiming that the car, while it wasn’t actually used as a weapon, could have been, were never indicted and soon returned to their jobs.

Missouri Revised Statute 563.046.1
(Law enforcement officers’ use of force in making an arrest.)

This Missouri statute is the state law governing under what circumstances police officers can use force, and it was the primary statute used to protect officers Robert Piekutowski and Keith Kierzkowski in the shooting deaths of Murray and Beasley. It will also be the statute used to protect Wilson in the shooting death of Brown. The problem with this Missouri statute is that it has not been updated in the decades since the Supreme Court handed down the Tennessee v. Garner decision and is, according to Chad Flanders, a law professor at St. Louis University, “unconstitutional.” As Flanders explains:

As it is written, the Missouri statute says that an officer is justified in his use of deadly force if he believes that it is necessary to effect the arrest of a person and the officer also believes that the person “has attempted to commit or has committed a felony.”In a 1985 case, Tennessee v. Garner, the U.S. Supreme Court said statutes like this were unconstitutional because they permitted the use of deadly force even when the felony at issue wasn’t dangerous or violent. In theory, a police officer operating under the Missouri statue could use deadly force even if the officer believed a suspect had passed a bad check for more than $500, a class C felony in Missouri.

This kind of thing would be ridiculous, the Supreme Court said: “It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape,” they wrote. “The fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot,” the court continued, “does not always justify killing the suspect.” The majority in Garner then spelled out the circumstances where deadly force would be justified: When the officer reasonably believed that the suspect posed “a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.”

Unfortunately, the law regarding police force for any felony is still on the books in Missouri, and Wilson might still try to rely on it in arguing his use of force was valid. Wilson can rely on it in any state prosecution of him without any constitutional problem.  States don’t have to make all of their criminal defenses consistent with the Constitution

Ultimately, two things appear certain when one considers the Wilson case in light of both the Missouri statute and Tennessee v. Garner:1. Wilson had absolutely no intention of “effecting an arrest” of Brown.

2. It is easy to argue that it is unreasonable for an armed Wilson to believe that an injured, unarmed Brown was a true threat to his personal safety while standing in the middle of Canfield Drive.

Tennessee v. Garner, more than anything else, is about the limited lawfulness of an officer using lethal force on a fleeing suspect. It does not adequately address the lawfulness (or lack thereof) of an officer using lethal force on an injured/surrendered suspect. No case law adequately addresses a similar situation faced by Wilson and Brown, but stated strongly in Tennessee v. Garner—and in most basic statutes governing police use of lethal force—the threat to an officer or the community must be both “serious” and “reasonable.”

Finally, what is being almost universally overlooked in most known cases of an officer killing an unarmed citizen is that the rule of law in Tennessee v. Garner that “deadly force may be used if necessary to prevent escape” or “effect an arrest,” but officers—firing at least 11 shots in the case of Brown, 41 in the case of Amadou Diallo, or 50 in the case of Sean Bell—are rarely shooting to prevent escape or effect an arrest, but are shooting with the clear and obvious purpose of killing the suspect. Because so much leniency has been given to police departments to determine when an officer “fears” for his safety, it is now the immediate and most common defense used, even if no true threat ever existed.

If Wilson is not indicted for the killing of Brown, his parents, like the father of Eugene Garner 40 years ago, have a legitimate case to appeal to the federal courts that it is unlawful and unreasonable for a trained officer to use lethal force on an injured/surrendered suspect. Otherwise, the value of a suspect surrendering is irreparably and permanently harmed.

It is arguable that both Kajieme Powell and VonDerrit Myers, victims of lethal shootings by St. Louis police just weeks after the killing of Brown, were reluctant to voluntarily surrender to officers because their view of the safety of surrendering had been greatly diminished by what they believed to have happened with Brown. In fact, the discussion of how and when to surrender to police is an increasingly prevalent conversation in African-American communities as every day, people worry that they, too, may be deemed a threat by an officer and killed at will.

Graham v. Connor, U.S. Supreme Court, 1989

(Read the decision in full here.)

Since coming down 25 years ago, over 5,000 cases involving the use of force by police have cited Graham v. Connor as their primary defense for the officers. It will, no doubt, be leaned on by Wilson, should he ever face a jury.

In 1984, Dethorne Graham, a diabetic, was having a terrible insulin reaction. He asked a close friend to stop off at a gas station so that he could purchase some orange juice. When he entered the gas station he was discouraged by the long line, left the store, and got back into the car, asking his friend to just rush him home. Officer Connor, a Charlotte, North Carolina, police officer, observing what he believed to be erratic behavior by Graham, followed the car for half a mile and decided to pull it over for an investigative stop—believing, perhaps, that Graham had stolen something from the store.

After pulling Graham out of the car, the officer refused the pleas of Graham and the driver, Berry, to get him some sugar for his insulin reaction. More officers arrived and assaulted Graham, breaking his foot, cutting his face and wrist, and straining his shoulder in the process. Officer Berry decided to go back to the gas station to see what Graham must have stolen. It turned out that he didn’t steal anything at all. Graham eventually passed out at the scene and was literally dumped in his front yard by police.

Graham pressed charges for excessive force, claiming that his constitutional rights were violated. When the case eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the fundamental aspects of the decision centered around the word “reasonable” and determined that what is reasonablein the use of force by an officer has to be viewed from the perspective of what was reasonable in the moment of force and not in 20/20 hindsight.

This sets a very dangerous precedent and has made it nearly impossible for police officers to be held accountable for brutal/lethal force they apply. For instance, in retrospect, it was absolutely unreasonable for police officers to fire 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, an upstanding, unarmed man. Using Graham v. Connor, the defense for the officers successfully argued that they didn’t have that hindsight and that they “reasonably” believed they were in grave danger. Without meaning to sound comical, the Graham v. Connor decision allows officers to shoot and kill with lethal force when they have any random version of the “heebie jeebies.” In effect, the bar for what police officers can say is a “reasonable” fear is set so amazingly low, that if officers completely imagine they see a gun, hear it go off three times, and even see the flash from the muzzle, as they claimed in the case of completely unarmed teenager Kendrec McDade, the police are still protected by Graham v. Connor.

How Does Graham v. Connor Apply to Darren Wilson and Mike Brown?

First and foremost, Graham v. Connor requires those administering justice to only think about what should have been reasonable in the exact moments lethal force was used. That is to say that because Wilson had never seen or heard of Brown until the moment Wilson saw him from his SUV on Canfield Drive at 12 PM on Saturday, August 9, nothing that happened in Brown’s life before the incident, good or bad, can be considered. Justice for Mike Brown, according toGraham v. Connor, cannot be considered from a view 10,000 feet above the incident, but can only be considered from there on Canfield Drive.

So, because it was reasonably established that before, during, and after the incident that Brown was not armed and was reasonably understood by every eyewitness (and one presumes Darren Wilson) that Brown was seriously injured before the fatal shots were fired, Graham v. Connorforces us to consider if Wilson was reasonable, right then and there, in using lethal force to protect himself and the community from Brown.

Graham v. Connor is so widely used by police that it is actually included in many police training manuals across the country. Consequently, perhaps the most troubling aspect of police not being forced to give a statement that is viewable by the public on the day of a lethal shooting, is that law enforcement officials have an opportunity—for hours, or days, or even months—to shape their story around Graham v. Connor. With self-preservation in mind, it would be a rare officer who would openly and willingly say that he or she made even one small mistake in a deadly force case. The case of Darren Wilson will likely be no different.

With Voter ID Law On Hold, Wisconsin Republican Urges Supporters To ‘Challenge’ Voters At The Polls

voters

Voters | Credit: AP Images

Think Progress

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN—Less than one week after the Supreme Court delayed the implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law until after the midterm elections, a GOP official urged Republican activists to take matters into their own hands to prevent voter fraud.

Milwaukee County’s Republican Elections Commissioner Rick Baas warned a crowd of volunteers and supporters Friday night to be “concerned about voter fraud,” and urged the hundreds of attendees to take an “extra step of vigilance.” “You as a Wisconsin resident can challenge people who are not supposed to be voting,” he said at the Milwaukee County Republicans event. “You’ve got to do that.”

Under state law, voters, election workers, official observers, or any member of the public can challenge the validity of someone’s vote, but to do so, they must swear under oath that they have firsthand knowledge that the person is not qualified to vote. A challenge cannot be based on a mere suspicion or hunch.

“Providing those parameters would be important to any discussion related to voter challenges,” Milwaukee City Election Commission Director Neil Albrecht told ThinkProgress. “Failure to provide has the potential to incite unsubstantiated challenges and a disruption to voting.”

Others echoed this concern that Baas’ invocation for “challenging” at the polls would hurt legitimate voters. “There’s a fine line by legitimate questions and harassment and intimidation,” said Darryl Morin, the Midwest vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Morin told ThinkProgress that as a Republican it is “disappointing” to see such rhetoric coming from “a party that claims to be reaching out to minorities.”

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) signed a law earlier this year allowing poll observers to be as close as three feet to a voter. Democratic lawmakers and progressive organizers haveexpressed concern that the measure could lead to greater harassment and intimidation and Morin said that some of LULAC’s Wisconsin members have already experienced such treatment when going to cast a ballot.

“We completely agree that the vote is a very precious thing, but to put barriers before people who are eligible to vote just should not be allowed. When you look at the law that was passed in Wisconsin and the people who were impacted—the majority of them Hispanics or African Americans—it’s hard to believe that it happened just by chance,” Morin added.

LULAC, which has been involved in voting rights struggles since the days of the poll tax, has been battling Wisconsin’s voter ID law for the past few years on behalf of its Latino members who would be disenfranchised by the measure. Morin said he’s frustrated by politicians who feed “the false impression that if you have a dark tint to your skin, you’re obviously illegal and a criminal and you’re dealing drugs.”

Commissioner Baas was one of many officials at the Milwaukee County Republican Party event to lament the recent Supreme Court ruling putting Wisconsin’s voter ID law on hold for this November’s election.

Republican Dan Sebring, who is running for the fourth time against Gwen Moore (D-WI) for her seat in the House of Representatives, said that the ruling “stinks,” while the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Brad Schimel, called it “bad news”—prompting the whole crowd to boo the high court. He then counseled them: “The best way you can prevent someone from stealing your vote is if you use your vote. Make sure no one can go in and take your line in the ballot box.”

Schimel and others at the event said repeatedly that they were concerned about voter fraud. But countless studies in Wisconsin and around the country have found in-person voter impersonation to be nearly non-existent. And the kinds of fraud that are more common—like fake absentee ballots, vote buying, fake registration forms, and ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam—would not be prevented by a voter ID law. And most ironically, the one case of voter fraud cited in court is against an elderly supporter of Walker.

George Will Spreads Misinformation About Ebola on Fox News

Conservative columnist and pundit George Will

Conservative columnist and pundit George Will | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

Think Progress

In the weeks since news broke of the first Ebola case in the United States, government officials have stressed that the disease cannot spread through the air, by water, or in food. George Will, however, doesn’t think that’s true.

On Fox News Sunday, the conservative columnist came head to head with his fellow panelists — and even host Chris Wallace — in his attempt to spew misinformation about Ebola.

“The original problem was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids, because it’s not airborne,” Will said. “Now there are doctors saying we’re not so sure that it can’t in some instances be transmitted airborne.”

Will later added: “Well, when you get on an airport perhaps you should clean the armrest and the tray. There are some doctors saying in a sneeze or cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious.”

Will made his comments minutes after Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, assured Wallace that the likelihood of an Ebola epidemic in the United States remains slim, despite the infection of two health care workers who treated patient zero Thomas Eric Duncan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. According to the federal agency’s website, humans come into direct contact with Ebola through the blood and bodily fluids of the infected and medical equipment that has been used. Experts say that means that the virus essentially poses the highest risk to health care workers caring for Ebola patients and family members of the infected.

But media fervor and misinformation about how Ebola spreads has spurred anxiety and confusion about the nature of the virus itself.

Schools in Texas and Ohio shuttered shortly after learning that the second infected nurse boarded a plane. Last week, University of Minnesota officials discredited a tweet from its official account that said its researches found that Ebola could spread through the air. Candidates have added fuel to the fire of public paranoia with reckless statements about the virus on the campaign trail. Many businesses have also profited from Ebola anxiety, selling products they claim will provide protection similar to that given to health care workers in hot zones.

In recent days, federal officials have taken extra precautions in the wake of the two new Ebola cases — including the deployment of Ebola SWAT teams to infected areas and theuse of hospitals with special isolation units.

But Americans are still anxious about the government’s ability to contain the virus. According to the latest Harvard School of Public Health poll, more than a third of respondents believe that either they or a family member will contract Ebola.

Warren: ‘The Game Is Rigged, And The Republicans Rigged It’

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AP Photo / Brennan Linsley

I doubt that Hillary Clinton would ever say the above and Sen. Warren didn’t go far enough.  The entire GOP machine is rigged, IMHO.

TPM LiveWire

Warren told the crowd that she would fight against the banks that oppose her legislation that would allow students to refinance their student loans.

“We’re coming after them,” she said.

10 things you need to know today: October 19, 2014

Hong Kong police in riot gear monitor protesters

Hong Kong police in riot gear monitor protesters Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The Week

North and South Korea exchange gunfire, police find human remains believed to be those of missing student Hannah Graham, and more.

1. North Korea and South Korea trade gunfire
North Korean and South Korean soldiers briefly exchanged gunfire on Sunday across the heavily-fortified border between the two nations. It was the second such shootout between the two sides in the past 10 days. The incident began when about 10 North Korean troops approached the boundary line between the two nations and disregarded warnings to turn back. Troops from the South then fired warning shots, leading to a 10-minute volley of gunfire that did not result in any reported casualties or injuries. [The Associated Press, Reuters]

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2. Human remains believed to belong to missing Virginia woman found
Investigators searching for a missing University of Virginia student uncovered what they believe to be her remains. Police on Saturday said they’d found remains near Charlottesville, Virginia, and that a medical examiner would soon test whether they did indeed belong to 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who went missing last month. Police have charged Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. in Graham’s disappearance, and linked him to the disappearance of another Virginia woman in 2009. [The New York Times]

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3. Violent clashes continue in Hong Kong
Police on Sunday squared off with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong for a second-straight day ahead of planned talks to deescalate the tense situation there. Thousands of demonstrators recaptured streets over the weekend after being pushed out from their encampments on Friday, resulting in dozens of injuries and at least four arrests, according to police. The government and demonstration leaders are scheduled to hold talks Tuesday, though China insists it will not soften restrictions it placed on the 2017 election to name Hong Kong’s new chief executive. [The New York Times, Reuters]

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4. Bishops nix proposal to welcome gay Catholics
A historic proposal for the Vatican to soften its stance toward gays failed to make it into a final report on the direction of the Catholic Church. A draft report from the synod said gays “must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity,” though it failed to receive backing from at least two-thirds of the bishops in attendance. The Vatican said the language could still be discussed at a meeting of bishops next October. [The Guardian, The Associated Press]

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5. Germany blames pro-Russian rebels for MH17 downing
Germany has concluded that pro-Russian separatists mistakenly brought down a commercial airliner over Ukraine in July, making it the first European nation to explicitly blame the rebels. Gerhard Schindler, president of Germany’s BND intelligence agency, said in a closed-door meeting earlier this month that rebels struck Malaysia Airline flight MH17 with a Russian Buk missile, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine. “It was pro-Russian separatists,” he said. [Reuters]

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6. Health worker on cruise ship cleared in Ebola scare
A nautical Ebola nightmare is over after officials cleared a health care worker linked to the virus who had been quarantined aboard a luxury cruise ship. The unidentified woman works at the Dallas hospital where patient Thomas Eric Duncan died of Ebola earlier this month, and it was feared she may have contracted the virus, too. The woman sequestered herself onboard until the ship returned to Texas Sunday, at which point a blood sample revealed she was not infected. [CNN]

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7. New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival descends into chaos
Police in riot gear used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse thousands of people who ran amok Saturday at the annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene, New Hampshire. Police said a large crowd composed mainly of students tore up street signs, threw bottles, and flipped at least one car at parties held in conjunction with the event, which attracts tourists from all over the region. “There were about 4,000 kids in this backyard, and it almost felt like a war zone,” Ellery Murray, a Keene State student, told The Boston Globe. [The Boston Globe]

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8. Russian tennis official suspended for remarks about Williams sisters
The Women’s Tennis Association has fined and suspended Shamil Tarpischev, the head of the Russian Tennis Association, for disparaging remarks he made about Venus and Serena Williams. Last week, Tarpischev referred to the two tennis stars as the “Williams brothers” and said they were “frightening.” In response, the WTA hit Tarpischev with a maximum $25,000 fine and suspended him for one year. In a statement Serena supported the punishment, calling the remarks “sexist as well as racist.” [ESPN]

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9. Endangered white rhino dies
An extremely rare northern white rhinoceros died Friday at a wildlife conservancy in Kenya, leaving only six of the animals alive in the world. Poachers have driven the species nearly to extinction, and the 34-year-old Suni was one of only two breeding males left. “The species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race,” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy said in a statement. [The Guardian]

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10. American Idol alum dead at 32
Joanne Borgella, a former American Idol contestant who went public with her battle against cancer, has died. She was 32 years old. Borgella was one of the final 24 contestants on the reality TV show’s seventh season, and she regularly updated fans on social media about her treatment for endometrial cancer. [People]

Republicans want you scared of ISIS. Democrats want you scared of the GOP.

Don't let fear dictate your vote.

Don’t let fear dictate your vote. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Week

But in truth, we have nothing to fear but fear itself

Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s not a great guide when you’re making a decision, but in an election year like 2014 — in which the main voter sentiments seem to be disenchantment and disgust — politicians apparently think it’s their best bet. Republican campaign ads and debate talking points aren’t all that subtle on this point. Democrats are only a little more indirect.

“Republicans believe they have found the sentiment that will tie congressional races together with a single national theme,” says Jeremy W. Peters at The New York Times. The theme is that things are really bad right now — Ebola, ISIS, even years worth of mishaps at the Secret Service — and that it’s mostly President Obama’s fault. And since Obama isn’t on the ballot, all Democrats running for Congress are Obama’s “lieutenants,” as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus explained to The New York Times.

The Democrats’ big perceived soft spot is ISIS. Congress — after quickly and bipartisanly agreeing to Obama’s request for money to train anti-ISIS Syrian fighters — opted to go home and campaign rather than to debate what, if anything, Obama should be doing differently in Iraq and Syria. But the long-term plan Obama laid out to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS without U.S. ground troops hasn’t stopped ISIS from gaining some new territory, so Republicans are calling it a dangerous failure.

“ISIS is just one of the things leading to a crisis mentality among voters,” Joe Pounder, president of the GOP opposition-research company America Rising LLC, tells The Daily Beast‘s Josh Rogin. “And when you don’t have much new in the way of the economy going on, this is the new issue.”

This isn’t a dumb strategy on the GOP’s part. The American electorate cares about ISIS. “The situation with Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria” was voters’ No. 4 concern in a Gallup analysisreleased Monday, with 78 percent saying it is extremely or very important to their vote — and voters trust Republicans more than Democrats to deal with the situation. Tellingly, ISIS was the No. 2 issue for Republican respondents, with 85 percent calling it really important to their vote.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday, Obama’s approval rating on ISIS had plunged 15 percentage points in two weeks, to 35 percent; 51 percent disapproved.

The Republicans don’t have to have a better plan, or really any plan, to dispatch ISIS — if they disagree with Obama about anything, it’s mostly to plug sending in U.S. ground troops, hardly a popular suggestion. They just need to not control the White House.

Presidents normally want to exude sunny optimism on their watch, with varying degrees of success. But in a pinch, the party in power will be happy to paint the other side as dangerous and slightly unhinged.

Democrats can read polls, too, of course. They want you to be afraid of Republicans — or at least they want dispirited and unenthusiastic Democrats to be afraid enough that they’ll vote. In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, for example, Democrats actually lead Republicans in voter preference for House races, 46 percent to 44 percent — but Republicans take a 50 percent to 43 percent lead when it comes to likely voters.

Republicans are less popular nationally than Democrats — 33 percent favorability to 39 percent, per ABC News/Washington Post — and Democrats would like this to be an election about the minority party. It usually doesn’t work that way.

To get Democrats worried or angry enough to vote, Democrats are focusing on the points where voters in general, and Democrats in particular, rate the GOP poorly. In the latest Gallup poll, the Democrats’ No. 2 issue is equal pay for women, which 87 percent of Democrats say is extremely or very important to their vote. Abortion and contraception access is the No. 12 concern for Democrats, but 60 percent of them still call the issue very important (versus 43 percent of Republicans). Democratic ads and talking points reflect those priorities.

But in the favorite words of a man many American politicians cite as their hero: Don’t be afraid. It’s a lousy way to live, and a terrible basis for voting. If you’re afraid, there’s a good chance somebody is trying to pull your strings.

You’re almost certainly not going to get Ebola or even personally know anyone who does. ISIS isn’t going to invade across America’s southern border (which is much more guarded that it was in 2001). Republicans won’t win enough seats to get anything done — at least not for two years. If they win the Senate, we’ll probably get deeper gridlock, which should feel pretty familiar about now.

Fear is also pretty good for the news media. But on Wednesday, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith went a little off-script. “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television, or read the fear-provoking words online,” he said of Ebola. “You have to remember,” he adds — going “big picture” — “that there is politics in the mix.”

With midterm elections coming, the party in charge needs to appear to be effectively leading. The party out of power needs to show that there is a lack of leadership. So the president has canceled a fundraising trip and is holding meetings, and his political opponents are accusing his administration of poor leadership. For the purpose of this fact-dissemination exercise, those matters are immaterial. [Fox News]


He could be discussing just about any big issue of this election.

By all means, vote on Nov. 4 (or earlier, if applicable). There are big policy issues at stake, as well as judicial appointments and other things that may very well have a real impact on your life. But vote for the party or candidate whose ideas you think are better, not the one that scares you the least.

Ebola Panic Reaches New Heights As Maine Teacher Is Put On Leave Because She Visited Dallas

ebolafinal

Screenshot: Credit – WAPT

I’m pretty sure that this is the result of some folks watching the Fox News Scare Fest every day…

Think Progress

An elementary school teacher in Maine has been placed on leave for 21 days, the incubation period of Ebola, after she visited Dallas to attend an educational conference. The teacher did not come into contact with anybody who had tested positive for the virus, but did stay at a hotel “exactly 9.5 miles away from Texas Health Presbyterian,” where Ebola patients have been treated.

The school district attributed its decision to “parents’ concerns,” presumably about the teacher transmitting Ebola to their children. But if the school board’s criteria for leave were applied to everyone, the entire city of Dallas would have to stay home from work. About 5 million people within the United States travel to or through Dallas each month.

Fears about Ebola, often without any medical justification, are impacting people across the country. Middle school students were pulled out of school in Mississippi after the principal visited Zambia, a country about 3,000 miles from the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Michel du Cille, a photographer for the Washington Post, was “disinvited by Syracuse University from participation in a journalism workshop.” The decision was made because he visited Liberia a few weeks ago, despite the fact that he did not develop any symptoms of Ebola in the 21-day maximum incubation period.

Sunday Talk: Now is the time to panic!

Daily Kos

The end (of the election season) is near(or maybe not), and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket.There’s a perfect storm heading toward America’s border, determined to kill us all in a show of solidarity with Africa.Its name is “Obama’s Katrina“—you may remember it from such scandals as: the IRS targeting of conservative groups,#Benghazi, and the latte salute.

Not to take anything away from them, but the threats posed by those scandals pale in comparison to this one, which has gone viral.

You don’t need to be a self-certified ophthalmologist like Rand Paul to see it—it’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal.

You have no chance to survive; make your time.

Morning lineup:

Meet The Press: Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases); Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA); Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO); Others TBD.Face The Nation: Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases); Richard Umbdenstock (American Hospital Association); Dr. Robert Wah (American Medical Association); Jean Ross (National Nurses United); Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Roundtable: Gerald Seib(Wall Street Journal), Susan Glasser(Politico Magazine) and Michael O’Hanlon (Brookings Institution).

This Week: Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases); Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins; Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan;Roundtable: Bill Kristol (Weekly Standard), Republican Strategist Mary Matalin, Stephanie Schriock (EMILY’s List) and TV/Radio Host Tavis Smiley.

Fox News Sunday: Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases); Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA); Michael Osterholm (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota); RNC Chair Reince Priebus; DNC Chair/Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL);  Roundtable: Brit Hume (Fox News),George Will (Washington Post), Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress) and Juan Williams (Fox News).

State of the Union: Dr. Anthony Fauci (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Roundtable: Republican Strategist Kevin Madden, Republican Strategist Ana Navarro, LZ Granderson (ESPN) and Democratic Strategist Penny Lee.

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report on Barbara Mancini, who was arrested and accused of helping her dying father kill himself (preview); a report on efforts to restore the Coliseum (preview); and, a report on the Yukon gold rush (preview).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pens Scathing Dissent On Texas Voter ID Law

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, celebrating her 20th anniversary on the bench, is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. | The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent early Saturday morning, blasting the court’s decision to allow Texas to use its new voter ID law in the November elections. She was joined in the dissent by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg disputed the Fifth Circuit court of appeals’ argument that it was too close to the November election to stop the law. Early voting begins on Monday in Texas.

“In any event, there is little risk that the District Court’s injunction will in fact disrupt Texas’ electoral process,” she wrote. “Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for ten years (from 2003 to 2013) and in five federal general elections.”

Ginsburg argued that the Fifth Circuit was remiss to ignore the findings of a full trial in district court, which found that the law was “enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited disriminatory result.”

District Court Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos struck down the law earlier this month on the grounds that it would serve as a deterrent to a large number of registered voters, most of them black or Hispanic. “Based on the testimony and numerous statistical analyses provided at trial, this Court finds that approximately 608,470 registered voters in Texas, representing approximately 4.5% of all registered voters, lack qualified SB 14 ID and of these, 534,512 voters do not qualify for a disability exemption,” Gonzalez Ramos wrote.

Ginsburg echoed these findings in her dissent. “The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment,” Ginsburg wrote. “Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”

Texas officials have argued that these numbers are meaningless, on the grounds that all registered voters are able to obtain ID. Ginsburg also took aim at this assertion in her dissent, arguing that the cost of obtaining the required ID constitutes an unconstitutional barrier to voting. “Even at $2, the toll is at odds with this Court’s precedent,” she wrote. “And for some voters, the imposition is not small. A voter whose birth certificate lists her maiden name or misstates her date of birth may be charged $37 for the amended certificate she needs to obtain a qualifying ID. Texas voters born in other States may be required to pay substantially more than that.”

Ginsburg pointedly added that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

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