A Wild World Upside Down

Image credit: Patty via Flickr

Hello Readers!

It has been more than three months since my last post. This means it is time for another installment of A Wild World Upside, where I briefly look back before going forward and acknowledge noteworthy news that happened while I was away. This installment will cover news from August 13 to November 22. The format of this post is slightly different than the first installment because of the overwhelming number of events that transpired in such a relatively short period. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. News and events are organized by the primary month in which they occurred and by the chronological order of the photos that appear in the slideshow for that month.
  2. With few exceptions, the dates on the left indicate the date the photo was taken.  It is the same date you will see if you scroll your mouse across a photo. Some events are represented by multiple photos that may have been taken on different dates.   
  3. If the date a photo was taken differs from the actual date of the event, the latter will be provided in the summary.  
  4. Each entry begins with the correlating photo’s caption and is followed by a summary, if needed.   
  5. Click on an image to enlarge it, read the caption or see the photo credit.
  6. This post is best read directly from this site because the email version alters the original formatting.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the many important stories that have cross my desk since August. It is by no means an exhaustive list. Lastly, a couple of entries deserve more attention and may appear as individual post directly above this one in the coming days. It’s a long read. So let’s get to it.

In August

August 13 – Cara McClure, right, of Birmingham, Alabama cries in a friend’s arms during a solidarity rally on August 13, 2017, for the victims of a white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia. Protesters decrying hatred and racism converged around the country the day after the rally in Charlottesville.

August 14Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, holds a photo of Bro’s mother and her daughter on August 14, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer was killed on Saturday, August 12, 2017, when police say a man plowed his car into a group of demonstrators protesting the white nationalist rally. Bro said that she is going to bare her soul to fight for the cause that her daughter died for.

August 16 – Members of the Charlottesville community hold a vigil for Heather Heyer following a protest organized by white nationalists that turned deadly at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. on August 16, 2017.

August 19Local Bario 18 gang leader “El Mortal”, 18, poses for a photo on August 19, 2017 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He said he has been a gang member since he was age 10. In Honduras, rival gangs including Barrio 18 and MS-13 tightly control territory, earning money from extortion and drug trafficking. San Pedro Sula has one of the highest rates in the world for violence and homicide rates, most of it gang-related, for a populace not at war. Poverty and violence have driven immigration to the United States, although the number of U.S.-bound immigrants has dropped during the first months of the Trump Presidency.

August 19 – The lifeless body of a man lies on a street  in Mandaluyong, Philippines on August 19, 2017. A recent spike in the killings related to the government’s anti-drug operation sparked outrage among citizens as police confirmed deaths as high as 35 bodies in one day. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte lauded the killing of the 35 people and had asked for the killing of more people involved in drugs. This led to more nationwide protests denouncing his tactics. 

August 23 – A Yemeni woman sits near her cholera-infected child receiving treatment amid an acute cholera outbreak at a hospital in Sana’a, Yemen. After two and a half years of war, little is functioning in Yemen. Repeated bombings have crippled bridges, hospitals and factories. Many doctors and civil servants have gone unpaid for more than a year. Malnutrition and poor sanitation have made the Middle Eastern country vulnerable to diseases that most of the world has confined to the history books. The World Health Organization announced on 14 August that the number of suspected cases of cholera in Yemen had reached 500,000, with almost 2,000 deaths related to the disease recorded since late April. It is one of the world’s largest outbreaks in the past 50 years, prompting The New York Times labeled it the “The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis” on August 23, 2017.

August 26 – Protesters and supporters carry banners and placards as they march with the hearse of slain Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a 17-year-old student, during his funeral on August 26, 2017, in suburban Caloocan city north of Manila, Philippines. The killing of Kian sparked an outcry against President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown. Witnesses to the Santos incident claim that they saw police hand the boy a gun and asked him to run before shooting him to death. On October 18, Duterte reluctantly transferred the anti-drug operation from the PNP to the PDEA. On November 13, Donald Trump met with Duterte at an economic summit during his twelve-day visit to Asia. After the meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs.” Journalists covering the meeting noted that Duterte called the press “spies” and joked about assassinating them. Trump reportedly chuckled at the comments.

August 27 – Nursing home patients at La Vita Bella in Dickinson, Texas going about their day despite rising flooding waters from Hurricane Harvey on August 27 at 9:56 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. CBS later posted a photo to Instagram of the women after they had been rescued. Hurricane Harvey was the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting nearly $200 billion in damage, primarily from widespread flooding in the Houston metropolitan area, breaking the previous record set by Hurricane Katrina. It was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, ending a record 12-year span in which no hurricanes made landfall at such an intensity in the country. Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. Over a six-day period, Harvey dropped 27 trillion gallons over Texas and Louisiana. At least 46 were killed, around 30,000-40,000 homes were destroyed, and 35,000 people relocated to emergency shelters. Full recovery from the storm is expected to take years to complete.

August 29 – Waves were seen lapping over Interstate-10 near Winnie, Texas, on August 29 as floodwater produced by Hurricane Harvey continued to rise.

August 30 – The U.S. flag weathering the Hurricane Harvey on August 30, 2017. 

In September

September 6 – Storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Sint Maarten on September 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful Cape Verde hurricane, the strongest observed in the Atlantic since Wilma in 2005. It sustained winds of 185 mph (295 km/h) for 37 hours, becoming the only tropical cyclone worldwide to have had winds that speed for that long, breaking the previous record of 24 hours set by Typhoon Haiyan of 2013. It was the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands on record, followed by Hurricane Maria two weeks later, and the costliest Caribbean hurricane. It was also the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005.

September 9 – An altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe is covered with fallen debris inside the earth-damaged home where Larissa Garcia, 24, lived with her family in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico on September 9, 2017. The 2017 Chiapas earthquake struck at 23:49 CDT on  September 7 (local time; 04:49 on the 8th UTC) in the Gulf of Tehuantepec off the southern coast of Mexico, near state of Chiapas,  with a Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The magnitude was estimated to be Mw 8.2. The earthquake caused some buildings in Mexico City to tremble, prompting people to evacuate. It also generated a tsunami with waves of 1.75 meters (5 ft 9 in) above tide level; and tsunami alerts were issued for surrounding areas. Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto called it the strongest earthquake recorded in the country, in a century. It was also the second strongest recorded in the country’s history, behind the magnitude 8.6 earthquake in 1787, and the most intense recorded globally, so far in 2017.

September 10 – Josué Tolentino Gómez, 11, stands beside his family’s home on September 10, where he was trapped under the rubble for an hour before being rescued when part of the structure collapsed during the 8.1 magnitude Chiapas  earthquake that struck on September 7 in Juchitán, Oaxaca state, Mexico.

September 10ANTIFA (short for anti-fascism) members hold a sign denouncing Nazis along a road at a waterfront park in downtown Portland, Oregon on September 10, 2017. The exact origins of Antifa are unknown, but the group can be traced to Nazi Germany and Anti-Fascist Action, a militant group founded in the 1980s in the United Kingdom. In America, the term is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left – often the far left – but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform. The Antifa garnered attention from mainstream media after some of its members showed up in Charlottesville, Virginia as counter-protesters to condemn hate and racism. Members have been spotted at high-profile, right-wing events across the country, including Milo Yiannopoulos‘ appearance at the University of California, Berkeley in February. They also protested Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

September 15 – A Black Lives Matter protester stands in front of St. Louis Police Department officers equipped with riot gear in St. Louis on September 15, 2017. Protest erupted in the city after Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24 year old African-American man. Some of the protests turned violent and some police officers were pelted with water bottles and rocks after declaring the protest an “unlawful assembly.” The St. Louis Police Department response to protests was criticized as unconstitutional and excessive force by the American Civil Liberties Union following a video release of law enforcement officers chanting “Whose streets? Our streets” while making mass arrests.

September 16 – Demonstrators confront police while protesting the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 16, 2017. Dozens of business windows were smashed and at least two police cars were damaged during a second day of protests following the acquittal of Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder last year following the 2011 on-duty shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.

September 16 – Bill Monroe poses as he protests the not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri on September 16, 2017.

September 16 – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017. North Korea has fired 22 missiles during 15 tests since February 2017, further perfecting its technology with each launch. It launched missiles over Japan on August 29 and September 15 – two scuds missiles (solid-fueled short or medium-range ballistic missiles) and two Hwasong-12 (liquid-filled intermediate-range ballistic missile). Meanwhile, Trump and Jong Un have continued to trade insults publicly, with the latest juvenile interaction suggesting that a mutually acceptable solution to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is still some way off.

September 18 – A view of the devastation caused by a forest fire in an area of Brasilia’s National Forest in Brazil on September 18, 2017. The National Institute of Space Research (INPE) detected 106,000 fires destroying natural vegetation in September – the highest number in a single month since records began in 1998, said Alberto Setzer, coordinator of INPE’s fire monitoring satellite program. Experts and environmentalists say that the blazes are almost exclusively due to human activity, and they attribute the uptick to the expansion of agriculture and a reduction of oversight and surveillance. Lower than average rainfall in this year’s dry season is also an exacerbating factor.

September 19 – People remove debris from a collapsed building, looking for possible victims after another earthquake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017. The 2017 Central Mexico earthquake struck at 13:14 CDT (18:14 UTC) with an estimated magnitude of Mw 7.1 and strong shaking for about 20 seconds. Its epicenter was about 55 km (34 mi) south of the city of Puebla. The earthquake caused damage in the Mexican states of Puebla and Morelos and in the Greater Mexico City area, including the collapse of more than 40 buildings. More than 370 people were killed by the earthquake and related building collapses, including 228 in Mexico City, and more than 6,000 were injured. The quake coincidentally occurred on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, which killed around 10,000 people. The 1985 quake was commemorated, and a national earthquake drill was held, at 11 a.m. local time, just two hours before the 2017 earthquake. Twelve days earlier, the even larger 2017 Chiapas earthquake struck 650 km (400 mi) away, off the coast of the state of Chiapas.

September 19 – The body of woman hangs crushed by a collapsed building in the neighborhood of Roma Norte in Mexico City on September 19, 2017. Throughout Mexico City, rescue workers and residents dug through the rubble of collapsed buildings seeking survivors following a 7.1 magnitude quake.

September 19 -Shaheda, 40, a Rohingya refugee woman who said her body was burnt when the Myanmar army set fire to her house, receives treatment at the Cox’s Bazar District Sadar Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on September 19, 2017.  Almost 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh, fleeing the violence in Burma’s Rakhine state, since August 25. Many of the refugees tell distressing stories of their villages being attacked or burned by Burmese soldiers, or of their neighbors or family members being injured or killed. The United Nations has accused Burmese troops of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign. The new arrivals in Bangladesh join an already-existing large population of Rohingya refugees, which has prompted the government to announce plans to build one of the world’s largest refugee camps to house more than 800,000 stateless Rohingya, replacing hundreds of makeshift camps that are popping up near the border. Local medical teams, supported by UNICEF and WHO, have started a massive immunization drive in the camps, racing to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases. The UN Refugee Agency has called the current crisis the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world today.

September 24 – Members of the New England Patriots kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on September 24, 2017, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The new wave of #TakeAKnee protests came one day after Donald Trump launched a sensational attack on NFL players during a campaign-style speech in Alabama on September 23, challenging the league’s owners to release any player who engages in the movement started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”, Trump said to a small, frenzied crowd of ardent supporters. Current and former players decried the president’s remarks. Minnesota Vikings running back Bishop Sankey tweeted: “It’s a shame and disgrace when you have the president of the US calling citizens of the country sons of a bitches.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell criticized Trump’s “divisive comments”. On November 13, GQ named Colin Kaepernick Citizen of the Year.

September 25 – A giant sign in the front yard of a St. Croix homeowner asks Donald Trump for “TREMENDOUS! HUGE! BEST EVER!” relief for the U.S. Virgin Islands after the island was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as seen from a Navy helicopter passing over St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, on September 25, 2017.  After Hurricane Irma pummeled St. John and St. Thomas, St. Croix was mercifully left with about 90% power. But two weeks later, Hurricane Maria arrived to change that, decimating the island. Many of the more than 100,000 residents who live in the islands were left without a place to stay after the storms destroyed their homes. Many residents were also left without the means to communicate. Recovery will be slow but there has been some progress since Hurricane Maria.  Electrical power has been restored to 20% of customers in St. John, 20% of customers in St. Thomas and 10% of customers in St. Croix, according to FEMA. On St. Croix and St. Thomas, about 90% of power has returned to critical facilities such as hospitals, airports and shelters. About 95% of roadways are passable and no major roadways are closed.  Approximately 43% of cell service has been restored. Julio Rhymer, executive director for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA), recognizes that Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, are still struggling from being hit by the hurricanes, but he wants “to make sure the Virgin Islands doesn’t get forgotten in the restoration process.”

September 25 – After the passage of Hurricane Maria, a man rides his bicycle through a storm-damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 25, 2017. Maria crashed across the entire U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on September 20, making landfall with winds approaching 150 mph (240 kph). Widespread destruction from the worst storm to hit in nearly a century left almost the entire island without power, and many without running water or cell phone service. Maria also brought heavy rains and flooding. The death toll remains unclear. The task of recovery and rebuilding homes and infrastructure on the island — home to 3.4 million people — has been daunting. On September 29, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz begged the federal government to step up its recovery efforts to get the island back on track: “I am asking the President of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” she added, warning that “if we don’t get the food and water into peoples’ hands what we are going to see is something close to a genocide”.  Her passionate pleas for help were met with criticism and anger by Donald Trump, who did not visit the island until two weeks after the storm. On October 13, Trump threatened to pull federal emergency management workers from the storm-ravaged island in yet another Twitter tirade. November 20 marked two months since Maria made landfall and Puerto Rico is still in crisis mode. The electrical system has been partially resuscitated, helped by mega-generators imported by the Army Corps of Engineers, but still less than half — 46.6 percent — of Puerto Rico has power. Telecommunications is still operating at about 75 percent capacity; cellphone service at 65 percent; and 1-in-10 Puerto Ricans still lack potable water.

September 26 – Saudi women activist ​Manal al-Sharif flashes the victory sign from behind the wheel​. ​On ​September 26, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that women would be allowed to drive starting in June​ 2018. The decision highlights the damage that the ban on women driving has done to the kingdom’s international reputation and its hopes for a public relations benefit from the reform. Saudi leaders also hope the new policy will help the economy by increasing women’s participation in the workplace. Many working Saudi women spend much of their salaries on drivers or must be driven to work by male relatives.

September 27 – Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Brandon Larnard, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron, carries an evacuee off an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter following the landfall of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica on September 27, 2017. Dominica was Hurricane Maria’s first victim, and it was clear from a flight over the island nation that the storm showed no mercy.  At least 15 people were killed and there was widespread destruction in the capital of Roseau. Many buildings were damaged, cars and boats were overturned, bridges were clogged with huge tree trucks and many roads were impassable. According to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, 100% of the agriculture sector and 95% of the tourism sector was destroyed. The Caribbean island of 73,000 residents was a place of lush greenery, punctuated by waterfalls and rain forests. The rain forests appear to have vanished. The remaining residents on the island still have no clean, running water and no power.

September 28 – Tomasa Mozo, 69, a housewife, looks up at the roof as she poses for a portrait inside the ruins of her house after an earthquake in San Jose Platanar, Mexico, near the epicenter, on September 28, 2017. The house was badly damaged during a powerful 6.1 earthquake on September 23, but with the help of her family Mozo rescued some furniture. She lives in another room of her house and hopes to repair the damage as soon as possible.This was the third major earthquake to strike Mexico in the month of September.

September 29 – Hurricane Maria – U.S. Army veteran Luis Cabrera Sanchez holds his machete as he pauses for a portrait while clearing debris from his damaged home, with family and neighbors, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on September 29, 2017. Sanchez, who served in the military from 1966 to 1969, said his greatest needs are water, food, and energy.

In October

October 1 – A pair of cowboy boots lies in the street outside the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on October 1, 2017. Stephen Paddock fired automatic weapons into a gathering of 22,000 country music fans killing 58 people (excluding Paddock) and wounding 546 more. The incident was the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in United States history, with 58 fatalities. Paddock’s motive for the shooting is unknown. He died in his hotel room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

October 2 – A woman makes a sign at a vigil on the Las Vegas strip following a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on October 2, 2017.

October 2 – Independence supporters march during a demonstration downtown Barcelona, Spain on October 2, 2017. Increasing rancor between Madrid and Catalonia culminated in a constitutionally illegal referendum on October 1st in which some 43% of the population (approx. 2.3 million voters) turned out to vote with 90% of ballots cast for independence. In some areas, this quickly descended into violent clashes and street violence. Spanish troops attempted to put down pro-independence demonstrations, injuring some 900 people. Catalan leaders accused Spanish police of brutality and repression while the Spanish government praised the security forces for behaving firmly and proportionately. Videos and photographs of the police actions were on the front page of news media outlets around the world.

October 4 – Air Force One departs Las Vegas past the broken windows on the Mandalay Bay hotel on October 4, 2017, where shooter Stephen Paddock breached the windows to conduct his mass shooting along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.

October 5 – Veronica Hartfield, widow of slain Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer Charleston Hartfield, and their son Ayzayah Hartfield, 15, attend a vigil for Charleston Hartfield at Police Memorial Park on October 5, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Charleston Hartfield, who was off duty at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on October 1, was killed when Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd killing at least 58 (excluding) people and injuring more than 450.

October 6 – A toy car is placed in the coffin of Juan Miguel Soares Silva, 4, one of the victims of the recent municipal daycare center attack, during his burial at Saint Luke’s cemetery in Janauba, Minas Gerais state, Brazil on October 6, 2017. A Brazilian nursery school guard sprayed children with alcohol and set them on fire, killing six small children and a teacher in an attack which horrified the nation.

October 9 – About 8,000 people lived in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park and a neighboring subdivision​ before the a northern California fire turned it into ash on October 9. The October 2017 Northern California wildfires were a series of wildfires that started burning across the state of California, United States. Twenty-one of the wildfires became major fires that burned at least 245,000 acres (99,148 ha). The wildfires broke out throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano counties. Seventeen separate wildfires were reported in October.  Owing to the extreme conditions, shortly after the fires ignited on October 8 and 9, they rapidly grew to become extensive, full-scale incidents spanning from 1,000 acres (400 hectares) to well over 20,000 acres (8,100 ha), each within a single day. By October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres (85,000 ha), forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The Northern California fires have killed at least 43 people and hospitalized at least 185, making the week of October 8, 2017, the deadliest week of wildfires in California history. Collectively, this event constitutes the largest loss of life due to wildfires in the United States since the Cloquet Fire in 1918. In total, an estimated 8,900 structures were destroyed.

October 9Signorello Estate winery, located on Silverado Trail, before flames climbed the ivy-covered walls of the winery headquarters and it eventually collapsed.

October 9 – The remains of the fire damaged Signarello Estate winery after an out of control wildfire moved through the area on October 9, 2017 in Napa, California.

October 10 – Photographer Ian Frank just took this photo of DeAndre Harris, 22, that he titled “Die Nigger” as heard today with his very own ears at the pro-Trump white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. On October 10, the Charlottesville police department announced that it had issued an arrest warrant for Harris. He is accused of attacking one of the men who beat him.

October 14 – Emergency crews work to pull bodies from the buildings demolished by the twin bomb blasts in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017. The blasts killed at least 327 people and injured nearly 400 police. It was the deadliest attack in Somalia’s history, and has shaken and angered thousands across the country. The attack came as the United States under Trump has made a renewed push to defeat the Al-Shabab, Somali-based militants who have terrorized the country and East Africa for years, killing civilians across borders, worsening famine and destabilizing a broad stretch of the region. The blast occurred two days after the head of the United States Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and after the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons. While no one had yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, suspicion immediately fell on the group, which frequently targets the capital, Mogadishu. Previous attacks on the capital this year have killed or wounded at least 771 people, according to data compiled by the Long War Journal. The operations included remotely detonated vehicles, suicide car bombings and suicide assaults. At least 11 of these attacks have been assassination attempts against Somali military, intelligence, and government personnel, as well as Somali journalists.

October 14 – Somalis remove the body of a man killed in a blast in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Saturday, October 14, 2017. Huge explosions from a pair of truck bombs killed at least 327 people and injured nearly 400 police.

October 16 – A forensics expert walks in a field after a powerful bomb blew up a car (Rear) killing investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Bidnija, Malta, October 16, 2017.  Galizia spent much of her work in recent years reporting on the Panama Papers, the cache of records from a law firm in Panama that detailed offshoring activities of powerful officials and companies around the world. Her reporting on allegations about the wife of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and a shell company in Panama had caused concern when Malta had assumed the rotating, six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Guardian reported. No suspects have been identified in the bombing, but Galizia’s son Matthew said that his mother was dead because of the incompetence and negligence of the Maltese government and police. “My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” he said in a post on Facebook. “But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist.” Nine journalists have been killed for their work this year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. If it is confirmed that Galizia was targeted, she would be the 10th, and the first in Europe, the CPJ said.

October 20 – A woman cries as she looks at her house in Raqqa on October 20, 2017, after a Kurdish-led force expelled the Islamic State group from the northern Syrian city. For three years, Raqqa saw some of ISIS’s worst abuses and grew into one of its main governance hubs, a center for both its potent propaganda machine and its unprecedented experiment in jihadist statehood. Although there has been an overall reduction of civilian casualties in areas where de-escalation zone agreements have been put in place, the humanitarian situation has nonetheless escalated significantly in the face of military operations in Raqqa City and Deir-ez-Zor. UNICEF remains extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of children who are caught in the crossfire and face constant aerial bombardments. Conditions in these areas continue to deteriorate due to severe food, water, electricity and medical shortages. In Raqqa, the population has resorted to collecting unsafe water from the Euphrates River, increasing the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks.

October 21Myeshia Johnson kisses the casket of her husband, U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, during his burial service at the Memorial Gardens East cemetery on October 21, 2017, in Hollywood, Florida. Sgt. Johnson along with Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright were part of a 12-man U.S. special forces team that was ambushed October 4, 2017, by militants believed to be linked to the Islamic State. Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed in the shooting, which broke out as the soldiers left a meeting with local officials near Tongo Tongo. The Trump administration waited nearly two weeks to acknowledge the attack, and details about it remain hazy while an investigation is ongoing. Initial media reports said Johnson’s remains had been discovered by Nigerien troops 48 hours after the ambush. But later reports suggested children found Johnson’s body, with his hands bound and a large gash on his head. The soldiers were initially believed to have been attacked by roughly 50 militants, but that estimate rose to approximately 200 in recent days. Additional remains of Johnson were reportedly found in the African nation in early November – after his funeral had already been held, with his widow questioning whether he was even in the casket. The U.S. military’s inconsistent account of the ambush and the soldiers’ service in Niger has raised drawn scrutiny from Congress and the public to America’s evolving role in African missions. President Donald Trump raised even more controversy when Johnson’s widow accused him of making an insensitive condolence call in which he said her fallen husband “knew what he signed up for.” Trump denied this and accused the widow of lying.

October 27 – A relative of Maseno University student Titus Okul, who was shot during a protest the day before, touches his hand at the morgue in Kisumu on October 27, 2017. According to his parents, he was expecting to graduate on December 15. One person was shot dead as fresh protests hit western Kenya on October 27, a day after a deeply divisive election rerun which was marred by low voter turnout and violence, taking the death toll to six

October 27 – People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence and proclaim a republic, just as Madrid was poised to impose direct rule on the region to stop it in its tracks. The motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions, throwing Spain into the biggest constitutional crisis in its 40-year democratic history. Catalan opposition MPs walked out of the 135-seat chamber before the vote in protest at a declaration unlikely to be given official recognition. Under Spanish national law, the vote has made secessionist parliamentarians vulnerable to arrest for sedition. Immediately following the vote, the Spanish parliament in Madrid voted to strip the Catalan regional government of its powers, invoking a never-before-used article of the constitution — Article 155 — which allows Madrid to dissolve the autonomy of a region if the unity of Spain is deemed at risk. All of that means we have reached the moment the Iberian Peninsula has both anticipated and dreaded since a controversial referendum on Catalan independence was held on October 1: brinksmanship and deep uncertainty about the future.

October 29 – Samantha Hanahentzen, 17, poses for a #MeToo portrait in Detroit, Michigan, on October 29, 2017. Hanahentzen said: “When I saw the #MeToo hashtag I was just coming to terms with my sexual assault. It happened when I was in middle school by one of my teachers. It took me a while to come forward with what had happened to me and then when I went to the administration I was told I didn’t have enough evidence to prove anything and I should just keep quiet about it because I and the school could be sued for slander if I went public with my experience. It was really silencing because when I was being assaulted it was that stereotypical line of ‘let’s keep this between me and you.’ And then when I found the courage to come out with out I was told again ‘let’s keep this quiet.’ So for me too, it was a way to have a voice and it was a way for me to see that I’m not the only one that has gone through this and that women all around the world have all experienced the same thing. It was really unifying.”

October 31 – Flowers are placed near the scene of the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on October 31, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. Saipov was indicted on 22 charges, ranging from terrorism to both murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering. The associated image was taken on November 2, 2017. 

In November

November 2 – Myanmar’s de-facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited the country’s conflict-ridden Rakhine State on November 2 for the first time since an outbreak of violence in August forced more than 600,000 people to flee from the ongoing ethnic cleansing. Aung San Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who once embodied her country’s fight for democracy, has come under increased pressure from the international community to denounce the military’s actions. Yet Aung San Suu Kyi has remained conspicuously silent on the Rohingya issue, and when pressed by reporters, she has toed the military’s official line, which contends that the Rohingya are illegally squatting inside Myanmar. “No, it’s not ethnic cleansing,” she said in a rare interview on the subject in 2013.

November 4Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, along with 10 other princes, was arrested in Saudi Arabia on November 4, 2017. A midnight blitz of arrests ordered by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia over the weekend of November 4 has ensnared dozens of its most influential figures, including 11 of his royal cousins, in what appears to be the most sweeping transformation in the kingdom’s governance for more than eight decades. The arrests, ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman without formal charges or any legal process, were presented as a crackdown on corruption. Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a favored son of the late King Abdullah, was also removed from his post as chief of a major security service just hours before the announcement of arrests. All members of the royal family were barred from leaving the country. With the new detentions, Crown Prince Mohammed, King Salman’s favored son and key adviser, now appears to have established control over all three Saudi security services — the military, internal security services and national guard. For decades they had been distributed among branches of the House of Saud clan to preserve a balance of power in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest oil producer.

November 4Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who had previously shown no signs of planning to quit, unexpectedly flew to Saudi Arabia and announced his resignation from there, to the shock of his own close advisers. Hours after Mr. Hariri’s announcement — televised Saturday on a Saudi-controlled channel — Saudi Arabia’s assertive new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, presided over the roundup of some 500 people, including 11 princes, on corruption charges. Hariri’s unexpected trip and resignation unsettled the Middle East, setting off a political crisis in Lebanon and even raising fears of war. But during his resignation speech, Hariri blamed interference in Lebanon by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for his decision, adding that he feared an assassination attempt. On November 18, Hariri flew from Saudi Arabia to Paris and met with French President Emmanuel Macron. He told reporters there that he would clarify his political position upon returning to Lebanon for Independence Day celebrations. Hariri returned to Lebanon on November 21, 2017. The next day, Hariri announced he is suspending his resignation, at the request of President Michel Aoun.

November 6 – A migrant arrives at a naval base after he was rescued by Libyan coastal guards in Tripoli, Libya, on November 6, 2017. Many thousands of others have risked their lives this year, fleeing conflict and instability in Africa and the Middle East, in small, often decrepit vessels in an attempt to reach European territories. Migrants crossing in the central Mediterranean – from Libya and Tunisia – have until recently come mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, although increasing numbers of Syrians fleeing the country’s civil war are also making the journey. Libya has become a popular starting point for many journeys, with people traffickers exploiting the country’s power vacuum and increasing lawlessness. The relatively short distance to Lampedusa encourages more people to risk the journey. But the number of fatalities has risen dramatically in a matter of months. More than 2,200 lives have been lost since June, the UN refugee agency UNHCR believes. Migration charities believe that as many as 20,000 people may have died at sea trying to reach Europe in the last two decades.

November 6 – People mourn the 26 victims killed by Devin Patrick Kelley at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs during a prayer service on November 6, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

November 11 – An estimated 60,000 people marched alongside ultranationalists and Nazis to mark the 99th anniversary of Polish independence. Some of the protesters carried banners and flags, including the red falange flag of 1930s fascism, and held up signs that had a clear far-right extremist message, including “Clean Blood,” and “White Europe.”

November 13 – A woman mourns as she holds the body of her daughter, who died in an earthquake in Sarpol-e-Zahab, western Iran, on November 13, 2017. The Iran-Iraq earthquake struck November 12, 2017, at 18:18 UTC (21:48 Iran Standard Time, 21:18 Arabia Standard Time). The 7.3 magnitude earthquake occurred on the Iran–Iraq border, just inside Iran, in Kermanshah Province, with an epicenter approximately 30 kilometers (19 mi) south of the city of Halabja, Iraqi Kurdistan. The earthquake was felt as far away as Israel and the United Arab Emirates. With at least 540 people killed (530 in Iran and 10 in Iraq) and more than 8,100 injured, as well as many more unaccounted for, it is currently the deadliest earthquake of 2017.

November 13 – A damaged building is seen on November 13, following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran. A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck along the Iran-Iraq border on September 12, killing at least 500 people and injuring at least 8,000.

September 14 – Protesters block Highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota. The Keystone pipeline was temporarily shut down on November 16, after 210,000 gallons of oil gushed into Marshall County, South Dakota, blackening a grassy field in the remote northeast part of the state and sending cleanup crews and emergency workers scrambling to the site. TransCanada, the company which operates the pipeline, said it noticed a loss of pressure in Keystone at about 5:45 a.m. According to a company statement, workers had “completely isolated” the section and “activated emergency procedures” within 15 minutes.

TransCanada estimates that the pipeline leaked about 5,000 barrels of oil at the site. A barrel holds 42 U.S. gallons of crude oil. The Keystone pipeline system is nearly 3,000 miles long and links oil fields in Alberta, Canada, to the large crude-trading hubs in Patoka, Illinois, and Cushing, Oklahoma. The pipeline’s better-known sister project—the Keystone XL pipeline—was proposed in 2008 as a shortcut and enlargement of the Keystone pipeline. It was completed in 2011. The entirety of its northern span—which travels through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois—would stay closed until the leak was fixed, the company said.

In 2011, climate activists seized upon the Keystone XL pipeline, warning that its completion would allow the exploitation of much of Alberta’s tar sands and lock in too much future carbon pollution. James Hansen, then the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warned in The New York Times that exporting oil from the Albertan tar sands would mean “game over for the climate.” In 2015, President Barack Obama blocked the pipeline as part of his administration’s preparation for the UN climate-change talks in Paris. But less than a week after his inauguration, President Donald Trump ordered that decision reversed.

November 14 – Protesters gather for a rally in support for marriage equality in Sydney on November 14, 2017. Australians voiced their opinion on same-sex marriage — and they are overwhelmingly in favor of it. According to the results of a historic national postal survey announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on November 14, 61.6 percent of Australian voters said yes, same-sex marriage should be legalized. A majority in every single state and territory voted in favor of marriage equality, with a turnout of 79.5 percent of eligible voters nationwide. The results now go to the government, which opted to survey the population before the parliament took up its own vote on the issue. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who voted yes, has already pledged to follow through with the vote’s results. “We must respect the voice of the people. We asked them for their opinion and they have given it to us. It is unequivocal. It is overwhelming,” he said at a press conference. Turnbull said a vote will come before Christmas. Australia will become the 25th country to legalize same-sex marriage in at least some jurisdictions.

November 17 – A woman places flowers on coffins during the funeral service for 26 Nigerian women, at the Salerno cemetery, southern Italy, Friday November 17, 2017. The women died around November 6 while crossing the Mediterranean sea in an attempt to reach Italy.

November 18 – Protesters in Harare on November 18, demanding that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe step down after the military seized control of the capital, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Company and other central locations on November 14. The next day, they issued a statement saying that it was not a coup d’état and that President Robert Mugabe was safe, although the situation would only return to normal after they had dealt with the “criminals” around Mugabe responsible for the socio-economic problems of Zimbabwe. The coup took place amid tensions in the ruling ZANU–PF party between former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa (who was backed by the army) and First Lady Grace Mugabe (who was backed by the younger G40 faction) over who would succeed the 93-year-old President Mugabe. A week after Mnangagwa was fired and forced to flee the country, and a day before troops moved into Harare, army chief Constantino Chiwenga issued a statement that purges of senior ZANU–PF officials like Mnangagwa had to stop.

November 21 – Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 and once proclaimed that “only God will remove me!”, resigned as president on September 21 shortly after lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against him, according to the speaker of Parliament. Cheers broke out at a special session of parliament as speaker Jacob Mudenda read out Mugabe’s resignation letter: “I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation … with immediate effect.”

November 22 – Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladić flashes a thumbs up as he enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands on November 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial.  Ratko Mladić, the 74-year-old dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia“, was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of one count of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, and four violations of the laws or customs of war committed by his forces during the war in Bosnia from 1992 and 1995. Mladić was found not guilty on one count of genocide. He was sentenced to life in prison on November 22, 2017.

One of the two genocide counts included ordering the siege of Sarajevo, in which his troops surrounded the city for 46 months and carried out a campaign of sniping and shelling at the civilian population “aimed to spread terror amongst them”. With an average of 330 shells pummeling the city daily, more than 10,000 people were killed in what is known as the longest siege of a capital city in recent history. The second count of genocide was for killing more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica, a UN-declared “safe haven” at the time. It was the worst genocide to occur on European soil since the Holocaust. Prosecutors successfully argued that Mladić, along with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, were among the key players that formed the “joint criminal enterprise” to create a Greater Serbia. He was found guilty of removing Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat inhabitants from Bosnia to establish a Greater Serbia and of taking UN peacekeepers hostage. An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people were killed during the war in Bosnia, while as many as 50,000 women were raped. In pronouncing the life sentence, the presiding judge, Alphons Orie, said that Mladić’s crimes “rank among the most heinous known to humankind.”  Mladić’s lawyers said they would appeal. 

Mladić was arrested in May 2011 in a village in northern Serbia, after 16 years in hiding. His health had already deteriorated at the time, with one of his arms paralyzed due to a series of strokes. The verdict was disrupted for more than half an hour when he asked the judges for a bathroom break. After he returned, defense lawyers requested that proceedings be halted or shortened because of his high blood pressure. The judges denied the request. Mladić then stood up shouting “this is all lies” and “I’ll fuck your mother”. He was forcibly removed from the courtroom. The verdicts were read in his absence. The trial in The Hague, which took 530 days across more than four years, is arguably the most significant war crimes case in Europe since the Nuremberg trials, in part because of the scale of the atrocities involved. Almost 600 people gave evidence for the prosecution and defense, including survivors of the conflict, and nearly 10,000 exhibits were admitted in evidence.

November 22 – Nura Mustafic, one of the Mothers of Srebrenica and other Bosnian organizations, wipes away tears as she reacts to the verdict which the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, ICTY, handed down in the genocide trial against former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladić, in The Hague, Netherlands on November 22, 2017. A U.N. court  convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladić of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison for atrocities perpetrated during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.


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Lowering the Sky-High Murder Rate in Latin America

Two women hold signs with the pictures of murdered relatives during a demonstration against the lack of safety on the streets, on June 20, 2009 in Caracas.  ​(Photo: Juann Barreto / AFP/ Getty Images);  featured background image by Creatyves / DeviantArt.

Sergio Vicente Goulard’s body lay naked on a hospital stretcher in Rio de Janeiro, waiting to be identified. A few hours earlier, paramilitaries had shot him in the head inside his home. Luiz Carlos Barbosa was found on the street in the middle of a favela controlled by two criminal gangs; he had been executed for switching his allegiance. Jorge Luiz Bento’s family found his corpse rotting near a stream in the municipality of Nova Iguaçu, headless and with his hands bound. Claudeir Francisco had been cycling when he was shot; he was still clinging to his cellphone headphones as his mother wept over his body. Leandro Alves died in the company of his wife and son after he pulled out a gun during an attempted carjacking. The ensuing shootout also took the life of one of the assailants.

On Jan. 28, 2017, we saw those six corpses in Baixada Fluminense, an area with the highest homicide rate in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In Latin America, the most violent region in the world, the victims will most likely be forgotten and the murderers will most likely go free.

Those bodies, found far from Rio’s beaches, attest to the average of six murders per day in this area. And they are just one example of what is going on all over Latin America, where each day the morgues receive the bodies of roughly 400 murdered people. The homicide rate is so high — about four people every 15 minutes — that we are no longer shocked by the deaths. Latin America is home to just over 8 percent of the world’s population but a third of its homicides; between 2000 and 2016, 2.6 million people were murdered. Most countries have seen their homicide rate fall, but in Latin American countries, it is on the rise.

Murder has become a normal part of life. But we must work to reverse that. Some cities are fighting impunity and have developed social programs to reduce violence. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. The cure for the epidemic is complex. It will come from difficult, long-term adjustments in everyday life. And, of course, from the enforcement of the rule of law.

That day in January we began investigating homicide in the seven most violent countries in Latin America — Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico — to understand how an act that takes place in the space of a second can represent an entire culture of violence, corruption and impunity.

Many lives are connected to the dead: drug traffickers, police officers, death squads, ranch owners and sometimes children with access to guns. There are the investigators, whose new cases are more likely to be shelved than resolved, and the overburdened judges and expensive lawyers. And there are the mothers, children and wives who will relive the fatal scenes over and over again in their minds.

Punishment is rare. The Latin American countries included on the Global Impunity Index, from Mexico’s Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice, are categorized as nations of “high” impunity. Mexico is No. 2 on the list, after the Philippines. If we take into account the crimes that are never reported and remain unaccounted for, the two countries have an impunity rate of 99 percent.

People kill because they can get away with it. They kill to gain territorial control, to traffic drugs, to settle political disputes. The United Nations’ Global Study on Homicide establishes three types of murders: criminal, interpersonal and sociopolitical. Latin America takes first place in all three categories.

Infographic: The Top-10 Most Violent Cities Worldwide | StatistaFind more statistics at Statista

Marco Antônio Pinto, a homicide investigator from Baixada Fluminense, in Rio de Janeiro, told us that he liked working in his unit because it was a “jungle” of murders with “a wild variety of fauna.” A juvenile judge who has heard hundreds of testimonies told us that the young people who pass through his courtroom rarely express regret for having committed murder, just shame for having been caught.

While most Latin Americans have seen murder victims only on TV and in the newspapers, there are indeed many — usually poor people with dark skin from marginal neighborhoods — who have actually witnessed far too many murders. They are also likely to be murderers and murder victims themselves. According to a 2016 report, 50 percent of the homicides in Latin American cities take place on 1.6 percent of their streets.

Not long ago we visited Fortaleza, the city with the highest rate of child and adolescent homicide victims in Brazil. In 2013, the murder rate was 268 per 100,000 inhabitants between the ages of 16 and 17, but the map of lethal violence was an almost perfect arc that covered an area far from the tourist zone, where some neighborhoods had gone a whole year without a single homicide. When we visited these areas and asked young people how many murders they knew of, they sometimes had to use two hands to count.

A majority of the murders committed in Latin America take place in the seven countries on the path that we have been covering since January. Three years ago we traveled to those countries, as well as 11 others in Latin America, to write “Narco América,” a book about the impact of drug trafficking. Whenever we asked authorities why they had such high homicide rates, the answer was usually the same: drugs.

Bodies of two victims of Mexico’s ongoing drug war are seen lying by the side of a road as police secure the area in the city of Veracruz, Mexico.​ (AP / Getty Images)​

Drug trafficking is a factor in these and other ills (30 percent of the homicides are linked to organized crime or gangs), but it doesn’t explain everything. Countries like Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, which also lie on the drug route leading to the United States, have the lowest homicide rates in Central America, light-years from their neighbors in the so-called Northern Triangle. Peru and Bolivia are major cocaine producers, yet their murder rate is nowhere near that of Colombia.

The most murderous nations are plagued with a number of common problems, but each also has it own particular issues. The drug war in Mexico is one of the most lethal conflicts in the world. Gang-related battles in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have rendered that small triumvirate the world homicide capital. In Colombia, on the other hand, deaths connected to the country’s conflict dropped by a third over a decade, but other types of violence led to more than 12,000 murders last year. Venezuela is in the grip of a social and economic meltdown: Last year there were 21,752 registered homicides. In Brazil, cities as well as rural areas are rife with territorial conflicts, and the national police force is among the deadliest in the world. All told, in Latin America 144,000 people are murdered every year.

Homicide is not just a consequence of something else: In our society it is a normalized practice for resolving conflicts. A 15-year-old told us he had killed his girlfriend because he had gotten angry at her.

As with any illness or addiction, the first step is accepting that we have become homicidal countries. For years, governments have massaged the statistics and assigned blame to their neighbors. In some cases, they have actively contributed to the problem, using violence to stop violence, as in the cases of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico — a country that, a decade after militarizing the fight against crime, started the new year with the highest number of homicides in its history.

But there are a handful of positive experiences worth examining and replicating. In Honduras, the Association for a More Just Society has developed a project that supports homicide investigations. In Venezuela, Proyecto Alcatraz provides work, sports and educational opportunities to young people in criminal gangs. In Brazil, authorities have tried placing community police officers in high-risk zones with programs like Stay Alive and Pact for Life. The ban on carrying firearms in Colombian cities has resulted in a moderate reduction in murder rates. Regulating the sale of alcohol as a security measure has been successful in Bogotá and Diadema, in the state of São Paulo.

In April, 30 civic organizations from Latin America’s seven most violent countries began the Instinto de Vida (Instinct for Life) campaign, aimed at reducing homicides by 50 percent over the next 10 years through conflict mediation; gun, alcohol and drug regulations; recidivism prevention; guaranteeing access to justice and due process; and strengthening relations between the police and communities. These measures share a common vision: They repudiate hard-line policies, target specific areas with high homicide rates and view homicide as a social, educational, economic and cultural phenomenon rather than simply a security issue. All of this work is producing promising results.

​White crosses placed by human rights organizations in memory of victims of violence are seen around Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)​

It is impossible, however, to attempt to reduce crime without the rule of law firmly in place. When the justice system doesn’t work, when investigations are not pursued, when crimes go unpunished, more murders will be committed. The bottleneck in the Mexican justice system, for example, gets tighter and tighter in the path from police officer to judge. In Mexico, there are four judges per 100,000 inhabitants; the international average is about 40 per 100,000. We have an exorbitant number of murders and a system that is unable and unwilling to investigate them, whether because of corruption or because the dead simply don’t matter enough.

A few years ago at a crime scene in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, we found a homicide inspector holding an almost blank notebook, indignant because he couldn’t get any information. “Nobody gives a damn — this is a farce,” he told us, gesturing at the gawkers taking photos of the body. Each month his superiors asked him to solve just two of the 30 cases stacked on his desk.

If we want to change this, we must confront the homicides with security policies as well as social programs. Most important, we need to break the chain of impunity. The first 24 hours after a murder are essential: Investigations must be swift, exhaustive and transparent. A strong chain of justice, which would include specialized police officers and sufficient independent judges to deal with the volume of cases, would be the first steps toward reducing the number of people who kill and are killed in Latin America.

Source: Life Where the Murder Rate Is Sky-High -By Alejandra Sánchez Inzunza and José Luis Pardo Veiras | The New York Times | Leer en español @NYT

Alejandra Sánchez Inzunza and José Luis Pardo Veiras, the authors of “Narco América,” are currently doing research for En Malos Pasos, a project on homicide in seven Latin American countries. This essay was translated by Kristina Cordero from the Spanish.


Recommended…
Latin America’s Murder Epidemic: How to Stop the Killings -By Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabo de Carvalho | Foreign Policy
The World’s Most Dangerous Cities | The Economist
Mexico Can Catch All The Drug Kingpins There Are, But There’s a Different Problem Driving Crime -Christopher Woody | Business Insider
✻ How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico -By Ginger Thompson | ProPublica
✻ Duterte’s Murderous Drug War in the Philippines -By Alex Emmons | The Intercept
Open for Business, Not Human Rights: Trump’s Priorities in Central America -By Lauren Carasik | Boston Review
✻​ Crime Reporting in the Murder Capital: San Pedro Sula Nights​ | VICE News (Video)
✻​ Brazil Violence: Murders on the Rise in Rio de Janeiro | Al Jazeera (Video)
✻ Brazil Has Nearly 60,000 Murders, And It May Relax Gun Laws -By Lulu Garcia-Navarro | NPR
✻ Organized Crime, Gangs Make Latin America Most Violent Region -By Mary Murray | NBC News
✻ Latin America Is World’s Most Violent Region -By David Luhnow | The Wall Street Journal
✻ Inside the World’s Deadliest Country: Honduras

WALKING WHILE BLACK: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer

Hollywood FAME Award-winning Director and Producer A.J. Ali, and Oscar and Sundance winner Errol Webber have teamed up to create Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer, a documentary film that examines racial profiling in law enforcement. The film recounts painful stories of the past while offering solutions to curb future profiling incidents. It seeks to build a movement that will make a distinct difference in the areas of social justice and racial reconciliation.

“I think police departments need an intervention,” retired LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey said. “If you don’t admit that there’s a problem, then there’s nothing to fix and so there’s no harm in saying that we don’t always get it right as police officers.”

“It is a reminder of some of the things in law enforcement that we’re not proud of,” Santa Monica College Chief of Police Johnnie Adams said.

“The next step is we need churches and schools and non-profits and even law enforcement agencies to license this film and bring us to their town so we can go there and do the screening, do a ‘Q and A,’ hold workshops and just spend time with people and teach people how to love each other again,” Ali explained.

The word “love” in the title is also an acronym as explained by those involved with the film. “Lstands for learning about your community and its people, “O” means to open your heart, “V” stands for volunteering yourself and “E” stands for empowering.


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The Death Penalty, America, and the Rest of the World

Candle

Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty. -Angela Davis

On December 19, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a worldwide “moratorium on the use of the death penalty”—the sixth that the U.N. has approved in the past decade. Each one has gained the support of more of the organization’s members. The latest vote was a hundred and seventeen countries in favor to forty against. (Thirty-one abstained, and five did not vote.) In addition to a call for a halt to executions worldwide, the resolution urges countries that maintain the death penalty to increasingly restrict its imposition and to apply international laws that protect the rights of those facing the penalty. The rights include that a death sentence may be imposed only for the “most serious crimes,” defined as intentional crimes that have “lethal or other extremely grave consequences,” and that execution be carried out only after “a final judgment rendered by a competent court,” following a legal process that insures a fair trial and that provides access to appeal to a higher court and the opportunity to seek a pardon or a commutation of the sentence.

At the General Assembly, the United States cast one of the nay votes. Stefanie Amadeo, the deputy representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, explained the country’s position, which is basically unchanged since the U.S. opposed the first resolution against the death penalty, in 2007: “The ultimate decision regarding these issues must be addressed through the domestic democratic processes of individual Member States and be consistent with their obligations under international law,” which does not prohibit capital punishment. The position reflects the American reality of supporting the death penalty in principle, but increasingly outlawing it in practice. As Jeffrey Toobin reported recently, the U.S. maintains the death penalty under federal and military law and under the laws of thirty-one states—even though only five states conducted executions in 2016 and executed only twenty people in total, the lowest number in twenty-five years.

The U.S. stresses the importance of observing global norms. “Just as the United States is committed to complying with its international obligations,” Amadeo said, “we strongly urge other countries that employ the death penalty to do so only in full compliance with their international obligations.” Meanwhile, in the past forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has increasingly sought to restrict the application of the death penalty to the worst of the worst offenders—first, to people who commit the most heinous murders and, then, only to adults who commit them, excluding youth under the age of eighteen. In addition, it generally takes a decade or more for a state to carry out an execution because of challenges to a death sentence allowed under due process of law.

Among the states with the death penalty, twelve have not carried out an execution for a decade or more, and another five have not executed anyone for at least five years. In California, where the last execution was in 2006, there were seven hundred and fifty people on death row as of December 2nd. Rather than being executed (the state has executed only thirteen people since 1978) it is much more likely that a death-row inmate will die as a result of natural causes or suicide.

Roger Hood, an emeritus professor at Oxford, and Carolyn Hoyle, who directs Oxford’s Centre for Criminology, last year published the fifth edition of “The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective.” Their book documents the many ways that people are sentenced to death in violation of international law—for drug-trafficking, for example, rather than for “the most serious crimes,” in unfair proceedings and with no opportunity to ask for clemency, and while imprisoned in terrible conditions. These and other realities, they write, are moving “the debate about capital punishment beyond the view that each nation has, if it wishes, the sovereign right to retain the death penalty” to persuading “countries that retain the death penalty that it inevitably, and however administered, violates universally accepted human rights.” Countries that employ the death penalty and insist that they are abiding by international law, including the U.S., decline to join in making the most important international commitment about the penalty, which is to reject it as a violation of human rights.

There has long been a gap between the idealism that the U.S. expresses when boasting of its dedication to the rule of law, especially the protection of individual rights, and the reality of its persistent refusal to abide by major international human-rights commitments. The U.S. was a leader in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.N. adopted in 1948, but stopped supporting the international system to carry it out because, among other reasons, Jim Crow laws directly violated the declaration. There is a sizable list of human-rights treaties—on the Rights of the Child, for example, and on the International Criminal Court—that the U.S. has signed but not ratified. Even when the U.S. ratifies treaties, the government often adds a caveat that excludes protection of some basic rights.

As a result, the U.S. has ended up in some rough company, particularly when it comes to the death penalty. In the past generation, the number of countries that have stopping using the death penalty has doubled, from about fifty to about a hundred. Of the fifty-seven member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and of the thirty-five member states of the Organization of American States, only the U.S. carried out executions last year. The countries that executed the most offenders were, in order, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. China executed thousands of people, though its secrecy about its use of capital punishment makes it impossible to know exactly how many. Excluding China, Iran (with close to a thousand or more), Pakistan (three hundred and twenty-six), and Saudi Arabia (a hundred and fifty-eight) executed almost nine out of ten people put to death worldwide—“often after grossly unfair trials,” according to Amnesty International, and “for crimes—including drug trafficking, corruption, ‘adultery,’ and ‘blasphemy’—that do not meet the international legal standards for the use of the death penalty.” In 2015, according to Amnesty International, at least a thousand six hundred and thirty-four people were executed, an increase of more than fifty per cent from the year before and the highest number in a quarter of a century. (The organization expects to release figures for 2016 in the spring.)

The United States, in other words, ranks with countries that conspicuously are not in full compliance with their international obligations. And its responsibility is sometimes worse than guilt by association. As Maya Foa, the director of the death-penalty team at Reprieve, an international human-rights organization, told me, “The U.S. clearly leads and influences global death-penalty practice. Our partners, who are lawyers and human-rights defenders in jurisdictions that retain the penalty, tell us that the use of the death penalty by the U.S., a ‘developed’ nation, is used to justify the death-penalty practice in the jurisdictions they work in.” Reprieve is providing legal and investigative assistance to people facing execution in eleven countries, in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, and in the U.S.

In August at a rally in Istanbul, after the failed coup attempt in Turkey, the BBC reported, the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said, “They say there is no death penalty in the E.U. … Well, the U.S. has it; Japan has it; China has it; most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply.” He said that the Turkish people might want to restore the death penalty to punish those responsible for killing hundreds of citizens during the attempted coup. That has not happened yet, but, if it does, its purpose, Erdogan suggested, will be a display of cold-blooded power.

The influence of the U.S. on the death penalty worldwide has sometimes been constructive. In 1976, for example, when the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state to make the death penalty mandatory for any crime, it marked the beginning of the decline of mandatory death sentences around the world. “The fundamental respect for humanity underlying the Eighth Amendment,” the Court said, “requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense.”

The Indian Supreme Court employed this logic when it struck down the mandatory death sentence in the country’s penal code, in 1983. The legislature, it held, could not compel judges “to shut their eyes to mitigating circumstances and inflict upon them the dubious and unconscionable duty of imposing a preordained sentence of death.” More recently, the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide reports, eighteen other countries have followed suit and struck down the mandatory death penalty, including almost every Caribbean nation and Uganda, Malawi, and Kenya.

In their latest edition of “The Death Penalty,” Hood and Hoyle write optimistically about the U.S. example: “Those who campaign for abolition worldwide can hope that it will not be many years before the U.S. Supreme Court will be able to find that the majority of states, in line with a majority of countries worldwide, does not support the death penalty for anyone.” Donald Trump has said that he will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia—the Court’s most vehement defender of the death penalty for almost thirty years—with someone in his mold. But, even when that happens, there will be a possibility that Justice Anthony Kennedy will join the Court’s moderate liberals in striking down the death penalty, for reasons Justice Stephen Breyer articulated in 2015: “The Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would” insure the fairness of the capital-punishment system, he wrote. “Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed.” If the Court continues to uphold the death penalty, on the other hand, the gap between the U.S. and a large and growing majority of the rest of the world will continue to increase.

Source: The Growing Gap Between the U.S. and the International Anti-Death Penalty Consensus -By Lincoln Caplan | The New Yorker


Recommended…
General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting | UN General Assembly (Dec 16, 2016)

General Assembly Adopts Landmark Text Calling for Moratorium on Death Penalty | UN General Assembly (Dec 18, 2007)

Death Penalty | Equal Justice Institute (EJI)

U.S. Death Penalty Facts | Amnesty International

✿ The Guilty Plea Problem Campaign | The Innocence Project

The Death Penalty, Nearing Its End -By Editorial Board | New York Times

The Strange Case of the American Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

Why Are So Many Veterans on Death Row? -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

A Strong Case Against the Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

America’s Original Sin: “Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved.”

fabrice-monteiro-maroons-03-1050x600Maroons (Photo: Fabrice Monteiro); Background Image: Slave Whip c.1863, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute, The National Museum of American History

In America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America, Rev. Jim Wallis — a public theologian, political activist, and founding editor of Sojourners magazine, addresses  the numerous reports of white police officers shooting  black Americans, such as in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. He argues that the events are part of a legacy stretching back to slavery.

Wallis points out that the majority of white Americans see the shootings and violence as isolated incidents, while most African Americans see them as part of their daily day-to-day lives. To make his point, the author includes his personal experience as a young man meeting Butch—a fellow custodian in Detroit. He recalls eating dinner with Butch’s family and hearing about “the Talk” in which African American parents told their children to avoid police officers if they were ever lost. For Wallis, the advice from his parents was the exact opposite. “That difference of perspective told me I had indeed grown up in a different world,” Wallis says. Wallis also contends that this type of white privilege has not gone away, and furthermore, it is a legacy of white supremacy.

Another example in the book comes from the esteemed African American lawyer, author and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson. In his book Just Mercy, Stevenson recalls pulling up in front of his own home in Atlanta after a long day and taking a pause to listen to music before heading inside. He was violently confronted by a police officer who did not believe it was his home. Stevenson avoided arrest, but only after being patted down. As the officer walked away, he said, “You’re lucky this time.” Of course, Wallis has never been violently accosted by the police or asked to prove his residence. His whiteness affords him a level of security unknown to blacks Americans.

In an interview earlier this year with NewsOne Now host Roland Martin, Wallis told Martin that original sin is not just slavery, but the “deliberate dehumanizing and debasing” of African-Americans and the attitude that “Black lives and bodies don’t matter.” He added, “That was one of our founding principles as a nation, that Black lives and Black bodies don’t matter; you see that in all our headlines today. This original sin lingers on, that’s why we got to call it sin and talk about repentance from sin.” Wallis also explained that, “slavery never ended, it just evolved,” saying that “mass incarceration is the current evolution of slavery.” He also noted that the “deliberate disenfranchisement” of prisoners, gerrymandering, and other forms of voter suppression are tactics used to keep certain “demographics from changing America.”

In America’s Original Sin, Wallis offers a prophetic and deeply personal call to action in overcoming the racism so ingrained in American society. He speaks candidly to Christians–particularly white Christians–urging them to cross a new bridge toward racial justice and healing.

Whenever divided cultures and gridlocked power structures fail to end systemic sin, faith communities can help lead the way to grassroots change. Probing yet positive, biblically rooted yet highly practical, this book shows people of faith how they can work together to overcome the embedded racism in America, galvanizing a movement to cross the bridge to a multiracial church and a new America.

Sources
✿ Book: America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America | Jim Wallis

America’s Original Sin: Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved | NewsOne

Parables for Understanding A Nation’s Racial ‘Sin’ | All Things Considered | NPR

Jim Wallis on Slavery, Racism, and ‘America’s Original Sin’ -By Ken Chitwood | Publishers Weekly

Also Recommended…
✿ Book: Just Mercy | Bryan Stevenson

✿ Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness | Michelle Alexander

Do Black Lives Matter to White Christians | Sojourners

How Can We Trust That Black Lives Matter To Our Police? | Sojourners

The Real “Looting”: From Slavery to Policing and Beyond -By Adam Hudson | Truthout


jim-wallisJim Wallis is an author, activist, preacher, teacher, and pastor. He is a best-selling writer, convener of faith-inspired movements for justice and peace both outside and inside politics, public theologian in a secular culture, renowned speaker in the United States and abroad, and international media commentator on ethics and public life. He is the founder and leader of Sojourners, a publishing platform, organization, and global network whose mission is to put faith into action for social justice. Wallis has written more than ten books, including The (Un)Common Good and the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics and The Great Awakening. He has written for major newspapers, does regular columns for top digital news networks, and appears frequently on a wide variety of television and radio networks. Wallis also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University. He is husband to Joy Carroll, one of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Church of England, father to two teenage boys, Luke and Jack, and a decades-long Little League baseball coach.

HRW World Report 2016: The United States

Human Rights Poster

The United States has a vibrant civil society and strong constitutional protections for many civil and political rights. Yet many US laws and practices, particularly in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice, immigration, and national security, violate internationally recognized human rights. Often, those least able to defend their rights in court or through the political process—members of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor, and prisoners—are the people most likely to suffer abuses.

1. Harsh Sentencing

The United States locks up 2.37 million people, the largest reported incarcerated population in the world. About 12 million people annually cycle through county jails.

Concerns about over-incarceration in prisons—caused in part by mandatory minimum sentencing and excessively long sentences—have led some states and the US Congress to introduce several reform bills. At time of writing, none of the federal congressional measures had become law.

Thirty-one US states continue to impose the death penalty; seven of those carried out executions in 2014. In recent decades, the vast majority of executions have occurred in five states. In August, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty unconstitutional, barring execution for the 11 men who remained on death row after the Connecticut legislature did away with the death penalty in 2007.

At time of writing, 27 people had been executed in the US in 2015, all by lethal injection. The debate over lethal injection protocols continued, with several US states continuing to use experimental drug combinations and refusing to disclose their composition. In March, Utah passed a law allowing execution by firing squad. In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol was constitutional. Two prisoners executed in Oklahoma in 2014—Clayton Lockett and Michael Wilson—showed visible signs of distress as they died.

2. Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice

Racial disparities permeate every part of the US criminal justice system. Disparities in drug enforcement are particularly egregious. While whites and African Americans engage in drug offenses at comparable rates, African Americans are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated for drug offenses at much higher rates. African Americans are only 13 percent of the US population, but make up 29 percent of all drug arrests. Black men are incarcerated at six times the rate of white men.

A US Department of Justice report on the police department of Ferguson, Missouri, commissioned after the 2014 police killing of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown, found that African Americans were disproportionately impacted at all levels of Ferguson’s justice system—a problem that persists in justice systems throughout the country.

3. Drug Reform

The federal government has begun to address disproportionately long sentences for federal drug offenders. At time of writing, President Barack Obama had commuted the sentences of 86 prisoners in 2015, 76 of them drug offenders. Yet more than 35,000 federal inmates remain in prison after petitioning for reconsideration of their drug sentences. In October, the Bureau of Prisons released more than 6,000 people who had been serving disproportionately long drug sentences; the releases resulted from a retroactive reduction of federal drug sentences approved by the US Sentencing Commission.

4. Police Reform

Once again, high-profile police killings of unarmed African Americans gained media attention in 2015, including the deaths of Freddy Gray in Baltimore and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. The federal government does not maintain a full count of the number of people killed by police each year. The Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed in 2015 that it tracks only 35 to 50 percent of arrest-related deaths on an annual basis. A new federal law incentivizes the collection of data regarding deaths in police custody, but does not require states to provide that data and so fails to ensure reliable data on people killed by police.

In May, Obama’s Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group released recommendations to better regulate and restrict the transfer of Defense Department equipment to local law enforcement.

5. Prison and Jail Conditions

Momentum against the use of solitary confinement continued in 2015, but according to a new report, an estimated 100,000 state and federal prison inmates are being held in isolation.

In July, President Obama ordered the Department of Justice to review the practice of solitary confinement. Several states are currently considering legislative or regulatory reforms to reduce the use of solitary confinement. In New York, a proposed bill would limit the time during which an inmate could be held in isolation, and would ban solitary confinement for people with mental illness and other vulnerable groups. California settled a lawsuit brought by prisoners and agreed to eliminate the use of indefinite solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay State Prison—a supermax facility—as well as significantly reduce the length of time prisoners in California can be kept in solitary. However, California’s legislature failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated solitary confinement for children.

Jail and prison staff throughout the US use unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force against prisoners with mental disabilities. Although no national data exists, research—including a 2015 Human Rights Watch report—indicates that the problem is widespread and may be increasing in the country’s more than 5,100 jails and prisons.

6. Poverty and Criminal Justice

Poor defendants nationwide are subjected to prolonged and unnecessary pretrial detention because they cannot afford to post bail. Kalief Browder committed suicide in June, two years after being released from the jail complex on New York City’s Rikers Island, where from age 16 he had been held for three years in pretrial detention, mostly in solitary confinement, because he could not afford to post $3,000 in bail. His case catalyzed renewed criticism of money bail, prompting the New York City Council to announce creation of a bail fund and city officials to embrace new pretrial detention programs.

A new lawsuit challenging money bail was filed in October in San Francisco, and the governor of Connecticut has called for review of money bail in that state.

State and municipal practices that prey on low-income defendants to generate income gained increased attention after the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson, Missouri described that town’s municipal court system as little more than a revenue-generating machine targeting African Americans, with the Ferguson police as its “collection agency.”

The privatization of misdemeanor probation services by several US states has also led to abuses, including fees structured by private probation companies in ways that penalize poor offenders or lead to the arrest of people who genuinely cannot afford to pay. In March, Georgia passed a law that imposes important new limits on the practices of such companies. Other states where private probation is widespread have thus far not taken similar steps, though awareness of probation-related abuses seems to be rising.

7. Youth in the Criminal Justice System

In every US jurisdiction, children are prosecuted in adult courts and sentenced to adult prison terms. Fourteen states have no minimum age for adult prosecution, while others set the age at 10, 12, or 13. Some states automatically prosecute youth age 14 and above as adults. Fifteen states give discretion to the prosecuting attorney, not a judge, to decide whether a youth is to be denied the services of the juvenile system. Tens of thousands of youth under the age of 18 are being held in adult prisons and jails across the country. The US remains the only country to sentence people under the age of 18 to life without the possibility of parole.

In 2015, there was some movement toward reducing the number of children tried as adults. In Illinois, a new law ended the automatic transfer of children under 15 to adult court. New Jersey increased the minimum age to be tried as an adult from 14 to 15. California, for the first time in 40 years, improved the statutory criteria judges use in transfer hearings, which could reduce the number of youth tried as adults.

8. Rights of Non-Citizens

The US government continued the dramatic expansion of detention of migrant mothers and their children from Central America, many of them seeking asylum, though it announced some reforms mid-year. Human Rights Watch has documented the severe psychological toll of indefinite detention on asylum-seeking mothers and children and the barriers it raises to due process.

In June, the Obama administration announced it would limit long-term detention of mothers and children who pass the first step to seeking refugee protection, and cease detaining individuals as a deterrent to others. A federal judge ruled in July that the US government’s family detention policy violates a 1997 settlement on the detention of migrant children. While detention of families continues, most are released within weeks if they can make a seemingly legitimate asylum claim.

A federal lawsuit halted implementation of the Obama administration’s November 2014 executive actions to provide a temporary reprieve from deportation to certain unauthorized immigrants, which could have protected millions of families from the threat of arbitrary separation. Legislative efforts toward legal status for millions of unauthorized migrants in the US continued to founder.

Human Rights Watch documented in June how the US government targets for deportation lawful permanent residents and other immigrants with longstanding ties to the US who have drug convictions, including for old and minor offenses. State and federal drug reform efforts have largely excluded non-citizens, who face permanent deportation and family separation for drug offenses.

9. Labor Rights

Hundreds of thousands of children work on US farms. US law exempts child farmworkers from the minimum age and maximum hour requirements that protect other working children. Child farmworkers often work long hours and risk pesticide exposure, heat illness, and injuries. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency banned children under 18 from handling pesticides. Children who work on tobacco farms frequently suffer vomiting, headaches, and other symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning. After Human Rights Watch reported on hazardous child labor in US tobacco farming, the two largest US-based tobacco companies—Altria Group and Reynolds American—independently announced that, beginning in 2015, they would prohibit their growers from employing children under 16.

10. Right to Health

Stark racial disparities continue to characterize the HIV epidemic in the US, as the criminal justice system plays a key role as a barrier to HIV prevention and care and services for groups most vulnerable to HIV, including people who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and transgender women.

A large outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis C infection occurred in rural southern Indiana in 2015, affecting more than 180 people who inject drugs. A state law allowing needle exchange programs in response to outbreaks was passed but maintains prohibitions on state funding for such programs as part of a broader prevention approach.

11. Rights of People with Disabilities

Corporal punishment in state schools is still widely practiced in 19 US states. Children with disabilities receive corporal punishment at a disproportionate rate to their peers, despite evidence that it can adversely affect their physical and psychological conditions. In contrast, 124 countries have criminalized physical chastisement in public schools.

12. Women’s and Girls’ Rights

Military - Sexual Assault

Despite Defense Department reforms, US military service members who report sexual assault frequently experience retaliation, including threats, vandalism, harassment, poor work assignments, loss of promotion opportunities, disciplinary action including discharge, and even criminal charges. The military does little to hold retaliators to account or provide effective remedies for retaliation. In May, Human Rights Watch released a report that found both male and female military personnel who report sexual assault are 12 times as likely to experience some form of retaliation as to see their attacker convicted of a sex offense.

In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that housing policies and practices with a disproportionate and negative impact against classes protected from discrimination violate the Fair Housing Act, regardless of whether the policy was adopted with the intent to discriminate. The ruling is important for domestic and sexual violence victims who can face eviction due to zero-tolerance policies—where an entire household may be evicted if any member commits a crime—or municipal nuisance ordinances that subject tenants to eviction if they call the police frequently.

13. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The US Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on June 26, 2015, that grants same-sex couples throughout the country the right to marry.

At time of writing, 28 states do not have laws banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, while three states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation but not on gender identity.

In July, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited under the existing definition of discrimination based on sex in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In June, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) introduced a policy providing certain protections for transgender women in immigration detention. Nevertheless, transgender women in ICE custody continue to receive inadequate medical care and report verbal and sexual harassment in detention.

14. National Security

The practice of indefinite detention without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay entered its 14th year; at time of writing, 107 detainees remained at the facility, 48 were cleared for release, and the Obama administration had in 2015 transferred 20 detainees to their homes or third countries.

The administration continued to pursue cases before the fundamentally flawed military commissions at Guantanamo. In June, a federal appeals court overturned the 2008 conviction of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, the alleged Al-Qaeda “public relations director” who was found guilty of conspiracy, soliciting murder, and providing material support for terrorism. As a result of the decision, at least five of the eight convictions imposed by the military commissions are now no longer valid.

Some detainees continued hunger strikes to protest their detention, including Tariq Ba Odah, who has been force-fed by nasal tube for several years and whose lawyers and doctors say is near death. The Obama administration opposed Odah’s legal request for a court-ordered release, even though the administration had cleared him for release five years ago.

Congress and President Obama signed into law the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which in recent years has included provisions on Guantanamo detentions. In 2015, the law tightened existing restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of Guantanamo. The provisions will make it more difficult, though not impossible, to transfer detainees home or to third countries, and maintains the complete ban on transfer of detainees to the US for detention or trial.

The release in December 2014 of a summary of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s detention and interrogation program uncovered new information on the methods and extent of torture and Bush administration efforts to avoid culpability. The summary sparked calls by Human Rights Watch and others for new Justice Department criminal investigations into CIA torture and other violations of federal law, and, should the US fail to act, for action by other governments, including renewed efforts in Europe where a number of cases related to CIA torture already have been filed.

In response to the Senate summary, Congress included a provision in the NDAA that requires all US government agencies except law enforcement entities to abide by rules in the Army Field Manual on interrogation, and provide the International Committee of the Red Cross with notification of, and prompt access to, all prisoners held by the US in any armed conflict. The provision will bolster existing bans on torture, but without credible criminal investigations into CIA torture it is unclear how effectively the provision will guard against future abuse.

In June, Congress took a first small step toward curbing the government’s mass surveillance practices by passing the USA Freedom Act. The law imposes limits on the scope of the collection of phone records permissible under section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. It also puts in place new measures to increase transparency and oversight of surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The law does not constrain surveillance under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act or Executive Order 12333, the primary legal authorities used by the US government to justify mass violations of privacy of people outside US borders. The law also does not address many modern surveillance capabilities, from use of malware to interception of all mobile calls in a country.

US law enforcement officials continued to urge major US Internet and mobile phone companies to weaken the security of their services to facilitate surveillance in the course of criminal investigations. In May, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression called on all countries, including the US, to refrain from weakening encryption and other online security measures because such tools are critical for the security of human rights defenders and activists worldwide.

15. Foreign Policy

In July, the US and other countries reached a comprehensive deal with Iran, restricting its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Although a full drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan was planned for the end of 2014, Obama ordered 9,800 US troops to remain in Afghanistan through the end of 2015 and 5,500 to remain into 2017.

Throughout the year, the US conducted airstrikes against the forces of the armed extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in Iraq and Syria and led a coalition of Western and regional allies in what Obama called a “long-term campaign” to defeat the group. A US program to train and equip “moderate” Syrian rebels—costing hundreds of millions of dollars—only produced approximately 60 fighters, a number of whom were promptly captured or killed. The US continued to call for a political solution to the conflict in Syria without a role for President Bashar al-Assad.

In March, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states began a military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen. The US provided intelligence, logistical support, and personnel to the Saudi Arabian center planning airstrikes and coordinating activities, making US forces potentially jointly responsible for laws-of-war violations by coalition forces.

US drone strikes continued in Yemen and Pakistan, though at reduced numbers, while
US strikes increased in Somalia.

The US restored full military assistance to Egypt in April, despite a worsening human rights environment, lifting restrictions in place since the military takeover by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013. Egypt resumed its position as the second-largest recipient of US military assistance, worth $1.3 billion annually, after Israel. In June, the US lifted its hold on military assistance to the Bahraini military despite an absence of meaningful reform, which was the original requirement for resuming the aid.

In July, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria met with Obama in Washington; the US then pledged broad support for counterterrorism efforts and the fight against the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, as well as collaboration on economic development and tackling corruption. Obama in July traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia, where he urged respect for term limits across Africa.

More than 50 years since trade and diplomatic ties were severed during the Cold War, the US officially reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba in August. Obama also called for the lifting of the economic embargo, which would require an act of Congress.

In September, Obama waived provisions of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to allow four countries—the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan—to continue to receive US military assistance, despite their continued use of child soldiers. Obama delegated authority to Secretary of State John Kerry to make determinations under the act regarding Yemen, where child soldiers are used by all sides to the conflict; at time of writing, all US military aid to Yemen was suspended because of continuing instability there.

Reprint: World Report 2016 – Country Chapters: United States | Human Rights Watch (all hypertext sources added by SWilliamsJD)

Record Number of People Exonerated in 2015 for Crimes They Didn’t Commit

Darrell CannonDarrell Cannon says police tortured him in 1983 and forced him to confess to a murder he didn’t commit. He spent more than 20 years in prison, but after a hearing on his tortured confession, prosecutors dismissed his case in 2004. He was released three years later.

The Netfilx hit true-crime series “Making a Murderer” leaves many people wondering: Just how common is the story of a wrongful conviction in America’s criminal justice system? Too common, according a new report that tracks exonerations.

Researchers found that 149 people were cleared in 2015 for crimes they didn’t commit — more than any other year in history, according to a report published Wednesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School. By comparison, 139 people were exonerated in 2014. The number has risen most years since 2005, when 61 people were cleared of crimes they didn’t commit.

“Historically, this is a very large number for a type of event that we’d like to think almost never happens or just doesn’t happen,” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor who helped write the report, told The Huffington Post.

The men and women who were cleared last year had, on average, served 14.5 years in prison. Some had been on death row. Others were younger than 18 when they were convicted or had intellectual disabilities. All had been swept into a justice system that’s supposed to be based on the presumption of innocence, but failed.

The high number of exonerations shows widespread problems with the system and likely “points to a much larger number of false convictions” that haven’t been reversed, the report said.

“That there is an impetus at all to address the underlying problems that create false convictions is of course good news,” Gross said. “But the other side is equally important, probably more so: When you see this many exonerations, that means there is a steady underlying problem. We now know that this happens on a regular basis.”

Here are some patterns the organization found in 2015 exonerations:

Official Misconduct

About 40 percent of the 2015 exonerations involved official misconduct, a record. About 75 percent of the homicide exonerations involved misconduct.

The wrongful conviction of Debra Milke, detailed in the report, was among them. Authorities accused Milke of conspiring with two men who shot her son in the back of the head to keep him from her ex-husband and to cash in on an insurance policy. Milke’s conviction was built largely on the testimony of now-retired Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate Jr., who said Milke offered him sex during questioning and confessed to the murder. The interrogation wasn’t recorded, and Milke’s defense argued Saldate had a long history of misconduct that the state had concealed. In multiple other cases, the defense lawyers said, judges had tossed out confessions or indictments because Saldate had lied or violated defendants’ rights.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Milke’s attorneys and overturned her conviction. Milke had always maintained her innocence. She spent 26 years in prison — 22 on death row — before she was exonerated.

Debra Milke 2
Debra Milke, who spent more than two decades on death row for the alleged killing of her 4-year old son(Reuters)

False Confessions

Almost 20 percent of exonerations in 2015 were for convictions based on false confessions — a record. Those cases overwhelmingly were homicides involving defendants who were under 18, intellectually disabled, or both.

Bobby Johnson, of New Haven, Connecticut, was 16 years old with an IQ of 69 — just below the threshold for intellectual disability — without a parent or guardian present when he confessed to two detectives that he murdered 70-year-old Herbert Fields.

Johnson received a 38-year sentence in 2007. But in 2015, a new defense attorney argued that Johnson’s confession was coerced by the detectives, who lied that they had evidence linking him to the murder that would subject him to the death penalty. The lawyer also argued police ignored evidence that the murder was linked to two other killings committed by others. Nine years after his conviction, Johnson was exonerated and set free.

In a separate analysis of hundreds of cases since 1989, false confessions were found to be a leading cause of wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to correcting wrongful convictions. Overall, about 31 percent of wrongful conviction cases included a false confession. For homicides, that number balloons to 63 percent.

Bobby JohnsonSurrounded by his family, Bobby Johnson addresses the media outside of Superior Court in New Haven, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. Johnson spent nine years in prison for a 2006 killing his lawyer says he didn’t commit. Prosecutors filed a motion asking a judge to set aside Johnson’s conviction “in the interest of justice and fair play.” (Arnold Gold / New Haven Register via AP)

Guilty Pleas

An innocent person pleading guilty to a crime they didn’t commit may seem unfathomable. But the National Registry of Exonerations said the number of false guilty pleas has been increasing for seven years, and has risen sharply in the past two years.

More than 40 percent of people exonerated in 2015 were convicted based on guilty pleas made by an innocent defendant, a record. The majority of these cases involved drugs. Some were homicide cases.

“Many people, including judges, take comfort in knowing that an overwhelming number of criminal cases are resolved by guilty plea rather than trial,” Judge Alex Kozinski, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote last year in a paper critiquing the criminal justice system. But Kozinski said this attitude fails to account for issues surrounding plea deals that include the trend of bringing multiple counts for a single crime, the “creativity” of prosecutors in “hatching up criminal cases where no crime exits” and the general “overcriminalization of virtually every aspect of American life.”

Plea bargains can be an efficient way to resolve cases without draining taxpayer resources. They aren’t always bad. But a 2013 Human Rights Watch study found the U.S. system often creates situations where a federal prosecutor will “strong-arm” a defendant into a plea deal. And the deep fear of a harsh sentence — one “so excessively severe, they take your breath away,” in the words of Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York — can lead a defendant to plead guilty in order to obtain a shorter prison term, even if they’re accused wrongfully.

One example of plea deal complexities is the case of Shawn Whirl, who pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Chicago cab driver Billy Williams in 1991, according to the report.

Whirl’s defense argued he was being chased by an assailant the day he wound up in the back of Williams’ cab. The same assailant later killed Williams in retaliation for rescuing Whirl, the lawyers said. Whirl confessed to the crime, but said it was because he was tortured by a Chicago cop. When prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty, Whirl agreed to plead guilty to murder and armed robbery to save his life — even though he said in court on the day he received a 60-year sentence that he was innocent.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, formed to investigate claims of torture against Chicago police, found that Whirl had indeed been tortured by a subordinate of Jon Burge — an ex-Chicago cop who led a police torture ring that used electrical shock, burnings and beatings on more than 200 black men.

Whirl was cleared of all charges on Oct. 13 and freed.

In May 2015, the Chicago City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations fund for victims of police torture. More than 200 people, most of them African-American, were tortured under the reign of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge from 1972 to 1991. Tactics included electric shocks and suffocation.

No Crime Was Actually Committed

In about half of the exonerations in 2015, no crime was actually ever committed by the people put behind bars — a record, according to the report. Most of these cases involved drugs. Some included homicide or arson.

The report details the 1981 conviction of Raymond Mora, William Vasquez and Amaury Villalobo on six counts of murder for starting a fire in a Brooklyn, New York, building that killed a mother and her five children. The convictions were based on the building owner’s account that she saw the men leaving shortly before the fire, and a fire marshal’s testimony that the blaze had multiple origin points and was started with accelerants — signs of arson.

Each of the men’s wives gave alibi testimony that the men weren’t near the building when the fire started. All three men were convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.

Mora died in prison in 1989. Vasquez lost his eyesight due to untreated glaucoma, according to the report. In 2012, Vasquez and Villalobos were released on parole, and Villalobos sought the help of a legal clinic. Records from the case were reexamined and, using modern science, John Lentini, an arson expert, concluded that the original fire marshal’s interpretation of the evidence was mistaken, based on science that has since been disproven. This kind of expert testimony has likely resulted in “numerous” wrongful convictions, Lentini said.

Moreover, the building owner, just before she died, admitted lying about seeing the three men leaving the building at the time of the fire. She also hid an insurance settlement.

After this new evidence was presented, the convictions of all three men were vacated in December.

ellerin-bernhard-villalobosNew York Law School graduate Marissa Ellerin, left, and New York Law School professor Adele Bernhard with Amaury Villalobos, center, who was exonerated. (New York Law Journal)

Flawed Forensic Evidence

Many of last year’s exonerations involved flawed or invalid forensic evidence. According to the Innocence Project, improper forensic science is a leading cause of wrongful conviction.

Too often, the group says, forensic experts speculate when they testify, asserting conclusions that stretch the science. Further, some forensic techniques aren’t backed by research, but are nevertheless presented to juries as fact. And there are honest mistakes. The FBI has admitted that from 1972 to 1999, almost every examiner in the bureau’s elite forensics unit gave flawed testimony in nearly every trial in which they presented evidence.

Forensic fields like ballistics, bloodstain pattern identification and footprint and tire print analysis, have been “long accepted by the courts as largely infallible,” Kozinski said in his paper, arguing that the techniques should be viewed with skepticism.

Faulty Eyewitness Identification

False identifications of innocent people happened in several cases the exoneration registry report outlined.

The Innocence Project says eyewitness misidentification of a suspect plays a role in more than 70 percent of convictions that are later overturned through DNA evidence. Hundreds of studies have shown that eyewitness identification is frequently inaccurate and that human memories are not reliable, especially with traditional identification procedures. While simple reforms have been proposed, only about 14 U.S. states have implemented them, according to Innocence Project.

Kozinski called for states to adopt rigorous procedures for witness identification.

How Many More Wrongful Convictions?

Exonerations

There’s no clear data on how many innocent people have been wrongfully convicted. The Innocence Project, citing multiple studies, estimates from 2 percent to 5 percent of prisoners are actually innocent. The U.S., which leads the world in incarceration of its citizens, has approximately 2 million people behind bars. That means a wrongful conviction rate of 1 percent would translate to 20,000 people punished for crimes they didn’t commit. On death row, 1 in 25 are likely innocent, according to a recent study.

“Because these things happen regularly, we should be more open-minded about reconsidering the guilt of convicted defendants when substantial new evidence emerges after conviction,” Gross said. “The impulse to say: ‘It’s over, I don’t want to think about it anymore’ is very strong. However, there are cracks in that position.”

Reprint: A Record Number Of People Were Exonerated In 2015 For Crimes They Didn’t Commit -By Matt Ferner | Huffington Post

KIDS WHO DIE

In 1938, civil rights activist and poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967) wrote his chilling poem “Kids Who Die” which illuminates the horrors of lynchings during the Jim Crow era.  Now, Hughes’ vivid poetry is being featured in a three minute video created by Frank Chi and Terrance Green. It is a startling reminder that the assault on Black lives did not end with the Jim Crow era.

As we approach the one year mark of the Ferguson uprising that has sparked a movement of resistance against state violence, we are reminded of our ability to secure real change. This is a matter of life or death and we need collective power to win. Join the movement and text JUSTICE to 225568.

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.
Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.
Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people—
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together
Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
You are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

Washington Post: Thousands Dead, Few Prosecuted

On a rainy night five years ago, Officer Coleman “Duke” Brackney set off in pursuit of a suspected drunk driver, chasing his black Mazda Miata down rural Arkansas roads at speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour. When the sports car finally came to rest in a ditch, Brackney opened fire at the rear window and repeatedly struck the driver, 41-year-old James Ahern, in the back. The gunshots killed Ahern.

Prosecutors charged Brackney with felony manslaughter. But he eventually entered a plea to a lesser charge and could ultimately be left with no criminal record.

Now, he serves as the police chief in a small community 20 miles from the scene of the shooting.

Brackney is among 54 officers charged over the past decade for fatally shooting someone while on duty, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and researchers at Bowling Green State University. This analysis, based on a wide range of public records and interviews with law enforcement, judicial and other legal experts, sought to identify for the first time every officer who faced charges­ for such shootings since 2005. These represent a small fraction of the thousands of fatal police shootings that have occurred across the country in that time.

In an overwhelming majority of the cases where an officer was charged, the person killed was unarmed. But it usually took more than that.

When prosecutors pressed charges, The Post analysis found, there were typically other factors that made the case exceptional, including: a victim shot in the back, a video recording of the incident, incriminating testimony from other officers or allegations of a coverup.

WARNING: GRAPHIC – SOUTH CAROLINA SHOOTING 

This video contains graphic content. A police officer in North Charleston, S.C., has been charged with murder after shooting a man during a traffic stop. Authorities said the decision to charge officer Michael Slager was made after they viewed video footage of the incident that showed him shooting the other man in the back as he was fleeing the scene.

Forty-three cases involved at least one of these four factors. Nineteen cases involved at least two.

In the most recent incident, officials in North Charleston, S.C., filed a murder charge Tuesday against a white police officer, Michael T. Slager, for gunning down an apparently unarmed black man. A video recording showed Slager repeatedly shooting the man in the back as he was running away.

“To charge an officer in a fatal shooting, it takes something so egregious, so over the top that it cannot be explained in any rational way,” said Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green who studies arrests of police. “It also has to be a case that prosecutors are willing to hang their reputation on.”

But even in these most extreme instances, the majority of the officers whose cases have been resolved have not been convicted, The Post analysis found.

And when they are convicted or plead guilty, they’ve tended to get little time behind bars, on average four years and sometimes only weeks. Jurors are very reluctant to punish police officers, tending to view them as guardians of order, according to prosecutors and defense lawyers.

The definition of “officers” used in the analysis extends beyond local police to all government law enforcement personnel who are armed, including sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers. The analysis included some shootings that officers described as accidental.

There is no accurate tally of all the cases­ of police shootings across the country, even deadly ones. The FBI maintains a national database of fatal shootings by officers but does not require police departments to keep it updated.

Over the past year, a series of controversial police killings of unarmed victims — including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Eric Garner on Staten Island — has raised questions over what it takes for officers to face criminal ­charges. Often, the public is divided over whether the police went too far. Only in rare cases­ do prosecutors and grand juries decide that the killing cannot be justified.

Such cases include a Michigan state trooper who shot and killed an unarmed homeless man in Detroit as he was shuffling toward him, the man’s pants down past his knees. The incident was captured on video, and the officer, who said he thought the man had a gun, was charged with second-degree murder. A jury accepted the officer’s account and found him not guilty. He remains on the job.

They also include a police officer in Darlington County, S.C., who was charged with murder after he chased an unarmed man wanted for stealing a gas grill and three U-Haul trailers into the woods, shooting him in the back four times. A jury, believing that he feared for his life, found him not guilty.

Two Atlanta plainclothes officers opened fire and killed a 92-year-old woman during a mistaken drug raid on her home. As they pried the bars off her front door, she fired a single warning shot with an old revolver. The police responded by smashing the door down and shooting at her 39 times. One of the officers tried to disguise their error by planting bags of marijuana in her basement. The two officers pleaded guilty and received unusually stiff sentences of six and 10 years in a federal prison.

A rap musician, Killer Mike, wrote a song to memorialize the death of this African American grandmother at the hands of white officers, comparing her killing to “the dream of King when the sniper took his life.”

After the death of Michael Brown last summer, concerns about racism in policing have exploded in public debate, in particular whether white officers use excessive force when dealing with minorities and whether the criminal justice system protects the victims’ rights.

Among the officers charged since 2005 for fatal shootings, more than three-quarters were white. Two-thirds of their victims were minorities, all but two of them black.

Nearly all other cases­ involved black officers who killed black victims. In one other instance, a Latino officer fatally shot a white person and in another an Asian officer killed a black person. There were a total of 49 victims.

Identifying the exact role of race in fatal shootings and prosecutions is difficult. Often, prosecutors pursued charges against a backdrop of protests accusing police of racism. Race was also a factor in court when federal prosecutors stepped in and filed charges­ against officers for allegedly violating the victims’ civil rights. Six officers, all white, faced federal civil rights charges for killing blacks.

In interviews with more than 20 prosecutors across the country, they said that race did not factor into their decisions to bring charges against officers. The prosecutors said they pursued cases­ based on the legal merits.

RACE MATTERS 

 

But defense lawyer Doug Friesen, who represented a white officer convicted in 2013 for fatally shooting an unarmed black man, said that “it would be naive” for prosecutors to say race isn’t a consideration.

“Anytime you have politicians that have to make charging decisions, realistically that is part of their decision-making process,” Friesen said. “They are asking themselves, ‘Is there going to be rioting out in the streets?’ ”

Both Officer Coleman “Duke” Brackney and his victim James Ahern, shot dead in his Miata, were white.

Brackney, 32, recalled in an interview that he believed Ahern was about to back his car up and run over him. The engine was racing and the backup lights flashed, Brackney said.

A video, captured by a camera mounted on his cruiser’s dashboard, indicated that the sports car was not moving when the officer opened fire. The existence of that video was the key reason why prosecutors decided to bring charges, they said.

Number killed“In my mind, it was the third time he tried to run me over,” Brackney said in an interview with The Post. “His right hand came up in this sweeping motion, and I thought he was going for a gun. I don’t know what a jury would have believed — and that’s the problem. There was this risk, so entering a plea, I viewed it as a business decision.”

After pleading to a reduced charge of negligent homicide, a misdemeanor, Brackney served 30 days in jail as part of a plea agreement. The judge deferred the conviction, and if Brackney fulfills the terms of his probation, the case will be dismissed.

“No one wants to take a life, but at the end of the day, I realize that I’m the one who got to go home,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t change what I did.”

He was fired by the Bella Vista Police Department, where he worked at the time, but was given another chance by the city of Sulphur Springs, Ark. Two years ago, city officials hired him to run the police department, where he manages a force of four officers who spend much of their time patrolling quiet streets and arresting small-time drug dealers.

Excerpt, read more Thousands Dead, Few Prosecuted | Washington Post

❋ Story by Kimberly Kindy, Kimbriell Kelly
❋ Graphics by Vesko Cholakov, Kevin Schaul
❋ Videos by Whitney Leaming, Divya Verma, Natasha Rudnick


Related: South Carolina: Police Dashcam of Moments Before Shooting (FULL VIDEO)

RECOMMENDED READINGS

South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder of Walter Scott -By Michael S. Schmidt & Matt Apuzzo | NYT

The Total Rejection of Michael Slager -By Adam Chandler | The Atlantic

❋ Michael Slager Had History Of Violence Against Black People | The Young Turks (Video)

❋ Another Police Shooting Of An Unarmed Black Man | The Young Turks (Video)

Fairfax Jail Inmate [Natasha McKenna] in Taser Death was Shackled -By Tom Jackman & Justin Jouvenal | Washington Post

Reserve Deputy Who Killed Eric Harris Pleads Not Guilty, Is Allowed to Take Vacation in Bahamas -By Breanna Edward | The Root

Tamir Rice and the Value of Life -By Charles M. Blow | NYT

Police Killed More Than 100 People In March -By Carimah Townes | ThinkProgress

A New Estimate Of Killings By Police Is Way Higher — And Still Too Low -By Carl Bialik | FiveThirtyEight

Killed By Police (Data Collection)

Indonesia Executes Eight, Spares One…For Now

Indonesia Executes 8

Anti-death penalty activists hold portraits in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, on April 28 of some of the inmates who faced execution Wednesday morning. (Achmad Ibrahim / Associated Press)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Defying international condemnation and rejecting 11th-hour pleas for clemency, the Indonesian government executed eight drug convicts after midnight on Wednesday, including seven foreigners. But the execution of a ninth convict, scheduled to happen at the same time, was unexpectedly postponed at nearly the last minute, according to the Indonesian attorney general’s office.

The executed prisoners, from Australia, Brazil and Nigeria, along with one Indonesian, were shot by police firing squads about 12:25 a.m. local time at a site outside the gates of Pasir Putih prison on the island of Nusa Kambangan off the southern coast of Java, according to the attorney general’s office.

The authorities granted the stay of execution to Mary Jane Veloso, 30, a Philippine citizen, after the Philippine government requested her assistance in a human trafficking case involving a woman who surrendered to the Philippine police on Tuesday.

“An alleged perpetrator of human trafficking gave herself up, and Mary Jane’s testimony is needed,” Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general, wrote in a text message shortly after the executions were carried out. “Eight people were executed, but not Mary Jane,” he wrote.

Ms. Veloso’s family maintains she was duped by a drug syndicate into flying to Indonesia in 2010 with more than five pounds of heroin hidden in a suitcase. President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines had repeatedly appealed for her to be spared. The woman who surrendered to the Philippine police on Tuesday was identified as one of those who had recruited Ms. Veloso.

Relatives and friends of the condemned paid them final visits on Tuesday but were not allowed to witness the executions. Shortly after midnight Tuesday, mourners in the port town of Cilacap, which is the access point to the prison island, held a vigil for the condemned prisoners that was televised.

The mass execution was the second in Indonesia this year. In January, five foreign drug convicts and one Indonesian convicted of murder were shot by firing squads on the island.

On Saturday, the attorney general’s office gave 72 hours’ notice to the latest group of condemned prisoners, their legal teams and their respective embassies that the executions would be carried out. On Monday, an Australian prisoner, Andrew Chan, married his Indonesian fiancée in a small ceremony at the prison.

A French citizen who was also originally on the list to be executed won a two-week reprieve from the State Administrative Court in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, which will hear his challenge to a clemency rejection by President Joko Widodo.

Shortly after taking office last October, Mr. Joko declared that Indonesia was facing “a national emergency” of drug abuse, and he rejected 64 clemency appeals from death row drug convicts, most of them foreigners. Saying Indonesia had a right to exercise its drug laws, Mr. Joko’s government rejected international pleas to cancel the executions, including from Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations.

The 8

The eight people who were executed in Indonesia on 29 April 2015. Top row from left (including two of the Bali Nine): Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Nigerian Okwuduli Oyatanze and Nigerian Martin Anderson. Bottom row from left: Nigerians Raheem Agbaje Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin. Two others (not pictured) who were scheduled to be executed were given a temporary reprieve. (Photograph: The Guardian)

The executions have angered some of Indonesia’s largest aid donors, including Australia and the European Union.

Australia announced on Wednesday that it would withdraw its ambassador to Indonesia, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the deaths of Mr. Chan and another Australian, Myuran Sukumaran, as a dark moment in Australia’s diplomatic relations with Indonesia.

“These executions are both cruel and unnecessary,” Mr. Abbott said at a news conference in the capital, Canberra.

The foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said the government had worked “up to the last minute” appealing for clemency. Mr. Abbott and Ms. Bishop said that they did not understate the seriousness of the two men’s crimes but that Mr. Chan and Mr. Sukumaran had spent a decade in prison, had shown remorse and had been rehabilitated. Advocates for the convicts have also argued that the Indonesian courts that sentenced their clients were corrupt.

Lawyers for Mr. Chan, 31, and Mr. Sukumaran, 34, say the judge who handed down the death penalty to the pair had offered a lighter sentence in exchange for money. The pair, members of the so-called Bali Nine who were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle 18.5 pounds of heroin out of the resort island, admitted guilt but said they had reformed.

The Indonesian wife of one of the Nigerians executed, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, 47, also claimed that the judges at his trial had offered a lighter sentence in return for a bribe.

Another Nigerian who was executed did not have a lawyer when he tried to appeal his death sentence, while the Brazilian convict, Rodrigo Gularte, 42, had had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder since he was a teenager, conditions that his lawyers say should have disqualified him from criminal prosecution under Indonesian law.

The office of Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, issued a statement on Tuesday, expressing “deep consternation” at Mr. Gularte’s death.


Michelle Innis contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia, and Vinod Sreeharsha from Rio de Janeiro.

Reprint: Indonesia Executes 8, Including 7 Foreigners, Convicted on Drug Charges -By Joe Cochrane | NYT

Related: The 7 Foreigners and 1 Indonesian Executed for Drug Offenses -By Joe Cochrane | NYT

Indonesia Spares Condemned Woman for Now But Executes 8 men -By Robyn Dixon | Los Angeles Times