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Free After 3 Years: Chicago’s Jon Burge Who Tortured 100 Black Men

Free After 3 Years: Chicago's Jon Burge Who Tortured 100 Black Men

Signs that things may be bad where you live: if your state’s general assembly ever creates something called a Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC). Today, according to human rights lawyer Flint Taylor, former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, 66, walks free on early release from federal prison in North Carolina after having been “convicted of lying about torturing over 100 African-American men at stationhouses on Chicago’s South and West Sides.” Note that Burge was convicted in 2010 for perjury—not his deeds. The Illinois general assembly created TIRC in 2009 to deal specifically with Burge, other officers under his command and the claims made by scores of their torture victims. Burge made news earlier this year when the city’s pension board, the Chicago Tribune reports, allowed him to keep his $4000-a-month pension.

In a must-read, Taylor recounts the costs to citizens, taxpayers and of course victims—some of whom remain in prison based on confessions coerced under torture. Taylor writes:

The contrast between the official treatment of the torturers and their victims has spurred activists, torture survivors and lawyers working with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM) to campaign for the passage of a city ordinance that would address this appalling discrepancy. Introduced into City Council last October by Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins, the “Reparations Ordinance” calls for the establishment of a $20 million fund to compensate torture survivors who have so far received little money or nothing at all.

The 40-year Burge saga is far from over. To learn the backstory, start here at the Chicago Reader.

(h/t In These Times)

Following Ferguson: Grand Jury Being Investigated For Possible Misconduct

Following Ferguson: Grand Jury Being Investigated For Possible Misconduct

News broke yesterday that St. Louis County officials are investigating the grand jury charged with deciding whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Grand juries are sworn to secrecy but according to the Washington Post, activist and active Tweeter Shaun King informed the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office that at least one juror may be talking. Evidence so far is a snapshot of the following Tweets:

Speaking to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Peter Joy, director of the Washington University School of Law’s Criminal Justice Clinic said, “This is in the realm of rumor and speculation. If I were a betting person, I would assume that this is just some person who made up something out of thin air.”

The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office is investigating. Protesters have been calling for county prosecutor Robert McCullough to be replaced.

Watch for more as this story develops.

Cartel Leader Beltrán Arrested, Jobless Claims Down, 35K Walruses Ashore in Alaska

Cartel Leader Beltrán Arrested, Jobless Claims Down, 35K Walruses Ashore in Alaska

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Jobless claims fell way below Bloomberg’s consensus; this will make for a positive employment report on Friday. 
  • Facebook apologizes to the LGBT for its name policy; in a post, chief product officer Chris Cox (is his legal name Chris or Christopher, though?) explained that the community pretty much made Facebook do better. 
  • Workers paint over a Banksy piece in England, which makes me wonder when graffiti is graffiti and if actual graffiti can ever be sanctioned. 
  • Climate change’s latest victims? 35,000 walruses on an Alaskan shoreline.
TAGS: Morning Rush

In Jordan Davis Retrial, Florida Jury Says, ‘Guilty’

In Jordan Davis Retrial, Florida Jury Says, 'Guilty'

In a retrial, Michael Dunn, 47, was found guilty this afternoon of the first degree murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Outside a Jacksonville, Florida, convenience store in November 2012, Dunn shot and killed Davis after an argument over the volume of the teenager’s music. This February, the so-called “loud music” trial ended with Dunn convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder. The jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge, however. With today’s conviction, and already looking at 60 years in prison, Dunn now faces the possibility of life without parole.

Read more of this developing story at NBC News.

Dept. of Ed: School Districts Must Eliminate Racial Disparities in Funding

Dept. of Ed: School Districts Must Eliminate Racial Disparities in Funding

In a letter (PDF) addressed to states, school districts and schools around the country, the U.S. Department of Education warned today that racial disparities in school funding “persist,” and that school districts have a legal responsibility to “provide students with equal access to these resources without regard to race, color, or national origin.”

“Chronic and widespread racial disparities in access to rigorous courses, academic programs, and extracurricular activities; stable workforces of effective teachers, leaders, and support staff; safe and appropriate school buildings and facilities; and modern technology and high-quality instructional materials further hinder the education of students of color today,” the letter reads. The guidance is a follow-up to data the Department of Education released this spring which found ongoing, widespread disparities between affluent and white students and poorer students and students of color, Education Week reported. For example, among schools serving the highest concentrations of black and Latino students, only 66 percent offered chemistry, and only 74 percent offered Algebra 2, according to the letter. 

Those who fail to address these gaps leave themselves to federal investigation. Read the letter in full here (PDF). 

ICYMI: On CNN, Reza Aslan Teaches 10-Minute Seminar on Bigotry

ICYMI: On CNN, Reza Aslan Teaches 10-Minute Seminar on Bigotry

The original aim of this past Monday’s CNN Tonight segment appears to have been to use a recent monologue by comedian Bill Maher to engage religious scholar Reza Aslan in a debate about the violent intentions of Islam. That sorta happened. Really though, over the course of 10 minutes CNN anchors—poorly armed with generalizations but not specific facts—participated in a master class, led by Aslan, on bigotry. At one point Aslan uses the word “stupid,” as in the serious, dictionary definition of the word. Watch above.

(h/t MediaMatters)

It’s Now Easier to Find Government Data on Asian-Americans

It's Now Easier to Find Government Data on Asian-Americans

For decades, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have been left out of big studies that focus on race and ethnicity. A couple of years ago, Pew released a comprehensive report called “The Rise of Asian-Americans,” but even that was widely panned for playing up the model minority myth.

“Our community is one of stark contrasts, with significant disparities within and between various subgroups.,” Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said back in 2012 after the release of Pew’s report. “The ‘Asian Pacific American’ umbrella includes over 45 distinct ethnicities speaking over 100 language dialects, and many of the groups that were excluded from this report are also the ones with the greatest needs.”

The White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders just launched a new initiative that it hopes will offer broader statistical data on the diverse set of ethnicities that make up the AAPI community. On Tuesday, the initiative announced that Data.gov/AAPI is open for business.

“The launch of Data.gov/AAPI marks an important milestone for better understanding and responding to the complex needs of AAPIs, now the fastest growing racial group in the country,” WHIAAPI executive director Kiran Ahuja said in a press release.

Already, the trove of information offers an important glimpse into the often underreported experiences of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • In the first year of college, Asian American and black students have the highest enrollment rates in remedial education courses. Explore the data.
  • Of the immigrant orphans adopted by United States citizens, nearly half are of Asian descent. Explore the data.
  • Pacific Islanders have among the highest unemployment rates of all racial and ethnic groupsExplore the data.
  • The AAPI community is expected to more than double to over 47 million by 2060. Explore the data.

The new website features roughly 2,000 data sets and reports from nearly 50 federal, state, city and county sources. See more at Data.gov/AAPI.

The White House also released this video about the new website:

First Ebola Case in Dallas, Obama’s Upcoming Economy Talk, Wild Chimps Develop Culture

First Ebola Case in Dallas, Obama's Upcoming Economy Talk, Wild Chimps Develop Culture

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

*Post has been updated since publication to reflect that Obama will speak at Northwestern on Thursday, October 2, rather than today, October 1. 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Inmates and Families Charged to Send, Spend Their Own Money

Inmates and Families Charged to Send, Spend Their Own Money

With 2.4 million people locked up in the United States, prisons are big business, and not just for the private companies that operate them. The Center for Public Integrity has a multi-part look out today on the business scheme to make inmates and those newly released from prison pay to access their own money. 

The report focuses on JPay, a prisoner financial services company which sells debit cards and money transfer services to inmates and their families. Amirah Al Idrus reports for the Center for Public Integrity:

In Michigan, for example, JPay charges users 50 cents to check the card’s balance at an ATM, $2 to withdraw cash, 70 cents to make a purchase and 50 cents a month for a maintenance fee. Even not using the card costs money. Doing nothing draws a $2.99 fee after 60 days. To cancel the card, it costs $9.95.

In a companion article, Center for Public Integrity reporter Daniel Wagner writes that families have few alternatives but to submit to this fee-filled world.

Inmates’ need for money is inescapable, Nelson says. Those in northern Illinois are not issued cold-weather clothes, he says, leaving them vulnerable to frostbite unless they can get money to pay for prison-approved long underwear and boots.

Taken together, JPay and other prison vendors create a system in which families are paying to send the money, and inmates are paying again to spend it, says Keith Miller, who is serving 21 ½ years at Bland for a series of drug-related, violent crimes committed in his early 20s. The earliest he may be released is 2021, when his mother will be 87 years old.

“The fact that [my mother] has to pay the fees to send the money and then the fact that [prison agencies] make a certain cut off it seems to me that [the prisons are] double-dipping into the money they’re sending,” he said in an interview at the prison. “It really doesn’t make sense to me that this should be allowed.”

CPI will release the second half of its report on Thursday. Read the rest at the Center on Public Integrity.

Rikers Island Will End Solitary Confinement for Its Youngest Inmates

Rikers Island Will End Solitary Confinement for Its Youngest Inmates

After a year of scathing media reports and a Department of Justice review, New York City is changing the way it treats its teen inmates. The city will stop holding 16- and 17-year-old inmates in solitary confinement, beginning at the end of the year, AP reported.

In August, the United States attorney’s office released a report that said that Rikers Island, where the majority of New York City prisoners are held, too often turned to solitary confinement and had a “deep-seated culture of violence,” the New York Times reported. The change will affect roughly 300 of Rikers Island’s 11,000 inmates.

For more, watch this report of a former teen inmate at Rikers Island talking about the experience and lasting impacts of being held in solitary confinement while he was behind bars.

Hong Kong Protests Continue, Aretha Franklin’s Stunning Cover, Ebola’s Orphans

Hong Kong Protests Continue, Aretha Franklin's Stunning Cover, Ebola's Orphans

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Pro-democracy student-led protests grow in Hong Kong, just ahead of Chinese National Day. 
  • The seller of a spyware app designed and marketed to abusive stalkers who suspect their partners of cheating is indicted for conspiracy.
  • Walmart stays doing the most, blaming Tracy Morgan for injuries in the car accident he didn’t cause. 
  • Remember how Tim Tebow, a Christian, got penalized by the NFL for painting Bible verses on his face and praying? Neither do I. But Husain Abdullah, a Muslim, is penalized by the NFL for his prayer
  • Thousands of Liberian children who’ve lost their parents to Ebola are deeply shunned
TAGS: Morning Rush

Daisy Hernández Writes About Race and The New York Times

Daisy Hernández Writes About Race and The New York Times

Last week’s reaction to TV critic Alessandra Stanley’s “Angry Black Woman” review of Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis opened the window, ever so slightly, into the privileged world of The New York Times. The fallout, as informed by the Times’ public editor, revealed that two of the paper’s 20 critics are people of color and that three editors approved Stanley’s piece for publication. Now author Daisy Hernández (and former editor of Colorlines) is opening that window just a tad more with an excerpt from her new memoir,”A Cup of Water Under My Bed.” Hernández who recently shared with Colorlines the eight books that define her, writes about being Latina in a majority white male office and how it shaped her time at The Times, first as an intern and then, a staffer:

“Did you hear?” another intern asks me [about Jayson Blair, accused in 2003 of plagiarizing and fabricating stories].

I nod. “Crazy.” I figure the paper will run an apology and move on.

But there isn’t an apology. The story unravels. The anxieties of white people, the ones kept behind private doors, burst and the other newspapers report them: Jayson only got as far as he did because he’s black. A fellow intern comes up to me, irritated. “Why are people thinking it’s okay to say racist shit in front of me?”

She’s holding a cup of coffee. We both glance across the newsroom, across the cubicles and the tops of people’s heads. I have no way, none really, of knowing who in the room is a Mr. Flaco, and this is part of the agreement we make by working here, as people of color. We don’t know who harbors doubts about our capacity to think and work and write. We don’t know, not really, who we can trust.

Read more about Hernández and her Cuban-Colombian family at Salon.

California Becomes First in the Nation to Limit Suspensions for Willful Defiance

California Becomes First in the Nation to Limit Suspensions for Willful Defiance

Last week California became the first state in the country to ban the use of suspensions and expulsions for “willful defiance” for its youngest public school students, the Sacramento Bee reported.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 420 into law on Saturday. The law bans California public schools from suspending or expelling kindergarten through third-grade students for offenses described as “willful defiance.”

“Willful defiance” is a category of subjective and minor offenses that account for 43 percent of suspensions in California public schools, according to the ACLU. Every year California public schools issue more than 10,000 suspensions for willful defiance for students between kindergarten and third grade alone, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’s also the category of school offense with the highest racial disparities. 

In the 2012-2013 school year, African-Americans were just 6 percent of the state’s public school enrollment but made up a whopping 19 percent of those who received suspensions for willful defiance, EdSource reported. The bill, authored by a coalition of civil rights and community advocacy groups, comes alongside a growing national conversation about the school-to-prison pipeline and the overuse of school discipline. 

‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ in Hong Kong Protests?

'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' in Hong Kong Protests?

Observers of this weekend’s youth-led demonstrations in Hong Kong have noticed a familiar gesture: Ferguson protesters’ “hands up, don’t shoot.” Coming little more than a month after some Palestinians Tweeted teargas advice to Ferguson’s protesters, “hands up” in Hong Kong appears to confirm that Ferguson’s influence has gone global. 

Vox reports however, “It’s impossible to say the degree to which protesters are using the gesture as a deliberate nod to Ferguson, or borrowing something they’d seen on the news for their own purposes, or using it coincidentally.” And Quartz’s Lily Kuo, reporting from the ground in Hong Kong, has this to say:

Most Hong Kong protesters aren’t purposefully mimicking “hands up, don’t shoot,”as some have suggested. Instead, the gesture is a result of training and instructions from protest leaders, who have told demonstrators to raise their hands with palms forward to signal their peaceful intentions to police.

Asked about any link between the gesture and Ferguson, Icy Ng, a 22-year-old design student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University said, “I don’t think so. We have our hands up for showing both the police and media that we have no weapons in our hands.” Ng had not heard of the Ferguson protests. Another demonstrator, with the pro-democracy group Occupy Central, Ellie Ng said the gesture had nothing to do with Ferguson and is intended to demonstrate that “Hong Kong protesters are peaceful, unarmed, and mild.” 

In Ferguson, where street demonstrations are still happening, reporter Amanda Wills found one protester with a soldarity message for Hong Kong. Read more at Mashable.com. And learn about Hong Kong’s democracy demonstrations, which have drawn thousands, through the eyes of Joshua Wong, one of its 17-year-old leaders.

Hong Kong Protests, Obama on ‘60 Minutes,’ Facebook’s New Ad Platform

Hong Kong Protests, Obama on '60 Minutes,' Facebook's New Ad Platform

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • Afghanistan inaugurates Ashraf Ghani as president, a post for which he’ll be expected to share power with rival Abdullah Abdullah.
  • Ferguson is charging journalists and civil rights groups $135 an hour for simple records requests. 
  • Meet Atlas, Facebook’s new ad platform that will track users in new ways. It’s so scary that you can opt out of it (except opting out constantly expires and you can’t really opt out anyway because Atlas makes clear it’s still collecting information about you). 
  • Ooh. “The Walking Dead” prequel characters are revealed
  • Look up. The crescent moon is about to line up with Mars and Antaras tonight. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

Marlene Pinnock’s Settlement Could Shift Cop Accountability

Marlene Pinnock's Settlement Could Shift Cop Accountability

Marlene Pinnock, the 51-year-old African-American woman whose freeway beating at the hands of a California Highway Patrol officer was caught on video, may impact the future of police accountability. Along with a $1.5 million settlement Pinnock’s attorney Caree Harper won for her client, the officer, Daniel Andrew, agreed to resign “voluntarily for personal reasons,” the Los Angeles Times reported. That may prove to be a turning point in future police brutality cases. 

Los Angeles Times reporters Kate Mather and Richard Winton wrote:

Experts said the move could have broader repercussions. Officers have significant employment rights and union representation, and an officer’s job is usually not up for negotiation in civil rights lawsuits, said Glen Jonas, an attorney who last year secured a $4.2-million settlement for two women shot at by LAPD officers during the manhunt for ex-Officer Christopher Dorner.

“It sets a new bar for us,” Jonas said. “It’s usually not open to discussion…. When the public is behind you, it changes the dynamics.”

And, says Harper, she’s not done seeking justice for her client. “We want him in prison,” Harper said of Officer Andrew, the Los Angeles Times reported. “I’m not done.”

Poll: Californians’ Support for Affirmative Action on the Rise

Poll: Californians' Support for Affirmative Action on the Rise

Affirmative action may be dying the death of a thousand cuts, but don’t tell Californians that. A new poll by the National Asian American Survey released Thursday suggests that in the Golden State, support for race-conscious admissions and hiring policies is actually greater today than it was 20 years ago.

The Field Poll data (PDF) also complicates the narrative in the ongoing saga around affirmative action in California after ad hoc groups of Chinese-Americans in California torpedoed an attempt to reverse a nearly two-decade ban on affirmative action this spring.

When asked, “Do you favor or oppose affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women, and other minorities get better jobs and education?” in August 2014, 65.7 percent of 1,280 registered California voters said they supported affirmative action. Among Asian Americans, 69 percent were in favor, along with 57.3 percent of whites, 81.4 percent of Latinos and 83.1 percent of African Americans. 

In 1996, California voters passed Prop 209, which banned race and sex-conscious admissions and hiring policies in public education, employment and contracting. That ballot initiative passed with 54.55 percent of the vote. At the time, 37 percent of white voters voted to protect affirmative action, along with 76 percent of Latino voters, 74 percent of African-American voters and 61 percent of Asian-American voters. In other words, says the National Asian American Survey, in the 18 years since, support for affirmative action in the state has actually grown. 

As for that heated, and successful, campaign from Chinese-Americans to squash the revival of affirmative action this spring? “When you see a lot of activism on an issue you don’t know how representative it is,” says Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science at University of California, Riverside, and a co-author of the National Asian American Survey report. “Part of the disconnect is when you see hundreds of people protesting it seems like a groundswell, but in fact you have hundreds of thousands of other Asian-Americans that were not similarly moved, and we didn’t see them.”

The Daily Show Airs ‘Tense’ Segment on Washington Team Name [VIDEO]

The Daily Show Airs 'Tense' Segment on Washington Team Name [VIDEO]

“The Daily Show” aired its long-awaited segment on the Washington, D.C., NFL team name, in which fans were confronted by Natives on the set.

Before it even aired, the segment proved controversial. The satirical cable television news program had recruited team fans for the segment via Twitter; four were ultimately chosen to participate. But those participants told the Washington Post they felt like they were attacked.

Kelli O’Dell, who says it was unfair for “The Daily Show” to have her debate Amanda Blackhorse—the lead plaintiff in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., which resulted in cancelling six of the team’s trademarks—says she felt like she was placed “in danger.” O’Dell later called authorities to pull “The Daily Show” tapes she had consented to appear on:

Two days later, O’Dell said she called D.C. police and tried to submit a police report, but authorities told her no crime had been committed.

Over at Native Appropriations, Adrienne Keene outlined her rejection of the Washington Post’s article. While Keene sympathized with O’Dell, she also highlighted the bias that may have informed O’dell’s stance:

Ok, pause. I do feel bad for Kelli, that she was put in a position without her consent where she was forced to defend a position that she deeply feels is right, only to be told over and over again that it is wrong. Welcome to every time that Native people open their mouth about mascot issues. Though, (this is me being genuine now) confronting your own privilege is hard and scary, and it’s not easy to have to do it on national TV.

But to say you “felt in danger?” of what? That one of the Native artists, comedians, journalists, educators, or lawyers sitting in front of you was going to physically attack you? Wow. Just, wow. No savage Indian stereotypes here…

“The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart addressed the fans’ complaints—and added that his program would never intentionally misrepresent someone’s comments. 

Out Today, Carmen Segarra’s Secret Recordings of the Fed and Goldman Sachs

Out Today, Carmen Segarra's Secret Recordings of the Fed and Goldman Sachs

Bank examiner Carmen Segarra’s 46 hours of secret recordings of meetings between Goldman Sachs and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are being called “the Ray Rice video for the financial sector”—and by no less than financial journalist and Liar’s Poker author, Michael Lewis. Segarra’s recordings, released this morning by ProPublica and This American Life (TAL), go some ways towards explaining how regulators overlooked events leading up to the 2008 financial disaster. The subprime mortgage crisis, according to one 2008 report, was responsible for the greatest loss of wealth among people of color in modern U.S. history. 

Segarra, who is Puerto Rican, was among a new group of staffers hired by the Fed in 2011* to better regulate the banks. Her assignment: Goldman Sachs. Says Lewis of listening to the story unfold on TAL: 

1. You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.

2. The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.

So what are you going to do about it?

Listen to Segarra on This American Life and learn more about her wrongful termination lawsuit against the Fed.

(h/t BloombergView)

* Post incorrectly stated, 2012.

More Arrests in Ferguson, You had me at Ello, #HTGAWM Premiere

More Arrests in Ferguson, You had me at Ello, #HTGAWM Premiere

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • For the second day, U.S.-led forces strike oilfields held by Islamic State in Syria. 
  • The U.S. is reportedly considering softening its stance on Iran’s uranium enriching centrifuges. 
  • Stacey Dean Rambold, the Montana teacher who served just one month in prison for raping a 14-year-old who later committed suicide, will be re-sentenced
  • Following a tough winter at the start of this year, the economy grew 4.6 percent in the second quarter. 
TAGS: Morning Rush
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