Digital rights and anti-domestic violence groups are pushing lawmakers to pass legislation to protect survivors from stalking and harassment, but advocates are facing a powerful lobbying group for the wireless industry, which aims to weaken the bill.As The Guardian reported Thursday, the Safe Connections Act, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in January, aims to ensure companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint allow survivors to remove themselves from family cell phone plans and end their wireless contracts in order to stop their abusers from accessing information about them.
Companies would be required to let a survivor out of their plan and contract within 48 hours after the person requests to be released and provides police reports or an affidavit describing the abuse. Survivors would be permitted to keep their phone number and to be released from their contract even if they owed back payments on the account.
Cell phone companies would also be required to remove domestic abuse hotlines from their call and text records, to protect their privacy should their abusers see the records.
As The Guardian reported, the wireless industry lobbying group CTIA is working to change the language of the bill, making corporations’ compliance voluntary and protecting them from civil litigation should they fail to comply.
CTIA said in January when Schatz introduced the bill that it looked forward “to continuing to work with these legislators on the shared objective of protecting survivors of domestic violence.”
Survivors have often been forced to stay on their family plans due to the high cost of ending a contract early and the disruption a changed phone number would cause, according to the Clinic to End Tech Abuse (CETA), Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other groups which urged lawmakers to pass the bill in a letter (pdf) last year.
An inability to easily leave a family phone plan can put a survivor in danger, the advocates said.
“Family phone plans can become tools of stalking and other abuse,” the groups wrote to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which unanimously passed the legislation last week. “Several plans offer ‘parental’ controls or apps that an abuser can use to monitor where a victim’s or child’s phone is—and a history of where the phone has been during the past seven days—as well as what numbers the victim or child has been calling or texting. This information can help the abuser follow, harass, and threaten the victim or other family members. It can also discourage the victim from reaching out to others for help.”
The Safe Connections Act would provide survivors with “a pathway to safety,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence told The Guardian.
“The survivor is able to separate their phone line and make plans maybe to separate from the abuser,” Elaina Roberts, the group’s technology safety legal manager, said. “They can reach out to family and friends, or a direct service provider without being monitored or without that being known, so they can plan for their safety.”
On social media on Thursday, proponents of the Safe Connections Act shared an open letter calling on their representatives in Congress to support the legislation and fight CTIA’s efforts to weaken the legislation.
“Ignore the seemingly heartless greed of CTIA and wireless companies who try to ignore their involvement in abusive domestic relationships,” the letter reads. “Since these companies won’t do the right thing—because they seem to care more about money than human life—please do what’s right and help protect vulnerable Americans.”Read More
Forty leaders from the world’s top greenhouse gas-polluting nations where hosted by the Biden administration on Thursday for an all-virtual summit to discuss the global climate emergency and the pathways—including individual emission reduction goals—that governments must take to stave off the worst impacts of global warming and runaway destruction of the planet’s natural systems.Just ahead of the gathering, President Joe Biden announced new U.S. commitments to meeting the goals set forth in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and said that the nation will now aim to reduce annual carbon output by 52% compared to 2005 levels.
“Our clean energy plan will create millions of good-paying union jobs, ensure our economic competitiveness, and improve the health and security of communities across America,” Biden said in a declaration released ahead of the summit. “By making those investments and putting millions of Americans to work, the United States will be able to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.”
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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s release of a partial Fiscal Year 2022 federal budget seems to maintain the defense-spending status quo, despite hopes that it would mark a significant decrease, says Council for a Livable World, the nation’s oldest advocacy organization focused on sound national security policy including reducing nuclear threats. The administration, and Congress, must do more to cut wasteful defense spending and set this country down a more sustainable strategic path. The new request reportedly includes $715 billion in Pentagon spending, which does not include defense-related spending from the Department of Energy and miscellaneous smaller sources.
In response, Council for a Livable World Executive Director, former nine-term Congressman John Tierney, released the following statement:
“While President Biden’s military budget request is less than former President Donald Trump planned to ask for, it should still be further reduced during congressional budget consideration. The fact is, we cannot allow a three-quarters-of-a-trillion-dollar Pentagon budget to be considered normal in any way. Much work remains to divest ourselves of legacy weapons systems and strategies intended to fight the Cold War. We must reduce wasteful spending to meet the moment we find ourselves in now.
The United States continues to spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined and our current Pentagon budget rivals defense spending at the height of the Vietnam War.
At the same time, the United States remains bogged down in small wars around the world with no clear metrics for success while maintaining about 800 military bases around the world.
But in a year when more Americans have died from a virus than in all of the wars we have fought in the 20th and 21st centuries, it is time to realize that throwing more money at the Pentagon does not make us safer. Congress should work with the administration to build a new national security strategy that will prepare us for the realities we face now and tomorrow, not the bloated military fantasies of yesterday.”Read More
WASHINGTON – Father Steve Kelly, S.J., a Jesuit priest and longtime nuclear resister, arrived in Tacoma, Washington March 30th to appear in the US District Court on a warrant for a previous probation violation. Kelly had been arrested on a charge of trespassing at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington during a Pacific Life Community nonviolent direct action in March 2017. Kelly refused to cooperate with a federal judge’s imposition of supervised release following his September 2017 trial, and an arrest warrant was issued. Kelly has consistently refused cooperation with any sentencing terms throughout his history of resistance.
After being taken in chains from Brunswick, Georgia, where he had been imprisoned for his part in the 2018 Kings Bay Plowshares, Kelly arrived in Tacoma, Washington on March 30, 2021, and was scheduled to have a preliminary court hearing before a Federal judge the next day on the outstanding warrant. Because of Kelly’s intention to appear in person at all court proceedings, he waived his appearance and was represented by his attorney, Blake Kremer. Magistrate Judge David Christel set another court hearing for April 13th.
After the preliminary hearing ended, Kremer worked with the probation office and their post-release unit to resolve probation issues. Although the initial recommendation was that Kelly be ordered to live in a halfway house and continue to be supervised by the court, Kremer argued that kelly will have served his maximum sentence by the April 13th hearing date and therefore the court could not impose any additional conditions. The probation office agreed, and on April 1st changed their position, writing: “we will be recommending Father Kelly’s term of probation to be revoked and he be sentenced to time served with no option for supervision to follow.”
Kelly was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Jesuit order in 1990, and engaged in his first Plowshares action – “Jubilee Plowshares” – in 1995. Since then, he has participated in numerous Plowshares actions and other witnesses against nuclear weapons and war making. In that time he has spent over 10 years behind bars, and roughly one-third of that time in solitary confinement (for non-cooperation).
Most recently, on April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kelly and others, known as the the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, entered Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, the US Navy’s East Coast Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarine base. All seven defendants pled not guilty, insisting that they had not entered the base to commit a crime, but rather to prevent one from occurring, the crime of “omnicide”, the destruction of the human race which is possible in a nuclear war. In the face of this threat that the US nuclear arsenal poses to the world, they believed what they had done was not illegal, but a “symbolic disarmament”, an act of necessary civil resistance. All seven were found by a jury to be guilty on three felony counts and a misdemeanor charge.
Prior to the action at Kings Bay, Kelly and four others, in what is known as the Disarm Now Plowshares, were arrested at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on All Souls Day, November 2, 2009, after entering the nuclear warhead storage area at Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific, to expose the nuclear warheads that are deployed on OHIO Class “Trident” ballistic missile submarines. Bangor is home to the Largest Concentration of Deployed Nuclear Weapons in the U.S.
The combined fourteen ballistic missile submarines at Bangor and Kings Bay, carrying the Trident II D5 ballistic missile armed with some combination of W76-1 (100 kiloton) warheads and W88 (475 kiloton) warheads, in addition to some small number of the newer “low-yield” W76-2 warhead are, in addition to being what the US government calls “the most survivable leg of the US nuclear triad,” arguably a first-strike nuclear weapon, which is inherently destabilizing to any efforts toward cooperation and disarmament efforts with Russia. The continuing warhead modernization and current construction of the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, with plans for a new warhead and missile, is contributing to a new and far less stable nuclear arms race.
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Revelations that Donald Trump was told that Mike Pence had been whisked from the Senate floor just minutes before the former president decided to tweet an attack on his own vice president has added to the already staggering body of evidence that any stated concerns Trump had about the violent mob which stormed the Capitol Building on January 6 came secondary to his private approval of and participation in what transpired that day.The new evidence for a damning timeline came from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) who on Wednesday night told reporters that he personally talked to Trump just after Pence and his aides were ushered away by the Secret Service.
“He didn’t get a chance to say a whole lot because I said, “Mr. President, they just took the vice president out. I’ve got to go,'” Tuberville said in response to a question about the nature of the call.
Citing video footage from January 6—details of which were presented during Day 2 of the Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday—the HuffPost reports that “Pence was removed from the Senate at 2:14 p.m. after rioters had broken into the Capitol, meaning that when Trump lashed out at Pence at 2:24 p.m., he already knew Pence’s life was in danger.”
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” Trump said in his 2:24 pm tweet.
Donald Trump posted a tweet attacking his own vice president for lacking “the courage” to overturn the election for him―enraging his Jan. 6 mob even further―just minutes after learning that Pence had been removed from the Senate chamber for his own safety.https://t.co/RHEllVuENj— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) February 11, 2021
As the House impeachment managers showed in dramatic footage Wednesday, Pence was escorted to safety just moments before the mob overtook large portions of the building. And as lawmakers throughout the building sought safety, a makeshift gallows had been erected outside the Capitol while those inside were heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Where are they?” in an apparent reference to others they sought to harm.
Reporting by The Hill notes that it “had previously been known that Tuberville and Trump spoke, though the details of the conversation are new. The fact that the Alabama senator told the president that Pence was in danger is a potentially useful nugget for the Democrats’ impeachment managers, who are trying to convince Senate Republicans that Trump egged on the mob and then did nothing to quell the violence once it erupted.”
According to Politico:
It’s long been unclear precisely when Trump learned of the danger that Congress and his vice president faced—though it was broadcast all over live television—but Tuberville’s claim would mark a specific moment Trump was notified that Pence had to be evacuated for his own safety. Aides to the former president did not immediately return a request for comment.
In reaction to the new revelations, The Intercept’s Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim tweeted: “Looks like Trump wasn’t playing around, really did want something to happen to Pence.”
And as Benjy Sarlin, policy editor for NBC News commented, “When the jurors are also witnesses, strange things happen.”Read More
Any man’s death diminishes me.— John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent OcccasionsOne of the things that will be remembered about the Trump tenure is the high number of people who through his good offices are no longer numbered among the living. They fall into two categories-those who have died because of his braggadocio and inattention to facts, and those who have died because of his malevolence. In both cases the beneficiaries of his actions are dead.
In presiding over the deaths of the thousands who have died during the last 12 months, the trump was ably assisted by the coronavirus. It outsmarted the trump each time the trump announced that the fight against the virus had turned the corner and posed no further threat.
Those pronouncements were, as we now know, wrong. The virus has killed approximately 300,000 people in the United States and that number is increasing at the rate of one new death every 30 seconds. Apparently aware of the fact that the virus was proving on a daily basis that it did not enjoy the same happy relationship with the trump that the trump thought he enjoyed with the virus, there have been few, if any, trump references to the virus or to those whose lives have been upended by the virus since November 3.
As significant as the trump’s failed relationship with the virus has been, when considering the number of deaths for which the trump was responsible, historians will also look at those killed because of the trump’s devotion to the death penalty.
Prior to the beginning of the trump residency in the White House, the United States had not executed any resident of a federal prison for 17 years. During that 17 year period the only executions of prisoners on death row took place in states where the executed prisoner had been convicted of a state crime which, under the criminal code of the state in question, made the prisoner death penalty eligible. Thanks to the trump and his lackeys, that 17 year hiatus came to an end beginning in July of the trump’s last year living in the White House.
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Futher Column – By Abby Zimet, Staff WriterRead More
WASHINGTON – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced “promising interim results” from phase III clinical trial data of the mRNA-1273 COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which was co-developed by Moderna, Inc. and the National Institutes of Health. Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, released this statement:“This is the people’s vaccine. The NIH’s vaccine. It is not merely Moderna’s vaccine. Federal scientists helped invent it and taxpayers are funding its development. We all have played a role. It should belong to humanity.
“Both the current administration and President-elect Biden have the opportunity to make this vaccine a public good that is free and available to all and help scale up global manufacturing, in order to prevent medical rationing that could become a form of global vaccine apartheid.
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Prisons & Policing
“Defund Police” Doesn’t Mean Hire Private Guns — But Cities Are Doing Just ThatImmigration
Jailed Asylum Seekers Report Unlivable Conditions in Wake of Hurricane LauraPolitics & Elections
Trump Defends Kyle Rittenhouse But Refuses to Meet Jacob Blake’s FamilyPrisons & Policing
Muslim Solidarity With Black Lives Matter Is Fueling the Push to Defund PolicePolitics & Elections
If Trump Tries to Hijack the Election, We Must Be Ready to ResistPolitics & Elections
Trump’s New COVID Adviser Is Pushing Herd Immunity, Which Some Liken to Eugenics
New Orleans, Louisiana—Incarcerated immigrants and their families and advocates have reported dangerous, unlivable conditions and haphazard evacuations at remote immigration jails in Louisiana, where Hurricane Laura caused widespread damage and power outages as it rampaged across the state late last week.
Speaking to Truthout over the phone on Monday, an asylum seeker jailed at the Jackson Parish Correctional Center in northwestern Louisiana said her dormitory was on “lockdown” after one woman developed a high fever and symptoms of COVID-19. The asylum seeker, who asked to remain anonymous due to an ongoing immigration case, said people in the jail were living in fear of the coronavirus and had been without running water since the storm hit. She said immigration prisoners were using toilets filled with feces and urine and have been unable to take showers or access clean clothing.
“She was in the dorm for a very long time before they came and took her out later,” the asylum seeker said of the woman who fell ill with a high fever. “A dorm where there is poop and there is urine and we can’t [take a shower].”
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The asylum seeker said people held in the jail were desperate for nutritious food and drinking water.
“The food they give us is very small.… It’s not enough [drinking] water, we need more water,” she said, adding that the dormitory is hot and humid without air conditioning and smells of human waste.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has sued the Trump administration over policies that allow for the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and inhumane conditions within immigration jails across Louisiana and the Southeast, says at least five Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jails in Louisiana were located within Hurricane Laura’s path. On Monday, the group said ICE failed to publicly share emergency plans for keeping the hundreds of immigrants in its custody safe during the storm. Family members reported to the SPLC that immigration prisoners were “haphazardly evacuated” from the Allen Parish Correction Center in southern Louisiana without proper social distancing, potentially exposing them and prisoners at the facility where they were transferred to COVID-19.
“The devastation left in the wake of the storm, including widespread power outages, compounds existing crises of ICE detention in rural Louisiana: unsafe and dilapidated facilities, inaccessible hospitals and emergency care, and limited access to legal counsel and communication with the outside world,” said Luz Lopez, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, in a statement. “On top of that, we’ve fielded reports of careless evacuation processes, exposing potentially hundreds more to a deadly virus that ICE has failed to contain in their facilities.”
The asylum seeker said people in the jail had been without running water since the storm hit.On Saturday, immigrants and asylum seekers caged in a men’s dorm staged a protest to call attention to the conditions at the Jackson Parish jail, where the asylum seeker Truthout spoke with is incarcerated. The jail is a privately run facility that enjoys a lucrative contract with ICE to detain migrants, flooding local jails in Louisiana amid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown. A video apparently taken by an observer outside the jail and circulated among family members and activists shows dozens of people gathering in the jail yard after walking out of a dormitory.
In a statement on Facebook on Saturday, the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Department said the incarcerated migrants “damaged their dormitory” and the protest was “squashed” by authorities. The department said that water has been restored to the facility, a statement that appears to contradict reports from the inside. The nearby town of Jonesboro, the department said, was running its water system on generators over the weekend and having trouble keeping water flowing. The sheriff’s department said on Sunday that utility workers were able to restore power to the jail during the protest, but that this step was unrelated to the walkout staged by the immigrants. Power outages in some local areas remained on Monday and schools were not expected to open by Tuesday or Wednesday, according to an additional statement.
Advocates say those incarcerated in the Jackson Parish jail are constantly worried about catching the coronavirus. According to ICE’s official count, at least 5,300 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in immigration jails across the country, including hundreds in jails run by ICE, local sheriff’s departments and private contractors in Louisiana. At least 17 people have died in ICE jails from COVID-19 and other causes so far this year, more than twice the number who died in custody last year.
Lara Nochomovitz, a defense attorney representing immigration defendants jailed in Louisiana, said a number of her clients have reported living without clean water and other unlivable conditions at Jackson Parish Correctional Center and other facilities across storm-battered Louisiana.
“I understand there was a hurricane, but that hurricane was coming and you should have people working on it 24 hours a day to clean it up, and you should be moving people [or] better yet, just release them,” Nochomovitz said in an interview.
Protests and hunger strikes have swept through ICE jails in Louisiana and beyond during the pandemic, and in some cases guards have deployed pepper spray and rubber bullets against protesters and placed them in solitary confinement, according to immigrants’ rights activists with contacts inside the jails. Cameroonian asylum seekers at the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in central Louisiana have reportedly staged protests for weeks, activists in Louisiana say, and on August 14 local police broke up a demonstration outside the jail with pepper spray after clashing with protesters who traveled from New Orleans.
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, a law professor at the University of Denver and author of Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants, told Truthout in an interview that the reports from Louisiana are not surprising based on ICE’s negligent response to COVID-19 and the damage caused to immigration prisons during earlier storms that hit the Gulf Coast.
“It was like the hurricane came into the dorm itself … water was coming up from the ground.”“We’ve been living in a public health emergency in which ICE has been both incapable and frankly unwilling to reduce the threat that exists, not only to the migrants it detains, but to its guards and its staff and to the communities in which these facilities [are located] for quite some time now,” García Hernández said. “Jails and prisons are exactly the recipe for how you don’t want people living during a pandemic, but ICE continues to operate largely under a business-as-usual mode, and it’s not surprising that a hurricane would only worsen that situation.”
García Hernández said the dangerous conditions in ICE jails are exacerbated by the sheer number of people incarcerated under Trump administration policies that have resulted in the vast majority of asylum seekers arriving at the southern border being locked up for indefinite amounts of time. Before President Trump took office, asylum seekers were often allowed to live with family and sponsors in their communities while their asylum claims wound through the courts. Now thousands are bounced between remote jails and prisons across the country, potentially spreading the coronavirus along the way. Activists have demanded their release since the pandemic began.
“It’s disheartening to see that there are so many of these facilities that are housing hundreds and sometimes even thousands of ICE’s detainees, and so when you take a bad situation and throw a hurricane into the mix, that expectation should be that you are only going to increase the human suffering,” García Hernández said.
The asylum seeker at the Jackson Parish jail said the electricity went out when the storm hit and the floor of the dormitory became dangerously wet. People were terrified and injured themselves slipping around in the dark.
“It was like the hurricane came into the dorm itself … water was coming up from the ground,” she said.
An ICE spokesperson did not respond to an emailed request for comment by the time this story was published.
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