Category: Crime

Dumb crooks of the day!

Unexploded military ordnance detonated Saturday afternoon near Chaparral, NM, critically injuring two El Paso, TX, women who were looking for scrap metal…Apparently this was something they tossed into their pickup truck.

The Otero County Sheriff’s Office said the ordnance went off near Landing Stripin Road just west of U.S. Highway 54 about 1 p.m.

The kind of ordnance that exploded was not identified.

The two El Paso women were airlifted to University Medical Center and are in critical condition, hospital officials said.

Fort Bliss and Department of Defense officials detonated the remaining unexploded ordnance in an area off of the highway around 6:30 p.m. after removing it from a vehicle…

Jethro Armijo, a University Medical Center spokesman, said two women arrived at the hospital at about 2 p.m. Saturday…Armijo did not provide any specifics about the injuries. He said one of the women being treated at the hospital is 50 years old. The age of the other woman is not known, Armijo said…

Officials reopened the highway sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“We did close the highway for the general safety of the public because we did have the unexploded ordnance,” Undersheriff Daron Syling said. “For anybody driving past that area we had to respect that blast radius of the potential danger of it. We had to shut it down.”

Officials did not say what kind of ordnance was detonated.

Fort Bliss has had Tank and Artillery battalions stationed there over the years. They could have anything up to and including 155mm howitzer rounds laying around unexploded from training exercises.

You’d think even the dumbest of crooks might recognize something that looks like a helluva big bullet to be dangerous, eh?

Wrongly convicted of murder in North Carolina – Free after 37 years in prison

Is he Black? You betcha!

A North Carolina man is free after nearly four decades in prison after forensic evidence proved he was not responsible for the murder of two women.

Joseph Sledge, 70, was convicted on two counts of second-degree murder in the 1976 stabbing deaths of Josephine Davis, 74, and her daughter, 57-year-old Aileen Davis, who was also sexually assaulted.

Sledge was 37 years into a life sentence when a three-judge panel voted unanimously on Friday that Sledge was innocent of the crime.

Forensic evidence that had been lost for years was discovered by a court clerk who was cleaning out a high shelf of a vault. A hair sample within — found on one of the bodies and believed to belong to the attacker — was not Sledge’s, nor were fingerprints and DNA collected from the scene, according to forensics experts.

Last year a key witness whose testimony led to Sledge’s conviction had recanted his evidence, saying he had been promised leniency in a separate case and was coached by police on what to say.

No surprises there.

Sledge left court after being freed Friday and headed to Georgia to live with his brother. He told reporters he was looking forward to relaxing and sleeping in a real bed, and that he would likely “get in a pool of water and swim.”

No apology from the lawmen who coached the key witness how best to lie. No apology from the state of North Carolina about their consistent history of locking up – or executing – Black men who were easy targets for legal lynching.

U.S. Attorney nails NY State “3 men in a room” culture – with an indictment


Two of the “3 men in a room” — NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver

One day after charging one of New York’s leading lawmakers with exploiting his office to obtain millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York delivered a stinging condemnation of the culture of corruption in Albany and said the system was set up to breed misdeeds.

The prosecutor, Preet Bharara, speaking at the New York Law School on Friday, castigated how deal-making has long been done in Albany — by “three men in a room” (the governor, the State Assembly speaker and the State Senate majority leader), who work in secret and without accountability to decide most vital issues.

For decades, state government has essentially been controlled by the three leaders. When they emerge from their private meetings, issues are usually settled, with no cause for public debate.

Mr. Bharara said this structure could lead to the kind of corruption outlined in the criminal complaint unveiled on Thursday against Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who has been the Assembly speaker for two decades.

If the charges are proved true, he said, then “at least one of the proverbial three men in a room is compromised.”

If that is the case, he said, “then how can we trust that anything that gets decided in Albany is on the level?”

By concentrating power in the hands of so few, he said, good people are discouraged from running for office because they know they will have little influence on important matters…

…Mr. Bharara compared the culture in Albany to Wall Street, where he has aggressively pursued insider trading prosecutions.

Rather than trying to work for a greater good, he said, many people focused on where the line is between legal and illegal, and then steered as close as possible to that border without crossing over.

Such a mentality, he said, is a recipe for trouble…

He urged voters to get angry, to demand change. “My hope is that in bringing the case,” he said, “there will be reform.”

“That almost happened with the Moreland Commission,” Mr. Bharara said, referring to the anticorruption panel established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that was looking at lawmakers’ behavior when the governor shut it down…

And that governor, Andrew Cuomo was one of those “3 men in a room”. Which just may have provided his reason for shutting down the commission investigating New York State corruption.

I doubt he counted on Preet Bharara getting a court order requiring everything from the Moreland Commission to be turned over to the US Attorney — much less carrying the investigation through to the indictment of the man who has been State Assembly speaker for more than 20 years, Sheldon Silver.

Hard to fool a detainee with a fake letter from mom – when he knows she can’t write


Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Guantánamo prison camp authorities tried to trick inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi by forging a letter purportedly from his mother whom he had been unable to see for years, his brother Yahdih has said.

The ploy, which was intended to persuade him to cooperate with his interrogators, failed not only because they misspelt Slahi’s name but also because his mother could not write.

This week Slahi became the first inmate to publish a memoir while still incarcerated when Guantánamo Diary was published in 20 countries and serialised in the Guardian.

Speaking on Tuesday at an event organised by the Guardian in partnership with Canongate, the publisher of Guantánamo Diary, and PEN, the writers’ association, Yahdih Ould Slahi said his brother had not been able to see his mother before she died at their home in Mauritania in 2013…

The 44-year-old engineer was first detained in 2001 in Mauritania at the request of the US government, then rendered to Jordan and Afghanistan and tortured, and then flown to Guantánamo.

He is one of two inmates whose “additional interrogation techniques” were personally approved by Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, according to a US Senate inquiry. Slahi was dressed in a burqa, deprived of sleep, subjected to strobe lights, doused in water, threatened with dogs, sexually assaulted by female interrogators and forced to bark and perform dog tricks.

He wrote his memoir by hand after learning English, his fourth language, from his Guantánamo guards and interrogators, and it was published this week after his lawyer, Nancy Hollander, battled for six years to have the document declassified.

Hollander told the event that Slahi’s descriptions of the abuse that he had suffered at Guantánamo had already been confirmed by both the Senate inquiry and a separate investigation by the FBI…

Hollander said her client had been in a form of legal limbo since the US government lodged an appeal after a US district court judge ordered his release…

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition demanding Slahi’s release.

One more case where Obama’s Administration matches the incompetence of his neo-con predecessor. Incompetence, that is, at differentiating liberal foreign policy from the conservative flavor. There may be some small difference in the total number of civilians killed. But, the destruction of civil liberties, civil rights, human rights guaranteed by international treaty seem to be consistent between both flavors of imperial arrogance.

British spies stole emails from the NY Times, Reuters, BBC and more

The British intelligence organization GCHQ instigated a test exercise in 2008 that captured the emails of journalists and editors from Reuters, the New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, NBC, the Washington Post and others, according to recently released files from Edward Snowden.

As a result of the test, the content of the emails was shared on the organization’s internal servers where anyone in the organization could read them. GCHQ was tapping fiber-optic cables in November of 2008 when they intercepted over 70,000 emails, including emails from the mentioned news companies, according to The Guardian.

The motive of the test is unknown, but other Snowden documents have shown the NSA and other intelligence agencies regularly target investigative journalists, often putting them on the same target lists as terrorists.

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently called for the banning of encrypted messages that can’t be intercepted by intelligence agencies.

He joins the list of corrupt American politicians in Congress and the White House who agree – no one should have the right to privacy from government snoops and spies.

The War with Radical Islam – Viewpoint by Jeffrey Sachs

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was not speaking metaphorically when he said that France is at war with radical Islam. There is, indeed, a full-fledged war underway, and the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris were part of it. Yet, like most wars, this one is about more than religion, fanaticism, and ideology. It is also about geopolitics, and its ultimate solution lies in geopolitics as well.

Crimes like those in Paris, New York, London, and Madrid – attacks on countless cafes, malls, buses, trains, and nightclubs – affront our most basic human values, because they involve the deliberate murder of innocents and seek to spread fear throughout society. We are wont to declare them the work of lunatics and sociopaths, and we feel repulsed by the very idea that they may have an explanation beyond the insanity of their perpetrators.

Yet, in most cases, terrorism is not rooted in insanity. It is more often an act of war, albeit war by the weak rather than by organized states and their armies. Islamist terrorism is a reflection, indeed an extension, of today’s wars in the Middle East. And with the meddling of outside powers, those wars are becoming a single regional war – one that is continually morphing, expanding, and becoming increasingly violent.

From the jihadist perspective – the one that American or French Muslims, for example, may pick up in training camps in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen – daily life is ultra-violent. Death is pervasive, coming as often as not from the bombs, drones, and troops of the United States, France, and other Western powers. And the victims are often the innocent “collateral damage” of Western strikes that hit homes, weddings, funerals, and community meetings.

We in the West hate to acknowledge – and most refuse to believe – that our leaders have been flagrantly wasteful of Muslim lives for a century now, in countless wars and military encounters instigated by overwhelming Western power. What is the message to Muslims of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003? More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians – a very conservative estimate – died in a war that was based on utterly false pretenses. The US has never apologized, much less even recognized the civilian slaughter.

RTFA – for there is beaucoup sense and understanding of history. Regular readers of my personal blog often are aware of this level of content on the Web. Many aren’t. Many are wandering by for the very first time.

Understand that Project Syndicate is a review of science and society, economics and events, how they are interrelated, and attempts to direct a positive end. It is part and parcel of a number of men and women who very often are published in the Economist, a conservative journal [at least in my mind] published in the UK, global in scope.

In the time when American conservatism was concerned with science instead of the King James Bible, when American liberalism was dedicated to standing up for folks who work for a living, both of these magazines and what they offer would be considered a valuable resource. Nowadays, in a nation consumed with hatred and fear, led by fools and cowards, governed by creatures designed equally by Madison Avenue and Wall Street – those standards have evaporated.

The Web – more than anywhere else – still offers an opportunity for sane discussion, progressive change. The alternative pressed by useless two-party politics, I’m afraid, remains a cul-de-sac crammed full of rhetoric and little else.

Again, please read the article. Jeff Sachs is worth discovering for many of you. He’s walked away from a couple of rewarding potential careers to dedicate his intellect and understanding to the betterment of life for our unremarkable species. He’s turned out to be damned good at it. Worth listening to.

Here’s his conclusion:

It is time for the West to allow the Arab world to govern itself and to choose its path without Western military interference. And there are heartening reasons to believe that a self-governing Arab Middle East would wisely choose to become a peaceful global crossroads and a partner in science, culture, and development.

The Arab world has played that beneficent role in the past, and it can do so again. The region is filled with talented people, and the overwhelming majority in the region want to get on with their lives in peace, educate and raise their children in health and safety, and participate in global society. Their objectives – prosperity and human security – are our own.

Eric Holder just took away an unconstitutional police power


“I’ll give you ten bucks for the iPhone!”

The Department of Justice…has curtailed a federal program that allowed police to seize and keep cash, cars, and other private property without evidence of a crime…

Local and state police will no longer be able to seize and keep private assets through the federal program unless they’re directly linked to public safety concerns. Items that can still be “adopted” include illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives, and property associated with child pornography.

Police have been heavily criticized for using the program to seize people’s assets without evidence of a crime and pocketing the proceeds to fund their own departments.

The change places a big check on police power.

The federal program, expanded through the War on Drugs [of course], allowed local and state police departments to seize private property allegedly used for criminal purposes, even without evidence of a crime, and share the proceeds with federal agencies. Police would keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds, while federal agencies claimed the rest.

States still allow police to seize private assets, but some of the state laws are more limited and force at least some of the proceeds to go to a state’s general fund — instead of the police departments themselves.

Critics of the federal program said it created an incentive for police to unnecessarily stop and search people, since the seizures could be used to fund their own departments. A previous Washington Post investigation found police routinely seized property without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Here’s a good background article: “How police can take your stuff, sell it, and pay for armored cars with the money“.

It’s what happens in a great many municipalities – though, here in one of the poorest states in the GOUSA, I think the money from illicit sales of conficated property is often used just to keep a local township or city afloat. After all, New Mexico has a Republican “Education Governor” who wants to cut the budget for some or all community colleges – and a Municipal League trying to reinstate taxes on food.

The usual three razzy cheers for what today’s conservatives try to pass off as fiscal conservatism.

Still, it’s nice to see the Department of Justice actually practice a little of the good stuff that makes it into presidential speeches.

CIA investigates the CIA – finds nothing wrong with hacking Senate computers


We’ll let you have your paper Constitution back later on!

An internal CIA panel concluded in a report released Wednesday that agency employees should not be punished for their roles in secretly searching computers used by Senate investigators, a move that was denounced by lawmakers last year as an assault on congressional oversight and a potential breach of the Constitution.

Rejecting the findings of previous inquiries into the matter, the CIA review group found that the agency employees’ actions were “reasonable in light of their responsibilities to manage an unprecedented computer system” set up for Senate aides involved in a multiyear probe of the CIA’s treatment of terrorism suspects.

The agency panel, which was led by former U.S. senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), cited a lack of clear ground rules between the CIA and the Senate, and it faulted CIA workers for missteps including reading e-mails of congressional investigators.

But while such transgressions were “clearly inappropriate,” Bayh said in a statement released by the CIA, they “did not reflect malfeasance, bad faith, or the intention to gain improper access” to sensitive Senate material.

A perfectly representative piece-of-crap rationale from what passes for a leading liberal Democrat.

The findings are at odds with the conclusions reached by the CIA’s inspector general in a separate review last year and were quickly dismissed by lawmakers including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who led the investigation of the interrogation program…

The CIA also released a redacted version of the IG’s investigation, which found that five CIA employees had “improperly accessed” Senate files but also places new blame on congressional aides. It also disclosed that one person assigned to the committee from the office of the Director of National Intelligence was fired in 2010 after sneaking a camera into an office where Senate investigators had access to millions of classified files.

CIA experts…searched the Senate system on at least three occasions, according to the report, which described the last intrusion as “the source of greatest controversy” because it involved not only looking for CIA files but also reading e-mails of Senate aides.

But, then, why expect the CIA and their peers to treat elected officials with anymore integrity than offered ordinary American citizens. We are all suspects. We are all potential detainees in the eyes of big Brother.

RTFA for the thrilling details of our government’s corruption.

The real owners of “our” government on display at inauguration time


Let’s hear it for Illinois!

Incoming Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner campaigned as a reformer of the state’s often corrupt politics – but, watchdog groups say activities surrounding his inauguration Monday are among the priciest of any incoming governor and take advantage of a loophole in campaign finance that allows wealthy special interests to gain access to those who hold political power…

Rauner, a Republican, is allowing corporate donors to kick in as much as $100,000 for inauguration events, and letting individuals spend up to $25,000.

It’s only about $10 million among friends. Who cares what that money could have meant to schoolkids or the unemployed? Certainly, not the governor or his buddies.

He is hardly alone. Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, will accept up to $50,000 per donor. Corporate sponsorship packages for inaugural events by Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, both Republicans, cost $30,000 and $25,000 respectively…

The price tag for gubernatorial inaugurations is dwarfed by presidential celebrations. President Barack Obama did not allow corporate donors for his first inauguration, though just 211 individuals covered 80 percent of the $35.3 million price tag. For his second inauguration, Obama accepted unlimited corporate donations.

Inauguration events are essentially private parties that are considered non-partisan and are funded by special committees. Under federal and state campaign laws, the inauguration committees are not required to disclose spending or donor names because the inauguration exists outside the election process. All money raised for the events is meant to cover expenses, with surpluses typically given to charity.

In recent years, the events have transformed from honorary banquets to ticketed, star-studded concerts and lavish balls. Donors gain access to events and also can get their names splashed in programs and across other marketing materials.

The process has created the perception that these are veiled opportunities for lobbyists and other corporate interests to curry favor with lawmakers…

What “created the perception” means, of course, is these are public displays of who actually holds the power of the state in their hands.

According to the Illinois Observer, Rauner and his wife are also hosting a private “business roundtable and reception” in Chicago this month that costs $25,000 per couple for both events.

Rauner Spokesman Mike Schrimpf says donors will be disclosed but would not say when. He also would not say where any surplus money would go.

I have occasionally posted, edited and participated in blogs and websites where Class Warfare is acknowledged. I admit, some of the sites that use my work not only deny such an analysis; but, the owners vigorously oppose the concept – and the reality.

Welcome to the United States of America at the beginning of the 21st Century.

Sooner or later, I am confident that more and more reality will intrude into the befuddled lives of ordinary Americans. Economic and social practices affecting all of us can’t be denied by beer commercials and glorious patriotic music forever. We are, after all, a species capable of learning from our mistakes.

I just hope it doesn’t take as long as the discovery that the Earth is round.