Thomas Perez to face confirmation battle over bigotry

Daylife/Washington Post

Thomas Perez, a Maryland lawyer nominated to head the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, will be in for a tough confirmation fight, analysts say.

The civil rights post has always been a lightning rod for U.S. Senate confirmation battles, and while unnamed Senate sources say President Barack Obama’s nominee will likely be confirmed, the hearings will be contentious, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This is arguably the most difficult position to fill in the federal government when it comes to Senate confirmation,” Roger Clegg, a former official in the civil rights division, told the newspaper. “Both sides feel so strongly about the issues that the division handles.”

Current and former Justice Department lawyers say that under Obama and Perez, the civil rights division will probably increase prosecutions of police misconduct and racial profiling, push to make voter registration easier and give more attention to conditions in prisons, mental health facilities and nursing homes.

We’ll also get to hear from conservative Republicans and Democrats who could care less about police misconduct and racial profiling, oppose voting rights for minorities and don’t give a damn about conditions in prisons, mental health facilities and nursing homes.

You know. The thugs some of you keep re-electing because they make you feel safe and secure..

Charlotte, N.C., emerges as Mexican heroin center

Mexican drug traffickers have turned Charlotte into a key distribution point for “black tar” heroin in North Carolina.

Heroin-related arrests here have jumped. And while officials have not seen an increase in drug-related violence, they worry that could change. Thousands have died in Mexico as drug cartels fight for lucrative smuggling routes into the United States – and the violence is starting to spill across the border. Other U.S. cities where cartels have toeholds have seen a rash of murders and kidnappings…

John Emerson, assistant special agent in charge for the N.C. bureau of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said Mexican drug organizations have taken over most of the Charlotte heroin market while Colombian heroin feeds addicts in Raleigh-Durham.

Emerson would not disclose how many Mexican cells operate in Charlotte, but said there are “multiple…”

The cartels don’t discriminate among customers. They sell their drugs to low-income users and uptown bankers, police and treatment officials say. And they’re increasingly selling to young people…

Statewide, heroin seizures increased 77 percent last year, according to the DEA. Federal drug-enforcement officials said the increase in drug trafficking is a direct correlation with immigration.

Charlotte has one of the country’s fastest growing immigrant populations. An estimated 390,000 illegal immigrants live in North Carolina, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

No one with a brain is suggesting that immigrants are by definition responsible for the location of drug distribution. But, having a population with a perceived self-interest in not cooperating with law officials makes it easier for thugs and gangsters to hide in that community.

Congressional delegation says normalize Cuba relations – then talk

Daylife/AP Photo

The United States and Cuba should normalize diplomatic relations then sort out their differences, said the head of a delegation of U.S. lawmakers on a visit to Cuba.

“Most of the members of our delegation believe we need to actually normalize relations and then the details of what that means would follow,” Representative Barbara Lee, who is also chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said at a news conference.

The seven member delegation of Democrats, made up mostly of African-American lawmakers, met with Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in what Lee said was an effort to improve relations between Washington and the communist-ruled island.

They also toured various Cuban facilities, including a genetic engineering and pharmaceutical complex, and planned to visit churches on Sunday.

The United States is the only country in the hemisphere, other than El Salvador, that does not have normal diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.

El Salvadoran President-elect Mauricio Funes has announced he will establish both when he takes office in June…

While Obama could ease diplomatic relations with Cuba, lifting the embargo would need congressional approval.

I suppose I have to become accustomed to rational statements [and policies?] coming from members of Congress. This whole change thing may be getting out of hand – if we’re actually supposed to expect our elected officials to start making sense.

Obama supports Turkey’s bid for EU membership

President Barack Obama has urged the European Union to accept Turkey as a full member of the 27-nation bloc, in remarks rejected outright by France and met coolly by Germany.

The disagreement was a rare outward sign of divergence at an EU-U.S. summit stage-managed to relaunch transatlantic ties that were strained under the Bush administration and which both sides are now eager to mend.

“The United States and Europe must approach Muslims as our friends, neighbors and partners in fighting injustice, intolerance and violence, forging a relationship based on mutual respect and mutual interests,” Obama told the summit. “Moving forward toward Turkish membership in the EU would be an important signal of your (EU) commitment to this agenda and ensure that we continue to anchor Turkey firmly in Europe,” he told EU leaders…

But there is resistance among EU states such as Germany and France to its membership, [especially] among ruling conservatives…

Successive U.S. administrations have seen EU membership for Turkey as a way of further binding into the West a NATO member positioned strategically as a key energy hub between Europe and valuable energy resources in the Caspian Sea and beyond.

One of those broad areas where Left and Right within the ruling Establishment means squat. Both divisions – separated as little as usual – consider uncritical support for Turkey’s inclusion in the US as prime as uncritical support for anything to do with Israel. Human rights violations and racism being characteristic of both nations.

In fact, Turkey is a bit more diplomatic in their practice of that cultural leftover.

I’m not suddenly joining the ranks of sectarian libertarians who flunk on understanding history and economics as part of how a nation grows. So, I must declare a bit of positive response for those supporting Turkey’s inclusion in the greater European dialogue.

Same-sex marriage ruling good for Iowa business

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A university study predicts the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage will result in a financial windfall for The Hawkeye State.

The court’s unanimous ruling Friday overturned a decade-old ban on same-sex marriage, making Iowa the third state where gay marriage is legal.

Unlike Connecticut and Massachusetts, which also permit gay marriage, Iowa has no nearby competitors — meaning businesses could see $160 million in new spending during the next three years, a University of California at Los Angeles study concluded.

Being in the middle of states that have many same-sex couples means Iowa could draw an estimated 55,000 out-of-state couples who spend money on weddings and tourism-related activities, the study said.

Har! No surprise. Still, I wonder if and when Free Market advocates will stop sharing bed-space with right-wing ideologues who spend most of their time trying to turn the social and behavioral clock back to the 12th Century.

Let commerce overrule theocracy.

Technology and tradition slow Obama’s pledge of transparency

Daylife/Getty Images

At 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20 — the precise moment Barack Obama became president of the United States — a new White House Web site sprang to electronic life with a pledge to “provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.” The next day, Mr. Obama issued a memorandum on transparency, promising to make it one of “the touchstones of this presidency.”

But on issue after issue — a raucous internal debate over whether to release memorandums detailing harsh interrogation techniques used during the Bush years, for example, or publicizing financial information about high-level administration appointees — Mr. Obama has discovered that fulfilling his pledge is easier said than done.

He has bumped up against technological hurdles, privacy concerns and the entrenched culture of secrecy that has flourished for decades in Washington and culminated under his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama has vowed a break with the past, but he has not broken completely.

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FBI database links long-haul truckers, serial killings

The FBI suspects that serial killers working as long-haul truckers are responsible for the slayings of hundreds of prostitutes, hitchhikers and stranded motorists whose bodies have been dumped near highways over the last three decades.

Federal authorities first made the connection about five years ago while helping police link a trucker to a string of unsolved killings along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma and several other states. After that, the FBI launched the Highway Serial Killings Initiative to track suspicious slayings and suspect truckers.

A computer database maintained by the FBI has grown to include information on more than 500 female crime victims, most of whom were killed and their bodies discarded at truck stops, motels and other locations along popular trucking routes crisscrossing the U.S.

The database also has information on scores of truckers who’ve been charged with killings or rapes committed near highways or who are suspects in such crimes, officials said. Authorities said they do not have statistics on whether driving trucks ranks high on the list of occupations of known serial killers…

Although some local police agencies have been briefed on the program, the FBI had not publicized its existence outside law enforcement until earlier this year, when officials agreed to show The Times the inner workings of the operation and share details of some of their cases.

Since the program began, more than two dozen killings have been solved, authorities said.

Yeah, yeah, we all saw the plot on TV. But, that was art imitating life once again.

RTFA. Fascinating stuff. And scary.

Arsonist escapes prison under security van that delivered him

A convicted arsonist who escaped from prison by clinging to the underside of a security van has been re-arrested, police said.

Julien Chautard, 39, was arrested in the Piccadilly area of central London shortly after his friends and family encouraged him to call police, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Chautard was sentenced to seven years in jail at Snaresbrook Crown Court last week but spent just minutes inside Pentonville prison in north London after slipping out underneath the van he had arrived in

He rang Islington CID on a number of occasions and told Detective Inspector Yasmin Lalani that he would be in the Piccadilly area. He was arrested at 8.50am.

Prison officials launched an inquiry into how staff failed to notice his disappearance from a group of new inmates following the escape on March 27. It is thought he crawled underneath the van and clung on as it was driven back through the “airlock” separating the jail from the outside world. His getaway remained a mystery for seven hours as the prison was scoured by officers ordered to stay until 2am the next day.

It’s almost silly to say he was re-arrested. After all, he rang up the coppers and told them to come and pick him up.