The weekend in pictures


Click to enlargeHaidar Mohammed Ali/AFP

A helicopter provides aerial support during an Iraqi military operation to disarm local militias caught up in inter-communal clashes.

And click here for the rest of the photos in the GUARDIAN’s weekend roundup.

Our coppers killed 1,134 in 2015 – you were 9 times more likely to be killed if you were Black


Carrying a dangerous weapon – a cameraScott Wilson/Getty

Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015, according to the findings of a Guardian study that recorded a final tally of 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers this year.

Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men of the same age.

Paired with official government mortality data, this new finding indicates that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police…

About 25% of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people. This disparity has narrowed since the database was first published on 1 June, at which point black people killed were found to be twice as likely to not have a weapon.

The Guardian’s investigation, titled The Counted, began in response to widespread concern about the federal government’s failure to keep any comprehensive record of people killed by police. Officials at the US Department of Justice have since begun testing a database that attempts to do so, directly drawing on The Counted’s data and methodology…

Regional disparities also emerged from the year’s data. Earlier this month, the Guardian published a series of special reports on Kern County, California, where police killed more people relative to the size of its population than anywhere else in the country. Law enforcement officers there killed more people in 2015 than the NYPD, which has 23 times as many officers policing a population 10 times as big.

Following a spate of killings in recent weeks, New Mexico’s 21 deaths in 2015 represented the highest per-capita rate of any state…

Only one of the 21 people killed by police in New Mexico, however, was unarmed. By contrast nine of the 25 people killed in New York state were unarmed, and seven of these were black men.

RTFA. Detailed, well written, the GUARDIAN took on a task long overdue. Neither our government nor many civil bodies have been willing to confront the statistics defining one of the most painful aspects of racism in America.

We can talk all day about the details of law enforcement in a comparatively lawless culture. Anarchy is a well-respected cultural trait. Just not under its own name. The same is true of the racism which remains deadly and rooted in our economic history, our political character.

Feds counting killings by US coppers — finally

The US government is trialling a new open-source system to count killings by police around the country, in the most comprehensive official effort so far to accurately record the number of deaths at the hands of American law enforcement.

The pilot program was announced by the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on Monday and follows concerted calls from campaigners and lawmakers for better official data on police killings, after a nationwide debate about race and policing was sparked by protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

In anticipation of the launch, further details of the Department of Justice program were shared with the Guardian, which publishes The Counted, a crowdsourced investigative project that attempts to track all those killed by US law enforcement in 2015. The program is understood to be already active, with a view to full implementation at the start of 2016.

The program will be run by the DoJ’s statistics division, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and is seen internally as a more robust version of the currently defunct Arrest Related Deaths Count, which published annual data between 2003 and 2009 using statistics supplied by some of the United States’ 18,000 law enforcement agencies. The BJS eventually stopped collecting this data in 2014 as the level of reporting varied dramatically from state to state, due to the voluntary nature of the program.

The new program, Lynch said on Monday, will start by procuring open-sourced records, such as media reports, of officer-involved deaths, and then move towards verifying facts about the incident by surveying local police departments, medical examiner’s offices and investigative offices.

This approach is near-identical to the one employed by The Counted. A BJS official told the Guardian that the methodology would essentially standardise data collection, meaning the DoJ would no longer have to rely on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement. It is understood that The Counted along with the Washington Post’s police shootings count are being monitored as part of the DoJ program.

RTFA for some discussion, some bullshit, from government officials. Some truth leaks through.

Still, we’re witnessing a good example of citizens and journalism together shaming the government into doing their job. Casual engagement based on budget and happenstance isn’t a productive way to serve the public.

Kudos to everyone from The GUARDIAN to localized groups like #blacklivesmatter for keeping the pressure on.

UK terrorism case ends in acquittal – no one allowed to say why

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Ian Cobain

Ian Cobain, a reporter with The Guardian, is one of very few people who know why a student arrested by armed British police officers in 2013 was finally acquitted this year of terrorism charges.

Problem is, he cannot report what he knows. He was allowed to observe much of the trial, but only under strict conditions intended to keep classified material secret. His notebooks are being held by Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. And if he writes — or even talks — about the reason that the student, Erol Incedal, 27, was acquitted, Mr. Cobain faces prosecution and possibly jail.

“I know the essence of what was happening,” Mr. Cobain said, “but I can’t tell, I can’t even talk to my editor about this.”

Having initially gone along reluctantly with the reporting restrictions, a number of British news organizations are now challenging them in court. And yes, the challenge itself is being heard under secrecy rules that leave the public mostly excluded. Were Mr. Cobain to break the law and disclose what he knows publicly, his prosecution would also take place in secret…

The case is among the latest to highlight the growing debate about the proper balance between civil liberties and national security in the age of terrorism. That debate has intensified this year in the United States and across much of Europe, with nations reflecting on decisions they have made since the Sept. 11 attacks and reacting to more recent developments, from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to disclosures in Germany about eavesdropping by the United States National Security Agency…

But the Incedal case has focused attention on whether governments are cloaking too many of their activities in national security classifications, insulating themselves from public debate and accountability for mistakes or collusion with suspects.

It’s hard to know quite who is being protected in all this,” said David Davis, a lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party and a former minister…“The implication is that this is more about the embarrassment of the agencies than it is about real questions of national security…”

Please RTFA. This case, the repressive manipulation by government, courts and the thought police is not happening in isolation. The parallels with the American FISA court and actions of the NSA, FBI, other alphabetized fascists is striking.

The good fortune is that journalism in the UK is willing to challenge restrictions – even in roundabout ways – while most US media is self-restricted to entertainment. And it ain’t folks who believe in Free Speech who get to determine what is entertainment.

There is beaucoup detail, anecdotal adventures in the dreamland nightmares of our spooks and politicians.

Ride ’em, cowboy

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Click to enlarge

A red-eyed tree frog clings to the back of a Hercules beetles in the Costa Rican rain forest. From the GUARDIAN EYEWITNESS series, this photo by Nicolas Reusens is an entrant in the 2014 Sony World Photography competition.

Snowden raises the count of world leaders bugged by NSA to 35

The United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders according to classified documents leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, Britain’s Guardian newspaper…

Phone numbers were passed on to the U.S. National Security Agency by an official in another government department, according to the documents, the Guardian said…

It added that staff in the White House, State Department and the Pentagon were urged to share the contact details of foreign politicians…

“In one recent case, a U.S. official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders,” reads an excerpt from a confidential memo dated October 2006 which was quoted by the Guardian.

The identities of the politicians in question were not revealed.

The revelations in the center-left Guardian suggested that the bugging of world leaders could be more widespread than originally thought, with the issue set to overshadow an EU summit in Brussels.

It’s worth a chuckle to see the stodgy and sanctimonious “neutral” editors at Reuters feel the need to identify the GUARDIAN as “center-left”. Poisonally, I think they point out corruption and class-based politics enough to qualify properly as just plain “left”.

Either road, there ain’t any “center-right” newspapers or politicians working at protecting our privacy and liberty regardless of the number of times they mouth those words in their populist blather.

Our government opposes request to reveal spying demands

The U.S. Justice Department has told a secret surveillance court that it opposes a request from technology companies to reveal more about the demands they receive for user information, according to court papers released on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the federal government and companies such as Google have gone on for months, and while U.S. spy agencies said they plan to be more transparent, they have opposed company requests to disclose more detailed data…

Microsoft, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Facebook are among the companies seeking permission to publish statistics about the extent of the demands placed on them.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, using former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a source, reported beginning in June the companies’ deep involvement with U.S. surveillance efforts.

The companies said some of the reporting was erroneous, so they want to reveal, for example, how many of their users are encompassed in surveillance demands and the total number of compulsory requests under specific laws.

The Justice Department said in its response: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

The surveillance court has not yet ruled publicly on the companies’ request.

RTFA if you honestly feel you need to read the crap the DOJ released as an answer to the questions raised in this confrontation.

Frankly, I think the average 6th grader has heard sufficient phony-baloney press releases read on the evening news by TV talking heads to be capable of coming pretty close to reproducing the excuses offered by any group of American politicians.