US demonstrates global leadership in healthcare — NOT

One million people worldwide have now died from confirmed coronavirus cases. It is a staggering toll — greater than the number of people estimated to have died from malaria, influenza, cholera and measles, combined, over the same period. And the real number of coronavirus deaths is almost certainly higher.

The U.S., with 4 percent of the world’s population, has suffered more than 20 percent of deaths.

Geek Squad employees have worked as FBI informants for over a decade

❝ Geek Squad employees have been working as FBI informants for more than a decade, newly released documents show, revealing a much closer relationship between the two organizations than formerly reported…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents last year and released them on Tuesday. The Bureau refused to confirm or deny if it has similar relationships with other electronics repair companies.

❝ The documents indicate Geek Squad technicians only flagged federal agents when they found child pornography on a client’s computer, so it’s hard to be too upset. Nevertheless, it raises concerning questions about potential violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The article goes on to offer instances where the information turned over wasn’t obtained legally – and, please, don’t waste my time saying actions like this are limited to potential lawbreaking.

First, it is the purview of the courts to decide if that potential for crime is present and justification.

Second, I have personal experience with the FBI and jolly little elves in local government, universities and my friendly neighborhood phone company colluding with the FBI totally absent from legal permissions and court supervision – snooping on thousands of people in just a single metropolitan area. They all lost our suit and picked up the tab for corrupt and unconstitutional practices – eventually leading to internal reforms which may or may not be sticking. There were several thousands of victims and over a thousand of us who stayed with the case to the successful end.

Singapore jails megachurch founder and five other officials for fraud


Reuters

❝Six senior officials of Singapore’s City Harvest megachurch have been jailed over a $35 million fraud case.

❝The evangelical church’s pastor and founder, Kong Hee, was jailed for eight years – others received between 21 months and six years.

❝The court ruled last month the group had misused church finances to fund the music career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho…❞

❝State prosecutors said before sentencing it was “the largest amount of charity funds ever misappropriated in Singapore’s legal history”.❞

❝Known for its slick image and wealth-focused brand of Christianity, City Harvest Church (CHC) has some 17,500 members in Singapore and branches around the world.

❝In 2002, its launched what it called the Crossover Project – a scheme to evangelise through Ms Ho’s music career.❞

Hey, she’s still on the outside. Let’s see what she can do on her own. Try reality TV in the GOUSA. 🙂

Alabama has a vampire judge


Give blood or go to jail – Alabama

Judge Marvin Wiggins of Marion, Alabama, is offering destitute people who owe court fees a dangerous choice: donate blood, or risk going to jail. According to audio posted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, recorded in September on the day of a blood drive, Wiggins allegedly told those with fines: “If you do not have any money, and you don’t want to go to jail – you can give blood today”, adding: “consider that a discount”.

Wiggins’s choice is a terrible, likely unconstitutional and ethically dubious proposition, which could have potentially mortal consequences for the public blood supply. This kind of rampant capitalism, in which a local court essentially says: ‘value will be extracted from you, akin to squeezing blood from a stone’ is a barbaric violation of the rights of the poor…

Keep in mind that a 1983 supreme court case, Bearden v Georgia, prohibits judges from “imprisoning people who are too poor to pay their legal debts”. This still happens, sadly, even though the Bearden ruling effectively made debtors prisons illegal. While judges are allowed to mandate alternatives to incarceration for indigent debtors, such as performing community services, biomedical ethicists would probably say forcing them to give up their blood under threat of imprisonment doesn’t fly.

The Southern Law Center has filed an ethics complaint against Judge Wiggins for enacting “a violation of bodily integrity”, and the New York Times quotes a medical ethicist calling this plan “wrong in about 3,000 ways”.

Not that reason, rationality or American constitutional law has any resemblance to governance in the Confederacy.

Ben Bernanke says – More should have gone to jail for causing Great Recession

This season, Ben Bernanke was able to sit through an entire Nationals game.

During the financial meltdown in 2008, the then-chairman of the Federal Reserve would buy a lemonade and head to his seats two rows back from the Washington Nationals dugout, a respite from crisis. But often he would find himself huddling in the quiet of the stadium’s first-aid station or an empty stairwell for consultations on his BlackBerry about whatever economic catastrophe was looming.

“I think there was a reasonably good chance that, barring stabilization of the financial system, that we could have gone into a 1930s-style depression,” he says now in an interview with USA TODAY. “The panic that hit us was enormous — I think the worst in U.S. history.”

With publication of his memoir, The Courage to Act, on Tuesday by W.W. Norton & Co., Bernanke has some thoughts about what went right and what went wrong. For one thing, he says that more corporate executives should have gone to jail for their misdeeds. The Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies focused on indicting or threatening to indict financial firms, he notes, “but it would have been my preference to have more investigation of individual action, since obviously everything what went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm.”

He also offers a detailed rebuttal to critics who argue the government could and should have done more to rescue Lehman Brothers from bankruptcy in the worst weekend of a tumultuous time. “We were very, very determined not to let it collapse,” he says. “But we were out of bullets at that point.”

I happen to think Bernanke did a lot of good things right – and a few useless and wrong. Hindsight is always thrilling.

Please RTFA, watch the interview. USAToday doesn’t run the most stable online presence in American news; so, I hope all these links continue to work correctly. And, yes, I have my own list of individual crooks who should have done time – starting with everyone at the top of Countrywide Mortgage.

Secret Service agent bound for prison for stealing what he was investigating


Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.

Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.

During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.

The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…

Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?

North Carolina trumps Utah over being naked on your own property

Nude-Sunbather-1
Myron Lee Kipp, right, with his lawyer, Bill Albright

A 77-year-old Utah man charged with lewdness after sunbathing nude in his backyard agreed to a plea deal Tuesday that keeps his record clean as long as he wears a swimsuit.

Myron Lee Kipp pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in Farmington. But under the terms of the deal with prosecutors, the pleas won’t be recorded if Kipp stays covered over the next year…

Kipp has been taking in the sun in the buff for 30 years, often falling asleep in his backyard, and it wasn’t a problem until new neighbors moved in his lawyer Bill Albright, said.

Last year, police said children could see the nude Kipp from a church parking lot behind his house, which has a chain-link fence without privacy slats and is located about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City. When an officer approached him, Kipp said he could do what he wanted in his own backyard, according to court records.

He was arrested and charged with seven misdemeanor counts of lewdness, four involving a child. The case appeared headed for a trial that would have taken the jury on a trip to see the house…

Kipp wore a T-shirt with a green argyle pattern with jeans at a St. Patrick’s Day court appearance Tuesday. He nodded and answered affirmatively in response to a judge’s questions, and confirmed his plea wasn’t given under the influence by saying, “I don’t drink, smoke or anything else.”

A search of Utah court records shows only a single traffic ticket, more than a decade old, on Kipp’s record before the lewdness charges…

Judge David Connors also imposed $250 in court fees.

All that’s about as invasive ands creepy as I would expect in Utah.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, this happened:

Continue reading

Blackwater thugs finally convicted of killing Iraqi civilians

Blackwater and Bush

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence…

Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”

Sounds like the qualities sought after by your local police department – guaranteeing these gangsters a job when they return to the States. That’s not just a smartass remark. It’s already part of the process of turning our local PD’s into military police.

RTFA for all the details. Personally, I think the GUARDIAN is too kind referring to “a series of legal mistakes by US officials”. Because never in over a half-century of civil rights activism have I ever seen any American officials make “legal mistakes” on behalf of someone poor, Black, working class.

The 14 victims killed by the Blackwater guards on trial were listed as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, Osama Fadhil Abbas, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, Mahdi Sahib Nasir and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein.

Someone in the United States ought to remember their names.