NYC first US city to pass resolution to end qualified immunity for police

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NYC lawmakers announced that they voted to pass a resolution to “ensure that officers who violate Constitutional rights in the course of a search and seizure or by the use of excessive force are not entitled to qualified immunity.”

Qualified immunity protects police from punishment even when they break the law, and was originally established in 1967 to prevent Freedom Riders from coming after officials in Mississippi. Although it is just case law, not law, it is widely used.

The new bill’s purpose is to push back against QI.

“This legislation is simple,” said Council Member Stephen Levin, who sponsored the resolution, “It creates a set of civil rights here in New York City, mirroring those conferred by the 4th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, so that people in New York City can hold officers accountable if those officers violate their civil rights. It eliminates the shield of Qualified Immunity to allow victims the opportunity to seek justice.”

Opinion is divided, and a little confused, as to what this move will mean in practice. Many believe the local law will at least send a message that the city is in favor of a change in the direction away from QI.

The Legal Aid Society expressed support for the move but commented that it was just a first step and more meaningful change would happen if New York state passes legislation that addresses relief for victims of police misconduct, specifically A4331/S1911.

But critics have raised the point that removing the shield of QI may prevent or discourage police from thoroughly enforcing the law.

The resolution was passed this week along with several other police reforms that are part of a broader plan to reform NYC police under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

By Sid Douglas

GA employer pays employee’s last paycheck in 90k pennies dumped on driveway

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A 500-lb pile of oil-covered pennies is how Andreas Flaten of Fayetville said he received his last paycheck from A OK Walker Motorworks, after contacting the Georgia Department of Labor for help in getting paid for a job he left in November 2020.

Flaten told a local TV station that he has been sitting nights cleaning the pennies with soap, vinegar, and water.

The US Treasury, however, says that there is “no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services.”

Others who have tried to settle debts with large numbers of pennies have been charged with disorderly conduct. A Utah man was fined $140 for paying a $25 bill with 14lbs of pennies in 2011.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Immigrants climb 30-foot Trump-built border wall and suffer serious injuries, some charge CBP ignores the hurt and returns them to Mexico without treatment

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A pregnant woman who fell off the wall west of El Paso died last year, and Border Patrol, CBP, takes many badly injured people to clinics near the border, reported the Texas Standard, but their report also interviewed several people who were sent back across the border in trauma without medical treatment. It is negligence, charged Pastor Rosalio Sosa, a director of Mexican shelters helping the injured immigrants. “They just pick them up and send them over here. No wheelchair, nothing. Not even a Tylenol.”

When it is apparent that someone is hurt we will administer first aid and request assistance as needed,” responded El Paso Sector CBP Chief Gloria Chavez in an email to Texas Standard.

Fall trauma ranges from multiple leg fractures, broken ankles, hips, pelvises, ribs, and “a good number of spinal injures,” according to the director of Annunciation House, an organization that provides temporary shelter for migrants and refugees in El Paso,

CBP’s own standards on transport and detention say, “Any observed or reported injury or illness must be reported, and appropriate medical care must be provided or sought in a timely manner.” CBP says they have no record the immigrants were injured when they were expelled back to Mexico.

By Milan Sime Martinic

US to allow temporary residence to Venezuelan refugees

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The Biden administration says Temporary Protection Status is necessary due to extraordinary conditions that make it unsafe to return to the South American country. The decision will affect some 320k people, said the government. TPS will allow a work permit, and a residence for at least 18 months.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Chicago considering more monument removals

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The city is currently weighing removing Abraham Lincoln statues, part of a “racial healing and historical reckoning project” that began last summer under Democratic mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The city removed a statue of Christopher Columbus a few months ago.

Other statues being considered for removal are of presidents George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley.

By Sid Douglas

Police reform bill passes US House, Senate passage more difficult

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The US House has passed a policing overhaul and accountability bill named after George Floyd which would ban chokeholds, attempt to end racial profiling, limit no-knock warrants, require body cameras, and establish a database to track police misconduct. The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Support and opposition falls mostly along party lines. The legislation passed the House with no Republican support with 2 Democrats voting against it. Republicans have branded the bill as a “defund the police” movement and oppose it in the Senate where party lines are divided at 50 each, and the legislation needs 60 votes to proceed.

The threat of a filibuster and getting 10 Republicans to join Senate Democrats are necessary for the bill to make it to Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession that requires highly trained officers who are accountable to the public,” said Calif. Democrat congresswoman Karen Bass, during House debate. Bass, one of the authors of the bill, has noted that there have been over 100 officer-involved shootings since Floyd’s death last year, with “numerous examples” of the officers not being charged.

Laying the groundwork for opposition in the Senate, Fla. Republican congresswoman Kat Cammack said “You say this is a reform bill, and I say that’s BS. Your own conference members have been advocating for the defunding of our local police officers, calling them names I cannot and will not repeat here today.”

To pass both houses, the bill will have to be the result of bi-partisan reconciliation between House and Senate versions.

By Milan Sime Martinic

New GOP narrative emerges it was Antifa and not Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol, FBI classifies act ‘domestic terrorism’

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Pro-Trump politicians and right-wing media figures Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Matt Gaetz, Sean Hannity, Wisc. Sen. Ron Johnson, MyPillow chief Mike Lindell, and a growing chorus of Republicans magnified by right-wing media are repeating the claim that it was Antifa and “fake Trump protesters” that stormed the Capitol.

Meanwhile, FBI chief Christopher Wray has classified the assault as “domestic terrorism.”

“This attack, this siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple. And this behavior, which we, the FBI, see as domestic terrorism, has no place in our democracy,” said Wray Tuesday at a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Despite denials from pro-Trump participants in the Capitol siege that there were Antifa supporters in their midst, Rep. Gaetz, who stood on the ransacked House floor and claimed that many rioters “were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa,” repeated the claim again at CPAC this past weekend.

The repetition of the new narrative reaches audiences that have been told for months by Trump that Antifa is a dangerous terror group, providing an alternative that could be easier to accept than that of MAGA fans as domestic terrorists.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Trump puts end to speculation, hints return to presidency

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Speaking at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference widely described as a “Trumpfest,” complete with a golden idol of himself, the former president announced he would not launch a new political party out of his Republican faction and instead positioned himself as the party’s leader. He did not announce his candidacy for 2024 but he repeatedly claimed to have won the 2020 election and hinted at a second and third terms for himself.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Mitch McConnell would ‘absolutely’ support Trump if he wins Republican nomination for 2024, ignoring insulting criticism and taking a long view

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Only weeks after appearing to lead the GOP away from Trump and a blistering condemnation of the ex-president as “morally responsible” for for what McConnell described as a “failed insurrection,” the minority leader this week told Fox News he would support Trump as the nominee of the GOP.

Trump, for his part recently called McConnell a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack.”

The difficult political equilibrium did not go unnoticed by Democrats, who see it as yet another example of a Republican following Kevin McCarthy and Michael Pence in a re-approachment they say compromises values to capture Trump support for future elections.

By Milan Sime Martinic

Mythical place for the history of rock in Hollywood closes abruptly after 22 years

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The iconic hotel The Standard on the Sunset Strip was a perennial bastion for Hollywood stars and a legendary boutique hotel, and was said to have been a model for boutique hotels worldwide. It closed after losing its lease.

By Milan Sime Martinic