Archive for May 10, 2012

The Obama administration announced Thursday that it is suing Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, accusing him and his Maricopa County office of engaging in a pattern of discrimination against Latinos.

The announcement by Justice Department officials came after months of negotiations failed to yield an agreement to settle claims that his department racially profiled Latinos in his trademark immigration patrols. Arpaio defended himself in response, claiming the federal government is trying to tell him how to run his office.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, at a press conference Thursday, described this as an abuse of power case. He accused the sheriff of scuttling negotiations by refusing to allow independent monitors.

The Department of Justice lawsuit marked an escalation in the agency’s civil rights investigation of Arpaio and puts the dispute on track to be decided by a federal judge.

The DOJ first leveled the allegations against Arpaio in December, saying that a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights prevailed at the Maricopa County sheriff’s office, which covers metro Phoenix. Federal officials held off on filing a lawsuit as they tried to reach a settlement, but talks broke off last month.

At the time, Arpaio refused to agree to a court-appointed monitor who would help enforce a settlement. Arpaio said it would mean every policy decision would have to be cleared through an observer and would nullify his authority.

At a news conference Wednesday, after DOJ officials notified him of their intent to sue, Arpaio defended himself.

“If they sue, we’ll go to court,” he said. “And then we’ll find out the real story. They’re telling me how to run my organization. I’d like to get this resolved, but I’m not going to give up my authority to the federal government. It’s as simple as that.”

Arpaio’s office is also accused of punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish and launching some patrols based on complaints about dark-skinned people congregating in a given area or speaking Spanish. A crime was never reported.

The DOJ has been seeking an agreement requiring Arpaio’s office to train officers in how to make constitutional traffic stops, collect data on people arrested in traffic stops and assure Latinos that the department is there to also protect them.

Read more here.

Eighteen-month-old Riyanna has been called a lot of things: cute, adorable and now … a suspected terrorist.

She was called that on Tuesday night at the Ft Lauderdale Airport. She and her parents had just boarded a JetBlue flight when an airline employee approached them and asked them to get off the plane, saying representatives from the Transportation Security Agency wanted to speak to them.

“And I said, ‘For what?’” Riyanna’s mother told only WPBF 25 News on Wednesday. “And he said, ‘Well, it’s not you or your husband. Your daughter was flagged as no fly.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’”

Riyanna’s father was flabbergasted.

“It’s absurd,” he said. “It made no sense. Why would an 18-month-old child be on a no-fly list?”

Read more here.

Alec Loorz turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends, he’s also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The Ventura, California, teen and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change — the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013.

“I think a lot of young people realize that this is an urgent time, and that we’re not going to solve this problem just by riding our bikes more,” Loorz said in an interview.

The youth — represented, pro bono, by the Burlingame, California, law firm of former U.S. Republican congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey, a co-founder of Earth Day — filed the suit, Alec L. et. al vs. Lisa P. Jackson, et. al, in May of last year. Defendants include not only Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson but the heads of the Commerce, Interior, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and Agriculture departments. This Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins, an Obama appointee, will hear arguments on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint.

While skeptics may view the case as little more than a publicity stunt, its implications have been serious enough to attract the time and resources of major industry leaders. Last month, Judge. Wilkins granted a motion to intervene in the case by the National Association of Manufacturers, joined by Delta Construction Company, Dalton Trucking Inc., Southern California Contractors Association, and the California Dump Truck Owners Association.

“At issue is whether a small group of individuals and environmental organizations can dictate through private tort litigation the economic, energy, and environmental policies of the entire nation,” wrote National Association of Manufacturers spokesman Jeff Ostermeyer in an email. Granting the plaintiffs’ demands, he added, “would carry serious and immediate consequences for industrial and economic productivity — increasing manufacturing and transportation costs and decreasing global competitiveness.” The manufacturers’ legal brief says the restrictions being sought “could substantially eliminate the use of conventional energy in this country.” It also argues that the plaintiffs haven’t proved they have a legal right to sue.

The plaintiffs contend that they have standing to sue under the “public trust doctrine,” a legal theory that in past years has helped protect waterways and wildlife. It’s the reason, for example, that some state government agencies issue licenses to catch fish or shoot deer, particularly when populations are declining. The doctrine has never before been applied to the atmosphere, and it’s a trickier prospect, not least because the sources of atmospheric pollution are so diffuse and wide-ranging, extending to other countries whose actions the United States may not be able to influence.

Defense attorneys have, in fact, have argued that the plaintiffs are essentially seeking for a court to make foreign policy decisions. To this, the plaintiff’s attorneys counter that other nations’ supposed inaction on climate change shouldn’t be used as an excuse for the United States to do nothing. “That is like saying poverty exists everywhere, other countries have poverty, so it is ok for us to permit poverty,” attorney Phil Gregory wrote in an email.

While teenagers serve as the public face of the lawsuit, the idea itself came from Julia Olson, an attorney based in Eugene, Oregon. Olson founded an organization called Our Children’s Trust after watching the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth while she was seven months pregnant. Her idea to invite kids to become plaintiffs in a suit against the government was partly inspired by her colleague Mary Christina Wood, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at the University of Oregon. Wood has spent her career studying the public trust doctrine, most recently devising a strategy she has dubbed Atmospheric Trust Litigation to apply that theory to the climate.

Wood told Olson about a case from the Philippines, where in the early 1990s a combative environmental attorney named Antonio Oposa represented 43 children, including some of his relatives, in a class action suit to defend the archipelago’s small vestige of old-growth forest from logging firms. The children’s case against the country’s head of Environment & National Resources was ultimately upheld by the Philippines’ Supreme Court, inspiring similar suits throughout the world.

Olson and other supporters of the suit believe that having kids as plaintiffs makes a particularly visceral appeal to adults to take action. Indeed, many of the adults involved said that their own children and grandchildren had inspired them. “Becoming a grandfather motivated me to speak out,” said climate scientist James Hansen, the director of the U.S. NASA Goddard Space Institute and the man who first brought Loorz and Olson together. Hansen, in his free time, is a conscientious objector to U.S. energy policy who has been arrested three times at peaceful protests.

Read more here.

Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenaged son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be named. The men have differing political affiliations, although they mostly lean Democratic. Buford volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Seed, a registered independent, has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan. All of them said that politics in no way colored their recollections.

“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in restraining Lauber. Buford subsequently apologized to Lauber, who was “terrified,” he said. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”

“It was a hack job,” recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.”

“He was just easy pickins,” said Friedemann, then the student prefect, or student authority leader of Stevens Hall, expressing remorse about his failure to stop it.

The incident transpired in a flash, and Friedemann said Romney then led his cheering schoolmates back to his bay-windowed room in Stevens Hall.

Read more here.

“Angry, resigned, helpless.”

That’s how one Northern California Internal Revenue Service employee described revelations that millions of illegal aliens are claiming and receiving billions of dollars in tax refunds for alleged family members in Mexico using a loophole in the tax code.

Knowledge of the scam has grown following a report by Indianapolis television station, WTHR-TV. The report documented illegal aliens filing the IRS Additional Child Tax Credit form for children – often nieces and nephews – who have never lived in the United States. To legally qualify, a child must be present in the filer’s U.S. residence for over half the year.

“We’ve seen sometimes 10 or 12 dependents, most times nieces and nephews, on these tax forms,” a tax preparer-turned-whistleblower told WTHR News. “The more you put on there, the more you get back.”

“Here’s a return right here: we’ve got a $10,300 refund for nine nieces and nephews.”

“We’re getting an $11,000 refund on this tax return. There’s seven nieces and nephews,” he said, pointing to another set of documents. “I can bring out stacks and stacks. It’s just so easy it’s ridiculous.”

Last year, the Indiana whistleblower reported dozens of cases to the IRS of undocumented workers using phony documents and false income to claim tax credits. Nothing happened.

“These were fraudulent, 100 percent fraudulent tax returns, but I got no response; absolutely none. We never heard a thing,” he said. “To me, it’s clear the IRS is letting this happen.”

Of course, this problem was not a revelation to the Northern California IRS field-office worker who viewed the report: “The fraud has been going on for years,” he told WND. “Business as usual.”

“As the video indicates the Service does nothing,” he said, asking WND not use his name to avoid reprisal.

As a result, illegal aliens who are defrauding the system not only manage to pay no federal income taxes, their abuse of the credit means they get back everything they paid into Social Security and more.

Ironically, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said said last month paying taxes should be considered one of the pathways to citizenship for illegal aliens.

Based on what comes across his desk, he has seen the problem burgeon in tax returns filed by Spanish-language tax preparers. Calling them “the enablers and catalyst of this fraud,” the Northern California field-office agent noted their clients are more comfortable working with preparers who speak their language. The preparers educate their clients about greater returns they can receive the following year if they qualify family members for the Additional Child Tax Credit refund. It’s a win-win-lose – the client learns how to get more money back from the IRS, the preparer generates good will and repeat business, and the U.S. taxpayers get soaked. Knowledge of the scam then spreads by word of mouth.

While agreeing the Additional Child Tax Credit was a major problem, he said it should not be the primary focus.

“When reviewing the big picture of this fraud, always remember and never forget that it is the ITIN that opens the portal to obtaining the credit,” he said.

Read more here.

Expert: ‘All of this should be blatantly illegal. Let’s let a jury decide’

“It’s welcome news that a major news organization has notified the public about Facebook’s use by pedophiles, but I don’t believe it’s news at Facebook headquarters.”

That statement comes from Patrick Trueman, and he knows all about bringing child rapists and pornographers to justice – because he’s former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Trueman, now president of Morality in Media, is reacting to WND’s explosive four-part series exposing child-pornography trading circles on Facebook.

‘Facebook should be deeply embarrassed’

As part of an undercover news investigation, WND used alias Facebook profiles and located dozens of child-porn images after “friending” many likely pedophiles and predators who trade thousands of pornographic photos on the social network.

During the investigation, entire Facebook predator communities were easily spotted. Child pornographers use groups as meet-up points to find others with similar interests. Many of the offenders would list similar interests on their profile pages, including terms such as “Thirteen,” “Lolita,” “Justin Bieber,” “incest” and “PTHC (preteen hard-core pornography).” Their activities might include “Receiving nude pics,” and they subscribe to explicit Facebook fan pages posted in plain sight. WND immediately reported images of child pornography and child sexual abuse to the FBI.

Twenty-five years ago, Trueman explained, pedophiles used a first-generation social-networking system known as the Usenet, which resembled a giant world-wide bulletin board system where people could start communities of any interest. He said they were largely unmonitored.

“Even then, the Justice Department was prosecuting pedophiles who were trading child pornography on Usenet sites, and the Department learned quickly that any unmonitored system would be used by criminals with pedophiles among the first to exploit them,” Trueman said. “Facebook should be deeply embarrassed not to have prevented such a use by filtering the use of those terms, and spending some of the billions of dollars they make to protect children.”

He added, “As a private business, they have the right to protect themselves and their users, they simply appear to have decided not to. If Chelsea Schilling hadn’t educated America, they would have been able to pretend that Facebook was not a magnet for illicit activity.”

Why, after 25 years, hasn’t anything been done about this problem?

Trueman said it’s because the one agency that could do something about it has refused to act and prosecute adult obscenity that promotes, seduces and invites viewers of such material to go ever deeper into deviant sexual activity.

“Instead, the Justice Department pursues only cases involving bestiality and gross deviancy,” he said. “This strategy has never worked in any other law enforcement context, and the attorney general knows this. This strategy has allowed the entire spectrum of illegal pornography so that now there are so many child pornography cases that they cannot all be prosecuted.”

Dawn Hawkins is executive director for Morality in Media, which has a website and Facebook page called “Porn Harms.” She told WND that the organization has witnessed the problem of child pornography on Facebook firsthand.

“In the last month, about five to 10 people join our page a day who have child pornography as their profile picture,” she said. “Many more join who have adult pornography as their profile picture. We always report them to that National Center’s CyberTipline, but we noticed last week when we started keeping track that many were not taken down right away.”

Read more here.

A joint drill between military and police in South Florida involving troops storming a building in the middle of the night was characterized by local media coverage not as a frightening example of how Americans are being acclimatized to accept a state of martial law but as a ‘cool tourist story’.

Panic-stricken residents in Coconut Grove were awoken at 1am to the sound of simulated gunfire and explosions as military helicopters hovered over buildings and dispatched troops to the ground.

The Department of Defense drills prompted a deluge of 911 calls, but instead of asking why the military is terrifying American citizens on U.S. soil with drills designed to acclimate the public to accept martial law, local news station WSVN-TV framed the incident as a ‘cool tourist story’.

“Miami police assisted in overseeing the exercises — but they were instructed to keep quiet about the exercises until late Monday, for security reasons. The police also blocked off roads around the Grand Bay during the exercise,” reports the Miami Herald.