Bob Barr on Troy Davis. A death penalty supporter, ex-Congressman Barr lives to regret a bill he co-wrote that blocks appeals and gets down to the killing. Under this law courts are refusing to hear witnesses who now recant their testimony. In this recent Times column he mourns the foolish application of this bill in the rush to execution of Davis, very probably an innocent man. As a result the state of Georgia can schedule his execution at any time now.
By BOB BARR
Published: May 31, 2009
THERE is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.
Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis's innocence.
After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.
This threat of injustice has come about because the lower courts have misread the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law I helped write when I was in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system.
With the effective death penalty act, Congress limited the number of habeas corpus petitions that a defendant could file, and set a time after which those petitions could no longer be filed. But nothing in the statute should have left the courts with the impression that they were barred from hearing claims of actual innocence like Troy Davis's.
It would seem in everyone's interest to find out as best we can what really happened that night 20 years ago in a dim parking lot where Officer Mark MacPhail was shot dead. With no murder weapon, surveillance videotape or DNA evidence left behind, the jury that judged Mr. Davis had to weigh the conflicting testimony of several eyewitnesses to sift out the gunman from the onlookers who had nothing to do with the heinous crime.
A litany of affidavits from prosecution witnesses now tell of an investigation that was focused not on scrutinizing all suspects, but on building a case against Mr. Davis. One witness, for instance, has said she testified against Mr. Davis because she was on parole and was afraid the police would send her back to prison if she did not cooperate.
So far, the federal courts have said it is enough that the state courts reviewed the affidavits of the witnesses who recanted their testimony. This reasoning is misplaced in a capital case. Reading an affidavit is a far cry from seeing a witness testify in open court.
Because Mr. Davis's claim of innocence has never been heard in a court, the Supreme Court should remand his case to a federal district court and order an evidentiary hearing. (I was among those who signed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Davis.) Only a hearing where witnesses are subject to cross-examination will put this case to rest.
Although the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution last fall, the court declined to review the case itself, and its intervention still has not provided an opportunity for Mr. Davis to have a hearing on new evidence. This has become a matter of no small urgency: Georgia could set an execution date at any time.
I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but I am an equally firm believer in the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.
Faces five years for legally operating a dispensary in California
Charlie Lynch is the medical marijuana dispensary owner whose business, fully legal under California state law, was raided by federal agents in 2007.
At his federal trial last year, Lynch was not allowed to mention the legal status of medical marijuana under California state law while conducting his defense. The predictable—and outrageous—verdict? Lynch was found guilty of distributing pot and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
After several delays, Lynch's sentencing is scheduled for 10A.M. Pacific Time on Thursday, June 11.
Will justice be served? Or will an innocent man pay for the crimes of a government that is out of control? President Barack Obama has said he will stop federal raids against dispensaries in states that have made medical marijuana legal. Will that pledge make a difference in Lynch's sentencing?
Reason.tv has been covering the Lynch saga since it began. For more videos and information on the case, go here now.
This video was edited by Alexander Manning; additional footage provided by Rick Ray.
Approximately 3.20 minutes. Scroll down for audio, iPod, and HD versions.
The song "Whipping Boy" was written and performed by Chris Darrow. Courtesy of Everloving Music.
Go here for Reason's extensive and continuing coverage of Lynch's case.
And come back here on June 11 for an immediate report on the Lynch sentencing.
A robot snake, capable of recording video and sound on the battlefield, is on the way to join the the IDF's hi-tech arsenal.
According to a Channel 2 report - click here to watch the clip - the spying robot, which is about two meters long and covered in military camouflage, mimics the movements and appearance of real snakes, slithering around through caves, tunnels, cracks and buildings, while at the same time sending images and sound back to a soldier who controls the device through a laptop computer.
Able to bend its joints so well that it can squeeze through very tight spaces, the new device will be used to find people buried under collapsed buildings. The snake is also able to arch its body, allowing it to see over obstacles through its head camera.
Researchers studied the movements of live snakes in order to create the most natural and realistic robotic version.
The snake's cost has yet to be determined, as it is still being developed; however, according to Channel 2, the IDF plans to provide combat units with these devices.
Besides recording multimedia, the snake may also be used to carry explosives.
Senator Saleh Mohammad made the remarks a day after an explosion among a crowd of people around a US military convoy in Kunar province left 58 civilians wounded.
"I went to the hospital, I spoke to the wounded, I went to the site and spoke to the witnesses and now can say that the bomb was not thrown by the opposition but it was thrown by American forces," he was quoted by AFP as saying.
However, the US military denied the allegation, releasing a video to prove its troops were not responsible for the blast.
The US military also issued a statement, claiming that the blast was caused by a Russian-made grenade, a type of grenade the US forces do not use.
The Afghan official, however, said he had seen the video but "couldn't believe it".
Afghans are outraged at repeated US air strikes which have so far killed hundreds of civilians.
Last month, an air raid by US forces killed 140 civilians in one of the deadliest attacks since foreign troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
Admitting its forces failed to follow procedures, the US claims that the toll was only 20-30 civilians.
An investigation is underway over the murder of Afghan civilians by US troops.
Mr. Luce's mag does Satanism, porn, crack, Pokémon, and more!
From William Randolph Hearst's ginned up hysterical stories about marijuana to the "10-cent plague" comic book scare of the 1950s to The New York Times warning of "cocaine-crazed Negroes" raping white women across the Southern countryside, the media has always whipped up anxiety and increased readership via thinly sourced exposes of the next great threat to the American way of life.
And since the British sociologist Stanley Cohen defined the moral panic phenomenon in the early 1970s as hysterical overreactions to imagined threats to social order, no publication has done a better (by which we mean worse) job of scaring the crap out of post-baby boomer America than Time, the top-selling newsweekly that's dropping subscribers like the mythical meth mouth drops teeth. (Hot tip to Time: If you're looking for a cutting-edge panic to get those ad rates up again, we hear people have been freaking out about "sexting" lately.)
10. June 19, 1972: The Occult Revival
Why So Worried? Time warns that bizarre occult rituals involving black-draped altars, flashes of fire, and "goat-shaped images superimposed on purple pentagram[s]" are "being re-enacted all across the U.S. nowadays." The article describes "sex clubs that embellish their orgies with Satanist rituals," takes note of the Satanic followers of Charles Manson, and recounts two anecdotal news stories about a grave robbery and an alleged stabbing inspired by Lucifer.
Cue Ominous Music: "There is a danger...in taking the Devil too lightly, for in doing so man might take evil too lightly as well. Recent history has shown terrifyingly enough that the demonic lies barely beneath the surface, ready to catch men unawares with new and more horrible manifestations."
Oh, Just Settle Down: Time's warning that devil worship was sweeping the country was short on supporting evidence. While exact figures are difficult to come by, most estimates put America's Satanist population in the range of 10,000-20,000 people. The 1980s saw an explosion not of Wiccans and sorcerers, but of evangelical Protestants. But that only fueled the fear of Mephistopheles, as the decade saw America overcome by scares over the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, Satanic messages inscribed backward on heavy metal albums, and the persistent urban legend about the satanist origins of Procter & Gamble's corporate logo. In the early 1980s, a "Satanic ritual abuse" (SRA) panic swept America and Europe, during which Christian fundamentalists and repressed memory psychiatrists claimed Satanist cults were subjecting children to animal sacrifice, scatology, sexual abuse, and murder. Dozens of questionable prosecutions followed, including the infamous 1984 McMartin preschool molestation trials, in which seven people were charged with 321 counts of child abuse based only on questionable memories psychiatrists claimed to have recovered from children who attended the school. Subsequent studies showed the SRA phenomenon to be without merit.
9. April 5, 1976: The Porno Plague
Why So Worried? Porn, Time says, is sweeping the country, leaving our deflowered Puritan sensibilities in its wake. "The First Amendment may safeguard the rights of pornographers and their audience," the magazine posits, "but surely the majority of Americans who find porn objectionable have rights as well. Must they and their children be under constant assault by the hucksters of porn?"
Cue Ominous Music: The article quotes U.C.L.A. psychiatrist Robert J. Stoller, author of Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred, who warns that porn "'disperses rage' that might tear society apart, but also threatens society by serving as propaganda for the unleashing of sexual hostility."
Oh, Just Settle Down: Time was right about the increase in production and availability of pornography in the 1970s, it was just wrong about the effects. Two years after this cover appeared, the number of reported rapes in the U.S. began a 30-year free-fall, a period over which pornography became increasingly easier to obtain. Today, porn is more abundant and ubiquitous than ever, while incidence of rape in the U.S. is at its lowest rate since the government started keeping statistics.
8. August 6, 1984: The Population Curse
Why So Worried? Using an upcoming U.N. conference in Mexico City as its hook, Time engages in some Paul Ehrlich-style doom-mongering about overpopulation.
Cue Ominous Music: "The consequences of a failure to bring the world's population growth under control are frightening. They could include widespread hunger and joblessness, accompanied by environmental devastation and cancerous urban growth. Politically, the outcome could be heightened global instability, violence and authoritarianism."
Oh, Just Settle Down: Since Time's 1984 cover story, the world's population has increased from 4.75 billion to 6.78 billion people. This year, the World Bank's Poverty Analysis reported, "Living standards have risen dramatically over the last decades. The proportion of the developing world's population living in extreme economic poverty...has fallen from 52 percent in 1981 to 26 percent in 2005.... Infant mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries have fallen from 87 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to 54 in 2006. Life expectancy in [low and middle-income] countries has risen from 60 to 66 between 1980 and 2006." According to the peace advocacy group Ploughshares, the number of armed conflicts across the globe has generally been in decline since the mid-1990s (PDF). As for "authoritarianism," with the fall of the Soviet empire, a far greater percentage of the global population lived under such regimes in 1984 than do today. Even the massive population in China is freer (if not actually "free") than it was in 1984.
7. September 15, 1986: Drugs: The Enemy Within
Why So Worried? This Time cover story simultaneously fans the flames of drug war hysteria while acknowledging it may not be all it's...er...cracked up to be. The article admits that a vanishingly small number of people actually die of cocaine overdoses (just 563 in 1983, out of tens of millions of users), yet still refers to the drug as a "taker of lives." After suggesting that the country might be overreacting to drug use and acknowledging the drug war causes far more problems than it helps, the article concludes, "If Americans are willing to say clearly—to their workmates and schoolmates, to their neighbors and friends, to their communities and to themselves—that drug use is not acceptable...then even all the hype and excess may in retrospect be worthwhile." No, Time, it wasn't.
Cue Ominous Music: "To a nation that espouses self-reliance, drug dependence has emerged as the dark side of the American character, the price of freedom to fail. It is as if America, so vain and self-consciously fit, has looked upon itself and suddenly seen the hideously consumptive portrait of Dorian Gray. The country, it seems, is awash with drugs. Fine white powder pours past the border patrol like sand through a sieve. On busy street corners and in urban parks, pushers murmur, 'Crack it up, crack it up,' like some kind of evil incantation, bewitching susceptible kids and threatening society's sense of order and security."
Oh, Just Settle down: Overall use of illicit drugs has largely remained constant over the years, though individual drugs go in and out of vogue. Crack in particular was singled out in the late '80s; Time called it "the most virulent" form of drug abuse, while one expert quoted in a similar Newsweek article called it "the most addictive drug known to man." As Reason's Jacob Sullum explains in his book Saying Yes, studies show that the vast majority of crack users never went on to become addicts. One 1994 survey, for example, showed that 93 percent of respondents who had admitted to trying crack weren't using the allegedly instantaneously addictive drug as much as once a month when the survey was taken. Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman even theorzied in the Wall Street Journal that it's actually the prohibition of cocaine that gave us drugs like crack, likening the intoxicant to the bathtub gin that soaked the black market during alcohol prohibition.
More to the point, drug scare stories like this one—and Time has run a number of them over the years (see, for example, this one about Ecstasy, also mostly overblown)—have contributed to mass public panics that gave us the nation's odious drug laws, which while producing mass collateral damage, have had little effect on the actual drug supply.
6. May 7, 1990: Dirty Words
Why So Worried? Citing gangsta rap and heavy metal lyrics, raunchy comedians, and radio shock jocks, Time worries that American pop culture has grown too vulgar. The "new crude," Time frets, is different from the old crude of people like Lenny Bruce, because the new crude has no redeeming social message. "Today's sex talk...is almost exclusively from the male-pig viewpoint," the magazine scolds, and it features ample helpings of racism, homophobia, and other bigotry.
Cue Ominous Music: Time quotes a woman who says that after sitting through a comedy routine by Andrew "Dice" Clay, "she felt like a Jew at the 1934 Nuremberg rally."
Oh, Just Settle Down: The Time story offered no actual data that America was getting cruder, much less that it's anything to worry about. Andrew "Dice" Clay, the article's main bogeyman, was last seen getting tossed from Donald Trump's reality show for D-list celebrities. That doesn't mean American society has gone PG. But it's hard to argue that pop culture's comfort with bad language is anything to fret about. Since the Time article ran in 1990, nearly every measurable social indicator has been moving in the right direction, from youth crime to sex crime to teen pregnancy. America has largely grown more tolerant, too, even as ethnic, sexist, and homophobic jokes are widely available on iTunes, the Internet, and basic cable, most notably via Comedy Central's airing of Friars Club roasts. Time would return to the "vulgar culture" theme in 1999, with the cover story, "Are Movies and Music Killing America's Soul?" (Conclusion: Maybe!)
The Senate and House may be on a major collision course over the possible release of those photographs of detainee interrogations.
In an incendiary joint statement, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham are threatening to use any means possible — including a filibuster — to block the House from overturning their amendment blocking the release of detainee interrogation photos.
Some House Dems were incensed when the pair — with the backing of the White House — inserted a three-year ban on Freedom of Information Act releases of the pictures without notifying them.
After initially saying she'd back the ban, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is apparently wavering under pressure from the left wing of her party.
Word that Pelosi was on the fence prompted Graham and Lieberman to blast away, according to a snior Senate Democratic aide.
Calling the release of the so-called torture pics tantamount to a "death sentence" for some U.S. operatives working in hostile countries, Lieberman and Graham took the unusual step of vowing to attach their ban to every piece of legislation passed in the upper chamber if their amendment is removed from the war supplamental.
"We will employ all the legislative means available to us including opposing the supplemental war spending bill and attaching this amendment, which was unanimously adopted by the Senate, to every piece of legislation the Senate considers, to be sure the President has the authority he needs not to release these photos and any others that would jeopardize the safety and security of our troops.
"The release of the photos will serve as propaganda and recruiting tool for terrorists who seek to attack American citizens at home and abroad. We should strive to have as open a government as possible, but the behavior depicted in the photos has been prohibited and is being investigated. The photos do not depict anything that is not already known. Transparency, and in this case needless transparency, should not be paid for with the lives of American citizens, let alone the lives of our men and women in uniform fighting on our behalf in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"Let it clearly be understood that without this legislation the photos in question are likely to be released. Such a release would be tantamount to a death sentence to some who are serving our nation in the most dangerous and difficult spots like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is this certain knowledge of these consequences of having the photos released that will cause us to vote against the supplemental and continue our push to turn our important amendment into law."
All Things Considered, June 9, 2009 · Jamie Leigh Jones was a 20-year-old Halliburton employee in 2005 when she was sent to work in Iraq. She'd been there just four days when she joined a small group of Halliburton firefighters outside her barracks at the end of the day. One of them gave her a drink. She took two sips, and Jones says that was the last thing she remembered.
"I woke up inside the barracks," she says. "It was actually inside my barrack room, and that's when I noticed I had been severely beaten and was actually naked."
Jones had been raped, repeatedly. By how many men, she's not sure. But she says one man was still naked and asleep in the room when she came to.
"Apparently, he knew he was beyond the reach of any jurisdiction, so he was still brazen enough to be there," she says.
Jones was escorted by security to the company clinic for a rape examination. When the rape kit examination was done, the evidence was turned over to Halliburton security.
The young woman's breasts were so badly mauled that she is permanently disfigured. It has been four years since the attack, and despite the physical and circumstantial evidence, the Department of Justice has declined to investigate.
by John Le Fevre
According to the world's peak health body more than 28,000 cases of influenza A (H1N1) have been reported globally and over 141 confirmed deaths.
In at least two regions of the world the virus is spreading, with rising cases being seen in the UK, Australia, Japan and Chile.
One factor which prompted the move to a level six pandemic was that in the southern hemisphere, the virus seems to be crowding out normal seasonal influenza.
Influenza A(H1N1) first emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread to 74 countries.
WHO chiefs said the move did not mean the virus was causing more severe illness or more deaths, but the global nature of the outbreak, transmission and rate of infection is fulfilling the requirements of a pandemic.
Experts from the WHO say the current pandemic is moderate and causing mild illness in most people.
At least three US federal laws should concern all Americans and suggest what may be coming - mandatory vaccinations for hyped, non-existant threats, like H1N1 (Swine Flu). Vaccines and drugs like Tamiflu endanger human health but are hugely profitable to drug company manufacturers.
The Project BioShield Act of 2004 (S. 15) became law on July 21, 2004 "to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States by giving the National Institutes of Health contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures."
In other words, the FDA may now recklessly approve inadequately tested, potentially dangerous vaccines and other drugs if ever the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS) or Defense (DOD) declare a national emergency, whether or not one exists and regardless of whether treatments available are safe and effective. Around $6 billion or more will be spent to develop, produce, and stockpile vaccines and other drugs to counteract claimed bioterror agents.
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act slipped under the radar when George Bush signed it into law as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It lets the HHS Secretary declare any disease an epidemic or national emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. Nothing in the Act lists criteria that warrant a threat. Also potential penalties aren't specified for those who balk, but very likely they'd include quarantine and possible fines.Sphere: Related Content
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University study shows that introducing a new hybrid of the American chestnut tree would not only bring back the all-but-extinct species, but also put a dent in the amount of carbon in the Earth's atmosphere.
Douglass Jacobs, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, found that American chestnuts grow much faster and larger than other hardwood species, allowing them to sequester more carbon than other trees over the same period. And since American chestnut trees are more often used for high-quality hardwood products such as furniture, they hold the carbon longer than wood used for paper or other low-grade materials.
"Maintaining or increasing forest cover has been identified as an important way to slow climate change," said Jacobs, whose paper was published in the June issue of the journal Forest Ecology and Management. "The American chestnut is an incredibly fast-growing tree. Generally the faster a tree grows, the more carbon it is able to sequester. And when these trees are harvested and processed, the carbon can be stored in the hardwood products for decades, maybe longer."
At the beginning of the last century, the chestnut blight, caused by a fungus, rapidly spread throughout the American chestnut's natural range, which extended from southern New England and New York southwest to Alabama. About 50 years ago, the species was nearly gone.
New efforts to hybridize remaining American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts have resulted in a species that is about 94 percent American chestnut with the protection found in the Chinese species. Jacobs said those new trees could be ready to plant in the next decade, either in existing forests or former agricultural fields that are being returned to forested land.
"We're really quite close to having a blight-resistant hybrid that can be reintroduced into eastern forests," Jacobs said. "But because American chestnut has been absent from our forests for so long now, we really don't know much about the species at all."
Jacobs studied four sites in southwestern Wisconsin that were unaffected by the blight because they are so far from the tree's natural range. He compared the American chestnut directly against black walnut and northern red oak at several different ages, and also cross-referenced his results to other studies using quaking aspen, red pine and white pine in the same region.
In each case the American chestnut grew faster, having as much as three times more aboveground biomass than other species at the same point of development. American chestnut also sequestered more carbon than all the others. The only exception was black walnut on one site, but the American chestnut absorbed more carbon on the other study sites.
"Each tree has about the same percentage of its biomass made up of carbon, but the fact that the American chestnut grows faster and larger means it stores more carbon in a shorter amount of time," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said trees absorb about one-sixth of the carbon emitted globally each year. Increasing the amount that can be absorbed annually could make a considerable difference in slowing climate change, he said.
ROME – Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi urged the world Thursday to understand what motivates terrorists, and likened the 1986 U.S. strikes on Libya to Osama bin Laden's terror attacks.
Gadhafi, who was long accused of sponsoring terrorism, struck a provocative tone as he addressed Italian lawmakers on the second day of a trip to Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler. He said there should be no interference from the West over the governments chosen by other countries.
The speech got tepid applause and was likely to add to the controversy that has surrounded this rare visit by Libya's strongman to a Western democracy.
"It is not very intelligent to chase terrorists down the Afghan mountains or central Asia," Gadhafi said in the hour-long speech. "That's impossible. We must look at their reasons."
Gadhafi said he condemned terrorism, al-Qaida and bin Laden. But he said he was being intentionally provocative "to try and understand acts of terrorism."
He said that terrorists, in explaining their motives, might argue they are defending themselves from humiliations suffered at the hands of the West and from the depletion of their riches. He called for dialogue with terrorists, saying, "One must talk to the devil, if it brings about a solution."
Sarcastically, he asked, "What's the difference between the U.S. airstrikes on our homes and bin Laden's actions?" If anything, he said, bin Laden is an outlaw, while the United States is a country that should abide by international law.
Former President Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986 after an attack on a disco in Germany killed three people, including two U.S. servicemen. The Libyans say the retaliatory attacks killed 41 people, including Gadhafi's adopted daughter, and injured 226 others.
Gadhafi had long been ostracized by the West for sponsoring terrorism, but in recent years sought to emerge from his pariah status by abandoning weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism in 2003.