A Seattle police officer who issued approximately 80 percent of marijuana tickets so far in 2014 has been reassigned. Just over one-third of the tickets were given to African-Americans, despite them making up less than 10 percent of the city's population. Notes were attached to many tickets; these indicated that the officer had actually flipped a coin to determine whether to write the ticket or not. It has been two years since Washington citizens voted to legalize the sale of and recreational use of recreational marijuana. The officer's actions lead to questions about what role police should play in determining how best to enforce laws they may personally disagree with.
An American doctor stationed in Liberia has been diagnosed with the Ebola virus, one of the deadliest and most contagious illnesses in the world. Dr. Kent Brantley tested positive for the virus while caring for patients during the deadliest Ebola outbreak to date. He has been working in Africa since October 2013 for a charity, Samaritan's Purse. Brantley reportedly started experiencing symptoms he recognized as the Ebola virus last week, and he began isolating himself. So far 672 people in West Africa have fallen to the Ebola virus during this most recent outbreak. He was quoted last week on Samaritan's Purse's website saying "In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been healthcare workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals."
Several judges from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves NSA requests for bulk metadata collection, own and keep buying Verizon stock. Judge James Zagel, who has ruled with FISA since 2008, bought stock in the phone and Internet company last May and signed off on a government request to renew the metadata collection program in June of this year. Another judge purchased Verizon stock valued at $15,000 or less last October (investment amounts for government ethics disclosures are revealed within ranges of value). Another FISA Court judge collected a dividend from Verizon stock of less than $1,000. Verizon is the only known telecommunications giant to comply with the NSA’s bulk data collection orders.
John Walsh, who was appointed by Montana to be its U.S. senator in February, plagiarized his 2007 thesis paper for his master’s degree from the United States Army War College. The New York Times broke the blockbuster story Wednesday. Walsh is now claiming the plagiarism was a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. “I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” he told the Associated Press. “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.” In at least a quarter of his paper, Walsh, who had a 33-year military career, took from Middle East experts without attribution.
California just banned full-contact football practice for teenagers during the off-season. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that prohibits middle- and high-school teams from holding full-contact off-season practice and limits them to two full-contact practices per week during preseason and regular season. The restrictions come as nationwide concerns mount over brain injuries to players in the rough-and-tumble sport.
A Malaysian passenger airliner traveling from Amsterdam carrying 295 people crashed near the Russian border in Ukraine last Thursday. The United States said a missile hit the plane. Ukraine’s interor ministry says it was shot down by pro-Russian militants. Pro-Russian separatists have mobbed the crash site and are removing and destroying evidence that would be critical to any investigation. One rebel commander said his troops salvaged the Boeing 777’s black boxes (while another said they didn’t have them). Rebels can be seen picking through the rubble in photos. A rebel unit blocked a team from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from entering the site, even firing a warning shot at them. This story will continue to unfold.
A federal judge struck down California’s death penalty Wednesday on the grounds that it violates the Constitution because sentences are not carried out in a reasonable, timely, or organized manner. “Arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones... determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Judge Cormac Carney wrote. More than 900 of people have been sentenced to die but only 13 have been put to death since 1976, when the Supreme Court overturned a national moratorium on the practice. The ruling overturns the death sentence for Ernest Jones, who was sentenced to die more than 20 years ago. The ruling comes after multiple prominent judges have ripped California's death penalty for the chaos it causes. Carney's decision, however, was the first to decide that the delays were themselves a constitutional violation.
The Obama administration is standing by its word to send unaccompanied minors back home. The initial wave of undocumented immigrants from Honduras, which included children, was deported on Monday from a U.S. detention center in New Mexico. A Homeland Security official said: "We expect additional migrants will be returned to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in the coming days and weeks." Last week, the president asked Congress for $3.7 billion in federal funds to add more border patrol agents and judges to expedite deportations.
After days of rocket fire between Gaza’s Hamas militants and Israeli military forces, the United Nations Security Council called yesterday for a cease-fire. A statement from the council, which was approved by all 15 members, calls for a de-escalation of violence, restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine to achieve comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution. The statement does not give a time frame for when the cease-fire should take effect, though Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour said that Palestinians' understanding is that it should go into effect immediately. He warned, however, that Palestinians will be watching Israel closely to see if it adheres to the U.N.’s call.
Germany today asked the top U.S. intelligence official in Berlin to leave the country. “The representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the United States embassy has been asked to leave Germany,” a government spokesman said. That probably means the CIA station chief, but it hasn’t been confirmed. The move comes after two suspected cases of American spying as well as the longer-term battle over data-collection by the NSA.
The Republican National Committee announced today that their 2016 convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland beat out Dallas, Texas for the right to host the meeting at which Republicans will gather to select a nominee for President. Enid Mickelsen, the chairwoman of the RNC's site selection committee, said in a written statement: "Cleveland is a phenomenal city, and I can't think of a better place to showcase our party and our nominee in 2016. This committee was tasked with difficult decisions and was presented with several strong options to host our convention. I'm confident Cleveland is the right pick for our next national convention. Cleveland has demonstrated they have the commitment, energy, and terrific facilities to help us deliver a history-making Republican convention.
Cleveland's convention pitch was rooted in political geography and in a downtown renaissance that leaders said occurred after the city, which last hosted a presidential convention in 1936, lost its bid for the GOP's 2008 convention. Since that audition, Cleveland has added more hotel rooms and a new convention center.
Reacting to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli Jewish teenagers earlier, Israeli police jailed and beat American teen Tariq Abu Khdeir (15, Tampa, FL) in what a witness described as an "attempted murder." A day earlier, his cousin--Muhammed Abu Khdeir (16)--was burned to death. Tariq was on summer vacation with his parents and sisters in Jerusalem, visiting family. He was arrested on Thursday, when video clips posted online show police in riot gear repeatedly beating a young Palestinian and dragging him away. Photos of Tariq in prison show his severely bruised and swollen face—so much so that his mother says she barely recognized him when she first saw him after the arrest.
Missouri governor Jay Nixon vetoed a law mandating that women wait at least 72 hours before they can have an abortion. Not only did the Democrat denounce the legislation as “disrespectful,” but he also expressed specific concern for how it would affect rape and incest victims. Nixon said the waiting period was founded on a “paternalistic presumption that rape and incest victims are somehow unable to grasp the horror that has befallen them, and that government must force them to take more time to come to grips with their plight.” Missouri was on the verge of becoming the third in the nation to force women to wait three days after consulting a doctor to have an abortion. It does still have a 24-hour legally mandated waiting period though.
Hobby Lobby won its battle against contraception at the Supreme Court on Monday, marking the first time the country's highest court held that a for-profit company can hold religious views and have them protected under federal law. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that a small set of privately owned corporations are not required to provide contraception coverage for employees. Hobby Lobby sued the federal government, claiming the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate for employer-provided insurance violated its religious beliefs and First Amendment rights. The court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows for family-owned and closely held for-profit companies to enjoy the same exemptions as nonprofits for contraception objectors. The five conservatives who sided with Hobby Lobby qualified their opinion, though, making clear that the decision only applies to the contraception mandate.
Authoring the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs.” Other insurance mandates, like blood transfusions or vaccinations, may still proceed. The court also stressed that the ruling does not protect employers from engaging in illegal discrimination under the pretense of religious faith. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg denounced the ruling, saying “it discounts the disadvantages religion-based opt-outs impose on others, in particular, employees who do not share their employer’s religious beliefs.”