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DeAnza Rape Case: State Attorney to Review DA's Decision

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 4:00 PM EDT

deanza%20rape.jpg

Remember that case that got everyone so riled up a couple weeks back? Well, apparently the California State Attorney's office is heeding the public's protests. The office has decided to review District Attorney Dolores Carr's controversial decision not to prosecute the men who allegedly gang-raped a 17-year-old, intoxicated, girl at a house party at a DeAnza College baseball player's house back in March.

The DA said her office did not have enough evidence to confidently prosecute the case, despite three eyewitnesses. Women's groups, community activists, and the media quickly called foul. Carr gave her reasons in an editorial in the local paper, where she detailed why she believed there's not enough evidence to go forward.

Carr wrote that the intoxication of the alleged perpetrators, victim, and witnesses would make it difficult to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the victim did not give consent AND that her alleged attackers knew it. She saluted the courage of the eyewitnesses but said that they "only saw the last 30 to 60 seconds of a two-hour party," and their testimony was just part of a body of evidence rife with conflicting accounts.

Carr's editorial did not squelch the demand for a trial, however. The Santa Clara County sheriff's office is pursuing the case, perhaps especially now that the victim is speaking out (albeit, via representatives). The girl, who has since moved out of the area, says she deserves "her day in court."

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Man Falls from Heaven; Pope Doesn't Notice

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

Yesterday, as the Pope waved his way down a crowd-lined street in Vatican City, one enterprising young man decided to leap, belly-flop style, into the Popemobile. This is a must-see video: The Pope doesn't even notice as a gaggle of security officers wrestle the man to the ground right behind him.

Pomp And Nonsense

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 2:48 PM EDT

First there was the pregnant Alabama senior who was not allowed on stage to receive her diploma (though the father of her child was permitted to). Then there were the students in Michigan who painted over some gay-hating graffiti and were not allowed to attend their own graduation ceremony.

Now there are five Illinois students who were denied diplomas at their commencement ceremony because--wait for it--there were cheers when they walked across the stage. There are rules at the school that were designed to "restore graduation decorum."

It gets worse. School administrators wanted the five students to track down the cheering audience members. Like it is their job. Like they would obtain an accurate round-up. Like anyone cares.

The students and their parents met with school administators, who agreed to give diplomas to the students if they apologized, even anonymously. They did not.

An attorney for the students is sending a letter to school officials at Galesburg High School, asking the school to apologize and to grant the diplomas. There is the possibility of a court case.

Former Interim U.S. Atty. Inhales Helium Before Hearing, Shifts Blame to Colleague

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 1:10 PM EDT

Former interim U.S. Attorney (U.S.A.) for the Western District of Missouri Bradley Schlozman appeared before the Senate yesterday to testify about the U.S. Attorney firings. Schlozman was folded into the prosecutor firings investigation last month when evidence surfaced that Todd Graves (the U.S.A. Schlozman replaced) was pushed out to make room for him. Eyes are on Schlozman not only because he was the first U.S.A. to be appointed by the Attorney General, without Senate approval, under the little-known provision slipped into the Reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act last spring (the provision has since been repealed), but because his actions are suspicious as well (let's just say he is not opposed to filing voter fraud cases).

Prior to the 2006 midterm elections, while he was still a U.S.A., Schlozman brought indictments against four ACORN workers. ACORN is a voter registration group that does registration drives in urban minority neighborhoods, many of which are Democratic, and has been the subject of numerous Republican allegations of voter fraud. Schlozman's decision to bring these indictments contradicts DOJ policy regarding election offenses, which clearly states that election fraud cases should not be brought prior to an election, as they may influence voters.

Yesterday, during the hearing, Schlozman did not admit wrongdoing, but instead, like many of his DOJ colleagues have done during this investigation, he quickly shifted the blame, claiming he got the green light to bring the indictments from Craig Donsanto, chief of the Public Integrity Sector (the DOJ department that oversees election crimes). TPMmuckraker points out that it would be a little fishy if Donsanto, who basically wrote the manual outlining the policy Schlozman allegedly defied, gave the go-ahead (although, I am not discounting this, considering the blatant disregard of DOJ policy by many DOJ officials, which has been revealed throughout this investigation). TPM also notes that there is evidence (a 2004 email from David Iglesias, one of two U.S.A.'s thought to have been fired for not filing enough voter fraud cases) that this action is not in line with Donsanto's past position on these cases.

So, either Donsanto is not immune to the rampant politicization of the department or Schlozman is lying through his teeth. At this point, either is plausible. I hate to be snarky, but did I mention the prosecutor sounded like he was inhaling helium moments before he took the stand?

One More Note on Immigration: "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor?"

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 10:15 AM EDT

I managed to write a massive post about the new immigration bill's point system for awarding visas yesterday while completely missing the point.

As I explained, the new point system gives a visa applicant credit for being highly-educated, English-proficient, and employable in medicine, science, and engineering. It dings people who are poor, unskilled, and struggling with English. The point I missed is this:

Whatever happened to "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door"?

For centuries, hasn't the American dream been a poor man's dream? An immigrant with nothing except an undying work ethic has always been able to come to America to make something of him or herself. That's the story, anyway -- the one as a child I was taught to take pride in during civics classes, at the Ellis Island museum, and at my father's knee. I was told that every generation of immigrants coming to this country, dating back to when it was European immigrants like the Irish and the Italians, have come with nothing. In fact they've come precisely because they had nothing -- this is the country where you go from nothing to something.

Not anymore. We have prerequisites now. We'll have to change the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. I propose, "Give me your educated, your credentialed, your cubicle jockeys yearning to cash checks, the fluent doctors abandoning your teeming shores. Send these, the smart, the trained, to me: I lift my lamp beside the door of privilege."

New York Times May Have Been First Doubters of JFK Plot

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 9:57 AM EDT

I blogged yesterday about Time magazine's commendable skepticism about the alleged terror plot targeting JFK airport in New York City. Today, a quick update. Turns out the New York Times was skeptical from the beginning, at least a day before Time. Even though the NYT played their story about the plot big on their website, they completely buried it in their print version. Readers complained, and today the NYT's national editor responded:

"In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page."

Hear, hear! Next time a government official spews hyperbole, claiming with scant evidence that "one of the most chilling plots imaginable" almost "resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction," I hope the rest of the media and American citizens across the country exercise as much judgement as the New York Times.

Update: I love this attitude from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Josh is right, he'll never survive in the GOP thinking this way: "There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life. You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist."

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Proof that God Hates Rudy Giuliani!

| Wed Jun. 6, 2007 9:40 AM EDT

During yesterday's Republican debate, Wolf Blitzer asked the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani about abortion. A Catholic bishop, Wolf said, had analogized Giuliani's stance, which is that abortions are wrong but should be available to American women anyway, to Pontius Pilate opposing the execution of Jesus but still allowing it to happen. When a somewhat shocked Rudy tried to explain himself, lightening actually hit the building, cutting off Giuliani's microphone. Everyone had a good laugh and Giuliani put forward a pretty good answer in the end, but RG should probably avoid golf courses, swimming pools, and summer rainstorms for a while. Somebody's out to get him.

Elsewhere in Catholic news, a man jumped a security barrier and tried to board the popemobile while Benedict was riding in it. These are turbulent times for people of faith, surely.

Wilco Guys Own VWs and Like Them, Thank You Very Much

| Tue Jun. 5, 2007 11:13 PM EDT

mojo-photo-wilco.JPGChicago alt-rock elder statesmen Wilco have licensed tracks from their new album Sky Blue Sky to Volkswagen to accompany TV commercials featuring, for instance, the amusing antics of a tow truck driver who really likes the cute little VW GTI. Wilco apparently felt insecure enough about this decision to release a multi-paragraph statement defending themselves on their website. "We feel okay about VWs," the statement reads, in what I assume Volkswagen considers the indie-rock equivalent of a ringing endorsement. But Wilco didn't come to this decision lightly:

Massive Crackdown of Electronic Media in Pakistan

| Tue Jun. 5, 2007 7:55 PM EDT

It seems like General Musharraf is getting more and more nervous as Pakistani citizens continue to protest his assault on the judicial system. Now Musharraf's taking aim at the ever-critical Pakistani media.

On Monday, General Musharraf issued the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, "sweeping curbs on media" that bestow PEMRA with the authority to "seal channels, suspend licenses, make new rules without informing parliament," and increases the fines tenfold.

This follows the ban issued on Saturday which prohibits live TV coverage of the opposition rallies that denounced Musharraf's decision to sack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The popular Geo TV channel, whose journalists have asked General Musharraf some uncomfortable questions, is one of the victims of this ban.
The subsequent protests in front of the PEMRA office in Islamabad resulted in the police filing "preliminary complaints against about 200 journalists for defying a ban on rallies in the capital by protesting curbs on the media."

This incident is hitting major American media now, but the stifling of press freedom by the Musharraf government is nothing new. In April, Human Rights Watch issued an open letter to Musharraf about his attempt to "muzzle the media." The English language Pakistani paper Dawn has kept tabs on the "conflict between the Government and Dawn" from 2004-2007. Reporters Without Borders' 2007 annual report on Pakistan details the fight for press freedom, and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) calls the current state of the Pakistani media a "sickening crisis."

-- Neha Inamdar

While You Were Away...

| Tue Jun. 5, 2007 7:29 PM EDT

The surge is failing, but the government's focus, such as it is, is on Iraq. Yet the whole Middle East is a tinderbox, and while the United States flexes its military and diplomatic muscles in Iraq, the rest of the region is lapsing into chaos. The notoriously volatile Palestinian refugee camp Ain al Hilweh is caught in a battle between Islamic militants and the Lebanese army. Four have died. Meanwhile, in a televised speech to commemorate the Six-Day War, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians were "on the verge of civil war." Things in Gaza have gotten so bad that some Palestinian journalists have conjectured that many residents would prefer the Israeli occupation to the hunger and joblessness that have resulted from Israeli and U.S. sanctions. Lost ground in these difficult and longstanding conflicts means long-term problems. These, too, are partially attributable to the United States' catastrophic occupation of Iraq.