Update, Tuesday, June 9: Dennis Hastert pleaded not guilty to the charges of alleged hush-money payments and bank fraud in a U.S. district court in Chicago on Tuesday, his first appearance since being indicted.
Former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted for illegally transferring funds to dodge the IRS and lying to the FBI, reports John Stanton at BuzzFeed. Read the full indictment below:
Where would you go if you wanted to smoke weed? Well you might start in Colorado or Washington, the two states where it's legal to smoke it recreationally (although that landscape is always shifting). But what if you didn't care about the law, and you just wanted to blaze based on financial considerations? Well, you'd probably still head to Colorado or Washington, according to a new map from Forbes:
Map courtesy of Forbes
Forbes used data from priceofweed.com, which gets its data by "crowdsourc(ing) the street value of marijuana from the most accurate source possible: you, the consumer." One might say stoners aren't the best source of financial data, but, then again, there isn't much stoners are more serious about than what they shell out for weed.
So good on you, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, California. And bad on you, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia.
In the midst of the Congressional debate about mass surveillance and a Senate filibuster of a vote on the Patriot Act, it might be easy to forget how we got here. Arguably, none of would be happening if not for Edward Snowden, the erstwhile National Security Agency contractor who rocked the world when he leaked a trove of documents exposing the US government's spying and surveillance operations.
Snowden took questions on Reddit during an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on Thursday. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some highlights:
It represents a sea change from a few years ago, when intrusive new surveillance laws were passed without any kind of meaningful opposition or debate. Whatever you think about Rand Paul or his politics, it's important to remember that when he took the floor to say "No" to any length of reauthorization of the Patriot Act, he was speaking for the majority of Americans -- more than 60% of whom want to see this kind of mass surveillance reformed or ended.
On the American public's apparent apathy about the NSA snooping revelations:
Jameel probably has a better answer, but we know from very recent, non-partisan polling that Americans (and everyone else around the world) care tremendously about mass surveillance.
The more central question, from my perspective, is "why don't lawmakers seem to care?" After all, the entire reason they are in office in our system is to represent our views. The recent Princeton Study on politicians' responsiveness to the policy preferences of different sections of society gives some indication of where things might be going wrong:
Out of all groups expressing a policy preference within society, the views of the public at large are given the very least weight, whereas those of economic elites (think bankers, lobbyists, and the people on the Board of Directors at defense contracting companies) exercise more than ten times as much influence on what laws get passed -- and what laws don't.
On why people should care:
Some might say "I don't care if they violate my privacy; I've got nothing to hide." Help them understand that they are misunderstanding the fundamental nature of human rights. Nobody needs to justify why they "need" a right: the burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right. But even if they did, you can't give away the rights of others because they're not useful to you. More simply, the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority.
But even if they could, help them think for a moment about what they're saying. Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
A free press benefits more than just those who read the paper.
On what people should do if they want to push for reforms:
Some claim the Senate should keep Section 215 of the Patriot Act (which will be voted on in two days) because we need "more time for debate," but even in the US, the public has already decided: 60% oppose reauthorization. This unconstitutional mass surveillance program was revealed in June 2013 and has been struck down by courts twice since then. If two years and two courts aren't enough to satisfy them, what is?
A few try to say that Section 215 is legal. It's not. Help them understand.
The bottom line is we need people everywhere -- in the US, outside the US, and especially within their own communities -- to push back and challenge anybody defending these programs. More than anything, we need to ordinary people to make it clear that a vote in favor of the extension or reauthorization of mass surveillance authorities is a vote in favor of a program that is illegal, ineffective, and illiberal.
On whether kids should pursue careers in cryptography:
Yes, but good luck keeping tabs on them as teens.
"Where have you been?" "Out." "If you don't tell me, I'll just check your ph-- Oh."
On the potential of coming back to the states one day (the questioner said, "I hope so!"):
Me too. The White House has been working on that petition for a couple years, now, and the courts have finally confirmed that the 2013 revelations revealed unlawful activity on the part of the government. Maybe they'll surprise us.
Screenshot from police video of the shooting of Jason Harrison in Dallas on June 14, 2014. Harrison's family obtained the footage in a civil rights lawsuit and chose to publicize it.
From Ferguson last summer to Baltimore this spring, police killings of unarmed black men under questionable circumstances have sparked outrage, civil unrest, and a heated national debate about policing in the United States. As Mother Jonesandothers have reported, there isn't sufficient data available for determining how many people are shot to death or otherwise killed by police each year, or how the issue might be trending. But more such incidents appear to be getting captured on video than ever before, due in part to the ubiquity of cellphone cameras. The footage—not only from cellphones, but also surveillance cameras, dashboard cameras in police cars, and police-worn body cameras—has caused a tectonic shift in public awareness.
Below are 13 videos of fatal police encounters recorded between March 16, 2014, and April 4, 2015. Most of the suspects killed were black. A majority of the suspects were unarmed. In three cases, the suspects killed reportedly had serious mental-health problems—which may have been known to the police in at least two of those cases at the time of the shootings.
Mother Jones has contacted law enforcement officials about the status of these 13 cases: Investigations are ongoing in eight of them. In one case, now six months old, the two officers involved still haven't been questioned by investigators. Officers in the five other cases have been absolved of wrongdoing via local or state proceedings. (One of those five cases is currently under review by the US Department of Justice.) Three of the 24 officers total who were involved in the 13 cases are currently facing criminal charges.
WARNING: The videos below contain graphic footage that some viewers may find disturbing.
Suspect killed: James Boyd Race: White When: March 16, 2014 Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico Footage from: Police-worn body camera
What happened: James Boyd, a homeless man who reportedly suffered from mental illnesses for years, was shot by Albuquerque police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez after a standoff over Boyd's hillside encampment in March 2014. Randi McGinn, the special prosecutor appointed to take over the case in April 2015, told Mother Jones that she is likely to pursue homicide charges, originally brought by the district attorney, and will make a determination in the next few weeks.
Suspect killed: Richard Ramirez Race: White/Hispanic When: April 14, 2014 Where: Billings, Montana Footage from: Police dashboard camera
What happened: Richard Ramirez was in the back of a car that was pulled over by officer Grant Morrison. Morrison later testified that, after he ordered the passengers to put up their hands, Ramirez repeatedly dropped his left hand. Morrison stated that he thought Ramirez—who'd been identified as a suspect in an armed robbery the prior night—was reaching for a gun, so he shot him three times. Ramirez was unarmed. (In February 2013, Morrison shot and killed another man while on duty, and was cleared of any wrongdoing.) In January 2015, a coroner's jury ruled the action a justifiable homicide.
Suspect killed: Jason Harrison Race: Black When: June 14, 2014 Where: Dallas Footage from: Police-worn body camera
What happened: Harrison's mother called police saying that her son was off his medication and acting out, and requested help to get him to a hospital. When Dallas police officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins arrived at the front door, Harrison's mother stepped out, letting the officers know that her son was bipolar and schizophrenic. When Harrison came to the door, the officers told him to drop a screwdriver he was holding, and shot him when he failed to comply. According to the Dallas Morning News, the officers' attorney said that they feared for their lives, because killing someone using a screwdriver would be "pretty easy. It'll only take one blow." In April 2015, a grand jury decided not to indict the officers.
Suspect killed: Eric Garner Race: Black When: July 17, 2014 Where: Staten Island, New York Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: In July 2014, police approached Eric Garner on a Staten Island street after Garner had broken up a fight, and then started questioning him about selling loose cigarettes. NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his arm around Garner's neck from behind in a takedown maneuver and held Garner on the ground as Garner repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." Garner was later pronounced dead at the hospital. In December 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo.
Suspect killed: John Crawford III Race: Black Where: August 5, 2014 Where: Beavercreek, Ohio Footage from: Walmart surveillance camera
What happened: Crawford, 22, was walking around in a Walmart holding a BB gun that had been for sale on the store's shelves. Responding to a 911 call about a man waving a gun, Beavercreek officer Sean Williams and Sergeant David Darkow arrived at the Walmart. The officers later told investigators that Williams opened fire after Crawford failed to comply with their orders to drop the gun. A grand jury decided in September 2014 not to indict the officers. The US Department of Justice launched a review of the case last September, which is ongoing, a DOJ spokesperson confirmed to Mother Jones.
Suspect killed: Dillon Taylor Race: White When: August 11, 2014 Where: Salt Lake City Footage from: Police-worn body camera
What happened: Dillon Taylor, his brother, and his cousin were outside a convenience store and allegedly matched the description from a 911 call about three men, including one brandishing a gun. Officer Bron Cruz confronted the trio and began following Taylor, who initially walked away with his back toward Cruz. Taylor then turned around and kept walking backward, and had both hands in his waistband, according to Cruz. Cruz said he thought Taylor had a gun, and he repeatedly yelled at Taylor to get his hands out, before firing two shots. Taylor was unarmed. In September 2014, the Salt Lake City District Attorney determined the shooting was justified.
Suspect killed: Kajieme Powell Race: Black When: August 19, 2014 Where: St. Louis Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: A bystander's cellphone video shows Powell, 25, walking around outside a corner grocery store after allegedly stealing energy drinks and pastries. As he paced back and forth, a police car pulled onto the sidewalk just up the street and two police officers got out. Powell, who was brandishing a knife, began to approach the officers (whose names have not been released), telling them to shoot him. After a pause, he took another step toward the officers and they opened fire. St. Louis Metro police chief Sam Dotson later stated that Powell "came at the officers" while gripping the knife. In February, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not request charges when it handed off its investigation to the circuit attorney's office, whose probe is ongoing, a spokesperson confirmed.
Suspect killed: Tamir Rice Race: Black When: November 22, 2014 Where: Cleveland Footage from: Surveillance camera
What happened: Rice, 12, was playing in a local park when someone called 911 and reported that a person, "probably a juvenile," was waving a gun around that was "probably fake." Police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback pulled up to Rice in their patrol car and Loehmann got out and shot Rice almost instantly. No charges have been filed in the case. As Mother Jones first reported last week, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department, which took control of the case in January, has yet to interview the two officers in its ongoing investigation.
Suspect killed: Jerame Reid Race: Black When: December 30, 2014 Where: Bridgeton, New Jersey Footage from: Dashboard camera
What happened: Reid was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign. Officers Braheme Days and Roger Worley approached the car, and despite verbal warnings from the officers, Reid opened his door and reportedly got out of the car with his hands up, after saying "I ain't doing nothing. I'm not reaching for nothing, bro," according to the Associated Press. Both Days and Worley shot him. The officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, and Reid's family has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the city of Bridgeton. (Days is also facing a separate lawsuit for alleged rape.)
Suspect killed: Antonio Zambrano-Montes Race: Hispanic When: February 10, 2015 Where: Pasco, Washington Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: After responding to a call of a man throwing rocks in a grocery store parking lot, three Pasco police officers tried to arrest Zambrano. They pursued him on foot, shooting at him as he ran, and they fired at close range as he turned around to face them. In the video, his hands appear to have been empty. Officers Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright, and Adrian Alaniz were placed on paid leave, and an investigation is ongoing.
Suspect killed: Charly Keunang Race: Black When: March 1, 2015 Where: Los Angeles Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: Six police officers were responding to a 911 call about an alleged robbery and assault on LA's Skid Row, in which Keunang was reportedly a suspect. During a struggle with police, Keunang, who reportedly suffered from mental health problems,allegedly reached for an officer's gun, prompting several officers to open fire. The three officers who fired their guns—Sergeant Chand Syed, and Officers Francisco Martinez and Daniel Torres—have been reassigned to administrative duty and an internal police department investigation is ongoing, the LAPD confirmed to Mother Jones. Keunang's family has filed a $20 million civil claim against the city.
Suspect killed: Phillip White Race: Black When: March 31, 2015 Where: Vineland, New Jersey Footage from: Bystander's cellphone
What happened: Responding to a call of a man acting erratically, police handcuffed and restrained the 32-year-old White. According to investigators, White became unresponsive and received CPR in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, where he eventually died. Police called it an "in-custody non-shooting death," but witnesses on the scene said the officers beat White and that a police dog bit him in the face. An investigation by the Cumberland County prosecutor's office is ongoing. The officers in the case, Louis Platania and Rich Janasiak, are both on administrative leave, according to news reports.
Suspect killed: Walter Scott Race: Black When: April 4, 2015 Where: North Charleston, South Carolina Footage from: Police dashboard camera and bystander's cellphone
What happened: Dashboard camera footage showed Scott running away from his vehicle after North Charleston police officer Michael Slager pulled Scott over for a broken brake light. In the following minutes, recorded on a bystander's cellphone, Slager caught up to Scott in an open field, and after a short struggle, Scott, who was unarmed, broke free and began to run away. Slager then shot Scott multiple times from behind. Slager was fired from his job and faces a felony murder charge.
You might have seen a map floating around in the last couple days showing what the most distinctive cause of death is in each state (see methodology and full write-up here). It was a pretty neat (if clinical and somewhat creepy) way of showing some interesting trends going on around the country.
To make the map (published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week), Francis P. Boscoe and Eva Pradhan, both at the New York State Department of Health, took data from 2001 to 2010 and calculated state rates of death for each of the 113 causes tracked by the CDC. They then divided those answers by the national rates of death for those specific causes. As Tech Times pointed out, the most distinctive cause doesn't necessarily mean high numbers. Rather, the map shows a cause of death for each state that occurs at higher rates than in the rest of the country.
Here's a look at what the CDC found, with the causes of death translated from medical speak into plain English: