Mojo - 2013...nd-your-ground

The Outrage Continues: An Alabama Man Who Raped a Teen Still Won't Do Prison Time Under His New Sentence

| Fri Dec. 27, 2013 7:00 AM EST

The Alabama man who was allowed to walk free after being convicted of rape has had his probation extended by two years, but he still won't have to serve prison time under a new, supposedly stiffer sentence handed down this week.

In September, a jury in Limestone County, Alabama found 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem guilty of raping his teenaged neighbor, Courtney Andrews, three times—twice when she was 14, and once when was she was 18. County Judge James Woodroof theoretically sentenced Clem to 40 years in prison. But Woodroof structured the sentence so that Clem would only serve three years probation, plus two years in the Limestone County corrections program for nonviolent criminals, which would allow Clem to work and live in the community. Only if Clem violated his probation would he be required to serve the prison time.

Clem's lenient sentence touched off a national outcry, and Andrews eventually appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show to call for tougher punishment. In early December, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals found that the sentence was illegal and ordered Woodroof to mete out a stiffer penalty. But Clem's new sentence, which Woodroof handed down Monday, only extends Clem's probation from three to five years. And if Clem violates the terms of his probation, he will only have to serve 35 years in prison—less than he would have under his initial sentence.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 27, 2013

Fri Dec. 27, 2013 7:00 AM EST

Marines and sailors with Ragnarok Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group tramp through the sands of Onslow Beach aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 13, 2013. The sand simulated snow, which the service members expect to hike through during winter training aboard the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., and Cold Response 2014 in Norway. (U.S. Marine Corps photo

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 26, 2013

Thu Dec. 26, 2013 7:00 AM EST

A paratrooper jumps from a CASA 212, Dec. 13, 2013 during Operation Toy Drop. The number of toys for the 16th Annual Randy Oler Operation Toy Drop continues to grow as special operations forces donate throughout this week at Luzon Drop Zone, Camp Mackall, N.C. Jumping from CASA 212s and a German C-160, paratroopers earned foreign jump wings from one of nine countries’ jumpmasters participating in this year’s Toy Drop after donating a new, unwrapped toy and successfully completing a jump. Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, Chile, Sweden, Latvia, Brazil and Netherlands jumpmasters participated this year. Hosted by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), Operation Toy Drop is the largest combined airborne operation in the world. The donated toys will be distributed to children’s homes and social service agencies in the local community. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Smolinski/USACAPOC(A) PAO)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 25, 2013

Wed Dec. 25, 2013 7:00 AM EST

A section of Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va., shows a fraction of the 143,000 wreaths placed at the graves of fallen service members during Wreaths Across America, Dec. 14, 2013. Thousands of volunteers helped place over 143,000 wreaths at the graves of fallen service members as part of the annual Wreaths Across America event. (Department of Defense photo by Sebastian Sciotti Jr.)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 24, 2013

Tue Dec. 24, 2013 12:10 PM EST

Marines from 1st Marine Special Operations Brigade file into a CH-46 Sea Knight before conducting parachute operations aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 12, 2013. Marines with 1st Air Delivery Platoon, Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted day and night jumps with 3rd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company and 1st Marine Special Operations Brigade to maintain proficiency and transition to a new parachute system. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy Childers)

Nine Gifts the NSA Will Hate

| Tue Dec. 24, 2013 7:00 AM EST

In the wake of the Edward Snowden-enabled revelations about the reach of the surveillance state, your more privacy-sensitive loved ones may have spent the year discovering TOR, making the jump to mesh networks or encrypted email, or mumbling about converting their nest egg to Bitcoin.

But now that gift-giving season is well upon us, what's left to get the security-obsessed person who already has it all? Tin foil hats have a timeless appeal, but here's a short list of slightly more practical devices:

Camera-Detecting Armor

Surveillance Spaulder Demonstration
stml/Vimeo

London artist James Bridle has thought up a wearable device known as a "surveillance spaulder," which—through infrared detection—would alert the wearer to surveillance cameras by triggering a small muscle reaction. While not "currently a functioning device," he claims the device is more than possible given the correct components, power supply, and a little bit of tinkering.

Anti-Facial Recognition Hats

 

NSA Hat
The Perfect Anti-Surveillance Hat?

Concerned about having your face detected in photos or by security cameras? If Anonymous' advice of wearing a mask or continuously tilting your head more than 15 degrees seems a little cumbersome, try the hactivists' suggested DIY project of making an infrared LED-fitted hat to tuck under the Christmas tree.

Camera-Confusing Eyewear

Anti-Facial Recognition Glasses
Anti-Facial Recognition Glasses
Isao Echizen/National Institute of Informatics

Not the DIY type? Professor Isao Echizen at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics may have the answer: eyewear that transmits near-infrared rays to render the wearer's face undetectable to cameras. Not only will this give someone on your list that cool cyberpunk look, but by keeping their image from being captured it will be harder to track their movements.


Face-Disgusing Makeover

CV Dazzle Make-Up
CV Dazzle Make-Up
Adam Harvey/ahprojects.com

For the more fashion-conscious, consider a haircut and makeup using style advice derived from WWI and WWII camouflage techniques. The project, created by NY designer Adam Harvey and known as CV Dazzle, uses "cubist-inspired designs" to break up symmetry and tonal contours, creating an "anti-face" technique the designer claims will confuse the detection algorithms of most facial recognition software.

HMAS Yarris in Dazzle Camouflage
HMAS Yarris in Dazzle Camouflage, WWII

Drone-Proof Clothing

Adam Harvey's Stealth Wear
Adam Harvey's Stealth Wear
Adam Harvey/ahprojects.com

The stylish options don't stop at simple facial recognition. Harvey's more recent Stealth Wear project puts together a series of heat-reflecting burqas, scarfs, and hoodies purported to limit potential drone surveillance. Simply put the clothing on, and you're blacked out to most thermal imaging. According to the website's rather garbled recounting of Islamic tradition, the clothing reflects "the rationale behind the traditional hijab and burqa," acting as a veil to separate women from God—only in this case, "replacing God with drone."

Reflective Drone Survival Guide

A field guide to various Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and tactics for hiding from drones printed on an aluminum paper reflective enough to "interfere with the drone's sensors." While the price is cheap ($15 or €10), the information is also downloadable for free.

M-65 Jackets

Military Camouflage
Military Camouflage
SPC Gerald James/Wikimedia Commons

Does your giftee need a new coat? Some military-inspired jackets—already made with a camouflage pattern known as Disruptive Pattern Material—also have infrared reflective coatings that make them harder to spot in certain lights.

Bug Detectors and Noise Generators

Frequency Finder Bug Detector
All-in-One RF Bug Detector

For the slightly more gadget-oriented, noise generators, surveillance bug detectors, and virtually invisible bluetooth earpieces could all make great stocking stuffers—especially for those particularly concerned with being followed or having their conversations tracked. The downside? They all come with hefty price tags.

Abandoned Missile Silo

Minuteman III Silo
Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons

Of course, if all else fails, you could buy a "luxury survival condo" in a converted Atlas missile silo for the strangely reasonable cost of $750,000 to $1.5 million. The company's press release promises "extended off-grid living" and walls "designed to withstand a nuclear blast." At this point, going inside a bunker and unplugging might be the only way to completely remove yourself from the NSA's all-seeing eye.

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The Real Reason Why Mike Huckabee Is Toying With a 2016 Run

| Mon Dec. 23, 2013 11:43 AM EST

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas turned presidential aspirant, has been largely inconsequential in Republican politics since he shuttered his 2008 campaign. Unlike the Sarah Palins and Jim DeMints of the Tea Party wing, Huckabee has played a small role in elevating party usurpers like senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The Christian Crusader has been mostly absent from politics, instead favoring punditry through cable news—a far more lucrative venture. As of 2011, Huckabee was earning half a million dollars a year from his show on Fox News, on top of extra income from his recently shuttered radio show and other paid appearances.

But being the runner-up of a now-distant presidential primary doesn't carry much political cache. So Huckabee has begun a concerted media effort to drum up interest in will-he-or-won't-he speculation about another presidential bid in 2016. First came a New York Times interview two weeks ago. "I’m keeping the door open," he told the paper. "I think right now the focus needs to be on 2014, but I’m mindful of the fact that there’s a real opportunity for me." Huckabee followed that up with an appearance on Fox News Sunday this past weekend, where he again played coy while highlighting his potential interest in a campaign. "I would say maybe at this point it is 50-50, but I don't know," Huckabee said.

First things first: A successful repeat of Huckabee's 2008 bid seems unlikely. The last time Huckabee successfully ran for public office was his gubernatorial reelection bid in 2002—not exactly material for a robust presidential campaign come 2016. Even if Huckabee chose to run once again, it's hard to imagine him carving out a space in the Republican 2016 primary. In 2008, he became the banner carrier for the religious right. Rick Santorum claimed that mantle in 2012 and appears poised to resume the crusade next time around. If Republican primary voters don't want a fresh face like Cruz, Paul, or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), it's likely they'll settle on Santorum, rather than Huckabee, as the next-in-line candidate.

So why the sudden interest? Well, as that Times article from earlier this month noted, Huckabee feels like he hasn't received his due for finishing second in the 2008 primary behind Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Part of that must be vanity, but calling attention to his standing in 2008 is also practical. Huckabee's political relevance is what got him his show on Fox. Prior to entering politics, Huckabee worked as a pastor, a solid life but hardly the one-percent dream he's living now. Thanks to that Fox News income, Huckabee lives in a $3 million Florida beach home. Huckabee acknowledged that it'd be tough to relinquish that lavish lifestyle when pushed in the Times interview. "And it’s why I’m not in a big hurry to do anything," he said. There's no better way to lock down that steady income than to rev up the media hype machine for another round of speculation about future presidential campaigns.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 23, 2013

Mon Dec. 23, 2013 11:12 AM EST

A team of U.S. Army AH-64D Apaches from the 1-151 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, S.C. National Guard, take off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., as part of an integrated live fire exercise with the U.S. Navy George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, December 16, 2013. While working with the Navy for this exercise, the 1-151 ARB mission was to find, fix and destroy small boat targets. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jamie Delk)

Miami and Los Angeles Sue Banking Giants Over the Sub-Prime Mortgage Debacle

| Mon Dec. 23, 2013 11:03 AM EST

Some of the cities hardest hit by the sub-prime mortgage crisis are fighting back with lawsuits against the banks whose predatory lending fueled the collapse of the housing market. Most recently, the city of Miami filed three separate suits against Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citigroup, claiming their lending practices violated the federal Fair Housing Act and cost the city millions in tax revenue.

The cases, all of which were filed in the Southern District of Florida, focus on the banks' treatment of minority borrowers. According to the city, minority residents were routinely charged higher interest rates and fees than white loan applicants, regardless of their credit history. They were also stuck with other onerous terms—such as prepayment penalties, adjustable interest rates, and balloon payments—that increased their odds of falling into foreclosure.

It's no secret that some big banks discriminated against minority borrowers during the housing bubble. Racial bias ran so deep inside Wells Fargo's mortgage division that employees regularly referred to subprime mortgages as “ghetto loans" and African American borrowers as “mud people," according to testimony from former bank officials. In 2011, Bank of America paid $355 million to settle a Justice Department lawsuit, charging that its Countrywide Financial unit steered hundreds of thousands of minority borrowers into predatory mortgages.

Lawyers for the city of Miami, which is roughly 60 percent Latino and 20 percent African American, argue that these discriminatory practices are one key reason that the fallout from the sub-prime lending frenzy hit the city so hard. "The State of Florida in general, and the City of Miami in particular have been devastated by the foreclosure crisis," reads the city's complaint. "As of October 2013, the State of Florida has the country’s highest foreclosure rate, and Miami has the highest foreclosure rate among the 20 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country." The city is seeking compensation for the drop in real estate tax revenue due to foreclosures, which have further depressed property values, and for the cost of providing municipal services to abandoned homes.

In a written statement to the Miami Herald, Wells Fargo called the discrimination claims “unfounded allegations that don’t reflect our corporate values,” while Citigroup insisted that it “considers each applicant by the same objective criteria.” Bank of America also defended its lending practices as fair and said it had "responded urgently" to assist customers during the financial crisis.

Miami isn't the first city to take on the banking giants. Earlier this month, Los Angeles—which claims to have lost more than $78 billion in home value due to foreclosures—sued Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo on the same grounds. Richmond, California, a working-class Bay Area suburb, plans to rescue borrowers whose mortgages are underwater by seizing their properties using eminent domain. Homeowners will remain in their homes and be given new loans for amounts that reflect current values. And the city will have a fighting chance of shoring up its dwindling tax revenue. It's a good deal for everyone—except the bankers behind the housing implosion.

When Having Condoms Gets You Arrested

| Sat Dec. 21, 2013 7:00 AM EST

Last week, Mother Jones' Molly Redden wrote about a recent Human Rights Watch report, "In Harm’s Way," which argues that aggressive policing in New Orleans is contributing to the city’s soaring HIV/AIDS rates. One tactic that Human Rights Watch found to be particularly problematic: the police harassment of suspected sex workers for possessing condoms.

Transgender women reported the police calling them a "thing," a "whore," and "a disgrace to America" while searching them for condoms.

At the heart of the matter is the vague definition of the crime of "loitering for prostitution," which invites arbitrary arrests and discriminatory policing. According to the report, police in New Orleans use the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution, even if they don't witness the crime underway. The result? Of the report’s 169 interviewees, all of whom had exchanged sex for money, drugs, or life necessities, more than a third said that they had carried fewer condoms out of fear of police harassment. More than a quarter had had unprotected sex due to the fear of carrying condoms.

Testimonies in the report describe police harassing sex workers, threatening arrest based on condom possession, and, in some cases, confiscating the condoms altogether. Transgender women reported the police calling them a "thing," a "whore," and "a disgrace to America" while searching them for condoms. Cleo, a 36-year-old woman, said, "In the French Quarter [in March of this year] I was at [a bar] with a man and the cops asked only the trans women to go outside and they searched us. If we had condoms we got arrested for attempted solicitation." 

New Orleans isn’t the only place where Human Rights Watch has documented condom confiscation. Last year, the organization examined the police treatment of sex workers in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, and found that police in all four cities were using condoms as evidence of prostitution.

From last year's report, "Sex Workers at Risk":

Police use of condoms as evidence of prostitution has the same effect everywhere. Despite millions of dollars spent on promoting and distributing condoms as an effective method of HIV prevention, groups most at risk of infection—sex workers, transgender women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth—are afraid to carry them and therefore engage in sex without protection as a result of police harassment. Outreach workers and businesses are unable to distribute condoms freely and without fear of harassment as well.

Over the past year, some places have made progress. In June, New York became the first state to pass a law prohibiting the use of condom possession as evidence of prostitution-related crimes. In Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Police started distributing "condom cards" and leaflets to sex workers and community health groups (Example text: "Individuals are allowed to carry as many condoms as they want. There is no 'three condom rule'"). In February, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS identified the usage of condoms as evidence of prostitution as one of several "HIV-specific criminal laws" that are "fueling the epidemic rather than reducing it."

Whether or not the New Orleans Police Department will act on the report remains up in the air. Last week, dozens of people in New Orleans marched in front of City Hall holding signs saying "Prevention Not Punishment." A New Orleans Police Department spokesperson has told local media that "to date, we have no record of the allegations made in this report."