Ted Cruz Isn’t Sure Gays And Lesbians Should Be Allowed To Serve In The Military

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/10/14/3712517/ted-cruz-military/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712517//

MT. PLEASANT, IOWA — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told Iowa voters on Tuesday that he wants to reassess whether gays, lesbians, and transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military, saying the armed forces should not be treated “like a cauldron for social change” with the government “trying to pursue sexual identity politics.”

A 27-year veteran from Mt. Pleasant asked Cruz during a campaign stop Tuesday what he thinks about gay people serving in the military. Cruz responded, saying the Obama Administration’s “latest thing” is to expand the military to transgender people as well.

“How about we have the military focus on what its function is, which is hunting down and killing the bad guys before they hurt us?” he said before transitioning to talking about how servicemembers are having their “religious liberty” violated.

When pressed by reporters Wednesday about what exactly he would do as president given that Obama has consulted with military commanders who approve of lifting the ban on transgender people in the military, Cruz avoided the question. But he did not deny that he would bring back a ban on gays and lesbians in the military.

“One of the problems with the Obama Pentagon is that it’s been politicized,” he said. “When commanders speak with you privately, their perspective on the department, it’s different from what they say publicly… What I would do as commander-in-chief is listen to the expert judgement of our military leaders and deliver it in a context that isn’t politicized.”

Terry Jerrel, the veteran who asked Cruz the question during his Mt. Pleasant town hall, told ThinkProgress that he has known at least five servicemembers who were raped while serving in the military. As a result, he would like Cruz to “go farther” than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and call for a ban on gay people in the military.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell really gave the people what they want and it’s a political agenda,” he said. “We don’t want gays in the military. Our mission is to fight, destroy, and kill and to serve other nations.”

Terry Jerrel served in the U.S. Army Special Forces for 27 years.

Terry Jerrel served in the U.S. Army Special Forces for 27 years.

CREDIT: Kira Lerner

When asked if he would like to see Cruz enact a firm ban on gay people serving in the military, Jerrel responded: “Absolutely.” He added that he’s a Christian and loves everyone, but prohibiting them from service would be in their best interest to protect their safety.

In 2011, Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a policy that he said forced openly gay and lesbian people to “lie about who they are.” Before the policy was announced in 1993, there had been an outright ban on gay people in the military.

But unlike Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which was passed by Congress, the ban on transgender people is military policy. In July, the military announced it would allow transgender people to serve openly beginning in 2016. Announcing the plan, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter explained that “current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions.” He recognized that despite the ban, transgender soldiers are currently serving and are “being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach.”

The decision was supported by gay rights groups and the American Medical Association, which adopted a resolution opposing the military’s exclusion of transgender individuals from service. A recent study also found that the costs of caring for transgender troops would be “negligible.”

The post Ted Cruz Isn’t Sure Gays And Lesbians Should Be Allowed To Serve In The Military appeared first on ThinkProgress.

When It Comes To Playboy, It’s Not About The Bunnies. It’s About The #Brand.

http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2015/10/14/3712502/playboy-bunnies-brand/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712502//

Playboy will no longer publish pictures of naked women. I know what you’re thinking: Wherever will you find photos of naked women now?!

The Playboy powers-that-be, still somehow led by nearly-90-year-old founder Hugh Hefner, are well aware that magazine has been edged out of the girls-girls-girls arena by the sexual revolution it helped to spark. (The internet will surely send Hefner a thank you note any day now; maybe it got lost in the email?)

The news broke, incidentally, on the same day that Esquire trumpeted its selection of this year’s Sexiest Woman Alive, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. Clarke is on the cover, of course, nude in the way that one presumes women in future-Playboy will be nude.

The juxtaposition did not look great for Playboy. Getting out of the nudes-only field isn’t a bad business idea (a yearlong subscription would set you back about $20, and why buy the cow, etc.) but the space Playboy wants to enter is pretty crowded, too.

The biggest moneymaker in the Playboy kingdom isn’t the real-life bunnies — blonde, busty, bouncy — but the actual bunny in the logo. Playboy makes the lion’s (err, rabbit’s) share of its profits from licensing its iconic, bow-tied mascot, which Chicago artist Art Paul, hired by Hugh Hefner as the magazine’s first creative director, doodled up in 30 minutes.

It is that bunny, the bunny-as-#brand, that still carries with it any cultural significance or value. The bunnies in the magazine? Not so much. Maybe there are still men who turn to Playboy to see naked women, just like maybe there are still people who turn on MTV to see music videos. Neither brand has been associated with what was ostensibly its marquee product in ages.

The surprise shouldn’t be that Playboy is doing away with naked pictures. The surprise should be that Playboy kept naked pictures for so long, claiming that under its plastic-wrapped cover was some rare, special commodity when in fact what it had to offer was just a dated version of what has been readily and plentifully available elsewhere for well over a decade. The surprise, really, is that anyone still cares.

Hugh Hefner, founder and chairman of the Playboy Enterprises, Inc., is pictured amid a group of Bunnies, at the flagship Playboy Club, in Chicago, Ill., circa 1960.

Hugh Hefner, founder and chairman of the Playboy Enterprises, Inc., is pictured amid a group of Bunnies, at the flagship Playboy Club, in Chicago, Ill., circa 1960.

CREDIT: AP

In fact, it seems like most of the caring is not directed at Playboy at present but at the Playboy of the past and, by extension, a simpler time. (From the New York Times: “For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight.”)

So sure, people care about bygone eras, and people care about the more abstract sense that technology is taking over our lives and innocence has been all but obliterated by the rise of the internet. But does anyone really still care about Playboy? Its circulation is 800,000, down from 5.6 million in 1975. For context, the top U.S. consumer magazine is that classic, titillating rag, AARP Magazine, which boasts 22.8 million subscribers. Then comes another AARP-affiliated magazine, then a decent-size drop to Better Homes and Gardens (7.6 million). Also in the top ten: Good Housekeeping (4.3 million), Family Circle (4 million), National Geographic (almost 3.7 million), and People (about 3.5 million, but personal experience suggests that could just be because it’s kind of impossible to unsubscribe).

Much as been made of the way the internet has Sherman Marched to the Sea through the world of print, decimating every legacy institution in its path: Fare thee well, newspapers! It’s been real, glossy magazines! See you never, hardcover books! And of course the internet is a cornucopia of pornography, its offerings boundless in variety and supply. As Playboy CEO Scott Flanders told the Times, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free.” What a time to be alive.

But it’s more than just the internet at large that’s essentially drained Playboy of its demand by flooding the world’s screens with supply. The two dominant social media platforms for imagery, Facebook and Instagram, have strict (though, many have argued, arbitrary) policies against full nudity. And in our culture of “pics or it didn’t happen,” does an image that’s never Instagrammed even exist?

This decision to, one assumes, strategically drape lingerie over models, seems to rely on a belief that the only thing standing between Playboy and success is the fact that its monopoly on full-frontal female nudity is a monopoly no more. Yet it’s not just sheer nudity that Playboy once offered. As every defensive guy you’ve ever met has surely noted, fiction by some excellent writers has run in the magazine — Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami — as have thoughtful, in-depth interviews with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jimmy Carter.

For models and actresses, a cover was a carnal-coming-out. It was a springboard to bigger and better gigs: Anna Nicole Smith, for instance, parlayed her Playboy debut into a contract with Guess Jeans. Three years after being named Playmate of the Month, Pamela Anderson landed the role on Baywatch that made her a household name. And beyond the bodies was the promise of a lifestyle that was unattainable but not so far off from a decently-paid post-war middle class. As Jeet Heer points out at the New Republic, this Mad Men target demo was eager to partake in a culture of conspicuous consumption, with the Great Depression well in the rearview and today’s recession not even a glimmer in a Wall Street banker’s eye.

But Playboy’s brand, which once signified at least something within spitting distance of sophistication, now sets a mood that’s less “jazz and Nietzche” and more “old dude in a bathrobe and sticky floors.” In an age where Beyoncé is backlit by the glowing label of FEMINIST, young women who want to assert their sexuality aren’t likely to do so in Playboy’s pages. Models who aim to earn their Victoria’s Secret wings are better off posing next-to-naked in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue; celebrities will never want for a Sexiest Woman Alive/Woman of the Year/Hot 100/Sure, We’d Do Her/Etc spread in this gentlemanly world. Both can emerge from those photo shoots with their preferred credentials — as serious actresses and musicians, as fashion icons, as feminists, even — in tact.

Hugh Hefner with girlfriends Kendra Wilkinson, Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison arrive at the Barnstable Brown Derby party in Louisville, Ky., Friday, May 2, 2008.

Hugh Hefner with girlfriends Kendra Wilkinson, Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison arrive at the Barnstable Brown Derby party in Louisville, Ky., Friday, May 2, 2008.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

The beauty standard beloved by Playboy hasn’t kept up with the beauty standards favored by, well, everyone else. Something about today’s Playboy still feels frozen in an early-oughts aesthetic, when Paris Hilton reigned supreme and Kim Kardashian was just some brunette sorting Paris’ closet. The trio of Playmates made semi-famous by Girls Next Door, Kendra Wilkinson, Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison, all have that long, peroxide-blonde hair, that Hooters-waitress build, that orange-tan sheen to their skin, like an Oompa-Loompa just back from the beach. There was a time when this was also the preferred look of mainstream female stars. That time was 2004.

What is Playboy in 2015? Well, in June, former Girls Next Door star Madison made the rounds promoting her book Down the Rabbit Hole, detailing her life as one of Hefner’s live-in girlfriends, in which she details her sexually disturbing, verbally abusive existence. Madison’s interviews generated a little backlash, a little backlash-to-the-backlash, and another book deal. But the main catalyst keeping Playboy ticking across that evening news chyron has been its role as the unofficial sponsor of many of Bill Cosby’s alleged rapes. Multiple women have accused Cosby of assaulting them at the Playboy Mansion. So if this news is a victory for anyone, it’s whoever at Playboy PR found a way to get “Playboy” in a headline in 2015 without the words “drugged” or “sexually assaulted” alongside it.

Playboy was intended, in Hefner’s words, for “a man between the ages of 18 and 80.” In a way, this is reminiscent of what all the late night shows are trying to do: Court all the demographics at once by providing some form of entertainment that appeals to everybody. Which is why they are mostly fast-forwardable hours with the occasional must-see YouTube clip you take with your morning coffee the day after they air. The monoculture to which Hefner catered no longer exists. And even if it did, it wouldn’t read Playboy.

The post When It Comes To Playboy, It’s Not About The Bunnies. It’s About The #Brand. appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Why Wait-And-See On Legal Pot Isn’t Good Enough For The Next President

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/10/14/3712484/dem-debate-marijuana-questions/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712484//

It’s early in the presidential campaign yet but two major strains of thought are emerging among the candidates when it comes to legal marijuana.

Hillary Clinton voiced one of them Tuesday night, saying she’d rather take a wait and see approach to legalization pending the outcome of state experiments.

“No,” Clinton said when asked if she was ready to take a position on federal repeal. “I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today.”

Clinton’s approach is also popular among the Republican candidates, although a couple of them have also said they’d fight to override state legalization.

The kind of benign neglect Clinton and others advocate would be better than a crackdown for businesses and consumers in Colorado, Washington, and elsewhere. But the status quo in legalization states suggests that such a hands-off approach wouldn’t produce the kind of clean experimentation and innovation that might actually guide national policy down the road. Whoever wins next fall will have a lot of work to do to pull federal obstacles off the road states are trying to walk.

Businesses can’t really experiment under federal prohibition

The biggest obstacles to the legitimate pot business are bureaucratic. Business owners can’t get bank accounts, leaving them to deal entirely in large and growing piles of cash. They’re not being granted the tax deductions that are standard for all other firms, threatening their financial survival. Credit cards and small business loans are also out of reach – a gap that venture capital can fill in some cases, but a hurdle nonetheless to the kind of low-friction laboratory conditions that Colorado, Washington, and other nascent pot economies need to perform true experiments.

Cannabis’ ongoing Schedule 1 status under federal narcotics law is the wellspring of all that paperwork woe. Absent federal legalization, financial trade associations say their members will probably never form business ties to companies that are technically criminal according to the U.S. Code.

But even if Clinton isn’t ready to go there yet, there is a lot she – or anyone elected to the White House – would have to do in order to have these state experiments produce valid results to guide the rest of American policy on weed.

The Obama administration has tried to make the rough places smooth for pot shops. The Departments of Justice and Treasury each issued guidance on how retail banks can take deposits from cannabusinesses without putting themselves in legal jeopardy for laundering drug money. But existing banks have declined to take up the complicated, tenuous path to pot banking laid out in those memos. And when a group of financiers in Colorado set out to create The Four Corners Credit Union (TFCCU) to pioneer accountability standards that not only met but exceeded what the Obama administration had asked for, they still had their application for depository insurance denied by federal officials.

The hard-to-explain failure of that credit union effort – explicitly premised upon official attempts to square ongoing federal prohibition with state experimentation – illustrates the shortcomings of Clinton’s wait-and-see answer.

Forcing legal pot economies to operate in cash, choose between financial death and lying to the IRS, and rely entirely on venture capitalists for their bridge funding needs is a great way to undermine their function. Energy that should be going to innovating business practices instead must be spent worrying through day-to-day survival questions. Legalization’s potential to destroy the black market and reduce criminal activity is hindered when business owners have to manage stacks of cash that make them targets for robbers.

These are daily headaches for entrepreneurs on the ground, but in experimentation terms they’re foreign particles mucking up the laboratory conditions. If President Clinton would want to learn from the states before loosening federal pot law, she’d need to convince federal banking agencies to start authorizing outfits like TFCCU. Tribal governments may yet step into the gap and authorize banks chartered through specific Native American governance rules to begin taking pot business, but that avenue is similarly tenuous to Obama’s efforts.

Want fewer pot prisoners? Legalize.

The leading Democratic candidates agree that the U.S. should “stop imprisoning people who use marijuana,” as Clinton said Tuesday night. That idea is gaining steam across the ideological spectrum. But extending such mercy won’t mean very much so long as federal law still makes pot possession, consumption, and trafficking a felony even in states where it’s legal.

Federal prosecutors just finished sending medical marijuana growers in Washington to prison for terms ranging from a year to nearly three, even though their actions were consistent with state law. The Drug Enforcement Agency has flouted Obama administration policy statements by continuing to target medicinal dispensaries in raids. It’s one thing to express support for state experimentation, but quite another to get federal drug warriors to keep their cuffs off those experiments without simply legalizing marijuana nationwide.

So long as federal prohibition persists, marijuana enforcement will continue to produce racist outcomes. Marijuana prohibition originally stemmed from overt racism. As head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the 1930s, Harry Anslinger initiated a media campaign to vilify marijuana and its users that included frequent rhetorical suggestions that the drug would lead to interracial relationships between white women and black men.

Modern statistics show a far subtler form of racism is baked into the ongoing drug war.

About one in seven drug users is black, but nearly two in five people who get arrested for drug offenses are black. Together, black and Latino drug offenders make up almost 80 percent of the federal prison population for drug crimes despite accounting for just 30 percent of the U.S. population. The disproportionate toll of the drug war for non-white Americans helps reinforce racial inequities elsewhere in our society by making it harder for ex-convicts to find paying jobs and receive social services.

Full federal legalization would again be the cleanest way for Washington to eradicate these disparities in enforcement and to enable legalization state businesses to operate on a level playing field. Such a large change will surely become more plausible in time as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and other states begin to see big gains in both economic activity and tax revenue from legalization.

But that doesn’t mean the next administration can simply sit it out while the states do the heavy lifting and expect actionable results. From federal restrictions on pot research to keeping a tight leash on the law enforcement agencies that sometimes pursue the drug war even when explicitly told not to by the White House, the next president’s job on marijuana will be much more complicated than just waiting for state experiments to bear fruit.

The post Why Wait-And-See On Legal Pot Isn’t Good Enough For The Next President appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Saudi Man Faces Beheading For Protesting As A Teenager

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/10/14/3712431/saudi-execution/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712431//

Ali Mohammad al-Nimr was 17 years old when he was arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities for his participation in Arab Spring protests led by the kingdom’s Shia minority in 2011. Three years into his imprisonment, courts have sentenced him to be beheaded and have his corpse publicly displayed. The sentence has garnered outcry from foreign leaders, international rights’ organizations, and the young man’s family, but Saudi officials have rebuffed their attempts at intervening on behalf of al-Nimr.

“I feel that one’s very being is repelled at such a ruling,” al-Nimr’s mother, Nusra al-Ahmed, told the Guardian. “It’s backwards in the extreme. No sane and normal human being would rule against a child of 17 years old using such a sentence. And why? He didn’t shed any blood, he didn’t steal any property. Where did they get it [this sentence]? From the dark ages?”

She believes that Saudi courts sentenced her son to death due to her family’s faith and activism. Al-Nimr’s uncle, a prominent Shia cleric and political dissident, was sentenced to death by courts in the Sunni-majority state last October.

An annual death penalty study conducted by Amnesty International found that Saudi Arabia executes more people than almost any country in the world. In fact, the country averages one execution every two days, according to a report on the country’s criminal justice system that the rights’ organization released in August.

The kingdom executed more than 100 people in the first half of this year alone. In violation of international human right standards, almost half of all the death sentences meted out by Saudi officials were for non-lethal offences — many of them drug-related.

“In many cases defendants are denied access to a lawyer and in some cases they are convicted on the basis of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture or other ill-treatment in flagrant miscarriages of justice,” Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International said.

That’s what al-Nimr’s family and Saudi rights’ activists say happened to him.

“The lawyer didn’t supply the court with any documents because he wasn’t allowed to meet Ali in the prison, not because of court but because of the prison,” Waleed Sulais, a Saudi human rights’ activist said. “The judge issued a letter to the prison that the prison must allow the lawyer to meet Ali, but every time he went to the prison to meet Ali he was refused.”

Al-Nimr’s mother said that her son may also have been tortured in prison.

“When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognize him,” she said. “I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not. I could clearly see a wound on his forehead. Another wound in his nose. They disfigured it. Even his body, he was too thin.”

She called on President Barack Obama to urge Saudi Arabia to pardon her son.

More than 98,000 people have signed a petition calling for Obama to negotiate the release of al-Nimr. So far, the administration has remained largely silent on the case. State Department spokesperson Mark C. Toner said that he was not aware of the sentence against al-Nimr at a press conference last month.

“[W]e believe that any kind of verdict like that should come at the end of a legal process that is just and in accordance with international legal standards,” he said, but could not point to any specific progress that Saudi Arabia had made to improve its human rights record.

Foreign officials, including the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, have raised the issue of al-Nimr’s execution with Saudi leaders and Prime Minister David Cameron said that he would attempt to do so personally as well.

Saudi Arabian officials, however, have not appreciated the input from foreign governments on al-Nimr’s case.

Abdallah al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the BBC as much in an interview on Friday.

“We respectfully request the world to respect our systems and our judicial processes, and our laws and regulations, and not to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” he said. “We believe that we are holding ourselves to the highest standards. If that doesn’t please someone here or there, that’s their problem not ours.”

The Saudi Arabian Embassy in the U.K. made the same point just days before al-Mouallimi’s interview.


The resistance of Saudi Arabia to international critique of its human rights’ record despite its strong relationship with the U.S. and U.K. has long been a concern to international advocacy organizations. Their concerns only mounted, however, when the kingdom was elected to the top position in the U.N.’s Human Rights Council last month.

“It is scandalous that the U.N. chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key human rights panel,” Hillel Neuer of U.N. Watch said following the announcement.

Leaked diplomatic cables revealed that the U.K. supported Saudi Arabia’s bid for the Human Rights Council position. The cables, which were passed to Wikileaks, also showed that Saudi Arabia transferred $100,000 to the U.K. for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016.”

On Tuesday, the U.K. announced that it was withdrawing its bid for a contract worth several million dollars to deliver training to Saudi Arabia’s prison system. The move came on the same day that Cameron said he called on Saudi authorities not to carry out a sentence of 360 lashes on a British man who was caught transporting homemade wine in the country.

Advocacy organizations are asking on the U.K. to use its influence with Saudi Arabia to call for al-Nimr’s pardon, which would be rare, but without precedent.

“The king and the government [of Saudi Arabia] do absolutely have the power to pardon Ali,” Kate Higham of the advocacy organization Reprieve said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress.

Doing so, she said, would “show that Saudi Arabia is serious about the commitments it’s made under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention against Torture” — just two of the U.N. agreements that it is supposed to help enforce in its role at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

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A Comprehensive Timeline Of The Stalled And Sabotaged Investigation Into Tamir Rice’s Death

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/10/14/3711843/tamir-rice-prosecutor-fail/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/13/3711843//

Nearly a year after Cleveland police officers gunned down 12-year-old Tamir Rice for playing with a toy gun, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor released two independent reports finding the shooting was “objectively reasonable.” The reports are just the latest in a string of decisions by Prosecutor Timothy McGinty that have prolonged the investigation and hindered the case.

Upon receiving the report, the Rice family “now believes that the prosecutor’s office has been on an 11-month quest to avoid providing that accountability,” family attorney Subodh Chandra said in a Facebook statement. “Who will speak for Tamir before the grand jury? Not the prosecutor, apparently.”

Tamir Rice’s family has waited for a decision to move forward with the case for almost a full year, while other high profile police shootings around the country have reached decisions over indictments in a matter of days or weeks. McGinty has not yet presented the sheriff’s investigation to the grand jury, which has been in his hands since June. With the release of the most recent report, McGinty has suggested it could take well over a year to decide to indict the officers, let alone to begin to try the case.

With each delay in the process, the chances for indictment and successful prosecution of the officers grow slimmer. Witnesses move away, memories fade, and evidence tends to disappear.

Here’s a timeline of the actions that have delayed a decision on whether or not to charge the officers who killed Rice over the past year:

November 22, 2014

Tamir Rice is shot by two officers responding to a 911 call. Though the 911 caller said the child’s gun was “probably a fake,” the dispatcher failed to pass on that information. Video showed Rice wandering around with an airsoft pellet gun before officers got out of the car and shot Rice almost immediately. The video also showed that instead of administering first aid to the dying 12-year-old, police tackled Rice’s 14-year-old sister and handcuffed her.

Two days after shooting: Prosecutor defers to a grand jury

Rather than simply bring charges against Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, as is in his power, McGinty is leaving the officers’ fate in the hands of a grand jury. Many prosecutors handling similar allegations of police brutality have deferred to grand juries as a way to avoid prosecuting officers; grand juries often decline to indict officers accused of misconduct, and it’s even rarer for a prosecutor to win a conviction.

5 months after shooting: Sheriff’s investigation still ongoing

The case was handed over from the Cleveland police to the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s office, which spent months investigating the incident. Sheriff Cliff Pinkney declined to set a deadline to complete the investigation. “While it would be politically expedient to impose an arbitrary deadline, for the sake of the integrity of this investigation, I am not willing to do that,” the sheriff said. “Of course that does not mean that this investigation should drag out beyond what is reasonable.” Departmental policy stipulated that investigations be turned over to the prosecutor after 90 days, or by the end of February. But the investigation was still stalled in May. Mother Jones discovered that Loehmann and Garmback had refused to be interviewed despite multiple attempts.

As he waited for the investigation to be handed off to his office, McGinty was coming off a failed prosecution of a police officer who fired 49 shots at two unarmed people after a high-speed car chase that ultimately involved 59 police vehicles. McGinty reportedly fought for the indictment and conviction of the officer, antagonizing the police union. But a judge acquitted the officer, spurring massive protests in Cleveland.

6 months after shooting: Ignores judge’s finding of probable cause

McGinty decided to set aside a municipal court judge’s recommendation to charge the officers. The judge found that there was probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and dereliction of duty, and to charge Garmback with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. Frustrated by the prosecutor’s delay, clergy members and community leaders used a provision of Ohio law to bypass McGinty and ask the judge to weigh in. McGinty maintained that he would leave it up to the grand jury.

6 months after shooting: Asks sheriff to make the call

WKYC reported in June that McGinty tried to pressure the sheriff’s department into sending him a recommendation of whether or not the officers should be charged. The sheriff turned over a 224-page investigation of the incident to the prosecutor, but refused to include a finding, which would have given McGinty some cover in his decision. “One hundred percent, unequivocally, we do not recommend, advise, offer guidance to the prosecutor’s office when it comes to charges in this case,” Philip Angelo, special assistant to the sheriff, told the New York Times in June. McGinty has flatly denied that he asked for guidance from the sheriff. Even without a recommendation of charges, the sheriff’s department report found that Loehmann shot Rice within two seconds of exiting his car, and that witnesses did not hear officers give Rice verbal commands before the shooting.

8 months after shooting: Dismisses petitions asking for indictment

Rice’s family delivered a petition with 60,000 signatures to McGinty’s office in July, demanding that he stop stalling on an indictment. “We’re here eight months later and there’s still no justice so him [McGinty] dragging his feet is an understatement,” Rice’s cousin told WKYC.

11 months after shooting: Releases report with biased experts

The reports released quietly on Saturday are not quite as neutral as McGinty has billed them. The two independent experts are a prosecutor, S. Lamar Sims, and a former FBI agent-turned-professor, Kim Crawford. The family’s attorney called them “hired guns” who have a record of sympathizing with police. The Guardian reports that two months before he was asked to investigate, Sims went on television to explain why the shooting of the 12-year-old boy may be justified. “The community may react to facts learned later, for example, looking round the nation, say you have a 12- or 13-year-old boy, with a toy gun. We learn that later,” he said. “The question is, what did the officer know at the time, what should a reasonable police officer have known at the time when he or she took the steps that led to the use of physical force or deadly physical force.”

Crawford actually issued a memo justifying another police shooting in the 1990s, using a claim that law enforcement can shoot at a “fleeing felon” when they believe the person “poses a threat of serious physical harm.” But the Justice Department rejected her analysis and eventually charged the agent in question.

One formal federal prosecutor told WKYC the decision to release the independent reports to the public before they were presented to the grand jury “compromises the integrity of the Grand Jury process.”

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Wisconsin Lawmakers Have A Plan To Let People Sue Schools That Respect Transgender Students

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/10/14/3712394/wisconsin-transgender-school-discrimination/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712394//

Two Wisconsin state lawmakers, Rep. Jesse Kremer (R) and Sen. Stephen Nass (R), have introduced legislation that would prohibit schools from accommodating transgender students who wish to use restroom and changing room facilities that match their gender. It would also empower anyone who notices a school respecting a transgender student as such to file a complaint and win damages against that school.

In a memo to fellow lawmakers distributed last week, Kremer and Nass insisted that “in response to recent incidents around the state” that they do not identify, “no student of any gender should be made to feel uncomfortable or threatened in the most private places in our schools.”

In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, Kremer said that female students shouldn’t have to worry if the person walking into the bathroom behind them is transgender or just someone who is “up to no good.”

The actual language of the bill defines “sex” as being “determined by an individual’s chromosomes and identified at birth by that individual’s anatomy,” erasing how students actually experience their gender. All school restroom and changing rooms must be designated “for the exclusive use of pupils of only one sex.” To make it perfectly clear, the bill specifies that “no member of the female sex” may use a facilities designated “for the exclusive use of the male sex,” and vice versa.

Though Kremer and Nass claim that the policy “will ensure that all students will be afforded the dignity and security they are entitled to in our public school bathrooms and locker room,” their unwillingness to accommodate transgender students suggests otherwise. The bill says that the only option for them is to use a “single-occupancy restroom” or “the regulated use of a faculty restroom.” Thus, they either must risk their security to use the restroom that doesn’t match their gender or be segregated away to separate facilities.

And if schools don’t abide by the discriminatory policy, they can be punished. Any student or parent can file a complaint objecting to a violation, which requires the school district to “investigate and attempt to resolve the complaint.” If that complaint “is not resolved to the satisfaction of the pupil or the pupil’s parent or guardian,” they are entitled declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages, including the reimbursement of reasonable attorney fees.

As the Department of Education continues to argue in cases of discrimination against transgender students, such treatment violates the sex nondiscrimination protections found under Title IX. Thus, Nass and Kremer would be demanding that Wisconsin schools choose between violating state law and violating federal law.

Since 2013, at least four transgender people have committed suicide in Wisconsin — two of whom went to the same high school in Racine. Just last month, a trans teen at Madison West High School similarly died by suicide after struggling with depression.

The post Wisconsin Lawmakers Have A Plan To Let People Sue Schools That Respect Transgender Students appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Lawmaker Mocks Black Ex-Marine Hit By Voter Disenfranchising Law: ‘Some People Enjoy Being A Victim’

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/10/14/3712082/alabama-rep-dmv-closures/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/13/3712082//

When Alabama lawmakers voted in 2011 to require photo IDs in order to cast a ballot, they assured critics that IDs would be readily accessible to anyone in the state who needed them, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status.

But after Republicans voted en masse last month to close 31 driver’s license offices — the vast majority of which serve the rural, largely black areas of Alabama — at least one lawmaker is now blaming disenfranchised citizens for their civic difficulties because, in his words, “government can’t solve all your problems.”

On Monday, State Rep. Mike Ball (R) appeared on the Dale Jackson Show, an Alabama radio program, to discuss an article on AL.com that explored the impact these closures would have in Alabama’s poorest county. The article profiled Kimberly Spruell, a 34-year-old African American former marine living in Wilcox County, whose local driver’s license office was among those shuttered. The closest one is now a 45-minute drive away, a difficult and costly journey considering her car broke down months ago and she now shares one vehicle with five other people.

Ball, despite voting in favor of the budget that closed the DMVs, had no sympathy for the difficulties people like Spruell would now face.

“The purpose [of these articles] is to complain, blame somebody else for all their problems,” Ball told Jackson. He went on that “It’s almost as if some people enjoy being a victim. They want somebody else to do everything for them. That’s a miserable way to live. You’re going to be miserable and you’re going to bring misery to everyone around you.”

Ball criticized people like Spruell for blaming government for certain problems and looking to government to solve them. “What I’m saying is government can’t solve all of your problems,” Ball said.

In response to claims that the closures would disproportionately impact African Americans, Ball was dismissive. “What this is really about is where you choose to live. In more rural areas, things are not as convenient.”

Jackson asked Ball repeatedly (and facetiously) what the lawmaker would do for people like Spruell. “The real question is what is she going to do?” Ball responded. “I’m 200 miles away, there’s not much I can do.” Instead, when a caller suggested Spruell should just walk to her polling place, Ball saw a silver lining. “Maybe she needs to resurrect some of her marine corps gung-ho.”

Listen to a clip (the full interview can be found here):

There are an estimated 250,000 residents of Alabama who lack photo ID. Currently, less than 7,000 voter ID cards have been issued by state officials.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), the state’s lone African American member of Congress, has called for a federal investigation into the DMV closures and whether it would result in voter suppression. The NAACP has also raised concern about the closures, saying the move is a “likely violation” of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The post Lawmaker Mocks Black Ex-Marine Hit By Voter Disenfranchising Law: ‘Some People Enjoy Being A Victim’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Cruz: Black Lives Matter Is ‘Literally Suggesting And Embracing And Celebrating The Murder Of Police

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/10/14/3712373/ted-cruz-black-lives-matter/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712373//

KALONA, IA — At a campaign stop in rural Iowa on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told ThinkProgress that activists with the Black Lives Matter movement — people who have been peacefully protesting the murder of black men and women by law enforcement — are “literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers.”

When ThinkProgress asked Cruz if he’d be willing to sit down for a meeting with Black Lives Matter activists, he said “sure, I’m happy to meet with just about anybody.” But then he elaborated that the activists were threatening police officers.

“If you look at the Black Lives Matter movement, one of the most disturbing things is more than one of their protests have embraced rabid rhetoric, rabid anti-police language, literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers,” the Texas senator said. “That is disgraceful.”

Cruz also talked about the “vilification of law enforcement” under the Obama administration, pointing to the death of Deputy Darren Goforth, who was shot and killed while he was filling his patrol car with gas in Houston, Texas. Cruz said he attended the sheriff’s funeral when the pastor talked about the mission of law enforcement to “deliver us from evil.”

DeRay McKesson, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, called Cruz’s accusation “desperate.” “Cruz aims to perpetuate lies about a movement focused on ending violence in order to garner attention,” he wrote in an email to ThinkProgress. “This desperate statement is another reminder that he is unfit to be the President of the United States.”

“It’s amazing to me that black people and their allies affirming that Black Lives Matter is somehow celebrating murder,” another leader, Johnetta “Netta” Elzie, told ThinkProgress. “Nothing about us affirming our own lives has anything to do with ‘embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers.'”

“We came out our houses because we were tired of seeing police officers hurt, harm and murder black bodies with impunity. Not because we want to see any police officer killed,” she said.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza called Cruz’s remark “one of the most ridiculous quotes I’ve heard.”

“It’s disgraceful that Senator Cruz is using this opportunity to politicize tragedy,” she said in an email to ThinkProgress.

Despite a lack of evidence that Black Lives Matter has motivated any of the recent murders of police officers, conservative politicians have claimed that police officers are under attack thanks to Black Lives Matter’s growing popularity. Meanwhile the number of police officers killed on the job has been steadily dropping for decades, with 51 officers killed last year. A total of 1,107 people were killed by police during the same time period. Fatal encounters with law enforcement have become routine for black communities across the country, but police are safer than they’ve been in decades.

“2015 is, according to the Washington Post, on pace to have the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades,” Elzie pointed out.

“Absolutely, black lives matter, and the consequence of President Obama and the Attorney General’s vilification of law enforcement is many more black lives have been lost,” Cruz said.

To illustrate his point, Cruz echoed popular conservative rhetoric, saying that crime rates have spiked across the country because police officers are afraid of protesters. The month of July was especially bloody in Baltimore with the murders of 50 people, including 45 African Americans, because “murderers and rapists” were encouraged by the lack of law enforcement, he said.

“If you want to talk about Black Lives Matter, that’s 45 dead black lives,” he continued. “Because of the rise in crime, it was the bloodiest month since the 1960s in Baltimore…The best way to protect black lives is to keep them safe from murderers and criminals who would prey on them.”

Claims that the crime rate is spiking, as well as the accusation that Black Lives Matter is responsible, have been shown to be overblown and inaccurate.

“It’s unfortunate that Ted Cruz is so tone deaf he doesn’t understand what our movement is about even a year later. He should do some better work educating himself as to what an entire demographic in America is going through,” Netta said. “He should really worry about Texas.”

This post has been updated with comments from Alicia Garzia, Netta Elzie, and DeRay McKesson. Josh Israel contributed reporting.

The post Cruz: Black Lives Matter Is ‘Literally Suggesting And Embracing And Celebrating The Murder Of Police’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Why Ellen’s Nicki Minaj Parody Is So Damaging To Black Women

http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2015/10/14/3712269/ellen-nicki-minaj/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712269//

When ABC and Nicki Minaj announced the launch of a comedy based on the international hip-hop and pop music superstar’s childhood in Queens, New York, both parties extolled the deal as an opportunity to “bring her one-of-a-kind story” to a channel that has recently been struggling with low ratings.

But comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made light of Nicki Minaj’s recent power move — all while trivializing her curvaceous figure — when she unveiled what she described as a “very exclusive sneak peek” of the upcoming sitcom on the Ellen show this week.

The satirical sketch featured members of a black family and their dog, all of whom had large posteriors. In the opening scene, the girl playing Nicki Minaj walks down a flight of steps, turns around, and bends over so her bottom is in clear view. The actress portraying her mother then walks out from behind the couch, knocking over lamps and other objects with her large backside, as a laugh track plays in the background. Nicki Minaj’s father and Buddy, the family dog — also endowed with abnormally huge bottoms — later joined in on the modern-day minstrel show.

Needless to say, Black Twitter was livid. People took the social media platform to lament the skit’s portrayal of a young girl, call Ellen DeGeneres racist, and demand an apology.

As of publishing time, Ellen DeGeneres has offered no apology and Nicki Minaj hasn’t commented publicly on the matter. The internet uproar over the satirical skit, however, raises questions about how the media continues to portray black women.

Although black women are ranked the most educated group in the United States, accurate media representation of this segment of the population has been sparse. In 2013, Essence Magazine reported that negative imagery of black women appears in the media twice as often as positive depictions. The study cited showed that black female consumers detested the “modern jezebel” and “gold digger” tropes the most.

Nonetheless, media misrepresentation has persisted. In recent years, reality television programs — such as the Love & Hip-Hop and Basketball Wives series — have amassed advertising revenue by showing infighting among black women and elevating the image of the hypersexualized, money hungry “hood rat.” Even shows that have been extolled as groundbreaking for black women have still received criticism for the light in which they show sisters in positions of power. For instance, despite the clout she has built as a longtime Washington insider, Olivia Pope, the protagonist in Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, still serves as the object of a powerful white man’s sexual desires.

Social media and the music industry — in which Nicki Minaj participates — have also played a significant role in disseminating hypersexualized portrayals of black women and creating what columnist Brandon Albert calls a “false advertisement of women.” Rappers, both male and female, treat women’s body parts as accessories and prizes to be won. In an age when sex is only click away, popular content aggregating blog WorldStarHipHop averages more than 1 million unique visitors daily, in part because of its videos of voluptuous black models gyrating on camera.

“Television has even taken notice and uses hip-hop as a means of reaching out to viewers. For example, shows like Flavor of Love are a product of what the media has generated from the rap influence,” Albert recently wrote. “The show is extremely disrespectful towards women, depicting several women fighting to be with one famous man. It’s almost as if society thinks it is okay to treat women in this manner, since it is justified in many songs and other forms of media.”

The use of black women’s bodies for sexual fodder goes far beyond Nicki Minaj and the entertainment industry, stretching back to at least in the 19th Century, when Europeans displayed Sarah Baartman — a woman from the KhoiKhoi tribe in South Africa — in human zoos specifically because of her large posterior.

After her enslavement at the age of 17, Baartman toured Europe, where men would molest her without consequence. Cartoons and drawings of Baartman exaggerated her shape in an effort to portray her as a “sexual beast” and highlight the differences between her body and that of a Caucasian woman. After her death, scientists dissected her body and extracted her organs, genitalia, and buttocks, without her prior consent. Their study of her corpse furthered European science.

In a February Tumblr post, Ebrahim Aseem called Baartman the “first video vixen,” pointing out similarities between her experience and a profitable industry that thrives off the images of clad, voluptuous black women.

That legacy continues today — affecting the girl who played a young Nicki Minaj in the Ellen skit as well as her peers, who may not appear on television but could still endure a predatory environment unkind to a young woman undergoing puberty and learning about her sexuality.

Shifting this paradigm, and creating a space where the totality of the black woman can be represented, is complicated. It would likely require addressing the harsh realities of a money-driven industry while simultaneously allowing black women artists to celebrate their bodies without controversy. Nicki Minaj — who herself has attained some notoriety as an artist for her raunchy album covers and even raunchier lyrics — has made this point while railing against critics who disparaged the video for “Anaconda.”

“Everything we see that’s labeled as beautiful is very skinny. In the song I kind of say, ‘F— them skinny girls.’ But it’s all love,” Nicki Minaj told Billboard last November. “I consider myself a skinny girl. I went overboard with the video to show that I’m not going to hide. And those big-booty dancers I have, they’re not going to hide. Black girls should feel sexy, powerful and important too.”

Ironically, DeGeneres’ spoof of the “Anaconda” video elicited laughter from Nicki Minaj, who appeared on the show in September.

The post Why Ellen’s Nicki Minaj Parody Is So Damaging To Black Women appeared first on ThinkProgress.

A Visualization Of The Democrats’ Positions On 5 Important Issues

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/10/14/3712283/dem-debate-issues/

http://thinkprogress.org/default/2015/10/14/3712283//

In Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, candidates not only avoided boring their audience, but managed to discuss policy and solutions to real-world problems so that voters will be able to make an informed choice between them. That is to say, they had a political debate. It was a far cry from the Republican debates that have been held so far, where focal points included conspiracy theories about vaccines and Donald Trump’s assertion that he doesn’t call all women pigs, just Rosie O’Donnell.

Candidates challenged each other on key issues like gun control and marijuana legalization, and clarified their own positions on reforming Wall Street and college affordability. We’ve collected the stances of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley on some of the most prominent topics of debate:

on-the-issues

CREDIT: Andrew Breiner

The post A Visualization Of The Democrats’ Positions On 5 Important Issues appeared first on ThinkProgress.