In Need of Some Serious Damage Control

Occupy Oakland: Officials shift into damage control

By Matt Krupnick, Scott Johnson, Sean Maher and Thomas Peele | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Mayor Jean Quan shifted into damage control Thursday, asking hospitalized protester Scott Olsen and other Occupy Oakland demonstrators to cooperate with police investigating Olsen’s head injury.

Quan visited Olsen, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran, on Thursday morning at Highland Hospital. Besides encouraging him and others to speak with police, she shook his hand, and apologized for what happened to him, a hospital spokesman said. Olsen was knocked down – apparently by a tear-gas canister or other police projectile – Tuesday night as authorities tried to keep protesters away from Frank Ogawa Plaza, in front of City Hall.

The protest group had been dislodged from their tents on the plaza by police earlier Tuesday.

Oakland police have promised a thorough investigation of the incident, which left Olsen with a brain injury that has impeded his speech. Alameda County prosecutors and federal investigators also planned to look into the violent clash.

The city has tried this week to recover from the confrontation, which attracted an avalanche of criticism from pundits, politicians and protesters. Television host Keith Olbermann called for Quan’s resignation, and White House press secretary Jay Carney, while not singling out Oakland, called on U.S. cities to preserve “a long and noble tradition in the United States of free expression and free speech.” Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced Thursday on Twitter that he would arrive at the Oakland site Friday.

Protesters started rebuilding their tent city Thursday, with at least a dozen tents erected on the plaza lawn by the evening. Quan had planned to speak to a large crowd that had gathered in front of City Hall on Thursday night, but she left without speaking because she would have had to wait in line, said her attorney, Dan Siegel.

Police kept a low profile as another crowd of at least 1,000 flocked to the plaza for the second straight evening.

But the heat kept rising Thursday on the Oakland Police Department.

Civil rights attorney Jim Chanin, who has fought the department on many reform issues, said the department on Tuesday had violated its own crowd-control rules, which call for medical services to be available when tear gas and other control measures are used.

Under court order, the department signed a policy requiring the safety precaution, stemming from a 2003 protest in which officers fired “less-than-lethal” munitions on a crowd at the Port of Oakland protesting the war in Iraq.

Oakland’s Interim Police Chief, Howard Jordan, said Thursday investigators were still piecing together accounts from more than a dozen police departments that sent officers to Oakland to raid the encampment. There are numerous videos of evidence to review, Jordan said, and it’s not yet clear where Olsen was when he was injured. Jordan would not speculate whether the Daly City man had been hit by a police projectile such as a tear-gas canister, rubber bullet, wooden dowel or something else.

It’s also not clear whether Tuesday’s clash will further anger Judge Thelton Henderson, who has harshly criticized the Oakland Police Department for a nine-year effort to reform following a major corruption case. Henderson has threatened OPD with a federal takeover, and the department’s reform efforts will be the subject of a hearing in his courtroom in January.

Siegel, who has advised Quan about how to deal with protesters, called Olsen’s injury proof of police misconduct, and City Councilwoman Jane Brunner said the incident is Oakland’s responsibility, no matter which police department hurt the former Marine.

At least one police department suggested officers may not be to blame for the incident.

“I haven’t seen much, but given the nature of that individual’s injuries, I’m wondering if he wasn’t struck by something thrown by a demonstrator,” said Chief Dennis Burns, of the Palo Alto Police Department.

The Oakland City Council will discuss Tuesday’s police response at a special meeting Nov. 3 at City Hall, Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said in a written statement.

Occupiers on Thursday were expanding a shrine to Olsen built around the base of a memorial to military veterans. Vita McDonnell, 24, who was arrested in Tuesday morning’s raid of the encampment, brought a box of candles and notebook in which she is asking people to write notes of encouragement to Olsen and reflections of events of the past several days.

“He was protesting our arrests,” said McDonnell, a health-care assistant. “I felt very touched by it. This is really something I had to do.”

Read more:

Gun People Complaining S’More

US defends gun sale reporting requirement in court

Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Gun store owners in southwestern border states argued in federal court Tuesday that the Obama administration cannot require them to report when customers buy multiple high-powered rifles.

The Justice Department responded to a lawsuit seeking to block the two-month-old requirement by asking a judge to uphold its legality, arguing the measure could help stop the flow of guns to Mexican drug cartels. It requires sellers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives information about purchasers who buy two or more semi-automatic rifles greater than .22 caliber within five days.

Justice Department attorney Daniel Reiss said having a database of multiple purchasers gives ATF agents the power to trace gun sales within minutes, rather than a multi-day effort to trace the weapons back through the manufacturer, to the seller and eventually the buyer. He said two investigations have already been opened in the short time that the new reporting has been required.

“Without these reports it’s very difficult to identify these straw purchasers” who are buying the guns to pass on to the drug cartels, he said.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer questioned whether monitoring lawful gun sales is an appropriate way to stop the flow of guns to Mexican gangs. The requirement was imposed amid controversy over ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious which tried to track guns suspected of being bought by straw purchasers back to gun-smuggling ringleaders, who have long eluded law enforcement. But ATF agents lost track of 1,400 of the more than 2,000 guns identified by Fast and Furious as possibly straw purchases.

Reiss told Collyer that the number of U.S. firearms in Mexico is far greater than those reportedly involved with Fast and Furious.

Stephen Halbrook, an attorney for Arizona-based gun dealers J & G Sales and Foothills Firearms, said previously the stores only had to turn over the data they collect on buyers – including birth dates, addresses, race and gender – in the course of a criminal investigation. He said the new requirement creates a federal database of gun buyers in violation of their privacy.

“We don’t deny the fact there is a serious problem (of guns getting into Mexico) and it needs to be dealt with,” Halbrook said, but he said the problem should be fought using more traditional law enforcement methods instead of “just a fishing expedition” to collect the personal data of buyers without probable cause.

Collyer asked whether ATF would have the authority to require the stores to report when someone buys 30 AK-47 assault rifles, and he said even then the requirement would exceed the agency’s authority from Congress and the Constitution. But he said gun sellers would typically report such a sale as suspicious.

James Vogts, attorney for the National Shooting Sports Foundation that also is suing the ATF, said the requirement applies to 8,500 dealers in the four states who have not been connected to guns recovered in Mexico. “I think the decision was hastily made, perhaps for political reasons,” he said.

The requirement came amid congressional hearings in which ATF acknowledged making mistakes in Operation Fast and Furious, a program that focused on several Phoenix-area gun shops and is no longer running. The program came to light after two assault rifles purchased by a now-indicted small-time buyer under scrutiny in the operation turned up at a shootout in Arizona where Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was killed.

BREAKING: The Rich Are Getting Richer! #sarcasm

The New York Times

October 25, 2011
Top Earners Doubled Share of Nation’s Income, Study Finds

WASHINGTON — The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, in a new report likely to figure prominently in the escalating political fight over how to revive the economy, create jobs and lower the federal debt.

In addition, the report said, government policy has become less redistributive since the late 1970s, doing less to reduce the concentration of income.

“The equalizing effect of federal taxes was smaller” in 2007 than in 1979, as “the composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less-progressive payroll taxes,” the budget office said.

Also, it said, federal benefit payments are doing less to even out the distribution of income, as a growing share of benefits, like Social Security, goes to older Americans, regardless of their income.

The report, requested several years ago, was issued as lawmakers tussle over how to reduce unemployment, a joint committee of Congress weighs changes in the tax code and protesters around the country rail against disparities in income between rich and poor.

In its report, the budget office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. For others in the top 20 percent of the population, average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent.

By contrast, the budget office said, for the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent.

And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth in such household income was just under 40 percent.

The findings, based on a rigorous analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau, are generally consistent with studies by some private researchers and academic economists. But because they carry the imprimatur of the nonpartisan budget office, they are likely to have a major impact on the debate in Congress over the fairness of federal tax and spending policies.

Also cited as factors contributing to the rapid growth of income at the top were the structure of executive compensation; high salaries for some “superstars” in sports and the arts; the increasing size of the financial services industry; and the growing role of capital gains, which go disproportionately to higher-income households.

The report found that higher-income households got a larger share of the pie, while other households got smaller shares.

Specifically the report made these points:

¶ The share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979.

¶ The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.

¶ People in the lowest fifth of the population received about 5 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, down from 7 percent in 1979.

¶ People in the middle three-fifths of the population saw their shares of after-tax income decline by 2 to 3 percentage points from 1979 to 2007.

The study was requested by Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, when he was the senior Republican on the panel.

Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said the report was “the latest evidence of the alarming rise in income inequality.”

House Republicans pushed back Tuesday against President Obama’s complaint that they were blocking bills to create jobs. Speaker John A. Boehner said he agreed with Mr. Obama’s new slogan, “we can’t wait,” and he said that 15 House-passed bills were “sitting over in the Senate, waiting for action.”

On Tuesday, the White House endorsed another bill, which is likely to be passed by the House this week with bipartisan support. The bill would repeal a requirement for federal, state and local government agencies to withhold 3 percent of certain payments to suppliers of goods and services and to deposit the money with the Internal Revenue Service.

This requirement was originally adopted as a tax-compliance measure, and the Congressional Budget Office said its repeal would reduce federal revenues by $11 billion over 10 years.

House Republicans would offset the cost with a bill that reduces federal spending on Medicaid under the 2010 health care law. The White House said it supported the bill, intended to fix an apparent error in the law, under which hundreds of thousands of middle-income early retirees can get Medicaid coverage meant for the poor.

The joint Congressional committee on deficit reduction is considering changes in a wide range of benefit programs.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said Tuesday that he was hopeful but not entirely confident that the panel would succeed in reaching a bipartisan agreement to reduce federal deficits by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

“Hopeful is not confident,” Mr. Hoyer said.


We’ll Just Hope This Is Actually Enforced…

9th Circuit: Corporations Can Be Sued For Human Rights Violations Abroad

9th Circuit Corporations
First Posted: 10/25/11 07:16 PM ET Updated: 10/26/11 09:28 AM ET, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Corporations can be held liable in U.S. courts for human rights violations committed abroad, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on Wednesday. The 9th Circuit reached the same conclusion as two other appeals courts, the 7th and D.C. Circuits, which further isolates the 2nd Circuit’s contrary determination, slated for Supreme Court review this term.

The case, Sarei v. Rio Tinto, arises out of a lawsuit brought in 2000 alleging that Rio Tinto, a multinational mining company, is responsible for the deaths of about 15,000 residents on the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. In 1988, Bougainville residents revolted against Rio Tinto, sabotaging its mine and citing the company’s displacement of villages, major pollution and systematic discrimination against native workers. At Rio Tinto’s urging, the Papua New Guinea government sent in its military and, with the use of Rio Tinto helicopters and vehicles, killed many people in an effort to put down the revolt. Soon thereafter, Papua New Guinea imposed a military blockade on Bougainville to secure the mine, and the country fell into a decade-long civil war.

Wednesday’s ruling by an 11-judge panel found that corporations can be sued for genocide and war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute. That law, passed by the first Congress in 1789, allows foreign plaintiffs to bring suit in federal courts for violations of “the law of nations.”

Conspicuously absent from the Alien Tort Statute, however, is any language defining who or what can be a defendant in such suits. The 9th Circuit held that corporations can be sued under the law, although its eight-judge majority splintered over the reason why. Five judges agreed that a court “should consider separately each violation of international law alleged and which actors may violate it,” while three others emphasized that “courts should first look to [domestic law] to see if the corporate defendant is within the ambit” of liability for the alleged wrongdoing. Three additional judges dissented, concluding that the Alien Tort Statute only covers international law violations that have “occurred on American soil,” and therefore they did not reach the question of corporate liability at all.

The differences of opinion both within the 9th Circuit’s majority and between the court’s majority and the dissenting judges further exacerbate the problem of warring interpretations of the Alien Tort Statute, with another court rejecting corporate liability altogether, a third court looking to domestic law to determine appropriate defendants, and a fourth giving flippant approval to foreign plaintiffs’ claims against corporations.

Mercifully, the Supreme Court will settle the matter by the end of June. Which side the Court will take mercy upon — the corporations or those they allegedly harmed — will be hotly anticipated until then.

Dayton, OH Welcomes Immigrants

Dayton, Ohio, Welcomes Immigrants As Policy Point

Dayton Ohio Immigrants
By DAN SEWELL   10/24/11 02:56 PM ET   AP

DAYTON, Ohio — On the same afternoon thousands of Hispanics in Alabama took the day off to protest the state’s strict new immigration law, Mexican-born Francisco Mejia was ringing up diners’ bills and handing containers piled with carnitas to drive-thru customers on the east side of Dayton.

His family’s Taqueria Mixteca is thriving on a street pockmarked with rundown buildings and vacant storefronts. It gets packed with a diverse lunchtime clientele of Hispanic laborers, white men in suits and other customers, white and black. “Business is very good,” Mejia said, smiling broadly between orders.

It’s the kind of success story that leaders in Dayton think offers hope for an entire city. It has adopted a plan not only to encourage immigrants to come and feel welcome here, but also to use them to help pull out of an economic tailspin.

Dayton officials, who adopted the “Welcome Dayton” plan unanimously Oct. 5, say they aren’t condoning illegal immigration; those who come here illicitly will continue to be subject to U.S. laws.

While states including Alabama, Georgia and Arizona, as well as some cities, have passed laws in recent years cracking down on illegal immigrants, Dayton officials say they will leave that to federal authorities and focus instead on how to attract and assimilate those who come legally.

Other cities, including nearby Columbus and Indianapolis, have programs to help immigrants get government and community help, but Dayton’s effort has a broader, and more urgent, feel.

Mayor Gary Leitzell told the city commission before the vote that immigrants bring “new ideas, new perspectives and new talent to our workforce. … To reverse the decades-long trend of economic decline in this city, we need to think globally.”

Hard-hit for years by the struggles of U.S. manufacturing, particularly in the auto industry, the recession pounded Dayton, which as the Wright Brother’s hometown calls itself “the birthplace of aviation.”

Thousands of jobs were lost with the crippling 2009 exodus to Georgia of NCR (formerly National Cash Register), one of Dayton’s signature corporations, after 125 years, and by the 2008 shutdown of a General Motors plant in suburban Moraine.

Dayton’s unemployment is nearly 11 percent, 2 percent higher than the national average, while population has fallen below 142,000, down 15 percent from 2000. Meanwhile, the city’s official foreign-born population rose 57 percent, to 5,102, from 2000 to 2010, according to census figures.

City leaders aiming to turn Dayton around started examining the immigrant population: Indian doctors in hospitals; foreign-born professors and graduate students at the region’s universities; and owners of new small businesses such as a Turkish family’s New York Pizzeria on the city’s east side and Hispanic-run car lots, repair shops and small markets. They say immigrants have revitalized some rundown housing, moving into and fixing up what had been vacant homes.

“This area has been in a terrible recession, but it would be even worse without them,” said Theo Majka, a University of Dayton sociology professor who, with his sociologist wife Linda Majka, has studied and advocated for Dayton’s immigrants. “Here we have this underutilized resource.”

Dayton officials say their plan still needs funding and volunteers to help put it in place; they hope by the end of the year. Its key tenets include increasing information and access to government, social services and housing issues; language education and help with identification cards, and grants and marketing help for immigrant entrepreneurs to help build the East Third Street section.

“We will be more diverse, we will grow, we will have more restaurants, more small businesses,” said Tom Wahlrab, the city’s human relations council director, who helped lead the plan’s development.

Besides thousands of Hispanics, there are communities in Dayton of Iraqi refugees, Vietnamese and other Asians, Africans from several countries, and Russians and Turks who, officials say, are already living here quietly and industriously.

“Immigrants are hard workers with a propensity to create jobs, and this will invigorate the economy,” said Festus Nyiwo, an attorney in his home country of Nigeria who has been a small-business entrepreneur since coming to Dayton about eight years ago.

Around the country, the bad economy has helped inspire new laws targeting illegal immigrants, seen as taking scarce jobs and overburdening schools, police and services.

In Alabama, a new law allows police to detain indefinitely those suspected of being in the country illegally and requires schools to check new students’ status; some farms and businesses say they’re losing workers because of it. Georgia and Arizona also added tough restrictions.

The immigration debate continues in Hazleton, Pa., where officials five years ago passed a law aimed at driving out illegal immigrants they blamed for drugs, violent crime and overwhelming schools and hospitals. The measure has since been tied up in court challenges.

Dorothy Balser, manager of refugee resettlement services for Catholic Social Services, said that finding jobs can be a struggle, but that refugees have generally been able to fit into the Dayton community. She thinks the Welcome Dayton plan will have a “natural positive effect” on those already here without causing a significant rise in numbers immediately.

Dayton’s schools say they’re helping 525 students learn English, up from 420 less than two years ago. About half are native Spanish-speakers; the rest are a mix of Turkish, Arabic, Swahili and more. They’re ready to accept more.

“We already are currently experiencing many students from many nationalities living in Dayton. That is a reality,” said Jill Moberly, a spokeswoman for Dayton Public Schools.

Opponents fear it will encourage illegal immigration and give preferences to immigrants.

“If Dayton wants to help build its economy by letting people know that legal immigrants are welcome, that’s their prerogative,” said Steve Salvi, founder of Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC, an advocacy group that focuses on illegal immigration. “But when they accept a plan that clearly has the purpose of including those (illegal) people, that’s a problem for everyone.”

Roy Barber, who owns Roy’s Lock Shop on East Third Street, says he’s been in business for 30 years and doesn’t like the city’s plan.

“Nobody ever talked to me,” he said. “Why not help us?”

Barber said most of the neighborhood’s Hispanic immigrants work hard and cause no problems. But he predicts Welcome Dayton will bring more illegal immigrants.

“You see people out on the street and you know they’re illegal,” he said.

Rich Lober, 50, a lifelong Dayton resident, said Mexican and other immigrants have helped East Third.

“I like the idea of rejuvenating this neighborhood,” Lober said. But he said Dayton should look to draw back former residents.

“I’d like to see a `Welcome Back.’ They should include American citizens, too,” Lober said.

Black resident David Dewberry told city officials it’s important not to neglect predominantly black neighborhoods, where residents might wonder where their welcome plan is.

“Rightfully so, there are some lifelong residents who are disenchanted,” he said.

At Taqueria Mixteca, Mejia’s mother and restaurant manager, Marta Guzman, believes Welcome Dayton will help relieve stereotypes.

“I know there are some (immigrants) who are causing crime and problems,” said Guzman, who has lived in the United States for three decades, legalized through the 1986 amnesty program.

“I have struggled a lot in this country, working two jobs, raising three children” as a single mother, she said. “Most of us are here to work hard and to live the American dream.”

Will the new policy bring more immigrants? Mejia smiled again.

“We’re already hearing that there are some Mexicans who are planning to come here from Alabama,” he said.