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Posts tagged: law

Torture In U.S. Prisons: The Longest Hunger Strike

Klint Finley

Ann Neumann writes about William Coleman, a U.S. prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for the past five years:

There are two places in the U.S. where you can be fed against your will: a Catholic hospital and a prison.

Staff turned off the video camera typically used to record medical procedures. They strapped Coleman down at “four points” with seatbelt-like “therapeutic” restraints. Edward Blanchette, the internist and prison medical director at the time, pushed a thick, flexible tube up Coleman’s right nostril. Rubber scraped against cartilage and bone and drew blood. Coleman howled. As the tube snaked into his throat, it kinked, bringing the force of insertion onto the sharp edges of the bent tube. They thought he was resisting so they secured a wide mesh strap over his shoulders to keep him from moving. A nurse held his head. Blanchette finally realized that the tube had kinked and pulled it back out. He pushed a second tube up Coleman’s nose, down his throat, and into his stomach. Blanchette filled the tube with vanilla Ensure. Coleman’s nose bled. He gagged constantly against the tube. He puked. As they led him back to his cell, the cuffs of Coleman’s gray sweatshirt were soaked with snot, saliva, vomit, and blood.

“I have been tortured,” he would say later. And it was enough to make Coleman start drinking fluids again. For a while. When he stopped a few months later, the prison force-fed him again, and twelve more times over the next two years. By last year they could no longer use Coleman’s right nostril. A broken nose in his youth and repeated insertion of the tube have made it too sensitive.

Full Story: Guernica: The Longest Hunger Strike

Anti-Doping In Sports: The New Front In The War On Drugs

Klint Finley

Brian Alexander writes:

if you’re like most Americans, you watched the Tour de France for about five minutes, and cheered when Armstrong won. You know a little about his cancer charity, and that he dated a pop star. And that’s about the extent of emotional energy you’ve expended. Since I’ve written a lot about doping in sports – and delved into how anti-doping agencies like the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) conduct business – I’ve expended a lot more energy on your behalf.

So here’s the thing you need to know: The USADA takedown of Armstrong matters, and it could effect everybody. Because it will enhance the power and reach of a private, non-profit business that has managed to harness the power of the federal government in what’s quickly becoming a brand new war on drugs … with all the same pitfalls brought to you by the first war on drugs. […]

In an eerie echo of the tactics used by the American House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare days, the Australian agency issued a call this past November “to anyone involved with, or has information about, doping activity in the sport of cycling to come forward and talk before someone else accuses them of doping.” If you talk first, you can get credit for snitching. If you wait, well, who knows what somebody else might say about you?

Wired Playbook: Why Lance Armstrong’s Confession Should Make You Worry

ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

Expert witnesses routinely sway trial verdicts with testimony about fingerprints, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis and more, but there are no national standards to measure their competency or ensure that what they say is valid. A landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences called this lack of standards one of the most pressing problems facing the criminal justice system.

Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.

Among its members are top names in science and law, from Henry Lee, the renowned criminalist, to John Douglas, the former FBI profiler and bestselling author. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist and frequent TV commentator on high-profile crimes, chairs the group’s executive advisory board.

But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.

ProPublica: No Forensic Background? No Problem

Remember as you read this that people are being put to death, or put in prison for decades, because of the testimony of forensic experts.

See also:

This post rounds up a lot of past coverage of Hayne and the situation in Mississippi.

Combine bad forensics with the psychology of false confessions and what do you get? A recipe for sending innocent people to prison.

SubGenius Custody Battle Finally Over, but Reverend Magdalen is Still Banned From Keeping SubGenius Materials in Her Home

I’m a little late in reporting this, but here’s some good news:

The final deadline of September 22, 2010 came and went without any last-minute attempts by Reverend Magdalen’s former boyfriend to appeal the custody decision. This means that the custody case is now officially CLOSED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. Any further attempts to disrupt Magdalen’s relationship with her son would have to be filed in the state of Georgia. This means that he would most likely have to SPEND MONEY to do so.

In other words: After four years of hell and over $100,000 in costs to her, IT’S OVER. And the final result is an anticlimax: Magdalen, her husband, and her ex-boyfriend are back to the status quo. That, plus she is still the only SubGenius officially banned from keeping SubGenius materials in her home, where her innocent son might accidentally come across them and become corrupted into the corrupt, obscene, decadent SubGenius cult that got his Mom into trouble in the first place.

The High Weirdness Project: Reverend Magdalen

(Thanks Trevor)

I’m very saddened, however, that Magdalen is still banned from possessing SubGenius materials in her own home. That can’t possibly constitutional.

The Age of Apathy, and I.D.G.A.D.

'By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy - indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction'- William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)

"It may well be that our means are fairly limited and our possibilities restricted when it comes to applying pressure on our government. But is this a reason to do nothing? Despair is nor an answer. Neither is resignation. Resignation only leads to indifference, which is not merely a sin but a punishment"- Elie Weisel

"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all-the apathy of human beings."- Helen Keller

"The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."- Plato

"The biggest conspiracy has always been the fact that there is no conspiracy. Nobody’s out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, you feel better now?" -Dennis Miller

"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment"- Robert M. Huchins

"Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care"- Jimmy Buffet

(I originally wrote this to take a look at the apathy prevalent in our society today without intending to look at this as a ‘generational thing’ because it generalizes entire groups of unique individuals, but I discovered that in order to talk about the current situation it was necessary to go back in time and look at the sociological trends that got us here.)

Recently someone sent me a link to the famous article written by Tom Wolfe, 'The ?Me' Decade and the Third Awakening'. When it first came out it in the mid-seventies it caused quite a stir. So much so that it became the label for an entire group of young people growing up at that time. ‘The Me Decade’ or ‘The Me Generation’ went on to become the ‘Baby Boomers’ new title. ‘See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.’ Analyze me, listen to me, and talk to me, me…me!! After reading through the article, it occurred to me that Voltaire was right. ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. The more that things change, the more they stay the same.

Some friends and I were talking over dinner when their 20 year old son commented on the attitude of some of his generation. He said that his peers are (and I quote) ‘very spoiled, selfish, and unrealistic about work and life in general. They tend to be self-indulgent, messy, and wait for others to take care of things. Some want a good paying job without having to be too inventive or work too hard for it, and many are foolish about handling money. Immediate self-gratification is expected and pursued. There is a tendency to blame others for things and many have to be rescued from their own lack of experience or incompetence.’

The youth of ANY generation has some of these qualities, so what’s different?

Much of the ‘Me Generation’ were the product of hard working parents who grew up during the Great Depression, and who fought and lived through WWI and WWII. Scarcity was the norm, and family and community were of priority. The future rebels of the 60’s grew up hearing about war and the enormous struggle to make ends meet in the quest for the ‘American Dream’. The anti-war protests, civil rights movement, sexual liberation, and other movements of the 60’s and 70’s, were led by a youth whose idealism and vision led them to believe that united together they could ‘change the world’. In essence this was correct. Many things did change, and some issues we’re still fighting for today.

The idealism and self-exploration of the sixties eventually morphed into the self-indulgent, narcissism of the 70’s and 80’s. Out of the communal focus of free love and equal rights for everyone, a scream for individuality and uniqueness emerged. New religious movements and psychotherapy became common place, and intense self-examination and hedonism became acceptable and encouraged. The mottos ‘Do Your Own Thing’, and ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ eventually morphed into disco glitter and glam, metal, punk and goth and ‘whatever turns you on’. ‘You create your own reality, baby. Go and get it!’

The advance in technology in the 90’s created a time of opportunity and optimism. With the ‘dot-com boom’, company mergers and spinoffs, and a fairly decent job market, the growth and expansion seemed limitless. Then suddenly, along with the event of 9/11, the ‘opportunities’ came to a screeching halt. The dot-coms went bust. Corrupt accounting practices were uncovered in large established companies. Many good paying jobs were outsourced or eliminated completely, and rampant corruption was found in the justice department, the political arena, business, financial, and housing markets, which left us little reason to hold on to such positivism.

In today’s social climate much of the idealism and self-indulgence of the past has now turned into apathy. The predominant attitude of today is filled with apathy, victimization, and what I call ‘I.D.G.A.D’ (‘I Don’t Give A Damn’ or I.D.G.A.S: ‘I Don’t Give A Shit’, if you prefer). And this isn’t limited only to the youth. Many adults fit this same profile.

What the HELL happened?!

For many people computers, video games, television, and cell phones take up most of their time and serve as a distraction to what is really going on around them. The rising cost of living and the dwindling of job opportunities have some people working two or three jobs just to pay the bills. Our Bill of Rights are being slowly stripped away by our government, ‘Big Brother’ is watching, and some people are so stressed out that they’re taking pills supplied by Big Pharma to put them deeper into zombie mode.

Take action and try to change things?
Who has the time, energy or motivation?
Lawsuits won by Big Business (which are intimately connected to our politicians and everything else) leave shareholders, disgruntled employees, and potential whistleblowers asking ‘why bother?!’

Information, communication and entertainment are an instant click away. The desire for attention and our ‘15 minutes of fame’ are satiated though social networking sites, forums and blogs. The disconnection and isolation the instant world has brought leave many people yearning for community. Which ironically leaves some people all alone with their computers and gadgets trying to ‘connect’; searching for some sort of validity through their virtual worlds.

In spite of the fact that technology has been used mainly as a tool for the expression and exploitation of ‘self’, there has also been an increase in people using it for creating a force to combat the corruption that attempts to blind, silence, and control us. With our rights to protest being threatened (and in some cases protesters themselves being labeled as ‘terrorists’), it’s time to ‘wake up’ and take back the power that we have to make a difference. To take control of our anger and what we’re doing in the virtual world and manifest it onto the physical. Can’t find the time? Take some time off from your networking sites, games, texting and T.V, etc. and get out there. Don’t like this message?

Frankly…I.D.G.A.D.

Woman Jailed for Tea-Pot Worshipping

"A woman has been jailed in Malaysia for joining a "tea-pot worshipping" cult. Kamariah Ali, a 57 year old former teacher, was arrested in 2005 when the government of the Muslim majority country demolished the two storey high sacred tea pot of the Sky Kingdom cult.

For the sect, which emphasised ecumenical dialogue between religions, the tea pot symbolized the purity of water and “love pouring from heaven”. But in Malaysia, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship, born Muslims such as Mrs Ali are forbidden from converting to other religions.”

(via Ananova)

Update: The post is gone, but Here’s a very similar article on the same story