The Truth Behind Chicago’s Violence No, Chicago is not an exceptionally dangerous city.

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The bloodletting in Chicago last weekend, with 74 people shot, 12 fatally, was enough to horrify even locals, who are relatively inured to chronic slaughter at the hands of gun-wielding felons. “Unbelievable,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford, a black Chicago Democrat who went so far as to call on President Donald Trump for help.
The shock was also evident beyond Chicago. Rudy Giuliani blamed Democrats in general and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in particular. The mayor’s legacy, he tweeted, is “more murders in his city than ever before.” Everywhere, there was agreement that the city’s mayhem is out of control and in urgent need of measures to contain it.
But don’t believe the hype. There are not, in fact, more murders in Chicago than ever before. The number of homicides peaked at 920 in 1991. The death toll last year was 674—and that was down 15 percent from 2016. This year, even with the latest frenzy of shootings, the number of homicides is 25 percent lower than it was at this point in 2017.

These are real signs of progress, however tardy and insufficient. If this year’s trajectory holds, it would mean some 280 fewer people dying violently this year than just two years ago. Another year on this trend line would put the city about where it was in 2013—when the number of homicides hit the lowest level in 48 years.
Contrary to popular myth, cynically promoted by Trump and other outside critics, Chicago is not an exceptionally dangerous city. In terms of violent crime, it is less afflicted than a number of large cities, including St. Louis, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
Republicans blame unbroken Democratic control of Chicago for its mayhem. But partisan coloration is an unreliable indicator of crime patterns. Of the 10 states with the highest rates of violence, seven voted for Trump. Los Angeles, whose homicide rate is enviably low, has had only Democratic mayors since 2001.
It’s easy to blame the mayor for the persistent bloodshed—and former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who is running against Emanuel in the February election, does not pass up the opportunity. McCarthy headed the Chicago Police Department from 2011 to 2015, and he claims credit for the improvement that occurred in that period.
But he was also in charge of Chicago police when an officer shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald—a gross overreaction that police labored to cover up. The spike in murders began just after the release of dashcam video showing the victim walking away from police before being riddled with bullets. The revelation, which contradicted official accounts, sparked public outrage, particularly among African-Americans.
One problem in Chicago is the dismally low number of homicides that police are able to solve—about 1 in 6. But the department’s poor reputation among many of the people most at risk discourages the sort of cooperation from citizens that cops need to catch the killers.
The city’s record of failing to discipline officers who resort to unjustified lethal force is corrosive. Last year, WBEZ reported that since 2007, the city’s Independent Police Review Authority had “investigated police shootings that have killed at least 130 people and injured 285 others”—and “found officers at fault in just two of those cases, both off-duty” incidents.
The Chicago Reporter provided additional evidence. “From 2012 to 2015, the city spent more than $263 million on settlements, judgments and outside legal counsel for police misconduct,” it found. If police want more help from the communities they serve, this is not the way to get it.
Despite these failures, the decline in homicides suggests that the city and the department are doing something right. But what that might be is hard to determine with any confidence.
The fight against crime can’t be restricted to more or better policing. Chicago’s crime problem is concentrated in a small number of poor, blighted, mostly African-American neighborhoods. Those areas owe their plight largely to a sordid history of systemic, deliberate racial discrimination and violence, endemic poverty, and official neglect over decades.
The conditions that breed rampant crime in parts of Chicago came about not by accident but by policy. The recent attention shows that people here and elsewhere care about the violence. Do they care about fixing the causes?

By Steve Chapman/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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I Went From Prison to Professor – Here’s Why Criminal Records Should Not Be Used to Keep People Out of College Stanley Andrisse was once branded a career criminal and served time in prison. Today, he is a professor at two medical schools and an advocate for higher education for those who’ve served time.

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Beginning next year, the Common Application – an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it – will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.

As a formerly incarcerated person who now is now an endocrinologist and professor at two world-renowned medical institutions – Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine – I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.

While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.

I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. The organization I lead – From Prison Cells to PhD – helped push for the change on the Common Application.

My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. A person who once sold illegal drugs on the street could become tomorrow’s medical doctor. But this can only happen if such a person, and the many others in similar situations, are given the chance.

There was a time not so long ago when some in the legal system believed I did not deserve a chance. With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. My prosecuting attorney once stated that I had no hope for change.

Today, I am Dr. Stanley Andrisse. As a professor at Johns Hopkins and Howard University, I now help train students who want to be doctors. I’d say that I have changed. Education was transformative.

US incarceration rates the highest

The United States needs to have more of this transformative power of education. The country incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other nation in the world. The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe.

More from TheConversation

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Black farmers were deliberately sold ‘fake seeds’ in scheme to steal their land: report

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Black farmers in the Mid-South region surrounding Memphis used science to uncover a multi-million dollar scheme to put them out of business and steal their farmland, WMC News reported Tuesday.

At the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show show in March of 2017, African-American farmers believe that Stine Seed Company purposefully sold them fake seeds.

Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, explained how black farmers were receiving one-tenth of the yield as their white neighbors.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” Burrell said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

The results were so stark, resulting in millions of dollars in losses, the farmers took their seeds for scientific testing by experts at Mississippi State University.

The tests revealed the black farmers had not been given the quality “certified” Stine seeds for which they had paid.

Burrell suggested a land grab was the ultimate motivation of the perpetrators.

“All we have to do is look at here: 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000. These individuals didn’t buy 16 million acres of land, just to let is lay idle. The sons and daughters, the heirs of black farmers want to farm, just like the sons and daughters of white farmers.”

“So we have to acknowledge that racism is the motivation here,” Burrell concluded.

The farmers have filed a class-action lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western Division in Memphis.

A state legislator is also seeking an investigation into the scheme.

Tennessee Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) vowed state government would investigate “issues which have negatively impacted our black farmers.”

“We will explore the avenues — whether its civil, whether it’s criminal — dealing with fraud,” Rep. Hardaway vowed.

One farmer victimized, David Hall, explained why he had paid extra for high quality seeds.

“We bought nearly $90,000 worth of seed” Hall explained. “It’s been known to produce high yield, so you expect it, when you pay the money for it, to produce the high yields.”

The farmers “were effectively duped,” Burrell told WREG-TV. “It’s a double whammy for these farmers, it accelerates their demise and effectively it puts them out of business.”

“No matter much rain Mother Nature gives you, if the germination is zero the seed is impotent,” Burrell reminded.

Myron Stine of Stine Seed Company said in a statement: “The lawsuit against Stine Seed Company is without merit and factually unsupportable. Stine takes seriously any allegations of unlawful, improper, or discriminatory conduct and is disturbed by the baseless allegations leveled against the company. Upon learning of these claims, the company took swift action to conduct an internal investigation, which has not revealed any evidence that would support these allegations. Stine intends to vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit and has filed a motion to dismiss. Our focus is on continuing to serve all our customers with the highest degree of integrity and respect that are the bedrock of our company’s values.”

By Bob Brigham/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Lawsuit Pushes for Mississippi District That Dilutes Black Voting Power to be Redrawn

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Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A state Senate district in Mississippi dilutes the Black voting power and should be redrawn, three African-American plaintiffs say in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit asks a judge to order legislators to reconfigure the district before the 2019 state elections.

District 22 has a 51 percent black voting-age population, and the suit says it lacks “real electoral opportunity” for African-Americans.

“The lack of opportunity is the result of white bloc voting and lower African-American turnout that are vestiges of the historical discrimination and extreme socio-economic disparities that have been inflicted upon African-Americans over a long period of time,” the lawsuit says.

The district has been represented since January 2004 by Republican Sen. Eugene “Buck” Clarke of Hollandale, who is white and is chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

The district is more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) long, stretching through parts of six counties — Bolivar, Humphreys, Sharkey, Washington, Yazoo and Madison. It goes from the impoverished Delta flatlands down into the affluent Jackson suburbs.

Clarke said Monday that he had not read the lawsuit, but all of Mississippi’s legislative districts were approved in 2012 by the Justice Department under then-President Barack Obama.

“Here’s the problem: The Delta’s losing population,” Clarke told The Associated Press on Monday.

He said changing one legislative district would affect others around it.

“You can’t just move one little line somewhere,” said Clarke, who has not decided whether he will seek re-election in 2019.

The lawsuit says District 22 could be redrawn to have about a 60 percent black voting age population, and “one or two adjacent districts” would have to be changed.

Mississippi’s population is nearly 38 percent black. The lawsuit says the state’s voting age population is at least 35 percent black, while African-Americans hold 25 percent of seats in the state Senate — 13 seats of 52.

The lawsuit says no African-American candidate has been elected to the Mississippi Senate in a district with a 51 percent black voting age population. One current African-American senator is from a district with a 55 percent black population, while all others are from districts that are at least 61 percent black, the suit says.

One plaintiff is Joseph Thomas of Yazoo City, who served in the state Senate from 2004 to 2008 in a district adjoining Clarke’s. More of Yazoo County was added to Clarke’s district after the 2010 Census, and Thomas ran against Clarke in 2015. Clarke won with nearly 54 percent of the vote.

By Associated Press

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Tennessee County Accused of Voter Suppression by Limiting Black Voters’ Access to Polling Locations

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Democrats in Tennessee’s largest county are accusing election officials of trying to suppress black votes in early voting preceding the August elections.

Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Corey Strong on Wednesday criticized the decision by the county Election Commission to make Agricenter International the only open polling location on the first five days of the early voting process, which starts July 13.

Strong said the location in suburban east Memphis is too far away for people who live in urban black neighborhoods who rely on public transportation to get to voting locations. He argued the location, plus three new suburban sites being opened later as early voting spots, will make it easier for Republicans to vote compared with Democrats.

The majority party of the five-member election commission is determined by the majority party of the Tennessee General Assembly, according to the commission’s website. Republicans currently comprise the majority of the General Assembly.

The city of Memphis is majority black, but the Shelby County early voting locations questioned by Democrats are predominantly white, census data shows. Whites outnumber blacks by more than 20-to-1 in the Agricenter’s zip code, according to data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.

“This is a clear attempt at voter suppression,” Strong said, adding that the selection of the Agricenter “in no way represents an equitable place.”

A fifth new location opening during early voting is found in a heavily African-American zip code, census data shows.

Strong said he wants election officials to issue an apology and prepare to offer an “equitable” solution to the County Commission. The election commission will revisit the issue in a meeting on Friday, spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson said.

In the first few days of early voting in past elections, voters went to a county office building downtown, but it was changed because some candidates work in the building. Elections Administrator Linda Phillips said the Agricenter has shown balanced turnout in past elections.

Data shows that early voting is “very slow” early on during primary elections and opening the new polling places decried by the Democrats would help ease congestion at other voting locations, Phillips said.

“My thought was, ‘Well, let’s improve the voter experience,’” Phillips said. “Voters are going to wait until the last week to vote, let’s get some more sites so that we can spread them out a little bit so they don’t have to wait as long.”

People can vote anywhere in the county during early voting, so “the political leaning of the location doesn’t mean anything about the people that vote there,” Phillips said.

Early voting runs from July 13 through July 28. The Aug. 2 election includes primaries for Congress and General Assembly. It also includes general elections for several key local positions, including county mayor, County Commission and school board

By Associated Press

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Modern Black Codes and the Cops That Enforce Them

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“The police respond as if the black person is guilty of whatever transgression the white person said they committed.”

Recent online videos have shown African Americans being arrested, sometimes violently, in places like Starbucks and Waffle House, but also while barbecuing in a gated community or sleeping in the common area of an Ivy League university dorm, after having had the police called on them by a white people. These aggressively racist incidents made the headlines briefly and but have all but dissipated from public discussion. The Starbucks incident only lingered, arguably, because the black men arrested were not brutalized, but perhaps more importantly, because the black men at the center of the incidents didn’t portray anger toward the police, the company or the system that allowed the police to arrest them for sitting in a restaurant. In fact, their statement that it wasn’t just a black thing, turned a clear incident of racial hostility on the part of the Starbucks employee and on the police into a feel good story for Starbucks, the city and America. It became part of the lame, useless “conversation on race” Americans like to exhalt, none of which leads to anything concrete from the masses of black people.

“African Americans’ safety in public spaces is contingent upon how whites feel about our presence.”

In each of the incidents, none of the police personnel were fired or disciplined and in fact, at least initially in the Starbucks case, the cops were supported by their black supervisors. What these incidents show is that black people are never free from white hostility or police violence and it also shows that, despite the enactment of Title II, the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black people still occupy a separate and unequal status in public places.Whites can inhabit public spaces free from suspicion, hostility and state violence, whereas African Americans’ safety in public spaces is contingent upon how whites feel about our presence.

When African Americans engaged in sit-ins during the mid-60’s at restaurants, sitting in sections labeled “whites only,” they challenged the separate but equal doctrine articulated in Plessey v. Ferguson that legitimized the racial caste and apartheid system known as Jim Crow. Black people in places like Gary, Indiana occupied an area of the beach that was reserved for white people and blacks around the country did the same in their own communities. They demanded to be treated as equal citizens in public spaces and to enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship. Nowhere is second class citizenship starker than in public spaces. Parks, restaurants, coffee shops, dining spaces, all set aside for the purpose of providing citizens with places to shop, eat, cook, socialize or just to be, all on equal terms, is the essence of citizenship in a supposed free society. However, the gains made in the 50’s and 60’s to dismantle Jim Crow in the South and de facto segregation in the North, were never perfect gains. African Americans still faced discrimination in public places whether it was being seated in the back of an empty restaurant, provided inferior service, being denied service or entry into certain spaces like night clubs, or charged higher prices for the same or lesser goods. Other mundane transgressions in public spaces include being stopped and frisked, being asked for identification, refusal to rent commercial or apartment spaces and insurance redlining.

“Black people still occupy a separate and unequal status in public places.”

The recent high-profile transgressions against blackness simply expose the dark underbelly of Black inequality and white antagonism in public and commercial areas. Most of the vitriol is aimed at the white person who calls the police, such as the white employees at Starbucks and Waffle House. However, equally complicit in ensuring inequality of black people are the police themselves. Whether it was the police who answered the call of the white Yale student and harassed the black student, or the ones who viciously, physically assaulted the young black woman (in front of her child) at Waffle House, the police have no responsibility to assume that the white instigator should be believed and they have the discretion to chastise the caller and/or to just leave. Instead, in all of these cases, they behave toward the black person, well, like they behave toward black people. They responded with suspicion, harassment and brutality in situations that deserved neither. Rather than speak to and credit the narrative of the black person to whom they were sicced on, the police respond as if the black person is guilty of whatever transgression the white person said they committed. This amounts to enforcement of separate but unequal public accommodations.

“The police have no responsibility to assume that the white instigator should be believed.”

The police were and still are a necessary instrument in the maintenance of an unjust system. They must behave this way to continue this informal version of Black Codes. Students of history know that Black Codes were laws enacted after the Civil War that regulated Black life in ways such as preventing African Americans from testifying against whites in court, denying the right to own and bear arms, and mandating employment contracts with the former enslavers. The beating of the young sister at Waffle House reminds one of Jim Crow lynch laws, where blacks could be killed based on nothing more than the accusation of a white person, typically a white woman.

Despite the nonsense of a post-racial America that was kicked around at the election of Barak Obama, our supposed right to equal citizenship with whites is not yet fulfilled and, frankly, may never be. We must remember that John Crawford was shot dead by the police in the public space of a Wal-Mart. Tamir Rice, a child, was murdered by the police in a public park, paid for by the citizens which included his mother. Trayvon Martin was killed in a gated community that his parents paid to live in. And, all across America, black people are killed by law enforcement whose salaries they pay, with bullets they paid for. The reality is that African Americans continue to occupy this space of contingent citizenship where our ability to exercise our supposed rights on the same level as whites is conditioned upon our willingness to act a certain way, our income, or whether white people call the authorities on us, which frequently leads to the police exacting the price of our life, liberty and/or health or dignity, from us based solely on the word of someone white.

“Our supposed right to equal citizenship with whites is not yet fulfilled.”

This is a modern day version of a white woman claiming rape against a black man in the south with no evidence. These incidents often resulted in death (Emmit Till, a child accused of simply whistling at a white woman) or even in the destruction of whole black communities, as in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instead of being told to get off the sidewalk when a white person approaches, with the penalty being vigilante justice, now the domestic militia (which is what the police look and act like) is called on us if we, while in public spaces, dare to refuse to order coffee, have the temerity to ask for proper utensils, or to be tired enough to sleep in the common areas of universities we pay to attend. This neo-Jim Crow and will take more than a Starbucks training day, or conversation on race, to defeat.

By Attorney Bryan K. Bullock/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

‘Most Important Surveillance Story You Will See for Years’: Report Reveals How AT&T Buildings Serve as Secret Hubs for NSA Spying “AT&T has bent over backwards to help the U.S. government spy on essentially all internet traffic.”

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“The most important surveillance story you will see for years just went online, revealing how AT&T became the internet’s biggest enemy, secretly collaborating against its customers and partners to destroy your privacy.”

That was how whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden reacted to the publication of an explosive story by The Intercept on Monday, which reveals for the first time how “fortress-like” AT&T buildings located in eight major American cities have played a central role in a massive National Security Agency (NSA) spying program “that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.”

“It’s eye-opening and ominous the extent to which this is happening right here on American soil,” Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told The Intercept in an interview. “It puts a face on surveillance that we could never think of before in terms of actual buildings and actual facilities in our own cities, in our own backyards.”

The Intercept‘s detailed report—based on a large body of evidence that includes public records, classified NSA documents, and interviews with former AT&T employees—shows how the telecom giant has willingly helped the NSA collect the data of its own customers and those of other companies, thanks to its “unique relationships with other phone and internet providers.”

According to Intercept reporters Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke, who bylined Monday’s story, eight AT&T facilities—known as “peering sites”—in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. “serve a specific function, processing AT&T customers’ data and also carrying large quantities of data from other internet providers.”

“The eight locations are featured on a top-secret NSA map, which depicts U.S. facilities that the agency relies upon for one of its largest surveillance programs, code-named FAIRVIEW,” Gallagher and Moltke write. “AT&T is the only company involved in FAIRVIEW, which was first established in 1985, according to NSA documents, and involves tapping into international telecommunications cables, routers, and switches.”

The report continues:

In 2003, the NSA launched new internet mass surveillance methods, which were pioneered under the FAIRVIEW program. The methods were used by the agency to collect—within a few months—some 400 billion records about people’s internet communications and activity, the New York Timespreviously reported. FAIRVIEW was also forwarding more than one million emails every day to a “keyword selection system” at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters.

Central to the internet spying are eight “peering link router complex” sites, which are pinpointed on the top-secret NSA map. The locations of the sites mirror maps of AT&T’s networks, obtained by The Intercept from public records.

Fight for the Future (FFTF), an open internet advocacy group, reacted with alarm to The Intercept‘s reporting on Monday, writing on Twitter, “AT&T has bent over backwards to help the U.S. government spy on essentially all internet traffic.”

“Giant telecom companies aren’t just “anti-consumer,” they’re actively helping authoritarian governments and pushing for policies that endanger free expression,” FFTF concluded.

By Jake Johnson/Common Dreams

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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