Category Archives: Legal

China Expected to Shake Up Oil Markets

China Expected to Shake Up Oil MarketsChina is preparing to launch an oil futures contract based on its domestic currency instead of dollars in an effort to promote the renminbi as a global reserve currency.

It appears the liberal mainstream media is finally waking up to what TruNews readers have known for several months, that China is about to launch domestic oil futures trading not valued in American dollars, which will hugely impact the dollar’s “well-established role” as the global currency of trade.

According to a new report, the “petro-yuan” futures contracts will be offered beginning Jan. 18, following multiple rounds of testing. The Shanghai Futures Exchange will be traded under the “INE” acronym. Like all futures contracts, it will set a price in the present for the delivery of oil at a future date. Futures trading usually outpaces physical oil trading by a more than 20-to-1 ratio.

This will allow the yuan to undercut the dollar in global trade in the long term. In the short term, it’s unlikely to have a major impact on the dollar, the petro-dollar, or global trade. The Chinese oil futures contracts also will not have the relative stability of dollar-based oil contracts, and it’s unlikely non-Chinese investors will be allowed to participate initially. But President Xi Jinping seems to be focused on a long play.

From TruNews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

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Democrat report ‘yet another tool to sell Russian collusion delusion’

The US Foreign Relations Committee report on alleged Russian meddling doesn’t reflect the will of the American people or Congress, and merely tries to peddle an anti-Russian narrative, political analyst Charles Ortel told RT.

Democrats in the US are calling for radical action against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Senators on Wednesday published a 206-page report for the Foreign Relations Committee, with proposals including the creation of a new inter-agency cell, modeled on the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC).

The senators propose spending more than $250 million on building institutions in Europe and Eurasia to counter alleged Russian meddling. The report also suggests preemptive sanctions against so-called “State Hybrid Threat Actors”. In addition, it recommends that social media companies be required to track down propaganda and make public all income from political ads.

Political analyst Charles Ortel says the report is just another tool attempting to sell the delusion of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

RT:  No Republican senators signed the report, only Democrats. So do you think any of these measures will be implemented?

Charles Ortel: I highly doubt it. The report has got a lot of words in it on over 200 pages. When you look at the composition of the committee, you have a nominal Republican, I would argue, and Senator Bob Corker – President Trump refers to him as “Little Bob” Corker – who has his own problems with allegations of corruption. And that may be one of the reasons that he decided not to stand for reelection. You also have Jeff Flake, Republican on that committee.  So I don’t think that committee reflects the will of the American people, or even indeed the will of Congress. The Democrats tend to vote as a bloc. And this report, which must have been in preparation for many months, is yet another tool used to continue to sell the anti-Russian narrative and to sell the Russian collusion delusion.

RT:  The report calls for an international coalition to counter the Kremlin’s “malign influence operations.” Do you think America would find any allies for such a coalition?

CO: Sadly reports like this get written… I read the early recounting of history in this report. And it is really shameful – it is fake accounting of history, it is not objective, it doesn’t really have a proper context. I think serious objective people, when they look at this, and they try to weigh up the various ways in which we could spend money – this won’t be one where we put a lot it behind it. And while $250 million is a lot of money, in the scheme of our spending $6 trillion a year on government all told, it is really not that much. So I doubt that this will become an urgent priority for the American government.

RT America

@RT_America
A new poll reveals 48 percent of American voters believe it’s “very or somewhat likely” President Donald Trump will be cleared in the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. https://on.rt.com/8wml
7:16 PM – Jan 10, 2018

RT:  The senators say the US government should increase spending in Europe and Eurasia to, as you’ve just mentioned, $250 million over the next two years to counter what they think is Russian interference. Do you think US taxpayers would be happy funding that?

CO: I don’t. We’re in a zone now in the US where Trump is succeeding in disrupting the status quo consisting of the ‘Never Trump’ person, anti-Trump Democrats, who are on that Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A lot is going to happen in 2018. I would not bet against this president and his team. He is getting this economy in America moving. That is going to have a positive impact on the global economy. I think he is going to go from strength to strength… The Republicans will do much better in 2018 – it is my prediction. And when a new Senate is seated, perhaps with the stronger Republican Trump-led majority – you’re going to see very different reports coming out of that committee.

RT:  For now, the Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate. If the Democrats gain control after this year’s mid-term elections, could we see an even more hostile stance on Russia?

CO: You might. But I think that is a very large ‘if.’ I think Americans vote with their pocketbook. We’ve been stuck down under less than 8 percent per year GDP growth for eight years. Incomes are now finally coming back; the economy is coming back; taxes are going down. I think you’re going to see a lot of good, strong moves from now through November 2018. And we’re going to vote with our pocketbook, and vote for success rather than schemes and slogans, and hackneyed reports.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The GOP Tax Bill Rammed Through Congress on Tuesday Paves the Way to Defund and Dismantle Federal Government Financial experts call it unworkable—and that’s what many Republicans want.

As the GOP tax bill raced through both chambers of Congress Tuesday, hurtling like a runaway train toward President Trump’s desk, Americans should see this GOP effort for what it is in the sweep of history—the Republican dismantling of federal government.

The tax bill’s specifics, with almost all of the benefits going to the very rich, confirm that the GOP’s lock on federal power is as bad as many predicted before the 2016 election. But the tax bill is also Republicans’ opening move to defund government—apart from national security, the military, infrastructure, and corporate welfare.

“The United States Senate should be doing more than providing 83 percent of the benefits in a tax bill to the top 1 percent,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, said during the Senate debate Tuesday. “We cannot go home unless we address the very serious crises facing the working families and the middle class of this country.”

Sanders cited a long list of ignored crises—including some intentionally created by President Trump and the red-run Congress—that show the GOP is bent on destroying social safety nets. That unfinished business includes legalizing 800,000 Dreamers, or young people raised here who are the sons and daughters of non-citizens; funding community health centers that serve 27 million people; funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program serving 9 million children; real disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; fixing a multi-employer pension fund that has 1.5 million retirees at risk of losing 60 percent of their anticipated income; reforming student loan debt for 40 million people; addressing a nationwide opioid epidemic; filling 30,000 vacancies in the Veterans Administration; and funding the Social Security Administration (in 2016, 10,000 people with disabilities died while awaiting review of their benefit applications).

“And on and on it goes,” Sanders said, without citing specifics from the tax bill, such as how its cost, triggering past legislation controlling spending, will cut Medicare’s budget by 4 percent. (Congress still has to pass a 2018 federal budget, which envisions cuts to social welfare programs, science and the environment.)

The thread that ties together this willful neglect is simple. Republicans want to devolve government back to the local level. That’s been the political right’s rallying cry ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security in the 1930s and Lyndon B. Johnson created the Great Society’s health safety nets in the 1960s.

The tax bill gives the GOP a way to do this. Most everybody knows the bill’s fiscal benefits accrue to the already rich. But the tax bill has also been called unworkable by academics specializing in tax law.

On Tuesday, before the House passed it, business reporters noted the bill was moving so fast that the IRS would not be able to implement it when it goes into effect. For example, employers won’t know how much to withhold from January payrolls. That “puts the onus on workers to make adjustments later in the year if too much or too little of their money is being withheld,” Patricia Cohen wrote in the New York Times.

The New Yorker’s John Cassady noted the bill is likely to bring in less revenue than projected, because it will launch an avalanche of new loopholes to exploit.

“What isn’t yet fully appreciated is how porous and potentially unstable the rest of the tax code will be after the bill is passed,” he wrote. “With a corporate rate of just 20 percent, and a big new break for proprietors of unincorporated businesses and certain types of partnerships, the new code will contain enormous incentives for tax-driven restructurings, creative accounting, and outright fraud. Every tax adviser and scammer in the country will be looking for ways to reclassify regular salary income.”

Cassady noted these contortions are destined to undercut federal revenues, which many Republicans welcome as an avenue to shrinking the federal government.

“The shortfall in tax revenues could be enormous. Perhaps that is what Republicans want to happen,” Cassady said. “Undoubtedly, there are some in the Party who would like to see the tax base decimated, the I.R.S. crippled, and the federal government forced to slash spending on domestic programs, particularly entitlement programs. But, for anybody who believes in a properly functioning government, a rational, clearly defined tax system is essential. The Republican reform doesn’t meet that standard.”

But today’s Republican leadership doesn’t want a functioning government outside the security state, military and infrastructure that buoys corporate America.

It’s hard to know what they are thinking as one looks ahead to the 2018 elections. If the GOP doesn’t want to talk about character—which seems to be the ascendant issue, as seen by Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama and the widespread backlash against male predatory sexual behavior, driven by suburban women who are voting in droves this year—then all the Republicans can point to is their tax bill. While the GOP’s opponents will emphasize intentionally widening inequality, don’t be surprised if Republicans recast their only major legislative achievement in 2017 as a victory against the phantom enemy they love to hate: big government.

Unfortunately, as Sanders pointed out on the Senate floor Tuesday, millions of Americans are getting hurt and are going to be hurt by this needless legislation and similar moves that are sure to follow.

By Steven Rosenfeld/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Justices Alito and Gorsuch Clash Over Cell Phones, Privacy, and Property Rights Oral arguments in Carpenter v. U.S. reveal a division between two conservative justices

It’s common to think of the U.S. Supreme Court in terms of liberal vs. conservative decisions, liberal vs. conservative doctrines, and liberal vs. conservative justices. But in the recent oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States, one of the biggest disagreements occurred between two of the Court’s conservative members, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

At issue in Carpenter v. U.S. is whether federal law enforcement officials violated the Fourth Amendment by acquiring the cell phone records of a suspected armed robber, Timothy Carpenter, without first obtaining a search warrant for those records. Thanks to the information they obtained, federal investigators were able to trace back Carpenter’s whereabouts during the time periods when several of his alleged crimes were committed, placing him in the vicinity of those crimes. That information was used against Carpenter in court.

The government insists that this warrantless search did not violate Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment rights because, in the words of the Supreme Court’s 1979 ruling in Smith v. Maryland, “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” In other words, Carpenter has no Fourth Amendment right to privacy in his cell phone records because he voluntarily used his cell phone, thus voluntarily disclosing his location to the various cell phone towers that handled his calls.

Throughout the November 29 oral arguments, Justice Alito was perhaps the most supportive of the government’s position and the most critical of Carpenter’s arguments. Justice Gorsuch, on the other hand, seemed extremely skeptical of the government’s stance. Gorsuch even suggested at one point that the government’s position was at odds with the “original understanding of the Constitution”—not exactly a compliment, since Gorsuch is a self-professed originalist.

But the real clash occurred after Gorsuch asked Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben to set aside the “third party” aspect of the debate and focus instead on whether the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches of a person’s “papers and effects” should apply to the sort of digital information at issue here.

“Let’s say I have a property right” in my cell phone records, Gorsuch began. “Wouldn’t that” make the government’s actions “a search of my paper or effect under the property-based approach” to the Fourth Amendment?

Dreeben thought not. “It’s not your paper or effect,” he said. “The problem with your hypothetical,” he told Gorsuch, “is that it creates a property interest out of transfers of information.”

Gorsuch tried again. “Under my hypothetical, you have a property right in this information.” So, “would it be a search of my paper or effect” for the government to obtain the information, he asked the deputy solicitor general. “Yes or no.”

“I am not sure,” Dreeben replied. “And the reason that I am not sure is there has never been a property right recognized in information that’s conveyed to a business of this character.” In fact, Dreeben went on to add, “it’s a property right that resembles no property right that’s existed.”

At this point, Justice Alito entered the conversation. His intervention can best be described as throwing a lifeline to Dreeben while at the same time trying to quash Gorsuch’s entire line of questioning.

“Yeah, Mr. Dreeben, along those lines,” Alito said, “I was trying to think of an example of a situation in which a person would have a property right in information that the person doesn’t ask a third party to create, the person can’t force the third party to create it or gather it. The person can’t prevent the company from gathering it. The person can’t force the company to destroy it. The person can’t prevent the company from destroying it.”

Dreeben followed Alito’s lead. “Justice Alito, those are a lot of good reasons on why this should not be recognized as a property interest,” he promptly replied. “I can’t think of anything that would be characterized as a property interest with those traits. And it would be a—really a watershed change in the law to treat transferred information as property.”

But Gorsuch would not be deterred by Alito. Doesn’t the Stored Communications Act, Gorsuch asked, “declare this customer proprietary information?” Are you saying “the government can acknowledge a property right but then strip it of any Fourth Amendment protection? Is that the government’s position?”

While Dreeben was still responding to that query, Alito stepped back in again with an answer of his own. “Mr. Dreeben,” Alito said, “I would read the—the—the phrase ‘customer proprietary information’ to mean that it is proprietary to the cell phone company and, is therefore, not to the customer. It’s customer information, but it’s proprietary information about the cell phone company because, if you got that information in the aggregate, you could tell a lot about the company’s operation.”

In short, Gorsuch proffered a property rights argument that might allow Carpenter to win the case, and Alito came out swinging hard against it.

We’ll find out later this term whether the two conservative justices continue their disagreement via written opinion.

By Damon Root/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump’s Jerusalem Pronouncement Is a Classic American Imperial Blunder From Bears Ears to Jerusalem, Trump’s policy is all about disenfranchising people of color.

After drastically shrinking the size of Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah on Monday, President Trump on Wednesday announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said, speaking at Utah’s State Capitol beneath a painting of Mormon pioneers. “And guess what? They’re wrong.”

“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” Trump said on Wednesday of his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. “It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”

The two actions take effect 7,000 miles apart, but they share a common denominator: Trump is tearing up formal agreements accepted by the United States government and unilaterally imposing a new understanding on the other parties involved, namely the 7 million Palestinians who live in greater Israel/Palestine, and the Native American people who live in or around Bears Ears.

Compromise Jettisoned

On one level, Trump’s action on Jerusalem is commonsensical. The ancient city of Jerusalem is the political and cultural center of the land known as Israel/Palestine. Jews have lived in the city for thousands of years. But so have Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, who are now relegated to second-class citizenship and dispossession by Israel’s occupation and its apartheid wall. That’s why the U.S. government for the past 50 years has refused to recognize Israel’s unilateral claim to the city until the equally valid claims of Palestinians are honored too. That is no longer the U.S. government’s position.

The shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah by 85 percent is no less one-sided. On Dec. 28, 2016, President Obama expanded the size of the park over the objections of elected officials in Utah.

Since 2009, Bears Ears has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in consultation with five of the local tribes (Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni), all of which have ancestral ties to the region. Obama’s December 2016 proclamation declared that federal agencies shall “carefully and fully consider integrating the traditional and historical knowledge” of the tribes into management decisions. The language, noted the High Country News, “gives tribes an unprecedented amount of say over their ancestral lands that lie in the public domain yet outside the boundaries of their reservations.”

But Obama engaged in extensive consultation with the local population and did not agree to all of the requests of the native people in the area. Obama’s proclamation omitted several areas from the final monument designation, a “significant” concession to those who opposed the designation.

On both issues, Trump reversed Obama’s positions with the insouciance of a colonial potentate. His Jerusalem decision says Israel will dictate to, not negotiate with the Palestinians. His Bears Ears decision says Washington and Utah will dictate to, not negotiate with the native tribes that also have a claim to the land. Compromise has been jettisoned in favor of privileging the interests of whites over non-whites.

Trump made no effort to consult with other stakeholders in his deliberations. They are simply not part of any “reality” that Trump recognizes. On Monday he barely acknowledged the native peoples who have lived in the area for thousands of years before the Mormon settlers. On Wednesday he made no mention of Palestinians who have regarded Jerusalem as their capital for thousands of years.

Wedge Created

And Trump created wedge issues to use against Democrats, at home and abroad.

In Utah, the native tribes and environmental groups have already filed suit to block Trump’s actions, while Republican elected officials and their constituents celebrate the opportunity to drill for oil and gas on previously protected lands.

On Israel, Trump has pandered to conservative Jews who yearn for a peace agreement on Zionist terms, which is Trump’s ostensible aim. He fractured liberal Democratic unity by getting Chuck Schumer to endorse his shortsighted move. And he delivered a victory for his base of Christians and alt-right anti-Semites alike.

The Christian right, which excuses Trump’s un-Christian lifestyle with a generosity they extend to few other sinners, welcomes the embrace of Israel and its domination of Muslims. The anti-Semitic alt-right, while oddly soft on right-wing Israeli Jews, is delighted by the snub of the liberal majority of American Jews who favor an equitable settlement with Palestinians, at least in theory.

When Slate’s Josh Keating says Trump’s actions in Jerusalem are “cynically pointless,” he underestimates the president’s cynicism and overlooks his unmistakable point: previous political agreements between the descendants of white settlers and non-white natives are null and void. Colonialism, American-style, has returned.

By Jefferson Morley / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why Has R. Kelly’s Career Thrived Despite Sexual-Misconduct Allegations?

Each day brings news of men who have abused their positions of wealth, fame, and power to engage in sexual harassment and assault. Yet, as the list of perpetrators grows ever longer, the name of the Chicago singer, songwriter, and producer R. Kelly is conspicuously absent from those belatedly paying a price for their actions. And it’s worth asking why.

R. Kelly has sold an estimated hundred million records, and, at age fifty, he remains one of the dominant voices in R. & B. He also has a well-documented, twenty-five-year history of allegedly victimizing women and underage girls. Between 1996 and 2002, he was subject to four publicly filed lawsuits, three by teen-age girls who alleged illegal underage relationships. All were settled, with payments made in return for nondisclosure agreements—the favored tool ofHarvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly. Since then, Kelly has reached out-of-court settlements with “numerous” other women, according to the lawyer who represented many of them. In 2002, he was indicted for making child pornography, stemming from a video that prosecutors said showed him having sex with and urinating into the mouth of a fourteen-year-old girl. The case took six years to go to trial, and Kelly was acquitted, largely, according to jurors, because the girl and her parents never testified, though prosecutors called a dozen witnesses who confirmed the relationship.

As the pop-music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, I covered Kelly’s rise from busking on subway platforms in the early nineties to mainstream success. My first investigative story about the singer’s alleged predatory behavior ran on December 21, 2000; the videotape for which he was indicted was left anonymously in the mailbox at my home, on Chicago’s Northwest Side, in February, 2002. This summer, I published two stories about Kelly in BuzzFeed News. One told the tale of Jerhonda Pace, who broke a nondisclosure agreement to talk about a sexual relationship that she allegedly had with Kelly when she was sixteen, in 2009, shortly after she met the star at his trial for child pornography. The other documented what sources call “a cult” of six women that they say Kelly currently houses in properties in Chicago and Atlanta; Kelly, sources say, has “brainwashed” the women by separating them from friends and family. (Kelly has denied any wrongdoing.)

While Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and other stars have promptly seen their careers implode after their alleged behavior was exposed, the music industry seems unconcerned about the charges against Kelly. His record label, Sony Music, refuses to comment, and Live Nation, the global concert promoter, continues to stage his shows. A petition drive, a public protest, and a vote of censure by the county board of commissioners greeted Kelly’s concert at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater, in Atlanta, in August, but Live Nation’s only comment was, “The show will go on,” and the company is promoting three of his upcoming concerts. (Live Nation did not respond to requests to comment.)

None of the many stars for whom Kelly has written and produced hits have spoken out against him—from Jay-Z, with whom he made two albums and did two co-headlining tours, to Lady Gaga, a champion of female empowerment and herself a sexual-abuse survivor. Last December, Kelly appeared on the “Tonight Show,” singing his Christmas songs and getting a big hug from the host, Jimmy Fallon. Now Kelly is climbing the charts again with “Juicy Booty,” a collaboration with Chris Brown (who was vilified for assaulting Rihanna, in 2009) and the singer Jhené Aiko.

Popular music, arguably our most forward-looking art form, seems mired in the past when it comes to examining the reprehensible behavior of male stars; there’s been seemingly little progress from the days of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and their teen-age brides. Kelly’s lure is a variation on that hoariest of ignoble showbiz clichés, the casting couch. Many of the women who’ve fallen under his spell were aspiring singers attracted by the promise of stardom from the self-proclaimed “Pied Piper of R. & B.” But Kelly hasn’t launched the career of a female protégé since Aaliyah, whom he illegally married, in 1994, when she was fifteen, shortly after producing and writing her début album, which he titled “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.”

When it comes to the heavy lifting necessary to expose sexual predators, the pop-music beat has attracted fewer investigative reporters than politics, or even Hollywood. Many critics have blithely ignored the long record of charges against Kelly while celebrating his hot-and-horny jams—such as “Sex in the Kitchen,” “The Zoo,” and that mostly a-capella epic of debauchery, “Trapped in the Closet”—as hypersexualized kitsch. The unexamined acceptance of Kelly continues: last month, the blue-eyed-soul singer Sam Smith sported a Kelly T-shirt at the after-party following his performance on “Saturday Night Live.”

Why is the pop-music world so reluctant to address Kelly’s alleged misdeeds? One reason may be that the genre has witnessed so much bad-boy behavior for so long that huge swaths of beloved sounds, from James Brown to the Rolling Stones, from Led Zeppelin to the many records produced by Dr. Dre, would be out of bounds if listeners didn’t separate the art from the artist. In general, we seem especially reluctant to believe the worst of artists whose music has touched us deeply. During my thirty years as a music critic, I never received more hate mail than whenever I dared to mention the sexual-abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, even when Jackson was directly addressing them in songs such as “Tabloid Junkie” and “D.S.”

Kelly’s public image also plays into toxic stereotypes about black men’s sexual appetites, desires, and even intelligence—he is often portrayed as all id, an idiot pop-savant; by his own admission, in “Soulacoasta: The Diary of Me,” he has trouble reading and doing math. Then, too, the allegations levelled against some celebrities are simply so distasteful that fans, critics, and journalists can’t bring themselves to discuss them—a condition that the critic Bill Wyman has called “the ick factor.” In Kelly’s case, it’s the urination in the notorious video, though Dave Chappelle had no problem parodying it in “Piss on You,” a skit from the first season of his television show.

Ultimately, though, I believe that there’s one reason above all others that Kelly isn’t facing the same scrutiny as other men in the rogues’ gallery of the moment. It’s one that Karen Attiah, the global-opinions editor of the Washington Post, expressed in a video op-ed, in July. “If even a fraction of the allegations against Kelly are true, his continued success hinges on the invisibility of black women and girls in America,” Attiah says. “As long as black women are seen to be a caste not worthy of care and protection, his actions will not receive widespread outcry . . . . The saga of Robert Kelly says more about America than it does about him.”

The women in R. Kelly’s “cult” are all African-American. The sources whom I talked to for my reporting in BuzzFeed say that Kelly controls when the women eat and sleep, whom they talk to, where they go, how they dress, and how they pleasure him in sexual encounters (which he records and shows to male friends). They also say that he punishes the women physically and mentally if they break his “rules.” Kelly has changed his modus operandi—the youngest of the women in the alleged cult were eighteen, nineteen, and twenty-one, all above the age of consent—but he did not reckon with four desperate parents who have been relentless in trying to bring their daughters home. Their efforts have, so far, come to naught: law-enforcement agencies in Georgia, Florida, and Illinois have declined to act, and, while the parents and other sources in my stories have been interviewed at length by federal agents, the F.B.I. will neither confirm nor deny whether an investigation is taking place.

One of the women in the “cult” has said that she is “happy where I am at.” None of the others have spoken publicly, but the parents continue to contact me regularly, asking why, given the current public conversation, Kelly’s history, and what they call his ongoing abuse, the media isn’t focussing more on him. Even seventeen years of reporting hasn’t been enough to turn as bright a spotlight on Kelly as the one exposing many others, because no one, it seems, matters less in our society than young black women.

By Jim DeRogatis/TheNewYorker

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US police covertly spy on innocent citizens with military hardware – report

US police covertly spy on innocent citizens with military hardware - reportFiILE PHOTO. © Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Dozens of police departments across the US are using special devices to track suspects without warrants. However, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers also capture data from regular people on the street.

The technology, which was developed for the military, mimics cell phone towers and tricks phones into routing signals through them. This allows police to a track suspect’s location. The machines even allow police to get the location of a phone without the user making a call or sending a text. The most common of these devices is called a “StingRay.”

Such devices can also collect the phone numbers a person has been calling and texting and even intercept the content of communications.

At least 72 state and local law enforcement departments in 24 states and 13 federal agencies use the devices, according to a new report from AP. The report notes that further details are hard to come by because the departments that use IMSI catchers must take the unusual step of signing non-disclosure agreements overseen by the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman told the news agency that the agreements, which regularly involve the defense contractor that makes the machines, are intended to prevent the release of sensitive law enforcement information to the general public. Last year, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report that found the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security had spent a combined $95 million on 434 cell-site simulators between 2010 and 2014.

Civil liberties unions such as the NYCLU say the devices are extremely invasive because they operate in such a wide range, around two city blocks, that they don’t just grab up the target’s data but also information from other people in the area.

READ MORE: Stingray tracking of cellphones unconstitutional without a warrant – US court

Law enforcement agencies have also gone to great lengths to conceal StingRay usage, in some instances even offering plea deals rather than divulging details on the machine.

In several states, courts are beginning to grapple with the issue. Earlier this month, a Brooklyn judge ruled that the police need an eavesdropping warrant to use a StingRay. In September, a federal court ruled use of the device without a warrant violated the US Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist