Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 6.05.43 PMBY CAROLINE MAY

Thirty-seven MS-13 gang members have been indicted in Charlotte, North Carolina on numerous offenses including murder and attempted murder, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina announced Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, a law enforcement dragnet rounded up 16 of the alleged gang members. While five remain “at large” the remaining 16 are in state custody.

“As outlined in today’s indictment, the alleged MS-13 gang members have committed numerous violent crimes, including armed robberies, assaults, and murders, for the benefit of the criminal enterprise,” Jill Westmoreland Rose, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said in a statement. “Today’s charges send a clear message to gangsters who think their gang affiliation puts them beyond the law’s reach.”

While all 37 alleged gang members have been indicted on racketeering conspiracy charges, 22 of them are charged with additional crimes including those violent felonies Rose indicated.

As the U.S. Attorney’s Office detailed, MS-13 is a criminal gang organization that originated in Los Angeles with membership largely comprised of immigrants and decedents of immigrants from Central America.

“Transnational criminal gangs like MS-13 inflict untold damage in our communities by engaging in violence and trafficking in drugs, weapons and even human beings,” Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta Ryan L. Spradlin added. “This lengthy investigation has uncovered alleged crimes ranging from petty drug deals to capital murder. There is no doubt that North Carolina communities will be safer as a result of these arrests.”

The alleged gang members arrested Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, have already started making their initial appearances before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. The 16 in state custody are expected to be transferred to U.S. Marshals to face their federal charges.

Gang activity in Charlotte made national headlines in recent weeks as the Obama administration admitted it improperly granted an illegal immigrant with known gang-ties executive amnesty.

That gang member beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program —Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez — went on to murder four people in Charlotte, including including former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Mirjana Puhar.


Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.49.50 PMDeal effectively empowers profiteering corporate giants to overrule actions by the governments


When the going got tough, Barack got in a huff, and then he got gruff.

President Obama has worked himself into such a tizzy over the TPP that he’s lashing out at his progressive friends in Congress. He’s mad because they refuse to be stereotypical lemmings, following him over this political cliff called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It masquerades as a “free trade agreement,” but such savvy and feisty progressive senators as Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have ripped off the mask, revealing that TPP is not free, not about trade and not anything that the American people would ever agree to.

It is a stealth power grab, written in top-secret negotiations by and for multinational corporations from the U.S. and 11 other nations. This raw deal effectively empowers these profiteering corporate giants to overrule actions by the governments of any of these countries — including ours — that protect consumers, workers, the environment and other interests from corporate abuse.

This gift to the Trans-Pacific Titans is going to expand the rules of trade deals of the past such as NAFTA, WTO and Korea FTA. A few examples of what we have to look forward to with this turd of a deal the president is trying to polish and force onto the American people are: more off-shoring of American jobs, which in turn leads to greater income inequality; higher costs for lifesaving and sustaining medicines; our environmental protections will be under threat of corporate attack; food and product safety regulations will be undermined; net neutrality will once again be challenged; Wall Street reform will be nothing but a memory; and say so long to Buy American initiatives.

Why an American president — especially a Democrat — would embrace this private usurpation of our people’s sovereignty is a mystery, but the great majority of congressional Democrats are not going along. So he’s been publicly scolding them (as though they’re disobedient children), huffily whining that they’re playing politics, “whupping on me” and making up “stuff” about how this deal allows corporations to challenge and even change American laws.

Yet, rather than offer any evidence that they’re making up stuff, Obama gruffly made up stuff about them.

By opposing the TPP, he prevaricated in a recent speech, the Democrats are anti-trade and want to “pull up the drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves.”
The president is on such thin ice with this ponderous giveaway to global corporate giants that his appeals for support have turned desperate, including this recent claim that TPP “is the most progressive trade deal in history.”

Wow, that’s a low bar! Does he mean more progressive than the thoroughly regressive NAFTA? Or maybe he’s comparing TPP to King George III’s East India Trading Company, which was such a bully that it sparked the American Revolution.

Indeed, Obama is doing some bullying of his own. He’s pushing the lie that such Democrats as Warren are lying when they point out that TPP would let foreign corporations sue the USA in corporate-run international tribunals to force our officials to weaken or kill laws that might pinch a corporation’s profits. “There is no chance, zero chance” of that happening, the president barked.

But, as he knows, it already has happened!

In April, under another trade agreement, his own administration was directed by a WTO tribunal to change — and essentially gut — a U.S. food-labeling law that dramatically reduced the killing of dolphins by commercial tuna-fishing fleets. Responding to public outrage over the mass slaughtering of the mammals, our Congress passed an effective dolphin-free law. But some tuna operations in Mexico complained that using dolphin-free nets hurt their profits, and the WTO ordered our sovereign nation to surrender our law to the dolphin-killing Mexican profiteers.

And just this past Monday, the WTO ordered the USofA to change its country-of-origin labeling laws, effectively saying our consumers do not have a right to know where the meat they eat is coming from.

By claiming that “no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws,” Obama is either lying, or he doesn’t know what’s in his own agreement.

What a pathetic show of presidential petulance! It’s time for Obama to question himself — not his friends.



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“Subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests”


Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

US taxpayers subsidising world’s biggest fossil fuel companies

Read more

Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, said: “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

Lord Stern said that even the IMF’s vast subsidy figure was a significant underestimate: “A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.”

The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. That would be a giant step towards taming global warming, an issue on which the world has made little progress to date.

Ending the subsidies would also slash the number of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 50% – about 1.6 million lives a year.

Furthermore, the IMF said the resources freed by ending fossil fuel subsidies could be an economic “game-changer” for many countries, by driving economic growth and poverty reduction through greater investment in infrastructure, health and education and also by cutting taxes that restrict growth.

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Another consequence would be that the need for subsidies for renewable energy – a relatively tiny $120bn a year – would also disappear, if fossil fuel prices reflected the full cost of their impacts.

“These [fossil fuel subsidy] estimates are shocking,” said Vitor Gaspar, the IMF’s head of fiscal affairs and former finance minister of Portugal. “Energy prices remain woefully below levels that reflect their true costs.”

David Coady, the IMF official in charge of the report, said: “When the [$5.3tn] number came out at first, we thought we had better double check this!” But the broad picture of huge global subsidies was “extremely robust”, he said. “It is the true cost associated with fossil fuel subsidies.”

The IMF estimate of $5.3tn in fossil fuel subsidies represents 6.5% of global GDP. Just over half the figure is the money governments are forced to spend treating the victims of air pollution and the income lost because of ill health and premature deaths. The figure is higher than a 2013 IMF estimate because new data from the World Health Organisation shows the harm caused by air pollution to be much higher than thought.

Coal is the dirtiest fuel in terms of both local air pollution and climate-warming carbon emissions and is therefore the greatest beneficiary of the subsidies, with just over half the total. Oil, heavily used in transport, gets about a third of the subsidy and gas the rest.

The biggest single source of air pollution is coal-fired power stations and China, with its large population and heavy reliance on coal power, provides $2.3tn of the annual subsidies. The next biggest fossil fuel subsidies are in the US ($700bn), Russia ($335bn), India ($277bn) and Japan ($157bn), with the European Union collectively allowing $330bn in subsidies to fossil fuels.

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The costs resulting from the climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions account for subsidies of $1.27tn a year, about a quarter, of the IMF’s total. The IMF calculated this cost using an official US government estimate of $42 a tonne of CO2 (in 2015 dollars), a price “very likely to underestimate” the true cost, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The direct subsidising of fuel for consumers, by government discounts on diesel and other fuels, account for just 6% of the IMF’s total. Other local factors, such as reduced sales taxes on fossil fuels and the cost of traffic congestion and accidents, make up the rest. The IMF says traffic costs are included because increased fuel prices would be the most direct way to reduce them.

Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate change chief charged with delivering a deal to tackle global warming at a crunch summit in December, said: “The IMF provides five trillion reasons for acting on fossil fuel subsidies. Protecting the poor and the vulnerable is crucial to the phasing down of these subsidies, but the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits are long and legion.”

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Barack Obama and the G20 nations called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies in 2009, but little progress had been made until oil prices fell in 2014. In April, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, told the Guardian that it was crazy that governments were still driving the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies. “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now,” he said.

Reform of the subsidies would increase energy costs but Kim and the IMF both noted that existing fossil fuel subsidies overwhelmingly go to the rich, with the wealthiest 20% of people getting six times as much as the poorest 20% in low and middle-income countries. Gaspar said that with oil and coal prices currently low, there was a “golden opportunity” to phase out subsidies and use the increased tax revenues to reduce poverty through investment and to provide better targeted support.

Subsidy reforms are beginning in dozens of countries including Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco and Thailand. In India, subsidies for diesel ended in October 2014. “People said it would not be possible to do that,” noted Coady. Coal use has also begun to fall in China for the first time this century.

On renewable energy, Coady said: “If we get the pricing of fossil fuels right, the argument for subsidies for renewable energy will disappear. Renewable energy would all of a sudden become a much more attractive option.”

Shelagh Whitley, a subsidies expert at the Overseas Development Institute, said: “The IMF report is yet another reminder that governments around the world are propping up a century-old energy model. Compounding the issue, our research shows that many of the energy subsidies highlighted by the IMF go toward finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, which we know must be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change.”

Developing the international cooperation needed to tackle climate change has proved challenging but a key message from the IMF’s work, according to Gaspar, is that each nation will directly benefit from tackling its own fossil fuel subsidies. “The icing on the cake is that the benefits from subsidy reform – for example, from reduced pollution – would overwhelmingly accrue to local populations,” he said.

“By acting local, and in their own best interest, [nations] can contribute significantly to the solution of a global challenge,” said Gaspar. “The path forward is clear: act local, solve global.”


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24% of whites say they were bullied than black, Hispanic or Asian students

By Kimberly Hefling Associated Press MAY 15, 2015 — 11:11AM

WASHINGTON — Fewer students say they are being bullied at school. Those who are bullied are more likely to be girls than boys and more likely to be white than minority students.

The Education Department announced survey results Friday that found 22 percent of students age 12 to 18 said they were bullied in 2013. The figure, down 6 percentage points from 2011, is the lowest level since the National Center for Education Statistics began surveying students on bullying in 2005.

Bullying has spread from school hallways and bathrooms to social media, raising awareness in recent years of what was once largely an underground issue. The focus has resulted in an aggressive effort to tackle it from local school officials on up to the federal government.

Among the survey findings:

—About a quarter, or 24 percent, of girls said they were bullied, compared to 20 percent of boys.

—A higher percentage of white students — 24 percent — said they were bullied than black, Hispanic or Asian students. Twenty percent of black students said they were bullied compared to 19 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of Asian students.

Among respondents, 9 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys said they’d experienced cyberbullying either in school or outside of school. Unwanted text messages was the most common way students said they were cyberbullied followed by hurtful information posted on the Internet.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the news of an overall decline but with a caveat: “Even though we’ve come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation’s children.”

Students bullied are more likely to struggle in school, skip class, face substance abuse and commit suicide, the department said research has found. Being made fun of, called names or being insulted was the most common way the surveyed students said were bullied. Being the subject of rumors or threatened with harm was also common.

The survey is from the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. It is a nationally representative sample.

Watch “Terror Arrest In Texas Shows New Stance After Garland”

Published on May 15, 2015

Source: http://www.cnn.com/videos/

May 14, 2015 – Washington (CNN)—The FBI on Thursday arrested an Iraqi-born American citizen in Texas, alleging he traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS terrorists and returned to the U.S.

The case against Bilal Abood is one indication of federal counterterrorism officials’ new stance on terrorism cases in light of the recent foiled terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, against a Mohammed cartoon contest event.

Prosecutors charged Abood with lying to the FBI, but the case represents much more. Abood is one of hundreds of people the FBI is monitoring in some way, many of whom investigators suspect could be motivated to carry out attacks but though the evidence remains difficult to assemble.

Abood, who formerly worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Iraq, migrated to the U.S. in 2009.

The FBI alleges that agents stopped Abood as he tried to travel in 2013, when claiming he was planning to visit family in Iraq.

He later told the FBI in an interview in 2013 that he actually was planning to travel to Syria to fight with the Free Syrian Army, a rebel faction fighting the Assad regime that has in the past enjoyed some U.S. support.

Abood later left the U.S. for Turkey via Mexico, the FBI alleges.

He returned months later and claimed to the FBI that he had been fighting with the FSA.

The FBI seized his computers in July 2014 and found that Abood had pledged an oath to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

According to the FBI, Abood in June 2014 posted on Twitter a message saying: “I pledge obedience to the Caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Here we renew our pledge to the Caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

The FBI says Abood spent time watching propaganda videos of ISIS atrocities, including beheadings.


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Agents have broad discretion to pull over people for a secondary inspection


May 12, 2015 — The St. Lawrence County woman who videotaped an altercation with border patrol says Homeland Security agents visited her house while she was at her college graduation.

Jess Cooke of Ogdensburg posted a video on Facebook of what appears to be agents taking pictures of her car. The time stamp on the video, she says, coincides with when she was receiving her criminal justice degree from SUNY Canton on Saturday.

A U.S. Border Patrol spokesperson wouldn’t speak to the video of the agents. But she has acknowledged the initial incident during which border patrol agents tackled and apparently Tased Cooke during a roadside checkpoint on Route 37. Cooke’s video of the incident went viral after she posted it on Facebook. The Border Patrol says the investigation is ongoing.

Read the original story and watch Cooke’s video here.

NOTE: We are collecting your questions about U.S. Border Patrol’s roadside checkpoints to put to a legal expert on the matter. E-mail them to news-at-ncpr-dot-org.


UPDATE, 4:30pm: U.S. Customs and Border Protection has released an updated response to the Jess Cooke videotaped incident, in which it acknowledges an “electronic control device” was used during the stop. Here’s the complete statement:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to investigate a report from the U.S. Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector about an altercation between an individual and two Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint Thursday. The altercation followed a brief verbal exchange between the individual and the two agents regarding their intent to inspect the vehicle. CBP investigators have analyzed the scene of the incident, are taking statements and have reached out to the individuals involved. Based on preliminary information from the investigation, one of the two agents deployed an electronic control device during the altercation. As standard procedure, Swanton Sector notified the DHS Office of Inspector General after the incident.


Related stories:

Questions Over Border Stops Inside the Border

The incident returns the controversial checkpoints to the spotlight and raises thorny questions about what law enforcement can and cannot do, and what people’s rights are when they’re stopped at a border patrol checkpoint on a road in the North Country.

Immigration law professor Rick Su of SUNY Buffalo says the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that roadside checkpoints for determining immigration status are legal within 100 air miles of the international border. That includes all of the North Country, and almost all of New York State.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled federal agents have broad discretion to conduct checkpoints within 100 miles of the international border. Map via American Civil Liberties Union.

Su says agents have broad discretion to pull over people for a secondary inspection. “There have been cases where appearing nervous is enough reasonable suspicion to detain for further investigation, or to get a real search warrant,” says Su. That includes pulling over a motorist for a secondary inspection at a checkpoint.

“However,” Su continues, “it’s not sufficient enough at that point usually that that is enough to suggest that there is probable cause, that there is some sort of criminal activity that will be uncovered that will lead them to a full-on search.”

In other words, agents cannot insist a motorist open the vehicle’s trunk or submit to a search of the car, beyond a look inside the windows. Su says it remains a legal gray area to what extent a citizen has to cooperate with law enforcement at these checkpoints.

Su says how they’re being used can lead to a slippery slope of overapplication to issues beyond immigration, like drug interdiction, “that the federal government is, in some ways troublingly, using immigration checkpoints to enforce other areas of law enforcement, including the war on drugs.”

Following is a transcript of David Sommerstein’s conversation with Rick Su:

Rick Su: Technically, none of us are required to answer any questions, because we have the Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate ourselves. So we have the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. But that doesn’t mean that the government necessarily has to accept that. They are allowed to, essentially, continue questioning to that extent until they are satisfied—at least with regard to immigration checkpoints—about your status to be legally present in the United States.

DS: So they can do something like pull you over for a secondary inspection as you go through these checkpoints.

RS: That’s right. Technically, you don’t even require any special reasonable suspicion to go to secondary; all that’s required is to say that more time is necessary in order to ascertain the immigration question.

DS: One of the big questions that came up in this video is that the officers said that she appeared to be nervous. Is that enough of a probable cause to move to the next step of asking to search the vehicle or open the trunk and stuff?

RS: So there’s different standards for actually just detaining someone versus actually conducting a search. There have been cases where appearing nervous at a checkpoint is enough reasonable suspicion to detain for further investigation, or to get a real search warrant. However, it is not sufficient at that point, usually, to say that that is enough to suggest that there is probable cause of criminal activity that would be a cover that would lead them to an actual full-on search. And I think it was clear in the video that they weren’t able to just search the car itself. They were going to call in some dogs to do so. They couldn’t open the trunk for example, unless they got consent from the individual.

DS: In fact, just last month there was a Supreme Court decision that rules that you can’ force somebody to wait around while they get a canine unit to come to sniff around the trunk—that you can’t wait for ten minutes or twenty minutes.

RS: So this is what’s interesting about this case and the recent Supreme Court decision. Essentially what that decision came down to was that if you are detaining someone for one reason, you can’t then continue to detain them for different reasons. So in that particular case, the individual was being stopped because of a traffic violation. And the court held that once all that business with the traffic violation is done, you can’t detain them even for a few mnutes in order to then do a subsequent search for let’s say a drug violation unless you had some other reasonable suspicion. And that’s what makes this case particularly interesting.

DS: This case—the second case you’re talking about—the video.

RS: That’s right—the video particularly interesting—is that the checkpoint itself and the exception that the Supreme Court has made is essentially for immigration violations. It’s an immigration checkpoint. But what it seems from the video is that the interest of the officials is not so much immigration at that point. It’s something else, maybe a drug violation, or other ordinary crimes that they were investigating for. And this believe actually sets up a very dangerous dichotomy between the exception that’s granted for immigration and the use of immigration checkpoints to do all sort of other law enforcement priorities.

DS: A lot of people have been asking me and asking each other, “what can I do?” “What are my rights?” We’ve talked about some of those things, what you have to say, and what you don’t have to say. But in a lot of situations, it just comes down to you and an officer with a weapon, and you’re out there on the road, and that’s the reality that you find yourself in.

RS: I think the problem is there is a routine that’s relatively simple, but what I’m afraid is that Customs and Border Patrol are starting to use these checkpoints beyond their intended goal. I think if it was part of the goal that the U.S. Supreme Court has set down for this very unique exception, it really should be relatively non-intrusive. Ask questions about identification, about residency, and, as long as they are satisfied that there is no reasonable suspicion, that there is an immigration violation, most people should be waved through. It should be a relatively quick check.

I think the problem is because the exception is so broad – it’s an exception that shouldn’t apply to most other areas of law enforcement – the federal government is, in some ways troublingly, using immigration checkpoints to enforce other areas of federal law, including the war on drugs.

DS: But let’s put it on its flip side. Some people would say that the problem here is a woman who is doing her very least to help the process move smoothly, that she could have been more cooperative and that she brought this on herself, that we should make an effort to answer the questions, rather than say, “am I free to go?” or “I don’t have to answer these questions.”

RS: I believe a certain degree is cooperation is necessary. To extent that we are interested in these issues, we are all in it together. But I think it’s important to realize that when we’re talking about the limits of constitutional rights, and we’re talking about who tests them, it’s often individuals who are willing to go a little bit further, who are willing to ask the questions that most of us are not willing to ask, and that is really ensuring and checking federal government authority in these cases, that they’re really on the right side of the law. So even if many of us agree I wouldn’t do that in that situation, I think it’s important that some people do, if only to clarify, as we are doing now, what those limits are, so that we are sure that they’re not being stepped beyond the boundaries that the Constitution requires.