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Fri, 03 Dec 2021
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Revealed: the thousands of rape cases the police don't bother with - as charges fall following CPS guideline changes in the UK

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© Shutterstock
The Royal Courts of Justice.

Over the last two years the number of rape cases referred by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging has fallen by a third - despite a 3% rise in recorded offences over this period.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that tougher evidence standards and early intervention from prosecutors have contributed to this dramatic decline. The findings were described by the Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry, as 'cause for profound concern'.

The CPS told the Bureau that as part of a wider review it would now examine whether changes in evidence standards imposed by police and its own charging guidance had affected referral rates. It added that there is 'currently no evidence' of a link between the drop in referrals and its lawyers' early involvement in rape cases.

Data obtained by the Bureau shows the decline in referrals has coincided with a fall in numbers of suspected rapists being charged.

In 2012/13 11% fewer suspected rapists were charged - 320 fewer than in the year before and the lowest level for five years.

The Bureau's research found no single factor was behind the decline in the number of cases referred for charging. However eleven forces, all of whose rape referrals dropped by at least 21% last year, told the Bureau tougher evidence standards, considering cases more carefully before referral or talking to prosecutors about the strength of a case at an earlier stage contributed to the decrease.

Gold Seal

Total ban on GM food production mulled in Russia

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© AFP Photo/Robyn Beck
The draft bans the production of genetically modified organisms and transgenic products of plant, animal or microbial origin for their use in human and animal foods.
A group of Russian MPs have prepared a bill severely restricting imports of genetically modified agricultural produce, and completely banning its domestic production.

The initiative is backed by Evgeny Fyodorov of the parliamentary majority United Russia and a group called Russian Sovereignty, which unites MPs from various parties and parliamentary factions.

The politicians want to amend the existing law On Safety and Quality of Alimentary Products with a norm set for the maximum allowed content of transgenic and genetically modified components. The powers to establish that norm go to the government and products with excessive content of GMO components should be banned for turnover and imports.

Currently there are no limitations on the turnover or production of GMO-containing foodstuffs in Russia. However, when the percentage of GMO exceeds 0.9 percent the producer must label such goods and warn consumers. Last autumn the government passed a resolution allowing the listing of genetically modified plants in the Unified State Register, but this resolution will come in force only in July this year.

Stormtrooper

Cops break special needs teen's arm on school bus - family suing for $1 million


A surveillance video shows two cops in Rotterdam, New York breaking the arm of a special needs 16-year-old while trying to remove him from a school bus.

In October 2013, Rotterdam Police were called by Mohonasen transportation because the 16-year-old refused to get off the bus. According to police, the driver would not transport the teen because he threatened her.

Two cops attempted to convince the teen to get off of the vehicle - the entire time, the teen remained on his seat, unresponsive. In the video, one cop can be heard saying, "Either you or one of us might get hurt and we don't want to do that."

After 30 minutes of asking the teen to get up, the cops used force to remove him from the bus. The boy's arm was broken in the process.

Bad Guys

Fifty-five bodies, and zero trials, at the Florida School for Boys

Anthropologists from the University of South Florida
© Edmund D. Fountain/Pool/Reuters
Anthropologists from the University of South Florida exhuming grave sites in the Boot Hill Cemetery at the Florida School for Boys. September 1, 2013.
This week, the remains of fifty-five bodies were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Florida School for Boys, in the panhandle town of Marianna. The reformatory school, which was operated by the state of Florida, and which closed in 2011, was notorious for its mistreatment of its students. In 1968, Florida's governor at the time, Claude Kirk, said of the school, "Somebody should have blown the whistle a long time ago." There have long been allegations of beatings, torture, and sexual abuse there; it now appears that some students were killed. The total number of bodies buried at the school has not been determined, but the forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, the leader of the exhumation effort, which has been under way since September 2013, has said that it may exceed a hundred.

Some of the children died natural deaths, but the sheer number of bodies suggests that there may have been many killings, a possibility buttressed by eyewitness accounts. Yet Florida's prosecutors have yet to file a single criminal charge, or even open a criminal investigation. To pass over crimes of this magnitude without investigation seems the very definition of injustice.

There is no statute of limitations for murder and other crimes causing death, which means that there is no legal bar to bringing charges. In Florida, all capital cases have long had no statute of limitations, and when these crimes were allegedly committed forcible rape was punishable by death. But there are challenges to prosecuting old crimes: given how much time has passed, it may be difficult to determine who was responsible for the killings, and many of the suspects, meanwhile, have already died, including the school's longtime superintendent, Lenox Williams, who died in 2010. Some are still alive, including Troy Tidwell, an instructor at the school, who was accused of abuse in a class-action lawsuit filed by more than two hundred former students in 2009. (Tidwell denies the accusations, and the case was dismissed after a judge ruled that the statute of limitations on the charges had run out.)

In spite of these difficulties, a prosecutor still has many options in a case like this one. Scenes of mass death, like those caused by fires at night clubs in which the exits are blocked, are often prosecuted as cases of involuntary manslaughter. If the wantonly negligent operation of the school led to many deaths, the Florida School of Boys was like a deadly fire in slow motion. In addition, some of the school's surviving employees and managers could potentially be prosecuted for felony murder - Florida law includes special provisions for deaths that occur during the abuse of minors - or, alternatively, members of the staff could be prosecuted as members of a conspiracy. There may also be fresher claims of obstruction of justice. A law student could probably find more options, let alone a dedicated prosecutor.

Arrow Down

Fee planted in farm bill could increase costs of home heating oil just as costs soar

hemp harvest
© Kristen Wyatt
Hemp harvesting
Congress' mammoth farm bill restores the imposition of an extra fee on home heating oil, hitting consumers in cold-weather states just as utility costs are spiking.

The fee - two-tenths of a cent on every gallon sold - was tacked on to the end of the 959-page bill, which is winding its way through Capitol Hill. The fee would last for nearly 20 years and would siphon the money to develop equipment that is cheaper, more efficient and safer, and to encourage consumers to update their equipment.

It's just one of dozens of provisions tucked into the farm bill, which cleared the House on a bipartisan 251-166 vote last week and faces a key filibuster test in the Senate on Monday. It is expected to survive and face final passage Tuesday before heading to President Obama's desk.

Taxpayer groups say the bill could increase spending over the previous version and that it's crammed with favors for individual lawmakers, such as rules legalizing industrial hemp.

The heating oil fee was backed by Northeast lawmakers who said it would fund important research to benefit consumers.

Comment: Millions of Americans are out of work, employment benefits have been cut, and temperatures have been excessively cold - yet consumers will be forced to pay even higher prices to heat their homes at a time when few can afford it.
Propane shortage = Millions of cold Americans
Frigid temperatures = Utility bill shock


Attention

Train full of hazardous materials derails near Mississippi mobile home park

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A train carrying fuel oil, fertilizer, methanol derailed in southeast Mississippi Friday morning, forcing a local evacuation, officials said.

There was no fire or explosion, but 50 people living within a half-mile radius were evacuated, and a nearby highway was shut down as a precaution. "They've got these spills pretty much contained and secured, and we're working on starting the cleanup process at this point," local sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith said from the scene. "Hopefully we can get everything cleaned up this afternoon and get people in their homes tonight."

The train - owner and operated by Canadian National Railway Company - was running from from Jackson, Mississippi to Mobile, Alabama, when it derailed near a mobile home park outside the town of New Augusta around 9am Friday morning. Various reports state the pileup involved anywhere from 18 tot 21 cars, and that four to eight of the cars were leaking at some point. No injuries have so far been reported.

Red Flag

Half of America lives paycheck-to-paycheck

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The economic picture is looking brighter these days. The federal government announced Thursday that economic growth had picked up to its fastest pace in two years, while employment growth over the past five months has averaged a healthy 185,000 new jobs. But as evidenced by a report out Thursday from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of Americans are living in a state of "persistent economic insecurity," that makes it "difficult to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future."

In other words, too many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. The CFED calls these folks "liquid asset poor," and its report finds that 44% of Americans are living with less than $5,887 in savings for a family of four. The plight of these folks is compounded by the fact that the recession ravaged many Americans' credit scores to the point that now 56% percent of us have subprime credit. That means that if emergencies arise, many Americans are forced to resort to high-interest debt from credit cards or payday loans.

And this financial insecurity isn't just affected the lower classes. According to the CFED, one-quarter of middle-class households also fall into the category of "liquid asset poor." Geographically, most of the economically insecure are clustered in the South and West, with Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, and Arkansas being the states with the highest percentage of financially insecure.

Snakes in Suits

Broncos, Seahawks, worth a billion dollars each, among least charitable NFL teams

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Like all teams in the NFL, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are each worth over a billion dollars. They're owned by philanthropic billionaires who personally are very charitable. But the teams themselves are very chintzy when it comes to public giving. These two, about to go at it in the Super Bowl, are among the cheapest.

The Denver Broncos Charities, according to their federal tax filing, only managed to give away $145K in 2012. And that was down significantly from 2011′s 247,315K. Indeed. the Broncos charities have been declining year by year. Owner Pat Bowlen is routinely heralded in Denver for donating a much quoted "$25 million since 1993″ to local Denver organizations. It must have been mostly at the beginning of that time period.

More surprising: The Seattle Seahawks Charitable Foundation managed to give away only $170K in 2012. Lynne Allen, sister of billionaire team owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is president. Separately Paul Allen has a $300 million personal foundation..

Monkey Wrench

The job skills gap: a convenient myth for preserving profits

job losses
© Jim West/jimwestphoto.com
Instructor Dan Blue (left) works with a student on a drill press at the Machinist Training Institute in Detroit. Workers are improving their skills, but that doesn’t mean there are jobs out there.
Haven't seen too many "Help Wanted" signs lately? You haven't been looking hard enough. At factories across the country, thousands of good jobs are going begging.

If that doesn't sound quite right to you, take it up with the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM and other industry groups insist at least 600,000 factory positions remain open.

These vacancies are supposed to be the result of a "skills gap" - a shortage of workers with the right stuff for today's high-tech factories. The gap looms large in high-level discussions of what ails the American economy - and it drives much public policy.

"America wants a country that builds things," says Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, industry's leading skills gap spokesman (and board chair of the NAM), "but we have a problem. We don't have the people we need."

Politicians of both parties echo this refrain. "Businesses cannot find workers with the right skills," says Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, and Republican Senator Rob Portman agrees: "Let's close the skills gap and get Americans working again."

President Obama, too, maintains that America's manufacturers "cannot find enough workers with the proper skills."

Such bipartisan agreement is reflected in budget priorities. Retraining is a touchstone for the Obama White House, and since the president took office more than 18 billion federal dollars have gone to job training programs. Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin recently committed $8.5 million to training.

Propaganda

Journalism in America

Journalism in America_1
© EricPetersAuto

What happened to journalism that actually challenged - or even questioned - authority? You know, looked into things - and (as the slogan of a big-time paper styles it) exposed wrongdoing to the world without fear or favor? When did journalists become the leashed Shih Tzus of the powers that be, barking ferociously at times but never or very rarely at anything that really matters?

I can speak to this - as a guy who did work within the system as a writer/editor (and who personally knows people who still do).

There is no written code one must follow to get hired - and to avoid getting fired - as a journalist in America. However, there is a very clear sub rosa understanding as regards the opinions one must possess (or not express) which results in a startling - almost Stalinist - degree of political orthodoxy at major papers, TV networks, magazines and so on.

The independent thinker is not wanted - and the independent actor will quickly find himself unemployed and/or unemployable.

The media is also extremely insular and controlled. There are very few independent newspapers, for instance. Most of the medium-sized (and small) city/local papers are just shells. They are either owned by a national media conglomerate (e.g., Gannett) or they obtain most of their "copy" from "the wire" - the AP - and produce very little of their own, independent copy. The editors at these smaller papers simply pluck the stories - invariably the same stories, written by a handful of writers - and place them on the page. Hence the startling uniformity of the stories (and the opinions expressed). It is just like McDonad's. A Quarter Pounder With Cheese in Seattle tastes pretty much exactly like a Quarter Pounder With Cheese in Pittsburgh.