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Class action lawsuit filed against city of Memphis over untested rape kits

Image
© Guardian
The city of Memphis is facing a class action lawsuit over the Memphis Police's backlog of untested rape kits.

A rape survivor sued the city saying her rape kit has sat untested in a police storeroom for 13 years. The woman's attorneys say her constitutional rights have been violated by the city and the police department.

The 13-page lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Downtown Memphis, and since it's a class action, other rape survivors could join the suit as plaintiffs.

Lawyers are identifying the plaintiff as Jane Doe to protect her identity as a sexual assault victim.

The court documents say a man broke into her home in 2001. She was bound by the suspect and sexually assaulted.

According to the complaint she was brought to the rape crisis center for treatment and an exam, but it says her rape kit, or sexual assault evidence kit, was never submitted for testing.

"There was an intentional decision made by the police department that they would treat crimes against women -- domestic violence, and sexual assaults -- differently than other crimes they investigate," said Robert Spence, Jr., plaintiff's attorney. "Crimes of that nature, rapes and sexual assaults they chose not to investigate them to throw the rape kits in a trash heap and essentially victimize the victims twice."

Eye 1

UK Police under investigation after three schoolboys with learning difficulties were TASERED

  • Officers called to Chelfham Senior School near Plymouth at 9.20am on December 1 to deal with alleged assault on a teacher
  • Two boys, 14, and a 15-year-old Tasered for 'brandishing knives'
  • IPCC has now launched investigation in Devon and Cornwall Constabulary
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Probe: The IPCC has launched an inquiry into Devon and Cornwall Police after pupils at Chelfham Senior School (pictured) were Tasered
Police are being investigated after a group of schoolboys with learning difficulties were Tasered at a special needs school.

The police watchdog is supervising an investigation into how three boys - aged 14 and 15 - were blasted with a 50,000-volt electric stun gun.
Several police units were called to Chelfham Senior School near Plymouth, a special needs school owned by the exclusive Priory Group following an alleged assault on a teacher in a 'scuffle' with pupils.

Eye 1

Ohio schools expect boom in civilian drone use in U.S., offer job training

u.s. drones
© HANDOUT/Reuters
Some Ohio schools are preparing students for a boom in the drone industry once the federal government, as is expected, allows civilian unmanned aircraft to fly in U.S. airspace.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates as many as 7,500 commercial drones could be flying in national airspace within a few years, and has until 2015 to present a plan for safely integrating drones into U.S. airspace....


Comment: US approves drones for civilian use

The 'normalizing' of American society to seeing a drone presence in national airspace begins to play out - they're teaching the children 'well', aren't they?


Robot

Rise of the Machines: Can a robot do your job?

The real world has not caught up yet with "Star Wars" and its talking, thinking robots, but some of the most sophisticated units that exist headed to Florida this month for a Defense Department competition.

Seventeen humanoid robots were be evaluated at Homestead Miami Speedway for how well they can complete tasks including getting into an all-terrain vehicle and driving it and opening doors. (AP)
ROMachines_1
© REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
An LS 3 (Legged Squad Support System) robot demonstrates its movement, showing it is designed to accompany soldiers and Marines any place they go on foot, helping to carry their gear, during a demonstration in Homestead, Florida December 20, 2013.

Comment: Computers do talk and think, and so do robots. They say the real world has not yet caught up with 'star wars'? Maybe not in terms of implementation, but the technological capabilities are here. You may want to see this year old report:




Eye 1

Framed? Former West, Texas paramedic sentenced to 21 months in prison on pipe bomb charges levied after fertilizer plant explosion

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© AP
Bryce Reed was arrested by federal agents who said he collected materials to make a pipe bomb. While Reed was sentenced earlier this month for charges related to the pipe bomb, the former paramedic was never charged in the West explosion.
A former paramedic in the tiny Texas town where a fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty in a pipe bomb case that isn't linked to the blast.

Bryce Reed made himself somewhat of a representative for the town of West shortly after the April 17 blast, speaking on national television and reassuring displaced residents that they were safe. His arrest - on charges of trying to put together chemicals and equipment for a small pipe bomb - confounded those who knew him and raised questions about whether he had anything to do with the explosion.

A federal complaint alleged that after the blast, Reed gave the materials he had collected to a friend, who called authorities after realizing what Reed placed in his possession. Reed would later admit in court documents to searching the Internet last December for "explosives," "explosions," "explosive ingredients" and "instructions for making explosives."

Ultimately, Reed was never charged with any responsibility for the fertilizer explosion, which blew out windows and caved in walls of homes several blocks away.

Comment: In the aftermath of the explosion, while the authorities - local, State and Federal - were more concerned with keeping a tight leash on information emerging from the site, Bryce Reed helped victims of the blast and stepped up as a spokesman for the town, answering media requests from journalists all over the world:


Two days later, Reed was fired from his job, with no reason given. Then a media campaign began insinuating that he was mentally unstable. Finally, he was handed those ridiculous charges a month after the explosion.

Reed's attorney, Jonathan Sibley, reckons he was set up to shut him up:
DA receives Texas Ranger report on former West paramedic

Waco Tribune, 25 July 2013

[...] Sibley said he thinks federal authorities arrested Reed "in a rush to judgment" to silence him from the prominent role Reed played initially in acting at various venues as a self-appointed spokesman for the city of West and the grieving families of those lost in the blast.

He said he thinks Reed was arrested also because he criticized the multi-agency state and federal investigation into the 
explosion.

According to court documents, Reed gave a box to an unwitting Abbott resident that contained a "possible destructive device."

The person called the McLennan County Sheriff's Office, which took possession of a 31/2-inch pipe and a few bags filled with chemicals, court records state.

Reed admitted having the "components of a pipe bomb," court documents say. But Sibley said Reed "vehemently denies the allegations against him."

"He didn't give the box to the guy who gave it to the feds," Sibley said. "I can't even say if there 
ever was a box, but this was something that the federal government pinned on him when they were in the middle of the investigation into the explosion and he was the one talking to the media, and the FBI and ATF didn't like that.

"This was a convenient way to rush to judgment and to try to get him out of the way," Sibley said. "I think the investigation will reveal that. I think it is faulty and Mr. Reed is ultimately looking forward to his day in court." [...]
The 'pipe bomb materials' (literally a portion of pipe and a bag of some chemical or other) were in turn given to Reed by his friend and colleague Cyrus Reed (no relation) who was killed in the explosion, and who Bryce Reed gave an eulogy to at his funeral:


The authorities still have no clue what caused the blast... or so they say.

Remember, it was a HUGE explosion:
Fertilizer plant explosion injures dozens in West, near Waco

Dallas News, 17 April 2013

[...] Paul Manigrasso, a Gulf War veteran, felt the blast in Waxahachie.

"Based on my naval experience ... we knew immediately what it was but cannot believe it occurred 40 miles away," he told KWTX-TV.

Andy Bartee of Dallas was driving home from Austin when he stopped at a convenience store about five miles from the explosion. Suddenly the lights went out and the explosion rocked the building.

"You could feel it in your chest and ears," he said. Ceiling tiles fell and pictures on the wall broke.

"It was pretty nuts," he said. "It looked like a mushroom cloud. It looked like an atom bomb had been dropped," Bartee said. "I've never seen or felt anything like that."

Debby Marak said she had seen the plant burning and had driven closer to see what was happening but reversed direction after two boys ran toward her screaming that authorities had told them to flee because the plant was going to explode.

"It was like being in a tornado," Marak said of the blast that erupted as she was driving away. "Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield. It was like the whole earth shook."
Perhaps they haven't found the cause because they haven't considered this possibility:

Was the West, Texas Explosion a Meteorite Impact?

In the meantime, Reed is a convenient scapegoat. Sure, in sentencing him based on these trumped-up charges they 'clarify' that he wasn't responsible for the blast, but the mere association is enough to seed the idea in people's minds that Reed caused the explosion.


Bad Guys

Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America's Most Desperate Town

camde, new jersey 1
© Jessica Kourkounis
20 Comment 312 Carl Washington, 11, left, and Kirhe Williams, 16, play curb ball in front of a vacant house on Morton Street.
No jobs, no hope - and surveillance cameras everywhere. The strange, sad story of Camden

The first thing you notice about Camden, New Jersey, is that pretty much everyone you talk to has just gotten his or her ass kicked.

Instead of shaking hands, people here are always lifting hats, sleeves, pant legs and shirttails to show you wounds or scars, then pointing in the direction of where the bad thing just happened.

"I been shot six times," says Raymond, a self-described gangster I meet standing on a downtown corner. He pulls up his pant leg. "The last time I got shot was three years ago, twice in the femur." He gives an intellectual nod. "The femur, you know, that's the largest bone in the leg."

"First they hit me in the head," says Dwayne "The Wiz" Charbonneau, a junkie who had been robbed the night before. He lifts his wool cap to expose a still-oozing red strawberry and pulls his sweatpants down at the waist, drawing a few passing glances. "After that, they ripped my pockets out. You can see right here. . . ."

Even the cops have their stories: "You can see right here, that's where he bit me," says one police officer, lifting his pant leg. "And I'm thinking to myself, 'I'm going to have to shoot this dog.'"

"I've seen people shot and gotten blood on me," says Thomas Bayard Townsend III, a friendly convicted murderer with a tear tattoo under his eye. "If you turn around here, and your curiosity gets the best of you, it can cost you your life."

Camden is just across the Delaware River from the brick and polished cobblestone streets of downtown Philadelphia, where oblivious tourists pour in every year, gobbling cheese steaks and gazing at the Liberty Bell, having no idea that they're a short walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge from a full-blown sovereignty crisis - an un-Fantasy Island of extreme poverty and violence where the police just a few years ago essentially surrendered a city of 77,000.

All over America, communities are failing. Once-mighty Rust Belt capitals that made steel or cars are now wastelands. Elsewhere, struggling white rural America is stocking up on canned goods and embracing the politics of chaos, sending pols to Washington ready to hit the default button and start the whole national experiment all over again.

But in Camden, chaos is already here. In September, its last supermarket closed, and the city has been declared a "food desert" by the USDA. The place is literally dying, its population having plummeted from above 120,000 in the Fifties to less than 80,000 today. Thirty percent of the remaining population is under 18, an astonishing number that's 10 to 15 percent higher than any other "very challenged" city, to use the police euphemism. Their home is a city with thousands of abandoned houses but no money to demolish them, leaving whole blocks full of Ninth Ward-style wreckage to gather waste and rats.

Heart - Black

What has society descended to? Teenage girl died on Dublin street because she didn't have the prescription to get an EpiPen from a nearby pharmacy

A 14-year-old girl died recently after a pharmacy wouldn't give her mother an EpiPen that would have stopped an allergic reaction to peanuts.

Emma Sloan was out to eat with her family when she ordered what she thought was curry sauce from a Chinese restaurant. The sauce turned out to be satay, which is made with peanuts, and a short time later, Sloan complained of trouble breathing.

She began to have a severe allergic reaction from ingesting the peanuts, so her mother ran around the corner to a pharmacy to ask them for an EpiPen. The EpiPen is a pocket-sized shot of adrenaline that reverses the effects of an allergic reaction, and had they been able to get their hands on one, they could have saved Sloan's life.

The pharmacist, however, denied Sloan's mother Caroline an EpiPen because she didn't have a prescription, but encouraged her to take her daughter to the emergency room. Caroline pleaded with the man to give one to her, but he refused. Meanwhile, Emma Sloan laid out on the street in anaphylactic shock, surrounding by a crowd of onlookers as well as her two sisters. After being refused an EpiPen by the pharmacist, Carolina attempted to take her daughter to the nearest hospital, but she wasn't able to get that far.

Bad Guys

When more cancer is good for GDP growth, we're measuring things wrong

Environmentalists have been asking some pretty tough questions of economists for the last 50 years.

In Natural Capitalism Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken point out that of every 100 units of raw material that goes into our industrial system only 6 per cent is still in use after six months. So 94 per cent is waste!

Or think about this: with just 5 per cent of the population, North Americans consume 33 per cent of the world's resources. So if everyone else in the world consumed as much as we do, we'd need another six planets to provide!

Clearly we can't have infinite growth on a finite planet. As one of my mentors, Thomas Berry used to say: Economics, as it is currently practised, is a form of pathology:

Ask any economist and they will tell you that GDP growth is good. So if more people get cancer, that's great, because spending on health care increases. When BP's rig in the Gulf of Mexico spills 4.9-million barrels of oil that's great because BP has to spend billions cleaning it up -- so GDP grows.

And when the U.S. goes to war in Iraq and Afghanistan that's FANTASTIC because the lifetime spending due to that war will be somewhere between 2.7- and 6-TRILLON dollars, according to Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz. But you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that more cancer, catastrophe and war are not good.

Herman Daly, the former Senior Economist for the World Bank asks, is GDP measuring wealth or ilth?

Can any economist say that more cancer, more childhood asthma, more oil spills, more pollution in China, more species extinction, more tropical rain forest destruction, and more war represents more prosperity?

Stormtrooper

Californians outraged after police acquire military armored vehicle to patrol city

armored vehicle
© Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images / AFP
Police in Salinas, California are under fire after the department acquired a heavily armored military vehicle for SWAT team operations.

The $650,000 vehicle was gifted to the Salinas Police Department from the government through the 1033 program, which redistributes used equipment to other agencies. According to KSBW, the truck was used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to numerous outlets, police stated their SWAT team was in desperate need of a new vehicle. KSBW added that the new truck, built to withstand rifle fire and minefield explosions, has already aided officers looking to arrest a dangerous suspect. The individual was apparently spotted via the vehicle's high observation deck.

While Police Chief Kelly McMillin believes the vehicle "provides a high capability of protection for our officers and the community," other members of the community have been outspoken in their disagreement.

Posting on the police department's Facebook page, citizens criticized the acquisition as excessive, as well as a sign of the militarization of law enforcement.

"That vehicle is made for war," wrote one commenter. "Do not use my safety to justify that vehicle," another one wrote. "The Salinas Police Department is just a bunch of cowards that want to use that vehicle as intimidation and to terrorize the citizens of this city."

"To stop gang members?" asked a commenter. "Hmmm gang members don't riot in mass numbers. It's right in front of our faces and we don't see it. Why would the ARMY!!! give something like that for FREE!!! Let's think for once people."

Black Cat

Infamously abusive cop Sterling Wheaten ordered to pay victim $250,000 but still keeps his job

sterling wheaten

Atlantic City police officer Sterling Wheaten
Notorious Atlantic City police officer Sterling Wheaten may finally face some consequences for his alleged use of excessive force on the job. As we told you in November, Wheaten had an incredible 25 excessive force complaints filed against him between September of 2008 and April of 2012. He was cleared by Atlantic City Police Department internal investigations in all 25 of the cases, a fact that Atlantic City attorney Jennifer Bonjean called "statistically not credible."

In addition to the citizen complaints, Wheaten has also been targeted in at least five lawsuits in the last several years. One of these lawsuits concluded last week, and the jury handed Wheaten a strong serving of (likely overdue) punishment.

Wheaten was ordered to pay victim Michael Troso $250,000 for using excessive force and illegal arrest procedures against him in 2008.

Troso, who at the time was a deputy state attorney general, was arrested by Wheaten in 2008 on the night of his bachelor party. Troso lost his job as the result of the arrest.

"Officer Wheaten was certainly the leader when it came to the vicious attack that was practiced on (Troso)," attorney William Buckman said.