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Mon, 24 Feb 2020
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American Civil Liberties Union has abandoned civil liberties for crowd-pleasing gestures, former director warns

© Global Look Press / Michael Candelori
ACLU doing something other than its job
The ACLU, once the flagship US civil liberties organization, has abandoned its post right when it's most needed. Unlike other groups that have sold out for political expediency, it can't be easily replaced.

Most Americans, if they've heard of the ACLU, know of the infamous 1977 case in which the organization, then dominated by New York Jews, defended the right of a fringe group of less than two dozen neo-Nazis to march in full swastika-speckled regalia through an area of Skokie, Illinois, heavily populated by Holocaust survivors. Laws the town had tried to pass to prevent the display were struck down as unconstitutional. While unpopular at first, the decision proved to be a PR coup demonstrating the ACLU would stand by its principles, no matter what. Americans couldn't ask for a more dedicated crew safeguarding their rights.

But former ACLU executive director Ira Glasser recently told UK outlet Spiked he doesn't think the ACLU would take the Skokie case again - certainly not after the hasty legal retreat they beat after defending the 'Unite the Right' marchers in Charlottesville. "They might take the same case for the Martin Luther King Jr Association, but they wouldn't take it for the Nazis," Glasser told the outlet on Friday.

Comment: See also:


Long-time Massachusetts Democratic lawmaker on ETHICS and RULES panels arrested for feeding gambling habit with campaign contributions

David M. Nangle massachusetts arrest
© Boston Globe/Getty Images/File
Rep. David M. Nangle speaks during a press conference in Boston, Feb. 6, 2014
Longtime Massachusetts state Rep. David Nangle, who sits on both the ethics and rules committees, has been arrested for corruption.

The Democratic lawmaker was arrested by the FBI and IRS on Tuesday and charged with bank fraud, lying to a bank, falsifying tax returns, and wire fraud. He stands accused of using his campaign's bank account to fund his expensive gambling habit, according to ABC News.

The 28-count indictment alleges Nangle "was heavily in debt, had poor credit and had regular cash flow problems as a result of extensive gambling at various casinos in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, among others — placing thousands of bets on internet gambling sites."

Comment: There isn't a jail sentence long enough to 'correct' this breed.

More details from ABC:
According to federal prosecutors, Nangle defrauded Massachusetts campaign finance regulators by "using the Nangle Committee bank account as his own personal checking account to pay for various personal expenses and to withdraw cash."

Prosecutors also detailed how exactly Nangle used his campaign funds to pay for a golf club membership, which he categorized as "Campaign Volunteers Appreciation," and charged the green fees and member dues as "fundraiser catering."

Separately, Nangle did not pay for up to $8,000 in renovations to his house, instead "handing the contractor his State Representative business card." Ultimately, the contractor, who was not named, was rewarded with "lucrative bids for construction projects for which Nangle had secured state funding."

In addition to his state representative's salary, Nangle also "consulted" for a local home improvement company while getting paid $10,000 and $17,000 for no real work at all.

"At the time Nangle had received the February 2015 payment, Nangle had provided no real estate consulting services...," the indictment says.

Sound familiar?

Nangle, also according to the indictment, used cars rented with money from his campaign account to travel to casinos all over New England, from New Hampshire to Connecticut.

He also set up a straw vendor for his campaign to pay, which was operated by a friend of Nangle's relative.

While applying for a bank loan, prosecutors say he committed bank fraud, by not listing or omitting the truth for not paying his debts, in one letter "falsely blamed his bad credit on his ex-wife, claiming that he had loaned her the money, which she did not pay back in a timely fashion, when in truth and fact, Nangle had spent thousands of dollars at NH Casinos 1 and 2, the RI Casino and CT Casino 2."

While filing faulty taxes, prosecutors allege that Nangle wrangled in a part-time state employee to help him, and when the person refused to submit the false tax returns, Nangle pushed the button and said that he would "take the blame if anything happens."

In addition, Nangle filed fraudulent deductions, prosecutors said, giving one example of Nangle driving 47,000 miles for the consulting company in one year, which prosecutors determined that he would have to drive 345 miles per day for 7 days per week for the entire year.


211.6 million gallons of sewage spilled into Florida town's waterways

Sewage spill
According to officials, around 212 million gallons of sewage has spilled into Fort Lauderdale's waterways over the last few months. That's enough sewage to fill a shocking 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

During December 2019, the south Florida city's sewer pipes broke six times resulting in the spilling of 126.9 million gallons of sewage. It was one of south Florida's biggest spills to date. In the end, the Tarpon River, the Himmarshee Canal, and the streets in three different neighborhoods were affected: Rio Vista, Victoria Park, and Coral Ridge.

And then from January 30 until February 8, 79.3 million gallons of additional sewage spilled into George English Lake while 5.4 million gallons flooded city streets.

City officials reportedly stopped the leak three days after it was discovered by installing a bypass line but later that same day another leak was found.


Man seeks release from prison 25 years into 60-year cannabis sentence in a legal state

Michael Thompson
"I can't die in here. For what? Some marijuana and some guns in a locked closet?"

For more than a year, cannabis has been legal in the state of Michigan and businesses across the state are making millions in the legal industry. However, tens of thousands of people are still incarcerated under charges relating to cannabis, despite its recent change in legal status.

Michael Thompson is one of those people. The 68-year-old is currently fighting for a shot to be released after spending the past 25 years in jail. Thompson was sentenced to 60 years in prison for cannabis distribution in 1996 — a sentence that would effectively keep him in jail for the rest of his life with no chance for parole until he is in his late 80s.

Two years ago, Thompson was denied clemency by former Gov. Rick Snyder, but he hopes his chances will be better now that cannabis is legal and now that there is a growing support movement on the outside.

Eye 1

As Weinstein verdict comes in, what has #MeToo wrought?

Film producer Harvey Weinstein
(L) Film producer Harvey Weinstein (R) #MeToo March on November 10, 2018 in Hollywood, California
Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is facing a reckoning for his 'casting couch' habits - but the #MeToo movement he triggered has not only empowered victims, it's grown into a weapon for politicians and culture warriors.

Weinstein was hauled before a Manhattan court last month, to answer a multitude of charges of rape and sexual assault. Over 100 women have gone on record accusing him of misconduct since actress Rose McGowan (Charmed) led the way in 2017, accusing the powerful producer of having raped her 20 years prior.

The jury begins deliberations on his verdict on Tuesday. Whether he is found guilty or acquitted, Weinstein's case has reverberated not just in Hollywood or the US, but globally, with far-reaching consequences on society, politics and relations between the sexes.

The 'casting couch' has long been one of Hollywood's worst-kept secrets. McGowan's allegations brought some of it out into the open, only to see Weinstein's powerful political friends weaponize the mounting #MeToo outrage for their own ends.

Comment: See also: West Point tackles 'toxic masculinity'


Commercial pig farm in China said it jammed drone signal to combat swine fever blackmailers

Pig farm
© Abdelrahman Younis / Reuters
One of China's biggest animal feed producers said it had used a radio transmitter to combat crooks using drones to drop pork products contaminated with African swine fever on its pig farms, as part of a racket to profit from the health scare.

In July, China's agriculture ministry said criminal gangs were faking outbreaks of swine fever on farms and forcing farmers to sell their healthy pigs at sharply lower prices.

And on Thursday, a state-backed news website, The Paper, reported that a pig farming unit of Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co Ltd had run foul of the regional aviation authority, as its transmitter had disrupted the GPS signal in the area.

Comment: Maybe more of an excuse to crack down on civilian access to drones?


Dr. Liu Zhiming, hospital director in Wuhan, succumbs to coronavirus

Dr. Liu Zhiming wuhan coronavirus

Dr. Liu Zhiming, director of Wuchang Hospital in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The head of the Chinese hospital at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak has become one of the latest victims — dying Tuesday despite "all-out" attempts to save him, officials confirmed.

As director of Wuchang Hospital, Dr. Liu Zhiming led the fight to try to contain COVID-19, dedicating the hospital to treating the thousands of patients arriving every day. It ultimately cost him his life, with Wuhan's health bureau confirming that he died at 10:54 a.m. Tuesday. He was 51.

Announcing his death, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said Liu had taken part in the battle against the virus from the start and had made "important contributions in the work of fighting and controlling" the virus.

Comment: Dr. Zhiming's death is a tragedy, as it was due to his dedication to his patients to the point of exhaustion. It is sad that he will not see this outbreak diminish as the COVID-19 virus burns out. His patients will remember him with gratitude.


Russia experiences a 20.5% jump in tourism, e-visa liberalization planned for 2021

Russian street
© Sputnik / Valery Melnikov
It may be the world's largest country and bursting with visitor attractions, but Russia has long punched below its weight in the tourism sector. Now, signs suggest this is beginning to change.

In 2019, 5.1 million people came to the country as tourists - a 20.5 percent increase on the previous year, during which the FIFA World Cup was staged in 11 Russian cities. That's according to brand-new figures released by the Association of Tour Operators of Russia.

At the top of the leaderboard for visitors is China. In 2019, 1.5 million Chinese crossed the border for the purposes of tourism, a rise of almost 19 percent. The vast majority of Chinese citizens visited through the visa-free scheme, which makes it easier for tourist groups to travel.

Of course, these figures may drop in 2020, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Overall, the top five countries sending tourists to Russia have not changed: Germany, South Korea, the USA and Israel making up the rest of the quintet, with the most significant growth coming from France, at 32.4 percent.Tourism from all areas of the globe increased in 2019, with the exception of Latin America. This is probably due to inflated 2018 numbers as the World Cup attracted so many football fans from this region.


Teen accused of killing mother, brother arrested in North Carolina

Fauquier County house
© Moriah Balingit/The Washington Post
The Fauquier County house where 17-year-old Levi Norwood is accused of killing his mother and 6-year-old brother and then shooting and wounding his father.
The Virginia teen was allegedly trying to steal hair dye, a change of clothes and a backpack from a store in Durham, N.C., when police arrested him Saturday evening.

But Levi H. Norwood, a 17-year-old high school junior, is accused of a far more disturbing crime than shoplifting. He has been charged with two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of his mother, Jennifer L. Norwood, 34, and his brother Wyatt Norwood, 6.

At a news conference Sunday, Fauquier County Sheriff Robert P. Mosier said investigators have yet to recover any guns used.

The victims were discovered by Levi Norwood's father, Joshua H. Norwood, when he arrived home Friday evening shortly after 6 p.m. Some time after that, authorities said, Levi Norwood shot and injured his father, who ran outside and phoned 911.

Joshua Norwood was later hospitalized and in stable condition as of Saturday, though Mosier would not give an update on his status Sunday. Mosier also declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting, though he noted there were no previous reports of 911 calls made from the Norwoods' home while the family lived there.

Arrow Down

Carnage as brawl erupts at England youth boxing championships

boxing brawl
© Twitter @wayBsmith
There were terrifying scenes as a man with blood gushing from his head was seen wielding an axe at a junior boxing event in England this weekend as mass violence broke out among the crowd.

Four people were hospitalized following the clashes at the England Boxing National Youth Championships, during which chairs were launched and one man was seen setting off a fire extinguisher before hurling it.

A trail of destruction was also seen outside the Sports Connexion venue in Coventry, where police were called to the scene before the event was called off.

There are reports that the violence - which was described by local police as "terrifying" - was sparked by rival families in attendance.

Comment: See also: Mass brawl and stabbing at London's Euston tube station