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October 31, 2015

Nine arrested for human trafficking in southeastern United States

Nine arrested for human trafficking in southeastern United States

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

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Nine people were arrested on Thursday at cities in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi and have been charged as part of a 32-court federal indictment in an interstate human trafficking case. According to William Thornton from AL.com “the indictment was announced by Christopher P. Canova, Acting United States Attorney from the Northern District of Florida.”

According to the indictment, between July 2015 and August of this year, the defendants transported, housed and marketed women for prostitution in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. They took the proceeds and wired them out of the country.

“Jose Juan Ruiz Prudencio, 40, and Emerson Corvera, 30, both of Montgomery, were arrested along with defendants in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia,” William Thornton reported.

The nine arrested were also charged with three counts of enticing individuals to travel to engage in prostitution, seven counts of transporting people to engage in prostitution, four counts of money laundering, six counts of harbouring an alien for the purpose of prostitution and illegal entry by a deported alien.

This case resulted from a 15-month investigation into human trafficking activities in the Northern District of Florida by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) – Panama City Resident Agent in Charge.

According to Kelsey Davis from Montgomery Advertiser, “The indictment also says at least 26 women were involved, who were sold for $30 per session. The price was later raised to $40 because the defendants allegedly stated they weren’t making enough of a profit at the former price.”

According to the FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation, the defendants are:

  • Edegardo Osorno Rodriguez, 37, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida;
  • Antonio Flores-Esparza, 31, Pensacola, Florida;
  • Jose Juan Ruiz Prudencio, 40, Montgomery, Alabama;
  • Jose Alvaro Trujillo-Santiz, 45, Panama City Beach, Florida;
  • Rosa Mirtha Cruz Vidal, 34, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida;
  • Mauro Gonzalez-Lira, 24, McComb, Mississippi;
  • Romon Tobon, 45, Starkville, Mississippi;
  • Lazaro Juarez-Juarez, 33, Atlanta, Georgia; and
  • Emerson Corvera, 30, Montgomery, Alabama.



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June 24, 2013

Silvio Berlusconi convicted of sex with underage prostitute

Silvio Berlusconi convicted of sex with underage prostitute

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Monday, June 24, 2013

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Silvio Berlusconi in 2010.
Image: la-moncloa.es.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was convicted today of having sex with an underage prostitute. He has been sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from serving in public office, but does not start his sentence until an appeal process is concluded.

Berlusconi was charged with paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan-born nightclub dancer who performs under the name ‘Ruby Rubacuori’ — Ruby the Heartstealer. Prosecutors say El Mahroug had sex with Berlusconi when she was aged 17. She denies having sex with Berlusconi. El Mahroug admits having received thousands of euros from Berlusconi.

In addition to the sex charges, Berlusconi was found guilty of abusing his office when dealing with El Mahroug. The court found that in May 2010, Berlusconi put pressure on police officers in Milan to release El Mahroug who had been arrested on suspicion of theft. Berlusconi claims that he telephoned the police but did so on the belief that El Mahroug was related to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in order to prevent a diplomatic incident.

Prosecutors alleged that El Mahroug was just one of many women Berlusconi had paid for sex with and that she formed part of “a prostitution system set up for the personal sexual satisfaction of the defendant”.

In May of this year, an Italian appeals court upheld a conviction for tax fraud which Berlusconi is in the process of appealing to the country’s highest appellate court, the Court of Cassation. If the decision is upheld by the higher court, he will be liable to serve four years in prison for the tax fraud offense, where Berlusconi was found to have bought distribution rights for American films and resold them at inflated prices to reduce the tax liability of Mediaset, Berlusconi’s media company which owns the three largest television stations in Italy.

Berlusconi is head of the People of Freedom party, a centre-right party that forms part of Italy’s coalition government.



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October 27, 2012

Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi found guilty of fraud

Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi found guilty of fraud

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was yesterday found guilty of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, which was reduced to one year because of a law passed by Mr Berlusconi which aimed to reduce overcrowding of prisons.

Silvio Berlusconi
Image: Presidenza della Repubblica.

The fraud relates to the purchase of television film rights by a company owned by Mr Berlusconi, Mediaset, which the company then re-sold at exaggerated prices. Although sentenced to one year in prison, Mr Berlusconi, 76, might not serve the one-year sentence because there will be two opportunities to appeal the verdict, which may take many years and no prison time is served until after the verdict is confirmed. Mr Berlusconi is also banned for three years from any political office.

The Secretary of Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom party, Angelino Alfano, said the ruling confirmed there was “judicial persecution” against the former prime minister; while according to Antonio Di Pietro, one of Berlusconi’s political rivals, “the truth has been exposed”.

Mr Berlusconi resigned in November from his position as Prime Minister. He has in the past faced several allegations against him, including embezzlement, fraud, and bribery. A separate trial is currently underway in Milan over allegations he paid for sex with an under-age prostitute, Karima el Mahroug.



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May 19, 2012

China\’s \’Bandit King\’ given life term in \’massive\’ bribery case

China’s ‘Bandit King’ given life term in ‘massive’ bribery case

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

China
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Lai Changxing, dubbed the Bandit King, has been given a life sentence for years of smuggling and corruption that added up to billions of US dollars or Pounds sterling. The Chinese court described the values as “massive”.

The sentencing took place in Xiamen, where Lai’s empire was based.

Lai smuggled goods worth more than £2 billion into Xiamen, bypassing more than £1 billion in import duty. He paid 64 local officials a total of almost £4 million in bribes, giving him effective control of the city from 1995 to 1999. He fled China after becoming a wanted man in 1999 and went to Canada via Hong Kong; the following year, Premier Zhu Rongji said “If Lai was executed three times over, it would not be too much”.

As head of the Yuanhua Group, Lai smuggled in cars, chemicals, oil, cigarettes, and other goods. He distributed bundles of cash to the poor, owned and played for his local football team, built stadia, owned a bulletproof Mercedes that once belonged to President Jiang Zemin, and attempted to construct a tower that would have been the nation’s tallest building. He attained local popularity for funding construction projects including schools, hundreds of tower blocks, and the local airport.

Lai funded construction for the city’s airport.

As well as money, officials were offered alcohol and prostitutes. Many were offered time at Lai’s seven-storey brothel, the Red Mansion, and feasted at a replica of the Forbidden City.

State TV has broadcast footage depicting a banquet table with a tiger skin laid upon it, cars given to officials, a young woman alleged to have been donated as a lover, and a sackful of gold rings. The case’s prominence was such that Liu Liying, boss of the national Central Discipline Inspection Committee, took charge of bringing Lai down.

Subsequent investigations have examined more than 1,000 suspects with police at one stage turning over an entire hotel to the probe, filling rooms with suspects. National newspaper The People’s Daily has suggested it is the most serious economic crime in modern Chinese history. He was the nation’s top car importer and one of the main traders in oil and imported cigarettes.

Hundreds of officials have been convicted and it is estimated hundreds more remain. Fellow life-sentence prisoners from the case include the city’s deputy mayor and its head of customs. The nation’s former vice-minister for security, Li Jizhou, has a suspended death sentence. Other suspects have killed themselves.

Cquote1.svg The sums involved are unusually large, and the details are extraordinarily serious Cquote2.svg

—Court

Upon his escape from the nation Lai became China’s most-wanted fugitive. Twelve years of negotiations ended with a Chinese promise Lai would be spared the death penalty, and Canada extradited him last year. Numerous lower-ranking members of Lai’s empire have already been given life imprisonment or death sentences. With execution off the table, the court gave Lai the highest sentence possible: in addition to the life term, he received fifteen years for bribery and had all his possessions confiscated.

The court justified the “double sentence” on the grounds “the sums involved are unusually large, and the details are extraordinarily serious”. “The crimes involve massive sums and particularly serious circumstances,” court officials told Xinhua. Lai had denied corruption at his trial, although he accepted exploiting loopholes to avoid import duty.

“I don’t have a good family background,” Lai said previously in a press interview. “I have to do things step by step by myself. That’s how people came to respect me. I never fussed about big money.” Lai was born as one of eight siblings in the midst of famine.


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May 5, 2012

On the campaign trail, April 2012

On the campaign trail, April 2012 – Wikinews, the free news source

On the campaign trail, April 2012

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

The following is the sixth in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail, a candidate that ended his presidential campaign speaks to Wikinews about what he learned from the experience and his new plan to run for U.S. Congress, Wikinews gets the reaction of the new presidential and vice presidential nominees of the Constitution Party, and the campaign manager for the top Americans Elect presidential candidate provides insight on the campaign’s list of potential running mates.

Summary

At the beginning of April, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won primaries in Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, pushing him further ahead of his rivals. A week later, former Senator Rick Santorum, the candidate with the second highest number of delegates, ended his campaign, avoiding a loss to Romney in his home state of Pennsylvania. With the withdrawal, the press began to identify Romney as the presumptive Republican Party nominee, though he had yet to secure enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Thereafter, Romney appointed adviser Beth Meyers to begin the search for a running mate.

These developments set the stage for an election contest between Romney and President Barack Obama, who had secured the nomination of the Democratic Party with victories in Maryland and Washington, D.C. The Washington Post proclaimed the “Buffett Rule” as the “opening act in Obama-Romney election battle” as Obama pushed for the Senate to pass a tax increase on wealthy Americans, named for billionaire Warren Buffett, who argued it was unfair that because of loopholes, his secretary had to pay a higher effective tax rate than him. The Romney campaign attacked the proposed tax increase as a “politically motivated” and “gussied-up” increase on capital gains taxes.

President Obama’s dog, Bo walks on the White House lawn in April 2012.
Image: Glyn Lowe.

Other stories in April distracted from the discussion of political issues. First, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen described Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, as having “never worked a day in her life.” Ann Romney responded that “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” Next, The Obama campaign renewed the story that Romney transported his dog Seamus in a kennel on top of his vehicle in 1983, with campaign strategist David Axelrod posting a Twitter photo of Obama in a vehicle with his dog Bo, with the caption, “How loving owners transport their dogs.” The Romney campaign countered that Obama had eaten dog meat while living in Indonesia as discussed in his autobiography Dreams from My Father. Romney strategist Eric Fehrstrom retweeted Axelrod’s original photo with the caption, “In hindsight, a chilling photo.” Then, Rock musician and Romney supporter Ted Nugent said at a National Rifle Association event that he would be “dead or in jail” if Obama won re-election, earning him a visit from the Secret Service. The Secret Service itself was embroiled in controversy in April after it was revealed that agents had retained the services of prostitutes while protecting the President during his trip to Colombia.

Despite the portrayal of Romney as the presumptive nominee, delegate contests continued. Romney won additional races in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York, after which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced he planned to end his campaign. Texas governor Rick Perry, who supported Gingrich, formally endorsed Romney. However, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas continued his campaign. He won the majority of the Minnesota delegates up for grabs at conventions across the state and did the same in Louisiana, pushing his delegate count to 80. Romney has secured 847, which is just short of the required 1,144. 962 delegates remain available.

Presidential candidate drops bid; announces congressional run

In April, former air traffic controller RJ Harris ended his campaign for the 2012 presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party (LP), citing fundraising difficulties. He announced that instead, he would run an independent campaign to represent Oklahoma’s 4th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives against incumbent Congressman Tom Cole. Harris previously challenged Cole for the seat in 2010, but lost in the Republican Party primary.

Congressional candidate RJ Harris.
Image: RJ Harris.

Harris opened his presidential candidacy last year, and was the first LP candidate to speak with Wikinews. His exit leaves activist R. Lee Wrights and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as the two main contenders for the LP nomination at the party’s May 5 National Convention.

Since exiting, Harris spoke to Wikinews once again, discussing what he learned from his presidential campaign, what he wishes to happen at the LP National Convention, and how his new congressional campaign will differ from his 2010 run.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWhat did you learn from the experience of running for president?

Harris: I learned that I am Libertarian to the core by having to research each and every position on the issues and realizing that I almost never saw the answers in any other light than that cast by the Philosophy of Liberty or the Constitution of the United States. Certainly I will run again when I have built a bigger base and I look forwards to once again being able to fight for Liberty with the courage of informed conviction. I also learned that no party, even the smaller ones, are immune from party politics and I will spend the rest of my political life attempting to live the admonition of Washington and Jefferson against them and the evils they create.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWho would you now like to see win the Libertarian Party presidential nomination?

Harris: I have already stated publicly that I think both Lee Wrights and Gov. Gary Johnson are great men who would serve the Libertarian Party very well. I would like to see a ticket with them both included on it. I refrain from making a direct endorsement of either as that smacks of the very party politics I have come to loathe. Let them articulate their messages to the delegates and the delegates decide without the interference of one of the failed candidates, or the party machine, who should be their standard bearer.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow will your 2012 congressional campaign differ from your 2010 run?

Harris: My 2012 Congressional Campaign will not end until November this time rather than in July. This should give us the time we need to attract wider support from the Liberty movement than we had last time since it is very difficult to get folks fired up so far in advance of the actual election. I will also be spending much more effort in district with various civic organizations, not political parties, and focusing on the registered voters who vote most often. Certainly I will highlight my opponents atrocious voting record which includes voting for the bailouts, the stimulus, raising the debt ceiling, the president’s budget, the Patriot Act and the NDAA. Aside from that though what is most important is that we get the message of Liberty out to the constituents of Oklahoma’s 4th District so that they have something positive to consider up against the incumbent.

Constitution Party presidential and vice presidential picks react to nomination

Virgil Goode of Virginia and Jim Clymer of Pennsylvania, the new presidential and vice presidential nominees of the Constitution Party (CP), each responded to Wikinews inquiries requesting their thoughts on their respective nominations.

Official photo of Goode during the 109th United States Congress.
Image: United States Congress.

Goode, who served in Congress for over a decade before joining the CP in 2010, announced his presidential candidacy this past February. At the 2012 National Convention in April, he won the party’s presidential nomination on the first ballot over former Savannah State football coach Robby Wells and 2008 vice presidential nominee Darrell Castle.

Afterwards, Goode echoed his reaction to Wikinews: “I am honored to be the nominee of the Constitution Party for the 2012 election. I offer a real difference from Romney and Obama.” He differentiated himself from Romney and Obama, calling for a balanced federal budget, border security, the elimination of illegal immigration, the decrease of legal immigration, support for the Alabama and Arizona immigration laws, and the reduction of money in politics. He proclaimed, “I am not taking any PAC donations, and am also limiting individual donations to $200 per person…I favor the many over the special few.”

At the convention, Goode selected outgoing CP chairman Jim Clymer as his running mate. Clymer, an attorney from Lancaster, announced earlier this year that he would step down as chairman of the CP. During his chairmanship, Clymer welcomed Goode into the CP in 2010, and encouraged him to run for president. This is not Clymer’s first campaign for public office, having run for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in both 1994 and 1998.

Concerning the CP vice presidential nomination, Clymer told Wikinews, “I wasn’t seeking it, but how can one say no to a request like that, especially after I had been urging him [Goode] to step forward to make the sacrifice of being our presidential candidate. It’s a case of duty calling and I intend to do all I can to answer that call!”

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted at the end of April shows the CP ticket with 5 percent support in Goode’s home state of Virginia, behind Mitt Romney with 38 percent and President Barack Obama with 50 percent. In 2008, the ticket of pastor Chuck Baldwin and Darrell Castle appeared on 37 state ballots, and received 199,314 votes or 0.15 percent of the total popular vote.

Top Americans Elect candidate announces ’23’ potential running mates

Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, the current leader in supporters for the Americans Elect presidential nomination, announced on MSNBC‘s Morning Joe in April that he has compiled a list of “23” potential running mates for his campaign. He says the list will remain a secret until the conclusion of the first round of voting on the Americans Elect website. The vote was scheduled to happen on May 8, but has been postponed to May 15. According to Americans Elect rules, Roemer must select a running mate that is a political Independent or from the Democratic Party since Roemer has been associated with the Republican Party for most of his career. He recently changed his affiliation to the Reform Party of the United States in order to seek that party’s presidential nomination.

Roemer’s campaign manager Carlos Sierra told Wikinews that he personally knows who makes up the 23 individuals on the list, but would not disclose any names. He added that “some of them [the potential candidates] are aware they are on the list.”

Americans Elect is attempting to appear on the Election Day ballot in all 50 states and has currently secured access in 26. Candidates on the website are rated by the number of supporters. Roemer currently leads with 4,632 followed by former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson with 2,824 supporters, activist Michealene Risley is third with 1,791, and economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff is close behind with 1,726. Ron Paul leads all draft candidates with 8,889, but there is no indication he will seek the nomination.



Related articles

  • “U.S. Constitution Party nominates former Congressman Virgil Goode for president” — Wikinews, April 22, 2012
  • “US Secret Service agents face investigation for Colombian sex scandal” — Wikinews, April 19, 2012
  • “Rick Santorum drops U.S. presidential bid” — Wikinews, April 11, 2012
  • Buddy Roemer ends Republican presidential bid to seek Reform Party nomination” — Wikinews, February 23, 2012
  • “U.S. presidential candidate Gary Johnson leaves GOP to vie for the LP nom” — Wikinews, December 29, 2011
  • “Wikinews interviews U.S. Libertarian Party potential presidential candidate R.J. Harris” — Wikinews, June 17, 2011

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April 19, 2012

US Secret Service agents face investigation for Colombian sex scandal

US Secret Service agents face investigation for Colombian sex scandal

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

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The beaches of Cartagena, Colombia with the Hotel Caribe in the background.
Image: FreddySampayo.

US Senator Susan Collins said Tuesday US Secret Service agents and US military personnel in Cartagena, Colombia engaged around 21 Colombian women in the prostitution sex scandal last week.

In addition to the eleven US Secret Service agents currently under investigation, the US military doubled the target of its review from five to ten of its own members, all of whom were at Hotel Caribe in Cartagena. The investigated Secret Service agents have had their security clearances suspended during the investigation period, and are on administrative leave. Mark Sullivan, director of the Secret Service agency, is in charge of the investigation.

Senator Collins said she was worried that the agents could have been compromised in ways that might have harmed the president’s security, such as being bugged.

The sex scandal has overshadowed President Barack Obama’s trip to Colombia last Friday where he went primarily to discuss trade issues at the Summit of the Americas, but the President expressed his confidence that the internal investigation would be “thorough” and “rigorous”.

Speaking for the military, Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday the military had been “embarrassed” and had not served the president well during the trip.

A manager at the Hotel Caribe first alerted the police after women had stayed in the Secret Service agents’ rooms past the hotel’s time limit for guests, according to US House of Representatives member Peter King. Guests are required to leave identification with the hotel while on the premises, and the policy of the hotel is that guests must leave by 7 in the morning. At least five military members missed their curfew and were at the same hotel where the incident with the agents took place.



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April 14, 2012

Wikinews Shorts: April 14, 2012

Wikinews Shorts: April 14, 2012 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: April 14, 2012

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A compilation of brief news reports for Saturday, April 14, 2012.

Yemen al-Qaeda attack leaves twelve dead

Twelve people were killed in an al-Qaeda militant attack on a security checkpoint yesterday in Aden, Yemen, according to the country’s Defense Ministry. Four Yemeni security force members and eight al-Qaeda militants are among the dead. Four additional people were wounded, including two al-Qaeda fighters and two members of the security force.

Al-Qaeda has been present in Yemen for several years, but gained traction last year when movements across the country called for the ouster of leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. Officials, who were unauthorized to speak to the press, spoke of the attack on the condition of anonymity.

Sources


Iran nuclear negotiations continue

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and six other nations continued yesterday and have made progress, according to diplomats. The meeting is the first time Iran has met with world powers in over a year. When the meeting broke for lunch, a diplomat warned of premature optimism, however. The diplomat also mentioned the possibility of reaching common ground in the future.

Iran continues to insist that the development of a nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened a preemptive strike, saying that his country would be threatened by Iran achieving nuclear capability. Although U.S. President Barack Obama has not eliminated the possibility of using military force against Iran, he has expressed desire for a diplomatic solution instead.

Sources


US Secret Service agents relieved in light of alleged misconduct

Approximately twelve members of the United States Secret Service, including agents, were relieved from their duties after allegations of misconduct, reportedly involving prostitution. The agents were serving in Colombia preceding a visit by President Barack Obama. Despite the incident, however, the agency claims that security for the President was never compromised.

All questions directed to the White House pertaining to the matter have been redirected to the Secret Service. President Obama is visiting Colombia to participate in the Summit of the Americas, where he plans to discuss issues including trade policy.

Sources


Severe ‘life-threatening’ weather forecast for Midwestern US

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Storm Prediction Center issued a high risk warning on Friday for parts of several U.S. states, with Oklahoma and Kansas expected to be the most impacted by severe weather. Accuweather meteorologist Paul Walker told ABC News that the weekend “should be particularly dangerous” and that the issuance of a warning two days prior to severe weather is unusual.

Officials in Kansas and Oklahoma are urging residents to watch the situation and make emergency plans with their families.

Sources


Antarctic emperor penguin population approximated from space

Scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia used satellite imagery to approximate the Antarctic population of emperor penguins at approximately 600,000, nearly double that of previous estimates. The scientists used high resolution imagery to ensure the ability to distinguish between shadows, excrement and the penguins themselves. They also found approximately 238,000 breeding pairs of penguins in Antarctica. Two-decade-old studies estimated this number to be between 135,000 and 175,000.

Although the population estimate is higher than before, their numbers may decline in the coming years if current climate trends continue, according to researchers. Researcher Phil Trathan said “Current research suggests that emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change.” The species, which only occupies Antarctica, is currently listed as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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April 5, 2012

Former US Sheriff of the Year jailed in drugs-for-sex case

Former US Sheriff of the Year jailed in drugs-for-sex case

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Crime and law
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Patrick Sullivan, who was given the US National Sheriffs’ Association‘s (NSA’s) Sheriff of the Year award in 2001, has been sentenced to a month in prison. Sullivan was sent to the Colorado jail named in his honor for offering men drugs in exchange for sex.

Handcuffs, from file.

The 69-year-old was Arapahoe County‘s resident sheriff until his 2002 retirement. He has testified on police work before the Congress and then-President Bill Clinton placed him on the National Commission on Crime Prevention and Control in 1995, one of a number of national appointments. The Arapahoe County jail was renamed after him upon his retirement.

In actions Michael Dougherty, prosecuting, termed “a disgrace to the badge”, Sullivan last year gave methamphetamine to two male prostitutes in exchange for sex. He was filmed in a sting operation and later admitted the offences of using and distributing methamphetamine, and soliciting a prostitute. Informants assisted the police and Sullivan was arrested last November.

Sullivan, who spent eighteen years as a sheriff, was given 30 days in prison, plus eight days he has already served. He is to pay $1,000 and must undergo a substance abuse programme. He pleaded guilty and said in court Tuesday “I apologise… There is no excuse for my behavior.”

Aaron Kennard, Executive Director of the NSA, said the events were “disheartening and devastating”. Sullivan’s lawyer is reported to have told the court Sullivan has had difficulty with his sexuality.



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January 13, 2012

Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Human rights
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This week US citizens observed National Human Trafficking Awareness Day through acts of education, legislation, and enforcement; whilst, around the world, other people highlighted or tackled this global problem in their own countries.

According to an annual report on human trafficking released by the US State Department in June last year, 27 million men, women and children are exploited through human trafficking. Worldwide, at least two million children are estimated to be trafficked victims of the sex trade; and, in military conflicts, it is not uncommon for children to be forced to bear arms. In releasing the report last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of international cooperation in addressing trafficking, and cultural issues associated with it.

Brown, orange and red are source countries, while light blue and dark blue countries are destinations for victims of human trafficking.
Image: KVDP.

Under the United Nations’ Palermo Protocols, human trafficking encompasses cases where victims are born into slavery, forcibly transported for exploitation, consented to work with a trafficker, and/or were forced to participate in criminal activities. The Protocols also recognize the unique status and rights of children.

US-based action

Reports from across the United States show a number of communities taking local action to solve, or otherwise highlight, this global problem.

In Southern California, Sister Caritas Foster is an advocate for the area’s victims of human trafficking. Commenting on the area’s involvement, she stated: “We in the San Francisco Bay Area are one of the largest receiving areas with our borders and coasts”. For over four years, Foster has worked on educating the public on human trafficking, speaking to civic and religious groups and describing the power traffickers hold over their victims through vivid accounts of situations trafficked individuals find themselves in. Many have no idea where they are located, suffer under the constant threat of deportation, and most often lack the language abilities to seek help.

Los Angeles politician Don Knabe said human trafficking was not a distant problem but one that hits close to home. As the county supervisor overseeing the fourth district in Los Angeles County, Knabe cited figures from the Probation Department showing 84 percent of arrests of children on prostitution charges in 2010 were in his district; he believes the overall problem for the county is much larger, and wants the Probation Department to establish a special unit dedicated to sexually exploited minors.

Northward in Seattle, Washington, members of the King County Sheriff’s department realized that law enforcement had to deal supportively with the symptoms of human trafficking — rather than putting victims in jail. This gave birth to the “Genesis Project” where sheriff’s deputies offer potential victims of trafficking a comfortable safe haven with amenities for 24 hours, and put them in touch with social services for counselling, job training, and education advice.

Politicians from several states have sought to address the connection between tourism and human trafficking; Indiana’s state Senate unanimously passed a human trafficking bill on Tuesday morning. Current legislation only considered forced marriage and prostitution as human trafficking; loopholes in the existing laws allowed some forms of human trafficking to escape prosecution. Lawmakers in the state hope to toughen their human trafficking laws, and have new legislation on the statute books in time for the Super Bowl, due to be held in Indianapolis on February 5. The just-passed bill now goes to the House for approval.

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Also on Tuesday, lawmakers from Hawaii held a special hearing on human trafficking. Kathryn Xian, of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says traffickers capitalize on the state’s tourist-based economy. She introduced a package of seven bills she says will help prevent human trafficking in the state.

At a national level, the US government continues to work abroad on the issue of trafficking; Luis CdeBaca, a special ambassador for human trafficking, is working with Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, as the country seeks to improve diplomatic relations with the United States. Myanmar was identified by the US State Department as having one of the worst records of forced labor, and as a country that lacks necessary laws to curb human trafficking.

Trafficking, the global picture

File image of a Nepali mother who travelled to Mumbai, India, hoping to rescue her teenage daughter from an Indian brothel.
Image: Kay Chernush, US State Dept..

Although National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is a US-based effort to recognise, and highlight, this issue — as a topic of global concern being highlighted through the United Nations, others around the world continue efforts to increase public awareness and tackle trafficking.

Forty-six women from the international group Operation Mobilization sought to raise awareness by climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. The summit is called “Uhuru Peak”, with Uhuru meaning “freedom” in Swahili. Each of the non-professional climbers raised US$10,000 to help those affected by human trafficking.

In the Middle East, several countries are reported to have problems with human traffickers recruiting unemployed gay Kenyan men to become sex slaves. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supposedly the more-common destination countries into which Kenyans are lured with offers of high-paying jobs. However, in the United Arab Emirates — where no law prohibits trafficking, but homosexuality is illegal — the problem is compounded.

Enforcement of existing laws, and acting against trafficking, are seen as key steps in reducing the activity. Showing that no country is unaffected, Northern Ireland police are currently investigating five sex trafficking cases; and, on Monday, Filipino police rescued fifteen women following a tip-off regarding women recruited, and being held, prior to being sent to work abroad.

In the Northern Ireland situation, Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall stated that fifteen men are to be contacted, suspected of having paid for sex with trafficked women. Identifying victims within the UK, or victims seeking help, is becoming more challenging with the sex industry having switched to using hotel rooms as-opposed to street corners. Many victims of trafficking are found to be unaware of where within the country they are.

In the Philippines situation, Zamboanga City police are still seeking the recruiter of the fifteen women rescued in Rio Hondo.

A range of complexities are involved in the sentencing of both those convicted of human trafficking, and their victims. In one Canadian case, 43-year-old Hungarian Lajos Domotor pled guilty to trafficking men and women into forced labor. Following being charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking, he developed terminal stomach cancer and has been given a 10 to 15 percent chance of living five years.

In the UK, officials are seeking to detect exploitation prior to sentencing — as a counter to the high number of foreign women in jails, frequently having been victims of trafficking. One in seven women prisoners across England and Wales are foreign, with the primary offenses being drug or immigration-related. A report into the issue recommends sentencing decisions should consider the role of women, and of coercion, in such cases.

Artists also have a special role to play in the education and awareness of the public. The first opera about sex trafficking will premiere in Liverpool, England, on March 7. Anya17 was composed by Adam Gorb with a libretto written by Ben Kaye. Performers will come from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic contemporary music ensemble 10/10. Funding for the production was provided in part by the United Nations.

Sources

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December 21, 2011

Wikinews interviews former Salt Lake City mayor and 2012 presidential candidate Rocky Anderson

Wikinews interviews former Salt Lake City mayor and 2012 presidential candidate Rocky Anderson

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rocky Anderson in 2009
Image: Don LaVange.

Former Salt Lake City mayor and human rights activist Rocky Anderson took some time to discuss his 2012 U.S. presidential campaign and the newly-created Justice Party with Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn.

Anderson served as mayor of Salt Lake City for eight years (2000–2008) as a member of the Democratic Party. During his tenure, he enacted proposals to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, reformed its criminal justice system, and positioned it as a leading sanctuary for refugees. After leaving office, Anderson grew critical of the Democratic Party’s failure to push for impeachment against President George W. Bush, and for not reversing policies on torture, taxes, and defense spending. He left the party earlier this year and announced that he would form a Third party.

Anderson officially established the Justice Party last week during a press conference in Washington D.C.. He proclaimed “We the people are powerful enough to end the perverse government-to-the-highest-bidder system sustained by the two dominant parties…We are here today for the sake of justice — social justice, environmental justice and economic justice.” The party promotes campaign finance reform and is attempting to appeal to the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is currently working on ballot access efforts, and will hold a Founding Convention in February 2012 in Salt Lake City.

Among other issues, Anderson discussed climate change, health care, education, and civil liberties. He detailed his successes as mayor of Salt Lake City, stressed the importance of executive experience, and expressed his views on President Barack Obama and some of the Republican Party presidential candidates. He spoke in depth about former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with whom he worked during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and fellow Utahan, former governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr..

Background

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.pngCould you list some of your accomplishments as mayor of Salt Lake City?

Rocky Anderson: I served for eight years and during that time, Salt Lake City became known as the model city for providing leadership on climate change solutions. Just before the 2002 Winter Olympic games, I declared that we would meet at least the Kyoto Protocol goals, and we far exceeded those in a very short period of time with 31 percent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the course of three years.

Downtown Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympic games.
Image: debaird.

I was a vigorous advocate for mass transit and was able to resurrect a light rail system that was voted down by our city council within days after my election. I was able to turn around the public opposition and not only received a unanimous vote from the city council but also obtained federal funding.
I put in place a comprehensive restorative justice program that became a nationwide model. We were one of three finalists for the World Leadership Award by the World Leadership Forum in London for our restorative justice program, which focuses on solutions rather than simply punishment and retribution.
I worked to provide real and effective drug prevention and education programs filling the completely ineffective D.A.R.E. program and getting proven effective programs in our schools and providing much better public education on substance abuse issues. We focused not only on the abuse of illicit drugs but also the abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which is an enormous problem in Utah and throughout the country.
We fought against sprawl development incorporating principles of smart urban growth development with transit orientation development projects and opposition to sprawl-inducing new highways and increased dependence on the automobile.
I started a city-wide youth afterschool and summer program called YouthCity, and always pursued public policy with the understanding that upfront investments in making things better including opportunities for young people was far better for all in our community and far less expensive than ignoring those upfront needs and having to deal with the disasters down the road. We know that if we keep our young people engaged and teach them skills including social skills, we have a lot better shot of building safer healthier and sustainable communities, and at the same time keeping these young people out of trouble.

Anderson at the 2007 Salt Lake City Marathon.
Image: Jen Wakefield-Dillier.

I helped change, well, I led for the change in the culture of our police department where there was much more community-oriented policing where police were held accountable for not only excessive force against our residents and visitors but also even for rude behavior. I instituted a crisis intervention team program where officers were trained in recognizing and dealing with people with mental illnesses. Before I was mayor, I noticed that police were getting in confrontations with people with mental illnesses and escalate situations to the point of, in some cases even shooting and killing mentally ill people. We see that happen in communities all over the country and it’s so important that our police be trained to recognize the root causes of some violent behavior and understand when to back off and resolve the situation without further violence.
Our prosecutor’s office and police department were very supportive of our restorative justice program, which took a solution based approach to a wide variety of situations including public sex, drug abuse, prostitution, dealing with both prostitutes and johns. We had a homeless court, we had a mental illness court so that if homelessness or mental illness was at the root of illegal conduct, we could deal with those issues in a constructive way rather than simply running people through the criminal justice revolving door, which is very expensive and in the end destructive to everybody’s interests.
I was a big proponent and testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee regarding the proposal to transport and store high level nuclear waste, first, on a supposedly temporary basis at the Goshute Reservation in Utah and ultimately at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngHow critical is it for a presidential candidate to have executive experience?

Anderson: I think it’s extremely important for someone to be able to demonstrate in an executive capacity, he or she can handle the pressure, know how to deal with differing interests, and come to the best solutions. I know some people get in an executive position and they become very dictatorial and dogmatic about what they’re doing. I’ve always held the view both as a practicing lawyer, as president of my law firm and of course as mayor and then later as executive director of High Road for Human Rights, that you’re going to do a much better job if you learn as much as you can about any topic before you form your views and then still bring in those who have opposing views to hear them out and to learn, try to learn.

Public transit with the skyline of Salt Lake City in the background.
Image: CountyLemonade.

Cquote1.svg I think in terms of executive experience, knowing how to bring those opposing forces together, solve problems, being respectful, and always having in mind that just because you’re in that position doesn’t make you any smarter or wiser than you were before. That shared wisdom can mean everything in terms of one’s success. Cquote2.svg
That’s how we were able to get the light rail project completed right in the beginning of my term. There was a group called Citizens Against Light Rail that formed and they even had their own letterhead and logo, and the leaders of that group will tell you that the first thing I did was brought the opponents all together at my home, went through what caused them to oppose light rail, and we figured out through a really constructive problem solving exercise during the course of several intense weeks, how to resolve most of those issues, and those opponents to light rail were very much in favor of it and are real champions of the community-based problem-solving process that we’ve put into place. That’s also become the national model. We put together a community team of people that was comprised of businesses and residents all along the construction route that would determine whether the contractors would receive bonus payments, and then we set very clear guidelines for those contractors in terms of dust control, noise control, hours of construction, keeping one lane of traffic open at all times so businesses could continue to have access. This system had the contractor very very sensitive to the concerns of those along the construction route and ways we certainly didn’t see during the construction of light rail down Main Street under my predecessor. And contractors ended up received either 96 or 97 percent of possible bonus payments because of that increased sensitivity, and members of the community felt like they had real power, which of course they did. That’s how it ought to be.
I think in terms of executive experience, knowing how to bring those opposing forces together, solve problems, being respectful, and always having in mind that just because you’re in that position doesn’t make you any smarter or wiser than you were before. That shared wisdom can mean everything in terms of one’s success.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngAccording to an article in The Nation publication from 2006, a supporter asked you to run for president, but you told them that a run would require money and the backing of the state machine, which would be virtually impossible in conservative Utah. You added, “If I thought I could win, I would [run].” How is the atmosphere in 2012 better for you than it was in 2008?

Anderson: Well first of all, as reflected by the Occupy Movement, people in this country across the board understand how diseased and corrupt our system is, both our electoral system and the system of governance. We know now that there have been repeated failures in public policy that are a direct result of the corrupting influence of money. We’d have a universal health care system like the rest of the industrialized world were it not for the corrupting influence of medical insurance money. We wouldn’t be wasting billions, upon billions of dollars for unnecessary weapons programs, where the stranglehold and the corrupting influence of money from the military-industrial complex; we were warned about that by President Eisenhower during his last speech.

President Dwight Eisenhower warned, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

The deregulation of the financial institutions that led toward this nation’s and the world’s economic disaster from which we’re all still suffering, would never have come about were it not for the corrupting influence of money in the system. President Obama for instance, received more money from Wall Street than any other candidate in our nation’s history, and so they got a really good return on their investment because the Obama administration has not brought one person to justice for the massive financial fraud that took place that helped lead to this economic cataclysm.
The failure of our nation to provide international leadership on climate change and to develop a policy that would result in energy independence is a direct result of the corrupting influence of money from the coal, oil, and gas industries. I don’t think President Obama woke up one day and decided it would be a really good public policy to veto the EPA’s position of more strict limits on ozone in our communities. Ozone creates so many illnesses and even death. Rather, his decision was just another example of his kowtowing to polluting industries. Likewise, he could have put an end to any possibility of the Keystone Pipeline, yet he’s just put it off, delayed it until after the election, and by all other signs from how he’s conducted himself as president, it is pretty apparent that he will end up approving that pipeline if he is reelected.
So, the American people understand that. They want to see people in elective office that for a change are not going to be sustaining and sustained by the corrupting influence of money in our government. They want to see that the public interest is promoted for a change. So, we have that elevated awareness about what’s going on in our government, about which people are very unhappy as reflected in 9 percent approval rating for congress and a low 40s percent approval rating for our president.
And at the same time, and this is what’s different than even just a few years ago: we have the democratizing impact on communications from social media. We’ve seen revolutions now in different parts of the world, the overthrow of dictators through a combination of courageous, tenacious people working at grassroots organizing and utilizing the tools now provided through social media. That’s why we’re going to be able to run this campaign limiting campaign contributions to $100 per person for the election cycle and maximizing in every way we can, the use of social media. This will be a people’s movement that is already gaining unbelievable traction after just one week since we announced.

The Justice Party and opposition

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.pngLet me ask about the Justice Party. What is it? How large is it? And how can people join?

Rocky Anderson: People can join in a number of different ways. There’s a website: justicepartyusa.org. There have been hundreds, probably thousands of inquires from people from dozens of states about getting on board, helping out as they can. There’s a steering committee, and we’re building on that steering committee as we speak. These are some great passionate, engaged, brilliant people, who’ve been working on this. But to see this happen in the sense, quite organically over time starting with discussions with people who have been contemplated doing this kind of work, coming together, building coalitions; I see the possibility of alliances or coalitions being built with different organizations around the country. The head of the Libertarian Party in one state came to us and said that he was publicly going to support what we’re doing. I’ve had Republicans contact me, telling us that they’ve had it with the craziness in that party; this extreme right wing approach that that party is now taking since the Tea Party’s had such enormous impact. We’re hearing from people who have been lifetime independents, members of the Green Party. We’ve got members of the Progressive Democrats that are being threatened to have their charter jerked by the Democratic Party because of their support for what we’re doing. In fact, one gentleman from the Progressive Democrats of America out of Chicago, is now on our steering committee. So this is an amazingly, cross-partisan representation of people who agree about the fundamentals and that is we need to change, not just the candidates that are playing within the system, but we need to change the system.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngYou mentioned Republicans and Libertarians, what about those that believe, ideologically that the government should not be involved in regulating carbon emissions or providing health care?

Anderson discusses Global Warming during a 2008 speech.
Image: NikiSublime.

Anderson: Those who believe the government shouldn’t have any involvement in providing essential health care for our citizens are not only on the margins in our country but throughout the industrialized world. The United States is the only country that allows reliance that in fact fosters reliance on for-profit insurance companies for the provision of essential health care for our citizens. It’s simply wrong that people are dying by the tens of thousands throughout this country every year because of inadequate health care services being available to them and you know we oftentimes hear from people like former President George W. Bush that people can go to emergency rooms, well that’s just simply not true. For a lot of the early diagnoses, early diagnostic work that can save lives, there’s not an option for that if you don’t have health care coverage. A lot of people can’t afford those diagnostic tests, and as a result they’re dying because by the time they’re properly diagnosed, the opportunity for saving their lives is gone, and yet the care that then has to be provided to them until they die is going to be extremely expensive. It’s so cost ineffective what we’re doing. We pay in this country more than double per capita health care than the average among the industrialized world, and part of our so-called health care dollars is going toward the profits for the for-profit insurance companies, dividends for their shareholders, huge bonuses, all the marketing for those companies. We are the most inefficient of nations in the industrialized world in terms of how we pay for health care. Our medical results are mediocre by comparison with other health care systems. And people are paying more money for mediocre results and we still don’t cover all of our citizens. So we come out looking very very badly by comparison with the rest of the industrialized world. If we were running a corporation here, and shareholders were determining how that corporation was doing in comparison to its competitors: higher costs, far less coverage, and mediocre results? I think we’d be replacing our board of directors and the officers and demanding that we catch up with our competitors.
The same thing is happening with education in this country. Our students are not equipped to compete with students from so many other countries. Ivy League schools are now putting quotas on the number of Asian students that they can accept because if they accept all of them on the basis of their merits, there would be relatively few Caucasian Americans being admitted to those Ivy League Schools. Why is Singapore doing so much better? Why are their students doing so much better on their testing than our students? It’s an utter failure of our educational system and it’s going to have an enormous impact in terms of the future. We’re not making the investments in education and innovation and in our nation’s infrastructure, all at the same time we’re wasting trillions of dollars on wars of aggression and continuing tactics in these countries that are creating so much hatred that leads to far less security in the long term for our nation.
And at the same time, we’re creating conditions for absolute catastrophe. Hundreds of names of environmental refugees, utter devastation in so many communities, loss of water resources, drought, starvation because of our failure to do what is required to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. If there’s any role for government, it’s to provide for, not only for the short term, but long term health, safety, and national security of our people and our approach on climate change has been absolutely counter to that. Pentagon studies discuss how oncoming the imminent consequences from climate change are going to create such major national security problems, and that’s going to be the case all over the world. It’s absolutely irresponsible to not be looking out for the future, and doing what’s necessary to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. And the science is as robust as one could ever expect from science. Every nation’s science academy, every major scientific organization in the United States feels the climate issues are all in agreement: the world is heating up, generally, at a much faster rate than previously predicted. We’re already seeing massive consequences including the melting of the tundra, the melting of the arctic ice cap, melting of glaciers from which communities for centuries have depended for their water supplies. All of these consequences are happening faster than people believed they would just a few years ago and the future consequences are going to be horrendous. And we know that it’s all because of human’s conduct, either the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions, particularly from the burning of coal, oil, and gas, and from deforestation and the failure to reforest.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngIn 2008, you said that you voted for Barack Obama as the “lesser of two evils”, but Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney were also on the ballot in Utah. Looking back now as a third party leader, do you regret not voting for a third party candidate in ’08?

Anderson: In ’08…I actually…I think it was in ’08 but I…or was it ’04? Sorry. In one of those years, I swapped my vote with a Nader supporter elsewhere so that Nader would still get a net of one vote, but in a battleground state, it wouldn’t take away from the Democrat; it wouldn’t help the Republican get elected. But with the Electoral College, the sad fact is my vote doesn’t count in Utah because it’s always so overwhelmingly Republican. The Electoral College is an immensely anti-Democratic part of our electoral system, it needs to be changed, we need to get to the point where we’re all electing the president based on the principle of one person, one vote.
Cquote1.svg [Obama] has greater contempt for the rule of law…than George W. Bush Cquote2.svg

Anderson speaks at an anti-war rally in 2008.
Image: Jeremiah Roth.

And the reason that I said that I felt President Obama should be supported over McCain was that he was the lesser of two evils, but I recognized that President Obama had already shown his true colors. Then, I think in the pocket of the nuclear power industry when he was in the Illinois state house. He had never really stood up on any major issue. I asked his supporters, they fell for the whole hope and change hype during his campaign, and I was always asking people, so point to one thing that he stood for, where he’s shown any courage in standing up for principle. The entire time he was in the United States Senate, he voted for full funding for the occupation of Iraq. He never stood up against torture or the other human rights abuses that were occurring during that time. He promised us before he received the Democratic nomination that he would join the filibuster in opposition to Congress providing retroactive immunity for the telecom companies for their illegal participation in the Bush surveillance program. And by the way, not all the telecom companies participated in that, they recognized that it was illegal so it wasn’t a matter of people were fooled about whether it was legal or not. But for those telecom companies that did violate the law, they should have been held accountable. But in the classic American way, the corrupt way that has developed in our system of government, three telecom companies spend some twelve million dollars on lobbyists during the course of three months they put on the press, Congress passed legislation providing for the retroactive immunity and among those voting for the immunity, now after he received the Democratic nomination was then-Senator Obama, completely betraying those that he had promised to join the filibuster. But it was just a sign of things to come, they always talked about the rule of law, he has greater contempt for the rule of law, I think, than George W. Bush. He comes into office, says, “oh, we’re going to look forward, not backwards” in terms of holding accountable war criminals? And those were criminals not only under international law, the Geneva Convention, the Convention Against Torture, but under our own laws passed by Congress: War Crimes Act of 1996 and the federal torture statute. Clearly, an illegal act, and he says, “let’s just look forward, not backwards”. But he’s done the same thing for the people who committed such massive financial fraud on Wall Street without holding any one of them accountable.
He has reinforced this notion that there’s this narrow special aristocracy in this country, who are the most wealthy and the most powerful, and the contributors to his campaign, by the way, who aren’t going to be held accountable to the law while the rest of us oftentimes suffer just the most extreme consequences from the application of the laws, especially in the area of drugs, where tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, people have in our prisons because of violations of our drug laws.

The GOP race

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.png What is your take on the GOP field, particularly Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Mitt Romney, both of whom you’ve endorsed in past elections?

Rocky Anderson: They both have been good friends of mine. The Mitt Romney I knew is a very different Mitt Romney than the one who’s been running for president. The Mitt Romney I knew believed in Roe v. Wade, that it came to the right result and with that ought to be established law and that we should just move on with it. This Mitt Romney, who, the last time he ran said we shouldn’t politicize Guantanamo, he doesn’t seem to have any regard for human rights, he’s gone back and forth and back and forth…Well, he did it as governor before the time he announced that he was going to run for president. But he’s even done it while he’s been running for president, this time, in terms of climate change. Out of one side of his mouth, he’s talking about how climate change is a problem, we need to deal with it. By the way, George W. Bush even said that. And then later on, he says, well we don’t really know the causes of climate change. But, he knows very well the causes of climate change. He knows how the scientific community feels on that issue. But he’s doing whatever he can to win the election.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. Anderson referred to Huntsman as “a bright, good man.”
Image: United States Department of State.

Anderson addresses the GLBT community of Utah in 2005.
Image: Jere Keys.

I think Jon Huntsman is on the whole very different than that. He stood by his views. He was governor of the state of Utah, advocating domestic partnerships, that is equal treatment under the law for members of the GLBT community. And I say equal, wasn’t quite equal because he still hasn’t reached a point where he embraces the idea of marriage equality as I have for decades. And actually had marriage equality when I ran for Congress in 1996, it became a core part of the opposition against me and probably led to my defeat in 1996. But he’s stood up on these issues, he’s stood up on the issue of climate change when he was governor. I think it was fantastic when he stood up during a debate and talked about how the Republican Party should no longer be the anti-science party. What an amazing thing. I mean one would think the bar is set that low that it would be amazing, but in this environment right now, for him to say that to the Republican Party while he’s running for their nomination. And then of course he was one of only two people who had the moral courage and sense to say “we should never be torturing”, and that is so counter to our nation’s heritage from the very beginning George Washington prohibited torture of British soldiers, and that’s been not only the law, but the ethic of our country from the very beginning. It’s only changed during this last decade and that’s part of a very dangerous trend toward an imperial presidency and the disregard for human rights, and it’s really so undermined our standing and not only undermined our standing, but created so much hatred toward the United States in many parts of the world.
So, Jon Huntsman is a bright, good man. We differ on a lot of things: I differ with him on offshore drilling, I differ with him on the keystone pipeline, on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But I think Jon, especially having served as U.S. ambassador to China understands all the amazing progress China has made in the area of green technology. China is just beating us in every possible way when it comes to green technology. They’re producing more than half of world’s solar panels, they’re producing more than half of the world’s wind turbines. Now, they’re incorporating these green technologies in their buildings and they’re insisting every mayor find ways to cut down on the use of energy in their communities. They know how to get the job done, and in this country, I mean, we look at our country and say well that they’re totalitarian, and yeah they have people who can say this is what we have to do, this is our goal, and now you have to go get it done or you’re not going to hold your job anymore. In this country, we have the pretense of democracy, but we know that it’s with corporations that are benefiting so much from these disasters in public policy that are calling the shots. And we’re not moving toward what would serve the public’s interest, and that’s clearly shown in the area of climate change and energy policy as it is when we see the work that we’re paying a lot more for drugs than other countries because of the corrupting influence of the pharmaceutical industry and the way that we’ve been sold out by those in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats who are feeding at the same special interest trough of corrupting money.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngDid you watch last night’s [December 15] GOP debate?

Anderson: No. I didn’t.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngWell, one candidate that was not invited to the debate was former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, who like you, is limiting individual campaign contributions to $100. Did your idea to do this come from Roemer?

Anderson: No. No I didn’t, frankly, I didn’t realize that he was doing that. I heard Jeffrey Sachs talking about how these races could be won and the message to get across to people, and I said, absolutely that’s what we ought to do. Just set a $100 limit and let everybody know: they’re equal players, we’re all shareholders, we’re all shareholders in this, and no special interest is going to come along and have any special access or influence.

Public policy and the state of democracy

Wikinews waves Left.pngWilliam S. SaturnWikinews waves Right.pngWhat is the single most important issue facing Americans right now and how will you address this as president?

Rocky Anderson: The single most important issue facing our country is providing jobs, education, enhanced infrastructure, and encouraging innovation because we are falling so far behind the rest of the world. And part of that innovation and investment needs to be addressing climate change because in the long run, the impacts from climate change are going to be greater than…from any other shorter term issue right now.
Fiscal policy of course relates to all of that. We need to bring in adequate revenues so that we’re not passing off on to the next generation this enormous debt and interest burden, and we also need to get our spending under control, but still with an eye toward priming the pump during this recession and providing the kind of infrastructure, education, and innovation that’s going to serve this country not only for the present but far out into the future.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWSSWikinews waves Right.pngThis is my last question. What necessary freedoms are currently lacking in American society?

Anderson:There has never been a time in our nation’s history when the executive branch has claimed so much power and abused that power and that runs the gamut. Our president has asked for the legal authority to point to anybody, even citizens of this country; have them taken away, essentially kidnapped, disappeared, detained without any limit; no legal representation, no charges, no trial. It is so absolutely contrary to what our constitution is based upon and what our system of government is based upon. It’s contrary to our nation’s heritage, to our most dearly held values. The Senate just passed this incredible bill, the Federal Military Authorization Act that would allow for that detention based on who-knows-what kind of information, no standard of proof, no public hearing. It’s not like these people are infallible.
Cquote1.svg The rule of law has been denigrated to the point never before experienced in this country. Cquote2.svg
The rule of law has been denigrated to the point never before experienced in this country. People can commit war crimes and if they’re rich and powerful enough, the United States says let’s just look forward and not backwards and let them off the hook. Not even an investigation. So we the American people have lost the freedom to even know what our government is doing and to know whether or not they’re going to be held accountable under the law.
All three branches of government have been part of this deterioration of the law. Courts through the very subversive state secrets doctrine will dismiss cases, not on the merits, but on the basis of the very perpetrator, the executive branch, coming to it and saying that the case cannot move forward because to do so would mean the disclosure of state secrets that would be contrary to national security, and so the courts throw the cases out. That is perhaps the most subversive thing that’s ever happened in this country because our system of government is based on the system of separation of powers and checks and balances. The courts are there in large part to protect against abuses of power including illegal conduct by the executive branch. If that check isn’t there, that spells tyranny. That means the executive branch can do whatever it wants, regardless of the law, even domestic laws and treaty obligations that have been passed by Congress.

Anderson (right) shakes hands with a peace activist and Iraq War veteran.
Image: Jeremiah Roth.

So there have been torture victims, and by the way, these torture victims it has been established, they have zero connection to terrorism. Torture victims have come to our courts with the claims and they’re proven claims by the way that they were kidnapped by the CIA, disappeared from their families and other loved ones, whisked off, one to an Afghanistan prison and another one to a Syrian prison. They were tortured. They were held for several months: one five months, the other one a year. One was a German citizen, the other a Canadian citizen. They come to our courts to challenge that illegal conduct, and by the way, the United States has assured the United Nations Committee Against Torture that we provide these kinds of remedies for victims of torture. So they come in, seek justice, seek a means of getting the truth out, and what is the response of the both the Bush and the Obama administration? They oppose the lawsuits even moving forward on the merits because, among other reasons, the state’s secret doctrine and the courts dismiss the cases. That is absolutely un-American.
Cquote1.svg [The state secrets doctrine] is perhaps the most subversive thing that’s ever happened in this country… Cquote2.svg
The Bush administration, contrary to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act approved over the course of years, numerous dictates, we don’t know how many because the truth hasn’t come out, but likely tens if not hundreds of thousands of instances of warrantless surveillance of communications by American citizens. Not just telephone calls, but e-mail communications and otherwise. President Bush promised us the warrants were being obtained in all those cases. He was lying to us. He later admitted “yeah I ordered the national security agency to go ahead and do that.” So there hasn’t been one person prosecuted when people have come into our courts to challenge that illegal surveillance and a 2 to 1 decision by one of our circuit courts, the determination was made that they don’t have standing to pursue the cases because they can’t prove that their individual communications were subjected to that illegal surveillance, and the reason they can’t determine if their communications were subject to that surveillance was because of the state’s secrets doctrine. The government was able to block them from getting that information once again asserting the state’s secrets doctrine.
So we have lost freedoms in very fundamental ways. We’re a country where no longer can even pretend to abide by the rule of law. Where congress will pass retroactive immunity legislation, letting corporations that can pump $12 million into their lobbyists in three months, letting them off the hook for their felonious misconduct. Where torturers are not held to account. Where there aren’t even investigations. At least, in the late 70’s, when there were abuses in the intelligence community, Congress had states’ people that would come together as under the Church Committee and investigate these matters and disclose to the American people, which led to legislation that would help deter these kinds of things from happening in the future. There’s none of that. There’s nothing to deter that kind of misconduct; the kind of absolutely subversive un-American activity within our executive branch. And Congress sits by let like the biggest bunch of patsies. Not asserting their constitutional prerogatives, not exercising their constitutional responsibilities to provide a check against those kinds of abuses.



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