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Archive for March 5th, 2015

Attorney General Holder’s Update on Investigations in Ferguson, Missouri

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Attorney General Holder’s Update on Investigations in Ferguson, Missouri
Attorney General Holder Delivers Update:

Good afternoon.

I would like to take the next few moments to address the two investigations that the Justice Department has been conducting in Ferguson, Missouri, these last several months.  The matter that we are here to discuss is significant not only because of the conclusions the Department of Justice is announcing today, but also because of the broader conversations and the initiatives that those conversations have inspired across the country on the local and national level.  Those initiatives have included extensive and vital efforts to examine the causes of misunderstanding and mistrust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve; to support and strengthen our public safety institutions as a whole; and to rebuild confidence wherever it has eroded.

Nearly seven months have passed since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  That tragic incident provoked widespread demonstrations and stirred strong emotions from those in the Ferguson area and around our nation.  It also prompted a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri and the FBI seeking to determine whether this shooting violated federal civil rights law.

The promise I made when I went to Ferguson and at the time that we launched our investigation was not that we would arrive at a particular outcome, but rather that we would pursue the facts, wherever they led.  Our investigation has been both fair and rigorous from the start.  It has proceeded independently of the local investigation that concluded in November.  And it has been thorough: as part of a wide-ranging examination of the evidence, federal investigators interviewed and re-interviewed eyewitnesses and other individuals claiming to have relevant information and independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses.

This morning, the Justice Department announced the conclusion of our investigation and released a comprehensive, 87-page report documenting our findings and conclusions that the facts do not support the filing of criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson in this case.  Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.

This conclusion represents the sound, considered, and independent judgment of the expert career prosecutors within the Department of Justice.  I have been personally briefed on multiple occasions about these findings.  I concur with the investigative team’s judgment and the determination about our inability to meet the required federal standard.

This outcome is supported by the facts we have found – but I also know these findings may not be consistent with some people’s expectations.  To all those who have closely followed this case, and who have engaged in the important national dialogue it has inspired, I urge you to read this report in full.

I recognize that the findings in our report may leave some to wonder how the department’s findings can differ so sharply from some of the initial, widely reported accounts of what transpired.  I want to emphasize that the strength and integrity of America’s justice system has always rested on its ability to deliver impartial results in precisely these types of difficult circumstances – adhering strictly to the facts and the law, regardless of assumptions.  Yet it remains not only valid – but essential – to question how such a strong alternative version of events was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily.

A possible explanation for this discrepancy was uncovered during the course of our second federal investigation, conducted by the Civil Rights Division to determine whether Ferguson Police officials have engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of violations of the U.S. Constitution or federal law.

As detailed in our searing report – also released by the Justice Department today – this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized; a community where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents.

A community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue.  A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents.  A community where this harm frequently appears to stem, at least in part, from racial bias – both implicit and explicit.  And a community where all of these conditions, unlawful practices, and constitutional violations have not only severely undermined the public trust, eroded police legitimacy, and made local residents less safe – but created an intensely charged atmosphere where people feel under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them.

Of course, violence is never justified.  But seen in this context – amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices – it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg.  In a sense, members of the community may not have been responding only to a single isolated confrontation, but also to a pervasive, corrosive, and deeply unfortunate lack of trust – attributable to numerous constitutional violations by their law enforcement officials including First Amendment abuses, unreasonable searches and seizures, and excessive and dangerous use of force; exacerbated by severely disproportionate use of these tactics against African Americans; and driven by overriding pressure from the city to use law enforcement not as a public service, but as a tool for raising revenue.

According to our investigation, this emphasis on revenue generation through policing has fostered unconstitutional practices – or practices that contribute to constitutional violations – at nearly every level of Ferguson’s law enforcement system.  Ferguson police officers issued nearly 50 percent more citations in the last year than they did in 2010 – an increase that has not been driven, or even accompanied, by a rise in crime.

As a result of this excessive reliance on ticketing, today, the city generates a significant amount of revenue from the enforcement of code provisions.  Along with taxes and other revenue streams, in 2010, the city collected over $1.3 million in fines and fees collected by the court.  For fiscal year 2015, Ferguson’s city budget anticipates fine revenues to exceed $3 million – more than double the total from just five years prior.  Our review of the evidence, and our conversations with police officers, have shown that significant pressure is brought to bear on law enforcement personnel to deliver on these revenue increases.  Once the system is primed for maximizing revenue – starting with fines and fine enforcement – the city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity focused primarily on maintaining and promoting public safety.  And a wide variety of tactics, including disciplinary measures, are used to ensure certain levels of ticketing by individual officers, regardless of public safety needs.

As a result, it has become commonplace in Ferguson for officers to charge multiple violations for the same conduct.  Three or four charges for a single stop is considered fairly routine.  Some officers even compete to see who can issue the largest number of citations during a single stop – a total that, in at least one instance, rose as high as 14.  And we’ve observed that even minor code violations can sometimes result in multiple arrests, jail time and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over.

For example, in 2007, one woman received two parking tickets that – together – totaled $152.  To date, she has paid $550 in fines and fees to the city of Ferguson.  She’s been arrested twice for having unpaid tickets, and spent six days in jail.  Yet she still – inexplicably – owes Ferguson $541.  And her story is only one of dozens of similar accounts that our investigation uncovered.

Over time, it’s clear that this culture of enforcement actions being disconnected from the public safety needs of the community – and often to the detriment of community residents – has given rise to a disturbing and unconstitutional pattern or practice.  Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them.  According to the Police Department’s own records, its officers frequently infringe on residents’ First Amendment rights.  They interfere with the right to record police activities.  And they make enforcement decisions based on the way individuals express themselves.

Many of these constitutional violations have become routine.  For instance, even though it’s illegal for police officers to detain a person – even briefly – without reasonable suspicion, it’s become common practice for officers in Ferguson to stop pedestrians and request identification for no reason at all.  And even in cases where police encounters start off as constitutionally defensible, we found that they frequently and rapidly escalate – and end up blatantly and unnecessarily crossing the line.

During the summer of 2012, one Ferguson police officer detained a 32-year-old African American man who had just finished playing basketball at a park.  The officer approached while the man was sitting in his car and resting.  The car’s windows appeared to be more heavily tinted than Ferguson’s code allowed, so the officer did have legitimate grounds to question him.  But, with no apparent justification, the officer proceeded to accuse the man of being a pedophile.  He prohibited the man from using his cell phone and ordered him out of his car for a pat-down search, even though he had no reason to suspect that the man was armed.  And when the man objected – citing his constitutional rights – the police officer drew his service weapon, pointed it at the man’s head, and arrested him on eight different counts.  The arrest caused the man to lose his job.

Unfortunately, this event appears to have been anything but an isolated incident.  Our investigation showed that members of Ferguson’s police force frequently escalate, rather than defuse, tensions with the residents they encounter.  And such actions are sometimes accompanied by First Amendment violations – including arresting people for talking back to officers, recording their public activities, or engaging in other conduct that is constitutionally protected.

This behavior not only exacerbates tensions in its own right; it has the effect of stifling community confidence that’s absolutely vital for effective policing.  And this, in turn, deepens the widespread distrust provoked by the department’s other unconstitutional exercises of police power – none of which is more harmful than its pattern of excessive force.

Among the incidents of excessive force discovered by our comprehensive review, some resulted from stops or arrests that had no legal basis to begin with.  Others were punitive or retaliatory in nature.  The police department’s routine use of Tasers was found to be not merely unconstitutional, but abusive and dangerous.  Records showed a disturbing history of using unnecessary force against people with mental illness.  And our findings indicated that the overwhelming majority of force – almost 90 percent – is directed against African Americans.

This deeply alarming statistic points to one of the most pernicious aspects of the conduct our investigation uncovered: that these policing practices disproportionately harm African American residents.  In fact, our review of the evidence found no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African American residents other than implicit and explicit racial bias.

Between October 2012 and October 2014, despite making up only 67 percent of the population, African Americans accounted for a little over 85 percent of all traffic stops by the Ferguson Police Department.  African Americans were twice as likely as white residents to be searched during a routine traffic stop, even though they were 26 percent less likely to carry contraband.  Between October 2012 and July 2014, 35 black individuals – and zero white individuals – received five or more citations at the same time.  During the same period, African Americans accounted for fully 85 percent of the total charges brought by the Ferguson Police Department.  African Americans made up over 90 percent of those charged with a highly-discretionary offense described as “Manner of Walking Along Roadway.”  And the use of dogs by Ferguson police appears to have been exclusively reserved for African Americans; in every case in which Ferguson police records recorded the race of a person bit by a police dog, that person was African American.

The evidence of racial bias comes not only from statistics, but also from remarks made by police, city and court officials.  A thorough examination of the records – including a large volume of work emails – shows a number of public servants expressing racist comments or gender discrimination; demonstrating grotesque views and images of African Americans in which they were seen as the “other,” called “transient” by public officials, and characterized as lacking personal responsibility.

I want to emphasize that all of these examples, statistics and conclusions are drawn directly from the exhaustive Findings Report that the Department of Justice has released.  Clearly, these findings – and others included in the report – demonstrate that, although some community perceptions of Michael Brown’s tragic death may not have been accurate, the widespread conditions that these perceptions were based upon, and the climate that gave rise to them, were all too real.

This is a reality that our investigators repeatedly encountered in their interviews of police and city officials, their conversations with local residents, and their review of thousands of pages of records and documents.  This evidence pointed to an unfortunate and unsustainable situation that has not only severely damaged relationships between law enforcement and members of the community, but made professional policing vastly more difficult – and unnecessarily placed officers at increased risk.  And today – now that our investigation has reached its conclusion – it is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action.  Let me be clear: the United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change.

The report from the Justice Department presents two sets of immediate recommendations – for the Ferguson Police Department and the Municipal Court.  These recommendations include the implementation of a robust system of true community policing; increased tracking, review and analysis of Ferguson Police Department stop, search, ticketing and arrest practices; increased civilian involvement in police decision-making; and the development of mechanisms to effectively respond to allegations of officer misconduct.  They also involve changes to the municipal court system including modifications to bond amounts and detention procedures; an end to the use of arrest warrants as a means of collecting owed fines and fees; and compliance with due process requirements.  Ensuring meaningful, sustainable and verifiable reform will require that these and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders as well as independent oversight in order to remedy the conduct we have identified, to address the underlying culture we have uncovered, and to restore and rebuild the trust that has been so badly eroded.

As the brother of a retired police officer, I know that the overwhelming majority of America’s brave men and women in law enforcement do their jobs honorably, with integrity, and often at great personal risk.  I have immense regard for the vital role that they play in all of America’s communities – and the sacrifices that they and their families are too often called to make on behalf of their country.  It is in great part for their sake – and for their safety – that we must seek to rebuild trust and foster mutual understanding in Ferguson and in all communities where suspicion has been allowed to fester.  Negative practices by individual law enforcement officers and individual departments present a significant danger not only to their communities, but also to committed and hard-working public safety officials around the country who perform incredibly challenging jobs with unwavering professionalism and uncommon valor.  Clearly, we owe it to these brave men and women to ensure that all law enforcement officials have the tools, training and support they need to do their jobs with maximum safety and effectiveness.

Over the last few months, these goals have driven President Obama and me to announce a series of Administration proposals that will enable us to help heal mistrust wherever it is found – from a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, to a historic new Task Force on 21st Century Policing – which will provide strong, federal support to law enforcement at every level, on a scale not seen since the Johnson Administration.  These aims have also led me to travel throughout the country – to Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and San Francisco – to convene a series of roundtable discussions dedicated to building trust and engagement between law enforcement, civil rights, youth and community leaders from coast to coast.

As these discussions have unfolded, I have repeatedly seen that – although the concerns we are focused on today may be particularly acute in Ferguson – they are not confined to any one city, state, or geographic region.  They implicate questions about fairness and trust that are national in scope.  And they point not to insurmountable divides between people of different perspectives, but to the shared values – and the common desire for peace, for security, and for public safety – that binds together police as well as protestors.

Although dialogue, by itself, will not be sufficient to address these issues – because concrete action is needed – initiating a broad, frank, and inclusive conversation is a necessary and productive first step.  In all of the Civil Rights Division’s activities in Ferguson – as in every pattern-or-practice investigation the Division has launched over the last six years – our aim is to help facilitate and inform this conversation; to make certain it leads to concrete action; and to ensure that law enforcement officers in every part of the United States live up to the same high standards of professionalism.  It is clear from our work throughout the country—particularly the work of our Civil Rights Division—that the prospect of police accountability and criminal justice reform is an achievable goal; one that we can reach with law enforcement and community members at the table as full partners.

Last August, when I visited Ferguson to meet with concerned citizens and community leaders, I made a solemn commitment: that the United States Department of Justice would continue to stand with the people there long after the national headlines had faded.  This week, with the conclusion of our investigations into these matters, I again commit to the people of Ferguson that we will continue to stand with you and to work with you to ensure that the necessary reforms are implemented.  And even as we issue our findings in today’s report, our work will go on.

It will go on as we engage with the city of Ferguson – and surrounding municipalities – to reform their law enforcement practices and establish a public safety effort that protects and serves all members of the community.  It will go on as we broaden this work, and extend the assistance of the Justice Department to other communities around the country.  And it will go on as we join together with all Americans to ensure that public safety is not a burden undertaken by the brave few, but a positive collaboration between everyone in this nation.  The report we have issued and the steps we have taken are only the beginning of a necessarily resource intensive and inclusive process to promote reconciliation, to reduce and eliminate bias, and to bridge gaps and build understanding.  And in the days ahead, the Department of Justice will stay true to my promise, vigilant in its execution, and determined in the pursuit of justice—in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community across the United States.

Thank you.

Source: Office of the Attorney General

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) Responds to DOJ Report on the Ferguson Police Department

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) Responds to DOJ Report on the Ferguson Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and CBC Members held a press conference immediately following the release of the Department of Justice report on Ferguson to discuss the urgent need for criminal justice reform.

The following remarks were issued by CBC Chairman Butterfield.

Statement by Congressman G. K. Butterfield, Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus In Response to DOJ Report on Ferguson Police Department

Just a few minutes ago, Attorney General Eric Holder released a comprehensive 102 page report on police misconduct in the City of Ferguson, Missouri.

Many Americans may find this reporting surprising; but to us in the Congressional Black Caucus it simply reaffirms that which we already know.  For years, the Congressional Black Caucus has asserted that Black Americans are treated unfairly and disproportionally in the criminal justice system.  We know it because we represent those communities and we see it every day.  I know it because I served as a trial judge for many years and saw abuses at the law enforcement level and in the administration of justice.  Police bias and excessive use of force are real in the African American community.

The Report finds that from routine traffic stops, to the number of arrests made, the police department in the city of Ferguson routinely violates the constitutional rights and civil liberties of Black residents more than other residents.

  • Ferguson law enforcement efforts are focused on generating revenue and their practices violate the law and undermine community trust, especially among African Americans.
  • The Ferguson Police Department engages in a pattern of unconstitutional stops and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment and also engages in a pattern of First Amendment violations.
  • The Ferguson Police Department engages in a pattern of First Amendment violations.
  • The Ferguson Police Department engages in a pattern of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
  • The Ferguson Municipal Court practices impose substantial and unnecessary barriers to the challenge or resolution of municipal code violations and impose unduly harsh penalties for missed payments or appearances.

There is a well-founded mistrust between the African-American community and law enforcement officers. The statistics are clear. Video clips are clear. We recognize the overwhelming majority of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities, and most of them are doing it well.  But unfortunately, there are some officers who abuse the sacred responsibility to protect and to serve by using excessive and sometimes deadly force when a less severe response is warranted.

This is a transformative moment for our country and Congress has a critical role to play in helping to restore trust in the criminal justice system to ensure that every American is treated equally before the law.

Black residents in Ferguson have called for justice on this disparity for many years.  Their calls were ignored.  The world now knows the truth about Ferguson.

Kirk Supports Strong, Bipartisan Path to Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Threat

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Kirk Supports Strong, Bipartisan Path to Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Threat

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)  issued the following statement on the need for Congress to take a strong, bipartisan path forward in stopping Iran’s growing nuclear and terror threats:

“The only way to stop the Iranian terror regime from getting nuclear weapons is to get a decisive bipartisan vote on Iran sanctions legislation.  After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s powerful speech yesterday, it’s now time for Congress to renew bipartisan efforts and to make sure our children never have to witness an Iran-initiated nuclear war in the Middle East.”


The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 (S. 269), authored by Senators Kirk and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), lays out the bipartisan view of Congress on the minimum standards for a good deal with Iran, and would impose new crippling sanctions if Iran fails to agree to a good deal by June 30, 2015. Known also as the Kirk-Menendez bill, S. 269 was approved by the Senate Banking Committee in a strong, bipartisan 18-to-4 vote on January 29, 2015, and now is within striking distance of a veto-proof majority.

Congressional Veto-Proof Votes on Bipartisan Iran Sanctions:

  • The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-195) passed the Senate in a 99-to-0 vote on June 24, 2010, and the House in a 408-to-8 vote on June 24, 2010.
  • During consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (Public Law 112-81), the Menendez-Kirk amendment to impose Central Bank of Iran (CBI) sanctions passed the Senate in a 100-to-0 vote on December 1, 2011.
  • The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-158) passed the House in a 421-to-6 vote on August 1, 2012, and the Senate in a unanimous voice vote on August 1, 2012.
  • During consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Public Law 112-239), the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, the Menendez-Kirk-Lieberman amendment to impose sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping, and shipbuilding and port sectors, passed the Senate in a 94-to-0 vote on November 30, 2012.

Trauma Center Activists to Disrupt Gold Coast University of Chicago Fundraiser

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Trauma Center Activists to Disrupt Gold Coast University of Chicago Fundraiser

South Siders to rally outside luxury fundraiser — “No trauma center, no Obama library for UofC”

CHICAGO, IL – Members of the trauma care coalition, including youth, mothers, clergy, students, doctors and nurses will gather on Chicago’s Gold Coast, where the University of Chicago will be holding a fundraiser at Chicago’s five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel as part of its $4.5-billion dollar capital campaign.

Activists and supporters including faith leaders and medical professionals will hold a rally and will picket the event, calling on alumni donors not to support the University until it commits to opening a trauma center.

The rally/picket will be held today, March 5th at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, N. Michigan/Pearson (Water Tower Place) in Chicago. A press conference is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Michigan and Pearson, and at 5:45 p.m., disruptive action followed by 60+ person picket and rally outside UofC luxury fundraiser

“We’re taking our fight to the north side because we are sick and tired of the lives of young black people on the South Side being devalued as [UofC President Robert] Zimmer raises almost $5 billion and seeks to host the Obama Presidential Library,” explained Veronica Morris-Moore, a Woodlawn youth organizer who has faced arrest at previous protests against the University of Chicago. “That’s why we’re making sure this event can’t go forward as planned.”

The University of Chicago launched its current “Inquiry and Impact” capital campaign in October 2014 with a goal of $4.5 billion. The gala launch of the campaign was also disrupted by trauma center protesters. Activists note that the cost of a trauma center amounts to less than one percent of the $4.5-billion the capital campaign is trying to raise based on the University’s own estimates that a trauma center would cost $30-million to open, and less to operate once open.

“I’m putting my body on the line today because I believe I have a responsibility as a UofC student to make sure that my institution stops perpetuating racist inequalities in healthcare on the South Side,” explained University of Chicago undergraduate student Joe Kaplan

The action also comes as the University is entering the final phase of its fight for the Obama Presidential Library. Activists and community members have long been calling on the University to open an adult trauma center before it is awarded the library. As Victoria Crider, a South Side youth organizer who graduated high school just blocks from Obama’s Kenwood home explained: “Obama’s Library should absolutely be in Chicago, but the University of Chicago should not get the honor and prestige that comes with that Library when it is neglecting the needs of black and brown communities on the South Side.”

Activists are optimistic that the attention they are bringing to the lack of trauma care is bringing results. In December, the University of Chicago agreed to raise the age limit of its pediatric trauma center by two years, a move organizers had long demanded as a stop-gap measure. That decision coincided with increased public attention in the run-up to the deadline for proposals to host the Obama Library.

The community’s demand for trauma care was sparked by the death of Woodlawn youth leader Damian Turner, and is led by the Woodlawn-based Fearless Leading by the Youth, along with the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Students for Health Equity at the UofC, National Nurses United and many faith groups including the United Church of Christ.

The South Side is currently a trauma desert for adults, meaning that victims of shootings and other serious injuries must be taken over ten miles away, to the Near North Side or south west suburbs. The call for trauma care is also supported by a new study by the Illinois Department of Public Health which states that longer travel times to a trauma center increases the likelihood of dying, the study also states that the U of C is best positioned to expand access to trauma care, and that the U of C could further raise the age limit of their pediatric trauma center.

Vice President Biden Announces New White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Vice President Biden Announces New White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

WASHINGTON, DC – Vice President Joe Biden announced the appointment of Caroline “Carrie” Bettinger-López as the new White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Ms. Bettinger-López is a leading advocate for gender-based equality and human rights, who has worked at local, national, and international levels to bring an end to violence against women. She is the second person to serve as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women—a position created under the Obama Administration specifically to advise the President and Vice President on domestic violence and sexual assault issues. She is replacing Lynn Rosenthal, who left earlier this year to become the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

“Throughout her career, Carrie has made clear that the most basic of human rights is freedom from violence,” Vice President Biden said. “I am honored that she will be joining my staff to continue the work we began with the Violence Against Women Act, and I know she will be a strong voice for women everywhere who continue to suffer from sexual assault and domestic violence in the worst prison on earth – the four walls of their own home.”

As a litigator and an advocate, Ms. Bettinger-López has fought for the protection of victims of domestic violence and the provision of remedies for violations of survivors’ rights. Prior to her legal career, Ms. Bettinger-López engaged in social services advocacy and youth education centered on women and girls’ empowerment, as well as anti-violence programming.

Most recently, Ms. Bettinger-López is the founder and Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, where she served as an Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education. Her scholarship included a focus on violence against women, gender and race discrimination, and immigrant rights.

In her new role as White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Ms. Bettinger-López will serve as an Advisor to the President and Vice President on domestic violence and sexual assault issues; be a liaison to the domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy communities; collaborate with federal agencies on the implementation of VAWA programs and the coordination of federal efforts to address violence against women and girls both domestically and globally; and, drive the development of new initiatives and policies to combat domestic violence and sexual assault with key public and private stakeholders.

Ms. Bettinger-Lopez will continue to lead the Administration’s efforts to putting an end to violence against women. Among many important steps forward, the Administration has led efforts to combat campus sexual assault, worked to prevent domestic violence homicides, and fought to extend protections to women of color and LGBT Americans who have been victims of violence.

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • John Conger – Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Department of Defense
  • Gregory T. Delawie – Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo, Department of State
  • Peter Levine – Deputy Chief Management Officer, Department of Defense
  • Vanessa Allen Sutherland – Chairperson and Member, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

President Obama also announced his intent to appoint the following individual to a key Administration post:

  • Robert Teranishi – Member, Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences

President Obama said, “I am confident that these experienced and hardworking individuals will help us tackle the important challenges facing America, and I am grateful for their service.  I look forward to working with them.”

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

John Conger, Nominee for Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), Department of Defense

John Conger is currently the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Installations and Environment at the Department of Defense, a position he has held since 2009.  Mr. Conger has concurrently performed the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment since December 2014, and served as Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment from 2012 to 2014.  Prior to this, Mr. Conger worked in the Office of Rep. Chet Edwards as his Legislative Director from 2001 to 2009, and concurrently as his Associate Appropriations Committee Staff from 2007 to 2009.  From 2000 to 2001 he was a Professional Staff Member on the House International Relations Committee.  Mr. Conger served as a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Sam Gejdenson from 1999 to 2000, and as a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Jane Harman from 1997 to 1999.  Mr. Conger worked at Adroit Systems as a Legislative Affairs Analyst from 1995 to 1997 and as an Airborne Reconnaissance Systems Analyst from 1993 to 1995.  He was a Research Assistant at the MIT Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory from 1991 to 1993.  Mr. Conger received a B.S. and M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.A. from The George Washington University.

Gregory T. Delawie, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo, Department of State

Gregory T. Delawie, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance in the Department of State, a position he has held since 2012.  Previously, Mr. Delawie served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany from 2009 to 2012, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs from 2008 to 2009, Office Director in the Bilateral Trade Affairs Office of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs from 2007 to 2008, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia from 2004 to 2007.  Mr. Delawie was Office Director in the Policy Coordination Office of the Bureau of Human Resources from 2001 to 2003, Mid-Level Career Development Officer in the Bureau of Human Resources from 2000 to 2001, Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy from 1996 to 2000, and Deputy Division Chief of the Developed Country Trade Division in the Bilateral Trade Affairs Office of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs from 1994 to 1996.  He also served at U.S. missions in Ankara, Turkey and Frankfurt, Germany, and in the Regional Political-Economic Affairs Office of the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, the State Department Operations Center, and the Aviation Policy Office of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.  Mr. Delawie received a A.B. from Harvard College.

Peter Levine, Nominee for Deputy Chief Management Officer, Department of Defense

Peter Levine most recently served as Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a position he held from 2013 to January 2015.  From 1996 to 2012 he served as General Counsel and Minority Counsel of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Mr. Levine was Counsel for Senator Carl Levin from 1995 to 1996, and Counsel on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management from 1987 to 1994.  From 1983 to 1987 he was an Associate at Crowell and Moring.  Mr. Levine received an A.B. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Vanessa Allen Sutherland, Nominee for Chairperson and Member, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Vanessa Allen Sutherland serves as the Chief Counsel for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration at the Department of Transportation, a position she has held since 2011.  Prior to this, she served as Senior Counsel to Altria Client Services from 2008 to 2011.  From 2004 to 2008, Ms. Sutherland served as Counsel to Philip Morris USA.  From 1998 to 2004, she held multiple roles at Digex, Inc., MCI (WORLDCOM) Subsidiary, including Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Senior Corporate Counsel, and Corporate Counsel.  From 1997 to 1998, Ms. Sutherland was a Legal Associate at MCI Telecommunications Corporation.  In 1996, Ms. Sutherland was a Law Clerk at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and from 1994 to 1995, she was a Law Clerk at Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP.  Ms. Sutherland received a B.A. from Drew University and a J.D. and M.B.A. from American University.

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individual to a key Administration post:

Dr. Robert Teranishi, Appointee for Member, Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences

Dr. Robert Teranishi is a Professor of Social Science and Comparative Education, the Morgan and Helen Chu Endowed Chair in Asian American Studies, and Co-Director of the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education at the University of California, Los Angeles positions he has held since 2013.  Since 2004, he has concurrently served as a Senior Faculty Fellow at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at New York University (NYU).  From 2002 to 2014, he was an Assistant Professor and then an Associate Professor of Higher Education in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU.  From 2011 to 2013, Dr. Teranishi served as a Member of the Equity and Excellence Commission at the Department of Education.  From 2010 to 2012, he was a strategic planning and restructuring consultant for the Educational Opportunity and Scholarship division of the Ford Foundation.  Dr. Teranishi was a senior research associate at NYU’s Alliance for International Higher Education Policy Studies from 2002 to 2005 and from 2001 to 2002, he was the National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s W.E.B. DuBois Collective Research Institute.  Dr. Teranishi received a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Rally Today to Demand Homan be Shut Down

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Rally Today to Demand Homan be Shut Down

From Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Rally will be held today, Thursday March 5th, 2015,  12 p.m. Noon – 1 p.m., at 3379 W Fillmore in Chicago.

CPD Homan Square Facility Should be Shut Down AND Chicago Police  illegally holding civilians, torturing and denying due process ‘business as usual’

We are outraged by the existence of the notorious Homan Square facility, where  Chicago police illegally hold civilians, torture, intimidate and deny them their rights!  We clearly understand that the Homan Square facility would not exist without the  complicity and protection of Mayor Emanuel and Anita Alvarez, Illinois Cook Co  District Attorney.

However, this is ‘business as usual’ in Chicago Police Stations, where it is  predominantly members of African American and Latino communities who are  tortured, abused, who never get access to a phone call or legal representation, emphasizing yet again, the urgent need for community control of the police, through  an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).

Community members, police crime survivors, victims and family members and concerned  civilians will be rallying for justice and demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel…
1. Close down Homan Square Warehouse immediately
2. Fire Chicago Police Superintendent, Gary McCarthy
3. Pass the Torture Reparations Ordinance
4. Order the permanent display in ALL Chicago Police Stations, accessible to ALL  detainees upon arrest, the services & PH# 1-800-LAW-REP4 for First Defense  Legal Aid, who offer free legal representation for anyone, in the first 48hrs from the  moment of arrest. Cook County would save “between $12.7 and $43.9 million  annually if arrestees had access to a defense attorney within 24 hours after  arrest”* Funds that could be used towards Torture Reparations.

…Then issue an apology to the people of Chicago and all those who have been  abused & tortured by CPD, for allowing Homan Square Police Warehouse to be  used as a Chicago police torture chamber

We also demand: The immediate resignation of Illinois State Cook County District Anita Alvarez (Cook County State’s Attorney).

The new US Attorney General Loretta Lynch must immediately launch a full scale  federal civil rights investigation of the Homan facility, AND of the Chicago Alliance’s  2014 complaint to her  predecessor, Eric Holder, that documented murder, torture,      abuse by Chicago/Chicagoland police officers.

** http://naarpr.org/complaint-to-eric-holder-us-dept-of-justice/

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
Stop Police Crimes Campaign for an Elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC)


For more information, contact: Frank Chapman, 312-513-3795 or

Ted Pearson, 312-927-2689

Developing Next-Gen Black Engineers, NSBE Partnership

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Developing Next-Gen Black Engineers, NSBE Partnership

National Society of Black Engineers & American Society of Civil Engineers Join Forces to Develop and Retain next Gen African-American Engineers

NSBE ASCE Partnership

Washington, DC (BlackNews.com) – The National Society of Black Engineers, the largest student-governed engineering organization in the country, and the American Society of Civil Engineers announced their renewed strategic partnership in a ceremony on Feb. 24 at the National Academy of Sciences’ Great Hall in Washington, D.C. The organizations’ leaders signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing to combine their resources and expertise to increase the retention, representation and development of African-American civil engineers in the U.S. workforce.

“NSBE recognizes that it cannot fulfill its mission without strategic partnerships with the U.S. engineering community,” said NSBE National Chairperson Sossena Wood. “This MOU with our first strategic partner, the American Society of Civil Engineers, is another major step toward supporting our members, building our organizations, growing the number of underrepresented engineers and accomplishing much for the U.S. engineering profession.”

“As leading engineering professional societies, ASCE and NSBE are uniquely and strategically positioned to address the U.S. engineering workforce and innovation challenges our nation faces,” said ASCE President Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE. “This MOU represents the collaborative actions ASCE and NSBE are undertaking to attract, develop and retain current and future black civil engineers.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, African-Americans represented 5.5 percent of the country’s engineering workforce and 5.4 percent of the civil engineering workforce. The statistics also showed that African-Americans represented only 3.4 percent of college students who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and 3.3 percent of those earning a master’s degree in the same discipline.

Under the terms of the MOU, NSBE and ASCE will offer reciprocal memberships, co-sponsor frequent professional development, continuing education, mentoring and leadership development programming, and promote and support student and local chapter collaborations. The organizations will also engage in large-scale efforts aimed at promoting awareness and interest in engineering careers, such as an upcoming IMAX film and educational project, – DreamBig! (www.dreambigfilm.org).
About NSBE
Founded in 1975, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is one of the largest student-governed organizations based in the United States. With more than 31,000 members and more than 300 chapters in the U.S. and abroad, NSBE supports and promotes the aspirations of collegiate and pre-collegiate students and technical professionals in engineering and technology. NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professional and positively impact the community.” For more information, visit www.nsbe.org.
About ASCE
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 146,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, graded America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure at a D+. For more information, visit www.asce.org, and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.

Photo Caption: Strategic Partnership: Leaders of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) sign a memorandum of understanding, before the Charles Stark Draper Awards Dinner at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. (left to right) ASCE Executive Director Thomas W. Smith III; ASCE President Robert D. Stevens; NSBE National Chair Sossena Wood and NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid (Feb. 24, 2015)

Bob Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment Hires New Talent

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Bob Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment Hires New Talent

RLJ Entertainment Promotes Mark Ward to Chief Acquisitions Officer, Feature Films and Hires Angela Northington As Sr. VP Content Acquisitions, UMC Urban Movie Channel

Los Angeles, CA (BlackNews.com) –  RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE), founded by Robert L. Johnson, has promoted Mark Ward to Chief Acquisitions Officer, Feature Films and hired Angela Northington as its new Senior Vice President Content Acquisitions, UMC. Ms. Northington will pursue acquisitions for RLJEs urban brand, UMC, while Mark will continue to oversee feature film acquisitions for both Image and UMC. Their acquisitions will be distributed in multiple formats including theatrical and non-theatrical, broadcast television (including satellite and cable), DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download, and digital streaming, including the recently launched UMC – Urban Movie Channel, RLJEs proprietary digital channel focused on urban-themed movies. RLJ Entertainments CEO Miguel Penella made the announcement today.

For the past year, Mr. Ward has been the lead acquisition executive for all of RLJEs feature films. He has acquired an impressive slate of titles, including THE REWRITE (Feb. 2015) starring Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, Allison Janney, and Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons; and THE COBBLER (March 2015) starring Adam Sandler, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi, and Method Man. For the previous four years, Mr. Ward was instrumental in obtaining cast-driven feature films for distribution on television, box-office, VOD, digital platforms and packaged media for RLJ Entertainments Image Entertainment brand. Before Image, Ward was VP of Acquisitions for Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Ms. Northington has over 15 years of experience in the Urban entertainment space, working for such companies as Revolt TV, Sean Diddy Combs new cable network; CodeBlack Entertainment; and Simmons Lathan Media Group, the media company founded by mogul Russell Simmons and TV producer Stan Lathan. Ms. Northington joined RLJE on March 2.

Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, said, “Mark has been instrumental in growing RLJ Entertainments feature film business, so we are delighted to promote him to our Chief Acquisitions Officer. With the recent launch of the UMC digital channel, our Chairman Robert L. Johnson and I were looking for the right person to grow the UMC brand and our urban library. With 15 years of experience in the urban market and her close relationships with established and emerging content producers, Angela is an ideal addition to the RLJE team.” Mr. Ward and Ms. Northington are based in RLJEs West Coast office in Woodland Hills, CA.
About RLJ Entertainment
RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) is a premier independent owner, developer, licensee, and distributor of entertainment content and programming in primarily North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. RLJE is a leader in numerous genres via its owned and distributed brands such as Acorn (British TV), Image (feature films, stand-up comedy), UMC (urban), Acacia (fitness), Athena (documentaries), and Madacy (gift sets). These titles are distributed in multiple formats including broadcast television (including satellite and cable), theatrical and non-theatrical, DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download, and digital streaming.

Via its relationship with Agatha Christie Limited, a company that RLJE owns 64% of, RLJE manages the intellectual property and publishing rights to some of the greatest works of mystery fiction, including stories of the iconic sleuths Miss Marple and Poirot. RLJE also owns all rights to the hit UK mystery series Foyles War.

RLJE leverages its management experience to acquire, distribute and monetize existing and original content for its many distribution channels, including its branded digital subscription channels, Acorn TV, Acacia TV, and UMC, and engages distinct audiences with programming that appeals directly to their unique viewing interests. Through its proprietary e-commerce web sites and print catalogs for the Acorn and Acacia brands, RLJE has direct contacts and billing relationships with millions of consumers.

Harlem Book Fair Partners With Pen World Voices Festival

Posted by Admin On March - 5 - 2015 Comments Off on Harlem Book Fair Partners With Pen World Voices Festival

The Harlem Book Fair and Pen World Voices Festival Present Global Writers

Major Writers’ Festivals Collaborate In Promotion

Harlem Book Fair and Pen World Voices Festival
Harlem, NY (BlackNews.com) – The 11th Annual PEN World Voices of International Literature, “On Africa,” New York City, May 4-10, 2015.  100 writers from 30 countries will gather in New York City to celebrate the transformative power of the written word. This year’s program, co-curated by acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah), takes you beyond the news by providing a rare chance to hear voices and perspectives from contemporary Africa and its diaspora. Join in a wide range of debates, readings, workshops, and performances in venues from Lower Manhattan and Harlem to Brooklyn and the Bronx, and engage with emerging and established international authors in new and profound ways.

(Promotion Code to Receive up to 20% OFF: HBF2015. Visit PEN World Voices for discount and additional program information.)

PEN World Voices Festival will showcase writers of the African Diaspora in May 2015, and the Harlem Book Fair will showcase writers of both the Caribbean and African Diaspora during its festival on July 18th. Embracing the theme ‘Global I Am’, both festivals will explore black contribution to global culture through books, writers and writing.
About the Harlem Book Fair:
The presentation of the QBR Wheatley Book Awards will open the Harlem The program blends awards Book Fair on the evening of July 17th. presentations into an entertaining evening of music, letters, and stellar performances. The Wheatley Awards are open to industry professionals, independent authors and publishers, media, readers and the general public. To reserve seating for the QBR Wheatley Book Awards, visit the Harlem Book Fair website or EventBrite.com. To submit your book for Book Award consideration, visit the Harlem Book Fair to download and submit the Book Award Submission form.

The Harlem Book Fair invites publishers, independent authors, book vendors, and artists to exhibit, promote and sell their work to its receptive audience. Applications are available online at www.harlembookfair.com. The Harlem Book Fair is a family event that is free and open to all.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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