Daily Archives: December 1, 2011

Victim’s Parents Object to Oscar Nomination of West Memphis Three Documentary

The parents of a child killed in the West Memphis Three murder case have asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to refuse Oscar consideration for the documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, saying that it celebrates the three defendants.

In a letter reported by The Associated Press, Todd and Dana Moore, whose eight-year-old son was murdered with two other boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, told the academy the defendants were “unjustly able to” obtain their freedom because of “public pressure that exploded due to gross misrepresentations of fact” in the films.

The men known as the West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, were teenagers when they were convicted of the murders. The films, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, helped raise awareness about the defendants and raised questions about the evidence and testimony presented at their trials.

Mr. Echols, Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Misskelly were freed from prison in August under a deal that required them to plead guilty to the murders even though they maintain their innocence. Paradise Lost 3, which chronicles events leading up to their release, was announced as a film on the Academy’s shortlist for its best-documentary Oscar.

The Moores previously protested the Paradise Lost series, dating back to the original film, which they appeared in.

Mr. Berlinger and Mr. Sinofsky said in a statement that they “cannot imagine the pain” of the parents of the murder victims, and expressed “deep sympathy for their loss,” despite “many incorrect statements contained in Todd and Dana Moore’s letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.” They added, “We stand behind the integrity of our journalistic process and the information contained in our films which demonstrates the innocence of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley.”

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Newt Gingrich: “Poor Kids Can Only Make Money Illegally”

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who rides atop the polls for the Republican nomination for president, has been shooting his mouth off lately. He called himself a celebrity who makes $60,000 a speech. He also said, “I helped Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp develop supply side economics. I helped lead the effort to defeat communism in the Congress.” He said he thinks child labor laws should be repealed.

On Thursday, Newt Gingrich defended his stance against child labor laws during a campaign stop in Iowa, saying that children born into poverty aren’t accustomed to working unless it involves crime.

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich claimed. “They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it is illegal,” he added.

Mr. Gingrich’s condemnation of “really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods” is disgusting, and it’s disrespectful of the majority of those children and their families who live their lives with far more integrity and far less cash than Gingrich ever will.

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Virginia Legislators Jump Aboard Personhood Train

Pro life legislators in Virginia think it would be a dandy idea to declare that life begins at conception and that fertilized eggs are people.

Undaunted by the Personhood Movement’s overreach in Mississippi, Republican delegate to the Virginia legislature Bob Marshall introduced a bill to the assembly that would redefine life as beginning at conception. The law reads, in part,

unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the commonwealth, subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the commonwealth.

As with other personhood laws (like the one that failed in Mississippi in November and the one introduced in Wisconsin), Virginia’s proposed measure would make all abortion illegal and threaten birth control and some methods of IVF. Unlike the other measures, which were introduced as constitutional amendments, this one is a bill in the legislature, which means the people have no say in whether it becomes law.

This law looks like it has a good chance of passing; Virginia’s legislative branch is heavily Republican.

Even if it does pass, it’s unlikely the law will take effect. Someone will file a lawsuit challenging it, a judge will issue an injunction barring enforcement of the law until the trial, the verdict will be appealed no matter what the outcome, and this will continue until some court refuses to hear it or the law is repealed by a new set of legislators.

When all is said and done, Virginia will spend a ton of money on something that amounts to a source for sound bytes for politicians who want to show their pro-life constituents that they love pre-babies so much and they’re willing to prove it.

Via Jezebel.

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Kentucky Church Forbids Interracial Couples

A Kentucky church has decided that Jesus’s whole “love your neighbor” thing only applies if your neighbor is white.

On Sunday, members of the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church voted to condemn interracial relationships and ban interracial couples from joining the church, according to the Associated Press. The congregation decided to express their disgust at the thought of people of different ethnicities loving each other after the daughter of church secretary Dean Harville came home from college this summer with her Zimbabwean boyfriend.

Kentucky.com reports that Stella Harville and Ticha Chikuni, who are now engaged, performed the song I Surrender All during a service. Pastor Melvin Thompson became convinced that he must prevent any other interracial couples from proclaiming their shared love of Jesus.

Pastor Thompson mentioned to Mr. Harville that his daughter and her fiancé weren’t welcome back at the church. Pastor Thompson kept pushing to make the hateful policy official even after he stepped down as pastor.

Though the new pastor says she has no problem with the couple returning, on Sunday former Pastor Thompson pushed the congregation to make an official declaration. About forty people were in church at the time, but the issue passed with nine people voting for it and six people voting against it. The other twenty-five people refused to vote because they weren’t quite sure where they stand on blacks and white dating. The resulting document says that, “parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services” or other church functions, except for funerals.

Former Pastor Thompson says, “I am not racist. I will tell you that. I am not prejudiced against any race of people, have never in my lifetime spoke evil about a race. That’s what this is being portrayed as, but it is not.”

Via Jezebel.

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Sins of the Parents Keep American Students out of Florida Schools

In the race to see which state can provide the most degraded and dehumanizing environment for undocumented immigrants, Arizona and Alabama have grabbed the headlines. Largely unnoticed is Florida, home to nearly one million Cuban refugees and their descendants, which has come up with the most bizarre anti-immigrant policy of all.

Beginning last year, Florida’s higher education authorities have treated American citizens born in the U.S. as non-residents for tuition purposes if they can’t demonstrate that their parents are in the country legally.

The government can’t single out citizens for disfavored treatment without a good reason. The Supreme Court even ruled unanimously that an Illinois village violated a homeowner’s Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by demanding from her a bigger easement than it required of her neighbors as the price of connecting her home to the municipal water supply.

A few feet of land may not have made a life-changing difference to the plaintiff, but consider the difference between in-state and non-resident tuition at the University of Florida: $5,700 a year versus $27,936. It is the difference between a college education and none.

It seems unfair, as the Supreme Court acknowledged 30 years ago in Plyler v. Doe when it held that Texas could not deprive undocumented children of a free public K-through-12 education, to blame children for the wrongdoing of their parents. As Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. observed in his concurring opinion, it is also self-destructive, creating a permanent underclass of uneducated people.

The Supreme Court has never extended Plyler to give undocumented children rights to higher education. Alabama and South Carolina bar them entirely from its public universities and colleges. Other states let them enroll; a dozen states, including Texas, treat them as residents, entitled to in-state tuition rates.

The Florida situation is worse. Its victims are, after all, American citizens, as American as Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, who said that the state’s universities should focus on “practical” subjects, not on political science, psychology, or anthropology. (“We don’t need them here,” Governor Scott said of anthropologists. University students in Florida are circulating petitions to have the governor’s name kept off their diplomas.)

The students who filed a lawsuit last month challenging the policy are as American as Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is leading a campaign to amend the Constitution. He would repeal, for the children of undocumented immigrants, the Fourteenth Amendment’s grant of “birthright citizenship”. The Florida policy (it’s not a statute, but a rule adopted by the state’s Board of Education and its University System) amounts to repeal of birthright citizenship by regulation.

“Corruption of blood” was a familiar feature of the common law in England. A person found guilty of treason would be barred from passing his estate on to his children, who would inherit nothing but the corrupted blood line.

The framers of the United States Constitution considered and rejected the concept. Article III, the judiciary article, contains this sentence: “The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attained.” As James Madison expressed the thought more directly at the time, the purpose was to prevent Congress “from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of its author.”

Nor were the founders content to leave the matter there. Congress enacted a law in 1790 to provide that “no conviction or judgment . . .  shall work corruption of blood or any forfeiture of estate.” Although not in so many words, the principle that guilt is not inheritable lay behind the modern Supreme Court’s gradual recognition of rights for children born out of wedlock, deemed by society to be “illegitimate.”

The lawsuit filed last month in Federal District Court in Miami by the Southern Poverty Law Center asks the court to do the obvious: rule that Florida’s “policy and practice of classifying dependent United States citizen students who reside in Florida as ‘non-residents’ based on their parents’ federal immigration status denies these United States citizens equal protection of the laws in violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of “all past, present, and future United States citizens” affected by the policy, names five individual plaintiffs. Two were forced for financial reasons to withdraw from Miami-Dade College when the policy took effect. Two others can’t afford to take all the credits necessary to complete their degrees on time, and one, who would have received a full scholarship as a resident, couldn’t enroll at all. Four were born in Miami and one in Los Angeles. All are eligible to be President of the United States.

It’s not clear what defense Florida will come up with. Bills to overturn the policy were filed within the last few weeks in both houses of the Florida Legislature. If the state is lucky, one will pass. The State Senate sponsor, Rene Garcia of Hialeah, is a Republican and chairman of the Florida Hispanic Caucus. “When you’re an American citizen, you’re an American citizen,” he said.

Via The New York Times.

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On This Day…

In 1959, representatives of twelve countries, including the United States, signed a treaty in Washington setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, free from military activity.

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AIDS Activists Face Opposition from Chinese Government

In anticipation of world AIDS day, activists Hu Jia and Tian Xi faced pressure from authorities for bringing attention to difficulties faced by people with AIDS in China.

AIDS activist Hu Jia in June 2011 (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia)

Hu Jia was released from prison in June after serving a three-year jail sentence for subversion. As a condition of his release, Mr. Hu must undergo one year of surveillance.

Despite his own recent release from prison, Mr. Hu expressed his fear for fellow activist Tian Xi, recently released after serving a one year sentence for staging a protest on World AIDS Day in 2009.

Mr. Hu claims that Mr. Tian has been unstable since his release, leading Mr. Hu to advocate for better treatment for AIDS patients on his behalf.

Mr. Hu has been unable to find a willing audience in the health ministry, which has ignored his requests and has threatened him with detention if he publicly protests. Mr. Hu stated that in the past ten years he has approached the health ministry to discuss potential solutions to the problems facing AIDS patients at least sixty times but has received no response.

Tian Xi’s plight against AIDS began when he pursued compensation after being infected with HIV through a blood transfusion following an injury he received at the age of nine.

In compensation for his contraction of HIV, Mr. Tian was given 30,000 yuan, which is the equivalent of $4,404 American dollars.

Rights activists allege that people with AIDS are often refused treatment, and infected children are denied access to schools. In addition, the medication that is provided by local governments is substandard and becomes ineffective after three to five years.

Gynecologist Gao Yaojie, who was forced into exile, urges that tainted blood transfusions continue to infect blood recipients in the Hunan province.

The total infected population in China is estimated at approximately 780,000 people.

Via Impunity Watch.

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