Daily Archives: February 22, 2012

Republican Candidates Face Off in Arizona

English: Governor Mitt Romney of MA

The four Republican Presidential candidates skirmished on federal earmarks, the auto industry bailout, and the national debt during a CNN debate held in Arizona.

The debate was the last one for the GOP candidates before next week’s primaries in Arizona and Michigan and next month’s Super Tuesday contests.

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Filed under Economy, National, Politics

At Least 40 Killed in Argentina Train Crash

At least forty people were killed and 550 injured in a train crash in Argentina.

The train plowed into a platform at a Buenos Aires station, authorities said.

Transportation Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said authorities believe there were problems with the train’s brakes.

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Filed under Sick Sad World, World

Foreign Journalists Killed in Syria

Two Western journalists have been killed in the Syrian city of Homs. The journalists were killed by shelling in the Baba Amr neighborhood.

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SCOTUS: Inmates Don’t Need Miranda Warnings

English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a decision limiting the circumstances in which prisoners must be told of their rights before they are questioned.

The question in the case, Howes v. Fields, was whether an inmate’s confession should have been suppressed because he did not receive the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona before he was questioned. The answer turned on whether he was in custody.

Justice Alito, writing for the majority, said that custody “is a term of art that specifies circumstances that are thought generally to present a serious danger of coercion.”

The inmate, Randall Fields, was in a Michigan jail for disorderly conduct when he was taken to a conference room and was questioned for five to seven hours by armed deputies. He was free to return to his cell but was not given Miranda warnings.

The key inquiry, Justice Alito said, was whether a reasonable person in those circumstances would have felt free to end the questioning and leave.

Being moved from one confinement to another, he wrote, is unlike “the shock that very often accompanies arrest.” People already in jail, he said, are “unlikely to be lured into speaking by a longing for prompt release.” And law enforcement officials questioning a prisoner “probably lack the authority to affect the duration of his sentence.”

Justice Alito acknowledged that some factors present in the questioning, including the length, hour and tone of the questioning, suggested that Mr. Fields was in “custody.” Other circumstances, notably that he was told he was free to leave, suggested the opposite. On balance, Justice Alito said, Mr. Fields was not in custody, and so no warnings were required.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for herself and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said there was little question that Mr. Fields had been confined in a stressful and coercive setting. “Was Fields ‘held for interrogation’?” she asked, quoting from the Miranda decision. “Brought to, and left alone with, the gun-bearing deputies, he surely was in my judgment.”

“Today,” Justice Ginsburg concluded, “for people already in prison, the court finds it adequate for the police to say: ‘You are free to terminate this interrogation and return to your cell.’ Such a statement is no substitute for one ensuring that an individual is aware of his rights.”

Via The New York Times.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Law, Sidebar

Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint Is 10x Higher Than Beef’s

Cover of "Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethica...

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“Shrimp lovers don’t need to crash a fancy party to enjoy premium, seasoned-to-perfection shrimp,” announced a Taco Bell press release heralding the chain’s “Pacific Shrimp Taco,” which featured a half-dozen “premium shrimp” for just $2.79.

Marketing campaigns like Taco Bell’s, along with Red Lobster‘s “Endless Shrimp” promotions, crystallize shrimp’s transformation from special-treat food to everyday cheap fare.

What happened?

Twenty years ago, 80% of shrimp consumed here came from domestic wild fisheries. Today, the United States imports 90% of the shrimp consumed here. We bring in a staggering 1.2 billion pounds of it annually, mainly from farms in Asia. Between 1995 and 2008, the inflation-adjusted price of wild-caught Gulf shrimp plunged 30%.

In his 2008 book Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Canadian journalist Taras Grescoe took a hard look at the Asian operations that supply our shrimp. His conclusion:

The simple fact is, if you’re eating cheap shrimp today, it almost certainly comes from a turbid, pesticide- and antibiotic-filled, virus-laden pond in the tropical climes of one of the world’s poorest nations.

These factory farms generate poverty in the nations that house them; they privatize and cut down mangrove forests that once sustained fishing communities, leaving dead zones in their wake.

A new study from University of Oregon researcher J. Boone Kauffman finds that the flattening of Southeast Asian mangrove forests is devastating in another way, too. Mangroves are rich stores of biodiversity and of carbon, and when they’re cleared for farming, that carbon enters the atmosphere as climate-warming gas.

Fifty to sixty percent of shrimp farms occupy cleared mangroves, and the shrimp that emerges from them has a carbon footprint ten times higher than the most notoriously climate-destroying foodstuff: beef from cows raised on cleared Amazon rainforest.

Mr. Kaufman calls shrimp-farming in Asia “the equivalent of slash-and-burn agriculture,” because farm operators typically “only last for 5 years or so before the buildup of sludge in the ponds and the acid sulfate soil renders them unfit for shrimp,” he told Science.

Cheap shrimp, like cheap oil, is looking increasingly like a dangerous delusion.

Via Mother Jones.

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Filed under Environment, Science, World

Georgia Democrats Introduce Bill Banning Vasectomies in Response to Attacks on Abortion Rights

English: Close-up of the Georgia State Capitol.

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The Georgia House Judiciary Committee will take up a measure that would prohibit abortions past the twentieth week of pregnancy.

The bill sponsored by Doug McKillip (R-Athens) attempts to tighten “life of the mother” exceptions to abortion:

No such condition shall be deemed to exist if it is based on a diagnosis or claim of a mental or emotional condition of the pregnant woman or that the pregnant woman will purposefully engage in conduct which she intends to result in her death or in substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.

In response, House Democrats scheduled a hearing at the state Capitol to propose a bill that would ban Georgia men from seeking vasectomies.

From the press release:

“Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” said Rep. Yasmin Neal, author of the bill. “It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams added, “The Republican attack on women’s reproductive rights is unconscionable. What is more deplorable is the hypocrisy of HB 954’s author. If we follow his logic, we believe it is the obligation of this General Assembly to assert an equally invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men.”

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Filed under Cheers!, Health, Politics, War on Women

Congresswoman Wants to Stop Aid to Honduran Military Human Rights Violations

Since the June 2009 coup d’état that overthrew Honduras’ democratically-elected president, the Honduran police and military have engaged in systematic threats and violence against campesinos, human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders, and opposition activists.  Violence has been acute in the Aguan Valley region, where campesinos have been struggling for land rights. Groups working with Honduran human rights groups have called for the United States to immediately end its funding of the Honduran police and military.

Congresswoman Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL) is circulating to members of Congress, asking them to call on the State Department to make sure that U.S. aid is not used to support police and military personnel that have committed human rights violations.

Please write to or call your representative in the House today. Ask him or her to promote human rights in Honduras by signing on to Rep. Schakowsky’s letter. Their action is needed immediately; signatures must be collected by March 1. You can reach your representative’s office through the congressional switchboard:  202-224-3121.

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Filed under Activism, Sick Sad World, World