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U.S. Weighs Sending Hundreds of New Troops to Iraq

Jun 10, 2015

The Obama administration is considering a plan to increase the U.S. presence in Iraq by sending up to 500 more military personnel and establishing a new military base in Anbar province. The United States already has about 3,000 troops, including trainers and advisers, in Iraq. The new forces would help train Iraqi forces in retaking the city of Ramadi, which fell to the self-described Islamic State last month.

Appeals Court Upholds Harsh Texas Anti-Choice Provisions

Jun 10, 2015

A federal appeals court has upheld harsh anti-choice provisions in Texas, threatening to leave the state with fewer than 10 abortion clinics. When the sweeping anti-choice law passed despite a “people’s filibuster” at the state Legislature in 2013, Texas had more than 40 clinics. Since then, more than half of them have closed. Now, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled Texas can enforce provisions requiring abortion facilities to meet the standards of hospital-style surgery centers and forcing providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The ruling exempts a clinic in the South Texas city of McAllen, on the grounds that forcing women to travel 235 miles to the nearest clinic would be an undue burden. But it remains unclear if the clinic can stay open. If the rules take effect, an estimated 900,000 reproductive-age women will live more than 150 miles from the nearest open abortion facility in the state. Abortion providers plan to appeal to the Supreme Court before the decision takes effect in about 22 days. In a statement, Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights said: “Not since before Roe v. Wade has a law or court decision had the potential to devastate access to reproductive health care on such a sweeping scale.”

Texas Police Officer Resigns over Pool Party Incident

Jun 10, 2015

A Texas police officer caught on video aggressively confronting African-American teens at a pool party has resigned. Widely viewed footage shows
Eric Casebolt wrestling an African-American teenage girl in a bikini to the ground, pulling her hair and sitting on top of her. Casebolt also pulled his gun on other teens. On Tuesday, McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley apologized for Casebolt’s actions and said he had stepped down.

McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley: “Eric Casebolt has resigned from the McKinney Police Department. As the chief of police, I want to say to our community that the actions of Casebolt, as seen on the video of the disturbance at the community pool, are indefensible. Our policies, our training, our practice, do not support his actions. He came into the call out of control and, as the video shows, was out of control during the incident.”

The incident remains under police investigation, meaning Casebolt could still face charges.

Los Angeles Police Oversight Board Reaches Mixed Decision in Fatal Shooting of Unarmed Ezell Ford

Jun 10, 2015

A Los Angeles police oversight board has issued a mixed ruling on officers’ fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man last August. Police claim Ezell Ford, who suffered from mental illness, tried to grab an officer’s gun during a confrontation. But his family members and at least one eyewitness say he was complying with the officers and lying on the ground when he was shot. On Tuesday, the LAPD’s civilian oversight committee faulted one of the two officers for deadly force but cleared the other. Steve Soboroff of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners announced the decision.

Steve Soboroff: “Regarding the use of force or firing of the weapon, the police commission unanimously found that the use of force by one police officer two was administrative disapproval, and one police officer two, in policy, no further action. The determination as to criminal culpability for the involved officers is the responsibility of the Los Angeles County DA, and not within the authority of the chief of police or this commission.”

The findings will be referred to prosecutors. During the hearing, Ezell Ford’s mother, Tritobia Ford, pleaded for justice.

Tritobia Ford: “We deserve fairness. I’m asking you, I’m begging you, please, please. My son would never grab for a gun. He wanted to live. That’s all he wanted to do, was live. He walked. He walked the streets. I didn’t want him to walk the streets around there, because I know it was unsafe. But that was his right. And he didn’t deserve to die for it.”

Ford’s family has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD. Outside the hearing, protesters voiced anger that one officer was cleared.

Cheyenne Berry: “Frustrated, upset, confused, wondering why this system still exists that unarmed people of color are still being gunned down, and mentally ill people of color, as well, still being gunned down. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Keith James: “I mean, look, Ezell Ford was gunned down; Brendon Glenn, gunned down; Charlie Africa, gunned down — you know, just one after the other — Omar Abrego, beat to death four blocks away from where Ezell Ford was killed, just nine days before. This has to stop.”

Community Leaders Invoke Special Law to Seek Charges in Tamir Rice Case

Jun 10, 2015

Community leaders in Cleveland have taken legal action to bring charges against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November. Rice was playing with a toy gun when police pulled up and fatally shot him within two seconds of their arrival. They failed to provide medical help, and tackled Tamir’s sister to the ground as she tried to help him. Investigators submitted their findings in the case last week. But after more than six months, community leaders said Tuesday they are tired of waiting. In a court filing, they invoked a rare Ohio law that allows citizens to ask judges for charges, bypassing police and prosecutors. Church pastor Jawanza Colvin said citizens are seeking justice themselves.

Pastor Jawanza Colvin: “We believe that officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback caused the death of Tamir Rice in deeds which were unconscionable, reprehensible and, yes, criminal. So, today, as citizens, we are taking this matter and the matter of justice into our hands, using the tools of democracy as an instrument to ensure that every person, regardless of their race, religious, sex orientation, social class or profession, is ensured that their rights as victims, citizens and human beings are respected in the courts and throughout society.”

Last month, Cleveland agreed to increased racial bias training and tough limits on the use of police force after a federal probe uncovered a pattern of unlawful abuses. A Cleveland judge also acquitted a white police officer who fired 49 shots at two unarmed African Americans in their vehicle.

Louisiana Appeal Delays Release of Angola 3 Prisoner Albert Woodfox

Jun 10, 2015

Louisiana has delayed the release of former Black Panther Albert Woodfox, the longest-serving U.S. prisoner in solitary confinement, after appealing a judge’s order for his freedom. Earlier this year, a Louisiana grand jury re-indicted Woodfox for the 1972 murder of a prison guard, a crime for which he and his late, fellow Angola 3 member Herman Wallace maintained they were framed for their political activism. Wallace died on October 1, 2013, just three days after he was released from prison. On Monday, Federal Judge James Brady not only called for Woodfox’s release, but also barred a retrial. Woodfox’s two previous convictions in the case were both overturned. But on Tuesday, Louisiana filed an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and that court issued a stay on Judge Brady’s order until 1 p.m. this Friday. Woodfox’s lawyers have until 5 p.m. today to file a response.

Arkansas Ordered to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages from 2014

Jun 10, 2015

A state judge has ordered Arkansas to recognize same-sex marriages performed during a brief window a year ago. Some 500 LGBT couples obtained licenses in the days after a state judge struck down a ban on marriage equality. But Arkansas justices then put those unions on hold pending the outcome of a state appeal. In a new ruling, Judge Wendell Griffen of Little Rock ordered officials to accept the tax filings and spousal health coverage applications of LGBT married couples.

Guam Becomes 1st U.S. Territory with Marriage Equality

Jun 10, 2015

The island of Guam meanwhile has become the first U.S. territory to recognize same-sex marriage. LGBT couples began applying for marriage licenses on Tuesday after a marriage equality ban was struck down. The weddings can begin five days after the license application.

Pentagon Bars Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Jun 10, 2015

The Pentagon has updated internal policies to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the change.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter: “I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense has completed the process for updating its military equal opportunity policy to include sexual orientation, ensuring that the department, like the rest of the federal government, treats sexual orientation-based discrimination the same way it treats discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, age and national origin. And I’m very proud of the work that the military services have put into this over the last several months, because discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces.”

Hastert Pleads Not Guilty to Concealing Alleged Sexual Abuse Payments

Jun 10, 2015

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has pleaded not guilty to charges of hiding large cash withdrawals and lying about it to the FBI. Hastert was allegedly making payments to a former student to conceal sexual abuse that occurred during Hastert’s previous career as a high school teacher and coach in Illinois. Appearing in a Chicago court, Hastert was ordered to surrender his passport as part of his conditions for pretrial release. It was his first public appearance since being indicted last month. Dennis Hastert is the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history.

Mississippi Drops Charges Against Graduation Cheerers

Jun 10, 2015

Mississippi authorities have dropped charges against three people who faced prosecution for cheering at a high school graduation. The defendants had been accused of disturbing the peace for yelling out as their loved ones walked the stage. But the charges were dropped Tuesday following a national outcry. Some critics had argued prosecutors had pursued the case because the two adult defendants are African-American.

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