No-Knock, No Justice
September 25, 2020
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“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” — Benjamin Franklin
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
No-Knock, No Justice
(Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images)
196 days following the murder of Breonna Taylor — who was shot and killed in her home by Louisville police officers — a Jefferson County grand jury announced on Wednesday that none of the officers involved in Taylor’s death would face murder charges. In fact, the only indictment of the police came in the form of a “wanton endangerment” charge for one of the officers, for firing his weapon into another apartment. Of the six bullets that killed the aspiring nurse on the night of March 13th, none of them came with any criminal consequences for those who pulled the trigger.
How can this be? The answer — while unsatisfying — is revealed upon a close examination of Kentucky’s self-defense laws. When the plainclothes narcotics detectives busted down the door to Taylor’s apartment, they were met with immediate gunfire from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Mistaking the unannounced invasion of the police for a home robbery, he shot Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. At this point — legal experts argue — all further violence from the police was justified in the name of self-defense. Because the controversial no-knock warrant had been legally obtained and the officers were shot at first, state prosecutors were fighting an uphill battle to pin any homicide charges on Taylor’s murderers.
This grim reality is built upon years of legal precedent that has granted police wide latitude to use deadly force when they are determined to be acting in self-defense. Because of this, Wednesday’s perceived lack of justice was no exception, rather just a confirmation of the rules. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron touted this emphasis on the rule of law following the grand jury’s ruling.
“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” said Cameron, the first African American elected to the job in Kentucky. “And that is, that is true here. But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor.”
This bleak description of criminal law was swiftly shot down by lawyers and activists who decried Wednesday’s ruling as a gross miscarriage of justice. Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Taylor’s family, had this to say in response to the indictment.
“The rallying cries that have been echoing throughout the nation have been once again ignored by a justice system that claims to serve the people, but when a justice system only acts in the best interest of the most privileged and whitest among us, it has failed.”
That sentiment was carried out of the courtroom and into the streets, where Louisville witnessed a dramatic uptick in protests on Wednesday night following the decision. Two police officers were shot as the city’s Black Lives Matter movement convulsed in rage, resulting in the arrest of 127 protestors. Both officers are expected to make a full recovery and a suspect for the shooting has already been arrested. One can only assume he will receive harsher punishment for his crimes than those who killed Breonna Taylor.
Additional Louisville Reads
- Timeline: Inside the investigation of Breonna Taylor’s killing and its aftermath (ABC)
- My Louisville home is now a heart-wrenching American tragedy (WaPo, $)
- Louisville Protesters Mourn Breonna Taylor By Taking to the Streets (Rolling Stone)
- Athletes express disappointment over Breonna Taylor decision (CNN)
- The financial case for cities to cut police budgets (Vox)
Cultural Revolution 2.0
- In what looks like an authoritarian mirror image of Xianjang’s Uighur internment camps, China has begun to push a growing number of Tibetans off of their land and into military-style labor training facilities. Backed by a strict quota system, the Chinese government is striving to convert rural Tibetan farmers into industrialized factory workers.
- The effort — which has been well-documented by over 100 state media reports — has converted 15% of the region’s population into industry wage laborers since the start of 2020. Human rights groups are concerned that these Tibetan training facilities blur the lines between consensual and coercive labor, forcing a traditionally nomadic people into low paid textile manufacturing, construction, and agriculture jobs.
- Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher who compiled the core findings on the program, says the effort is the “strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution.”
- The Chinese government strongly denies any allegations of forced labor. In a statement to Reuters, they clarified that “what these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labor’ simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies.” (Reuters)
Facebook’s Irish Exit
- After spending the summer sounding the alarm on foreign apps like TikTok, it appears that American tech may be getting a taste of its own medicine. In response to the ruling from an Irish court that the social media platform did not have enough safeguards to defend against US government surveillance, Facebook is considering pulling out of Europe altogether.
- The Irish data protection commissioner is considering a ban on Facebook that would prevent the tech giant from sharing its data with the US, a move that company spokesmen say would hinder their ability to operate properly. Facebook emphasized that such statements are not meant to be taken as threats, rather an honest assessment of their business operations.
- “Legal documents filed with the Irish high court set out the simple reality that Facebook, and many other businesses, organisations and services, rely on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate their services,” Facebook said. “A lack of safe, secure and legal international data transfers would damage the economy and hamper the growth of data-driven businesses in the EU, just as we seek a recovery from Covid-19.”
- Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs and communications, added in a blog post that international data transfers “underpin the global economy and support many of the services that are fundamental to our daily lives.” (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Trump cuts aid for pro-democracy groups in Belarus, Hong Kong and Iran (Guardian). Deplatforming digital democracy.
- Exclusive: U.S., UK, Canada plan sanctions on Belarusians, perhaps Friday (Reuters)
- Vladimir Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (CBS)
- You sure about this, Nobel? Kremlin critic Navalny’s bank accounts frozen, apartment seized: spokeswoman (Reuters)
- North Korea shot, burned body of South Korean official, Seoul says (NBC)
- Why the case of a maid who battled a millionaire has gripped Singapore (BBC)
- Climate Disruption Is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial. (NYT, $)
- The Mark of a mad man: Facebook leaks show Mark Zuckerberg defending his decisions to angry employees (The Verge)
- South Korea Has COVID Under Control. Here’s What Daily Life Looks Like Now (Vice)
- Coronavirus mutation seen in massive new study of genetic sequences from Houston (WaPo)
- What We Know About Coronavirus Cases in K-12 Schools So Far (NYT)
- Johnson & Johnson Begins Final Stage Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine; Target Price $170 (Yahoo!)
- When Will You Be Able to Get a Coronavirus Vaccine? (NYT)
- What is psychological first aid and how do I practice it? (WaPo)
You Can’t Handle The Truth!
- Nine current and former CIA officials have come out in interviews to describe a system of information filtration designed to prevent bad news about Russia from ever reaching President Trump’s desk. The officials say that CIA director Gina Haspel has bucked the tradition of sharing complete intelligence products with the president in matters pertaining to Russia, in an effort to appease his anger and keep him calm.
- Here’s how she does it. Usually, all intelligence from the “Russia House” — the CIA’s home for analysts and targeters who are experts in Russia — is sent to the National Security Council, who then brief the President. With Trump, Haspel tasks General Counsel Courtney Elwood to review every product coming out of the Russia House before it gets sent to the White House, resulting in less Russian intelligence making its way onto Trump’s desk.
- In response to these reports, one former CIA lawyer said that it is “unprecedented that a general counsel would be involved to this extent.” This change in approach signals just how sensitive the president has grown to the topic of Russian intelligence. Current and former officials corroborate this sensitivity, claiming that such matters are usually avoided so as to not to incense the Commander in Chief. (Politico)
Swastika Set To Stay
- If you ever travel to upstate New York, you’ll likely want to do a double-take when you pass a small town with an incendiary title. Swastika, New York — understandably — has faced a wave of criticism for its neo-Nazi implications. As America continues to take inventory of its more problematic symbols and icons, this small New York hamlet voted this week to keep its name.
- The town’s citizens contend that the Swastika moniker predates the fascist movement in Germany, rather representing the word’s Sanskrit origins. When the town was founded in the early 1800s, settlers decided on the Sanskrit word “Swastika” to signify it’s translation to “well-being” in the ancient Indian language. Jon Douglass, the town’s supervisor, apologized for the misunderstanding but ensured that the name would not change anytime soon.
- “We regret that individuals, for out of the area, that lack the knowledge of the history of our community become offended when they see the name,” Douglass said. “To the members of our community, that the board represents, it is the name that their ancestors chose.” (CNN)
Additional USA News
- On the road to violence: Revealed: pro-Trump activists plotted violence ahead of Portland rallies & As Pro-Trump Caravans Hit Roads Across U.S., Organizers Are Upbeat Despite Tensions (Guardian, NPR)
- Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden (NYT, $)
- Facebook Busts Russian Disinfo Networks as US Election Looms (Wired)
- Why QAnon Left Reddit (Atlantic, $) Ridding Reddit of conspiracy.
- McConnell Is on the Losing Side of History — And He Knows It (Politico)
- Republicans will replace RBG but Democrats hold the trump cards – no, really (Guardian)
- Supreme Court clears the way for federal execution Thursday night (CNN)
- Don’t play games with a pandemic: The Death That Speaks to College Football’s Worst Virus Fear (NYT, $)
(Spencer Platt via Getty Images)
- When you log on to Spotify or Apple Music, it’s easy to assume that the music you’re listening to is pretty eco-friendly. It just comes down from the internet gods and streams into our ears, leaving no physical trace of its existence. Right?
- Wrong. In his new book, “Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music,” Kyle Devine unveils the hidden environmental strain of the streaming revolution. He comes to the startling conclusion that, in 2016, streaming and downloading music accounted for around 194 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s almost 40 million more kilograms than physical music formats produced in 2000.
- So where do all these emissions come from? Do they just vaporize out of our phones? Yes and no. The processes used to make your iPhone produce greenhouse gas. The server that supports your Spotify account expends huge amounts of energy. The “cloud” that we often imagine is very much a material thing. Countless fiber-optic cables, servers, and routers may be hidden from immediate sight, but come together to create a sizable environmental impact.
- The main takeaway: just because it’s not right in front of you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and impose some sort of ecological cost. No need to log off your streaming service forever, just think about the hidden ramifications of our digital lifestyles. (New Yorker)
- How Burnout Became the Norm for American Parents (NYT, $)
- Love reigns supreme: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Marty Ginsburg: A Love Story (Vogue)
- In Dark Times, I Sought Out the Turmoil of Caravaggio’s Paintings (NYT, $)
- What to Do When the Future Feels Hopeless (Atlantic, $)
- Consciousness on the silent continent: What Research in Antarctica Tells Us about the Science of Isolation (Scientific American)
- How ‘The Social Network’ Became Mark Zuckerberg’s Origin Story (Ringer). Does life imitate art or vice versa?
- How Twitter Survived Its Biggest Hack—and Plans to Stop the Next One (Wired)