Top Stories for Friday, December 5, 2014

Police Protests Spread

From Reuters, “New York protests stoke national outrage on police violence”: “Thousands of protesters were expected to take to the streets of New York on Friday in a third day of demonstrations against police violence, even as prosecutors said they would consider charges against an officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in November.

The shooting of Akai Gurley, 28, in a dimly lit stairwell in Brooklyn added to a string of police actions involving unarmed black men that have inflamed racial tensions throughout the United States.

Since Wednesday, when a New York grand jury cleared white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July chokehold death of 43-year-old father-of-six Eric Garner, the city has seen two nights of angry but largely peaceful demonstrations.

The decision was announced nine days after another grand jury declined to indict a white policeman for the killing in August of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, spurring rioting in the St. Louis suburb.

Then on Thursday in Phoenix, Arizona, another unarmed black man was shot dead by a white police officer during a scuffle, leading to protests there.

“The government has created a monster and the monster is now loose,” said Soraya Soi Free, 45, a nurse from the Bronx who has been protesting in New York.

A wake for Gurley is scheduled for Friday night, with his funeral to follow on Saturday.

Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton had initially planned to speak but said late Friday he would pay his respects without making an address.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said on Friday he will convene a grand jury to consider charges against the officer who shot Gurley. Police officials have said the officer, Peter Liang, may have accidentally discharged his gun.

At a press conference with Gurley’s relatives on Friday, Kevin Powell, the president of the advocacy group BK Nation, called the shooting part of a “series of modern-day lynchings.”

Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, tearfully demanded justice for her son.

In Cleveland on Friday, the family of a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by police filed a lawsuit against the city, a day after the federal government found the police department systematically uses excessive force.”

From MSNBC, “Eric Holder: Cleveland police engage in ‘excessive force’”: “The U.S. Department of Justice found “reasonable cause” to believe the Cleveland Police Departmentroutinely has used excessive force, following the conclusion of a civil rights investigation launched last year to examine hundreds of cases, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

An independent monitor will oversee new police reforms in the city to ensure that law enforcement operates appropriately, Holder said.

The DOJ last March opened a federal investigation of the Cleveland police force after residents, civil leaders, and Mayor Frank Jackson requested a review of a series of high-profile incidents. The “thorough and independent review,” which spanned more than a year and a half, concluded that officers engaged in unnecessary use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes, and used excessive force against people who were mentally ill and in crisis, Holder said during a press conference. Some of the officers’ search and seizures, he added, violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The department examined nearly 600 use-of-force incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2013.

“We have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Public Police engages in a pattern and practice of using excessive force,” Holder said. The actions, he said, were the result of systemic deficiencies, such as inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement in the community.”

Conservatives, House Leaders Continue to Clash Over ‘CRomnibus’

From National Review, “Senate Conservatives Huddle With House Members to Plot Immigration Revolt“: ““There is a general belief that, despite the rhetoric from leadership after the executive order was announced, they really have no desire to do anything substantive to fight this,” one lawmaker who attended the meeting explained toNRO in a series of text messages. “Part of it is that leadership (as proxies for the Chamber [of Commerce]) wants the amnesty; Obama’s order provides a way to deliver cheap labor to the Chamber without having to vote for it. Part of it is an absolute fear of any conflict, including even a partial ‘shutdown.’”

Members of the small group believe that about 50 or 60 House Republicans are opposed to the House leadership’s current plan (a CRomnibus bill that passes several long-term appropriations bills but leaves the Department of Homeland Security operating on a short-term continuing resolution of as-yet-undetermined length)…

House leaders are expected to partner with Democrats, so the conservative rank-and-file opponents think they’ll need the outside activist groups to ramp up the pressure on other lawmakers.

“Basically, [the] senators felt outside groups and the grassroots need to get engaged — the membership is largely behind the leadership so there is a need to get the members to whip ‘No’ so that leadership is forced to do something different,” the lawmaker said. That effort has already begun, to some degree, but it hasn’t been enough to convince Republicans to pass a bill in the lame-duck session that stipulates that federal funding may not be used to implement the executive orders.”

From the Daily Caller, “Boehner Allows Obama’s Amnesty”: “Boehner’s token counter to the amnesty is a section in the 2015 appropriations budget that offers only 60 days of funding for the immigration agencies that will execute Obama’s amnesty.

But Boehner’s 60-day funding limit won’t actually block the amnesty. That’s because the section does not stop the agencies from using fees paid by would-be-immigrants once the 60-day limit is reached.

Obama’s deputies can use the money from foreigners to print and distribute work-permits and Social Security cards for at least 4 million illegal immigrants during 2015.

At least 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Americans’ wages have remained flat since 2000, amid the annual inflow of 1 million immigrants and 650,000 non-agriculture guest-workers that compete for jobs sought by four million Americans who turn 18 each year.

In prior statements, Boehner said he will work with the new GOP Senate majority to pass a bill that would block the amnesty during 2015. But he declined on Thursday to even promise action on a bill in 2015 that intended to block the amnesty…

Few people in Washington expect an 2015 anti-amnesty bill to succeed, because it can be blocked by Senate Democrats, or vetoed by the president. To overcome any veto, the likely 54 GOP senators would need support from at least 12 of 46 Democrats.

In contrast, Democrats can’t block popular anti-amnesty language in the 2015 funding bill without choosing to shut down all or parts of the federal government.”

From the Daily Caller, “Top GOP Leader Promises Total Amnesty In 2015”: “House Speaker John Boehner’s top committee chairman says he wants an immigration bill that would allow millions of foreign migrants to stay and work jobs sought by Americans.

“I’m going to use my assets and resources in the new year to work with this Congress… to have a well-understood agreement about what the law should be, and how we as communities, and farm communities, and tech communities, create circumstances where we can have people be in this country and work, and where not one person is quote ‘thrown out’ or ‘deported,’” Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the powerful House rules committee, told a group of Democratic legislators.

The committee has the power to kill or boost members’ bills because it decides how each bill will be considered in floor votes…

The business wing [of the Republican Party] is now being opposed by a growing GOP populist wing, led now by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions in the Senate, and by a group of conservative advocates in the House.

But the GOP’s business wing remains dominant, partly because it is backed bymedia progressives who also favor large-scale immigration.

The business-backed GOP leaders want a steady supply of non-voting, low-wage migrants, either illegals or temporary guest-workers. That strategy has proven economically successful — company profits have risen as median U.S. wages have remained flat since 2000.

Democratic legislators are eager to aid the migration of poor Latinos into the United States’ job market, but they want the migrants to become citizens so they can strengthen Democratic political machines.”

From MSNBC, “Eric Holder: Cleveland police engage in ‘excessive force’”: “The U.S. Department of Justice found “reasonable cause” to believe the Cleveland Police Departmentroutinely has used excessive force, following the conclusion of a civil rights investigation launched last year to examine hundreds of cases, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

An independent monitor will oversee new police reforms in the city to ensure that law enforcement operates appropriately, Holder said.

The DOJ last March opened a federal investigation of the Cleveland police force after residents, civil leaders, and Mayor Frank Jackson requested a review of a series of high-profile incidents. The “thorough and independent review,” which spanned more than a year and a half, concluded that officers engaged in unnecessary use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes, and used excessive force against people who were mentally ill and in crisis, Holder said during a press conference. Some of the officers’ search and seizures, he added, violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The department examined nearly 600 use-of-force incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2013.

“We have determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Public Police engages in a pattern and practice of using excessive force,” Holder said. The actions, he said, were the result of systemic deficiencies, such as inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement in the community.”

NASA Tests New Orion Rocket, Eyes Mission to Mars

From AP, “NASA: ‘There’s your new spacecraft, America!”: “NASA’s new Orion spacecraft made a “bull’s-eye” Pacific splashdown Friday following a dramatic journey 3,604 miles beyond Earth. The achievement opens a new era of human exploration aimed at putting people on Mars.

The unmanned, 4½-hour test flight set at least one record: flying farther and faster than any capsule built for humans since the Apollo moon program.

“There’s your new spacecraft, America,” Mission Control commentator Rob Navias said as the Orion capsule neared the water 270 miles off Mexico’s Baja peninsula.

NASA is counting on future Orions to carry astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit in the decades ahead, to asteroids and ultimately the grand prize: Mars…

The capsule reached a peak altitude more than 14 times farther from our planet than the International Space Station. No spacecraft designed for astronauts had gone so far since Apollo 17 — NASA’s final moon shot — 42 years ago.

NASA needed to send Orion that high in order to set the crew module up for a 20,000-mph, 4,000-degree entry. That was considered the most critical part of the entire flight — testing the largest of its kind heat shield for survival before humans climb aboard.

In 11 minutes, Orion slowed from 20,000 mph to 20 mph at splashdown, its final descent aided by eight parachutes deployed in sequence. A crew on board would have endured as much as 8.2 Gs, or 8.2 times the force of Earth gravity, double the Gs of a returning Russian Soyuz capsule, according to NASA.”

Rolling Stone Issues Apology Over Controversial UVA Rape Story

From USA Today, “Rolling Stone backs off from U.Va. rape story”: “Rolling Stone magazine said Friday that it found discrepancies in its controversial story about an alleged gang rape of a woman named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia and had lost faith in the piece — a shocking retreat coming merely days after author Sabrina Rubin Erdely defended the reporting.

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” Will Dana, the magazine’s managing editor, wrote on its website.

“We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account,” the post said. “We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.”

On Nov. 19, the magazine ran a story of “Jackie,” an unidentified UVA. student who says she was gang-raped at a party at the house of Phi Kappa Psi in the fall of 2012. Her shocking story with vivid details from the night of the incident and its charges that sexual assaults at U.Va. often go unreported deeply embarrassed the university and launched an investigation by school officials and local police. All Greek life activities were also suspended in the wake of the story.

Soon after the 9,000-word story ran, media critics began to question Erdely’s reportorial methods. According to Rolling Stone, she spent months talking to Jackie, her friends and university officials. But Erdely never spoke to the accused “Drew” and other men at Phi Kappa Psi.

Erdely didn’t contact the men for comments due to an agreement with Jackie, Dana said. “Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her,” Dana wrote.

The fraternity also spoke out Friday.

“We have no knowledge of these alleged acts being committed at our house or by our members,” according to a statement released Friday by the university chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. “Our initial doubts as to the accuracy of the article have only been strengthened as alumni and undergraduate members have delved deeper.””

Analysts Split on Jobs Report

From CNBC, “Hold on: Jobs report wasn’t so great after all”: “Consider it a brutal lesson in government math.

Friday’s turbocharged jobs headline came thanks to seasonal adjustments and other wizardry at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported that U.S. job growth hit 321,000 even as the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent.

Those numbers, courtesy of establishment survey estimates, sound nice on the surface, and they certainly present reasons if not for unbridled optimism then at least confidence that the job market continues to mend and is on a pretty steady trajectory higher.

However, the household survey, which is an actual head count, presents details that show there’s still plenty of work to do.

A few figures to consider: That big headline number translated into just 4,000 more working Americans. There were, at the same time, another 115,000 on the unemployment line. That disparity can be explained through an expanding labor force, which grew 119,000, though the participation rate among that group remained at 62.8 percent, which is just off the year’s worst level and around a 36-year low.

But wait, there’s more: The jobs that were created skewed heavily toward lower quality. Full-time jobs declined by 150,000, while part-time positions increased by 77,000.”