Report: Policing becoming inceasingly militarized

    NEW YORK – 6/24/2014 - After obtaining and analyzing thousands of documents from police departments around the country, oday the American Civil Liberties Union released the report War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. The ACLU focused on more than 800 SWAT raids conducted by law enforcement agencies in 20 states and on the agencies’ acquisition of military weaponry, vehicles, and equipment.
   "We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs," said Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel with the ACLU’s Center for Justice. "Carried out by ten or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams, these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy. This unnecessary violence causes property damage, injury, and death."
   The report documents multiple tragedies caused by police carrying out needless SWAT raids, including a 26-year-old mother shot with her child in her arms and a 19-month-old baby critically injured when a flashbang grenade landed in his crib.
   "Our police are trampling on our civil rights and turning communities of color into war zones," Dansky continued. "We all pay for it with our tax dollars. The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice give police military weaponry and vehicles as well as grants for military equipment. The War on Drugs has failed, yet the federal government hasn’t stopped the flow of guns and money."
   The report calls for the federal government to rein in the incentives for police to militarize. The ACLU also asks that local, state, and federal governments track the use of SWAT and the guns, tanks, and other military equipment that end up in police hands.
   "Our findings reveal not only the dangers of militarized police, but also the difficulties in determining the extent and impact of those dangers. At every level – from the police to the state governments to the federal government – there is almost no record keeping about SWAT or the use of military weapons and vehicles by local law enforcement," Dansky noted.
   In addition, the report recommends that state legislatures and municipalities develop criteria for SWAT raids that limit their deployment to the kinds of emergencies for which they were intended, such as an active shooter situation.
   The report is available here: www.aclu.org/militarization
   Source: American Civil Liberties Union 

Court strikes down 'No Fly List' procedures

  (ACLU) - 6/24/2014 - In a landmark ruling, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional the government’s procedures for people on the No Fly List to challenge their inclusion. The decision came in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans who found themselves on the list without any notice, reasons, or meaningful way to get off it.
   The judge ordered the government to create a new process that remedies these shortcomings, calling the current process “wholly ineffective” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The ruling also granted a key request in the lawsuit, ordering the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the judge.
   “For years, in the name of national security the government has argued for blanket secrecy and judicial deference to its profoundly unfair No Fly List procedures, and those arguments have now been resoundingly rejected by the court,” said ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi, one of the attorneys who argued the case.
   “Our clients will finally get the due process to which they are entitled under the Constitution. This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the No Fly List, with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardship. We hope this serves as a wake-up call for the government to fix its broken watchlist system, which has swept up so many innocent people.”
   According to media reports, there are more than 20,000 people on the No Fly List. Their only recourse is to file a request with the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP), after which DHS responds with a letter that does not explain why they were denied boarding. The letter does not confirm or deny whether their names remain on the list, and does not indicate whether they can fly.
   The ruling from the U.S. District Court in Oregon found, “[W]ithout proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List. … [T]he absence of any meaningful procedures to afford Plaintiffs the opportunity to contest their placement on the No-Fly List violates Plaintiffs’ rights to procedural due process.”
   One of the plaintiffs in the case is Sheikh Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, who is the imam of Portland’s largest Mosque.
   “Finally I will be able to challenge whatever incorrect information the government has been using to stigmatize me and keep me from flying,” Imam Kariye said. “I have been prevented by the government from traveling to visit my family members and fulfill religious obligations for years, and it has had a devastating impact on all of us. After all this time, I look forward to a fair process that allows me to clear my name in court.”
   The national ACLU, along with its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California, and New Mexico, filed the lawsuit in June 2010 on behalf of 13 U.S. citizens, including four military veterans. In July 2012, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court reversed the district court's dismissal of the case on jurisdictional grounds, allowing the district court to consider the case on its merits. In August 2013, the court found that constitutional rights are at stake when the government places Americans on the list.
   Source: American Civil Liberties Union

New study examines important brain cell protein

   (NIH) - 6/14/2014 - In a new study, scientists at the National Institutes of Health took a molecular-level journey into microtubules, the hollow cylinders inside brain cells that act as skeletons and internal highways.  
   They watched how a protein called tubulin acetyltransferase (TAT) labels the inside of microtubules. The results, published in Cell, answer long-standing questions about how TAT tagging works and offer clues as to why it is important for brain health.
    Microtubules are constantly tagged by proteins in the cell to designate them for specialized functions, in the same way that roads are labeled for fast or slow traffic or for maintenance. TAT coats specific locations inside the microtubules with a chemical called an acetyl group. How the various labels are added to the cellular microtubule network remains a mystery. Recent findings suggested that problems with tagging microtubules may lead to some forms of cancer and nervous system disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, and have been linked to a rare blinding disorder and Joubert Syndrome, an uncommon brain development disorder.
    “This is the first time anyone has been able to peer inside microtubules and catch TAT in action,” Antonina Roll-Mecak said.
    Roll-Mecak is an investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in Bethesda, Maryland, and the leader of the study.
    Microtubules are found in all of the body’s cells. They are assembled like building blocks, using a protein called tubulin. Microtubules are constructed first by aligning tubulin building blocks into long strings. Then the strings align themselves side by side to form a sheet. Eventually the sheet grows wide enough that it closes up into a cylinder. TAT then bonds an acetyl group to alpha tubulin, a subunit of the tubulin protein.
    Some microtubules are short-lived and can rapidly change lengths by adding or removing tubulin pieces along one end, whereas others remain unchanged for longer times. Recognizing the difference may help cells function properly. For example, cells may send cargo along stable microtubules and avoid ones that are being rebuilt. Cells appear to use a variety of chemical labels to describe the stability of microtubules.
    “Our study uncovers how TAT may help cells distinguish between stable microtubules and ones that are under construction,” Roll-Mecak said. According to Roll-Mecak, high levels of microtubule tagging are unique to nerve cells and may be the reason that they have complex shapes allowing them to make elaborate connections in the brain.
    For decades scientists knew that the insides of long-lived microtubules were often tagged with acetyl groups by TAT. Changes in acetylation may influence the health of nerve cells. Some studies have shown that blocking this form of microtubule tagging leads to nerve defects, brain abnormalities or degeneration of nerve fibers. Since the discovery of microtubule acetylation, scientists have been puzzled about how TAT accesses the inside of the microtubules and how the tagging reaction happens.
    To watch TAT at work, Roll-Mecak and her colleagues took high resolution movies of individual TAT molecules interacting with microtubules in real time. They saw that TAT surfs through the inside of microtubules and although it can find acetylation sites quickly, the process of adding the tag occurs very slowly.
    In general, tagging reactions work like keys fitting into locks: the better the key fits, the faster the lock can open. Similarly, the rate of the reactions is determined by how well TAT molecules fit around tagging sites.
Roll-Mecak’s team investigated this idea by using a technique called X-ray crystallography to look at how atoms on TAT molecules interact with acetylation sites on tubulin molecules. Their results suggested that TAT fit poorly around the sites.
    “It looks as though TAT can easily journey through microtubules spotting acetylation sites but may only label those that are stable for longer periods of time,” Roll-Mecak said.
    This may help cells identify the microtubules they need to rapidly change shapes or send cargo to other places. Further studies may help researchers understand how microtubule tagging influences nerve cells in health and disease.
    This work was supported by the NINDS Intramural Research Program, the NHLBI Division of Intramural Research, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
   Source: National Institutes of Health




The Arms Debate

Not All American's Have the Right to Bear Arms

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2018