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It’s Not Honor Killing, It’s Murder by Bina Shah / August 21, 2012 - A British-Pakistani girl is killed to save her family’s “honor.” -parents have been given life sentences in jail


Sampsonia Way Magazine

It’s Not Honor Killing, It’s Murder

by Bina Shah  /  August 21, 2012  / No comments

A British-Pakistani girl is killed to save her family’s “honor.”

Shafilea Ahmed

Shafilea Ahmed. Photo: AslanMedia. Creative Commons Licensed

Delighted is the wrong word, but I’m very satisfied to hear about the conviction of 17 year-old Shafilea Ahmed’s parents, who murdered their daughter in Warrington, UK and dumped her body by the side of the River Kent. Shafilea’s crime? She refused to agree to an arranged marriage with her cousin in the Pakistani village of Uttam, Punjab.

  1. Pakistan is a country of contradictions – full of promise for growth, modernity and progress, yet shrouded by political, social and cultural issues that undermine its quest for identity and integrity. My bi-monthly column “Pakistan Unveiled” presents stories that showcase the Pakistani struggle for freedom of expression, an end to censorship, and a more open and balanced society.
  2. Bina Shah is a Karachi-based journalist and fiction writer and has taught writing at the university level. She is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. She is a columnist for two major English-language newspapers in Pakistan, The Dawnand The Express Tribune, and she has contributed to international newspapers including The IndependentThe Guardian, andThe International Herald Tribune. She is an alumnus of the International Writers Workshop (IWP 2011).

Shafilea’s parents have been given life sentences in jail, after a trial that saw many tense moments, including startling testimony by Shafilea’s younger sister Alesha, and Shafilea’s mother turning witness against her husband in an attempt to save her own backside from the full force of the law. Luckily this cowardly tactic failed, and the judge sent both parents to jail for murdering their daughter by suffocation with a plastic bag. They will serve a minimum of 25 years each, while their daughter will never get to see the ripe old age they’ll reach in jail.

I’m impressed with the British Government’s hardline stance on forced marriages, and the work the UK High Commission has been doing in Pakistan over the years to help girls who have been forcibly brought to Pakistan to be married against their consent. This is a crime against both the girls’ human rights and Islamic law, as consent from the bride is a necessary condition to a legal Islamic marriage. Forced marriage is a cultural tradition in Pakistan that needs to be stopped, not indulged or encouraged by any misplaced sensitivity to multiculturalism. A harsh jail term for Shafilea’s parents serves as a warning to others who might want to follow their example and place “honor” and “shame” above the sanctity of human life.

“Honor killing” is seen as something unique to Muslim countries and Muslim culture, where the definition of honor has a different meaning than it does in non-Muslim, Western cultures. In the UK, honor is a moral virtue, a slightly-old fashioned concept that reminds one of knights, duels, and valor in the battlefield. It has fallen into disuse as the more modern ideas of individual conscience, rule of law, and human rights have taken precedence.

But in Pakistan, an agrarian society bound to feudal and tribal codes of kinship and morality, honor is all-important. Not only does it define conventional standards of conduct, acting as a safeguard to families’ and clans’ esteem in society, but it has been irrevocably tied to the sexual conduct of women, so that honor is synonymous with female chastity. Anything a woman does to threaten the family’s honor is therefore subject to harsh punishment—although in many cases a so-called honor killing is enacted for many reasons besides the obvious: Revenge in a family feud, for example, or to retain land or wealth.

But Shafilea Ahmed’s case, and the way it’s being reported as an “honor killing” in the Western media, convinces me that we need to stop using the term. Instead we need to replace it with the word “murder”—because that’s what this is. We need to completely divorce the concept of honor from the act of murder. Terms like “honor killing” and “crime of passion” are euphemisms that attempt to attach a noble intention to the ultimate immoral act. They trivialize the murders of girls and women (and boys and men when they too are killed in the same circumstances), and refuse to acknowledge their rights, agency, and independence.

Let’s throw the term “honor killing” in the garbage where it belongs. Along with it, the animals who murder their own children just because they were threatened—because of their own ego and evilness, or the fear of losing wealth and property, or a warped sense of shame—by their children’s right to marry, or not, as they choose.

Here is a link to the UK High Commission’s Web site on Forced Marriage, with a number for you to call if you’re in any kind of danger.

About the Author

Bina Shah is a Karachi-based journalist and fiction writer and has taught writing at the university level. She is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. She is a columnist for two major English-language newspapers in Pakistan, The Dawn and The Express Tribune, and she has contributed to international newspapers including The IndependentThe Guardian, and The International Herald Tribune. She is an alumnus of the International Writers Workshop (IWP 2011).

View all articles by Bina Shah

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Bahrain Center for Human Rights - Open Letter to the President of The Arab Republic of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat

Home http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5403

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Defending and promoting human rights in Bahrain

Open Letter to the President of The Arab Republic of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat

Johannesburg, August 27, 2012

Dear Mr. President: 

I write you in my capacity of The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Acting President, to express my deep disappointment and to protest the unlawful and hostile treatment I was subjected to at Cairo’s International Airport on Sunday, August 26, 2012 by the Egyptian security forces. 

I had a 7-hour layover in Cairo and was going to enter the country to see Egyptian friends before boarding my connecting flight to South Africa scheduled on the same day. I was granted an entry approval at the airport. Shortly thereafter, I was called back and asked to wait. Then, my passport and travel documents were taken by the police. I was informed afterwards that I will not be allowed into the country due to “top secret reasons.” 

To no avail, I repeatedly asked about what the “top secret reasons” were, and why I was not informed of their nature even though they concerned me. I was told that it was a matter of “national security and intelligence.” I was not given the information because the security officials at the airport told me “they could not provide me with the reasons as they themselves did not have access to it.” 

Upon the arrival of my Egyptian attorney, he insisted on finding out why I was considered a threat to the national security of Egypt, and how they could deny me entry after they had stamped my passport with approval. 

In response, we were told that “if I insisted on not leaving voluntarily, I would be forcibly deported to Bahrain.” To further intimidate me, I was also informed that the Bahraini government had issued an arrest warrant with my name. 

I am afraid that this incident is not an isolated occurrence, but one of many to date where Bahraini human rights defenders are routinely subjected by Egyptian security forces. 

In April 2012 I was stopped at Cairo’s airport by security officials who attempted to deny me entry into Egypt. I was ultimately allowed in after my lawyer and your wonderful countrymen-- Egyptian activists intervened. 

During my ordeal on this time, a police officer candidly admitted to me that I was eventually allowed in because according to him, there were protests going on in Egypt - which is not the case this time around. 

Earlier this year, my colleague and the actual president of the Bahrain Center of Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab was denied entry and returned to Bahrain by security officials at Cairo Airport. As you may know Mr. President, Mr. Rajab is currently imprisoned in Bahrain to punish him for his role as an outspoken human rights defender. 

In pre-revolution Egypt, authoritarian regimes like Bahrain found a diligent ally in Egyptian intelligence as they sought hinder the movement of human rights defenders. Such regimes, and others, eagerly outsourced their harassment to former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Back then, it was always a risk for Bahraini and Arab human rights activists to travel to Egypt because of the former regime’s commitment to fellow dictatorships. 

Not long ago Mr. President, you were personally on the receiving end of these arbitrary and unjust practices as a dissident. I respectfully ask you today sir as a fellow Arab: How can such blatant disregard for the law and basic human dignities continue under your watch? 

As the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, I write to inform you that I am gravely concerned, as a human rights defender, by the unjust and hostile treatment I was subjected to in Cairo’s airport. 


Maryam Abdelhadi Al-Khawaja

Acting President 

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

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Pot promoter: Feds have me in their sights By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel 4:07 a.m. EDT, August 27, 2012 From notorious smuggler to ex-con to author and lecturer, Robert Platshorn has assumed several personas over his 69 years.


By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel

Pot promoter: Feds have me in their sights 

4:07 a.m. EDT, August 27, 2012

From notorious smuggler to ex-con to author and lecturer, Robert Platshorn has assumed several personas over his 69 years.

But now the West Palm Beach man's latest incarnation — pitchman for pot use by seniors — has drawn unwelcome attention from the government, which, he says, is singling him out because of his advocacy.

"They want to stop me from advocating and would like me to be poor and quiet," the parolee said. "They want to put the Tuna back in the can."

The U.S. Parole Commission has thrown the full weight of its power upon him, he says, demanding spot urine tests, making unannounced visits and restricting his travel — and source of income.

Federal officials are aware of Platshorn's complaints — they're defending against a lawsuit he filed — but decline to discuss specifics of the case.

Platshorn, a member of the Black Tuna pot smuggling operation in the 1970s, served 30 years in prison and was released on parole about three years ago. Since then he has become the Johnny Appleseed of medicinal marijuana for the silver-haired set. He has argued for the legalization of pot at community centers and synagogues, and via billboards and videos such as "Should Grandma Smoke Pot?"

He has written a book, "The Black Tuna Diaries," and travels the country on a "Silver Tour" to speak at pro-legalization rallies and legal conferences. Though on parole after his release, Platshorn was allowed to travel on book and lecture tours.

In May 2011, Platshorn received a message from the Parole Commission. "You are hereby discharged from mandatory parole," it stated. "By this action you are no longer under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Parole Commission. You are commended for having responded positively to supervision."

But Platshorn's unusual mission attracted national media attention, and he's been featured in the Wall Street JournalNew York Times and on CNN. Last spring, after Platshorn's parole officer died, a new one, Scott Kirsche, appeared at his door, cup in hand for a urine test.

"I read about your case, I know who you are and I know you've been smoking pot all along," Platshorn quoted Kirsche as saying.

Platshorn attributed the increased scrutiny to his growing notoriety. "There's definitely a correlation," he said. "I've got a national reputation."

Kirsche informed Platshorn that while he'd been told he was off parole, he still had eight years to serve of "special parole."

Parole officers showed up unannounced at his house. Recorded calls would give him an hour to appear at the local parole office for questioning. He was put on a demanding urinalysis schedule.

"For a month they made me come in every Friday and give them a drop," he said. "I'm getting ping-ponged. It's definitely vindictive."

Platshorn failed initial drug tests because he had been treating skin cancer lesions with cannabis oil legally purchased out of state as medicinal marijuana. He has since proven clean. "I've been very careful not to do anything wrong," he said.

In July, two days before he was to speak before the American Bar Association in Chicago, Kirsche called. "He said you are not permitted to travel to promote the legalization of marijuana without the express permission of the U.S. Parole Commission," Platshorn recalled.

"They know for certain it's my only income," he said of the speaking engagements. "I've missed five events now, each one means a couple of grand to me to supplement my $690 a month in Social Security."

Parole Commission spokeswoman Johanna Markind said she couldn't discuss Platshorn's case, but said that travel restrictions are standard conditions for parole. He should also have known of his special parole status, she said.

Karen Goldstein of West Park, director of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Platshorn is being targeted.

"They're uncomfortable with his activism, they're trying to silence him," she said. "It's like double secret probation, like in 'Animal House.' "

Platshorn sued the Parole Commission in federal court. His attorney, Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale, said government lawyers admitted they mistakenly told Platshorn his parole was terminated.

Kent said by law Platshorn is still under the Parole Commission's control, but even so, he has a constitutional right to voice an opinion. "They are violating his fundamental First Amendment rights, even as a parolee," he said. "If there is anybody who ought to have a right to protest against unjust marijuana laws it ought to be somebody who's served 30 years in prison for them."

Pot advocates are rallying behind Platshorn. Last week about 100 supporters left phone messages for Parole Commissioner Isaac Fulwood pleading for his discharge from parole.

"He's bucking the system and they don't like it," said Kim Russell of Orlando, chairperson of People United forMedical Marijuana, who organized the phone-in. "It's just wasting taxpayers' dollars."

rnolin@tribune.com or 954-356-4525







Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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America - Revictimizing Native women for political purposes Tribal police should be able to go off reservation to hunt and arrest non-Indian rapists of Native American women on Indian land.



Tribal police should be able to go off reservation to hunt and arrest non-Indian rapists of Native American women on Indian land.

Early this week, two U.S. House Representatives members and the Tacoma News Tribune took clear stands against protecting women from sexual assault. Representatives Todd Akin, R-Missouri, and Steve King, R-Iowa, did so by promoting the concept of “legitimate rape.” The News Tribune did so by attacking the only real hope for combating the national pandemic of violence against Native women.

As originally passed by the U.S. Senate, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization legislation would allow tribes to exercise limited criminal jurisdiction over certain non-Indians who violate Native American women on Indian reservations. Tribes would be required to provide all rights accorded to defendants in state and federal court, and federal courts would have authority to review tribal court decisions that result in incarceration. The legislation would not raise the one-year maximum sentence that tribal courts can impose. The GOP-controlled House, however, omitted the protections for Indian women in its version of the bill.

Among those voting to omit the tribal protections were vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, U.S. Senate candidate Akin, and House Republican King. In an interview originally broadcast on Sunday, Akin suggested that an abortion would be unnecessary in the instance of a “legitimate rape” because apparently only non-legitimate rape leads to pregnancy — whatever that means. Chiming in agreement, fellow House Rep. King said that he’s never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. While Akin and King quickly recanted, they cannot as simply withdraw their votes against the Senate’s proposed protections for abused Native women. 

Also Monday, The News Tribune (editorial, "Protect Indian women without diluting Bill of Rights") accused tribal governments of having “an agenda of their own: They see the domestic violence issue as a way to assert and reclaim broader sovereign powers.” The editorial is wrong. Indian Country sees the the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization as a way to protect Indian women from being violently assaulted.

The paper got one thing right, however. It did describe “an intolerable gap of justice” caused by the fact that tribes cannot assert jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of violence and that federal and state governments are too busy to do so. This is the result of a 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court decision — a case that arose on Washington state’s own Kitsap Peninsula — which held that that tribal governments cannot criminally prosecute non-Indians. What has since resulted from Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe is a jurisdictional gap where non-Indians can enter Indian reservations and literally get away with murder — or, more commonly, rape. Indeed, sex offenders are now using Indian reservations as safe havens to commit sex crimes against Indian women. Consider these statistics:

Native women suffer violent crime at the highest rates in the country.
On many reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average.
Violent crime rates in Indian Country are more than 2.5 times the national rate; some reservations face a rate 20 times higher.

The federal government has jurisdiction to convict these offenders, but it fails to do so. On some reservations, as few as three federal officers are responsible for patrolling millions of acres of land. These officers are typically located a substantial distance from tribal communities and are generally unaware of the exigency of many of the reported incidents of domestic violence. According to a 2006 Amnesty International study, it is not uncommon for Native victims of assault to “have to wait hours or days to receive a response from police and, in many situations, [victims] receive no response at all.” In the Navajo Nation, for example, 329 rape cases were reported in 2007 — five years later, there have been only 17 arrests.

The Tulalip Tribes' Deborah Parker (in hat) at a D.C. rally in support of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passed by the U.S. Senate.

Here in Washington, an antiquated federal law has granted local police officers the power to enforce the state’s law upon non-Indians within Indian Country. But the result is the same. The surrounding and generally larger non-Indian community does not provide policing to adequate levels. For decades, despite much outrage by tribal victims of domestic violence — victims such as Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker — complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The most recent study to assess the issue has concluded that state criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country has actually caused an increase in crime.

Under the Senate’s VAWA reauthorization, tribes would again be able to exercise limited criminal jurisdiction vis-à-vis their own justice systems, which, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office study, are “the most appropriate institutions for maintaining law and order in Indian country.” In particular, tribal police, the first responders to crimes on reservations, would finally be able to protect Native women from non-Native men.

Earlier this summer, however, House Republicans removed the tribal protections, with an admonishment of the tribes for “tout[ing] unverifiable statistics about the rate of non-Indian violence against Indian women on Indian land.” Republicans attacked the Department of Justice’s estimate that 88 percent of assaults against Indian women are committed by non-Indians; and instead suggested the number was only 31 percent. In short, according to House Republicans, the incidence of violence against Native women isn’t that bad. 

But, who cares if it is 88 percent or 31 percent of sexual predators who are allowed to violate Native women and get away scot-free? It's absolutely deplorable for House Republicans to take the position that rape and violence against Indian women is tolerable up to some point between the those two numbers. Were this the situation in any other part of the United States, affecting any other racial group, Congress would simply not allow such an atrocity to continue.

President Obama’s words ring true in the partisan VAWA debate: “Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense.” The White House says that the president will veto any VAWA reauthorization that does not include the tribal protections. Sen. Patty Murray has also vowed to reject any proposed agreement with the House that does not include them. 

Meanwhile, Washington Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob McKenna advocates for mere “tribal civil authority” over non-Indian sex offenders in Indian Country. While McKenna is at least addressing the issue with some thought, which is much more than can be said of other GOP candidates this summer, fines and civil restraining orders are not enough to combat reservation murder, rape, and domestic violence. On the other hand, as a member of Congress, his opponent Jay Inslee, introduced the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act in the House, a bill that tracks the Senate VAWA reauthorization almost word-for-word.

The jurisdictional gap created by our High Court nearly 35 years ago has created an extremely dangerous environment for Native women. It is only now that a solution to the sexual assault pandemic in Indian Country has begun to emerge. But if the House Republicans’ misogyny and racism prevails, the solution will fall through the political cracks. Meanwhile, Native women remain vulnerable to violent criminals who remain above the law.


Responses to "Revictimizing Native women for political purposes"

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Senegal’s fishermen are starting to smile! By Greenpeace International (Albums) · Updated 40 minutes ago Ever since Senegal banned foreign super trawlers from its waters, local fisherman have seen a major increase in the quality and quantity of fish.


Senegal’s fishermen are starting to smile!

By Greenpeace International (Albums) · Updated 40 minutes ago

Ever since Senegal banned foreign super trawlers from its waters, local fisherman have seen a major increase in the quality and quantity of fish.

With such clear evidence that banning giant commercial fishing vessels really DOES benefit local people, why doesn’t the Australian government follow suit?

Tell Australia to stop the Margiris super trawler: http://act.gp/RgtLJ0 or http://bit.ly/no-supertrawlers

Super Trawlers

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ABC - A Trail of Ink: Tracking a Rare Tattoo-Related Infection



A Trail of Ink: Tracking a Rare Tattoo-Related Infection

PHOTO: Tattoo ink skin infection
An uncommon skin infection led to a doctor's investigation into tainted tattoo ink. (Monroe County Health Department)


Aug. 23, 2012


The reddish-purple rash, seemingly woven into the tattoo on a 20-year-old New Yorker's forearm, was strange enough to have doctors scratching their heads.

This trail began when the man received a tattoo in Rochester, N.Y. in October 2011. A short while later, he noticed the raised, bumpy rash. He called his primary care physician.

Doctors initially treated the man's arm with topical steroids, thinking that the rash was allergic-contact dermatitis. But that only made the problem worse.

By the time dermatologist Dr. Mark Goldgeier saw the patient, it was clear that this was no simple allergy.

He performed a skin biopsy so he could take a closer look at the rash under a microscope. What he saw was startling: the sample was riddled with a wormlike bacterium related to tuberculosis.

"I explained [to the patient] that he had TB, and he had a look of horror on his face," Goldgeier said.

For the patient, the finding meant a trip to an infectious disease specialist to start up to a full year of treatment.

Goldgeier, meanwhile, called the Monroe County Health Department.

"As soon as biopsy came back," he said, "I knew something in the process of tattooing was involved -- the ink, the water used for dilution, the syringes, the dressings."

And so began a nationwide medical mystery.

An article published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describes how this one dermatologist helped connect the dots in an outbreak of tattoo-related atypical skin infections.

Dr. Byron Kennedy, public health specialist at Monroe County Department of Public Health, took over the case from Goldgeier. Kennedy first confirmed the results by repeating a skin biopsy on the patient. Once again, tendrils of mycobacterium chelonae, a type of tuberculosis-related skin bacteria, showed up in the sample.

Mycobacterium chelonae is a rapidly growing bug found in soil, dust, water, animals, hospitals, and contaminated pharmaceuticals. This family of bacteria does not commonly affect healthy individuals, but in patients with suppressed immune systems -- like those with HIV or on chemotherapy -- these bacteria can cause serious disease, often resulting in death.

The finding sent Kennedy and his associates to the tattoo parlor where the patient had been inked. Everything in the clinic was sterile, which made it unlikely that the infection had arisen there. But the tattoo artist, they learned, had been using a new gray premixed ink purchased in Arizona in April 2011; he used the ink between May and December 2011.

The ingredients of the ink -- pigment, witch hazel, glycerin, and distilled water -- seemed innocuous enough. But further examination revealed that the distilled water in the pigment was the likely culprit of the contamination.

The finding raised a number of questions -- not the least of which was how the bottles of premixed ink passed U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged this gap in regulations Wednesday in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report.

"Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, tattoo inks are considered to be cosmetics, and the pigments used in the inks are color additives requiring premarket approval," the report says.

While the pigments are subject to FDA monitoring, "no specific FDA regulatory requirement explicitly provides that tattoo inks must be sterile," they said.

Local jurisdictions can further regulate the practice of tattooing, with Los Angeles County cited by the CDC as an area where only sterile water is allowed for use with tattoo ink. This is not, however, uniform around the country.

In a perspective article published Wednesday in the New England Journal, Pamela LeBlanc of the FDA comments on this.

"Even if a person receives a tattoo at a tattoo parlor that maintains the highest standards of hygienic practice, there remains a risk of infection from the use of contaminated ink," she writes.

Kennedy had found the source of infection in this patient's case. Now, he and his colleagues focused on both treatment as well as source control.

"To make sure we weren't missing any cases, we contacted all 60 tattoo parlors in the county," Kennedy said. Luckily, none of the other parlors had been in contact with the contaminated ink. Kennedy then instructed nearby pathology labs to notify the county health department of any reported cases of this same infection. Due to these combined efforts, 19 cases of this atypical and difficult-to-treat skin infection were identified and treated, all from the same tattoo parlor. Kennedy and his team then turned the case over to the FDA.

"This case really put it on the radar of the FDA," Kennedy said.

And it was not a day too soon. CDC testing revealed that 1 out of 3 unopened bottles of the gray ink from the original distributor in Arizona contained mycobacterium chelonae. The CDC then issued a national alert for local health officials to be on the lookout for tattoo-related infections caused by this bacteria.

According to the CDC, 21 percent of adults in the U.S. report having at least one tattoo -- an increase from 14 percent in 2008. But with this burden of ink comes increased need for monitoring of safe practices and tattoo-related complications -- especially skin infections.

The CDC urges consumers to be vigilant about ensuring hygienic practices at their tattoo parlor of choice, and to alert health care providers at any sign of infection or rash.

Doctors, meanwhile, are urged to report suspected or confirmed cases to FDA's MedWatch program.

"The local dermatologist was the person to put this on our radar," said John Ricci, Senior Public Health Educator at the Monroe County Department of Health. "Without this initial case report to us, it would never have been detected."

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Reggie Clemons: 21 discrepancies that cast doubt on his conviction Was Reggie Clemons' confession beaten out of him? We look at the discrepancies thrown up during the course of the prosecution Ed Pilkington and Laurence Topham guardian.co.uk, Wednesday


The Guardian home

Reggie Clemons: 21 discrepancies that cast doubt on his conviction

Was Reggie Clemons' confession beaten out of him? We look at the discrepancies thrown up during the course of the prosecution

The trial of Reggie Clemons Articles and video Bios Timeline

Filmmaker Laurence Topham and Ed Pilkington report from Missouri on the case of Reggie Clemons Link to this video

• Reggie Clemons was not accused of pushing the Kerry sisters into the Mississippi. The main witness against him, Thomas Cummins,testified that he saw a "black hand" push his cousins into the river but failed to specify whose hand that was. Yet in the separate trial of co-defendant Antonio Richardson, Cummins said that it was Richardson who pushed the women into the river.

• Clemons confessed to raping Robin Kerry, but did not confess to murder. He was found guilty of murder as an accomplice.

• Two days after Clemons made the confession, he retracted it. He told St Louis police internal affairs officers that he had been beaten, punched in the chest and had his head slammed against the wall. He alleged that after hours of being assaulted he agreed to read out a confession that police officers had written in advance, because if he had refused to do so "they would have beat me some more".

• Police photos show that Clemons looked physically fit when he was first picked up by police, but after his was interrogated he was reported by several witnesses to have a swollen right cheek. When he came before a judge for arraignment, the judge sent him to the local hospital ER for examination, where he was diagnosed with muscle inflammation and a swollen face.

• Clemons's claims of police brutality were strikingly similar to independent complaints of police beatings made by his co-defendant Marlin Gray and by Thomas Cummins, the main prosecution witness against him, even though the three men had no contact with each other. All three sets of complaints related to interrogations that occurred within the same police station involving the same alleged techniques of assault, and all within the same 48-hour time span.

• Clemons's complaint of police brutality was dismissed and he was put on death row, as was Gray. But when Cummins sued the St Louis police for misconduct – claiming that detectives had tried to frame him for the murders and had fabricated police records – he won asettlement of $150,000.

• Clemons, a black man, was convicted of murder largely on the basis of eyewitness accounts of two men, both of whom were white and both of whom arguably had a self-interest in implicating him. Thomas Cummins was initially considered the prime suspect , though the investigation against him was later dropped, and Daniel Winfrey achieved a plea bargain in which he would testify against Clemons in exchange for avoiding execution himself. Winfrey was overheard saying before the trial that "he would take any plea bargain offered" and "say anything he had to to obtain a plea bargain".

• There was no physical evidence to support the murder and rape allegations against Clemons. The human rights group the Constitution Project has shown that that three-quarters of all prisoners exonerated in the US in recent years were convicted at least in part on the basis of faulty eyewitness testimony.

• Cummins changed the story he gave police several times,police records suggest. His highly inconsistent account given in the records either strengthens his claim that he was beaten up by police – which in turn supports Clemons's allegation that his confession was beaten out of him, too – or implies that Cummins was an unreliable source upon whom the prosecution should not have depended as star witness.

• One of the stories told by Cummins, as related by police notes, was that Julie Kerry had stumbled into the Mississippi after he startled her by trying to hug her. "He just wanted to hug her but she became startled, lost her balance and fell into the river," the police incident report records. Her sister Robin then jumped into the river to try and save her. Cummins later sued the police for alleged brutality and falsification of their notes.

• As the judicial process got under way, Clemons was denied a state-funded defence lawyer because he was told that all the registered state lawyers were busy at the time.

• Two private lawyers, Robert Constantinou and Jeanene Moenckmeier, were employed by Clemons's family to represent him. Moenckmeier has told the Guardian that she was given insufficient time to review boxes of evidence provided by the prosecutors under discovery. She has also complained that crucial evidence may have been withheld from her by the prosecution.

• The two lawyers were going through a divorce at the time of Clemons's trial. Moenckmeier was in the process of moving to California to take a job as a tax lawyer. A separate team of defence lawyers, who processed Clemons's later clemency appeal, alleged in court documents that the original trial lawyers "failed him at every stage of his representation", including failure to review the police reports up to a month before the trial. Moenckmeier denied to the Guardian that either the divorce or the move to California had adversely affected her representation of Clemons.

• A "rape kit" recording the results of tests on Julie Kerry's body after it was retrieved from the Mississippi was not presented to the jury in Clemons's trial, despite the fact that the allegation Clemons raped one of the Kerry sisters was an important part of the prosecution case against him. Nor was the rape kit disclosed to his defence lawyers before trial, even though they had specifically requested in writing to see "all evidence from the sheriff's department, police department and medical examiner's office who investigated and examined the recovery of the body of Julie Kerry".

• When the trial started in January 1993, seven prospective jurors – all of them black – were improperly excluded from the jury. A federal judge later found that this was unconstitutional, and ruled that Clemons's death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment as a result. The state of Missouri managed to overturn that ruling on a legal technicality, allowing the death penalty to stand.

• The final composition of the jury was two black jurors and 10 white, in a city where 49% of the population is African American.

• The prosecutor in the case, Nels Moss, was heavily criticised after the event for his conduct during the trial. As court documents show, the district court that reviewed the case called his behaviour during trial "abusive and boorish" and "calculated to intimidate the defence at every turn".

• Before the trial began, Moss was specifically ordered by the trial judge, Edward Peek, to refrain from highly contentious tactics he had deployed at the previous trial of co-defendant Marlin Gray. But as documents lodged with the Missouri supreme court show, Moss blatantly ignored the order. He did precisely what he had been told not to do: to compare in front of the jury Clemons – a 19-year-old with no previous criminal record – to the notorious serial killers Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy. A week after Clemons was sentenced to death, Peek found that Moss's conduct had been "willfully and intentionally committed in disobedience of the court" and fined him $500 for criminal contempt. But, still, the death sentence was allowed to stand.

• According to papers filed by Clemons' appeal lawyers to the Missouri supreme court, Moss addressed the jury in impassioned terms that the lawyers argued amounted to inflaming the jury. He asked the jury to imagine a hypothetical crime in which the Kerry sisters were raped, put into a "dark room" and repeatedly stabbed. "This hypothetical had nothing to do with the trial, but everything to do with Moss's goal to have an inflamed and upset jury". Moss has declined to talk to the Guardian ahead of the special hearing into the Clemons case in September.

• A member of the jury at Clemons's trial submitted an affidavit stating that if she had known of the discrepancies in the way the trial was conducted, she would not have voted for the death penalty.

• The state boundary between Missouri and Illinois falls down the middle of the Chain of Rocks bridge, which became a matter of great legal contention at trial. Lawyers argued over the precise location of an uncovered manhole on the bridge through which the Kerry sisters and Cummins were alleged to have been forced before being pushed into the river.

The prosecution said that the manhole lay on the Missouri side of the state line, which they used to claim jurisdiction over the case. But the defense argued the manhole had been located a few feet to the east on the Illinois side of the bridge, and that therefore the trial should have been in the Illinois courts. In the early 1990s Illinois was much less inclined to hand out death sentences than Missouri, so just a few feet could have been crucial. In fact, had the trial taken place today it would undoubtedly had been a matter of life or death: Illinois abolished the death penalty in March 2011 while Missouri
still has 47 death row inmates awaiting execution.

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Operation Mayapple: Another name & shame campaign from the UK government


Operation Mayapple: Another name & shame campaign from the UK government

A few years ago the Labour government launched a name & shame campaign against employers who employed undocumented migrants and fined them with up to £10,000 for each worker. More recently the coalition government has employed a similar strategy to tackle tax avoidance . Following what must be deemed a successful model, in a similar fashion today the Home Office Border Agency is advertising the results of its latest law & order campaign named Mayapple started in May this year. The campaign is mostly a PR operation that comes after a series of fiascos in migration and bordermanagement (some self-inflicted as in the case of the ‘net migration’ policy) that have seriously affected the reputation of the Home Office and its Border Agency.

Video and photo cameras were sent with UKBA officers to film ‘law & order’ operations (maybe inspired by the experience accumulated with the participation to the UK Border Force TV series).

However, this is not a PR operation for the 2000 migrants who having overstayed and/or breached the terms of their visas had to return home.  One third was made of Indian citizens. The rest were mostly from Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and Brazil.

One is left wondering if there is any rationale behind these countries of origin. A devil’s advocate may argue that there is not one rationale but three. To maximise impact and minimise troubles, the ‘illegal migrants’ were carefully cherry picked according to the following criteria: a) no women and no childrenbecause human rights activists could make a fuss; b) no citizens of rich and wealthy allies (i.e. US, Canada and Australia) because their embassies could raise a few eyebrows; c) no white people because they don’t fit the stereotype of the ‘illegal’ migrants, and, added benefit, the choice would please a section of the right-wing electoral body.

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JUSTICE FOR JENNY COOPER - Birmingham, England. - On 30th June 2010 Jennifer Cooper was forcibly kicked to the ground so that she had injuries said to resemble a car accident.






On 30th June 2010 Jennifer Cooper was forcibly kicked to the ground so that she had injuries said to resemble a car accident. More than by luck than judgement she didn't die. While the police took her to the police station and then because of her injuries to hospital, they have not recorded the incident as a crime against her. It appears that the police were tipped off, b
y someone they know to be totally unreliable, that she was dangerous. If you know Jenny that is laughable. The police will merely say that they are continuing investigations into allegations against her. Not a word of concern has been expressed about her injuries. No crime number has been issued to her so anyone trying to investigate what happened gets nowhere with the police. She cannot apply for compensation from Criminal Injuries. She appears to have no rights.



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Campaign Against Bride Trafficking (INDIA) - 55 Little Known Facts About . . . Human Trafficking

Campaign Against Bride Trafficking (INDIA)



55 Little Known Facts About . . . Human Trafficking

  1. Approximately 75-80% of human trafficking is for sex.a
  2. A large majority of children and women who are trafficked for sex become HIV positive.b
  3. There are more human slaves in the world today than ever before in history.l
  4. There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking.l
  5. Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting.k
  6. Human traffickers often use a Sudanese phrase “use a slave to catch slaves,” meaning traffickers send “broken-in girls” to recruit younger girls into the sex trade. Sex traffickers often train girls themselves, raping them and teaching them sex acts.l
  7. Eighty percent of North Koreans who escape into China are women. Nine out of 10 of those women become victims of human trafficking, often for sex. If the women complain, they are deported back to North Korea, where they are thrown into gulags or are executed.h
woman human traffickingApproximately 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year
  • An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.j
  • Ludwig “Tarzan” Fainberg, a convicted trafficker, said, “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.”l
  • A human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp could sell her again for a greater price because he had trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year.l
  • Although human trafficking is often a hidden crime and accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, researchers estimate that more than 80% of trafficking victims are female. Over 50% of human trafficking victims are children.l 
  • The end of the Cold War has resulted in the growth of regional conflicts and the decline of borders. Many rebel groups turn to human trafficking to fund military actions and garner soldiers.k
  • According to a 2009 Washington Times article, the Taliban buys children as young as seven years old to act as suicide bombers. The price for child suicide bombers is between $7,000-$14,000.n
  • UNICEF estimates that 300,000 children younger than 18 are currently trafficked to serve in armed conflicts worldwide.n
  • baby soldPregnant women are increasingly being trafficked for their newborns
  • Human traffickers are increasingly trafficking pregnant women for their newborns. Babies are sold on the black market, where the profit is divided between the traffickers, doctors, lawyers, border officials, and others. The mother is usually paid less than what is promised her, citing the cost of travel and creating false documents. A mother might receive as little as a few hundred dollars for her baby.k
  • More than 30% of all trafficking cases in 2007-2008 involved children being sold into the sex industry.o
  • The Western presence in Kosovo, such as NATO troops and civilians, have fueled the rapid growth of sex trafficking and forced prostitution. Amnesty International has reported that NATO soldiers, UN police, and Western aid workers “operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.”g
  • Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video is about human trafficking. In the video, Gaga is trafficked by a Russian bathhouse into sex slavery.f
  • Human trafficking is the only area of transnational crime in which women are significantly represented—as victims, as perpetrators, and as activists fighting this crime.a
  •  Global warming and severe natural disasters have left millions homeless and impoverished, which has created desperate people easily exploited by human traffickers.k
  • Over 71% of trafficked children show suicidal tendencies.l
  • After sex, the most common form of human trafficking is forced labor. Researchers argue that as the economic crisis deepens, the number of people trafficked for forced labor will increase.k
  • Most human trafficking in the United States occurs in New York, California, and Florida.l
  • According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 30 years, over 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking.k
  • Several countries rank high as source countries for human trafficking, including Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, China, Thailand, and Nigeria.l
  • Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.S. are ranked very high as destination countries of trafficked victims.l
  • Women are trafficked to the U.S. largely to work in the sex industry (including strip clubs, peep and touch shows, massage parlors that offer sexual services, and prostitution). They are also trafficked to work in sweatshops, domestic servitude, and agricultural work.l
  • rapeSex traffickers often use brutal violence to “condition” their victims
  • Sex traffickers use a variety of ways to “condition” their victims, including subjecting them to starvation, rape, gang rape, physical abuse, beating, confinement, threats of violence toward the victim and victim’s family, forced drug use, and shame.l
  • Family members will often sell children and other family members into slavery; the younger the victim, the more money the trafficker receives. For example, a 10-year-old named Gita was sold into a brothel by her aunt. The now 22-year-old recalls that when she refused to work, the older girls held her down and stuck a piece of cloth in her mouth so no one would hear her scream as she was raped by a customer. She would later contract HIV.l
  • Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. Criminal organizations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.k
  • Human trafficking is estimated to surpass the drug trade in less than five years.  Journalist Victor Malarek reports that it is primarily men who are driving human trafficking, specifically trafficking for sex.i
  • Victims of human trafficking suffer devastating physical and psychological harm. However, due to language barriers, lack of knowledge about available services, and the frequency with which traffickers move victims, human trafficking victims and their perpetrators are difficult to catch.i
  • In approximately 54% of human trafficking cases, the recruiter is a stranger, and in 46% of the cases, the recruiters know the victim. Fifty-two percent of human trafficking recruiters are men, 42% are women, and 6% are both men and women.d
  • Human trafficking around the globe is estimated to generate a profit of anywhere from $9 billion to $31.6 billion. Half of these profits are made in industrialized countries.d
  • Some human traffickers recruit handicapped young girls, such as those suffering from Down Syndrome, into the sex industry.l
  • According to the FBI, a large human-trafficking organization in California in 2008 not only physically threatened and beat girls as young as 12 to work as prostitutes, they also regularly threatened them with witchcraft.e
  • Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that is fueled by poverty and gender discrimination.k
  • Human traffickers often work with corrupt government officials to obtain travel documents and seize passports.i
  • Women and girls from racial minorities in the U.S. are disproportionately recruited by sex traffickers in the U.S.l
  • The Sunday Telegraph in the U.K. reports that hundreds of children as young as six are brought to the U.K. as slaves each year.m
  • japan trafficJapan is a major hub of sex trafficking
  • Japan is considered the largest market for Asian women trafficked for sex.i
  • Airports are often used by human traffickers to hold “slave auctions,” where women and children are sold into prostitution.m
  • Due to globalization, every continent of the world has been involved in human trafficking, including a country as small as Iceland.k
  • Many times, if a sex slave is arrested, she is imprisoned while her trafficker is able to buy his way out of trouble.l
  • Today, slaves are cheaper than they have ever been in history. The population explosion has created a great supply of workers, and globalization has created people who are vulnerable and easily enslaved.l
  • Human trafficking and smuggling are similar but not interchangeable. Smuggling is transportation based. Trafficking is exploitation based.l
  • Sex traffickers often recruit children because not only are children are more unsuspecting and vulnerable than adults, but there is also a high market demand for young victims. Traffickers target victims on the telephone, on the Internet, through friends, at the mall, and in after-school programs.o
  • Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and in some U.S. territories.e
  • The FBI estimates that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from nine to 19, with the average being age 11. Many victims are not just runaways or abandoned, but are from “good” families who are coerced by cleaver traffickers.o
  • Brazil and Thailand are generally considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records.k
  • The AIDS epidemic in Africa has left many children orphaned, making them especially vulnerable to human trafficking.l
  • Nearly 7,000 Nepali girls as young as nine years old are sold every year into India’s red-light district—or 200,000 in the last decade. Ten thousand children between the ages of six and 14 are in Sri Lanka brothels.j
  • Human trafficking victims face physical risks, such as drug and alcohol addiction, contracting STDs, sterility, miscarriages, forced abortions, vaginal and anal trauma, among others. Psychological effects include developing clinical depression, personality and dissociative disorders, suicidal tendencies, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.l
  • The largest human trafficking case in recent U.S. history occurred in Hawaii in 2010. Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., a labor-recruiting company, bought 400 immigrants in 2004 from Thailand to work on farms in Hawaii. They were lured with false promises of high-paying farm work, but instead their passports were taken away and they were held in forced servitude until they were rescued in 2010.c
  • According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United States and around the world.l
  • -
    a Aronowitz, Alexis A. 2009. Human Trafficking, Human Misery: The Global Trade in Human Beings. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group.
    b Destefano, Anthony M. 2007. The War on Human Trafficking. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
    c “Hawaii Home to Largest Human Trafficking Case in U.S. History.” ABC News. September 2, 2010. Accessed: December 26, 2010.
    d “Human Trafficking.” Unglobalcompact.org. Accessed: December 26, 2010.
    e “International Human Trafficking.” FBI. November 23, 2009. Accessed: December 23, 2010.
    f Keehn Anne.  “Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance Video About . . . Sex Slavery?” FTSBlog.net. September 13, 2010. Accessed: December 26, 2010.
    g “Kosovo U.N. Troops ‘Fuel Sex Trade.’” BBC News. May 6, 2004. Accessed: December 20, 2010.
    h Liebelson, Dana. “Nine out of Ten Women Escaping North Korea Are Trafficked.” Human Trafficking Change. October 29, 2010. Accessed: December 26, 2010.
    i Malarek, Victor. 2003. The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade. New York, NY: Arcadia Publishers.
    j “Millions Suffer in Sex Slavery.” NewsMax. April 24, 2001. Accessed: December 26, 2010.
    k Shelley, Louise. 2010. Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
    l Skinner, E. Benjamin. 2008. A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. New York, NY: Free Press.
    m “Slaves Auctioned by Traffickers.” BBC News. June 4, 2006. Accessed: December 28, 2010.
    n “Taliban Buying Children for Suicide Bombers.” The Washington Times. July 2, 2009. Accessed: December 29, 2010.
    o “Teen Girls Stories of Sex Trafficking in the U.S.” ABC News/Primetime. February 9, 2006. Accessed: December 26, 2010.


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