Monthly Archives: September 2008

Man Threatens Suit Over Seizure Of Videocamera After He Tapes Portland Police Rousting Two Men

Aimee Green
The Oregonian
September 19, 2008

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After Mike Tabor turned his videocamera on two Portland cops rousting a couple of men on a downtown sidewalk, one cop seized his camera and gave him a ticket, saying he’d broken the law by recording the officers without their permission.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute, and now Tabor is trying to force the Portland Police Bureau to take a formal position on whether it’s OK for civilians to videotape cops — with sound — in public places.

In a tort claim notice to the city last week, attorney Benjamin Haile informed the city of Tabor’s intent to sue for $100 and a written policy saying that citizens have the right to make video and audio records of police. Haile has taken on Tabor’s case at no charge to Tabor. He says recording officers on the job is a fundamental part of holding police accountable that Haile believes is protected by the First Amendment.

The issue isn’t an isolated one. Last month, Beaverton police arrested a 27-year-old Aloha man on accusations that he illegally recorded an officer arresting another man at a bowling alley. Ho Xent Vang recorded the encounter on his cell phone, and Beaverton police say the audio part of the recording violated state law because the officer didn’t give his consent.

In both cases, police were citing ORS 165.540, which makes it generally illegal to tape-record a conversation without first obtaining permission except in cases where a person wouldn’t reasonably expect privacy, such as at a public meeting or sporting event.

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said he believes the public doesn’t have a right to record officers’ conversations – on or off the job – without their consent.

“Just because somebody is a police officer doesn’t mean they give up their rights,” Schmautz said.

The videotaping incident that netted Tabor a ticket unfolded when Tabor spotted officers Dane Reister and Nicholas Ragona stopping two men on March 25 next to the Portland Art Museum. On the nine-minute video, one of the officers can be heard accusing one man of being a drug dealer and the other a drug buyer. He repeatedly asks one of the men for his ID and to allow himself to be patted down. At one point, the officer -identified by Tabor as Reister -tells the man to back away. And when the man takes a step back, Reister takes two or three steps forward and shoves the man in the chest.

“That bugged me,” said Tabor. “It really looked like intimidation – bully-type stuff.”

After patting the man down, the officers let both men go. Then Reister walks over to Tabor, asks him if the camera was also recording sound, and when Tabor says yes, tells Tabor to hand over the camera.

“I was just totally surprised,” Tabor said.

Tabor began to walk to Central Precinct to file a complaint. The officers pulled up in their patrol car and asked what he was doing and then said they’d meet him in the lobby.

Tabor claims that after waiting about 20 minutes, the officers returned his camera and handed him a ticket. Tabor said the officers told him he was standing too close and making them nervous in what could have been a dangerous situation.

Tabor said he doesn’t think he was standing too close – and if the officers thought he was, they should have said so.

Deputy city attorney Dave Woboril said he’ll review the incident, but said that Oregon’s law is “pretty complicated.” Woboril said his reading of the statute is that people can’t surreptitiously make an audio recording of others who think their conversations are private. But Woboril said most people assume that someone holding a videocamera out in the open is recording sound as well as video. In general, he believes civilians have the right to record officers in public places in that way.

In 1991, then-police chief Tom Potter issued a training bulletin stating that the public had the right to record video and audio of police arresting suspects in a public place. Woboril, Schmautz and Police Chief Rosie Sizer weren’t aware of the bulletin, but Tabor’s attorney, Haile, dug up it up in his research.

Haile said he wants the bureau to specify that police stops — not just arrests — can be recorded. He also wants the policy put in the bureau’s policy and procedures manual, so it won’t be forgotten.

Haile noted that Potter’s bulletin was issued shortly after Rodney King, a black man who was stopped for speeding, was videotaped by a bystander being beaten by four Los Angeles police officers. The videotape spurred widespread discussion about police brutality.

Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, said he hears about a few cases each year in which videocameras are seized by police. He says if police are acting professionally and lawfully, they should have no objection to being videotaped. “It could end up exonerating the police — it could be good for them.”

The Bible Goes Green Another Harper Collins Doctrine Of Devils


TIME
September 22, 2008

Green runs through the Bible like a vine. There are the Garden and Noah’s olive branch. The oaks under which Abraham met with angels. The “tree standing by the waterside” in Psalms. And there is Jesus, the self-proclaimed “true vine,” who describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed that grows into a tree “where birds can nest.” He dies on a cross of wood, and when he rises Mary Magdalene mistakes him for a gardener.

Now there is a Bible trying to make gardeners of us all. On Oct. 7, HarperCollins is releasing The Green Bible, a Scripture for the Prius age that calls attention to more than 1,000 verses related to nature by printing them in a pleasant shade of forest green, much as red-letter editions of the Bible encrimson the words of Jesus. The new version’s message, states an introduction by Evangelical eco-activist J. Matthew Sleeth, is that “creation care”–the Christian catchphrase for nature conservancy–“is at the very core of our Christian walk.”

Using recycled paper with soy-based ink, The Green Bible includes supplementary writings by, among others, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul II, Desmond Tutu and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright. Several of these essays cite the Genesis verse in which God gives humanity “dominion” over the earth, a charge most religious greens read to mean “stewardship.” Others assert that eco-neglect violates Jesus’ call to care for the least among us: it is the poor who inhabit the floodplains.

Not all buy creation care’s centrality. Says Southern Baptist leader Richard Land: “Sure it’s important, but when they asked Jesus what was most important, he said, ‘Love your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ He didn’t say anything about creation.”

But Land is fighting the tide. Mainline Protestants have long been green, and a Pew Foundation study recently found that 54% of Evangelicals–and 63% of those ages 18 to 29–agreed that “stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.”

There is one catch. The conservative Christians who drive Bible sales don’t tend to favor the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) used in The Green Bible. Yet publisher Mark Tauber thinks green Evangelicals will leap the NRSV fire wall. He adds cheerfully: “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see so-called big Bible publishers come out with a green edition.” If you want to grow a biblical tree where birds can nest, this is a good way to start.

Homeschooling Banned in California as State Turns Parents Into Criminals For Teaching Their Own Children

David Gutierrez
Natural News
September 23, 2008

A California appeals court has ruled that homeschooling of children is illegal unless their parents have teaching credentials from the state.

“California is now on the path to being the only state to deny the vast majority of homeschooling parents their fundamental right to teach their own children at home,” said Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The court overturned a lower court’s finding that homeschooling did not constitute a violation of child welfare laws.

“California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” Justice H. Walter Croskey said.

The decision stunned parents of the state’s roughly 166,000 homeschooled children. While the court claimed that it was merely clarifying an existing law and not making a new one, the decision leaves the parents of homeschooled children at risk of arrest and criminal prosecution.

“At first, there was a sense of, ‘No way,’ ” homeschool parent Loren Mavromati said. “Then there was a little bit of fear. I think it has moved now into indignation.”

Parents’ reasons for homeschooling their children range from religious beliefs to dissatisfaction with the education received at public or private schools. But according to the court, all California children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend either a full-time public or private school or be taught by a tutor credentialed for their specific grade level.

“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation,” Croskey wrote.

California’s largest teachers union welcomed the decision as did the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles.

According to the law center’s executive director, Leslie Heimov, children should not be educated at home, because they need to be “in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety.”

5th Grader Suspended For Anti-Obama Shirt


Aurora fifth-grader suspended for home madetshirt reading “Obama is a terrorist’s best friend.” 9/22/08

AURORA (MyFOXColorado.com) – An 11-year-old in Aurora says his first amendment rights are being trampled after he was suspended for wearing a homemade shirt that reads “Obama is a terrorist’s best friend.”

The fifth grader at Aurora Frontier K-8 School wore it on a day when students were asked to wear red, white and blue to show their patriotism.

The boy’s father Dann Dalton describes himself as a “proud conservative” who has taken part in some controversial anti-abortion protests. Dalton says the school made a major mistake by suspending his son for wearing the shirt.

“It’s the public school system,” Dalton says. “Let’s be honest, it’s full of liberal loons.”

According the the boy’s father, the school district told the student, Daxx Dalton, that he had the choice of changing his shirt, turning his shirt inside out or being suspended.

Daxx chose suspension.

“They’re taking away my right of freedom of speech,” he says. “If I have the right to wear this shirt I’m going to use it. And if the only way to use it is get suspended, then I’m going to get suspended.”

Daxx’s dad agrees with him and is encouraging his son to stand his ground. “The facts are his rights were violated. Period.”

Aurora Public Schools would not talk about the case but said the district “Respects a student’s right to free speech, such as the right to wear specific clothing,” but administrators say they review any situation that interrupts the learning environment.

Paperwork submitted by the school district says Daxx Dalton was not suspended for wearing the shirt, but for willful disobedience and defiance.

The boy’s father says he intends to pursue a lawsuit against the district

House Approves $25 Billion Of “Low Cost Loans” For Carmakers

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a $25bn package of low-cost loans to help hard-pressed carmakers and their suppliers finance plant modernisation at a time of restricted access to public capital ­markets.

The automotive loans are separate from the proposed $700bn bail-out for the banking sector, which is still being debated in Congress. The House approved the measure 370-58, setting the stage for Senate approval within days.
EDITOR’S CHOICE
US blue-collar workers look for bail-out – Sep-23
Car dealers hit as loans splutter – Sep-12
Ford and Chrysler back loan drive – Sep-17
GM chief to lobby Congress on low-cost loans – Sep-12
Age of the auto – Aug-06
US bids farewell to era of Model T – Jul-23

The industry’s case has been helped by the fact that Michigan and Ohio, the two states most dependent on the car industry, are key swing states in the November 4 presidential election.

Executives of General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler and their suppliers have lobbied heavily for the loans. Both presidential ­candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, have expressed support.

Shelly Lombard, analyst at Gimme Credit, a corporate bond research company, told clients this week that “blue collar workers are more sympathetic victims than ‘rich’ investment bankers. So it’s easier to defend loans designed to save close to 100,000 jobs in the shrinking US manufacturing industry.”

The go-ahead for the car industry loans has been written into a stop-gap spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, which must be passed to keep the federal government running beyond the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Congress and the White House have yet to agree on details of the fiscal 2009 budget.

The loans were originally authorised in an energy bill passed last December to finance the retooling of plants for more fuel-efficient vehicles, especially hybrid and electric cars. But they have become a crucial prop for Detroit carmakers.

The continuing resolution provides funding for $7.5bn, which is the estimated subsidy on the loans – in other words, the cost to the government of providing them at well below market rates.

The loans will not take effect until the energy department has written detailed regulations dealing with, among other issues, which investments will qualify and conditions for repayment. Congress has directed the department to begin writing the regulations quickly and will provide any extra staff required to do so. One lobbyist said he hoped the regulations would be completed by early 2009.

All carmakers and suppliers with operations in the US are theoretically eligible. However, the energy bill restricts benefits to plants that have been in operation for at least 20 years, thereby excluding most foreign carmakers.

A Toyota spokesman said his company was agnostic on whether it derived any benefits. It has kept a low profile in the debate on the loans.

The Detroit-based car­makers have insisted that the loans, known as the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Programme, are not a bail-out because they must be repaid.

But critics have questioned the wisdom of supporting the motor industry with taxpayers’ money, especially in the wake of the huge amounts being provided to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and Wall Street investment banks.

Violence Surrounds U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

Traci Carl
Associated Press
September 15, 2008

TIJUANA, Mexico — There is a moment each evening, as the sun melts into the Pacific, when Colonia Libertad is at peace.

The dimming light blurs the hilltop slum’s rough edges, camouflaging piles of trash in long shadows and making it difficult to tell that some of the tightly packed homes clinging to vertical canyonsides are made of old packing crates and cast-off plastic tarps.

The stadium lighting that towers over the corrugated metal wall marking the U.S.-Mexico border is dark, permitting residents a bird’s eye view of Tijuana, where lights are blinking on, blanketing hills that lead toward the ocean. Farther inland, the dark shadows of mountains are sketched across the sky.

There are no helicopters reverberating overhead, no drone of all-terrain vehicles. Even the bony guard dogs chained outside their homes respect the silence. Fathers stroll lazily behind children who steer beat-up tricycles along the rutted dirt paths that serve as streets.

For a moment, residents are reminded of what it was like before the wall, when children ducked under a barbed wire fence to play soccer in U.S. territory and returned home for dinner. When smuggling meant giving directions to migrants who simply outran border agents and melted into the crowds of tourists.

But it is only a moment.

The floodlights click on, bathing the neighborhood in a blinding light. The helicopters return, clattering past. And the smugglers arrive with their ladders and blow torches and groups of people desperate to escape a fate similar to the one residents of Colonia Libertad long ago accepted.

As the U.S. government battles environmentalists and residents to build hundreds more miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, both sides would be well served to take a long look at Colonia Libertad — Freedom Neighborhood.

In the early 1990s, Colonia Libertad became one of the first places to coexist with the recycled, corrugated-iron barrier that has become a symbol of the conflicted relationship between a first-world superpower and the developing nation that lives in its shadow.

The fence didn’t stop the migrants. It didn’t stop the drugs. It merely pared down the hopeful crowds that used to flood San Diego hillsides, diverted the drugs underground and into the mountains, and helped create a ruthless smuggling industry dedicated to beating the U.S. Border Patrol at its own game.

But that’s not to say the sections of fence that have been built haven’t been successful. The barriers, combined with high-tech security measures such as surveillance cameras and ground sensors, have made getting into the United States extremely difficult. And as security has increased in recent years, the number of people trying to cross has fallen dramatically.

The downside, residents on both sides say, is that the border has become a violent battleground, shattering a shared American and Mexican history that is blind to things such as fences and borders.

Once, the only barrier between Colonia Libertad and San Diego was a barbed-wire fence.

Residents would squeeze between its rusty spikes, escaping the crowded barrio for the open hillsides of U.S. territory. Adults roasted meat in barbecue pits while children ran free.

“It used to be fun, because we’d cross and play soccer or baseball or volleyball,” says Jaime Boites, 35, whose home is steps from the border. “Nobody cared. When we were done, we’d just go back to our houses in Mexico.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents left the picnickers alone. Sometimes they even strolled over and shared a taco.

They were more concerned with the other side of Colonia Libertad, the smugglers who used the neighborhood as a staging ground for vanloads of people or drugs or some other kind of contraband that the gringos legally didn’t want but were always willing to pay for.

It wasn’t hard to get to the United States, which had few agents and little security. Sometimes migrants gathered at the border in large groups to rush past outnumbered guards, like a crude game of sharks and minnows. Others packed into vans that raced drugs or people across the hills.

“Back then, there used to be vans going through U.S. territory, just like nothing,” Boites says. “Vans full of people, any time of day.”

Boites was 8 when one van struck and killed a 5-year-old girl.

That was the main reason the wall went up: to stop the vehicles.

When the first stretch of wall went up, made of material recycled from landing strips left over from Vietnam, Boites was a teenager living in San Diego. Back at his family home, the fence cut off the view of the United States.

Little changed in Colonia Libertad. Smugglers cut holes in the fence and drove their vans through. Migrants scrambled over the wall, using the corrugated ridges like the steps of a ladder.

But to people in Colonia Libertad, it was still a slap in the face, proof the gringos weren’t willing to acknowledge that they needed Mexicans to cut their lawns and take care of their kids.

“Sometimes we get the feeling that we aren’t wanted over there,” Boites said, gazing at the graffiti-covered wall.

Americans saw the fence as a necessity because millions of undocumented workers and tons of illegal drugs were streaming into their cities.

But it had consequences they never intended: Seasonal workers unable to easily go back and forth built permanent lives north of the border. Migrants were pushed into the searing desert of Arizona, and more than 1,600 have died, often of thirst and exposure.

In Tijuana, the United States kept increasing security, using the area to test new anti-smuggling methods and expanding the ones that worked. It added a second layer of fencing at some points, redesigning each barrier to make it more difficult to overcome.

Smugglers responded by charging migrants more money and becoming more violent. They used slingshots to launch rocks, bottles, nail-studded planks, Molotov cocktails. Sometimes they wanted to hurt border agents, but mostly they were trying to create diversions while they moved people or drugs across at another point.

In one of the new subdivisions carpeting the hills north of the border, Alma Beltran, 42, turns her sport utility Volvo into her two-car garage and carries groceries into the kitchen for dinner.

She and her husband, both Mexicans, own a factory that makes packaging labels in the beach resort of Ensenada, but they moved to the United States a few years ago so that their daughter could go to American schools and speak fluent English.

But they didn’t go far: Their home is two miles from the border.

“If we go on a walk — and we like to go on walks — every time we try to do that, we are stopped by border patrollers,” Beltran says. “They are always pleasant and say, ‘Ma’am, you shouldn’t be walking here. It is dangerous.’ “

Beltran says she is polite, but rarely turns back. Having grown up in both Mexico City and the United States, she’s not frightened by the increased security in the U.S. or the violence in Mexico.

“It’s the same problem: People trying to cross. Agents chasing people home,” she says. “There’s nothing new.”

Her neighborhood is a sprawling collection of cavernous terra-cotta homes that sell for double what most Mexicans will make in a lifetime. Spanish is the predominant language, and most of her neighbors are upper-class Mexicans driven north by a wave of kidnappings and drug violence south of the border.

But even in the carefully groomed suburbs of San Diego, it is impossible to escape Mexico. Beltran has only to look out her kitchen window to see that she is caught between two worlds.

As she makes dinner, she can see the hillsides worn bald by the Border Patrol, the fences dividing the San Diego suburbs’ neat grid from the jumbled streets of Tijuana.

In the distance, the stadium lights flooding Colonia Libertad flicker on.

Illegals To Rebuild After Hurricane Ike

JENALIA MORENO and SUSAN
Houston Chronicle
September 25, 2008

All across southeast Texas, roofs need repair, debris must be discarded and towns hope to rebuild.

Hurricane Ike’s destruction is sparking one of the largest rebuilding efforts the state has seen in decades, but at the same time is highlighting a thorny facet of the region’s labor force: A lot of the recovery work will be done by illegal immigrants.

Homeowners have already turned to day laborers — many of whom are undocumented — to help clear brush, tent roofs and repair other storm damage. Contractors have hired them to rebuild or restore businesses and the city’s infrastructure.

And the major work of rebuilding small towns along the Gulf Coast or big homes in Galveston will likely be aided by undocumented workers.

But this tug and pull of the labor force highlights an uneasy dilemma: The region needs the muscle of undocumented immigrants, but simultaneously is a cog in a broader crackdown of illegal immigrants at worksites.

“There’s just no mechanism in place right now to provide those important laborers work authorization,” said Leigh Ganchan, a Houston immigration attorney with Haynes and Boone. “It’s a shame that employers can’t tap into a whole segment of society that’s willing and capable to provide those services. Our nation is more vulnerable than it would like to admit, I think. Vulnerable, meaning we need people to help us rebuild our infrastructure after major disasters like this.”

Carlos González, Mexico’s consul general in Houston, expects the area’s existing immigrant population will do the rebuilding work, a key difference with what happened post-Katrina. New Orleans experienced an influx of Hispanic immigrants because it did not have as large of an immigrant population as Houston.

“You will find the immigrant community — as they always have — will play a very big role,” said Laura Murillo, president of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

However, Americans devastated by the storm should have the option of doing the rebuilding, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for a Washington, D.C.-group that seeks to stop illegal immigration.

“Those people should have first crack at the reconstruction jobs,” said Mehlman with the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “I’m sure there are an awful lot of people who can use the jobs and use the paychecks to get themselves back on their feet.”

The looming demand for immigrant labor for rebuilding efforts illustrates how dependent Texas industry and commerce are on undocumented workers.

According to a 2006 study by the Greater Houston Partnership, construction is the largest employer of undocumented workers in the city, employing nearly 36,000 people.

“The storm hasn’t done anything but point out again how badly these workers are needed and how much they contribute,” said Angela Blanchard, president and chief executive officer of Neighborhood Centers Inc.

Chase Duhon, with an Austin-based company that contracted to remove brush and debris across Houston, said he’s having trouble finding legal local workers to help with hurricane cleanup. He posted an ad online to find more workers.

“We don’t hire anyone who’s illegal,” said Duhon, a Houston native. “We want to keep it local. We want to use people here in Texas, but there’s so much work, there are people coming from Michigan and Massachusetts.”

Paralyzed by politics, immigration reform has yet to be approved by Congress despite years of hot debate. Supporters of reforms — such as a guest worker program — say storms like Ike prove how hard it is for employers to fill certain jobs.

“We need the labor. These people want to work,” said Norman Adams, co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Reform and president of Adams Insurance Service. “I don’t think anybody has enough workers here.”

Adams said the contractor repairing his water-damaged office building in the Heights area after the storm hired immigrant workers.

Honduran immigrant Esteban Valle, 49, said construction work has picked up since Ike hit.

“I think there’s more work,” said Valle, a legal permanent resident who previously lived in Dallas. “But it’s easier for me because I have papers.”

At one of the city’s most popular day labor sites, the competition was stiff, with those skilled in trades like roof repair and hanging plaster wallboard often getting picked first.

“It’s difficult because we don’t have papers, and there are so many people,” said 22-year-old Emanuel Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant from southern Mexico, gesturing to three dozen men gathered at the corner of Shepherd Drive and 11th.

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