United Nations to discuss abolition of #deathpenalty by June end: Ban Ki-moon


Press Trust of India | Updated: June 14, 2013 08:21 IST

United Nations to discuss abolition of death penalty by June end: Ban Ki-moon

United NationsUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has hailed the growing momentum against capital punishment, while voicing concern that a some countries continue to impose the death penalty, often in violation of international standards.In a message to the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, held in Madrid, Mr. Ban said that the full abolition of the death penalty has support in every region and across legal systems, traditions, customs and religious backgrounds.

Currently, more than 150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practise it. Last year, 174 United Nations Member States were “execution-free”, he said.

“Despite these positive trends, I am deeply concerned that a small number of States continue to impose the death penalty, and thousands of individuals are executed each year, often in violation of international standards,” said the Secretary-General.”Some countries with a longstanding de facto moratorium have recently resumed executions,” he noted.

He said that death penalty is at times used for offences that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” such as drug crimes, and a few States impose capital punishment against juvenile offenders, in violation of international human rights law.

Ban also pointed out that information concerning the application of the death penalty is often cloaked in secrecy, and that the lack of data on the number of executions or the number of individuals on death row “seriously impedes” any informed national debate that may lead to abolition.

“The taking of life is too absolute and irreversible for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by a legal process. Too often, multiple layers of judicial oversight still fail to reverse wrongful death penalty convictions for years and even decades,” he said.

This problem, he added, will be discussed at a UN panel in New York at the end of this month.

The UN General Assembly first voted on a moratorium in 2007, and again in December 2012, when it adopted a resolution calling for a progressive restriction on the use of capital punishment and eliminating it entirely for felons below the age of 18 and pregnant

 

French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill


By SCOTT SAYARE
Published: April 12, 2013
PARIS — The French Senate on Friday approved a bill to allow same-sex couples to wed and adopt children, leaving France poised to join the small group of nations that have fully legalized gay marriage, despite an unexpectedly vocal campaign by conservative opponents.

A final vote on the legislation, which figured among the campaign promises of President François Hollande, has been scheduled for next week in the lower house of Parliament, where the Senate’s minor amendments are expected to easily pass. Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party holds a strong majority in the lower house, which approved an earlier version of the text in February.

Should the bill pass, parliamentary conservatives have vowed to challenge its constitutionality, though precedent suggests that a rejection by the Constitutional Council, which rules on such matters, would be unlikely.

The French debate over legalizing gay marriage comes as the Supreme Court of the United States is examining a law that prohibits it; one possible ruling in that case, concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, would require all 50 states to allow such unions. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several American states, some areas of Brazil and Mexico and 12 countries, half of them in Europe.

In France, the left has broadly supported the bill on gay marriage, which many supporters prefer to call “marriage for all.” The country’s largest conservative party, the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, has opposed it. There have been a few dissonant voices at both ends of the political spectrum. On Friday, the Senate vote fell largely along partisan lines, 179 to 157.

“You have consolidated and reinforced the republican pact,” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told the Senate after the vote. In opening marriage to same-sex couples, Ms. Taubira said, “we are simply recognizing their full citizenship.”

There has been marked opposition, however, in a country that remains largely Roman Catholic, with deeply rooted conservative convictions in much of the populace. Opponents of the bill, many of them rallying under a movement called La Manif Pour Tous, or Protest for All, have marched in the hundreds of thousands in Paris and across the country in recent months. Organizers have called for a mass protest next month.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders have also called upon the faithful to protest the legislation, which many opponents cast as a danger for future generations of children who could be raised by homosexual parents. Indeed, opposition has largely focused on the provision, now approved by both houses of Parliament, that would allow same-sex couples to adopt.

It is legal in France for someone who is gay or lesbian to adopt a child, but gays and lesbians may not adopt as couples, with equal parental rights.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 13, 2013, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill.

 

Delhi gang-rape accused must be given chance to reform #Vaw


PTI Mar 8, 2013, 10.21PM IST
(Actor Rahul Bose. )

NEW DELHI: Actor activist Rahul Bose on Friday came out in favour of giving the perpetrators of last year’s Delhi gang rape a chance to reform and create a “gender warrior” among them.

“… We have to ask ourselves of the five or six of the rapists of the December 16 is there anyone who wants to change, who wants to reform … Nobody is saying about commuting any sentence, the sentence stands as it is but while it stands can we create a gender warrior among them?” he asked.

The actor was participating in a year-long ” Ring The Bell” campaign launched by NGO Breakthrough which seeks to mobilize one million men around the world to commit to taking concrete action to end violence against women.

“If anybody is open to reaffirmation do we have it in us to subvert our patriarchal mindset and tell them that we are ready to confer even the right to reform to you even if there is such a massive public upsurge against you,” said Bose.

The actor further said,”If we have to move further civilizational as a society, if we have to evolve as a civilization further beyond the boundaries of India then we have to look at forgiveness.”

The 23-year girl, who was gang-raped by six men in a moving bus on December 16, died in a Singapore hospital after battling for life.

The campaign “One million men. One million promises to end violence against women”, simultaneously launched today in six cities across the world including New York, Johannesburg and Rio, pledges to connect people through social media to discuss and find new solutions to end violence.

Stressing on the needs to challenge the habits, norms and behaviour that perpetuates violence, ‘Breakthrough’ vice president Sonali Khan said, “We are calling on men and boys around the world to take a stand against violence against women by making a concrete promise that they keep.

“With men as partners, we can build a world in which women are respected- and in which all of us live freely and without fear. Each action will add up to one million; one million will start the change,” she added.

Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar said, “I am excited to be part of a campaign that promotes deeper dialogue and therefore understanding to help bring about a groundswell of change in the tragic global epidemic of violence against women. It’s important to engage men in this dialogue as this violence against women is not exclusively a women’s issue.

 

#India- Celebrating women’s solidarities! Resisting cultures of violence! #Vaw #Womenrights #womensday


We have all recently witnessed unprecedented response to a young woman’s brutal gang rape and eventual death. The public anger and mass grief it triggered finally pushed our government to take action. Such is the power of people’s resolve!

Yet, sexual assaults and violence continue unabated across the country, from everyday instances of sexual harassment like stalking, touching and staring to violence at home and at the work place. Sexual violence against women from Dalit and Adivasi communities, religious minorities and the differently abled, and people marginalised on the basis of gender and sexuality is being invisibilised. There is reluctance to recognise marital rape (committed by a “trusted” partner) as a crime. Sexual abuse and torture by security forces in Kashmir, North-East and Chhattisgarh (including custodial violence) enjoy state impunity.

The Justice Verma Committee introduced many critical recommendations like command responsibility for custodial rape. Many of these suggestions have been overlooked by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013. One big lacuna is the proposed gender neutrality of the accused. Unlike in existing law where the accused is male, the new Bill makes it possible for women to be charged with these offences. In a culture known for its anti-women positions and acute gender inequalities, this clause makes a mockery of sexual violence (including rape) against women. We demand that this be changed immediately!

Public ferment against sexual violence is being projected as a call for death penalty. We strongly condemn any retributive justice practised by the state, and appeal that any form of punishment function within the ambit of human rights and justice. We call upon the Government of India to join the overwhelming majority of nation states that have abolished death penalty.

Sexual assaults are but a part of a wider spectrum of cultures of violence that entail discrimination against women. Honour crimes and killings, khap panchayat diktats, attacks on women’s autonomy, neglect of women’s health, women workers’ lack of social security, and neoliberal policies that oppress poor women in multiple ways are all the result of anti-women attitudes. Patriarchal institutions like religion and community lose no time in calling for curtailment of women’s freedoms in the public sphere in the name of safety. The “Din Hamara Raat Hamari Abhiyan” or Take Back the Night Campaign is a rejection of such moral policing that impinges on women’s right to full participation in society.

The International Women’s Day is an enduring symbol of women’s solidarities and struggles against injustices. On this occasion, we salute the fighting spirit of sisters from across the nation including Soni Sori in a Chhattisgarh jail, Irom Sharmila in a Manipur hospital, “Suryanelli” battling a 17-year old case in Kerala and many unnamed women challenging the capitalist-state nexus in Orissa and other parts of Central India. We raise our voices against all such violations.

We invite people from all walks of life to join us in remembrance, resistance and celebration of women’s extraordinary achievements. Let us collectively resolve to fight for women’s justice, dignity and autonomy.

Lend your voice and support to women’s movements that have been working in multiple directions: from consciousness raising to supporting women’s facing violence, from law reform to challenging traditional notions about women’s roles, opposing caste-communal violence to supporting women’s political participation and so on. Significant work continues to be done to challenge prejudices against women with disabilities and people of different genders and sexualities. Thanks to such efforts, women have achieved major strides in redefining family and inheritance, political participation, legal reform vis-à-vis domestic violence, dowry deaths, and adverse sex ratio.

Resolve to end injustice and violence against women!

Stand up for women’s rights!

Brief overview of the women’s movements in India

* 1848: Savitribai Phule started girls’ schools, defying threats by feudal forces (?)
* 1885: Rukhmabai chose prison over marriage as a child bride & studied to be a doctor
* 1940s: Telengana women part of militant struggles for land and freedom
* 1970s: anti-liquor, anti-price rise movements, issues of land alienation and wife-beating addressed in Shahada, Maharashtra
* 1977 onwards: Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh established; unequal wages, women’s retrenchment, sexual division of labour attacked
* 1970s: Custodial rape of Mathura (a young tribal girl); teachers challenged the Supreme Court judgement; state forced to recognise custodial rape as a crime
* 1980s: massive participation of women in Chipko and Appiko environmental movements
* 1992: woman activist gang raped in Rajasthan; Supreme Court framed Vishakha Guidelines, predecessor of  Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace 2012
* 2009: Delhi High Court decriminalises consensual, adult same-sex relationships
History of the International Women’s Day

* 1857: thousands of women workers in the New York garment industry took to the streets against unfair wages, 12-hour work days and sexual harassment in the workplace
* 1910: Clara Zetkin’s gave a call in Copenhagen, Denmark to establish an “International Women’s Day
* 1911: on 19 March, more than a million women and men marched together
* 1911: On March 25, a fire in a sweatshop in New York killed 145 female garment workers. In solidarity, 80,000 workers marched to attend the mass funeral
* 1912: 14,000 textile workers went on strike with the slogan “Better to starve fighting than starve working”
* 1913-1914: the International Women’s Day also became a day for protesting against the First World War and for world peace.

 

 

Soni Sori acquitted in crucial case, lawyer optimistic of speedy Essar trial #goodnews #vaw


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, feb 14

A file photo of a protest by the All India Students<br />
Association in New Delhi seeking the release of<br />
tribal activist Soni Sori. Photo: V.V.Krishnan” src=”<a href=http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/01363/14TH_CITY_SONISORI_1363013f.jpg&#8221; />
A file photo of a protest by the All India Students Association in New Delhi seeking the release of tribal activist Soni Sori. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

Soni Sori, the tribal accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), has been acquitted in a crucial case filed in 2010 by the Dantewada district police against 19 individuals for allegedly opening fire and using explosives to blow vehicles of Essar. Ms Sori was one of the key accused in the case.

“But the additional sessions court of Anita Dehariya could not find enough evidence to substantiate the allegations and hence Ms. Sori was acquitted yesterday [Tuesday],” said Ms. Sori’s lawyer K.K. Dubey. Ms. Sori was arrested in 2011 by the Chhattisgarh police for allegedly arranging transfer of money from the privately-owned Essar Group to the members of the banned CPI (Maoist). Altogether, six cases were registered against her and she has been acquitted in four cases so far.

Hole in prosecution case

The witnesses presented before the court could not relate Ms. Sori to the case (sessions trial number 5/11) of firing and burning vehicles using diesel and explosives. “None of the witnesses presented by the police could connect Soni to the incident and that left a gaping hole in the prosecution,” said Mr. Dubey. Incidentally, Ms. Sori was acquitted in another case about a week back. In that case, (sessions trial number 4/11) the allegation was of firing on police near Essar Beneficiation Plant in Kirandul. “There also, witnesses could not confirm if Soni was related to firing on the police,” Mr. Dubey said. . Last year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two more cases related to firing in Kuakonda police station and burning of a block office. “However, the more critical allegations against Ms. Sori acting as a courier between Essar and the CPI (Maoist) and the attack on Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam are continuing,” said Mr. Dubey.

Iconic figure

Ms. Sori — a tribal woman with three children — has emerged as an iconic figure symbolising the State’s attitude toward tribals since her arrest in October, 2011. Ms. Sori’s letter to her lawyer claiming that she was sexually assaulted in police custody under the direct supervision of a police officer, Ankit Garg, became a global rallying point on tribal atrocities. While Mr. Garg and the police continuously denied all the allegations, hundreds of intellectuals, academics, and civil society activists signed petitions, demanding justice for Ms. Sori — a ‘Stand Up For Soni Sori’ campaign was launched across the country. In major cities like London or New York, activists took to the streets, building up the case internationally for Ms. Sori and her 24-year-old activist-journalist relative, Lingaram Kodopi.

Interestingly, while Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori both are languishing in jail, like the other 2,000 tribal undertrials of south Chhattisgarh, for allegedly working with the Maoists, two of their co-accused got bail soon after the arrest.

D.V.C.S. Verma, the general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, one of Essar’s contractors, were arrested in the same case allegedly for paying protection money to the Maoists, which according to police, Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori were carrying to the rebels. In fact, Mr. Lala was caught with Mr. Kodopi in the same Palnar market where allegedly Ms. Sori was also present.

While both Mr. Verma and Mr. Lala have been out on bail for a year, Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi are both behind bars in Bastar’s jails. Activists associated with the case feel that this is another ‘glaring example’ of injustice to the tribals. Ms. Sori’s lawyer, however, sounds optimistic: “Her acquittal in the all the minor cases may give her a speedy trial in the Essar case now.”

 

USA – States Without the #DeathPenalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates #mustread #mustshare


Year 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Murder Rate inDeath PenaltyStates* 9.5 9.94 9.51 9.69 9.23 8.59 7.72 7.09 6.51 5.86 5.70 5.82 5.82 5.91 5.71 5.87 5.90 5.83 5.72 5.26 5.00
Murder Rate in
Non-death
Penalty States
9.16 9.27 8.63 8.81 7.88 6.78 5.37 5.00 4.61 4.59 4.25 4.25 4.27 4.10 4.02 4.03 4.22 4.10 4.05 3.90 4.01
Percent
Difference
4%
7%
10%
10%
17%
27%
44%
42%
41%
28%
35%
37%
36%
44%
42% 46% 40% 42% 41% 35% 25%
Year

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Murder Rate in

Death Penalty

States*

5.82

5.82

5.91

5.71

5.87

5.9

5.83

5.72

5.26

5

Murder Rate in
Non-death

4.25

4.27

4.1

4.02

4.03

4.22

4.1

4.05

3.9

4.01

Penalty States
 

 

 

Percent

Difference

37%

36%

44%

42%

46%

40%

42%

41%

35%

25%

                   

 

 

 

(click on year to see the murder rates and calculations involved in this analysis, provided by David Cooper)
* Includes Kansas and New York in the years after they adopted the death penalty, 1994 and 1995 respectively. New Jersey and New York ended the death penalty in the latter part of 2007 and will not be counted as death penalty states in 2008.


Notes:


Populations are from the U.S. Census estimates for each year.

Murder rates are from the FBI‘s “Crime in the United States” and are per 100,000 population.

The murder rate for the region (death penalty states or non-death penalty states) is the total number of murders in the region divided by the total population (and then multiplied by 100,000)

In calculations that include Kansas and New York, Kansas is counted as a death penalty state from 1994 and New York from 1996, since New York’s law did not become effective until September, 1995.


Murder Rates in Death Penalty States and Non-Death Penalty States

The murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty, and the gap has grown since 1990.

 


STUDIES COMPARING STATES WITH THE DEATH PENALTY AND STATES WITHOUT


Michigan Lawmakers Reaffirm State’s Longstanding Ban on Capital Punishment -In a vote upholding the state’s longstanding abolition of the death penalty, Michigan lawmakers refused to support a measure that would have put capital punishment before state voters in a referendum. The vote fell 18 short of the 2/3 required for passage. During a lengthy House debate regarding the bill, Representative Jack Minor (D-Flint) told his colleagues that studies show crime rates are lower in states without the death penalty. He noted, “The death penalty’s not a deterrent. In fact, the figures would suggest it’s just the opposite.” Other opponents of the measure stated that “revenge” would not help victims’ families. Michigan has not had the death penalty for 158 years, and voters have not addressed the issue since its abolition was included in the 1963 revision of the state constitution. Michigan is one of 12 states in the U.S. that does not have a death penalty. (Michigan Live, March 19, 2004) The state was the first English speaking government in the world to ban the practice.

States Without the Death Penalty Have Better Record on Homicide Rates – A new survey by the New York Times found that states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty. The Times reports that ten of the twelve states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above. During the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48% – 101% higher than in states without the death penalty. “I think Michigan made a wise decision 150 years ago,” said the state’s governor, John Engler, a Republican, referring to the state’s abolition of the death penalty in 1846. “We’re pretty proud of the fact that we don’t have the death penalty.” (New York Times, 9/22/00)

States Without the Death Penalty Fared Better Over Past Decade – In the past ten years, the number of executions in the U.S. has increased while the murder rate has declined. Some commentators have maintained that the murder rate has dropped because of the increase in executions (see, e.g., W. Tucker, “Yes, the Death Penalty Deters,” Wall St. Journal, June 21, 2002). However, during this decade the murder rate in non-death penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty.

When comparisons are made between states with the death penalty and states without, the majority of death penalty states show murder rates higher than non-death penalty states. The average of murder rates per 100,000 population in 1999 among death penalty states was 5.5, whereas the average of murder rates among non-death penalty states was only 3.6.

A look at neighboring death penalty and non-death penalty states show similar trends. Death penalty states usually have a higher murder rate than their neighboring non-death penalty states.

 


UN: Global Arms Trade Treaty a step closer after resounding vote


7 November 2012

The UN vote paves the way for a Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to take place in New York in March 2013.The UN vote paves the way for a Final Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to take place in New Yorkin March 2013.© Control Arms/ Andrew Kelly

Amnesty International

After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights

Wed, 07/11/2012

A historic treaty to regulate the global arms trade has won the backing of an overwhelming majority of states in a move Amnesty International called a potential victory for human rights worldwide.

In the biggest show of support so far, 157 governments at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament in New York voted on Wednesday in favour of finalizing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) next March.

Among the “big six” arms-exporting countries, only Russia abstained from voting on Wednesday. China joined France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA in supporting the resolution.

“After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights,” said Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager at Amnesty International.

Even before the vote, 110 states from all world regions put their names on the resolution which was co-authored by seven governments – Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and the United Kingdom – and co-sponsored by 103 other governments..

No government voted against the resolution, although Iran tried to alter it to prevent the current draft treaty text from being used as a basis to complete the negotiation – no other government supported such a move.

A long campaign

This is the final leg of a 17-year campaign by Amnesty International and its partners to achieve an arms trade treaty to help protect people on the ground who, time and again, have borne the brunt of human rights violations during armed repression, violence and conflicts around the globe.

This resulted in a historic Arms Trade Treaty Conference which produced the current draft treaty text in July 2012.

Although a handful of countries held up the negotiations and the text’s adoption in July, governments supportive of the treaty are using the delay to hammer out technical issues, such as potential loopholes regarding defence cooperation agreements and the transit of international arms shipments.

“We know sceptics will keep trying to undermine the human rights rules in the final treaty, but Amnesty International and its partners will keep up the pressure to secure the strongest possible text that protects human rights,” said Wood.

Amongst officials at the UN today, hopes are high that a new Obama administration in the USA – by far the world’s largest arms producer and exporter – will support a reasonably strong treaty next March.

But the USA has previously tried to weaken the human rights rules and the scope of the treaty – by excluding ammunition, and by only favouring watered-down rules on key issues covered in the text.

Final conference on the ATT

The UN’s Final Conference on the ATT will be held in New York from 18-28 March 2013.

If the March Conference fails to finally adopt the treaty text, it will almost certainly be tabled by a large majority for adoption by a vote in the UN General Assembly. After being adopted, the ATT is expected to come into force after being ratified by 65 states.

“This treaty won’t be a panacea – unscrupulous governments will try to bend and ignore the new rules, but global civil society and governments supporting the rule of law and human rights will hold them to account and keep working to improve the treaty rules on critical issues, such as sea and air drones and laser weapons,” said Wood.

“The Treaty should not be a frozen tablet. When it enters into force, a robust Arms Trade Treaty could be the starting shot for a new global process that can be further strengthened to really protect people on the ground.”

#Abraham Lincoln- on Felons Right to vote


By Oct. 25, 2012
Image: The statue of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial

DAVE ETHERIDGE-BARNES / GETTY IMAGESThe statue of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial

Last month at New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, I had the opportunity to see Abraham Lincoln’s draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, written in his remarkably elegant, almost feminine handwriting. I was surprised by my reaction. I felt a warm flush of gratitude, and even found myself murmuring “Thank you.” The freedom of four million people is no small thing.

(MORECover Story: Lincoln to the Rescue by David von Drehle)

Lincoln not only advocated black freedom, but in the last speech of his life, he voiced support for giving the vote to some freed black men as well as about 200,000 black Civil War veterans, a decision that literally cost him his life. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was in the audience that night and upon hearing Lincoln’s views, turned to his companion and said “that means ni**er citizenship. Now by God, I’ll put him through.” Two days later, Booth murdered the President.

Knowing that, I began to wonder what Lincoln would make of controversial laws denying far too many blacks the right to vote today. As legal scholar Michelle Alexander has pointed out in her book, The New Jim Crow, more black people are either in prison or jail, or on probation, or parole than were enslaved when the Civil War began. What that means is that in 2004, almost 280,000 black women were denied the vote, even if they had already served theirtime. And if the research that we have from 2010 holds true for today, at least 1.4 million black men will be denied their right to vote on this upcoming election day. Nationwide, almost eight percent of all African Americans—and 13 percent of all black men—will not be able to cast a vote next month. These laws hit blacks disproportionately hard. Although 3.9 million whites also lost the right to vote due to these laws, that figure represents roughly 2 percent of their total population. Overall, these numbers are so troubling that in 2008, a United Nations Committee studies the issue and urged the United States to reform these laws.

(MORETouré: Put To Death for Being Black? New Hope Against Judicial System Bias)

These so called “felony disenfranchisement” policies were first enacted in Southern states beginning in 1870 when the 15th amendment giving black men the right to vote was ratified. The policies were designed to keep blacks from going to the polls, and they continue to do so today. The laws prohibit voting in both state and federal elections and, as was true in the 19th century, are enacted on a state-by-state basis. As a recent report from the Sentencing Project shows, while 9 states impose a lifetime voting ban on convicted felons, in 32 states felons can vote after completing parole and three states have no prohibition and even allow prisoners to vote. A majority of those denied access to voting are in the South: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia and in some of these states, felony convictions have led to staggeringly high percentages of blacks losing their right to vote. For example, this year in Virginia such laws will deny 20 percent of the overall black population the right to vote, and in Florida the number is an even higher 23 percent.

(MOREViewpoint: Will Blacks Vote For Obama Because He’s Black?)

Unlike giving black men the vote in Lincoln’s time, public opinion today largely favors restoring voting rights to felons after they have served their time. In one of the few polls on the issue, University of Minnesota Professor Christopher Uggen conducted a telephone survey involving a random sample of 1000 people. Sixty percent thought voting rights should be restored as soon as an individual left prison and 68% thought we should wait until they had completed parole. But only 31% believed that current prisoners should be allowed to vote, which may be in part because it could be quite easy for prison officials to coerce the votes of those still behind bars.

For those who have completed their sentence however, research shows that when voting rights are restored, they have a much lower chance of becoming repeat offenders, and are more productively integrated back into their communities.

In Lincoln’s day, John Wilkes Booth was far from alone in his views about black people and voting. Following Lincoln’s death, black enfranchisement continued to be hotly and even violently contested throughout the south for the next 100 years, up to and even after the passage of the voting rights act in 1965. But considering that today enfranchisement for former felons enjoys widespread public support, we need only turn that support into political will and then action. We know what Lincoln would do. The question is, are we willing to follow his example?

 @nrookie

Rooks is an associate professor at Cornell University. The views expressed are solely her own.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/25/what-would-lincoln-think-about-laws-denying-felons-the-right-to-vote/#ixzz2ANpVH7AP

 

Thane tribal girl’s film wins award in New York #goodnews


PTI | ,Aug 13,2012

Thane, Aug 13 (PTI) A documentary film made by fifteen year-old Jayshree Janu Kharpade, a tribal girl from Wada taluka of Thane district, has won an award in the Asian American Film Festival held in New York recently. Jayashree, who studies in Eklavya Parivartan Vidyalaya here, made the 27-minute-long documentary– ‘Fire in our Hearts’ on the lives of the children in the brick kiln owners. In 2003, when she was eight, Jayshree had to quit school.

fire in our hearts unitions nations film

After her mother’s death, she had to tend to her three younger brothers while her father worked at a brick kiln. In the film, which won the ‘One to Watch’ award at the festival, Jayshree documented her family and village as well as the tenacious efforts of the tribal union for the equal rights to education. “It shows that if tribal girls are given an opportunity, they can excel. However, the sorry state is that they have been ignored by the society and it is high time we bring them into the main stream,” Vivek Pandit, chief of the Shramajivi Sanghatana said.

It was the story of the girl’s struggle that made documentary filmmaker Joyce Chopra of New York-based NGO, By Kids, approach Jayshree. A two-member team flew down from New York in February this year and stayed for a month in the boarding school to teach Jayshree to handle the camera. After a week of lessons on how to handle the camera, the girl marched to her village in Wada to document the story of her life.

The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) is produced by Asian CineVision (ACV), a nonprofit media arts organization devoted to the development, promotion and preservation of Asian and Asian American film and video. PTI CORR

Leaked Document Shows NYPD Infiltrated, Spied On Leftist Groups


 By Kristen Gwynne | Sourced from AlterNet

The Associated Press has obtained another document detailing the New York Police Department‘s (NYPD) spying, this time on liberal political groups. Documents and interviews obtained by the AP show that undercover NYPD officers attended meetings run by liberal organizations, and kept intelligence files on activists planning demonstrations across the country.

The AP reports that the NYPD’s infiltration tactics are nothing new:

  The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York’s 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.

Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department’s intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.

In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People’s Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists — Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies — were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.

“One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of theInternational Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City,” officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer. “Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference.Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine.”

The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, might indicate support for violent militias — an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.

  The AP noted that police often monitored protests to plan for the possibility of violence or riots, adding that:

By contrast, at the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests and in related protests in other cities, officials at the U.S. Homeland Security Department repeatedly urged authorities not to produce intelligence reports based simply on protest activities.

“Occupy Wall Street-type protesters mostly are engaged in constitutionally protected activity,” department officials wrote in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the website Gawker. “We maintain our longstanding position that DHS should not report on activities when the basis for reporting is political speech.”

  But Occupy Wall Street organizers say the NYPD is following them, and infiltrating, them as well. The New York Times recently reported that some occupiers believe they are being spied on by NYPD officers, and that the NYPD’s surveillance is OWS-related.

The surveillance, also documented in Muslim neighborhoods, is being carried by what the AP categorizes as an un-checked, secret unit:

  The Intelligence Division, a squad that operates with nearly no outside oversight and is so secretive that police said even its organizational chart is too sensitive to publish. The division has been the subject of a series of Associated Press articles that illustrated how the NYPD monitored Muslim neighborhoods, catalogued people who prayed at mosques and eavesdropped on sermons.

Read full document here