#RIP- 11 dead in Pakistan women university bomb blast


AP
Quetta, June 15, 2013
A Pakistani police chief says a bomb planted on a bus for a women’s university has killed 11 female students on Saturday, in Quetta city of southwest Pakistan. Mir Zubair Mahmood says the Saturday blast in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, set their bus on fire. Another 19

were injured, he added.

 

According to latest PTI reports another bomb blast hit a Quetta hospital where these students injured in the bus attack were being treated.

Earlier that day in a different town in the same province, militants destroyed a historic house associated with the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, shooting dead a guard.

The province is home to Islamic militant movements as well as an ethnic nationalist insurgency.

 

U.S Supreme Court Says Human Gene Cannot Be Patented in Myriad Case #Goodnews


Mixed Ruling on BRCA1 Mutation Linked to Breast Cancer

‘My DNA’: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

‘My DNA’: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

courtesy of lisa schlager
‘My DNA: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

By Reuters

Published June 13, 2013.

In a first of its kind ruling on human genes, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday decided that synthetically produced genetic material can be patented but naturally occurring DNA extracted from the human body cannot.

The nine justices handed a partial victory to Salt Lake City, Utah-based biotechnology company Myriad Genetics Inc , which holds the patents in question. But the rights group that challenged the patents also found reason to be pleased.

The biotechnology industry had warned that an expansive ruling against Myriad could threaten billions of dollars of investment.

The contentious, uniquely 21st century question before the court was whether any human genes can ever be patented – meaning the holders have exclusive rights to their intellectual property for a defined period.

The court, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that a synthetically produced genetic material made by scientists, known as cDNA, can be patented but that genes extracted from the human body, known as isolated DNA, do not merit the same legal protections.

The compromise outcome, which was urged by the Obama administration, will have less impact on Myriad. The Myriad patents in dispute will all expire by 2015.

Myriad’s shares jumped 10 percent to $37.47 after the ruling was issued.

The ruling means some of Myriad’s patents involving cDNA will likely survive, but the parties disagreed on that point.

The case arose when a group of medical researchers, associations and patients – represented by the American Civil Liberties Union – filed suit in 2009, saying human genes, including synthetically produced material, should not be patented.

They challenged seven patents owned by or licensed to Myriad on two genes – called BRCA1 and BRCA2 – linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A federal judge said the patents were invalid. An appeals court overruled that decision, and the case landed at the Supreme Court.

“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on at least 4,000 human genes to companies, universities and others that have discovered and decoded them. Patents now cover some 40 percent of the human genome, according to one study.

ANGELINA JOLIE MASTECTOMY

The question was whether the genes Myriad patented concerned its successful isolation of the two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Mutations detected in the genes can help determine heightened risk of breast cancer. Myriad’s work in the area, including a screening test, gained worldwide attention this year when actress Angelina Jolie announced she had a double mastectomy after undergoing a test and finding she had a risk of developing breast cancer.

In the court’s opinion, Thomas wrote that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was wrong to find that isolated human DNA and cDNA were both patent eligible.

Under the federal Patent Act, an inventor can obtain a patent on various new processes and products but “laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas” are not patentable.

Thomas wrote that cDNA “does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring isolated DNA segments.”

In examining the differences between the two, Thomas concluded that cDNA is not naturally occurring. A laboratory technician, he wrote, “unquestionably creates something new when cDNA is made.”

Thomas noted so-called method patents, which concern technical procedures for carrying out a certain process, are not affected by the ruling.

The decision will stop the practice of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granting patents to companies that isolate DNA but will allow patents for firms that build DNA from its basic chemicals, said Ed Reines, of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

“The patent office was granting patents on isolated biological composition, such as DNA (for years). That will not be happening in the future,” Reines said.

“Given recent Supreme Court skepticism in the patent area, it is not surprising,” he added. “There shouldn’t be much in this decision that surprises industry or the financial markets.”

 

#India -No jeans, mobile phones for Brahmin girls: BJP MP #Vaw #moralpolicing #WTFnews


We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,’ BJP MP Raghunanandan Sharma tells Rediff.com‘s A Ganesh Nadar.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Raghunandan Sharma has come up with the following suggestions to check crimes against women: Girls should not be allowed to use mobile phones before marriage and women should not wear jeans.

Sharma — a member of the Rajya Sabha and vice-president of the BJP’s Madhya PradeshImages ] unit -expressed his views at a meeting of Brahmins in Ratlam district on Sunday.

The BJP MP termed mobile phone usage by students, particularly young girls, as a big menace and the genesis of other evils.

Sharma lambasted girls wearing jeans, saying it was the attire of American cowboys and in no way gelled with Indian culture.

Sharma, who was born a year before Independence, told Rediff.com on Tuesday, “I don’t know what the problem with you journalists is. I was at my samaj meeting. It was a meeting of my society of Brahmins.”

“I am a representative of the Brahmins and I am their leader. I was trying to suggest ways to improve my society. The advice was only for Brahmins, not for the country.”

“I was speaking not as a MP or a BJP leader, I was speaking as a Brahmin to other Brahmins. I have my ideas of improving my society, what is your problem?”

“We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,” Sharma added.

“I have every right to tell my society of Brahmins how to dress, not to use mobile phones and whatever I think is good for my society.”

“Nowhere did I suggest that I am trying to change the country, change my party’s views or change my state’s views. This was advice only for my people and meant only for them

 

#India – Assam tops 2012 list of custodial deaths in India #Prisonerights


, TNN | Jun 15, 2013,

Assam tops 2012 list of custodial deaths in India

Surprisingly, the NCRB did not record a single case of police custodial death in Assam in 2011.
GUWAHATI: In a major embarrassment for the state, the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) figures for last year have listed Assamas having the highest numbers of police custodial deaths. “Last year, 11 persons who were in police remand died in lock-ups in Assam. Though autopsy, case registration and magisterial enquiries were conducted in all the cases, no policemen were chargesheeted or convicted in these cases in 2012,” said the NCRB report.Andhra Pradesh came second in the category with five such cases, followed by Maharashtra with four deaths, as recorded by the national agency. A total of 38 such deaths were recorded in the country last year.

Surprisingly, the NCRB did not record a single case of police custodial death in Assam in 2011. Andhra Pradesh was in first position in 2011 with 11 cases and Madhya Pradesh second. Maharastra stood in the third in 2011 as well.

Assam Police, who are embarrassed and under fire because of the report, have demanded a rechecking of the figure published in the NCRB report. “We are concerned, but we first need to go through the details of every case thoroughly,” said Assam Police chief J N Choudhury.

Concerned about the matter, former police chief Hare Krishna Deka said that Assam Police should take the matter seriously and act promptly. “There should be a thorough study of the cases by the CID, which should prepare a detailed report citing reasons behind the incidents and measures to prevent it. Besides, the top brass of the state police should also make surprise visits to police stations to check any wrong action by police officers on lock-up inmates,” Deka said.

The former DGP added, “Moreover, we need to find out whether or not the magisterial inquiries were completed. These probes and their follow-up actions should be very prompt.”

Earlier this month, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) ordered a magisterial enquiry into the custodial death of one Palash Baruah at Jorhat Medical College Hospital while he was in judicial custody. Palash was lodged in the Jorhat District Jail.

As per an Asian Centre for Human Rights report, ‘Torture in India 2011’, stated that a total of 14,231 persons, or an average of more than four persons per day, died in police and judicial custody in India between 2001 and 2010
.

 

Delhi High Court- Having sex with woman on false promise of marriage is #Rape #Vaw


PTI : New Delhi, Sun Jun 09 2013,
High courtHaving sex with woman on false promise of marriage is rape: High Court. (Reuters)
Having sexual relations with a woman on false promise of marriage amounts to rape, the Delhi High court has said.”Having sexual relations with a woman against her will or without her consent also amounts to rape under the IPC. If the consent was obtained on a false assurance or promise of marriage, the consent cannot be considered to be full and free and it would be a case of rape,” Justice R V Easwar said.The court made the observation while rejecting anticipatory bail plea of Abhishek Jain in a case lodged by his wife alleging that he had sex with her prior to their

marriage on the promise that he would marry her.

In her complaint, the woman also said that he married her only after she lodged the case with police against him.

“It would prima facie appear that the marriage was gone through only to persuade the complainant to withdraw her complaint of February 25, 2013.

“Immediately after the marriage, the applicant started physically abusing the complainant, apparently, in the hope that she would leave him, but when she filed a complaint, the accused was forced to apply for bail,” the court said.

The woman had filed a complaint in February, 2013 with the Rani Bagh Police Station alleging that on several occasions before the marriage, the applicant (Jain) had raped her after falsely promising to marry her.

However, on March 4, 2013, the applicant and the complainant got married at the Arya Samaj Vivah Mandir, Ghaziabad and the marriage registration was done by the

Registrar, Hindu Marriages, Ghaziabad, the complaint said.

Referring to the contents of the FIR lodged by the woman against her husband, the court said, “The FIR narrates the physical abuse which the complainant had suffered at the hands of the applicant after the marriage…The FIR further narrates that the accused even used to tell the complainant that ‘he had married me (her) only to make me withdraw the complaint.’

“Several instances are narrated in the FIR about threats and physical abuse suffered by the complainant not only from the applicant but also by his family members who had conspired together to cheat her and get her married to him only to make her withdraw the complaint of rape against him.”

 

Salwa Judum rape accused acquitted as victims turn hostile #Vaw


RAIPUR, June 15, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi

Six tribal girls filed rape charges against nine SPOs and three Salwa Judum leaders in 2009

Six of the fifteen men — including former Special Police Officers Kicche Nanda and Kawasi Mangalram — accused of raping six tribal women during the controversial Salwa Judum campaign in south Chhattisgarh have been acquitted by a sessions court in Dantewada after the women turned hostile and refused to recognise their alleged rapists.

As the Dantewada Judge, A.K. Beck, recorded, the complainants, all women from Samsetti, told the court that they “…do not know the accused Kicche Nanda or Kawasi Mangalram. The witness clearly stated that no incident (of rape) took place with them. They have not filed any complaints in the police station” or “in the court of Konta.”

In June 2009, exactly four years ago, six girls from Samsetti and other villages had filed rape charges against nine special police officers and 3 Salwa Judum leaders. The SP Dantewada refused to register a case; in an affidavit to the Supreme Court later, the Chhattisgarh government would say this was because the police had enquired with the accused, Salwa Judum leaders Boddu Raja, Soyam Mooka, and Dinesh, who denied any such charges. Since the word of the accused was what counted with the police, the girls were forced to file their complaints directly with the trial court.

Untraceable

On December 10, 2009, the trial court issued arrest warrants in all the cases, but noted that according to the police, the accused were all untraceable. For example, “In this case, accused Kartam Surya, Kovasi Mangal Ram, Kichche Nanda are absconding. There is no chance of finding them in near future. So, accused Kartam Surya, Kovasi Mangal Ram, Kichche Nanda are declared absconding. There is a permanent arrest warrant committal against them by the court.’

However, Judum leaders Soyam Mooka, Kartam Surya and the others who were allegedly “absconding” continued to be active as SPOs and members of the district force. Kartam Surya was later also accused of being involved in the burning of Tadmetla, Morpalli and Timapuram in 2011, on which the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to investigate.

The police refusal to arrest the Samsetti rape accused was repeatedly brought up before the Supreme Court, and on 25th April 2011, Harish Salve appearing for Chhattisgarh promised to have this looked into. No action was taken.

Kartam Surya, who was killed by the Maoists in February 2012, was given a guard of honour by the police.

This correspondent was in court when Era (name changed), the primary witness, retracted her statement. The adivasi woman, who could not speak or understand Hindi, was clearly confused and perhaps scared as the accused were sitting outside the court room.

One of the women who brought the allegations against the SPOs, Mira (name changed) said that she is “sick of outsiders.” “You do not come when we are in trouble, go away now,” she told this correspondent a few days after retracting the charges in the court. She even denied her existence. “I am not Mira,” she said.

With the men acquitted, the complainants and the accused will now return to the same villages or panchayats where they will live with each other as neighbours. The women of Samsetti, on their way to the market, will meet the men, who “did not rape” them. May be the men will get transferred after a point but the women will still have to meet one of the accused – Kartam Surya, the most feared policeman of Sukma.

Mr. Surya was killed last year but his statue adorns the village market in Sukma. A hundred kilometres north, in Dantewada, a court reader still shouts,‘Kartam Surya hazir ho?’ (Kartam Surya, present yourself), before every Samsetti hearing. In the judgment, however, he is described as “absconding”. The call for Kartam Surya will be heard for a few more months till the case concludes, a court clerk said, as he handed over the order sheets.

 

Babu Bokhariya, minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet, convicted for illegal mining


Edited by Shamik Ghosh | Updated: June 15, 2013 , NDTV

 Babu Bokhariya, minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet, convicted for illegal mining
AhmedabadBabu Bokhariya, a senior minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet in Gujarat, has been convicted for illegal mining. He has been taken into custody.

Mr Bokhariya, who is Gujarat’s water resource minister, along with three others, has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment by a sessions court.

The three others convicted in the case are former MP Bharat Odedara, Bhima Dula and Laxman Dula. They all were accused of illegal mining of limestone from the land where Saurashtra Chemicals Limited holds mining rights.

America’s private prison system is a national disgrace


Jill Filipovic

An ACLU lawsuit against a prison in Mississippi is the latest to detail flagrant abuses at a private correctional facility

Jill Filipovic

Thursday 13 June 2013

guardian.co.uk

The privatization of traditional government functions – and big government payments to private contractors – isn’t limited to international intelligence operations like the National Security Agency. It’s happening with little oversight in dozens of areas once the province of government, from schools to airports to the military. The shifting of government responsibilities to private actors isn’t without consequence, as privatization often comes with a lack of oversight and a series of abuses. One particularly stunning example is the American prison system, the realities of which should be a national disgrace.

Some of those realities are highlighted in a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). EMCF houses severely mentally ill prisoners, with the supposed intent of providing both incarceration and treatment. Instead, the ACLU contends, the facility, which is operated by private contractors, is rife with horrific abuses. As the ACLU states, it is

“an extremely dangerous facility operating in a perpetual state of crisis, where prisoners live in barbaric and horrific conditions and their basic human rights are violated daily.”

The complaint lists a litany of such horrors, but here are a few highlights: rampant rapes. Placing prisoners in solitary confinement for weeks, months or even years at a time, where the only way to get a guard’s attention in an emergency is to set a fire. Rat infestations so bad that vermin crawl over prisoners; sometimes, the rats are captured, put on leashes and sold as pets to the most severely mentally ill inmates. Many suicide attempts, some successful. The untreated mentally ill throw feces, scream, start fires, electrocute themselves and self-mutilate. Denying or delaying treatment for infections and even cancer. Stabbings, beatings and other acts of violence. Juveniles being housed with adults, including one 16-year-old who was sexually assaulted by his adult cell mate. Malnourishment and chronic hunger. Officers who deal with prisoners by using physical violence.

One prisoner allegedly attempted to hang himself. He was cut down by guards, given oxygen and put on supervision, but wasn’t taken to an emergency room, let alone given psychiatric care during the suicide watch. Without seeing a psychiatrist, his medication dosage was increased.

A severely ill 16-year-old with “a long history of being physically and sexually abused in addition to suffering from a traumatic brain injury, limited intellectual functioning, self-harm, and psychosis” was moved to EMCF from a juvenile detention center. His cell allegedly had a broken lock, and so other prisoners were able to enter. Five or six of them beat him. He was moved to a solitary confinement unit and, when he voiced his suicidal ideations and asked to see a psychiatrist, was deemed “manipulating to be moved”.

Another told prison mental health staff that he was depressed and thinking about about suicide. The treatment plan from the prison psychologist was reportedly three words: “encourage behavioral compliance”. After being asked to provide a urine specimen, which he could not give because of a health condition, the ACLU reports:

Mr. Roe began banging on his door, smeared blood on the cell door window, threatened to commit suicide, and tied a rope around his neck. Officers sprayed excessive amounts of Mace in his cell. According to witnesses, officers waited approximately 20 minutes before pulling Mr. Roe out of his cell. By that time, he was non-responsive and cyanotic. He was taken, his hands and feet bound by zip-ties, to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

For several days after Mr. Roe’s death, medical staff continued to ‘document’ in the daily segregation log that Mr. Roe appeared to be ‘in good health and mood.'”

These kinds of abuses are not relegated to a single prison, but they also aren’t inherent in any detention system. In the United States, though, they’re business as usual. Our prison system is increasingly built and run by for-profit corporations, who have a financial interest in increasing the number of people in prison while decreasing the amount of money it costs to house them.

Since 1980, the US prison population has grown by 790%. We have the largest prison population of any nation in the history of the world. One in three African-American men will go to jail at some point in his life. Imprisoning that many people, most of them for non-violent offenses, doesn’t come cheap, especially when you’re paying private contractors. The United States now spends $50bn on our corrections system every year.

Much of that money goes to private contractors, who are doing quite well living off of American corporate welfare – at the expense of the American taxpayer, whose dollars are funding this mass incarceration project. Large-scale imprisonment isn’t making us any safer, either. But it is putting small-time non-violent individuals – drug users and dealers – in close contact with more hardened criminals and making it significantly more difficult for them to find decent work after their release. That’s a perfect recipe for recidivism, not rehabilitation.

Prisons, as demonstrated by the ACLU case, have also become de facto mass institutions for the mentally ill, except without the oversight that pure psychiatric facilities face. With states tightening their budgets, mental health care is being cut even further. While the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crimes than victimizers, they are imprisoned at disproportionate rates, and often lack meaningful mental healthcare in prison and even face conditions that exacerbate their diseases, like solitary confinement and total squalor. We’re effectively taking some of the most vulnerable members of society and subjecting them to ongoing torture.

We have so demonized criminals in the United States that there’s widespread acceptance of the fact that jail in modern day America means rapes, beatings, vermin, filth and abuse. But to what end? “Criminals” are punished, yes – brutally, and in ways that should repel and shame us. But rehabilitation isn’t happening in these facilities. Crime isn’t being deterred; if anything, it’s being fostered.

The American public is losing out. The only winners are the private companies who are still awarded contracts to build and maintain more prisons, and who throw their weight behind politicians who promote the supposedly “tough on crime” measures that ensure those prisons are full.

There are many ways to punish crime and protect the public. Ceding our humanity doesn’t have to be one of them.

 

Texas Students Thrown in Jail for Days- Punishment for Missing School #WTFnews


Texas‘s solution to truancy appears to be making kids miss even more school as they sit in jail. Alternet
June 13, 2013  |

School tardiness and absences come at a high cost in Dallas, Texas. Gone are the days of detention and writing lines on the chalkboard; now students are fined, even jailed.

The enforcement of the state’s truancy laws, which were strengthened substantially in 2003, have led to a range of abuses, according to a complaint filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • Students have been taken out of school in handcuffs, held in jail for days at a time, and fines have totaled more than $1,000 for students who miss more than 10 days of school.
  • The students who are hauled into court to face truancy or lateness charges are not provided with legal counsel. The only lawyers in the courtroom are the judge and a member of the district attorney’s office, unless the student’s family can afford their own representation.
  • Defendants are charged court fees even if they prevail in fighting the accusations, discouraging people from exercising their right to a full hearing.

The complaint, filed by a coalition of advocacy groups for young people and the disabled, targets the Dallas, Garland, Mesquite, and Richardson school districts in Texas and urges the Justice Department to force reforms and “declare the practice of criminally prosecuting children as adults for truancy” a violation of their constitutional rights.

For their part, some school officials, lawmakers, and judges say that the rigid enforcement system has led to improved attendance.

In a statement, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins defended the program.

“The Dallas County system offers the best chance for truant students to get back in class and graduate,” said Jenkins, adding that the courts are staffed by attorneys who specialize in juvenile justice issues, and make use of agencies who work to solve the underlying issues behind the truancy of students.

Certainly, the volume of cases has been striking. Texas adult courts in one recent year handled 113,000 truancy cases. Dallas County truancy court alone collected nearly $3 million in fines. It sent 67 students age 17 and older to jail because of truancy violations, and 53 students younger than 17 to juvenile detention centers. (Statewide records were not available.)

The complaint asserts that the program unfairly targets minorities and underprivileged students, and routinely puts youngsters in jail rather than keeping them in school.

Texas, like many other states, has been struggling with truancy issues for years. To combat the problem, the state legislature has passed a series of laws to stiffen penalties for absent and tardy students. In the 1990s, the legislature designated “failure to attend school” as a Class C misdemeanor, which meant that children could be tried as adults for missing school.

Texas state law now requires schools to report students to truancy court when a student has 10 or more unexcused absences within a six-month period. The complaint says that when students appear in court, they are often pressured to plead guilty and accept fines of anywhere from $80 to $500 rather than go to trial, pay additional court fees, and risk jail time. If students fail to appear in court or pay their fines on time, they can be arrested and jailed. Wyoming is the only other state in the country with a similar law, the complaint says.

In 2003, Dallas County got even more aggressive. According to the complaint, county officials lobbied the legislature to allow it to create its own specialized court system that would handle only truancy cases. The request was granted and since then four public school districts in the county have agreed to send their truant cases to the specialized courts.

Michael Harris, a senior attorney with the California-based National Center for Youth Law, said each of those school districts are predominantly African American and Latino, but are overseen primarily by white superintendents, and that the specialized court system is overseen by a white judge.

Chris Moore, a spokesman for the Garland school district, said the district has taken several steps to ensure parents are informed of their children’s unexcused absences well in advance of any complaint to the truancy court system. Tim Clark, director of communications for the Richardson school district, said the district always acts within the law in its handling of truants, and said that district officials would cooperate with any federal inquiry. In a statement on its website, the Mesquite school district said it informs students and parents about state truancy laws in the beginning of each school year.

A call to the Dallas district superintendent was not immediately returned. (If the district responds, we will update this article.)

“It’s pretty obvious that this program is set in school districts that do not have a large percentage of middle class white students. For example, the Dallas independent school district has less than 10 percent white students,” said  Harris. “These students are thought of in a different way by key decision-makers in the county than white students.”

A handful of parents and students interviewed by ProPublica say that the enforcement of the program has turned school grounds into something like a police state, with guards rounding up students during “tardy sweeps,” suspending them, then marking their absences as unexcused and reporting them to truancy court. According to the complaint, charges have been levied even when students have legitimate reasons for an absence, such as a family emergency or illness.

Ashley Brown, a 16-year-old high school sophomore and honors student at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, said she missed four straight days of school in December 2012. Her grandmother, who she cared for personally, died of cancer, and she stayed home to mourn her death. She was also suspended twice for three days, once because she got in a fight, and another time because she was late to class.

Brown was eventually charged with 10 unexcused absences, even though Brown’s mother sent the school the grandmother’s obituary, and suspensions are supposed to be counted as excused absences under state law.

When Brown received a letter ordering her to appear in court, her mother panicked and called the school to correct her daughter’s attendance record. Afterward she missed a day of work and pulled her daughter from school to appear in court and explain the confusion. Eventually she persuaded the judge to dismiss the charges.

Andrew Collins, the assistant principal at South Oak Cliff High School, told ProPublica that he believes in the tough truancy program.

“To an extent, I do believe if a student is continuously truant, sometimes fines help solve a lot of that,” Collins said.

Others haven’t been as successful as Brown in disputing their truancy charges.

Roddi Ann Schoneberg, a 40-year-old former pre-school teacher and mother of three, said she struggled mightily to get her children to school on time after her mother suffered a stroke late in the summer of 2011.

Her children, two of whom she says are autistic, were traumatized by the experience and often went into tantrums when they were supposed to get ready for school in the morning. Overwhelmed by her children’s behavioral problems and her responsibilities toward her ailing mother, Schoneberg said she brought her elementary-school-aged children to school five to 10 minutes late roughly 20 times in the first half of the 2011 school year.

She said her children’s elementary school in the Richardson school district reported each late arrival as unexcused, and in December 2011 she received a notice to appear in court. School administrators refused to help her, she said.

Schoneberg said she intended to contest the charges, but ultimately succumbed to pressure from court officers and a county prosecutor and pleaded guilty. She was told that if she wanted to contest the charges at trial, she’d be liable for court costs no matter the outcome. The complaint alleges that Schoneberg’s experience is not unique; it says the truancy court doesn’t provide legal counsel and frequently threatens children and their families with jail time in open court, thus encouraging people to plead guilty rather than go to trial.

The county prosecutor initially tried to fine her $2,600, but Schoneberg said the judge decided to reduce it to $609. She had to return to court on five separate occasions to make payments.

“It totally enveloped my life,” Schoneberg said.

The policy, according to the complaint, can be especially hard on special education students and the disabled, who often miss school because of their physical or psychological issues.

The complaint also describes the plight of a high school student who has asthma and chronic respiratory problems. It says the student sometimes needs to be out of school for days at a time to be closer to her medical equipment at home.

Over the course of the 2011 school year she had several multi-day absences caused by her health problems, and on two occasions she forgot to turn in a note from her mother explaining why she was away. She was ultimately convicted of failure to attend school and paid a $100 fine and $77 in court costs.

Her lawyer, Dustin Rynders, supervising attorney for a disability rights group in Texas, said the child ultimately missed as much school for the court appearances as she did for her illness.

But the complaint suggests these steps aren’t working: By the time parents are able to reason with school administrators and get them to understand why their child was absent, it’s too late— the absences have already been reported to the truancy courts through an automated electronic filing system.

“This is an actual school to prison pipeline in terms of how they send kids to adult criminal court for what’s really minor misbehavior,” said Michael Harris, an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, who said he spent hours watching students get processed by the courts. “Research shows that once they go to criminal court the likelihood that they’ll be swept up in the justice system again increases greatly.”

Harris and his fellow attorneys hope that the Justice Department will use the complaint as a roadmap to investigate the truancy court system in Dallas and eventually force changes to it.

They make several recommendations, like giving children proper legal counsel and refraining from taking them out of class in handcuffs.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately return calls for comment.

 

The Women of Turkey Won’t Give Up Without A Fight #Vaw


June 11, 2013 by  

When tens of thousands in Turkey took to protesting the government, beginning at the end of May, the demographics were astonishing to many global observers: At least half of the protesters are women. What is it about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government that has so many women fighting back? Sevi, a woman protestor who’s camping out in Gezi Park, told TIME,

The reason there are so many women out here is that this government is antiwomen. … They don’t want to see women in public spaces. They want to see them in the home. And women have had enough.

Turkish women have every right to be angry with their government. Erdoğan has voiced his opinion many times that abortions in the country should be banned and that women should have three children each. Last year Erdoğan said, “There is no difference between killing a baby in its mother’s stomach and killing a baby after birth.”

Erdoğan is also getting criticism for not doing enough to stop violence against women. About 39 percent of women in Turkey have been physically abused, according to a recent U.N. report. Turkish protesters have said their prime minister is attempting to bring conservative Islamic values to their secular state.

A Turkish protester shows off her tattoo that reads “K. Atatürk,” the signature of Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The tattoo has become a popular symbol for those who want to preserve a secular state in the country.

The protests began on May 28 in Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul as a relatively small campaign of 100 people to stop the park’s 600 trees from being cut down to make way for a shopping mall. When police used tear gas and water cannons against these peaceful protesters and burned their tents down, the protests gained traction and soon transformed into what was clearly an anti-government movement.

Despite the Turkish deputy prime minister apologizing for the excessive police force, thousands of Turkish people are still protesting in the streets, chanting sayings such as “Dictator resign!” One of these protesters, Ozge Cesur, told The New York Times that she and her friends aren’t satisfied with the apology:

The apology that we have been waiting for a long time [for] came far too late. … We will stay here until Erdogan himself comes up and takes us seriously in making decisions.

After 11 days of protests, with more than 5,000 people injured and three dead, Erdoğan did finallyagree on Monday to meet with protesters. But his announcement sounded more like a threat than a promise to negotiate. Erdoğan has warned that his patience “has a limit” and that:

Those who attempt to sink the bourse [the stock market], you will collapse. [Some have accused the protesters of causing the recent downturn in Turkey’s economy.] …. If we catch your speculation, we will choke you. No matter who you are, we will choke you.

But while Erdoğan doesn’t seem to be willing to back down, neither do those demonstrating.

Protester Ozlem Altiok, chatting with friends in Gezi Park about Erdoğan’s policies (including his call for women to each have three children), said, “Would he like more children like us?”

Photos of Turkish protesters by Flickr user Burak Su, under Creative Commons 2.0

 

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