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Monday, August 12, 2013

NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to a major pillar of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s crime policy. The judge, Shira Scheindlin, claimed that the policy was a form of indirect racial profiling. In the 195-page decision, Scheindlin claimed that the searches violated citizens’ fourth-amendment rights against unauthorized searches and seizures. “Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” Scheindlin said.

In response to the ruling, Bloomberg said, “This is a very dangerous decision made by a judge who I don’t think understands how policing works. Nowhere in her 195-page decision does Scheindlin mention the historic cuts in crime or the hundreds of lives that have been saved.” Although crime New York crime has dropped, Bloomberg warned, “Crime can come back any time. The criminals think they’re going to get away with things. We just cannot let that happen.”

In addition to striking down the policy, Scheindlin ordered that police in five precincts must wear cameras to deter unjust stop-and-frisks, as well as community meetings to ensure that citizens are being treated fairly.

Israeli Government Identifies Palestinian Prisoners for Release

As one of the conditions for peace talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Israeli government has published a list of Palestinian prisoners to be freed. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon made the decision to release the list on Sunday evening.

The families of the prisoners’ victimes will have 48 hours to appeal the decision, although an appeal is not likely to affect the decision to free the prisoners, given the political nature of the prisoners’ release. Already, some families are protesting the decision to release the prisoners. One family member said, “My brother’s blood is being sold for nothing, as a gesture. On a very personal level, there is pain.” The prisoners will be released in four groups over the next nine months as peace talks progress.

United States Justice Department Pushes to End Harsh Mandatory Drug Sentences

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced an end to harsh mandatory drug sentences. When announcing the decision, he said, We must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is, in too many ways, broken. And with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate — not merely to warehouse and to forget.”

Before Holder’s announcement, some first-time, non-violent drug offenders would be sentenced to years, or even decades, of prison under strict mandatory sentencing laws. While Holder cited the injustice of mandatory sentencing laws as a primary reason for his decision, he also focused part of his speech on the $80 billion spent on the prison system every year. Holder’s decision is counter to 1986′s Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which mandated a five-year sentence for five grams of crack cocaine (compared to an identical sentence for 500 grams of powdered cocaine).

Michael Mukasey, however, argued that “I generally agree with the goal of getting rid of mandatory minimums. But the way to do that is to pass a law.”

Elon Musk Reveals Details of Hyperloop System

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, announced a super-fast mass transit system called the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop would be a single, massive loop around the entire United States. The Hyperloop would travel at 800 miles per hour, enabling commuters to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just a half hour.

When explaining the market for Hyperloop, he explained, “It would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if it is actually better than flying or driving.” He estimated that the Hyperloop would save nearly 90% over the $70 billion investment proposed for a traditional high-speed rail plan over the next 16 years.

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