Nation & World News

Source: Probe Of Ferguson Police Uncovers Racist Comment About Obama

By Carrie Johnson on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 4, 2015 at 10:04 am

A federal civil rights investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., police force has concluded that the department violated the Constitution with discriminatory policing practices against African Americans, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the report.

The investigation, the source says, concluded that blacks were disproportionately targeted by the police and the justice system, which has led to a lack of trust in police and courts and to few partnerships for public safety.

The federal probe was launched last September, as the community was still reeling from the case of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. The case led to days of violent protests; eventually, a grand jury declined to charge Wilson with a crime.

The full report will be released on Wednesday, but the source described two emails included in the report that were exchanged between police and local court employees.

One says Obama will not be president for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another says a black woman in New Orleans was admitted to a hospital to end her pregnancy and then got a check two weeks later from “Crime Stoppers.”

As for data, the report found that blacks were disproportionately targeted by the police and the justice system.

Blacks make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson. But they make up 85 percent of people subject to vehicle stops and 93 percent of those arrested. Blacks are twice as likely to be searched as whites, but less likely to have drugs or weapons.

The report found that 88 percent of times in which Ferguson police used force it was against blacks and all 14 cases of police dog bites involved blacks.

The report uncovered similar statistics in the courts system.

Blacks were 68 percent less likely to have cases dismissed by Ferguson municipal judges and disproportionately likely to be subject to arrest warrants. From October 2012 to October 2014, 96 percent of people arrested in traffic stops solely for an outstanding warrant were black.

Blacks accounted for 95 percent of jaywalking charges, 94 percent of failure-to-comply charges and 92 percent of all disturbing-the-peace charges.

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Transcript :

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A Justice Department review has found that police and local courts in Ferguson, Mo., routinely violate the Constitution and federal laws. Federal civil rights investigators cite a pattern of racial bias. This is a preview of a complete report that will be out tomorrow. The investigation followed last summer’s shooting of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.

And NPR’s justice correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us now to talk about this report. Carrie, you have confirmed that Justice Department prosecutors did not find enough evidence to bring federal civil rights charges against Officer Wilson, but they did find evidence of other widespread wrongdoing in the Ferguson Police Department.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Melissa, law enforcement sources tell me not to expect any charges against Officer Darren Wilson, but federal civil rights investigators at the Justice Department conducted interviews with city officials, community members, reviewed police records, data on traffic stops and tickets. And that review, Melissa, has resulted in a conclusion that Ferguson Police Department and the municipal court engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination. The picture is not pretty. Some numbers here – blacks make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, but they’re 85 percent of the people who are stopped and 93 percent of those arrested in traffic stops.

And they also disproportionally face charges for jaywalking, disturbing the peace, failing to obey police – Melissa, same with use of force by police. Justice Department investigators finding all 14 episodes where police dogs bit people, African Americans were involved.

BLOCK: And the Justice Department, you mentioned, also has found fault with the Ferguson Municipal Court. What are the specific problems there?

JOHNSON: According to law enforcement sources, Justice found the court system also demonstrates a pattern or practice of discrimination. Blacks are 68 percent less likely to have their cases dismissed. And here’s some more data. From October 2012 to October 2014, 96 percent of people arrested in traffic stops solely for having outstanding court warrants were African American people.

BLOCK: Carrie, you’ve been reporting that some racist e-mails have surfaced in the course of this investigation between policy – police and court officials in Ferguson. What can you tell us about those?

JOHNSON: This is some new information. A law enforcement source described two e-mails to me that we don’t have the names of the senders or the recipients, Melissa. One e-mail says, President Obama will not remain in the White House for long because, quote, “what black man holds a steady job for four years?” Another e-mail, Melissa, supposed to be a joke, I guess, describes a black woman going into the hospital to end her pregnancy. A couple of weeks later she gets a check. She asks why – the punchline of the joke is, the money is from the crime stoppers program. In other words, evidence of a state of mind – a culture in Ferguson the Justice Department believes that justice is trying to change.

BLOCK: So if they’re going to do that – if they’re going to change that culture – that embedded culture in Ferguson, what can they do about that?

JOHNSON: The full report of their findings is likely to emerge tomorrow. Justice wants to restore trust in law enforcement, institute changes in hiring, training, requiring the police and the courts to keep more data. And this would happen, Melissa, either through a settlement or a lawsuit. But the ball is going to be in Ferguson’s court. It’s relatively rare for a city or state to fight DOJ in these cases. There have been about 20 of these investigations in the course of the Obama administration. But of course, policing is local, and the federal government can’t be everywhere. That’s why a culture shift is so important as the president called for yesterday when his policing task force issued their report.

BLOCK: OK, NPR’s justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: You’re welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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House Votes To Fund DHS Until Sept. 30 — Without Immigration Curbs

By Krishnadev Calamur on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted Tuesday to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the budget year — without any restrictions on immigration. The vote is a victory for President Obama as Republicans had wanted to strip funding for the president’s executive actions on immigration from the bill.

The measure, which passed 257-167, now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it.

Earlier Tuesday, in a closed-door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, reportedly said the House is making the right decision, but he remained critical of Obama’s action to temporarily block the deportation of millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

“I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner told his caucus, according to a source who was in the room.

He also alluded to the split with Republicans in the Senate, which voted last week to pass the measure, providing the agency with full funding through Sept. 30.

“As you’ve heard me say a number of times, the House has done its job by passing legislation to fund DHS and block the president’s executive actions on immigration,” he said, according to the source. “Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight.”

Tuesday’s House bill is in line with the Senate measure that passed last week.

In a dramatic vote late last week, the House voted to approve the department’s funding by one week. As Eyder and Bill reported:

“The passage capped a day of scrambling that saw a longer three-week stopgap shot down in the House, 203-224, NPR’s Juana Summers reports. More than 50 Republicans upset with the deletion of a provision stripping funds from President Obama’s immigration moves joined the chamber’s Democrats, who at that time were still pushing for full funding through Sept. 30.

“This battle has been brewing in Congress for months, since President Obama issued a series of executive actions giving legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.”

Tuesday’s House vote brought together mostly Democrats and some Republicans. NPR’s Ron Elving has written about the heightened partisanship in Congress. He says Democratic and GOP lawmakers “no longer worry about pleasing anyone other than primary voters. If the primary voter goes with the incumbent, the incumbent is almost certain to go back to Washington.”

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David Petraeus Enters Into Plea Deal With Justice Department

By Bill Chappell on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Former CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus, whose military career has been overshadowed by charges that he provided classified data to his mistress, has made a deal with the Justice Department in which he will plead guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

The deal will allow Petraeus, who rose to the rank of a four-star general before becoming director of the CIA, to avoid a trial and plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He’ll also avoid a prison sentence, if a federal court agrees with the plea deal’s terms.

The charge’s maximum possible punishments include a fine of $100,000 and a one-year prison sentence. Instead, prosecutors agreed that Petraeus should serve a two-year probation and pay a fine of $40,000.

The plea agreement is one of several legal documents filed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in North Carolina. News of the filings was passed to us by NPR’s Carrie Johnson.

“The criminal Information charges the defendant with one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1924,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in a statement. “The plea agreement and corresponding statement of facts, both signed by the defendant, indicate that he will plead guilty to the one-count criminal Information.”

As Carrie notes, “former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and former CIA Director John Deutsch pleaded guilty to similar offenses in the past.”

Petraeus resigned from the CIA in November 2012, citing an extramarital affair with a woman whom investigators suspected of receiving secret data.

Federal prosecutors recommended filing charges against Petraeus in January. The question then became whether Attorney General Eric Holder would pursue a criminal case against the decorated veteran.

As we summarized in January:

“The nature of Petraeus’ relationship with Army reservist Paula Broadwell emerged during an FBI investigation that was sparked by allegations from another woman, Jill Kelley, that she was receiving harassing emails. Those messages were reportedly traced to Broadwell.”

Update at 12:240 p.m. ET: ‘Black Books’ Given To Biographer

The papers filed today say that Petraeus held on to some classified and sensitive information that he shouldn’t have, in the form of “Black Book” notebooks — and that he later provided them to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair.

Court papers say that while Petraeus was the commander of the international force in Afghanistan, he collected “bound, 5-by-8-inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes.”

The notebooks had black covers on which Petraeus taped his business card.

The documents say:

“A total of eight such books (hereinafter the “Black Books”) encompassed the period of defendant David Howell Petraeus’s ISAF Command and collectively contained classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant David Howell Petraeus’s discussions with the President of the United States of America.

“The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret/SCI and code word information.”

Petraeus and Broadwell talked about the Black Books in August of 2011, court papers say, relating this exchange:

Biographer: “By the way, where are your black books? We never went through…
Petraeus: “They’re in a rucksack up there somewhere.”
Biographer: “Okay … You avoiding that? You gonna look through ‘em first?”
Petraeus: “Umm, well, they’re really – I mean they are highly classified, some of them. They don’t have it on it, but I mean there’s code word stuff in there.”

Later that month, Petraeus sent an email promising the black books to Broadwell; he then left them with her for several days. A little more than a year later, he resigned from his post leading the CIA.

The documents say that Petraeus gave false statements to FBI agents about providing the black books to Broadwell and that he also falsely swore when he left the CIA in 2012 that he did not possess or control any classified material.

In April of 2013, the papers say, the FBI executed a search warrant at Petraeus’ house and found the black books in an unlocked desk drawer on the first floor of his home in Arlington, Va.

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LOOK: Pictures Of The Villarrica Volcano’s Eruption In Chile

By Krishnadev Calamur on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 1:03 pm

The eruption of the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile has prompted the evacuation of thousands of people, as it spewed heavy smoke into the air and lava down its slopes.

The 9,000 foot volcano hovers over the city of Pucon, home to about 22,000 people.

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Travis Armstrong, a 29-year-old Australian tourist, told The Associated Press. “I’ve never seen a volcano erupt and it was spewing lava and ash hundreds of meters into the air. Lightning was striking down at the volcano from the ash cloud that formed from the eruption.”

Here’s what that looks like.

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Hillary Clinton’s Use Of Personal Email At State Department Raises Questions

By Bill Chappell on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 2:06 pm

During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton did not use a State Department email account, opting instead to conduct official business through a personal email account that wasn’t then and is not now under the government’s control.

The arrangement circumvented a federal process that could have automatically preserved Clinton’s email communications in government archives.

The New York Times was the first to report the story, saying:

“It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.

“Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.”

The story is putting new scrutiny on the email habits of top government officials — particularly as a separate report has emerged that during his tenure at the Department of Defense, former Secretary Chuck Hagel did not have an official email account.

That’s what Vice reporter Jason Leopold says he was told last November, after he filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking Hagel’s records.

Rules governing government officials’ use of email have evolved in recent years, including part of Clinton’s tenure from January of 2009 to February of 2013.

From a summary provided by a senior State Department official:

  • In November of 2011, President Obama signed a memorandum to update records management in the executive branch.
  • In August of 2013, the National Archives and Records Administration issued guidance stating that email records of some senior officials are permanent federal records.
  • In September of 2013, NARA issued guidance on personal email use.

Responding to the Times story, the State Department says it “has long had access to a wide array of Secretary Clinton’s records — including emails between her and Department officials with state.gov accounts.”

The department says it is updating its records preservation policies, taking steps that include regularly archiving all of Secretary John Kerry’s emails.

“For some historical context,” says deputy spokesperson Marie Harf, “Secretary Kerry is the first secretary of state to rely primarily on a state.gov email account.”

Other historical context comes from Vox, which says, “this story looks even worse if you transport yourself back to early 2009, when Clinton first became of Secretary of State.”

At the time, Vox notes, the Bush administration had just been criticized for using private emails. Vox’s Max Fisher writes, “The practice, used by White House officials as senior as Karl Rove, certainly seemed designed to avoid federal oversight requirements and make investigation into any shady dealings more difficult.”

It’s not clear what email service Clinton used during her tenure as the top U.S. diplomat or what security measures it might have included.

The Washington Post notes that a “clintonemail.com” domain and related email account was ostensibly linked to Clinton after one of her advisers’ email accounts was hacked in 2013.

Citing Internet registry records, the newspaper’s Philip Bump notes that the domain “was first created on Jan. 13, 2009 — one week before President Obama was sworn into office, and the same day that Clinton’s confirmation hearings began before the Senate.”

In addition to Clinton and Hagel, other recent Cabinet-level officials have also made news for their approach to email.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano famously said she didn’t use email at all, once telling a panel on cybersecurity, “I don’t have any of my own accounts.”

Another federal agency that has come under scrutiny for its email practices is the Environmental Protection Agency, where it was revealed in 2012 that then-Administrator Lisa Jackson was using the alias “Richard Windsor” in emails with government officials.

The EPA said the “secondary account” was meant to help Jackson cut through the many emails that came to the public account that used her real name.

As The Washington Examiner later reported, Jackson’s use of the alias led the agency to award “Richard Windsor” a Certificate for Ethical Behavior for three consecutive years.

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In Speech To Congress, Netanyahu Blasts ‘A Very Bad Deal’ With Iran

By Krishnadev Calamur on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Updated at 2:09 p.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a deal the U.S. and its allies are pursuing with Iran over its nuclear program is “very bad” because, according to him, it doesn’t take away the Islamic republic’s ability to ultimately obtain nuclear weapons.

“This is a bad deal — a very bad deal,” Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress today. “We’re better off without it.”

He said such a deal will “guarantee” that Iran gets nuclear weapons because it allows the Islamic republic to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure in place. And, he added, the alternative to a bad deal is not war, as some supporters of the deal with Iran have said, but “the alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.”

Noting that he has a “profound obligation” to speak about the dangers posed by Iran, the Israeli leader outlined the threats made by the Islamic republic and its proxies against Israel.

“Iran’s supreme leader … spews the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology,” Netanyahu said. “He tweets that Israel must be … destroyed.”

The prime minister spent the early part of his speech outlining the strength of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, saying it must “always remain above politics,” and he thanked President Obama for his support of Israel.

Obama, speaking at the White House, said, “as far as I can tell, there was nothing new” in Netanyahu’s speech, adding, “the prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.” He said he didn’t watch the speech because it coincided with a video conference with European leaders.

As we have reported, the speech — along with its topic: Iran — was controversial from the moment it was announced last month by House Speaker John Boehner.

The White House wasn’t consulted about the invitation, and called it a departure from protocol. Obama, citing the proximity of Israel’s March 17 election, said he won’t meet the Israeli prime minister; neither will Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry, both of whom are traveling. Several Democrats skipped the Israeli leader’s talk today.

Kerry has questioned Netanyahu’s judgment regarding talks about Iran’s nuclear program; Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said recently that the prime minister’s speech had “injected a degree of partisanship” that is “destructive to the fabric of the relationship.”

Obama, in an interview with Reuters on Monday, said a long-term deal with Iran is the best way to ensure the Islamic republic doesn’t obtain a nuclear weapon. He said Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “isn’t permanently destructive” to the U.S-Israeli relationship.

But, Obama added, when the U.S. and its allies signed an interim deal with Iran that would freeze its nuclear program, “Prime Minister Netanyahu made all sorts of claims: This is going to be a terrible deal. This was going to result in Iran getting $50 billion worth of relief. Iran would not abide by the agreement. None of that has come true.” (You can see the president’s complete remarks here.)

Netanyahu, Rice and Samantha Power, who is the U.S. envoy to the U.N., all addressed the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington on Monday, and they each emphasized the strength of the U.S.-Israeli alliance.

Here is our live blog of Netanyahu’s remarks to Congress today:

Update at 11:43 p.m. ET: ‘A Very Bad Deal’

“This is a bad deal — a very bad deal. We’re better off without it,” Netanyahu says.

And there you have it — the money quote. The prime minister’s comment refers to a deal the U.S. and its allies are trying to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program.

The Israeli leader says, “The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal” not war.

Netanyahu gives a shout-out to Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, who is in the audience.

“I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned,” he says.

Netanyahu, to thunderous applause, says he knows America stands with Israel.

The Israeli prime minister ends his speech to sustained applause and a standing ovation with a quote from Moses: “Be strong and resolute.”

Update at 11:28 p.m. ET: Nuclear Deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the current deal that the U.S. and its allies are discussing with Iran will “guarantee” that the Islamic republic gets nuclear weapons.

He says the deal will allow Iran to keep its major infrastructure — with a short breakout time for a bomb. Not a single facility will be demolished, he says, and thousands of centrifuges will be allowed to continue to spin.

He compares Iran’s actions to North Korea’s — saying both countries have deceived international nuclear inspectors.

“Iran has proven once and again that it cannot be trusted,” the prime minister says.

He says a second major concession under the deal would allow Iran to get to the bomb after 10 years.

“That’s why this deal is so bad. … It paves Iran’s path to a bomb,” he says.

Netanyahu says the deal “won’t change Iran for the better, it will change the Middle East for the worse,” saying Iran’s neighbors, presumably Saudi Arabia and others, will pursue their own nuclear programs.

“We can insist that restriction on Iran’s nuclear program not be lifted as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and the world,” he says.

He says Iran must do three things: Stop aggression against its neighbors; stop supporting terrorism around the world; stop threatening “to annihilate my country — Israel, the one and only Jewish state.”

He says that if Iran changes its behavior, the restrictions will be lifted.

“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country,” he says.

Update at 11:17 p.m. ET: Iran

Netanyahu says he has a “profound obligation” to speak about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. It’s worth noting here that Iran denies that it is pursuing nuclear weapons — though Israel and the West believe that the Islamic republic is indeed pursuing such weapons.

“Iran’s supreme leader … spews the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology,” Netanyahu says. “He tweets that Israel must be … destroyed.”

The Israeli leader says the people of Iran are “very talented people” who were “hijacked by religious zealots” in 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution.

He says Iran’s mission is “death, tyranny and the pursuit of jihad,” and cites the instability across the region, including in Syria, Gaza and Yemen.

“The time when many hoped that Iran will join the community of nations — Iran is busy gobbling up nations,” he says.

He says Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, came to power promising “change and moderation,” but that Iran still “hangs gays, persecutes Christians” and journalists. He goes on to compare Iran and the self-described Islamic State, or ISIS, saying they might be fighting each other, but “Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam.”

If Iran threatens to walk away from a nuclear deal, Netanyahu says, call their bluff.

“They need the deal a lot more than you do,” he says.

Update at 11:11 p.m. ET: ‘Deeply Humbled’

Netanyahu says he is “deeply humbled” to talk for a third time before the “most important legislative body in the world — the U.S. Congress.”

He refers to the controversy surrounding the speech, saying that was never his intention. He thanks lawmakers from both parties for their bipartisan support of Israel. At this, there’s more applause.

He says U.S.-Israeli relations “must always remain above politics.”

He says Israel appreciates what presidents from Truman to Obama have done for Israel. And he’s listing all the things Obama has done, some of which, he says, are less well known — such as supplying Interceptor missiles during Israel’s war last year with Hamas in Gaza. And, he says, some of the help can never be revealed — given its confidential nature.

“I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support,” Netanyahu says.

He also thanks Congress for its support, including for the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Update at 11:07 p.m. ET: Netanyahu Enters House

Netanyahu enters the House to a standing ovation. He is making his way through the chamber, shaking the hands of lawmakers, and is stopping to talk to some of them.

There’s a sustained standing ovation as he waves to the crowd.

He makes his way to the top, and shakes hands and exchanges words with House Speaker John Boehner, the man who invited him here, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Boehner is announcing the Israeli leader — who gets another sustained round of applause and standing ovation.

Update at 11:04 p.m. ET: Dozens Of Lawmakers Skipping Talk

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to address Congress shortly. The lawmakers are assembled, though about 50 of them are skipping the talk. Here’s a list.

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With Iran’s Help, Iraqi Force Pushes Toward ISIS-Held Tikrit

By Bill Chappell on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

The new Iraqi effort to retake Tikrit from the self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS, brought fierce fighting to areas around the city Tuesday. A local source says that Iran, which has already been aiding Iraq with artillery and intelligence support, has sent fighters to help seize Tikrit.

NPR’s Alice Fordham reports:

“Spokesmen for the fighters said they moved on the city from five directions, with special forces, regular soldiers and local tribesmen pushing into districts around the city. A local tribal leader confirmed there were Iranian fighters among the paramilitary forces.

“Iraq’s state media reported key points on a highway had been taken, including close to the Speicher air base, where ISIS killed more than 1,000 soldiers last year. But the extremists had left numerous roadside bombs, which are slowing progress.

“Most civilians are thought to have left Tikrit, but the prime minister has sought to reassure the largely Sunni citizens there that the largely Shiite force moving on the city will act humanely.”

As for the possible presence of Iranian fighters in the operation, the news would represent a new level of involvement for Iran, which has previously given logistical or intelligence help.

“U.S. officials tell NPR that Iran is providing support — artillery and rockets; surveillance and advisers — to both the Iraqi army and Shia militias,” NPR’s Tom Bowman reports on today’s Morning Edition.

Tom spoke to Michael Knights, an expert on Iran’s military, who said there currently are two theaters of operations in Iraq.

“One is Iranian backed,” Knights says. “The other theater that’s opening up is the upper Tigris River Valley, and in that direction we expect the U.S. and its international partners.”

The arrangement is similar to how the U.S. military worked with Iraq’s army before it withdrew combat troops left in 2011, says Knights, who works at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The Americans are watching the current operation with their own drones. And Tom says, “U.S. officials have repeatedly said they’re not coordinating their military efforts with Iran.”

Tom adds that U.S. officials are hoping that the current push against ISIS won’t include sectarian score-settling over incidents such as last year’s mass execution of Shiites at the Camp Speicher location.

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LAPD Shooting Update: Two Body Cameras And A Gun Malfunction

By Bill Chappell on March 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck are calling for calm and patience as three investigations are underway into the police killing of a homeless man Sunday. Police say the man “forcibly grabbed” an officer’s gun before he was shot to death.

Beck called the incident a tragedy that followed a “brutal, brutal fight.”

The police confrontation with a man known as Afrika was filmed by at least two eyewitnesses. A dramatic video sparked criticism of the police, as it showed several officers attempting to hold him down before shots rang out.

From Los Angeles, NPR’s Kirk Siegler reports:

“Two of the officers were wearing body cameras — part of a new pilot program in the LAPD’s central city bureaus. However, so far, Chief Beck is refusing to make those videos public.

” ‘I’ve reviewed the other videos,’ Beck said. “It appears to me the officers acted compassionately up until the time when force was required.’

“Beck is promising a full investigation into whether the use of force was justified. Advocates for the homeless say the shooting highlights a worsening mental health crisis among Skid Row residents. Thousands of homeless people are concentrated in a few city blocks here, and this area has long been home to intense clashes with police.”

Police officials discussed the killing at a news conference Monday, saying that it followed a report of a robbery. The alleged victim identified the man, who then went into a tent on Skid Row. The violence started after officers pulled the tent away.

Member station KPCC has been following the case; the station’s Frank Stoltze brings us this detail from Monday’s news conference:

“In an odd twist to the incident, the standard issue LAPD Glock 9mm pistol the man allegedly was trying to grab from an officer became inoperable during the struggle, according to Commander Andrew Smith. The magazine that holds the bullets popped out of the gun partially and one round was caught in the ejection port.

” ‘That’s what we call a class three malfunction,’ Smith said. ‘At that point, the gun won’t fire.’ ”

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Seattle Cuts Public Transportation Fares For Low-Income Commuters

By Sam Sanders on March 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: March 3, 2015 at 2:03 am

Yesterday, Seattle began offering some commuters lower fares for public transit based on their income. Individuals making less than $23,340 a year and families of four making less than $47,700 annually now qualify for a program called ORCA LIFT, which will give users rates of $1.50 per ride, less than half of usual peak fares. [ORCA stands for “One Regional Card For All.”]

In part to pay for the program, King County’s Department of Transportation Metro Transit Division will increase fares for other groups, by 25 cents per trip. Those who use the county’s paratransit services will see their fares increase by 50 cents per trip.

The Seattle Times is reporting that about 1,000 people signed up for ORCA LIFT last month, though potentially 100,000 low-income commuters could benefit.

In a Facebook post last month, King County Executive Dow Constantine said, “ORCA LIFT is an example of how we’re turning King County’s commitment to building equity into action … This program creates opportunities by helping people get to that job interview, to that higher-paying job, or to that college class.”

The New York Times says the reduced fare program is meant to counter a challenge many cities are facing as rents grow in urban areas:

“The problem it addresses is that many commuters from places like SeaTac, an outlying suburb, are too poor to live in Seattle, where prices and rents are soaring in a technology-driven boom. If they are pushed out so far that they cannot afford to get to work or give up on doing so, backers of the project said, Seattle’s economy could choke.”

NPR member station KUOW says some Seattle residents who’ve seen their fares raised partly to subsidize ORCA LIFT are fine with the higher cost, while others aren’t.

“Lou Ann Apostolopoulos takes the bus a lot. She doesn’t mind the fare increase that went into effect this weekend. “It’s cheaper than driving downtown and finding parking,” Apostolopoulos said.

Some people don’t even seem to notice the cost of bus fare. Cameron Jamieson works for a tech firm downtown. “My ORCA pass is company provided. So it’s no big deal to me,” Jamieson said.

But other people find the 25-cent increase more troubling. Brian Bozeman had to come downtown for a physical therapy appointment. “I mean it’s hard to make ends meet when everything is increasing,” he said. “I’ve just got to cut out a whole lot of things. I’ve already cut out entertainment, like movies. Dating. My friend let me piggyback on his Wi-Fi.”

San Francisco instituted a program similar to ORCA LIFT a decade ago, called Muni Lifeline. But the BBC reports less than 6% of public transportation card holders in San Francisco actually use the program. CBS News reports Cincinnati also has a reduced fare program for low-income riders called “Everybody Rides Metro,” that helps some 35,000 residents of the area every year.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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Task Force Calls For Independent Probes Of Police-Involved Shootings

By Carrie Johnson on March 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: March 2, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Law enforcement agencies should measure community trust the same way they monitor crime rates. That’s among the recommendations of a task force established after police-involved killings of unarmed black people in Ferguson, Mo., in Cleveland and on Staten Island, N.Y.

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing also emphasized the need for better training and equipment, including tactical first-aid kits and bulletproof vests. But it stopped short of insisting police wear body cameras to record their interactions on the beat, given concerns about people’s privacy and who will retain those images.

In another recommendation that’s resonating with community groups, the task force also encouraged police to focus on de-escalating situations, rather than ratcheting up tension and drawing weapons before pursuing other, less lethal options.

“The events in Ferguson and New York exposed a deep-rooted frustration in many communities of color about the need for fair and just law enforcement,” President Obama said in brief remarks Monday at the White House. “We have a great opportunity, coming out of some great conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about community law enforcement relations so that everybody feels safer and our law enforcement officers feel, rather than being embattled … feel fully supported.”

The White House created the task force by executive order in December 2014. Since then, the 11-member panel has held seven “listening sessions” across the country and heard testimony from 120 witnesses.

The wrinkle is, law enforcement largely happens at the local level, with some 18,000 police agencies across the country. And the federal government doesn’t have a lot of power to compel local police chiefs and states to act. But Obama said he’d push the Justice Department and its Community Oriented Policing Services office to start making changes soon based on the report. Ron Davis, who leads the COPS office, is already familiar with the task force’s work, since he served as its executive director.

“The report was never meant to be a panacea,” one member of the panel tells NPR. “It’s not a solution to all problems.”

The 120-page report also touched on other controversial topics. Among them: recommending that after an officer-involved shooting, independent prosecutors and investigators look into the death, rather than district attorneys and police colleagues who may work alongside the officer.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, co-chairman of the task force, said that recommendation was not intended to be an “indictment of various agencies; it’s just reacting to the perception that’s out there and certainly trying to get around the appearance of impropriety or lack of transparency in these investigations.”

“It takes time, it takes relationship building, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Laurie O. Robinson, a George Mason University professor who served as co-chairwoman of the task force.

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, says the ACLU has pushed for most of the elements in the task force report for years. “We strongly believe they will significantly improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve, particularly communities of color,” Bennett said.

“Most of the recommendations,” she added, “are essential and should be nonnegotiable.”

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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