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Topics - Burning Sands, Esq.

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Lakota Indians Withdraw Treaties Signed With U.S. 150 Years Ago
Thursday, December 20, 2007

WASHINGTON —  The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,'' long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means said.

A delegation of Lakota leaders has delivered a message to the State Department, and said they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the U.S., some of them more than 150 years old.

The group also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and would continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months.

Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free - provided residents renounce their U.S. citizenship, Mr Means said.

The treaties signed with the U.S. were merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists said.

Withdrawing from the treaties was entirely legal, Means said.

"This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically article six of the constitution,'' which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, he said.

"It is also within the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the US and the rest of the international community in 1980. We are legally within our rights to be free and independent,'' said Means.

The Lakota relaunched their journey to freedom in 1974, when they drafted a declaration of continuing independence — an overt play on the title of the United States' Declaration of Independence from England.

Thirty-three years have elapsed since then because "it takes critical mass to combat colonialism and we wanted to make sure that all our ducks were in a row,'' Means said.

One duck moved into place in September, when the United Nations adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples — despite opposition from the United States, which said it clashed with its own laws.

"We have 33 treaties with the United States that they have not lived by. They continue to take our land, our water, our children,'' Phyllis Young, who helped organize the first international conference on indigenous rights in Geneva in 1977, told the news conference.

The U.S. "annexation'' of native American land has resulted in once proud tribes such as the Lakota becoming mere "facsimiles of white people,'' said Means.

Oppression at the hands of the U.S. government has taken its toll on the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies - less than 44 years - in the world.

Lakota teen suicides are 150 per cent above the norm for the U.S.; infant mortality is five times higher than the U.S. average; and unemployment is rife, according to the Lakota freedom movement's website.,2933,317548,00.html

N.J. bans death penalty
By TOM HESTER Jr., Associated Press Writer
26 minutes ago

TRENTON, N.J. - Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law Monday a measure that abolishes the death penalty, making New Jersey the first state in more than four decades to reject capital punishment.

The bill, approved last week by the state's Assembly and Senate, replaces the death sentence with life in prison without parole.

"This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder," Corzine said.

The measure spares eight men on the state's death row. On Sunday, Corzine signed orders commuting the sentences of those eight to life in prison without parole.

Among the eight spared is Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender who murdered 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. The case inspired Megan's Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities.

New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982 — six years after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions — but it hasn't executed anyone since 1963.

The state's move is being hailed across the world as a historic victory against capital punishment. Rome plans to shine golden light on the Colosseum in support. Once the arena for deadly gladiator combat and executions, the Colosseum is now a symbol of the fight against the death penalty.

"The rest of America, and for that matter the entire world, is watching what we are doing here today," said Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, a Democrat. "New Jersey is setting a precedent that I'm confident other states will follow."

The bill passed the Legislature largely along party lines, with controlling Democrats supporting the abolition and minority Republicans opposed. Republicans had sought to retain the death penalty for those who murder law enforcement officials, rape and murder children, and terrorists, but Democrats rejected that.

"It's simply a specious argument to say that, somehow, after six millennia of recorded history, the punishment no longer fits the crime," said Assemblyman Joseph Malone, a Republican.

Members of victims' families fought against the law.

"I will never forget how I've been abused by a state and a governor that was supposed to protect the innocent and enforce the laws," said Marilyn Flax, whose husband Irving was abducted and murdered in 1989 by death row inmate John Martini Sr.

Richard Kanka, Megan's father, noted Corzine signed the bill exactly 15 years to day that death row inmate Ambrose Harris kidnapped, raped and murdered 22-year-old artist Kristin Huggins of Lower Makefield, Pa..

"Just another slap in the face to the victims," Kanka said.

The last states to eliminate the death penalty were Iowa and West Virginia in 1965, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The nation has executed 1,099 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976. In 1999, 98 people were executed, the most since 1976; last year 53 people were executed, the lowest since 1996.

Other states have considered abolishing the death penalty recently, but none has advanced as far as New Jersey.

The nation's last execution was Sept. 25 in Texas. Since then, executions have been delayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether execution through lethal injection violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Court: Judges can reduce crack sentences
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
12 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday said judges may impose shorter prison terms for crack cocaine crimes, enhancing judicial discretion to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine powder.

By a 7-2 vote, the court said that a 15-year sentence given to Derrick Kimbrough, a black veteran of the 1991 war with Iraq, was acceptable, even though federal sentencing guidelines called for Kimbrough to receive 19 to 22 years.

In a separate sentencing case that did not involve crack cocaine, the court also ruled in favor of judicial discretion to impose more lenient sentences than federal guidelines recommend.

The challenges to criminal sentences center on a judge's discretion to impose a shorter sentence than is called for in guidelines established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, at Congress' direction. The guidelines were adopted in the mid-1980s to help produce uniform punishments for similar crimes.

The cases are the result of a decision three years ago in which the justices ruled that judges need not strictly follow the sentencing guidelines. Instead, appellate courts would review sentences for reasonableness, although the court has since struggled to define what it meant by that term.

Kimbrough's case did not present the justices with the ultimate question of the fairness of the disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentences. Congress wrote the harsher treatment for crack into a law that sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5 grams of crack cocaine or 100 times as much cocaine powder. The law also sets maximum terms.

Seventy percent of crack defendants are given the mandatory prison terms.

Kimbrough is among the remaining 30 percent who, under the guidelines, get even more time in prison because they are convicted of trafficking in more than the amount of crack that triggers the minimum sentences.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said, "A reviewing court could not rationally conclude that it was an abuse of discretion" to cut four years off the guidelines-recommended sentence for Kimbrough.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The Sentencing Commission recently changed the guidelines to reduce the disparity in prison time for the two crimes. New guidelines took effect Nov. 1 after Congress took no action to overturn the change.

The commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on the retroactive application of the crack cocaine guideline amendment that went into effect on Nov. 1. The commission has estimated 19,500 inmates could apply for sentence reductions under the proposal.

In the other case, the court, also by a 7-2 vote, upheld a sentence of probation for Brian Gall for his role in a conspiracy to sell 10,000 pills of ecstasy. U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of Des Moines, Iowa, determined that Gall had voluntarily quit selling drugs several years before he was implicated, stopped drinking, graduated from college and built a successful business. The guidelines said Gall should have been sent to prison for 30 to 37 months.

The sentence was reasonable, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion. Alito and Thomas again dissented.

Under the decisions in both cases, Alito said, "Sentencing disparities will gradually increase."

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, David Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens formed the majority in both cases.

The cases are Kimbrough v. U.S., 06-6330, and Gall v. U.S., 06-7949.

Black Law Student Discussion Board / D.L. Hughley's Interview on AVC
« on: September 12, 2007, 11:22:24 AM »
I've always been a fan of Hughley because he's witty and he stays informed, even if he couldn't quote the first 5 words of the 1st Amendment (btw it's "Congress shall make no law...")  He holds his sack in this interview which has to be respected even if you don't agree with his views.

Interviewed by Sean O'Neal
August 14th, 2007

D.L. Hughley has always delighted in controversial material, but even he probably couldn't have predicted that a single joke told on The Tonight Show in the wake of the Don Imus scandal (Hughley said of the Rutgers basketball team, "Them are some of the ugliest women I've ever seen in my whole life") would lead to a summer spent defending himself against angry protestors.

Still, the star of the recently cancelled Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip is unrepentant about the backlash—an attitude reflected in the title of his upcoming HBO special, Unapologetic—and he continues to tour the country while promoting his new BET show, S.O.B.: Socially Offensive Behavior. Along with sharing his thoughts on the end of Studio 60, Hughley recently spoke with The A.V. Club's Austin editor about the controversy that refuses to die and offered a response to Gina McCauley, the Austin, Texas woman spearheading the protest against him.

The A.V. Club: Were you surprised at what happened with Studio 60?

D.L. Hughley: No. I think that like most things that are highly touted—the number-one draft pick—we crumpled under the weight of expectations. I think that's a fairly common phenomenon.

AVC: What do you think it could have done differently?

DLH: I think we could have not taken ourselves so seriously. We pulled back the curtain too much. It's like when you go to a restaurant: It can be the best restaurant in the world, but I just want to eat the meal. I don't want to know how they make the steak. I think we spent so much time explaining and making what we did "important." We weren't inclusive enough. We had conversations with ourselves to hear ourselves.

AVC: While you were still filming, did you have any sense of a backlash?

DLH: Absolutely. I don't think that any of us were shocked. The pilot, I thought it was some of the most well-written television I'd ever seen, and it was the reason I was excited about doing it. But then we just became too aware of ourselves. It's tough to have a show be about a medium that you love and respect—meaning comedy—and see people… It's like seeing a pretty girl with somebody else, and they just don't treat her right. It kinda hurts.

AVC: Dave Chappelle said one of the reasons he walked away from his show was that he felt it was helping keep stereotypes alive. Do you ever worry that Socially Offensive Behavior—which also mines stereotypes for laughs—is helping propagate stereotypes?

DLH: Stereotypes existed hundreds of years before me or Chappelle or BET, and the only way they ever go away is to shine a light on it. There's a distinct difference between observing a joke and becoming one. I think that the greatest people I've ever seen involved in this art form—from George Carlin to Pigmeat Markham to Redd Foxx to male private part Gregory to Lenny Bruce—have all done what we do now, which is take a look at the things around us. I love to push people's buttons and watch people deal with the *&^% they have in their head.

AVC: And now you're being protested for that.

DLH: This isn't the first time this has happened to me, or to comedians. If you look at what happened to Lenny Bruce or George Carlin or Richard Pryor or Redd Foxx, they've all had this happen. This art form survived McCarthyism. It can survive somebody with a mouth and an e-mail page.

AVC: Is the title of your new HBO special, Unapologetic, a direct challenge to those protestors?

DLH: Actually, we had the title before this ever even happened, but no, I don't think any person, regardless of what they say, should ever apologize unless they mean it. In the last few years, we've seen people say exactly what they mean, and then some publicist makes them apologize. And I think we pretend to be more offended than we really are. When Mel Gibson made an anti-Semitic remark, he had a number-one movie, and his Q rating went up. Michael Richards made his statement, and sales of Seinfeld went up 70 percent three weeks in a row. Isaiah Washington made an anti-gay slur. Grey's Anatomy has never been stronger. Don Imus, his numbers went through the roof.

AVC: In the case of Michael Richards and Don Imus, though, aren't their careers more or less screwed? Sales of Seinfeld went up, but surely that was because of the new DVDs that came out that week.

DLH: I don't think that's true. And I think Don Imus will be back on the air in the next couple months, and his numbers will be better than ever. I watched Don Imus for probably seven or eight years, and I watched him make remarks about everybody. I watched him support Harold Ford and Barack Obama. I also watched him take politicians to task for their treatment of Katrina victims. I have a bit of context. And it would be hypocritical for me to deny somebody else the right to express themselves the way they see fit.

AVC: So when you've called your protestors "clowns" and "buffoons"—

DLH: I think they are! I think they're clowns. In this country, 93 percent of black people are killed by other black people. One in three black people in this country can't read right now. There are more black men in jail than in college. AIDS is growing in the black community at an unprecedented rate. And you're worrying about what a comedian is saying? If you're an activist, do something about the *&^% that you claim is important! Me saying or not saying something is never going to change our station in the world. I've talked about any number of issues. I've been in front of presidents and I've been in front of plumbers, and I've been consistent. I believe what I believe, and I don't have to defend myself. She can say whatever she wants to say—that's her right, and I respect that right. But I will not now, never, or at any time defend myself or apologize for the way I see the world.

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