Justice & Law

Will black women save us . . . again?

The people who will matter most in the next election won’t be the candidates, but rather the country’s 23 million black women. They are the heart and soul of the Democratic party and any politician of any complexion who ignores their power does so at his or her own peril.

On MLK Day, Honor the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Too

Ella Baker’s story may not be as exciting as that of Dr. King or Rosa Parks, but she was no less essential to the civil rights movement.

Vindicated Katrina Doc Tells Her Story

Dr. Anna Pou was accused of murdering nine patients in a New Orleans hospital wracked by Katrina, but a grand jury declined to indict her. Now she gives her side of the story.

Beneath the Hoods

What if the FBI had tortured Zacarias Moussaoui, the would-be 20th hijacker, into revealing the plot to destroy the World Trade Center in time to stop it? Who could blame it? These were not people playing by any rules of civilized warfare, and nor are terrorists in Iraq. At Abu Ghraib, military-intelligence officers were concerned about the poor “product” they were getting from prisoner interrogations, and they pressured the military-police guards there to “soften up” their charges between sessions. That, at least, is the defense of the six MPs now facing charges in the scandal. So why did Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. order a young woman to pull her shirt up to her neck? She was an accused prostitute. MPs allegedly ordered Hussein Mohsen Matar to masturbate, and rode on his naked back as he crawled on all fours. He was an accused thief. Haqi Ismail Abdul-Hamid, famously menaced by a snarling dog, had at least kicked an Iraqi policemen and threatened to kill Coalition soldiers. But he was…

‘She Was Following Orders’

As more photographic evidence of Iraqi prisoner abuse emerges, the question of who was in charge of Abu Ghraib prison remains unanswered. Were American soldiers who physically and sexually degraded prisoners acting independently or under orders from supervisors in the Army? Seven reservists assigned to Abu Ghraib from the 327th Military Police company, based near Cumberland, Md., have been charged with offenses related to the alleged abuse like conspiring to mistreat detainees and failing to protect prisoners. They include Spc. Jeremy Sivits, 24; Spc. Megan Ambuhl, 29; Pfc. Lynndie England, 21; Spc. Sabrina Harman, 26; Cpl Charles Graner, Jr., 35; Sgt. Javal Davis, 26; and Staff Sgt. Van Frederick, 37. All of the soldiers have been separated from their unit and are being held in Baghdad, except Pfc. England, 21, who is pregnant and being detained instead at Fort Bragg, NC.Harvey J. Volzer, the attorney representing Ambuhl, who faces charges of conspiring to mistreat detainees and…

Military: Jessica’s Comrades: Untold Stories From

The Jessica Lynch blitz isn’t a feel-good celebration for everyone. Lynch miraculously survived the ambush on the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company. First Sgt. Robert Dowdy–scarcely a household name–was killed riding in the military vehicle along with her. His 14-year-old daughter, Kristy, swallows hard at the constant mentions of Jessica’s battle. “Don’t they know it was Dad’s Humvee?” she says. “Don’t they know it was Dad doing stuff?”The U.S. government tried to portray POW Lynch as a hero of the attack. It didn’t publicize Sgt. Donald Walters. The 33-year-old cook and mechanic was killed in the ambush, apparently while fighting bravely, suggests a military report. But his parents, Arlene and Norman, got so few questions answered by the Army they finally filed a Freedom of Information request. “I am angry,” says his mother, who wants the government to give her son a hero’s due. Walters left a wife and three daughters. His 27-year-old widow, Stacie, says: “It seems like after a…

The Longer Arm of the Law

The Bush administration has repeatedly gone out of its way to encourage American firms to conduct business in Iraq. But a Supreme Court decision Tuesday permitting foreigners to use U.S. courts to seek redress for serious human rights violations may have wide-ranging implications for organizations doing business overseas–especially private companies hired to assist the U.S. military.The case decided by the Supreme Court yesterday was an appeal of an earlier decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That ruling permitted a Mexican doctor, Humberto Alvarez-Machain, to sue a Mexican national who assisted the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in kidnapping him from his office in Guadalajara to bring him to trial in the United States on charges relating to the murder of a federal narcotics agent. The case relied on the obscure Alien Tort Statute, which was among the laws enacted by the First Congress in 1789. The oddly-worded statute, which says federal…

Abusive Priests

The National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the U.S. Conferenceof Catholic Bishops, last week announced its review of the causes of the priest abuse crisis. It also issued a long-awaited study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Among the major findings: 10,667 individuals made allegations of child sexual abuse by priests, 81 percent of victims were male and, of all priests against whom allegations were made, only 2 percent received prison sentences. Although the National Review Board rebuked U.S. bishops for failing to stop abuse–describing their lack of action as “leadership failures” which are “shameful to the church”–victims’ advocates are outraged that no steps are being taken to remove culpable bishops. “It is intolerable that we learn today that thousands of minors have been abused, thousands of priests accused and yet only one person, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, has been forced to resign his hierarchical position over this scandal,” said Steve…

Witness To Shame

As Roman Catholic bishops issued a meaculpa last week, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a cloistered group of 980,000, moved closer to facing a sex-abuse scandal of their own. In January a woman from Sacramento, Calif., filed a lawsuit charging that church leaders knowingly failed to notify civil authorities that she was raped by a member of her congregation. A former church leader in Maryland was indicted in February for sexually assaulting three women who say they were told by elders not to report the abuse, and were excommunicated when they did. After additional stories aired recently on TV, a victims’ support group run by William H. Bowen was deluged with e-mails and phone calls. “Catholics only protect the priests. Jehovah’s Witnesses do it for any member of the church,” says Bowen, a former elder from Kentucky. Sara Poisson says that prior to her husband’s conviction for sexually abusing her daughters, church elders told her to “pray more and be a better wife.” Church spokesman J. R….

Money: Did Ken Lay Take It With Him?

The former enron chief’s death raised questions about what assets he still had–and whether anyone can get their hands on them. Prosecutors are likely to drop criminal proceedings–standard procedure when a defendant dies before sentencing–but civil lawsuits will proceed, and may illuminate where Lay’s fortune went. Good news for plaintiffs: his estate (including insurance) may not be off limits. (graphic omitted)

Heartbreak’s Revenge

When George Berg’s wife, Sandra, began spending three nights a week studying for an MBA, he didn’t mind. But when the manager of the family’s Myrtle Beach time share called two years ago to say someone left behind a Blockbuster video card–during a weekend when Sandra was supposed to be away at a company event with their son–George got suspicious. Asking his 5-year-old about the trip, he made a heartbreaking discovery. “I asked him. ‘You went with Mommy’s [female] boss?’ He said ‘No, I went with Mommy’s gay friend from work’.”Using an arcane North Carolina law on “alienation of affection,” Berg filed suit not against his ex-wife (they divorced earlier this year) but against the other adulterer. In August, they settled for more than $150,000, and in January Berg will begin receiving monthly checks.While most states have for years been making it easier to get divorced by removing “fault” requirements like adultery, a few states have held on to “heart balm” statutes that allow people…

Mitchell Gold on the Bible and Gay Rights

For years, Mitchell Gold, a founder of the popular furniture company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, has been irritated by what he sees as fundamentalist Christians’ use of the Bible to justify withholding civil rights from gays. Scripture, Gold argues, was used in the past to defend slavery, prohibit interracial marriage and prevent women from voting. Frustrated that few politicians dare to confront anyone brandishing a Bible, in 2005 Gold formed the group Faith In America (FIA), which says its…