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Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin defends controversial pardons, blames outrage on 'political opportunism' -

Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin defends controversial pardons, blames outrage on 'political opportunism'In an interview with The Courier Journal, Bevin dismissed critics calling for investigations but said he would welcome a federal investigation.

Mon, 16 Dec 2019 07:42:10 -0500

Zimbabwe Vice President’s Wife Charged With Attempted Murder -

Zimbabwe Vice President’s Wife Charged With Attempted Murder(Bloomberg) -- The wife of Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who was arrested during the weekend over alleged fraud and money laundering, now faces an additional charge of attempted murder.Prosecutors accused Marry Mubaiwa of deliberately denying the vice president medical attention at the height of his illness and unlawfully interfering with medical procedures when he finally got to a hospital.“On 23 June 2019, the accused kept on denying the complainant access to medical treatment and the security team had to force their way to take the complainant to Netcare Hospital,” according to charges read out by Prosecutor Michael Reza in the capital, Harare.The Magistrate Court ordered Mubaiwa detained until Dec. 30 She was not required to take a plea during Monday’s session.Chiwenga, a possible challenger to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, returned to Harare in November after spending months in South Africa, China and India seeking treatment for an undisclosed illness. The retired general orchestrated the army intervention that toppled former President Robert Mugabe and brought Mnangagwa to power.To contact the reporter on this story: Desmond Kumbuka in Harare at dkumbuka@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gordon Bell at, Helen Nyambura, Dulue MbachuFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Mon, 16 Dec 2019 06:19:17 -0500

Indian court finds lawmaker from Modi's party guilty of rape -

Indian court finds lawmaker from Modi's party guilty of rapeAn Indian court found a former state lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party guilty on Monday of raping a teenager, the politician's lawyer said, in a high profile case that had helped fuel public anger over sexual violence against women. Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was a legislator in India's most populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was convicted by the court in Delhi under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, lawyer Tanveer Ahmed Mir said.

Mon, 16 Dec 2019 06:10:10 -0500

A black woman faces prison because of a Jim Crow-era plan to ‘protect white voters’ -

A black woman faces prison because of a Jim Crow-era plan to ‘protect white voters’Lanisha Bratcher voted in the 2016 presidential election. Three years later she was arrested because she had broken a law she didn’t know about. Lanisha Bratcher was finishing breakfast at home one morning at the end of July when there was a knock on her door. She had been discharged from the hospital the night before following a miscarriage that left her mourning the loss of her child.Her partner opened the door – it was the police. They burst into their North Carolina home “like the Dukes of Hazzard”, Bratcher said. There was a warrant out for her arrest, they told her. Bratcher had no idea what for.Her crime? Voting in the 2016 presidential election.Bratcher faces up to 19 months in prison because she did not realize she had actually been stripped of the right to vote. Her lawyer says she’s being punished based on a Jim Crow-era law that was intended to disenfranchise African Americans.Bratcher was on probation after being convicted of assault and North Carolina law mandates that people convicted of felonies can only vote once they complete their criminal sentences, including probation and parole, entirely.Documents obtained by the Guardian show that a prosecutor brought charges against Bratcher even though state officials said she may have illegally voted unintentionally. The decision also came after a report in which state officials recognized there were serious problems in the system in place to inform convicted felons of their voting rights.The state’s policy of banning people convicted of felonies from voting is rooted in a late 19th century effort by North Carolina Democrats to limit voting power of newly-enfranchised African Americans as whole. In 1898, the North Carolina Democratic party spoke of the need “to rescue the white people of the east from the curse of negro domination”.Since then, North Carolina lawmakers have tweaked the law, but its core – stripping felons of their voting rights while they serve criminal sentences – remains in place.John Carella, Bratcher’s lawyer, noted the vast majority of the people caught up in the law are African American. “A law that is intended to racially discriminate against a group is unconstitutional,” he said. “We also know it continues to work that way in its modern application to the 2016 election.”Carella argues that the goal is to dissuade black voters from going to the polls. That could make a big difference in North Carolina, a fiercely politically competitive state expected to play a key role in the 2020 election.In Bratcher’s case, it seems to have worked. She’s not sure if she’ll ever vote again, even once she’s legally allowed to.“It seems really dangerous,” she said. ‘Strict liability’Bratcher grew up in Hoke county, where she readily acknowledges she had a rocky past, sometimes getting in trouble with law enforcement. In 2013, she and her sister got into a fight with some other people and Bratcher was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.She had since been working hard to turn a page – moving to Wake county with her husband and two daughters and trying to get a promotion at work.During the March 2016 primary, Bratcher registered to vote, according to election records. She said that at that time, nobody had told her she couldn’t vote. Later that year, her church had an event where they hosted a dinner and took people to the polls. So Bratcher went with her mother to vote during the early voting period before election day.“I had no intention to trick anybody or be malicious or any kind of way,” she said. “If you expect us to know that we should know we should not do something, then we should not be on the list or even allowed to do it.”Americans lose the right to vote if they are convicted of a felony in 48 of the 50 states. But each of those states has widely different policies on when and if felons can vote again.If someone votes while they are serving a criminal sentence, it is a so-called “strict liability” felony in North Carolina. That means that prosecutors don’t have to prove Bratcher and other people convicted of felonies intended to vote illegally in order to convict them.This statute was designed after the civil war as a reaction to growing African American political power in the state, said Gary Freeze, a history and American studies professor at Catawba College in North Carolina.“White supremacists did not want [another] reform effort – hence the severe penalty for those who could be proven to be voting with a criminal background,” he wrote in an email.When lawmakers passed the felon-voting law, they were open about their racial intent. The 1898 Democratic handbook in the state talked about voting restrictions necessary “to protect the white voters of the State against having their honest votes off-set by illegally and fraudulently registered negro votes”. One cartoon in a local newspaper featured a picture of a “white supremacy plum”, with a caption encouraging voters to “pluck it” on election day in 1898. Another cartoon featured a vampire flying over North Carolina with the words “negro rule” on its wings.And in 1903, Charles Aycock, then governor of the state, openly spoke about how disenfranchisement was part of solving the “negro problem”. “I am inclined to give you our solution of this problem. It is, first, as far as possible, under the fifteenth amendment, to disfranchise him; after that, let him alone; quit writing about him; quit talking about him,” he said.Carella argues the discriminatory law is still at work – of 441 people investigated for possibly voting with a felony in the 2016 election, 68% were black.That high number exceeds both the percentage of African Americans registered to vote and the proportion on probation and parole. At the end of 2016, African Americans made up about 46% of convicted felons on parole or probation in the state. They made up about 22% of all registered voters.The North Carolina felon voting law has not only been discriminatory, but also confusing. A little over four months after the 2016 election, the state board of elections released a report finding there wasn’t a standardized process for informing people on probation they couldn’t vote.Officials have since updated the state voter registration form to make it clearer that people can’t vote on probation or parole. They also updated a pamphlet people receive when they are released from prison. In its letter to Bratcher’s prosecutor, the state board said it didn’t have the resources to investigate the particular circumstances of Bratcher’s case.“I’ve never heard of a judge informing a convicted individual of the loss of voting rights or the process by which these can be restored,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice advocacy group. He called the many cases in which people get prosecuted for unintentionally voting illegally “disturbing”.More than 400 convicted felons were suspected of voting in North Carolina in the 2016 elections. District attorneys have the discretion on whether to advance the prosecution, and are either reviewing charges or pursuing them in about half of the cases, according to state-level data obtained by The Guardian.Bratcher is among four people with felonies in her county – all of whom are black – who have been indicted for illegally voting in 2016.Kristy Newton, the district attorney in Hoke county, declined to comment on the case because it was still pending. Life upendedBratcher’s case isn’t the first time a voter fraud case like this has come under scrutiny in North Carolina. In 2018, 12 people with felony convictions in the state were prosecuted for illegal voting. The decision to prosecute the group – which came to be known as the Alamance 12 – drew national outrage because they also said they didn’t know they were ineligible.Civil rights groups are also challenging the state’s felon voting law, saying it unconstitutionally disenfranchises nearly 70,000 people in the state who are on parole or probation for a felony. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, won the state’s 2016 gubernatorial election by a little over 10,000 votes.Getting charged with voter fraud upended Bratcher’s life. It took an hour and a half to drive each way for court appearances. Even though she was on the verge of advancing at her factory job for Burt’s Bees, the court appearances caused her to miss work. She eventually left her job, and said the pending criminal charge against her made it harder for her to find a new one, she said.There was also the embarrassment of dealing with a new criminal charge. She has two daughters, aged 12 and seven, and she doesn’t want them to know about her voter fraud case. But after she was arrested, the Hoke county sheriff’s office announced the voter fraud charges on Facebook and mugshots of Bratcher and her co-defendants appeared in the local news. Family and friends and people from her church began calling her asking what she had done.“I was at a better place in my life. I had a different mindset. I don’t have any barriers, I don’t have any borders, I don’t have any walls up. I’m free and now I can be able to meet my full potential,” she recalls feeling at the time. “But then the walls came tumbling down.”She likened the experience to a bucket of crabs – when one crab tries to escape, she said, another one will pull it back in. “I fought so hard to try and come from under that,” she said. A racist legacyCarella argued in court documents filed earlier this year that Bratcher’s case should be thrown out because the law she is being prosecuted under is discriminatory against African Americans. He said the statute remains as racist as it was at the turn of the 20th century.The judge in Bratcher’s case could agree with Carella and throw out the case. If not, it will move towards a criminal trial.Torris Jones, Bratcher’s husband, said he understands her new apprehension about voting, but sees it differently.“If you don’t vote again, then the law would have done exactly what it was supposed to do, which is to suppress your vote,” he said. “If they’ve got you afraid, then the law did what it’s supposed to do.”

Mon, 16 Dec 2019 06:00:19 -0500

How the fall of Elizabeth Warren has shaken up the 2020 race -

How the fall of Elizabeth Warren has shaken up the 2020 raceAs the Democratic candidates prepare for their last debate of the year, the race for the nomination has been reshaped again. The dramatic and sudden decline in Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (Mass.) polling has left progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) as the main counterweight to three ascendant moderates: former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. For the first time since Warren began her steady climb, it seems like a majority of Democratic primary voters currently prefers a moderate.Wasn't this the year that Democrats were going to make a decisive turn to the left? It certainly seemed like the primary was following the script of a newly radicalized party when Warren briefly overtook Biden for the national polling lead in September, and scraped her way to the top of early state polling in Iowa and New Hampshire. But since then, she's made a series of missteps that have cost her that lead and then some.Warren's decline has many causes. Unable or unwilling to get to the left of Sanders, she is the only candidate still in the race getting hammered from both sides of the party's ideological spectrum. While Sanders himself has mostly refrained from taking her on directly, his proxies savaged both her plan to pay for Medicare-for-all without raising middle class taxes, as well as her phased-in approach to the policy. An endorsement from the beloved, dying progressive activist Ady Barkan did nothing to stop the bleeding.Worse, she seemed to walk back from her embrace of the Sanders plan, at least its timeline, which alienated supporters on the left for whom health care is the most important issue and gave grist to establishmentarians eager to paint her as untrustworthy. And in the past two debates, Buttigieg, Biden, and Klobuchar — who is finally getting some traction in Iowa — successfully teamed up to paint Warren's health-care reform as too radical.They've collectively gotten a huge boost from deep-pocketed health-care industry giants who have been blanketing early voting and swing states with ads against Medicare-for-all under the guise of anodyne-sounding organizations like The Partnership For America's Health Care Future. That plan has been out there since it was leaked to The Intercept just after the midterms, a strategy designed to make Medicare-for-all have "support only from the far left."It's working. The phenomenal national and early-state rise of Buttigieg, an opponent of Medicare-for-all, seems to have come entirely at the expense of Warren. Like Biden, Buttigieg is loathed by the left-wing Twitterati and has almost no support from younger Democrats despite his ostentatious effort to position himself as the vanguard of a new generation. But his relentless attacks on Warren's health-care plan have convinced a slice of her supporters that somehow the mayor of a mid-sized town is a safer bet against President Trump than she is. The theatrical entry into the race of billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg last month only reinforced the sense that party elites and center-leftists were in a state of full-blown panic about a Warren nomination.Yet the unsubtle moderate mob hit on Warren, as successful as it has been, has also had the unintended effect of boosting the fortunes of Sanders. He's up more than three points in the polling average since his campaign announced he had suffered a heart attack on Oct. 4 — a time when he had fallen behind Warren and seemed at risk of falling out of the race altogether. But he looked healthy and unfazed in the Oct. 15 debate and rolled up a series of important endorsements. Flanked by the wildly popular young progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders has taken second place back from Warren, looks like he's surging in Iowa, and has even led some polls of California and New Hampshire. But Sanders, like Warren, would need momentum from early state victories to cut into Biden's leads in the Super Tuesday states. Coming close probably won't cut it.Warren and Sanders both might also be suffering from the ongoing economic expansion. With unemployment and inflation both low, the argument for aggressive economic policy change isn't finding the audience it might have in the midst of a recession. I don't have any data to back this up, but my hunch is that a large slice of the primary electorate thinks the economy will still be humming along nicely in November, and that a moderate whose message is "Look at me, I'm normal and I'll keep the good times rolling, just without the misogyny, the acts of genocide at the border, and the relentless assault on truth and the rule of law" stands a better chance than someone promising a fundamental revision of the nation's economic system.Presiding toothily over all of this chaos is Biden, the man who remains the race's frontrunner. Despite his terrifyingly incoherent debate performances, his inability to come up with a convincing one-sentence explanation of the Hunter Biden scandal, and his almost total lack of appeal to anyone under the age of 45, the former vice president is sitting just about where he was from the get-go in national polling: in first place, with a clear path to the nomination.Everyone has taken a turn trying to eat into Biden's lead, and no one has really succeeded. The ones who came at Biden hardest — California Sen. Kamala Harris and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro — are gone or on the ropes. Despite trailing in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden still looks set to win Nevada and South Carolina and then catapult himself to a dominant Super Tuesday. He's up big in Texas and he's led three of the last four surveys of delegate-loaded California. If he wins Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia and finishes in the top three in California, it's hard to see how or where other candidates would make up those delegates.Where does that leave the field? Klobuchar, who cracked double digits for the first time in a recent Iowa poll, absolutely must win Iowa to be viable moving forward. She almost certainly needs to go harder and more ruthlessly after Buttigieg — a Chris Christie-like moment of humiliation could cut him down to size and give her a shot at his supporters. Biden likely wants to avoid getting routed in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but his campaign doesn't think he needs to win either state. Buttigieg, on the other hand, might want to lay off Warren for a while. He has already picked off the moderate faction of her coalition, and if she gets knocked out early — probably by failing to win either Iowa or New Hampshire — her remaining supporters would disproportionately go to Sanders.With more than a month-and-a-half, the holidays, the formal impeachment of the president, his Senate trial, and God knows what else to go before Iowa votes, there's still plenty of time for Warren to recover her momentum, for Sanders to to close the gap with Biden in national polling, or for the race to be shaken up in ways we can scarcely foresee now. For now, though, Buttigieg, Biden and the moderates appear to have the upper hand.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from Trump's pathological obsession with being laughed at The most important day of the impeachment inquiry Jerry Falwell Jr.'s false gospel of memes

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