Category Archives: News Gate

Wrongly imprisoned brothers sue detectives and Cleveland

Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu were among three men convicted on the testimony of a 12-year-old witness who was threatened by police, lawsuit alleges

Police detectives threatened a 12-year-old witness to make him offer false testimony in a murder case and fabricated statements by him, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday by two brothers who spent decades in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

The lawsuit, naming several living and deceased Cleveland police detectives and the city, also alleges it was common practice for detectives not to turn over notes, including witness statements, during investigations.

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How the Pope Is Revving Up Climate Action in LA’s Most Polluted Neighborhood

Two young men performed their songs on acoustic guitars in Spanish while the rally chanted along in front of St. Basil Catholic Church in Los Angeles.

Even though not everyone in the crowd of around 30 people knew Spanish, the message transcended language: protect the most vulnerable from the effects of climate change.

After the June 18 release of “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and humanity’s responsibility to protect it, young Catholics decided to host a rally to spread awareness of climate change’s effect on the poor, particularly Latinos in Southern California. Some Catholics are hopeful that events like this, inspired by the encyclical, will spread and lead to a new emphasis on climate action within the faith.

Members of the youth group Pastoral Juvenil of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered in front of St. Basil on the morning of June 27 to share what was written in the encyclical and encourage onlookers to participate.

“When I started working on the issue of environmental protection at Holy Family Church in South Pasadena, it did not stir the emotions as it does now,” says Allis Druffel, who spoke at the rally. “It is the hope of my colleagues and myself that Los Angeles Catholic churches and households will become real leaders in what Pope Francis is calling for in ‘Laudato Si’ – to tackle the injustices of poverty, poor health, and poor economic situations while caring for all of creation, both of which go hand in hand.”

Juana Torres, a 33-year-old volunteer at Pastoral Juvenil and one of the organizers of the rally, spent much of the day passing out petitions with demands she hopes can be addressed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of the year. For example, the petition called for nations to lower their carbon emissions and provide funding to protect people vulnerable to climate-related disaster such as storms, droughts, and floods. Every person at the rally committed to gathering at least 20 signatures.

“We want to make sure that our leaders are hearing us,” says Torres, who believes that climate change is near and dear to the hearts of many young Hispanics.

“A lot of us come from immigrant families, and a lot of families had to migrate in the first place because of the effect climate change has had in poor communities and keeping people in a cycle of poverty,” she said, referring to the impact climate change has had on farms and urban areas of Latin America.

St. Basil is not the only Catholic church in southern Los Angeles taking the Pope’s encyclical seriously. About 15 miles south, St. Emydius Roman Catholic Church stands around the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Middle School – names associated with civil and minority rights.

But within a 5-mile radius of the church, dozens of small factories contribute to making this part of Los Angeles home to some of the most polluted neighborhoods in the country.

This worries Father Juan Ochoa, a priest at St. Emydius, who says the pollutants in the area can harm children and pregnant women. It’s for that reason that Ochoa plans to share Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si” with his parish as soon as he can.

“Now that the document has been written, we have to put it into practice,” says Ochoa. “We have to discuss this as a parish and then change can take place.”

The Pope’s encyclical has reignited several political debates: science versus religion, left versus right, climate change doubters versus believers. It enters a political context where international negotiations on climate change seem to be unable to arrive at a binding agreement. It’s possible that the Pope’s encyclical will push some Catholics to demand greater action, like the members of Pastoral Juvenil. But at St. Emydius, where around 20,000 families are registered, that discussion hasn’t yet taken place.

Ochoa says the encyclical is not a political document and is worried that many in his parish think it is.

“Most people, what they hear is just what’s in the news, and what’s being reported in the media is political,” he says. “The Pope isn’t making a political statement and he isn’t getting involved in American politics. This encyclical was addressed to the entire world.”

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 71 percent of U.S. Catholics believe the Earth is warming, but only 47 percent believe it is a result of human activity.

The Pope’s encyclical contradicts that belief directly, claiming that humanity’s greed and violence has led to pollution and altered the climate.

“The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life,” Pope Francis writes.

A Moment of Hope

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, southern Los Angeles has some of the highest levels of pollutants in the country. Since these areas are largely home to black and Latino people, the burden of this pollution tends to be carried by minority groups.

And it’s not just Southern California where the pollution that troubles Pope Francis disproportionately affects communities of color: the same is true in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, Atlanta, and many other cities.

These environmental problems have many health consequences and lead to asthma, cancers, and learning disabilities, according to Patricia Juarez, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. Juarez teaches a course on environmental justice in minority communities.

“The development issues that result from pollutants often keep people in a cycle of poverty, keep them out of school or keep them isolated,” she says.

Juarez is optimistic that the Pope’s encyclical will encourage climate change doubters to look for more information, and applauds the Vatican for leading the effort.

Patrick Carolan, co-founder of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, an international coalition of Catholic organizations, agrees. “I hope and pray that Catholics will take a look at the encyclical and read it with an open mind and put aside any biases,” he says.

Ochoa at St. Emydius says he is praying for the same thing. He hopes that his parish can become more engaged in the discussion about climate change and wants to discuss a step-by-step plan at the next pastoral meeting, which the church will hold in July.

“I think our problem as priests is we haven’t discussed it with our parish,” he says. “It starts with us.”

But long before Pope Francis’ encyclical was released, Torres was already working with Pastoral Juvenil to engage young Latinos in the climate justice movement. She teaches a class on faith and ecology and often leads hikes where people pray in nature, for nature.

“For us, there’s no debate,” she says. “Pope Francis’ encyclical only validates the work we’ve been doing.”

Carolan thinks hope for the climate justice movement can be found in the newer generations.

“I think Pope Francis has already engaged younger people,” he says. “He’s helped a lot of young people connect with their spirituality, and sustainability is just one more way for young people to connect with their faith.”

Isis militants destroy Palmyra stone lion

Syrian antiquities director says destruction of Lion of al-Lat statue dating back to 1st century BC is serious crime against world heritage site

Islamic State jihadists have destroyed a statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the country’s antiquities director has said.

Maamoun Abdelkarim said the statue, known as the Lion of al-Lat, was an irreplaceable piece. “IS members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three metres [10ft] tall and weighs 15 tonnes,” Abdelkarim told AFP. “It’s the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra’s heritage.”

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Friedman: Islanders Don’t Need To Make A Big Move To Be A Force Next Season

By Daniel Friedman
» More Columns

The Islanders haven’t exactly made the biggest waves so far this offseason, nor have they been the most active team within the Metropolitan Division.

Still, the first day of NHL free agency was a productive one for general manager Garth Snow. He filled the backup goaltending void left by Michal Neuvirth, signing Thomas Greiss to a two-year contract, locked up Thomas Hickey to a very reasonable three-year pact and added forward depth for the Isles’ AHL squad in Bridgeport.

Prior to the start of the signing period, Anders Lee was re-upped, to the tune of four years and $15 million, and the Isles extended qualifying offers to Kevin Czuczman, Mike Halmo, Brock Nelson, Kevin Poulin and Johan Sundstrom. Kirill Petrov’s one-year entry-level contract was made official on Wednesday and on Thursday they signed six players to two-way, one-year contracts.

Meanwhile, as the Islanders took care of business, their divisional rivals made some moves of their own. The Blue Jackets added Brandon Saad, the Capitals signed Justin Williams and, of course, the Penguins traded for Phil Kessel.

Naturally, those developments didn’t sit too well with Islander fans, but you don’t always make roster decisions solely based on what your opponents are doing.

Sometimes, you do. If you’re at a point where your team is as good as it’s going to get and you’re one or two pieces away – then, you might gear up for an arms race if you see your foes doing the same. However, in this particular case, I don’t believe it’s an absolute necessity.

Certainly not on offense, an area the Islanders flourished in for the vast majority of the 2014-15 season.

Call it faith, call it sticking to the game plan, call it whatever you want: I think there’s a lot to be said for the fact that the Isles finished fourth in the league in goals last year, and that several of their key contributors are still maturing as players.

Ryan Strome (50 points) will be 22 on July 11; Nelson (42) turns 24 in October and Lee (25 goals) will turn 25 on Friday.

Younger skaters who are the real deal tend to increase their output as they near or enter the prime of their careers. I wouldn’t call it an assumption; “expectation” is probably the word I would use.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Mikhail Grabovski missed significant time with injuries and when healthy generally produces more than the measly 19 points he collected last season.

And you’ll see it on defense as well. Nick Leddy is just 24. I think that, given his increased ice time from his days in Chicago, he’ll continue to improve upon his 37-point total from 2014-15. Ryan Pulock has a real shot to make the team as well, and though expectations for him should be tempered, there’s no reason to believe he can’t make a dent.

If Pulock ends up being ready, he will be an upgrade on the blueline, even if he’s still developing. You have to break him in sooner or later if he’s going to be a big part of the team going forward; he has to be in the lineup and play on most nights.

Another thought for your consideration: I think the addition of Greiss will make a bigger impact than you might assume, more because of the flexibility and ample rest time he’ll provide Jaroslav Halak with than his actual performance, though one does lead to the other.

There were definitely certain instances throughout the season where Halak was being overworked and tired out and, as a result, you saw some stretches (more than usual for him) where he was far from his best.

Why? The coaching staff simply couldn’t trust Chad Johnson to get the job done, and so they had to rely almost exclusively on Halak for quality goaltending. Greiss will change that, as he’s a backup you can play without severely decreasing your chances of winning.

Also, if he can stop pucks more effectively than Johnson was able to, the Isles will win more contests. Whether it was Greiss or Neuvirth, the Isles would’ve been in good shape between the pipes. I don’t think they could’ve gone wrong with either one.

Factor in these criteria, and you have the makings of a team that should be better than last season’s, even despite the lack of a Kessel-esque addition.

Now, that’s not to say that if the right deal came along and the Isles could land a top-six scoring winger, they shouldn’t pounce. I think a veteran who can slot into the left or right side on the first or second line wouldn’t be the worst idea. This way, if any of their younger players hit a wall at some point, they would have someone to pick up the slack and even perhaps guide those kids through those rough patches.

That said, though, you still have to let your star apprentices be just that.

If Lee is going to be viewed as a potential linemate for Tavares — and I think he’s certainly worthy of such consideration — then let him play with Tavares. If Strome is truly expected to be second-in-command to JT on that offense, then let him play big minutes. Don’t shelter or shuttle him back and forth between all four lines.

Let your kids get those opportunities; it’ll pay off in the long run and probably in the short run, too.

As for how much better the Islanders’ division has gotten, I honestly don’t think the landscape has changed to the extent that people are suggesting.

The Capitals were already better than the Islanders, but that had little to do with the acquisition of Williams. They’re coached better and are more responsible defensively. The Isles can match their offensive firepower, however. The only reason they struggled to score against the Caps in the playoffs was because of the tight-checking that became increasingly prevalent as the series wore on.

The Blue Jackets nabbed Saad, but let’s not mistake him for Brett Hull. The Islanders have a couple of forwards who are probably just as good as (or, in some cases, better than) Saad (Kyle Okposo, Strome) and one who’s certainly superior (Tavares). Also, keep in mind that Columbus had to give up Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano (21 points in 35 games) in that deal, so it might’ve gotten better, but not in a monumental way.

The Penguins, even with Kessel on the roster, are still pretty thin as far as their bottom-six forwards are concerned. They’re also very shallow on defense as of right now — there’s just not much there beyond Kris Letang and Olli Maatta. So while Kessel might add more goals, there’s more to being a winning team. They’ve still got plenty of holes to fill.

As for the rest of the division, the Rangers are still at the head of the class, and that’s probably not going to change this season. They haven’t made any particularly major moves, either, and they don’t really need to. The Devils are still terrible, the Flyers are still pretty mediocre, though slightly improved, and the Hurricanes are still a few years away from competing for a playoff spot.

In short, the Metropolitan Division race appears to be headed for more-or-less the same photo finish as last season.

Most of those teams, including the Islanders, believe it or not, will have improved, and I don’t think any particular franchise has really jumped anybody else by leaps and bounds.

Besides, the notion that the Isles haven’t done anything to improve is pure nonsense.

Remember, Johnny Boychuk was not a slam dunk to re-sign with the organization when he was initially acquired. He would’ve been the best defenseman – perhaps even the most coveted player at any position – on the free agent market.

The 2015-16 Islanders were not at all guaranteed to have Boychuk in their lineup, but they are now, thanks to Snow’s proactivity in getting him inked before it became a bidding war for his services. That does count for something. The fact that it happened in March is inconsequential to that reality. Had the Isles waited until July 1 and then convinced him to stick around, would you think of it any differently?

Lastly, if there’s anything we’ve learned from recent years (particularly from last year), it’s that the offseason is long. There is plenty of time to make moves and improve the roster, and quite often, the most sensible decisions at the start of the rush are the ones you don’t make.

Did you really want to give up Matthew Barzal or Josh Ho-Sang, Scott Mayfield and Casey Cizikas to obtain Kessel and his sizeable cap hit when you’ve got Michael Dal Colle and Co. right around the corner and plenty of scoring depth already on the roster?

The Penguins needed him. For the Islanders, it would’ve been an unnecessary and very expensive luxury.

A new head coach might’ve been a major get for this franchise. I’d put that way ahead of getting someone like Kessel on the to-do-list.

Give it time. Let’s see how the roster looks come October. Even now, however, it looks pretty good. Don’t let the lack of a blockbuster move throw you off. Personally, I think Snow will try to move Michael Grabner and get a top-six scoring winger, like I mentioned earlier.

For now, the Islanders will keep chugging along with the players they have. And you know what? That’s totally fine.

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter at @DFriedmanOnNYI 

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Persecution and violence: life for minority and indigenous communities – in pictures

As a Minority Rights Group study claims record numbers of minority and indigenous communities are being forced from rural areas into cities, we look at people facing oppression, from the Yazidis fleeing Islamic State fighters in Iraq to the Sengwer people of Kenya, who have been violently turned off their land

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