04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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Death Row ReportClick on picture to get Pdf. of report

A new report by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights finds that prisoners on California and Louisiana's death row are being held in degrading and inhumane conditions that amount to torture under international law.

Prison staff, psychiatrists, prisoners and their families, and exonerated death row inmates were among the people interviewed to discover the ugly truth behind the bars.

The investigation teams who prepared the report found that both California and Louisiana often hold condemned prisoners in solitary confinement for decades. That's a practice that leads to severe psychological and physical harm, and is against international law.

Discrimination against Blacks and other minorities is widespread in both prison systems. The report found stark racial and geographic disparities in death penalty charging and sentencing rates in both states, as well as a significant overrepresentation of minorities on death row.

"In California, the ratio of African Americans on death row is nearly six times their percentage in the population at large, and in Louisiana, the percentage of African Americans is double their representation in the population," the Center for Constitutional rights says in a press release.

From the Report: John Thompson's Story
John Thompson had been convicted of murder in 1985.
In the fourteen years he spent on death row, Thompson was given six dates for his execution, all procedurally stayed so that he could continue appeals. With each new writ of execution, the pressure on Mr. Thompson became "more crushing" and forced him to think about his life as "a constant countdown to lethal injection."
After his defense team exhausted all formal avenues of appeal, Thompson was given his seventh date, which he knew would be his last. Mr. Thompson prepared to die. He sought to tell his youngest son about his scheduled death, which would occur the day before the boy's high school graduation, but his son's teacher unknowingly informed him first, announcing the upcoming execution to his class.
 Just weeks before his scheduled execution, a private investigator on John's case discovered scientific evidence of his innocence which had been hidden by the prosecutor's office. His life was spared and Thompson returned home. In addition to evidencing the struggles of those on death row, Thompson's case is a prime example of the lack of redress for victims of due process violations and torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Upon release from prison, Thompson was given $10 and a bus ticket. Although a jury later awarded Thompson $14 million in damages, the Supreme Court reversed this
award due to immunity protections the U.S. provides prosecutors.
Mr. Thompson is now organizing other exonerees in his community and across the nation to seek better prosecutorial oversight and options for redress.

Louisiana prisoners are held in solitary cells with no respite from extremes of heat and cold – sometimes in temperatures of 110 degrees. In San Quentin prison, more prisoners have committed suicide than have been executed.

Several states, for example Illinois, have abolished the death penalty over concerns about wrongful convictions.

Florence Bellivier, the International Federation for Human Rightsrepresentative who led the California investigation, called for both states to abolish the death penalty.  

"Louisiana and California should urgently revise their policy and abolish the death penalty." she says in a press release.

 "In 2012, 21 countries carried out executions, including the United States. By abolishing capital punishment, the US would join a growing national and worldwide movement. It's about the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights."

Bellivier is president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who led the mission in Louisiana also called for an end to the death penalty.

"The death penalty constitutes an inherent violation of the most fundamental of all human rights: the right to live," he said in a statement.

"Not only are death row prisoners being denied this fundamental right in a process known to be rife with errors and discrimination, but in California and Louisiana, they are also being held, sometimes for decades on end, in conditions that clearly violate the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is a party."

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