While the world was talking about Rachel Dolezar, here’s what the media “forgot” to cover.
When mainstream media justifiably picked up the questionable case of Spokane, Washington NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezar, it was as if someone, somewhere, pressed the ultimate pause button. Suddenly, one woman’s bizarre deception opened the door for a discussion about race in America that is long overdue. That alone made the coverage worthwhile. But a constant barrage of articles quoting endless experts’ personal opinions about why Dolezar portrayed herself as someone she isn’t only degrades the importance of the issue.
With one woman’s secrets airing out like laundry in the media’s storm, it’s easy to lose track of the myriad of other critical events that took place this week. The following are just ten examples of what you missed while the media aired out Rachel Dolezar’s dirty laundry:
1. If someone were given “counter-terrorism training” by the U.S. State Department and former military contractor, Blackwater, they would probably turn out to be a formidable asset, right? A video surfaced recently of a former police commander who had undergone eleven years of that training — but the man in question hails from Tajikistan — and is now a member of ISIS. Col. Gulmurod Khalimov participated in five courses of the State Department’s “Diplomatic Security/Anti-Terrorism Assistance program” in the U.S. and Tajikistan from 2003-2014. In that ISIS video, Khalimov delivers a clear message — in Russian—that speaks for itself: “Listen, you American pigs, I’ve been to America three times. I saw how you train soldiers to kill Muslims…we will come to your homes and we will kill you.”
Considering all the information to process from this tape—and the fact that the group has managed to obtain billions of dollars in American military equipment—several recently declassified Pentagon documents start to make a lot more sense. As revealed in that report, the U.S. predicted—and even sought—the rise of an Islamic State. Ousting Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad was so essential that it warranted cooperation with al-Qaeda’s allies. If an “Islamic State” was forged in the process, it would further serve to “isolate the Syrian regime,” according to the report. Apparently, everything is going according to plan.
2. Voters attempting to cast ballots in mid-term elections in Mexico were blocked from polling stations by angry protesters in many states. Widespread corruption between the government and drug cartels, police state conditions, labor disputes, and a host of other issues have left the country in turmoil. But what has caused the most ire and ultimately led to the election boycott is the unsolved kidnapping of 43 students last September. Without any sign of resolution, there is increased speculation of a government cover-up. Furious protesters burned ballots in locations across the country, but the uproar was downplayed by the government, which described it as “isolated incidents.”
3. While the American and European governments were busy bailing out failing megabanks in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008-2009, Icelanders decided they would have no part in such capitulation and tried something radically different—they jailed the bankers. Though that choice shocked the world at the time, the gamble paid off. Recently, the IMF announced that not only has Iceland achieved economic recovery (while managing to maintain universal healthcare and education, no less), but it is the first European nation that suffered heavy losses in the meltdown to “surpass its pre-crisis peak of economic output”—essentially demonstrating that holding the appropriate people accountable for such appalling fraud can be both conscionable and profitable.
4. We’re just halfway through the year, but somehow, American police have already killed 500 people—39 more deaths in six months than the already outrageous total from all of 2014. Still, these figures aren’t even necessarily accurate because there still isn’t a federal requirement for police departments to report who they kill. Though legislation to solve that issue, dubbed the “Police Reporting of Information, Data, and Evidence (PRIDE) Act,” was proposed earlier this month, the best system in place in at the moment is The Guardian’s ongoing project, “The Counted.”
In other news from the police state, the LAPD “investigated itself and found it did nothing wrong” in killing Ezell Ford—despite a complete lack of explanation for why he’d been stopped by police in the first place. On the flipside, South Carolina officer Michael Slager— who shot and killed the unarmed Walter Scott in the back as he fled— was indicted for murder thanks to a bystander’s cell phone video. Somewhere in the accountability gray area, a Cleveland municipal judge found grounds to charge officer Timothy Loehmann for murder, manslaughter, both reckless and negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty for killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice within two seconds of arriving on scene. Though the judge was “thunderstruck” by how quickly Loehmann used deadly force, the prosecutor isn’t taking the case because, as he justified it, “[u]ltimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”
5. A study published by Finnish and Swedish researchers found an alarming link between prescription painkillers and a 92% increased risk for committing homicide. Though they emphasize this is a correlation and not proof, the findings are still cause for concern with widespread opiate use. The researchers also found risk increased 31% in those taking antidepressants, 45% for users of sedatives, and a startling 206% increased chance of committing homicide for users of over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
6. In an astonishingly tragic example of the senseless disparity in state laws, Kansas mother Shona Banda is now facing up to 30 years in prison for using cannabis to treat a terminal case of Crohn’s Disease. In March, her house was raided by authorities and Child Protective Services took custody of her son after educators notified law enforcement when he mentioned her successful treatment in a drug class at school. The illness had kept her confined to the couch for years when prescription medication offered no ease in suffering. She only resorted to cannabis after the terminal diagnosis. The case made headlines as a nightmarish catch-22—does she use cannabis and stay alive for her son but remain unable to see him—or does she quit the treatment and regain custody but become so ill she’s unfit to parent? Banda is expected to turn herself in to authorities on June 15.
7. Clearing your browser’s history could land you in prison for 20 years as a law intended to fight corporate fraud is being wielded against individuals, instead. Enacted in 2002 to ostensibly prevent corporations from shredding documents when under federal investigation, Section 802 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been quietly and successfully levied in prosecutions when individuals deleted their search histories and personal files—even when they had no reason to suspect they were under investigation. This frightening departure from the law’s intent causes ridiculous unknowns. For now, there is no definitive answer to such questions as: “What happens if I hate my browser enough to uninstall it?”
8. Convicted blogger Raif Badawi received a stay by the Saudi Arabian government on Friday as the second set of 50 lashes he was due to receive were again postponed. Though no official explanation was given for the delay, worldwide outcry and political pressure appear to be the most likely reasons. Failure to remove “offensive content” from the blog he started in 2008 led to Badawi’s conviction for “apostasy.” Human rights groups and countries around the world have condemned the punishment as “cruel and inhuman.” After the first 50 lashes brought him perilously close to death, many wondered whether he would even survive Friday’s session. Though news of yesterday’s delay is a brief respite, there are 950 lashes yet to be inflicted.
9. Don’t crack any “show me the money” jokes if you visit the Pentagon: they wouldn’t have any idea how to do so. In the accounting error to end all accounting errors, the Department of Defense has no idea how it spent 8.5 trillion in U.S. tax dollars, partly because “plugging”— inserting figures arbitrarily in records to account for discrepancies—has long been considered standard operating procedure. And if the whopping $1.59 trillion error by a Columbus, Ohio office weren’t telling enough, the DoD obsessively spends money, too. By the end of 2012, the Pentagon was the proud owner of 22,437 spare Humvee front ends that were never needed in the first place—and we paid for them.
10. Kalief Browder ended up on Riker’s Island at just 16 years of age after being falsely accused of stealing a backpack. Without any credible evidence against him, a grand jury indicted the teen for second degree robbery. Due to a probation violation, the judge sent him to jail without bail. For the next three years, Browder lived in filthy conditions and was subjected to attacks by prisoners and guards alike—even spending between 700-800 days in solitary confinement, where he tried to end his life many times. This was all because he refused to plead guilty for a crime he didn’t commit in order to receive the relief of a sentence with an end date. He was ultimately released an innocent man after more than one thousand days spent on Riker’s Island, when a judge couldn’t justify further prosecution of his case. Browder never fully recovered from the traumatic stint behind bars. He committed suicide last Saturday, but it was the ineptitude of a failed system that was the true killer.
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