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New Solitary Confinement Unit Plagued by Old Problems on Rikers Island

By: Tuesday March 31, 2015 1:00 pm

This post was originally published to

At the beginning of March, New York City’s Board of Correction released a preliminary report on Rikers Island’s controversial new isolation facility, the Enhanced Supervision Housing Unit (ESHU). The $14.8 million ESHU was proposed to house 250 of Rikers’ so-called “most dangerous” inmates– a small minority of the prison population that officials claim is responsible for the majority of inmate violence.

Amid federal, state and municipal investigations and a seemingly endless stream of lawsuits alleging horrendous civil rights violations, city officials vowed to change the abusive and dysfunctional culture of the Department of Correction.

The opening of the ESHU at the beginning of this year is one of the first and only of the proposed reforms to have been implemented so far.

Meet the ESHU

Basic demographic information on the 18 ESH inmates

Basic demographic information on the 18 ESH inmates

Like the rest of Rikers Island, the overwhelming majority of people confined to the ESHU are young black males: the report says that 72% are African American and the average inmate is in his mid-20′s.

Despite promises to divert mentally ill prisoners from the ESHU, 13 of the 18 inmates (72%) living there have been given an “m status.”

28% of ESH inmates came directly from punitive segregation and 6% came from long-term isolation units known as Restrictive Housing Units (RHU).

ESH inmates averaged 192 days in punitive segregation in the past year. The Board notes that “with the recent punitive segregation restrictions of no more than 30 consecutive days or 60 days within any six month period, inmates who have maxed out their time in punitive segregation (which includes RHU) may be transferred to ESH.” They promise to closely watch the flow of inmates from punitive segregation to the ESHU.


US Military Will Train Neo-Nazis In Ukraine

By: Tuesday March 31, 2015 11:00 am

Though sending US troops into Ukraine was already controversial, a report by the Associated Press shows a bad situation is getting worse. According to the AP the US forces being sent into Ukraine will be training Neo-Nazi militants who have already been accused of war crimes.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has publicly stated that among those forces receiving US training in April will be the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. The Azov Battalion uses Nazi symbols and openly declares its belief in white supremacy and antisemitism. Many members trace their family’s lineage to fighting with the Nazis against the Soviet Union during World War II.

The neo-Nazis will be trained by US forces to more effectively kill people in East Ukraine.

The United States plans to send soldiers to Ukraine in April for training exercises with units of the country’s national guard. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post on Sunday that the units to be trained include the Azov Battalion, a volunteer force that has attracted criticism for its far-right sentiments including brandishing an emblem widely used in Nazi Germany.

Avakov said the training will begin April 20 at a base in western Ukraine near the Polish border and would involve about 290 American paratroopers and some 900 Ukrainian guardsmen.

Not only does the Azov Battalion hold antidemocratic fascist views its activities in the field have been condemned by Amnesty International as “ISIS style war crimes.” Part of the Azov Battalion’s methods include decapitating captured prisoners and parading their severed heads around to inspire terror.

The US policy in Ukraine has been a nightmare from the beginning. First supporting a violent overthrow of a democratic government and now supporting and training neo-Nazi militants who have committed war crimes. What kind of Ukraine is the US trying to foster?

2 Federal Agents Charged With Stealing Bitcoins During Silk Road Investigation

By: Tuesday March 31, 2015 9:00 am

An agent from the DEA and an agent from the Secret Service have been charged with wire fraud and money laundering for stealing and extorting Bitcoin during the federal investigation of the Silk Road online marketplace. The agents are alleged to have successfully taken money from the founder of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, during an investigation into a possible murder-for-hire scheme as well as stealing seized funds.

After obtaining the money the agents laundered it using private accounts. In one case money was laundered to Panama and in another case funds were laundered to Mt. Gox which would later be seized by federal authorities partly due to the orders of the agent involved in the theft. Both agents privately enriched themselves using their power as law enforcement officials according to the indictment.

Ulbricht, who supposedly went by the moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts,” has already been convicted for his involvement in drug trafficking but with these revelations the murder-for-hire case may not make it to court.

The agents now facing charges led a Baltimore-based murder-for-hire case against Ulbricht, separate from the drugs-related charges on which he was found guilty. The murder-for-hire case remains pending. Prosecutors identified the agents as Carl Force, 46 years old, of Baltimore, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Shaun Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service…

Using the online persona “French Maid,” Force did succeed in getting $100,000 in Bitcoin from Ulbricht, which Force deposited in his personal accounts, the federal complaint says. He later used a series of Bitcoin and personal U.S. dollar transactions, including a $235,000 wire transfer to an account in Panama, to launder the stolen money, prosecutors allege in the complaint…Bridges allegedly stole $820,000, using a series of wire transfers to move Bitcoin that earlier had been stolen from Silk Road in early 2013 and deposited in a Japanese bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, according to prosecutors. Two days later, Bridges signed the government’s warrant to seize millions of dollars in bitcoin from Mt. Gox accounts.

The evidence of misconduct by federal agents was kept out of Ulbricht’s drug trafficking trial though it seems likely that Ulbricht may use the information to try and reopen that case. The investigation Force and Bridges were apart of did result in an indictment but, not surprisingly, prosecutors have not been anxious to advance the case.

Ulbricht’s lawyer now calls the entire investigation into his clients activities “fatally compromised from the inside.”

The Roundup

By: Tuesday March 31, 2015 7:00 am

In honor of OK Computer being archived by the Library of Congress, I place today a quasi-song off the album. Expect a post about the album later in the week. International Politics Overall – Pew: While 49 percent of Americans support U.S. negotiations with Iran, 63 percent do not believe Iran is serious – Journalist Tim Shurrock asks a [...]

Over Easy: Flying !

By: Tuesday March 31, 2015 4:55 am

The events of the last week or so brought this subject to mind and stirred my curiosity. The very first time i flew was when my mother decided to move us down to Naples Florida in the South West par of the state.  This was in 1964 an on a National Airlines turbo prop Trip [...]

Late Night FDL: Join Together

By: Monday March 30, 2015 8:00 pm

The Who – Join Together

Hmmm… The Who could be writing a new album…

Journalists Arrested While Covering Ferguson Protests Sue St. Louis County Police for Rights Violations

By: Monday March 30, 2015 6:00 pm

Journalists arrested while covering ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer have sued the St. Louis County police. The lawsuit alleges [PDF] that at least twenty officers, whose identities remain unknown, engaged in “unlawful conduct” that “was undertaken with the intention of obstructing, chilling, deterring, and retaliating against [...]

Tsarnaev: Government rests after presenting graphic and disturbing autopsy evidence

By: Monday March 30, 2015 3:00 pm

As Tsarnaev stands and exits the room, his attorneys huddle together. Judy Clarke, Miriam Conrad and David Bruck all have very grim looks.

Book Review: “This Must Be the Place: How the U.S. Waged Germ Warfare in Korean War & Denied It Ever Since”

By: Monday March 30, 2015 1:00 pm

There is no historical controversy as contentious or long-lasting as the North Korean and Chinese charges of U.S. use of biological weapons during the Korean War. For those who believe the charges to be false — and that includes much of American academia, but not all — they must assume the burden of explaining why [...]

Saudis Preparing For Ground Invasion Of Yemen As Airstrike Hits Refugee Camp

By: Monday March 30, 2015 11:38 am

Dozens dead after airstrikes on camp for displaced Yemenis: An airstrike on a displaced persons camp in Yemen … — Silicon Angel (@SiliconAngel) March 30, 2015 The war in Yemen has escalated with Saudi troops massing on the border preparing to invade the country to put down the Shiite Houthis rebellion that ousted Yemen’s [...]

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