"We are the only country in history that ever deliberately changed its ethnic makeup, and history has few examples of 'diversity' creating a stable society." - Richard Lamm, former governor of Colorado
Friday, October 27, 2006
Two suspected Colombian cocaine traffickers arrested in Guinea-Bissau's biggest drugs haul have been allowed to walk free
Two suspected Colombian cocaine traffickers arrested in Guinea-Bissau's biggest drugs haul have been allowed to walk free, revealing serious weaknesses in the country's ability to fight crime, security experts and diplomats said on Thursday.
They said the unexplained release ordered by a local judge this month highlighted the government's fragile law enforcement capacity ahead of a major foreign donors conference that will focus on the tiny West African state's vulnerability to organised crime gangs.
The two suspects, who told police they were Colombians and gave their names as Juan Carlos Teran Figueran and Pedro Marino Vega, were detained on Sept. 24 after police seized 674 kg (1,486 lb) of cocaine following a tip-off from the international police agency Interpol. The drug was valued at $25 million.
The arresting officers in the former Portuguese colony, which is one of the world's poorest countries, also seized arms and sophisticated communications equipment.
But barely a month after the arrests, hailed by local and foreign police officers as a major milestone in Guinea-Bissau's fight against international drug trafficking, a Bissau regional court judge ordered the release of the two on Oct. 13.
"It was an unpleasant surprise. The order gave no explanation. Now the police don't know where they are," one foreign law enforcement expert, who has followed the case but asked not to be named, told Reuters.
"I think there is corruption here. This is not a good sign."
Clearly embarrassed by the releases, which had not been made public, Justice Minister Namuano Dias Gomes told Reuters the surprise move by the judicial branch was "regrettable".
Gabriel Madjanhe Djedjo, the judge who signed the Oct. 13 release order, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, was not immediately available to comment.
Guinea-Bissau's government intends to ask foreign donors at a Nov. 7-8 conference in Geneva for millions of dollars to fund reforms of the armed forces, police and judiciary.
"This is just another confirmation of a weak justice system that needs support," a European diplomat, who also asked not to be identified, said.
The security experts said the head of Guinea-Bissau's judicial police, Orlando da Silva, who had proudly announced the record drugs seizure and the arrests in September, had since received death threats. He declined to be interviewed.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says international drugs cartels are using Guinea-Bissau's remote and inaccessible coastline as a transit route from Latin America to Europe.
The UNODC says the traffickers take advantage of the fact that local security forces have virtually no planes, boats, radios or forensic laboratories. The country does not even have a proper prison.
"There is no police control. There is corruption in the government, the armed forces and the police," the law enforcement expert said.
Diplomats said an official from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had recently visited but was not allowed to inspect the cocaine haul despite repeated requests.
Foreign officials were urging the government to publicly destroy the cocaine, which had apparently been transferred to the Finance Ministry for safe keeping, diplomats said.
The vast majority of the £450 million figure was spent on officers and staff who work with minority communities and research issues such as black-on-black gun crime and child protection.
The spending, which includes £187 million on recruitment, training and research within minority communities in the past year alone, takes up six per cent of the overall Met budget, according to a report in today's Evening Standard.
The budget has also gone towards crime fighting and prevention.
The 'equalities-related expenditure' covered not just race issues, but those of gender, faith, disability, age and sexuality. Since 2003, more than £21 million has been spent on interpreters' fees.
However, new figures show the number of race-discrimination claims against officers made by colleagues or the public rose by 24 per cent from 259 in 2003/4 to 320 in 2005/6.
In the latest case this week, Pc Wayne Bell was ordered to resign for making monkey noises at a suspect in custody at Plumstead police.
He was acquitted of a racially aggravated public order offence at Bow Street magistrates court but ordered to resign for three breaches of the force's code of conduct.
A second officer has also been ordered to quit for failing to report Pc Bell's behaviour.
The statistics were obtained by the London Assembly Liberal Democrats.
Graham Tope, a Lib-Dem policing spokesman and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, told the Standard: 'The rise in the number of reported racist incidents against police officers is concerning.
'The Met and the MPA should look into this to establish whether this increase is a result of the complaints procedure being made more accessible to the public or if it is the sign of a more worrying trend.'
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in 2002 labelled the Met 'institutionally racist' and led to an overhaul in its approach to equality and diversity.
Every unit at Scotland Yard now addresses the 'quality and diversity implications' of everything they do.
In 2004/5, the cost of Operation Trident, which tackles gun crime in the black community, was £24 million. For child protection, it was £37.6million.
In an interview on Washington Post Radio Friday morning, Jim Webb, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia, said excerpts of his novels are "a little bit inappropriate" to be read on news radio.
"I don't know why you're reading that on WTOP," Webb told host Mark Plotkin. "I think it's a little bit inappropriate."
Plotkin was reading an excerpt from Webb's novel "Something to Die For," in which Webb describes a female stripper performing sexual acts with a banana.
"I don't think that's appropriate for you to read on WTOP," Webb said again as Plotkin finished the excerpt. (Washington Post Radio is WTOP's sister station.)
The campaign of Republican Sen. George Allen on Thursday released excerpts from some of the war novels Webb wrote between 1978 and 2002. The books include some graphic sexual passages, as well as frequent uses of a racial slur for blacks and descriptions of Vietnamese women as "monkey-faced."
Among the excerpts is a scene from the 2002 novel "Lost Soldiers," in which a man embraces his four-year-old son and places the boy's penis in his mouth.
Webb said the release of the excerpts was "a Karl Rove campaign tactic" and a "classic example of the way this campaign has worked. It's smear after smear."
He defended his fiction as "illuminative."
"It's not a sexual act," Webb told Plotkin regarding the "Lost Soldiers" excerpt. "I actually saw this happen in a slum in Bangkok when I was there as a journalist."
"The duty of a writer is to illuminate the surroundings," he added.
Coincidentally, a Cambodian woman in Las Vegas is facing sexual assault charges for performing a similar act on her young son, according to an Oct. 14 report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The article quotes an office manager for the Cambodian Association of America, who described the act as a sign of respect or love.
"It's an exception," Thira Srey told the Review-Journal of the practice. According to the report, the act is usually performed by a mother or caretaker on a child who is one year old or younger. In Webb's novel, the child is four years old.
IT IS a battle between environmentalists and an Orthodox Jewish community, pitting freedom of worship against the survival of an endangered bird. And it is taking place on the beach.
The 70 or so Orthodox Jewish families who attend a synagogue on the boardwalk at Venice Beach are seeking permission to string a fishing line around several miles of southern California’s more popular stretches of sand to create a symbolic religious enclosure.
The enclosure, known as an eruv, defines the boundaries of an area within which observant Jews can treat public spaces, shared by all the community, in the same way as private space at home. In practice it gives them the freedom to do many things they cannot otherwise do in public on the Sabbath, such as carry food and push baby buggies and wheelchairs.
But while eruvs run through many cities around the world, including London, nobody in California has attempted to run one along the beach. And so the law laid down in the Torah has come up against an equally immutable edict in the form of the state’s strict environmental code.
Californian law requires the protection of public views to the ocean and the habitats of nesting shore birds, both of which the Coastal Commission has argued would be compromised by the eruv. It fears that endangered Californian least terns that nest along the shore could fly into the fishing line and be killed. They also argue that the 20ft (6m) steel poles carrying the fishing line would obstruct public views. The commission turned down the request for an eruv but the community is not giving up.
Synagogue leaders and coastal officials will sit down this week to try to hammer out a deal. The request for the eruv has caused a clash between two of California’s most dearly held principles: the right to religious freedom and the protection of the environment. And it takes place in a city with America’s second-largest Jewish population and in a state with the toughest environment al laws.
A former army officer from El Salvador who was convicted of taking part in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two other people during that country's civil war was arrested in the United States and faces deportation, authorities said Wednesday.
Federal agents, acting on a tip, arrested Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos, 43, on Oct. 18 at a motel near the University of California, Los Angeles. He illegally entered the country in January 2005, according to a statement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He was being held at a detention facility pending a deportation hearing next month, said Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for the agency. She did not know where Guevara Cerritos had been or what he was doing in the United States.
"We will not allow the United States to be a place of refuge for aliens seeking to escape a violent criminal past," Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
Hector Hugo Herrera, El Salvador's consul general in Los Angeles, said the deportation wouldn't mean much to Salvadorans because Cerritos had served his prison sentence and had been given amnesty in 1993.
"This is just like any other case of an El Salvadoran being deported," said Herrera.
Guevara Cerritos was a sub-lieutenant with the Salvadoran army's counterinsurgency Atlacatl Battalion, which fought the leftist group FMLN during that country's bloody civil war, which ended in 1992. against the FMLN, a leftist guerrilla group.
He and eight other officers and soldiers were convicted of involvement in the 1989 killing of six priests, their cook and her teenage daughter at a university in the capital city of El Salvador.
Guevara was convicted in El Salvador in 1991 of instigation and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
He spent nearly two years under house arrest before he was pardoned by the government under a 1993 general amnesty, ICE said.
The 12-year civil war cost the lives of some 75,000.
The attacks initially took place near Bunnell High School and students at that school were assaulted, leading the school faculty to warn parents to take precautions to protect their teenage children.
This week, however, attacks took place on Hamilton Avenue and West Broad Street, miles from Bunnell.
School Supt. Irene Cornish said Wednesday she would consult with police and issue a town-wide alert to parents and students this week.
All of the victims were white teenage boys, and the assailants reportedly were older teenage black males. A senior police official would not characterize the attacks as hate crimes because the attackers were not known to have made racial comments or to give any other indication the crimes were racially motivated.
Stratford police are investigating the attacks as robberies, because in all four cases the victims either were robbed or the gang unsuccessfully attempted to rob them.
Police Capt. Harvey Maxwell advised residents to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings. "We definitely have one or two street robbery crews," he said.
The first attack occurred on Oct. 10 around 10:30 p.m. when a 16-year-old member of the Bunnell High School band was walking home on Huntington Road and a gang of five or six black youths reportedly attacked him.
The gang allegedly tried to take his cell phone but the victim fought them off and they fled empty-handed in a silver car. The youth sustained minor cuts and bruises. He was treated at Bridgeport Hospital.
After that attack, the Bunnell PTA issued an alert to band parents out of concern for the safety of student band members, who often leave the school alone in the evening after practice.
The second attack occurred last Saturday evening shortly before 10 p.m. when a 15-year-old student was knocked off his bicycle and savagely kicked and beaten unconscious along Huntington Road across the street from the high school.
The youth reportedly had gone to the Bunnell-Trinity Catholic football game, which was rained out Friday and rescheduled for Saturday night. A passerby reportedly found him and called police by cell phone.
His mother, an ER nurse at St. Vincent's Medical Center, directed Stratford EMS to take her son to that hospital where he was treated for a concussion, a broken finger and cuts and bruises.
The youth reportedly told police he was attacked from behind and could not furnish a description of his attackers. He also reportedly suffered memory loss from being kicked in the head. Ten dollars in cash was taken from his back pocket.
After the second attack, Bunnell Principal Dudley Orr sent a letter home to all Bunnell parents urging them to pick up their children from school events, or at least to make sure they don't go home alone.
In the third attack, the 15-year-old victim said he was on Hamilton Avenue around 5 p.m. Monday walking home from Stratford High School when he was assaulted by three black males wearing black jackets and masked in black bandanas.
The victim reportedly fought with the gang, but the trio attacked him and took his $250 cell phone.
On Tuesday shortly after 9 p.m., a Stratford police officer was approached by a 17-year-old victim who said three black males attacked him from behind while he was walking on West Broad Street.
The attackers, who wore hooded sweatshirts, allegedly punched him, took his $215 cell phone and ran away.
Shirazi, one of the leading clerics of the Shiite holy city of Qom, wrote on his website that "the Koran first of all advises a man to try and convince his wife to obey to him in a polite way and through advice, then by refusing to have sexual relations with her and, finally, if all this will have failed to make her reason, with physical punishment."
The punishment, the leading cleric said, "must be light and considered an exceptional event, like surgery in case of a serious illness."
Makarem Shirazi advised his readers against "physical punishment which leaves signs and wounds." Women, he explained, "are masochistic and sometimes they have a crisis and need light physical punishment to get back to normal."
Azam Taleghani, daughter of the late Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani, one of the protagonists of the 1979 Islamic revolution, branded the fatwa as "an offence to women."
"It is not right to issue a fatwa based on texts written over one thousand years ago without taking into account today's reality," said Azam Taleghani, who runs one of Iran's leading feminists' associations. "If we learn that someone hits their wife on the basis of these statements we will report them along with Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi to the judicial authority of the Islamic Republic."
The human rights group also wants web log writers to highlight the plight of fellow bloggers jailed for what they wrote in their online journals.
The organisation said fundamental rights such as free speech faced graver threats than ever before.
The campaign coincides with the start of a week-long UN-organised conference that will debate the future of the net.
"Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege - but it's a right that needs defending," said Steve Ballinger of Amnesty International. "We're asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government."
Mr Ballinger said the case of Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari was just one example of the dangers that some online writers can face. Mr Sanjari was arrested in early October following his blogging about conflicts between the Iranian police and the supporters of Shia cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi.
Amnesty wanted bloggers to publicise cases such as this, said Mr Ballinger, and to declare their backing for the right to free speech online.
The two were caught in the northern region of Shinyanga which is famous for belief in witchcraft and mob killings of elderly people accused of sorcery.
Despite efforts to punish perpetrators, witchcraft-related crimes are on the increase in some cattle-keeping areas in the north, say the authorities.
Police also came across body parts earlier this year in the area.
A few months ago they discovered a woman's body abandoned in the bush without its private parts.
It is believed that they were removed by unknown people for rituals.
Shinyanga Regional Police Commander Sirro Nyakoro told the BBC a 28-year-old was caught red handed on Wednesday trading body parts, including the skull and ribs, to another man who is also under police custody.
Belief in witchcraft is common in Tanzania, where suspected sorcerers, often elderly, can face mob justice.
According to the police, killings are often old women who have red eyes from being too close to cooking smoke.
Although the government condemns these practices very few arrests are made as villagers are often frightened to name the culprits.
Republicans are trying to put Democratic candidates for the Michigan House of Representatives on the hot seat over whether they will support allowing a fellow Democrat to take office in January even though he was involved in a 1993 armed robbery.
Democrats are furious, calling the move an election-eve stunt with thinly veiled racial overtones.
They have said voters, and not other politicians, should choose their next state representative.
Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, has sent a letter to Democratic, Republican and Libertarian candidates for the 110 seats in the House, asking them to pledge to support blocking Bert Johnson from being seated.
Johnson has no opponent for a seat that covers Hamtramck, Highland Park and a small portion of Detroit.
Anuzis cites language in the state Constitution that bars from the Legislature any person "who has within the preceding 20 years been convicted of a felony involving a breach of public trust."
Johnson pleaded no contest to armed robbery and breaking and entering for his role in a 1993 armed robbery at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township. Michigan law considers a no-contest plea to be a conviction, even though it not an admission of guilt.
House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, has said he will not support allowing Johnson to assume office. The last time someone who won the November election was denied their House seat was in 1965.
In the letter, Anuzis writes, "I consider pointing a gun into the face of a Michigan resident and committing armed robbery to be a breach of the public trust."
Johnson said he was present during the May 27, 1993, robbery of a cash box from the country club where he caddied, but that he did not pull the gun. He said he pleaded no contest only so he could own up to his role in the incident.
The police officer who led the investigation has disputed Johnson's story, saying Johnson pulled the gun and ran to a waiting car.
Anuzis asked candidates to respond by 5 p.m. Tuesday. He said that as of Wednesday afternoon, most Republican and Libertarian candidates had responded, but no Democrats. Most who responded said they would oppose seating Johnson, Anuzis said.
Additionally, Republican lawmakers have announced their intent to introduce bills requiring a criminal background check of candidates for the state Legislature, citing Johnson's case as an example.
But Dan Farough, a spokesman for House Democrats, said Republicans are trying to pit Detroit against the rest of the state and divide blacks and whites because Johnson is black.
Three Hibbing Community College football players and a former teammate appeared in St. Louis County District Court Monday accused of taking part in the gang rape of an 18-year-old Iron Range high school student on the college campus.
Daily Whitten, 19, of Darlington, S.C., Talon Deante Jackson, 20, and Terrance Dominque Laverity, 20, both of Miami, are each charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Former teammate Andrew Jonathan Williams, 20, of Milwaukee, is charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The first-degree charge involves sexual penetration; the second-degree charge alleges forced sexual contact.
According to the criminal complaints:
The alleged victim said that a black man from Milwaukee who she had met previously in the college dorms asked her if she wanted to hang out and took her into a dark room, where he and several other men sexually assaulted her.
The men eventually left, she picked her clothes off the floor, drove to her boyfriend's home and told his mother what allegedly happened. The mother called a sexual assault advocate and the girl went to a hospital where she was examined.
A Hibbing police investigator showed the alleged victim a number of photographs of black males who live in Room 107 of the college dorm, where the assault took place.
The woman identified Williams and Laverity as taking part in the assault. The complaint alleges that Jackson told Williams he had sex with the woman, but denied it to Hibbing police.
According to a recent study by Heritage Foundation economist Robert Rector:
Immigrants, though just 17 percent of the population, represent a quarter of all poverty.
But even that figure is deceptive, because by far the highest poverty rate is for Hispanic immigrants -- again, mostly from Mexico.
Fully one-quarter of Hispanic arrivals earn below the poverty income -- $15,219 for a family of three; most come illegally.
It's mostly illegals -- whose numbers are pegged from 12 million to 20 million -- who are faring poorly:
Though just 9 percent of U.S. population, Hispanic immigrants account for 17 percent of the poor -- and their number is growing.
So is the percentage of those without health care coverage -- some 43.6 percent of all noncitizens versus 13.4 percent for those born here; for Mexicans, the number is 54 percent.
Why does this matter? The National Academy of Sciences estimates that every immigrant lacking a high school degree will cost U.S. taxpayers $89,000 during his life, net of taxes paid. The academy further reckons total costs for illegals economy-wide could be as much as $2 trillion.
For the first time, women in India have legal protection against abuse in their own homes under a law which came into force yesterday. It is the first time Indian law has recognised marital rape, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse of a woman by her husband as crimes. India is a country where the streets are safe - but a woman is not safe inside her own home.
There is a remarkably low rate of violent crime against strangers in most of the big cities, and it is safe to walk the streets of Mumbai or Bangalore late at night. But every six hours, a young married woman is burnt to death, beaten to death, or driven to suicide by emotional abuse from her husband, figures show.
More than two-thirds of married women in India aged between 15 and 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex, according to the UN Population Fund.
One of the most common causes of violence against women is dowry-related. In most of India, women's families are still expected to provide their husbands with dowries when they marry.
Husbands - or their families - who are dissatisfied with the dowry beat, emotionally abuse and often even kill the women.
Last year 6,787 cases were recorded of women murdered by their husbands or their husbands' families because of their dowries. Many die in "stove burnings": set alight by husbands or in-laws who then claim it was a kitchen accident.
Domestic violence against women is already illegal, under a 1983 law. But the new law marks the first time India has recognised marital rape. Previously it was impossible to prosecute a man for raping his wife, which was considered to be within his conjugal rights.
The Subcommittee on Investigations of the House Homeland Security Committee found that the government of President Hugo Chavez has issued thousands of identity documents that could help terrorists elude immigration checks and illegally enter the United States.
Representative Michael McCaul, a first term Republican from Austin, chaired the subcommittee that produced the findings, “The potential is certainly there for terrorists to infiltrate the U.S. through Mexico. We apprehended five Pakistanis on the U.S. Mexico border with fraudulent Venezuelan documents.”
The report entitled, “A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border,” states that the number of aliens other than Mexican (OTMs) illegally crossing the border has grown at an alarming rate over the past several years. Homeland Security officials are concerned about aliens apprehended from thirty-five nations designated as “special interest” countries. Hundreds of aliens from “special interest” countries that are known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended according to the report. The countries include Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The McAllen border sector far outpaces the rest of the country in Special Interest Alien apprehensions. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, arrests of Special Interest Aliens have increased forty-one percent along the Texas/Mexico border and Texas has accounted for eighty-eight percent of the nation’s total apprehensions of Special Interest Aliens.
McCaul says Mexican drug cartels that control human smuggling networks could be unwitting accomplices to transport terrorists into the U.S., “ I don't really trust the cartels to do a background check and a screening process in terms of whom they bring into this country. I don't think they really care.”
Federal law enforcement personnel told the subcommittee’s staff that it is difficult to provide the total number of Special Interest Aliens entering the U.S. because they pay large amounts of money, between $15,000 and $60,000, to employ the more effective Mexican alien smuggling organizations and are less likely to be apprehended.
WHO NEEDS BORAT to caricature funny foreigners from the East when we have Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality? Borat is wowing cinema audiences with tales of how his fellow Kazakhs still hate the Jews. Meanwhile, Mr Phillips told BBC viewers of anecdotal evidence that new Eastern European immigrants are coming to Britain “frankly with attitudes towards black people which date back to the 1950s. That is unacceptable.”
The slight difference is that Borat, the journalist-turned- film-star, is a joke created by Sacha Baron Cohen, whereas Mr Phillips, the journalist-turned-self-styled-referee of our race relations, is serious. Yet while Borat’s cracks about Kazakhs have caused a stir, Phillips’s remarks about Eastern Europeans being unacceptable racists are apparently acceptable. Nobody has accused him of inciting “Roman-Bulgaro-phobia”.
Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of politics today. In the past, left-wing people like me argued that tightening immigration controls was racial discrimination against the Third World. Now anti-racists like Mr Phillips talks of the possible dangers of more white immigration. Perhaps while customs check Eastern Europeans’ luggage, the thought police should search their minds for contraband political baggage.
For Democrats like these in tight races, black voter turnout will be crucial on Election Day. But despite a generally buoyant Democratic Party nationally, there are worries among Democratic strategists in some states that blacks may not turn up at the polls in big enough numbers because of disillusionment over past shenanigans.
“This notion that elections are stolen and that elections are rigged is so common in the public sphere that we’re having to go out of our way to counter them this year,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist.
This will be the first midterm election in which the Democratic Party is mobilizing teams of lawyers and poll watchers, to check for irregularities including suppression of the black vote, in at least a dozen of the closest districts, Ms. Brazile said.
Democrats’ worries are backed up by a Pew Research Center report that found that blacks were twice as likely now than they were in 2004 to say they had little or no confidence in the voting system, rising to 29 percent from 15 percent.
And more than three times as many blacks as whites — 29 percent versus 8 percent — say they do not believe that their vote will be accurately tallied.
Voting experts say the disillusionment is the cumulative effect of election problems in 2000 and 2004, and a reaction to new identification and voter registration laws.
Long lines and shortages of poll workers in lower-income neighborhoods in the 2004 election and widespread reports of fliers with misinformation appearing in minority areas have also had a corrosive effect on confidence, experts say.
The wife in a biracial couple told police yesterday that she spray-painted racial epithets in their King and Queen County home, Sheriff E.C. Walton said yesterday.
Walton declined to reveal exactly what Carla Lewis told authorities. He said it has not been determined whether a charge of filing a false police report will be placed against her. The charge would be a misdemeanor, he said.
Lewis' claim that she returned home Oct. 3 to find racial slurs and references to the Ku Klux Klan painted in her house cast a pall over the rural county that unsuccessfully tried to block a Klan rally in 1993. About 33 percent of the county's 6,800 residents are black.
Her report prompted King Salim Khalfani, executive director of the state branch of the NAACP, to urge the FBI and state police to take over the investigation because, he said, he did not think the local sheriff's department would take the charge seriously and pursue it as a hate crime.
An NAACP spokesperson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Yesterday, Walton said his investigators began suspecting Lewis' story after they first interviewed her. He said she revealed what happened while being interviewed by state police officers and sheriff's deputies yesterday.
Lewis, 27, who is white and six months pregnant, lives in the community of Mattaponi with her husband, Samuel, 29, who is black.
The couple have a 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. The walls of the children's rooms had been painted with slurs, as were hallway walls, closet doors, another bedroom door and a washing machine. Photos of the couple and their children were placed facedown on the floor.
Walton said he was surprised and relieved by Lewis' admission.
"I'd hate to think we had someone [at large] doing this," he said. "King and Queen is small and beautiful, and we just don't have any racial problems. I'm sorry that something like this took place in the county."
A spokeswoman for the Richmond office of the FBI said yesterday that the office had not begun an investigation, preferring to wait for a request from the state police.
Walton said the matter is still under investigation.
In February, Powhatan County authorities concluded that racial graffiti painted on a family's house was the work of a family member. A couple and an adult son renting the house in the 2700 block of Ballsville Road had discovered an anti-black slur and phrase, "white power," on Feb. 3.
The sheriff's office and FBI agents later concluded it was "an act of vandalism by a family member."
Until he was 13 years old, Vananua, the shrine priest of Kebanu village, a small rural community in south-eastern Ghana, was, he says, just an ordinary child.
He got up early every day, helping his brothers fetch water before going to school at 7.30am. But, one night, he had a visitation. Mama Vananua, a god worshipped by the inhabitants of Kebanu, entered his body. She informed him he would take on her spirit and lead his village as the next "trokosi" priest. From then on, her name would be his name.
Trokosi is a traditional practice of slavery still seen as normal in parts of Ghana, Togo and Benin. Girls as young as two are offered to a fetish shrine priest as a way of appeasing the gods for a relative's transgression, past or present. The word trokosi comes from the Ewe words "tro", meaning deity, and "kosi" meaning female slave. The tradition, which has been part of the Ewe culture for centuries, requires a girl to spend the rest of her life as a "wife of the gods".
Vananua sits, deep in concentration, in front of the Kebanu shrine - a small ochre-red hut, surrounded by high walls on the outskirts of the village. There is no door to the shrine, and the unremitting darkness within makes it impossible to see inside. "Troxovi", a small spiky wooden carving, or fetish, stands at the entrance. Vananua is dressed in long flowing white calico robes and a conical shaped hat. He says the customary prayers to welcome a visitor to the community and then pours libation.
"Mama Vananua is a god who takes children," he says. "She looks for people who do wrong but who pretend they've done nothing. When you're brought before her, she will consult the higher gods and then will bring these crimes to light.
"For this, Mama Vananua takes a girl, or a lady, to pacify her for the work done."
Trokosi originates from the same belief system as voodoo. From the 1500s on, the Ewe were driven from the Niger River delta westwards. During this violent period their war-gods took on great importance and the fetish priests were more important than the chiefs. Before entering combat, warriors would visit religious shrines where they offered women to the war gods in exchange for victory and a safe homecoming. Today, trokosi priests are the most revered figures in many rural areas. Families believe that if they refuse to give a girl to the fetish shrine, it will bring bad luck to the community, ranging from poverty, disease and death.
Three TCU students accused of raping a fourth student in one of the men's dormitory rooms Oct. 13 laughed during the incident and later concocted a plan to minimize what they had done, one of the men told police.
The victim, 18, at first thought she had been raped by only one of the men, Virgil Allen Taylor, because she was unconscious during much of the attack, according to arrest warrant affidavits obtained Tuesday by the Star-Telegram.
All three of the suspects are former athletes at TCU.
The alleged role of the two other accused students, Shannon Behling and Lorenzo Jones, did not surface until police interviewed Taylor, who implicated Behling. An interview with Behling revealed that Jones was also involved, the affidavit stated.
"This case has shocked the conscience of all the investigators and people who have been involved in the case," said Sgt. Don Hanlon, supervisor of the Fort Worth police sex crimes unit. "In 19 years of law enforcement, there have only been a few cases that have had this deep of an effect on me, and this case is up on the top."
In their statements to police, both Taylor and Behling told investigators that the victim was unconscious during parts of the encounter. Jones refused to give police a statement.
"An unconscious person cannot consent to having sex," Hanlon said.
The three accused, who have declined jailhouse interview requests from the Star-Telegram, were formally charged Tuesday with sexual assault. Tuesday afternoon, Behling and Taylor, both 19, were released from Mansfield Jail after posting $25,000 bail each.
Jones, 20, remained in jail on the sexual assault charge and an assault/bodily injury charge from Collin County. His bail is set at $27,000.
At the time of their arrests last week, Behling was a sophomore basketball forward, Taylor a former basketball player, and Jones a nose tackle who had been cut from the football team the week before.
School officials say they anticipate that the accused, who are "temporarily separated" from TCU, will be expelled after a disciplinary hearing.
Not long ago, when a study from the left-leaning Applied Research Center charged a "deep pattern of institutional racism" in the disciplinary practices of public school districts around the country, it brought back some memories.
More than 25 years ago, when I was dean of boys at a high school in northern Queens, we received a letter from a federal agency pointing out that we had suspended black students far out of proportion to their numbers in our student population. Though it carried no explicit or even implicit threats, the letter was enough to set the alarm bells ringing in all the first-floor administrative offices.
When my supervisor, the assistant principal, showed me the letter, she merely shook her head and looked downcast. She said nothing, but her body language told me that it was probably time to mend our errant ways.
And when I passed the news on to our chief security guard that the feds were on our case, he merely chuckled and said, "They're bad"--meaning our rowdy clientele, which I took as confirmation of what I still believe: that until then, I hadn't recommended suspension for anyone who didn't richly deserve it.
There never was a smoking-gun memo, or a special meeting where the word got out, and I never made a conscious decision to change my approach to punishment, but somehow we knew we had to get our numbers "right"--that is, we needed to suspend fewer minorities or haul more white folks into the dean's office for our ultimate punishment.
What this meant in practice was an unarticulated modification of our disciplinary standards. For example, obscenities directed at a teacher would mean, in cases involving minority students, a rebuke from the dean and a notation on the record or a letter home rather than a suspension. For cases in which white students had committed infractions, it meant zero tolerance. Unofficially, we began to enforce dual systems of justice. Inevitably, where the numbers ruled, some kids would wind up punished more severely than others for the same offense.
Prosecuting District Attorney Mike Nifong now has exculpatory DNA tests, a solid alibi for one defendant, a string of contradictions from the accuser, an irredeemably tainted police identification and a witness who benefits the defense.
Nevertheless, charges are unlikely to be dropped in the immediate future -- at least not until the election for D.A. is concluded.
Politics, not justice, will be done.
Those in charge of the legal system are damaging justice itself. It is time for average people to bring fairness and standards back into the courtroom.
Certainly, those with authority over the Duke case cannot be trusted to do so. Nifong has virtually turned the prosecution into a campaign promise. And, if he wins the election, he may proceed rather than alienate his voter base which is black; the accuser is black as well and her alleged rape by three white men has become a racial flash point.
Governor Mike Easley, who appointed Nifong, won't ask him to step down from the case perhaps for fear of alienating the same voter bloc.
The Bar Association seems strangely uninterested in sanctioning Nifong for violating its own rules. (Specifically, Nifong's public statements about the case violate Rules 3.6 and 3.8 of the N.C. State Bar.)
The police haven't acted as a check. For example, against established procedure, they followed Nifong's instructions to have the Duke accuser identify her alleged attackers from a photo line-up that consisted only of white Lacrosse Team members; this made it de facto impossible for her to pick the 'wrong' man.
To many, Nifong now represents the unchecked power of government to destroy innocent people.
If the case proceeds, then the best hope for justice may well lie in the common sense and decency of people on the jury. Even if Nifong demonstrates that some technical violation of a broadly-interpreted law did occur -- e.g. 'sexual assault' which can include verbal threats or attacks -- the jury can refuse to convict.
The controversial process is called jury nullification. It means jurors can reject the law itself when that law or its application is unjust. Despite the fact that jurors are routinely instructed to judge only 'facts' and not 'the law', there is precedent for their judging both.
No question: the history of legal rulings and opinions on jury nullification is confusing. Some courts have upheld the practice; others have denied its validity. But it is a practice that deserves to be closely re-evaluated.
Jury nullification was established in British common law in 1670 when an English jury refused to convict William Penn, who later founded Pennsylvania. His crime was "unlawful assembly"; he preached Quakerism at a meeting, which was not 'the established' religion. The jury was imprisoned and then released when the English high court ruled that a jury must be free to reach its own decision without fear of punishment.
In 1735, jury nullification was affirmed in America when publisher John Peter Zenger was tried for printing "seditious libel" against the Governor of the New York Colony. No facts were in question since Zenger admitted the sedition. Thus the judge instructed the jurors to find Zenger guilty.
Within 10 minutes, they declared him not guilty and, so, overrode the law. Historians view the verdict as an important factor in the development of freedom of the press which, in turn, was key to founding America.
John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote, "The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy."
That right was rooted in the reason juries arose in the first place; they were introduced in order to protect the individual from abuse by government. Justice Byron White stated in the Supreme Court case Duncan v. Louisiana
(1968), "Providing an accused with the right to be tried by a jury of his peers gave him an inestimable safeguard against the corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against the compliant, biased, or eccentric judge."
In recent decades, jury nullification has fallen into disfavor for one basic reason: in the '60s and '70s, some all-white juries in the South refused to convict white defendants of crime against blacks. Advocates of jury nullification argued that the problem resulted because the juries were neither representative of the population nor randomly chosen.
Nevertheless, the possibility that jury nullification could sanction violence against unpopular minorities remains a strong argument that should not be dismissed. It should be resolved by constructing safeguards -- for example, on the method by which juries are selected.
To those not familiar with how vigorously many of the Founding Fathers defended jury nullification, the practice may sound too radical.
But when John Adams declared that a juror had a "duty...to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court," he expressed a core value of the American Revolution: suspicion of unchecked power.
As a D.A., Nifong is out of control. If the governor, the bar association and the police will not ensure the very basics of justice, then common people with common decency should say "no, I will not convict."
There are few issues in American education as widely discussed as the achievement gap, the racial divide that separates the academic performance of white and minority students.
But not at Hillsborough High School, where the principal pulled an article detailing the school's achievement gap from the student newspaper.
Principal William Orr called the content inappropriate, even though it focused on data the federal government publicizes under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Instead of a story and chart, students found a gaping hole Monday in the Red & Black, the school newspaper.
"If it's something that has a potential to hurt students' self-esteem, then I have an obligation not to let that happen," he said. "I don't think it's the job of the school newspaper to embarrass the students."
Editor-in-chief Emily Matras wrote the article, which included a chart breaking down Hillsborough High student test scores as reported on the state Education Department's Web site. She wanted to let classmates know what the school administration was doing to address the divide, including a schoolwide reading push.
Instead, she learned this lesson:
"High school is not the real world," said Matras, a junior. She understood the decision, but doesn't fully agree with it. "I think that we could have made a case that the story could have run, but we thought not to because we respect Dr. Orr."
Students stayed at school until 8 p.m. Friday cutting the article out of Page 3 in the October edition. It was replaced by a stapled note explaining that the administration offered to reprint the edition, but the newspaper's staff didn't want to delay publication.
Students were told not to talk about the article. The St. Petersburg Times contacted several after learning what happened.
"It did not condone anything immoral. It didn't talk of drug use or pregnancy or teen violence," said Simone Kallett, the newspaper's features editor and a sophomore. "It was a very fact-based article, and we don't understand why it was pulled."
Orr allowed a Times reporter to read the article briefly in his office, but not to quote it.
The Red & Black's faculty adviser, Joe Humphrey, declined to answer questions about the article when they came up around campus.
"We were told not to publish, and by word of mouth or otherwise we have not published it," he said. "Our primary goal when this happened was to still get the newspaper out."
Humphrey, formerly a reporter at the Tampa Tribune and a onetime intern at the Times, said the newspaper staff talked a little about legal ramifications.
In explaining his decision to remove the article, Orr cited a U.S. Supreme Court case giving school administrators broad power to censor student newspapers. But it's not absolute.
Mike Hiestand, a lawyer and consultant to the Student Press Law Center, thought the students at Hillsborough High could win a court case. He said they should be able to cover pertinent issues in public education.
"If it's a problem, it needs to be solved by addressing it accurately and openly, and it sounds like that's what the students tried to do," he said. "You don't fix a problem simply by putting your head in the sand."
The Red & Black is known as one of the more aggressive student newspapers in Hillsborough County. The latest edition features a front-page article about a junior arrested for bringing an unloaded gun to school.
Orr noted that it was only the second time in more than 20 years as a school administrator that he removed an article from a student newspaper. He had two other school administrators review it.
"If it had appeared in the Tampa Tribune or St. Petersburg Times, we wouldn't have thought anything of it," said Bertha Baker, assistant principal for administration. "But a student newspaper has to be a little more sensitive to the feelings of the students."
Racial discrimination is alive and well in American higher education, but it's not the sort intended to exclude racial and ethnic minorities, unless they happen to be Asian.
For a decade, my Center for Equal Opportunity has documented the double standards used by colleges and universities in giving preference to admitting blacks and Hispanics while disfavoring better-qualified whites and Asians.
In July 2003, the Supreme Court struck down the University of Michigan's undergraduate affirmative action admissions program, which favored blacks and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics. But three new CEO studies released this week show preferences, for blacks especially, have worsened in subsequent years. And these preferences extend to law and medical school admissions.
In 2003, the Supreme Court handed down two decisions on Michigan's admissions programs. In Gratz v. Bollinger, the court ruled the university undergraduate program, which awarded extra points on the basis of race or ethnicity, was unconstitutional. In Grutter v. Bollinger, which examined the law school's admissions procedures, the court upheld the program, which it contended took race into account but did not mechanically award specific points for race or ethnicity.
Even in the Grutter decision, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, said: "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary." But the evidence from our studies is the university is not on a path to eliminating preferences in either undergraduate or graduate programs.
CEO looked at undergraduate, law school and medical school admissions at Michigan for 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005, with information provided by the university under a freedom of information request. In all years and at all levels, the University of Michigan routinely admitted blacks and Hispanics with lower test scores and grades than whites or Asians -- and the differences were large.
In 2005, for example, the combined median SAT scores for blacks were 190 points lower (on a scale of 1600) than whites and 240 points lower than Asians. Similarly, blacks trailed whites in high school grade point averages by .5 and Asians by .4 (out of a potential 4.0). Over all the years analyzed, 8,000 whites, Asians and Hispanics were rejected who had higher grades and test scores than the median black admittee, including nearly 2,700 such students in 2005 alone.
The odds favoring black undergraduate admittees over whites with the same SAT scores in 2005 were 70-1, and 46-1 for Hispanics. And such preferences are not limited to undergraduate admissions, which arguably reflect greater disparities in opportunities among racial and ethnic minorities who may have attended poorer performing public schools. Blacks and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics also enjoy preferences in law and medical school admissions.
For example, odds ratios favoring black law school applicants over whites with the same test scores, grades, sex, Michigan residency and alumni connections were 36-1 in 1999, though they dropped to a still-high 18 to 1 in 2005. For Hispanics, the odds ratios were 4 to 1 in 1999, 2 to 1 in 2003, and more than 3 to 1 in 2004 and 2005.
Perhaps the most disheartening evidence in the CEO studies was that racial preferences don't even help the intended beneficiaries succeed in college. Based on college GPAs, Hispanics generally did less well than whites or Asians, though the best performing Hispanics (those whose grades put them at the 75th percentile) did about as well as their white and Asian counterparts in one year, 1999.
But blacks, who were awarded the greatest degree of preference in admission, performed more poorly than other groups across the board, with those blacks whose grades put them at the 75th percentile for their racial group performing below the 25th percentile for whites. And both blacks and Hispanics were far more likely to be put on academic probation during their undergraduate career.
But Michigan voters will have a chance to stop these pernicious practices on Nov. 7 by voting for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which bans universities from using race or ethnicity to discriminate against or give preference to any individual. A similar initiative was enacted in California in 1996, and the result has made admissions fairer to everyone, including blacks and Hispanics who can now be confident they are admitted on merit rather than on the color of their skin.
Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, the nation's most senior Muslim cleric, compared immodestly-dressed women who do not wear the Islamic headdress with meat that is left uncovered in the street and is then eaten by cats.
Politicians including Prime Minister John Howard, community leaders and a large number of Muslims condemned the mufti's comments amid calls that he should be deported to Egypt, his country of origin.
In a Ramadam sermon in a Sydney mosque, Sheik al-Hilali suggested that a group of Muslim men recently jailed for many years for gang rapes were not entirely to blame.
There were women, he said, who 'sway suggestively' and wore make-up and immodest dress "and then you get a judge without mercy and gives you 65 years. But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he said, referring to the women victims.
Addressing 500 worshippers on the topic of adultery, Sheik al-Hilali added: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it..whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat?
"The uncovered meat is the problem."
He went on: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred."
Women, he said, were 'weapons' used by Satan to control men.
His comments, reported yesterday in the nationally-circulated newspaper The Australian, created a storm of outrage.
It follows anger that erupted among Muslims in Britain earlier this month when MP Jack Straw said women who wear veils over their face can make community relations harder.
But Sheik al-Hilali's has created an even bigger storm by using the uncovered meat example to accuse women who do not cover their heads and faces of tempting men.
Prime Minister Howard labelled the mufti's comments as 'appalling and reprehensible', adding: "They are quite out of touch with contemporary values in Australia.
"The idea that women are to blame for rapes is preposterous. I not only reject the comments, I condemn them unconditionally." Treasurer Peter Costello urged the Muslim community to condemn the comments and take action against the Sheik.
"If you have a significant religious leader like this preaching to a flock in a situation where we've had gang rapes, in a way that seems to make it justifiable, or at least lighten the dehumanising and degrading extent of the offence."
A close associate of the sheik, Keysar Trad, said the speech was about adultery, not rape. "He wasn't talking about standard norms of dress in Australia or any country, he wasn't talking about the hijab, he was talking about people who engage in extramarital sex."
But Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Miss Pru Goward said there could be no backtracking over the comments. "He could be guilty of incitement to the crime of rape and should be deported," she said.
The extra risk is likely to be caused by health problems that make it difficult for these couples to conceive in the first place, scientists believe.
Fertility treatments, such as IVF, may contribute too, an American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting heard.
But the experts stressed the overall risk was still relatively low.
They said couples should be counselled about the risks and encouraged to improve their health before undergoing fertility treatment.
Professor Mary Croughan, who led the University of California research on 4,000 women and their children aged up to six years, explained those with fertility problems were also more likely to have other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, and were more at risk of pregnancy and labour complications.
She said: "What has caused them to be unable to conceive goes on to cause problems.
"It is as if a brick wall has stopped you becoming pregnant. Treatment allows you to climb over the wall, but it is still there and it goes on to cause problems."
Her team found the risk of five conditions - autism, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, seizures and cancer - was 2.7 times higher among the children born to 2,000 women who experienced fertility problems than among those born to the 2,000 women who did not have difficult conceiving.
For autism alone, the risk was four times higher.
Moderate developmental problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities or serious sight or hearing disorders were also 40% more common in the children born to the couples who struggled to start a family.
In Nanterre, northwestern Paris, about 10 passengers fled a bus as masked youths set it ablaze, police said.
A similar attack happened in Bagnolet, eastern Paris, where a youth held a gun to the bus driver's head while others set it on fire, officials said.
Police report a spate of youth violence ahead of the anniversary.
Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie accused the youths of attempted murder in the latest incidents.
A security services report leaked to a French newspaper this week said that the conditions that led to last year's riots were still in place.
Several hundred youths, of largely African and North African descent, marched to the National Assembly in Paris on Wednesday to present a list of complaints to the government.
They called for more action to tackle discrimination and more jobs and training for the young.
"Lots of people don't believe what we're doing. They don't understand the potential," Abdel Zahiri, one of the marchers, told the Associated Press news agency.
"The risk of violence exists, but hope exists, too," he said.
About 9,000 cars were torched in the three weeks of unrest last year, which spread through the country's housing estates - dominated by immigrants and their French-born children.
A police official in Nanterre said the bus was attacked on Wednesday by a gang of youths armed with a flammable liquid.
"There were at least 10 passengers on board, who only just had enough time to get out. Thankfully there was nobody with any handicaps on board, or it could have ended badly," he told the AFP news agency.
Separately, bus routes in the Essonne area, south of Paris, were suspended because of fears of attack.
Law and order have become major issues with presidential elections due next year.
Candidates from the two biggest parties have promised a tough approach to crime.
The MRC's Gender and Health Research Unit interviewed 1 370 men between the ages of 15 and 26 about sexual violence towards women.
About eight percent of respondents reported having been sexually violent towards their intimate partner, while 16.3 percent reported raping a non-partner or participating in some form of gang-rape.
Also noted was an overlap of 44 percent of men raping non-partners and intimate partners. The mean age at which respondents first raped a woman was 17.
The MRC considers this research paper of "substantial international importance" as it is the first of its kind outside North America. It is also the first to have a single set of data on the rape of intimate and non-intimate partners. The findings contribute significantly to an understanding of why rape is so common in South Africa.
THE family of a rape victim whose alleged attacker has been on the run for more than nine months have condemned the judge who granted him bail.
Mohammad Reza Telabi Zamani, an illegal immigrant from Iran, was arrested last November and charged with raping a 22-year-old student in an alleyway in Bristol in June last year.
Her sister said yesterday that the rape victim had tried to commit suicide four times since the alleged attack, and called the decision to release the suspect before his trial a slap in the face.
After his arrest, Mr Zamani, 36, was also charged with the attempted rape of another woman in December 2003, and was remanded initially in custody at Horfield Prison. But Judge Carol Hagen granted him bail when he appeared before her at Bristol Crown Court on December 21. He was electronically tagged as a condition of his release, and was required to report each day to a police station in Bristol. He failed to do so on January 13, and Avon and Somerset Constabulary began a search. Police also notified Securicor, the private company responsible for monitoring Mr Zamani’s curfew. Mr Zamani failed to appear for a court hearing on February 17, and police are still looking for him, with the help of the Iranian Embassy.
The student he allegedly raped, who cannot be identified, has since moved abroad in an effort to begin a new life, her sister said.
She told The Times: “We didn’t even tell her that he was on bail, never mind on the run, until July, because she simply was not strong enough to receive that kind of news. She tried to kill herself four times and would be dead now if she did not have family support.
“The decision to let him out was devastating for us, and must have been very frustrating for the police. We knew he would go missing again — he left the country for Iran after the attack.”
Mr Zamani was able to re-enter Britain later last year, even though his visa had expired. He was arrested in November in Bristol, where he is understood to have once worked as an unlicensed taxi driver. On November 10 magistrates remanded him in custody to appear at Bristol Crown Court, where he was granted bail.
The victim’s sister, 34, said that the justice system had let down her family, and expressed concern that Mr Zamani’s case would be forgotten. She said: “What is the point of her going to hospital and enduring eight hours of personal examination if they are going to let him go anyway? “It is scary to think he is out there. If he had been tried and got a lenient sentence, at least he would have been convicted.”
Under the Bail Act 1976, judges are expected to consider the likelihood of a suspect reoffending or absconding when deciding whether to grant bail.
Campaigners argue that given such considerations, Mr Zamani should never have been granted bail.
David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, said: “Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that granting bail to an illegal immigrant charged with rape is tantamount to encouraging him to disappear.”
Norman Brennan, of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: ”This is a very grave mistake by a judge who appears to have failed in her duty of care.
“Not only is this individual an illegal immigrant that should not be in this country, but he has allegedly committed two heinous crimes.
“It is precisely because of such poor decisions by judges that many women refuse to report crimes to the police.”
You can see it the next time you visit your office cafeteria or a nearby park: Whites sitting together with whites, blacks with blacks, young people with other young people. When individuals from these groups mix, it is usually because they share something else in common, such as a pastime.
Sociologists call this phenomenon homophily, a somewhat grand word to describe the idea that birds of a feather flock together. Thinkers from Plato and Aristotle onward have observed that people seem to be drawn to others like themselves.
But while the basic idea is simple, homophily has surprisingly complex causes and consequences. Three weeks ahead of a midterm election, for example, it is playing a powerful, but largely invisible, role in politics.
Studies show that most people interested in politics associate nearly exclusively with others who have similar political beliefs. In fact, research by sociologist David Knoke at the University of Minnesota shows that if you know whether a person's friends are Republicans, Democrats or independents, you can predict with near certainty that person's political views.
Homophily may help explain some of the bitter partisanship of our times -- when your friends are drawn exclusively from one half of the electorate, it is not surprising that you will find the views of the other half inexplicable.
"I often hear people say with absolute certainty that whoever they are in favor of is obviously going to do well because they haven't talked to 'anyone' who supports the other person" in the election, said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who has studied homophily. She rolled her eyes and said, "Oh yeah, sure! That is a good argument."
While the instinct for homophily in politics and other areas seems hard-wired, technology may be fueling our nature. Cable television and the Internet have allowed enormous numbers of people in distant areas to form virtual groups that are very similar to what you see in the office cafeteria.
Smith-Lovin's research, for example, shows that homophily is on the rise in the United States on nearly every dimension of social identity. Ever larger numbers of people seem to be sealing themselves off in worlds where everyone thinks the way they do. No Walter Cronkite figure unites audiences today, the sociologist noted. We can now choose cable stations, magazines and blogs that see the world exactly as we do. If the research on homophily is right, those heavily e-mailed partisan screeds from the op-ed pages are largely talking to those who agree with those points of view to begin with.
But while people may choose blogs or op-ed columnists because they agree with those points of view, do they really choose friends the same way? When was the last time you met someone at a social gathering and quickly asked him his views on abortion, gay marriage and the war in Iraq before deciding to be friends? That does not happen, of course, so one of the most interesting puzzles about homophily is how it turns out that friends often end up having the same views on those subjects.
While beliefs matter, there are two other powerful but subtle factors at work, said sociologist Mario Luis Small of the University of Chicago: One is demography, and the other is shared experiences.
Take, for example, two mothers who become friends after meeting at a day-care center. Beliefs, especially about politics, may never be part of their explicit conversation. But the day-care center exerts a very powerful role in selecting people with similar demographic backgrounds and shared experiences. The mothers are likely to be about the same age, to face common child-rearing challenges and to have similar views on how to balance parenting and work. The fact that they are at this day-care center means they can afford it, which suggests they are in roughly the same socioeconomic class.
"It is not quite the case that I meet you and say, 'Oh my goodness, you also believe in the elimination of Roe v. Wade ,' " said Small. "Two years later, these guys are friends, but it is not because we believe the same things, but our experience and our demographics put us together in the first place."
What this ultimately suggests, Small and Smith-Lovin added, is that while organizations and schools and workplaces and neighborhoods and churches may seem to bring together broad mixes of people, they really do not. Organizations play a very powerful role in bringing together similar people and in creating homogenous views on a variety of topics.
HUNDREDS of young girls in Britain are suffering genital mutilation at the hands of women paid to come to Britain by their families.
African immigrants are clubbing together to pay for practitioners to fly to Britain and circumcise their daughters in highly secretive rituals.
Police believe that the trend has developed among parents who do not have passports or cannot afford to return to their home countries to have their daughters circumcised, a brutal practice that remains commonplace throughout Africa.
The procedure is generally performed by elderly women, in unsterilised conditions with no anaesthetic. Children as young as five have parts or all of their clitoris or labia removed. Some have their vaginas sewn up or the flesh shrunk with corrosives.
Last week, Esther Fornah, 19, was granted asylum because she faced being forced to undergo female genital mutiliation if she were returned to her home country of Sierra Leone.
In an interview with The Times, Esther said: “If I’d been sent back to Sierra Leone I would have been forced to have it done and they would have punished me more for exposing it and made it even more painful. I would rather have killed myself than go back.”
In Britain, female circumcision — or female genital mutilation (FGM) — is illegal, and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. The penalty has, however, failed to halt the practice, with thousands of young girls taken abroad each year for that purpose. There has never been a prosecution, although it has been an offence since 1985 with the introduction of the FGM Act. Since 2003, taking a child to another country to have it done has also been an offence.
Female circumcision among the African community in Britain has been commonplace for years but the wider population has been unaware of it. Now, however, police, social services and health workers have become concerned. They believe it to be widespread, with about 25,000 young girls remaining at risk in Britain, according to the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (Forward).
A specialist unit has been set up by Metropolitan Police child abuse investigation detectives to tackle the problem in tandem with other agencies. Over the past year they have monitored schools and airports and advised minority communities that sending their daughters abroad for genital mutilation is illegal. This has resulted in about 20 successful interventions.
Detective Inspector Carol Hamilton, an expert in the field, said: “One primary school child was overheard telling her friends that she was going to be taken to her home country and there would be a party, a ceremony, because she was becoming a woman. Police and social services visited the girl’s home. They said they were not stopping the family from going away, but wanted the parents to know that FGM was against the law, that their daughter would be monitored on her return, and they could be arrested if she had had it done.
“This particular family didn’t know that it was against the law and took the advice fully on board — many people still think it’s OK if you go abroad.”
However, she said there had been a worrying development. “The information we’re now getting is that people who don’t have passports or who can’t afford to go abroad are clubbing together to pay for someone to come in. But getting the details is a problem. People always say it doesn’t happen in their area, but they’ve heard it takes place elsewhere.”
The procedure is highly dangerous and leaves many of its victims with health problems throughout their lives. Infections and cysts are commonplace, as are complications during childbirth, endangering both mother and baby. Women who have suffered genital mutilation are twice as likely to die in childbirth and three times as likely to give birth to a stillborn child.
Despite the dangers, many African Muslim communities prize the ritual and ostracise women who are not circumcised. It is common in a band stretching from Senegal in West Africa to Somalia on the East coast and in many areas uncircumcised women cannot find a husband.
One health worker who helps the Somali community in Sheffield said: “At 12 or 13, some girls are pressured by their peer group if they haven’t had it done. They will be ostracised or seen as unclean.”
Over the summer, police ran a poster campaign aimed at parents taking their daughters on “holiday” for the procedure, produced a DVD for community leaders and are negotiating with BAA to show a rolling 30-second video at airport departure lounges reminding people of the penalty.
But there has been frustration at the lack of prosecutions. Ann Clwyd, the Labour MP who brought the Bill that became the 2003 Act, voiced her dissatisfaction in the Commons last year, saying: “When I introduced the legislation, I expected some prosecutions to follow.
“Acts that have been in force for 20 years without any prosecutions mean that 7,000 young girls in this country are estimated to be at risk of being taken abroad for those procedures.”
Agencies working with those at risk say that victims will not admit that they have been forced to undergo mutilation because they fear their family or community elders could be investigated.
Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital runs an African well women’s clinic that treats about 400 victims of female genital mutilation every year.
Only 8 percent of black fourth-graders are proficient in reading, ranking Illinois 35th out of 41 states that test a large enough group of black students. Only 9 percent of poor eighth-graders are proficient in math, ranking the state 37th out of 50, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation found after analyzing the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
"Illinois lines up abysmally," said Michael Petrilli, Fordham vice president.
The rigorous NAEP, known as the "Nation's Report Card," is the only test taken by a sample of students in every state.
Illinois' black and poor students scored poorly, but their peers elsewhere scored only marginally better. Nationally, 11 percent of black fourth-graders passed reading. When all students are included, 23 percent rate as proficient. On the eighth-grade math test, 12 percent of poor students passed. The percent proficient for all students is 23 percent.