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Thursday, Jul 31st

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What’s Next, Police With Tanks?

armed policeIn the classic television series The A-Team, the eponymous heroes spend much of their time evading or thwarting the show’s stock adversaries, the ineffective Military Police. In a show notable for its lack of blood and gore, the MPs are waylaid by many a car crash, explosion, and unluckily placed boat pier.

How quaint that all seems today, when the creeping militarization of American law enforcement has at last begun to shock the conscience. Although many of us endure perennial mourning and outrage over the “senseless” acts of school shooters, most of us have more or less ignored the routine, all-too-logical bloodshed and injustice perpetrated by out of control SWAT teams, police forces equipped like armies, and cities and towns clamoring for materiel designed for military occupation, not public safety.

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NSA queried phone records of just 248 people despite massive data sweep

NSA queriesThe National Security Agency was interested in the phone data of fewer than 250 people believed to be in the United States in 2013, despite collecting the phone records of nearly every American.

As acknowledged in the NSA's first-ever disclosure of statistics about how it uses its broad surveillance authorities, released Friday, the NSA performed queries of its massive phone records troves for 248 "known or presumed US persons" in 2013.

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California Authorities Arrest 275 Child Predators

Operation Briken HeartA monthlong national effort to capture sex predators led to 275 arrests in Southern California that included a teaching assistant for special needs kids, a retired sheriff's deputy and a U.S. Army soldier, authorities said Thursday.

The effort dubbed "Operation Broken Heart" involved dozens of local, state and federal authorities throughout May who targeted sex offenders, child sex traffickers, pimps, child porn traders and sex tourists traveling abroad.

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NYC to provide free legal aid, IDs to undocumented immigrants

NYC MayorAs Congress remains gridlocked by the partisan wrangling over the issue of illegal immigration, New York City this week approved two separate plans that advocates say could signal a sea change in the ways cities handle undocumented workers and their families.

On Wednesday, the New York City Council earmarked $4.9 million of the city budget to give legal assistance to foreign-born New York residents facing deportation. This makes New York the first city in the US to provide lawyers for low-income immigrants detained by federal authorities. The city will provide such aid both for undocumented immigrants and for those with legal residency.

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Supreme Court Rebukes Obama on Right of Appointment

Obama rebuked by SCThe Supreme Court issued a unanimous rebuke to President Obama on Thursday, saying he had overreached in issuing recess appointments during brief breaks in the Senate’s work.

Mr. Obama violated the Constitution in 2012, the justices said, by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a break in the Senate’s work when the chamber was convening every three days in short pro forma sessions in which no business was conducted. Those breaks were too short, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a majority opinion joined by the court’s four other more liberal members.

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Federal judge upholds Colorado gun restrictions

gun controlA federal judge upheld Colorado gun restrictions that were enacted in response to 2012 mass shootings, saying Thursday that limiting the size of ammunition magazines and expanding background checks on firearm purchases are constitutional acts.

But gun-rights advocates who sued the state to overturn the laws called the ruling only the first round and said they planned to appeal.

In a 50-page decision, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger said both laws don't infringe on individuals' right to bear arms. The judge further said that limiting magazine sizes doesn't obstruct individuals' ability to protect themselves, and that the expansion of background checks to include firearms sold online and between private parties "is no more severe" than the requirements already in place for commercial sales before the new law.

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DNA evidence prompts Florida Supreme Court to overturn death sentence

Floria death penalty case overturnedNearly 30 years after Paul C. Hildwin was convicted of strangling a Hernando County woman, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday overturned both his conviction and death sentence, saying that new DNA evidence “completely discredits” the case used by the state.

A divided court ruled 5-2 that Hildwin should be given a new trial.

The new evidence instead points to the person that Hildwin said had done the crime all along — the victim’s boyfriend who was sentenced in 1998 to 20 years for attempted sexual battery of a child.

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