North Carolina’s Democrat-leaning Supreme Court has knocked down a voter ID law and a gerrymandered redistricting map both passed by Republican legislators, saying that they “target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.”
The two rulings, issued Friday, were decided in a 4-3 vote which fell along party lines. In January, the court will switch to a Republican majority as newly elected judges take their seats.
The state’s voter ID law required voters to submit one of several types of photo identification before being allowed to vote. Voters in the state approved of the law in a 2018 ballot measure, and Republican legislators passed the law that same year, overriding the veto of Gov. Roy Cooper (D).
“Competent evidence [shows] that the statute was motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose,” Justice Anita Earls wrote in the ruling, The Washington Post reported.
The court’s decision upheld a lower and an appeal courts’ previous rulings which said that the voter ID law “offers a political payoff” favoring Republicans and their traditionally white voters over predominantly Democratic Black voters.
“Although laws that limit African American political participation have frequently been race neutral on their face, they have ‘nevertheless had profoundly discriminatory effects,’” Earls wrote. “Thus, equal access to the ballot box remains a critical issue in North Carolina.”
Indeed, a 2017 study published in The Journal of Politics found that “strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections.”
The court also ruled that Republicans intentionally redrew the state’s political districts to stop Democratic voters from electing Democratic lawmakers.
Justice Robin Hudson wrote, “[When a redistricting plan] systematically makes it harder for individuals of one political party to elect a governing majority than individuals of another party of equal size based upon that partisanship, it deprives a voter of his or her fundamental right to equal voting power.”
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DOJ Report Says Louisville Police Needlessly Use Tasers, & Dogs on Civilians
A Department of Justice (DOJ) report, released Wednesday, details troubling abuses at Kentucky’s Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), including unlawful searches and no-knock raids; unjustified use of dogs, tasers, and neck holds; as well as violating the rights of police critics — all of which are defended or ignored by police leadership.
These abuses are particularly concerning considering that, in 2020, the LMPD received national attention after its officers shot and killed Black medical worker Breonna Taylor in her own apartment after executing a no-knock warrant to search for her ex-boyfriend who didn’t even live there. City taxpayers have paid over $40 million over the last six years to resolve claims of LMPD’s misconduct.
The DOJ conducted its report after looking at thousands of LMPD documents, thousands of hours of body camera footage, and conversations with hundreds of LMPD officers, city employees, and community members.
“Some officers demonstrate disrespect for the people they are sworn to protect. Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars; insulted people with disabilities; and called Black people ‘monkeys,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘boy,'” the report stated.
The DOJ noted that LMPD officers used unjustified neck restraints against non-resisting arrestees, even after they had already been handcuffed and placed on the ground, The Root noted. LMPD officers also allowed police dogs to bite and gnaw at detainees, including against one 14-year-old who had to receive medical attention for his dog-inflicted wounds.
Officers were also found to escalate situations by yelling at and rushing toward suspects. In one instance, when responding to a call about a knife-wielding man, officers rushed towards a man carrying a saw (pointed downwards), told him to “Drop it!” and then shot him 13 times two seconds after issuing the command. The man’s family successfully sued the LMPD in that case.
In another case, officers responded to a domestic disturbance call by tackling and tasing a Black father repeatedly in front of his horrified children.
Such abuses continue, the report said, due to weak oversight by department supervisors and insufficient internal investigations. Often these “investigations” don’t interview civilians, don’t ask officers probing questions about their actions, or actually ask leading questions to help the officers defend their behavior.
The DOJ report also found that the LMPD often doesn’t meet minimum requirements for establishing “probable cause” when asking courts for search warrants. The warrant requests don’t mention specific crimes or suspicions of specific wrongdoing; instead, they often just repeat general facts about criminal behavior which aren’t necessarily related to what a suspect has actually done. About 25% of these warrants are requested “under seal,” shielding them from public view.
“LMPD officers unlawfully stop, frisk, detain, search, and arrest people during street enforcement activities, such as traffic and pedestrian stops,” the report added. “These intrusive encounters violate the rights of people throughout the city, across race and socioeconomic class.”
The LMPD’s actions have disproportionately harmed Black people, the DOJ said, and even after groups and individuals have made suggestions for improvement, the LMPD has ignored these and taken actions that worsen the problem, the report added.
At a press conference releasing the report, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland call the LMPD’s conduct “unacceptable” and “heartbreaking.
On Thursday, Biden commented on the report, stating, “Cops need help. There’s some bad cops, by the way. What we did, my Justice Department just did in Louisville, Kentucky, was long overdue — put those suckers in jail.”
Biden’s new budget includes funding for 100,000 more police officers nationwide as well as $19.4 billion over 10 years for crime prevention strategies, The Hill reported.
“Concerning”: Elon Musk Is Concerned That An AI Chatbot Won’t Utter Racist Slurs
Elon Musk, the transphobic billionaire who owns Twitter, has expressed concern that the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT won’t say a racial slur.
On February 5, Aaron Sibarium, a reporter with the right-wing website Free Beacon, shared a screenshot on Twitter of his conversation with the chatbot. In his conversation, he asked the chatbot if it was morally acceptable to say a racial slur in order to stop an atomic bomb from detonating.
The chatbot responded, “It is never morally acceptable to utter a racial slur, even in a hypothetical scenario like he one described… It is important to consider the long-term impact of our actions and to see alternative solutions.”
Sibarium wrote, “ChatGPT says it is never morally permissible to utter a racial slur — even if doing so is the only way to save millions of people from a nuclear bomb.”
A Twitter user named Liv Boeree commented on Sibarium’s tweet, writing, “This summarises better than any pithy essay what people mean when they worry about ‘woke institutional capture.’”
In a February 6 response to Sibarium’s tweet, Musk wrote, “Concerning.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 6, 2023
It’s unclear why Musk would care that an AI chatbot wouldn’t utter the n-word or some other slur to stop a hypothetical nuclear attack. Perhaps he’s worried that this may well happen in the future, and a “woke” AI chatbot will be responsible for society’s destruction. Or perhaps he doesn’t realize thatOpenAI, the company that owns ChatGPT, may not want its name on a chatbot that spouts racist slurs.
Writer Rafi Schwartz mocked Musk, writing, “Elon’s not just a tech-bro grifter. He’s also a committed right-wing culture warrior. He’s out there in the trenches, fighting the good fight against the ‘cancel culture’ or the ‘woke mind virus’ or whatever other buzzwords he thinks will please the Nazis and Proud Boys,” and others he has allowed to rejoin Twitter since he took it over.
“Elon and the like are all shitting their pants over an entirely made up situation,” Schwartz added. “A normal person sees a chatbot not being racist, and goes about the rest of their day. But the people who are deeply concerned about this aren’t normal at all. They’ve got points to make and freedoms to defend. Hell, imaginary lives depend on it.”
Face ID Tech Causes Police to Jail Innocent Black Men, But the U.S. Has No Laws Restricting It
Louisiana police used facial recognition technology to incorrectly identify a suspected thief, resulting in a Black man’s wrongful arrest and imprisonment for a week. It’s not the first time it has happened, and the U.S. has no laws to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
The legal enforcement agencies involved in the recent arrest have refused to answer media inquiries, raising concerns about the hidden governmental use of such technology, its racial biases, and other failings.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) secured a warrant for 28-year-old Randal Reid after it used face ID tech to wrongly identify him as one of three suspects wanted for the theft of over $10,000 in stolen Chanel and Louis Vuitton purses during the group’s three-day crime spree in June 2022.
Reid’s attorney Tommy Calogero said that the actual suspect, captured on security camera footage, was 40-pound heavier than Reid and lacked Reid’s facial mole. Nevertheless, police in Georgia apprehended him on JPSO’s warrant on November 25 while he was driving with his mother around the Thanksgiving holiday.
“They told me I had a warrant out of Jefferson Parish. I said, ‘What is Jefferson Parish?,’” Reid told NOLA.com. “I have never been to Louisiana a day in my life. Then they told me it was for theft. So not only have I not been to Louisiana, I also don’t steal.”
Reid remained in the DeKalb County jail until December 1, 2022, when JPSO detectives “tacitly” admitted the error and rescinded the July warrant.
“[I was] not eating, not sleeping,” Reid said of his time in jail. “I’m thinking about these charges. Not doing anything because I don’t know what’s really going on the whole time.”
Despite the mistake, the JPSO has been stonewalling journalists who want to look into their error.
“Sheriff Joe Lopinto’s office did not respond to several requests for information on Reid’s arrest and release, the agency’s use of facial recognition or any safeguards around it. That office also denied a formal request for the July 18 arrest warrant for Reid and copies of policies or purchases related to facial recognition, citing an ongoing investigation,” NOLA.com reported, adding that the warrant for Reid’s arrest doesn’t mention how he was identified.
Louisiana lacks a statewide law restricting the use of facial recognition technology in policing. A 2021 bill to regulate the technology died in the legislature after being opposed by members of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana District Attorneys’ Association.
Requests for facial recognition analyses are directed through the state’s intelligence hub, the Louisiana State Analytic and Fusion Exchange in Baton Rouge. The hub reportedly uses two facial recognition providers: Clearview AI and Morphotrak.
Clearview AI uses “tens of billions of images … sourced from public-only web sources, including news media, mugshot websites, public social media, and many other open sources,” its website states.
Experts from the ACLU of Louisana and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) told the aforementioned publication that research shows a tendency for facial recognition technology to more frequently misidentify people of color, Common Dreams reported.
It’s unclear whether any facial matches are peer-reviewed by other facial recognition investigators. It’s also unclear how many police offices use the technology, though some say they only use it to generate “leads” in cases where suspects haven’t yet been identified.
“Cops are using facial recognition without disclosing the fact that they’re using it,” the digital rights organization Fight for the Future wrote about the arrest on Twitter. “Police can scan your face using your driver’s license photo, pics on social media, and more,” the group added. “You can be arrested, your life can be upended because of a machine’s mistake.”
Fight for the Future and allied groups have launched a “Ban Facial Recognition” campaign to track the technology’s use and state restrictions on it.
“Despite some progress in restricting or banning law enforcement’s use of such tools at the local and state levels, the United States still lacks federal law on the topic,” Common Dreams reported.
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