links for 2010-03-15

  • Black and Hispanic men are more likely to receive longer prison sentences than their white counterparts since the Supreme Court loosened federal sentencing rules, a government study has concluded. The study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission…analyzed sentences meted out since the January 2005 U.S. v. Booker decision gave federal judges much more sentencing discretion. For years, legal experts have argued over the disparity in sentencing between black and white men. The commission found that the difference peaked in 1999 with blacks receiving 14 percent longer sentences. By 2002, however, the commission found no statistical difference. After the Booker decision, “those differences appear to have been increasing steadily,'' with black men receiving sentences that were up to 10 percent longer than those imposed on whites, the commission said. Using another method of analyzing the data, the study found black men received sentences that were 23 percent longer than white men's.
  • A North Texas apartment complex is facing accusations that it segregates Muslims in buildings away from other tenants — or refuses to rent to them at all. The complaint comes from former leasing agents at the StoneBridge at Bear Creek complex in Euless. They say Muslims were routinely denied apartments even when there were vacancies. "If somebody called over the phone inquiring about an apartment, we were told that if they have an accent or a different name that we are supposed to tell them that we didn't have anything available,” said Daneisha Davis, who worked there for a year-and-a-half.
  • A coalition of labor unions, immigrant advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations in New York announced their support on Friday for newly introduced legislation that would greatly increase penalties against employers that violate minimum-wage and overtime laws. Supporters of the bill, known as the Wage Theft Prevention and Responsible Employer Protection Act, say that wage violations are all too common because penalties for such violations are small under New York law and because employers that break the law face little likelihood of getting caught. The legislation — introduced in the State Senate and State Assembly — would subject employers that fail to pay, for instance, $10,000 in legally required overtime to having to pay twice that amount in damages. That would be above and beyond the $10,000 in back wages that current law already requires such employers to pay.
  • Could wiki technology find Osama bin Laden? Imagine if any Pakistani could send an anonymous text message to the authorities suggesting where to look. Each location could be plotted on a map. The dots would be scattered widely, perhaps, with promising leads indistinguishable from rubbish. But on a given day, a surge of dots might point to the same village, in what could not be coincidence. Troops could be ordered in…This kind of everyone-as-informant mapping is shaking up the world, bringing the Wikipedia revolution to the work of humanitarians and soldiers who parachute into places with little good information. And an important force behind this upheaval is a small Kenyan-born organization called Ushahidi…A lot of things could go wrong with this model. People could lie, get the address wrong, exaggerate their situation. But as data collects, crisis maps can reveal underlying patterns of reality.
  • Civil rights activists Sunday called for a federal investigation into allegations of harassment and racial profiling by the Torrance Police Department, following the traffic stop of an African American pastor in early March. "What we want is a full federal Justice Department probe of Torrance and its treatment of African Americans and Latinos," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, during a small but sometimes tense protest in the neighborhood where Pastor Robert Taylor was pulled over while driving with his 15-year-old daughter, and subsequently searched.
  • Their kingdom long ago overthrown, Native Hawaiians seeking redress are closer than they've ever been to reclaiming a piece of Hawaii. Native Hawaiians are the last remaining indigenous group in the United States that hasn't been allowed to establish their own government, a right already extended to Alaska Natives and 564 Native American tribes. With a final vote pending in the U.S. Senate and Hawaii-born President Barack Obama on their side, the nation's 400,000 Native Hawaiians could earn federal recognition as soon as this month _ and the land, money and power that comes with it. They measure passed the U.S. House last month.
  • The allegations come in the wake of strong criticism last week of the UK Border Agency, which was condemned for failing to investigate claims of mistreatment by failed asylum seekers in abuse allegations up to July 2008. Ministers now plan to review the use of force against asylum seekers by British security guards after a Border Agency report on abuse conceded that serious injuries were suffered by detainees who had been handcuffed or physically restrained.
  • Controversial (Irish) playwright Martin McDonagh is used to creating headlines in Britain and Ireland…But trying out an American setting as opposed to an Irish one is proving a challenging exercise…In an extraordinary and withering review, the [New Yorker's] theatre critic, Hilton Als, laid into ["A Behanding in Spokane"] for being overtly racist. "I don't know a single self-respecting black actor who wouldn't feel shame and fury while sitting through Martin McDonagh's new play," began Als's review…"A Behanding… isn't in the least palatable; it's vile, particularly in its repeated use of the word 'nigger'," Als wrote. He then went on to compare the play's lone black role, Toby – played by Anthony Mackie, the star of The Hurt Locker, to the racist caricatures of black Americans that populated American cinema in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • …a recent survey found that the most severe hunger-related problems in the nation are in the South Bronx, long one of the country’s capitals of obesity. Experts say these are not parallel problems persisting in side-by-side neighborhoods, but plagues often seen in the same households, even the same person: the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat. Call it the Bronx Paradox. “Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “Hunger is certainly almost an exclusive symptom of poverty. And extra obesity is one of the symptoms of poverty.”