Facing Down Taser, Sandra Bland Was Told By Officer: “I Will Light You Up!”

Betraying arrest report, newly released footage shows how arresting officer violently escalated traffic stop by threatening unarmed black woman with Taser

by: Jon Queally

While many questions still remain about what exactly happened to Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell before she was found dead under mysterious circumstances on July 13, those looking for answers about why she was initially placed under arrest three days earlier were offered a look at devastating dash-cam footage released by the Texas Department of Public Safety on Tuesday evening which showed the arresting officer, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia, actively escalating a situation with violence and threatening the unarmed black woman with a Taser.

The manner in which the escalation occurred led law enforcement officials to say that Encinia had not followed department procedures and failed to “maintain professionalism” during the arrest.

In one shocking moment, the officer tells Bland that if she does not get out of her car he will “light her up.” Subsequently, after she objects to having her head banged against the ground and telling him that she suffers from epilepsy, Encinia responds by saying, “Good.”

As the New York Timesreports, several Texas lawmakers who were shown the footage said it is clear that Bland should never have been treated in such a manner nor ultimately taken into custody by police. “This young woman should be alive today,” said State Representative Helen Giddings, Democrat of Dallas.

According to the Times:

Ms. Bland, an African-American from the Chicago area who had come to Texas for a job at her alma mater, Prairie View University, was arrested after she was stopped July 10 for a failure to signal a turn.

The video also confirmed an account from the family’s lawyer that the confrontation between Ms. Bland and the trooper, Brian T. Encinia, escalated after she refused the officer’s order to put out a cigarette, said [State Senator Royce West, Democrat of Dallas].

Neither the Taser nor the confrontation over the cigarette were mentioned in Officer Encinia’s incident report, which was released on Tuesday by the Waller County district attorney’s office.

Watch the footage [Warning: Graphic and strong language]:



Mother Jones reports:

In a press conference late Tuesday, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said that Encinia failed to “maintain professionalism” throughout his interaction with Bland, and that he has been taken off the street and placed on administrative duty for duration of the investigation into Bland’s death. In answer to a reporter’s question, Texas state Sen. Royce West said that the dash cam footage showed that Bland should not have been taken into police custody.

The subsequent death of Bland has continued to raise troubling questions sinceshe was found hanged on the morning of July 13. A medical examiner report and the county sheriff’s office ruled her death a suicide, but during the three days Bland spent in jail, Bland’s family members said they spoke to her on the about posting bail, and that a suicide seemed “unfathomable.” An hour before she was found, Bland had asked to use the phone again, county officials said.

On Monday, officials in Waller County released additional details about the morning Bland died, including surveillance video footage showing the hall outside of cell 95, where Bland was held. Citing interviews with family members and with the bail bondsman who was among the last to speak with Bland, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said it is “too early to make any kind of determination” and that “this investigation is still being treated just as it would be a murder investigation,” signaling that he had not ruled out any motives and would explore all leads and evidence, including videos, fingerprints in her cell, and the plastic bag found around her neck.

And Time magazine adds:

The Bland case is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents around the country that have highlighted the strained relationship between the African-American community and local police.

Around two minutes into the 52-minute video, Bland changes lanes without signaling, and the police officer pulls her over. After several minutes while the officer sits in his cruiser, presumably going over paperwork, he returns to the vehicle to find Bland is upset.

“You seem very irritated,” he says. She responds by saying that she only changed lanes because she felt the officer was speeding up behind her.

The officer then asks Bland to put out her cigarette, and when she refuses, he orders her to step out of her car. When she refuses, he opens her car door and orders her repeatedly to step out, while she argues that she did nothing wrong.

The encounter soon turns physical.

“Step out or I will remove you,” he says repeatedly. “Get out of the car now, or I’m going to remove you. I’m going to yank you out of here.”

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Source: Facing Down Taser, Sandra Bland Was Told By Officer: “I Will Light You Up!” | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Laundering Russian Money in London: Undercover Reporters Show You How It’s Done

by: Will Wright

The new hard-hitting exposé From Russia With Cash shows how dirty money from Russia and elsewhere is being laundered through London’s high-end real estate market. Since debuting July 8 on Britain’s Channel 4, the documentary has already sparked an international campaign to reform U.K. property laws.

The exposé follows a team of undercover reporters shopping for multi-million dollar apartments in London. Russian anti-corruption campaigner Roman Borisovich plays “Boris,” who claims to be a senior official from Russia’s Health Ministry. Ukrainian investigative reporter Natalie Sedletska (of YanukovychLeaksfame) plays his mistress, “Nastya.”

In the course of viewing five apartments, ranging in price from approximately $4.5 to $23.5 million, the couple meets with a series of real estate agents from top London firms, and secretly records the encounters.

At each showing, “Nastya” first pretends to fall in love with the space. Next, “Boris” pulls the estate agent aside to say that he would like to purchase the property, but needs the deal to proceed anonymously. Boris explains that he will be buying the property with money pilfered from the state budget and doesn’t want anyone in Moscow connecting a hole in the budget with the purchase. “Every [Health Ministry] contract brings a little bit to my pocket,” Boris tells each estate agent, following the planned script. “Needless to say, the money for this flat comes out of the government budget. [Therefore] discretion is the absolute priority.”

In every instance filmed, the estate agents appear willing to continue with the sales, which could net them commissions ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. Some of the agents even recommend law firms that specialize in hiding a buyer’s identity and coach “Boris” on how to avoid potential legal problems. In the U.K., estate agents are required by law to submit “suspicious activity reports” to the National Crime Agency if they have concerns that the money being used to purchase properties might have been obtained through criminal means.

British journalist Ben Judah, one of the people behind the film, spoke to RuNet Echoabout the project. “I came up with the idea for [From Russia With Cash] on a London night bus with producer Tom Costello. We were sadly not surprised [to find not even one clean estate agent]: we’d been researching money laundering in London property for months. With at least £57 billion ($88.7 billion) worth of money laundering taking place in London and the U.K. a year—or 3.6% of GDP—dusty Victorian bricks have become the reserve currency of global corruption.”

Chido Dunn of the anticorruption group Global Witness explains the logic of money laundering through upmarket property. “Stolen billions don’t fit under mattresses—people only steal them if there is somewhere safe to put them and the U.K.’s property market is providing that safe haven,” says Dunn in the film. “London is, in effect, the money-laundering capital of the world.” Global Witness has previously called attention to this issue, such as in the report Blood Red Carpet. It highlights the case of a $5.5 million Surrey mansion believed to be owned by a former Kyrgyz President’s son, who was convicted of corruption and the attempted murder of a U.K. citizen after fleeing his homeland in 2010.

As intended by its creators, From Russia With Cash has generated a lot of discussion about how London is enabling corruption around the world, and has also helped launch a campaign to reform U.K. property laws. After the initial airing of the documentary, the hashtag #FromRussiaWithCash became a trending topic on Twitter. An Early Day Motion (EDM) inspired by the film has been introduced in Britain’s lower house of Parliament. An EDM is a formal motion that Parliament members can table to draw attention to a cause. 30 MPs have already signed on to EDM 275:


That this House notes the recent screening of From Russia with Cash on Channel 4; expresses its concern that the proceeds of corruption are being laundered through the London property market via the use of anonymous offshore companies; and recommends that corporate transparency become a Land Registry requirement so that any foreign company intending to hold a property title in the UK is held to the same standards of transparency required of UK registered companies, so preventing London or other locations from becoming a safe haven for the corrupt.

Russians have also joined the campaign to clean up London’s property market, and, by doing so, address corruption in Russia itself. Opposition politician Alexey Navalny published an online appeal calling on Russians to tweet at British Parliament members, urging them to support EDM 275. In the post, Navalny’s anti-corruption team also highlights two anonymously owned, multi-million dollar London apartments, which they say belong to the sons of two powerful members of President Putin’s inner circle, Vladimir Yakunin and Boris Rotenberg.

“We were delighted that Navalny joined the campaign,” Ben Judah told RuNet Echo. “One of the most effective tools a campaigner has at his disposal is shaming—and having an icon of the Russian opposition tweeting at British MPs that there are ‘Blood Mansions’ in their constituencies is a super-effective tool. The MPs tweeted at by him are unlikely to forget it. We think it works as every little nudge like that cements the idea in the MPs’ heads this is a live issue. It’s a blunt way to illustrate to them money laundering is making many Russians angry at London’s role in the corruption ‘looting-machine.’”

Judah said the makers of the documentary were keen to “keep up the activism” and push a set of targeted policy recommendations that they developed in collaboration with Global Witness and Transparency International. “Our one key objective is to end the ability to anonymously buy UK property: a device that allows budget-plunderers in Krasnoyarsk and Donetsk to turn their dirty black cash into pretty white assets in London stucco,” Judah said. He added that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s aides have seen the policy proposal and are now considering it.

Source: Laundering Russian Money in London: Undercover Reporters Show You How It’s Done · Global Voices

Snowden’s Plea to Top Technologists: Build an Internet for the People

‘Everybody should be safe all the time, else we let others choose who will be safe or not,’ whistleblower tells meeting of independent internet engineers

by: Nadia Prupis

The internet is not for businesses, governments, or spies. It’s for users—and it’s up to the independent web engineers to keep it safe for them.

That was the most recent message from National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, who surprised a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in Prague, Czech Republic on Monday with a webcast Q&A.

“Who is the Internet for, who does it serve, who is the IETF’s ultimate customer?” Snowden asked of the roughly 170 engineers in the audience, referring to users. He added that current safety protocols on the web make too much private user data available to NSA and other intelligence agencies and businesses. “We need to divorce identity from persona in a lasting way,” Snowden said.

The IETF is one of the primary bodies creating voluntary standards of use, design and management of the internet, and Monday’s meeting gave Snowden a welcome platform to promote a freer and safer web.

As the Register UK reports, IETF members “have a strong independent streak, and many are still embarrassed by the fact that the NSA managed to crack a number of key internet protocols developed by the IETF and even subvert some of its working groups in their bid to develop new standards that would give the spooks easy access.”

Snowden’s 2013 revelations that the NSA collected bulk telephone and internet metadata prompted an ongoing global debate over the role of government surveillance and the nature of individual privacy—a phenomenon termed by media critic Jay Rosen as “the Snowden Effect.” For its part, the IETF responded to the leaks by developing a memorandum, known as a Request for Comment (RFC), entitled “Pervasive Monitoring is an Attack.”

In his Q&A with the engineers on Monday, Snowden reiterated the dangers of invasive collection of information. “People are being killed based on metadata, this is real,” he said.

The webcast came after IETF members screened the documentary Citizenfour, which chronicles Snowden’s 2013 leak of NSA files and his experience living in exile. While the session was not recorded, many attendees tweeted out some of Snowden’s key points during the address, including the need for reduced “middleboxes,” or networking devices that filter internet traffic on its way to its final destination.

“Every middlebox is an increased attack surface,” Snowden said. “The NSA will want to subvert internet security, this is what they do.”

The Register continues:

He also argued that having identifiable “long lasting” hardware addresses was “extremely dangerous,” as it connects people to, say, a MAC address when they use wireless internet connections, which can put an immediate flag on their identity and location.

Snowden connected the role of internet engineers to the fight for civil liberties and the essential right to privacy. “It is our duty to pass on the human rights we have inherited,” Snowden said. “Technologists are at the vanguard of that.”

“We need not only to think what the problem are today, but how we preserve the internet for the future,” he continued. “Everybody should be safe all the time, else we let others choose who will be safe or not.”

Snowden’s speech was met with a standing ovation. As one attendee wrote during the session, “Before, I was impressed by the courage and what Snowden did. Hearing his thoughtful detailed Q&A, I am overwhelmed [by] his intelligence.”

Source: Snowden’s Plea to Top Technologists: Build an Internet for the People | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community