December 2014


JSPAN Newsletter - December 1, 2014

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In this Issue:
Newsletter: November 1, 2014
Professor Louis Rulli Addresses Board On Civil Forfeiture
At its November 17 meeting, the JSPAN Board heard a presentation by Louis Rulli, Practice Professor of Law and Clinical Director at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The clinic supervised by Professor Rulli handles a large volume of civil forfeiture cases in Philadelphia, which is one of about a half dozen "hot spots" for that procedure in the country. In 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, there were 6560 civil forfeitures in Philadelphia, totaling $5.5 million.

Civil forfeiture is a statutory process by which the District Attorney can seize money, cars and homes which allegedly facilitated the commission of a crime. The property does not have to belong to the accused criminal, nor does the offender have to be convicted or even charged. For example, parents can lose their home if their child attempts to sell drugs from there, even if the child is an adult, and even if the parents had no involvement in or knowledge of the child's activity.

Professor Rulli pointed out that those subjected to civil forfeiture are often low income citizens and minorities. The procedures for contesting a civil forfeiture are complicated and involve multiple appearances in court. Because the proceedings are "civil", the Defender Association does not provide counsel. Because they are quasi criminal, however, neither do public interest legal services organizations. According to Professor Rulli, the proceeds of civil forfeiture do not go into the City's coffers, but instead go directly to fund the district attorney's office, which shares them with the police department. Approximately 20% of the district attorney's budget comes from civil forfeitures.

There are several court challenges pending attacking civil forfeiture as it is administered in Philadelphia on due process grounds. Professor Rulli pointed out, however, that what is needed is legislative reform of civil forfeiture, including a requirement that there be a criminal conviction, a right to counsel and that the property be that of the criminal perpetrator. He also pointed out that the proceeds should not go to law enforcement, which under the present system has a strong financial interest in pursuing civil forfeiture.

The Board has appointed an ad hoc committee to make recommendations as to action that can be taken by JSPAN to address this problem.


Jesse Jackson Is Lobbying The FCC Against Aggressive Net Neutrality Rules
The Washington Post
Brian Fung
November 18, 2014

You don't often find a two-time presidential candidate and civil rights leader wading into the sticky business of Internet policy. But last week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson visited an obscure federal office building in southwest Washington to discuss the future of the Internet. Meeting with Tom Wheeler - the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission - Jackson urged the FCC to act on net neutrality, the idea that Internet providers should not be permitted to speed up or slow down certain kinds of Web traffic over others, especially in exchange for money.

What Jackson asked for, though, probably won't sit well with some of net neutrality's most outspoken proponents, including President Obama. Jackson asked Wheeler to draw up rules for broadband companies that would be far less aggressive than an alternative proposal, recently endorsed by Obama, that would see the FCC regulating Internet providers under the agency's most powerful authority, known as Title II of the Communications Act. Whereas Obama would prefer the FCC to bring its full Title II authority to bear on ISPs such as Time Warner Cable and Verizon, Jackson and some minority groups called Thursday for rules based on a different part of the act known as Section 706.


[read more]

The JSPAN Board had appointed a committee to study the issue of net neutrality and make a recommendation to the Board as to a JSPAN policy on the issue. (Ed.)



When Whites Just Don't Get It
After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, but before the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Nicholas Kristof ran a series of four articles in The New York Times on "When Whites Just Don't Get It". Below is a portion of the initial piece together with links to the full text of all four. (Ed.)

After Ferguson, Race Deserves More Attention, Not Less

The New York Times
August 30, 2014

MANY white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: "All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money." Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

Yes, you read that right!

So let me push back at what I see as smug white delusion. Here are a few reasons race relations deserve more attention, not less:



Americans Remain Deeply Divided Over Ferguson Shooting, Poll Finds
The Huffington Post
Ariel Edwards-Levy
November 25, 2014

Americans are still deeply divided over the shooting of teenager Michael Brown this summer by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken before a grand jury decision not to indict Wilson was released Monday night.

While 28 percent said Wilson was at fault and should be punished, 23 percent said he was fully justified in the shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old, and another 30 percent said both Wilson and Brown made mistakes and it was "just a tragic accident." Another 20 percent were undecided.

Twenty-two percent had expected Wilson to be punished too harshly, while 26 percent believed he'd get off too lightly. Eighteen percent expected him to receive about the right punishment, and the remaining 34 percent were undecided.


[read more]


How the Faithful Voted: 2014 Preliminary Analysis
Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project
November 5, 2014

In the 2014 midterm elections, the Republican Party enlarged its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives with continued strong support from white evangelicals and people who attend religious services regularly. In addition, the GOP appears to have made inroads among some religious constituencies that traditionally have not been as supportive of Republican candidates.

Voters who attend religious services occasionally (rather than more frequently), for instance, voted for Republican candidates at higher rates than in the 2006 midterms, the last time midterm exit polls included a comparable question about worship attendance. Jewish voters also appear to have moved somewhat in the Republican direction compared with 2006 (the last midterms that included enough Jewish voters in the exit polls to analyze). However, in 2014, Jewish voters supported Democratic congressional candidates at rates similar to those seen in the 2012 presidential election year.


[read more]


7 Charts That Explain The Undocumented Immigrant Population
The Washington Post
Nia-Malika Henderson
November 21, 2014

President Obama's executive order on immigration could exempt from deportation more than five million undocumented immigrants -- almost half of the total undocumented population in the country, which is about 11.5 million (depending on the data you're looking at). The population is vast and diverse, coming from different countries and living in very different proportions in different states.

We took a look at some of the demographic breakdowns of the group pulled together by the Pew Hispanic Trends Project and the Department of Homeland Security

Here is what we found:

  1. Illegal immigrants make up 3.5 percent of the U.S. population
* * *

The vast majority of the population has roots in North America -- particularly Mexico and Central America. China, the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam are among the top 10 countries of origin for the Asian illegal immigrant population, which has remained stable at 1.3 million -- about 11 percent of all undocumented immigrants.


[read more]


U.S. Lawmakers Want To Strip Ex-Nazis Of Social Security Benefits
TPM News
Richard Lardner
November 13, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers will introduce legislation Thursday to strip suspected Nazi war criminals of their Social Security benefits, insisting American taxpayers should not be underwriting the retirement of anyone who participated in the Third Reich's atrocities.

The Nazi Social Security Benefits Termination Act comes in response to an Associated Press investigation published in October that revealed millions of dollars in benefits have been paid to dozens of former Nazis who were forced out of the United States. At least four are alive, living in Europe on U.S. Social Security.

The legislation would end benefits for Nazi suspects who have lost their American citizenship, a step called denaturalization. U.S. law currently requires a higher threshold - a final order of deportation - before benefits can be terminated. A companion bill to close this so-called loophole is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate.


[read more]


'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban Advances In Ohio
The Huffington Post
Laura Bassett
November 20, 2014

Republican lawmakers in Ohio on Thursday advanced a bill that would ban abortion as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

H.B. 248, the so-called "Heartbeat bill," advanced out of the House Health and Aging Committee by a party-line vote of 11 to 6. If it passes the Republican-controlled House and Senate, doctors who perform abortions after the imposed limit would face a fifth-degree felony. Opponents warn the bill would ban abortions before some women even realize they're pregnant.


[read more]

JSPAN policy states: "The perilous state of a woman's right to choose is clear. It must be protected.

  • We will fight for the appointment and election of judges who recognize women's rights.
  • We will link with national and local choice organizations to multiply our voices
  • We will urge our representatives to oppose legislation that seeks to circumscribe a woman's right to choose and to create legislation to ensure the right to choose." - (Ed.)


[read more]


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