Roger Goodell apologizes for decision in Ray Rice case – By Kevin Patra Published: Aug. 28, 2014 at 03:07 p.m. Updated: Aug. 28, 2014 at 05:08 p.m.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday apologized for his decision in the Ray Rice domestic abuse case in a letter to NFL owners and announced sweeping changes to the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

In the detailed letter, Goodell announced that violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force “will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense.” A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL for at least one year. An individual can petition for reinstatement after one year, but “there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted.”

The policy applies to all personnel, not just players.

In the open of his letter, Goodell admitted he fell short in prior situations of domestic violence.

“At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” Goodell wrote. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

California lawmakers pass bill on campus sex assault – August 29, 2014 12:41AM ET

State lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would make California the first state to define when “yes means yes” while investigating sexual assaults on college campuses.

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The Senate unanimously passed SB967 as states and universities across the U.S. face pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not indicated his stance on the bill.

Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said his bill would begin a shift in how California campuses prevent and investigate sexual assault.

Rather than using the refrain “no means no,” the definition of consent under the bill requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” Earlier versions of the bill had similar language.

Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. The legislation says it’s also not consent if the person is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep.

Lawmakers say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as maybe a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault supported the change as one that will provide consistency across campuses and challenge the notion that victims must have resisted assault in order to have valid complaints.

Some critics say the legislation is overreaching and sends universities into murky, unfamiliar legal waters.

Gordon Finley, an adviser to the National Coalition for Men, wrote an editorial asking Brown not to sign the bill. He argued that “this campus rape crusade bill” presumes the guilt of the accused.

The bill passed the state Assembly on Monday by a 52-16 vote. Some Republicans in that house questioned if statewide legislation is an appropriate venue to define consent.

There was no opposition from Senate Republicans.

The bill would apply to all California post-secondary schools, public and private, that receive state money for student financial aid. The California State University and University of California systems are backing the legislation after adopting similar consent standards this year.

The bill also requires colleges and universities to adopt “victim-centered” sexual-assault response policies and implement comprehensive programs to prevent assault.

In January, President Barack Obama vowed to make the issue a priority. He announced a task force chaired by Vice President Joe Biden that created a website providing tips for filing complaints,, and issued areport in May naming 55 colleges and universities across the country facing investigation for their responses to sexual abuse and violence. The University of California, Berkeley was included on the list.

The White House Council on Women and Girls reported (PDF) the staggering fact that nearly 1 in 5 college women is sexually assaulted by the time she graduates, with just 12 percent of them reporting the assaults — a much lower rate than the estimated 40 percent of assaults that are reported by the general population, according to the Department of Justice.

In addition, students from a number of colleges and universities — includingthe University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Harvard College, Occidental College, Swarthmore College — have filed complaints in the last year that their schools violated the Clery Act and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act by mishandling their sexual assault cases.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

Google Reveals It’s Building a Fleet of Drones, Too – By Margaret Hartmann August 29, 2014 12:10 a.m.

In the past year, Amazon and Facebook have announced that they’re developing drones, and if there’s a potentially revolutionary technology people aren’t sure that they need, the makers of Google Glass want in. For the past two years, the Google X laboratory has been secretly working on a drone delivery program known as Project Wing, according to the Washington Post. This month the company started testing its fleet of drones in the Australian outback, as the nation has more permissive drone regulations than the United States.

We still have a few years before the skies are filled with drones, as the FAA hasyet to approve their use and no company has eliminated the threat of drone-related maimings, so for now announcing you’re working on a fleet of drones is mainly about PR. Google may be late to the game, but it’s obviously trying to make its project look cooler than the rest.

For starters, Google’s drones have some interesting features, like a delivery method that prevents people from trying to grab the device. Per The Atlantic:

During this initial phase of development, Google landed on an unusual design called a tail sitter, a hybrid of a plane and a helicopter that takes off vertically, then rotates to a horizontal position for flying around. For delivery, it hovers and winches packages down to the ground. At the end of the tether, there’s a little bundle of electronics they call the “egg,” which detects that the package has hit the ground, detaches from the delivery, and is pulled back up into the body of the vehicle.

While Google’s mission is still vague, it seems to strike a balance between Amazon’s somewhat trivial goal (delivering our Sopranos DVDs in 30 minutes or less) and Facebook’s noble but boring ambition (bringing the Internet to underserved populations around the world). Google was initially focused on finding a way to deliver defibrillators to help people having heart attacks, and so far its drones have delivered first aid kits, water bottles, and cattle vaccine to farmers.

“When you can get something near-instantly, it changes how you think about it,” Google said in its press release. “Think of the mom stuck at home with two sick kids, the hiker who’s met a poisonous snake, or the farmer out in the field with a sick animal. It could also open up new models for sharing goods rather than owning them – who needs a power drill for more than eight minutes a year?”

Then there’s the promo video. While it doesn’t show Google drones ferrying supplies to people in dangerous situations and creating a “sharing economy,” it’s definitely the most fun drone introduction we’ve seen. Watching a dad open his front door to retrieve an Amazon box delivered by a drone seemed pretty cool last year, but Google just upped the ante with an Australian farmer who feeds his cute dog freshly-delivered treats as “Spirit in the Sky” plays in the background.

Women’s rights groups call it a win. Fox News calls it a path to “instant US citizenship.” —By Molly Redden | Thu Aug. 28, 2014 11:29 AM EDT

Top Immigration Court Hands Huge Win to Battered Women Seeking Asylum. Conservatives Freak Out.

Eric Gay/AP

On Tuesday, the country’s top immigration court ruled that some migrants escaping domestic violence may qualify for asylum in the United States. The decision, from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), is a landmark: It’s the first time that this court has recognized a protected group that primarily includes women. The ruling offers a glimmer of hope to asylum-seekers who have fled horrific abuse. The decision has also infuriated conservatives, who claim that the ruling is a veritable invitation to undocumented immigrants and marks a vast expansion of citizenship opportunities for foreigners.

The case involved a Guatemalan woman who ran away from her abusive husband. “This abuse included weekly beatings,” the court wrote in its summary of her circumstances. “He threw paint thinner on her, which burned her breast. He raped her.” The police refused to intervene, and on Christmas 2005, she and her three children illegally entered the United States.

Before Tuesday’s decision, immigration judges routinely denied asylum to domestic violence victims because US asylum law does not protect people who are persecuted on account of their gender. The law only shields people who are persecuted because they are members of a certain race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. Tuesday’s ruling, however, recognized “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” as a unique social group—giving the Guatemalan woman standing to make an asylum claim.

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The Koch Brothers And Republican Party Have Just Joined Forces To Track Voters – by Josh Israel Posted on August 28, 2014 at 12:17 pm

 A secretive data and technology company linked to conservative oil billionaires Charles and David Koch has reached an agreement to share its information with the “voter file and data management company” that holds an exclusive agreement with the Republican National Committee. This will allow the Republican Party full access to voter data collected by the Koch’s Freedom Partners entities and clients — and entrenches the Kochs’ network even deeper into the GOP.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch  speaks in Orlando, Florida, in August, 2013.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Florida, in August, 2013.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Because political parties are not allowed to accept corporate contributions, it would be illegal for the Kochs to simply give their massive databases to the Republican National Committee directly. But the Republican National Committee has outsourced its database management to a company called GOP Data Trust. And that company joined forces Thursday with i360 (aka Themis), a firm reportedly backed by the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners and serving as repository for the data amassed by the Kochs’ political empire.

In a press release, the two companies claimed that the “historic data sharing partnership” will “allow Republican and Conservative campaign resources to be spent more efficiently than ever before.” They noted that “voter contact information gathered by clients of either The Data Trust or i360″ will be now used by both to “improve the data shared with all clients,” meaning “conservative groups and campaigns will have more information about voters at their disposal for their own activities than ever before.”

Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told ThinkProgress that as long as the Republican National Committee pays fair-market value to its data vendor, it does not matter who that vendor coordinates with. “Campaign finance laws only regulate the committees themselves, not other freestanding entities,” he explained.

Ryan noted that this sort of coordination is not necessarily exclusive to GOP entities — and that it can be a real challenge in determining what is a “fair” value for voter data. He pointed out that the super PAC ‘Ready for Hillary’ is collecting a great deal of information on pro-Clinton donors. That information “would be immensely valuable to Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run for president,” he explained, but probably “less valuable to another candidate.” And, in the end, it would up to the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the RNC or a theoretical Hillary Clinton campaign is paying a fair amount for that information.

But in a time when the lines between the Republican Party and the Kochs were already blurred, this deal is another indication that the anti-government billionaire activists are leading the party.

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