The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department are investigating a California firm whose U.S. radio broadcasts are backed by a subsidiary of the Chinese government, officials said.
Both investigations come in response to a Reuters report published on Monday that revealed the existence of the covert radio network, which broadcasts in more than a dozen American cities, including Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston and San Francisco. (reut.rs/1Wrflt4)
“Based on reports, the FCC will initiate an inquiry into the facts surrounding the foreign ownership issues raised in the stories, including whether the Commission’s statutory foreign ownership rules have been violated,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said.
The California firm is owned by James Su, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Shanghai. Reuters reported Monday that Su’s company, G&E Studio Inc, is 60 percent owned by a subsidiary of Chinese state-run radio broadcaster China Radio International (CRI).
The FCC doesn’t restrict content on U.S. radio stations, except for rules covering indecency, political advertising and children’s programming.
But under U.S. law, the FCC prohibits foreign governments or their representatives from holding a radio license for a U.S. broadcast station. Foreign individuals, governments and corporations are permitted to hold up to 20 percent ownership directly in a station and up to 25 percent in the U.S. parent corporation of a station.
G&E does not own any U.S. stations, but it leases two 50,000-watt stations: WCRW in Washington for more than $720,000 a year, and WNWR in Philadelphia for more than $600,000 a year.
A new Justice Department report gave a total of 113 lessons learned and a half-dozen themes that “permeated all aspects of the police response” during the height of the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., last year.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Obama administration Wednesday issued an after-action assessment of the police response to the demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., that erupted last year following the killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black resident of the city, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.
The report, conducted by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, focused on the 17-day time frame between Brown’s death and his funeral. The assessment does not provide a lot of new information, but it does provide greater insight into how policing tactics and strategy unfolded during that time when the atmosphere between law enforcement and demonstrators was especially tense.
There were a total of 113 lessons and a half-dozen themes that “permeated all aspects of the police response,” according to the report. Some of those included inconsistent leadership, lack of understanding of community concerns with law enforcement and use of “ineffective and inappropriate” tactics that escalated instead of diminishing tensions.
The report made clear it was not casting fault with a particular law enforcement department.
“The purpose of this assessment was to objectively catalogue observations and findings, not place blame or levy accusations against the agencies assessed and their personnel.”
Investigators found that more than 50 different law enforcement agencies were involved at the height of the response. This led to confusion, questions of which agency was in charge and some “inconsistency of policy applications.”
The report found both the St. Louis County and Ferguson police departments used canine units for crowd control at the homicide location on Aug. 9, the day Brown was killed, inappropriately. The canines were used within “accepted policing practices” for tracking suspects on three other occasions.
Militarization tactics during the demonstrations were also called into question by the report, specifically one known as the overwatch tactic, in which officers used rifle sights to survey the crowd from positions atop tactical vehicles.
Hours after Ramsey announced the rollout of a new policy that mandates the public disclosure of officers in police-involved shootings, Lodge 5 Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union organization representing the employees of the Philadelphia Police Department, filed an unfair labor complaint against him, saying that he implemented the new policy “without negotiating with or securing the approval of the FOP.”
“This unilateral change is contrary to decades of past practice between the parties whereby the privacy rights of officers were valued and protected,” says the complaint, filed by Stephen J. Holroyd, a lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The city unilaterally implemented these changes in working conditions without first bargaining with the FOP or, indeed, even requesting bargaining with the FOP,” the complaint read.
Ramsey didn’t shirk from such legal action, releasing the names of two officers involved in a May shooting incident on Friday – his first time doing so since announcing the rollout of the policy changes. Those officers — Michael Minor and Robert Hoppe – shot and wounded a man after he allegedly hit an officer’s car and fled the scene. Ramsey took similar action in December when he announced the name of an officer who shot a 25-year-old man during a traffic stop, after ensuring that no threats existed to his family.
The new 72-hour disclosure policy counted among more than 90 recommendations outlined by the Justice Department in a March report on police-community relations. Other suggestions included the change of use-of-force policies and training for officers that touts de-escalation techniques. The Justice Department also recommended the creation of a special investigative unit for officer-involved shootings. In its report, Justice Department officials said the city’s investigations into officer-related shootings “lacked consistency, focus, and timeliness.”
While Ramsey said the union has the right to file the complaint, he told reporters that “we’re within our rights to take the steps we took, have taken, and are going to take.”
Since 2007, the Philadelphia Police Department reported more than 400 officer-involved shootings, a trend that compelled Ramsey to address issues of police-community relations and seek the help of the U.S. Justice Department long before civil unrest broke out in Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s death.
That police-involved shooting and others around the country have increased attention around police misconduct and poor officer- community relations, but not without reason. A recent study conducted by the Guardian found that police officers in the United States have shot or killed more than 500 peoplesince the beginning of the year.
The Justice Department is investigating whether US airlines have colluded to keep prices high.
In a statement, the department confirmed an Associated Press report it was looking into “possible unlawful co-ordination by some airlines”.
AP reported that it had seen a document revealing that the Justice Department had requested information from airlines as part of a competition probe.
It follows years of restructuring and mergers by US airlines.
Since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, major carriers such as American, United and Delta, along with a host of regional airlines, have overhauled operations and stemmed heavy losses.
AP said the Justice Department was investigating whether airlines were now conspiring to grow slowly in order to keep ticket prices high. By limiting the number of routes and available seats, airlines could charge higher prices.
The report did not name which airlines had been asked for information by the Justice Department. It is thought that investigators have requested all communications the airlines had with each other, Wall Street analysts and major shareholders about their plans for passenger-carrying capacity.
Last month, the International Air Transport Association revised up its profit forecast for US airlines.
IATA said it expected carriers to make profits of $15.7bn (£10bn) this year, up from the $13.2bn predicted in December. Falling fuel prices have assisted the growth.
News of the Justice Department investigation hit airline shares, with American Airlines and United Continental Holdings both down 2.4%. The Dow Jones airline index fell almost 4% in early trading.
The Justice Department, which investigates mergers to assess whether they violate antitrust law, has approved a string of airline deals.
Most recently, US Airways merged with American Airlines in 2013, United bought Continental in 2012, Southwest bought Airtran in 2011 and Delta purchased Northwest in 2008.
One reason that prosecutors are often such theatrical, grandiose types (Preet Bharara, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie) may be that the role naturally fits a particular quixotic self-image, the state’s attorney against the world. In the press clippings the prosecutor is not just a distributor of retributive justice, the official sent to ensure a mugger goes to jail, but the means by which the state takes on broader conspiracies and corruptions: The mafia, Islamic terrorists, rings of insider traders embedded within banks, hedge funds and corporations. The vanity of the state’s attorney is often that he is not just delivering individual justice but taking down corrupt and criminal institutions — that he is practicing modernization politics by other means.
Since 9/11 many liberals have worried about the powers that prosecutors were acquiring to monitor email and phone traffic, to trace the flows of money. The past couple of weeks have served as a reminder of how much a powerful state, in the hands of a progressive prosecutor, can do. First, Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore announced manslaughter and murder charges against the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. Then in the space of the last few days Loretta Lynch first announced that four banks had agreed to pay $2.5 billion in fines for rigging the foreign exchange markets, and then revealed indictments against fourteen of the planet’s most senior soccer officials, describing a pattern of corruption and bribery that has been endemic within FIFA for decades.
The image that cohered in these two African-American women was that of the prosecutor as social justice warrior, with smoke-filled rooms evaporating before her. In the same press conference Lynch denounced the old boys club that had corrupted the World Cup and made the case for renewing a key provision of the Patriot Act. One interesting question, should a Democrat win election in 2016, is whether liberals will be more comfortable with an expansive state if that state is also an activist, progressive one.
Lynch and Mosby made their activism easy to see. In these three cases the prosecutors were more or less explicit that they were not just interested in jailing a few criminals but in changing a corrupt culture — of the police in Baltimore, the banks, institutional soccer. If politics were working perfectly, we wouldn’t need their intervention; criminal indictments wouldn’t be required to fix these institutions. But because they are, there is a tension at the heart of all these cases. What the prosecutor can do is to indict criminals for criminal behavior. What we want the prosecutor to do is not just put a few villains on parade but to make Wall Street more responsible, the police less brutal, soccer television rights more transparently marketed. Sometimes one leads naturally to the other. Not always.
American law enforcement, long accustomed to deference from Washington, faces an unprecedented onslaught. Its public image is in the tank, the Justice Department is fielding calls to investigate departments across the country and lawmakers from both parties are pushing to pass reform right now. It’s a perilous time for police, but the cops have a secret weapon: Jim Pasco. And Jim Pasco has a plan.
Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest law enforcement union, has consistently defended officers, even rebuking President Obama as unrest flared in Ferguson. “I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha’s Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation,” he said in August. But the steady series of controversial deaths of black men — in New York, South Carolina and Baltimore — has spurred Pasco to action. His strategy for the present crisis: Slow down the pace of reform with a congressional commission to study the issues and come back with recommendations.
Pasco is betting he can leverage his carefully-built relationships — which extend to both sides of the aisle and into the top reaches of the White House and the Justice Department — to take the most drastic remedies, like opening a string of “pattern and practices” investigations, off the table.
It’s an approach reminiscent of the NRA’s response to urgent calls for new gun control measures after the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. The group commissioned a private task force led by Asa Hutchinson, now the governor of Arkansas, which came back four months after the shooting with a recommendation that schools arm staff members.
1. Baltimore under investigation
A protester walks through tear gas in Baltimore. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
- The Justice Department will investigate the Baltimore Police Department for excessive use of force and other abusive practices to evaluate whether police systemically violated the Constitution and locals’ civil rights.
- The announcement follows weeks of tense protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in a police van despite repeated pleas for medical help.
- Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had requested the civil rights probe.
- The Justice Department’s COPS Program is already helping with some limited reforms, following a 2014 report that found the city had paid about $5.7 million since 2011 to settle police brutality accusations.
- The Baltimore Police Department has also been accused of “rough rides,” in which detainees are driven recklessly in police wagons to purposely cause injuries.
- “Despite the progress being made, it was clear that recent events … had given rise to a serious erosion of public trust.”
- One reporter asked the US attorney general if the Baltimore Police Department is different than Ferguson’s because it’s more diverse — but systemic racism affects everyone, even black cops.
- To read more about Freddie Gray’s arrest and the protests that followed, check out Vox’s full explainer.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch went to Baltimore on Tuesday looking for ways to calm roiling national tensions over police violence. Her visit showed just how difficult that will be.
Lynch, who was sworn in just hours before the Maryland city exploded into riots, had a packed day of meetings with a family looking for justice, police officers looking for respect, and community activists looking for swift action that can help their city heal.
In the backdrop are the legacy-making ambitions of her boss, President Barack Obama. He has vowed to make the fight against violence and hopelessness in inner-city communities a core focus of his remaining 20 months in office.
“It’s a balancing act,” said former Justice Department Civil Rights Division official Robert Driscoll, now with the law firm McGlinchey Stafford. “The president’s involvement I think increases the pressure to be viewed as ‘doing something.’ Opening a pattern-and-practice investigation has the problem of creating tension with the police force at a time I’m sure they feel under siege, [but] between the law enforcement community and the civil rights community usually somebody is not going to be happy.”
Baltimore erupted into riots and looting last week following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering severe injuries while in police custody.
Gray’s death and its aftermath have foisted onto Lynch, the first female black attorney general, a renewed national debate about police brutality and longstanding tensions between law enforcement authorities and some of the communities they serve.
But competing political pressures, combined with legal strictures, are limiting her options for a robust federal response.
After a grueling confirmation hearing that highlighted five likely uncomfortable months as a lightning rod for some nasty partisan fights – and as a litmus test for race and politics – Loretta Lynch’s interminable wait is over: The Senate has confirmed her as President Barack Obama’s next attorney general, releasing Eric Holder from an ugly shotgun marriage that turned toxic almost as soon as it began.
Now comes the hard part – for Lynch, the first African-American woman to hold the job, and congressional Republicans who, just barely, voted her in.
As Holder, Obama’s self-described “wingman,” heads into the sunset (and, presumably, rakes in piles of cash as a private sector rainmaker and memoirist), Lynch and the GOP probably want to recalibrate the highly damaged relationship between the Justice Department and conservative lawmakers on House and Senate oversight committees.
Yet having put Holder in the congressional hot seat so often he could have had blisters on his backside, Republicans have an incentive to play it cool, at least initially, with Lynch – if only to fan away the nasty whiff of racism that surrounded her nomination.