North Georgia newspaper publisher jailed over open records request
Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason, along with his attorney Russell Stookey, were arrested on Friday and charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud. Thomason was also accused of making a false statement in his records request.
Thomason’s relentless pursuit of public records relating to the local Superior Court has incensed the court’s chief judge, Brenda Weaver, who also chairs the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Weaver took the matter to the district attorney, who obtained the indictments.
Thomason was charged June 24 with making a false statement in an open-records request in which he asked for copies of checks “cashed illegally.” Thomason and Stookey were also charged with identity fraud and attempted identity fraud because they did not get Weaver’s approval before sending subpoenas to banks where Weaver and another judge maintained accounts for office expenses. Weaver suggested that Thomason may have been trying to steal banking information on the checks.
But Thomason said he was “doing his job” when he asked for records.
“I was astounded, in disbelief that there were even any charges to be had,” said Thomason, 37, who grew up in Fannin County. “I take this as a punch at journalists across the nation that if we continue to do our jobs correctly, then we have to live in fear of being imprisoned.”
Thomason and Stookey are out on $10,000 bond and have a long list of things they cannot do or things they must do to avoid going to jail until their trials. On Thursday, for example, Thomason reported to a pretrial center and was told that he may have to submit to a random drug test – a condition of the bond on which he was released from jail last Saturday.
Alison Sosebee, district attorney in the three counties in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, and Judge Weaver say the charges are justified. Weaver said she resented Thomason’s attacks on her character in his weekly newspaper and in conversations with her constituents.
“I don’t react well when my honesty is questioned,” Weaver said.
She said others in the community were using Thomason to get at her. “It’s clear this is a personal vendetta against me,” she said. “I don’t know how else to explain that.”
But legal experts expressed dismay at the punitive use of the Open Records Act.
“To the extent these criminal charges stem from the use of the Open Records Act undermines the entire purpose of the law,” said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. “The Open Records Act is the vehicle by which citizens access governmental information Retaliation for use of the Open Records Act will inhibit every citizen from using it, and reel us back into the dark ages.”
Another expert said the charges against attorney Russell Stookey may also be unfounded. Robert Rubin, president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said it was wrong for the grand jury to indict a lawyer who “is using the legitimate court process for a subpoena to get records relevant for his case.” The dispute grows out of a March 2015 incident involving another judge who is no longer on the bench. Judge Roger Bradley was presiding over several cases and asked the name of the next defendant. The assistant district attorney announced next up was “(Racial slur) Ray.” Bradley, who resigned earlier this year, repeated the slur and also talked about another man whose street name started with the same slur.
Thomason asked for the transcript after he was told courtroom deputies also used the slur.
But the transcript only noted that Bradley and the assistant district attorney used the word.
According to Thomason, the court reporter told him that it was “off the record” when others in the courtroom spoke the word so it would not be recorded in the transcript. He asked to listen to the audio recording, but his request was rejected.
In an article Thomason quoted the court reporter as saying the slur was not taken down each time it was used.
And then Thomason asked Stookey to file paperwork with the court to force the the stenographer, Rhonda Stubblefield, to release the recording.
Stubblefield responded with a $1.6 million counterclaim against Thomason, accusing him of defaming her in stories that said the transcript she produced may not be accurate. Two months later a visiting judge closed Thomason’s case, concluding that Thomason had not produced evidence the transcript was inaccurate.
Last April, Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim because, her lawyer wrote, it was unlikely Thomason could pay the award if she won.
The next month, however, Stubblefield filed paper work to recoup attorney’s fees even though last last year she was cut a check for almost $16,000 from then-Judge Bradley’s operating account.
“She was being accused of all this stuff. She was very distressed. She had done absolutely nothing wrong,” Weaver said of the judges’ decision to use court money to cover Stubblefield’s legal expenses. “She was tormented all these months and then had to pay attorneys’ fees. And the only reason she was sued was she was doing what the court policy was.”
Stubblefield’s lawyer, Herman Clark, said in court Stubblefield was asking for the money from Thomason or his attorney so she could replace the funds taken out of the court bank account. Clark said it was unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up the cost.
To fight Stubblefield’s claim for legal fees, Stookey filed subpoenas for copies of certain checks so he could show her attorneys had already been paid. One of those two accounts listed in a subpoena had Weaver’s name on it as well as the Appalachian Judicial Circuit.
Weaver said the identify fraud allegations came out of her concern that Thomason would use the banking information on those checks for himself.
“I have absolutely no interest in further misappropriating any government monies,” Thomason said. “My sole goal was to show that legal fees were paid from a publicly funded account.”
Gun Purchases Continue to Soar
nraila.org ^ | July 8, 2016
Posted on 7/10/2016, 10:19:26 AM by PROCON
Maybe Americans aren’t taking to Hillary Clinton’s sour attitude toward guns. Maybe they’re arming themselves out of concern about terrorists and criminals of a more conventional stripe. And maybe they’re showing what they think of members of Congress who use terrorists’ crimes as the excuse to push for more gun control.
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One way or the other, though, Americans are continuing to acquire guns at an unprecedented level. The FBI reported this week that in June 2016, firearm-related background checks set a new record for any month of June, up 39% from the number of checks conducted in June 2015.
For the first six months of 2016, checks are up 32 percent over the same period in 2015. If the present rate of checks holds through December, there will be over 32 million checks conducted this year, more than double the number conducted during President Obama’s first year in office. There have been 26.5 million checks during the last 12 months, more than in any 12-month period previously.
NICS checks don’t precisely indicate the number of firearms acquired in a given time frame. But the trend in checks makes clear that Americans are acquiring firearms at a record pace. The annual number of checks has risen from 12.7 million during the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration to an average of 23 million during Obama’s second term.
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NICS checks don’t stop criminals from stealing guns or acquiring guns on the black market, and criminals defeat checks by having other people, who can pass checks, buy guns for them. But they continue to deliver data undermining gun control supporters’ perennial boast that gun ownership is declining. If anything, the data suggest that the opposite is true.
Monsanto Wins 1st Senate Vote on Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act!
On June 29, Monsanto scored a preliminary victory, winning a Senate “test vote” on a bill known as the DARK Act that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced to Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs.
TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Calls are the fastest, and most effective way to get your message through to Congress.
Scroll down for the vote count. There were 68 “yeas” and 29 “nays”. We’ve also included the amount of money each Senator has received from agribusiness. The average agribusiness contribution for “yes” voters ($867,518) is two-and-a-half times more than the average for “no” voters ($350,877).
Thank your Senators who voted “No”. “Spank” your Senators who voted “Yes”. Call 888-897-0174.
Here are some talking points you can use when you call:
“The Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill would kill the Vermont law that labels GMO foods as “produced with genetic engineering.” Vermont’s law is working. GMOs are being labeled. Food prices are staying the same. The labels are being used nationwide. The Roberts-Stabenow bill wouldn’t require words on the package. It exempts nearly all GMOs from labeling. It would take at least 2 years to take effect. And, it’s essentially voluntary because there would be no enforcement for non-compliance.”
Total: $10,175,439 Average: $350,877
Blumenthal D-CT NO $43,033
Booker D-NJ NO $215,250
Boxer D-CA NO $517,498
Cantwell D-WA NO $273,246
Cardin D-MD NO $230,103
Gillibrand D-NY NO $627,514
Heinrich D-NM NO $128,927
Hirono D-HI NO $108,150
Kaine D-VA NO $140,825
Leahy D-VT NO $356,995
Markey D-MA NO $118,144
Menendez D-NJ NO $647,774
Merkley D-OR NO $222,442
Mikulski D-MD NO $255,439
Murkowski R-AK NO $463,144
Murphy D-CT NO $132,650
Murray D-WA NO $667,307
Paul R-KY NO $416,761
Reed D-RI NO $110,550
Reid D-NV NO $691,398
Sanders I-VT NO $750,242
Schatz D-HI NO $88,750
Schumer D-NY NO $814,930
Sullivan R-AK NO $157,541
Tester D-MT NO $476,153
Udall D-NM NO $338,055
Warren D-MA NO $91,243
Whitehouse D-RI NO $98,408
Wyden D-OR NO $992,967
TOTAL: $10,175,439 AVERAGE: $350,877
Total: $58,991,192 Average: $867,518
Alexander R-TN YES $980,283
Ayotte R-NH YES $235,956
Baldwin D-WI YES $160,709
Barrasso R-WY YES $207,250
Bennet D-CO YES $473,397
Blunt R-MO YES $2,069,365
Boozman R-AR YES $646,471
Brown D-OH YES $379,952
Burr R-NC YES $1,933,705
Capito R-WV YES $456,720
Carper D-DE YES $203,662
Casey D-PA YES $405,550
Cassidy R-LA YES $504,933
Coats R-IN YES $527,927
Cochran R-MS YES $2,333,394
Collins R-ME YES $596,291
Coons D-DE YES $86,858
Corker R-TN YES $664,527
Cornyn R-TX YES $1,688,149
Cotton R-AR YES $508,940
Crapo R-ID YES $1,170,466
Cruz R-TX YES $1,647,662
Daines R-MT YES $596,781
Donnelly D-IN YES $363,199
Enzi R-WY YES $350,502
Ernst R-IA YES $256,998
Feinstein D-CA YES $1,645,599
Fischer R-NE YES $536,262
Flake R-AZ YES $535,102
Franken D-MN YES $286,547
Gardner R-CO YES $946,349
Graham R-SC YES $1,131,590
Grassley R-IA YES $1,929,489
Hatch R-UT YES $725,633
Heitkamp D-ND YES $236,975
Heller R-NV YES $258,140
Hoeven R-ND YES $405,020
Inhofe R-OK YES $938,853
Isakson R-GA YES $1,227,649
Johnson R-WI YES $489,435
King I-ME YES $74,515
Kirk R-IL YES $718,270
Klobuchar D-MN YES $720,592
Lankford R-OK YES $226,040
Lee R-UT YES $77,950
McCain R-AZ YES $4,496,004
McCaskill D-MO YES $383,024
McConnell R-KY YES $3,373,204
Moran R-KS YES $2,284,551
Nelson D-FL YES $873,540
Perdue R-GA YES $489,830
Peters D-MI YES $238,147
Portman R-OH YES $1,011,940
Risch R-ID YES $367,154
Roberts R-KS YES $2,808,111
Rounds R-SD YES $258,600
Rubio R-FL YES $1,141,265
Sasse R-NE YES $329,935
Scott R-SC YES $403,300
Shaheen D-NH YES $167,474
Sessions R-AL YES $927,652
Shelby R-AL YES $843,957
Stabenow D-MI YES $1,565,978
Thune R-SD YES $1,900,160
Tillis R-NC YES $437,750
Toomey R-PA YES $682,904
Vitter R-LA YES $657,365
Wicker R-MS YES $789,690
TOTAL YES:$58,991,192 AVERAGE YES: $867,518
Not Voting $951,130
Manchin D-WV Not Voting $196,850
Warner D-VA Not Voting $518,317
TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes!
-Alexis for the OCA team
Google Pushes for Bigger Role in Smart Homes
Google CEO Sundar Pichai told thousands of developers last week his vision for a future in which his company, once known just as a way to search the Internet, extends its reach into nearly every aspect of its users’ lives.
He envisions people telling a voice-activated device called Google Home to turn on lights or play music. And when people chat with friends on Google’s new messaging app, Allo, they won’t have to leave the app to make a restaurant reservation. Allo will actually suggest where they should dine based on the context of the conversation.
“We are pushing ourselves really hard so Google is evolving and staying a step ahead of our users,” Pichai said to a crowd of more than 7,000 people at the Google I/O conference at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre.
Google Home will directly compete with the $180 Amazon Echo. While Amazon has a head start, Google is betting that its dominance of the Internet search market will give consumers a reason to buy Home instead. The device, which will hit the market this year, can play music, answer questions such as “How much fat is in an avocado?” and operate Web-connected “smart home” appliances.
“Google Home could be a major force and could also dramatically decrease the sales potential of Amazon Echo,” said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy. “The biggest sales determinant could be the quality of the (artificial intelligence) experience, and in the end, Google will likely win over Amazon.”
Google did not reveal the price of the small device, which will have a white top. Customers will choose their own color for the bottom to blend in with their home.
Many Google users are already using voice commands to search the Internet. In the United States, about 20 percent of the queries in Google’s mobile app are voice queries, according to the company.
The device will be a cornerstone of a concept that Pichai on Wednesday described as “Google assistant,” an ongoing dialogue between the company and users.
Google already helps them in many facets of their daily lives, from turning on a thermostat to translating words and searching for selfies in their digital photo collections. And Google’s expanding universe of products and services can learn their users’ preferences over time.
“The Google assistant not only knows about the world, it will also stand apart with how well it gets to know you over time, with your permission of course,” said Mario Queiroz, a Google vice president of product management.
Even though few people own smart-home devices, like Google’s Nest thermostat, some analysts are bullish that this will become a major tech market in the future. Just 19 percent of U.S. broadband households have smart-home devices, according to a report this year by research firm Parks Associates.
“Adoption of the connected lifestyle continues to expand as the supporting technologies mature and the value propositions of smart, connected devices and streaming services are better understood by consumers,” said analyst Brad Russell with Parks Associates.
Google also unveiled video chat app Duo and messaging app Allo, available on Android and Apple devices this summer.
Allo has similar features to Facebook Messenger, where users can chat with friends and add stickers. But it also has an option to have an “incognito” chat that is encrypted. While users are chatting on Allo, they can call on Google to suggest restaurants and book reservations through OpenTable without leaving the app.
Google also renewed its commitment to virtual reality, announcing a platform that will bring the budding medium to smartphones, headsets and apps.
The company has worked with phone manufacturers such as Samsung and Huawei to produce phones that will meet the specifications of Google’s new virtual reality platform. Google also said it has made a prototype design for a virtual reality headset and controller that will work with the Android operating system and shared that design with Android manufacturers. The headset would work with a smartphone.
“There are so many things you need to get just right,” said Clay Bavor, a Google vice president overseeing virtual reality, regarding the headset. “It has to be comfortable.”
More information on Google’s virtual reality plans will be revealed on Thursday, company representatives said.
Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, argues that VR devices could replace smartphones in the future, adding that he believes the ability to do computing hands-free and through eye movement is better than typing or tapping on a screen.
“This is the equivalent of talking about smartphones in 1995,” Munster said.
Glyphosate weed killer unleashes grotesque chemical deformations in farm animals… two-headed calves, pigs born with no skin, twisted life forms seem spawned from Hell… PHOTOS
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Tags: glyphosate weed killer, animal mutations, genetically modified crops
(NaturalNews) Glyphosate weed killer, heavily used in conjunction with genetically modified crops, is being blamed for a sharp rise in grotesque, horrific animal mutations taking place in Argentina (see horrifying photos below).
While this story will never appear in the corporate-controlled U.S. media, the UK-based Daily Mail reports that the mutations “look like something from a horror movie – a black dog with a mini trunk protruding from its nose. The baby yellow chick with not two but four feet, the spider piglet with one head, two bodies and eight legs, the goat with two heads and the baby pig with skin so wafer thin you can see the muscles and blood flowing around its body.”
“Farmers blame harsh chemical Glyphosate for causing the mutations,” reports the Daily Mail, adding that “local media said that the deformation was due to the use of pesticides on farmland in the region.”
Number of mutations had QUADRUPLED as use of genetically modified crop chemicals increases
Local who were not aware of the toxicity of glyphosate originally thought the mutations were caused by evil spirits or some sort of demonic curve. But “blame has shifted to the widespread use of the harsh chemical glyphosate which is used as a pesticide,” reports Daily Mail UK:
Argentina is the world’s biggest user of the controversial product, which kills all non-genetically modified (GM) crops. The country supplies GM soya beans that are fed to animals in the UK, and cotton that is used in the manufacture of everything from T-shirts through to tampons. EU policy makers are considering banning the harmful chemical which is known to cause serious birth defects in both animals and humans.
Glyphosate has unleashed a chemical holocaust across our world
What we are all witnessing is a chemical holocaust that has already begun to devastate our world. That so many animals are now being born with devastating, grotesque mutations which resemble hellish life forms is no coincidence: Glyphosate is “Satan’s chemical” and it is sold by a demonic, life-hating corporate monstrosity named Monsanto.
All the promoters of glyphosate, it turns out, are also hate-filled destroyers of life and the planet. Filled with rage and hatred towards women — the bearers of new life — glyphosate-pushing dark operatives like former Forbes.com writer Jon Entine echo the patterns of destruction and deception that you’d most likely associate with Satan himself.
Observe the following photos for yourself, if you dare, and witness what glyphosate has done to our world.
And then join our fight to banish glyphosate from our world by staying informed at Glyphosate.news and Natural News. Avoid all GMO foods and buy organic wherever possible. Join every effort to stop Monsanto, reject GMOs and eradicate glyphosate from our world. (And pray for these innocent animal beings who suffered intensely from the chemical poisoning that now threatens us all…)
No wonder my wolves have decided to shun most of the meat available.
National Law Journal
‘Iqbal’ Brings Seven Years of Bad Luck for Plaintiffs
OPINION: The heightened pleading standard established in 2009 is based on faulty propositions.
Arthur H. Bryant, The National Law Journal
May 23, 2016
The seventh anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal was May 18. It’s a date that should live in infamy.
A 5-4 decision, Iqbal ignored reality — and the fact that truth is stranger than fiction. It flouted the process for amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. And it particularly limited access to justice for civil rights, employment discrimination and individual plaintiffs.
Seventy years before Iqbal, in 1938, the Federal Rules were adopted to get rid of “fact” pleading, which the rule-makers thought “led to wasteful disputes about distinctions that … were arbitrary or metaphysical, too often cutting off adjudication on the merits.” Under the new Rule 8, to start a lawsuit, the plaintiff had to file a complaint with “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief.”
As the court later explained in Conley v. Gibson, the complaint did not have to “set out the facts in detail.” It just had to give the defendant “fair notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” A motion to dismiss would only be granted if “it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Then, the plaintiff could take discovery, to find out what the defendant and other relevant people knew and when they knew it. After that, the court would determine whether there was sufficient proof to require a trial.
In Iqbal, the court rejected a complaint alleging that high-level U.S. officials had a Pakistani Muslim and thousands of other Arab men illegally arrested and detained after the 9/11 attacks because of “their race, religion, and national origin … and not because of any evidence” of their “involvement in supporting terrorist activity.”
To do so, the court changed the rules. It held that, from now on, to “survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Dismissal no longer turned on whether the complaint provided “fair notice” to the defendant; it turned on whether the claim was “plausible on its face.” How were judges to determine that? By drawing on their “judicial experience and common sense.”
Motions to dismiss were immediately filed throughout the federal courts. Judges’ and lawyers’ workloads increased enormously. The lower courts and lawyers are still struggling to figure out how the new system is supposed to work — and, if they can, make it fair.
For three reasons, however, it’s become increasingly clear that Iqbal was a mistake.
First, whatever one thinks about the allegations in the case, the Iqbal pleading standard is based on a proposition — allegations probably aren’t true if they’re not plausible on their face — that is false. Reality keeps teaching us that. None of us, including federal judges using their “judicial experience and common sense,” would have believed that any of the following was plausible a few years ago:
• Donald Trump would be the presumptive Republican Party nominee for president of the United States of America.
• A prominent candidate for president would propose banning all Muslims from entering America or call women “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “disgusting animals.”
• Same-sex marriage would be legal nationwide.
• The U.S. government would obtain and be able to search virtually all Americans’ phone records.
• Olympic champion Bruce Jenner would become a woman, Caitlyn Jenner.
• Federal, state and local governments would battle over what kind of bathroom people such as Caitlyn Jenner could use.
Similar implausible things happen every day.
Second, Iqbal effectively rewrote the Federal Rules without following the legally established rules for amending them. Under the Rules Enabling Act, before rules are changed, detailed procedures must be followed involving the Advisory Committees to the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure; the Standing Committee itself; notice to and comment from lawyers, judges and the public; the U.S. Judicial Conference; the Supreme Court; and Congress — so the changes are fully considered and fair.
In 2002, the court unanimously rejected a company’s plea for a heightened pleading standard in employment discrimination cases, saying that result “must be obtained by the process of amending the Federal Rules, and not judicial interpretation.” It should have said that in Iqbal, too.
Third, Iqbal is especially harmful to civil rights, employment discrimination and individual plaintiffs. Last year, the most comprehensive study of Iqbal’s effects, “Measuring the Impact of Plausibility Pleading,” was published in the Virginia Law Review. It found that Iqbal increased dismissals of most cases by 10 percent, but employment discrimination and civil rights cases much more (16 percent and 19 percent, respectively). Cases filed by individuals were also dismissed far more often (18 percent), but not cases filed by corporations.
In theory, this could mean that only bad cases were dismissed more promptly. But, if that were true, a higher percentage of the cases remaining in court would succeed. They didn’t. These plaintiffs were just disproportionately denied a chance to prove their claims.
The high court should reverse the Iqbal decision. Whether cases proceed should turn on the facts and the law, not on whether judges think the allegations are plausible.
Arthur H. Bryant is the chairman of Public Justice, a national public interest law firm dedicated to advancing and preserving access to justice. His practice focuses on consumers’ rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, environmental protection, and corporate and government accountability.