In the wake of the police killing of Stephon Clark, a young unarmed black man, California lawmakers are considering legislation to change the state’s use of force standard from “reasonable force” to “necessary force,” which the American Civil Liberties Union defined as applying only if “there were no other reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly force.” Southern California Public Radio reports: “California's current standard, set in law and by court decisions, means it is rare for police officers to be charged following a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted. Frequently it's because of the doctrine of reasonable fear: If prosecutors or jurors believe that officers have a reason to fear for their safety, they can use force up to and including lethal force. That standard "gives very broad discretion for using deadly force," said Buchen. "It doesn't mean there has to have been a threat. If a reasonable officer could have perceived a threat and responded with deadly force, then it's legal." The proposed standard could require officers to delay confronting a suspect they fear may be armed until backup arrives, for instance, or to give explicit verbal warnings that the suspect will be killed unless he or she drops the weapon, she said. Officers might also have to first engage in de-escalation techniques or try non-lethal weapons if possible before shooting. The proposed bill would also make it clear that the use of deadly force wouldn't be justified if the officer's gross negligence contributed to making the force "necessary." It would open officers who don't follow the stricter rules to discipline or firing, or sometimes to criminal charges.” In South Sacramento, residents are calling on the city to address longstanding inequities in health, income, job opportunities, education, and housing. South Sacramento resident Kitamu Oakley said, “Are they going to truly listen and do what they need to do to correct the situation? It’s horrible living out here.” Chet Hewitt [president of the nonprofit Sierra Health Foundation, one of the leading groups behind Build Black] said police walk into these neighborhoods with certain assumptions, and that can lead directly to these types of shootings. “The treatment of a black man in a community that’s not considered to be affluent — and the assumptions that go along with what their behavior must have been like and what their response could ultimately be — that has led to this political tragedy,” he said.
The New York Times reports on nicotine addiction among middle- and high-school students who use e-cigarettes and how schools are responding to e-cigarette use on school grounds, including treatment, suspension, and even expulsion. The article also examines the role of advertising and designing e-cigarettes and associated products to appeal to children. “Schools and local officials have stiffened penalties for students caught with vaping devices, suspending and even expelling them, and sent home letters pleading with parents to be on the lookout for a waft of fruit smell and, as one superintendent wrote, ‘‘pens’ that aren’t pens.’ … out of 53 suspensions last year, 40 were for vaping devices. ‘We’re losing a battle and to me, it’s predatory,’ Mr. McAlister said. ‘There’s no way you’re going to suspend your way out of this.’ … Federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, and Juul and some other e-cigarette companies ask web purchasers to check a box saying that they are 21 or older. But the growing vaping industry has many items and campaigns that seem to appeal specifically to youth. There are vaping cloud contests, a line of hoodies and backpacks called VaprWear that make it easy to conceal the devices, and labels of vape “sauce” that resemble the designs of well-known candy wrappers like those of Jolly Ranchers and Blow Pops.”
This week marked 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, while supporting the campaign of striking black sanitation workers. Leonard Pitts writes in the Miami Herald: “There is a myth some of us cherish, and it goes like this: There used to be racism in this country, a distant and benighted time about which it’s best not to talk and impolite to even recall. Then Martin Luther King organized a boycott, led some marches and gave a speech about a dream. And ever since, equality has reigned. It’s a silly myth because it ignores the reams of evidence and towers of testimony proving that racism continues to stunt, blunt and take the lives of people of color. It’s an offensive myth because it reduces King to an anodyne figure harmless enough to be embraced by conservatives who conveniently forget that while he was here, they stood against everything he stood for. And it’s a dangerous myth because it allows the willfully, woefully gullible to believe we have won the battle for social justice when, in truth, we have yet to seriously engage it… So those of us who believe in social justice — not as abstract possibility, but as critical necessity — must reclaim the lost memory of King and defend it with adamantine will from those would smother it in myth. Not just because it inspires, but also because it impels.” Jamilah King reports at Mother Jones that the hundreds of streets across the country that bear Dr. King’s name today often showcase poverty and racial segregation, identifying MLK Drive in deeply segregated Chicago as a prime example. “Most of [the streets named after MLK] are in black communities and through the structural racism that pervades the built in environment in the United States, these neighborhoods and streets were created to fail in a lot of ways,” Daniel D’Oca, a professor of urban planning at Harvard University told the Bay State Banner in 2016. “There were racist policies employed throughout the 20th century that you can look at to explain why these streets look the way they do.”
Bloomberg News reports on a new study in The Lancet, which found that taxing soda, alcohol, and tobacco can cut consumption and steer consumers toward healthier choices. A tax on unhealthy goods “is probably the single-most important measure that can be taken to reduce death and suffering,” Larry Summers, the U.S. economist and former Treasury Secretary, said in an interview. “That’s why I think it’s important.” As the research showing health benefits of soda taxes grows, the beverage industry is working at the state level to preempt local soda taxes and nutrition labeling. ‘“In 1988, it was Phillip Morris’ Smokers’ Alliance. In 2018, it’s Big Soda’s YES! TO AFFORDABLE GROCERIES. Both are front groups, then the tobacco industry’s and today the American Beverage Association’s,” said Mark Pertschuk. Pertschuk is the Director of a small advocacy organization called Grassroots Change. He is the former President of American for Nonsmokers’ Rights, which battled the tobacco industry for smoke-free workplaces. … There has already been preemption of local ordinances related to nutrition in 11 states, this applies not just to a soda tax, but to menu labelling and other policies. More preemption bills (or statewide referendums) are likely to be introduced in 2018.’
This week, the Trump administration announced plans to send the National Guard to the US-Mexico border to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from entering the country. The Department of Justice also issued a directive requiring immigration judges to process 700 cases per year, in an effort to speed up deportations, including deportations of unaccompanied children. Colorlines reports that immigration judges are concerned that quotas will force judges to rush immigration decisions, rather than having the judicial independence and time required to assess cases individually.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory this week calling on members of the public to carry and be prepared to administer the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. Vox reports that while public health organizations supported the move, “at the same time, there’s a sense of skepticism over just how far an advisory like this one can go. Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore, has seen some of this firsthand. In the past, naloxone has typically required a prescription. But in 2015, her office issued a standing order that effectively acted as a blanket prescription for the entire city of Baltimore. That helped, but major hurdles remain — particularly, naloxone’s cost. “Unfortunately, we are having to ration naloxone because we simply don’t have the resources to purchase this life-saving antidote,” Wen said in a statement. “Every week, we count the doses we have left and make hard decisions about who will receive the medication and who will have to go without.”’