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Justice Sotomayor Slams "Disturbing Trend" of Supreme Court Siding With the Police

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The Supreme Court has a "disturbing trend" of siding with officers over their alleged victims in cases involving the use of force by police. That's according to a stinging dissent issued on Monday by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, after the full court voted to let stand the dismissal of a lawsuit against a Houston cop who shot a man in the back during a traffic stop. The court, Sotomayor wrote, has reliably reversed lower-court rulings that favored the plaintiff in such cases, "but we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit" of the doubt. Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg joined Sotomayor's dissent.

One night in October 2010, Ricardo Salazar-Limon and his friends were driving on a highway outside of Houston when Houston Police Officer Chris Thompson pulled him over. After running the driver's license and registration and finding nothing amiss, Thomson asked Salazar-Limon to step out of his truck—apparently to conduct a Breathalyzer test. Thompson then tried to handcuff Salazar-Limon, but the driver resisted and began walking back to his truck with his back to Thompson. The officer then drew his gun and ordered him to stop. Salazar-Limon says Thompson shot him within seconds of that order. Thompson claims he fired only after Salazar-Limon reached for his waistband—as if for a weapon—and turned toward him. No weapon was found.

Salazar-Limon sustained crippling injuries. In 2011, he sued Thompson and the Houston police for violating his civil rights. But a federal judge dismissed the suit, ruling that Thompson had qualified immunity because he'd shot Salazar-Limon in the course of his lawful duties. Salazar-Limon never explicitly denied reaching for his waistband during his deposition, nor, the judge wrote, did he offer evidence that he hadn't—so the only conclusion a reasonable jury could reach was that he had. Thompson thus could have felt threatened and shot him because of it. A federal appeals court affirmed the ruling.

Salazar-Limon appealed to the Supreme Court, which on Monday decided not to hear the case. That was the wrong move, argued Sotomayor. A dismissal should only be granted, she wrote, when the facts of an incident are not in dispute. Thompson claimed the shooting was provoked. Salazar-Limon said it was not. The lower-court judge gave unfair privilege to the officer's account, Sotomayor said. It was a jury's job—not a district court judge's—to determine whose story was more plausible. A juror, she wrote, could easily ask why Salazar-Limon would have reached for his waistband if he didn't have a weapon. (In a footnote, she cited "the increasing frequency of incidents in which unarmed men allegedly reach for empty waistbands when facing law enforcement officers.")

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the court rarely reviews cases "where the thrust of the claim is that a lower court simply erred in applying a settled rule of law to the facts of a particular case"—as opposed to cases in which the court is asked to interpret the law itself. But Sotomayor cited five recent cases in which the court intervened after a lower court ordered an offer to stand trial based on the facts of the case. Improperly dismissing lawsuits against officers who may have acted unlawfully "imposes no less harm" than trying officers who haven't broken the law, she wrote.

The high court's decision could encourage federal judges to dismiss civil lawsuits against police officers, says Joanna Schwartz, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who studies litigation against police. The ruling could also discourage attorneys from bringing such lawsuits, further limiting the options for redress against police abuses—as prosecutors rarely bring criminal cases and the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have little interest in doing so. "Lawyers are not making very much money off these cases. They bring these cases because they believe in them," Schwartz told me. "As it becomes increasingly more difficult to win anything, it's going to be even harder for lawyers to make the decision to represent these plaintiffs."

Sotomayor's dissent on Monday was her second recent one related to police tactics. Last summer, she cited author James Baldwin and The Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates while slamming a Supreme Court ruling involving what she deemed an illegal search and seizure: "The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment rights," she wrote. "This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong."

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Technicalleigh
17 hours ago
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SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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A Message from Anita on the End of Tropes

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Well, here we are folks.

I knew this day was coming but it always seemed so far away. After five long years, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games is over. This is one of the most emotionally complicated projects I’ve ever created. It has been simultaneously awful and wonderful, and the journey is one which I will most certainly never forget. One that would never have happened without the incredible and generous support of our nearly 7000 Kickstarter backers, and countless others who encouraged us along the way.

On May 17th, 2012, I launched a very modest Kickstarter, hoping to raise $6,000 to make what was then going to be Feminist Frequency’s next series, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. At that time, my vision for the project, like the amount of money I was hoping to raise, was fairly modest: a series of five videos, each perhaps ten minutes long, about harmful, sexist patterns of female representation in video games.

This may be the end of Tropes, but it is absolutely, by no means the end of Feminist Frequency.

Much of what came in the days and weeks that followed was great. It was exciting and gratifying to immediately see that many people had a real interest in feminist criticism of video games, as we blew past the initial funding goal within 24 hours. In time, we expanded the scope of the project, bringing the number of projected videos up to 12 and planning for longer, more rigorous analyses than I’d originally envisioned.

While this was happening, I was also watching in horror as cybermobs, deeply threatened by the mere idea of feminist analysis of video games, mobilized en masse to disrupt my life. In an effort to instill fear in me and in any woman who might dare to speak out against sexism in gaming, these mobs flooded all my social media channels with vile harassment, made slanderous, racist and pornographic edits to my Wikipedia page, posted private information about me online, made death threats against me and members of my family, and threatened events I was speaking at, among other tactics. And while the volume of that harassment has ebbed and flowed at times, it has never ceased, and the legacy of Tropes can never be entirely separated from the deep veins of hostility, entitlement, and misogyny that the reaction to the series revealed in some segments of the gaming community.

Nonetheless, we persevered with the research, writing, and production of the series, launching with episode one of a three-part series about perhaps the most prevalent of all video game tropes about women: the Damsel in Distress. Now, I want to emphasize something here, just to give you an idea of how much the vision for the project evolved in the wake of the Kickstarter’s tremendous and unforeseen success. What had originally started as plans for five videos, each approximately 10 minutes in length, eventually premiered with three videos all devoted to just one single trope! In total, those three videos came in at over an hour and ten minutes in length! Doing meticulous, comprehensive research spanning the entire history of video games as preparation for those episodes was tremendously difficult and time-consuming, but looking back, I believe the results speak for themselves.

Amid the tremendous fear and trauma resulting from the harassment I was experiencing, there were moments of satisfaction and solace as I saw that our videos were reaching people, players and creators of games alike, and encouraging them to think about representations of women in games in ways that they hadn’t before. The messages of support and appreciation we received during that time were especially meaningful, and helped me to persevere and continue believing in the importance and value of the work we were doing.

However, during that time even some of our most ardent supporters were understandably somewhat frustrated by the long research, writing and production times between episodes. By August of 2015, we had produced three Damsel in Distress videos, one Ms. Male Character video, two videos about Women as Background Decoration (totaling just over an hour in running time) and a main episode and special DLC mini-episode about Women as Reward, along with four bonus videos. In length and analytical depth, these videos far exceeded what I had originally planned, and after covering just those four tropes, we had already produced three hours and forty minutes of feminist criticism goodness.

As proud as I am of that work, at a certain point it became clear that if we were going to finish this project within a reasonable amount of time, we had to make some adjustments. And so, Season Two of Tropes was born. Eight videos, one each on eight different topics: shorter, snappier, hopefully more enjoyable and watchable but no less substantial. The change in format allowed us to speed up production time significantly without sacrificing the series’ signature feminist analysis.

And now here we are, at the eighth and final of those videos: The Lady Sidekick.

This episode examines how female sidekicks and companions in games are often designed to function as glorified gatekeepers, helpless burdens, and ego boosters, a pattern that works to reinforce oppressive notions about women as the ones in need of protection and men as the ones in control, who take action and do the protecting. We then feature some games with relationships that subvert traditional power fantasy mechanics, putting players on something closer to equal footing with their AI companions as they offer examples of what real communication, compromise, and mutual support in games might look like.

It’s a bittersweet moment, bidding farewell to this series.

This may be the end of Tropes, but it is absolutely, by no means the end of Feminist Frequency. We have so much stuff in the works, and I sincerely hope that you will continue to be a part of our journey as we move forward. We’ll be premiering our new show very soon, one that brings our signature feminist media analysis to bear on issues happening right now as we examine the connection between representations in pop culture and the racism, sexism, and transphobia of our current political climate.

Before I wrap this up, let’s take stock of what we wound up creating. Here is the entire list of videos in this series:

SEASON 1
1. Damsel in Distress: Part 1
2. Damsel in Distress: Part 2
3. Damsel in Distress: Part 3
4. Ms. Male Character
5. Women as Reward
6. Women as Reward: Special DLC Mini-Episode
7. Women as Background Decoration: Part 1
8. Women as Background Decoration: Part 2

SEASON 2
1. Strategic Butt Coverings
2. Body Language and the Male Gaze
3. Lingerie Is Not Armor
4. Are Women Too Hard to Animate?
5. All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games
6. Sinister Seductress
7. Not Your Exotic Fantasy
8. The Lady Sidekick

BONUS EPISODES
Positive Female Characters – The Scythian
Positive Female Characters – Jade from Beyond Good and Evil
Animated Short: The Legend of the Last Princess
Animated Short: Imperfect Dark Trailer
5 Ways Men Can Help End Sexism

In all, that’s 4 hours and 50 minutes of feminist video game analysis.

It’s a bittersweet moment, bidding farewell to this series. It’s definitely time for it to be over, time for Feminist Frequency as an organization and for me personally to move on. But I keep thinking about all the ways that the world of video games has changed since that day, almost five years ago, when I first took my modest little Kickstarter live. It hasn’t all been for the better, but some of it definitely has. There are conversations happening now, among players and among creators, that weren’t happening before, about who games are for (everyone!), about what impact they can have, what they can tell us about humanity, empathy, race, gender, sexuality, the world we live in, and the world we want to create for ourselves.

By supporting this project, whether financially as part of the initial Kickstarter, or simply by watching it, sharing it and discussing it with your friends, you’ve been a part of this change. I can’t thank you enough.

‘Til next time

 

 








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Technicalleigh
1 day ago
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Much, much respect.
SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Sexy Construction

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Cartooning is actually my part-time job.

New comic!
Today's News:

BAHFest Sydney is now taking submissions! Check it out!

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Technicalleigh
1 day ago
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SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
MaryEllenCG
1 day ago
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Greater Bostonia
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Google announces last security patch dates for Nexus and Pixel devices

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We’ve long known when Google’s Nexus and Pixel devices will stop receiving Android version updates. While it sucks, the devices will remain functional. But most importantly, they will remain secure because Google will continue releasing security patches for them.

Today Google has announced when the last security patch will come to each of its current and past devices. This is when the device ceases being entirely secure. Though this is not a huge issue (keep in mind, most non-Google devices are not on the latest security patch anyway), it’s something to consider after owning your device for approximately three years that Google supports it.

pixel-update-period

nexus-update-period

While many devices on this list are already unsupported, this will give you a good idea of when it’s time to upgrade your device. Three years of support is not only above average, but pretty good as far as smartphone longevity goes. And if you recently picked up a Pixel, you still have over two years of support to go!

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Technicalleigh
2 days ago
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I reject the idea that 3 years of support is "pretty good". Smartphones aren't phones anymore, they're computers. Tablets are computers. And I'm seriously looking into a Windows 10 tablet to replace this perfectly fine Nexus 9 I'm using right this moment.
SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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HUD Purges Publications that Helped Shelters Keep Transgender People Safe

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Sometime in the last two months, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) removed a half-dozen resource documents from its website that were aimed at helping emergency homeless shelters and other housing providers comply with HUD nondiscrimination rules and keep transgender people safe. These resources were published in 2016 based on consultation with numerous service providers and advocates around the country.

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Technicalleigh
2 days ago
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SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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Republicans Finally Wrote a Health Bill Cruel Enough to Satisfy Conservatives

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Republicans are still struggling to cobble together a plan to repeal Obamacare. Their latest proposals tacks hard to the right and would wipe away the core consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act—including a de facto end of the laws' protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.

House conservatives, who helped sink last month's GOP health care bill, are celebrating the new plan. The right-wing Freedom Caucus announced its support Wednesday. But it could quickly go down in flames if moderates in the House balk at ending some of the most popular elements of Obamacare. And even if it does clear the House, it could be a nonstarter for Republicans in the Senate.

The proposal, written by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and obtained by Politico, would allow states to opt out of two central elements of Obamacare: the provisions know as essential benefits and community rating. The first part of that—essential benefits—is pretty simple. Before Obamacare's passage, purchasing insurance on the individual market could be extremely difficult; someone might buy a health plan only to later realize it didn't cover basics, such as in-patient care or emergency room visits. Obamacare fixed that problem by requiring insurers to cover a range of basic services.

Community rating, meanwhile, is a key component of Obamacare's protections for people with preexisting conditions. Prior to Obamacare, insurance companies would jack up prices for people with any sort of know medical condition, meaning that coverage was often unaffordable for the people who needed it most. The Obamacare community rating provision forces insurance companies to offer everyone in a certain area the same insurance at the same price (with a few exceptions, such as age and tobacco use). Under the latest GOP proposal, insurance companies in states that opt out of community rating would still technically have to offer policies to people with preexisting conditions—but they could charge these people sky-high rates that would essentially force them out of their plans.

Driving sick people out of their insurance policies isn't an unintended consequence of MacArthur's proposal; it's the goal. That's because it would likely lower the cost of premiums for everyone else. Insurance companies would be able to charge less since they wouldn't actually be paying for as much care anymore. But it would almost certainly result in a spike in the number of uninsured people, too. When the Congressional Budget Office looked at the GOP's plan last month—when the bill still offered essential benefits and protected preexisting conditions—it found that 24 million fewer people would have health insurance under the proposal. That number would probably be even higher under the new plan.

If House leadership adopts MacArthur's amendment, it will directly contradict what Republicans have promised all year long as they've debated their plan to replace Obamacare. When the initial bill was introduced last month, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said that it protected "patients with pre-existing conditions." Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who chairs one of the committees in charge of health care and helped craft last month's bill, told Politico recently that ending those consumer protections would be "a red line I will not cross." And when Trump gave a speech before Congress in late-February, he said, "We should ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage."

If all those Republicans abandon their promises, they won't have the backing of the public. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released this week showed that 70 percent of Americans think insurers in all states should be required to offer coverage to people with preexisting conditions at the same price as everyone else. Just 26 percent said states should be able to opt out of those regulations.

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Technicalleigh
2 days ago
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Well thank goodness we're finally getting rid of those awful government death panels. >_>
SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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