Tag Archives: complaints

Genital searches interfere with client, attorney meetings at Guantánamo

Two men detained at Guantánamo failed to meet with their attorneys because the U.S. prison has reinstated genital searches.

Human rights advocates expressed concern that the searches are deliberate attempts to stop detainees from meeting with their lawyers. 

Staff at Guantánamo told Cori Crider, an attorney with the UK-based Reprieve human rights group, detainee Samir Moqbel refused their meeting because he didn’t want to submit to the genital search. Briton Shaker Aamer also canceled an attorney meeting.

In 2013, during the height of a mass hunger strike at Guantánamo, the genital searches were the subject of litigation in U.S. court and were eventually discontinued by camp authorities. A judge who ordered the searches should be stopped wrote, “The choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or forgoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims like petitioners.” 

Guantánamo staff have said the searchers involve “placing the guard’s hand as a wedge between the (detainee’s) scrotum and thigh … and using (a) flat hand to press against the groin to detect anything foreign attached to the body,” after which a guard “uses a flat hand to frisk the detainee’s buttocks to ensure no contraband is hidden there.”

Advertising company removes Southern secession billboard

The head of the Confederate League of the South says an advertising company has removed a highway billboard that advocated a Southern secession from the United States.

Michael Hill is president of the Confederate League of the South. He said this week that Lamar Advertising Co. took down the billboard along Interstate 85 in Montgomery, Alabama, following complaints. The billboard had the word “secede” in capital letters, along with the league’s name and website.

The sign went up last week and was removed over the weekend.

Hill said the company offered a refund, but that wasn’t necessary since he had yet to pay.

A Lamar Advertising executive did not return a message seeking comment.

A similar billboard was erected in Tallahassee, Florida, earlier this year.

Cracker Barrel returns ‘Duck Dynasty’ products to stores

Cracker Barrel late last week removed some “Duck Dynasty” products to avoid offending some customers, the company announced on its Facebook page.

But then the company returned the products to its stores after getting hit with complaints, including one Fox News celebrity Mike Huckabee and another from right-wing Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins.

Cracker Barrel, in a statement to customers, said, “When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain ‘Duck Dynasty’ items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we’ve done. You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong.…We listened.”

The company apologized for removing the items amid the controversy over homophobic, racist and sexist statements Phil Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty” made to GQ magazine. Cracker Barrel then restated a commitment to respecting “all individuals” and their “right to express their beliefs.”

Cracker Barrel was long the target of a boycott by LGBT consumers and allies — and many people have yet to return to the restaurants with the faux-country atmosphere. In 1991, Cracker Barrel instituted a short-lived policy banning the hiring of gay people and allowing for the firing of some employees. Not until 2002 did shareholders force the company to adopt a policy banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The company also has been in trouble for racial discrimination and sex discrimination.

Today Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Wholesome Fixin’s has a rating of 45 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Buying for Equality guide.

The company earned 15 points for a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, five points for some spousal benefits,  15 points for engaging in “appropriate and respectful advertising” and 10 points for having an LGBT resource group.

The company does not have a policy that includes gender identity, domestic partner health insurance or equal health coverage for transgender individuals.

Gun-carrying incident at Appleton farmers market draws responses

Concerned residents sent a flurry of emails to Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna after two men showed up armed with assault rifles near the city’s farmers market, according to a new analysis.

A few emails supported the men’s Second Amendment rights, but most were from residents who threatened to stay away from future public events if firearms could be present, the Post Crescent Media reported.

“As long as there are people with guns walking around this city, my family will not be,” wrote Adam Fredrick, of Appleton.

The men were carrying AR-15 assault rifles legally near the market on Sept. 7. Police detained them at gunpoint and handcuffed them before eventually releasing them without tickets.

“If these idiots are this paranoid perhaps they should stay home and protect their fortress and not wander around on the streets,” Mary Rutten, of Appleton, wrote of the men. “I do not want to live like this where people feel they have to carry guns to protect themselves at a public and/or family event.”

Other writers were worried about how the incident might affect the city’s reputation. Some asked Hanna to figure out creative ways to keep the city safe for families without violating state law.

Hanna noted that open-carry laws are governed by state statute and can’t be altered by city ordinance. He added that he’d like to see the state law changed, but acknowledged that the chances of that happening are remote.

Voter registration problems widening in Florida

What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has now spread statewide, with election officials in nine counties informing prosecutors or state election officials about questionable voter registration forms filled out on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.

State Republican officials already have fired the vendor it had hired to register voters, and took the additional step of filing an election fraud complaint against the company, Strategic Allied Consulting, with state officials. That complaint was handed over late last week to state law-enforcement authorities.

A spokesman for Florida’s GOP said the matter was being treated seriously.

“We are doing what we can to find out how broad the scope is,” said Brian Burgess, the spokesman.

Florida is the battleground state where past election problems led to the chaotic recount that followed the 2000 presidential election.

The Florida Democratic Party called on the state to “revoke” the ability of state Republicans to continue to register voters while the investigation continues. Oct. 9 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

“It is clear that the Republican Party of Florida does not have the institutional controls in place to be trusted as a third-party, voter registration organization,” said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

The Republican Party of Florida has paid Strategic Allied Consulting more than $1.3 million, and the Republican National Committee used the group for work in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia.

The company said last week that it was cooperating with elections officials in Florida. It initially said the suspect forms were turned in by one person, who has been fired.

“Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law,” Fred Petti, a company attorney, said.

But late last week the company put out a lengthy statement on its website and said that it was aware of questionable forms in other counties and that it confirmed in each of those counties that the problem was with “one individual.” Strategic said it had more than 2,000 people working in the state of Florida.

Strategic insisted that it has “rigorous quality control measures” and it blamed the Republican Party of Florida for the decision by Republican National Committee to dump the company on Thursday.

“When the Republican Party of Florida chose to make likely libelous comments about our effort and stated that the Republican National Committee suggested us as the vendor, the RNC was put in the unenviable position of ending a long-term relationship for the sake of staying focused on the election,” the company stated.

In Florida, it is a third-degree felony to “willfully submit” any false voter registration information, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

In recent years, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature — citing suspicious voter registration forms turned in by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN — has cracked down on groups holding voter registration drives.

The League of Women Voters filed a federal lawsuit against some of the restrictions and Florida agreed earlier this month to drop a new requirement to turn in registration applications within 48 hours after they are signed. The state has reinstated a 10-day deadline.

The questionable forms tied to the Republican Party have showed up in South Florida, including Miami-Dade, as well as counties in southwest and northeast Florida as well as the Florida Panhandle.

Election officials in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have handed over more than 100 suspect forms to local prosecutors. They did so days after officials in Palm Beach County also alerted prosecutors.

Ann Bodenstein, the elections supervisor for Santa Rosa County, said her staff started raising questions after an employee saw a form that changed the home address of a neighbor.

Paul Lux, election supervisor for Okaloosa County, said questionable forms in the Florida Panhandle appear to have all come from Strategic’s effort based at the local Republican Party headquarters. He said his office has turned up dozens of suspect forms.

Lux said there have been forms that listed dead people and were either incomplete or illegible. He met with local prosecutors on Friday, but added that his staff was still going through hundreds of forms dropped off by Strategic employees.

Lux, who is a Republican, said he warned local party officials earlier this month when he first learned the company was paying people to register voters.

“I told them ‘This is not going to end well,’” Lux said.

The stateGOP  filed the complaint against Strategic Allied Consulting with state election officials, who late Friday handed the case over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

An FDLE spokeswoman said the agency would not automatically open a criminal investigation, but would review to see if there were “possible criminal acts.”