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Human Rights Record of United States in 2007

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II. On Human Rights Violations by Law Enforcement and Judicial Departments

The abuse of their power by law enforcement and judicial departments in the United States has seriously violated the freedom and rights of its citizens.

Cases in which U.S. law enforcement authorities allegedly violated victims' civil rights increased by 25 percent from fiscal year 2001 to 2007 over the previous seven years, according to statistics from U.S. Department of Justice (Police Brutality Casesup 25%; Union Worried Over Dip in Hiring Standards, USA Today, December 18, 2007). The national average among large police departments for excessive-force complaints was 9.5 per 100 full-time officers (The New York Times, November 14, 2007). But the majority of law enforcement officers accused of brutality were not prosecuted in the end. From May 2001 to June 2006, 2,451 police officers in Chicago received four to 10 complaints each, 662 of them received more than 10 complaints each, but only 22 were punished. Furthermore, there were officers who had amassed more than 50 abuse complaints but were never disciplined in any fashion (The Chicago Police Department's Broken System, University of Chicago, On August 17, 2006, a 52-year-old Chicago woman named Dolores Robare was nearly struck by a speeding police car when she was crossing the road. The officer stopped and asked her to produce her identification. She was brutally beaten by the police when she asked them why it was taking so long (The Chicago Tribune, May 1, 2007). On December 15,2006, four businessmen were beaten by six off-duty officers at a bar for no apparent reasons (The Chicago Tribune, June 9, 2007). On August 3, 42-year-old African American Geffrey Johnson was killed at his home by the police using a taser gun. On August 6, 18-year-old black youth Aaron Harrison was shot in the back and killed by police pursuing him (The Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2007). On May 1 when Latino immigrants were campaigning for the rights of illegal immigrants at MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles, police officers abused their power by clubbing demonstrators and journalists and shooting them with rubber bullets (The Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2007). On November 12, five police officers fired 20 bullets at 18-year-old youth Khiel Coppin, eight hitting him, in front of his mother's house, after mistaking a comb he was brandishing as a gun (The China Press, NewYork, November 19, 2007). According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2007, 47 states and the District of Columbia reported 2,002 arrest-related deaths between 2003 and 2005. Among these, 1,095, or 55 percent, were killed by gunfire of state or local police (Death in Custody Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice,

U.S. prisoners often die from HIV/AIDS infection or inadequate medical service. A report released by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2007 said there were 22,480 state and federal inmates who were HIV infected or had confirmed AIDS at yearend 2005, 5,620 inmates had confirmed AIDS. During 2005 an estimated 176 state and 27 federal inmates died from AIDS-related causes (HIV in prisons 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, According to a report by the Los Angeles Times on September 20, 2007, 426 death cases took place in California prisons in 2006 due to belated treatment. Among them, 18 deaths were found to be "preventable" and an additional 48 were found to be "possibly preventable." On April 14, 2007, 41-year-old diabetic prisoner Rodolfo Ramos died after being left alone and covered in his own feces for a week. Prison officials failed to get medical treatment for him despite knowing of his condition (The Associated Press, April 27, 2007).

The justice of U.S. judicial system was increasingly put in question. Survey finds that since the first DNA exoneration in 1989, there have been 209 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. The average length of time served by exonerees is 12 years. The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 26, and 15 of the 209 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row (Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations, Innocence Project, The Associated Press reported on January 3, 2008 that Charles Chatman of Texas was proved innocent by DNA evidence after spending 26 years in prison. In 1981, he was sentenced to 99 years in prison after convicted of committing serious sexual assaults. He was the 15th inmate exonerated by DNA evidence in Dalas since 2001 (Texas Man Exonerated by DNA After 26 Years, the Associated Press, January 3, 2008).

III. On Civil and Political Rights

The freedom and rights of individual citizens are being increasingly marginalized in the United States.

The House of Representatives and the Senate of the U.S. Congress passed the Protect America Act of 2007 on August 3, and August 4, 2007, respectively. The act enables the U.S. administration to eavesdrop terrorist suspects in the United States without court approval. It also permits intelligence services to conduct electronic surveillance on digital communications between terrorist suspects outside the United States if the communications are routed through the country (The so-called Protect America Act,, August 10, 2007). According to a report by the Washington Post on March 10, 2007, the FBI improperly obtained personal information on more than 52,000 people without court oversight through the use of national security letters (NSLs) from 2003 to 2005. Verizon Communications, the second largest telecom company in the United States, disclosed that the FBI sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities "on an emergency basis" 720 times. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order. The information was mainly used for a range of criminal investigations including counter-terrorism investigations (The Washington Post, October 16, 2007). In August 2007, the United States' National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell revealed that fewer than 100 people inside the United States are monitored under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. However, he said, thousands of people overseas are monitored (The Associated Press, August 23, 2007). The FBI is embarking on a 1 billion U.S. dollars effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, called Next Generation Identification, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad. The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americansto avoid unwanted scrutiny (FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics, The Washington Post, December 22, 2007). Statistics show that the government's illegal dragnet electronic surveillance has put sensitive personal information from millions of people at risk. 477 breaches into government databases were found in 2006 alone. More than 162 million records were reported lost or stolen in 2007, triple the 49.7 million that went missing in 2006 (USA Today website, December 10, 2007). In July 2007, the Homeland Security Department granted more than 4 million U.S. dollars to install 175 video cameras on the streets of cities including St. Paul, Madison (Wisconsin State) and Pittsburgh. The Boston Globe estimated that up to hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent by the department to install new surveillance systems around the country, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" (The Boston Globe, August 12, 2007).

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Workers' right to unionize has been restricted in the United States. It was reported that union membership fell by 326,000 in 2006, bringing the percentage of employees in unions to 12 percent, down from 20 percent in 1983. Employer resistance stopped 53 percent of nonunion workers from joining a union (Sharp Decline in Union Members in '06, The New York Times, January 26, 2007). According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, when Wal-Mart stores faced unionization drives, the company often broke the law by, for example, eavesdropping on workers, training surveillance cameras on them and firing those who favored unions (Report Assails Wal-Mart Over Unions, The New York Times, May 1, 2007).In the United States, money is "mother's milk" for politics while elections are "games" for the wealthy, highlighting the hypocrisy of the U.S. democracy, which has been fully borne out by the 2008 presidential election. The "financial threshold" for participating in the U.S. presidential election is becoming higher and higher. At least 10 of the 20-strong major party candidates who are seeking the U.S. presidency in general elections in 2008 are millionaires, according to a report by Spanish news agency EFE on May 18, 2007. The French news agency AFP reported on January 15, 2007 that the 2008 presidential election will be the most expensive race in history. The cost of the last presidential campaign in 2004, considered a peak for its time, was 693 million U.S. dollars. Common estimates of this year's total outlay have tended to come in at around 1 billion U.S dollars, and Fortune magazine recently upped its overall cost projection to 3 billion U.S. dollars. An important presidential candidate of the Democratic Party raised a total of 115 million U.S. dollars in 2007, and another important candidate of the Party raised 103 million U.S. dollars. A Republican candidate said his campaign has 12.7 million U.S. dollars, and another Republican White House hopeful, a wealthy businessman, has already dished out 17 million U.S. dollars of his own. The New York Times said on November 26, 2007 that confronting an enormous fund-raising gap with Democrats, Republican Party officials were aggressively recruiting wealthy candidates who could spend large sums of their own money to finance their campaigns. Some wealthy Republicans had each already invested 100,000 to 1 million U.S. dollars of their own money to finance their campaigns. In New York's 20th Congressional District, it was estimated that each candidate would spend at least 3 million U.S. dollars.

The "cash race" has permeated various kinds of elections in the United States. According to figures from relevant institutions, from 2005 to 2006, candidates for state high courts collected morethan 34 million U.S. dollars in campaign donations. In a contest in Pennsylvania to elect two new members of the state Supreme Court, judicial candidates have broken state fundraising records, pulling down 6.8 million U.S. dollars ( USA Today, November 5, 2007). Having been elected, some Congress members sought to secure interests for their campaign donors. According to a report by the Washington Post on December 10, 2007, the amount of 10 biggest earmarks that House Majority Leader sponsored in 2008 congressional spending bills, either solo or in conjunction with other legislators, worth of 96 million U.S. dollars. One earmark alone cost 9.8 million U.S dollars. The earmarks included many that would benefit his campaign donors. When the 471 billion U.S. dollar Pentagon spending bill passed in November 2007, a legislator from Pennsylvania State said in a news release that he helped secure 8 million U.S dollars in funding for seven companies in his Pittsburgh-area district, including companies that contributed to his campaign. In addition, 20 freshman members of Congress secured earmarks for special-interest groups. The funding ranges from 8 million U.S. dollars to more than 18 million U.S. dollars ("Earmarks" Analysis Shows Money Follows Power, USA Today,December 12, 2007).

IV. On Economic, Social and Cultural rights

The deserved economic, social and cultural rights of American citizens have not been properly protected.

Poor population in the United States is constantly increasing. According to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2007, the official poverty rate in 2006 was 12.3 percent. There were 36.5 million people, or 7.7 million families living in poverty in 2006. In another word, almost one out of eight American citizens lives in poverty. The poverty rate in Mississippi was as high as 21.1 percent (Poverty Drops as Nation's Income Hits 5-years High, USA Today, August 29, 2007). The poverty rate of major American cities was 16.1 percent. The rate was 15.2 percent in suburban areas and 13.8 percent in the South. The poverty rate in the Washington D.C. was 19.8 percent, which meant nearly one-fifths of its citizens were living in poverty (DC's "Two Economies" Headed in Different Directions, Report Finds, DC FiscalPolicy Institute, October 24, 2007).

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The wealth of the richest group in the United States has rapidly expanded in recent year, widening the earning gap between the rich and the poor. The earnings of the highest one percent of the population accounted for 21.2 percent of American total national income in 2005, compared with 19 percent in 2004. The earnings of the lowest 50 percent of the population accounted for 12.8 percent of the total national income in 2005, down from 13.4 percent in 2004 (Reuters, October 12, 2007). The number of "ultra-high-net worth" U.S. households, that is, those with a net worth of 5 million U.S. Dollars or more, excluding the value of their primary homes, reached 1.14 million in 2006, a 23 percent rise from 930,000 in 2005 (Richest Households Pass 1 Million Mark,, April 17, 2007). The number of billionaires increased from 13 in 1985 to more than 1,000 in 2006 (The Observer,July 24, 2007). Top executives of major U.S. businesses made an average of more than 10 million U.S. Dollars in 2006, 364 times over that of ordinary workers. They earn as much money in one day of work as ordinary workers make over the entire year (AFP, January 4, 2008).

To seek more interests, some companies have paid for trips for some important political figures and other government employees. Records show lawmakers accepted free trips worth nearly 1.9 million U.S. dollars during the first eight months of 2007, more than in all of 2006 (Limits Don't Slow Trip Perks for U.S. Lawmakers, USA Today, October 24, 2007). According to a report by the USA Today on August 23, 2007, an examination of more than 600 travel reports on executive-branch officials over a 12-month period has found that more than 200 trips were funded by relevant companies or trade groups. The chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor have taken nearly 30 trips since 2002 that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers of products. The expenses totaled nearly 60,000 U.S. dollars.

The U.S. administration manipulated the press. On October 23, 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staged a news conference on California wildfires. A half-dozen questions were asked within 15 minutes at the event by FEMA staff members posing as reporters. The news was aired by U.S-based television stations. After the Washington Post disclosed the farce, FEMA tried to defend itself for staging the fake briefing (FEMA Official Apologizes for Staged Briefing With Fake Reporters, The Washington Post, October 27, 2007). When Private Jessica Lynch and brother of late Army Ranger Pat Tillman were testifying to Congress on April 24, they decried the Pentagon's "deceit" in turning her and Tillman's disastrous experiences into false tales of heroism and lambasted the U.S. Administration for lying about the incident (The Times, April 25, 2007).

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