Venezuelan President Holds Peace Conference; Intelligence Agents Arrested for Protest Deaths

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extra extra newspaperIn Venezuela, five intelligence agents have been arrested for the shooting deaths of protesters amid violent anti-government protests that have killed at least 16 people. Three other agents and six police officers were arrested on Monday. On Wednesday, President Nicolás Maduro held a “national peace conference” aimed at quelling the crisis, but the opposition did not attend.

At Senate Hearing, Former Prisoner Calls Solitary Confinement Torture

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The use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons was under discussion on Capitol Hill this week. Witnesses at a hearing led by Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin described how solitary confinement devastates families, allows guards to isolate prisoners whom they have sexually assaulted, and drives prisoners to hopelessness. Durbin said more than half of prison suicides take place in solitary. Among the speakers was Damon Thibodeaux, a former Louisiana death-row prisoner who spent 15 years in solitary confinement, for 23 hours a day, before being exonerated in 2012.

Damon Thibodeaux: “I do not condone what those who have killed and committed other serious offenses have done, but I also don’t condone what we do to them when we put them in solitary for years on end and treat them as subhuman. We are better than that. As a civilized society, we should be better than that. I would like to believe that the vast majority of the people in the United States would be appalled if they knew what we are doing to inmates in solitary confinement and understood that we are torturing them, for reasons that have little, if anything, to do with protecting other inmates or prison guards from them.”

Last week, New York state agreed to reform its use of solitary confinement, including banning its use in disciplining prisoners under 18.

Massachusetts Issues Temporary Ban on Shackling of Prisoners in Labor

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Lawmakers in Massachusetts are considering a bill that would ban the shackling of prisoners who are giving birth. The state issued temporary regulations to limit the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners last week. Advocates say it is not unusual for women to be handcuffed to hospital beds, even while in labor. Eighteen states have passed laws to restrict the shackling of pregnant prisoners.

Probe Finds Credit Suisse Aided Tax Evasion by Wealthy U.S. Clients

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A new Senate investigation finds the Swiss banking firm Credit Suisse aided tax evasion by wealthy U.S. clients who have stashed billions of dollars outside the reach of U.S. tax collectors. The report accuses Credit Suisse of an array of tactics, from creating offshore shell entities to establishing a branch at Zurich airport where elite clients used secret elevators operated by remote control. CEO Brady Dougan blamed the abuses on a small group of bankers at the firm.

Brady Dougan: “Credit Suisse’s management team regrets very deeply that, despite the industry-leading compliance measures we put in place, we had some Swiss-based private bankers who appear to have violated U.S. law.”