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Detroit Proposes Fat Tax

Consumer Affairs | May 9, 2005

It had to happen sooner or later: a fat tax. With concerns about obesity growing, and the independent film "Supersize Me" gaining near-cult status, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says now may be the time to put an extra tax on fast food.

The money would certainly come in handy. Detroit is grappling with a million budget deficit and Kilpatrick believes a two percent fast food tax would help fill city coffers while making consumers think twice before downing so much unhealthy fast food.

Taxes on restaurant meals are nothing new. Many municipalities levy a "prepared meals tax" on top of state sales tax to supplement local tax revenue. But what Detroit is considering goes a step farther.

The National Restaurant Association, a Washington lobbying group for the restaurant industry, says this would be the first time a specific type of restaurant has been singled out for taxation. The tax would apply to any fast food restaurant product, even a cup of coffee.

Critics charge the proposed tax is unfair, since young people and the elderly -- two groups at the lower end of the economic scale -- tend to be the most frequent fast food customers. They point out it's highly unlikely it could ever be enacted, since it would require the state legislature to amend the tax law and would need the approval of Detroit voters, who may not be ready to give up their Big Macs and Whoppers.

Chip and pinned
By Vivek Chaudhary, Evening Standard
26 April 2005

German police are to introduce groundbreaking microchip-tracking technology in an effort to stop next summer's World Cup being wrecked by hooligans. Although the finals are more than a year away, fears are already growing that the tournament could be marred by widespread violence.

Cheap air travel and strong local beer plus the historical emnity between the hosts and many of the countries set to qualify, have left organisers preparing to mount one of the largest security operations in the tournament's history.

But in addition to the more orthodox security operation being planned, with thousands of police officers and stewards being specially trained, organisers are also planning to employ revolutionary new tickets which will carry details of every fan attending the World Cup.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Police used Taser on pregnant driver
Woman convicted of refusing to obey Seattle officers


She was rushing her son to school. She was eight months pregnant. And she was about to get a speeding ticket she didn't think she deserved.

So when a Seattle police officer presented the ticket to Malaika Brooks, she refused to sign it. In the ensuing confrontation, she suffered burns from a police Taser, an electric stun device that delivers 50,000 volts.

"Probably the worst thing that ever happened to me," Brooks said, in describing that morning during her criminal trial last week on charges of refusing to obey an officer and resisting arrest.

She was found guilty of the first charge because she never signed the ticket, but the Seattle Municipal Court jury could not decide whether she resisted arrest, the reason the Taser was applied.

To her attorneys and critics of police use of Tasers, Brooks' case is an example of police overreaction.

"It's pretty extraordinary that they should have used a Taser in this case," said Lisa Daugaard, a public defender familiar with the case.

Law enforcement officers have said they see Tasers as a tool that can benefit the public by reducing injuries to police and the citizens they arrest.

Seattle police officials declined to comment on this case, citing concerns that Brooks might file a civil lawsuit.

But King County sheriff's Sgt. Donald Davis, who works on the county's Taser policy, said the use of force is a balancing act for law enforcement.
"It just doesn't look good to the public," he said.

Brooks' run-in with police Nov. 23 came six months before Seattle adopted a new policy on Taser use that guides officers on how to deal with pregnant women, the very young, the very old and the infirm. When used on such subjects, the policy states, "the need to stop the behavior should clearly justify the potential for additional risks."

"Obviously, (law enforcement agencies) don't want to use a Taser on young children, pregnant woman or elderly people," Davis said. "But if in your policy you deliberately exclude a segment of the population, then you have potentially closed off a tool that could have ended a confrontation."

Brooks was stopped in the 8300 block of Beacon Avenue South, just outside the African American Academy, while dropping her son off for school.

In a two-day trial that ended Friday, the officer involved, Officer Juan Ornelas, testified he clocked Brooks' Dodge Intrepid doing 32 mph in a 20-mph school zone.

He motioned her over and tried to write her a ticket, but she wouldn't sign it, even when he explained that signing it didn't mean she was admitting guilt.

Brooks, in her testimony, said she believed she could accept a ticket without signing for it, which she had done once before.

"I said, 'Well, I'll take the ticket, but I won't sign it,' " Brooks testified.

Officer Donald Jones joined Ornelas in trying to persuade Brooks to sign the ticket. They then called on their supervisor, Sgt. Steve Daman.

He authorized them to arrest her when she continued to refuse.

The officers testified they struggled to get Brooks out of her car but could not because she kept a grip on her steering wheel.

And that's when Jones brought out the Taser.

Brooks testified she didn't even know what it was when Jones showed it to her and pulled the trigger, allowing her to hear the crackle of 50,000 volts of electricity.

The officers testified that was meant as a final warning, as a way to demonstrate the device was painful and that Brooks should comply with their orders.

When she still did not exit her car, Jones applied the Taser.

In his testimony, the Taser officer said he pressed the prongs of the muzzle against Brooks' thigh to no effect. So he applied it twice to her exposed neck.

Afterward, he and the others testified, Ornelas pushed Brooks out of the car while Jones pulled.

She was taken to the ground, handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, the officers testified.

She told jurors the officer also used the device on her arm, and showed them a dark, brown burn to her thigh, a large, red welt on her arm and a lump on her neck, all marks she said came from the Taser application.

At the South Precinct, Seattle fire medics examined Brooks, confirmed she was pregnant and recommended she be evaluated at Harborview Medical Center.

Brooks said she was worried about the effect the trauma and the Taser might have on her baby, but she delivered a healthy girl Jan. 31.

Still, she said, she remains shocked that a simple traffic stop could result in her arrest.

"As police officers, they could have hurt me seriously. They could have hurt my unborn fetus," she said.

"All because of a traffic ticket. Is this what it's come down to?"

Davis said Tasers remain a valuable tool, and that situations like Brooks' are avoidable.

"I know the Taser is controversial in all these situations where it seems so egregious," he said. "Why use a Taser in a simple traffic stop? Well, the citizen has made it more of a problem. It's no longer a traffic stop. This is now a confrontation."

P-I reporter Hector Castro can be reached at 206-903-5396 or



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