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Member since: Tue Sep 3, 2013, 12:59 PM
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Philly burned this week; just across the river Camden did not.

NYTs Kate Zernike story on Camden, two years after it dismantled its police force and started over.


Camden Turns Around With New Police Force

CAMDEN, N.J. — In the summer of 2012, the year this city broke its own record for homicides, there were 21 people murdered here. This summer, there were six.

Just as remarkably, with shootings down 43 percent in two years, and violent crime down 22 percent, Osvaldo Fernandez now lets his sons walk to school alone. Nancy Torres abandoned plans to move to Florida. And parents from Center City Philadelphia are bringing their children here — notoriously one of the nation’s poorest, most crime-ridden cities — to play in a Little League that has grown to 500 players from 150 in its first season three years ago.

It has been 16 months since Camden took the unusual step of eliminating its police force and replacing it with a new one run by the county. Beleaguered by crime, budget cuts and bad morale, the old force had all but given up responding to some types of crimes.

Dispensing with expensive work rules, the new force hired more officers within the same budget — 411, up from about 250. It hired civilians to use crime-fighting technology it had never had the staff for. And it has tightened alliances with federal agencies to remove one of the largest drug rings from city streets.


No one, least of all law-enforcement officials, is declaring victory on crime: Camden has seen too many promises and rescue packages to be so bold.

Still, the improvements have come faster than anyone predicted. And while the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., has drawn attention to long-simmering hostilities between police departments and minority communities, Camden is becoming an example of the opposite.

“We’re not going to do this by militarizing streets,” Chief Thomson said. Instead, he sent officers to knock on doors and ask residents their concerns. He lets community leaders monitor surveillance cameras from their home computers to help watch for developing crime.

The police have held meet-the-officer fairs at parks and churches, attended baseball games and sent Mister Softee trucks into neighborhoods. Officers stand at school crossings and on corners where drugs and violence flourished. Chief Thomson’s theory is that in a city of 77,000, there are thousands more well-intentioned people than bad, and that the police must enlist them to take back the streets.

“For a city to be prosperous, it needs to be safe and busy,” he said. “The police are a variable in that equation, but we are just one variable.” He tells his officers that he measures their success not in tickets written, but in the number of children riding bicycles on the street.


What I Saw from the Midst of the Looting in Santa Monica

I was in Santa Monica that afternoon, on my way to the protests when a caravan of luxury vehicles brimming with passengers arrived on the scene, leaving a strong scent of cannabis in their wake. Instead of heading towards Ocean Avenue, I followed them, believing that something was about to go down. For the next two hours I watched, then filmed, as they surrounded one store after another. There was no pretext of politics to their activities and they certainly weren’t there to protest. Instead, what I witnessed was a well-planned organized heist that used the protestors as a shield and a diversion for their own nefarious purposes.


The following is my account of what I saw on Sunday: a view from one block, on one street, in one city, engulfed by unrest and grief.

2:14 p.m. – Arrival

Walking up Fourth Street toward Broadway, I first hear the boom of tear gas canisters being fired. It’s far enough away that there is no smoke. Tiny explosions reverberate through downtown Santa Monica, an ominous welcome to the neighborhood. On Twitter, I read that a small group of protesters has broken away from Ocean Avenue and is making its way to Third Street Promenade. The police, hoping to prevent a repeat of what happened the night before on Fairfax, stands alert.

2:26 p.m. – Vans Store

I first see the familiar red and black boxes strewn in piles outside the smashed storefront. A young woman looking for some checkerboard slip-ons shouts, “Get me a size 11!” Two young men drag one of their friends inside the store, exhorting him to “Get a new board.” It’s a strange sensation to watch a store being looted in broad daylight. The sense of lawlessness creates a weird tear in reality where I feel slightly outside myself, like I’m watching all of this happen in a dream, asking myself and others, “Is this really happening?” But it is real. And the looters come streaming out of the store pushing hand trucks piled high with shoes and clothing. They carry boxes on top of boxes, their arms stuffed to capacity. A woman standing next to the entrance shouts, “Please stop, you’re going to get Trump reelected.” Instead, they leave with backpacks and skateboards and hoodies. The store is quickly picked clean.


The scope of the afternoon’s looting only began to sink in after I left the scene. As I walked out of the commercial district and towards my car, the damage was shocking. Store after store had been vandalized and emptied. Now local business owners and neighbors are left to pick up the pieces. Many express solidarity with the protestors, but say they feel abandoned by the SMPD.

In the next few days, as the enormous breadth of the looting became apparent, Andrew Kirschner, chef and owner of Tar and Roses, told Eater, “Santa Monica was targeted. I kept telling myself throughout the coronavirus that Santa Monica was safe. It’s been a ghost town the past few months, why would I need to board up the place and protect it? But I’ll say this: The outpouring of community support is really amazing. Hundreds of people in the streets with brooms, cleaning up, removing graffiti. You do see how the community can rally together.”

The police response to Sunday’s looting has been roundly criticized. “This was a tactical failure on the part of the SMPD,” says Eric Preven, a local activist and former city council candidate. “They were wrongly focused on arresting peaceful protestors while the looters were left to go about their business.” Reached for comment by Los Angeles, a member of SMPD had no official response to the issues raised in this article as they were unauthorized to speak to the press. They did agree to speak on background and offered the following assessment. “These are gang members,” he said based on information ascertained from suspect interrogations and arrestee reports. “They’re highly organized and deadly serious and are using social media to decide where and what to hit.”


Do you think the GOP stays silent about Trump's abuses because he does what they want?

Which everything he's done so far and they simply couldn't give a flying fuck what anyone thinks?

I do. Trump is doing everything they want. He is who they are.

Do you think the looting and destruction in cities are the doings of Erik Prince?


WASHINGTON — Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.

Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.


Mr. Prince invited Project Veritas operatives — including Mr. O’Keefe — to his family’s Wyoming ranch for training in 2017, The Intercept reported last year. Mr. O’Keefe and others shared social media photos of taking target practice with guns at the ranch, including one post from Mr. O’Keefe saying that with the training, Project Veritas will be “the next great intelligence agency.” Mr. Prince had hired a former MI6 officer to help train the Project Veritas operatives, The Intercept wrote, but it did not identify the officer.

Mr. Seddon regularly updated Mr. O’Keefe about the operation against the Michigan teachers’ union, according to internal Project Veritas emails, where the language of the group’s leaders is marbled with spy jargon.

They used a code name — LibertyU — for their operative inside the organization, Marisa Jorge, who graduated from Liberty University in Virginia, one of the nation’s largest Christian colleges. Mr. Seddon wrote that Ms. Jorge “copied a great many documents from the file room,” and Mr. O’Keefe bragged that the group would be able to get “a ton more access agents inside the educational establishment.”

The emails refer to other operations, including weekly case updates, along with training activities that involved “operational targeting.” Project Veritas redacted specifics about those operations from the messages.

In August 2017, Ms. Jorge wrote to Mr. Seddon that she had managed to record a local union leader talking about Ms. DeVos and other topics.

“Good stuff,” Mr. Seddon wrote back. “Did you receive the spare camera yet?”

As education secretary, Ms. DeVos has been a vocal critic of teachers’ unions, saying in 2018 that they have a “stranglehold” over politicians at the federal and state levels. She and Mr. Prince grew up in Michigan, where their father made a fortune in the auto parts business.

AFT Michigan sued Project Veritas in federal court, alleging trespassing, eavesdropping and other offenses. The teachers’ union is asking for more than $3 million in damages, accusing the group of being a “vigilante organization which claims to be dedicated to exposing corruption. It is, instead, an entity dedicated to a specific political agenda.”

Has anyone seen this letter from Minneapolis Police Union leader Bob Kroll?

Oh man...



It's Time for Oprah to Renounce Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz Over Their Dangerous Coronavirus Propaganda

Dr. Daniel Summers writes about the harm these two TV personalities are causing amid the pandemic (on Fox News, naturally), and how one person could put them in their place.

There’s a simple concept I try to teach my kids: If you make a mess, you should be responsible for cleaning it up. It’s a work in progress with them, but we’re hoping sooner or later it sticks.

Of course, this rule doesn’t just apply to small children. All of us should work to remedy problems that are in some part the result of our own actions. Even if we happen to be one of the most famous people on the planet.

Especially if we happen to be one of the most famous people on the planet. The bigger the audience we’ve created for our mess, the greater the obligation to mop it back up.

This means you, Oprah.

Oprah’s role in creating the dual fame of Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Phil McGraw, better known as celebrities without their first and last names respectively, is not a new topic for me. Neither of them would be household names were it not for her. And it’s a problem of increasing seriousness that they are.

While only Oz is an actual medical doctor, the “Dr.” in their professional monikers confers an aura of authority, and it is as authorities that they have been appearing on television to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled and how patients are being treated.

Unfortunately, there is a widening gap between the perception of their authority and their genuine credibility. In the setting of a public health crisis that can get better or worse depending on how closely people adhere to recommendations for keeping it under control, undermining those recommendations poses a threat to everyone’s safety.

The problem of Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz is not a new one. Both have prioritized their fame over professional ethics for some time. Dr. Oz is a particular source of ire for me as a fellow physician, because I have to believe that somewhere inside himself he must know that the pseudoscience he all too frequently promotes is wrong.



I never got the appeal of Oprah Winfrey. She's another media personality foisted upon us during 1980s as direct competition to Phil Donahue and helped dumb down the medium. To think that people thought she'd make a good political leader... really?

I could never stand Dr. Phil

another fraud foisted upon the nation courtesy of Oprah Winfrey. WTF is her appeal?


Car accidents are not contagious.

Lung cancer is not contagious.

Drowning is not contagious.

"Shoot them dead": Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte orders police and military to kill citizens

In the Philippines, the 57 million residents of the country's main island, Luzon, are under strict lockdown orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Despite that, many in a Manila slum took to the streets Wednesday to protest a lack of supplies, arguing they had not received any food packs since the lockdown started two weeks ago.

The local government refutes those claims and clashed with protestors, ultimately arresting 20 people who refused to return home.

Later that night, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took to the airwaves with a chilling warning for his citizens: Defy the lockdown orders again and the police will shoot you dead.

"I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there's violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead," he said in a mix of Filipino and English in the televised address. "Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose."


Boston Globe: A president unfit for a pandemic

Much of the suffering and death coming was preventable. The president has blood on his hands.

The United States, long a beacon of scientific progress and medical innovation with its world-class research institutions and hospitals, is now the hub of a global pandemic that has infected at least 745,000 people and already claimed more than 35,000 lives worldwide. Now that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States — more than 140,000 — has surpassed that of any other nation, Americans are consigned for the coming weeks to watching the illness fell family members and friends, and to fearing for their own fate as they watch death tolls rise.

While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive around the world, much of the profound impact it will have here in the United States was preventable. As the American public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it’s worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.


What we have instead is a president epically outmatched by a global pandemic. A president who in late January, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in the United States, downplayed the risk and insisted all was under control. A president who, rather than aggressively test all those exposed to the virus, said he’d prefer not to bring ashore passengers on a contaminated cruise ship so as to keep national case numbers (artificially) low. A president who, consistent with his mistrust and undermining of scientific fact, has misled the public about unproven cures for COVID-19, and who baited-and-switched last week about whether the country ought to end social distancing to open up by Easter, and then, on Saturday, about whether he’d impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A president who has pledged to oversee the doling out of the $500 billion in corporate bailout money in the latest stimulus package, some of which will go to the travel industry in which his family is invested. A president who spent a good chunk of a recent press conference complaining about how hard it is for a rich man to serve in the White House even as Americans had already begun to lose their jobs, their health care, and their lives. A president who has reinforced racial stigma by calling the contagion a “Chinese virus” and failed to collaborate adequately with other countries to contain their outbreaks and study the disease. A president who evades responsibility and refuses to acknowledge, let alone own, the bitter truth of National Institutes of Health scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci’s testimony: that the country’s testing rollout was “a failing.”


It’s not too much for Americans to ask of their leaders that they be competent and informed when responding to a crisis of historic proportions. Instead, they have a White House marred by corruption and incompetence, whose mixed messages roil the markets and rock their sense of security. Instead of compassion and clarity, the president, in his near-daily addresses to the nation, embodies callousness, self-concern, and a lack of compass. Dangling unverified cures and possible quarantines in front of the public like reality TV cliffhangers, he unsettles rather than reassures. The pandemic reveals that the worst features of this presidency are not merely late-night comedy fodder; they come at the cost of lives, livelihoods, and our collective psyche.

Many pivotal decision points in this crisis are past us, but more are still to come. For our own sake, every American should be hoping for a miraculous turnaround — and that the too-little, too-late strategy of the White House task force will henceforth at least prevent contagion and economic ruin of the grandest scale. But come November, there must be a reckoning for the lives lost, and for the vast, avoidable suffering about to ensue under the president’s watch.

more: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/30/opinion/president-unfit-pandemic/?event=event25

As Fox News Played Down the Coronavirus, Its Chief Protected Himself

The cancellation of an 89th birthday party for Rupert Murdoch highlights a disconnect between his family’s behavior and statements made on air by some Fox commentators.

If you were watching some of the commentators on Fox News and Fox Business in the first 10 days of March, you wouldn’t have been too worried about the coronavirus — it would be no worse than the flu, and the real story was the “coronavirus impeachment scam.”

Many of the networks’ elderly, pro-Trump viewers responded to the coverage and the president’s public statements by taking the virus less seriously than, a week later, everyone else had. Public health experts have said that some of them may die as a result, as I reported this week.

But one elderly Fox News viewer, a crucial supporter of President Trump, took the threat seriously: The channel’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, who was to celebrate his 89th birthday on March 11.


The celebration was to be held at Moraga Vineyards, the sprawling estate in Bel Air, Calif., where the elder Murdoch has been spending most of his time with his wife, the model and actress Jerry Hall. Mr. Murdoch bought the property for $28.8 million in 2013.

The person who told me about the canceled party did so to highlight the disconnect between the family’s prudent private conduct and the reckless words spoken on air at their media company.

The canceled party is perhaps the most glaring instance of the gap I wrote about this week between the elite, globally minded family owners of Fox — who took the crisis seriously as reports emerged in January in their native Australia — and many of their nominal stars, who treated the virus as a political assault on Mr. Trump, before zigzagging, along with the president, toward a focus on the enormity of the public health risk.


Rupert Murdoch has claimed privately in recent days that he contacted the most powerful of the Fox News hosts, Sean Hannity, to urge him to take the crisis seriously, but Mr. Hannity denied to me that he had heard from Mr. Murdoch on the topic.

more: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/business/media/fox-news-coronavirus-rupert-murdoch.html
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