Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s; the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. The victimization rate for other gun crimes plunged in the 1990s, then declined more slowly from 2000 to 2008. The rate appears to be higher in 2011 compared with 2008, but the increase is not statistically significant. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall also dropped in the 1990s before declining more slowly from 2000 to 2010, then ticked up in 2011.
Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.
The whys behind the drop in gun violence (and in crime in general) are more difficult to come by:
There is consensus that demographics played some role: The outsized post-World War II baby boom, which produced a large number of people in the high-crime ages of 15 to 20 in the 1960s and 1970s, helped drive crime up in those years.
A review by the National Academy of Sciences of factors driving recent crime trends (Blumstein and Rosenfeld, 2008) cited a decline in rates in the early 1980s as the young boomers got older, then a flare-up by mid-decade in conjunction with a rising street market for crack cocaine, especially in big cities. It noted recruitment of a younger cohort of drug seller with greater willingness to use guns. By the early 1990s, crack markets withered in part because of lessened demand, and the vibrant national economy made it easier for even low-skilled young people to find jobs rather than get involved in crime.
At the same time, a rising number of people ages 30 and older were incarcerated, due in part to stricter laws, which helped restrain violence among this age group. It is less clear, researchers say, that innovative policing strategies and police crackdowns on use of guns by younger adults played a significant role in reducing crime.
I am always the last person to eat. It's part of a compromise I worked out with the skinheads who run the western state prison complex where I am incarcerated. Under this compromise, I'm allowed to sit at the whites' tables, but only after the "heads," and then the "woods," and then the "lames" have eaten. I am lower on the totem pole than all of them, the untouchable. I should feel lucky I'm allowed to eat at the whites' tables at all.
Not that there's anywhere else I could eat. The prison yard is broken down into five distinct racial categories and segregation is strictly enforced. There are the "woods" (short for peckerwoods) that encompass the whites, the "kinfolk" (blacks), the "Raza" (American-born people of Mexican descent), the "paisas" (Mexico-born Mexicans), and the "chiefs" (American Indians). Under the strict rules that govern interracial relations, different races are allowed to play on the same sports teams but not play individual games (e.g., chess) together; they may be in each others' cubicles together if the situation warrants but not sit on each others' beds or watch each others' televisions. They may go to the same church services but not pray together. But if you accidentally break one of these rules, the consequences are usually pretty mild: you might get a talking to by one of the heads (who, of course, claims exemption from this rule himself), or at worst, a "chin check."
Eating with another race, however, is a different story. It is an inviolate rule that different races may not break bread together under any circumstances. Violating this rule leads to harsh consequences. If you eat at the same table as another race, you'll get beaten down. If you eat from the same tray as another race, you'll be put in the hospital. And if you eat from the same food item as another race, that is, after another race has already taken a bite of it, you can get killed. This is one area where even the heads don't have any play.
The truth is that if Reddit is actually interested in using the power of its crowd to help the authorities, it needs to dramatically rethink its approach, because the process it used to try to find the bombers wasn't actually tapping the wisdom of crowds at all -- at least not as I would define that wisdom. For a crowd to be smart, the people in it need to be not only diverse in their perspectives but also, relatively speaking, independent of each other. In other words, you need people to be thinking for themselves, rather than following the lead of those around them.
When the book came out in 2004, I wrote a short post that summarizes the four main conditions you need for a wise crowd. What's striking about most social media and software, as Surowiecki notes in the case of Reddit, is how most of these conditions are not satisfied. There's little diversity and independence: Twitter and Facebook mostly show you people who are like you and things your social group is into. And social media is becoming ever more centralized: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, Pinterest, etc. instead of a decentralized network of independent blogs. In fact, the nature of social media is to be centralized, peer-dependent, and homogeneous because that's how people naturally group themselves together. It's a wonder the social media crowd ever gets anything right.
I believe that thin slicing put them in jail. It helped an entire community make a rash decision and justify their actions in convicting three teens of murder. Once the town was able to identify the bogeyman, they could rest easy again.
But it all went horribly wrong. The real murderers were never found. These young men went into prison at 18 years old. Today, they walked out at 36 years old.
Being different - being unique - is a right we're supposed to enjoy in this country. But what we can't control is how people view us.
So what do we do about that? Is there anything we can do about it?
In response, a commenter listing his name as "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev" posted the following about a week and a half after the original posting:
In this case it would have been hard to protect or defend these young boys if the whole town exclaimed in happiness at the arrest. Also, to go against the authorities isn't the easiest thing to do. Don't get me wrong though, I am appalled at the situation but I think that the town was scared and desperate to blame someone. It's because of stories like this and such occurrences that make a positive change in this world. I'm pretty sure there won't be anymore similar tales like this. In any case, if they do, people won't stand quiet, i hope.
While I understand and agree with most of the concepts that Gladwell explained in his book, there are several ideas of his that I cannot fathom or just choose not to believe. Yes, this book was very interesting but the idea that a person can predict whether you and your partner are going to be together in the future is honestly a little hard to believe. Sure, if you put two obvious celebrities in a room talking about how they're going to adopt six children, that's just not going to work out. And the idea that a more experienced doctor is more likely to be sued is likely to happen because they would have way more patients and more time in the work force. "Thin-slicing" and other concepts made me want to keep reading.
Caught The Central Park Five on PBS last night and it's one of those films that puts you into rage-against-the-machine mode.
The Central Park Five, a new film from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989. The film chronicles The Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice.
Alfred Anaya was really good at putting secret compartments into cars and he thought he was in the clear if he didn't know what his customers were putting in these compartments. He was wrong.
Alfred Anaya took pride in his generous service guarantee. Though his stereo installation business, Valley Custom Audio Fanatics, was just a one-man operation based out of his San Fernando, California, home, he offered all of his clients a lifetime warranty: If there was ever any problem with his handiwork, he would fix it for the cost of parts alone-no questions asked.
Anaya's customers typically took advantage of this deal when their fiendishly loud subwoofers blew out or their fiberglass speaker boxes developed hairline cracks. But in late January 2009, a man whom Anaya knew only as Esteban called for help with a more exotic product: a hidden compartment that Anaya had installed in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Over the years, these secret stash spots-or traps, as they're known in automotive slang-have become a popular luxury item among the wealthy and shady alike. This particular compartment was located behind the truck's backseat, which Anaya had rigged with a set of hydraulic cylinders linked to the vehicle's electrical system. The only way to make the seat slide forward and reveal its secret was by pressing and holding four switches simultaneously: two for the power door locks and two for the windows.
Esteban said the seat was no longer responding to the switch combination and that no amount of jiggling could make it budge. He pleaded with Anaya to take a look.
Anaya was unsettled by this request, for he had suspicions about the nature of Esteban's work. There is nothing intrinsically illegal about building traps, which are commonly used to hide everything from pricey jewelry to legal handguns. But the activity runs afoul of California law if an installer knows for certain that his compartment will be used to transport drugs. The maximum penalty is three years in prison. Anaya thus thought it wise to deviate from his standard no-questions-asked policy before agreeing to honor his warranty. "There's nothing in there I shouldn't know about, is there?" he asked. Esteban assured him that he needn't worry.
Read all the way to the end for author Brendan Koerner's conclusions about our government's position of the moral neutrality of technology.
"There's a black market for everything," said Sissman. "We've seen everything stolen. We've found stolen beer, stolen food, stolen machine parts, but this is the first time, we've found stolen cheese.
I wanted the opinion of an industry professional so I reached out to Aaron Foster, Head Buyer at Murray's Cheese Shop.
I've seen a lot of people wondering how the culprit was planning to unload 40,000 lbs of cheese without raising suspicion. Is there such a thing as a cheddar fence? In my opinion, it really wouldn't be that hard. While the larger retailers and chains -- and, of course, Murray's -- have all become much more conscious of food safety and food security, there remains plenty of retailers who would jump at the chance to buy their product for pennies on the dollar, no questions asked. Literally as I wrote this, I received a vague email with the subject "RE: Special sale - Mega aged WI Cheddar". I'll pass, thanks. Groceries, specialty shops, and bodegas that work with perishables need every edge they can get to scrape by. Think about that next time you order your egg and cheese from the corner store.
A long piece in this week's New Yorker by Marc Fisher about more alleged sexual abuse at The Horace Mann School, a prep school in the Bronx. Fisher's piece focuses on Robert Berman, an English teacher at the school for many years.
One group of boys stood apart; they insisted on wearing jackets and ties and shades, and they stuck to themselves, reciting poetry and often sneering at the rest of us. A few of them shaved their heads. We called them Bermanites, after their intellectual and sartorial model, an English teacher named Robert Berman: a small, thin, unsmiling man who papered over the windows of his classroom door so that no one could peek through.
Assigned to Berman for tenth-grade English, I took a seat one September morning alongside sixteen or seventeen other boys. We waited in silence as he sat at his desk, chain-smoking Benson & Hedges cigarettes and watching us from behind dark glasses. Finally, Mr. Berman stood up, took a fresh stick of chalk, climbed onto his chair, and reached above the blackboard to draw a horizontal line on the paint. "This," he said, after a theatrical pause, "is Milton." He let his hand fall a few inches, drew another line, and said, "This is Shakespeare." Another line, lower, on the blackboard: "This is Mahler." And, just below, "Here is Browning." Then he took a long drag on his cigarette, dropped the chalk onto the floor, and, using the heel of his black leather loafer, ground it into the wooden floorboards. "And this, gentlemen," he said, "is you."
The next day, I asked to be transferred. I was not alone. By the end of the week, Berman's class had shrunk by about half. The same thing happened every year; his classes often ended up as intimate gatherings of six to eight. Many students found Berman forbidding, but some of the teachers referred to him as a genius. Boys competed to learn tidbits about him. It was said, with little or no evidence, that he was an artist and a sculptor, that he knew Sanskrit, Russian, and Urdu, and that his wife and child had been killed in a horrific car crash. Though he was only in his mid-thirties, a graduate of the University of Michigan, it was rumored that he had been a paleontologist and had taught at Yale. Administrators told students and their parents that Horace Mann was incredibly lucky to have him, however odd he might be. The boys who remained in his classes were often caught up in his love of art, music, and literature, and in his belief that every moment of life should be spent reaching for the transcendence of the Elgin Marbles, of a fresco by Fra Angelico, even of an ordinary sunset. The boys absorbed the lists he made. "Take this down," he'd say. "The ten greatest racehorses of all time." Or, "This is the list of the ten greatest movies ever made-but you won't find 'Lawrence of Arabia' on it, because it's off the charts!" One day, he mounted a rearview mirror on the far wall of the classroom so that he could stare at the portrait of Milton behind his back.
"The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England," Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said.
At around eleven, Filin, feeling tired and eager to see his wife, steered the Mercedes into a parking lot outside his building and headed for his door. The snow was icy and thick. Filin was reaching for the security buzzer when he heard someone behind him call out his name. Then the voice said, "Tebye privet!" -- literally, "Hello to you!," but more abrupt and menacing, as though someone were relaying an ominous greeting from a third party.
Filin turned and saw a man in front of him. He was neither tall nor short. He wore a woolly hat and a scarf wrapped around his face. His right arm was crooked behind him, as if he were concealing something.
A gun, Filin thought, in that flash of confrontation: He's holding a gun and I am dead. Bolt! But, before he could move, his attacker swung his arm out in front of him. In his hand was a glass jar filled with liquid, and he hurled its contents at Filin's face. A security camera in the parking lot fixed the time at 23:07.
The liquid was sulfuric acid -- the "oil of vitriol," as medieval alchemists called it. Depending on the concentration, it can lay waste to human skin as quickly as in a horror movie. Scientists working with sulfuric acid wear protective goggles; even a small amount in the eyes can destroy the cornea and cause permanent blindness.
Filin was in agony. The burning was immediate and severe. His vision turned to black. He could feel the scalding of his face and scalp, the pain intensifying all the time.
Always good to read Remnick on Russia...he was The Washington Post's Moscow correspondent for a few years in the late 1980s.
Paul Frampton is a 69-year-old theoretical particle physicist who has co-authored papers with Nobel laureates. In late 2011, the absentminded professor met a Czech bikini model online. Over email and Yahoo chat, they became romantically involved and she sent him a plane ticket to come meet her at a photo shoot in Bolivia. Then she asked him to bring a bag of hers with him on his flight.
While in Bolivia, Frampton corresponded with an old friend, John Dixon, a physicist and lawyer who lives in Ontario. When Frampton explained what he was up to, Dixon became alarmed. His warnings to Frampton were unequivocal, Dixon told me not long ago, still clearly upset: "I said: 'Well, inside that suitcase sewn into the lining will be cocaine. You're in big trouble.' Paul said, 'I'll be careful, I'll make sure there isn't cocaine in there and if there is, I'll ask them to remove it.' I thought they were probably going to kidnap him and torture him to get his money. I didn't know he didn't have money. I said, 'Well, you're going to be killed, Paul, so whom should I contact when you disappear?' And he said, 'You can contact my brother and my former wife.' " Frampton later told me that he shrugged off Dixon's warnings about drugs as melodramatic, adding that he rarely pays attention to the opinions of others.
On the evening of Jan. 20, nine days after he arrived in Bolivia, a man Frampton describes as Hispanic but whom he didn't get a good look at handed him a bag out on the dark street in front of his hotel. Frampton was expecting to be given an Hermès or a Louis Vuitton, but the bag was an utterly commonplace black cloth suitcase with wheels. Once he was back in his room, he opened it. It was empty. He wrote to Milani, asking why this particular suitcase was so important. She told him it had "sentimental value." The next morning, he filled it with his dirty laundry and headed to the airport.
Here are some of the rules students live by at Harper High School in Chicago: Know your geography (whether you join a gang or not, you're in one). Never walk by yourself. Never walk with someone else. If someone shoots, don't run. These are just a few of the exhausting complexities that face the kids at Harper High, where 29 current and former students were shot last year. The reality on the streets leads the kids to one final rule: never go outside. This American Life spent five months at Harper High School. Part one of their report is a must-listen. Within a few minutes of the piece, you'll understand what one of the adults who was interviewed means when he says, "it ain't a fairy tale."
Seeing so many CSI and police procedural shows on TV today, it's easy to take for granted being able to rapidly and accurately identify criminals. Fingerprinting, as probably the biggest technological advancement in identifying criminals, is a big part of that. But what'd we have before fingerprinting?
Alphonse Bertillon was a French criminologist who first developed this anthropometric system of physical measurements of body parts, especially components of the head and face, to produce a detailed description of an individual. This system, invented in 1879, became known as the Bertillon system, or bertillonage, and quickly gained wide acceptance as a reliable, scientific method of criminal investigation. In 1884 alone, French police used Bertillon's system to help capture 241 repeat offenders, which helped establish the system's effectiveness. Primarily, investigators used the Bertillon system to determine if a suspect in custody had been involved in previous crimes. Law enforcement agencies began to create archives of records of known criminals, which contained his or her anthropometric measurements, as well as full-face and profile photographs of the perpetrator (now commonly known as "mugshots," which are still in use today).
It was essentially a criminal justice Dewey Decimal System, the first step in taking police out of the dark ages. Before Bertillion standardized measurements, police just had a jumble of descriptions and photographs with no way to organize them so they'd almost never be able to cross reference existing records when people were arrested.
Of course Bertillion's system was just a stop-gap measure. The system was only really in use for about 30 years before fingerprints became the dominant identification method.
In 1903, a man named Will West was committed to the penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was photographed and measured using the Bertillon system. Will West's measurements were found to be almost identical to a criminal at the same penitentiary named William West, who was committed for murder in 1901 and was serving a life sentence. Furthermore, their photographs showed that the two men bore a close physical resemblance to one another, although it was not clear that they were even related. In the ensuing confusion surrounding the true identities of the two men, their fingerprints conclusively identified them and demonstrated clearly that the adoption of a fingerprint identification system was more reliable than the older Bertillon system.
One day, over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in a Las Vegas strip mall, Robbins demonstrated his method on me. "When I shake someone's hand, I apply the lightest pressure on their wrist with my index and middle fingers and lead them across my body to my left," he said, showing me. "The cross-body lead is actually a move from salsa dancing. I'm finding out what kind of a partner they're going to be, and I know that if they follow my lead I can do whatever I want with them."
Robbins was recently a guest on the Today show and the amount of criminal shenanighans he pulls off in this four minute video is astounding:
If your car is ever stolen, your first calls should be to every cab company in the city. You offer a $50 reward to the driver who finds it AND a $50 reward to the dispatcher on duty when the car is found. The latter is to encourage dispatchers on shift to continually remind drivers of your stolen car. Of course you should call the police too but first things first. There are a lot more cabs than cops so cabbies will find it first -- and they're more frequently going in places cops typically don't go, like apartment and motel complex parking lots, back alleys etc. Lastly, once the car is found, a swarm of cabs will descend and surround it because cabbies, like anyone else, love excitement and want to catch bad guys.
Some YouTube commenters claim to have found the cameraman in the TV footage, looking out the window at around 13:03. This video is posted with healthy skepticism, but also an unbridled joy in amazing timing. (via digg)
The news, coming amid a national debate about gun control, rippled across the blogs and social networking sites where his videos were popular. Tributes on Facebook and Twitter came from fans stunned that such a well-armed expert had not been able to defend himself.
"For him not to pull out that gun and try to defend himself, he had to feel comfortable around somebody," his wife, Amanda, told a television channel in Lexington, Ky., where he used to live. "Either that or he was ambushed."
Here's a FPSRussia video showing off a fully automatic shotgun that can shoot 300 rounds per minute even after being submerged in water:
And this drone with a machine gun on it is terrifying:
Update: Just to clarify because I'm getting a bunch of mail about it, Ratliff was a gun nut and the owner of that YouTube channel, but he was not the person in all those videos...he was more like the producer/camera operator.
Also, that quadricopter machine gun thing is CGI and a commercial for a video game. Soon enough though.
Shoppers have surprisingly strong feelings about laundry detergent. In a 2009 survey, Tide ranked in the top three brand names that consumers at all income levels were least likely to give up regardless of the recession, alongside Kraft and Coca-Cola. That loyalty has enabled its manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, to position the product in a way that defies economic trends. At upwards of $20 per 150-ounce bottle, Tide costs about 50 percent more than the average liquid detergent yet outsells Gain, the closest competitor by market share (and another P&G product), by more than two to one. According to research firm SymphonyIRI Group, Tide is now a $1.7 billion business representing more than 30 percent of the liquid-detergent market.
Because of this premium status and because laundry detergent is not usually well-guarded in grocery stores, Tide has become a large target for theft and subsequent resale, either for cash or crack on street corners across the nation.
What did thieves want with so much laundry soap? To find out, he and his unit pored over security recordings to identify prolific perpetrators, whom officers then tracked down and detained for questioning. "We never promised to go easy on them, but they were willing to talk about it," Thompson says. "I guess they were bragging." It turned out the detergent wasn't being used as an ingredient in some new recipe for getting high, but instead to buy drugs themselves. Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: "Liquid gold." The Tide people would never sanction that tag line, of course. But this unlikely black market would not have formed if they weren't so good at pushing their product.
Please don't let this be a hoax, it's almost too good to be true. (via @mulegirl)
If you read the piece on pickpockets in the New Yorker last week (and if not, I encourage you to), you've got to check out this video they made of Apollo Robbins taking all sorts of stuff from Adam Green, who plays the bewildered NYer writer part perfectly. Way better than the YT video I embedded last week.
I hereby submit my nomination for the most underreported public policy story of the past year: The continuing decline in the number of Americans who are behind bars or on probation/parole. Both the change itself and low level of attention it has garnered are worthy of reflection.
At the time of President Obama's inauguration, the incarceration rate in the United States had been rising every single year since the mid 1970s. The relentless growth in the proportion of Americans behind bars had persisted through good economic times and bad, Republican and Democratic Presidents, and countless changes in state and local politics around the country.
If a public policy trend with that much momentum had even slowed significantly, it would have been merited attention, but something far more remarkable occurred: The incarceration rate and the number of people under correctional supervision (i.e., including people on probation/parole) declined for three years in a row. At the end of 2011, the proportion of people under correctional supervision returned to a level not seen since the end of the Clinton Administration.
Commenters over at Marginal Revolution dug into the report a bit more and the decline may have a lot to do with things like state budget cuts and less to do with things like fewer/shorter prison sentences.
In recent years, we've seen a pretty steady drop in serious crime in many American cities. There are several theories to explain the drop -- better policing strategies, shifting demographics, economic ups and downs -- but none of them seems to provide a full and consistent explanation. In Mojo, Kevin Drum thinks he may have found the villain behind crime (and lower IQs and ADHD): Lead. "When differences of atmospheric lead density between big and small cities largely went away, so did the difference in murder rates." I'm not sure if this is truly the answer, but it's a very interesting read: America's Real Criminal Element.
In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Adam Green profiles Apollo Robbins, by most accounts the world's best pickpocket. How he goes about engaging his prey is fascinating:
One day, over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in a Las Vegas strip mall, Robbins demonstrated his method on me. "When I shake someone's hand, I apply the lightest pressure on their wrist with my index and middle fingers and lead them across my body to my left," he said, showing me. "The cross-body lead is actually a move from salsa dancing. I'm finding out what kind of a partner they're going to be, and I know that if they follow my lead I can do whatever I want with them."
Robbins needs to get close to his victims without setting off alarm bells. "If I come at you head-on, like this," he said, stepping forward, "I'm going to run into that bubble of your personal space very quickly, and that's going to make you uncomfortable." He took a step back. "So, what I do is I give you a point of focus, say a coin. Then I break eye contact by looking down, and I pivot around the point of focus, stepping forward in an arc, or a semicircle, till I'm in your space." He demonstrated, winding up shoulder to shoulder with me, looking up at me sideways, his head cocked, all innocence. "See how I was able to close the gap?" he said. "I flew in under your radar and I have access to all your pockets."
Hard to choose just one passage from this story, so I will also include this bit about attention:
But physical technique, Robbins pointed out, is merely a tool. "It's all about the choreography of people's attention," he said. "Attention is like water. It flows. It's liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way."
Robbins uses various metaphors to describe how he works with attention, talking about "surfing attention," "carving up the attentional pie," and "framing." "I use framing the way a movie director or a cinematographer would," he said. "If I lean my face close in to someone's, like this" -- he demonstrated -- "it's like a closeup. All their attention is on my face, and their pockets, especially the ones on their lower body, are out of the frame. Or if I want to move their attention off their jacket pocket, I can say, 'You had a wallet in your back pocket -- is it still there?' Now their focus is on their back pocket, or their brain just short-circuits for a second, and I'm free to steal from their jacket."
This routine is a pretty good demonstration of how Robbins diverts attention for the purpose of theft.
In an editorial for the NY Times in 1993 called Guns Don't Kill People. Bullets Do., US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described a bill he introduced in the Senate which would have levied a 10,000% tax on hollow-point bullets.
"So far this year, 342 New Yorkers have been killed by stray bullets. And in the past few days, two young women were shot in their pregnant bellies." A. M. Rosenthal wrote that on this page last Tuesday, the day of the Long Island shooting. By Thursday there were 11 more homicides. If we are to stop it, or come anywhere close, we have to get hold of the ammunition.
On Nov. 3, I introduced a bill that would levy a 10,000 percent tax on Winchester hollow-tipped "Black Talon" bullets, specifically designed to rip flesh. (Colin Ferguson, the suspect in the Long Island shootings, had some 40 of them.)
The tax would effectively raise the price of Black Talons from $20 a box to $2,000. On Nov. 22, 19 days after my bill was introduced, Winchester announced that it would cease sale of Black Talons to the public. Which suggests that the munitions manufacturers are more responsive than the automobile companies were a generation ago. It is also important to note that in 1986 Congress banned the Teflon-coated "cop killer" bullet, which penetrates police body armor. The Swedes are now making a new kind of armor-piercing round. We got that banned in the Senate version of this year's crime bill without a murmur.
A handful of charts paint a remarkable picture of some key shifts over the past 30 or 40 years. During that time, gun violence nationally has declined significantly even as aberrant mass shootings have grown less so; public sentiment for regulating the weapons has fallen steeply, too. Mother Jones has estimated that we're approaching a demographic reality where our population of firearms will outpace our population of people. But hard data on the total number of civilian-owned guns in America is hard to come by, and so much of what we know on the topic is based upon what gun owners themselves say in surveys.
Results: In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, and none in the 10.5 years afterwards. Declines in firearm-related deaths before the law reforms accelerated after the reforms for total firearm deaths (p = 0.04), firearm suicides (p = 0.007) and firearm homicides (p = 0.15), but not for the smallest category of unintentional firearm deaths, which increased. No evidence of substitution effect for suicides or homicides was observed. The rates per 100 000 of total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides all at least doubled their existing rates of decline after the revised gun laws.
Conclusions: Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.
Barack Obama has been in our field of vision for a long time now, and, more than any major politician of recent memory, he hides in plain sight. He is who he is. He may strike the unsympathetic as curiously remote or arrogant or removed; he certainly strikes his admirers as a man of real intelligence and dignity. But he is who he is. He is no phony. And so there is absolutely no reason to believe that his deep, raw emotion today following the horrific slaughter in Connecticut-his tears, the prolonged catch in his voice-was anything but genuine. But this was a slaughter-a slaughter like so many before it-and emotion is hardly all that is needed. What is needed is gun control-strict, comprehensive gun control that places the values of public safety and security before the values of deer hunting and a perverse ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment. Obama told the nation that he reacted to the shootings in Newtown "as a parent," and that is understandable, but what we need most is for him to act as a President, liberated at last from the constraints of elections and their dirty compromises-a President who dares to change the national debate and the legislative agenda on guns.
Following the fatal shooting this morning at a Connecticut elementary school that left at least 27 dead, including 20 small children, sources across the nation shook their heads, stifled a sob in their voices, and reported fuck everything. Just fuck it all to hell.
All of it, sources added.
"I'm sorry, but fuck it, I can't handle this-I just can't handle it anymore," said Deborah McEllis, who added that "no, no, no, no, no, this isn't happening, this can't be real." "Seriously, what the hell is this? What's even going on anymore? Why do things like this keep happening?"
"It's my God-given right and a founding principle of this country that I be able to own a [piece of metal that launches other smaller pieces of metal great distances, one after the other], and if a few deaths here and there is the price we have to pay for that freedom, then so be it," said Lawrence Crane of nearby Danbury, CT, who is such a staunch advocate of the portable deadly-pellet-flinging apparatuses that he keeps multiple versions of such mechanisms in his home, often carries one with him, and is a member of a club whose sole purpose is to celebrate these assembled steel things and the small bits of metal they send flying.
Following reports of a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead, sources just confirmed that it is totally fine to spend the entire rest of today curled up in the fetal position underneath your desk. Early reports also indicated that sitting on the floor while holding your knees to your chest and slowly rocking back and forth is not only acceptable, but, sources said, absolutely understandable.
In many respects, then, Gerardo's death set the scene for just another day in America. Over the following 24 hours, on this day picked at random, another eight children would lose their lives. Gerardo was the eldest; the youngest was two. Eight were black and one was Hispanic. They died in housing estates, suburbs and malls, at parties and on porches, in areas of average income and of above-average poverty. They were shot by a relative, friend, unknown assassin, a pizza delivery man, an off-duty police officer and by accident. It was Thanksgiving, the biggest travelling weekend of the year, when people are returning home after joining their families for the holiday. By the time the day was over, nine families were one member short.
While the NRA wins court fights, laws allowing more guns in more public places continue to spread, often for reasons that defy logic. For example, take the reasoning offered by Alabama state Sen. Roger Bedford, a Democrat, when explaining to Bloomberg earlier this week why he introduced a bill that would allow people to keep their guns in their cars in the workplace parking lot. "This provides safety and protection for workers who oftentimes travel 20 to 50 miles to their jobs," Bedford said. What does this mean? If there's a workplace shooting, people need to be able to have their guns in the parking lot to turn the place into a true shootout? Or does he just mean that maybe people need to be able to shoot to kill while driving down the highway on the way to work?
If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation's security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.
Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that's unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn't "too soon." It's much too late.
I don't want to hear about these tragedies being rooted in evil or the human heart. We know the human heart is a substandard product. The brain frequently malfunctions. It's offensive to put this forward as part of a discussion about policy as opposed to theodicy and meditation. We know that the vast, vast proportion of gun owners use them legally and safely. We also know that gun deaths are rare in many other countries quite similar to the USA for the simple reason they don't have so many friggin' guns all over the place. This is obvious. And guns just make it easy to kill a lot of people really quickly. Freely available body armor helps too.
There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane's parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather's barn.
The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.
Carney's response was a predictable one. This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.-we acknowledge them; we are briefly shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them. At some point, we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It's not either. It's cowardice.
It is cowardice, too, the way that Carney and President Obama and their fellow-Democrats talk about gun control, when they finally decide the time is right. They avoid the issue as much as possible, then mouth platitudes, or promise to pass only the most popular of measures, like the assault-weapons ban. And then they do nothing to follow through.
But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.
Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.
Earlier in the year, Rich Jones at Gun.io filed a Freedom of Information request for Ol' Dirty Bastard's FBI file. It appears Wu-Tang may not actually be for the children. Here are the parts Jones noted.
"The WTC is heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, carjacking and other types of violent crime." [p5]
Connections to the murder of Robert "Pooh" Johnson and Jerome "Boo Boo" Estrella. [p6]
Connection to murder of Ishamael "Hoody" Kourma. [p13]
A shoot-out with the NYPD. [p15]
Arrest for felony possession of body armour. [p16]
Connections to the Bloods Gang. [p17]
Found in possession of large bags full of paper currency. [p40]
Details of his being robbed and shot while staying in the Kingston projects. [p45]
The rare day occurred on Monday, near the end of a year when the city's murder rate is on target to hit its lowest point since 1960, according to New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul Browne.
Browne said it was "first time in memory" the city's police force had experienced such a peaceful day.
While crime is up 3 percent overall, including a 9 percent surge in grand larceny police attribute to a rash of smart phone thefts, murder is down 23 percent over last year, the NYPD said.
Since Capturing the Friedmans came out in 2003, the filmmakers have been quietly working to prove the innocence of one of the films subjects, interviewing the sexual abuse victims of then 18-year-old Jesse Friedman. What they have found may point to Friedman's innocence.
One of those affected by the case was Arline Epstein, the mother of a child who had attended group therapy along with children who had testified against Jesse. Earlier this year, Arline's son Michael told her that, as a young boy, he had lied to his therapist about being sexually abused. In her testimony, which was featured at Sunday's event, Arline talks about revisiting a file of notes she had kept during the case and finding one that mentioned that during the first round of questioning of the children by police, none of them said they had been abused.
Arline and Michael Epstein are two of the witnesses featured in the video reel of new testimony compiled by Jarecki and Smerling, and both were at Sunday's event. Friedman was overwhelmed by the warm welcome he received from someone, who, as he put it, "for 25 years thought that I'd raped her son."
"The man stepped toward him, caught [Trevell] Coleman's eye, and grabbed for the gun. Startled, Coleman squeezed off three shots. The man winced, but didn't make a sound." That was seventeen years ago. Trevell Coleman never knew what happened to the person he shot, but he wanted to find out. From NY Mag: The Man Who Charged Himself with Murder.
In 1985, Vanessa Veselka was a teenaged hitchhiker who was picked up by a man who would come to be known as the Truck Stop Killer. Nearly three decades later, she returns to the scene of that experience and writes about it for GQ: "I said I wouldn't go to the cops if nothing happened to me, but it was his choice -- until he looked at me and I went still. There was going to be no more talking. I knew in my body that it was over."
The values were almost comparable to general Japanese workplace values, actually. Most yakuza gangs actually have neighborhood offices, and the plaques they have on the door state core values like "respect your superiors," "keep the office clean," and so on.
One thing I noticed early on with gang life was how subtle everything was. Everything was unspoken, and will was expressed through group pressure. A pressure was constantly there. There was this innate understanding of form-if someone did something wrong, no one would say anything; he would simply be expected to apologize. And the fact everyone would be so silent about it made the pressure really intense.
Writing for Slate, William McGowan tells the story of the Chickens and the Bulls, an extensive and brazen extortion ring that targetting prominent homosexuals (admirals, Congressmen, entertainers, etc.) and the NYPD & FBI investigators and prosecutors who put the kibosh on the whole thing with minimal exposure to the victims.
Though now almost forgotten, the case of "the Chickens and the Bulls" as the NYPD called it (or "Operation Homex," to the FBI), still stands as the most far-flung, most organized, and most brazen example of homosexual extortion in the nation's history. And while the Stonewall riot in June 1969 is considered by many to be the pivotal moment in gay civil rights, this case represents an important crux too, marking the first time that the law enforcement establishment actually worked on behalf of victimized gay men, instead of locking them up or shrugging.
The coda of the case is surprising...one of the members of the extortion ring became one of the gay movement's most powerful leaders.
This story involve: ninjas, Orange County, and SpongeBob SquarePants. Depending on who you ask, artist Todd White, lead character designer of SpongeBob SquarePants, either hired a gang of ninjas to hold hostage a gallery owner for several hours while they stole all his work from the gallery or sent his manager, his lawyer, and an off duty LAPD officer to take his art back from a gallery owner who fraudulently reproduced and signed his work.
Claiming that she had been assaulted and imprisoned, Howell told the cops that she only agreed to be recorded by the men because she was scared. "She was extremely afraid for her life," the officer noted. Terrified for her safety, according to the report she gave the police, she told Eddy and the others what they wanted to hear and signed the settlement only because she had been coerced. She suspected that the caper was designed to eliminate her from White's life and allow him -- and Lavoie, who now worked as White's office manager -- to take over her lucrative gallery themselves. Later that month, she filed a lawsuit against White seeking $7.5 million for physical and emotional trauma. The settlement she had signed that night had no merit as far as she was concerned, and she would continue her business at the Hyatt as normal.
The man who stole a drawing by the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí on Tuesday wore only the most basic of disguises: that of an everyday gallery visitor, walking past the Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst works on display. And he brought only the most basic of tools for his heist: a black shopping bag.
What a wascally wabbit.
The drawing mentioned above has been returned.
In 1986, Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in the apartment that she shared with her husband. The police eliminated the husband and ex-lovers as suspects and the case remained unsolved for 20+ years until a pair of detectives pulled it from the cold case files and looked at the evidence with fresh eyes. Mark Bowden has the story in the latest issue of Vanity Fair.
Soon after the murder, [Sherri's father] Nels was shown sketches of two Latin male suspects, and the burglary theory was explained. There was no way for him to recognize the drawings, and the whole scenario did not make sense to him. He had to wonder about the competence of these detectives. The apartment showed signs of a protracted fight. Mayer estimated that the struggle may have lasted for an hour and a half. How could his daughter have fought off two men for that long?, Nels asked. There was the bite mark on her forearm, which led Mayer's partner, Steve Hooks, to conjecture that the suspect may have been a woman, on the theory that women are biters. But the notion was dismissed. Women don't typically engage in breaking and entering, and fighting men have been known to use their teeth. There was also the bullet wound in the center of Sherri's chest, and the hole and powder burns on the blanket. Mayer told Nels that his daughter had not simply been shot and killed; she had been assassinated. Why would a burglar do that?
Nels asked if they had checked to see if the lady cop had been working that day. Had they examined her, taken pictures of her? The answers were no. No one ever checked up on Lazarus. Mayer or Hooks or someone apparently did talk to her on the phone eventually, and the conversation was enough to close that line of inquiry. There is only one brief entry in the case file that mentions her, recorded on November 19, 1986, more than eight months after the murder. It reads, "John Ruetten called. Verified Stephanie Lazarus, PO [police officer], was former girlfriend."
No arrests were ever made. The evidence of Sherri Rasmussen's murder was packed away in commercial storage.
Update: I forgot to include this with the original post...it's a video of the hour-long interrogation of Stephanie Lazarus, the "lady cop" Nels is referring to.
The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn't merely survive the recession -- it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.
"Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is," one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. -- doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.
At some point, Bourdin's story gets intertwined with that of Nicholas Barclay, a teen who went missing in Texas in 1994. After that, the story proceeds like the craziest episode of Law and Order you've ever seen.
Many other glaring discrepancies also stand out in the DeLuna case. He was put on death row largely on the eyewitness testimony of one man, Kevan Baker, who had seen the fight inside the Shamrock and watched the attacker flee the scene.
Yet when Baker was interviewed 20 years later, he said that he hadn't been that sure about the identification as he had trouble telling one Hispanic person apart from another.
Then there was the crime-scene investigation. Detectives failed to carry out or bungled basic forensic procedures that might have revealed information about the killer. No blood samples were collected and tested for the culprit's blood type.
Fingerprinting was so badly handled that no useable fingerprints were taken. None of the items found on the floor of the Shamrock - a cigarette stub, chewing gum, a button, comb and beer cans - were forensically examined for saliva or blood.
There was no scraping of the victim's fingernails for traces of the attacker's skin. When Liebman and his students studied digitally enhanced copies of crime scene photographs, they were amazed to find the footprint from a man's shoe imprinted in a pool of Lopez's blood on the floor - yet no effort was made to measure it.
"There it was," says Liebman. "The murderer had left his calling card at the scene, but it was never used."
Even the murder weapon, the knife, was not properly examined, though it was covered in blood and flesh.
Other photographs show Lopez's blood splattered up to three feet high on the walls of the Shamrock counter. Yet when DeLuna's clothes and shoes were tested for traces of blood, not a single microscopic drop was found. The prosecution said it must have been washed away by the rain.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1962, George Wright and another man walked into a gas station in NJ with the intention of robbing its owner, Walter Patterson. After a scuffle, Wright's associate shot Patterson, wounding him severely enough he would die two days later. Ten years later, after escaping from jail, Wright helped hijack an airplane with 86 passengers, ransomed the passengers for $1 million, flew to Algeria, and disappeared for 40 years. Last year he was arrested in Portugal.
This profile in GQ by Michael Finkel is sympathetic, but fascinating. Wright is described as a positive member of the community, a man rehabilitated, which is supposed to be the purpose of prison. And yet, he's never paid for his crimes. If pressed, I'd have to say I agree with how it ended up playing out.
During my flight back from Portugal, I try to sort out how I feel about Wright. I'm troubled, of course, by the gas-station crime--even if it wasn't his gun that fired, he still let an innocent man die. He never called for help. Still, he was a teenager at the time. You can no longer use youthful rashness as an excuse when you're 29, brandishing a loaded weapon on an airplane and holding more than ninety people hostage. That incident could've easily ended in disaster. Wright is fortunate it did not. And I am not entirely sure there aren't other crimes--crimes for which Wright wasn't caught. He may still have secrets inside him. We'll never know.
Dykstra ordered a Coke and French fries with ketchup: "And I'm actually going to have that as my meal-might be the oddest order of the day." (Healthy living was never his specialty.) When the Coke arrived, he sent it back, believing it to be Diet. After the fries were delivered, he made a show of extracting a "You're welcome" from the waiter, who had since moved on to another table. "I pay a thousand bucks a night -- actually, three thousand bucks a night -- and people are discourteous," he said, shaking his head. "There's some point in life when you have to grow up."
For many ballplayers, the growing-up point does not arrive until after retirement, when all the freebies vanish and equipment managers and hotel maids can no longer be relied upon for regular laundry service. Dykstra last played in the majors in 1996, at age thirty-three. Improbably, he has since become a successful day trader, and he let me know that he owns both a Maybach ("the best car") and a Gulfstream ("the best jet"). The occasion for our lunch, however, was a new venture: Dykstra is launching a magazine, intended specifically for pro athletes, called The Players Club. An unfortunate number of his former teammates have ended up broke, or divorced, or worse. The week before we met, the ex-Yankee Jim Leyritz, himself twice divorced and underemployed, had hit a woman while driving home from a bar. He never grew up.
"You've got the ten per cent who are going to find their way no matter what," Dykstra said of the athlete population. "And you get the ten per cent that are fuckheads no matter what-- we'll paste an 'L' to 'em." The rest need guidance, and Dykstra, who will write a regular column called "The Game of Life," is prepared to give it. "This will be the world's best magazine," he said.
Since then, Dykstra has declared bankruptcy, divorced from his wife, was sentenced to three years in state prison for grand theft auto (and several other charges), and most recently was sentenced to nine months in jail for assault and indecent exposure. He's also awaiting trial on federal bankruptcy fraud charges.
I recently spent a couple of days conducting a bike theft experiment, which I first tried with my brother Van in 2005. I locked my own bike up and then proceeded to steal it, using brazen means -- like a giant crowbar -- in audacious locations, including directly in front of a police station. I wanted to find out whether onlookers or the cops would intervene. What you see here in my film are the results.
Adrian Chen has an interview with a renegade IT guy named Martin who does social media, hacking, and other tech stuff for "High Net-worth Individuals" and criminals. One of things he does is set up drug rings with prepaid cell phones and a rotating collection of SIM cards a la the Barksdale/Bell drug crew in The Wire.
With Martin's system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone's card for the card in next day's compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.
Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others' constantly changing numbers. But he doesn't have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day's SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to "take their medicine," Martin said.
That's clever. The "take their medicine" detail reads like it's straight out of the movies.
On Wednesday, America's detention camp at Guantanamo Bay will have been open for 10 years. For seven of them, I was held there without explanation or charge. During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone. Most of their letters were returned as "undeliverable," and the few that I received were so thoroughly and thoughtlessly censored that their messages of love and support were lost.
Interesting things happen when we cut out the middleman. In addition to reducing cost, we often end up creating an internal byproduct that can be productized and sold to a completely new customer. (Amazon Web Services is an example of this.) Sometimes the middleman's market is so huge, that a freaking enormous business can be built simply by providing their customers a lower cost and more efficient option.
It was now obvious that properties exchanged hands not as independent and valid real estate investments but as a conspiracy to avoid fixing the building violations. The green links represent borrowed money flowing into the buildings through new mortgages. As time went on, and the buildings appreciated in value during a real estate boom -- loans from the mortgage company allowed the owners to "strip mine" the equity from the buildings. This is a common slumlord modus operandi -- they suck money out of a building rather than put money back in for maintenance.
The unit's big moment, McCluskey says, was understanding that violence works "like an infectious disease. It's passed on. You can catch it. You might live and die in a square mile. Your life is not predictable or manageable. You may have alcoholic parents, suffer domestic violence. Nobody cares about you. You're incapable of empathy: hard-wired for violence."
They coined a phrase: recreational violence. "There's also the thrill, the sensation-seeking," McCluskey says. "You look at their faces on the CCTV, they're loving it. They're young guys just not equipped to make good decisions for themselves, caught up in the gang dynamic."
So, if they see themselves as a group, treat them as a group, reasoned McCluskey. She went to the United States and met a man called David Kennedy, whose model for tackling gang violence had worked in Boston since the late 1990s. In the jargon, it's known as a "focused deterrence strategy", harnessing a multitude of different agencies plus resources from within the community. McCluskey set about bringing it to Glasgow.
Each panorama takes between 3 to 30 minutes to produce, depending on the available light, and is added to a database where detectives can access it. Before the switch to the Panoscan, crime scene images sometimes took days to process. Now, soon after the photos are posted, investigators can point and click over evidence from a scene that they might have missed in the hectic hours after the crime.
How often do you drive in this manner? Unless you're running because you're on parole, this is likely your first dance. Sure, you've driven fast before -- for a while. Then, for whatever reason, you got uncomfortable and backed off. Maybe your car made a sound you got concerned about, maybe you caught a glint you thought might be a trooper's windshield, maybe you thought you heard the faintest pulses of a siren. Whatever it was, it weakened your resolve and you slowed down. You have no such luxury here. And while this is fresh for you, this is, to many of the people pursuing you, another day another dollar. They've trained for this in training scenarios and have been involved in pursuits in the field. They run code multiple times a week. Even if one of your pursuers was a rookie who got eaten up by the stress, there will be a dozen vets to take his place.
But it wasn't just about the supermarket -- the whole world was one giant heist. It goes without saying that I used magnets to reset the Kinko's copy counters to zero, and carried scissors to cut alarm tags out of clothes. Everyone I knew did these things. I say this not to excuse myself but just so you can visualize a legion of energetic, intelligent young lady criminals. Anytime anyone we knew flew into Portland, we urged her to buy luggage insurance and allow us to steal her bag from the baggage carrousel. The visiting friend then had to perform the role of the frantic claims reporter and was given a cut of the insurance money. Some friends were up for this; others thought it was an inhospitable thing to ask.
Since then no country has been allowed to apply for membership or association with the European Union without, as a precondition, dismantling its apparatus of execution. This has led states like Turkey to forego what was once a sort of national staple. The United Nations condemns capital punishment-especially for those who have not yet reached adulthood-and the Vatican has come close to forbidding if not actually anathematizing the business. This leaves the United States of America as the only nation in what one might call the West, that does not just continue with the infliction of the death penalty but has in the recent past expanded its reach. More American states have restored it in theory and carried it out in practice, and the last time the Supreme Court heard argument on the question it was to determine whether capital punishment should be inflicted for a crime other than first-degree murder (the rape of a child being the suggested pretext for extension).
Hitchens, as you may have guessed, pins much of the blame on religion...after all, the US is the most (or only?) fundamentalist country in the West. (via ★interesting-links)
Airbnb is becoming a popular option for travellers looking for cheaper/homier places to stay and owners/renters to make a little dough on the side. But when you're dealing with people that you don't know staying in your house, things can sometimes go awry. Or very crazy:
They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother's jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals... my entire life. They found my birth certificate and social security card, which I believe they photocopied - using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests' use. They rifled through all my drawers, wore my shoes and clothes, and left my clothing crumpled up in a pile of wet, mildewing towels on the closet floor. They found my coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond and used the discount, along with my Mastercard, to shop online. Despite the heat wave, they used my fireplace and multiple Duraflame logs to reduce mounds of stuff (my stuff??) to ash - including, I believe, the missing set of guest sheets I left carefully folded for their comfort. Yet they were stupid and careless enough to leave the flue closed; dirty gray ash now covered every surface inside.
Are officials troubling you for fingerprints? "There's a nongreasy glue, like a mucilage," he said, that is more or less invisible once applied. "You put it on your thumb. You roll your thumb over your heel. Now, you've got a heel print on your thumb for no one who exists."
The author of the A Girl and Her Bike blog tells the story of how she and her bike were "nudged" from behind by a car (twice, on purpose) and what happened when the driver discovered that she was a police officer.
The light turned green and I started to proceed. And then I felt *BUMP!!!!!* again, this time a bit harder.
Oh no. No. No. No. I can't ignore this. I just can't.
So I stopped. Pulled out my police badge (yes, I'm a cop if you didn't know before. No I really don't want to talk about it, thanks) showed it to the driver and motioned him to stay right where he was.
There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).
Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans' blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.
The U.S. Marshals Service is auctioning off some of the personal effects of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber. There's a photoset up on Flickr of some of the items. This is the sweatshirt and sunglasses Kaczynski wore to one of his bombings...it inspired this famous police sketch.
"The U.S. Marshals Service has been given a unique opportunity to help the victims of Theodore Kaczynski's horrific crimes," said U.S. Marshal Albert Najera of the Eastern District of California. "We will use the technology that Kaczynski railed against in his various manifestos to sell artifacts of his life. The proceeds will go to his victims and, in a very small way, offset some of the hardships they have suffered."
Why can't you get a slice of pizza at John's on Bleecker or Patsy's? Allegedly because of Al Capone:
In his 1981 book on the mob called Vicious Circles: The Mafia in the Marketplace, the late Jonathan Kwitny detailed how Al Capone -- who owned a string of dairy farms near Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin -- forced New York pizzerias to use his rubbery mob cheese, so different from the real mozzarella produced here in New York City since the first immigrants from Naples arrived in Brooklyn around 1900.
As the story goes, the only places permitted to use good mozzarella made locally were the old-fashioned pizza parlors like Lombardi's, Patsy's, and John's, who could continue doing so only if they promised to never serve slices. According to Kwitny, this is why John's Pizzeria on Bleecker Street still has the warning "No Slices" on its awning today.
As Rosenberg dug deeper into the subterranean world of Guatemalan politics, he told friends that he had begun receiving threats himself. One day, Mendizábal says, Rosenberg gave him a phone number to write down -- it was the number that showed up on his caller I.D. when he received the threats.
Rosenberg told friends that his apartment was under surveillance, and that he was being followed. “Whenever he got into the car, he was looking over his shoulder,” his son Eduardo recalled. From his apartment window, Rosenberg could look across the street and see an office where Gustavo Alejos, President Colom’s private secretary, often worked. Rosenberg told Mendizábal that Alejos had called him and warned him to stop investigating the Musas’ murders, or else the same thing might happen to him. Speaking to Musa’s business manager, Rosenberg said of the powerful people he was investigating, “They are going to kill me.” He had a will drawn up.
Anything by Grann is becoming a must-read at this point. (via someone on Twitter, I forget who (sorry!))
The decline of dipping on the rails is extraordinary. Subways were always the happiest hunting grounds for pickpockets, who would work alone or in teams. There were classic skilled canons-organized pickpocket gangs-at the top, targeting wealthier riders, then "bag workers" who went for purses, and "lush workers" who disreputably targeted unconscious drunks. Richard Sinnott, who worked as a New York City transit cop in the 1970s and '80s, also admiringly recalls "fob workers," a subspecies of pickpocket who worked their way through train cars using just their index and middle fingers to extract coins and pieces of paper money-a quarter here, a buck there-from riders' pockets. "They weren't greedy, and they never got caught," says Sinnott. Bit by bit, fob workers could make up to $400 on a single subway trip; then they'd go to Florida in the winter to work the racetracks. Many of the city's pickpockets trained elsewhere, "and if they were any good, they came to New York," Sinnot says, with a touch of pride. "In the subways, we had the best there were."
I'm generally a fan of Slate's compulsive contrarianism, but asking if we should miss pickpocketing is just too much.
Felicia "Snoop" Pearson had served a prison sentence for murder and returned to drug dealing on the streets of East Baltimore, before a visit to the set of "The Wire" led to a star turn on the show and offered a new chance to change her life.
But her past kept creeping back - she was a witness to a murder and was arrested after she refused to testify -- and subsequent film and television offers were hard to come by.
Now, Pearson, 30, has been accused of playing a part in a large-scale drug organization, whose members were arrested in raids Thursday throughout Baltimore and surrounding counties, as well as in three other states.
So many choices. Which car insurance. Which cereal. Which deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo. Rows and rows of products. Varieties, sizes, colors. Which is cheaper? Which is better? What's the best buy? Which gum to chew? When he went into prison there were, like, two kinds of chewing gum. Now there are a zillion. One of the small gifts he gives himself is trying all the gums. "I can spoil myself a little so long as I stay within my means," he says. Papaya juice! Kiwi and strawberry nectar! Green tea! Arnold Palmer -- he was a golfer when Towler went down. Now he is a drink, sweet and so incredibly thirst quenching.
He loves work. He got out May 5 and started working June 21. Hell, I've been vacationing for thirty years. He wears a smock and pushes a mail cart. He stops at all the cubicles, greets everyone with his friendly smile. Ray even loves commuting to work, especially now, in his new car, a black Ford Focus. He's like a sixteen-year-old who can finally drive himself to school. It costs almost the same to park as it does to take the train.
In 2000, Portugal passed a law decriminalizing the possession of drugs, continued to vigorously pursue drug traffickers and distributors, and improved access to treatment. What happened?
But nearly a decade later, there's evidence that Portugal's great drug experiment not only didn't blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon's troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized -- indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.
- my word is my bond
- take my game to the next level (from the concrete streets to executive suites)
- take care my bitches more better
- minimize my budget (cash cars, houses, etc.)
- keep a good photographer
A white bank robber in Ohio recently used a "hyper-realistic" mask manufactured by a small Van Nuys company to disguise himself as a black man, prompting police there to mistakenly arrest an African American man for the crimes.
In October, a 20-year-old Chinese man who wanted asylum in Canada used one of the same company's masks to transform himself into an elderly white man and slip past airport security in Hong Kong.
News reports of similar exploits have increased the demand for the masks.
The merchant, Vitaly Borker, 34, who operates a Web site called decormyeyes.com, was charged with one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking. The mail fraud and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The stalking and interstate threats charges carry a maximum sentence of five years.
He was arrested early Monday by agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service. In an arraignment in the late afternoon in United States District Court in Lower Manhattan, Judge Michael H. Dolinger denied Mr. Borker's request for bail, stating that the defendant was either "verging on psychotic" or had "an explosive personality." Mr. Borker will be detained until a preliminary hearing, scheduled for Dec. 20.
A jury foreman in a criminal case describes his experience and what the jury ultimately decided (or actually, didn't decide).
These are the facts we were given as a jury, facts upon which we were to decide if a boy was guilty of a crime that would put him in prison for 10 years. We were admonished to consider all of the facts but nothing outside of them. Don't consider the sentence, or the age, or the race, or anything unrelated to what we heard while sitting in the juror box. Just focus on the facts that are presented. Yet, we were also told, time and again, that our Constitution is absolutely unwavering in its mission to protect the innocent, that no matter how clear-cut the evidence may seem, the burden of proof in criminal cases always, always, always falls on the prosecution. The boy sitting in that chair next to a pair of public defenders, possibly wearing borrowed clothes to look presentable in court, is innocent until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
1. he loved his mother's cooking
2. he loved playing with his nephew
3. he could more easily launder money through his parents' home-equity line of credit
When they pieced together how Gonzalez organized these heists later, federal prosecutors had to admire his ingenuity. "It's like driving to the building next to the bank to tunnel into the bank," Seth Kosto, an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey who worked on the case, told me. When I asked how Gonzalez rated among criminal hackers, he replied: "As a leader? Unparalleled. Unparalleled in his ability to coordinate contacts and continents and expertise. Unparalleled in that he didn't just get a hack done -- he got a hack done, he got the exfiltration of the data done, he got the laundering of the funds done. He was a five-tool player."
He had a fixed policy. He told potential employers up front, "I'll find out what happened. I'm not going to shade things to assist your client, but I will find out what the truth is." Brennan liked it when the information he uncovered helped his clients, but that wasn't a priority. Winning lawsuits wasn't the goal. What excited him was the mystery.
The job in this case was straightforward. Find out who raped and beat this young woman and dumped her in the weeds. Had the attack even happened at the hotel, or had she slipped out and met her assailant or assailants someplace else? Was she just a simple victim, or was she being used by some kind of Eastern European syndicate? Was she a prostitute? Was she somehow implicated? There were many questions and few answers.
There's no doubt that in Somalia, crime pays-it's about the only industry that does. There is even a functioning pirate stock exchange in Xarardheere, where locals buy "shares" in seventy-two individual pirate "companies" and get a respectable return if the company is successful. Most of the money, though, is frittered away. Boyah, who personally has made hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions, asked me for cigarettes when I met him. When I asked what happened to all his cash, he explained: "When someone who never had money suddenly gets money, it just goes." He also said that because of the extended network of relatives and clansmen, "it's not like three people split a million bucks. It's more like three hundred."
The pirates used to be fisherman who moved from defending their fishing territory by boarding foreign ships to collect "fines" to more lucrative full-blown piracy. (thx, tom)
This is a fascinating post made by a man who has just gotten out of prison after serving two years for armed robbery. This is a bit rough in spots, so reader beware.
I joked to my cell mate on the first day that at least the GFC [global financial crisis] couldn't fuck us inside. He'd been done for assaulting a cop when his house got taken by the bank. But within months 'GFC Nigger' became the standard reply to any query as to how black market prices were suddenly going through the roof. The price of a deck of smokes tripled. There was an actual economic reason about this. I went away in Michigan, where a lot of people lost their houses, mostly poor people already. When they had to move away from the prison, it meant they couldn't bring their loved ones as much contraband group, which meant the price of what there was sky rocketed. And the worse things got, the more the people who worked in the store would wonk and take home with them, which meant stocks ran low which fucked us even further.
Bet you didn't read about that one in the Wall Street Journal.
It was a dimly lit box, 9ft by 6ft, with bars at the front facing on to the bare cement walls of a long corridor. Inside was a narrow bed, a toilet, a fixed table and chair, and an air vent set into the back wall.
Some days I would pace up and down and from left to right for hours, counting to myself. I learned to know every inch of the cell. Maybe I looked crazy walking back and forth like some trapped animal, but I had no choice -- I needed to feel in control of my space.
Of all the stories I've heard about the recent financial crisis -- the high-risk mortgage loans, the CDOs, the credit default swaps, the Icelandic crisis -- the story of the collapse of the Greek economy by Michael Lewis in the October issue of Vanity Fair is the craziest. And it's the only one involving monks.
The tsunami of cheap credit that rolled across the planet between 2002 and 2007 has just now created a new opportunity for travel: financial-disaster tourism. The credit wasn't just money, it was temptation. It offered entire societies the chance to reveal aspects of their characters they could not normally afford to indulge. Entire countries were told, "The lights are out, you can do whatever you want to do and no one will ever know." What they wanted to do with money in the dark varied. Americans wanted to own homes far larger than they could afford, and to allow the strong to exploit the weak. Icelanders wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers, and to allow their alpha males to reveal a theretofore suppressed megalomania. The Germans wanted to be even more German; the Irish wanted to stop being Irish. All these different societies were touched by the same event, but each responded to it in its own peculiar way.
As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a pinata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms-and that number doesn't take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance named Stefanos Manos pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece's rail passengers into taxicabs: it's still true. "We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension," Manos put it to me. "And yet there isn't a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay." The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland's. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something. There are three government-owned defense companies: together they have billions of euros in debts, and mounting losses. The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as "arduous" is as early as 55 for men and 50 for women. As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than 600 Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on. The Greek public health-care system spends far more on supplies than the European average-and it is not uncommon, several Greeks tell me, to see nurses and doctors leaving the job with their arms filled with paper towels and diapers and whatever else they can plunder from the supply closets.
In 1996, Tom Junot won the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing for a story published in GQ called The Rapist Says He's Sorry. It's about a man named Mitchell Gaff:
Who is Mitchell Gaff? Well, he is that which, at this moment in our history, frightens us the most-about ourselves, and about our democracy's ability to contain what is worst in us. Mitch is a sex offender, but not only a sex offender; he is a rapist, but not only a rapist. He is, in the words of a law written in 1990 by the Washington state legislature, "a sexual predator"-that is, someone who "suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes [him] likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility." Now, never mind for the moment that this law created a category of mental illness unrecognized by modern psychiatry, and that it did so for the purpose of enabling the state to achieve in the name of mercy what it couldn't in the name of justice: the removal of men like Mitchell Gaff from the face of the earth. What's important to know right now is that Mitch Gaff is or has been a human being who hurts other human beings for sexual pleasure: not out of need, not to gain the dire exigencies of food, shelter, money, transportation and status, but out of want-because he likes it. It's the wanting that scares us the most, of course, because of what we know about our own wanting-that it rises from someplace deep within us, that it is immune to intention and that it doesn't just go away. We want Mitch to go away. It hardly matters that he has done his time; that he has, in that quaint old phrase, "paid his debt to society"; and that his continued incarceration is probably unconstitutional. We want him to go away for as long as his wanting lasts, and that's why the state of Washington invented something called the Special Commitment Center.
There's a short intro available here as well as a special note by Junot at the end of the main article. And after you read the article, there are two further updates on Mitch Gaff here (complete with inappropriately lusty personal ads running alongside the article) and here.
Of the three reviewers, only Kuroishi manages to play it all the way to the end. Two of the three are missing their pinkies -- in the old days, when a yakuza or his subordinates screwed up, they chopped off pinkies as an act of atonement -- and this seems to affect their gameplay.
The game got high marks overall.
M: The corporate yakuza guys get a thumbs up for realism. Nice suit. Smart. Financially savvy. Obsessed with money. Sneaky and conniving. Ruthless. S: There are a lot of guys whom I feel like I know. The dialogue is right too. They sound like yakuza. K: Braggarts, bullies, and sweet-talkers. I agree -- it feels like I know the guys on the screen. M: Kiryu is the way yakuza used to be. We kept the streets clean. People liked us. We didn't bother ordinary citizens. We respected our bosses. Now, guys like that only exist in video games. S: I don't know any ex-yakuza running orphanages. K: There was one a few years ago. A good guy. M: You sure it wasn't just a tax shelter? K: Sure it was a tax shelter but he ran it like a legitimate thing. You know.
He does not merely try to detect the artist's invisible hand; he scours a painting for the artist's fingerprints, impressed in the paint or on the canvas. Treating each painting as a crime scene, in which an artist has left behind traces of evidence, Biro has tried to render objective what has historically been subjective. In the process, he has shaken the priesthood of connoisseurship, raising questions about the nature of art, about the commodification of aesthetic beauty, and about the very legitimacy of the art world. Biro's research seems to confirm what many people have long suspected: that the system of authenticating art works can be arbitrary and, at times, even a fraud.
However, the more Grann and others dug into his past, the more Biro seemed to be in fraudulent territory himself.
"On the street," wrote FBI special agent Joseph Pistone, who infiltrated the Colombo and later the Bonanno mafia families of New York under the name of Donnie Brasco, "everybody is suspicious of everybody else until you prove yourself." If someone says, "I am ready to deal with you, pal," or sports some item of clothing that conventionally indicates he is a criminal, such as a pair of dark glasses, these signals are hardly sufficient to prove that he is a criminal. As a professional thief put it, "language is not in itself a sufficient means of determining whether a person is trustworthy, for some people in the underworld are stool pigeons and some outsiders learn some of the language." Proving oneself requires tougher tests than cheap talk.
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
Update: The Times article quoted above is a little misleading says Dawkins.
Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself. What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's proposed visit to Britain.
Nonetheless, there is a legal challenge involving the Pope's visit underway, initiated in part by Dawkins and Hitchens. (thx, lots of people)
As the bank was being built, Blanchard frequently sneaked inside -- sometimes at night, sometimes in broad daylight, disguised as a delivery person or construction worker. There's less security before the money shows up, and that allowed Blanchard to plant various surveillance devices in the ATM room. He knew when the cash machines were installed and what kind of locks they had. He ordered the same locks online and reverse engineered them at home. Later he returned to the Alberta Treasury to disassemble, disable, and remount the locks.
The take at this bank was a modest 60 grand, but the thrill mattered more than the money anyway. Blanchard's ambition flowered, as did his technique. As Flanagan had observed, Blanchard always wanted to beat the system, and he was getting better at it.
One such story was our earlier case about the old lady and her troubles with the Revenue Department official over a land title. Fed up with requests for bribes and equipped with a zero rupee note, the old lady handed the note to the official. He was stunned. Remarkably, the official stood up from his seat, offered her a chair, offered her tea and gave her the title she had been seeking for the last year and a half to obtain without success.
In truth, I think it is clear that morally, the act of pirating a product is, in fact, the moral equivalent of stealing... although that nagging question of what the person who has been stolen from is missing still lingers. Realistically and financially, however, I feel the impact of e-piracy is overrated, at least in terms of ebooks.
The cops also thought it was wrong to drop the case just because a piece-of-shit famous person might be guilty of shooting a piece-of-shit unfamous person in a piece-of-shit part of the city. If prosecutors required every witness to have a pristine record, one detective says, "most of the cases in the city wouldn't be solved." None of the cops doubted for a second that if Harrison was a plumber or a UPS driver instead of a famous athlete, he'd have long since been arrested.
I was drawn into Longo's life through the most improbable of circumstances -- after the murders, while on the lam in Mexico, he took on my identity, even though we'd never met. Starting from this bizarre connection, using charm and guile and a steady stoking of my journalist's natural curiosity (he was innocent, he was framed, he had proof, he would show me), he soon became deeply enmeshed in my own life. In the first year, we exchanged more than a thousand pages of handwritten letters. I wrote a book about him.
After I started a family of my own, I didn't communicate with Longo anymore. But I was not disentangled from him. I remained haunted by Longo, by what he'd done; nearly every day, as I held my own kids, images of his crime -- a child locked in a suitcase, or falling from a bridge, or fighting for air -- would flit through my mind and I'd flinch, as if I'd brushed against a hot burner on the stove.
This a brutal read, fascinating in places (especially the economics of death row part) but I have a hard time wrapping my head around what this guy did and how he feels about it.
Act Two. The Good Son. - A story about a mother who wants to commit suicide and a son who dutifully helps her do it-even though his mother is a happy, healthy, independent person. How did they manage to pull it off? Practice, practice, practice.
Fascinating and disturbing story about a male student who posed as female online and got several of his male classmates to send him naked pictures of themselves. Which led to extortion and eventual arrest.
In the beginning, when Kayla and Emily asked these boys for naked pictures, the majority of them thought little of saying yes. This exchange was within the range of what kids -- lots of kids -- consider normal. Online, a boy chats with a girl he's never met. Pants go down. Pictures are sent. And a chain of unpredictable, unknowable consequences is set in motion.
If your ex-spouse has run off and taken your children abroad, and the international legal system is failing to bring them back, what are you to do? One option is to call Gus Zamora, a former Army ranger who will, for a hefty fee, get your children back. Operating in a moral gray area beyond the reach of any clear-cut legal jurisdiction, Zamora claims to have returned 54 children to left-behind parents. Here's the story of number 55.
That's the name of Ohio-based artist Richard Whitehurst's latest work.
The artist plans to place himself in a room, the only entrance or exit being a 22 ft long plywood tunnel constructed by Whitehurst himself. Then he says that for the duration of the gallery's opening (from 7:00 p.m. to midnight) he will rape anyone who travels through the tunnel into that room.
Whitehurst prototyped the idea with a previous project called The Punch-You-In-The-Face Tunnel.
As it turns out, I ended up breaking the nose of the third person to crawl through the tunnel, an aspiring model. She went to the hospital and eventually sued me. Her modeling career was put on hold. The civil case was long and drawn out and the matter still hasn't been resolved. To this day she still has unpaid medical bills. The point of this long aside is that all this took place two years ago, and I'm still having an impact on this young lady's life, something not many other artists could claim about their work.
Rape seemed like the next logical step.
Me? I would have built The Tickle Tunnel. I guess that's why I'm not an artist. (via mxml)
Update: Oh, hell, it's fake. (thx, dozens of people who aren't saps like I am)
A quick how-to summary of the daring and thus-far successful robbery of a Stockholm cash depot by helicopter last week. Sounds like something out of a movie. From the CNN report, this is the best part:
Swedish police couldn't pursue the thieves because a bag marked "bomb" had been placed outside the police heliport, and officers had to deal with the bag before they could enter the heliport. It is unclear whether the bag contained a bomb.
Unclear? Really? I'm surprised the bag didn't say ACME on the side of it.
We hear from Kurt Eichenwald, whose book The Informant is about the price fixing conspiracy at the food company ADM, Archer Daniels Midland, and the executive who cooperated with the FBI in recording over 250 hours of secret video and audio tapes, probably the most remarkable videotapes ever made of an American company in the middle of a criminal act.
In the late 90s, it was easy to get good pot in Idaho...just drive across the border to Canada and pick some up. Nate Norman decided to take advantage of that situation and became an unlikely drug kingpin.
Having doubled their initial investment in roughly a day, Nate and Topher quickly planned a second run. This time, they bought two pounds. Before they knew it, they had gone from struggling to put gas in their cars to running a major pot enterprise that was bringing in thousands of dollars a day. "Within a few weeks I went from selling eighths to quarter pounds," says Scuzz, who could pass for a pro snowboarder with his goatee and wraparound shades. "Our plan was to make 3 million and get out. When you crunch the numbers, that's nothing. We figured out we could do it in fourteen months. But when you're making twenty or thirty grand a week, why the fuck would you stop?"
It doesn't even spoil the story to tell you that it all came crashing down, as these things inevitably do.
"When I looked at your face, I could see there was some serious thought behind doing this," he said. "It ain't like he just knocked you off your bike. He performed some very serious damage." There was no provocation, no robbery, no familiarity between attacker and attacked. McCoy argued that it would be far more foolhardy to randomly attack a black man, because "you hit the wrong guy and it might be somebody's dad or uncle or it might even be the chief who is riding a bike, and ain't no police bein' called. It's an ambulance being called for your ass. "It's a bitter pill, but I'm gonna tell you. It was all racial."
Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted of intentionally starting a fire that killed his three children, sentenced to death, and after many failed appeals, executed by lethal injection. Now it appears that the investigators who made determination of arson were acting more like forensic mystics than forensic scientists in making their decision. The state of Texas may have executed an innocent man.
In recent years, though, questions have mounted over whether the system is fail-safe. Since 1976, more than a hundred and thirty people on death row have been exonerated. DNA testing, which was developed in the eighties, saved seventeen of them, but the technique can be used only in rare instances. Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has used DNA testing to exonerate prisoners, estimates that about eighty per cent of felonies do not involve biological evidence.
In 2000, after thirteen people on death row in Illinois were exonerated, George Ryan, who was then governor of the state, suspended the death penalty. Though he had been a longtime advocate of capital punishment, he declared that he could no longer support a system that has "come so close to the ultimate nightmare-the state's taking of innocent life." Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said that the "execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event."
Update: John Jackson, the prosecutor in the Willingham case, has written an op-ed piece for the Cosicana Daily Sun in which he defends the court's guilty verdict, despite what he calls an "undeniably flawed forensic report".
The Willingham case was charged as a multiple child murder, and not an arson-murder to achieve capital status. I am convinced that in the absence of any arson testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been unchanged, a fact that did not escape the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
But even if he refused to take a polygraph after he was arrested, polygraphs are notoriously unreliable, and are not admissible in a court of law. [...] As a result, defense attorneys routinely do not let their clients take polygraphs. [...] The idea that a lie-detector test (or the refusal to take one) could be considered evidence cuts to the core of the problems in the Willingham case: a reliance on unreliable and unsound scientific techniques.
Jackson's belief that Willingham should have (whether he would have is another story) been convicted even in the absence of evidence of arson borders on parody and would be funny if it weren't so obscene coming, as it does, from a sitting judge. If it's not arson, how do you have a murder? If the fire killed the kids and he didn't set the fire, how is he responsible? It's fucking absurd.
Yeah. The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man - convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return - so the earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby. [Remaining portion of statement omitted due to profanity.]
A pair of related articles from the New Yorker last week. The first is a Talk of the Town piece on a water-pistol ambush game played by the students at a New York City private school.
Willis Cohen was finally killed through no fault of his own. He woke up one day and, as usual, hopped a neighbor's fence and exited through another house. He caught a livery cab on Amity Street and headed north to the Heights. He knew he was in trouble when his driver refused to raise the windows. A member of the Gaisford team shot him in the chest through the cab's passenger-side window as he pulled up to the school.
The second is a piece by John Seabrook is about David Kennedy and his approach to reducing gang-related murder through a combination of community support and "one strike and everyone's out" policy.
At the initial call-in, Victor Garcia was the first to speak. He told the young men that he loved them, that they had value to their community, and that he knew they were better than their violent actions implied. Afterward, Chief Steicher addressed them, thanking them for coming, and making it clear that "this is nothing personal." He then delivered the message: "We know who you are, we know who your friends are, and we know what you're doing. If your boys don't stop shooting people right now, we're coming after everyone in your group."
Without too much trouble, you could imagine either of these excerpts appearing in either article. A curious editorial decision to run them in the same issue.
The surreal quality of Penn's dialogue with the facts is captured by the matter of the phone number. At one time in Cambridge I had a phone number with the last four digits 6266. From this Penn, using some sort of gematria, extracted enormous meaning. But what does a number assigned by the phone company say about the person it was given to? Many of the other details Penn has used to launch his voyages of conjecture are equally beyond my control, like my birthday and my mother's name. There was also some fuss made about the fact that I was on the freshman rifle team in college. (At least two of the Zodiac murders were committed with a handgun at point-blank range, so rifle marksmanship doesn't seem germane, but go figure.)
Errol Morris follows up on his recent series about Dutch forger Han van Meegeren by addressing some of the comments he received. Here's Morris on the interaction of historical research and modern content management techniques.
The first version of the Time article that I saw was the "electronic" version from the Web. It is particularly strange, if only because the text (from 1947) is surrounded by modern information, including contemporary advertisements for Liberty Mutual, teeth whitening preparations, wrinkle-cream, and most e-mailed articles. Emmy Göring and Henriette von Schirach complaints are directly adjacent to "Will Twitter Change the Way We Live."
I also enjoyed the discussion of "Hitler-soup" at the end.
Over on his NY Times blog, Errol Morris finishes up his excellent seven-part series on Vermeer forger Han van Meegeren. Here are the links to all seven parts: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.
To be sure, the Van Meegeren story raises many, many questions. Among them: what makes a work of art great? Is it the signature of (or attribution to) an acknowledged master? Is it just a name? Or is it a name implying a provenance? With a photograph we may be interested in the photographer but also in what the photograph is of. With a painting this is often turned around, we may be interested in what the painting is of, but we are primarily interested in the question: who made it? Who held a brush to canvas and painted it? Whether it is the work of an acclaimed master like Vermeer or a duplicitous forger like Van Meegeren -- we want to know more.
Morris ends the post with a cliffhanger that, if I didn't know any better, was written specifically for me: "The Uncanny Valley."
At the restaurant, on the phone with the Maitre D' he says, "This is Sgt. Peterson, Chicago Police." Violation of 720 ILCS 5/32-5.1: False Personation of a Peace Officer. A person who knowingly and falsely represents himself or herself to be a peace officer commits a Class 4 felony.
A family in Porterville, California recently discovered that their new home has an unmapped addition. An underground lair.
They noticed what they suspected was a small sink hole at the corner of a concrete patio slab. As they checked on the hole, Edwards was pulling some weeds nearby.
"His foot just sunk," Barton said, "and that's when we thought we saw a dead body."
Turns out it wasn't a dead body, but some foam insulation. Beneath it, a large space. Everybody thinks it's a subterranean grow room. They're afraid their four-year-old son Ethan will want to play down there.
Also recently unearthed, tunnels belonging to crusaders were found under Malta. Unlike the marijuana-propagating sanctum, these structures are believed to have been designed to facilitate Crusades-era sanitation and to bolster the water supply for the Knights of Malta. Ethan, play here instead.
This is the dark side of American exceptionalism. With little concern or demurral, we have consigned tens of thousands of our own citizens to conditions that horrified our highest court a century ago. Our willingness to discard these standards for American prisoners made it easy to discard the Geneva Conventions prohibiting similar treatment of foreign prisoners of war, to the detriment of America's moral stature in the world. In much the same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement-on our own people, in our own communities, in a supermax prison, for example, that is a thirty-minute drive from my door.
This likely will not change until Americans start to believe that rehabilitation and not punishment is the primary goal of prisons. So, probably never.
Twin brothers are suspected of stealing millions in jewelry and watches from KaDeWe in Berlin. DNA from the crime scene matches the brothers' DNA. But their DNA is too similar to match either brother individually so the police have to let them go.
German law stipulates that each criminal must be individually proven guilty. The problem in the case of the O. brothers is that their twin DNA is so similar that neither can be exclusively linked to the evidence using current methods of DNA analysis. So even though both have criminal records and may have committed the heist together, Hassan and Abbas O. have been set free.
The Genius led them out the rear of the building into a private garden that abutted the back of the Diamond Center. It was one of the few places in the district that wasn't under video surveillance. Using a ladder he had previously hidden there, the Genius climbed up to a small terrace on the second floor. A heat-sensing infrared detector monitored the terrace, but he approached it slowly from behind a large, homemade polyester shield. The low thermal conductivity of the polyester blocked his body heat from reaching the sensor. He placed the shield directly in front of the detector, preventing it from sensing anything.
With the benefit of hindsight and after watching too many heist movies, the vault security is hilariously inadequate. Both the magnetic security system on the door and the main alarm system were both easily defeated by essentially short circuiting them with bits of metal, just as MacGyver might fool a window alarm with an aluminum chewing gum wrapper. (via waxy)