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Here's What the FBI Had on Martin Luther King, Jr.
by RYAN SIT
Newsweek -- The FBI was obsessed with Martin Luther King Jr. from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968.
King was only 39 when he was killed on April 4, 1968, having spent 12 years—almost a third of his life—under the FBI's watch.
In all that time, the bureau—and Director J. Edgar Hoover specifically—never uncovered Communist Party ties or any nefarious behavior that warranted the years of wiretaps and eavesdropping. Instead, they discovered a man devoted to serving others, unafraid of self-examination and unconcerned with fame or notoriety, said David Garrow, a historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, in a 2008 CNN interview.
The FBI recordings have "given us the most powerful and persuasive source of all for seeing how utterly selfless Martin Luther King was," said Garrow, who has written several books about King.
"You see him being intensely self-critical. King really and truly believed that he was there to be of service to others. This was not a man with any egomaniacal joy of being a famous person, or being a leader," he told CNN.
The FBI's Mobile, Alabama, branch first put King under surveillance in December 1955, after the civil rights icon had helped organize the 385-day Montgomery bus boycott. The investigator charged with surveilling King had been explicitly directed to “find out all he could about Reverend Martin L. King, colored minister in Montgomery and leader in the bus boycott,” and “to uncover all the derogatory information he could about King,” according to an FBI memorandum.
It wasn't until 1963, when Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved wiretapping King's phones, that the government ramped up its campaign against the civil rights activist. (After King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in August of that year, an FBI memo described him as “the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.”)
Kennedy's decision has lived in infamy ever since. In 2015, then-FBI Director James Comey told The Guardian he kept Kennedy's approval of the wiretap order on his desk, a constant reminder of the bureau's past misdeeds.
The FBI recorded tens of thousands of memos on King throughout the 1960s. Agents bugged his home, his office and his hotels. For Hoover, discrediting King, especially by finding links to Communists, was little short of a fever dream, Garrow explained in a 2002 Atlantic article.
King, however, was not a Communist—and Hoover knew so. In 1965, an FBI wiretap recorded him expressing frustration when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights group he helped found. He was arguing with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee about issuing a statement.
Speaking with his adviser Bayard Rustin, another of the group's founders, King confided: “There are things I wanted to say renouncing Communism in theory, but they would not go along with it. We wanted to say that it was an alien philosophy contrary to us, but they wouldn't go along with it."
The FBI omitted this conversation in its 20-page report dated March 12, 1968—just weeks before King was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. The dossier, titled “Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Current Analysis,” instead included misleading statements characterizing King as a “whole-hearted Marxist who has studied it [Marxism], believes it and agrees with it, but because of his being a minister of religion, does not dare to espouse it publicly.”
The report alleges that this information came from one of King's top advisers, Stanley David Levison. Levison, a white New York lawyer, had been a top financier for the Communist Party USA before meeting King.
The document goes on to say that “King has been described within the [Communist Party USA] as a true, genuine Marxist-Leninist ‘from the top of his head to the tips of his toes.'”
The last two pages of the report are dedicated to salacious allegations. It describes a two-day workshop King held in Miami in February 1968. One of the attendees, according to the report, apparently informed the FBI of “behind-the-scene drinking, fornication, and homosexuality that went on at the conference,” in addition to prostitution, and “an all-night sex orgy was held with these prostitutes.” But there's no mention that King was involved.
The report includes details of King's alleged infidelity, saying that “throughout the ensuing years and until this date King has continued to carry on his sexual aberrations secretly while holding himself out to public view as a moral leader of religious conviction.”
In 1964, an anonymous letter sent to King also claimed to have recordings of his adulterous behavior. The typed-out missive has come to be known as the “suicide letter” and was purportedly written by a disillusioned former follower of King's.
“King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes,” the letter said. “I repeat you are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.”
The page-long letter—containing dehumanizing and racially charged words like beast and animal , which were common during the Jim Crow era—included a threat: “Your end is approaching.”
The letter continued, “There is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is.”
King suspected the unsigned letter came from the FBI. He was right, as were those who thought its language and style (albeit somewhat disguised) resembled the language in the 1968 report. The Senate's Church Committee on U.S. intelligence overreach corroborated that suspicion in 1975. Beverly Gage, a Yale history professor who revealed the unredacted letter in a 2014 New York Times Magazine essay , called it “the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover's FBI run amok.”
Hoover's surveillance was meant to uncover compromising information on King and use it to publicly discredit him. In the end, though, the FBI's memos and recordings succeeded in embarrassing the bureau.
The Senate report concluded as much. “Rather than trying to discredit the alleged Communists it believed were attempting to influence Dr. King, the Bureau adopted a curious tactic of trying to discredit the supposed target of Communist Party interest—Dr. King himself,” the report said.
Police find 12 people held captive in California home after teen escapes
Two California parents were arrested after authorities found a dozen children and adults shackled to beds with chains and padlocks in their home, officials said Monday.
The 13 victims held captive in the home in Perris, California range in age from 2 to 29, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities started investigating after a 17-year-old girl managed to escape from the residence on Sunday and called 911. The girl claimed her 12 brothers and sisters were being held captive inside the home by her parents, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said.
Sheriff deputies responded and identified the 13 victims.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, face charges of torture and child endangerment. Bail was set at $9 million for each.
The six children are being treated at Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley. The seven adults are being treated at Corona Regional Medical Center in Corona, authorities said.
'Oprah for President' billboard posted above downtown Los Angeles building
by Jermaine Ong
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has not declared her intentions to run for president in 2020, but a Los Angeles company has already started a push to get her into the White House.
An "Oprah for President" billboard was placed above the Casa Vertigo events venue building in downtown Los Angeles last weekend, in plain view of drivers on nearby freeways.
According to the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, the billboard was paid for by Los Angeles-based clothing company I Am Gay USA.
An IAG spokesperson said: "We created the billboard to show our gay support for Oprah and her humanitarian efforts."
The sign comes as speculation continues over whether Winfrey will jump into the political fray and run for office in two years. Her speech at the Golden Globe Awards last weekend led many to believe she was seriously considering running for president.
Earlier this week, President Trump reacted to a possible Winfrey run: "I like Oprah ... I don't think she's going to run."
When asked how he would fare if Winfrey did run for president, Trump said, "I'd beat Oprah."
VIDEO on site
Hawaii has been preparing for a missile attack; now its credibility is under fire
by Madison Park, CNN
(CNN) Hawaii takes emergency preparedness very seriously.
So seriously that in December, the state started testing its nuclear warning siren system that would alert residents to an impending nuclear missile strike. This was the first of such tests in Hawaii since the end of the Cold War, and came after several threats from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his country's missiles are extending their range. Officials said the purpose of the nuclear warning siren tests is not to scare the public, but to keep people aware.
But on Saturday, an emergency missile alert accidentally went out to everyone in the state, causing mass panic as people thought they were about to die .
The false alarm has come under criticism from officials, the FCC, residents and others in Hawaii. Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency and Gov. David Ige apologized for the error, which was blamed on an emergency worker hitting the wrong template during a routine drill. On Monday, the leaders of the Emergency Management Agency announced they're suspending those siren tests while they investigate.
But the mistake, along with the monthly sirens, have raised questions about whether the preparations in case of a North Korean missile attack are having unintended effects. "The State of Hawaii is war mongering and scaring its citizens with its monthly nuclear attack warning siren which began in December 2017," read an online petition to stop the sirens, signed by nearly 450 people. "The sirens heighten the anxiety and stress of impending conflict and devastation, [and] make citizens afraid," it stated. A small group protested Saturday in front of a federal building in Honolulu, reported the Star Advertiser.
Another concern after the false alarm is how people could react to the next emergency alert. "How seriously are people going to take this system?" Hawaii State Rep. Matt LoPresti said on CNN. "I'm going to suggest that if there is ever ... another alert that goes out, we'll have to send a confirmation notice -- that second notice this really is happening. Because people will be waiting for a second notice to see that it's another false alarm." LoPresti said he and his family took the alert seriously. They gathered in the bathroom and began praying. "We all just got down, got in the tub, waiting for a flash and I was going to cover the kids with my body," LoPresti said. "My 8-year-old is praying, she stopped and looked at me and said, 'Daddy, are we at war?' And I had to say yes, and she just looked at me and said 'Why?' And all I could do was hug her."
The sense of terror extended across the ocean to people like Lori Citro of Newark, Delaware, who heard about the alert through a group text. Citro's daughter, Kelsey, lives in Hawaii. "I just melted down and cried and sobbed," Citro told CNN. "Couldn't even think straight. Seemed like an eternity but it was only about 10 minutes before realizing it may be a hoax, since Kelsey was sleeping when the message came through." Citro said she feared her daughter would die. "Even after learning it was a mistake I felt maybe they were just saying that so we all wouldn't panic," she said. "I feel like if they are practicing this drill it's because it's a possibility. Maybe they were really expecting an attack and it was thwarted at the last minute. ... I am still afraid. I'm crying right now thinking about it."
Fred Bothe of San Francisco was visiting Hawaii to take care of his father's estate and had a dramatic phone conversation with his husband, Donovan Jones, who was in California. "I was stuck in traffic heading to the airport when I got the alert," Bothe said. " It said get to shelter, but I was in the middle of nowhere. So I called Donovan, told him what was going on, and quickly started telling him things he needed to know about my father's trust. ... I told him to tell friends and family that I loved them and that I had a wonderful life. He was crying on the other end of the line." Bothe said he felt strangely calm. "It was much harder on Donovan than me," he said. "I would have just been gone, but Donovan would have lost me. He's really shook up about it."
Can Hawaii agency regain credibility?
Hawaii's emergency management agency keeps its eyes on the many potential disasters other than North Korea -- such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquake activity in the region, volcanic activity or flooding. Vern Miyagi, the agency's administrator, acknowledged on Sunday that damage had been done to the agency. "I have to re-establish credibility because we lost quite a bit yesterday," he told CNN affiliate KHON . Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell expressed confidence that state authorities could regain credibility. "That issue of how do you build trust back?" he said. "The way you do it at the end of the day is performing correctly. I think it's incumbent that the next test go smoothly. I believe it will and build trust that way."
How Hawaii has prepared for potential attack
Hawaii has been testing its sirens since December. The nuclear warning siren system blares at 11:45 a.m. on the first business day of every month, sounding for 50 seconds, followed by a 10-second pause and then a wailing "attack warning" signal for another 50 seconds.
The emergency sirens didn't go off on Saturday, officials said. Had it been a real threat, they would have sounded. "Hawaii has just started a few months ago, these monthly nuclear attack sirens as a test," said Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii on CNN. "So when the people of Hawaii got this message yesterday, they're literally going through this feeling of 'I've got minutes to find my loved ones to say my last goodbyes.'"
Hawaii became the first state in the United States to prepare for a North Korean attack. Ige had announced the tests about two months ago and said the "possibility of an attack is very remote." In the summer, Hawaii published its guidance on ways to survive a nuclear detonation, including directives that residents seek shelter, stay away from windows and don't look at the flash of light.
Hawaii sits less than 5,000 miles from North Korea. The state would only have about a 20-minute heads up if a missile is launched from there. "It's something we can't take lightly, both what occurred [Saturday], but also that threat from North Korea," Caldwell said. "Hopefully that will go away at some point, but we need to protect our citizens from the worst, if the worst were to occur." Miyagi apologized Saturday for the false alarm, saying, "This is my responsibility and my team." But he reiterated the need to be prepared. "Please keep in mind again, the threat is there. If this comes out, you're only going to have 12-13 minutes for actual event."
Impact on tourism
It's unclear how the false alarm will affect Hawaii's major industry, tourism. The state's tourism authority issued a statement calling the false alarm "regrettable and completely avoidable." "There is no cause for travelers with trips already booked to Hawaii or considering a vacation in the islands to change their plans," the statement said. "Hawaii continues to be the safest, cleanest and most welcoming travel destination in the world and the alarm created today by the false alert does not change that at all." Visitor arrivals to Hawaii totaled 8.5 million and visitor spending was $15.15 billion for the first 11 months of 2017, which show increases over the same period in the previous year, according to a statement from the tourism authority.
CNN's Doug Criss, Sara Sidner, Paul Murphy, Ralph Ellis and Dakin Andone contributed to this report. http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/15/us/hawaii-false-alarm-sirens/index.html
Activists in Chile say pope must apologize for priest abuse
by Eva Vergara and Nicole Winfield
SANTIAGO, Chile — Hours before Pope Francis was set to arrive in Chile Monday, activists on issues related to sex abuse by priests called for sanctions against both abusers and anyone who helped cover up their actions.
About 200 people attended the first of several activities aimed at making the sex abuse scandal a central topic of Francis' first visit to the Andean nation since becoming pope in 2013.
Sex abuse in Chile is an open wound, in part because of Francis' decision to appoint a bishop with close ties to the country's most notorious abuser.
“It's not just time for the pope to ask for forgiveness or the abuses but also to take action,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of the Rev. Fernando Karadima.
Cruz added that if it wasn't possible to jail bad bishops, “at the very least they can be removed from their positions.”
Francis' visit to Chile is expected to be fraught with a high level of opposition. Firebombings of Catholic churches in recent days have added to the tensions, as have planned protests of sex abuse and cover-ups.
Francis is coming to a country in which the majority of people continue to declare themselves Roman Catholics, but where the church has lost the influence and moral authority it once enjoyed thanks to the scandals, secularization and an out-of-touch clerical caste.
“I used to be a strong believer and churchgoer,” said Blanca Carvucho, a 57-year-old secretary in Santiago. “All the contradictions have pushed me away.”
The pope will try to inject new energy into the church during his Monday-Thursday visit, which gets underway in earnest Tuesday with a series of protocol visits for church and state, and will be followed by a three-day trip to neighboring Peru.
In Chile, he plans sessions with migrants, members of Chile's Mapuche indigenous group and victims of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship. It remains to be seen if he will meet with sex abuse survivors. A meeting wasn't on the agenda, but such encounters never are.
Chile's church earned wide respect during the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet because it spoke out against the military's human rights abuses, but it began a downward spiral in 2010 when victims of a charismatic, politically connected priest came forward with allegations that he had kissed and fondled them.
Local church leaders had ignored the complaints against the Rev. Fernando Karadima for years, but they were forced to open an official investigation after the victims went public and Chilean prosecutors started investigating. The Vatican in 2011 sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes, but the church leadership hasn't won back Chileans' trust for having covered up Karadima's crimes for so long.
“The Karadima case created a ferocious wound,” said Chile's ambassador to the Holy See, Mariano Fernandez Amunategui. He and others inside the Vatican speak openly of a Chilean church “in crisis” as a result, a remarkable admission of the scandal's toll on a church that wielded such political clout that it helped stave off laws legalizing divorce and abortion until recently.
Chileans' disenchantment has even affected their views of the pope himself. A recent survey by Latinobarometro, a respected regional polling firm, found that Chile had a lower esteem for history's first Latin American pope than 18 other Central and South American countries. Even among Chilean Catholics, only 42 percent approve of the job Francis is doing, compared to a regional average of 68 percent.
“The serious error of the Catholic Church in the Karadima case wasn't that the case existed, which the church couldn't avoid because it did happen, but rather the way in which the church reacted,” said Latinobarometro's Marta Lagos.
Francis, who has insisted he has “zero tolerance” for abuse, in 2015 named one of Karadima's proteges as bishop of the southern diocese of Osorno. Karadima's victims say Bishop Juan Barros knew about the abuse but did nothing, a charge Barros denies.
Last week, The Associated Press reported that Francis had told Chile's bishops that the Vatican was so concerned about the Karadima fallout that it had planned to ask Barros and two other Karadima-trained bishops to resign and take a year sabbatical. But the plan fell through, and Francis went through with the appointment of Barros to Osorno, where the controversy has badly divided the diocese.
Meanwhile, vandals firebombed a handful of Santiago churches and warned that Francis would be next. Never before has such violence and opposition greeted Francis ahead of a foreign visit.
The last time any serious opposition greeted a pope came during uneventful protests over the costs for Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 trip to Britain.
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield reported this story from Rome and AP writer Eva Vergara reported in Santiago. AP writer Peter Prengaman contributed from Santiago.
Canadian Police Say Attack On Child Wearing Hijab Did Not Happen
Police had been investigating the incident as a hate crime.
TORONTO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - An alleged attack on an 11-year-old girl wearing a hijab as she walked to school did not happen, Toronto Police said on Monday.
Police had been investigating the incident as a hate crime after the girl said that a man wielding a pair of scissors cut her hijab as she walked to school with her brother on Friday morning.
By Monday police concluded that no crime had occurred.
“We put together a lot of evidence, we considered the evidence and came to the conclusion that what was described did not happen,” Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash told Reuters, adding that the investigation is over.
The girl's family could not immediately be reached for comment.
Staff at the girl's school made the call to police on Friday, “as they would in any other case,” Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird wrote in an email. “We are very thankful that this assault did not happen.”
Monday's revelation comes amid heightened pressure on Canadian governments to combat anti-Muslim sentiment as the first anniversary of a fatal mosque shooting approaches.
Researchers have documented an increase in far-right extremist activity in Canada, much of it targeting Muslims.
A survey conducted last year by Ontario's Human Rights Commission found that more people reported harboring “very negative” feelings about Muslims than about any other group.
“All of us are deeply worried about the fallout of all of this,” writer and human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby said, adding that the girl's false claim could make people less likely to come forward if they're the target of hate crimes, or less likely to be believed when they do.
“The biggest concern is that this would cause those who already hold hateful views of Muslims to use it as an ‘aha' moment,” she said.
On Jan. 29 last year six people were shot to death at a Quebec City mosque. A French-Canadian university student has been charged with murder in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrorist attack.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims has called on Canadian governments to declare the day of the mosque shooting a day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on Monday said he opposed such a designation. Trudeau has not said whether he would support it.
U.S. must accept a new, multipolar world order, Russian foreign minister says
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sharply criticized the United States for being a destabilizing force in the world, saying Washington was provoking North Korea into a military confrontation and attempting to derail the Iran nuclear agreement.
Despite the Kremlin's attempts to rebuild bilateral relations with Washington, the United States continues to push an anti-Russia agenda aimed at undermining Moscow's emergence as a global power in a multipolar world, the foreign minister said during his annual press conference.
Lavrov addressed a broad list of topics during the two-hour-long conference, including relations with China, Europe and the crisis on the Korean peninsula. With nearly every topic, his answers inevitably returned to what has become a familiar theme from the Kremlin: Washington's aggressive attempts to push its agenda globally are failing and, in the case of North Korea and Iran, have become potentially dangerous.
"Unfortunately, our American colleagues still want to operate only on the basis of dictating policy, issuing ultimatums, they do not want to hear the perspectives of other centers of world politics," Lavrov said.
The United States needs to face the difficult reality that it is no longer the world's only superpower and adapt to an increasingly multipolar world, Lavrov said.
Lavrov's comments came ahead of a new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia for allegations that the Kremlin orchestrated a campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The Kremlin denies the accusations.
On North Korea, Lavrov accused the United States of provoking tensions by stating that a military option is still on the table and by conducting military exercises on the Korean peninsula.
President Trump, in several outspoken tweets, has lambasted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for Pyongyang's missile tests. This month, Trump boasted in a tweet that he had a bigger nuclear button than the North Korean dictator.
“The United States quite plainly says that the military confrontation is inevitable, however, everyone understands the catastrophic consequences of such recklessness,” Lavrov said, referring to Trump's statement.
Russia and China have both said they support talks between the two Korean nations, Lavrov said. Although Lavrov did not mention it, Trump has also praised the talks .
On Iran, the Russian foreign minister chastised a White House suggestion that it could rewrite the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran brokered by former President Obama. That agreement lifts sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program.
Trump last week waived sanctions under the deal, but suggested that he would not do so again, saying he wants to rewrite the agreement's “terrible flaws.”
Lavrov warned Washington not to back out.
“We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran,” Lavrov said.
Changes to Iran's nuclear agreement with the United States could have broader negative effects, namely on North Korea, which could view Iran's experience as a cautionary tale with implications for its own approach to the West, Lavrov said.
“It's sad that the United States once again gives a reason to doubt their ability to be reliable contract partners,” Lavrov said.
While not naming Trump directly, the foreign minister said the current White House was continuing an anti-Russian agenda set out by the Obama administration.
He pointed to U.S. sanctions on Russia's energy sector and the military industry as two examples of areas in which Washington has acted to hinder Russia's growth. The United States and the European Union have placed economic sanctions on individuals and state-run companies in these two Russian sectors in retaliation for the Kremlin's 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea.
Russia has insisted that Crimea's referendum vote in March 2014 to leave Ukraine and join Russia was legitimate and in reaction to a Western-supported coup in Kiev, Ukraine's capital, which ousted a Moscow-favored president in February of that year.
Lavrov said he believed the sanctions on Russia were aimed more at boosting American's position in the gas sector as well as at preventing Russia from securing a foothold in international weapons sales.
He accused the United States of trying to persuade the European Union not to complete a proposed gas pipeline that would divert Russian gas from pipes running through Ukraine.
"I would say that the [U.S.] administration's actions indicate the fear of honest competition in a whole number of spheres," Lavrov said.
In addition to economic sanctions, he said he sees the U.S. move to require Kremlin-owned media outlets such as RT and Sputnik to register as foreign agents in Washington, as well as the International Olympic Committee's decision to ban Russian athletes from competing under their own flag in South Korea next month, as part of an orchestrated effort to unfairly punish Russia.
The International Olympic Committee in December announced that Russia would not be able to compete as a national team because of what the World Anti-Doping Assn. called a state-sponsored doping scheme. Russia athletes who test positive are banned from competing in South Korea, while players and teams who test negative may participate only as “athletes from Russia” under the Olympic flag.
“Yes, there are the facts of violations made by our athletes, but no collective punishment has ever been imposed on anyone in such cases,” Lavrov said. “Here I also see the fear of honest competition.”
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Simone Biles says she was molested by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar
by TRACY CONNOR
Simone Biles, the golden girl of the 2016 Olympics, added her name Monday to the list of gymnasts who say they were molested by team doctor Larry Nassar.
The revelation came on her social media accounts — one day before a weeklong sentencing hearing where Nassar will hear from nearly 100 victims.
"Most of you know me as a happy, giggly and energetic girl. But lately...I've felt a bit broken and the more I try to shut off the voice in my head the louder it screams," Biles wrote in a #metoo post.
"I am not afraid to tell my story anymore. I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar," she continued.
"For too long I have asked myself, 'Was I too naive? Was it my fault?' I now know the answers to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG [USA Gymnastics], and others."
Biles' statement follows similar disclosures from three members of the 2012 "Fierce Five" team — McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. They are not expected to be at Nassar's sentencing, but 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher will testify at the marathon hearing.
Hour by hour, Dantzcher and others will deliver victim impact statements — describing how they gave their trust to Nassar and were betrayed by a "monster" who violated them with ungloved hands, using his reputation and invasive "treatments" to mask serial sexual assaults.
"What people need to understand is these aren't just anonymous people," said Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar in the summer of 2016.
"These were real little girls, some of them as young as 6 years old," Denhollander told NBC affiliate WOOD-TV on the eve of the hearing. "These were real young women who are suffering devastating consequences now and this could have been avoided."
Some of the victims are certain to blame not just Nassar but USA Gymnastics , which made him an Olympic team doctor, and Michigan State University , where he had his sports-medicine practice until the scandal erupted in the summer of 2016.
Both are accused of giving Nassar unfettered access to vulnerable girls and women, ignoring signs or complaints of sexual misconduct, and trying to silence victims.
Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all of his accusers to speak. More than half of those who have filed complaints are expected to give a statement.
Some will stand at a podium and speak directly to Nassar, who is expected to be sitting in the witness box. Others have sent audio recording that will be played in the courtroom. Still others have sent written statements that will be read aloud by a prosecutor.
They include elite athletes who were told Nassar could help make their gold-medal dreams come true and ordinary patients who felt privileged to be seen by a doctor whose office was filled with photos of him with Olympic champions.
"I hope I can look him in the eye," said Jeanette Antolin, a former national team member who says she was abused repeatedly between 1997 and 2000. "I don't want him to feel like he has any more power over me, so I'm going to stay as strong as possible."
Antolin said she's not interested in what Nassar has to say at the sentencing. She thinks his previous statements rang hollow and that he hasn't really accepted guilt.
"I heard what he had to say the last time, and it basically made me sick to my stomach," she said. "His words meant nothing. His apologies meant nothing."
Denhollander, who was just 15 when she was Nassar's patient in 2000, said her message is not just about Nassar but the people she believes could have stopped him — officials at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State.
A mountain of lawsuits filed against the university say a teenage gymnast reported Nassar's disturbing procedures to coach Kathie Klages in 1997 but no action was taken against him.
"Had MSU handled those reports of sexual assault properly in 1997 we wouldn't have have 93 victims coming forward to speak," Denhollander said.
Klages also defended Nassar to MSU gymnasts after the Indianapolis Star uncovered two complaints against him in August 2016, and she asked the college students to sign a card for him while he was suspended.
The university has asked for the dismissal of lawsuits by Nassar's accusers, contending that as a government entity it has immunity and also arguing that anyone who received complaints over the years was not Nassar's supervisor and thus not the right person to take action.
"They don't deny that four young women had complained in graphic detail about Larry's procedure," Denhollander said. "What they say is they didn't complain to the proper people."
MSU has said it cannot comment on pending litigation, but that an attorney it hired to investigate reported that "the evidence will show that no MSU official believed that Nassar committed sexual abuse prior to newspaper reports in the summer of 2016."
There have been calls for President Lou Anna Simon to step down, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is running for governor, may launch an investigation to determine if any university personnel beyond Nassar bear criminal responsibility.
USA Gymnastics, meanwhile, has come under fire from some its biggest stars — Raisman and Maroney among them, who say that after they told a private investigator about their sessions with Nassar, the organization tried to keep them quiet.
The group's president, Steve Penny, was forced out last year because of the handling of the Nassar allegations and other sexual abuse cases, but some have demanded a complete housecleaning of leadership.
USA Gymnastics has beefed up its protocols for handling misconduct complaints, but has also hit back at criticism from its Olympic alumnae and tried to shift blame to the FBI, which was called in to investigate to Nassar.
Nassar's plea deal in Ingham County calls for him to get up to 40 years in prison. He faces another sentencing for three sexual assault victims in Eaton County, and he's already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.
The victim statements won't change the fact that Nassar is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars, but the hearing will provide a platform for girls and women to tell their stories for the first time — now in the midst of the #metoo movement .
"It's important that the message of not just the consequences of sexual abuse but the consequences of enabling sexual abuse are heard loud and clear," Denhollander said.
"Every time something like this happens the question is what can we do better, how can we prevent it? And we have one of the best examples here of what we could have done better and how it could have been prevented here. And if we don't learn from this example, the cycle will just continue."
DOJ's pot memo creates big decision for US attorneys
by Lydia Wheeler
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is leaving it up to federal prosecutors to decide whether to crack down on marijuana in states where medical and recreational use is legal.
In rescinding the Obama-era policy that relaxed enforcement of federal marijuana laws on Thursday, Sessions opened the door for federal prosecutors to begin pursuing cases.
But the memo didn't explicitly call for action, experts noted.
“It could have been a harder line memo,” said Don Stern, a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
“The attorney general didn't order them to enforce federal law under all circumstances, which suggests he understands the decision will depend a lot upon the state regime of regulation, the resources available and other priorities.”
Sessions this week pulled back an Obama-era directive known as the “Cole memo” that told U.S. attorneys to give lower prioritization to prosecuting marijuana-related cases.
The Obama memo helped create an environment for the legalization movement to flourish.
Six states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington — and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of the drug, and two other states, Maine and Massachusetts, could soon follow.
Meanwhile, public opinion has shifted in favor of marijuana legalization, with a Pew Research Poll this week finding that 61 percent of people support allowing sales of the drug.
Given those trends, some are skeptical that the attorney general's move will have much of an impact.
Stern said he doesn't see the memo making much a difference in the six states that have legalized marijuana, though he said it could make it harder for people to start or invest in new marijuana-related businesses.
“I think he is by design and result dampening down and chilling what was a growing industry, but I don't think we're going to see an increase in federal prosecution cases as a result of his directive,” he said.
Mary McCord, senior litigator and visiting professor at Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, noted that marijuana has always been illegal under federal law.
Even under the Obama-era guidance that Sessions rescinded, she said U.S. attorneys would have prosecuted a marijuana shop if it was selling to minors or serving as a cover for a criminal organization.
McCord, who served from 2012 to 2014 as the criminal division chief at the U.S. Attorneys Office in D.C. overseeing criminal prosecutions in federal district court, said Sessions's move was mostly symbolic.
“We've heard the public statements. He personally views marijuana as a gateway drug, as a dangerous drug, but the memo is three paragraphs,” she said.
“It doesn't say you must make this a priority, you must prosecute marijuana-related crimes.”
The Department of Justice said the new guidance on marijuana is restoring the rule of law.
“The Justice Department is returning to the rule of law and returning local control to federal prosecutors so they can evaluate the public safety threats to their districts and determine how to pursue marijuana-related prosecutions,” a DOJ official said in a statement to The Hill.
“In making those decisions, U.S. Attorneys should also follow long-established principles.”
Those long established principles direct federal prosecutors to weigh federal law enforcement priorities set by the attorney general, the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.
Some U.S. Attorneys in states where marijuana has been legalized pushed backed on the memo.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Bob Troyer said there would be no change to how his office handles marijuana-related offenses.
And Annette Hayes, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a statement stressed that her office has long been guided by the principles reiterated by Sessions on Thursday.
“As a result, we have investigated and prosecuted over many years cases involving organized crime, violent and gun threats, and financial crimes related to marijuana,” she said.
“We will continue to do so to ensure — consistent with the most recent guidance from the Department — that our enforcement efforts with our federal, state, local and tribal partners focus on those who pose the greatest safety risk to the people and communities we serve.”
Still, it's possible that some of the U.S. attorneys being appointed by Trump will be tougher on marijuana than their predecessors.
There are 93 U.S. attorneys across the country, all of them nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
While the president can fire U.S. attorneys, Stern said he'd be surprised if Trump removed an attorney for not cracking down on marijuana in states where it's been legalized.
In one interview during the 2016 campaign, Trump expressed support for leaving decisions on marijuana sales up to the states.
Safety program for at-risk people returns to Madison County
by Stuart Hirsch
ANDERSON — After a two-year absence, Madison County is resuming a program that helps track medically vulnerable people at risk of wandering away from their caregivers.
Project Lifesaver is a Virginia-based nonprofit that provides small transmitter bracelets or anklets that emit individualized tracking signals.
The devices are for those who have loved ones with autism, Alzheimer's or other conditions that might cause a person to wander.
Madison County participated in the program from 2011 to 2015. At one point, 17 people were enrolled — 12 children and five adults.
The Madison County Sheriff's Department will administer Project Lifesaver, and the Community Hospital Anderson Foundation will pay for the purchase of four radio receivers, which cost $1,500 each.
Those receivers will be used and carried by Madison County Emergency Management Agency personnel.
Sheriff Scott Mellinger ordered a review of the program last summer after he was contacted by county residents. They were concerned about recent deaths in nearby counties when autistic children wandered away from their homes.
“Project Lifesaver returning to Madison County is an important step in protecting our at-risk residents,” Mellinger said in a statement, and “we are so fortunate to have a partner like the Community Hospital Anderson Foundation involved in this effort.”
Authorities in Delaware County, Grant County, the city of Fishers, and Hamilton County also have the program.
In addition to buying the necessary receivers, the foundation will also help finance the transmitters for clients who may not be able to pay the one-time $300 cost themselves.
“Keeping individuals healthy and safe is a commitment that Community Hospital continues to make to our community,” said Tom Bannon, vice president of community engagement and chief foundation officer.
“We see the purchase of this equipment as an opportunity to further invest in the well-being of Madison County,” he added.
Emergency Management Agency volunteers are expected to begin training with the receiver equipment later this month, according to Mellinger.
Have a Project Lifesaver transmitter?
Before relaunch, Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger would like the caregivers of any Project Lifesaver clients from 2011 to 2015 who still have a transmitter to contact the department.
Those devices can be registered for the new program and they can also be transferred for use by other clients.
Questions about Project Lifesaver for Madison County can be directed to the Madison County Sheriff Community Policing number at 765-646-9250.
RPT-High tech, low tech: Big US cities embrace twin approach to crime
by Daniel Trotta and Jonathan Allen
Gun violence in major U.S. cities fell in 2017 as police used the latest crime-fighting software combined with a revival of old-fashioned community policing to build trust with a skeptical public.
Law enforcement officials and criminologists credit that dual approach with helping extend the decades-long reduction in crime in New York City and reducing gun violence in Chicago by 20 percent in 2017.
Crime has dropped precipitously across the United States since peaking in 1991, though some cities have lagged and others have experienced sudden spikes.
Chicago became a symbol of U.S. gun violence after homicides soared nearly 60 percent in 2016, drawing frequent criticism from Donald Trump during his campaign for the presidency and after he was elected.
Since then, the third-largest U.S. city has revamped policing policies and developed a sophisticated integration of crime-fighting software and hardware such as cameras. It has also built ties to the public through events such as a Halloween party that drew 500 kids to a police station in a high-crime district.
While there is no hard evidence that those initiatives were responsible, homicides in Chicago dropped 16 percent in 2017 to 650. That still outnumbered homicides in the two largest U.S. cities, New York and Los Angeles, combined.
“There was a promise to never relive 2016,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for Chicago police. “That was a moment in time we never want to repeat in terms of violence.”
While Chicago has seen volatile swings, New York has experienced a consistent reduction in crime, in sharp contrast with a bygone reputation as the country's murder and mayhem capital.
On Friday the New York Police Department reported 290 murders in 2017, down 13 percent from 2016 and 87 percent from 1990, when a record 2,262 people were killed.
The New York Police Department called 2017 the safest year in nearly seven decades even as arrests decreased by nearly 400 per day from their high point seven years ago.
Experts do not entirely understand the trend but point to a number of likely factors, including CompStat, the computer analysis of crime data that was developed by New York police in 1994 and has since been replicated in other cities.
CompStat gives police daily reports on how they are performing, enabling them to quickly identify trends and deploy officers to trouble spots.
Data-driven, evidence-based policing has advanced further with the help of crime-predicting software like HunchLab and gunfire-detection system ShotSpotter.
Technology “helps us to link cases quicker, deploy faster and deploy smarter,” Dermot Shea, the NYPD's chief of crime control strategies, told a news conference on Friday.
The public uproar over police shootings of unarmed black men across the United States in recent years has also convinced police they must adopt neighborhood or community policing.
That aims to improve relationships between police and residents of high-crime districts and reduce animosity toward police to gain more co-operation in solving and preventing crimes.
“Technology is great ... but I think the best thing going for us is the ability for the police officers to establish and have relationships with the people in this great city,” New York Police Commissioner James O‘Neill said.
Chicago studied the best practices of the New York and Los Angeles police departments, incorporating much of New York's neighborhood policing model and the use of predictive crime software by Los Angeles.
In February, Chicago rolled out so-called Strategic Decision Support Centers, which integrate gunfire detection and predictive crime software with the city's extensive network of cameras. Before year's end the centers had expanded to six of the city's 22 districts.
The program started in notoriously high crime districts such as Englewood and Harrison, where police said crime fell by 43 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 2017.
Now, when a trigger is pulled, Chicago police are alerted within 30 seconds by ShotSpotter, and the information is relayed to the smartphones of patrol officers within a minute, Guglielmi said.
Meanwhile, with cameras switched on in the gunshot's vicinity, the same data is run through the HunchLab system. Police and criminologists from the University of Chicago analyze the data in real time, dispatching updates to patrol officers, Guglielmi said.
Chicago police are now frequently responding to incidents as much as three minutes before witnesses report gunfire to the 911 emergency number, he said.
The Chicago experience appears to be “a promising step forward,” said Max Kapustin of the University of Chicago's Crime Lab.
“Certainly in the case of Chicago and specifically in the district of Englewood, there's a lot of suggestive evidence that this led to those reductions and seems like a really meaningful way forward for reducing crime,” Kapustin said.
Bexar County will review its training policies after shooting death of 6-year-old
by Emilie Eaton
After an deputy-involved shooting last month left a 6-year-old boy and an unarmed felon dead, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said his office will review its training policies to see if any protocols need to be changed.
Salazar said it's still too soon to say if training was an issue in last month's shooting, but he said it's important for the department to continually reevaluate its training and policies.
“I would say every officer-involved shooting that happens, every situation that happens on the street, if you don't take something from that situation and try to replicate that situation in training ... you're missing the boat,” Salazar said. “As we wrap up the case and we figure out what happened exactly, we will be incorporating some lessons from that shooting and from every other shooting that we've been in.”
Even before last month's shooting, Salazar had begun reviewing the department's use-of-force and officer-involved shooting policies. He said the department's general manual is wordy and confusing — a culmination of several different sheriffs making their mark over the years.
“When you start getting into ambiguities in your policy, I think you're asking for trouble,” Salazar said.
Salazar said he hopes to revise those policies quickly. He's also willing to make additional changes, if need be, after the investigation into last months' deputy-involved shooting is complete.
Within two years, he hopes to finalize a completely overhauled general manual.
“Policy is a living document,” Salazar said. “You've got to evolve.”
Since he took office a year ago, Salazar has continually emphasized the need to improve training policies at the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
During his first months in office, Salazar lengthened the course to become a detention officer from seven weeks to 10 weeks. And starting Monday, a new class of detention cadets will go through training with one more week added, for a total of 11 weeks.
Late last year, Salazar revised the department's pursuit policy, restricting officers from chasing suspects for non-moving violations. The policy also places a greater onus on supervisors to communicate with deputies about vehicle pursuits.
“As a supervisor in Bexar County, you could be 50 miles away from where this pursuit is going and you've got to be asking the right questions of that deputy,” Salazar said.
Asking those right questions helps supervisors make an educated decision of whether to allow the pursuit to continue, he said.
In-service training is also expanding. State law mandates peace officers receive 40 hours of training every two years. Starting this year, Salazar will require deputies and detention officers receive 40 hours of in-service training every year — matching the training SAPD provides officers.
The training differs slightly for deputies and detention officers, but it will focus on patrol tactics, deescalation training, legal updates, officer safety and survival, community policing and customer service.
Supervisors, meanwhile, will go through an additional eight hours of training, something Salazar believes is unique for law enforcement agencies to require.
“Our training for the law enforcement side really needs to encompass everything from rural to suburban-type training,” Salazar said. “We need to be prepared to handle everything from a loose cattle car out in the middle of unincorporated Bexar County to a family disturbance in downtown San Antonio.”
Can fruit and veggies cut crime? Police and nonprofit are giving it a try
by Charles Rabin
Whether cops helping feed the needy actually cuts down on crime is a hard thing to quantify.
But almost everyone agrees on this: A Miami police effort, working with the nonprofit food distribution group Farm Share, has made cops and some poor communities they serve at least a little bit closer. Some people who once wouldn't talk with officers on the beat now do.
“It's mutually beneficial,” Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes said Friday morning as officers worked with Farm Share volunteers to distribute food to 1,000 people in downtown Miami. “It's a good opportunity for us to engage with folks. We help each other out.”
Farm Share is a government-supported organization that works with the United States Department of Agriculture to distribute surplus food — much of it fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded because it wasn't up to supermarket standards. Bananas, for instance, might be too small or apples slightly discolored. Farmers get tax credits in exchange for food they donate.
Last year, Farm Share provided 52 million pounds of food to families from Homestead to Jacksonville. In Miami-Dade alone in 2017, Farm Share distributed food on 58 occasions.
Cops started joining the effort after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, under an Obama administration community police initiative. The program, called Farm Share Community Policing and Crime Prevention, was developed three years ago with assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Its goal: Reducing crime and improving law enforcement and community relations in “at-risk” neighborhoods across the state of Florida.
Farm Share believes that if people in at-risk communities are provided nutritious food to help with basic needs, it should pay off with reduced crime over time. Other major U.S. cities have similar programs. In Los Angeles, the police department's Community Safety Partnership operates sports clinics and farmers' markets in several public housing projects in the Watts and East Los Angeles neighborhoods.
The distribution of food is particularly important in Miami, which yearly ranks as having one of the biggest — if not the largest — gap between wealthy and poor in the country. Finding low-income housing has become almost impossible. A 2016 report from Bloomberg News found that securing a middle-income job in Miami was difficult, with most jobs paying either very well or poorly.
During Friday morning's chill in which temperatures dipped into the low 40s, Farm Share set up food kiosks under blue canvas tops on Northwest Third Street just outside Miami's main downtown police headquarters. More than 50 people braved the 40-degree temperatures, waiting in line a half hour before the food was handed out. Police officers, firefighters and Farm Share workers helped them to the line and handed food to them.
Despite the chill, Farm Share said that by day's end, 956 heads of households had walked away with much-needed food.
Airl Jackson, a 66-year-old retired nursing assistant, took the bus several miles from her Northwest Miami-Dade home to downtown Miami. She learned about the Farm Share program through a senior citizens program at Liberty City's Charles Hadley Park. Jackson's monthly Social Security check, she said, is her main source of income.
“You learn how to manage,” she said. “You go to senior citizens' dinners. Eat Early Bird specials. This is so important, so very helpful.”
Also grabbing poultry, vegetables, bananas, apples and some canned goods was 11-year-old David Bergert, along with his sisters Dara, 8, and Durell, 6. David carried a big brown box while his father, also named David Bergert, tossed food in. Dad works as a valet a few nights a week at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. He'd like more work, but said he can't find any.
“I'm picking some up for my sister also. My wife and I work, but we live in low-income housing and it's tough.”
Gussie Flynn, who now directs marketing and communications for Farm Share after working helping people at homeless shelters, spent the morning talking to residents and taking pictures. She was pleased with the response on both sides.
“We're rescuing food that would otherwise be dumped in a landfill,” she said. “It's a way of getting officers involved with the community. Most of these people would never talk to police. But police and the community are now working side by side, instead of across the street from each other.”
Parents: Talk to your kids about opioids, even the 'good kids' you think are safe from addiction
THE ISSUE -- A total of 165 people died from drug overdoses in Lancaster County last year, most of which were caused by prescription painkillers, heroin or fentanyl, according to Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. That's more than 40 percent higher than the 117 people who died from overdoses in 2016 and nearly double the 84 overdose deaths reported in 2015, LNP staff writer Alex Geli wrote last week.
Where and when does it stop? And more importantly, how can it be stopped?
Opioid addiction's march seems unrelenting as it continues to claim victims in every community, from practically every demographic. No matter what we want to think, none of our families is safe from addiction's terrible and merciless threat.
“It's a problem throughout the entire county, and, for that matter, across the state and across the country,” Diamantoni said of the opioid epidemic, which has spread through urban and rural areas alike.
Of those who overdosed and died in Lancaster County last year, 70 percent were men and 30 percent were women. Their ages ranged from 19 to 58. Eighty-three percent were white, while the remaining 17 percent were mainly Hispanic or black.
That's according to OverdoseFreePA, an online database founded by Pennsylvania medical and law enforcement professionals, including Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman. As Geli reported last week, that database records overdose deaths across the commonwealth.
“We did not expect this death rate to decrease anytime soon,” Stedman told LNP, adding that the opioid epidemic is “unlike any I have seen in my 26 years as a prosecutor (in Lancaster County).”
Diamantoni said the “exponential increase in deaths” represents a “terrifying trend.”
It is indeed terrifying.
We know there are readers who are weary of reading about the opioid epidemic. We have heard from some readers who use prescription painkillers and worry that doctors no longer will prescribe them because of the concerns about addiction.
But we cannot ignore the issue and hope it will go away. No one can — not health care providers, not patients, not educators and not parents.
It is to that last group we are appealing today.
We've commented on the strategies being explored and employed by public health expert s, law enforcement officials and government officials to address the opioid crisis, and we will continue to do so. We've advocated for more funding for the agencies dealing with the epidemic's fallout . We s upported the establishment of the Lancaster County Joining Forces Coalition and continue to hope this countywide effort makes headway in addressing the crisis here.
Our plea today is simpler, and it's to the parents of teenagers not caught in addiction's grip.
Talk to your children. Don't dismiss addiction as something that only happens in other families or to other kids.
According to a study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, 12.4 percent of high school seniors — that's roughly 1 in 8 — reported using opioids for nonmedical purposes in 2013.
In 2015, 122,000 teens under 17 and 427,000 young adults between 18 and 25 had a pain-reliever-use disorder, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Those statistics were cited in a useful column written by Margie Skeer, an associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, and published on theconversation.com in conjunction with PBS NewsHour.
Skeer has studied substance use prevention for 15 years. We'd recommend reading her column in full .
She says it's critical that parents talk to their children about substance abuse. And she urges parents to educate themselves about opioids before launching the conversation. Sharing misinformation can backfire, leading kids to see their peers as more reliable sources.
She also advises parents to get to know their children's friends and to monitor their children's whereabouts.
This especially struck us: “It's particularly important to note the long-term effects that nonmedical use of opioids can have on adolescents,” Skeer writes. “Around puberty, the brain starts a massive restructuring process. Neural connections get stronger and stronger. ... During this time, what adolescents do can get ‘hard-wired' into the brain.”
If adolescents “spend a lot of time using drugs, those could be the connections that stick. That means they'd have an increased chance of developing a substance use disorder later in life.”
Skeer adds that because “drugs, particularly opioids, help alleviate both physical and emotional pain, adolescents may then continually turn to this drug as a way to cope, rather than using more adaptive coping skills that are usually learned during this time.”
Powerfully, she also writes that thinking that “a child is a ‘good kid' and therefore doesn't need to hear and talk about it ... is a mistake. Being a ‘good kid' does not mean that an adolescent will not be curious or be tempted by peers.”
She advises parents to seek a time when the topic presents itself naturally — when, for instance, “a celebrity is found to be using opioids or other drugs, or if the problem comes up in the child's school or neighborhood, or even on the child's social media account.” (Or, p erhaps, when a doctor prescribes a painkiller for a sports injury.)
Skeer recommends the “Parent Talk Kit” of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, for which there is also a link below.
LNP has chronicled the sorrows of parents who lost sons or daughters to opioid addiction . Not one of them would have imagined when their children were young that such a devastating loss lie in their future.
Talk to your kids. Please.
Child homicides, fatal police-involved shootings increase in 2017
by Sarah Reese
The number of homicides inched up in 2017 across much of Northwest Indiana, driven in part by an increasing amount of violence against children.
Lake County saw at least 75 homicides last year, compared with 71 in 2016 and 75 in 2015, according to preliminary police data and county records.
Gary saw the most homicides, with 48, up from 46 in 2016 but fewer than the 50 logged in 2015. The manner of death in a battery case from 2017 remained pending, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.
Charges were filed in 15 of Gary's 48 homicide cases, one was cleared as a murder-suicide and two were police-involved shootings deemed to be justified, Pawlak said.
Hammond logged 12 homicides, up from eight in 2016 and six in 2015. Police secured charges in five cases, cleared two as murder-suicides and presented one case involving a man killed during a robbery attempt to the Lake County prosecutor's office for review, Lt. Steve Kellogg said.
East Chicago's homicide total decreased for the second year, falling to five in 2017 from six in 2016 and eight in 2015. Charges have been secured in four of 2017's cases, and the fifth case was presented to the prosecutor's office for review, Lt. Marguerite Wilder said.
Porter County logged four homicides, up from zero in 2016 but fewer than the five reported in 2015.
Homicides in LaPorte County decreased, to two in 2017 from three in 2016. The county logged five homicides in 2015.
16 children lost
Sixteen children lost their lives in homicides in 2017 across all three counties, compared with seven in 2016 and 10 in 2015 in Lake County. No child homicides were reported in Porter or LaPorte counties in 2016 and 2015.
This year's child homicide cases spanned many communities.
Eight children younger than 13 died as a result of abuse or neglect, including a 1-year-old girl in Merrillville, two 1-year-old girls in Gary, a 20-month-old girl in Portage, a 4-year-old boy in East Chicago, a 9-year-old girl in Hobart, and a 12-year-old Gary boy.
Gary police also are investigating the death of a 7-day-old boy, whose homicide resulted from an assault on his mother, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Seven teenagers were shot to death, including a 15-year-old Michigan City girl, a 15-year-old East Chicago boy, two 16-year-old boys in Gary, a 17-year-old Hammond girl, and a 13-year-old Hammond boy hit by a bullet that fell from the sky, records show.
Kemonte Cobbs, 15, of Gary, died in August after he was shot by police following a car chase from Munster into Gary. A preliminary investigation showed Cobbs pointed a gun at police and the prosecutor's office determined Cobbs' shooting was justified, police said.
The cause of death for a 17-year-old boy found dead in Gary in December remained pending, according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Cobbs was the youngest person killed in 2017 in a police-involved shooting, a category in which the Region also saw increases from the year before.
After no fatal police-involved shootings in 2016, Northwest Indiana saw five last year.
Besides Cobbs, 33-year-old Mark Coffey, of Chicago Heights, was shot by police in Dyer on Aug. 10 following a car chase that initially started in Crete. The Lake County prosecutor's office later found the shooting was justified.
William D. Spates, 39, of Portage, was shot by an officer April 22 after he accelerated in reverse and hit the officer's car, police said.
Dvontai Wright, 25, of Griffith, died in a shootout Feb. 26 outside a Gary nightclub that involved multiple people and two Gary police officers. An East Chicago man was charged with attempted murder and carrying a handgun without a license in connection with the shootout. Both Gary officers discharged their weapons but neither fatally struck Wright, according to the Lake County prosecutor's office.
Marquis Thomas, 19, of Merrillville, died Jan. 20 after he was shot by a Lake County sheriff's officer during a foot pursuit. Police said Thomas fired on the officer during the pursuit, wounding a police K-9.
Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said it was a pretty typical year for the county both in the number and types of homicides.
In each of the cases, other than the police shooting, the parties knew each other, he said.
Hobart resident Christopher Dillard is charged with stabbing to death Portage resident Nicole Gland, 23, on April 19 in her vehicle outside the former Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road, Chesterton, where they both worked.
Karen Sons is charged with murder in the Dec. 8 shooting death of 54-year-old Robert Head at the couple's home on California Avenue in the Lake Eliza area. Sons claimed she shot Head in self-defense.
Washington state deputy killed responding to home invasion
by the Associated Press
Authorities in Washington state appealed to the public for help Monday in tracking down a man believed to have been involved in the fatal shooting of a sheriff's deputy overnight.
Pierce County deputy Daniel McCartney, a 34-year-old Navy veteran and married father to three young boys, was shot during a foot chase late Sunday as he responded to a home invasion near the small community of Frederickson, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Tacoma, said sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.
One suspect was found dead at the scene, but another got away, authorities said. They did not immediately have a description of him, but said he apparently shed some of his clothing as he fled.
Police closed off roads in the area and conducted a manhunt in an area that includes industrial sites as well as wooded areas, asking local residents to stay indoors, but did not find the man. It was unclear whether he had access to a vehicle.
The sheriff's office asked anyone with information about the shooting to come forward, and a nearby school district canceled classes in what it described as an abundance of caution.
"There's a sadness that will be felt and should be felt in the community," said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor. "He is a young deputy who signed up to watch over other people. He had an ethic in his heart for doing something for other people."
McCartney was hired at the sheriff's department in 2014 after stints with police departments in the small Washington state cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
After the shooting he was taken to a Tacoma hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His family members and dozens of law enforcement officers gathered at the hospital to say goodbye, The News Tribune newspaper reported .
More than a dozen officers and deputies saluted as McCartney's body was carried from the hospital in a flag-draped coffin and loaded into a van.
Hurricanes, wildfires made 2017 the most costly U.S. disaster year on record
by Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria combined with devastating Western wildfires and other natural catastrophes to make 2017 the most expensive year on record for disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday .
The disasters caused $306 billion in total damage in 2017, with 16 separate events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each. The large bulk of the damage, at $ 265 billion, came from hurricanes in particular.
“2017 was a historic year for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters,” said Adam Smith, an economist for NOAA, on a media call with reporters.
The record-breaking year raises concerns about the effects of future natural disasters, as scientists fear climate change could make extreme weather events more damaging.
Hurricane Harvey, which sparked extreme flooding in Houston and the surrounding area in August and September, caused $125 billion in damage, the year's most expensive disaster. Hurricane Maria, which in September set off a fatal and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and elsewhere, caused $90 billion in damage. Hurricane Irma raked across the Caribbean and hit Florida in September and caused $50 billion in total damage, NOAA reports.
The storms also caused 251 combined deaths, the report found. According to Smith, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria now join 2005's Katrina and 2012's Sandy among the top five most costly U.S. hurricanes in the agency's disaster record.
Western wildfires cost another $18 billion and 54 lives, the report found. This too was an annual record. Other large costs came from tornadoes, droughts, severe weather events, flooding and other causes.
The previous most expensive disaster year was 2005, when events such as Hurricane Katrina caused $215 billion in U.S. damage when adjusted for inflation. NOAA's record of billion-dollar natural disasters goes back to 1980.
According to NOAA, there have been 215 U.S. disasters costing $1 billion or more since 1980, for a total of more than $1.2 trillion in damage. The year 2017 tied 2011 for the largest total number of such events, at 16.
With numbers like the ones above, it's no wonder the insurance industry also took a massive hit during 2017, thanks in large part to the trio of hurricanes that ravaged parts of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and parts of the South.
Insurers are set to pay out a record $135 billion stemming from natural disasters around the globe last year, according to data released earlier this month from the world's largest reinsurer.
Those huge payouts stem largely from last year's deadly and devastating hurricanes, but those were far from the only disasters. Widespread flooding cause by monsoon rains in South Asia also contributed to the costs, as did a severe earthquake in Mexico, according to Munich Re, a German-based reinsurer.
Overall losses, which include uninsured losses, amounted to about $330 billion, the reinsurer said. That is second only to 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan fueled overall losses of more than $350 billion in today's dollars.
The firm identified 710 natural catastrophes around the globe, significantly higher than the annual average of 605. But those in the United States were by far the most costly, accounting for roughly half of all insurance payouts.
Insurance officials also said they expect more such catastrophes ahead.
“Some of the catastrophic events, such as the series of three extremely damaging hurricanes, or the very severe flooding in South Asia after extraordinarily heavy monsoon rains, are giving us a foretaste of what is to come,” Torsten Jeworrek, a Munich Re board member, said in an announcement about the global losses. “Because even though individual events cannot be directly traced to climate change, our experts expect such extreme weather to occur more often in future.”
Indeed, the key question underlying the latest tally of disaster cost is to what extent climate change may be driving the U.S. and globe toward more numerous or more severe disasters.
NOAA experts demurred on this question on a media call, declining to apportion how much of the damage could be attributed to a changing climate as opposed to other factors. One key factor that is also known to be worsening damage is that there is more valuable infrastructure, such as homes and businesses, in harm's way — along coastlines or in areas vulnerable to wildfire.
“For the purposes especially of this product, we do not try to parse those apart,” said Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring section at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. “We're more interested in quantifying what's going on. Both the economists and physical scientists will retrospectively look at that, but those sort of happen at the speed of science.”
But one expert, Harvard oceanographer and climate expert James McCarthy, highlighted the role of climate change in a statement in response to the NOAA findings.
“We can expect extreme weather events and economic losses and costs associated with them to continue increasing unless we make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” McCarthy said.
Why Does Crime Keep Falling in New York City?
by Samar Khurshid
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Police Department have much cause for celebration. Last year was undoubtedly the safest year on record in decades, setting new benchmarks for crime reduction across most major categories, according to the latest crime data released by the NYPD on Friday.
The total number of major felony crimes fell below 100,000 for the first time ever, no small feat for a city now home to more than 8.5 million residents. The city also set a record for fewest murders in the modern data-tracking era, and fewest since the early 1950s, when the city had far fewer residents, and fewest shooting incidents.
The mayor and police commissioner, James O'Neill, are proudly touting the success of the department's practices, especially reforms of the last few years, with numerous initiatives that they say have shown immense success. The neighborhood policing program is rebuilding trust with communities, targeted policing of gangs in trouble spots across the city is nipping crime in the bud, and preventative programs are reducing gun violence, they say. Officers are being re-trained in new policing tactics, especially de-escalation, while also being equipped with improved technology and safety gear. Complaints about police officers are also at new lows, while the number of arrests has plummeted, and a body camera program is being rolled out.
Meanwhile, the mayor and police officials still believe that broken windows policing, with its acute attention to keeping social order and enforcing low-level crimes in an effort to prevent larger ones, and its use, however evolved, is still seen as essential.
Though it may be easy, and tempting, to draw the simple conclusion that crime is at historic lows because of the work of the NYPD and this mayor's administration, experts say that would be a mistake. Crime has been falling for decades across the nation and even the entire world, and New York City, the “safest big city in America,” is not unique.
“None of this happened by accident,” said Commissioner O'Neill, at a news conference on Friday with other top NYPD brass, Mayor de Blasio, the newly elected City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “I'd call it incredible were it not for the very credible reasons why it's all happening,” O'Neill said as de Blasio nodded in agreement.
Neighborhood policing, now in 56 of 77 precincts and in nine Housing Bureau areas, is a “game changer,” O'Neill insisted, creating a greater sense of shared responsibility towards public safety between police and communities. Coordination with state and federal law enforcement in “precision policing” is helping build stronger cases against the “real drivers of crime,” he said, and community partners are playing a strong role. “As far as violence being reduced in society, that's a little bit above my pay grade,” he conceded, when asked about broader trends. “But I know what's happening in the NYPD, I know what's happening in the city, and I know it's happening with the way we are working with communities around the city and it's all playing a big part in reducing crime.”
“This is a new day in New York City, a different reality, and it's working,” said de Blasio subsequently, also crediting the Cure Violence program, which is led by local leaders, including former gang members, and seeks to prevent and diffuse conflicts at the community level, preempting crime before it is carried out. De Blasio insisted that stop-and-frisk policing had been “holding us back” and that it's reduction had made the city safer.
“I think when you see this kind of intensive, fast reduction, I think it does come back to neighborhood policing, precision policing, stronger ties to the community, community allies making a big impact, and different strategies right down to the example of taking something as difficult and painful as domestic violence and treating it as a moment for intensified engagement,” the mayor said. “Not just answer the call and that's it, but constantly coming back. That's a very hands-on, proactive approach that is newer to the NYPD. I think that makes a big impact.”
Two areas of serious crime that the city has not seen significant reductions in of late are domestic violence and rape reports, which NYPD officials attribute to more reporting, not more actual incidences, the willingness of victims to come forward, a changing culture, and victims' belief that they will be heard and helped by the police department. Domestic violence reports were down about 6 percent in 2017 compared to 2016; the number of rape reports were nearly the same.
There were 290 murders in 2017, down from 335 in 2013, the year before de Blasio took office (the prior record low was 333 in 2014). In that same time, the number of “index” crimes -- seven major felony offenses -- fell to 96,517 from 111,335. It's part of a larger trend that has continued for decades, said Alex Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College. “The drop can't possibly correlate with any policy changes in New York City. It began in the Dinkins administration,” Vitale said. “Our best minds have tried to figure out what's causing this long-term international phenomenon and we just don't understand.”
The overall body of research on crime reduction is inconclusive and often rife with partisan interpretations, which is why Vitale cautioned against broadly crediting the NYPD for the drop in crime, which runs the risk that, when issues arise, the city will simply throw more officers at the problem. “When all you have is hammers, everything looks like a nail,” he said, of the assumption that policing is the only solution to public safety. Rather, the city should be guided by considerations of “justice, racial politics and democracy,” said Vitale, who is a liberal.
“What I would say to the mayor is that he needs to continue to aggressively pursue ways of improving quality of life that don't rely on the criminal justice system,” Vitale said. He did acknowledge the steps the city has taken -- reducing stop-and-frisk policing, targeted enforcement and anti-violence prevention programs -- but, at the same time, he said the city must also better address issues such as gentrification, homelessness, and lack of access to healthcare for low-income New Yorkers.
Among the major steps the city has taken was the addition of 1,300 more officers to the force in 2015, at the behest of the City Council under former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Corey Johnson's predecessor. In recent days, Johnson has also floated the idea of adding more police officers to bolster community policing and give officers more time on the beat than responding to radio calls. It's what Vitale warns against. “We start with the premise that because it's a community problem, we need the police to figure it out,” he said. “But where's their expertise?”
Vitale has long advocated for more city investment in social services to deal with community issues, rather than the overuse of policing, which he believes should be focused on the most serious crimes.
The neighborhood policing program that the administration swears by has slowly evolved from other paradigms of broken windows policing. This philosophy and practice have the mayor's support and broken windows is the mantra of former police commissioner Bill Bratton, who continues to defend the practice as the key driver of crime reduction even as police reform advocates criticize its adverse impact on communities of color.
“Beginning in 1990, the New York City police department returned to a mission that was focused on not only dealing with serious crime, but also began to focus on disorder, which had not been addressed at all in the '70s and '80s,” Bratton said in a recent interview with National Public Radio , on the causes for dropping crime, “and disorder is described as broken windows, quality of life, minor offenses. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”
As Bratton explains it, broken windows policing has taken different forms in different eras, responding to conditions at the time. For example, intense law enforcement in the subway system in the 1990s, a decade that saw Bratton's first stint as NYPD commissioner and the implementation of strict, proactive policing by Mayor Rudy Giuliani's police department. The more recent iteration was in the overuse of stop-and-frisk policing, which increased significantly under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as they sought to take guns off the streets, triggering massive protests and a federal lawsuit.
But there's no clear evidence that broken window policing has caused the drop in crime. The relatively new Office of Inspector General of the NYPD concluded in 2016 that there was “no empirical evidence demonstrating a clear and direct link between an increase in summons and misdemeanor arrest activity and a related drop in felony crime.” The administration and NYPD top brass, including de Blasio and Bratton themselves, pushed back against the report, claiming it was “deeply flawed,” but largely using corollary and experiential takeaways to justify their claims. Meanwhile, crime numbers continue to trend down even as the NYPD has arrested tens of thousands fewer people. Bratton and others would argue that the city has only tweaked the formula, not abandoned broken windows in any discernible way.
A November 2017 report on proactive policing initiatives by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also found that broken windows has little impact on crime while stop-and-frisk has mixed results. Hot spots policing and problem-oriented tactics lead to short-term reductions, the report found, while focused deterrence has both short- and long-term impacts on crime control.
De Blasio's NYPD has combined most, if not all, of those measures. Ames Grawert, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, cited the report to illustrate how tough it is to draw concrete conclusions about the city's crime numbers. “I think [de Blasio's] right to credit community policing, but that's a very broad term...any initiative that's targeted at repairing trust between police and communities fits under that umbrella,” Grawert said, “so it kicks down the road the question of which types are community policing and which aren't. But I think those are broadly successful anti-crime measures.”
Yet, crime was trending down over decades before de Blasio implemented his neighborhood policing program, which is still in its infancy. Grawert had a simple prescription for the NYPD. “Keep following the data to figure out where police resources are needed and how to apply them, and keep engaging the community to keep and increase their trust in the police,” he said.
The city's approach goes beyond just responding to crime, seeking to prevent it in the first place. This work has taken different forms over decades. Now, New York City is the largest Cure Violence site in the country, with 18 communities where “violence interrupters,” as they are called, operate to work with high-risk individuals and diffuse conflict. It's a health-based approach, said Charles Ransford, director of science and policy at Cure Violence, looking at crime as a “problem of contagion.” “When you recognize that, you take those most exposed to violence...and work with them,” he said. “Police can only do so much. Policing matters but it's something that should be a last resort.”
Ransford said New York City is doing far more than other cities to prevent violence at the front end, and studies bear out the effectiveness of the approach. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center found that between 2014 and 2016, there was a 50 percent decrease in gun injuries in East New York, Brooklyn and a 37 percent reduction in the South Bronx, two communities where Cure Violence has been implemented. “We have to make sure that we look at the whole picture,” Ransford said. “This was a very deliberate decision and effort by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council together to take a chance on Cure Violence and fund it to such a level. They deserve a lot of credit for that.”
The administration and the Council together put $22.5 million towards the Cure Violence program in fiscal year 2017 through the newly created Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence, up from $12.7 million in fiscal year 2015.
City Council Member Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn said it was one of the things that New York City was doing differently in reducing crime, and credited the mayor for his support. “I think there are a variety of factors and I think there's not one answer to this...I think there's a better understanding that public safety is not just for the police and they can't be the only people responsible for all of the issues that lead to some of these crimes,” he said. In particular, he praised “how we're dealing with gun violence and the community approach that we've found to work, and actually putting money behind it, real money, that has always been missing...there was a real belief and real resources put behind it.”
Noting that numerous metrics were trending downwards -- murders, shootings, instances of officers firing their weapons, arrests, complaints against officers -- Williams said, “We need to continue in that direction. We need to make sure that we're continuing not to see summonses and arrests as the only way to deal with issues in communities.”
Williams did have some criticism for the administration and the police department, arguing that with regards to accountability and transparency, the city has stood still and even fallen behind. He noted, in particular, statute 50-a of the state civil rights code that protects officers' disciplinary records from public disclosure. The mayor has called for a repeal of the statute and he reiterated, when asked by Gotham Gazette on Friday, that it's one of his legislative priorities in Albany this year.
There are larger forces at work as well. Shifting demographics and gentrification have changed the face of neighborhoods across the city. The economy is riding a wave of unprecedented prosperity and unemployment is at an all-time low. “The number one thing that cuts violent crime arrests in half is a job,” said Williams, noting that the city has expanded the Summer Youth Employment Program in the past three years from roughly 25,000-30,000 slots to 70,000 slots. “I think [President] Donald Trump and [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions should look at what's happening in New York City and pay attention to what's happening here as opposed to pushing cockamamie ideas that take us backwards,” he added.
That crime has decreased as the administration moves towards full implementation of neighborhood policing is correlation without causation, as there is no measurable data on the program. De Blasio himself admits that his proof lies in anecdotal evidence. At a December 29 news conference, when asked how he quantified success, he said, “Because I've talked to so many neighborhood policing officers and community leaders who have given me numerous examples of information they've gotten that has helped them to fight crime and have made clear this was information they often didn't get in the past.” He acknowledged that his administration would have to release objective analyses of the program “to help people understand just how big an impact there has been.”
Police reform advocate Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, believes it's a dubious claim. “Crime was going down before quote-unquote neighborhood policing,” he said. “I don't see how [de Blasio] starts drawing this direct line between that and the reduction of crime. I don't believe it passes the smell test.”
Advocates like Griffith were vindicated when the city curtailed the unconstitutional and unchecked use of stop-and-frisk policing, proliferated under Bloomberg and Kelly, and crime continued to fall. De Blasio has also claimed validation, as he ran for mayor on a pledge to scale back stop-and-frisk and repair police-community relationships.
To Griffith and others, the continued drops in crime has been proof that aggressive policing does not work and that more police officers on the street is not the solution. “The police can no longer use this narrative of our neighborhoods being unruly and undisciplined and prone to violence as an excuse to use abusive policing,” Griffith said. “I think this is now the moment to see how we can have both worlds. We can have low crime and we can have an accountable police force that is not abusive, not discriminatory and is not aggressive.”