Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Excellent Analysis of #MS13 on Tonight's Episode of @FrontlinePBS - The Gang Crackdown

Given the inflammatory coverage the violent gang MS-13 receives on Fox News, which in turn disproportionately influences President Trump’s statements about immigration policy, it’s great to have the evenhanded reporting Frontline has done for its new edition titled The Gang Crackdown, premiering Tuesday on PBS. While making terrifyingly clear the horrible violence that MS-13 has inflicted upon innocent Americans, The Gang Crackdown also confirms what you might suspect: that the Trump administration policies to combat the gang’s real menace often make things more difficult for law-abiding people and has fostered racial animosity toward legal and illegal immigrants.

The hour-long documentary traces the Central American gang violence that is being exported to the U.S. in the form of MS-13, a vicious group that bullies young people into joining on the threat of death. Producer Marcela Gaviria focuses on Long Island, N.Y., which has been a particular target of gang violence and where MS-13 gang members occupy forested areas of Suffolk County. At least 25 dead bodies were found in that county in 2016, victims of gang violence, brutally killed with machetes and other weapons. Most of the dead are from local immigrant communities.

You’d think there’d be lots of concern for the victims and their families. Instead, right-wing media forces have seized upon the gang’s activities as a justification for all sorts of broad-brush, anti-immigration advocacy, calling for the deportation of people who have nothing to do with gang culture. Once Fox News talking heads like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity started inflating the size and scope of MS-13 out of all proportion, it was only a matter of time before avid Fox News watcher Donald Trump began invoking MS-13 as being essentially synonymous with illegal immigrants.

The Gang Crackdown profiles a couple of young people who were rounded up in anti-gang efforts by local police and government ICE agents. These youths were held in high-security prisons for months with no due process, no access to their lawyers, until their cases were examined. Some were ultimately freed for lack of evidence of gang involvement. The Frontline report makes clear that the Latino population on Long Island is being doubly wronged: victimized by MS-13 but also made hesitant of going to the police for protection, out of a fear of being suspected of illegal immigration status. Thanks to Frontline for crediting us with enough intelligence to recognize the evil of MS-13 without also obliging us to become rabid anti-immigrationists. Is it any wonder that Trump’s newly released budget proposal eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

Thanks to Ken Tucker.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Uniformed Law Enforcement Officer, from @TNWildlife, Refused Dinner with Wife by @Outback Steakhouse, Due to Police Hating Customer

The word “Outback” used to conjure images of Australia’s tenacious frontier spirit; of hunters, ranchers, and other adventurers who carved out a harsh existence from an unforgiving land. Thanks to a decades-long campaign to distance the island nation from certain elements of its rugged heritage and the proliferation of an Australian-themed casual dining restaurant chain, today the word “Outback” is more likely to bring to mind a 3,000 calorie deep-fried onion.

Despite its namesake and decor, culinary critics have long questioned whether Outback Steakhouse offers an authentic Down Under dining experience. However, these detractors should know that in recent years the chain has gone to great lengths to replicate for their guests Australia’s culture of civilian disarmament by prohibiting diners from carrying firearms onto the premises. This commitment to reproducing Australia’s defenseless society is so profound that earlier this month a uniformed law enforcement officer was asked to leave an Outback in Cleveland, Tenn. because he was armed.

The incident occurred when Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Officer Andrew Ward and his wife went to the restaurant for dinner. In a Facebook post, Ward explained,

I was approached by the manager and asked if I would put my gun in my truck. I let her know that I couldn’t because I was in uniform. She then went and made a call and came back and we were asked to leave because Outback is a gun free zone.

Rightfully disturbed by the encounter, Ward added,

What is this country coming to? A uniformed Law Enforcement Officer who is sworn to protect and serve the public, is refused service because they have a firearm! I am disgusted and have no other words!!!

In an update to his initial post, Ward noted that he was asked to leave after Outback management bent to the will of an unhinged customer. According to Ward, “There was another customer who was ‘scared for her life’… because ‘police are shooting people.’” Ward explained that “the customer went on to demand to be escorted to her vehicle out of fear of being shot.”

Given the decades of statistics showing the law-abiding character of Right-to-Carry permit holders, Outback’s gun free zone policy is foolish. However, that the company would cite their gun-free policy as justification to yield to the ravings of an unreasonable individual to the detriment of a uniformed law enforcement officer is radical.

There is a general consensus that uniformed and ununiformed current and former law enforcement officers should be allowed to carry a firearm for the public benefit. That is why in 2004 Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (LEOSA). Under LEOSA, current and former law enforcement officers who meet certain basic criteria, such as carrying qualified identification, are permitted to carry a firearm throughout the country.

Showing the strong bipartisan support for this measure, the original legislation, H.R. 218, had 297 co-sponsors in the House of Representative and passed the Senate unanimously. Subsequent changes that have been made to increase the number of officers able to take advantage of this protection have been similarly popular.

Sensing a growing public outrage, Outback reached out to the Wards and offered them a $100 gift card and an apology. Outback’s parent-company, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., issued a statement to Chattanooga’s WTVC that contended it is not company policy to prohibit law enforcement officers from carrying at their restaurants. The statement went on to blame the incident on the individual restaurant manager.

While the manager might have handled the situation better, Bloomin’ Brands shares some responsibility for creating the irrational gun free zone policy that the employee was forced to interpret. Outback Steakhouse ads have long carried the tagline “Outback: No Rules, Just Right.” In order to better reflect company values and bolster ongoing efforts at authenticity, we submit for consideration, “Outback: No Rights, Just Rules.”

Thanks to NRA.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons, Give the #Mafia their Street Tax or Else...

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, in collaboration the University of Manchester and the University of Gothenburg (Sweden),
have uncovered new evidence to suggest that the Sicilian mafia arose to notoriety in the 1800s in response to the public demand for citrus fruits.

Arguably one of the most infamous institutions in the Western world, the Sicilian mafia, first appeared in Sicily in the 1870s and soon infiltrated the economic and political spheres of Italy and the United States.

Dr Arcangelo Dimico, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School, and the research team hypothesized that the Sicilian mafia rose to power due to the high public demand for oranges and lemons following physician James Lind’s discovery in the late eighteenth century that citrus fruits could prevent and cure scurvy, due to their high levels of vitamin c.

Dr Dimico said: “Although outcomes of the mafia’s actions such as murders, bombings, and embezzlement of public money have been observed during the last 140 years, the reasons behind its emergence are still obscure.

The researchers used two unique data sets from Sicilian towns and districts gathered from a parliamentary inquiry conducted between 1881–1886 (Damiani 1886) and from 1900 (Cutrera 1900). They found that mafia presence in the 1880s is strongly associated with the prevalence of citrus cultivation.

Dr Dimico added: “Given Sicily’s dominant position in the international market for citrus fruits, the increase in demand resulted in a very large inflow of revenues to citrus-producing towns during the 1800s. Citrus trees can be cultivated only in areas that meet specific requirements, such as mild and constant temperature throughout the year and abundance of water, guaranteeing substantial profits to relatively few local producers.

“The combination of high profits, a weak rule of law, a low level of interpersonal trust, and a high level of local poverty made lemon producers a suitable target for predation, as there was little means to effectively enforce private property rights. Lemon producers, therefore, resorted to hiring mafia affiliates for private protection and to act as intermediaries between the retailers and exporters in the harbours.”

Until now the Sicilian mafia’s origins have always thought to have been a consequence of the weak institutional setting related to the failure of the feudal system present in Sicily and from the political instability in Italian history. However this research is the first piece of evidence to suggest that their rise to power was actually due to the boom in the economy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Towns Where Even the Police Fear to Tread #MexicanCartels

Jorge lives in an improvised campsite in Práxedis, a silent town in the north of Mexico where few cars or people venture out on the streets. He is a member of the state police force, sent in by the Chihuahua state governor to combat the terrifying rate of violent crime. It is the state police that now handle a substantial portion of law enforcement in the area.

The Valley of Juárez, a region of Chihuahua bordering the US, has been a war zone riddled with organized crime for the past 10 years, due to its location at the crossroads of the routes used by drug traffickers and people smugglers. “We’ve been here since 2015 – there were no local police left because they had either been killed or abducted,” says Jorge at the precinct. When he first arrived here, he felt as though he were driving through a ghost town. “People didn’t come out on the streets, but bit by bit things have gone back to normal,” he says.

Práxedis and Guadalupe belong to the Valley of Juárez, a region surrounded by desert that was previously a prosperous cotton-growing area. But since the drug traffickers moved in more than 10 years ago, the territory has been a battleground for the Sinaloa and La Línea cartels smuggling drugs and people across the inhospitable gulf dividing this part of Mexico from the US.

The violence was largely responsible for the high number of murders in the state of Chihuahua in 2010, when it racked up a historic 3,903. The murder rate dropped dramatically in 2013, and though it began to climb again after 2016, the death toll in 2017 was still less that half of that at 1,566. In the volatile years between 2007 and 2015, any local police officer who had escaped death or abduction simply fled.

Lourdes López explains how her son was “carried off” along with four other policemen in Práxedis in 2009. “That was nine years ago and there’s been no justice,” she says. Her son had never used a gun and was never trained to do so. “He wanted to be a policeman ever since he was a boy and he was a good person who didn’t deserve what he got,” says the 62-year- old mother, who left town several days after her son was seized.

Martín Hueramo, a former mayor of Guadalupe, says that the municipal police were not prepared for the situation they found themselves in. “Towns had to confront organized crime with unarmed police officers whose only experience was with minor offenses. Nine policemen were killed in Guadalupe in various shoot-outs, and three human heads were left in an icebox. It was a terrifying era,” says Hueramo, who was granted political asylum in Texas. In that period, the population of Guadalupe fell from 13,000 to 2,000, he adds, although it has since bounced back to 5,000.

The last municipal policeman to work in Guadalupe, Joaquín Hernández, was killed in July 2015 after being lured to a phony crime scene. The municipal police department there was among the most frequently attacked. Between 2007 and 2010, it often closed down completely. In December 2010, it was shut down definitively when its head, Erika Gándara was “carried off” by a criminal group who sought her out in her own home. She was the last police officer left in the precinct following the death, disappearance or resignation of her colleagues. In 2014, the police station reopened with Máximo Carrillo at the helm, but he was killed in June 2015. He was then replaced by Joaquín Hernández, who was killed only three weeks later.

The situation wasn’t much different in Práxedis. The last police officer in town was Marisol, a young 20-year-old criminology student who made international headlines as “The Bravest Woman in Mexico.” She lasted less than four months before death threats forced her to flee across the border into the US. After she’d gone, no one else offered to step up to the plate and the state police moved in on surveillance shifts.

To date, Guadalupe’s police precinct has no plans to reopen, according to the town council secretary, Fausto González Pérez. “It exposes people to danger,” he says. “If we issue a job notice, some courageous soul might come forward, but it’s a delicate matter.” The prison cells of the precinct are currently being used to store wine, and the money that once went towards the town’s security has been otherwise spent on sport and cultural activities. “These are difficult times,” says González Pérez. “Right now we are in a wilderness, but we are rebuilding the town.”

Chihuahua’s municipal police force is not equipped to deal with serious crime. A recent report in a Juárez newspaper reveals that there are towns such as Guachochi with 53 police officers but only 15  bulletproof vests. Meanwhile, in Rosales, there are 42 police officers without vests working on an average salary of $200 a month. The state government has had to intervene in as many as nine towns, either because the police are ill equipped or because the police department has become corrupt. Last year, in Ahumada, the director of Public Security, Carlos Alberto Duarte, and six of his men were arrested on criminal charges. Several months later, however, Duarte was back in his job.

Thanks to Cludad Juarez.