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Archive for August 14th, 2014

Salt Lake City police chief explains how to handle tense situations

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Defuse them rather than escalate them. Makes sense, eh? From Radley Balko’s column:

. . . One active police chief who has adopted a less reactionary approach was Chris Burbank in Salt Lake City. I profiled Burbank last fall for the Huffington Post. Here’s what happened when the Salt Lake city council told Burbank he’d have to remove the Occupy protesters from the park where they had been encamped.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, 46, was in charge of the eviction. But Burbank took a decidedly different approach from his counterparts in other cities who used aggressive, confrontational measures to oust their own Occupy encampments.

Burbank showed up at the camp and talked to the protesters, in some cases one on one. He explained that they’d need to start leaving the park at night, although they could come back during the day. He said that when the time came for them leave, they could do so peacefully, or they could choose to be arrested. He even asked them how they’d like their arrests to take place, in case they wanted the TV and newspaper cameras to photograph them giving themselves up for their cause . . .

When it came time to evict the Occupy protesters in Pioneer Park, then, Burbank and his officers wore their standard, everyday uniforms, not riot gear, as police units in other cities had. Burbank also made sure he was first on the scene — that the first person the protesters saw was the one with whom they had already had a conversation.

Most of the 200 protesters left voluntarily. Some took advantage of Burbank’s offer to have his officers help with their belongings. Nineteen chose to be arrested. There was no violence, no rioting and little anger. And so as images of violent clashes between Occupiers and police in other cities made headlines across the country, in Utah, some Occupiers even praised Burbank for the way he had handled their eviction. It’s one reason why the Salt Lake Tribune named Burbank its 2011 “Utahn of the Year.”

“I just don’t like the riot gear,” Burbank says. “Some say not using it exposes my officers to a little bit more risk. That could be, but risk is part of the job. I’m just convinced that when we don riot gear, it says ‘throw rocks and bottles at us.’ It invites confrontation. Two-way communication and cooperation are what’s important. If one side overreacts, then it all falls apart.”

Burbank also dismisses the idea that his approach could only work in a smaller city like Salt Lake. “I think it should be applied everywhere. That’s exactly how we as a nation should approach these events. We should approach it asking, ‘How can we best facilitate these people’s free speech?’ Putting them nine miles away from whatever they’re protesting doesn’t allow them to get their message across.

“Doing it this way takes extra time, and sometimes you take a little criticism from your officers,” he says. “But if my officers feel unsafe, that’s when it’s my responsibility as chief to show up personally.”

Burbank’s approach is far from common, but there are at least some other police officials who share his philosophy. One of them is former Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief David Couper.

Since the days of the the labor and civil rights movements and through the era of the protests against the war in Vietnam, we seem to have learned very little about the best way for government officials to respond to those who disagree with them.

This is a sad situation in a country such as ours which professes the values of freedom and justice that it does . . .

In a democracy, police have a very complex role compared to what is expected of the police in other systems. The power of the state must be balanced with the rights of an individual; other systems have no balance requirement—only to use the power given them by the state. Uniquely, police in a democracy don’t exist solely to maintain order on behalf of the state, but also to assure that the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen are protected in the process. “This is never more evident as when a totalitarian state responds to public protest. In this instance, the goal of the police is to prevent or repress, not facilitate, protest. We see that in today in Syria, China, and other less-than-democratic governments. In these instances, the very act of disagreeing with the government is illegal and subject to police action . . .

Early in my police career, I began to re-think the role of police and protest after I had witnessed and participated in too many that had gone wrong.

I was beginning to see that proximity mattered, being close was safe—just like on the beat. Get close, talk, stay in contact. The further the police positioned themselves from people in the crowd, the greater the chance the crowd would depersonalize them; to see them as objects and not people. Therefore, getting closer to the people, whether in managing crowds or patrolling neighborhoods on foot, seemed to be a good basic strategy that needed to be experimented with.

So, that’s what I did when I came to Madison. For over 20 years, we in Madison responded to anti-war rallies, civil rights demonstrations, student block parties, and other mass gatherings without substantial incident. How did that happen? We developed what today is being called the “soft approach” (see the recent work of Dr. Clifford Stott at the University of Liverpool). What Stott and others found is that dialogue and liaison are effective police strategies in crowd situations because they allowed for an on-going risk assessment that improved command-level decision-making. Using this strategy, there was a better outcome because it also encouraged ‘self-regulation’ in the crowd and thus forestalled the use of unnecessary force by police during moments of tension.

Geron also emphasizes personalization, pointing out that when police show up in full riot garb, especially gear that covers their faces, they dehumanize themselves to protesters. This is especially dangerous when the protests are against the police themselves, as was the case in Ferguson. “You make all of your officers look  like one another. To the protesters, to the people, your officers are no longer individual human beings with faces. You’ve just made each of them a faceless symbol of the police institution that the protesters are reacting against.”

The police in Ferguson are almost a textbook example of how not to react to protest. “When you start by rolling out the the SWAT team, and you then position a sniper on top of an APC with his gun pointed at the protesters, what kind of message are you sending? Did they really expect the sniper would need to start shooting people? It was just a show of force,” Geron says. He adds that it’s particularly important for police leaders to prepare their officers when the protests are aimed at police, and to stress the importance of separating themselves from criticism directed at the agency, or at policing in general. “It’s a crucial conversation that you need to have with your commanders and your officers. And you have to expect that they won’t get it at first. You have to tell them that it isn’t personal ‘They’re going to be critical of us. They may yell at us. But that’s okay. That’s their right. And our job is to protect their rights.’” . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Police action in Ferguson last night

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The police ordered all TV crews to leave the scene—quite obviously because the police did not want a record of what they were about to do. But KARG Argus Radio stayed with a camera and recorded what looks very much like a police attack on angry but peaceful protesters. This is amazing footage, taken in Ferguson MO last night:

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Overeating on carbs vs. Overeating on LCHF

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Interesting article at DietDoctor.com:

Sam Feltham carried out an experiment a few months ago that caught a lot of attention. For three weeks he pigged out on low-carb LCHF foods, 5,800 calories a day.

According to simplistic calorie counting, Feltham should have gained 16 lbs (7.3 kg). But in reality, he only gained less than 3 lbs (1.3 kg).

Now Feltham has repeated his experiment with exactly the same amount of calories, but from carbohydrate-rich junk food. On the same amount of calories he gained more than five times as much weight: almost 16 lbs (7.1 kg)!

The difference in waist circumference was even more significant: 5,800 calories of LCHF food for three weeks reduced his waist measurement by 1 1/4 inches (3 cm). The same amount of junk food led to a 3 1/2 inch (9.25 cm) increase in his waist. And you can see the difference visually. . .

Continue reading. Photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 9:56 am

Diesel fuel used in fracking: Goodbye drinking water….

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The biggest lawbreakers in this country are large corporations, and they seem immune to prosecution. Naveena Sadasivam reports for ProPublica:

A new report charges that several oil and gas companies have been illegally using diesel fuel in their hydraulic fracturing operations, and then doctoring records to hide violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report, published this week by the Environmental Integrity Project, found that between 2010 and July 2014 at least 351 wells were fracked by 33 different companies using diesel fuels without a permit. The Integrity Project, an environmental organization based in Washington, D.C., said it used the industry-backed database, FracFocus, to identify violations and to determine the records had been retroactively amended by the companies to erase the evidence.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires drilling companies to obtain permits when they intend to use diesel fuel in their fracking operations. As well, the companies are obligated to notify nearby landowners of their activity, report the chemical and physical characteristics of the fluids used, conduct water quality tests before and after drilling, and test the integrity of well structures to ensure they can withstand high injection pressures. Diesel fuel contains a high concentration of carcinogenic chemicals including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and they disperse easily in groundwater.

FracFocus is an online registry that allows companies to list the chemicals they use during fracking. At least 10 states, including Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, mandate the use of the website for such disclosures.

The report asserts that the industry data shows that the companies admitted using diesel without the proper permits. The Integrity Project’s analysis, the report said, then showed that in some 30 percent of those cases, the companies later removed the information about their diesel use from the database. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 9:51 am

Very good long-read interview with Edward Snowden

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Wired has an excellent article about a long interview of Edward Snowden by an unnamed reporter (no credit line that I could find). It begins:

THE MESSAGE ARRIVES on my “clean machine,” a MacBook Air loaded only with a sophisticated encryption package. “Change in plans,” my contact says. “Be in the lobby of the Hotel ______ by 1 pm. Bring a book and wait for ES to find you.”

ES is Edward Snowden, the most wanted man in the world. For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting. Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs? In May I received an email from his lawyer, ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, confirming that Snowden would meet me in Moscow and let me hang out and chat with him for what turned out to be three solid days over several weeks. It is the most time that any journalist has been allowed to spend with him since he arrived in Russia in June 2013. But the finer details of the rendezvous remain shrouded in mystery. I landed in Moscow without knowing precisely where or when Snowden and I would actually meet. Now, at last, the details are set.

I am staying at the Hotel Metropol, a whimsical sand-colored monument to pre-revolutionary art nouveau. Built during the time of Czar Nicholas II, it later became the Second House of the Soviets after the Bolsheviks took over in 1917. In the restaurant, Lenin would harangue his followers in a greatcoat and Kirza high boots. Now his image adorns a large plaque on the exterior of the hotel, appropriately facing away from the symbols of the new Russia on the next block—Bentley and Ferrari dealerships and luxury jewelers like Harry Winston and Chopard.

I’ve had several occasions to stay at the Metropol during my three decades as an investigative journalist. I stayed here 20 years ago when I interviewed Victor Cherkashin, the senior KGB officer who oversaw American spies such as Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. And I stayed here again in 1995, during the Russian war in Chechnya, when I met with Yuri Modin, the Soviet agent who ran Britain’s notorious Cambridge Five spy ring. When Snowden fled to Russia after stealing the largest cache of secrets in American history, some in Washington accused him of being another link in this chain of Russian agents. But as far as I can tell, it is a charge with no valid evidence.

I confess to feeling some kinship with Snowden. Like him, I was assigned to a National Security Agency unit in Hawaii—in my case, as part of three years of active duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Then, as a reservist in law school, I blew the whistle on the NSA when I stumbled across a program that involved illegally eavesdropping on US citizens. I testified about the program in a closed hearing before the Church Committee, the congressional investigation that led to sweeping reforms of US intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Finally, after graduation, I decided to write the first book about the NSA. At several points I was threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act, the same 1917 law under which Snowden is charged (in my case those threats had no basis and were never carried out). Since then I have written two more books about the NSA, as well as numerous magazine articles (including two previous cover stories about the NSA for WIRED), book reviews, op-eds, and documentaries.

But in all my work, I’ve never run across anyone quite like Snowden. He is a uniquely postmodern breed of whistle-blower. Physically, very few people have seen him since he disappeared into Moscow’s airport complex last June. But he has nevertheless maintained a presence on the world stage—not only as a man without a country but as a man without a body. When being interviewed at the South by Southwest conference or receiving humanitarian awards, his disembodied image smiles down from jumbotron screens. For an interview at the TED conference in March, he went a step further—a small screen bearing a live image of his face was placed on two leg-like poles attached vertically to remotely controlled wheels, giving him the ability to “walk” around the event, talk to people, and even pose for selfies with them. The spectacle suggests a sort of Big Brother in reverse: Orwell’s Winston Smith, the low-ranking party functionary, suddenly dominating telescreens throughout Oceania with messages promoting encryption and denouncing encroachments on privacy.

Of course, Snowden is still very cautious about arranging face-to-face meetings, and I am reminded why when, preparing for our interview, I read a recent Washington Post report. The story, by Greg Miller, recounts daily meetings with senior officials from the FBI, CIA, and State Department, all desperately trying to come up with ways to capture Snowden. One official told Miller: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 9:45 am

Posted in NSA

The militarization of America’s police forces

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Although I am directing my attention to positive stories, I cannot ignore the events in Ferguson MO that provide an excellent example of the transition of community police forces to what is in effect military occupation forces—particularly true in Ferguson, where the police are not part of the community at all.

Rather than a series of posts, I’m including here some links to stories that I found informative.

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery gives an account of his arrest (without cause) in Ferguson. It’s interesting that police officers there conceal their badge numbers and will not give their names—one even wore a mask. Shame? Knowledge that they are breaking the law? It’s a brief article and worth reading for a specific instance of police behavior.

The Post has another article on the general topic of recording police officers as they work in public. That article notes:

There’s also a growing movement in the United States to have on-duty officers use body cameras to record their interactions with the public. Police officers in Rialto, Calif., started wearing cameras in February 2012. The result? The volume of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous year, and use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent, according to the New York Times. The tactic adds an extra layer of accountability on police actions and creates a record that officers can fall back on if their account differs from that of an arrestee. [Body cameras seem much more useful than tanks—and much less expensive as well. – LG]

Other jurisdictions have also started using cameras on officers. Police in Laurel, Md., started using them last summer. Not long after that, a federal judge ordered police officers in some New York precincts to use bodycams to monitor how they were enforcing the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk program — something then-mayor Michael Bloomberg opposed, even though he was generally in favor of increased surveillance elsewhere.

Even the American Civil Liberties Union, which typically raises the alarm over practices that potentially infringe on privacy, has endorsed the idea. “Although we generally take a dim view of the proliferation of surveillance cameras in American life, police on-body cameras are different because of their potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers,” the group argued in a position paper released last fall.

James Fallows has an excellent post in the Atlantic:Turning Policemen Into Soldiers, the Culmination of a Long Trend.” It’s well worth reading and includes photos of small-town police forces with their new tanks and IED-resistant vehicles. From his post:

1) The Book on this topic: Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko. It came out a year ago and is more timely now than ever.

2) “Lockdown Nation,” a Peter Moskos review of Balko’s book last year in PS magazine.

3) “How the War on Terror Has Militarized the Police,” an Atlantic dispatch by Arthur Rizer and Joseph Hartman three years ago.

The New Yorker has two excellent articles: one is a first-person report by Jelani Cobb, “What I Saw in Ferguson,” and the other is a long article by Sarah Stillman, “Taken,” on police abuse of civil forfeiture, which allows them simply to take your possessions even if you’ve not been charged with a crime: they simply seize your car or your house or your savings. Needless to say, this tactic is never used against people with any power: it is focused on the poor and powerless. The article is well worth reading.

At The Intercept Glenn Greenwald has a lengthy summary article. In the article, he describes the incident in which two reporters working from a MacDonald’s were arrested in Ferguson:

Reilly, on Facebook, recounted how he was arrested by “a Saint Louis County police officer in full riot gear, who refused to identify himself despite my repeated requests, purposefully banged my head against the window on the way out and sarcastically apologized.” He wrote: ”I’m fine. But if this is the way these officers treat a white reporter working on a laptop who moved a little too slowly for their liking, I can’t imagine how horribly they treat others.” He added: “And if anyone thinks that the militarization of our police force isn’t a huge issue in this country, I’ve got a story to tell you.”

And he notes that some police departments resist militarization:

In June, the ACLU published a crucial 96-page report on this problem, entitled “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” Its central point: “the United States today has become excessively militarized, mainly through federal programs that create incentives for state and local police to use unnecessarily aggressive weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield.”

The report documents how the Drug War and (Clinton/Biden) 1990s crime bills laid the groundwork for police militarization, but the virtually unlimited flow of “homeland security” money after 9/11 all but forced police departments to purchase battlefield equipment and other military paraphernalia whether they wanted them or not.  Unsurprisingly, like the War on Drugs and police abuse generally, “the use of paramilitary weapons and tactics primarily impacted people of color.”

Some police departments eagerly militarize, but many recognize the dangers. Salt Lake City police chief Chris Burbank is quoted in the ACLU report: “We’re not the military. Nor should we look like an invading force coming in.” A 2011 Los Angeles Times article, noting that “federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security,” described how local police departments receive so much homeland security money from the U.S. government that they end up forced to buy battlefield equipment they know they do not need: from armored vehicles to Zodiac boats with side-scan sonar.

Finally, Matthew Harwood reports at TomDispatch.com: “To Terrify and Occupy: How the Excessive Militarization of the Police is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents.” That article begins:

Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 pm on May 27th, the intruders arrived. Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders.  They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic.  He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The intruders, however, weren’t small-time crooks looking to make a small score. Rather they were members of the Tampa Bay Police Department’s SWAT team, which was executing a search warrant on suspicion that Westcott and his partner were marijuana dealers. They had been tipped off by a confidential informant, whom they drove to Westcott’s home four times between February and May to purchase small amounts of marijuana, at $20-$60 a pop. The informer notified police that he saw two handguns in the home, which was why the Tampa Bay police deployed a SWAT team to execute the search warrant.

In the end, the same police department that told Westcott to protect his home with defensive force killed him when he did. After searching his small rental, the cops indeed found weed, two dollars’ worth, and one legal handgun — the one he was clutching when the bullets ripped into him.

Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.

The War on Your Doorstep

The cancer of militarized policing has long been metastasizing in the body politic.  It has been growing ever stronger since the first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were born in the 1960s in response to that decade’s turbulent mix of riots, disturbances, and senseless violence like Charles Whitman’s infamous clock-tower rampage in Austin, Texas.

While SWAT isn’t the only indicator that the militarization of American policing is increasing, it is the most recognizable. The proliferation of SWAT teams across the country and their paramilitary tactics have spread a violent form of policing designed for the extraordinary but in these years made ordinary. When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphiaand Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide.  Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.

Nearly a half-century later, that’s no longer true.

In 1984, according to Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it’s still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.

As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.

Upping the Racial Profiling Ante

In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.

Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime. In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort. In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.

On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. . .

Continue reading.

The militarization of the police is ominous. It must be stopped.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 9:02 am

Mr. Pomp and Dr. Selby

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SOTD 14 Aug 2014

Another BBS shave, though not totally unexpected, given the razor. In the foreground of the photo is a little 3-LED flashlight on a keychain: quite bright and a freebie included with my latest order from BullgooseShaving.com—the order that brought me the After Shaving Milk.

But to begin: Mr. Pomp turns out to be a very good brush indeed, and with Dr. Selby’s 3x Concentrated Shaving Cream—as solid as most soaps—I got an extremely good lather with no effort. Three passes of the iKon slant holding a Personna Lab Blue blade (a brand I favor for this razor) left my face perfectly smooth—total BBS—and with nary a nick.

A small dab of After Shaving Milk—and I do like the fragrance—and we cautiously approach the weekend.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2014 at 8:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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