100,000 dead, 30,000 missing — Mexico’s war on drugs turns 10 years old

Ten years after Mexico declared a war on drugs, the offensive has left some major drug cartels splintered and many old-line kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in jail, but done little to reduce crime or violence in the nation’s roughest regions.

❝ Some say the war has been a crucial, but flawed, effort. Others argue the offensive begun by then-President Felipe Calderon on Dec. 11, 2006, unleashed an unnecessary tragedy with more than 100,000 people dead and about 30,000 missing – a toll comparable to the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.

In some places, homicide rates have lessened. In others, the killings continue unabated. The drawn-out conflict has also had a profound effect on those close to the cross-hairs of suffering: youths inured to extreme violence; adults so fed-up with poor and corrupt policing that they took up arms as vigilantes; and families who banded together in the face of authorities’ inability to find their vanished loved ones…

❝ Mexico’s armed forces have increasingly been pulled into the conflict because police forces are often corrupt or unreliable. That has had its own toll on the troops, who are frequently ambushed and accused of illegally executing detained cartel suspects in some cases.

Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos noted that the army’s involvement was only supposed to be temporary while policing was reformed.

“Ten years ago it was decided that the police should be rebuilt, and we still haven’t seen that reconstruction,” Cienfuegos said. “This isn’t something that can be solved with bullets. It requires other measures, and there has not been decisive action on budgets to make that happen.”…

❝ “Things are the same as far as crime,” said Hipolito Mora, the founder of one of the first “self-defense” militias. “The government has to do more to combat the corruption in itself. If they don’t do that, nothing is going to work. It is the corruption within the government that creates tolerance for organized crime.”…

Corruption, large and small, flourishes because it continues as part of the culture of the political rulers of Mexico. Public efforts to clean up even local government generally are little more than window dressing. There are exceptions. They are in spite of the national government – not because of aid from the government.

Black therapist shot by Florida police while helping autistic patient in the street


Charles Kinsey hands in the air, autistic patient has toy truckHilton Napoleon

Click photo to run the cellphone video

A black therapist in the US state of Florida trying to calm a man with autism in the middle of the street says he was shot by police, even though he had his hands in the air and repeatedly told them that both were unarmed.

The moments before the shooting on Monday were recorded on cellphone video, showing Charles Kinsey lying on the ground with his arms raised, talking to his patient and police throughout the standoff with officers, who appeared to have them surrounded.

As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking. They’re not going to shoot me,” he told WSVN-TV later from his hospital bed, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg.

“Wow, was I wrong.”

The shooting comes at a time of growing tensions and increased protests against the disproportionate number of African Americans killed by the police.

North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said on Thursday he had asked Florida state officials to lead the investigation into the shooting.

Eugene said officers responded to a 911 emergency call about an armed man threatening suicide, but the chief told reporters no gun was recovered at the scene.

Kinsey said he was trying to calm his 23-year-old patient who had run away from the group home where he works.

“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” Kinsey can be heard saying in the video, speaking of his patient, who was holding a toy. “That’s all it is. There is no need for guns.”

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from North Miami, said: “The video at that point goes black, but we are told that a police officer fired three rounds towards Kinsey, one of them striking him in his leg.”

Racism in America may have diminished very slightly over the decades since I was young. Excuses haven’t changed. Copouts – literally copouts – from police departments haven’t changed. It’s still OK for a cop to shoot an unarmed Black man in America. The odds continue to be overwhelming that he will get away with it.

So-called journalists, TV talking heads, politicians of every stripe will jostle each other in line to be certain the copper who did the shooting is treated “fairly”. And screw the victim. It will take that minority of Americans who resent our nation’s failure to provide an equal opportunity at staying alive – to gather a movement more concerned with justice than intellectual and ethical cowardice – to protest against our murderous bigotry.

She defied neo-Nazis at Swedish march until the police removed her

Tess Asplund
Click to enlargeDavid Lagerlöf/Expo/TT News Agency

The lone protest of a woman defying a march of 300 uniformed neo-Nazis is set to become an iconic image of resistance to the rise of the far-right in Scandinavia…A photograph of Tess Asplund, 42, with fist raised against the leadership of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) in Borlänge, central Sweden, on Sunday, May Day, has gone viral in the country.

“It was an impulse. I was so angry, I just went out into the street,” Asplund told the Guardian. “I was thinking: hell no, they can’t march here! I had this adrenaline. No Nazi is going to march here, it’s not okay.”

It’s not always clear or easy; but, the core existential value I have always tried to live by is that responsibility automatically, indelibly, irrevocably accrues to someone who recognizes a need. Sometimes, you need to stand up and risk everything for justice.

Tess Asplund is my kind of hero.

US gun violence is worse than we think


AFP via Getty Images

America is already known for leading the developed world in gun violence. But a new study finds the problem may be even worse than we think.

The study, from economists Jillian Carr and Jennifer Doleac, looked at new ShotSpotter data, which uses high-tech audio sensors to report gunshots, in Oakland, California, and Washington, DC. It found that only 12 percent of gunfire incidents resulted in a 911 call to report gunshots, and only 2 to 7 percent of incidents resulted in a reported assault with a dangerous weapon.

In other words, shootings are tremendously underreported in the US.

One catch to the research: ShotSpotter is likely picking up some false positives. Past evaluations have suggested the technology has anywhere from 50 to 97 percent accuracy, although Carr and Doleac acknowledge more rigorous research is necessary. But even if the low range is right, there would still be a lot of unreported shootings.

It’s also possible that many shootings go unreported because no one was injured or killed. It’s hard to imagine, after all, that a death went completely unnoticed, and Carr and Doleac note that homicide is reported to and by police “with near-accuracy.”…

Currently, crime research generally relies on surveys and crime reports from law enforcement. More specifically, the research tends to focus on reports for homicides, since homicide reports tend to have the most accurate data. Researchers use these data sources to try to evaluate the effects of certain policies — if crime reports went down after a policy was implemented, it’s presumed that the policy helped bring crime down (after some statistical checks).

But the ShotSpotter data suggests the traditional sources of crime research — the law enforcement reports — overlook a lot of crime. What’s more, Carr and Doleac suggest that a drop in reports of crime may just mean that people are reporting fewer crimes even as it continues happening. So researchers using the traditional sources may have been picking up how policies affect reports of crime, not necessarily crime itself…

Beyond the implications for policy research…at the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

Which is exactly the way folks with monomaniacal belief in guns as the righteous solution to everything from elections to divorce – would like things to stay.

Terrific dash-cam video

A woman was pulled over in Roselle, Illinois, this past January for driving under the influence of alcohol.

In case the cops didn’t see her swerving, they probably noticed her because there was a full-sized tree stuck in the hood of her car.

They released the dash-can video as a public service announcement.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Israeli politicians attack dissident soldiers who expose crimes against Palestinians

Yehuda Shaul was an infantryman in the Israeli army in Hebron during the second intifada. But in recent weeks, he and his group of veterans have been vilified by right-wing organizations and mainstream politicians in a public campaign against Israeli groups critical of their country’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon forbade serving Israeli military personnel from cooperating or meeting with representatives of Shaul’s group, Breaking the Silence (BTS). Education Minister Naftali Bennet issued a similar order to all public schools. And right-wing advocacy group Im Tirzu published a report accusing most Israeli human rights groups of being “foreign agents” because of the funding they receive from friendly states. That report was accompanied by a video and an advertising campaign accusing specific human rights activists of “defending terrorists” and “representing foreign interests.” Those named all received death threats after the ads.

A poll conducted by Channel 10 this weekend found that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis surveyed said they support outlawing BTS, with only 22 opposing such a move. Politicians of the right are not the only ones calling for action against Israeli human rights organizations. On Sunday, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, dedicated an entire press conference to attacking BTS, which he said has “crossed the line between [legitimate] criticism and subversion against the state of Israel…”

The silence that BTS has set out to break, according to Shaul, is Israeli society’s lack of awareness of the actions taken in its name by conscript soldiers serving in the West Bank and Gaza. The group has attempted to change that by collecting and disseminating firsthand accounts from soldiers about the actions taken by their units in the occupation…

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has worked to disrupt BTS’ activities abroad. Israel’s embassy in Germany managed to force cancellation of a scheduled exhibition by the group in Cologne; Israel failed to prevent a similar event in Switzerland…

BTS follows a long-standing tradition, dating back to the aftermath of Israel’s war of independence and the Palestinian Nakba, of Israeli military personnel publicizing accounts of their actions in uniform that have challenged official narratives. That testimony has always produced backlash, but an across-the-board attempt to silence them would traditionally have been deemed contrary to Israel’s democratic traditions.

Those democratic traditions disappeared alongside assumption of apartheid policies, racist and bigoted characterization of any Palestinian resistance to Israel’s colonial policies.

RTFA for details of the harassment of dissident Israeli soldiers. This may not be a surprise to some; but, regardless, it’s worth bringing the truth of “democratic” Israel’s undemocratic policies against Israelis as well as Palestinians into the light.

How can rape victims hope for justice when rape kits are routinely ignored

For decades, tens of thousands of boxes of DNA evidence that nurses meticulously gathered from the bodies and clothing of sex assault victims sat stacked in storage rooms, ignored. Later, this mountain of untested evidence would be known as the “rape kit backlog”.

As scrutiny of disregarded rape kits mounted, a portrait of a more difficult to tally sort emerged – rape kits police destroyed. As with the rape kit backlog, there is no national tally of the kits police destroyed. But increasingly, local media have published reports of police destroying rape kits in states as disparate as Utah, Kentucky and Colorado.

In some cases, police destroyed kits because they deemed allegations unfounded, alleged that victims didn’t cooperate or arrested suspects without the benefit of DNA. In others, victims never filed a police report and relinquished DNA to a group of anonymous rape kits known as non-reporting or “Jane Doe” evidence, collected in case they one day decide they can report…

In 2013, in Aurora, Colorado, police department workers derailed a prosecution when they destroyed a rape kit from a 2009 assault. The error was discovered when a detective got a hit on an offender DNA profile, went to pick up the rape kit and was told it no longer existed. Shortly thereafter, police stopped all evidence destruction while they investigated, and found workers destroyed evidence in 48 rape cases between 2011 and 2013…

In Kentucky, the state auditor discovered some police departments routinely destroyed rape kits after a year, even though the state had no statute of limitations for rape. The perpetrators could have been prosecuted as long as they were alive. He wouldn’t hazard a guess at how many kits had been destroyed by police….

“You may have a hit against the national DNA database, and when law enforcement or prosecutors are notified, [they] find out evidence has been destroyed,” said Kentucky state auditor Adam Edelen. “That’s a scandal – it’s a tragedy.”

Most state lawmakers, Rebecca Brown, policy director at the Innocence Project, said, fail to provide guidance on when to test and retain crime scene evidence, which in the case of a sexual assault is a rape kit.

RTFA for details of cases dropped, cases never carried to prosecution. There are lots of bureaucratic rationales around. A few are rolled out in the article. My feelings are a bit more abrupt. This crap has been going on for decades.

Cops don’t give a damn. The judicial system and prosecutors don’t give a damn. Our state legislators don’t give a damn. After all, it’s only women who are abused by the system which is supposed to be providing aid and comfort, justice to resolve what happened to them. And our society as a whole doesn’t give a damn, either.

No one will stand up and say that. But, the same number will not stand up and do anything about it either. I think any legislator who won’t fight to revise or repair useless evidence laws – especially as it applies to rape cases – should be replaced by someone with a conscience.

Americans, Black and white, get high. Who gets to do time?


Joe Posner/Vox

African Americans are hit much harder than any other racial or ethnic group by the war on drugs, even when there’s no evidence of significantly higher drug usage or sales. The most obvious disparity appears between white and black Americans: Both groups use and sell, according to some studies, illicit drugs at similar rates, but black people are roughly 2.6 times as likely to get arrested for drug crimes.

What’s behind the disparities? Sometimes, racism and the subconscious racial biases of law enforcement are major factors. But often, it’s a collision of socioeconomic trends and otherwise race-neutral policies. One example, from a Sentencing Project report released in February: “Socioeconomic inequality does lead people of color to disproportionately use and sell drugs outdoors, where they are more readily apprehended by police.”

These types of disparities cascade down through the war on drugs and the rest of the criminal justice system, leading to the racially divided results shown in the chart above.

Lazy-ass coppers picking low-hanging fruit. Or something like that.

Still doesn’t make for an equitable justice system.