Category Archives: Crime

Chart of the day: What makes us feel stressed


From Stress in America™: Coping with Change [open access]:

blog-stress

Another new report offers some meaningful insight into the reasons the White House is now occupied by the Orange Abomination.

Each of us suffers from stress to one degree or another, be it from our health, our family life, our friends, or any one the myriad factors at play in our lives.

But some stresses are more general, emotional themes at work in communities states, and nations.

And those external stresses and the anxieties we feel because of them, the ones held in common by so many,  offer a fertile medium for ideological contagion by folks skilled at manipulating fears and capitalizing on the mass anxieties they mobilize.

A new study from the American Psychological Association looks at the fears held in common, and the stressors they reveal are precoisely the fears Donald Trump aroused, mobilized, and exploited in his drive to win the Oval Office:

Two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) report Stress in America™: Coping with Change. [open access].

More than half of Americans (57 percent) say the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly half (49 percent) say the same about the outcome of the election, according to an APA poll conducted in January.

While Democrats were more likely than Republicans (72 percent vs. 26 percent) to report the outcome of the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress, a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared with 76 percent of Democrats.

“The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it,” said Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA’s executive director for professional practice . “We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”

Nordal also noted that while APA is seeing continued stress around politics, the survey also showed an increased number of people reporting that acts of terrorism, police violence toward minorities and personal safety are adding to their stress levels.

These results come on the heels of APA survey results released last fall that found 52 percent of Americans reported that the presidential election was a significant source of stress. That survey was conducted online in August 2016 among 3,511 adults 18+ living in the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of the APA. To better understand these political stressors and assess potential long-term effects, APA commissioned an additional survey, conducted online by Harris Poll in early January 2017, among 1,019 adults ages 18+ who reside in the U.S. , asking adults once again to rate the sources of their stress, including the political climate, the future of our nation and the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Between August 2016 and January 2017, the overall average reported stress level of Americans rose from 4.8 to 5.1, on a scale where 1 means little or no stress and 10 means a great deal of stress, according to the APA survey. This represents the first significant increase in the 10 years since the Stress in America survey began. At the same time, more Americans said that they experienced physical and emotional symptoms of stress in the prior month, health symptoms that the APA warns could have long-term consequences.

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Roman Polanski wants to come back to the U.S.


We are intimately connected with Roman Polanski, though we’ve we’ve only talked with the brilliant director once, and that was some years back when he was first trying to return to the country where he had served prison time for the statutory rape of a young woman a week before her 14th birthday.

There’s no question that it happened,. Polanski admitted it before the late Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, a peculiar character much like a smart Donald Trump in that he was obsessed with his own celebrity and deeply outraged anyone who dared criticize him.

Polanski’s able attorneys had negotiated a plea agreement with the judge, the District Attorney’s office, and the parents of the young woman, but the judge backed out after the director had served the agreed-upon time.

The reason he backed out: He was getting criticism from the wives of the members of the exclusive Hillcrest Country Club, where he spent much of the time he wasn’t serving on the bench.

We know this because he told us.

Just as personal ego is no basis for running a country, it’s no basis for running a courtroom either.

And now the only person who seemed to want Polanski to be exposed to the criminal justice system again is the elected Los Angeles County District Attorney.

It’s certainly not the woman at the center of the case, who has explicitly and repeatedly said she wants Polanski to be left alone.

From TMZ:

Roman Polanski will make a move next week to return to the U.S. and end his child rape case for good, without serving additional jail time.

Polanski’s famed lawyer, Harland Braun, has asked an L.A. County Superior Court judge to unseal a long-secret transcript of the testimony of the prosecutor in the Polanski case.

Braun believes the secret testimony supports Polanski’s claim that he cut a deal to serve only 48 days behind bars for raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, and the judge signed off.

Polanski actually spent 42 days in Chino State Prison and was released. But Judge Laurence Rittenband allegedly reneged on the deal and told prosecutors he decided Polanski should spend up to 50 years in prison. That’s when Polanski fled the U.S. for Europe.

Polanski spent another 334 days in custody in Switzerland, while authorities tried to extradite him back to the U.S. A Polish court ruled Polanski has served his time under the plea deal, and now Braun wants the L.A. judge to honor that ruling.

For more on the case and Rittenband’s madness, see Marina Zenovich’s superb documentary, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired, in which we happen to be featured, both on- and off-camera.

And by all means, see our extensive posts on the case.

Study: Immigration not linked to higher crime


To hear Donald Trump tell it, we’re all in peril from hordes of immigrants who want to rape, rob, and bomb us.

And while some undoubtedly do, a new study reveals that immigrants. the reality is that immigrant increases don’t lead to higher crime rates, debunking the lies leading to hysteria that characterized the recent election.

From the State University of New York at Buffalo:

Political discussions about immigrants often include the claim that there is a relationship between immigration patterns and increased crime. However, results of a University at Buffalo-led study find no links between the two. In fact, immigration actually appears to be linked to reductions in some types of crimes, according to the findings.

“Our research shows strong and stable evidence that, on average, across U.S. metropolitan areas crime and immigration are not linked,” said Robert Adelman, an associate professor of sociology at UB and the paper’s lead author. “The results show that immigration does not increase assaults and, in fact, robberies, burglaries, larceny, and murder are lower in places where immigration levels are higher.

“The results are very clear.”

Adelman’s study with Lesley Williams Reid, University of Alabama; Gail Markle, Kennesaw State University; Charles Jaret, Georgia State University; and Saskia Weiss, an independent scholar, is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice [a whopping $42 to read — esnl].

“Facts are critical in the current political environment,” said Adelman. “The empirical evidence in this study and other related research shows little support for the notion that more immigrants lead to more crime.”

Previous research, based on arrest and offense data, has shown that, overall, foreign-born individuals are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, according to Adelman.

For the current study, the authors stepped back from the study of individual immigrants and instead explored whether larger scale immigration patterns in communities could be tied to increases in crime due to changes in cities, such as fewer economic opportunities or the claim that immigrants displace domestic workers from jobs.

The authors drew a sample of 200 metropolitan areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau and used census data and uniform crime reporting data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a 40-year period from 1970 to 2010.

“This is a study across time and across place and the evidence is clear,” said Adelman. “We are not claiming that immigrants are never involved in crime. What we are explaining is that communities experiencing demographic change driven by immigration patterns do not experience significant increases in any of the kinds of crime we examined. And in many cases, crime was either stable or actually declined in communities that incorporated many immigrants.”

Adelman says the relationship between immigration and crime is complex and more research needs to be done, but this research supports other scholarly conclusions that immigrants, on the whole, have a positive effect on American social and economic life.

“It’s important to base our public policies on facts and evidence rather than ideologies and baseless claims that demonize particular segments of the U.S. population without any facts to back them up,” said Adelman.

Panama Papers law firm founders arrested


Once in a while a single event provides a juncture between two ongoing stories we’ve been following.

First up, the legislative coup that ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the subsequent criminal indictments filed against the coup participants as the result of a massive bribery investigation.

The second story is the Panama Papers leaks, the documents proving the existence of and participants in a vast network of “black flag” operation concealing a great deal of the planet’s wealth.

From teleSUR English:

The two founders of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were arrested on Saturday, the attorney general’s office said, after both were indicted on charges of money-laundering in a case allegedly tied to a wide-ranging corruption scandal in Brazil.

Firm founders Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca were detained because of the risk they might try to flee the country.

Attorney General Kenia Porcell told reporters on Saturday that the information collected so far “allegedly identifies the Panamanian firm as a criminal organization that is dedicated to hiding assets or money from suspicious origins.”

Mossack Fonseca is also at the center of a separate case known as the Panama Papers, which involved millions of documents stolen from the firm and leaked to the media in April 2016.

The fallout from the leaks provoked a global scandal after numerous documents detailed how the rich and powerful used offshore corporations to hide money and potentially evade taxes.

Fonseca, a former presidential adviser in Panama, has previously denied that the firm had any connection to Brazilian engineering company Odebrecht, which has admitted to bribing officials in Panama and other countries to obtain government contracts in the region between 2010 and 2014.

Will Trump’s National Security Advisor depart?


Before he became National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn had been a controversial figure. Under Barack Obama he had served as the country’s top military spook, right up until he was canned for inflammatory Islamophobic prouncements.

But mere vulgar blatherings were no big deal to a man known for making a few himself. Indeed, they became valuable assets.

Back in November, after Trump’s win, CNN reported:

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has been asked to serve as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, has, on his verified Twitter account, interacted with far right and anti-Semitic figures, maligned the Muslim faith, and shared unfounded news stories.

A CNN KFile review of Flynn’s Twitter account finds that the retired lieutenant general, who once served as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, tweeted routinely with members of the so-called alt-right movement, going so far as to endorse a book by one controversial figure who regularly makes offensive comments.

Flynn faced criticism in July when he retweeted an anti-Semitic message. Flynn said the retweet was an accident and deleted the message.

Has Flynn crossed over a line in the sand?

Maybe, but it’s more likely Flynn is headed to the altar of Trumpism as a sacrificial lamb.

The reason?

Allegations of secret per-inauguration talks with the Kremlin.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

A top White House aide sidestepped repeated chances Sunday to publicly defend embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports that he engaged in conversations with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions before Trump’s inauguration.

The uncertainty comes as Trump is dealing with North Korea’s apparent first missile launch of the year and his presidency, along with visits this week from the leaders of Israel and Canada.

Trump has yet to comment on the allegations against Flynn, and a top aide dispatched to represent the administration on the Sunday news shows skirted questions on the topic, saying it was not his place to weigh in on the “sensitive matter.”

Pressed repeatedly, top policy adviser Stephen Miller said it wasn’t up to him to say whether the president retains confidence in Flynn.

“It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the president’s mind,” he said on NBC. “That’s a question for the president.”

But wait, there’s some context to consider

Compared to Richard Nixon’s track record, pre-election talks with Russia amount to chump change.

Consider Tricky Dick and H.R. Haldeman, his soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff.

Nixon and his 1968 campaign allies conducted secret negotiations with a nation the U.S. were currently fighting on the battlefield, actively pushing the North Vietnamese government to hold off on peace talks until after the election.

Nixon then campaigned as the peace candidate against then-Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey, promising he had a secret plan to end what was proving to be an ever costlier and bloodier morass, with most of the rest of the world aligned against the U.S. government’s relentless pursuit of an unwinnable and morally reprehensible desire to impose its will and control over an Asian nation.

The secret talks with Hanoi were rumored but unreported during Nixon’s subsequent impeachment hearings.

Haldeman ended up doing time in federal prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, stemming from the coverup of a secret funding-and-bugging operation to ensure a Nixon reelection win four years later the Hanoi talks.

Talk about your interfering with a presidential.

So in that context, Flynn’s alleged talks with the Kremlin on behalf of an already openly Putin-friendly candidate, while illegal and possibly criminal, didn’t cost additional U.S. citizens their lives, as did Nixon’s push to delay peace talks.

Trump’s new orders aim to criminalize protest


We are not surprised, given his growing and deep unpoularity.

From MintPress News:

Executive orders signed by President Donald Trump set in motion an agenda for escalating the criminalization of citizens, who engage in protest. This agenda will likely have a disproportionate impact on Black Lives Matter activists, immigrant rights activists, and Native Americans engaged in protest against pipeline projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The executive order aimed at “preventing violence” against police officers calls for a review of existing laws. Following the review, recommendations are to be made to Trump for legislation to protect the safety of police.

“If warranted,” the review may propose “legislation defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes.”

Such legislation would be particularly useful for law enforcement interested in suppressing dissent against police brutality and direct action in general.

It also would fit into a trend developing as a result of Republican lawmakers, who have introduced anti-protesting legislation in several states. This includes making it a felony punishable up to five years to march on highways and increasing penalties for individuals who “obstruct” oil and gas equipment during environmental protests.

Massive deportation raids sweep the country


The courts may have barred his “no entry” scheme, but that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from rounding up immigrants already in the U.S.

Hundreds of folks learned that Friday.

From the Independent:

“Panic” and “terror” is said to be running through immigrant communities in the US following raids carried out across at least six states as part of Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented migrants in the first large-scale enforcement of Mr Trump’s executive order to take action against the estimated 11 million people living illegally in the US.

Raids took place this week in and around New York, Los Angeles, North Carolina, South Carolina, Atlanta and Chicago, immigration officials confirmed – with more than a third of those detained in the Los Angeles area being deported to Mexico.

Officials said the raids targeted known criminals but reports from immigrant rights groups claim that law-abiding citizens were also targeted in a departure from Obama-era crackdowns which focused solely on law-breaking illegal “aliens”.