Police identify victims in deadly Maryland newspaper shooting – BY JOHN BOWDEN – 06/28/18 10:47 PM EDT


Police in Maryland have identified the five newspaper employees killed during a shooting at an Annapolis newsroom on Thursday.

Acting Anne Arundel County Police Chief William Krampf told reporters at a press conference on Thursday night that the families of the slain employees had been notified by police.

Police identified the shooting victims as assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, editor and reporter John McNamara, special publications editor Wendi Winters and sales assistant Rebecca Smith.

Several others were wounded in the shooting and were transferred to area hospitals, according to police.

The brother of one victim, Rob Hiassen, wrote on Facebook that he was “devastated” to hear about his brother’s death, calling him a “gifted” journalist.

“Rob was an editor and columnist at the paper, and one of the most gentle and funny people I’ve ever known. He spent his whole gifted career as a journalist, and he believed profoundly in the craft and mission of serving the public’s right to know the news,” Carl Hiassen wrote on Facebook.

The Baltimore Sun, which owns the Capital Gazette, published stories honoring each victim on Thursday evening.

Police have not publicly confirmed the identity of the suspected shooter, who is in custody and being interviewed by authorities. During an earlier press conference, Krampf merely described the suspect as a while male in his late 30s.

However, multiple media reports have identified the suspected shooter as 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos, a resident of Laurel, Md.,

Ramos previously sued the newspaper for defamation in 2012 after it published an article reporting on Ramos’s conviction for criminal harassment, but a judge threw out the defamation case.

A report on the trial in the Capital Gazette noted that Ramos attempted to represent himself, but failed to impress a judge who wrote that his lawsuit showed a lack of understanding of defamation law.

“A lawyer would almost certainly have told him not to proceed with this case,” the court wrote in the opinion, according to the Gazette. “It reveals a fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not.”

San Diego Has Gotten Hundreds of People Off the Streets. Now for the Really Hard Part. – Matt Tinoco Jun. 28, 2018


“We need to be talking about the lack of places to go.”

Inside the largest of three tents set up to provide temporary shelter to homeless residents of San Diego.Matt Tinoco/Mother Jones

As the summer of 2017 drew to a close, a hepatitis A outbreak forced San Diego officials to confront the reality that their efforts to address the region’s homelessness crisis were failing. Street encampments concentrated in the city’s downtown area had become like a petri dish for the virus, which is spread by contaminated feces. Twenty people died and hundreds were hospitalized, at a cost of at least $12.5 million.

To stop the outbreak and to prevent another, the San Diego city council, at the urging of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, got aggressive about public health conditions on the streets. Besides dispatching the sanitation department to scrub the sidewalks with bleach, the city council authorized spending $6.5 million to erect three semi-permanent tent shelters where homeless people could bed down in safe and sanitary conditions.

This article is part of the SF Homeless Project, a collaboration between nearly 70 media organizations to explore the state of homelessness in San Francisco and potential solutions.

Within months, giant tents sprung up in the shadow of a downtown skyline increasingly defined by shiny glass towers of condominiums. Such a move was unprecedented in a West Coast city, where the number of unsheltered homeless people grew by 23 percent over the past two years. Though Oakland, Santa Barbara, and Seattle have built “sanctioned” homeless camps that provide basic services like trash pickup, San Diego’s tents are a departure from those questionably effective strategies. San Francisco’s Navigation Centers use a similar approach, but are based in permanent buildings instead of tents, their capacity limited by the city’s byzantine planning process.

The largest of the tents provides shelter for 325 people and about 70 of their canine companions. “These people are safe, and they have access to healthcare,” says Bob McElroy, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Alpha Project, which runs the tent. “Neither of those things happen if someone is sleeping on the sidewalk.” Built on a 50- by 310- foot parking lot, the Alpha Project tent and its surrounding site include bathrooms, showers, laundry machines, storage for resident’s belongings, and office-trailers for mental health and substance abuse counselors.

Technically, the tents are “bridge housing.” They’re intended as a temporary stop for homeless residents while they secure permanent housing. Besides being clean and safe, they also make it easier for on-site service providers to develop more effective and consistent relationships with the residents. McElroy says 17 different public agencies and nonprofit organizations serve his site; a veterinarian comes by weekly. He estimates that about 80 to 90 percent of the tent’s residents are affected by some kind of mental illness.

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Revealed: how US sex traffickers recruit jailed women for prostitution – Annie Kelly and Mei-Ling McNamara Fri 29 Jun 2018 02.00 EDT


Guardian investigation finds incarcerated women are groomed by pimps and forced into sex work once released

Women in prisons across the US are being recruited by sex traffickers who force them into prostitution on their release.

A Guardian investigation has found that traffickers are using government websites to obtain personal information including mugshots, release dates and charge sheets to identify potential victims while they are still behind bars.

Pimps also use inmates in prisons and jails countrywide to befriend incarcerated women who, on their release, are trafficked into the $9.5bn (£7.2bn) US commercial sex industry.

The investigation also found cases of the bail bond system being used in sex trafficking operations in at least five different states. Pimps and sex buyers are locating incarcerated women awaiting a court date by using personal data such as mugshots and bail bonds posted online, or through corrupt bondsmen.

Traffickers are then bailing women out of detention. Once released, the women are told they must work as prostitutes or have their bond rescinded and be sent back to jail.

Over the course of the investigation, The Guardian found cases of the bail bond system being used by pimps and sex buyers in Florida, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and Mississippi.

“The pimps would use bail as a way to control us and keep us in debt bondage,” said one trafficking survivor from Tampa, Florida. She claimed she was forced to work as a prostitute to pay off her bail debt and locked inside a house and beaten if she didn’t bring home enough money.

“Once when I tried to escape, the pimp revoked my bond. He found me, threw me in a car and got me sent back to jail,” she said.

Diane Checchio, a former prosecutor for the district attorney’s office in Orlando, Florida, said the bail bond system was routinely exploited by traffickers.

Up to 80% of the trafficking cases she worked on in 2016 involved bondsmen found to be illegally passing on information about women arrested on prostitution charges to suspected traffickers.

“Sometimes women are released not knowing who bonded them out or why, or what they’ve gotten into, and now they’re being coerced,” Checchio said. “They come out of jail and there’s someone waiting saying: ‘I posted your bond – now you owe me’ … [They will] threaten to rescind that bond if the girls don’t do what they’re asked or told to do. It’s still happening now.”

Checchio said traffickers were likely to be targeting women involved in the criminal justice system across the country.

“I would find it very likely that this is happening in every state that has women’s records online,” she said.

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Canada Confronts Cannabis – By Mark A. R. Kleiman June 2018


Legalization Lessons From the United States

CHRIS WATTIE / REUTERS A man smokes marijuana at a 4/20 rally in Ontario, April 2018.

On June 19, Canada’s Senate passed the Cannabis Act. Beginning on October 17, Canadians over the age of 18 will be permitted to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana in public and grow up to four plants at home. Cannabis retailers will be allowed to operate, subject to federal, provincial, and territorial regulations and taxation. Cannabis concentrates and edibles will be available about a year later.

That makes Canada only the second country, after Uruguay, to fully legalize marijuana. Supporters of the new law, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, claim that it will reduce underage drug use, eliminate illicit dealing, and lessen the harms of arrest and prosecution, while providing substantial tax revenue. How likely is it that Canada will achieve those objectives, and what are the risks of legalization?

Canadian officials can learn from both U.S. successes and U.S. mistakes as they try to design tax, regulatory, enforcement, and public health measures in order to reap the benefits of legal marijuana while managing the very real risks. There are now years of evidence from the United States—where states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have replaced prohibition with regulation—about the impact of legal marijuana on markets, revenues, and public health. (In the United States, cannabis remains banned by federal law, thus preventing the creation of national-level legal producers.)

The experience of legalization in the United States shows that prices will be low. Low prices, combined with ease of access and aggressive marketing, create a threat to public health by stimulating “problem use.” Legal marijuana will eventually crowd out illegal marijuana, but enforcement measures against the illegal product are necessary in the short term. Tax revenues are likely to be modest, and the tax system under the Cannabis Act creates an unwanted incentive to increase potency.

WHY LEGAL CANNABIS IS CHEAP

U.S. experience has shown that marijuana will be dirt cheap. Today, the illicit-market price of a gram of marijuana is $10–$15 in the United States; it is somewhat lower in Canada. A gram generates about 15 hours of intoxication for users who haven’t built up a tolerance (although this is only a very rough estimate). At that price, marijuana is already a more cost-effective intoxicant than alcohol, and it will only get cheaper once it is legal.

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Both Parties Mobilize for Supreme Court Battle Over Kennedy’s Successor – By Louise Radnofsky and Joshua Jamerson Updated June 28, 2018 10:01 p.m. ET


White House and GOP dust off playbook from Gorsuch nomination, and Democrats search for a way to derail pick

‘This is the most important Supreme Court vacancy for this country in at least a generation,’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Thursday.

‘This is the most important Supreme Court vacancy for this country in at least a generation,’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Thursday. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Republicans and Democrats readied for the battle to choose Justice Anthony Kennedy’s successor, with the White House dusting off the plan it used to win last year’s Supreme Court fight and Democrats searching for a way to derail President Donald Trump’s nominee amid a heated midterm election campaign.

The White House again has enlisted Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers network, to assist in a selection processthat already is focusing on fewer than a half-dozen candidates. Within hours of Justice Kennedy’s retirement announcement Wednesday, Mr. Leo took a leave of absence from the Federalist Society to serve as Mr. Trump’s outside adviser on the nomination.

People close to the White House selection process anticipate that a nominee will be announced before Mr. Trump departs for the coming NATO summit, which begins in Brussels on July 11, with Republicans hoping for confirmation hearings in mid-August and a full Senate vote ahead of the November midterm elections.

The pick presents the Republican president with the opportunity—and challenge—of seeking to replicate an early success of his presidency, the nomination and swift confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Marc Short, Mr. Trump’s legislative affairs chief, said in an interview that he “would like to believe that Republican senators recognize” the opportunity to fulfill a longstanding GOP campaign pledge to remake the court.

Democrats, similarly, feel intense pressure to stop the nomination, given the fact that the next nominee, unlike Justice Gorsuch, will be succeeding the court’s swing vote on major issues such as abortion rights, rather than a fellow consistent conservative.

“This is the most important Supreme Court vacancy for this country in at least a generation,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, who has limited options to derail a nomination and would like it to be delayed until after the midterms, when his party has hopes of gaining leverage in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republican leaders have only a slender majority to work with. The GOP controls 51 of 100 Senate seats, one of which is held by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

That dynamic has produced mixed results for the parties to date. Republicans were able to pass Mr. Trump’s tax overhaul in December, with no Democrats voting for it. And in the Gorsuch confirmation fight, three Democrats supported the nomination, though their votes weren’t crucial to his confirmation.

But Democrats succeeded in blocking repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a GOP priority for three previous elections. They pulled it off by holding their own ranks steady and helping sow doubts among centrist Republicans, particularly Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Following Justice Kennedy’s announcement, some Democrats have advocated a similar approach to the coming Supreme Court nomination.

“There’s no procedural silver bullet,” wrote Adam Jentleson, who served as a top aide to former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, on Twitter. “The most important Q is whether Ds have the will to fight against overturning Roe v. Wade in an election year where women are driving Dems’ strength,” he wrote.

Among the Democrats’ strongest messages is the possibility that a new Trump justice would establish a majority in favor of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which broadly found a constitutional right to abortion. Still, that point is an equal selling point for the GOP’s conservative base.

Democrats’ parliamentary options are limited because Senate Republicans rescinded rules allowing Supreme Court nominations to be filibustered during Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation fight last year. And Democratic senators undergoing tough re-election battles in states that voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 will face pressure to vote for his nominee, though they will also hear from fellow Democrats that the fight is worth the risk of losing their seats. That includes the three who voted for Justice Gorsuch: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Mr. Manchin said Thursday he was keeping an open mind about the nomination. “I’m waiting for a nominee and looking for the best-qualified person,” he said.

Mr. Donnelly met with Mr. Trump at the White House on Thursday evening to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy. “When the president presents the Senate with his choice for the Supreme Court, I will thoroughly review the record and qualifications of that nominee,” Mr. Donnelly said after the meeting.

The White House said late Thursday that Mr. Trump had met with six senators to discuss the vacancy, including the Republican Sens. Murkowski and Collins, as well as Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Democratic Sens. Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin.

A current senior Democratic Senate aide said the party sees a public-pressure campaign around abortion rights as its best shot to make voting for Mr. Trump’s nominee as “unpalatable as possible” for Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins, who have both said they agree with the Roe decision.

“They’ve shown themselves to be incredibly strong people who are willing to buck their party from time to time, especially when it comes to health care and women’s rights, and those are two of the two main issues here,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold a hearing with Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

People with insight into the White House’s decision-making process have acknowledged they have concerns about Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski, as well as potential defections by other senators, such as Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky, which they said they were working to address.

Ms. Collins, for her part, said Thursday she would like to see the president pick someone in the mold of Justice Kennedy, whom she described as an “ideal justice” who “brought a nonideological approach” to the court.

“I do not apply ideological litmus tests to nominees, but I want to see integrity, intellect, a respect for precedent, and an adherence to the rule of law,” she said, adding that it was “premature” to say whether Mr. Trump’s pick would earn her support.

Mr. Short, the legislative affairs chief, said that dipping into the confirmation playbook used for Justice Gorsuch would include pursuing the centrist Democrats, though even failing to secure their support could confer a GOP advantage in the midterm elections, Mr. Short said.

“Many of these same senators are running for re-election in red states,” said Mr. Short, who added that Republicans could portray opposition to Mr. Trump’s new pick as Democrats being beholden to their party’s liberal base.

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Some conservative activists said this fight might be harder than the Gorsuch battle. “The Senate is in a different position than it was a year ago,” said Sarah Field, vice president of judicial strategy for Americans for Prosperity. She said the potential absence of Mr. McCain and the December loss of a Senate seat to a Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, would make for a “bigger fight” this time around.

Americans For Prosperity plans to spend “seven figures” on ads, mailers and other efforts to rally support for Mr. Trump’s nominee in key states, one AFP official said. The Judicial Crisis Network, another conservative group, pledged $10 million to support Justice Gorsuch’s nomination and has already jumped into the fray with $1 million in cable-TV and digital ads for a Kennedy successor.

Meanwhile, liberal groups have lined up a counter campaign called #DitchTheList, a reference to Mr. Trump’s list of potential nominees. A field of potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders—Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California—appeared at a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court to call on their colleagues to oppose a vote on any Trump nominee until after the election.

Mr. Short said that the confirmation strategy would ultimately be determined by the president’s pick, not the other way around. “I don’t think the numbers in the Senate should be the driving factor,” he said.

—Siobhan Hughes contributed to this article.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/with-trump-supreme-court-coming-democrats-weigh-strategy-1530209462

The Mexican Town That Kicked Out Politicians And Started Over (HBO) – VICE News Published on Jun 28, 2018


Cherán is a town of some 20,000 inhabitants in the highlands of Michoacán, one of the Mexican states that’s suffered most in the drug wars of the last decade. Armed men and women — not police, but members of an autonomous militia — guard every entrance to the town, looking for strangers with contraband. At the height of election season in Mexico, contraband means mostly political campaign ads: Guards confiscated thousands of banners and posters, from every major political party in Mexico, in just a few weeks. These ads, along with the political parties that produce them, are completely banned in Cherán, and have been since 2011, when residents overthrew their local government and started over. The town had been terrorized for years by an organized crime syndicate devoted to illegally logging the surrounding forests. After mobs drove out the criminals, they disarmed and drove out the corrupt cops who had protected them. Then they banned the politicians and the parties that put them in power. In their place, the people of Cherán developed an autonomous system of self-rule based on horizontal, direct-democratic assemblies. And while it remains economically dependent on the existing government, Cherán has achieved something unthinkable in Michoacán: Reducing the rate of murders and other serious crimes to close to zero. For many in Mexico, especially in an election year marred by wanton political murders, Cherán stands as proof that, in the country’s entrenched cycle of violence, the key ingredient is the state: Remove that ingredient, and it’s possible to start from scratch.

Why The Supreme Court Kept Trump’s Travel Ban In Place (HBO) – VICE News Published on Jun 26, 2018


The Supreme Court upheld the third version of President Trump’s travel ban today in a 5-4 split that split predictably along ideological lines. Their reasoning amounts to a huge statement on presidential power. The ban they upheld was actually Trump’s third attempt, which went into effect in December 2017, after protests and court rulings related to the first and second versions caused the administration to go through a few rewrites. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, ruling that Trump’s ban was lawful, in part, because he has “broad discretion… to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States.” A majority of the court also believed that the government proved that the ban was related to a “legitimate national security interest.” The challenge to the ban, brought by the state of Hawaii, several individuals, and a Muslim advocacy group, pointed to President Trump’s retweets, and campaign promises specifically to bar Muslims from entering the United States as a reason why the ban was unconstitutional. But Chief Justice Roberts addressed that too, saying that it wasn’t the court’s job to “denounce the President’s statements.” Both the majority and the minority also considered whether this case resembled Korematsu v. United States, the World War II-era case that upheld the decision by the United States government to hold Japanese Americans in in internment camps. In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority “deploys the same dangerous logic” in the “name of a superficial claim of national security” as the court did in the Japanese internment case. But her dissent relies on the idea that the president’s previous statements about Muslims should be considered when deciding this case — and that’s not what the majority decided to do. In fact, Roberts addressed Sotomayor’s dissent directly and wrote “Korematsu has nothing to do with this case.” He continued, “It is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission.” But Roberts did take the opportunity to denounce the Korematsu decision calling it “gravely wrong.” There was also a warning embedded in the decision. Justice Kennedy, who sided with the majority and upheld the ban, wrote: The oath that all officials take to adhere to the Constitution is not confined to those spheres in which the Judiciary can correct or even comment upon what those officials say or do. Indeed, the very fact that an official may have broad discretion, discretion free from judicial scrutiny, makes it all the more imperative for him or her to adhere to the Constitution and to its meaning and its promise. He added that an “anxious world” needs that commitment. It’s hard not to see Kennedy’s statement as message intended for the president.