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Shootings on the Rise in NYC



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Shootings in New York City seem to be on the rise, Fox reports:

Faced with a surge in shootings at the city’s public housing, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday detailed a $210 million to plan to improve safety at the buildings, which more than 400,000 people call home.

Even as crime has dropped slightly citywide, shootings have gone up 31 percent so far this year in New York City Housing Authority buildings. An outsized portion of that spike has been centered in 15 troublesome projects, which are responsible for 20 percent of the violent crime this year across 334 NYCHA developments.

“We are making investments in our public housing — investments that should have been made long ago,” de Blasio said at an East Harlem development. “You know the phrase, ‘He who hesitates is lost’? We are not interested in hesitation.”

CBS wonders if the spike is just random, as Police Commissioner William Bratton has suggested, or if it’s the product of a change in policing tactics:

So could there be a link in the drop in stops and the recent spike in shootings?

“Potentially, sure, but you have to use caution in looking at a particular weekend or set of weekends in declaring the sky is falling,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and professor of law and police studies at John Jay College.

It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of short-term spikes in crime, O’Donnell said, and it’s not uncommon for weekends in the summer to be marked by violence in New York.

However, O’Donnell said that people who carry guns are often the first to be aware of changes in police tactics, and the publicity surrounding the drop in stops may have emboldened some criminals.

“There is a risk in a perception that the police have stood down in communities where gun violence is a big issue,” he said.

Last weekend marked the third weekend in June that at least a dozen people were shot in the city, according to police. In the last week of June, 35 people were shot, down from 39 gunshot victims the same week a year ago, according to New York Police Department statistics. A breakdown between those killed and those wounded was not immediately available.

This year, 611 people have been shot in the city compared with 554 for the same period last year.

Time will tell.

My only hope is that if the trend does continue — and if the evidence suggests that it is linked to the decline of stop and frisk — those who oppose the policy (such as myself) will be honest enough to acknowledge it. Doing so does not require that one change one’s mind on the matter. Liberty and security are often at odds, and, in free countries at least, “but it works” is never enough to justify a particular measure. It is wholly possible to consider stop and frisk to be illegal, and to consider it an effective tool in fighting crime. Still, we should be open about what we’re arguing for. If the two are linked, let’s own it.

Goldberg: ‘Bubble Around WH Much Thicker’ after Obama’s Denver Pool Outing Amid Border Crisis



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VA Whistleblower Says He Was Harrassed after Voicing Concerns to White House



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A VA whistleblower says he was harassed after he contacted a White House official about his concerns regarding the VA.

Program specialist Scott Davis from the VA National Health Eligibility Center spoke Tuesday night of the harassment he received from “top levels of management” at the VA. He explained that after he brought his complaint to White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, the news was leaked to his manager, who said that she was contacting him on behalf of Nabor and the VA’s acting secretary, Sloan Gibson. “Neither Mr. Gibson nor Mr. Nabors have responded to this fact,” Davis said.

His employment records were illegally altered, he said, he was illegally placed on a permanent work detail. He then was placed on involuntary administrative leave “curiously” at the same time that the inspector general’s investigation of the VA was taking place, he said.

After describing his own experience, he noted, “Unfortunately, my experience is not unique at the VA.” Davis noted his co-workers who “have experienced the same retaliation for reporting medical errors and patient neglect as well as misconduct by senior VA police officials.”

His local union president, he said, said is “routinely harassed as a direct consequence of assisting me and other disabled federal employees with retaliatory action by members of management.”

Web Briefing: July 11, 2014

Mexico’s Interest



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Mark — you write:

This suggests that the White House will try to ameliorate the situation in a way that avoids the unacceptable option of actually enforcing immigration law. That suggests a supply-side solution — pressuring Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to keep people from leaving and pressuring the Mexicans to do more to stop them from transiting their country. But this won’t work; the governments there have neither the incentive nor the capacity to do our job of immigration control for us.

You know orders of magnitude more than I do about immigration so I’m willing to defer to your judgment. Still, I have question. Why is this situation in Mexico’s interest? I understand that they have a vested interest in expanding illegal immigration from Mexico. But how do they benefit from letting these buses cross their territory? If I were a cynical Mexican official, the current crisis would concern me greatly because it has the potential to fuel a major backlash against any immigration across our southern border. The crisis is certainly undermining the case for amnesty and comprehensive immigration reform. If the Mexican government sees these things as in their interest, shouldn’t they do what they can to defuse this situation?

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VA Surgeon: There Is a ‘Cancer Within Leadership’ of VA



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“There exists a cancer within leadership” of the Veterans Affairs Administration, a VA surgeon said during the whistleblowers hearing yesterday.

Dr. Christian Head, who works as the associate director at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, testified Tuesday night. He described the retaliation that he experienced when he provided honest testimony regarding time fraud committed by surgeons in his area.

“This culture of retaliation — that’s really the cancer to the veteran administration,” Head said.

Most physicians and nurses who work for the VA are “disgusted” by the concealment of the VA’s problems, he explained. But there are “a few individuals that perpetuate this idea that we should be silent, that we shouldn’t stand up and tell them to do the right thing and be honest.”

Everyone makes mistakes, Head said, but the problem is when you try to conceal those mistakes. He explained that we need to ask: “Who are these individuals that would alter the data and hide the truth and prevent patient care?”

Head described how veterans have been warning him about the consequences of his testimony. “We don’t want to lose you as a surgeon,” he said the vets told him. “If you get labeled as a whistleblower . . . they’ll take you out.”

But Head said that he is not afraid. “People need to speak up,” he said.

Bioethicists Could Care Less About Religious Liberty



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Bioethics kicked religion out of a meaningful place in the field’s discourse long ago. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the Hastings Center Report has a blog post decrying Hobby Lobby as likely to increase “health care inequity.” From the post:

Even if the decision does not allow closely held corporations to refuse coverage for other types of health care services, it is likely to limit access to contraceptive services to many women. Without an alternative source of funding for these excluded services, the decision will shift the cost of health care to individuals, a problem that has been growing and that the ACA was designed to alleviate…

Coupled with the Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, in which the Court ruled that states do not have to participate in the law’s Medicaid expansion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores threatens to undermine the ACA’s goal of moving the U.S. closer to the international standard of basing access to health care on need.

Yes, we must bow down to the “international standard”–and that doesn’t include religious liberty.

Remember, these are the so-called “experts” who will be appointed to cost-benefit panels under Obamacare. They will be the ones exercising centralized control.

Gohmert Is Tired of Dems Claiming to Be ‘Compassionate’ Party



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Louie Gohmert (R., Texas) says he is tired of liberals claiming they are the “ones with compassion.”

When the congressman was a judge and had to sentence people, he told Fox News Tuesday night, he would go back to his office and weep. But he knew that “we had to be a nation of laws, and follow the laws,” he said.

“What is more caring?” Gohmert asked. “To keep adding mass graves as children are encouraged to flood into the United States because our commander-in-chief will not secure the border?”

He explained that he thinks the more “compassionate” option is “when you actually secure the borders and make people follow the law.”

Wednesday Links



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It’s Nikola Tesla’s birthday: bio, Tesla coil music, Tesla vs Edison rap battle, infographic from The Oatmeal, and more.

Today is National No-Bra DayCelebrate without restraint.

You know those 18- to 25-foot fiberglass figures dotting America’s highways, advertising everything from tires to burger joints to amusement parks? Almost all of them were made by one man.

On the ethics of vampire slaying in Buffy. Also in the vampire category: Harry Potter vs. Twilight dance battle.

Anyone remember the “Avoid The Noid” commercials from early Domino’s Pizza ad campaigns?  Here’s the story of what happened because of the Noid.

Origin of the term “jaywalking.”

ICYMITuesday’s links are here, and include ancient Minoan culture demonstrated with scantily clad Barbies (with bonus 1961 video, “When Barbie Met Ken”), seven myths about the brain you thought were true, watercolors of U.S. presidents with boobs on their faces, and 30 excellent recreations of childhood photos.

Dem. Rep. Cuellar: WH Called Me For Speaking Out against President



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Representative Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) hasn’t been shy about speaking out against the Obama administration’s handling of the border crisis, and that apparently earned him a phone call from someone at the White House.

“Yes, I have,” Cuellar said on Fox & Friends on Wednesday when asked if he had received a talking-to. “But let me just say that I’m more concerned not about who gets angry at me at the White House; I’m more concerned about my constituents who want to find a practical solution to this question that we’re facing down there at the border.”

“Who called you?” host Brian Kilmeade asked.

“We’ll just leave it like that,” Cuellar responded.

“Did they tell you to pipe down?” Kilmeade pressed again.

“We’ll just leave it like that,” the congressman repeated. “But notice what I’m doing: I’m still talking about it.”

Rand Paul and Cory Booker Take a Step in the Right Direction on Criminal-Justice Reform



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Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker deserve a lot of credit for the REDEEM Act they’re putting forward in the Senate. The proposed law, which would encourage states to stop trying those under 18 years old in adult courts, make it easier for non-violent adult offenders to get their criminal records sealed, lift bans on providing some social assistance to low-level offenders, and limit solitary confinement for juveniles is, overall, a good piece of work full of modest common-sense reforms. That said, once the full legislative text is available — I still haven’t been able to read it — there are two provisions that members of Congress may want to look at more closely

First, what may be the most obviously sympathetic part of the bill — a limit on the use of solitary confinement for juveniles — might actually serve to continue the problematic practice of having legislative bodies micro-manage correctional facilities. For at least 30 years, Congress and legislatures around the country have passed laws that limit prisoners’ access to certain types of exercise equipment, describe what types of food can be served in prison, and even dictate what can be shown on TV. While inmates certainly do not have any entitlement to weights, good food, TV shows, or any other particular comfort, these practices have largely served to tie the hands of wardens. Prisoners have to be given some privileges if only so that officials can take them away if they misbehave. The same logic applies to putative tools such as solitary confinement: Prison administrators need a range of punishments so they can appropriately deal with their charges. This doesn’t mean legislatures should be totally hands off about the specifics of prison management. In this particular case, social-science research suggests that solitary confinement of juveniles probably should be banned or at least discouraged. Nonetheless, members of Congress should be careful about how specifically they try to manage prisons and should make sure that the final provision does as little as possible to set a bad precedent.

Second, the idea of encouraging states to allow lower-level offenders to seal their criminal records is a good one that deserves expansion. Indeed, it’s tempting to think of ways that a federally encouraged “sealing” process might be used as a stepping stone towards a full “spending” process for some lower-level offenses. Under the  “spending” process that exists in the United Kingdom, people who commit certain categories of minor offenses can have their offenses considered “spent” after a certain period of exemplary behavior. The process is, in some respects, less forgiving than most “sealing” in the United States in that it has reasonably broad exceptions for national security, homeland security, transportation, and child-care positions. Unlike what Paul and Booker are proposing, however, spending is automatic and requires no affirmative effort on the ex-offenders’ part.

Like any complicated proposal, there are probably other things in Paul and Booker’s plan that deserve a closer look. But, on the whole, it’s a good piece of work.  

Democrats Snark about GOP Cleveland Convention: ‘Pitfalls’ Will Include Tricorn Hats, Sarah Palin T-Shirts, and Limbaugh Ditto Heads



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One of the costs for Republicans of siting their 2016 convention in Cleveland is putting up with local Democratic snark over the choice. The campaign of Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate for governor this year, was quick to send out a press release that exulted: “By picking Cleveland, Republicans are recognizing the hard work of Ed and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in turning the city and county around.” The release went on to say that having the convention will have “pitfalls” for the city: “It means lots of tricorn hats, Sarah Palin t-shirts, and Rush Limbaugh ditto-heads filling up downtown Cleveland.”

Republicans dismiss such jibes and say they are making a bold move for the 2016 election by picking Cleveland. “We’re going where the swing voters are,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy crowed to Politico. Indeed, Ohio is a crucial swing state and every modern Republican president had to win the state on the way to the White House. 

But playing the geography card of hosting a national convention as a platform for a party’s messaging doesn’t usually work. Republicans held their 2012 convention in Florida and lost the state that fall. Democrats held theirs in Charlotte, N.C., and saw Barack Obama, who won the state in 2008, lose it to Mitt Romney that fall.

And Cleveland may hold other disappointments for the Republicans. It is a heavily unionized town, and the GOP can expect massive protests by union-backed left-wingers as well as price gouging.

Then there is corruption for which Cleveland has become famous as a sort of Louisiana North. In 2012, after a local county commissioner and Democratic party chief named Jimmy Dimore was sentenced to 28 years in prison, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist 

Mark Naymik lamented that voters had lost interest in seeing that county politics was reformed. 

“The members of the public who attend the new [city] council’s twice monthly meeting could fit inside a food truck, ” Naymik wrote. “Even fewer follow committee meetings where the real debates take place.”

Certainly there will be a lot of public money available for siphoning into murky pockets in the two years leading up to the convention. The city is pitching in $5 million in public subsidies and FitzGerald’s Cuyahoga County is matching that. GOP governor John Kasich is pledging $10 million from a state jobs agency.

Cleveland has made strides in recent years, with a growing health-care sector and a brighter downtown. It’s no longer “the mistake on the lake” that its critics used to deride it as. But I’m yet to be convinced that Republicans made the right choice in putting geography ahead of logistics in siting their convention.

Goldberg: VA Scandal Is ‘Crisis for Liberalism Itself’



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Krauthammer’s Take: Obama Has No Policy for Immigration Crisis



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Charles Krauthammer thinks that the Obama administration’s response to the border crisis is focused on the politics, not the policy — as you’d expect from this president.

“This is a microcosm of the Obama administration,” he said on Tuesday’s Special Report. “We have a crisis of policy, and instead all the debate and argument, all the back and forth is about the optics, the politics, and the presentation.”

Krauthammer noted the debates over whether to call it a crisis or a humanitarian situation and whether the president would do a photo-op on the border or with Rick Perry. Meanwhile, the influx of immigrants is “a huge problem,” he said. “The president has done nothing – he either doesn’t know what to do or he wants it to go ahead the way it is.”

He explained that Obama’s request for nearly $4 billion from Congress to fix the problem is “a way to absorb all these people and not do anything to stop the influx.” 

“He doesn’t have a policy . . . and instead, as with everything in this administration, all we talk about is the PR and the language,” Krauthammer concluded. 
 

State RNC Chairman Calls on Priebus to Investigate MS Ads



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The chairman of the Missouri Republican party, Ed Martin, is calling on RNC chairman Reince Priebus to appoint a special committee comprised of RNC members to investigate racially divisive ads that aired in Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel. Martin made the request in a letter to Priebus obtained by National Review Online, voicing concern that former RNC chairman Haley Barbour was behind the ads and that the tactics may have sullied the name of the RNC and Republicans generally.

An entity called Citizens for Progress, which is not registered with the Federal Election Commission, aired ads during the race claiming that McDaniel supporters had ties to the Ku Klux Klan and that the state senator, who is still challenging the outcome of the June 24 runoff, has a “racist agenda.”

They also warned that “‘if the Tea Party, with their racist ideas, win, we will be sent back to the ’​50s and ’​60s.” An article in the Daily Mail tried to trace the ads to a political-action committee founded by Haley Barbour and run by his nephew, Henry.

A robo-call whose origins have not been traced was also the subject of controversy. It targeted primarily African-American homes and urged citizens to vote for Cochran and to stand up against the Tea Party’s “disrespectful treatment of the country’s first African-American president.”

In his letter to Priebus, Martin zeroed in on Barbour’s potential support for the advertisements. “If one of our own members helped finance ads or robocalls that tarred Tea Partiers as a group as racists, I am sure that most RNC members would find that deeply offensive, indeed unacceptable,” he said. “We cannot object to the Left smearing conservatives with such labels if we do not rebuke those on our side who sink to such tactics.”

He asked that the committee investigate the origins of the ads in question and report back to RNC members on August 7, the day before the RNC’s general meeting on August 8.

McDaniel, meanwhile, continues to dispute the results of the election, which Cochran won by two points. His lawyer said yesterday that volunteers are reviewing all of the ballots cast in search of fraudulent votes and that the team is confident they will find the invalid votes necessary to force a redo of the runoff.

Senate Democrats Will Introduce Bill to Reverse Hobby Lobby



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Senate Democrats will introduce legislation to weaken the religious-freedom law that the Supreme Court used to decide the Hobby Lobby case last week, according to Talking Points Memo.

Senators Patty Murray (D., Wash) and Mark Udall (D., Colo.) will sponsor the legislation, which will reportedly be introduced as early as Tuesday. 

The ruling allows businesses a religious exemption from HHS’s requirement to cover certain contraceptives for their employees. According to a summary of the new legislation, it will prohibit employers from refusing to cover any type of health care required by federal law, including contraception. It would clarify that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the bipartisan 1993 law the Court relied on in its decision, does not grant exemptions for business to laws that they do not agree with. 

The bill also addresses legal challenges by religious nonprofits such as Wheaton College, which had objected to the accommodation that HHS grants religious nonprofits. The legislation states that this accommodation, which allows the groups to pass the cost of contraception onto insurance companies, is indeed sufficient in protecting the groups’ religious freedoms. 

Udall wrote a statement to TPM elaborating on the bill. ”The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives,” he said. “My common-sense proposal will keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn’t be able to dictate what is best for you and your family.”

A Democratic Senate aide told TPM that Udall will work to “bring this to the floor as quickly as possible.”

Cornyn: Obama Should Come See Border Crisis for Himself



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Senate minority whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) thinks that Obama needs to visit the border in order to truly understand the current immigration crisis and come up with a viable solution.

“Only by visiting the border and visiting firsthand and seeing with his own eyes and listening with his own ears to the professionals who are working there . . . will he be able to get a good idea of not only what the problem is but what the solutions are,” he said from the Senate floor Tuesday. 

Cornyn noted that last year alone 414,000 people were detained on the southwestern border from 100 different countries. “This just isn’t about people who have no hope and no opportunity trying to come to the United States from Mexico and trying to get a job,” he explained. “This is about uncontrolled immigration through our southwestern border from all over the world.”

He said that though most of the immigrants do come from Mexico and Central America, people also travel from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, where terrorists are active. 

“I think president Obama needs a wakeup call,” Cornyn continued. “He needs to realize that the situation along the border is not as rosy as perhaps he is under the impression that it is.”

The senator also said that the president will be in Dallas this week for fundraising, which is just 500 miles away — a one-hour flight – from the border.

“This is worthy of the president’s attention and worthy of a presidential visit,” Cornyn said.

Melchior: New Mexico’s Health-care Exchange Has ‘High and Critical Vulnerability’



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Make sure to check out Jillian’s latest investigation, “HHS Audit Finds Security Weaknesses in New Mexico’s Obamacare Exchange.”

Contraception and Abortion, Again



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Donna Harrison patiently explains why we have reason to think that IUDs and Ella cause human embryos to die. It’s important to counter misinformation on this point not just because it affects what people think about Hobby Lobby and religious freedom, but because there are many pro-life women who would prefer to use contraception that does not have this possible effect.

See also her earlier review of the evidence about other forms of birth control.

New Study on Children of Same-Sex Couples



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The New York Times and the media are widely reporting the results of a new study of 500 children raised by same-sex couples. Researchers are aghast that such a shoddy piece of work, which is based on a convenience sample of parents who volunteered to be surveyed, and which relies solely on these parents’ reports to determine child well-being, should have been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. The author is facing a petition and statement signed by hundreds of reputable academics questioning his moral character and scientific integrity, and the editor of the journal who published such a thing faces similar attacks and enquiries about whether the peer-review process was compromised.

Oh wait, the study shows children of same-sex parents do better than the average child, after adjusting for income. Never mind. 

Hillary Clinton Gets Inequality Right



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in this exchange with Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: The average annual income of an American household is $22,296 (€16,397). You earn up to $200,000 an hour for a speech. Can you understand if people are bothered by that?

Clinton: Well, certainly, I can understand that, but that’s never been the crux of the concern in our country, because we’ve always had people who did better than other people. That’s just accepted. The problem is that people on the bottom and people in the middle class no longer feel like they have the opportunity to do better. The question is, how do we get back to having an economy that works for everybody and that once again gives people the optimism that they too will be successful.

In other words, inequality per se is not the defining challenge of our time, whatever certain incumbent presidents sometimes say. Creating the conditions for broad-based prosperity is. She’s right on the merits — if, I’m sure, wrong about how to go about that task — and right on the politics as well, since very few voters care much about inequality.

(Via Daniel Halper, whose book Clinton Inc. comes out later this month.)

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