Tuesday, June 8, 2021

May Flower: Spot Shooting

It's enough to make you go deaf:

"Groups say gunshot detection systems unreliable, seek review" by Don Babwin and Sara Burnett The Associated Press, May 3, 2021

CHICAGO — The gunshot detection system that set in motion the recent fatal police shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Chicago routinely reports gunshots where there are none, sending officers into predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods for “unnecessary and hostile” encounters, community groups argued in a court filing Monday.

The groups and the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University's law school asked a Cook County judge to scrutinize the ShotSpotter system to determine if it is “sufficiently trustworthy” to be allowed as evidence in a criminal case. The filing supports a request by defense attorneys for a man charged with murder in a case in which prosecutors are using ShotSpotter information as evidence.

The groups say a study of Chicago police data found that over a nearly 22-month period ending in mid-April, almost 90 percent of ShotSpotter alerts didn’t result in officers reporting evidence of shots fired or of any gun crime. The technology is only used in 12 police districts with the city’s largest proportion of Black and Latino residents, which the groups say “inflates statistics about supposed gunfire in these communities, creating a faulty, tech-based justification for ever more aggressive policing.”

[Six years after they rolled the stuff out it was only echoes?]

ShotSpotter, a California-based company that produces the gunshot detection system, has contracts with more than 100 police departments nationwide. In Chicago, it sent an average of 71.4 alerts to officers each day during the period studied, according to the court filing. That included the March 29 alert that led to the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago officer.

The Chicago Police Department and other agencies have long praised the system, saying it puts officers on the scene of shootings far faster than if they wait for someone to call 911

On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the technology, along with cameras and high-tech support centers staffed with police, “no question whatsoever is a lifesaver.”

There was little question that shots were fired in the lead-up to Adam's death in a dark alley in Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood. Days after Police Superintendent David Brown told the media that the sound of gunfire was picked up by ShotSpotter, the materials released to the public included both video that appeared to show someone firing several shots in the neighborhood and a ShotSpotter audio recording of the sound of that gunfire.

[Now my head is spinning, and I guess this wouldn't have helped at Dealey Plaza either]

Police were responding to those shots when Officer Eric Stillman chased Adam and shot him, a split second after the boy appeared to drop or toss a gun.

The court filing tells a different story: one of a system that prompts officers to race to scenes where they think they may encounter armed suspects and are thus more inclined to use lethal force.

[Who needs evidence anymore? The charge is enough (shiver)]

The system is especially dangerous in Chicago, according to the filing, because of the police department’s decades-long reputation for using unnecessary force.

[They were operating a torture center at one point and those "insurrectionists" continue to languish without a peep]

“Residents who happen to be in the vicinity of a false alert will be regarded as presumptive threats, likely to be targeted by police for investigatory stops, foot pursuits, or worse,” the filing says.

Furthermore, dispatching officers to predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods has not reduced crime in those areas.

“To the contrary, academic research has found that ShotSpotter and similar acoustic gunshot detection systems (“AGDS”) do not reduce serious violent crime and do not even increase the number of confirmed shootings that police identify,” according to the filing.

[Leave them to themselves then? Yikes!]

The groups involved in Monday's court filing include the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which represents residents in a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Chicago, and the digital-rights nonprofit organization Lucy Parsons Labs.....


"A man who shot and killed two people and wounded a third at a northeastern Wisconsin tribal casino restaurant had been fired from the eatery and ordered by a court to leave his former supervisor alone, according to court records. Bruce Pofahl, 62, walked into the Duck Creek Kitchen and Bar in Green Bay on Saturday and shot Ian Simpson, 32, and Jacob Bartel, 35, at a wait station at close range with a 9 mm handgun as dozens of patrons looked on, Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain said Monday during a news conference in Green Bay. Pandemonium erupted inside the complex, the sheriff said....."

The long arm of the law caught up to him in South Carolina after week on run.


Speaking of guns going off in faraway places:

"Day 1 of the end of the US war in Afghanistan" by Thomas Gibbons-Neff New York Times, May 3, 2021

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Afghans continue fighting and dying with fleeting hopes of peace even while the Americans leave, adhering to a timeline laid out by President Biden to fully withdraw by Sept 11. The decision was opposed by his generals but begrudgingly stenciled on whiteboards in US bases across Afghanistan, such as Kandahar Airfield, a former Soviet base that has been one of the Americans’ largest.

Once the airfield is stripped of everything deemed sensitive by its US and NATO landlords, its skeleton will be handed over to the Afghan security forces.

The scenes over the weekend were almost as if a trillion-dollar war machine had morphed into a garage sale. At the airfield’s peak in 2010 and 2011, its famous and much derided boardwalk housed snack shops, chain restaurants, a hockey rink, and trinket stores. Tens of thousands of US and NATO troops were based here, and many more passed through as it became the main installation for the US-led war in Afghanistan’s south. It stood beside rural villages from which the Taliban emerged; throughout it all, the province has remained an insurgent stronghold.

The US withdrawal, almost quiet, and with a veneer of orderliness, belies the desperate circumstances just beyond the base’s wall. On one end of Kandahar Airfield that day, Maj. Mohammed Bashir Zahid, an officer in charge of a small Afghan air command center, sat in his office, a phone to each ear and a third in his hands as he typed messages on WhatsApp, trying to get air support for Afghan security forces on the ground and in nearby outposts threatened by Taliban fighters.

Sitting in his US-built air-conditioned office, Zahid said he expected that one day soon his requests for help from the Americans would be met with silence. His anger at the US departure was not about the lack of air support but rather, about the sport utility vehicles that he said the Americans had destroyed.

Zahid thought that the Americans were destroying more of those vehicles when an explosion echoed across the runway around 2 p.m. The blast was a rocket, fired from somewhere outside the base and landing somewhere inside, killing no one. Even though the rockets landed on the Afghan side, the Americans viewed it as a Taliban attack on them. The US military had been expecting some kind of assault as it left.

A flight of F/A-18 fighter jets, stationed aboard the USS Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, were in the air, making their way toward Afghanistan. Having received approval to strike, the jets swooped in, dropping a GPS-guided munition on the additional rockets.

[At well over $10,000 a drop]

The end of the war looked nothing like the beginning of it. What started as an operation to topple the Taliban and kill the terrorists responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had swelled over 20 years into a multitrillion-dollar military-industrial undertaking, infused with so much money that for years it seemed impossible to ever conclude or dismantle.

Until now.

[Turns out Trump's term was the orange twilight of occupation but without the credit]

Later, at midnight, a gray US C-130 transport aircraft taxied down the same runway, marking the end of the first official day of the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The cargo plane was filled with munitions, a giant flat screen television from a CIA base (known as Camp Gecko), pallets of equipment, and — in the real signal of the impending end of a long occupation — departing American troops. It was one of several aircraft that night removing what remained of the US war here.....

[That would be televisions, office printers, and an infinite supply of Pop-Tarts

No wonder we lost the war! It was a sugar-high from the start!]

The plan for the the aftermath means we must think about the unthinkable as the Pentagon accelerates the withdrawal and leaves Afghan forces to cope alone as history repeats itself and the CIA scrambles to find a new approach:

"US officials in Mideast to reassure jittery allies over Iran" by Isabel Debre The Associated Press, May 3, 2021

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Top Biden administration officials and US senators crisscrossed the Middle East on Monday, seeking to assuage growing unease among Gulf Arab partners over America’s reengagement with Iran and other policy shifts in the region.

The trips come as the United States and Iran, through intermediaries in Vienna, discuss a return to Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf allies, excluded from Obama-era nuclear negotiations, have repeatedly pressed for a seat at the table, insisting that any return to the accord must address Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for regional proxies.

Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and key Biden ally dispatched on overseas diplomatic missions, told reporters in the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi that he hoped to allay the sheikhdom’s “understandable and legitimate concerns” about the return to the landmark deal and to create “broader engagement” with Gulf partners.

Coons said “close consultation” with the UAE about the ongoing talks in Vienna was “important, expected, and happening,” adding that he hopes the Emiratis “may not just be notified, but actually help.”

What that means remains unclear, as Gulf states now watch with resignation as negotiations gain traction in the Austrian capital. When asked to elaborate, Coons balked at the suggestion that the UAE's input had acquired any greater significance in talks with Iran over the last five years. “I did not in any way mean to suggest that there was some deal in the works where the Emiratis would be securing anything,” he said.

Regional tensions are rising. To pressure the Biden administration to lift sanctions and come back into compliance with the deal, Iran has steadily violated the accord’s limitations on nuclear enrichment and stockpiles of enriched uranium. The long shadow war between Israel and Iran has intensified, with suspected Israeli attacks on Iranian ships in volatile Mideast waterways and at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.

[Wasn't enough to save Netanyahu]

In a tour intended to boost “long-standing political, economic, cultural, and security ties,” several senior Biden administration officials are touring Arab capitals, with Brett McGurk from the National Security Council and Derek Chollet from the State Department, among others, stopping in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Amman, and Cairo this week.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, joined the flurry of diplomatic activity in the region this week, jetting to Oman, Qatar, and Jordan for talks on a political solution to the war in Yemen. In an interview with the Associated Press from Amman, Murphy credited the influence of the Biden administration on recent steps in the region to defuse tensions, such as a Saudi cease-fire initiative floated to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and secret talks between arch-enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year, Biden announced the end of US support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen; however, the visits follow the Biden administration’s decision to plow ahead with Trump-era arms sales to Gulf countries, including a $23 billion transfer of F-35 combat aircraft, Reaper drones, and other advanced weapons to the UAE, despite objections from Democrats wary of states’ entanglement in the devastating war in Yemen, authoritarian policies, and ties to China.....

Get ready for a new wave of refugees, an angry mob from the Middle East.


Now roll up your sleeve:

"Massachusetts plans to close four of the state’s seven mass vaccination sites by the end of June, Governor Charlie Baker said Monday, as Massachusetts and other New England states lead the nation in the rate of people who have received at least the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 4 million Massachusetts residents are either fully or partially inoculated against the virus, almost five months into a massive and expedited effort to stem the spread of a virus. The pace of the campaign will allow the state to suspend inoculations at Gillette Stadium, the Doubletree Hotel in Danvers, Hynes Convention Center in Boston, and Natick Mall, officials said. With the closures, the state will shift its resources to 22 regional sites and expand mobile clinics to reach more people of color and other populations who have shown lower rates of vaccination....."

I think they are simply being mothballed as the population exhales and believes normality is returning.

Either that or they are pulling the plug on the operation because we know, or it is enough already with those who nave been inoculated.

I suppose it could go either way and only time will tell. The ending could be heart-wrenching or uplifting, and one can only hope it is fair.

"He is not as well known as wealthy liberal patrons like George Soros or Tom Steyer. His political activism is channeled through a daisy chain of opaque organizations that mask the ultimate recipients of his money, but the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats. Newly obtained tax filings show that two of Mr. Wyss’s organizations, a foundation and a nonprofit fund, donated $208 million from 2016 through early last year to three other nonprofit funds that doled out money to a wide array of groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats in their efforts to win the White House and control of Congress last year. Mr. Wyss’s representatives say his organizations’ money is not being spent on political campaigning. But documents and interviews show that the entities have come to play a prominent role in financing the political infrastructure that supports Democrats and their issues.  Beneficiaries of his organizations’ direct giving included prominent groups such as the Center for American Progress and Priorities USA, as well as organizations that ran voter registration and mobilization campaigns to increase Democratic turnout, built media outlets accused of slanting the news to favor Democrats and sought to block Trump’s nominees, to prove he colluded with Russia and push for his impeachment......"

Haven't you ever wondered why Germany bypa$$ed $witzerland in WWII?

"German prosecutors have broken up an online platform for sharing images and videos showing the sexual abuse of children, mostly boys, that had an international following of more than 400,000 members, they said on Monday. The site, named “Boystown,” had been around since at least June 2019 and included forums where members from around the globe exchanged images and videos showing children, including toddlers, being sexually abused. In addition to the forums, the site had chat rooms where members could connect with one another in various languages. German federal prosecutors described it as “one of the largest child pornography sites operating on the dark net” in a statement they released on Monday announcing the arrest in mid-April of three German men who managed the site and a fourth who had posted thousands of images to it. “This investigative success has a clear message: Those who prey on the weakest are not safe anywhere,” Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said on Monday. “We are holding perpetrators accountable and doing what is humanly possible to protect children from such repugnant crimes.” Over the past decade, Germany has started a government campaign that includes a special unit to investigate crimes online in an effort to combat the sexual abuse of children. While the endeavor has uncovered several sophisticated networks, tens of thousands of new cases of abuse are reported to the authorities each year....."

Here is what the authorities Germany are doing about:

"Germany’s domestic intelligence service said on Wednesday that it would surveil members of the increasingly aggressive coronavirus denier movement because they posed a risk of undermining the state. The movement — fueled in part by wild conspiracy theories — has grown from criticizing coronavirus lockdown measures and hygiene rules to targeting the state itself, its leaders, businesses, the press and globalism, to name a few. Over the past year, demonstrators have attacked police officers, defied civil authorities and in one widely publicized episode scaled the steps of Parliament. In announcing the decision to keep tabs on conspiracy theorists, intelligence officials noted the movement’s close ties to extremists like the Reichsbürger, a network of groups that refuse to accept the legitimacy of the modern German state. The movement, called Querdenken, German for lateral thinking, communicates and recruits over social media and has a large presence on the encrypted chat service Telegram, where its main channel has 65,000 subscribers. The news comes days after Germany instituted new virus rules that apply nationwide and allow the federal government to enforce lockdowns. Such regulation had previously been in the hands of the country’s 16 states. It also suggests that the authorities believe coronavirus denier groups could continue to flourish and pose a threat after the pandemic ends....." 

They have made themselves illegitimate with the never-ending lies, and isn't Germany part of the NATO that is making orphans out of Afghanis?

Where are the diplomats when you need them, 'eh?

"More than 600 million people worldwide have been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 — meaning that more than 7 billion still have not. It is a striking achievement in the shadow of a staggering challenge. Half of all the doses delivered so far have gone into the arms of people in countries with one-seventh of the world’s people, primarily the United States and European nations. Dozens of countries, particularly in Africa, have barely started their inoculation campaigns. As wealthy countries envision the pandemic retreating within months — while poorer ones face the prospect of years of suffering — frustration has people around the world asking why more vaccine isn’t available. Nationalism and government actions do much to help explain the stark inequity between the world's haves and have-nots. So, for that matter, does government inaction, and the power of the pharmaceutical companies, which at times seem to hold all the cards, cannot be ignored, but much of it comes down to sheer logistics, but there is a long way to go. Here is a look at the reasons for the vaccine shortfall....."

It's because the United States remains well behind China and Russia in such “vaccine diplomacy,” and let's hope it doesn't lead to an assault that let's loose the dogs of war and the nightmare that follows.

If so, you better run for the hills and perch like a predatoreagle on the highest tree.

From there you can see the entire city, strike and all, as negotiations continue and terms are hard to swallow (there is simply no other way to put it:).

Oddly enough, it is time for lunch, my lone meal of the day.