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October 2019 - Week 5

The New York Times


He fled the Soviet Union at age 3. Now he has a West Wing office.

By Noah Weiland

Colonel Vindman's testimony is significant not just because he's the first witness who listened in on the July 25 call, but also because of his background: He's a refugee from Ukraine who fought in the Iraq War. I talked to my colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who wrote today about Colonel Vindman.

Sheryl, what makes Colonel Vindman's story so astonishing?

When Alexander was three, his family fled Ukraine, then under the thumb of the Soviet Union, with almost nothing. His mother had died in Kiev. They had $750 and their suitcases. They sold their possessions while waiting for visas.

They came here the way so many Americans have, looking for a better life. When they got to New York, their father worked multiple jobs while he was learning English. Alexander said in his testimony that his father instilled in him a love of the United States and a desire to integrate himself in this culture, to assimilate. He and his brother grew up and served in the military. There's nothing more American than that.

You talked to a family friend of the Vindmans, who said, “When you talk about what good immigrants do, look at what these immigrants are doing for this country.”

Alexander grew up to be a productive citizen. By joining the Army, he expressed a love for his country, which took him in. And that is, in her view, what good immigrants do. He earned a Purple Heart in Iraq and is now working at the highest levels of the White House. And he is exposing wrongdoing as he sees it. He's living up to the American ideals about truth and honor, about patriotism.

What can Colonel Vindman's testimony say about the moment he — and we — are in?

For Alexander, it's sort of like coming full circle. His past and present have converged into this singular moment in American history, when the refugee from Ukraine is providing evidence about how an American president — his boss — pressured Ukraine, his birthplace, to smear his political rivals. There's a remarkable symmetry to it.

What happened today
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told impeachment investigators that he had listened to the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, and heard Mr. Trump request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

  • Colonel Vindman said the White House transcript of that call had left out Mr. Zelensky saying the word “Burisma” — the name of the Ukrainian energy company that Hunter Biden had worked for, and a focus of the investigation Mr. Trump wanted — as well as Mr. Trump saying there were recordings of Mr. Biden.

  • When Colonel Vindman offered corrections to the transcript, which was reconstructed from voice-recognition software and notes, those two suggestions were rejected. He testified that he did not know why some changes were made and others were not.

  • On Monday, House Democrats announced they planned to take a vote on procedures for a more public phase of the investigation. Today, they unveiled more specifics — including open hearings and a report — with a full vote scheduled for Thursday.


The Washington Post


House to take first vote on impeachment inquiry of Trump, forcing lawmakers on record

By John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis

The House will take its first vote on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Thursday, forcing lawmakers to go on record in support or opposition of the investigation and dictating the rules for its next phase.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that the vote would “affirm” the existing probe, now in its sixth week, and establish which hearings would be open and how the transcripts from witnesses who have already testified in closed sessions would be released. Pelosi said the vote also would grant due process to the president and his attorney, countering a repeated criticism by Trump that he has been treated unfairly.

“We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives,” Pelosi said in a letter to Democrats. “Nobody is above the law.”

The vote is the most tangible step Democrats have taken yet in a process aimed at removing the president from office as the proceedings transform from a closed-door inquiry to a more public investigation. It will also pose a political dilemma ahead of the 2020 election for lawmakers of both parties running in closely contested districts, mindful that this vote will be viewed as a proxy vote for the larger question of impeaching Trump.

<< more >>

About the House resolution on the impeachment inquiry

What it is: A resolution outlining how the next phase of the impeachment inquiry will work.

Why it's significant: The impeachment inquiry has been going on for weeks, but this week Democrats are acknowledging it with an official piece of legislation and with a vote. It will do two things:

1) Put every House lawmaker on the record about whether they support this inquiry (which is different than whether they support impeachment) and

2) Outline how the rest of this inquiry will work.

It will also do something else notable: It could take away a Republican talking point that the inquiry isn't legitimate or fair because Democrats never voted to start it.

What it says: The text of the resolution came out Tuesday afternoon. It would give House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) broad authority to call witnesses for public hearings, which could start next month. It will also give Republicans on the Intelligence Committee permission to ask for their own witnesses, but Democrats can vote them down. (The real power for Republicans comes in a Senate trial, where they control the process.)

When they'll vote on it: They're expected to vote on it Thursday.




Britain set for December 12 election after MPs approve snap poll

By Rob Picheta

London (CNN) -- Britain will head to the polls amid the country's worst political crisis for generations, after lawmakers finally agreed to hold a landmark general election on December 12.

The election, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has attempted to secure for nearly two months, was sealed after the Labour Party dropped its opposition and voted in support of the government's bill.

It will come as the country seeks a path out of its crippling impasse over Brexit, the issue certain to dominate the six-week campaign season.

"There is only one way to restore the esteem in which our democracy is held and to recover the respect in which Parliament should be held by the people of this country," Boris Johnson said in the House of Commons on Tuesday before a vote was approved at the fourth attempt.

Jeremy Corbyn, who will contest his second poll at the helm of the opposition Labour Party, wrote on Twitter seconds after the vote was confirmed: "It's time for real change."

MPs approved the bill that set the election date by 438 votes to 20, after a lengthy day of debate over the precise date of the poll and an ultimately futile attempt to reduce the minimum voting age from 18 to 16. After the measure is approved by the House of Lords in the next few days, Parliament will be dissolved next week.

Johnson had pushed for an election rather than attempting to get his Brexit deal legislation through Parliament, where the government lacks a majority and has found itself constrained to the point of paralysis.

The Prime Minister enjoys a healthy lead in opinion polls, but the move is still a risk for his Conservative Party -- which lost a slim majority when former leader Theresa May took a similar gamble and called a vote in 2017.

The decision is also likely to frustrate parts of the country's weary electorate, who have already voted in three major polls since 2015 and now face the UK's first December general election since 1923.

But it provides opposition parties and voters a likely final chance to forge a path towards a second referendum on the issue of Brexit.


The Los Angeles Times


California struggles to keep illegal guns and ammunition from crossing state lines


SACRAMENTO — Ten special agents from the California Department of Justice were watching as a man walked out of the Big Reno Show and placed his purchases in his car.

The black Isuzu with California plates headed west on Interstate 80 into the Sierra Nevada, eventually crossing the Nevada state line. That's when the California Highway Patrol pulled Vincent Huey over. Inside the vehicle, state Justice Department agents found 18 high-capacity magazines, some capable of holding 30 rounds, according to court records.

In recent years, California has enacted increasingly strict gun control laws. Assault rifles and ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds are illegal to buy or import in California, but stopping their flow over the border has been a struggle. In 2018, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 3,920 guns originally purchased in Nevada and Arizona were recovered by California law enforcement officers from crime scenes, confiscated from criminals or found unclaimed.

The problem was made clear in July, when a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival killed three people and wounded 17. The 19-year-old gunman used what authorities say was a military-style AK-47 assault weapon purchased legally at a Nevada gun store.

“The importation of those assault-style weapons is against California law,” state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra told reporters after the Gilroy attack. “We may have progressive gun laws, but if other states don't match us, we have to rely on catching these individuals.”

State agents for years have conducted undercover operations and arrested dozens of Californians for bringing illegal guns and ammunition magazines into the state. But some agents have been redeployed to a program that seizes firearms from Californians prohibited from owning them because of felony convictions or mental illness.

“If you have surrounding states that have less restrictive gun laws, you are going to have importation,” said Steve Lindley, the former chief of the Justice Department's Bureau of Firearms who is now a program manager for the gun control group Brady United. “If there is no enforcement going on, they can just come right across the border.”

In Northern California, Nevada County Dist. Atty. Clifford Newell has prosecuted dozens of people for bringing illegal guns into the state.

“The real crux of the problem is that California has a 608-mile border with Nevada, shared with 12 California counties, and Nevada's gun regulations are less stringent,” Newell said. “People with sinister and nefarious intent will find a way into California with these weapons and accessories.”

While the state Justice Department has tools to stem the flow of illegal guns — including two new laws that help track out-of-state gun and ammunition purchases — the agency is facing competing priorities, according to spokeswoman Bethany Lesser.

Some agents previously assigned to surveillance operations at gun shows have been shifted in the last few years to efforts to reduce a large backlog in the Armed Prohibited Persons System, a list of California residents who bought guns before they were convicted of felonies or found to be severely mentally ill. The Justice Department reported in March that there were 23,222 people in the database who are prohibited from owning firearms.

Though the state makes little information available about undercover operations in neighboring states, records indicate that weapons purchases are still being watched despite the redeployment of agents.

“DOJ continues to investigate information provided regarding the unlawful importation of illegal firearms into California,” including with undercover investigations, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Lindley said he attended this year's Reno show as an observer for Brady United. Up to half of the cars in the parking lot, he said, had California plates, adding that undercover law enforcement was also on hand.

“We cannot comment, even to confirm or deny, potential or ongoing investigations or operations,” said a statement from Becerra's office.

Scott Tarbell, the organizer of the Reno event, said he welcomed the presence of California Justice Department agents and wasn't concerned about them scaring away potential customers.

“We invite them, but they come at their own leisure and they don't announce anything,” Tarbell said of the agents. “The only ones they'd scare away are the ones that got no good on their mind.”

On the weekend of this year's show in August, state Justice Department agents asked the CHP to pull over a 65-year-old man in a pickup on I-80 in Donner Pass who was thought to be bringing “5 high capacity magazines into California,” according to a CHP report.

While further details on the traffic stop were not released, Newell's office provided detailed investigative reports for cases that have gone through the courts, including the 2014 arrest of Huey.

During that operation, Justice Department special agents dressed as civilians mixed with the crowd inside the gun show. While there, they witnessed the purchases of high-capacity magazines, according to court documents. They later followed Huey, 52, in his Isuzu as he and two companions visited gun shops in Reno to make additional purchases before heading home.

Huey entered a plea bargain for a misdemeanor charge of bringing an ammunition magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds into California. He was sentenced to four days in jail, ordered to pay fines and perform community service, court records show.

John Runfola, the attorney who represented Huey, said he is concerned about such arrests, which involve legal purchases.

“It seems like a setup,” Runfola said. “We need a national policy regarding guns. It is an unfortunate situation that I hope the government can rectify.”

Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), chairwoman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said she was concerned by reports that undercover operations in Nevada have suffered because of a shift of resources and wants to make sure there is sufficient funding for gun show surveillance.

“The fact that our surrounding states have no reasonable controls on gun sales and gun violence protection really impacts California,” she said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has also emphasized the need to address the importation of guns from other states.

Earlier this month, he signed 15 bills to toughen restrictions on firearms, including a limit on purchases of semiautomatic rifles to one per month. Newsom also said he has been in discussions on the issue of gun safety with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat who recently signed a measure that requires background checks for private-party gun sales.

“We've had a lot of conversations,” Newsom said. “He is a very enlightened person. He doesn't necessarily have the kind of legislative support of the folks you see around me. So his is a more challenging job in many respects.”

In August, a group of two dozen California lawmakers wrote a letter to their counterparts in Nevada asking for a summit to discuss ways that the two states can improve gun safety and stop the importation of illegal firearms into the Golden State.

Though the law requires residents who buy guns and ammunition out of state to have the items delivered to a licensed gun dealer in California and undergo a background check, Becerra said the best solution is for Congress to act on tougher national gun regulations.

“We can't enforce California laws in Nevada, but if there were a national law that restricted purchase or transportation of assault-style weapons, then the FBI and [Drug Enforcement Administration] and other federal agencies wouldn't have to wait to start investigating, as in Gilroy, after people have died and been injured,” Becerra said. “It's unfortunate that our federal leaders have been AWOL in taking action.



Law Enforcement

Police face dilemma over when to take a suicidal officer's gun


A law enforcement think tank wants police departments dealing with a suicide crisis in their ranks to rethink how they make one of their toughest decisions: when to take guns away from troubled officers.

The recommendation to review gun-removal policies is in a new report by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum released in anticipation of a gathering of police chiefs this weekend in Chicago. It aims to help law enforcement agencies respond to a series of officer suicides this year in New York City and elsewhere around the country. A comparison of national statistics kept by nonprofit organizations shows that more law enforcement officers have died this year by their own hand than in the line of duty.

Last week, an off-duty sergeant became the 10th New York Police Department officer so far this year to take his own life, nine of them with a gun. Also last week, an officer in Maryland killed himself with a gun.

“There are risks in taking the guns and risks in not taking them,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the think tank. “The real question is, how do you support police officers without stigmatizing them?”

The report stems from a conference on police suicides in April at NYPD headquarters attended by police officials from around the world. It says when the subject turned to making officers surrender their weapons as a preventative measure, some officials expressed concerns that it could do more harm than good because it could “threaten his or her identity and purpose” and even “keep some officers from seeking help.”

With that in mind, the report says psychologists should be involved in any decision to remove guns. It also says the officers should be assured that they won't lose their paychecks and that their weapons will be returned as soon as they're cleared for duty. Typically, when such a decision is made, officials are supposed to take away all guns the officer owns, not only the service weapon.

“My threshold for recommending gun removal is very high,” said a Los Angeles Police Department psychologist quoted in the report, Denise Jablonski-Kaye. “As I sit and talk to an officer, maybe they have some problems, but if I don't believe that they're an imminent threat to themselves, I won't recommend that their gun be taken.”

In New York, the police department recently decided it would stop taking away the badges of officers who are forced to give up their guns in nondisciplinary cases to help remove any stigma. Of the cases the NYPD's medical division deals with, less than 10% result in guns being taken away, and the vast majority of those officers get their guns back and return to full duty, police said.

In addition, the NYPD unveiled a program this week that will allow officers to get free, confidential mental health services, including counseling and prescription drugs, through the New York-Presbyterian Hospital system. By relying on non-department, non-city providers, police officials hope the program, dubbed Finest Care, can eliminate the stigma associated with seeking help.

Removing a firearm is “part of a comprehensive process to support the officer through a temporary difficulty so they can return to full duty and a fulfilling career,” the NYPD said in a statement. “At its core, it is a judicious measure carried out with dignity and designed to save a life.”


The Wall Street Journal


Trump to Tell Federal Agencies to Cut New York Times, Washington Post Subscriptions

White House plans to direct government staffers to not renew orders with the newspapers, whose coverage he has disparaged as ‘fake'

By Andrew Restuccia

WASHINGTON—The White House is planning to instruct federal agencies to not renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post, administration officials said, escalating President Trump's attacks on the media outlets.

“Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email Thursday.

Ms. Grisham declined to provide further details, and it wasn't immediately clear how the White House intended to compel agencies to cancel the subscriptions or how soon the order would take effect. The White House was still working on implementing the directive as of Thursday morning, an administration official said.

Spokeswomen for the Times and the Post declined to comment.

The decision comes days after Mr. Trump told his staff to cancel the White House's print subscriptions to the Post and the Times after expressing frustration with their coverage.

“We don't even want it in the White House anymore,” Mr. Trump said of the Times during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that aired Monday night. “We're going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They're fake.”

Print editions of the Times and the Post weren't among the newspapers delivered to the White House on Thursday, a White House official said.

The president has repeatedly railed against and sought to discredit the newspapers' coverage of his administration, including its dealings with Ukraine and the resulting impeachment inquiry in the House. On Twitter and during campaign rallies, Mr. Trump has attacked the news media, calling it the “enemy of the people” and dismissing some of the country's most venerable journalism outlets as “fake news.”

In June, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that a Times story represented a “virtual act of Treason.” The publisher of the New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger, responded with an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal, saying the “new attack crosses a dangerous line in the president's campaign against a free and independent press.”

Mr. Trump is an avid consumer of the news, and he regularly reads the Times and the Post, according to aides who privately acknowledged that they expect him to continue doing so despite the directive.

“I have no doubt the hard-working reporters of the New York Times and Washington Post will continue to do quality journalism regardless of whether the president acknowledges he reads them,” said Jonathan Karl, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association and chief White House correspondent for ABC News.

“Pretending to ignore the work of a free press won't make the news go away or stop reporters from informing the public and holding those in power accountable,” Mr. Karl added.

It wasn't immediately known how many subscriptions to the Times and the Post the federal government has. Federal employees are eligible for free digital subscriptions to the Post using their government email addresses.

Officials at the General Services Administration and the White House Office of Management and Budget didn't immediately provide data about the total number of subscriptions.

Canceling the subscriptions could limit officials' access to vital information that could assist them in doing their jobs.


The Wall Street Journal


Behold the Lord High Impeacher

The failure to vote on an inquiry allows Schiff to make up the rules as he goes along.

You may have heard from the Washington Post that "democracy dies in darkness"—unless the darkness is in service of impeaching Donald Trump. Then the press, of all institutions, defends secrecy. This is merely one of the double standards playing out in the House impeachment hearings that you won't read or hear from most of the media. Our columnist Kim Strassel offers the other side of the story with a takedown of Democratic methods that allow selective leaks that mislead the public.

By Kimberley A. Strassel

Rep. Elise Stefanik was informed this week by Republican House Intelligence Committee staffers of a new diktat from Chairman Adam Schiff. It made the New York Republican's jaw drop.

Democrats had informed Republicans that, from here on out, the committee would produce a single, printed transcript of every interview it conducted as part of its impeachment inquiry. Only members of the three committees involved in the purported inquiry would be allowed to view that printout, and only in the presence of a Democratic staffer. Ms. Stefanik—an elected member of Congress who sits on the Intelligence Committee—will be babysat while reading by an unelected employee of the Democrats.

“It's outrageous, and it's an abuse of power,” Ms. Stefanik said in an interview. “Every constituent across this country deserves to have their members have access to all the facts.”

Welcome to impeachment, Schiff-style. Democrats keep their witnesses locked behind secure doors, then flood the press with carefully sculpted leaks and accusations, driving the Trump-corruption narrative. And so the party goes, galloping toward an impeachment vote that would overturn the will of the American voters—on a case built in secret.

Conservative commentators keep noting that Mrs. Pelosi's refusal to hold a vote on the House floor to authorize an official impeachment inquiry helps her caucus's vulnerable members evade accountability. But there's a more practical and uglier reason for Democrats to skip the formalities. Normally an authorization vote would be followed by official rules on how the inquiry would proceed. Under today's process, Mr. Schiff gets to make up the rules as he goes along. Behold the Lord High Impeacher.

Democrats view control over the narrative as essential, having learned from their Russia-collusion escapade the perils of transparency. They banked on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation proving impeachment fodder, but got truth-bombed. Their subsequent open hearings on the subject—featuring Michael Cohen, Mr. Mueller and Corey Lewandowski —were, for the Democrats, embarrassing spectacles, at which Republicans punched gaping holes in their story line.

Mr. Schiff is making sure that doesn't happen again; he'll present the story, on his terms. His rules mean he can issue that controlling decree about “only one” transcript and Democratic staff supervision of Republican members. It means he can bar the public, the press and even fellow representatives from hearings, even though they're unclassified.

It means he is able to shield from scrutiny the whistleblower who prompted this impeachment proceeding. It means he can continue barring Republicans from calling opposing witnesses. It means he can continue refusing to allow White House counsel in the room to hear the accusations against the president.

Mr. Schiff apparently even believes his impeachment authority allows him to ignore longstanding rules. A recent letter from Republican members of the Intelligence Committee objected to Mr. Schiff's new practice of withholding official documents. They listed nearly two dozen letters from the committee (to recipients ranging from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to White House counsel Pat Cipollone) that had not been uploaded to the committee repository—which, they note, violates House rules. Republicans aren't even allowed to know what questions Mr. Schiff is asking.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise's office notes that only 106 members out of the 435 in the House sit on the three committees currently allowed to access impeachment proceedings. Given the average size of a congressional district (about 711,000 people), close to 234 million Americans are being represented by House members who have no real access to information. Ms. Stefanik observes that this includes House Democrats who have already declared their intention to vote for impeachment.

Mr. Schiff has intimated he will eventually make some things public. But Democrats' barring of Republicans and the White House from this “fact finding” stage ensures what is presented later will be a one-sided narrative. How could any senator vote to convict based on such a rigged proceeding?

A group of Republicans this week stormed one of Mr. Schiff's hearings; he refused to proceed until they left. What followed was a litany of outrage from Democrats and the press about how Republicans were violating “rules.” This from the same Democratic majority that violates the rules every day by leaking select bits of the testimony to a press corps that suddenly doesn't care much about democracy dying in darkness.

Democrats keep insisting their case against Mr. Trump is rock solid. Maybe. They'll let you know. In the history books.


The Washington Post


Facebook launches a charm offensive — and vows to pay (some) news organizations for their journalism

By Margaret Sullivan

Ronald Reagan called these the nine most terrifying words in the English language: “I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”

Enter the world's biggest social media company.

“We're from Facebook and we're here to help” was, essentially, the message that founder Mark Zuckerberg brought Friday to news organizations, whose business models have been trashed by the digital disruption of information and advertising while the tech platforms have reaped untold billions.

The instrument of this help, he explained to journalists and others in a mid-Manhattan auditorium, will be the Facebook News tab — a new offering on the platform that curates news and information, using both algorithms and human beings to make decisions.

And will also do something revolutionary: Pay some publishers (including The Washington Post) for their expensive-to-produce journalism.

Will it help the news industry survive and thrive?

The answer, probably, is that it will help some. And in time, it could help more.

“There is a real positive in this,” said David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance, which represents thousands of newspapers and other news publishers. Positive because this all-powerful tech player is “acknowledging the value of quality journalism and saying that they are willing to pay for it.”

He worries, though, that the thousands of local newspapers suffering the worst — and struggling for mere survival — are being left out of the equation. Facebook's partners include a few large regional newspapers like the Los Angeles Times but leave out the vast majority.

“This won't end well,” was the blunt forecast of Parker Molloy, an editor at the progressive media-watchdog group Media Matters.

Her specific concern? That Breitbart News is included in a list of trusted publishers despite being described by Steve Bannon, its former executive chairman, as “a platform for the alt-right” and often criticized as a font of disinformation.

Asked at the Friday event why Breitbart was in the mix, Zuckerberg sounded a familiar note: Facebook News “needs to have a diversity of views” and a “breadth of content.”

And he noted that a news organization's being “eligible to show up” doesn't mean that its stories will be chosen.

Zuckerberg made his remarks at a “fireside chat” with the Robert Thomson, the chief executive of News Corp. The Australian media executive gave his bosses — Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan — a shout-out during his opening remarks at the Paley Center for Media, where waiters circulated with canapes and attendees were offered water infused with cucumber, lavender and basil.

“What took you so long?” Thomson pointedly asked Zuckerberg, about the plan to pay news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, which is part of News Corp.

“I'll take that as a compliment,” quipped the Facebook founder, who wore his trademark gray crew-neck sweater and dark jeans onstage.

It didn't really sound like a compliment, but then maybe that's a relative thing: It's been a contentious week or so for Zuckerberg, who is again under fire, including at a long congressional hearing Wednesday.

Facebook News will become available immediately to more than 200,000 people in the United States, with a broader rollout planned for early next year, The Post reported. Eventually, Zuckerberg said, he hopes it will be used by 20 to 30 million people — a modest slice of Facebook's 2 billion or so users.

As with all things Facebook does, this one ought to be viewed skeptically. The company's record on policing blatant disinformation and hate speech, particularly during the 2016 election, is beyond dismal.

It has an unfortunate tendency not to follow its own rules or standards.

In this case, one thing it has going for it is the deep involvement and journalistic credibility of a former Washington Post deputy national editor, Anne Kornblut.

For many years, Facebook — as a major worldwide disseminator of news, one that constantly makes editorial-style decisions — refused to cop to the obvious: That it is a media company, not just a platform.

With this development, that argument goes away. And because that may force a sense of responsibility about decision-making, it's a good thing.

To the extent that Facebook is putting at least some money and other resources behind high-quality journalism, that's a step forward.

But it can't leave smaller, regional publishers in the lurch while placating the major influencers in the news business.

It can't promote and partner with purveyors of disinformation in the name of ideological diversity.

And it can't just talk the game of “We're from Facebook and we're here to help.” (Zuckerberg's Friday op-ed in the New York Times states as much, headlined: “Facebook can help the news business.”)

Let's say, cautiously, that there's potential here.

“I've been saying for a long time that these big tech players could be an answer rather than the problem,” Chavern of the News Media Alliance told me.

We'll see.


The New York Times


Catholic Bishops Back Ordination of Married Men as Priests in Amazon Region, a Milestone

By Jason Horowitz

VATICAN CITY — A summit of Roman Catholic bishops meeting at the Vatican recommended on Saturday that Pope Francis allow the ordination of married men as priests in the Amazon region, which would lift a roughly 1,000-year-old restriction and potentially revolutionize the priesthood.

It is the first time a grouping of bishops convened by a pope has endorsed such a historic change to the tradition of a celibate priesthood. The proposal is limited to remote areas of South America where there is a scarcity of priests but could set a precedent for easing the restriction on married priests throughout the world.

If Francis, who has already signaled an openness on the issue, accepts the bishops' recommendation, he will turn the remote areas of the Amazon region into a laboratory for a Catholic Church looking to the global south for its future, with married priests and indigenous rites mixing with traditional liturgy.

The pope is expected to respond to the proposals by the end of this year.

The final document of the summit, noting that many of the faithful in the Amazon region have “enormous difficulties” in receiving communion and seeing a priest, proposed to “ordain priests suitable and esteemed men of the community,” who had already had “fruitful” experiences as deacons and who “receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted and stable family.”

“No priest is ordained without first being a deacon,” Cardinal Michael Czerny said at a news conference Saturday night. He characterized the entirety of the proposals as a great “pastoral change” for the church.

Liberal supporters said the change would address the unmet needs of a far-flung community and they expressed hope it would lead to similar changes elsewhere. Conservative opponents called it a threat to the tradition of the priesthood, another troubling sign Francis was willing to dilute the faith to pursue a more inclusive, but less pure, church.

The proposal came from the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, a three-week meeting of bishops dedicated to “new paths” in the Amazon that has covered topics as varied as the environment and the possible ordination of women as deacons.

The bishops did not vote to allow women to become deacons in the church, a change that, if accepted by Pope Francis, would have had significant theological repercussions.

Instead, Francis said in remarks to the bishops after Saturday evening's vote that the Vatican would continue to study the role of women in the early years of the church.

“We still haven't grasped the significance of women in the Church,” he said. “Their role must go well beyond questions of function.”

Francis convened the bishops to find ways to defend the rights, natural resources and cultures of the 2.5 million indigenous people spread across the nine countries — Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana — that constitute the Amazon region. The bishops emphasized more respectful ways of “pastoral conversion” and urged the promotion of new churches “rooted in the cultures and traditions.”

But the meeting, which followed a broad survey of Catholics in the region, created high tension around the issue of blending Catholic and indigenous rites. Those tensions burst into the open on Monday with the theft and vandalism — technically unclaimed but apparently by Catholic traditionalists — of indigenous sculptures from a church being used by indigenous Catholics in Rome.

But the biggest change was the easing of the celibacy requirement.

In responding to a longstanding concern about the dearth of priests in a region where competition from evangelical Protestants is increasingly strong, 181 voting bishops and other prelates recommended that the church ordain to the priesthood older men of proven character. Only ordained priests can perform the most central sacraments, such as celebrating Mass and hearing confession.

Pope Francis, who has argued that the hierarchy should listen more to local bishops, will now take the recommendation into consideration. He is expected to issue his own document, one that could change church teaching on the issue.

In the past, the pontiff has expressed openness to discussing controversial issues. In 2014, he said the “door is always open” to discussing celibacy in the priesthood. And he has used conservative language to argue for what many liberals consider a pragmatic response to a lack of priests, framing it as a question of providing sacraments to the faithful.

In a homily at the opening of the synod, Francis said, “If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done,' then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.”

His bishops apparently got the message.

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The Wall Street Journal


Hearing to Decide Fate of Missouri's Only Abortion Clinic

St. Louis clinic could lose license in dispute with state, making Missouri first state in decades without an abortion clinic

By Jennifer Calfas

A battle over Missouri's last abortion clinic continues this week, as a state commission weighs arguments in a licensing dispute that could level a blow to abortion access.

The hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission is the latest salvo between the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Citing patient safety concerns, the health department declined to renew the clinic's license earlier this year. After Planned Parenthood challenged the decision in a St. Louis Circuit Court, a federal judge kicked the case to the Administrative Hearing Commission in June.

If the St. Louis clinic loses its license, it would make Missouri the first state in decades without a medical abortion clinic.

The Missouri health department has said the Planned Parenthood clinic failed to correct all of the deficiencies it found during an annual inspection in the spring, emphasizing concerns over its compliance and patient safety. In documents filed to the state commission, the attorney general's office also argued against a constitutional right to abortion in the state. “The right to abortion is not deeply rooted in Missouri's unique history and traditions,” the response, signed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said.

Lawyers representing Planned Parenthood have argued the state “acted arbitrarily, capriciously, unreasonably, unlawfully, unconstitutionally, and in excess of its statutory and regulatory authority.” They have also characterized the licensing issue as part of a string of actions by the state intended to hinder abortion access, including the state's planned eight-week abortion ban and a number of restrictions on how clinics in the state can operate.

Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, who was appointed by former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, will hear the arguments over the clinic's future this week. It is likely a decision will come early next year. He previously ruled the clinic could operate as usual during the monthslong waiting period.

The hearing, which starts Monday, is expected to draw activists and opponents to St. Louis. A representative with the city's Metropolitan Police Department said it was aware of the hearings, but declined to provide further details.

Advocates from the NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri plan to fill the hearing room in support of Planned Parenthood, said Mallory Schwarz, the group's executive director. “There is a general atmosphere of chaos in the state around access to reproductive health care,” she said.

The Coalition for Life St. Louis, a religiously affiliated group with the goal of ending abortion in the city, will have volunteers standing and praying outside of the abortion clinic for 12 hours each day next week, as part of an annual awareness event.

“Being the very first abortion-free state is a very important landmark for not just Missouri but for the entire nation,” said Brian Westbrook, the group's director.

The heightened possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could limit access to some procedures has led states to pull farther apart on the divisive issue.

Some have enacted legislation enshrining abortion protection. Many others, including Missouri, have taken aim at the legality of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision with laws tightening abortion access, including barring procedures after a certain number of weeks of pregnancy.

Almost all of the laws targeting Roe v. Wade have since been blocked in lower courts. The Supreme Court recently agreed to review other types of abortion restrictions in Louisiana.

Missouri is one of six states—including Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota and South Dakota—with one abortion clinic, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights.

Fewer options have led some patients to seek services elsewhere. About half of the patients at Illinois' Hope Clinic for Women travel there from nearby Missouri. And last week, Planned Parenthood opened a new, 18,000-square-foot clinic in Fairview Heights, Ill., under 20 miles away from its St. Louis operation.

In recent weeks, staff at the Missouri clinic have doubled down on reminding prospective patients that abortion care is still legal and available in the state, said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

“We have really had to do a lot of work to reassure our patients our doors are still open,” she said.


The Washington Post


‘Premarital exams' for women are popular in Utah. Some experts say they send a bad message.

By Marisa Iati

Jennifer Gunter said she nearly fell off her chair when she saw the headline on the University of Utah's medical center website.

Getting ready for your wedding night with a premarital exam.

Gunter, an OB/GYN and the author of “The Vagina Bible,” says she had never heard of a premarital exam. And, she said, some of the medical advice it seemed to offer was concerning.

In a Sept. 9 blog post, Gunter described what she saw on the University of Utah Health website: the suggestion that a woman schedule a premarital exam “to confirm that her body is ready for sex” and explore using a vaginal dilator, as first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune. The health-care system also suggested a link between condoms and urinary tract infections, and it recommended that women consider getting antibiotics in case they develop a UTI on their honeymoon.

“It seems very patriarchal to me and not scientific,” Gunter told The Washington Post. “And certainly I'm unfamiliar with any of these practices.”

Premarital exams are considered first gynecological visits in which doctors also try to educate women about their sexual health and forge relationships with them. Experts say women learning about their bodies is positive but that these exams sometimes promote scientifically inaccurate information, make sex sound like a medical condition and imply that women need preparation for sexual intimacy that men do not.

The concept of a premarital exam is largely unique to Utah, where public school teachers are required to promote abstinence. They are allowed to teach about contraception and preventing sexually transmitted diseases but cannot encourage the use of contraception or teach the intricacies of intercourse. The demand for premarital exams, experts say, indicates a hunger in the state for earlier and more comprehensive sex education.

“A child's sexual health begins before they get married,” said Kristin Hodson, founder of the Utah-based Healing Group, which promotes sexual and other types of health. “It begins before they are sexually active.”

Hodson said the fact that there is a need for that kind of an exam in the first place suggests Utah needs to do better in sexual health education.

Referring to a woman's first gynecological exam as a “premarital exam” caters to terminology that the heavily Mormon population of Utah is familiar with, Hodson said. Many female members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which forbids sexual intimacy before marriage, seek premarital exams to prepare to have sex for the first time. Mothers often pass down the tradition to their daughters.

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The Los Angeles Times


NBC News will not keep former employees with harassment complaints from speaking up


NBC News, which has faced withering criticism over its handling of reporting around disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, is allowing all women who had signed non-disclosure agreements upon leaving the company to discuss any claims of sexual harassment they may have had.

The company announced the unusual move in a statement issued Friday on MSNBC's “The Rachel Maddow Show” in response to the charges made in former NBC News correspondent Ronan Farrow's book “Catch and Kill.”

The news division has been beleaguered by Farrow's allegations that it obstructed his reporting on harassment and assault accusations against Weinstein and silenced women who had complained about inappropriate behavior by fired “Today” co-host Matt Lauer.

Farrow said he learned of at least seven cases where women received “enhanced severance” payments in return for signing agreements restraining them from revealing their harassment complaints. Several of those cases, Farrow asserts, were related to Lauer.

NBCUniversal has maintained that the agreements were standard for employees leaving the company aimed at keeping them from revealing confidential information or making disparaging statements. But now employees who believe they were prevented from revealing harassment complaints are free to speak.

According to the statement from an NBCUniversal representative, “any former NBC News employee who believes they cannot disclose their experience with sexual harassment as a result of a confidentiality or non-disparagement provision in their separation agreement should contact NBCUniversal and we will release them from that perceived obligation.”

Farrow, who appeared with Maddow on her program Friday, praised the decision by NBC News.

The assertion that female employees were paid off is central to his argument in “Catch and Kill” that fears about Lauer's behavior led NBC News to obstruct Farrow's reporting on Weinstein.

Lauer was fired or sexual misconduct in November 2017 after former NBC News employee Brooke Nevils filed a complaint with human resources. Nevils later claimed to Farrow that Lauer raped her while the two were working at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Lauer has denied the claim, calling their relationship consensual.

NBC News has said that there were no harassment complaints against Lauer — who worked at the network for 25 years and was widely known for having extramarital affairs — before Nevils came forward. Another former employee, who did receive a settlement payment, complained about Lauer after he was fired.

Farrow investigated allegations of sexual harassment by Weinstein over seven months in 2017 while at NBC News. The network would not air the story until he was able to get a victim or witness to speak on camera and on the record.

Farrow grew impatient with the delays, knowing the New York Times was also chasing the story. He agreed in August 2017 to take the story to the New Yorker. It was published seven weeks later and won the Pulitzer Prize, along with the Times.

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US close to implementing asylum agreement with Guatemala

By Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, CNN

(CNN) The Trump administration is close to implementing an asylum agreement with Guatemala that would limit who's eligible for asylum in the United States, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The agreement, which President Donald Trump announced in the Oval Office in July, is part of a concerted effort by the administration to curb the flow of asylum seekers to the United States. The accord commits Guatemala to extend asylum to migrants who seek it.

Once the implementation plan is in place and logistics are firmed up, the US will begin transferring some asylum seeking migrants to Guatemala to seek protection there, according to a source familiar with the plan. There are some exceptions, such as medical issues and unaccompanied children.

It's unclear how many people Guatemala will accept and how many will be subject to transfer.

The Department of Homeland Security told lawmakers this week that the agreement was in the final stage, but didn't specify when it would go into effect, according to a congressional aide.

Under US law, migrants are allowed to claim asylum once on US soil. There's a caveat, however, for those who come through safe third countries, meaning countries with which US has an agreement. The United Nations' refugee agency defines "safe country," in part, as "being countries in which refugees can enjoy asylum without any danger."

The US has had a safe-third agreement with Canada since 2002.

The Guatemala accord was the first of a series of similar agreements with Central American countries. In fiscal year 2019, Customs and Border Protection apprehended and deemed inadmissible nearly 1 million people -- the majority of whom were from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Outgoing acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan shepherded the agreements in recent months, taking a number of trips down to Central America. A source familiar with McAleenan's thinking told CNN that he is proud of working with the governments of Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries.

"It felt like the layers are now in place to prevent a similar surge sparking this fall," the source said.

Earlier this summer, Guatemala's Constitutional Court blocked the Guatemalan President from signing the accord amid pressure from Trump to come to an agreement. The court later gave the green light for the deal to move forward, though it's unclear how the administration change in Guatemala will impact the implementation.

Immigrant advocates have pushed back on the asylum agreements, arguing that they put migrants in harm's way and betray the US commitment to protecting vulnerable populations.

Amnesty International USA advocacy director for the Americas Charanya Krishnaswami called the agreement between the US and Guatemala "outrageous" following its announcement earlier this year.

"The United States government knows well that conditions there are dangerous. With high levels of violence and impunity, weak institutions, and an asylum system the United States' own State Department has noted is deficient, there is no doubt that Guatemala should not be considered a safe place of refuge," Krishnaswami said in a statement.


Child migrant detentions soar: The U.S. has detained a record number of children trying to cross the southwestern border on their own over the past year. More than 76,020 minors traveling without their parents were apprehended in the fiscal year that ended in September.

ALSO: Two announcements have just shed a stark light on the state of immigration in the US. Customs and Border Protection announced nearly 475,000 migrant families were arrested at the southern border over the past year. That's an increase of 342% since the 2018 fiscal year. The dramatic spike is due in part to an increase of asylum-seekers. The US is also on track to not admit any refugees into the country during the month of October. A pause on admissions that was expected to lift yesterday was extended into November, leaving hundreds with cancelled flights and unsure futures. This is the third time this month the State Department has delayed refugee admissions. The Trump administration has proposed capping the number of refugees allowed into the US next fiscal year at 18,000, a historic low. But until the President signs off on the cap, no new refugees can be admitted come mid-November.


The New York Times


1.5 Million Packages a Day: The Internet Brings Chaos to N.Y. Streets

The push for convenience is having a stark impact on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution in New York City and urban areas around the world.

By Matthew Haag and Winnie Hu

An Amazon order starts with a tap of a finger. Two days later — or even in a matter of hours — the package arrives.

It seems simple enough.

But to deliver Amazon orders and countless others from businesses that sell over the internet, the very fabric of major urban areas around the world is being transformed. And New York City, where more than 1.5 million packages are delivered daily, shows the impact that this push for convenience is having on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution.

Delivery trucks operated by UPS and FedEx double-park on streets and block bus and bike lanes. They racked up more than 471,000 parking violations last year, a 34 percent increase from 2013.

The main entryway for packages into New York City, leading to the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey, has become the most congested interchange in the country. Trucks heading toward the bridge travel at 23 miles per hour, down from 30 m.p.h. five years ago.

While the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber has unquestionably caused more traffic, the proliferation of trucks has worsened the problem. As a result, cars in the busiest parts of Manhattan now move just above a jogger's pace, about 7 m.p.h., roughly 23 percent slower than at the beginning of the decade.

Neighborhoods like Red Hook, Brooklyn, are being used as logistics hubs to get packages to customers faster than ever. At least two million square feet of warehouse space is being built in New York, including what will be the largest center of its kind in the country. Amazon added two warehouses in the city over the summer.

The immense changes in New York have been driven by tech giants, other private businesses and, increasingly, by independent couriers, often without the city's involvement, oversight or even its awareness, The New York Times found.

Officials are racing to keep track of the numerous warehouses sprouting up, to create more zones for trucks to unload and to encourage some deliveries to be made by boat as the city struggles to cope with a booming online economy.

The average number of daily deliveries to households in New York City tripled to more than 1.1 million shipments from 2009 to 2017, the latest year for which data was available, according to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems.

“It is impossible to triple the amount,” said José Holguín-Veras, the center's director and an engineering professor at Rensselaer, “without paying consequences.”

Households now receive more shipments than businesses, pushing trucks into neighborhoods where they had rarely ventured.

And it could be just the beginning. Just 10 percent of all retail transactions in the United States during the first quarter of 2019 were made online, up from 4 percent a decade ago, according to the Census Bureau.

Amazon is now moving toward one-day delivery rather than two days for its Prime customers and plans to spend $1.5 billion this quarter, which includes the holiday season, to reach that goal.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the impact of its deliveries on growing congestion in New York.

Other companies, including FedEx and UPS, said they were using technology and taking other measures to make deliveries less burdensome on clogged streets.

New York City officials say they have taken steps to better manage truck traffic on the streets.

“In this period of tremendous growth in the city's population, jobs, tourism and e-commerce, our congested streets are seeing ever more trucks,” said Polly Trottenberg, the city's transportation commissioner. “The city is experimenting with enforcement and creative curb management initiatives to address this growing challenge.”

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The Wall Street Journal


The Drones Are Coming! How Amazon, Alphabet and Uber Are Taking to the Skies

Companies are firing up fleets of unmanned aircraft in a race to deliver everything from electronics to food

By Sebastian Herrera and Alberto Cervantes

Flying robots that deliver packages to people's doorsteps are no longer science fiction. Companies including Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Wing and Uber Technologies Inc. are starting the most advanced trials of drone delivery in U.S. history.

While commercial drone delivery faces many hurdles, government-approved tests by the tech giants will mark the first time consumers in parts of the country experience the technology. Wing this month started tests in Christiansburg, Va., while Uber says it will experiment in San Diego before the year ends. Amazon hasn't revealed where it is operating but said in June it would begin delivering packages to consumers via drone “within months.”

Amazon, Uber and Wing are hardly the only players tinkering with the technology. This month United Parcel Service Inc. gained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build out a fleet of unmanned aircraft to deliver health supplies and eventually consumer packages in the U.S.

Experts say wide-scale drone delivery operations will take years to build out. The FAA predicts sales of drones for a wide range of commercial purposes to grow from 600,000 in 2016 to 2.7 million by 2020.

The approaches vary, and success is anything but assured.


Amazon - Hexagonal design allows the drone to switch between a vertical helicopter-like mode and a horizontal airplane mode.

The hexagonal wings help stabilize the drone in gusty winds and double as a shroud to protect the six propellers, Amazon says. Amazon first tested a drone service in Cambridge, England, in 2016 and tried out roughly 50,000 design concepts before settling on its latest design. Amazon hasn't said where it is testing the new drones.

Wing - Drone hovers at about 24 feet and lowers a package to the ground with a tether.

Wing's drone looks more like a small plane. Its two wings, extending more than 3 feet, each feature a propeller and allow the drone to fly further while conserving energy, the company says. Altogether, the drone has 14 propellers designed to reduce noise. Wing, which started in 2012 as a project in Alphabet's X lab, began trials in Australia in 2014 and has conducted more than 80,000 tests. Wing is initially working with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and FedEx Corp. to deliver small packages, food, beverages and medicine items in Christiansburg. Wing's parent also owns Google.

Uber - Drone lands, and the payload releases automatically.

Uber is using a drone built by another company. The modified AR200 by AirRobot has limitations, flying slower than the other drones and with a more limited range. Uber says that will improve when it begins testing a proprietary drone late this year or early next year. It completed limited tests in May at a McDonald's near San Diego State University. Uber says residents near the university will soon be able to order drone-delivered food from certain local restaurants through the Uber Eats app.

Also covered: Takeoff - Flying - Landing - Obstacles - Delivery

Amazon, Wing and Uber have to overcome a number of obstructions and concerns before drone delivery can become widespread.

The companies say they have built safeguards to their devices. Amazon uses machine learning algorithms and infrared sensors to detect birds, wires and other obstacles. Amazon programs its drones with scenarios—such as a delivery location not being detected—and commands to follow in such scenarios.

Last winter, Wing tested its drone north of Helsinki during snowy and windy conditions. The company's drone has built-in wind sensors and is waterproof, with computer chip boards covered in silicone coating. Uber is planning to put a thermal feature in its future drone to keep food items cold or hot.

Unlike airplanes, experts say no standard exists on how drones will identify and communicate with each other while in the air, making drone delivery by multiple companies in the same area not currently possible. Some companies have been given more freedom than others. Wing, for example, has been certified to build out an air carrier network, while Uber and Amazon haven't.

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The Los Angeles Times


LAX is banning Uber and Lyft pickups at the curb. Here's how the new system works


The days of stepping into an Uber, Lyft or taxi curbside at Los Angeles International Airport are over.

Starting Tuesday at 3 a.m., travelers leaving LAX will be required to board a shuttle or walk to a waiting area east of Terminal 1 to hire a car.

The changes were announced this month as part of LAX's effort to manage congestion in the terminal area of the nation's second-busiest airport, which will grow worse as the airport continues a $14-billion modernization effort.

Without major changes, airport officials warned, traffic on an average summer day would soon resemble the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

The changes have sparked dismay from riders, and from Uber, which warned in a letter that the new system could cause bottlenecks, gridlock and long waits for travelers.

Here is what to expect.

How do I catch my Uber, Lyft or taxi?

Open the Uber or Lyft app once you've landed and stepped off the plane into the terminal. The app will provide travelers with directions on how to summon a ride, airport officials said.

Exit the terminal and board one of the bright green shuttles to the pickup area. It's also a short walk from terminals 1, 2, 7 and 8.

If you are taking a taxi, board a shuttle or walk to the pickup area, where there will be a cab stand.

Are drop-offs changing?

No. Uber and Lyft vehicles can still drop you off at any terminal for a departing flight, as they have for the last several years.

How long will the shuttle ride take?

Shuttles will arrive every three to five minutes. The longest ride on the shuttles will be from Terminal 1, which will take about 15 minutes.

To speed up the travel times of the shuttles, the airport is converting the inside lanes on the arrivals level to bus-only lanes.

You should “reliably” be in your Uber, Lyft or taxi within half an hour of leaving the terminal, even when traffic is the most congested, said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director at Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX.

If the inside curb lanes are for buses, where do I pick up my friends and family?

You should pick up your friends and family at the median between the inner and outer lanes of the arrivals level, the area where people formerly waited for the FlyAway bus and other shuttles.

Drivers should pull up to the curb and stop, just as they did under the old system. The airport has extended the medians there to accommodate more people, said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.

What is the pickup area like?

The pickup area is a portion of a parking lot just east of LAX's Terminal 1. It has been converted into a plaza with bathrooms, umbrellas and phone charging stations. The area will also have food trucks operating from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.

LAX calls the pickup area “LAX-it” (pronounced “L.A. Exit”).

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The Washington Post


She captivated the nation by saying a black man kidnapped her sons. Police knew she killed them.

By Marisa Iati

Her voice trembled on national television as she pleaded for someone to find her young sons.

“I can't even describe what I'm going through,” Susan Smith said through sobs as she sat on a couch next to her husband. “I mean, my heart is, it just aches so bad. I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't do anything but think about them.”

Smith's allegation about what had happened to 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alexander on Oct. 25, 1994, was explosive. She said that a black gunman had jumped into her burgundy Mazda while she waited at a stoplight, made her drive several miles, forced her out of the car and driven away with her sons.

The truth about the boys' disappearance 25 years ago this week would come to light nine days later, when police pulled the car from John D. Long Lake in Union County, S.C., and found two small bodies in the back seat. Smith, 23, was charged with murder.

Stories of other mothers who murdered their children, from Diane Downs in 1983 to Christy Sheats in 2016, have captured the nation's attention for decades. Smith's crime was another opportunity to obsess over an unimaginable case of filicide.

The tale she told about an anonymous gunman made her case particularly gripping. Hundreds of people scoured rural South Carolina, police analyzed thousands of tips from across the country, and students organized a prayer vigil, The Washington Post reported in 1994.

But investigators were immediately suspicious. They eventually discovered a letter from Smith's love interest — the son of the chief executive of the company where she worked — saying he wanted to be with her but didn't want a family.

Smith strapped her sons into their car seats in the back of her Mazda and drove around the small town, thinking about ending her life, police said at the time. She eventually admitted that she made her way to Long Lake and sent her car off a boat ramp with Michael and Alexander inside.

“Every part of her world was falling apart, and one thing led to another,” an unidentified police source told The Post in 1994. “There doesn't seem to have been great plans aforethought in her actions. They just happened.”

News that Smith had confessed to the crime angered the town's tightknit African American community, which found it suspicious that no one recognized Smith's description of the purported kidnapper. Locals compared Smith's case to that of Charles Stuart, a white man who in 1989 alleged a black man had fatally shot his pregnant wife. Stuart later killed himself when authorities indicted him for the crime.

Smith led a complicated life before the killings. She worked as a secretary at a plant that made decorative trims for textiles. A local resident told The Post that people saw her as friendly and outgoing. She enjoyed shopping and going to Friday-night football games at a local high school.

On the other hand, the county sheriff at the time said she came from a “troubled background.” She lost her father to suicide when she was young, was molested by her stepfather and tried to end her own life as a teenager. Her marriage to David Smith later ended in divorce, and she worried that her $17,000-per-year income wasn't enough.

As Smith's trial approached, popular magazines weighed in with dramatic headlines.

“How could she do it?” implored Time.

“Does she deserve to die?” asked People magazine.

Smith declined to testify at her trial, where prosecutor Tommy Pope painted a picture of a selfish, manipulative actress who could make herself cry at will. He held photos of Michael and Alexander as he described for the jury what their deaths must have been like, The Post reported in 1995.

“They were probably crying,” Pope said. “They knew it was dark. They knew they were scared. They knew they were alone … but their mother ran with her hands over her ears.”

The jury convicted Smith of murder.

On July 29, 1995, The Post reported that Smith closed her eyes after a court clerk read the sentence: life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. She had been spared the death penalty that prosecutors were seeking.

Smith's family members gasped with relief. Her former husband told reporters on the courthouse steps that his ex-wife had not received justice.

“I'll never forget what Susan has done, and I'll never forget Michael and Alex,” David Smith said. “Me and my family, of course, are disappointed that the death penalty wasn't the verdict.”


The New York Times


House Unanimously Approves Bill to Make Animal Cruelty a Federal Offense

Violators could face up to seven years in prison under the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.

By Neil Vigdor

Animal cruelty would become a federal offense with a penalty of up to seven years in prison under a proposed expansion of an animal welfare law that won unanimous approval this week in the House of Representatives.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act advanced through the House on Tuesday after a voice vote, which the law's backers said they hoped would get the Senate to act soon on a companion bill.

Most of the animal cruelty laws on the books are at the state level, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The legislation would expand a 2010 law signed by President Barack Obama banning so-called crush videos that show animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or subjected to other forms of torture. In some of the videos, women with their faces hidden could be seen stamping on rabbits with spiked high heels.

Animal welfare advocates said that while the current law prohibited the production and distribution of crush videos, it had failed to address the animal cruelty depicted in them. So Representatives Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan, who are both from Florida and serve on opposite sides of the political aisle, sought to broaden the law.

“This bill sends a clear message that our society does not accept cruelty against animals,” Mr. Deutch, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We've received support from so many Americans from across the country and across the political spectrum.”

“Animal rights activists have stood up for living things that do not have a voice,” he continued. “Law enforcement officers have sought a federal overlay to help them stop animal abusers who are likely to commit acts of violence against people. And animal lovers everywhere know this is simply the right thing to do.”

Mr. Buchanan, a Republican, said in a statement that the bill's prospects of becoming law were favorable.

“This is a landmark bill that establishes for the first time a federal offense against the malicious torturing of animals,” Mr. Buchanan said.

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The Washington Post

Prison | Perspective

We've Normalized Prison

The carceral state and its threat to democracy

By Piper Kerman

A nation that locks up so many people is a nation in which democracy, over the long term, cannot thrive.

When I was 22, in the early 1990s, I committed a crime. More than a decade later, I was sent to federal prison for 13 months for that crime — a first-time drug offense. In 2010, I published a book about my experience, "Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison." The title is not only a sarcastic joke about orange jumpsuits, but also a reference to the fact that the population of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people in the United States has exploded: We lock up more of our own people than any other nation in history, and beyond the 2.3 million people confined on any given day, more than 73 million American adults have some sort of criminal record.

The reach of the American criminal punishment systems stretches to clutch far more people than many imagine. I know this not only from being incarcerated, but also from teaching nonfiction writing classes in state prisons. My students' stories bravely reveal difficult personal truths and bring to light much wider realities in a way that only lived experience really can. What incarcerated writers' voices illustrate is that the American criminal justice system does not solve the problems — violence, mental illness, addiction — that it claims to address.

If prison curbed drug addiction or the ills that surround it, we would not be in the grip of an overdose crisis, having locked up unprecedented millions of people for drugs for more than four decades. If the threat of criminal punishment were effective against violence, then we would not see persistent and unequal rates of harm concentrated in some communities, or against women, or LGBTQ people. If we considered our failure to help children who witness or are targeted by violence alongside our unique willingness to sentence children to die in prison, perhaps more people would see our criminal punishment system for the vicious ouroboros that it is.

Indeed, far from solving our problems, the carceral state is causing a massive one: A nation that locks up so many people and creates an expansive apparatus that relies on violence and confinement is a nation in which democracy, over the long term, cannot thrive. For centuries, the U.S. political economy has relied on millions being sidelined from democratic participation, most notably African Americans and, before 1920, women. Violence, in the form of lynching, was always important to limit democracy in this country (and agents of law enforcement were often complicit). As we near 2020, civic exclusion is still a critical tool for those invested in preserving an inequitable status quo, and the policies surrounding mass incarceration are invaluable for continuing to deny participation to millions of Americans.

Last year, the citizens of Florida voted to amend the state constitution to allow people like me, with felony convictions, to regain the right to vote after returning home. Quickly and shamelessly, the Florida legislature and governor responded by passing a poll tax to prevent those voters — disproportionately people of color and poor people — from having a voice. Many other states also restrict voting rights of prisoners or ex-prisoners, especially states with large African American populations — not a coincidence, as they remain overly targeted and punished by the criminal justice system. As a result, we have not only normalized prison but normalized the exclusion of large groups of people from participating in our democracy.

It's important to remember that law is made and administered by those in power — and the less democratic we are, the less just the legal system will be. That's why police officers or Stanford athletes who rape get sentences of six months or probation, while some of my students have served two decades for similar crimes and are still in prison. Prisons and jails do not serve feminist goals — few institutions are more hierarchical, more dominance-oriented, more patriarchal, and totally reliant on the threat and promise of violence. Being subject to violence does not make you less likely to enact it. We are at a moment in time when state violence — whether it's violence perpetrated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents against children and families, police violence documented on smartphones, or a woman paralyzed in a beating by prison workers — is coming into sharper relief for all Americans, even those who have not been targets of the state. If you're outraged by what you see the government doing with federal courts and detention facilities, look closely at what your local sheriff, prosecutors and judges are doing, too.

Recent news stories about young children and families who are separated at the U.S.-Mexico border and held in desperate conditions in private prisons and public jails nationwide bewilder and disgust many Americans. But, in fact, the U.S. government has been separating families and punishing children throughout history, most notably African American and Native American families and children. Native American girls have the highest incarceration rate in our juvenile prisons, and that's not because they are perpetrating a crime wave. The most marginalized girls in the United States are often jailed for truancy, for homelessness due to abuse, for things that are not actually crimes, because as a community we have no substantive response to their lack of safety, other than a cage. Better approaches are well-understood but don't have political currency because the people who need them are considered expendable or even threatening by those in power.

At this watershed moment, it's critical for each of us to pause and ask: Why is all this happening? Am I okay with it? Whom am I listening to? What should I do? If the only people we listen to on questions of law and public safety are the people who hold the power to make or impose laws, ask yourself why, and whether they are actually trustworthy. We have to be especially wary of granting authority figures — many of whom have a deep stake in maintaining the status quo — exclusive control over what should count as “normal.”

Freedom and safety are too often imagined as being in opposition, but nothing could be further from the truth. Americans who have the most freedom — freedom to learn, freedom from illness, freedom of movement, freedom from violence — are invariably the safest, and the whitest, and the richest. We did this to ourselves: Mass incarceration is a result of policies that have grown out of a history of slavery, colonialism and punishment of the poor. Until we reconcile with these hard truths, by listening to the people most affected by the loss of freedom, we will fall far short of equity. We have a choice: We can permit injustice to remain a growth industry or we can elect to have a more fair, restorative and effective system. And this isn't an abstract choice — it is one you will make today, and tomorrow, and next week. Ending mass incarceration is imperative for democracy, safety and freedom. Do you see what is happening in your own community? And are you ready to do your part?

The Prison Issue

Editors' note

America incarcerates more people than any other nation. As a result, the stark realities of jails and prisons have a far-reaching impact on society. With this special issue — written, illustrated and photographed by people who have been or are currently incarcerated — our goal was to help readers learn about the experience of imprisonment, something that is poorly understood by Americans who are untouched by the system.

Several of the writers in this issue are established reporters, but many were contributing to a national publication for the first time. To find these contributors, we put out a call for pieces through groups that work with incarcerated writers — Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, PEN America and Truth Be Told — as well as through the classes of writer Piper Kerman. We received more than 100 submissions, and eventually selected eight writers to work with. To find illustrators, we collaborated with four groups that work with incarcerated artists: the Community Partners in Action Prison Arts Program, the Justice Arts Coalition, Minutes Before Six, and Black and Pink.

There are many perspectives and voices that are not in this issue — most notably, those of crime victims. Nothing in this issue should be taken to minimize their suffering. They deserve frequent and prominent coverage, as The Washington Post provides. But at a time when the subject of prison reform is receiving more attention than it has in decades, this special issue seeks to inform the conversation by focusing on American prisons and the lives of the people inside them.

— Richard Just, Alexa McMahon, Whitney Joiner



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Law Enforcement News - Wed, 10/30

Fourth Man Charged In Mexican Pot Conspiracy That Cops Say Killed El Dorado Sheriff's Deputy
Federal officials have charged a fourth man in connection with last week's marijuana field shootout that killed El Dorado County sheriff's Deputy Brian Ishmael, saying the new defendant was part of a conspiracy run out of Mexico that oversaw two marijuana grows in rural areas of Somerset and Georgetown. Jorge Lamas, an American citizen who has spent much of his time living in Mexico, has been charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Sacramento with conspiracy to manufacture, manufacturing at least 50 marijuana plants and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. The weapons charge stems from the discovery of a 9 mm handgun believed to have been the weapon used to kill Ishmael at a grow site in Somerset on Sand Ridge Road. Lamas is believed to have been the foreman overseeing that site, as well as a separate marijuana growing operation in Georgetown, federal court documents say.
Sacramento Bee

Texas Officer Shot At Traffic Stop
Authorities say a North Texas police officer is in critical but stable condition after being shot during a traffic stop, and two suspects who fled were later taken into custody and hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Denton police say the officer pulled the suspects' vehicle over for an equipment violation around midnight Monday in Denton, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Dallas. Police say backup officers at the scene returned fire after the officer was shot. The suspects' vehicle was later spotted by police in the nearby city of Carrollton, and they were taken into custody after a short pursuit. Police said at a news conference early Tuesday that the officer was undergoing surgery. Police said the suspects were being treated for gunshot injuries at a hospital.
Associated Press

Police Search For Driver Of Mini Cooper Who Struck Bicyclist Friday In Silver Lake
Los Angeles police are looking for the driver of a Mini Cooper who struck a a man Friday in Silver Lake. David Molina, 57, was riding his bicycle Friday night around 11:45 p.m. in the 2000 block of Berkeley Avenue when he was struck by a vehicle. He was taken to the hospital with a broken leg, a broken arm and a fractured spine. “Molina flew onto the roof, fell off, but unfortunately the driver kept driving up the hill,” Det. Juan Campos, of the Los Angeles Police Department, said. Campos said Molina is homeless and lives in the Silver Lake area and said that police are canvassing the neighborhood looking for the car. “Per witnesses, (the car is) red, but also we have video that shows it might be a darker color,” Molina said. The Mini Cooper seen in security footage has a white roof and white mirror caps. Campos also said the front of the vehicle would also have front-end damage.

Hawthorne Man Convicted Of Fraud Over Ocean Crash That Killed Autistic Sons
A Hawthorne man was convicted of 14 federal charges on Tuesday for driving his two severely autistic sons and ex-wife off a pier at the Port of Los Angeles to collect on accidental death policies. A downtown Los Angeles jury deliberated for about four hours before convicting Ali Elmezayen of charges including mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Elmezayen also faces capital murder charges in state court stemming from the deaths of his 13-year-old son, Elhassan, and his 8-year-old son, Abdelkarim, along with the attempted murder of his ex-wife, Rehab Diab, who managed to escape despite not knowing how to swim. During closing arguments of the trial earlier on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Ryan told jurors Elmezayen, 45, was an abusive husband motivated by money problems.
FOX 11

Three Sentenced To Prison For Real Estate Fraud Scheme

Three people who were involved in a sophisticated real estate fraud scheme were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 12 years and ordered to pay more than $1.4 million in restitution, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday. Angela Grace Cotton, 47, was sentenced Monday to 12 years behind bars for her no contest plea to three counts of identity theft, two counts of grand theft and one county each of forgery and money laundering. Her husband, Lawrence Edward Cotton, 52, and Denaysha Coleman, 27, pleaded no contest to one felony count each of grand theft and money laundering. Coleman was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison, while Lawrence Cotton was ordered to serve two years behind bars.

Boy, 12, Goes Missing After Leaving Special Education School In Culver City
A 12-year-old boy who has a history of running away went missing in Culver City on Tuesday, and police circulated his photo in hopes that someone will spot him. Jerimiah Aaron Philips, who lives in Los Angeles, was last seen about 11:45 a.m. at the Kayne Eras Center, a special education school at 5350 Machado Road, according to the Culver City Police Department. School officials saw Jerimiah exit the campus through a gate onto Jefferson Boulevard, police said. "School staff pursued Philips as he ran westbound on Jefferson Boulevard toward Sepulveda Boulevard and lost sight of him in the immediate area," according to a police statement that says the boy "suffers from metal health issues and has previously run away." "In the past, he has been located using the public transportation system," according to police. The youngster is black, 4 feet 9 inches tall, weighs about 125 pounds and has short, curly dark hair, brown eyes and a small scar on his left cheekbone.
FOX 11

Long Beach Mass Shooting: 3 Dead, 9 Injured After Gunfire Erupts At Party
Three men are dead and nine others were injured after a mass shooting at a house party in Long Beach Tuesday night. Authorities responded at about 10:45 p.m. when gunfire erupted at a party in the 2700 block of 7th Street, near Temple Avenue. The Long Beach Fire Department said three men were dead at the scene and nine were transported in what paramedics described as a mass casualty incident, with 12 patients reported. Seven of the nine transported are women between the ages of 20 to 49 years old. Footage from AIR7 HD showed paramedics treating the injured patients at a yard next to a nail salon before they were transported. The shooting happened at a Halloween party, with police confirming multiple people dressed in costumes when a shooter, who remains at large, started firing rounds. Police are determining if the shooting was random, of if the shooter and victims knew each other.

Public Safety News

Mayor Urges You To Sign Up For 'Notify LA' Emergency Alerts
With wind gusts expected to reach 70 mph, creating dangerous weather in fire season, fire officials and the mayor are urging everyone to have a go bag ready, and to sign up for emergency alerts with "Notify LA."
NBC 4 Video

Why The ‘Extreme Red Flag' Winds Hitting L.A. Region Are Especially Dangerous
Even after several years of devastating wind-driven fires in Southern California, forecasters fear that the next two days could bring new levels of danger. “Extreme” fire weather began in the Los Angeles area at 11 p.m. Tuesday and was expected to persist for 30 hours, bringing isolated gusts of up to 80 mph. It's an unusually long Santa Ana wind condition, and fire weather of this kind hasn't been seen in Southern California since October 2007, when similar conditions helped unleash the sixth most destructive fire in California history. The National Weather Service office in Oxnard took the unusual step of labeling the fire weather conditions an “extreme red flag” warning, a term that meteorologists there say they can't remember ever using. But they did so to underscore the severity of this Santa Ana wind event. “This is the worst since we had an event in October 2007,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Fisher.
Los Angeles Times

25 Million Californians Under Red Flag Warnings As Fires Burn Across The State
More than 25 million people in California are under red flag warnings as firefighters continue to battle blazes throughout the state. The warnings, which are issued when strong winds, warm temperatures and low humidity combine to increase the risk of fire danger, come as 10 active wildfires, including the Kincade Fire, Tick Fire and Getty Fire, have caused thousands of evacuations and power outages. Southern California could see hurricane-force winds Tuesday, with gusts between 50 to 70 mph, according to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. The warning area includes the cities of Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Local Government News

L.A. Should Suspend Vetting Applications For Pot Shops Amid Concerns, Wesson Urges
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has called on the city to suspend the approval process for new shops selling cannabis products, arguing that the latest round of the licensing process was “compromised” by some people gaining early access to the application system. In a letter to the Department of Cannabis Regulation, Wesson urged the department to stop processing applications for new marijuana retailers, refund the latest round of cannabis applicants, and get an independent audit of the process, “unless there are other options like processing every application” that would assure people that the process is untainted. Under the existing system, only a limited number of applications are slated to be reviewed, not every application that was submitted. “These are the only options that will provide the clarity and time we need to ensure that the ... process is fair, transparent, and has integrity,” Wesson wrote in his letter.
Los Angeles Times


Law Enforcement News - Tue, 10/29

Critically Injured New York LEO Wakes From Coma
An NYPD officer who was smashed in the head with a chair in a wild Brooklyn nail salon melee emerged from his medically-induced coma, police sources said Sunday. Officer Lesly Lafontant, 53, was taken off a respirator and is breathing on his own. He remained in Brookdale University Medical Center Sunday. Lafontant was hurt in an chaotic encounter Friday night that ended with the officer fatally shooting his attacker. The melee unfolded at the Goldmine Nail Salon in Brownsville, where Dewayne Hawkes, 26, asked a worker to use the bathroom. When the employee refused, Hawkes walked into the salon's kitchen, locked the door behind him and relieved himself on the floor, police said. Other workers flagged down police, and as officers tried to arrest Hawkes, T-shirt vendor Kwesi Ashun, 33, came into the store and slammed a metal chair into Lafontant's head, cops said. Lafontant fired six times, killing Ashun.

George Gascon, Former San Francisco DA And LAPD Assistant Chief, Challenging Jackie Lacey For LA County DA
George Gascon, the former district attorney for the city and county of San Francisco and a former assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, confirmed on Monday, Oct. 28 that he will challenge Jackie Lacey for Los Angeles County District Attorney. With the Twin Towers jail serving as a backdrop, Gascon told reporters that Los Angeles County places more emphasis on incarcerating people than it does on providing affordable housing. Former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced his support of Gascon's candidacy. But the Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors issued a statement blasting Gascon, accusing him of creating “a statewide ‘Get Out of Jail Free' program named Proposition 47.” “Once voters take a look at Gascon's dangerous record as District Attorney of San Francisco, they'll be frightened. From his first year in 2011 through 2018, burglaries increased over 20% compared to a 30% statewide decline, larceny increased over 60% in San Francisco yet only rose 4% statewide and thefts from motor vehicles skyrocketed 130%, more than 10 times the statewide increase,” the LAPPL statement says.
Los Angeles Daily News

Man Wounded In Shooting In Mid-Wilshire Area
A man in his 40s was wounded on Friday in a shooting in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. The shooting was reported at about 2:30 p.m. in the area of Pico Boulevard and Burnside Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The man was taken to a hospital, said LAPD Officer Drake Madison. His condition was not immediately available. A green Porsche was seen leaving the location, but no suspect descriptions were released.
FOX 11

North Hollywood Shooting Involved Armenian Gang Allegedly Extorting Grocery Store Owner, LAPD Says
A shootout at a North Hollywood shopping center is believed to be connected to an Armenian gang accused of extorting a business owner, police say. Los Angeles police officers responded to reports of shots fired near the Royal Fresh Market at 12811 Sherman Way around 8:10 a.m. Monday. The owner said his employees notified him about a group tagging the side of the building with an explicit message reportedly demanding payment, police said. At some point, a shootout between the owner, who was armed, and at least one gunman ensued. One suspect was taken to a local hospital and was in police custody. Police were still looking for three others. The suspect vehicle was only described as a light-colored Audi. The extortion, which police say involves at least six figures, has been ongoing for at least a couple of weeks.

San Pedro Man Sentenced For Murder Of Pregnant Newlywed
A San Pedro man was sentenced Monday to 15 years to life in state prison for the 1980 murder of a pregnant 20-year-old Wilmington woman whose body was discovered on a beach in Palos Verdes Estates. Robert Yniguez, 67, pleaded no contest last month to second-degree murder for the killing of Teresa Broudreaux, a newlywed who was the mother of a 4-year-old girl. Sheriff's investigators determined that the victim had an argument with her husband the night before, walked to her sister's home and was never seen alive again after leaving her sister's residence. Yniguez was arrested about two years ago, after being linked to the crime through DNA evidence.
FOX 11

Venice Man Pleads Guilty To Selling Fentanyl To 19-Year-Old Who Died Of Overdose

A Venice man who sold fentanyl to a 19-year-old who suffered a fatal overdose last year pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge Monday, authorities said. Julian Miles Mayers-Johnson, 32, admitted to selling one half-gram of the powerful synthetic opioid on Oct. 19, 2018, to a man who was residing at a sober living home in the nearby West L.A. neighborhood of Beverlywood, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in California. He sold the drug to the man just outside a fast food restaurant in Venice three days before the 19-year-old overdosed, according to prosecutors. A day later, he died. Law enforcement officials said Mayers-Johnson was the dealer after doing a search of the victim's cell phone, according to court filings. He was arrested on April 17.

Jury Begins Hearing Case Against Man Charged In Silver Lake Cold Case Murder
A prosecutor told jurors Monday that DNA evidence links a man to the rape and murder of a woman in her Silver Lake apartment nearly four decades ago, while the defendant's attorney said his client was never inside the woman's residence and did not commit the crime. Harold Anthony Parkinson, 60, is charged with the August 1980 killing of Stephanie Sommers, who was bludgeoned in the head with an eight-pound weight and was stabbed 16 times. The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office opted not to seek the death penalty against Parkinson, who could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the 36-year-old woman's slaying.
FOX 11

L.A. Man Convicted Of Abusing Puppy Is Banned From Owning Animals For 10 Years
A Los Angeles man who was convicted of abusing his 3-month old Doberman puppy in 2016 was prohibited by a judge from owning animals for 10 years, officials announced Friday. Eljin Jermaul Holt, 28, was also placed on three years of probation, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney. Holt pleaded no contest to one felony count and one misdemeanor count of cruelty to an animal on Sept. 18, 2017. Prosecutors said he dragged and yanked his dog Indie, causing the dog to bleed. “Under the terms of a plea agreement, the felony plea was withdrawn and the charge was dismissed yesterday after the defendant completed the required 60 days of community labor and an animal cruelty prevention class” the DA officials said in a news release Friday. Holt is also not allowed to possess or have access to animals during the 10 year period.

Ex-USPS Supervisor Sentenced To 11 Years For Robbing Mail Trucks In L.A.

A former U.S. Postal Service supervisor was sentenced Monday to 11 years behind bars for participating in two armed robberies and one theft of USPS trucks carrying cash — heists that caused nearly a quarter million dollars in losses and significant trauma to one of its victims who later took his own life. William Crosby IV, 33, of Inglewood was also ordered by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to pay $238,457 in restitution. Crosby — who worked at both the Dockweiler and Wagner post office branches — pleaded guilty in July to robbery of United States property and use of a gun in a crime of violence. Crosby admitted participating in the armed robbery of a USPS truck driver who was forced to stop on a Harbor (110) Freeway off-ramp on March 1, 2018. He also admitted involvement in the Feb. 1, 2018, armed robbery of a Postal Service driver, as well as the burglary of a Postal Service truck on Aug. 1, 2017.

Public Safety News

Crews Continue To Battle Stubborn 618-Acre Getty Fire As Evacuation Orders Remain
Firefighters continued Tuesday to battle a wildfire which broke out on the west side of the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass and has so far scorched 618 acres and destroyed several homes, with mandatory evacuation orders still in place for thousands of people. The Getty Fire was reported just after 1:30 a.m. Monday by a witness who called California Highway Patrol and reported seeing flames on a hillside close to the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center museum, along with a possible power line on fire, according to the CHP. As of late Monday night, it was only 5 percent contained. So far, at least eight homes have been destroyed and another six damaged. Driven by strong Santa Ana winds coming out of the Northeast, the fire quickly spread west. Mandatory evacuations were initially issued for an area containing 10,000 structures, but were later downgraded slightly.

Fire Risk ‘Critical' As Season's Strongest Santa Ana Winds Arrive Tuesday Night
Powerful gusts that stoked wildfires in Los Angeles County and whipped through parts of Southern California at 60 mph slowed down briefly Monday, but were forecast to return with greater strength the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 29. Winds reached 68 mph at Pleasants Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains separating Orange and Riverside counties on Monday, the National Weather Service reported. However, the weather system that also brought 60 mph gusts Monday morning to the Cajon Pass and northern portions of Los Angeles County had weakened dramatically by the early afternoon. A brief period of onshore winds was forecast to bring sub-freezing temperatures into the Antelope Valley overnight, along with patchy clouds along the coast early Tuesday morning.
Los Angeles Daily News

Local Government News

LAX Bans Uber, Lyft And Taxi Pickups At The Curb. See How The New System Works
The days of stepping into an Uber, Lyft or taxi curbside at Los Angeles International Airport are over. Starting Tuesday at 3 a.m., travelers leaving LAX will be required to board a shuttle or walk to a waiting area east of Terminal 1 to hire a car. The changes were announced this month as part of LAX's effort to manage congestion in the terminal area of the nation's second-busiest airport, which will grow worse as the airport continues a $14-billion modernization effort. Without major changes, airport officials warned, traffic on an average summer day would soon resemble the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The changes have sparked dismay from riders, and from Uber, which warned in a letter that the new system could cause bottlenecks, gridlock and long waits for travelers.
Los Angeles Times


Law Enforcement News - Mon, 10/28

2 LAPD Officers Injured By Alleged Drunk Driver In Rear-End Collision In Sherman Oaks
An alleged drunk driver plowed into the back of a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car stopped at a Sherman Oaks intersection Sunday, injuring two officers. The male driver, who was not identified by police, was arrested at the scene at Hazeltine Avenue and Ventura Boulevard on suspicion of felony driving under the influence at a little after midnight, according to Los Angeles Police Officer Mike Lopez. The two officers were taken to the hospital. Lopez said he could not offer any additional detail about their injuries, including whether they had been released after treatment or remained hospitalized. 
Los Angeles Daily News

New York LEO Critically Injured In Struggle At Nail Salon, Suspect Shot Dead
An officer with the NYPD was in a medically induced coma Friday night after being hit with a metal chair by a man who was fatally shot by the officer inside a nail salon in Brooklyn, officials said. NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison spoke during a news conference Friday night at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, where the officer of 21 years was being treated, officials said. "We're standing at a hospital because one of our brave officers was injured while keeping New Yorkers safe. This time it's because a man violently interfered with a lawful arrest. This incident underscores the dangers our officers face each and every day," Harrison said. Harrison said the incident occurred about 5:40 p.m. Friday at the Goldmine Nail Salon on Mother Gaston Boulevard. Harrison said store employees requested that officers on patrol in the area remove a disorderly man from the store who had urinated inside the business.

Woman, 18, Fatally Wounded In Car-to-Car Shooting In South L.A.
An 18-year-old woman was fatally wounded Friday morning in a car-to-car shooting in South Los Angeles. The woman was in her vehicle about 6 a.m. in the area of 104th and Figueroa streets in the Vermont Vista area when another vehicle approached and shots were fired, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Drake Madison. The woman was struck and in critical condition when taken to a hospital, Madison said. She was pronounced dead about 5:45 p.m., Madison said. No suspect or vehicle descriptions were available and it was unclear if the shooting was gang-related, Madison said. 
FOX 11

Hit-and-Run Driver Strikes, Kills Woman On Bicycle In Hollywood
A driver struck a 49-year-old woman as she rode her bicycle in Hollywood early Friday, then left her to die without stopping to help, police said. The deadly hit-and-run took place about 2:25 a.m., the Los Angeles Police Department said in a written statement. “A female bicyclist was riding her bicycle northbound on Orange Drive when she was struck by a four-door silver sedan traveling northbound Orange Drive, north of Hollywood Boulevard,” according to the statement. “The driver did not stop or render aid to the bicyclist as required by law.” Paramedics pronounced the woman dead at the scene. Her identity was not released Friday. Police reminded the public that the city offers a standing $50,000 reward for information leading to he arrest and conviction of hit-and-run drivers involved in fatal collisions. Anyone with information was urged to contact the LAPD at 213-527-3247.

Arrest Made In Crash That Killed 2 Horses, Injured 2 Riders In Lake View Terrace
A suspect was arrested after fleeing the scene of a crash that killed two horses and left two riders in critical condition in Lake View Terrace Friday evening. Rolando Garcia, 32, is accused of crashing his van into a husband and wife riding on horseback. The van then crashed into a wall. Garcia fled the scene on foot but was later apprehended. The incident happened shortly before 10 p.m. at Foothill Boulevard and Wheatland Avenue, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The victims were identified by friends as Alejandra Nieves and Leopoldo Solorio. They were transported in critical condition. Nieves and Solorio were riding single file and were feet away from their stables when the incident occurred. Garcia was charged with felony hit-and-run.

Video: Driver Sought After Mini Cooper Hits Bicyclist Head-On In Silver Lake
Police have reached out to the public for help tracking down a driver who crashed head-on into a bicyclist in Silver Lake on Friday, then sped away without stopping to help, officials said. The bicyclist suffered severe injuries in the 11:45 p.m. collision in the 3000 block of Berkeley Avenue, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a written statement. The car, described as "a possibly early-model Mini Cooper, red with a white roof," struck the bicyclist head-on, as seen in surveillance video that captured the crash. The car likely has damage to its front end, hood and windshield. "After the collision, the driver failed to stop to render aid (and) identify themselves and fled the scene in the vehicle," according to the statement. The injured bicyclist has since been listed in stable condition at a hospital, police said. The city of Los Angeles offers a standing $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of drivers involved in injury hit-and-run collisions.

Sun Valley Clerk Arrested On Suspicion Of Running Over Robbery Suspect
A Sun Valley store clerk was arrested and booked for suspicion of murder after he chased an alleged attempted robbery suspect and fatally ran him over with his vehicle Saturday, authorities said. Officers arrived just after midnight to the area of Vineland Avenue and Cantara Street in response to a robbery call and discovered the clerk had chased the suspects who allegedly attempted to rob the store, confronted them, and killed one of them, the Los Angeles Police Department said. The clerk, 38-year-old Jose Mier of Sun Valley, told officers a suspect pulled a knife and threatened him before he ran over him with his vehicle, police said. That suspect was identified as Sun Valley resident Alonso Avalos, 18, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

2 L.A. Men Stopped With 420 Pounds Of Weed In Connecticut, Police Say
Two Los Angeles men allegedly stopped in a truck containing 420 pounds of marijuana are under arrest, thanks to Connecticut State Troopers and a K9 unit that's winning praise for sniffing it all out. Connecticut State Police told of the bust with a message on Twitter: “When something didn't smell right, the big dogs were called in,” with a picture of the four dogs sitting next to a pile of bags of marijuana. The truck was stopped Friday while it was headed southbound on Interstate 95, in Darien. The two suspects, 23-year-old Vahe Manjikian and 27-year-old Kevin Conrado, have been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Manjikian was driving the truck and Conrado was the passenger. They are being held on $100,000 bonds.

FBI Will Seek ‘Way Forward' On Body Cams For Task Forces
FBI Director Christopher Wray vowed Saturday to "find a way forward" to allow police officers who serve on federal task forces to wear body cameras, affirming that the government will try to reverse a policy that has strained its relationship with some law enforcement agencies. Speaking to a packed room of police executives at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, Wray cautioned that the policy would have to strike a balance to ensure that the recordings do not compromise any sensitive investigations or reveal the identities of informants. The announcement comes months after Atlanta's police chief withdrew city police officers from federal task forces over the issue. The Justice Department's current rules do not allow federal agents to wear cameras and prohibit local officers from wearing them during joint operations. Wray said the FBI needs to maintain strong relationships with police departments and their officers who work with agents at FBI field offices across the country to investigate violent crime, gangs, drug smuggling and terrorism.
Associated Press

Public Safety News

10,000 Structures Threatened By Fast-Moving Getty Fire On LA's Westside
A fast-moving brush fire fanned by strong winds erupted in the hills above the 405 Freeway early Monday, burning homes and forcing evacuations in neighborhoods on Los Angeles' Westside. The fire quickly expanded to 400 acres and cast an eerie orange glow over the 405 Freeway after it started around 1:30 a.m. Exit ramps on the busy freeway connecting the west San Fernando Valley with West Los Angeles were shut down through the Sepulveda Pass. The fire is burning in densely populated hillside areas with narrow roads, threating about 10,000 residential and business structures. Embers scattered with wind gusts, which were not expected to decrease until later Monday morning. Aerial video showed at least six homes on fire with water-dropping helicopters attacking flames. The homes appeared to be along Tigertail Road. About 2,600 customers are without power in Bel Air, Brentwood, Westwood and other West Los Angeles communities.

How To Help Los Angeles Firefighters Responding To Devastating Fires In Southern California

Here's how you can help support firefighters who respond to devastating brush fires to protect lives and homes. To donate to the LAFD foundation, visit To donate to the L.A. County Fire Department foundation, visit Approximately 96% of the city's budget dedicated to the LAFD is allocated to personnel expenses, leaving little room to support the department's other needs. The LAFDF was created in 2010 to supplement the fire department's budget by providing first responders with essential equipment, training, education and outreach programming that would otherwise go unfunded. The mission of the Foundation is to raise funds to assist LAFD firefighters and paramedics in protecting life, property, and the environment.

California Declares State Of Emergency Over Wildfires, Winds
California's governor declared a statewide emergency with nearly 200,000 people ordered to flee their homes because of wildfires fueled by historic winds, while millions were without electricity after the largest utility cut power in some areas as a precaution to prevent other fires. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that officials are deploying “every resource available” to respond to the wildfires, including a large blaze in Northern California's wine country driven by powerful winds. Smoke from a second wildfire in the San Francisco Bay Area briefly halted traffic on a bridge. The flames came dangerously close to homes in Vallejo. In the south, a wildfire in the Santa Clarita area near Los Angeles has destroyed 18 structures, threatened homes and critical infrastructure. The biggest evacuation was in Sonoma County where 180,000 people were told to pack up and leave.
Los Angeles Daily News

Local Government News

Can City Hubs Like The LA Zoo, LAX Serve More Vegan Food? City Council Wants To Know
The City Council asked Friday that large city venues, such as Los Angeles International Airport and the zoo, provide a report on the possibility of providing more vegan meal options at concession stands. City Councilman Paul Koretz championed the motion that requires the venues to report back in 45 days on ways to provide more options for plant-based diets, citing in part the impacts of agriculture and the meat industry on climate change. “Certainly, climate change is something none of us can miss, especially in the last few days with the wildfires constantly surrounding us and the Amazon rainforest still burning,” Koretz said. “What this does is not force anybody to eat vegan, but it's a guarantee that Los Angeles' residents and visitors, in places where they're captive audiences, like the airport, have access to vegan options.”
Los Angeles Daily News

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