The Mouse Always Wins
April 28, 2022
Some Good News
- Biden tells Congressional Hispanic Caucus he’s looking at forgiving some federal student loan debt (CBS)
- Fauci says US is out of coronavirus ‘pandemic phase’ (WaPo, $)
“Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty.” – Plato
Bad Cop, Bad Cop
Alene Tchekmedyian is a staff writer for the LA Times who’s been reporting on allegations of secretive gang-like groups of deputies operating within certain L.A. County Sheriff’s Departments. In 2019, county officials commissioned an independent study on these deputy subgroups. The study was ongoing in August 2020 when Tchekmedyian reported that L.A. County had paid out roughly $55 million to settle cases wherein tattooed sheriff’s deputies were alleged to belong to a decades-old subculture that glorifies violent, intimidating policing tactics resembling criminal street gang activity.
Results of the study released in September 2021 confirmed the entrenched nature of these secret societies – with names like Banditos, Reapers, and Executioner – that operated out of several Sheriff’s Department stations and jails for decades, particularly the East L.A. and Compton stations. The study found that several groups were still recruiting members, a practice that was divisive within the Department. In fact, 37% of the deputies surveyed said the cliques should be prohibited, including 25% of those who’d been invited to join one.
None of this surprised L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Inspector General Max Huntsman, the Department’s top watchdog. For years, a succession of elected sheriffs had failed to bring the subgroups under control despite multiple internal investigations and a 2019 FBI probe. In February 2021, Huntsman subpoenaed L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to answer questions about any secret gangs of deputies. Villanueva fought the subpoena, and another year passed by.
Then, in March 2022, Tchekmedyian reported that sheriff’s officials had attempted to cover up an incident one year earlier, when a security camera caught a deputy kneeling on the head of a prone, handcuffed inmate for three minutes. Commander Allen Castellano had written an internal police force review criticizing the coverup of the incident, which occurred just as trial was beginning for the officer accused of killing George Floyd. Castellano said Department officials worried about the optics, given its similarities to what happened to Floyd. But the Times had obtained a copy of the security video, and proceeded to uncover the coverup. On Tuesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced at a news conference he had launched a criminal investigation targeting Tchekmedyian, but after intense criticism from politicians and press freedom groups, he abruptly denied he’d said it. (LAT, $)
The Best Of Friends Must Part
- A huge Soviet-era monument in the center of Kyiv, meant to symbolize friendship between Russia and Ukraine, has been dismantled. The city’s mayor said it was a response to President Putin’s invasion.
- The 27-foot bronze statue depicted a Ukrainian and Russian worker standing on a heavy square base and holding aloft a Soviet order of friendship. The statue was located underneath a giant titanium “People’s Friendship Arch” that was erected in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union.
- “We now see what this “friendship” is – destruction of Ukrainian cities … killing tens of thousands of peaceful people. I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now,” Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said. As a crane lifted the monument off its moorings and gradually lowered it to the ground, a crowd of around 100 people cheered and shouted “Glory to Ukraine” and other patriotic slogans. (Reuters)
- On Wednesday, the U.S. and Russia conducted a prisoner swap in Ankara, Turkey. Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, jailed in 2020 on assault charges stemming from a drunken night out in Moscow in 2019, was exchanged for Russian national Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot serving a 20-year sentence for smuggling cocaine into the U.S. in 2010.
- In a statement released by the White House, President Biden said he’d informed Reed’s family of their son’s freedom. Biden thanked Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, among others, for their “tireless and dedicated work” to secure Reed’s release.
- The president said the negotiations “required difficult decisions” that he did “not take lightly,” and he vowed that his administration would keep working to get released another former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, imprisoned since 2018 on what are considered fabricated espionage charges, and professional basketball player Brittney Griner, held by Russians since February on drug charges. (CBS)
Additional World News
- Three in four Americans back arms shipments to Ukraine (Reuters)
- Four killed by female suicide bomber near China institute in Pakistan (Guardian)
- Myanmar’s Suu Kyi handed five-year jail term for graft (Reuters)
- India: Many dead as truck hits power line during Hindu procession (Al Jazeera)
- India struggles to find vessel to ship crude from Russia (Al Jazeera)
- Oil settles up, rebounds on China’s plans to support economy (Reuters)
- UN takes step to put veto users under global spotlight (NPR)
- In a world of uncertainty, there’s one thing you can be sure of: Bright Cellars delivers wines you’re guaranteed to love. The wine aisle can be intimidating, but Bright Cellars is changing the entire experience.
- Take a quick quiz to help them access your taste preferences, and they’ll deliver wines from all over the world right to your doorstep. Bright Cellars ships wine in recyclable, plastic-free packaging (which just so happens to be the box with the smallest carbon footprint in the industry).
- Every box brings excitement, helping you learn more about your own preferences and the wine industry as a whole. Take the seven-question quiz today and receive 50% off your first box!
The Mouse Always Wins
- Last week, Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the 55-year-old special district provision that allows The Walt Disney Company to operate as an independent government for its Orlando-area theme parks. DeSantis took aim at the state’s largest single-site employer, and arguably its main tourist draw, in response to its opposition to Florida’s law restricting education on LGBTQ issues in schools.
- Reedy Creek currently has about $1 billion in outstanding bond debt. In a statement to its bondholders last Thursday, Reedy Creek advised that the 1967 law also includes a pledge from Florida to its bondholders that the state “will not in any way impair the rights or remedies of the holders … until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged.” Said differently, Florida’s move to dissolve the district next year isn’t legal unless the state pays off Reedy Creek’s extensive debts. (CNN)
The Lawn Arm Of The Law
- As drought continues to plague the Golden State, the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has declared a water shortage emergency, and is requiring some 6 million people to cut their outdoor watering to one day a week. The District is ordering the cities and water agencies it supplies, including Los Angeles, to implement the cutback on June 1 and either enforce it or face hefty fines.
- The massive Water District uses water from the Colorado River and the State Water Project to supply 26 public water agencies that provide water to 19 million people, or 40% of the state’s population. But record dry conditions have strained the system, lowering reservoir levels, and the State Water Project – which gets its water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta – has estimated it will only be able to deliver about 5% of its usual allocation this year. Governor Gavin Newsom has asked people to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 15%, but so far residents have been slow to meet that goal. (KCRA News)
Additional USA News
- CDC estimates 3 in 4 kids have had coronavirus infections (AP)
- Madison Cawthorn cited for loaded handgun found at TSA checkpoint (CNN)
- West gearing up to help Ukraine for ‘long haul’, says US defence secretary (Guardian)
- Biden takes his first actions on clemency with 3 pardons and 75 commutations (NPR)
- People’s Convoy truckers egged by Bay Area youths, residents (WaPo, $)
- US sends hazard alert letter to Amazon after 2021 fatal warehouse collapse (Reuters)
- New York Democrats Make Last-Ditch Bid to Save New Congressional Maps (NYT, $)
A Tragic Lesson
- This is a good reminder not to try everything you see on the internet. Earlier this month, a Wisconsin couple, Tanya Rodriguez, 44, and James Carolfi, 52, were in their garage in Marathon County attempting to perform a wood-burning technique that’s gaining popularity through viral videos on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
- The “fractal burning” technique creates lightning-like etchings by using jumper cables and disassembled microwave oven parts to run high-voltage electricity through a piece of wood soaked in a chemical solution. It yields patterns known as Lichtenberg figures, named after the physicist Georg Lichtenberg, who discovered them in 1777 as he was experimenting with static electricity. Woodworking experts caution that the technique is extremely dangerous and can be deadly, something Tanya and James didn’t consider seriously enough.
- The couple was found dead in the garage April 6 after their house burned down. The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office initially described the cause of their deaths and the fire as “suspicious,” which prompted weeks of arson and homicide investigation. The sheriff’s office, fire marshals, and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory ultimately determined that a disassembled microwave oven the couple was using for a power supply had electrocuted them, then started a fire in the garage, which spread to the rest of the house. (NBC News, Wausau Daily Herald)
- Harvard commits $100M to redress its complicity with slavery (CNN)
- A dress worn by Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is up for sale (CNN)
- Same-day streaming film releases are ‘dead,’ cinema group leader says (LAT, $)
- Ancient goddess sculpture found by farmer in Gaza Strip (ABC)
- The world’s oldest person is a French nun who enjoys chocolate and wine (CNN)
- SpaceX launches another historic astronaut mission (CNN)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU