Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Medical Rounds

This morning on medical rounds I read some good some bad and some not surprising

In the ever ending quest by the medical profession to excuse themselves the lackadaisical Congress passed a bill to reduce the worrisome non problem of medical malpractice.  With over 100K deaths and illnesses related to medical abuse you would think the courts flooded.  No, the few cases that do get filed rarely make it past the Summary Judgment cases and few Attorneys care about patient trauma unless it is linked to an already well documented and deep pocketed medical device and its problems (currently that tube issue that can't be cleaned well) or big pharma and some drug that turns you blind, impotent and is not tied to the Doctor as he may need him for expert testimony on another case.  They are an incestuous breed Attorney's be they civil or criminal. And I am not talking about the kind of law they practice I mean their ethics and behavior

The law is linked to the new Medicare payment plan that pays for performance versus tests.. quality over quantity. An interesting idea that has been challenging but has had some success and failures in finding a bridge to that concept.  The story is here but all of this is based on the  idea that quality will inevitably reduce medical costs. Note costs... to insurance first (and they are lobbyists in this game as well) then in turn patient care.  Not that patient care is not the primary issue and yes Obama will likely sign this absurd redundant unnecessary bill into law. This study from 2011 gives a thorough analysis of medical malpractice costs and statistics of types of cases and awards.

Meanwhile in the same Congress the one that wants to repeal Obamacare and turn Medicare into some half assed private scheme doesn't do anything with regards to the real perpetrators of the fraud, Doctors. I have yet to read about a scheme involving a bunch of oldsters scamming local physicians and clinics for Medicare.  Well you never know.

9 New York Doctors Indicted in Medicaid Fraud Using Homeless Patients
By Stephanie Clifford
The New York Times
March 31, 2015

Nine New York doctors were indicted on Tuesday on charges that they participated in a Medicaid fraud in which homeless people were given free shoes as a way to entice them to be subjected to a raft of unnecessary medical tests and equipment prescriptions 
Those tests led to $7 million in false Medicaid and Medicare billings between 2012 and 2014, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office charged in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday

A total of 23 people were indicted, including a man who was accused of standing outside homeless shelters and soup kitchens looking for recruits, as well as podiatrists and psychologists running tests on the homeless people at clinics in Brooklyn and the Bronx, according to the indictment and a law enforcement source. 
After hours of testing, the homeless people received a pair of cheap shoes, the law enforcement source said well-organized operation that used homeless people as fake clients.
Kenneth P. Thompson, the Brooklyn district attorney, said in a statement that the arrests happened after “a long-term investigation” and that he planned to elaborate at an afternoon news conference.

But the real problem when it comes to medical care is money.  With the beloved Obamacare the high deductibles, co-pays and other premium costs are not resolved when people can't pay for it. And once again those with money have better care and better health.  There is your quality over quantity, the 1% have the access and the ability to find care regardless of where they live.

Income Inequality: It’s Also Bad for Your Health

By Margo Sanger Katz
The New York Times
March 31, 2015

A map that is interactive is here and outlines where Researchers found that life expectancy was lower in places with more income inequality for every county in the United States.

We know that living in a poor community makes you less likely to live a long life. New evidence suggests that living in a community with high income inequality also seems to be bad for your health.
A study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute examined a series of risk factors that help explain the health (or sickness) of counties in the United States. In addition to the suspects you might expect — a high smoking rate, a lot of violent crime — the researchers found that people in unequal communities were more likely to die before the age of 75 than people in more equal communities, even if the average incomes were the same.

“It’s not just the level of income in a community that matters — it’s also how income is distributed,” said Bridget Catlin, the co-director of the project, called the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.
Many factors besides inequality affect health, of course. How much people smoke, whether they are obese, and the safety of air and water, among many other factors, make a difference. But the effect of inequality was statistically significant, equivalent to a difference of about 11 days of life between high- and low-inequality places. The differences were small, but for every increment that a community became more unequal, the proportion of residents dying before the age of 75 went up.

(An aside: The entire County Health Rankings and Roadmap project, a collaboration between the Wisconsin researchers and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is full of interesting maps, data and observations about the differences in risk factors and health in various counties. It is well worth a browse.)
The research on inequality at the county level is new, but existing literature suggests there are relationships between income inequality and life expectancy among countries in the world. “Inequality effects, over and above average income, are pretty well established,” said S.V. Subramanian, a professor of population health and geography at Harvard, who has studied the phenomenon. We know that inequality tends to concentrate income in fewer hands, creating more low-income households — and people in low-income households don’t live as long. But what causes the drop in life expectancy is debatable.

One theory is that while money does tend to buy better health, it makes a bigger difference for people low on the income scale than those at the top. That means that having fewer very poor people in a community will improve average health more than having fewer very rich people will diminish it.
But another, more sociological theory, has to do with the communities themselves. The researchers think that places where wealthy residents can essentially buy their way out of social services may have less cohesion and investment in things like education and public health that we know affect life span. There is also literature suggesting that it’s stressful to live among people who are wealthier than you.

That stress may translate into mental health problems or cardiac disease for lower-income residents of unequal places.
The researchers measured inequality by comparing the incomes of people in a given place who earned the 80th percentile in the county with the incomes of those in 20th percentile. Then they measured life expectancy using a custom measurement they developed — it counts the “potential life years lost” in each community by measuring all those who died before the age of 75, and the age at which they died.

So someone who died at age 70 would have five years of potential life lost. Then they adjusted the numbers according to how old people were in the county, so counties with more old people wouldn’t look sicker than counties that were younger. The study looked at only the average life span and not that of higher-income versus lower-income residents.

Here’s what that means in some real counties. The researchers compared the adjoining Park and Fremont Counties in Wyoming. Both have relatively small populations and are predominantly white. Both include parts of large national parks. But the Fremont inequality ratio is 4.6, compared with Park’s 3.6. And, in Fremont County, there are 13 years of potential life lost for every 1,000 residents, compared with only 7.5 in Park.

Well folks the rounds have been made and the stats are in. America is not in good health.

Collect Call?

Haven't heard of them for awhile but then everything old is new again when it comes to being in prison. There are gladiator fights, lock downs, solitary and other abuse that used to the provenance of B Films in the 60s. I still love High School Confidential.

But once again the petty bullshit and push for profit boggles the mind. Then we have the idea that a bunch of white strips is worth imprisoning a man somehow doesn't actually pass the cost to value calculations that are utterly inapplicable when it comes to our justice matrix. The costs to prosecute, the litigation, the imprisonment and the idea that this will somehow stop anyone anywhere from stealing a box of white strips ever again is the prime objective. When in fact now this family has a major mark on their history, credit problems that will result and further disintegration into poverty. So the point is what.

If you are wondering how well rehabiliation and the idea of forgiveness is when you have done the time and been returned to society "redeemed." Well this article about this woman's re-entry to society has been nothing but uphill battle that once again demonstrates exactly how welcoming we are over a crime 18 years old.   We have no ability to forgive, forget or even accept our own laws.

 Funny we excuse teenagers for their insubordination and rudeness as saying "well that is a teenager", yet try them as adults and give them life sentences as they can't be legally killed as in this case and does the punishment fit this crime?  It is one step from Singapore or are we there yet mom?

Even this case pushes the absurd. Heard of mediation or another method to resolve this? At this point he is just an angry crazy man and this will cost us more as taxpayers as he ages in prison. Myfuckinggod.

We punish poverty in this country then we accelerate it.

The High Cost of Calling the Imprisoned
The New York Times
MARCH 30, 2015

Now, after years of complaints from prison-rights groups and families of the incarcerated, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating the financial intricacies of the industry, which has been largely unregulated.

At the core of the inquiry are the hundreds of millions of dollars in concession fees, known as commissions, paid by the phone companies to state and local prison systems in exchange for exclusive contracts. The fees help drive phone charges as high as $1.22 per minute, and the leading companies say they need to charge at least 20 cents per minute, compared with typical commercial rates of about 4 cents a minute.

In 2013, a total of $460 million in concession fees was paid to jails and prisons, and to state, county and local governments, according to the F.C.C. The fees are legal, and they cover a range of expenses within prisons as well as outside.

The agency is expected to rule this year on whether to ban the concession fees and limit the costs of prison phone calls.

An analysis released in 2013 by the F.C.C. said the fees “have caused inmates and their friends and families to subsidize everything from inmate welfare to salaries and benefits, states’ general revenue funds and personnel training.”

It added, “The companies compete not based on price or service quality, but on the size of the commission.”

The possibility of eliminating the fees has met fierce opposition from prisons and jails, sheriff’s departments and local officials. Some law enforcement groups have said changes could stoke inmate violence against prison guards because there might be less money for security.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“I don’t know any sheriff who’s making a profit,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, a group that supports the concession fees. “What they are trying to do is to provide a service for their inmates while protecting their communities.”

But in providing that service, the companies are generating a lot of money.

Global Tel-Link Corp. and Securus Technologies, the dominant players in the industry, have each changed hands twice among private equity firms since 2009. Global Tel-Link, which controls 50 percent of the market for correctional institutions, was sold for $1 billion in 2011 to American Securities, a New York-based firm. Securus, which has about 20 percent of the market, was most recently sold in 2013 to ABRY Partners, based in Boston, for $640 million.

Global Tel-Link recently announced that it reached a record high 215 million prison calls totaling three billion minutes in 2014. Securus said that on Christmas Day it completed the most calls in its history.

“They are profiting off of people in vulnerable situations,” said Kasie Campbell, who said she lives paycheck to paycheck and spends $150 a month on phone calls to her husband, Allen, in a Texas prison for robbery. “The cost determines when I can talk to my husband and when my son can read a book to him. It’s detrimental to rehabilitation.”

Ms. Campbell, 33, said Securus’s fees for its prison phone service included a charge of $2.49 for processing her bill and $5 if she wants to pay it over the phone.

Securus, according to company documents, imposes dozens of fees for calls and basic services, including establishing, maintaining and closing an account.

Since the police in Pennsylvania arrested Anthony Kofalt last March for walking out of a Walmart with 21 boxes of Crest Whitestrips he had not paid for, his wife, Heather, has spent $3,000 — about $60 a week — on phone calls to the prisons and jails where he has been held.

The cost of a 15-minute call is $12.95 to the prison where Mr. Kofalt is now incarcerated, a few hours’ drive from his wife’s home in Franklin, Pa. The cost for a similar non-prison call within Pennsylvania would be about 60 cents.

And every time Ms. Kofalt deposits $25 into the prison phone account, the private company that runs the system applies a service charge of $6.95.“I don’t drive,” said Ms. Kofalt, 39, who works as a home health care aide and lives with her 19-year-old son, his girlfriend and their two children. “This is all we have. The people in jail did wrong, but the only people being punished are the families.”

Until the 1990s, inmates could place and receive calls to lawyers and family members at rates similar to those outside prison walls. But the prison phone system is now a $1.2 billion-a-year industry dominated by a few private companies that manage phones in prisons and jails in all 50 states, setting rates and fees far in excess of those established by regular commercial providers. The business is so considerable — some 500 million prison and jail phone calls totaling more than six billion minutes in 2014 — that it has caught the eye of private equity firms.

The fees make up an estimated 40 percent of the average prison phone bill, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit organization.

In its first foray into regulating the industry, the F.C.C in February 2014 capped the cost of interstate calls to and from prisons at 25 cents. Phone companies responded by increasing fees on calls made to and from prisons in the same state, which account for about 90 percent of prison and jail calls.

Global Tel-Link and Securus say any rate cap below about 20 cents a minute would cut too deeply into their operating margins, preventing them from adequately providing monitoring of calls for security.

But prisoner advocates say a cap of about 7 cents a minute would allow phone companies to make a profit while providing inmates more opportunities to speak to their families.

Richard A. Smith, Securus’s chief executive, said in a letter to regulators that his company had paid $1.3 billion in concession fees to prisons and local governments over the past decade. He did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

”We believe that the intention of the commission to allow correctional facilities to recover the costs of hosting inmate calling while seeking to address pricing issues in the market is a step in the right direction for all parties involved,” Kirk Vespestad, a Global Tel-Link spokesman, said in a statement.

The significance of the fees paid to win a contract was illustrated recently in a solicitation by the Arizona Department of Corrections for a new five-year phone contract. The department’s bidding system awarded 1,250 points to the company that proposed paying the highest concession fee. All other factors, including technical requirements, were worth only a combined 300 points.

Joymara Coleman, a 25-year-old California college student, met her father for the first time last summer at the Louisiana penitentiary where he is serving a life sentence for murder. She said the cost of phone calls meant that she had talked to him only twice since her visit.

Adding to her financial and psychological strain, she said, are two brothers also serving time in prison.

“I’m the first in my family to go to college,” Ms. Coleman said. “I don’t have the money. I’m just trying to keep the family together.”

Monday, March 30, 2015

Aspire the new drink

More on cheating.  Harvard does it so of course the Harvard to the west would as well.

I have little to say about children either positive or negative. They are the mirror to the adults in their lives or the ones not.

Not a day goes by where I am not derided or mocked by a child, and later that day an adult version will likely present themselves to me in a line at the store, in a parking lot or on a bus. They are what they were then only older and none wiser.

When I do meet the children that matter they are what matters and I focus on them.  The rest don't. They are horrified when I respond, "I don't care what you think of me or well of anything, I don't care." To them they care about the most minuet and idiotic things that pass their brains as a thought or what I refer to as a  brain fart it is just as odious if not gaseous.     I am sure that I mean nothing to them either but they are incredulous that an adult would have the temerity to admit as such.   Their idiocy it is the one thing that income inequity does share, a sense of entitlement and the rudeness it crosses race lines, class lines,  gender lines. It is the perfect equality that the rest of society lacks and  that is arrogance.  

We have a problem Houston and it is why many young are living in basements and being shot in the street.  I am mystified with the sudden rise in consultants to explain to Gen X, their parents, who have spent most of their lives loathing boomers on how to make the little ones happy.   Don't they know they did it already and look what the reaper sowed.  The group I am speaking of are in fact the newer generation, they aspire to be well like the aspirant class.  Not much to aspire to however but the smart ones they may be different.                          
Sorry but not all snowflakes are special and the ones that are reveal themselves to me and they somehow make up for all the shit I stepped in on the way to find them.  The ones that matter they are there and they are lost in smell.  We need to find them. Perhaps they can do better.   If we don't we have failed them but then again cheaters do prosper.

These are the best and the brightest. Or not. Birds do it bees do it even educated fleas do it... cheat that is.

  Stanford University investigating 'troubling' cheating allegations

A Stanford University provost is urging faculty members to talk to students about academic dishonesty after a "troubling number" of cheating allegations surfaced in one class, prompting the school to open an investigation.

"Among a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses, one faculty member reported allegations that may involve as many as 20 percent of the students in one large introductory course," Stanford Provost John Etchemendy said in a letter sent to faculty members last week.

His letter described that as "an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty."

Calling dishonesty "corrosive in an academic community," Etchemendy said professors and instructors at the prestigious private university near Palo Alto, California, had a responsibility to clearly articulate academic standards to their students.

Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said the school's Office of Community Standards was investigating the cheating allegations and would mete out discipline to students found culpable, varying from suspensions to community service.

Lapin said there was no indication of a widespread cheating scandal at Stanford, which like every major university has at least a "handful" of academic dishonesty cases each quarter.

"There was one class in which a large number of concerns were raised by a faculty member. Those are now being investigated, but the provost thought it would be a good opportunity to remind everybody to have clear conversations about the about honor code," she said. "It's not something we're hiding."

Lapin said she did not know how long the investigation would take.

In 2013, some 60 students were forced to withdraw from Harvard University after cheating on a final exam in one of the largest academic scandals to hit the Ivy League school in recent memory.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Clipping Hedges

When I read about this group of activists, I thought ABOUT TIME!

This clearly has a more orchestrated and mature effort behind it, as they are an offshoot of the American Teachers Federation.  And finally where a union uses its immense resources and abilities to organize are actually doing just that.

I have seen repeatedly the groups that began with the best of intentions only to fall into the cracks once the initial burst upon the scene occurs, the media coverage and in turn ultimately moderate success or simply remain but in a much smaller role and capacity.

The group is called the Hedge Clippers and the article about their group and their efforts to expose, showcase and in turn protest the elite among the elite in the 1%, the Hedge Fund mangers. Much like the CEO of the big banks they are nonetheless successful and may be in fact more powerful as they handle the money in the shadows without quite the oversight and regulation (despite the facts that banks have little of each they are still more visible in more than one way).

As a result when they say jump banks go how high will it go.  The role of the hedge funds in the current push to privatize education and find how to generate income from the billions of potential dollars that would generate from the field at large, both in data and in curriculum materials.

I have never seen such divisiveness and frustration as once again the school season closes with the push for testing and in turn federal dollars tied to Teaching and teachers evaluations.  These wealthy men have never set foot in a public school in their lives and in turn have no intention of doing the same to the private academies that are their Alma mater or where their children attend speaks millions right there.  They are not interested in students, their success or failures or even the whole union nonsense, they simply want to ensure their own family's largess and role in the bigger picture.

I have no actual dog in that race as I simply substitute and have no interest in ever returning full time into a classroom in more than just a Teacher's aide as frankly it is a thankless job and I have enough self loathing thankyouverymuch.  I relish the day I actually never have to return to a classroom as the cruelty of the students, the lack of professional collegial relationships and the crappy ass wages are enough reason to take up flying and throw a jet into a mountain.  Too soon?

I actually on average do like kids who have thoughts in their head.. they don't have to be the best and brightest they just have to be open minded, kind and willing to take a risk and open their heart and minds. They exist and they are few and far between but when I meet them I am fueled for days on that alone and for that I am blessed.

But I would invite anyone of these pompous gits to get a substitute teaching certificate and spend a year  or just 6 months subbing in a public urban school system and then hear about what they think.  Here is what I think - they wouldn't make it a month.

Take out the clippers and remove a little from the top.

Exposing Hedge Fund Politics in New York
By Gina Bellafante

The Hedge Clippers targeting a hedge fund billionaire in Greenwich, Conn. Credit Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Main Street

I wrote yesterday on the hysteria on how tests encourage fraud and hysteria and in turn that carries over to all facets of professional obligations where testing is a part of the rigor to demonstrate "competency".

Well then I found this trial over more junk science. I will note the highlighted portion. What more do you need to know. What fine Doctors whose concern is more about money and fame than curing disease. Say it isn't so.

Irony that in the Atlanta trial of those accused of altering test results, the acclaimed Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall died in that case. Frankly the entire trial that is under a federal racketeering act is a farce and that include Teachers is just another example of our bizarre system of injustice. They should be fired, they should pay a fine and loss of a career is sufficient, the rest is all kabuki theatre that punishes the lowest hanging fruit. If you have ever worked in a public school you would know the buck stops at the Principal and the fish stinks from the head. Not to speak ill of the dead I will not condemn a woman I had no knowledge or experience with but I am sure she did not do so without encouragement or pressure from those within the districts headquarters and school boards.  That and  the grants and money from the feds cannot be ignored and also plays a significant role. What these "foundations" do under the guise of reform is another matter, another blog post for another day. But they are all part of this.

I just want to point out that this is the same with the military cops and the excessive fines and fees issued. This is how we generate income in this country. From bullshit metrics, quotas and data that is the result of junk science, money men and the frauds that decide their agenda is the agenda and the politicians lap it up like a kitty at a bowl of cream.  Right now the same law is being proposed in Washington state, I doubt one legislator here even knows about this story in Atlanta. Reading even the bills they sign is an anomaly among Politicians.

Here is the definitive story about that infamous cheating scandal in Atlanta. The tests matter to the adults the adults will do what they need to to protect their jobs, the kids are sadly irrelevant. I thought the point of reform was about the children? Uh no.

How is any of this different than Wall Street? Main street has its own role in our corrupt problems.

Potti's junk science trial delayed because of illness
Jan 26, 2015, 3:03pm EST

Jason deBruyn
Staff Writer- Triangle Business Journal

Lawyers will attempt to show that current and former Duke University officials ignored warning signs about research that was later proved falsified in part for "enhanced reputation" and to "make money," according to court documents.

A civil trial against Duke University, many of its top officials and now disgraced former Duke researcher Dr. Anil Potti was scheduled to begin Monday in Durham, but was delayed because of an illness. The trial is now expected to begin later this week.

Recent filings include lengthy depositions of current and former Duke University officials, including Dr. Victor Dzau, the former CEO of Duke Health, and Dr. Robert Califf, vice chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University.

At the center of the trial is the research of Potti and his partner Dr. Joseph Nevins. Duke performed clinical trials testing the findings from that research in cancer patients, but halted the trials when it was found fraudulent.

"Defendants admitted they stood to gain three major things if they found something important: (1) enhanced 'reputation,' (2) make money, and (3) obtain more patients, students and professors from a 'tag-on effect.'" according to a motion filed by Thomas Henson Jr., who represents Walter Jacobs and the estate of Juliet Jacobs, a cancer patient who died after participating in a clinical trial based on the research from Duke. In the motion, Henson quotes from a deposition of Califf, the Duke vice presi

Specifically, a group that included Potti and Nevins created a company called CancerGuide, which received $10.5 million in funding based on the research and clinical trial. Later, investors demanded their money back, and the company returned the money.

"The CancerGuide Board of Directors and investors strongly believe that based on Duke's knowledge and confers about data …, Duke should not have licensed this technology to CancerGuide or encouraged investors to fund the company," according to a motion filed by Henson based off the deposition of Dzau.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sky High

In a recent post I discussed the actual cost of living in regards to the actual wages and there is a disparity when it comes to realizing what one actually earns when in relation to the average costs associated with living in specific cities.

So the same dollar earned in Cleveland will go further than the same dollar earned in Dallas. Yet we have a federal standard with regards to minimum wage, to poverty level to qualify for varying safety nets and even tax deductions.

Funny the States love to trump state rights when it comes to Education, to Voting and to safety net/entitlement programs but when it comes to wages and earnings that federal minimum wage is just fine and let us not forget the federal "law" with regards to food services workers who are paid less with the concept of tips level that wage out. So as you eat your $20 steak served to you by a worker earning $3/hr you are supposed to tip her the 4 dollar difference to ensure she meets the minimum. But wait you say, she is waiting on 4 others so I only need to tip her a dollar right? Wrong you need to ask what of that she has to "tip out" to the runners, the bussers, the chefs and the tax man, right?

Clearly my working class background or as I proudly like to remind myself that I am white trash, is showing. In another time I could secure my security by marrying up. Well not so anymore. In the ever and never ending issue with regards to income inequity add the stress of marrying out of one's "class" as another disintegration of the meritocracy that we used to be so proud. Downton Abby anyone? Interesting article here about the challenges of marrying "up."

So today the Washington Post had another article on the cost of housing in proportion to wages and the shock was well the usual suspects once again appeared. So if Seattle and San Francisco has all these jobs then why aren't the wages comparative to the cost of housing? It might be why all of our doorways are packed with residents.

The article is below and the reality trac data is here.

The cities where salaries are keeping up with housing prices — and where they’re not

Wonkblog The Washington PostBy Ana Swanson
March 27 2015

The era of great real estate deals that followed the financial crisis appears to be officially over. According to new data from RealtyTrac, a housing data website, home prices in cities around the U.S. have been growing at about 13 times faster than wages since rebounding in 2012.

Median wages grew 1.3 percent between the second quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2014. However, home prices grew by a stunning 17 percent, according to RealtyTrac, which used data on average weekly wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and median home prices from sales deeds in 184 metropolitan areas.

Home price appreciation outpaced wage growth in 76 percent of U.S. housing markets over the past two years, the report says. The areas where home price appreciation outpaced wage growth by a wide margin included Merced, Calif. (where home price growth outpaced wage growth at a ratio of 141:1), Memphis, Tenn. (99:1), Santa Cruz, Calif. (94:1), Augusta, Ga. (78:1), Sacramento, Calif. (17:1), Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. (15:1), Las Vegas, Nev. (14:1) and Detroit (12:1).

Despite this strong growth in prices, most markets are still affordable by traditional standards, says RealtyTrac. Of the 184 markets the company looked at, 135 of them had a median home sales price in December that required less than 28 percent of the city's median monthly income to meet mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance, a traditional standard of affordability. Markets that were “unaffordable” by this measure included Los Angeles, San Fracisco, San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Boston and Denver.

In about a quarter of the cities tracked, wages grew faster than home prices. Those areas included Hagerstown-Martinsburg, Md.-W.Va., Wichita, Kan., Des Moines, Iowa, Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., and Harrisburg, Pa. Other metro areas where wage growth outpaced home price appreciation during the housing recovery included New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, New Haven, Conn., Tulsa, Okla., and Raleigh, N.C.

Test Me

There is always much made about the growth and education of the Chinese. This also comes on the heels of massive test taking and cheating allegations and other assorted shenanigans to get Chinese students to American universities and the of course ever willing universities to take the tution of the students at much higher rates.

Today, NYU posted that it takes 71K to complete one year there. Spare change anyone?

And of course this notion of testing which is being touted as the be all end all in determing one's potential or success in life is nowhere less signficant in China leading to riots to ensure a student's success. I can see this here with the highly capable crowd.

And of course the current trial of the teachers who were accused of altering tests to ensure their and their students success. The push for testing is turning our Teachers, our schools and our students into pavolovian dogs. I can't see any good from this. And if you think it is perfectly acceptable to allow the performance of a 12 year old to determine my professional success or failure then you have not been a classroom of late. and these numbers tell one nothing from many ends of the educational spectrum as this from 2011 notes.

And this now is under the gun in New York as it is here in Washington where they are holding up education bills until this issue is resolved. This is why schools are closing due to metrics and in turn the Mayoral race in Chicago is in a runoff.

So we will get more cheating, more teaching to a test. Turning kids as early as 5 into test monkeys all for what purpose? Busting unions? Making kids smarter? Closing schools? Firing "bad" teachers over "good" teachers?

And what is happening in China continues on as this article demonstrates. There is no actual metric to measure honesty. We should start there.

So when a major scientific journal finds another scam, this one a peer review scam, it makes one wonder how many are there regardless of place of origin. And these journals articles and studies are used for a myriad of issues, treatments, and professional credentialing. So the latest and greatest may also be utter bullshit.

The article below is a discussion of this issue but they also reference another scandal in other engineering focused journal. And again they have the imprimatuer of the Chinese behind the articles. And this is coming to America, no wait its here.

It is not the source it is the notion that this is not an act of isolation it is one of desperation.

Major publisher retracts 43 scientific papers amid wider fake peer-review scandal

The Washington Post
By Fred Barbash
March 27
A major publisher of scholarly medical and science articles has retracted 43 papers because of “fabricated” peer reviews amid signs of a broader fake peer review racket affecting many more publications.

The publisher is BioMed Central, based in the United Kingdom, which puts out 277 peer-reviewed journals. A partial list of the retracted articles suggests most of them were written by scholars at universities in China, including China Medical University, Sichuan University, Shandong University and Jiaotong University Medical School. But Jigisha Patel, associate editorial director for research integrity at BioMed Central, said it’s not “a China problem. We get a lot of robust research of China. We see this as a broader problem of how scientists are judged.”

Meanwhile, the Committee on Publication Ethics, a multidisciplinary group that includes more than 9,000 journal editors, issued a statement suggesting a much broader potential problem. The committee, it said, “has become aware of systematic, inappropriate attempts to manipulate the peer review processes of several journals across different publishers.” Those journals are now reviewing manuscripts to determine how many may need to be retracted, it said.

Peer review is the vetting process designed to guarantee the integrity of scholarly articles by having experts read them and approve or disapprove them for publication. With researchers increasingly desperate for recognition, citations and professional advancement, the whole peer-review system has come under scrutiny in recent years for a host of flaws and irregularities, ranging from lackadaisical reviewing to cronyism to outright fraud.

Last year, in one of the most publicized scandals, the Journal of Vibration and Control, in the field of acoustics, retracted 60 articles at one time due to what it called a “peer review and citation ring” in which the reviews, mostly from scholars in Taiwan, were submitted by people using fake names.

[RELATED: Scholarly journal retracts 60 articles, smashes "peer review ring"]

Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, the co-editors of Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks research integrity and first reported the BioMed Central retractions, have counted a total of 170 retractions in the past few years across several journals because of fake peer reviews.

“The problem of fake peer reviewers is affecting the whole of academic journal publishing and we are among the ranks of publishers hit by this type of fraud,” Patel of BioMed’s ethics group wrote in November. “The spectrum of ‘fakery’ has ranged from authors suggesting their friends who agree in advance to provide a positive review, to elaborate peer review circles where a group of authors agree to peer review each others’ manuscripts, to impersonating real people, and to generating completely fictitious characters. From what we have discovered amongst our journals, it appears to have reached a higher level of sophistication. The pattern we have found, where there is no apparent connection between the authors but similarities between the suggested reviewers, suggests that a third party could be behind this sophisticated fraud.”

In a blog post yesterday, Elizabeth Moylan, BioMed Central’s senior editor for research integrity, said an investigation begun last year revealed a scheme to “deceive” journal editors by suggesting “fabricated” reviewers for submitted articles. She wrote that some of the “manipulations” appeared to have been conducted by agencies that offer language-editing and submission assistance to non-English speaking authors.

“It is unclear,” she wrote, “whether the authors of the manuscripts involved were aware that the agencies were proposing fabricated reviewers on their behalf or whether authors proposed fabricated names directly themselves.”

Patel, in an interview, said the peer review reports submitted “were actually very convincing.” BioMed Central became suspicious because they spotted a pattern of unusual e-mail addresses among the reviewers that seemed “odd” for scientists working in an institution. Also odd was the fact that the same author was reviewing different topics, which did not make sense in highly specialized fields.

Ultimately, when they tracked down some of the scientists in whose names reviews were written, they found that they hadn’t written them at all. Someone else had, using the scientists’ names.

“There is an element of exploitation,” Patel said. “If authors are naive and want to get their manuscripts published, they can be exploited” by services into paying the fees. The services, she said, may be offering to “polish up manuscripts” and perhaps even guaranteeing publication.

“This is a problem not just for publishers to resolve,” she said. Journals, research institutions and scholars “need to get together. It is part of the broader pressure to publish that’s driving people to do this.”

In its statement, the Committee on Publication Ethics said: “While there are a number of well-established reputable agencies offering manuscript-preparation services to authors, investigations at several journals suggests that some agencies are selling services, ranging from authorship of pre-written manuscripts to providing fabricated contact details for peer reviewers during the submission process and then supplying reviews from these fabricated addresses. Some of these peer reviewer accounts have the names of seemingly real researchers but with e-mail addresses that differ from those from their institutions or associated with their previous publications, others appear to be completely fictitious.”

The BioMed Central articles in question now carry retractions attached that say: “The Publisher and Editor regretfully retract this article because the peer-review process was inappropriately influenced and compromised. As a result, the scientific integrity of the article cannot be guaranteed. A systematic and detailed investigation suggests that a third party was involved in supplying fabricated details of potential peer reviewers for a large number of manuscripts submitted to different journals.”

The BioMed Central list of retracted articles so far identifies 38 of the 43 published papers. They all have highly technical names and topics, such as “Pathological dislocation of the hip due to coxotuberculosis in children” and “A meta-analysis of external fixator versus intramedullary nails for open tibial fracture fixation.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bunga Bunga

To think this is on my bucket list and Putin and Berlusconi called them "bunga bunga parties" And of course Domnick Straus Khan was probably invited too!

Were the drivers the same Secret Service agents who got drunk and drove into a barricade at the White House recently but all video of said "incident" disappeared?

I can see why Congress is holding up the human trafficking bill now.. you aren't just a patron anymore.

And in other news: the DEA agents investigating the "dark web" went like Alice right into it. They were not just looking into the Silk Road they were travelling down it.  Ah don't do as I do or say just leave me to do what I want when I want. 

Laws, they are just for the people anymore and by the people I mean the poors and the unwashed not the ones who work with or in the walls that serve them.

Watchdog report faults DEA handling of sex party allegations
By Eric Tucker | 
AP March 26

WASHINGTON — A federal watchdog on Thursday faulted the Drug Enforcement Administration over allegations that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes on government-leased property while stationed overseas.

The sex parties are just one example of questionable behavior highlighted in a report by the Justice Department inspector general that examines the department’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from 2009 to 2012.

It said some allegations were not fully investigated or went unreported to headquarters. It also criticized poor communication among internal affairs investigators assigned to look into the bad behavior and security personnel responsible for the security clearance process. And it said the FBI and DEA balked at requests for information, to the point that investigators “cannot be completely confident” that they got complete information.

The report chronicles varied allegations of other inappropriate sexual behavior — including unwanted advances, sex between training instructors and students and relationships between a supervisor and subordinate — involving employees of federal law enforcement agencies within the Justice Department. Those include the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

One section of the report recounts allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes, funded by local drug cartels, in a foreign county. Those claims came to light in a series of interviews with foreign police officers by DEA internal affairs investigators in 2009 and 2010. The parties were allegedly arranged over the course of several years by a foreign officer, who also alleged that several agents were provided with money, expensive gifts and weapons.

Seven agents ultimately admitted attending parties with prostitutes. The DEA issued suspensions ranging from two days to 10 days, and one agent was cleared of wrongdoing.

The report does not identify the country where the alleged sex parties occurred, but a federal law enforcement official confirmed it was Colombia. A separate 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia involving the Secret Service had drawn attention to questionable behavior by law enforcement officers while stationed overseas, prompting Congress to order a review of other agencies’ practices. DEA agents who were accused of misconduct in the wake of that scandal were recalled from Colombia and put on limited duty.

The report criticizes the professional responsibility branch of the DEA, which investigated the allegations, for failing to report them to a separate office that ensures that employees meet the requirements to hold security clearances. The alleged sex parties took place in government-leased quarters where agents’ phones and laptops were presents, but investigators did not report the allegations because they “did not believe that the special agents’ conduct rose to the level of a security risk requiring a referral.”

Those communication lapses are a problem not just at the DEA but also at ATF and the Marshals Service, the report stated.

“In most cases where employees were alleged to have engaged in high-risk sexual behavior, security personnel were not informed about these incidents until long after they occurred or were never informed, even though such behavior presents possible significant security risks,” it said.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it takes seriously the findings of the inspector general and is working to implement policies to prevent similar problems from arising in the future.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, said bad behavior overseas poses a national security risk.

“We need to weed out those who risk our national security, embarrass the county and skirt the law,” he said. “This needs to end.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged a zero-tolerance policy that would lead to the firing of any Justice Department employee found to have solicited prostitutes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two Lane Highway

I wrote about the sudden redemption and demand for forgiveness and understanding by the former Prosecutor who sentenced the wrong man to death. You know it is a two way street that road to forgiveness.

I am grateful he admitted his arrogance and act of wrongdoing but I think the question remains why so few actually do in his position, Judges, Prosecutors and even Defense Attorney's who admit they phoned that one in. We don't apologize nearly enough and that is why we are obsessed with litigation.

Lawyers came up with that no apology deal as it admits guilt. Then they came up with the plea bargain that admits guilt for something just anything cause you're going down regardless.

Where there are Lawyers hands there are dirty hands regardless. The ones on average protect their own and by their own they mean THEIR as in their family, their needs and their job security. I have met only one Lawyer who cares and it is killing him literally. He walks alone and he would disagree with me fiercely but I am sorry I have not seen or experienced any different. Perhaps I too need to forgive.

But why are we so willing to forgive and forget them their indiscretions but not the ones we put into that position. Yes once you have done the time is that not enough? Do we need to not forget nor actually forgive. The death penalty is the ultimate example of that concept.

The Intercept posed that question. Are we willing to forgive?

A Prosecutor Seeks Redemption. Can We Allow Prisoners the Same?By Liliana Segura

BY NOW MANY have read and been moved by the extraordinary mea culpa published in the Shreveport Times by a man named Marty Stroud III, who more than thirty years ago sent Glenn Ford to die for a crime he did not commit.

“How wrong was I,” wrote Stroud, who as a young prosecutor convicted Ford, a black man, with the help of an all-white jury in Louisiana’s Caddo Parish. Stroud’s murder case against Ford was bankrupt on its face — at trial, a key witness admitted in open court that her testimony had been a lie. Yet Ford didn’t stand a chance. His court-appointed lawyers had never handled a criminal trial, let alone a capital case. He was sentenced to die, though fortunately never executed. After decades spent fighting to prove his innocence, Ford was was finally cleared after the DA’s office revealed it had obtained exonerating evidence. But by the time he was released from prison last year, at 64, Ford was sick with cancer. Doctors say he has just months to live. Ford has spent his last days fighting for financial compensation, which the state has so far denied him. In his anguished letter to the Times, Stroud said that Ford “deserves every penny” for his lost freedom and expressed deep remorse “for all the misery I have caused him and his family.”

Stroud’s apology made headlines across the country. The National Registry of Exonerations called it “uniquely powerful and moving.” In a culture that shields prosecutors from having to answer for even the most outrageous miscarriages of justice, Stroud’s letter is indeed an astonishing read. Though no substitute for accountability – he denies any intentional misconduct — Stroud lays bare the hubris that drives state actors to aggressively pursue even the most questionable convictions. “In 1984, I was 33 years old,” Stroud writes. “I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud recalls going out for drinks to celebrate Ford’s death sentence, which he labels “sick.” Not only because Ford turned out to be innocent. But because today Stroud believes that, as a fallible human being, he never should have had that kind of power to begin with. The death penalty, he writes, “is an abomination that continues to scar the fibers of this society.”

Stroud’s dramatic conversion, his revulsion at the memory of toasting a death sentence, echoes a story told by a different man, former Florida prison warden Ron McAndrew. On the morning after overseeing his first execution in 1996, McAndrew went out to the “traditional breakfast” with the execution team, at a Shoney’s in Starke, FL, just 15 miles from the death chamber. “Everyone in the restaurant knew who we were and what we had just done,” he wrote, “there were even a few ‘high five signs.’” He spotted the defense attorney who had tried to save the life of the man he had just helped execute. “I saw my own sickness on her sad face,” McAndrew wrote. The ritual felt wrong. “It was my first and my last traditional death breakfast.” Later, Esquire would publish a profile of the former warden. It was titled “Ron McAndrew Is Done Killing People.”

Others who once operated the machinery of death have reached similar epiphanies. Two years ago the Guardian published a sobering Q&A with Jerry Givens, a retired executioner who killed no fewer than 62 prisoners for the state of Virginia. Givens, a clearly traumatized man, said taking the job was the “biggest mistake I ever made.” Today he serves on the board of Virginians Against the Death Penalty. Former Georgia warden Allen Ault, who presided over five executions and now speaks out against capital punishment, says he has “spent a lifetime regretting every moment and every killing.” Jeanne Woodford, who gave the order for four executions as the warden of San Quentin Prison, later became the executive director of the abolitionist group Death Penalty Focus. In 2013, the New York Times ran an obituary for a warden-turned-academic who oversaw three executions at Mississippi’s Parchman Farm. It included his nagging belief that one of the men may have been innocent. In its headline the Times remembered him as “Donald Cabana, Warden Who Loathed the Death Penalty.”

These are transformative figures. Their accounts, while powerful on their own, are important in the space they create for others to change as well — perhaps even some still working inside the system they have since disavowed. As Americans increasingly question the death penalty amid new exonerations and botched executions, we can probably expect — and should encourage — more of these stories.

Yet as these narratives become more ubiquitous, they also expose a nagging hypocrisy. If we are drawn to such expressions of penitence and moral clarity, if we see them as brave or enlightened or even noble, why don’t we grant people in prison the same potential for change? Why have we abandoned rehabilitation, once supposedly central to the mission we call “corrections,” and replaced it with the longest sentences on the planet? Why do we give people who do bad things so few pathways toward redemption? Is it too much to consider that murderers in prison are as complex and human as people who kill in the name of the state?

Earlier this month, the state of Georgia came within hours of killing 47-year-old Kelly Gissendaner for the murder of her husband in 1997. Although her degree of culpability made her case controversial — the killing itself was carried out by a boyfriend — there was no question of her guilt. But as her execution neared, it was also clear that Gissendaner was more than the crime that sent her to death row. While incarcerated she became a student of theology and a source of strength to fellow prisoners. If someone was “being escorted across the yard with cut-up or bandaged arms from attempted suicides,” one former prison guard told The New York Times, others “would yell to Kelly about it.” She “could talk to those ladies and offer them some sort of hope and peace.” Yet as a matter of course, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole rejected Gissendaner’s clemency petition. Her contributions behind prison walls held no value to authorities in the outside world. Gissendaner is only alive today because of last-minute concerns over the efficacy of the execution drugs the state was set to use. Georgia still plans to kill her.

Even as more states abolish the death penalty, we have installed in its place different forms of permanent punishment, astoundingly long sentences that deny people’s ability to evolve — or even the human tendency to “age out” of crime. Today, one in nine US prisoners, including people convicted as juveniles, are currently serving a life sentence, according to the Sentencing Project, and “those with parole-eligible life sentences are increasingly less likely to be released.” More people than ever are serving life with no possibility of parole — including thousands for nonviolent offenses, as the ACLU found in a major study in 2013. In Shreveport, Louisiana, where Glenn Ford was wrongly sentenced to die, a lesser known man named Sylvester Mead was sentenced to die in prison after he drunkenly threatened a cop while handcuffed in the back of a police car. As I noted at The Nation, Mead’s own trial judge argued that his offense “does not warrant, under any conscionable or constitutional basis, a life sentence.” Yet “Mead’s prosecutor appealed multiple times seeking a harsher sentence because of his old convictions.” We can try to construe this as justice. But like Marty Stroud in 1984, this was a prosecutor bent on winning.

There are some signs that we are moving in a slightly more rational direction. California is releasing “lifers,” only a small fraction of whom are landing back in jail. The Supreme Court is chipping away at permanent sentencing for juveniles. Criminal justice reform is in vogue on Capitol Hill. President Obama recently told the Huffington Post he plans to use his clemency powers “more aggressively” to benefit nonviolent drug offenders. In testimony before Congress last week, before a task force charged with recommending improvements to the federal prison system, Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project said it is time to get past “modest reforms” and boldly proposed that we cap federal sentences at 20 years. “How much punishment is enough?” he asked. “What are we trying to accomplish, and where does redemption come into the picture?”

If there is room for redemption at all — and if we are honest about addressing the crisis of mass incarceration — we must start by recognizing that the 2.3 million people we have put behind bars are no less human than the rest of us. That includes many who have done terrible things. What if we gave more prisoners a second chance, some meaningful shot at parole — an opportunity to redefine their legacy, like Marty Stroud did when he sat down to write to the Shreveport Times? What kind of human potential might they reveal?

Some have made efforts to answer this question. Just a few days before Stroud wrote his letter, the Los Angeles Times profiled a group of men in at San Quentin, who as part of a writing class, were asked to invent their own obituaries. “These were people who were best known for their worst decisions — stabbing a man to death, gunning down a bystander, robbing banks,” the Times reported. But their teacher wanted the group to imagine how they might otherwise be remembered – “What is your real value?” The resulting essays yearned for redemption. One man, convicted for a gang shooting, pictured himself getting stabbed to death while trying to break up a prison fight. Another prisoner, serving more than 30 years on robbery and firearms charges, imagined dying a free man, getting hit by a car when trying to help a stranger with a flat tire. His obituary boasted that he had “finished top of his class in Janitorial duties” at San Quentin, and said that he had spent his time behind bars focused on his future. In real life, the author died less than a year later, at 42, still behind bars.

“Looking back at that period of time in my life, I was not a very nice person,” Marty Stroud admits about the man he was when he sent Glenn Ford to die. Few seem to doubt his sincerity. How many people in prison would say the same about their own worst mistakes? Would we listen?

My Kind of Town

In line with my post from yesterday where John Oliver mocked the incessant seeking of petty fines and fees to fund cities with money under the auspice "preventing crime" well if jaywalking is a nemesis to the order of society then so be it. But when the predominant number of criminals are persons of color perhaps there is a clear pattern of behavior and that is not the persons stopped who are exhibiting it.

The New York City Police Department has been under "fire" (pun intended) for it's stop and frisk but Chicago actually does beat the Yankees when it comes to this policy. Their current Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel is also up for a contested re-election for his school closings but this is also an issue that should be addressed. Funny the liberals get all the bashings when it comes to this policy but it has been under his watch, undoubtedly Rolex, for quite some time. I have never wanted to hug it out with either Emmanuel as I am not Little Red Riding Hood and I do recognize a woof in granny's clothing.

Street stops by Chicago police far surpass New York, ACLU finds
By Jeremy Gorner
Chicago Tribune

ACLU: More than 250,000 people were stopped but not arrested by Chicago police over four months last year.
ACLU: Chicago cops' number of street stops “a troubling sign” of an illegal policy.

Chicago police made street stops at a far higher rate last summer than New York City cops did at the height of their controversial stop-and-frisk policy, a newly released analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois found.

The analysis of the department's own data shows that Chicago police stopped African-Americans at a disproportionately higher rate than Hispanics and whites, especially in predominantly white neighborhoods.

In all, more than a quarter of a million stops took place from last May through August, according to the ACLU, which called the numbers "shocking" and "a troubling sign" of an illegal policy on the department's part. None of those people stopped was arrested.

"For young men of color, it becomes just basically everyday street harassment that they learn to live with," said Harvey Grossman, the ACLU's longtime director. "Young black and brown men are so used to getting stopped in the city, they really don't complain about it with the intensity that you would think. It's become pretty commonplace on the South and West sides of our city."

By comparison, New York City police made about 192,500 stops without arrests during the same four-month period in 2011, the year it recorded its highest number of stop-and-frisks, a policy ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge at one point. On a per-capita basis, the rate of stops in Chicago averaged 93.6 per 1,000 people, more than four times New York's highest rate of 22.9 per 1,000 people, the report said.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy's spokesman, Marty Maloney, said the department flatly prohibits racial profiling and other race-based policing. Over the past three years, he said, the department has improved training to ensure officers abide by those restrictions.

Maloney also stressed the department has led a return to community policing to foster stronger relationships between officers and the city's communities, calling it "the foundation of our policing philosophy."

But the ACLU's report appears to call that commitment into question. In fact, Grossman called on the department to rely more on community policing than what he called "incredibly intrusive stops."

"The abuse of stop-and-frisk is a violation of individual rights, but it also poisons police and community relations," the report said.

African-Americans were most often singled out for stops — typically of individuals walking or standing on street corners, according to the report. Over the same four months last year — the hottest part of the year when violence spikes in Chicago's most impoverished, gang-ridden neighborhoods — police stopped 182,048 African-Americans, 72 percent of all street stops. Yet African-Americans made up about 32 percent of the city's population.

Latinos, who make up 29 percent of the population, were stopped 42,865 times, 17 percent of the stops, while whites, making up about 32 percent of the population, were stopped 23,471 times, 9 percent of the stops, the report said.

What's more, the ACLU found that Chicago police stopped African-Americans at even higher rates in police districts where the majority of residents were white. For instance, in the Jefferson Park police district on the Northwest Side, police stopped African-Americans 15 percent of the time even though they made up only 1 percent of the population.

Maloney said officers don't make these stops at random. And data from the last two years show that the racial breakdown of those who were stopped closely matches the race of suspects reported by residents and witnesses, justifying the high percentage of stops of African-Americans, he said.

Under the Terry v. Ohio decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968, police can make stops when they have a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or will commit a crime. The officer must be able to articulate specific facts to justify the intrusion, according to the ACLU. Citizens can then be patted down if officers have a reasonable suspicion they are dangerous or armed with a weapon.

If Chicago police officers stop a person on the street but don't make an arrest, they are required to fill out "contact cards" with the age, address, race, time and location, any distinguishable marks or tattoos, and the reason for the stop.

But an ACLU analysis of a sampling of some 250 stops from 2012 and 2013 found that in about half, officers either gave an unlawful reason for the stop or failed to provide enough information to justify the stop. Furthermore, the department does not keep track of how often officers then frisk the individual, the ACLU said. It also doesn't record stops that lead to arrests or tickets, according to the report.
ACLU reports bring protesters to City Hall
3 people were arrested after protesting the ACLU findings on CPD. (WGN)

The ACLU report recommended that both officers and supervisors be given additional training on the legal justification necessary to make a stop. The ACLU also called on the department to record and justify frisks as well as stops that lead to arrests, all necessary steps to determine if officers engage in biased policing, it said. The department is increasingly out of step with other major cities on making such data publicly available online, according to the report.

Veteran police supervisors interviewed by the Tribune for this story said McCarthy continues to put pressure through the ranks for officers to make these street stops as a crime prevention measure.

In November 2013, the Tribune highlighted how the department's increasing use of contact cards — the forms filled out by officers when they make street stops — had raised concerns of civil libertarians. The numbers had soared from 379,000 in 2011, the year Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed McCarthy superintendent, to more than 600,000 through the first 10 months of 2013.

The use of contact cards dropped last year. But still, said sources who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized by the department to speak, district commanders feel the pressure to have their officers make street stops — and fill the cards out.

"You've got a large number of people being stopped simply to meet a requirement at CompStat," said one veteran supervisor, referring to McCarthy's data-driven approach to measure crime in each district.

"They are valuable, but is the cost detrimental to the relations we are suffering (with) the community?" asked another veteran supervisor.

Sources also explained that bosses use the contact cards to help determine which officers are working hard. The ones who make more street stops can sometimes be regarded as more dedicated. But that can become problematic for officers who question the validity of the stops.

"There are a lot of police officers I know who refuse to write (contact cards) anymore for fear of being sued for unlawful stops," said one rank-and-file cop who works on the South Side.

For decades the department has used contact cards to gather intelligence, keep track of gang members and solve crimes.

Homicide detectives who spoke to the Tribune said they often rely on contact cards for leads for their investigations. One detective said he's spent days at a time searching through contact cards to compile information on victims and witnesses and to conduct research on potential suspects and their associates.

Detectives investigating the January 2013 fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton at a park not far from President Barack Obama's Chicago home combed through months of contact cards and learned that a white Nissan matching the description of the getaway car used in her slaying had been pulled over several times previously near the park. The cards showed Micheail Ward and Kenneth Williams were inside the Nissan during one of those stops. Both were charged in the slaying.

Several veteran police officers and supervisors took issue with the ACLU's criticism of police for stopping African-Americans at a disproportionately higher rate than Hispanics and whites, especially in predominantly white neighborhoods. They blamed much of that on police making street stops based on crime patterns in certain neighborhoods. If a suspect in a particular crime in a white-majority neighborhood was black, then officers would likely be stopping African-Americans, they said.

In addition, they said, African-Americans are stopped more because most of the department's 12,000 officers are deployed to high-crime areas on the South and West sides, where much of the black population is concentrated.

"Deployment of officers is dictated by where the murders and violent crimes take place," one source said. "It doesn't seem to me to be indicative of racial profiling or anything of the sort as much as it's a product of where officers are deployed."

Nonetheless, the U.S. Justice Department has overseen police reforms in numerous cities across America in part because of the disproportionately high number of street stops of African-Americans.

The Newark Police Department, formerly led by McCarthy, remains under a federal monitor after the Justice Department found a host of civil rights problems, including that 80 percent of Newark's street stops from January 2009 through June 2012 were of African-Americans even though the city's population was 54 percent black. McCarthy served as the city's police director from 2006 to mid-2011, when he became Chicago's superintendent.

Teaching Behind Bars

A long time ago I used to teach at the Juvenile facility here. You had to get a secondary security clearance and in turn enter through locked gates to locked rooms where an armed guard was your IA (instructional assistant). The kids would come and go out not on schedule but on demand. There were appointments, required visits and other assorted needs that interrupted any type of classroom structure. So you made due with what you could.

Below the "jail" is another school, the transition school that enables students the flexibility to come through doors, yes through metal detectors and screened doors, the bathrooms have no locks nor doors on stalls but ostensibly they are there as they work through probation requirements and other in service duties. Some have electronic monitors, but most don't as that is run by Spectrum a for profit agency and in turn that costs the individual a daily rate so most elect to actually serve time as they cannot afford it.

There are girls and boys and they age up to 21. Their skill sets vary but the defiance, the depression and the sheer resignation is consistent. The kids get the system in ways that we educators cannot unless they have been in the system and then the irony is that you are unable to actually be a licensed educator, parapro or anyone in the kids would and actually should come into contact. The very people whom could best serve them are the ones prohibited by law from doing so. Rehabilitation is a dish best served behind cold bars and not among the real world.

I read this article this morning in the Washington Post and this again defines the whole "white privilege" thing that I speak of regarding educators. I am not sure who is actually doing the teaching but there is a lot of learning going on and that is the point of education. It should be reciprocal and challenging for all. If we had more of this maybe we would have less jails. It is actually cheaper to educate than imprison. Who woulda thunk it?

I teach philosophy at Columbia. But the best students I have are inmates.
What I learned teaching the "Oresteia" in prison.

By Christia Mercer
The Washington Post
March 24 2015

Christia Mercer is the Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project.

On a recent Friday night, a student and I were playing dead on the cold linoleum floor of a prison. The woman standing over us was proudly proclaiming the coldblooded murder of her no-good husband and his unwilling mistress. As professor at Columbia University, I’ve asked lots of students to act out this 2,500 year-old scene from Aeschylus’ “Oresteia.” That night, surrounded by women who have spent years in prison, the power of those words increased ten-fold.

My incarcerated students differ radically from the ones at Columbia. When I walk into a tidy, well-equipped classroom on Morningside campus, I know my undergrads have spent years preparing for academic achievement, supported by family and teachers. Trained to ask hard questions, they consider diverse perspectives and then expect to get to the bottom of things.

When a correctional officer escorts me into a prison room equipped with rickety tables, tangled Venetian blinds, and no chalk, I know my incarcerated students have been locked away for years – sometimes for decades — with virtually no opportunity for intellectual stimulation. The culture they inhabit punishes people for asking questions. Solitary confinement is often the reward for any form of precocity. As one woman explained, “If you ask too many questions in here, you’ll be punished for having the wrong attitude.” The lesson is to keep your head down.

My main goal as a teacher in prison has been to create a space comfortable enough for exploration and insight. The circumstance does not make that easy. With a heating system so loud we can barely hear ourselves think and a correctional officer randomly peering through a window in the classroom wall, it’s easy to be distracted. A quick trip to the bathroom is overseen, and class ends not at the scheduled time, but when it suits the schedule of others. Although every aspect of my students’ lives is controlled, down to the details of their drab green uniforms, our class begins at the whim of the correctional officer on duty. “Welcome to our world,” mumbled one student.

At the conclusion of Clytemnestra’s speech that Friday night, a thrilled listener showed us her goose bumps before offering a cuttingly smart evaluation of the queen’s motivations for the murders. Another student who had seemed trapped in her own uncertainties about the play’s violence, announced her admiration for Clytemnestra’s self-satisfied confession. The classroom seemed to glow with excitement.

Things didn’t work out so well for Clytemnestra. After dying at the hands of her irresolute son, she returns as a ghost to argue unsuccessfully for revenge. The “Oresteia” ends with an insecure compromise between forms of justice. Although my Columbia undergrads find this conclusion unsettling, the play’s ambiguity seems just right to my incarcerated students, all of whom have intensely experienced life’s vagaries and horrors. As one woman said, to unanimous approval, “People expect things in life to be clear, but they’re not. That’s the point.” These women’s intellectual courage and uncanny insight have created a magical space of moral and literary exploration. Despite the oppressive confines of the prison itself, they flourish before my eyes.

There are roughly 2.2 million people in a correctional facility in the United States, which incarcerates more individuals than any other country in the world. According to a 2012 study, 58.5 percent of incarcerated people are black or Latino. According to the Sentencing Project, one in three black men will be incarcerated.

Although more than 50 percent have high school diplomas or a GED, most prisons offer few if any post-secondary education.

Things have not always been this bad. In the 1980’s, when the prison population hovered below 400,000, our incarcerated citizens were educated through state and federal funding. But the 1990’s brought an abrupt end to government support. When President Clinton signed into law the Crime Bill in 1994, he eliminated incarcerated people’s eligibility for federal Pell grants and sentenced a generation of incarcerated Americans to educational deprivation. Nationwide, over 350 college programs in prisons were shut down that year. Many states jumped on the tough-on-crime bandwagon and slashed state funded prison educational programs. In New York State, for example, no state funds can be used to support secondary-education in prison. Before 1994, there were 70 publicly funded post-secondary prison programs in the state. Now there are none. In many states across the country, college instruction has fallen primarily to volunteers.

The need to volunteer has become increasingly clear to a growing number of professors. If our job as educators is to nurture intellectual growth and contribute to a thoughtful future for our country, what could be more obvious than to help those who are educationally under-served?

I am the first professor at Columbia to volunteer in a brand new initiative sponsored by Columbia’s Center for Justice. The main goal of the Justice-in-Education Initiative is to provide education to presently and formerly incarcerated people. Collaborating extensively with community partners, my colleagues’ commitment is to develop programs that support faculty and students in providing educational opportunities to this underserved population. The success of my experience is just the beginning.

There are hundreds of thousands of students just like mine scattered across the country eager to be educated and keen to join the ranks of active participants in our democracy.

As a society, we owe them (and ourselves) that chance. A National Institute of Justice study has found that 76.6 percent of formerly incarcerated people return to prison within five years of release.

According to research by the Rand Institute, recidivism goes down by 43 percent when people are offered education.

Those who leave prison with a college degree are much more likely to gain employment, be role models for their own children (50 percent of incarcerated adults have children), and become active members of their communities. Some of my students are quite clear about the desire to motivate their children: “the conversation changes when you’re educating yourself.”

The pleasures I’ve found teaching in prison are among the richest I’ve ever had. But the pleasure I find in this pedagogical delight is matched by the pain of recognition that their intellectual exploration will cease without volunteers like me. We must not allow so many members of our community to languish in prison without the chance for intellectual development. We must find it in ourselves to educate all Americans.