Friday, September 30, 2016

G is for Gun

Another day and another kid with a gun. As I write this I am at the alternative school just over a block from my home. It is filled with kids who have been arrested, been expelled or simply cannot make it in conventional school. To my knowledge there are no Doctors of Psychiatry on hand, no licensed Therapists, no medical professionals or skilled trained individuals that would be needed in a school such as this. There wasn't in Seattle at the Interagency's of which this is similar.

The only difference is that the Welcome Center from which you enter has a metal detector. And we have a full time Cop and Parole Officer assigned to the school. Are they there every day? I doubt it.

This was the first time I have ever been truly afraid. I am in a basement hall, I have no keys and for the first part of the day no one bothered to give me a number to call for emergency's to the office nor actually correct attendance sheets. That and no actual lesson plans but some notes on the board, pretty much rounded out my morning. So when the schedule I had was wrong, I had to finally figure out when the kids go to lunch. When that time came I was thrilled until one young man refused to leave. He was insistent I give him candy, then insisted that I eat lunch with them as I am "supposed" to and this went on for 5 minutes until I saw a Teacher walk by and I yelled help. She got him out and then informed he was a liar and not to believe a word he says.

Then another young man at the end of the last period before my beloved prep came in and stood in the door asking how my day was. I said fine and he needed to leave so I could shut the door and do my work. He just stood there and finally removed himself and I shut the locked door, of which I have no keys, it locks on its own. So if I leave I have to get a VP to unlock it and the bathroom. Which after today I am beginning to see the whole bathroom lockdown thing.

And now the door knocks and once again another young male demanding candy. I am afraid, very afraid. This is not what I wanted my life and work to be. And then I read this about a school in an adjacent county (I'm finally getting the whole "county talk") and thought she is braver than me.

A teen took a gun to his middle school. This counselor talked him out of killing teachers and a cop.



By Derek Hawkins
The Washington Post
September 30 2016

The 14-year-old boy arrived at Sycamore Middle School Wednesday morning ready to carry out a deadly plan.

But there was one person he knew could talk him out of it, according to police. So after his first-period class at the school in Ashland, Tenn., he went to see her.

Molly Hudgens, the school counselor, took the boy into her office and immediately sensed something was wrong. He asked some questions Hudgens found alarming and told the counselor he was having “issues,” police said.

Do you have a gun? Hudgens asked.

Yes, he said, and showed her the loaded .45 caliber pistol tucked under his clothes. He told her he wanted to kill teachers and a police officer, The Tennessean reported.

Just hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, a different 14-year-old boy in South Carolina would open fire on an elementary school playground, injuring two children and an adult.

But Sycamore Middle School avoided such tragedy. After a 45-minute conversation in her office, Hudgens persuaded the teen to give up his gun, Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove said Wednesday.

“She did something even the most experienced law enforcement officer might not do,” Breedlove said. “Had she not been there, it could have been very different.”

The boy, who has not been identified, was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds and threatening employees. He is being held in a county jail pending his next hearing.

What happened at Sycamore is rare. In most school shootings in recent memory, gunmen have attacked without clear forewarning, and guidance counselors, friends or family members are seldom given a chance to step in and stop them. In Wednesday’s shooting in South Carolina, authorities say the gunman killed his father before opening fire at the school.

People in the community have hailed Hudgens as a hero.

Hudgens, who said she’s been with Sycamore for almost 19 years, wasn’t available for comment Thursday night. But in a video statement released by the Cheatham County School District, she called the boy a “student in need” and said that her training in deescalation helped her persuade him to hand over the weapon. She said the boy didn’t name any specific students or teachers as targets.

“Sycamore Middle School is safe,” she said. “I’m proud of the actions of our faculty, staff and students … in maintaining an atmosphere of calm.

In a news conference Wednesday, Breedlove said the boy brought the gun from home but he declined to comment on what problems prompted him to take it to school. During the conversation in her office, he said, Hudgens tried to discreetly text security to let them know about the situation, but she couldn’t get a clear signal from inside the room. When she did notify police, Sycamore Middle School and a neighboring high school were placed on lockdown. Breedlove said the gun never left her office until police arrived.

“It was Ms. Hudgens that defused the whole situation,” he said. “She had a lot on her shoulders.”

On her school profile page, Hudgens says she started working at Sycamore in 1999 and joined the counseling department in 2006. She says in her bio that she hopes students find the counseling department to be a “warm environment” where they can go for “advice, direction, and encouragement.”

Jessica Williams, a friend of Hudgens, told the Associated Press that she wasn’t surprised by Hudgens’s actions Wednesday.

“She’s the type of person that would be easy for her to get through to somebody,” Williams said. “She’s a very loving, caring, motherly personality.”




Advocate for Whom

I have written about the conflict of interests Think Tanks have with regards to recommendations, studies and other data pools used to influence decision/policy makers without disclosing the funding sources, their own conflict of interests on whose boards they sit and other perks that come from the private sector, despite their policies.

Then we have conflict of interests with expert testimony and their kickbacks and payoffs, followed by Doctors with regards to their role in the Medical Industrial Complex via the same from Big Pharma or the device manufacturers.

And now we have Patient Advocates who are also as corrupt as the businesses they swear to protect patients from.






Furor Over Drug Prices Puts Patient Advocacy Groups in Bind

By KATIE THOMAS
THE NEW YORK TIMES
SEPT. 27, 2016


Public anger over the cost of drugs has burned hot for a year, coursing through social media, popping up on the presidential campaign, and erupting in a series of congressional hearings, including one last week over the rising price of the allergy treatment EpiPen.

But one set of voices has been oddly muted — the nation’s biggest patient advocacy groups. The groups wield multimillion-dollar budgets and influence on Capitol Hill, but they have been largely absent in the public debate over pricing.

To those who have closely followed the drug world, the reason is simple: Many of the groups receive millions of dollars a year in donations from companies behind the drugs used by their members. When they prod drug companies, it is generally for better — not less expensive — treatments.

But critics say that by avoiding the debate over cost, they are failing in their patient-advocacy duties.

“It is a conflict of interest, because the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, from whom they are getting support, may be different from the interests of the patients,” said Dr. Michael Carome, the director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group.

Over the last year, pharmaceutical companies have set high prices on medications as varied as breakthrough hepatitis C drugs and little-known generics that have been around for decades. The higher prices have hit American pocketbooks harder than usual, as insurers have increasingly shifted costs to patients.

And for patient groups, loudly addressing the issue can be perilous, as Cyndi Zagieboylo, the chief executive of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, recently discovered.

She said members of her group, one of the most influential patient charities, had identified cost as a priority. The average annual cost for multiple sclerosis medications is $78,000 today, nearly 400 percent higher than the $16,000 average in 2004, the group says.

But as soon as Ms. Zagieboylo started discussing a plan — a modest proposal that involved bringing together drug makers, insurers and others to find solutions — she said she encountered resistance. Other patient groups would not join her, and she said she was told by members of Congress, as well as some of the pharmaceutical companies that donate to her group, to tread carefully.

“We were warned, you know, in a number of ways, just sort of to be careful about this,” Ms. Zagieboylo said. “A couple of pharmaceutical companies mentioned, ‘Boy, we support you, why are you doing this to us?’”

The group went ahead with the new campaign anyway, announcing it last week at an event attended by the National Health Council, an umbrella group for patient advocacy groups.

But Ms. Zagieboylo said the pushback gave her pause. She said she and the group’s board members decided they had to be ready to lose donors over the issue, including drug companies. The pharmaceutical industry donated about $10 million to the group in 2015, according to its website, accounting for about 4 percent of its annual budget.

“They are taking a lot of heat,” she said of the companies, who she said were not solely to blame for higher drug prices. “And they don’t want us to pile onto that, because they know we have influence.”

That influence is what makes patient groups so attractive to the drug industry. Some of the largest groups can call on millions of dedicated and highly motivated members and help drug companies by signing up participants for clinical trials, running financial assistance programs and even lobbying government officials for drug approvals or favorable legislation.

“It’s much more compelling when a parent reaches out to their congressman and says, ‘Please contact the F.D.A., because my child is dying,’” said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit that does not accept money from industry.

But she said patient groups were less likely to take positions that might undermine a drug company’s business. “I’ve found almost none that are focused on the public health issues of affordable health care, affordable insurance, a sustainable system,” she said.

Some patient groups have directly challenged the industry. The American Diabetes Association, for example, this year called on drug companies to be more open about their prices and to allow the federal government to negotiate over Medicare drug pricing. The association said it received $26.7 million from the pharmaceutical industry in 2015, accounting for 14.5 percent of its budget.

But those actions have been the exceptions. And when patient groups have discussed pricing, their ire is largely focused on insurance companies, expressing arguments similar to those used by the pharmaceutical industry.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, for instance, one of the largest charities in the United States, has frequently criticized insurers for exposing patients to high out-of-pocket costs for patients, commissioning two studies that looked at the impact of these high costs. But it has not been as outspoken about the decision by drug companies to set those prices. Some blood cancer drugs that the society’s members need cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The group, which has an annual budget of about $300 million, spends millions of dollars a year funding research at universities and pharmaceutical companies that it hopes will lead to new treatments for blood cancers. According to its annual report, of the group’s 16 largest donors, eight were pharmaceutical companies. All eight donated more than $1 million to the society in 2015.

The group has been soliciting corporate sponsorships as well. On its website promoting sponsorships, aimed at drug and other companies, the society pointed to its “powerful footprint” of millions of constituents, and described itself as “an outstanding cause to build good will, positive public relations and marketing benefits that align with your brand and reputation.”

Last week, the society removed its corporate sponsorship page from its website, after The New York Times asked a spokeswoman about the language on the web page. She said the page was removed because the information was out of date.

Andrea Greif, a spokeswoman for the leukemia society, said the group considered access to drugs a key issue, and that it was meeting later this year with patients, insurers and manufacturers to address the problem.

She also said the group was “in the process of taking a fresh look at our position to ensure that we are living up to our role as the voice for all blood cancer patients.”

Part of the problem for the patient groups, many people said, is that there are no easy answers. Drug pricing is notoriously opaque and complex, involving a series of companies — such as pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts, drug distributors like Cardinal Health, or pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens — that can also profit from higher prices.

“We’re in an environment where all the stakeholders are blaming each other, and undermining each other, because of escalating costs,” said Marc Boutin, chief executive of the National Health Council, the organization that represents patient groups. Pharmaceutical companies accounted for 62 percent of the council’s $3.5 million budget in 2015, a spokeswoman said, and representatives from drug companies and an insurer sit on its board.

Representatives for the drug industry say the spotlight on pricing has obscured the headway companies have made in treating serious conditions.

“We are on the cusp of a new era of medicine,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry lobbying group.

Yet patient groups may be increasingly pulled into the pricing debate whether they like it or not. Dr. James R. Baker Jr. and his group, Food Allergy Research & Education, got an uncomfortably close look at the shifting landscape several weeks ago, when they were criticized for taking money from Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen.

This month, the group announced it would stop taking money from Mylan until there was meaningful competition in the market. Dr. Baker said about 6 percent of the group’s budget came from the pharmaceutical industry, but did not say how much came from Mylan, citing a confidentiality agreement with the company.

Part of the reason patient groups have not taken up the drug pricing issue, Dr. Baker said, is because for years, many of their members had insurance with low co-payments and deductibles, shielding them from the total cost of drugs.

“It was more of an issue of whether or not they could get the drug, and whether it was on the formulary, than what they were paying for it,” he said. “I think that is changing.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Call the Expert

The last couple of weeks has found Prosecutors and the Justice Department reject White House findings on Junk Science, the truth about lie detectors and it appears that with last years' exonerations hitting 3 a week, we may well be close again this year. Which is telling that junk science, misconduct and expert witness testimony are all part of the problem and not the solution that we once believed.

Which brings me to the story below. I laugh at the reliance on experts, both civil and criminal, as a way of convincing the Judge and/or Jury that my expert is better than you expert and as a result my client or defendant is innocent/guilty or deserves money. And that adds costs to the case, requires immense knowledge on the part of the Attorney's and Judges to ensure their testimony is legitimate and knowledge based and that requires vetting. Clearly none of that existed in this case. But does it ever?



Defrocked expert witness in child sex cases 'squeaked by' with little vetting

By Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer
Tampa Bay Times
Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chester Kwitowski of Tampa is charged with five counts of lying under oath about his educational background, professional certifications, military service and time spent working on sensitive government projects.

Josh Adams thought he'd found a solid expert witness for his client.

The Orlando lawyer was representing Jason Eugene Daniels, who faced more than a dozen felonies involving sexual abuse of a child. Adams said Daniels' cellmate William Teets had mentioned Chester Kwitowski, who had already appeared as computer forensics expert in other Polk County cases including Teets'. Adams called Kwitowski and asked for his resume.

"He certainly seemed very confident and knowledgeable, and I never had any reason to be suspicious," Adams said Friday.

But when Adams put Kwitowski on the stand in a Polk County courtroom, the story his resume told began to unravel. A Polk sheriff's detective appearing as an expert witness for the prosecution grew suspicious about inconsistencies in Kwitowski's qualifications and the agency launched an investigation.

On Thursday, the 57-year-old Tampa resident was arrested in Polk and charged with five counts of lying under oath about his educational background, professional certifications, military service and time spent working on sensitive government projects. He specialized as a defense witness in cases involving sexual abuse and child pornography.

The Tampa Bay Times found another apparent inconsistency. Kwitowski claimed to have held "information technology and systems support contracts" with the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court and the County Administrator's office. Those offices report no record of any contracts with, or payments made to, Kwitowski or his company, Brightside Enterprises.

Legal experts say the case exposed a breakdown in a judicial system that aims to uncover the truth.

"Somehow or other this guy squeaked by," said Jack Townley, president of the Florida chapter of the Forensic Expert Witness Association. "It's hard to believe he went as far as he did without someone getting after him or attacking his credentials."

• • •

Kwitowski's resume states that he has testified as an expert witness on more than 50 occasions in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties. At a news conference Thursday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said detectives were uncertain whether that was true.

It's also unclear when Kwitowski first testified as a witness. Whenever it was, that first case gave him instant credibility that made other attorneys less likely to thoroughly vet his credentials before hiring him, said Townley, the FEWA president.

"Once you can prove you've been accepted as a witness in court and have verifiable testimony as an expert, an attorney is less likely to go through the process," Townley said. "Every hour an attorney spends vetting somebody costs their client."

Anyone who wants to be an expert can pay to be listed on a website like JurisPro or SEAK Inc. Those sites don't vet backgrounds, Townley said. FEWA has its own directory and verifies court experience but does not check education or certifications.

The pay for appearing as a witness can vary widely depending on field of expertise and experience. Aaron Weiss, an expert in computer forensics who has testified in several trials in Florida, said he charges $275 per hour.

Once the attorney hires the witness to testify, opposing counsel can and should do their own vetting, said John Fitzgibbons, a former federal prosecutor who has worked as a defense attorney in Tampa for the last 25 years.

"The side that retains the expert wants to make sure they have a competent and capable witness who isn't going to get clobbered on the witness stand," Fitzgibbons said, "and if you're on the opposing side, you want to attack the credibility of the witness, so there's a built-in motive on each side to learn something about the expert."

Kwitowski had been arrested three other times in Florida, all between 2001 and 2007. He was acquitted in one case and the charges were dropped in two, including a Pinellas charge of making a false report of a crime.

Prosecutors routinely ask witnesses if they've ever been arrested and Kwitowski was forthcoming about his arrest history in a prior deposition, said Brian Haas, chief assistant state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit, which includes Polk County.

"But since he hadn't been convicted there was nothing we could do," Haas said.

Haas said it's not financially feasible for his office to check every witness' resume. The system ultimately worked and caught Kwitowski, he said, though "maybe not as quickly as everybody would have liked."

"This man committed a crime and we can't lose sight of that," Haas said. "This isn't a mistake or an error. He intentionally misled a whole lot of people interested in seeking the truth and doing their jobs."

• • •

St. Petersburg defense attorney Frank Louderback hired Kwitowski to testify at the 2008 sentencing hearing of Ronald Mays, a Palm Harbor businessman accused of sexually abusing a young girl. The sex charge against Mays was dropped, but he was sentenced to probation for erasing computer files hours before his arrest. Kwitowski testified about the software Mays used.

Louderback recalls that Kwitowski had testified in other cases before Mays.

"I don't remember going through and qualifying him other than putting him up as a previously accepted expert," Louderback said. "He wasn't just a new guy on the block."

That's why Adams, the Orlando attorney, trusted Kwitowski. The court system, Adams said, "is an adversarial system, so you assume if something an expert witness has said is not true that someone is going to find it."

Another factor: Kwitowski was working as a vendor for the Justice Administrative Commission, which provides expert witnesses for indigent clients. Vendors work for lower than the market rate. Adams said Kwitowski was being paid $150 an hour for his services and travel expenses.

A spokeswoman for the commission was not available Friday.

Adams' client, Daniels, was convicted of several counts and faces a mandatory life sentence. He said he will likely seek a new trial on the grounds that Kwitowski's alleged lying under oath compromised the case.

Haas, the Polk chief assistant state attorney, said the cases Kwitowski testified in are strong enough for the convictions to stand without his testimony.

Donna Wood, a spokeswoman for Judd, said detectives were still investigating and don't yet know what motivated to Kwitowski to lie about his credentials. It could have been the money, the prestige of being called an expert, or both, Wood said. "We don't know if we'll ever have a solid answer."

Gun at the Ready

I had another bad day at another bad school.  I had been there for two days which should have been marked with excitement as the local NFL players visited and spoke to the kids about nutrition.  Frankly I thought it was boring and yes the kids did as well.  While I care little about sports these guys only demonstrated to me that for black men they have three options: Sports, Music or Felon. 

It was truly odd.  None of these athletes were articulate, generated any enthusiasm or response from the clearly canned script they were given and then it was over.   The point? Well it was about nutrition.  Shouldn't this include families/caregivers and offer classes on how to cook on food stamps, or with less money for food and ways to grow one's own food or extend meals and encourage kids to use the free meals that schools offer without stigma?  Or how about actually having better food at the schools that kids would eat and in turn learn about nutrition that way.   That would be a much better use of time as frankly taking it away from teaching and learning time is the last thing these kids need.

And the day went down from there.  The last two days were marked by fight after fight.  I spent two days watching largely boys but a couple of girls  respond to all situations with utter aggression.  The fights that ensued over those two days led to changes in schedules putting me in a mini lockdown with the same kids that could not focus for 5 minutes let alone the 80 minutes we were "in class." They were perhaps the most challenged (not challenging as there is a difference) group.  A classroom that clearly had a revolving door with kids walking in and out going to other Teacher's rooms, then her sending kids back to me, some of them not mine, no notes no phone calls to confirm any of this was appropriate or in fact allowed.  Then pouting, raging and ranting when ignored or demands not complied.  But they did not do anything to me and frankly that is all I care about.

The Secretary came down after day one and asked me if I was alright. She confirmed that the classes and school was always like this and then gestured a whisper to say that it was a "secret."  I think she meant only that she confirmed what I knew and to keep that confirmation a secret.   By day two I walked into the office close to the end of the day and she apologized for not coming to see me.   I said I was fine but that today was another day that even challenged my patience and ability to understand what I was observing.  She said "do you want to leave?"  Yes.  She asked had I signed out and irony  I always do despite the fact that this school district is obsessed to the minute about Subs and checking out, I sign out when I sign in.  At end of day after the kids are dismissed I leave.  That may be 5 minutes or 15 after school is out, but the district counts every penny they pay us and are notorious for docking subs who leave even when they are no longer needed or have any reason to stay.  Nashville schools are a mess and their culture of pettiness and fear shows in the schools from the top down and the fast food wages and utter disrespect they give Substitute Teachers explain why it was easy for the woman to walk out the day before.  Who would stay?

I ran for the door, the bus came and I needed to go home and try to erase what I saw.  A girl dragging a boy across my classroom floor to the point hair was pulled out.  I watched as kids tried to break it up with some laughing some encouraging it and another Teacher who I called for help come and try to yell it out.  Endless phone calls, no answers until finally someone came.  Then the room was locked with me in there with the girl smashing the door and wailing to be released to take him out.  Then I watched as angry boy took every pencil broke them into pieces and threw them at others in the room.  The pencil throwing went on until I said, "if one of these even come close to me I will bypass the school and call the authorities." This is how you speak to these kids, constantly threatening and berating.  I mimic the Teachers and Administrators as clearly that is what is done.  In Seattle I would be labeled a racist and admonished.  For the record the black Teachers and Admins did the same they just did it passively aggressively, saying after yelling "I love you you are my babies/scholars/some other positive phrase term" to show that it was all out of a good place.  And after leaving they went right back to whatever they were doing.  Class dismissed.

In other words we are sure that it is race, bias and prejudice that are the reasons children of color are suspended.  We are sure that everyone who is white cannot teach those of color so in that case anyone of color cannot teach white people or anyone outside their color. Oh wait is that separate but equal?

We have problems in the communities that serve these children. They come to school already damaged and broken to the point of what? No repair? No ability to save and salvage and in turn repair those children with any aspect of hope?   I heard the Principal say to the kids after the last fight they would be lucky to go to high school after this as they clearly were showing they can't handle it.  So where do they go at age 13?  The Military? The Prison? The streets? 

What I do know is that for these kids the only resolution and restitution is violence.  The idea of payback is their mantra. The lack of self control, the idea of dignity and respect and self esteem are concepts that elude them.  And you can believe that many of them have no families, are "welfare" babies but in all honesty I have yet to come across a parent or parents of any child to not be engaged and demanding about their children's success. But the reality is that economics are the largest and most significant factor that divides and conquers and no schoolhouse nor Teachers of color will change that fact when you have a community so fractured and damaged. 

Is that my bias speaking?  No it is my observation as another black man was gunned down again yesterday while across the country a young man, a teenager gunned down kids and a Teacher at a school playground after shooting and killing his father.  It was Sandy Hook "lite."

We are sure everyone is an enemy, perceived or real, and we reinforce that with every shooting, regardless of who does the shooting.  Fuck it, drop the mic, I'm out. 


Suspect shot his father dead before injuring three at South Carolina school

Authorities say the alleged gunman, a teenager, made a tearful call to his grandparents before driving to the elementary school

Jessica Glenza
The Guardian UK
Thursday 29 September 2016


A teenager has shot and killed his father in rural South Carolina before going to a small elementary school, where he shot a teacher and two children, all three of whom are now hospitalized. The suspect is in custody.

Police arrested the young man with a handgun at the school just before 2pm on Wednesday, after he had already shot one child in the leg, another in the foot and a teacher in the shoulder.
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One boy and the teacher, a woman, were taken to a local hospital, AnMed Health, but later released, an official said. The second child was airlifted to a trauma center in Greenville. The child’s condition was not revealed.

Authorities said the shooting spree began at the teenager’s house about two miles from the school, where he shot his 47-year-old father, Jeffrey Osborne. Authorities have not released the suspect’s name or age beyond saying that he is a teenager.

Crying and upset, the boy called his grandmother’s cellphone at 1:44 pm, Anderson county coroner, Greg Shore, said. The grandparents could not understand what was going on so they went to the home just 100 yards away. When they got there, they found Osborne had been shot and their grandson was gone.

About one minute later, authorities received a 911 call from Townville Elementary School.

Sheriff John Skipper said the shooter drove a vehicle into the school parking lot and immediately started firing a handgun as he got out and moved toward the school. He did not know who the vehicle was registered to, and he declined to say how many shots were fired.

However, the shooter was apprehended by an off-duty firefighter Jamie Brock, before he could enter the school building.

Police surrounded the building and could be seen on the roof. By 3pm, police had searched the building and arrested the suspect.

Why the teenage gunman went to an elementary school is not yet known, authorities said. It was unclear whether the shooter knew any of the three victims at Townville elementary.
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“There’s no racial undertones, there’s no terrorism there,” said Captain Garland Major, a deputy of the Anderson County sheriff’s department. “The community is not in danger at this point.”

Children were evacuated via bus to a nearby Baptist church. Taylor Jones, deputy director of county emergency services, said that deputies were “still trying to put together the facts”.

About 300 students attend the school, Townville elementary, roughly four hours’ drive west of Charleston on the Georgia-South Carolina state line. Just 18 teachers work at the school, according to federal data.

“We are heartbroken about this senseless act of violence,” said school superintendent Joanne Avery. “But we are so thankful for the quick response of law enforcement.” The school district and local law enforcement had participated in active shooter training, Avery said. She canceled classes at the school for the rest of the week.

One parent interviewed by the local news station WYFF said her daughter told her students had hidden in the bathroom while the incident was unfolding.

“She didn’t talk for about five minutes when I got her,” Jaime Meredith told WYFF in an emotional interview immediately after the incident.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Up in your business

When you see the below headline you think that is quite normal or natural. Of course nothing of this is in fact normal and/or natural when the AP feel compelled to write an investigative piece about the subject.

When I saw the documentary, Cannibal Cop, a year ago the subject was about a former Police Officer fighting his conviction on using police databases and having "immoral thoughts." There was nothing illegal about the latter despite how weird it was but the former was the reason he was let go from the Police force and in fact tried.

He was not alone, probably in either. Why this does not shock me is the fact that they have no qualms doing so for their own personal use but using that same access to investigate and in turn find evidence to ensure that they are prosecuting the right persons seems to be the last reason they would do so.

I have said repeatedly that I loathe the Police but I have no desire to kill them, hunt them down or in fact have anything unless absolutely compelled to, to do with them.


AP: Across US, police officers abuse confidential databases

Associated Press


By SADIE GURMAN and ERIC TUCKER
September 27 2016


DENVER — Police officers across the country misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Criminal-history and driver databases give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. But the AP's review shows how those systems also can be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping. In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained.

No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide, and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur.

But the AP, through records requests to state agencies and big-city police departments, found law enforcement officers and employees who misused databases were fired, suspended or resigned more than 325 times between 2013 and 2015. They received reprimands, counseling or lesser discipline in more than 250 instances, the review found.

Unspecified discipline was imposed in more than 90 instances reviewed by AP. In many other cases, it wasn't clear from the records if punishment was given at all. The number of violations was surely far higher since records provided were spotty at best, and many cases go unnoticed.

Among those punished: an Ohio officer who pleaded guilty to stalking an ex-girlfriend and who looked up information on her; a Michigan officer who looked up home addresses of women he found attractive; and two Miami-Dade officers who ran checks on a journalist after he aired unflattering stories about the department.

"It's personal. It's your address. It's all your information, it's your Social Security number, it's everything about you," said Alexis Dekany, the Ohio woman whose ex-boyfriend, a former Akron officer, pleaded guilty last year to stalking her. "And when they use it for ill purposes to commit crimes against you — to stalk you, to follow you, to harass you ... it just becomes so dangerous."

The misuse represents only a tiny fraction of the millions of daily database queries run legitimately during traffic stops, criminal investigations and routine police encounters. But the worst violations profoundly abuses systems that supply vital information on criminal suspects and law-abiding citizens alike. The unauthorized searches demonstrate how even old-fashioned policing tools are ripe for abuse, at a time when privacy concerns about law enforcement have focused mostly on more modern electronic technologies. And incomplete, inconsistent tracking of the problem frustrates efforts to document its pervasiveness.

The AP tally, based on records requested from 50 states and about three dozen of the nation's largest police departments, is unquestionably an undercount.

Some departments produced no records at all. Some states refused to disclose the information, said they don't comprehensively track misuse or produced records too incomplete or unclear to be counted. Florida reported hundreds of misuse cases of its driver database, but didn't say how often officers were disciplined.

And some cases go undetected, officials say, because there aren't clear red flags to automatically distinguish questionable searches from legitimate ones.

"If we know the officers in a particular agency have made 10,000 queries in a month, we just have no way to (know) they were for an inappropriate reason unless there's some consequence where someone might complain to us," said Carol Gibbs, database administrator with the Illinois State Police.

The AP's requests encompassed state and local databases and the FBI-administered National Crime and Information Center, a searchable clearinghouse that processes an average of 14 million daily transactions.

The NCIC catalogs information that officers enter on sex offenders, immigration violators, suspected gang members, people with outstanding warrants and individuals reported missing, among others. Police use the system to locate fugitives, identify missing people and determine if a motorist they've stopped is driving a stolen car or is wanted elsewhere.

Other statewide databases offer access to criminal histories and motor vehicle records, birth dates and photos.

Officers are instructed that those systems, which together contain data far more substantial than an internet search would yield, may be used only for legitimate law enforcement purposes. They're warned that their searches are subject to being audited and that unauthorized access could cost them their jobs or result in criminal charges.

Yet misuse persists.

____

'SENSE OF BEING VULNERABLE'

Violations frequently arise from romantic pursuits or domestic entanglements, including when a Denver officer became acquainted with a hospital employee during a sex-assault investigation, then searched out her phone number and called her at home. A Mancos, Colorado, marshal asked co-workers to run license plate checks for every white pickup truck they saw because his girlfriend was seeing a man who drove a white pickup, an investigative report shows.

In Florida, a Polk County sheriff's deputy investigating a battery complaint ran driver's license information of a woman he met and then messaged her unsolicited through Facebook.

Officers have sought information for purely personal purposes, including criminal records checks of co-workers at private businesses. A Phoenix officer ran searches on a neighbor during the course of a longstanding dispute. A North Olmsted, Ohio, officer pleaded guilty this year to searching for a female friend's landlord and showing up in the middle of the night to demand the return of money he said was owed her.

The officer, Brian Bielozer, told the AP he legitimately sought the landlord's information as a safety precaution to determine if she had outstanding warrants or a weapons permit. But he promised as part of a plea agreement never to seek a job again in law enforcement. He said he entered the plea to avoid mounting legal fees.

Some database misuse occurred in the course of other misbehavior, including a Phoenix officer who gave a woman involved in a drug and gun-trafficking investigation details about stolen cars in exchange for arranging sexual encounters for him. She told an undercover detective about a department source who could "get any information on anybody," a disciplinary report says.

Eric Paull, the Akron police sergeant who pleaded guilty last year to stalking Dekany, also ran searches on her mother, men she'd been close with and students from a course he taught, prosecutors said. A lawyer for Paull, who was sentenced to prison, said Paull has accepted responsibility for his actions.

"A lot of people have complicated personal lives and very strong passions," said Jay Stanley, an American Civil Liberties Union privacy expert. "There's greed, there's lust, there's all the deadly sins. And often, accessing information is a way for people to act on those human emotions."

Other police employees searched for family members, sometimes at relatives' requests, to check what information was stored or to see if they were the subjects of warrants.

Still other searchers were simply curious, including a Miami-Dade officer who admitted checking dozens of officers and celebrities including basketball star LeBron James.

Political motives occasionally surface.

Deb Roschen, a former county commissioner in Minnesota, alleged in a 2013 lawsuit that law enforcement and government employees inappropriately ran repeated queries on her and other politicians over 10 years. The searches were in retaliation for questioning county spending and sheriff's programs, she contended.

She filed an open-records request that revealed her husband and daughter were also researched, sometimes at odd hours. But an appeals court rejected her suit and several similar cases this month, saying the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the searches were unpermitted.

"Now there are people who do not like me that have all my private information ... any information that could be used against me. They could steal my identity, they could sell it to someone," Roschen said.

"The sense of being vulnerable," she added, "there's no fix to that."

___

BETRAYAL OF TRUST

Violations are committed by patrol officers, dispatchers, civilian employees, court personnel and high-ranking police officials. Some made dozens of improper searches. Some were under investigation for multiple infractions when they were punished, making it unclear whether database misuse was always the sole reason for discipline.

Agencies uncover some violations during audits, or during investigations into other misconduct. Some emerge after a citizen, often the target of a search, finds out or grows suspicious. A Jacksonville, Florida, sheriff's officer was found to have run queries on his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend after she raised concerns she was being harassed, an internal affairs report says.

The AP sought to focus on officers who improperly accessed information on others but also counted some cases in which officers divulged information to someone not authorized to receive it, or ran their own names for strictly personal purposes, including to check their car registrations.

The tally also includes some cases in which little is known about the offense because some agencies provided no details — only that they resulted in discipline.

The AP tried when possible to exclude benign violations, such as new employees who ran only their own names during training or system troubleshooting. But the variability in record-keeping made it impossible to weed out all such violations.

Agencies in California, for instance, reported more than 75 suspensions, resignations and terminations between 2013 and 2015 arising from misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, state records show. But because the records didn't identify officers or specify the allegations, it's unclear whether multiple violations were committed by the same person or how egregious the infractions were.

Colorado disclosed about 35 misuse violations without specifying punishment. Indiana listed 12 cases of abuse but revealed nothing about them. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported about 400 violations in 2014 and 2015 of its Driver and Vehicle Information Database, or DAVID, but didn't include the allegations or punishment.

The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division offers training to state and local law enforcement agencies on NCIC use, and conducts audits every three years that include a sample of local departments, said spokesman Stephen Fischer.

But it doesn't track how often NCIC information is misused. Violations, which are not required to be reported directly to the FBI, are inconsistently disclosed to the federal government. The FBI relies on local agencies to address violations that are identified, Fischer said.

The AP requested records from large police departments and state agencies tasked with administering NCIC usage within their districts. The responses included cases where officers misused motor vehicle data, including driver's license and registration information, and also more sensitive criminal history records.

Officers are only occasionally prosecuted, and rarely at the federal level.

One recent exception is a former Cumming, Georgia, officer charged in June with accepting a bribe to search a woman's license plate number to see if she was an undercover officer. Another involved Ronald Buell, a retired New York Police Department sergeant who received probation for selling NCIC information to a private investigator for defense attorneys.

At his July sentencing, Buell said he hoped other officers would learn "to never put themselves in the position I'm in."

It's unsettled whether improper database access is necessarily a federal crime and whether it violates a trespass statute that criminalizes using a computer for other than authorized purposes.

A federal appeals court last year reversed the computer-crime conviction of ex-NYPD officer Gilberto Valle, whom tabloids dubbed the "cannibal cop" for his online exchanges about kidnapping and eating women and who improperly used a police database to gather information. Valle argued that as an officer, he was legally authorized to access the database. The court deemed the statute ambiguous and said it risked criminalizing a broad array of computer use.

Misuse has occasionally prompted federal lawsuits under a statute meant to protect driver's license data.

A Florida Highway Trooper, Donna Watts, accused dozens of officers of searching her in the state's driver database after she stopped a Miami-Dade officer for speeding in 2011. She alleged in lawsuits that she was harassed with prank calls, threatening posts on law enforcement websites and unfamiliar cars that idled near her home.

Each unlawful access, she said in a court document, "has either caused or worsened anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other medical/physical/psychological conditions I suffer."

Law enforcement officials have taken steps to try to limit abuse, though they say they know of no foolproof safeguard given the volume of inquiries and the need for officers to have information at their fingertips.

"There's no system that could prohibit you from looking up your ex-wife's new boyfriend, because your ex-wife's new boyfriend could come in contact with the criminal justice system," said Peggy Bell, executive director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said it changed the way officers access a state driver database after a 2013 legislative audit found over half of the 11,000 law enforcement personnel who use it made searches that appeared questionable. The audit was conducted after a former state employee was charged with illegally viewing thousands of driver's license records.

In Florida, a memorandum of understanding this year increased the amount of field audits law enforcement agencies must undergo regarding DAVID usage. Troopers in the Florida Highway Patrol sign usage warnings when they access the DAVID system and a criminal sanctions acknowledgment. Users are audited and instructed to select a reason for a search before making inquiries.

Denver's independent monitor, Nicholas Mitchell, argued for strong policies and strict discipline as a safeguard, especially as increasing amounts of information are added to databases. His review found most of the 25 Denver officers punished for misusing databases over 10 years received at most reprimands.

Miami-Dade police cracked down after the Watts scandal and other high-profile cases. The department now does quarterly audits in which officers can be randomly asked to explain searches. A sergeant's duties have been expanded to include daily reviews of proper usage and troubleshooting, said Maj. Christopher Carothers of the professional compliance bureau.

Even if the public is unaware of the amount of available information, Carothers said, "The idea that police would betray that trust out of curious entertainment or truly bad intent, that's very disturbing and unsettling."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Its' the South

I  hear that phrase as some type of justification/excuse for whatever goes on here - racism, sexism, idiocy, you name it that expression is supposed to explain it.  So the other morning I was watching the racist roundup, okay the morning news, that starts, ends and puts in the middle crime stories of largely black people allegedly committing crimes.  I have never seen so many mug shots of black people in my life as I do here on our local news. There is apparently no other news than black people committing crimes. And then there was one like this...
Creepy Clowns Are Still Terrifying People Across the South
By Adam K. Raymond
New York Magazine

Kentucky resident Jonathan Martin was arrested early Friday for hiding in a ditch outside of an apartment complex at 1 a.m. and jumping out of the dark to frighten people. The 20-year-old was booked for disorderly conduct and for breaking the town of Middleboro’s anti-mask ordinance. By the looks of this picture, from a local reporter, Martin did not find it a laughing matter.

Martin is the latest example of a new trend catching on with idiots around the country: grown men dressing up like a clowns and lurking in the shadows to scare the hell out of people who are just trying to make it through one more miserable day.

Reports of creepy clowns first emerged in Greenville, South Carolina, where a red-nosed creepo was reportedly trying to lure kids to a house in the woods by flashing wads of cash. Police looked into the claims and found nothing.

In Alabama, schools across the state ramped up security after reports emerged on social media that clowns were going to attack local high schools with guns. In Ohio, a sheriff’s office is looking for two clowns and advising citizens to contact the department because, “[W]e are unsure what their intentions are at this point.” And in Florida, a state where you might think clowns would be among the most normal roadside sightings, police keep getting calls about clowns but are having a hell of time finding them.

Most of the clown reports have been confined to the South, and most of the people dressed up in the costumes have escaped legal trouble. It is, after all, not illegal to be creepy — though, maybe it should be.

The local story was about a local assault..


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – (CLARKSVILLENOW) The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has issued a warning about possible child predators dressed in clown costumes.

The agency sent the following message Saturday via Twitter:

.Watch for clowns in your area. They could be child predators seeking kids. Call 911 or *847 for @TNHighwayPatrol #SeeSomethingSaySomething pic.twitter.com/RnKu0e7wrb

— TN Dept. of Safety (@TNDeptofSafety) September 24, 2016

WKRN reported last week on an investigation by The Coffee County Sheriff’s Department following a report of a juvenile being attacked by a clown in Summitville.

A suspect in a clown mask reportedly attacked a teen with a knife.

Then the two newscasters attempted to not burst out laughing when sharing this story, I guess it beat the usual racist profiling that they do.

Hey we have tons of white trash they just commit crimes with panache. I for one find clowns creepy but this takes this to new heights.








Boys being Boys

This week I am exhausted, my own health issues dominate my mood. I am tired of walking into strange schools and walking out still a stranger. I feel here in Nashville I am a stranger in a strange land but not strange. But when you are disconnected from people, from finding a place that fits and fits you you realize that like that old pair of shoes that are well worn are comfortable but no longer functional, you toss them with regret. We do that with people and we do it to ourselves.

We do it by ghosting, ending friendships, marriages, quitting jobs, moving, joining cults, taking drugs, or just being alone. We disconnect from ourselves and each other quite easily and do so now with greater regularity despite all this social media, how many are truly social and know social rules of etiquette? They are long gone with the Vanderbilt guide for them.

Walk down a street or in a public building and see that people don't walk to their right, they are not even watching where they are going, focused intently on their magical 3x5 card affixed to their hand. Stoplights, stop signs and the rules of the road are often ignored. In Nashville I see many wavers of cars, these are those that realize they need to get off, turn left or right and do so without a signal or even attempting to slow down and check to see if they can do so without causing an accident. A state that only recently mandated auto insurance explains why there are more personal injury Attorneys than benches their ads adorn. They are predators that match the ice team of the same name.

What defines personal injury anymore? Well shot and killed by Police, shot and killed by a self described terrorist or raped and assaulted by a famous person or by a cop or by just a stranger? Lawyer up they used to say when you are charged with a crime yet few are able to as there are great shortages of legal aid for the indigent, there is a great shortage there as there is no money to help either the guilty or the innocent. That seems to come later when fame and fortune and gratitude hit the exonerated teams that help those be released from prison for crimes they did not commit, they the actual individual to whom this happened - not so much.

I think I can finally say I have little respect nor trust for men, so this week when a woman Police Officer was charged with manslaughter in Tulsa for another murder by cop I was at least relieved that my disdain and distrust for Police was without gender bias. But as we know women cops rarely do shoot to kill. I honestly believe it is because it is simply a number game and they are just as likely if not more if there were simply more female cops as the first words out of her mouth were - I was afraid. Gee Cops being afraid seems to happen a lot. Perhaps a different line of work then?

Then we had another shooting and more deaths at the hands of law enforcement that did not make the news because they were just boys being boys but they were doing so black. We are on the cusp of reaching the same amount of deaths by hands of police as we were last year as recorded by the Guardian. So we have learned nothing this past year, NOTHING.

Then we have boys with guns wreaking havoc for whatever unseen enemy or reason that they have determined requires death and mayhem. The shooting in the mall outside of Seattle I knew the second I saw the photo that it was a boy who was a teenager. I did not think of anything race related or even politics. I thought immediately of the Marysville school shooting the year before and the boy American Indian descent who went to resolve his feelings of anger towards a romance now ended. Ah, revenge a dish best served cold or with a well loaded firearm. So when I saw the pic and heard that shooting was at a Macy's cosmetic counter I immediately thought this is another boy who is angry about girls and women and not getting "any" the any being anything men define as determining masculinity. As I write this American Pie 2 is on and one cannot forget any of the constant endless dialog about boys getting laid. Perhaps the new wingnut generation can blame movies for fueling this rage. But in reality our unhealthy obsession with guns is truly the reason and culprit. The Guardian has an excellent series with our long term love affair with guns, that one at least never gets old, nags or breaks up with you. You are in for life from every aspect, both giving and receiving.

This rage is an old rage, the rage of being passed over for a job, being dumped by a spouse, hurt as someone said something that lead to a job loss, a marriage loss or just the feeling of being a loser. We have had more violent episodes in my life with men with guns, explosives and raging anger behind trucks being driven into restaurants or crowds as means to satiate that anger. We just did not call it terrorism or find some other label to deny the real truth that as long as men have access to guns and weapons and feel that they cannot or will not ask for mental health counseling during a time of trauma as it is not "manly" expect more of the same. There are only so many rages you can post to social media, stalk, harass and vent towards others on Reddit et al before you take to the streets.

And it is not an American thing, the need for violence by Police or just by men. The New York Times had a lengthy article about The Women of Atenco seeking Justice for being raped and kidnapped a decade earlier for being part of a protest that led the current President of Mexico to seek a crackdown and in turn directly or indirectly towards the repeated violation of these women. Their stories are here and they share the same pain of women who have been victims of violence and the pain that one never fully recovers.   And yes in America we have the pimp cops. The story coming out of Oakland/San Francisco Bay area about the cops the underage teenager and sex slavery continues to unfold. Viva America!  We really should build a wall for what and who well you be the Judge.

Then we have Bill Cosby, for like his show in interminable reruns we will never know the truth and nothing but as women still want to be heard to be recognized and respected for admitting they trusted the wrong man and he in turn exploited that trust.

Women struggle with about how men think of them, more so than they do about how women think of them.

I read this editorial today in the NYT is from a woman who just wants once a man to want her sexually. Her story breaks my heart and you realize that she is not even good enough to be raped by Cops, Bill Cosby or the fuckwits on OK Cupid. You would think on that site alone just one man would be willing to hit it given that most of the men on there are hardly swipe right material. 

Which brings me to another editorial/opinion writer, Maureen Dowd, the poison pen of the New York Times who is absolutely verklempt that Hillary Clinton, spouse of her greatest pen-sis (I sort of merged poison with pen and penis there) Bil Clinton, is running for President. Dowd who has long gone on with little to say of humor or intellect is much like Hillary in that she too wants to resuscitate her career on those pant suit coattails. I am exhausted of watching and listening to the endless misogyny often by women. I have come to expect it from men and I can ignore it as I am now too old to give a fuck. Like women who are disabled, unattractive and/or old we are invisible. I spend my day being a ghost so when I hear of ghosting I laugh as I want to say, "just wait."

And then I read this about Dede Wilsey the Socialite of San Francisco who never met a man whose check she did not like.  I recall her and her cohort of witches that ran the elite of San Francisco when I lived there and I realized why I actually like being white trash.  This is a women being just like a man but had she had a real job with a real career much of this would be on the front pages of the Business section instead of the Style page of the New York Times.  How sad is that?   For Dowd who at least as an editorial slot that is a step up.  Regardless of how I feel about Hillary Clinton I am voting with my vadge, she could not be worse than the dick (in every sense of the word). 

I have a rage that nothing can resolve including loading up a shotgun and heading to a mall and killing anyone would fix. I just don't feel that at my mother used to say, "don't go to jail doing the world a favor." How true. Killing Police, Men or just anyone in my path is such a waste of good anger that instead I will go to the gym and run it off - for now. As for the boys who will become men - all two of you - you have much work to do.





Friday, September 23, 2016

Bob the Stoned Engineer

As I work right now to have my neighborhood declared a Silent Zone under federal law due to the endless trains that run adjacent to my home, I have many concerns regarding safety as they transport a multitude of goods across country within a stones throw of my bedroom.

The endless parade of trains 24/7, the horns blasting, barricades flashing and the lengthy traffic contribute to noise pollution, air pollution and of course mental health decline due to lack of sleep.

I have tried repeatedly to garner the attention and in turn response by CSX the operators of said trains who simply say it is under federal law for my safety. Really it is? Then perhaps they could explain how my safety is protected by horns blasting when they clearly have other significant factors that do contribute towards my safety.

The legacy of trains in Nashville is well commemorated in song, the reality is that is in the past and we don't need to hear trains to understand that. We also need a clear a coherent pattern/schedule of train travel and transport to ensure that the are traveling at times when safety is more of concern to follow speed guidelines and in turn allow inspections of said cargo to ensure it is neither dangerous and if so what precautions are done to ensure/prevent further damage if it leaks or the train becomes disabled. It perhaps explains why trains barrel through my hood at 2 am, horns blasting to move out and on before anyone catches on. That or Bob the Engineer is high as a kite and driving large heavy metal equipment with big noises can be fun when stoned.




Number of U.S. railroad workers testing positive for drug use skyrockets


By Ashley Halsey III
The Washington Post
September 15 2016

Early this year, a railroad worker who had just been briefed on his duties for the day was discovered in a restroom, dead from an overdose of illegal prescription drugs. In the months that followed, tests conducted after three railroad accidents resulted in six employees testing positive for drugs.

Testing in 2016 has shown that nearly 8 percent of workers involved in rail accidents were positive for drug use, including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, benzodiazepine, OxyContin and morphine, according to internal federal documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The number of post-accident drug-positives was the highest since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) began keeping records in 1987 and three times greater than it was 10 years ago.

Overall, the number of railway workers — including engineers, train crew and dispatchers — who tested positive for drug use in random tests soared 43 percent last year, the documents show. The number rose to 256 last year from 2014.

After rail accidents in 2014, no one tested positive for drugs, and just two people did last year. With more than three months left in this year, 16 rail workers have shown positive in post-accident tests.

Railroads transported 565 million passengers and 14.2 million carloads of freight last year. Their workers rank among the most heavily drug-tested employees in the country, faced with drug screening before they are hired, random on-the-job testing and another round of testing every time they make a significant mistake.

But after several years in which heroin and illegal opioid use has increased in the general population, there is hard evidence that the use of those and other drugs may be on the rise in the railroad industry.

Faced with the initial positive test results, federal regulators began sounding an alarm this spring. This month, the heads of all of the nation’s freight and passenger rail lines were summoned to Washington for a closed-door session to deal with a crisis that federal officials fear has put workers and train travelers at risk.

Officials from the FRA, National Transportation Safety Board and the Office of National Drug Control Policy spelled out their concerns and asked the railroads to help them address the growing problem.

This week they had a similar private session with railroad unions.

“We’ve discussed in depth the kind of data that we are seeing, the uptick in positive post-accident tests, the significant rise in positives in our random testing pool,” FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said in remarks prepared for the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee on Thursday. “We are seeing a trend going in the wrong direction, and we must address it immediately.”

The popularity of illegal prescription drugs and heroin has increased dramatically in recent years, with some analysts suggesting that efforts to crack down on illegal prescriptions have encouraged addicts to use heroin instead.

A record 28,647 people died from heroin and prescription opioid use in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and opioids caused more than 6 in 10 overdose fatalities. The CDC said deaths by powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl rose by more than 80 percent. Overall, 47,055 people died from drug overdoses in 2014, the CDC said.

Despite drug testing protocols, transportation workers are as susceptible to trends as the rest of society. The U.S. Department of Transportation drug-tests about 7 million people who hold commercial driver’s licenses, as well as railroad and transit workers, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

In the past five years, the DOT tests have shown sharp increases in use of amphetamines and natural opiates.

Among the railroad workers subject to random testing, however, the approximately 50,000 tests each year had shown no appreciable increase since 2009. Then they shot up by 43 percent last year. What’s more, the number of railroad workers found to be positive for drugs in the aftermath of rail accidents jumped dramatically this year.

“We know that the country is struggling with an opioid epidemic — and there is no reason why our industry would be immune from an epidemic affecting the entire country,” Feinberg said. “Workers who are struggling with addiction need, and deserve, our help. Workers who are intoxicated on the job are a danger to themselves, other workers, passengers, and anyone else who may cross paths with a train.”

Among the estimated 25,000 railroad workers who repair train engines and rail cars, FRA testing found that alcohol use was five times higher than among railway workers who performed other tasks.

Railroad drug testing is limited to about 120,000 workers who are considered “safety sensitive” — those whose performance puts lives at risk. The train-repair workers and about 70 percent of the 37,000 workers who maintain track beds and railroad right-of-ways are not required to undergo the same drug testing.

Alarmed by the overall increase in drug use, Feinberg in May finalized a new rule that would require “maintenance of way workers,” as the track workers are known, to undergo the same random drug testing as other workers.

The railroads, however, are resisting the proposed rule, which is scheduled to take effect April 1. They have petitioned to delay the testing for an additional 14 months, contending it will require “training supervisors on the signs and symptoms” of drug use.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), which joined regional railroads, railroad construction and transit firms in petitioning for the extension, said the freight railroads it represents would meet the April 1 deadline for testing maintenance workers it employs.

“This is an issue that is evident throughout today’s society that requires attention, and the freight rail industry is ready to work with the FRA to further enhance the safety of the nation’s rail network,” AAR spokesman Ed Greenberg said.

“Freight railroads not only comply with federally mandated drug and alcohol testing regulations, but go beyond those measures with stringent railroad-specific programs,” Greenberg said. “That said, the freight rail industry recognizes the seriousness of this situation and will work together with the FRA to make the rail system even safer, including supporting the expansion of testing to include items such as synthetic opioids.”

Officials said Feinberg views any delay in implementing the rule as unacceptable.

The FRA and the railroads it regulates have been in the forefront of drug testing since 1987, when an Amtrak train collided with three Conrail freight locomotives linked together just north of Baltimore.

The engineer and 15 others on the Amtrak train were killed; 174 other people on the trains were injured.

Investigators determined that the engineer of the Conrail train and his brakeman had shared a marijuana joint as they made their way from the rail yard. The engineer, Ricky Lynn Gates, was convicted on state and federal charges and served four years in prison. In 1993, he told the Baltimore Sun that smoking marijuana was the cause of the crash and that it was not the first time he had done it on the job.

The FRA moved quickly in the aftermath of the crash to implement a drug-testing program for railroad workers. Less than four years later, Congress took the next step, requiring drug testing for “safety sensitive” workers in all industries regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I VANT TO BE ALONE

For those too young to recall that infamous statment by the late acrtes Greta Garbo, it was in response to her leaving the fame and fortune of Hollywood for a live of privacy. It was actually a little more of both theatricality and reality:

Her aversion to publicity and the press was undeniably genuine, and exasperating to the studio at first. In an interview in 1928, she explained that her desire for privacy began when she was a child, stating "as early as I can remember, I have wanted to be alone. I detest crowds, don't like many people." But MGM eventually capitalized on it, for it bolstered the image of the silent and reclusive woman of mystery.

She is closely associated with a line from Grand Hotel, one which the American Film Institute in 2005 voted the 30th most memorable movie quote of all time, "I want to be alone; I just want to be alone." The theme became a running gag beginning in her silent pictures.

And then I read the article below from NY Mag and some of them I did laugh as many of those women quoted are more infamous for the love affairs and marriages they had during their time of "alone-ness."



25 Famous Women on Being Alone
By Julie Ma
NY MAG

“That old-maid myth is garbage.” —Diane Keaton \

Depending on who you are, the very thought of spending time alone will send your heart racing with delight or despair. For extroverts, alone time can be an almost-withering experience. For introverts, it can be a crucial sanctuary and a chance to recharge.

While the days of openly calling single women “old maids,” “spinsters,” or “cat ladies” are nearing extinction, the social stigma surrounding ladies who are uncoupled by choice or by chance still runs deep. Below, 25 accomplished women — including Shonda Rhimes and Diane Keaton — discuss what being alone and living as single, independent women means to them.

Shonda Rhimes

“I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I only ever write about one thing: being alone. The fear of being alone, the desire to not be alone, the attempts we make to find our person, to keep our person, to convince our person to not leave us alone, the joy of being with our person and thus no longer alone, the devastation of being left alone. The need to hear the words: You are not alone … Every single time it comes down to one thing. You are not alone. Nobody should be alone. So I write.” — Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles gala, March 2015

Mindy Kaling

“It’s funny, I used to freak out about being single much more in my twenties. I’ve noticed that the more professional success I have, or the more happy I am professionally, the less I worry about that because I have a great deal of professional confidence. I’ve noticed whenever I’ve felt the most boy crazy or when I wanted to get married it was when I was not so happy professionally. I have this thing and it’ll happen like five times a year on a Sunday night, the feeling like, Oh, a family would be great. Not even being in a relationship — but a family because I’m 35. I think what snaps me out of it is just the fact that I love being by myself. I think that if I was in the wrong relationship, which I have been in several, that would be so much worse than the feeling of autonomy I feel right now.” — BuzzFeed, March 2015

Rebecca Traister

“It’s nuts that people assume singlehood to be an immature period, just because it’s an unmarried period. Living singly in your twenties and thirties — and beyond — isn’t a tryout for life: It is real life … The expanding population of unmarried women, especially low-income women, is going to force — I hope — the government to acknowledge that women are not reliant on husbands as earners and cannot simply be home with children or pick them up from school every day. Social policy must reckon with single women and the fact that they require the same kind of economic aid and consideration from the government that men have received since its founding, i.e., tax breaks, improved housing policy, more welfare, paid leave.” —Elle, February 2016

Susan Cain

“People sometimes seem surprised when I say this, because I’m a pretty friendly person. This is one of the greatest misconceptions about introversion. We are not anti-social; we’re differently social. I can’t live without my family and close friends, but I also crave solitude. I feel incredibly lucky that my work as a writer affords me hours a day alone with my laptop. I also have a lot of other introvert characteristics, like thinking before I speak, disliking conflict, and concentrating easily … introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward. In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals — we are constantly exhorting people to ‘come out of their shells’ — but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go.” —Scientific American, January 2012

Susan Sarandon

“[Being alone]’s been a lot of different things. It’s traumatic and exhilarating. The one thing that’s been really clear to me is that you have to think of your own life and your relationship and everything as a living organism. It’s constantly moving, changing, growing. I think long-term relationships need to be constantly reevaluated and talked about.” —Reuters, March 2012

Stevie Nicks

“Most women would not be happy being me. People say, ‘But you’re alone.’ But I don’t feel alone. I feel very un-alone. I feel very sparkly and excited about everything. I know women who are going, like, ‘I don’t want to grow old alone.’ And I’m like, ‘See, that doesn’t scare me.’ Because I’ll never be alone. I’ll always be surrounded by people. I’m like the crystal ball and these are all the rings of Saturn around me … My generation fought very hard for feminism, and we fought very hard to not be labeled as you had to have a husband or you had to be in a relationship, or you were somehow not a cool chick. And now I’m seeing that start to come around again, where people say to you, ‘Well, what do you mean you don’t have a boyfriend? You don’t want to have one? You don’t want to be married?’ And you’re like, ‘Well, no, I don’t, actually. I’m fine.’ And they find a lot of reasons why you’re not fine. But it just seems to be coming back. Being able to take care of myself is something that my mom really instilled in me. I can remember her always saying, ‘If nothing else, I will teach you to be independent.’” — Vulture, June 2013

Carrie Brownstein

“I think alone time is good to know how to be alone with your own thoughts. I think it just helps you kind of be a better, more grounded person … and also I feel like it builds a sense of self confidence and a sureness that you know that you can venture out into experiences without the crutch of other people. Like, you’re not doing it because you feel lonely or isolated, but because it generates a new kind of experience.” — Spin, October 2015

Katharine Hepburn

“I put on pants 50 years ago and declared a sort of middle road. I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to and I’ve made enough money to support myself and I ain’t afraid of being alone.” — the New York Times, May 1981

Chelsea Handler

“It’s not just O.K. to be single for both men and women — it’s wonderful to be single, and society needs to embrace singlehood in all its splendiferous, solitary glory. Next time you see a single woman, instead of asking her where her boyfriend, husband or eunuch is, congratulate her on her accomplished sense of self and for reaching the solitary mountaintop by herself without a ring on her finger weighing her down like a male paperweight. Without single women and their impressive sense of self, we’d be without Queen Elizabeth I, Marie-Sophie Germain, Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Harper Lee, Diane Keaton, Greta Garbo, Jane Goodall and me, myself and I. Being single is delightfully more than it’s cracked up to be … if you can stand the horror of your own company, that is.” — Time, May 2016

Fran Lebowitz

“That I am totally devoid of sympathy for, or interest in, the world of groups is directly attributable to the fact that my two greatest needs and desires — smoking cigarettes and plotting revenge — are basically solitary pursuits. Oh, sure, sometimes a friend or two drops by and we light up together and occasionally I bounce a few vengeance ideas around with a willing companion, but actual meetings are really unnecessary.” — The Fran Lebowitz Reader, November 1994

Leandra Medine

“When I’m left by myself and I have some time to be alone, that’s the time I have to recuperate and re-validate how I am feeling about myself. That’s always when I feel like I’m being given an opportunity to really start to love myself again — it’s a really special time. I think that women think they’re afraid to be alone, but they’re conflating fear with discomfort. Dealing with that discomfort is so important.” — Paper magazine, February 2015

Diane Keaton

“I remember when I was young I honestly believed in some ridiculous way that you would find someone who would be the person you lived with until you died. I don’t think that because I’m not married it’s made my life any less. That old-maid myth is garbage.” — Wenn, July 2001

Jennifer Lawrence

“It’s not a sad thing to be alone. I think what I was trying to get across was that I don’t feel a lack of something not being in a relationship. I don’t feel like there is a hole to be filled … An emotional hole to be filled. My dad’s here!” — TimesTalks, December 2015

Constance Wu

“I’d rather lose all my stuff than lose myself, because I’ve done that before, and that feels way worse. I don’t have the best family life. I’m not going to have a sob story and be like, my parents abandoned me, because they didn’t. But they also are not that present. When I’m alone, I’m alone. I don’t have anybody to call, and so I have to create meaning from myself. That’s why I don’t give a fuck, because I can’t lose anything. What I have I make myself.” — Vulture, June 2016

Cheryl Strayed

“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” — Wild, March 2012

Rashida Jones

“I had the full princess fantasy: the white horse, the whole being saved from my life, which is ridiculous. What do I want to be saved from? My life’s great! But it’s just this weird thing that’s been hammered into my head culturally: that’s the only way to succeed, that’s the only thing that counts for a woman. I’m happy, but the fact that I’m not married and don’t have kids — it’s taken me a long time to get to a place where I actually am OK with that, where I actually don’t feel like I’m some sort of loser.” — The Guardian, February 2014

Julie Delpy

“Too many women throw themselves into romance because they’re afraid of being single, then start making compromises and losing their identity. I won’t do that.” — San Jose Mercury News, December 1997

Joan Rivers

“I’m so independent now, I’m so set in my ways … I hate the part where I come home from a trip and there’s no one to call. And I miss the Sundays doing nothing together. But I do like my freedom … I won’t go to a restaurant alone, because people will say, ‘Oh I saw poor Joan Rivers.’ … I do [go to parties alone] — but I dislike it. I am very shy when I don’t know people. I had to go to Charles and Camilla’s wedding alone and that was so difficult. I mean wonderful when I got there but very hard arriving.” — The Guardian, August 2005

Audrey Hepburn

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” — LIFE, December 1953

Yoko Ono

“The precious part of my day is when I’m alone. When everybody goes home and (son) Sean’s asleep and I’m just watching the night lights out of my window or something. I like silence, you see. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it’s all right to be alone.” — Ocala Star Banner, June 1983

Jane Fonda

“I have a friend who says she has become a nerd cause she doesn’t go out or hang anymore with her buds. I told her I understood cause I was part nerd too and I realized that my blog gives the impression that I am always surrounded by excitement and people. But the fact is that I spend much time alone and cherish that. I don’t write about that cause what’s to say. ‘I am alone, thinking, reading, meditating…’ Isn’t so interesting so my blog gives a false impression of my life. I identify with the bear who hibernates much of the time–in fact, has her cubs alone while she sleeps–but then needs to be social, playful. That’s me. I am alone a lot. I read a lot. I meditate. I love solitude. It’s different than loneliness. I am not always surrounded by excitement. That’s just what I blog about. Anyway, I wanted to set that straight. I, too, am part nerd.” — her site, July 2010

Gertrude Stein

“After all human beings are like that. When they are alone they want to be with others and when they are with others they want to be alone.” – Paris France, 1940

Grace Jones

“I have made a big effort in my life to enjoy being alone, so that I don’t enter a relationship only because I am afraid of being on my own. I enjoy my own company because there is no guarantee even if you are in a couple that the match will last all your life. And I like myself. I’m the best form of entertainment I have!…The key is to make friends with yourself. Children make imaginary friends. If I have to do that, I will do that. They will say I’m crazy, but I will be happy. Sometimes it is better to find ways to be happy alone than to have a relationship in which you are miserable for the sake of not being alone.” — I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, September 2015

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“Justice O’Connor and I were together for more than twelve years and in every one of those twelve years, sooner or later, at oral argument one lawyer or another would call me Justice O’Connor. They were accustomed to the idea that there was a woman on the Supreme Court and her name was Justice O’Connor. Sandra would often correct the attorney, she would say, ‘I’m Justice O’Connor, she’s Justice Ginsburg.’ The worst times were the years I was alone. The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. That was not a good image for the public to see. But now, with the three of us on the bench, I am no longer lonely and my newest colleagues are not shrinking violets. Not this term but the term before, Justice Sotomayor beat out Justice Scalia as the justice who asks the most questions during argument.” — The New Republic, September 2014

Dolly Parton

“My nails are my rhythm section, when I’m writing a song all alone. Some day, I may cut an album, just me and my nails.” — Roger Ebert, December 1980

Dr. Damn I Feelgood

Congress is obsessed with Medicare/Medicaid they view it as a tool for the devil. They may be right but wrong devil. Congress is sure any oldster or lower/under/unemployed person needing medical care and relying on the Government to pay the bill is some type of shirker or faker. They want to stop this like non existent voter fraud and in turn give grants to States to administer their own type of "welfare."

I can see that working out like privatized prisons. Those worked out great! Or how about Charter Schools? Or Ambulance or Fire Fighters! Soon we will have Private Cops like those in foreign countries that did such a great job in the Middle East. Remember Blackwater?

I have fond recollections of the demands that private industry can do it better. No they do it for money, profit and little else. Anyone who believes that the Silicon Valley does anything to make the world better needs to find a mental health counselor covered by insurance. Oh wait.

This is who exploits Medicare and Medicaid. This Doctor who defines fraud. The Big Pharma CEO's who find ways to jack up prices for life saving drugs, for simple inoculations for those who need help but can't afford it. We are all collateral damage in the quest for profits.

Want to know why we have an opioid crisis in this country? Ask them - the Industrial Medical Complex.



The pill mill doctor who prescribed thousands of opioids and billed dead patients



By Kristine Guerra
The Washington Post
September 22 2-16



A former Michigan doctor who ran a pill mill for 16 months, distributing tens of thousands of narcotics and controlled substances to people who didn't need them for medical purposes, has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that accused him of, among other things, falsifying records to charge dead patients, subjecting patients to unnecessary tests and billing for office visits that never happened.

The settlement was announced Wednesday, amid National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week, and came nearly four years after Hussein Awada, 46, was accused of defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of about $2.3 million. He was charged in December 2012 of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and conspiring to commit health care fraud. Awada pleaded guilty and was sentenced last November to seven years in federal prison.

In 2013, a separate civil lawsuit accused him of defrauding government programs — a violation of the False Claims Act. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Michigan.

Investigation into Awada began in 2011, after his former receptionist alerted the Drug Enforcement Administration about his medical practice.

From 2010 to early 2012, federal prosecutors said, Awada wrote prescriptions, without any medical justification, for 80,000 doses of Oxycodone, Roxicodone and other painkillers to groups of patients who were recruited by a marketer. The marketer, James Lyons, then bought the pills from the patients he recruited and resold them to street drug dealers.

Court records said Awada also required new patients to undergo unnecessary tests and procedures, such as ultrasounds, blood work and X-rays, even before they'd been examined by a doctor. Awada then billed Medicaid for those procedures.

In some cases, Awada falsified records to bill Medicare for services that either never happened or were provided to patients who had died.

A witness told investigators that Awada once said "I know X-rays are a pain, but they are our money maker, what pays your check," according to a criminal complaint.

During Awada's sentencing hearing last November, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland said he contributed to Michigan's opiate epidemic.

"He contributed in a very large way for a period of at least two years," Helland said, according to a transcript of the hearing. "He did that as a doctor with a license, who, of all people, should have known the impact his prescribing was having on a broader community."

Dr. Hussein Awada leaves federal court in Detroit on Dec. 12, 2012. (Daniel Mears/The Detroit News file)

Aside from the prison sentence, Awada also was ordered to forfeit his assets to help pay $2.3 million to the government, according to the Justice Department.

That's separate from the $200,000 he agreed to pay to settle the civil lawsuit.

"This settlement demonstrates that doctors pay a substantial price when they seek to profit by prescribing medically unnecessary prescription drugs and services that may harm their patients," Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in a news release.

Awada's attorney, Steve Fishman, said his client has paid nearly all of the $2.3 million in restitution. Had a settlement not been reached in the civil case, Awada would have been required to pay more than $4 million in damages, Fishman said.

"Dr. Awada wanted to settle the False Claims Act lawsuit so that when he comes home and goes back to work, he will not have this hanging over his head," Fishman said.

Awada, whose license was revoked, had been a medical doctor since 2002. Fishman said Awada, who owned a clinic in Warren, Mich., can try to get his license reinstated after he has served his sentence.

Lyons, the marketer with whom Awada conspired, was sentenced to four years in prison.

During his sentencing hearing, Awada said he was ashamed of his actions.

"I assume full and complete responsibility for my actions. I deeply regret the shame I have brought to my family. I just put them through so much pain," Awada said, according to a transcript of the hearing. "I apologize for the patients who I may have caused harm and who I have hurt by these actions."

Awada has five children. He is also the brother of a former economic development chief in Wayne County, Mich., according to the Detroit News.

The settlement was announced one day after Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch spoke in Kentucky about the urgency of the opioid epidemic.

"What we face is not just a law enforcement crisis or a public health crisis," she said. "We face a moral crisis — a test of whether we in the United States can protect our children, our friends, our neighbors, and our fellow citizens from the scourge of addiction."

The opioid epidemic, she said, "erodes opportunity and diminishes public safety. It undermines our communities and tears at the fabric of our common life as Americans."

"Addressing this crisis is about helping our neighbors," she added. "It’s about looking after our friends. It’s about saving our children. It’s about taking care of our own. And that’s who we are as Americans – that’s what we do in times of turmoil.

A new federal study found that more than 1 in 3 American adults, or 35 percent, were given painkiller prescriptions by medical providers last year. The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that in 2015, prescription painkillers are more widely used than cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or cigars, combined.