Tagcrime

Suburban Decay

dead-bath-and-beyond

Photo: cogdogblog

One could argue that the resurgence of our cities does not necessarily portend the fall of the suburbs. But while many cities have been benefiting from an influx of wealth, the suburbs have been suffering a rise in poverty. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor in the suburbs or the nation’s largest metro areas grew by 53 percent to a record 15.3 million. And while poverty has increased in cities as well, the growth rate in the number of poor living in the suburbs was more than twice that in cities during the decade—and the suburbs are now home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country. This isn’t just the Great Recession at work; as early as 2005, the suburban poor outnumbered their city counterparts by almost a million. “We think of poverty as a really urban phenomenon or an ultra-rural phenomenon. It’s increasingly a suburban issue,” says Elizabeth Kneebone, Brookings fellow and coauthor of a recent Brookings book on the topic, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.”

Belmar

But as with most things, decay isn’t evenly distributed. More affluent suburbs are “revitalizing”:

Some developers have actually turned their focus on these dead or dying malls. Ellen Dunham-Jones, architecture professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and June Williamson, associate professor of architecture at the City College of New York, have documented this phenomenon in their book, “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs,” a comprehensive look at efforts to retool, reinhabit, or return to nature abandoned suburban forms. In some cases, this means turning gargantuan forgotten malls into hip, urbanized residential villages. One such experiment is under way in Lakewood, Colorado, an affluent suburb west of Denver. The former Villa Italia shopping mall, a 1.2-million-square-foot indoor mall built in 1966 that had fallen on hard times, has been turned into Belmar, 104-acre pedestrian-friendly community that has apartments, condos, town houses, office space, artists studios, and a shopping and entertainment promenade on twenty-two walkable, urbanized blocks. Now, instead of turning into the mall’s giant parking lot, you end up cruising along a downtown main drag, Alaska Street, which is lined with old-fashioned streetlights, coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants. There are more than a thousand housing units, which range from town houses to loft condominiums to small-lot single-family homes, as well as a row of ground-floor artist studio and business incubator spaces. A public art project called “Urban Anatomy” has installed small works of art and fragments of poetry on manhole covers, sidewalk joints, and grates throughout the development, highlighting overlooked details of the urban environment.

The whole setup is definitely still suburban—the new urbanized village includes a Zales, Yankee Candle, and Sur La Table—but these suburbanites can leave their loft apartments on foot, pick up an espresso, and go hear a poetry reading, all on a site where Foley’s, Dillard’s, Montgomery Ward, and JCPenney once sat. There are dozens of these projects at other malls around the country. “It’s time to let the suburbs grow up,” Dunham-Jones says.

Full Story: Salon: The suburbs are dead — and that’s not a good thing

(via Meredith Yayanos)

See also: Abandoned Walmart is Now America’s Largest Library

P.S.: Suburban decay is an interesting search term for Flickr.

The Masked Crime Fighting Teams Of Guerrero, Mexico

warrior-state

Bernardo Loyola and Laura Woldenberg write:

On January 5 in El Potrero, a small town in the Mexican state of Guerrero, a man named Eusebio García Alvarado was kidnapped by a local criminal syndicate. Kidnappings are fairly common in Guerrero—the state, just south of Mexico City, is one of the poorest in the country and the site of some of the worst violence in the ongoing battle between the drug cartels and Mexican authorities. Guerrero’s largest city, Acapulco, is known to Americans as a tourist hot spot. It’s also currently the second most dangerous city in the world, according to a study released by a Mexican think tank in February.

Eusebio’s kidnapping, though, was exceptional. He served as the town commissioner of Rancho Nuevo and was a member of the community activist organization Union of Towns and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), and the brazenness the criminals showed in snatching him up pissed off his neighbors so much that they took matters into their own hands.

The day after Eusebio was abducted, hundreds of people from the nearby towns of Ayutla de los Libres and Tecoanapa decided that they could do a better job policing their communities than the local authorities. They grabbed whatever weapons they had—mostly hunting rifles and shotguns—set up checkpoints at entrances to their villages, and patrolled the roads in pickup trucks, often hiding their faces with ski masks and bandanas. Overnight, UPOEG transformed from an organization of advocates for better roads and infrastructure into a group of armed vigilantes operating without the endorsement of any branch of the government. The kidnappers released Eusebio that day, but UPOEG’s checkpoints and patrols didn’t disappear with his return. In fact, there was a groundswell of support. Five municipalities in the surrounding Costa Chica region followed suit and established their own militias. Soon, armed and masked citizens ensured that travelers and strangers weren’t allowed to enter any of their towns uninvited.

These militias captured 54 people whom they alleged to be involved in organized crime (including two minors and four women), imprisoning them inside a house that became an improvised jail. On January 31, the communities gathered on an outdoor basketball court in the village of El Meson to publicly try their detainees. The charges ran the gamut from kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and homicide to smoking weed. More than 500 people attended, and the trial was covered by media outlets all over the world.

Full Story: Vice: The Warrior State: The People Of Guerrero, Mexico, Have Taken Justice Into Their Own Hands

(Thanks Trevor)

Kiera Wilmot Won’t Be Charged With Felony For School Yard Explosion

Good news from the Orlando Sentinel:

Kiera, 16, was a student at Bartow High School until last month when she was arrested after she mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a water bottle on school grounds, a police report stated. She was arrested and faced felony charges for possessing a weapon on campus and discharging a destructive device.

She also was suspended from school and told she faced expulsion, according to her attorney, Larry Hardaway. He said she served a 10-day suspension and is now attending classes at an alternative school.

Her case drew national attention and outrage on Twitter and other social media sites, with many arguing both school and police overreacted. An online petition on her behalf has more than 195,000 signatures.

The office of State Attorney Jerry Hill, whose jurisdiction includes Polk, said that it extended “an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child.” That typically means a probationary-like program that allows the youngster to perform community service or meet other conditions and then avoid a criminal record.

Full Story: Orlando Sentinel: Kiera Wilmot, student who caused small explosion, won’t face charges

Previously: Teen Girl Charged With Felony For Science Experiment Gone Wrong

Drugs Giants Used Communist East Germany For ‘Illegal’ Trials

The Independent reports:

Leading Western pharmaceutical companies paid millions of pounds to former Communist East Germany to use more that 50,000 patients in state-run hospitals as unwitting guinea pigs for drug tests in which several people died, it was revealed today.

An investigation by the German magazine Der Spiegel said international conglomerates such as Bayer, Hoechst, Roche, Schering and Sandoz carried out more than 600 tests on patients, mostly without their knowledge, at hospitals and clinics in the former Communist state.

Full Story: The Independent: Drugs giants used Communist East Germany for ‘illegal’ trials

Teen Girl Charged With Felony For Science Experiment Gone Wrong

Kiera Wilmont

Update: here’s an online petition to drop the charges against her.

Koa Beck writes:

Given all the data that is out there regarding young girls and STEM fields, ladies who demonstrate an interest in science should be culturally supported. A quick peruse of certain popular culture guarantees that they certainly won’t be getting that support elsewhere. Yet when 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot, who reportedly “got good grades” and had “a perfect behavior record” had a science experiment go awry, she was slapped with felony charges. Way to support our young girls in the sciences.

Wtsp.com reports that the teen was arrested and charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device. At seven a.m. that morning at Bartow High School, Kiera allegedly mixed some “household chemicals” in an eight-ounce water bottle. The top reportedly popped off creating a “small explosion” complete with smoke. No one was hurt, according to reports.

In addition to her criminal charges, she has since been expelled from Bartow High School. It remains unclear whether there was any malice in the experiment. But even the young lady’s school principal, as well as her peers, believe that she didn’t possess any vicious motives:

Full Story: Mommyish: Teen Girl With A Penchant For Science Is Slapped With Felony Charges After Her Experiment Explodes

There’s no clarity as to what she was actually trying to accomplish, or exactly how big the explosion was. I can understand people being on edge after recent shooting and the Boston bombing, but the charges seem trumped up for a simple accident. There could be more to this than meets the eye, but it feels a lot like another example of the criminalization of curiosity.

Update: Here’s a copy of the police report. The explosion happened outside “near the gazebo/lake area.” Her science instructor claims it was not part of any classwork, though she said it was part of a “science fair experiment.” She says she thought it would “just cause some smoke.” But what she built is what’s known as a drano bomb.

Here’s the news clip:

See also:

Criminalizing science: chemistry student arrested for home lab

Students in ‘Weird Science’ Halloween party arrested under anti-terror laws

Drone Artists/Hackers Detained Held in London on Suspicion of Terrorism

Counterterrorism Agency: Urban Exploration Helps Terrorism

The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders

Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci on ways that media and law enforcement can reduce the number of copycat killers after a mass shooting:

1. Law enforcement should not release details of the methods and manner of the killings, and those who learn those details should not share them.

2. If and when social media accounts of the killers are located, law enforcement should work with the platforms to immediately pull them.

3. The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately. If possible, law enforcement and media sources should agree to withhold it for weeks.

Similarly, the killer should not be profiled extensively, at least not at first.

4. The intense push to interview survivors and loved ones in their most vulnerable moments should be stopped.

Full Story: The Atlantic: The Media Needs to Stop Inspiring Copycat Murders. Here’s How.

These points are not unlike forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz’ principles for not propagating mass murders:

Don’t start the story with sirens blaring.

Don’t have photographs of the killer.

Don’t make this 24/7 coverage.

Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.

Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.

Related: In real-time journalism, declaring what you won’t report can be just as important as what you will

Did MK-ULTRA Kill “The James Bond Of Money”?

Deeply weird piece by Mark Ames and Alexander Zaitchik on the murder of CIA operative/godfather of the goldbug movement Nicholas Deak, which uncovers some possible connections between the homeless woman who killed him, Lois Lang, and the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program:

Police responding to the motel room took Lang to nearby Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. For the next month, she was put under the care of Dr. Frederick Melges, a psychiatrist associated with the Stanford Research Institute. One of Dr. Melges’ main areas of research: drug-aided hypnosis. A few years after Lang was put in Melges’ care, the New York Times exposed the Stanford Research Institute as a center for CIA research into “brain-washing” and “mind-control” experiments in which unwitting subjects were dosed with hallucinogenic drugs and subjected to hypnosis. Melges, who died in 1988, is today remembered in the field for his research on the relationship between perceptions of time and mental illness.

Full Story: Salon: James Bond and the killer bag lady

It goes deeper than that, with Ames and Zaitchik speculating that it may have been Argentine gangersters with knowledge of MK-ULTRA who ordered the hit:

If Lang was tapped to whack Nicholas Deak, she was part of a long tradition. In mobster literature, insane assassins are regular characters. “Nuts were used from time to time by certain people for certain matters,” explains Jimmy Hoffa’s former right-hand man, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, in his memoir, “I Heard You Paint Houses.” Chuck Giancana, brother of Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, writes that he once heard his brother say that “picking a nutcase who was also a sharpshooter” to carry out an assassination was “as old as the Sicilian hills.”

I found this bit interesting as well, though it’s more of a side note:

Meanwhile, the sunny side of Deak’s business thrived. Its retail foreign currency operation, now reconstituted under new ownership and known to the world as Thomas Cooke, became a staple at airports, its multi-packs of francs and marks symbols of every American family’s European vacation. Deak’s retail precious metals business dominated the market after the legalization of gold sales. After a series of sales and reconstitutions, it is today known as Goldline, a major sponsor of Glenn Beck and subject of a recent fraud settlement.

(via Abe Burmeister)

John McAfee’s Last Stand

John McAfee's Last Stand

If you’ve not heard, John McAfee, founder of McAfee Antivirus, is on the lam in Belize, wanted for murder wanted for questioning in a murder murder investigation (though Gizmodo previously quoted police in Belize saying McAfee is the prime suspect in the murder). Joshua Davis has been covering McAfee’s time Belize has published a short e-book about the fiasco:

McAfee picks a bullet off the floor and fixes me with a wide-eyed, manic intensity, his light blue eyes sparkling. “This is a bullet, right?” he says in the congenial Southern accent that has stuck with him since his boyhood in Virginia.

“Let’s put the gun down,” I tell him. I’d come here to investigate why the government of Belize was accusing him of assembling a private army and entering the drug trade. It seemed implausible that a wildly successful tech entrepreneur would disappear into the Central American jungle and become a narco-trafficker. Now I’m not so sure.

But he explains that the accusations are a fabrication. “Maybe what happened didn’t actually happen,” he says, staring hard at me. “Can I do a demonstration?”

He loads the bullet into the gleaming silver revolver and spins the cylinder.

“This scares you, right?” he says. Then he puts the gun to his head.

My heart rate kicks up; it takes me a second to respond. “Yeah, I’m scared,” I admit.

“We don’t have to do this.”

“I know we don’t,” he says, the muzzle pressed against his temple. And then he pulls the trigger.

Wired: John McAfee’s Last Stand Excerpt

Buy the e-book on Amazon.com

Update: McAfee has published a blog post claiming that was feeding Davis “as much nonsense as I could muster.” He has also posted what he claims are a recording of an ex-village councilman planning to kill him, and a letter threatening his life if he didn’t pay up $150,000.

Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe

The New York Times reports:

Facing grinding poverty, some Europeans are seeking to sell their kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas, experts say. This phenomenon is relatively new in Serbia, a nation that has been battered by war and is grappling with the financial crisis that has swept the Continent. The spread of illegal organ sales into Europe, where they are gaining momentum, has been abetted by the Internet, a global shortage of organs for transplants and, in some cases, unscrupulous traffickers ready to exploit the economic misery.

In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people peddling organs — as well as hair, sperm and breast milk — have turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as $250,000. In late May, the Israeli police detained 10 members of an international crime ring suspected of organ trafficking in Europe, European Union law enforcement officials said. The officials said the suspects had targeted impoverished people in Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Full Story: New York Times: Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe

DEA Deprives Man in Holding Cell of Food or Water for Four Days

Emphasis mine:

By his own admission, Daniel Chong planned to spend April 20 like so many other college students: smoking marijuana with friends to celebrate an unofficial holiday devoted to the drug.

But for Mr. Chong, the celebration ended in a Kafkaesque nightmare inside a San Diego Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell, where he said he was forgotten for four days, without food or water.

To survive, Mr. Chong said he drank his own urine, hallucinated and, at one point, considered how to take his own life. By the time agents found him on the fifth day and called paramedics, he said he thought he could be dead within five minutes. […]

A spokeswoman for the D.E.A. said the case was under investigation, but confirmed that Mr. Chong had been “accidentally left in one of the cells” from April 21 until April 25, and that he had not been charged with a crime.

New York Times: California Man’s ‘Drug Holiday’ Becomes Four-Day Nightmare in Holding Cell

(Thanks Donnie)

Recently: Undercover Cops Seduce High School Students and Entrap Them into Selling Weed

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