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Daily Digest 9/20 - Bitcoin Is Money, China Facing Full-Blown Banking Crisis

Tuesday, September 20, 2016, 8:42 AM

Economy

Bitcoin is money, U.S. judge says in case tied to JPMorgan hack (Adam)

Prosecutors last year charged Murgio over the operation of Coin.mx, and in April charged his father Michael with participating in bribery aimed at supporting it.

Authorities have said Coin.mx was owned by Gery Shalon, an Israeli man who, along with two others, was charged with running a sprawling computer hacking and fraud scheme targeting a dozen companies, including JPMorgan, and exposing personal data of more than 100 million people.

China Facing Full-blown Banking Crisis, World’s Top Financial Watchdog Warns (Aaron M.)

Outstanding loans have reached $28 trillion, as much as the commercial banking systems of the US and Japan combined. The scale is enough to threaten a worldwide shock if China ever loses control. Corporate debt alone has reached 171pc of GDP, and it is this that is keeping global regulators awake at night.

That $100,000 Painting Bought to Flip Is Now Worth About $20,000 (Adam)

Prices for works by young artists such as Scott-Douglas and Lucien Smith soared with the auction market in 2014, sometimes reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, when they were traded like bull-market tech stocks. But since auction sales began to drop in late 2015, the emerging names have been hit especially hard. Sales by some artists are down 90 percent or more as the glut of work and nosebleed prices scare away buyers.

How I Rewired My Brain To Become Fluent In Math (jdargis)

Japan has become seen as a much-admired and emulated exemplar of these active, “understanding-centered” teaching methods. But what’s often missing from the discussion is the rest of the story: Japan is also home of the Kumon method of teaching mathematics, which emphasizes memorization, repetition, and rote learning hand-in-hand with developing the child’s mastery over the material. This intense afterschool program, and others like it, is embraced by millions of parents in Japan and around the world who supplement their child’s participatory education with plenty of practice, repetition, and yes, intelligently designed rote learning, to allow them to gain hard-won fluency with the material.

General Motors pledges 100% renewable power for its facilities by 2050 (jdargis)

Moving to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 will take a considerable investment in resources, but GM also noted that it would be able to solve the problem of intermittency (the fact that the sun can't generate electricity at night and wind can't generate electricity when the wind isn't blowing) by using batteries produced for the Volt. The company is already doing this at its Milford Proving Ground Data Center. Battery storage is considered key to adopting solar and wind power, and companies like Daimler and Nissan are already outlining plans to repurpose their electric vehicle batteries rather than recycle them.

Report: We Only Have Until 2035 to Get Rid of Gasoline Engines (Arthur Robey)

The report highlighted the enormous potential electric vehicles (EVs) have to contribute to this goal. Most (if not all) major car manufacturers are developing an electric vehicle line, not to mention the massive advancements made by Tesla.

There is also the need for a parallel shift in the power industry towards renewables. The report noted that achieving the 2035 target will be for naught if the electric vehicles were being powered by electricity generated by coal or diesel plants.

U.S. Signals Backing for Self-Driving Cars (jdargis)

The statements were the most aggressive signal yet by federal regulators that they see automated car technology as a win for auto safety. Yet having officially endorsed the fast-evolving technology, regulators must now balance the commercial interests of companies including Tesla, Google and Uber with concerns over public safety, especially in light of recent crashes involving semiautonomous cars.

Can Solar-Powered Floating Art Save California From Drought? (Josh O.)

One short-listed submission aims to make sea water drinkable, called The Pipe. The Pipe is a 2,000-foot-long floating tube covered with solar panels that would have annual capacity of 10,000 MWh that would generate 4.5 billion liters of drinking water. That’s some 40 percent of the average daily usage of Santa Monica residents, according to Business Insider.

Gold & Silver

Click to read the PM Daily Market Commentary: 9/19/16

Provided daily by the Peak Prosperity Gold & Silver Group

Article suggestions for the Daily Digest can be sent to [email protected]. All suggestions are filtered by the Daily Digest team and preference is given to those that are in alignment with the message of the Crash Course and the "3 Es."

12 Comments

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Canned food storage

I thought that I would attempt to manage my deteriorating-state-of-the-world anxiety today by purchasing canned food.

The problem is, that to get my wife to agree it must be clear that we are spending money to buy foods that we will eat even if the world does fine.  (all the while I'm thinking fat chance.)

So I made an inventory of our pantry contents and interviewing the grocery shopper we came up with an average weekly canned good shopping list.  Armed with that list, I multiplied by 12 to get the canned foods that we would expect to eat in a 12 week period (assuming no collapse).

Now to store it in a FIFO system.

After looking through quite a range of can storing and organizing options, I think we are going to get this rack system.  Cost $210.  Advantages:

  • FIFO,
  • holds about 200 cans,
  • accommodates different sized cans,
  • the contents are visible, and
  • you don't have to walk behind the shelves to put in the newest cans.  (It can sit against a wall saving space.)

Now to the grocery store.....

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saxplayer00o1
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Why the national debt isn't over $20 trillion now

Central-Bank Rescues Prove Profitable

Wall Street Journal-4 hours ago

From 2005 to 2015, the U.S. Federal Reserve sent roughly $700 billion in profits to the U.S. government, more than any other central bank. That included $117.2 ..

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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Certainly professional malpractice, probably manslaughter

This one's going to make the national news, I suppose.  I'm surprised it hasn't already.  Black Lives Matter is already involved.

Watch the video first without reading the commentary in the attached article and then my thoughts here if you're interested in this kind of thing.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/disturbing-helicopter-footage-shows-oklahoma-police-kill-unarmed-man-n650866

Video footage released Monday showed Tulsa police shooting an unarmed man to death on Friday night after he approached his SUV with his arms raised. 

In footage filmed from a police helicopter, Terence Crutcher, 40, can be seen slowly walking from the edge of a street north of Tulsa toward his vehicle, which authorities said had been reported abandoned at 7:36 p.m. (8:36 p.m. ET) and left running in the middle of the road.

For several seconds, an officer follows Crutcher from behind with a gun trained on him. Three more officers then converge on the scene as Crutcher lowers his hands and approaches his SUV. While standing beside the driver's side door, he suddenly drops to the street. Moments later, blood can be seen saturating his white t-shirt. 

The Tulsa Police Department also released dash-cam video of the incident.

During a news conference Monday, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said that Officer Tyler Turnbough tasered Crutcher, and a second officer, Betty Shelby, fired at him after telling a dispatcher "that she's not having cooperation from" Crutcher. 

Citing an ongoing investigating, Jordan declined to provide additional details, though he said that no weapon was found on Crutcher or in his SUV. Jordan, who called the footage "disturbing," said that he asked the Justice Department to review the case.

I don't want to "Monday morning quarterback" anyone, but based on the video I have to conclude this was a case of professional malpractice (terrible police work) and probably manslaughter.  I'd have to have a lot of new information to think anything else.

On her way to a domestic disturbance call, Officer Betty Shelby of the Tulsa, OK Police Department comes across an SUV stopped in the middle of a two lane highway and Terence Crutcher in the road on foot. In a flash Betty is out of her police vehicle and has drawn her pistol.  I can't see everything she saw and I can't hear anything, but I can't imagine a legitimate reason for Betty to draw her weapon.  (At this early stage, she's not claiming he had a weapon and no weapon was found, nor that he verbally threatened to kill her.)  Perhaps Crutcher is acting erratically in some ways in addition to standing in the road with his car blocking both lanes.  That's reason for a cautious approach, but not to draw one's pistol yet.  Yes, the suspect could possibly have been a homicidal maniac but more likely explanations would include he was:  high or drunk, having serious mental health issues, or having a diabetic incident.  These possibilities and others like them would require the officer to have both hands empty if it became necessary to go "hands on" with the suspect and to possibly deescalate the situation.  With her gun in her hand, Officer Betty has nearly shut the door on the option of going hands on, and she has escalated the suspect, herself, and the other arriving officers.

I'm assuming based on the officer's lawyer's comment, that Crutcher was refusing to obey Officer Betty's commands (probably to stop walking away and to turn around). Crutcher does have his hands up while he was walking away from the officer.  Should he have obeyed the officer immediately and completely?  Yes.  Would he still  be alive now if he had? Most likely.  Does that justify the poor police work and decision making that led to the shooting and death of the suspect? Absolutely not.  I've found that the most useless phrase in the English language is: "Police! Stop!"  I can't think of even one instance in my career where I've used that phrase and the suspect actually stopped!  Officers should expect to be ignored and disobeyed, and have a plan to deal with it that doesn't include killing everyone who refuses to stop or obey.

Car stopped in the highway blocking both lanes.  Male walking in the road, possibly the driver.  Male refusing police commands and "acting erratically."  Male puts his hands in the air and starts walking back to the car's driver's door.  Because of the potential for escape and for the suspect to access a weapon in the car, an experienced officer would not let the suspect get to the driver's door, and reach in or get in.  The officer was completely in her rights to put her hands on the suspect and physically prevent him from reaching the driver's door, and then to pat him down for weapons.  That's what Officer Betty should have done, but didn't.  That was an "insufficient use of force" which led directly to more bad decisions and the death of the suspect.  I don't know why Officer Betty didn't go hands on with the suspect to keep him from reaching the driver's door, but I can guess.  1) She had her gun in her hand and you need both hands for that kind of thing.  2) She was frightened of the much larger suspect.  Why was she afraid besides the size difference?  She's a woman and therefore physically weaker.  She didn't have confidence in her hands on fighting skills.  3) She has little to no actual successful experience fighting with male suspects.  4) She's afraid of black males in general.  Officer Betty's fear led her to at least two early mistakes that prevented her from going hands on: she had her gun in hand and didn't reholster it, and she was waaay too far away from the suspect to get physical with him.  She should've used force much sooner than she did, and it should have been to put hands on the suspect to stop him from reaching the driver's door.  Insufficient use of force, followed by excessive force.  What a shame.

This doesn't explain to me the timid actions of the other 3 officers who arrive before Officer Betty fires a single shot.  Surely, three or four officers together would've had the courage to holster their pistols and go hands on with the suspect before he reached the driver's door.  However, they pile up right next to or even behind Officer Betty.  The one reason I can see for the other officers not just running past Betty and grabbing Crutcher was the possibility of getting shot in the back by Officer Betty in an accidental friendly fire incident.

Officer Betty through her lawyer says she feared he was reaching for a weapon when he went into his pocket and when he reached into his car.  I hear this explanation so many times from police who shoot a suspect when it's not justified or when it's a gray area that I wish we could just train every officer nationwide that "I thought he was reaching for a weapon" is completely insufficient grounds by itself for shooting a suspect.  You can't shoot until you see a deadly weapon, though if the suspect says he's going to shoot you with this gun in the car and then reaches into the car you'd be on better legal grounds to shoot.  I don't know what policing is like in Tulsa, but nearly all the cops I know in Philadelphia assume everyone has a deadly weapon and they are going to try to kill me with it.  That almost never turns out to be true but thinking it at all times keeps you on your toes and ready to respond appropriately in a split second.  Anyone could be reaching for a weapon.  You can't shoot them until they get their hands on the weapon and it appears they are about to use it on you.  It's incumbent on the officer to use good tactics to keep the suspect at a disadvantage so the officer can beat him to the punch if he legitimately goes for a deadly weapon.  You can't just stand 12-15 feet away yelling at the suspect and then shoot him when he puts his hands where you can't see them.

It's politically correct to encourage women (and small-statured men) to become police officers.  But if it wasn't, police departments might go back to physical standards they used to have 50 years ago which required applicants to be able to handle suspects on the street with their bare hands.  Some state police departments even used to require applicants to be male and at least 6'-0" tall as two of their requirements.  I know some female officers who can handle themselves on the street in a fight, but they are the exception.  I know a male SWAT officer who is only 5'6'', 145 lbs. but he plays hockey, competes in mixed martial arts competitions and is ferocious in a fight.  Most women and small-statured men are at a severe disadvantage in struggles with suspects when weapons are not appropriate.  Women and small men are quicker to resort to their weapons, more likely to stand back and let other officers do the dirty work, or simply manage to show up last to every dangerous-sounding incident.  If we had standards that required applicants and academy recruits to demonstrate serious hands on fighting skills, I think there would be fewer police shootings (justified or unjustified).  Of course, departments would have even more trouble achieving minimum staffing levels and being appropriately diverse.  So incidents like this are what we have to live with.  Sigh.

I also wish the public was aware of how many police deadly force incidents turn out to be clearly justified, so that disturbing incidents like this would be understood as an anomaly.  But since we don't, I guess we'll have an officer or officers somewhere soon injured or killed in retaliation for this.  I hope whoever the officers are are some of those racist bad ones who use excessive force rather than one of the majority who is completely professional.

Good background on this incident:

http://heavy.com/news/2016/09/betty-jo-shelby-tulsa-oklahoma-police-officer-cop-terence-crutcher-photos-pictures-shooting-video-charlton-sanders-holycross/

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Reluctance to fight physically

Thanks for you analysis of this case, Tom.

As an older, and out of shape individual myself, I really understand the reluctance of a smaller officer to physically engage in a fight with a suspect.  For me personally, at this point in my life, a physical fight would most likely lead to my getting beaten up, choked unconscious, kneed in the groin, etc etc.  And if I were NOT beaten up, I might break a metacarpal bone in my hand from punching my adversary and be unable to work for 8 weeks. And if not that, a lawsuit. And of course my $300 glasses and $4,000 hearing aids would be destroyed and need replacement at personal expense .....     In other words, physical fights are absolute lose-lose situations from every conceivable angle.

I would think that it is a pretty unusual person to dive into a physical fight with a large stranger without major hesitations.

With firemen, physical training standards are very intense.  Stuff like carrying a 200 pound sand bag up several flights of stairs while dressed in fireman's "turn out gear," etc.

Do police have these types of standards?

cmartenson's picture
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My confusion on Tulsa shooting

Officer Betty, besides escalating to a gun right away, must have been flustered right from the get go.

Otherwise I cannot explain stopping for a stalled vehicle blocking both lanes of a two lane highway without turning her lights on.

Who does that?  What sorts of training for cops includes stopping in the middle of the road without activating their light bar?

Unfortunately, in the Tulsa cop cars that also means her dash cam was not functioning as they are both activated at the same time.  So we don't have any of the early action to digest.

Nonetheless, the deceased was walking calmly and slowly towards his vehicle.

The use of the taser and the lethal shot follow one right after the other, so close to each other that I am inclined to believe her finger was on the trigger and she twitched when the taser went off.

Just a guess.

But what sorts of policing is it that four cops even use a taser right then, with no violence apparent, and no weapons involved?

I really deplore the fact that tasers have become the "you're not obeying me exactly  like I want you to in this instant" devices rather than dangerous, powerful devices to be used once a severe escalation has already happened.

At any rate, a homicide was committed and if that was a private citizen on that tape pulling the trigger, they'd have been arrested on the spot and be up on all sorts of charges already.

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Arthur Robey
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Betty Shelby's husband

Was in the helicopter. 

The husband of Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Officer Betty Shelby is also a police officer and was in a helicopter overhead when Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher.

 

http://heavy.com/news/2016/09/dave-shelby-betty-husband-jo-family-terenc...

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davefairtex
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size matters

Tom-

I have a fair amount of martial arts experience.  I really agree, size matters.  There is a big difference confronting a 6-4 guy versus a 5-6 guy.  Assuming roughly equal training, the bigger guy will do a whole lot more damage.  That's why there are weight classes in competitions!  Your MMA cop has to compensate for his smaller size with extra enthusiasm - if he enjoys his MMA then I'm sure he has an extra helping of "enthusiasm."  And I'm guessing almost all the people he confronts won't have his level of training.

Of course if you are really well trained, then you can make up for size issues - but that's not one class at an academy, that's several years with plenty of sparring experience.  I'm guessing that's not a normal thing for most cops.  There was only one cop at my gym - that I knew of - and he was there undercover - he just wanted to be one of the guys, not "the SFPD cop."

So FWIW, I agree that bigger cops mean fewer police shootings.  I guess you could make exceptions for well-trained people.  Maybe have some test they could take.  "Impress the unarmed combat instructor, and you can join."

Ultimately, they should be able to control the situation in most circumstances without resorting to the gun - whether it be training, size, or enthusiasm.  All three if possible.  No substitute for enthusiasm.

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And here’s a Different Way To Hold Police Accountable

In the US, cops routinely get away with murder…or at least manslaughter. There are very different cultural understandings and permissions here in the US as compared to Europe.

So check out what happens in the rare case that someone is accidentally killed by police ‘over there.’

Dutch cops charged with manslaughter over black man's death

Sept 20, 2016

Two Dutch police officers involved in the arrest of an Aruban national last year which resulted in the man’s death have been charged with manslaughter. The incident sparked mass protests and drew parallels with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.

Prosecutors on Monday charged two of the five police officers who conducted the violent arrest of Mitch Henriquez. The 42-year-old native of the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba was visiting relatives in The Hague at the time of the incident, in June 2015.

Henriquez was arrested at a music festival in Zuiderpark in The Hague after he was heard shouting he had a weapon. Henriquez allegedly resisted arrest after being approached by officers, who resorted to knocking him to the ground and using a chokehold to restrain him. According to bystanders and Henriquez’s family, police also beat him.

He died in a hospital the next day, and an autopsy on his body later showed that the likely cause of death was suffocation due to a crushed larynx following the chokehold. Henriquez was found not to be carrying any weapons.

Investigators from the Dutch Inspectorate for Security and Justice initially acknowledged that the officers acted correctly in deciding to arrest Henriquez, as he was disturbing public order. They then tried to determine whether the way he was arrested was appropriate and complied with the requirements for police when using force on detainees.

After over a year of investigations, authorities on Monday released a damning report of the case, stating that the “heavy-handed use of force against Henriquez” was “disproportionate, excessive and improper,” as cited by RTL Netherland broadcaster.

The scientists behind the report state that officers made “error after error” in the incident, resorting to violent force too quickly, attacking the victim en masse, using a severe form of chokehold and being late to administer medical assistance.

To summarize, the arrestee was agitated, overheard saying he had a weapon, resisted arrest, and the officers had cause to arrest him.

But they over did it, and an internal investigation discovered that and decided to press charges against the officers involved.

Contrast that with this internal “investigation” in the US:

Police Accidentally Record Themselves Conspiring to Fabricate Criminal Charges Against Protester

Sept 19, 2016

The ACLU of Connecticut is suing state police for fabricating retaliatory criminal charges against a protester after troopers were recorded discussing how to trump up charges against him. In what seems like an unlikely stroke of cosmic karma, the recording came about after a camera belonging to the protester, Michael Picard, was illegally seized by a trooper who didn’t know that it was recording and carried it back to his patrol car, where it then captured the troopers’ plotting.

“Let’s give him something,” one trooper declared. Another suggested, “we can hit him with creating a public disturbance.” “Gotta cover our ass,” remarked a third.

[The Story] State police officers who were working a checkpoint come over to Michael, and the first thing they do is slap the camera out of his hand so it hits the ground. He thinks it’s broken. It was really brazen.

There’s another video showing that the first thing the state trooper does is walk up and with his open hand slap the camera down to the ground. He doesn’t even say anything like “put that down,” or “please lower your camera.” He just slaps it to the ground.

Then he interacts with Michael as if nothing happened, as if, “I’m just allowed to do that, and I don’t even have to tell you why I just broke your camera.” It’s an amazing level of hostility.

The troopers search Michael, and theatrically announce that he has a gun—which they knew he had, and which he was carrying legally under Connecticut’s open carry law. So they take his gun, and they go run his pistol permit.

As they’re doing that, Michael picks the camera up off the pavement—it’s a nice SLR that can also record video. He picks it up and tries to turn it on as one of the cops walks back over, and that’s where the video starts. The cop announces that “taking my picture is illegal.” Michael debates with him a little because he’s very knowledgeable about the law and the First Amendment, and the end result is that the trooper snatches the camera, walks away, and puts it on top of the cruiser, without realizing that it is working and is recording video.

This is the point at which the troopers’ accidental self-surveillance begins. Barrett continues:

So we get the three troopers at the cruiser talking about what to do. Michael’s permit comes back as valid, they say “oh crap,” and one of the troopers says “we gotta punch a number on this guy,” which means open an investigation in the police database. And he says “we really gotta cover our asses.” And then they have a very long discussion about what to charge Michael with—none of which appear to have any basis in fact.

This plays out over eight minutes. They talk about “we could do this, we could do this, we could do this….” In Connecticut, police officers have clear requirements under the law to intervene and stop or prevent constitutional violations when they see them. But at no time did any of the three officers pipe up and say, “why don’t we just give him his camera back and let him go.”

In the end they decide on two criminal infractions: “reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian,” and “creating a public disturbance.”

They have a chilling discussion on how to support the public disturbance charge, and the top-level supervisor explains to the other two, “what we say is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement.” In other words, what sounds like a fairy tale.

The tickets they gave him started a criminal prosecution in the Connecticut superior court. Eventually the state dismissed first one then the other count, though it took a whole year for him to disentangle himself from the criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, Michael filed a complaint with the state police. They claimed they couldn’t do their internal investigation without interviewing Michael. They kept calling Michael directly—and they did that even though there were criminal charges pending and Michael had a criminal defense lawyer. His lawyer kept calling them and saying “don’t you ever call my client again, you have to talk to me.” But they continued to try and get Michael to come in and be interviewed without his lawyer, claiming that they couldn’t do the investigation unless Michael gave a statement.

It was unbelievable—this is an interaction that was recorded from start to finish on high-quality digital video. A year later there has been zero movement on the internal affairs investigation as far as anyone knows, which just shows that police and prosecutors in Connecticut should not be in charge of policing themselves.

Summary: three police officers are caught on tape conspiring to levy false charges against a lawful citizen, they do that, and then internal affairs cannot manage to bring any consequences down upon the involved officers in what has to be the most open-and-shut case of its kind you could ever hope for.

I’ll say it again. If the police don’t begin to police themselves effectively, that will be taken away from them and they won’t like it one bit.

But perhaps it’s already past time. We need external, citizen review boards with power.  Accountability is everything.

 

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capesurvivor
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No consequences for cities with poor training or officers

Good posts. Keep in mind that cities routinely pay out millions of dollars in civil fines for LEO misdeeds. With no external oversight or civilian review boards, there is no accountability, just coverup.

 

Works for us overseas. Oops, sorry for that wedding party.

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October Surprise Possibility

Public affairs professor Julian Zelizer suggests we keep our eyes open for the chance of an October Surprise.  We are now about 6 weeks before the election.  Historically, the factions vying for power sometimes create incidents or revelations, particularly when a loss seems likely.

1.  The most famous was the Nixon effort to prevent a Johnson negotiated end to the Vietnam war.  Nixon was running on the platform of ending the war and a Johnson led effort to stop bombing and open negotiations would reduce his chances against the democratic, Humphrey.

2.  The American hostages held in Iran were at risk of being released through Jimmy Carter's efforts.  Reagan's team was able to delay their release until after the election.  In fact, the hostages were release a few minutes after Reagan's inauguration.

3.  Sex scandals from decades earlier are revealed in the weeks before elections. (Schwarzenegger, and Goldwater aid, Jenkins)

Other ways this could go.

1.  TPTB have waged war on Julian Assange.  Will he release key incriminating documents on HRC?

2.  Terrorism.  Always a handy thing.  Would a bomb in a public place make us want the candidate who sounds "tough on terror?"

3.  With US / Iranian tensions high and boats coming into close proximity, it would be easy to start a hot war with a false flag attack should another country desire to stir the pot.

4.  Will the real or imagined illegitimate child of Donald Trump grace the front pages?

Hillary's popularity is suffering badly.  Will the factions aligned with her go quietly into the night?   Probably not.

What other surprising events might pop up?

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Re: October Surprise

Expect them.

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thc0655
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FUBAR

Officer Betty, besides escalating to a gun right away, must have been flustered right from the get go.

Otherwise I cannot explain stopping for a stalled vehicle blocking both lanes of a two lane highway without turning her lights on.

Who does that?  What sorts of training for cops includes stopping in the middle of the road without activating their light bar?

It's not just a job.  Some people have no business being cops.  This one appears incompetent from top to bottom.  It's embarrassing.

The use of the taser and the lethal shot follow one right after the other, so close to each other that I am inclined to believe her finger was on the trigger and she twitched when the taser went off.

Cops who are issued Tasers are trained that it sounds a little like a gunshot and to keep their fingers off the triggers of their firearms to avoid just such an unconscious twitch response and a negligent discharge.  They are trained, if possible, to yell "Taser! Taser! Taser!" before firing the device.  Did I mention incompetence and that most people are not cut out to be cops?

But what sorts of policing is it that four cops even use a taser right then, with no violence apparent, and no weapons involved?

I really deplore the fact that tasers have become the "you're not obeying me exactly  like I want you to in this instant" devices rather than dangerous, powerful devices to be used once a severe escalation has already happened.

Tasers have revolutionized police use of force.  Studies have indicated that departments who issue them along with the requisite training see an 85% reduction in suspect injuries requiring medical treatment and an 80% reduction in officer injuries.  That's dramatic.  Without a Taser, officers are faced with physically controlling a suspect using hands on skills to gain leverage (partially) and inflicting enough pain to gain "voluntary" compliance (mostly).  That's how suspects and officers get hurt hundreds of times every day across the country.  Even the mere appearance of an officer with a Taser in his/her hand often has the ability to get violent suspects, even mentally ill ones, to calm down and comply with simple commands (because of the weapon's reputation).  This is especially true of suspects who have been Tasered before: no one wants "to ride the lightning" twice, even the psychotic.  Unfortunately, the Taser works so well it is prone to over use and it seems to tell officers you don't need to have fighting skills and physical fitness any more because you can just use your Taser.  Training states that using a Taser is a higher level use of force than hands on and should only be used when hands on has not worked or would be inappropriate to even try.  Furthermore, there are plenty of instances in which the Taser (for several potential reasons) fails to work and the officer has to go back down the force continuum to hands on or up the force continuum to the baton or the firearm.  In my opinion, Tasers are a fantastic tool for police work that eliminates thousands of injuries and a not small number of deaths every year.  However, like any good tool it can be misused and doesn't always work as intended.

At any rate, a homicide was committed and if that was a private citizen on that tape pulling the trigger, they'd have been arrested on the spot and be up on all sorts of charges already.

That's not the way it works when officers are ostensibly acting in the normal course of their duties, otherwise officers would be getting arrested every day in the hundreds for putting their hands on suspects, striking them with batons, driving well over the speed limit, not stopping for stop signs and red lights, etc. Police are assumed, under the law, to be acting according to the law until an investigation proves otherwise.  There would be no other way to operate a police force as 3/4's of the department would be under arrest or awaiting trial on any given day.

I’ll say it again. If the police don’t begin to police themselves effectively, that will be taken away from them and they won’t like it one bit.

But perhaps it’s already past time. We need external, citizen review boards with power.  Accountability is everything.

Accountability in police work is mostly terribly inadequate.  We can and must do better.  Surprisingly, when you dig down into the subject, much of the problem is political and out of the hands of police chiefs and internal affairs departments.  The subject of external citizen review boards is huge and amazingly complex.  We do have an external citizen review board system right now, but it just doesn't work that well: civil and criminal juries.  To get a glimpse of how deep this subject goes, as a mental exercise try setting up a civilian review board that will have power over police, doctors and medical professionals, lawyers, investment professionals, and whatever your own personal profession is.  Medical professionals cause the death of 100 times more people every year than police do, but so far they don't have an external civilian review board either (except juries).  There are powerful, complex reasons for the way things are.

Sand_puppy: With firemen, physical training standards are very intense.  Stuff like carrying a 200 pound sand bag up several flights of stairs while dressed in fireman's "turn out gear," etc.

Do police have these types of standards?

Yes, but the standards apply mostly to admission to the police academy for training and to graduating and gaining the state certification necessary to become a police officer.  A small minority of departments maintain physical fitness requirements throughout the officer's career but most don't.  I don't know of any that require officers to demonstrate continuing use of force skills, except for firearm proficiency and use of the Taser.  Personally, I can mentally remember about 50% of what I was taught, and can adequately use about 20% of it (and I imagine I'm pretty typical).  The rest of my hands on use of force I actually use on the street comes from my fighting experiences before I was a cop, my size and strength, and my "enthusiasm."  I know plenty of cops who enjoy activities in which they keep up their hands on skills (martial arts, boxing, lifting weights, etc.). We have many more cops engaged in those kinds of activities as a percentage than the general population does, but still there are plenty who don't do anything after the academy.

 

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