Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Nov. 28 2014 1:21 PM

Cleveland Paper Thinks You Should Know Tamir Rice’s Father Has Abused Women

A Cleveland media group has gone on the defensive after publishing a much-criticized story looking at how the father of the 12-year-old boy who was killed by a police officer last week has a “history of violence against women.” The story by the Northeast Ohio Media Group, which is responsible for Cleveland.com and is affiliated with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was published mere hours before the video of the shooting was released that shows the police officer opened fire on Tamir Rice less than 2 seconds after pulling up to the playground. The piece notes that Leonard Warner, the boy’s father, “has multiple convictions for the abuse of women.”

Why does that detail matter? Facing backlash for the story that many quickly described as victim-blaming, a clarification line was added to the piece: “People from across the region have been asking whether Rice grew up around violence. The Northeast Ohio Media Group investigated the backgrounds of the parents and found the mother and father both have violent pasts.”

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The Huffington Post’s Nick Wing explains the trouble with the piece:

We've seen this type of media coverage before, though it's often focused on the victims of police violence themselves, rather than on their relatives. After the deaths of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown in August, for example, some news stories evidently sought to paint the slain teenagers as drug addicts, delinquents and thugs.
This coverage was criticized by many as an attempt to smear the victims' characters and distract from the issue of police violence—and, more subtly, to suggest that the killing of young black men is somehow acceptable or unsurprising. And it succeeded—these stories were used by some people to explain why Martin and Brown deserved to die, or how they may have somehow invited their own deaths.

The criticism didn’t just come from outside the media group. Cleveland Scene reports that a Plain Dealer employee sent an email to the entire staff criticisng the piece, calling it “shameful” and highlighting that the “update does not change that fact.” The unnamed person wonders:

Who are the "people from across the region" asking that question? More importantly, how is it relevant to Tamir Rice's death?
It isn't. It simply isn't. And adding a paragraph after-the-fact to try to justify your actions is borderline insulting.

But the editors appear to be standing by the story. Chris Quinn, the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s vice president of content wrote a piece defending the line of inquiry: “One way to stop police from killing any more 12-year-olds might be to understand the forces that lead children to undertake behavior that could put them in the sights of police guns.” Knowing details about the child’s background “can shed further light on why this 12 year old was waving a weapon around a public park.” That weapon in question was a toy gun.

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Nov. 28 2014 12:27 PM

Gunman Dies After Firing More Than 100 Rounds at Government Buildings in Austin

A man in his 50s died early Friday after he fired more than 100 rounds at government buildings in downtown Austin and tried to set fire to the Mexican consulate. It is unclear whether the unidentified man was killed by a police officer who opened fire or whether he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, reports the Austin-American Statesman. Although officials are still trying to determine a motive, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that the targets suggest the shooter had political motives and that the attack may have had something to do with U.S. immigration policy, notes Reuters.

"When you look at the national debate right now about immigration, that ... comes to mind. Sometimes our political discourse becomes very heated and sometimes very angry," Acevedo told reporters.

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The shooting began at 2:22 a.m. Friday morning and continued for around 10 minutes until a sergeant who was handling two horses returned fire. That’s when police officers approached and saw the gunman was wearing “some sort of vest” and detected “suspicious cylinders” inside his van, reports local ABC affiliate KVUE. A bomb squad was called but it was determined the items were not explosive.

Nov. 28 2014 11:31 AM

Watch Shoppers Fight Over Black Friday Bargains ... in the U.K.

It’s a yearly tradition—wake up stuffed the morning after Thanksgiving, switch on your computer and feel a smug sense of superiority by watching videos of fights breaking out among shoppers eager to snap up the best Black Friday bargains. The yearly scene usually goes well with a side order of haughty criticism about U.S. shopping culture. But Americans are hardly the only ones willing to get aggressive in search of a bargain. Black Friday has been a growing phenomenon in the United Kingdom over the past few years, but the frenzy appears to have reached new heights this year. Fights broke out across U.K. stores and police had to be called in to break up shoppers willing to go to extreme lengths to grab everything from a discounted big-screen television to underwear. “Black Friday was more like Black Eye Friday,” summarizes the Financial Times.

Things got so bad at Tesco stores in Greater Manchester—police were called to seven stores and three people were arrested—that the police posted a scolding video. “People need to take a long hard look at themselves and ask, what on earth was I doing?” says deputy chief constable Ian Hopkins.  

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But don’t let him ruin your fun. A selection of the best/worst videos below:

And just so you don’t think we’re picking on our friends across the pond, here are some highlights stateside:

Nov. 28 2014 9:14 AM

Ferguson Protesters Shift Tactics and Target Black Friday Sales

Out of the street and into the shopping mall. Protesters in and around Ferguson, Missouri—as well as in other cities across the country—moved forward with a plan to target Black Friday sales to express their anger at the grand jury’s decision to not indict the police officer who killed Michael Brown. The protests began in the St. Louis area overnight at a Target and numerous Wal-Mart stores and are set to continue throughout Friday.Protesters also converged outside the Macy's in New York hours after at least seven people were arrested for trying to disrupt the Thanksgiving Day parade.

The demonstrations appear to be similar for each store as dozens of protesters gather amid holiday shoppers to chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “shut it down,” among others, reports USA Today. Some tried to talk shoppers into dropping their carts. “Back away from the Wal-Mart, back away,” one group sang.

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The protesters have so far dispersed peacefully when ordered to do so by police, notes Reuters. At one Wal-Mart in Manchester, Missouri, officers warned protesters risked getting arrested if they failed to move at least 50 feet from the store’s entrance, according to a local Fox affiliate. They then proceeded to push them back. In Brentwood, a group of around 75 people began chanting inside the Brentwood Target at around 10:20 p.m. and demonstrated for around 15 minutes, according to KSDK. Ferguson itself was quiet for the second straight night on Thursday.

Nov. 27 2014 3:18 PM

Bill Cosby Gave Interview to National Enquirer in Exchange for Spiking Story

Bill Cosby agreed to sit down with the National Enquirer in 2005 in exchange for the tabloid promising not to publish an interview with a former model who said the comedian had assaulted her in the mid-1980s. Cosby acknowledged the move under oath in 2005, according to the New York Times, which cites previously sealed court documents. “I would give them an exclusive story, my words,” Cosby said in a deposition. In exchange, the Enquirer “would not print the story of—print Beth’s story,” the comedian allegedly added, referring to Beth Ferrier.

During the deposition, Cosby allegedly acknowledged that he feared another account of sexual abuse would give more credibility to the accusations by Andrea Constand, a Temple University staff member who alleged the comedian had drugged and molested her. The Times cites the back-and-forth:

“Did you ever think that if Beth Ferrier’s story was printed in The National Enquirer, that that would make the public believe that maybe Andrea was also telling the truth?” he was asked.
“Exactly,” he replied.
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Neither the Enquirer nor Cosby’s lawyers commented on the story.

Earlier this week, the New York Post’s Page Six claimed that Cosby leaked a story about his daughter’s battle with drug and alcohol addiction to the Enquirer in exchange for the tabloid killing a story about the comedian “swinging with Sammy Davis Jr. And some showgirls in Las Vegas.” The Post's Richard Johnson cited an unnamed former Enquirer reporter as his source for the claim.

Nov. 27 2014 1:17 PM

Oil Plunges to Four-Year Low After OPEC Refuses to Cut Output

Oil prices kept plunging Thursday after OPEC countries decided to keep production unchanged despite the more than 30 percent drop in crude prices since June. OPEC decided to hold on to its collective ceiling of 30 million barrels a day at a meeting of the oil-producing countries in Vienna that lasted more than five hours, reports Reuters. "Oil prices are now completely in the hands of the market," one analyst explained. The decision was not a surprise but seemed to be another demonstration that the “once-powerful cartel is losing the power to push up markets to its own advantage,” notes the Associated Press.

US crude price plunged to $68.2 a barrel and Brent crude dropped to $71.58 after the decision. Oil has been collapsing amid increased output from the United States and signs of weakening demand across the world. And the once all-powerful oil cartel seems unable to stop the slide amid hints that the oil-producing countries are now engaged in a price war. “Unable to come up with a strategy for handling these new developments, the cartel has decided not to intervene, evidently hoping that low prices will eventually curb production in the United States,” notes the New York Times

Nov. 27 2014 12:55 PM

NYPD Arrests Ferguson Protesters Trying to Disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Police in New York arrested a number of protesters on Thursday who were apparently part of a movement to disrupt the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in order to demonstrate against the failure to indict Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown. At least seven people were detained, according to the New York Post, which had warned in its front page today about a “plot against Snoopy.” The seven people who were arrested were apparently part of a group of people who overturned a trash can and tried to “run toward the floats,” according to WPIX-TV. “But an hour later, there was no sign of turmoil along the parade route,” notes the New York Daily News.

Anywhere from 50 to 100 protesters gathered early Thursday morning to protest and police accompanied them as they walked from 42nd street to 37th street. That is when a group apparently tried to break from the designated protest route to disrupt the ongoing parade. The group was part of a movement that used the hashtag #StoptheParade to organize on Twitter. In addition to Michael Brown, protesters, some of whom carried signs reading “black lives matter,” also remembered Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after he was put in a chokehold by a police officer.  

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As Mashable notes, you would never guess there had been any trouble with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the NBC live broadcast of the event.

Nov. 27 2014 11:59 AM

Darren Wilson’s Actions After Shooting Michael Brown: “Totally Unorthodox and Unusual”

Darren Wilson failed to follow what is considered to be standard protocol after a shooting. And he was hardly the only one. The transcripts from grand jury testimony make evident that police carried out numerous actions that experts say are highly unusual. First of all, Wilson drove himself back to the police station, put his own gun into evidence and quickly washed blood off his hands without anyone photographing them first, reports the Washington Post. Apparently “there was no photographer available” and Wilson seemed to be more concerned with getting someone else’s blood off his body than preserving evidence. “His concern was not of evidence, but as a biohazard or what possible blood hazards it might attract,” said an FBI agent.

A former Florida police chief tells the Post that Wilson’s actions, particularly handling his own weapon and washing his hands, were “totally unorthodox and unusual” adding that “this would be considered very out of line—very, very bad from an investigative perspective.”

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Others also moved forward in a way that several experts described as unusual. The officers who interviewed Wilson after the shooting did not record the conversation, for example. And the medical examiner did not take photographs—because his camera’s battery was dead—nor measurements at the scene of the crime—because what had happened was “self-explanatory.”

Although Wilson insisted earlier this week there was nothing he could have done differently, the New York Times talks to several experts who say the officer had several opportunities to take a step back and de-escalate the confrontation. But still, several also agree that when Brown allegedly grabbed Wilson’s gun it may have been difficult for the officer to stand down. “If someone is trying to disarm a police officer or grab their weapon, that’s a felony,” a former Baltimore police officer said. “If someone grabs your weapon, as a cop you’re not thinking they are going to scare you with it. In my mind, every time someone tried to grab my gun in the street, they were going to try to kill me. That encounter changes everything.”

Nov. 27 2014 10:16 AM

A List of Hillary Clinton’s Demands to Accept $300,000 for a University Speech

The Washington Post used a Freedom of Information Act request to get an inside look at just what it takes to get Hillary Clinton to come speak at your university. First of all, there’s the matter of cash: a cool $300,000, which is apparently the “special university rate.” That is the answer UCLA received when it asked whether the public university could get some sort of discount. Undeterred by the price tag, the university moved forward with booking the former secretary of state. Yet the cash was hardly all the university had to put forward as booking the presidential hopeful involved a string of requests that kept organizers busy until she delivered he Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership speech on March 5, 2014.

The university had decided to award the former secretary of state the UCLA medal. But in a clear example of how carefully Clinton’s people stage-manage her appearances, they asked that the medal be presented in a box rather than draped around her neck. Other demands included:

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  • On the stage: lemon wedges, room temperature water, a carafe of warm/hot water, coffee cup and saucer
  • A computer, mouse, printer and scanner
  • Spread of hummus
  • Chairs with two long, rectangular pillows and two cushions to be kept backstage in case the former secretary of state “needed additional back support”
  • A teleprompter and “2-3 downstage scrolling monitors”
  • A special podium (her team rejected the podium that had been set up for her use)
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Room-temperature sparkling and still water
  • Diet ginger ale
  • Crudité
  • Sliced fruit
  • Approval for any promotional materials
  • Recording is permitted “for archival purposes” and only a two-minute highlight video can be uploaded to YouTube
  • “Prestaged” group photos so that Clinton doesn’t have to wait “for these folks to get their act together.” The former secretary of state “doesn’t like to stand around waiting for people.”

A Clinton spokesman refused to comment on the demands.

Nov. 27 2014 9:15 AM

Protests in Ferguson Dwindle as More Than 150 Detained in California

Ferguson welcomed Thanksgiving with a strange sense of calm as the streets were mostly empty Wednesday night and Thursday morning following two days of unrest. Cold weather and snow appeared to have pushed protesters to stay at home as only two arrests were made in the area overnight, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After the huge protests of earlier in the week, only around 100 people, many of whom were media, gathered in Ferguson at around 8 p.m. Wednesday night. By midnight, only around 12 demonstrators and eight members of the media remained.

In California, however, it was a different story. Los Angeles police arrested at least 130 people Wednesday night after demonstrators ignored police orders to disperse, reports the Los Angeles Times. The police said a group of around 300 demonstrators had become unruly and were blocking traffic. Meanwhile, around 35 people were detained in Oakland as police took on more aggressive action against protesters who allegedly became disruptive and turned toward vandalism, causing damage to local businesses and private property for the third straight night, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. It wasn’t all violent in California though as around 300 protesters marched peacefully in San Diego, according to Reuters. “Ferguson, we’ve got your back,” they chanted.

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