Gun control in Chicago; crime up 38%

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/us/rate-of-killings-rises-38-percent-in-chicago-in-12.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Mr. Emanuel listed safer streets among his top three priorities when he became mayor a year ago, but Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, is now testing that promise. Homicides are up by 38 percent from a year ago, and shootings have increased as well, even as killings have held steady or dropped in New York, Los Angeles and some other cities. As of June 17, 240 people had been killed here this year, mostly in shootings, 66 more deaths than occurred in the same period in 2011.

“That’s somebody’s husband, somebody’s son, and they’re dying right on our block,” said Maya Hodari, who lives on a South Side street where two shootings have already taken place this year, one of them fatal and another as a toddler looked on. “It hurts.”

The violence has left its largest scars in some of Chicago’s most impoverished, struggling neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, places with views of the city’s gleaming downtown skyline that feel worlds apart. Wealthier, whiter parts of the city have not been entirely immune — shootings were reported in the last few days along the city’s Magnificent Mile shopping district and near the Lincoln Park Zoo — but a majority of the killings have been tied to Chicago’s increasingly complicated gang warfare, police statistics suggest, and to the gritty neighborhoods where gangs have long thrived.

There is no evidence of a broader crime wave; in fact, measures of crime apart from homicides, including rapes, robberies, burglaries and auto thefts, have actually improved by about 10 percent since a year ago.

“We’ve got a gang issue, specific to parts of the city, and we have a responsibility to bring a quality of life to those residents, and we are going to do it,” Mayor Emanuel, visibly vexed, said in an interview on Friday.

“My bigger issue is not only the homicides and shootings,” he added. “It’s what it does to all the legitimate citizens in that community and the kids.”

Gangs in this city have changed over the decades, splintering from a small set of well-established bands into hundreds of tinier groups with alliances so disparate and shifting that even a former Gangster Disciple member from the West Side, who refused to be named but revealed bullet scars during an interview as proof of his rougher days, said he could not begin to keep them all straight. In just the last two years, the police say, 500 monitored gang factions have fractured into more than 600, many of them with stunningly ready access to guns.

In one neighborhood last week, plainclothes officers searched parking lots and old addresses for 30 suspects as part of Superintendent McCarthy’s larger race to dismantle drug and gang operations. At one point, they said, they found themselves staring at a gun aimed at them by a man who was not even on the list of suspects they were searching for. Moments later, the gun lay shining on the ground, an officer’s shot left a bullet hole in a nearby car, and the man, 21, was added to the list of those arrested in the sweep — all before 11 a.m.

As in most of the nation’s big cities, killings have dropped precipitously in Chicago since the 1990s, as the police tried new approaches and crack cocaine faded. In the early 1990s, more than 900 people were killed annually here, a number that has long since shrunk and hovered around the 400s.

Homicides are down so far this year in New York and in Los Angeles, a fact that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration in New York has pointed to in defense of that city’s controversial stop-and-frisk program. But Chicago is not alone among major cities dealing with more killings. In Philadelphia, for instance, 173 homicides were reported as of June 20, compared with 143 in the same period last year.

Experts on crime say it is too early to know how much to make of the rise in killings here, particularly since a significant number took place in the first three months of the year — an oddly warm stretch for a city accustomed to winter hibernation and an accompanying chill in crime.

Mr. Emanuel’s critics blame his budget choices, at least in part. He consolidated three police districts, combined the police and fire headquarters, and reduced police spending by $67 million — mostly, his aides say, by removing more than 1,300 department jobs that had long gone unfilled but were left in city budgets only to be held up as savings on paper. Police union leaders argue that Mr. Emanuel should instead have filled any empty slots, however long they had been empty, with additional officers, and assert that the city has also failed to fill hundreds of slots left by retiring officers in recent years.

“Every district in the city is running short on manpower,” said Pat Camden, a Fraternal Order of Police spokesman. “It’s penny-wise and dollar foolish.”

But Superintendent McCarthy, who was director of police in Newark and deputy commissioner of operations in New York before Mayor Emanuel brought him here, says that the department’s new philosophy — one that includes a sharp focus on statistics and on building a deep knowledge within neighborhoods — is now aimed squarely at the gang problem, and that cost savings were matters of improving the department’s effectiveness, not shrinking it.

Nearly 1,100 officers who had been in administrative jobs or in special units have been sent back into police districts to work in neighborhoods. “Audits” of gangs — including details about members, turf fights and old grudges — are being used to try to prevent retaliation shootings.

Top ten and creepy

Photo credit: Wesley Johnston

On August 15, 1998, a car bombing took place in Omagh, Northern Ireland. It was carried out by the Real IRA and resulted in the deaths of 29 people, while further injuring over 200. The bombing took place during “the Troubles,” an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted for over 30 years. The Omagh car bombing had the highest death toll of any incident during “the Troubles.”

The camera containing this picture was found buried beneath the rubble, boasting this snapshot of a quiet street moments before the impact of the bomb. One of the more poignant pictures published in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing, this image is now infamous. The serenity, the smiles, the unknown threat—it all makes for a truly harrowing image. One that inadvertently foreshadows a massacre, unbeknownst to the people in this snapshot frozen in time.

9The Final Moments Of Regina Kay Walters

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Photo credit: Crime Library

Regina Kay Walters was a 14-year-old girl from Pasadena, Texas, who was murdered by a notorious serial killer, Robert Ben Rhoades. One of three victims—although Rhoades claims to have killed more—Walters was the unfortunate exception in the way Rhoades toyed with her. Rhodes cut her hair, dressed her up, and took pictures of her in distress—the most saddening of which is the picture you see above.

Robert Ben Rhoades was captured in September 1992, but not before taking two more lives. He was sentenced to life without parole and remains imprisoned in Texas to this day.

The picture of this young girl in her final moments—dressed, altered, and stranded with a monster like Rhoades—is a difficult thing to look at. The forceful nature of the lens being pointed at Walters and the look of desperation on her face make this picture a hideous display in human torture—a cat playing with a mouse. An image that will forever mark the breaking of one man’s psyche.

8Reynaldo Dagsa Assassination

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Reynaldo Dagsa was a Filipino politician who was murdered by an armed assailant on New Year’s Day 2011. His murder gained worldwide notoriety due to the photograph he had taken of his family just seconds prior to the shooting, which captures the gunman aiming at Dagsa while his lookout stands guard.

As you can see in the picture above, Dagsa was snapping a shot of his wife, daughter, and another elderly female relative, when the shooter and his lookout appeared and were caught in the flash. The photograph was used as evidence by Dagsa’s wife, which lead to the almost-immediate arrest of both men, though it was believed that there was more to his death than what was originally perceived.

Although fascinating, this picture is a testament to the absolute absurdity of life: A man, only 35 years of age, at the very beginning of a new year, takes a picture of his loving family and simultaneously captures his own death in the lens? I guess it doesn’t matter who shot first.

7The Beas River Tragedy

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Photo credit: Daily Bhaskar

On June 8, 2014, 24 engineering students from Hyderabad, India, lost their lives on a college trip when a sudden surge of water was released upstream from the Larji Hydroelectric Power Project on the Beas River.

The students of VNRVJIET were on an educational tour in Himachal Pradesh, traveling from Shimla to Manali, when the bus stopped so that the students could take pictures on the banks of the Beas River. Without warning, the floodgates opened and a torrent of water took the group of 24 by surprise, sweeping them away in an instant—an incident caused by gross negligence on the part of the Larji Hydroelectric Power Project.

While this picture should have been just another fond memory from a tedious college trip on the phone of one young student, it has instead become a harrowing look at the final peaceful moments of a group of friends who have now lost their lives.

6‘DOOMED’

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Photo credit: Slant Magazine

The above picture—and the gaudy headline—used ever so eloquently by the New York Post (a paper generally not fit for cleaning one’s shoes), shows the final moments of Ki-Suk Han—a 58-year-old father and husband who was pushed in front of an oncoming train by Naeem Davis, a homeless man whom Han had argued with.

According to witnesses, Han may have initiated the exchange, drunkenly accosting Davis after leaving home intoxicated due to an argument with his wife. Although Naeem Davis blames his aggressive actions on multiple reasons—the voices in his head, drugs, and even a lost pair of boots (they were very nice boots)—he maintains that Han would not leave him alone, and that he acted accordingly upon being harassed. After originally pleading “not guilty,” Davis was later charged with second-degree murder after implicating himself in the investigation.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the death of Ki-Suk Han, this picture will forever remain a distressing look at the abrupt nature of death.

5The Public Suicide Of Budd Dwyer

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Photo credit: PennLive

Robert Budd Dwyer was a politician serving as a Republican member of the Pennsylvania State Senate for over 10 years. He later served as the Treasurer of Pennsylvania until the day of his death—January 22, 1987.

After being convicted of having accepted a bribe, Dwyer called a press conference where he was to announce his resignation. Upon being found guilty, Dwyer faced up to 55 years imprisonment and a hefty fine of $300,000—an unjust punishment in the eyes of Budd Dwyer, since, many years later, ex-attorney William T. Smith admitted to lying under oath when accusing Dwyer of bribery.

The press conference was broadcast live to television audiences across the state of Pennsylvania. After part of his original speech had been read out, Dwyer stopped reading from his prepared text and began to hand out envelopes to his staffers. From the final envelope, Dwyer then produced a gun and said, “Please leave the room if this will offend you.” As friends and fellow cabinet members from the audience pleaded, he spoke and stuttered under the weight of their words, quickly pulling the trigger before he could be stopped—dying in office.

If, for some odd reason, you wish to see the video of Budd Dwyer’s suicide on live TV, you can find it on Youtube.

4The Death Of Travis Alexander

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Photo credit: Examiner

You may have already seen this picture of 30-year-old Travis Alexander showering before being brutally murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Jodi Arias. It was widely distributed via news channels after the murder occurred. That cannot, however, take away from the impact the image has on the mind.

In 2008, friends found Travis Alexander dead in his home in Mesa, Arizona. He was found on the floor of his shower with 27 stab wounds, a slashed throat, and a gunshot wound to the head. Arias initially denied killing Alexander, stating that she believed he was murdered during a burglary, but she later changed her statement, saying that she killed Alexander in self-defense.

Jodi Arias is now in jail awaiting her sentencing trial, which will take place on September 8, 2014. You can view some of Arias’s original artwork here, if you’re into that sort of thing. Yet the chilling pictures of Travis Alexander in his final moments are not to be taken lightly and remain just as potent today as they ever were.

3James Bulger CCTV Image

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In February 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10 years old, murdered two-year-old James Bulger after kidnapping him from the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Liverpool. The details of this case were to send a shock wave of panic across England, forcing parents to question what their children were capable of and what they were exposed to. The infamous CCTV image of young James Bulger being led away by his killers would grace the news channels for months to come, and it would forever remain a haunting look at an infant in his last hours.

Venables and Thompson lured James Bulger away from his mother and walked with him, hand-in-hand, to a railway embankment 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) away from the shopping center. Along the way, the boys were stopped multiple times, being asked if they were lost, needed help, and also being urged to take their “younger brother”—who would not stop crying—home.

James was found two days after his death, tied to a railway line in Walton. His extremely horrific injuries were covered in the media and sparked outrage at the leniency of the court’s decision regarding the incident. Venables and Thompson remained in young offenders’ institutions for eight years, getting psychiatric help until the age of 18. They were released with new identities and subsequently given care and security by the government. Because the government is always looking out for the right people. Right?

2Mark Chapman Meets John Lennon

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

On the day that John Lennon died, the Earth stood still and mourned. In cities all over the world, distraught fans and music acolytes alike joined together and organized mass funerals in the name of one man. That was the kind of love that John Lennon aimed to inspire in people—a kind of musical kinship. Just one month prior to his death, John had released Double Fantasy—his long-awaited comeback album and his first solo effort in five years. This would be his final album.

On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon at the entrance of The Dakota (the building where Lennon lived) in New York City. The delusional Mark Chapman decided to target Lennon because of his fame—though he just edged out Johnny Carson and George C. Scott. “If he was less famous than three or four other people on the list, he would not have been shot,” Chapman told police.

It was merely hours after this picture was taken that John Lennon was killed. The quiet, unassuming fan waiting for his autograph in the image above is none other than Mark David Chapman. Along with being Lennon’s killer, he was, unfortunately, also the last person to be photographed with Lennon alive.

Life is a journey; death will always be rife among those wanting to travel further and change things for the better, but like John Lennon once said, “I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round.”

1Two Brothers On Vacation

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Photo credit: NBC News

In 1975, Michael and Sean McQuilken were just two smiling San Diego natives on a family vacation in California. Along with their sister, Mary, they posed for photographs with their hair raised, laughing at the strange situation, as others in the vicinity did the same. Moments after this picture was taken from atop Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, the boys were struck by lightning, seriously injuring but—contrary to popular belief—not killing them.

This image has been recycled countless times over the years, mostly as a public service announcement to bring attention to lightning safety. The picture of the happy, carefree faces of the two brothers morbidly hints at the life-threatening danger that is imminent—a danger that, astonishingly, causes 24,000 deaths per year worldwide.

For that reason, this picture is still just as shocking now as it ever was.

My name is Jacob Newell and I’m nothing much at the moment. I work a boring retail job and write a lot in my spare time. At work, I’m stationed atop of my high horse so that I can tell customers that they look silly in their new clothes, while simultaneously crying because I feel mediocre. I also like lists.

Worst Acting of all-time

Nicolas Cage in

Nicolas Cage in “Wicker Man”

There was a time when Nicolas Cage was a fine actor and made box-office hits. But as he fell from grace, so did his performances. The worst perhaps was in “Wicker Man” as he screamed not to give him the bees. His face contorting in pain as his bones get broken is perfect except when the bees arrived. Blame it on the dialogue, perhaps.

Taylor Lautner in

Taylor Lautner in “Abduction”

Taylor Lautner was perfect as the brooding Jacob in “Twilight.” However, he carried this same characterization in “Abduction” which was not effective or funny at all. The only redeeming factor for his bad acting was flashing his six-pack abs throughout the movie.

Jennifer Lopez in

Jennifer Lopez in “Gigli”

“Gigli” starred “Bennifer,” which was Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez at that time. For this flop of a movie, you cannot just blame Jennifer Lopez, but Ben Affleck as well because of their lack of on-screen chemistry. However, Lopez’s acting made it even worse.

DID YOU KNOW?

If the Academy Awards honor the best, the worst take home the Razzies. And when it comes to bad acting, Sylvester Stallone holds the record for getting four Razzies in the “Worst Actor” category.

Mark Wahlberg in

Mark Wahlberg in “The Happening”

Mark Wahlberg has successfully transitioned himself into one of better actors in Hollywood. However, he gave a stilted performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” as he tried to lead people away from the killer wind. Maybe it’s the unbelievable premise of killer wind that caused Marky Mark to give a poor acting performance. Maybe he was wondering how he could outrun the wind.

Sofia Coppola in

Sofia Coppola in “The Godfather Part III”

When you are Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, it is not a surprise to land great roles. And when Winona Ryder couldn’t play Mary Corleone because she was ill, the role went to Sofia Coppola. This was a bad move because it was some of the worst acting in the film. She could not do justice to the role as she looked like she was sleepwalking rather than acting.

John Travolta in

John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth”

John Travolta was smoldering as Danny in “Grease” and lovable in drag as Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray.” But cast as an alien in dreadlocks and boots in “Battlefield Earth,” he was simply detestable. And that’s not to describe his costume or make-up, but instead, his acting, which was even worse as they paired him with Forest Whitaker as another alien.

Keanu Reeves in

Keanu Reeves in “Dracula”

Like John Travolta, Keanu Reeves was the epitome of cool as Neo in “The Matrix.” However, when you watch him as Jonathan Harker, you can’t help but notice the annoying, phony British accent. Add to that his delivery of the lines where he looked painfully constipated. The producers should have hired Sir Ian McKellen to dub the voice and make the accent more credible.

Hayden Christensen in

Hayden Christensen in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”

George Lucas decided to make the prequel for his Star Wars franchise, which fans had been awaiting anxiously. He finally revealed who Anakin Skywalker is and the story behind one of the most menacing villains in movies. His mistake, though, was casting Hayden Christensen, whose wooden acting cannot bring out the pain and darkness in Anakin as he slowly slides towards the dark side.

Britney Spears in

Britney Spears in “Crossroads”

“Crossroads” was Britney Spears’ acting debut about a brainy girl who became a pop star. Britney Spears could have fared well except that her co-stars were much better actors, exposing her lack of acting skill. Thankfully, she made it up with her two rousing song numbers in the movie. The verdict: Britney Spears will fare better as a pop star than an actress.

Denise Richards in

Denise Richards in “The World is Not Enough”

Denise Richards is perfect for the role as a Bond girl because, as expected, all Bond girls are hot and sexy. However, casting her as the brainy scientist Christmas Jones who donned sexy outfits did not work well according to moviegoers. The fact is, she’s not really believable as a scientist.