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My past two posts have discussed Big Data:

A Google Anon explains social media bots (March 19, 2018)

The alarming world of Big Data (March 20)

Today’s post looks at Big Data’s role in crime solving. Police in Raleigh, North Carolina, sometimes use Google data to investigate crimes. They are not the only law enforcement agency to do so. Austin, Texas police were able to obtain information from Google in order to trap the 24-year-old man who was sending incendiary devices around the city.

On March 15, 2018, Raleigh’s WRAL.com posted an article about the subject. Google has received an increase in law enforcement requests for the Silicon Valley giant’s data (emphases mine):

Google’s most recent transparency report shows that there were about 5,200 search warrants requesting user information in the U.S. in the first half of 2017, an all-time high. User information requested through subpoenas and other court orders accounted for more than twice that number. The company produced at least some data in response to requests in the first of half of 2017 about 81 percent of the time.

The article says that it is unclear whether Google data actually helped Raleigh police in four criminal cases:

Google declined to say whether it released data in any of the Raleigh cases, and it’s unclear from the search warrants exactly what information was seized or whether it’s been effective in moving the investigations forward.

Of the four cases, only one has resulted in an arrest.

Tyron D. Cooper was charged Oct. 13 with the murder of [Nwabu] Efobi, the taxi driver gunned down in east Raleigh. But the related search warrant shows data wasn’t received from Google until months later.

Cooper’s attorney, Christian Dysart, declined to comment on the case.

Two issues are at play here. The first is the amount of data people inadvertently give Google via their accounts and GPS. The second surrounds the manner in which the data are requested.

On the first issue, Google makes money by selling location data, which are:

immensely valuable to Google, one of the reasons the company collects and stores the information on users of both its Android operating system and, in some cases, mobile apps such as Gmail.

Most people with Google accounts probably do not realise how much they are telling the company — and others — about themselves:

From an average smartphone user’s perspective, it’s a little surprising once you start to learn the full scope of information about our locations and whereabouts and activities that companies like Google hold,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

People are mistaken if they think that turning their devices off turns off the tracking:

Users can switch location tracking off to prevent the device from pinging GPS satellites. But if it’s on a cellular network or connected to Wi-Fi, the device is still transmitting its coordinates to third parties, even if they’re far less accurate than GPS.

In the past, at least, turning off that technology has been no guarantee of privacy.

Business and technology news site Quartz discovered late last year that Google continued to track devices even when all GPS, Wi-Fi and cell networks were supposedly disabled. The tech giant says it has updated its software to stop the practice.

For its part, law enforcement makes frequent use of cellular network data to build cases.

That’s not so bad, we think. After all, they’re only catching criminals, not ordinary people. However, last year in Raleigh, police created a digital cordon around certain serious crime scenes:

On a satellite image, they drew shapes around the crime scenes, marking the coordinates on the map. Then they convinced a Wake County judge they had enough probable cause to order Google to hand over account identifiers on every single cell phone that crossed the digital cordon during certain times.

In at least four investigations last year – cases of murder, sexual battery and even possible arson at the massive downtown fire in March 2017 – Raleigh police used search warrants to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime, according to a WRAL News review of court records. These warrants often prevent the technology giant for months from disclosing information about the searches not just to potential suspects, but to any users swept up in the search.

These can be quite large areas:

The demands Raleigh police issued for Google data described a 17-acre area that included both homes and businesses. In the Efobi homicide case, the cordon included dozens of units in the Washington Terrace complex near St. Augustine’s University.

The account IDs aren’t limited to electronics running Android. The warrant includes any device running location-enabled Google apps, according to Raleigh Police Department spokeswoman Laura Hourigan.

“At the end of the day, this tactic unavoidably risks getting information about totally innocent people,” Wessler said. “Location information is really revealing and private about people’s habits and activities and what they’re doing.”

This appears to be a legal method, as it concerns public safety:

Hourigan said Raleigh police investigators use these search warrants on a case-by-case basis and consider Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

“This technique is used in extraordinary circumstances because the department is aware of the privacy issues that the tactic raises,” she said in an email March 9.

According to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, police are following best practice by:

targeting narrow areas and specific time windows. She points out that data investigators receive from Google contain only anonymized account numbers without any content included.

We’re not getting text messages or emails or phone calls without having to go through a different process and having additional information that might lead us to a specific individual,” Freeman said.

On the other hand:

After five years as a Wake County prosecutor, Raleigh defense attorney Steven Saad said he’s familiar with police demands for Google account data or cell tower records on a named suspect. But these area-based search warrants were new to him.

This is almost the opposite technique, where they get a search warrant in the hopes of finding somebody later to follow or investigate,” Saad said. “It’s really hard to say that complies with most of the search warrant or probable cause rules that we’ve got around the country.”

And:

[Jonathan] Jones, the Elon professor and former Durham prosecutor, expressed similar concerns after reviewing the warrants. In particular, the fire and sexual battery cases didn’t present evidence that the arsonist or the attacker had a cell phone, he said.

“In those cases, the evidence provided to establish probable cause seems very thin to me,” Jones said. “These amount to fishing expeditions that could potentially snare anyone in the vicinity with a cell phone, whether they were involved in the crime or not.”

In conclusion, perhaps we need to be more aware of the information we’re giving out every day and how it could be used:

Most modern phones, tablets and laptops have built-in location tracking that pings some combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile networks to determine the device’s position.

This is no doubt only the tip of the Big Data iceberg. We would probably be shocked if we knew the full story.

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Two new developments have emerged with regard the Parkland, Florida school shooting on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

We have a new police audio and a report about Nikolas Cruz’s past mental state.

New sheriff’s department audio

On March 8, the Miami Herald released an audio from the Broward County Sheriff’s despatch office. The recently retired — previously suspended — Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson can be heard:

“Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away,” a panicked Peterson shouted as people screamed in the background.

This is important information (emphases mine):

The records appear to support Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s contention that Peterson, a longtime school resource officer, should have entered Building 12 to engage Cruz and try to prevent deaths. They also appear to show that other deputies may have refrained from rushing into the school at the direction of Peterson and a Parkland captain. The response by the agency has been the subject of national scrutiny, and is currently under review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Jeff Bell, the president of BSO’s police union, welcomed the release of the audio and timeline.

“It certainly backs up that he never went into the school,” Bell said of Peterson. “At one point he says to keep back 500 feet. Why would he say that?

The article has more on the police timeline.

Former New York City policeman and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino appeared on Fox News to discuss the audio. BPR has a report of what he told Fox’s Sandra Smith:

“Well, Sandra, after Columbine, the entire training to active shooter response incidents was overhauled,” Bongino said. “The idea of a perimeter and a hostage negotiation went out the window. After Columbine, all the training methods were to respond immediately to the problem.”

Having said that, there are multiple systems out there,” he continued. “The alert system is one of them. There are a number of systems, some of them respond to the problem by yourself. Some teach respond as a team and in tandem.”

“Let me be clear on this,” he said. “None of these systems used now in this post-Columbine era teach set up a perimeter and stay 500 feet away from the building. None. None that I know of. You know, email me if you see otherwise. I have never heard of anything like this. It is a puzzling, puzzling piece of audio that 911 call.”

Nikolas Cruz’s high school therapy files

On March 9, the Miami Herald published a detailed article about Nikolas Cruz’s therapy files:

Nearly four years before school shooter Nikolas Cruz gunned down 17 students and educators at a Parkland high school, he confided in a therapist that he saw himself in a dream drenched in human blood.

A May 3, 2014, notation in a Broward County schools psychiatric file said Cruz “reported [a dream] last week of him killing people and covered in blood. He smiled and told the therapist that sometimes he says things for shock value.”

After Cruz’s disclosure to his therapist at the alternative Cross Creek School, administrators developed a “safety plan” to ensure the welfare of Cruz and others while the teen was on summer vacation. The plan included provisions for removing “all sharp objects from the home” and encouraging the youth to “verbalize what the problem is.”

That year, his mother Lynda, who died in November 2017, and school officials were concerned about Cruz’s interest in owning a gun:

At the time, Lynda Cruz was considering buying the teen a pellet gun for his birthday. A different therapist who appears to have visited the family at their home suggested the mom develop a “plan” in which the youth would be allowed to buy a gun if he was able to “earn it” with good behavior. There was “a plan in place at home in order to control his use of the pellet gun.”

Cruz’s school therapist, however, expressed reservations. “Parent was advised against getting him a gun (pellet) or classes for his birthday,” the September notation said. “Parent advised to restrict access to any weapon.”

The therapy files also underscore Cruz’s strong desire to be sent to a regular high school. He frequently discussed transferring with his therapist but also expressed anxiety about getting mainstreamed.

In some sessions, the therapist described Cruz as “receptive” or noted that he’d had “positive” behavior at school. The therapist role-played with Cruz to teach him how to interact with his peers and avoid conflict. But following other sessions, the therapist noted troubling behavior at school and at home.

Cruz once described his ‘perfect summer’:

Under the heading “What my perfect summer would be,” Cruz wrote about “buying some type of gun and shooting at targets that I set up with large amounts of ammo just for fun for hours,” stopping only when he got bored or ran out of ammunition. Cruz said he also wanted to get a job and make money “so I can get things that I want for myself [instead] of come to this time wasting school that support stuped [sic] selfish children that I don’t care about and gets in the way of my chances of leaving this place.”

Cruz also wrote about his loneliness. “I will never be happy with my life I have no money or [sic] freinds,” he wrote. He complained about his “annoying mother who won’t leave me alone.”

He was also extremely violent at home:

In preparation for a summer 2014 recess, Cruz’s school therapist and psychiatrist jointly wrote a letter to another one of the teen’s psychiatrists articulating a host of serious concerns. “At home, he continues to be aggressive and destructive with minimal provocation,” the letter said. “For instance, he destroyed his television after losing a video game that he was playing. Nikolas has a hatchet that he uses to chop up a dead tree in his backyard. Mom has not been able to locate that hatchet as of lately.”

When upset he punches holes in the walls and has used sharp tools to cut up the upholstery on the furniture and carve holes in the walls of the bathroom,” the letter added.

The article says that Cruz has withdrawn a not-guilty plea in order to receive a sentence of life in prison. Unless a plea bargain can be worked out:

Cruz, who was ordered held without bond Friday on the additional attempted murder counts, now faces the death penalty.

He was never going to turn out well. What can be done with youngsters like this?

What has been evolving out of the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Florida, beggars belief.

I wasn’t even going to write about it, but decided to do so once people began clamouring for gun control and ignoring mental health issues, including the effect that SSRIs can have on the mind. I followed up with another post on the media attention certain young people received.

Before I discuss two more contributing factors — lack of two-parent households as well as school and law enforcement policies for young people — let us look at the latest headlines in the aftermath of the shooting.

Latest curiosities

CNN held a town hall broadcast with Florida senators Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D) about gun control. A student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the scene of the crime, was in attendance and already had a question prepared. He claimed that CNN gave him a scripted question.

From Real Clear Politics (emphases mine):

Colton Haab said he was approached by CNN to ask a question at Wednesday night’s town hall but decided not to after the network gave him a “scripted question,” quashing one he wrote himself. Haab, a member of the Junior ROTC, shielded students while the school was under attack from the shooter, said he was going to ask about using veterans as armed security guards …

CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted,” Haab told WPLG-TV …

“I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions,” Haab said.

“Colton Haab, a member of the Junior ROTC who shielded classmates in the midst of terror says he did not get to share his experience,” WPLG’s Janine Stanwood explained.

Colton wrote questions about school safety, suggested using veterans as armed school security guards but claims CNN wanted him to ask a scripted question instead so he decided not to go,” Stanwood reported.

CNN responded:

CNN did not, and does not, script any questions for town hall meetings, ever.

Really? One wonders.

On Wednesday, February 21, Alex Jones interviewed a student at the school who Snopes says is not enrolled there. Infowars has an article, a video and the student’s school schedule (emphasis in the original):

Managing editor of left-leaning publication Snopes Brook Binkowski attempted to discredit a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student in a now-deleted tweet for calling in on The Alex Jones Show the day after the shooting took place.

However, records reveal the student, Jalen Martin, does in fact attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.

Here is the video. Jalen’s interview is the first part. He says there had been a fire drill in the morning, then, in the afternoon, they heard the alarm again. Everyone evacuated the building and Jalen says people were talking about whether it was a code black (bomb) or code red (active shooter). One of Jalen’s classmates left his phone behind, so Jalen lent him his. The boy rang his mother to say that there was a shooter. A teacher overheard and told him, ‘Don’t say that!’ The teacher confiscated the phone and looked as if he were about to break it. Jalen stepped in to say, ‘That’s my phone’:

Jalen also told Jones that there was a visit from the Secret Service four weeks prior to the shooting to train teachers in defence. That was also reported after the shooting took place.

Why would the Secret Service do that sort of training, impose protocols and regular drills? That is not part of their function.

Jalen said that the students were not allowed to leave — or call anyone to let them know what was happening — until later. Law enforcement showed up within just a few minutes. He also confirmed multiple shooters.

In short, the official story line does not add up.

In another development, the mother of one of the young media stars has connections at CNN. Big League Politics explains (emphases mine):

“Great VIP tour,” said a post by Rebecca Boldrick showing a series of photos taken in 2016 at CNN world headquarters.

One photo shows her children sitting at an anchor’s desk.

Boldrick is the mother of David Hogg, who has gained internet fame for his activism in the days since the shooting

Hogg and his merry band of anti-gun crusaders have been paraded around by nearly every cable news network in America.

Apparently, activism runs in the family. A series of Facebook posts show that Boldrick is an avowed Democrat and anti-Trumper

“I can’t sit by and do nothing with what is going on currently in the USA,” says one of Boldrick’s posts. “If you like what Trump is currently doing please unfriendly [sic] or block me because you won’t like what I am going to begin posting.”

The article concludes:

Is this organic, grassroots teen activism in the wake of a horrible tragedy, or are these children being exploited in an orchestrated effort to serve the political interests of adults?

There seems to be something very selective about these calls for gun control. Why aren’t the same people outraged about MS-13? FrontPageMag has an excellent article on the subject. Daniel Greenfield, the author, points out:

The media can’t be bothered to talk about their victims because it’s politically inconvenient. Many of the perps are illegal aliens or undocumented beheaders. The victims aren’t people they could envision as their kids. And reporting on MS-13’s crimes endangers their push for illegal alien amnesty. It also shines a harsh light on the policies of Obama Inc.

But while CNN won’t have that town hall, conservatives should. Imagine President Trump hearing more from the Latino parents of MS-13 victims. The media would have to grit its teeth and cover the story.

Failures of law enforcement and mental health treatment

A school administrator from Florida tweeted to ask questions about the shooting. It’s a long thread and well worth reading. Excerpts follow:

As for the aforementioned son of a retired FBI agent (father) and anti-Trump activist (mother):

It is weird that part of the school building will now be demolished. Has forensic evidence been collected? Sound familiar? Think Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut:

His conclusion:

I for one am SICK TO DEATH of fake news outlets pretending this is about a rifle- its not. Its about a mentally ill person, totally abandoned and discarded and politically expediently ignored, by multiple agencies allowed to commit inhumane acts of terror due to incompetence. END

Local school board policies and law enforcement failing troubled teens

Here are some answers for Mr Bouchell.

The Conservative Treehouse has an illuminating post about how Broward County — where Parkland is located — and Miami-Dade County (immediately to the south) enacted policies whereby students could not be arrested. Please take the time to read the post in full. Two excerpts follow:

In 2012 and 2013 while doing research into the Trayvon Martin shooting we discovered an alarming set of school policies being enacted in Miami-Dade and Broward County Florida.  The policies were called “diversionary programs” and were essentially about stopping High School students from being arrested. Law enforcement was instructed to avoid arrests and defer criminal conduct to school administrators.

Students who engaged in violence, drug sales, robberies, burglaries, theft and other various crimes were intentionally kept out of the criminal justice system.  County administrators and School Superintendents told local and county law enforcement officers to stop arresting students

Unfortunately, the school board mandated policies came into conflict with law and order. The problem of the conflicted policy -vs- legality worsened over time as the police excused much more than misdemeanor crimes.  Over time this culminated in police officers falsifying documents, hiding criminal activity, lying on official police reports and even hiding stolen merchandise police retrieved from high school students.

Imagine what happens after an extended period of time? A mass shooting that could have been prevented if a twisted school/law enforcement policy had not been in place. Given that police visited Nikolas Cruz’s home at the request of his mother 39 times, had the system been left alone, he never would have been allowed to handle firearms. He probably would have had better mental health care, too.

Fatherlessness a huge issue

On February 17, Susan L M Goldberg wrote an excellent article for PJ Media about the effect the lack of a father has on young men. Excerpts follow:

Now that the gun control advocates have had their fifteen minutes of fame, let’s start focusing on the real issues impacting the rise in school shootings since that infamous day in Columbine in 1999. Issue number one that no one in the mainstream media or government wants to acknowledge: fatherlessness. Specifically, the impact of fatherlessness on the boys who grew up to become school shooters.

Nikolas Cruz was adopted. His adoptive father died when he was a boy. His mother, who was in her 60s when she died in November 2017, could not control him, hence the police visits.

Goldberg provides various statistics on the damage the absence of a father has on young men:

As Terry Brennan, co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, notes:

72 percent of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers; the same for 60 percent of all rapists.

70 percent of juveniles in state institutions grew up in single- or no-parent situations

The number of single-parent households is a good predictor of violent crime in a community, while poverty rate is not.

This is a dangerous situation for society — not just in the US but elsewhere in the West. We are deceiving ourselves when we argue against guns:

Instead of spending so much as fifteen minutes on fatherlessness we are forced to endure the same salacious headlines, the same provocative tweets, the same tired old memes about the evils of guns as if somehow a cold piece of metal convinced yet another boy to become a mass-murderer. We ignore the lack of adequate mental health services, the failure of law enforcement to effectively intercede, and the sickening impact fatherlessness has on each one of these tragic cases. Why? Because it is easier to ban a hunk of metal than it is to right systemic cultural wrongs.

She rightly concludes:

What is the primary way to attack a boy’s masculinity? Strip him of his primary male role model: his father. Over the past 50 years, we have taught women to embrace single motherhood and to cut fathers out of their children’s lives through divorce. Now, thanks to the gun control echo-chamber, it will probably take another 50 years to right the wrongs we’ve done to our fathers and our boys.

I couldn’t agree more.

Conclusion

Single-parent homes are not serving society well. In Cruz’s case, one can understand that his mother might not have wanted to remarry. Perhaps her husband was the love of her life. However, it would have been good for her to get male role models for her sons in the form of a family friend or a relative.

School boards are failing troubled teens by asking law enforcement to compromise proper procedures.

Law enforcement officers are failing troubled teens by enabling bad behaviour in accordance with school board policies.

More gun control is a bad idea. Europe is largely a gun free zone outside of police and criminals. Many European cities — e.g. Marseille — have turned into violent dumps where shoot-outs occur with alarming regularity. Criminals have no problems getting firearms.

All of these factors make a heady brew for a mass shooting.

Acrylic paint has several advantages, among them ease of use and quick drying time.

Unfortunately, it isn’t very good for subtle tones. As a result, the finished canvas often looks sophomoric.

However, for high school art classes, acrylic’s advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Art

I’ve only ever seen two acrylic paintings that were any good. Both were by an amateur artist who exhibited them at an art fair in our area last year.

The artist did well to paint on small canvases which allowed her to use the medium to its best advantage: achieving fine detail.

That sounds contradictory, however, this lady’s paintings — one of a field of poppies, the other of daisies — were marvellous. She must have spent a lot of time on them, because all the leaves of grass were visible and natural, as were the dozens of flower petals. Both were pleasing to the eye and a joy to look at.

It was clear the artist understood and had perfected her brush strokes with the medium.

By contrast, I had a friend many years ago who painted large canvases with acrylic and achieved mediocre results for the most part. He was unable to properly blend one colour into another. That happens to most big-canvas acrylic artists who try to paint portraits or street scenes. Acrylic is best left for the abstract which requires dramatic colour and broad brush strokes.

An example of an acrylic painting follows. Subject matter aside, the brush strokes need work, a common mistake. Art teachers really need to teach students more about brush control, particularly according to paint medium.

The Cannon Tunnel, which connects the Cannon House Office Building to the Capitol Building in Washington DC, is home to an exhibit of artwork by American high school students, winners of the Congressional Art competition. The artwork changes every year.

This photo shows part of the current selection, which, as you can see, is of high quality. I particularly like the masterful detail in the painting of the pair of shoes in the lower left hand corner.

The other painting which is striking is the black Liberty in the upper right hand corner. That student understands brush control, texture and subtlety.

There is a noticeable gap on the wall. An acrylic painting hung there, but a Republican congressman removed it for its subject matter. The amateurish acrylic brush strokes are a greater reason why it should not be there. Bill Clark of CQ Roll Call took this photo of Untitled #1:

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 5: A controversial painting by Missouri student David Pulphus depicting police as animals hangs in the tunnel connecting the U.S. Capitol to the Cannon House Office building as part of the annual student art exhibit on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. The painting was selected as the 2016 Congressional Art Competition winner from Rep. William Lacy Clay's district in the St. Louis area. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The depiction of Ferguson, Missouri, comes so close. The technique holds it back.

Roll Call reports:

California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter has removed from display in the Cannon tunnel the controversial student art contest painting of police-community relations in Ferguson, Missouri, that depicts police officers as animals.

A Huffington Post reporter first tweeted a photograph of the empty space and said that Hunter removed it.

Hunter took it upon himself to take down the painting, Washington Republican Rep. Dave Reichert’s office later confirmed. It was sponsored by Missouri Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, who had defended it.

Reichert, who spent 33 years in law enforcement, had criticized the artwork earlier, and gave Hunter a phone call on Friday after finding out about the removal.

Fox News tells us that the Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement which read in part:

“The rehanging of this painting for public view represents more than just protecting the rights of a student artist, it is a proud statement in defense of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression to every American,” the statement said, noting it had been “removed without permission or proper authority” by Hunter. 

Hunter, R-Calif., personally unscrewed and removed the painting last Friday, saying he was angered by its depiction of law enforcement officers. He then delivered the painting to Clay’s office. 

“Lacy can put it back up, I guess, if he wants to,” Hunter told FoxNews.com at the time, “but I’m allowed to take it down.” 

The painting, hanging since June, was done by high school student David Pulphus, who had won Clay’s annual Congressional Art competition. 

However:

After the piece was removed Friday, Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement they were “very pleased.”

He said: “At a time of our country facing rising crime and a shortage of those willing to work the streets as police officers and deputy sheriffs, we need to make it clear that depictions of law enforcement officers as pigs in our Nation’s Capital is not acceptable.”

One could make a case for both points of view.

However, looking at the other Congressional Art winners on the wall, it does seem as if the painting was chosen for its subject matter rather than its artistry.

Art teachers should spend the first few lessons teaching brush technique. A small canvas will help students greatly in developing the patience — and art — of working with acrylics. Instead, I suspect, they teach colour mixing, perspective and get the students to begin expressing themselves boldly straightaway.

I arrived at this conclusion after attending an evening a few years ago with the since-deceased London Evening Standard art critic Brian Sewell who studied at the Courtauld. He told us that a university art student sought his advice about improving his painting. Sewell advised the student to buy finer brushes — the type used to achieve detail on feathers and fur — and really practice with them before committing to a working canvas. Sewell lamented the lack of today’s training even at Britain’s best art schools. The brushes are on sale, he said, but teachers ignore them, consequently, students are unaware of them. The instructors, he concluded, are not interested in teaching fine art.

Reality

Moving on to Untitled #1‘s subject matter, it is surprising that, after two terms — eight years — of the nation’s first black president at the helm, America has such a racially divisive atmosphere, the likes of which have not been seen since the late 1960s when civil rights laws were just coming into existence.

Sadly, Obama never visited Ferguson. Instead, he sent Attorney General Eric Holder. However, the situation was so violent by then that the president should have made the journey himself. He missed a great opportunity to converse with the residents in person. He could have appealed for calm by giving them more facts behind the events, excerpted below:

Michael Brown robbed a Ferguson, Missouri, convenience store of two handfuls of cigarillos just minutes before Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him on Aug. 9, according to his friend Dorian Johnson’s testimony before a St. Louis County grand jury. Wilson testified Brown’s possession of the cigarillos was the impetus behind the encounter that ultimately led to his death.

Wilson avoided indictment on criminal charges Monday after the grand jury decided there was a lack of probable cause to suggest that he committed a crime. The decision generated widespread outrage, particularly in Ferguson, where police used tear gas to subdue crowds that started fires and destroyed property.

In the days and months after Brown’s death, the convenience store robbery was considered a major factor in determining his and Wilson’s motives during their fatal encounter …

Johnson testified he had planned to pay for the cigarillos, but Brown reached over the counter and grabbed them. Brown walked toward the door and the store clerk rushed around the counter to prevent his exit. He shoved the clerk and left the store. As they walked out, the clerk said he would call the police …

But as Johnson and Brown walked down the middle of Canfield Drive, they encountered Wilson’s police cruiser. Wilson testified he told the pair to move to the sidewalk, prompting a vulgar response from Brown. “It was a very unusual and not expected response from a simple request,” Wilson told the grand jury …

Johnson testified Wilson initiated physical contact, that he never saw Brown throw a punch and that Brown was outside the police cruiser when Wilson shot him.

Wilson testified he acted in self-defense after Brown punched him and attempted to grab his gun. During the struggle for the gun, he said, Brown “had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

Obama could have also explained that the average citizen looks at each police incident as an isolated event. By contrast, law enforcement officers see things differently. They encounter criminals or strange situations all the time. It’s what they do. They are trained professionals.

A 2015 US Department of Justice report agreed with Wilson’s actions (p. 84 of the PDF). The quotation below explains how difficult it is to fully judge a situation when seconds could mean life or death (emphasis mine):

While Brown did not use a gun on Wilson at the SUV, his aggressive actions would have given Wilson reason to at least question whether he might be armed, as would his subsequent forward advance and reach toward his waistband. This is especially so in light of the rapidly-evolving nature of the incident. Wilson did not have time to determine whether Brown had a gun and was not required to risk being shot himself in order to make a more definitive assessment.

For my readers who do not live in the United States, it is important to understand that American police shoot more white suspects than black. A 2016 study conducted at Harvard revealed the statistics. Emphases in the original below:

The study was conducted by the Harvard University economist Roland G. Fryer Jr., an African-American, who said it produced “the most surprising result of my career.” His team studied over 1,300 police shootings in 10 major police departments over the 2000-2015 span …

When encountering a suspect, police officers were about 16-19% more likely to use their hands on the suspect, push the person into a wall or to the ground, use handcuffs, and draw their weapons, if the suspect was black. They were also 24-25% more likely to point their weapons or use pepper spray or batons on a black suspect.

But when it came to shooting the suspects, police officers were more likely to fire without having first been attacked if the suspects were white. Additionally, the study learned that black and white civilians in the shootings were equally likely to be carrying a weapon.

And while zeroing in on the police department in Houston to get a more detailed picture, Mr. Fryer found that in situations of justifiable use of force, when, for instance, the officer is being attacked by the suspect, officers were 20% less likely to shoot at a black suspect. Accounting for other control factors in tense situations, Mr. Fryer saw similar results that there was either no difference between how blacks and whites were treated or that blacks were less likely to be shot.

Furthermore, police kill more whites and Hispanics than blacks. The Daily Wire has an equally interesting set of statistics from Heather MacDonald, the Thomas W Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original):

1. Cops killed nearly twice as many whites as blacks in 2015. According to data compiled by The Washington Post, 50 percent of the victims of fatal police shootings were white, while 26 percent were black. The majority of these victims had a gun or “were armed or otherwise threatening the officer with potentially lethal force,” according to Mac Donald in a speech at Hillsdale College.

2. More whites and Hispanics die from police homicides than blacks. According to Mac Donald, 12 percent of white and Hispanic homicide deaths were due to police officers, while only four percent of black homicide deaths were the result of police officers.

“If we’re going to have a ‘Lives Matter’ anti-police movement, it would be more appropriately named “White and Hispanic Lives Matter,'” said Mac Donald in her Hillsdale speech.

4. Black and Hispanic police officers are more likely to fire a gun at blacks than white officers. This is according to a Department of Justice report in 2015 about the Philadelphia Police Department, and is further confirmed that by a study conducted University of Pennsylvania criminologist Greg Ridgeway in 2015 that determined black cops were 3.3 times more likely to fire a gun than other cops at a crime scene. 

5. Blacks are more likely to kill cops than be killed by cops. This is according to FBI data, which also found that 40 percent of cop killers are black. According to Mac Donald, the police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black than a cop killing an unarmed black person.

MacDonald concluded that the ‘Ferguson Effect’ has resulted in a 17% murder spike in America’s 50 largest cities (emphases mine):

as a result of cops being more reluctant to police neighborhoods out of fear of being labeled as racists. Additionally, there have been over twice as many cops victimized by fatal shootings in the first three months of 2016.

It should also be noted that, contrary to 50 years ago, the United States has many more minority police officers. They get shot, too.

Master Sgt Debra Clayton lost her life on duty in Orlando on January 9, 2017. She had served 17 years as a law enforcement officer.

Clayton was one of the first responders to the Pulse shooting in June 2016. She was also a loving wife, a devoted mother and a caring neighbour. The photo below comes courtesy of the Orlando Police Department via the Orlando Sentinel:

OPD officer shot and killed; deputy dies in crash

The Sentinel reports that she:

was gunned down Monday morning near a Wal-Mart on John Young Parkway and Princeton Street in Pine Hills while confronting 41-year-old Markeith Loyd, who is wanted for murder.

Markeith Loyd is wanted for the fatal shooting on December 13, 2016 of his ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon:

“Markeith Loyd is a suspect this community is familiar with. He should be considered armed and dangerous. He is a suspect in the murder of a pregnant woman in the jurisdiction of the Orange County Sheriff Office,” [police chief John] Mina said.

Dixon’s brother, Ronald Steward, was also shot and critically injured when he tried to come to her aid, investigators said.

Loyd is currently on the run. Interestingly, the admins at Facebook have not suspended his page:

It gets no realer then me,like it or not I’m go keep it 1,000…. I wear no mask,what you see is what you get..

Local ABC affiliate WFTV reported:

A witness to the shooting said the gunman was wearing a shirt that read “security,” but Mina said Loyd was not a security guard.

“(The shooter) was an average-looking dude, he walked by me, had a security vest and everything,” witness James Herman told Channel 9. “I was walking down the sidewalk, right past the officer, and I heard her tell him to stop, or whatever, and he shot her. He shot her down. He took off running. It’s unreal.”

Herman said the man continued to shoot behind him as he was running from the scene.

As he was running, he was shooting back, he was shooting backwards,” Herman said. “I hit the ground on the side over here because I wasn’t sure where the shooting was coming from at first.”

Clayton was outside the Walmart when she was approached by a shopper, Herman said. 

The customer walked up to her and said that someone they were looking for, wanted, was in the store in the line to check out,” he said. “She went in there, I guess, to confront him. As she was going back to Walmart, he was coming out, and he shot her.”

May Master Sgt Debra Clayton rest in peace. My condolences to her many friends and family at this difficult time.

What this goes to show is how complex — and dangerous — law enforcement is. I have not been the greatest supporter of the police in the past, but reading about these recent cases has given me pause for thought. Perhaps others feel the same way.

It’s easy for us, so far away from the line of fire, to criticise people who put their lives on the line every day for our safety.

Whilst it is wise to refrain from labelling an attack ‘terrorist’ until we have the facts, the media are distorting and denying various aspects of the recent attacks in Europe, particularly Germany.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came under attack from The Guardian and Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake for saying that the recent Munich mall attack on Friday, July 22, was related to terrorism.

In fact, this is what he said from New York where he met with US Secretary of State John Kerry (emphases mine):

If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at the source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the Middle East – and also of course around the world.

That quote comes from the same Guardian article that accuses Johnson of jumping the gun in labelling the Munich incident as terror-related. Nine people died. The attacker, an 18-year-old German of Iranian extraction, then killed himself.

Since then, the name of the attacker — Ali Sonboly — has been distorted to David Ali Sonboly. That is a BBC link, but I have also seen it on other news outlets where it sometimes appears as Ali David Sonboly. Thankfully, a BBC viewer tweeted in response that the perpetrator’s name is, in fact, Ali Davood Sonboly.

Note the progression from Ali Sonboly to David Ali Sonboly or Ali David Sonboly, when his real name was Ali Davood Sonboly.

You know, we cannot call this what it is or call the attackers by their right names because people might be offended.

The result will be that low info viewers, of which the BBC have many, will be under the impression that this lad was someone he wasn’t. These viewers take the BBC at their word.

I know a lot of people who believe that BBC reports are completely trustworthy because they were 40 or 50 years ago. Folks, the BBC have moved on since then, ever leftward, ever economical with the truth. Their report on Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on Sunday, July 24, was but another example.

On July 18, three days before Sonboly’s attack in Munich, another adolescent — an ‘unaccompanied’ 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker who had been living with a foster family in Germany — went on a rampage on a train in northern Bavaria. He took an axe and a knife to 20 passengers. Three were seriously hurt and one sustained ‘light injuries’. All four were from the same family — tourists from Hong Kong who had been enjoying a delightful holiday prior to the attack, including the wedding of an immediate family member in Britain.

The ’17-year old’ (he looked older), whom police shot dead soon afterwards, was reported to have shouted:

“Allahu Akbar” before the attack and investigators believed he had a become ‘self-radicalised’ Muslim.

The same report, from The Mirror, has a video of him wherein IS claimed responsibility:

The teenage ISIS terrorist who launched the terrifying axe attack has been named by Bild as Riaz Khan Ahmadzai, also known as Muhammad Riyad, and he left a suicide note revealing chilling details of his plot, it was reported …

Although police have yet to confirm his identity, a video released by ISIS claims to show him delivering a speech in Pashto to the camera while holding a knife.

The video calls him ‘a soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the Wurzburg attack’.

The video appears to show Riyad saying he would ‘slaughter infidels’ with the knife he holds up to the camera.

He says: “I am a soldier of the caliphate and I am going to carry out an suicide attack in Germany.

“O Kufar, the time has passed when you would come to our homeland and kill our men, our women and our children. And your apostate rulers were silent about these massacres …

The rest of the quote is at the link. A Shanghai paper has more information with links to other media reports.

On Sunday, July 24, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee killed a 45-year-old pregnant Polish lady with a machete in southern Germany. He argued with her around 4:30 p.m. then hacked her to death. He also injured two other people. German authorities imply it was a lone wolf attack, nothing more. They also said that others in the vicinity should not feel threatened. The man is in police custody. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported on Monday that the two were colleagues and worked in a restaurant. Authorities are unclear when the man arrived in Germany. This was the third act of violence in Germany within 10 days.

The fourth took place that evening. A 27-year old Syrian who had been refused asylum in Germany — and admission to a music festival because he had no ticket — lashed out in the Bavarian town of Ansbach. He had a rucksack with metal items in it used in ‘wood manufacturing’, as authorities put it. He blew himself up outside a local wine bar, the impact of which injured 12 people, three of whom are in serious condition. Few in authority wish to comment further as I write on Monday, although Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said (emphasis in the original):

it was likely the attack was the work of an “Islamist” suicide bomber.

Yet (emphases mine):

Bavarian police said it was unclear if the attacker was Islamist.

The attacker was due to be deported to Bulgaria and had received two deportation orders, the most recent of which was on July 13. Bulgaria was his first safe country of entry.

Patrons of the wine bar were initially told the explosion was caused by a gas leak!

Pity Bavaria, which has had to take in so many refugees and migrants, particularly during the past year.

On Thursday, July 21, the day before the Munich attack, Konstantin Richter wrote a guest post for The Guardian. He gave more information about the train attacker and migration to Germany in general. Excerpts follow:

There are almost 70,000 unaccompanied children living in Germany, and he happened to be one of them. For two weeks prior to the attack he’d been staying with a foster family. He had also started an internship at a local bakery. In the best of all possible worlds, he would have gone from intern to trainee and then to certified German baker. He could have been a role model …

When Germany’s Willkommenskultur (welcome culture) was still in full swing, its advocates argued that Isis would not dare to target a nation that generously opened its borders to those in need. They also thought refugees coming to Germany would feel such enormous gratitude that they couldn’t possibly turn against their host country. Truth be told, I thought so too, but it doesn’t sound right any more.

The refugees who entered Germany had high hopes. Smugglers told them they’d prosper and find jobs instantly. Now they are languishing in asylum-seeker centres and struggling with bureaucracy, uncertain whether they can stay at all. Many of them are young men who are homesick, angry and frustrated, and extremists are deliberately visiting their homes because they know they are fertile ground for recruiting.

advocates of Willkommenskultur have been on the losing side of the public debate since the events that unfolded in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. They’d be well advised to acknowledge that the open-door asylum policy was overly idealistic, and that they underestimated some of the challenges posed by mass migration.

Meanwhile in France, a policewoman in Nice is at loggerheads with the French government over a report a central government department asked her to prepare concerning the attack on Bastille Day, July 14.

In an interview to a Sunday newspaper, Sandra Bertin said she was in charge of the CCTV room that night. She did not see any national police on duty where the lorry entered the Promenade des Anglais, where the attack with the lorry took place. Local police were unarmed. Bertin says that had they been better armed — like the national police — they would have had a decent chance at stopping the lorry by shooting at the tyres.

National police were stationed further along and were able to stop the lorry by shooting at the windscreen. By then, for 84 people, it was too late.

The next day — Friday — Bertin filed a report, by request, to the CSU (Centre for Urban Supervision), a department of the Interior Ministry but not that of the Interior Minister himself, Bernard Cazeneuve.

She had a difficult telephone conversation with someone who ‘harrassed’ her for an hour asking for specific details of the scene, including the position of the national police. Eventually, Bertin was able to get permission to compile a written report:

“I told her I would only write what I had seen. Perhaps the national police were there, but I didn’t see them on the cameras,” Bertin said.

Bertin, who, incidentally, is secretary general of a Nice public servants union, sent her report electronically.

A few days later, the antiterrorist branch visited her office requesting that she destroy the CCTV tapes she had from that night. She said in her newspaper interview that was because they feared the public might see the tapes.

Officials in Nice have refused to destroy them.

Paris public prosecutor François Molins, whose office is overseeing the investigation, says that the officials visiting Bertin’s office only wanted to see the evidence for themselves.

Interior Minister Cazeneuve said he and his office had no direct involvement in these events. Bertin might be asked to submit to questioning by him or a representative. Even worse, he is suing her for defamation over ‘serious accusations’ she allegedly made against him.

There is a party-political aspect to this. The administration is Socialist. The Agglomeration of Nice is run by the right-of-centre Les Républicains, led locally by Nice’s long-time mayor Christian Estrosi.

From the off, Estrosi said the police protection was woefully inadequate on July 14.

On Tuesday, July 26, a Catholic Mass was brutally interrupted in a town near Rouen in Normandy. Two men, armed with knives, entered the church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray shouting ‘Daesh!’ A subsequent report said, ‘Allah akbar!’ One man had a beard, the other was wearing a prayer cap. They took five people hostage and slit the throat of the priest celebrating morning Mass. He died. A nun, Sister Danielle, was able to slip out of the church and call police. Security forces arrived quickly and fatally shot the two men. The article from l’Internaute (linked to above) said this was ‘very likely’ a ‘terrorist attack’. (It is the sort of attack that takes place on churches in Muslim-majority countries.)

Honest reporting. It will be interesting to see what the major French newspapers say. Let’s hope they do not name the attackers ‘Antoine’ and ‘Jean-Pierre’.

Except if it is Maxime, as in Maxime Hauchard, now Abu Abdullah al-Faransi, who — possibly still in Syria since 2013, according to The Mirror — indirectly collaborated in this gruesome act with Adel Kermiche, according to the Daily Mail.

L’Internaute had a live column of what happened in the immediate aftermath. The priest was 86-year-old Revd Jacques Hamel, ordained in 1958. Someone would have to be pathological to murder an elderly priest, especially in such a horrifying manner. A nun who was helping him at the altar was seriously injured. Some of the other hostages also required medical treatment. Police told those living in the immediate vicinity to stay indoors.

Word of the attack soon reached those at the Catholic World Youth Day events being held in Krakow. The Pope, who is in in the Polish city, expressed his ‘pain and horror’. Archbishop LeBrun of Rouen returned to France and his Vicar General took his place in Krakow. The Vicar General went to the scene of the attack immediately. François Hollande and Bernard Cazeneuve arrived shortly afterwards.

The live report states that this church was on the target list of Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, the extremist who intended to murder Catholics coming out of Sunday Mass in April 2015 in suburban Paris. Instead, he murdered fitness instructor Aurélie Châtelain who was in her car consulting her computer in Villejuif, just outside Paris. Then Ghlam ran into a spot of bother. He accidentally shot himself in the leg and was bleeding profusely. He drove his own car for some distance, before ringing the emergency services! Police arrived on the scene and arrested him.

Hamel was an active participant in the regional Christian-Muslim dialogue efforts. Mohammed Karabila, president of the regional Muslim organisation, said he was ‘alarmed’ to hear the news of his Christian friend, someone who gave his life serving others: ‘We are all dumbfounded at the mosque. Our prayers go to his family and to the Catholic community.’

I wrote this shortly after the attack. More news has emerged, notably that one of the attackers, who wore an electronic tag, was allowed to roam freely on weekday mornings. The tag was switched off as usual before he left his parents’ home the day of the attack. The Telegraph has a live column, and other news outlets around the world have rightly given this story the attention it deserves.

————————————————————————

These issues with the media and state security forces affect more countries than Germany and France. Belgium’s security police and intelligence departments also have their problems.

The media, however, would do well by telling people the truth.

slipperyOne month after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks, censorship is returning to normal.

Charb’s rationale

Before getting into specifics, it’s worth recapping why the late Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier and his editorial team adopted the policy they did.

Until the Danish paper Jyllands Posten published the controversial cartoons of Islam’s prophet in 2005, Charlie Hebdo took religious potshots largely at traditional Catholicism. Once the furore of the Danish cartoons followed, the Charlie Hebdo team shifted their attention accordingly, although they still ridiculed Catholicism and Judaism and equally as crudely.

On January 17, 2015, the French newsweekly Marianne asked ‘Why were they so alone?’ The article has the following quotes from Charb:

If we start saying ‘we can’t draw Mohammed’, then we won’t be able to draw Muslims at all. If we yield on even one detail, freedom of expression is finished. 

If we take into account the context, the global context will never be favourable with regard to laughing at radical Islam or religion in general. If we take context into account, we won’t be able to talk about anything, ever; the satirical press will be condemned and stuffed.

It is essential to remember that Charlie Hebdo drew vulgar cartoons about all three main religions, never just one.

It is interesting to note that, around the time of the attacks, in Nice, a Muslim snack shop owner’s premises was destroyed. He made the grave error of selling ham and butter sandwiches. He is determined to reopen his business.

Fallout in the United Kingdom

The first weekend in February showed the extent of British censorship.

Before detailing what happened, readers should note that only a handful of media outlets — one magazine, two or three newspapers and one or two television news stations — showed any Charlie Hebdo cartoons, mostly the poignant cover of the mid-January issue. Those who showed more understandably shied away from the most controversial drawings.

Similarly, Charlie Hebdo is not normally sold in the UK. Two press distribution companies ordered 2,000 copies of the mid-January issue to sell on to independent newsagents. Two or three shop owners were featured in the newspapers; the owners said that customers could order copies through them. However, the majority did not advertise the availability of the magazine.

The Guardian newspaper has been selling ‘Je suis Charlie’ pencil badges. It is a great idea from the perspective of defending Western values regarding freedom of expression. However, a lady from a small town in Wiltshire wrote the paper to say that anything related to Charlie Hebdo might attract police attention. Her letter was published on February 8. Excerpts follow:

Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire …

However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.

On February 9, The Guardian followed up with the Wiltshire police. It turns out that this lady’s details, along with those of three others who had ordered from the same newsagent, were given to the police. All because the four ordered the special issue of Charlie Hebdo. The Wiltshire police service spokesman said that they did so to protect the newsagent in case of community tensions. It would seem as if this were a one-off in the county, but why take this action in a small town which has no community tensions? The county’s police and crime commissioner told The Guardian:

I am reassured that the force have taken the right action and permanently and securely disposed of the information gathered.

I am satisfied that there was no intention on the part of the force to seek to inhibit the circulation of Charlie Hebdo.

Concerned readers commented on the article. The most frequently mentioned concerns were whether the customers’ details really were permanently deleted and how many other counties in Britain also saw police visits to newsagents.

On Tuesday, February 10, the paper published a second article which revealed that officers in Wales and in Cheshire also questioned newsagents about people who ordered Charlie Hebdo. These newsagents did not reveal the identity of their customers and found the situation worrying.

The Guardian asked Conservative MP David Davis for his thoughts. Davis said that it was more “stupid than sinister” but added:

Quite what they think they’re doing and why they are wasting police time tracking down individual readers of Charlie Hebdo, really makes you wonder what sort of counter-terrorism and security policy those police forces are pursuing.

It also has to be said that when police forces check up on what you are reading it’s unsettling in a democracy. I’m quite sure it’s not intentionally so, but it is unsettling and not something you should do lightly.

Agreed. However, as our police have probably not seen the magazine, they do not quite understand what it is about: satire, nothing threatening.

The article went on to say that the Metropolitan Police have not been asking London newsagents for any details of customers ordering Charlie Hebdo. Furthermore, the national police organisation ACPO has not issued any general guidance on this issue, either. Thankfully.

However, on February 8, a group of 1,000 Muslims demonstrated in Whitehall and presented a petition signed by 100,000 more to No. 10 Downing Street. No doubt this is to request some sort of censorship regarding representation of their religion. It is unfortunate for the Pope that several placards carried his quote about violence towards anyone who might criticise his mother.

No British publication has ever created or reproduced characterisations of the prophet in question. Nor would they.

The protestors would have done better to travel to Paris and protest at the Elysée Palace under the auspices of a local Muslim association.

France and Belgium

Meanwhile in France and Belgium, censorship continues apace.

Marianne (Issue 929, February 6-12, 2015, pp 34-36) has an article on various artistic exhibitions which have been cancelled or postponed.

Cinema: The showing of two feature-length films, Timbuktu and l’Apôtre (The Apostle) have been postponed for the foreseeable future. Timbuktu, nominated for an Oscar and a César — and already the recipient of a Best Director award from the Lumières (Lights) awards ceremony — is not being shown because the UMP (Conservative) mayor of Villiers-sur-Marne says that Amedy Coulibaly’s wife (thought to be in Turkey or Syria at present) is from Timbuktu. Showing the film would only create tension. L’Apôtre is even more controversial; it tells the story of a young Muslim who wants to become an imam and instead converts to Christianity once he sees the baptism of a friend’s son. The director, Cheyenne Carron, says that the security police, the DGSI, cancelled showings in Neuilly (upper middle class suburb of Paris) and Nantes (Pays de la Loire, in the west of France). Marianne says that the film is now available only on DVD where people can watch it:

At home. Without bothering anyone.

Television: Guillaume Meurice, the presenter of the humour segment on Canal+’s La Nouvelle Edition, stood down after the channel’s executives refused to let him show and comment on a Charlie Hebdo cartoon.

Parti Socialiste: The French Socialist Party (PS) has been conducting a Twitter campaign, Faire Vivre la Republique: Bring the Republic to Life. They invited the famous illustrator Xavier Gorce to contribute a drawing. His anodine illustration of a woman in a burqa upset many Tweeters who saw it. The PS promptly removed it with no further explanation.

Theatre: The play Lapidée (Stoned) is to debut in March in Paris. It should have had its opening night by now but has been postponed. It tells the stories of women sentenced to death by stoning in Yemen. The play’s producer told Marianne that the police said the poster set to appear outside the theatre could incite violence. One of the actresses said:

People in the street are afraid. Everyone yelled at the top of their lungs ‘Je suis Charlie’, but when it comes to taking action, no one’s around.

Museums: In the Paris suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne, an art exhibition is taking place. However, one of the exhibits — Silence — has been withdrawn. Silence, created by the Franco-Algerian Zoulikha Bouabdellah, is an art installation which features 24 prayer mats, each with an identical pair of luxury white high-heeled shoes in the centre. A local Muslim group asked for its withdrawal saying that it could provoke ‘irresponsible incidents’. Meanwhile, in Belgium, the Hergé Museum, largely devoted to all things Asterix, has cancelled a tribute to Charlie Hebdo. The museum’s directors feared being ‘fired upon’.

Conclusion

Charb was right. Who knew such censorship would happen so soon?

This final instalment on the events of January 7 – 9, 2015, looks at two of the three police officers who were gunned down during that time in Paris.

Funeral in Martinique

Clarissa Jean-Philippe had only been on the beat for 13 days when Amedy Coulibaly shot her in Montrouge, south of the city, on the morning of January 8.

Her body was flown back to Martinique, where she was born and raised. Her funeral took place in the town of Sainte-Marie at Notre Dame de l’Assomption church on Monday, January 20.

The Mass was concelebrated by the Archbishop of Martinique, the Vicar General and her parish priest.

A large group of French and regional ministers from Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana filled the church, decorated with a hundred floral wreaths from various organisations and community groups.

Bishop Michel Méranville reminded the congregation of the tremendous risk and pressure the police, emergency services and firefighters were under.

My prayers go to her family and friends, but particularly her mother. It cannot be easy burying a child, especially in such circumstances.

Charb’s police officer

Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier had police protection from the time Charlie Hebdo‘s offices had been firebombed in 2011. (This was not the same building they were in this month, although it was nearby.)

Charb’s officer, Franck Brinsolaro, died whilst trying to protect him on January 7.

Following Brinsolaro’s untimely death, Le Monde reported that protection detail takes a special type of officer:

Flexibility, discretion, he has to learn the language and habits of ‘his’ well-known public figure — that’s what they say, often affectionately, of those whom they protect. From morning to evening, they follow them, accompany them. Seventeen-hour days where they share with ‘their’ VIP the close confines of a car, but also a conversation, sometimes a meal.

Abdelhalim Benzadi, who was part of the security detail for Nicholas Sarkozy’s government, says:

We’re in that inner circle, we go on holiday with them, we know their families.

Another officer, Christophe Crépin, told the paper:

With ‘my’ public figure we no longer need to say anything, we know what each other is thinking. It’s a bit like miming.

These officers do their job so well that Charb said in an interview in 2013:

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m the one working as an officer and they’re the ones running Charlie Hebdo.

They do not necessarily look like bouncers or minders. Le Monde said that only the Glock they carry distinguishes them from anyone else.

Franck Brinsolaro’s widow Ingrid told Ouest France newspaper that her husband was:

an understated and discreet man who adored his work.

My prayers go to her and her family in the months ahead.

Belgium has made a worrying discovery inside its police departments.

This reminded me of what Front National founder Jean-Marie Le Pen said about the Charlie Hebdo attack. He takes the view of a conspiracy theorist. By definition, he is unhelpful. However, he did say:

I do not think the organisers of this crime are French authorities but that they did allow this crime to be committed. For the moment, these are only suspicions.

On Sunday, January 18, Le Monde reported that several searches took place that day in and around Brussels.

A known terror cell broke up the week before, its leader still at large. Belgian authorities say this group planned an attack on police on January 16. Investigations continue.

However, that same day, Le Monde reported that Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure (11th Hour) stated that investigations were taking place concerning

police officers suspected of having links with radical networks.

The public prosecutor’s office is following leads about an investigator said to have links with the radical group Sharia4Belgium, which recruits terrorists. Several of their members are currently appearing in court in Anvers. Le Monde says:

The wife of another police officer had adopted conduct suggesting she was sliding into extremism. A third officer refused to shake the hands of his female colleagues.

Belgium is under considerable tension at the moment, particularly in Brussels and in Anvers, where armed troops are patrolling high profile areas.

At least one Le Monde reader asked about infiltration in the armed forces.

It is not inconceivable that extremist cells are conducting a long march through European institutions.

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