Collection: The wider contexts

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fast US Arrival Of Eataly The Remarkably Large Italian Marketplace With Multiple Places To Eat

Posted by Peter Quennell



New York city now has two of the huge Eataly food marketplaces, the first of which opened in Turin just a decade ago.

Each has multiple bars and numerous areas to buy or to eat Italian food.  Chicago already has one open (see the video below) and next Tuesday Boston will open one too.  Eatalys are already open in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well.

Each occupies the equivalent of a city block. One in New York is on 23rd Street by Madison Square Park, with a special elevator to a rooftop restaurant and the other is in a newly-occupied highrise tower at the World Trade Center which has great views - and thousands of financial types looking for lunch. 

It seems Atlanta and Toronto have joined the line.  And next year a 20-acre Eataly will open in Bologne.

If you are in any of these cities, do think to take a look. This is an exciting new scene with a lot of happy mingling going on, something the US could use a lot more of.

And happy mingling on Thursday, Thanksgiving for those in the US!

Posted on 11/21/16 at 11:32 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

A Majority May Vote “No” In Referendum 4 December, Maybe Transforming Prospects In Meredith’s Case

Posted by Peter Quennell

 
The justice chunk of the huge package of reforms Italy is voting on 4 December probably appeal to pretty well everybody.

They address the awful slowness of the Italian courts and the repetitions of process steps to get it “just right” which too often result in just the opposite. They would tilt back a little toward the victim who too often gets “disappeared” just as Meredith did.

But they are chained to the parliamentary, economic and educational reforms, which PM Renzi cooked up with ex-PM Berlusconi. Maybe not such a smart idea.

They passed with only a bare majority in parliament, hence the referendum. Hence also Renzi’s promise to resign as Prime Minister if the electorate votes against them.

Those reforms are seen by young people in particular as amounting to a powergrab by the center-right and a move away from free college-level education (just when the US may be about to do the opposite).

PM Renzi may or may not have angled for the strange Fifth Chambers outcome in Meredith’s case. But he lost popularity for seeming bending to widely-suspected US arm-bending on this and some other issues even though he and President Obama seem to have not much in common.

If Renzi does go, we are told that prospects for a turnaround in Meredith’s case could become dramatically better. The politics would become right for this case to proceed.

Keep watching! 

Posted on 11/02/16 at 05:59 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

The West Memphis Three: Another Instance Where A Strong Pro-Guilt Case Is Being Garbled For Profit

Posted by The Machine



Above: Still under a cloud: Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols

1. Overview of the series

In my last post on how media hype can badly tangle crime cases, I examined Sarah Koenig’s biased coverage of the Adnan Syed case for the Serial podcasts and her flawed approach to assessing the evidence against him.

In this post, I will analyse a critically acclaimed documentary about another alleged miscarriage of justice: West of Memphis and associated media hype.

The Peter Jackson documentary claims three men known as the West Memphis Three (the WM3) were wrongly convicted as child killers and points the finger at another man.

2. West Memphis 3 background

In May 1993, three eight-year-old boys - Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore - were found dead in a ditch in West Memphis in the US state of Arkansas. There is a crimescene video at the bottom here.

They had been stripped and bound. Steve Branch and Michael Moore had drowned and Christopher Byers had bled to death after his genitals had been mutilated and partially removed.

Three teenagers - Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley - were arrested following a tip that Echols had been seen covered in mud the evening the boys disappeared and Misskelley gave a confession.

The WM3 were convicted of murder in 1994 (see the judge and courthouse below) and sent to prison.

However, they were freed in August 2011 after taking an Alford plea. This is a deal which allowed them to maintain their innocence while agreeing prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them.



Above: the three 8-year-old victims

3. The media campaigns

There have been high-profile campaigns to free the WM3 and cast doubt on their convictions. HBO Television made three films about the case: Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Paradise Lost 2 Revelations and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. CBS News produced a documentary about the case entitled A Cry for Innocence.

A number of celebrities and musicians supported the WM3, including Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, James Hetfield from Metallica, Henry Rollins, actor Johnny Depp, Natalie Mains from The Dixie Chicks, and film director Peter Jackson.  Do any of these celebrities put forward a compelling case for innocence?

In a word - no.

Johnny Depp and Henry Rollins basically say they could relate to Damian Echols.

“I immediately related to Damien and what he went through growing up. He comes from a small town from Arkansas. I come from a relatively small town in Kentucky. I can remember being kind of looked upon as a freak or, you know, different because I didn’t dress like everybody else. So I can empathize with being judged by how you look as opposed to who you are.” (Johnny Depp, A Cry for Innocence, CBS News).

“Damien liked to hang out alone and wrote he was depressed. Hello! He liked to listen to weird music. Check! He was a wise ass in the face of law enforcement. Are you kidding? It could have been me.” (Henry Rollins, West of Memphis)

.

After reading some of the comments in the media about the WM3 case, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Damien Echols was only a suspect because he wore black, listened to Metallica and read Stephen King books.

This comment by Guardian journalist Emma John is a typical comment by the supporters of the WM3

“At their subsequent trial, evidence introduced by the prosecution included the fact that Echols wore Metallica T-shirts and read Stephen King novels”

Several documentaries angled to exonerate the three have been widely promoted on HBO and Netflix including this one.



Above: one of the documentaries

Emma John and countless other journalists, as well as the producers of Paradise Lost and West of Memphis, completely ignore Echols’ startling mental health records - Exhibit 500 - that show he was a seriously disturbed and violent individual.

He was sent to a mental health hospital on three separate occasions. He threatened a number of people with violence and on occasion attacked others. For example, he threatened to kill his parents and to eat his father alive and he admitted trying to “claw the eyes of out” of a student. According to a report, Echols sucked the blood from the wound of one of the boys in Arkansas Juvenile Detention Center.

Damien Echols’ lawyers presented his mental health records as evidence in the sentencing phase of his trial, presumably to convince the jury he was mentally ill and not fully responsible for his actions, in order to spare him from the death penalty.

4. The West of Memphis production


West of Memphis
is available to watch on the streaming for-pay movie site Netflix. Netflix flatly states that the West Memphis Three are innocent.

“They spent 18 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit—and the real killer is still out there.”

There’s no legal basis for such an unequivocal claim. The WM3 accepted the court’s judgement of guilt. They were not acquitted by a jury or exonerated by the Supreme Court of the United States.

West of Memphis doesn’t provide any credible exculpatory evidence to support Netflix’s categorial assertion that the WM3 are innocent. No-one should expect this to be the case because if there had been any exculpatory evidence, it would have been presented in court.

A couple of the prosecution’s witnesses recanted their testimony, but that doesn’t mean the entire case against the WM3 collapses. In the Perugia case Judge Massei didn’t find two of the prosecution’s witnesses to be credible, but he and the other judges still found Knox and Sollecito guilty of Meredith Kercher’s murder. 

The Telegraph and Empire gave West of Memphis five stars out of five. The Guardian gave it four stars. Does the documentary deserve such high ratings from these mainstream media organisations?


If you compare West of Memphis to Andrea Vogt’s documentary about the Meredith Kercher case is Amanda Knox Guilty? (which is the gold standard for true crime documentaries because it’s balanced and factually accurate) you have to conclude that it’s light years away from being anywhere near as good as Andrea Vogt’s documentary.

The producers haven’t made a balanced and objective documentary that lets the audience make up their own minds. As with all documentaries about people who have been convicted of murders they allegedly didn’t commit, the cherrypicked story is told primarily from the defence point of view.

This isn’t surprising - Damian Echols and his wife were two of the producers.

I strongly suspect this is also the reason why most of the evidence that led to the convictions of the WM3 is completely ignored. When I found this out, I felt that the producers had been sly and dishonest. Their commitment is clearly to the WM3 - and not the truth. 

If you want to have an informed opinion on the WM3 and to understand why they were convicted, you need to read the official court documents and witness statements, and then consider all the pieces of evidence as a whole.

When you research the case for yourself, you will discover that Damian Echols didn’t become a suspect because he wore black, was different, and a bit of an outsider.

When he was questioned in connection with the murder of the three boys, he failed a polygraph test.

A ten question polygraph test was formulated and three polygraph charts were conducted. The test contained the following relevant questions:

Q.#3. At any time wednesday or wednesday night, were you in robin hood hills? “No”

Q.#5. Were you present when those boys were killed? “No”

Q.#7. Did you kill any of those three boys? “No”

Q.#9. Do you know who killed those three boys? “No”

Q.#10.do you suspect anyone of having killed those three boys? “No”

It is the opinion of this polygraph examiner that this subject recorded significant responses indicative of deception when he answered the above listed relevant questions in the manner noted.

Conclusion: deception indicated.

By reading the official court documents, you will also discover that Echols knew specific details about the crime.

“Detective Bryn Ridge testified that Echols said he understood the victims had been mutilated, with one being cut up more than the others, and that they had drowned. Ridge testified that when Echols made the statement, the fact that Christopher Byers had been mutilated more than the other two victims was not known by the public. The jury could have reasonably concluded that Echols would not have known this fact unless he were involved in some manner.

“Echols took the witness stand, and his testimony contained additional evidence of guilt. When asked about his statement that one victim was mutilated more than the others, he said he learned the fact from newspaper accounts. His attorney showed him the newspaper articles about the murders. On cross-examination, Echols admitted that the articles did not mention one victim being mutilated more than the others, and he admitted that he did not read such a fact in a newspaper.”

(Damien Wayne ECHOLS and Charles Jason Baldwin v. STATE of Arkansas,Supreme Court of Arkansas)



Above: Judge (now State Senator) David Burnett

The police obtained further corroboration that Damian Echols had been involved in the murder of Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Chris Byers when his friend Jessie Misskelley told them that he, Echols and Jason Baldwin had attacked and killed the boys.

“On June 3, or almost one month after the murders, Detective Mike Allen asked Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr., about the murders. Misskelley was not a suspect at the time, but Echols was, and it was thought that Misskelley might give some valuable information about Echols. Detective Allen had been told all three engaged in cult-like activities. Misskelley made two statements to the detective that implicated Echols and Baldwin, as well as himself. The statements can be found in Misskelley v. State, 323 Ark. 449, 459-61, 915 S.W.2d 702, 707-08 (1996).”

(Damien Wayne ECHOLS and Charles Jason Baldwin v. STATE of Arkansas,Supreme Court of Arkansas).

It should be noted that Jessie Misskelley repeatedly claimed that he, Echols and Baldwin had killed the boys before and after he was convicted. On one occasion, he confessed despite being warned not to by his lawyer.

This should trouble anyone who believes the WM3 are innocent because Misskelley wasn’t threatened or promised any deal by the investigators.

He may have a low IQ, but he wasn’t hallucinating when he made these confessions. In short, they were voluntary statements made over a significant period of time - from 3 June 1993 to 17 February 1994.

Furthermore, Misskelley also knew specific details about the crime. He told the police that Christopher Byers had been castrated in an interview on 3 June 1993.

RIDGES: Cutting him in the face. Alright, another boy was cut I understand.  Where was he cut at?

JESSIE: At the bottom

RIDGE: On his bottom? Was he faced down and he was cutting on him, or

JESSIE: He was

GITCHELL: Now you’re talking about bottom, do you mean right here?

JESSIE: Yes

GITCHELL: In his groin area?

JESSIE: Yes

GITCHELL: Okay

RIDGE: Do you know what his penis is?

JESSIE: Yeah, that’s where he was cut at.

RIDGE: That’s where he was cut.

GITCHELL: Which boy was that?

JESSIE: That one right there.

GITCHELL: You’re talking about the Byers boy again?

JESSIE: Yes

GITCHELL: Okay

RIDGE: Are you sure that he was the one that was cut?

JESSIE: That’s the one that I seen them cutting on.

RIDGE: Alright, you know what a penis is?

JESSIE: Yeah

RIDGE: Alright, is that where he was cutting?

JESSIE: That’s where I seen them going down at, and he was on his back. I seen them going down right there real close to his penis and stuff and I saw some blood and that’s when I took off.

Jessie Misskelley’s claim that Christopher Byers was castrated was corroborated by the autopsy report.

“The skin of the penis, scrotal sac and testes were missing. There was a large gaping defect measuring 2 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch. The shaft of the penis was present and measured 2 inches in length. The gaping defect was surrounded by multiple and extensive irregular punctate gouging type injuries measuring from 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch and had a depth of penetration of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch.”

In West of Memphis, it’s claimed that turtles might be responsible for the missing genitals. I found this theory to be fanciful to say the least.

According to the medical examiner, Chris Byers bled to death because his genitals had been mutilated and partially removed. I believe Jessie Miskelley that this happened before he was thrown into the ditch.



Above: the courthouse about 100 miles north of West Memphis

In the same interview, Jessie Misskelley told the police officers that one of the boys was cut in his face.

RIDGE: Okay, now when this is going on, when this is taking place, you saw somebody with a knife. Who had a knife?

JESSIE: Jason

RIDGE: Jason had a knife, what did he cut with the knife. What did you see him cut or who did you see him cut?

JESSIE: I saw him cut one of the little boys

RIDGE: Alright, where did he cut him at?

JESSIE: He was cutting him in the face.

Prosecutor John Fogleman highlighted the fact that Jessie Misskelley knew facts that nobody else knew in his closing argument. He pointed out that Misskelley knew one of the boys had been cut in the fact and that this specific detail wasn’t mentioned in any of the newspapers.

Nothing in there [the newspapers] about a boy being cut in the face. Said they were beat up real bad, but nothing, nothing in there about somebody being cut in the face. He [Jessie Misskelley] says, “Yes, one of them was cut in the face.”

Jessie Misskelley also claimed that Damian Echols grabbed one of the boys by the ear and that the ear was discoloured as a result.

MISSKELLEY: He [Damian Echols] grabbed one of’m by the ear, I don’t know which one, he grabbed on of’m by the ear trying to pull his ear off or something. He grabbed’m pretty tight. It turned kind of red.

This was also corroborated by the autopsy report for Chris Byers. According to the report, he suffered injuries to his right ear:

“Head Injuries:

The right ear was abraded and contused. The inferior aspect of the right ear showed multiple linear abrasions measuring 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inch.”

When you find out the three boys were stripped and two of them had injuries to their genitals, it’s natural to assume there must have been a sexual motive. Jessie Misskelley told the police that Damian Echols and Jason Baldwin sexually assaulted two of the boys.

JESSIE: Then they [Damian Echols and Jason Baldwin] tied them up, tied their hands up, they started screwing them and stuff, cutting them and stuff, and I saw it and turned around and looked, and then I took off running, I went home, then they called me and asked me, how come I didn’t stay, I told them, I just couldn’t.

John Fogleman also drew the jury’s attention to the fact that Jessie Misskelley knew that two of the boys had been sexually assaulted - something that was also corroborated by the autopsy reports. Chris Byers and Steve Branch had injuries to their genitals.

Finally, in talking about the boys being sexually abused, Inspector Gitchell says, “So they both did it to all three of the boys?” Jessie: “Just them two as far as I know.”



Above: bridge west from Memphis; crime scene is just one mile ahead

According to Lisa Sakevicius - a criminalist from the state lab - the three victims were tied with three different knots.

Her testimony would seem to rule out that the three boys were killed by a single attacker and indicate there were three attackers.

Jessie Misskelley didn’t just confess to the police. According to his friend Buddy Lucas, Misskelley also confessed to him.

Lucas - so we sit there, sit there, and I said, he said man me jason and damien we went walking last night in the town of west memphis, I said why didn’t you all come by and get me? we will we uh, we were in a hurry and everything go up there and come back home. I said alright I understand (inaudible) now since I found out I’m kinda glad he didn’t come by and get me

Ridge - okay, what did he tell you he do?

Lucas - we…. he told me that uh, that he got in a fight, that’s what he told me at first

Ridge - okay

Lucas - I said damien and jason they helped you? He said um-yea and everything so I said well did you all hurt anybody? And he said yea, I didn’t think it was those 8 year old kids or anything, so I turn around and come to found out that jason he was with jason and damien when they sacrificed them little kids. I was come and tell you all

Ridge - he tells you he’s in some trouble?

Lucas - uh-huh

Ridge - and what did he tell you he was in trouble over?

Lucas - that he really, he said um, we hurt, uh…. uh we hurt a couple of boys, that jason and damien killed

Ridge - okay

Lucas - couple, I said was you involved? He said yea, I said what did you do? I finally got it talked out of him what did he do, he said I hit uh, a couple in the back of the head

Ridge - okay, and

Lucas - and everything to keep them from running and everything

Ridge - and that’s what he told you?

Lucas - yes sir

Two witnesses claimed that Damian Echols admitted he had killing the three boys.

Twelve-year-old Christy VanVickle testified that she heard Echols say he “killed the three boys.” Fifteen-year-old Jackie Medford testified that she heard Echols say, “I killed the three little boys and before I turn myself in, I’m going to kill two more, and I already have one of them picked out.”

The testimony of these two independent witnesses was direct evidence of the statement by Echols. These witnesses were cross-examined by Echols counsel, and it was the jury’s province to weigh their credibility.

(Damien Wayne ECHOLS and Charles Jason Baldwin v. STATE of Arkansas,Supreme Court of Arkansas).




5. Alternative perp Terry Hobbs

The producers of West of Memphis make a case for Terry Hobbs - the stepfather of Steve Branch - being the killer and that his friend David Jacoby was a possible accomplice. However, Hamish McKenzie points out in an article for The Atlantic that the filmmakers are guilty of hypocrisy.

“But the rave reviews miss a dangerous hypocrisy at the heart of the film, which was paid for and produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, and directed by Amy Berg. In their quest to clear the names of the “West Memphis Three"—Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. who were teenagers when they were convicted for the 1993 killings—the filmmakers decide that they have found the actual murderer: Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the murdered boys. And in publicly making the case against him, they perpetrate a similar sort of injustice to the one they originally set out to correct: relying on questionable evidence to prosecute in the court of public opinion.”

The producers of West of Memphis point the finger at Hobbs because he has a history of domestic violence, he gave inconistent alibis and they think two hairs found at the crime scene implicate him and his friend Jacoby. However, Thomas Fedor, one of the defence experts, called the hairs weak evidence.

“The two hairs that I know about – the one that could have in fact come from Mr. Hobbs and the one that could have in fact come from David Jacoby – constitute what I call weak evidence. Because there are other people it could have come from and there isn’t any way to really prove our selection of possible sources for that hair.

I don’t think – my personal opinion – I don’t think that that hair evidence would be enough to convict Mr. Hobbs or Mr. Jacoby or anyone that would be in a similar situation because it’s simply not strong enough.

The percentages I gave of people who could be the source of those hairs are 1.5% of the population in the respect to one hair and 7% in respect to the other hair. That’s not particularly strong evidence and especially in the context of what most people are accustomed to with DNA testing.” (Thomas Fedor, Forensic Serologist).


6. Some conclusions

Concluding the WM3 are innocent on the basis of watching West of Memphis would be like concluding Amanda Knox is innocent after reading Waiting to Be Heard. The documentary is clearly biased and one-sided.

The producers did not address most of the evidence that led to the convictions of the WM3 let alone refute it. This is not surprising when you consider the fact that Damian Echols is one of the producers.

The defence lawyers assessed the evidence and recommended that their clients accept a court judgement of guilt. Surely if there was no credible evidence against the WM3 they would have opted for a new trial. If they had been found not guilty, they would have been able to sue the state for millions of dollars.

The supposedly exculpatory evidence was that some DNA was recovered from the crime scene was not attributable to any of the victims or the WM3. Since it is not known to whom that DNA belongs, one cannot say what that person’s role, if any, was and whether the evidence would help the defendants.




Above: from freeway, crime scene is by a creek within trees in left background

7. Valuable Sources

Click: ‘West Memphis Three’ freed after 18 years in prison

Click: Damien Echols: Statements and Polygraph Reports (May 9-10, 1993)

Click: Supreme Court of Arkansas

Click: Closing Argument of John Fogleman

Click: Damien Echols - mental health records - Exhibit 500

Click: Peter Jackson’s West of Memphis: the tale of three wronged men

Click: Damien Echols: how I survived death row

Click: West Memphis Three Facts

Click: The Unsettling Recklessness of Peter Jackson’s ‘West of Memphis’

Click: Misskelley v. State

Click: Statement of Jessie L. Misskelley, Jr. (June 3, 1993 at 2:44 P.M.)

Click: Statement of Jessie Misskelley, Jr. February 17, 1994

Click: Autopsy report for Steven Branch

Click: Autopsy report for Chris Byers

Click: Autopsy report for Michael Moore

Click: Lisa Sakevicius’s testimony

Click: A Skeptic’s Guide To The West Memphis Three Documentaries

Click: Is Amanda Knox Guilty?


[Below: The crime scene about 1 mile west of Memphis - warning, images of the murdered boys are included]

Posted on 08/25/16 at 07:32 AM by The Machine. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

So Where Would YOU Want To Go On Trial? In Italy Or In The U.S.?

Posted by Peter Quennell





One reason so many still follow Meredith’s case is because justice has not yet been SEEN to be done.

Maybe 9 out of 10 Italians think this.

Over the years the Italian justice system has become immensely tilted against prosecutors and victims at trial. Right now it is one of the toughest - or if you like, most lenient - anywhere in the world.

Read for example Nicki and Commissario Montalbano for two among our numerous posts on this. 

We have still not seen even ONE American lawyer claim that after the first trial in 2009 which found RS and AK guilty that there were strong grounds for an appeal.

In the US, back in 2009, full prison terms would have been begun.

And in fact virtually nothing at the 2009 trial was challenged in the appeal. But the defenses subversively organized to get Civil Judge Hellmann instead of Criminal Judge Chiari to preside, and in 2011 a farcical “not guilty” outcome was the result.

Then there was a THIRD jury trial, in 2013-14, which (as so often in Italy) threw out the not guilty outcome of the previous appeal trial.

And finally, in 2015, due to more subversive defense machinations with a little mafia help, the final Supreme Court appeal was assigned to the FIFTH Chambers, for the first murder appeal that Chambers has ever heard.

A second farcical “not guilty” outcome was the result.

Say what you like about the American system, there is not remotely any parallel in its judicial history to all of that.  Quite the opposite in fact. We have had various posts pointing to an increasingly hard line in the US.

This is one not necessarily sought or appreciated by prosecutors or judges, who usually like trials and want to see juries of peers call the final shots.

It is actually being imposed by Federal and State politicians, many of whom were prosecutors themselves. Bizarre jury outcomes as at the OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony trials contributed somewhat to this trend.

One result is a trend the exact opposite of Italy’s - the increasing elimination of juries and even of trials altogether. The New York Times explains.

The criminal trial ended more than two and a half years ago, but Judge Jesse M. Furman can still vividly recall the case. It stands out, not because of the defendant or the subject matter, but because of its rarity: In his four-plus years on the bench in Federal District Court in Manhattan, it was his only criminal jury trial…

The Southern District held only 50 criminal jury trials last year, the lowest since 2004, according to data provided by the court. The pace remains slow this year.

In 2005, records show, there were more than double the number of trials: 106. And decades ago, legal experts said, the numbers were much higher.

“It’s hugely disappointing,” said Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a 20-year veteran of the Manhattan federal bench. “A trial is the one place where the system really gets tested. Everything else is done behind closed doors.”

Legal experts attribute the decline primarily to the advent of the congressional sentencing guidelines and the increased use of mandatory minimum sentences, which transferred power to prosecutors, and discouraged defendants from going to trial, where, if convicted, they might face harsher sentences.

In 1997, according to federal courts data nationwide, 3,200 of 63,000 federal defendants were convicted in jury trials; in 2015, there were only 1,650 jury convictions, out of 81,000 defendants.

Former Judge John Gleeson, who in March stepped down from the federal bench in Brooklyn to enter private practice, noted in a 2013 court opinion that 81 percent of federal convictions in 1980 were the product of guilty pleas; in one recent year, the figure was 97 percent.

Judge Gleeson wrote that because most pleas are negotiated before a prosecutor prepares a case for trial, the “thin presentation” of evidence needed for indictment “is hardly ever subjected to closer scrutiny by prosecutors, defense counsel, judges or juries.”

“The entire system loses an edge,” he added, “and I have no doubt that the quality of justice in our courthouses has suffered as a result.”

The article lists a number of resulting ill effects. Will the Knox apologists be up in arms? Dont hold your breath.

Posted on 08/09/16 at 01:52 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, August 06, 2016

Crash Ruins Prospect Of Olympic Gold For Italy’s Cycling Star the “Shark Of Messina”

Posted by Peter Quennell





What a real shocker for cycling-mad Italy..

You could watch world-class cycling for years, and maybe never see anything quite like this.

The men’s Olympic cycling road race is unusually long and grueling - six hours on average.

The American TV commenters were agreeing that the course, on the coast just south of Rio, was the most beautiful ever - and also the most dangerous.

Termed dangerous because there were three steep descents down one mountain, and then two more descents, even steeper, down another mountain with a ten-to-one gradient.

A main leader throughout, Vincenzo Nibali, is not for nothing called the Shark of Messina.

Just minutes before the race’s end a breakaway group of 3 cyclists, including Nibali, were heading down the final descent so fast that the motorbike with the camera could not keep up with them.

Breathtaking stuff. Normally you just never ever see that happen.  All 3 disappeared from sight, leaving just shots of an empty road descending sharply.

When the TV camera DID catch up with them several minutes later it was only because of what you see in the video - two of the lead cyclists unstuck at a probable 60-plus mph.

The commentators had been saying a gold for Nibali seemed certain. Now he is not only out of the Olympics - he is being flown back to Italy for surgery.

Posted on 08/06/16 at 08:23 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi Might Ultimately Be The One To Push Justice Reforms Through

Posted by Peter Quennell





Prime Minister Renzi, previously a popular mayor of Florence, was elected on a promise to force justice and economic reforms through.

He is now being buffeted on two fronts: by Euro-skeptics and Euro-separatists, and by an invisible coalition of MPs and bad guys who really dont want those reforms to go through.

To fully understand why the justice reforms are bogged down this is a vital read though perhaps a bit harsh and in another post we will qualify it a bit.

In large part the problem is within Mr Renzi’s own Democratic Party in the Parliament which Mr Renzi is not deft at handling.

Mr Renzi’s party still leads in the polls, but the relatively new Five Star Movement is gaining fast. It stands for honesty in public life above all else.

Virginia Raggi of the populist, Euro-skeptic Five Star Movement was a relatively unknown lawyer just a few months ago.

In a landslide, she has just beaten Mr Renzi’s candidate for mayor of Rome. 

Mr Renzi, who has worked hard on Angela Merkel to get all possible EC breaks,  had previously announced a referendum of Italy in October to see if he can get the Italian electorate to force his reforms through.

He has said he would resign if the vote does not go his way.

If he fails and he does resign, an election could put Five Star in power, and Virginia Raggi could be a top leader in Parliament. (in Italy, wearing two hats is allowed; see Giulia Bongiorno as the classic case.)

In fact she could even end up as Prime Minister - which could result in female leadership in Germany (Merkel), England (May), the United States (Clinton) and Raggi in Italy.  Norway and Poland have female prime ministers too, and Scotland has one in effect.

Well over half a billion people of the western world. Women often manage in an effective inclusionary style, which is maybe what we could use more of right now.

Given the growing post-Brexit “monkeys-are-running-the-zoo” perception in other EC countries, more EC Exits soon dont seem in the cards.  Though they are very much for interactive democracy, Five Star is unlikely to stick Italy with a referendum on the EC any time soon.

But on those reforms Ms Raggi would not be encumbered with a partially-corrupt party she would have to fight. Her effecting of the reforms could have Italy riding high morally and economically in Europe and the world.

Dramatic stuff. A tragic pity Meredith misses all this.


Posted on 06/30/16 at 01:10 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, June 20, 2016

How The Italian “Justice Tortoise” Is The Likely Winner Compared To For Example the US System

Posted by Peter Quennell



American prosecutor & jury - puzzle now over what system will make them share all evidence


Look around you.

The things you do to make a living. The running of your house and your garden. The education and general development of your children. The restaurants and metro railways and bus services. The police and military and football teams - and grand opera!

All are purposeful systems.

Purposeful systems have created all we have ever built on this planet - all wealth, all structures, all machines, all culture.  Typically any educated adult has within them at least 200 significant systems AKA their skill-set: cooking a meal, riding a bicycle, driving a car, using a computer, playing basketball.

You probably dont have a manual for each of them but each time you exercise a skill you probably follow the same hard-learned steps each time you want the benefit obtained previously.

One of the world’s great problems now - starkly seen in the British argument over its future in Europe, and in slow growth in the Arab world (the world’s slowest), and in China’s economy slowing and in anyone without a college degree likely to be worse off going forward - is that we are locked into whole huge arrays of these systems at various levels (family, corporate, city, country, region) that are archaic and mostly quite wrong for our needs going forward.

And few are sure which of all of them add any real value. We are flying blind on a mammoth scale.

With regard to the US as the main economic locomotive, in the 90s two very significant things happened. The East Asia economies really rocketed - because they adopted good systems pioneered by Japan, which itself had started out with many invented in America.

And for a while at least, many Americans really began to “see” systems, and corporations started a huge push toward quality control. You can see one outcome in today’s automobile ads - cars largely sell on their reliability. Their drive systems and safety systems are what sells cars now.

Latest thinking which we often touch on here is that tweaking of any systems anywhere has a short half-life, and after that the only way to get any better is to totally replace them.  Go down the road and start over. Jump to the next level through complete reinvention.

After WWII Germany and Japan and Italy of necessity all did that and for most of the time since they really benefited.

But right now, most systems in most countries are archaic and nobody - at least no political leader or candidate - seems to be able to arrive at the vision and technique vital to jumping to the next level. That in fact should really be done mostly bottom-up, with national politicians playing quite a minor role.

“Path dependencies” like the myriad systems of the common market, many very old now, are today at least as deadly to our long-term future as any aliens from other planets.

Italy is working to try to update its justice system right now and we will report on that shortly. At least in theory, it has one of the easiest tasks in the world, because post WWII its legal system was redesigned from the ground up. It had already junked bad aspects, some going back centuries.

Italy already has some of the world’s smartest juries - jury service is compulsory, so smart people cannot dodge them. And the system already has some other very positive things going for it.

Mainly what is needed is some weeding. And such reforms are made easier in Italy because (1) judges and prosecutors all follow career paths and so they are not politically competing with one another;  and (2) there is the Council of Magistrates (CSM) which can be very progressive in the reforms it pushes at its level.

Overarching reform in the United States is way way more difficult because power is so diffused in the political system and the political system is so vast, and so split by ideologies, and there is no CSM.

Here is an editorial in the New York Times about curbing the massive damage being done by over-zealous prosecutors - something already taken care of in the Italian system, despite the busload of idiots claiming otherwise.

And here is a blog post calling the New York Times editorial a convoluted crackpot of a column and saying the Times should get real. At least in that way, reform aint ever going to happen.

Hop on a plane, guys. Go to Italy, and learn something. 

Posted on 06/20/16 at 05:39 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Sunday, May 01, 2016

“Guilt” Crime Drama 13 June On US Cable TV Features An Abrasive Self-Absorbed Troublemaker

Posted by Peter Quennell

Reminiscent of? You got it. Here’s one synopsis.

“Guilt” is a soapy drama about a young American woman in London who becomes the prime suspect in the savage murder of her roommate.

As the investigation unfolds, viewers will question whether she’s a naïve, young girl whose poor decisions are being magnified under the ruthless glare of the British tabloids, or whether she’s a sociopath who brutally murdered her friend.

Even her sister, who comes to London to defend her, will question how well she knows her little sister as more and more ugly truths come out.

This mystery will twist through all layers of London society – from a posh but depraved sex club, all the way up to the Royal Family itself.

Knox did soar high for a short while. But her self-absorbed manner on TV was never helpful to her. And now she has been hung out to dry by an angry Guede, an angry Sollecito, and even a disbelieving Fifth Chambers of the Supreme Court (see the next post by Chimera).

Posted on 05/01/16 at 08:32 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Another Effective Innovation By New York Police Is Being Duplicated By Others

Posted by Peter Quennell



Police horses, up to a dozen stroked and photographed each evening in the Times Square area


In national US news any innovation of the New York police gets a lot of coverage.

Those crowd-calming police horses seen nightly in the Times Square area go way back, and their presence was never reduced back when some other cities did so - often to their later regret.

There is endemic pressure (especially after 9/11) to keep the city as safe as possible.

From that sustained effort at systems improvement, other American police forces, some very besieged at the moment, attempt to learn something.

New York police both themselves innovate and also adopt good ideas from elsewhere - not least from the brave, popular and effective police forces of Italy.

We posted in January 2013 on New York’s adoption of an Italian approach to policing.

One approach which seems a natural for Italy with all of its art is proving successful in New York now.

Described in the NY Times today is this ongoing exercise in staring at artworks. The point being to sharpen the perceptions of investigators, and to put them all on the same page objectively.

To teach people how to notice details they might otherwise miss, Amy E. Herman, an expert in visual perception, likes to take them to museums and get them to look at the art. Recently she escorted a group of New York City police officers to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and asked them to describe some of the things they saw.

They did their best. “This seems to be a painting of some males with horses,” one officer said of Rosa Bonheur’s mid-19th-century work “The Horse Fair,” a scene of semi-chaos as horses are driven to market. He tried to abide by Ms. Herman’s admonishment to avoid words like “obviously.” “It appears to be daytime, and the horses appear to be traveling from left to right.”

Another pair of officers tackled Picasso’s 1905 “At the Lapin Agile,” which depicts a wilted-looking couple sitting at a French bar after what might have been a long night out. “They appear to have had an altercation,” one observed. The other said, “The male and female look like they’re together, but the male looks like he’ll be sleeping on the couch.”

The officers asked that their names not be used because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. They said that they did not know much about art — their jobs allow little opportunity for recreational museumgoing — and Ms. Herman said she preferred it that way.

“I’ve had people say, ‘I hate art,’ and I say, ‘That’s not relevant,’” she said. “This is not a class about Pollock versus Picasso. I’m not teaching you about art today; I’m using art as a new set of data, to help you clear the slate and use the skills you use on the job. My goal when you walk out the door is that you’re thinking differently about the job.”

A painting has many functions. It’s a cultural artifact, an aesthetic object, an insight into a time and a place, a piece of commerce. To Ms. Herman, it’s also an invaluable repository of visual detail that can help shed light on, say, how to approach a murder scene. “It’s extremely evocative and perfect for critical inquiry,” she said in an interview. “What am I seeing here? How do I attach a narrative to it?”

One of the processes:

Before unleashing the officers in the galleries, she talked to them in a classroom in the Met’s basement. She put up a slide of “Mrs. John Winthrop,” a 1773 portrait by John Singleton Copley. The painting, showing a woman sitting at a table holding little pieces of fruit, is considered a masterpiece of fine detail — the intricacy of the lace trim on the lady’s gown, the rich decorations on her hat. But there’s a detail that’s so obvious, or maybe so seemingly irrelevant, that most people fail to mention it in their description.

“Everyone sees that this is a woman with fruit, and 80 percent miss the mahogany table,” she said. (They also miss the woman’s reflection in the veneer.)

Ms. Herman also displayed a pair of slides featuring reclining nudes: Goya’s “The Nude Maja” (1797-1800) and Lucian Freud’s 1995 “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” who is very fat. Ms. Herman asked the group to compare the pictures. “Most cops, when I ask this question, say it shows someone before and after marriage,” she said.

Several officers raised their hands.

“Uh, the woman at the bottom is more generously proportioned,” one said.

“She is morbidly obese,” said another.

“Right!” Ms. Herman said. “Don’t make poor word choices. Think about every word in your communication.”

Ms. Herman, who has a new book out, “Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life,” came to her vocation in a roundabout way. She worked first as a lawyer, did not like it, took a job in the development office at the Brooklyn Museum and then moved to the Frick Collection. Earning a master’s degree in art history at night at Hunter College, she eventually became head of the Frick’s education department.

There, inspired by a program in which Yale medical students studied works of art to better observe their patients, she helped devise a similar program for the Frick. Eventually she moved beyond medicine. She has been offering the courses full time as her own business since 2011; her clients include federal and local law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as medical students and business executives.

Also successful elsewhere:

Steve Dye, chief of police at the Grand Prairie Police Department in Texas, brought in Ms. Herman recently to talk to a group of officers from the region. He said her presentation was invaluable in showing the officers how to better observe and document their findings accurately and free from bias.

“Some of the works of art she showed us, we wouldn’t notice the finer details,” he said. “And we’re supposed to be professional observers.”

When forced to deconstruct paintings in group settings, people from different professions tend to respond differently.

For cops it’s a natural.

“The law enforcement community is much more forthcoming,” Ms. Herman said. “Cops will outtalk you every time. Doctors and medical students are much more inhibited. They don’t want to be wrong, and they never want to show that they are ignorant about anything.”

The New York Police Department is one of Ms. Herman’s most important clients. She tailors her presentations to her audiences, and they are on the regular training curriculum at the detective bureau and the training bureau at the Police Academy; other divisions use her services from time to time. In general, her program is voluntary rather than mandatory.

“Amy reminds officers to explore outside the box,” said Police Officer Heather Totoro, who added that the program helped officers in training because of its “uniqueness and power.”

“She taps into officers’ unique sixth sense, teaching them to tell her what they see, not what they think.”

Law enforcement officials tend to view the works through the lens of the job: Who has done what to whom? Where is the perp?

“Sometimes they’ll say, ‘We have an E.D.P. here’ — an emotionally disturbed person,” Ms. Herman said. Once she showed some officers El Greco’s “The Purification of the Temple,” which depicts Jesus expelling the traders and money-changers amid turmoil and mayhem.

“One cop said, ‘I’d collar the guy in pink’” — that would be Jesus — ‘“because it’s clear that he’s causing all the trouble.’”

Among the works she finds most interesting as a learning tool is Vermeer’s exquisitely ambiguous “Mistress and Maid,” a 1666-7 portrait of a lady seated at a table, handing over (or being handed) a mysterious piece of paper. “There are so many different narratives,” she said. “The analysts come away asking more questions than answers — ‘Who’s asking the question? Who’s doing the talking? Who’s listening?’ The cops will say, ‘It’s a servant asking for the day off.’”

She also likes “House of Fire,” a 1981 painting by James Rosenquist that has three absurdist parts: an upside-down bag of groceries, a bucket under a window shade, and a group of aggressively thrusting lipsticks. “It’s really conducive to good dialogue,” she said. “How many times do officers have to make order out of chaos? So many times in our work we come across things that don’t have a coherent narrative.”

The officers in the class seemed impressed, both by Ms. Herman and by their grand surroundings.

One officer said that she had learned “how to sit down with colleagues and deal with the fact that you can perceive things so differently from each other.” It was her first trip to the Met, or indeed to any art museum.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It’s very Thomas Crown-ish, isn’t it?”

Below: the Vermeer painting referred to, in the Frick Museum in New York

Posted on 04/25/16 at 11:52 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Italy Excels At Innovation But Unfortunately The EC Hampers Most Good Execution

Posted by Peter Quennell

Italian production of Mazerati cars selling well in the United States - FIAT owns Chrysler


The previous post talked about innovations in the Italian prison system.

Given a free reign, Italians are in fact really, really good at making things better. Hardly anyone in the world can beat them and several of their industries are world-beating, in design areas especially.

Now here’s an article on some of PM Renzi’s reforms and why they are still awaiting execution.

Justice reforms are of course a part of it. We have observed some reforms already, but not yet the full package.

NO country in the world really does much better (see current American frustration) in the absence of a mastery and use of all of the growth knowhow now available which we quite often discuss here.

Mr Renzi is actually quite right (though the article seems to doubt it) that the EC, which always meant well, has become a vast and domineering slower of systems change.

He’s right. The EC really is his single biggest problem. Here are three hampering effects.

    1) The single currency handicaps all but the successful core and removes from all countries one of their two powerful levers for determining proper value, the ability to adjust currency exchange rates to maintain cost competitiveness.

    2) In face of this uphill slope and of EC-wide multinational pretensions, its impossible to set compelling and unfettered visions by way of wide popular participation at the national level and below.

    3) Any major system upgrade there (or anywhere) in absence of “value liberation” and a driving popular vision will become totally exhausting, and so reformers will only tackle change around the edges.

If you are thinking “erk!” you sure have that right.

So should Italy disengage from the EC, therefore? An Italian Brexit? It could be very much better off doing so. A total separation, not the half-baked one the British have been driven nuts by.

Set new goals with widespread popular participation and Italy could not only be off on a wild ride - it could show the world a much-needed model.

Posted on 03/13/16 at 04:18 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, March 03, 2016

Serial Killer Robert Pickton Tries To Cash In - Why Son-of-Sam Laws Should Be Enacted Worldwide

Posted by Chimera



Possibly not all of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton, publicity hound

Son of Sam Anti Bloodmoney Laws

We explained here why laws against blood money are called Son of Sam laws in the US.

Attempts by murderers to persuade gullible publics by way of east access to tone-deaf publishers and TV is becoming an unwelcome phenomenon worldwide and maybe luring others into crime. 

Lawmakers worldwide are being prompted to set this right. There is currently no Son-of-Sam Law in the Canadian Province of British Columbia. Vancouver is the largest city in BC.

BC’s Robert Pickton Serial Killer Case

This is a Vancouver case now in the national Canadian news.

The transcription below is a jailhouse conversation between Robert Pickton, who stood accused of murder, and an undercover police officer.

[0:04] Pickton - They got me.  They got me on this one.

[0:07] Undercover - No.  No shit.

[0:18] Undercover - Fuck, what have they got? Fuck, there’s old carcasses.  So, what have they got, you know what I’m saying?

[0:26] Pickton - DNA

[0:28] Undercover - Fuck

[0:30] Pickton - Yeah

[0:32] Undercover - Come on buddy.  Fuck, that’s nothing.  They can’t finalize it though if you fucking got ... if you’ve fucking got a missing person.  It’s pretty hard to collect DNA on that

[0:44] Pickton - They got DNA

[0:45] Undercover - Fucking guy does it right.  I find the best way to dispose of something is fucking take it to the ocean

[0:56] Pickton - Oh really?

[0:58] Undercover - Oh, fuck, you know what the fucking ocean does to things?  There ain’t much left.

[1:14] Pickton - I did better than that.

[1:15] Undercover - Who?

[1:16] Pickton - Me

[1:17] Undercover - No. huh?

[1:34] Pickton - A rendering plant.

[1:36] Undercover - Hey?

[1:36] Pickton - A rendering plant.

[1:36] Undercover - Ha ha.  No shit.  That’s gotta be fucking pretty good, hey?

[1:44] Pickton - Mmm hmmm

[1:45] Undercover - There can’t be much fucking left?

[1:52] Pickton - Oh no, only I was kinda sloppy at the end, getting too sloppy.

Now, however, Pickton decides he doesn’t want to be just another inmate serving life.  He wants some fame, money and extra publicity as well.

Robert Picton’s Attempt At A Book

With this brazen act Robert Pickton joins the ranks of other sickos who commit murder and then cash in

    (1) O.J. Simpson was paid $600,000 for Pablo Fenjves and Dominick Dunn to write his book ‘’[If] I did it’‘.

    (2) Raffaele Sollecito was paid $950,000 for Andrew Gumbel to write his book ‘‘Honor Bound’’

    (3) Salvatore (Sammy) Gravano was paid $1.5 million for Peter Maas to write his book ‘‘Underboss’’

    (4) Amanda Knox was ostensibly paid $3.8 million (possible world record) for “Waiting to be Heard’‘

Pickton, who is serving 6 life sentences at the Kent Institution in British Columbia was apparently sending his work out piece by piece to Michael Chilldres out in California.  (Author’s Note: it is not clear if “Chilldres” is an alias).

Chilldres claims he only typed out the manuscript, and did not write it, and that it was being done for a friend.

The guards have long been aware of this, according to the Union.  But now that publishing is a reality, it is becoming clear that no effort was made to actually stop it.

    *** Side Note ***  Robert Pickton’s book, titled ‘‘Pickton: In his Own Words’’ was being sold by Barnes and Noble, who also helped Knox sell her (memoir) ‘‘Waiting to be Heard’‘.

    *** Side Note *** Pickton supposedly wrote his own manuscript, unlike creative writing graduate Knox.

    *** Side Note *** Pickton actually waited until his appeals were exhausted before writing a book (or having someone else do it).


A Partial Timeline

The numerous cruel murders took place more than a decade ago.

    December 2006: Jury selection takes place.

    December 2007: Pickton was convicted on 6 counts of 2nd degree murder (not 1st degree) and sentenced to 6 life sentences.

    February 2008: The B.C. Attorney General makes the controversial decision ‘‘not’’ to try Pickton for the additional 20 murders, if his current 6 convictions survive appeal

    June 2009: The BC Court of Appeals rejects 2-1 Pickton’s appeal for a new trial, saying the errors in jury instructions were not enough to overturn the conviction.

    July 2010: The Supreme Court of Canada rejects 9-0 Pickton’s appeal for a new trial.

    August 2010: BC confirms that to save time, money and hardship, the other 20 murder victims will not result in additional charges.

To clear up the confusion, the police and prosecutors actually had evidence that Pickton committed 26 murders, although he was suspected in many more. 

The Crown (Prosecution), chose to only prosecute the 6 strongest cases, leaving the other 20 in limbo.

The Crown argued that there wasn’t much of a difference between 6 life sentences and 26, and the time and expense had to be considered.

While this is true, it left a bad taste for the families of those victims.  Justice wasn’t being pursued literally because of convenience. 

Present State Of The Case

The Attorney General, Premier, and victims right’s groups are working to ensure not only that this book gets pulled, but that Pickton cannot profit from it. Some more:

Posted on 03/03/16 at 01:06 AM by Chimera. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, February 26, 2016

Surprising Similarities Between Sammy The Bull Gravano And The Ex-Perps In Meredith’s Case

Posted by Chimera


Overview

This piece is about Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, an admitted serial killer.

He had a career in the mafia, and was the underboss and hitman for the notorious mob boss John Gotti.  Although his is a case about organized crime, there are many similarities between Gotti v Gravano, and Knox v Sollecito v Guede.

Some Gotti/Gravano history

John Gotti was a captain in the Gambino crime family (named after Carlo Gambino), based in New York, NY.  A serious problem emerged for him when several members of his ‘‘crew’’ were indicted for drug dealing.

These indictments included his younger brother, Gene Gotti, and Angelo Ruggiero, a childhood friend.  The policy within the crime family for many years had been ‘‘deal-and-die’‘.

The upper leadership of the mob had figured that drug dealing was too high profile a crime, and that the extra police attention was not worth it.  True, this was extremely hypocritical, as the bosses collected their cut of all income, knowing that a large portion of those proceeds came directly from drugs.

The drug indictments suddenly meant that John Gotti was in danger.

Though not personally implicated, he thought he might also be killed on the assumption that he approved of the alleged dealing.  He decided to strike first, to save his own neck by having then boss Paul Castellano ‘‘rubbed out’‘.  Gotti solicited the help of Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, who was known as a prolific killer.

Paul Castellano had inducted Gravano into the mob in 1978.  However, Gravano had no qualms about killing his ‘‘friend’’ since Gotti offered him even more: a promotion to ‘‘capo’’ or to ‘‘captain’‘.

Gravano helped Gotti set up the hit for December 16, 1985.  With Castellano (and driver Tommy Billoti who was at the time underboss) dead, the family was temporarily leaderless.  Gotti got himself voted in, and took over the Gambino family.

Castellano wasn’t the only ‘‘friend’’ that Gravano murdered, or would later murder.  Gravano murdered Robert di Bernardo—a business partner, Louie Molito—a childhood friend, and others.  He then took over any assets that they had.  Some ‘‘friend’‘.

For the next several years, Gotti deliberately put himself into the spotlight.  He managed to win 3 criminal trials, and seemed untouchable.  However, in 1990, his mouth got him into trouble, and the FBI recorded Gotti implicating himself and other Gambino associates on murder and other crimes.

Gotti also made many nasty insults towards Gravano, now his underboss.

Gotti, Gravano, and Frank LeCasio (then the 3rd in command) were arrested December 11, 1990.  All were held without bail.  When Gravano finally heard the tapes of what Gotti had been saying about him, he turned and became a ‘‘mob rat’‘.  Gotti and LeCasio were convicted of murder, racketeering and other crimes, and received life without parole. 

Gravano, however got a deal that would put Karla Homolka to shame: 5 years for 19 murders.  True, he could have served 20 for racketeering, but the judge cut it far below that.

For the complete interview, please see the YouTube video at the top here. This was shot in the 1990’s and converted to digital, so the quality is not that great.  Here are a few more for background.  The third one, the movie ‘‘Gotti’’ is fairly accurate, though off on some points.


Gambino family highlights

(1) Albert Anastasia (underboss to Vincent Magino) made his ‘‘friend’’ disappear.  Anastasia then took over.

(2) Carlo Gambino (underboss to Albert Anastasia) had his ‘‘friend’’ shot in a barbershop.  Gambino then took over.

(3) Carlo Gambino made sure the ‘‘best qualified person’’ took over when he had a heart attack.  He hand picked his brother-in-law Paul Castellano to succeed him.

(4) Paul Castellano’s underboss, Neil Delacroce, died of cancer.  Castellano hand picked his buddy, Tommy Bilotti, to become new underboss.

(5) John Gotti and Salvatore (Sammy) Gravano, had their ‘‘friend’’ Paul Castellano shot dead in public.  Gotti took over.

(6) While in prison, John Gotti made sure the best qualified person succeeded him as boss.  He hand picked his son, John Jr.

So…. murder and nepotism seem to be how the top spots get filled in the mafia.

Excerpts From the Video

2:55 (Gravano)  You can relate me to a soldier in Vietnam who killed hundreds of people.  I was a soldier of Cosa Nostra.  I am a hitman.

No. You are just a slimeball who kills for money.

3:25 (Gravano)  Here I am

3:30 (Sawyer)  They have said that you are the single most important witness ever to testify against the mob.

3:36 (Gravano)  I think I am.

3:39 (Sawyer)  So there’s a word you use, for people who turn ...

3:42 (Gravano)  Who cooperate.  You trying to goat me into the word?  Rat?  Is that the word?

3:51 (Sawyer)  That’s the word.  So are you a rat?

3:53 Gravano)  I look at it as ‘‘I was betrayed.  I betrayed him.’‘

3:59 (Sawyer)  Double crosser?

4:01 (Gravano) Loud sigh ... master double-crosser.  John’s a double-crosser.  I’m a master double-crosser.  We played chess, and he lost.

Gravano had in the past sneered at the idea of people testifying.  However, when it is his turn, he dismisses it as a game.

4:30 (Gravano)  Power has a way, where you can believe for a while that you can walk on water.  And I think this is what happened to him.

And people who can walk away from 19 murders?  What are they thinking?

5:25 (Sawyer)  Were you Gotti’s friend?

5:30 (Gravano)  His pit bull.  And his friend.

5:42 (Sawyer)  What was the reason, the real reason you cooperated?  Or was it just to save your skin?

5:48 (Gravano)  I was just tired of the mob, and tired of fighting.  It was a door out of the mob.  You know I watched the David Karresch incident, and I would say to myself: ‘‘how could these people get so brainwashed?  Are they crazy?  Are they nuts?’’ And then I look at myself in the mirror and I say ‘‘brainwashed?’’  Here I am on orders, killing people left and right.  And I’m calling them brainwashed.

6:18 (Sawyer)  There was a book written about you that you said you had a characteristic of committing murder with the non-chalence of someone pulling open the tab on a can of beer.  That was about all that it phased you, or about all it took.

6:30 (Gravano)  As far as being a hitman goes, I was actually good at it.

6:36 (Sawyer)  Because you were fast, and lethal?

6:39 (Gravano)  And loyal.  If I was on your case, I dropped everything.

6:45 (Sawyer)  Look at this list.  There are ... how many?

6:49 (Gravano) 19

6:51 (Sawyer)  Serial killers don’t have 19.

6:53 (Gravano)  We’re worse than they are.

Okay, which is it?  You turned on Gotti because it was a chess game?  Or you did it because you were tired of the mob and the games?  It can’t be both.

7:00 (Gravano)  We only kill ourselves.  What are you worried about?  The public seems to like what we do.  Look at John Gotti.  If I have 19, forget about what he has.  When he wanted a hit, he wanted it done yesterday.  He would sent me to supervise it, or to control it, make sure the job got done.  And I obviously did.  When you’re the boss, and you’re giving orders, you’re credited with all of it, even if you’re not on the street.

Gravano is pulling the ‘‘John was even worse’’ card here.  And he seems somewhat proud of what he has done.  Sicko.

17:55 (Gravano)  I remember something that surprised me is that I had no remorse at all.  None.  I didn’t feel sorry for him in the least.  I felt power.  I felt like my adrenaline in my body was completely out of control.

18:09 (Sawyer)  You were excited?

18:13 (Gravano)  I guess it’s like an animal going after its prey.

18:35 (Gravano)  Everything changed.  .... At a club, oh, no Sammy, you don’t have to wait in line.  You can come right in.

18:40 (Sawyer)  You were a player?

18:45 (Gravano)  I was out of the minor leagues.  I was in the major leagues.

No comment needed.

Other parallels with our pair

  • Gravano is of Italian-American descent.
  • Knox is American.
  • Sollecito is Italian.


  • Gravano was paid $1.5 million for ‘‘his’’ book called Underboss.
  • Knox was paid $3.8 million for ‘‘her’’ book called Waiting to be Heard.
  • Sollecito was paid $950,000 for ‘‘his’’ book, called Honor Bound


  • Gravano tried to ‘‘cash in’’ on his murders by admitting what he had done.
  • Knox/Sollecito tried to ‘‘cash in’’ on Meredith’s murder


  • ’‘Gravano’s’’ book was really written by Peter Maas.
  • ’‘Knox’s’’ book was really written by Linda Kuhlman.
  • ’‘Sollecito’s’’ book was really written by Andrew Gumbel.


  • The families of Gravano’s victims are outraged he is cashing in on the notoriety of his crimes.
  • The Kercher family is outraged AK/RS are cashing in on the notoriety of their crimes.


  • Gravano got an interview from Diane Sawyer.
  • Knox’s first (of many) interviews was with Diane Sawyer.
  • Sollecito’s first (of several) interviews was with Katie Couric.


  • Gambino boss John Gotti was referred to as ‘‘John Gotti’‘.
  • Sammy Gravano was referred to as ‘‘John Gotti’s Hitman’‘.
  • Amanda Knox is referred to as ‘‘Amanda Knox’‘
  • Raffaele Sollecito is referred to as ‘‘Amanda Knox’s Italian Ex-Boyfriend’‘


  • Gravano has no problems airing personal details about his ‘‘friend’’ John.
  • Knox has no problems airing personal details about her ‘‘friend’’ Meredith.


  • Gravano criticizes Gotti’s public lifestyle, then after his deal becomes a media whore.
  • Knox claims she wants to live in peace, but becomes a media whore to sway public opinion, and sell ‘‘her’’ book.
  • Sollecito claims he was just dragged into Knox’s case, but becomes a media whore for the same reasons as Knox.


  • Gravano blames Gotti for destroying the Gambino family, even though he was the one who testified at trial.
  • Knox seems to blame Meredith for her own death, even though she stuck the knife in (well, she had it coming).


  • Gravano (at least he claims) to have rigged Gotti’s racketeering trial to ensure an acquittal (or at worst a hung jury)
  • Knox’s and Sollecito’s case was rigged by Hellmann/Zanetti and Marsca/Bruno to ensure an acquittal.


  • Gravano was psychologically evaluated before leaving prison, and the results were disturbing.
  • Knox and Sollecito were psychologically evaluated in prison, and the results were disturbing.


  • Gravano smeared other mob associates for getting involved with drug trafficking.
  • Knox smeared others (especially in her book) for drug use.


  • Gravano’s drug smears were hypocritical as he was later brought to justice for drug trafficking.
  • Knox’s drug smears were hypocritical, as she was into drugs, and slept with a dealer (Federico Martini) for drugs.


  • Gravano’s most depraved act (outside of murder), was marrying a woman whose brother he had killed (Nick Scibetta).
  • Knox’s most depraved act (outside of murder), was continuing her sex-for-drugs deal even after Meredith’s death.
  • Sollecito’s most depraved act (outside of murder), was his various bride shopping efforts to avoid extradition.


  • Warning signs?  Gravano murdered his business ‘‘friends’‘, so betraying Gotti was no real surprise.
  • Warning signs?  Knox staged a break in, wrote rape stories, and threw rocks at cars, so violence in her home was no real surprise.
  • Warning signs?  Sollecito had supposedly attacked a classmate with scissors, so stabbing someone was no real surprise.


  • Collateral damage?  Gravano was prepared to kill innocent bystanders during the December 16, 1985 hit on boss Paul Castellano.
  • Collateral damage?  Knox framed an innocent person (Lumumba), and tried to pin it all on accomplice Rudy Guede.
  • Collateral damage?  Sollecito helped to pin it all on Guede, and cost his sister Vanessa her career with the Carabinieri.


A Final Thought:

Knox liked the Beatles.  Here is ‘‘Working Class Hero’’ by John Lennon.

.... There’s room at the top
They’re telling you still
.... But first you must learn how to
Smile as you kill
.... If you want to be like all
The folks on the ‘Hill

Posted on 02/26/16 at 09:17 PM by Chimera. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why The Peaking Of Rage And Early Deaths Of Middle-Aged Lower-Prospects Whites In The US?

Posted by Peter Quennell



Recently a study was published showing that middle-aged less-successful whites in the US are dying off unusually fast.

Approximately this same group may be behind the “radical” candidatures for president of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. No question but that those supporters have a serious unmet need.

It may also be behind a lot of the rage we encounter on the web.

In the New York Times this “reference group theory” hypothesis by Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist, has just appeared. Excerpts from a longer whole:

Why are whites overdosing or drinking themselves to death at higher rates than African-Americans and Hispanics in similar circumstances? Some observers have suggested that higher rates of chronic opioid prescriptions could be involved, along with whites’ greater pessimism about their finances.

Yet I’d like to propose a different answer: what social scientists call reference group theory. The term “reference group” was pioneered by the social psychologist Herbert H. Hyman in 1942, and the theory was developed by the Columbia sociologist Robert K. Merton in the 1950s. It tells us that to comprehend how people think and behave, it’s important to understand the standards to which they compare themselves.

How is your life going? For most of us, the answer to that question means comparing our lives to the lives our parents were able to lead. As children and adolescents, we closely observed our parents. They were our first reference group.

And here is one solution to the death-rate conundrum: It’s likely that many non-college-educated whites are comparing themselves to a generation that had more opportunities than they have, whereas many blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to a generation that had fewer opportunities….

In the fourth quarter of 2015, the median weekly earnings of white men aged 25 to 54 were $950, well above the same figure for black men ($703) and Hispanic men ($701). But for some whites — perhaps the ones who account for the increasing death rate — that may be beside the point.

Their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament.

In a comment on a previous thread our frequent poster Grahame Rhodes described a syndrome among ex-military looking for a cause, and asked if we have any ideas.

Strange thing about the civilian mind set concerning Military personnel who have been involved in the actual horrors of warfare. Most civilians are squeamish about the necessity of eradicating an enemy by killing them. They deny the horrors of warfare by pretending that it does not exist, and yet civilians pay for the training and the arming of military personnel to keep them safe. Of course after soldiers are no longer members of any military organization they are generally ignored and even vilified for having taken part in saving any form of saving democracy.

Recently I was at a reunion quite close to Seattle, and sitting at a table among a group of perhaps thirty or so old soldiers the closes one asked me.
“What do you see?”
I said “I see a lot of old soldiers.”
The answer I got was as follows.
“Ah yes but I see far more than that. See him over there? He’s a weapons tech, or perhaps him, he used to teach unarmed combat, or those two who have served in several hot spots the world over.
There is a wealth of knowledge here from medics to drivers etc: But there is something far more important. Everybody you see, all highly trained in warfare and subversive operations are bored out of their mind. They need something to do.”

I said that was very true and very interesting. The point being that when old soldiers are put out to pasture all that training goes to waste. That is a shame and something should be done about it.

Any suggestions?

My own suggestion for what it’s worth was this.

Great story. I know many or most ex-military have a tough time. Here’s an idea that I think might provide them with a viable way forward.

You’d think from what comes out of Hollywood that all our great problems can only be solved by some perverse lone-wolf superhero maverick essentially working against great resistance and with no team or one that is very small.

In fact that is not at all how most real progress works. The two things that create all good change are (1) group-group-group and (2) “seeing” systems and how to adjust them or build new ones afresh.

Really huge and significant processes can be made to come alive, which would fit well with most purely military missions. The kind of thing totally lacking after Bush’s wonderful war in Iraq,

A massive lack throughout the world of people skilled and organized according to these two principles is the root cause of global growth slowing down. There is shockingly little of it going on though US corporations and some others are doing more than they did.

Ex military are already at least 50% down the road in each of them.

They have learned dozens of systems, including the personal skills part, and they are very used to doing things in groups.

“Civilianizing” those abilities could have them playing key roles in exciting processes in communities and corporations and so on that need to upgrade.

Do you know of any book or training that says anything like this? If not I sense a need. As to what to read first, I’d suggest this book as a “compulsory read”.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Innovators-Dilemma-Revolutionary-Business/dp/0062060244

Posted on 02/23/16 at 08:24 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Italy Fights For Justice For A Murdered Student As The UK Government Never Did

Posted by Peter Quennell

Above: a minute’s silence in the Italian parliament for Giulio Regeni an Italian student found slain in Cairo a few days ago.

Hundreds of mourners have gathered in a village in northern Italy for the funeral of Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge PhD student found tortured and dead in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo last week.

Flags were flying at half-mast in Fiumicello, where villagers offered spare rooms and couches for the 28-year-old’s friends and family, as the diplomatic fallout from his death continued in Rome.

The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, warned Egypt that the health of the relationship between the two countries rested on the quality of the investigation into Regeni’s killing.

Compare with how the UK government reacted after Meredith died. Basically it looked the other way. Many in Italian justice were amazed at how totally disinterested the UK government was in the case in all the years since Meredith’s death.

The US government sprang into action to help Knox and to make sure she was treated right, though there was no proof the Italians would do anything but. They found her a Rome lawyer with good English (Carlos Dalla Vedova) and monitored all her court sessions and her four years in Capanne.

This came at a probable cost of over half a million dollars. And that is just the public support. Nobody ever said “the Federal budget cannot stand this”.

The extent of the British government in pushing justice for Meredith and her family? Exactly zero over the years.

Nothing was ever paid toward the legal costs or the very high travel costs of the Kercher family to be in court as the family finances ran into the ground. Nobody from the Foreign Office in London or the UK Embassy in Rome observed in court except in Florence, just the once.

Appalling pro-Knox Italy-bashing in the UK media based on highly inaccurate accounts was never tamped down - presumably because the Foreign Office was itself in the dark, and did not have a clue what was going on.

The ugly message this sent to the world?  If you are going to be a student in foreign trouble, be an American or Italian. Not a Brit.

However, years after four-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared in Portugal, the UK government is spending heavily to right a possible wrong there.  Back in 2007 Meredith’s case and Madeleine’s case began just a few weeks apart.

Maybe to right a possible wrong in Italy, the UK government could do likewise here.


Posted on 02/14/16 at 12:13 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Prime Minister Renzi’s Proposed Reforms Might Have Received A Strange Nudge

Posted by Peter Quennell





So the President of Iran and the Prime Minister of Italy sit in a museum in Rome and stare at… a horse.

You probably know by now that eight nude statues in a Rome museum, male and female, were boxed up on somebody’s orders when the President of Iran visited to discuss several multi-billion-dollar deals.

It was hard to see any relevance of the resultant fuss to our case at all, but the New York Times helps us out.

As a consequence of Boxgate, Italy has suffered ridicule. Nothing is worse than ridicule. Here it is merited. Not so much, I would argue, for Italy’s clumsy attempt at courtesy, for courtesy is important and has become an undervalued virtue. Reading the fall of the West into the concealment of a nude is going too far. Mistakes happen.

No, the ridicule is merited because the decision to hide the works of art was, it seems, made by nobody. In Rome, the buck stops nowhere.

The Capitoline Venus just boxed herself up one night because she was bored and took a few deities along with her.

The prime minister, Matteo Renzi, did not know. The foreign minister did not know. The culture minister called the decision “incomprehensible.” They were, they insist (perhaps too much), as surprised as anyone to find all those white cubes — none, incidentally, provided by the prestigious White Cube gallery in London.

One account has it that a woman named Ilva Sapora who works at Palazzo Chigi, where Renzi’s office is located, made the decision after visiting the Capitoline with Iranian Embassy officials. “Nonsense,” Jas Gawronski, a former Italian member of the European Parliament, told me. The notion that a midlevel Chigi official in charge of ceremonial matters could have made the decision does seem far-fetched. Gawronski believes it is more likely to have been officials at the Farnesina, home to the Foreign Ministry.

One thing can be safely said: Nobody will ever know. I was a correspondent in Rome for some years in the 1980s. Periodically there would be developments in terrorist cases — the Piazza Fontana bombing of 1969 or the Brescia bombing of 1974. Trials, verdicts, appeals followed one another. Facts grew murkier, not clearer. It would take decades to arrive at convictions that did not resolve doubts. Italy has never had much time for the notion that justice delayed is justice denied.

Renzi has wanted to break with this Italy of murky secrets, modernize it, bring stable government and install accountability.

So this incident in a blazing spotlight could even help to push the current reforms of the justice and governance systems along.

And the strongest reform proponents of all? To escape this hamster wheel, judges and prosecutors of Italy. 

Posted on 02/02/16 at 08:01 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Only In Italy? A Complete Orchestra - Of Women Playing Harps

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



Complexity squared….

The venues are not given, but one looks like the La Scala Opera House in Milan, completely sold out. Actually, there are a few such orchestras elsewhere in Europe and in the US; in Italy they are thick on the ground.

Posted on 01/24/16 at 07:46 PM by The TJMK Main Posters. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Beyond The Italian And UK Media Reports That Knox Was Found Not Guilty Of Calunnia II

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



Knox with Rita Ficarra who Knox accused of hitting her.


UK media are reporting that the case was about slander, in effect a civil case by those who consider themselves damaged.

But in fact this was calunnia, which is more serious, a false accusation of a crime to a justice official, in this case the claim Knox made on the stand that she was forced to finger Patrick.

We are told this is key context which the UK reporting leaves out. 

    1. The original complaint was made (the rules required it) by those who were accused before the 2009 trial ended with a verdict of Knox’s guilt.

    2. Preceding Knox on the stand had been all of those she accused. So to court-watchers in Italy her testimony was not a convincing show.

    3. Knox was thereafter found guilty for essentially the same crime, with a sentence set at three years by Judge Hellmann and endorsed by the Fifth Chambers of the Supreme Court.

In effect, justice had been served for the false claims. Italian justice officials still have a big shot at worse claims in Knox’s book.

Under the Statute Of Limitations, as the book was added-to and re-issued in 2015, that opportunity exists for another five years.

Posted on 01/15/16 at 04:21 PM by The TJMK Main Posters. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, January 09, 2016

How A Major Media Controversy In The US Augurs Well For The Imminent Reframing Of The “Knox Case”

Posted by Peter Quennell


1. The Wisconsin Case Now In Dispute

1. The Netflix Report

In mid December a pay-per-view documentary about a murder case in Wisconsin was put online.

Millions of people in the US and elsewhere have paid up and watched the 10-hour Netflix report. Convinced that they are experts now on the whole case, hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions to the President and the State Governor requesting that the convicted Steve Avery be released.

Some viewers have even taken to berating and threatening the investigators and the prosecution both online and in telephone messages and texts.

Their take seems to be of the investigators and the prosecution corruptly making many, many things up during the investigation and trial. Their supposed motive was to cover their tails in a previous case where Steve Avery was indeed wrongly convicted, for which they could now face court and loss of jobs.

Furthermore some reports claimed that a juror had said the jury felt intimidated and were never convinced of guilt.

2. Reaction Of US Media

A growing wave of reports and articles have been aired and published online in effect saying most of the hardest evidence was left out.

The lead prosecutor has been quoted as saying “90 percent of the evidence” against Avery and a relative convicted as an accomplice was not even mentioned in the report.

So a wave of fact-checking is going on.

Even though it is still early days here and here are Time Magazine. Here is the Los Angeles Times. Here is the New York Times. Here is On Milwaukee’s website. Here is the International Business Times.

Several TV documentaries contradicting the Netflix report are reportedly already in the works. See the reports here and here and also here.

And the juror has now denied that the jury was intimidated and did not do an honest job. So far, all the jurors seem to be standing by their verdict, in the face of a lot of heat.

Oh and on those petitions which Netflix stirred? President Obama’s spokesman has said it is not a Federal case so he will not intervene, and the Governor of Wisconsin has said he will not intervene either, as the state has good justice systems in place.

So they will ignore opinion that was deliberately muddled for commercial ends, and instead leave matters to the courts.

2. Parallels To Reporting Of The “Knox Case”

The parallels to the Perugia case are in fact immense.

The prosecution case in 2009 was extremely persuasive and the entire jury (panel of judges) voted for guilt. They sat through the very tough and convincing 1/4 of the trial that was held behind closed doors.

A majority of Italians still believe that Amanda Knox led a cruel pack attack on Meredith and (to Guede’s and Sollecito’s seeming considerable shock) landed the fatal stab in Meredith’s neck.  They watched Knox on the stand for two days, in fact doing herself great harm.

In contrast, almost the entire American media followed the Netflix route.

Main media have struggled to report the trial for language and local-staff reasons, and the Associated Press carried by 2000 media outlets actively misled. Main media presented almost no reporting of the very painstaking judicial checking by ten judges that preceded the case ever going to court.

Main media have still not translated not even one major document (the Wiki and two PMFs and TJMK have translated hundreds of documents now and are still not done) and have left hundreds of evidence points unaddressed.

Main media have also misreported the overturning of the Hellmann outcome and the Nencini appeal. They have especially misrepresented the supposed complete Marasca-Bruno reversal for the Fifth Chambers of the Supreme Court.

As lawyers for Dr Mignini and three of our main posters (James Raper, Machiavelli and Catnip) have shown, in fact the Fifth Chambers (a) should not even have had the case; (b) broke two laws, (c) misinterpreted a few elements of the evidence, (d) left literally hundreds of evidence points out, (e) went against strongly established Italian legal precedents, and (f) even ridiculed plain hard science.

And even so, they still placed Knox right at the scene of the attack at the time, and Sollecito probably so. Accessories before or after the crime. Felons in their view in fact.

So here’s a prediction on what Americans will see in the media soon on this case.

The widespread media reaction against Netflix will be reflected in a major correction in the main media against the serious under-reporting and misreporting of the Perugia case.

We have some idea of what is already in the works. Stay tuned.

 

Posted on 01/09/16 at 01:52 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Worldwide In 20th Century, Maybe Half Of All Murders May Be Attributed In Part To Lead Poisoning

Posted by Peter Quennell





That lead damages brains has been known for many years. That it causes murders is more recently accepted. 

The first graph below shows when the US began to move from leaded gasoline to unleaded gasoline in the mid 70s. Lead was removed altogether around 1990.

Some but not all countries followed a similar pattern.

The effects, though diminishing, are going to be with us for a long time. Maybe to mid-century? The pioneer researcher economist Nick Nevin wrote this about the murder-rate/lead correlation:

Lead exposure trends affect homicide trends with a 21-year time lag, reflecting the impact of early-childhood neurodevelopmental damage when those children reach the peak ages of homicide offending.

That suggests that anyone alive today over 25 may have had significant exposure. Roughly half the world’s population, some 3.5 billion.

Very few of those committed murders, but of those that did the research findings reflected in the second graph below suggest that half might have been lead-affected and there remain among us millions of time-bombs. This is from a recent BBC report:

Dr Bernard Gesch says the data now suggests that lead could account for as much as 90% of the changing crime rate during the 20th Century across all of the world.

Numerous cases like this one now use lead poisoning as a defense.  It doesnt seem a get-out-of-jail-free card, but for some obviously mentally impaired it is proving helpful.






Posted on 01/05/16 at 10:49 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Buon Anno 2016! Bay Of Naples Has A Fireworks Show Like… Not Your Normal Town

Posted by The TJMK Main Posters



Last year the fireworks of Meredith’s home town received a lot of praise - she was born not far from that giant wheel.

Posted on 12/31/15 at 09:48 PM by The TJMK Main Posters. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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How American Judges Can Be Made To Feel The Heat Over Controversial Verdicts

Posted by Peter Quennell





Why American judges can envy Italian judges part deux.

As we surely all know now, most Italian judges advance along a career path. Only a few are politically appointed and none are elected.  All of the time their rulings are under minute scrutiny and (as we have seen with Judges Hellmann, Marasca and Bruno) the powerful Council of Magistrates can stop their advancement in a heartbeat if any of those rulings look suspect.

American judges are mostly elected with little training requirements or qualifications testing. If they seem to have stepped out of line some of them can face political hearings and discipline boards (as Judge Heavey did) but not all do.

But the worse reaction many fear more is the media and the public turning upon them, made vastly more possible because of the Internet and happening time and time again these days. 

The American judge now much in the news - and not in a good way - is Jean Boyd of Texas.

In March 2012 Jean Boyd, then a Juvenile Court judge, sentenced a 14-year-old black boy to 10 years for killing a smaller boy with one powerful punch.  She was criticised for being way too harsh then.

In December 2013 she veered sharply in the other direction.

She sentenced a now notorious teenager to mere probation and rehabilitation after he had killed four people and maimed a fifth for life when drunk-driving. The psychological defense she bought into was that his family was so rich that he grew up without the right parenting.

This was apparently a unique defense and one that has never been attempted for poorer people. Judge Boyd was widely criticised for being way too light then.

The two cases dropped out of the news for a while.

But now the notorious white teenager Ethan Couch is all over the news again. A few weeks ago he was caught on video drinking - which could lead to his serving time in prison - and a couple of weeks ago he disappeared along with his mother.

Considering that he has not yet even been charged with a transgression of his probation, the size and cost of the manhunt was extraordinary. Somehow the US Federal Marshall Service pinpointed his phone in a Mexican apartment, and the Mexican police arrested him along with his mother and locked them up.

Today he is being held in an Mexican prison with his mother. It is just reported that they are fighting extradition.

Good luck with that one.

Judge Boyd actually retired a year ago in face of a petition demanding she be fired. She was given some credit by the local newspaper.

But her verdict never convinced an angry public or the families of the four dead and one maimed victims, and both he and his irresponsible mother also now seem headed for prison.

And it seems Ms Boyd is not returning phone calls.


Below: Tonya Couch and Ethan Couch at the trial in 2013





Posted on 12/31/15 at 12:02 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Friday, December 25, 2015

Capturing Collective Memories: Of Broadway Dance And Of Family Life

Posted by Peter Quennell

The only YouTube so far,  with costumes & lighting & orchestra the dances really take off


There’s an astonishing Broadway show on in NYC now.

If you are part of the million visitors in NYC at any one time (absurd, right?) it’s at the Joyce Theater, tkts are only $45 if you can get them, its a sponsored run. Its called American Dance Machine. Some 18 Broadway dancers and a fine orchestra onstage at the back.

The promotional video above gives a hint but for-real it is a terrific jolt. Its only a brief season because the dancers are some of the best and are in great demand. A couple are from the several ballet companies here.

The purpose is to capture and show again many dance routines and several songs from Broadway musicals that are mostly gone, some long gone, and wont be back again, and show just how good they were. Maybe every year there will be another brief season like this.

How did they put this together? There was an audience panel of the creators and some dancers after the show one night and they explained. They had to hunt round and find choreographers and dancers who had memories of the routines and find videos of the routines at the Arts library at Lincoln Center. The collective memory is mostly still there but its elusive and spread around and it will fade.

So. To the real point of this post, Does anyone have a family blog? The reason for having one is really the same. Collective memory, in this case of the family, while memories going back awhile are still around. Put down the family history as you know it and get some others in on it and pass it down.

It might make those who follow want to write online in a more empowering and permanent way than social media, which scrolls away fast and can have limited satisfaction and real-results effects. Best of the family videos and photos can go there.

Some 20-40-60 years hence those who come next are going to value that body of family history so much. They may not know you but they will know about you and what you did and felt and feel they are part of a great team going forward.

Season’s cheer!

Posted on 12/25/15 at 06:28 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

“Spotlight” Movie About Fine Example Of Investigative Journalism Is Oscar Best-Picture Favorite

Posted by Peter Quennell





Hollywood has rewarded movies about investigations many times over the years.

Maybe not such a bad thing when media are under such internet and political pressure - and too often prone now to propagating dishonest PR and misleading their audiences, as we have seen.

“Spotlight” portrays an investigation by a Boston Globe newspaper team in 2001 and 2002 into myriad sexual abuses by priests in that very catholic city.

This was the first-ever such investigation into the sexual abuses. It started very small - less than 10 priests were initially suspected - and ran into roadblocks and was nearly shut down several times.

it eventually cascaded into the exposure of hundreds of priests in the US and many more worldwide. Numbers of victims are unknown but worldwide are numbered at minimum in the hundreds of thousands.

The pace of the film is phenomenal. There is jolt after jolt as the reporters - most of whom are themselves catholic or lapsed-catholic and take some heat - in repeated disbelief find the numbers of priests and victims growing and growing.

Pope Francis himself is reported as in favor of investigations continuing.  The various support groups representing the numerous “survivors” have welcomed the film.

Some American priests have raised some objections. They dont seem to fault the movie for honesty though.

Prophet’s Prey is a similarly gripping and unflinching movie, about children abused by fundamentalists. It is a documentary, and may be nominated for an Oscar in that category.

Posted on 12/16/15 at 06:09 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Counterterrorism: Another Way Italian Law Enforcement Is An Effective Model For Everywhere Else

Posted by Peter Quennell





We have often mentioned these major justice-system pluses:

(1) That Italy has one of the industrialized world’s lowest crime rates and that US cities have been observing its model.

(2) That it has a very prominent and much admired police presence, and a small and much admired court and penal system.

Now Thomas Williams is reporting this third big plus from Rome in Breitbart Business News

A leading military analyst is citing Italy as a model of counterterrorism done right, pointing out that despite many factors going against it, Islamic terrorists have failed to kill a single person on Italian soil.

In the most recent issue of Nikkei Asian Review, Romanian born political scientist and military analyst Edward N. Luttwak lays out a persuasive theory explaining how Italy has been so successful in thwarting Islamic terror attempts. In a word: Italy is not afraid to deport those it considers to be a threat to national security.

In his essay titled “Doing Counterterrorism Right,” Luttwak contrasts Italy with France and Belgium, noting that although Italy is much more vulnerable than they are, it has been far more effective at stopping would-be terrorists before they strike.

So where France has been “caught by surprise again and again by terrorist attacks with many lives lost” and in Belgium “terrorists have been coming and going for years, buying military weapons with remarkable ease,” Italy has remained unscathed.

It would seem that Italy doesn’t have much going for it. It has porous borders and a Muslim population that exceeds 2 million and has played an active role in military expeditions in Islamic territories. Moreover, the Vatican is the “most iconic target in Europe,” and tops the list of objectives of the Islamic State, Luttwak observes. And yet, “nobody has been killed by Muslim terrorists in Italy.”

Italian counterterrorism has been on full alert since 9/11, Luttwak says, and its combined forces “have detected and interrupted hundreds of terrorist plots large and small, at every stage from mere verbal scheming to fully ready actions.”

So where terrorists have successfully attacked in Madrid, London, Paris, Toulouse, Copenhagen, Brussels and elsewhere, in Italy they have been foiled time after time.

Luttwak suggests that Italy’s success is all a question of method, based on the insight that the only thing that can be done to stop potential terrorists is to follow those who are suspected to be truly dangerous around the clock so that they can be arrested or killed at a moment’s notice. Since the numbers of probable suspects can be astronomical, Luttwak says, their numbers must be effectively reduced if this strategy is to bear fruit. And this is exactly what Italy has done.

State intelligence agencies throughout Europe monitor suspects, filling out reports and keeping files, but they often fail to take the action needed. The Italians, however, immediately conduct an interrogation on credible suspects, and many are sent home or arrested, if their situation merits it. Italy currently has more than 180 radical imams in prison, Luttwak notes.

Employing this method, Italian authorities are able to keep numbers of suspected potential terrorists within a reasonable range and thus are able to monitor them effectively.

Earlier this month, Franco Roberti, the head of Italy’s anti-mafia and counterterrorism task force, said he intended to protect citizens from the danger of terrorism “by adopting all the preventive measures necessary,” and noted that “we must be prepared to give up some of our personal freedoms, in particular in the area of communication.”

The fact that the Italians lump together anti-mafia operations with counterterrorism is also telling. Unlike other European states, with the exception perhaps of the UK, Italy has a long history fighting serious organized crime within its borders, coming from the different branches of the Italian mafia working in various parts of the peninsula.

The Italian interior ministry has reportedly also increased its “targeted expulsions” of persons considered to be a risk to national security. So far this year, 55 individuals have been deported and the ministry has said the numbers will only grow.

According to Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, intelligence and counterterrorism units are reevaluating information gathered in recent months on some 56,000 people, scouring case files to see whether anything could have been overlooked.

Given Italy’s impressive counterterrorism track record, it may be about time for other European nations to sit up and take note.

Posted on 12/08/15 at 12:51 AM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wide Concern In US At A Killer Groupie Who Helped Dangerous Killers To Escape

Posted by Peter Quennell



We have occasionally dwelled upon what drives killer groupies. The phenomenon is widespread and it has been around a long time.

A desperation for money and new jobs and status. Perversions, chips on shoulders, previous brushes with the law - that last driver actually accounts for about half.

Sheer besottedness is one quite common cause. Some people really do love dangerous jerks. 

Now a killer groupie is responsible for a huge and expensive manhunt, and for hundreds of thousands 250 miles north of New York City and up into Canada locking their doors and buying guns.

They fear an attack, even death, from two dangerous killers on the loose.

The sole cause of their breaking out of a secure prison which had seen no prior breakouts in 150 years is a killer groupie, a woman married with children employed on the prison staff, who supplied them with power tools to cut their way out. and who was to drive the getway car.

Joyce Mitchell has been arrested and charged with a felony and may face eight years inside. [She was sentenced to 7 years, in Sept 2015.]

As she failed to turn up on the night - maybe cold feet, maybe a medical emergency as she seems to claim - the two killers are believed still to be close. Bloodhounds picked up a scent in marshes near the prison only a couple of days ago.

Nice going, Joyce, do call Amanda Knox. Oh, but wait…

Posted on 06/13/15 at 02:43 PM by Peter Quennell. Click screenname for a list of all main posts, at top left.
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