One Year in, Trump-World Is Drowning in Regret and Chaos With Little to Show for It

It’s been 12 months since an improbable election, and the president’s cheerleaders, former advisers, and friends have things they would have done differently.

Lachlan Markay,  Asawasin Suebsaeng

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It’s been a year since Donald J. Trump  was elected president of the United States, commander in chief, leader of the free world, the most powerful person on the face of the planet.

In those 12 months, the country experienced, well, quite a lot. Federal courts have axed multiple versions of Trump’s travel, a.k.a. Muslim, ban, the White House has been engulfed in a seemingly neverending drip of Russia scandal turmoil, Congress appears deadlocked on every major administration-backed initiative, there’s been a sloppily handled nuclear standoff with North Korea, equivocation over the murder of a protester by a neo-Nazi…

[Deep breath]  

…the president has clashed with the family and friends of a fallen soldier, he accused a top Democrat of facilitating a terror attack in New York, he has relentlessly feuded with various political and personal enemies, and there has been unprecedented staff turnover at the highest levels of the administration.

What the country hasn’t seen is a major legislative achievement or a sign that Trumpism as a political ideology is anything close to bulletproof, certainly not after the drubbing that took place Tuesday night in this  year’s most important election.

The vast majority of White House officials The Daily Beast has spoken to in recent weeks recognize that the West Wing is uniquely, mind-blowingly chaotic and overwhelmed, and that the GOP agenda remains inert.

Despite it all, the president’s allies and advisers have decidedly mixed feelings about Year One of the Trump era. Some proclaim total success, or blame any shortcomings on forces outside of his control.

Others are drowning in regret over the direction the Trump White House has taken or find themselves consumed by grievances relating to their pet issues. Asked what one thing she could change about the Trump’s administration, pro-Trump TV personality Scottie Nell Hughes (who made a name for herself during the 2016 election as one of the most faithful Trump boosters on cable news) replied, “Only one thing? Lol.”

“President Trump and his team should have been ready to introduce and push for the vote almost immediately of his top three campaign promises,” Hughes added. “Tax reform, repeal and replace AHCA & legislation to build the wall (in that order) should have been ready, introduced and voted on before the opposition could organize against. Instead, this administration lost their focus in the fog of the swamp and was swallowed up by the status quo.”

Others pinpointed more specific problems. “Build the wall,” conservative commentator Ann Coulter told The Daily Beast, when asked what one thing she wished Trump and his team had done differently thus far.

“Never fire the FBI director,” bluntly advised Barry Bennett, a Trump campaign adviser turned federal lobbyist. Ed Brookover, a Trump campaign hand and current Bennett colleague at the lobbying firm Avenue Strategies, said he wished Trump had been bolder. “Changing the swamp culture is hard,” he wrote. “Keep pushing on every front.”

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump political adviser who served early on in his campaign before getting sacked, said Trump should not have brought his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, into the White House, since “he”—Kushner— “is an incompetent.” Beyond that, Nunberg added, Trump should have started “with tax reform instead of repealing Obamacare.”

On the other end of the spectrum was Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign alumnus and former White House official who is now chief political analyst at the Sinclair Boradcast Group. Of those in Trump-world who spoke to The Daily Beast, he was the only one to offer unvarnished praise for the campaign and the administration as is. “I do not wish for anything to have been done differently,” said Epshteyn, whose contributions to Sinclair invariably praise the president and his agenda items of the day. “I am proud of our winning campaign and the great work the Trump administration is doing for the American people.”

A.J. Delgado, a senior adviser to the 2016 campaign, said that her biggest quibble (at least on the record) was about canines. “Everyone knows I’m a fanatic about dog welfare so I would have liked to see the first family adopt a rescue dog as their pet,” she emailed. “What’s more anti-Establishment-swamp than getting a survivor, all-American rescue as their dog? The world underestimated POTUS’s chance of winning last November—I’d love to see him with a dog that the world underestimated, too.”

While others from Trump’s orbit expressed regret for the distractions that have encumbered the administration, many knew precisely where to place the blame for the failure to move the Trump agenda.

“I think we all trusted the Congress too much,” said Michael Caputo, a Republican operative and another veteran of Trump’s presidential run. “Today we know leaders of both houses have not been able, or even willing, to deliver on the President’s agenda. If I knew we would have so many problems on Capitol Hill, I would have urged the president to move immediately on tax cuts and infrastructure after the Inaugural.”

Darrell Scott, a Cleveland-area pastor and former member of Trump’s presidential transition, said he continues to be a die-hard fan of the president. He also told The Daily Beast he is still mulling a congressional run based largely on a pro-Trump platform and has been texting with Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, and has plans to meet with Corey Lewandowski , Trump’s ousted campaign manager, to talk about it.

Scott said he laments the anti-Trump “back-stabbing” from party stalwarts such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and believes the president “should have stayed in campaign mode” after his inauguration.

“[He should have] not [tried] to cooperate with the [Republican] Party as much as he has because they haven’t supported him in return, and [are] not trusted to have his back,” Scott said Monday, reflecting on the supposed strategic blunder.

Rarely, if ever, do the first years of first terms go swimmingly for a president. But Trump’s, by most measures, has been rockier than normal. On the eve of the election anniversary, it is clear that both he and his allies are grappling with a political reality that many did not expect, in part because they never anticipated that they might win. That includes Trump himself.

According to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, at least four people in the room with Trump on Election Night “ have said he was stunned to silence” at the news he had actually defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. A senior Trump campaign official confirmed that to The Daily Beast, stating that “yes, he was surprised but virtually everyone [on the campaign] was preparing for the opposite outcome that day.”

In just a few months, Trump will enter the second full year of his administration. And the president’s biggest fans are hopeful that they’re now better suited and situated for the long haul.

“I’ll be give him an ‘A’ [grade], given the obstacles the administration has been facing,”Corey Stewart , former chairman of the Trump campaign in Virginia, told The Daily Beast, as he waited on the results of his state’s gubernatorial  race early Tuesday evening.

“You got all this opposition from inside the Republican Party, like from Sen. McCain, and Sen. Flake, and the others who have been trying to stop the president from implementing his agenda,” Stewart continued. “[But] it’s just beginning. And conservatives and Trump supporters have to have patience. It’s going to take a long time to drain the swamp.”

Source : The Daily Beast

 

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Report: Trump’s Pick for Drug Czar Helped Hinder Opioid Crackdown

President Trump’s nominee to be the country’s next drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), has been singled out as the architect behind legislation that crippled the Drug Enforcement Administration’s fight against the opioid epidemic, in a new joint investigation by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes.

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Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Marino was the chief advocate of a bill introduced in 2013 and passed in 2016—at the height of the drug epidemic—that stripped the DEA of its authority to freeze shipments of suspicious narcotics from drug companies, The Washington Post reported.

Joe Rannazzisi, the former chief of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, alleges in the report that several members of Congress are under the control of major drug companies that use their money to gain influence.

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“The drug industry—the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and chain drugstores—have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before,” Rannazzisi was quoted as saying. According to the Post, political action committees representing the pharmaceutical industry contributed at least $1.5 million to the 23 members of Congress who sponsored or co-sponsored the industry-friendly legislation.

Marino reportedly received $100,000 from these committees, while Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) is said to have gotten $177,000.

Source : Daily Beast

The Streets Are ‘Not Safe’: Puerto Rico Begs U.S. for Help

The island is not just trying to recover, it’s trying to reconnect with the rest of the world. The situation is disastrous and they are begging for more help.

Pablo Venes

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—On this American island still suffering terribly from mighty Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact, the feeling of despair and anxiety is now mixed with fear at night, when looters rule the streets.

Hector Velez owns one of the seven gas station near San German, a municipality on the southwest part of the island. Half of the rooftop of his gas station was stripped away by Hurricane Maria but the storm didn’t cause most of damage he now has to deal with.

“Why would they do that to me? Everyone knows me around here. I’ve always been nice to my clients,” Velez told The Daily Beast as he looked at shattered windows and emptied food racks.

After seeing all the damage his station suffered from looters, Velez decided not to open, punishing everyone in the community, many of whom were looking desperately for gas.

“It breaks my heart, but I need to be calm about this. I can’t believe how people are so harsh. Is this nobody’s land now?” Velez wondered, and estimated that he will have to invest about $17,000 to reopen.

Another business owner who is fed up with the authorities, or the lack of them, is Marcelo Feliciano, who witnessed the looting of his restaurant.

“Since the [CCTV] cameras are not working, I come by often, and yesterday I caught them,” Feliciano said.

Incidents like these are common in the capital, where men carrying bats and clubs have been seen on the streets during curfew hours. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, told WAPA Radio, “We highly advise everyone not to be on the streets at night. It is not safe,” warning that reports of looting are on the rise.

“That is definitely something I don’t want to hear. Especially when the only lighting I have during the night is candlelight,” said Bianca Nevarez, who lives in Bayamon, where the scenario is much more tense since 13 prisoners escaped while they were being transferred to another criminal facility after the Category 5 storm caused severe damage in the prison. “We have captured eight of them, so five are still on the loose,” Ramon Rosario, secretary of Public Affairs of La Fortaleza told The Daily Beast.

Rosario added that 21 arrests have been made across the metropolitan area as a result of those breaking the curfew, which now runs from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. No expiration date has been set.

“We will leave it active until the emergency period that we are suffering settles,” said Governor Ricardo Rosselló, noting that anyone caught on the streets during curfew hours will face up to six months in prison.

Hurricane Maria snatched away all the green from Puerto Rico’s mountains and it’s projected to do the same with the faith and hopes of those who lived through it. Five days have passed, now, since the unprecedented storm caused mayhem in “La Isla del Encanto.”

Last night, Ricardo Rossello, the governor of the Puerto Rico, called on the Pentagon to provide more help. He said there were helicopters and planes nearby that they need to be allowed to use. “Whatever relief package we have, whatever impact we have, we are U.S. citizens,” Rossello told Politico. “We shouldn’t be the lesser for it.”

Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress, Jennifer Gonzalez, said there are 7,000 federal government officials on the island. FEMA administrator Brock Long is scheduled to visit on Monday and the agency  said it has already provided more than 1 million meals and liters of water, respectively. Two Marine Corps ships that were deployed to Houston and Florida for hurricane relief are also assisting.

Before having their power or running water restored, the vast majority of the 3.4 million residents are asking authorities to prioritize the re-establishment of the communications system.

“Mom, can you hear me?… It’s me Mom, it’s Laura. I’m fine, I made it…” a young woman shouted as she knelt on the ground, listening to the voice of her mother across the line after her family was torn apart, virtually, by the catastrophic Category 5 storm.

This is a culture that has gotten used to being connected—with others on the island and off of it. The internet is ubiquitous, cellphones even more so. And then, suddenly, none of that worked. The storm came, and took with it our contacts in the outside world, and the lack of communication creates a post-apocalyptic feeling on the streets.

In the midst of flooded highways covered with fallen trees, groups of people—sometimes hundreds of them—stop and gather around, holding up their phones to an antenna in hopes of making contact with their loved ones.

The Daily Beast drove through the northern part of the island and found that Dorado, Bayamón, Cataño, Guaynabo, San Juan, and Carolina are the only cities that have reception out of the 78 municipalities.

In the first days after the storm a curfew was in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but that didn’t stop people from making a four-hour drive from the southern region of the island up to the north to try to make a call. (It doesn’t help that cops wasted their time getting people off the highways during curfew instead of patrolling the streets where looting was under way.)

With 100 percent of the power grid in ruins, landline phones do not work and the main TV stations have gone off the air. The Department of Energy said it is assisting Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to restore power.

For those living abroad the anxiety is as bad, if not worse. Family members in the diaspora attempt to make contact with locals via WAPA Radio, the only station that is transmitting at full strength.

“I can’t listen to the radio anymore. It reminds me a lot of when 9/11 occurred in New York and people were asking for a trace of their families,” said one listener, Jonathan Alvarez, as a woman called with a long list of names of people who she hoped would be alive.

As of Saturday, the death toll rose from 7 to 9 fatalities linked directly with Maria, Rosselló confirmed. Among them, two sisters swallowed by water and muck in their backyard in Utuado.

The number is still on the rise. According to the National Weather Service some areas of Puerto Rico received more than 38 inches of rain by Saturday, and the deluge went on, producing harsh conditions and complicating rescue work.

Many prayers were focused on Quebradillas, a coastal municipality whose almost 90-year-old river dam started to crack, provoking the evacuation of 80,000 people who never knew their lives were in danger.

Governor Rosselló had warned early on there might be a blackout for four days. But on the fifth day little had improved.

Truth is, not even the governor has enough signal, making the flow of information with the media scarce. He has not been able to establish communication with all the municipalities.

“To all the mayors, if you are hearing this, please do the best you can to come and see us in the Puerto Rico Convention Center where we have set up an emergency command station,” Rosselló urged via WAPA radio.

“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of getting communication. We were just trying to recover from Irma, now we have to start over and this time is a lot worse,” Sandra Torres, president of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, said during a news conference. Torres estimated that 85 percent of the system was down. “Since the antennas rely on electricity, we have to wait for a ship from the U.S. to bring us batteries to get them back up,” she said.

Fuel, and a plate of hot food, are also considered rare commodities. As the sun rises, thousands rush to the streets willing to make a line of up to four hours for a bucket of gasoline.

“Tensions are really bad in gas stations. We have reports of fighting and arrests have already been made,” Rosario told WAPA. He also confirmed that reports of looting were on the rise.

Some fast food restaurants are beginning to reopen. People waiting an hour for a hot plate has become a norm.

Source : Daily Beast

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US police train in counterterrorism in Israel, attend 9/11 memorial

By Daniel K. Eisenbud
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“In our communities, for a lot of police officers, it’s a job, and I think that it’s more than a job for a lot of the officers in Israel because they are protecting their homeland.”

For the second consecutive year, the Police Unity Tour, a delegation of 52 American law-enforcement officers from 12 states, arrived in Israel to train in counterterrorism techniques and attend an annual 9/11 memorial service outside Jerusalem.

According to the delegation’s leader, Michael Safris, chief of the Essex County’s Sheriff’s Office Deputy Division, the Police Unity Tour was established in 1997 to honor officers killed in the line of duty.

“We are here to honor fallen police officers from the US and Israel,” he said on Monday.

“The motto of the Police Unity Tour is ‘We ride for those who died,’ and last year when we came here we did a one-day bike tour with Israeli officers, and in May we had 12 Israeli officers ride with us from New Jersey to our police memorial in Washington, DC, to participate in a candle-lighting vigil for fallen US officers,” Safris said.

During their stay, the US delegation will be based at the Beit Shemesh police academy, where they will participate in multiple counterterrorism training exercises, meet with elite units, and be briefed by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.

The delegation will conclude following a September 11 memorial service held at the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza in the Arazim Valley.

Safris, 72, who is Jewish and has hosted Israeli police delegations in the US for the past 10 years, said he has visited Israel 40 times.

“From all my trips, I know the delegation forms an important relationship, and if something happens in the US or something happens here, we stay in touch and honor each country’s fallen officers,” he said. “The relationship and comradery developed over the last two years is one of the reasons we keep coming.”

In terms of heightened antisemitism in the US – recently manifested by violent white supremacists who chanted “Jew will not replace us!” while marching in Charlottesville, Virginia – Safris said the country is indeed becoming alarmingly polarized.

“There is definitely a big divide, and I think people feel more emboldened by some of the things that President Trump said, or didn’t say,” he said. “There is a definite uptick [in antisemitism].”

Asked if security for Jewish people and organizations has been heightened in the US, Safris responded “100 percent.”

“Jewish communities have hired security directors and people now have to sign in at synagogues and community centers,” he said. “It’s a lot different than it was over the last year.”

Safris said what distinguishes the Israeli police internationally is their commitment not only to law enforcement, but to Israel’s existential struggle.

“In our communities, for a lot of police officers, it’s a job, and I think that it’s more than a job for a lot of the officers in Israel because they are protecting their homeland,” he said.

“We have a lot of discussions about this when we are here,” Safris said. “It’s not just about keeping Israel going, but keeping it strong. You know, you can’t put down your weapons; you gotta be strong and act quickly, otherwise it’s going to be a lot worse.”

“They are protecting a way of life here,” he added.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who met with the American delegation, said Israel’s ongoing security threats and the police’s efficient handling of them makes it an ideal arena for officers from across the globe to train.

“In terms of counterterrorism tactics that have been used and implemented at numerous scenes across the country, where unfortunately terrorist attacks have taken place, the Israeli police have used those tactics to minimize injuries, as well as find rapid solutions,” he said.

“Over the next few days, the Police Unity Tour will learn and see a number of these tactics across the country,” Rosenfeld added.

 Source : Jerusalem Post

US: Trump Threatening to Expel ‘Dreamers’

Repealing DACA Would Harm Thousands With Close US Ties

201708us_daca_presserA woman carries a sign supporting immigrants during a rally demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017

© 2017 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – US President Donald Trump’s threatened repeal of a program protecting from deportation immigrants who arrived in the United States as children would harm hundreds of thousands of people with strong ties to the US, Human Rights Watch said today. Based on media reports, Trump would protect the “Dreamers,” those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in exchange for congressional support for the RAISE Act, which would drastically reduce legal immigration to the US, as well as increased funding for the border wall and detention centers.

“Trump’s repeal of DACA would expose hundreds of thousands of people to deportation by a cruel and unjust immigration system that fails to take into account their deep ties to the US,” said Jasmine L. Tyler, US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Using the ‘Dreamers’ as political pawns for drastic cuts in legal immigration and increased detention undercuts Trump’s promise to treat them ‘with heart.’”

The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012, in response to repeated failures by Congress to create a permanent path to legal status for people who came to the US as children. Many have lived in the US almost their entire lives, have gone to school here, and have US citizen spouses and children. Typically, the US is the only country they consider home. Over 750,000 have received DACA status and an estimated 1.1 million are eligible. Continue reading…….

 

No Way to Treat Children Fleeing Danger

Published in Harvard International Review

Michael Garcia Bochenek

Senior Counsel, Children’s Rights Division

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Refugee children take part in a protest in March 2015 against their resettlement on Nauru and living conditions on the island.

© 2016 Private

Migrant children might soon be separated from their parents as a matter of course when families enter the United States irregularly, Homeland Security  Secretary John Kelly told CNN in early March. Under the proposal, which another Homeland Security official described as among the options the department is considering to discourage(others)from even beginning the journey”,separated parents would be detained in jail-like facilities while children would be placed in foster homes or shelters for children. Read more……

Democrats Protest Senate Republican Health Care Secrecy

They called for open committee hearings and more time to consider the bill before a Senate vote.

U.S. President Trump turns to Speaker Ryan as he gathers with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington
U.S. Democrats took to the Senate floor on Monday to throw a spotlight on behind-the-scenes efforts by the Republican majority to repeal former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, known as Obamacare. Continue reading  @ HUFF POST

Ebola to Piracy: Sustaining U.S.-China Work in Africa

By: Jennifer Staats

U.S. and Chinese leaders have worked with counterparts across Africa to combat a range of security threats on the continent, from Ebola to piracy to instability in Sudan and South Sudan. A recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning terrorist attacks and violence in the Lake Chad Basin illustrates that more joint efforts are needed to support Africa’s stability and development. Unfortunately, distrust and skepticism between the United States and China are getting in the way of further progress. But there may be a way to prevent backsliding.

US and Chines Military MIO Exercise

U.S.-China counter piracy exercise. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary M. Keen/Released
Initial trilateral efforts in Africa have revealed three key lessons for effective cooperation, according to experts in a recent discussion at USIP.  First, successful efforts must be African-led and should work through existing African institutions. Second, leadership matters, and the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors in Africa play a critical role in making collaboration possible. Third, engagement must be sustained, holistic, and long-term, rather than ad hoc.

Although both the United States and China want to see an economically prosperous and secure Africa, there are many barriers to closer cooperation. They include competition, lack of transparency, different definitions of “stability,” and bureaucratic stovepipes.

Three ambassadors and an associate director at the Carter Center in Atlanta considered ways to overcome these hurdles in a March 2017 article in Foreign Affairs.

“The goal should be to transform occasional moments of cooperation—such as the shared efforts of China, the United States, and African governments during the Ebola crisis—into what China expert Kurt Campbell has called “habits of cooperation” on those areas where all parties largely agree.”

Campbell and the four authors addressed the point at the USIP event on April 11, held to discuss progress in a three-year project between the institute and the Carter Center, called the Africa-China-U.S. Consultation for Peace. The program is being conducted in coordination with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel.

In addition to the authors’ recommendations, experts identified other opportunities for collaboration:

  • Coordinate humanitarian assistance to the Lake Chad Basin to avoid duplication and gaps.
  • Conduct joint research on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including piracy as well as illegal and unreported fishing.
  • Strengthen maritime security structures in West Africa, particularly the Interregional Coordination Center in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
  • Develop African merchant marines to facilitate trade.
  • Address threats to food security and public health.
  • Build the capacity of African peacekeepers and establish a reliable source of funding for African Union peace operations.
  • Invest in civilian security, governance, economic rehabilitation, effective community-police relations, and the judicial and security architecture in the Lake Chad Basin.
  • Align development assistance, infrastructure projects, and economic investment with conflict prevention efforts.

The need for three-way cooperation in Africa remains high.  Where direct collaboration is not possible, one alternative might be to pursue complementary policies that still would allow parties to work in parallel toward the same goals, as long as they maintain some openness and transparency.

The United States and China should commit to adding these issues to the new U.S.-China Consultative Dialogue, to ensure these opportunities get the attention they deserve. The challenges facing Africa cannot be ignored just because leaders in Washington and Beijing cannot overcome their mistrust. Instead, the three parties must find creative ways to pursue complementary efforts that will help everyone realize their shared interests.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

Cleveland Facebook Killer Steve Stephens Tortured Pets as a Teen, Neighbor Says

The self-described ‘monster’ was ‘not normal’ even as a child, according to someone who grew up around him. Across town, a family heard the shot that rang across social media.

DANIEL MCGRAW

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CLEVELAND—Soon after he shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin—who was walking down the street and picking up cans after eating Easter Sunday dinner with his family— Steve Stepehens posted video to facebook of the murder that he just committed.

Then he kept posting his personal reasoning for his deranged behavior, explanations showed that there was a deep anger within this man that suddenly snapped.

“I fucked up,” he said, with little emotion on his face. “I’m at the point where I snapped… I got a lot of built up anger and frustration.”

“All my life,” Stephens continued, “I’ve been a monster.”

That line by the man now known as the “Facebook Killer” was shocking to many who heard him say it on social media, but not so much so for Tony Henderson. He lived across the street from Stephens for decades—that line that this man was a “monster” didn’t seem that crazy. The kid always seemed somewhat “out there,” Henderson said.

“I never quite understood that kid through his entire life, because on some days he would talk to you, and then on others he would be mean and staring at you and very quiet,” Henderson said. “It’s not like he was running around the street scaring old people when he was a teenager, but what he did on Easter Sunday doesn’t surprise me.”

On the Monday after the shooting that was getting worldwide attention, Henderson was cleaning up the vacant property next to his house, which is directly across the street from Stephens’s mother’s home. Police in two cars were staked out on the street to keep media and angry residents from causing trouble for the killer’s family. But for Henderson, 55, what he saw on television shows and online media reporting over the past day made more sense to him than most anyone.

“How can I put this?” he said, as he paused. “That kid was not normal as we as normal people know it from the beginning. He was in his early teens when the family moved in there, and I was in my late twenties, but I could see something wasn’t right. He was smart, but some days he seemed OK with talking to people on the street, but on other days he was staring off into space with a blank face. He was very up and down.”

Then Henderson told a somewhat disturbing story.

“He asked me to come in and see his pet bird, so I went in their house. He had a parakeet and he had that bird crawl from the cage and on to his finger. Then he slapped the bird as hard as he could with his other hand, and the bird was lying on the floor. The bird looked dead to me. I looked at him and he was smiling and laughing as he looked at me and that bird.”

“Hey, animals don’t make you weird like that,” Henderson said. “He was that way before he got that bird. Heard he used to torture other pets he had. He was like that from the time I first met him.”

An aggravated murder warrant has been issued, and police said early Monday that Stephens may have fled Ohio. Police warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan to be on the lookout. The FBI is providing assistance to the Cleveland police and taking over the national manhunt. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his whereabouts.

Stephens has a valid concealed-carry gun permit, Cleveland police said at a news conference Monday morning. Police Chief Calvin Williams said guns were seized from a home in the city of Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, that is listed in court records as the home occupied by Stephens and his girlfriend at the time, Joy Lane. Williams said he was unsure how many guns were seized and whether they were registered to Stephens.

Though Stephens also said on Facebook postings that his need to kill people came because of a breakup with Lane (who treats youths with various mental disorders for a company different from the one Stephens works for), it appears he might have been having more problems with his fiancée. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer  reported  that Stephens had been evicted from his suburban apartment this past January for failure to pay rent. Five months before that, he had been evicted from another suburban apartment complex, and the property-management company successfully sued him and began garnishing wages from his paycheck.

Stephens had also declared personal bankruptcy in January 2015, according to the report, and at that time, Stephens said he had worked for Beech Brook, a suburban-based social-services agency for six years. He declared his annual salary to be about $28,800, but his wages were also facing garnishment then as well, for unpaid credit-card debt that he had been sued over in court for.

In another Sunday Facebook posting, Stephens talked of his financial issues, blaming some of it on Cleveland’s Jack Casino, Ohio’s first casino, which opened in 2012.

“The past year’s been really [expletive] up for me,” Stephens said. “You know, being with [his ex-girlfriend] drove me crazy, started making me gamble. I lost everything. I lost everything I have. I don’t have shit. I’m out of options.”

Besides the craziness of this murder—an employed man shooting an elderly man randomly and then posting it for all to see on social media—is how this murder does not fit in with all the other murders in Cleveland in recent years. There were 136 murders in the Cleveland in 2016, the highest number in 10 years. This high number of murders, despite the fact that Cleveland lost about 10 percent of its population (about 43,000) during those 10 years, has been linked to the city’s high poverty rate. Based upon 2016 figures, Cleveland’s poverty rate of 34.7 percent is the 11th highest in the country among cities of at least 65,000 people.

Many of the murders in Cleveland are driven by gangs, which themselves are partly blamed on high inner-city unemployment. One of the most violent and powerful gangs has the ironic name “Heartless Felons.” In some of these killings, children lost their lives because they were playing in a park or on a front lawn when the killers drove by.

The street on which Godwin was killed ends at Interstate 90 about five miles east of downtown. It is an odd place to do a killing, given it’s off-the-beaten path and abutting a crowded highway. “I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for this happening,” Cleveland’s police chief said at the press conference Monday.

For those living on that street, the killing was not only horrific to see, but so bizarre that many are still shaking their heads. Thea, a 25-year-old who lives directly across the street from where Godwin died, said her family had about 20 people coming over for East Sunday dinner. The killing, which happened at about 2 p.m. Sunday, occurred about a half hour before people started to arrive.

“This is a quiet street,” said Thea, who didn’t want her last name used. “It ends at the freeway. So no one usually drives their cars down here because it is hard to turn around and get out.”

“But it was so weird,” she continued. “My mom was outside talking to our neighbor, and they were just doing what moms do, talking about the recipes they had cooked, and then both went back in their houses. About one minute after she came in, we heard a gun pop and went outside and saw that old man lying dead on the sidewalk right across the street from our house.”

“What would have happened if they were out there one minute later?” Thea asked. “He might have just shot that man and my mom and the neighbor, too. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. How my mom might have been killed, too.”

Second suspect in custody after Facebook Live sexual assault

By John Keilman and  Heather Schroering

Chicago Tribune

A second teen has been taken into custody in connection with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was recorded on Facebook, police said.

The suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was taken into custody “accompanied by a parent,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an emailed statement Monday afternoon.

A second teen has been taken into custody in connection with the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was recorded on Facebook, police said.

The suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was taken into custody “accompanied by a parent,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in an emailed statement Monday afternoon.

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The news came a day after police announced charges against a 14-year-old boy.

The 14-year-old, who was charged April 1, was expected to face a hearing in juvenile court Monday, but Cook County Associate Judge Patricia Mendoza waived his appearance until April 28. The boy is in custody in a detention center, according to an assistant state’s attorney.

Police are also trying to identify others who took part in the assault, officials said, but the investigation has been slowed by the trauma experienced by the girl.

“She’s just having such a difficult time even communicating what occurred to her,” Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan said at a Sunday news conference at Chicago police headquarters. “We obviously have a video of the incident, so we have verifiable objective evidence of what occurred to this young lady, but she’s just having a very difficult time.

“On top of it, there’s constant social media … bullying (of the girl), making fun of what occurred. This is just a very traumatic incident.”

The girl had stayed over with family the evening of March 18 and gone to church with them the next day, then was dropped off near home before disappearing.

Deenihan said the girl was “lured” to a residence by one of the attackers, who did not allow her to leave. As many as six males took part in the assault, police have said. She was found two days later walking down the street near her home.

The 14-year-old boy was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography, all of which are felonies, police said.

One of the suspects broadcast the assault on Facebook Live, and authorities have said that as many as 40 people saw it. None called police, an abstention that enraged police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

“We’ve seen a couple acts in this city now in the last few months involving social media, and it just disgusts me that people could look at those videos and not pick up the phone and dial 911,” he said at the news conference. “It makes you wonder where are we going, what are we doing as a society?”

Reginald King, a relative of the girl, said a teen alerted him to the assault on Facebook. Chicago activist Andrew Holmes got the video to police, and the girl’s mother was shown screen shots and was able to identify her daughter.

After the girl was found, she was reunited with her mother and taken to a hospital, where she was examined for injuries, a family member later told the Tribune.

As news of the attack spread, people began ringing the family’s doorbell and coming around the house in a menacing way, the girl’s mother has told the Tribune, and police described a campaign of social media bullying against her. The taunts prompted authorities to relocate her family to another home, which police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described as “a safe place.”

The girl’s mother did not return messages seeking comment on the arrest.

Deenihan said that authorities have looked into possible charges against those who watched the video and bullied the girl, but said that making charges stick appears to be a complicated task.

Guglielmi said Facebook has told authorities it’s not possible to identify who is watching a video on the platform. And Deenihan said the bullying hasn’t risen to the level of criminal conduct.

“We’re going to vet all that out to see if there is a specific possible charge, but right now there isn’t a specific threat made to the victim or her family, nothing anybody could be charged with,” he said.

The attack was at least the fourth Chicago crime caught on Facebook Live since the end of October.

After one of the previous attacks, in which a mentally disabled man was tormented and tortured by a group of people, the company said it does not allow people “to celebrate or glorify crimes” on its network. Facebook took down the video of the girl’s assault after being notified by police.

Johnson said that although the girl was having a difficult time talking to investigators about the assault, he was impressed by her courage.

“While I know the emotional wounds caused by this savagery will take long to heal, I am hoping that her story can be an inspiration to other young women who are victimized by bullying and sexual assault,” he said.

“The young men responsible, they should be ashamed of themselves. They humiliated themselves, they’ve humiliated their families, and now they’re going to be held accountable for what they did.”

Chicago Tribune’s Kim Geiger contributed.

Source : Chicago Tribune