Rep. Adam Schiff
Last week, I went for a mountain bike ride in the Verdugo Mountains, right above Stough Canyon near my home in Burbank, California. It was beautiful, but it was plain that fire season would soon be with us. I have introduced legislation along with Rep. Mary Bono to create a registry of arsonists and try to crack down on some of the arson fires that plague our region and country.
In the news just this week, there have been reports that at least one of the wildfires burning in Oklahoma may have been set by an arsonist. This is just the latest example of the need for such a registry to help catch arsonists and prevent them from striking again. The MATCH Act would create a national registry and require convicted arsonists to report where they live, work and go to school, and the database would include fingerprints, a photograph, vehicle information and other information on the arsonist. The information would only be made available to law enforcement agencies and other relevant personnel and not the general public.
When arson has occurred, it is critical to quickly find the individual involved in order to prevent future acts of arson and prosecute the individual responsible. This is often extremely difficult, because most arsonists do not have traditional motives. But arsonists are often repeat offenders and frequently they will use the same trademark tools – such as a unique incendiary device, a manner of starting a fire, or similar targets, such as houses of worship, or auto dealerships. In addition to putting law enforcement on notice, this also lets the convicted arsonists know that they can't hide from law enforcement for the purpose of committing another act of arson.
Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye's full report on AC360 at 10 p.m. ET.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students call out for safer schools - without so much as saying a word. But this year, their silent statement will also be about Carl. Carl Walker-Hoover would have turned 12 on Friday.
That's the same day that students across the country will take some form of a vow of silence as part of the 13th annual National Day of Silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment in school. But Carl won't be able to join them.
After enduring constant bullying, including an avalanche of anti-gay taunts in person and on the Internet that he was gay, Carl took his own life last week. He hung himself while his mother was downstairs cooking for him. And Carl didn’t even identify as gay.
Carl’s story is a tragic reminder that you do not have to be gay to be called anti-gay names. Words like “sissy” and “fag” are two of the first hurtful taunts we learn on the playground. In fact, two of the top three reasons middle and high school students said their classmates are most often bullied are their actual or perceived sexual orientation and how they express their gender, according to From Teasing to Torment, a 2005 GLSEN/Harris Interactive study.
Tonight, Randi Kaye has the shocking story of a Massachusetts 11-year-old boy who committed suicide because his parents say he was bullied at school. Carl Joseph Walker Hoover was a sixth grader, who was a good student. Hoover's mom says other students told her son "you act gay" and "you look gay." She says even one student threatened to kill him. Is bullying out of control in America's schools? Sound off below. And, go ahead and text your question on this story to Anderson. Just text "AC" in the message and add your name, location and question. Then send it to 94553.
And, don't miss Erica Hill's webcast on bullying and tonight's other headlines during the commercials. Watch our WEBCAST
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Editor's note: See Anderson's exclusive interview with the mother of an American sailor aboard the UN ship Liberty Sun that was fired on by pirates today while carrying grain on a humanitarian relief mission off the coast of Somalia - on AC360 at 10PM ET.
The Liberty Sun, a U.S.-flagged cargo ship bound for Mombasa, Kenya, was attacked Tuesday by Somali pirates, according to the company and a NATO source with direct knowledge of the matter "The pirates fired rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel which sustained damage," said a statement from New York-based Liberty Maritime Corporation, which owns the vessel.
The ship was carrying U.S. food aid for African nations, the statement said. It was an unsuccessful attack, and the pirates never made it onto the ship. The vessel is now being escorted by a coalition ship, still bound for Mombasa, officials said.
Katy Urbik, of Wheaton, Illinois, told CNN her son, Thomas, was aboard the Liberty Sun at the time of the attack and shared the e-mails he sent as the ship came under fire.
"We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets," say one e-mail sent Tuesday afternoon. "We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. [A] rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire too but put out. "Navy is on the way and helos and ships are coming. I'll try to send you another message soon. [G]ot to go now. I love you mom and dad and all my brothers and family."
About an hour and a half later, Thomas Urbik sent another email to his mother, saying, "The navy has showed up in full force and we are now under military escort ... all is well. I love you all and thank you for the prayers."
We've just gotten word of another pirate attack against a U.S. ship off the coast of Somalia. This time the pirates weren't successful. The details are just coming in. We're gathering all the information and we'll bring you the latest tonight on AC360°.
The Somali pirates have been on a hijack spree since U.S. Navy Seals rescued American Capt. Richard Phillips on Sunday. They've seized at least four new ships in the past 48 hours.
Also tonight, President Obama's new message on the economy. He spoke at Georgetown University today. A lot of you have been sounding off on the 360° asking why the president doesn't just give each American a cash bailout. He addressed that today:
"There are a lot of Americans who understandably think that government money would be better spent going directly to families and businesses instead of to banks – one of my most frequent questions in the letters I get from constituents is "where's my bailout?", and I understand the sentiment, it makes sense intuitively and morally it makes sense, but the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in eight or ten dollars of loans to families and businesses. So that's a multiplier effect that can ultimately lead to a faster pace of economic growth. That's why we have to fix the banks."
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Every year, hundreds of thousands of students call out for safer schools - without so much as saying a word. But this year, their silent statement will also be about Carl.
Carl Walker-Hoover would have turned 12 on Friday. That's the same day that students across the country will take some form of a vow of silence as part of the 13th annual National Day of Silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment in school.
But Carl won't be able to join them. After enduring constant bullying, including an avalanche of taunts in person and on the Internet that he was gay, Carl took his own life last week. He hung himself while his mother was downstairs cooking for him. And Carl didn’t even see himself as gay.
For students who actually identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender, bullying is the norm. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students said they have experienced harassment in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT youth. Three out of five LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
As pervasive as the problem is, many schools still fail to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Only seven states (CA, IA, MD, ME, MN, NJ, VT) and the District of Columbia specifically protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment.
So students across the country every year take part in the Day of Silence to illustrate the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.
Carl's life - and death - give special meaning to our silence this year, reminding us that we must do more to make sure all of our students are safe in school. And sometimes the simplest things can be the most powerful.
Program Note: For more on bullying tune in for Randi Kaye's report tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
PACER Center’s National Bullying Prevention project is a leader in creating innovative, interactive, and educational resources to raise awareness of bullying prevention. In early 2006, PACER launched an animated Web site Kids Against Bullying for elementary school students. The site is an important resource to engage and educate children about bullying prevention and provide methods to respond to bullying situations.
Learn more about how students and adults can benefit from PACER’s bullying prevention resources.
Executive Director, the Washington Office on Latin America
More than 10,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Calderón assumed office in December 2006. In the past few weeks the United States has acknowledged that US demand for illegal drugs and its gun market fuel the drug trade and violence. The security crisis facing Mexico and the United States’ shared responsibility will be key topics for Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon when they meet in Mexico City this week. There is no quick fix to the drug violence plaguing Mexico, yet it is clear that current strategies are not enough.
The history of the war on drugs reminds us of the dangers of repeating the same policies with the hope that this time, things will be different. Mexico did not get to this point overnight, and the tactics being used to confront the drug trade – restructuring and purging the police and bringing in the military – are not new.
Just like President Calderon, former Mexican presidents Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox promised to root out organized crime and restore public order by involving the armed forces. The results in both cases were the same: a few corrupt public officials and a number of drug traffickers were put in jail and there were short term tactical victories. In spite of these efforts, the hunger for drugs in the US kept the drug-traffic steadily flowing through Mexico, ensuring that new drug-traffickers took the place of their predecessors and “clean” soldiers and police officers were easily corruptible.
The problem with these efforts is that so far they have been incomplete. While the Mexican government has implemented policies to root out corrupt police and to reform the justice system, the heart of the counter-drug strategy has been to overpower the cartels with military force. In the long term, handing over police functions to the military harms efforts to strengthen civilian police corps, as attention is drawn away from the need for police reform. Likewise, murders, kidnappings and other crimes remain unsolved given the weaknesses in Mexico’s justice system. According to the Mexican Citizen Institute for Research on Insecurity (INCESI), only one out of every five crimes are ever reported and for every 100 investigations that are begun, only four cases result in sentencing the person responsible. Mexico will not overcome the threats of the cartels until it can identify, prosecute, and punish drug traffickers, which the military cannot do. Effective police and judiciaries are necessary to achieve this end.
Consider this: President Calderon has called upon approximately 45,000 soldiers to participate in counter drug operations since he took office in 2006. Less than six months ago, Operation “Clean-up”, launched by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, detained numerous Mexican officials for their links to organized crime, including members of President Calderon’s security team, the former director and other agents from the federal organized crime unit, and two former directors of Interpol Mexico’s office. Despite these efforts, the police continue to be riddled with corruption and poor performance. The Office of Control and Confidence within the Public Security Ministry, which evaluated 56,065 officers in 2008—approximately 15% of the police in Mexico–, reported that only 42% of these police were recommended for service.
In 2008 and 2009, the US government provided an unprecedented $700 million in security assistance to Mexico under the “Merida Initiative”. As the Obama Administration moves forward with additional assistance for Mexico, focus should be placed on supporting the country’s efforts to strengthen its institutions rather than on hardware and equipment. Equipment and technology will do little to bring the accountability, transparency, and reform that Mexican security forces need to fight criminal groups over the long haul. Success will not hinge upon helicopters or ion scanners. Similarly, arresting drug traffickers is futile unless there is a judiciary that is capable of prosecuting them and sending them to jail.
However, US support for Mexico’s efforts to combat drug trafficking will not be enough to reduce violence and combat drug trafficking. One of the most important things the United States must do to help Mexico cope with drug-related violence is to reduce US demand for drugs. The Obama administration has an important opportunity to rethink US drug policy, including providing additional resources for demand-side strategies such as treatment. Similarly, reevaluating US gun laws and regulations, and strengthening enforcement of these laws, would help to stem the flow of guns trafficked into Mexico. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) estimates that approximately 90% of the weapons confiscated by the Mexican government in their counter-drug operations originated in the United States.
As security cooperation broadens between Mexico and the United States, attention and resources for long-term reforms in the Mexican police and justice sector are needed to deal effectively with the inter-related problems of illicit drugs, crime, and violence. Likewise, while strengthening Mexico’s institutions is vital, this must be accompanied by efforts to curb drug consumption in the United States and crack down on gun sales that facilitate illegal arms trafficking into Mexico. Presidents Obama and Calderon should focus on the long-term reforms that have been neglected in the past and that are needed to quell the violence that plagues Mexico and that will inevitably impact the United States.
He's finally here! The first dog has arrived. U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle and their daughters, Malia and Sasha introduce their new dog, a Portuguese water dog named Bo, to the White House press corps at the South Lawn of the White House April 14, 2009 in Washington, DC. The six-month-old puppy is a gift from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) who owns several Portuguese water dogs himself. This breed of dog is considered a good pet for children who have allergies, as Malia does.
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