Threat allegations keep Coast Guard officer jailed
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and MICHAEL BALSAMO
Friday, February 22
GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A Coast Guard officer suspected of drawing up a hit list of top Democrats and network TV journalists spent hours on his work computer researching the words and deeds of infamous bombers and mass shooters while also stockpiling weapons, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was ordered held without bail on drug and gun charges while prosecutors gather evidence to support more serious charges involving what they portrayed as a domestic terror plot by a man who espoused white-supremacist views.
Hasson, a former Marine who worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency, was arrested last week. Investigators gave no immediate details on how or when he came to their attention.
Federal agents found 15 guns, including several rifles, and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition inside his basement apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In court papers this week, federal prosecutors said he compiled what appeared to be a computer-spreadsheet hit list that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Also mentioned were such figures as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones.
In arguing against bail Thursday, federal prosecutor Jennifer Sykes said Hasson would log onto his government computer during work and spend hours searching for information on such people as the Unabomber, the Virginia Tech gunman and anti-abortion bomber Eric Rudolph.
Sykes said the charges so far are just the “tip of the iceberg” and called Hasson a “domestic terrorist” who appeared to be planning attacks inspired by the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.
Public defender Julie Stelzig accused prosecutors of making inflammatory accusations against her client without providing the evidence to back them up. “It is not a crime to think negative thoughts about people,” she said.
She also questioned whether the government is trying to make an example out of Hasson, given criticism that authorities have overlooked domestic terrorists.
“Perhaps now they can say, ‘Look, we’re not targeting only Muslims,’” she said.
Stelzig said Hasson doesn’t have a criminal record and has served 28 years in the Coast Guard. She described him as a “committed public servant” and a loving husband and father.
Hasson spent about $14,000 on weapons, survival gear and other equipment, Sykes said. However, Hasson’s public defender argued that the number of firearms found in Hasson’s apartment is “modest, at best” for many gun collectors in other parts of the country.
“There is nothing I’m seeing in here that would show he was stockpiling weapons,” Stelzig said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day agreed to keep Hasson behind bars but said he is willing to revisit his decision in 14 days if prosecutors haven’t brought more serious charges by then.
Hasson was previously an aircraft mechanic in the Marines, serving from 1988 to 1994.
Court papers detail a 2017 draft email in which he wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”
Also, Hasson sent himself a draft letter in 2017 that he had written to a neo-Nazi leader and “identified himself as a White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland,” prosecutors said.
Stelzig identified that neo-Nazi leader as white separatist Harold Covington. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Covington died last July.
Last February, Hasson searched the internet for the “most liberal senators” and also asked, “Do senators have ss (Secret Service) protection” and “Are supreme court justices protected,” according to the court filing.
Bob Davis, who rents a house from Hasson in coastal Currituck County, North Carolina, and met him a few times, said he was “absolutely shocked” by the allegations.
“He was a very stern military guy. That’s how I saw him. I truly nothing but respected him. There are people in life who are not 100 percenters. He was a 100 percenter,” Davis said, meaning Hasson worked hard and didn’t slack off. “He portrayed in a very professional manner. He was honorable. … He was a good man.”
Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Ben Finley in Currituck County, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
Evictions, rent hikes push Oregon to statewide rent control
By ANDREW SELSKY
Thursday, February 21
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Faced with a housing shortage and skyrocketing rents, Oregon is poised to become the first state to impose mandatory rent controls, with a measure establishing tenant protections moving swiftly through the Legislature.
Many residents have testified in favor of the legislation, describing anxiety and hardship as they face higher rents. Some have gone up by as much as almost 100 percent — forcing people to move, stay with friends or even live in their vehicles.
The Oregon housing shortage is getting worse because of a big influx of people moving to the state — lured by the state’s job opportunities and its forests, mountains, coastline and relaxed lifestyle. Many move from California, where the cost of living is often more expensive.
Cities across the West Coast are struggling with soaring housing prices and a growing homelessness problem. The small southern Oregon city of Medford recently authorized churches to offer car camping for the homeless on their parking lots.
A state legislative House committee on Wednesday backed the measure, sending it to the full chamber for a vote as soon as next week. The state Senate passed it last week.
Gov. Kate Brown told reporters she expected the full House to approve the measure.
“I look forward to signing the bill,” said Brown, a Democrat.
The committee rejected an amendment that would have exempted cities with populations under 150,000 and another that would have delayed the measure from becoming law until Jan. 1, 2020, instead of immediately after Brown signs it.
“We’ve waited too long as it is, and there are too many people living in tents. It is an emergency,” said Rep. Tawna Sanchez, a Portland Democrat and member of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing that endorsed the legislation.
Lawmakers said Oregon will be a pioneer in statewide rent control if the measure becomes law. New York has a statewide rent control law but cities can choose whether to participate.
California restricts the ability of cities to impose rent control. Last November, voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have overturned that law.
“Homelessness and affordability have no boundaries,” said Rep. Mark Meek, a Democrat from a Portland suburb. “We’re going to be leading the nation now with this legislation.”
Oregon’s measure prohibits landlords from terminating month-to-month leases without cause after 12 months of occupancy and limits rent hikes to once per year. Those increases are limited to 7 percent above the annual change in the consumer price index.
Landlords can terminate tenancies only with 90 days’ written notice and payment of one month’s rent, with exemptions in some cases. A landlord can refuse to renew a fixed-term lease if the tenant receives three lease violation warnings within 12 months and the landlord gives 90 days’ notice.
The Oregon Rental Housing Association, which represents small-scale landlords, said the measure protects good tenants while not encouraging landlords to leave the business and invest their money elsewhere.
“I believe most landlords will be able to adapt and operate within the parameters,” said Jim Straub, the group’s legislative director.
Eric Lint, who lives in Bend, one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., urged lawmakers to pass the protections because of spiraling rents. The medical lab where he works is chronically understaffed because potential hires say there is a lack of affordable housing.
Lint said his hourly pay has risen 8 percent over five years. Meanwhile, his rent has increased 66 percent. He plans to move away in the fall but did not say where in his testimony.
Anna Pena, a senior at the University of Oregon in Eugene who works full time, described living in a house smaller than 1,200 square feet (111 square meters) with five roommates and spending over half her income on rent that then increased by 15 percent.
“Ultimately, housing insecurity has been one of the biggest setbacks for my education and personal health,” she said.
Sen. Tim Knopp, a Republican from Bend, said before he voted against the measure last week that it does not address the housing supply issue.
Another measure aiming to deal with that issue would require cities and counties to allow duplexes and some higher-density housing in lands zoned for single-family homes.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, said 30,000 housing units must be built per year to meet the state’s current housing deficit and to build for the future as more people move to Oregon.
Oregon ranked second to Vermont as the top moving destination in 2018, according to a study by United Van Lines, the largest U.S. household goods mover.
About 60 percent of Oregon’s new arrivals come for jobs or because they’re looking for work, said Josh Lehner, a state economist. At least one-third of the new arrivals are from California, he said.
This version corrects that the committee’s name is the Committee on Human Services and Housing, not Committee of Services and Housing.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
Indian court orders 1 million to vacate forest land
NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top court has ordered more than a dozen states to evict nearly 1 million people from forest land as they have their failed to prove ownership claims.
Most people belong to marginalized tribal communities who consider these areas as their homes.
The Supreme Court says the eviction must be carried out within five months.
The court order was released on Feb. 20. The case is based on petitions filed by some wildlife conservation groups and others calling for the evictions.
Ministry of Tribal Affairs Secretary Deepak Khandekar said about 1.9 million claims have been upheld by state governments.
The Times of India newspaper reported the ministry will soon meet with officials from 16 of 29 Indian states to discuss how to deal with the eviction issue.
What mass shootings do to those not shot: Social consequences of mass gun violence
November 9, 2018
Author: Arash Javanbakht is a Friend of The Conversation, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University.
Disclosure statement: Arash Javanbakht does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Wayne State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Mass shootings seem to have become a sad new normal in the American life. They happen too often, and in very unexpected places. Concerts, movie theaters, places of worship, workplaces, schools, bars and restaurants are no longer secure from gun violence.
Often, and especially when a person who is not a minority or Muslim perpetrates a mass shooting, mental health is raised as a real concern – or, critics say, a diversion from the real issue of easy access to firearms.
Less is discussed, however, about the stress of such events on the rest of society. That includes those who survived the shooting; those who were in the vicinity, including the first responders; those who lost someone in the shooting; and those who hear about it via the media.
I am a trauma and anxiety researcher and clinician psychiatrist, and I know that the effects of such violence are far-reaching. While the immediate survivors are most affected, the rest of society suffers, too.
First, the immediate survivors
Like other animals, we humans get stressed or terrified via direct exposure to a dangerous event. The extent of that stress or fear can vary. For example, survivors may want to avoid the neighborhood where a shooting occurred or the context related to shooting, such as outdoor concerts if the shooting happened there. In the worst case, a person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
PTSD is a debilitating condition that develops after exposure to serious traumatic experiences such as war, natural disasters, rape, assault, robbery, car accidents and of course gun violence. Nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population deals with PTSD. Symptoms include high anxiety, avoiding reminders of the trauma, emotional numbness, hyper-vigilance, frequent intrusive memories of trauma, nightmares and flashbacks. The brain switches to fight-or-flight mode, or survival mode, and the person is always waiting for something terrible to happen.
When the trauma is man-made, the impact can be profound: The rate of PTSD in mass shootings may be as high as 36 percent among survivors. Depression, another debilitating psychiatric condition, occurs in as many as 80 percent of people with PTSD.
Survivors of shootings may also experience survivor’s guilt, the feeling that they failed others who died, did not do enough to help them survive or just because they survived. PTSD can improve by itself, but many need treatment. We have effective treatments available in the form of psychotherapy and medications. The more chronic it gets, the more negative the impact on the brain, and the harder to treat.
The effect on those close by, or who arrive later
PTSD can develop not only through personal exposure to trauma, but also via exposure to others’ severe trauma. Humans are evolved to be very sensitive to social cues and have survived as a species particularly because of the ability to fear as a group. We therefore learn fear and experience terror via exposure to trauma and fear of others. Even seeing a black-and-white scared face on a computer will make our amygdala, the fear area of our brain, light up in brain imaging studies.
People in the vicinity of a mass shooting may see exposed, disfigured or burned dead bodies, injured people in agony, terror of others, extremely loud noises, chaos and terror of post-shooting, and the unknown. The unknown – a sense of lack of control over the situation – has a very important role in making people feel insecure, terrified and traumatized.
I, sadly, see this form of trauma often in asylum seekers exposed to torture of their loved ones, refugees exposed to casualties of war, combat veterans who lost their comrades and people who lost a loved one in car accidents, natural disasters or shootings.
Another group whose trauma is usually overlooked is the first responders. When we all run away, the police, the firefighters and the paramedics rush into the danger zone, and frequently face uncertainty, threats to themselves, their colleagues and others, as well as terrible bloody scenes of post-shooting. This exposure happens to them too frequently. PTSD has been reported in up to 20 percent of first responders to man-made mass violence.
How does it affect those who were not even near the shooting?
There is evidence of distress, anxiety or even PTSD symptoms among people who were not directly exposed to a disaster, but were exposed to the news, including post-9/11. Fear, the coming unknown (is there another shooting, are other co-conspirators involved?) and reduced faith in our perceived safety may all play a role in this.
Every time there is a mass shooting in a new place, we learn that kind of place is now on the not-very-safe list. When at the temple or church, the club or in the class, someone may walk in and open fire. People worry not only about themselves but also about the safety of their children and other loved ones.
I always say American cable news are “disaster pornographers.” When there is a mass shooting or a terrorist attack, they make sure to add enough dramatic tone to it to get all the attention for the duration of the time they desire. If there is one shooting in a corner of a city of millions, the cable news will make sure that you feel like the whole city is under siege.
Besides informing the public and logically analyzing the events, one job of the media is to attract viewers and readers, and viewers are better glued to the TV when their positive or negative emotions are stirred, with fear being one. Thus, the media, along with the politicians, can also play a role in stirring fear, anger or paranoia about one or another group of people.
When we are scared, we are vulnerable to regress to more tribal and stereotyping attitudes. We can get trapped in fear of perceiving all members of another tribe a threat, if a member of that group acted violently. In general, people may become less open and more cautious around others when they perceive a high risk of exposure to danger.
Is there a good side to it?
As we are used to happy endings, I will try to also address potentially positive outcomes: We may consider making our gun laws safer and open constructive discussions, including informing the public about the risks. As a group species, we are able to consolidate group dynamics and integrity when pressured and stressed, so we may raise a more positive sense of community. One beautiful outcome of the recent tragic shooting in the Tree of Life was the solidarity of the Muslim community with the Jewish. This is especially productive in the current political environment, where fear and division are common.
The bottom line is that we get angry, we get scared and we get confused. When united, we can do much better. And, do not spend too much time watching cable TV; turn it off when it stresses you too much.
Consumer goods companies preparing for climate change impact
By FRANK JORDANS
Monday, February 25
BERLIN (AP) — Companies behind some of the best-known consumer products — from soaps to sodas — are beginning to factor climate change into their business equation, according to a report published Monday.
The survey of 16 major corporations by nonprofit group CDP found that many are working to lower their carbon emissions, prepare for the effects of global warming on their supply chain and respond to growing environmental consciousness among customers.
Examples include brewer AB InBev’s efforts to develop a variety of barley that needs less water and Unilever adjusting its detergent formulas so they work at the lower “eco” temperature settings on modern washing machines, the London-based group said.
“We were surprised how much these companies were aligning themselves with changes in consumer preferences,” said Carole Ferguson, the report’s lead author.
This includes chasing trends such as veganism, a small but growing factor in the market that’s driven by people who shun animal products for ethical or health reasons, but also because meat and dairy have a large carbon footprint. PepsiCo’s recent acquisition of Health Warrior, a maker of plant-based nutrition bars, is a typical example where a large company has snapped up a small brand to fill a niche it didn’t yet cover.
Such purchases help companies bolster their green credentials at a time when they’re beginning to feel the heat of climate activism. Consumer goods account for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning companies that make them play a key role in efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
But manufacturers like Nestle, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble also face growing scrutiny from investors who want to know what business risks they face from climate change before deciding whether to buy their stock, Ferguson said.
CDP ranked the companies surveyed according to how strongly their business is threatened by climate change, what they are doing to prepare for it and how much information they disclose to the market.
“Climate change is going to be disruptive to revenues and costs,” Ferguson told The Associated Press. “What I would want to know as an investor is what kind of strategy they have going forward.”
In general, CDP found that European makers of fast-moving consumer goods are ahead of U.S. rivals in preparing for climate change — a disparity also seen in other sectors, such as automotive or oil and gas. France’s Danone came first in the food and drinks sector, while Kraft Heinz came last out of nine; similarly Paris-based cosmetics company L’Oreal ranked second in the household and personal care sector, against New York-based rival Estee Lauder, which came last out of seven.
Possible reasons for this disparity include stricter regulation from the European Union, Ferguson said.
Consumer concern over plastic waste recently spurred strict new EU rules on packaging, the report noted.
“Product labelling and carbon footprinting is on the horizon,” the authors added.
CDP, which was once described as “the most powerful green NGO you’ve never heard of” by Harvard Business Review, isn’t alone in suggesting it’s time for companies to publish data on climate risks.
Influential business weekly The Economist recently proposed that voluntary climate-related guidelines for listed companies drawn up by the Financial Stability Board, an international body that monitors global financial system, should be made mandatory.
CDP report: https://www.cdp.net/en/investor/sector-research/consumer-goods-report
Follow Frank Jordans on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/wirereporter