Today marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic and unfortunate death of Kurt Cobain. As we mark another year past since Cobain’s untimely death, we take a look back at the events surrounding a case that has been closed as a “suicide,” but in reality has so many more questions that beg to be asked and answered. Live For Live Music’s Bob Wilson spoke with licensed private investigator and former L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. detective Tom Grant, who was actually hired by Courtney Love to “find” Kurt Cobain when he “went missing” and has studied all of the finer details of the case. We also take a look at the two main publications about the case by NY Times #1 Best-Selling author Ian Halperin and Max Wallace, who both suggest the case should be, at the very least, “re-opened”. Along with interviews from Grant and Halperin, we take a look at their theories and facts surrounding the case to find anything but a clear-cut suicide case for one of rock n’ roll’s most enigmatic protagonists.Kurt Cobain: A Hole In My Life – The Anniversary Of a Rock Legend’s Death[Originally published 4/5/14]by Bob WilsonIn 2014, headlines incorrectly declared that Seattle police were reopening the case on the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Cobain was found dead at his home on April 8th, 1994, three days after he expired in what is ruled as a suicide. Workman Gary Smith spotted the corpse in the greenhouse on Cobain’s property through a window, as he was installing security lighting. Four rolls of film which police had taken at the time of Cobain’s death had been left undeveloped and had sat in evidence. With the twentieth anniversary of the case approaching, police decided to develop the film. Seattle Det. Mike Ciesynski clarified the current status of the case to the press, “It’s a suicide. This is a closed case.”Ian Halperin and Max Wallace produced two books on the events surrounding Cobain’s death, Who Killed Kurt Cobain? (Birch Lane Press, 1998), and Love And Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain (Atria Books, 2004). L4LM spoke with Ian Halperin, #1 NY Times bestselling author and award-winning filmmaker. “The only thing I suggest is a re-opening of the case”, stated Halperin. He bases this “solely on the forensic evidence.” The horror that haunts Halperin is the number of copycat suicides emulating Cobain, which is a trend sadly still occurring. There have been “around 200 now,” and Halperin feels it would be unthinkable if Kurt Cobain wound up not even having killed himself after all of these misguided souls had followed suit. The author makes no accusations and is very clear about that. As for the suicide verdict, he would like to “reverse it to undetermined.” Then the case could be investigated anew from there, and authorities could determine what truly happened when considering all information on a fair and open scale.Halperin’s books with Max Wallace investigated the allegations of Tom Grant, a licensed private investigator and former Detective in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. Grant was hired by Courtney Love to find Kurt Cobain when he left the Exodus Recovery Center in Marina Del Ray, California on April 1st, 1994, and could not be located. Love phoned in a missing person’s report to the Seattle police, pretending to be Cobain’s mother Wendy O’Connor. Love remained in Los Angeles, sending Grant to find Cobain with the help of her friend Dylan Carlson. Love stated–in O’Connor’s name–that Cobain was missing, suicidal, and in possession of a shotgun. Grant later evaluated this call as being a diversion to paint Cobain as suicidal, as he was being set up to be murdered. The impression left by Love’s report would be that no less than the singer’s mother felt that Cobain was a danger to himself, and head the investigation toward a verdict of suicide.Tom Grant’s theory leans heavily on the amount of morphine in Cobain’s blood, as heroin turns to morphine once it enters a person’s bloodstream. The level in Cobain was triple the maximum lethal dose to a severe addict. Grant’s contention is that with this much heroin in his bloodstream, Cobain could not have lifted the Model 11 20-gauge shotgun to his mouth and pulled the trigger. The autopsy has never been released to the public, so the exact amount of drugs in Cobain’s bloodstream is based on a newspaper account. Experts still debate whether or not Cobain could have fired the gun under these circumstances.Original reports stated that Cobain was barricaded in the small greenhouse room, with a stool wedged up against the door. In truth, a simple push button lock was all that sealed the room. Someone potentially could have simply pushed the button and closed the door behind them as they left. Reports said that Cobain left his license out for identification purposes, in case disfigurement hid his identity. In reality, a police officer had removed the license from the singer’s wallet, which then was photographed in pictures taken at the scene.The suicide note left actually seemed to describe that Cobain was quitting Nirvana, and had tired of stardom. Nirvana member Dave Grohl confirmed years later that the group was breaking up, in an appearance he made on the Howard Stern program. The size of the writing at the end of the note changed dramatically, and it was only there that Cobain seemed to say a permanent goodbye to his wife and young daughter. Tom Grant was also concerned that the gun, the shells, and the note all had no discernible fingerprints, and the note appeared to be (at least in key parts) a forgery. The gun was not checked for prints by authorities until May 6th, 1994, a full month later. The note was only released because Tom Grant pretended to need glasses to read it when Courtney showed it to him, and he asked to run a copy off on her fax machine.[Read the full note here]The autopsy was completed on April 8th, 1994, the same day that Cobain’s body was discovered. In a case full of unexpected twists and turns, the coroner was Dr. Nikolas Hartshorne, the producer of several Nirvana concerts who had personally known Cobain and Love. Critics allege that the case should have been investigated as a homicide, and not initially begun with a conclusion of suicide as it moved forward. Hartshorne later was killed in a B.A.S.E. jumping accident in Switzerland, on August 6th, 2002.Tom Grant went on the Tom Leykis radio program, and stated bluntly that Courtney Love and Michael ‘Cali’ DeWitt were involved in a conspiracy to kill Kurt Cobain. Love responded to Grant’s allegations by offering him work on different cases, which he feels was a bribe. DeWitt was a friend to the couple and the nanny for the couple’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. DeWitt was in the Cobain home when Cobain was missing, and had seen Kurt there as DeWitt lay in semi-sleep in bed. A note DeWitt left for Kurt to call Courtney is believed by Grant to have been staged. DeWitt was himself an active heroin user and former boyfriend of Courtney Love. Love later had DeWitt’s father do extensive renovations to her home and got ‘Cali’ a lucrative job with Geffen Records.Tom Leykis read a retraction regarding Grant’s allegations on his program at the behest of Westwood One, which Leykis said he read against his will. Someone was using the credit card Cobain had purchased a plane ticket back to Seattle with after he left Exodus drug rehab facility until the time his body was discovered. Grant believes it was DeWitt. Police never have proven who was using the card while the singer lay dead in the greenhouse. That issue seems to be begging for clarification, and needs to be settled for the sake of closure at the very least.Tom Grant told L4LM that he was not giving interviews until a 2015 documentary told from his perspective, Soaked In Bleach, was released [Note: The film is out now]. He did consent to answer a question on whether Cobain had nitrates on his hands from firing the shotgun. He said that (Nitrates) are “meaningless in this case.” He went on that “anyone standing in a small to medium sized room with their hands exposed, especially the palms, (like in a robbery where the gunman orders the victim to raise his or her hands), would test positive for GSR with a gun, rifle or shotgun, where the GSR is carried by the air in the room, like a sneeze (but more intense). (Nitrates) end up on all exposed surfaces, including the hands of someone who did not even pull the trigger”. Grant went on to say that “most GSR is invisible to the naked eye, unless the weapon were fired at very close range. So of course Cobain would have GSR on his hands and his face, whether he was murdered or committed suicide”.From the time Courtney Love hired Tom Grant to locate Kurt Cobain, he began to tape nearly every conversation he had with all of those involved. Grant has recordings of Love discussing Cobain seeking a divorce from her (many of the tapes can be played on Grant’s website: cobaincase.com). Love and Cobain had a prenuptial agreement, as she seemed initially destined to become the bigger star. When Cobain’s light wound up shining more brightly, Love stood to suffer financially if the couple divorced. Grant also theorizes that Love also would potentially gain considerable sympathy if Cobain committed suicide, rather than divorced her. In Grant’s mind, this was the motive behind what he labels a murder.Cobain had overdosed on Rophynol and champage at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome on March 4th, 1994. Courtney Love told journalist Robert Hillburn of the Los Angeles Times that Cobain was in a coma for 20 hours, and legally dead. Later, Love would claim that what was reported as an overdose was actually a suicide attempt, and she had burned the note. Love stated he had “gobbled” 50 tablets from her prescription. Dr. Oslavo Galletta treated Cobain, and he told Halperin and Wallace that, “We can usually tell a suicide attempt. This didn’t look like one to me.” This discrepancy in the accounts led Tom Grant and others to question if Love was using this amended story to build a false trail of a history of suicide, to cover wrongdoing in the singer’s death.Tom Grant’s account has him speaking to Cobain and Love’s lawyer, Rosemary Carroll. Rosemary represented Kurt and Courtney, and was the former wife of Jim Carroll of The Basketball Diaries fame. According to Grant, Cobain was intending to divorce Love, and Carroll urged him to investigate the circumstances of Cobain’s death. Carroll also said that in Love’s backpack, she found samples of Love practicing someone’s handwriting. This aroused suspicion due to the suicide note Cobain left seeming to be more about retiring from music than permanently from life. The end of the note seemed to include an addition made at a later point–possibly written by a second person. Carroll also stated that Love wrote a memo for herself to “get arrested,” which she indeed did while Grant was searching for her missing husband. The point we wonder about is whether Love seeking an iron-clad alibi for herself in Los Angeles was what exposed that Cobain was murdered back in Seattle. When Carroll realized that Grant was taping the conversation while she expressed doubts over suicide, she uttered, “Oh, sh*t”. And she added, that “is just my theory”, before hanging up. She has not commented publicly on these matters.[See Courtney Love’s suspicious handwriting samples here]Love was charged with drug possession, and for having a doctor’s prescription pad in her hotel room. Love was cleared, but it seems strange that she would leave a memo seemingly foretelling of the arrest regarding this key moment in time. Accounts have her calling in her own overdose from the telephone in her hotel room. Another possible scenario for Love practicing handwriting was to possibly forge prescriptions, and later her doctor covered for her saying he merely forgot his pad in the hotel room. The circus-like lifestyle of these musical heroin abusers causes such tumult, that clarity is hard to find in the events at hand. Had Grant not audio taped so many conversations, the atmosphere would be so muddied, it would be nearly impossible to detect much fact from fiction in this sordid tale.Another chapter in this strange set of events involves musician Eldon Hoke (known as “El Duce”) alleging that Courtney told him: “El Duce, I need a favor of you. My old man’s a real assh*le. I need you to blow his f*cking head off”. Hoke’s place in the music scene with his band The Mentors put him in the same sphere as Love’s band Hole. Hoke says he was told to make the murder look like a suicide. One would dismiss this as fantasy, except nothing in this case seems to wind up clear cut, or easily dismissed. Hoke passed a lie detector test administered by renowned expert Dr. Edward Gelb, who says there is no doubt that Hoke was telling the truth. Then a week after Hoke spoke on camera for BBC documentarian Nick Broomfield (“Kurt & Courtney”) in April 1997, he was run over by a train in Riverside, California. He had stated his friend “Allen” fulfilled the contract. Fellow musician Allen Wrench was the last person to see Hoke alive.If you want to learn more about the case, seek out the writings of Halperin and Wallace, and look through the contents of Tom Grant’s website. To say we are “through the looking glass” is an understatement. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that we are “down the rabbit hole”. The last word here goes to Ian Halperin, and some poignant thoughts he shared about the loss of the artist who left us so sadly, amid so much controversy: “Kurt Cobain – the man, his music and his legacy – will never be replaced in pop culture. He is the last veritable music icon. Twenty years after his death, new generations continue to be inspired by his incredible lyrics and unique voice. Unfortunately, he never got to see the treasure of his life grow up, his precious daughter Frances Bean. The world is more empty without Kurt here. Imagine how much more music he could have given the world if he’d still be here. RIP Kurt!”[Originally published April 2016]
From the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, to the expansion of marriage rights in several states, to the passing of a federal hate crimes prevention act, the past several years have been a time of unprecedented progress for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans.But beyond legal and legislative victories, Tim McCarthy believes, lies a much bigger challenge for the LGBT movement: confronting and eradicating a pervasive stigma against sexual minorities, both in the United States and abroad.“Equal rights does not necessarily mean equal lives,” McCarthy, an activist and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) lecturer, told an audience at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy on July 11. “We always have to keep an eye on the bigger prize.”Although political objectives can be tackled incrementally — via a “celebrity death match between court cases and ballot initiatives” that seek to either limit or expand LGBT rights — understanding stigma against whole groups is considerably more complicated. It’s a problem that McCarthy and the nonprofit he co-founded three years ago, Face Value, have been tackling with a unique approach: social activism supported by social science research. (Face Value funds its work with a $730,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, one of the largest awards the organization has given to support sexuality research and LGBT issues.)The project’s work thus far, conducted by academics and graduate students around the country, provides insights into how straight and gay individuals view one another, how LGBT people view their own experiences, and how perspectives from both sides could be better conveyed in the hope of improving “lived experience” for people of all sexual identities, McCarthy said.In one white paper, cognitive linguists analyzed all public service announcements for state-level ballot initiatives that dealt with LGBT issues, such as gay marriage, gay adoptions, or the inclusion of LGBT history in school curricula. Surprisingly, they found that LGBT individuals were better represented in ads that opposed expanding gay rights than in those that supported the cause.“We’re actually absent from our own advocacy,” said McCarthy, who is gay and was married in Massachusetts last year. The implication, he said, is that the LGBT community will win support only “when we’re not visible, when our presence is downplayed or obfuscated.”What advocacy groups are missing, he said, is the opportunity to create their own narratives of the LGBT experience. In another Face Value study, researchers have been asking gay and straight participants to discuss their ideas of how the other group lives —and then sitting both groups down in a room to discuss their conceptions and misconceptions.What they’ve found, McCarthy said, is that there’s much more room — and need — for dialogue than most LGBT advocates assume. “Both groups are really interested in one another’s lives, but they significantly misunderstand one another’s lives,” he said.Face Value is also studying different narratives of bullying awareness campaigns: those that portray survivors of bullying as heroes, those that portray them as victims, and those that adopt the “It Gets Better” goal of a good life free from bullying. They hope to determine whether certain types of messages inspire more support for anti-bullying measures than others.“We’re trying to get a sense of the relationship between empathy and sympathy,” McCarthy said. “We think that that distinction, which often gets occluded, is something that has a significant impact on the way that people support policies and people.”This fall, Face Value will conduct the first-ever quality-of-life survey of LGBT individuals, to be part of a longitudinal study of the mental, physical, financial, social, and political health of sexual minorities relative to heterosexuals.With feedback from people affected by LGBT discrimination, McCarthy said, “our conception of equality and quality of life will begin to be articulated and framed and conceived on our terms, as opposed to the terms of public policy.”McCarthy, an adjunct lecturer in public policy at HKS, a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard College, and director of the Carr Center’s Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights Program, called on activists to seize a “take-stock moment for the LGBT movement.”Although it’s important to celebrate advances, LGBT advocates must now turn their attention to “the enduring stigma that is rooted in homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, that is very much alive and well,” he said. The numbers paint a bleak portrait: Hate crimes against transgender people have actually increased since the passage of the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, he said. In New York, 40 percent of homeless youth are homosexual, many forced out of their homes with nowhere else to turn.If public policy victories are not translated “into lived experience of equality among the very people that those policies and pieces of legislation are meant to protect, then our claims of equality within the realm of rights and public policy mean nothing,” McCarthy said.
On Feb. 11, the Faculty Council voted to approve legislation regarding the affirmation of the honor code and heard a proposal from the Standing Committee on Dramatics to establish a concentration in Theater, Dance, and Media. They also met with Provost Garber to ask and answer questions as representatives of the faculty.The Council next meets on Feb. 25. The preliminary deadline for the March 3 meeting of the Faculty is Feb. 17 at 12:00 p.m.
The Saint Mary’s Art Department screened Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning film “12 Years a Slave” in Carroll Auditorium on Wednesday, followed by a panel discussion.Tiffany Johnson Bidler, assistant professor of art, started the panel with her opinions on the comparison of McQueen’s gallery and video work.“McQueen always communicates directly with viewers through what he calls the medium of aesthetic effect,” Bidler said. “What this means in a nutshell is that McQueen is interested in engaging viewers’ emotions. Much of McQueen’s gallery work addresses historical moments.”Bidler said it was interesting to see connections between McQueen’s older work and “12 Years a Slave.” An example she gave concerned McQueen’s 1997 short film “Deadpan.”“We see a couple of things that are evident in ‘Deadpan’ and also ‘12 Years a Slave,’” Bidler said. “First is the relationship between the projection and the viewer. The projection is large for deadpan and when you walk up to it, it is overwhelming.“It only focuses on his face, which I also think he does in interesting ways in ‘12 Years a Slave.’ He focuses on the faces of the characters.”Jamie Wagman, assistant professor of history and gender and women’s studies, gave a historical context to the 19th century and slavery. Child slavery began in the 1600s, and historians estimate that approximately 12 million African slaves endured the middle passage, Wagman said.“Some people however never reflected on the morality of owning slaves,” Wagman said. “For example, historians have reason that George Washington, like many white slave owners, never gave much thought to slavery. We don’t have any evidence of any of his writings including slavery.”Wagman said she wanted the audience to think about how McQueen exposes the ways in which men and women experience slavery in different ways. She said “The New Yorker” brought up an interesting perspective to viewers.“The New Yorker recently brought up that this film leaves audiences grieving for thousands that were never able to tell their stories,” Wagman said. “I think that’s an important comment and I hope that’s something you’ll remember. So many people were born into and died into slavery; you will never know their stories.”Junior Clarissa Frederick compared the movie to the novel and said the two were very similar.“The movie did a great job of portraying the characters in the novel, but there were some things that I wish they would have expanded upon,” Frederick said. “I found Eliza and Patsey’s characters to be the most tragic of the entire novel, because … of the way that she begged to have her children stay with her.”The biggest difference for Frederick was the character named Bass and his role with the main character Solomon.“Bass, the one that helped him be freed, worked a lot harder to getting him free than what is shown,” Frederick said. “He worked for almost a year, sent out several letters, and when they weren’t hearing anything back he began saving up for the trip to Saratoga himself in order to petition to a long list of people that he knew to save him.“He was an older man who took this as his mission in life to see this man free. Solomon is very grateful for him and prays for him every night, as said in the novel. He calls Bass his savior, and Bass saw Solomon as basically the reason he had lived that long.”Rika Asai, visiting assistant professor of music, spoke on the importance of the soundtrack to the film. She said there are three categories of music on the soundtrack that include the sound effect, the music and the dialogue.“Of these three categories, the dialogue is usually considered to be the most important element, but I think also we were all really aware as to how much silence there was in the film,” Asai said. “It wasn’t dead silence.“There was a lot of ambient noise in there. I think the first time I watched this film, I had the sensation of feeling the heat of this film with the crickets and insects, and the wind of all of this. I think this is really part of this authenticity the sound world is trying to help us create.”Asai said non-diegetic music helped the audience understand the emotion and importance of the movie.“This idea of non-diegetic music, which means it is music that doesn’t take place within the world and the narrative, it is what the composer has scored to aid our understanding of the narrative and perhaps even characters,” Asai said.Tags: “12 Years a Slave”, Steve McQueen
Boaters supporting social justice in Western North CarolinaPaddlers for Pisgah combines two things I’m most passionate about – paddling and social justice. Join us this Thursday, May 28, 2015 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at The Bywater (796 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC). ASTRAL, the Asheville-owned company that designs and manufacturers some of the best kayaking lifevests and footwear around, teams up with Pisgah Legal Services, a grassroots non-profit poverty law firm, to host a one-of-a-kind event at our favorite river venue, The Bywater. ASTRAL presents its famous products, games and activities. The crowd will also have an opportunity to learn about Pisgah Legal Services’ life-saving work that keeps our community afloat. Your $15 donation at the door supports PLS and gets you two of the Bywater’s signature cocktails or drafts.To learn more about the inspiration behind this unique event, I sit down with ASTRAL’s VP of Operations, Yonton Mehler and Pisgah Legal Service’s staff attorney, Molly Maynard who are engaged to be married later this summer.Mountain Mama: What’s your connection to Asheville and why do you care about the community here?Yonton: I’m originally from Tel Aviv, Israel and fifteen years ago the freestyle circuit brought me to the U.S. After visiting WNC many times, I started working at ASTRAL and have been living in Asheville for ten years.Molly: I came to Asheville to work at Pisgah Legal Services a little over three years ago, and now I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. I went to law school because I wanted to work in public interest law, and I feel really lucky to do it in a community that is so supportive of that work. It’s pretty unique.Mountain Mama: How did you first become involved in Pisgah Legal Services?Yonton: I drive by Pisgah Legal Services almost every day and I’d heard the about it on the radio, but it wasn’t until I met Molly that I really learned about the work Pisgah does and began to understand how much need there is for Pisgah’s services in this area. Last year I became part of PLS’s Young Professionals Board and we were brainstorming how to reach out to let more people know about Pisgah Legal Services and tap into slightly different circles. That’s how the idea to host Paddlers for Pisgah originated.Mountain Mama: How did you get involved in kayaking?Molly: I grew up in Wilmington and did a little kayaking at the beach, but it was all in a giant two person sit on top kayak that was mostly good for getting picnics out to barrier islands. I didn’t really learn anything about whitewater kayaking and the community around it till I met Yonton. I’m actually signed up for beginner lessons this weekend!Mountain Mama: What is the connection between paddlers and the services of Pisgah Legal Services?Yonton: This area is a very tight knit and strong paddling community. Although kayakers aren’t known for being the most ethnically diverse group, we are socioeconomically diverse. Kayakers are likely to be very sympathetic to the kind of work and services that Pisgah provides in the area. We often band together to promote and support causes that we believe in, but I think the cause of social justice is just not on the radar for a lot of kayakers yet. I hope this event can bring it to their attention.Molly: I think social and economic justice are causes that people in this community feel very strongly about, but don’t always have ways to act on directly. It’s been exciting for me to talk about Pisgah’s work to people who aren’t familiar with it because helping people get access to civil legal services- whether it’s to stop the illegal repossession of the car they need to get to work each day or to get someone a protective order that stops life threatening domestic violence- is a way to have a direct, measurable impact on those issues.Mountain Mama: ASTRAL seems to mostly sponsor environmental causes. Do you see any links between alleviating poverty and improving the environment?Molly: Being poor is really expensive. Many of our clients move frequently and the cost of moving is staggering with having to pay the security deposit and first and last month’s rent. People are in survival mode. Once we help our clients stabilize their financial situations and legal issues, they can think about saving money and higher level concerns like their environmental impact, or even doing the kind of outdoor activities that cultivate a lifelong love and appreciation for the environment. Yonton: Until now I actually saw this as a completely unrelated from the environmental philanthropy that Astral is usually involved in, but Molly brings up a good point. I didn’t even think of that.To learn more about Astral, visit them online or join us this Thursday at Paddlers for Pisgah to meet Yonton and Molly. More information about the event can be found here.
Central American nations from one end of the isthmus to the other are stepping up their war on drugs. Panama is maintaining its crackdown not only by intercepting narcotics shipments but also improving its tools to battle drug cartels. The National Police made headlines in early June when it busted a 32-year-old man in Aton with 40 kilograms of cocaine and 140 packets of smuggled cigarettes. That was followed by “Operation Puerto” — an intelligence mission that revealed four backpacks filled with cocaine hidden inside a shipping container full of wood. Authorities are hoping to continue the mission to find out if the drugs were placed in that container in Panama, or if the narcotics were merely being smuggled through the country as part of a bigger plot. Officials, however, hope to build on those busts as they acquire more resources in their battle against drugs. Panamanian Security Minister José Raúl Mulino said the installation of 19 new sets of surveillance radar along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines could be up and running by March 2013. Private companies have donated thousands of square meters of land to aid this initiative. “When we purchased the radars, we made sure they had a guarantee,” he told reporters, adding that training for Panamanian officials is also included in the contract. Also making Panamanian officials smile earlier this month was the christening of four PC-200 patrol boats, valued at $80 million, that were donated by the Italian government. The National Air System (Senan) will begin using the vessels immediately. “These boats will help fight drug trafficking and money laundering that other governments have allowed to abound until today,” Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli told reporters. Guatemalan police put brakes on extortion racket Meanwhile in Guatemala, the National Civilian Police has put the finishing touches on this month’s bust of a drug trafficking ring that had extorted about $500,000 from bus drivers and operators over the past four years. Eight arrests were made following accusations that gang members were demanding payments to not kill the civil servants. “Via intelligence work, it was established that members of this gang got their orders from maras [gang members] being held in prison,” an Interior Ministry spokesman told reporters. Guatemala’s attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, also has made headlines as she continues her crackdown on drug trafficking. Under her watch, the country’s homicide rate has dropped 5 percent, and five of the nation’s 10 most wanted criminals have been arrested. Also, she recently oversaw the extradition of two of the country’s top drug kingpins to the United States. “We have tried criminals who once thought themselves to be untouchable,” she said in a recent press conference. “The level of impunity in our country is embarrassing. But we have made advances in Guatemala once thought impossible.” Costa Rica also is making advances in the war on drugs as seven police officers were each sentenced to 22 years in prison for their role in a narcotics smuggling scheme. The officers were believed to have been part of a Colombian drug running operation that had an estimated 2,500 kilos of cocaine confiscated in three separate busts since 2009. “This has to do with the institutions, and what drug cartels do is corrupt institutions to disrupt the legal system and the rule of law,” Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla told reporters. “I don’t remember in our whole history a menace like this menace from organized crime.” Corruption crackdown continues in Nicaragua In Nicaragua, officials also are trying to uproot corrupt politicians who are aiding drug runners in their country. Substitute Magistrate Julio César Osuna was arrested last month as part of a large sting operation. He is accused of using his power and influence to smuggle drugs, launder money and sell fake Nicaraguan IDs to drug traffickers. “It was just a question of time before this happened,” said Roberto Orozco, a security expert at the Managua-based Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy, in a recent interview with Time magazine. “We had already identified narco-penetration in lower levels of government, where municipal and local officials have been bought by organized crime. This is especially true along the principal drug-trafficking routes, where we’ve seen the worst corruption among police and local judges. Nicaragua is not an island — it’s the belly-button of Central America.” But many officials believe Osuna’s arrest is just the tip of the iceberg as major reforms in the country’s customs and passport policies are being debated. “It’s very difficult to think only one person was involved in this, especially when so much money was at play,” said Rosa Marina Zelaya, former president of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council. “This uncovers a very serious problem — Nicaragua’s national ID system is broken, and this is more widespread than we realize yet.” Police in Belize also were celebrating a victory in their battle against narcotic dealers last month when they busted a man in Benque Viejo for trafficking about 25 kilos of marijuana. The man, driving a grey Ford Escort, drew the attention of police when he nearly swerved off the road in front of a police car, before racing to the nearest intersection. There, the driver and passenger jumped into the nearby bushes hoping to elude police. Officials apprehended the man within 24 hours. The following day, 26-year-old Abner Francisco Escobar, a naturalized Belizean citizen from Guatemala, handed himself over to police. Inspector Jesús Palma said he was identified as the driver of the vehicle and detained. Honduras scores big cocaine seizures Honduran officials also executed several big drug busts over the past few months. The first came early in May when two drug traffickers were killed and an estimated 400 kilos of cocaine were confiscated and destroyed as part of an aggressive operation near Ahaus. The shipment was intercepted as it was loaded onto a boat after being flown into the country. Then, less than a week later, a smuggling ship in Gracias a Diós which contained 36 bales of cocaine — an estimated 1.5 tons of the narcotic — was intercepted by law enforcement officials. “Once the boat was identified, members of the Navy moved in three boats. At 3:42 pm they commenced the interception operation, wherein four people were captured, of which three are Hondurans and one a Colombian,” Honduran Chief of Staff René Osorio Canales told reporters. “The boat had no flag, and the detainees were interrogated.” Finally in El Salvador, officials are struggling with the growth of street gangs that have taken on a larger role in dealing drugs, especially in larger cities. El Salvador, which averages 18 homicides per day, did make national headlines in April when it posted its first murder-free day since 2009. Law-enforcement officials are hoping to build on that momentum. “Drug bosses, cartels — they are using the local gangs,” Juan Bautista Rodríguez, head of the emergency response police in San Salvador, told reporters, “and this makes things more violent because the gangs are used more as hit men, and for revenge.” By Dialogo June 25, 2012
3SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr A former credit union assistant vice president was sentenced last week to two and half years in federal prison for embezzling $826,000 from the $223 million Pantex Federal Credit Union in Borger, Texas to buy “toys” for her late husband.U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo, Texas ordered Dorothy Stegall Barnes, 57, of Fritch, Texas, who also went by the last name of Newman, to pay restitution totaling $797,336 and serve five years of supervised release following her prison sentence. continue reading »
This is a great country, and its greatness is greatly increased when we are one.The past is history and there’s nothing that we can do about it. Today, we should maximize that which unites us and minimize that which divides us.We cannot change history, but the future is in our hands.George SummersellSaratoga SpringsMore from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?Schenectady, Saratoga casinos say reopening has gone well; revenue down 30%EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homes Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion
Comment Advertisement Advertisement Rob Holding confident over Arsenal’s top-four chances – but admits he’d prefer to win Europa League Arsenal were defeated at Sheffield United on Monday evening (Picture: Getty)‘Top four is more than within our capability,’ the central defender said ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Vitoria.‘I want to win the Europa League first and foremost. We got to the final last year but I was injured and I didn’t get to play in it.‘Top four and a Europa League trophy would be a brilliant way to end it.’More: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man CityHolding brushed off the recent criticism aimed at Arsenal by Patrice Evra who labelled them ‘babies’ in the wake of their defeat at Bramall Lane.‘What he says doesn’t affect me personally. I know what I am and how I like to play,’ the centre-back said.‘He’s got his opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.‘Just as a group of players we knew it would be a fight.‘We made sure everyone knows that in the changing room. We know how they’re going to play.’MORE: Mike Phelan explains key reason Man Utd’s form has dipped under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Rob Holding has made two first-team appearances for Arsenal since returning from a serious knee injury (Picture: Getty)Rob Holding insists Arsenal are ‘more than capable’ of finishing in the top four, but admits he would rather win the Europa League if he had to choose between the two this season.The Gunners have a 100 per cent record in Europe this term after comfortable victories over Eintracht Frankfurt and Standard Liege and will look to tighten their grip on Group F when they face Portuguese outfit Vitoria on Thursday evening.Arsenal’s Premier League campaign has not been quite so convincing, though, with Unai Emery’s side sitting fifth in the table after four wins from their opening nine matches.AdvertisementAdvertisementAnd while Arsenal fluffed their chance to go third in the table as they fell to a dismal 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United on Monday night, Holding remains upbeat about their top-four chances.ADVERTISEMENT Metro Sport ReporterWednesday 23 Oct 2019 3:38 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link1.1kShares
Comment Metro Sport ReporterFriday 7 Aug 2020 7:38 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link4.3kShares Lampard would wish Willian well if he moves on (Picture: Getty Images)Frank Lampard has defended Chelsea’s handling of Willian’s contract situation amid claims the winger is ‘upset’ about how his time at the club is coming to an end.After seven years at Stamford Bridge, the Brazilian looks set to move on with his current deal due to expire after the Blues’ Champions League campaign.The west London club are believed to have snubbed Willian’s demands of a new three-year contract, while Arsenal are willing to meet his requirements.Reports claim that the player is ‘upset and offended’ as he believes that there was little desire on Chelsea’s side to keep him.AdvertisementAdvertisementADVERTISEMENTHowever, Lampard backed the club’s stance and admitted he doesn’t think Willian would feel that way about the situation.‘I read a headline that mentioned disappointment, it doesn’t matter,’ the English boss said. Lampard backed the club over the Willian situation (Picture: Getty Images)‘In terms of being disappointed, certainly as a club we’ve done everything we can to explain to Willian.‘Our relationship is really close and I would have no feeling of disappointment if he does move on. He’s a fantastic man and a fantastic player.‘I think he will feel like that about Chelsea, I’ll leave him to say his own words. I don’t want anyone to try and find a negative attitude because the club have acted very well in this as well.’More: Arsenal FCArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesThomas Partey debut? Ian Wright picks his Arsenal starting XI vs Manchester CityArsene Wenger explains why Mikel Arteta is ‘lucky’ to be managing ArsenalInjury has seen Willian left out of Chelsea’s squad to play Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Saturday, where will they have to overturn a 3-0 deficit.Lampard insisted that the Brazilian international would’ve featured in the game if he could and although not offering an update on his future, maintained that he would have his well wishes were he to move on.‘Willian remains our player at the moment, he is injured,’ Lampard added. ‘He’d have given everything to play. He’s carried this injury.‘I don’t know the answer if he moves on I personally would wish him well, that’s kind of where we’re at now.’MORE: Chelsea to fund move for Declan Rice by selling JorginhoMORE: Rennes make contact with Chelsea over Fikayo Tomori dealFollow Metro Sport across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and InstagramFor more stories like this, check our sport page Advertisement Frank Lampard responds to claims Willian feels disappointed over Chelsea contract saga Advertisement