Monthly Archives: May 2013

How I Became Involved in Syracuse Truce

Last Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.  Professor Kennedy’s work, in developing effective strategies aimed at reducing gun and gang violence in inner cities, is the backbone of the violence reduction strategy currently being implemented in Syracuse, Syracuse Truce.  I first learned of Kennedy’s work just over six months ago when I heard the rebroadcast of his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.  After reading Professor Kennedy’s book and emailing him, he put me in touch with Syracuse Truce.

Below is an introduction to the interview:

In 1985, David M. Kennedy visited Nickerson Gardens, a public housing complex in south-central Los Angeles. It was the beginning of the crack epidemic, and Nickerson Gardens was located in what was then one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.

“It was like watching time-lapse photography of the end of the world,” he says. “There were drug crews on the corner, there were crack monsters and heroin addicts wandering around. … It was fantastically, almost-impossibly-to-take-in awful.”

Kennedy, a self-taught criminologist, had a visceral reaction to Nickerson Gardens. In his memoir Don’t Shoot, he writes that he thought: “This is not OK. People should not have to live like this. This is wrong. Somebody needs to do something.”

Kennedy has devoted his career to reducing gang and drug-related inner-city violence. He started going to drug markets all over the United States, met with police officials and attorney generals, and developed a program — first piloted in Boston — that dramatically reduced youth homicide rates by as much as 66 percent. That program, nicknamed the “Boston Miracle,” has been implemented in more than 70 cities nationwide.

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May 31, 2013 · 1:37 am

“Would Lowering The Drunk Driving Threshold Make Us Safer?”

Last week, NPR’s Talk of the Nation discussed the National Transportation Safety Board recommendation of reducing the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers from .08 to .05 with LZ Granderson, author of “Don’t Lower Threshold On Drunken Driving.”

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May 29, 2013 · 11:46 pm

Agriculture in the Age of Climate Change

Recently, NPR’s Talk of the Nation discusses how agriculture has been affected by climate change with David Nielsen (Research Agronomist, Central Great Plains Research Station, Agricultural Research Service), David Wolfe (Climate Change Leader, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Professor of Horticulture, Cornell University), and Sally Mackenzie (Professor of Plant Science at the Center for Plant Science Innovation, University of Nebraska, Lincoln).

Here is a description of the segment: 

Scientists say climate change could increase pests and weeds, lengthen growing seasons and turn dry soil to dust. Farmers are already on the offensive, adopting no-till cropping methods to conserve water and experimenting with different seeds. And scientists are using a technique called gene silencing to develop new crops—without tinkering with the plants’ DNA.

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May 28, 2013 · 9:55 pm

Edith: Welfare Queen or Government Success Story

NPR’s Planet Money team recently explored the economic implications of government assistance. 

Here is a description of the story: 

On today’s Planet Money, we meet a single mother who makes $16,000 a year — and who managed to fund a vacation at a Caribbean resort with an interest-free loan from one of the world’s largest banks.

Edith Calzado gets credit cards with teaser zero-percent interest rates — then transfers her balance before the rate ticks up. She signs up for store cards to get discounts — then pays off her bill on time. She gets food stamps and lives in subsidized housing. Her son is doing well in school.

She may be the single most successful and productive beneficiary of government assistance you’ll ever meet.

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May 27, 2013 · 11:17 am

Urban Dictionary in the Courtroom

On NRP’s Talk of the NationNew York Times reporter Leslie Kaufman and Rutgers law professor Greg Lastowka discuss the use of the website Urban Dictionary in the court room.  

Here is a description of the segment: 

The use of slang in court proceedings can be tricky, especially in criminal cases where an uncommon slang term used by a witness can make a difference in a case. New York Times tech reporter Leslie Kaufman and law professor Greg Lastowka talk about how judges and lawyers have turned to sites like Urban Dictionary to help define slang terms and the legal implications of the trend.

Read Leslie Kaufman’s Story


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May 25, 2013 · 12:07 pm

Gay Boy Scouts

Here is the BBC’s take on the recent announcement that the Boy Scouts will be permitting openly gay scouts.  

The Boy Scouts of America organisation has voted to welcome openly gay scouts from January 2014, but a ban on openly gay adult scout leaders will remain in place.

At a meeting in Texas, more than 60% of the national council of 1,400 voting members supported the change.

The campaign to overturn the ban pitted conservatives against liberals opposed to what they deem outdated discrimination.

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May 24, 2013 · 8:13 pm

Teen Faces Felony For Lesbian Relationship

Eighteen year old Florida resident Kaitlyn Hunt currently faces fifteen years in prison for her relationship with her sixteen year old girlfriend.   Here is a description of the story: 

Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, started dating her 15-year-old girlfriend last year. The older of the two teens,  Kaitlyn, was arrested and subsequently charged with “sexual battery on a person 12-16 years old.” If found guilty of this crime, Kaitlyn could serve up to 15 years in prison and be required to register as a sex offender. But the assistant state attorney offered a deal: if she agrees to 2 years of house arrest and one year of probation, she can forgo trial.

The case has stirred up controversy about the application of this law: is the crime Hunt is being charged with an abuse Florida’s sexual battery law or is the Florida law itself being applied abusively?

It’s impossible to estimate how many Florida teens have violated the sexual battery statute:809,984 teens attend the state’s high schools and it’s certain that thousands of them are sexually active. Kaitlyn’s family believes the law was misapplied to their daughter for discriminatory reasons.

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May 23, 2013 · 9:57 pm