A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior. 10 years later, the results are in.

“What if someone told you that you could dramatically reduce the crime rate without resorting to coercive policing or incarceration? In fact, what if they said you could avert a serious crime — a robbery, say, or maybe even a murder — just by shelling out $1.50?

That’s such an incredibly good deal that it sounds too good to be true. But it’s been borne out by the research of Chris Blattman, Margaret Sheridan, Julian Jamison, and Sebastian Chaskel. Their new study provides experimental evidence that offering at-risk men a few weeks of behavioral therapy plus a bit of cash reduces the future risk of crime and violence, even 10 years after the intervention.”

“999 Liberian men were split into four groups. Some received CBT, while others got $200 in cash. Another group got the CBT plus the cash, and finally, there was a control group that got neither.

A month after the intervention, both the therapy group and the therapy-plus-cash group were showing positive results. A year after the intervention, the positive effects on those who got therapy alone had faded a bit, but those who got therapy plus cash were still showing huge impacts: crime and violence were down about 50 percent.”

“10 years later, he tracked down the original men from the study and reevaluated them. Amazingly, crime and violence were still down by about 50 percent in the therapy-plus-cash group.”

“The most plausible hypothesis, according to Blattman, is that the $200 in cash enabled the men to pursue a few months of legitimate business activity — say, shoe shining — after the therapy ended. That meant a few extra months of getting to cement their new non-criminal identity and behavioral changes. “Basically, it gave them time to practice,” Blattman told me.”

War Crimes Charges Could Help Putin, Not Hurt Him

“The role of popular elections as the source of ruling legitimacy is just one way in which it is hard to categorize the Russian political system. For all the talk of Putin’s dictatorial personality and wide latitude to crackdown on civil liberties, the institutions of Putinism were built by his democratic predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, enshrined in his 1993 constitution. Flawed and imperfect in practice during the tumultuous 1990s, these foundations were democratic in principle: Grassroots civil society flourished alongside a lively media environment, as legislators and leaders were chosen from a variety of contenders. Even as those liberties have subsequently been eroded and independent media curtailed, the institutions still specify that Russia’s leaders serve at the will of the people. Indeed, the ratcheting-up of Kremlin propaganda is meant, more than anything, to reassure Russians that Putin’s leadership is worthy of their continued support. Such peans to the people would be unnecessary in a classic, run-of-the-mill dictatorship.

Consequently, political scientists are at odds with how to describe Putin’s Russia. Some call it a “competitive authoritarian” regime, where democratic institutions and procedures simply provide a facade of legitimacy for the dictatorship. Others label it an “information autocracy,” in which the powers of state-run media are marshaled to build a public image of Putin as a competent leader, deserving of political support, and it works to generate the popular support he needs. What these different perspectives have in common is what Peskov said: that Putin’s political sovereignty ultimately lies with the Russian people, however manipulated or misinformed they might be.”

“Western hopes that the Russian people would rise up and topple Putin in a popular revolution seem further from reality today than at the start of the war. The smattering of protests across Russia during the first weeks of the war have largely fizzled out. Between the Kremlin propaganda machine in overdrive and criminalization of expressions of opposition, Putin’s approval in nationwide polls is now up to 83 percent, with 81 percent support for the “special military operation.”

What’s more, Russian elites appear to be consolidating behind Putin. Rather than diversifying internationally and finding safe havens abroad, powerful oligarchs and cosmopolitan elites—many of them under Western sanctions—now understand that they are tethered to Russia and to Putin personally. Once-feuding factions are realizing they’re all now in the same boat. Few will bolt for greener pastures in Europe or the U.S., even if they could.

In an eye-opening account by independent Russian journalist Farida Rustamova on the tribulations of Russia’s political elites since the war, she quotes a high-ranking source in a sanctioned Russian company as saying “All these personal sanctions cement the elites. Everyone who was thinking about a new life understands that, for the next 10-15 years at least, their lives are concentrated in Russia, their children will study in Russia, their families will live in Russia. These people feel offended. They will not overthrow anyone, but will build their lives here.”

Before the war, the dominant narrative of Kremlin-controlled media was that Russia is a mighty superpower—besieged on all sides by enemies and conspirators, both Western and homegrown—and only Putin could lead them. Lamentably, the coordinated international response to Putin’s bloody war has only solidified and reinforced that us-against-the-world narrative, and largely rallied the Russian people behind Putin.

In this context, the Russian response to the accusations of genocide in Ukraine have been predictable: It is all a Western “fake” meant to further impugn the dignity of Russia and its leader. Pro-Russian social media accounts have claimed that the corpses are either fake, or are actors, or were killed after the Russians left. The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed “not a single local resident has suffered any violent action” while Bucha was under Russian control. These are all claims that have been easily debunked. By parroting the official line of the Foreign Affairs Ministry that it could not have been Russia that committed such atrocities, but rather the United States staging a “provocation,” Kremlin state-run media only reinforces and retrenches the us-against-the-world narrative already widely accepted among the Russian people.”

An Off-Duty Cop Murdered His Ex-Wife. The California Highway Patrol Ignored the Red Flags.

“When law-enforcement officials believe that someone has committed a crime, they often go to great lengths—and can be quite creative—in coming up with charges to file. Criminal codes are voluminous, and it’s common for prosecutors to pile up one charge after another as a way to keep someone potentially dangerous off the streets.

When the accused is a police officer, however, agencies typically find their hands tied. “Nothing to see here,” they say, “so let’s move along.” Their eagerness to protect their own colleagues from accountability can have deadly consequences. A recent lawsuit by the victim of a California Highway Patrol officer’s off-duty shooting brings the problem into view.

The case centers on Brad Wheat, a CHP lieutenant who operated out of the agency’s office in Amador County. On Aug. 3, 2018, Wheat took his CHP-issued service weapon and hollow-point ammunition to confront Philip “Trae” Debeaubien, the boyfriend of Wheat’s estranged wife, Mary. As he later confessed to a fellow officer, Wheat planned more than a verbal confrontation.

“I just learned this evening that Brad confided in an officer…tonight that he drove to a location where he thought his wife and her lover were last night to murder the lover and then commit suicide,” an officer explained in an email, as The Sacramento Bee reported. Fortunately, Debeaubien had left the house by the time that Wheat arrived.

Initially, Wheat’s colleagues convinced him to surrender his CHP firearm and other weapons and they reported it to superiors. Instead of treating this matter with the seriousness it deserved, or showing concern for the dangers that Debeaubien and Mary Wheat faced, CHP officials acted as if it were a case of an officer who had a rough day.

They essentially did nothing. “Faced with a confessed homicidal employee, the CHP conducted no criminal investigation of its own, notified no allied law enforcement agency or prosecutor’s office, and initiated no administrative process,” according to a pleading filed by Debeaubien in federal district court. “Nor did the CHP notify [the] plaintiff that he was the target of a murder-suicide plan that failed only because of a timely escape.””

“Two weeks later, Wheat took the same weapon and ammo and this time found his ex-wife and her boyfriend. He shot Debeaubien in the shoulder, the two struggled and Wheat—a trained CHP officer, after all—retrieved his dislodged weapon, shot to death his ex-wife, and then killed himself.

Now CHP says it has no responsibility for this tragic event and that its decisions did not endanger the plaintiff’s life. This much seems clear from court filings and depositions: CHP’s response centered on what it thought best for its own officer. Any concern about the dangers faced by those outside the agency seemed incidental, at best.”

“CHP officials expressed concern about protecting Wheat’s career, and one worried that Mary Wheat or Debeaubien might file a complaint. Even when a colleague asked Wheat to relinquish his firearm, he did so as a friend—not as CHP protocol. Again, CHP treated Brad Wheat as the focus of sympathy, not as the potential perpetrator of domestic violence.”

“”Giving a gun to a then-weaponless man who ‘had driven to a location where he thought his wife and her lover were to murder the lover and then commit suicide,’…creates an actual and particularized danger of his using the gun to attempt murder a second time,” the filing notes. That would seem obvious to anyone, except perhaps a police agency more interested in protecting itself than the public.”

How Did Ahmaud Arbery’s 3 Assailants End Up With 12 Murder Convictions?

“The felony murder rule “divorces intent from consequence,” says Lara Bazelon, a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. “The concept is that, well, if you went along for the underlying felony, if you went along for the less serious act…then you’re just as guilty as [the murderer], even if you didn’t know that your co-defendant was armed, and even if you had no intent to kill yourself.”
That scenario is not a hypothetical. In May 2020, not long before Arbery’s convicted murderers were indicted, Jenna Holm was arrested on a manslaughter charge in Idaho, accused of killing a police officer after he arrived to respond to her apparent mental health crisis. But it wasn’t Holm who killed Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputy Wyatt Maser—something the state conceded. It was another cop, who struck Maser in his vehicle when he drove onto the scene.

While an internal investigation revealed the officers disregarded safety procedures that night, the police eschewed introspection and set their sights on Holm, charging her with an “unlawful act” and tacking a manslaughter charge on top. (A judge recently struck it down, but only after Holm sat in jail for 16 months pre-trial.)

There are many more such stories. In December 2018, 16-year-old Masonique Saunders was charged with the felony murder of her boyfriend, who a police officer shot during the commission of a robbery. Because she allegedly helped plan that burglary, Ohio said the teen effectively killed her own partner. But perhaps the most iconic anecdote associated with the felony murder rule is the unfortunate story of Ryan Holle, who was sentenced to life in prison after he lent his car to some friends. Those friends then used it to commit a crime—also a burglary—which went horribly awry after one of the men found a firearm in the house they were robbing and used it to kill 18-year-old Jessica Snyder.

Holle was a mile and a half away from that scene, but he was treated no differently than Charles Miller, Jr., who saw that gun and spontaneously murdered Snyder. “Felony murder says you are just as liable, you are just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger,” notes Bazelon. In 2015, Holle’s sentence was commuted to 25 years in prison; he will not be released until 2024.”

Murders are spiking. Police should be part of the solution.

“Last year, the US’s murder rate spiked by almost 30 percent. So far in 2021, murders are up nearly 10 percent in major cities. The 2020 increase alone is the largest percentage increase ever recorded in America — and a reversal from overall declines in murder rates since the 1990s.”

“There is solid evidence that more police officers and certain policing strategies reduce crime and violence. In a recent survey of criminal justice experts, a majority said increasing police budgets would improve public safety. The evidence is especially strong for strategies that home in on very specific problems, individuals, or groups that are causing a lot of crime or violence — approaches that would require restructuring how many police departments work today.”

“Problems like poverty, education, and other underlying issues that contribute to crime can take years, or even decades, to truly address.

The impact of police, meanwhile, tends to happen quickly — almost immediately deterring and intercepting would-be criminals with the presence of officers. For policymakers looking for quick action, that’s an important distinction, suggesting that police have to play a role even if other social services are deployed for longer-term solutions.”

“Every criminal justice expert I’ve spoken to has also said that more work needs to be done to hold police accountable — and the survey of experts found that most agreed more accountability would also improve public safety.

So the evidence doesn’t indicate that America should continue the punitive, unaccountable model of policing that’s dominated over the past few decades. To the contrary, much of the research supports changes to how policing is done to focus narrowly on problems, city blocks, and even individuals known to disproportionately contribute to crime — contrary to the dragnet approaches, like “stop-and-frisk,” that end up harassing entire communities.

“policing works to reduce crime and violence. But how policing is done can change — and change could even make policing more effective for crime-fighting while addressing some of the problems to which Black Lives Matter protests have called attention.”

Daniel Hale Revealed America’s Drone Assassinations to the Public. He’s Been Sentenced to 45 Months in Prison.

“A federal judge has sentenced a leaker to prison for helping keep Americans informed about abuses being perpetrated in their name.

Daniel Hale is a former Air Force intelligence analyst who revealed how America’s secret drone assassinations in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia were likely killing untold numbers of innocent people. On Tuesday he was sentenced to 45 months in prison after he previously pleaded guilty to passing along classified documents to a reporter that were subsequently published in 2015.”

“The government insisted that its secret “kill list” of terrorists was carefully vetted, and the drone strikes were only deployed to kill those the government and military believed it was unfeasible to arrest.

The reality, Hale revealed, was the drone strikes regularly resulted in the death of innocents, and the government covered it up by automatically classifying anybody killed as “militants” even when they weren’t the targets of the strikes. This allowed the government to insist that civilian casualties were being kept to a minimum.”

“The feds finally caught up with Hale in 2019 and arrested him, charging him with espionage. After the arrest, Hale pleaded guilty and essentially threw himself at the mercy of the court, acknowledging that he violated the law while refusing to apologize for it. In a lengthy handwritten letter to U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady, Hale described an incident where a drone strike he helped arrange failed to kill its target (an Afghan man allegedly involved in making car bombs) and instead killed his 5-year-old daughter. He wrote, “Now, whenever I encounter an individual who thinks that drone warfare is justified and reliably keeps America safe, I remember that time and ask myself how I could possibly believe that I am a good person, deserving of my life and the right to pursue happiness.””

“The documentation matters. The Washington Post notes that Hale’s leaking of documentation showing how the government put people on secret terrorism watchlists helped civil rights lawyers fight for due process for their clients.

Hale is yet another case where the federal government has used espionage laws not to punish spies who reveal classified information to our country’s enemies, but to punish people who reveal the government’s unethical and illegal behavior to our country’s own citizens.”

Murders are up. Crime is not. What’s going on?

“The increase in murder appears to be a uniquely American phenomenon. While murder rates rose in some developed countries last year, like Canada and Germany, the increases are far below the double-digit spikes America is seeing. That’s especially notable because the United States already had a higher baseline of murders, after controlling for population. Despite claims that Democratic mayors or progressive criminal justice policies are driving the increase, it also appears indifferent to the political party in charge: As Asher and criminal justice expert John Pfaff have shown, murder rates increased in cities run by Democrats and Republicans, progressive and not.

The good news is there is a lot more agreement among experts about how to bring down the spike than there is about what caused it. But the best evidence suggests stopping murders in the short term will require more and better, though not necessarily more aggressive, policing — a controversial proposal on the left.

“I know people don’t want to hear this, and I empathize with that,” Anna Harvey, a public safety expert at New York University, told me. “But at least as far as the research evidence goes, for short-term responses to increases in homicides, the evidence is strongest for the police-based solutions.”

The stakes are very high. Nearly 21,000 people were murdered in America in 2020, based on preliminary data. Another increase of 10 percent or more could mean thousands more dead in 2021.”

“Some other kinds of crime also increased, according to this early data, including shootings, aggravated assaults, and car thefts. Still, violent crime in general went up at much lower rates, if at all, compared to murders, and overall crime declined, driven in part by a drop in the majority of property crimes.”

“The closest to a consensus I’ve been able to find in talking to experts about the cause of the murder spike: It’s complicated.
Experts have rejected some possibilities. Given that murders rose in both Democrat- and Republican-run cities, as well as places that adopted criminal justice reforms and those that didn’t, partisanship and criminal justice reforms don’t seem to be a cause.

Three plausible explanations, none of which exclude the others, have come up repeatedly:”

“The pandemic shut down programs that likely safeguard Americans from violence, including policing, social services, and community-led efforts. It left some people, particularly teen boys and young men, with more free time to stew over interpersonal conflict as workplaces and schools shut down. And it fed a general sense of chaos and despair throughout the year, perhaps amplifying perceptions that desperate times can call for desperate measures.

But much of the world also struggled with Covid-19, from Mexico to Canada to much of Europe, and didn’t see double-digit percent increases in murders last year. That suggests the virus can’t be the sole cause.”

“One theory held that officers, afraid of getting caught in the next viral moment that leads to protests, backed off from proactive policing. On the other side, the public could have lost trust in police and been less likely to cooperate as witnesses or informers, making it harder to close cases, make arrests, and get dangerous people off the streets. A greater sense that the criminal justice system can’t be trusted also could have led people to take matters, violently, into their own hands.”

“The US has the most number of guns in civilian hands, and the last year saw a huge spike in the number of firearms purchased by Americans. The research is clear here: More guns mean more gun violence — and more deadly violence, because the presence of a gun allows just about any conflict, from public arguments to domestic abuse, to escalate.”

“Even if new gun purchases weren’t to blame, it’s possible existing guns are: Asher found evidence that more people were carrying guns last year, leading to more police finding guns in the course of an arrest. So perhaps it’s not so much that people bought new firearms but that they started carrying the arsenal of weapons they already had.

Perhaps the best explanation: All of these factors played a role.

There are many ways all these explanations could have interacted. As one example: Covid-19 and protests both fueled a sense that the social fabric was unraveling, and more people — particularly in the worst-off neighborhoods — felt they had to fend for themselves. They equipped themselves with guns to act on their own if they felt a threat. And this made any given conflict more likely to escalate to deadly violence.

Ultimately, though, there are too many unknowns to draw hard conclusions.”

“there’s strong evidence that more police lead to fewer homicides, and solid research backs strategies like hot spot policing and problem-oriented policing.

These strategies tend to be more focused, like hot spot policing’s heightened surveillance of very specific high-crime blocks. Or they tend to be more planned: Problem-oriented policing requires formal evaluations of a problem and solutions, and calls for bringing in community partners to make sure the issue is addressed at its root. It’s a shift from dragnet efforts in which officers target entire neighborhoods to stop or arrest as many people as possible.

In fact, these approaches can actually reduce overall incarceration. For example, the evidence for hot spot policing suggests that officers’ mere presence deters crime, since people are less likely to do illegal things in front of a cop. Police don’t have to do anything — just stand there and watch. And fewer crimes committed means fewer arrests.”

“There’s good evidence for providing summer jobs programs, raising the age to drop out of school, greening vacant lots, installing more streetlights, providing more drug addiction treatment, implementing better gun control, and raising the alcohol tax, among other ideas.

The problem, experts told me, is that even the effective non-police strategies tend to take time to work. Police can be active on a high-crime block in minutes, but it can require years to lift up people and neighborhoods, economically and otherwise, and address root causes of crime that these alternatives are supposed to target. They aren’t all designed to reduce the number of murders quickly.

“It doesn’t mean police are a panacea for these things,” Williams said. “But it does mean we should be very careful about throwing around interventions that we don’t necessarily know come with any important benefits or costs.””

The big spike in murders in 2020, explained in 600 words

“Data from the FBI, the Council on Criminal Justice, and crime analyst Jeff Asher shows that the murder rate surged by upward of 25 percent in 2020. Violent crime in general rose as well, though not as much as murders, with aggravated assaults and shootings up. But nonviolent crimes, such as those involving drugs or theft, fell — leading to an overall decrease of crime even as violent crime and murders rose.

The murder increase essentially set the US back decades on crime reduction efforts, putting total murders back at the levels of the 1990s.

The increase was truly nationwide, with the FBI data finding surges in places rural and urban, across every region of the country.”

“Last year was extremely weird in a lot of ways, in large part due to Covid-19. It also, obviously, just happened. Both of those factors make it really hard for experts to isolate what led to a murder spike. So far there’s no consensus.”

US ratchets up pressure on Myanmar’s military after its bloodiest weekend since the coup

“The Biden administration is stepping up its actions to punish Myanmar’s ruling military junta in the wake of a bloody weekend targeting civilians protesting against the February military coup.

On Saturday, the military commemorated Armed Forces Day by killing about 140 people — including six children — in 44 cities and towns amid nationwide peaceful protests, according to local reports and activists. One of the children, 11-year-old Aye Myat Thu, was buried with her drawings and toys as her family mourned beside her.

Thousands of people also fled into neighboring Thailand to escape the violence.

It’s the largest number of people killed in a single day since the military ousted the country’s democratic government in a February 1 coup. Some 500 people have been killed in total since the military seized control.

Pressure from the international community on Myanmar’s military to relinquish control has been growing, with the United Nations special rapporteur for the country recently calling the junta’s campaign “mass murder.””

“On Monday, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden administration would “suspend all US trade engagement” with Myanmar that occurs under a 2013 bilateral trade agreement. That won’t stop all $1.4 billion in trade between the two countries, but it will curb the trade relationship, namely by ending US support for initiatives that helped Myanmar integrate back into the world economy.

That may not seem like much, but experts on Myanmar’s conflict like Cornell University’s Darin Self say the move “will sting” because “cutting off trade is meaningful.””