Someone is murdered in Washington, DC every couple of days. If it's someone famous (or rich), that news makes a splash. It'll be on television and in the paper, paraded across websites and memorialized by the powerful. If the person isn't famous, the news will be almost nowhere. In fact, it might show up on a single site, HomicideWatch.org, the brainchild of Laura Amico created with coding assistance from her husband, Chris Amico.
Founded last September, the site's mission is to cover every single homicide in the city. As the site's header puts it, "Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case." Because of its comprehensiveness, the site has become a crucial (and often exclusive) source of information about the crimes that don't make headlines. Fifteen-thousand visitors a month look at 90,000 pages, leaving hundreds of comments. Not exactly the Huffington Post, but certainly not bad.
Now, the Amicos are taking the site to the next level -- having recently launched a nice redesign -- and hoping to expand the idea to more cities.
Homicide Watch is built on shoe-leather reporting and data. Laura was a crime reporter in California for several years and Chris is a journalist/developer with NPR. Working together, they built a backend that served Laura's need to keep track of victims, suspects, and the documents and dates from trials. With the new redesign, you can see how the database works and dig into the documents. It's as much a system for tracking homicides as it is a blog about murders. Take a look at the map page and you can see how the data starts to fit together.
The Amicos have been bootstrapping the site since it launched. They don't intend to sell advertising or access to the site, but they do have a plan to create a sustainable business model. In the coming months, they'll offer the software that powers the next-generation of the site, along with services to help cash-strapped newsrooms better cover homicides in their areas.
I originally wondered two things about the site. First, how could Laura Amico handle covering every death in the city. She shrugged it off. "The part that people expect to be difficult in reading all these charging documents and talking to the families is not difficult for me at all," Amico said. Victims' families regularly get in touch to express their appreciation, which makes it "tremendously rewarding" work. It is particularly easy relative to the traditional newspaper crime coverage she used to do, in which she was often asked to get the families to talk immediately after a tragedy.
Second, Amico is a blonde caucasian woman from California. How did Washington DC residents react to her covering homicides whose victims and suspects were overwhelmingly black? Amico said that she was very conscious of those differences but she'd designed the site to deemphasize her identity in two ways. She relies heavily on primary documents from court cases, steering away from what might be perceived as analysis, and she highlights comments from the communities impacted by the murders. "I say, 'This is your platform, go ahead and comment. This is a place,'" Amico told me. "I think that elevates it beyond who it is specifically running the site."
Congressional Republicans and conservative pundits had the chance to signal to Trump that his attacks on law enforcement are unacceptable—but they sent the opposite message.
President Trump raged at his TV on Sunday morning. And yet on balance, he had a pretty good weekend. He got a measure of revenge upon the hated FBI, firing former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe two days before his pension vested. He successfully coerced his balky attorney general, Jeff Sessions, into speeding up the FBI’s processes to enable the firing before McCabe’s retirement date.
Beyond this vindictive fun for the president, he achieved something politically important. The Trump administration is offering a not very convincing story about the McCabe firing. It is insisting that the decision was taken internally by the Department of Justice, and that the president’s repeated and emphatic demands—public and private—had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
The first female speaker of the House has become the most effective congressional leader of modern times—and, not coincidentally, the most vilified.
Last May, TheWashington Post’s James Hohmann noted “an uncovered dynamic” that helped explain the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare. Three current Democratic House members had opposed the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. Twelve Democratic House members represent districts that Donald Trump won. Yet none voted for repeal. The “uncovered dynamic,” Hohmann suggested, was Nancy Pelosi’s skill at keeping her party in line.
She’s been keeping it in line for more than a decade. In 2005, George W. Bush launched his second presidential term with an aggressive push to partially privatize Social Security. For nine months, Republicans demanded that Democrats admit the retirement system was in crisis and offer their own program to change it. Pelosi refused. Democratic members of Congress hosted more than 1,000 town-hall meetings to rally opposition to privatization. That fall, Republicans backed down, and Bush’s second term never recovered.
How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory
One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.
Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
Invented centuries ago in France, the bidet has never taken off in the States. That might be changing.
“It’s been completely Americanized!” my host declares proudly. “The bidet is gone!” In my time as a travel editor, this scenario has become common when touring improvements to hotels and resorts around the world. My heart sinks when I hear it. To me, this doesn’t feel like progress, but prejudice.
Americans seem especially baffled by these basins. Even seasoned American travelers are unsure of their purpose: One globe-trotter asked me, “Why do the bathrooms in this hotel have both toilets and urinals?” And even if they understand the bidet’s function, Americans often fail to see its appeal. Attempts to popularize the bidet in the United States have failed before, but recent efforts continue—and perhaps they might even succeed in bringing this Old World device to new backsides.
“They’re turning suspects into criminals in one click.”
In early December, a shocking video recorded in the lobby of an apartment building on the outskirts of Beirut surfaced on the internet. The video, posted to an unusual Facebook page called Weynieh el Dawleh—or “Where is the state?”—showed two young men grabbing another man and leading him away at gunpoint.A caption claimed that the men were involved in a drug-related dispute and requested the public’s help in uncovering their identities.Less than a week after the video appeared, a follow-up video was published to Weynieh el Dawleh. It was the same footage from the lobby, but with some notable modifications, including captions noting the full names and addresses of both the perpetrators and the abductee. For dramatic effect, it had an action-movie-style soundtrack, and opened with a message in Arabic: “We asked you for help identifying them,” referring to the men in the video. “And after 48 hours, they have fallen into our grasp.” The accompanying post called on the police to arrest the attackers.
Much more than time separates the 27th president from the 45th: from their vastly different views on economics, to their conceptions of the presidency itself.
As Donald Trump’s executive orders punishing steel and aluminum imports threaten a trade war around the globe, Republicans on Capitol Hill are debating whether to reassert Congress’s ultimate constitutional authority over tariffs and trade. This isn’t the first time the GOP has split itself in two on the question of protective tariffs. But the last time, just over 100 years ago, the Republican president’s policies were the exact opposite of Trump’s.
William Howard Taft—in his opposition to populism and protectionism, as well as his devotion to constitutional limits on the powers of the presidency—was essentially the anti-Trump. Unlike the current president, and his own predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft refused to rule by executive order, insisting that the chief executive could only exercise those powers that the Constitution explicitly authorizes.
As the Trump presidency approaches a troubling tipping point, it’s time to find the right term for what’s happening to democracy.
Here is something that, even on its own, is astonishing: The president of the United States demanded the firing of the former FBI deputy director, a career civil servant, after tormenting him both publicly and privately—and it worked.
The American public still doesn’t know in any detail what Andrew McCabe, who was dismissed late Friday night, is supposed to have done. But citizens can see exactly what Donald Trump did to McCabe. And the president’s actions are corroding the independence that a healthy constitutional democracy needs in its law enforcement and intelligence apparatus.
McCabe’s firing is part of a pattern. It follows the summary removal of the previous FBI director and comes amid Trump’s repeated threats to fire the attorney general, the deputy attorney, and the special counsel who is investigating him and his associates. McCabe’s ouster unfolded against a chaotic political backdrop that includes Trump’s repeated calls for investigations of his political opponents, demands of loyalty from senior law-enforcement officials, and declarations that the job of those officials is to protect him from investigation.
The debate around sexual-harassment legislation is playing out in the Maryland General Assembly, where reform advocates say leadership is loath to embrace changes.
In Maryland, legislative sessions run 90 days, from January through early April. On the final day of each session—commonly referred to by the Latin term sine die—the capital city of Annapolis lets its hair down. There is dining and dancing and parties galore as aides, lawmakers, and lobbyists celebrate having survived the season.
A few years back, at one sine die soiree hosted by a legislator, a former Annapolis aide (who requested anonymity because she remains involved in Maryland politics) took to the dance floor. “I was dancing a little bit by myself,” she recalled. “All of a sudden I hear, ‘You’re packing a little bit more than I thought back here!’ I turn around, and this legislator is dancing right behind me. I was like, ‘Ooookay. This is a little weird. I know your wife and kids.’ So I tried to subtly move away.” The legislator followed, recalled the ex-aide. And then: “He got aroused.” The young woman made a swift escape, and, she informed me, “I have not spoken to that legislator one-on-one since.”
A new six-part Netflix documentary is a stunning dive into a utopian religious community in Oregon that descended into darkness.
To describe Wild Wild Country as jaw-dropping is to understate the number of times my mouth gaped while watching the series, a six-part Netflix documentary about a religious community in Oregon in the 1980s. It’s ostensibly the story of how a group led by the dynamic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh purchased 64,000 acres of land in central Oregon in a bid to build its own utopian city. But, as the series immediately reveals, the narrative becomes darker and stranger than you might ever imagine. It’s a tale that mines the weirdness of the counterculture in the ’70s and ’80s, the age-old conflict between rural Americans and free love–preaching cityfolk, and the emotional vacuum that compels people to interpret a bearded mystic as something akin to a god.
The ability to opt out of a neighborhood school increases the likelihood that a black or Hispanic neighborhood will see an influx of wealthier residents.
When Francis Pearman was studying at Vanderbilt, he and a fellow graduate student noticed a striking phenomenon in Nashville: White, affluent families were moving into low-income neighborhoods without sending their children to the neighborhood schools.
“We were really curious to see what that relationship looked like at the national level,” said Pearman, now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
When he and that student, Walker Swain, looked at national data, a pattern emerged. The ability to opt out of the neighborhood school increased the likelihood that a mostly black or Hispanic neighborhood would see an influx of wealthier residents.
“As school choice expands, the likelihood that low-income communities of color experience gentrification increases,” Pearman said.