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Anti-violence programs shut down as Chicago shootings climb

In this Feb. 1, 2006 file photo, Alphonso Prater, left, and Karl Bell, "violence interrupters" with CeaseFire, a propram that aims to stop shooting before shots are fired, patrol the streets of Chicago.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

SARA BURNETT, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Captured in a documentary that brought national attention to Chicago's violence, Operation CeaseFire deployed former gang members and felons to intervene in feuds that too often ended in fatal gunfire on the city's streets.

Now that operation has become another casualty in the financial meltdown enveloping Illinois, even as the city still struggles to stop shootings.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner froze money for CeaseFire, featured in the 2011 documentary "The Interrupters," as Illinois began running out of money because Democrats passed a budget that spent billions more than the state took in. The program was cut off before receiving all of the $4.7 million it was budgeted last fiscal year, and it has gotten no state funding this year as the fight between Rauner and Democrats who lead the Legislature drags on and several programs in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois shut down.

Meanwhile, Chicago has seen a roughly 20 percent increase in shootings and homicides so far this year compared with the same period in 2014. That included a July 4 weekend that left 48 people shot, including a 7-year-old boy who police say was killed by a shot intended for his father, described as a "ranking gang member" by officers.

None of those holiday weekend shootings occurred in two police districts covered by a Ceasefire-affiliated program that managed to fund itself for the month of July. The same area saw nearly 50 shootings in August.

Operation CeaseFire supporters say Chicago and roughly a half dozen other current or former CeaseFire communities need all the resources they can get.

"Our kids in our communities are still dying," said Autry Phillips, executive director of Target Area Development, a nonprofit agency on Chicago's South Side that had to end its CeaseFire program. "We're going to do what we can do, but we need funding. That's the bottom line."

Even before the freeze, Rauner proposed cutting CeaseFire funding by nearly $3 million this year. His spokeswoman blamed Democrats who have refused pro-business changes sought by the former venture capitalist and first time office holder, such as weakening labor unions.

"The governor has asked for structural reforms to free up resources to balance the budget, help the most vulnerable and create jobs," spokeswoman Lyndsey Walters said this week. "Unfortunately, the majority party continues to block the governor's reforms and refuses to pass a balanced budget."

"The Interrupters" aired as part of the "Frontline" documentary series on PBS and at film festivals across the U.S. The film featured three former gang members working to "interrupt" Chicago violence, though programs using the model have been implemented in cities nationwide and overseas.

CeaseFire uses an approach founded by an epidemiologist who argued violence should be attacked like a disease — by stopping it at its source. It's overseen by Cure Violence, an organization based at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health. Researchers say CeaseFire has reduced gang involvement, shootings and retaliatory killings.

But it hasn't been universally embraced. In 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel opted not to renew a one-year, $1 million contract for CeaseFire programs in two neighborhoods. The decision followed criticism by Chicago police that CeaseFire staff weren't sharing information or working closely enough with them. Some program members also were getting into trouble of their own.

Today, programs are operating in six Chicago neighborhoods. More than double that number have shut down in the city and in other Illinois communities, including East St. Louis and Rockford, because of funding cuts, said Kathy Buettner, Cure Violence communications director.

Target Area's grant was $220,000. Combined with another eliminated grant that helped ex-offenders leaving prison, the state dollars made up 21 percent of the agency's annual budget, Phillips said.

In July, Target Area used an anonymous donation to train several hundred people on how to prevent conflicts from escalating into violence. The neighborhood into which they were sent during the July 4 weekend saw none of the dozens of shootings and killings that plagued the city over those days, Phillips said.

The following month, when funding was gone and programs had ended, there were 46 shootings in the same area.

Inside Target Area's office, a large laminated map of the neighborhood hangs on a wall, dotted with stickers of various shapes and sizes that mark the locations where violence has occurred.

The biggest, red dots indicate the sites of multiple shootings. Phillips sees each one as a failure — a person his organization couldn't help.

"I hate the dots," he said.

New California law extends privacy rights to electronic data

In this Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, State Sen. Anthony Canella, R-Ceres, uses his smartphone at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

BREE FOWLER, AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — California now requires police to get a court order before they can search messages, photos and other digital data stored on phones or company servers in the nation's most-populous state.

Civil-liberties advocates called the new law an important advance and said it highlights the need for similar protections at the national level.

The California Electronic Communications Privacy Act was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday. It's only the third of its kind in the U.S.

While some states guarantee some of its protections, only Maine and Utah previously had comprehensive laws on the books, noted Hanni Fakhoury, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"It's an expansive bill and this being California, it covers a lot of people," Fakhoury said of the state with a population of about 39 million. "It's an important thing and a good development."

The digital rights group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, news organizations and tech companies, worked for the bill's passage. They argued that previous California law dating back to the 1980s was in desperate need of an update given the dramatic changes in the digital world.

But the bill's opponents, including several California police groups, argued that the measure would hamper the ability of law enforcement to investigate child pornographers and others who commit crimes online.

Law-enforcement requests for people's electronic information, particularly from technology companies such as Google and Twitter, have skyrocketed in recent years, said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for the ACLU of California.

Previously, all that was generally needed to get the information was a subpoena. Now, under the new law, a warrant will be required in most cases.

"It really is a true update of privacy law for the digital world, making sure that sensitive information about who we are, and where we go, and what we do, and who we know is protected from government intrusion," Ozer said.

She added that "hopefully this will send an important message to Congress to make sure all that all Americans have these important, updated privacy protections."

Advocates have tried to pass legislation at the national level for years without any success. The Email Privacy Act, a proposed update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, has 300 sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, but its future remains unclear.

1 fatally shot at Texas Southern University housing complex

(MGN Online Photo)

DAVID WARREN, Associated Press
MIKE GRACZYK, Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — A student was killed and another person was wounded in a shooting outside a TexasSouthern University student-housing complex on Friday, and police have detained at least two people, authorities said.

The university quickly went on lockdown after the shooting was reported around 11:30 a.m. in a parking lot at the University Courtyard Apartments, a university-owned student apartment building on the edge of the Houston campus.

Police have detained two people and are searching for a third for questioning, but there is no active shooting investigation, police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said. She said police still don't have a motive in the case.

University President John Rudley said the school, which has about 9,700 students, is no longer on lockdown. But he criticized what he said was a culture among students who believe they shouldn't snitch on each other.

"We're in the inner city. Crime is all around us. Our students have to be more vigilant," he said during a press conference Friday afternoon.

Rudley said the student who was killed was a freshman at the school, though the student's name and age haven't been released. Silva said the second victim, whose name also hasn't been released, was shot twice and is hospitalized in stable condition.

The incident occurred just hours after another shooting near the same housing complex. It's unclear whether the shootings were related.

"My main concern is what they're going to do now," said Daijsa Fowls, a 19-year-old pharmacy student from Houston. "There's no enforcement. There's no way that outsiders should be allowed in a person's dorm room. I'm supposed to be moving on campus and it shakes me up."

Fowls noted that she had a 3-year-old son, and said she wouldn't feel safe walking with him on campus.

"A bullet has no name," she said. "It could hit anybody."

Brittney Solomon, 19-year-old psychology student, added: "It's really nerve-racking feeling that a person here could have a gun."

The university said in a statement that earlier shooting occurred early Friday morning, and that the school was increasing police presence on campus. Details about the earlier shooting weren't immediately available.

Classes were cancelled following the second shooting. Rudley said classes would resume on a normal schedule Monday.

The incidents follow a fatal shooting earlier Friday at Northern Arizona University, where an overnight confrontation between students escalated into gunfire that killed one person and wounded three others. Last week, eight students and a teacher were fatally shot at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The gunman in the Oregon shooting also wounded nine people before turning the gun on himself.


David Warren reported from Dallas.

Obama focusing on condolences, not gun laws, in Oregon visit
KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is bringing words of comfort and sympathy to grieving families of victims of the shooting rampage in Roseburg, Oregon, muting his message about the need for new laws to stem gun violence as he visits an area where firearms are popular.
Obama will talk with family members Friday at the start of a four-day West Coast trip. Eight community college students and a teacher were killed before the gunman fatally shot himself in front of his victims after he was wounded by police.
Staunchly conservative Douglas County is bristling with gun owners who use their firearms for hunting, target shooting and self-protection. A commonly held opinion in the area is that the solution to mass killings is more people carrying guns, not fewer.
"The fact that the college didn't permit guards to carry guns, there was no one there to stop this man," said Craig Schlesinger, pastor at the Garden Valley Church.
Referring to potential protesters, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "Those individuals have nothing to fear. The fact is the president has made clear that the goal of his visit is to spend time with the families of those who are so deeply affected by this terrible tragedy."
In the wake of the shooting, a visibly angry Obama said that thoughts and prayers are no longer enough and that changes to the nation's gun laws are needed.
Some of the most poignant moments of Obama's presidency have occurred in his role as consoler-in-chief. He led the grieving in Charleston, South Carolina, in singing "Amazing Grace." He read the first names of the 20 elementary school students killed in Newtown, Connecticut, and asked how the nation can honestly say it's doing enough to keep its children safe from harm.
This time, the White House says, the meeting is private.
Obama was already scheduled to go to the West Coast trip when the shooting occurred, and the White House adjusted his schedule to include Roseburg.
The shooting has sparked new talk about gun violence, though history suggests that prospects for enacting legislation are highly unlikely. Republican lawmakers are talking about the need to take up legislation designed to improve mental health care. Democrats are pitching the formation of a special committee to investigate gun violence, similar to what the GOP-led House established to investigate Planned Parenthood and the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
"No proposal is going to stop every shooting, but we can come up with solutions that stop some tragedies," said Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California, the leader of the proposal for a special committee.
Earnest has cited requiring background checks for all firearms purchases at gun shows "as the kind of obvious thing that we believe that Congress should do."
Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Gosia Wozniacka in Oregon contributed to this report.

Forest Service proposes timber sale in Elkhorn Mountains
(MGN Online Photo)

BAKER CITY, Ore. (AP) -- The U.S. Forest Service is proposing one of the largest timber sales on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in the past 25 years.

The Baker City Herald reports that the Forest Service, in conjunction with other federal and state agencies, released an environmental study on Wednesday for about 50,000 acres of public land on the east side of the Elkhorns, mainly from the Anthony Lakes Highway north toward the Grand Ronde Valley.

The East Face project is designed to reduce the risk of large wildfires. It involves the Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. It would call for commercial logging on 6,700 acres.

The environmental assessment is available for a 30-daty public comment period.

Humorous wine bottle label strikes familiar chord with teachers

Courtesy of Evermine Occasions

By CNYCentral Staff/CNYCentral.com

A custom gift company has made a wine label that is sure to strike a familiar chord with teachers.

Parents can now gift their child's teacher with a bottle of wine from Evermine Occasions called "Our Child Might Be The Reason You Drink."

They can even go so far to customize the label with their child's picture on it!

But the bottle does come with a slight warning -- "While we agree that this might not be an appropriate gift for everyone, it's a fun present for teachers that you know on a personal level. We highly recommend gifting this surprise outside of school."

Oregon pot stores sell more than $11 million in first 5 days
 SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- The Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association estimates that marijuana stores sold more than $11 million of marijuana during the state's first week of legal recreational sales.

The Statesman Journal in Salem reports that Oregon sales outpaced the first week of recreational sales in Colorado and Washington. Colorado's first week of sales reached $5 million. In Washington state, sales during the first month hit $2 million.

Retailers of Cannabis Association Executive Director Casey Houlihan says the first day alone brought in $3.5 million in Oregon.

Marijuana stores opened their doors to recreational users on Oct. 1.

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