Police Handguns Disappear from City Vault

BL_Scan-56This morning I wrote about a Pasadena city cop who decided to sell illegal firearms on the internet as well as two Gardena police officers who also got busted for illegally selling firearms on the internet.

Now we have a case of 31 handguns disappearing from Sheriff’s Department custody in Los Angeles, California.  On September 16, 2000, the Compton police department was disbanded by the city and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office took on a contract to provide police services to the city.  At the time, the city decided to place its guns into a city vault for safekeeping.  And there they sat for 17 years.

In 2009, the city explored reestablishing a police department.  The idea never gained any support and fell through in 2011, but the city continues to toy with the idea of starting up its own police force once again.  As a consequence, it decided to hold the police department’s stash of guns until city leaders decided what to do with them.

In March 2017, however, the city decided it was time to do something with the firearms, and had the Sheriff’s Department come in to inventory the weapons.  In August 2017, the Sheriff took the firearms and put them in its own vault for safe keeping.

After the Sheriff took the firearms, however, someone realized that 31 handguns disappeared sometime between March 2017, when the Sheriff first inventoried the guns, and August 2017, when the Sheriff transferred the guns to its own vault.

According to Compton City Manager Cecil Rhambo (himself a retired high-ranking official of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department), there is a hodgepodge of missing guns:

“There were some police department weapons . . . There were some weapons with no owner on file, some weapons registered to other people, some evidence weapons there.”

As to who may have taken them, Rhambo said:
“There were several people at the time who were working who had the combination . . . I had access to the combination. But over the years I have no idea the number over 17 years who still had access to that combination.”

It seems as though cops are having a hard time following gun laws lately.

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The Other Minnesota Twins

Imagine if you had a twin and you were separated at birth.  And 39 years later you meet and start talking to each other about your lives.  What would you learn?  Well two twin brothers did just that, and here’s what they found out about each other:

In her book Entwined Lives, Nancy Segal lists the following shared characteristics:

  • As youngsters, each Jim had a dog named “Toy.”
  • Each Jim had been married two times — the first wives were both called “Linda” and the second wives were both called “Betty.”
  • One Jim had named his son “James Allan” and the other Jim had named his son “James Alan.”
  • Each twin had driven his light-blue Chevrolet to Pas Grille beach in Florida for family vacations.
  • Both Jims smoked Salem cigarettes and drank Miller Lite beer.
  • Both Jims had at one time held part-time posts as sheriffs.
  • Both were fingernail biters and suffered from migraine headaches.
  • Each Jim enjoyed leaving love notes to his wife throughout the house.

Blood runs deep.

 

Illegal Firearms Sold by Cops

Last week we learned that a Pasadena city police officer was purchasing guns that otherwise could not be purchased in California (but he for some reason has special privileges because “cop”), and then turning around and selling them online to the highest bidder:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided Gourdikian’s Sierra Madre home in February 2016 and seized dozens of firearms. Between 2013 and 2017, Gourdikian listed more than 70 firearms for sale through an account on Calguns.net, public records showed. Federal authorities say they’ve traced the sales of at least 107 firearms back to him.

The Pasadena police chief either knew this was going on or thinks there is more scandal, because he immediately announced his retirement when his officer was caught running guns like a gang thug.  This followed another controversy where two other Pasadena police officers were caught beating an unarmed black motorist with their batons:

Videos captured by the police and a bystander show one officer repeatedly striking the unarmed motorist with a baton during the Nov. 9 incident.

Another officer screams at the man to give up his hands and punches him at least five times before slamming his face into the asphalt. Eventually, the officers manage to handcuff the man behind his back.

This week, we learn that two other Los Angeles area police officers have also been arrested for illegally selling guns:

The 25-page indictment alleges that from 2015 to September 2017, the two officers exploited their positions to deal 101 firearms to people barred from owning or selling such weapons unless they are in law enforcement or the military. It marks the latest move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to curtail the abuse of special privileges afforded police officers in purchasing firearms.

Maybe it’s time for the “special privileges” to end.

 

 

Saudi Arabia Missile Attack – Video

In case you missed it, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired scud missiles into Riyad (the capital of Saudi Arabia).  The missiles were shot down by American-made PATRIOT missile defense batteries.

Some of the scraps from a shot down scud landed on a house, went through the roof and killed a man while he slept.  Some of the video has been released on social media.  It appears to show that at least one of the American PATRIOT missiles malfunctioning and coming crashing to the ground.

You can watch video from CNN (showing the scud being shot down) here.

Others captured the malfunctioning PATRIOT missile are below:

Different angle:

A video of a PATRIOT in action:

 

US Housing Market Remains Confusing, Contradictory

The first two months of 2018 saw some rather negative news about the housing market–concern about Trump’s tax cut and how it would impact home ownership, lack of housing inventory, increasing interest rates and declining home sales seemed to dominate news about the housing market.  Over the last week, however, the headlines have changed and we are seeing a mixed bag of positive and negative news.

First, the good news is that it appears home sales are increasing after several months of declining sales:

Contract closings increased 3% month-over-month to a 5.54 million annual rate (the estimate was 5.4 million) from an unrevised 5.38 million. The median sales price rose 5.9% year-over-year to $241,700. The inventory of available properties declined 8.1% year-over-year to 1.59 million, the lowest for February in data going back to 1999.

Tucked away in the last paragraph of the same article, however, we see some fairly negative news about condo sales.  And what is the old saying?  Condos are the first to go up and the first to go down?  Are they leading the way down this time?

Purchases of condominium and co-op units declined 6.5% to a 580,000 pace. First-time buyers made up 29% of all sales in February, unchanged from prior month. Homes sold in 37 days, compared with 41 days in January and 45 days in February 2017.

Inventory continues to remain tight, and realtors are wondering out loud if sellers don’t want to sell because they’d rather keep their current low interest rate than buy a new home with a higher interest rate:

“The one concerning trend is the interest rate lock effect,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the NAR. Sellers are telling agents increasingly that they do not want to move because they will lose the record-low mortgage rate they have locked in.

Meanwhile, people are pulling back on refinancing their homes and also cutting back on their spending.  Are people getting nervous about something called “interest rates?

Affordability is weakening across the nation due to the combination of short supply, high demand and rising interest rates. And the respite for interest rates was short lived. They began rising again this week in advance of the Federal Reserve’s expected rate hike Wednesday.

Or are other factors bothering homeowners?

“Treasury rates declined slightly on average last week, as a mixed bag of economic news and geopolitical concerns made investors more cautious overall,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “A significant driver of the decline was retail sales data showing less than expected spending by U.S. households for the third month.”

Whatever is spooking investors and homeowners, we know for a fact that builders are getting very concerned about increasing interest rates and overhead:

Like 2017, 2018 isn’t setting up to be particularly favorable for builders — construction materials and permitting costs are high and rising, labor is tight, and desirable, buildable land is scarce and expensive,” wrote Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “It seems clear that we shouldn’t expect a big breakthrough in new home sales any time soon, and should instead look for incremental progress at best. At this point, we’ll take whatever we can get.

The quote above is from an article that is a few weeks old and written before the slight bump in sales that is being reported today.  Nonetheless, we are seeing the concerns expressed by builders being played out.  As a result…

“This one-two punch has created a situation in which existing sales appear to be plateauing at around 5.5 million sales per year, well below the 6 million or more we might otherwise expect to see,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow.

Reverse mortgages–where the bank pays you a monthly payment until you die then takes the house, are booming (according to a company’s press release)…

 Reverse Mortgage Lending, Inc., a San Diego–based HECM provider, announced today it ended 2017 with record growth and received top honors from partner Liberty Home Equity Solutions. Reverse Mortgage Lending CEO Collin Knock attributed the growth to his team and credits them for earning Liberty’s Top TPO Sales Producer award for the final quarter of 2017.

Meanwhile, Fox News has taken to calling the lack of affordable housing being built a “crisis.”  Naturally, as Fox does, it blames Obama and democratic policies for the problem.  At the end of the article Fox begrudgingly admits that the problem is actually a labor shortage:

The construction industry is suffering from a shortage of workers, potentially facing a 1.5 million shortfall in personnel by 2020. That is restricting the number and type of jobs that companies are willing to take on.

Stay tuned.

Iraq War, 15 Years Later

Exactly 15 years ago today, president George W. Bush announced that the United States was going to attack Iraq with a campaign of “shock and awe” and then invade and occupy the country due to weapons of mass destruction that were never to be found.

Estimates are that up to 500,000 Iraqis were murdered or killed as “collateral damage” or as a result of the war.

15 years on, Iraqi leaders, like Prime Minister al-Abadi, worry about corruption and about getting torn apart by US and Iran as each try to influence and control Iraq:

To see how al-Abadi plans to do that, TIME sat down with him in his office, inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, in the palace where Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq until the U.S. invasion in March, 2003. During the discussion, Abadi spoke about the “epidemic” of corruption in his country, what it will take to keep ISIS from regrouping, as well as regional issues such as the war in Syria and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Prime Minister was also frank about the support Iraq received from Iran, and pleaded with the Islamic Republic and the U.S. not to turn his country into a battlefield for any proxy conflict. “Keep your differences away from Iraq,” he said.

Iraqi members of parliament, meanwhile, worry about the US using the fight against ISIS as an excuse to re-occupy the country:

Knooz Media quoted MP Ali al-Morshidy as saying Sunday that the U.S. administration is plotting to expand its “military bases in Iraq under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State (IS) group and providing security advice for the Iraqi government.”

The American public, meanwhile remains fairly divided by people who say the war was worth it and those who say it wasn’t:

Nearly half (48%) of Americans say the decision to use military force was wrong, while slightly fewer (43%) say it was the right decision, according to a Pew Research Center survey, conducted March 7-14 among 1,466 adults. Current opinions about the war in Iraq are little different than in early 2014, when 50% said the decision to use force was wrong and 38% said it was right.

For a more in-depth Iraq war veteran perspective, you can listen to a fascinating interview from Vince Emanuele, an Iraq war veteran and community organizer.

Gen. David Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq during the difficult “surge” period, was asked about the war.  And while he could not say much about the success of the war, he had nothing but good things to say about the Americans who sacrificed and fought in the war:

“I think everybody who was in Iraq, who served there, who knows the sacrifice it entails, who knows the cost in blood and in treasure… has been frustrated to see how the country slid back after we left in late 2011,” Petraeus said in an exclusive interview. “But at the end of the day, I think we also have a degree of quiet pride that when our country needed us, we answered the call.”

The “truly remarkable Americans” who joined the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks knew that their country would send them to war, said Petraeus, who added that it was an incredible privilege for him to lead U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Our job was to do what our country needed us to do to carry out the policies that were decided,” Petraeus said. “We certainly did that to the best of our ability. The accomplishments during the surge, in particular in Iraq, were truly historic, if you think about driving violence down by some 85% and bringing a country back together that had been on the verge of an all-out Sunni-Shia civil war.”

Trump’s Administration Continues to Crumble

It’s been over a year now and with every bombshell, political observers ask if the latest will be the end for the Trump.  And it never has been and never will be one event that will push his presidency over the cliff.  Instead, we see a slow drip of bad news that indicates Trump is dying a death of a thousand political paper cuts.

Just this week, we saw Trump fire his Secretary of State, which is basically the number #3 position in the administration behind the president and vice president.  And he did it with a tweet.  Today we learned that Trump has effectively fired national security advisor McMaster.  The only reason McMaster remains in the position is that they are trying to find a new place to put him so he is not completely embarrassed.

Next we hear rumors that chief of staff Kelly is headed out the door.  Reports are mixed.  Some say he’s going to resign today, some say he and Trump “worked it out,” some say he is going to be on his way out in the next weeks.  Who knows.

Rumors of firings have reached a fever pitch.

We also learned this week that Vanessa Trump, the wife of Don Jr., has filed for divorce.  But instead of hiring a divorce lawyer, she instead decided to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent her in the divorce.  Perhaps she knows a lot about crimes that took place within the Trump Organization?  The fact that Mueller is now subpoenaing documents from Trump’s company shows that people like Vanessa are getting really concerned.

As for Vanessa, she seems to be cut from the same cloth as the Trumps:

Trump filed for divorce from Don Jr. on Thursday, providing a statement to Page Six. It’s assumed that the couple have a prenuptial agreement since Trump filed for an uncontested proceeding, meaning there will be no back-and-forth over the custody of their five children and assets.

Page Six spoke to Nancy Chemtob, an attorney unassociated with the Trumps’ divorce proceedings, who speculated that Vanessa Trump timed the filing so it could come before the Robert Mueller investigation potentially put her husband’s assets in danger. Planned out like a true ill thug.