MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en America Should Get Out of the Peacekeeping Business in Israel <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Washington Post</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.</p> <p>[Examples follow]</p> </blockquote> <p>And it's not just Israelis. Elsewhere in the <em>Post</em>, David Ignatius <a href="" target="_blank">takes Kerry to task too:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he&rsquo;s pursuing a Gaza cease-fire &mdash; and it&rsquo;s not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.</p> <p>Kerry&rsquo;s error has been to....</p> </blockquote> <p>I think we should stop right there. Kerry has made only one mistake, and that was trying to negotiate a ceasefire in the first place. He didn't fail because of any personal shortcomings; he failed because there were no terms under which either side would ever have agreed to a ceasefire. The fighting will stop when both sides decide to stop, and not a minute before. It's long past time for everyone to acknowledge this.</p> <p>The United States has been trying to broker peace in the Middle East for the past 20 years. Maybe longer, depending on how you count. But 20 years at least, and every attempt has failed. Various Americans have tried, all with different approaches, and the result has been the same every time: not just failure, but a steady and inexorable deterioration of the situation. It's no longer credible to pretend that maybe a different person with a different approach and different sympathies might have made a difference in any particular situation. Blaming Kerry for this latest failure is just delusional.</p> <p>Quite famously, we all "know" what a deal between Israel and the Palestinians needs to look like. It's obvious. Everyone says so. The only wee obstacle is that neither side is willing to accept this obvious deal. They just aren't. The problem isn't agreeing on a line on a map, or a particular circumlocution in a particular document. The problem is much simpler than that, so simple that sophisticated people are embarrassed to say it outright: Two groups of people want the same piece of land. Both of them feel they have a right to it. Both of them are, for the time being, willing to fight for it. Neither is inclined to give up anything for a peace that neither side believes in.</p> <p>That's it. That's all there is. All the myriad details don't matter. Someday that may change, and when it does the United States may have a constructive role to play in brokering a peace deal. But that day is nowhere in the near future. For now, it's time for America to get out of the peacekeeping business. Our presence there does no good, and might very well be doing active harm. This doesn't mean withdrawing from the region, it just means getting out of the shuttle diplomacy business. Neither side is ready for it, and probably won't be for years. Let's end the charade.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:58:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 257141 at Documents for "The NRA's Murder Mystery" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As part of the reporting for <a href="" target="_blank">The NRA's Murder Mystery</a>, <em>Mother Jones </em>obtained a 2,100-page court file that includes a transcript of Robert Dowlut's 1964 murder trial, documents related to his appeal, and the Indiana Supreme Court's 1968 decision to reverse his conviction and order a new trial. Key records and excerpts are posted below, along with additional court and police documents mentioned in the article.</p> <div id="DC-search-projectid-14818-the-nras-murder-mystery" class="DC-search-container"></div> <script src="//"></script><script> dc.embed.load('', { q: "projectid: 14818-the-nras-murder-mystery ", container: "#DC-search-projectid-14818-the-nras-murder-mystery", title: "Source documents from \"The NRA's Murder Mystery\"", order: "title", per_page: 24, search_bar: true, organization: 14 }); </script></body></html> Politics Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:00:05 +0000 Dave Gilson 257016 at The NRA's Murder Mystery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><head><link href=",700,300" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"></head><body><div id="shell960"> <section class="right-rail"><div class="mobile-css-hide" style="width: 300px;float:right; margin-left:10px;margin-top:-5px;"><script language="javascript"> <!-- if (typeof mobile_ad_RNS === 'undefined') { ad_code('righttopros', 170); } //--> </script></div> </section><p><span class="dropCap">S</span>hortly before dark on the evening of April 17, 1963, Robert J. Dowlut went looking for a gun inside the city cemetery in South Bend, Indiana. Making his way through the headstones, he stopped in front of the abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum. He knelt by the front right corner of the blocky gray monument and lifted a stone from the damp ground. Then, as one of the two police detectives accompanying him later testified, the 17-year-old "used his hands and did some digging." He unearthed a revolver and ammunition. As Dowlut would later <a href="" target="_blank">tell a judge</a>, the detectives then took the gun, "jammed it in my hand," and photographed him. "They were real happy."</p> <p>Two days earlier, a woman named Anna Marie Yocum had been murdered in her South Bend home. An autopsy determined she had been shot three times, once through the chest and twice in the back, likely at close range as she'd either fled or fallen down the stairs from her apartment. Two .45-caliber bullets had pierced her heart.</p> <p>Less than an hour after her body was found, two police officers had gone to Dowlut's home and asked him to help locate Yocum's 16-year-old daughter, whom he'd dated. After a short, fruitless search, the officers took him to police headquarters. Though Dowlut was booked as a material witness, investigators soon came to suspect that the tall, polite Army private, home on a two-week leave, had killed Yocum. After a day of intense questioning, Dowlut allegedly broke down and confessed in detail to the murder as well as to a botched robbery attempt earlier the same night in which the owner of a pawnshop was seriously wounded.</p> <section class="right-rail"><img alt="" class="image" src=""><div class="captionSmall">A police photograph shows Robert Dowlut (center) in the South Bend City Cemetery with investigators.<em> </em><span class="credit">Indiana Supreme Court</span></div> </section><p>At first, Dowlut insisted that he'd thrown his gun into the St. Joseph River, but the detectives kept pushing. One officer, <a href="" target="_blank">Dowlut later testified</a>, "just grabbed me by the shirt, told me that I was a son of a bitch, and that I'd better show them where the gun was really at." Not long afterward, <a href="" target="_blank">Dowlut told</a> his interrogators that he'd lied: "I said the gun was in the city cemetery." According to one detective, Dowlut reeled off the weapon's serial number from memory.</p> <p>The gun Dowlut unearthed less than a half mile from the murder scene was a <a href=",-1914-1918/webley-mk-vi-revolver.aspx" target="_blank">Webley Mark VI</a>, a British-made six-shot military revolver commonly sold in the United States after World War II. The Indiana State Police Laboratory determined that it had fired a bullet recovered from Yocum's body, one retrieved from her apartment, and another found at the pawnshop.</p> <p>The following morning, Dowlut was charged with first-degree murder. A year and a half later, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. Before the judge handed down <a href="" target="_blank">a life sentence</a>, he asked the defendant if there was any reason why he shouldn't be put away. Dowlut replied, "I am not guilty." A day later, the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City registered Dowlut, now 19, as prisoner number 33848.</p> <p>Less than six years later, Robert Dowlut would be a free man&mdash;his murder conviction thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court because of a flawed police investigation. The court ordered a new trial, but one never took place. Dowlut would return to the Army and go on to earn college and law degrees. Then he would embark on a career that put him at the epicenter of the movement to transform America's gun laws.</p> <section class="inline"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">Police accused Dowlut (left, in photo) of murdering his girlfriend's mother (inset) and wounding a store owner. <em><span class="credit">South Bend Tribune</span></em></div> </section><p><span class="section-lead">Today, the 68-year-old Dowlut</span> is the general counsel of the National Rifle Association. As the NRA's top lawyer, he has been a key architect of the gun lobby's campaign to define the legal interpretation of the Second Amendment. He helped oversee the NRA's effort to strike down Chicago's handgun ban in the 2010 Supreme Court case <em>McDonald v. Chicago</em>, and he is the longtime secretary of the organization's Civil Rights Defense Fund, which has spent millions assisting gun owners in court and sponsoring gun rights researchers. Dowlut's journal articles have been cited by federal judges and are quoted by pro-gun activists. Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the NRA's lobbying operation, <a href="" target="_blank">has praised him</a> as "a longtime distinguished Second Amendment scholar." Dowlut's behind-the-scenes legal work may have done as much to tighten the NRA's grip on gun policy as its blustery talking heads and provocative PR campaigns.</p> <section class="right-rail"><a class="hideLink" href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src=""></a> <div class="captionSmall right"><a href="" target="_blank">Browse primary documents cited in this investigation. </a></div> </section><p>Among Second Amendment lawyers and scholars, Dowlut is admired for his intellect and calm. "He is a really reliable and exhaustive source for legal input on the issue," says <a href="" target="_blank">Robert Levy</a>, the chairman of the Cato Institute's board of directors and one of the lawyers behind the landmark 2008 <em>Heller</em> case, in which the Supreme Court affirmed an individual right to own guns. Dowlut is "a human encyclopedia" on the subject of state gun laws, says <a href="" target="_blank">David T. Hardy</a>, a lawyer and prominent pro-gun writer who has known him "longer than I can remember." (Dowlut and current NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre attended Hardy's wedding in 1982.)</p> <p>Yet Dowlut maintains an extremely low profile. "Bob is a man who does his job and doesn't go looking for attention," Hardy says. He rarely speaks in public and does not appear on NRA radio or video programming. While his wife, a lawyer and genealogist, maintains a website with postings on family history, gun rights, and an NRA law seminar she helped organize, Dowlut himself is conspicuously absent from those pages. He made a rare appearance on the site in a photo&mdash;removed a couple of years ago&mdash;titled <a href="" target="_blank">"The Fantasy Supreme Court."</a> The group portrait shows a smiling Dowlut, his wife, and a who's who of top Second Amendment lawyers and scholars at the NRA annual meeting in 2010. It is captioned: "These are the men who, over a span of more than 30 years, built the foundation that restored the Second Amendment as an individual right."</p> <section class="right-rail"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Robert Dowlut" class="image" src=""></a> <div class="captionSmall">Dowlut with <a href="" target="_blank">"The Fantasy Supreme Court"</a> at the 2010 NRA annual meeting, one of the few recent images of him online <em><span class="credit"><a href="" target="_blank">Alice Marie Beard via</a></span></em></div> </section><p>The story of how Dowlut walked away from a murder conviction and rose through the ranks of the NRA has never been told publicly. It begins with the transcript of his murder trial, part of a 2,100-page court file obtained by <em>Mother Jones </em>that includes detailed closed-door testimony not heard by the jury. Despite a series of phone calls and detailed written requests seeking comment for this article, Dowlut did not respond, nor did his wife. It is unclear whether he has ever disclosed his past to any colleagues&mdash;Hardy told me he had "no idea" about the murder conviction&mdash;or to his employer; LaPierre and other NRA leaders also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.</p> <p>Beyond the puzzle of a half-century-old crime is the question of what drove Dowlut to become one of the brains behind the modern gun rights movement, with its insistence that ready access to guns prevents, rather than provokes, violent crime. Court documents, Dowlut's own writings, and interviews with people knowledgeable about his career offer clues to his journey. It spans from the liberated Nazi slave-labor camp where he was born and his troubled youth in Indiana to the chambers of the US Supreme Court&mdash;and the front lines of the battle over the right to bear arms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">When Officer Edward M. Scott</span> of the South Bend Police Department pulled up at the house on West Washington Street just before 9:30 p.m. on April 15, 1963, he found an elderly woman outside, screaming, "A lady's been shot!"</p> <section class="right-rail"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall right">Anna Marie Yocum as she was found by the police <em><span class="credit">Indiana Supreme Court</span></em></div> </section><p>Scott and his partner entered the three-story Victorian and found a woman crumpled on the second-floor landing. "She was lying more or less on her knees in a squat position and her head was hanging down the stairway," <a href="" target="_blank">Scott recalled</a> at Dowlut's trial. "I noticed there was a large hole in her back and there was a pool of dark blood all underneath her body." The elderly woman, who had phoned the police, lived across the hall from the victim's small attic apartment but hadn't seen anything.</p> <p>When the victim was turned over, Scott recognized her as Anna Marie Yocum, a 36-year-old waitress and single mother. One afternoon about six months earlier, he'd escorted Yocum to the hospital to see her teenage daughter, Camille, who'd fainted at a lunch counter. The girl had been with her boyfriend, Robert Dowlut, who'd told the officer how to find Yocum.</p> <p>By chance, Scott had spotted Dowlut earlier on the night of the murder. About 90 minutes before they discovered Yocum's body, he and his partner were dispatched to help investigate the shooting of Saul Berkowitz, the 65-year-old owner of a pawnshop. As the officers stopped at an intersection, Dowlut crossed in front of their car, heading in the direction of Yocum's apartment, two blocks away.</p> <p>Dowlut was already familiar to the police. In January 1962, according to the <em>South Bend Tribune, </em>he had admitted to what a front-page article described as a "crime spree": Armed with guns stolen from the local historical society's museum, Dowlut and another teenager had robbed a caf&eacute;, netting about $135. Witnesses at the caf&eacute; said the two had brandished a pistol and a homemade zip gun, firing a shot before emptying the till. (In addition to being charged with armed robbery and burglary, Dowlut had faced counts of car theft, hit-and-run, and malicious trespass, according to a 1964 <a href="" target="_blank">presentencing report</a>.) Brought into juvenile court, the 16-year-old reportedly gave no explanation for his behavior and maintained that he'd never so much as broken a window previously.</p> <section class="right-rail"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall right">Robert Dowlut's high school senior photo <em><span class="credit">Washington High School</span></em></div> </section><p>After conferring in Polish with Dowlut's parents, refugees who had immigrated after the war, Judge Frank X. Kopinski opted for lenience. "My logic tells me you should be sent away, but my heart says no," the judge told Dowlut, according to the <em>Tribune.</em> Dowlut was put on probation and graduated from Washington High School in January 1963 with a good academic record. At the end of the month, he enlisted in the Army and headed off to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and a fresh start.</p> <p>Corresponding with his probation officer in March 1963, the young GI sounded hopeful: He was planning to attend signal school in Georgia and perhaps try out for Airborne and a post overseas. He also indicated that he'd decided not to marry Camille, a prospect that had been weighing on him. She was pregnant but had recently said he was not the father. "I knew I would be marrying the girl from mere obligation," he wrote in the letter, which would be read into the record at his murder trial. "I will go to college as soon as I finish my obligation to Uncle Sam," he continued. "I will be out when I am twenty years old. I will be more mature and I will have a whole new outlook on life."</p> <p>Those plans were dashed when Officer Scott and his partner pulled up to the Dowluts' modest home on West Dunham Street. As they drove Robert Dowlut to police headquarters, they passed by the commotion outside Yocum's building. Dowlut asked what had happened. Nothing, Scott told him. The officer then asked Dowlut what he'd been doing earlier that night. "Well, I have a lot of problems," he recounted Dowlut saying. The teen said he'd spent much of the evening wandering around by the river. He described the route he'd taken home, which did not include the intersection where Scott had seen him. "Robert," Scott replied, "you lying to me."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">At the station,</span> Dowlut was taken to an interrogation room, where a trio of detectives began questioning him. He recalled that they first asked about Yocum's daughter and who she associated with. "They thought that perhaps she did it," he testified. Camille reportedly arrived at her mother's apartment two hours after the shooting and was taken into "protective custody." The police concluded she wasn't involved in the crime. According to the <em>South Bend Tribune</em>, the police also detained two other young men for questioning, but they were let go. A 38-year-old man, described during the trial as "friendly" with Yocum, was also interviewed and released.</p> <p>Dowlut refused to take a polygraph, and a test for gunpowder residue on his hands proved inconclusive. Yet the police believed they had enough circumstantial evidence to keep him in custody. First, there was his apparent lie about his whereabouts. The police also had learned that Dowlut had been seeing Camille against her mother's wishes and that he and Yocum disliked each other. There was an eyewitness report of a young man in his early 20s, approximately 6 feet tall, running near the site of the pawnshop shooting. (Dowlut was 6 feet tall.) And then there was Dowlut's juvenile record.</p> <p>Around midnight, Dowlut testified, he asked if he could call a lawyer. Inspector Russell Hunt, the lead detective, <a href="" target="_blank">told him</a>, "No, you can't have one; you're under investigation for homicide." (Hunt testified that Dowlut never asked for a lawyer.) Dowlut said that when he asked what would happen if he tried to leave, an officer patted his holstered gun and <a href="" target="_blank">growled</a>, "You damned Polack, you step one foot out of that door and I'll kill you."</p> <section class="inline"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">Robert Dowlut shortly before his murder trial, 1964 <em><span class="credit">Indiana Supreme Court</span></em></div> </section><p>Over the following two and a half days, Dowlut was questioned for a total of nearly 20 hours by no fewer than eight police officers. During that time, he did not see a lawyer and was not charged with any crime. His statements were not recorded. At his murder trial, details of his interrogation were revealed behind closed doors by the officers who had arrested and questioned him, and by his parents and Dowlut himself. The jury did not hear these sworn statements, but Dowlut's lawyers submitted them as part of his appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.</p> <p>While the chronologies offered by Dowlut and the police closely matched, their accounts of what was said starkly contradicted each other. According to <a href="" target="_blank">the police</a>, Dowlut was offered multiple chances to contact a lawyer, was treated respectfully, and volunteered his confession. In <a href="" target="_blank">Dowlut's version</a>, he was repeatedly denied access to an attorney and was driven to confess by threats, relentless grilling, and classic good cop-bad cop tactics.</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">"You damned Polack, you step one foot out of that door and I'll kill you," Dowlut said the cop growled as he patted his gun.</aside><p>Dowlut's account was corroborated by his father, who saw him twice during his detention. Donald Dowlut, who wasn't at home when the police arrested his son, went to visit him at the station a few hours after his arrest. "When I saw him, he look tire [<em>sic</em>] and he look like crying&hellip;like scared," Donald Dowlut testified in the closed-door hearing. The Dowluts began speaking in Polish, but Hunt ordered them to speak English. Donald Dowlut asked if his son needed a lawyer; the officers told him no and that his son would soon be home.</p> <p>On the night of April 16, Robert Dowlut testified, "the police started getting nasty." When police had searched the family's house earlier that day, Donald Dowlut told them that he personally had bought a gun through the mail but had since thrown it in the river. The detectives told Dowlut that his dad might be charged as an accessory after the fact and could go <a href="" target="_blank">to the electric chair</a>. One officer suggested that Dowlut could avoid prosecution by pretending to be "sick in the head," while another <a href="" target="_blank">allegedly threatened</a> to "punch me in the kisser." In his testimony, Dowlut referred by name to many of the officers who questioned him&mdash;but he said he couldn't remember which ones had physically threatened him.</p> <p>According to Detective Erwin Hampton, Dowlut broke down and confessed on the afternoon of April 17:</p> <p class="blockQuote">He said that he wanted to marry his girlfriend, Cammie; he said that her mother was against this, didn't like him, was trying to prevent them from seeing one another, and he didn't like Mrs. Yocum. He said he was about due to go back to camp and that he wanted to take Cammie with him, but he needed some money, so he said that he took this gun from his home, and I asked him what kind and he said it was a Webley, a .45 Webley. He said that he took the gun and he stuck it in his pants, in his belt, under his jacket, and he said he went uptown looking for a place to rob.</p> <p>Hampton said that Dowlut also admitted to shooting Berkowitz <a href="" target="_blank">accidentally</a> when the pawnshop owner grabbed Dowlut's gun. He fled, <a href="" target="_blank">Hampton said</a>, stopping to vomit in the yard of "the retarded school" about a block from where Officer Scott saw him. He then walked to Yocum's building. Hampton asked Dowlut why he went there. "I'm verbatim now," the detective <a href="" target="_blank">testified</a>. "He said, 'I went there to kill her.'"</p> <section class="text-width"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">The Webley Mark VI revolver that police said Dowlut dug up in the South Bend City Cemetery <em><span class="credit">Indiana Supreme Court</span></em></div> </section><p>Inside, Hampton <a href="" target="_blank">continued</a>, Dowlut found Yocum watching TV: "When he walked in she looked at him startled-like, and she started to get up and he fired. He went past her, she turned and went towards the door of the apartment. He was at the front end of the apartment, and he ran past her and he turned and he fired again at her, and that she fell at that time."</p> <p>Dowlut initially told Hampton that he'd thrown the gun and remaining ammunition off a bridge, but he revealed their actual location and the serial number of the gun later that afternoon. Hampton <a href="" target="_blank">also alleged</a> that Dowlut admitted to coaching his dad to lie about the gun when they spoke briefly in Polish at the police station. (Nowhere in the trial transcript is Donald Dowlut asked if the gun was his.) When prosecutor Edward Kalamaros asked about the gun during the closed-door hearing, <a href="" target="_blank">Dowlut admitted</a> that he had lied about throwing it away and that he'd told the police it was in the cemetery.</p> <p>The police also tried to squeeze a written confession from Dowlut. He <a href="" target="_blank">testified</a> that an officer dictated a message to his family, telling him to write, "I confess my crimes." Dowlut asked what that meant. "Well, he said, 'You were screwin' this girl, weren't you?' And I told him, 'Yes, I was,' and he said, 'You screwed her more than once, didn't you?' and I said, 'Yes, I did,' and he said, 'Well, those are your crimes, you screwed a minor girl.'" Dowlut said the police also dictated a note to Camille; in it, according to Kalamaros, Dowlut said he was "sorry for what he had done" and asked her "not to hate him." These notes were not allowed as evidence in the trial.</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">Dowlut was already known to police for a previous crime spree using stolen weapons and a homemade zip gun.</aside><p>In both Dowlut's and the police's accounts, the interrogation reached its climax when Donald Dowlut returned to the station on the evening of April 17, after the gun had been retrieved from the cemetery. Dowlut recalled, "I saw him and he saw me and I felt pretty bad about it and I started crying and told Dad that the police made me confess to something that I didn't do." His father described the scene similarly. He said he again asked the police to let his son see an attorney but <a href="" target="_blank">was told</a>, "He not need no lawyer because he confess over."</p> <p>The two police officers present also described a pathetic scene, but remembered what was said entirely differently. Edward Nawrocki, a Polish-speaking officer who knew Donald Dowlut socially, said the <a href="" target="_blank">father and son spoke</a> "partly [in] Polish and partly in American." He testified that Dowlut tearfully repeated his confession to his dad. When his father asked why he'd shot Yocum, Dowlut "just kept repeatin' that this mother was no good to her, that is, his girlfriend," perhaps hinting at a motive beyond wanting to run away with Camille. Donald Dowlut also admitted, in tears, that he had not gotten rid of his gun, <a href="" target="_blank">Hampton stated</a>. "He said he was sorry for lying to me, he didn't like to lie, but he was frightened" for his son, the detective said. Hampton <a href="" target="_blank">also claimed</a> that Dowlut told his dad that hiring an attorney was a waste of money because, as Dowlut put it, "I'm going to be in prison for the rest of my life."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <section class="inline"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">The docket for Robert Dowlut's murder case <span class="credit">St. Joseph County Archives and Records/Dave Gilson</span></div> </section><p><span class="section-lead">An attorney enlisted by Dowlut's</span> father arrived at the station the next morning to intervene in the interrogation. A few hours later, Dowlut was <a href="" target="_blank">arraigned for first-degree murder</a>. Five months shy of his 18th birthday, he was charged as an adult and bond was denied; he pleaded not guilty. Inspector Hunt boasted to reporters about cracking a case that had made front-page headlines for two days.</p> <p>Dowlut was also charged with assault and battery with intent to kill in the Berkowitz shooting; he pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $100,000. Juvenile court judge Kopinski transferred the case to adult jurisdiction. "If I live to be 100 years your case will confound me," the dismayed judge, who'd given Dowlut a break a year earlier, reportedly said. "I can't fathom your actions, and I hope and pray that courts some day can obtain the intelligence to predict when a brilliant and talented young man like you will go awry in life."</p> <p>Dowlut's attorney, former prosecutor William Plodowski, threw everything he could at his young, penniless client's case. Arguing that pretrial publicity had tainted the jury pool, he got the venue changed to LaGrange County, around 50 miles from South Bend. More importantly, Plodowski insisted that Dowlut's arrest and interrogation had <a href="" target="_blank">violated his constitutional rights</a> to counsel and against self-incrimination, arguing that all evidence produced from his detention should have been inadmissible.</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">"If I live to be 100 years your case will confound me," said the judge, who'd given Dowlut a break a year earlier.</aside><p>Following the closed-door hearing on this motion, Judge Winslow Van Horne agreed that Dowlut's warrantless arrest had been improper but did not agree that he had been coerced into confessing. However, <a href="" target="_blank">Van Horne ruled</a> that the police conduct plus the defendant's youth required the court to disregard any statements obtained during his detention. As a result, the jury would not hear anything about Dowlut's interrogation and alleged confession. Jurors <a href="" target="_blank">would be allowed</a> to hear about the gun Dowlut dug up&mdash;just not how the police came to locate it in the cemetery.</p> <section class="right-rail mobile"><a class="hideLink" href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nra-promo-1.jpg"></a> <div class="captionLarge right"><a href="" target="_blank">Unmasking the NRA's inner circle</a></div> </section><p>On the same day that the judge suppressed his confession, Dowlut <a href="" target="_blank">filed a written alibi</a> stating that he had spent all of April 15, 1963, at home, except for a short trip to a nearby store "to purchase chewing gum." A friend of his father's testified that he had seen Dowlut at home about a half-hour before the pawnshop robbery. Plodowski also cast doubt on the idea that his client could have committed the murder, hid the gun, and gotten home by the time the police came looking for him.</p> <p>The prosecution's case rested largely on Officer Scott's sighting of the suspect, the trip to the cemetery, the gun and bullets, and <a href="" target="_blank">a jailhouse informant</a> who claimed Dowlut had admitted everything to him. Berkowitz also took the stand, <a href="" target="_blank">describing</a> how Dowlut had entered his store, asked to see a guitar, and then "took out his gun, put it to my stomach, and pulled the trigger." Camille <a href="" target="_blank">testified</a> that a few days before her mother was shot, she saw Dowlut, who told her, "If you committed robbery in South Bend&hellip;you could get away with it." She said that he had called her mom a "bitch" and that he wanted her to come with him when his leave ended. She said <a href="" target="_blank">she didn't want to</a>, and "my mother wouldn't have let me."</p> <section class="right-rail"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">In November 1964, a jury found Dowlut guilty of second-degree murder. (The article incorrectly states Anna Marie Yocum's age; she was 36 when she died.) <em><span class="credit">Logansport Pharos-Tribune</span></em></div> </section><p>At 1:05 a.m. on November 3, 1964, after deliberating for more than eight hours, <a href="" target="_blank">the jury found Dowlut guilty</a> of second-degree murder. A week later he was sentenced and put in prison. He appealed, but was denied a new trial. In early 1965, the Indiana Supreme Court agreed to review his case, and on April 1, 1968, it handed down <a href="" target="_blank">its ruling in <em>Dowlut v. State</em></a>. The trial judge had properly rejected Dowlut's "illegal confessions," Justice Amos Jackson wrote on behalf of the four-justice majority, but he had improperly admitted the <a href="" target="_blank">"poisoned fruit"</a> of the interrogation: the gun in the graveyard.</p> <p>The court reversed Dowlut's conviction and ordered that he be retried. The decision echoed the US Supreme Court's ruling in <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Miranda</em> <em>v. Arizona </em></a>nearly<em> </em>two years earlier, which had affirmed criminal defendants' right against self-incrimination during police questioning. A 1978 article in the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Indiana Law Review</em></a> criticized the <em>Miranda </em>and <em>Dowlut</em> rulings for invalidating otherwise reliable corroborating evidence, such as the gun in Dowlut's trial: "The suspect's knowledge of where the murder weapon was hidden was conclusive proof that he had knowledge of the murder."</p> <p>The state supreme court's decision left virtually no admissible evidence, and the attempt to retry Dowlut for Yocum's murder was eventually dropped. A week after the high court ruling, he was released into the custody of St. Joseph County, where he faced new charges for wounding Berkowitz. After two more years of venue changes and delays, the remaining charges against Dowlut were dismissed due to the state's failure to provide a speedy trial. On April 3, 1970, Dowlut received another chance to start over. Sam Mirkin, a now-retired public defender who represented Dowlut at the end of these proceedings, recalls the day his client was released: "Mr. Dowlut said, 'What do I do now?' I said, 'You call your father and have him pick you up.'"</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">Following his legal odyssey,</span> Dowlut returned to the military. According to his <a href="" target="_blank">official bio</a>, he joined the 82nd Airborne Division, and then served with the Army Reserve's <a href=";div=8&amp;id=&amp;page=" target="_blank">12th Special Forces</a> while he attended Indiana University-South Bend. (His bio says he was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant.) Known as "Necessity U," the small campus drew students who "likely would have had no chance for a college education," as Dowlut's wife, Alice Marie Beard, <a href="" target="_blank">later recalled</a>. Dowlut tried to recruit fellow vets to come to IUSB. As the 28-year-old told Beard for an article she wrote in the student newspaper in April 1974, "I try to impress upon them that I had been out of high school for nine years and that my parents were working-class people, but that I'm making it okay in college."</p> <section class="right-rail"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">At Indiana University-South Bend, Dowlut (center) became active in the veterans movement. <span class="credit">Indiana University-South Bend Archives</span></div> </section><p>He joined the paper's staff and wrote a series of columns on veterans' affairs, providing advice on everything from obtaining GI Bill benefits to removing negative or embarrassing details from discharge papers. His writing, which ran alongside columns such as "Pigs Are Pigs" (about a student's run-in with the South Bend cops) and anti-Army ads ("Our best killers have been guys just like you" ), took a practical, even lawyerly, tone. Less than a year after he was interviewed by Beard, they married.</p> <p>After graduating in 1975, Dowlut enrolled at Howard University School of Law. It was at the historically black school that Dowlut came to see gun rights as a civil rights issue, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Robert Cottrol</a>, a professor of law at George Washington University and a member of the Civil Rights Defense Fund board of trustees who is friends with Dowlut. He graduated in 1979 and was admitted to the DC Bar in 1980. By this time he had started working at the NRA.</p> <p>Dowlut joined the organization just as it was being reborn. In what became known as the <a href="" target="_blank">Cincinnati Revolt</a>, hardliners had overthrown the NRA's moderate leadership and installed <a href="" target="_blank">Harlon Carter</a> as executive vice president in 1977. Under Carter, the NRA adopted uncompromising rhetoric and an aggressive political strategy that turned it into one of the nation's most powerful interest groups. Carter <a href="" target="_blank">also envisioned</a> recruiting "young men and women&mdash;lawyers, constitutional scholars, writers, historians, professors&mdash;who some day will be old and gray and wise, widely published and highly respected. It will be those individuals&mdash;in the future&mdash;who will provide the means to save the Second Amendment."</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">Gun owners, Dowlut said, were being unfairly punished for "the inability of parents to instill values in youth."</aside><p>Dowlut became a key player among this new generation of under-the-radar activists, doing everything from representing the plaintiff in a <a href="" target="_blank">1984 lawsuit</a> challenging the nation's first municipal handgun ban to <a href=",-restor.aspx?s=&amp;st=&amp;ps=" target="_blank">warning</a> housing authorities that prohibitions on tenants owning guns are unconstitutional. He has written or cowritten more than 25 amicus briefs on behalf of the NRA in state and federal cases, including a 1997 Supreme Court <a href="" target="_blank">case</a> aimed at striking down the Brady Law, which requires federal background checks on gun buyers. At a legal forum at the 1989 NRA convention, he warned that "the end goal of the gun prohibitionists is to ban all guns," adding that "because of the inability of parents to instill values in youth" more restrictions were "being placed on the backs of gun owners."</p> <p>Dowlut has also helped fulfill Carter's vision of reshaping Second Amendment jurisprudence from outside the courtroom. In the late 1970s, a small cadre of law professors and lawyers began arguing that most judges&mdash;including generations of Supreme Court justices&mdash;had gotten gun rights all wrong. In its first 200 years, the Supreme Court had considered just four Second Amendment cases; it had never affirmed an individual right to bear arms beyond the context of militia service. The only 20th-century <a href="" target="_blank">case</a> was in 1939, when the justices unanimously ruled against two men who claimed the federal prohibition on transporting unregistered sawed-off shotguns violated their Second Amendment rights. The new wave of pro-gun scholarship by Dowlut and his allies declared that this legal consensus was not only wrong but dangerous: The Second Amendment needed to be rescued from gun-hating judges, politicians, and activists.</p> <section class="text-width"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">In 2012, the NRA observed Dowlut's 35 years of service with the organization. <span class="credit">Civil Rights Defense Fund/Facebook</span></div> </section><p>Dowlut's first articles on gun rights appeared in the early 1980s. A <a href="" target="_blank">piece</a> in the <em>Oklahoma Law Review </em>in 1983 laid out the basic premise of the modern gun rights movement: Beyond the awkward and archaic preamble about a "well-regulated militia," the Second Amendment unequivocally secures a broad individual right to keep firearms for self-defense and "to deter governmental oppression." As Dowlut wrote, "Draconian gun laws are an ugly form of repression often cloaked in liberal trappings."</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">"Historically," Dowlut wrote, "the police have opposed any extension of constitutional rights to individuals under their control."</aside><p>Dowlut's piece was one shot in a sudden volley of pro-gun scholarship. According to an <a href="" target="_blank">analysis</a> by political scientist Robert J. Spitzer, between 1912 and 1969, just three law journal articles endorsed this expansive view of the Second Amendment. Between 1970 and 1989, 27 did, while 25 supported the prevalent court interpretation. By the 1990s, articles supporting the broader interpretation outnumbered those espousing the traditional view 2 to 1; 27 were written by seven authors who had worked for the NRA or other pro-gun groups, including Dowlut, who wrote three.</p> <p>In 1997, Dowlut published his most forceful and sweeping <a href="" target="_blank">article</a> yet in the <em>Stanford Law &amp; Policy Review</em>, justifying the Clinton-era militia movement and predicting that the Supreme Court would eventually strike a blow against the "bigotry, political correctness, and federal courts who give [Americans'] Second Amendment rights no respect." That same year, ruling on the Brady Law case, Supreme Court Justice <a href="" target="_blank">Clarence Thomas</a> noted the "growing body of scholarly commentary" that had "marshal[ed] an impressive array of historical evidence," and hinted at his eagerness to hear a Second Amendment case. Justice Antonin Scalia, in his 1998 book, <em>A Matter of Interpretation</em>, stated that <a href=";pg=PA137&amp;lpg=PA137&amp;dq=dispassionate+scholarship+matter+of+interpretation&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=H94bkxNMR7&amp;sig=ALIUxosjzaPv1X2oqSvUCNx8p80&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=FdDSU-nfD8yfyATdsYH4Bw&amp;ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=dispassionate%20scholarship&amp;f=false" target="_blank">"dispassionate scholarship"</a> suggested there was a personal right to keep and bear arms. The revisionist view of the Second Amendment had gone mainstream.</p> <section class="right-rail"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall">Otis McDonald outside the Supreme Court after it heard oral arguments in his challenge to Chicago's handgun ban. <span class="credit">Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP</span></div> </section><p>Dowlut has also spent decades helping build the NRA's <a href="" target="_blank">Civil Rights Defense Fund</a> (originally the Firearms Civil Rights Legal Defense Fund), a nonprofit founded in 1978 to establish legal precedents strengthening Second Amendment rights. It has recently backed <a href="" target="_blank">cases</a> in 35 states and Washington, DC, involving a range of issues from self-defense claims and assault weapons bans to the court-martial of a US soldier charged with murdering an Iraqi detainee. In 1996, it contributed $20,000 to the defense of <a href="" target="_blank">Bernhard Goetz</a>, who was sued by one of the men he had shot and wounded in the New York City subway in 1984. In 2010, the fund awarded Sen. Ted Cruz its Harlon B. Carter-George S. Knight Freedom Fund award for his work in support of <em>Heller </em>and <em>McDonald </em>as Texas' solicitor general. Since the late 1990s, the fund has given roughly $2.5 million to pro-gun researchers; Hardy, for instance, has received at least $467,000 for various projects, including a documentary film.</p> <p>Dowlut got to witness the <a href="" target="_blank">culmination of his work</a> on March 2, 2010. Dressed in an Airborne-maroon beret, scarf, and overcoat, he stood in the brisk darkness outside the Supreme Court as his wife handed out cookies to court watchers waiting in line. The Supreme Court was about to hear oral arguments in <em>McDonald v. Chicago</em>, its second gun rights case in as many years.<sup class="mobile">1</sup></p> <aside class="right-rail mobile"><div class="footnote right"><sup class="mobile">1</sup> In <em>Heller</em>, Dowlut and Beard cowrote an <a href="" target="_blank">amicus brief</a> on behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).</div> </aside><p>Immediately after the 2008 <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Heller</em> ruling</a>, in which the court had struck down Washington, DC's strict handgun regulations, the NRA contested Chicago's 1982 handgun ban. The finding from <em>Heller</em>&mdash;that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep arms for self-defense&mdash;did not apply only to the capital, the NRA argued, but to the nation as a whole. Its case became part of <a href=",%20ILL." target="_blank"><em>McDonald v. Chicago</em></a>, whose lead plaintiff was Otis McDonald, a retired African American maintenance engineer who had sought to buy a gun for self-defense. On June 28, 2010, the court reaffirmed its earlier ruling, 5-4. Together, these decisions emboldened the gun rights movement, setting off a surge of new challenges to local and state laws.</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">Dowlut testified that the atrocities his parents experienced in the Nazi slave-labor camp "made me frightened of police officers."</aside><p>Writing for the majority in <em>McDonald</em>, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment applied to the states, echoing an argument that Dowlut and his colleagues had been making for nearly 30 years. In their <a href=",%20ILL." target="_blank">opinions</a>, the majority cited NRA legal fund trustee Cottrol, as well as legal fund recipients Hardy and Stephen Halbrook. Though Dowlut was not mentioned by name, his influence could be seen between the lines. A popular gun rights blogger <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>, "We also should not overlook the work of NRA General Counsel himself, Bob Dowlut, whose work on this issue goes back to the '70s."</p> <p>Dowlut has helped realize Harlon Carter's vision of venerable scholars sitting atop an enduring legal foundation. Yet his story evokes Carter's legacy in another way: In 1931, when Carter was 17, he was <a href="" target="_blank">convicted</a> of confronting, shooting, and killing a 15-year-old Mexican American boy in his hometown of Laredo, Texas. Carter's conviction was later overturned on grounds that the judge had not adequately instructed the jury on the law of self-defense. The managing editor of the <em>Laredo</em> <em>Times</em>, which uncovered Carter's past, noted, "When Carter applied for his job with the NRA I doubt whether he told them he had killed a man." When the incident was reported in 1981, the then-NRA head first denied it, but came to acknowledge it. Asked about the case in 1984, Carter <a href=";dat=19840920&amp;id=p6xPAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=S1MDAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=7024,1799115" target="_blank">said</a>, "It hasn't hurt me with the American people. It still comes up every now and then but it will never have any effect. That was almost 53 years ago."</p> <section class="inline"><img alt="" src=""><div class="captionSmall right">The abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum in South Bend's city cemetery, February 2014. <span class="credit">Dave Gilson</span></div> </section><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">It is all but impossible</span> to know exactly what happened on that night in South Bend more than 50 years ago. The South Bend Police Department has Yocum's murder classified as an open case. Nearly everyone involved in Robert Dowlut's trial&mdash;the judge, lawyers, police officers, and other witnesses&mdash;is dead. Camille left South Bend; documents indicate she married the man described during the trial as having been "friendly" with her mother. He died in 1996. Reached by phone, Camille hung up when asked to comment for this story. A registered letter sent to her address was refused three times.</p> <p>For now, a stack of grainy court documents contains the most detailed account of this grueling chapter of Dowlut's life. The pages hold hints of an even more complex story, such as the moment when, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Detective Hampton's account</a> of Dowlut's interrogation, the teen turned philosophical: "He leaned back in his chair and he said, 'Well, you know, Sergeant, it's just like a person is two people.' And I said, 'What do you mean by that?' and he said, 'Well, if one part of me can love and the other part can kill.'"</p> <section class="right-rail mobile"><a class="hideLink" href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nra-promo-3.jpg"></a> <div class="captionLarge right"><a href="" target="_blank">Meet the NRA's board of directors.</a></div> </section><p>Without hearing from Dowlut himself, it's also difficult to know exactly how his experience as a criminal defendant influenced his work. Yet it seems clear that it combined with memories of his family's painful past to shape his views of government authority and the need to possess guns.</p> <p>Dowlut's parents grew up in eastern Poland, in what is now Belarus. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Donald (originally named Dyonizy), Olga, and their infant son, Victor, were sent to Dachau with other non-Jewish Poles. The Dowluts were later taken to Augsburg, a slave-labor camp outside Munich that made armaments. There the baby became sick. As Alice Beard explained in an online family history, "A Nazi physician told Olga to hold her baby as Dyonizy watched. The doctor gave Victor an injection; the baby began convulsing immediately and died."</p> <p>Robert was born in Augsburg in September 1945, less than five months after the US Army liberated it and converted it to a refugee camp. He was originally named Bogdan, meaning "given by God." In 1949, the family emigrated to Wisconsin, and then South Bend. Donald did manual labor, and Olga worked in the cafeteria at Notre Dame University. (Olga Dowlut died in 1972. Donald Dowlut died in 1989; the <em>South Bend Tribune</em> reported that the coroner determined that the 75-year-old had shot himself in the head.)</p> <aside class="full pullQuote">The detective claimed the teen turned philosophical: He said, "'Well, you know, Sergeant, it's just like a person is two people.'"</aside><p>During the murder trial, Dowlut's attorney drew on the family's tragic history to undermine the police's claims that his client had confessed voluntarily. He presented evidence that Dowlut had grown up with an intense <a href="" target="_blank">fear of armed men</a> in uniform due to his parents' wartime experience. During his closed-door testimony, Dowlut said their accounts of Nazi camp guards "made me frightened of police officers." He also said that he'd read news articles about police brutality in the United States: "Mostly they have to do with civil rights. They said that police used clubs, fire hoses, police dogs."</p> <section class="right-rail mobile"><a class="hideLink" href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nra-promo-2.jpg"></a> <div class="captionLarge right"><a href="" target="_blank">Read more of <em>Mother Jones</em>' coverage of gun politics and mass shootings.</a></div> </section><p>Former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman, who first met Dowlut in the mid-'80s, says that Dowlut drew a connection between his past and his passion for the Second Amendment: "My recollection was that his parents grew up in a totalitarian society and he saw the gun as an expression of the freedom given to Americans." This resonates with one of the key tenets of contemporary gun rights rhetoric, that the framers of the Constitution saw the right to bear arms as a bulwark against tyranny.</p> <p>Dowlut's writings also express skepticism about the government's ability to protect citizens and their rights, including those of the accused. In his 1997 <a href="" target="_blank">article</a> in the <em>Stanford Law&nbsp;&amp; Policy Review</em>, he wrote, "Historically the police have opposed any extension of constitutional rights to individuals under their control." In his 1983 <a href="" target="_blank">article</a>, he cited the Supreme Court's affirmation in <em>Miranda </em>of "the right to remain silent and have counsel present during a custodial interrogation." He disapprovingly quoted Justice Byron White's dissent, which predicted that the ruling "will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets." <sup class="mobile">2</sup></p> <aside class="right-rail mobile"><div class="footnote right"><sup class="mobile">2</sup> The prosecutor in Ernesto Miranda's retrial was Robert Corbin, who went on to serve as the <a href="">NRA's president</a> from 1992 to 1994 and as the <a href="">vice chairman</a> of the NRA's legal fund.</div> </aside><p>The Second Amendment, Dowlut has argued, must be viewed in this context. Like the criminal suspect's right against self-incrimination, the ordinary citizen's right to bear arms is a fundamental protection against government overreach.</p> <p>Dowlut is adamant that guns do not facilitate crime or enable violent criminals. In his Stanford <a href="" target="_blank">article</a>, he quoted a study on gun ownership that asserted, "It perhaps goes without saying that the 'average' gun owner and the 'average' criminal are worlds apart in background, social outlooks, and economic circumstances. The idea that common, ordinary citizens are somehow transformed into potential perpetrators of criminally violent acts once they have acquired a firearm seems farfetched, most of all since there is substantial evidence that the typical gun owner is affluent, Protestant, and middle-class."</p> <p>There is a clear, bright line between law-abiding gun owners and criminals, Dowlut <a href="" target="_blank">holds</a>: "Those who argue that a significant share of serious violence is perpetrated by previously nonviolent 'average Joes' are clinging to a myth." Only a criminal, not a gun, can turn a moment of anger or panic into a tragedy. By this reasoning, the good need never apologize&mdash;and the bad are beyond redemption. &acirc;&#136;&#142;</p> </div></body></html> Politics Full Width Longreads Crime and Justice Guns Top Stories Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:00:04 +0000 Dave Gilson 256776 at Today Is International Tiger Day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Established in <a href="" target="_blank">2010</a>,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">International Tiger Day</a>! aims to raise awareness of the fact that tigers are <a href="" target="_blank">facing extinction</a>. "A hundred years ago 100,000 tigers roamed in Asia," explains <em><a href="" target="_blank">The Independent</a></em>. "But now only 3,000 survive in the wild." The culprit? <a href="" target="_blank">Poachers</a>, mostly.</p> <p>Tigers are marvelous creatures. Have a look at some of these stunning photos to celebrate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/5590652478_e1bb9e8e80_b.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A tiger cub in Chiang Mai, Thailand. </strong><a href="" target="_blank">lejaclyn</a>/Flickr</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/6340731249_4477ee8281_o.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Sumatran tiger cub at the World Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent, UK.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Tiny_Packages</a>/Flickr</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/11016214955_2f5a546afe_o.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Two tiger cubs. Washington D.C. </strong><a href="" target="_blank">Sonderman</a>/Flickr</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/6789552275_76aeaf4897_b.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Two Siberian tigers in the snow.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Garg</a>/Flickr<br> &nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/4575837040_e665e83c5a_o.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Mother gives cub piggy back ride.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">WOAW</a>/Flickr</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/6279148974_60e78e4ce1_o.jpg"></p> <div class="caption"> <p><strong>Two Amur tigers snuggle in Switzerland.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Tambako</a>/Flickr</p> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/5455672660_92573421f6_o.jpg"></p> <div class="caption"> <p><strong>A Sumatra tiger in profile.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">pe_ha45</a>/Flickr</p> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/6984925505_9b04776aa6_o.jpg"></p> <div class="caption"> <p><strong>Snow snuggling in Zurich.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Tambako</a>/Flickr</p> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/3833556477_8b1585ffa3_o.jpg"></p> <div class="caption"> <p><strong>A cub by its mother's side. Amn&eacute;ville, Lorraine, France. </strong><a href="" target="_blank">Tambako</a>/Flickr</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div></body></html> Mixed Media Animals Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:24:15 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 257106 at Big Oil's New Pitch: Fracking Means Never Having To Fear Putin <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As Ukraine sinks deeper into crisis, the oil and gas industry is pressing the United States to deploy its abundant natural gas supply as a weapon against Russia&mdash;and lawmakers of both parties are lining up behind the proposal. "We have this natural-gas boom," Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) <a href="">said</a> last week, after the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet, allegedly by pro-Russian rebels. "We can use this newfound energy as a diplomatic tool to give the European leaders some backbone in standing up to the Russians."</p> <p>Their enthusiasm is understandable: Roughly half the natural gas Russia ships to Europe flows through Ukraine. During past disputes, Russia has clamped down on the nation's gas supply, creating turmoil in European energy markets. Many US politicians fear this dynamic could dampen Europe's response to the Ukraine crisis and have begun looking to the bounty of natural gas from the <a href="" target="_blank">domestic fracking boom</a> to counter Russia's energy dominance. As House Speaker John Boehner put it in <a href="">a March <em>Wall Street Journal </em>Op-Ed,</a> "The ability to turn the tables and put the Russian leader in check lies right beneath our feet, in the form of vast supplies of natural energy."</p> <p>Washington has also seen a flurry of proposals to speed up natural gas exports. Last month, <a href="" target="_blank">following a lobbying blitz by oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Halliburton, and Chevron</a>, the House passed <a href="" target="_blank">a bill</a> requiring the Department of Energy (DOE) to rule on proposed natural gas export terminals within 90 days. The Senate has weighed similar bills and amendments. While they haven't managed to bypass the prevailing Senate gridlock, these measures have considerable bipartisan support, and backers are determined to push them through. The fight over expediting natural gas exports helped derail the popular Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill and bogged down negotiations over an aid package for Ukraine. As Congress prepares to adjourn for its August recess, opponents of expanding exports are bracing for a new onslaught. "We are on the lookout, particularly for amendments being slipped into must-pass funding bills," says one senior Senate staffer.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/ukraine-russia-fracking-putin"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Climate Change Climate Desk Corporations Energy International Top Stories fracking Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:00:16 +0000 Mariah Blake 257081 at Midwestern Waters Are Full of Bee-Killing Pesticides <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A while back, I <a href="" target="_blank">wrote about</a> how the US Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting a slow-motion reassessment of a widely used class of insecticides, even as evidence mounts that it's harming key ecosystem players from pollinating bees to birds. Since then, another federal entity with an interest in the environment, the US Geological Survey, has released a pretty damning study of the pesticide class, known as neonicitinoids.</p> <p>For the paper (<a href=";from=rss_home#.U9K1y4LQnFI">press release</a>; <a href="" target="_blank">abstract</a>) published last week in the peer-reviewed journal <em>Environmental Pollution, </em>USGS researchers took 79 water samples in nine rivers and streams over the 2013 growing season in Iowa, a state whose vast acreage of farmland is largely devoted to neonic-treated corn and soybeans. Neonics showed up in all of the sites, and proved to be "both mobile and persistent in the environment."</p> <p>Levels varied over the course of the season, spiking after spring planting, the authors report. At their peak, the neonic traces in Iowa streams reached levels well above those considered toxic for aquatic organisms. And the chemicals proved to linger&mdash;the researchers found them at reduced levels before planting, "which indicates that they can persist from applications in prior years,&rdquo; USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report's lead author, said in the press release. And they showed up "more frequently and in higher concentrations" than the insecticides they replaced, the authors note.</p> <p>Other studies have shown similar results. Neonics have shown up at significant levels in wetlands near treated farm fields in <a href="" target="_blank">parts of the High Plains&nbsp; </a>and in <a href="" target="_blank">Canada</a>, as wells as in rivers in ag-heavy areas of <a href="" target="_blank">Georgia</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">California</a>.</p> <p>These findings directly contradict industry talking points. Older insecticides were typically sprayed onto crops in the field, while neonics are applied directly to seeds, and then taken up by the stalks, leaves, pollen, and nectar of the resulting plants. "Due to its precise application directly to the seed, which is then planted below the soil surface, seed treatment reduces potential off-target exposure to plants and animals," Croplife America, the pesticide industry's main lobbying outfit, declared in a <a href="" target="_blank">2014 report</a>.</p> <p>Yet the USGS researchers report that older pesticides that once rained down on the corn/soy belt, like chlorpyrifos and carbofuran, turned up at "substantially" lower rates in water&mdash;typically, in less than 20 percent of samples, compared to the 100 percent of samples found in the current neonic study. Apparently, pesticides that are taken up by plants through seed treatments don't stay in the plants; and neonics, the USGS authors say, are highly water soluble and break down in water more slowly than the pesticides they've replaced.</p> <p>In another <a href="">document</a>, Croplife claims that neonicotinoids "have been used in the United States for many years without significant effects on populations of honey bees." But the paper shows that neonic use didn't start in the heart of corn/soy belt until 2004, and then quickly ramped up. The below graphic, lifted from the paper, shows usage data on the three major neonic chemicals, with the chart on the bottom right depicting total use. According to the USDA, colony collapse disorder <a href="" target="_blank">started in 2006</a>. Correlation doesn't prove causation, but the industry's "many years without significant effects" claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-25%20at%205.49.37%20PM%20copy_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Neonic use in Iowa. </strong>Chart: USGS</div> </div> <p>In leaching from farm fields, neonics follow a pattern established by spray-applied herbicides like atrazine, the authors note, which undergo a similar <a href="">"spring flush</a>" into waterways. That means that each spring in Iowa, critters like frogs and fish find themselves immersed in a cocktail of damaging chemicals.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the use of seed treatments is surging&mdash;it <a href="">tripled over the past decade.</a> And not just neonics. Fungicides&mdash;chemicals that kill fungal pests&mdash;are also being applied to seeds at record rates. According to Croplife, "today&rsquo;s seed treatment market offers pre-mixture products containing combinations of three, four or more fungicides." It also boasts: "The global fungicide seed treatment market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.2 percent and is expected to reach $1.4 billion by 2018."</p> <p>And these chemicals, too, are <a href="">emerging as a threat to honeybees</a>. They also may be fouling up water. In 2012, the USGS released a <a href="" target="_blank">research review</a> on fungicides and their effect on waterways. The report noted plenty of "data gaps"&mdash;i.e. a dearth of research&mdash;but also evidence of "significant sublethal effects of fungicides on fish, aquatic invertebrates, and ecosystems, including zooplankton and fish reproduction, fish immune function, zooplankton community composition, metabolic enzymes, and ecosystem processes, such as leaf decomposition in streams, among other biological effects."</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Top Stories Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:00:15 +0000 Tom Philpott 257021 at America's 10 Most Hated Banks <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If you put out a complaint box for customers of US banks and financial firms, you will get hundreds of thousands of complaints. That's what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau&mdash;which was set up by Elizabeth Warren before she became a US senator&mdash;has discovered. And the bank that has drawn the most complaints is Bank of America. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank were other top targets of consumer wrath.</p> <p>In June 2012, the CFPB launched a consumer help center where Americans can lodge complaints against banks and financial institutions they believe are ripping them off. The information in the center's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">data base</a> is public. So you can tell which Wall Street entities provoke the most gripes. Ranked by number of complaints, the top five most reviled institutions are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Equifax, which is a credit-reporting agency, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank. Debt collectors, mortgage servicers, and student loan servicing companies also fall within the top 20. As of this weekend, consumers had filed over 265,000 complaints. Bank of America earned&nbsp; 38,833 complaints, Wells Fargo drew 26,055, and JPMorgan Chase was the subject of 20,057. Check it out:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>These numbers show that bigger is not necessarily better. The number of complaints largely corresponds with the size of the bank. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo are <a href="" target="_blank">the largest four US banks by assets</a>. All other banks on the list above are among the 20 largest.</p> <p>The majority of complaints targeting Bank of America&mdash;over 27,500 of them&mdash;concern mortgage practices, including foreclosure processing. In 2012, Bank of America, Citi, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally Bank&mdash;the nation&rsquo;s five largest mortgage servicers&mdash;entered into a <a href="" target="_blank">$25 billion settlement</a> with 49 states and the federal government over the banks' use of faulty foreclosure documents. (Bank of America recently agreed to pay a fine of <a href="" target="_blank">$16.6 million</a> to the Treasury Department to settle allegations that it processed nearly $100,000 in transactions for drug traffickers between 2005 and 2009.)</p> <p>Out of the 26,055 complaints filed against Wells Fargo&mdash;which is accused of <a href="" target="_blank">directing minority borrowers into subprime loans</a> in the lead-up to the financial crisis&mdash;close to 6,000 concerned issues consumers had with their checking or savings accounts, including complaints over fees and charges. In 2010, Wells was ordered to pay <a href="" target="_blank">hundreds of millions</a> of dollars to customers for manipulating debit card transactions in order to rack up overdraft fees.</p> <p>About 5,100 of the consumer complaints about Citibank concerned mortgages and foreclosures. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice slapped a record penalty on Citi for violations on the investor side of the bank's mortgage business. The DOJ fined Citi <a href="" target="_blank">$7 billion</a> for telling investors that the toxic mortgage-backed securities it sold in the mid-2000s were high-quality.</p> <p>Over 3,700 of the complaints against JPMorgan Chase concerned problems with consumer bank accounts, including disputed fees. Last September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered the Chase to fork over <a href="" target="_blank">$309 million to 2.1 million customers</a> for charging them for services such as identity theft protection and fraud monitoring without obtaining consent.</p> <p>Americans filed over 5,000 complaints with the consumer agency regarding debt collection, more than 27,000 over mortgage servicing practices, and north of 5,500 concerning student loan servicing.</p></body></html> Politics Economy Top Stories Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:00:14 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 256916 at The Best "Dear John Letter" Ever Sent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In 1947, years before she met John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier sent her high school boyfriend what is maybe <a href="" target="_blank">my favorite Dear John letter of all time.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"I&rsquo;ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person&mdash;starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them&mdash;and I&rsquo;ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell&mdash;so looking at it that [way] I guess I&rsquo;m not in love with you."</p> </blockquote> <p>Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Tue, 29 Jul 2014 05:57:30 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 257131 at Take Two: Just How Good Are Generic Meds Anyway? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A few days ago</a> I wrote a post about generic painkillers and the fact that doctors themselves&mdash;who should know better&mdash;often don't use them. "If physicians aren't really sold on generics in their own personal lives," I asked, "does this mean they're not really sold on them in their professional lives too?"</p> <p>Well, perhaps I got it backwards. A friend sent me a link to a <em>Forbes </em>article from last year about the FDA <a href="" target="_blank">retracting its approval of a generic version of Wellbutrin:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The episode is bringing momentum to a movement that has been quietly building among many doctors and medical societies that are increasingly willing to ask a question that borders on heresy: Are generics really identical to the branded products they are meant to replicate? To a surprising degree, they say, the answer is no.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re a layperson, this is the way you probably think of generics: They&rsquo;re the exact same products in different packaging; generics companies can sell such medications for a fraction of the cost of the originals because they don&rsquo;t have to spend huge sums on drug development and marketing....But generic drugs diverge from the originals far more than most of us believe.</p> <p>....The FDA&rsquo;s rules effectively acknowledge that. The agency&rsquo;s definition of bioequivalence is surprisingly broad: A generic&rsquo;s maximum concentration of active ingredient in the blood must not fall more than 20% below or 25% above that of the brand name. This means a potential range of 45%, by that measure, among generics labeled as being the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, physicians are becoming increasingly concerned about the reliability of prescription generics, so maybe they're a little bit skeptical about over-the-counter generics too.</p> <p>Now, I doubt that anyone seriously thinks this applies to aspirin or ibuprofen. There's nothing proprietary about the formulas for these medications, and everyone knows how to make them just as well as the big guys. Still, I suppose it's possible that a generalized uncertainty about generic prescription meds could translate into a bit of uncertainty about OTC meds too. And that little bit might be enough to make lots of doctors shrug their shoulders and plunk down an extra dollar or two for a name brand.</p> <p>I'm just guessing here, of course. Mostly I just thought it was an interesting article and wanted to pass it along.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 29 Jul 2014 05:04:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 257126 at Medicare Actuaries Are Big Fans of Obamacare's Cost Reduction Programs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As long as we're perusing the 2014 Medicare Trustees Report, here's another interesting chart. It shows just how much the Medicare actuaries expect to save thanks to all the cost-reduction measures included in Obamacare. It's a pretty speculative forecast, of course, but their estimate is that Obamacare will reduce federal spending a lot. By 2080, the savings add up to about 1.5 percent of GDP, which in today's dollars amounts to $250 billion per year.</p> <p>Now, don't take this too seriously on a pure policy basis. Projections that are extended 70 years out are pretty worthless. Trend lines don't stay the same that long, and government policies change every decade anyway. Nor does this mean that Obamacare is a free lunch. It still has a high net cost since it's insuring a whole lot of people who never had insurance before.</p> <p>Still, this shows that the Medicare actuaries take the efficiency measures in Obamacare pretty seriously. If we stick to them, they really are likely to cut the growth rate of Medicare spending. And remember: Medicare costs get reflected in overall health care costs too. If Republicans ever win their jihad against Obamacare, we lose not just the Medicare savings, but a lot of savings in private health care too. That's a lot to give up.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicare_obamacare_savings.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Health Care Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:42:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 257111 at