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Chicago Crime Problems Hound Emanuel As Re-Election Drive Nears

Violent crime in Chicago has been on the decline for two decades, yet as Mayor Rahm Emanuel looks to re-election next year, the scourge of shootings and gang murders still defines the conversation in many neighborhoods, says the Chicago Tribune. Part ugly reality, part perception, the rate of violence in impoverished, mostly black areas has helped shape negative impressions of the first-term mayor as ineffective when it comes to problems afflicting the urban poor, a Tribune poll found.

Voters disapprove of Emanuel's job performance on crime by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio — 30 percent approve, while 57 percent disapprove. That's a drop in support of 15 percentage points from a year ago, when 45 percent approved of the mayor's efforts and 47 percent disapproved. Emanuel said his Police Department has cut the murder rate since a 2012 spike in homicides but acknowledged he has more work to do on the issue. "I'm not going to wait until everybody feels that sense of safety throughout the city, not in parts of the city," Emanuel said. "We have made gains, but not at the pace or the level or felt the way you need to do. Fighting crime is about creating an environment and a quality of life in every neighborhood so every child counts."

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MA Colleges Ban Pot Even When Medical Marijuana Is Legal

Although medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts for nearly two years, colleges are telling students as the fall semester nears: You can’t use it on campus, even if a doctor says it’s medicinal, the Boston Globe reports. College administrators have reaffirmed policies banning the drug in all forms, and that includes students with a doctor’s recommendation. They say their hands are tied by federal regulations, which classify marijuana as  illegal. They worry that allowing cannabis use could lead to the loss of federal funding, including student financial aid.

“I’m scared I’m either going to go under-medicated and suffer physical consequences if I can’t use my medicine enough, or I’m going to face consequences from the school if I get caught,” said Max, an incoming Boston University freshman. He says he has certification from a Massachusetts doctor to use marijuana to treat gastrointestinal issues that cause weight loss and stomach pain. Students caught using marijuana on campuses can face punishment ranging from a warning to expulsion. Some medical marijuana patients and advocates say colleges are being overly cautious. Forbidding the use of a state-recognized, doctor-authorized medicine is unfair, unethical, and a detriment to students, faculty, and others who use the drug to treat ailments, they say.

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Perry Indictment: Serious Legal Trouble Or Partisan Snit?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's aspirations for higher office hit a pothole Friday when he was indicted by a Travis County grand jury for allegedly abusing his power and coercing a public servant. The Christian Science Monitor says he allegedly broke the law when he promised to cut $7.5 million for the public integrity unit run by the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg, a Democrat, had been convicted of drunken driving, but refused Perry's calls to resign.

Did Perry ax money for the public integrity unit, a kind of state government watchdog meant to enforce state ethics laws, simply because, as he said, “the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence?” Or was it because DA Lehmberg was getting a little too aggressive in her investigations, including Perry's administration? Nothing may come of it, and Perry’s attorneys vow to fight the charges. In any case, Perry would have a steep uphill path to win the GOP presidential nomination for 2016. (On Saturday, Perry said, "We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution. This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power, and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen."

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Ferguson Names Darren Wilson As Officer Who Killed Michael Brown

Nearly a week after a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the officer was identified today as Darren Wilson, the Washington Post reports. Wilson is a six-year veteran of the Ferguson police with no disciplinary record, said police chief Thomas Jackson. He said Wilson had been responding to a call shortly before noon on Saturday when there was a 911 call regarding a “strong-arm robbery” at a convenience store. Jackson did not provide further details of how Wilson came to shoot the unarmed Brown.

Witnesses say Brown had raised his hands to surrender when he was shot. No violent clashes were reported after hundreds of protesters gathered and marched near the flashpoint where riots and civil unrest have unfolded in recent days. Citizens protesting Brown's death appeared to be getting along peacefully as they marched alongside state troopers, who took over operational control of the protest scenes yesterday.

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Military Vets Criticize Ferguson's Heavy-Handed Response To Protests

Jet-black rifles leveled at unarmed citizens and mine-resistant vehicles once used to patrol Iraq and Afghanistan rumbling through small town America. The Washington Post says these are scenes playing out in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown. For veterans of the wars that the Ferguson protests so closely resemble, the police response has appeared to be not only heavy-handed but out of step with the most effective ways for both law enforcement and military personnel to respond to demonstrations.

“You see the police are standing online with bulletproof vests and rifles pointed at peoples chests,” said Jason Fritz, a former Army officer and an international policing operations analyst. “That’s not controlling the crowd, that’s intimidating them.” Scriven King, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force’s law enforcement component and a SWAT officer, attributed the initial spasm of violence to a lack of leadership and mismanagement of public perception on the Ferguson Police Department’s behalf. “The first thing that went wrong was when the police showed up with K-9 units,” Scriven said. “The dogs played on racist imagery…it played the situation up and [the department] wasn’t cognizant of the imagery.” King added that, instead of deescalating the situation, the police responded with armored vehicles and SWAT officers clad in bulletproof vests and military-grade rifles.

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U.S. Paid For Military Gear Used By MO Police, Criticized by Holder

For four nights in a row, local police officers streamed into Ferguson, Mo., wearing camouflage, black helmets and vests with “POLICE” stamped on the back, says the New York Times. They carried assault rifles and ammunition, slender black nightsticks and gas masks. Their adversaries were a ragtag group of mostly unarmed neighborhood residents, hundreds of African-Americans whose fury at the police had sent them pouring onto streets and sidewalks. When protesters refused to retreat, threw firebombs or walked too close to a police officer, the response was swift and unrelenting: tear gas and rubber bullets. “At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community,” said Attorney General Eric Holder, “I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message.” Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Rand Paul (R-KY), voiced similar sentiments.

Such opposition amounts to a sharp change in tone in Washington, where the federal government has spent more than a decade paying for body armor, mine-resistant trucks and other military gear while putting few restrictions on its use. Grant programs that, in the name of fighting terrorism, paid for some of the equipment being used in Ferguson have been popular since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. If there has been any debate at all, it was over which departments deserved the most money. “The focus is terrorism, but it’s allowed to do a crossover for other types of responses,” said Nick Gragnani of the St. Louis Area Regional Response System. “It’s for any type of civil unrest. We went by the grant guidance. There was no restriction put on that by the federal government.”

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