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jamaica

US State Department Issues Travel Advisory For Jamaica Amid Crime And Health Concerns 

The US State Department has issued a travel advisory for Jamaica among an influx of crime and health concerns. The department issued the advisory last week, stating the following: 

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“Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts. Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”

The State Department also added to their advisory that in the event of an emergency, “high level or specialized” healthcare options may not be available throughout the entire island nation, and patients would likely be required to pay for medical care. 

Travelers are only being asked to reconsider visiting Jamaica, especially with Spring Break and the summer season coming up quickly. While they have not advised Americans to avoid the nation altogether, they did outline specific high-risk areas in which certain US government personnel are prohibited from traveling due to its risk of crime. 

Montego Bay, downtown Kingston, part of St. Ann’s Parish by Ocho Rios, and certain neighborhoods in Negril are some of the areas mentioned in the advisory to be cautious of visiting, according to USA Today

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Americans who will be traveling to Jamaica and/or the previously mentioned areas specifically, are being advised to always be aware of their surroundings, keep a relatively low profile while you’re there, and avoid public transportation, walking, and/or driving at night. 

Situations where one may find themselves secluded increases their risk of being potentially robbed or susceptible to other violence. If one does find themselves in a dangerous situation, the best thing to do is comply, especially in cases of robbery. 

The State Department is also encouraging Americans who are traveling to Jamaica to enroll in the department’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, and to plan emergency contingency plans in case something were to happen. 

“We strongly encourage you to obtain traveler’s insurance, including medical evacuation insurance, before traveling to Jamaica,” the advisory added in bold font to emphasize the importance of these procedures. 

Insurance and medical evacuation insurance is especially important, as the Department warned that many health care providers overseas will not accept US health insurance, and neither Medicare nor Medicaid benefits apply overseas.

police

Memphis Braces for Video Showing Fatal Police Beating of Tyre Nichols

On Thursday, five Memphis police officers were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was killed after a traffic stop turned violent. The video of the incident is expected to be released Friday evening.

police

One Suspect in Canadian Mass Stabbing Found Dead, Another Still At Large

A suspect behind a mass stabbing in Saskatchewan, Canada that left 10 people dead and 18 others wounded is still at large.

The spree attack on Sunday spanned through 13 crime scenes in the Indigenous community James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, a nearby village.

The incident is one of the country’s worst mass killings.

The police have identified two brothers, Damien Sanderson, 31 and Myles Sanderson, 30, as the suspected assailants. Damien was found dead on Monday, lying in a grassy area near a house that was being examined. His body was found not far from where the attacks were carried out.

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Saskatchewan’s RCMP commanding officer, Rhonda Blackmore, stated that Damien’s injuries are not believed to be self-inflicted at this time. The two brothers’ motives have yet to be determined.

“It appears that some of the victims may have been targeted, and some may be random. So to speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this point in time.”

An extensive search is underway for Myles Sanderson, who has a lengthy criminal record. Myles was already wanted before Sunday’s stabbings for breaching his parole conditions. He is now formally charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and breaking and entering.

The brothers were believed to be last seen together in a black Nissan Rogue SUV in Regina, roughly 200 miles away from the location of the attacks. The discovery of the body is causing police to question their initial findings.

Myles may be wounded and there is a possibility that he may seek medical attention.

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Justin Trudeau addressed the nation on his Twitter page and called the attacks “horrific and heartbreaking.”

“Today and tomorrow, the flag on the Peace Tower will be flown at half-mast – in memory of those who lost their lives during yesterday’s attacks in Saskatchewan and in solidarity with everyone affected by this violence. All Canadians are there for you.”

The James Smith Cree Nation declared a state of emergency in the wake of the attack.

On Monday evening, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray acknowledged that a significant amount of time had passed since the alleged sightings. Bray told Regina residents that the “information that put him in our community is now well over a day old, and we have not had any new information to determine that it is no longer factual.”

Bray stated that law enforcement would continue to operate under the assumption that Myles is still in Regina until informed otherwise.

The police have notified the public that Myles is believed to be still armed and dangerous. Citizens are advised to stay in a secure location and to use caution while allowing others into their residences.

Hundreds Arrested In Global FBI Sting Operation Using Undercover Messaging App 

Law enforcement agencies announced this week that hundreds of criminal gangs around the world have been divulging plans to move large drug shipments and carry out killings on a messaging app that was secretly being run by the FBI. The agency said that this was a “global sting operation that dealt an unprecedented blow to organized crime in countries around the world.”

The mission itself was known as operation Trojan Shield and led police to gangs in 16 nations. Over 800 suspects have now been arrested and over 32 tons of drugs were seized; including cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines. Additionally, 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars, and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrency were seized. 

The operation initially started when law enforcement shut down EncroChat and Sky ECC, two encrypted platforms that were known for being used by criminals to communicate without worry of outside interference. 

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After these lines of communication were cut, the FBI developed their own covert app called ANOM that was installed onto modified phones. Over the past 18 months the FBI has been secretly providing phones using an unsuspecting middleman that infiltrated over 300 gangs operating in more than 100 countries. 

Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division, spoke at a news conference this week about the major operation. 

“Intelligence gathered and analyzed using this app enabled us to prevent murders. It led to the seizure of weapons and it helped prevent a number of crimes. The operation dealt with an unprecedented blow to criminal networks worldwide.”

“There was a void that was created by a lack of these encrypted platforms. So that created an opportunity for collaboration with our international partners, to not only develop the specific tool but also to develop the process of gathering the intelligence and disseminating the intelligence,” Shivers explained. 

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“The ANOM app became popular in criminal circles as users told one another it was safe. Meanwhile, the police were looking over their shoulders the whole time.”

According to a statement from Linda Staaf, the head of Sweden’s national criminal intelligence unit, “Swedish police prevented dozens of planned killings and have arrested what we believe to be leading actors in criminal networks.”

Finnish police reported that they have detained about 100 people and more than half a ton of confiscated drugs, along with hundreds of illegally owned guns and cash. German prosecutors reported more than 70 arrests in connection to the sting. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters the nation’s authorities “arrested 224 people and seized more than four tons of drugs and $35 million. Today, the Australian government, as part of a global operation, has struck a heavy blow against organized crime. Not just in this country, but one that will echo around organized crime around the world.”

“The success of Operation Trojan Shield is a result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented international collaboration. And the results are staggering,” Shivers proclaimed.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sentenced To Prison 

A French court convicted former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to three years in prison for “corruption and influence peddling,” however, the sentence had two years suspended from it. Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012. 

Sarkozy was found guilty of “trying to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about an ongoing investigation into his campaign finances,” according to the ruling. The judge claimed that Sarkozy does not need to serve time in jail itself and could instead serve his sentence by wearing an electric bracelet at home. 

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This is a historic ruling for the nation, marking the first time a president has been sentenced to jail in France within its modern history. Sarkozy is 66-years-old, and the prosecutor working on the case requested a two-year prison sentence as well as a two-year suspended sentence. 

Sarkozy and his co-defendants, his lawyers Thierry Herzog and former magistrate Gilbert Azibert, were all found guilty and handed prison sentences to a certain degree. An investigation was initially launched last year before enough evidence was able to be compiled to make charges and bring the case to the courtroom; which occurred at the end of last year. 

This incident has been dubbed by French media as the “wiretapping case,” and it apparently began back in 2013 when investigators first bugged phones belonging to Sarkozy and his lawyer Herzog. Investigators discovered that the two men had “promised senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert a prestigious position in Monaco, in exchange for information about an ongoing inquiry into claims that Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his successful 2007 presidential campaign.”

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These aren’t the only accusations Sarkozy is facing either. In two weeks he will find himself on trial once again after being accused of violating campaign financing rules during his 2012 re-election bid. He worked with a public relations firm during his failed campaign to hide the true cost of it from the media. 

In a separate case, French prosecutors are looking into an “alleged illegal campaign funding from Libya. Libya’s former deceased leader Muammar Gaddafi allegedly provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases,” according to prosecutors. 

Back in 2011 former president Jacques Chirac was found guilty of misusing public funds for his campaign, and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for the “employment of fictitious officials when he was mayor of Paris in the early 1990’s.” It’s unclear if the additional accusations will add any additional time to Sarkozy’s sentence, but citizens aren’t convinced it will.

Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Trial Plans Begin as Schumer Requests Witnesses

The president will be impeached this week, as the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve  two articles of impeachment for a full vote on the House floor. Because Democrats hold the majority in the House right now and this impeachment is a hyper-partisan affair, it is virtually certain that the House of Representatives will vote to send both articles to the Senate, where a trial of some sort will be held. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans, who have 53 seats whereas the Democrats have 45. As a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required to remove a president from office via impeachment, this outcome is unlikely, particularly because not a single Republican senator has indicated that they’d entertain voting with the Democrats. That being said, the upcoming Senate trial is nonetheless sure to have a significant and difficult-to-predict impact on the political world, particularly in consideration of the fact that the next presidential election is less than a year away.

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Now that impeachment in the House is all but certain, Senate lawmakers have begun publicly discussing the outline and the structure of the trial. Unsurprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has all but confirmed that the outcome of the trial is a foregone conclusion, saying, “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.” Mitch McConnell wants the trial to move quickly and with little fanfare, even suggesting that witnesses may not be called at all, in the hopes that news about the facts pertaining to the trial will fly under the radar to the greatest extent possible, whereas the president wants the trial to be a bombastic, theatrical affair, believing that such an event would bolster his poll numbers. 

Despite this difference in opinion, though, Democrats were infuriated by McConnell’s suggestion that the trial should be orchestrated in coordination with the defendant in the trial, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling it “totally out of line.” During impeachment, senators are assigned the role of juror, and as such are required to swear an oath which reads: “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” The Republicans’ coordination with the White House, then, would seem to be a clear and direct violation of this oath, as jurors who have already made up their minds before the trial takes place plainly impede justice.

The decisions senators will make throughout the process are hard to predict and will shed light on these their characters and indeed on the health of the republic generally.

Nevertheless, Democrats are doing everything in their power to negotiate with the Senate majority to make the trial process as fair as they can. Accordingly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today wrote a letter to McConnell outlining the witnesses he wishes to call during the trial, which will likely not be held until next year. Given the president’s love of drama and theatrics, it is likely that some witnesses will be called for the trial, though it’s unclear exactly who would be compelled to testify: Schumer specifically requested the appearance of Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former Security Advisor John Bolton, both of whom refused to cooperate with congressionally approved subpoenas during the inquiry at the direction of the White House and may simply continue to ignore further calls to testify; and Republicans likely will seek testimonies of the unnamed whistleblower and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the former of whom is protected by anonymity statutes and the latter of whom is not a fact or expert witness in this case and thus would have little legal justification for being compelled to act as a witness. 

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Though Schumer knows that he likely cannot change McConnell’s mind, or the minds of Trump’s most ardent defenders in the Senate, he believes he may convince enough Republican senators that at the very least relevant witnesses should be called to testify to secure the 51 votes necessary to pass an agreed-upon set of rules designed to enable a fair trial. When it comes to impeachment trials, there exists very little historical precedent for how they should be arranged and conducted, and impeachment has never before occurred in a political environment as hyper-partisan and polarized as today’s; as such, the decisions senators will make throughout the process are hard to predict and will shed light on these their characters and indeed on the health of the republic generally.

Small Movie Theatre

The Irishman: A Near-Perfect Gangster Epic

Director Martin Scorsese has implored audiences not to watch his latest crime epic, The Irishman, on a smartphone. And while many viewers of the director’s latest film are likely to ignore this advice, Scorsese’s request is well-founded. At three-and-a-half hours long, The Irishman can be difficult to watch in one sitting — but the cinematic experience on offer is best enjoyed on a big screen, whether it’s projected on a movie screen or displayed on a large TV. Scorsese has drawn criticism lately for his comments about Marvel movies, which he’s characterized as “not cinema,” comparing them to amusement park rides, entertaining and full of spectacle but lacking in substance. And while his comments have angered fans of the immensely profitable superhero genre, they also speak to Scorecese’s understanding of the potential of cinema as an art form and its ability to speak to audiences on a deep, human level. Scorsese’s commitment to artistry is evident not only by his extensive catalogue of critically-acclaimed crime dramas, but by his career-defining work on his latest epic.

Spoilers for The Irishman follow.

The Irishman is based on the true story of Frank Sheeran, a hitman for the mafia who claimed to be responsible for killing the famous Jimmy Hoffa, a labor union activist who disappeared in 1975. While the nature of Hoffa’s disappearance in real life remains a mystery, Sheeran’s account is perhaps the most compelling explanation, as details of his story are corroborated by evidence, though most if not all of the other witnesses to the killing were dead by the time Sheeran confessed to author Charles Brandt shortly before his death. Brandt’s book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” forms the basis of Scorsese’s film, and the director took great lengths to ensure that the movie closely follows Sheeran’s recollection of events. Whether or not you believe that the film accurately portrays historical events, including details surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, depends on whether you trust Sheeran’s retelling of the events of his life and Brandt’s memorialization thereof.

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Regardless of its questionable historical accuracy, though, The Irishman shines as a meditation on the reality of aging, death, and how the decisions a person makes come to define the stories of their lives, for better or for worse. Sheeran is not a particularly sympathetic character he expresses no remorse for his many killings, some directed by the military and others by the mob — but the film succeeds in emotionally engaging the viewer with the protagonist nonetheless. This is in no small part thanks to Robert De Niro’s excellent portrayal of Frank Sheeran’s life over a period of decades, as the legendary actor imbues his character with an emotional depth and complexity rivaled by few other performances in recent memory. 

Scorsese pioneered the widespread use of expensive de-aging technology to allow the 76-year-old De Niro to portray a character several decades younger, and the implementation has received a mixed reception. While the effect is not entirely convincing and can at times even be a little distracting, it works for the most part, though it is at times clear that the aging principal cast struggle to mimic the vibrancy of men half their age throughout the film. It’s easy to look past this minor deficiency, however, and as the film’s narrative largely explores the concepts of aging and death, the at times geriatric performances of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci fit the film’s narrative framing of an elderly man sitting alone in a nursing home reminiscing about his past.

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Irrespective of how you feel about the visual effects, the actors’ performances are phenomenal, and add to the remarkable depth of the film’s writing and direction. Ultimately, while most of the events of the film revolve around Sheeran’s participation in the mob and his relationships with his mentor Russell Bufalino and the egotistical, hot-headed Jimmy Hoffa, I would argue the real point of the film is its examination of the importance of family life. Sheeran had four children, and while these characters don’t prominently factor into the events of the narrative, the emotional weight carried by Sheeran’s neglect of his children is immense. Sheeran’s daughters must grapple with the violent reality of his lifestyle and profession throughout the picture, mostly in the background, resulting in an ongoing rejection of their father that culminates in their disowning of him as he becomes an elderly man. After nearly all of the people close to Sheeran die, only his family remain, but his efforts to reconnect with his daughters fail as they have effectively disowned him. By the end of the film, Sheeran is left in a nursing home, talking about his daughters with a nurse who barely pays attention to his stories. Ultimately, the film plays a trick on the audience; while it seems at first to be about the mob, the Teamsters union, and the larger-than-life Jimmy Hoffa, it reveals itself by its conclusion to in actuality be about the inevitability of death and the importance of family ties.

This level of depth and thematic complexity is what has led The Irishman to receive near-universal critical acclaim. Though it premiered as a limited theatrical release, the movie is now available exclusively on Netflix, which incidentally turned out to be the only company willing to fund Scorsese’s experimental epic. Critics are speculating that The Irishman could sweep the Oscars, and many have speculated the film is a strong contender for Best Picture. If you’re willing to set aside the three-and-a-half hours necessary to engage in Scorsese’s latest film, you’ll be rewarded with a work of nearly-unparalleled emotional weight and tragedy.