Tag: Legal Issues

Jussie Smollett Being Investigated As ‘Active Participant’ in His Own Attack

The investigation into the assault on Empire actor Jussie Smollett took another twist on Saturday night. Chicago police apparently now believe Smollett paid two men to stage the attack, according to CNN. Reached for comment about the report, a Chicago police spokesman would only confirm that “the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” He added that police have “reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”

On Friday, news broke that two brothers were arrested in connection with the attack, one of whom worked on Empire. Chicago’s ABC7 had reported on Thursday that police believed Smollett staged his attack because he was being written off the show, but police later denied they were treating Smollett as a suspect, and 20th Century Fox denied that Smollett was being written off.

According to Deadline, the two men were released at 9 p.m. on Friday after being held for 48 hours. A law enforcement source also told the publication that “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.”

Bullying, verbal abuse, a ‘culture of silence’: independent investigator makes first report on sexual harassment inside SFMTA

San Francisco’s transportation agency is a haven for bullying and verbal abuse — but there is hope for change.

Those are the conclusions of the first report from Mayor London Breed’s independent “ombudsperson” Dolores Blanding, who in October last year was assigned to investigate an alleged culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

Blanding’s appointment by Breed on October 5, 2018 followed a series of stories by the San Francisco Examiner that exposed unresolved complaints from women who were groped by colleagues and, in at least one case, bullied into sex by a superior.

SEE RELATED: Harassment investigations at SFMTA go nowhere, employees allege

In her report to Breed on January 30, Blanding finally offered a path forward for the SFMTA after meeting with 55-65 of its employees, while also providing a scathing look inside the agency.

“A number of MTA employees and managers described bullying and verbally abusive behavior as being tolerated in the workplace,” she wrote to the Mayor. “It has been described as a culture of silence.”

At a high level, Blanding recommended more training on cultivating a culture of respect, structural changes in the human resource department, making human resources staff “more visible” to the rest of the agency, holding all employees “accountable” for a safe and productive work environment, and more consistent discipline for staff “up to, and including, termination.”

And perhaps her most startling recommendation, sources said, was to make her own job title permanent, and create an independent ombudsperson who could investigate the agency. She did not say that ombudsperson should be herself.

Blanding’s report received wide praise from all involved.

Since the culture of harassment and assault surfaced, more than 70 women inside the agency have banded together to form Muni’s own #MeToo movement, a group called “ChangeSFMTA.”

The women cut across ethnic and class boundaries, from engineers who redesign The City’s streets to bus drivers. In a statement sent to the San Francisco Examiner, the women hailed Blanding’s report and praised the call for a permanent ombudsperson.

“Her recommendations connect dots on some of the SFMTA’s major workplace issues,” the women wrote. They also were pleased that SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin widely shared Blanding’s findings with all SFMTA staff.

Breed herself said Blanding’s report is the “first step” in providing a better workplace for Muni employees, and also referenced her new legislation strengthening training requirements for city employees.

“Harassment and intimidation do not belong anywhere in our city,” she said in a statement.

The Transit Riders group praised Blanding’s report as a “step in the right direction” to fix the “poisonous” culture at SFMTA.

“Change is very much needed at SFMTA if the agency is going to deliver a world-class transportation system,” said Rachel Hyden, the transit riders’ executive director.

Blanding’s six-page report contained detailed recommendations to fix SFMTA’s culture of harassment.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental disconnects is between the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity division and Human Resources, the first of which investigates discrimination complaints and the latter of which handles other types of complaints. The two departments within SFMTA do not communicate effectively, Blanding determined, and she offered recommendations to shore up their work.

Blanding also recommended robust training from the top of SFMTA’s staff on down, including “respectful workplace” training for SFMTA managers and supervisors which began January 29.

But some of the issues she found were far more basic.

Employees Blanding interviewed were largely unaware of how to report issues to the human resources department in the first place, or thought — mistakenly — that they didn’t have human resources “reps” at all. Blanding recommended raising the human resource department’s profile, partly by holding outreach events within SFMTA itself and sending out newsletters, among other methods.

She also recommended human resources host office hours at one of SFMTA’s dozen-or-so Muni yards, which are far from SFMTA headquarters.

SEE RELATED: Muni chief steps down amid growing pressure over harassment allegations

“I believe it would help identify some workplace issues earlier, and knowing their HR office is onsite and seeing a representative increases visibility,” Blanding wrote.

SFMTA has already made some changes in high-level staff. Human Resources Director Don Ellison quietly stopped working at the agency last week, and in October last year SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley retired after he was sued for allegedly groping his assistant.

The Reasonable Way to View Marijuana’s Risks

Cannabis has downsides, but speculation and fear should be replaced with the best evidence available.

Are we underestimating the harms of legalizing marijuana?

Those who hold this view have been in the news recently, saying that research shows we are moving too far too fast without understanding the damage.

America is in the midst of a sea change in policies on pot, and we should all be a bit nervous about unintended consequences.

Vigilance is required. But it should be reasoned and thoughtful. To tackle recent claims, we should use the best methods and evidence as a starting point.

Crime has gone up in Colorado and Washington since those states legalized marijuana. It’s reasonable to wonder about the connection, but it’s also reasonable to be skeptical about causation.

The best method to investigate this may be synthetic controls. Researchers can use a weighted combination of similar groups (states that are like Colorado and Washington in a number of ways) to create a model of how those states might have been expected to perform with respect to crime without any changes in marijuana laws. Benjamin Hansen, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, used this methodology to create a comparison group that most closely resembled the homicide trends and levels from 2000-12.

“I picked those years because they were after the tremendous crime drop in the early ’90s and most predictive of crime today,” he said. “I ended in 2012 because that’s when Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana.”

This model showed that we might have predicted more of an increasein Colorado or Washington just based on trends seen in comparable states, even without legalization. When he compared the two states with the synthetic control, Colorado and Washington actually had lower rates after legalization than you’d expect given trends.

This is not evidence that legalization lowers crime rates. But it does suggest that we shouldn’t conclude that it increases them. A number of other studies agree.

A potential misperception involves automobile crashes. Drunken drivers are measurably impaired when their blood alcohol level is above a certain level. We can prove this in randomized controlled trials.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/upshot/the-reasonable-way-to-view-marijuanas-risks.html

How Radio Is Dealing With R. Kelly in 2019

In the aftermath of the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, listeners everywhere are rethinking their relationship with R. Kelly and his music. Music business institutions are also facing pressure to cut ties with the singer as he faces investigation and possible criminal charges for the alleged behavior outlined in the program.

Kelly’s label, RCA Records, still lists him as being on their roster, though they have not sent out a press release about him since October, 2016. The label has faced public pressure for years to drop Kelly—pressure that is only ratcheting up in recent days.

As important as his future with RCA is, equally crucial is the way some people still hear R. Kelly’s music in 2019: on the radio.

The amount of airplay Kelly has received has been in a free fall since Surviving R. Kelly began. According to Billboard, the number of all-format radio impressions of his music dropped nearly 85 percent between the first night the series aired and the Monday following its conclusion.

This is the continuation of a longer trend: his spins fell roughly 40 percent over the course of 2018. But Surviving R. Kelly seems to have given additional momentum to the movement to get him off of radio. Stations across the U.S., from Seattle to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Savannah to Dallas, have removed R. Kelly’s entire catalog from their playlists. And iHeartMedia, which owns over 850 stations, is the subject of a new campaign to remove Kelly’s music from all of them.

The #MuteRKelly movement, unsurprisingly, has heard plenty of similar stories from DJs—both the radio and live performance variety. “#MuteRKelly has received countless emails from DJs around the country who are joining us in boycotting R Kelly’s music,” they say in a statement to Complex. “Many shared their stories of having not played him in years, or arguing with clients about why they wouldn’t play R Kelly despite audience requests.

“What’s more impressive to us, however, are the stories from DJs about playing R Kelly in the club and immediately being booed until they turned it off. The masses are waking up, and it’s in MASS action that we see real and lasting change.”  

READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/music/2019/01/how-radio-is-dealing-with-r-kelly-2019