The police state
August 19, 2014

This interactive map created by Washington Post journalist Radley Balko and the libertarian Cato Institute shows botched paramilitary police raids across the U.S. The map focuses on the use of heavily armed SWAT teams who use forced entry to storm homes unannounced, usually while inhabitants are sleeping. As many as 40,000 of these raids happen each year — most frequently as police become soldiers in the drug war, often against nonviolent offenders. Many end up targeting innocent civilians by accident. Family pets are frequent targets as well; by one estimate, police in the U.S. kill a pet, on average, every 98 minutes.

Click the image below for the full interactive version at Cato.


Unfortunately, the map is far from complete, as it is notoriously difficult to find large-scale data about police brutality. There are no national statistics on police shootings, for instance, though they occur on a regular basis. Since Michael Brown's death in Ferguson on Aug. 9, police have killed unarmed civilians in Los Angeles; San Jose; Victorville, California, and South Salt Lake, Utah. Bonnie Kristian

12:50 p.m. ET
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has strenuously denied that he was aware of the events surrounding the Bridgegate scandal until after the fact, but a new poll from Monmouth University shows that most New Jersey adults don't believe him.

The poll, which surveyed 500 people across the state, found that 56 percent of New Jersey adults believe Christie knew about the politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as they happened in 2013. Only 33 percent agreed that Christie learned about the lane closures after the event. In addition to believing Christie knew about the lane closures, 50 percent of respondents believed Christie was "personally involved" in the decision, while just 34 percent said Christie was not involved.

Unsurprisingly, the poll was sharply divided by political affiliation. Seventy-one percent of Democrats believed Christie knew about the lane closures as they occurred, versus just 35 percent of Republicans. But no matter their views on Bridgegate, members of both parties agreed on one thing: 54 percent of respondents believed Christie is not doing a good job. Meghan DeMaria

12:39 p.m. ET

Five-year-old Connor Ruiz, a special needs student in Philadelphia, New York, has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at school — and he ended up shackled and handcuffed in a police car as a result.

After the boy began "screaming, kicking, punching and biting" in class, school officials called his parents and the state police. When the police arrived before the parents, they cuffed, shackled, and took Connor away for a psychiatric evaluation. According to his mother, the doctor Connor met said he was just throwing a bad tantrum.

Connor's parents found marks on his wrists from the cuffs, and they plan to sue the school. "An officer told me they had to handcuff his wrists and ankles for their safety," said Connor's mom, Chelsea Ruiz. "I told him that was ridiculous. How could someone fear for their safety when it comes to a small, 5-year-old child?" Bonnie Kristian

11:56 a.m. ET

Outpacing many states in the marijuana reform game, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico legalized marijuana for medical use on Sunday. Thanks to an executive order by the island's governor, Alejandro García Padilla, "some or all controlled substances or components of the cannabis plant" are available for medical use, effective immediately.

Padilla noted in a press release that medical cannabis has been shown to be effective to "relieve pain caused by multiple sclerosis, AIDS virus, glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, migraine, Parkinson's, and other diseases that often do not respond to traditional treatments." However, the same release makes clear that this should not be construed as sanction for recreational marijuana use, which will stay distinct and illegal in Puerto Rican law. Bonnie Kristian

2016 Watch
11:30 a.m. ET
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on Monday announced his 2016 campaign for the White House with a kickoff event in his hometown of Detroit.

"I'm Ben Carson and I'm a candidate for president of the United States," Carson said.

The 63-year-old Carson, who has no political experience, rose to prominence in 2013 after he criticized President Obama during a National Prayer Breakfast as the president sat feet away. Though Carson ranks in the middle of the pack in early 2016 primary polls, he is considered an extreme long shot to capture the nomination.

Also Monday, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced her candidacy for the 206 GOP nomination. The two join Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on the GOP side of the race. Jon Terbush

Developing story
10:46 a.m. ET
Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Authorities on Monday identified one of the two gunmen in Sunday's attack on an anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas, as Elton Simpson of Phoenix.

Police, FBI agents, and a bomb squad searched Simpson's home overnight, and investigators linked him to threatening Twitter messages posted just ahead of the attack, according to ABC. Though officials have yet to offer a motive, an Elton Simpson was charged in 2010 with attempting to visit Somalia "for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad." The event at the center of the attack, the Muhammad Art Exhibit, included a contest in which contestants competed to draw the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The attack left one security guard wounded and both attackers dead. Jon Terbush

Numbers don't lie
10:44 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that Americans don't think this year's racial tensions will stop with Baltimore.

A full 96 percent of respondents said that it was "likely there would be additional racial disturbances this summer," the Journal reports. The respondents differed on the explanation for the events, though.

Sixty percent of black respondents agreed that recent events reflect "long-standing frustrations about police mistreatment of African-Americans," but just 32 percent of white respondents agreed. And 27 percent of black respondents agreed that people used the protests "as an excuse to engage in looting and violence," while 58 percent of white respondents said the same.

The survey of 508 adults was conducted between April 26 and April 30, before the announcement that the officers involved in Freddie Gray's death would be charged. Meghan DeMaria

In a galaxy far, far away
10:30 a.m. ET

There are few Star Wars characters — or, for that matter, few movie characters — more despised than Jar Jar Binks. The clumsy, gibbering alien, who made a splashy debut in Star Wars: Episode I in 1999, was so widely hated that an editor painstakingly cobbled together a widely-distributed recut of Episode I that eliminates Jar Jar almost entirely.

Jar Jar doesn't appear in the original Star Wars trilogy, which means his whereabouts in the decades after Star Wars: Episode III are unknown. But Jar Jar haters will appreciate the canonical solution proposed for Episode VII by director J.J. Abrams: Jar Jar is dead. "I have a thought about putting Jar Jar Binks’s bones in the desert there," said Abrams in an interview with Vanity Fair. "I'm serious! Only three people will notice, but they’ll love it."

Jar Jar may be doomed in the official Star Wars canon, but if you're one of his few defenders, never fear — a clever editor has already re-edited the Episode VII trailer to give Jar Jar a more prominent role.

Scott Meslow

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