Monthly Archives: April 2015

Want to fix Baltimore? “End the drug war,” says David Simon

By Christopher Ingraham

A protestor faces police enforcing a curfew Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Baltimore. A line of police behind riot shields hurled smoke grenades and fired pepper balls at dozens of protesters to enforce a citywide curfew. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

No, The Wire does not explain what’s happening in Baltimore this week, as my colleague Alyssa Rosenberg wrote yesterday. Still, the show’s creator and former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon knows a lot more about the city than most of us. And in a wide-ranging and riveting interview with The Marshall Project today, he offers an unequivocal assessment of how to turn things around in that city today.

“So do you see how this ends or how it begins to turn around?” Bill Keller asks him.

“We end the drug war,” Simon says. “I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the [expletive] drug war. The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone’s pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court… Medicalize the problem, decriminalize [it] — I don’t need drugs to be declared legal, but if a Baltimore State’s Attorney told all his assistant state’s attorneys today, from this moment on, we are not signing overtime slips for court pay for possession, for simple loitering in a drug-free zone… then all at once, the standards for what constitutes a worthy arrest in Baltimore would significantly improve.”

Simon traces the arrest and death of Freddie Gray to a police culture that’s long since abandoned any pretense of probable cause when it comes to stopping and arresting young black men in the city. “The drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in …read more


What Tyson’s pledge to stop using human antibiotics in chicken means for the future of superbugs

By Ana Swanson

Tyson Foods said Tuesday it wants to stop using human antibiotics in its U.S. chicken houses by September 2017. (AP Photo/April L. Brown, File)

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are killing thousands of Americans a year. And the meat industry, the biggest breeding ground for these infections, is taking major steps to doing something about the growing public health issue.

On Tuesday, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods became the latest chicken producer to eliminate the use of “human antibiotics” for raising chickens in its U.S. operations. The company has pledged to phase out the antibiotics by September 2017. It said it will also develop a plan for doing the same in its turkeys, cows and pigs, as well as the chicken it produces abroad.

The new policy from the company means that more than one-third of the U.S. chicken industry has pledged to eliminate routine use of “medically important antibiotics.”

Perdue, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Pilgrim’s have all announced steps to scale back their use of antibiotics. Companies like Panera Bread, Chipotle, Whole Foods and Applegate have also sworn off antibiotics. But Tyson processes more chicken than any of these companies, pumping out more than 38 million broiler chickens (chickens raised for meat) per week.

The Natural Resources Defense Council called the Tyson news a “tipping point for getting the chicken industry off antibiotics.” Yet when it comes to protecting against antibiotic resistance, critics say the change may be too little and too late.

The trouble is that for years, the meat industry hasn’t used antibiotics to just treat sick animals. The antibiotics are also used to make animals bigger so they produce more meat and raise profits. And because of the heavy use of antibiotics, these animals can develop resistant bacteria in their guts, which can then be spread to humans.

Antibiotics …read more


These two maps show the shocking inequality in Baltimore

By Christopher Ingraham

“Baltimore is not Ferguson and its primary problems are not racial,” my colleague Mike Fletcher wrote today. “Yet, the gaping disparities separating the haves and the have nots in Baltimore are as large as they are anywhere.”

The two maps below offer a striking look at the two Baltimores, one affluent and predominately white, the other impoverished and largely black.

The map on the left shows one very tiny dot for each person living in Baltimore. It was made by the Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. White people are blue dots, blacks are green, Asians are red and Hispanics yellow.

The map on the right shows the locations of Baltimore City’s 15,928 vacant buildings as of 2012. It was created by Elliott Plack, when he was an employee of the Baltimore County government.

Slide between the two maps and you’ll immediately notice that the wedge of white Baltimore, jutting down from the Northwest to the city center, is largely free of vacant buildings. But in the black neighborhoods on either side, empty buildings are endemic.

Statistics collected by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance show that in Sandtown, the neighborhood Freddie Gray called home, an astonishing 34 percent of residential properties are vacant or abandoned. Think of your neighborhood, and try to imagine what it would be like if one out of every three homes were boarded up.

The Baltimore Sun recently described Sandtown as “a neighborhood where generations of crushing poverty and the war on drugs combine to rob countless young people like [Freddie Gray] of meaningful opportunities.” The neighborhood, where there are only 84 men for every 100 women, is a case study in the …read more