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How Instagram helped FBI bust smash-and-grab diamond thieves in Detroit – Detroit Free Press05.06.21

Their modus operandi was smash and grab an organizedcrew of diamond bandits who terrorized jewelersacross the country, the FBI says.

Theypulled off more than 30 heists in 11states, records show, though the FBI eventually caught up with the main culprits all from Detroit with some help from social media.

The feds found an Instagram account with a peculiar handle,"doitfor_diamond," which onesuspectsays wasnamed after his deceased sister Diamond. But the feds say multiple smash-and-grab members also used thisInstagram account andit helped them connect the dots.

In a criminal complaintfiled in U.S. District Court this week, the FBI detailed how a local group coordinated a string of robberies that targeted Jared jewelry stores in Michigan, Tennessee,Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

According to the FBI, the robbers used sledgehammersto bust theglass display cases,then made off with diamonds and other jewelry by the bag-load.Typically, the FBI says,two groups would drive to the robbery location from Detroit in two separate vehicles:one in a clean carthat was either properly registered or lawfully rented, and one in a burner," or stolen, vehicle that could be immediately ditched after the robberies.

After abandoningthe stolen car,the crewwould travel back to Detroit in the clean vehicle.

It was a lucrative scheme, records show.The feds seized more than $1.5 million in diamonds during their investigation, though the probe is ongoing.

To date, 10 Detroitmen have been charged in the scheme, including three new suspects: Antonio Jones, Deshawn Bates and Chance Reed.

More:Feds: Oak Park fugitive busted on Instagram his necklace gave him away

More:'See you at church with my AK' Facebook hate speech heightens voter intimidation fears

In an affidavit filed in federal court, an FBI agent explained what led the agency to these Detroit suspects. According to the filing:

On June 18, 2019,three Detroit men were arrested while attempting a smash and grab robbery at a Jared's Jewelry store in Collierville, Tenn. A local detectivehad noticed suspicious activity at the shop and arrested the three suspects while the robbery was in process.

According to court records, the detective had seena car backing in and out of parking spots at a lot adjacent to the jewelry store, gotsuspicious and continued to watch the vehicle.

As a mall security vehicle drove by, the detective noticed the same carmove to another spot, and eventually pull into the parking lot of Jareds. It then backed into a spot outside the front door of the jewelry store.

A man got out and sprinted into Jared's while a driver stayed inside. The license plate was covered by a gray shirt.

The detective called for backup.

When officers arrived, the driver waiting in front of the store was arrested.

Meanwhile, inside the jewelry store, a caper was underway. Employees were on the ground as two suspects ran out another door.

But extra police officers lay in waiting and arrested them.

The suspects were later identified as Deshawn Bates and Antonio Jones,both of Detroit, whoallegedly terrorized those inside the store.

According to the police report, witnesses insidethe store said that Bates and Jones had demanded everyone get to the back of the store and onto the floor. They then stoletwo iPhones from two employees and ordered them to open thedisplay cases containing loose diamonds and rings.

The suspects yelled two minutes and hurry as they removed diamonds from the display cases and stuffed them into bags, court records show. And when they observed the cops outside, the suspects forced a store employee to open a side emergency door so they could escape.

Their plan was foiled as police were waiting outside and arrested them and they had ditched their bags of jewels. Police found one bag of diamonds behind the counter. The gems were worth about $181,400.

A second bag filled with $131,600 worth of diamonds was located behind an adjacent building, near where Bates and Jones had fled. Near the diamonds were a set of gloves that police said matched the gloves observed on the suspects during the robbery.

Following their arrests, each suspect was read his Miranda rights andreportedlyprovided a statement to police where they allegedly confessed to driving to Tennessee from Detroit to steal diamonds and sell them for money, according to the FBI affidavit.

Specifically, according to records, Reed advised the police that he would sell the diamonds when he returned to Detroit.

Jones, Bates and Reed are currently jailed pending trial on state charges in Tennessee. They also now face federal conspiracy charges in Michigan, where seven of their alleged accomplices have already been indicted for their alleged roles in the smash-and-grab operation. Out of the 10 suspects charged so far, one pleaded guilty to his role in November and was sentenced to just over five years in prison. Another defendant,Tristan Murphy, is scheduled to plead guilty to his role in the scheme on Thursday before U.S. District JudgeMark A. Goldsmith.

The FBI has been investigating this string of jewelry store robberies for nearly three years, relying on local law enforcement, confidential witnesses and social media photos and comments to connect the dots. For example, following the June 2019 arrests of four smash-and-grab suspects in Florida, another suspect took to the "doitfor_diamond" Instagram account and postedan image that referenced "losing soldiers." It read:

"We been taking so many losses with our brothers. Not even the money. We just losin soldiers. But y'all can't count us out."

The profile picture on that Instagram account is of defendant Kai Rivers, whose lawyers are trying to keep the jury from seeing the "doitfor_diamond" handle on the Instagram account, and the photo of their client's diamond tattoo. They want that evidence thrown out at trial, arguing it will create unfair prejudice against their client, who created his Instagram handle to honor his deceased sister.

"There is a real risk that jurors will assume that Rivers picked this tattoo and Instagram handle because he is so obsessed with diamonds," defense lawyers argue in court documents. "This is a stranger-than-fiction scenario. The government does not dispute that Rivers had a sister named Diamond and that the Instagram name and tattoo relate to her."

The government, however, is fighting to keep the Instagram handle and tattoo in trial, arguing both help show that the account in fact was used by Rivers, may have been used as a business account by other smash-and-grab members, and that he was connected to other suspects. Prosecutors may also usethe Instagram account to show that the location of Rivers coincides with the locations of the smash-and-grab robberies.

In court documents, the FBI has alleged that Rivers used Instagram to vent about his accomplices' arrests.

"The screenshot seems to reference the recent arrests by indicating the group is 'losing soldiers,'" an FBI agent wrote in court documents.

Five defendants are scheduled to go to trial in June, including thealleged mastermind, Darrell Reed, who is accused of coordinating the robberies andordering his accomplices to return the diamonds to him in Detroit, where they would be sold on the black market.

According to court documents, Darrell Reed was already facing drug charges in a separate case before the feds caught up to him for his alleged jewelry theft operation. Court records show that Reed was facing conspiracyto possess with intent to distribute methamphetaminewhen he started coordinating smash-and-grabs.

On Dec. 14, 2017, Darrell Reedwas released on the condition that he doesn't break any laws.

Nineteen months later, he was charged with robbery conspiracy.

Contact: Tresa

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How Instagram helped FBI bust smash-and-grab diamond thieves in Detroit - Detroit Free Press

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Dave Barry: Review of year we’d like to forget – telegraphherald.com01.05.21

Were trying to think of something nice to say about 2020.

OK, here goes: Nobody got killed by the murder hornets. As far as we know.

In the past, writing these annual reviews, we have said harsh things about previous years. We owe those years an apology. Compared to 2020, all previous years, even the Disco Era, were the golden age of human existence.

This was a year of nonstop awfulness, a year when we kept saying it couldnt possibly get worse, and it always did. This was a year in which our only moments of genuine, unadulterated happiness were when we were able to buy toilet paper.

Which is fitting, because 2020 was one long, howling, Category Five crapstorm.

We sincerely dont want to relive this year. But our job is to review it. If you would prefer to skip this exercise in masochism, we completely understand.

If, however, you wish, for some sick reason, to re-experience 2020, now is the time to put on your face mask, douse your entire body with hand sanitizer and then to be safe don a hazmat suit, as we look back at the unrelenting insanity of this hideous year, starting with


which begins with all of Washington, as well as parts of Virginia and Maryland, gripped by the gripping historic drama of the impeachment of Donald Trump. Remember that? How gripped we were?

To set the stage: Back in mid-December, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment, after which Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, handed out souvenir signing pens. Everyone expected that Pelosi would then send the articles to the Senate.

But as of early January the Senate has not received them. People are wondering if Pelosi, what with her various official duties and hairdresser appointments, simply forgot to send the articles. Or maybe she tried to send them, but because of a bureaucratic snafu they wound up at a different federal entity, such as the Coast Guard.

Eventually, however, the articles arrive at the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch The Undertaker McConnell promises that the impeachment issue will receive full and fair consideration.

He is of course joking, but this is not obvious, because even when Mitch is in a jovial mood he looks like a man passing a kidney stone the size of the Hope Diamond.

Meanwhile in other political news, all eyes are on Iowa as it prepares for the caucuses, which are closely scrutinized because they are the first opportunity for a tiny group of unrepresentative voters to engage in an incomprehensible and deeply flawed process by which they anoint presidential candidates who traditionally go on to fail.

This year, in an effort to modernize the caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party has upgraded from its old-fashioned manual reporting procedures to a modern, state-of-the-art app based on the same software used in the Boeing 737 MAX airliner.

In international news, the big story is a U.S. targeted drone strike, ordered by Trump, which kills Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, thereby triggering World War III and forcing the U.S. to reinstate the military draft, at least on Twitter. Iran responds this is a good indicator of what kind of year it will be by shooting down a Ukrainian airliner.

Elsewhere abroad, Chinese news media report that a man in a city named Wuhan died of a mysterious new virus. This is not considered a big deal in the U.S., since it has nothing to do with either impeachment or the Iowa caucuses.

A much bigger international story concerns Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who announce via Instagram that they are sick and tired of being part of the British royal family and want to just be regular normal everyday hardworking folks making millions of dollars solely because one of them was born into, and the other one married into, the British royal family.

This plunges Great Britain into a crisis the likes of which it has not been plunged into since Brexit. The crisis finally ends when, after a royal summit meeting with Queen Elizabeth II described by participants as frank and heartfelt, Harry and Meghan are beheaded.

In sports, Major League Baseball is rocked by scandal with the release of a report concluding that the Houston Astros engaged in an elaborate multi-year cheating scheme, which critics charge enabled the team to win the 2017 World Series as well as six congressional seats in the 2018 midterm elections.

By way of punishment, the league sending a clear message to future would-be cheaters rules that all players involved in the scheme will continue to play baseball in exchange for enormous amounts of money.

Speaking of scandal, in


Washington and its immediate suburbs remain gripped by the U.S. Senates historic impeachment trial of President Trump, with Democratic prosecutors arguing that Trump illegally pressured Ukrainian leaders to benefit himself politically, while the Republican defense team, employing an alibi strategy, claims that Trump was playing golf at the time.

Under the watchful eye of Chief Justice John Roberts, who is kept from nodding off by a law clerk armed with a pellet gun, everyone, in accordance with Senate rules, repeats everything 127 times, after which the Republican majority, to the surprise of anyone who has the IQ of sponge cake, acquits the Republican president. Washington and its suburbs immediately start looking around for a new historic thing to be gripped by.

In the midst of the impeachment drama, Trump delivers the State of the Union address, an awkward affair that begins with Speaker Pelosi refusing to use the traditional high privilege and distinct honor introduction; then Trump refusing to shake Pelosis hand; then Pelosi tearing up her copy of Trumps speech; then Trump hocking a loogie onto Pelosis suede pumps.

OK, the loogie part did not happen. As far as we know.

In other political news, Iowa Democratic Party officials sense that there may be a problem with their new app when it declares that the winner of the states caucuses, with 43 million delegates, is Walter Mondale, followed by the Houston Astros (who also win the Super Bowl). This fiasco does not sit well with the other Democratic candidates, who realize they have wasted an entire year trudging around Iowa eating fried objects on sticks and pretending to care about Iowans.

Things go more smoothly for the Democrats in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, with Bernie Sanders emerging as the clear front-runner, which only seems to make him angrier.

A new challenger emerges in the form of charisma-impaired billionaire Mike Mike Bloomberg, who uses his personal fortune to hire a vast army of consultants to supply him with a powerful arsenal of focus-group-tested policies, retorts, memes, jokes and humanoid personality traits. Nevertheless he struggles in the debates, the low point coming when Elizabeth Warren, during a heated exchange about non-disclosure agreements, pulls the waistband of Bloombergs underpants over the top of his head, a debate tactic known as the atomic wedgie, first performed by Lincoln on Douglas in 1858.

Despite all these exciting political developments, the number one concern of the American public, based on the amount of passionate debate it generates on the internet, is the burning issue of whether it is, or is not, OK to recline your airplane seat.

Remember? Those were good times.

As February draws to a close, 2020 seems to be shaping up as a typical election year, in which the political-media complex is repeatedly engulfed by raging apocalyptic dramas that the regular human public pretty much ignores.

And then, unfortunately, comes


which starts off calmly enough, as the Democratic Party, desperate to find an alternative to 132-year-old white guy Bernie Sanders, settles on 132-year-old white guy Joe Biden, who cruises to a series of primary victories after replacing No Malarkey with a bold new campaign slogan: Somewhat Alert At Times.

Biden is endorsed by most of his Democratic opponents, including Mike Bloomberg, who spent more than $500 million on his campaign, which seems like a lot of money until you consider that he won the American Samoa Caucus, narrowly edging out Tulsi Gabbard, who spent $13.50.

And then, sprinkled in amid all the political coverage, we begin to see reports that this coronavirus thing might be worse than we have been led to believe, although at first the authorities still seem to be saying that its basically the flu and there is no reason to panic.

But all of a sudden there seems to be no hand sanitizer for sale anywhere, which makes some sense although there is also no toilet paper, as if people are planning to be pooping for weeks on end (ha) and then we learn that Tom Hanks Tom Hanks! has the virus and now theyre saying its a lot worse than the flu and we need to wash our hands and not touch our faces and maintain a social distance of six feet and use an abundance of caution to flatten the curve (whatever the curve is) but theyre also saying we dont need face masks no scratch that now theyre saying we DO need face masks but nobody HAS any face masks but hey heres a funny meme about toilet paper but ohmigod look at these statistical disease models WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE but Trump says maybe this hydroxysomething medicine will work no it wont work yes it will work no it wont and now theyre saying there wont be enough ventilators or hospital beds or PPE and Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx are saying everybody has to shelter at home or else WE ARE ALL DEFINITELY GOING TO DIE hey heres another funny toilet-paper meme but seriously what is PPE and is that different from PPP and where will we get the ventilators and there wont be enough hospital beds and there is still no hand sanitizer and I keep touching my face and they just canceled the NBA can they even DO that wait now they canceled ALL the sports and closed all the schools the colleges the stores the restaurants the bars the theaters the hair salons the parks the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and now theyre saying we need to stay at home for HOW LONG what about the toilet paper I cant stop touching my damn face are you seriously telling me all this is because somebody ate a freaking bat maybe Amazon has toilet paper ohmigod theyre sold out too WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THE TOILET PAPER not another Zoom meeting I am so tired of shouting at people in little boxes maybe I should take a shower but whats the point hey heres a bunch more funny memes ohmigod look at the Stock Market the price of oil maybe Ill just take a peek at my 401k oh NOOOOOOOO and WHAT ARE PEOPLE DOING WITH ALL THIS TOILET PAPER and how long do we have to keep being abundantly cautious what did Trump say about the ventilators and what did Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci say about what Trump said about the ventilators and what did Trump say about what they said about what he said about the ventilators ventilators ventilators LOOK AT THESE MODELS WE ARE STILL GOING TO DIE but do we really want to go on living in a world where theres no toilet paper and every single TV commercial sounds like as we navigate these difficult times together, the National Association of Folding Chair Manufacturers wants you to know that we are committed to running these TV commercials with a somber narrator voice telling you how committed we are and WHY WOULD SOMEBODY EAT A DAMN BAT these memes are getting old hey do you think that Carole Baskin woman actually fed her husband to a tiger maybe we should order pizza tonight wait I think we had pizza last night are you sure its Tuesday because it feels more like Thursday no please God not another freaking Zoom meeting stop already with the memes if the tiger ate her husband shouldnt there be a skeleton somewhere are we flattening the curve yet Dr. Fauci Dr. Birx because were in a recession no wait maybe its a depression look at the unemployment numbers we are never going to recover from this if the virus doesnt kill us we will starve to death we need more money from the government we need billions no we need trillions no we need MORE trillions where is this money coming from we have to open the economy up but if we do WE WILL ALL DIE hey I found some toilet paper oh no its one-ply which is basically the same as using your bare hand thank God I also found some hand sanitizer and speaking of good news Bernie Sanders is endorsing Joe Biden so apparently theyre both still alive if I see one more meme I am going to puke in my facemask Im afraid to get on a scale my thighs are basically two armadillo-sized wads of pizza dough hey Dr. Birx Dr. Fauci when will we have a vaccine when will we have herd immunity when can we go outside when can we go back to work what is the new normal good lord what did Trump say about disinfectants DONT INJECT CLOROX YOU IDIOTS what about the food chain what about reinfection what about the second wave hey theyre showing the NFL draft and Georgia is opening the tattoo parlors and holy crap now its


and we are, as a nation, exhausted. We are literally sick and tired of the pandemic. But amid all the gloom, there is a ray of sunshine: As we go through this harrowing experience affecting all Americans, in both red states and blue states we are starting to realize that our common humanity is more important than our political differences.

Ha ha! Seriously, we hate each other more than ever. We disagree about everything when to reopen the economy, whether to wear masks, whether to go to the beach, whether its OK to say China everything. Each side believes that it is motivated purely by reason, facts and compassion, and that the other side is evil and stupid and sincerely wants people to die. Every issue is binary: My side good, other side bad. There is no nuance, no open-mindedness, no discussion.

On the other hand, there is starting to be more toilet paper.

President Trump continues to provide leadership during the crisis by repeatedly pointing out that he knows an incredible amount about viruses more than most medical doctors! and is frankly doing a terrific job.

For its part, the White House press corps, seeking as always to be fair and objective, asks the president many probing questions, all of them variations of why are you so despicable?

Somewhere in here the president goes on Twitter to suggest, without evidence, that MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough committed murder, but we have reached the point where this falls into the category of ho-hum.

Meanwhile, in a basement somewhere in Delaware, Joe Biden and his campaign team have managed to procure a webcam, which they intend to use to log on to the internet so that Joes campaign message can go viral, just as soon as Joe decides what it is.

In scandal news, the justice department moves to drop all charges against former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Outraged Democrats claim this is a travesty of justice; outraged Republicans claim it is proof that the Deep State tried to stage a coup. And thus we are back to arguing about the 2016 election, which we are going to keep arguing about until everybody involved has been dead for 50 years.

On a more uplifting note, America cheers the first manned space launch from U.S. soil in nine years as the commercially built SpaceX rocket, carrying two NASA astronauts, blasts off for the International Space Station, only to discover, upon arrival, that it has been closed since 2014.

Here we should at least mention the arrival of the Asian murder hornets. In any other year they would have been a huge story, comparable to famous celebrity pests of the past, such as the killer bees, or the cast of Jersey Shore. But in 2020 there is simply too much competition, and the murder hornets end up living in a cheap motel near the Canadian border, their dreams of fame shattered.

In sports, Major League Baseball tries to come up with a plan to salvage the 2020 season, a task that becomes more urgent each day as the Houston Astros already have won 137 games, all of them no-hitters.

The National Football League also is trying to adapt to the pandemic, exploring the possibility of a season with no fans, no coaches and no players.

Were thinking of just showing 60 minutes of referees throwing penalty flags and peering at replay monitors, says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. So it wont really be much different.

Meanwhile the National Hockey League admits that it stopped playing games in 2003, but nobody noticed.

Toward the end of the month the economy is starting to open up, the virus numbers in many places seem to be improving and people are starting to venture out of their homes. For a few minutes, the nation seems to be groping its way, an inch at a time, toward relative calm. And then

WHAM, 2020 strikes again, this time in Minneapolis, where the horrendous killing of George Floyd at the hands of police ignites a protest movement that quickly spreads across the nation, sometimes mutating into violence. In the past, such movements tended to lose energy, smothered under a thick cloud of politicians platitudes, but this one has legs, and as we enter


the protest movement grows in size and passion with frankly not a whole lot of social distancing. In Washington, D.C., large crowds gather in front of the White House.

President Trump, angered by reports that at one point he retreated to an underground bunker, states that in fact he was merely inspecting the bunker, this being a responsibility explicitly assigned to the president by the Constitution, right after where it says hes in charge of foreign policy.

To demonstrate that he is not the kind of leader who hides in bunkers, the president courageously goes outside (after the protesters have been cleared away) and personally walks several hundred feet to historic St. Johns Church, where he holds up a Bible. Or possibly it is a thesaurus. The important thing is that it is a serious-looking book and a strong visual, at a time when what this wounded and divided nation needs, more than ever, is strong visuals.

For their part, the Democrats, fed up with the longstanding pattern of systemic racism and police misconduct in major U.S. cities, vow to bring about real reform, just as soon as they can figure out who, exactly, is in charge of these cities.

One much-discussed reform proposal is defunding the police, which is clearly defined by its proponents as taking the funding away from the police as well as not taking the funding away from the police.

Meanwhile COVID-19 cases are rising alarmingly, especially in the South. President Trump, having apparently decided that the best way to deal with the pandemic, as chief executive, is to occasionally tweet about it, focuses his efforts on getting re-elected. He holds a rally in Tulsa, where, addressing an issue of concern to all Americans, he explains in detail that the ramp he had to walk down at the West Point graduation ceremony was slippery AND steep. The president gets a big hand from the crowd when, displaying leadership, he drinks from a water glass with one hand.

During this period the Biden campaign focuses its energies primarily on being in Delaware.

Also during this time important news events are occurring in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and possibly even Canada. But we frankly do not have time to think about these places.

In sports, Major League Baseball owners and players, faced with the very real threat that the Houston Astros will win the World Series unopposed, reach an agreement to hold a shortened season, with a few COVID-related rule modifications:

Unacceptable: HeybatterbatterbatterbatterSWING!

Acceptable: HeybatterbatterbatterSWING!

Speaking of positive tests, in


COVID-19 cases continue to rise sharply in some southern states, accompanied by what the World Health Organization describes as an alarming spike in smugness in some northern states, notably New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveils a poster, for sale at $11.50, commemorating, in a cartoony manner, New Yorks pandemic experience. Really. It is as if the White Star Line sold whimsical souvenirs of the Titanic.

On July 4, despite all the bad news and the gloomy outlook, Americans pause to celebrate the independence of their nation by reducing entire neighborhoods to smoking rubble with illegal fireworks.

In a decision that outrages Democrats, President Trump commutes the federal prison sentence of his longtime friend and political operative Roger Stone. The White House states that imprisoning the 67-year-old Stone would be inhumane because he has a medical condition that requires him to roam free at night seeking fresh human blood.

Meanwhile in Delaware, Joe Bidens team continues to ponder the question of who should be Joes running mate, the goal being to find somebody who (a) is a woman and (b) has a name that Joe can remember.

Kanye West announces that he is running for president, representing the Birthday Party. In any other year this would seem ridiculous, but in 2020 a lot of people are like why not?

In other political news, the coronavirus continues to disrupt both major parties convention plans. The Republicans, having already moved Trumps acceptance speech from the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., announce that they are now considering the Roll n Shoot Bowling Alley & Gun Range in Elwood, Okla., contingent on the availability of a long enough extension cord.

The Democrats also have downsized their convention, which originally was to be a four-day event at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee but is now going to take place mainly on Instagram.

On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration announces that, after tense high-level negotiations, it has reached a peace agreement under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Portland, Ore., where for many weeks protestors have been seeking social justice via a combination of peaceful demonstrations and arson.

By far the months most disturbing event occurs on July 15 when Twitter, responding to a cyberattack, temporarily suspends many verified blue-check accounts. Within minutes emergency rooms in Washington and New York are overwhelmed by media thought leaders whose brains are literally exploding from the pressure of unreleased insights.

Meanwhile in the rest of the nation, non-elite Americans wander the streets aimlessly, with no way to know what they should think. Fortunately this situation lasts only a few hours, but it highlights the urgent need for a federally maintained Blue Check Media Emergency Tweet Reserve, similar to the National Helium Reserve, but more gaseous.

In sports, the Washington Redskins, bowing to mounting public pressure, announce that they are changing their name, which critics say is insensitive. They will henceforth be known as the Pittsburgh Redskins.

In Major League Baseball, the teams begin a shortened season with stadium seats occupied by cardboard cutouts representing fans, except in the case of the Houston Astros, who use live human snipers.

Speaking of threats, in


President Trump escalates his attacks on TikTok, a Chinese-owned social-media app that threatens our national security by causing millions of Americans to learn stupid dances while Chinese people are making useful products to sell to Americans. The president wants to force TikTok to be sold to Microsoft, apparently in the hope that Microsoft will render it unusable by means of updates.

In other foreign-policy action, Trump brokers a historic Middle East peace agreement, which, along with the estimated 45 previous historic Middle East peace agreements, brings the Middle East one step closer to potentially being on the verge of reaching the brink of what could some day become a stepping stone to lasting peace, although you should not hold your breath.

Meanwhile at home, the nations mood increasingly is tense and angry as Americans are bombarded all day, every day, with a constant stream of news about protests, boycotts, disruption, despair and rage. And thats just on SportsCenter.

California, as it traditionally does at this time of year, bursts into flames. Adding to the citizens misery are rolling electrical blackouts, possibly related to the fact that the state legislature has banned all sources of electricity except windmills and 9-volt batteries.

In politics, controversy swirls around the U.S. Postal Service, which until now most Americans have viewed as a non-sinister agency whose function, as authorized by the Constitution, is to faithfully, rain or shine, deliver vast quantities of bulk mail to us so we can discard it unread.

But now there are reports of USPS mailboxes mysteriously disappearing from the streets, which Democrats charge is part of a sinister Trump administration plot to sabotage mail-in voting, the theory being that voters, having no place to deposit their mail-in ballots, will give up in despair and, we dont know, flush them down the toilet or something.

While this alleged conspiracy is being debated, Steve Bannon, a former influential Trump aide with the uncanny ability to always look like he just woke up in a dumpster, is arrested by increasingly this cannot be a coincidence agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Bannon is charged with fraud in connection with a GoFundMe project called We Build the Wall, which is supposedly raising money for President Trumps largely imaginary wall between the U.S. and Mexico, although according to prosecutors a better name for the project would be We Basically Keep the Money.

In other legal developments, Trump pardons Susan B. Anthony, calling her, in impromptu remarks delivered as aides hustle reporters away, a terrific person who I look forward to inviting to the White House.

In election news, Joe Biden makes history by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate; if elected, she would become the first U.S. vice president whose name can be rearranged to spell I Alarm A Shark. During the Democratic debates Harris leveled some harsh criticisms at Biden, but a Biden campaign source says that Joe has forgotten all about that. Literally.

For his part, Trump dismisses rumors that he might change running mates, telling reporters Im very happy with whatshisname.

Because of the pandemic, both parties hold their conventions virtually, which means that instead of endless hours of repetitious blather, the TV broadcasts consist of endless hours of repetitious blather but without the entertaining visuals of delegates in stupid hats.

The Democrats adopt a sweeping platform filled with bold policy initiatives that nobody will ever look at again. The Republican platform consists of, quote, whatever was in the presidents most recent tweet.

Speaking of principles, in


the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg triggers a classic display of Washington-style ethical consistency as both political parties, addressing the issue of when the vacancy should be filled, passionately embrace positions diametrically opposite the ones they passionately embraced in 2016.

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New Hampshire Tattoo Parlors – Ratings & Reviews12.18.20

New Hampshire Tattoo Parlors - Ratings & Reviews

113 Daniel Street

Portsmouth, NH

8 Cross Street

Allenstown, NH

563 Lafayette Road

Seabrook, NH

113 Daniel Street

Portsmouth, NH

63 Bridge Street

Pelham, NH

58 Route 129 # 104

Loudon, NH

2425 Lafayette Road # 3

Portsmouth, NH

2075 S Willow Street

Manchester, NH

10 Manchester Road # 1

Derry, NH

104 Main Street

North Woodstock, NH

5 S Main Street

Seabrook, NH

1 Exchange Street

Gorham, NH

16 Concord Hill Road

Pittsfield, NH

6 Depot St

North Woodstock, NH

200 Elm Street # 20

Manchester, NH

122 Bridge Street # 7

Pelham, NH

113 Daniel Street

Portsmouth, NH

119 Main Street

Salem, NH

148 US Highway 202

Bennington, NH

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Major snowstorm bears down on the Northeast – Report Door12.18.20

What looks to be the biggest snowstorm in several years is on the way for the Northeast. Heavy snow and wind gusts of 40-50 mph will cover a widespread area with blizzard-like conditions, near-zero visibility and 1-2 feet of snowfall on Wednesday and Thursday.

Right now, more than 60 million people are covered by winter weather alerts. Blizzard-like conditions are expected in the Northeast, while the Mid-Atlantic can expect a messy mixture of snow, ice and rain. For many areas, it is a little early in the season for such an impactful winter storm.

On Tuesday afternoon the storm system was still over 1,000 miles away, dumping a narrow swath of heavy snow in Oklahoma, where around 6 inches is forecast to accumulate.

As the storm moves east it will begin to tap moisture from both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. As that moisture feeds in, by Wednesday morning the storm will begin to grow and intensify. This is when snow and ice will overspread the lower Ohio Valley and Appalachians.

With an area of strong high pressure sliding eastward over Ontario and Quebec, the system will run into a wall of Arctic air. Unlike many situations in the past few years, that will make it harder for the storm to dislodge the cold air. For some that means this will be an all-snow event, while for others it means riding the line between snow, ice and rain.

The precipitation should move into Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. by late morning. It will stay all snow in Pittsburgh and for most of Pennsylvania. But in the Washington area, the snow will quickly mix and turn to sleet and rain. That will keep accumulation totals in D.C. to a couple of slushy inches.

In Philadelphia, the cold air will remain stubborn enough for a mainly frozen event. That means snow and sleet falling from later in the afternoon through most of Wednesday night. In the city of Philadelphia, 5-8 inches is expected, but the heaviest band of snow will fall just north and west of the city in places like Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton, where over a foot is expected. The bullseye appears to be over the Poconos, where up to 2 feet of snow will pile up.

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New York City poses a tricky forecast. The snow will begin later in the afternoon on Wednesday and fall heavily through the evening hours. However, for a few hours overnight, warm enough air will nose into the clouds to turn the snow to sleet, limiting snow totals. But by Thursday daybreak the sleet will have turned back to snow, tapering off to flurries by late morning.

In total, around 8-12 inches appears likely in the Big Apple. But the suburbs in northwest New Jersey, the lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut should pick up 12-18 inches of snow.

Southeast New England will also get walloped by heavy snowfall, starting just after sunset Wednesday and continuing through Thursday afternoon. Cold air will remain stubborn, so here it will be mainly a snow event. Hartford and Providence should pick up 8-14 inches of snow, while Boston, on the northern edge of the heavier snow, is forecast to receive 6-10 inches.

For many areas from New Jersey through New York City and southeast New England, the snow will be wet and heavy, with some icing and wind gusts close to 50 mph. This will put quite a strain on trees and power lines, so scattered power outages should be expected.

Farther north, the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, Southern Tier of New York, Capital District of New York, and southern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will be on the northern edge of the snowfall. In these areas a few to several inches of powdery snow is expected.

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Major snowstorm bears down on the Northeast - Report Door

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Mary was homeless in Concord for 10 years. She died outside at age 70 – Concord Monitor12.10.20

The icy granite bench outside St. Pauls Church got a lot of attention Tuesday morning.

Mary Rittacco, a homeless woman who died last month, likely from natural causes, used to pray from it and sleep on it, even on winter nights. Like the bench, she could be hard and unmovable, supportive and reliable.

Her straight-talking nature and supercharged opinions were part of her charm. Her kindness and loyalty were why 25 people shivered on the brick pathway between Park and Centre streets, recalling a woman who died at the age of 70.

The Rev. Peggy Schnack spoke at the service. She joined the priesthood at St. Pauls four months ago, coming down from Maine, and immediately struck up a friendship with an individual who, obviously, had no home.

She was someone who liked sitting here to pray, Schnack, pointing to the bench, said shortly after leading a 15-minute tribute. She told me this was the place where she felt the most safe.

There remains a lot missing from Marys background, and that information is surely lost forever. As Schnack said during her speech, Her time here on earth wasnt easy. We dont know all of her story.

You piece together what you can, learning that Mary was many things to many people.

First and foremost, several people at the service said, Mary was articulate, a teacher sometime in her past, and she brought her educated mind in later years to St. Pauls Church, which she used as her base of operations.

She was very respectful to the space here, Schnack said. She was a presence here, a very positive presence. Yes, she was stubborn, she had her opinions about everything. Its because she was so well educated. She would talk about, Oh, I read this book. I think she even brought up astrophysics one time.

Schnack opened her remarks by asking those in attendance to shout descriptions of Mary. Funny, they said. Sarcastic, wise, stubborn, generous and lots and lots of talking, too.

It was my first day at work and theres Mary, Schnack said. So wed talk, and talk and talk some more. It was wonderful. I didnt know who she was. She didnt know who I was. I didnt yet know what we could do as a church to help.

I got to know who Mary was, Schnack continued. Mary was the person who cleaned up the garbage that other people left behind here in the garden. The one who stopped kids from throwing rocks and took down messages that were inappropriate.

Angelle Burnham of Deerfield owns a second-floor tattoo studio downtown. Mary used to relax out front of the shop. Burnham is sarcastic. The two clicked.

She was like an earth angel, Burnham said. And she had these crystal blue eyes. There was something about her that just made me feel very drawn to her. She had a glow about her.

Her glow and eyes were always part of the discussion, always fitting in somewhere. The fiery side blended with the narrative as well.

She was very stubborn, Burnham said. She was a very particular person. She had a way, like she did things her way in a certain way, and that was beautiful about her, that she was very solid in her sense of self.

Meanwhile, no one stepped forward with an obituary, and the assumption was that Mary hadno living relatives.

Harold Olson of Concord works at the Friendly Kitchen, where Mary ate often. He wrote in an email, Like most of the homeless in Concord, she didnt exist. This is so sad.

In a follow-up email, Olson said, One of the problems was trying to find out information about her history and life.

Burnham filled in some gaps. She said Mary was healthy, a believer in herbal remedies and homeopathic solutions. She wasnt a drinker, Burnham said. And she denounced drugs.

She said Mary moved to Concord 30 years ago.

She loved it here, Burnham said. She considered this her home, and she was homeless off and on, as far as I know, for 10 years. She really just didnt like going to the shelter. Just a very stubborn lady.

Friends said Mary acknowledged that hitting 70 last fall and being homeless during the upcoming New Hampshire winter was not a terrific combination.

Said Schnack, She was on the street, and she was concerned with making it through another winter.

Her cause of death remains unknown. She was discovered near the fountain in Bicentennial Square, friends said. The attendees Tuesday mentioned natural causes more than once. The Concord police were not available for comment.

At her tribute, red, blue and yellow jackets and hats for the homeless hung from the vintage iron spikes that make up the mighty barrier around the church.

Marys urn, a small, brown wooden box, was buried in a pre-dug area on the church grounds, near aspot she called home.

Sometimes, Schnack remembered, Mary would sit there and admire the churchs stained glass windows, shining brightly shortly after the sun had set.

Right there, that was the bed she was on, said Schnack, nodding toward the icy bench. Its where she could just pray however she felt like it. I think it was moving her spirit.


Mary was homeless in Concord for 10 years. She died outside at age 70 - Concord Monitor

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