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OMG! What are we teaching our youth? (from your blogmaster)

November 14, 2014 Leave a comment

NY Times

 For an F.S.U. Football Player, a Hit-and-Run Becomes Traffic Tickets

P. J. Williams, left, was the driver who left the scene of an accident on Oct. 5, along with two passengers, including his teammate Ronald Darby. CreditCal Sport Media, via Associated Press; Joe Robbins/Getty Images
 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In the early-morning hours of Oct. 5, as this college town was celebrating another big football victory by Florida State University, a starting cornerback on the team drove his car into the path of an oncoming vehicle driven by a teenager returning home from a job at the Olive Garden.

Both cars were totaled. But rather than remain at the scene as the law requires, the football player, P. J. Williams, left his wrecked vehicle in the street and fled into the darkness along with his two passengers, including Ronald Darby, the team’s other starting cornerback.

The Tallahassee police responded to the off-campus accident, eventually reaching out to the Florida State University police and the university’s athletic department.

By the next day, it was as if the hit-and-run had never happened.

GRAPHIC

Comparing Two Hit-and-Run Cases

A starting cornerback for the Florida State University football team left the scene of a collision on Oct. 5 but was not charged with a hit-and-run, an examination by The New York Times found. That contrasts with another case in the same area in the same month.

 

 

 

 

 

OPEN GRAPHIC

Mr. Williams eventually returned to the scene. But Tallahassee officers did not test him for alcohol. Nor did their report indicate whether they asked if he had been drinking or why he had fled, logical questions since the accident occurred at 2:37 a.m. The report also minimized the impact of the crash on the driver of the other car, Ian Keith, by failing to indicate that his airbag deployed — an important detail because Mr. Keith said in an interview that the airbag had cut and bruised his hands.

The university police, who lacked jurisdiction, nevertheless sent two ranking officers — including the shift commander — to the scene. Yet they wrote no report about their actions that night. Florida State dismissed the role of its officers in the incident as too minor to require a report or enter into their own online police log, comparing it to an instance when campus officers responded to a baby possum falling from a tree.

The car accident, previously unreported by the news media, comes amid heightened national scrutiny of preferential treatment given to athletes, including articles by The Times examining how the authorities have sometimes gone easy on Florida State football players accused of wrongdoing. The Tallahassee police conducted virtually no investigation of a 2012 rape accusation against quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. Mr. Winston is scheduled for a student disciplinary hearing Dec. 1, nearly two years after the accusation was first made. He denies that he sexually assaulted anyone.

Elijah Stiers, a Miami lawyer who helped write a state law enacted this year that toughened penalties for hit-and-run drivers, said the basic facts of the Oct. 5 crash warranted criminal charges and a sobriety test.

The Times also showed its findings to the Tallahassee police chief, Michael DeLeo, who said in an interview that the department would “conduct an investigation to determine what happened and whether the officers acted appropriately.” He added, “No one should be shown any favoritism.”

Florida State declined to make anyone available for an interview. In a series of written responses to questions, the university gave shifting answers, at one point saying, incorrectly, that Mr. Williams drove his car home and that the Tallahassee police were required to call campus police under a “mutual aid agreement.” A Tallahassee police spokesman said there was no policy requiring its officers to contact the university when its students commit traffic violations.

Neither Mr. Williams, named the most valuable defensive player in this year’s national championship game, nor Mr. Darby responded to a request for comment.

In their report of the crash, the Tallahassee officers justified not charging Mr. Williams because he returned “approximately” 20 minutes later without being contacted by the police. That stands in sharp contrast to how the police treated another driver who left the scene and drove home after a minor, low-speed accident in the same area late last month. That driver and his mother contacted the police about a half-hour later to report the accident.

Photo

The vehicle involved in the accident driven by Ian Kieth, shown from Vehbidz, a website where totaled cars are auctioned for parts.

At 5 miles per hour, the collision inflicted far less damage than that caused by Mr. Williams’s car — and no injuries. Even so, the police charged the driver, who was not a Florida State football player, with hit-and-run.

The Oct. 5 crash occurred shortly after 2:30 a.m., as Mr. Keith, 18, was driving home from his restaurant job on West Tharpe Street. A Buick Century heading the other way darted in front of him, attempting a left turn onto High Road. Mr. Keith hit the brakes, but it was too late: his Honda CRV collided with the Buick, spinning it around. The Honda lurched to a halt a short distance down Tharpe, its front end crumpled, debris scattered around and engine fluid leaking onto the street.

Shaken up, Mr. Keith got out and waited for the Tallahassee police, who arrived within minutes. An officer approached him with an unexpected question: Where were the occupants of the other car?

“That’s when I first realized they were gone,” Mr. Keith said.

More officers arrived and tow trucks were called to retrieve the two disabled cars. An officer at the scene, Derek Hawthorne, filled out a form for the abandoned Buick, labeling the incident a “hit and run” and asked that the car be held for processing as evidence. Officers ran the plate and found that it was registered to Mr. Williams’s grandmother in Ocala, Fla.

About a half-hour after the accident, the investigation took an odd turn. Another officer at the scene, Joseph Smith, discovered that the glass front door of a closed Exxon station at the corner of Tharpe and High was shattered, apparently from a break-in, according to his report. The gas station manager was called, and she replayed security camera video for the police showing a man breaking in and walking out with an armload of merchandise.

“They happened within seconds of each other,” said Karen Southern, the Exxon manager, adding that the police mentioned the hit-and-run accident to her but not whether they considered any possible connection to the burglary. No evidence has surfaced to link the two, and the break-in remains unsolved.

Mr. Keith said one of the officers asked him about the Exxon’s broken front door, and he replied that he had not noticed it. He said he believed that when the break-in was discovered — at 3:06 a.m., according to the police report — the football players had not yet returned, indicating they could have been gone for at least half an hour.

The accident caused the airbag to deploy in Ian Keith’s vehicle, shown from Vehbidz, a website where totaled cars are auctioned for parts.A university spokesman said that when the Tallahassee police called Florida State asking for help, about an hour after the accident, the players had already returned. During the evening other football players, hearing of the accident, also showed up, though how many is not known.

At one point, Mr. Keith said, a football player — he did not know which one — apologized to him for fleeing and explained that they “had a lot on the line.” The player was “sort of rambling” until a female friend told him to stop talking, Mr. Keith said.

“She said to him, ‘Be quiet, you sound like you’ve been drinking,’ ” Mr. Keith said. “I remember that very clearly because it surprised me that she would say it. But the way he was speaking, I definitely had suspicions about drinking.”

In the crash report, Officer Hawthorne indicated there was no suspected alcohol or drug use, and he issued Mr. Williams traffic tickets for an improper left turn and for “unknowingly” driving with a suspended license. On the form for the impounded Buick, the officer used a pen to cross out earlier notations indicating the car would be held as evidence, writing: “No hold, no processing.”

Around 3:30 a.m., Mr. Williams, 21, called Mario Edwards Sr., director of player development for the football team, for a ride home, according to the university. The crash report said that both cars were disabled with damages that exceeded their estimated value. Mr. Keith got a lift home with a tow truck

The Tallahassee police said officers have discretion in deciding when to press charges and issue citations. They provided The Times with seven other cases in which someone hit a car and left the scene but were not charged with hit-and-run.

A review of those cases, however, found that none was comparable in severity or circumstances to the Oct. 5 crash. Four involved cars bumping into each other in parking lots, one caused no damage at all, and the other two were very minor; in no case did a driver abandon a wrecked vehicle in the middle of the night and flee the scene after totaling someone else’s car. Notably, most of the seven crash reports contained far more narrative detail about what happened than the report on the Oct. 5 accident.

The two campus officers — Sgt. Roy Wiley, the shift commander, and Cpl. Greg Washington — decided on their own to drive the crash scene to see if they could help, but they were not needed, the university said.

University policy specifies that police reports “must be completed and submitted regarding actions taken by officers” in response to an “outside request for assistance.” Asked why the two officers had not filed a report, the university said they “were not involved in the investigation, didn’t make an arrest and their assist didn’t result in an arrest, citation or summons.”

Campus Police Chief David L. Perry said in a statement that he reviewed the actions of his officers and found that they behaved appropriately. “This was a routine matter of our agency responding to a simple request from TPD and it was all together proper for our officers to go the scene,” Mr. Perry said.

As for Mr. Williams, court records showed that two days after the accident, he paid $296 in overdue fines, related to an earlier speeding ticket, in order to get his license reinstated. But the $392 in fines related to the Oct. 5 crash remained unpaid, and overdue, as of this week. As a result, his license was suspended again.

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Benefits of Powering Your Social Media Marketing Efforts with Data

November 14, 2014 Leave a comment
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Amazon and Hachette bury the latter

November 14, 2014 Leave a comment

NY Times

 

Michael Pietsch, chief executive of Hachette, which reached a deal with Amazon said to give the publisher control over most of its book pricing. He is holding a caricature of himself in the new offices of Hachette, whose third-quarter sales dropped 18.5 percent. CreditSasha Maslov for The New York Times

The conflict, which played out in increasingly contentious forums as the year progressed, left wounds too deep for that. Amazon has been cast as a bully in publications across the ideological spectrum, and a large group of authors is calling for it to be investigated on antitrust grounds.Its sales were hit by the dispute, analysts said.

Hachette, too, revealed its vulnerability.

Amazon’s supporters publicly questioned the need for Hachette, the fourth largest publisher, to exist in an era when authors can publish themselves digitally, an accusation Hachette was reluctant to respond to.And even if Amazon got less in the deal than it originally wanted, it still controls nearly half the book trade, an unprecedented level for one retailer. And the dispute showed it is not afraid to use its power to discourage sales.

Photo

Books and other items at an Amazon warehouse in Phoenix. CreditRalph D. Freso/Reuters

One common feeling among those who produce, sell, market and publicize books: relief.

“The fact that these two companies are no longer shooting at each other is a really good thing for all of us,” said Jane Dystel, president of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

Len Edgerly, who is host of an independent podcast, the Kindle Chronicles, called the brawl “a painful ordeal.”

“As a longtime Kindle enthusiast, I have been in Amazon’s corner throughout the struggle, but I never doubted the other side’s sincerity in wanting what’s best for authors and readers,” Mr. Edgerly said.

What began as a spat between supplier and retailer — completely routine, Amazon said — soon became a public standoff. Depending on where you stood, it was a struggle between the future and the past, the East Coast and the West Coast, culture and commerce, the masses and the elite, technologists and traditionalists, predator and prey.

James Patterson was a forceful voice against Amazon during the dispute. “Books and publishing need to be preserved if not protected in this country,” said Mr. Patterson, a best-selling Hachette novelist. “For the moment, this deal helps do that.”

The multiyear agreement, which includes both e-books and print books, broadly follows a deal Amazon recently worked out with Simon & Schuster. A source with knowledge of that deal said it was negotiated relatively quickly and gave the publisher control over most of its pricing but offered incentives to sell at lower prices. Amazon got increased co-op funds, the payments for placement on the retailer’s website. Simon & Schuster declined to confirm the terms.

James L. McQuivey, a Forrester analyst, said that if Hachette won in the short term, it would be a different story in the long run.

“Hachette got Amazon to allow them to control pricing while also cutting the amount of money Amazon takes if the publisher does engage in discounts, which appears like a victory,” the analyst said. “But in the end this all cements Amazon’s ultimate long-term role in this business, which will only put Hachette right back in this situation every time they are up for renegotiation.”

An Amazon executive, David Naggar, said Amazon was “pleased with this new agreement as it includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”

Amazon feels publishers get too much of the revenue from e-books, so that was another major area of contention. In a letter Thursday to authors and agents, Michael Pietsch, Hachette’s chief executive, said the percentage of revenue on which Hachette authors’ e-book royalties are based “will not decrease under this agreement.”

The change for consumers might be slight.

“What does this mean for the publishing world? Not much,” J. A. Konrath, a fierce critic of traditional publishing houses, wrote on his blog. The big New York publishers, he added, “are no doubt going to continue to price e-books as high as they can to protect their paper sales.”

The deal will bring relief to Hachette’s bottom line. United States sales for the Hachette Book Group were down 18.5 percent in the third quarter compared with a year ago, its parent company, Lagardère,reported on Thursday. One reason cited by the company was “the difficult situation with Amazon.”When Amazon raised the stakes in late spring by discouraging sales of Hachette books, that incited the ire of the publisher’s authors and eventually other members of the literary community. Among Amazon’s tactics was preventing advance sales, and causing weekslong shipping delays.

Douglas Preston, a thriller writer published by Hachette, formed Authors United, a group with about 1,500 members, including some of the most prominent and popular writers in the country.

“I’m relieved that Amazon and Hachette reached an agreement,” Mr. Preston said. But he added: “If anyone thinks this is over, they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.”

Authors United and the Authors Guild, which has 9,000 members, are in the midst of writing a lengthy letter to the Justice Department urging an investigation of Amazon on antitrust grounds. Mr. Preston said that effort would continue.

Hachette writers had varying responses.

“Thank God,” Dave Cullen, the author of “Columbine,” wrote on Twitter. “But #EvilAmazon still a menace. Continue boycott.”

Meryl Gordon, author of “The Phantom of Fifth Avenue,” said she was “delighted and relieved.” She added: “I hope that Amazon has learned that books are not commodities like dishwasher detergent.  I’m looking forward to buying books again on my Kindle.”

At least some Hachette books still showed shipping delays as of Thursday night. Several popular Malcolm Gladwell titles all showed delays of one to three weeks. Mr. Preston and Lincoln Child’s thriller “The Lost Island” was described as taking as long as four weeks.

Mr. Preston, who proved quite a thorn in Amazon’s side, said the retailer and publisher were at odds until the last minute. He wrote in an email that his new novel with Mr. Child, “Blue Labyrinth,” was released this week but that some buyers found it impossible to download the e-book version on Amazon. Buyers lashed out with one-star reviews.

“When customers complained Amazon sent them a note saying it was Hachette’s fault,” Mr. Preston wrote. Other Hachette books had similar troubles.

Was this a digital hiccup, or a final reminder by Amazon of its power? Neither Amazon nor Hachette responded to a request for comment.

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