Wandering Eye: The NRA is winning the gun-control debate, how development works in Baltimore, and more

Here in Baltimore, where guns are used to shoot people pretty much every day, controlling the availability of firearms is perhaps seen as a fundamental public-health priority. Not so elsewhere in this country, though. Pew Research Center has been tracking the gun-control question since 1993, when 57 percent supported controlling gun ownership, versus 34 percent who supported protecting gun-ownership rights. This year, the poll found for the first time that most Americans—52 percent—say it is more important to protect the right to own guns. The Economist weighs in on this public-relations victory for the National Rifle Association by summarizing state legislatures' efforts to liberalize gun controls, and concludes that the drive is fueled by messages in which "fear smothers rational debate," as "it is meant to." It remains to be seen whether Maryland's new state police superintendent, William Pallozzi, will broaden what "good and substantial" reasons qualify gun owners here for concealed-carry permits, but gun-rights advocates are sure hoping he will. (Van Smith)


As Republicans in Congress continue to threaten drastic action to counter President Barak Obama's nominally loosened immigration policy (it's unconstitutional!), consider the case of Jaime Garcia Covarrubias, a Chilean national whose visa was revoked in 2011. As Marisa Taylor and Kevin Hall report for McClatchy (here in the Biloxi Sun-Herald, one of the largest papers [!?] to carry this story), the Defense Department renewed Covarrubias' six-figure teaching contract at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies after he lost his visa and potentially could no longer legally work—or reside—in the U.S.A. Covarrubias lost his visa after allegations surfaced that he had tortured and murdered political prisoners as part of his job with DINA, the Chilean spy agency, under the dictator Augusto Pinocet. But, McClatchy reports, "[m]ultiple government sources, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed that once the State Department revoked his visa, no one else moved aggressively against Garcia Covarrubias, partly in deference to the Defense Department." So far, one listens in vain for the sound of Republican congressmen decrying this exercise of executive discretion. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


City Paper contributor D. Watkins' piece for Salon, "Black history bulldozed for another Starbucks: Against the new Baltimore," sparked intense discussions locally and nationally about the nature of gentrification and who benefits and doesn't benefit from urban development, including a column from City Paper music and film editor Brandon Soderberg, "No Trivia: How white people gentrified the word 'gentrification.'" But veteran investigative journalist Stephen Janis, the former Baltimore Examiner reporter who recently left Fox 45 to join the Real News Network, reports on a little-noticed decision that speaks volumes about the way development works in Baltimore. His story, "Board's Decision Raises More Questions about Tax Breaks for Developers," describes how the "obscure" Board of Finance "did something that almost never happens in Baltimore: they voted against a tax break for a developer." The difference between this tax break and the ones granted for the likes of Michael Beatty and John Paterakis is that those developers' projects were for Harbor East, the Inner Harbor, and other areas downtown that cater to tourists and upper income residents. The one that was turned down was requested by an African-American developer who is spending $480 million to build market-rate apartments and retail spaces in Poppleton, a "troubled" West Baltimore neighborhood that desperately needs projects like this. "Of the very people in the hard-pressed neighborhoods, they're the ones who have to pay their taxes every year to subsidize the people who don't pay taxes," Councilman Carl Stokes is quoted saying in Janis' piece. "It's an amazing thing." (Evan Serpick)

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