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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Columnist

“Let’s go for a walk.”

Five seemingly innocuous little words, but they were enough to scare the hell out of me. I had read enough John le Carré spy novels to know what comes next: “…where we can talk without being overheard.”

From the Summer 2018 Our Town issue of California.

Student, Doctor…Spy? The Secret Life of Maurice Fruit

In early 1918, a 26-year-old Russian émigré named Maurice Fruit enrolled as a freshman at UC Berkeley. He threw himself into campus politics, helping organize a socialist club and announcing to a dean that he was “thoroughly in sympathy” with the Bolsheviks who had just seized power in Russia. He also claimed to have been friends with Leon Trotsky.

Here’s to Comey: The Senate Testimony at a Movie Theater and Pub

Eight concerned citizens, one large dog and I gathered at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland at 7 this morning to drink complimentary Bloody Marys and watch former FBI director James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, addressing the cause of his firing and allegations that the Trump administration is colluding with Russia.  

Black Panthers at 50: New Exhibit from the Party’s Go-to Photog

Stephen Shames arrived at our interview with a faded California Golden Bears cap in hand and a black power pin on his lapel. Apt accessories for the 1969 UC Berkeley grad who spent the years between 1967 and 1969 as the Black Panther Party’s most trusted photographer.

Don’t Freeze: Targeted Violence Training Teaches Students to Act

Since 2000, at least 160 “active-shooter” incidents have occurred in the United States, according to an FBI study from 2000-2013. And shootings have become more frequent—from 6.4 incidents annually in the first seven years of the study, to 16.4 in the last seven. Like many institutions, the University of California has responded by making training available.

Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference?

In the short but statistic-fueled period after every recent U.S. mass shooting, the gun control debate is roused from its intermittent slumber. Whether the victims are in grade-school classrooms in Sandy Hook, on a college campus in Oregon, at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, or attending a holiday party in San Bernadino, the results have become predictable. Gun control advocates plead for tighter restrictions that might curb violence.

How Often Do Cops Kill Citizens? Given “Scandalous” Data Gaps, Nobody Knows

Franklin Zimring calls it “scandalous.”

The UC Berkeley law professor—one of the nation’s leading criminal justice experts—is referring to what he discovered when he set out to analyze four decades worth of FBI data on police and citizen killings. Incidents in which citizens killed on-duty police officers had been meticulously recorded. But when police killed citizens? Those incidents were recorded haphazardly, if at all.

In fact, the data was so spotty that he had to resort to finding cases on Wikipedia.

To Catch a Terrorist

A piece in today’s New York Times explores the possible ramifications of the Boston Marathon bombings for the professional legacy of FBI director Robert Mueller, especially in light of the fact that agents from the bureau had interviewed one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011.

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