How do gun background checks work? A look at the current system

In the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school earlier this month, President Trump is seemingly open to strengthening federal background checks for gun purchases.

“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday, adding that the president has spoken to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn about a bill to “improve federal compliance with criminal background check legislation.”

On Twitter Tuesday, Trump said Republicans and Democrats “must now focus on strengthening” federal background checks. 

Here’s a look at how the federal background check works, and what activists and experts have to say about it.

What happens when you want to purchase a gun?

In order to purchase a gun from a federal firearms licensed dealer (FFL), a consumer must provide identification and pass a federal background check using the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ 4473 form.

The first page of the document requires basic information, including the buyer’s full name, address, sex, birthday and ethnicity. A Social Security number is encouraged, but not required.

The form also asks the buyer about criminal background, immigration status and mental health — information that could result in a consumer being denied. Those questions include:

  • Have you ever been convicted in any court of a felony, or any other crime for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation?
  • Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?
  • Have you been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions?
  • Have you ever been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?

Lying on the federal form is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, an ATF spokesperson confirmed to Fox News. That penalty is also listed at the top of the form.

Once the form is completed, the dealer will submit it to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) online or by phone. Then, almost immediately, the licensed seller will know how to continue with the sale:

  • Proceed: If NICS indicates the seller can proceed, then the sale can continue.
  • Canceled or Denied: Should NICS mark the form as “canceled” or “denied,” the seller cannot legally sell the firearm to the buyer. Michael Smith, the vice president of marketing and media for Upstate Armory Group, a firearm dealer in Simpsonville, S.C., told Fox News he generally provides the customer with contact information for a local lawyer who handles restoration of firearm rights in case the failed background check is erroneous. There have been times police have arrived at the gun shop to arrest the customer who legally cannot purchase a gun, Smith said.
  • Delayed: If the background check elicits a “delayed” response from NICS, the seller cannot complete the transaction for at least three business days. Unless a specific “denied” designation is issued, the seller will be able to complete the transaction with the customer after that period elapses, under federal law.

Even before a 4473 form is filled out, Robbie Wheaton, vice president of the Wheaton Arms Inc. gun shop in Piedmont, S.C., said he takes note of the customer. If a customer seems to be intoxicated or “shady” – talking, for instance, about a cheating spouse – dealers don’t have to sell that person a gun.

“A shop has a final right to say ‘no’ based on a person’s behavior whether they will sell a firearm to them or not.”

– Robbie Wheaton, vice president of Wheaton Arms Inc. in South Carolina

“As a federal firearms licensee, we have the right to be able to refuse the transfer of firearms to someone,” Wheaton told Fox News. “A shop has a final right to say ‘no’ based on a person’s behavior whether they will sell a firearm to them or not.”

Smith praised the background check system, as it can flag other discrepancies for sellers, such as an age issue.

South Carolina law, for example, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from purchasing a long gun (such as an AR-15) and anyone under 21 from buying a pistol, handgun or other firearm, he said. The background check can prevent sellers, particularly at hectic gun shows, from accidentally selling a firearm to someone who isn’t of age, Smith said.

Why do I have to complete the background check?

Thanks to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, the FBI created the NICS in 1998. The system is supposed to instantaneously let a firearms dealer know whether a buyer is legally allowed to purchase the gun.

According to the FBI, more than 230 million checks have been made by cashiers prior to a purchase and more than 1.3 million denials have been issued since the system was put in place.

Is this process the same in every state?


In South Carolina, for example, consumers who already have a concealed weapons permit do not need to go through a background check in order to purchase a firearm in the state, multiple dealers in the Palmetto State told Fox News.

Also, state laws may be superseded by federal law. The 4473 form asks consumers about marijuana use. Those who use the drug, in states where recreational or medicinal use is legal, will be denied a firearm, Wheaton said.

In Hawaii, after the first legal medicinal marijuana dispensary opened in the state in 2017, local law enforcement agencies asked users who are also gun owners to turn in their firearms within 30 days, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Is this system strong enough?

It depends on who you ask.

Jonas Oransky, the deputy legal director of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for stronger gun control, praised the background check system but said it has “significant gaps.”

Specifically, Oransky’s organization points to a “private sale loophole.” Federal law requires licensed dealers to complete background checks, but people can also purchase guns from a private seller – such as a friend or through online classifieds websites like ( prompts users to “accept” a terms of use document, which acknowledges the website doesn’t certify or investigate transactions and instructs users not to use the site for “illegal purposes.”)

“It doesn’t matter necessarily if people are selling at scale,” Oransky told Fox News. “It’s not that all sellers are dangerous or devious, but buyers who know that they can skip the background check can look for an unlicensed seller.”

Wheaton, who has been in the firearms business full time since 2007, said he and other licensed sellers try to persuade customers to transfer guns through a licensed dealer so a background check can be conducted.

Oransky also pointed to the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allows dealers to sell guns to a customer before a background check is completed – when NICS marks a document “delayed” but does not approve or deny it within three business days. He said a disproportionate number of buyers who obtain a gun before a background check is completed are domestic abusers, citing complex records and restraining orders that investigators need additional time to read through or discuss with the appropriate local law enforcement agency.

“The FBI should have the time they need to complete a background check. It’s more important than expediting sales to people who shouldn’t have a gun,” he said.

On the other hand, Second Amendment advocates argue that the background check system already does too much.

“We don’t think it’s proper for people to have to prove their innocence to the government in order to exercise their God-given right,” Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, a Virginia-based gun rights nonprofit, told Fox News.

“Our rights are listed in the Bill of Rights for a reason,” he continued. “People’s rights are being infringed upon and it’s resulting – in some cases – in death and in other cases extreme inconvenience in being able to purchase firearms.”

Pratt also said the background check system doesn’t do its job, as several of the more recent mass shooters in the U.S., including the suspect in the fatal shooting of 17 people in Parkland, Fla., were able to pass background checks.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

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Amtrak Train Derails After Collision In South Carolina; At Least 2 Dead

An Amtrak train appears to have been running on the wrong track when it collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina early Sunday morning, killing two Amtrak crew members and leaving more than 100 others injured, officials said.

The train carrying around 147 people was running along CSX-owned and -operated tracks from New York to Miami when a switch on the rails caused it to turn onto a parallel track where the unoccupied freight train was parked, Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a press conference.

It’s not yet known why that switch ― which had been padlocked to keep it in place, as part of protocol ― had been left in that position, Sumwalt said. 

“Our goal is to find out not only what happened but why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening again,” he said.

As part of the NTSB’s investigation, Sumwalt said the board will be interviewing Amtrak and CSX workers, as well as reviewing video recovered from the Amtrak train that recorded its outward-facing path. The investigating agency also hopes to review data recorders belonging to both trains, which have not yet been recovered. The operators’ cellphone records and drug tests will also be examined.

Killed on the Amtrak train were engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 34, of Orange Park, Florida, the Lexington County Coroner’s Office said at an afternoon press conference. Both were in the front of the locomotive, which Sumwalt described as “not recognizable at all” following the high-speed crash.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), at an earlier press conference, said 116 people were sent to local hospitals after the Amtrak train slammed into the freight train after appearing to have ended up “on the wrong track” around 2:30 a.m.

Bob Leverone via Getty Images
Emergency responders are at the scene after an Amtrak passenger train collided with a freight train in Cayce, South Carolina, early Sunday.

“The CSX was on the track it was supposed to be on,” he said.

“It’s a horrible thing to see, to understand what force was involved,” McMaster said. “The first engine of the freight train was torn up, and the single engine of the passenger train is barely recognizable.”

Of the more than 100 people injured, officials at local Palmetto Health hospitals said they received 62 patients, who were transported there by county buses and ambulances. Three of the patients were children.

The most significant injuries include broken bones and injuries to the head and organs. Most patients suffered minor bumps, bruises and lacerations, Dr. Eric Brown, physician executive at Palmetto Health Richland, which is a level I trauma center, said at an afternoon press conference.

As of Sunday afternoon, six people remain hospitalized at Palmetto Health facilities, he said. WISTV reported that at least two patients are continuing to receive treatment at another area hospital.

In a statement, Amtrak said eight crew members and about 139 customers were aboard the passenger vehicle when it collided with the freight train at around 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, a community about four miles south of the South Carolina capital of Columbia.

The company noted CSX’s ownership and maintenance of the tracks where the collision took place.

“CSX controls the dispatching of all trains, including directing the signal systems which control the access to sidings and yards,” it said. 

Amtrak said that it is cooperating fully with the NTSB.

A CSX spokesperson, in a statement to HuffPost, expressed their condolences to the victims and their families and said that they “remain focused on providing assistance and support to those impacted by today’s incident.”

“CSX hosts more passenger trains on its network than any other major railroad in the United States, and passenger rail remains one of the safest ways to travel. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into this incident and CSX will continue working with the investigating team,” the company said.

Amtrak passengers recalled being violently thrown about the train during impact.

Matthew Cheeseman told Columbia station WIS-TV that he was traveling with his wife and 9-year-old daughter from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, when they were thrown from their seats.

“That thing threw us across the room like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got rug burn on my back, it was that bad,” he said.

That thing threw us across the room like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got rug burn on my back, it was that bad.”

Fellow passenger Derek Pettaway, who was also heading to Orlando, told CNN that he was asleep at the time of the impact and was briefly hospitalized for minor whiplash. He said it didn’t take long for responding officials to evacuate the train.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said.

Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said that about 5,000 gallons of fuel had spilled as a result of the accident. He said hazardous materials teams had secured “two leaks of fuel from the trains.” At a press conference, he stressed that there was “no threat to the public at this time.” 

The NTSB said that it was launching an investigation into the accident. Robert Sumwalt, the board’s chairman, told CNN that the probe should take 12 to 18 months to complete.

Amtrak has encouraged people with questions regarding passengers on the train or information about the crash to contact them at 1-800-523-9101.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) has expressed his condolences to the crash victims on Twitter.

President Donald Trump, who is in Florida hosting a Super Bowl party at his Palm Beach golf club, was briefed on the train accident. He tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims” involved in the crash.

News of the crash comes just days after a fatal accident involving an Amtrak train and a garbage truck outside Charlottesville, Virginia.

A man on the truck was pronounced dead after the train, which was carrying Republican lawmakers and their families to an annual retreat, collided with the vehicle on the tracks on Wednesday. Six other people were injured in the crash.

In December, an Amtrak train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing 3 people and injuring dozens. According to investigators, the train had been traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when the derailment occurred.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.                    

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Amtrak, CSX train collision in South Carolina leaves 2 dead, over 100 injured, officials say

Two Amtrak personnel were killed and over 100 others were injured when an Amtrak passenger train collided with a parked CSX freight train early Sunday just outside the capital of South Carolina, officials said.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division said Amtrak 91 was traveling from New York to Miami when it collided with the CSX train in Pine Ridge around 2:35 a.m.

“It appears to me that the CSX train was on the track it was supposed to be on,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference. “It appears Amtrak was on the wrong track. That’s what it appears to me.”

Amtrak said in a statement the train’s lead engine derailed, as did some passenger cars that was carrying eight crew members and approximately 139 passengers on board. TV footage from the crash scene showed the aftermath of the collision, with the Amtrak engine on its side and its front crumpled.

Derailed Amtrak cars after a train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.  (FOX News)

McMaster said the two people killed in the crash were Amtrak personnel and 116 people were taken to area hospitals. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher identified the two victims of Amtrak crash as engineer Michael Kempf, 54, and conductor Michael Cella, 36. Fisher said that several people remain in critical condition.

“We have anywhere from scratches and bumps to more severe broken bones,” Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill told reporters.

“It appears to me that the CSX train was on the track it was supposed to be on. It appears Amtrak was on the wrong track. That’s what it appears to me.”

– South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster

McMaster said the first engine of the freight train was “torn up,” while the engine on the Amtrak train is “barely recognizable.” The governor added that no one was on the CSX train at the time of the crash, and the Amtrak train was estimated to be going 59 mph. 

“Two trains, that’s as forceful as can get,” he said, adding that “I would ask this is a Sunday, everyone go to church and say a prayer for these people involved.”

Lexington County emergency officials responding to the scene where an Amtrak train collided with a CSX freight train in Cayce, South Carolina early Sunday morning.  (FOX News)

In its statement, Amtrak it is cooperating fully with the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation. 

“CSX owns and controls the Columbia Subdivision where the accident occurred,” Amtrak said. “CSX maintains all of the tracks and signal systems. CSX controls the dispatching of all trains, including directing the signal systems which control the access to sidings and yards.”

Hospital officials told Fox News they have received nearly 90 patients from the crash, but most of which have been discharged already. Lexington Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said the facility received 27 patients from the crash, all of which had “minor injuries” and since been discharged.

Derailed Amtrak cars after a train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.  (FOX News)

A spokesperson from Palmetto Health said they received 62 patients as a result of the crash at three of their facilities. The health care network said there are two patients that are expected to be admitted, but most are expected to be released after they are evaluated and treated.

“The thoughts of all our team members are with the family and friends of those injured in this accident,” Palmetto Health spokesperson Tammie Epps said. “Palmetto Health is coordinating with local authorities, Amtrak and the American Red Cross to assist these families in any way possible.”

No immediate information was available about the CSX train, but SCMED Public Information Officer Derrec Becker told reporters that officials are working to secure a fuel leak that resulted from the spill.


As of now, 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel has spilled and crews are trying to secure the leak, according to Becker.

The Amtrak train collided with a CSX freight train in Cayce, located just outside Columbia.  (FOX News)

“There is no danger to anyone in the nearby area of Lexington County,” Becker told “FOX & friends Weekend.”

Amtrak officials gathered up luggage and other belongings and within hours put passengers aboard buses to their destinations. Before being sent on their way, those who were not hurt were taken to a shelter, and local businesses provided coffee and breakfast.

Amtrak said that anyone with questions regarding passengers on the train can contact them at 1-800-523-9101.

South Carolina’s Red Cross chapter tweeted that emergency responders were at the scene. The people who weren’t hurt were taken in patrol cars to a shelter, Lexington County Sheriff’s spokesman Adam Myrick said.

“We know they are shaken up quite a bit. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather – get them to a warm place,” Myrick said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching a “Go Team” to investigate the deadly crash and plans a press conference for later in the day.

President Trump tweeted about the crash on Sunday, saying “my thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina. Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!”

Trump was briefed on the train accident and is receiving regular updates, according to Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters. 

This is the third Amtrak crash since December. On Dec. 18, an Amtrak train derailed in Washington state, killing three people and injuring dozens more. Just last week, one person in a truck died when an Amtrak crash carrying Republican members of Congress struck the vehicle at a crossing. Two other people in the vehicle were severely injured.

Fox News’  Bryan Llenas, Lucas Tomlinson, Terace Garnier, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @travfed

Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.

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South Carolina bill would require schools to display ‘In God We Trust’ posters

It’s on our money, our license plates, and the president even used it in the State of the Union.

“In God We Trust.”

And now, our nation’s motto is stirring up controversy in South Carolina.

State Rep. Mike Burns’ bill would require schools to prominently display posters, saying “In God We Trust,” as well as the state motto, “Dum Spiro Spero” and its English translation, “While I breathe, I hope.”

The Republican lawmaker mirrored the bill on a law enacted last year in Arkansas that required the national motto, paired with the American flag, to be hung in schools and public buildings, if funding allows. 

Arkansas Rep. Jim Dotson shows off new “In God We Trust” posters that will be hung in schools.  (Rep. Jim Dotson)

Burns says the proposal would produce minimal costs, which would come out of the Palmetto State’s operating budget. If passed, the Board of Education would design the posters.

He warned that our country is on a “slippery slope by pushing God out of the public square.” With this bill, he wants to educate students on the phrase that has lined coins for more than one and a half centuries.

“We’re not teaching those types of things [anymore,]” he said. “It’s not putting religion on someone to use the word God and say the word God in the public square.”

But some are questioning whether the proposed law is constitutional.

Education Committee member Robert Brown said he’s not sure how he’ll vote, but he is worried this bill violates the separation of church and state.

“If it flies in the face of the Constitution, I will not be in favor of it,” Brown said. “If we don’t have the money to support it, I will not be in favor of it.”

“It doesn’t matter if everyone wants this. What matters is: Does it comply with the Constitution?”

– Derek W. Black, law professor at University of South Carolina

Burns said, however, that he is not concerned about the votes. He said his biggest force of opposition is time, and there are other more pressing issues, such as budget discussions, that will take priority in South Carolina’s legislature.

The bill could reach the state’s House Education and Public Works Committee as early as March, but even if it passes, federal courts could intervene.

Legal experts say the proposed legislation may have a difficult time standing up in court.

“Here, the purpose seems to be a religious purpose, and anytime there’s a religious purpose in passing legislation, the courts are going to strike it down,” said Derek W. Black, a law professor at the University of South Carolina.

Black acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling in favor of “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency but says the defense of “ceremonial deism” – in other words, the motto’s longstanding nature – makes it more about tradition than religion and will not protect new developments incorporating the phrase. 

“When someone comes forward and says: ‘We want to do something new, we want to put it in a new place,’ they’re not doing it out of ceremony,” Black said.

Both Burns and Brown said if the proposal is enacted, negative reaction from their constituents would be limited due to the state’s largely Christian population. However, Black says federal courts rule regardless of popularity.

“It doesn’t matter if everyone wants this,” Black told Fox News. “What matters is: Does it comply with the Constitution? Does it protect the people who are losing at the ballot box?”

At least 11 states allow or require the national motto to be displayed in schools and public buildings, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures and Freedom From Religion Foundation. State Rep. Jim Dotson introduced Arkansas’ bill and said there haven’t been any cases filed in reference to its institution.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which promotes atheism and nontheism and is against any bill it considers a violation of church and state, said it would oppose any effort to pass the bill.

“We should have a national motto that we can put up in the school without imposing religion on a captive audience of school kids,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the organization. “It miseducates students. We live under a godless and secular Constitution.”

Emilie Ikeda is a multimedia reporter based in Atlanta. 

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Two dead and 70 injured in South Carolina train crash

Train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew collided with freight train at about 2.30am

Two dead and 70 injured in South Carolina train crash

Train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew collided with freight train at about 2.30am

A crash between an Amtrak passenger train and a CSX freight train in South Carolina on Sunday killed two people and injured about 70 others, authorities said.

The Amtrak train was heading from New York to Miami with about 139 passengers on board when the crash happened around 2.45am near Cayce, authorities said.

The injuries ranged from cuts and scratches to broken bones, Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said the two people killed were traveling on the Amtrak train.

The lead engine and several passenger of Amtrak Train 91, which was operating from New York to Miami, derailed after coming in contact with the freight train, Amtrak said in an emailed statement. There were eight crew members and approximately 140 passengers on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying investigators to the scene.

The crash happened near a stretch of tracks by a rail yard about 10 miles south of Columbia, where several track spurs split off for freight cars to be unloaded. Authorities said they had not determined if both trains were moving or if the Amtrak train was diverted on to a side track.

Location of the train crash

TV footage from the scene showed the aftermath of the crash, with the Amtrak engine on its side and its front crumpled. People who were not hurt were taken in patrol cars to a shelter, Lexington County sheriffs spokesman Adam Myrick said.

We know they are shaken up quite a bit, Myrick said. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather get them to a warm place.

Palmetto Health spokeswoman Tammie Epps said 62 passengers were seen at three of its hospitals. Two of those passengers were admitted. The others appeared to have minor injuries that would not require hospitalization.

Amtrak set up a passenger information line at 1-800-523-9101.

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Heres How the 20 Contenders for Amazon HQ2 Stack Up

Now that Inc. has whittled down the list of cities it’s considering for its second North American headquarters, it’s time for a new round of everyone’s favorite parlor game: arguing about which city would suit the technology giant best.

After the e-commerce company said it was seeking a second HQ to relieve pressure on its Seattle home base, it received proposals from 238 locations, full of rich economic incentives and goofy marketing gimmicks.

Now it has narrowed the field to 20 places, including three bids from the Washington D.C., area, where Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has put down roots, as well as proposals from smaller Midwestern cities (Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis) and major population centers (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Dallas).

Economic incentives aside — and there are plenty — here are some pros and cons of the places on Amazon’s very long shortlist.


Pros: A major airline hub and home to big corporations, such as UPS, Coca-Cola and Delta. A recent focus on redevelopment projects like the BeltLine — a series of parks built on an old railroad spur that runs through the city — may add to the city’s appeal.

Cons: It’s still not that cool. Amazon prides itself on its urban Seattle locations being walkable and bikable, and a more suburban city like Atlanta may contradict that spirit. Terrible traffic, too.


Pros: Close to the distribution and business hub of Dallas but much hipper. No Texas income tax, an established tech industry and home to Whole Foods, which Amazon recently acquired.

Cons: Small airport. Despite surging population, still doesn’t feel like a major U.S. city. 


Pros: Proximity to Harvard, MIT and a wealth of other colleges and universities, an airport with nonstop flights to Seattle and Washington, D.C., and a track record for providing rich relocation benefits, like the incentives the city offered GE in 2015.

Cons: Has some of the same drawbacks as New York—high cost of living, tight residential and commercial real estate markets—without the same cultural amenities and depth of talent. 


Pros: A heavy concentration of operations, marketing, finance and sales employees to poach from other industries. Good public transit, walkable neighborhoods and a variety of housing choices, from downtown apartments to traditional suburbs. 

Cons: Shootings in the city have become national news, and the state is still emerging from dire financial straits. Digging its government out of debt could require tax hikes and cuts to public services. 


Pros: A major research university in Ohio State, a fast-growing economy and cheap housing.

Cons: The housing is cheap for a reason.


Pros: Has been a magnet for corporate relocations in the last two decades, offering high quality of life and access to a deep pool of workers. There’s no state income tax, and unlike Austin, it’s a major city and an airline hub.

Cons: Dallas suburbs may seem pretty stodgy to Amazon employees used to the cultural amenities in downtown Seattle. 


Pros: Denver is already popular with tech companies. Colorado boasts strong engineering schools and trounces the other finalists when it comes to close proximity to fresh powder. Fresh, and legal, pot, too, for those who partake.

Cons: The exodus of workers to Denver’s burgeoning tech hub has already stretched the local housing market. Doesn’t offer a lot of geographic diversity from Seattle.


Pros: Tech company salaries would go far in the heartland, and choosing Indianapolis would make Amazon arguably the most important employer in middle America.

Cons: The sheer of size of the Amazon HQ could swamp the city’s residential and commercial real estate markets. As in Columbus, the cheap housing here isn’t a mystery. 

Los Angeles

Pros: The tech giant’s Amazon Studios division—quickly becoming a force in Hollywood, with original streaming TV series such as “Transparent” and “Man in the High Castle”—is based in Santa Monica.

Cons: It’s an expensive place to live, a hard place to build in and, like Denver, it doesn’t offer a lot of geographic diversity from Seattle.


Pros: The Seattle workforce could use a little sun. Bezos, currently the richest man in the world, attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School.

Cons: Lacks an existing tech ecosystem, has high housing costs and might be under water at some point.

Montgomery County

Pros: This Maryland county is one of three bids in or near the District of Columbia to land on the shortlist. Bezos has put down roots in the area with his acquisitions of the Washington Post and the city’s largest private home.

Cons: Commercial real estate is probably more available here than in the U.S. capital, but the trade-off is asking the company’s workforce to work in the ’burbs.


Pros: Good universities, no Tennessee income tax and fame as the country music capital of the world have already made the city popular with major employers.

Cons: Like Austin and Denver, the city has already succeeded in convincing companies to relocate, and the local housing market has struggled to keep up with the flood of new workers.


Pros: Proximity to New York without the Big Apple’s staggering home prices. In October, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pledged to back the city’s bid to lure Amazon with as much as $7 billion in tax breaks. 

Cons: The city might be a tough sell for workers over San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York.

New York

Pros: Locating in New York would give Amazon access to the world’s top pool of finance and media talent and a growing tech scene.

Cons: Housing prices are already high, one of the reasons locals in Seattle are pushing back against the company’s expansion there. There’s also limited space for new office construction.

Northern Virginia

Pros: Like Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Northern Virginia offers an educated workforce and proximity to both the federal government and the Washington Post. Commercial real estate is easier to come by than in the District of Columbia.

Cons: The area isn’t as strong on urban appeal as some of the other contenders.


Pros: Good transit, large population, and it’s close to New York and Washington, with much lower housing costs.

Cons: Amazon would have to convince workers in those two cities that giving up cultural amenities for cheaper housing is a trade worth making.


Pros: Home to top AI and robotics university Carnegie Mellon, which have already drawn top tech companies like Google and Uber. Close to major distribution hubs in the middle of the country.

Cons: It’s far from other major cities and tech hubs.


Pros: Part of an existing tech hub; offers cheap housing, good quality of life and the chance for Amazon to put its stamp on a city in a way that it couldn’t in more established metros.

Cons: Clashes over gender identity and other hot political issues suggest North Carolina is still struggling over its own identity.


Pros: A major financial and technology hub and a population that would put it among the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas. Potentially easier to hire people from abroad because of a more open tone on immigration from the government than in the U.S.

Cons: Housing prices are high compared to cities like Atlanta. The city also doesn’t have much space for housing and commercial development required for HQ2 in the downtown core. Moving integral operations north of the border holds political risks in dealing with the Trump administration.

Washington, D.C.

Pros: A strong technology workforce and proximity to lawmakers and regulators. Bezos put down roots in the area with his 2013 acquisition of the Washington Post.

Cons: Lack of space and zoning restrictions could make it hard to find enough office space. Sticking the headquarters in the ’burbs would make it easier to find land but harder to appeal to workers. And you don’t get a U.S. senator to fight for you on the Hill.

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    #2020Vision: Shutdown politics; Harris vs. Booker in a clash of styles; Biden gets good polling news

    Washington (CNN)Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race, from Eric Bradner, Greg Krieg and Caroline Kenny:

    A government shutdown is looming — and the Democratic senators seen as 2020 contenders all seem comfortable with it.
    California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and others all said they’ll oppose a funding measure that does not settle the fate of those who could face deportation after President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
      “Republicans control the House, Senate and White House,” Sanders said. “They have to pass an annual budget, not more one-month continuing resolutions.”
      “Why are we kicking the can down the road?” Booker said.
      Worth remembering: Harris has the most on the line. She was the first Senate Democrat to publicly declare she’d oppose any government funding bill unless Congress took action on the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — a position now held by the vast majority of Democrats. It’s made her a hero among immigration activists, and it’s smart politics with both California voters and the 2020 primary electorate — but it could also make her a target for blame if a protracted shutdown hurts Democrats politically.

      News and notes:

      BIDEN’S TRAVEL SCHEDULE: Former Vice President Joe Biden is headed January 29 to Miami. He’ll appear at a fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is up for re-election and waiting to see whether Republican Gov. Rick Scott will get in the race against him.
      — Biden also booked a trip to Montana. He’ll keynote the Montana Democratic Party’s annual Mansfield-Metcalfe Dinner in Helena on March 10. It’s a major event for the state party — and a clear stop on the 2020 trail. Last year’s speaker was Cory Booker. (The “Mansfield” here is Mike Mansfield, who was Senate majority leader when Biden first took office in 1973. For a glimpse at their relationship, these comments from Biden on how Mansfield taught him to get over his animosity for Jesse Helms are really worth a read.)
      — Biden also lent his name to a fundraising email from James Smith, a Democrat running for South Carolina governor. Smith’s primary opponent, Phil Noble, just picked up an endorsement from the Biden-backed new Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.
      HARRIS VS. BOOKER: The contrasting styles of California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker — who were just recently appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee — were on display as the two questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen in a hearing this week. US News’ Dave Catanese points out that Harris, the former California attorney general, asked 23 probing questions in her 10 minutes, forcing Nielsen into some uncomfortable admissions. Booker, meanwhile, asked just two questions but delivered impassioned remarks, saying he had “tears of rage” when he heard about President Donald Trump’s remarks insulting African countries.
      — Harris is making a trip to Michigan in April. She’ll be the state Democratic Party’s guest speaker at its Legacy Dinner on April 14 — an event focused this year on women in politics. Viewed through the lens of 2020, this line from the state party’s release, from executive director Lavora Barnes, is interesting: “No longer is it the sole priority of women in positions of power to blaze a trail for the next generation. It is also our responsibility to expect, seek, and demand the power of these positions by running, winning, and leading according to no tradition or expectation other than our own.”
      — With all the buzz about Harris as a 2020 prospect, African-American Democrats aren’t sure what to do with the latest speculation about Oprah Winfrey. Per BuzzFeed’s Darren Sands, some African-American Democratic groups had already been pitching Harris to donors as the African-American female candidate to watch — so bringing Oprah into the equation throws them for a loop. As one Democratic strategist told BuzzFeed, “They don’t want to step on Kamala’s toes.”
      SANDERS GROUP PICKS A HORSE IN IOWA: Iowa Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Cathy Glasson has spent the better part of her campaign courting the Sanders loyalists in her state. On Thursday, it paid off. Our Revolution, the political organization spun out of Sanders’ 2016 campaign, endorsed Glasson in the hotly contested Hawkeye State Democratic primary.
      The decision wasn’t much of a surprise. Glasson is an Iowa City-based nurse and Service Employees International Union Local 199 president. The union, which backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, is now on board with Sanders, and has donated $1.8 million to Glasson’s campaign, most of it coming in December 2017. Her campaign also revealed that it was hitting the Des Moines TV market this week with a six-figure buy.
      To watch: Primary candidates need 35% to win outright, no given in a tight, seven-person race like this one. If no one crosses the bar, the nominee would be decided at the state convention — setting the stage for a nasty fight for the right to challenge GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds.
      GARCETTI TO THE PALMETTO STATE: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will head to Columbia, South Carolina, next month, according to The Sacramento Bee’s Christopher Cadelago. His visit to the capital city of the early primary state will be for his nonprofit organization focused with other mayors and business leaders on “innovation investments.” Garcetti’s nonprofit, called Accelerator for America, held its first meeting in South Bend, Indiana — home of Pete Buttigieg — in November. Garcetti has already visited other early primary states including New Hampshire and Nevada in recent months.
      WARREN TO CO-CHAIR WOMEN’S MARCH EVENT: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will serve as an honorary co-chair of the Women’s March “Power to the Polls” campaign alongside civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The campaign is launching in Las Vegas this weekend on the one-year anniversary of last year’s Women’s March. The goal of the initiative will be to register 1 million voters. Warren will not be in attendance but will be featured in a video message that will be played during the event.
      Kamala Harris will attend the Women’s March in Los Angeles. She’ll also speak at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Breakfast.
      HEY, JOE! NEW POLL NUMBERS BUMP BIDEN: Quinnipiac put out a new poll this week with some telling takeaways on Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, former Vice President Joe Biden — and Oprah! Here are four quick takeaways:
      — All four are well above water on the favorable-unfavorable front: Sanders is at 76-11 with Democrats and 48-38 with all voters; Gillibrand is at 25-5 with Democrats and 14-11 with all voters; Oprah Winfrey is at 69-13 with Democrats, 47-33 with all voters; Biden leads the pack with a 78-6 spread among Democrats and and is 53-29 with all voters.
      — Only Biden scores well with a key part of Trump’s base — whites without college degrees: Sanders is at 35-51; Gillibrand is at 8-12; Biden just barely makes the grade, at 42-39.
      — But would you be “inclined” to vote for them? That was a separate question. And for good reason, apparently, because it yielded one weird stat: Among Democrats, it’s a YES for Biden (75-16) and Sanders (66-27). The numbers there track pretty closely with overall approval. But that does not hold for Gillibrand. She gets a NO (24-37) from her own party’s voters.
      — Black voters undecided: Biden (73-6) actually scores better on the favorability scale with black voters than Winfrey (70-15). And Sanders (70-10), breaking against the narrative about his supporters, receives similarly high marks from black voters. Gillibrand (13-8) is working from solid ground, but again, is still mostly an unknown on the national scene.

      View from the right:

      TRUMP’S TAKE ON 2020: According to a new dispatch from Politico’s Annie Karni, President Donald Trump is both unworried about his re-election prospects — and constantly talking about who’s going to run against him. From Karni’s report: “He’s always asking people, ‘Who do you think is going to run against me?’ ” said the Republican who heard the president’s assessment in December. Despite a bumpy first year and historically low approval ratings, this Trump ally said: ‘I don’t think he sees anyone, right now, being a serious competitor.’ ”
      Additional takes: Trump thinks Bernie Sanders, at 76, is going to decide he’s too old to run. Trump thinks Elizabeth Warren would be “easy to beat.” Trump does not think Cory Booker will get in the race. Trump doesn’t seem to know who Kamala Harris is … yet.
      The word from “Trumpworld” is more colorful. Here’s the money quote from a “former White House staffer”: “What we can’t let voters do is think they can get the same policies with someone they like better, like Joe Biden — someone who would fight for them but who doesn’t have the crass edge. I hope CNN has Kirsten Gillibrand on every minute of every day. Love it. Bring it. She’s easy to destroy. If you’re the president, or the RNC, you’re more worried about someone who looks like Biden — someone who has more mainstream appeal, who blue-collar workers could identify with.”

      Before you go:

      Anxiety is high in California — now a Super Tuesday primary state — over the immigration politics on Capitol Hill. … New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s re-election war chest is stocked with an eye-popping $30 million. … sees seven signs Cory Booker is thinking about running for president in 2020.

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      Coastal Republicans Say States, Not Trump, Should Get Say On Offshore Drilling

      WASHINGTON ― Florida Gov. Rick Scott isn’t the only East Coast Republican who wants a say on whether vast new stretches of federal waters should be open to oil and gas drilling. GOP lawmakers from other states that have shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean ― even some who support offshore drilling ― say the decision ultimately ought to be made by local officials.

      The Trump administration last week said it intended to open nearly all U.S. waters, including huge swaths of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to oil exploration. The announcement drew immediate outrage from both Democrats and Republicans, who expressed concern about possible environmental damage, like oil spills, and the potential harm to tourism.

      But then, after Scott lobbied against the move, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Tuesday he was removing Florida’s coastal waters from consideration for future offshore oil drilling. The state, Zinke said, is “unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

      Tom Williams via Getty Images
      Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

      Democrats, among others, immediately speculated that the exemption was approved in to help get Scott elected to the Senate. Although the term-limited governor has not yet announced whether he will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in 2018, he is expected to jump into the race.

      “This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career,” Nelson said Tuesday. “We shouldn’t be playing politics with the future of Florida.”

      Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida from the administration’s offshore drilling plan also raised questions as to why other states with unique coastlines and a reliance on tourism ― like California or South Carolina, for example ― don’t deserve the same treatment.

      Sensing an opening, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Wednesday requested the same consideration from the Trump administration, noting that his state relied on a $20 billion tourism industry that spanned hundreds of miles on marsh coast.

      “We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty, and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” McMaster said Wednesday.

      Though both Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) support drilling in waters off the state’s coast, they suggested that local officials ought to be involved in the final decision.

      “I don’t mind opening up drilling if states can opt out,” Graham said Wednesday, adding that he would “follow [McMaster’s] lead” on the matter.

      Scott said he wanted communities in coastal parts of his state “engaged more in the process” before proceeding.

      “I have said I’m willing to wait until we get more buy in from our coastal folks,” he told HuffPost.

      There has already been significant pushback among those communities, however. The city of Charleston and other coastal areas in the Palmetto State might sue the government if any permits are issued for oil and gas exploration off South Carolina’s coast, The Post and Courier newspaper reported.

      Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said he wanted to explore the possibility of drilling off the coast of North Carolina as long as local communities received a portion of revenue and oil rigs were positioned far enough so as to not be visible. But he, too, said the federal government should defer to local officials.

      “I think it’s up to the states to decide,” Tillis said. “I think it’s perfectly alright for the states to say [to the] federal government, ‘I don’t want to do it.’”

      Other GOP senators like Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), disagreed. The oil drilling advocate said he was “disappointed” with the Trump administration’s decision to exempt the state of Florida from the offshore drilling plan.

      “These rigs will not impact tourism. I mean, you can’t see them from the shore,” Kennedy told HuffPost on Wednesday. “The decision is the decision, but in my personal opinion, all waters in the outer continental shelf, both deep water and shallow, should be subject to drilling.”

      The Trump administration’s plans to boost offshore drilling also came up several times during a Wednesday hearing on a bill that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to obtain permits to incidentally harm and kill marine mammals.

      During the hearing, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) accused Democrats of being entirely opposed to domestic oil and gas production. “If that’s their position then they should be honest and ban the internal combustion engine, or return our country to dependence on third-world dictatorships,” he said.

      Oil drilling has been banned within 125 miles of Florida’s gulf coast since 2006. The moratorium, which Nelson helped champion, is set to expire in 2022.

      As the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill demonstrated, a ban off one particular state won’t necessarily prevent spilled oil from another region reaching its shores. In all, the oil that spewed from the Deepwater rig, located some 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, was found along 1,313 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, scientists detailed in a study published last year. By the end of 2013, cleanup crews had collected more than 106,000 tons of oily material from along the Gulf Coast.

      In a post to Twitter on Tuesday, Zinke wrote that “local voices matter.” But by moving forward with a new offshore leasing proposal, the administration is seemingly sidelining the concerns of those who spoke out against offshore drilling as part of the current five-year plan.

      The Obama administration instituted temporary bans on drilling in both the Atlantic and the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas through 2022, thereby limiting offshore drilling to the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet. And in the final weeks of his presidency, Obama used his executive authority to put in place permanent protections — a move Trump acted swiftly to reverse.

      Sierra Weaver, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center ― which led the charge to have Atlantic waters removed from the current five-year plan ― said Tuesday that state and local leaders in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have also rejected offshore drilling. And if Zinke’s decision wasn’t political he would have also removed those coastal waters from the plan, she added.

      “The fact is that an oil spill doesn’t know or care where one state ends and another begins ― and Florida remains at risk, just like all states in the Mid- and South Atlantic,” Weaver said in a statement.

      Read more:

      The Long Rise and Fast Fall of New Yorks Black Mafia

      In 1974, it looked like the Godfather model was fading amid indictments and hits on its leaders and as middle-class white residents poured out of Americas inner cities.

      That was when Francis A.J. Ianni published Black Mafia: Ethnic Succession in Organized Crime, expanding on the idea at the end of A Family Business, his anthropological study of a Mafia family two years earlier, that it was a natural progression in the order of crime that the Italians must weaken and give way to the next wave of aspiring ethnics, just as the Jews and Irish did before them.

      Legendary New York journalist Pete Hamill blurbed the book, calling it nothing less than a major ethnic succession to power, as Italian-Americans and the remaining pockets of non-Italians give way to the new rulers of the Mob It is no accident, of course, that now that Blacks are beginning to run numbers, we are hearing more calls for legalization

      I asked Hamill this year whatever happened to the Black Mafia. He laughed: Well, I guess I didnt see the Colombian and Russian mobs coming.

      In fairness to Hamill, no one in 1974 predicted that those two groups would rise to such power, just as few foresaw how the Black Mafia would be destroyed from within because it based its business model on drug importing and dealing. That game can never last long because it always brings the federal authorities in, and once the feds are in, everyone eventually goes down. The old saw that you cant fight City Hall is not really truewhat you cant fight is the FBI and RICO indictments.

      In the early 1970s black gangsters were caught in a very weird moment, Hamill told me.

      The old-line Italians were going to jail or getting killed like Joey Gallo in 1972 or shot and left for a vegetable like Joe Colombo in 1971. The Italian Mafia was smart with that Colombo hit as they got a black man, Jerome Johnson, to do the job. Of course, Johnson was killed at the scene by Colombos men, but it was a good ruse allegedly ordered by Joey Gallo, who as I said met his maker eight months later for the Colombo hit and other sins against the Mafia powers that be

      With all the social change in the country during and after the Vietnam War and all their infighting, the Italians started to lose the neighborhoods they had once run. Old Italian strongholds were being lost in Brooklyn, East Harlem, towns in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago. They were being overtaken by black gangsters simply because of the number of blacks moving into those neighborhoods. That was going on all through the country.

      But the black gangsters had no real planno family long-term goalas to what they were going to do beyond the moment. The Black Mafia became an ad hoc mob and dealt with everything in the moment. They had no five-year plan like real successful mobsters like Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello had. You cannot run a successful organized crime racket without a plan

      In 1976 or so the biggest black gangster of that time, Leroy Nicky Barnes, became such a flamboyant figure that he was known to everyone. The New York Times did a profile on the guy [Mister Untouchable] that he sat down for. You cant have the Times write about you if you are a gangster and expect to get away with anything.

      Successful gangsters cannot be known. Look at Paul Castellano. No matter what you think of the guy, no one knew who he was until John Gotti had him killed in 1985. He went years with no one knowing a thing about him. Then Gotti knocked him off and took over the headlines and got himself thrown into prison until he died a broken and bitter man in 2002. Gotti showed off and got the nickname of the Teflon Don. He broke the old Italian code of keeping a low profile, and the feds made him pay for it.

      He should have learned from Nicky Barnes that you cant be a successful mobster and advertise it by driving around in flashy cars and wearing designer suits. You have to work literally in the underworld to succeed. You cant become known as a gangster. Once youre known, youre finished. The old-timers understood that. Probably the most successful black gangster from the old days was Bumpy Johnson, but the black gangsters after him didnt have any continuity. Bumpy Johnson left a hole and no tradition was passed down.

      Pete Hamill
      Bumpy Johnson

      Ellsworth Raymond Bumpy Johnson ruled the Harlem underworld from 1932 to 1968, and inspired fame and fear that endured even after his death. When Gordon Parks released Shaft three years later, the villain modeled on him, played by Moses Gunn, was renamed Bumpy Jonas. Johnson still had a lot of tough friends and family and Parks did not want trouble. Laurence Fishburne captured Bumpy Johnsons suave character twice, in 1984s The Cotton Cluband 1997s Hoodlum. Fishburne had the Robin Hood from the hood swagger that the real Bumpy Johnson was known for.

      Many claimed it was Johnson who had saved the numbers racket from being taken over by white gangsters, whod derided it during Prohibition as a poor mans policy or ni**er pool.

      But as word got out that some of the black underworld leaders were getting very rich running this venture, the white mobsters took a second look and then made their move. The blacks were able to keep them at bay until Black Wednesday hit New York City in 1931, when the number 527 was so heavily played it broke the bank at a number of policy books.

      The Harlem number houses then went to Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz for a loan. Schultz, who saw the end coming for Prohibition and bootleg booze, bailed them out in exchange for control of the game.

      Most of the houses caved, not least because Schultz hired a black thug named William Bub Hewlett and a squad of goons to break heads and bend knees for The Combination, as the game was known on his watch. One strong and tough woman, Madam Saint Claire, ran a large numbers book that refused to join up with Schultz. She hired a little-known 26-year-old just out of prison named Bumpy Johnson to raise a gang at her expense and fight off Hewletts crew.

      Bumpy and Bub Hewlett took turns shooting and robbing each other through Harlem. The street war ended in 1935, when Schultz was gunned down in a Newark steakhouse for other foul deeds deemed unacceptable by New Yorks crime leaders. The new syndicate let the blacks in Harlem keep the numbers racket as long as they paid 1 percent off the top. In 1935 law enforcement officials estimated that the numbers racket was a $100 million racket.

      Bumpy Johnson now had the respect of the black gangsters in Harlem and the new syndicate run by the Italians. He became what was termed a persuadera leg-breaker and a hit man to whoever was paying the highest dollar, and his services were in high demand. Bumpy was one of the few blacks the mob boys trusted, and few in Harlem had any truck with him, because if they did they werent around very long.

      Johnson was born in 1906 in Charleston, South Carolina, but left the South as a young boy to live in New York with an older sister. The streets of Harlem took him in, and by 15 he was a second-story burglar before quickly graduating to armed robberies. His sister knew nothing of his antics, as he was able to graduate from Boys High and went on to do one semester at City College. His formal education ended when he was busted for a burglary at 19. He did seven years bouncing around the prison system and became known as The Professor because he spent most of his time reading history and philosophy and becoming a master at chess. Over the course of his life, he put in over 26 years in prison, and every time he went away he studied every book he could get his hands on.

      When he was released from what turned out to be his final sentence in 1963, Bumpy said he was turning legit, and to prove it he opened the Palmetto Exterminating Business on Second Avenue. He settled down with his wife and claimed he wanted to lead a quiet life. In 1967, federal agents acting on a stool pigeons tip followed Bumpy in his car. He saw them in his rearview mirror and took them on a wild car chase through Manhattan and into Queens. The feds nabbed him on the Van Wyck Expressway. He was arrested and then indicted by a federal grand jury for drug dealing even though no drugs were found in his car. Bumpy made the $50,000 bail and awaited another trial.

      He would never get it. On July 7, 1968, Bumpy was eating at Wells Restaurant in Harlem with Frank Lucas (more on him in a bit) when he keeled over and died of a heart attack.

      Two months after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the Amsterdam News proclaimed: BUMPYS DEATH MARKS END OF AN ERA.

      His funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners, and Rev. John J. Johnson noted that Bumpy was not a coward and he never betrayed a friend. He had good manners and was generous to a fault. He decided early in life not to be a clown, a flunky, or a beggar Maybe there was no other way for him to be a man

      As his wife and children left the church to bury Bumpy up in Woodlawn Cemetery, an unnamed black police sergeant told an Amsterdam News reporter: He was a hood, a thug, a man who served time for trafficking in narcotics He was no good in my mind in that this was what he made his money.

      The late, great Jimmy Breslin knew Johnson from decades chasing stories on the streets of Harlem. He knew the bad things Bumpy had done but told me he couldnt help but like the man.

      I know the man was a gangster, but he had style. He only hurt people that probably earned his wrath.

      Breslin told me that in 1965, after his younger sister got a job as a school teacher in Harlem, hed called Bumpy to ask if he could look out for her and make sure she stayed safe.

      So my sister comes home one day and tells me how great it is up in Harlem and how nice and polite the kids were. She told me that the kids would bring her apples like they were in some country school from the 1930s. I had to laugh at that one. I knew Bumpy talked to the kids and gave them apples to give to her. She had to be the safest person in Harlem. If Bumpy Johnson gave you protection in Harlem, you could walk around with a wad of hundreds in your mitts and no one would rob you.

      Bumpy even checked on her himself, Breslin recalled:

      She told me how this nice older man came by and that he was a friend of my brother, Jimmy, and any sister of Jimmy was a friend of his. He introduced himself as Ellsworth. My sister told him she that she got the job because the federal government hired her in an initiative to get more teachers into inner-city schools. Johnson told her that he too had also worked for the federal government for many years. She asked what did he do and he laughed and told her he was a guest at many federal prisons for far too many years.

      Breslin laughed. Back then it was a pleasure to cover criminals like Johnson. They werent into drugs and their crime was more self-contained with gambling and loan sharking. Once the drugs took over the crime scene, it wasnt as much fun anymore.

      Frank Lucas

      In 2007, the film American Gangster told the allegedly true story of Harlem legend Frank Lucasthe man who says Bumpy Johnson died in his arms at Wells Restaurant. I say allegedly because you have to take anything a drug dealer says with a fair amount of skepticism, and the movie is based on the tales that Lucas has spun through the years. I would bet not all of his stories are true, but the truth never got in the way of a Hollywood movie.

      Before the film, I knew all about the legend of Frank Lucaswho had a major drug ring operating up and down the East Coast in the 60s and 70sfrom street sources and an excellent 2000 profile of him by Marc Jacobson in New York magazine.

      Lucas drug ringthe Country Boys, all family and childhood friends from his hometown in North Carolinahad quite the twist. First, it wasnt just retailing; it was distributing. And Lucas and his crew had an ingenious way of getting heroin into America: They had American soldiers bottom out the caskets of other American soldiers who were killed in Vietnam, and they filled the bottom of the caskets with major weight heroin. Lucas has claimedno one can prove thisthat he once had $100,000 worth of heroin smuggled onto Henry Kissingers own plane, with old Henry none the wiser.

      Lucas was an all-around bad guy who helped fuel the heroin plague in New York that killed thousands of young people and, when he was busted, turned on all his friends to cut down his prison sentence.

      In February 2007, the New York Post interviewed Lucas and the godfather of his son, former federal agent Richie Roberts, who in the flick American Gangster is portrayed by Russell Crowe. Roberts helped bring down Lucas and got him to flip on his old associates; the two have been friends ever since.

      Frank set up a pipeline that was unprecedented. It brought in millions and millions of dollars worth of dope, said Roberts. They were ODing from Maine to Florida it was coming in at an unbelievable rate; it was truly an epidemic. So the government set up strike forces in Boston, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Philly

      Roberts was able to bust Lucas ring and then got him to flip on everyone that was involved. His conviction and cooperation afterwards totally destroyed the heroin connection between Southeast Asia and the U.S. It led to over 150 major players. Im not saying he hasnt killed an awful lot of people, but he saved an awful lot of lives by doing that.

      It wasnt from a bout of conscience.

      Kind of sonofabitch I saw myself being, kind of money I wanted to make, Id have to be on Wall Street. On Wall Street, from the giddy-up. But I couldnt get a fucking janitor job Wall Street, Lucas told New York magazine in 2000.

      Lucas was a hands-on drug dealer. He would dress up like a bum and sit in an old beat-up car by his drug corners to make sure his producta potent brand of heroin with the street name Blue Magicwas getting sold and that no one was stealing from him.

      Lucas told New York, By four oclock [in the afternoon] we had enough ni**ers in the street to make a Tarzan movie By nine oclock, I aint got a fucking gram. Everything is gone. Sold and I got myself a million dollars.

      Lucas grew up in La Grange, North Carolina, and claims that he became a skilled chicken and pig thief after the Klan murdered his cousin. After a prison bid and then a fight with a thug, he came up to New York in 1946 to escape the South and his enemies there.

      He hooked up with Bumpy Johnson, who saw something in the young Frank Lucas and took him in, and taught his protg how to dress and carry himself in the big city.

      Lucas: Bumpy was a gentleman among gentlemen, a king among kings, a killer among killers, a whole book and a bible onto himself.

      But where Johnson was a dedicated reader and gentleman, Lucas was something else. As he put it: There wasnt gonna be no next Bumpy. Bumpy believed in that share-the-wealth. I was a different sonofabitch. I wanted all the money myself.

      Lucas claims he went to Thailand and the Golden Triangle to set up his unique system for importing heroin, and made millions before Jan. 28, 1975, when NYPD and DEA agents arrested him in his New Jersey house.

      In 1976, Lucas was convicted of both state and federal drug felonies and received a 70-year sentence. He turned in every dealer he could and was let out of jail in 1981a mere four years into his 70-year sentence. But crime was in Lucas blood and by 1984 he was back in prison. Once again, he wormed his way out of serving his full term.

      He claims that he did not turn rat to get out of prison early, noting that he never testified in court against anyone. Its a dubious claim.

      Nicky Barnes

      Another gangster icon of the 70s was Leroy Nicky Barnes, who hooked up with some Italian gangsters in stir and upon release began an unholy alliance between blacks and Italians that made him one of New Yorks biggest drug distributors. Barnes was well liked by the black community for his flashy dress, his expensive cars, and his ability to beat indictment after indictment.

      In 1977, the same year that The New York Times magazine ran a cover story profiling Mr. Untouchable, he was finally touched, and sent upstate with a 20-year sentence. Four years later, a smart detective who had helped bring Barnes down helped get the word to Barnes that his former associates had broken their promise to support his wife and children, and instead were stealing from him. With revenge on his mind, Barnes decided to turn rat and his testimony led to 50 convictions of mobsters on drug charges.

      A large contract was put out on Barnes life, but he was buried deep in the prison system and it never came due. In 1997, he walked out of prison and is now an old man living out his golden years with his family in parts unknown in the witness protection program.

      I once interviewed the decorated detective who helped take Barnes down and then flip him. The detectives name was Sonny Hight, a dapper, light-skinned black man with a melodious voice.

      I worked the Barnes case and did well with it because I knew how to treat gangsters. I gave Nicky Barnes a little respect. That is all it took. Show him that regardless of what he did he is still a human, and Ia policeknew that. I didnt treat him like an animal and I was able to get him to cooperate and put down a lot of bad guys. That was a tough case and I worked very hard at it. That is what most good police work isjust dogged determination to get the job done. It is not for everyone.

      Once we had Barnes, the trick was to turn him, and I was able to get his confidence and show him to help us would only help him. It did. He got out of prison early and was able to go on and lead a free life. It might not be as high-flying as he once had been, but he was free.

      Sonny Hight

      Then theres the one who got away: Frank Matthews.

      Frank Matthews

      For a time in the late 60s and early 70s, Matthews seemed untouchable since, like Barnes, he only employed relatives or boyhood friends from his hometown of Durham, North Carolina. His crew supplied Boston, Philly, Miami, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit, while Matthews based himself in New York and Durham, midway between Miami and New Yorkhis two biggest outletsand far from the spotlight.

      He also knew that the Black Mafia had to cut out the Italian one to survive. He would bring black gangsters to Las Vegas and Miami and preach to them how they had to work together and keep the Italians out of their business.

      Matthews, the DEA said, controlled the cutting, packaging, and sale of heroin in every major East Coast city, while also working on the wholesale side, shipping kilos to other big dealers. It worked for a while, but the feds caught up with Matthews and arrested him at his Brooklyn house.

      Matthews made his bail and allegedly grabbed a $20 million stash he had hidden, and was never heard from again. The only thing he left behind when he fled Brooklyn was $350,000the exact amount his bail bondsman would have had to forfeit for his skipping town.

      Frank Lucas told Mark Jacobson his thoughts on Frank Matthews: Some say hes dead, but I know hes living in Africa, like a king, with all the fucking money in the world.

      And Frank Matthews did it without once having to rat anyone out.

      By the end of the 1970s, the feds had taken out most of the big black drug dealers. The lottery had replaced the numbers, and the rise of community policing cut into prostitution, which had been the second biggest racket run by black mobsters as the game left the streets and South American, Russian, and Chinese gangstersmany of them immigrants with hard-earned experience surviving brutal police statesopened operations in small apartment buildings.

      Then crack replaced heroin and created a bloodier and still less-organized drug marketplace that made casualties of a generation of users and dealers.

      I talked with T.J. English, whos spent his life reporting on crime, recently about the black mob.

      To think that African Americans would have a crime structure like the Italian mob is absurd; they are two different cultures. The original black gangsters had the numbers, prostitution, and drugs. By 1980, all they had was drugs. But as far as drug selling goes, they never controlled the wholesale end. They were, and are, at the distribution end. Blacks never controlled the amount of money needed to be the wholesalers of drugs.

      I told English that I had once talked with a low-level member of the Genovese family, and he claimed that the problem black gangsters had was that they never tried to buy off judges or politicians, while that was one of the Mafias main expenses.

      I dont think that back then judges or politicians would have even taken the money had the black gangsters tried to bribe them, he said. They wouldnt have gotten into bed with them. The criminal justice system in this country is a very European-based system that was racist. They were the ones that took black gangsters out, not the Italians. It was the FBI who didnt want to see a black mob succeed more than the Mafia.

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      Everything You Need To Fix Oily And Dry Skin Once And For All

      I think I speak for everyone when I say there’s nothing worse or more embarrassing than visible sweat. It’s obviously gross, very inconvenient, and like, literally so annoying. Sure, maybe it’s a bodily function to keep us from overheating, but it’s really so extra and unnecessary. Like, yes, thank you for letting everyone in my vicinity know I’m fucking hot as balls by making my face melt. Love that. By noon each day, my face is on its way to looking like a fugly greaseball, and although it feels like I’ve exhausted most remedies, I’m running out of patience to deal with this oily face bullshit. As much as it sucks to have the occasional oily face, it also blows to have to deal with dry skin, even after you’ve gone through bottles on bottles of moisturizers. Since winter is coming fast (on the east coast, at least, so don’t jump down my throat, west coast betches), those of you with mostly dry skin will need a savior ASAP, aka me. Below, I give you everything you need to prevent oily hot messes and dry af cracked faces.

      If You Have Oily Skin, You Need: A Good Facial Cleanser

      Good skin starts with the shit you’re putting on it. Fucking duh. First things first, check to make sure you’re using the right face wash for your skin. If you’re prone to oiliness, be sure to opt for a cleanser with at least 2% salicylic acid, like Origins Zero Oil Deep Pore Cleanser With Saw Palmetto And Mint. This helps maintain a little oil (but in a good way) so that your skin at least keeps the natural stuff and you don’t end up looking flaky.

      If You Have Dry Skin, You Need: Intense Hydrating Masks

      Washing your face is great. You’re doing amazing, sweetie, but if you’re prone to ultra flaky skin, you need a hydrating mask to lock in all of that moisture you’re putting on. Not just any hydrating mask, but a super intense one that works immediately and has long-term results, such as Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Masque. Make sure to focus on extra sensitive and thin areas of your face like the eyes, nose, and chin.

      If You Have Oily Skin, You Need: A Cooling Facial Mist

      Blotting papers are great and all, but going through millions of packs and growing pissed off at how much oil sits on your face clearly doesn’t actually fix anything. To reduce shine throughout the day without ruining your makeup, buy a cooling facial mist or setting spray like Urban Decay Chill Cooling and Hydrating Makeup Setting Spray. Cooling your skin down throughout the day obvs minimizes your pores, which results in far less oily grossness.

      If You Have Dry Skin, You Need: More Water

      And I don’t mean just chugging it on the regular. I mean, more water-based products, too. Since your face is clearly struggling to keep itself hydrated and moisturized, you’ll need products that are full of good ol’ H2O and designed to lock in necessary oils and hydration, like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream so, you’re not cracking say crack again by lunch everyday.

      If You Have Oily Skin, You Need: Oil-Free Everything

      This is probs the most obvious of the bunch, but you’d be surprised and utterly disgusted to find out how much of your everyday skincare and beauty products rack up on oil. So goddamn rude. These are the reasons I have trust issues. Make sure you’re using oil-free *everything* such as Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel, BECCA Cosmetics Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector, and Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Liquid Makeup to ensure you’re not contributing to the hot mess that is your face.

      If You Have Dry Skin, You Need: To Exfoliate Like It’s Your Job

      A big reason why your face is probs dry af is because your outer layer sucks, to say the least. All of your time and efforts aren’t actually getting absorbed as well as they should to last, so be sure that you’re exfoliating twice as much as you regularly would with a gentle scrub like the La Roche Posay Ultra Fine Scrub. This healthy route helps uncover new layers of skin and exposes the new, better layer to the much-needed moisture, water, and hydration you’re putting on it.


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