Archive for April, 2009

Gunman ‘lying in wait’ kills 3 Pittsburgh officers

April 5, 2009

Gunman ‘lying in wait’ kills 3 Pittsburgh officers By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI and DAN NEPHIN, Associated Press Writers Ramit Plushnick-masti And Dan Nephin, Associated Press Writers Sat Apr 4, 6:58 pm ET PITTSBURGH – A gunman wearing a bulletproof vest and “lying in wait” opened fire on officers responding to a domestic disturbance call Saturday, killing three of them and turning a quiet Pittsburgh street into a battlefield, police said. Police Chief Nate Harper said the motive for the shooting isn’t clear, but friends said the gunman recently had been upset about losing his job and feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns. Richard Poplawski, 23, met officers at the doorway and shot two of them in the head immediately, Harper said. An officer who tried to help the two also was killed. Poplawski, armed with an assault rifle and two other guns, then held police at bay for four hours as the fallen officers were left bleeding nearby, their colleagues unable to reach them, according to police and witnesses. More than 100 rounds were fired by the SWAT teams and Poplawski, Harper said. The three slain officers were Eric Kelly, 41, Stephen Mayhle, 29, and Paul Sciullo III, 37. Kelly had been on the force for 14 years, Mayhle and Sciullo for two years each. Another officer, Timothy McManaway, was shot in the hand and a fifth broke his leg on a fence. Poplawski had gunshot wounds in his legs but was otherwise unharmed because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, Harper said. He was charged with three counts of homicide, aggravated assault and a weapons violation. The shooting occurred just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot in Oakland, Calif., in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001. The officers were the first Pittsburgh city officers to die in the line of duty in 18 years. “This is a solemn day and it’s a very sad day in the city of Pittsburgh,” Harper said. “We’ve seen this kind of violence happen in California. We never would think this kind of violence would happen in the city of Pittsburgh.” At 7 a.m., Sciullo and Mayhle responded to a 911 call from Poplawski’s mother, who remained holed up in the basement during the entire dispute and escaped unharmed, Harper said. When they arrived at the home, Sciullo was immediately shot in the head. Mayhle, who was right behind him, was also shot in the head. “It appears he was lying in wait for the officers,” Harper said. Kelly, who was on his way home after completing his overnight shift when he heard the call for help, rushed to the scene and was killed trying to help Sciullo and Mayhle, Harper said. SWAT teams and other officers arrived and were immediately fired on as well. Don Sand, who lives across the street from Poplawski, said he was woken up by the sound of gunfire. Hunkering down behind a wall in his home, he saw the first two officers go down and then saw Kelly get shot. “They couldn’t get the scene secure enough to get to them. They were just lying there bleeding,” Sand said. “By the time they secured the scene enough to get to them it was way too late.” Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson, who lives nearby, was one of the first officers to arrive. He saw Mayhle by a bush to the right of the door; Kelly was in the street and McManaway, his hand injured, was kneeling beside him, yelling that Kelly needed help. Donaldson suggested using a police van to get them. They draped a bulletproof vest on the window to protect the driver and several officers got into the van to get Kelly and McManaway. During this time, Poplawski was somehow distracted, Donaldson said. “We were fortunate that he didn’t fire on us. I don’t know why he was distracted, but he apparently didn’t see us coming down to get them,” he said. “It could have been worse.” Poplawski had feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon,” said Edward Perkovic, his best friend. Perkovic, 22, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, “Eddie, I am going to die today. … Tell your family I love them and I love you.” Perkovic said: “I heard gunshots and he hung up. … He sounded like he was in pain, like he got shot.” Poplawski had once tried to join the Marines, but was kicked out of boot camp after throwing a food tray at a drill sergeant, Perkovic said. Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said Poplawski feared that President Barack Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he “wasn’t violently against Obama.” Vire, 23, said Poplawski once had an Internet talk show but that it wasn’t successful. He said Poplawski owned an AK-47 rifle and several powerful handguns, including a .357 Magnum. Obama has said he respects Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms, but that he favors “common sense” gun laws. Gun rights advocates interpret that as meaning he would approve some curbs on assault and concealed weapons. Poplawski had been laid off from his job at a glass factory earlier this year, said another friend, Joe DiMarco. DiMarco said he didn’t know the name of the company, but knew his friend had been upset about it. The last Pittsburgh police officers killed in the line of duty were Officers Thomas L. Herron and Joseph J. Grill, according to a Web site that tracks police killings. They died after their patrol car collided with another vehicle while chasing a stolen car on March 6, 1991. In 1995, an off-duty officer was shot with his own gun after he confronted a group of teenagers about graffiti. Tests later showed the officer had been drinking. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 133 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2008, a 27 percent decrease from year before and the lowest annual total since 1960. Poplawski had often fought with neighbors and had even gotten into fist fights with a couple, Sand said. “This is a relatively really quiet neighborhood except for him,” Sand said. “He was just one of those kids that we knew to stay clear from.” Harper confirmed police had responded to calls from the Poplawski house several times but said the incidents were still being investigated. Rob Gift, 45, who lives a block away, said the well-kept single-family houses with manicured lawns are home to many police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other city workers. “It’s just a very quiet neighborhood,” Gift said.

Oversaving, a Burden for Our Times

April 4, 2009
March 24, 2009
Findings

We interrupt this recession to bring you news of another crisis that is much more pleasant to deal with. Now that shoppers have sworn off credit cards, we’re risking an epidemic of a hitherto neglected affliction: saver’s remorse.

The victims won’t evoke much sympathy — don’t expect any telethons — but their condition is real enough to merit a new label. Consumer psychologists call it hyperopia, the medical term for farsightedness and the opposite of myopia, nearsightedness, because it’s the result of people looking too far ahead. They’re so obsessed with preparing for the future that they can’t enjoy the present, and they end up looking back sadly on all their lost opportunities for fun.

It’s hard to imagine this excessive foresight being much of a burden for, say, Bernard L. Madoff. Nor for the optimists who took out balloon mortgages (and the A.I.G. executives who insured them). But hyperopia does seem to affect a wide range of people in some circumstances, to judge from clever experiments with people shopping for bargains and redeeming prizes.

Splurging on a vacation or a pair of shoes or a plasma television can produce an immediate case of buyer’s remorse, but that feeling isn’t permanent, according to Ran Kivetz of Columbia University and Anat Keinan of Harvard. In one study, these consumer psychologists asked college students how they felt about the balance of work and play on their winter breaks.

Immediately after the break, the students’ chief regrets were over not doing enough studying, working and saving money. But when they contemplated their winter break a year afterward, they were more likely to regret not having enough fun, not traveling and not spending money. And when alumni returned for their 40th reunion, they had even stronger regrets about too much work and not enough play on their collegiate breaks.

“People feel guilty about hedonism right afterwards, but as time passes the guilt dissipates,” said Dr. Kivetz, a professor of marketing at the Columbia Business School. “At some point there’s a reversal, and what builds up is this wistful feeling of missing out on life’s pleasures.”

He and Dr. Keinan managed to change consumers’ behavior simply by asking a few questions to bus riders going to outlet stores and to other shoppers shortly before Black Friday.

The people who were asked to imagine how they would feel the following week about their purchases proceeded to shop thriftily for basic necessities, like underwear and socks. But people who were asked to imagine how they’d feel about their purchases in the distant future responded by spending more money and concentrating on indulgences like jewelry and designer jeans

“When I look back at my life,” one of these high rollers explained, “I like remembering myself happy. So if it makes me happy, it’s worth it.”

Aesop told a fable of two types of people: the virtuous Ant who saves for the winter and the improvident Grasshopper who’s punished with starvation. But even the most conscientious Ants sometimes recognize the need to lighten up — and, with typical Ant discipline, will find ways to “precommit to indulgence,” as Dr. Kivetz discovered in a lottery experiment he conducted with Itamar Simonson of Stanford University.

The experimental participants, who were all women, were given a ticket for a lottery drawing to be held three months later, and asked to choose in advance which prize they’d prefer if they won: $85 in cash, or a voucher for an $80 massage or facial at a spa. They were reminded that they could simply use the $85 in cash to buy the spa treatment (and have $5 left over), but even so, more than a third of the women chose the voucher for the spa.

Similar results turned up when the researchers asked men and women to pick other kind of prizes or to redeem points earned in frequent-buyer programs. When choosing between cash and “hedonic luxuries” like bottles of wine, dinners or vacations, a substantial minority chose the luxuries even though the cash was a better deal.

“If I took the cash,” one person explained, “it would end up going into the rent.” Another wrote of her decision: “That way I’d have to pamper myself and not spend the $ on something like groceries.”

Other experiments showed that people will work harder for luxuries than for more practical prizes — and the more effort that’s required, the more they feel entitled to a self-indulgent reward. That’s a motivation strategy for managers and marketers to keep in mind, Dr. Kivetz said.

During the current recession, hyperopic Ants are presumably having a harder time than ever parting with their own cash, no matter how often President Obama and his economists urge them to do some stimulative shopping. But would these Ants — and the economy — be better off if they relaxed a little? (You can provide an answer at TierneyLab, nytimes.com/tierneylab. ) I asked Dr. Kivetz for his advice to shoppers.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” he said. “Obviously you need to be responsible and conserve your savings. But it’s been a depressing winter, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself a little. This is a chance to reassess the quality and the balance of your life and to think how you’ll feel in the future. As long as you can afford it, it’s not a bad thing to be enjoying yourself.”

That advice sounds sensible to me, but then I, like a lot of baby boomers, have always had a strong Grasshopper streak anyway. The bigger challenge will be persuading serious Ants like my parents, who remember the Depression and have looked with horror on the money spent by my generation (particularly those of us living in New York).

In the past, I’ve tried pointing out to my parents that all money not spent by the Greatest Generation will only be spent by their heirs — and in not-so-great ways. Sometimes, after I’ve threatened to blow the inheritance on a box at the Metropolitan Opera or nightly meals at Le Bernardin, my parents will consent to a little extravagance for themselves, and my mother will remind my father of an old proverb: “There are no pockets in shrouds.”

But maybe now, thanks to Dr. Kivetz’s research, there are better arguments to use on Ants of any age. They can be presented with a scientific rationale for going on a shopping binge: It’s essential therapy for your hyperopia! If that doesn’t convince them, if they seem puzzled by the term, then try this question on them:

When you’re on your deathbed, how much time will you spend wistfully thinking, “If only I’d bought the smaller plasma TV. . . .”?