Dining News

How Seattle Restaurants Are Finding Alternative Solutions to Calling 911

Last June, a few months after the Filipino coffee shop Hood Famous Cafe and Bar opened in the Chinatown-International District, co-owners Chera Amlag and Geo Quibuyen wanted to have a frank discussion with their staff about handling potential conflicts. In that neighborhood and others downtown, people experiencing housing insecurity or going through a mental health crisis often look to restaurants for brief shelter or a place to get some food or a cup of coffee. Too often, if there’s a disturbance with diners or someone is visibly intoxicated, the default reaction may be to call the police.

But Hood Famous looked to find a different solution that would still keep its customers and employees safe. One with more empathy and understanding for a neighborhood where raids on homeless encampments are common, and policing can be antagonistic.

“We wanted to be really thoughtful and responsible as business owners in a district that we love,” Amlag tells Eater Seattle. “Is there something that we can do — as citizens, as individuals, as people who care about our community — prior to calling the cops?”

So Hood Famous brought in social worker Aleks Martin — who has over 10 years of experience with drug and alcohol counseling, and over 20 years in the health and social service field — to talk about best practices when it comes to de-escalating conflict. Part of the training involves confronting one’s own racial and social biases (in the latter case, not assuming someone is homeless if they are “homeless presenting,” for instance). But one key part involves becoming familiar with resources that don’t involve cops.

“I’m not asking baristas to be crisis responders,” Martin tells Eater Seattle. “But they can be a bridge to connect people to services that they need. You can call on behavioral health specialists, essentially people like me — like a social worker or a mental health therapist, or an addictions counselor, or a case manager — who are trained to talk with people, not to talk at people, rather than the automatic response of pulling a gun.”

Amlag and Martin mention Crisis Connections as a possible alternative to 911. The King County-based organization’s umbrella includes 211, which is a resource hub for those who need help with housing issues, financial needs, legal aid, or finding a nearby food bank. Crisis Connections also has a program called Crisis Line (1-866-4CRISIS): a 24/7 call center that can help connect people with social workers, case managers, counselors, or other experts in situations that are urgent, but non life-threatening.

Both resources are meant for individuals to call the numbers themselves, but staff members at a restaurant or small business can also call on behalf of someone who may be in need of assistance. “With Crisis Line, either we talk to the person in crisis directly, or we can transfer them to the right help that they need,” says Lauren Rigert senior director of development and community relations for Crisis Connections.

Another resource that already exists as part King County’s crisis response system is the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), which has a program called the Crisis Solutions Center. First responders can call on the DESC’s 24/7 mobile team, trained in de-escalation methods, for support when people are having behavioral health crises (there’s also a physical building with 46 beds for temporary shelter, should anyone need it).

According to the official website, the Crisis Solutions Center’s goal “is to divert individuals impacted by mental illness and substance abuse from jails and hospitals by providing a more appropriate therapeutic alternative.” Right now, this is a resource only for first responders, not the public to use for referrals, but that could perhaps change, if the organization expands, says executive director Daniel Malone. “Right now, we just don’t have the capacity to handle that kind of volume of calls,” he says.

Seattle also recently relaunched the Community Service Officers program (CSO), a group of civilian employees who help residents and businesses involved in non-criminal calls navigate services, engage with communities and neighborhoods, and support programming for at-risk youth. The first iteration of the program, which is part of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) ended in 2004 due to budget constraints, but was rebooted after a $2 million investment. The program is still small, though, and their role within the SPD remains unclear.

As has been highlighted by the recent protests, there is an over-reliance on policing to solve many non life-threatening matters, across the U.S., not just in Seattle — and orgs like DESC, CSO, and Crisis Connections can play a large role in finding better solutions. Restaurants may be able to not only train staff on seeking out those resources, but also raise awareness for them among the general population.

In that vein, Belltown bar Neon Boots recently posted on Instagram a list of “Seattle Area Alternatives to Calling 911.” Among the organizations are domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines, youth resources, substance abuse organizations, and many other numbers in a printable PDF for those who want to display them at their place of business.

Neon Boots co-owner Jeremy Alexander says, in his experience, de-escalation tactics have always been preferable to calling the cops. “Even if we are asking someone to leave, we still respect their boundaries of personal space and their right to not be physically touched or threatened,” he says. “With this in mind, it is hard to justify a call to the police, as the possibility of physical force is one of their main coercive tactics.”

Alexander says the Neon Boots list is an “ongoing project that we hope to improve on as we learn and gain insight from the community,” spurred by the hope that the city will reallocate funds from policing to other resources. “I’ve found that the police often create the illusion of public safety, of order, while the community is largely responsible for itself. We talk to our neighbors, we keep each other informed. When you know the people living on the streets you tend to treat each other with more respect.”

Awareness about these solutions may be in short supply, though. Several of the bars and restaurants Eater Seattle contacted about this story weren’t even aware of 211 or Crisis Connections, although many said that they would use such resources if the situation called for them. A few near Pioneer Square and the International District mentioned Downtown Ambassadors as a helpful alternative. It has an outreach team that aims to meet unsheltered individuals where they are, and serves an area of twelve neighborhoods.

In general, from the restaurateurs’ perspective, calling the cops when there’s been a clear threat hasn’t resulted in swift action, anyway. Alexander says that at another bar where he used to work, it once took the cops three hours to show up to a scene where someone crashed a stolen vehicle into the patio and then brandished a knife at customers. “In my experience, the police do not ever respond quickly, and are generally dismissive when they do arrive.”

Another obstacle to expanding alternatives to 911 is the much-discussed Seattle city budget. Mayor Jenny Durkan recently proposed cutting $20 million from the SPD for the last six months of 2020. But that’s well below the 50 percent that area protesters have recently demanded, and even the number some of the city’s own council members, including Teresa Mosqueda, have mentioned.

The city has a major budget shortfall due to COVID-19, in the range of $400 million this year. And it’s unclear whether any money taken from the SPD or anywhere else would go to fund resources like Crisis Connections. Relatively speaking, the money used to keep such organizations going (a combination of government funding and philanthropic donations) is paltry compared to other areas, including the SPD. The annual budget for Crisis Connections in 2019, for instance, was $7.5 million, less than one percent of what the SPD’s budget was this year. DESC’s Crisis Solutions Center has an operating budget of $9 million.

City council members are still keeping options on the table as pressure mounts to defund the police department and boost other alternatives. And, as anybody familiar with Seattle politics knows, that means… more discussions.

“We’re anticipating hearing about what community members are asking for Wednesday in committee,” a rep for Mosqueda tells Eater Seattle.

In the meantime, it could be up to restaurants and bars to deliver more of a grassroots effort to make non-emergency policing increasingly obsolete. “Hopefully, giving our teams proper training on de-escalating situations, cops won’t have to be called, and we’re not putting that person’s life in danger by potentially being killed by a police officer or being incarcerated,” says Jeanie Chunn, group director of the coalition Seattle Restaurants United.

“I’ve seen the cops called on people struggling with mental health issues, and then it escalates,” says Eric Fisher, co-owner of the restaurant Copal in Pioneer Square. “It seems so simple. Just call a different number, and someone without a gun will show up to help.”

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Breaking New

India Bans TikTok, Calling It A Malicious App

Following rising domestic pressure to boycott Chinese-made goods, the Indian government on Monday ordered 59 Chinese apps to be blocked, including TikTok, WeChat, Shareit, and Clash of Kings.

The Indian government framed the move as protecting personal information from what it called “malicious apps,” that “harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.”

But tensions have been rising between the two nuclear powers for weeks, following a border clash in the Himalayas in which Chinese forces killed at least 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers died. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced domestic criticism, which undercuts his strongman image and conciliatory posture toward China, against which India has fought sporadically since a war in 1962.

“While the prime minister called for self-dependence recently, the idea would’ve been to build capability and not boycott products from India’s second-biggest trade partner,” Abhishek Baxi, a technology journalist and digital consultant, told BuzzFeed News. “While action against smartphone brands would be too much to handle, banning apps is a low-hanging fruit for political posturing.”

Among the 59 apps are some of the country’s most popular — and controversial. As of June 2019, the most recent date for which information was available, video-sharing app TikTok was used by an estimated 200 million people in the country as of October 2019. (Tiktok has not announced more recent user numbers for the country.) In April 2019, India banned the app for just over a week over child pornography concerns.

As that banning showed, restricting the apps is not as simple as a government decree. It requires the cooperation of Google and Apple, which run the stores where the apps are sold. As of Monday, those companies had not indicated whether or not they would comply with the order. Apple and Google have not yet responded to requests for comment.

On Tuesday night, TikTok issued a statement saying that the company’s executives had been “invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications.”

Earlier this month, Google removed an app called “Remove China Apps” from the Play Store in India, which had been downloaded 4.7 million times, and which claimed to scan people’s phones for Chinese apps and delete them.

TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is one of the world’s most valuable companies, worth over $100 billion as of May, according to Business Insider. With its headquarters in Beijing, it’s also one of the main vectors of Chinese soft power, its popularity raising concerns around the world, including from US senators, Egyptian courts, and Australian regulators.

“This isn’t just India-specific,” Abhijeet Mukherjee, the founder of Guiding Tech. “There has been growing discontent with how some of such apps are ‘probably’ crossing the line.”

Also among the ban were group chat platform WeChat, owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, mobile game Clash of Kings, and file-sharing app ShareIt, which BuzzFeed News reported in February was being used by Kashmiris to evade an internet shutdown levied by the Indian government. Several prominent Chinese-owned apps were not included, among them certain apps owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Despite liberalizing its foreign direct investment policies under Modi, the Indian government recently changed course. In April, China’s central bank acquired a 1.01% stake in India’s largest housing lender, after which the Indian government announced a new policy aimed at reducing Chinese investment in Indian firms. Although Chinese investment in India is small, its capital is disproportionately concentrated in the tech industry, with major stakes in 18 of the 30 largest startups, according to the Hindu.

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Celebrity Entertaiment

Scheana Shay ‘Likes’ Tweet Calling for ‘Pump Rules’ Editor’s Demotion

Scheana Shay has gone silent amid the drama with Vanderpump Rules editor Bri Dellinger, but the SURver’s social media activity speaks for itself.

The 35-year-old reality TV personality “liked” a series of tweets from supportive fans after Dellinger admitted she tries to embarrass Scheana on the Bravo series on purpose.

“A vindictive woman who is pouting over a never-existing friendship, IS NOT someone who you’d WANT To be friends with ANYWAY! Ugh! I hope Bri gets demoted! #JusticeForScheana,” one tweet “liked” by Scheana reads.

Scheana Shay Approves Justice for Scheana Campaign After Editor Drama
Scheana Shay at the film premiere of ‘Fantasy Island’ on February 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

A second tweet states, “Team @scheana the way the editors are treating her is straight trash. She deserves better.”

“LMAO imagine editing a show with Jax Taylor, Katie Maloney, Tom Schwartz, Stassi etc. Etc. as the cast and you choose SCHEANA to be the one to embarrass,” a third tweet reads. “This S T I N K S. #PumpRules.”

Scheana made headlines on Monday, May 11, after Dellinger spoke about her friendships — or lack thereof — with the Bravo cast during an appearance on the “Twisted Plot Podcast With Evelyn Marley.”

“If Scheana knew what was good for her, she’d befriend me because my favorite game is finding all of the embarrassing things that Scheana does and putting them all in,” the editor said in the since-deleted podcast episode. “[The editors] joke that Scheana’s memoir will be Death By a Million Embarrassments.”

The “Good As Gold” songstress has expressed her concerns about her portrayal on Vanderpump Rules in the past.

“I mean, I’m not happy with my story line or whatever you want to call it, because it’s a very small percentage of my life that you’re seeing,” Scheana told Canadian outlet Global News in March. “Yes, I can be annoying and yes, I can be overly flirty. A lot of other women on the show are like that too but you’re not seeing that. You’re seeing other people’s careers and lives outside of the restaurant but you don’t see mine.”

Dellinger, however, disagrees.

“I feel like she just has short-term memory because we’ve shown a lot of her story,” she said on the podcast. “I understand why she’s bitter in some ways. You know, we do poke fun at her, but she’s just so funny.”

Vanderpump Rules airs on Bravo Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET. Us Weekly has reached out to Bravo for comment.

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Breaking New

Rep. Ayanna Pressley has a message for everyone calling her ‘Mr. Clean’ after going public with an autoimmune disease

Massachusetts’ first black congresswoman hit back at critics Thursday, though, posting a selfie on Twitter along with a letter to her “trolls.”

“Dear Trolls,” her tweet began. “You really think I look like “Mr. Clean” ? Please. He never looked THIS clean. Sorry not sorry my unapologetically rockin’ my crown triggers you. Proud #alopecian”

Fellow congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced her support, telling Pressley not to pay them any mind.

“They’re just mad because you pull off any & every look thrown at you, meanwhile they can’t even put on a hat on their head without looking like baby peanut,” she wrote.

Though Pressley’s Senegalese twists had become strongly associated with the congresswoman, she opened up in a video published by The Root about how she had begun noticing significant hair loss.

On the eve of the House’s impeachment of President Donald Trump, the last bit of her hair finally fell out, she said. She spent some time experimenting with wigs to hide the loss, but the look didn’t quite fit.

“Right now on this journey, when I feel the most unlike myself is when I am wearing a wig,” she said.

All of this lead to her deciding to go public with her baldness.

For those unfamiliar with the disease, alopecia areata develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles, according to the Academy of Dermatology. The disease affects more than 6 million people in the US alone, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

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Celebrity Entertaiment

SVU’s Diane Neal Denies Calling Mariska Hargitay a ‘Total Bitch’

The members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit allegedly haven’t always gotten along.

Diane Neal, who starred on Law & Order: SVU from 2003 to 2012 allegedly called the show’s star, Mariska Hargitay, a “total bitch” and said the rest of her costars were “awful people,” according to court documents obtained by Page Six. The Power star, 44, also reportedly said that the only person on set she got along with was Ice T.

The report claims that Neal shared this to her former campaign manager Rachael Himsel and Himsel wrote them in an email to an unnamed source. Said email is now part of Neal’s ex-boyfriend JB Benn’s lawsuit against her. In the suit, he also claims the actress threatened to kill him and his dog. She denies the claims.

Additionally, in a statement to Page Six, the NCIS alum denied bashing her costars.

“There is no truth to this at all. Most of the people I’ve worked with are amazing, I love almost everyone I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “Mariska and I were not the closest, but that doesn’t mean we have any animosity towards each other, we’re still very supportive of each other. She’s a great mom, she’s great as Benson, she’s doing great charity work. I have never talked about the cast members like this, it’s salacious and untrue.”

Mariska Hargitay and Diane Neal pose for photographers at the Badgley Mischka Fall 2004 show at Bryant Park in New York. Diane Bondareff/AP/Shutterstock

Benn’s lawsuit is a response to Neal’s, which she filed two years ago. Last week, new details of the lawsuit were revealed as the actress alleged that he sexually and physically abused her, stole money from her and harmed her pets. Benn, 44, denies any wrongdoing.

In her lawsuit, Neal claims she broke up with Benn in March 2018 and days later, she awoke to him sexually assaulting her and recording it on his cellphone. According to The Daily Beast, he called the claim “completely false and outrageously interposed as a tactic to cloud the fact that, on the merits, [Neal] has no entitlement to the relief she seeks” before saying his ex “will say whatever she believes is necessary to gain sympathy and to support her ongoing vendetta against me.

NBC did not respond to Us Weekly‘s request for comment.

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Breaking New

Elizabeth Warren is calling out billionaires on their turf

The Democratic presidential candidate launched an ad buy Thursday on CNBC, a network that frequently hosts the billionaires whose wealth she wants to tax.

Warren used the ad blitz to make the case for her wealth tax while simultaneously calling out her billionaire critics for their own actions.

The commercial, which aired on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Thursday morning, highlighted billionaire Leon Cooperman’s insider trading troubles, Peter Thiel’s role in bankrolling President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the lofty compensation former Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein received during the financial crash.

All three have been vocal critics of Warren’s aggressive plan to fight America’s very real inequality problem. The top 1% of US households now control $34.7 trillion of the nation’s wealth, according to the Federal Reserve. The bottom 50% of families only control $2.1 trillion.

Aiming to level the playing field, Warren wants to raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy and use the proceeds to pay for ambitious programs, including ones that would eliminate student debt and make all public colleges tuition free.

“We’re Americans. We want to make these investments. All we’re saying is when you make it big, pitch in two cents so everyone else gets a chance,” Warren said during the ad, which is part of a digital ad buy and is also scheduled to air at 6 pm ET.

‘Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA’

The commercial featured Blankfein telling CNN’s Poppy Harlow last month that he fears Warren wants “cataclysmic change” to the US economy.
Warren then called out Blankfein for the $70 million in compensation he received in 2007, the year the Great Recession began. That pay package included $27 million in bonuses and $26 million in stock awards, according to filings.
Blankfein, a registered Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, responded by hinting at Warren’s past disputed claims to Native American heritage.

“Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country,” Blankfein, who grew up in the projects of Brooklyn, tweeted. “Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA.”

The former Goldman CEO added that he was “surprised” to be featured in the ad because of the “many severe critics she has out there.” He said Warren is “not my candidate, but we align on many issues.”

Warren calls out insider trading troubles

Cooperman, the son of a plumber who has promised to give away his fortune to charity, had a more forceful response.

The hedge fund billionaire told CNBC on Wednesday that Warren is “disgraceful” and “doesn’t know who the f— she’s tweeting.” He added, “I gave away more in the year than she has in her whole f—ing lifetime.”
Cooperman added on Thursday that Warren’s wealth tax is “probably unconstitutional” and that “if this lady wins, we’re in big trouble.”
In the ad, Warren called out Cooperman for the 2017 insider trading charges that were levied by the SEC.

Cooperman took issue with that, telling CNBC that he “won the case.”

That’s not exactly what happened. The insider trading charges were settled with the SEC. Cooperman and his hedge fund settled the charges with the SEC, paying nearly $5 million in penalties and forfeited profits, while not admitting any wrongdoing. Cooperman is currently worth $3.2 billion, according to Forbes.

Warren also called out two of her other billionaire critics for their ties to Trump.

The ad highlighted that Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal (PYPL), sits on the board of directors at Facebook (FB), a company Warren wants to break up, and was a major supporter to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Similarly, Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade (AMTD), made a cameo during the ad that mentioned his contributions to Republican super PACs.

Neither Thiel nor Ricketts responded to requests for comment.

Top 1% control $4 trillion more than the middle class

The back-and-forth between Warren and billionaires underscores the deep divide over how to address America’s inequality problem.

In 1989, the middle class controlled $2.4 trillion more in wealth than the top 1%, according to the Fed.

But that has since reversed, with the top 1% holding $4 trillion more than the entire middle class.

Those numbers explain Warren’s relentless focus on inequality. She has called for imposing a wealth tax of 6 cents on every dollar of net worth above $1 billion.
Research suggests that the ultra-wealthy would still be very rich even if the wealth tax had been imposed decades ago. For instance, a tool run by calculates that Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos would be worth $95.3 billion today if a wealth tax was imposed in 1982. That’s compared to his 2018 net worth of $160 billion.

Warren’s campaign says her wealth tax can pay for various programs, including universal child care, universal pre-school, canceling student loan debt and Medicare-for-All.

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Celebrity Entertaiment

‘SNL’ Fans Slam Michael Che for Calling Caitlyn Jenner ‘Fella’

Not a great look. Michael Che and Colin Jost were cracking up during the Saturday, October 26, episode of Saturday Night Live, but not everyone enjoyed their joke about Caitlyn Jenner.

During the “Weekend Update” segment, Che, 36, explained in a joke that Kanye West was planning to make his lyrics more “G-rated,” something the comedian wasn’t thrilled about.

“At first I thought Kanye was losing his mind, and now I feel like he’s fine, he’s just turning into an old white lady,” the sketch comedy writer said. “I mean, he used to be one of the coolest black dudes on Earth. Now he’s showing up to events in sweatpants and orthopedic sneakers, listening to Kenny G and trying to get black people to like Trump. It’s like, how long before this guy changes his name to Kathy?”

Colin Jost and anchor Michael Che during Weekend Update
Anchor Colin Jost and anchor Michael Che during Weekend Update on ‘Saturday Night Live’ October 26, 2019 in New York City. Will Heath/NBC

Che then brought up Kim Kardashian‘s stepfather, who publicly came out as transgender in 2015.

“Now, you might think that I’m crazy, but about five years ago, there was a fella named Bruce Jenner, and he moved to Calabasas … ” he said without finishing the sentence. His “Weekend Update” cohost, Jost, put his head down on the desk while laughing.

After the joke, many viewers reacted on Twitter – and they were not happy.

“The thing that gets me about this transphobic SNL joke is that Michael Che clearly thinks this joke is the Height of Comedy since he cannot contain the giggle storm forming on his face,” one fan wrote. Another added, “Caitlyn Jenner jokes in 2019. Keep crushing it, SNL. Truly innovative stuff from Michael Che.”

Michael Che After He Calls Caitlyn Jenner Fella
Michael Che and Caitlyn Jenner. Shutterstock (2)

Comedian Avery Edison also pointed out the misusage of pronouns. “What gets me is that this disgusting, blatantly transphobic joke is both completely unfunny AND delivered incredibly poorly. there’s just no point to it. why this target? why the deadnaming? why the incorrect pronouns? WHY THE JOKE AT ALL?” she wrote. “The cruelty is the point. There are great writers and performers at SNL, and they don’t mean s–t if the lorne michaels bottleneck keeps letting a–holes like che spout crap like this and get chuckles from jost.”

Us Weekly has reached out to NBC for comment.

Saturday Night Live airs on NBC Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. ET.

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