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People Who Pay People to Kill People

People Who Pay People to Kill People

Megan Danielczak couldn’t stand living with her husband, but couldn’t afford to live without him. So she came up with a plan that was boilerplate noir: Hire a killer to murder him, and collect the life-insurance payout. She met the hit man in a Walmart parking lot on Valentine’s Day last year, and gave him a down payment of three gold rings and $402 in cash, and a promise of another $4,500 on the back end. Fortunately for Danielczak’s husband, if unfortunately for her, the hit man was an undercover cop. She is now serving two years in a Wisconsin prison, having been convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree intentional homicide.

Stories of unconsummated contract killings make headlines on a regular basis. Sometimes the motive is shockingly impersonal: Last year, a Houston man allegedly took out a $2,000 contract on the police officer who had been slapping his business’s vehicles with tickets. More often, the crime can be traced to an intimate but fractured relationship. In February, federal authorities charged an Indiana man and his girlfriend with murder for hire, after the two allegedly solicited a hit on the man’s ex-wife following a child-custody battle. The couple agreed to a fee of $5,000 to $10,000, “depending on the job’s complexity.” As in the Danielczak case, both the Houston and Indiana plots were foiled by undercover law-enforcement officers.

Criminologists have a name for a person who hires a hit man: instigator. They also confirm what news stories suggest: Lots of instigators get caught because they don’t know what they’re doing. After all, most of us don’t socialize with professional killers. The average person therefore looks to acquaintances or neighbors for referrals, or finds his way to criminal bottom-feeders who are likely to be inept and inexperienced. The former may be inclined to call law enforcement, while the latter may lose their nerve or botch the job. Which helps explain why so many murders for hire don’t produce any dead bodies.

In 2003, the Australian Institute of Criminology published an analysis of 163 contract-killing cases (some completed, others merely attempted) in Australia; it remains one of the most significant studies ever conducted of the subject. The authors determined that 2 percent of all murders in Australia were contract killings and that contracts were, in some cases, surprisingly affordable. One unfulfilled contract was for 500 Australian dollars; another job was completed for just $2,000. Among other key findings, nearly 20 percent of all contracts involved a romantic relationship gone wrong, and 16 percent were financially motivated.

Another study, this one of contract killings in Tennessee, found instigators pretty evenly split between men and women. This is notable, given that almost all conventional murders are committed by men. But it tracks with the fact that women are almost as likely as men to wish someone dead. In The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, David M. Buss, an evolutionary psychologist, reports that “91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one vivid fantasy about killing someone.”

What of the people who are hired to kill? Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who has consulted on a dozen murder-for-hire cases, told me that virtually all of the contract killers he’s examined display moderate to severe psychopathy. “Psychopathy, as a constellation of personality traits, gives them both the aggression and the emotional detachment to be able to carry out an act like this for money,” he says. Other experts I spoke with believe that both parties to a contract killing are engaged in psychological distancing. The contractor comforts himself by saying, This is my job. I’m just following orders. The instigator thinks, I’m not a murderer—he’s the one pulling the trigger.

Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified in court cases of criminals ranging from serial killers (Jeffrey Dahmer) to deranged assassins (John Hinckley Jr.), has another theory as to why homicidal people hire help. “My prime suspect is the depiction of hit men in popular culture, such as films, TV, video games, and novels,” Dietz told me, noting that the last time he entered hit man into Netflix, hundreds of results appeared. According to Dietz, such entertainment gives “the illusion that this is a service available to anyone.” In a world where dangerous or unpleasant tasks are routinely outsourced, a viewer might think, Well, why not this too?


This article appears in the July 2019 print edition with the headline “Hired Guns.”

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Bolivien – Nach monatelanger Ermittlungsbehinderung der Senkata- und Sacaba-Massaker sitzt De-facto-Präsidentin Jeanine Añez auf der Anklagebank

Ein Jahr nach den Massakern von Sacaba und Senkata steht die De-facto-Präsidentin Jeanine Añez vor Gericht. Was geschah am 11. und 19. November 2019 bei Cochabamba und La Paz? Ein Bericht von unserem Südamerika-Korrespondenten Frederico Füllgraf.

Nach umstrittenen und bald widerlegten Vorwürfen von „Wahlfälschung“ durch die Organisation der Amerikanischen Staaten (OAS/OEA), unter dem Druck meuternder Polizei und der Androhung eines Militärputsches trat Präsident Evo Morales am 11. November 2019 zurück und begab sich nach einem kurzen Zwischenaufenthalt in Mexiko Mitte Dezember ins argentinische Exil.

Wenige Tage darauf wurden am 15. November im Distrikt Sacaba, nahe Cochabamba, mindestens 11 Zivilisten getötet und weitere 120 verletzt. Weitere vier Tage später wurden am 19. November in Senkata, bei der oppositionellen Hochburg El Alto und nahe der Hauptstadt La Paz, weitere 11 Zivilisten getötet und 78 verletzt. Am 10.12.2019 verurteilte die zur OAS gehörende Interamerikanische Kommission für Menschenrechte (IACHR/CIDH) nachdrücklich die Massaker und „empfahl“ eine internationale Untersuchung der verheerenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen von Sacaba und Senkata.

Aus Hubschraubern niedergemäht

In beiden Fällen handelte es sich um Protestaufmärsche der Parteibasis der bis dahin regierenden „Bewegung zum Sozialismus“ (MAS). Im Fall Sacaba versuchten tausende von mit der MAS sympathisierenden Koka-Bauern in die Stadt Cochabamba einzumarschieren, um gegen den Sturz von Evo Morales zu protestieren. Die Polizei blockierte jedoch die Zufahrtswege, schoss erbarmungslos in die Menge und strickte eine Farce, wonach die Morales-Anhänger im Besitz großer Mengen Geld, Schusswaffen und Sprengstoff gewesen seien, um „terroristische Attentate“ zu verüben.

Im Fall Senkata wiederholte sich das gleiche Strickmuster. Demonstranten hatten ihrerseits die Zufahrt zum staatlichen Gasvertriebswerk (YPFB) blockiert. Auf neue Anweisung der De-facto-Regierung Jeanine Añez versuchte die Polizei, die Blockade zu brechen. Aus der Luft wurde sie von Militärhubschraubern unterstützt, aus denen brutal auf die Demonstranten am Boden mit schwerkalibrigen Militärwaffen gefeuert wurde.

Zur Begründung die zweite Farce: Añez‘ rechtsradikaler Kabinettschef Arturo Murillo beeilte sich mit der zynischen Unterstellung, die erschossenen Demonstranten seien „mit Schrotflinten, Kugeln vom Kaliber 22 und Dynamit von ihren eigenen Kameraden“, also als Folge einer „Vendetta“, getötet worden. Zur Erhärtung der Darstellung zog Generalstaatsanwalt Juan Lanchipa Gutachten des Instituts für forensische Untersuchungen (IDIF) heran, wonach bei „Angriffen“ auf das Gasvertriebswerk in Senkata Molotow-Cocktails und Dynamit verwendet wurden, um die Anlage „in die Luft zu jagen“.

„Sie schossen auf uns, so wie man Tiere umlegt“

Die „Empfehlung“ der konservativen OAS-Menschenrechtskommission blieb monatelang ein frommer Wunsch und löste ein diplomatisches Säbelrasseln im ultrakonservativen Regierungslager aus. Dort wurde die Verwendung des Wortes „Massaker“ als Teil einer angeblichen „Desinformations- und Fake-News-Kampagne“ verschrien. Der Bericht sei „voreingenommen“ und „beschämend“. Minister Arturo Murillo verstieg sich zu verschwörungstheoretischen Pleonasmen. Der Bericht „widerspiegelt nicht die Realität“ und begünstige nur „den Narkoterrorismus“.

Ende Juli 2020 vollzog sich jedoch eine radikale Wende in den angeblichen Untersuchungen der bolivianischen Behörden, als die Harvard International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) den Bericht „They Shot Us Like Animals“: Black November & Bolivia’s Interim Government („Sie haben uns wie Tiere erschossen“) vorlegte. Der 92 Seiten umfassende Bericht beruht auf sechsmonatigen, unabhängigen Untersuchungen vor Ort in Bolivien, während denen mehr als 200 Opfer, Augenzeugen, Journalisten, ferner Polizei und Militärbeamte, die an den Einsätzen in den Putschtagen beteiligt waren, interviewt wurden.

Die Autoren des Berichts attestieren der Putschregierung Jeanine Añez „eine der tödlichsten und repressivsten Perioden in Bolivien in den letzten Jahrzehnten sowie die wachsende Angst indigener Gemeinschaften und regierungskritischer Menschen, dass ihr Leben und ihre Sicherheit in Gefahr sind“. „Wir haben unglaubliche Muster von Menschenrechtsverletzungen ermittelt, seit die Übergangsregierung die Macht übernahm“, erklärte Thomas Becker, Jurist und einer der Autoren des Harvard-Berichts, und er befürchtete gar, „damit sei ein Umfeld geschaffen worden, das die Möglichkeit freier und fairer Wahlen untergraben hat“. Die unwidersprochene Akzeptanz von Luis Arces spektakulärem Wahlsieg am vergangenen 18. Oktober hat zumindest vorerst Beckers berechtigten Pessimismus zerstreut.

Der IHRC-Bericht, der das Niedermähen der Senkata-Opfer durch MG-Salven aus Hubschraubern des Militärs nachwies, blieb nicht ohne Folgen.

„Staatsterror“: De-facto-Präsidentin auf der Anklagebank

Zehn Monate nach seiner ersten Stellungnahme schwenkte der wegen Korruptionsvorwürfen seinerseits untersuchte Generalstaatsanwalt Lanchipa auf die Version der IHRC und der Opfer ein. Die Justizbehörden hätten „das Militärgeheimnis aufgehoben“ und den Streitkräften „befohlen“, der Staatsanwaltschaft ihren Einsatzplan vom 19. November 2019 auszuhändigen, erklärte Lanchipa.

In einem Untersuchungsbericht vom September 2020 mit dem Titel „Staatskrise, Verletzung der Menschenrechte in Bolivien“ erklärte daraufhin das Büro der bolivianischen Pflichtverteidiger, dass die Einsätze von Polizei und Militär in Sacaba und Senkata sehr wohl Massaker darstellten und dass die Regierung Jeanine Áñez wegen Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit verantwortlich gemacht werden müsse. Einer der schweren Vorwürfe gegen die evangelikale Ex-Senatorin ist ihr Monate später wieder zurückgenommener Erlass 4.078 vom 15. November 2019, mit dem unter anderem Angehörige der bolivianischen Streitkräfte von der strafrechtlichen Verfolgung wegen Einsätzen zur Bekämpfung von Protesten befreit wurden.

Añez‘ Amtszeit endet am 8. November 2020, wenn der demokratisch gewählte Präsident Luis Arce die legitime Nachfolge von Evo Morales antritt. Indes beschloss am vergangenen 27. Oktober die gemischte Verfassungskommission des bolivianischen Parlaments (ALP) die Einleitung von zwei Klagen gegen die De-facto-Präsidentin. Die erste betrifft die Genehmigung des gemeingefährlichen Dekrets 4.078 und die zweite die mutmaßliche Begehung von Totschlag und Völkermord in Sacaba und Senkata.

Die Berichte der Harvard Clinic und des Menschenrechtsrats der UN (UNHRC) nennen vier Bereiche, „in denen die Behörden die Menschenrechte bolivianischer Bürger und von Ausländern verletzt haben“. Zum einen habe es sich um einwandfreie „staatliche Gewalt gegen Demonstranten“, insbesondere in Sacaba und Senkata gehandelt, bei denen die polizeiliche und militärische Unterdrückung von Demonstranten „eine direkte Verletzung des Rechts auf Leben“ darstelle. „Zeugen zufolge haben die Sicherheitskräfte an beiden Orten – ohne vorherige Warnung – das Feuer auf unbewaffnete Zivilisten eröffnet, einschließlich derer, die den Verwundeten geholfen haben“, warnt der Harvard-Bericht. Zweitens schlussfolgert die Untersuchung, dass es in Bolivien „an unparteiischen Ermittlungen und am Zugang zur Justiz mangelt“, ein Zustand, der erkläre, weshalb die Regierung ihren Verpflichtungen zur Aufklärung der Massaker noch nicht nachgekommen ist.

Das Team der Harvard Clinic beanstandete ferner „eine Vielzahl alarmierender Hindernisse, die erschöpfende Ermittlungen geschwächt haben, wie die Manipulation von Beweismitteln, Unregelmäßigkeiten bei Autopsien, eine überarbeitete und mittellose Staatsanwaltschaft, die Weigerung von Beamten, Informationen bereitzustellen sowie Drohungen gegen Zeugen.

Drittens stellt der Bericht fest, es herrsche eine „Jagd auf (MAS-) Dissidenten“. „Zeugen zufolge hat die Regierung von Áñez deren Rechte seit November 2019 weiter geschwächt. Einzelne Beamte haben Journalisten bedroht, Oppositionsmedien geschlossen, Aktivisten gefoltert und willkürlich festgenommen, oppositionelle Politiker mit vagen Anschuldigungen wie „Aufruhr“ und „Terrorismus“ verfolgt. Schließlich beklagt der Bericht viertens, dass seit November 2019 im Land eine Praxis der „bürgerlichen und parastaatlichen Gewalt“ herrsche, nämlich dass sich in Bolivien „einige Bürger in parapolizeilichen Überwachungsgruppen organisiert haben und mit Zustimmung des Staates polizeiliche Maßnahmen ergriffen haben, um Angriffe auf politische Gegner durchzuführen“.

Diesen Verfolgten, darunter eine Vielzahl von Familienangehörigen ermordeter Opfer, zollte Präsident Luis Arce am Allerheiligen-Feiertag einen Tribut mit bewegenden Szenen und versprach ihnen nun staatliche Unterstützung zur Findung der schuldigen Gerechtigkeit. „Das Volk hat unter den Diktaturen zu viel gelitten. Unsere Solidarität gilt den Familien, die ihre Lieben verloren haben, von denen viele noch vermisst werden. Viele bolivianische Männer und Frauen kamen bei der Verteidigung der Demokratie ums Leben“, erklärte Arce.

Titelbild: Radoslaw Czajkowski/shutterstock.com

Divisions over face masks persisted at polling sites in parts of the US as voters showed up to cast their ballots

Divisions over face masks persisted at polling sites in parts of the US as voters showed up to cast their ballots

wisconsin voters polling place pandemic 2020
Voters wait to cast ballots during the presidential primary election in Wisconsin, April 7, 2020.

  • Face masks have been a contentious issue across the US as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, and that reality was unchanged at polling sites on Election Day.
  • Many jurisdictions have chosen not to enforce mask mandates at polling places so as not to discourage people from voting, The Wall Street Journal reported. 
  • At some polling sites, disputes over masks led to long lines, or some voters feeling intimidated and unsafe by those who chose not to wear them. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Polling sites were the latest battleground in disputes over face mask rules this Election Day. 

Arguably one of the most divisive issues in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, poll workers around the country were faced with critical decisions about how to deal with people who don’t want to wear them.

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday, many jurisdictions chose not to enforce mask-wearing in order to avoid discouraging people from voting.

However, the decision on whether or not to require masks caused various issues across the country, from disagreements over whether to put them on, to complaints about the symbols features different types of face coverings.

PBS reported that disputes over mask use in some cases led to long lines during early voting and election officials in some jurisdictions had to clear other polling stations for people not wearing masks, or direct them to machines away from voters who had their masks on. 

On Tuesday, WWMT news reporter Callie Rainey tweeted that in Paw Paw County, Michigan, lines at one polling site were 2 1/2 hours long. Rainey said the township clerk said “people refusing to wear masks and same-day registration” was causing the long line. 

During early voting, others told The Washington Post that they felt unsafe with people who showed up mask-less.

“I would call it a form of voter intimidation if you don’t have people wearing masks, especially when our community has been so drastically affected,” Héctor Sánchez Barba, executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota, a national advocacy group that organizes Latino voters told the Post.

The Morning Call, a local paper in Pennsylvania, reported some voters who noticed poll workers — who are required to wear masks but were not — believed the workers were conveying a political message. 

“Without the masks on, it’s clear they were making a political statement,” Brian Mauro told the newspaper.

The outlet also reported that Lehigh County Sheriff Joe Hanna had deputies change out of their masks that featured a thin-blue-line flag, a symbol that represents solidarity with police, after voters interpreted it as a rebuke of the Black Lives Matter movement. Hanna told the outlet there’s no policy that bars officers from wearing the symbol but the decision was made because of the controversy. 

“It’s a shame when something like this happens because it lowers law-enforcement morale,” Hanna said.

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LIVE RESULTS: Republican Roger Marshall and Democrat Barbara Bollier vie for an open US Senate seat in Kansas

LIVE RESULTS: Republican Roger Marshall and Democrat Barbara Bollier vie for an open US Senate seat in Kansas

 

  • GOP Rep. Roger Marshall is running against Democratic State Senator Barbara Bollier to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. 
  • Bollier will face an uphill battle against Marshall, the preferred pick of the Republican establishment whose Senate bid was backed by Roberts and other prominent Republicans. 
  • The protracted and hotly-contested Republican primary fight, however, allowed Bollier to amass a massive cash advantage over Marshall.
  • Polls in Kansas closed at 7 p.m. local time and 8 p.m. ET. Insider will have live results for this race as they come in.  
  • See the live coverage and full results from the U.S. Senate elections
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

GOP Rep. Roger Marshall is running against Democratic State Senator Barbara Bollier to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. Polls in Kansas closed at 7 p.m. local time and 8 p.m. ET. Insider will have live results for this race as they come in.  

The candidates

Marshall, who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, defeated controversial former Secretary of State Kris Kobach and business owner Bob Hamilton in a competitive primary to determine the GOP nominee in the race to succeed Roberts. 

Marshall, a veteran of the US Army Reserves and an OB/GYN by training, is a staunch conservative but still a far more mainstream Republican when compared to Kobach. His primary run was endorsed by outgoing Senator Pat Roberts, National Right to Life, and the US Chamber of Commerce. 

Bollier, also a physician, has served in the Kansas state legislature since 2011 and in the state senate since 2017, where she has advocated for greater healthcare access and education funding in Kansas. A former Republican, she’s positioning herself as a common-sense, pragmatic centrist with experience working across the aisle. 

Bollier is facing an uphill battle against Marshall in safely-Republican Kansas. The protracted and hotly-contested Republican primary fight has allowed her to amass a massive cash advantage over Marshall and the other Republicans in the primary race.

The race between Bollier and Marshall heated up in the weeks leading up to the election, as Bollier has ratcheted up her criticism of Marshall for his stances on healthcare and, in her view, for downplaying the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. In return, Marshall has attacked Bollier’s support for abortion rights and tried to portray her as “out of touch.” 

Bollier also secured a powerful endorsement from former Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum, who served in the seat for 19 years from 1978 to 1997. 

The stakes

In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the US Senate for the first time since 2015 is a top priority for Democrats and would be a major accomplishment towards either delivering on a future president Joe Biden’s policy goals or thwarting Trump’s second-term agenda.

Currently, the US Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents that caucus with Democrats, winning that Democrats need to win back a net total of four seats to have a 51-seat majority (if Biden wins, his vice president would also serve as president of the Senate and would be a tie-breaker vote). 

And recently, the US Senate just completed a high-stakes confirmation battle to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 from pancreatic cancer on September 18 with Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

Ginsburg’s death threw a stick of dynamite into an already supercharged election shaped by a deadly pandemic that has so far claimed over 230,000 American lives. 

Trump and McConnell’s posturing on the issue has excited conservatives enthusiastic about the possibility of Trump getting to appoint a third justice in his first term, but infuriated liberals who accused McConnell of blatant hypocrisy. and gave Democratic Senate 

Kansas has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, and Marshall winning the August 4 primary was a relief for national Republicans concerned that Kobach’s bombastic political brand and very recent statewide loss in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial election would hurt their chances in the general election.

Still, Republicans are largely playing defense in 2020 to maintain control of the chamber, with both sides continuing to invest in the race. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that a PAC aligned with Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spent over $4 million on TV ads to boost Marshall immediately after the primary. 

See Insider’s full guide to the race for the US Senate here

The money race

Thanks to the long and expensive Republican primary battle Marshall spent much of 2020 competing in, Bollier has massively outpaced Marshall in both campaign fundraising and spending.

Bollier has raised $20.4 million, spent $12.9 million, and has $7.5 million in cash on hand, according to federal campaign finance filings, compared to $5.9 million raised, $5.1 million spent, and $1.4 million in cash on hand for Marshall. 

In 2020’s third fundraising quarter, Bollier raised $13.5 million compared to just $2.9 million for Marshall, Roll Call noted. 

What the polling says

Polls of the race conducted after the primary have been few and far between, but all have indicated that Marshall’s posturing in the race has suffered considerably from the bitter GOP primary.

In a Public Policy Polling survey conducted immediately after the primary in August, Marshall led Bollier by one point, 43% to 42%, down from the 10-point lead he held over Bollier in March. 

A subsequent poll conducted by Data for Progress from September 14 to 19 found Marshall and Bollier in a tie among likely voters.

The most recent high-quality poll of the race conducted by The New York Times and Siena College found Marshall leading Bollier by four points 46% to 42%, among likely voters with Libertarian candidate Jason Buckley earning 4% support. 

See the live coverage and full results from the U.S. presidential election. 

What the experts say

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections rate this race as “leans Republican” while Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics rates it as “likely Republican.” 

According to FiveThirtyEight’s US Senate model, Marshall has a 77% chance of defeating Bollier in the November election. Marshall is expected to receive 51% of the popular vote compared to 46% for Bollier. 

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Automattic Releases Spearhead, a Seedlet Child Theme Aimed at Podcasters and Content Creators

Automattic Releases Spearhead, a Seedlet Child Theme Aimed at Podcasters and Content Creators

Output of the Spearhead WordPress theme home/posts page content.
Spearhead theme blog/posts page.

Last Thursday, Automattic announced its new Spearhead theme to WordPress.com users, which primarily focuses on podcasters. However, the team has marketed it toward content creators in general. It is a child theme of the company’s recently-released Seedlet theme. Cece Yu originally created the design for the Spearhead podcast, which is currently in use on the website.

Spearhead is not just a theme for WordPress.com users. Self-hosted WordPress users can expect availability in the future. “Adding Spearhead to the themes directory is on our to-do list,” said Jeff Ong, a designer at Automattic. “Just haven’t gotten round to it yet.”

For self-hosted users who want to give the child theme a spin right now, Automattic hosts all of its free themes in a GitHub mono-repository. The Spearhead theme is located in its own /spearhead sub-directory.

The announcement post said that the theme is fully block powered. This would be better reworded to say that it is a block-first WordPress theme. When full-site editing lands in core WordPress, we can start saying that themes are fully powered by blocks. Until then, it is just the content that is made of blocks. And, Spearhead’s parent theme is a prime example of a solid block-first theme. I imagine it will be the springboard of many upcoming themes from Automattic’s theme designers, whether that is in the form of a building child themes or using it as a starter.

Given Spearhead’s podcast roots, the development team wrote a small function to locate an Audio block from the post content and present it on the blog and other archive-type pages below the excerpt. In the past, this sort of feature was difficult to achieve because of little-to-no standardization on audio output. However, the block system makes it possible with just a few lines of code.

Automatic Dark Mode Support

Side-by-side screenshots of the Spearhead theme in light and dark mode.
Light vs. dark modes based on OS settings.

One of the more interesting aspects of Spearhead is its support for users who are browsing the web in dark mode. This setting is located in various locations based on the user’s operating system. However, when enabled by the user, the theme automatically detects this and switches its color scheme.

This system uses the prefers-color-scheme CSS media feature to style for dark mode. This feature is generally supported by most modern web browsers. For browsers and operating systems without dark/light mode support, users will see the default light color scheme for the theme.

I generally prefer light color schemes, but this is one of the few dark color schemes that is at least comparable or maybe better than the light one. Far too often, I find dark schemes unreadable for long-form content, but the development team took care to select a palette that works well for whatever the site visitor chooses.

Custom Block Patterns

Spearhead block patterns in the editor.
Inserting the Podcast Links block pattern.

Spearhead removes the three patterns registered by the Seedlet parent theme. It then registers four of its own patterns:

  • Related Posts
  • Archive Page
  • Podcast Links
  • Podcast Links List

The Related Posts pattern requires the Jetpack plugin to be installed. Currently, the theme does not check if the plugin is active before registering the pattern. Presumably, this is because Jetpack features are available on all WordPress.com sites. However, the development team will need to address this before submitting it to the WordPress.org theme directory.

The Archive pattern allows users to create an archive page on their site. It displays a search form, the latest posts, and the site’s categories. It is not quite as fully featured as a complete archive plugin. However, it does replace what is often the traditional archive page template shipped with many themes. The use of a pattern is a nice shift that gives users more flexibility to change the output than what is possible with page templates.

It will be interesting to see if more theme authors follow suit and reevaluate their theme’s page templates. Transitioning to a block pattern may be a better option in many cases.

The Podcast Links pattern outputs a Navigation block with links to sites that host podcasts. End-users will want to update the link URLs. The Podcast Links List pattern is similar. Surprisingly, it is not actually a list. It is a paragraph of links and does not have the same prefix text.