Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is topping the headlines today. The Obama administration announced this morning that it will send military troops to deal with the situation. Reuters Reports:

The United States announced on Tuesday that it would send 3,000 troops to help tackle the Ebola outbreak as part of a ramped-up response including a major deployment in Liberia, the country where the epidemic is spiraling fastest out of control.

The U.S. response to the crisis, to be formally unveiled later by President Barack Obama, includes plans to build 17 treatment centers, train thousands of healthcare workers and establish a military control center for coordination, U.S. officials told reporters.

The World Health Organization has said it needs foreign medical teams with 500-600 experts as well as at least 10,000 local health workers, numbers that may rise if the number of cases increases, as it is widely expected to.

Liberia is where the disease appears to be running amok. The WHO has not issued any estimate of cases or deaths in the country since Sept 5 and its Director-General Margaret Chan has said there is not a single bed available for Ebola patients there.

Liberia, a nation founded by descendants of freed American slaves, appealed for U.S. help last week.

A U.N. official in the country said on Friday that her colleagues had resorted to telling locals to use plastic bags to fend off the killer virus, for want of any other protective equipment.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the charity that has been leading the fight against Ebola, said it was overwhelmed and repeated its call for an immediate and massive deployment.

More details from The Washington Post, U.S. military will lead $750 million fight against Ebola in West Africa.

BMH.F.74.1-O

The president’s decision to enlist the U.S. military, whose resources are already under strain as it responds to conflicts in the Middle East, reflects the growing concern of U.S. officials that, unless greater force is brought to bear, the epidemic could wreak havoc on the continent….

Global health experts and international aid groups who have been urging the White House to dramatically scale up its response praised the plan as described. They have said charities and West African governments alone do not have the capacity to stem the epidemic.

The U.S. military, with its enormous logistical capability, extensive air operations, and highly skilled medical corps, could address gaps in the response quickly.

“This is a really significant response on the military side,” said Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a book about the first Ebola outbreak in 1976 and another on the global public-health system. “This is really beginning to seem like a game-changer.”

But much depends on how quickly personnel and supplies can get there.

“The problem is, for every single thing we’re doing, we’re racing against the virus, and the virus has the high ground right now,” she said. “I would hope this would reduce transmission, but it’s all about how fast people can get there and get the job done. If it takes weeks to mobilize, the strategy won’t even be within reach.”

Unfortunately, according to Reuters India, <a href=”http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/09/16/health-ebola-spread-liberia-idINKBN0HB1CD20140916&#8243; target=”_blank”>it make take weeks or months for the operation to get up to speed</a>. For more background on the Ebola virus, you can read a <a href=”http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/qa.html&#8221; target=”_blank”>”questions and answers” page</a> at the CDC and a <a href=”http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/&#8221; target=”_blank”>fact sheet</a> at WHO.

For the past week or so, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the NFL’s domestic violence problem, and in recent days, we’ve focused on Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson’s indictment for beating and injuring his four-year old son. Yesterday we learned  that Peterson was also investigated in 2013 for causing head injuries and scars to another four-year-old son from a different mother but was not charged. According to ABC News, Peterson has five children, only one of who lives with him.

man and woman newspaper

As is usually the case with abusers, Adrian Peterson was also a victim in his childhood. Sadly, based on his public statements, Peterson has not yet accepted that what his parents did to him was wrong, and he has continued the cycle of violence with his own children. In fact, he has even praised his parents for the whippings they administered. From ABC News:

Adrian Peterson’s apology for the “hurt” he inflicted on his young son when he punished the boy with a switch was the result of the respect Peterson had for similar discipline his parents had applied to him.

The football star even praised his parents’ tough discipline in his statement today, saying that it prevented him from being “one of those kids that was lost in the streets.”

“I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man,” he said in a statement.

How bad was it? From USA Today, Whippings part of Adrian Peterson’s childhood.

PALESTINE, Texas — David Cummings and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson still talk about the frequent whippings Peterson’s father administered — and one whipping in particular.

Cummings says he and Peterson were leaving football practice while in middle school when Peterson’s father, Nelson, was waiting near the parking lot.

School officials had called Nelson Peterson to report that Adrian had been disruptive in class, recalled Cummings, who played football and basketball with Adrian Peterson during their youth and through high school.

“His dad asked what happened, and Adrian told him,” Cummings said.

With that, Nelson Peterson unstrapped his belt and whipped Adrian Peterson in front of more than 20 students, Cummings said.

Imagine how humiliating that must have been! But Peterson had to suppress his anger at this mistreatment in order to survive in his violent family. Peterson also experience severe childhood trauma, according to ABC News.

When Peterson was 7, he witnessed a drunk driver fatally hit his 9-year-old brother while he was riding his bike. More recently, Peterson’s half brother was fatally shot in Houston in 2007 shortly before the NFL draft.

He told USA Today that when he was 13, his father was sentenced to 10 years in jail after selling crack cocaine for a drug ring and getting caught on drug laundering charges. Visits to the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institution and regular letters kept the pair close, but family friends remembered his father Nelson as “a firm disciplinarian.”

troops reading news

USA Today interviewed Peterson’s childhood friend David Cummings about the corporal punishment their parents used when they were growing up.

PALESTINE, Texas — When Adrian Peterson got whippings as a child, it often involved an assignment: Go find a “switch,” a tree branch that would be used to inflict the punishment.

David Cummings, one of Peterson’s longtime friends in their hometown of Palestine, Texas, tookUSA TODAY Sports on a tour of the wooded area near their homes. Switch heaven. Or, depending on your perspective, switch hell.

“It wouldn’t be a shock to be seen anywhere to get a switch,’’ he said.

But the prime spot were the two trees in the frontyard of Cummings’ family home, across the street from the split-level red brick home where Adrian spent many weekends with his father and grandmother. During the tour, Cummings tugged a branch off the one of the trees and sized it up.

“You’re going to get a bruise from it more than likely,’’ he said.

Oh, and Cummings said they gladly found their switches in light of the alternative: get whipped with a stinging, leather belt.

Unfortunately, Peterson has carried the cycle of violence into the next generation, inflicting abuse on his own children. He needs serious therapy, but first he needs to break the denial and admit that what he experience is child abuse and it is wrong.

Child abuse obviously is not just an African American thing, but I found this interesting op-ed at NOLA.com by Jarvis DeBerry on corporal punishment in black culture, Where did black folks learn of whippings, and why are they still a thing?

When I saw the news that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had been arrested for whipping his young son with a switch, I immediately thought of a 1998 feature story by Washington Post writer Deneen L. Brown.  It’s called “A good whuppin?” Editors at The Washington Post thought of it, too. When I did a search for Brown’s story after the Peterson arrest, I happily discovered that her feature story is now on the newspaper’s website.

Better than anybody else I’ve seen, Brown gives a history of corporal punishment in African-American communities. She also does a good job explaining how stories of a “good whuppin'” become the best-told stories of our adulthood.

But there’s another reason the story has always lodged in my head: In doing her research about this kind of punishment, Brown talks to a chair of the department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University who says that black people did not bring this kind of punishment over from Africa. He asserts that black people learned it here.

“There is not a record in African culture of the kind of body attack that whipping represents,” that scholar told Brown for her 1998 report. “The maintenance of order by physical coercion is rare in Africa.”

The belief is that black people began whipping their children out of fear that the overseers and masters would whip them worse. If so, it’s easy to empathize with parents who made that choice.  But if those parents inflicted the same punishment that the slave master would have inflicted, how is that punishment a good thing? Is there a difference between a hateful beating and a loving one? Does the latter feel less painful than the former? Does the skin heal differently?

There’s much more. Read it all at NOLA.com.

crowds-of-people-clustered-in-the-streets-reading-news-about-the-markets-11-dive

Here are a few more links to check out, if you’re interested. I need to wrap this up before it gets too late or WordPress decides to wipe out this post again.

I haven’t read all of this yet, but I thought it looked really interesting. From Collectors Weekly, Women Who Conquered the Comics World, by Lisa Hix.

Scotland will vote on independence from Great Britain on Thursday, and England is pulling out all the stops to get them to vote “no.”

The New York Times, London Repeats Offer of New Powers if Scotland Votes No on Independence.

The Independent UK, David Cameron delivers emotional plea for Scotland to stay.

An update on the child sexual abuse scandal in Britain from the New York Times, Police Chief Quit Over Child Abuse Scandal in English Town.

On the Ukraine crisis, The BBC reports, Rebels granted self-rule and amnesty.

USA Today, U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State in Iraq

NBC News, Ray Rice Isn’t Alone: 1 in 5 Men Admits Hitting Wives, Girlfriends.

Advertising Age, Radisson Suspends Vikings Sponsorship Over Peterson Charges.

Io9, Schizophrenia is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!


Extra Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Morning (Just Barely)!!

 

Father and Son, Bryce Brown

Father and Son, Bryce BrownGood Morning!!

The NFL domestic violence news is even worse this morning than it seemed yesterday. It turns out the child that Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson beat up is only four years old. And TMZ has published photos of some of the wounds.

The report had been that the child was hit with a “switch,” but according to TMZ, it was a belt. A four year old child! Peterson should never be allowed to see his children again without a very large social worker present. TMZ live updates:

4:12 PM PT — According to the police report, Peterson allegedly sent text messages to the child’s mother saying he “felt bad” because he struck the kid in the testicles.

“Got him in the nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed!” the text said.

Peterson allegedly sent a follow up text saying, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has he biggest heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

4:10 PM PT — According to the police report, the child told authorities he had also been hit by a belt and there were “a lot of belts in daddy’s closet.”

The child also said AP had put leaves in his mouth when he was being struck and that his pants were down.

3:50 PM PT — The Vikings have deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game….

3:00 PM PT — The police report on the case includes photos of cuts on the boy’s thigh and hands. He also had bruises on his lower back and buttocks, and according to the report … Peterson admitted punishing him.

Photos of injuries to Adrian Peterson's son.

Photos of injuries to Adrian Peterson’s son.

The child may have been confused about the weapon he was attacked with, because police report that it was a tree branch (AKA a “switch.”) The child’s mother told police that several of the wounds were still bleeding when the child arrived at home in Minnesota.

Peterson will not be playing against the New England Patriots today, but why hasn’t he been suspended by the team and the league? He was arrested and charged back in May!

Gary Myers writes in The New York Daily News, Roger Goodell should throw Adrian Peterson out of the NFL for the Vikings RB’s alleged acts of child abuse.

This might be the worst week in the history of the NFL, with another despicable act by a privileged player taking Roger Goodell’s league to an unfathomable low.

Could it get any worse than the elevator video that surfaced Monday of Ray Rice knocking out Janay Palmer with a vicious punch to the face? Apparently it can with the indictment Friday of Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson, one of the faces of the NFL, for injuring his 4-year-old son by spanking him with a tree branch in May after removing the leaves. A warrant has been issued for Peterson’s arrest.

Goodell can begin to make up for his mishandling of the Rice case by immediately suspending Peterson for the season and then throwing him out of the league. Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, issued a

statement saying Peterson used the same type of discipline on his son that he experienced as a child growing up in East Texas, as if that condones pulling the boy’s pants down and inflicting cuts and bruises doctors found all over the little boy’s body.

It’s barbaric.

It certainly is. Texas authorities should throw the book at Peterson. Get this, according to Myers, the punishment was for the four-year-old pushing another one of Peterson’s children away from a video game. For that, this small child was beaten with a tree branch. And Peterson doesn’t believe what he did was wrong! In my opinion, no one should ever hit a child. Period. Hitting a child isn’t effective in changing behavior in the first place, and in the second place, violence against children only perpetuates the generational cycle of violence. If we are ever to be a truly civilized society, we must work together to change the idea that it is okay to hit children.

Father and child, Cbabi Bayoc

Father and child, Cbabi Bayoc

According to Myers, Roger Goodell doesn’t have to wait for a conviction to discipline Peterson.

One of the circumstances that allows Goodell to punish Peterson is “conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well-being of another person.”

The Vikings at least deserve credit for doing the right thing and deactivating Peterson for Sunday’s home opener against the Patriots, which pretty much eliminates any chance they had to win the game. They value common decency over winning. If Goodell doesn’t suspend Peterson, the Vikings should deactivate him every week.

Regardless of what he decides to do now that the photos and police report have been made public, it’s time for Goodell to step down.

Rant over for now.

I need to take a few deep, cleansing breaths . . . .

 

Ferguson Updates

CNN has  released new video of two witnesses reacting right after the Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

(CNN) — Two men, shocked at what they saw, describe an unarmed teenager with his hands up in the air as he’s gunned down by a police officer.

They were contractors doing construction work in Ferguson, Missouri, on the day Michael Brown was killed.

And the men, who asked not to be identified after CNN contacted them, said they were about 50 feet away from Officer Darren Wilson when he opened fire.

An exclusive video captures their reactions during the moments just after the shooting.

“He had his f**n hands up,” one of the men says in the video….

The men didn’t see the beginning of the altercation, but:

“The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” the man said.

That same witness described the gruesome scene, saying he saw Brown’s “brains come out of his head,” again stating, “his hands were up.”

The video shows the man raising his arms in the air — just as, he says, Brown was doing when he was shot.

The other contractor told CNN he saw Brown running away from a police car.

Brown “put his hands up,” the construction worker said, and “the officer was chasing him.”

The contractor says he saw Wilson fire a shot at Brown while his back was turned.

I wonder if the grand jury is hearing from any of the witness that the media has located?

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and his son Robert Kelso Cassatt, by Mary Cassatt

Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and his son Robert Kelso Cassatt, by Mary Cassatt

The Houston Chronicle reports that there is a New focus on minority voting after Brown’s death.

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A few miles from the street where Michael Brown died is the grave of Dred Scott, a slave who went to the Supreme Court and tried, unsuccessfully, to be recognized as a free American citizen.

One hundred and fifty-seven years later, a white police officer’s fatal shooting of Brown — unarmed, black and 18 years old — raises fresh questions about the extent to which blacks in suburban towns are regarded as full partners by the officials and law enforcers elected largely by and responsive to small segments of the population.

Political participation is increasing on the national level for blacks and Hispanics. On the local level, voting continues to be struggle, as it is in this St. Louis suburb.

In the most recent city election in April, only 1,484 of Ferguson’s 12,096 registered voters cast ballots, easily re-electing the mayor. Next year voters can weigh in again on their municipal government through city council elections.

Nationally, only 1 in 4 four voters turns out for mayoral elections in the largest cities, according to a 2013 study of 340 mayoral elections in 144 cities from 1996 to 2012 by Thomas M. Holbrook and Aaron C. Weinschenk of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Missouri does not ask about race or ethnicity on its voter registration forms. But roughly two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black. The police force is predominantly white. Five of Ferguson’s six city council members are white, as is the mayor. The grand jury investigating the Brown case has six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man.

#Gamergate

I don’t know if anyone else is following “Gamergate,” the controversy of on-line attacks on women who design and write about video games. Recently feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats from male gamers who were enraged her video blogs. Yesterday The Guardian published an article about another female game creator, Zoe Quinn.

Zoe Quinn on Gamergate: ‘We need a proper discussion about online hate mobs,’ by Alex Hern

Since late August Zoe Quinn, the developer of indie gaming’s critical hit Depression Quest, has been the target of a campaign that saw her Tumblr hacked, address posted online and terrifyingly plausible plans to cripple her laid out with cold-blooded straightforwardness….

In public the rationale for this was the allegation that Quinn lay at the centre of a network of corruption in videogaming that saw personal favours traded to elevate a network of her friends with controversial ideas about gaming above “true” gamers.

In private the rationale was simpler. Quinn was an example of a “social justice warrior”: a critic of games culture interested in opening the medium to audiences including women, queer people and people of colour. Her persecutors discussed how best to fulfil the aim of driving “SJWs” from gaming while maintaining the pretence that the campaign was about corruption.

One of the problems with using an anonymous platform to orchestrate your hate campaign is that you can never quite be sure who is listening. On 6 September, the inhabitants of a chatroom called #Burgersandfries learned this themselves.

The site was where a small collection of gamers linked to /v/, the videogame subforum of notorious image board 4chan, met to organise their “raids” on Quinn.

What they didn’t know was that Quinn was watching.

You probably need to read the whole story to understand the dynamics of this issue, so head over to The Guardian if you’re interested.

Father and child, Ben Shahn

Father and child, Ben Shahn

Oscar Pistorius Verdict

I hate to keep posting so much about violence against women, but that is what is in the news this week. After the Oscar Pistorius verdict, ABC News spoke to Pistorius’ former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor: Oscar Pistorius’ Ex-Girlfriend: ‘It Could’ve Been Me’.

Taylor said she dated Pistorius before he began dating Steenkamp. At his murder trial, Taylor served as a valuable witness for the prosecution. She said parts of Pistorius’ story about what happened the night Steenkamp died did not ring true.

“There were things that didn’t match up to my experience staying at his house,” she said.

For example, while Pistorius claimed during his testimony the bedroom was pitch black so he didn’t see Steenkamp go to the bathroom, Taylor said Pistorius did not typically keep his room that dark.

“He usually slept with the curtains fairly open. He always had some light coming in,” said Taylor.

And although Pistorius did startle easily, Taylor said he would always ask her about any sudden noises and found it odd that he said he didn’t make physical contact with Steenkamp the night she was killed.

Taylor said she was just 17 years old when she first met the then 24-year-old Pistorius at a rugby match in 2010.

“When I met him, I actually didn’t know who he was,” Taylor said. “He was very charming. He is a really good guy, you know. He was very respectful, very kind.”

But over time, Taylor said Pistorius would get angry at her for little things, such as not taking her plate to the kitchen, and that he could be jealous and possessive.

“He used to often look through my phone, ask me who my friends were. I think he had that control over who’s in my life and who’s not,” she said. “I was his.”

According to Taylor, Pistorious always carried a gun, and once when she was in a car with him, he shot a gun out of the sunroof.

Father and child,

Father and child, Buwa Shete

A few more headlines, links only

BBC News, Spinosaurus fossil: ‘Giant swimming dinosaur’ unearthed.

The Boston Globe, The Northern Lights Shined on New England in Incredible Color Last Night.

The Guardian via Climate Central, Climate Change Threatens Half of North America’s Birds.

Will Scotland vote for independence from Great Britain? The Wall Street Journal, Severing Scotland From U.K. Is No Easy Task.

USA Today, Pa. police: 1 trooper dead, another injured in shooting.

National Post, Ukraine repels rebel attack on key Donetsk airport, as more than 200 trucks from Russia deliver aid.

The Washington Post, U.S.-led coalition seeks to exclude Iran from fight against Islamic State.

Raw Story, Jerry Seinfeld questions Bill Maher: ‘What do you care’ if Hillary Clinton’s running or not? (Maher says he’ll vote for Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton.)

What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Thursday Reads

War, Pablo Picasso

War, Pablo Picasso

Good Morning!!

Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.

 

Reactions to Obama’s speech

From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.

President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.

In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.

“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”

In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.

According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso's Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso’s Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.

Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.

In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.

At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.

Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.

 

It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

A couple more interesting stories to check out:

Imran Kahn at Aljazira, Iraq and the Obama plan: Officials and experts broadly welcome US president’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group, but with crucial caveats.

Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.

 

Violence Against Women News

From Picasso's War, a commentary on race hatred

From Picasso’s War, a commentary on race hatred

I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.

The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter.  The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.

In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.

“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.

She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.

On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.

The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.

That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.

The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.

The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.

ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.

Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.

One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.

“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.

The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.

“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.

“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”

There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.

A few more links:

NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?

SB Nation, Ray Rice speaks out for the first time since his release.

CBS Sports, Ray Rice’s wife: How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid.

NYT, In Ray Rice cast, NFL sees only what it wants to see.

 

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Other News, Links Only

AP, USIS, the contractor that handled Edward Snowden’s security clearance loses federal contract.

BBC News, Michael Brown death: Ferguson highway protest blocked.

The Guardian, Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more.

The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.

ABC News, Five things that may happen if Scotland votes for independence.

Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.

Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.

HNGN, Baboons With Closer Friends Have Longer Lives Than Loners.

Forbes, Scientists find gene that may delay aging of whole body.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.

 

Peace, Pablo Picasso

Peace, Pablo Picasso

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Art as Therapy to Help Deal With Depressing News

Still Life with a Red Rug, Henri Matisse (1906)

Still Life with a Red Rug, Henri Matisse (1906)

Good Morning!!

 

I decided I needed to look at some Matisse paintings this morning, and I’m going to include a few in this post to provide contrast to the news of the day, which is filled with violence, hate, and despair. According to the WebMuseum, Matisse was “a man of anxious temperament.”

Matisse’s art has an astonishing force and lives by innate right in a paradise world into which Matisse draws all his viewers. He gravitated to the beautiful and produced some of the most powerful beauty ever painted. He was a man of anxious temperament, just as Picasso, who saw him as his only rival, was a man of peasant fears, well concealed. Both artists, in their own fashion, dealt with these disturbances through the sublimation of painting: Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. He spoke of his art as being like “a good armchair”– a ludicrously inept comparison for such a brilliant man– but his art was a respite, a reprieve, a comfort to him.

Can art be therapy? I think so. So can reading literature or listening to music. From a review of Art as Therapy at Brain Pickings, 

The question of what art is has occupied humanity since the dawn of recorded history. For Tolstoy, the purpose of art was to providea bridge of empathy between us and others, and for Anaïs Nin, a way to exorcise our emotional excess. But the highest achievement of art might be something that reconciles the two: a channel of empathy into our own psychology that lets us both exorcise and better understand our emotions — in other words, a form of therapy.

In Art as Therapy, philosopher Alain de Botton — who has previously examined such diverse and provocative subjects as why work doesn’t work,what education and the arts can learn from religion, and how to think more about sex — teams up with art historian John Armstrong to examine art’s most intimate purpose: its ability to mediate our psychological shortcomings and assuage our anxieties about imperfection. Their basic proposition is that, far more than mere aesthetic indulgence, art is a tool — a tool that serves a rather complex yet straightforwardly important purpose in our existence:

Like other tools, art has the power to extend our capacities beyond those that nature has originally endowed us with. Art compensates us for certain inborn weaknesses, in this case of the mind rather than the body, weaknesses that we can refer to as psychological frailties.

Read about “the seven core functions of art” at the Brain Pickings link. And now, regrettably, I must turn to today’s news.

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse (1919)

Tea in the Garden, Henri Matisse (1919)

Ray Rice Domestic Violence News.

Yesterday’s news was dominated by reactions to gossip site TMZ’s release of the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then fiance–now wife–Janay Palmer and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic city casino elevator in February.

Suddenly, the Ravens went into ass-covering mode. The Ravens released Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. But why did it take so long? At the time, a video had been released showing Rice dragging Palmer from the elevator like a sack of potatoes.

Here’s a timeline of the Rice case from SB Nation. On Feb. 15th, after the beating, Rice and Palmer were both arrested and charged with simple assault (the charges against Palmer were later dropped). On the 19th a video was released that showed Rice coldly dragging an unconscious Palmer from the elevator like a sack of potatoes–her dress pulled up, her legs spread open to the camera. Rice makes shows no apparent concern for her well-being.

Those of us with any experience with domestic violence could easily surmise what had taken place inside the elevator. But the men of the NFL somehow assumed (or wanted to believe) that Palmer had viciously attacked Rice, and that he had only defended himself by knocking her unconscious!

On March 27 Rice was indicted for aggravated assault, and the next day the couple married. Did Rice marry her to shut her up? Rice ended up getting a slap on the wrist from Prosecutor James McClain (who, like Rice graduated from Rutgers). Rice was allowed to enter a one-year diversion program with counseling instead of getting jail time. And btw, McClain is still defending his decision.

On May 23, Ray Rice game a non-apology “apology” for his disgusting actions in which he apologized to everyone under the sun except his wife Janay. Rice acted as if the two were equally responsible for “the incident.”

From SB Nation, May 23: Ray Rice is an asshole and the Ravens couldn’t care less.

Ray Rice is sorry. He wants you to know how sorry he is for knocking out his fiancée Janay, who is now his wife. He would like to sincerely apologize for dragging her out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator. We know this because Rice told us so. He told the world in a televised public apology broadcast Friday afternoon from Baltimore.

“I apologize for the situation my wife and I were in,” the Baltimore Ravens running back said….

Rice’s apology is special because he really believes it; a shocking portion of Rice’s press conference was devoted to Successories-style affirmations about how he will recover from and get past this … situation that … occurred. Stranger still, Rice somehow managed to get his wife Janay — whom he married right before he was supposed to go to trial for a more serious version of domestic assault — to accept an equal share of blame for the incident. She apologized, too.

Those of us familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence know that Palmer’s behavior was typical of victims–blaming themselves and trying to protect their emotional and economic security.

Finally, in July NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games. NFL and Ravens officials implied to journalists that there was some kind of mitigating evidence that showed Palmer to be at fault. Public outrage was immediate.  I recall JJ posting about it at that time. On Aug. 28, realizing he had made a terrible public relations blunder, Goodell announced a new NFL policy on “domestic violence.” 

Finally, on Sept. 8, TMZ released video of what actually transpired inside the elevator: Rice spitting in Palmer’s face, and decking her with a “crushing” left hook. Not long afterward, the Ravens and the NFL finally too action, claiming they had never seen this video footage that they could have gotten easily from the casino or law enforcement.

But guess what? Rice will still receive $25 million from his contract with the Ravens. If Roger Goodell keeps his job after this, the NFL will be permanently damaged. After all, half of the people who follow football are women? Why do you think the NFL make their players wear pink (ugh!) once a year in honor of breast cancer awareness?

The Red Madras Headdress, Henri Matisse

The Red Madras Headdress, Henri Matisse

Here are some links to other stories on this horrible and shameful debacle:

Dan Shaughnessy at The Boston Globe: In Ray Rice case, one failure after another.

Mike Wise at The Washington Post: Ray Rice finally must answer for his actions; when will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Baltimore Sun: Janay Rice breaks her silence, describes situation as ‘horrible nightmare’ (She blames the media, not her husband).

SB Nation: White House on Ray Rice: ‘Hitting a woman is not something a real man does’.

TMZ: NFL Commish in the Dark by Choice?

President Obama to Lay out Case for Stepping Up Campaign Against Islamic State

From The Washington Post, As Obama Makes Case, Congress Is Divided on Campaign Against Militants.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday will begin laying out his case for an expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria when he faces congressional leaders who are averse to taking an election-year stand but are being pushed by lawmakers who want a say in matters of war.

Mr. Obama’s meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders on Tuesday in the Oval Office will be the first of several between White House officials and lawmakers as the administration tries to persuade Congress to embrace the president’s plan to halt the momentum of the Sunni militant group known as ISIS.

A year after opposition in Congress thwarted plans for missile strikes in Syria, the White House is again putting the issue of military force in the Middle East before a skeptical Congress and a war-weary public.

But what about Congress?

Democratic leaders in the Senate and Republican leaders in the House want to avoid a public vote to authorize force, fearing the unknown political consequences eight weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 4.

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Other lawmakers, especially some Democrats, are arguing that as long as the president keeps the operation limited to airstrikes, he does not need to get congressional approval.

Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC: The Politics of ISIS

Ahead of a Wednesday public address from President Obama where he’s set to lay out a “game plan” for military action in Iraq and as the right mocks Democrats as weak-willed appeasers, former Vice President Dick Cheney is heading to Capitol Hill to deliver a pep talk to House Republicans.

Is it the 2002 election all over again? Not exactly. But the escalating conflict against ISIS is starting to show up on the trail as Republican candidates seem eager to put major past differences on foreign policy aside and join together in criticizing the White House’s response to the Islamic State.

A number of candidates and GOP officials have gone out of their way to attack Obama over his remark at a press conference that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting ISIS. Republican Senate nominees including Scott Brown in New Hampshire, David Perdue in Georgia, and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, among others, have highlighted the quote while demanding action to turn back the Islamist group’s gains. Joni Ernst in Iowa and Tom Cotton in Arkansas, both of whom served in the Middle East during the Iraq War, have also called for a clearer plan to tackle ISIS.

Read the rest at the link.

Odalique with a Turkish Chair, Henri Matisse

Odalique with a Turkish Chair, Henri Matisse

Ferguson Updates

St. Louis Business Journal: Ferguson to reform municipal courts, add police review board.

As national attention mounts on the way St. Louis municipalities use court fine revenuefor city operations and on police use of force in the area, the Ferguson City Council has announced the proposal of three major reforms.

The city will hold ward meetings for public input on the reforms, with some of the proposals on the agenda for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Greater Grace Church, 3690 Pershall Road.

Here’s the breakdown of the proposed reforms:

  1. Establishing a Citizen Review Board to work with the police department to review their actions.
  2. I ntroducing an ordinance that will keep court fine revenues at or below 15 percent of Ferguson’s revenue. Any excess will be earmarked for special community projects, not general revenue.
  3. Reforming the way Ferguson’s municipal court works by repealing the “failure to appear” offense, abolishing some administrative fees which may impact low-income persons to a greater extent and the creation of a special docket for defendants having trouble making monthly payments.

Likewise, the council announced, the municipal judge has called for a warrant recall to run from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Those who have outstanding warrants are encouraged to call the municipal court cler k for information on the recall.

Woman in a Purple Coat, Henri Matisse (1937)

Woman in a Purple Coat, Henri Matisse (1937)

Truthout: St. Louis Police Shot 16 Before Michael Brown in 2014

By the time of Michael Brown’s murder, St. Louis area police had already shot at least 16 people in 2014, the vast majority of whom were black.

Truthout obtained this figure by examining news reports from January 1 to August 6 of 2014. On August 10, protests opposing the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown began.

Read the list of victims at the link.

In the vast majority of incidents where the race of an individual shot by police was known, the individuals were black. Truthout was not able to determine how many (if any) of these police shootings were “justified” because data concerning police shootings is so limited.

Police shootings, along with other uses of force by the St. Louis area police, are not a new development. In Ferguson, seven active or former officers have now been named in civil lawsuits for excessive use of force; and in March 2014, two officers with the St. Louis Police Department severely beat a man with disabilities. In another recentcivil case, an amount of over $800,000 was awarded to a victim of excessive force by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Force.

In 2012, US District Judge Carol Jackson stated that the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners may be “deliberately indifferent” or even tacitly approving of a “widespread persistent pattern of unconstitutional conduct.” In a separate 2010 federal civil lawsuit, which accused the St. Louis police of excessive force, the victim’s lawyer cited statistics showing that the St. Louis internal affairs investigators sustained only one of 322 citizens’ physical abuse complaints against police from 1997 to 2002.

Read the rest at Truthout. It’s a good article.

Matthew Keys at The Blot: Ferguson Police Chief Lied About Michael Brown Surveillance Tape.

The chief of police for the Ferguson Police Department misled members of the media and the public when he asserted that his hand was forced in releasing surveillance footage that purported to show 18-year-old resident Michael Brown engaged in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store minutes before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

Chief Thomas Jackson distributed copies of the surveillance tape at a press conference on Aug. 15 in tandem with the public release of the identity of the officer who was responsible for shooting Brown.

When questioned by members of the press about the tape — which apparently had nothing to do with the fatal shooting of the unarmed teenager — Jackson told reporters that he was legally obligated to release the tape because members of the media had submitted an open records requests for it.

“We’ve had this tape for a while, and we had to diligently review the information that was in the tape, determine if there was any other reason to keep it,” Jackson said at the press event. “We got a lot of Freedom of Information requests for this tape, and at some point it was just determined we had to release it. We didn’t have good cause, any other reason not to release it under FOI.”

Except there were no specific FOIA requests for the tape. Keys and The Blot got all media requests for information through an open records request. Read all about it at the Blot.

Dance "What hope might look like" -- Henri Mattisse

Dance “What hope might look like” — Henri Mattisse

Shootdown of Malaysia Flight 17 in Ukraine

From the LA Times: Dutch report: Malaysia jet downed in Ukraine by ‘high-energy objects’

A preliminary report on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 appears to confirm initial assertions that the passenger plane was hit by a surface-to-air-missile in mid-flight July 17 before crashing in Ukraine.

“The pattern of damage observed on the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft appears to indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft,” concluded a report issued Tuesday by the Netherlands’ air safety board.

The Boeing 777, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, was flying at about 33,000 feet over separatist-held territory in southeastern Ukraine when it broke apart in midair and crashed, killing all 298 passengers and crew members on board.

The report says that fragments of the aircraft reveal numerous puncture holes and indentations on the plane’s skin that would be consistent with damage from missile shrapnel and, investigators say, rule out pilot error or any mechanical fault as the cause of the disaster.

Although investigators have not been able to recover these pieces for forensic examination, the report states that “the pattern of damage observed … was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems.”

I’ll end there, as this post is far too long already. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and links in the comment thread. 


Sunday Reads: Fox News “Wish I was in the Land of Cossacks”

ac14a7229d8f045ee5b45e676e83785bGood Morning

Actually the title of this post is referring to a couple of news items from the past week. You may have missed this little nugget of love that was spread about on Fox News…it is a whooper when you think about it. See what the Daily Banter had to say about it: Fox News Channel Host Wishes Vladimir Putin Could Be “Head of the United States”

For the longest time, Fox News hosts throughout the broadcast day were crushing badly for Pooty-Poot and his hairless man-rack. But when protests in Ukraine disintegrated into a not-so-subtle Russian incursion and attempted annexation of the country, Fox News kept its unrequited passion to itself — not knowing whether its audience would regard Putin as a hero or a throwback Soviet-era invader.

And then a Malaysia Airlines flight was blown out of the sky, most likely using a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air launcher. If, in the aftermath of that tragedy, Fox News hosts were still carrying a torch for Putin, you’d have to read very carefully to find any signs of love. Mostly, the network was unwilling to directly blame Putin, referring to the missile launch as coming from pro-Russia rebels inside Ukraine.

That was July — just over a month ago. A lifetime in modern news media time, and even longer in internet time.

dec272e86cfb1f423b55fff2dfd32edfBut on Wednesday, Fox News reignited its affection for Putin — and, incongruously, on the same day when the Pentagon appears to have confirmed Russian forces and a Russian missile launch inside Ukraine. On “The Five,” and following a monologue about ISIS by talking troll Greg Gutfeld, panelist Kimberly Guilfoyle suggested that Putin take over the United States for 48 hours.

“Can I just make a special request in the magic lamp? Can we get like Netanyahu, or like Putin in for 48 hours, you know, head of the United States?”

Can I make a quick observation? What the fuck is wrong with these people. Bob Cesca continues,

There’s no gray area there. Putin for (Temporary) President. Guilfoyle’s 48 hour term is more than enough time for Putin to shoot down a few more passenger airliners; invite the Russian military into one or more states; imprison at least several thousand gay people; seize control of the internet; censor journalism; dissolve PBS and replace it with RT.

Vladimir Putin, a foreign-born former KGB agent operating under the pre-1990 communist Soviet regime, is Fox News Channel’s magic bullet for solving America’s problems. The same network that literally branded patriotism told us that Putin should take over the country for a while. The network that’s encouraging Speaker Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama for his alleged abuse of executive power thinks despotic Putin would be a better alternative. Wrap your head around that one. Executive overreach is impeachable, but let’s bring in Vladimir Putin to fix things. I’m sure he’d totally get congressional permission for everything.

Nyet.

c8b0077a0e50bc8fe7c9d94ff9a78726By the way, Fox News wouldn’t have mentioned such an idea without knowing full well that Fox News loyalists would suck it down like water — viewers who only know that Putin is “tough,” without knowing what treachery is associated with that toughness. Oh, and they also know he hates the gays. I suppose that alone is enough to sell them on Putin.

The myth that seems to have permeated the far-right is that being a badass is the end-all of leadership, irrespective of who or what is on the receiving end of that badassery. But they can count on one thing: Putin will spend his two days as President of the United States doing a hell of a lot more than signing a stack of executive orders. One of his actions would surely be to indefinitely extend his 48 hour term. And that’d be the least objectionable thing.

Wow, the shit these people say is unfuckingbelievable! What gets me confused is how these right-wing politicians that go on Fox News…who are so anti-communist, can promote these statements.

Although, anything is possible. Ben Carson: No, I’m Not Sorry I Compared U.S. To Nazi Germany

The topic was broached and reported on in a profile of Carson in The Washington Post.

“You can’t dance around it,” Carson told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris. “If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they’d have to agree. Most people in Germany didn’t agree with what Hitler was doing…Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in.”

3d3118fccabd994a2e78506634ab19c3You may remember the other comparisons to Nazi Germany Carson has made earlier this year.

In February Carson suggested that liberals could turn the country into Nazi Germany.

“There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up,” he said according to The Huffington Post. “Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But what did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in/ They did not, and you saw what happened.”

A month later, Carson went there again, saying that American society today is very similar to Nazi Germany.

“I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany,” the retired neurosurgeon said in an interview with Breitbart News. “And I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don’t care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”

He went on to list the “PC police” politicians and news that, together, “stifle people’s conversation.”

“The reason that is so horrible is because the only way that you have harmon and reach consensus is by talking. But if, in fact, people are afraid to talk, you never reach consensus,” Carson said. “And instead you grow further and further apart. And that’s exactly what’s happening, creating a horrible schism that will destroy our nation if we don’t fix it.”

I will say this, Russia is no putting on one hell of a show: Participants perform during the Spasskaya Tower international… News Photo 454386736 | Getty Images

454386736

Participants perform during the Spasskaya Tower international military and music Festival on Red Square in Moscow on August 30, 2014. The festival itself will be held from August 30, to September 7. AFP PHOTO/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

1f6c549aa7ab7f5ae3ce43d072f69f9fNot all countries are participating however, 3 Countries Boycott Kremlin Music Fest Over Ukraine | News | The Moscow Times

More pretty pictures here: ‘Spasskaya Tower’ International Military Orchestra Music Festival – ‘Spasskaya Tower’ International Military Orchestra Music Festival | The Economic Times

Next up, this link should be read to the tune of “Dixie.” Cushing and Gettysburg  : Lawyers, Guns & Money

President Obama is granting Lt. Alonzo Cushing, who played a critical role in repelling Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, the Medal of Honor. It’s pretty amazing he didn’t already have it since had Pickett taken the hill, it’s possible at least the war would have ended differently. Personally, I tend to not believe the world changes that much with an individual event, but I’ll grant the possibility. Certainly defeating the Confederates at Gettysburg did kill their chance of moving the war into the North and forcing a peace, something that would have kept millions of people in slavery for who knows how long. Decades at a minimum. Possibly until the present, who can tell.

2a73789f0221b539d529df55eacd9245Speaking of such things, I happened to visit Gettysburg last week. I had a great time. It was super cool to visit the key spots of the battle, try to imagine all the dead on the huge field that the location of Pickett’s Charge, below Little Round Top, and around the battlefield. Much credit goes to the National Park Service for not only emphasizing slavery as the core reason of the war but for enforcing that interpretation. What do I mean by that? For a very long time, the main attraction at the Gettysburg Visitor Center was the cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge. A cyclorama was a Gilded Age entertainment that tried to bring a scene to life through a 360-degree painting. These were a huge hit in France and were imported to the U.S. A cyclorama painter was hired to do one of Pickett’s Charge and people love it. It was a huge reason why people went to the site. You can still see it today and it’s OK. It’s cool as a Gilded Age relic. As something of value outside of that, it’s pretty silly, what with the sound and light show that goes along with it.

[...]

Now in order to see the cyclorama, you have to sit through the 15 minute film intrepreting the battle for you. Morgan Freeman narrates the video and it says in no uncertain terms that slavery was the cause of the war, which is great. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who hate that (one of the first people I saw there was a guy wearing a Stonewall Jackson t-shirt, which in my world is like wearing a Himmler t-shirt), but it was very well done, really expressing the complexity of the situation too. I also discovered that I find discussion of military maneuvers so incredibly 8c2b44b5bf7a7503a4ace593cbb5669fboring that even Morgan Freeman can’t make me care. Anyway, the exhibits in the Visitor Center are good throughout, combining the old guns that are crack for American white men who like to wear camo as casual wear with real historical interpretation.

I don’t think I would compare Stonewall Jackson to Himmler, read the comments on the LG&M post to get more thoughts on that,  but the obvious use of the shirt to prove that the wearer was a redneck asshole…that I could agree with wholeheartedly.

On Friday we had to drive down to Atlanta, and I thought about the Civil War…like I usually do while on the roads around Georgia.

Let me explain. When you drive South from Banjoville to Atlanta and pass each exit along I75, exits with names that you remember from key battles in the Atlanta Campaign. As you pass these battlefields of a war that took place one hundred and fifty years ago it makes you think about what that war was all about….and just how far we have come.

Foggy Memories Obscure Forebears of Ferguson Unrest | WhoWhatWhy

Life magazine cover about the Newark Riots.

Collective amnesia about past eruptions of racial conflict has left Americans with a false sense that what happened in Ferguson is somehow new. But the only thing new is the technology. The attitudes on display are sadly familiar.Forty-seven years ago, the African-American population of New Jersey’s largest city took to the streets after a violent encounter between white police officers and an unarmed black man. While the body count in Newark—26 people dead and 1,500 injured—was far greater than in the recent disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, the parallels between the two tragedies are too clear to be ignored.

It is a long read…go to the link.

6f6dd392ab7b6b6f7ef977001a72fba7At the Black Agenda Report: Justice Dept Refuses For 20 Years To Comply With Federal Law Requiring It To Gather National Police Brutality Stats | Black Agenda Report

A BA Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

We’re all supposed to be impressed with the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder parachuted into Ferguson MO the other day to wrap his arms around the local top black cop and get briefed on the pending federal investigation into the police killing of Michael Brown. But we shouldn’t be.

For the last 20 years, since 1994, Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act obligates the Department of Justice to collect statistics on the extent of brutality and excessive force used by police officers, and to make those findings available to the public. 20 years down the road no such stats exist, because the Justice Departments of the Clinton, the Bush and the Obama administrations have all simply ignored the law and refuse even to try to gather the information. Let me say this again: the Clinton Justice Department defied the law and refused to gather national stats on police misconduct. The Bush Justice Department thumbed its nose at the law and also refused to gather national stats on police misconduct, and now the first black attorney general, who sometimes even utters the phrase “mass incarceration”, which he recently discovered, selected by the first black president who says if he had a son, his son could be Trayvon Martin – Eric Holder and Barack Obama have likewise shown no interest whatsoever in fulfilling their legal duty when it comes to assembling a national database of police misconduct.

38edfbffac1abc590ed79f30782a1514This should not surprise the president’s apologists, who will surely counsel us that he has to be president of all the people, including the police. Everybody knows black and brown people are the disproportionate targets of police violence, so enforcing laws which particularly benefit black and brown communities are something we must not expect. Perhaps after the president leaves office, they’ll tell us, he’ll speak out more forcefully on this. Maybe the “My Brothers Keeper” initiative can get some charitable dollars to organizations like , or PUSH or the Urban League to help more of our young boys to pull their pants up so they won’t get beat down.

Let’s get real. The Republicans haven’t stopped Obama and Holder from doing this, they stopped themselves. Like every cop on the beat, the Obama administration chooses which laws to enforce, which ones to bend and in what direction, and which ones to ignore. Obama’s DOJ has resurrected the century old Espionage Act, not to prosecute spies, but to threaten and to imprison whistleblowers who tell the truth to reporters, and to journalists themselves if they do not reveal their sources with decades in prison, like Chelsea Manning, and on so-called “secret evidence.” So when you think about it, it’s entirely logical that a president and attorney general who place such a high priority on protecting their torturers, their bankster friends, and the official wrongdoers of past and future administrations should want to protect the police from scrutiny as well.

e1570c2c92d44f377261b92b0fc77b4bIt’s time to shed some illusions, not just about this president but about the whole political class that claims he or any president can be “held accountable.” Barack Obama and his Justice Department are no more interested in justice than the administrations of ten presidents before him, and uncritical black and brown support has made this president less accountable to black and brown people than any in living memory.

I had to quote that op/ed in full because it seemed so powerful, and so telling of the point I was trying to make. One hundred and fifty years, even with a black president, where have we come to? Those Newark riots where almost fifty years ago…Civil Rights Act…fifty years ago too. And still the question I keep repeating, where have we come to…progress? Perhaps, compared to slavery. But from my view, living in a redneck Southern town, the hate is thick and packs a powerful punch in the gut to hear it practiced out-loud, so nonchalant…

Anyway, I am rambling. It is 4:13 am and I will move on.

At least 5 current Ferguson officers apart from Brown shooter figure in lawsuits – The Washington Post

eb723ae4541bdedae7fe578ccc456d12Federal investigators are focused on one Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, but at least five other police officers and one former officer in the town’s 53-member department have been named in civil rights lawsuits alleging the use of excessive force.

In four federal lawsuits, including one that is on appeal, and more than a half-dozen investigations over the past decade, colleagues of Darren Wilson’s have separately contested a variety of allegations, including killing a mentally ill man with a Taser, pistol-whipping a child, choking and hog-tying a child and beating a man who was later charged with destroying city property because his blood spilled on officers’ clothes.

One officer has faced three internal affairs probes and two lawsuits over claims he violated civil rights and used excessive force while working at a previous police department in the mid-2000s. That department demoted him after finding credible evidence to support one of the complaints, and he subsequently was hired by the Ferguson force.

Police officials from outside Ferguson and plaintiffs’ lawyers say the nature of such cases suggests there is a systemic problem within the Ferguson police force. Department of Justice officials said they are considering a broader probe into whether there is a pattern of using excessive force that routinely violates people’s civil rights.

[...]

In all but one of the cases, the victims were black. Among the officers involved in the cases, one is African American.

1d8be145f4cf0d58e7d5f0100bb11e35Damn.

More at the link.

With all the abusive news stories about cops (Oklahoma Police Daniel Holtzclaw Rape Sexual Abuse Arrest | Mediaite)

Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw has been arrested for raping or sexually abusing eight different women, all of whom are African-American, under the threat that he would arrest them if they did not comply.

 

…you would think this cop would get off easy: Cleveland Cop Under Fire for Helping Browns Fan with His Beer Bong | Mediaite

A Cleveland police officer got in trouble this week; not for shooting anyone, not for any shocking assault video, but for actually being a bro. This cop was caught on camera holding up a beer bong so a Browns tailgater could use it properly.

Here’s the picture in question:

Seriously, that looks more like a PR photo to me.

This post is getting long, so quickly…here are the rest of today’s links:

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Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

From a fuckwad Former Judge: Rape is All the Woman’s Fault for Drinking So Much | Care2 Causes

And according to the dipshits at the NFL: Is The NFL’s New Policy On Domestic Violence A Publicity Stunt? | Care2 Causes

Wide receiver Josh Gordon’s offense?

Smoking marijuana.

Let me get this straight. Violently assaulting a woman equates to a two game suspension, but failing a drug test amounts to an entire year on the bench?

No matter where your moral compass stands on smoking pot, I think we can all agree that beating your girlfriend up so badly she is hospitalized with 18 broken bones in the face, a broken nose, a cracked rib and a ruptured liver is a far worse crime.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, just a few days after the fallout of this decision, which was stacked on top of the prior controversy regarding Rice’s lenient suspension, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come out with a lengthy statement on how the NFL can do better.

We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.

Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

Russian Poster Design by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

In addition to admitting fault, Goodell has, effective immediately, instituted a revamped domestic violence policy which punishes first time offenders with a six game suspension and second time offenders with a ban from the NFL for at least a year, after which an individual can petition for reinstatement.

Assholes.

Here is a post about teachers….Happy Labor Day, Mom | The Nation

And one about us bombing Iraq: US jets target IS positions in Iraq – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

We will end with a feel good story: Little League Win Lifts District Marred by Violence – NYTimes.com

People showed up and plopped down lawn chairs, sitting there just so they could feel like a part of the event, even if they could not see anything. The neighborhood’s residents were glad for their team, for their boys and for themselves. They brought cakes. They rode bikes. They hugged.

This was a homey neighborhood celebration on the city’s South Side, a departure for an area known for gun violence.

Chicago finally had its chance on Wednesday to welcome home the Jackie Robinson West Little League team that won the United States championship on Saturday. The rolling celebration started with a rally at the team’s home park and worked its way into the city center. Residents lined up for 70 blocks along Halsted Street, waiting for their heroes.

It was the kind of celebration you would expect in small-town America. As politicians lined up to talk with a few thousand fans at a rally on the team’s field, the parade route already had a classroom of day care students standing in yellow shirts on 95th and Halsted. A half-dozen women in wheelchairs waited at 81st Street in front of the Naomi and Sylvester Smith Senior Living Center. Hundreds of students packed in at 79th Street near St. Sabina Academy. On 76th, there were more children in front of a learning center.

Photo

The celebration for the Jackie Robinson West Little League squad began with a rally at the team’s home park and worked its way to Millennium Park downtown. Credit Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Terrence J. Lavin, an Illinois appeals court justice, grew up in the area playing Little League. Now, he said, he deals daily with “guns, gangs and drugs.” On Wednesday, he was not delivering speeches, but instead was at 87th Street in what he considers his neighborhood.

“There aren’t many parades down Halsted Street,” he said. “None in my memory. Remember when President Obama said that Trayvon Martin could be his son? There are thousands of Chicagoans, white and black, thinking that about these amazing kids.”

“They are medicine for a municipality dulled into a sort of crime stupor because of all the shootings,” he said. “We are better than that. And these kids are a living, breathing symbol of that.”

Oh, and on that note…hope you have a good day.


Wednesday Reads: Math, Dogs and Sheep

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Good Mid-Morning

Just a quick thought this morning before we get to the links. Yesterday Boston Boomer linked to an article about Janet Yellen, and there were a few sentences that made me stop and think. Which is really something because usually when it comes to articles containing anything associated with numbers, my brain tends to retreat like a coward who is being bombarded by incoming aerial livestock.

la vache in flightBut seriously…the article Boston Boomer linked to was from CNN. Here is the quote:

CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.

That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.

“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.

ae0607c9a034b49a4870b3b008599168The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.

Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.

Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.

Emphasis mine.

Okay, maybe I am a bit hypersensitive, but why the specific mention about her getting only one vote. Is this something new? I was under the impression that whenever Greenspan or Bernake or Geithner spoke…it was as if the all powerful Oz had spoken. Doris from the Outer Hebrides by Ron Gilmore, via Flickr. Doris took a shortcut through the fern grove!!Especially with Greenspan, I mean that guy was the equivalent of verbal Dow Jones Industrial Average “pusher” in that whenever he opened his mouth…he spewed economic commentary uppers or downers.

Anyway, if this is not a big deal…then just forget about all that shit and continue with the post. As it is, the thread is late this morning. I got distracted finding images of sheep on Pinterest. Oh well, you know what that means…another dump. Link dump that is….

The latest news:

Two Men Abducted, Drowned in Philadelphia River, Third Man Escapes, Police Say – ABC News

The bodies of two men who had been bound were found today dumped a Philadelphia river, while a third man who had been repeatedly stabbed narrowly escaped the abductors believed to be responsible for the double homicide, authorities said.

The survivor, a 20-year-old man, was taken off the street by four or five men early this morning and thrown into the back of a van, police said.

He was then stabbed about nine times, in the torso and legs, Philadelphia police said, and his hands were tied behind his back with duct tape and his ankles were bound as well. Duct tape was also placed over his mouth, and once in the van, he realized there were two other people in the van who had also been bound, police said.

Valais Blacknose SheepAll three were taken to the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, where they were thrown into the water, police said, noting that the two other people were tethered to some kind of weight and drowned in five to ten feet of water.

This is a new story obviously so no real info as of yet…cops say they may have surveillance video of abduction.

And you may be one of the millions without internet service: Time Warner Cable Suffers Massive Outage

Time Warner Cable suffered a nationwide outage on Wednesday morning, leaving many users unable to access the Internet.

The company issued a statement to Mashable, acknowledging the outage and reporting that much of its service had been restored. TWC said the service outage was due to an issue with its “Internet backbone” that occurred during routine maintenance.

At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services. As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online.

sheepish by karena goldfinch on FlickrTWC outage leaves 12M people without Internet access — and it’s only going to get worse

On Tuesday, Time Warner Cable agreed to pay the Federal Communications Commission $1.1 million for failing to disclose a “substantial number” of outages affecting its customers. Now today, the company announced that it is suffering from multiple outages affecting 12 million people.

Making matters worse is that many of those consumers probably didn’t have much choice when they signed up for the service, given Time Warner Cable’s effective monopoly in a number of its markets. As I wrote when I compared its service against the only other option for Internet service in my area,

The problem is, there are no options for someone living in the boonies. If they want to connect to the Internet they have to use something like [Finger Lakes Technologies Group, a regional Internet provider]; there are no other options. [...] So far as choices go, it’s clear that people who live in small towns like this one are totally screwed.

This is a problem all across the country. Many people have access to just a handful of ISPs, many of which are regional offerings that pale in comparison to their national counterparts, which enjoy a monopoly on the high-end service market in many of the places they operate.

8fcbafa0f238f79808e0fe22f6071cf6That problem will only be made worse if Time Warner Cable is allowed to merge with Comcast and become what Netflix called the “nation’s largest onramp to the Internet.” The combined company is unlikely to care much about leveling the playing field and allowing other ISPs to give consumers more options for Internet service. It’ll just amass as much power as it can.

Does that seem like a company that’s going to solve problems that lead to outages affecting 12 million people around the United States? Hell, even with the scant competition they have now, both Time Warner Cable and Comcast have done little to make their services better. As I wrote in May, the companies are the least-liked in every industry in which they operate. (Surprise!)

We have this problem with Windstream being the shitty internet service monopoly here in Banjoville.

Next: Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’ | Al Jazeera America

The cease-fire announced Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian factions — if it holds — will end seven weeks of fighting that killed more than 2,200 Gazans and some 69 Israelis. But as the rival camps seek to put their spin on the outcome, one assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation that won’t be publicized is that of the U.S. military. Still, even though the Pentagon shies away from publicly expressing judgments that might fall afoul of a decidedly pro-Israel Congress, senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity offered a scathing assessment of Israeli tactics, particularly in the battle for Shujaiya.

Eduardo GageiroOne of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at FOX News caught Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”

Rain of high-explosive shells

The secretary of state’s comment followed the heaviest bombardment of the war to that point, as Israeli artillery rained thousands of high-explosive shells into the neighborhood of Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. A high-ranking U.S. military officer told this reporter that the source of Kerry’s apparent consternation was almost certainly a Pentagon summary report assessing the Israeli barrage, on which the Secretary had been briefed by an aide moments earlier.

Irving Penn - A young Berber shepherdess of the Aït Yazza people in the High Atlas, with a newborn lamb.According to this senior U.S. officer, who had access to the July 21 Pentagon summary of the previous 24 hours of Israeli operations, the internal report showed that 11 Israeli artillery battalions —a minimum of 258 artillery pieces in all, according to this officer’s estimate — had pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during the seven-hour period marking the height of the operation. Senior U.S. officers were stunned by the report.

Twice daily throughout the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) operation, a select group of senior U.S. military and intelligence officers at the Pentagon received a lengthy written summary of Israeli military action in Gaza. The reports — compiled from information gleaned from open sources, Israeli military officers with whom U.S. officials speak and satellite images — offered a detailed assessment of Israel’s battlefield tactics and the performance of its weaponry, a considerable portion of it supplied by the United States.

Although these reports shy away from offering political judgments on the operation, a number of senior U.S. military officers who spoke about the contents of those daily reports with this reporter were highly critical of some of the IDF’s tactics, particularly in the Israeli ground invasion of Shujaiya. An official spokesman at the Pentagon declined to comment on the contents of this article.

65d7b88498df7aae340ab92e8d434944More at the link.

50 years later, SNAP proves its continuing vitality | Opinion | McClatchy DC

Even as SNAP policies and procedures change with the times, the program’s core mission remains the same. When the Food Stamp Act was passed in 1964, it aimed to provide better nutrition to low-income households while benefiting our agricultural economy. Fifty years later, research shows SNAP is still doing just that.

For example, SNAP benefits boost the economy by creating markets, and spurring economic growth and jobs in urban and rural communities at grocers, superstores, farmers’ markets, military commissaries, manufacturers and farms. And because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed, they are spent quickly – 97 percent of benefits are redeemed within the month of issuance – and therefore have great positive economic effects. Moody’s Analytics and USDA estimate that the economic growth impact of SNAP ranges from $1.73 to $1.79 per $1 of SNAP benefits.

“Leapsheeping Lambs” by Roeselien RaimondOne component of SNAP that needs to change and hasn’t is the amount of the monthly benefit allotment. While we know the program is capable of reducing food insecurity, improving the health and well-being of recipients, and ultimately saving taxpayer dollars on avoided healthcare costs, it could work much better. Current benefits are based on assumptions developed in the 1930s for emergency diets. That plan is now woefully outmoded on every front from nutrition to practicality. Multiple studies, including the USDA’s own analysis of a recent (temporary) boost in benefits, show the value of a healthier allotment.

OSheep at Stanton Drew by elaine's life in images on Flickrver the course of any 50-year period, change is inevitable. Since August 1964, SNAP’s strength has been recognizing and responding to those changes. Today, the program’s mission is as necessary as it was 50 years ago: providing relevant, vital help to boost nutrition, economic security and health among seniors, children, people with disabilities, and unemployed or low-income working families. This is an anniversary worth celebrating.

Black Agenda Report is out, and here is their coverage of the “events” at Ferguson | Black Agenda Report

bc9ea1ec82f69b079338d510cc7d8751Did y’all see the latest in ironic pro-gun nut death by gun shot? DEATH BY MISADVENTURE | Gin and Tacos

On Tuesday a 39 year old firearms instructor was fatally shot near Kingman, AZ when the nine year-old girl he was instructing on the use of an Uzi submachine gun lost control of it…while it was on full automatic. This resolves once and for all the question of whether it is a good idea to give a nine year old girl who appears in the linked video to weigh about 20 pounds (note: the video shows only the events leading up to the fatal incident, but does not include the incident itself) a submachine gun set on full auto. The facility, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, caters to the vacationing yahoo crowd:a8f7be7a6c29bdbc291eb3f61896b6df

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

The instructor had, among others, the following hilarious pro-gun images posted on his Facebook wall (h/t Balloon Juice)

a5f4ebc59149f626d77d94a1c1c14bb4Go to the link to see the images and commentary that this man had posted on his wall. It is the typical shit…

What about a look at what makes Houston…colorful? Immigrants reshape Houston, America’s most diverse metropolis | Al Jazeera America

In the past 20 years, Houston — that most Texan of Texan cities — has come to look more and more like the taxi drivers. Between 1990 and 2010, Greater Houston added more than 2.2 million people (PDF) and now boasts a population of more than 6 million (the city proper has 2.2 million residents). The metropolitan area has eclipsed New York and Los Angeles to become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the United States.

4240f24bd326893a797d4327d5d943e9A joint report published last year by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas (PDF) found that Greater Houston scores highest on the Entropy Index, which measures diversity according to the presence and relative proportions of the four major racial groups (white, black, Hispanic and Asian). All five Houston counties have become more diverse over the past two decades, with increased numbers of Hispanics (from 21 to 35 percent) and Asians (from 3.4 to 6.5 percent), a stable population of blacks (about 17 percent) and a decrease in whites or “Anglos” (from over 50 to under 40 percent), though rates of residential segregation remain high.

Oh boy, it is really getting late…here are the rest in real quick dump format:

A lamb jumping over a trough, 1950Video shows police shot Ohio man ‘on sight’ as he leaned on toy gun in Walmart, attorney says

Dueling demands in Walmart shooting case | WDTN

Scarlett Johansson designs shirt for Planned Parenthood | TheHill

Archaeologists Discover 15 Previously Unknown Monuments Buried Around Stonehenge

Jon Stewart Goes After Fox in Powerful Ferguson Monologue | Mediaite

ec7c81f2b4f070513900f2313f8e5f3a– Another Ferguson? Young Black Man Shot In Chest With Hands Cuffed Behind Back. Police Say Suicide.

The Emmys Censored the Punchline of That Last Robin Williams Bit

Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma Hog-Tied And Injured A Young Child, Lawsuit Alleges

50 Shades of Grey: Harmful to Your Health? | Care2 Causes

It’s being hailed as a “provocative new study” worthy of Christian Grey himself — a group of researchers have just published an article in Journal of Women’s Health claiming that women who read “50 Shades of Grey” are at a higher risk for domestic abuse, disordered eating, a high number of sexual partners and even binge drinking. But don’t throw your romance novel to the curb just yet: The study is another example of the good old “correlation does not equal causation” trope.

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During the study, a group of scientists surveyed 655 18-to-24-year-old women online, a third of whom had read some or all of the ’50 Shades’ series. They asked them questions about their personal sexual practices, their experiences of partner victimization such as sexual and psychological abuse, and binge drinking. When they adjusted their findings for age and race, researchers learned that women who had read at least the first book in the series were more likely to report partner victimization, cyberstalking, fasting and using diet aids. 5b03d93e5435018f1fdedd169a22f7caWomen who had read all three books in the series were also more likely to report having five or more sexual partners in their lifetime. Their conclusion? There is an association between reading the series and negative health outcomes for women.

At the Guardian: The 100 best novels: an introduction | Books | The Observer

They are at week 49: The 100 best novels: No 49 – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925) | Books | The Observer

You can see the past weeks here: The 100 best novels | Books | The Guardian

A border collie herding sheep at the Rockefeller Center, 1948. Photo for LIFE magazine by George Silk.Now for the article that explains the title of this post: BBC News – ‘Two simple rules’ explain sheepdog behaviour

The relationship between a shepherd and his sheepdog has always seemed almost magical, but scientists now say it can be explained by two simple rules.

Researchers have used GPS data to reveal the mathematical secrets of how sheepdogs do their job.

The new model helps to explain why one shepherd and a single dog can herd an unruly flock of more than 100 sheep.

It could be used to help develop “shepherd robots”, for controlling crowds or cleaning up an oil spill.ce2d03bff1e703b2b3fce681272fc1ea

The first rule: The sheepdog learns how to make the sheep come together in a flock. The second rule: Whenever the sheep are in a tightly knit group, the dog pushes them forwards.

NERC fellow Dr Andrew King of Swansea University helped to design backpacks fitted with highly accurate GPS technology. These trackers were attached to a flock of sheep and a sheepdog.

“What’s so interesting about this is how simple the rules are,” Dr King told the BBC.

“At the beginning we had lots of different ideas. We started out looking from a birds eye view, but then we realised we needed to see what the dog sees. It sees white, fluffy things. If there are gaps between them or the gaps get bigger, the dogs needs to bring them together.”

Sheep Bridge by Mountain Mike on FlickrAccording to Dr King, sheepdogs are making the most of the “selfish herd theory” to bring the animals close together and move them where they want.

“One of the things that sheep are really good at is responding to a threat by working with their neighbours. It’s the selfish herd theory: put something between the threat and you. Individuals try to minimise the chance of anything happening to them, so they move towards the centre of a group.”

A colleague, Dr Daniel Strombom from Uppsala University in Sweden, used the GPS data from the collars to develop computer simulations. This enabled them to develop a mathematical shepherding model.

The algorithm displays the same weaving pattern exhibited by sheepdogs. It helps to solve what has been called the ‘the shepherding problem': how one agent can control a large number of unwilling agents.

John Hooper. The Shepherd, 1982.The research was published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Read the rest at the link…and how they are working to use this information in other ways.

This made me look for a couple of more sheepy links:

Shrek the runaway sheep is a shear celebrity – Telegraph

29 Apr 2004

Shrek, the New Zealand merino sheep which spent the last six years on the run from his owners, finally had his long-postponed encounter with a pair of shears last night.

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Shrek the sheep is shown before, during and after being sheared

 

The woolly creature was shorn of his 15-inch long, 59lb fleece during a live television broadcast.

Viewers around the country watched eagerly to see the wool carefully snipped away by a former world champion shearer, Peter Casserly.

Despite his years as a hermit, Shrek was as meek as a lamb and co-operated fully.

“He is probably looking forward to getting this lot off,” Mr Casserly said confidently as he got to work.

 

And from 2012, Shepherds around the world – in pictures | World news | theguardian.com

They used to be an important part of the global economy but with the increase of estates the need for shepherds has declined. However, the tradition does still exist in many parts of the world

 

That one is just a gallery…so go and enjoy it.

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Sorry this is so damn late!

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Lazy Saturday Reads: Escape into Minecraft, Ferguson Updates, and Other News

cow reading

Good Day!!

I’m taking it slow this morning, so I’m glad JJ posted all those great cartoons last night. It’s been a long couple of weeks for news junkies, and I’m tired. I’ve been doing so much reading on line that reading books as a distraction isn’t that appealing.

Lately I’ve been  by escaping by playing Minecraft for hours at a time. I’m really glad now that I started playing it with my nephews a couple of years ago. Lots of people think it’s just a game for kids, but I really enjoy it.

When I play by myself, I like to just explore a world, go mining, and build houses in different environments. The possibilities are endless. The game is completely open-ended. When I first bought the game, I thought it was pretty expensive–I think it was $29. But once you buy it, you never have to pay for anything else. There are continuous updates, and the game keeps getting more interesting, sophisticated, and challenging.

Here’s a bit of recent Minecraft news to give you a sense of what it’s all about.

From CNet: Minecraft players build working hard drives.

Players of the popular open-world building game Minecraft, created by Markus “Notch” Persson in 2009, continue to push the game beyond any reasonable realm of everyday understanding. These players have built working components of computers within simulations running on computers.

Two such users have now revealed functioning hard drives built inside Minecraft that can read and write data. The first, created by Reddit and Imgur user smellystring can store 1KB of data, while a second, larger unit created by The0JJcan store 4KB of data.

That means it’s only a matter of time before things start going the way of “Terminator” or “The Matrix,” or at least to the point where we’re building virtual simulations of fully functioning computers that obey the laws of the physical world.

Read how they did it at the link. You can watch a video about it at Polygon.

Teachers have tapped into the popularity of Minecraft with kids and are using it in the classroom. Wired reports: New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play.

Like many nine-year-olds, Stanley Strum spends a lot of time building things inMinecraft, the immersive game that lets your create your own mini-universe. The game has many tools. But Stanley is one of many players taking the game a step further by building entirely new features into the game. And, more than that, he’s also learning how to code.

He’s doing this with a tweak to the Minecraft game, called LearnToMod. Modifications like this, called “mods,” are a big part of the game’s runaway success. But this particular mod helps kids learn to create their own mods. For example, Strum built a teleporter that whisks him to a random location within the game world. Another lesson teaches kids to write the code to create a special bow that shoots arrows that become “portals” between different locations in the game, allowing them to reach spaces that would otherwise be quite difficult to access. It’s like being able to create your own cheat codes.

Strum is one of 150 students who are now tinkering with LearnToMod, an educational add-on teaches you the basics of programming while creating tricks and tools that you can use within the Minecraft. The mod will be available to the general public in October, and its creators hope it will help turn Minecraft into a kind of gateway drug for computer programming.

“Kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft,” says Stephen Foster, the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, the company that’s built the LearnToMod module. “So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills.”

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

That’s great. I just hope adults don’t ruin the best part of Minecraft, which is that you can use it to express your own individuality and imagination.

Here’s a story from Fortune from Aug. 1: The new way to learn? Brick by brick.

“Minecraft is often referred to as ‘what LEGO should have done online,’” said Peter Warman, video game analyst at research firm Newzoo. “Now Minecraft has become a LEGO set itself, drawing so much time from kids and youngsters that it is seriously competing with the physical LEGO bricks. And it’s not just kids and young teens that play the game. Of the millions of Minecraft Pocket Edition players, 60% is older than 20 and one-third is female.”

“The game’s success can be attributed to the freedom of expression and the ability to build anything you can imagine,” said Carl Manneh, CEO of Mojang. “It gives people a way to visualize anything they can imagine. When you have a creative software like that, people tend to want to share it with friends. That’s really helped us in spreading the word about the game.”

When New York City teacher Joel Levin saw this explosion of popularity among his students, he decided to blog about the game. After all, kids weren’t just playing this game across multiple platforms, they were also spending countless hours perusing the 50 million-plus Minecraft videos on YouTube.

The educator had spent the past decade trying to incorporate video games into his classroom curriculum as a way to engage students and make learning more relevant to today’s generation. Levin said he was blown away at the range of possibilities that Minecraft offered, from building challenges, to having kids do research online and report back on what they learned, to exploring digital citizenship by building communities in the game that serves as virtual microcosms to high school.

“Teachers from all over the world started contacting me,” said Levin. Eventually, Levin was put in touch with Mojang. “I was able to open a dialogue with teachers and programmers in Finland, which is at the forefront of the world in education.” Levin partnered with Santeri Koivisto, a teacher in Finland, to formalize a company, TeacherGaming.

cow reading2

Back to the real world (reluctantly) for some Ferguson updates.

Last night The New York Times posted a piece on how police shootings are judged to be justified or not, Key Factor in Police Shootings: ‘Reasonable Fear’.

Each time police officers draw their weapons, they step out of everyday law enforcement and into a rigidly defined world where written rules, hours of training and Supreme Court decisions dictate not merely when a gun can be fired, but where it is aimed, how many rounds should be squeezed off and when the shooting should stop.

The Ferguson, Mo., police officer who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager two weeks ago, setting off protest and riots, was bound by 12 pages of police department regulations, known as General Order 410.00, that govern officers’ use of force. Whether he followed them will play a central role in deliberations by a St. Louis County grand jury over whether the officer, Darren Wilson, should be charged with a crime in the shooting.

But as sweeping as restrictions on the use of weapons may be, deciding whether an officer acted correctly in firing at a suspect is not cut and dried. A host of outside factors, from the officer’s perception of a threat to the suspect’s behavior and even his size, can emerge as mitigating or damning.

Read the rest at the link. It’s really troubling to me that police shootings are evaluated based on the officers emotional reactions–whether he (or she) was in fear of his life. That’s far too subjective and there’s no way to prove what the cop was thinking at the time.

The other problem I’m having with all this justification of Wilson’s actions is that he didn’t really need to stop Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson in the first place. The stop was pure harassment–part of a demonstrable pattern of targeting of Ferguson’s Black citizens in order to fill the city’s coffers.

Once Wilson had made the mistake of aggressively engaging with Brown and Brown and Johnson began running away, Wilson should have remained in his car and called for backup. Presumably the Justice Department will be looking carefully at these aspects of the case.

hamster reading

For the past couple of couple of days, there’s been a lot of attention to a crowdfunding campaign established to raise money for Darren Wilson–even though he hasn’t been arrested or charged with anything. The site has been called out for posting ugly racist comments from the people who are donating; yesterday the site began deleting the worst of those comments, and now they have shut off comments completely. I guess it was too much work to keep deleting them one at a time. From NBC News, 

Created on Monday on the site GoFundMe, the campaign had raised over $225,000 as of midday Friday in support of Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. More than 5,600 people have pledged toward a goal of $250,000. Many donors added remarks while making their donations, some of which were incendiary. GoFundMe responded early Friday on Twitter saying the “comments posted in violation of GoFundMe’s terms have been removed.”

 According to the page, it was “created to support Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson and his family during this trying time in their lives. All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees.”

Please note that Wilson is still receiving his full paycheck of more than $45,000 a year. Little Green Footballs has been following the story closely, and blogger Lawhawk decided to find out who is really behind the Wilson GoFundMe campaign. He found that “the funds going to a 501(c)(3) charity, meaning donations are tax exempt.” And guess who’s behind the “charity?” From The Wire: Non-Profit Run by a Missouri Police Union Is Now Handling Fundraising for Darren Wilson.

The GoFundMe crowdsourcing fundraiser for the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown has been taken over by Shield of Hope, a charity run by the local police union. Since Shield of Hope is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all donations from here on out will now be tax deductible. The original fundraiser had raised over $235,000 before passing on the torch to Shield of Hope. The new Shield of Hope-run page has raised over $11,000 on its own.

Originally called the Fraternal Order Of Police Lodge 15 Charitable Foundation, Shield of Hope was founded in late 2011. (The name was changed shortly after.) According to a filing with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, the charity’s board of directors include the Ferguson Police Department’s Public Relations Officer Timothy Zoll, Missouri State Rep. Jeffrey Roorda (a former police officer), and Florissant City Council member Joe Eagan.

brazilian pig reading

So quite a few of those now-excised racist comments must have been coming from law-enforcement types in Missouri {{shudder}} Read more about these folks at the LGF link.

The Washington Post has another interesting article on segregation in St. Louis, In St. Louis, Delmar Boulevard is the line that divides a city by race and perspective.

To get a sense of the fracture that cuts this city in two, drive along Delmar Boulevard, a major four-lane road that runs east to west. Hit the brakes when you see an Aldi grocery store and put your finger on the blinker. Decide which world to enter.

In the blocks to the immediate south: Tudor homes, wine bars, a racquet club, a furniture store selling sofas for $6,000. The neighborhood, according to U.S. Census data, is 70 percent white.

In the blocks to the immediate north: knocked-over street signs, collapsing houses, fluttering trash, tree-bare streets with weeds blooming from the sidewalk. The neighborhood is 99 percent black.

The geography of almost every U.S. city reveals at least some degree of segregation, but in St. Louis, the break between races — and privilege — is particularly drastic, so defined that those on both sides speak often about a precise boundary. The Delmar Divide, they call it, and it stands as a symbol of the disconnect that for years has bred grievances and frustrations, emotions that exploded into public view on the streets of the majority-black suburb of Ferguson after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. Ferguson is north of Delmar; the suburb of Crestwood, where the officer lives, is south.

As for how St. Louis residents see the Michael Brown shooting,

Even the way people perceive the Aug. 9 shooting and the street protests that have followed is influenced by geography.

“I’m one of those people that feels sorry for the officer,” said Paul Ruppel, 41, a white business owner who lives just to the south of the divide. “For the most part, I believe the police of St. Louis are doing a great job.”

Said Alvonia Crayton, an African American woman who lives just to the north of Delmar: “My reaction is, what took them so long? Michael Brown was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The article is well worth a read.

Links to some interesting stories that are mostly positive

LA Times, Ferguson protests prove transformative for many, by Matt Pearce.

Huffington Post, Ferguson: The Untold Story, by Arianna Huffington.

Poynter, HuffPost’s Ferguson Fellow: ‘This is huge for me’, by Benjamin Mullin.

NPR, Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Good Psychopath’? by Linton Weeks.

The Atlantic, What an Introvert Sounds Like, by Olga Khazan.

The Atlantic, Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake.

The Paris Review, Mocha Dick, and Other News.

More on Mocha Dick from The Atlantic, The Whale That Inspired Moby Dick Swims Again.

Feministing, Fatal Hypothesis: How Belief in a Just World is Killing Us, by Katherine Cross.

Want some schadenfreude? Read this from TPM, Cubs Cut Workers’ Hours Too Avoid O-Care Mandate, Then Disaster Struck.

Bwaaaahahahahahah!

Bonus Cat Video

Hot Water. Simon’s Cat

 

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!