Thursday Reads

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds is apparently recovering from stab wounds inflicted by his son Gus on Tuesday. The young man shot himself after attacking his father. But state officials are investigating why Gus was refused psychiatric care the day before the attack. NBC Washington:

The incident has raised new questions about the capacity of Virginia’s mental health system. Tuesday, it was reported that hours before the attack Gus Deeds was the subject of an emergency custody order — but a bed at a hospital or psychiatric treatment facility was not available, and he was released home.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that  three hospitals within a two-hour drive of Bath County did have beds available, and two of the three say they were never contacted by the Rockbridge County Community Services Board trying to find a placement for Deeds son.

The state inspector general has now launched an investigation to find out what led to Gus Deeds’ release after the custody order was issued.

“Regardless of whether or not there were beds, there was not a system to determine if there were beds available,” Howell said. “It seems to me we should have a clearinghouse of some kind so that when somebody needs a bed, there is a very efficient way to find out where one is available.”

According to NBC Washington,

Dozens of mentally ill patients at risk of doing “serious harm” to themselves or others in Virginia were denied access to some psychiatric treatment in a span of just three months studied by state investigators, according to agency documents reviewed by the News4 I-Team.

An audit of Virginia’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, performed over a 3-month span in late 2011, found 72 people “at risk for serious harm” and in need of care received less treatment than necessary, in part because of a shortage of available psychiatric beds in the state.

Internal state investigators call the shortfall “a failure of the system” and a “canary in the coal mine” warning for Virginia leaders.

Agency documents show a decline in the overall number of treatment space for the mentally ill in Virginia. A 2007 report found 1,794 available hospital beds for the mentally ill in Virginia, but the number had dropped to 1,699 beds available in 2011.

Internal investigators reported, “Acute and intensive treatment beds in … state-operated psychiatric hospitals have also decreased, while the population has grown by approximately 13 percent during the last decade.”

Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with budget cuts in states controlled by Republicans? From Think Progress:

“Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries,” wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. “The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group.”

According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people — less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people. That didn’t stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.

But McDonnell isn’t the only one to embrace such cuts. In fact, state governments across the nation slashed psychiatric funding to the point that, overall, the nation’s hospitals had just 28 percent of the recommended minimum number of hospital beds by 2010. Those reductions continued in the following years as states slashed $4.35 billion in mental health services between 2009 and 2012, forcing State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) to shutter mental health hospitals and eliminate nearly 10 percent of total available beds in those three years alone.

This is an issue that was discussed during the recent VA race for governor. From the Oct. 23rd Washington Post: Virginia’s mental health system needs money; candidates differ on how to provide it.

The major-party candidates for governor of Virginia agree that mental health systems need more resources. But their approaches differ greatly, based in part on how they view the Medicaid expansion of the new health-care law in Virginia.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe favors a Medicaid expansion wholeheartedly. He says it would provide new health-care coverage for about 400,000 Virginians and would increase money for mental health treatment.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli II opposes a Medicaid expansion completely and says McAuliffe’s estimates of its effect on Virginia are greatly overstated. Cuccinelli wants to increase state funding for mental health, but he would do so by shifting current Medicaid funds from other health-care areas. He also said he would target waste, fraud and abuse and use the savings to bolster options for the mentally ill and the intellectually disabled.

Fortunately for the people of Virgina, Terry McAuliffe won the election, and corrective measures will likely be taken. But they’ll come too late for Gus Deeds and his family. If a wealthy and connected family has this problem, can you imagine what it’s like for poorer people who need mental health treatment in Republican-controlled states?

teen+police+brutality+2

This story out of Philadelphia is horrible: Mom of Alleged Teen Shoplifter Accuses Police of Brutality. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the boy is African American.

The mother of the 14-year-old boy, who was arrested for shoplifting, is accusing police of roughing him up.

“The picture speaks a thousand words,” says Marissa Sargeant, who shared several graphic photos with NBC10 that shows her son bruised, cut and swollen.

The teen was arrested by Tullytown Police for retail theft at Walmart on Tuesday night, along with an adult relative.

“What he did was wrong. He was coerced by a 19-year-old. He does know better,” said Sargeant.

“Roughing him up?” I’d say that’s quite an understatement, based on the photo.

Authorities say after the teen’s arrest, and before he was loaded into a police car, he took off running along Route 13 while handcuffed.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler tells NBC10 that police officers yelled warnings at the teen and fearing for his safety, they fired a stun gun to subdue him. The D.A. says the Taser struck the boy in the face and with his hands cuffed, the boy had no way to brace himself against falling face-first.

“That doesn’t sound right. There’s no way, if he was running from behind, that he would get hit with a taser in the front of his face,” said Sargeant.

The mom suspects police probably beat up her son as well, and I’d have to agree with her. Heckler is “investigating,” but he doesn’t think police did anything wrong. Sounds like a really unbiased “investigation,” doesn’t it?

Republicans are still blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees right and left, and Democrats are once again threatening to get rid of the filibuster for appointments. {Sigh…} Do you suppose there’s any chance they actually mean it this time? From The Washington Post:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option,” several Democrats said. Mr. Reid and the senators who have been the most vocal on stopping the Republican blockade of White House nominees are now confident they have the votes to make the change.

“We’re not bluffing,” said one senior aide who has spoken with Mr. Reid directly and expects a vote on Thursday, barring any unforeseen breakthrough on blocked judges.

The threat that Democrats could significantly limit how the filibuster can be used against nominees has rattled Republicans. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has brokered last-minute deals that have averted a change to filibuster rules in the past, visited Mr. Reid in his office on Thursday but failed to strike a compromise.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa took to the Senate floor and denounced Democrats, saying that if they changed the rules, Republicans would consider them applicable to all judicial nominees, including those for the Supreme Court. Mr. Reid has said he supports keeping intact the minority party’s ability to filibuster controversial Supreme Court nominees.

“Apparently the other side wants to change the rules while still preserving the ability to block a Republican president’s ability to replace a liberal Supreme Court Justice with an originalist,” Mr. Grassley said.

At Politico, William Yeomans, an American University law professor and former Justice Department official says “Nuke ‘em Harry!”

Democrats, it’s time to bid farewell to the filibuster as we’ve known it. Your restraint has gone beyond admirable to foolish. The institution for which you have shown extraordinary respect over the past four years, as Republicans flouted its best traditions, is no more. Republicans have overplayed their hand by disregarding prior agreements and turning the Senate into a graveyard—or at least a critical care unit—for obviously qualified presidential nominees. Republican obstruction has left you with nothing to lose by bringing the Senate fully into the 21st century and allowing the majority to rule. It’s time to change the rules….

Worried about blowback? Don’t be. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) helped expose the Republicans’ loss of leverage when he threatened that if the Democrats changed the filibuster rule, Republicans would appoint more justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Whoa! Is he suggesting that Republicans won’t appoint more radically conservative justices if Democrats keep the filibuster? That might be a deal worth taking, but it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on. If Republicans regain control of the White House, any Supreme Court nominees will very much be in the model of Scalia and Thomas, and their colleagues Roberts and Samuel Alito—if not worse. That means they will disregard any pretense of judicial restraint to eviscerate civil rights laws, restrain congressional authority to enact social legislation, support states over the federal government and big business over labor, oppose the interests of consumers and make sure the executioner stays in business.

In reality, Republicans have nothing left with which to threaten you. Just stop and think about how unimportant the filibuster has been to you. You chose not to use it to stop Thomas and Alito, even though more than enough Democrats to support a filibuster voted against each. You embraced Scalia (by unanimous vote!) and Roberts. When Republican presidents went too far, you mustered the majority vote necessary to stop them without resorting to the filibuster. That’s why we didn’t have a Justice Bork, Carswell or Haynsworth, or a Secretary of Defense Tower, or an Associate Attorney General Reynolds. Sure, Miguel Estrada would be on the D.C. Circuit, but that hardly justifies tying your own hands in perpetuity.

He’s absolutely right, but do the wimpy Dems have the courage to act? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Here’s your stupid right wing corporate media story for today from Media Matters. David Gregory compares Obamacare to the Iraq war.

Not once but twice in recent days Meet The Press host David Gregory announced that the troubled launch of President Obama’s new health care law is roughly the equivalent to President Bush’s badly bungled war with Iraq. The NBC anchor was quick to point out that he didn’t mean the two events were the same with regards to a death toll. (Nobody has died from health care reform.) But Gregory was sure that in terms of how the former president and the current president are viewed, in terms of damage done to their credibility, the men will be forever linked to a costly, bloody war and a poorly functioning website, respectively.

“Everybody looked at Bush through the prism of Iraq,” Gregory explained. “Here, I think people are going to look at Obama through the implementation of Obamacare.”  It’s Obama’s defining event of their two-term presidency. It’s a catastrophic failure that’s tarnished Obama’s second term, and will perhaps “wreck” his entire presidency, according to the media’s “doom-mongering bubble,” as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones described it.

But like the painfully inappropriate comparisons to Hurricane Katrina that have populated the press, Gregory’s attempt to draw a Bush/Obama parallel is equally senseless. Bush’s war morass stretched over five years, so of course it defined his presidency.  Obama’s health care woes are in week number six and could be fixed within the next month.

Media Matters points out that not only is this “the mother lode of false equivalency,” but it’s a sly effort to “downgrade Bush’s historical failures, and to cover the media’s tracks of deception.”

I’ll end with two fascinating science stories to take your mind off politics and other distressing news.

Mars rock

From BBC News: Black Beauty rock ‘is oldest chunk of Mars’

A rock discovered in the Sahara Desert is the oldest Martian meteorite ever found, scientists believe.

Earlier research had suggested it was about two billion years old, but new tests indicate the rock actually dates to 4.4 billion years ago.

The dark and glossy meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, would have formed when the Red Planet was in its infancy.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

Lead author Prof Munir Humayan, from Florida State University, US, said: “This [rock] tells us about one of the most important epochs in the history of Mars.”

Read the rest at the link.

And from The Sydney Morning Herald: Siberian DNA link to Native Americans discovered.

The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta, near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, about 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.

The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last ice age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed.

The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion – about 25 per cent – of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.

Amazing, huh?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the coMenusmment thread.

Saturday Reads from Sleepy in Seattle

4554308099_8f9016ecb0_zGood Morning!

I cannot believe how tired I am at the moment but I’m going to muddle through this with you somehow.  I have all the good intentions of doing lots of things like hooking up with our Seattle Sky Dancers but so far, I’m freezing cold and exhausted.  So, let me try to find some lighter things to share … like “Revolutionizing Classical music by mixing Beethoven and Beer”.  That probably didn’t make much sense.  How about small ensembles of classical musicians playing at dive bars?

PERFORMING classical music at a dive bar that serves beer and hot dogs is an unusual concept. But Ensemble HD, a group of musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra, is packing out the city’s Happy Dog bar at their monthly live shows.

The idea for the sextet—piano, flute, oboe, violin, viola and cello—to perform at the bar came from a meeting of minds. Joshua Smith, principal flautist at the orchestra and lead member of Ensemble HD, had long been interested in reaching out to people who don’t go to classical-music concerts; and Sean Watterson, owner of Happy Dog, is similarly interested in mixing high- and low-brow culture. After leaving his finance job in New York following the financial meltdown in 2008, Mr Watterson moved back to Cleveland and transformed this rust-belt bar into a hub of cultural programming. In addition to Ensemble HD, the Happy Dog hosts monthly science lectures, regular talks from curators at the Cleveland Museum of Art and polka bands during happy hour. The venue attracts a diverse crowd: “It’s great to look over at the bar and see people in mink coats next to twentysomethings covered in tattoos and piercings,” Mr Watterson says.

So, I’m frequently writing about buried things.  Here’s an interesting twist on that from Argentina.  A town that was submerged under water for 25 years is seeing sunlight and air again.  There are some kewl pictures at the link.

A strange ghost town that spent a quarter-century under water is coming up for air again in the Argentine farmlands southwest of Argentina Underwater TownBuenos Aires. Epecuen was once a bustling little lakeside resort, where 1,500 people served 20,000 tourists a season. During Argentina’s golden age, the same trains that carried grain to the outside world brought visitors from the capital to relax in Epecuen’s saltwater baths and spas. Then a particularly heavy rainstorm followed a series of wet winters, and the lake overflowed its banks on Nov. 10, 1985. Water burst through a retaining wall and spilled into the lakeside streets. People fled with what they could, and within days their homes were submerged under nearly 33 feet of corrosive saltwater. Now the water has mostly receded, exposing what looks like a scene from a movie about the end of the world. The town hasn’t been rebuilt, but it has become a tourist destination again, for people willing to drive at least six hours from Buenos Aires to get here, along 340 miles of narrow country roads. People come to see the rusted hulks of automobiles and furniture, crumbled homes, and broken appliances. It’s a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time.

In keeping with that, we also have some news on Britain’s ‘Atlantis’. Dunwich is still submerged.  A storm swept a good deal of it into the sea in 1286 but it eventually was lost completely some time in the 15th century.  The storms were part of what is known as the “little ice age”.

A University of Southampton professor has carried out the most detailed analysis ever of the archaeological remains of the lost medieval town of Dunwich, dubbed ‘Britain’s Atlantis’.

Funded and supported by English Heritage, and using advanced underwater imaging techniques, the project led by Professor David Sear of Geography and Environment has produced the most accurate map to date of the town’s streets, boundaries and major buildings, and revealed new ruins on the seabed. Professor Sear worked with a team from the University’s GeoData Institute; the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; Wessex Archaeology; and local divers from North Sea Recovery and Learn Scuba.

He comments, “Visibility under the water at Dunwich is very poor due to the muddy water. This has limited the exploration of the site.

“We have now dived on the site using high resolution DIDSON ™ acoustic imaging to examine the ruins on the seabed — a first use of this technology for non-wreck marine archaeology.

“DIDSON technology is rather like shining a torch onto the seabed, only using sound instead of light. The data produced helps us to not only see the ruins, but also understand more about how they interact with the tidal currents and sea bed.”

Peter Murphy, English Heritage’s coastal survey expert who is currently completing a national assessment of coastal heritage assets in England, says: “The loss of most of the medieval town of Dunwich over the last few hundred years — one of the most important English ports in the Middle Ages — is part of a long process that is likely to result in more losses in the future. Everyone was surprised, though, by how much of the eroded town still survives under the sea and is identifiable.

“Whilst we cannot stop the forces of nature, we can ensure what is significant is recorded and our knowledge and memory of a place doesn’t get lost forever. Professor Sear and his team have developed techniques that will be valuable to understanding submerged and eroded terrestrial sites elsewhere.”

.A crater in Siberia is revealing some interesting things about a very warm earth and the future of climate change

The future of a globally warmed world has been revealed in a remote meteorite crater in Siberia, where lake sediments recorded the strikingly balmy climate of the Arctic during the last period when greenhouse gas levels were as high as today.

Unchecked burning of fossil fuels has driven carbon dioxide to levels not seen for 3 million years when, the sediments show, temperatures were 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today*, lush forests covered the tundra and sea levels were up to 40 meters higher than today.

“It’s like deja vu,” said Prof Julie Brigham-Grette, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the new research analyzing a core of sediment to see what temperatures in the region were between 3.6 and 2.2 million years ago. “We have seen these warm periods before. Many people now agree this is where we are heading.”
“It shows a huge warming—unprecedented in human history,” said Prof Scott Elias, at Royal Holloway University of London, and not involved in the work. “It is a frightening experiment we are conducting with our climate.”

The sediments have been slowly settling in Lake El’gygytgyn since it was formed 3.6 million years ago, when a kilometer-wide meteorite blasted a crater 100 kilometers north of the Arctic circle. Unlike most places so far north, the region was never eroded by glaciers so a continuous record of the climate has lain undisturbed ever since. “It’s a phenomenal record,” said Prof Peter Sammonds, at University College London. “It is also an incredible achievement [the study's work], given the remoteness of the lake.” Sixteen shipping containers of equipment had to be hauled 90 kilometers over snow by bulldozers from the nearest ice road, used by gold miners.

Previous research on land had revealed glimpses of the Arctic climate and ocean sediments had recorded the marine climate, but the disparate data are not consistent with one another. “Lake El’gygytgyn may be the only place in the world that has this incredible unbroken record of sediments going back millions of years,” said Elias. “When you have a very long record it is very different to argue with.”

The new research, published in the journal Science, also sheds light on a crucial question for climate scientists: how sensitive is the Earth’s climate to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

From Baltimore we have another disturbing story about police: “You want to film something b**ch? Film this!” Balitimore police beat a woman for filming a beating.

Baltimore police beat up a woman and smashed her camera for filming them beating up a man, telling her: “You want to film something bitch? Film this!” the woman claims in court.

Makia Smith sued the Baltimore Police Department, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and police Officers Nathan Church, William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell in Federal Court.

Smith claims she was stuck in stand-still rush hour traffic in northern Baltimore when she saw the defendant officers beating up and arresting a young man.

She says pulled out her camera, stood on her car’s door sill and filmed the beating.

“Officer Church saw plaintiff filming the beating and ran at her,” the complaint states. “He scared her and she sat back in her vehicle. As he ran at her, he yelled, ‘You want to film something bitch? Film this!’

“Officer Church reached into plaintiff’s car and grabbed her telephone-camera out of her hand, threw it to the ground and destroyed it by smashing it with his foot.

“Officer Church pulled plaintiff out of her car by her hair and beat her. Officers Pilkerton, Ulmer, and Campbell then ran to plaintiff’s car and joined Officer Church in beating plaintiff and arrested her using excessive force. At all times described herein, plaintiff’s two year old daughter witnessed her mother’s beating and arrest by the Officers, as did others.”

Smith claims the cops taunted her and threatened to take her daughter away. She says they refused to call her mother to her toddler.

“The officers, despite the pleas of plaintiff, refused to call plaintiff’s mother. Instead, the officers tormented plaintiff by telling her that her daughter would be taken from her and sent to Social Services. Seeing plaintiff’s distressful reaction to these tormenting threats, they continued,” the complaint states.

Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is worried about Wall Street.

The bulls are running on Wall Street, but the chief of America’s central bank worries that the market remains dangerously fragile. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explained why on Friday, May 10, in a speech in Chicago at the Fed’s branch there.

Here are five things that nag at Bernanke, in his own words.

1. Times may be too good. There is an “apparent tendency for financial market participants to take greater risks when macro conditions are relatively stable. Indeed, it may be that prolonged economic stability is a double-edged sword.” Stability “could … reduce the incentives for market participants to take reasonable precautions.”

2. Securities lending remains problematic. The financial crisis revealed that borrowing by securities broker-dealers “is potentially quite fragile.” In the crisis, “Borrowers unable to meet margin calls and finance their asset holdings were forced to sell, driving down asset prices further and setting off a cycle of deleveraging and further asset liquidation.”

3. Money market funds are still vulnerable.“The risk is increased by the fact that the Treasury no longer has the power to guarantee investors’ holdings in money funds, an authority that was critical for stopping the 2008 run.”

4. A default in the repo market would be no fun. This is kind of like point No. 2, except that here, Bernanke is focusing on so-called triparty repo. Repo lending is short-term lending that’s secured with collateral such as bonds. Triparty repo is where a big bank—usually JPMorgan Chase (JPM) or Bank of New York Mellon (BK)—stands between the borrower and lender, clearing the transaction. “More work is needed to better prepare investors and other market participants to deal with the potential consequences of a default by a large participant in the repo market.”

5. The rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. “Gains in household net worth have been concentrated among wealthier households, while many households in the middle or lower parts of the distribution have experienced declines in wealth since the crisis. Moreover, many homeowners remain ‘underwater,’ with their homes worth less than the principal balances on their mortgages. Thus, more detailed information clarifies that many households remain more financially fragile than might be inferred from the aggregate statistics alone.”

Here’s something to make economists think:  Markets erode moral values;  Researchers from the Universities of Bamberg and Bonn present causal evidence on how markets affect moral values.

Prof. Dr. Armin Falk from the University of Bonn and Prof. Dr. Nora Szech from the University of Bamberg, both economists, have shown in an experiment that markets erode moral concerns. In comparison to non-market decisions, moral standards are significantly lower if people participate in markets.

In markets, people ignore their individual moral standards

“Our results show that market participants violate their own moral standards,” says Prof. Falk. In a number of different experiments, several hundred subjects were confronted with the moral decision between receiving a monetary amount and killing a mouse versus saving the life of a mouse and foregoing the monetary amount. “It is important to understand what role markets and other institutions play in moral decision making. This is a question economists have to deal with,” says Prof. Szech.

“To study immoral outcomes, we studied whether people are willing to harm a third party in exchange to receiving money. Harming others in an intentional and unjustified way is typically considered unethical,” says Prof. Falk. The animals involved in the study were so-called “surplus mice”, raised in laboratories outside Germany. These mice are no longer needed for research purposes. Without the experiment, they would have all been killed. As a consequence of the study many hundreds of young mice that would otherwise all have died were saved. If a subject decided to save a mouse, the experimenters bought the animal. The saved mice are perfectly healthy and live under best possible lab conditions and medical care.

With that, I will end and turn the discussion to you. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Outrageous and Horrifying: Death of Robert Saylor

Robert Saylors Death Homicide Good Evening

Update below**

The story I have for you tonight is so upsetting, I cannot even express how bad I feel for this boy’s family…but my anger is rooted at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and whoever is in charge of their training. I am also pissed at the department’s internal affairs, because it took them so long to put the killer cops on leave…
Take a deep relaxing breath, you are going to need it.

Three deputies have been placed on leave in the wake of a medical examiner’s report that labeled the death of a Maryland man with Down syndrome a homicide.

“After thorough consideration of all of the facts, I made the decision to place the deputies on administrative leave,” Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said in a statement obtained by WJLA. “When completed, the death investigation will be forwarded to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Frederick County for review to determine if this case will be presented to a Grand Jury.”

You ready for this….Robert was killed on January 12th of this year. It has taken over a month for the Frederick County Sheriff’s office to suspend these murdering cops. The cops were not even taking off active duty until today.

WJLA reported on Friday that Robert Saylor, 26, of New Market, Md., was asphyxiated on Jan. 12, according to a medical examiner’s ruling late last week, WJLA previously reported.

A “law enforcement source familiar with the case” told the station that Saylor “went into distress when he was put face down on the ground.”

The Washington Post reports how Saylor, who was with a health aide, came into contact with Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris:

As officials tell it, Saylor had been watching “Zero Dark Thirty” at a Frederick movie theater last month and, as soon as it ended, wanted to watch it again. When he refused to leave, a theater employee called three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were working a security job at the Westview Promenade shopping center and told them that Saylor either needed to buy another ticket or be removed.

Joseph Espo, an attorney representing Saylor’s family, intimated to CBS News that he’s concerned the sheriff’s office might face a conflict of interest when investigating the actions of its own deputies.

You bet your ass there is a conflict here. It is disgusting.

“We just think it would have been preferable to have an outside agency take a look,” Espo said. “I think what [the family members] most want to see out of the investigation is a clear account of what happened and why it happened.”

During the investigation, the deputies who were with Saylor are still active. They are Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris. They had been working secondary employment with Hill Management at the Westview Promenade.
My brother has downs syndrome, as many of you know…I write and talk about him a lot here on the blog.  He gets into angry fits on a regular basis…but even if we are out in public, even the folks around Banjoville understand his outburst. You can see the compassion in their faces.
But here, you have a young man who only wanted to see a movie one more time.  I don’t know where Robert’s aide was when all this shit happened….but I see so many fucked up issues with this entire disturbing story.
First, the manager of the movie theater. Why the hell would they force the issue and just let Robert watch the film one more time? I can just bet when Robert began to get irritated, the theater employees exasperated the situation. The cops are another problem, this is unbelievable…they use force and handcuff him, keeping him face down. They murdered this young man, and I hope justice will finally come to Robert’s family.
Yes, I am taking this news story personally! Robert could have been my brother Denny, and my heart breaks…it is full of pain for the loss Robert Saylor’s family is experiencing.
Since Robert Saylor’s death has been ruled a homicide, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page has been lit up with hundreds of comments, saying the officers should be jailed and they are a disgrace and should be fired.

Sheriff Charles Jenkins has written a letter to the community, calling the incident “tragic” and urging people to reserve judgment. The sheriff was childhood friends with the victim’s father, making the case even more difficult.

“I really sympathize with his family. I wish we could have that moment in time back.”

[...]

Frederick County’s top prosecutor is promising a thorough investigation into the death.

State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said Wednesday he has received the investigative file from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office on the death of Saylor.

Saylor died of asphyxiation Jan. 12 after three sheriff’s deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a Frederick movie theater at the manager’s request. The state medical examiner’s office has ruled the death a homicide.

“There did come a point when they had to remove him from his seat,” says Jenkins. “There was no excess force. They did have to handcuff Mr. Saylor and unfortunately as they were walking out he suffered a medical emergency.”

All this for the price of a movie ticket. Outrageous!
You can see  a video report here.
This is an open thread…
** Update**

Baltimore attorney Joseph Espo, who is representing the family, said Saylor’s caregiver might have been able to defuse the situation, but the caregiver was outside getting her car to take Saylor home when the conflict started.

“They could have just waited a couple of minutes for Ethan’s caregiver to return to the scene and let her deal with it,” Espo said. “He was sitting in his seat, while admittedly not having paid for another ticket, minding his own business. It was not an urgent situation that required immediate attention.”

When the caregiver returned to the theater, she tried to intervene and de-escalate the situation but was ignored, Espo said.

“The deputies continued doing their thing,” he said. “They didn’t disengage.”

Espo said he and the family met with Jenkins on Friday and expressed their disappointment that the three deputies were still on duty.

“The decision to keep the deputies on regular duty was deeply troubling to the family,” Espo said. “Ethan died in their custody, and these officers just went right back to work.”

[...]

Paul Foss, head elder at Damascus Road Community Church, which Saylor and his mother, Patti, had attended for several years, said Saylor was a valued member of the congregation who loved hugs from his church friends. After learning of Saylor’s death, church members filled his seat with bouquets of flowers, Foss said.

“He loved to be there for both services, the 9 and the 11, and he had his seat right up front,” Foss said. “We miss Ethan.”

Foss said Saylor’s arms were often wrapped around the neck of Senior Pastor Richard Fredericks as Fredericks greeted congregants. He would take advantage of the break between services to go see — and hug — his many friends, as well as enjoy the refreshments served in the lobby, Foss said.

“Ethan loved to eat, and he’d go and get a plate, and if you weren’t watching he’d go and get a second plate,” he said.

Foss views Saylor’s death as a tragedy that could have been avoided.

“Someone with a cooler head should have said, ‘Let’s take a deep breath, and let’s come back to this in 10 minutes,'” he said. “If something could come out of this that can help this not happen in the future, I’m all for that.”

[...]

Saylor, a graduate of The Benedictine School in Ridgely, had worked briefly for Goodwill Industries.

Weikert said he was saddened by the tragic irony surrounding Saylor’s death. An enthusiastic supporter of law enforcement, Saylor collected information on different agencies and would call for deputies just so they could come to his house and talk to him.

“The part of society he trusted the most ended up being his worst nightmare,” Weikert said.

 


Saturday Reads: Taking Aim and Hitting the Target

Good Morning!

I have some juicy links for you this morning…so go get your cup of coffee, cause it’s gonna be a long post.

There is a lot going on in Egypt…Egypt new PM claims more powers than predecessor – Yahoo! News

 Egypt‘s military rulers picked a prime minister from ousted leader Hosni Mubarak‘s era to head the next government in a move quickly rejected by tens of thousands of protesters, while the United States ratcheted up pressure on the generals to quickly transfer power to a civilian leadership.

[…]

Kamal el-Ganzouri, 78, served as prime minister between 1996 and 1999 and was deputy prime minister and planning minister before that. He also was a provincial governor under the late President Anwar Sadat.

In a televised statement, he said the military has given him greater powers than his predecessor and he wouldn’t have accepted the job if he believed military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi had any intention of staying in power.

“The powers given to me exceed any similar mandates,” he said, looking uncomfortable, grasping for words and repeatedly pausing as he spoke. “I will take full authority so I’m able to serve my country.”

He also spoke about not being able to form a government in time for elections that were scheduled for Monday. The US issued a statement:

“We believe that Egypt’s transition to democracy must continue, with elections proceeding expeditiously, and all necessary measures taken to ensure security and prevent intimidation,” The White House said in a statement. “Most importantly, we believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.”

The stance is significant because the Egyptian military has over the past 30 years forged close relations with successive U.S. administrations, receiving $1.3 billion annually in aid.

El-Ganzouri’s appointment was announced by state TV following a meeting late Thursday between him and Tantawi. Tantawi was Mubarak’s defense minister of 20 years and served in el-Ganzouri’s earlier government.

Almost forty people have been killed in the last five days as protest turned violent against the military’s actions regarding a formation of a government. The generals apologized for the deaths, but their choice of prime minister angered the Egyptian people whose uprising earlier in the year brought about the ouster of dictator Hosni Muburak. Many believe that Egypt’s military has hijacked the revolution…by placing a member of Mubarak’s regime in control. Protestors have vowed not to leave Tahrir Square until the military resigns and is replaced by a civilian presidential council.

But not all of Egypt is angry at the military, it seems a bit like perfect timing. Egypt’s military leaders are bringing their own show of support.  Egypt Military Tries to Woo Wider Public Beyond Protesters – NYTimes.com

Some call it the silent majority. In Egypt these days, the preferred term is the Party of the Couch. And in that ill-defined constituency, sometimes more myth than reality, Egypt’s ruling military has staked its credibility as it seeks to fend off the greatest challenge yet from protesters seeking to force it from power.

Drawing on sentiments pronounced Friday in the grittier parts of Cairo, even just a few blocks from the protests in Tahrir Square, and in a defiantly nationalist rally near the Defense Ministry, the military is offering either a canny read of Egypt’s mood or yet another delusional estimation of its popularity, a mistake that has bedeviled so many autocrats. With a mix of bravado and disdain, it has hewed to a narrative first pronounced after it seized power from President Hosni Mubarak in February: It bears the mantle of Egypt’s revolution.

“Egypt is not Tahrir Square,” Maj. Gen. Mukhtar el-Mallah, a member of the 20-member military council ruling since February, said in a news conference this week. “If you take a walk on other streets in Egypt, you will find that everything is very normal.”

In much of Cairo, and elsewhere in Egypt, the military has found a receptive audience for that message in a country buckling under a stagnating economy and a lurking insecurity. Even as it promises to surrender power by June, it has deployed all the platitudes of authoritarian Arab governments: fear of foreign intervention, fear of chaos, and fear of the rabble. One doctor quipped Friday that the sole change since the revolution was an extra digit added this year to cellphone numbers.

The concern seems to fall on who will lead Egypt’s government,  if not the military…then who will it be.

“They think they can fill up a square?” asked Marwan Helmy, a 65-year-old high school teacher at a boisterous pro-military rally that convened Friday in Abassiya, a few miles from the far bigger antimilitary demonstration in Tahrir Square. “We will fill all the streets of Egypt and support the military. We can’t be silent any longer, the country is unraveling. Who gave them the right to represent us? Tahrir is not Egypt!”

Thousands turned out for the Abassiya rally, waving flags, chanting slogans more visceral than meditated and crowding overpasses and the square below. In its ardor, it seemed to manifest a militant nationalism that added a new wrinkle to all the divides in Egypt pitting Islamist against secular, rich against poor, and city against countryside.

It is going to get more contentious in the coming weeks. When Mona Eltahawy writes up her experiences being arrested and assaulted by the police and Ministry of the Interior…I am sure the truth will eventually come out.

Next up are some articles about present day slavery. First is a link to an Al Jazeera video report: The Al Jazeera slavery debate – Slavery: A 21st Century Evil – Al Jazeera English

Why, hundreds of years after it was legally abolished, does slavery persist? The last episode of Slavery: A 21st Century Evil is a televised debate in which this question, among others, was posed to a panel of those who direct or seek to influence government policies on slavery across the world.

The debate was held at Decatur House on Washington’s Lafayette Square – the site of the only remaining physical evidence that African Americans were once held in bondage within sight of the White House – as an iconic venue for the debate on a trade that refuses to die.

Moderator Rageh Omaar was joined by: Luis C d’Baca from the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; Kevin Bales, the president of Free the Slaves; David Batstone, the president of Not for Sale; and Joy Ezeilo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons.

This next link is to the State Department Blog, as it connects us to modern day slavery in a very personal way.  One Million Footprints on the Path to Freedom | U.S. Department of State Blog

Screenshot of Slavery Footprint website, as seen on November 22, 2011. [State Department image]

Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca directs the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Two months ago, the Fairtrade Fund launched Slavery Footprint, a web- and mobile-based application that allows users to understand how their lives intersect with modern slavery. Through a grant from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, the Fairtrade Fund developed this tool to help more people understand the way their lifestyles and consumption habits fuel the demand for forced labor and sex trafficking.

The app works by asking users to complete a quick survey about where they live and what they buy and eat. That information is processed in an algorithm that analyzes the 400 most common consumer items and determines the likelihood that those items were tainted by modern slavery somewhere along the supply chain.

The goal announced at the time of the launch was to register 150,000 people having taken the survey by September 22, 2012, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Twelve months to get 150,000 people engaged. What’s been revealed instead in the last two months is that people care about this issue, and aren’t going to wait on our timetable to join the modern abolitionist movement. On November 11 , only six weeks after the site launched, the millionth Slavery Footprint survey was completed. And it’s not just Americans — people from a hundred different countries have taken the quiz.

[…]

By taking the survey, they have learned that human trafficking doesn’t just affect people in faraway parts of the world. We touch this crime in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the technology upon which we rely — and we can do something about it. Slavery Footprint and its partners like MTV have made it possible to take action by letting companies and universities know that you care about modern slavery and that you hope they do as well.

The road to freedom is long and hard, but there are now millions of footprints on that path. I encourage you to visit www.slaveryfootprint.org, take the survey yourself, and join us as we seek to deliver on the promise of Emancipation.

I took the survey and here was my results:

That figure is shocking, my numbers were higher than an average single person because I included my two kids in the survey. This really puts the issue of slavery directly on me, and how my family is connected to the modern slave trade. I urge you to take the survey, it will make you think about things from a different perspective.

Moving on from slavery to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Here is Hillary Clinton on the importance of eliminating violence against women.

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 25, 2011

Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we are reminded of the horrific acts of violence against women that take place every day around the world and pledge to recommit ourselves to changing attitudes and ending all forms of violence against women and girls.

Gender-based violence is a global pandemic that cuts across all borders and impacts all peoples and societies – regardless of ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, or religion. One in three women around the world will experience some form of gender-based violence in her lifetime. The medical, security, and legal costs to countries are incalculable. It dampens economic development and tears at the fabric of societies. The health costs to women includes not only the detrimental impact on their physical well-being, such as increased susceptibility to HIV infection, but also mental health costs for both women and their children.

We need to improve our efforts to prevent and respond to this crisis. When women are afforded their rights and given the chance to pursue education, employment, and political participation, they drive social and economic progress. They lift up themselves, their families, communities, and their nations. But to build this future girls must be able to learn without fear and women must be able to make decisions about their own lives and the future of their families.

Prevention, protection and prosecution are essential to combating this violence. But we must add a fourth “P” as well – Priority. Empowering women and girls is already a priority of the United States, but we need more countries to step up and take on this challenge. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 days Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence is an opportunity to renew the commitment to free women and girls from the nightmare of violence, because the future safety and security of our world depends on it.

Geez, I can’t help but think just how much better off we would all be if she was in the White House.

You probably have to go get another cup of coffee, so go ahead…there is more after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


U.C. Davis Police Chief Suspended; Chancellor Still Won’t Resign

UC Davis Police pepper spraying peaceful protesters

LA Times:

UC Davis placed Police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave Monday in the wake of controversy over the pepper-spraying of student protesters last week by campus police officers.

The move by UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi came less than a day after she put two UC Davis police officers on leave.

“as I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our Quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus,” Katehi said in a statement.

Spicuzza had initially defended the police action, telling reporters Saturday, “The students had encircled the officers. They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out.”

Katehi has resisted calls by some UC Davis faculty members for her to resign.

Katahi’s words, “As I gathered more information…” are probably code for “I’m doing this in hopes that I don’t lose my job.” The President of the California state university system has made a strong statement about the events at U.C. Davis.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The president of the University of California system said he was “appalled” at images of protesters being doused with pepper spray and plans an assessment of law enforcement procedures on all 10 campuses, as the police chief and two officers were placed on administrative leave.

“Free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history,” UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a statement Sunday in response to the spraying of students sitting passively at UC Davis. “It is a value we must protect with vigilance.”

Yudof said it was not his intention to “micromanage our campus police forces,” but he said all 10 chancellors would convene soon for a discussion “about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.”

Protesters have planned a rally on the UC Davis campus today at noon Pacific time. Let’s hope the campus police leave their pepper spray and their tasers behind and act as if they respect the U.S. Constitution for a change.