Thursday Reads: Snow, Sochi, and Snowden

Harvard Square in Winter, Barbara Westman, 1970

Good Morning!!

I was hoping yesterday’s storm would be a bust like the last one, but no such luck. We got more than a foot of snow yesterday, and a couple more fell after I got myself dug out. I shoveled the front steps and the walk myself, but I broke down and paid to get the driveway cleared. This morning all my joints ache–show shoveling is hard work, as George W. Bush would say.

There is more winter weather on the way for much of the country, but it’s not yet clear how bad it will be. According to the Weather Channel,

It is still much too early to forecast specific snow amounts in any given location….

This snow event kicks off Thursday and Friday in the West, with significant snow possible Thursday into Friday in parts of the Cascades, Sierra, Mogollon Rim and Rockies.

Beginning late Friday, continuing into Saturday a strip of snow, sleet and freezing rain may develop farther east into parts of the Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley and East….For now, Saturday’s snow appears to be a light to moderate event for parts of the East Coast, from the Middle Atlantic into the Ohio Valley, Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes.

Sunday, as the main upper-level southward dip in the jet stream, or trough, swings eastward, more snow may pivot through the Northeast and persist in some areas through Monday.

A little vague, but it doesn’t sound too bad. Cold weather is moving through South again, so I hope all of you stay safe and warm down there and that those Republican governors get a clue about storm preparedness and snow removal.

As the Sochi Winter Olympic games approach, you have to wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to hold an international athletic event in Russia. Never mind the games, just surviving is going to be an achievement for anyone who attends. Apparently the hotel rooms for attendees are ghastly, and have you seen the tiny beds the athletes will be sleeping in? From Time: Tiny Beds and No WiFi: Welcome to Sochi!

While Olympic athletes got stuck with toy-sized beds and bizarre communal toilets in Sochi, at least their rooms were finished in time for their arrival. Meanwhile, journalists from around the globe have been complaining about everything from dirty water to no internet in their rooms.

On Monday, Sochi organizers tried to downplay the severity of the delays, claiming that 97 percent of the rooms were finished and that 3 percent needed a final cleaning, according to the Guardian. They added that the constructions delays would not affect athlete lodging. However, as one reporter Stephen Whyno pointed out, the Canadian Men’s Hockey team is unlikely to be impressed with their Soviet-style hotel rooms. Nor are athletes likely to enjoy getting to know each other on a whole new level in one of the communal bathrooms at the Olympic Biathlon Centre.

One of rooms Canada men's hockey team will stay in

One of rooms Canada men’s hockey team will stay in

More creepy photos at the link.

Journalists in Sochi who were horrified by Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying are learning what life in a real police state is all about. From Digital Trends: Russia’s wiretapping ‘SORM boxes’ in Sochi make the NSA look like saints.

You thought the NSA was bad? Meet the System of Operative-Investigative Measures (SORM), from Russia. As athletes, spectators and journalists descend on Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics this week, the Russian government and their Federal Security Service (FSB) want to know exactly what everyone is saying. If you’re making fun of Putin’s hair, they want to read the text. And “SORM boxes” make it possible.

According to a group of Russian journalists that have been monitoring the events leading up to the spectacle, the FSB has required communication companies in Russia to install SORM boxes that intercept all data passing through the network – and give the FSB access to that data.

Here’s the bizarre part: While the FSB needs a warrant to access the boxes, no one except FSB administrators of FSB ever have to see it. Theoretically, no one but the FSB knows what warrants have been obtained in connection to wire taps that have been executed. This contrasts what happens in the United States, where, under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), agencies have to show their warrant to the communication company and ask for certain data from them.

SORM has been around since the 80s, meaning it found its beginnings during the Cold War. Back then all they had to do was listen to phone calls, but now the system can monitor all kinds of communication, from emails to texts. This system is in use across Russia, but they’re paying special attention to the Winter Olympics.

Men's toilets in Sochi

Men’s toilets in Sochi

Funny, I haven’t seen any articles about this by Glenn Greenwald et al., have you? I wonder if Edward Snowden is registering objections?

From ABC News, The Other Sochi Threat: Russian Spies, Mobsters Hacking Your Smartphones.

Russian law allows its intelligence agents to do electronic snooping on anyone inside the country, meaning the phones and personal computers of thousands of foreign visitors, including Americans, are fair game. But even outside of the law, Russian organized crime groups also are well known for hacking smartphones and email for information they use for illicit profit.

“It’s the same as during the Beijing Games — the host government, private enterprise and individuals pose a big threat to people traveling to the Sochi Games, in respect to monitoring conversations on cell phones and intercepting texts and emails,” one Olympic security contractor told ABC News last week.

“It should certainly be expected,” agreed a senior U.S. intelligence official, who told ABC News that the influx of tens of thousands of American spectators and dignitaries will be “an intelligence bonanza” for both Russian spies and organized crime groups.

And there’s the problem of getting there, according to Bloomberg News: U.S. Said to Warn Airlines of Bomb Material in Toothpaste.

Air carriers flying to Winter Olympics host Russia were warned today to watch for toothpaste tubes containing materials that could be turned into a bomb, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

The official declined to elaborate on the intelligence that sparked the warning, which was sent to U.S. and foreign airlines, just two days before the start of the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

Security at Sochi is tight in response to threats of terror strikes by Islamic militants. The Black Sea city is just a few hundred miles from the North Caucasus region, where Russia has been battling Islamic extremists.

Finally, there’s the matter of the Chobani Greek yogurt shipment. From the NYT: Russia Blocks Yogurt Bound for U.S. Athletes.

Frankly, I’m glad to be staying here in the good ol’ “tyrannical” USA.

Speaking of NSA, they finally seem to be fighting back against all the bad press they’ve been getting. Of course no U.S. journalist reported this, but the BBC posted an article about the 300 people whose job it is to make sure NSA analysts don’t abuse their positions and the man who supervises them.

Officials claim there are multiple levels of accountability and oversight including a new civil liberties and privacy officer within the NSA appointed this week. But one person who has been trying to ensure the system is not abused for a number of years is John DeLong.

After working in the NSA and department of Homeland Security – and a break to study at Harvard Law School – he became the director for compliance at the agency in 2009, running a team of 300 people….

“Rather than characterising it as people with clipboards looking over folks, a rules coach may be the best way of thinking of it,” he tells the BBC in a telephone interview.

“What we focus on in compliance is the very specific consistency each and every second of each and every day with the very specific rules that regulate our activity.”

This includes training, developing systems to look over people’s work and making sure new staff who join are briefed and understand their obligations – including when to ask questions when they see something they think might be wrong.

Compliance is built on a mix of human and automated safeguards, Mr DeLong says.

There’s much more at the link.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed former NSA head Mike McConnell, who is now CEO of Edward Snowden’s former employer Booz-Allen Hamilton. According to McConnell,

“Snowden has compromised more capability than any spy in U.S. history. And this will have impact on our ability to do our mission for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Mr. McConnell. He served as U.S. director of national intelligence from 2007 to 2009 and was NSA director from 1992 to 1996….

The broad details for how Mr. Snowden was hired have been made public, but Mr. McConnell talked candidly about how the former employee came to work for the NSA and for Booz Allen, including where both the agency and the company made their mistakes in the vetting process. Since unveiling the top-secret information in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper last June, Mr. Snowden has been heralded as a free-speech hero by some and decried by others as a high-risk traitor.

Mr. Snowden was a security guard with the NSA, moved into its information-technology department and was sent overseas, Mr. McConnell said. He then left the agency, joined another company and moved to Japan. But Mr. Snowden wanted back in with the NSA. He then broke into the agency’s system and stole the admittance test with the answers, Mr. McConnell said. Mr. Snowden took the test and aced it, Mr. McConnell said. “He walked in and said you should hire me because I scored high on the test.”

The NSA then offered Mr. Snowden a position but he said didn’t think the level—called GS-13—was high enough and asked for a higher-ranking job. The NSA refused. In early 2013, Booz Allen hired Mr. Snowden.

“He targeted my company because we enjoy more access than other companies,” Mr. McConnell said. “Because of the nature of the work we do…he targeted us for that purpose.”

(Emphasis added) Anyone who still believes that that Snowden hack wasn’t carefully planned is living in fantasy land. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but for me stealing the answers to the test is a bridge too far. I thought Snowden was supposed to be a genius, but I’m beginning to wonder.

McConnell also noted that at Booz-Allen, Snowden had access to around a million documents that provided “no kidding insights to understanding U.S. intelligence services.”

David Ignatius, who has lots of sources in the intelligence community wrote in The Washington Post yesterday that one result of Snowden’s leaks could be an internet that is far less free. Russia and China have long resented U.S. control over the internet and want to set their own limits on internet usage; and Europeans who are angry at US spying may stop doing business with U.S. tech companies and develop their own “NSA-proof data storage.”

Edward Snowden’s supporters have portrayed him as the champion of Internet freedom. But when senior European and U.S. experts privately discuss the future of cyberspace, their fear is that the Internet may be closing, post-Snowden, rather than opening. “We may be the last generation to take joy from the Internet,” because of new boundaries and protectionism, as one American glumly put it.

Privacy advocates would argue that any dangers ahead are the fault of the pervasive surveillance systems of the National Security Agency, rather than Snowden’s revelation of them. I’ll leave that chicken-and-egg puzzle for historians. But it begs the question of how to prevent the anti-NSA backlash from shattering the relatively free and open Internet that has transformed the world — and which the NSA (and other security services) exploited. Unfortunately, the cure here could be worse than the disease, in terms of reduced access, cybersecurity and even privacy.

Read it and weep. Could this have been the purpose of the Snowden Operation all along? Did Russia collude with Wikileaks to dupe Snowden into stealing all those documents? After all Wikileaks clearly steered Snowden to Russia and told him he would be safer there than anywhere else.

I need to wrap this up, but I’ll put a few more links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. I’m looking forward to seeing what your finding out there on the still-free internet.


Saturday Reads: Newtown Anniversary, Normalizing Gun Violence, and Other News

Henri-Matisse-Painting-011 child reading

Good Morning!!

I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.

I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.

So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.

Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:

Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.

The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:

A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.

On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.

Henri Matisse-324684

A whole year after the slaughter of 20 first-graders and 6 adults, and our do-nothing Congress has done exactly nothing to control the purchase of weapons of war for everyday use. CBS News reports:

Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.

Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama - promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda - had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.

Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.

The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.

Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.

And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.

matisselike portraits by kids

Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.

A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.

A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.

The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.

Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.

A little more from USA Today:

The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.

A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….

The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.

The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.

The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.

Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:

Reuters: Obama marks Newtown school shooting anniversary with call for gun control

Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders

Mother Jones: Portraits of the Hundreds of Children Killed by Guns Since Newtown

Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated

New York Daily News: Another year of the gun 

Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)

Matisse reading

In other news, 

Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah

It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah.  The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause.   The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists.  The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.

I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:

Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional

The Telegraph: ‘Sister Wives’ reality star wins legal fight against Utah anti-polygamy law

I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:

NYT: A Disappearing Spy, and a Scandal at the C.I.A.

ABC News: Family of Robert Levinson, American Held In Iran, Says He Was Spying for the CIA

The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties

Gawker: ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson

Liberty Voice: Robert Levinson: Used by CIA, Forgotten by USA, Burned by Media, Left in Iran

WaPo: Sen. Bill Nelson: I told AP not to run Robert Levinson story

Those are my offerings today. What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Tuesday Reads

Matisse1

Good Morning!!

I hope everyone is keeping warm this morning, as the deep freeze continues across most of the U.S. We’re expecting a little more snow this afternoon and evening, as winter storm Dion moves up the east coast. We’re fortunately that New England has suffered very little from this storm. Not too far south of us, it’s a wintry mess.

Weather Underground has the details

Winter Storm Dion is not done with the East Coast yet. It’s delivering a parting shot of quick, heavy snow that will blanket the entire I-95 corridor Tuesday morning, snarling traffic and flights as snow falls at the rate of 1-2 inches an hour.

“Dion is barreling in like a freight train,” said The Weather Channel’s winter weather expert Tom Niziol. “The snow is going to come down so heavily. We’re looking at very quick accumulations of 3-5 inches of snow. It’s going to overwhelm the streets and make a rough commute.”

The federal government is closed for a second day for non-emergency workers. Other employees are expected to telecommute Tuesday. All Washington D.C. area schools are closed as well.

“It’s been 1,048 days since Reagan National Airport had a 2 inch snowfall, but that could change Tuesday morning,” said The Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel, reporting from Leesburg, Va.

1,650 flights were canceled nationwide Monday. Hundreds more flights are already canceled Tuesday morning.

“The good news is it’s a very quick storm,” said Niziol. “Conditions are already deteriorating Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. Philadelphia is after that.  By about 10 a.m. Tuesday morning the entire I-95 corridor is covered by falling snow. By mid-afternoon the Northeast will improve and by the evening commute, Dion will be past Boston.”

Read the rest for the “state-by-state impacts.”

kandinsky winter2

In Nevada, a couple and four children are missing after they went to “play in the snow” in the mountains. From the NY Daily News: 

Rescue teams are scouring the Seven Troughs mountain range for James Glanton, Christina MacIntee, their two children, a niece and a nephew after the six went to go “play in the snow” in the remo[t]e northwest region, authorities told NBC News.

The family was reported missing late Sunday night and police are racing against time as temperatures dip far below the freezing level, according to reports.

“The temperatures out here are very cold. We would like to bring a successful end to this,” Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado told KTVN. “We would like to find them as soon as we can.”

The six were last seen in a silver Jeep cruising at a mining area roughly 20 miles from their home.

Driving into the mountains in the middle of a snowstorm is definitely not a good idea. I just hope these people can be found alive.

Fox News:

Rescue teams racing against the clock and the bitter cold worked into the night and were hoping to resume an aerial search Tuesday for a couple and four children who have been missing since Sunday when they went to play in the snow in the remote mountains of northwest Nevada.

“It’s got to be brutal out there,” said Mark Turney, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “Let’s hope they are found quick.”

The temperature was expected to drop below zero again Tuesday after plunging to minus-16 degrees the day before in Lovelock, the rugged area where the group was believed to be, about 100 miles northeast of Reno….

The family has not had any communication with others since they went missing, according to Sheila Reitz of the sheriff’s office.

They went to the Seven Troughs area on isolated federal land about noon on Sunday in a silver Jeep with a black top, authorities said. It was unclear what supplies they might have been carrying.

“I’m hoping they all huddled together and stayed in the Jeep,” said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen, who added that the area has spotty cellular coverage. “That would be a best-case scenario.”

I have a bad feeling about this–but there’s always hope. I really really hope there will be a happy ending to this story.

vasily_kandinsky-winterlandscape

When I woke up early this morning, NPR was broadcasting live from the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Here’s a link to the NPR live blog of the events. The BBC reports on President Obama’s speech:

Mr Obama delivered his address to huge cheers. He said: “It is hard to eulogise any man… how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice.”

He spoke of how the example of Nelson Mandela had “set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today”.

Mr Obama said: “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. While I will always fall short of Madiba (Mr Mandela’s clan name), he makes me want to be a better man.”

NPR reported there were also enthusiastic cheers for Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton.

Washington Post: South Africans, world leaders gather to mourn former president Nelson Mandela.

SOWETO, South Africa —Nelson Mandela was memorialized in a boisterous stadium ceremony here Tuesday as a teacher and a racial healer, a transcendent figure who changed history and touched hearts in his native country and around the world.

Scores of thousands of South Africans braved a pouring rain to join dozens of world leaders, including President Obama and many other heads of state, for a four-hour service filled with emotional tributes and joyous song.

“It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you,” Obama said, using the Xhosa tribal name that Mandela preferred. “He changed laws, but also hearts.”

South Africans from all walks of life, businesspeople to nurses to the unemployed, danced and clapped and sang in the hours leading up to the memorial service, their voices echoing across the stadium as if they were cheering at a soccer match. The rich crowded together with the poor, children with the elderly, all there to remember Mandela, the former South African president and African National Congress leader who died Thursday at the age of 95.

winterlandscape kids

The anniversary of the Newtown, CT massacre is this Saturday, Dec. 14, but the town has decided against holding a public memorial.

Residents of Newtown, Conn., have decided against a public commemoration to mark the first anniversary this coming Saturday of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.

Instead, the town is endorsing a “year of service” and is asking residents to put a candle in their window on Dec. 14, the day of the shooting, to show their commitment to the idea of service to each other.

Newtown families have also announced the creation of the website “My Sandy Hook Family,” where people can post their remembrances.

Newtown resident and psychiatrist John Woodall is an expert on resilience and a member of the committee that decided not to hold a town-wide event for the anniversary. He speaks with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the decision.

You can listen to the interview at the “Here and Now” link.

Mother Jones: At Least 194 Children Have Been Shot to Death Since Newtown.

A year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones has analyzed the subsequent deaths of 194 children ages 12 and under who were reported in news accounts to have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides. They are spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns.

Following Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders. But the data we collected stands as a stark rejoinder to that view:

  • 127 of the children died from gunshots in their own homes, while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.
  • 72 of the young victims either pulled the trigger themselves or were shot dead by another kid.
  • In those 72 cases, only 4 adults have been held criminally liable.
  • At least 52 deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.

Additional findings include:

  • 60 children died at the hands of their own parents, 50 of them in homicides.
  • The average age of the victims was 6 years old.
  • More than two-thirds of the victims were boys, as were more than three-quarters of the kids who pulled the trigger.
  • The problem was worst over the past year in the South, which saw at least 92 child gun deaths, followed by the Midwest (44), the West (38), and the East (20).

Our investigation drew on hundreds of local and national news reports. In some cases specific details remain unclear—often these tragedies are just a blip on the media’s radar.

winterlandscape picasso

This has turned out to be a sad post, although I didn’t plan it that way. I’ll end with something interesting and not sad. A group of British scientists has analyzed the environments described in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as “an exercise in how climate models work” and to demonstrate their validity. From the University Herald:  ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Landscapes Analyzed And Compared To Real Places In British Study.

Scientists at Britain’s Bristol University compared the climates of famous “Lord of the Rings” sites such as Mordor and The Shire to regions of the world, the San Jose Mercury News reported. They also generated computer simulations of various middle earth landscapes based on information given in the book (notorious for their vast amount of details not always directly related to the plot).

For example, Los Angeles, western Texas, and Alice Springs in Australia have climates closest to Mordor, the site of Sauron’s fortress.

As a whole, however, “the climate of Middle Earth has a similar distribution to that of Western Europe and North Africa,” according to the researchers, one of whom identified himself as Radagast the Brown after the wizard who lives among J.R.R. Tokien’s fictional nature.

The above finding isn’t too surprising, given that Tolkein was from England. His landscapes either resembled the places he knew best or the place he likely found most exotic (Africa). The Shire, home to hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, could have easily stood for Lincolnshire or Liecestershire, as researchers found environmental similarities between all three, according to the press release.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you focusing on today? Please post your links in the comment thread–and have a great day!


Friday Nite Lite Late Open Thread

Good Evening!

Lots of cartoons for you tonight, let’s get to it shall we?

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader – 02/13/2013

Cartoon by Joel Pett -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Terry Wise, Ratland Ink Press – 02/12/2013

Cartoon by Terry Wise -

Cagle Post » Passing the Torch

127177 600 Passing the Torch cartoons

Cagle Post » Vatican Smoke

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AAEC – Political Cartoon by Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette – 02/13/2013

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Matt Bors

Cartoon by Matt Bors -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star – 02/08/2013

Cartoon by Gary Varvel -

GOP Goes Postal – Political Cartoon by Monte Wolverton, Cagle Cartoons, Inc. – 02/11/2013

Cartoon by Monte Wolverton - GOP Goes Postal

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star – 02/11/2013

Cartoon by Gary Varvel -

Cagle Post » Asteroids and Meteors

127306 600 Asteroids and Meteors cartoons

Cagle Post » Sheriff Elizabeth Warren

127297 600 Sheriff Elizabeth Warren cartoons

Cagle Post » Eric Kantor

126900 600 Eric Kantor cartoons

Kim Jong Un – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 02/14/2013

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Kim Jong Un

WeatherChannel’s stupid storm names – Political Cartoon by Don Landgren Jr., TelegramTowns – 02/13/2013

Cartoon by Don Landgren Jr. - WeatherChannel's stupid storm names

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