Tuesday Reads: Indiana Summer Blogging

Summer thunderstorm in Indiana

Summer thunderstorm in Indiana

Good Morning!!

I’m still staying with my mother in Indiana. Her 90th birthday party was a huge success. Everyone that we expected showed up, and I got to talk to some cousins I haven’t seen in ages–except on Facebook. The weather sort of cooperated. It had been raining for days, but we just had intermittent showers on Saturday, the day of the party. We had the canopy set up over part of the driveway so the tables were on solid ground. We had too much food, so we donated some of it to a local homeless mission, ate some leftovers, and froze the rest. Since that day, we’ve had gorgeous sunny weather.

The image above of the first lighting strike of an Indiana thunderstorm comes from Schweiger Photo. I’m including other scenic photos of various parts of Indiana throughout this post.

Supreme Court Decisions and Reactions to Them

A country road in Randolph County, Indiana

A country road in Randolph County, Indiana

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to dominate the news today. I know you have already heard about the terrible decision to allow Oklahoma to continue using drugs that cause intense, extended pain for their inhuman executions. The U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but Samuel Alito thinks it’s much more important to preserve the death penalty than to worry about whether the victims feel like they are being burned alive.

Carimah Townes at Think Progress: It’s ‘The Chemical Equivalent Of Being Burned At The Stake.’ And Now It’s Legal.

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the use of the lethal injection drug midazolam does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling comes more than a year after the botched executions of several inmates who remained conscious and experienced pain as they were put to death.

According to the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, “petitioners have failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment method-of execution claim, a prisoner must establish that the method creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain and that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives. Petitioners failed to establish that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution. Petitioners have suggested that Oklahoma could execute them using sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, but the District Court did not commit a clear error when it found that those drugs are unavailable to the State.”

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “as a result, [the Court] leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”

The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan

The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan

Alito’s “reasoning” is that since the death penalty is “settled” law, whatever drug is available must be used even if it causes extreme pain and does not cause unconsciousness. Remember when Clayton Lockett “gasped for 43 minutes” before he finally died?

Cristian Farias at New York Magazine: In Lethal-Injection Case, the Supreme Court Essentially Ruled That Death-Row Inmates Have to Pick Their Poison.

Now we know why the Supreme Court left Glossip v. Gross a contentious case about the constitutionality of lethal-injection protocols — for the very last day of its term. Four out of five justices who had something to say in the case announced their opinions from the bench — an extremely rare occurrence that the American public won’t get to hear for itself until audio of the session is released sometime in the fall.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the justices ruled that the death-row inmates in the case failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, a sedative they claimed was ineffective in preventing pain, violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The case’s various opinions and dissents run a whopping 127 pages — far longer than even the Obamacare and marriage-equality decisions. And they’re a sign that states’ methods of punishment are a major point of conflict at the court.

But Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the lead opinion, went further: He said it is up to the death-row inmates and their lawyers — and not up to Oklahoma — “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain,” which is “a requirement of all Eighth Amendment method-of-execution claims.” In other words, it is the responsibility of those condemned to death to plead and prove the best alternative method to execute them. They have to pick their poison — otherwise, no harm, no foul under the Constitution.

And just so that there aren’t any doubts, even though the case was not about the death penalty proper, Alito went out of his way to remind us that “we have time and again reaffirmed that capital punishment is not per seunconstitutional.”

Samuel Alito should never have been approved by the Senate. He’s a monster.

Indiana corn, "knee high by the Fourth of July."

Indiana corn, “knee high by the Fourth of July.”

The Court ordered that abortion clinics in Texas could remain open for the time being. Ian Millhauser at Think Progress: BREAKING: Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics To Remain Open.

The Supreme Court issued a brief, two paragraph order on Monday permitting Texas abortion clinics that are endangered by state law requiring them to comply with onerous regulations or else shut down to remain open. The order stays a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed broad limits on the women’s right to choose an abortion within that circuit.

The Court’s order is temporary and offers no direct insight into how the Court will decide this case on the merits. It provides that the clinics’ application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision is granted “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition” asking the Court to review the case on the merits.

Ugh. I can hardly wait for the final decision./s

And then there’s the continuing unhinged right wing response to the Supremes’ decision on gay marriage. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been in dangerous meltdown mode ever since the announcement on Friday.

A Converse County, Indiana road.

A Converse County, Indiana road.

Politico reports: Ted Cruz: States should ignore gay-marriage ruling.

“Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it,” the Texas Republican told NPR News’ Steve Inskeep in an interview published on Monday. Since only suits against the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky were specifically considered in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which was handed down last Friday, Cruz — a former Supreme Court clerk — believes that other states with gay marriage bans need not comply, absent a judicial order.

“[O]n a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case,” the 2016 presidential contender added, “but there’s no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgement.”

Izzat so?

While Cruz’s statement may be technically true, federal district and circuit courts are obligated to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent and overrule all other states’ same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional.

The Texas senator then went on to suggest that Republicans who have called for following the court’s decision are members of a “Washington cartel” and are lying when they say they do not support same-sex marriage.

“[Republican Party leaders] agree with the rulings from last week, both the Obamacare ruling and the marriage ruling,” Cruz said. “[T]he biggest divide we have politically is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between career politicians in both parties and the American people.”

I guess Cruz hasn’t bothered to look at the polls that show most Americans support same sex marriage–or, more likely, he couldn’t care less what Americans think about it. Get over it, Ted. Marriage equality is “settled law” now.

Another view of the Indiana Dunes.

Another view of the Indiana Dunes.

From The Hill: Cruz bashes ‘elites’ on Supreme Court.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday bashed “elites” on the Supreme Court for imposing their will on America’s heartland in its decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

“You’ve got nine lawyers, they are all from Harvard or Yale — there are no Protestants on the court, there are no evangelicals on the court,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said on NBC’s “Today,” echoing criticism from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion.

“The elites on the court look at much of this country as flyover country; they think that our views are simply parochial and don’t deserve to be respected.”

ROFLMAO! Earth to Ted: You graduated from Princeton and Harvard and worked under former Chief Justice Rehnquist. Obviously you think the inhabitants of “flyover country” are too stupid to know that.

A couple more reactions:

AL.com: Roy Moore: Alabama judges not required to issue same-sex marriage licenses for 25 days.

The Texas Tribune: Some Counties Withholding Same-Sex Marriage Licenses.

Following the Charleston Massacre,

A windmill on an Indiana farm

A windmill on an Indiana farm

a number of black churches have been burned in the South, according to Think Progress.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.

The first arson fire was on Monday at the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Knoxville fire department has said that the arsonist set multiple fires on the church’s property and the church’s van was also burned. On Tuesday, a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia was also blamed on arson, although the investigation is ongoing. And on Wednesday, a fire at the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was determined to be caused by arson, destroying an education wing that was meant to house a summer program for children, impacting its sanctuary and gymnasium, and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage.

The cause of a fire that destroyed the Glover Grover Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina on Friday is unknown, while lightning is suspected in a fire that destroyed the Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee on Wednesday and a tree limb that fell on electrical lines is suspected in a fire at the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida on Friday that destroyed the church and caused an estimated $700,000 in damage.

That is truly frightening. Read more details at the link.

A log cabin in Brown County, Indiana

A log cabin in Brown County, Indiana

Blue Nation Review: EXCLUSIVE: Bree Newsome Speaks For The First Time After Courageous Act of Civil Disobedience.

Over the weekend, a young freedom fighter and community organizer mounted an awe-inspiring campaign to bring down the Confederate battle flag. Brittany “Bree” Newsome, in a courageous act of civil disobedience, scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness, to remove the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her long dread locks danced in the wind as she descended to the ground while quoting scripture. She refused law enforcement commands to end her mission and was immediately arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Read all about it and see photos at the link.

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

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Boston Bomber Gets Death Penalty, A Baltimore Cold Case, and Other News

Lazy cat

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the jury in the Boston Marathon bombing case sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 terrorist attack that killed three people and severely injured hundreds more.

From the Washington Post: 

Two years after the horrific bombing of this city’s famed marathon, a federal jury on Friday sentenced to death one of the young men responsible for the attack, turning away appeals for mercy from his attorneys and even some victims.

The jury of seven women and five men rendered its decision after deliberating for more than 14 hours. As the verdict was read, the bomber, 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, displayed no sign of emotion.

The outcome was a victory for prosecutors, who said the former college student worked in tandem with his older brother and carried out the attack in a “heinous, cruel and depraved manner.” Jurors rejected arguments that Tsarnaev had fallen under the sway of his brother, Tamerlan, and was remorseful over the suffering he caused.

Tsarnaev will be transferred to a federal prison, where he will remain until he is put to death by lethal injection. His attorneys did not comment after the verdict, but they are expected to appeal the sentence.

I was very disappointed in this decision. I strongly resent the Feds coming into Massachusetts, where we don’t have the death penalty and only 18% of citizens supported it for Tsarnaev, and forcing us to accept this barbaric practice against the public will. It also makes me feel sick at heart that the victims will now have to deal with years–probably decades–of appeals of the sentence. Tsarnaev should have been put away for life and left to fade into obscurity.

Tsarnaev showed no emotion as his death sentence was read.

Tsarnaev showed no emotion as his death sentence was read.

ABC News reports: The Eerie Quiet in Court as Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Sentenced to Die.

An eerie quiet settled over the federal courthouse in Boston today as victims and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing heard a jury ordered Dzhkohar Tsarnaev to be put to death.

Liz Norden, who wanted Tsarnaev to get the death penalty for detonating the bomb that left two of her sons amputees and their bodies forever burned and scarred, cried quietly when the jury decided that the 21-year-old should die for his crimes.

Bill and Denise Richard, who strongly advocated against capital punishment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sat stone faced as the verdict was read, even though it was their 8-year-old son Martin who was the youngest victim killed in the horrific attack….

Boston bombing victim Martin Richard.

Boston bombing victim Martin Richard.

Inside Courtroom 9 the jurors, seven women and five men, stood as the verdict slip was read, as did Tsarnaev. One male juror removed his eyeglasses and wiped his eyes with a tissue and leaned his body into the rail of the jury box as if to prop himself up. Two female jurors, their cheeks flushed red, sipped from water bottles. Another woman had her arms crossed in front of her.

Tsarnaev never looked toward the jury box, not even when it became clear that those men and women decided he should be put to death. One of his defense attorneys, Miriam Conrad, covered her mouth with her hand. Once the verdict was read, police in court including Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau and Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans, who is personal friends with the Richard family, exchanged glances.

Throughout it all, the mood in the courtroom was heavy and subdued. The judge’s clerk Paul Lyness admonished those assembled inside before it began that “any outbursts” would be treated as contempt of court. There were none.

Tsarnaev will most like await his appeals at a Federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Guantanamo North

Guantanamo North

The Indy Star reports: If Boston Bomber is executed, it’ll likely be done in Indiana.

According to an official at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Terre Haute is the only prison that has the special confinement unit that houses federal death row inmates. While the BOP could not go as far as to say that Terre Haute is the only prison where a federal inmate could be put to death, every federal execution has taken place at the facility since 2001.

Timothy McVeigh, Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. were the last three inmates to be strapped to the table in the western Indiana prison and have a lethal drug cocktail run through their veins.

Tsarnaev may now face that same fate.

Larry A. Mackey, the attorney who tried both of the Oklahoma City bombing cases and delivered the prosecution’s closing argument in McVeigh’s, told The Indianapolis Star it’s “highly, highly unlikely” Tsarnaev will win his appeals.

“The judge has been very careful in protecting the defendant’s rights,” said Mackey, who has been following the case closely since it went to trial in March.

Sometime in the next 60 days, Mackey said a formal sentencing hearing will be held, and Tsarnaev will return to court with his council for the judge to impose the jury’s decision to put him to death.

Following the hearing, Tsarnaev will be transported to Terre Haute’s special confinement unit where he’ll wait out the exhaustion of his appeals, said Mackey.

Death chamber at Terre Haute supermax prison

Death chamber at Terre Haute supermax prison

More on the Terre Haute prison from the Boston Herald:

The 1,400-inmate, all-male U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind., is the likely landing spot for the 21-year-old Tsarnaev, who would be housed at the prison’s “special confinement unit” with the other 50-plus inmates on federal death row.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 74 federal convicts have been sentenced to die for their crimes, but just three have actually been executed and another 10 have been taken off death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Sampson, who has since had his death sentenced overturned, first went to Terre Haute following his 2003 conviction.

All three who have been put to death — Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and Texans Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. — were executed at Terre Haute’s in-house chamber.

Robert Nigh, who represented McVeigh, described the Indiana lock-up as a place where inmates “certainly had access to other inmates, commissary, reasonable opportunity for recreation, hygiene.”

The sight — and smells — of the prison’s “death house” still stick with him. “That was surreal,” he said. “When you walked into it, my recollection is (seeing) stark white walls, and it smelled and felt like a hospital or a clinic. It felt like a place where you go to get medical care. It had that feel to it. And it’s designed for the exact opposite.”

An article at Business Insider makes the prison sound a lot worse than the above description: What it’s like inside the terrifying super-max prison where the Boston Bomber is expected to be executed.

Though US Penitentiary Terre Haute has been open since 1940, Tsarnaev would likely be held in the Communications Management Units, a special unit opened in 2006 for terrorism-related offenses.

Because of the prison’s reputation for housing some of the country’s biggest security threats, some have called it “Guantanamo North.”

According to NPR, the units have 50 cells and house many men convicted in notable post-9/11 cases, as well as those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1999 “Millennium” plot to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport, and multiple hijacking cases.

The Communication Management Units in the prison severely restrict communications between inmates and the outside world. Inmates are limited to two two-hour nonphysical visits per month, plus one 15-minute phone call per week.

Mail must be screened, copied, and evaluated before being delivered to inmates. All conversations must be in English.

Sister Rita Clare Gerardot

Sister Rita Clare Gerardot

According to Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, “a spiritual adviser to death-row inmates at Terre Haute,”

They are in a small cell by themselves. All their meals are pushed through a slot. There is no recreation, but they can go out of their cells three times a week into cages,” Gerardot told The Tribune-Star, a newspaper in Terre Haute.

Inmates can speak to one another from the front of their cells, according to Gerardot, and have limited time to use a phone, e-mail, or a library.

“Truthfully, I don’t know how they keep their sanity. They have to be persons of great strength of will to get up every day, and know they have no choices,” Gerardot said.

Tsarnaev will likely wish he had died in the Watertown shootout like his older brother Tamerlan. And as the Boston Globe notes this morning “everything could have been different” for this young man.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could have been graduating from UMass Dartmouth this weekend. Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier could still be alive.

But everything changed when Tsarnaev, along with his older brother, detonated a pair of bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

A 19-year-old sophomore at UMass Dartmouth at the time of the bombing, Tsarnaev was sentenced to death on Friday—while a commencement ceremony for the Class of 2015 was underway. He convicted in April on 17 capital charges and sentenced to death for six of them.

According to a UMass Dartmouth transcript introduced in court during the trial, Tsarnaev was an Engineering undergraduate with a mechanical engineering major during the Fall 2011 semester, his first in college. In the Spring 2013 semester, he was classified as a Arts & Sciences undergraduate with no declared major. The commencement ceremony for undergraduates in the College of Engineering was held Friday at the university’s Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater. The ceremony for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences is scheduled for Saturday.

Tsarnaev may never have graduated, even had he and his brother not chosen to perpetrate one of the worst terrorsist acts on U.S. soil. At the time of his arrest, he had a cumulative GPA of 1.094.

But perhaps he could have been among those students celebrating a new a beginning this weekend instead of facing a death sentence.

And everything could have been different.

Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in 1970

Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in 1970

We’ve been hearing a lot about corruption at the Baltimore Police Department lately. Yesterday I read a fascinating story about a cold case that shows the corruption there has a long history. If you’re interested in true crime stories and corruption in the Catholic Church, I highly recommend this piece by Laura Bassett at The Huffington Post,

Buried In Baltimore: The Mysterious Murder Of A Nun Who Knew Too Much.

It’s the story of the murder of a nun who had tried to help girls who were being sexually abused by at least one priest at a Baltimore Catholic school in the late 1960s. Here’s the introduction. I hope it grabs you and you decide to read the entire long article.

On a frigid day in November 1969, Father Joseph Maskell, the chaplain of Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, called a student into his office and suggested they go for a drive. When the final bell rang at 2:40 p.m., Jean Hargadon Wehner, a 16-year-old junior at the all-girls Catholic school, followed the priest to the parking lot and climbed into the passenger seat of his light blue Buick Roadmaster.

It was not unusual for Maskell to give students rides home or take them to doctor’s appointments during the school day. The burly, charismatic priest, then 30 years old, had been the chief spiritual and psychological counselor at Keough for two years and was well-known in the community. Annual tuition at Keough was just $200, which attracted working-class families in deeply Catholic southwest Baltimore who couldn’t afford to send their daughters to fancier private schools. Many Keough parents had attended Maskell’s Sunday masses. He’d baptized their babies, and they trusted him implicitly.

This time, though, Maskell didn’t bring Wehner home. He navigated his car past the Catholic hospital and industrial buildings that surrounded Keough’s campus and drove toward the outskirts of the city. Eventually, he stopped at a garbage dump, far from any homes or businesses. Maskell stepped out of the car, and the blonde, freckled teenager followed him across a vast expanse of dirt toward a dark green dumpster.

It was then that she saw the body crumpled on the ground.

Father A. Joseph Maskell

Father A. Joseph Maskell

The week prior, Sister Cathy Cesnik, a popular young nun who taught English and drama at Keough, had vanished while on a Friday-night shopping trip. Students, parents and the local media buzzed about the 26-year-old’s disappearance. People from all over Baltimore County helped the police comb local parks and wooded areas for any sign of her.

Wehner immediately recognized the lifeless body as her teacher. “I knew it was her,” she recalled recently. “She wasn’t that far gone that you couldn’t tell it was her.”

Cesnik was still clad in her aqua-colored coat, and maggots were crawling on her face. Wehner tried to brush them off with her bare hands. “Help me get these off of her!” she cried, turning to Maskell in a panic. Instead, she says, the priest leaned down behind her and whispered in her ear: “You see what happens when you say bad things about people?”

Maskell, Wehner understood, was threatening her. She decided not to tell anyone. “He terrified me to the point that I would never open my mouth,” she recalled.

Now, decades later, a group of women who attended Keogh back in those days are working together with a journalist and a former Baltimore police office to find out who killed Sister Cathy.

More news, headlines only:

LOL!!

LOL!!

Steve Benen at MSNBC: Jeb Bush sees Apple Watch as part of anti-Obamacare plan.

Talking Points Memo: Judith Miller And James O’Keefe Discuss Ethics In Journalism (VIDEO).

Talking Points Memo: Orlando Pub Owner Allegedly Holds Black Couple At Gunpoint: ‘Call Jesse Jackson.’

New York Times: Abu Sayyaf, an ISIS Leader, Killed by Special Forces, US Says.

Times of India: 8 bodies recovered from crashed US chopper in Nepal.

CNN: Romney and Holyfield rumble in Salt Lake.

CNN: Amtrak train may have been struck by something, conductor tells NTSB.

NYT: Union and Tom Brady’s Lawyers Threaten to Challenge Suspension in Court.


Saturday Afternoon Reads: Boston Bombing Second Anniversary and the Death Penalty Question

Copley Square News Stand, Boston

Copley Square News Stand, Boston

Good Afternoon!!

On Wednesday, April 15, Boston marked the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, now called “One Boston Day,” with a moment of silence at 2:49PM. That was the time that two bombs exploded about 12 seconds apart among crowds of people near the marathon finish line, leaving three people dead and 264 people injured–many of whom lost limbs.

Reuters reports: Boston marks somber second anniversary of deadly marathon bombing.

(Reuters) – Boston marked the second anniversary of the deadly attack on its annual marathon on Wednesday with a quiet ceremony at the site where three died, unveiling a pair of banners marked with a heart.

Mayor Marty Walsh joined a group of survivors of the April 15, 2013, blasts, including Jane and Henry Richard, whose 8-year-old brother Martin was the youngest killed, as well as Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs. Some 264 people, including spectators, volunteers at runners at the Boston Marathon were injured.

At 2:49 p.m. ET (1849 GMT) New England’s largest city will observe a moment of silence to mark the time the first bomb went off.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, who seek to make sense of that awful day,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “Those most affected by the events of two years ago have shown us all the way back with their courage, grace and determination.

At Fenway Park, there was a pause during the Red Sox-Nationals game to observe the city-wide moment of silence at 2:49PM.

On Patriots’ Day this coming Monday April 20th, runners will gather in Hopkinton, Massachusetts for the 119th running of the 26 mile race to the finish line in Copley Square.

Security for this year’s race will be higher than ever, and that is causing some controversy.

NPR’s Morning Edition: Boston Marathon Surveillance Raises Privacy Concerns Long After Bombing.

Nearly a million people will line the streets to watch the Boston Marathon on Monday, and someone else will be watching them. Bill Ridge with the Boston Police says video surveillance is a big part of the security plan.

“We’ve got a lot of cameras out there,” he says. “We’re going to be watching the portions in Boston — particularly the routes along Boylston Street, the finish line.” …. Video footage helped identify the terrorists, and the number and quality of video cameras has gone up since then.

The extent of the surveillance of Boston described in the article is troubling. NPR talked to Mark Savage of Lan-Tel Communications, which is in charge of surveillance for the marathon.

“I’m zooming in on the infield of Fenway Park,” he says while maneuvering a camera. He uses a laptop to swivel and zoom the HD video camera on a building hundreds of yards away from the ballpark. The zoom is so powerful, Johnson says it could probably tell whether a Red Sox pitcher has thrown a strike or a ball.

In the same way that televisions have gotten higher resolutions through the years, so have video cameras — and Johnson says cheaper bandwidth and data storage make it easy to record more, better-quality video.

Flowers placed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week (from NPR).

Flowers placed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week (from NPR).

Apparently the Boston Police have already installed a lot of surveillance equipment around the city.

Kade Crockford of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says she understands the need for surveillance at a big public event like the Boston Marathon — but objects to expanding its use. While standing outside the Old State House, she points out four different surveillance cameras catching her every move.

“[A big event] doesn’t trigger privacy concerns,” she says. “What does trigger privacy concerns is the City of Boston installing a network of cameras — some in residential neighborhoods — that enable law enforcement to track individual people from the moment that we leave our homes in the morning until the moment we return at night, seeing basically everywhere we went and everything that we did.”

Boston Police won’t say how many cameras are already in the city’s network, or how many new ones are going up for the marathon. But some of them will stay online afterward.

The anniversary and the storied Boston foot race comes during a pause in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was found guilty on all counts on Wednesday April 8. The jury still must decide whether Tsarnaev will get live in prison without parole or the death penalty. Technically, the break before the penalty phase is to allow the defense more time to prepare their witnesses, but it would have been difficult for jurors to deal with life and death questions during the bombing anniversary and the running of this year’s race.

The family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard  joins Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (R) at a ceremony at the site of the second bomb blast on the second anniversary of the bombings in Boston, Massachusetts April 15, 2015.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard joins Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (R) at a ceremony at the site of the second bomb blast on the second anniversary of the bombings in Boston, Massachusetts April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Kevin Cullen at The Boston Globe suggests other questions about the bombing that need to be answered.

Break in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial allows for reflection.

A Boston cop I know, who was at the finish line when the bombs exploded and who saved lives that day, has a question.

“Who were the FBI agents who interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev after the Russians raised questions about him two years before the bombings, and why didn’t they recognize Tamerlan from the photos the FBI released?” he asked.

It’s a good question, one that the prosecution won’t want to ask, one that the defense needs to ask, if it isn’t deemed irrelevant by O’Toole.

The defense has argued all along that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was steered into the bombing plot by his older, domineering, more-radicalized brother. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, dead almost two years, will be mentioned as often as his little brother in this phase of the trial.

Cullen says the FBI did good work after the bombs went off, but . . . .

But that nagging question — why wasn’t Tamerlan Tsarnaev identified earlier — won’t go away. And it feeds the nagging sense that the FBI knows far more about Tamerlan Tsarnaev than it’s sharing.

Nor will questions about Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine, go away. The government broadly hinted but never came right out and said they believe the bombs or at least components for the bombs were assembled at the Cambridge apartment Katherine and Tamerlan shared with their daughter, a toddler.

The defense didn’t try to debunk the suggestion nearly as strongly as you might think because it allowed them to point out that the fingerprints on all the tools that might have been used to make the bombs were Tamerlan’s, not Dzhokhar’s.

Why wasn’t Katherine charged? Did she cooperate with investigators?

One of the other nagging questions is whether the Tsarnaev brothers had any accomplices in gathering all the gunpowder from fireworks they used in their bombs. Listening to testimony about how much powder was needed to make the bombs, it seemed like the Tsarnaev brothers would have to be doing nothing else but dismantling fireworks for months.

Boston strong

All good questions and there are more good ones at the link. Cullen notes that we particularly need answers about why the FBI shot and killed Ibragim Todashev, who was potentially their best source of information about Tamerlan and his motives.

The Feds are getting plenty of pushback here in the Boston area on their goal of putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. After all, Massachusetts does not have the death penalty. Victims families and survivors as well as citizens have expressed their wishes that Tsarnaev be allowed spend the rest of his life in prison.

WBUR Boston (NPR): Death Penalty For Tsarnaev Increasingly Unpopular, WBUR Poll Finds.

The survey (topline, crosstabs) of 509 registered voters in Greater Boston found 58 percent support life in prison for Tsarnaev. That number rises to 61 percent among voters in the city of Boston.

“Over the last month, we’ve seen support for life in prison grow by about 10 points [in the Boston area],” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducts surveys for WBUR.

According to the poll, only 31 percent of Boston area residents said they support the death penalty for Tsarnaev. That support drops to 26 percent in the city of Boston.

The earlier WBUR survey was conducted last month, while the first phase of the Tsarnaev trial was ongoing. The latest poll was conducted just days after his conviction.

People’s feelings about executing the convicted bomber are on par with how they view the death penalty in general.

Fifty-seven percent in the Boston area and 63 percent in the city of Boston oppose the use of the death penalty broadly.

shoes

The parents of Martin Lawrence have begged the prosecution to drop the death penalty request.

The Boston Globe: Parents of 8-Year-Old Boy Killed in Marathon Bombings Don’t Want Tsarnaev to Get Death Penalty.

The parents of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed in the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago, have writtten a plea to end the attention convicted killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has received and spare him from the death penalty.

In an essay written for The Boston Globe, Bill and Denise Richard ask that the case come to a close, writing, “We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives.”

The sister of murdered MIT police office Sean Collier also opposes giving Tsarnaev the death penalty. From the Globe:

In a posting on Facebook and on her Twitter account, Jennifer L. Lemmerman wrote that she continues to mourn the loss of her younger brother, who was widely lauded after his murder.

Lemmerman, a graduate of Boston College School of Social Work and an alderwoman in Melrose, wrote that she will never forgive Tsarnaev for ending her brother’s life.

But, she also wrote, she does not believe in the death penalty even after what has happened to her and her family.

“Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed. I’ve been given that horrible perspective and I can say that my position has only strengthened,’’ she wrote on her Facebook account.

Obviously, I think killing Tsarnaev would be wrong and counterproductive. The death penalty would only turn him into a martyr anyway, and it would mean years, perhaps decades of court battles in which he would get unnecessary and undeserved public attention; and the victims families would be forced to relive their pain and loss again and again.

As always, this is an open thread. Please feel free to comment and post links on any topic. 

 

 


Tuesday Reads

woman-reading-porch

Good Morning!!

I have a mixture of links for you today, with no overall theme whatsoever. There is news happening out there, but somehow it still feels like a slow news month so far. Maybe it’s just because it feels like nothing is really happening that will change the “malaise” in the country, to use Jimmy Carter’s term. The economy doesn’t really seem to be improving for 90 percent of us, and the bottleneck in Congress feels unbreakable. So here are some stories that caught my eye.

From The New York Times: Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt.

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.

Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.

The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

Read details about the two studies at the NYT link. Richard B. Alley, scientist not involved in the studies noted that what’s happening in Antarctica is only one source of future climate change disasters.

He added that while a large rise of the sea may now be inevitable from West Antarctica, continued release of greenhouse gases will almost certainly make the situation worse. The heat-trapping gases could destabilize other parts of Antarctica as well as the Greenland ice sheet, potentially causing enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned.

“If we have indeed lit the fuse on West Antarctica, it’s very hard to imagine putting the fuse out,” Dr. Alley said. “But there’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?”

So it’s not as if we actually have the rest of the century to deal with the problem. Maybe the right wing nuts should start building an ark.

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

From Politico: Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP.

The GOP shouldn’t even field a presidential candidate in 2016 unless Congress passes immigration reform this year, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday.

“If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016,” Donohue joked at an event on infrastructure investment in D.C. “Think about that. Think about who the voters are. I just did that to get everybody’s attention.”

Republicans have focused on an immigration overhaul as a way to woo Hispanic voters, who have increasingly drifted to Democrats over the past two election cycles. Growing Hispanic populations in Nevada, Texas and elsewhere could make those states more amenable to Democrats in the future.

Apparently, Donohue still thinks he can light a fire under the asses of the Tea Party nuts in the House. Good luck with that.

Politico also reports that John Boehner may be tiring of the frustrating job of Speaker of the dysfunctional House of Representatives: John Boehner can’t promise another 2 years as speaker.

The Ohio Republican, speaking to a luncheon here [San Antonio, TX] sponsored by a group of local chambers of commerce, said he can’t “predict what’s going to happen” and stopped short of fully committing to serving another full two-year term.

“Listen, I’m going to be 65 years old in November,” Boehner said. “I never thought I’d live to be 60. So I’m living on borrowed time.”

It’s extraordinarily rare for Boehner to sit down for an open-ended, live interview, but he did so here with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, a mainstay of the Lone Star State’s journalism scene. He touched on issues ranging from immigration to Benghazi to his quiet campaign to persuade Jeb Bush to run for president….

Boehner’s noncommittal response about his future will reverberate from here all the way back to Capitol Hill and K Street. His future has been a topic of constant chatter among political types. Even people inside his orbit privately wonder why the Ohio Republican would want to serve another term wielding the speaker’s gavel, given the tumultuous political climate in Washington. Last week, Boehner beat back two primary opponents to ensure his House reelection.

Much more interesting Boehner news at the link.

childe-hassam-french tea garden 1910

Texas plans to execute death row prisoner Robert James Campbell today, and they aren’t the least bit concerned about the recent horrifically botched execution in Oklahoma. From the NYT: Confronted on Execution, Texas Proudly Says It Kills Efficiently.

HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — If Texas executes Robert James Campbell as planned on Tuesday, for raping and murdering a woman, it will be the nation’s first execution since Oklahoma’s bungled attempt at lethal injection two weeks ago left a convicted murderer writhing and moaning before he died.

Lawyers for Mr. Campbell are trying to use the Oklahoma debacle to stop the execution here. But many in this state and in this East Texas town north of Houston, where hundreds have been executed in the nation’s busiest death chamber, like to say they do things right.

For two years now, Texas has used a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen used in neighboring Oklahoma. Prison administrators from other states often travel here to learn how Texas performs lethal injections and to observe executions. Texas officials have provided guidance and, on at least a few occasions, carried out executions for other states.

Even the protesters and television cameras that used to accompany executions here have, in most cases, dissipated. “It’s kind of business as usual,” said Tommy Oates, 62, a longtime resident who was eating lunch last week at McKenzie’s Barbeque, about one mile from the prison known as the Walls Unit. “That sounds cold, I know. But they’re not in prison for singing too loud at church.”

That’s Texas’ claim to fame now, I guess–efficient executions. Practice makes perfect.

The LA Times broke some news this morning about deceased alleged Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The paper has learned that the gun Tsarnaev use in a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts a few days after the Marathon bombing was linked to a drug gang in Portland, Maine. 

When police confronted Tamerlan Tsarnaev four nights after the Boston Marathon bombing last year, he leaped from his car with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol and opened fire….

The tale of that handgun, a black Ruger P95, Serial Number 317-87693, offers new insights into the Boston tragedy and holds warnings of other potential dangers.

Its journey from a street gang that peddled crack cocaine in Portland, Maine, to the grisly shootout in a Boston suburb tells much about illicit drug and gun trafficking in New England, and perhaps more about Tsarnaev.

Authorities believe Tsarnaev’s ties to the illicit drug trade in Maine helped finance his six-month trip to the southern Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan in early 2012, where he became radicalized. Drug money, they say, also may have helped him buy components of the bomb that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013.

The Times learned about this from records “obtained” from the Justice Department records. The gun had originally been purchased legally by an LA man named Danny Sun, Jr. living in Portland, Maine. It’s not clear exactly how Tsarnaev got the gun, but the serial numbers had been fined down. Police were able to “raise” the serial number using with “forensic techniques.”

Curiouser and curiouser. Last June, I wrote a post in which I argued for a drug connection to the Tsarnaev brothers and a horrific September 11, 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts; but I suspected a connection with an international drug ring centered in Watertown, Waltham, and Newton. I have continued following this story closely for the past year. Now this. I don’t know what to think. I only know that this background of the Boston Marathon bombings is incredibly complex and mysterious.

woman-reading Childe Hassam 1885

I don’t know how many people have been following the latest discussions about net neutrality. This is going to be an important week in the fight between internet users and the Cable giants. Here’s the latest  from Radio survivor: FCC Chair Wheeler Shuffles Open Internet Deck Ahead of Meeting.

This is a tough week to be Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC. This Thursday he has an open meeting where he plans to present his Open Internet proposal to the full Commission. As details have come to light a very broad coalition of companies, organizations and legislators–from 150 tech firms like Netflix and Google to the ACLU and NOW–have expressed strong criticisms of it.

At issue are proposed rules that would permit some companies to pay internet service providers for a so-called fast-lane into consumers’ homes. No matter how much Wheeler has tried to assure everyone that the Commission will seriously police for instances where an ISP degrades content from competitors or sources that haven’t paid for an express lane, critics remain unconvinced. That’s because Wheeler’s proposed standard says “commercially reasonable” discrimination of internet traffic is OK, but “commercially reasonable” is a vague and ill-defined standard that seems to have loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.

Because of the backlash even two of his fellow Commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai, have called for a delay of Thursdays vote on the proposal. There is no indication that Wheeler is heeding their call.

Wheeler is actually talking about regulating the internet like a “common carrier,” like it does phone companies. In other words, internet provider would be treated like public utilities. I’m not holding my breath though. From Politico: Tom Wheeler scrambles to salvage net neutrality plan.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is on the clock and scrambling to salvage his controversial net neutrality plan as the commission counts down to a crucial vote on Thursday.

According to FCC officials, he circulated his latest revisions Monday — trying to pick up the two votes he needs to pass the notice of proposed rule-making to ensure an open Internet.

In the most significant change, Wheeler will seek public comment on whether the FCC should reclassify broadband as a communications utility, giving the agency authority to regulate Internet rates and services as it does with telephone companies, according to commission officials. Net neutrality advocates favor that option as more robust, but it’s opposed by telecoms that fear it will give the government too much power over their business.

Wheeler’s original plan sparked outrage after details emerged that it would allow Internet-service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to charge companies like Netflix, Amazon and Google for faster delivery of content. The revised proposal keeps that basic approach but would seek comment on whether a “fast lane” should be banned. It also proposes a new ombudsman position at the FCC to act as a net neutrality advocate for startups and consumers.

So the “fast lane” is still included in the plan. I can’t see how that would be a benefit to ordinary internet users. I guess we should enjoy what we have for now, because the internet as we know it is in serious danger. This is an important story!

So . . . those are my offerings for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

 


Thursday Reads: Stormy Weather, Oklahoma Horror, Senate Nighmare, and More

Woman Reading on a Stone Porch, Winslow Homer

Woman Reading on a Stone Porch, Winslow Homer

Good Morning!!

 

Mother Nature is wreaking havoc again–mostly down in Florida and the Gulf Coast, but also a little further north.

From NPR: 2 Feet Of Rain Causes Massive Flooding In Florida, Alabama

Extreme rainfall in much of the East and parts of the South is causing major problems, with Florida’s Panhandle and southern Alabama, which got more than 2 feet of rain in 24 hours, bearing the brunt of the onslaught….

In Pensacola, Fla., it was the single rainiest day ever recorded, and people climbed to rooftops or into attics to escape the rising floodwaters. NPR’s Debbie Elliot says Pensacola’s high bluffs over the bay undermined the busy scenic highway there.

“Scores of motorists were stranded as water gushed over roads,” she reports on Morning Edition. “At least one person was killed on a flooded roadway. Some homes are now flooded out, and entire neighborhoods are unnavigable. Boats have floated away from docks and are making landfall elsewhere.” ….

 quotes Ben Kitzel, who paddled a kayak with Abby, his black Labrador retriever, on board: “There’s no way this flooding is going away anytime soon,” he told the newspaper.

Late last night a gas explosion in a Pensacola, Florida jail killed two people and injured at more than 150 others. The explosion was likely linked to the flooding.  ABC News:

Escamela County Jail, Pennsacola, FL

Escamela County Jail, Pennsacola, FL

The explosion happened around 11 p.m. at the Escambia County Central Booking and Detention Facility in Pensacola, county spokeswoman Kathleen Dough-Castro said.

There’s no word at this point on whether the victims are inmates or guards, Pensacola Police Officer Maria Landy told ABC News Radio.

The injured – 155 inmates and guards in total – have been taken to area hospitals, most of them with minor injuries. About 600 uninjured prisoners were evacuated by bus and transferred to other detention facilities in the area, Dough-Castro said. No inmates are known to have escaped.

Further north, heavy rains were blamed for landslides in Baltimore, Maryland and Yonkers, New York. From The Weather Channel:

The heaviest rain has ended in the Northeast, but investigators and cleanup crews continue to deal with landslides in two separate states.

The largest of the two happened in Baltimore’s busy Charles Village neighborhood Wednesday, when a retaining buckled on 26th Street, sending cars and mud tumbling 75 feet onto CSX railroad tracks.

Neighbor Dana Moore watched it happen.

It was there and then it wasn’t,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

No one was injured but homes were evacuated so investigators could assess the area’s stability. Structural engineers placed markers along the road to monitor conditions….

The wet weather is also blamed for a mudslide on Metro-North train tracks in Yonkers, New York.

Baltimore landslide

Baltimore landslide

From The Washington Post: Street collapses in Baltimore, washing away cars.

A street in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore collapsed Wednesday, washing away cars and flooding CSX railroad tracks that run below street level.

Ian Brennan, a spokesman for the Baltimore fire department, said no injuries were reported.

One lane of the East 26th Street between North Charles and St. Paul streets collapsed about 4 p.m. and slid down an embankment leading to the tracks below. The cause of the collapse was unclear, but it came on a day that the region wasexperiencing heavy rainstorms.

Several streets were closed late Wednesday afternoon. St. Paul and Charles are major thoroughfares that are generally crowded during both the morning and evening commutes. The neighborhood is largely residential rowhouses. Traffic was reported to be snarled in the area of the collapse and downtown.

Brennan said no houses were damaged, but fire officials said many residents living along East 26th Street were ordered to leave until building inspectors can assess their properties.

Don’t forget the Twisters! Last night there were numerous tornado warnings in the Washington, DC area, and the WaPo had a live blog of all the weather activity.

There were quite a few tornadoes down south over the past week or so,  and meteorologists have noted oddities in recent tornado seasons. Could it be due to climate change? AP via ABC News: Tornado Seasons Lately Have Been Boom or Bust.

Tornado west of Joplin, MO, April 27, 2014

Tornado west of Joplin, MO, April 27, 2014

Something strange is happening with tornadoes lately in the United States and it’s baffling meteorologists. It’s either unusually quiet or deadly active.

Until this weekend’s outbreak, the U.S. had by far the quietest start of the year for tornadoes. By the beginning of last week, there had been only 20 significant tornadoes and none of them that big.

There was also a slow start four years ago. And after a busy January, last year was exceptionally quiet until a May outbreak that included a super-sized tornado that killed 24 people in Moore, Okla….

The 12-month period before last May set a record for the fewest significant tornadoes. But two years earlier, the nation also set a record for the most in 12 months.

Read about the possible causes at the link. And at National Geographic, see photos of destruction from recent tornadoes.

In other news . . .

There’s plenty of discussion in the media today about the horror show that took place in the Oklahoma death chamber on Tuesday. From Tulsa World, an Eyewitness account: A minute-by-minute look at what happened during Clayton Lockett’s execution.

From The National Journal, The ‘Recipe for Failure’ That Led to Oklahoma’s Botched Execution — “Secret suppliers of drugs, changes in lethal-injection protocol, a cavalier attitude among Oklahoma officials, and a national death-penalty system in crisis preceded Tuesday’s failed execution.”

A battle of political wills over Oklahoma’s secretive lethal-injection protocol turned into a gruesome scene of macabre theater Tuesday evening, as the state botched the execution of one inmate and halted that of another scheduled later in the night.

The mishandling reflects the extraordinary and surreptitious lengths a handful of active death-penalty states are now willing to go to in order to continue their executions, capital-punishment opponents say, and represents just the latest episode in a string of disturbing events on Oklahoma’s death row in recent months.

Moreover, Oklahoma’s ongoing morass is a symptom of a national death-penalty system in crisis, a system that is finding it increasingly difficult to procure the drugs necessary to carry out death sentences amid boycotts from European manufacturers and reticence from licensed physicians.

OK death chamber

You all know what happened.

Death-penalty opponents are now calling for Oklahoma to suspend all of its executions for the rest of the year to avoid another botched job. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has so far issued only a 14-day stay for Charles Warner, who was also scheduled to be put to death Tuesday night in the same room as Lockett just two hours later.

“Apparently they can conduct their entire investigation in two weeks,” Madeline Cohen, Warner’s defense attorney, told National Journal sarcastically.

In Oklahoma, as well as other places such as Texas and Missouri, states have turned to compounding pharmacies—where products are chemically crafted to fit an individual person’s needs—to produce the lethal cocktails. But these stores, which are not subject to strict oversight by the Food and Drug Administration, don’t want to be publicly associated with executions. In response, states have granted them anonymity, and their identity remains a mystery even to the attorneys representing the death-row inmates.

That couldn’t happen here, writes Bob Egelko of SFGate but California officials are nervous anyway. They should be!

The secrecy-shrouded, botched execution in Oklahoma on Tuesday couldn’t happen the same way in California, where state laws and regulations require public disclosure of the drugs used in lethal injections, where they come from and how they are administered.

But the agony of a dying murderer and other death penalty developments underscore the multiple problems besetting capital punishment in California, where executions have been put on hold until courts find no significant prospect of a nightmare like the one that unfolded Tuesday night.

The state, whose Death Row is the nation’s largest, has not executed anyone since 2006 because of federal court rulings arising from executions in which the prisoner appeared to remain conscious longer than expected, and from ill-defined procedures and inadequate staff training. State officials are making their third attempt to rewrite the rules for lethal injections to include safeguards that would satisfy the courts.

Why don’t these folks just give it up? Life imprisonment is cheaper and a bad enough punishment.

Once again yesterday, Republicans used the filibuster to prevent a vote on increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. From the WaPo: Democrats Assail G.O.P. After Filibuster of Proposal to Raise Minimum Wage.

With the Republican-led filibuster of a Senate proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 on Wednesday, Democrats moved swiftly to frame the vote as an example of the gulf that exists between the two parties on matters of economic fairness and upward mobility.

The question is not just one of money, they said, but of morality. And in doing so the Democrats returned to the themes that were successful for their party and President Obama in 2012 when they convinced swing voters that Democrats were mindful of the best interests of all Americans — not just those who are powerful and wealthy.

Speaking from the White House shortly after the measure was defeated 54 to 42, with 60 votes needed to advance, Mr. Obama admonished Republicans and called on voters to punish them at the polls in November. “If there’s any good news here, it’s that Republicans in Congress don’t get the last word on this issue, or any issue,” Mr. Obama said. “You do, the American people, the voters.”

Despite the Republicans’ efforts to damage the economy and sentence millions of Americans to a lifetime of poverty and struggle, “experts” (meaning Nate Silver) are predicting that the GOP will take control of the Senate in 2014. And other “experts” are arguing with the guy who was almost perfect in 2012. For example,

The Nation Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, Why I Don’t Agree With Nate Silver.

And a response from TPM: Pundit Who Was Dead Wrong In 2012 Is Now Questioning Nate Silver.

A wonky post on the Kraushaar-Silver kerfluffle from Bloomberg: Senate Forecasting: How to Beat Nate Silver.

Besides, Nate Silver thinks Pennsylvania is in the Midwest!

But according to Mike Allen, even Dems think Repubs have a 60% chance of taking over the Senate.

And AB Stoddard of The Hill says lots of Dem candidates are “on thin ice.”

I’ll tell you how I’m dealing with this controversy. I refuse to read the articles. There nothing I can do about it so why get all upset? It’s the Scarlett O’Hara defense. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Finally, a little science news . . .

wallpainting

Phys.org: Ancient Egyptians transported pyramid stones over wet sand.

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed. The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters.

For the construction of the pyramids, the ancient Egyptians had to transport heavy blocks of stone and large statues across the desert. The Egyptians therefore placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research from the University of Amsterdam has now revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet. Experiments have demonstrated that the correct amount of dampness in the sand halves the pulling force required.
The physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand. They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.

Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand. Capillary bridges arise when water is added to the sand. These are small water droplets that bind the  together. In the presence of the correct quantity of water, wet desert sand is about twice as stiff as . A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.

The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick. A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring  over the sand just in front of it.

Now what stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread.