Thursday Reads: Southern Snow Mess, Amanda Knox, Ukraine Protests, and Nobel Peace Prize Nonsense

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman Reading

Mary Cassatt, Young Woman Reading

Good Morning!!

The weather crisis continues down South, and it really isn’t funny. It’s easy for us up here in the North to laugh at a couple of inches of snow, but when a large city doesn’t have the equipment and experience to deal with it, it can be a disaster, as we are seeing right now in Atlanta.

As I said in the comment thread yesterday, I think the only good solution is to shut down the city and keep cars off the streets for a few days. That’s what Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis did here after the Blizzard of ’78. He declared a state of emergency, got businesses to shut down for a week, and ordered everyone to stay off the roads except for emergency and government vehicles. Then Dukakis appeared on TV everyday updating the public on the crisis and explaining what he and officials were doing to deal with it.

I hope JJ will be around today to update us on the latest news from the embattled Georgia city. Meanwhile, here are a few links for you to peruse.

From the Houston Chronicle: Snow, ice send South’s flagship city reeling

A storm that dropped just inches of snow Tuesday wreaked havoc across much of the South, closing highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire. Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport, that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

The Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 1,460 crashes between Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, including two fatal crashes, and reported more than 175 injuries.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 400 flights in and out were canceled by 6 a.m. Thursday, according to data from the flight tracking service FlightAware. Many of those flights were canceled before the day began.

Thousands of schoolchildren either slept on the buses that tried and failed to get them home, or on cots in school gymnasiums. All were back home by Wednesday evening, officials said.

State transportation crews spent much of Wednesday rescuing stranded drivers and moving disabled and abandoned vehicles that littered the interstates, medians and shoulders. Gov. Nathan Deal said emergency workers, police, and the National Guard would help drivers Thursday to recover their cars and would provide them with fuel if necessary.

Crews planned to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to take motorists to vehicles they abandoned to reclaim them Thursday. State officials also said they were creating a database to help motorists locate vehicles that were towed to impound lots.

At least the schools are closed today, but it’s still not safe to drive; and I have no clue why the governor is allowing people to do so. Trust me, the idiots will be out there on the ice. Can you believe it dripped to -15 degrees in Georgia last night?! And it will all freeze up again tonight when the temperatures once again drop below freezing.

New York Daily News: South still crippled by big chill after storm brings Atlanta to a standstill

The deep freeze that brought the South to its knees hasn’t released the region from its chokehold just yet.

Overnight temperatures were well below the freezing mark overnight on Thursday — complicating cleanup of frozen streets along across the storm weary state of Georgia.

For many, sitting in snarled traffic was a painful experience. For Amy Anderson, it felt like she was going into labor — until she realized she was actually about to give birth….

“We couldn’t go forward any more and that’s when I knew,” Anderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The contractions had gotten so strong, I knew that this baby was coming, because we just couldn’t get through.”

Baby Grace was delivered safely and brought to an area hospital, where she is relaxing with her mother and father.

Read much more about the snow/traffic situation and see photos at the link.

From ABC News: Who’s to Blame for the Atlanta Storm Chaos?

Officials in Georgia are on the defensive, trying to explain why Atlanta was so ill-prepared for a snow storm that gridlocked highway traffic, leaving thousands of students stranded in schools and on buses, bringing out National Guardsmen and state troopers to help with rescue efforts.

The icy weather wreaked similar havoc across much of the South, closing schools and highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire.

Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world’s busiest airport (According to Atlanta-Business-Directory.com/biz/c/home-services/), that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

Instead of showing leadership, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just let it happen and then whined about the weather forecasters and the media.

“At that time, it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any,” Deal said at a Wednesday press conference. “Preparations were made for those predictions.”

Forecasters erupted following the comments. The National Weather Service argued that the appropriate outlooks, watches and warnings were released two days in advance….

“I would have acted sooner, and I think we learn from that and then we will act sooner the next time,” Deal told reporters.

“But we don’t want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, y’all would have all been in here saying, ‘Do you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economies of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state?'”

Hey, that’s the way it goes. You prepare for the worst, and if the predictions are wrong, you still took precautions and thousands of kids don’t get stuck on the roads and in their schools. That’s what Massachusetts officials learned after the ’78 blizzard. That wasn’t predicted either, and we ended up getting more than 20 inches of snow that landed on top of a previous snowfall of more than a foot. It was a disaster, and nowadays we prepare for the worst and just give a sigh of relief the worst doesn’t happen. If you don’t want to show real leadership, don’t run for governor. The problem with Republicans is that they don’t really believe in government, so they sit on their hands when disaster strikes.

In other news . . .

Italy is trying Amanda Knox for the third time–apparently over there, the government gets to keep appealing even in a murder case if they don’t get the verdict they want. They don’t have laws against double jeopardy. From the LA Times: Jury starts deliberating in Amanda Knox appeal.

FLORENCE, Italy — Lawyers for American student Amanda Knox warned jurors not to overlook mistakes made by investigators as deliberations began here Thursday in Knox’s new appeal of her conviction for the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher.

“We are anxious about your verdict,” lawyer Luciano Ghirga told the judge and jurors moments before they filed out to consider the fate of Knox, 26, and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 29.

Prosecutors have called for sentences of 26 and 30 years for Sollecito and Knox, the exchange student from Seattle who shared a house in the Italian town of Perugia with Kercher, then 21, who was found partially naked in a pool of blood with her throat slashed….

Surely President Obama won’t allow Knox to be extradited to Italy. I sure hope not.

Knox has refused to attend the second appeal, which opened in Florence last year, writing to the court from Seattle that she fears being “wrongly convicted.” [….]

In an interview with Italian television Wednesday, Knox said she would be waiting at home with her family for the verdict with “my heart in my mouth.”
“The proof is in the facts. There is no proof I was there when it happened,” she said.

I really don’t understand why this is happening.

Things are really getting out of control in the Ukraine–and that’s an understatement. Some updates:

BBC News: Ukraine protesters defy terms of new amnesty law.

Parliament backed an amnesty for detainees if protesters vacated the government buildings they had occupied and unblocked streets and squares.

The opposition has rejected this and protesters remain camped out in central Kiev and still occupy key buildings.

The protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign an EU trade deal.

The next month he signed a $15bn (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) bailout deal with Russia….

The new amnesty law will not come into effect unless protesters leave the local administration buildings they have occupied across Ukraine within 15 days.

The pro-EU protesters have taken over a number of properties in Kiev and other cities which they are using as operation centres and dormitories, and to seek refuge from the freezing conditions outside.

Meanwhile, the president has called in sick. From the LA Times: As Ukraine’s troubles mount, president takes sick leave.

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has taken a sick leave amid the nation’s political crisis.

“Ukraine’s president is on a sick leave in connection with an acute respiratory disease accompanied by high fever,” Alexander Orda, the presidential staff’s deputy health chief, said in a statement posted on Yanukovich’s official website Thursday morning.

The announcement came a day after Yanukovich compelled parliament to sign a conditional amnesty for more than 100 detained participants in protests that started over two months ago when Yanukovich refrained from signing an association and trade deal with the European Union.

The protests were predominantly peaceful until mid-January, when Yanukovich endorsed a number of controversial laws curbing rights to assembly and free speech. That move set off a fierce confrontation between thousands of protesters and riot police in central Kiev.

The conflict raged for most of last week and left at least four protesters dead, hundreds injured on both sides and dozens of protesters detained in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.

Read more at the link.

Yesterday the Snowdenistas were celebrating because the heard someone nominated their hero for a Nobel Peace Prize. Well guess who else was also nominated? 

Yes, Vladimir Putin was nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize in October 2013. Maybe they can share the prize and go to the ceremony together. After all, they both live in Russia.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan explains that “thousands of officials” can nominate anyone they want for the Nobel Peace Prize. He fully expects to be pilloried for it by the Snowden/Greenwald cult.

If you have a paper thin skin (as I do) and are paid to comment on the news (this, for some mysterious reason, also applies to me), it’s advisable to fully disengage from writing about the Edward Snowden saga. After the initial leaks, I offered a cautious piece, urging against the instant beatification of the former NSA contractor. We knew little about him, I argued, so let’s wait for it to play out, and we’ll be better situated to determine if he was more Pentagon Papers thanPumpkin Papers. But it’s one of those stories allergic to nuance: you’re either a lackey of empire (the Snowden skeptic) or a fulminating anti-American trying to undermine Obama’s foreign policy (the Snowden supporter). In a debate without shades of grey, I’d rather leave the whole business to those with more anger, passion, and energy.

But allow me to wade into one tiny aspect of the Snowden affair without wading into the debate: across Twitter and cluttering my inbox; in stories from Time, Bloomberg, The Verge, The GuardianThe Washington Post, Reuters, and dozens of others; and in breathless dispatches from the universe of Facebook, I have been repeatedly informed within that last twenty-four hours that Edward Snowden has been “nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.” Take that previous Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama!

Well, almost. Because all of the media outlets listed above, and all my Snowdenite friends on Facebook and Twitter, have fallen for the perennial person whose politics I share was nominated for the most meaningless prize on the planetstory. But what, dear reader, does it actually mean to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize? The short answer: not much.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

I have more links, but I’m running out of space and time, so I’ll put the in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same with any stories you want to share. Have a great day, Sky Dancers!!

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Wednesday Reads: Stand Your Ground and Race to Weed

ctF4Good Morning

The National Weather Service has upgraded the tornado that hit El Reno OK, killing three storm chasers last week, from an EF-3 to an EF-5, but that is not all…they now are reporting this Deadly Oklahoma tornado was widest on record.

The deadly tornado that struck near Oklahoma City late last week had a record-breaking width of 2.6 miles and was the second top-of-the-scale EF5 twister to hit the area in less than two weeks, the National Weather Service reported Tuesday.

[…]

The weather service determined that the storm packed winds reaching 295 mph.

It was fortunate that this tornado struck a relatively unpopulated area of El Reno.

When the winds were at their most powerful, no structures were nearby, said Rick Smith, chief warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service’s office in Norman.

“Any house would have been completely swept clean on the foundation. That’s just my speculation,” Smith said. “We’re looking at extremes … in the rare EF5 category. This in the super rare category because we don’t deal with things like this often.”

El Reno Mayor Matt White said that while his city of 18,000 residents suffered significant damage — including its vocational-technical center and a cattle stockyard that was reduced to a pile of twisted metal — he said it could have been much worse had the violent twister tracked to the north.

“If it was two more miles this way, it would have wiped out all of downtown, almost every one of our subdivisions and almost all of our businesses,” White said. “It would have taken out everything.

“It’s very scary … I don’t think a normal person can fathom just how scary. I don’t think they realize how lucky El Reno was.”

Just look at this image below from the NWS:

This graphic by the National Weather Service shows the path of an EF5 tornado that swept through the El Reno area in Oklahoma.This graphic by the National Weather Service shows the path of an EF5 tornado that swept through the El Reno area in Oklahoma.

/ National Weather Service

While Oklahoma has been dealing with storms from Mother Nature, Florida is getting ready to deal with another kind of storm…being the media frenzy lightning bolts and ominous clouds of racial tension that come with the Zimmerman trial. Earlier this month another “Stand your ground” case in Florida went to the jury, and the verdict came in. Bet you can guess what it was… Citing Stand Your Ground, Jury Acquits Man Who Killed Wife’s Lover | ThinkProgress

Ralph Wald, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran, walked into his home around midnight, and less than ten seconds later, fired three shots at Walter Conley, according to ABC News. He told the jury he thought Conley was raping his wife when he saw them having intercourse in his home. But during a 911 call, when the dispatcher asked Wald if the man was dead, Wald responded, “I hope so!” and refused to help the man. He asked for medical help for his wife, Johnna Flores, since he thought he accidentally shot her also. He said he didn’t recognize Conley even though he had been roommates with his wife prior to her relationship with Wald, lived next door to Wald, had tattoos of Flores on his neck and back, and worked for Flores at her fencing company.

Prosecutors argued that Wald, who suffered from erectile dysfunction, killed Conley in a jealous rage, pointing out that Wald used the word “fornicate” in reports to police, and never the word “rape.”

To acquit Wald under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, Wald had to prove only that he believed his wife was being raped. It doesn’t matter that he shot immediately without taking time to assess the situation, nor that he could have likely taken other measures short of firing three shots into Conley’s head and back. Stand Your Ground laws authorize the unfettered use of deadly force where someone fears assault, without even a duty to first attempt to retreat.

Hmmmm, I’m just going to move on to my next link.

George Zimmerman Lawyer Mark O’Mara Fabricated Evidence, Martin Family Lawyer Claims (UPDATE)

With less than a week left before the Trayvon Martin trial begins, an attorney for Martin’s family now claims that George Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara fabricated evidence in an attempt to sway both the public and the jury.

Since Zimmerman’s fatal confrontation with the 17-year-old Martin more than a year ago, both the judge and the public have been presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence during numerous court appearances and hearings. During a hearing last Tuesday, Zimmerman’s defense team claimed that they had obtained video footage of “two buddies of [Martin] beating up a homeless guy.” In a statement on Zimmerman’s website, O’Mara later apologized for mischaracterizing evidence that in fact showed two homeless men fighting over a bike.

So they post the apology on Zimmerman’s Website? Nothing in the newspapers that published all that shit about Martin video taping a homeless man being assaulted by two of his thug friends? You can read the reaction from Martin’s Family attorney at that Huffpo link, but check out the updated response from the O’Mara team:

UPDATE: Tuesday, June 4 — Mark O’Mara told HuffPost, “It was a mistake, I’ve acknowledged it, it happened and I’m sorry. I only wish that those who are so willing to condemn would be without fault first.”

“I said something wrong, and I apologize,” O’Mara added. “What they’re doing is trying to make more out of it because they have, for the past year, put Trayvon Martin up on a pedestal where he shouldn’t have been, because he’s a regular 17-year-old kid and they knew all this information about him.”

“Quite honestly, I’m not sure there’s any impact at all because no one has seen the video,” O’Mara noted. “They’re entitled to their opinions. I would only hope that they apologize for their mistakes as quickly as I have.”

Geez, this guy is an asshole.

Anyway, did you see this latest report from the ACLU?

The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Report | American Civil Liberties Union

OVER-POLICING
Between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system.

WASTED TIME AND MONEY
According to SmokeCartel, enforcing marijuana laws costs us about $3.6 billion a year, yet the War on Marijuana has failed to diminish the use or availability of marijuana.

STAGGERING RACIAL BIAS
Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

If you don’t have time to read the entire report you can get a summary of it from HuffPo here: Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests: Black Americans Are Nearly 4 Times More Likely Than Whites To Be Arrested For Possession Of Pot (VIDEO)

The U.S. War on Marijuana is not just costly, time-consuming and unnecessary — it’s also racially biased, according to a new report.

In recent years, several states have passed laws that decriminalized marijuana, and a majority of Americans now support legalizing the drug. Yet between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. What’s worse, the authorities making the arrests were targeting black Americans far more than whites.

According to a new study from the American Civil Liberties Union, which tracked marijuana arrests by race and county in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, black and white Americans use marijuana at about the same rate. However, blacks were nearly four times as likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010.

In Washington D.C., Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, blacks were 7.5 to 8.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing pot.

Most of the people being arrested weren’t drug kingpins. Fifty-two percent of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana, and according to the ACLU’s analysis, most of the arrestees were in possession of small amounts of the drug.

And finally, I am going to stick with the African-American theme for this last link.  ‘Black Bodies In Propaganda: The Art Of The War Poster’, TV host’s black war posters focus of US exhibit | theGrio

In this Thursday, May 30, 2013 photo, University of Pennsylvania professor and PBS History Detectives host Tukufu Zuberi speaks about an Italian 1942 broadside matted on canvas by Gino Boccasile during an interview with The Associated Press at the Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster exhibit at the Penn Museum, in Philadelphia. The new museum exhibition presents 33 posters owned by Zuberi that were designed to mobilize Africans and African-Americans in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in their homelands. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In this Thursday, May 30, 2013 photo, University of Pennsylvania professor and PBS History Detectives host Tukufu Zuberi speaks about an Italian 1942 broadside matted on canvas by Gino Boccasile during an interview with The Associated Press at the Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster exhibit at the Penn Museum, in Philadelphia. The new museum exhibition presents 33 posters owned by Zuberi that were designed to mobilize Africans and African-Americans in war efforts, even as they faced oppression and injustice in their homelands. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A new exhibit created by a University of Pennsylvania professor and host of a popular public television show examines how wartime propaganda has been used to motivate oppressed populations to risk their lives for homelands that considered them second-class citizens.

“Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster,” opens Sunday and continues until March 2 at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Lectures, film screenings and other programming will be rolled out over the course of the exhibit’s run.

The exhibit’s 33 posters, dating from the American Civil War to both World Wars and the African independence movements, are part of the personal collection of Tukufu Zuberi, Penn professor of sociology and African studies and a host of the Public Broadcasting Service series “History Detectives.”

Zuberi began his collection in 2005 and owns 48 posters in all.

[…]

The collection includes posters with affirming messages and images of courageous black soldiers to stir in its intended audience a sense of national belonging and patriotic pride. Also implied was a promise that blacks who served their country in war would return home to America or Europe with the rights and freedoms that their white counterparts enjoyed.

That promise, as history shows, was not kept.

“They go and they fight and they’re victorious, and when all is said and done, they return home,” Zuberi said. “And it’s ‘Go back to your second-class citizen status, democracy is not here for you, you are not civilized and you are not ready for it.”

I wish I lived in Philadelphia so I could see these posters! This sounds fascinating.

Conversely, the collection also includes negative posters that used hateful stereotypes to portray Africans and African-Americans as threats to white society. Zuberi’s favorite piece, perhaps surprisingly, is one of the most offensive in his collection.

Made in 1942 by Italian illustrator Gino Boccasile, “The Two-Dollar Venus” features a caricature of a black U.S. soldier as a brutish character with a buffoonish grin, his arm around the statue of Venus de Milo with “$2″ scrawled across the torso.

“It’s beautiful in itself. It has a very ugly, derogatory tone, but it’s done very well,” Zuberi said. “This is saying to the Italian people: ‘If the U.S. comes here, they’re going to bring these people; they’re going to take a priceless cultural icon and put a price on it.’”

Those of you in the Philly area, if you have the time be sure and check this exhibit out. And if you do, please share your experience with us.

That is all for this morning, what going on in your part of the world?