Lazy Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

Seven U.S. Sailors are missing following a collision off the coast of Japan. NBC News: 7 U.S. Sailors Unaccounted for After Navy Destroyer Collides With Ship Off Japan.

The USS Fitzgerald, a 505-foot destroyer, collided with a Philippine container vessel at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time (1:30 p.m. ET Friday), about 56 nautical miles off Yokosuka, the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

The ship, which had experienced some flooding after the collision, was tugged back to Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, early Saturday.

Meanwhile search and rescue efforts by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and boats were underway in the area where the vessels collided.

The U.S. Navy said damaged areas of the ship will also be searched for the seven unaccounted-for sailors after the ship is safely docked.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors,” Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”

More details from The Washington Post:

The operators of the merchant ship, ACX Crystal, reported all of the 20-member Filipino crew were safe….

The Philippine-flagged Crystal is nearly four times as large as the Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided-missile destroyer. Japanese and U.S. vessels and aircraft fanned out across the scene of the collision, about 12 miles off Japan’s Izu peninsula. The Japanese coast guard led the search teams.

USS Fitzgerald arrives at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. TORU HANAI / Reuters

Three of the Fitzgerald’s crew, including the destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, were evacuated from the damaged vessel and are being treated at the U.S. naval hospital at Yokosuka, the home of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

Benson was reported to be in stable condition, while the other two were still having their injuries assessed. The Seventh Fleet had set up an information center for families of sailors serving on the ship.

The USS Dewey, another Navy destroyer and two naval tugboats were at the scene, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. Two Japanese coast guard cutters with helicopters were helping with the search.

The Crystal, which is fully loaded with cargo, is bound for Tokyo, according to a website that tracks maritime traffic. Nippon Yusen K.K., the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship.

The Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer commissioned in 1995, is part of the Yokosuka-based group that includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, but it was operating independently of the carrier when the collision occurred, Flanders said.

It still is not clear how the vessels collided, but one thing we know is that “President” Trump’s unfilled appointments could be a problem for those trying to find the missing sailors and determine the cause of this tragedy. The Guardian reports: USS Fitzgerald collision: Trump criticised for leaving key posts unfilled.

Donald Trump has been criticised for delays in appointing a navy secretary and ambassador to Japan, leaving a communications vacuum as the countries continued their search for seven missing sailors off the east coast of Japan.

The commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, Bryce Benson, and two other crew were injured after the vessel collided with a Philippine-registered container ship before dawn on Saturday.

The US has been without an ambassador to Japan since Caroline Kennedy left Tokyo in January.

William Hagerty, nominated but not yet confirmed as Ambassador to Japan

Her successor, the Tennessee businessman William Hagerty, has attended a Senate confirmation hearing but has yet to take up his post.

Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official and co-founder of the McPherson Square Group, a strategic communications firm in Washington, pointed to the absence of an ambassador and navy secretary – two officials who would be expected to take a lead in liaising between the US navy, and Japanese and US government officials during the search.

“The USS Fitzgerald might sink off Japan and the US President can’t call our ambassador or our navy secretary because we have neither,” Friedman said.

Trump’s nominee for US navy secretary, Richard Spencer, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The “president” has been too busy tweeting and raking in money from foreign governments to attend to his constitutional duties. According to Max Boot at Foreign Policy, he is also “proving to be too stupid to be president.”

I’m starting to suspect that Donald Trump may not have been right when he said, “You know, I’m like a smart person.” The evidence continues to mount that he is far from smart — so far, in fact, that he may not be capable of carrying out his duties as president.

There is, for example, the story of how Trump met with the pastors of two major Presbyterian churches in New York. “I did very, very well with evangelicals in the polls,” he bragged. When the pastors told Trump they weren’t evangelicals, he demanded to know, “What are you then?” They told him they were mainline Presbyterians. “But you’re all Christians?” he asked. Yes, they had to assure him, Presbyterians are Christians. The kicker: Trump himself is Presbyterian.

Trump claims he originated the saying “priming the pump.”

Or the story of how Trump asked the editors of the Economist whether they had ever heard of the phrase “priming the pump.” Yes, they assured him, they had. “I haven’t heard it,” Trump continued. “I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago, and I thought it was good.” The phrase has been in widespread use since at least the 1930s.

Or the story of how, after arriving in Israel from Saudi Arabia, Trump told his hosts, “We just got back from the Middle East.”

These aren’t examples of stupidity, you may object, but of ignorance. This has become a favorite talking point of Trump’s enablers. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, excused Trump’s attempts to pressure FBI Director James Comey into dropping a criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on the grounds that “the president’s new at this” and supposedly didn’t realize that he was doing anything wrong. But Trump has been president for nearly five months now, and he has shown no capacity to learn on the job.

More broadly, Trump has had a lifetime — 71 years — and access to America’s finest educational institutions (he’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, he never tires of reminding us) to learn things. And yet he doesn’t seem to have acquired even the most basic information that a high school student should possess. Recall that Trump said that Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, was “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.” He also claimed that Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War, “was really angry that he saw what was happening in regard to the Civil War.”

Read the rest at Foreign Policy.

Think Progress on all those emoluments: Trump details how he’s profiting off the presidency.

New financial disclosure forms provide insight into where and how Donald Trump has reaped profits since he launched his bid for the presidency.

The 98-page filing with the Office of Government Ethics, released on Friday afternoon, provides an incomplete snapshot of Trump’s financial picture. But since Trump has broken presidential precedent by refusing to release his taxes, it’s the closest look into his investments the public has gotten so far.

The documents provide financial information for the period of time between last January and this spring — encompassing the lead-up to the presidential election and Trump’s transition into the White House.

Trump’s sprawling business empire is difficult to definitively quantify. However, the filings do show that the properties Trump has visited frequently as president have seen significant gains in income, the D.C. hotel at the center of an ethical controversy has generated millions in revenue, and the royalties for Trump’s books have soared.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where he spent most of his weekendsimmediately after his inauguration, returned millions more in income after his campaign and subsequent election. Trump reported about $16 million in profits for Mar-a-Lago in his report filed in 2015, about $30 million in his report filed in 2016, and about $37 million in his most recent report.

Trump didn’t hide the fact that his presidency made Mar-a-Lago a more profitable venture for him. The initiation fee for the so-called “Winter White House” doubled to $200,000 — a figure that doesn’t include taxes and $14,000 annual dues — immediately after Trump was inaugurated.

Please click on the link and read the rest.

I’m sure you’ve already heard about this story, but it’s important to take note of it. In Trump’s America, police officer can kill unarmed black people on video and still evade punishment. Slate: Philando Castile’s Killer Acquitted Despite Forensics That Contradicted His Case.

Philando Castile’s killer, police officer Jeromino Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm on Friday. The case of Castile’s shooting last July in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota had sparked mass protests after his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds posted a dramatic and wrenching video of the shooting’s aftermath. The video, taken with Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter in the car, included footage of Castile lying in a puddle of blood after he was struck five times from seven shots.

Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a firearm, for which he had a permit. Shortly thereafter, Yanez opened fire. In his opening statement, Yanez’s defense attorney claimed that Castile was holding his gun when he was shot.

Philando Cast

“He has his hand on the gun,” Engh reportedly said during opening arguments. “The next command is, ‘Don’t pull it out.’ … [Yanez] can’t retreat … But for Mr. Castile’s continuous grip on the handgun, we would not be here.”

The prosecution argued that the 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor with no violent criminal record was reaching for his driver’s license—as Yanez had instructed—and not his gun when he was shot. The forensic evidence and Reynold’s testimony would both seem to back up the prosecution’s account and rebut the defense’s version. Reynolds testified that he was trying to unbuckle his seatbelt so that he could get out his wallet and driver’s license when he was shot. As the Associated Press reported, this was supported by forensics:

Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen highlighted autopsy evidence in his closing argument, reminding the jury of a bullet wound to what would have been Castile’s trigger finger — and that there was no corresponding bullet damage nor wounds in the area of Castile’s right shorts pocket, where he carried his gun. He also cited testimony from first responders who saw Castile’s gun in his pocket as he was loaded onto a backboard.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Hours after officer Yanez is found not guilty in fatal shooting of Philando Castile, marchers close I-94.

After 27 hours of deliberation, a jury of seven men and five women reached a verdict in Philando Castile’s death. Eight hours later, after a march in St. Paul, hundreds went on the freeway, where some faced off with police before 18 were arrested.

A jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty Friday in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, whose livestreamed death during a traffic stop stunned a nation.

Castile’s family called the decision proof of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, while prosecutors cautioned the public to respect the jury’s verdict “because that is the fundamental premise of the rule of law.”

“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said at a news conference shortly after the verdict was read in court about 2:45 p.m. “My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with TC on it. My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away.”

Castile’s girfriend Diamond Reynolds, who videotaped his murder.

Castile was a cafeteria worker who was very popular with the children he served. Twin Cities Pioneer Press: J.J. Hill school’s grief over Philando Castile’s death continues after verdict.

Philando Castile’s death last year rattled the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School community.

Friday’s verdict acquitting the officer who fired the shots that killed the beloved school cafeteria worker brought no relief to their grief, parents contacted afterward said.

“I’m appalled, unbelievably sickened,” parent Chad Eisen Ramgren said about the verdict.

Castile — called “Mr. Phil” by the students — had worked at J.J. Hill for two years as nutrition services supervisor before he was fatally shot by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on July 6. A vigil and children’s march were held in the days after outside the school where his smile and kindness were recalled….

Families knew Mr. Phil as the man who gave their children high-fives in the lunch line and helped them with their lunch numbers.

More at the link.

I’ll have more links in the comment thread. Please join me in posting your thoughts and links.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Marilyn reading

Good Afternoon!!

There was another suspicious death of an African American in police custody–and this time it’s a woman named Sandra Bland.

“What Happened to Sandy?”

The Guardian: ‘What happened to Sandy?’: protesters tie Sandra Bland case to US race tensions.

Demonstrators in Texas on Friday staged a protest outside the county jail where a black woman was found hanged in her cell, three days after she was arrested following an altercation stemming from a stop for a minor traffic infraction.

About 150 people gathered at the Waller county jail, at a building that also houses the sheriff’s office, then marched the half-mile distance to the courthouse in the small town of Hempstead, near Houston.

Some carried posters asking: “What happened to Sandy?” The official account is that Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old from Chicago who had just moved to Texas to take up a college job, asphyxiated herself in her cell on Monday morning using a plastic bag.

But her family called that conclusion “unfathomable” in a news conference in Chicago on Thursday. And it was not a version of events that protesters found credible, especially in the context of recent high-profile examples of African Americans being killed by law enforcement nationwide. And not in Waller County, which has a long history of racial tension.

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Sandy was stopped for failing to signal before a lane change. What was she doing in jail three days later?

Bland drove down from Chicago last Thursday, arriving in Waller County on Friday for a job interview at the university, her alma mater. She dropped off her bags at his house. Her elation at being offered the post turned to anger, he said, after she was pulled over by police in what turned into a confrontation that saw her being pushed to the ground and charged with assault of a public servant.

They spoke on the phone on Friday night at 10.25pm, Mosley said. Bland said she was slammed to the ground during the incident.

She reportedly posted a video on Facebook in March in which she described herself as battling depression, but Mosley said that was not a reliable indicator of her mindset when she arrived in Texas. Nothing in her personality or behaviour suggested she would take her own life, and she had not been clinically diagnosed as depressed, he said.

“I talked to her on Friday night. She was upbeat, looking forward to posting bond and moving forward,” he said. “This is a girl who had a thirst for life … she did not exhibit any suicidal characteristics.”

More from Sandra’s friend at ABC News.

candle-2009071485706-45780-originalFrom DallasNews.com crime blog: DPS: Violations of agency procedures found in Sandra Bland traffic stop.

AUSTIN – The state Department of Public Safety has found violations in the agency’s “procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy” in the recent stop that resulted in the arrest of Sandra Bland in Waller County.

The department on Friday announced those preliminary findings, saying the trooper involved in the stop has been “assigned administrative duties” until the investigation is complete. The trooper was identified by the Houston Chronicle as 30-year-old Brian Encinia.

Bland, a 28-year old black woman, was found dead Monday in the Waller County Jail from an apparent suicide. She had been arrested last Friday — as a result of the traffic stop — on a charge of assault on a public servant….

The agency said Friday that the video footage will be “shared with the public as soon as possible.” DPS and the Waller County District Attorney have also asked the FBI to conduct a “forensic analysis of the videos” related to the Bland case.

Mother Jones reports: The Texas County Where Sandra Bland Died Is Fraught With Racial Tensions.

Whether or not it was suicide, Bland’s death comes amid an ongoing national conversation about race and criminal justice in America, and casts a spotlight on a county apparently rife with racial tensions. In 2007, Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith was suspended—and eventually fired by city council members—while serving as police chief in Hempstead, a city in Waller County, following accusations of racism by community members. Less than a year after his firing, Smith was elected county sheriff. When asked about the accusations on Thursday, Smith said his firing in 2007 was “political,” and denied that he was a racist.

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The history of Waller County’s racial tensions doesn’t end there. In 2003, the Houston Chronicle reported that two prominent black county officials, DeWayne Charleston and Keith Woods, claimed they were the target of an investigation by the county’s chief prosecutor because of their race. Charleston had been accused of keeping erratic hours and falsifying an employee time-sheet record, according to the Houston Chronicle. Charleston and Woods claimed the Concerned Citizens of Waller County was behind those accusations, and said that the group was conducting a Ku Klux Klan-like campaign against black officials:

Charleston, the county’s first black judge, said a county grand jury has interviewed him, although he declined to elaborate. And Woods, the four-term mayor of Brookshire, is facing questions about his role in the last city election.

“I do believe race plays a big part in what DeWayne and I are facing,” Woods said. “I feel that way because we’re the ones obviously not being given the benefit of the doubt (when) we face contrary decisions by the district attorney.”

Kitzman, 69, a retired state district judge, denies any racist implications in his interest in the two men. He says he’s simply doing his job by looking into complaints brought to him by residents.

Houston Chronicle reporter Leah Binkovitz also pointed out that a disproportionately high number of lynchings have been recorded in Waller County. According to the advocacy group Equal Justice Initiative, the county saw 15 lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950.

News for Fat-Shamers

Here’s some food for thought for all the fat-shamers out there–if they can find time to think about anything other than judging other people’s bodies.

marilyn-monroe-mit-zeitungCBS News: Obese people almost never attain normal weight, study finds.

Weight loss can be a battle for everyone. But a large new study says that for obese people, the odds of reaching normal weight are near impossible.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows the odds of a clinically obese person achieving normal weight without surgical interventions are just 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women in a given year. Among the most morbidly obese, the chances were even worse.

People in the study were somewhat more successful at managing enough weight loss to improve their health, defined as dropping at least 5 percent of body weight. But they often did not maintain the lower weight.

“What our findings suggest is that current strategies used to tackle obesity are not helping the majority of obese patients to lose weight and maintain that weight loss,” lead researcher Alison Fildes, a research psychologist at University College London, told HealthDay.

The study was based on analysis of more than 278,000 people from the UK’s Clinical Practice Research database, tracked between 2004 and 2014, and it highlights the difficulty obese people face in trying to achieve sustained weight loss through diet and exercise alone.

Much more on the study at the link.

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And from The Washington Post: One chart shows why it’s nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off.

In a given year, the average obese woman has roughly a 1 in 124 chance of returning to a normal weight. And for obese men, the odds are even worse: 1 in 210. As if that weren’t bad enough, obese men and women have very low odds attaining even a 5 percent weight loss in a given year: 1 in 10 for women, and 1 in 12 for men.

Those are the main findings of a new study out today in the American Journal of Public Health, which analyzed electronic health records of over 278,000 people living in England over a nine-year period. “For patients with a BMI of 30 or greater kilograms per meters squared, maintaining weight loss was rare and the probability of achieving normal weight was extremely low,” the study’s authors conclude. “Research to develop new and more effective approaches to obesity management is urgently required.”

Among the people who lost five percent of their weight or more, more than half had gained it back within two years’ time. In a statement, Professor Martin Gulliford, a study author from King’s College London, said: “Current strategies to tackle obesity, which mainly focus on cutting calories and boosting physical activity, are failing to help the majority of obese patients to shed weight and maintain that weight loss.”

Maybe fat people should be forced to eat bacon flavored seaweed as punishment.

Marilyn reading1The Christian Science Monitor: Bacon-flavored seaweed: Better than kale? (+video).

In a bizarre marriage of the best of both food worlds, a team of scientists at Oregon State University have developed a new strain of dulse, an edible seaweed with twice the nutritional value of kale – and an arguably more palatable bacon-like flavor.

The newly developed strain resembles translucent red lettuce and is chock full of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and protein, researchers say.

Dulse, which rhymes with pulse, has been consumed in powder and flake form for centuries in Northern Europe, where it’s added to smoothies or other foods by health-conscious people. But the new strain developed at OSU can be farmed and eaten fresh.

I think I’ll stick with real bacon when I want bacon-flavored food, thank you very much.

Mystery Ship Found

The Washington Post reports on an interesting find off the coast of North Carolina: The mysterious, pre-Civil War shipwreck just discovered off the North Carolina coast.

The Marine scientists didn’t set out to find a shipwreck. But when they deployed their underwater equipment off the North Carolina coast, there it was, lying nearly a mile beneath the surface: a ship carrying an iron chain, red bricks and glass bottles.

Those artifacts suggest the ship could date to the Revolutionary War or the early 19th century. The team of Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon scientists announced their discovery Friday.

Scientists found the wreck using sonar. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will now try to identify the mysterious ship, including how old it is and its country of origin.

marilyn reading2

“Lying more than a mile down in near-freezing temperatures, the site is undisturbed and well preserved,” Bruce Terrell, chief archaeologist of NOAA’s Marine Heritage Program, said in a statement. “Careful archaeological study in the future could definitely tell us more.”

The wreck was found near the Gulf Stream, which was used as a popular trade route to ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America. “Violent storms sent down large numbers of vessels off the Carolina coasts, but few have been located because of the difficulties of depth and working in an offshore environment,” Marine Heritage Program director James Delgado said in a statement.

Other News, Links Only

Voice of America: Frozen Plains Glimpsed on Pluto.

Democracy Now: Newly Released Dashcam Video Shows California Police Shooting Unarmed Man with Hands Up.

New York Times: Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White (WARNING: may make you gag).

Charles Pierce: Here’s Some Stupid for Lunch: David Brooks’ American Dream.

American Psychological Association report on psychologists who helped the CIA torture people.

New York Times: Chattanooga Attacks Claim a Fifth Service Person’s Life.

Newsweek: KKK, Black Panther Groups to Hold Opposing Confederate Flag Rallies.

Naomi Klein at The New Yorker: A Radical Vatican?

Huffington Post: A Note About Our Coverage of Donald Trump’s ‘Campaign.’

Boston Globe on Massachusetts cold cases: Baby Doe is not alone.

A real shocker from the Washington Post: This man filmed a fatal car crash instead of helping. Then, Ohio police arrested him.

 


Lazy Saturday Reads

 animals reading1

Good Morning!!

Maybe it’s just me, but I think today must be the slowest news day yet in 2014. I’ve gathered a hodge-podge of reads for you, some that look back over the past year and some current news stories that I found interesting or humorous. So here goes . . .

Looking back, I think the biggest story of this year has been the many events that have revealed how racist the United States still is nearly a century-and-a-half after the end of the Civil War and more than a half century after the Civil Rights Movement.

In the news yesterday: Driver Destroys Mike Brown Memorial, Community Rebuilds By Morning. From Think Progress:

A memorial set up in the middle of Canfield Drive where teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in August was partially destroyed Christmas evening when a car drove through it. Neighbors and friends of Brown quickly came together to clean up the damage, rebuild the site, and call for support on social media….

Activists on the ground also reacted angrily to the Ferguson Police Department’s public relations officer, who told the Washington Post, “I don’t know that a crime has occurred,” and called Brown’s memorial “a pile of trash in the middle of the street.”

Since Brown’s death, the memorial has been a key gathering place for protests and prayers, and a receiving station for those that poured in from across the country to pay their respects and demonstrate against police brutality. Supporters also had to rebuild the memorial in September after it burned to the ground.

Also from Think Progress, photos of the some of the people who were killed by police in 2014.

silence-equals-violence-1

As you can see, most of them have black or brown skin.

Sadly, we know Brown and Garner were just one [sic] of many people who died at the hands of police this year. But a dearth of national data on fatalities caused by police makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact number of deaths. One site put the total at 1,039.

What we do know is that police-related deaths follow certain patterns. A 2012 study found that about half of those killed by the police each year are mentally ill, a problem that the Supreme Court will consider 2015. Young black men are also 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than young white men, according to one ProPublica analysis of the data we have. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also compiled data which shows that people of color are most likely to be killed by cops overall. In short, people who belong to marginalized communities are at a higher risk of being shot than those who are not.

Go to the link to see a table showing which groups are most likely to be shot by police.

Mother Jones has released its yearly list of top long reads of 2014. First on the list is The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men, by Chris Mooney. It’s about the unconscious prejudices that plague all of us. A brief excerpt:

On the one hand, overt expressions of prejudice have grown markedly less common than they were in the Archie Bunker era. We elected, and reelected, a black president. In many parts of the country, hardly anyone bats an eye at interracial relationships. Most people do not consider racial hostility acceptable. That’s why it was so shocking when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games—and why those comments led the NBA to ban Sterling for life. And yet, the killings of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others remind us that we are far from a prejudice-free society.

Science offers an explanation for this paradox—albeit a very uncomfortable one. An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did (though they may have been). The same goes for the crowds that flock to support the shooter each time these tragedies become public, or the birthers whose racially tinged conspiracy theories paint President Obama as a usurper. These people who voice mind-boggling opinions while swearing they’re not racist at all—they make sense to science, because the paradigm for understanding prejudice has evolved. There “doesn’t need to be intent, doesn’t need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction,” explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek ….

We’re not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been “taught” them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on “many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what’s good and what’s bad.” In evolutionary terms, it’s efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as “dangerous.” The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.

But here’s the good news: Research suggests that once we understand the psychological pathways that lead to prejudice, we just might be able to train our brains to go in the opposite direction.

Read much more at the second link above. Go to the previous link to see the 13 other stories on MoJo’s list of the magazine’s best 2014 long reads.

science deniers1

Also from Mother Jones, a list of “the stupidest anti-science bullshit of 2014.” Check it out at the link.

Another “worst of” list from The Daily Beast: 2014: Revenge of the Creationists, by Carl W. Giberson.

Science denialism is alive in the United States and 2014 was yet another blockbuster year for preposterous claims from America’s flakerrati.  To celebrate the year, here are the top 10 anti-science salvos of 2014.

1) America’s leading science denialist is Ken Ham, head of the Answers in Genesis organization that built the infamous $30 million Creation Museum in Kentucky. He also put up a billboard in Times Square to raise funds for an even more ambitious Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Ham’s wacky ideas went primetime in February when he debated Bill Nye. An estimated three million viewers watched Ham claim that the earth is 10,000 years old, the Big Bang never happened, and Darwinian evolution is a hoax. His greatest howler, however—and my top anti-science salvo of 2014—would have to be his wholesale dismissal of the entire scientific enterprise as an atheistic missionary effort: “Science has been hijacked by secularists,” he claimed, who seek to indoctrinate us with “the religion of naturalism.”

2) Second only to Answers in Genesis, the Seattle based Discovery Institute continued its well-funded assault on science, most visibly through Stephen Meyer’s barnstorming tour promoting his book Darwin’s Doubt. I was a part of this tour, debating Meyer in Richmond, Virginia in April. Meyer’s bestselling book is yet another articulate repackaging of the venerable but discredited “god of the gaps” argument that goes like this: Here is something so cleverly designed that nature could not do on her own; but God could. So God must have designed this. Meyer insists, however, that his argument is not “god of the gaps” since he says only that the anonymous designer was “a designing intelligence—a conscious rational agency or a mind—of some kind” and not the familiar God of the monotheistic religious traditions. For his tireless assault on evolutionary biology and downsizing the deity to fit within science, I give Meyer second place.

Go over to TDB to read the rest of the list.

Donald Sterling and Ray Rice

Donald Sterling and Ray Rice

Also in this vein, Talking Points Memo offers a list of worst sports stories: From Donald Sterling To Ray Rice: 2014 Brought Out The Worst In Pro Sports.

The past year brought out the worst in professional sports players, owners, and fans alike, from domestic violence scandals in the NFL to the removal of racist team executives in the NBA.

Of course, shockingly bad behavior wasn’t limited to major league football and basketball alone. The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, was just sentenced to probation for drunken driving. FIFA was enough of a mess to inspire a 13-minute Jon Oliver segment ahead of the World Cup this summer.

But even the most casual sports observer understands what’s at the center of the Washington Redskins naming controversy, or can form an opinion on whether Ray Rice should be allowed to play football again. The NFL frequently surfaced in the headlines this year for all the wrong reasons, and its domination on this list suggests the league needs to get its act together on a couple fronts.

Check out the list at the TPM link above.

gone-with-the-wind

Recently, I posted some links about the 75th anniversary of the movie Gone With The Wind and the racist attitudes it portrayed. Today Newsweek published a piece about the efforts to curtail the racism in the movie before it was filmed and released: Fixing Gone With The Wind’s ‘Negro Problem’

In the spring of 1938, Rabbi Robert Jacobs of Hoboken wrote to Rabbi Barnett Brickner, chairman of the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, “Soon the David O. Selznick Studios of Hollywood will begin production of the play ‘Gone With The Wind.’ The book, a thrilling romance of the South, was shot through with an anti-Negro prejudice, and while it undoubtedly furnished almost half a million people in this country with many glowing hours of entertainment, it also in a measure aroused whatever anti-Negro antipathy was latent in them.”

Rabbi Brickner in turn wrote to Selznick. “In view of the situation,” he wrote, “I am taking the liberty of suggesting that you exercise the greatest care in the treatment of this theme in the production of the picture. Surely, at this time you would want to do nothing that might tend even in the slightest way to arouse anti-racial feeling. I feel confident that you will use extreme caution in the matter.”

Brickner wrote a similar letter to Walter White, Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. White also wrote to Selznick, suggesting Selznick “employ in an advisory capacity a person, preferably a Negro, who is qualified to check on possible errors of fact or interpretation.”

In his reply to White, Selznick wrote, “I hasten to assure you that as a member of a race that is suffering very keenly from persecution these days, I am most sensitive to the feelings of minority peoples.” He added, “It is definitely our intention to engage a Negro of high standing to watch the entire treatment of the Negroes, the casting of the actors for these roles, the dialect that they use, etcetera, throughout the picture.

Read the rest at the link.

At Daily Kos, David Akadjian offered a list of 21 Ayn Rand Christmas Cards–a satire, of course, but Akadjian learned that Rand actually did send out Christmas cards, despite her atheism. Here are some of her odes to a selfish Christmas.

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I’ll wrap this post up with some current news stories:

USA Today: Thousands gather to honor slain officer in New York.

The Guardian: North Korea calls Obama a ‘monkey’ as it blames US for internet shutdown.

USA Today: North Korea suffers another Internet shutdown.

Seattle PI: Woman who bared breasts in Vatican square is freed.

Washington Post: Baby gorilla shunned by other gorillas to switch zoos.

Washington Post: Pakistani forces kill alleged organizer of school massacre.

The Telegraph: More than 160,000 evacuated in Malaysia’s worst ever floods.

Special for New Englanders from the Boston Globe: Will The Rest Of Winter Have Lower Than Average Snowfall?

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a stupendous Saturday!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Governor, Police, and Media Stoke Fears of Riots in Ferguson

 King reads2Good Afternoon!

A Grand Jury decision is imminent in the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri. For the past couple of weeks the media has been full of reports of how police departments in the St. Louis area are preparing for what they predict will be violent protests.

The general assumption is that Ferguson police officer, who killed Brown at about noon on August 9, will not be charged. The simple truth is that white police officer who kill black people are rarely charged and almost never convicted. Furthermore, the LA Times reports that law enforcement officers who kill citizens in Missouri are given “wide latitude.”

Missouri law provides wide latitude for police to use deadly force, particularly if the officer believes it’s necessary to protect his or her safety or the safety of others.

But that law might not shield Wilson. “If Michael Brown was trying to surrender at the time, that makes this defense not applicable,” Washington University law professor Peter Joy said. “So the question is: Was Michael Brown clearly trying to surrender at the time that the fatal gunshots were fired?”

Several witnesses who saw the shooting reported that Brown’s hands were in the air when Darren Wilson shot and killed him, but, as far as I can tell, most media sources recently have changed the narrative to the police version–not based on direct observation–in which Wilson supposedly feared for his life because the unarmed Brown “charged” at him after being hit with at least two bullets.

There is another investigation by the Justice Department into whether Darren Wilson violated Michael Brown’s civil rights, but

Joy said a federal indictment seemed unlikely, at least according to the publicly reported accounts of the shooting thus far.

“That would require that Officer Wilson intentionally planned or intentionally meant to violate the civil rights — that is, take the life of — Michael Brown because of his race,” Joy said.

The media narrative has gradually been revised since August, when we saw what were essentially police riots in which Ferguson and St. Louis police used military surplus equipment to control peaceful protesters and reporters and photographers who were covering events on the ground. Now we’re repeatedly being told that Brown was the aggressor, with the unwritten implication that he deserved to die.  Back in August, some law enforcement officers threatened to kill protesters and even arrested numerous members of the media who were simply doing their jobs.  But that’s all forgotten now. Now the corporate media appears to be fully behind the Ferguson and St. Louis police; and both the police and the media are preparing for what they expect–and apparently hope–will be violent and dangerous riots.

Moneta Sleet Jr./Ebony Collection

Since the Grand Jury decision may come very soon, I thought I’d gather the latest updates on this important story for today’s post. I’ll admit up front that I’m not an nonpartisan observer in this case.

First, the LA Times article I linked to above has a good summary of the two sides to the story of the shooting, Back Story: What happened in Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.?

Also from the LA Times, a report of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s recent announcement about government preparations for what he apparently assumes will be riots, National Guard on call if Ferguson grand jury decision triggers violence.

The National Guard will be ready to assist law enforcement in Missouri if unrest erupts after a grand jury announces whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday.

“Violence will not be tolerated,” Nixon said at a news conference with officials from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County police and St. Louis Metropolitan police. The governor said the agencies would form a unified command to deal with protests. “Residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” Nixon said….

Nixon said that the rights of peaceful protesters would be respected but that officials would have no tolerance for violent agitation. “Our dual pillars here are safety and speech,” Nixon said in the televised news conference from St. Louis. The National Guard, he said, would be available “when we determine it is necessary to support local law enforcement.”

Nixon added: “The world is watching.”

Photo of Martin Luther King Jr

Nixon did not say whether there have been any efforts to diffuse anger on the part of local police officers or prevent more police overreactions to peaceful protests.

The story also quoted St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar.

“The community is on edge. … There is a large sense of anxiety out there. This is a little unprecedented,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters in a televised news conference. Belmar added: “If you talk to chiefs around the country [as I have], they’re concerned and prepared for this to perhaps lap into their communities also.”

Gee, I wonder why? Could it be because police shootings of unarmed black men are so common in this country? Belmar also defended the use of military equipment to control protests.

Belmar defended the agency’s response by saying that such gear was necessary for his officers’ protection and pointed out that no protesters lost their lives during August’s demonstrations, which were occasionally marred by looting and gunshots. “My goodness, could we be that fortunate moving forward?” Belmar said of the absence of fatalities.

The St. Louis County Police Department has spent about $120,000 to replenish equipment such as shields, batons, tear gas and flex handcuffs after weeks of unrest in the aftermath of the shooting depleted supplies and damaged equipment.

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Here are some recent examples of white policemen shooting unarmed black men:

The New Republic, A Dash Cam Didn’t Stop This White Officer From Shooting an Unarmed Black Man (fortunately, this officer was arrested and charged. Whether he’ll be convicted or not, we don’t know yet)

Mother Jones, August 13, 2014, 4 Unarmed Black Men Have Been Killed By Police in the Last Month.

Here’s piece on this subject by Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, The terrifying police shootings of unarmed black men.

One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and Michael Brown last month. And two other recent shootings add further proof that no standard of conduct, it seems, is too good or too mundane to protect a black man’s life particularly from a police officer’s bullet.

John Crawford III was talking on his cell phone in the Beavercreek, Ohio, Wal-Mart and carrying an unloaded BB air rifle he picked up in the superstore on Aug. 5. “There is a gentleman walking around with a gun in the store,” Ronald Ritchie told the 911 operator. “Yeah, he’s, like, pointing at people….He’s looking around, waving it, waving it back and forth….He looked like he was trying to load it. I don’t know.” Fair warning: As the graphic video shows, Crawford was shot and killed by police. Ritchie has since changed his account of what happened.

You can watch the video at the link. Capehart also discusses the Brown case and the case in South Carolina (story linked above).

Levar Jones was pulled over for a seat-belt violation by now-former South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert on Sept. 4. Thanks to the startling and graphic dashcam video we get to see every African American’s worst nightmare unfold in seconds….

Groubert asks Jones, “Can I see your license, please?” Jones, who was standing outside his car at the gas station convenience store, turned and reached inside to retrieve it. “Get out of the car! Get out of the car!” Groubert shouts before opening fire on Jones at point-blank range. After being hit in the hip, Jones can be seen moving backwards away from his car with his hands in the air as two more shots ring out.

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Instead of using these recent cases to highlight and deal with the problem of police shootings of unarmed people, it seems that local and state governments like those in Missouri are simply doubling down on the people who protest them. I’m really concerned that all the talk of “riots” being inevitable in Ferguson is going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Caitlin Dickson of The Daily Beast reports that at least one expert agrees with me: Riot Prep Could Fuel Ferguson Violence.

Despite a concerted police effort to quell demonstrations, protesters have carried on consistently and, for the most part, calmly since Brown’s death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson this past August. But the impending grand jury decision on whether Wilson will be indicted in Brown’s death—and leaks of evidence suggesting he won’t—has law enforcement, residents, and business owners preparing for violence on the streets.

In addition to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s announcement on Tuesday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis Metropolitan police, and the St. Louis County police will join forces (with the National Guard on standby) in handling demonstrations following the grand jury decision, almost every national news organization—from CNN to The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters—has reported that Ferguson residents and business owners have been taking matters into their own hands. Gun sales are up, local gun-shop owners told reporters. People like Dan McMullen, whose insurance agency is located near a spot where the few instances of vandalism and looting took place following Brown’s death, was quoted by both the New York Times and CNN as saying he’s stocking up on guns in case of a riot….

Despite Governor Nixon’s declarations that “violence will not be tolerated” and “residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” some experts wonder whether all the emphasis on preparedness—from the $120,000 spent by the St. Louis County Police on riot gear to the sudden demand for guns—may do more harm than good.

“I don’t think this is the way we should be thinking about what might happen,” American University professor Cathy Schneider told The Daily Beast.  Instead, Schneider, who is an expert on social movements and racial tensions, argues that what we should be thinking about is, ‘how do we convince a community that the police will act to serve them, that the justice system will defend their interests, and that the verdict will be just?” [….]

“If one side is buying guns and preparing, what do you think the other people are doing, who think those guns are going to be used against them?” Schneider asked. Instead of acknowledging that Ferguson’s black community “is in pain and wondering whether justice will be done,” Schneider said, such intense preparation sends the message that “we think your community is dangerous and we’re armed and prepared to kill you.”

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It also doesn’t help that Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson–who should have been fired by now–has announced that Darren Wilson, the man who killed Michael Brown, will be welcomed back to the local force if he isn’t indicted by the Grand Jury.

Here’s an excellent op-ed by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star: The fire next time … may engulf Ferguson, Mo.

By every indication — from both the street and civic offices — Ferguson, Missouri is expected to blow.

The grand jury decision on whether a white police officer will be charged in the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black man could come any day. Many are expecting no indictment of the officer, no criminal charges alleging that he went too far the day Michael Brown died.

If that’s the outcome, God help us all. Keeping the lid on the public reaction will be a gargantuan task.

Of course local leaders fed the outrage from the very beginning by trying to protect Darren Wilson and by leaving Michael Brown’s body lying exposed in the street for four hours.

Sanchez refers back to the riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as well as those in 1992 after the failure to indict police who beat Rodney King within an inch of his life. Why don’t government leaders deal with the root problems at work in these cases?

In Watts nearly 50 years ago the name was Marquette Frye, not Michael Brown. Frye, 21, was pulled over in a traffic stop, suspected of being drunk. When other family members arrived, a fight broke out with police. Word spread, alleging police had over-reacted.

For six days people rioted. There were 34 deaths, more than 1,000 people injured, $40 million in property damage and more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

In 1992, the person at the center was Rodney King. He’d led police on a high-speed car chase, fleeing after fearing that his probation would be revoked from a robbery conviction. When he finally was stopped, what happened next shocked the nation. The video of the officers assaulting King without mercy when they could have simply handcuffed him was played over and over on television.

When those officers weren’t indicted, the city erupted again. This time, 53 people died, more than 2,000 were injured, the property damage was pegged at $1 billion and another 1,000 buildings were destroyed.

In both cases, commissions were formed and good people went to work unraveling how one incident could ignite such violence. The underlying causes were found to be similar despite the nearly 30 years that had passed: the burdens of poor education, lack of jobs, poverty, racial tensions, and inferior housing and transportation.

Sanchez goes on to recommend changes that local and state governments will most likely either ignore or respond to with lip service.

Martin Luther King Jr Day Pic

We’ve seen over the past several years that virulent racism is alive and well in this country, and we simply are not dealing with it.

This nation was founded on the enslavement of black people, and despite the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, efforts to desegregate schools, and affirmative action, black people are still treated as second class citizens by many Americans. A number of states have even instituted voter ID laws that essentially act as poll taxes did in the Jim Crow era to keep black people from voting, and the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of states to do this.

We are now on the verge of another flashpoint in the history of race conflicts in our country–the possibility of violence following a failure to punish Darren Wilson for essentially ignoring the humanity of black teenager Michael Brown.

When will it end?

A few more reads to check out if you’re interested:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Protesters prepare for the worst in Ferguson.

Huffington Post, Beyond the Indictments: Black and Brown Deaths at the Hands of Police Are a Crisis Boiling Over.

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ferguson Under Indictment.

Juan Williams at Fox News, Are liberal news outlets begging for a race riot in Ferguson?

Ben Swann, Michael Brown’s Parents Testify Before UN Committee Against Torture.

Michael Martinez at CNN, Ferguson case raises question: Where’s the data on officer-involved killings?

Christian Science Monitor, Ferguson verdict: Why St. Louis schools will know first.

AP via Boston Globe, Churches prepare for possible Ferguson unrest

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


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

cow reading

Good Day!!

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

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

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

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

From CNet: Minecraft players build working hard drives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

Fully functioning hard drive built inside Minecraft world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cow reading2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hamster reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

brazilian pig reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article is well worth a read.

Links to some interesting stories that are mostly positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Paris Review, Mocha Dick, and Other News.

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

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

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

Bwaaaahahahahahah!

Bonus Cat Video

Hot Water. Simon’s Cat

 

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


Saturday Reads: The Shooting of Michael Brown and the Protests in Ferguson, Missouri

 

Demonstrators gather along West Florissant Avenue on Friday to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Friday’s demonstration ended with protesters clashing with police followed by more looting. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Demonstrators gather along West Florissant Avenue on Friday to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Friday’s demonstration ended with protesters clashing with police followed by more looting. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

I’ve been following the events in Ferguson, Missouri for a week now. Last Saturday, 18-year-old Ferguson citizen Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer in broad daylight. That officer, who was finally named yesterday, is Darren Wilson. So far the media has not even been able to come up with a photo of Wilson, who had nearly a week to wipe out his media presence. He’s a complete mystery man.

After Wilson shot Brown multiple times, he stood over the body and called for assistance without informing dispatch that he had just shot someone. According to witnesses, Wilson did not check Brown for vital signs. Brown’s body lay in the street for an extended period–it’s not clear how long. No medical personnel were called to determine whether he needed assistance or to take his body to a hospital. Eventually police loaded the body into a police vehicle and took it away.

When family and others in the community protested, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson asked St. Louis County police to provide “security.” As we all know, there was an intense police crackdown on peaceful protesters, and journalists were harassed and even arrested as were several community leaders.

On Thursday, Governor Jay Nixon ordered Ferguson and St. Louis County police to withdraw their military equipment from the streets of the small suburb and had handed over control of security to Captain Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Police. Johnson is a lifelong Ferguson resident and is African American.

On Thursday night protesters were left alone to protest peacefully, and police were dressed in normal uniforms. Johnson walked among the protesters and patiently answered their questions. Apparently Chief Jackson and his men were unhappy with the peace and harmony, so they found a way to sow discord once again.

Around noon yesterday, without informing Captain Johnson of what he planned to do, Jackson released an 18 page media handout complete with still images from surveillance video, in which he accused dead teenager Michael Brown of stealing a box of cigars from a gas station convenience store in what he termed “a strong-arm robbery.” The stolen property was valued at $48.00. Jackson released this information immediately after revealing that mystery officer Darren Wilson had shot and killed Brown.

The implication was obvious. Brown deserved to die because he had shoplifted some cigars. The pictures of the young man police claimed was Brown were splashed all over the media and internet–but nary a photo of Wilson appeared.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of Officer Darren Wilson as the man who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, last Saturday.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of Officer Darren Wilson as the man who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, last Saturday.

Hours later, around 4PM, Chief Jackson held another press conference in which he admitted that killer cop Darren Wilson had no knowledge of the shoplifting incident that Brown had allegedly been involved in. He supposedly stopped Brown and his friend because they were walking in the street “blocking traffic.” So why was the 18-page handout released, reporters asked? Because reporters had requested it, said Jackson. But that wasn’t true either.

According to “MSNBC contributor” Goldie Taylor, who spent last night trying to find any reporter who had requested information on the convenience store robbery, no one requested it–in fact no one in the media knew about the incident until Jackson revealed it.

Reporters had specifically requested the officer’s report on the shooting and Brown’s autopsy report, but those were not released. Reporters have repeatedly asked Jackson how many times Brown was shot and the locations of the bullets, but he has refused to answer those questions.

Naturally Brown’s family and other Ferguson residents were outraged by Jackson’s behavior. He had poisoned the atmosphere in town once again.

Last night began as Thursday night had, with peaceful demonstrations and normal police presence. But early this morning, outsiders showed up and for a short time looted Ferguson businesses, including the store that Michael Brown had been accused of stealing from. From what I’ve been able to learn on Twitter from people who were there, protesters tried to stop the looters and helped to clean up damage to businesses; and there are reports of that in the mainstream media.

I thought I’d just write my own summary of events to begin with, since this situation is so complex. The racism that has been on display has been just stunning. It’s as if we’ve all been transported back to a much earlier era. But unfortunately the racism is real. You can see it on display in the behavior of law enforcement members in Ferguson and St. Louis, and in the people on Twitter and media comment sections cheering on the hatred against and even the murder of African Americans.

dont shoot2

Some representative articles to read about recent events in Ferguson.

MSNBC: Michael Brown Killing: Police in Ferguson Fire Tear Gas Amid Looting.

Armored vehicles rolled back onto the streets of Ferguson early Saturday, as riot police faced off with looters in the Missouri town gripped by protests since the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen.

The violence broke the brief period of calm that had settled over Ferguson, Missouri, after outrage over the shooting of Michael Brown spilled over.

Protests had started off peacefully in Ferguson on Friday night. Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms with protesters, leading them in prayer and urging them to “turn pain into power” while fighting back non-violently, NBC Affiliate KSDK reported. Shortly after midnight, crowds got rowdier and looting began to break out, according to KSDK….
Tear gas was deployed and riot police moved in, with some locals forming lines to protect local businesses from looters.
A handful of owners stood guard this morning at their businesses, doing their best to discourage any more looting or violence.

Rain fell on the scene of broken out windows and ransacked store shelves at businesses like Ferguson Market and Liquor.

The streets of Ferguson mostly were void of protesters by 6 a.m. as dawn broke and the rain continued after the violent night.

After some of the protesters blocked the entrances to businesses and civic leaders, including St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, arrived early Saturday, the scene calmed and the brief outbreak of looting ended.

The police line was still in place near West Florissant and Ferguson avenues but had not advanced to the site of the protest line as of 2:30. Officers also did not move in during the looting.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

It’s amazing how quickly a few assholes can ruin things for people who have worked so hard to bring peace and justice after the death of an unarmed young man. Chief Jackson must be very happy with his handiwork this morning.

KDSK.com: Protesters tried to keep looters out of stores.

Several hundred people congregated on a busy Ferguson street Friday night as protests continued nearly a week after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. It was peaceful until about midnight, when a large crowd broke into the convenience mart that Brown allegedly robbed the day he was killed. The looting continued there for several hours, with looters entering and exiting freely with as many items as they could carry, including the store cash register.

The looting took place despite the best efforts of some who said they were among the peaceful protesters who marched early in the evening.

Michael Davis was among those who were peacefully protesting when things turned violent. “It was positive. Everything was going fairly well with everyone out here during the day. But as it turned night, it got hectic and things got out of hand in front of the Ferguson Market and Liquor store.”

According to Davis, they were having some success in calming things down until police showed up and teargassed the crowd. At that point looters “broke through his protective line and into the store.”

New York Times: Emotions Flare in Missouri Amid Police Statements.

One day after roiling tensions over the police shooting of a black teenager here began to subside, emotions flared anew on Friday as the police identified the officer involved but also released evidence that the victim was a suspect in a convenience store robbery moments before being shot.

The manner in which the police here released the information, which included a 19-page police report on the robbery but no new details about the shooting, led to the spectacle of dueling police news conferences, one led by a white officer who seemed ill at ease and defensive, and the other dominated by a charismatic black officer who expressed solidarity with the crowd even as he pleaded for peace.

The white officer, Thomas Jackson, the police chief in Ferguson, gave a series of incomplete accounts that sowed confusion about whether the officer who shot the teenager knew he was a suspect in the robbery. The black officer, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, expressed his displeasure with how the information had been released.

“I would have liked to have been consulted,” he said pointedly about the pairing of the shooter’s identity with the robbery accusation.

Washington Post: Protests and looting return to Ferguson overnight, but most want peace [a collection of tweets from journalists covering Ferguson last night]

Reporters on the ground in Ferguson, most of whom have been there for nearly the entire week, painted on Twitter a dramatic and sometimes frightening scene as the unrest mounted. Emotions were heightened Friday after Darren Wilson was named as the officer who shot Brown and the Ferguson police released video surveillance of Brown allegedly stealing cigars from a convenience store.

The clashes throughout the night seem to have divided the protesters, pitting some who were assembling peacefully against others who were looting businesses in the St. Louis suburb.

As of early Saturday morning, some protesters were helping store owners clean their destroyed shops and many were eager to draw a clear distinction between the angry rioters and the other protesters.

 Head over to that link to read a Twitter timeline.

ferguson signs

More relevant links.

The Washington Post, Seven in 10 black Americans say the criminal justice system treats them unfairly.

Mother Jones, Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?

Reuters Column, Less than human: Do some police take a step beyond simple prejudice?

Peacock Panache, Conservative Hypocrisy: Bundy Ranch Versus Ferguson Protest Media Coverage.

Addicting Info, Ferguson Police Excuses Destroyed As Anonymous Shares Dispatch Recordings (AUDIO).

Mother Jones, Meet the St. Louis Alderman Who’s Keeping an Eye on Ferguson’s Cops.

Washington Post, Required reading on race, Michael Brown and Ferguson, Mo.

Spocko at Hullabaloo, What’s the Media Strategy of #Ferguson Protesters? The Police Have One. 

The Atlantic, Echoes of Michael Brown’s Death in St. Louis’s Racially Charged Past.

The Atlantic, The Roots of Violence in Ferguson Run Deep.

Jonathan Chait, Joe Scarborough, Mike Allen Form Journalistic Axis of Evil.

I know there’s plenty of other news; I’ve just been focused on this story. Please feel free to discuss and recommend links on any topic in the comment thread.