Wednesday Reads: Back in the saddle again…

f4b5c963d201a5f61710522d22df3735Good Morning!

Hey, it’s been nice to have a week off…I haven’t read much news items lately, in fact I don’t really have any idea what’s going on in the world outside of Banjoville. (Just this last weekend we had a murder, involving an 80-year-old former cop from Florida who killed his daughter, shot his great-grandson in the leg, and kept two county swat teams busy in a stand-off for three hours before they threw a flash bomb and finally got him in custody…you should see the list of weapons he had in his house.)

Other news from Banjoville (good news), my son played his first varsity football game and kicked five for five, scoring four extra points and one field goal in the season’s game opener.  My daughter also cheered in her first varsity game as well…it was quite a Friday Night!

Little Luther

Little Luther

This weekend I added a little furry bugger to the family too. He is a tiny little thing, at three months he weighs just over a pound.

So as you can see, it has been a busy week…but since I am clueless about the latest debates on Syria, in the dark on the fire in Yellowstone, unsure of new draconian laws against women’s rights that have passed in state houses over the past week…I will just stick with a few links that I have saved from some days back.

Here is one article that is recent however, Fukushima Disaster: Japan To Build Costly Subterranean Ice Wall To Stop Nuclear Reactor Leaks:

The Japanese government announced Tuesday that it will spend $470 million on a subterranean ice wall and other steps in a desperate bid to stop leaks of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after repeated failures by the plant’s operator.

The decision is widely seen as an attempt to show that the nuclear accident won’t be a safety concern just days before the International Olympic Committee chooses among Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid as the host of the 2020 Olympics.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated underground water into the sea since shortly after a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged the complex. Several leaks from tanks storing radioactive water in recent weeks have heightened the sense of crisis that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., isn’t able to contain the problem.

“Instead of leaving this up to TEPCO, the government will step forward and take charge,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after adopting the outline. “The world is watching if we can properly handle the contaminated water but also the entire decommissioning of the plant.”

I don’t know how negative an impact the radioactive disaster will have on the IOC’s decision on Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics, I mean… look at the nuclear bomb getting ready to explode in Sochi. I get the feeling the IOC would prefer a radioactive leak of Godzilla proportions than to stand up and do what’s right in Sochi.

Down in Florida they are digging up some graves of a terrible past. Human remains believed uncovered in search at Florida boys school

The first of many to die at a Florida reform school infamous for inflicting beatings and abuse is identified in official records only as “Unknown colored boy.”

Researchers say he died in 1911. But his name, final resting place, and the reason for his early death remain a mystery.

He’s not alone.

The whereabouts of nearly two dozen others who died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys are also unknown, researchers said.

Those who once stayed at the reform school — and were subjected to regular lashings by school officials — say many more could be buried on the property of the now-shuttered state-run school, located in Marianna, a small town in Florida’s panhandle.

“I think there’s at least 100 more bodies,” Robert Straley, who was at the school for 10 months starting in 1963, said in a telephone interview.

“From 1900 to 1940 were the most brutal years in that place. Back then, a white boy’s life wasn’t worth much and a black boy’s life wasn’t worth anything.”

A clearer view of who died at the school, and why, may soon surface. On Saturday, a team of researchers began a year-long exhumation of burial sites on the school’s property.

But the abuse and suspicious deaths did not end in the 1960s,

Former residents at the school, including Straley, have led the push for setting the record straight about the school’s treatment of its young inmates, which came to light in a 2008 expose in the Miami Herald.

An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded in 2010 that, although it found dozens of graves, there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges related to allegations of physical and sexual abuse of boys at the school.

The state’s Department of Juvenile Justice closed the school in 2011 as the federal government was investigating allegations of maltreatment and abuse. The federal government ultimately faulted the state for poor oversight and violating the rights of the inmates.

Take a look at the link to that LA Times article to read more about the project being carried out by my alma mater, University of South Florida.

Now I will give you a few updates on some stories from earlier in the year.

Check it out…they are calling bullshit on the stories that there were bottles full of shit at the Texas Capitol during the Special Session back in July: Still No Evidence Abortion Rights Protesters Had Excrement In Texas Capitol Ahead Of Bill Debate

And in Utah, Welfare Drug Testing Catches Only 12 Users

From August 2012 through July 2013, the state prescreened 4,730 applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with a written test. The state followed up with an actual drug test for the 466 of those whose written answers suggested a likelihood of drug use.

The 466 tests turned out 12 positive results, as the Associated Press first reported. The results were similar when Florida launched welfare drug testing in 2011 and just 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive. National surveys usually find that about 8 percent of respondents used drugs in the previous month.

Utah’s drug screening cost the state about $31,000. But state Rep. Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) told HuffPost he thinks the bill saved more than it cost. He said an additional 247 Utahns dropped out of the TANF application process after they were told to expect a drug test.

“We had 247 who once we told them, ‘our test shows that you are likely using controlled substances, we need you to take a drug test,’ they refused to move forward with the process,” said Wilson, who sponsored the new law. “The Department of Workforce Services here in Utah estimates the benefits of those folks would have received would have been approximately $369,000 of, basically, benefits we didn’t pay to people who were most likely using controlled substances. We spent $31,000 on this program over the last year but we think we’ve saved at least $370,000, if not more.”

[…]

Utah’s law differs from Florida’s in that it first subjects TANF applicants to a questionnaire and only tests those whose answers give the state a reasonable suspicion of drug use. The reasonable suspicion standard makes the law less vulnerable to a civil liberties lawsuit alleging the tests violate the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search. Florida’s law called for blanket testing and was halted by federal courts after only a few months.

The Florida law also denied benefits to anyone who failed a test. Utah’s law asks applicants to enroll in drug treatment. Wilson said the 12 people who tested positive for drugs are still receiving benefits.

The article states that the twelve are currently in treatment.

One last update, this one is something that hits home for me, y’all know that my brother Denny has Down Syndrome…so please read this one in full…and then, take some time to read the comments. Opinion: Justice for Down syndrome man who died in movie theater – CNN.com

Robert Ethan Saylor died on January 12 after three sheriff's deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a movie theater.

Robert Ethan Saylor died on January 12 after three sheriff’s deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a movie theater.

One day last January, Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome, went to see the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” When it was over, Saylor briefly left the theater, then decided to return and see it again. The manager called security because Saylor didn’t pay, and three off-duty deputies, moonlighting at the mall, came in to confront him.

According to Frederick County, Maryland, police statements, he swore at them and refused to leave. The deputies tried to remove him, despite Saylor’s caretaker’s warnings and pleas for them to wait and let her take care of it. What happened next is a little unclear, but witnesses say the deputies put Saylor on the floor, held him down and handcuffed him. Saylor, called Ethan by his family, suffered a fracture in his throat cartilage. He died of asphyxiation.

The death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury failed to indict the deputies and they returned to work without charges.

My son has Down syndrome, so I have been following this case closely. But for months, it seemed as if only people in the disability community cared about it.

Petitions for independent investigations sputtered out with just a few hundred votes. Local reporting on the case never made a splash in national media. Meanwhile, the Frederick County sheriff investigated his men’s conduct, ruled they had followed procedure correctly, and tried to move on.

Police violence against people with disabilities is not uncommon, but the cases don’t seem to get a lot of publicity. Most people see the disabled as, at best, passive victims, objects to care for, perhaps to love, but not people with whom we automatically identify.

This is a mistake. We are all only temporarily able-bodied. Accidents, illness, and age wait for us all. What happened to Ethan Saylor could happen to you.

In July, his death began to get more attention. Heather Mizeur, a member of the Maryland House of Representatives and candidate for governor, seized on Saylor’s story and called for new training for law enforcement. Debra Alfarone, an investigative journalist in Washington, began to broadcast and write about the case. A petition asking Gov. Martin O’Malley to investigate went viral in mid-August, garnering 300,000 signatures in just a week. This petition fueled a renewed, suddenly national, media narrative. Ethan Saylor and #JusticeForEthan are now an official cause.

It is heartbreaking to know that the cops who killed Ethan are walking about…back at work, without being charged. Where is the outrage?  Perhaps Ethan should have worn a hoodie? Maybe this injustice would have gotten more attention.

It is sickening.

Like I said, read the whole piece, it moves on to focus on people with disabilities…and what rights they have…or in the case of Ethan, what rights he was denied that invariably caused his “homicide” and allowed the men who killed him to walk free.

Okay, one last nugget or link for you today. Over at TCM they are presenting a special series that will be on every Monday and Tuesday for the next 15 weeks! .: The Story of Film :.

TCM IS PROUD to present the U.S. television premiere of The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011), a 15-episode documentary directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, adapted from his 2004 book The Story of Film. Beginning in September and continuing through early December, one new episode, or “chapter,” will be introduced each Monday on TCM, with a lineup of related films. Tuesday evenings the thematic programming continues, and includes a re-airing of the previous night’s episode. By December, the entire festival will include 119 feature films and dozens of short subjects from 29 countries.

Cousins, a film critic from Northern Ireland, will appear as co-host with Robert Osborne in introducing the documentary, which uses film clips, interviews with filmmakers and location footage around the world to take viewers through filmmaking history from the late 19th century to today.

Here is the schedule in PDF format and you can find the Episode Guide is here.

The first episode was shown this week, and it was so damn interesting, be sure to catch the rest of the series if you can.

So…it is good to be back, guess I need to get caught up on current events. Seriously, I don’t know if I can do that just yet. Y’all have a good morning and I’ll see you around in the comments.


Wednesday Morning Reads: Michael Hastings, Immigration and Fetus Fanatics

0000-5575Good Morning

The news broke last night, Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash.

Statement On Michael Hastings

BuzzFeed is saddened to report that Michael Hastings died in a car accident early this morning in Los Angeles. He was 33.

Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement:
We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone. Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold. Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.

Michael Hastings Dead at 33 | Politics News | Rolling Stone

Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.

Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

michael hastings

Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.

A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.”

“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” says Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, “the sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours. He will be missed.”

Boston Boomer posted in the comments last night that there is speculation that perhaps this was a suicide?

More on this from the LA Times: Michael Hastings’ death remains under investigation 

Authorities are continuing to sort out the details of an auto accident that apparently claimed the life of award-winning journalist Michael Hastings.

The death of the 33-year-old Hastings was announced by his employer, BuzzFeed, which said he died in a Los Angeles car accident.

But the Los Angeles county coroner’s office had yet to determine Tuesday night whether a body recovered from a fiery car crash was that of Hastings.

The body was badly charred and identified only as “John Doe 117,” law enforcement authorities told the Los Angeles Times.

Coroner’s officials were attempting to match dental records to help make a positive identification, according to authorities.

The crash occurred early Tuesday on Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue.

An earlier LA Times article stated: Michael Hastings was working in L.A. when he died in car crash

Journalist Michael Hastings was living in Los Angeles and reporting on national security issues and the entertainment industry when he died early Tuesday in a car crash in the city, according to his employer.

[…]

The 33-year-old Hastings was writing for BuzzFeed and joined the organization’s Los Angeles bureau after it opened in October.

“Michael Hastings will bring his hard-hitting reporting on national security and politics to the BuzzFeed Los Angeles Bureau while contributing to entertainment coverage as a Correspondent at Large,” BuzzFeed said at the time.

[…]

BuzzFeed did not provide an address of the car crash, saying only that it occurred in Los Angeles early Tuesday.

There was only one fatal car crash reported in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning involving a vehicle that smashed into a tree and burst into flames in the 600 block of North Highland Avenue in Hancock Park, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Authorities with the LAPD and Los Angeles County coroner’s office told The Times Tuesday evening that they had not identified the victim in that crash because the body was burned beyond recognition.

One report says that Buzzfeed learned of Hastings death from a family member.

In other news:

BBC News – Afghan attack kills US soldiers hours after news of talks

Four US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, hours after the US announced direct talks with the Taliban.

The soldiers were killed by “indirect fire” from insurgents at Bagram air base, US officials said.

Bagram, near the Afghan capital Kabul, is the largest military base for US troops in Afghanistan.

A condition for the talks, due to begin on Thursday in Qatar, was for the Taliban to renounce violence.

In comments made before the news of the attack emerged, US President Barack Obama said the announcement of talks was an “important first step toward reconciliation”.

The talks are set to take place in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have just opened their first official overseas office.

US officials said prisoner exchanges would be one topic for discussion with the Taliban, but the first weeks would mainly be used to explore each other’s agendas.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government was also sending delegates to Qatar to talk to the Taliban.

Also on Tuesday, Nato handed over responsibility for security for the whole of the country to Afghan security forces.

International troops are to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.

And over in the US…In Partisan Vote, House Approves Ban on Abortions After 22 Weeks – NYTimes.com

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the most restrictive ban on abortion considered by Congress in a decade, a largely symbolic vote that laid bare the deep ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans.

The measure, which would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses at that stage of development are capable of feeling pain, passed in a 228-to-196 vote that broke down mostly along party lines. Reflecting how little common ground the two parties share these days, just six Republicans voted against the bill; six Democrats voted for it.

“I’m not waging a war on anyone,” said Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, offering a rejoinder to the Democratic assertion that Republicans have waged a war on women, a line of attack that harmed conservative candidates in 2012. “Regardless of your personal beliefs, I would hope that stopping atrocities against little babies is something we can all agree to put an end to.”

The bill has no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate and was put forward by the House Republican leadership in response to demands from anti-abortion lawmakers.

It is a good thing it doesn’t have a chance in hell on making it past the Senate, but this is fucking ridiculous. Check this out: Maddow Tears Apart GOP Fringe Views, Fetal Masturbation Theory: They Keep Finding New Ways To Shock Us | Mediaite

Rachel Maddow opened her show tonight taking the Republican party to task again for their continuing insistence on fighting for stricter and stricter anti-abortion laws, culminating in the GOP-led House today passing a huge federal ban. Maddow found time to break down everything from reminding viewers about the Todd Akins of the party to her explicit shock at today’s newest claim that fetuses masturbate. Yes, that’s where this debate has gone to now.

[…]

Maddow then reminded viewers how the Republicans in Congress have a penchant of questionable decisions in appointing certain members of Congress to certain committees, including Jeff Duncan, Homeland Security Oversight Committee chair and apparent birther, Paul Broun, House science committee member and evolution denier, and Michael Burgess, vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and believer in the idea that fetuses masturbate.

Maddow slammed Broun for trying to remove his name from the Republican anti-abortion bill due to alterations permitting exceptions in cases of rape and incest, but had nothing but shock for Burgess’ bizarre comments. She remarked that with all the anti-abortion rhetoric going around in the last few years, “I felt like I had lost the capacity to be surprised before I heard the fetal masturbation theory.”

Maddow said the GOP attempted to try and put out a more articulate voice by letting Marsha Blackburn push for the abortion bill. However, on MSNBC, Blackburn said that when women report rapes, it gives police people to track down and bring to justice. Maddow described this as “House Republicans effectively forcing you to use your uterus and access to it as a means of helping the police with their investigations.”

Maddow remarked that the GOP’s latest attempt to ban abortion is farther than they’ve ever gone before, even as House Speaker John Boehner insists that jobs are their number one concern.

That Mediate article calls this group of nutcases the GOP Fringe, but this is not the fringe, just take a look at that House vote up top…it ain’t fringe baby…that is the Grand Old Party for ya.

Also, last night John Oliver was kicking ass on the Daily Show, so if you have some time please watch this video clip: John Oliver Tears Into GOP Over Immigration Reform: A ‘Border Fence Built Out Of Ignorance And Spite’

John Oliver opened tonight’s Daily Show tearing into the Republican party for their stubbornness in holding back immigration reform from becoming law. Congress, which Oliver said is in a “nail-biting three-way tie for least popular branch of government,” is set to take up a bill, but there’s been a lot of resistance in the GOP, which Oliver described as a “1000-foot high border fence built out of ignorance and spite.”

Oliver first applauded Republicans for recognizing the most important reason they need to get immigration reform done: they need the Hispanic vote. Of course, the Democrats are acting just as pandering, with one senator making a floor speech in Spanish. Oliver mockingly suggested, “Perhaps you would like to wash down your Latino pandering with a margarita.”

Of course, the GOP may take more convincing, because as Oliver put it, they’ll resist immigration reform like “a frat boy with a condom.” He also mocked Jeb Bush saying immigrants are more fertile, telling him he shouldn’t make his argument “They’re baby machines who love to fuck!”

Oliver also slammed Republicans for their demand that immigrants need to learn English, and for an amendment that would require 90 percent border security. In other words, as Oliver said, “Bring nine friends with you and get in free!”

Then the second part of the segment included a bit with former WWE wrestler Mick Foley that knocked the redneck WWE immigration propaganda showdown on it’s ass.  (I will post a link to the video clip when it gets posted online.)

Here is the link to the video clip:http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-18-2013/immigration—the-wwe

Tuesday June 18, 2013

Immigration & the WWE

Professional wrestling engages in a more articulate immigration debate than anything heard in Congress. (06:54)
Watch more clips from this episode or the entire show.

And finally, High Level of Radioactive Strontium Found in Groundwater Near Fukishima Plant – NYTimes.com

Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, said Wednesday that it had detected high levels of radioactive strontium in groundwater at the plant, raising concerns that its storage tanks are leaking contaminated water, possibly into the ocean. The operator said it had found strontium-90 at 30 times Japan’s safety limit in groundwater near its No. 2 reactor, which suffered a fuel meltdown in 2011. The company has struggled to store growing amounts of contaminated runoff at the plant, but had previously denied that the site’s groundwater was highly toxic. If ingested, strontium-90 can linger in bones, emitting radiation inside the body that can lead, in time, to cancer.

Honestly, does anyone really believe the reports TEPCO gives regarding the radioactive levels around Fukushima? /snark.

So that is all I can bring you this morning, it is enough to get you started. What are you reading about today?