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?”
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.
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.
From 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
“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.
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.
New York Times: Chattanooga Attacks Claim a Fifth Service Person’s Life.
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.