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Guns in the hands of people who should not have guns. June 15, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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People killed by police in the US, 2018. Currently at 524.

“For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.” The government is coming down hard on the background-checking employee who couldn’t log in. Buried in the article is the reveal that she never even asked for the job: “Wilde told the Times she had been working in the mailroom when she was given oversight of the database in 2013. ‘I didn’t understand why I was put in charge of it.’

At Gun World in Hilliard, Ohio, a dealer was found in 2016 to have repeatedly sold firearms to people who appeared to be prohibited from owning them, including a customer who self-identified as a felon. It is a federal crime for a felon to have a gun. An A.T.F. inspector recommended the store’s license be revoked. […] Gun World remains open. When reached by telephone, an employee at Gun World hung up.”

Guns will be barred during Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at an upcoming National Rifle Association convention to protect his safety.” So even the NRA won’t stand behind the NRA’s “more guns = more safety” claim.

Citigroup won’t do business with companies that don’t background-check their gun sales. As a commenter notes: “I have worked for several banks, and they all have criteria for determining who they will do business with. Unacceptable lines of business often are those engaged in marijuana/drug sales, adult retail or film industry, gambling.”

In Indiana, after the enactment of the [“red flag”] law [in 2005], we saw a 7.5 percent decrease in firearms suicides in the 10 years that followed […] We didn’t see any notable increase or decrease in non-firearms suicide.”

“According to a 2008 RAND Corporation study evaluating the New York Police Department’s firearm training, between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate during gunfights was just 18 percent. When suspects did not return fire, police officers hit their targets 30 percent of the time.

Two Gardena police officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of using their position to acquire firearms and illegally selling more than 100 of the weapons to others, including a convicted felon.”

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Fun art/comics/fandom links. June 9, 2018

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“Clark Kent is still Clark Kent, no Spanish name for him. However, most superheroes, villains and supporting characters have Spanish names.

How manga characters change and evolve: before-and-after photosets.

I laughed. “Thanks, Sasuke420, I guess not everyone is as serious as I am about the Classic Ships.” Then I turned on the best song, “Spice World,” by the Spice Girls. I saw his eyes go wide as he got my musical reference. He was a keeper.”

(And from FFA: What would your Ready Player One: Girl Edition references be?)

“Among the dozens of works on display in a new show at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is one that is possibly the first depiction of a same sex couple—the silhouettes of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant of Weybridge, Vermont, entwined in braided human hair that is also shaped into a heart.” (…not sure where they’re getting “first” from, given that there are depictions of same-sex couples going back to ancient Greek pottery, but still.)

“To demonstrate the media’s severe butch-phobia problem, I’ve put together a visual list of 100 ‘girl-meets-girl’ pairings that have something in common…They’re all ‘femme/femme’ pairings (catered to male fantasy and often portrayed as sexually flexible).” (Much as I feel them on the lack of butch characters, I admit I’m pleasantly surprised there was this much canon f/f on TV at all.)

“Drench” is an unfairly addicting point-and-click puzzle game. Reminds me of Minesweeper, but with prettier colors.

“But when worldbuilding fails, it can wreck your whole story, and leave your characters feeling pointless. Here are seven deadly sins of worldbuilding.

Mueller’s investigation has obtained 5 guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments. So far. June 7, 2018

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“A majority of Americans — 59 percent — say in a new survey that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the 2016 campaign has not yet uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though in reality, Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments.

“Benjamin Franklin wrote that ‘perhaps I am partial to the complexion of my country, for such kind of partiality is natural to mankind.’ He favored ‘the English’ and ‘white people,’ and did not want Pennsylvania to become a ‘colony of aliens,’ who ‘will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.’ He was speaking of the Germans.”

“Their study finds a correlation between white American’s intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

“During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

I get a letter from the state saying I’m a witness against Lula Smart—for what? All I know is it’s a lie. Bottom line. She’s never brought me anything about voting. I’ve only seen that girl twice in the past five years. Racism’s all it is.”

Count up your assets, subtract your debt, get some data: “The [Boston] household median net worth was $247,500 for whites; $8 for US blacks (the lowest of all five cities); $12,000 for Caribbean blacks; $3,020 for Puerto Ricans; and $0 for Dominicans (that’s not a typo either.) ”

“When Kevin Smith was jailed on a drug charge in New Orleans in 2010, Blockbuster was still renting DVDs and President Barack Obama was still trying to pass his signature health care bill. Smith’s case never went to a jury.” They finally dismissed the charges, after nearly 8 years of holding this poor guy without a trial.

Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).”

We need to stop treating the NFL like anything other than what it is: a for-profit association of billionaires (the average franchise value is $2.5 billion) that produces a product that hundreds of millions of Americans pay for.”

Trashing our oceans, killing our power grids, burning down our buildings, and more May 22, 2018

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“In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

“The river is fed by 51 tributaries, some of them overflowing with plastic waste from squatter settlements that cantilever precariously over creek banks. A tributary near Chinatown, where rickety shanties are wedged between modern buildings, is so choked with plastic debris you can walk across it, forgoing the footbridge.

“A new report from the Rhodium Group on Puerto Rico’s ongoing blackout has found that Hurricane Maria has spawned the second-largest power outage in the world on record.

Fundraising for a Dallas LGBT community center that was intentionally set on fire last year. They’ve gotten enough to do a lot of rebuilding, but they can always use more.

In 2012 a call center in India was busted for making 8 million calls in eight months to collect made-up bills. The Federal Trade Commission has since broken up at least 13 similar scams. In most cases, regulators weren’t able to identify the original perpetrators because the data files had been sold and repackaged so many times. Victims have essentially no recourse to do anything but take the abuse.”

“For those of you who work in social media, I need to share the story of my friend who died, and I didn’t know because algorithms.

“The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing. [..] The Nazis realized they couldn’t beat the bot, so they started mass-reporting it to Twitter for “harassment.”

And to end this post on a not-totally-disheartening note…”In short, in fighting neo-Nazis/alt-right/white-male discontent / We are the Globo-Corpo-Homo-Judeo establishment

“She said no one had contacted her until news reporters began calling her Tuesday morning.” May 18, 2018

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People killed by police in the US – over 400 so far this year, and the list-compiler is asking for donations so they can keep up the work.

VICE News sought records on officer-involved shootings from the country’s 50 largest local police departments; 47 responded with data sufficient for analysis. Many fought hard to keep the information secret, and some responded to our requests only under threat of legal action. One department sent a CD-ROM containing a single spreadsheet file through the mail.”

I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High and she kept yelling at me. Then the guy came downstairs and he grabbed the gun. I saw it and started to run. And that’s when I heard the gunshot.” This poor kid. I’m so glad he made it out of that alive.

“One of the suspects, A’Donte Washington, 16, of Montgomery, who was armed with a revolver, allegedly pointed a gun at the officer, body cam footage showed. The officer fired at the teenager, killing him. [A different, unarmed teenager] was charged with Washington’s death despite not firing the shots […] A grand jury cleared the officer who fired the shots.” What even.

“Melissa Yatsko said she was stunned on Tuesday when she learned for the first time that her 21-year-old son was shot and killed Saturday by an off-duty police officer working security at the Corner Alley bowling alley and bar in University Circle. She said no one had contacted her until news reporters began calling her Tuesday morning.” Justice for Thomas Yatsko.

“Clements’ truck was immobilized and surrounded by at least seven officers. A K-9 unit was on the scene. The officer in charge even informed the other police officers on the scene to use rubber bullets first, and then a Taser. Instead, they shot her in the head.” Justice for Decynthia Clements.

“Black Lives Matters and other various groups again protested the shooting of the 22-year-old, who was shot to death by police in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18. Clark was clutching only a cellphone when two Sacramento police officers, who were wearing body cameras, fired a fusillade of 20 shots.” Justice for Stephon Clark.

“Investigators and prosecutors in Kansas and California, and with the federal government are trying to untangle the strands of a swatting case that ended with a police officer fatally shooting a 28-year-old father of two standing in his front door.” Justice for Andrew Thomas Finch. (Who isn’t black, but you’ll notice the lack of All Lives Matter rallies on his behalf.)

The Onion: “To any law enforcement officer unsure about the object a civilian is holding, we recommend looking at the firearm in your own hand and looking back for parallels between its physical qualities and those of the object in a suspect’s hands.

Republicans Behaving Badly (voter fraud, identity theft, and more) May 5, 2018

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“[Kris Kobach] said it was necessary to root out tens of thousands of undocumented aliens who were voting as well as tens of thousands more who he claimed were voting in two states. Two years later, Kobach has produced exactly nine convictions. Most of them were not illegal immigrants but rather older registered Republicans.

“[Clarence Thomas’s] worldview, with its consistent objectification of women, is the one that’s shaping the contours of what’s possible for women in America today, more than that of just about any man alive, save for his fellow justices. And given the evidence that’s come out in the years since, it’s also time to raise the possibility of impeachment.

Jeff Sessions ad-libbed “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.

Volitich boasted about bringing her white nationalist beliefs into the classroom and hiding her ideology from administrators.” This is a middle-school teacher.

“While their cases were in various stages of immigration proceedings, seven people had their identities stolen by the chief counsel for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Seattle.” Because of course.

Hey, did you know defective guns can’t be recalled? Not a joke. There are gun models that can go off when you drop ’em, and no product recalls. April 5, 2018

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People killed by police in the US, 2018. Currently at 333.

“Taurus sold almost a million handguns that can potentially fire without anyone pulling the trigger. The government won’t fix the problem. The NRA is silent.” Every time I think I’ve heard the most insane thing about the lack of gun regulation in this country, I get proven wrong. In the US you can freely sell defective guns and they won’t be recalled.

Beginning with Columbine in 1999, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours, according to a year-long Washington Post analysis. This means that the number of children who have been shaken by gunfire in the places they go to learn exceeds the population of Eugene, Ore., or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.”

“Marco Rubio […] wrote a letter to Ms. DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioning whether the [Obama-era racial discipline] guidance allowed the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, to evade law enforcement and carry out the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High. It was, on its face, an odd point: Mr. Cruz is white, and far from evading school disciplinary procedures, he had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas.

“These violent outbursts last year, and others like them, had key things in common. Chief among them: Long before the violence, the people identified as attackers had elicited concerns from those who had encountered them, red flags that littered their paths to wreaking havoc on unsuspecting strangers.”

“A north Georgia high school teacher was arrested on Wednesday after he barricaded himself in a classroom and fired a shot from his handgun out of a window, police said.” But sure, let’s give the teachers guns.

I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat. We used it because it was the most lethal — the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands.” A veteran and a Republican congressman. Will that make people more likely to listen?

There are gun laws that make people safer, and then there are gun laws the NRA likes. February 28, 2018

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“After the Newtown massacre of schoolchildren in 2012, President Obama issued an executive order instructing the CDC to “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.” But the agency has refused unless it receives a specific appropriation to cover the research. Congress played its obligatory role in acting as the NRA’s cat’s-paw by repeatedly rejecting bills to provide $10 million for the work.”

“The [Johns Hopkins Bloomberg] survey, believed to be the first nationally representative sample in 15 years to examine gun storage practices in U.S. households, found that 54 percent of gun owners reported not storing all their guns safely.

“When Coral Springs police officers arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 in the midst of the school shooting crisis, many officers were surprised to find not only that Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but that three other Broward County Sheriff’s deputies were also outside the school and had not entered.” Good Guys With Guns are batting 0 for 4 so far.

Police in Amarillo shot an innocent man who helped foil a possible church shooting.” That’s right, these Good Guys With Guns shot more innocent people than the armed hostage-taker did.

“Rather than fault the ideologues or the National Rifle Association (NRA), which advocate and promote the ownership and use of high-capacity assault weapons, gun extremists blame the FBI and local law enforcement, though that law enforcement went to the Parkland assailant’s house 39 times but had no legal authority to take him into custody, to disarm him, or to require him to seek mental health treatment.” When the NRA gets laws passed that even the police agree make us less safe.

Here’s some good news:

“After Connecticut’s General Assembly passed the package of gun laws, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, signed it into law, gun-related deaths started to drop. According to the chief medical examiner’s office in Connecticut, the number of deaths resulting from firearms — including homicides, suicides and accidents — fell to 164 in 2016, from 226 in 2012.

Every time gun deaths come up in the news, there’s some article about a factor I hadn’t even thought about, but that seems so obvious once it was pointed out. Like this (which doubles as more good news):

“ThinkProgress asked more than two dozen corporations that offer incentives to NRA members whether they plan to continue their relationships with the gun lobby. A growing number of those companies have ended their relationship with the NRA since this list was initially published.”

And this:

“An aspect of gun control that other countries practice that doesn’t come up in America a lot is ammunition control. In Japan, if you’re one of the privileged few allowed to own a gun (and only shotguns and rifles are legal), you have to return all your spent cartridges if you want to buy any more. In Israel, after you’ve purchased the one gun you’re allowed to own, you’re given a box of 50 bullets, and that’s it. You can’t buy any ammunition anywhere, that’s your lifetime supply, although a shooting range will provide you with more, but only for use at that range. Even in countries with more relaxed gun control laws, like Switzerland and Serbia, buying ammunition requires all the same paperwork as buying a gun (mental health records, criminal records, etc) and you can only buy ammo for the gun you own. Gun control advocates in the US should consider placing an emphasis on ammunition control in addition to everything else.

Always remember that there are things we can do. NRA-backed politicians just won’t do them. February 15, 2018

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Including links I’ve been saving since last year.

School Shooting in Kentucky Was Nation’s 11th of Year. It Was Jan. 23.

“The 32-year-olds connected immediately. They joked about their mutual love of golf. He recommended new beers for her to try as she showed him the large floral tattoo covering much of her back. They realized that they were both staying at the Luxor.” A heartbreaking profile from the Vegas shooting.

“If Cruz’s role is confirmed, the Parkland school shooting would be the second school shooting by a white supremacist in the past two months. ”

When you’re on that list, lying about it in order to buy a gun is a federal felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Yet of the thousands of denials referred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, federal prosecutors pursued charges in only 20 cases in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available.”

“Gun violence researchers say that no law can eliminate the risk of mass shootings, which are unpredictable and represent a small minority of gun homicides over all. But there are a handful of policies that could reduce the likelihood of such events, or reduce the number of people killed when such shootings do occur. And several of them have strong public support.

Link roundup about banned words & bad healthcare. January 16, 2018

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Banned words at the CDC. I guess the hope is that if you don’t talk about trans people, vulnerabilities, and science, eventually they’ll stop existing?

More than a decade of heart problems left him with a fragile cardiovascular system, and the smoke from the grenade thrown into his home by police did not help. He would never recover after the September 2015 raid, which was carried out by 22nd Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force agents in the small South Alabama town of Andalusia. Coughing up blood, Wayne Bonam was hospitalized weeks later. He died the following November.” As if his family didn’t have enough to grieve at this point, the police also took his house.

Because we don’t have a functional healthcare system in this country, breast cancer patients are relying on a 10-year-old’s bake sale to pay for their treatment. (Major kudos to the 10-year-old, but this is still hella depressing overall.)

“What autistic children actually need are parents who focus on accepting their kids’ current realities as autistic individuals, so those kids are equipped not merely to cope, but to thrive. Since the rest of the world tends to be unforgiving to kids who fall outside standard social operating parameters, it’s important that autistic kids are treated like people rather than works-in-progress by their own families.”

Over the past two decades, the U.S. labor market has undergone a quiet transformation, as companies increasingly forgo full-time employees and fill positions with independent contractors, on-call workers or temps—what economists have called ‘alternative work arrangements’ or the ‘contingent workforce.'”

“The benefit also served as a modest incentive for people to take a healthy and environmentally friendly mode of travel to their jobs.” So, naturally, the Republican tax scam axed it. Because what we really need is more tax breaks to go to millionaires with private jets.