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Well, this sucks. (climate change, debt growth, school shootings, and more) August 7, 2018

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“This two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.” They’re…not kidding. It’s heartbreaking.

“By almost every measure, the U.S. economy is booming. But a look behind the headlines of roaring job growth and consumer spending reveals how the boom continues in large part by the poorer half of Americans fleecing their savings and piling up debt.

Twice as many students have been killed in school shootings [in 2018] as have members of the military who were on deployment.”

“Terrorist attacks committed by Muslim extremists receive 357% more US press coverage than those committed by non-Muslims, according to new research from the University of Alabama. […] The disparity in media coverage is particularly out of sync with the reality given that white and rightwing terrorists carried out nearly twice as many terrorist attacks as Muslim extremists between 2008 and 2016.

“Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men’s prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man.” This one has turned up some awful comments about “well, he deserved the death penalty, regardless of how he got it.” No. Stop. You really think this problem will only affect “the bad ones” and leave “the good ones” alone? Because that’s Not How It Works. See previous link. Or, alternately, all of history.

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Seaweed, marshmallows, phantom hands, and other science tidbits July 9, 2018

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How a mistakenly-hired seaweed scientist helped win WWII. (Bletchley Park tried to recruit a cryptogramist…well, a cryptogamist is a biologist who studies seaweed, mosses, and ferns.)

According to my mother, my missing pectoral muscle was noticed almost immediately by the doctor who delivered me. There was no diagnosis of any cause for the defect, and I’m not sure if she even asked. It was just missing, and I accepted that absence as a simple fact for most of my childhood.”

“RN’s case is interesting because the hand that was amputated only had three fingers to begin with. One would expect that her phantom limb would be a replica of the hand she lost. But that’s not what happened. RN reported feeling five fingers on her phantom hand. They weren’t five normal fingers—her thumb and index finger felt shorter than the rest—but there were definitely five.

“While students of all categories suffered from class-induced jet lag, the study found that night owls were especially vulnerable, many appearing so chronically jet-lagged that they were unable to perform optimally at any time of day.”

“Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”

And the laptop Negroponte was pitching in 2005 simply didn’t exist. [One Laptop Per Child]’s prototype was little more than a mockup. It hadn’t signed a manufacturer, let alone priced out a sub-$100 product. Groundbreaking technologies like the crank and mesh networking system were still mostly theoretical.”

“Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.

“Avoid unkind generalizations like equating the jailing of ethnic minorities with some malevolent form of fascism.” July 6, 2018

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Talking about imprisoned immigrants at the protest last week, a Jewish woman read this poem.

So yeah, I’ve sent $18 each to HOLA Ohio, Kids In Need Of Defense, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, and the Ohio ACLU.

“The medical staffing shortage is of particular concern. This week, initial tests for tuberculosis came back positive for some new arrivals, and further testing will be required to determine whether they might be contagious. Other immigrants have arrived with rashes and skin legions, which are “basically being put on hold because we don’t have the medical staff to treat them,” says Kostelnik.

“A week later, Mr. Garcia was still being held by immigration officials, and his family was preparing to spend Father’s Day without him. […] Mr. Garcia’s case appears to show just how sweeping ICE can be in making arrests regardless of an immigrant’s legal status or how long ago their criminal case was resolved.

The service members affected by the recent discharges all enlisted in recent years under a special program aimed at bringing medical specialists and fluent speakers of 44 sought-after languages into the military.” This is so transparently, blatantly not about making us safer.

Civility tips from The Onion: “Avoid unkind generalizations like equating the jailing of ethnic minorities with some malevolent form of fascism.”

Guys, imagine what they would say if Hillary compulsively ripped up all her papers. Just IMAGINE. July 4, 2018

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White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law.”

A combined 20 people have died in the Sodini, Rodger, and Minassian attacks. None of it was hard to see coming. The radical misogynist ideology behind the incel attacks was not remotely obscure.”

“But no matter whose fault it is, giving birth to a child with a terminal disease is something I did do. This is just as obvious as it is important: I am the one who was pregnant and gave birth to Dudley. That I continued my pregnancy under mistaken pretenses feels like an irreparable violation, one that I don’t think any man — including the one who loves Dudley as much as I do — is capable of understanding.

“Tell me again how much God hates abortion. Here, he’s giving the recipe for a drink that induces one.” (Numbers 5:11-31)

“While some claim targets for the inclusion of underrepresented groups lead to the promotion of individuals that do not deserve it, economists at the London School of Economics found that the reverse is true. Quotas can work to weed out incompetent men.

Apparently the uptick in allergies over the past few decades can be traced, at least partly, to sex differences in post-Dutch-Elm-disease urban tree-planting patterns, beginning in the 1980s.

“Media attention to rape in film is targeted mostly at how audiences perceive the scenes and lamenting the studios’ sheer mass of sexual violence on screen. Many articles ask the question: Are these scenes gratuitous? But rarely do we think about the filmmakers, actors and crew who make on-screen rapes happen, like MacNair. How do they feel?

“The Erics who spoke up with change-oriented ideas were far more likely to be identified as leaders than Erics who simply critiqued their team’s performance. But Ericas did not receive a boost in status from sharing ideas even though they were exactly the same as the Erics’.”

“So the student researchers were surprised when their hypothesis proved false – code written by women was in fact more likely to be approved by their peers than code written by men. But that wasn’t the end of the story: this only proved true as long as their peers didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

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

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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.”

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.