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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.”

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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

It’s the [Democrats being better for the] economy, stupid May 7, 2018

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Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.” The Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. Full stop.

The results of [raising taxes in Minnesota] continue to surprise and delight: unemployment is down to 3.7%, private sector earnings are up 1.5% to $891/week, 47,000 new jobs were added to the economy in the past year, and the state just declared a $1.8B budget surplus, even as Forbes ranked it 9th in its table of best states for business. But this is all the more remarkable when compared the fate of the Republican-run, austerity-fuelled neighboring states […] They are running deficits, the people there are earning less than their Minnesotan cousins, they’re adding fewer (and worse) jobs, and posting less growth.”

If you’re a part-time employee at Walmart, and all of a sudden you can get $15 an hour, work full time, and earn full benefits by working for the federal government — wouldn’t you? And, knowing that, wouldn’t Walmart try to increase wages to keep you?”

Study Confirms What Your Grandmother Already Taught You: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “Want a healthier population? Spend less on health care and more on social services.”

Canceling all the government-owned student debt would be good for the economy. I’ve said it before, but this time I’m saying it with all my own debt paid off.

Periodic reminder that SNAP is one of the most effective economic stimuli we have, where every dollar spent gets back $1.79.

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.

Erin Watches: Scandal’s final season, episodes 1-7 January 7, 2018

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I got caught up on the currently-airing Season 7 of Scandal while working on comics. (Previous reaction posts: on Dreamwidth, on WordPress.)

Everyone is still terrible. With the possible exception of…uh…I guess Marcus. (President Mellie’s ex-affair, currently Ex-President Fitz’s minder.)

High points of terribleness:

  • Cyrus is Mellie’s VP, because heaven forbid we have new characters be important on this show.
  • In the first episode, B613!Olivia is told she’ll need to have someone (a captured spy) murdered for the sake of national security, and her reaction is “hOW could you think I would DO such a thing??!?” At the start of the episode, we recap how she murdered Luna Vargas. Over the course of it, she sends a sniper to threaten a foreign leader’s elementary-age children. Yes, Olivia, how can we suggest murder to you, that’s such an insult to your stainless honor.
  • A couple episodes later, she firebombs a plane carrying a Muslim foreign leader and his teenage lesbian niece. That’s our Olivia!
  • Republicans are championing a free-college-for-all bill. Democrats are secretly scheming to block it, even though they like the idea, because they wouldn’t be able to claim the win. Because Scandal takes place in Bizarro America.
  • When an obnoxious billionaire businessman says he might “drop a couple mill” and run for President, Cyrus gives him an impassioned speech about how the office is sacred and belongs to the people. This is the same Cyrus who got the last POTUS into office by voter fraud, and the current POTUS (and himself) into office by double-murder. Much sacred, very respect.
  • Olivia keeps giving Mellie these intense, passionate speeches about “you are not alone, I always have your back, I am the only one who’s with you, I will make you a monument.” Why it doesn’t immediately segue into them making out, I do not know.
  • Quinn puts together the pieces about Olivia’s secret firebombing, then goes missing on her wedding day. Olivia assumes Quinn went into hiding to plot her downfall…and pretends to lead the team on a fast-paced search, while secretly waging an even faster-paced campaign to plant false leads and erase evidence before they get to it. Turns out Quinn was kidnapped! All Olivia’s machinations only slowed them down from rescuing her! Our hero.
  • One of those false leads prompts Quinn’s not-yet-husband to kidnap and torture an innocent man. Goody.
  • Jake (who is now B16’s #2, remember) insists that the only villains here are the kidnappers, and urges Olivia not to blame herself. Really? Because I will totally blame Olivia.
  • Oh, almost forgot to mention — Ex-President Fitz is moping around his mansion in Vermont (Marcus describes both the state and the guy as “Cold. White.”), wallowing in how lonely and powerless he is. Go join Habitat for Humanity and build some houses, you whiny moron.

Nice and hopeful links. (No, really.) December 21, 2017

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‘We are Muslims and we’d never had a Christmas tree in our home,’ says Riffat. ‘But these children were Christian and we wanted them to feel connected to their culture.’ So he bought a Christmas tree, decorations and presents. The couple worked until the early hours putting the tree up and wrapping presents. The first thing the children saw the next morning was the tree.”

“On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov received a message that five nuclear missiles had been launched by the United States and were heading to Moscow. He didn’t launch a retaliatory strike, believing correctly that it was a false alarm. And with that, he saved the world from nuclear war.

The 1928 international treaty that outlawed conquest . . . and worked. Nations still go to war for plenty of other reasons, but conquest has screeched almost to a halt.

Letting teens sleep in would save the country roughly $9 billion a year.” Partly because they’ll do better in school, partly because of fewer sleep-deprived adolescents crashing their cars.

First baby in the US born via uterus transplant!

World hunger can be eradicated. A price has been set and estimated by the United Nations to solve this crisis – $30 billion a year. It may seem like a large sum of money, but when compared to the U.S. defense budget – $737 billion in 2012 – $30 billion seems more attainable.”