Saturday, June 27, 2015

American hero

Well done.
A Charlotte woman successfully shimmied the flagpole of the South Carolina Statehouse’s Confederate Soldier Monument and took down the Confederate battle flag.
Bree Newsome, 30, dressed in climbing gear and helmet, removed the flag just after 6 a.m., about four hours before a pro-Confederate flag rally was set to take place at the monument.
Newsome and James Ian Tyson, 30, also of Charlotte, were arrested by Department of Public Safety officers as soon as Newsome touched the ground. The two were later charged with defacing a monument. Tyson was inside the wrought iron fence surrounding the 30-foot pole helping Newsome, DPS said.
A judge later set the bond for the two of them at $3,000. If convicted, they could spend up to three years in jail and pay a fine of up to $5,000.
The flag was down for about an hour before it was replaced with a new one, said DPS Spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli.
The group of activists, which includes a few members of the Black Lives Matter movement, that helped organize the climb said in a release that it was an effort “to do what the SC legislature has thus far neglected to do.”
“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer,” Newsome said in the statement. “We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

LA police critically wound unarmed man

LA police shoot a man armed with a towel:
An unarmed man was shot in the head and critically wounded by Los Angeles police officers on Friday night, after he appeared to be flagging them down for assistance.
A passerby recorded graphic video of the incident from a car, and then posted it on Twitter. The video showed officers turning over the man, who appeared to be unconscious and lying on his face, and handcuffing his hands behind his back as his head bled profusely.
The Los Angeles police department said the man, who was not immediately named, had a towel wrapped around his hand and the two officers believed he was concealing a weapon.
 The man reportedly waved over the officers in their patrol car in the quiet Los Feliz area of LA, north-east of Hollywood, at about 6.30pm. The officers got out of their vehicle and one ordered the man to “drop the gun”, LAPD lieutenant John Jenal told local television news on Friday night.
Jenal said the man “extended his arm towards the officers”. The man did not respond to the police order and he was shot, Jenal said.
How are you supposed to respond to a police order to drop a gun you don't have?
The man, who is believed to be Hispanic and in his forties, was taken to hospital. On Saturday afternoon, his condition was described as grave.
Witnesses said they heard three or four shots ring out during the confrontation.
The LAPD said on Saturday it was standard procedure to handcuff any suspect.
Of course. And standard procedure is to be followed no matter what. Unless it involves shooting someone.

And what's with the 'suspect'? What is this man suspected of, besides possessing a towel? He's a victim, of a police gunshot to the head.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mass shootings increasing in US

File this under "No Shit Sherlock":
If it seems like mass shootings are becoming more common, researchers say there's a good reason: They are.
Between a 2011 shooting at an IHOP restaurant in Carson City, Nev., that left four people dead and the 2013 attack on the Washington Navy Yard where 12 people were killed, a mass shooting occurred somewhere in America once every 64 days, on average.
In the preceding 29 years, such shootings occurred on average every 200 days, according to an analysis by researchers from Harvard University's School of Public Health and Northeastern University.
 The study defined a mass shooting as an outbreak of firearms violence in which four or more victims were killed and the shooter was unknown to most of his victims.
Not only are such shootings more common, they have also become more deadly. In the 10-year period that ended with the Washington Navy Yard attack, a total of 285 people died in such events. In the 13 years before that, 151 people perished in mass shootings.
Between Jan. 1, 2014, and May 26, 2015, 195 more people in the United States have been slain in an additional 43 shootings, according to statistics drawn from Mass Shootings Tracker, a Wiki-style site.
 That doesn't include the nine victims killed Wednesday night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
Although the fatalities in mass shootings are dramatic, they are dwarfed by the number of people killed by firearms in attacks that affect one or two victims at a time and largely escape public notice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 11,208 people died in homicides involving firearms in the United States in 2013.
Today, American civilians are thought to own as many as 310 million firearms, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. A 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service noted that the number of guns per capita had doubled since 1968.
The per capita number is misleading, since the number of American households without guns has increased over the decades, meaning that more guns are concentrated in the fewer households which have them.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Skype abortions

For those few remaining women in the United States who continue to believe that their lives and liberties matter, this is good news: they can access medical abortions in Iowa.
Iowa’s State Supreme Court has struck down a ban on telemedicine abortions, saying the prohibition is unconstitutional. It’s the first time in more than 40 years Iowa’s highest court has considered an abortion case. It could also have national implications: other states have considered setting up a similar system to serve abortion-seeking patients in rural areas.
The Des Moines Register reports that the State Supreme Court ruled Friday that the telemedicine procedure can be used, saying it’s the first time in more than four decades they’ve considered a measure having to do with abortion. Iowa established the telemedicine program in 2008: patients are treated by an in-person nurse, then do a consultation by video with a doctor, who then remotely unlocks a drawer containing the abortion medications mifepristone and misoprostol.
This method is safer than the DIY versions so many women have had to resort to.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Republican recycling

Remember this?
Lamar Alexander, currently senator from  Tennessee and formerly a perennial GOP presidential candidate, used this as his presidential campaign logo. Look familiar?

Horror in Hispaniola

This is really happening, right now:
Within days, the Dominican government is expected to round up Haitians — or, really, anyone black enough to be Haitian — and ship them to the border, where they will likely be expelled.
The government has described it, in terms chillingly reminiscent of the Holocaust, as a "cleansing" of the country's immigration rolls.
Cassandre Theano, a legal officer at the New York-based Open Society Foundations, said the comparisons between the Dominican government's actions and the denationalization of Jews in Nazi Germany are justified.
"We've called it as such because there are definitely linkages," she told The Washington Post this week. "You don't want to look a few years back and say, 'This is what was happening and I didn't call it.' "
In other words, 78 years later, these are the fruits of Trujillo's bloody campaign to sow anti-Haitian sentiment in the Dominican Republic.
The discrimination starts with the long-standing practice of not recognizing as Dominican people of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic. Instead, they are lumped in with a second group: Haitian migrants who came to the country -- sometimes brought by force -- to work in the sugarcane fields.
Then, in 2013, the country's Constitutional Court ruled that no longer would people born in the Dominican Republic automatically be considered citizens. The rule, the court decided, would retroactively apply to anyone born after 1929.
The change overwhelmingly affects Haitians and people of Haitian descent. And its impact reaches back generations.
In reality, Theano said, "cleaning" the Dominican registration rolls to root out fraud and non-citizens entails identifying Haitian-sounding names, then forcing Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent to prove that they are citizens.
The deadline for procuring the documents necessary to prove citizenship if you were born in the Dominican Republic lapsed in February. And on Wednesday, the deadline for migrants to "regularize" their statuses will also expire.
What happens Thursday is unknown.
But it doesn't look good:
An aid worker based in the poorer barrios of Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata (the two primary hubs of Haitian immigrants in the DR), who doesn’t want to be named, writes that three days ago, on June 9, local Dominican television media reported that the government solicited transportation companies for up to three dozen large passenger buses to be available on a rotating basis, with an implicit understanding that these would be used for pending deportation trips. “This,” he said, “is an extremely ominous sign.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

Tunneling New Jersey: Chris Christie edition

Never mind the bridge.Chris Christie, still governor and always presidential never-be, should be tarred and feathered for canceling the tunnel project. Bloomberg points out what his petulant posturing cost the people of New Jersey.
Now look at what happened in New Jersey, the third-richest state based on median income, after it rejected a chance to improve its transportation infrastructure. In 2010, the federal government offered New Jersey $3 billion to build a rail tunnel to double commuter capacity to New York City. It would have relieved pressure on the overburdened existing tunnel, built in 1910 and damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.
Governor Chris Christie, predicting cost overruns in a rare period of disinflation and exceptionally low borrowing costs, canceled the project. The new tunnel would have created at least 200,000 jobs, and would have generated $9 billion in business revenue and $1.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue during nine years of construction, according to a March 2012 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Since cancellation, New Jersey's economic performance has lagged. Adjusted for inflation, its median household income declined 12.2 percent, compared with an average drop of 3.9 percent for the U.S. New Jersey is among only 12 states with deteriorating economic health defined by jobs, mortgage delinquency, personal income, home prices, tax income and stock performance, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The same data shows Michigan and California, where infrastructure has been a priority, as leaders in job growth. By the same measures, New Jersey is No. 6 from the bottom.
There are always many reasons for weak economic performance. In New Jersey, transportation is vital. The state sends almost half a million people out of state for jobs, the most in the nation. The majority go to New York.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the state has lost the confidence of investors. While Colorado provided an 8.9 percent return since 2010, beating the national average of 4.95 percent, New Jersey's equivalent bonds gained 1.01 percent, the worst performance after Puerto Rico and Arkansas, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. Transportation Municipal Securities Index.
By the way, according to Wikipedia, "tunneling" is a kind of fraud:
ia colloquial term for a specific kind of financial fraud. It is defined as "the transfer of assets and profits out of firms for the benefit of those who control them".
In Christie's case, tunnel canceling seems to be a variant of that fraud.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Academic publishing: oligopoly edition

Interesting study, recapped in IHE.
The five largest research publishers (a group that changes a bit by discipline) started publishing half of academic papers in 2006, up from 30 percent in 1996 and 20 percent in 1973, according to new research published Wednesday in PLOS ONE by researchers at the University of Montreal. The piece argues that this concentration has reached oligopoly status and poses dangers to academic publishing. “Overall, the major publishers control more than half of the market of scientific papers both in the natural and medical sciences and in the social sciences and humanities,” said Vincent Larivière, a professor in Montreal's School of Library and Information Science, who led the study. “Furthermore, these large commercial publishers have huge sales, with profit margins of nearly 40 percent. While it is true that publishers have historically played a vital role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the print era, it is questionable whether they are still necessary in today's digital era.”
Who's in the oligopoly?
 In both NMS  [natural and medical sciences] and SSH [social sciences and humanities], Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis are amongst the top five publishers with the highest number of scientific documents in 2013. While in NMS the American Chemical Society makes it to the top five (in fourth place in 2013), the fifth most prolific publisher in the SSH is Sage Publications. Hence, while all top publishers in SSH are private firms, one of the top publishers in NMS is a scientific society.