Monday, October 17, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Short Takes

The bombing suspect in New Jersey had been checked out by the FBI in 2014.

President Obama delivered his valedictory address to the UN.

Another unarmed black man was shot and killed by police, this time in Tulsa.

Federal judge tells Texas to revise their voter ID laws.

Tropical Update: Two storms, Karl and Lisa, are in the middle of the Atlantic but no threat to land now.

The Tigers beat the Twins 8-1.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Short Takes

New York/New Jersey bombing suspect is captured after a gun battle.

The Syrian cease-fire ended.

Prosecutors say Gov. Christie knew about bridge lane closures.

Energy prices increased across the South thanks to a ruptured gasoline pipeline.

Pro-Putin parties show strength in local elections.

Tropical Update: TS Karl is going to stay clear of the East coast.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Short Takes

NYPD is hunting clues in the Saturday night bombing in Chelsea.

UN General Assembly opens under heightened scrutiny.

American airstrikes hit Syrian troops.

ISIS lays claim to knife attack in Minnesota.

And the Emmys went to…

Tropical Update: A new one, TS Karl, is out in the Atlantic heading east. TS Julia is the zombie storm that will not die.

The Tigers beat Cleveland 9-5 to keep hope alive.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Short Takes

U.S. plans to increase number of refugees allowed into the country next year.

Hacked e-mails from Colin Powell label Trump as a “disgrace.”

Ford to move small car manufacturing to Mexico.

Arrest made in mosque attack in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Carla Hayden sworn in as new Librarian of Congress.

Tropical Update: TS Julia dumps rain on Georgia.

The Tigers beat the Twins 9-6 to move up to be 1 game back in the wild card chase.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Short Takes

U.S. agrees to admit more refugees from Central America.

ISIS takes credit for deadly attack on church in Normandy.

President Obama on DNC hack by Russia: “Anything’s possible.”

Northeast hit by heavy storms and heat wave.

U.S. approves release of last Russian prisoner from Gitmo.

Poll: No post-convention bounce for Trump.

The Tigers beat the Red Sox 9-8.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Short Takes

The Democratic Convention gets underway.

DNC apologizes to Sanders for “inexcusable” e-mails.

Shooting in Ft. Myers leaves two dead.

Solar plane completes around-the-world trip.

Nineteen killed in Japanese stabbing spree.

Verizon picks up Yahoo!

The Tigers beat the Red Sox 4-2.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Murders In Dallas

The story is still developing, but NBC News is reporting that eleven police officers were shot and that five of them have died in what’s being described as an ambush by snipers at an otherwise peaceful protest over the shootings of two black men by police; one in Louisiana, the other in Minnesota.

The snipers fired from an elevated positions on police officers minutes before 9 p.m. CT, according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. He described the shootings as “ambush style.”

“We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers from two different perches in garages in the downtown area, and planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could,” Brown said at a news conference — noting that some were shot in the back.

Police were in a standoff with one suspect in the second floor of a parking garage at around 12:30 a.m. and had exchanged gunfire with him, Brown said. Another suspect, a woman, was taken into custody near the garage, and two people seen leaving the area in a Mercedes were stopped and were being questioned.

The suspect in the standoff with police “has told our negotiators that the end is coming, and he is going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement, and that there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown,” Brown said.

This is madness.

Update: Dallas media is reporting that the suspect has been “neutralized.”

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Reading

Up Yours, Trump — Aziz Ansari in the New York Times on why Donald Trump makes him scared for his family.

“DON’T go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?”

“We’re not going,” she replied.

I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.

Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news.

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.

There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population. If you round that number, it is 0 percent. The overwhelming number of Muslim Americans have as much in common with that monster in Orlando as any white person has with any of the white terrorists who shoot up movie theaters or schools or abortion clinics.

I asked a young friend of mine, a woman in her 20s of Muslim heritage, how she had been feeling after the attack. “I just feel really bad, like people think I have more in common with that idiot psychopath than I do the innocent people being killed,” she said. “I’m really sick of having to explain that I’m not a terrorist every time the shooter is brown.”

I myself am not a religious person, but after these attacks, anyone that even looks like they might be Muslim understands the feelings my friend described. There is a strange feeling that you must almost prove yourself worthy of feeling sad and scared like everyone else.

I understand that as far as these problems go, I have it better than most because of my recognizability as an actor. When someone on the street gives me a strange look, it’s usually because they want to take a selfie with me, not that they think I’m a terrorist.

But I remember how those encounters can feel. A few months after the attacks of Sept. 11, I remember walking home from class near N.Y.U., where I was a student. I was crossing the street and a man swore at me from his car window and yelled: “Terrorist!” To be fair, I may have been too quick to cross the street as the light changed, but I’m not sure that warranted being compared to the perpetrators of one of the most awful incidents in human history.

The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community “know who the bad ones are,” implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.

According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities “who the bad ones are,” or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.

One way to decrease the risk of terrorism is clear: Keep military-grade weaponry out of the hands of mentally unstable people, those with a history of violence, and those on F.B.I. watch lists. But, despite sit-ins and filibusters, our lawmakers are failing us on this front and choose instead to side with the National Rifle Association. Suspected terrorists can buy assault rifles, but we’re still carrying tiny bottles of shampoo to the airport. If we’re going to use the “they’ll just find another way” argument, let’s use that to let us keep our shoes on.

Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr. Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on Sept. 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but he stands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at N.Y.U., and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

The haunting sound of the second plane hitting the towers is forever ingrained in my head. My building was close enough that it shook upon impact. I was scared for my life as my fellow students and I trekked the panicked streets of Manhattan. My family, unable to reach me on my cellphone, was terrified about my safety as they watched the towers collapse. There was absolutely no cheering. Only sadness, horror and fear.

Mr. Trump, in response to the attack in Orlando, began a tweet with these words: “Appreciate the congrats.” It appears that day he was the one who was celebrating after an attack.

Lost Remains — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on why the Remain vote lost in Britain.

To many people around the world, the United Kingdom’s vote, on Thursday, to quit the European Union came as a great shock. But the result, with fifty-two per cent of voters in favor leaving the E.U., shouldn’t have been such a surprise. The fact is, the E.U. has never been particularly popular with ordinary people in the U.K., particularly England, and in the weeks leading up to the vote many opinion polls showed the Leave side with a narrow lead. The financial markets and most commentators, myself included, were assuming that, at the last minute, prudence and risk aversion would generate a swing in favor of Remain. That didn’t happen.

The easiest way to understand what did happen is to look at some voting maps. With the exceptions of London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, every major region of the U.K. voted to exit the E.U. The Remain vote was particularly weak in the West Midlands and the Northeast of England, two areas that have been hit hard by de-industrialization. But even in the relatively prosperous Southeast of the country, if you subtract London from the results, a majority of people voted to leave.

The Guardian has published some telling charts detailing the demographic breakdown of the vote. For one thing, they show gaping class divisions. One of the best predictors of how people voted was their education level. Those with college degrees tended to opt for Remain, while people without them tended to opt for Leave. Age and income gradients were also clearly visible in the vote tabulations. The older and poorer you are, the more likely you were to vote Leave. The younger and richer you are, the more likely you were to vote Remain.

Put all this data together, and the implication is that, outside of Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are special cases, the British working classes and lower middle classes, particularly those living in the provinces, have delivered a stinging rebuke to the London-based political establishment, which was largely in favor of staying in the E.U. But what explains this revolt against the élites?

One popular theory points to racism and nativism, which featured prominently in the anti-E.U. campaign. The Leave side went up in the polls after it managed to shift the debate away from the likely economic impact of Brexit and onto immigration and issues of national sovereignty. Although much of the immigration into the U.K. comes from outside of the E.U., the Leave forces were able to focus attention on the freedom of movement for workers, which is one of the founding principles of the E.U.

In the past decade or so, Britain has taken in many thousands of immigrants from Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries that joined the European community after the Berlin Wall came down. In many working-class areas of the U.K., there is a lot of resentment toward these new arrivals, who are viewed as competitors for jobs and government-provided services, such as education, health care, and welfare. “A majority of people thought immigration is too large, and that leaving the E.U. would bring it down,” John Curtice, a political scientist at Strathclyde University who is also the BBC’s resident polling guru, said on-air on Thursday, as the results came in.

A second theory, which I examined in a post on Thursday, is that economic anxieties and resentments underpinned the political anger that fuelled the Leave vote. Demagogues such as Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, were able to exploit these economic worries, directing them against immigrants and other easy targets.

Yet another argument is that the Leave result was really about culture and values. Pointing to data collected by the British Election Study, Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics at Birkbeck College, argued on Friday that the best predictor of voting patterns wasn’t income or education levels but attitudes toward the death penalty, which are a proxy for authoritarian attitudes more generally. “The probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20 per cent for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70 per cent for those most in favour,” Kaufman wrote on the Web site of the Fabian Society. “Wealthy people who back capital punishment back Brexit. Poor folk who oppose the death penalty support Remain.”

This is an interesting theory, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why hostility toward the E.U. has risen in the U.K. during the past couple of decades. Has the British public become more authoritarian and resistant to change during that period? I don’t think so; if anything, attitudes about gay marriage and other social issues show a shift in a liberal direction.

What has certainly happened is that decades of globalization, deregulation, and policy changes that favored the wealthy have left Britain a more unequal place, with vast regional disparities. “It’s the shape of our long lasting and deeply entrenched national geographic inequality that drove differences in voting patterns,” Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, a bipartisan think tank, commented on Friday morning. “The legacy of increased national inequality in the 1980s, the heavy concentration of those costs in certain areas, and our collective failure to address it has more to say about what happened last night than shorter term considerations from the financial crisis or changed migration flows.”

That argument sounds persuasive to me. On Thursday night, it was the early announcement of a huge Leave vote in Sunderland, a depressed city in the Northeast that used to be a big shipbuilding center, that indicated the way the night was headed and caused the pound sterling to plummet in the Asian markets. Meanwhile, the Remain vote was consistently stronger in prosperous areas. Economics matters.

Still, the margin of victory was narrow, and it is also worth looking at the way the Leave and Remain campaigns were run, and considering how things could have turned out differently. If the Remain side, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, had managed to persuade two in a hundred more voters to accept its arguments, it would have won. But the Remain campaign was uninspiring in the extreme.

In retrospect, it can be argued that Cameron’s mistake occurred as far back as 2013, when, in an effort to satisfy the Eurosceptics inside his own Conservative Party, he pledged to hold a referendum at some point before 2017. At the time, this was an easy promise to make: Cameron believed he couldn’t deliver on it. He was then heading a coalition government alongside the pro-E.U. Liberal Democrats, who wanted no part of a referendum and had the power to veto one. But after the Conservatives pulled off a surprise in the May, 2015, general election and won a majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister felt he had no option but to follow through on his promise.

Yet even after he had set a date for the referendum, Cameron could surely have done a better job of selling an upbeat vision of the E.U., one that had Britain as an active and enthusiastic member. Rather than accentuating the positive, Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to scare the electorate into voting their way, arguing that a vote for Leave would plunge the U.K. economy into a recession and cost the average household about sixty-two hundred dollars a year.

Almost all economists agree that the E.U. has been good to Britain. But the sixty-two-hundred-a-year figure was so large, and so specific, that many people didn’t believe it. Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, Steve Hilton, a former political adviser to Cameron, conceded that the negative campaign, which was dubbed Project Fear, had backfired. Rather than winning people over, it alienated many voters who had legitimate concerns about the E.U. “People have expressed real anger at being ignored by the system, and I think this is at the heart” of what happened, Hilton said.

Looking ahead, the fate of the Remain campaign should serve as a reminder of the limits of negative campaigning—a reminder that Hillary Clinton would do well to take note of as she goes up against Donald Trump. In confronting populist demagoguery, it isn’t enough to attack its promulgators. To get people to turn out and vote in your favor, you also have to give them something positive to rally behind. The Leave campaign, for all its lies and disinformation, provided just such a lure. It claimed that liberating Britain from the shackles of the E.U. would enable it to reclaim its former glory. The Remain side argued, in effect, that while the E.U. isn’t great, Britain would be even worse off without it. That turned out to be a losing story.

How Orlando Hurt Puerto Rico — Jennifer Velez in Mother Jones on the heartbreak the shooting brought to the island.

As news of the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando spread, families in Puerto Rico began to receive frantic calls about their sons, daughters, siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins who had been celebrating a Latin-themed night of music and dancing in the crowded bar. They were among the 49 people who were dead after a gunman opened fire at the club around 2 a.m.; approximately 53 others were wounded before police killed the shooter.

As many as 23 of those who died were identified as being Puerto Rican. Although it’s unclear how many were actually born on the island, many of the victims had family there. As they grapple with the unspeakable loss of loved ones, these families also face unusual challenges in the wake of the largest mass shooting in US history, from the potentially steep cost of burial and other expenses, to navigating the complex web of victims’ services as a Spanish-speaker with limited English.

Although pledges to help are coming from the government,advocacy organizations, and private companies, even those families who receive some assistance may struggle to cover all the costs, especially those with large extended families who may have wanted to fly in and support relatives in Orlando. “Once they arrive here to be able to claim the remains of their loved ones, it’s like where do they stay? How do they get from point A to point B?” said Samí Haiman-Marrero, a local Orlando business owner and a part of the core team of Somos Orlando (“We Are Orlando”) a coalition of organizations that formed after the tragedy to act as a bridge between families who need assistance and organizations that can help. They have connected families with resources that offer a variety of services, including housing, or grief counseling in Spanish.

“It’s not just parents and immediate siblings perhaps that are traveling, we’re talking about large groups of family members trying to come,” Haiman-Marrero noted. “It’s a really tight knit community and so the mourning transcends beyond the typical nuclear family.” She described one family of 25 who traveled from Puerto Rico to Orlando and needed help with housing. “I got some calls directly from Puerto Rico [asking in Spanish], ‘We’re arriving tomorrow we need a place to stay, it’s five people a baby and that’s it. We need help,’” she said.

There are also other significant issues that families are facing—some are logistical, some financial, and some are cultural. Here is an overview:

Language is a barrier: When dealing with an emergency, being able to communicate with police, officials, and other key people is essential. For some victims’ families who do not speak English and only speak Spanish, something as simple as making a call to get information about a loved one can be a struggle. “For these families to travel from Puerto Rico…to pick up the body of their son or daughter, it’s heart breaking, their hearts are in pieces,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, executive director of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a social justice organization for the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico. Adding to their grief, he says, “There are language barriers and there are cultural barriers.” When Haiman-Marrero got a call from Puerto Rico from a woman seeking housing for her and her family, Haiman-Marrero made sure the services she recommended had Spanish language support. “I made sure before I even provided the information to the young lady that called from Puerto Rico” those services would be in Spanish. “I didn’t want her to be scrambling.” The assistance center set up at Camping World Stadium for those affected by the massacre had help in both languages, said Haiman-Marrero.

Families who want to bury loved ones in PuertoRico may face hefty funeral expenses: If families want their loved ones to be buried on the island close to relatives, the process can be costly. The cost of shipping remains to Puerto Rico may include charges from the funeral home in Orlando, which would be responsible for sending the body to Puerto Rico, and additional expenses for the funeral home in Puerto Rico. Funeral services, the shipping of remains, and church services among other costs can run from $5,000 to $8,000, said Mariela Atkins, office manager at Robert Bryant Funeral & Cremation Chapel in Orlando, which provided services for three victims, one of whom was to be transported to Puerto Rico. But costs vary depending on what families desire, Atkins said. For example, the price of a casket has a broad range depending on the style, material, or size. A government victim’s compensation fund is also helping with funeral costs.

But some airlines are stepping in to help. United Airlines is providing the transportation of remains at no cost said Ida Eskamani, development officer for Equality Florida. Southwest is also providing transportation of the remains free of charge. JetBlue has offered complimentary travel for immediate family and domestic partners of victims.

Some groups are raising money to help, but funds have not yet reached the families: Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization, is part of the Somos Orlando coalition and has created a GoFundMe account that in the week after the shooting has raised more than $6 million. The organization partnered with the National Center for Victims of Crime to distribute funds to families. But no funds have reached victims’ families yet, said Mai Fernandez, executive director with the National Center for Victims of Crime. She explains that the organizations intended to wait to disburse funds until the pace of donations slowed and they can assess the total amount that is available for aid.

There are longstanding taboos about homosexuality in Puerto Rico: Pedro Julio-Serrano who runs the LGBT program based in Guaynabo has faced homophobia in Puerto Rico and understands a deep cultural problem that some families face. “It’s a very touchy subject, but some of the victims’ families found out that their victim was LGBT when this happened, so they will have to do deal with that,” he said. “It’s tragic that someone has to wait until they die for their family to find out that they are gay.” Some of the Puerto Rican victims moved to the U.S. mainland because they wanted to live in a environment that was more accepting of the LGBT community, he added.

Although some views about the LGBT community are slowly changing, the island’s machismo culture and strict, traditional views on gender roles are still dominant: Men should be masculine, emotionally tough, marry women, and have children. There is also a history of violence. In the 1980’s a serial killer on the island killed 27 gay men. Hate crimes have dwindled in recent years, Serrano said, but the homophobia and discrimination are still big problems. Some families are grappling with grief and must also cope with their own uncomfortable views about homosexuality.

“This [tragedy] is something that goes to the heart of who we are as Puerto Ricans,” Serrano notes. “We’re frightened, but we won’t live in fear.”

Doonesbury — Double or nothing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

Short Takes

The death count in Orlando is fifty.  It is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Man arrested with weapons on his way to L.A. pride parade.

Bernie Sanders will meet with Hillary Clinton tomorrow.

English and Russian soccer fans riot in Paris.

Who won a Tony (besides “Hamilton”)?

The Tigers took two of three from the Yankees over the weekend.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

This Is America

Twenty-six school children are killed in their classroom in Newtown, but it’s “too soon” to talk about banning assault weapons but not too soon to talk about arming teachers in the classroom.

Fourteen people are killed at an office party in San Bernadino, but it’s “too soon” to talk about banning assault weapons and doing background checks but not too soon to debate if Apple should hack their own software.

Fifty people are killed in a nightclub in Orlando, but it’s “too soon” to talk about banning assault weapons but not too soon to wonder what the presidential candidates will tweet about it.

This is America?

This is America.

Massacre In Orlando

Via NBC:

Approximately 20 people are dead and scores wounded after a gunman opened fire and took hostages at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning, police said.

Officials said a hostage situation developed after the gunman stormed the Pulse Nightclub about 2 a.m. The shooter, identified by several law enforcement sources as Omar Mateen, was shot dead about three hours later when a SWAT team entered the club, police said.

The law enforcement sources told NBC News that Mateen was born in New York in 1986 and was listed as living at a residence in Port St. Lucie, about 125 miles south of Orlando.

The incident is being investigated as an act of terrorism, officials said.

The news feed will be updated as they get more news.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Short Takes

Negotiations are going on to try to keep the Syrian ceasefire going.

Two suicide bombs in Iraq killed over thirty people.

Feds foil plot to bomb synagogue in Aventura, a suburb of Miami.

U.S. cruise ship arrives in Havana for the first time in more than fifty years.

Telescope spots three Earth-sized planets orbiting ultracool dwarf star.

The Tigers had the night off.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Short Takes

A car bomb explodes in Turkey, killing seven police officers.

President Obama welcomed world leaders to Washington for a nuclear security summit.

Yet another mass shooting, this time at a bus station in Richmond, Virginia.

All talk… Two more GOP senators agree to meet with Judge Merrick Garland.

Mississippi joins the boycott-bait states thanks to the passage of a law that enshrines gay discrimination.  (Like anyone would go there on purpose.)

R.I.P. Zaha Hadid, architect; the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016