Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Short Takes

They may be close to a deal on a two-year spending plan in Congress.

The death toll in the earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan tops 200.

The Obama administration wants to limit standardized testing.

House Freedom Nutsery: The farther-rights are attacking the far-right for supporting Paul Ryan.

WHO says bacon causes cancer.  Life is now meaningless.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Short Takes

Neener, Neener — Trump and Bush trade shots over who was president on September 11, 2001.

Hawaii declares state of emergency over homeless crisis.

Super typhoon leaves 2 dead, thousands displaced in the Philippines.

U.S. will require drones to be registered.

Astronaut Scott Kelly sets a record for the most time for an American in space.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama apologized to MSF and Afghanistan for the attack on the hospital in Kunduz.

U.S., Russian aircraft have close encounter over Syria.

Coast Guard ends the search for missing ship lost in Hurricane Joaquin.

Hillary Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Floods still endanger South Carolina coastal towns.

Nobel Prize for chemistry goes to three for DNA repair.

R.I.P. Kevin Corcoran, 66, actor known as “Moochie” in Disney films.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Short Takes

General John F. Campbell: U.S. responsible for mistaken hospital attack.

Justice Department set to release 6,000 prisoners.

40,000 residents of South Carolina are without water after weekend flooding.

N.Y. Attorney General opens investigation into fantasy sports sites.

Ten Commandments monument removed from Oklahoma City capitol grounds.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Short Takes

Floods batter South Carolina.

Doctors Without Borders pulls out of Kunduz after strike on their hospital.

Coast Guard renews search for missing freighter in Hurricane Joaquin.

F.D.A. approves new immune therapy drug for lung cancer.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announces his bid for Speaker.

The Tigers ended the season with a win over the White Sox.  Thank you, boys.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Short Takes

Strong earthquake hits off the coast of Chile.

Hungarian police clash with migrants at the Serbian border.

Oklahoma execution called off with just hours to spare.

GM and feds reach settlement on faulty ignition switches.

Will the Federal Reserve raise interest rates?

Tropical Update: TD Nine forms in the North Atlantic.

The Tigers beat the Twins 7-4.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Short Takes

Reports on ISIS were distorted by the military, analysts say.

Hungary cracks down on immigrants.

Flash flood in Utah kills nine.

The Obama administration adds $250 million to fight the California wildfires.

Facebook is working on a “dislike” button.

Tropical Update: Still out there: Invest 93L and 95L.

The Tigers beat the Twins 5-4.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Short Takes

Thousands flee California wildfires.

Babies drown as migrant boat capsizes off Greek island.

Germany begins border checks to limit immigrants.

Phoenix police search for highway sniper.

R.I.P. Frank D. Gilroy, 89, playwright.

Tropical Update: Two disturbances in the Atlantic: Invest 93L and 94L.

The Tigers split a double header with Cleveland.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Reading

Drop the Guns — George Zornick in The Nation on why Walmart decided to end the sale of assault weapons.

For many years, you could walk into America’s most ubiquitous retail store and walk out with a military-style assault rifle. That will soon be impossible. Walmart announced this week that it will discontinue sales of “modern” sporting rifles, which are often fashioned to look like military weapons. It will also cease sales of any other gun that can carry high-capacity ammunition rounds.

The store claims the shift is a response to sales; a spokesman told Newsweek simply that “customers weren’t buying them.”

But there are serious reasons to question that justification, and instead to see a notable moment in evolving American views and standards on gun control.

Nationwide, gun sales are going up, not down, according to FBI data on background check requests. That’s the most reliable barometer of gun sales nationwide. While it doesn’t capture online sales or others where background checks are not required, Walmart does run them.

Analyses of the gun industry consistently show that assault rifles are a popular choice for consumers. The National Sports Shooting Foundation said in congressional testimony last year that there were 5 to 8.2 million assault rifles in the United States. Gun shop owners explained that if assault-rifle sales tail off at all, it’s because customers most likely owned one at some point. “The market is saturated. The market is flooded with them,” one gun merchant toldUSA Today late last year.

Walmart doesn’t report detailed sales numbers, and it’s possible there’s something idiosyncratic about Walmart gun customers that makes assault rifles unattractive. That would make them unlike gun customers nationwide—and Walmart is the country’s largest gun retailer, as we reported in detail in late 2012.

We also know gun sales are a big moneymaker for the retailer. A Walmart executive vice president told shareholders in 2012 that gun sales were a staple of improving sales numbers, and that gun sales increased 76 percent over the 26 previous months.

That’s all to say: Walmart’s explanation for stopping assault-weapons sales is not terribly convincing. More likely, the store is responding to increased concerns about gun control, and realizing that selling military-looking weapons three aisles over from diapers is untenable in a country where mass shootings continue to increase, and where more than half of shooters use assault weapons or high-capacity weapons. When I was working on the 2012 story, I contacted Walmart to request comment on the fact that they were selling the same gun Adam Lanza had just used during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The gun quickly disappeared from Walmart’s site, only to reappear later.

But Walmart executives had to be worried about another similar scenario—maybe even where the shooter buys their gun from Walmart directly.

People are often (and rightfully) frustrated with the lack of progress on gun control at the national level, but smaller victories at the state and municipal level are often overlooked. Several states from Washington to Connecticut instituted tougher gun laws since Newtown, and it’s become an increasingly potent message for big-city mayors.

This is the new reality Walmart is probably responding to—especially since the store’s new growth plan involves pushing into urban centers where, until now, there haven’t been many Walmart stores. (That may also explain Walmart’s quick decision to do away with Confederate flag products after the massacre in Charleston.)

Mayors often used Walmart’s gun sales as a reason not to approve a location, even if the company pledged not to sell weapons at that particular prospective store. New York City is even considering divesting from Walmart because of its weapons sales.

So while Walmart still remains the country’s largest gun retailer, their self-imposed assault-weapons ban can fairly be seen as a small victory for gun control advocates: It’s a new world Walmart finds itself selling in.

You Wanna Talk Katrina? — Cheryl Wagner in TPM on what it cost to stay after the flood.

…My returning neighbors and I slowly but surely stabilized the deserted blocks. Those of us who lived on-site in trailers or in the upstairs of flooded and gutted houses served as watchmen against house strippers and copper thieves. We sat with the elderly who returned to their ruined homes and listened to their stories. We planted gardens. We shared tools and helped each other carry heavy things. We intervened when children returned without adequate adult supervision bounced on moldy curbside mattresses and became the targets of drifter grifters’ stolen goods schemes. We conferred about insurance and Road Home problems and spent years of our lives untangling snafus. We picked through rubble and high weeds and weird and awful garbage and peeked in abandoned windows to help catalog the blight. We met with city officials when neighbors had family members gunned down in front of their houses by patrons of seedy, makeshift bars. Reading it now, the list is as incomplete as it is long and absurd and exhausting.

Despite these efforts, the vantage of 10 years has made it easier to see rebuilding’s true and total cost to me and others. Not only did years of our lives get sacrificed to a bureaucratic and literal quagmire, but also there’s an awful lot that, as the joke goes, can never be unseen. So in my head movie of the rerun of my life, sometimes I cue the reel where I pull a Homer Simpson. His platform when he ran for Sanitation Commissioner becomes mine. “Can’t someone else do it?”

Some of my mixed feelings stem from the mixed results of the rebuild. A good bit of what some neighbors and I had hoped for in the endless series of civic planning meetings never materialized. Simple things like safe neighborhoods and affordable housing and easier paths for former New Orleanians to return to their former homes for many never became a reality. New Orleans and Louisiana is now full of people who, for various reasons, don’t like to talk much about the flood. And now I’m one of them.

Facebook has become a minefield of Louisianans barking at each other to either stop talking about the flood in the way they are talking about it or to just stop talking about the flood, period. Angry diatribes about the production of commemorative Katrina snow globes battle old photos of friends in white hazmat suits cleaning out their flooded houses. Memes circulate of a vintage comic book Batman bat-slapping Robin under the words “Ten years after Katrina? SHUT THE HELL UP.”

Some of this is Katrina fatigue from the are-you-still-chewing-that-old-bone? crowd that did not flood, but it’s also that people who suffered greatly don’t want their wound constantly poked at with a media stick. What don’t they want to be reminded of? You name it. Loss of family or friends that died in the flood. Loss of family and friends from stress or rebuilding accidents or suicide in the flood’s prolonged aftermath that no one ever counted among the official dead. The financial shitstorm the flood opened up in their lives that they are still trying to ride out. All the K-splainers who have moved to town. The cheesy disaster art and music. Their vanished photos and clothes and books and records they know was “just stuff” but used to give them tangible proof of who they were and where they had been anyway. How they don’t trust the government or insurance companies quite the same anymore. Why they can’t afford to rent or live in their old neighborhoods. How places like New Orleans East and Chalmette and the Lower Ninth Ward and elsewhere still look pretty bruised. That some contractors came to town to try to rip them off and succeeded. How that wall looks crooked and that tile seems a little warpy and guess what? It is—because they had to repair it themselves.

What I don’t particularly care to talk about or remember is both little and big. Escape holes cut in roofs. Mattresses and clothes scattered on the sides of elevated highways. Mold and fetid refrigerators and creepy clouds of plaster dust that billowed up the street. All the women sitting on their front steps with their heads in their hands. My basset hounds swallowing roof slate and wire from having to live with me in the disaster zone. And I don’t want to be reminded that my friend was murdered in the aftermath and no one ever got caught or punished for it and she and her memory evaporated, like much of what happened, into time and smoke.

But sometimes being willing to talk moves the conversation forward. And what I do want to talk about is this: everything my Mom was worried would take its toll and was unable to communicate to me when I was caught up in the fight-or-flight of the moment. We don’t choose our disasters, but when disasters happen, should we lean in and ride them out to their wild conclusions—or just get the hell out of the way?

Vin Scully Goes For 67 — The long-time Dodgers broadcaster will return for one more season next year.

On the surface, the most impressive thing about Scully is his longevity. When the 21-year-old redhead from The Bronx broadcast his first Dodgers game in 1950, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Bob Feller were active. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle had not yet started their careers. Cy Young, a 19th century star whose name is synonymous with pitching greatness, was still alive. The Dodgers’ own Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier just three years earlier—and the majority of the league’s 16 teams had still never employed a black player. No city west of the Mississippi River would have its own team for eight more years, when Scully accompanied Brooklyn’s Dodgers west to Los Angeles.

But Scully is more than just an announcer who happened to stick around for a long time.

He’s also probably the best baseball broadcaster to ever live, and a man whose influence is felt across the American sports landscape. Scully began his career in an era when the vast majority of baseball games were not televised, and his style—conversational rather than kinetic—was perfectly suited to the medium.

Baseball is a game of stillness, where slight, almost imperceptible shifts carry great consequences. A Scully broadcast includes the standard description of home runs, ground ball outs, and intentional walks. But you also learn that the glare of the afternoon sun caused the right fielder to misjudge a fly ball, or that the pitcher shook off the catcher’s sign three times before throwing a slider in the dirt.

As with other broadcasters, Scully tells you what each player’s batting average is. But you’re also told that the center fielder’s father was a country doctor in Indiana, or that the shortstop toiled in the minor leagues for a full decade before earning his chance in the majors. It is these details that, whether you’re lying in bed with the radio on or stuck in traffic on the 405, turn each Scully broadcast into a vivid work of art.

More importantly, Scully also knows when to be silent. Consider one of his most famous broadcasts, that of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on September 9, 1965. As the great left-handed pitcher struck out batter after batter in the later innings, Scully expertly conveyed the sense of excitement and wonder permeating Dodger Stadium. But when Koufax retired Harvey Kuenn to preserve the rare feat, Scully said nothing—the crowd’s reaction was all the color he needed. The remarkable conclusion to the 50-year-old game is preserved here:

As televised baseball spread in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, Scully was frequently assigned to the sport’s grandest events, and throughout his career he would cover 25 different World Series. These days are long gone—nowadays, Scully limits himself to Dodgers games on the West Coast. But to those fans lucky enough to listen to his broadcasts, it’s clear that the octogenarian isn’t coasting on his reputation. Scully knows the game’s contemporary players as well as the tens of thousands he’s described in the past, and is never caught unprepared. And in an age when announcers increasingly resort to forced folksiness or blatant homerism, Scully’s quiet professionalism remains as vital as ever.

Scully has intimated that 2016 will likely be his last season. He said last night, “I do feel in my bones … that will be enough.”

Doonesbury — Old timers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Short Takes

Up/Down: The stock market continued its wild gyrations on Monday.

The three Americans and Briton who thwarted the attack on the train in Europe were honored by France.

The Koreas made nice.

The wildfires in Washington are now the largest in state history.

Tropical Update:  Danny is done, but Tropical Storm Erika is following in his tracks.

The Tigers lost a makeup game in Cincinnati against the Reds 12-5.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Short Takes

A bomb at a religious shrine in Bangkok killed more than 15 people.

The White House is investing $2.5 million to treat heroin addiction.

Western wildfires costing $100 million a week to fight.

College football players cannot start a union.

Tropical Update:  Invest 96L is off the coast of Africa and heading west.

The Tigers had the night off.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Short Takes

The Persian Gulf states are on board with the Iran nuclear pact.

President Obama announced major goals to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.  Expect major power outrage.

Major wildfires continue to devastate California.

Senate Democrats blocked an attempt by the GOP to defund Planned Parenthood.  It’s not over.

Tropical Update:  Invest 95L moves inland.

The Tigers had the night off.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Short Takes

Massive California wildfire spreads.

Trump surges in new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Person of interest in custody in Memphis cop killing.

Two churches damaged in bombings in New Mexico.

Israeli teen stabbed at Jerusalem gay pride parade dies.

Tropical Update: Invest 95L is soaking the Florida panhandle.

The Tigers are doing a bit better with some of their new teammates.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Short Takes

Serial number confirms that the piece of the airliner found on Reunion is from Malaysia Airlines MG 370.

The University of Cincinnati policeman indicted for murder in the killing of an unarmed man had his bail set at $1 million.

A California wildfire near Napa Valley has forced 650 people from their homes.

Six people were stabbed by a lunatic in the Jerusalem gay pride parade.

Athletes will swim in filth at the Rio Olympics according to the AP.

The Tigers beat the Orioles 9-8.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Short Takes

Greece’s new finance minister showed up at an emergency financial summit without doing his homework.

Wildfires are scorching the Northwest.

The Chinese stock market is cratering.

London commemorated the tenth anniversary of the subway bombing of 2005.

Heroin deaths have quadrupled in the U.S.

The Tigers lost 7-6 to the Mariners in 11 innings.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Short Takes

Nepal asks foreign rescuers to leave as hope fades for finding more earthquake survivors.

Second gunman identified in attack in Texas.

NYPD officer shot over the weekend died from his injuries.

Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to New Jersey ban on “gay repair” therapy.

Americans like their drones.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Short Takes

Officials send reinforcements to Baltimore.

The death toll in Nepal passed 5,000.

Iranian forces seized a ship flagged to the Marshall Islands and boarded it off the coast of Iran.

Tyson Foods will end using antibiotics on their chicken.

The NFL will give up its tax-exempt status.

The Tigers lost to the Twins 3-2.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Short Takes

Unimaginable: The death toll from the earthquake in Nepal passes 4,000.

Protests in Baltimore turned violent Monday afternoon.

A second police official in Tulsa, Oklahoma has resigned over the accidental shooting of a black man by a reserve cop.

Loretta Lynch was sworn in as the Attorney General.

The Tigers beat the Twins 5-4.