Notes and Comment Blog

Dancing with the dogs

Dec 17th, 2014 11:31 am | By

A laugh, because we need one these days.

I wish Cooper knew how to do that.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They cite websites skeptical about immunizations

Dec 17th, 2014 11:20 am | By

Michigan has a dangerously low vaccination rate.

That’s the warning from public health experts as more and more schoolchildren are not getting basic vaccinations to protect them — and all of us — from preventable disease.

Michigan makes it easy to avoid immunization and after years of increasing public concerns over side effects and government intervention, the rate of those going unvaccinated is dangerously high.

After millions of years of being vulnerable to infectious diseases, the moderately clever humans engineered a way to avoid many of them. What a boon to humanity! And now, we’ve gone the next stage, and become so pseudo-clever that we deliberately and knowingly reject that engineered fix, so that we can have more infectious diseases again.

How fucking stupid are we.

A recent outbreak in Traverse City shut down a 1,200-student charter school for a week, infected students at 14 other school buildings in the region, and has sickened dozens of people and forced hundreds into quarantine.

The culprit was pertussis — also known as whooping cough — a disease once thought to be nearly eradicated.

But Grand Traverse County has an undervaccination rate six times the national average. And nearly 1 in 5 of the kindergarteners (17 percent) at the charter school, Grand Traverse Academy, had parents who signed waivers exempting the children from required vaccinations.

Whooping cough. That’s a horrible disease.

Last week, the other shoe dropped in Grand Traverse: Two residents were diagnosed with measles, the most contagious disease known to man and one that can have serious complications.

It happened in Traverse City. It could easily happen in communities throughout Michigan.

Michigan has one of the highest vaccine-waiver rates for kindergartners in the country, three times the national median, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number of kindergartners getting vaccine waivers is growing. In five years, it’s increased 23 percent, the CDC says.

Not clever.

The CDC warns outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are most likely to occur where “unvaccinated persons cluster in schools and communities.”

Such clusters exist in a third of Michigan public and private schools housing kindergartners — that’s more than 800 school buildings scattered across 68 of the state’s 83 counties, according to the MLive analysis.

Many of those clusters are in affluent and well-educated communities, such as Traverse City, Troy, Grosse Pointe and Clarkston.

Well-educated enough to read woo about medical subjects but not well-educated enough to realize they’re bullshit.

Those opting out of vaccines tend to be health-conscious families who buy organic food, give their children health supplements and are drawn to alternatives to Western medicine. They cite internet websites skeptical about immunizations and worry the risk of vaccines outweigh the benefits.

Yeah that kind. The Prince Charles kind. They’re “health-conscious” so they buy into bullshit.

“Michigan is one of the worst states in the country” in terms of vaccine-waiver rates, and communities with high waiver rates should be “very concerned,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a leading authority on vaccinations in the United States and chief of the infectious diseases division at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“When you have a fairly large number of people who are choosing not to vaccinate, that puts not only their own children at risk, but also everyone else’s,” Offit said.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Allahu akbar

Dec 17th, 2014 10:30 am | By

The Telegraph shares a bunch of photos of the scene at that Peshawar army school. Be warned: they’re heart-wrenching to look at – no bodies, but lots of blood. But most heart-wrenching are the pictures of the victims in life.

The full devastation of the Taliban attack in which 148 people – the vast majority children – were massacred in a Pakistan school yesterday is laid bare in images showing pools of blood and bullet-ridden walls.

Upturned desks and torn exam papers scattered across the floor give evidence of the unexpected terror that struck 500 children and staff on Tuesday morning as nine gun-wielding militants stormed the building.

Shouting “Allahu akbar.”

“They finished in minutes what I had lived my whole life for, my son,” said labourer Akhtar Hussain, tears streaming down his face as he buried his 14-year-old, Fahad. He said he had worked for years in Dubai to earn a livelihood for his children.

“That innocent one is now gone in the grave, and I can’t wait to join him, I can’t live anymore,” he wailed, banging his fists against his head.

Allahu akbar.

Pulse on the school’s principal Tahira Kazi. Warning: it’s bad.

Tahira Kazi, the principal of the Army Public School attacked by Taliban Jihadists in Pakistan was burnt to death while her students watched because she was married to a Pakistani soldier.

Kazi was torched alive by the jihadists who stormed the school, located in Peshawar, at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to a MailOnline report, it is believed that Kazi was killed in such a gruesome manner because she’s married to a retired a retired army colonel, Kazi Zafrullah.

Student Pulse gathered that one of the seven terrorist that attacked the school also blew himself up in the late principal’s office.

Another teacher, 24-year-old Afsha Ahmed, was doused with petrol and set ablaze while her pupils watched after she told the terrorists that “You can only kill my students over my dead body.”

That’s all I can stand for now.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Women have to get written permission

Dec 17th, 2014 9:34 am | By

Mother Jones tells us about an exciting new idea from a Missouri state legislator: a new way to make women non-people under the law.

A Missouri Republican is pushing a bill that would allow a man who gets a woman pregnant to stop her from having an abortion. The measure would force a woman who wants an abortion to obtain written permission from the father first—unless she was the victim of “legitimate rape.”

Rick Brattin, a state representative from outside Kansas City, filed the bill on December 3 for next year’s legislative session. The proposed measure reads, “No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.”

Cool. So if they’ve split up in the interim, she has to go to him to beg permission to get an abortion, which he can refuse to give. If they’ve split up and she doesn’t know how to contact him, she’s stuck with that baby she doesn’t want to have. If they were never together in the first place and she doesn’t know how to contact him, same deal. If he got her drunk and then had sex with her and she doesn’t know how to contact him, same deal. She has no rights at all, and he can mess with her rights.

The bill contains exceptions for women who become pregnant as the result of rape or incest—but there are caveats.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin tells Mother Jones. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped,’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”

Damn right! None of this just saying you were raped shit – none of this wicked smearing of good men by slutty women just saying they were raped. They have to prove it, which is easy to do if you actually were legitimately raped. Nobody ever says “but he says it was consensual” or “you’re a lying whore,” so there will be no problem getting an abortion if you were legitimately raped.

Brattin adds that he is not using the term “legitimate rape” in the same way as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who famously claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

“I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed,” Brattin says. “That’s just common sense.”

Absolutely! Totally common sense. So if you don’t make a police report, obviously you weren’t raped, and that’s all there is to it.

Under his bill, he adds, “you have to take steps to show that you were raped…And I’d think you’d be able to prove that.”

Oh yes? How? How would you be able to prove that?

Missouri is home to only one abortion clinic, based in St. Louis. Each year, legislators target the clinic with dozens of new restrictions. In 2014, the GOP-controlled legislature approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours between the initial consultation and the procedure. It’s the longest abortion waiting period in the county.

This isn’t about “the unborn child.” It’s about hatred of women. It’s about hatred of the smallest hint that any particular woman is not the wholly owned subordinate of a man. It’s about hatred and punishment of women.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Nobody wants to be a buzzkill

Dec 16th, 2014 5:57 pm | By

A code of conduct? Who needs a code of conduct? This community is too fabulous to need a code of conduct!

A couple of years ago, I was asked to help put together a code of conduct for the IA Summit. I laughed.

We need a code of conduct here? The IA Summit is the nicest, most community-friendly conference ever! Those problems happen at other conferences! And they want me to help? There are sailors jealous of my cussing vocabulary—surely I was not PC enough to be part of such an effort. But the chairs insisted. So, being a good user-centered designer, I started asking around about the idea of a code of conduct.

I found out design conferences are not the safe meetings of minds I thought they were.

One woman told me that she had been molested by another attendee at a favorite conference, and was too scared to report it. “No one will ever see me as anything but a victim,” she said. “I’ve worked too hard for that.”

And there was more, Christina Wodtke writes. The idea of a code of conduct didn’t seem so silly any more.

Unfortunately, it still seems silly to others. Recently I was talking to another conference organizer about setting up codes of conduct, and he said, “That doesn’t happen at our conferences. People know me, and they know they can talk to me. A code of conduct will make people nervous that we have a problem. And we don’t.”

I wonder how he knew that, since most victims don’t come forward. They don’t want to be seen as a “buzzkill,” or be told that what they wore or what they drank meant that they asked for it. This is not unusual; every day we see examples of women whose reputations are trashed for reporting rape and harassment. On Twitter, women who talk about sexism in games or even think a woman should go on a stamp are given death threats. Reporting carries consequences. Reporting is scary.

Availability heuristic. We don’t see it, so we assume that means it’s not there. Ding ding ding – wrong! We don’t see police brutality if it never happens to us, so we assume it isn’t there. We don’t see sexism or harassment if it never happens to us, so we assume it isn’t there.

H/t Harald.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Make the choice

Dec 16th, 2014 5:29 pm | By

Karima Bennoune says what’s needed now is firm rejection of violent religious fanaticism.

As many Australians themselves have already clearly demonstrated in the wake of the attack through the wonderful anti-racist hashtag #I’llridewithyou, the correct response to such atrocious events is not blind discrimination against people on the basis of real or presumed religious identity or refugee status. However, unconditional condemnation of the extreme Islamist political ideology that may be behind this terrible attack — and at least was used to justify it — is absolutely essential, and is in no way discriminatory.

In fact, any tolerance of such intolerance does not produce tolerance, but rather has paradoxical and dangerous results — allowing illiberalism to flourish and letting violent events proliferate. No one knows this more than those who have lived on the frontlines of Islamist terror.

She was in Australia last May to talk about her book.

After my lecture about the book at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, which ended with the story of Amel Zenoune-Zouani, an Algerian law student killed by the Armed Islamic Group in 1997, I was surrounded and embraced onstage by a group of people of Muslim heritage — all women and many in tears. They were refugees from Algeria and Afghanistan who had been driven from their own countries by fundamentalist violence, like that the Sydney hostage taker Man Haron Monis appeared to be mimicking. Some of the Algerians later told me how loyal and grateful they were to Australians generally for being so welcoming to them when they were forced to flee there in the 1990s, and that they were disturbed to occasionally encounter Muslim fundamentalists in their adopted country who reminded them of the ideology that had forced them from their homes.

Rejection of that ideology does not equate to rejection of Muslims in general.

The unprecedented (for Australia) Sydney hostage-taking is yet another reminder of the urgent need to discredit Islamist ideology, and to effectively counter the narratives that promote extremist violence. One of the best ways to do this is to support people of Muslim heritage — like those I lectured about while in Australia — who are fighting back against the fundamentalists. Meanwhile, the stories of the Muslim immigrants and refugees I met down under are also a reminder of the urgent need to prevent the manipulation of this terrible event in support of an anti-refugee narrative — a development which would only harm many who have already been victims of Islamist violence and who are allies in the battle against extremism.

H/t Tehmina.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The ideology-spotter

Dec 16th, 2014 3:33 pm | By

I’ve been getting a barrage of hostile tweets and comments today about four fatal words in the post I did when I first learned of the Sydney siege, soon after it started. The one or ones I got that day – Sunday here – were reasonable and accepted my explanation and apology for clumsy wording. The ones today not so much.


D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 8h
Ugh. Tells you everything you need to know about the worldview there: “privileged rich coffee drinkers” … #sydneysiege

Shane Walsh ‏@mountainsRhigh 7h
@DJGrothe so bitter about everything. It must be miserable to be her.

D.J. Grothe @DJGrothe
@mountainsRhigh When I knew her she seemed pleasant enough. People change with age, I guess.

Geddit? I’m old and rotting.


K. R. Marlo ‏@KRMarlo 8h
@DJGrothe I see she backpedalled after being called out, but …. gross.

D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 8h
@KRMarlo Yeah. I imagine she feels proud of the display of compassion for the “apron wearing” proletariat victims.

That’s such an ugly thing to say. No, I don’t feel “proud” and it wasn’t a “display” – it was a feeling put into words, obviously not well enough but all the same that’s what it was.

This isn’t weird, or peculiar to me. After 9/11 I remember a lot of commentary about the “proletariat victims” who were in the towers along with the bankers and stockbrokers – that is, about the restaurant workers and maintenance staff and cleaners and security guards and all the unglamorous not very highly paid people who were doing support work that morning.

After 7/7 I was particularly upset about Gladys Wundowa. She was a cleaner on the night shift at UCL, on the bus on her way to school, the number 30 bus that blew up in Tavistock Square.

Mrs Wundowa, 51, finished her early morning shift at 9am on Thursday before heading for a college course at Shoreditch, east London.

I don’t apologize for being particularly upset about her. That doesn’t mean I think everyone else deserved to be blown up, it just means I find it particularly poignant when underlings get it. I’m not “proud” of it; it’s not particularly rational; it’s just a feeling. I get that sometimes.

And it’s not “ideology,” either.


D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 6h
@OpheliaBenson Nah, something far less sensational. How about just blinded by messy ideology? Or is it just being anti-coffee.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 6h
.@DJGrothe Well, as I explained, it was a combination of sarcasm abt likely motives of the perp and gut-level pang for the guy in the apron.

.@DJGrothe Not really “ideology” at all, just an emo reaction.

D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 6h
@OpheliaBenson Right. For the wage earning apron wearer but not for the “privileged coffee sippers.” I think that’s an ideological bias.

I’d seen the photo of the “apron wearer” in the window. The photo got to me. I hadn’t seen photos of the other people. Those photos got to me too when I saw them yesterday, after the siege had ended. I’m human; I react to pictures.

So that’s been today. I did apologize for wording it badly, and I still do. But for having a not completely rational reaction to that picture? No.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

You can tell what brand and style the shoes are

Dec 16th, 2014 2:47 pm | By

Drone footage maps the damage done to the Nazca site by Greenpeace, io9 reports.

As PBS Newshour reports:

The Nazca figures were drawn between 500 BC and 500 AD by removing a thin patina of dark rocks covering light sand. This is one of the driest regions of the world, and the lack of water and wind has helped preserve the lines for centuries.

But they’re still quite fragile. “When you step on it, you simply break the patina and expose the bottom surface,” said Peru’s Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo . “How long does it take for nature….to again create a patina? Hundreds of years? Thousands of years? We really don’t know.”

Watch the video and pause it at 1:15 to take a good look at the Greenpeace footprints – you can see the sole-patterns very clearly. Lots of them.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson

Dec 16th, 2014 12:58 pm | By

CBS and the AP have more about the two people who were murdered at the Lindt Cafe yesterday.

Dawson was the mother of three young children, Chloe, Sasha and Oliver, and a highly respected commercial lawyer. She was remembered as “one of our best and brightest” by New South Wales Bar Association president Jane Needham.

Andrew Powell, head of the Ascham School, which Dawson attended in her youth, said she was a well-respected and giving woman who excelled at her studies. Dawson’s daughter Chloe is a student at the school and Sasha will be attending next year.

Dawson was the school’s debating captain and played hockey and basketball. After she became a lawyer, she helped teach senior students at her former school how to prepare for mock trials.

Johnson was remembered as a selfless man who put others first.

“By nature he was a perfectionist and he had a genuine passion for the hospitality industry and people,” Lindt Australia CEO Steve Loane said in a statement. “His loss is absolutely tragic.”

Johnson’s parents issued a brief statement, thanking the public for its support.

“We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for,” they said.

Those are the people that Man Haron Monis took away.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Watery Greenland

Dec 16th, 2014 12:30 pm | By

Another piece of global warming underestimated, the Guardian reports.

Melting ice from the coast of Greenland could make a much bigger contribution to rising sea levels than has previously been thought, a new study suggests.

Scientists believe a previously overlooked side-effect of global warming could greatly increase the rate of melting of the vast Greenland ice sheet.

That sounds bad.

The ice covers 1.7m sq km (656,000 sq m), an area three times the size of Texas. If all the ice melted and flowed into the sea, oceans around the world would rise by as much as six metres (20ft), causing extensive damage to coastal communities.

While such a disaster is not expected to happen, ice losses from Greenland are predicted to contribute 22 cm (8in) to global sea levels by 2100.

But the new findings related to lakes formed from melted ice and snow indicate that this figure may be significantly too low.

The study shows that as Arctic temperatures rise, Greenland will develop a rash of these “supraglacial” lakes which are expected to spread much further inland.

And what will that do?

One key effect the lakes have, once they reach a critical size, is to drain through fractures in the ice to reach the ice sheet base. Like a lubricant, the lake water causes the melting ice to slide more rapidly into the ocean.

The lakes also have a direct impact on ice sheet melting because, being darker than ice, they absorb more of the sun’s heat.

Lead researcher Dr Amber Leeson, from the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment, said: “Supraglacial lakes can increase the speed at which the ice sheet melts and flows, and our research shows that by 2060 the area of Greenland covered by them will double.”

It will make everything a lot worse, that’s what it will do.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Keeping watch over their flocks by night

Dec 16th, 2014 10:52 am | By

It’s a rough day. I think we need a baby Jesus cat.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar”

Dec 16th, 2014 10:38 am | By

A survivor of the Taliban massacre in Peshawar describes his experience.

Speaking from his bed in the trauma ward of the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, Shahrukh Khan, 16, said he and his classmates were in a careers guidance session in the school auditorium when four gunmen wearing paramilitary uniforms burst in.

“Someone screamed at us to get down and hide below the desks,” he said, adding that the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) before opening fire.

“Then one of them shouted: ‘There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them’,” Khan told AFP.

“I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches.”

Khan said he felt searing pain as he was shot in both his legs just below the knee.

He decided to play dead, adding: “I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream.

“The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again.

“My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me — I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.”

It was.

Warning: this next bit is even more gruesome.

As his father, a shopkeeper, comforted him in his blood-soaked bed, Khan recalled: “The men left after some time and I stayed there for a few minutes. Then I tried to get up but fell to the ground because of my wounds.

“When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire,” he said.

“She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.”

If Allahu akbar, what is this? What is in any way “great” about this? Or is “greatest” just a euphemism for “most powerful”? It’s true that men with big boots and guns are more powerful than schoolchildren and school teachers and office assistants. They are more powerful but in this case they are certainly not greater.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: If you know anything about the Amish

Dec 16th, 2014 10:22 am | By

Originally a comment by Misty Griffin on What Amish life is really like, by an eyewitness.

This seems a little akward but I left the Amish 9 years ago. Reading some of these comments makes my blood absolutly boil. I beleive that people who are constantly saying that they have such nice Amish neighbors, they never see anything out of place, they are so well mannered and so on are just plain ignorant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you know anything about the Amish you will know that they are a closed society and they will not let you see anything they don’t want you to see.

The things I have seen and heard would leave you truamatized for the rest of your life. Mainly the Amish practice of silenceing thier sex abuse victims, while many may say that this happens in every cultutre it is not true, not like in the Amish. In the Amish if you are raped by your Father you are not taken out of the home, you are made to forgive him and must live in the same house with him till you marry and more than likely he will continue to rape you your whole life.

This practice and many like it make me want to vomit and that is why I ran to a police station a little over 9 years ago. I am sorry but I have no love for the Amish and while some may say that I am biased I will tell you I saw to many victims to care what anyone would retort to me becuase I would tell you in return” If you were never Amish you dont have a clue what you are talking about, end of story!”

To learn more about my story you can see it on Amazon (Tears of the Silenced).

I was not born Amish but was taken to them after being held captive by my crazy mother and stepfather. I was held prisoner on a mountain until I was eighteen and after nearly being killed by my step-father I was dropped off at an Amish community. My sister and I had been raised by Amish tradition so the transition was not very difficult. My sister is still Amish and the sting of being shunned is immense. Anyone who says we should learn from the Amish must be not thinking clearly, if we all lived like the Amish we would still be living in the 1600s, people would be dying of the plague, there would be no vaccines no freedom of religion, no freedom at all pretty much. People would be dying in their mid thirties and so on. Sometimes people just do not know what they are talkinng about I guess.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The daily horror

Dec 16th, 2014 8:27 am | By

The Taliban killing as many children as it can at an army-run school in Peshawar.

Scores of survivors are being treated in hospitals as frantic parents search for news of their children.

The attack is the deadliest ever by the Taliban in Pakistan.

There has been chaos outside hospital units to which casualties were taken, the BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil reports from Peshawar.

The BBC’s live update page says 132 children and 9 staff members were killed.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid tells the BBC the Taliban raid was “a revenge attack, as many children in the school are sons and daughters of army officers”. Mr Rashid adds it was also “an attempt to unify the Taliban, who are currently divided”.

Both BBC stories have pictures of crowds outside the hospital, and they’re weirdly almost all male (I could see two women in one photo and that’s all). Maybe that’s because it’s a military hospital – but lordy you would think the anguished mothers would be there along with the anguished fathers. (The Beeb says the school teaches girls and boys.)

The militants made no demands; they started killing children as soon as they entered the school, the Pakistani army is quoted as saying by Reuters.

No kidding. That’s what they do.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The guy who killed them

Dec 15th, 2014 5:08 pm | By

The Sydney Morning Herald tells us a little about Man Haron Monis.

Self-described cleric, Man Haron Monis, 50, first came to attention of police when he penned poisonous letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers seven years ago.

Last year he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of two.

Most recently, he was charged with more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault relating to time allegedly spent as a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” who dealt with black magic at a premises in western Sydney more than a decade ago.

He was out on bail on those last two cases.

He was charged in November 2013 with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder of his ex-wife Noleen Hayson Pal.

Ms Pal was stabbed and set alight in a Werrington apartment block.

Droudis has been charged with the murder.

And then in April this year, Monis was charged by sex crimes squad detectives with the indecent and sexual assault of a woman in western Sydney in 2002.

Police allege that Monis was a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” who operated out of premises on Station Street at Wentworthville.

News of his arrest prompted more victims to come forward and Monis was hit with an additional 40 charges in October.

It is alleged that Monis placed ads in local newspapers offering “spiritual consultation”.

He claimed to be an expert in astrology, numerology, meditation and black magic.

Monis has posted online that the police charges are part of a witch hunt against him.

Right, it was all trumped up. Obviously.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The victims at the Lindt Café

Dec 15th, 2014 5:06 pm | By

The manager of the café and a barrister are the two hostages who were killed, The Australian reports.

The manager of the Lindt Café, Tori Johnson, 34, was one of the two hostages killed during the 16-hour siege, along with 38-year-old barrister Katrina Dawson.

Reports suggest Mr Johnson died after trying to knock the gun from the hand of Man Haron Monis shortly after 2am this morning.

That is, Monis murdered him.

Mr Johnson had been manager of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe for more than two years, and worked previously in hotel and restaurant jobs around Sydney.

He was a porter and assistant concierge at the five-star Observatory Hotel at The Rocks, before working for hotels overseas in the US and the Maldives.

Mr Johnson returned to Sydney as the food and beverage manager at the Rydges Jamison hotel in the city, and moved to the Adria Rybar and Grill at Darling Harbour before taking on the manager role at the flagship Lindt Cafe in October 2012.

NSW Bar Association president Jane Needham SC announced Ms Dawson’s passing this morning to the NSW Bar.

“Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends at the NSW Bar,” she said.

“She was a devoted mother of three children, and a valued member of her floor and of our bar community. Our thoughts are with her family at this time, including her brother, Sandy Dawson of Banco Chambers.

Three children.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Upset people don’t process information well

Dec 15th, 2014 4:24 pm | By

Originally a comment by Brisvegan on Even when you are emotionally invested.

I am a law lecturer. Many of my students will go on to practice law. However, legal practice is enormously variable. Some will work in criminal law, dealing with the worst of offenders, some in family law, with distressing family breakdowns and some will work in areas like leasing or commercial transactions, which don’t require them to deal with the more traumatic sides of human experience. Each student must still study core curriculum that includes cases with very nasty facts. However, some very able students and lawyers will create a professional life that lets them avoid areas of practice that they personally can’t cope with.

I teach in an area where a bunch of cases on evidence law include details of sexual assaults. However, do I put sexual assault facts on exams? No. I can test the same knowledge without triggering sexual assault survivors by detailing assaults.

I don’t see why this question would be on an exam. It clearly signals to some students that their concerns over Michael Brown’s human rights and their compassion for his family are merely matter for intellectual games, not serious life altering, frightening events that signal a lack of safety for people of colour. It also depicts his supporters as violent, in a way which would reinforce the prejudices of those who argue that black lives matter less.

I would not set this question, because it could distress a bunch of my students, unnecessarily. Upset people don’t process information as well as calm people. The group most likely to be upset are people of colour. Thus, this question rigs the exam against people of colour. The same knowledge could easily be tested using a completely different question. So, I would use a less racially charged, distressing question.

As to lawyers having to confront distressing issues in court: Many do. Many don’t. Those who do often don’t have only limited exam pressured time to come up with an answer. Even if they have limited time, the situation and outcome would be very different. They would often have time, professional experience and professional support to help process and deal with difficult issues before during or after distressing events. They would be able to make a direct difference via their acts and client representation. The difference is like that between having vile taunts flung at you and working to expose or reduce vile taunts. The words and person might be the same, but the sense of power and ability to cope are different. A great student might be knocked off balance by suddenly being confronted with this question in an exam, but might still go on to be an amazing human rights lawyer.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A one-way ticket to London please

Dec 15th, 2014 3:50 pm | By

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid tells us about a reactionary cleric who finds himself hoist by his own petard fatwa.

Pakistani pop singer turned religious cleric Junaid Jamshed has been accused of blasphemy recently. Jamshed has now taken refuge in London, rightly fearing for his life in Pakistan.

The allegation occurred after Jamshed re-enacted a hadith which suggests that the Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife Ayesha occasionally faked illness to seek her husband’s attention. The re-enactment was entitled ‘even the prophet’s company cannot tame a woman’.

Jamshed is notorious – or renowned, depending on who you talk to – for his misogynistic views. He is on record as saying:

“If you want a happy life, do not teach your wives how to drive a car. Do not let her go outside. She might leave you.”

He has also said that “A husband only involves himself in an extra marital affair because his wife isn’t doing enough. She is to be blamed.” 

He has also advocated a ban on women driving, drawn connections between respect and how much a woman covers herself, and generally espoused the view that women are men’s possessions.

Hmm. Is it very wrong of me to feel glad that he feared for his life in Pakistan and had to run away to horrible kuffar London? It probably is, but I do all the same.

Jamshed, who is on record as saying that ‘secularism is a curse’, is now taking refuge in a society that has secular laws, vying to dodge the ramifications of the jurisprudence that he has endorsed for 17 years.

Despite Britain’s increasing number of Sharia courts – 85 at time of writing – which are limited to financial and familial matters, Jamshed knows he is perfectly safe in Britain, a country that epitomises everything that’s ‘wrong’ with the ‘evil West’.

He was wise enough to not go into exile in Saudi Arabia, the country that is the epitome of Jamshed’s version of Islam, which is intolerant, fundamentalist and extremist.

The Saudi legal system is based on Sharia law and does not have a penal code. Therefore, in Saudi Arabia, where Jamshed’s endorsed law prevails, the punishment for his comments about Ayesha would be left at the mercy of a judge’s interpretation of the Sharia law, which more often than not leads to decapitated heads.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that harsh laws and punishments seem so desirable until they are applied to oneself?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They have faces

Dec 15th, 2014 3:03 pm | By

Lejla Kurić points out that Mughal art has plenty of faces.

Oh so it does. I have a big ol’ stack of postcards of Mughal art, from the V&A and the British Library and the Fitzwilliam and wherever else I found them. Faces. There are faces.

Faces faces everywhere.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Now that’s a face

Dec 15th, 2014 11:32 am | By

Last August Slate ran a piece debunking the mythmaking in the documentary Dinosaur 13, about the federal prosecution of a fossil-collector who found a 90% complete T Rex skeleton in 1990.

Dinosaur 13’s embattled hero is Peter Larson, introduced as a “brilliant paleontologist” by no less an authority on earth science than a former National Geographic photographer. In truth, Larson is a commercial collector and vendor of fossils. Paleontologists have formal training in graduate school, where they learn to excavate and document fossil finds to preserve invaluable information. Along the way, one hopes, they learn that fossils are part of the public trust, not to be hawked or pirated.

CNN has been showing Dinosaur 13 so I watched it; it’s pretty gripping, although the loud and repetitive music is way overdone. But I did keep thinking throughout that a dinosaur fossil shouldn’t “belong to” anyone, it should be the property of everyone and no one. I’d read about Larson and Sue at some point, so I knew to be suspicious of his take all along. It’s all a bit Greenpeace-like – he should have told museum paleontologists or academic ones or all of them about the T Rex, not treated it as a treasure belonging to him because he found it.

Larson and his Black Hills Institute are subjected to the ravages of the FBI and National Guard, who confiscate first the dinosaur and then all of the business’s files. The first federal foray aimed, rightly, to remove “Sue” from it’s legally challenged custody. But in Dinosaur 13, the fossil’s relocation is a jack-booted raid by that eternal enemy of the lawless West, the gummint.

The files were seized as part of an investigation into widespread allegations of international fossil theft and misrepresentation against Larson. Laborious research resulted in convictions of Larson and others at Black Hills for customs fraud, money laundering, and other offenses. But, in Dinosaur 13’s curious reimagination of the legal process, several convictions and a two-year prison sentence for Larson—which was, admittedly, overly harsh—are somehow proof of Larson’s fundamental innocence.

And there’s a lot of nonsense about how the T Rex should have stayed in Hill City, South Dakota. Where did it go instead? The Field Museum in Chicago. Well which is better? Obviously the latter: more people will be able to see it, more scientists will be able to study it, more professionals will take care of it. It’s treated as a tragedy but there’s nothing tragic about it.

Lost in Dinosaur 13’s re-invention of history—which is subtitled “a true tale”—is the actual import of the Larson affair. Dinosaur 13 should have celebrated the government. Its servants sought to protect our prehistory from commercial abuse by targeting one of its most prominent dealers. And they got their man.

Even the US, the Vatican of the church of the free market, doesn’t think fossils should be sold like so much gravel.

The Field Museum

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)