Tagged: United States

Realistic count of homicides by police = about 1100 per year

…The U.S. government doesn’t track how many people are killed by the police. The FBI tracks “justifiable” police homicides, which it reports to be about 400 per year, but that tally is an undercount.

Given this vacuum, attention has recently turned to some excellent nongovernmental attempts to compile this data, including the Fatal Encounters database, the recently created Gun Violence Archive and a new database created by Deadspin.

But one recent effort stood out for its apparent comprehensiveness: The Killed By Police Facebook page, which aggregates links to news articles on police-related killings and keeps a running tally on the number of victims. The creator of the page does not seek to determine whether police killings are justifiable; each post “merely documents the occurrence of a death.” He told FiveThirtyEight that he was an instructor on nonviolent physical-intervention techniques and that he prefers to remain anonymous.

Killed by Police had listed more than 1,450 deaths caused by law-enforcement officers since its launch, on May 1, 2013, through Sunday. That works out to about three per day, or 1,100 a year.

The page doesn’t claim that this is a comprehensive count, but it could be useful — like the count from the FBI’s annual Supplementary Homicide Report is useful — for setting a baseline number of police killings, as long as important caveats are acknowledged. For one, any database drawn from news sites relies on the assumption that the reports are accurate…

RTFA for an interesting examination of how the folks at fivethirtyeight.com went about their statistical task. They’re one of the most reliable, self-checking survey sources in the nation along with the Pew Foundation.

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Just another day in Gaza: Israel shells people waiting in line for food – Netanyahu says OK to murder civilians – Obama says nothing

Guernica
Click to enlarge – GUERNICA – after Nazis bombed that village during the Spanish Civil War

At least 10 people have been killed in a strike near a UN-run school housing Palestinians displaced by the Gaza conflict, medics say. The attack hit the entrance of the facility in Rafah, where thousands of Palestinians are said to be sheltering…

The latest exchanges came after Israel’s military said that an officer it feared had been captured had now been confirmed dead. Hadar Goldin went missing on Friday near Rafah.

Confirmation of 2nd Lt Goldin’s death means 66 Israelis have now died in the fighting, all but two of them soldiers…

Palestinian death toll [this morning] now over 1700 – a third of them women and children.

The Israeli shelling of the Jabaliya UN shelter last week, which killed 16 people, drew widespread international condemnation.

In the latest attack, eyewitnesses said a missile struck as people queued for food…At least 30 people were also hurt, Palestinian officials said. Images showed injured children being carried away.

Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: “The locations of all of these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times. They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea…”

I think we all get the idea. Israel’s military, Israel’s government, doesn’t care how many innocents they kill.

Chris Gunness, from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told the BBC that a “health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding in Gaza, with medical services on the verge of collapse”.

He said: “Critical supplies of medicines and disposables are almost depleted and the damage and destruction of power supplies has left hospitals dependent on unreliable generators.”

Yes, there is a lot more in the article from Israel’s government. Don’t worry – you won’t miss any of it.

You will hear that side repeated over and over, again, on all the Sunday talk shows and in the obedient American press. Flunkies from the United States government will say that the billion$ in military weapons provided Israel every year are only there for defense.

Not to keep a captive nation in subjugation.

US court overturns Obama’s decision that wind farm is a security risk

wind-farms-US

A US Federal Court has overturned a ruling backing President Barack Obama’s decision to block a Chinese-owned company’s from building four 10MW projects in Oregon.

The US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia reversed the decision made in October by the Federal District Court, which said Obama followed correct procedure in refusing Ralls Co. permission to build the Oregon projects and forcing the company to sell them.

Ralls Co., which is owned by Chinese firm Sany Electric, sued the US government in 2012 after Obama’s decision. It was the first time since 1990 a US president blocked a foreign business deal.

The president ruled, in 2012, the location of the four projects near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in the US northwest posed a threat to national security

Now, the Federal Court of Appeals has backed Ralls Corp and ordered the company be provided with the evidence the President used to block the application.

The lizard brains in Washington were afraid that airspace used for training naval aviators might somehow be compromised by wind generators producing carbon-free electricity.

Will our nation ever weary of hypocrites and paranoids in charge of our destiny? Populists on the Left and Right wail and whine about foreign investment in the United States as an appropriate alternative to American corporations offshoring jobs whenever and wherever they can save a couple of pennies on the dollar. But, when foreign investors happen to be the wrong political color, when folks roll ashore carrying dollars from the profits they made from your friendly neighborhood capitalist – the Cold War is somehow more appealing to the blivets sitting in air-conditioned DC offices. And, yes, there are other wind farms in the same area also operated by foreigners: one Danish company and another German.

There aren’t a whole boatload of elected officials dedicated to helping us out. Cripes, we can’t even get the leadpants brigade in Congress to ante up the geedus to repair our roads and bridges. But, we’re supposed to trust their history of dedication to job security when they disapprove of clean air from a project owned by the “wrong kind” of furriner.

Death spiral linked to neonicotinoids expands to include farmland birds

New research has identified the world’s most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds.

The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production.

The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. But the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.

Peer-reviewed research, published in the leading journal Nature this Wednesday, has revealed data from the Netherlands showing that bird populations fell most sharply in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. Starlings, tree sparrows and swallows were among the most affected…

The researchers, led by Hans de Kroon, an ecologist at Radboud University, in the Netherlands, examined other possible reasons for the bird declines seen during the study period of 2003 to 2010, including intensification of farming. But high pollution by a neonicotinoid known as imidacloprid was by far the largest factor.

“It is very surprising and very disturbing,” de Kroon said. Water pollution levels of just 20 nanograms of neonicotinoid per litre led to a 30% fall in bird numbers over 10 years, but some water had contamination levels 50 times higher. “That is why it is so disturbing – there is an incredible amount of imidacloprid in the water,” he said. “And it is not likely these effects will be restricted to birds.”

De Kroon added: “All the other studies [on harm caused by neonicotinoids] build up from toxicology studies. But we approached this completely from the other end. We started with the bird population data and tried to explain the declines. Our study really makes the evidence complete that something is going on here. We can’t go on like this any more. It has to stop.”

RTFa for all the details. As a modern society I expect the Netherlands will respond to scientific studies as the peer-review process continues.

Here in the land of Tea Parties and the Best Government Money Can Buy – I am less assured of any efforts to proceed with caution and a decision process based on science. But, then – you already knew that.

Thanks, Mike

Germany arrests suspected double agent spying for U.S.

An employee of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States…

The German Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement that a 31-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of being a foreign spy, but it gave no further details. Investigations were continuing, it said…

The man, who is German, has admitted passing to an American contact details about a special German parliamentary committee set up to investigate the spying revelations made by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the politicians said…

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “We don’t take the matter of spying for foreign intelligence agencies lightly“…

The United States embassy in Berlin, the State Department in Washington and the White House all declined to comment.

Germany is particularly sensitive about surveillance because of abuses by the East German Stasi secret police and the Nazis. After the Snowden revelations, Berlin demanded that Washington agree to a “no-spy agreement” with its close ally, but the United States has been unwilling…

Bild newspaper said in an advance copy of an article to be published on Saturday that the man had worked for two years as a double agent and had stolen 218 confidential documents.

He sold the documents, three of which related to the work of the committee in the Bundestag, for 25,000 euros, Bild said, citing security sources.

The United States government – regardless of which of the two TweedleDee and TweedleDumb parties is in residence – can always be counted on to rely on duplicity and lies in our relationship with every other country on this poor old planet.

The same lies they feed us.

ReWalk exoskeleton gets FDA approval for home use

Following multiple clinical studies, the Food and Drug Administration has cleared the way for the ReWalk to be sold for personal use in the US. This makes the ReWalk the first motorized exoskeleton designed for people with lower body paralysis due to spinal cord injury to be cleared for personal use in the US.

ReWalk consists of a wearable brace support worn outside clothing, a computer-based control system and motion sensors to enable paraplegics to sit, stand, walk and even climb stairs with a little motorized help. Until now, the ReWalk technology has only been available in the US at rehabilitation clinics in the form of the ReWalk Rehabilitation system. This version is designed specifically for use in a clinical rehabilitation environment and as such can be adapted to fit users of different sizes and weights.

The ReWalk Personal System, on the other hand, is customized to suit a specific user and is designed for daily use in a range of environments, including outdoors and on a variety of surfaces and terrains. It was first cleared for personal use in the UK in 2012 and has been available there and throughout Europe since that time. Now those in the US have the chance to take home their own ReWalk with the FDA issuing a marketing clearance for the device.

For a change, we’re only 2 years behind other Western nations in providing a revolutionary prosthesis.

We live in a technological era when the combinations of engineering materials and miniaturized, powerful computer processors open doorways for amazing numbers of the disabled. Now, we just need the social and political advancement to bring our nation up to match the capabilities of our scientists and technologists.

Swiss voters say NO to Gripen fighter deal in nationwide referendum

Swiss voters have shot down a government plan to procure nearly two dozen Saab-made Gripen jet fighters from Sweden…

The Swiss government said 53.4 percent of those voting on Sunday were against funding the procurement, which would have cost $3.5 billion…

The Swiss air Force currently flies the F/A-18, due for retirement in 2025. The Federal Council planned to replace the U.S.-built planes with 22 Gripens…

Swiss opponents to their government’s Gripen deal argued the money spent to procure the planes could better be spent on other things.

NSS. The Minister of Defense said “This decision has the effect of creating security gaps.” He has gaposis of the brain. Sitting around worrying about someone invading Switzerland next week is like worrying about Canada’s great land army waging a major assault upon Yankee Stadium.

Now, here in the United States, we’re being asked to acquire 2,443 killer F-35 fighter aircraft at a cost of $125 million to $156 million a copy depending on options, radio, powered sub-woofers, Pandora, etc..

Good thing we have Congress to take care of unreasonable and outright stupid expenditures like this from falling on the shoulders of American taxpayers.

Oh.

AIA’s 2014 top 10 green buildings in the US

The American Institute of Architects has revealed its 2014 selection of top ten green buildings in the US. As was the case with last year’s list, the judges came up with an interesting list of buildings that includes some lesser-publicized green-building projects, such as a homeless shelter, a treehouse, and even a Net-Zero energy courthouse.

Gizmag briefly covers each of the selections.

As a key part of Portland, Oregon’s decade-long effort to combat homelessness, the Bud Clark Commons building provides a safe place for vulnerable people to transition from sleeping on the streets to living in a stable home. The building features a walk-in day center, support services, 90 temporary shelter beds, and 130 furnished studio apartments which serve as permanent housing.

Green technology in the LEED Platinum project include greywater recycling, solar hot water, heat recovery ventilation, and natural daylight.

Nine more to go. All worthwhile, all interesting.

Slowly, without the kind of support green building gets in, say, Germany, without the kind of support our federal and state governments provide for fossil-fuel-burning powerplants or companies building instruments of mass murder, weapons of mass destruction – we are making progress in the United States.

Ask your Congress-critter sometime which of these categories gets what priority in their agenda.

US elections are rigged — Canada knows how to fix that

When Americans voted for the House of Representatives in 2012, Democratic candidates won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans. Yet after the dust settled, the GOP ended up with a 234-201 majority in the chamber. And several recently-gerrymandered states had particularly odd results — for instance, in Pennsylvania, Republicans won 49 percent of the votes, but 69 percent of the seats.

Gerrymandering isn’t the only reason that election results only occasionally match vote totals…Several analyses find that simple geography matters more — many Democratic voters are packed closer together in urban areas…But gerrymandering infuriates voters because it feels so unfair. Letting partisan politicians — or their appointees — draw congressional districts reverses the normal order of politics. Voters are supposed to choose their politicians. Gerrymandering lets politicians choose their voters.

So is it possible to end gerrymandering? Well, the country just north of us managed to pull it off. “Canadian reapportionment was highly partisan from the beginning until the 1960s,” writes Charles Paul Hoffman in the Manitoba Law Journal. This “led to frequent denunciations by the media and opposition parties. Every ten years, editorial writers would condemn the crass gerrymanders that had resulted.” Sound familiar?

Eventually, in 1955, one province — Manitoba — decided to experiment, and handed over the redistricting process to an independent commission. Its members were the province’s chief justice, its chief electoral officer, and the University of Manitoba president. The new policy became popular, and within a decade, it was backed by both major national parties, and signed into law.

Independent commissions now handle the redistricting in every province. “Today, most Canadian ridings [districts] are simple and uncontroversial, chunky and geometric, and usually conform to the vague borders of some existing geographic / civic region knowable to the average citizen who lives there,” writes JJ McCullough. “Of the many matters Canadians have cause to grieve their government for, corrupt redistricting is not one of them.” Hoffman concurs, writing, “The commissions have been largely successful since their implementation.”

Canada changed this 50 years ago. Actually the majority of countries that accept democratic representation as their standard use independent commissions – taking control of districting for elections out of the hands of those running for office.

Might be worthwhile to pass this suggestion along to your Congress-critter. I’ll hold back my cynicism – for a moment.

Angela Merkel denied access to NSA file on her government

The US government is refusing to grant Angela Merkel access to her NSA file or answer formal questions from Germany about its surveillance activities, raising the stakes before a crucial visit by the German chancellor to Washington.

Merkel will meet Barack Obama in three weeks, on her first visit to the US capital since documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been monitoring her phone.

The face-to-face meeting between the two world leaders had been intended as an effort to publicly heal wounds after the controversy, but Germany remains frustrated by the White House’s refusal to come clean about its surveillance activities in the country.

In October, Obama personally assured Merkel that the US is no longer monitoring her calls, and promised it will not do so in the future. However, Washington has not answered a list of questions submitted by Berlin immediately after Snowden’s first tranche of revelations appeared in the Guardian and Washington Post in June last year, months before the revelations over Merkel’s phone.

The Obama’s administration has also refused to enter into a mutual “no-spy” agreement with Germany, in part because Berlin is unwilling or unable to share the kinds of surveillance material the Americans say would be required for such a deal…

A senior US administration official denied the surveillance controversy would overshadow Merkel’s visit.

So, Germany isn’t spying on enough people to make it worthwhile for the White House to order diminished spying on Germans and their government. Not exactly a modern approach to democracy.

The “senior US administration official” – of course – is a liar.

RTFA article for history, details, the kind of info embraced by few journalists and even fewer editors.