Firefighters soothe scared girl by singing to her


Click for the song and lyrics

Two Reading, Mass., firefighters sung Let it Go from the Disney hit Frozen to soothe the fears of a 4-year-old girl stuck in an elevator.

The girl, Kaelyn Kerr, of Billerica, Mass., was on her way to a hair salon with her mother, Kristin Kerr, and baby brother when the elevator jammed.

“I went to go push the door and nothing happened,” Kristin Kerr said. “So that’s when I was pushing the buttons and nothing happened.”

Once firefighters arrived, they determined the only way to free the family was for them to climb a ladder out of the top of the elevator car and over a wall.

“When they put the ladder down that’s when she kind of started freaking out a little bit,” Kristin Kerr said, describing Kaelyn’s fear.

Firefighter John Keough started talking to Kaelyn to calm her down and discovered her favorite movie was Frozen. Keough’s partner, firefighter Scott Myette, pulled the song Let it Go up on his phone and started the sing along.

“It worked,” said Keough. “We got her to a point where she was comfortable with us and up the ladder we went, right up and over, no problem…”

“You say, okay how would my kids be comforted in this situation, so anything we can do to make them more comfortable makes our job a lot easier,” Myette said.

Bravo. My kind of heros.

Restore ancient clam gardens to nurture food security


A research boat surveys partially submerged ancient clam gardens – click for inspiration

Researchers discovered that ancient clam gardens made by Aboriginal people produced quadruple the number of butter clams and twice the number of littleneck clams as unmodified clam beaches. This is the first study to provide empirical evidence of ancient clam gardens’ superior productivity.

In the past, as indigenous coastal communities from Alaska to Washington State grew in numbers, people needed to devise sustainable ways of feeding themselves. One of the ways they did this was by cultivating clams in human-made, rock-walled beach terraces known as clam gardens.

When the researchers transplanted more than 800 baby clams into six ancient clam gardens and five non-walled natural beaches to compare their growth rates they made a groundbreaking discovery.

The clams in the ancient gardens grew almost twice as fast and were more likely to survive than baby clams transplanted into unmodified beaches in the same area.

“We discovered that flattening the slope of ancient beach clam gardens expanded the real-estate for clams at the intertidal height at which they grow and survive best,” explains Salomon. The…professor adds: “Traditional knowledge by coastal First Nations members further revealed that their ancestors boosted these gardens’ productivity by adding ground clam shell and pebbles to them…”

Dana Lepofsky says, “On the Northwest Coast we are fortunate to have both the tangible record of clam gardens and the culture-based knowledge of local indigenous people to educate us. The lessons learned here have global implications for food security and about the way indigenous people interact with their land and seascapes.”

Lead author Amy Groesbeck and the whole research crew deserve kudos for this piece of work. Cripes, it sounds tempting enough to make me daydream about life back on the New England coast.

Little necks and cherrystones – lightly sautéed with your favorite olive oil and garlic – tossed with pasta and a wee bit of chopped parsley, maybe a little marjorum. Yum.

Why DOJ prosecutors have done nothing about subprime crime


My broker’s phone number is in the top righthand drawer of the desk

One of the great “mysteries” of the post-financial-crisis era is why there has been almost no prosecution of obvious criminality, particularly in the mortgage business. We have been told it is more complex than it appears; that the securitization process has made determining exactly who was harmed complicated; that this complexity makes convincing a jury a crapshoot.

All of these arguments fail to withstand even cursory scrutiny when it comes to foreclosure fraud. The robo-signing, document fabrication and mass perjury should have been fish in a barrel for even a newbie prosecutor. Why did the government fail to go after so many perpetrators of mass fraud?

A Justice Department inspector general’s report released this week raises that exact question. It found that: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements” and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation “ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest ranked criminal threat in its lowest crime category…”

This all took place during an era of limited legal enforcement for white-collar crimes. Prosecutions for financial felonies began falling under the George W. Bush administration, and kept right on doing so during the Barack Obama administration. At least we can’t blame this governmental incompetency on partisanship…

So why were there so few prosecutions? I have three theories:

1) Endowment Effect & Sunk Cost Fallacies: The TARP, ZIRP and FASB rule changes were not especially popular.

2) Economic Threat:…“The greatest triumph of the banking industry wasn’t ATMs or even depositing a check via the camera of your mobile phone. It was convincing Treasury and Justice Department officials that prosecuting bankers for their crimes would destabilize the global economy.”

3) The wrong players in key roles: When Obama began his administration, he appointed experienced people to key economic roles. Unfortunately, their resumes included helping to create the financial crisis.

RTFA for all the gory details. Barry Ritholtz has the wonderful habit of trying to tell the truth as he sees it, as he finds it. That doesn’t inhibit his willingness to identify corruption no matter how widespread, inclusive of “nice” people.

First gay couple married in Michigan — UPDATED

Two women were the first gay couple to marry in Michigan on Saturday, one day after the state’s ban on gay marriage, approved by voters in a landslide in 2004, was scratched from the state constitution by a federal judge.

Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, both of Lansing, were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum in Mason just after her office opened at 8am Saturday. Byrum said it was an honor to marry same-sex couples who have waited too long for this day.

“I figured in my lifetime it would happen,” Caspar said. “But now, when it happens now, it’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”

DeJong and Caspar have been together for 27 years. DeJong called it a day of “sheer joy,” adding that Michigan should not “waste taxpayer dollars and cause more turmoil” by pursuing a stay on gay marriage as Attorney General Bill Schuette did immediately after Friday’s ruling.

Clerks who handle marriage licenses in Michigan’s 83 counties said they would start granting them to gay men and lesbians – at least three as early as Saturday. DeJong and Caspar first learned the courthouse would be open after Byrum tweeted about it early Saturday morning.

At least 50 people had lined up in the Oakland County clerk’s office in Pontiac, on the outskirts of the Detroit metropolitan area, when clerk Lisa Brown arrived to open it at 8am local time, carrying a heart-shaped balloon. Brown’s staff handed out paperwork to couples who were undeterred by the Michigan attorney general’s immediate appeal…

Not that the state’s Republican-dominated legislature cares about all love and marriage.

It isn’t known when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati will respond to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request for a stay while an appeal is pursued…”A stay would serve the public interest by preserving the status quo … while preventing irreparable injury to the state and its citizens,” he said…

The historic decision by US District Judge Bernard Friedman, who said the ballot box is no defense to a law that tramples the rights of same-sex couples, followed a two-week trial that explored attitudes and research about homosexual marriage and households led by same-sex couples…

He praised April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Detroit-area nurses who are raising three children with special needs. They filed a lawsuit in 2012 because they’re barred from jointly adopting each other’s children. Joint adoption is reserved for married heterosexual couples in Michigan.

“In attempting to define this case as a challenge to ‘the will of the people,’ state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people,” the judge said…”It is the court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up ‘to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives,'” Friedman said, quoting the Supreme Court.

Bigots have always quoted the “will of the people” when they live in a state backwards enough to endorse bigotry. If not, there is no shortage of sophistry to generate appeals against progressive change, modernizing of 14th Century morality.

UPDATE: 300 couples manage to get marriage licenses before judge responds to Republican government of Michigan and stops gay marriages. Conservative homophobes can rest easy this morning. Second-class citizenship is restored to Michigan at least temporarily.