Study finds Americans safe from gun violence except in schools, malls, airports, movie theatres, workplaces, streets, their homes

A new study released today indicates that Americans are safe from the threat of gun violence except in schools, malls, airports, movie theatres, workplaces, streets, and their own homes.

Also: highways, turnpikes, libraries, places of worship, parks, universities, restaurants, post offices, and cars.

Plus: driveways, garages, gyms, stores, military bases—and a host of other buildings, structures, and sites.

National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre applauded the study, saying that it reinforced his organization’s long-held position that the United States does not need additional gun laws. “This study makes it abundantly clear that Americans are in no danger of gun violence except in these isolated four hundred and thirteen places,” he said.

He added that he hoped that the study would spark a conversation “about the root cause of mass shootings: people who recklessly show up at places where they could be shot at.”

I truly enjoy folks with a sarcastic sense of humor.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Combo Post: Dumb crook of the day tries for Darwin Award

Thomas sitting in the cab before he fell to his death

A nearly 15-hour standoff ended early Tuesday in Dallas when a robbery suspect who climbed atop a construction crane on the campus of Southern Methodist University fell 150 feet to his death.

Lee Dell Thomas Jr., 44, had barricaded himself in the crane’s cab Monday. He fell after Dallas police sent four officers up the crane to try to remove him…

Thomas had one leg inside and one leg outside the window of the compartment. Then, he clung to the crane’s edge for a moment before falling to his death just before 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Thomas may have been involved in a robbery in Dallas, police said…

Thomas was spotted in the crane’s control cab around 11:30 a.m. Monday, apparently trying to avoid arrest, local affiliates reported. Shortly afterward, he threw an unidentified object from the cab.

The crane was being used to build a housing area near the football stadium, according to CNN affiliate KTVT. The crane is also next to the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which is under construction.

Video from KTVT showed the silhouette of a man holed up in the cab of the crane, refusing to come down.

Local affiliates at the scene said Thomas got sick inside the cab Monday, possibly because the compartment didn’t have air-conditioning. Members of the media saw him take off his shirt and shoes, break out a window and toss his clothing out.

Another one bites the dust – pretty much literally. How do you hide from the law in a dead end 150 feet in the air?

“Family values” newspapers won’t publish Doonesbury strip on Texas abortion law – cartoon strip starts today

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau has defended his cartoon strip about abortion, which several US newspapers are refusing to run, saying he felt compelled to respond to the way Republicans across America are undermining women’s healthcare rights.

The strip, published on Monday and scheduled to run all week, has been rejected by several papers, while others said they were switching it from the comic section to the editorial page.

In an email exchange with the Guardian, Trudeau expressed dismay over the papers’ decision but was unrepentant, describing as “appalling” and “insane” Republican state moves on women’s healthcare.

About 1,400 newspapers, including the Guardian, take the Doonesbury cartoon. The Guardian is running the cartoon as normal on Monday.

The strip deals specifically with a law introduced in Texas and other states requiring a woman who wants to have an abortion to have an ultrasound scan, or sonogram, which will show an image of the foetus and other details, in an attempt to make her reconsider…

The Kansas City Star is among the papers not running the cartoon in its normal slot. “We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family-friendly comic page,” an editor told Associated Press. The Star will use a replacement strip offered by the organisation that syndicates Doonesbury, Universal Uclick, and move the abortion one to its editorial pages…

Abortion, contraception and other social issues have resurfaced in politics in recent weeks, partly because they have been highlighted by the Republican candidates in the presidential race. Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh referred to a student giving evidence to a congressional hearing in support of contraception as “a slut”.

Trudeau told the Guardian he thought the issue of reproductive freedom had been settled while he had still been at school: the Supreme Court 1973 ruling Roe v Wade, which removed restrictions on abortion.

Trudeau wrote: “Ninety-nine percent of American women have or will use contraception during their lifetimes. To see these healthcare rights systematically undermined in state after state by the party of ‘limited government’ is appalling. “In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity.”

Perhaps not central to the question of why newspapers across America are in decline; but, cowardice in the face of bigotry and corporate churches with big bucks invested in so-called family values certainly plays a role.

A 19th Century outlook often accompanies the 19th Century pride in owning a newspaper even among independent locally-owned newspapers. The rest are simply part of corporate media empires which couldn’t care less about Freedom of the Press.

Tories work even harder to ape the war policies of George W Bush

Wootton Bassett was the first town in more than 100 years to be granted
the “Royal” title in recognition of its parades for fallen soldiers

For several years, the flag-draped coffins of fallen servicemen and women have been met by large crowds who line the streets to pay their respects as they return to British soil.

But repatriation flights are to be diverted and will no longer be flown back to RAF Lyneham and through the small Wiltshire town of Royal Wootton Bassett, where they were saluted come rain or shine.

Instead, they will arrive back to RAF Brize Norton, where they will be driven through the back gate and then down side roads, neatly avoiding the nearby town of Carterton, as they make their way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Andrew Robathan, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, admitted that the decision to avoid public scenes of emotion had been taken deliberately.

The side gate was seen by the Ministry of Defence and the police as the most appropriate way to take out future corteges,” he told Radio Oxford…

A spokesman added: “Consideration has also been given to ensure the dignity and solemnity of the military repatriation ceremony is maintained and to those who are arriving at RAF Brize Norton about to deploy on operations.”

In other words, “we don’t want the silly buggers still serving in the British military to see what awaits them after a decade of dishonor!”

Best way to rob luggage? Pretend to be luggage!

Spanish police have arrested a man said to have smuggled himself in a case on to Barcelona airport coaches in order to burgle the luggage compartments.

An alleged accomplice was also arrested after the first man was found “doubled up almost like a contortionist” inside the case, police said.

Asked what he was doing, the suitcase man, who wore a head lamp, said he had been unable to pay the coach fare…

The alleged burglar was also found with a sharp tool apparently used for opening zips and locks, as well as a small bag and a mobile phone.

Police believe the man was loaded on to coaches by his accomplice, who would then reclaim him after the 90-minute return trip to Barcelona’s Girona airport.

“Once the trip began, he would get out of the suitcase, search for valuable objects and hide them in a smaller bag he carried with him,” regional Catalan police were quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

But last Friday, Spain’s el Periodico newspaper reports, a coach company employee noticed a man struggling to put a heavy suitcase in the hold of a coach and alerted the authorities…

Inside, they found the alleged burglar, who was pouring with sweat. His alleged accomplice had already boarded the coach.

The two men, both Polish citizens, were arrested for the theft of a laptop and a GPS device, while police are seeking to trace other possible burglary victims.

Krzysztof Grzegorz is the name of the contortionist who hid in the luggage. I can imagine where he kept his head.

The “Party of NO” is also the party of no work

Republican Earth

All seven Republicans on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee plan to boycott next week’s work session on a climate-change bill…in a move aimed at thwarting Democratic efforts to advance the controversial legislation quickly.

Republicans will be forced not to show up” at Tuesday’s work session, said Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Republican senators on the environment panel.

Under committee rules, at least two Republicans are needed for Chairwoman Barbara Boxer to hold the work sessions that would give senators an opportunity to amend the controversial legislation and then vote to approve it in the panel, which is controlled by President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats…

Even with committee approval of the bill, the full Senate is not expected to vote on it this year. The legislation, as currently written, would have a hard time gaining the support of the 60 senators needed to pass major bills.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration is hoping for more progress by Congress before the Copenhagen summit. In June, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming…

Republicans on the environment committee say the climate-change bill would cause significant job losses by encouraging manufacturers to relocate more of their plants in countries that do not have as strict carbon controls.

We’re supposed to make noises indicating surprise – I guess – though Republicans could care less about what happens to American jobs.

This is, after all, the party that damned near invented outsourcing, refused to enforce existing laws on outsourcing, provided subsidies for American firms relocating factories abroad.

As for caring about the environment? Puh-lease. Give me a break!

Obama releasing Reagan records kept “privileged” by Bush

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

President Barack Obama is ordering the release of nearly a quarter of a million pages of records from the Reagan White House that were kept from the public during a lengthy review by President George W. Bush.

The Reagan documents – which include presidential briefing papers, speechwriting research materials and declassified foreign policy records — are expected to be released Monday.

Officials said the Obama administration’s quick verdict on the documents was prompted by an executive order Obama signed in January that gives the incumbent president 30 days to make such a decision, unless he sets a longer period. By contrast, Bush’s executive order on presidential records set no time limit on the White House’s review…

However, there were indications that the most contested presidential records from the Reagan era might not be among the roughly 250,000 pages cleared for release by Obama.

Scott Nelson’s group fought a court battle for about a dozen documents, including memoranda about possible pardons for Iran-Contra figures such as Oliver North and John Poindexter. Representatives of former President Reagan objected to the release of those documents and were backed up in almost all instances by lawyers for President Bush. A federal judge ruled that the requesters’ had no legal grounds to overcome the incumbent president’s assertion of privilege.

Craig’s letter says Reagan’s representative approved of the release of the documents the White House cleared on Thursday, making it unlikely the files contain the same records that led to the court battle.

More of the openness and transparency that really scares the bejabbers out of political hacks in both boring and corrupt parties.

Will an end to public access to information halt terrorism?


A lawmaker in California wants to force Google Earth and similar services to blur images of so-called “soft targets” like schools, hospitals, churches and government buildings to protect them from terrorists. Assemblyman Joel Anderson, a San Diego Republican, said he decided to introduce his bill after reading reports suggesting that terrorists used online map imagery to plan attacks in Mumbai and elsewhere.

The ban, if enacted, could face legal challenges, as the right to publish images taken in public places has generally been protected by American courts. And of course, as an Associated Press article points out, images of many of the places Mr. Anderson is seeking to protect are easily available elsewhere…

Concerns that detailed satellite imagery and photographs available on Web services like Google Maps, Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth could help terrorists plan attacks are not new. There have been reports that terrorists have used such imagery to carry out attacks in Iraq and Israel. An Indian court is considering a ban on Google Earth following reports that its imagery played a part in the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Such talk has drawn criticism from experts who note that while virtually all technologies can be used to cause harm, their benefits typically outweigh any downsides. The security expert, Bruce Schneier recently wondered what other things legislators might consider banning to prevent terrorism:

“Bank robbers have long used cars and motorcycles as getaway vehicles, and horses before then. I haven’t seen it talked about yet, but the Mumbai terrorists used boats as well. They also wore boots. They ate lunch at restaurants, drank bottled water and breathed the air. Society survives all of this because the good uses of infrastructure far outweigh the bad uses, even though the good uses are — by and large — small and pedestrian and the bad uses are rare and spectacular.”

I think Mr. Schneier has it right. Only fools and cowards put their faith in the protection of a Nanny State – and prefer an ignorant public. Personally, I think the latter part of the analysis predominates. Too many reactionaries prefer ignorance over information.

The terrorists have won – at least in Sydney

Cartoon by Peter Nicholson

Defence officials have had to allay the concerns of Sydney office workers, who watched as an air force fighter chased what appeared to be a passenger plane.

Some people thought Australia’s most populous city might be coming under attack.

Instead the Australian Defence Force was bidding farewell to one of its aircraft.

A number of office workers decided to evacuate their skyscrapers after watching in alarm as a passenger plane flew low over Sydney harbour chased by an air force fighter…

But rather than witnessing the pursuit of a hijacked plane, the office workers were watching a farewell flight. One of the defence force’s Boeing 707 aircraft was being retired from service, shadowed by a hawk fighter from which aerial photographs were being taken.

Of course, “the terrorists have won”. We’re all governed by a flock of craven crows who believe in fear to keep everyone in line.