A single photo can change the world

Can a photograph help end a war?

Pictures from Ukraine by combat photographers, including contract photographer James Nachtwey and Associated Press photojournalists Felipe Dana, Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, have brought to light the horrific consequences of Russia’s invasion and the unconscionable treatment of innocent civilians.

Fifty years ago, I was in the same position as those photographers, working for the Associated Press in Vietnam.

On June 7, 1972, I learned about fighting taking place in Trang Bang, a small village roughly 30 miles northwest of Saigon. I still have vivid memories of my drive the next morning to Trang Bang, seeing rows of bodies by the side of the road and hundreds of refugees fleeing the area. I eventually arrived at a village destroyed by days of airstrikes. The residents were so tired of the constant battles, they fled their village to seek refuge on the streets, under bridges or wherever they could find a moment of calm.

By midday, I had the photos I thought I needed. I was preparing to leave when I saw a South Vietnamese soldier drop a yellow smoke bomb, which served as a target signal, near a group of buildings. I picked up my camera, and a few seconds later captured the image of a plane dropping four napalm bombs on the village.

As we came closer, we saw people fleeing the napalm. I was horrified when I saw a woman with her left leg badly burned. I can still see so vividly the old woman carrying a baby who died in front of my camera and another woman carrying a small child with his skin coming off.

Then I heard a child screaming, “Nong qua! Nong qua!” Too hot! Too hot! I looked through my Leica viewfinder to see a young girl who had pulled off her burning clothes and was running toward me. I started taking pictures of her.

Then she yelled to her brother that she thought she was dying and wanted some water. I instantly put my cameras down so I could help her. I knew that was more important than taking more photos. I took my canteen for her to drink and poured water on her body to cool her off, but it created more pain for her. I didn’t know that when people get burned so badly, you’re not supposed to put water on them.

Still in shock, and amid the confusion of everyone screaming, I put all the kids into the AP van.

I drove them to Cu Chi hospital, since it was the closest to Trang Bang. The girl kept crying and screaming, “I’m dying! I’m dying.” I was sure she was going to die in my van.

At the hospital, I learned that her name was Phan Thi Kim Phuc. She had suffered third-degree burns on 30 percent of her body. The doctors were overwhelmed by the huge numbers of wounded soldiers and civilians already there. They initially refused to admit her and told me to bring her to the larger Saigon hospital. But I knew she would die if she did not get immediate help. I showed them my press badge and said, “If one of them dies I will make sure the whole world knows.” Then they brought Kim Phuc inside. I never regretted my decision.

I have never looked at this photo without crying. The passage of time changes nothing about it. A war crime committed by my peers, my country. That poor child.

There is much more in this article. Much more for you to consider. If you read this blog regularly you know I won’t agree with it all; but, that’s not important. This post is about Nick Ut’s photo of Kim Phuc. A minute in the middle of terrible history and shame for the nation where I was born. And a photo that turned back a terrible contemptible war.

After the Buffalo Massacre…

During the Supreme Court oral arguments last November, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, a major gun-control case, Justice Clarence Thomas and Barbara Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, had an exchange about the kinds of place a person might carry a gun. “It’s one thing to talk about Manhattan or N.Y.U.’s campus,” Thomas said. “It’s another to talk about rural upstate New York…”

There was an echo of those words on May 14th, as reports came in of a shooting in upstate New York: if Payton S. Gendron, from the small town of Conklin, which is near a university, had driven two and a half hours northeast, he would have ended up in Troy. Instead, he drove more than three hours northwest, to Buffalo, where he killed ten people at a Tops supermarket.

Gendron sought out Black victims, according to his online posts; they indicate that he had become fixated on the “great replacement” theory, which posits that there is a plot to supplant white Americans with supposedly more tractable minorities. That world view, in this Trump-distorted era, is not rare…

What seems tragically mundane, though, in American terms, is that Gendron, who is eighteen, is reportedly the owner of at least three guns: a Savage Axis XP hunting rifle, which he received as a Christmas gift when he was sixteen, the legal age to own one in New York; a Mossberg 500 shotgun, which he bought, legally, in December; and a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle—the apparent murder weapon—which was also legal when he bought it, in January, for less than a thousand dollars, and which he then easily modified to allow for a larger capacity magazine than is permitted in the state. An alarm that Gendron’s high school raised last year, when he said that his post-graduation goals included “murder/suicide,” was not in itself enough, under the state’s “red flag” law, to forestall the purchases.

I added the emphasis to the paragraph. Gendron’s high school did something similar when they raised an alarm to state officials when he made it clear that he considered “murder/suicide” an appropriate post graduation exercise.

Kenosha murder trial in progress


James Armstrong, photographic expert…testifies about drone video during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial/Reuters

The jury at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial on Tuesday watched drone footage that showed Rittenhouse shooting Joseph Rosenbaum at close range during a night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August…

The 18-year-old is charged with two counts of homicide, one of attempted homicide and two of recklessly endangering safety, for firing his weapon near others. He is also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor, as he was 17 at the time. He has pleaded not guilty.

The drone footage shown in court on Tuesday showed Rosenbaum, 36, following Rittenhouse before Rittenhouse suddenly turned and fired his rifle. Rosenbaum was shown to fall as Rittenhouse ran around a car.

Dr Doug Kelley, a forensic pathologist with the Milwaukee county medical examiner’s office, said Rosenbaum was shot by someone within 4ft…

Kelley said Rosenbaum was shot four times: in the groin, hand and thigh as he faced Rittenhouse and then in the back. Prosecutor James Kraus called that the “kill shot”…

Moments later, Rittenhouse, then 17, killed Anthony Huber, 26, who was seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse also wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, a protester and volunteer medic who carried a gun of his own.

This article gave me a clearer picture of events as they happened. Most article read like Rittenhouse encountered 3 demonstrators, 2 armed, 1 unarmed. This reads like only one had a gun and he kept it in his holster. And the first person killed by Rittenhouse was unarmed. Having been in similar positions, it seems to me the other two victims were pretty brave…reacting to Rosenbaum’s murder.

“Enlightened by QAnon” he killed his children with a spear gun


Forensic techs work the crime scene in Mexico

A California man confessed to killing his two young children, allegedly telling an FBI investigator he thought they were “going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them”…

Matthew Taylor Coleman, a 40-year-old Santa Barbara surfing school instructor, has been charged with foreign murder of US nationals after allegedly taking his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter into Mexico and killing them…

Stopped for questioning at the US-Mexico border, Coleman allegedly told investigators he shot the children with a spear fishing gun, then hid their bodies…

Coleman spoke to authorities about being “enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories,” including that he had visions that his wife “possessed serpent DNA and had passed it onto his children”…

I try to differentiate between ignorant and stupid most of the time. Commiting a crime this evil renders the difference meaningless.

Synagogue shooting victims win right to sue gunmaker

A California judge decided that victims of the 2019 synagogue shooting near San Diego that killed one worshiper and wounded three can sue the manufacturer of the semiautomatic rifle used in the attack and the gun shop that sold the weapon.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kenneth J. Medel said Wednesday that victims and families in the Poway synagogue shooting have adequately alleged that Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest gun maker, knew its AR-15-style rifle could be easily modified into a machine-gun-like or assault weapon in violation of state law, according to a newspaper report.

The judge also said the shop, San Diego Guns, could be sued for selling the weapon to the shooting suspect, John Earnest, who was 19 and lacked a hunting license that would have exempted him from California’s minimum age of 21 for owning long guns.

Prosecutors say Earnest, a nursing student, opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle during the last day of Passover services in April 2019. The attack killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.

I’ll give you an idea how long overdue this is. I learned how to “rewatt” machines guns around 1955. And, no, it wasn’t from one of the gunsmiths in my family. It was the “gun-guy” in the street-racing gang I ran with.

Darnella Frazier Wins An Honorary Pulitzer


Minneapolis Police Department/AP
Police body cam shows bystanders incl. Darnella Frazier (3rd from R)

Darnella Frazier, who was 17 when she recorded George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis last year, was awarded a special citation by the Pulitzer Board on Friday.

The video played a major role in igniting a global protest movement against police violence, and was used as evidence in the trial of Floyd’s killer.

Committee officials who give out the prestigious prize in journalism and the arts said Frazier’s recording highlighted “the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quests for truth and justice.”…

There is no case without her,” journalist Ann Marie Lipinski tweeted during Chauvin’s trial. “The video record she made is one of the most important civil rights documents in a generation.”

An act of responsibility that all should admire and praise.

Mexico’s Deadly Elections


Mexico coppers patrolling neighborhoods at election time
Luis Antonio Rojas/Washington Post

Mexico is in the final days of one of its most violent electoral campaigns in modern times. Eighty-nine politicians have been killed since September, according to the security consulting firm Etellekt. Scores more have been wounded or threatened. The campaign has become a stark illustration of crime organizations’ quest to expand their control of Mexico’s territory, a rising threat to this young democracy…

Crime groups that once concentrated on exporting drugs to the United States have diversified into extortion, kidnapping and narcotics sales. A U.S.-backed effort to decapitate big cartels caused them to splinter into competing bands. Heroin producers sought additional routes, to respond to a growing American appetite for the drug and to evade federal authorities…

RTFA. The details make the days of Al Capone in Chicago seem like a summer festival.

1st Amendment OK’s recording coppers — Suggestions for staying alive!

Recordings of police officers, whether by witnesses to an incident with officers, individuals who are themselves interacting with officers, or by members of the press, are an invaluable tool in the fight for police accountability. Often, it’s the video alone that leads to disciplinary action, firing, or prosecution of an officer.

This blog post provides some practical tips to record the police legally and safely, and explains some of the legal nuances of recording the police.

What to Know When Recording the Police

* You have the right to record police officers exercising their official duties in public.
* Stay calm and courteous.
* Do not interfere with police officers. If you are a bystander, stand at a safe distance from the scene that you are recording.
* You may take photos or record video and/or audio.
* Police officers cannot order you to move because you are recording, but they may order you to move for public safety reasons even if you are recording.
* Police officers may not search your cell phone or other device without a warrant based on probable cause from a judge, even if you are under arrest. Thus, you may refuse a request from an officer to review or delete what you recorded. You also may refuse to unlock your phone or provide your passcode.
* Despite reasonably exercising your First Amendment rights, police may illegally retaliate against you in a number of ways including with arrest, destruction of your device, and bodily harm. We urge you to remain alert and mindful about this possibility.

Don’t expect cops to obey the law or even know or understand the law. That’s a sad thing to have to say; but, it’s the truth. Staying alive … living to fight another day … gets a lot more done than a photo of your body on the front page of a newspaper.