U.S. gun deaths since Sandy Hook: 345

This recent statistic of 345 gun deaths is about the average for a two week period in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The number comes courtesy of Slate.com, which has just started an online project to track gun killings. As Slate announced today:

“Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, we at Slate have been wondering how many people are dying from guns in America every day.


“That information is surprisingly hard to come by. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence


, for example, has a tally atop its website of “people shot in America.” That number, though, is an estimate, based on the number of gun injuries and deaths recorded by the CDC in 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which statistics are available. It seems shocking that when guns are in the headlines every day, there’s no one attempting to create a real-time chronicle of the deaths attributable to guns in the United States. Continue reading “U.S. gun deaths since Sandy Hook: 345”

Bush lives, but…

George H.W. Bush seems to be getting better, although remaining in intensive care at a Houston hospital. Nevertheless, a respected German magazine seems to think otherwise, the obituary published was not all that flattering

Germany’s respected news weekly Der Spiegel mistakenly


published an obituary Sunday for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, hours after a family spokesman said the 88-year-old was recovering from illness,” reported Yahoo!News.

“Bush was hospitalized in Houston Nov. 23 for treatment of a bronchitis-related cough and moved to intensive care on Dec. 23 after he developed a fever. On Saturday, spokesman Jim McGrath said Bush was moved out of intensive care into a regular hospital room again after his condition improved.

“The unfinished obituary appeared on Der Spiegel’s website for only a few minutes Sunday before it was spotted by Internet users and removed.

“In it, the magazine’s New York correspondent described Bush as ‘a colorless politician’ whose image only improved when it was compared to the later presidency of his son, George W. Bush.

“’All newsrooms prepare obituaries for selected figures,’ the magazine said on its Twitter feed. “The fact that the one for Bush senior went live was a technical mistake. Sorry!”




Stepping up the marketing of God


It seems that this year’s omnivorous expansion of “Christmas” isn’t quite enough.  A national decline in church attendance, the struggling economy and the challenges of converting millennials have all led to a new movement to market God.

Apparently, The U.S. is witnessing a wave of experimentation by evangelicals to reinvent “church” in an increasingly secular culture. The mega-church boom of recent decades is winding down, along with it’s trappings of stadium seating, Jumbotrons and smoke machines. So churches are trying new tricks.

As reported in today’s New York Times, “’It’s unsettling for a movement that’s lasted 2,000 years to now find that, ‘Oh, some of the things we always assumed would connect with the community aren’t connecting with everyone in the community in the way they used to,’ ” said Warren Bird, the director of research for the Leadership Network, a firm that tracks church trends. Continue reading “Stepping up the marketing of God”

China tightens online cotrols

China is ending 2012 by tightening controls on internet speech and privacy.

Already one of the most restrictive governments in the online world, the Chinese government is ramping up efforts to silence dissidents and limit access to what are perceived as subversive influences. Historically, communications media have always played a role in national civic identity – whether to unify or to divide. Just as the printing press fostered early nation-states and the popular overthrow of royal authority, so today television and the internet are thought to foster division within nations around the world. As today’s Al Jazeera reports,imgres

“China has unveiled tighter Internet controls, including legalizing the deletion of posts or pages which are deemed to contain “illegal” information and requiring service providers to hand over such information to the authorities for punishment.

“The rules suggest that the new leadership, headed by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, will continue muzzling the often scathing, raucous online chatter in a country where the Internet offers a rare opportunity for debate.

“The new regulations, announced by the official Xinhua news agency on Friday, also require Internet users to register with their real names when signing up with network providers, though, in reality, this already happens. Chinese authorities and Internet companies such as Sina Corp have long since closely monitored and censored what people say online, but the government has now put measures such as deleting posts into law.

“’Service providers are required to instantly stop the transmission of illegal information once it is spotted and take relevant measures, including removing the information and saving records, before reporting to supervisory authorities,’ the rules state. The restrictions follow a series of corruption scandals amongst lower-level officials exposed by Internet users, something the government has said it is trying to encourage. Chinese Internet users already cope with extensive censorship measures, especially over politically sensitive topics like human rights and elite politics, and popular foreign sites Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube
are blocked.”


For complete story, see: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2012/12/20121228122858304837.html


Horse sense

An American church is promising gay men they will be cured of their homosexuality if they stroke horses, reports a story today in GayStarNews.

“The Cowboy Church of Virginia, led by chief pastor Raymond Bell, believes homosexuality and other ‘addictions’ can be cured by Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.imgres-1

“Horse therapy, in the right hands, can be used to help overcome fears, develop communication skills, and is generally beneficial to mental health.
But Bell says the horses in his church, a cowboy ranch in the south, are part of teaching men to stop being gay and encourage them to be more masculine.‘EAP can help any person who is living the homosexual lifestyle or involved in it in anyway,’ he told Gay Star News.‘The first common misconception is that homosexuality is genetic, or hereditary, or as some say “born this way”. Continue reading “Horse sense”

Airline pilots use iPads, not disabled passengers

imgres-2All American Airlines pilots are permitted to use iPads as they fly.

In the interest of safety on a recent American Airlines flight, an attendant required a non-verbal teenager to put away the iPad she relies upon to speak.

News of the incident –  and the irony – has created an uproar on the internet and considerable acrimony over the airline’s policies.

Carly Fleischmann, a 17-year-old with autism from Toronto, lambasted American Airlines on her  Facebook page earlier this week.
“On her way home from Los Angeles last Friday, Fleischmann said that a flight attendant told her to put away the tablet for takeoff and landing and was unwilling to bend even after Fleischmann’s aide explained that it was a communication device,” reports DisabilityScoop , Continue reading “Airline pilots use iPads, not disabled passengers”

Dean Spade on the shootings and mental health care

“We have a long history in the US of giving people involuntary medical treatment and using mental institutions to lock up people who are “different” or threatening to social norms,” says University of Washington law professor Dean Spade, author of the book,  Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law.imgres-3

Spade was speaking about California’s “Laura’s Law” which provides court-ordered outpatient treatment for the seriously mentally ill.  “So many people who could use mental health care do not reach out for it because they are afraid that they will be locked up involuntarily if they reach out to a provider,” Spade said.

Spade is the subject of an interview appearing in today’s issue of The Nation conducted by Laura Flanders. The article begins,

“Exactly as the shootings debate is playing out, funding for mental health services are teetering on the fiscal brink. Obama and Speaker John Continue reading “Dean Spade on the shootings and mental health care”

Misunderstanding Media Violence

imgres-4As we enter the most recent round in the media violence debate, a story from the past is illustrative of the difficulties in drawing conclusions too quickly from what seem like common sense observations.

In a now-famous study conducted in the 1970s, a group of American researchers were convinced they’d come up with a perfect way to measure the effects of violent media.[i] They had decided to study teenage boys who lived in residential facilities and boarding schools where television viewing could be completely controlled. For a period of six weeks, half of the boys were permitted to watch only violent programs and the other half non-violent shows. Everyone expected the boys exposed to violence to become more aggressive and unruly, as similar studies of younger children had demonstrated. Continue reading “Misunderstanding Media Violence”

Women as breadwinners in North Korea

“In the past, our husbands would bring home rations, and we’d live off that,” says Mrs. Kim. “Now there are no rations, and the women support the families. If we don’t make money, they starve, so life is hard for women.”

It’s no secret that in many nations women are outpacing men in education and the workplace, despite being paid less. Indeed, a continuing revision of gender roles koreanseems to be occurring across a wide variety of cultures, often for varying reasons. Today’s npr.org features a story on women and the workplace in North Korea:

“Imagine going to work every day and not getting paid. Then, one day, you’re told there’s no work to do — so you must pay the company for the privilege of not working. Continue reading “Women as breadwinners in North Korea”

Autism means reduced health care access

Autism is in the media spotlight these days, but for all the wrong reasons. Despite the absence of any causal connection between autistic spectrum diagnoses and propensities for violence, worries abound nevertheless following the Sandy Hook shootings. 6.57_AUTISM-CURE-PUZZLEMeanwhile, children and adults with some form of autism become the subject of greater stigma – and their odds of receiving adequate care diminishes further. Autism already is highly misunderstood in terms of its origins, causes, manifestations, and treatment. Continue reading “Autism means reduced health care access”

Medal of Honor drops gun sales links

imgresIt’s hard to feel too much sympathy for Electronic Arts, the video game giant that displays no fewer than 14 corporate logos of real-life gun makers on the partner page of its bestselling game Medal of Honor. But at least today the links to gun stores are gone.

For anyone who has followed movie and game censorship issues, this kind of nimble response to complaints (first reported in national media two days ago) typifies an entertainment industry that always has been able to move much quicker than any legislative body. From the Hollywood movie Production Code of the 1930s to the ESRB game ratings of the 1990s, the industry has always been able to keep one step ahead of policy-makers by taking just enough action to forestall any legal intervention. The result has been an entertainment-industrial-complex that pretty much produces exactly what it wants. Continue reading “Medal of Honor drops gun sales links”

E-books and the death of print

For many of us, this week’s final print edition of Newsweek was no great loss. Think of it as an editorial dinosaur succumbing in an age of the blogosphere.

But those of us who still write a bit for things actually published on paper get the sense they are coming for us next. The recession has been rough on everyone, but for publishers this has been a nightmare (especially for small, independent presses).14_52_39_416_file

If it isn’t big bookstore chains squeezing diversity from the retail marketplace, it’s e-books merchants like Amazon who  (following the iTunes example) extract ever larger slices of profit margin from both writers and original publishers. Today npr.org published a quasi-apology about the new e-reader. A few opening paragraphs are reproduced below:

“What counts as a book these days, in a world of Kindles, Nooks and iPads — and eager talk about new platforms and distribution methods? Continue reading “E-books and the death of print”

US building air capacity to strike China

imgres-1The U.S. military has begun a staged build-up of military airpower within striking distance of China. Reported today in Danger Room, the five-year process that will see each of America’s three main stealth warplane types deployed to bases near China.

“When the deployments are complete in 2017, Air Force F-22s and B-2s and Marine Corps F-35s could all be within striking range of America’s biggest economic rival at the same time. With Beijing now testing its own radar-evading jet fighters — two different models, to be exact — the clock is counting down to a stealth warplane showdown over the Western Pacific. Continue reading “US building air capacity to strike China”

Germany exports it’s old and sick

Germany exports it’s old and sick

“Inhumane” is the term being used to describe Germany’s new practice of exporting ailing seniors.

Growing numbers of elderly and sick Germans are being sent overseas for long-term care in retirement and rehabilitation centres because of rising costs and falling standards in Germany, reports todays issue of The Guardian.imgres

“The move, which has seen thousands of retired Germans rehoused in homes in eastern Europe and Asia, has been severely criticised by social welfare organisations who have called it ‘inhumane deportation. But with increasing numbers of Germans unable to afford the growing costs of retirement homes, and an ageing and shrinking population, the number expected to be sent abroad in the next few years is only likely to rise. Experts describe it as a ‘time bomb.’ Continue reading “Germany exports it’s old and sick”

Looking beyond game violence

Until cooler heads prevail, for the time being we will be living through a war-of-positions on game violence. Despite the absence of empirical evidence linking media violence and real world “effects,” a moral panic atmosphere is rising throughout the U.S. But as this recent essay by Steve Benen points out, nationsimgres-1 where people play plenty of violent video games don’t seem to share America’s predilection for mass shootings. Reproduced below is an except from Benen’s article as it appeared on maddowblog.

“Plenty of officials, including folks like Joe Lieberman, have been arguing for years that violent games desensitizes young people to violence and contributes to a larger corrosive effect on the culture.

“There’s just no evidence to support the claims. Hunches and cultural criticisms notwithstanding, there is no science to bolster the contention that gaming and gun violence are connected. (Adam Lanza was reportedly obsessed with “Dance Dance Revolution” — which is a game, as the name suggests, about moving feet, not shooting weapons.) Continue reading “Looking beyond game violence”

Straight porn and gay marriage

Could watching porn make straight men support marriage equality?imgres-2

A story circulating in blogs today tells of sociologist Mark Regnerus’ latest assertion that porn watching confuses the straight mind about marriage and results in higher levels of support for greater diversity.

Regnerus got some attention earlier this year when he published a now widely discredited study that supposedly found children of gay parents are worse off than those of straight parents. As Huffington Post reports, “In his piece Regnerus states that porn ‘undermines the concept that in the act of sexual intercourse, we share our ‘body and whole self … permanently and exclusively’ and “reinforces the idea that people can share their bodies but not their inmost selves, and that they can do so temporarily and (definitely) not exclusively without harm.’ Continue reading “Straight porn and gay marriage”

How schools crush creativity

Schools often promote ideals of standardized knowledge and conformity to norms, which do not necessarily serve students well for the lives ahead of them. As Sir Ken Robinson discusses in the recent issue of Ted Weekends, it breaks down to two issues:

“First, we’re all born with deep natural capacities for creativity and systems of mass education tend to suppress them.imgres-3

“Second, it is increasingly urgent to cultivate these capacities — for personal, economic and cultural reasons — and to rethink the dominant approaches to education to make sure that we do. Continue reading “How schools crush creativity”

Newspaper publishes names of gun owners


Hundreds of gun-toting residents in New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties were surprised to find their names and addresses listed on a map posted by The Journal News on Sunday.

Users can click any dot on the map to see which of their neighbors has a handgun or pistol permit. As reported on ABCNews Online,

“The map sparked more than 500 comments from readers within a day of its appearance on the website, many of them voicing outrage at the paper’s decision to make the information public. Continue reading “Newspaper publishes names of gun owners”

China acts to stop child trafficking

A national operation in China has busted nine child abduction gangs, arresting 355 suspects and rescuing 89 children. According to Al Jazeera,

“China’s Ministry of Public Security said on Monday that it conducted the nine-province operation in December after receiving reports of child abductions from southern China’s Fujian and Yunnan provinces.

“The ministry said the child trafficking activities spanned several provinces and that the suspects bought abducted children in provinces including Yunnan and Sichuan and transported them to other provinces, where they were sold for huge profits.images

Continue reading “China acts to stop child trafficking”

Top games link to gun makers

This is terrible news for video game makers – but they brought it on themselves. images-1Apparently, Electronic Arts and other developers of some of the most violent shooter games employ a form of product placement in which the “real” guns depicted can be found through links to gun manufacturers from within the games themselves.

“Among the video game giant’s marketing partners on the Web site were the McMillan Group, the maker of a high-powered sniper’s rifle, and Magpul, which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons,” reports a front-page story in the Christmas Day edition of the New York Times Continue reading “Top games link to gun makers”