author arrested(?) for novel about school shooting

Posted on: Tue, 09/02/2014 - 01:18 By: Tom Swiss

Write a novel about kids getting shot, get locked in the psych ward. Actually shoot a kid, and as long as he's black, well, you know.

In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment for a Novelist (The Atlantic)

A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—"taken in for an emergency medical evaluation" for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace's Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, according to news reports from Maryland's Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future.

U.K. parents arrested for seeking advanced cancer treatment for their son

Posted on: Mon, 09/01/2014 - 13:22 By: Tom Swiss

Medical authoritarianism is a growing problem. Under no sane system do you need a hospital's consent to leave. Under no sane system is going to a different hospital grounds for suspicion of neglect. And this isn't just a problem in the UK -- pregant women in the U.S. have been imprisoned in hospitals for failing to be properly subservient. It's almost getting so that I wouldn't advise anyone to check themselves or loved ones into a hospital without an extraction team on standby.

U.K. parents who took son with brain tumour to Spain to fight extradition (CTVNews)

The family had fled to Spain in hopes of selling a property to obtain enough cash for a new treatment in the Czech Republic or the United States they hope will help their child. Police pursued them and issued an arrest warrant on suspicion of neglect after Southampton General Hospital realized their patient -- 5-year-old Ashya King --was gone, without their consent.

British authorities have made no apology for the warrant and travelled to Spain to question the couple.


The family has criticized Britain's health care system, saying he has a serious tumour that needs an advanced treatment option called proton beam therapy and that it wasn't being made available to him.


In Britain, proton beam therapy is currently only available to treat certain patients with cancer in their eyes. Other countries, including the U.S., Switzerland and Japan, also use proton beam therapy to treat cancers of the spinal cord, brain, prostate, lung and those that affect children.

Americans hate Congress, will vote for them anyway

Posted on: Mon, 09/01/2014 - 10:05 By: Tom Swiss

American hate Congress. Their approval rating is at 13%, and a whopping 69% of likely voters believe that most members of Congress don’t care what their constituents think. But the system is about to send almost all of those same people back into office.

No rational person can look at that and conclude that the system is not broken. Attempts to reform it from within, therefore, are pointless.

Surly 2014 electorate poised to 'keep the bums in' (Yahoo News)

A surly electorate that holds Congress in even lower regard than unpopular President Barack Obama is willing to "keep the bums in," with at least 365 incumbents in the 435-member House and 18 of 28 senators on a glide path to another term when ballots are counted
With less than 10 weeks to the elections, Republicans and Democrats who assess this fall's midterm contests say the power of incumbency....trumps the sour public mood and antipathy toward gridlocked Washington.

useful self-driving cars still far off

Posted on: Sat, 08/30/2014 - 14:33 By: Tom Swiss

Hype antidote. Turns out Google's approach to "self-driving" is to map the hell out of the street ahead of time, rather than the sort of real-time intelligence needed for driving in the real world.

Google’s Self-Driving Cars Still Face Many Obstacles | MIT Technology Review (MIT Technology Review)

Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can “drive anywhere a car can legally drive.” However, that’s true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car’s exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It’s vastly more effort than what’s needed for Google Maps.

a-ok for cops to run over cyclists while e-mailing

Posted on: Fri, 08/29/2014 - 13:46 By: Tom Swiss

From the "unaccountable cops are bad cops" department:

No charges for LASD deputy who fatally struck cyclist while typing on computer

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when he fatally struck cyclist Milton Olin Jr. in Calabasas in December, officials announced Wednesday.


“Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (Mobile Digital Computer),” according to the declination letter prepared by the Justice System Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office and released Wednesday. “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”

Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid 4WD SUV off-road in the Outback

Posted on: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 23:44 By: Tom Swiss

"The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV. " I hope more models will be on the market when it comes time (hopefully not for many years!) to replace Starbug, my Ford Escape hybrid SUV (not plug-in).

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to enter 2014 Australian Safari | Electric Vehicle News

Mitsubishi’s top selling Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is set to tackle a new frontier when it takes on one of the toughest off-road events in outback Australia next month.

With technical support from Mitsubishi Motors Australia (MMAL), Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Australia (TMR Australia) will enter a plug-in hybrid Outlander PHEV in the iconic Australasian Safari, which takes place in Western Australia from 19-27 September.

It will be the first plug-in hybrid four-wheel drive officially entered in an Australian motorsport event – including the Safari, which is considered one of the most demanding off-road endurance rallies in Australia.

NY cop indicted for lying about illegal arrest

Posted on: Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:43 By: Tom Swiss

Rarity of rarities, a thug cop being prosecuted for his crimes. Though not for the actual assault and kidnapping of the illegal arrest, but just for the falsified paperwork. Will he actually be convicted? My money's on a plea deal and a slap on the wrist.

Officer Is Indicted on Charges of Lying About Photographer’s Arrest

The officer, Michael Ackermann, 30, claimed that the photographer interfered with an arrest last year of a teenage girl by repeatedly discharging his camera’s flash in Officer Ackermann’s face. But the officer’s account unraveled after the office of Robert T. Johnson, the Bronx district attorney, examined photographic evidence and determined that the photographer, Robert Stolarik, did not use a flash and did not have one on his camera at the time.


When an officer told Mr. Stolarik to stop taking pictures of a girl being arrested, he identified himself as a Times journalist and continued taking pictures. Another officer grabbed his camera and slammed it into his face, Mr. Stolarik said at the time. As he asked for their badge numbers, the officers took his cameras and pulled him to the ground.

Jihadism: it's not about religion

Posted on: Sun, 08/24/2014 - 23:15 By: Tom Swiss

Religion makes a great cover for violence. But a driver? Only secondarily.

This Is What Wannabe Jihadists Order on Amazon Before Leaving for Syria (New Republic)

Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. You could not ask for better evidence to bolster the argument that the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. The swivel-eyed young men who take sadistic pleasure in bombings and beheadings may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric— think the killers of Lee Rigby screaming “Allahu Akbar” at their trial; think of Islamic State beheading the photojournalist James Foley as part of its “holy war”—but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.

In 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalisation, prepared by MI5’s behavioural science unit...revealed that, “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could ... be regarded as religious novices.”...

...forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman; the political scientist Robert Pape; the international relations scholar Rik Coolsaet; the Islamism expert Olivier Roy; the anthropologist Scott Atran....they point to other drivers of radicalisation: moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose.

are governments intentionally obfuscating the facts about killings by police?

Posted on: Sun, 08/24/2014 - 10:58 By: Tom Swiss

D. Brian Burghart of the Reno News & Review has compiling a national database of deadly police violence. He believes that the lack of data is a deliberate policy:

What I've Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings (Gawker)

The biggest thing I've taken away from this project is something I'll never be able to prove, but I'm convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

It's the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn't collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.

Ferguson shooter's first cop job was on another dirty force

Posted on: Sun, 08/24/2014 - 10:33 By: Tom Swiss

We've mentioned how dirty the Ferguson PD had proved itself to be before the recent troubles. Turns out Darren Wilson's first job as a cop was in a PD so filthy it was disbanded. That doesn't prove anything about what happened the night he shot Michael Brown, but does reflect on his credibility and competence.

Darren Wilson’s first job was on a troubled police force disbanded by authorities (Washington Post)

FERGUSON, Mo. — The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.

That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson.

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