This Should Never (Ever!) Have Been Necessary – But, Sadly, It Was

 

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The Washington Post has reported on – and posted a video of – a nine-year-old girl testifying before the Charlotte VA City Council against the mistreatment of African-Americans by the city’s police – and “y’all” in general. This should never have had to happen.

But a sense of racial injustice has become so severe in Charlotte, Virginia’s largest city, that it prompted a nine-year-old to stand up, not before a classroom of her peers, which is always hard enough at her age, but before a collection of adults who have the power, but apparently not the will or the guts, to make a difference. To bring the police department to heel; to make whatever efforts are required to work with civic groups – including churches of all types, fraternal organizations, and whatever other groups exist, particularly in predominantly Black neighborhoods – and to work in whatever way necessary to change mindsets that, in one way or another lead to situations like this.

‘This,’ in this instance, was the shooting to death of a Black citizen by a (coincidentally white) police officer. Neither of two videos of the event released, under pressure from the public, by the police department clarified whether the victim was carrying a gun, as police contend, or not. A cell phone video shot and quickly released by a family member similarly failed to clarify what prompted the officer to what sounded, in the family member’s video, like close to half a dozen shots into a man standing less than ten feet away. (All else aside, that doesn’t speak well for the officer’s confidence in the Charlotte P.D.’s target practice standards!)

(An interesting, possibly critical point: The Charlotte P.D. has admitted that one officer failed to turn on his body camera when he responded to the scene. That’s a violation of department practices, and a pretty serious, we’d reckon. I mean, police departments are spending tens of thousands of dollars equipping their officers with those cams and shoulder mics (which, by the way, were being used – the mics, not the cams – by the Metropolitan Police — the ‘bobbies’ — in London as long ago as the 1980’s!)

I recently attended a church-sponsored ‘block party’ in my small Virginia town. Along with the face-painter, the bounce tent and several other attractions for kids, there was an ‘example’ of a local police department car – with doors open, and an unspoken invitation for kids to climb in either the back or the front. And climb they did: The car was seldom empty throughout this hot August afternoon, and the by-standing police officer readily answered any questions any kid had.

An incredible example of ‘community relations’ work that, in effect, cost the town nothing, as it is common practice to make an officer and car available just in case there’s a need at most, if not all, of this town’s public and open-to-the-public events, as this one was.

In the course of setting up an interview for tomorrow with our town’s police chief – I write for the local paper and another one – he noted that he’d recently met with officials of police departments in Tempe AZ and Dallas TX. He said that the more he gets out and about on visits like that – he was set to lecture in each of those to cities – “the more I find community support behind what police departments are doing, and I’m encouraged by that.”

That is good, but, sadly, not good enough: I fear that the more police departments militarize – accept from the U.S. Army armored vehicles and the like the military no longer wants or needs (because, no doubt, they’ve graduated to even more frightful, and frightening ‘tools’) – the more police officers will come to view themselves as ‘combatants’ of one sort or another. Meaning, in effect, despite whatever efforts their communities undertake to reduce the incidence of violence, individual cops will fall back on the old ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ formula. Too often, of late, a deadly formula.

When police officers in small (and ever smaller) towns get to access, free or at bargain basement rates, ‘weapons of war’, in the form of armored vehicles, high tech surveillance and communications gear and whatever, they are going to want, child-like, to try out their new ‘toys’. And one way or another, in controlled environments or on the streets, try them they will.

The generation joining police departments today grew up playing video games, too often violent ones. And while many of the early and current video game fans would deny they are victims, many among them come to have a diminished sense of responsibility, or ability to distinguish, regarding the respective relative to push-a-button versus pull-a-trigger reality.

Zianna Oliphant’s comments before the Charlotte City Council should – if they haven’t already  – ‘gone viral’, whatever that means. (I don’t understand how that happens and wouldn’t care in the least unless something I said did so, and resulted in lots more followers of this (YouSayWHAT.info) or my other blog (FoodTradeTrends.com).

(Zianna’s video isn’t long, but if you don’t want to take the time to watch it, as you surely should, here’s the essence: Y’all [whomever she meant that to include] are treating Black people bad – however you want to interpret that.

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“We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this,” Zianna said, sobbing. “We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to – and have rights,” she said.

 

What a sad, but hopeful, day: When a nine-year-old (some media have said she’s ten) is so distressed that she has to trek to City Hall and put herself in a role she probably never imagined playing -that of ‘interpreter’, or spokesperson, for an under-served,  under-appreciated community. Some 13.5% of the population there, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A minority, yes, but an important one — that does, among other things, low-wage job members of the majority refuse to. Too often collecting some kind of ‘benefits’ instead.

If you want a clear (as any) picture of how sad this current presidential election campaign, and how inadequately the candidates have failed to address, or propose realistic solutions to major structural and societal issues in this country – including the issue that inspired that brave nine year old to so eloquently speak out as she did – see this clip, from Steven Colbert’s live show Monday night. He sums the whole mess up wonderfully, in one word.

Regardless of your preconceived ideas about who’s right and who’s not (but not necessarily) left, watch it.

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Paint Odors? Yes They Vary By Type, Color. Who Knew?

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Sometimes we learn things in the oddest ways: I was reading an article a few minutes ago on Donald Trump’s latest ‘great build’ – a supposed-to-be-luxurious hotel (and the city’s most expensive) in Washington D.C. – and I was stopped by this statement: “…As press was ushered into the renovated building—passing the unironically titled “PRESIDENTIAL BALLROOM”—the smell of white paint was still thick…”

Wait, I thought: Is the smell of white paint unlike the smell of other paints? Google (bless its probing little algorithm) quickly put my wondering mind to rest: Yes, there are differences in how different paints smell; And some are so different, and unhealthy for the environment, that federal restrictions have been placed on their creation and use.

I was floored by this information in part because I can’t recall having painted a room (or much of anything) for well over 20 years. And not being a particularly ‘handy’ type, where home improvements are concerned, while I don’t go out of my way to avoid information on that topic, I don’t often stumble upon occasions – such as the article on Trump’s soon-to-grandly-opened Washington hotel – when brush- or hammer-related articles cross my path. (I don’t even own a saw, though I would, I dare say, know one if I saw it!)

Still, I was glad to learn that the U.S. federal government has identified and set out to control paints that, while doing a brightening job, are dulling the potential of our environment to continue functioning as we need it to.

Indian School Kids’ Milk Is Awash with Water

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Indian school kids awaiting midday meal, and watery milk.

A surprise, sunrise inspection of a food preparation facility servicing 11,000 school children in India’s Uttar Pradesh province found 292 liters (308.5 quarts) of water in just 192 liters (202.8 quarts) of milk.

Radha Krishan Tivari, assistant director in the basic education department who held the surprise inspection, told The Times of India that schoolchildren were drinking milk that was more than 150 per cent water.

“We were simply stunned,” he told the paper last Thursday. “The visit to the kitchen of Nav Prayas, an NGO [non-government organization] we hired to supply milk and midday meals, left one dismayed.” He said the NGO supplies food to 131 schools, including 107 primary and 27 higher primary government schools.

He said that one student, speaking anonymously, said that many kids are unable to eat the food “as the quality is so bad.”

A report on the surprise inspection will be forwarded up the government chain, and the NGO will not be receiving payments for at least two recent months.

Technology Disrupts Technology Project In Indian Offices

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Photo: The Economic Times of India

An ambitious Indian government plan to digitize all office files, to create paper-free work places, is being obstructed by desk staffers who, to the tune of 70% of them, use their desktop units to play YouTube videos – consuming huge amounts of bandwidth in the process.

The Economic Times’ New Delphi bureau said the issue was discussed last week at an e-office conference for all ministries. A presentation was made by the Rural Development Ministry, among the first to execute the ‘e office’ plan. It featured a demonstration of how a 700-page file could be scanned in about six minutes and how a digitized file could be retrieved in roughly five minutes.

But the high use of bandwidth for YouTube viewing has become such a problem that unless ministries curb their workers’ enthusiasm for them – whether they are or aren’t watching Larry David – the e office initiative simply won’t succeed, RDM Joint Secretary Santosh Mathew said.

Also impeding it, Mathew noted, is the fact that many junior-level workers are using monitors so small that they can’t read digitized files.

The glut of small monitors in the hands of lesser staffers is a result of them having been handed down through the ranks as higher-ups were upgraded to larger screens.

Mathew also sees a challenge in getting junior-level workers to go along with the e office scheme because it will enable managers to monitor their activities. High-ups already have the ability to determine who is spending ‘company time’ on video-watching, and the government is encouraging them to do so.

Mathew also noted that Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha would soon be writing to all ministers, asking them for a cut-off date after which they’d no longer be accepting paper files.

Teens Pay Attention To Sugary Drink Warnings

 

Amazingly, teens apparently not only read but also heed health warnings – at least where sugary drinks are concerned, according to a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The average teen in the United States consumes at least one sugar-sweetened beverage every day, which could account for more than twice the recommended daily serving of sugar,” said study lead author Christina Roberto.

Roberto is an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

“The rate of sugar consumption in the U.S. is astounding and contributes significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other dangerous and costly health conditions,” she added in a university news release.

An online survey was used to assess the hypothetical beverage selections of more than 2,000 youngsters, aged 12 to 18. The drinks had either no label or one of five health warning labels. One label featured calorie content and four carried variations of a written warning that sugary beverages contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

While 77 percent of the participants said they would select a sugary drink if there was no warning label, participants were 8 percent to 16 percent less likely to select a sugary drink that bore such a message, the study found.

The warning labels helped raise teens’ awareness of the health risks of sugary drinks, the study authors noted. Sixty-two percent of the participants said they would support a warning label policy for sugary drinks.

Several U.S. cities and states are currently considering such policies, the researchers said.

The findings highlight the need for nutrition information at the point of purchase to help people make healthier choices, said study co-author Eric VanEpps. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the university’s Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics.

“This study shows that warning labels can affect teenagers’ beverage preferences, and future research will be needed to determine whether these labels are similarly effective in more typical purchasing environments,” he said.

The study was published Sept. 8 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

U.S. Calls for Halt to Dakota Access Pipeline Construction

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A joint statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior said Friday (9/9) that “the Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on [Army Corps of Engineers] land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.

(“Oahe Dam, SD takes its name from the Oahe Indian Mission established among the Lakota Sioux Indians in 1874,” according to the CorpsLakeGateway web site. “Lake Oahe extends from Pierre, SD to Bismarck, ND. The lake is 231 miles long, and has 2,250 miles of shoreline.”)

The joint statement also requested that, “the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity with 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The statement added that, “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects; Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights, and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter the statutory framework and promote those goals.”

The statement went on: “Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Of course, any who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state or local authorities. The Departments of Justice and The Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests and maintain public safety.

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

In short, the notice indicates a highly unusual common-sense action on the part of government agencies better known for turning a blind eye to, or actively participating in, violations of native Americans’ rights.

Commercial interests, in this instance, seem to be on the losing end of a clearly wrong effort to put money in front of morals. ‘About time, too!

Presidential Candidate’s Pipeline Protest, Likely to earn Charges

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Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein (with bandana) met with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters Tuesday.  Photo: Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service.

Protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, which this blog reported on last weekend, have gone … silly, with Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein earning herself a police charge or two for spray-painting “I approve this message” on a bulldozer blade Tuesday.

She was part of a group of 150-200 protesting at a construction site where two among them attached themselves to bulldozers and some construction equipment that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said apparently was vandalized. Speaking at a press conference, Kirchmeier said that though no arrests were made as a result of Tuesday’s actions, his department is “working up the information through the state’s attorney’s office to pursue charges (against Stein).” One possible charge could be for trespassing and another for vandalism, though it’s not yet known whether these would be felony or misdemeanor charges.

According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the protest took place at around 10:30 a.m., and protesters gathered at a construction area at County Road 35 and Highway 6, 2 miles east of Highway 1806.

About 25 law enforcement officers responded to the protest site, where no Dakota Access Pipeline workers were working at the time of the protest. Kirchmeier said officers saw some protesters on horses, masks and some carrying hatchets and wearing goggles.

Law enforcement officers were “pulled back from the area because it was determined that, at that point, it was unsafe for them to go into the situation,” Kirchmeier said.

“At this point … I don’t believe that we need to go in there and have physical altercations with the protesters,” he said.

On Saturday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said three private security guards working for the Dakota Access Pipeline were reportedly injured after about 300 protesters entered the work site. One guard was transported to a Bismarck hospital, but refused treatment.

No arrests have been made as a result of the incident that occurred Saturday or Tuesday.

“We are actively investigating these incidents, either by video or social media to identify people that have taken place in this,” Kirchmeier said. “We will pursue charges as needed.”

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II compared illegal actions taken by protesters, like those that bound themselves to equipment, to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat during the Civil Rights movement: “It was illegal, but it was the right thing to do.”

Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, director and chairman of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services Advisory Committee, said at the press conference his department has recently spoke with members of Standing Rock Indian Reservation and the Sacred Stone Camp about maintaining safety and “dispelling rumors.”

“We need to work together, everyone, that is committed to a peaceful solution to what is going on right now, to work together so that we can marginalize the agitators,” Dohrmann said.