Air India Addressing Groping Incidents with Restraints

air-india

A BBC report said yesterday (1/25) that in response to some females complaining that they’d been groped by other passengers, Air India is setting aside the first six rows in the coach class area for females only.

The airline also announced that cabin staff would have physical restraints available to them and crew will be authorized to use them to contain unruly passengers who refuse to cooperate voluntarily.

The station said that Air India is seeking to “enhance comfort level to female passengers” and reassure female passengers traveling alone.

In my limited experience flying Air India I’ve witnessed no groping incidents or anything of the sort. But I have been offended – to the point I felt I was being assaulted – by both bad breath and excessive body odors when flying with that carrier. And on transatlantic flights, that’s nevertheless a good deal less offensive than being groped – an experience I underwent once, on a NYC subway train at the 34th Street/6th Avenue station. That was more than 45 years ago, and the memory lingers on. I can only imagine what an unsuspecting female’s reaction would be.

I have no idea if air marshals continue to accompany all or most flights, but I were involved with security for Air India, I would work to address that issue – and let them, not ordinary cabin crew, deal with super rude fliers.

Early ‘Warfare’: Battle In Kenya Left 27 Dead – 10,000 Years Ago

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Skeleton of a man with club wounds at the site of Nataruk massacre (© Marta Mirazon Lahr, enhanced by Fabio Lahr)

 

Two fighting boys are asked, “Who started it?” If they’ve been paying attention to the latest news from Cambridge University and Kenya, they could answer, simultaneously, “The hunter-gatherers, about ten thousand years ago!”

A study conducted over the past few years by Cambridge University researchers suggests it was about that long ago that those predecessors of ours, described by Wikipedia as “an early human society,” first engaged in some degree of ‘warfare’. Changes in the landscape at an area called Nataruk in Kenya, near a former lagoon – long since dried up – once near the shore of Lake Turkana (now a fraction of its size 10,000 or so years ago) have revealed the remains of 27 people, age-dated to a point that far back in time. The 21 adults and six children were brutally slain, by blows to the head by blunt objects, arrows and at least one sharp blade – a portion of which was found imbedded in one man’s skull.

The website sciencefocus.com says that in hunter-gatherer times, violence between groups often resulted in the slaughtering of men, while the losing side’s women and children were absorbed in the winner’s ‘community’. But the Nataruk massacre represented something different: Apparently no one on the losing side survived.

That website notes that one victim in that incident was a women in the late stages of pregnancy who may have been bound when she was brutally murdered.

While there’s no way to determine what that struggle at Nataruk was about, a possible reason could have been a territorial dispute in an area that, 10,000 years ago, “the easy access to water and fishing made it an ideal place to live out a prehistoric life.”

 

A Non-Starter Statistic: “450 of 452 Suicide Bombers Were Muslim”

ccharleston_church_fireIsrael’s Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University has released results of a study claiming that 450 of 452 suicide bombers last year were Muslims. Reported in glaring headlines by The Times of Israel, this is probably among the most deceiving (and self-serving) statistics you will read about so-called suicide bombings – not least because it makes a couple of very broad, and undoubtedly wrong assumptions.

First of all, the statistic, regardless of what the Tel Aviv University study found, fails to acknowledge that a significant number of ‘suicide bombers’ weren’t classified as such. It also presumes that failure to call hundreds of other mass killers imagined, somehow, that they would do their thing then live to tell the tale – or possibly do the same thing again.

The Washington Post, quoting the Mass Shootings database of ShootingTracker.com, noted last October 4, the 204th day of 2015, there had been 204 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in the year. Most of those, were by no measure, involved ‘terrorists’ as shooters. But many did. One paragraph of the Post story cited several of them:

“Nine dead in shooting at Black church in Charleston. Four marines, one sailor killer in attacks on Chattanooga military facility. Gunman opens fire on Louisiana movie theater.”

What is terrorism? How is it defined? How do those cases, in particular, fit the definition?

The FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism says this:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

By that definition, and a similar one for “international terrorism,” relatively small numbers of ‘terrorists’ use bombs. And many apparently presume that they will walk away from the havoc they’ve wreaked. Most, fortunately, do not.

Granted, Tel Aviv University is an what you might call an ‘unusual position’ – where suicide bombers, in the traditional sense, are rife. They, obviously, neither expect nor wish to walk away from their crimes. That makes ‘home-grown’ U.S. terrorists who shoot up movie theaters, child care centers and other venues any less worthy of the title ‘terrorist’ or any more likely, in most instances, to leave their site of destruction unharmed – or alive.

And almost none of the domestic terrorists in the U.S. last year were Muslims.

 

 

Forget ‘ISIS’: Say Daesh

isis_flag

The terrorist group that calls itself several things, including “The Islamic State,” is upset that France and others have decided to not give either of those names credibility, and will instead refer to this terrorist organization as ‘Daesh’. With good reason: France’s decision is based on logic very close to that of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently declared in a Congressional hearing that “they are terrorists; They are not a state.”

He said as much in a session broadcast on December 4 by CBS, in which reporter Lara Logan noted that “most Arabic-speaking people have always referred to ISIS as Daesh.”

“Daesh” is the Arabic pronunciation of the acronym for ISIS – the Islamic State in Syria – Dawlat Al Islam fi Iraq Wa al-Sham – CBS News’ Jennifer Janisch explained in the same report.

Huffington Post put it this way: “Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (though the last word can also be translated as “Damascus” or “Levant”), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.”

Few would deny this group is attempting to crush everything underfoot.

While they are busy taking pretty much whatever they want, including lots of lives, I see no reason why they should be given the benefit of being called what they prefer to be called: A state. Daesh is not a state, but more the state of mind of a singularly nasty,  frighteningly well organized bunch of terrorists.

Some of them are believed to be true believers of what they think the Quran says – particularly the killing by Muslims of infidels, or non-believers. Others among the terrorists are said to be participating in vicious, hateful crimes against innocent people – such as those who died and were injured in last week’s ‘incident’ in San Bernardo CA and several attacks earlier in the month in Paris – are engaged more for ‘the fun of it’ than in support of strong beliefs of any sort.

Like the Bible, the Torah, the Mishnah and virtually all other ‘holy texts’, the Quran can be interpreted in any number of ways, in part because, like the Bible and similarly ancient texts, it has been repeatedly revised (and re-, re- and re-translated from the original Arabic) over the centuries, since the seventh, when Islam began. And, as the ‘interpreted’ reference (above) notes, there is evidence that some of what’s in the Quran appeared earlier in the Bible!

In a recent ‘Road Map’ program on MSNBC, Graeme Wood, who wrote ‘What ISIS Wants’ for The Atlantic, argued that Daesh “has its own council of scholars, [which] has its own strange, fringe interpretations, and they are looking at Islamic text in a scholarly way; It’s a way that is being [widely] rejected, but it is being [studied] in a scholarly way.”

On the same program, Mehdi Hasan of Al Jeezera America and The New Statesman, disagreed that anyone associated with Daesh deserves to be called a scholar, and declared that MI5, Britain’s massive security agency, “studied dozens and hundreds of these guys and found that it was religious novices, the guys who buy ‘Islam for Dummies’ from Amazon.com who go out and fight; it tends to be people who have had a very bad background in drugs, and alcohol and petty crime; it’s not people with religious training. MI5 found, in fact, that a strong religious tradition is a great protector against radicalization.”

Hardly nation-builders!

Didier Francois, a French journalist who was held captive for ten months by Daesh told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this year that his captors “cared little about religion; There was never really discussion about texts or – it was not a religious discussion; It was a political discussion.”

There’s a strong case to be made that all U.S. media, and all media everywhere, and all government entities anywhere who feel a need to take about these people – and there are a great many of the former – should form a united front: Even while defeating Daesh is proving exceedingly difficult, no concession should be made to them – least of all reflecting their propaganda, in how we refer to them, that they represent a ‘nation’.

As John Kerry said, they are not.

Weapons of Messy Destruction Really (Truly) Need to be Banned

san_bernardino_guns

Weapons possessed by San Bernardino shooters

California effectively has no effective gun control law banning, or even effectively controlling, assault weapons. Earlier attempts by the State Legislature to pass a bill to do either of those things were stalled or defeated. Now, though, after 14 more victims of a mass shooting, this time in San Bernardino, CA, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) plans to “revisit some proposals that previously stalled,” the Los Angeles Times has reported.

One important target is assault rifles whose bullet-bearing magazines can quickly and easily be replaced by hand – meaning, the weapon can be reloaded in next to no time. Two such weapons were among the five recovered from the San Bernardino shooters.

Technically, there is a ban on quick-reload automatic weapons in California, but there’s a loophole, and it was exploited by the couple who killed 14 people on December 2: Presently, if such a weapon has what’s called a ‘bullet button,’ meaning a tool is required to enable reloading, it is outside the scope of the quick-load automatic weapons ban.

The Legislature failed in 2013 to approve a bill that would have closed the ‘bullet button’ loophole. Senator De Leon undoubtedly includes a reintroduction of that bill among the ‘package of proposals’ he intends to put before his colleagues in the coming months.

Nick Wilcox, legislative advocate for the California Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called Friday for the state to ban  bullet buttons, The Times said Friday.

“With the bullet button exception we have now, California does not have any assault weapons ban,” Wilcox was quoted as saying.

A broader question is, of course, why does anyone in any state have a ‘need’ for a semi-automatic assault-style weapon? As I suspect is par for the course, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a list of reasons why such weapons should not be banned – but much of what’s on their list is inaccurate, at best.

Take their Reason #1: Semi-automatic firearms are not fully-automatic military machine guns. Gun control supporters say that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are ‘military-style assault weapons’ designed for ‘war’ on ‘the battlefield.’

To the contrary, the military uses fully-automatic rifles [emphasis mine], which are regulated as ‘machineguns’ by the National Firearms Act of 1934. The difference is that a fully-automatic firearm can fire repeatedly and quickly as long as you hold down the trigger, but a semi-automatic, like any firearm other than a fully-automatic, fires only once when you pull the trigger.

While it’s certainly true that the U.S. military does use fully-automatic rifles, it also uses such semi-automatics as the M16A4, which several years ago replaced – except in some Marine uses – the M16A2 (see same reference, under those specific rifle names). The former can use “safe/semi/burst selective fire” (ibid). In the latter configuration, introduced in the M16A2 in the 1980’s,  a fully-automatic mode was replaced “with a three-round burst setting.” (See paragraph immediately above M16A3.)

Then there’s Reason #3: As the numbers of ‘assault weapons’ and ‘large’ magazines have soared to all-time highs, violent crime has been cut in half. The nation’s total violent crime rate peaked in 1991. Since then, through 2012, it has decreased 49%, to a 42-year low, including a 52% drop in the nation’s murder rate, to a 49-year low—perhaps the lowest point in American history.”

The #3 Reason continues, and some of what’s been said may have, at one time, been true. But a lot of it stretches unreasonably stretches the truth – or outright lies.

A USA Today study, shows that since 2006 and today (12/4) there have been a minimum of 263 mass killing incidents – involving four or more people – in that period, including San Bernardino. By 2013, a USA study at that time revealed, the death toll since 2006 already had exceeded 900, with incidents occurring at a rate of one every two weeks (or less).

Whether the deaths were by hand gun (the majority of cases, by three to one) or rifle (a minority), guns of one type or another – automatic, semi-automatic or single-shot – were involved in the vast majority of those deaths. While they didn’t cause the deaths – the shooters did – guns certainly were the enabling tool, the means for the shooters to do what they did.

Statistics on how many of those guns were legally purchased are hard to come by. The latest USA Today study said even the count of multiple-death incidents is hard to pin down because “no one is keeping track.”

The FBI’s numbers, the ones most-often cited by journalists and others, represent voluntary reporting by police departments, and, mysteriously, some fail to file reports.

Consider, too, that the USA Today study is based not only on FBI numbers but otherwise-unreported police department ones the paper was able to track down. And, they talked only about killings of four or more people.  If incidents where ‘only’ three people died were added in, the total would undoubtedly be hard to imagine.

Increasingly, it seems, mass killing incidents are happening beyond large cities. Does it take more or less time for things to get back to ‘normal’ in such communities?

San Bernardino is a fraction the size of Paris, but even in that metropolis, for days after the attacks on November 13, novelist and filmmaker Abdellah Taïa told a reporter for The New Yorker that on a recent Monday, “Aside from a couple of quick trips to pick up groceries, since Friday night he had been too afraid and depressed to leave his apartment.”

Another Parisian, artist Charles Berberian, told the same publication (for a different article, on a cover he created), “It’s horrible when war comes knocking at your door. This is where I live—it’s my neighborhood. The day after the attacks, Saturday, it was so calm here. … No one was in the streets. This week though, people are back out. The joke going around is: ‘No terrorist can stop me from paying the premium to have my café at a terrasse.’”

Berberian is my type of guy.

A thought struck me earlier: If you live in Paris – one of the world’s finest, most cosmopolitan cities, where you go for a vacation?

I lived in London in the early to mid  ‘70’s, when the IRA was waging a war against Britain. At one point, their randomly placed bombs had gone off in what could be called a circle around where we lived. Much damage was done; a few lives were lost. Still, life went on.

We considered, one evening, going to a restaurant on a street bombed a couple of days earlier, figuring the terrorists wouldn’t, with so many potential targets, strike the same approximate area twice. We chose to not go there; they chose to bomb there again.

I’d long contended that, to be most effective at putting fear into the ‘hearts and minds’ of the British public, the IRA were right to return, at least once, to the same area, even if not to the same specific site. Daesh (the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS) has so far failed to pick up on that concept – that you can scare more people, and eventually get more attention from the government, from multiple small acts than by focusing on large (San Bernardino-style) ones.

Perhaps I was wrong: The IRA eventually lost; Daesh is winning – insofar as it is not being defeated.

There is evidence that the woman involved in the San Bernardino incident had ‘pledged allegiance’ to the so-called Islamic State. The FBI is treating the incident as a terrorist action.

Whether she (and/or her husband) was ‘radicalized’ is immaterial at this point. What’s more important is the fact that they easily accessed Weapons of Messy Destruction – and more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition.

That’s wrong.

 

1000 Times, MANY More Deaths, in Multiple Shootings Since Sandy Hook

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Bob Dylan, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, 1962

When Bob Dylan wrote those lines, the US’s involvement, with our own troops, was just heating up in Vietnam, though we’d already been there in the form of ‘advisors’ since the mid 1950’s.

If he were questioned today, Dylan no doubt would shake his head in wonder, and disgust, because since the mass killing in a school in Sandy Hook CT in December, 2012, when 28 people, most of them children were killed, there have been, in this country, no fewer than 1000 (count ‘em, one thousand) more mass shootings, a bunch of them in schools.

‘How many deaths’, indeed!

Graphic: owsosters.tumbler.com

Seven days after the Sandy Hook ‘incident’, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA (National Rifle Association), which continues to profess it exists in the interests of marksmen, hunters and responsible gun owners, as Rolling Stone noted on January 13, 2013, said the following during an NRA press conference addressing that tragedy:

“Because of all the noise and anger directed at us [the NRA] over the past week, nobody has addressed the most important, pressing, and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we knows works?

“The only answer to that question is to face the truth. Politicians pass laws for gun free school zones; they issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

“How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, court houses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.

“We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capital Police officers. Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it, and exploit it.

“That must change now.”

Democratic candidates for president seemed to be leaning in the same direction at their first televised debate on October 13, The Guardian said. Noting that “Serious discussion of guns and gun control” took center stage at that Las Vegas event, the paper’s web site went on to quote Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, as saying, “This was unthinkable just four years ago. [It’s] evidence we have reached a tipping point in this movement.”

(Thirty years ago, Jim Brady was press secretary for President Ronald Reagan when an attempt was made on the president’s life. Brady was shot, and remains, to this day, partially paralyzed and unable to live a normal life.)

As Dr. Martin Luther King said in a totally different context – his ‘I’ve Got a Dream’ speech’ – “Thank God almighty!”

Finally, at long last, some ‘let’s fix this’ language may be supported by the organization that, truth be told, has for years done everything possible to thwart sensible gun-control laws – even to the point where gun-selling shops are enabled, under federal law pushed forward by the NRA, to maintain little or no control over their inventories, or keep reliable records of who they sell guns to.

A good start on explaining why there needs to be some controls over the activities of licensed gun dealers – those with shops and others, including pawn shops where gun sales are incidental to, but not the primary purpose of, the business – has been presented on the website smartgunlaws.org. It notes that 53,000 federal gun licenses have been issued to individuals (most acting as or representing companies) permitted to function as firearms dealers. Another 7,700 individuals have federal licenses permitting the sale of firearms in, as the operator of, a pawn shop. That’s a total of 61,200 licensed firearms dealers of one sort or another.

Smartguns.org also notes that demand for dealer licenses are in high demand because individuals holding such licenses “may purchase unlimited quantities of firearms through the mail, at wholesale prices.”

There’s certainly no reason – beyond the NRA’s opposition – that dealers should not be required to maintain close control of their inventory and records of individuals to whom guns are sold. That type of control could be invaluable – and hardly represents an infringement of any prospective gun owner’s supposed rights to possess a firearm. A graphic on Smartguns’ web site notes, one percent of licensed firearms dealers sell close to 60% of guns found at crime scenes and traced to a dealer.

Then there’s the issue of ‘military-grade’ firearms: An untold number of them are in the hands of private individuals in the U.S., and there is no rhyme or reason why even one should be.

Firearms designed for military use have one purpose and one purpose only: To injure and/or kill human beings. They are not playthings – to be used for, say, target-shooting.

No sensible interpretation of the Second Amendment could deem it acceptable for individuals to possess military-grade weapons based on an individual’s supposed right to bear arms.

The Library of Congress’s law library section devoted to Second Amendment issues notes that while there has been much discussion in and beyond courts on the meaning and limits of that Amendment, The Supreme Court has, via narrow, case-issue-specific decisions, ruled occasionally around single aspects of it. But that’s a tendency of The Supreme Court: To pick away bit by bit at issues while never really engaging them head-on.

It ruled on one occasion, in 2008’s District of Columbia v Heller case, that the Amendment provides a right of individuals to possess a firearm for self-defense. It ruled on another occasion, United States v. Cruikshank (1875) and again in Presser v. Illinois (1975) that the law does not prevent states from regulating firearms – presumably both their distribution and their uses.

That clearly suggests that while an individual has a Constitutional right to own some kind of firearm, individual states could certainly set limitations on the types of firearms they can legally possess.

Some states, where hunting isn’t a particularly popular pastime, might have a relatively easy time passing a law or two setting some such limitations. But others, such as Virginia, a largely rural southern state where hunting is a very popular pastime, would undoubtedly encounter a great deal of opposition – from hunters, individuals who imagine they need to be armed at all or most times for self-protection, and, on their behalf, the NRA.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ web site notes, under ‘media resources’, that of a total of 8,099,570 license plate sets issues in mid-June, 2014, a mere 34,223 of them bore the ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ special design favored by fervored gun owners.  While the latter represents a miniscule share of the total plate-possessing population, it’s a very vocal share, a part of a growing trend toward rapidly increasing per-capita gun ownership in the Commonwealth.

And here’s a scary thought: The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, on its Virginia page, notes that possession of “machine guns, short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, or suppressors” are legal in the Commonwealth so long as all Federal and State [sic] laws are complied with. It adds, though, that if a machine gun is not registered within 24 hours of acquisition with the Department of State Police, “a presumption of possession of [such a gun] for an offensive or aggressive purpose is raised.” Raised, perhaps, but hardly ever acted upon, because as noted above, the state’s lack of record-keeping requirements ensures that too little effort is made to keep track of who is buying such weapons.

Fox News reported in August, 2013, that, “Amid calls nationwide for stricter gun control laws, Virginia [was] experiencing a unique trend: The state’s gun-related crime [was] decreasing, but firearms sales [were] increasing. Firearms sales rose 16% to a record 490,119 guns purchased from licensed gun dealers in 2012, according to sales estimates obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.”

However, the report continued, “During the same period, major crimes committed with firearms dropped 5% to 4,378.”

The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service has noted that between 2010 and 2013, guns sales in Virginia rose from a rate of roughly 3,500 per 100,000 population to nearly 6,000.

Perhaps not coincidentally, over that same period of time, the percentage of Americans having faith

in the U.S. government and, to many’s way of thinking, that it can and/or will protect them.

How bad is that problem? A recent CNN poll found than less than 13% of Americans say government can be trusted.

Individuals imagining a need to defend themselves and their families undoubtedly will, in greater numbers, buy more and more guns, feeling uncomfortably certain that the government is not about to do anything to better protect them.

The rest of us need to ensure it does do so.

Oh, and note this: Not a single mass shooting in this country has been aborted or cut short by a gun-wielding private citizen.

A The National Research Council committee formed to study the effect of gun ownership on crime, found “no credible evidence that passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime.”

So much for the self-defense argument.

Much about the issue of gun control is emotional, based not on hard fact, or even common sense – which, to most people, would strongly suggest there are too many of ‘em out there – but on sometimes misguided emotion.

Consider that, with a population of 314.1 million, the U.S. currently has a gun ‘population’ estimated, by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, of something like 270 million total guns. “That’s a average,” that organization says, “ 89 firearms for every 100 residents – far ahead of Yemen, which comes in second, with about 55 firearms for every 100 people, or Switzerland, which is third with 49 guns for every 100 people.”

Switzerland? Which doesn’t maintain an army, and has perpetually declared itself to be a neutral non-combatant since the home-coming of the cow sources of Swiss cheese? Maybe, quietly, that country is maintaining a militia, sans the regulation, of the one the U.S. Constitution envisioned!

But ultimately, here’s the thing: Switzerland’s death-by-gun rate is, at 2.91 per 100,000 people, less than a third the U.S.’s, at 10.64. Perhaps part of the reason for that difference is found here: The ‘stress rate’ in the U.S., of 74 compared countries, is 25.7, compared to Switzerland’s 9.2. (The two countries’ overall ‘stressed-out’ rankings were, respectively, 54 and 72, in this Bloomberg study.)

So, the NRA is partly right: It’s not guns that kill people; it’s stressed-out people bearing guns who do. Like Swiss watches, life ‘works’ well there. Too often, for too many people, it doesn’t in the U.S.

Perhaps addressing that would go some way to addressing the discontent causing so many of the U.S.’s young people to take up arms and kill quantities of their compatriots.