October 17, 2016 • “The two songwriters celebrate the romance and vitality of the modern railroad.” (NPR)
October 17, 2016 • “The two songwriters celebrate the romance and vitality of the modern railroad.” (NPR)
FBI Director James Comey, who recently cleared Hillary Clinton of serious wrong doing in her sticky e-mail scandal following a Department of Justice Investigation, is now addressing another highly controversial and divisive subject: the validity of concerns over the police shootings of African Americans, and the need for accurate statistics.
The FBI has started a pilot program to collect relevant data from police departments on police shooting reports, because currently there isn’t any national collection to analyze. Gathering and analyzing such statistics will help to determine whether or not there’s an epidemic of violence by police directed towards African American males, as many now believe. According to Comey, and contrary to public opinion in many circles, there currently isn’t evidence that such an epidemic of police violence exists.
Speaking to a group of police chiefs in San Diego, Directory Comey suggested that video recordings could give the impression that such an epidemic exists, when none actually does. In other words, we need hard data to either back up or refute these claims, and law enforcement must embrace the idea of collecting and distributing this data in order to make such determinations, helping to choose the right path in law and public policy.
The Black Lives Matter movement regularly protests the shootings and mistreatment of African American citizens, particularly black males, by law enforcement, throughout the United States. Over the last few years several high profile cases have come to the attention of the public, and some of them were recorded on mobile phones, dash cam videos, and other devices. Do these videos represent evidence for a deadly and growing trend, or do they capture our attention because they are novel and shocking, but don’t represent a negative trend inordinately affecting African American males? What ever your stand, the good data that Director Comey seeks to collect could help prove your case.
October 14, 2016 • “A striking mix of rock, hip-hop, funk, go-go and Brazilian sounds, fused with energy and humor.” (NPR)
There’s sad news for bear lovers in New Jersey. Pedals, the completely bipedal bear that’s amazed residents in Northern New Jersey suburbs for two years, is most likely dead, killed by a bow hunter during this year’s fall bear hunt.
Hunters at a weigh station in Northern New Jersey reported that the body of a bear matching his description, with similarly injured paws, was brought in by a hunter, then studied and photographed by biologists on the scene. However, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife issued a statement clarifying that it’s impossible to definitively identify a bear that hasn’t been previously tagged or had a DNA sample previously taken. Still, the situation looks grim for the popular bear.
Bear hunting is completely legal in New Jersey, and since the species has no natural predators, and bear populations are rising, wildlife biologists believe hunting is necessary to keep the bear population in check. However, sometimes individual animals can capture the imagination, and the hearts, of ordinary people. Pedals was such a creature. Beloved by many, photographs and videos of Pedals walking completely upright, like a human being, have been circulating extensively on the internet for about two years.
Watch initial news report of Pedals waking upright (ABC News / Youtube):
The intrepid black bear apparently survived debilitating injuries, learning to walk for extended periods of time on his hind legs, which is beyond the ability of most bears. He was frequently seen passing through suburban neighborhoods, raiding trash cans for an easy meal. People liked him, and felt he was a non-threatening, gentle soul. Of course, bears are powerful animals, and potentially dangerous when thrust into close contact with human beings.
That said, Pedals was never known to harm or threaten anyone. Instead, he inspired fascination, respect, and love in most people who learned about his struggle, or caught a glimpse of him strolling through their neighborhoods and backyards. But clearly these positive feelings were not universal, since reports indicate that the hunter who allegedly killed Pedals had been trying to take the bear for the last two years—-Pedals was the intended target.
New Jersey residents rooting for the upright bear started a petition to have Pedals captured and transferred to a bear sanctuary, where he would have been protected from harm for the rest of his natural life. But the petition failed, so Pedals remained free, and subject to the dangers of the hunt, like all other wild black bears in New Jersey. As a general rule, wildlife experts try to minimize the amount of special treatment and human intervention extended to animals, like bears, in the wild. Since Pedals was getting along well on his own, despite his injuries, experts felt no intervention was warranted in his case.
While Pedal’s death was strictly by the book, and appears to be 100% within the bounds of the law, large numbers of ordinary citizens are undoubtedly expressing anger, outrage, and a strong sense of loss as they learn of the death of this unusual and popular creature.
Photo: Sabrina Pugsley / ABC News
There’s incredible news from Sweden. Bob Dylan, one of the great voices of his generation, is now a Nobel Laureate. The iconic singer songwriter, who embodies the passion, idealism and raw intensity of his generation, has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, in what can only be likened to a surprise upset victory in sports.
Dylan’s inspired lyrics, at times haunting, at times playful and even funny, transcend generational barriers, even though they remain firmly rooted in the 1950s and 60s—-the frenetic, transformative era of his youth. His approach to song writing is keenly poetic, his rich lyrics filled with potent imagery. He has, for over six decades, presided over popular music as a kind of elder statesman, the poet laureate of lost souls, wandering bards, and those who, despite life’s travails and pain, remain forever young at heart.
Learn about Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate (The Guardian)
Photo: By Jean-Luc – originally posted to Flickr as Bob Dylan, CC BY-SA 2.0 (image resized)
October 12, 20166:33 PM ET
“Eyes On The Lines is a striking title for Steve Gunn’s latest record. A trucker phrase, it captures the chooglin’, highway hypnosis of the songwriter’s sound. But to the untrained ear, it might suggest purposefulness or direction.” (NPR)
Terrence Crutcher, who was shot to death by Tulsa Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby in September, had PCP in his system during the incident, according to a toxicology report released on Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner.
PCP (Phencyclidine,) also known as Angel Dust, is a powerful recreational drug, originally developed for medical purposes, with known dissociative and hallucinogenic side-effects. Some people on PCP may experience paranoia or violent outbursts, and physical strength is often amplified greatly, perhaps because the individual feels no pain. However, it’s important to note that the police video, and eye-witness accounts, didn’t record any violent or threatening behavior prior to the shooting.
Officer Shelby, who has been charged with manslaughter by the District Attorney, had stopped with other officers to investigate Crutcher’s SUV, which was stopped in the middle of the road, when she thought that Crutcher was speaking and acting strangely. She ordered him to comply with certain commands, and though he put his hands in the air, and never threatened the officer, he walked slowly back to his vehicle, ignoring her shouts to stop and get down. Officer Shelby claims that Crutcher appeared to start to reach into the truck, and fearing he was reaching for a weapon, she shot him in the chest. However, a close examination of the videotape shows the window was rolled up. No weapon was found in the victim’s truck, or at the scene.
The death of Terrence Crutcher shocked many across the nation, and the world, in September, and has been cited as an example of police over-reach and brutality by Black Lives Matter activists, and others concerned with excessive force and civil rights abuses by law enforcement. Supporters of officer Shelby will probably interpret the presence of PCP in his system as evidence that Crutcher was both mentally impaired, and a possible threat to Shelby, at the time of the shooting.
But Crutcher family lawyers point out that the mere presence of illicit recreational drug’s in a person’s system is not sufficient reason for the police to use deadly force. For that, the officer’s life must be in clear and present danger. And though she may have been frightened and confused, Officer Shelby’s life did not appear to be in danger, based on the video and eye witness testimony. They stress that Crutcher was a man in need of help and medical attention, and had done nothing to deserve this violent death.
Photo: Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department / AOL.com
October 11, 2016 • “The Minnesota singer-songwriter achieves a nifty balance of intimacy and impeccable polish.” (NPR)
The management of Face Activities urges the governments and organizations of the world to redouble efforts at conservation of natural habitats in order to protect endangered species, and prevent extinction.
There’s some interesting and potentially exciting news from China (though scientists say not to get carried away.) A group of amateur conservationists spotted a possible Baiji in the Yangtze river. The Baiji was a unique species of river dolphin declared “functionally extinct” by a scientific expedition in 2006. That means, if any individuals still survive, they are likely too few in number for the species to recover.
Though there were only about 13 individuals known to ply the waters of China’s greatest river at the turn of the century, they still numbered in the thousands just 50 years earlier. Sadly the species took a big hit during China’s great famine of the late 1950s, when throngs of starving fishermen caught them for food as they struggled to feed their families. After that frightening time, a combination of hunting, collisions with boats, damn projects, and pollution of the increasingly industrialized river devastated the species over the latter half of the twentieth century.
The Baiji were fascinating creatures. A true species of river dolphin, which is rare, these mammals had adapted well to life in China’s longest river over an incredible 20 million year reign (most species die out after about 3 million years.) They differentiated significantly from other whales and dolphins over this time, developing a distinctive look, featuring a very elongated face, and senses well adjusted to the the river’s extremely murky water, including particularly poor eye sight and exceptionally good hearing and sonar—-even for dolphins. They were known by the Chinese, for thousands of years, as “the goddess of the river.”
The alleged sighting, of a dolphin at a great distance jumping out of the river three distinct times before disappearing completely from view, has raised hopes for many. But experts caution that the observers weren’t trained field biologists, and the report could easily describe another aquatic mammal once common to China’s waterways, the now critically endangered river porpoise. Scientists are concerned that this sudden interest in the Baiji may distract from more pressing matters, stressing that it’s most likely too late to save the river dolphin, but the river porpoise still has a chance. So, conservation efforts and media attention should focus on the living porpoise to prevent its slide into extinction.
The plight of the Baiji, and China’s river dolphin as well, clearly shows what happens when human excesses go unchecked for too long, running rough shod over nature. When unique creatures like the Baiji vanish, there are no replacements, and no way back. They are gone forever, and our world is diminished. They are also harbingers for what’s to come on a grand scale, as humans continue to pollute and degrade our planet’s resources and natural habitats.
Learn China’s functionally extinct Baiji and a possible sighting (Science Alert)
Photo: Natural History Museum / Youtube / Science Alert
October 7, 2016 • “Hear the best-selling Scottish singer-songwriter perform an intimate session in Philadelphia.” (NPR)