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The Texas Biker Gang Gunfight Gone Bad

Deadly Shootout Leaves 9 Dead, 18 Wounded, 192 Arrested



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

Police in Waco, Tex., announced today that they have arrested at least 192 people following a spasm of biker-gang violence that left nine people dead over the weekend.

The individuals arrested were all charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and taken to the McLennan County Jail, according to the Waco Herald-Tribune.  The jail, located about 15 minutes away from the retail strip where the shootings occurred, was still working Monday morning to process all of the 165 people who had been arrested, an official said.

The arrests were announced the day after a sports bar packed with rival biker gangs — and police — erupted in violence, sending terrified patrons diving for cover in a busy Central Texas shopping center.

Police said in a statement Monday said the Twin Peaks restaurant and parking lot were “still a very active crime scene” — one that “is littered with bullets, blood and other evidence.  Civilian as well as police units with bullet holes remain to be processed.”  Parts of Central Texas Market Place, where the Twin Peaks sports bar is located, were expected to remained closed for the day, police said.

The confrontation began about noon Sunday in the Twin Peaks restroom and quickly escalated from hands and feet to knives and chains– and then to gunfire, as the violent melee spilled into the crowded parking lot, according to Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a police spokesman.

Several officers were involved in the shootout, police said.  None were wounded, and it was unclear whether any of the nine bikers killed in the melee were shot by police.

Eighteen people were taken to hospitals with injuries that included stab and gunshot wounds, Swanton said.  Some victims were being treated for both, he told reporters in Central Texas on Sunday.

“I was amazed that we didn’t have innocent civilians killed or injured,” Swanson said according to the Associated Press, which noted:

“Many streets were nearly deserted in Waco, apart from law enforcement officials keeping watch, as night fell following a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs at a restaurant that left nine bikers dead and raised the specter of further violence.  Authorities increased security to quell other possible attempts at criminal activity and revenge in the Central Texas town following the melee Sunday.”

The violent confrontation involved at least 150 to 200 bikers and five rival biker gangs, police said.  McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said all nine who were killed were members of the Bandidos or Cossacks gangs, according to the AP, which added:

“In a 2014 gang threat assessment, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified the Bandidos as a “Tier 2 threat, the second highest.  Other groups in that tier included the Bloods, Crips and Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.”

The Bandidos, formed in the 1960s, are involved in trafficking cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  El Paso authorities in 2012 said several Bandido members were involved in an assault and robbery at two bars, according to the assessment.

On Sunday, witnesses described a mass shootout that involved dozens of of guns being fired inside the restaurant and in the parking lot along Interstate 35, according to CBS affiliate KWTX.  The station reported that panicked patrons and employees sought refuge from the mayhem in the restaurant freezer.

A witness who had just finished lunch at a nearby restaurant told KWTX that he and his family walked into the parking lot when they heard multiple gunshots and saw wounded people being removed from the scene.

“We crouched down in front of our pickup truck because that was the only cover we had,” said the man, who asked not to be identified.

Another witness, Michelle Logan, told the Tribune-Herald:  “There were maybe 30 guns being fired in the parking lot, maybe 100 rounds.  They just opened fire. … There’s a lot of people in the hospital, a lot of people shot.”

Vehicles parked near the restaurant were riddled with bullet holes, the newspaper noted.

Hours later, authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies — including local and state police, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — were still trying to secure the area and survey the large crime scene, which was littered with more than 100 weapons.

Swanton called it “one of the worst gun fights we’ve ever had in the city limits.  They started shooting at our officers.”

The officers returned fire, Swanton said, and some armed bikers were shot by police.  Swanton defended the officers’ actions and said they prevented more deaths.

Their action has saved lives in keeping this from spilling into a very busy Sunday morning,” he said, according to CNN.  “Thank goodness the officers were here, and took the action that they needed to take to save numerous lives.”

Authorities said it was not immediately clear what triggered the violence, but the potential for conflict did not surprise the Twin Peaks staff or officers.  McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna told the AP that tensions between the gangs had been building for months.

Police were bracing for violence: Swanton said many as 12 Waco police officers were at the sports bar when the fighting began and that they had secured the area because they “expected issues.”  He said the restaurant’s management requested the officers in anticipation of trouble.

“We have been made aware in the last few months of rival biker gangs — rival criminal biker gangs — being here and causing issues,” Swanton said.  “We have attempted to work with the local management of Twin Peaks to get that cut back, to no avail.  They have not been of much assistance to us.”

Jay Patel, operating partner for the Twin Peaks franchise in Waco, said in a statement Sunday:  “We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today.  We share in the community’s trauma.  Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so.”

Patel added that “our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and … we will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.”

“What happened … could have been avoided if we would have had management at a local establishment listen to their police department and assist us,” Swanton said.  “They failed to do that, and this is the event that happened.”

Headquartered in Dallas, Twin Peaks is a casual dining chain with dozens of locations nationwide that employs a largely female staff scantily clad in plaid shirts and mini shorts.

“Twin Peaks Girls,” the company advertises, offer customers “signature ‘Girl Next Door’ charisma and playful personalities.”

“We’re all about the really super cold beer and really hot girls,” Meggie Miller, the chain’s marketing director, says in a promotional video.  “Not only super hot girls naturally, but girls that are beautifully styled that carry themselves well” and “love to entertain a table.”

The Waco location opened in August and was touted by a company spokesman as offering 24 types of beer and 55 flatscreen TVs, as well as “Bike Night” on Thursdays.  “Get revved up and ready to go at Twin Peaks bike night,” a calendar on the Twin Peaks Waco Web site advertised.

Randy DeWitt, chief executive of Twin Peaks, described the restaurant on the show as “a high-energy mountain-themed sports bar.”

“We have an expression at Twin Peaks,” he adds: “It’s a place where you can let your man out.”

Police said Monday that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission “is implementing a Summary Suspension closing Twin Peaks for at least 7 days.

~Via CNN, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, USA Today

* * * * * * * * *

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Goodbye, B.B.



B.B. King (1925– 2015):  One Shoe Blues




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



B.B. King has died peacefully at 89.

He sang and played the blues with relentless passion for more than half a century.  Riley B. King – better known as B.B. King – started recording in the 1940s and released over fifty albums, many of them classics.

Although he came from Mississippi and born on a cotton plantation, he said, “I’ve always tried to defend the idea that the blues doesn’t have to be sung by a person who comes from Mississippi, as I did.  People all over the world have problems.  And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die.”

He was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi.  In his youth, he played on street corners for dimes, and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night.  In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, to pursue his music career.  Memphis was where every important musician of the South gravitated, and which supported a large musical community where every style of African American music could be found.

B.B.’s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis.  This led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a ten-minute spot on black-staffed and managed Memphis radio station WDIA.  “King’s Spot,” became so popular that soon B.B. needed a catchy radio name.  What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually– just to B.B. King.

In the mid-1950s, while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly.  Two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall.  B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside.  He rushed back inside the burning building to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death.  When he later found out that the silly fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the same name to his guitar, reminding him never to do such a crazy thing like fight over a woman.  Ever since, each one of B.B.’s trademark Gibson guitars has been lovingly called …Lucille.

Soon after recording his number one hit, “Three O’Clock Blues,” B.B. began touring nationally.  In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small-town cafes, juke joints, and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, B.B. became the most renowned blues musician of the past 40 years both nationally and internationally.

During that time, B.B. developed into one of the world’s most identifiable guitarists.

He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and left hand vibrato, both of which became indispensable components of a rock guitarist’s vocabulary.  His musical economy and ‘every-note-counts’ style has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton to George Harrison to Jeff Beck.  B.B. mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound.

In 1968, B.B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day.  They idolized B.B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience.  In “69, B.B. was chosen by the Rolling Stones to open 18 American concerts for them; Ike and Tina Turner also played on 18 of the shows.  He has played with dozens of other big names since then, such as Frank Sinatra, Slash, U2, and even President Barack Obama– and made guest appearances on numerous TV shows as well.

B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  He received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1987, and honorary doctorates from six universities and colleges.  In 1992, he received the National Award of Distinction from the University of Mississippi.

He was a living legend, a national treasure, a connection to the style of blues that’s reminiscent of the past and yet timely in the present.  In B.B.’s words, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing my Lucille.”

Back in 2008, King joined Sandra Boynton to make a wonderful video, above, about a truly minor but enthralling problem.

B.B. passed away in hospice care at his home from complications of diabetes and high blood pressure.

He was our roots, our soul, our blues and our national beauty, a window of our connection to the past and present.

Goodbye, BB.  We’ll miss you dearly.


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Unsure About Essure



Is Bayer Putting Women At Risk?


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

When a new contraceptive implant came on the market over a decade ago, it was considered a breakthrough for women who did not want to have more children, a sterilization procedure that could be done in a doctor’s office in just 10 minutes.

Now, 13 years later, thousands of women who claim they were seriously injured by the implant are urging the Food and Drug Administration to take the device off the market and to warn the public about its complications.

Troubling long-term data on women using the device, called Essure, was published on April 24 after an unusual eight-year delay. Several patients have sued Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, and representatives of patient groups plan to meet with officials of Bayer, the manufacturer, on Monday to discuss their concerns.

The device is a small metal and polyester coil placed into a woman’s fallopian tubes in order to make her permanently sterile.  The F.D.A. approved Essure after a fast-track review process that prioritized the device because it offered the first alternative to surgical sterilization and promised a quick recovery.

Since then, the agency has received more than 4,000 reports of serious complications related to the device, including severe back and pelvic pain, heavy prolonged menstrual periods, and coils that pierced the fallopian tubes and lodged in other organs.

According to a citizens’ petition filed with the F.D.A., an inspector was given records of 16,047 complaints made to the original manufacturer, Conceptus, between 2011 and 2013, when Bayer acquired a majority interest in the company.  Both the agency and Bayer say Essure’s benefits outweigh the risks.

Essure is sold in at least 23 countries, Bayer officials say, and about 750,000 devices are in use worldwide.  Company officials declined to say how many American women use Essure, but said serious complications were relatively rare.

“There are no signals, nothing that would indicate a problem with Essure,” said Dr. Edio Zampaglione, vice president for United States medical affairs and women’s affairs at Bayer.  “The events being reported and seen are expected for this type of procedure.”

But in interviews with more than a dozen patients, many said the risks were anything but expected.

Angie Firmalino, a 42-year-old mother of four in Tannersville, N.Y., said she had experienced severe pain and nonstop bleeding for two years after receiving the implant in 2009.

Eventually doctors discovered that the coils had somehow lodged in her uterus and had broken apart.  She has had several operations, including a hysterectomy, to remove the fragments.

In 2011, Mrs. Firmalino created a Facebook page to warn friends and family about the device.  The page now has nearly 17,000 members.

“If I had any idea of the possible consequences of Essure, I would never have chosen it,” said Mrs. Firmalino, who still takes ibuprofen daily to manage her pain.

In 2000, Kim Hudak was a 28-year-old mother with a 7-year-old son when she volunteered to participate in an early trial of the device.  But as soon as she received the implant, she said, she developed a sharp pain in her right hip that did not go away.  Her menstrual periods became very painful, and she developed a slew of symptoms including fatigue, migraines and joint pain that often kept her from working full time.

“It felt like I had a really severe case of the flu, and those were the good days,” said Ms. Hudak, now 43, who works in sales in Cleveland.  “I had years and years of doctors telling me I was crazy.”

Ms. Hudak has filed a $1 million claim against Bayer seeking reimbursement for injuries and lost wages.

Yet many women do well with Essure and recommend it.

“I had it done during my lunch hour, and I ran a half-marathon shortly afterward,” said Cindy Dossett, 54, of Newburgh, Ind.

She required another procedure to curb menstrual bleeding after getting the implant, but over all, she said, “it’s a pretty easy process.”

Essure was the first device to offer women an alternative to tubal ligation (commonly known as having one’s “tubes tied”) and, as such, was considered a game changer, experts said.

The small coils are placed in the fallopian tubes vaginally, without a surgical incision and with minimal anesthesia.

Once inserted, the coils — made of a nickel titanium alloy and a polyester-like fiber called polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — trigger an inflammatory response, causing scar tissue to form and block the fallopian tubes, preventing sperm from reaching an ovum.  The scarring process can take three months, and women must use other contraceptives until testing confirms the tubes are blocked.

But pain and other serious side effects emerged early in clinical trials required for approval.

In a safety trial that enrolled 269 women ages 23 to 45, the device was successfully inserted into 200 patients.  In nine of them, a coil perforated the fallopian tube, was expelled or lodged elsewhere in the body, according to a 2003 report in the journal Human Reproduction.

Trial participants were asked to keep diaries, and nearly one in 10 participants recorded painful intercourse, while one in eight had painful menstrual periods during the first three months.

In a subsequent trial of 518 women, only 449 were able to rely on the device.  On 21 occasions, the implant perforated the fallopian tubes, was expelled, or ended up in the wrong place in the body.  At least eight women had surgery to be sterilized or to remove a misplaced coil.

At the time, F.D.A. officials were concerned that the trials had followed women only for a year or two, while the implant was meant to last a lifetime.  The agency approved Essure in 2002 on condition that the investigators continue to monitor the women who participated in the trials for four more years.

The F.D.A. said only 171 women in the smaller trial were followed for five years.  A heavily redacted report, posted on the F.D.A. website, shows that five women had hysterectomies and that at least one became pregnant.

Participants reported 270 adverse events, including dozens involving pain and heavy menstrual periods . The investigators determined that only 17 of these were caused by Essure and attributed the rest to other factors.  They concluded that pain and bleeding were therefore rare among users.

Although the monitoring period ended in 2007, long-term data on women in the larger trial was published only April 24 in The Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology.

Of the original 518 participants, whose average age was 31, only 366 — about 70 percent — were followed for the full five years.

Fifteen women had hysterectomies.  The investigators concluded that only two of these major operations were “possibly” related to Essure.

Thirty-eight percent experienced unusually heavy periods on a recurring basis.  One in 20 patients had recurrent pelvic pain, one in 15 had recurrent painful periods, nearly one in 25 had recurring pain with intercourse.  Investigators said just one had persistent pain, however.

Because there is no other device like Essure on the market, and because Bayer will not say how many American women have it, experts find it difficult to judge whether the risks are disproportionate.  Manufacturers are not required to include control groups in clinical trials, as is standard in drug trials, so there is no comparison group.

F.D.A. officials said they were concerned about the coils moving outside the fallopian tubes, but did not believe the device was flawed.

“The agency believes the benefits outweigh the risks in appropriately selected patients who are adequately informed,” said Dr. William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist in the F.D.A.’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Dr. Zampaglione said women who underwent surgical sterilization were also more likely than other women to undergo hysterectomy.  A 1998 study of women undergoing surgical sterilization in the 1970s and ’80s also found high rates of subsequent hysterectomies, he said.

The slowly accumulating data and patient reports, however, have made other experts uneasy.

The National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit group, has begun analyzing adverse event reports related to Essure, looking for patterns of complications.

“The fact that 16,000 women with children and a lot of things to do are willing to take the time to talk about this is very, very unusual,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the group, referring to Mrs. Firmalino’s Facebook page.  “I can’t think of another device like this.”

Dr. Aileen Gariepy, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, has calculated that nearly one in 10 women with Essure would get pregnant over a 10-year period, a much higher rate than that among women who undergo tubal ligation.

She finds it troubling that the long-term study published last week did not include data on 30 percent of the trial participants.

In clinical trials, she said, “the most common reason patients are lost like this is because they had a problem.”

Physicians familiar with Essure are now deeply divided.  Many use it regularly and say they have had tremendous success.

“It’s the best thing out there,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bittner, a gynecologist in Ottumwa, Iowa.  “It’s easy, it’s safe, it’s effective — it’s hard to beat.  A doctor who doesn’t tell patients that is not being honest.”

Others have become disillusioned.

“When Essure came out, I was very enamored by it and did a lot of Essures all the time, until I started seeing patients come back with problems and referred to me with complications,” said Dr. Mitchell D. Creinin, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U.C. Davis Health System in Sacramento.

“It’s a great technology.  I’m just not sure it’s ready for prime time.”

~Via NYT and ABC News

Posted in National1 Comment

What is Flakka?


It’s the New Ecstasy-Meth Drug Hitting Florida’s Shores



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

There’s a new drug in town and it has quickly gained notoriety for providing a ridiculously cheap, yet immensely volatile, high.

It’s called Flakka, or  alpha-PVP.  It’s an inexpensive synthetic illegal drug thought to be making it’s way to Florida from Hong Kong by the kilo-load– though it’s too new for anyone to be sure.

In recent weeks, national media outlets have churned out a bevy of flakka stories, linking to news articles about all the weird, fucked-up shit happening in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Man flakka episodes have featured local law enforcement officials and addiction experts asserting the drug causes bizarre, irrational behavior in users;  such as beating down people, running through the streets naked, having sex with trees, impaling oneself on fences, and  seeking refuge at police stations from imaginary mobs.

Flakka seems to be the newest murky, synthetic drug trade washing over Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.  According to the DEA, there were 1,706 crime lab cases in 2014 involving synthetic cathinones (a.k.a. bath salts)– a stimulant similar to amphetamine normally found in khat plant leaves in the Middle East– in the three counties combined, accounting for more than half of all such cases in Florida.

The DEA’s Miami office is conducting an ongoing investigation into the importation of synthetics such as alpha-PVP, which south Florida drug experts claim is falsely marketed as Ecstasy, or pure MDMA.

Ecstasy?  I call it pure malarkey,” Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University, said. “Flakka is a second generation of synthetics similar to bath salts.”

Hall, who works for Nova’s Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities, broke down the flakka economy in his April monthly newsletter.  Part of his job is to closely monitor street drug trends in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.

One kilogram of alpha-PVP provides up to 10,000 doses, Hall explained.  Each dose is one tenth of a gram– enough to produce the desired effects and mild hallucinations– and sells for five dollars or less on the street. “Flakka can be purchased online from the dark web at a relatively low price,” Hall said.  “It can go for $1,500 a kilo so a dealer is looking at a potential $48,500 profit.”

In south Florida, a network of loosely affiliated local crime rings are flakka’s biggest pushers, according to Hall.  ”The homeless population is also involved in its sale and distribution,” he said.

Two people in Florida were recently busted by the DEA for flakka trafficking, although local law enforcement agencies have made dealer arrests of their own.

Federal drug agents first encountered flakka on March 26 after receiving a tip from their colleagues in London that British authorities had intercepted multiple packages of alpha-PVP– destined for Palm Beach County by way of a Hong Kong chemical company.

The drug’s use is spiking and police say it’s to blame for many dangerous and bizarre incidents.  According to Hall, more than one dose of flakka can cause heart problems, psychosis, violent behavior, hypothermia, and excited delirium.

“If users don’t receive emergency medical care right away, they can die,” he said.  “Their body temperature can reach 105 degrees, they can turn psychotic and violent, they can experience heart and kidney failure.  It is a pretty gruesome drug.”




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From Battlefields to Farmfields



Turning Swords to Ploughshares


Free Film Showing:

Humboldt Grange, Sunday, May 3 at 6:30 pm

5845 Humboldt Hill Road, Eureka




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Ground Operations: Battlefield to Farmfield, is a documentary about hope and change.


When it comes to veterans, we’re used to hearing bad news about missing safety nets and grim statistics.  For example, the one about 22 veterans committing suicide every day.

It’s nice to see a meaningful and refreshing glimmer of hope and inspiration coming along every once in awhile, like this one.

This is both a film and a social action campaign that champions the growing network of combat veterans who are becoming organic farmers, sustainable ranchers and artisan food producers.  Programs to get veterans involved in agriculture have been underway for some time and the documentary’s director, Dulanie Ellis, suggests that this approach might be a solution not just for soldiers dealing with the rough transition back to civilian life but also for the shortage of farmers.

Veterans from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan face a difficult transition to civilian life, marked by high unemployment, prescription drug addiction and staggering suicide rates.  They need a place to de-escalate from the high-velocity impact of combat.  They are service-driven people who need a new mission.  Coincidentally, half of American farmers have reached retirement age and the USDA is calling for one million new farmers and ranchers in the next 10 years to fill the coming gap.  Agriculture’s problem is the veterans’ solution.

Ground Operations follows an ensemble of young men and women who tell us why they joined the military, how the war changed them, how they’ve struggled to return home and ultimately, how they found sustainable farming and ranching to be the answer to a dream.  In a world full of problems, it’s a story about solutions.

The above clip gives only a portion of the whole story.  In the full documentary, a veteran farmer described getting a call from a fellow soldier who was having a panic attack.  He told him to meet him at the farm, and they spent the next two hours sitting under a tree, until that panic was replaced by a feeling of peace.

One of the veteran farmers in the film, Matthew Raiford, said he can now make good use of his post-war insomnia.  It feels good, he said, to be able to throw himself into his work, to be outside, away from crowds, and to see the physical results of his labor.  “You can almost channel your PTSD,” he said.

It’s a community conversation worth having, about local foodsheds and the role that veterans are playing in creating food security for America, one farm at a time.

* * * * * * * *

If you’d like to see Ground Operations: Battlefield to Farmfield in full, it will be shown at the Humboldt Grange, 5845 Humboldt Hill Road, Eureka,  this Sunday, May 3, at 6:30 pm. 

It is free of charge and donations will be accepted.  For more information, please call #442-4890



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You Can’t Run From Mama



The Baltimore ‘Angry Mother’ Viral Video




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Nothing like being sent home by your angry Mom– on national TV.

This mother didn’t take kindly to her son participating in the Baltimore protests and riots happening in response to the death of Freddie Gray.  She recognized her masked son throwing rocks at police on television and took proper parenting into her own hands.  Literally.

Toya Graham said yesterday she did it because she didn’t want her son to become another Freddie Gray.

She told CBS News that she’s a single mother of six who “don’t play” when it comes to her children.  In video captured Monday by CNN affiliate WMAR, Graham is seen pulling her masked son away from a protest crowd, smacking him in the head repeatedly, and screaming at him.

Graham said that her son said he wanted to run when he saw her coming.

“I’m a no-tolerant mother.  Everybody who knows me, knows I don’t play that,” Graham said.  ”He knew. He knew he was in trouble.”

Graham told CBS News that she and her son made eye contact and she didn’t even think about the news cameras when she went after her boy.  “That’s my only son and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray.  I was angry.  I was shocked, because you never want to see your child out there doing that,”  she said.

On the video the boy– dressed in dark pants and a black hoodie– tries to walk away.  She follows him, swats him across the head, grabs his mask and screams, “Get the fuck over here!”

Eventually, he turns toward her, his face no longer covered.

Graham said when she arrived at Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall, she saw people throwing objects at police.  She said what she saw could not be called ‘protesters out for justice’.

Tameka Brown, one of Graham’s five daughters, said it wasn’t that hard for her mom to spot her 16-year-old brother.

“She knows her son and picked him out.  Even with the mask on, she knew,” Brown said.

Her brother is actually grateful that his mom came to get him, she said.  He understands Graham did it because she wants to keep her son alive.  “She has always been tough and knows where we are at,” Brown said.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts thanked her in remarks to the media on Monday night.

“…And if you saw in one scene you had one mother who grabbed their child who had a hood on his head and she started smacking him on the head because she was so embarrassed,” he said.  “I wish I had more parents that took charge of their kids out there tonight.”

Graham told CBS that at times she tells her son to stay inside.

“There are some days I’ll shield him in the house just so he won’t go outside.  And I know I can’t do that for the rest of my life.  He’s 16 years old, you know,” she said.

It just goes to show you can run but you can’t hide.

Especially from Mama.


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The Day Elvis Presley Met Richard Nixon



 The King Gets to Meet Tricky Dick




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It all started in Memphis in 1970.

Elvis’ father, Vernon, and wife, Priscilla, complained that he’d spent too much on Christmas presents—more than $100,000 for 32 handguns and ten Mercedes-Benzes.

Peeved, Elvis drove to the airport and caught the next available flight, which happened to be bound for Washington.  He checked into a hotel, then got bored and decided to fly to Los Angeles.

“Elvis called and asked me to pick him up at the airport,” recalls Jerry Schilling, Presley’s longtime aide, who dutifully arrived at the Los Angeles airport at 3 a.m. to chauffeur the King to his mansion there.

Elvis was traveling with some guns and his collection of police badges, and he decided that what he really wanted was a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs back in Washington.

“The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley would write in her memoir, Elvis and Me.  ”With the federal narcotics badge, he believed he could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked Schilling to fly with him back to the capital.  ”He didn’t say why,” Schilling recalls, “but I thought the badge might be part of the reason.”

On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon. “Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out,” he wrote.  ”I would love to meet you,” he added, informing Nixon that he’d be staying at the Washington Hotel under the alias Jon Burrows. “I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.”

All Elvis wanted in return was a federal agent’s badge.

After they landed, Elvis and Schilling took a limo to the White House, and Elvis dropped off his letter at an entrance gate at about 6:30 a.m.  Once they checked in at their hotel, Elvis left for the offices of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  He got a meeting with a deputy director, but not approval for a bureau badge.

Meanwhile, his letter was delivered to Nixon aide Egil “Bud” Krogh, who happened to be an Elvis fan.  Krogh loved the idea of a Nixon-Presley summit and persuaded his bosses, including White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, to make it happen.  Krogh called the Washington Hotel and set up a meeting through Schilling.

Around noon, Elvis arrived at the White House with Schilling and bodyguard Sonny West, who’d just arrived from Memphis.  Arrayed in a purple velvet suit with a huge gold belt buckle and amber sunglasses,

Elvis came bearing a gift, a Colt .45 pistol mounted in a display case that Elvis had plucked off the wall of his Los Angeles mansion which the Secret Service confiscated before Krogh escorted Elvis– without his entourage– to meet Nixon.

“When he first walked into the Oval Office, he seemed a little awe-struck,” Krogh recalls, “but he quickly warmed to the situation.”

While White House photographer Ollie Atkins snapped photographs, the president and the King shook hands.  Then Elvis showed off his police badges.

Nixon’s famous taping system had not yet been installed, so the conversation wasn’t recorded.  But Krogh took notes:  ”Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit.  The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest.”

“I’m on your side,” Elvis told Nixon, adding that he’d been studying the drug culture and Communist brainwashing.  Then he asked the president for a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

“Can we get him a badge?” Nixon asked Krogh.

Krogh said he could, and Nixon ordered it done.

Elvis was ecstatic.  ”In a surprising, spontaneous gesture,” Krogh wrote, Elvis “put his left arm around the President and hugged him.”

Before leaving, Elvis asked Nixon to say hello to Schilling and West, and the two men were escorted into the Oval Office.  Nixon playfully punched Schilling on the shoulder and gave both men White House cuff links.

“Mr. President, they have wives, too,” Elvis said.  So Nixon gave them each a White House brooch.

After Krogh took him to lunch at the White House mess, Elvis received his gift– the narc badge.

At Elvis’ request, the meeting was kept secret– although it’s widely believed a mug shot surfacing years later was taken for security purposes; Elvis had never been arrested before to warrant one.  A year later, columnist Jack Anderson broke the story– “Presley Gets Narcotics Bureau Badge“– but few people seemed to care. 

That is, everyone except Beatle Paul McCartney.

On hearing reports of the meeting, McCartney later said that he “Felt a bit betrayed.  The great joke was that we were all taking illegal drugs, and look what happened to him,” he said, a reference to Presley’s death hastened by prescription drug abuse.  To note, Presley and his friends had had a four-hour get-together with the Beatles five years earlier.

In 1988, years after Nixon resigned and Elvis died of a drug overdose, a Chicago newspaper reported that the National Archives was selling photos of the meeting, and within a week, some 8,000 people requested copies, making the pictures the most requested photographs in Archives history.

Why is the photo so popular?  Krogh figures it’s the incongruity; a bizarre encounter between the president and the king of rock and roll.

“There’s this staid president with this rock ‘n’ roll figure.  It’s a powerful image,” Krogh said.  It’s a jolt seeing them together.  Here is the leader of the Western world and the king of rock ‘n’ roll in the same place, and they’re clearly enjoying each other. And you think, ‘How can this be?’”

~Via Scott Calonico, Smithsonian, Archived America, and Vimeo

  * * * * * * * * * * *

If you liked this article, you may enjoy our others on the nation’s history and its pop culture:

Led Zeppelin Meets Elvis Presley

JFK’s Rant and Wrath

You Can’t Always Get What You Want



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You Can’t Always Get What You Want



You Get What You Need


Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy.  First, let her think she’s having her own way.  And second, let her have it. 

…and every man has a right to a Saturday night bath.”

  ~Lyndon B. Johnson


It’s tough being President.

Although being President of the United States is the one of the most powerful gigs in the world, it still has its drawbacks.  As this series of intimate archived phone conversations released by the Johnson Presidential Library shows, it’s still a job. 

Annoyances such as tech issues, vexing overseas operators, awkward small-talk, lukewarm bullion and limited dessert options show an entirely different side of power in the Oval Office– one where you can’t always get what you want.

Animated with archival photographs, director Scott Calonico’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want is a quick and revealing look at the office of the President in the rare moments that aren’t usually subject to public scrutiny, a glimpse into the life and times of Lyndon B Johnson during the tumultuous 1960s.

By many accounts, LBJ was an intimidating man, sporting a foul mouth and comfortably accustomed to throwing his height, weight and power around like a schoolyard bully.  He was used to getting his way. 

It just goes to show you can’t always get what you want– but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.  Unless it’s trying to make Congress do something.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Scott Calonico holds a Radio/TV/Film production degree from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in International Journalism from City University, London.  His short films have been shown at numerous festivals in the United States, and we covered two of his previously delightful pieces you may like to see here:

JFK’s Rant and Wrath  and The Day Elvis Presley Met Richard Nixon



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The Raw Footage of the South Carolina Trooper Shooting



Warning:  Above Video is Graphic in Detail




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



If you haven’t seen the above video, you can’t understand just
how great of a shock it is.

An unarmed black man, stopped for a broken tail-light, is seen running away from a cop.  The cop, officer Michael Slager, aims and fires eight times.  The victim, Walter Scott, falls.

Slager shot the unarmed man in the back and then rushes to cover up the crime.  Slager had called in the shooting as a tussle about a Taser gun.  He calmly went to the body, handcuffed Scott, and then went back for what looked like his Taser, which he planted next to Scott.  He wiped his hands for no apparent reason.

He did all this as Scott lay dying.

It was horrific and much worse.  Scott had run away from the traffic stop, apparently fearing arrest for an old warrant.  There had been a scuffle, according to the man who witnessed the event and caught it all on his cell phone.

Except Slager killed a man and then lied about the shooting.  He apparently tried to plant incriminating evidence.  And you could see how, without the video, he probably would have gotten away with unaccountably and unimaginably shooting an unarmed man eight times in the back.

It wasn’t the only shock.  Some were shocked that the North Charleston mayor and police chief acted so quickly in immediately removing Slager from the force and charging him with murder.

Perhaps that was because Slager has had excessive force complaints in the past and is embroiled in a current lawsuit. 

Two years ago, a man said Slager used his stun gun against him without reason.  

On Friday, another Charleston County man, Justin Wilson, came forward alleging that Slager did the same thing to him during a traffic stop last year.  Wilson’s lawsuit says that when he was pulled over by police Aug. 24, he produced a valid Georgia driver’s license but was placed under arrest for having a suspended South Carolina license.

The suit alleges that Wilson was pulled from his vehicle, forced to the ground and then, although he was cooperating with authorities, Slager shot him with his Taser.  Wilson’s lawyer said he would release a statement next week.

The story in this recent South Carolina shooting didn’t begin or end there, however, because a man who was walking to work saw the scuffle and did what people do.  He pulled out his cell phone and started shooting video.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  And he was scared to death to think what he had in his phone.

Feidin Santana, a Dominican immigrant, would say he thought about erasing the video and leaving town.  He worried that the cops must have seen him.  He was afraid, after watching the shooting, what they might to do him.

“My life has changed in a matter of seconds,” Santana said.  “My family’s afraid what’s going to happen next with me.  I’m afraid, too, of what can happen.  But I guess I feel that what I did is just, you know, look for justice in this case.”

After hearing what Slager had to say about the shooting, Santana took his video to a vigil for Scott and gave it to the family.  The video was released to the press, and, as it was played for the world to see, Slager was charged with murder and Santana was rightly being called a hero.

Days later, the North Charleston police released the dash-cam video
of the traffic stop.  

And the mayor promised that the police would soon be outfitted with body-cams– a policy that, locally here in Humboldt County, Chief Andrew Mills and the Eureka Police Department have been dragging their feet on for some time, especially given our own spate of multiple officer-involved shootings and fatalities over the past several years.

And so Santana would tell the Washington Post that if people see “something bad … happening,” they should reach for their cell phones to record it.  It’s a matter of justice, he said.

As shocking as that can sometimes be.

~Via NYDN, Summit News, SF Gate, IBT, Daily Kos, ABC, YouTube



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Balancing the Budget on the Poor– with Fines



John Oliver:  It’s Time to Pay Up– Or Chill Out in Debtor’s Prison




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Debtors’ prisons have made a huge comeback.  


If you have money, committing a municipal violation is a minor inconvenience.  If you don’t, it can ruin your life.

John Oliver took on fines for municipal violations and how they disproportionately harm the poor and minorities on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

If there’s one thing John Oliver teaches us, it’s that being broke sucks.  Whether it’s payday loans or municipal violations, making one mistake when you’re broke can result in months or years of being screwed.

“We have all committed municipal violations, and if you’ve never gotten a ticket for one, congratulations on not getting caught,” he said on Sunday.

What can start out as a small fine for speeding or not wearing a seatbelt quickly balloons when municipalities and courts tack on surcharges and fees.  And when offenders can’t immediately pay them, they can have their license suspended, making it difficult for them to continue working.

“Most Americans drive to work, and if you can’t do that, you’ve got a problem,” he said. 

“In New Jersey, a survey of low-income drivers who had their license suspended found that 64 percent had lost their jobs as a result, which doesn’t help anyone.  You need them to pay their fine, but you’re taking away their means of paying it.”

Some municipalities pass off enforcement to private companies, which charge their own fees, making it impossible for some to pay off their tickets. 

Take Harriet Cleveland, for example.

When Harriet Cleveland opened her door one morning, the last thing she expected to see was a cop.  And when she did open her door, it didn’t even cross her mind that he might be there for her, because the only thing she had ever done was to get a minor traffic ticket.

Except he was there for her.  To take her away to the local pokey for not paying her traffic debt.

Since Harriet didn’t have enough money to pay her ticket, the court handed the collection responsibility over to a private company that slapped enormous fees onto the cost.  Every time Harriet tried to pay off the ticket, all the money she handed over went to cover the fees, not the ticket itself.  And the fees kept increasing regardless.  Eventually, she had to decide between paying the fees and covering her food and utilities.

So she gave up.  And she went to jail.

And there are hundreds of thousands more like Harriet across the nation.  Debtors prisons’ — throwing people in jail for owing money — are theoretically illegal.  The federal government outlawed them in 1833, and most states followed shortly thereafter.  And yet, shady cities and towns and municipalities across America– including Humboldt County– have slowly been bringing them back.

“Let’s be clear, no one is saying people who break the law shouldn’t be punished,” Oliver said.  ”This isn’t about being soft on crime, but having fines people can reasonably pay off.”

“Not only should municipalities not be balancing their books on the backs of their most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in jail,” he added.

Make no mistake:  there are a growing number of citizens going to jail at the behest of banks and a welcoming judicial system.  Our Founding Fathers would have had a hissy fit.  And we wonder as the courts balance their beastly burgeoning budgets on the backs of the working poor, What the Hell Did You Do With All That Money?”

~Via John Oliver, HBO, YouTube, UpWorthy and the Humboldt Sentinel



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Adapt and Live



The Exuberance of Life, Nature and Change


Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Not only did he make the final cut, he won the contest.

As a freelance cinematographer and producer traveling the country seeking adventure and shooting wildlife, Filipe DeAndrade originally studied film and wildlife ecology & conservation at the University of Florida.

He’s come a long ways since those days.  DeAndrade’s inspiring film that you see above, Adapt, was selected as the final winner from hundreds of online entries, taking the grand prize from both the Sun Valley Film Festival and National Geographic’s Wild to Inspire competition last week.

His pictures are indeed beautiful, stunning, and one of a kind.  In his short film, the young photographer shared how he found a deep salvation in nature at a time when his own life was particularly chaotic and confusing.  He came to find his place and voice through the camera lens, saying passionately, “The minute I picked up my camera I found my voice.  If nature was my savior, then photography was my soulmate.”

In partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation, DeAndrade will now travel to Africa this fall to produce another film, sharing his wildlife adventures further through videos, diaries, and photos as part of an online companion to National Geographic’s Destination Wild Sunday night nature series.

“We heartily congratulate Filipe and can’t wait to see what he’ll bring back to the screen through his lens,” said Craig R. Sholley of the African Wildlife Foundation.  “Africa provides the perfect backdrop for honing your skills as a wildlife filmmaker given its extraordinary biodiversity.  Filipe’s camera will be a window into that world inspiring others to advocate for its protection.”

DeAndrade’s love of nature is equal to his own passion as a cinematographer. “In order to protect something you have to love it, and I cannot wait to bring back a story from Africa to inspire others to love the natural world as much as I do,” the Brazilian-born DeAndrade said.  “My life’s passion is to use my camera to inspire others to fall in love with the wild, the same way that I did.”

“I was 5 years old when we came to America from Rio de Janeiro.  We had no citizenship, no money and I had only a tenuous grasp on the English Language.  To make things a little more difficult, my father was addicted to drugs and extremely abusive,” DeAndrade said of his early childhood. 

“So at 5 years old, I learned my most important life lesson: Adapt.  Through our experiences we’re meant to be better because of our hardships; not in spite of them.  Thank you, thank you, thank you  everyone who helped me be a part of this process because you never let me go at it alone.”


~With appreciation and inspiration to Kym Kemp



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You Don’t Know Jack



Jack Andraka, The Teen Prodigy of Cancer


Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Only a sophomore in high school, Jack Andraka invented a new test for a deadly form of cancer.  It’s cheap, accurate, and revolutionary.

Andraka created his potentially revolutionary pancreatic cancer detection tool at nearby Johns Hopkins University, though he does sometimes tinker in a small basement lab at the family’s house in leafy Crownsville, Maryland, where a homemade particle accelerator crowds the foosball table.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, with a five-year survival rate of 6 percent.  Some 40,000 people die of it each year.  The diagnosis can be devastating because it is often delivered late, after the cancer has spread.

Unlike the breast or colon, the pancreas is nestled deep in the body cavity and difficult to image, and there is no telltale early symptom or lump. “By the time you bring this to a physician, it’s too late,” says Anirban Maitra, a Johns Hopkins pathologist and pancreatic cancer researcher who is Andraka’s mentor. “The testing and drugs we have aren’t good for this disease.”

As the cancer takes hold, the body does issue an unmistakable distress signal: an overabundance of a protein called mesothelin.  The problem is that scientists haven’t yet developed a surefire way to look for this red flag in the course of a standard physical.

“The first point of entry would have to be a cheap blood test done with a simple prick,” Maitra says.

That’s exactly what Andraka invented: A small dipstick probe that uses just a sixth of a drop of blood and is much more accurate than existing approaches and takes five minutes to complete.  It’s still preliminary, drug companies are interested, and the word is spreading.

“I’ve gotten these Facebook messages asking, ‘Can I have the test?’” 14-year-old Andraka says. “I am heartbroken to say no.”

That fateful day in freshman biology class last year, Andraka had a lot on his mind.  A close friend of his family had recently died of pancreatic cancer, and Andraka had been reading about the disease.

Andraka wrote up an experimental protocol and e-mailed it to 200 researchers.  Only Maitra responded.

“It was a very unusual e-mail,” Maitra remembers.  “I often don’t get e-mails like this from postdoctoral fellows, let alone high-school freshmen.”

He decided to invite Andraka to his lab.  To oversee the project, he appointed a gentle postdoctoral chemist, who took the baby-sitting assignment in stride.  They expected to see Andraka for perhaps a few weeks over the summer.

Instead, the young scientist worked for seven months, every day after school and often on Saturdays until after midnight, subsisting on hard-boiled eggs and Twix as his mother dozed in the car in a nearby parking garage.  He labored through Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He spent his 15th birthday in the lab.

He had a nasty run-in with the centrifuge machine, in which a month’s worth of cell culture samples exploded, and Andraka burst into tears.

But sometimes his lack of training yielded elegant solutions.  For his test strips, he decided to use simple filter paper, which is absorbent enough to soak up the necessary solution of carbon nano­tubes and mesothelin antibodies, and inexpensive.  To measure the electrical change in a sample, he bought a $50 ohmmeter at Home Depot.  He and his dad built the Plexiglas testing apparatus used to hold the strips as he reads the current.  He swiped a pair of his mom’s sewing needles to use as electrodes.

About 2:30 a.m. one December Sunday, Jane Andraka was jolted from her parking lot stupor by an ecstatic Jack.

“He opens the door,” she remembers, “and you know how your kid has this giant smile, and that shine in their eye when something went right?”  The test had detected mesothelin in artificial samples.  A few weeks later, it pinpointed mesothelin in the blood of mice bearing human pancreatic tumors.  It worked.

Andraka’s appetite for science and success knows no bounds: His euphoric reaction to winning the Intel science contest based on his research quickly went viral on YouTube. In the months since that triumph, reality has sunk in a little as he spoke with attorneys and licensing companies.  

“I just finished the patent,” he says, “and I’m going to start an LLC soon.”

But Maitra—who believes that the dipstick should ultimately be modified to identify other flag-raising cancer proteins along with mesothelin– has made clear that Andraka has a lot more testing to do before publishing a peer-reviewed paper on the work, the next step.  Even if all goes well, the product probably wouldn’t be marketed for a decade or so, which, to a teenager, is practically eternity.  Nonetheless, his invention has already been extrapolated to diagnose ovarian and lung cancer as well.

The young Mr. Andraka is now in high demand.  He won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and took the $75,000 grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, one of the few freshman ever to do so.  He’s giving TED talks, speaking at international ideas festivals, written a book, been recognized by the Vatican, and had GE sponsor the video You Don’t Know Jack, seen above.  His iPhone contains snapshots of dignitaries ranging from Bill Clinton to and others. 

He’s been featured in dozens of publications and on The Colbert Report and 60 Minutes.  He’s competing for the $10 million dollar X-Prize by building a Star Trek-like tricorder that will diagnose disease by simply scanning your skin.

For all of his smarts and astounding accomplishments at such a young age– even before having a drivers license– Jack Andraka still remains a humble and soft spoken person, with an open future of possibilities to consider. 

“I really have no clue where I want to go or what I want to be when I grow up,” he said.  “I still have a lot of decisions to make.  I still have to take my SAT first.”

“He’s ahead of his time in many ways,” Maitra says.  “Taking one idea and seeing how to extrapolate something even more expansive, that’s the difference between being great and being a genius.  And who comes up with ideas like this at 14?  It’s crazy.”

~Via MSN, Smithsonian, Morgan Spurlock, GE,
   Out, the Andraka family, and Vimeo



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Why Principals Matter



Changing the School, Changing the Culture


Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Can school principals really make a difference?

Earlier this year, Nadia Lopez was ready to quit her job at Mott Hall Bridges Academy.  Lopez founded the public middle school in 2010, hoping to provide educational stability to students in Brownsville, Brooklyn– the poorest neighborhood in New York City.

Four years later, though, she worried her work wasn’t influencing the community.

Then Vidal Chastanet, an eighth-grader at Mott Hall, was featured on the Humans of New York photo blog, where he praised Lopez as the most influential person in his life.

“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us,” he said.  “She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built around us.  And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built.  And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

The post, which immediately vent viral on Facebook, was shared more than 145,000 times.  Then something extraordinary happened. 

Three days later, the blogger and photographer Brandon Stanton and Lopez started a fundraising campaign to send Mott Hall students to visit Harvard.  The campaign attracted significant attention online, raising more than $1.4 million in just three weeks from 25,000 supporters. 

It was enough not only to send the aspiring students to visit Harvard, but to fund college scholarships and the school’s summer program for an entire decade.

In February, Stanton, Chastanet and Principal Lopez travelled to the White House to meet with US President Barack Obama.

“There are a lot of people out there who want to provide advice and support to people who are trying to do the right thing.  So you’ll have a lot of people helping you,” the President told the young Vidal, according to Stanton’s blog.

“Just always remember to be open to help.  Never think that you know everything.  And always be ready to listen,” the President added.

The Atlantic’s video team spent a day at Mott Hall to learn how Lopez responded to the attention, and more important, to understand why she is such a successful principal.

As Lopez explains it, her hands-on approach is a big reason why Mott Hall has become such a safe haven in Brownsville.  

“In this building, my kids are going to feel like they’re successful,” she said with firm and caring conviction, before breezing off and down the hallway to yet another mission.



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The Real School of Rock



Aaron O’Keefe’s Middle School of Rock




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



You want your kids to be cool, right?

Well, cool within limits.  No worries.  Coolness and education is baked into each and every lesson Aaron O’Keefe offers for his students.  In fact, he created the O’Keefe Music Foundation to help other children reach their peak level of coolness.  And they totally rock doing it.

Teaching over 50 students a week, O’Keefe is a Lebanon, Ohio music educator who has grown a number of private musical academies over the last ten years.  With students ranging in age from 6-18, O’Keefe teaches a medley of instruments:  piano, voice, guitar, drums, electric bass, double bass, vibraphone, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and pan steel drums.

He takes his young students, mentoring and teaching them along at $24 per session, and together they work on the songs with practice, practice, and more practice until they get it right and giving a public recital every three months.  When they’re ready to rock and record, O’Keefe takes them on a “Rock the Range” road trip with parents to lay down the tracks at world famous recording studios in Chicago and Nashville. 

And you never know what they might be up to next. 

They may cover Rush, Ozzy’s No More Tears, Meatloaf, Guns N’ Roses, Tangerine Dream, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Queen, or a host of other groups depending on what moves them.

O’Keefe’s foundation enables children to record their musical performances for free when they’re ready, being provided with top of the line instruments, professional recording gear and a team of engineers capturing the aspiring musicians at their best. 

O’Keefe believes kids should have fun while stressing the foundation’s overall mission, which “educates children about music production, performance, audio engineering, and the value of team work.”

The video above, Kids Cover: 46 and 2 by Tool, went viral with nearly 8 million views and a news broadcast in a few short months, showcasing the hard work of O’Keefe and his students. 

The kid behind the drumsticks, Curtis Moss, nails Tool dude Danny Carey’s avalanche of dizzying tom-tom flourishes and somehow does it with far fewer tom-toms.  And the singer, Kala Esposito, handles Tool’s singer Maynard James Keenan’s angsty caterwauling pretty darn well and angstily, as she also does in Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools, seen below.

When representatives of the Zildjian cymbal company saw the students’ videos they were impressed.  They promptly sent over $1500 worth of cymbals, and then sent along some more bling in the form of t-shirts, lanyards, posters and hats following thereafter. 

We were amazed and impressed, too.  Seriously, if you’re not a totally heartless person, you’ll love it as much as we did.


~Via Aaron O’Keefe, O’Keefe Music Foundation, and YouTube. 
  Our appreciation goes out to Danny-boy for turning us on to it.


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Net Neutrality and Freedom of Choice Prevail



FCC Makes Landmark Ruling for Americans




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The Internet came close to being taken over by private for-profit companies who want to control what consumers see and how much they’ll pay for it.  In a battle between everyday citizens and the Big Telecoms, the citizens won by a 3-2 vote.

The Federal Communications Commission voted yesterday to approve strong net neutrality rules in a stunning decision, defying vocal, months-long opposition by telecom and cable companies and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler approved a rule that reclassifies consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.  These rules also apply to mobile access.

The FCC intends to use this new authority to ban “paid prioritization,” a practice whereby Internet service providers can charge content producers a premium for giving users more reliable access to that content, as well as to ban blocking and throttling of lawful content and services– such as you seeing the Humboldt Sentinel here or GeekSpot’s video, above. 

Another example would be for you searching online for, say, clothing, hardware at the Mom ‘n Pop place in town, or the nearest coffee drive-thru while on the road– and having only Walmart, Home Depot, and Starbucks show up as the only choices available because they paid the ISP the franchising fee to do so.

According to a fact sheet released by the FCC, the agency plans to enforce its new open Internet rules through “investigation and processing of formal and informal complaints.”  For the first time, the FCC can also address complaints at interconnection points, the gateway between ISPs and the rest of the Internet, on a case-by-case basis.  In other words, making sure the speed and content of what you want to view is there, open and accessible, and fair.

“No one, whether government or corporate, should control access to the open Internet.  The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules,” Wheeler said prior to the vote.

At the vote, Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn pointed out that “absent the rules we adopt today,” ISPs would have been “free to block, throttle, favor or discriminate… for any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all.”

The FCC’s two Republican commissioners steadfastly attacked the vote.  Commissioner Ajit Pai called the decision an “about-face” and stoked conservative fears by claiming, “We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only:  President Obama told us to do so.”

Those gathered in one FCC viewing room gasped and burst into laughter upon hearing Pai’s remark.

Last fall, Wheeler was considering a “hybrid” approach to net neutrality that would have made major concessions to telecom and cable companies, who contend that strong regulations hinder investment, innovation, and their profits.

But President Barack Obama came out in support of Title II and tough net neutrality rules in November, and Wheeler had to contend with that position as well as 4 million comments coming in from the general public in support of net neutrality.  Tech start-ups like Tumblr, as well as Silicon Valley giants like Google, also advocated for strong net neutrality rules.

The FCC decision is a major loss for Verizon, the company that initially sued the FCC in 2011 over rules that were considerably weaker than the new regulations present.  The new rules are also likely to be challenged in court.

Verizon denounced the decision in a press release issued shortly after the vote.  Calling it “a radical step that creates uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors,” Michael E. Glover, Verizon senior vice president, said the FCC “chose to use this order as an excuse to adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana that will have unintended negative consequences for consumers and various parts of the Internet ecosystem for years to come.”

Barbara van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford University and net neutrality expert, was optimistic that the rules would prevail in court, should they be challenged.  ”The agency’s decision to reclassify Internet service as a common carrier under Title II… puts the rules on a solid legal foundation,” she said.

“The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction.  We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution,” threatened Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a lobbyist and trade group.  To note, Powell is a former FCC chairman who served under President George W. Bush, taking the highly-paid perk-and-profit job after leaving the FCC.

Republicans have launched investigations into whether the White House unfairly influenced the FCC’s decision, and are expected to pursue legislation that would gut the FCC’s new authority.  Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has said he plans to hold off-the-record meetings with stakeholders in early March in an attempt to drum up support for his bill putting the Internet solely in the hands of private interests.

From the other side, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called the decision “a landmark day in the history of the Internet” and “a tremendous victory for freedom of ideas, of information, and of expression” in a statement.

“Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality.  ”If the net neutrality effort had followed the usual playbook, if Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T had defeated the American people, nobody would be wondering why.”

Wheeler denounced as “nonsense” the claims that the FCC has a secret plan to regulate the Internet.  He added, “This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.  They both stand for the same concept.”

~Via NYT, NPR, Huffington Post, and MatthewsMayhem/GeekSpot



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Youth Take Climate Change Fight to the Courts



Teens Sue Government for Failing to Protect Environment




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change.   It’s being termed the Children’s Climate Crusade.

High-school student Alec Loorz is one of them.  He’s suing the federal government for breach of the public trust.  In all 50 states.

The Public Trust Doctrine had never been used to protect something as intangible as the air we breathe and the atmosphere we live in– and never by a plaintiff who was too young to vote.  With his activism seeded when he saw An Inconvenient Truth, Loorz started speaking out about climate change at the tender age of 13, writing a Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuel.

As a founder of the iMatter March and Kids vs. Global Warming, Loorz has spoken to nearly 200,000 people in over 200 presentations, keynotes and panels.  He believes that the revolution to protect the planet and work toward a sustainable and just world needs to be led by youth:  “It’s our future we are fighting for,” Loorz advocates.

A young climate activist, Loorz says we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.”   With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz told Outside Magazine.  “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005.  We care more about money and power than we do about future generations.  The judicial system is the only branch of government left not bought out by corporate interests.”

What exactly are these young people asking for?

“Every suit and every administrative petition filed in every state in the country and against the federal government asks for the same relief,” Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, says.  “And that is for the government… to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The young plaintiffs simply want the courts to require “the legislatures and the agencies to do their job in figuring out how to lower carbon emissions,” says Wood.

Do these litigants have any legal grounds to stand on, though?

Turns out that yes, they do.  “You find it in case law going back to the beginning years of this country,” says Wood.  “The U.S. Supreme Court has announced the Public Trust Doctrine in multiple cases over the years and it’s in every state jurisprudence as well.”

The Public Trust Doctrine says “the government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival,” according to Woods.  The doctrine “requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations.”  Relying on this long-standing legal principle, young plaintiffs have filed cases at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, five teenagers, and two non-profit organizations—Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians—partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit.  Their petition for their case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in December, but the plaintiffs vow “to advance their climate claims in lower federal courts until the federal government is ordered to take immediate action on human-made climate change.”

Youth plaintiffs supported by Our Children’s Trust have filed administrative rule-making petitions in every state in the country.

At the state level, there are cases pending in Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington and Colorado.  Courts in Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Pennsylvania have issued “developmental decisions on which the pending cases are in part based.”


(An excerpt, you can read the full article in EcoWatch, here)


TRUST 350 from Our Children’s Trust on Vimeo.

~Via Undernews, EcoWatch, iMatter Youth,
Our Children’s Trust, YouTube and Vimeo



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5-Foot-3 and Full of Rage


Las Vegas Teen: “I’m Gonna Come Back
 for You and Your Daughter”




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



His mug shot tells it all:  an angry young man arrested on charges of murder and showing no sadness, remorse, regret or shame in his face.

The suspect in what has been described as a Las Vegas road-rage slaying boasted about the shooting and told friends that he emptied several clips from his semi-automatic handgun in the gun battle that killed a Las Vegas mother of four, a police report released Friday says.

Tammy Meyers, 44, was struck by a single bullet to the head on the night of Feb. 12 while in her green Buick Park Avenue outside her home.  She died two days later after being taken off life support.

The suspect was arrested several days later after SWAT teams surrounded his house a block from the Meyers home, in a nice middle-class suburban neighborhood of modest stucco homes with tile roofs about 5 miles west of downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police found two shooting scenes: one near a junior high school and the other in front of the Meyers’ home less than a half mile away.  Six .45 caliber cartridge casings were picked up at the first scene.  There were seven more .45 casings at the site of the killing, one .45 bullet with human blood on it, and three 9mm cartridge casings.

The police report sheds new light on the violent encounter between 19-year-old suspect Erich Milton Nowsch Jr. and victim Tammy Meyers and her 22-year-old son Brandon Meyers last week.  

Police say Nowsch fired many shots at them on two occasions that night — once a few blocks away from their house and again in the cul-de-sac outside the home.

According to the report, Nowsch told the two friends he fired 22 times at a green car after a cat-and-mouse car chase through his neighborhood just a few miles from the famed Las Vegas strip, and knew that he had shot someone when it was over.

The two friends told police that Erich Milton Nowsch had texted one of them after the incident and asked if he could come over.  He said he had important news, one of the witnesses told police.

Nowsch bragged about the shootings to the friends and told them people in a green car were out to get him, saying the altercation began after he saw someone in a green car in a nearby school parking lot waving a gun out the window.  One of the witnesses told investigators that the 19-year-old suspect said he “got those kids.  They were after me, and I got them.”

Nowsch showed the two friends his .45 caliber handgun, some extra magazines and a box with more rounds, the witnesses told police.

The police report does not clarify some nagging questions about the investigation: how it all began, what role road rage played in the altercation, and how the two parties exactly knew one another.

Family members said the altercation began when Tammy Meyers and her teenage daughter exchanged words with another driver on Feb 12.  The mother was apparently giving her daughter a driving lesson in the family’s green Buick Park Avenue.

Daughter Kristal Meyers said she was driving a green 1993 Buick sedan around the adjacent parking lot at the junior high school, getting a driving lesson from her mother, she told police.  Kristal Meyers also took a few loops around the block be-
fore switching seats with her mother.

Tammy Meyers took an indirect route home and as she was on a six-lane road, a silver car pulled up next to them.  Kristal Meyers told police she reached over and honked the horn. The driver of the other car then followed them as the Meyers turned away twice.  The other car roared past them in a bicycle lane and angrily spun around, stopping sideways in front of them.

During the incident, a man got out of the sedan and threatened them by saying:  ”I’m gonna come back for you and your daughter.”   The man was 6-feet tall, the daughter told police.  Nowsch is much shorter.

Police say that after that threat Tammy Meyers drove home.  Fearful of her life, she then dropped the daughter off at home and picked up her son, who brought his 9mm handgun.

When he got to the car, Brandon Meyers told his mother “to come in the house and call the police,” he recounted to investigators. She insisted he come with her– or she was going out alone, the police report says.

The two drove around for a short time before encountering the silver Audi car, the son said.  They followed it and at some point the car stopped and the passenger shot at them.  Brandon Meyers told police he ducked and didn’t return fire at that time.

Tammy Meyers sped home and when she parked in front of the house, which is at the end of a cul-de-sac, Brandon Meyers got out and raced over to his mother. But before he could help her out, the silver car came down the street and the passenger shot at them again.

Brandon Meyers said he fired three times at the driver but didn’t know if he hit anything.  Tammy Meyers, however, was struck in the head by the gunman in the Audi.  Brandon called 911.

Nowsch denied involvement in the shooting when questioned by police, according to the documents.  During questioning he told investigators he was with a friend at a recording studio and wasn’t involved in shooting Meyers.  But the same friend told police that he dropped Nowsch off at a park about 9:30 p.m. and they never went to a studio.

The disclosure that Tammy Meyers had taken a motherly interest in Nowsch following the suicide of his father five years ago provided yet another twist to a case that’s posed more questions than answers.  Meyers, a mother of four who lived a block from Nowsch, had frequently consoled and counseled the young teen and given him food and money, her family said.  Her two sons had gone to high school with Nowsch.

The shooting occurred just days after the fifth anniversary of the suicide of Nowsch’s father.

With the 19-year-old suspect gunman in jail, police focused Friday on finding an accomplice who was with Nowsch.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson said that despite “a lot of twists and turns in the case,” he is confident police have the right man.  He said he expects at least one more arrest in the coming days.

Police remained tight-lipped about their efforts, a day after homicide Capt. Chris Tomaino told reporters that pieces of the puzzle would fit together once the case is turned over to prosecutors.

Tomaino said a sketch that had been circulated early in the investigation was no longer relevant.  Neighbors noticed when the 5-foot-3 Nowsch was taken into custody Thursday that he looked nothing like the 6-foot blond man police and the victim’s family had described earlier.  He was a small kid barely weighing 100 pounds.  It also begs another question:  If the family knew Nowsch– which they denied at the time– why was the sketch taken in the first place?

In addition to his charges, Las Vegas police said Nowsch had also been detained Tuesday for an unrelated warrant that was issued while he was a juvenile.

Nowsch’s Facebook page shows him with his tongue wagging, his hand and arms heavily tattooed, with a ballcap on his head and thick chain around his neck.  He’s holding what appears to be a wad of cash, including at least one $100 bill.  His Instagram profile has the majority of pictures showing him smoking marijuana in its various forms.  His moniker? Mob Life 18.

Nowsch will be arraigned Monday morning at the Clark County Courthouse and faces a growing number of charges, including one count of murder.  

The other charges include one count of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of firing a gun from a car. 

Kathleen Nowsch, the teen’s mother, was disraught and turned away from reporters, refusing to comment on her son’s alleged actions.

Tammy Meyers’ husband, Robert, said that he and others knew about Nowsch before this happened.  He described Nowsch as an “animal.”

“We knew how bad he was,” Robert Meyers told reporters.  

“But we didn’t know it was this bad.  We know this boy.  He knew where I lived.  He was an animal.  He’d gotten to this point, he and his friends.  She (Tammy Meyers) fed him, she gave him money, she he told him to pull his pants up and be a man.”


~Via Google News, MSN, Reuters, CNN, USA Today,
  Fox13, Heavy-com, and Every Joe



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Organic Farming Flourishing Worldwide


Rising Recognition and Profits




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“2 million of the world’s 1.5 billion farmers are now producing organically, with nearly 80 percent based in developing countries.  India boasts the most certified organic producers, followed surprisingly enough by Uganda and Mexico.”


There’s a growing trend happening in agriculture:  the rise and recognition of organic farming worldwide.

According to the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), 2 million of the world’s 1.5 billion farmers are now producing organically, with nearly 80 percent based in developing countries.  India boasts the most certified organic producers, followed surprisingly enough by Uganda and Mexico.

Currently 164 nations have certified organic farms, powering an industry worth $63.9 billion. (In contrast, 86 countries with certified farms produced $15.2 billion woth in 2000.)  

With this growth comes opportunity for farmers to add value to their products and access expanding markets.

While the 94 million acres of certified organic agricultural land constitutes less than 1 percent of total global agricultural land, industry analysts call the growth of organics significant, also noting that the certified numbers fail to account for the vast numbers of small-scale farmers who use organic methods by default.

“There are probably 500 million small family farms worldwide; most of those are traditional farmers who farm primarily through organic principles,” says Andre Leu, president of IFOAM.

He adds that 200,000 organic farmers become newly certified each year.  “In most places there is still a dramatic loss in the numbers of farmers.  Where we see growth is in the organic sector.”

Farmers today, battling climate swings and plummeting farm incomes, are essentially faced with four options: leave farming completely, obtain off-farm income, expand and play the commodity game more efficiently, or find ways to add value per unit of production, says Joel Gruver, a soil science professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

“Basically, organic farming anywhere in the world – if you are certified – is the one profitable label that is most clearly defined,” says Professor Gruver, the university’s director of organic research.  “Each nation has its own rules in how they define organic, but the general set of rules is very much the same,” he says.  Organic methods eschew chemical additives and rely on such practices as crop rotation to harness ecological processes that promote healthy soils and fight disease, weeds, and pests.

For consumers, organic farming addresses a range of issues where many feel conventional farming falls short: namely, environmental impact, pesticide residues, and nutritional quality.  It addresses concerns about energy consumption and climate change, and even restores a social connection to the land that many feel commodity farming has long eroded.

In fact, it’s consumer demand that is the driving force behind the growth.  The United States and Europe, having markets with a healthy appetite for organic goods, saw a 10-13 percent year-on-year rise in sales in 2012.

“Organic farming is the fastest growing multi-product sector in the world,” says Mr. Leu.  “If you go into any store now, organic products are in every section.  Anything from dairy to prepared foods to body care products to organic clothing.  There is no other sector like that.”

Organic farming does have its critics.

Some question the consistency of its accreditation and labeling system.  There is debate over whether organics deliver higher nutritional value, and concern that the certification process is too costly to allow for financial success.  And there is doubt over whether organic methods can yield enough to feed an ever-growing population.

Yet organic consumer preference continues to grow.

“There is more demand than supply,” says Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet.  Ms. Lappé also lamentedly points out that less than 1 percent of agricultural research funding currently goes toward refining proven chemical-free farming methods.

Still, there have been considerable efforts to support organic farmers.  A growing number of nonprofits provide microloans. IFOAM publishes the principles of organic farming on its website for those who want to practice it but can’t yet afford certification.  Countries such as Denmark and Sweden have set goals for organic agriculture.  The US offers small grants and loans.

Commercial investment may gain momentum, too.  Earthbound Farm, the largest organic brand in the US, has 47,000 acres in production and is seeking to expand its operations even further.  Nature’s Path, an organic cereal manufacturer, recently bought 5,640 additional acres of farmland in Canada and northern Montana to support organic family farmers there.  And larger conglomerates, such WhiteWave, are increasing their market share and profitablity in the organic food arena.


~Via Christian Science Monitor, Green Ideal,
IFOAM, Earthbound Farms, and YouTube



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‘Florida Man’: Washed up in the Sunshine State


Florida’s Flotsam and Jetsam


**Award-Winning Documentary**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Florida is a state with a strange propensity.   It has the unique and peculiar property of attracting people who are at the end of their rope.

In Florida Man, a surprisingly poignant documentary by director Sean Dunne about the worn-out and inebriated layabouts in the Sunshine State, the viewer meets a wide variety of beercan philosophers in the course of 50 minutes. 

Many of them have tales to tell:  the government’s economic dependence on the incarcerated; the heady thrills of a lifetime of brawling; the murderous tendencies of pill addicts; the undeniable pleasures of an impromptu three-way underneath a beach pier.

It’s not exactly “Fight Club” as much as it is the “Old Drunk Guys’ Parking Lot.”  It’s a love letter of sorts about one of our weirdest and best states and some of the characters in it.

A majority of the footage was filmed outside various bars, motels, Laundromats and tattoo parlors, and certainly a majority of the interviewees, if not nearly all of them, have booze sloshing around their system. However, it’s hard to state anything equivocal beyond the two facts laid down in the title of Florida Man itself:  it’s in Florida, and it’s about males.

Not all of the guys are old, and not all of them are drunk.  Taken altogether, however, there’s an unmistakable commonality among these worn-out old loser dudes who are willing to interact with Dunne and his crew.  As one guy says, “When I moved here I was a damn Yankee.  I got upgraded to redneck.”

To his credit, Dunne had not much in the way of an agenda when he started the movie, letting serendipity dictate the content.  As he says, 

“Basically we just drove around aimlessly, stopping any time we saw something or someone that interested us.  One thing would lead to another and the universe would pull us in one direction or the other.

Most of what you’re seeing in the final film is the entirety of our interaction with these guys.  It was quick and to the point and I didn’t even interview people besides the occasional “Any words of wisdom?”

So what we got was a whole bunch of people telling stories and talking about whatever was on their mind.  It was a strange and exciting journey that took us to a lot of places we didn’t expect.”


Disney World it isn’t.  The succession of mostly unemployed, retired, or near-retired drifters is a resonantly sad depiction of Florida.

Florida Man,” the Orlando Weekly said, is “about those guys you see pretty much everywhere in the state, riding his bicycle along unsafe highways, drinking beers in his front yard with his shirt off, tripping out in a hotel room with his bros.  It’s … well, it’s about as depressing as you could probably imagine it would be, because it seems to be just as aimless and sad as the guys featured in it.” 

A fellow whose footage opens the movie just lives to tussle.  “I love to make people bleed, I swear to God I do,” he says with punch-drunk conviction.

“Once you get to Florida, you don’t ever want to go back north,” is the questionable premise of another inebriated barfly, wearing a U.S. Navy trucker hat.

Moments after declaring, “I’m not a drunk,” an elderly African-American fellow jokes that the “Ace Liquor Store over there is my second home.”

The owner of the same store memorably says, “Here in the liquor store, we see probably 50% of the people arrive by either foot or by bicycle because they all have DUIs,” adding that most of his problem customers drink increasingly more until they “eventually pass away.”  He concludes rather matter-of-factly, “If you have a drinking problem, handle it.”

There’s much more to Florida Man, and it’s best experienced by watching this intriguingly fast-moving slice of the human condition firsthand.  If you have a few moments to spare, spend it with this hardy bunch of exercise and nutritionally-challenged leather-tanned sauced-up dipsomaniacal survivors– thanking your lucky stars that you, too, didn’t wash up as a piece of flotsam and jetsam tossed away on Florida’s shores.

~Via Sean Dunne, Dangerous Minds, Vimeo



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The World Is As Big or As Small As You Make It


Exchanging Culture in North Philly


Award-Winning **VIDEO**



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The World Is As Big or As Small As You Make It is a short documentary chronicling American kids using technology to connect with other kids in different countries.

It began as a 140-character essay entry and was created with money from a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Sundance Institute.  It follows youth living in North Philadelphia who are involved in a local program called Do Remember Me.

Teacher Sannii Crespina-Flores, who runs Do Remember Me, takes resources a lot of the kids already have– iPhones, iPads and the like– and helps use them for her students to explore the outside world.

The kids video chat with others in Paris, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, and other countries, learning about their cultures and exploring their similarities.

One student in Paris shows some boys in North Philly his beat-boxing skills.  In return, a group of Philadelphia dancers show the Parisian kids a routine.  At one point, a boy from Philadelphia whispers, “Do y’all have any girlfriends?” to a group of Parisian students.  During that same exchange, the cross-country communicators connect on Instagram. 

The film, based in Philly but also traveling to some of the countries where the students are video chatting, brings up some important issues in the veil of childhood innocence.

Questions like, “Have you ever experienced racism?”  “Is your school safe?” and the simple question, “Where are you from?” yield some poignant responses from the kids here and around the world.

Cultural exchanges have proven to be of the most important and effective forms of education.  Technology, too, has increasingly played a role in how we travel and engage on an international level.  The young students from Philadelphia are putting their curiosity, interest, and technology to the test– with good results. 

As the video comes to a close, one Philly student summed it up in its entirety:  “I feel that everybody should be able to go all over the world,” he said. 

He then added, “The world is as big or as small as you make it.”

So true.



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Drug Pushers and Their Doctors



Getting Paid to Play and Prescribe




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars marketing their drugs to physicians.

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver took a closer look at these troubling truths and assorted ethical Doc Dollar dilemmas, skewering the cozy relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

There’s a prescription drug for every ailment, and the advertisements for these drugs never seem to stop.

Can’t sleep through the night?  Not to worry; there’s a pill for that. Constantly suffering from headaches?  There’s an injection for that.  Can’t get it up?  We can help you!

Oliver cuts to a series of sobering news pieces reporting that 70% of Americans regularly took at least one prescription drug in 2011 – and that $329.2 billion (or roughly $1,000 per person) was spent on those medications in 2013.  ”Breaking Bad’s Walter White could have made more money cooking up rheumatoid arthritis medication,” Oliver cracks. 

But, as the host wittily observes, the drug companies themselves wield a surprising amount of influence by pumping out pills, spending an estimated $24 billion marketing directly to doctors.

He riffs about how pharmaceutical sales reps use sex appeal and free food to peddle drugs, but the real problem comes when reps don’t understand the effects of the drugs they’re pushing.

Some companies take the “off-label” approach, pushing doctors to push pills for non-FDA uses.  Other times, doctors are paid to be “thought leaders”– pitching drugs to other doctors over dinner. 

It’s a messy, overwhelming issue for a lot of the American public.  Oliver notes one intriguing development: the recently established federal website enables average citizens a chance to search for perks given to doctors by pharmaceutical companies.

The segment ends with a lighthearted pre-filmed bit, with ”Pharmaceutical Money” pushed as a prescription drug.  The side effects, naturally, include ”chronic overprescription,” “unusually heavy cash flow” and “death.”

When we get a prescription from a trusted physician, we tend to assume it’s for the most effective or innovative drug available.  After all, if anyone has our best interest in mind, it’s our doctor.


Not necessarily.  As an analysis by ProPublica reveals, many doctors get thousands of dollars– often in the form of “promotional payments”– to offer their patients unremarkable drugs that frequently exist in cheaper, more effective forms.

In America today, the number of people hooked on legal drugs dwarfs the number of people hooked on illegal drugs.  And sadly, the number of people killed by legal drugs absolutely dwarfs the number of people killed by illegal drugs. 

Many believe in prescription drugs.  We like feeling better.  And we like being chronically happy, too.




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VJ Day: Honolulu, Hawaii, 1945



A Brighter Horizon Beckons




Richard Sullivan
Discovering Hawaii



It was the day the war ended.

On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.  It was known as Victory over Japan Day, or simply VJ Day.

Japan’s formal surrender took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.  Coming several months after the surrender of Nazi Germany, Japan’s capitulation in the Pacific brought six years of hostilities to a final and highly anticipated close.

When the first news of the surrender came over the radio, Waikiki erupted in joyful celebration and relief.  It had been one hard slog across two long theaters of war following the rise of the Axis powers and Pearl Harbor’s  horrific bombing four years previous. 

65 years ago my Dad, Richard Sullivan, shot this film along Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki, capturing the spontaneous celebrations that broke out upon first hearing news of the Japanese surrender.

The Greatest Generation had ended the war.  The day had finally come, and it came at great cost and sacrifice.  They would all be heading home soon; and under now peaceful skies, great hope beckoned for the future.

Dad remembered it all, filming it for posterity on his Kodachrome 16mm film.  Celebrants zooming past Lippy’s Service Station on Kalakaua.  Cheering Navy men flying past the House of Coral store on Kalakaua.  A marching band parading through the streets.  Navy men posing; the man in blue is wearing a non-regulation uniform due to the uniform shortage.  Officers smiling on Waikiki Beach in front of the Halekulani Hotel.  A nurse pointing to the new horizon ahead.

It was a happy day indeed.



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Elgin Park


Creating a Miniature Utopia
of How the World Should Be




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Welcome to Michael Paul Smith’s Elgin Park:  A 1/24th-scale recreation of everyday scenes from mid-20th century America, ranging from the 1920s to the mid-1960s.

Elgin Park is a lot of things: a 1950’s utopia, a fantastical world, and an optical illusion.

Artist Michael Paul Smith’s imaginative town– composed entirely of miniatures– delighted audiences worldwide when
his photo series became wildly popular.

The series posted on Flickr went viral, attracting 76 million visitors from around the world.  Michael’s work has since been featured by media around the world.

For the first time, the documentary Elgin Park dives into the life of this charming, reclusive artist to reveal the dark inspiration behind his work.  What started as an exercise in model-making and photography became a dreamlike reconstruction of the town Michael grew up in.  It’s not an exact recreation, but it does capture the mood and feel of his memories.

Michael serves up a comforting slice of mid-20th-century Americana:  the local banker’s slinky ’56 Lincoln Premiere reflects the summer sun outside the hardware store on Main Street.  A spit-shined Divco truck delivers fresh milk from the Borden dairy.  On the town’s outskirts, where rents are low and hot-rodders use the county road as a dragstrip, a custom ’55 Ford gets a set of loud pipes at a one-bay speed shop.  

Driving Michael’s creation of Elgin Park were his memories of Sewickley, Pa., a real steel-mill town a few miles north of Pittsburgh.  He spent his first 17 years there, and it still holds his heart.  

“Elgin Park is not an exact re-creation of Sewickley,” he explained, “but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

The buildings are constructed of resin-coated paper, styrene plastic, and wood, plus numerous found objects.  Photographing
the scenes with real life trees and woods in the background, Elgin
Park takes on a very real appearance.

The vehicles are from Michael’s collection of 300+ commercially produced, diecast models.  Although drawn to American cars of the ’30s to the ’60s, Michael does not call himself a car buff.  “As a teenager, I was a car enthusiast for the design, not so much the horsepower,” he said.

Describing himself as a recluse, Michael has created his own little world he’d like to live in.  Like photographs pulled from shoeboxes in dusty attics, the images he makes form a parade of memories that, one by one, reveal the focal points and quiet corners of an imagination and a small town called Elgin Park.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Elgin Park book is available for preorders at  All preorders will be shipped to arrive by June 21st and each will be signed by the creator of Elgin Park, Michael Paul Smith.



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Lying in the National Interest



Well-Known German Journalist Admits Planting Stories for the CIA




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Becoming the first credentialed, well-known media insider to step forward and state publicly that he was secretly a “propagandist,” an editor of a major German daily has said that he personally planted stories for the CIA.

Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name.

Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war.

Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.

Dr. Ulfkotte, 55, is the author of a book currently available only in German, Bought Journalists (Kopp 2014.)  He was also an advisor to the government of German Chancellor Helmet Kohl. 

The book has become a bestseller in Germany but, in a bizarre twist which Ulfkotte says characterizes the disconnect caused by CIA control of the western media, the book cannot be reported on. 

Ulfkotte says:

“No German mainstream journalist is allowed to report about my book.  Otherwise he or she will be sacked.  So we have a bestseller now that no German journalist is allowed to write or talk about.”

Among the stories Ulfkotte says he was ordered to plant in his newspaper over the years was a story that Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi was building poison gas factories in 2011.  Ulfkotte also says he was an eyewitness to Saddam Hussein’s use of (German manufactured) poison gas against Iranians in the war between Iran and Iraq, but that the editors he worked for at the time were not interested, because Iraq was a US ally at the time. 

Ulfkotte says he is better positioned to come forward than many journalists because he does not have children who could be threatened.  Ulfkotte told the Russian newspaper Russian Insider:

“When I told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Ulfkotte’s newspaper) that I would publish the book, their lawyers sent me a letter threatening with all legal consequences if I would publish any names or secrets– but I don’t mind.  You see, I don’t have children to take care of.

And you must know I was severely injured during the gas attack I witnessed in Iran in 1988.  I’m the sole German survivor from a German poison gas attack.  I’m still suffering from this.  I’ve had three heart attacks.  I don’t expect to live for more than a few years.”

Ulfkotte says that remorse of having “lied” to mass audiences over the years drove him to come forward.  He told RI news agency that he was “taught to lie, to betray and not to tell the truth to the public… I’m ashamed I was part of it.  Unfortunately I cannot reverse this.”

Ulfkotte said he put his own name to articles completely written by intelligence agencies.  He said he “ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service.”

Ulfkotte detailed the pattern of cajolery and outright bribery used by the CIA and other US-allied intelligence agencies, for the purpose of advancing political agendas.  Ulfkotte said:

“Once you’re connected, you make friends with selected Americans.  You think they are your friends and you start cooperating.  They work on your ego;  they make you feel like you’re important.  And one day one of them will ask you, ‘Will you do me this favor’…”

Ulfkotte noted that journalists on international press trips paid for by organizations close to the government are unlikely to submit a storyline not favorable to the sponsor.

Of the gassing of Iranians he had witnessed in the Eighties, Ulfkoppe said:

“They asked me to hand over the photos that I had made to the German association of chemical companies in Frankfurt, Verband der Chemischen Industrie.  This poison gas that had killed so many Iranians was made in Germany.”

Ulfkotte said that it was “not right” what he had done, and that his fear was that politicians were actively driving the world toward war:

“It is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, but all over Europe.

I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don’t like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there is always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too.

We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war. …I don’t want this anymore, I’m fed up with this propaganda.  We live in a banana republic, and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom…”

In his book The CIA and the Media,” Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein quotes William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer, in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Baeder said:

“There is quite an incredible spread of relationships.  You don’t need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are (Central Intelligence) Agency people at the management level.”

Bernstein writes:

“The Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials.  From 1950 to 1966, about ten CIA employees were provided Times cover under arrangements approved by the newspaper’s late publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger.  The cover arrangements were part of a general Times policy– set by Sulzberger– to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.”


Ulfkotte was on the staff of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation from 1999 to 2003, according to his Wikipedia entry.  He won the civic prize from the Annette Barthelt Foundation in 2003.

 ~Via Undernews, RT, Reader Supported News

* * * * * * * * * *


We would like to let our readers know how difficult it was for the Humboldt Sentinel to bring you this article.  Someone doesn’t want you to see it.

It had a set of unusual firsts that has never occured before in the thousands of posts we’ve previously done.  The above piece was consistently thwarted by warning notices of “Attempting to Contact the Server for Permission” until we found a work-around counteracting the obstruction.  YouTube posted an unusual warning we’ve never seen before either, reading:  “This video is unlisted.  Be considerate and think twice before sharing.” 

Lastly, our site came near to crashing several times for mysterious reasons.  Fortunately, we backed up our files every minute.  Then our browser did crash– but we were fortunate enough again to have opened the post in two browsers simultaneously.  The second browser was unscathed.  The article was retrieved.

Lastly, we removed four items of Trojan malware that occurred during the writing of this post.

Hopefully you will find this post in its original condition and accessible.  For now.


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The Little Drive-In With A Big Heart


The Choice:  Go Digital or Fade to Black


**Award-Winning Short Film**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Longtime projectionist Roger Babcock has been threading
film through the Hi-Way Drive-In’s projectors for more than
40 years.

However, with Hollywood studios no longer offering film prints of their releases, Roger faces an ultimatum:  upgrade all four of the Hi-Way’s 35mm film projectors to expensive digital systems, or close the gates which have warmly welcomed moviegoers since 1960 forever.

The drive-in has relied on historic RCA Brenkert projectors for more than 60 years, two of which have been there since it opened in 1951, Babcock said.  Babcock, 67, and his wife, Sharon, 65, bought the Hi-Way in 1996.

The Hi-Way Drive-In on U.S. Route 9 in Coxsackie, New York, opened in 1951, joining a growing trend when television was just starting to catch on, and the Thruway was under construction.  “We are one of just 400 remaining drive-in theaters in the U.S., down from a peak of over 4,000 in the late 1950s,” Sharon Babcock said.

But now, “Studios are preparing to stop making 35 millimeter prints of their feature films,” Roger said, “shifting to digital projectors that rely on computers with special encrypted hard drives, allowing them to save up to one billion dollars each year.”

Changing to digital would come at an enormous cost.  “It would cost $300,000 to convert all four of our screens to digital projection,” he said.

Roger remains steadfast and defiant in the face of closing down.   “We have no plans on shutting the drive-in down, none whatsoever,” he said.

But finding the money for digital projectors won’t come easy.  Babcock tried donation boxes and a fundraising campaign to the raise money, but these efforts netted just $4,160– which doesn’t even begin to cover the $26,000 to $40,000 deposit required just to get the digital projectors delivered, he said.

Babcock has turned to Social Security to help allow him to offset the cost of digital and keep the movies running for the community.  “Social Security at my age is going to help pay for this,” he said.

“The Hi-Way is going to an absolute extreme to show movies to customers that want to see movies in an outdoor setting,” he said.  “With Social Security, the monthly payments are reasonable enough for us to convert two or three screens, but not four.”

Babcock said the future of the fourth screen is still up in the air.  He said he’s considering buying a used digital projector for about $39,000 to show older movies that aren’t subject to the complex rules and regulations that first-run movies are.  Showing 35-milimeter films on the fourth screen is not an option, he said, because the movie studios prohibit theaters from showing digital movies and film at the same time. “With digital it’s all in, or nothing,” he added.

Digital projection will bring brighter, clearer and crisper pictures to the drive-in, but with many strings attached, he said.  Cost is the biggest factor.  Babcock won’t see anything on his bottom line for seven to 10 years if he switches to digital.

“Right now, our movies are affordable.  A double feature is $9 for adults and $4 for kids for new movies,” Sharon said.  “We don’t want to have to raise our prices to exorbitant levels to pay for digital,” she said.

Over the years, since Roger Babcock started at the drive-in as a box office attendant in 1971, he has learned how to fix just about anything on the 60-plus-year-old projectors in his projection room.  He keeps a warehouse of parts, a place he said he hardly ever has to visit. 

“These projectors are real workhorses,” he said.  “All I replace is bulbs and a gear here and there.”

He takes pride in maintaining the old projectors, and setting up films, which can stretch to 1.5 miles for a feature length film.  He said he loves it when guests assume a movie is digital because the picture quality is so clear.

The manufacturers expect the digital projectors to last just 10-15 years, Roger noted.  “Bulbs that cost $2,000 would only last for 75% of our outdoor movie season,” he said.

Roger also said he needs an internet connection for studio monitoring, something he never had to worry about with the old film projectors.  The projection room must also be a ‘clean room’, too– with heating, air-conditioning, and filtered air year round.  As for doing his own maintenance, that’s off the table, also.  “My contract would not allow me to do that,” he said.  “I would have to bring someone in for $1,400 a day.”

One thing that’s not an issue for the Babcock’s is attracting guests.  There’s a line of cars outside the gate every night before every double feature begins.  He said it’s thriving because they’ve focused on making the Hi-Way a great experience.  It’s popular with nostalgic baby-boomers, young people, and families who can be sure that one screen is devoted to kids movies each week.

“Many regulars come every week to see a new film,” he said.  “We even get people from the city.”

In the face of digital adversity and an uncertain future, Roger is refusing to quit.  He just won’t let the community and his movie-going public down.  And he doesn’t want to retire. 

Simply put, he and Sharon love what they do.  They understand they will have to go digital– or end up fading to black.

“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone during the 2015 season,” he said, with pride.

~Via Tansy Michaud, Adam Carboni, the Hi-Way Drive-In,
   Daily Freeman, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * * *

Our appreciation goes out to Roger and Sharon Babcock, Joyce Lehnert, and John Waters for being the underdogs and saving a little piece of Americana community.



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The Year in Review– in Two and a Half Minutes


2014:  Looking Back, Month by Month




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



For a year riddled with milestones, tragedies and epic world events, the important and not-so-important moments get muddled over time.  Slowly fading from our memory, they become part of a distant past we largely forget.

Thankfully, Brooklyn-based artist and “stuff-maker” Mac Premo co-wrote, directed, shot and edited a clever year in review video, tackling most things major and minor, one month at a time.

Thoughtful, spot on, and at times humorously amusing, it’s two and a half well-spent minutes—visualized in a way Premo can muster out.

From a chalkboard depiction of Ebola spreading to continents– to the notion that Brazil lost their World Cup game so severely as to avert eyes away from their corruption scandals– it’s a real retrospective.

While some issues may be distressing, that’s how life goes on this crazy planet. 

2014 Year in Review still remains an enjoyable and upbeat montage helping us remember what all went down and to savor our small corner of the Humboldt world where nothing really happens.



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Pioneering Philanthropists Launch Clean Energy Initiative



Limiting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants–
While Spurring Clean Energy Investments




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Move over, climate change deniers.  More change is coming your way.

Just days after Time’s Editor-in-Chief declared climate change deniers were having a bad day following study after study pointing out that it’s a very real and happening problem, the smart money is now moving to the other side of the aisle— finding solutions to fix the problem.

Two charitable groups will spend $48 million over the next three years to help states figure out how to reduce emissions from electricity production, an effort to seize the possibilities that are opening up as the cost of clean power falls.

It’s a relatively small amount of money for an enormous problem at hand.  But it has the potential of leveraging large-scale planning towards cleaner energy, stabilizing power delivery, and reducing greenhouse emissions.  The goal is for planning a regional energy infrastructure that is clean, affordable, and reliable.

The Clean Energy Initiative plan was announced this morning in New York.  Half the money will come from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization set up by Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. 

The other half will come from Mark Heising and Elizabeth Simons, a California couple who have taken a strong interest in reducing the risks of climate change.  The couple advances sustainable solutions in the environment, education of children, and supports groundbreaking research in science and mathematics.

“Advances in new energy technologies make it possible to achieve all three goals at once.  A stronger, cleaner energy system will also pave the way for improved air quality and help fight the damaging health and economic impacts of climate change,” Michael Bloomberg said.


The Energy Plan

The Clean Energy Initiative will include analysis to determine grid optimization for different power types, potential for enhanced efficiency, and methods to make the grid more robust.  

It will identify the biggest opportunities for new technologies and support regulatory strategies for reliable and affordable energy, focusing on collaborative, state-based approaches and encouraging utilities to adopt new technologies.  

A key feature of the plan is it will allow states to choose the best combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and improvements in current power plants.

Since 2010, solar energy prices have plummeted by 80 percent, wind energy prices have been cut in half, and the cost of LED lighting has fallen by 80 percent.  American consumers stand to benefit from these developments if state policymakers can work with utilities to accelerate their adoption, and the Clean Energy Initiative hopes to provide the technical assistance for the impending transition. 

More than half of the grant funding will go to support more than two dozen state and local partners, including the Institute for Energy Innovation and the Respiratory Health Association.  Additional funds will provide support to national organizations such as the Center for the New Energy Economy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Obama administration is expected this summer to make final its emissions-cutting targets for the power industry.  If that plan survives expected political and legal challenges, it may require extensive revamping of electricity markets that are largely regulated by the states. 

The low cost of natural gas, the falling cost of renewable energy and the rise of technologies that can shave electrical demand are all putting pressure on electric utilities, especially those dependent on coal.  Even without the impetus of President Obama’s plan, those factors would require adjustments in the electricity markets, energy analysts have concluded.

That’s where the smart money comes in for planning and tapping into alternative energy solutions.


Heising’s Goal:  Cleaning Up the Grid and Stabilizing Power

In an interview, Mr. Heising said that state governments need to seize the moment and take full advantage of the coming possibilities for “cleaning up the grid”– and, at the same time, avoid undermining the economics of the utilities that Americans depend on for a reliable supply of electricity.

“The utility businesses are being heavily disrupted,” Mark Heising said. “That’s creating some real stress for the utilities and their revenue model.  It needs to be addressed in a fair and comprehensive way.”

Heising feels climate change is the most important issue facing the world today– an impact that, if not corrected, will have devastating results for both the environment and the economy.  He intends to help fix the problem.  He also expects exponential results.

“This initiative is designed to accelerate solutions,” Heising said.  “The science on climate change makes it abundantly clear that carbon pollution poses a deep threat to society, to agriculture, and to nature—and that early action is required to avoid these threats.  New technologies ensure that the solutions to climate change can be cost-effective.”

The disruption is most evident in Europe, where utilities were slow to embrace renewable power.  Ordinary citizens, responding to government incentives and falling costs, did so in droves.  The stock market valuation of Germany’s big utilities fell drastically, and they’re scrambling to catch up to the changes on the grid.

American states are generally behind Europe in the rollout of renewable power.  Experts say that gives them time — a few years, at most — to get ahead of the coming changes.  In several states, utility companies have begun to sense the oncoming ‘green’ threat and are trying to roll back state rules favoring solar and wind power.  Environmentalists are fighting back, and in the process, the utilities have had their share of disruptions, turmoil, and failed investments.


Dovetailing with the President’s Idea

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, will most likely require most states to discourage coal-burning while encouraging the greater use of natural gas, renewable power, and efficient buildings and appliances.  

States will have some leeway to design their own strategies, but any state government that fails to do so will run the risk of having a strategy imposed on it by the federal government.

Thus, even some of the states that intend to challenge Obama’s plan in court are expected to hedge their bets by coming up with a backup strategy.  Currently, power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for about 38 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.  Carbon pollution is already causing long-term impacts on the economy, including increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather patterns.  Climate change also exacerbates health risks due to worsening smog, causing a range of respiratory illnesses.

The $48 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons family will not go directly to state governments:  instead, the money will fund groups that can help the states with their planning.  Their aim is to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels.  This approach will also have public health benefits, including reducing smog pollution by an estimated 25 percent and avoiding up to 150,000 asthma attacks each year.

The pioneering philanthropists know there is a potential to increase renewable energy production three- to four-fold by 2025, an amount of growth that could power 28 to 41 million homes a year.  

Depending on state policy choices, existing efficiency programs and wise investments also have the potential to grow dramatically, with energy savings equivalent to the annual output of 35 to 60 coal-fired plants.


Heavyweights on Board and the Same Page

Two national environmental groups with technical expertise in the electricity markets, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are expected to be among the grantees.  

But the bulk of the money will go to groups with a state or regional focus.

Among the likely grantees, for example, is the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, run by a former Democratic governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, who signed dozens of clean-energy laws during his term.

In an interview, Ritter said his group was working with both Republican- and Democratic-led states to scrutinize the Obama administration’s plans, as well as to weigh the broader issues.  A crucial priority for the states will be keeping electricity costs reasonable, Ritter said.

“I think it’s fair to argue that there’s economic benefit to states that make the transition to a clean-energy economy,” Ritter said.  “How do you do it so it’s not on the back of middle- and lower-income ratepayers?”

Others have also weighed in on the beneficial direction the plan takes.

“The Clean Energy Initiative taps into the spirit of entrepreneurialism unleashed by new opportunities such as distributed generation, demand response and energy efficiency programs,” said Dan Scripps, President of the Institute for Energy Innovation in Michigan.  ”As states implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan over the coming years, they will be able to tap into tremendous opportunities to save consumers money while cutting carbon.”

Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, had her take.  

“Climate change is here and now,” she said pointedly.  “Tackling this central environmental threat of our time is an enormous task, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity.  The Clean Energy Initiative will help America reinvigorate our economy and protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.”

“I’m grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Heising-Simons Foundation for their show of support,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp.  ”The Clean Energy Initiative will propel smart, cost-effective reduction of carbon pollution from the biggest source:  power plant smokestacks.  We know how to make affordable clean energy.  This initiative will speed the day when turning on a light doesn’t mean dirtier air or a legacy of dangerous climate change for our children.”

Joel Africk, President and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association in Chicago, offered an additional perspective.  “The Clean Energy Initiative is a big step forward for public health,” said.  ”Not only will the initiative help cut carbon and curb climate change, it will also result in fewer asthma exacerbations, heart attacks and strokes throughout the US.”

More surprising was Jim Rogers, Former Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, also came on board.  “The power sector is in an exciting period of transformation as we build out the 21st century energy grid– a time of opportunity as states and utilities write the roadmap for a smarter power system that cuts carbon pollution while providing affordable and reliable energy,” said Rogers.  “The Clean Energy Initiative will help power companies get this right– and ultimately that’s good for the consumer.”

“With the price of clean power falling, and the potential costs of inaction on climate change steadily rising, the work of modernizing America’s power grid is both more feasible and urgent than ever,” Michael Bloomberg insisted. 

“Pollution from power plants takes a terrible toll on public health, and it’s the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint.  But smart investments can reduce it while also strengthening local economies,” said Bloomberg.  “These grants will help states meet new federal clean power requirements in ways that save money and lives.”

Climate change deniers, please move towards the exits. 
Your day has come and gone.

~Via Bloomberg, NYT, National Sierra Club, YouTube



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Study: Ocean Life Faces Extinction


Multiple Pressures on a Fragile Environment




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found.  Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

“We’re lucky in many ways,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and another author of the new report.  “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

Scientific assessments of the oceans’ health are dogged by uncertainty:  It’s much harder for researchers to judge the well-being of a species living underwater, over thousands of miles, than to track the health of a species on land.  And changes that scientists observe in specific ocean ecosystems may not reflect trends across the planet.

Dr. Pinsky, Dr. McCauley and their colleagues sought a clearer picture of the oceans’ health by pulling together data from an enormous range of sources, from discoveries in the fossil record to statistics on modern container shipping, fish catches and seabed mining.  While many of the findings already existed, they had never been juxtaposed in such a way.

A number of experts said the result was a remarkable synthesis, along with a nuanced and encouraging prognosis.

“I see this as a call for action to close the gap between conservation on land and in the sea,” said Loren McClenachan of Colby College, who was not involved in the study.

There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found.  Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported.

Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming.

Some fish are migrating to cooler waters already.  Black sea bass, once most common off the coast of Virginia, have moved up to New Jersey.  Less fortunate species may not be able to find new ranges.  At the same time, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic.

“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said.  “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish we consume within 20 years.  Bottom trawlers scraping large nets across the sea floor have already affected 20 million square miles of ocean, turning parts of the continental shelf to rubble.  Whales may no longer be widely hunted, the analysis noted, but they are now colliding more often as the number of container ships rises.

Mining operations, too, are poised to transform the ocean.  Contracts for seabed mining now cover 460,000 square miles underwater, the researchers found, up from zero in 2000.  Seabed mining has the potential to tear up unique ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep sea.

The oceans are so vast that their ecosystems may seem impervious to change.  But Dr. McClenachan warned that the fossil record shows that global disasters have wrecked the seas before.  “Marine species are not immune to extinction on a large scale,” she said.

Until now, the seas largely have been spared the carnage visited on terrestrial species, the new analysis also found.

Humans began to alter the habitat that wildlife depended on, wiping out forests for timber, plowing under prairie for farmland, and laying down roads and railroads across continents.

Species began going extinct at a much faster pace.  Over the past five centuries, researchers have recorded 514 animal extinctions on land.  But the authors of the new study found that documented extinctions are far rarer in the ocean.

Before 1500, a few species of seabirds are known to have vanished.  Since then, scientists have documented only 15 ocean extinctions, including animals such as the Caribbean monk seal and the Steller’s sea cow.

While these figures are likely underestimates, Dr. McCauley said that the difference was nonetheless revealing.

“Fundamentally, we’re a terrestrial predator,” he said.  “It’s hard for an ape to drive something in the ocean extinct.”

Many marine species that have become extinct or are endangered depend on land — seabirds that nest on cliffs, for example, or sea turtles that lay eggs on beaches.

Still, there is time for humans to halt the damage, Dr. McCauley said, with effective programs limiting the exploitation of the oceans.  The tiger may not be salvageable in the wild — but the tiger shark may well be, he said.

“There are a lot of tools we can use,” he said.  “We better pick them up and use them seriously.”

Dr. McCauley and his colleagues argue that limiting the industrialization of the oceans to some regions could allow threatened species to recover in other ones.  “I fervently believe that our best partner in saving the ocean is the ocean itself,” said Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University, an author of the new study.

The scientists also argued that these reserves had to be designed with climate change in mind, so that species escaping high temperatures or low pH would be able to find refuge.

 “It’s creating a hopscotch pattern up and down the coasts to help these species adapt,” Dr. Pinsky said.

Ultimately, Dr. Palumbi warned, slowing extinctions in the oceans will mean cutting back on carbon emissions, not just adapting to them.

“If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean,” he said.

“But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can.  We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let’s please not waste it.”

~Via MSN News, NYT, Rafa Massieu, Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

The climate change deniers are having a bad day.



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Free Climbing to the Top of Yosemite



Climbers Make Historic Attempt Straight Up
El Capitan Using Only Hands and Feet




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s almost over.

The two climbers vying to become the first in the world to use only their hands and feet to scale a sheer granite face in California’s Yosemite National Park are almost to the top.

A spokeswoman said Tuesday that 30-year-old Kevin Jorgeson of California and 36-year-old Tommy Caldwell of Colorado will likely finish the historic half-mile climb up El Capitan’s Dawn Wall this evening.

Kevin Jorgeson, 30, of Santa Rosa, California, had been behind Tommy Caldwell, 36, of Colorado, for about a week as they try to scale El Capitan’s Dawn Wall without climbing aids other than safety ropes.

Jorgeson caught up with Caldwell at a rare ledge after his third attempt, Patagonia spokeswoman Jess Clayton said.

It’s been one long haul towards the top.

For 17 days, the two have been attempting what many thought was impossible: “free-climbing” to the 3,000-foot summit– meaning they are only using their hands and feet with safety ropes to prevent deadly falls.

Each trained for more than five years, and they have battled bloodied fingers and unseasonably warm weather making the arduous climb.  

On Friday, Jorgeson got past one of the most difficult stretches after days of failed attempts and waiting. He fell 11 times in a seven-day battle with the tough section, which required him to grab onto razor-blade-thin holds that tore up his fingers.  On another difficult section he had to make an 8-foot leap from one small slippery crevasse to another.

“Momentum is a powerful force. When it’s on your side, everything feels a bit easier.  When it’s not on your side, it feels like wading through mud,” Jorgeson wrote on Facebook of his week-long attempt to get past the particularly difficult section.

“It took everything in my power to stay positive and resolved that I would succeed.  Now that momentum has returned to my side, I’m staying just as focused and resolved because a lot of hard climbing remains.”

The climbers are more than two weeks into what is billed as the first free climb of Dawn Wall.  If the two succeed, they will be the first in the world to complete this type of climb of Dawn Wall.

They climb in the dark, using headlamps to light the way.  Climbing during the daytime would be too risky, since the sun would heat the rock, causing their tired hands to sweat and slip from the coin-thick nooks and crannies.

About a third of the way up each day, they set up camp — a hanging platform tent tethered to the wall.  They rappell down with ropes to sleep after each night’s grueling climb.  They make coffee and sandwiches.  Then they set out again.

Their beards have grown full.  Their hair, greased with sweat and brushed only with mountain air, stands on end.  Their fingers, raw and ragged from grasping at sharp crevasses in the stone, are bandaged and bleeding.

El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the world has about 100 routes to the top. The first climber reached its summit in 1958.  In 1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy Caldwell) climbed Dawn Wall using ropes and countless rivets over 27 days.  The duo turned down a rescue attempt by park rangers in a storm.

All previous attempts used traditional mountain climbing gear for the ascent.  Caldwell and Jorgeson are making the first attempt of free climbing the 3,000 foot sheer granite monolith. 

In the meadow thousands of feet below, Jorgeson said he could see people, cold and shivering, cheering them on to the finish.

They are exhausted.  But their spirits are good, and they intend to reach the summit together without fail, they said.  When they do make it to the peak, they will enter into the annals of rock climbing by standing atop the colossal granite giant known as El Capitan.



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The E-Joint Has Arrived



New Marijuana Device Has its Advocates and Critics




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s discreet, disposable, and mild—and they’re changing the way people consume marijuana.

At a recent Seahawks football game in Seattle, Shady Sadis, 41, took a drag on a slim vapor pen that looked like a jet black Marlboro.  The tip glowed red as he inhaled.

But the pen contained no nicotine.  Instead, it held 250 milligrams of cannabis oil loaded with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Nobody noticed,” said Sadis, who owns several marijuana dispensaries in Washington State.  “You pull it out of your pocket, take a hit like a cigarette, put it back, and you’re done.  It’s so discreet.”

“This day and age, everybody has a vapor pen,” he said.  “You don’t know if they’re smoking marijuana or nicotine.”

“It’s the iPod of vaporizers,” said one enthusiast.  It’s “very Apple,” his friend agreed.

The device, called a JuJu Joint, heralds a union that seems all but inevitable: marijuana and the e-cigarette, together at last in an e-joint.  For years, people have been stuffing marijuana in various forms into portable vaporizers and into the cartridges of e-cigarettes.  But the JuJu Joint is disposable, requires no charging of batteries or loading of cartridges, and comes filled with 150 hits.  

You take it out of the package and put it to your lips — that’s it.  There is no smoke and no smell.

Since their introduction in April, 75,000 JuJu Joints have been sold in Washington State, where marijuana is recreationally and medically legal.  The maker says that 500,000 will be sold this year and that there are plans to expand to Colorado and Oregon, where recreational use is legal, and to Nevada, where it is decriminalized.

“I wanted to eliminate every hassle that has to do with smoking marijuana,” said Rick Stevens, 62, the inventor and co-founder of JuJu Joints with Marcus Charles, a Seattle entrepreneur.  “I wanted it to be discreet and easy for people to handle.  There’s no odor, matches or mess.”

Not everyone is so enthusiastic.  Many addiction researchers fear that e-cigarettes will pave the way to reliance on actual cigarettes, especially in teenagers.  And THC adversely affects the developing brain, some studies have found, impairing attention and memory in adolescents and exacerbating psychiatric problems.

“In some ways, e-joints are a perfect storm of a problematic delivery system, the e-cigarette, and in addition a problematic substance, cannabis oil,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Each JuJu Joint contains 100 milligrams of THC, twice as much as a traditional joint, as well as propylene glycol, a chemical normally used to absorb water in foods and cosmetics, said Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.

“We do not know the effects of inhaling constant doses of this agent,” she said.  “We know very little about these products and what they contain.”

Stevens, a former marketing executive who spent 30 years in the tobacco industry, defended the device’s THC content, pointing out that each inhalation is metered by the device.  “Our goal is not to get people stoned so they sit in corner and vegetate,” he said.

Local retailers report that JuJu Joints are catching on, especially with women and consumers in their 40s to 60s.

“You wouldn’t believe the demographic this has opened up,” said Ed Vallejo, 60, a manager at New Vansterdam, a recreational store in Vancouver, Wash.  “This is the older, retired set.  The younger set can’t afford it.”

“I love the convenience of it,” drag queen Jinkx Monsoon said, taking a drag for the first time, pointing out it’s perfect for singers since “you don’t have to burn something and inhale the smoke.”

JuJu Joints for recreational use cost $65 to $100 each, 25 percent of which goes to the state’s Liquor Control Board.  It costs a suggested donation of $25 at medical dispensaries.  Purchasers must be at least 21.

“The underlying reason people buy it is because of its design and because you can smoke it in public,” said Lindsay Middleton, 21, a bud-tender at Green Lady Marijuana, a recreational store in Olympia.  Though smoking marijuana in public is illegal, customers report using JuJu Joints while skiing, hiking and going to concerts.

One may not immediately feel anything after using the JuJu Joint— the company website says to “enjoy three or four hits and give it five minutes.”  Even when it does hit its user, it’s a softer high than most are used to.  After you’ve taken a few drags, one can slip the device into their pocket without worrying about spilling ashes or weed into their pants.

Law enforcement agencies are concerned that discreet vapor pens filled with cannabis oil are already being abused by teenagers, and that many are sure to lay hands on JuJu Joints.

“If you go on Instagram, you will find hundreds of thousands of postings by kids on how they are using variants of e-cigarettes, or e-cigarettes themselves, to smoke pot in the presence of their parents and at school, and getting by,” said Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to the latest Monitoring the Future Survey, an annual study of 40,000 teenagers conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014 marked the first year that more teenagers used e-cigarettes than traditional ones.

The study also found that in the past year, 35.1 percent of 12th graders consumed marijuana, making it the most common illicit drug among high school seniors.

But users of medical marijuana may prove to be the largest market for e-joints.  The Food and Drug Administration recognizes no legitimate medical use, and there is little high-quality research backing marijuana as a remedy for the scores of conditions for which it is being used.

A few studies, however, suggest ingredients in marijuana may help relieve pain and improve appetite in patients with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.  Some researchers argue that marijuana — especially in the form of nebulized vapor — could be found beneficial to even more patients, if the federal government loosened research restrictions.

“There may be and probably is a legitimate medical use for vaping cannabis, but we need to do the research to figure out if it’s true and to find out the dosing,” said Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.  “But with marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug, it’s so onerous to get the licensure that many people actually skilled to do the research just choose not to.”

Ocean Greens cannabis shop owner Oltion Hyseni says there are a lot of reasons the e-joint is so popular.  ”A lot of people that are new to recreational marijuana or are coming back after years of nonsmoking, they prefer vapes over smoke.  Juju Joints are good for people who don’t want to get so baked they can’t talk, don’t want to set something on fire, and don’t want to inhale carcinogens.  Health-wise, it doesn’t have the agents that smoke has—that’s the number-one benefit,” Hyseni says.

Even though the oil in Juju Joints contains about 40 percent THC—twice the amount of THC as what you’d find in the plant material of a traditional joint— it’s a different experience.

“The first few times I tried one, I didn’t think it was making me high.  It smelled lovely and solved all the problems I associated with other vaporizers, but still, where was the high?” Chris Frizelle said.  “Only 10 or 15 minutes later did I start to feel something, and when I did, it wasn’t the same high I was used to.  It didn’t scramble my brain.  I could read a book without getting lost in the shapes of the letters, like I do if I smoke a regular joint.”

“It was fine, but I missed the sensation of smoking a joint,” said one friend after trying it.  “I felt sort of stoned but in a different way.  It was less intense, but it was kind of weirder.”

The old school way had folks making their own hash oil; grinding up the weed and flushing it with a solvent: alcohol, naphtha, hexane, butane, propane—just about any solvent will do, and stuffing it into a vaporizer by hand.

 ”People left and right are blowing up their houses doing this,” Stevens said, holding up a bottle of cannabis oil someone had made with butane as the solvent. “It’s dangerous.  The other thing about using petrochemicals is that they end up in the final product, so Juju Joints don’t use petrochemicals in the first place.”

After simple trial and error, Stevens devised a system that uses liquid CO2, which is safe to ingest and also acts as a sterilizer—taking care of any bugs, mold, or mildew that might be in the weed.

Stevens is now developing a JuJu Joint that contains only cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive extract of marijuana that advocates say can prevent seizures.  This version contains less than 0.3 percent THC, so it would be legal nationwide.

The world belongs to those who build a better mousetrap, and the sky appears to be the limit for cannabis connoisseurs and entrepreneurs alike in this day and age.


~Via MSN News, NYT, The Stranger, YouTube, JuJu Joint

* * * * * * * * *

Want to know more?   Here’s the unofficial stoner’s review.



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A Transgender Teen’s Final Words



Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Note in Full:

‘My Death Needs to Mean Something’




By Leelah Alcorn



After committing suicide and sparking a nationwide debate, 17-year-old Ohio transgender teen Leelah (Josh) Alcorn’s suicide note was taken down from her Tumblr account.  Others copies of her final words were scrubbed from social media as well. 

“My death needs to mean something,” Leelah wrote as she pled for change. 

We agree.  We are re-posting her final words for the sake of posterity—and for others to have an understanding of the issue.


“If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better.  The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender.  

I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is.

To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4.  I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness.  After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was.  I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.  If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids.  Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid.  That won’t do anything but make them hate them self.  That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression.  I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart.  

The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition.  I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life.  On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “f*** you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock.  

Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed.  They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them.  They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends.  This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself.  I was completely alone for 5 months.  No friends, no support, no love.  Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media.  I was excited, I finally had my friends back.  They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first.  Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a s**t about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before.  The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough.

I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out.  I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound.  I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me.   I’m never going to find a
man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy.

Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself.  There’s no winning.  There’s no way out.  I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse.  People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case.  It gets worse.  Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself.

Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me.  As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s**t which one.

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.  Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better.  My death needs to mean something.  

My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.  I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s f***ed up” and fix it.  Fix society.  Please.”


(Leelah) Josh Alcorn


* * * * * * * * * *

The back story:

When transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by walking into traffic on Sunday, her death – and suicide note – sparked a nationwide debate about how families should react when a child comes out as transgender.

“I immediately told my mom,” Leelah wrote about coming out in an emotional suicide note posted on her Tumblr account.  ”She reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.”

When the note and Leelah’s other comments went public, the reaction was swift – and heated.  Leelah’s name began trending on Twitter, with some activists scorning the Alcorns.

But Alcorn’s mother, Carla, insists that she only wanted what was best for her child. 

During an interview with CNN on Wednesday, she explained her point of view.  “We don’t support that, religiously,” Carla Alcorn said.  ”But we told him that we loved him unconditionally.  We loved him no matter what.  He was an amazing musician and artist,” she said. “He was an amazing boy.  I loved my son.  People need to know that I loved him.  He was a good kid, a good boy.”

She said her child was depressed and on medication and that, “he just quit talking about [being transgender.]”

The next day, the teen’s father, Doug, wrote an email to local news station WCPO. “We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death.”

Many have criticized the Alcorns for referring to Leelah by her given name, Joshua, and for using male pronouns when discussing their child.

“It’s so damaging to do that,” says Johanna Olson, Medical Director for the Center of Trans Youth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  ”It’s so tragic.  Just the process of listening and being open to your child will save your life.  I ask parents if they’d rather have an alive daughter or a dead son.  It’s tragic to hear of such a lack of parental support.”

“Did Leelah’s parents love her?  Yes, I’m sure they did,” says Olson.  ”Did they support her?  No, they didn’t.  And that’s a tragedy.”

Beyond the debate, the Alcorns, who have other children, say that they are still reeling over their child’s suicide – but don’t wish to become part of a national controversy.

“We have no desire to enter a political storm or debate with people who did not know him,” Doug Alcorn wrote in his note to WCPO.  ”We wish to grieve in private.”

To note, a 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 41% of 6,450 responding transgender and gender nonconforming people have attempted suicide.

~Via Yahoo News, CatholicTrans, ABC-9, and YouTube


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The Vanishing Monarch Butterfly


90% of the Population has Disappeared


Award-Winning **VIDEO**



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



They are the butterflies we remember fondly from our childhood. 
And they are disappearing in large numbers.

Monarch butterflies may warrant U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because of farm-related habitat loss blamed for sharp declines in cross-country migrations of the orange-and-black insects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday.

An estimated 1 billion monarchs migrated to Mexico in 1996 compared with just 35 million last year, according to Marcus Kronforst, a University of Chicago ecologist who has studied monarchs.

Monarch populations are estimated to have fallen by as much as 90 percent during the past two decades because of destruction of milkweed plants they depend on to lay their eggs and nourish hatching larvae, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The loss of the plant is tied to factors such as increased cultivation of crops genetically engineered to withstand herbicides that kill native vegetation, including milkweed, the conservation group says.  Some believe poisonous GMO corn pollen has significantly contributed to the loss of monarchs.

Monarchs, unique among butterflies for the regularity and breadth of their annual migration, are also threatened by widespread pesticide use and logging of mountain forests in central Mexico and coastal California where some of them winter, said biologist Karen Oberhauser at the University of Minnesota.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday a petition requesting federal protections for monarchs – filed by the Xerces Society and others – “presents substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted.”

The agency’s initial review will take about a year to complete.

The butterflies, revered for their delicate beauty after emerging from a jade green chrysalis ornamented by gold stitching, are roughly divided into two populations in the United States according to their fall migration patterns.

Monarchs from east of the Continental Divide wing across 3,000 miles to Mexico, while those from west of the Divide in Rocky Mountain states like Idaho make a relatively shorter journey to California.

Monarch populations are tracked by an extensive network of professional and citizen scientists who make up part of the butterfly’s vast and loyal following.

“Almost every person I’ve talked to about monarchs has expressed a deep love and admiration for them that was often formed in childhood,” said Beth Waterbury, regional wildlife biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The monarchs’ navigation remains mysterious.  While they are known to orient themselves by the sun’s position and by the Earth’s magnetic field on cloudy days, it is unclear how new generations find their way to wintering sites they have never seen, Oberhauser said.

~Via Yahoo News, Reuters, DisneyNature, and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

People should make a point of planting some milkweed on their property, even in flower gardens. 
It’s a pleasant looking plant, easy to grow, and it’s good having the monarchs around.



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MIT Scientist: Increased Autism in Children Due to GMOs



‘Half of All Kids Will Be Autistic in Ten Years’




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



For over three decades, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, has been an MIT researcher in the fields of biology and technology.  She has published over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles over the years.

In recent years Dr. Seneff has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling such topics as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

At a conference last week, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, the MIT Senior Research Scientist took the audience by surprise when she declared:


At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.”


Seneff noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops– and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds– with rising rates of autism.  

Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.

Dr. Seneff noted the ubiquity of glyphosate’s use. Because it is used on corn and soy, all soft drinks and candies sweetened with corn syrup and all chips and cereals that contain soy fillers have small amounts of glyphosate in them, as do our beef and poultry since cattle and cp are fed GMO corn or soy.

Wheat is often sprayed with Roundup just prior to being harvested, which means that all non-organic bread and wheat products would also be sources of glyphosate toxicity.  The amount of glyphosate in each product may not be large, but the cumulative effect– especially with as much processed food as Americans eat– could be devastating.

A recent study shows that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder.

…A brief excerpt here, you can read the full article at the Alliance for Natural Health.


* * * * * * * * *

Dr. Seneff’s report caught us by surprise. 

She knows her stuff; she’s earned her credentials.  She has researched compelling and detailed evidence of the correlation between glyphosate and a number of health conditions, including autism, that’s she’s brought to the table. 

But if you remember your lessons learned from basic science class, correlation does not equal causation— at least not quite yet.  It’s just the first step towards a possible conclusion.

Yet this is another reason why consumers should have the benefit of GMO food labeling so we can make the most informed choices concerning our health, what we eat, and the agricultural practices we support.

On the 1st day of the California 2015 Legislature, Monday, January 5, there will be a rally from 9:30 until noon in support of GMO food labeling at the California State Capitol South steps located at 11th and N Streets in Sacramento. 

Supported by the California State Grange which has taken a policy stance against GMO production, you can contact Jessica at (916) 715-2731 or for more information about the GMO labeling rally.

The more we learn about GMOs and its related herbicide and pesticide use from reliable and unquestionable sources, the more we abhor it. 



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The Christmas Miracle of Charlie Brown



And the WW II German Pilot Who Saved Him




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The 21-year old American B-17 pilot glanced outside his cockpit. 
He froze in terror.

He blinked hard and looked again in disbelief.  His co-pilot stared at the same horrible sight.  ”My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.  ”He’s going to destroy us.”

The young pilot, Charlie Brown, agreed.

The men were looking up at a gray German Messerschmitt 109 fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip.  It was five days before Christmas, 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber, Ye Olde Pub, honing in for the kill.

The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission.  His bomber had already been shot to pieces by swarming fighters following a successful bombing run over Bremen.  Severely damaged, it fell behind the rest of the bombing squadron as they quickly headed for home.  His plane was now alone, limping along and struggling to stay afloat in the skies above Germany.

Charlie and most of his crew were wounded and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen over in icicles on the machine guns.

But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something very odd happened.  The German didn’t pull the trigger.  He simply stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect.  What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry ever recorded during World War II.

Instead of pressing the attack, the German nodded at Charlie Brown and saluted.  It was a Christmas miracle.


Two Pilots, Two Foes

Charles Brown was on his first combat mission during World War II when he met an enemy unlike any other: An ace German pilot named Franz Stigler.

Stigler wasn’t just any fighter pilot. He was veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot with over 480 missions, 25 kills, and a successful North Africa campaign to his credit.  Stigler had already shot down two B-17s that day.  One more kill and he would earn the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest award for valor.

Yet Stigler was driven by something deeper than glory.  Stigler’s older brother, August, was a fellow Luftwaffe pilot who had been killed earlier in the war.  American pilots had killed Stigler’s comrades and were now bombing his country’s cities.

Stigler was initially refueling and rearming his fighter on the ground of a German airbase when he had heard a bomber’s engine.  Looking up, he saw a B-17 flying so low he thought it was going to land.  As the bomber disappeared behind some trees, Stigler tossed his cigarette aside, saluted a ground crewman, and took off in his BF-109 in pursuit.  Revenge, not honor, is what drove 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler to jump into his fighter that chilly December day in 1943.  

As Stigler’s fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind.  He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger.  

He was about to fire– then he hesitated.  Stigler was baffled.  No one in the bomber fired at him.

He came closer to look at the tail gunner.  He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood.  Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber.  The Plexiglas nose was shattered by flak, its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns were knocked out.  One propeller wasn’t turning.  Smoke trailed from the other engine.  Half the tail was gone.  He could see injured men huddled inside the shattered plane tending to the wounds of the other incapacitated crewmen.

Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber’s wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide open in shock and terror, his hands fumbling at the controls to keep the plane aloft.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket.  He eased his index finger off the trigger.  He couldn’t shoot.  It would be murder.


A Higher Call of Duty

“I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men,” Stigler recalled.  “I flew beside them for a long time.  They were desperately trying to get home, and I was going to let them do that.  I could not have shot at them.”

Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day.  He also lived by a moral code of honor.  He could trace his family’s ancestry to knights in 16th century Europe; he had once studied to be a priest. 

Stigler considered his options.  He knew a German pilot sparing the life of the enemy would risk certain death by execution in wartime Nazi Germany.

Yet Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him:  ”You are fighter pilots first, last, and always.  You follow the rules of war for you– not your enemy.  You fight by rules to keep your humanity.  If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.”  

Stigler later said, “To me, it was just like they were in a parachute.  I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mind and his mission.  He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber.

Stigler escorted the bomber out of harm’s way over the North Sea and took one last look at the American pilot.

Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany.  “Good luck,” Stigler said to himself.  ”You’re in God’s hands now…”

He also said goodbye to the German Iron Cross that he richly deserved.  Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England.  He wondered for years what had happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

As for Charlie Brown and Ye Olde Pub, it was a truly bewildering moment.  As he watched the German fighter pilot escort him to the coast, salute in farewell, and then fly away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn’t waxing philosophical about enemies.  He was thinking of survival. 

Before the bizarre encounter with Stigler had occurred, Brown, lacking oxygen, had lost consciousness and awakened to find Ye Olde Pub in a dive at 5,000 ft.  He struggled to regain the controls and pulled the bomber out of the dive at 1,000 ft, beginning the long flight home in the shattered bomber when Stigler happened to show up.

Charlie flew his crippled plane, filled with the wounded, back to his base in England.  Not knowing if they would make it back home or not given the poor conditon Ye Olde Pub was in, Charlie gave his young crew the choice of bailing out.   They all chose to stay.

The 21-year-old captain nursed the warship along as best as he could.  The B-17 landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing, and with barely any fuel left.  The bomber’s internal oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems were sorely damaged; only half of its rudder and port side elevator were left remaining. 

After Brown’s bomber came to a stop in England, he slumped back in his chair and put a hand over the pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket.  Then he sat in silence, exhausted, flak wounds to his shoulder.

Brown reported the incident to his superiors but was ordered to keep the matter secret.  His commanding officers did not want any word of a chivalrous German pilot sparing the life of an American soldier to get out.  Brown kept it to himself and never spoke of it, even at postwar reunions.

Stigler, likewise, never reported the incident for risk of a court martial.  He told his superiors that he had escorted the bomber over the North Sea where he shot it down.


‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day’

Brown flew more missions before the war ended.  Life moved on; he got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War, and eventually retired to Florida earning the rank of Colonel.

Later in life, though, the encounter with the German pilot gnawed at him.  He started having nightmares.  But in his dreams there would be no act of mercy.  He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission in his remaining life.  He wanted to find that German pilot who spared him and the lives of his crew.  Who was he?  Why did he save my life?  He scoured military archives in the U.S. and England.  He attended a pilots’ reunion and shared his story.  He finally placed an ad in a German newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the pilot.

In January of 1990, Brown received a letter.  Opening it, he read:

“Dear Charles,

All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home?  Did her crew survive their wounds?  To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.  I was the one.”


It was Franz Stigler.

Treated poorly after the war and working as a lowly brick mill laborer, Stigler left Germany in 1953 and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he became a prosperous businessman.  Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and that ”it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.”

Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn’t wait to see Stigler.  He called directory assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler.  He dialed the number, and Stigler picked it up.

They spoke on the phone for hours.  Stigler described his plane, the escort, the salute, and confirming everything Brown needed to hear to know that he was indeed the German fighter pilot involved in the incident.

“My God, it’s you!” Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.  

Brown had to do more.  He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said:  ”To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crewmembers and their families appears totally inadequate.”

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler met and had a summer reunion together.  Both men looked like retired businessmen; they were now plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each others’ arms and wept and laughed.  They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

Then the mood changed.  Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown.  Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened.  He began to fight back tears before he haltingly said in heavily accented English:  ”I love you, Charlie.”

Stigler had lost his brother, his friends and his country.  He was virtually forgotten by his countrymen after the war.  While there were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German air force, only 1,200 of them survived.  Losses were also heavy on the other side:  30,000 Americans roughly the age of 22 lost their lives in B-17s during the war. 

The war had cost Stigler everything.  “Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II,” Stigler said.  “It was the one thing I could be proud of.”


Brothers, Heroes, Foes

Brown and Stigler became best pals.  They would take fishing trips together.  They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions.  Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.

Brown’s daughter, Dawn Warner, says her father would worry about Stigler’s health and constantly check in on him.

“It wasn’t just for show,” she says.  ”They really did feel for each other.  They talked about once a week.” 

As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says:  “The nightmares went away.”

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day, he wanted to show the extent of his gratitude.  He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members, along with their extended families.  He invited Stigler as a guest of honor.

During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived – numerous children, grandchildren, relatives, crew members – because of Stigler’s act of chivalry.  The former German pilot, watching the film from his seat of honor, cried.

 ”Everybody was crying, not just him,” Warner says.

Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008; Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87.  They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then became something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown’s library when she came across a book on German fighter jets.  Stigler had given the book to Brown.  Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Charlie Brown:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter.  On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged it was a wonder that she was still flying.

The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was.”

Thanks Charlie.

Your Brother,



~Via Hub911, Aerial Chivalry, Wayne Freedman, Sabaton, and Youtube
  A sincere appreciation goes out to Valor Art Studios and John D. Shaw

  And don’t miss this head-banging piece of the incident and the 
  young, brave B-17 crews that we especially liked, here.



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Sony Cyberattack: Hackers Win



But We’ll Show You the Film Trailers Anyway !




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



U.S. officials are treating a cyberattack on Sony Pictures as a “serious national security matter,” with the National Security Council considering a proportionate response, the White House said.

Evidence shows the attack against Sony was carried out by a “sophisticated actor,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.  But he declined to blame North Korea, saying the investigation is still progressing.

That country is suspected of orchestrating the hack in retaliation for the Sony film The Interview, about a fictional plot to assassinate Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The film portrays Seth Rogen and James Franco as frustrated television journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader. 

Wanna go kill Kim Jong-un?” Franco’s character asks in the movie.

“Totally.  I’d love to assassinate Kim Jong-un – it’s a date,” Rogen’s character replies.

In the film’s climactic scene, Kim Jong Un’s head is seen exploding when his helicopter is hit by a missile.

The company on Wednesday cancelled the film’s scheduled December 25 release after the four largest U.S. theater chains said they would not show it.  A spokesman said Sony “has no further release plans” for the $44 million comedy, The New York Times reported.

According to media reports, U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said investigators have connected North Korea to the cyberattack.  North Korea denies involvement and wants to join the US probe into the matter, saying they can prove they’re not behind the security breach.

The massive breach resulted in the leak of tens of thousands of documents of confidential Sony data, including the private details of thousands of company employees, former employees and freelancers, as well as several Hollywood stars and their squabbles.  The leaks also include financial data and high-quality copies of films yet to be released.

The leak has also escalated to threats of terrorist attacks over the film.  A hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace promised a “bitter fate” to those who attend The Interview showings.  

The group– invoking the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States– warned people to stay away from theaters where the film is playing.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says “there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters.” 

President Barack Obama also downplayed the threat, calling Sony’s quick cancellation “a mistake” and saying his “recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

Nonetheless, Sony raised the white flag and surrendered, even though, surprisingly enough, its economy is larger than that of North Korea’s. 

Yes, that’s true.


Sony’s Response

Sony was preparing for a Christmas Day release of the comedy about two journalists recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate North Korea’s leader.

But not anymore.  They’re backing down altogether.

In a statement about its cancellation, Sony said it was “deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie and, in the process, do damage to our company, our employees and the American public.  We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

In an interview late Wednesday with ABC News, Obama called the cyberattack on Sony Pictures “very serious.”

 ”We’re investigating it.  We’re taking it seriously.  We’ll be vigilant,” Obama said.  ”If we see something that we think is serious and credible, we’ll alert the public.  But, for now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”


Pyongyang Condemns Movie

While Americans might be used to such irreverent humor, Pyongyang isn’t laughing.

In fact, they’re pissed.  Crazy-pissed.

Pyongyang has strongly denounced the comedy as an act of terrorism and had called for Sony to cancel the film.  It has praised the hacking as a “righteous deed,” while insisting it is not involved in the intrusion.

“The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays the attack on our top leadership… is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable,” a Foreign Ministry statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency on Wednesday read.

The ministry called on Washington to ban the film from being screened, warning that failure to do so would trigger a “resolute and merciless counter-measure response.”

It is not clear whether the Guardians of Peace group is linked to Pyongyang, which is known to have a capable group of Internet hackers at its disposal.  Some suspect the hackers may have been aided by an insider at Sony.

Pyongyang was angered by the film and in June promised “merciless retaliation.”  But it has denied involvement in the attack.  A North Korean diplomat said earlier this month the accusation was a “fabrication.”

Eriq Gardner, senior editor of The Hollywood Reporter, said the scale of the Sony hacking is unprecedented.

“There have been things that have made Hollywood studios change distribution of movies, but nothing like an attack from a nation-state forcing its hands on a movie that is really just a comedy,” Gardner said.

“… There have been some people who have speculated, maybe jokingly, that this was all just a publicity stunt,” he added.  

“But really, no matter how much money the film makes from here on out, it will not have been worth it to Sony.  This is absolutely terrible for them.”


Financial Loss

Doug Stone of the film industry newsletter Box Office Analyst believes Sony is set to lose up to $55 million and could opt to release the film at a later date or offer it as a video on demand.

Bruce Bennett, a North Korea analyst for the think tank RAND Corp., said Sony’s decision to cancel the film’s release sets a bad precedent.

“Foreigners who want to stop the release of a film can now follow the example of these hackers.  That’s dangerous for the United States,” said Bennett.

And, he added, it is good news for North Korea’s leaders.

“They don’t want this film to get out.  They particularly don’t want it to get on DVD and get circulated into North Korea, which a lot of outside DVDs do because it depicts Kim Jong Un accurately as being ruthless and deceptive, and in ways that don’t coincide with the regime’s propaganda,” Bennett said.


Hollywood Reacts

Many in Hollywood spoke out against Sony’s decision to scrap the movie’s release.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel called the move “an un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist’s actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”

George Clooney said “Hollywood hung Sony out to dry.”

Actor Rob Lowe declared it an “utter victory” for the hackers.  “Wow.  Everyone caved.  The hackers won.  An utter and complete victory for them.  Wow,” Lowe tweeted.

Steve Carell, whose own film set in North Korea has been canceled, said it was a “sad day for creative expression.”

This isn’t the first time North Korea’s leadership has been on the receiving end of Hollywood’s particular brand of parody.

In 2004, the South Park creators portrayed Kim’s late-father Kim Jong-il as a speech-impaired, mass-murdering alien despot in Team America: World Police

While Kim Jong-il, a noted film buff, never publicly commented on the film, North Korea’s embassy in Prague demanded that the film be banned in the Czech Republic.

“It harms the image of our country,” a North Korean diplomat said at the time.  A Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman rebuffed Pyongyang, saying “it’s absurd to demand that in a democratic country.”

Kim Myong-chol, executive director of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace and an unofficial spokesman for the Pyongyang regime, strangely enough said North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, in fact, plans to see The Interview.

~Via BBC, VOA, Google News, RT, Sony Pictures, YouTube



* * * * * * * *

Regardless of the threats and hacks and attacks, we’ll show you the film trailers anyway– while they’re still up and running.

If North Korea and Kim Jong Un don’t like it, oh well, that’s too bad.   Cry us a river.  What would America think if Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 ‘The Great Dictator’ was cancelled because Der Führer didn’t like it?

The movie may be in poor taste but that’s how politcal satire goes.  The Sony story is downright bizarre — and we don’t just mean the hacking.  We mean the decision to make the stupid movie in the first place.

Nevertheless, we believe in free and independent media and we’ll stand up for it– even if Sony won’t. 

We may be small, but we’re still Humboldt.  So come and get us.  We’re waiting.  And we’ll leave the light on for you.



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Stephen Colbert Bids The Nation Adieu


The Colbert Report Calling It Quits:

‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day’


**Viral VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Colbert Nation.  It’s all over except for the applause.

After nine years on the air as host of the The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert is calling it quits and throwing in the sarcastic towel.  Feared by many, hated by some, watched by all, Colbert is heading to CBS to take David Letterman’s Late Show spot in September.

He leaves an uncertain legacy for the media he revolutionized and the culture he altered.  Without him on TV four nights a week, there is a truthiness-shaped hole in our national political discourse.

He promised his audience a revolution, and, said Colbert, “One revolution is 360 degrees right back to where we were.”

“Anyone can read the news to you,” he announced when The Colbert Report debuted in 2005. “I promise to feel the news for you.”

He kept that promise, which is how he came to define our era.  For so many of us, Colbert sums up the absurdity of the Bush years, along with his hero and mentor Bill O’Reilly, whom he called Papa Bear.  ”I emulate you,” he once told O’Reilly in a poignant appearance on Fox News.  ”I want to bring your message of love and peace to a younger audience.  People in their sixties, people in their fifties – people who don’t watch your show.”

His rise in the media world was swift and ruthless. Soon after joining The Daily Show in 1997, Colbert attracted national attention for his uncompromising passion for the witty truth. 

He was able to remarkably reduce complex issues to common-sense tidbits of comedy and satire, uninhibited by facts.  He introduced America to the twin principles of “Truthiness” and “Wikiality,” where anything is true if it feels true, or if someone claims it is, correctly predicting, “The revolution will not be verified.”

And on his last night he signed off in his typical bombastic, authentic fashion.

“I know this is an emotional night for a lot of you,” he said during his opening.  “If this is your first time tuning in to ‘The Colbert Report,’ I have some terrible news.  This in fact is your last time tuning in to ‘The Colbert Report.”

The show went on as normal and ended with the sweet, emotional finale.

Colbert performed the 1939 tune We’ll Meet Again with a slew of famous friends he’s had on the show over the years: singers, actors, authors, politicians, rock stars, filmmakers, and news anchors alike.  They included Jon Stewart, Willie Nelson, Tom Brokaw, Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Cranston, Big Bird, Jeff Daniels, Katie Couric, Ken Burns, Charlie Rose, Arianna Huffington, James Franco, Michael Stipe, Barry Manilow, Christiane Amanpour, Andy Cohen, and George Lucas, among others.

“All those incredible things that people say I did– none of that was really me,” Colbert said during his goodbye.  ”You, the Nation, did all of that.  I just got paid for it.”

And then, Colbert rode away as quickly as he came into the pop culture media world.  In a sleigh with Santa and Abraham Lincoln and Alex Trebek, adorned by his Captain America shield.

Colbert will be remembered for truth.  Nobody summed up the current state of the American mind as brilliantly, as honestly, as terrifyingly as Stephen Colbert.

It’s somehow fitting that he left us so prematurely and under such mysterious circumstances.  He will be missed – even if someone very much like him returns to the airwaves in the coming

Night, night, nation.






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US To Restore Relations With Cuba


After 50 Years, Obama and Castro Talk;

Republicans Furious




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Merry Christmas, Cuba.  Our Cold War relationship is thawing.

President Obama yesterday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.

The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Obama and President Raúl Castro.

The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill, the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis, and a 50-year trade embargo.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” President Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House.  The deal, he added, will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”


The GOP Response

In doing so, Mr. Obama ventured into diplomatic territory where the last 10 presidents refused to go, and Republicans, along with a senior Democrat, quickly characterized the rapprochement with the Castro family as appeasement of the hemisphere’s leading dictatorship.

Republican lawmakers who will take control of the Senate as well as the House next month made clear they would resist lifting the 54-year-old trade embargo.

“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants.  “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”

For good or ill, the move represented a dramatic turning point in relations with an island that for generations has captivated and vexed its giant northern neighbor.  From the 18th century, when successive presidents coveted it, Cuba loomed large in the American imagination long before Fidel Castro stormed from the mountains and seized power in 1959.


The Telephone Call

President Obama has long expressed hope of transforming relations with Cuba and relaxed some travel restrictions in 2011.  But further moves remained untenable as long as Cuba held Alan P. Gross, an American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for trying to deliver satellite telephone equipment capable of cloaking connections to the Internet.

After winning re-election, Mr. Obama resolved to make Cuba a priority.

Pope Francis encouraged the talks with letters to President Obama and Mr. Castro and had the Vatican host a meeting in October to finalize the terms of the deal.  Obama spoke with Castro by telephone on Tuesday to seal the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes, the first direct substantive contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Gross walked out of a Cuban prison and boarded an American military plane that flew him to Washington, accompanied by his wife, Judy.  While eating a corned beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard during the flight, Mr. Gross received a call from Mr. Obama.  “He’s back where he belongs, in America with his family, home for Hanukkah,” the President said later.

For its part, the United States sent back three imprisoned Cuban spies who were caught in 1998.


Easing Restrictions, Yes; –But Embargo Still in Place

The United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking, while Cuba will allow more Internet access and release 53 Cubans identified as political prisoners by the United States.  Although the embargo will remain in place, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it, which would require an act of Congress.

Mr. Castro spoke simultaneously on Cuban television, taking to the airwaves with no introduction and announcing that he had spoken by telephone with Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

“We have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations,” he declared, emphasizing the release of the three Cubans.  “President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.”

Only afterward did Mr. Castro mention the reopening of diplomatic relations.  “This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved,” he said.  “The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.”  But, he added, “the progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.”


The New Generation

Obama is gambling that restoring ties with Cuba may no longer be politically unthinkable with the generational shift among Cuban-Americans, where many younger children of exiles are open to change.  Nearly six in 10 Americans support re-establishing relations with Cuba, according to a New York Times poll conducted in October.  Obama’s move had the support of the Catholic Church, the US Chamber of Commerce, Human Rights Watch and major agricultural interests.

“Five and a half decades of history show us that such belligerence inhibits better judgment,” he said.  “Two wrongs never make a right.  This is a game-changer, which I fully support.”

But leading Republicans, including Speaker John A. Boehner and the incoming Senate majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, did not.  In addition to Mr. Rubio, two other Republican potential candidates for president joined in the criticism.  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called it a “very, very bad deal,” while former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said it “undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba.”

Obama has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to begin the process of removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, and the president announced that he would attend a regional Summit of the Americas next spring that Mr. Castro will also attend.

President Obama’s decision will ease travel restrictions for family visits, public performances, and professional, educational and religious activities, among other things, but ordinary tourism will still be banned under the law.  It will also allow greater banking ties, making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba, and American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” President Obama said.  “It’s time for a new approach.”

He added that he shared the commitment to freedom for Cuba.  “The question is how we uphold that commitment,” he said. “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”


~Via Google News, NYT, 5mars and Vimeo


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Happy Xmas


(War is Over)


John Lennon’s VIDEO


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



In the 1960s The Beatles delighted their fan club members by sending them
a specially recorded 45rpm single every Christmas filled with comedy, music
and festive fun.

The following decade the Christmas single as we know it– a one-time seasonally themed hit—had arrived.

Fittingly though, it was ex-Beatle John Lennon who changed the whole Christmas game.

Lennon was born October 9, 1940, at a time when World War II was raging across Europe.  Liverpool was under attack, bombed by Nazi Germany when John was born.  The rest, as you know, is history.

Sung by John and Yoko Ono and accompanied by the Harlem Community Choir, Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was released in the States on December 6 of 1971.  It was released in Britain the following year, and again following Lennon’s death after being violently gunned down outside of his New York City apartment on December 8, 1980.

The Vietnam-inspired sing-along was the culmination of more than two years of peace activism undertaken by the couple that began with the bed-ins they convened in 1969, the first of which took place during their honeymoon. 

President Nixon had said at the time that the Vietnam War would soon be ending “as a result of the plan that we have instituted.”  In April 1970, however, he had expanded the war by ordering US and South Vietnamese troops to attack communist sanctuaries in Cambodia and Northern Vietnam.  The resulting outcry across the United States led to a number of antiwar demonstrations– and during one of these demonstrations the National Guard shot four protesters at Kent State.

The couple had launched an international multimedia campaign preceding the song in December of 1969 – at the height of the counterculture movement and the massive protests against America’s involvement in the war– by renting billboard spaces in 12 major cities around the world for the display of black-and-white posters declaring, “WAR IS OVER!  –If You Want It– Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.”

Lennon said he conceived the antiwar campaign to promote social unity, peaceful change, personal accountability and empowerment, and writing the happy holiday tune to convey a sense of optimism but without the glowing sentimentality typically associated with the holiday music season.

“I was sick of White Christmas,” he said, and “I wanted to pen the peaceful anthem using the lyrical lesson I learned while recording Imagine.  I understood what you have to do:  Put your political message across with a little honey.’”

By the time Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was released, Lennon’s antiwar activism had brought him under the scrutiny and ire of the Nixon administration and the FBI.  Lennon had already returned his “Member British Empire” medal back to Queen Elizabeth, citing Britain’s support of US troops in Vietnam and its own involvement in Biafra.  He was involved in so much radical activity in the US that the FBI had 216 pounds worth of files about him. 

In 1972 he received his ignoble payback– a deportation order to leave the United States.  It was later stayed due to his broad popular support and the issuance of a green card for US residency. 

By 1973, the Vietnam War was grossly unpopular.  After extensive negotiations and the bombing of North Vietnam in December 1972, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January of 1973.  The war was finally over– after nearly 20 years of US involvement.

Yoko Ono later wrote:

“Never in a million years, did we think that promoting world peace could be dangerous.  Were we naive?  Yes, on that account, we were.  

John said:  ‘Nobody told me there’d be days like these.’  That was his true confession.  These songs have become relevant all over again.  It’s almost as if John wrote these songs for what we are going through now.”

Among the many items Yoko donated for an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame following his death were the bloodstained glasses he was wearing when he was shot.   Lennon was legally blind without them.

Yoko refused to hold a funeral for Lennon.  By not doing so, she said, ”his spirit would live forever.”


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Helping Rich Lenders Rip-Off the Poor



State Legislatures Lift Interest Rate Caps


**John Oliver VIDEO**



Jim Hightower



Loan sharks, banks, and their lobbyists really know how to put the “ick” in eth-icks.

Though they’ve tried to buff-up their public image by calling themselves “consumer lenders,” their game remains the same ethical mess it’s always been.

They target poor and financially struggling people, entice them to borrow with come-ons touting “quick & easy” money, and then hook them to installment loans with interest rates up to 36 percent.  At such rates, it’s hard for these hard-hit people to repay the bank on time, so most are forced to keep borrowing more money just to pay down the previous loans.

To make this even ickier, the sharks are especially fond of setting up their loan offices around Army bases so they can prey on America’s low-paid, financially-stressed soldiers.

The good news is that several state legislatures are taking action to provide relief.  The bad news is that their relief is not for the borrowers, but the banks!

With an army of lobbyists and a multimillion-dollar arsenal of campaign cash, the industry has already induced legislators to lift interest rate caps in eight states – most of which have a large number of military bases.

The cynical claim of the loan sharks (believe it or not) is that they are suffering financial hardships.

These poormouthing bankers say that to make “an acceptable profit,” they must be allowed to charge borrowers more than 36 percent interest.

Acceptable to whom? One of the largest purveyors of these loans, a subsidiary of Wall Street megabank Citigroup, reported a hefty 31-percent profit increase last year – under the old rate structure.

What we have here is a brazen purchase of legislative favoritism by some of the richest financial interests in America – allowing them to increase their exploitation of some of America’s poorest people.

What’s “acceptable” about that? The whole scheme is a shameful hustle.


States Ease Laws That Protected Poor Borrowers,” The New York Times, October 22, 2014.


* * * * * * * * * *

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

A national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author, he frequently appears on television and radio programs bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media.

He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried on more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International. A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.

He has written seven books and is a New York Times bestselling author.

As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell and with a sense of humor.”

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.


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America’s Explosive Oil Problem


The Disaster of Shipping Crude by Rail


**Award-Winning VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



On July 6, 2013, a train hauling two million gallons of crude oil from North Dakota exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.

It took two days to put out the fire and the disaster devastated the small community.

Regulators in the United States knew they had to act fast.  They had to assure Americans a similar disaster wouldn’t happen south of the border, where the U.S. oil boom is sending highly volatile crude oil every day over aging and defective rails in vulnerable

That catastrophe had its origin in America.  For five years, a boom in oil production has been taking place in the Bakkan Shale region of North Dakota.  Oil from the Bakkan is transported across the U.S. and Canada by rail to refineries on the coasts and it was one of these trains that derailed in Lac-Megantic.

The sharp increase in domestic oil production has created jobs, decreased economic vulnerability to turmoil in the Middle East, and lowered prices of gasoline and home heating oil.

But there’s another side to this story:  Boom is a joint investigation film by The Weather Channel and InsideClimate News exploring how the boom in oil has resulted in highly volatile crude oil being sent over aging rails in vulnerable railcars and the resulting disasters that follow in their wake.

Rail accidents involving oil trains have been widely on the rise– yet industry and regulators have been slow react.

Will it take another Lac-Megantic to make America’s towns and cities safer?

You can read the full story accompanying the above video here:



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The CIA Psychologist Who Made $81 Million Teaching Torture



Cashing in on Conscience and Country




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Working for the CIA has its perks.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a blistering, 500-page report on the CIA’s controversial detention and interrogation program, a document that committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said represents the most significant oversight effort in the history of the US Senate.

The $40 million, five-year study concluded that CIA officials exaggerated the value of the intelligence they gleaned from dozens of “high-value detainees” held at secret ‘black site’ prisons, where they were subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Two U.S. psychologists were paid about $81-million each to consult with the CIA on its ineffective brutal interrogation program – criticized as amounting to torture — the U.S. Senate’s damning report said.

The two psychologists, whom the report said had no prior experience with Al Qaida, counterterrorism or interrogation techniques, were working with the Air Force on its “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape” (SERE) program before the 9/11 attacks.  That program was reported to have evolved into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” — which included sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

The committee reviewed more than 6 million pages of top-secret CIA documents and found that the architect of the interrogation program was a retired Air Force psychologist named James Mitchell, an agency contractor who — according to news reports — personally waterboarded alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  

The Senate report confirms that two psychologists’ firm was outsourced the contract for most of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program from 2005 to 2008.

The firm and each psychologist were paid $81-million of the $181-million consulting contract before it was terminated in 2009.

One of the psychologists, now retired to a life of leisure in Florida, sat down for a lengthy interview with Vice News on his role in the program. 

Mitchell has a signed a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA and was unable to discuss his alleged role in the agency’s enhanced interrogation program, but VICE News met up with him in suburban Florida to discuss the Senate’s report and one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.

This is the first time Mitchell has ever appeared on camera.


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Torture Perfectly Acceptable for America



Torture Defenders Double Down and Dig In




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The defenders of torture are doubling down and defending it. 

And in some instances, they also cashed in:  two U.S. psychologists with no experience were paid about $81-million to consult with the CIA on the brutal interrogation program.

Key figures in the George W. Bush administration and an architect of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program are defending the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ tactics in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bombshell report.

The 500-page report summary released Tuesday sheds light on gruesome tactics used by CIA interrogators on terror suspects who were captured and brought to secret locations outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Some detainees were subject to a practice known as “rectal feeding,” in which food is pumped into an individual through the anus.  Others were waterboarded until they were close to drowning.  Interrogators deprived detainees sleep, forced them to maintain “stress positions” and in one instance, reportedly played Russian roulette with a detainee, according to the summary.

The report also deflates the argument that torture helped find Osama bin Laden and led to the capture of other terror suspects.  At times, the report found, interrogation prompted detainees to give fabricated or inaccurate information.

Shortly before the report’s release, The New York Times’ Peter Baker reported that former Bush officials had decided to “link arms” against the report and its findings.  They appear to have maintained that strategy since the report’s release, in spite of its grisly findings.

“The report’s full of crap, excuse me,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News’ Brett Baier in a Wednesday interview.

“What happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that were designed to catch the bastards that killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure that didn’t happen again.  And that’s exactly what they did and they deserve a lot of credit, not the condemnation that they’re receiving from the Senate Democrats,” Cheney said.

Cheney specifically disputed the claim that Bush was kept in the dark about interrogation practices.

“I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques, there was no effort on our part to keep him from that,” Cheney said.  ”That the president wasn’t being told is just a flat-out lie.”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who helmed the agency at the end of Bush’s second term, maintained that he “didn’t mislead Congress” about the brutal tactics used by interrogators.

“I don’t know that the report that was released yesterday is that historically accurate,” Hayden said in an interview with NBC.  ”It reads like a prosecutorial screed rather than a historical document.”

Later, appearing on CNN, Hayden sought to explain the practice
of rectal rehydration.

“It’s a medical procedure is what it is,” Hayden told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  “I’m learning about this somewhat too, because as you know, almost all of this took place before I became director.  But I have learned that in some instances, one way that you can get nourishment into a person is through this procedure as opposed to intravenous feeding, which of course involves needles and a whole bunch of other dangerous things.”

Hayden compared the practice to force-feeding detainees at Guantanamo — which he acknowledged is not performed rectally.

In a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed, Hayden joined fellow former CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss (in addition to other former agency officials) in defense of the program, crediting the “aggressive” policies with saving American lives.

“The al Qaeda leadership has not managed another attack on the homeland in the 13 years since, despite a strong desire to do so,” they wrote.  ”The CIA’s aggressive counterterrorism policies and programs are responsible for that success.”

John Yoo, who served as a senior Justice Department attorney after 9/11 and gave legal justification for the interrogation program, also stepped up to defend the efficacy of torture in obtaining information — a talking point disputed in the Senate torture report and elsewhere.

“A President charged with this responsibility cannot wait weeks, months, or never; he must obtain intelligence as soon as possible to stop the next attack.  Under these emergency conditions, a chief executive would reasonably give the green light to limited, but aggressive interrogation methods that did not cause any long-term or permanent injury,” Yoo wrote in Time.

The Senate report directly contradicts that statement, noting that one detainee died of hypothermia after being chained to a concrete floor.

“The Feinstein report cannot deny that most Americans agree President Bush acted reasonably under these emergency conditions,” Yoo continued. “And the Senate report cannot deny the record of success.”

Also coming to the CIA’s defense is James E. Mitchell, one of two psychologists with no experience who were paid $81 million by the agency to advise and help implement the interrogation practices.  Now retired and living a life of leisure in Florida, Mitchell accused the Senate committee of cherry-picking evidence to make its case against torture.

“It’s flat wrong,” he told The Associated Press of the report’s claim that he had no special knowledge of al Qaeda and no experience in interrogation.

“I completely understand why the human rights organizations in the United States are upset by the Senate report,” Mitchell said.  “I would be upset by it too, if it were true.”

Others took a different view. 

The Senate Committee report “couldn’t be any worse for the CIA,” international lawyer Barry Grossman told Press TV on Saturday.  “What this report says is that the CIA lied, broke the law, and interfered with investigations.”

“The conclusions that are already public now are really mind boggling,” Grossman said.  “The program itself was deeply flawed and the program damaged the United States global reputation and will come with heavy losses, both monetary and

~Via The New York Times, UK Guardian, Huffington Post,
   YouTube/Fox News, and the Washington Post



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