That time the TSA started screening all paper products separately

Akal Security Inc is the TSA contractor that screens passengers at Kansas City International Airport under a $108m/5 year contract; earlier this month they began abruptly scanning all paper products in carry on luggage, requiring passengers to pull out their books, papers, even post-it notes for secondary inspection. Read the rest

Freaky vigilantes of the 1880s Ozarks

As a child, writer Lisa Hix visited Silver Dollar City, a surreal theme park in the Ozark Mountains that I have been fortunate enough to experience myself. Like me, Lisa was enchanted with the nutty dark ride Fire In The Hole and its story of people in creepy devil-horned hoods who torched a town. No, they weren't KKK members but rather the Bald Knobbers, a 19th century vigilante group. Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa explores the history of the Bald Knobbers:

Though they never lit a town on fire—that part of the ride is completely invented—the real story of their rise is a terrifying parable about what happens when government fails and violence reigns. It’s a lesson that’s perhaps more relevant in the political climate of 2017 than Americans would like it to be.

When I called Dr. Matthew J. Hernando, a professor at Ozark Technical College and author of Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks, he told me that “Fire in the Hole”—which he has ridden many times—“is basically a bunch of nonsense.” For the real story of the Bald Knobbers, Hernando explained, you have to look at southwest Missouri’s peculiar history. In a region where the Civil War had laid waste to the rule of law, ne’er do wells like the notorious James-Younger Gang and vigilante groups like the Bald Knobbers emerged to fill the void of authority. Admirers saw them as righteous folk heroes; adversaries regarded them as murderous thugs.

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UPDATED: Ransomware creeps steal the entire St Louis library system

Update: The library system has recovered access to its computers.

The libraries of St Louis, MO have been crippled by a ransomware attack that has shut down the public terminals the library provides to the poor and vulnerable of St Louis, as well as the systems used to process book and material lending (the catalog is on a separate, uninfected system). Read the rest

How America abandoned the only policy that consistently closes the black-white educational gap

After 1954's landmark Brown v Board of Ed ruling, America's (largely racially segregated) cities began racially integrating their schools by busing black kids to white neighborhoods, a project that hit its stride at the start of the 1970s. It worked. Read the rest

After repeated budget cuts, Missouri's underfunded Public Defender drafts the Governor to work for him

Brother Phil writes, "The Public Defender's Office in Missouri is chronically underfunded by a governor who can always find money for his pet projects. However, they do have the power to draft any lawyer to serve as the defense in a case if they don't have one spare.Guess who just happens to be a lawyer..." Read the rest

My Kansas City World Science Fiction Convention schedule

I'm flying into Kansas City for part of Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, and while there, I'll be on panels, give a reading, and sit down with fans for a kaffeeklatsch. Read the rest

Freshman Missouri Rep almost made it 3 months before introducing bill urging members to say "fiscal," not "physical"

Rep. Tracy McCreery [D] had served in the Missouri house of reps for nearly a whole quarter before she introduced H.R. 1220, which urges her fellow lawmakers to stop pronouncing "fiscal," as "physical." Read the rest

Hours after University of Missouri president resigns, Chancellor also steps down

“Hours after a wave of student and faculty protests over racial tensions led to the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri system on Monday, the chancellor of the campus here also stepped aside,” reports the New York Times.

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Terrorists torch five black Ferguson-area churches, nation yawns

St. Louis Fire Department captain Garon Mosby calls the fires "arson," but despite the shocking string of racist attacks, major media have hardly breathed a word about the fires. Read the rest

Teacher forced into retirement for showing archival queer-scare movie

Archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "Ken Simon, a high school teacher and coach for 47 years near Kansas City was retired early and ushered from the school after he showed showed Boys Beware, an infamous 1961 movie about homosexuality, to his class as a way of illuminating how attitudes toward gay and lesbian people have changed." Read the rest

Judge who invented Ferguson's debtor's prisons owes $170K in tax

Judge Ronald J Brockmeyer -- who filled Ferguson's coffers by fining its poorest residents and sent them to inhumane, overcrowded prisons when they couldn't pay a few hundred dollars -- stands accused of fixing fines for his cronies, and owes $170K in unpaid taxes. Read the rest

Family fake-kidnapped 6-year-old to teach him to mistrust strangers

The Troy, MO family of a six-year-old boy staged a kidnapping in which they terrorized him and made him believe that he would be sold into sex slavery, because they wanted to convince him not to be so "nice" to strangers. Read the rest

Ferguson's no-fly zone created to ground news-choppers

Freedom of Information Act requests from the Associated Press reveal that St Louis police requested the no-fly zone to prevent the press from getting overhead footage of the crackdown on demonstrations, and that the FAA was complicit in crafting an illegal ban that allowed commercial aircraft to land at the airport while still grounding the news-birds. Read the rest

St Louis police offer to fingerprint all the children in #Ferguson

The free fingerprinting kits are part of the long-running national push to fingerprint children in the name of public safety, and are a new tone-deaf low from the region's cops. Read the rest

Missouri police greet Nobel Peace Prize nominee with traditional shield-banging dance

Here we see the traditional dance of the Missouri riot police, performed for three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly and her friends as they gathered at the Whiteman Air Force Base to protest the escalation of drone warfare. The rhythmic shuffle and banging makes for an impressive display, especially when accompanied by the dancers' ancestral garb and clubs.

Trifecta Resista at Whiteman AFB.m4v (Thanks, kcmiccheck!) Read the rest

Book-shaped travelling libraries

Joplin, MO librarian April Roy, bookseller Pete Cowdin and members of the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild are building 22 mobile libraries -- book-shaped travelling bookcases that can be brought to poor, tornado-struck schools in the area. They're working with donated labor and cash donations for materials.
Roy and book store owner Pete Cowdin hit upon a “modest” proposal to bring new books to young readers in Joplin — individual 50-book “libraries” for a number of needy classrooms.

No question about the need. A tornado in May wiped out 54 percent of the school district’s square footage. Irving Elementary, home to 280 students, was destroyed. Emerson Elementary, an older building with 230 students, wasn’t demolished but also wasn’t practical to repair.

Volunteers write the first chapter for Joplin books (via Bookshelf)

(Image: JILL TOYOSHIBA/Kansas City Star) Read the rest

Missouri State business-school professor leads successful campaign to ban Slaughterhouse-Five from local schools

Wesley Scroggins, a business school professor at Missouri State University, wrote an editorial for Gannett's News-Leader condemning the teaching of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five in Republic, MO curriculum. He said that the Vonnegut novel (considered one of the best novels of the twentieth century and widely taught in schools across the English-speaking world) contained too much cussing for children. He also condemned Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, a book about a girl who experiments with sex during summer holidays because it contained sex.

In response, the Republic school board has banned Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer, removing them from both its classrooms and school libraries. Scroggins is disappointed that they didn't ban another book, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak.

Scroggins's research specializes in international business and entrepreneurship (he teaches dull intro to management classes, apparently without much flair), and given those specialties, you'd think that he'd realize that, in most of the world, the material in all three of the books he's picked on wouldn't raise an eyebrow. It's also bizarre to see someone who worships entrepreneurship simultaneously embrace a color-inside-the-lines, nothing-objectionable-allowed approach to education: Scroggins apparently wants to raise a generation of local children who never meet a challenging idea or experience an uncomfortable discussion. As an actual entrepreneur (and not just someone who researches entrepreneurship), I'm here to tell you that this is not how you teach people the imagination and creativity necessary to the process.

As for the Republic school board, there is no sufficient shaming for education administrators who lack the courage to stand up for children's intellectual freedom. Read the rest