— FEATURED —
— FOLLOW US —
— POLICIES —
Except where indicated, Boing Boing is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution
— FONTS —
Over the past few years, multiple people have died in Thailand from what appears to be exposure to some kind of poison. Most of these people have been tourists. And most of them have been young women. The deaths have happened in clusters. Five or so on the island vacation hotspot of Kho Phi Phi. Another group of six at Chiang Mai's Downtown Inn.
Lots of possible explanations have been suggested — ranging from serial killers, to hallucinogenic beach drinks, to overuse of banned insecticides in hotel rooms. But, so far, none of the specific poisons proposed as the culprit totally makes sense in relation to the deaths. And, to make things worse, it seems like Thai authorities are doing their best to make it difficult to actually investigate what has happened in individual cases, and figure out whether the cases are linked or not. At this point, it's hard to even know whether all the people who have died exhibited the same symptoms.
Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer-winning journalist who has done a lot of reporting on poisons and true crime has been following this story and just published another piece on the still-unfolding mess.
Your daughter died.
Your daughter died thousands of miles from home. In a hotel where no one came to help. In a hospital where she struggled to keep breathing and just couldn’t. In a room where her heart – and somehow you still don’t really believe this – just stuttered to a stop. In a country, where authorities have failed for months, years even, to tell you how or why your daughter died.
Your daughter, you’ve come to realize, died in a pattern that links too many other young women, a chain of suspected poisonings over the last few years. Jill St. Onge, 27, of Seattle, Washington, and Julie Bergheim, 22, of Drammen, Norway, who both died in May 2009 on the southern island of Koh Phi Phi. Sherifa Khalid, 24, of Kuwait, who died 12 hours she spent a day on the same island in July of the same year.
Two of the three children of CNBC Digital senior vice president Kevin Krim and Marina Krim, a mom who maintained a blog about their family life, were apparently stabbed to death by their nanny last night in NYC.
Nanny Yoselyn Ortega (50) is accused of attacking Lulu (6) and Leo Krim (2), shown in the family photo at left; then trying to kill herself.
The details of how the mother (38) encountered her children are in the NYT story, CNN, and the tabloids. A third child was with Mrs. Krim when the attack happened at their home, and did not witness it.
From posts on the family blog [update: which is now offline] the nanny appears to have worked with the family for more than a year.
The Krim family visited Ms. Ortega's home and family in the Dominican Republic with her on a 9-day vacation this February.
The family LiveJournal contains thousands of photographs of the children, whose lives were chronicled there in loving detail by their mom. Marina Krim published an entry about her son just three hours before the attack.
The story is familiar to us today: Somebody, usually a young man, walks into a public place, kills a bunch of people seemingly at random, and (usually) ends the murder spree with a suicide-by-cop.
But this story—at least, in Western culture—is startlingly new, relatively speaking. In fact, Paul Mullen, a forensic psychologist, says we can pin a date and place on the first time it happened. On September 4, 1913, in the German towns of Degerloch and Mühlhausen an der Enz, Ernst August Wagner killed his wife, his children, and at least nine strangers. He shot more than 20 people and set several fires during his killing spree. He ended up spending the rest of his life in an insane asylum.
But when we try to pin killings like these on mental illness, Mullen says, we're not quite hitting the right point. The people who go on killing sprees are mad, sure. But that's not the same thing as diagnosable, objective, physical mental illness. Only about 10% of the people ever arrested for crimes like this had actual mental illnesses. In fact, Mullen thinks these killings have more to do with culture than brain chemistry. His argument is interesting. And it might sound a little similar to the old "angry music made him do it!" trope. But what Mullen is talking about is different than that. Science journalist David Dobbs tries to explain the distinction:
I’m not saying the movies made Holmes crazy or psychopathic or some such. But the movies are a enormous, constant, heavily influential part of an American culture that fetishizes violence and glamorizes, to the point of ten-year wars, a militarized, let-it-rain approach to conflict resolution. And culture shapes the expression of mental dysfunction — just as it does other traits. This is why, say, relatively ‘simple’ schizophrenia — not the paranoid sort — takes very different forms in Western and some Eastern cultures. On an even simpler level, this is why competitive athleticism is more likely to express itself as football (the real kind) in Britain but as basketball in the U.S. Culture shapes the expression of behavioral traits.
This is an interesting argument and an interesting thing to think about.
Read the rest of David Dobbs' post about the difference between blaming movies for violence and talking about the consequences of violence in culture.
Read a very good post at the Neuroanthropology blog that expands on Paul Mullen's ideas and provides more interesting links
The Toronto Sun today reports that "politicians and their aides in Ottawa have been shocked by the gruesome killing" attributed to Luka Magnotta. But not too shocked to exploit it for their own political gain! Buried in a story about how the missing accused murderer will face charges of "Criminal harassment" for sending dead body parts to lawmakers, in addition to all the murder and ass-cheek-eating and corpse-sexing stuff:
Read the rest
Read the rest
Maryland resident Alexander Kinyua reportedly confessed to police that he killed his a man who lived with his family for months by cutting him up with a knife, then eating his heart and parts of his brain.
The Baltimore Sun reports about the online life of Kinyua, an electrical engineering major at Morgan State University and long-time member of its ROTC program. He was "always in his own little world, preaching everywhere he went and talking about how he was writing a book," said one acquaintance.
Kinyua's online life included a self-published podcast, motivational videos on YouTube, lots of Facebook posts, a manic stream of internet comments directed at media figures and celebrities, and plans to self-publish an e-book.
Read the rest
Read the rest
Authorities in Canada are searching for 29-year-old Luka Rocco Magnotta, an adult film actor who appears on various websites featuring hardcore gay male porn. Magnotta is beleived to be the man responsible for killing a friend, videotaping and then publishing online video of the man's dismemberment, then mailing body parts to various addresses in Ottawa, including the ruling Conservative party's headquarters.
A human torso recently discovered in Montreal, and a human hand and foot mailed from Montreal to Ottawa, are all presumed to be connected to the killing.
In 2009, Magnotta (or someone using his name) published a blog post on "how to disappear completely and never be found."
Trayvon Martin, 17 (above), was shot to death on February 26 while walking to his dad's girlfriend's house from a convenience store just north of Orlando, Florida. He was unarmed, wearing a hoodie, and carrying some Skittles and iced tea he purchased at the mini-mart.
George Zimmerman, 28 (inset), is the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon. Zimmerman told police he shot the young man in self-defense. As more information about the incident emerges, this explanation sounds increasingly less plausible.
The case has sparked widespread interest and outrage online, in part because Zimmerman remains free, and Trayvon was an innocent kid doing nothing wrong, who cried out for help as he was attacked. His only threat, it seems, was being a black male.
A roundup of links for further reading and following, as the case evolves:
• Mother Jones has an excellent explainer piece here, and ongoing coverage.
• A New York Times item today: US Grand Jury opens an investigation into the killing. Related news about FBI involvement at the Miami Herald.
• A phone call from Trayvon to a 16-year-old female friend sparks new demands for Zimmerman's arrest.
• "How we can leverage the anger over individual incidents into a larger restructuring of perceptions and justice," asks journalist Farai Chideya. "It’s easy to work up ire about individual cases, but harder to work on systemic change." She's on Twitter here.
• Charles Blow at the New York Times has been on the story. One item is here, but his Twitter feed is well worth a follow for ongoing (and paywall-free) updates.
• Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic, has been reporting on the case as well. He's updating on Twitter, too.
• The blog for MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry show is a good source of updates, and the show itself has been covering the case as well.
• Think Progress has a "what everyone should know" post here.
• Zimmerman has been variously identified as "White," and "White Hispanic." An NPR opinion piece asks, What if he were black?
• At the Huffington Post, Trymaine Lee has been on the story for weeks, with strong reporting. Worth a Twitter follow. • Farai Chideya points to this Trendsmap of where in the US the #trayvon hashtag is currently trending.
(Thanks to all of my Twitter followers who shared suggestions for good sources of coverage.)