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From a 2009 Southern Poverty Law Center report, David Arenberg describes his life as a Jewish guy inside a heavily racially segregated state prison where he faces violence and even death if he doesn't eat with the Aryan Brotherhood. Arenberg uses the essay to jump into a harrowing view into the rise of serious, politicized neo-Nazi skinheads in prison -- guys who make the Aryan Brotherhood look like moderates.
Not that there's anywhere else I could eat. The prison yard is broken down into five distinct racial categories and segregation is strictly enforced. There are the "woods" (short for peckerwoods) that encompass the whites, the "kinfolk" (blacks), the "Raza" (American-born people of Mexican descent), the "paisas" (Mexico-born Mexicans), and the "chiefs" (American Indians). Under the strict rules that govern interracial relations, different races are allowed to play on the same sports teams but not play individual games (e.g., chess) together; they may be in each others' cubicles together if the situation warrants but not sit on each others' beds or watch each others' televisions. They may go to the same church services but not pray together. But if you accidentally break one of these rules, the consequences are usually pretty mild: you might get a talking to by one of the heads (who, of course, claims exemption from this rule himself), or at worst, a "chin check."
Eating with another race, however, is a different story. It is an inviolate rule that different races may not break bread together under any circumstances. Violating this rule leads to harsh consequences. If you eat at the same table as another race, you'll get beaten down. If you eat from the same tray as another race, you'll be put in the hospital. And if you eat from the same food item as another race, that is, after another race has already taken a bite of it, you can get killed. This is one area where even the heads don't have any play.
This makes it difficult for me, of course, to fit into the chow hall. Jews, as we all know, are not white but imposters who don white skin and hide inside it for the purpose of polluting and taking over the white race. The skinheads simply can't allow me to eat with them: that would make them traitors of the worst kind — race traitors! But my milky skin and pasty complexion, characteristic of the Eastern European Ashkenazi, make it impossible for me to eat with other races who don't understand the subtleties of my treachery and take me for just another wood. So the compromise is that I may sit at certain white tables after all the whites have finished eating. In exchange, I must do free legal work as directed by the heads (Jewish lawyers, even jailhouse lawyers, are hard to come by in prison) and remit to them a portion of the legal fees I collect from everyone else I do legal work for on the yard.
The town of Macapá is in the north of Brazil, on the coast, where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic. On December 5th, 2001, Sir Peter Blake and his crew decided to spend the night there. They were on their way back to the ocean after a journey down the Amazon, documenting the effects of climate change for the National Geographic Society.
That night, while their guard was down, a group of masked bandits boarded the boat. Read the rest
Read the rest
In Mother Jones, the story behind "Letters to Newtown." This project was instigated by Boardwalk Empire prop-master, freelance illustrator, and Newtown resident Ross MacDonald, and it serves to digitally archive some of the half million cards, letters, and drawings sent to the town of Newtown, CT after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Jacques Hebert of Mother Jones, the magazine putting this all together with Tumblr, explains, "These messages of love, hope, and sadness have been on display in Newtown Town Hall, and have been viewed by many residents. To broaden access to these cards and preserve them as memories of what Newtown residents and the nation experienced on that tragic day, Mother Jones in partnership with Tumblr is launching the 'Letters to Newtown' project."
"The project will aim to digitally preserve these cards (the town of Newtown can't afford to store them any longer and many will be turned into ash for a future memorial site) by photographing them and uploading them to a special Tumblr for the world to see."
The Couriers: The Complete Series collects four short stories from early in Brian "DMZ" Wood's career, involving a pair of courier/ninjas who run parcels for crime syndicates, shady characters, and other nonstandard enterprises. They're armed to the teeth, hyper-violent, skillful, wisecracking, and remorseless. Think of Kick-Ass crossed with Run, Lola, Run. It's lovely stuff, and the art conveys that Taratino-ey balletic violence in a way I'd never have suspected was possible without actual moving pictures. This is silly and fluffy, but witty and well-told, and it's the kind of stuff you can't stop reading once you've started.
As a bonus for Brian Wood fans, Image Comics has just brought out issue one of Mara, a new, six-issue future-dystopic tale drawn by Jordie Bellaire & Ming Doyle, which starts very strong.
Does gun control mean fewer guns on the street and less violence? Does encouraging gun ownership mean better protected people and less violence?
I don't think it's too early to be asking questions like this. When you're faced with a tragedy like what happened today at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it's reasonable to start asking questions about violence prevention. It's part of the bargaining stage of grief — wondering if there's something we could have done that would have prevented all those needless deaths. And let's get one thing straight: Everybody wants to prevent what happened today.
So what can be done about it? And what does the science say?
I've been trying to get a handle on that for the last hour or so and here are three things it seems we can definitively say:
• It would be completely accurate for someone to tell you that studies in places like Australia and Austria found that implementing more stringent gun control laws reduced deaths from gun-related suicides and violent crime.
• It would also be accurate to say that a study of the effects of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in the United States showed no big reductions in gun-related deaths, except for suicides among people older than 55.
• And it's also true that a 2003 study of conceal-carry laws in Florida found that they seemed to make no difference one way or the other — neither increasing nor reducing rates of violent crime.
Read the rest
The recently-launched Women Under Siege website is a new project of the NYC-based Women’s Media Center, and features a number of powerful essays and features by women, about sexual violence against women. There's an account by CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, who survived a sexual assault while covering uprisings in the Middle East; another about covering sexualized war in Congo by Lynsey Addario, who survived the same.
In this post, I'd like to draw special attention to a feature on the site about a subject with which I have personal familiarity: violence against indigenous women in Guatemala. Though the country's long civil war is over, the femicidio is not. Snip:
More than 100,000 women were raped in the 36 years of the Guatemalan genocide in which at least 200,000 people died. In this video, photojournalists Ofelia de Pablo and Javier Zurita interview survivors and document the ongoing forensic and legal investigation that has just indicted former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt.
There are so many powerful stories on the Women Under Siege website. Below, a photo by Ms. Addario, from Congo: "Lwange, 51, with her daughter, Florida, who had been raped the week before this photo was taken in 2008. The child had screamed at the time, then bled. With her vagina and her young psyche damaged, Florida would no longer speak."
The casual and close-range use of pepper spray on nonviolent protesters: It's not just morally bankrupt, it's also not evidence based!
Judy Stone is a doctor, infectious disease specialist, and the author of a book on how to properly conduct clinical research. She's got a guest post on Scientific American blog network looking at the scientific research that's been done to document the effects and safety of pepper spray, and how to treat exposure to pepper spray.
Shorter version: The evidence basis behind the use of pepper spray, especially in the sort of contexts one is actually likely to encounter in the real world, is woefully limited. (It's a lot like tasers that way. In both cases, the research that does exist has mostly been done using physically fit, healthy, adult subjects who are not emotionally or physically distressed in any way at the moment they are hit. They're also being hit using manufacturer recommended dosages and distances of application. Real-world data suggests there's a MASSIVE difference between the effects of that sort of scenario and, say, a terrified teenager being shot in the face at point-blank range. Or an old woman who has been walking quickly, trying to get away from police. Just to throw some hypotheticals out there.) Meanwhile, the evidence that does exist strongly suggests that police forces are currently using pepper spray in ways that are inappropriate and unsafe. Evidence. Not opinion.
Also: Liquid antacids seem to be the best way to alleviate the effects of pepper spray. Perhaps it's time to stock up on Maalox.
There are reports of the efficacy of capsaicin in crowd control, but little regarding trials of exposures. Perhaps this is because pepper spray is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, as a pesticide and not by the FDA.
The concentration of capsaicin in bear spray is 1-2%; it is 10-30% in “personal defense sprays.”
While the police might feel reassured by the study, “The effect of oleoresin capsicum “pepper” spray inhalation on respiratory function,” I was not. This study met the “gold standard” of clinical trials, in that it was a “randomized, cross-over controlled trial to assess the effect of Oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray inhalation on respiratory function by itself and combined with restraint.” However, while the OC exposure showed no ill effect, only 34 volunteers were exposed to only 1 sec of Cap-Stun 5.5% OC spray by inhalation “from 5 ft away as they might in the field setting (as recommended by both manufacturer and local police policies).”
By contrast, an ACLU report, “Pepper Spray Update: More Fatalities, More Questions” found, in just two years, 26 deaths after OC spraying, noting that death was more likely if the victim was also restrained. This translated to 1 death per 600 times police used spray. (The cause of death was not firmly linked to the OC). According to the ACLU, “an internal memorandum produced by the largest supplier of pepper spray to the California police and civilian markets” concludes that there may be serious risks with more than a 1 sec spray. A subsequent Department of Justice study examined another 63 deaths after pepper spray during arrests; the spray was felt to be a “contributing factor” in several.
A review in 1996 by the Division of Epidemiology of the NC DHHS and OSHA concluded that exposure to OC spray during police training constituted an unacceptable health risk.
Remember kids: When you think "pepper-spraying cop" and "unacceptable health risk," you should also think, "Lt. John Pike."