Boing Boing 

Furry convention evacuated after chlorine-gas attack


The 15th Midwest Furfest was evacuated last week after 19 attendees were hospitalized by chlorine gas at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Hotel; hazmat technicians cleared out an "intentional gas attack" apparatus in the 9th floor stairwell.

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Police in Brazil kill six people a day


So says a report from The Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, an NGO that singles out the Rio police for "abusive use of lethal force."

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Holding mirrors up to police lines at #Euromaidan


Ukrainian protesters from the #Euromaidan movement have faced brutal police violence. A moving demonstration on December 30th included a line of protesters who held up mirrors to the riot police who faced them across the barricades.

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The gruesome reality of the drug trade

My friend Erik Vance lives in Mexico City and writes about science. But, in the past year or so, his work covering ocean fisheries has brought him into contact with some of the fallout from the cocaine trade. That overlap lead to a recent piece for Slate, where he writes that "there's no such thing as cruelty-free cocaine". If you care about sustainability, fair trade, and the power of consumer choice to change industry practices in fishing, then you should care about those things when it comes to drugs, he writes. More provocatively, Vance likens buying coke today to donating to the Nazi party in the 1930s.

When mushrooms go to war

Fungus can fight. Using poisons and flesh-dissolving enzymes (think: mycological "meat" tenderizers), they can defend their turf from incursions by other fungi. Here, a sulfur tuft mushroom (top right) and Phanerochaete velutina (bottom left) hash it out.

Hawthorne, CA police arrest man for videoing them, shoot his dog

Spocko sez, "What are the current rules for filming police in the state of California? This man seems to believes that he should be arrested for filming the police and offers himself up for arrest after clearly holding his phone up to film them. He places his dog in his car and is arrested. While handcuffed and being led away, the dog jumps out of the car to go to the man. The police see the dog as attacking them and when it doesn't stop, shoot the dog several times. Would this had happened if the man (and the police) knew the law about filming police in public in California?" Warning: Video contains violence and language

Hawthorne, Ca Police Kill Dog(1) (Thanks, Spocko!)

"Riot" at kindergarten graduation

A brawl erupted at a kindergarten graduation in Cleveland on Friday, leading to eight arrests. It seems that two teens started the fisticuffs, and then some adults joined the fray. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "eventual charges could include aggravated rioting." None of the graduates were taken into custody.

Prison and racial segregation: why a Jewish guy eats with the Aryan Brotherhood

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.

David Arenberg Reflects on Being Jewish in State Prison (via )

Read this before you read another story on epigenetics

At Download the Universe, i09 editor Annalee Newitz critiques a new e-book about epigenetics — the science of how environmental factors can influence genetic expression — and violence. The book makes some pretty terrible (and non-scientific) insinuations about the idea of an inherent propensity towards violence and Newitz does a good job of both taking down the specific book and explaining the nuance behind a complicated topic.

How children become "cannon fodder" for Mexican drug cartels

Wired's Danger Room blog points to this new report [PDF] by the NGO International Crisis Group, which details how Mexican drug cartels recruit and coerce kids as young as 11 years old to kill. Narcos “have recruited thousands of street gang members, school drop-outs and unskilled workers” over the last decade, and the report claims “cartel bosses will treat the young killers as cannon fodder, throwing them into suicidal attacks on security forces.” [Wired.com]

Boxer announces he's coming over to his Twitter-troll's house "for a beer"

A Twitter troll called @jimmyob88 sent a series of vile, taunting messages to professional boxer @woodhousecurtis, calling him lots of rotten names. Woodhouse tweeted back that he'd found out the Internet Tough Guy's home address and was headed over to his house "for a brew." After a series of "I'm getting closer" tweets, the troll had a change of heart and tweeted, "Didnt think you would be bothered thought you would take them as a joke" and "i am in the wrong i accept that." Apparently, it ended there. (via Techdirt)

Science and gun violence: why is the research so weak? [Part 2]

Part 2 of Science and gun violence: why is the research so weak?

The town of Macapá is in the north of Brazil, on the coast, where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic.

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Bang bang: Science, violence, and public policy

I was on CBC Radio 1's Day 6 last weekend, talking about some of the reasons why scientists can't answer key questions about guns — whether current gun policies do anything to reduce violent crime, for instance, or whether more guns cause less (or more) violence. In a related debate, you should also read the article on the science of video games and real-life violence that Brandon Keim wrote for PBS' NOVA. The truth is that this branch of science also has big problems connecting cause and effect and, as with gun policy research, the best kinds of experiments can't really be done for logistical and ethical reasons.

Letters to Newtown: digitally archiving sympathy cards sent to town after school shooting massacre

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."

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A helpful reminder: Video game consumption is not correlated with gun violence

The focus on video games as a source of American gun violence is driving me a bit crazy, so I just wanted to toss some evidence out there. Even though most of you have likely long suspected the two things were not related, you'll be happy to know that science agrees with you. Consider this a helpful kit for forwarding to concerned relatives. Here's a 10-country comparison that found no correlation between video game consumption and gun violence. Here's a Harvard Medical School summary that explains why some people claim video games cause violence, and why the studies behind those claims aren't actually telling us that. And here's a PBS FAQ explaining a lot of the same issues. With violent video games (as with everything else) context matters.

Brian Wood's The Couriers: The Complete Series


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.

The Couriers: The Complete Series

A medical perspective on the injuries sustained by Home Alone's Wet Bandits

"Kevin has moved from 'defending his house' into sheer malice, in my opinion." And this is before Marv and Harry are even inside the house! An actual doctor looks at the cartoonish violence of 1990's Home Alone and offers a blow-by-blow diagnosis. (via The Week)

What science says about gun control and violent crime

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.

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TOM THE DANCING BUG - Hunger Games 2012

Visit the TOM THE DANCING BUG WEBSITE, and follow RUBEN BOLLING on TWITTER.

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The invisible genocide of women

Video Link.

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."

What the evidence says about pepper spray safety

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."

The most dangerous place to be a park ranger

This photo was taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park, where the Nyamulagira volcano is currently erupting. The man in the photo is named Romeo. No last name given, and I can't help but wonder if that's for the same reason that he carries a rather large gun.

Romeo is a park ranger in Virunga. It's a very dangerous job. Virunga has lost more park rangers than any other protected site on Earth. That's due to several factors. For one thing, men like Romeo are in charge of protecting the Park's gorillas and other endangered wildlife from poachers. For another, political instability leaks into Virunga on a relatively regular basis. Back in January, three rangers and five Congolese soldiers were killed by members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Virunga borders Rwanda and members of this militia try to use the park as a hideout. In the process, they clear-cut the forest for charcoal. The January attack was thought to be in retaliation for rangers destroying a couple FDLR camps and cracking down on illegal forest destruction.

In fact, the job is dangerous enough that one of the fundraising campaigns the park is promoting is a program to care for the widows of dead rangers. You can donate online.

Who are the guys that put their lives on the line for a national park and a bunch of great apes? The park website also has some short statements by several of the rangers. Romeo isn't among them. But you can get an idea of who these guys are, and why they chose this job.

Surprisingly, despite all that, large parts of Virunga are safe enough for tourists. According to Wikipedia, the park gets 3000 visitors a year.

Via Brendan Maher

Russian oligarch sucker-punches rival billionaire on talk show

In this clip from Russian TV, oligarch billionaire Alexander Lebedev sucker-punches another billionaire, Sergei Polonsky, hitting him twice.

Clad in very tight grey jeans, Lebedev showed a glimpse of his past as a KGB agent as he launched two blows at the former property developer Sergei Polonsky during a television debate on the financial crisis. Polonsky, once ranked Russia's 40th richest man, had said he wanted to "stick one in the mouth" of Lebedev. In the clip posted on the NTV channel's website, Polonsky was sent tumbling to the floor and Lebedev then stood over him in a crouched fighting stance.

The newspaper baron said later that he had been reacting to Polonsky's threatening manner. The colourful proprietor was quoted as saying: "In a critical situation, there is no choice. I see no reason to be hit with the first shot. I neutralised him."

Alexander Lebedev in Russian TV punch-up

Women's sex-strike ends civil war (sex vs violence)

Women in Mindanao, Philippines ended a violent, armed, intervillage fight by going on a "sex-strike" until their husbands stopped killing each other, as confirmed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Women's 'sex strike' ends fighting in Mindanao villages - UNHCR

International terrorist group targets nanotech researchers

Yesterday, Craig Cormick—the public awareness manager at Australia's Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and the person who invited me to the 6th Science Center World Congress—leaned over during a conference session and showed me this story on his blackberry. I had to double check and make sure it wasn't a sketchy email forward.

But the truth is that, sometimes, anti-science sentiment coalesces into violent attacks on scientists themselves. That's happened to researchers who work with animal models in the United States. And it's also happening to researchers around the world who are working with nanotechnology. The threat seems to be particularly prevalent in Mexico. In manifestos, the terrorists have said that they're attempting to prevent scientists from inventing self-replicating nanobots that could turn the entire world into "grey goo."

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Nanotechnology was singled out as a target for the attacks in manifestos posted on the Web by the group behind the bombs, which calls itself "Individualities Tending Toward Savagery." It has been linked to attacks in France, Spain, and Chile, and to a bomb sent earlier this year to a scientist at another Mexican university who specializes in nanotech. An analyst who helped identify the Unabomber—who turned out to be a former professor—says the posts show signs of someone well-educated who could be affiliated with a college.

The new group's latest package exploded in an office on the campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, outside of Mexico City, in early August. The blast wounded its intended target, Armando Herrera Corral, director of a technology-transfer center, which the group's manifesto said is key to the university's plan to promote research projects that "are relevant for the progress of nanobioindustry within the country." The explosion also wounded a nearby colleague, Alejandro Aceves López, director of the university's graduate school of engineering and science.

In the group's online post (written in Spanish) claiming credit for the latest bombing, the terrorists complained about the growing number of nanotechnology experts in Mexico, which it estimated at 650. "The ever more rapid acceleration of this technology will lead to the creation of nanocyborgs that can self-replicate automatically without the help of a human," it said.

While it's entirely possible that this "group" is actually one dude (in the gender-neutral sense of "dude"), I still think it's appropriate to use the label of "terrorism." When you carry out violent acts against non-combatants in an effort to scare a broad category of people or political entities into doing what you want, I think that counts as terrorism. That's a bit of a broad definition, and imperfect. But you get the idea. This, to me, goes well beyond simple "violent crime."

Mexico: another journalist killed

Today, another reporter was murdered in Mexico: Yolanda Ordaz, a crime reporter who was investigating the murder of her boss at Notiver, the daily newspaper where she worked. Her body "was found beheaded next to a message whose contents have not been disclosed." She is the 7th reporter killed in Mexico in 2011. More than 68 have been murdered since 2000. Related: the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has been mapping attacks on reporters in Mexico, which has emerged as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the press. Here is a map of attacks during 2010.

(via Rosental)