Society's ChildS

Light Saber

Public feminists, atheists, journalists and other activists: Living with the reality of death threats

death threat target
© AwayPoint
More than twenty years have passed, but Jonathan Hutson still vividly remembers one specific day during his stint as editor of a New Hampshire weekly.
[I was] writing a series on the titans of trash - about racketeering by the nation's two largest garbage haulers. A lawyer came to my office one day to convey a warning about my latest investigative reporting. "Jonathan, I hope I don't open up the pages of the Union Leader one day," he said, "to read that the editor of a certain weekly newspaper got into his car, turned over the ignition, and got blown sky high." "That shall not happen," I said. "How can you be so sure?" "Because I don't own a car."
To some extent the specter of violent death hangs over us all, lurking at the edge of consciousness most of the time, perhaps brought into focus by a mass shooting in which victims remind us of our children or friends, or of ourselves. Or maybe we are shaken by a local story about domestic violence, a murder suicide, a drive by, or road rage turned lethal.

For women in particular, the threat never completely disappears. A cartoon that made its way around Facebook underscores the point. On one side a thought bubble above a male figure reads, "What if she gave me a fake number?" On the other, a bubble above a female says, "What if he rapes and kills me?"

Mercifully, for most of us most of the time, the risk of violence seems small and distant. Even so, it can shape how we live. It can make us hesitate to say no. Or yes. It can make us hesitate to stay home alone. Or go out at night.

Or speak our minds.

Fear has the power to paralyze and silence even strong, determined people, which is why threats of violence are such a potent, common, and toxic presence in political discourse. Consequently, it is a wonder, and a gift to us all, when engaged citizens like Jonathan Huston refuse to be silenced.

Comment: Is there any more proof that "freedom of speech" or "freedom of conscience" is a myth in the West? We laud those with the courage of their convictions, applaud their actions even, but too often overlook the high price they and their families pay to be at the forefront of positive change.


Tragic accident: Two-year old fatally shoots his mother in an Idaho Walmart

© Dystopos
A two-year-old boy in an Idaho Walmart accidentally shot and killed his Mother on Tuesday, authorities said.

The woman, 29, was shopping in the Hayden, Idaho store with the boy and three other children when he reached into her purse and discharged the concealed weapon, the Associated Press reports. They were in the northern Idaho town to visit relatives. The store was closed following the shooting.


Czech veteran returns NATO medals - cites 'shame' for having served 'criminals'

nato medal
© wikipedia.orgThe NATO ISAF medal
A former military doctor who participated in missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan has asked the Czech Defense Ministry to take back his NATO medals, calling the North Atlantic alliance a "criminal organization" with "atrocious interests."

Lieutenant Colonel Marek Obrtel, former chief of the 11th Czech military hospital in Afghanistan, who also served in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, wrote to the Czech Defense Ministry and government in an open letter.

Obrtel said he was giving back four NATO medals he received for his role in international peacekeeping missions as he was "deeply ashamed" of having served in the organization, "led by the US with its monstrous interests around the world."

Comment: The lieutenant colonel has made a brave public gesture. It's frightening to speak the truth from the belly of the beast. More power to him.

Eye 1

Psychopathic Algorithm: Facebook apologizes for 'Year in Review'

If you've logged into Facebook at all in recent weeks, you may have been met with a prompt to "see what your year looked like" through an auto-generated timeline of photos you've shared on the social network in 2014.

This annual feature, called "Year in Review," is meant to highlight your "most significant moments" over the past 12 months based on which of your posts were engaged with (read: liked, shared, commented upon) the most.

For those who've enjoyed a good year, these customized social scrapbooks can serve as a pleasant reminder of everything celebrated and accomplished in 2014.


Buenos Aires: Orangutan, ruled a non-human person, will be freed from zoo

Sandra the orangutan
© APDo I not bleed? ... Sandra ponders life inside her enclosure at Buenos Aires' Zoo. She has lived her entire life in captivity.
An orangutan held in the Buenos Aires zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognized the ape as a "non-human person" unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported.

Animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition - a document more typically used to challenge the legality of a person's detention or imprisonment - in November on behalf of Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the zoo.

In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for more lawsuits, the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) argued the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object.

The court agreed Sandra, born into captivity in Germany before being transferred to Argentina two decades ago, deserved the basic rights of a "non-human person."

Comment: Zoos are little more than animal prisons. Hopefully, Sandra can live out the rest of her days in relative peace.


Philadelphia-Manchester flight is forced to make emergency landing after flames appear under the plane

A flight to Manchester was returned to Philadelphia yesterday after a suspected maintenance issue led to flames shooting out from under the plane and a series of loud banging noises
A passenger on a flight to Manchester that was returned to Philadelphia after an engine problem has told how he feared for his life after seeing flames shoot out from under the plane.

John Vien was on his way back to New Hampshire to visit his family for New Year's yesterday when the emergency happened.

Mr Vien, who was one of 75 passengers on the plane, said the mood inside the cabin quickly went from panic to hysteria. From his window seat he filmed the flames.

Stock Down

2014 in review: A look behind central economic control

Twelve short months ago, the immediate future looked like a lock. Overvalued equities had to fall, ridiculously-low interest rates had to rise, and beaten-down precious metals had to resume their bull market.

The evidence was overwhelming. Debt in the developed world had risen to $157 trillion, or 376% of GDP, by far the highest level on record and clearly unsustainable. Long-term US Treasury rates had been falling for literally three decades and despite a recent uptick were so low that the only way forward seemed to be up.

Europe and Japan were drifting into recessions that could easily morph into capital-D Depressions. The eurozone would fragment, Japanese bonds and probably stocks would crater, one or more major currencies would implode. No way to know which event would come first and in what order the other dominoes would fall, but without doubt something had to give.

Comment: The edge on which central economic control is walking is getting thinner and thinner - leading to an instability in which the house of cards collapses due to a (formerly) minor event. Much of the above is discussed in more detail in the following interview between Gordon T Long and John Rubino:


UK EasyJet flight makes emergency landing after pilot declares medical emergency

A plane travelling from Geneva to Manchester was diverted to Stansted due to an on-board medical emergency.

The Airbus landed at Stansted Airport shortly before 10.30pm last night, just under two hours after it set off from the Swiss airport.

The budget airline flight had been due to land at Manchester Airport at 11.45pm. The alarm was sounded as the plane flew over the English Channel and the pilot was forced into a rapid descent.


Thai Airways flight to London dumps fuel and returns to Bangkok due to 'hydraulic leak'

Passenger Matt Babai tweeted a photo of the plane dumping fuel before returning to an airport in Bangkok
A Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to London was forced to turn around and make an unscheduled landing after the plane experienced an apparent hydraulic leak.

The captain decided to abort the 12-hour journey and returned to Suvarnabhumi Airport in the Thai capital due to a fault that occurred shortly after take-off.

Passenger Matt Babai tweeted a photo of the plane dumping fuel as it circled over Thailand in a holding pattern, calling it an 'eerie few days for the aviation industry'.

Snowflake Cold

As temperatures plummet well below freezing, 5 homeless men die in France

france homeless
One 29-year-old man was found dead in the northern city of Douai on Saturday and two others died on Sunday, one 50-year-old man in Paris and a Belgian 46-year-old in south-eastern France.

All three apparently died of hypothermia, according to authorities.

After an unusually warm spell of weather, France has been gripped by a sudden freeze in the past few days, with the mercury dropping to minus 14C (7F) and as low as minus 22 in the mountains.

French authorities said they had offered the 29-year-old man emergency accommodation but he had "systematically declined the offer".

The 50-year-old Parisian had also been approached by authorities. He was found in a state of hypothermia and died when receiving first aid.

Comment: A tragic consequence of high unemployment and dire weather conditions:

15,000 vehicles trapped by snow and ice in Savoy, France

France unemployment total at new record high