on: Today at 08:18 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by dollydaydream|
Kristin, thank you for the further clarification of skipped steps.
on: Sep 24, 2016, 04:32 PM
|Started by Rad - Last post by The Otherside|
When ever I feel lost I turn to the paridym of JWG and I'm instantly soothed... It's like a lullaby to my Soul... Thank you
on: Sep 24, 2016, 10:46 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by ari moshe|
Thanks for sharing this Rad.
on: Sep 24, 2016, 09:21 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Superbugs evolve in waste water, and could end up in our food
24 Sep 2016 at 10:37 ET
We are heading into a post-antibiotic era, where common infections could once again be deadly. A phenomenon known as antimicrobial resistance threatens the heart of modern medicine.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when an antibiotic cannot do its job: killing bacteria. Bacteria become “resistant” to the drugs and continue to reproduce even at high dosages.
This is already happening. We are failing to treat infections, and patients are forced to stay longer in care facilities to overcome them. By 2050, antimicrobial resistance will cause ten million human fatalities annually and lead to a US$100 trillion loss in GDP worldwide.
The misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal husbandry to treat bacterial infections or to promote growth are placing our well-being at risk.
This is why global leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly this week to discuss the problem, and accepted an action plan to address it. To date, the only other health topics discussed at this level are HIV, non-communicable diseases and Ebola.
What’s the big deal?
Everywhere in the world, common infections are becoming resistant to the antimicrobial drugs used to treat them. Urinary tract infections and sexually transmittable diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, once curable with antibiotics, are now highly resistant. Few or none of the antibiotics are effective any more. Put simply, this means longer illnesses and more deaths.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are not showing enough interest in new drug discovery because often the time necessary for a strain of bacteria to develop resistance is shorter than the time needed to test and validate new drugs.
What can the UN achieve?
Implementing change is not possible without concerted action from all states. The meeting in New York is perfectly timed to escalate the issue to a level that befits the magnitude of the problem.
Action to change how antibiotics are used requires proper monitoring. No single country will be able help without coordination from international organisations. To help, the UN should ask for support from member states on data and awareness.
International regulations should be adopted immediately by member states and legally binding global surveillance requested. There is no time to wait – antibiotic resistance is a real threat and is fast reaching the point of no return.
Still missing from the picture
While the conversation on antibiotic resistance has started, one part of the story has not been highlighted. The risks to human and ecosystem health are strongly connected to poor water quality.
After we take an antibiotic to treat bacterial infections, the resistant bacteria in our bodies are excreted, and eventually reach a wastewater treatment plant. Sewers and treatment plants are the principal collectors of household and hospital waste, where mixtures of different types of bacteria create the optimal conditions for the spread of antibiotic resistance genes between bacteria.
Treatment plants bridge the gap between human and natural environments, so both resistant and non-resistant bacteria are able to reach the freshwater ecosystem. Studying wastewater represents a critical part of understanding the spread of antibiotic resistance, especially if treated wastewater is used as reclaimed water. With treated wastewater increasingly being used in agriculture to achieve sustainable water management in arid regions, resistant bacteria may find its way into our food as well.
What is required is a shift from a human health perspective to a systems perspective, taking into account these important environmental aspects.
Where do we go from here?
The action plan from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization declares that the health of all forms of life and the health of the environment are interconnected.
Taking it one step further, the strategy adopted for human and animal health should also include special regard to wastewater.
Water governs most of our activities, and only a comprehensive approach is capable of building an effective global resilience to this problem. By including wastewater to the global action plan, we might be able to slow down the process of developing and spread antibiotic resistance.
While we advocate for awareness, policy, and global standards, at the individual level, you can also take action. At your next doctor’s visit, be informed about antibiotics and take them only with prescription, and only if really necessary.
Serena Caucci, Researcher, United Nations University
on: Sep 24, 2016, 08:44 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Kristin|
I would like to offer some further thoughts on the nature of skipped steps, and how it can manifest in people's lives. One of the trickiest, and as a result, the most challenging turns one experiences when working through skipped steps is the feeling that the Soul has resolved what it has needed to, only to come to discover there are remaining remnants of more which is similar to pulling a weed out of the ground, and not getting all the way down to the bottom of its roots, it will undoubtedly return.
The Soul can be under the illusion that they are done, because in truth, the Soul may really desire to be done, but if there is anything left, it will keep repeating whether they want it to be done or not. It will always reveal the truth of where the Soul sits in this process. In other words, if the skipped step are truly resolved the Soul will simply not create any further circumstances which reflect what those skipped steps have been about. If such circumstances continue to manifest, in one form or way after the other, then those skipped steps have not been resolved. This can be very, very tricky because of the previous dynamics within the Soul that has caused the skipped steps in the first place.
Also, almost inevitably, when any Soul experiences a quantum leap in their personal evolution, a true feeling of release from the hard past, there will be something on the heels of the good growth that tries to undermine the positive steps taken. This in itself becomes yet another challenge. While this occurs for all Souls whether one is dealing with skipped steps or not, this experience can be particularly intense for someone with this signature because the groove in the record of resistance can be so deep, and the tendency to fall back on old patterns can be so tempting and fierce. Self determination will be essential and must become the Soul's front line of attack, especially when the Soul feels like forward steps taken may feel to be lost. It is in those moments when the Soul turns and faces the TRUTH of what it needs, with the inner gates wide open, that an acceleration of the Soul's evolution can take place, a true freedom feeling like no other.
It is important to remember that everything unresolved will be carried forward. If the Soul is not successful in getting all the way under the repeating theme, which will require the individual to EMOTIONALLY work all the way through this dynamic, it will be carried into the next, which is why it can take lifetimes to work through.
As it relates to the example that Rad shared here with Venus in the 7th square the Nodes, South Node in the 4th and North Node in the 10th, this Soul will continue to pull in relationships where they are forever feeling thrown back upon themselves, also in cases where they may feel they are giving more than they are getting, and that painful feeling of 'expectations not met' presents let down after let down. This Soul has set this up so they are forced to inwardly mature, to establish their own inner sense of security versus feeling as if thy need to be filled up by another, leaning too heavily on parents or partners for sustenance and comfort.
The very nature of the type of Soul this person will be attracting will force this theme to repeat BECAUSE of the very energy of NEED that the Soul is emanating. The Soul has no choice but to look TO and lean ON themselves. In time, through repeated experiences along these lines, the inner growth can occur as the Soul creates a new groove for itself, the Soul turns IN for strength versus looking OUTside of themselves for someone to complete them or to fix a feeling.
The true marker of knowing that growth has been gained in this case is for the Soul to carry an energy that says, "I do not need you to feel happy or whole, I am whole unto myself, I am here because I want to be, not out of need." At this point, the types of relationships this Soul would then be pulling in will be rooted far more in equality, because of the inner balance that has been established. While the balance does not occur over night, so too will this Soul be experiencing a progression of evolution in terms of the nature of the relationships that they call in.
If that same old theme stops repeating, the Soul will know it is well on its way.
on: Sep 24, 2016, 06:20 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
The lies Trump told this week: drugs are a 'big factor' in North Carolina protests
From touting the successes of stop and frisk in New York to the state of African American communities across the US, here’s a fact check of Trump’s statements
Friday 23 September 2016 15.37 BST
“That was never said, you know that.” – 22 September, Philadelphia.
Only a few hours before he visited Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia, Trump told a crowd – and rolling cameras – in Pittsburgh that “drugs are a very, very big factor in what you’re watching on television at night”, referring to riots against police abuses in Charlotte, North Carolina, the night before.
He denied having said this to a reporter who asked him about it in Philadelphia. He added, as if in support of his original statement: “Drugs are a big problem all over the country. They’re flowing in like never before. Drugs are a big, big problem.”
“I think stop and frisk, in New York City, it was so incredible, the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor. But New York City was incredible the way it worked.” – 21 September, on Fox News.
Who supports Donald Trump? The new Republican center of gravity
The controversial police tactic of stop and frisk, which became a hallmark of New York policing through the mayorships of Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, has landed the city in federal court, where a judge ruled it unconstitutional. One research paper, unpublished through peer review, found modest drops in some crimes. A second paper, published through peer review, found problems in the first study and “few significant effects” of the tactic.
A New York Civil Liberties Union report, on 12 years’ worth of police data, found young black and Hispanic men were targeted for stops at a vastly higher proportion than white men: more than half the people searched were black and about 30% were Hispanic. Among more than 5m stops during the Bloomberg administration, police found a gun less than 0.02% of the time, according to the report. NYPD records between 2004 and 2012 show similar figures: in 4.4m stops, weapons were seized from 1.0% of black people, 1.1% from Hispanic people and 1.4% of white people.
New York’s long-term decline in crime rates began before Giuliani took office in the 1994, and its causes were and are diverse: data-driven policing with the Compstat system, the growth of the police force by 35% over the decade, incarceration increases by 24%, and the 39% unemployment decline that matched with national economic growth. Not even the loudest supporters of stop and frisk, including Bloomberg, whose last term Trump has called “a disaster”, have argued the tactic alone reduced crime to its current lows.
Trump also told Fox and Friends stop-and-frisk would let police “look and they will take the gun away” from people, which seems to fly in the face of his avowed support for gun rights for legal owners by ceding authority to police to decide “who shouldn’t be having a gun”.
“Our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever.” – 20 September, Kenansville, North Carolina.
This statement defies most of American history, and if meant to refer to the past 50 years it is still wrong by most if not all metrics. Trump’s surrogates have argued that his use of the word “ever” did not actually include the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, the Great Depression and segregation – nearly two full centuries from 1776 through the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1968.
Data on employment, education and health show empirical evidence for the persistent reality of discrimination against black Americans, but also show major gains in the last few decades. In 2015, black people earned just 75% as much as whites in median hourly earnings, whether full- or part-time, according to a Pew Research analysis. The black unemployment rate in August 2016 was 8.1%, compared with 4.4% for white people, but still lower than for most of the last 40 years. Black life expectancy has increased from the mid-30s around 1900 to the mid-70s in 2016, according to the CDC. Education rates have similarly increased in the last 40 years, according to the census.
“Fifty-eight percent of African American youth are not working. Can’t get a job.” 16 September 2016, Miami.
The August unemployment rate for African Americans aged 16-19 was 26.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For young black people in a slightly wider age range, the rate was 20.6% in July, compared with 9.9% of young white people.
Trump may have used a statistic called the “employment-population ratio”, which was 45.2% in August for black people aged 16-24, but this figure includes everyone, including high school and college students who aren’t looking for work. The ratio for white people in this group was 54.2% in August. Trump ignores who is looking for work and who is not.
“It can’t get any worse. The crime. The jobs. No jobs. Worst education. More unsafe. You go to Afghanistan, right? We hear Afghanistan. I mean, we have cities that are far more dangerous than Afghanistan. Inner cities.” – 16 September 2016, Miami.
Trump often cites Chicago’s shooting crisis as evidence that the US is plagued by dangerous crime, but even that city, which has the most homicides in the US, does not compare to Afghanistan. In 2015, Chicago had 2,988 people who were victims of gun violence, according to the Chicago Tribune, and 488 homicides in all. The city has more than 500 homicides so far this year, per the paper, and more than 2,100 victims of gun violence.
In Afghanistan between January and June 2016, 1,601 civilians have been killed and 3,565 injured, according to the United Nations. The figures include 388 killed and 1,121 injured children. The UN reported 3,545 civilians killed and 7,457 injured in 2015. More than 80,000 people have been displaced by violence this year. The US and Afghan forces control only about 70% of the country, while the Taliban and militants control the other 30%, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff told the Senate on Thursday.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.” – 16 September, Washington DC.
There is no evidence that Clinton or her campaign had anything to do with the false rumors that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, nor did Clinton have anything to do with Donald Trump’s five years of questions about birth certificates, which he finally recanted last Friday.
Trump’s campaign has tried to blame several people who were, if at all, tangentially related to the Clinton campaign. A former aide named Mark Penn wrote a 2007 memo that Obama’s “lack of American roots” could “hold him back”. But he added: “We are never going to say anything about his background.” The Clinton campaign never acted on his advice, and he was dismissed in April 2008.
Some Clinton supporters have been blamed over anonymous chain emails questioning Obama’s citizenship, but none of the rumormongers were linked to the campaign. Philip Berg, a former Pennsylvania official who supported Clinton, filed a lawsuit in 2008 over Obama’s birth certificate; the suit was thrown out because it was groundless. Sidney Blumenthal, an old friend of the Clintons who frequently sent them unsolicited advice, reportedly asked reporters to investigate Obama’s birth, but he has denied this and denounced the conspiracy.
As fellow fact-checkers at Politifact have noted, a Texas volunteer for Clinton named Linda Starr eventually joined Berg’s failed lawsuit; there is nothing to suggest Starr had any influence in the campaign at any level. Campaign volunteers who forwarded emails falsely alleging Obama is Muslim resigned when they were found out.
‘You want to punch his face’: New ad full of sexist Trump quotes leaves Morning Joe panel seething
23 Sep 2016 at 09:51 ET
The Clinton campaign put out a new ad this week called “Mirrors” that shows young women looking at themselves in the mirror while clips of Donald Trump saying horribly sexist things play in the background.
Past Trump quotes played in the ad include:
“I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers.”
“She’s a slob, she ate like a pig.”
“A person who is flat-chested, it’s very hard to be a 10.”
At the end, the ad asks people to consider, “Is this the president we want for our daughters?”
MSNBC’s Morning Joe panel showed the ad this morning and they thought it was very effective — so effective, in fact, that some panelists had a visceral reaction to it.
“You grow up as a young girl and a young woman in America, and the first thing that you’re hit with as a girl is all those types of things,” said co-host Mika Brzezinski. “And it hurts.”
Panelist Donny Deutsch took things a step further.
“You want to punch him in that ad,” he said. “You want to literally punch his face… to me, the biggest concern about a Trump presidency, beyond the nuclear codes, is how does it set up for our behavior?… He is setting the mark for what is appropriate, acceptable and even aspirational behavior.”
New York Times reporter Nick Confessore’s reaction to the ad wasn’t quite as violent as Deutsch’s, but it was still very direct.
“I have two daughters, I feel that ad right here,” he said while pointing at his heart.
Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZueTaJO0pWg
New bombshell: Trump committed perjury or lied about trying to bribe Jeb — ‘there’s no third option’
23 Sep 2016 at 13:24 ET
Donald Trump committed perjury. Or he looked into the faces of the Republican faithful and knowingly lied. There is no third option.
It has become an accepted reality of this presidential campaign that Trump spins a near-endless series of falsehoods. For months, the media has struggled with this unprecedented situation—a candidate who, unlike other politicians who stretch the truth, simply creates his own reality. Trumps regularly peddles “facts” that aren’t true, describes events that never happened or denies engaging in actions that everyone saw him do. He utters his falsehoods so fast that before reporters have the chance to correct one, he has tossed out five or six more.
This time, it is different. Trump can’t skip past his perfidy here. There are two records—one, a previously undisclosed deposition of the Republican nominee testifying under oath, and the second a transcript/video of a Republican presidential debate. In them, Trump tells contradictory versions of the same story with the clashing accounts tailored to provide what he wanted people to believe when he was speaking.
This fib matters far more than whether Trump was honest about why he abandoned his birther movement or the corollary fib that Hillary Clinton started the racist story that President Obama was born in Kenya. In the lie we are examining here, Trump either committed a felony or proved himself willing to deceive his followers whenever it suits him.
Trump told the public version of this story last year, during the second Republican presidential debate.
Trump had been boasting for weeks at his rallies that he knew the political system better than anyone, because he had essentially bought off politicians for decades by giving them campaign contributions when he wanted something. He also proclaimed that only he—as an outsider who had participated in such corruption of American democracy at a high level—could clean it up. During the September 2015 debate, one of Trump’s rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, verified Trump’s claim, saying the billionaire had tried to buy him off with favors and contributions when he was Florida’s governor.
"The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something—that was generous and gave me money—was Donald Trump,” Bush said. “He wanted casino gambling in Florida."
Trump interrupted Bush:
Trump: I didn’t—
Bush: Yes, you did.
Trump: Totally false.
Bush: You wanted it, and you didn’t get it, because I was opposed to—
Trump: I would have gotten it.
Bush: Casino gambling before—
Trump: I promise, I would have gotten it.
Bush: During and after. I’m not going to be bought by anybody.
Trump: I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.
Bush: No way. Believe me.
Trump: I know my people.
Bush: Not even possible.
Trump: I know my people.
If Trump was telling the truth that night, so be it. But if he was lying, what was his purpose? His “If I wanted it, I would have gotten it,” line may be a hint. Contrary to his many vague stories on the campaign trail about being a cash-doling political puppet master, this story has a name, a specific goal and ends in failure. If Bush was telling the truth, then Trump would have had to admit he lost a round and, as he assured the audience, that would not have happened. When he wants something, he gets it.
But that wasn’t the point he needed to make in 2007. The deposition was part of a lawsuit he’d filed against Richard Fields, who Trump had hired to manage the expansion of his casino business into Florida. In the suit, Trump claimed that Fields had quit and taken all of the information he obtained while working for Trump to another company. Under oath, Trump said he did want to get into casino gambling in Florida but didn’t because he had been cheated by Fields.
A lawyer asked Trump, “Did you yourself do anything to obtain any of the details with respect to the Florida gaming environment, what approvals were needed and so forth?”
Trump: A little bit.
Lawyer: What did you do?
Trump: I actually spoke with Governor-Elect Bush; I had a big fundraiser for Governor-Elect Bush…and I think it was his most successful fundraiser, the most successful that he had had up until that point, that was in Trump Tower in New York on Fifth Avenue.
Lawyer: When was that?
Trump: Sometime prior to his election.
Lawyer: You knew that Governor Bush, Jeb Bush at that time, was opposed to expansion of gaming in Florida, didn't you?
Trump: I thought that he could be convinced otherwise.
Lawyer: But you didn't change his mind about his anti-gaming stance, did you?
Trump: Well, I never really had that much of an opportunity because Fields resigned, telling me you could never get what we wanted done, only to do it for another company.
One of these stories is a lie—a detailed, self-serving fabrication. But unlike the mountain of other lies he has told, this time the character trait that leads to Trump’s mendacity is on full display: He makes things up when he doesn’t want to admit he lost.
Assume the story he told at the debate is the lie. Even though Bush’s story reinforced what Trump was saying at rallies—he had played the “cash for outcomes” political game for years—he could not admit he had tried to do the same in Florida because he could not bring himself to say that he had lost. Instead, he looked America in the eye and lied. And then he felt compelled to stack on another boast: His people are so wonderful that they would have gotten casino gambling in Florida, regardless of Bush’s opposition—if Trump had wanted it.
Now consider the other option, that Trump committed perjury in the 2007 testimony. There, he admitted pushing for casino gambling in Florida, but said he would have gotten what he wanted if he hadn’t been tricked by Fields. The rationale for the perjurious testimony is simple—Trump wants money from a man who stopped working for him and, once again, the story lets him deny he is anything less than perfect.
No question, these two stories must be investigated if there is ever a President Trump. In their impeachment of President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about an extramarital affair, Republicans established the standard that failing to tell the truth while testifying—even in the most understandable of circumstances—rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. Surely perjury for pecuniary purposes or to inflate one’s self-image cannot be ignored.
Finally, the lie here matters because it shows how shameless Trump is and how reckless. He told this lie even though he knew he was standing next to a credible witness—Bush—who could contradict him, and gambled that no one would discover his sworn testimony.
Trump’s penchant for this type of baldfaced lying could undermine American foreign policy—when he meets with a foreign official, will he try to deceive the world about what happened? That question already came into play in early September when Trump flew to Mexico to talk with that country’s president in a bizarre publicity stunt. He came out of the meeting and declared the two had never discussed his signature issue—that he would compel the Mexican government to pay for a wall along America’s southern border. Before an hour passed, a Mexican official declared that Trump’s statement was false, and that President Enrique Peña Nieto had told the Republican nominee that his country would never pony up the cash for the wall. Either Trump lied or Peña Nieto did. The government of Mexico—one of America’s most important trading partners and allies—knows whether a President Trump will be trustworthy or will lie out of convenience, on matters large or small. Shouldn’t the American public know the same before it votes in November?
Trump must be called upon to answer the troubling questions raised by the episode regarding Bush and gambling in Florida: Is the Republican nominee a perjurer or just a liar? If he refuses to answer—just as he has refused to address almost every other question about his character and background—Trump supporters must carefully consider whether they want to vote for a man who at best has treated them like fools over the past year, and who at worst, committed a crime
on: Sep 24, 2016, 06:10 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Political violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – in pictures
Police and demonstrators have clashed in the DRC in the latest round of violence sparked by an ongoing political crisis in the troubled central African state. President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001, is banned under the constitution from running again but has given no inclination he will stand down in December
Friday 23 September 2016
Click to view: https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2016/sep/23/political-violence-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-in-pictures
on: Sep 24, 2016, 06:07 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
America's war: The killing of Jaiden Dixon and Tyler Dunn
On Saturday 23 November 2013, 10 children died after being shot. It was just another day in America. In an exclusive extract from his new book, Gary Younge chronicles two short lives
Saturday 24 September 2016 08.00 BST
The most common adjective employed by weather reporters on Saturday 23 November 2013 was “treacherous”. But in reality there was not a hint of betrayal about it. The day was every bit as foul as one would expect the week before Thanksgiving. A Nordic outbreak of snow, rain and high winds barrelled through the desert states and northern plains towards the midwest.
There was precious little in the news to distract anyone from the weather. A poll gave Barack Obama his lowest approval ratings in years. The same day, he announced a tentative deal with Iran over its nuclear programme. That night, Fox News was the most popular cable news channel; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the highest-grossing movie.
It was just another day in America. And as befits an unremarkable Saturday, 10 children and teens were killed by gunfire. They died in altercations at gas stations, accidents in bedrooms, standing on stairwells and walking down the street, in gangland hits and by mistaken identity. Like the weather, none of them would make the national news because, like the weather, their deaths did not disturb the accepted order of things. Every day, on average, seven children and teens are killed by guns in America. Firearms are the leading cause of death among black children under 19, and the second greatest cause of death for all children of the same age, after car accidents.
Kids killed by guns: America’s daily nightmare..Video by Laurence Topham: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/global/video/2016/sep/23/kids-killed-by-guns-americas-daily-nightmare-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
I picked this day at random, and spent two years trying to find out who these children were. I searched for their parents, pastors, baseball coaches, and scoured their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The youngest child was nine, the oldest 19.
Four years ago, for a moment, there was considerable interest in the fact that large numbers of Americans were being fatally shot. On 14 December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 20 small children and six staff dead. Mass shootings comprise a small proportion of gun violence, but they disturb America’s self-image in a way that the daily torrent of gun deaths does not. “Seeing the massacre of so many innocent children … it’s changed America,” said the Democrat senator Joe Manchin, who championed a tepid gun-control bill. “We’ve never seen this happen.”
The truth is, it’s happening every day, only most do not see it; 23 November 2013 was just one of those days. Here are two of the boys’ (they were all boys) stories.
School mornings in Nicole Fitzpatrick’s home followed a predictable routine. As soon as her three sons – Jarid, 17, Jordin, 16, and Jaiden, nine – heard her footsteps, they would pull the covers over their heads because they knew what was coming: the lights. The older two would take this as a cue for the inevitable and get up. But Jaiden would try to string it out. He would climb into his mother’s bed. Then came the cajoling. “I’d tickle him,” Nicole says. “I’d pull him by his ankle.” They had a deal. If he could get himself ready – “all the way ready: socks, shoes, shirt, everything” – the rest of the morning was his. “He could play Minecraft, watch Duck Dynasty.”
It was Friday 22 November, the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination, and the papers were full of nostalgia for the nation’s lost innocence. They might have found it on Nicole’s street in Grove City, a dependably humdrum suburb of Columbus, crowned “best hometown” in central Ohio that year. It was its dependability that convinced people to stay. Nicole went to school with the parents of the children her kids went to school with.
Jaiden was ready that morning with time to spare. When Nicole threw him his socks, he threw them back, telling her he wanted to try out as a pitcher for his baseball team. He was playing on his Xbox when, shortly after 7.30am, the doorbell rang. This was not part of the routine, but nor was it out of the ordinary. The teenage girls at the end of the road would pop around if they were short of sugar or needed a lift.
Slowly, curiously, Jaiden walked around the door. That’s when Nicole heard the 'pop'
Jaiden opened the door gingerly, hiding behind it, poised to jump out and shout, “Boo!” when one of the girls showed her face. But nobody stepped forward. Time was suspended as the minor commotion of an unexpected visitor failed to materialise. Nicole craned her neck into the cleft of silence to find out who it was. She looked to Jarid; Jarid shrugged.
Slowly, curiously, Jaiden walked around the door. That’s when Nicole heard the “pop”. Her first thought was, “Why are these girls popping a balloon? What are they trying to do, scare me to death?” But then she saw Jaiden’s head snap back, first once, then twice, before he hit the floor. “It was just real quiet. It was like everything stopped. And I remember staring at Jarid.” She knew what had happened. It was Danny.
Danny Thornton was Jarid’s father. Nicole had met him years earlier at Sears, where he made keys. She was 19; he was 28. “We were never really together,” she says. “It was a back-and-forth kind of thing.” She hadn’t seen him since July. He’d found her over a year earlier, in January 2012, when he was in need of help. “He was getting ready to be evicted, and we decided to let him stay. He could spend time with Jarid and keep him under control, and I could help him get a job.”
While he was staying, Danny got to know Jaiden. He took him bowling. He told Nicole that Jaiden made him laugh, even that he preferred him to his own son.
But Nicole needed her room back. That made Danny angry, and he didn’t deal with anger well. His criminal history included charges of felonious assault, domestic violence, attempted possession of drugs and carrying a concealed weapon. He was also a semi-pro, super-middleweight boxer, 5ft 11in and around 160lb, who favoured the southpaw stance: right hand and right foot forward, leading with right jabs, and following up with a left cross, right hook. “He moved all his stuff out,” Nicole says. “I don’t know where. I didn’t care.”
What she also didn’t know for some time was that, as he was packing, he told Jarid, “I have no problem making you an orphan. I’m not going to be living out of my car at 47. I have no problem shooting your mom and shooting your brothers.” He’d end his life in a shootout with the cops, he said.
Danny had talked to her about shooting other people. “He had twins. He was pissed off with the mom for filing child support on him. And he talked about if he knew where she lived, he’d shoot her and shoot the babies,” Nicole’s best friend, Amy Sanders, tells me. “He had a list – an actual, physical list – of people he wanted to kill. Nicole always thought if she was nice to him, she wouldn’t be on his list. And unfortunately she was the first one.”
Jarid didn’t tell his mother what Danny had said until September. “I stopped dead in my tracks,” Nicole says. “I said, ‘Jarid, he’s going to kill me.’ And Jarid said, ‘He’s just blowing off steam.’ I was petrified.” But time passed, and she began to wonder if Jarid was right.
Then Danny’s mobile phone subscription expired. Nicole had been paying it, but Christmas was approaching and she couldn’t afford it. On 20 November she wrote a text telling him his contract was up: “The phone’s yours. You can go and turn it on at any provider.” The message sat on her phone for a while, unsent. “I knew what he was capable of,” she says. “But I had to look out for my kids. I had to look out for me.” She pressed send.
He replied within an hour: “What fucking took you so long?”
Nicole forwarded the message to Amy. “I swear he’s gonna kill me one day,” Nicole texted. “In two years, when nobody suspects him.”
Two days later, this was the man who sped away in a blue Toyota, leaving Jaiden with a bullet in his skull. “And I struggle to try and understand,” Nicole says. “Did he shoot whoever answered the door, or was Jaiden his target? Because, honestly, he could have stepped one foot in that house and shot me, shot Jarid, shot Jordin.” Jarid fled the house, asking a neighbour to call 911. Once he got hold of the emergency services, he could barely make himself understood.
“Sir, please calm down so I can understand what you’re saying,” the operator says. “We’ve got to learn what’s going on.”
“My dad just shot my baby brother,” Jarid replies.
“Who shot him?”
“Danny Thornton. D-a-n-n-y T-h-o-r-n-t-o-n.” There is desperation and the occasional expletive interspersed with formal niceties: “Sir”, “Ma’am”, “fuck”, “please God”.
“C’mon, Jaiden. C’mon, baby.”
Nicole did her best to focus. She put one hand over the wound and the other on the back of Jaiden’s head, where she could feel the bullet. She scooped him up, then laid him back down. Still unconscious, Jaiden lifted his left arm three or four inches off the ground and let it fall.
“I freaked out,” Nicole says. “I said, ‘He’s still alive. He’s still OK.’ I was thinking, this is what they do on TV. CPR. Mouth to mouth. And all it was, was just gurgle…”
The emergency services arrived and took over. Nicole felt there was still hope. “I hugged the boys and was saying, ‘Be strong. We’ll get to the hospital and get him fixed.’ I kept thinking, ‘Just get him to surgery, get the bullet out.’”
With Danny’s whereabouts still unknown, the suburb’s security apparatus curled into a tight foetal ball. Within five minutes of the first 911 call, Highland Park Elementary, just one block away, went into lockdown. School hadn’t started, so the police diverted buses and told parents arriving in cars to take their children home.
But Danny was long gone, heading eastbound on Interstate 270 to Groveport, 20 minutes away, where his ex-partner, Vicki Vertin, with whom he had an 18-year-old daughter, worked as a dental hygienist. Vicki came out to meet him in the lobby. She hadn’t seen Danny for 12 years, but still lived in fear of his temper. He was wearing a grey hoodie and had his hands in the front pocket. “Haven’t seen you in a while,” Vicki told him. Danny took out his gun and shot her in the stomach.
By now, the 911 dispatch office was in overdrive. Calls were pouring in. One of Vicki’s co-workers was on the line. It took them six minutes to link the two shootings. Two of Danny’s friends also called the police. He’d told them that he’d “killed two people and that he’s not going back to jail”, and “he will not go down without a fight with police”. More schools went into lockdown. Vicki’s family were taken to a protective room.
Nicole, meanwhile, had arrived at the hospital. Detectives pulled her aside to ask if she had any idea where Danny would be going. That was when she found out he’d shot somebody else.
An hour and 45 minutes after he shot Vicki, Danny was traced to a Walmart parking lot. It was 9.46am. A shootout ensued in which one policeman was injured and Danny finally got his wish: suicide by cop.
I keep replaying seeing him falling to the ground. I keep replaying: ‘I should have done this, I should have done that'
Vicki’s first thought when she woke from surgery was that he could still be out there. ‘“Did they get him?” she asked her dad. “No,” he replied. She tried to get out of bed: “Oh my God, he’s coming back.” Her father clarified: Danny had been shot dead. It was the first time in years she’d felt safe.
Across town, Nicole was told that Jaiden wouldn’t make it. The neurologist told her that Jaiden’s CT scan was one of the worst she’d ever seen. The bullet had taken a path straight to the back of his brain, where it had ricocheted, causing irreparable damage. They put Jaiden on a ventilator while a decision was made about organ donation. “I don’t remember feeling anything,” Nicole says. “All I remember is having this image of him in his shoes. He’d just put his shoes on, and his T-shirt was on the floor. And now he’s in a hospital gown with a thing down his throat. All in about an hour or so.”
Jaiden was pronounced dead at 3.47pm the next day. Until they wheeled him away to the operating room, Nicole kept it together, but witnessing that was too much to bear. “I couldn’t see the doors close,” she says. “It was almost like they were taking him to have his tonsils out.” She had been up for 45 hours. “I just remember breaking down and crying, and then somebody put me in a wheelchair and took me out. I didn’t go back to the hospital at all.”
The fog did not clear until the viewing. “It was maybe a week after he died,” she recalls. “He was lying in his casket. And because I’d been able to touch him so much at the hospital, I went right up and kissed him, and I grabbed his hand and it was cold as stone and hard. That was when the reality hit me: Oh my God. My baby’s gone.”
Nicole’s world is now divided into before and after. “It was like, before I was in a theatre watching this movie, and since then it’s been like walking into a parking lot and trying to adjust to the bright lights from being so engrossed in this movie for so long.”
It’s not as though the movie was necessarily uplifting. As a single mother of three, she remembers being exhausted, overwhelmed and, at times, very down. “There were nights when I would come home and just order pizza because I didn’t feel like cooking. And I would stare at the TV, and Jaiden would be out or upstairs or whatever. And I wish I’d gone and played with them.”
The first time I met Nicole was in her office, four months after Jaiden’s death. It was her birthday, but she hadn’t let on to her co-workers and had no plans. She was wearing a hoodie bearing Jaiden’s name and face and the word legendary. Her friend had set up a website so they could sell them to raise funds. But she found it difficult to see his face. “I have school pictures in the living room over the mantel. I catch myself diverting my attention so that I don’t have to look.” She was in therapy, but struggling with the advice. “They keep saying that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. They keep saying, ‘It’ll get better.’ But I’m kind of at the point where I don’t see it.”
Five months later, she still couldn’t see it. We had dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse and went back to her house to meet friends. If anything, she was in a darker place. Most evenings she stayed up late to avoid going to sleep. Her mind kept whirring – an apparently endless loop of what-ifs and horror sequences. “I keep replaying seeing him falling to the ground. I keep replaying: ‘I should have done this, I should have done that. I should have opened the door.’”
In the reception area of St Joseph’s Cemetery, where Jaiden is buried, a range of pamphlets is assembled to assist the bereaved: Losing Your Mom, Losing Your Dad, Talking With Your Kids About Funerals, Grieving The Death Of A Grown Son Or Daughter, to name but a few. There is pretty much every permutation of grief but one – a pamphlet entitled Losing Your Young Child. Because that’s not supposed to happen.
Sanilac County has a lower population density than Finland and is slightly less racially diverse than Norway (it is over 95% white). According to Michigan’s department of agriculture, Sanilac leads the state in the acreage devoted to soy, corn, wheat, dairy farms and general cattle operations. Straight roads lead past silos, Dutch barns, grazing livestock and fallow fields, interspersed with the occasional township and homestead.
Marlette, population 1,879, is Sanilac’s third-biggest town and a 25-minute drive from the county seat of Sandusky. The shiny blue water tower bearing the town’s name announces itself from afar to the left, while McDonald’s golden arches peer over the trees to the right. Brittany Dunn, 20, wouldn’t be anywhere else. “I’d rather live here than in the city,” she says.
“It’s more laid-back,” agrees her grandmother, Janet Allen.
I am sitting in a pizzeria with four generations of the Dunn family: Janet, Lora Dunn Bartz (Janet’s daughter), Brittany (Lora’s daughter) and Ciannah (Brittany’s seven-month-old baby), as well as Thomas Bartz, Lora’s husband.
This vast expanse of land was Tyler Dunn’s playground. To a city dweller like me, the 11-year-old sounds like a character from Mark Twain. He loved trapping animals, hunting, catching fish in the creek behind the house, four-wheeling and dirt-biking in the summer, sledding in the winter. The Dunns lived three miles down a dirt road off Highway 53. Several miles from the nearest traffic light, even streetlight, and surrounded by fields, he was safe to do his own thing.
That year, deer hunting season started on 15 November, pheasant shooting on the 20th. “Tradition here is that the opening day you can just about close all the schools, because the kids are going hunting,” Sanilac County sheriff Garry Biniecki tells me. But with the exception of Tyler, hunting season didn’t particularly excite the Dunns. None of his immediate family hunted, and although Tyler enjoyed field sports, there is little evidence he was particularly good at them. One winter, Brittany’s boyfriend took Tyler trapping, but for more regular hunting trips Tyler turned to his friend Brandon.
Brandon (not his real name) lived about a mile away, on a dirt road off Tyler’s. Brandon, who was 12, would sometimes pick up Tyler on his go-kart, and they would roam the neighbourhood. They had been friends since kindergarten, but weren’t inseparable. Once, Lora told Tyler he could no longer play with Brandon after Brandon abandoned him in town and went off with another friend.
Brandon was living with his father Jerry, who owned a trucking company. Jerry often took his son hunting and occasionally trucking, too. If Tyler was over, Jerry would take them both. Jerry’s truck runs, ferrying milk and topsoil around the midwest, usually took him away for 11 hours at a time. He’d give the boys some money to help him out. Sometimes Jerry would have them sit up front; at other times, they’d be in the back playing video games. Tyler loved it.
On Thursday 21 November, Jerry had taken the boys hunting. Tyler had slept over on Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon the boys were scheduled to accompany Jerry in the truck down to Springfield, Ohio, 260 miles south and back. Lora dropped Tyler’s bike off at the house around 2pm, but the boys never used it because it was too cold: –8C, with winds of over 25 miles an hour.
Shortly before Jerry was about to leave, the boys said they wanted to stay home. He left them to it. He made this trip as often as three times a week, and Brandon took care of himself fine. Lora didn’t know that by the time she dropped the bike off, Jerry was already gone. “Tyler knew he wasn’t allowed there unless there was supervision,” she says. But he didn’t call, and nor did Jerry. Lora went out with Thomas to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday 90 minutes away in Union Lake. Jerry checked in with the boys a few times. The last time Brandon called Jerry was around 6.30pm, to ask if he could order pizza.
Almost two hours later, Brandon walked out of the house with his hands up, wearing red shorts with no shirt or socks, the police telling him to keep his hands where they could see them. He had just called 911 and told them he had shot Tyler.
“Do you have any weapons?” the policeman yelled.
“No,” Brandon said. “It’s on the kitchen floor.”
I would want eye for eye. Brandon needs to be gone. I don’t think he should be able to live his life
A policeman walked Brandon to his car as he pleaded: “It was an accident. I didn’t know the gun was loaded.”
An officer went inside, where he found a lever-action rifle on the kitchen floor and Tyler on the dining-room floor, in a Mountain Dew T-shirt and sweatpants, with a large pool of blood surrounding his head. There was a huge wound on the left side of his head. The policeman found no pulse, called dispatch, and told them Tyler was dead. As he left, he saw a shotgun lying on the living room couch and four holes in the dining-room window.
Nobody but Brandon will ever know for sure what happened that night, Sheriff Biniecki says. Brandon claims they were playing Xbox when he got a rifle out of Jerry’s closet to show Tyler. He asked Tyler to hold it while he went to get his milkshake from the bedroom. He came back and took the rifle from Tyler, who passed it to him butt first, the muzzle pointing in Tyler’s direction. Brandon was resting it against the wall when the gun got caught on his pocket and went off.
Brandon sat in the car while police combed the house. He’d been crying and was visibly shaken. When they searched him, they found two 12-gauge Remington buckshot shells and a mobile phone. There was blood on his hands and on the phone. When asked how he’d come by the shells, Brandon said he’d found them earlier that day and stuck them in his pocket for safekeeping.
Inside the property, the police found a veritable arsenal. In Brandon’s room was a Remington 1100 shotgun, loaded and perched against the dresser with one round in the chamber and four in reserve. There were two more single-shot shotguns near the closet. In the top dresser drawer, there was some marijuana in tin foil and two rolled joints. When asked later how many guns he had in the house, Jerry couldn’t remember. First he said seven or eight, then between five and 10.
Brandon didn’t know Tyler’s address, but he could describe his house. The police went there to find only his sisters at home, who told them to call their grandmother. Janet came shortly after midnight and was told the news. She called Lora. There was no reply: she’d left her phone in the car to charge. When she came out, she saw several missed calls and dialled Janet.
“Are you on your way home?” her mother asked.
“No – why?” Lora replied.
“I think you need to come home.”
She wouldn’t explain why, but that didn’t unduly concern Lora. She assumed her daughters had thrown a party and got caught.
Night falls heavy in Sanilac County, cloaking the land in uncluttered darkness. On dirt roads with no street lamps for miles, the flashing lights of stationary police vehicles announce themselves with the force of a lighthouse. On the way to her mother’s house, Lora saw the lights on Brandon’s road and drove towards them.
She called her mother. “Mom, do you have Tyler?”
“I think you’d better just come here,” Janet said.
“And then she put the police officer on the phone,” Lora recalls.
“Don’t go there. Just come here,” she told her, and Lora obliged.
“There’s been an accident,” the policewoman said when she got to the house.
“OK,” Lora said.
“Your son’s in Lapeer county hospital.”
“OK,” Lora said. “Why didn’t you tell me, because I just came through Lapeer?”
“No, Lora,” the policewoman said. “He’s been shot and killed.”
While Lora was halfway home, Jerry was at the sheriff’s office in Sandusky. It was 2am. He had been called and asked to pick Brandon up. The police asked him whether there were any custody issues between him and Brandon’s mother, Connie, and whether he often left his son alone. Asked if any of his weapons were loaded, he said they might have been. Finally, they asked if Brandon had taken hunter safety classes. Jerry said he was doing the apprenticeship programme, in which a child aged 10 or more can hunt for two years without a safety certificate if with an adult. Beyond that, he had given basic instructions. “I told him to hold the gun with the barrel pointing in the air. Never to point the gun at anyone, and never put any shells in the gun unless you are outside.”
How the gun got into Brandon’s bedroom was a mystery to Jerry. He thought it had originally been in the living room and didn’t remember moving it. All the guns were his, apart from the 20-gauge, which he’d bought Brandon. He said the .30-30 rifle that killed Tyler had been in his closet the whole time; he’d put three rounds in it a year earlier and not touched it since. It was only then that Jerry was told why Brandon was there.
Guns were more available in Brandon and Tyler’s world than for any of the day’s other victims
Had Brandon not shot Tyler, a handful of minor episodes relating to his behaviour would probably never have amounted to anything. But he did, and over the next few days police interviews provided hints that, even if this was not an expected turn of events, it was always a possibility.
In her police interview, Connie said she had always been nervous about the number of guns Jerry had in the house, and assumed they were loaded. And then there were the incidents at school: the day before hunting season began, Brandon had boasted that he had pointed a 20-gauge at a boy’s stomach while it was loaded without the safety on. He also joked that the boy should put antlers on his head and run around so Brandon could shoot him. The child who overheard them thought they were “goofing around” about the antlers; he also thought “they were serious” about aiming at the boy’s stomach.
Guns were more available in Brandon and Tyler’s world than for any of the day’s other victims. In much of rural America, guns are an everyday part of life, for recreational and practical reasons. “Being a rural community, we have problems with everything from skunks to critters,” Sheriff Biniecki explains. “It’s not uncommon for a farmer to have a firearm handy.”
With so many guns around, the potential for calamity is ever present. A few weeks earlier, two local men said they were shot at by a duck hunter. Five days after Tyler was shot, a 16-year-old shot himself in the foot while hunting 20 minutes away. Although Biniecki treats each gun death as its own discrete tragedy, one nonetheless detects in his voice a weary familiarity with cases such as Tyler’s. The key to preventing accidents, he says, is education and parental responsibility. “I think we need to use the opportunity to further educate parents that if you do have a gun, unload it and put it away. Teach your kids the safety rules. And then, over time, don’t get lax with it, because children are always curious. Put those two things together and bad things can happen.”
In January 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, Barack Obama started a second term that became increasingly strident in its advocacy for gun control. He sought to shift the climate of caution by issuing “a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence”.
But the problem has been ongoing. On 14 November 2013, nine days before Tyler was shot, Obama nominated Vivek Murthy for surgeon general. Republican legislators focused on Murthy’s support for an assault-weapons ban and a tweet he’d sent in 2012, after the mass shootings at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado. “Tired of politicians playing politics w/guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue. #DebateHealth,” he wrote. It took more than a year for him to be confirmed by the narrowest of margins, after the National Rifle Association rallied its members.
On 20 February 2014, Jerry and Brandon appeared in district court. Jerry was a three-time felon, previously convicted, among other things, of dealing drugs and operating a vehicle while impaired.
In the US, felons are not allowed to have guns, so Jerry was charged with possession, a crime carrying a maximum of five years in prison. For leaving two boys alone with loaded guns that ended in the death of one of them, he was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a 90-day misdemeanour. He was released on $2,500 bail. Brandon was arraigned in juvenile court and charged with careless discharge of a firearm, causing death, which carries a maximum two-year sentence. On 10 April, Brandon pleaded guilty; on 5 May, Jerry pleaded no contest.
At a hearing on 1 May, Lora told me, Connie wept as her son stood in grey sweatpants and a hoodie, and the judge placed him in “intense probation” at her home. The next day he was sentenced. There were 29 terms to his probation. He was sent to a junior detention facility for 10 days, with a further 20 days to be enforced if he failed to comply with the other 28 restrictions (including a 7pm-to-7am curfew, participation in anger-management classes, random drug and alcohol testing, paying for Tyler’s cremation, and a minimum of 10 written assignments). The probation would be reviewed every 30 days, said the prosecutor, who expected it to last until Brandon was 18 or 19. Six weeks later, the judge sentenced Jerry to a year for weapons-firearms possession and 90 days for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Tyler’s family believes they both got off too lightly – particularly Brandon, who they are convinced shot Tyler on purpose. To them, the story doesn’t hang together. Lora doesn’t buy the idea that the latch got caught on his shorts: “I believe his finger was on the trigger.”
Over pizza with Brittany, her mother, stepfather and grandmother, I ask what would constitute justice.
Brittany pauses. “I would want eye for eye.”
“You mean you want Brandon executed?” I ask.
She nods. “Brandon needs to be gone. I don’t think he should be able to live his life.”
I look around the table. “Does everyone agree?”
They all nod.
“He should have time for what he did,” Lora says.
“He should probably sit inside for the rest of his life,” Brittany adds. “He had a role in it, but he technically didn’t pull the trigger.”
According to the Sanilac County News, Lora has since filed suit against both Brandon and Jerry, seeking more than $25,000. I ask her if Jerry or Connie have reached out to them. She says they have had no contact since Jerry’s girlfriend came over, a few days after, to return Tyler’s effects. Would they have liked to? “It would have been nice for them to say something. Put a card in my mailbox or something.”
“Even at the court they could have turned around,” Janet said.
“Yeah, when he stood up in front of the judge and said it wasn’t his fault,” Lora recalls.
“Well,” Janet says, “it wasn’t his fault. Because he wasn’t home.”
This is not a story about gun control. It is a story made possible by the absence of gun control. Americans are no more violent than anybody else. What makes their society more deadly is the widespread availability of firearms. To defend this by way of the second amendment – the right to bear arms – has about the same relevance as seeking to understand the roots of modern terrorism through readings of the Qur’an. To base an argument on an ancient text is effectively to abdicate your responsibility to understand the present. Adopted in 1791, the second amendment states: “A well–regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” These 27 words have been elevated to the level of scripture, inscribed on a blood-soaked pedestal thwarting all debate, more than 200 years after its passing.
None of the family members I spoke to raised the second amendment. Almost all believed guns were too readily available; none believed there was anything that could be done. But when I told them of other families who had lost children that day, they seemed shocked. It was as though they had lost a loved one in a war, unaware that the same war was simultaneously claiming other lives – indeed, unaware that a war was taking place. As though it were happening only to them, when in fact it was happening to America. Every day.
• This is an edited extract from Another Day In The Death Of America, published next week by Guardian Faber at £16.99. Order a copy for £12.50 from the guardian Bookshop.
• Another Day In The Death Of America is published by Nation Books on 4 October in north America. To pre-order a copy for $16.89, go to barnesandnoble.com
on: Sep 24, 2016, 06:00 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
China should be proud of Wang Quanzhang - instead it persecutes him
The human rights lawyer has been detained on baseless charges. Beijing should drop them and uphold the rule of law
Michael Caster and Peter Dahlin
Friday 23 September 2016 01.40 BST
Last July, the Chinese government launched its most widespread crackdown on rule of law advocates in decades, detaining some 300 rights defenders. Some have been held incommunicado since, with lawyers and family members trying to visit them in detention being told to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, state media has been given exclusive access to parade many activists as criminals on television before their trial.
One of the key targets of the crackdown is lawyer Wang Quanzhang.
Wang has drawn the ire of the government many times for his defence of villagers against corrupt local officials, Falun Gong practitioners and fellow rights activists such as Ni Yulan whose treatment in police custody in 2010 left her confined to a wheelchair.
In 2013, Wang was detained during trial for refusing a judge’s illegal demand. This was perhaps the first instance of a rights lawyer being held under a process called judicial detention. Hauling away a lawyer in the middle of defending his client aptly illustrates the barriers to legal aid in China.
Following his release, Wang characteristically treated the incident as a learning opportunity and wrote a legal manual on judicial detention for rights defenders. Wang often devoted as much time to assisting other lawyers as he did defending the rights of those who few others dared to represent.
For this he has suffered in secret detention for over a year and now faces a show trial on charges of subverting state power.
Having known Wang for many years and worked together at China Action until early 2014, we can say he is one of the bravest people we will ever meet. His commitment to the rule of law is unimpeachable. The charges are baseless.
State security has explained that Wang’s crime was defending ‘evil cult’ Falun Gong practitioners and using social media to highlight abuses against his clients. It didn’t seem to matter that these actions aren’t illegal, that Wang has broken no laws.
The lack of actual evidence has been highlighted several times since January. Beginning in March, police and state security have tried to pressure Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, his parents, and even a fellow lawyer to record video accusations against him. They failed.
The authorities tried coercing responses through threats and promises of lightening his sentence, while the detention centre denied his lawyers and tearful family any contact on the pretext of having no record of him.
Li Wenzu has not been spared. She has been harassed and on several occasions detained, a tactic of political violence designed to scare her into betraying her husband or to intimidate Wang into cooperating.
Such lawlessness and abuse of power only reinforces the hollowness of his impending trial.
In early August, the court claimed Wang had given up his right to counsel and preferred a court appointed lawyer, an absurdity for anyone who knows him. Since 2012, Wang has arranged with a trusted colleague to represent him if detained or arrested, a sad necessity in China that most rights lawyers eventually need their own defence lawyers.
Wang has told us many times since 2010 that under no circumstances would he ever accept a court appointed lawyer. It seems no sham trial is complete without a sham lawyer.
At trial, imaginary “hostile foreign forces” will likely be blamed for Wang’s equally imaginary crimes, as we have seen with recent show trials and a slew of anti-Western propaganda videos.
At trial, imaginary ‘hostile foreign forces’ will likely be blamed for Wang’s equally imaginary crimes
Wang’s work with China Action has been used against him, despite our not having worked together since 2014. It seems irrelevant that our work focused on strengthening Chinese law, because the “crimes” for which he stands accused are meaningless unless the implementation of Chinese law itself is seen as subverting state power.
If the government is serious about there being room for the rule of law in China, it must immediately release Wang Quanzhang and dismiss all charges against him. We hope it is. For rights defenders like Wang and his colleagues – who any nation should be proud to have as citizens – a conviction will reaffirm that it is not.
Michael Caster and Peter Dahlin are co-founders of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), which existed in China from 2009 until the beginning of 2016, when it was targeted by the Chinese government.
on: Sep 24, 2016, 05:57 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
Bumps stop bruises as safety project cuts accidents on deadly Bangladesh highway
A pilot scheme introducing speed bumps and other basic safety measures to the Dhaka-Sylhet N2 highway has shown how simple infrastructure can save lives
Friday 23 September 2016 07.00 BST
A pilot project that installed basic road safety infrastructure such as bus stops and speed bumps on one of the world’s most dangerous highways has cut road deaths by more than 60% in the first year, according to a study.
The initial results from Safe Crossings, a Dutch NGO focusing on preventing global road deaths, showed that the number of accidents on three stretches of the N2 highway between Dhaka and Sylhet in Bangladesh fell from a previous annual average of 110 to 42 in the year after the safety measures were implemented.
According to figures from Safe Crossings, the number of fatalities decreased from 12 to three, while the number of injuries dropped from 240 to 77. Almost 100% of local people surveyed said they thought the road was safer than it had been before.
Jasper Vet, one of the founders of Safe Crossing, says the results should send a loud message to governments, banks and development funders that small investments in basic road safety measures could save hundreds of lives every year.
“The idea that all these people are dying pointlessly, that families are being destroyed by losing loved ones or having to deal with disabilities or serious injuries because we’re not taking action on this, is hard to accept when you look at the results of the N2 project,” says Vet.
Every year, hundreds of people die and thousands more are injured on the N2 highway. Road fatalities and serious injuries spiked after the road was made into a high-speed highway with £169m of World Bank funding in 2005.
According to Bangladeshi government figures from 2012, 180 people die on the N2 annually, although this figure is disputed by road safety experts, who believe it to be about four times higher. Thousands more are injured, often seriously.
The carnage on the N2 is replicated across Bangladesh, where the World Health Organisation believes more than 21,000 people are killed each year on the roads, costing the country 1.6% of its GDP.
While the high accident rate is largely attributed to dangerous driving and unsafe vehicles, the absence of basic road safety infrastructure – including footbridges, speed bumps and partition barriers – on many of the country’s fastest and recently renovated highways is a significant contributory factor. Road safety features were neither included in the loan package from the World Bank nor added on by the government.
“What we call vulnerable road users – by which we mean people on bicycles, passengers in rickshaws or buses, and the large number of people walking on the side of the road, often trying to get to work or to school – have had absolutely no protection at all from the dangerous vehicles driving at high-speed since the N2 was renovated,” says Vet.
“The problem is that there isn’t enough accurate data on road fatalities and the link between high fatalities and a lack of road safety features, which means that even the most basic safety features are left out because they are considered too expensive or ‘add-ons’ to road development projects.”
In 2014, Safe Crossings partnered with the Centre for Injury Prevention, Health Development and Research (CIPRB) in Bangladesh to launch road safety work on three of the most dangerous sections of the N2: the project cost €120,000 (£103,000). Through surveys conducted with people who use and live close to the N2, Safe Crossings identified a series of danger spots along the road where people were most likely to be killed or injured. The organisation developed a plan to make those sections of road safer, working with international and local road safety groups and local and national government agencies to build road safety structures on the renovated highway.
“We didn’t have enough funding to do a large-scale project, but that wasn’t the point anyway,” says Vet. “What we were trying to do was show that building safe roads that don’t put the lives of thousands of people at risk every year is actually pretty easy and cost-effective.”
Safe Crossings built rumble-strips to warn drivers they were entering a village and should reduce their speed, and speed bumps to ensure this happened. Pedestrian crossings were painted on to the road where people were most likely to cross. Bus bays were built at the side of the highways to end the practice of buses stopping on the road, thus reducing the amount of overtaking – known to be one of the biggest causes of fatalities and injuries. Strips of reflective paint on the side of roads near villages were used to give drivers the impression the roads were narrower than they really were, encouraging drivers to reduce their speed.
At the same time, staff from the CIPRB began visiting villages and communities along the N2. “This project is different from all the road safety work we have done before because we worked very actively with local communities [affected by the N2],” says Dr Md Mazharul Hoque, from the CIPRB.
“In each village, we have helped set up a road safety committee and we combined infrastructure work with safety and awareness campaigns for those using the road, and with local schools. Without community involvement and people being aware of the dangers of the road, engineering interventions won’t be as effective. The immediate visibility of local support was also really important in helping local authorities understand the need to invest in road safety in these rural highways.”
Safe Crossings and the CIPRB are hoping the results of the pilot will encourage the Bangladeshi government to roll out similar initiatives on a national scale.