Where the Death Penalty Still Lives. In the U.S., 20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment and four others have imposed a moratorium on executions. Of the 26 states that remain, only 14 handed down death sentences last year for a total of 50 across the country — less than half the number six years before. California, which issued more than one-quarter of last year’s death sentences, hasn’t actually executed anyone since 2006. A new geography of capital punishment is taking shape, with just two percent of the nation’s counties now accounting for a majority of the people sitting on death row. [more inside]
Today, the Hillary Clinton campaign launched a new "With Her" podcast, chronicling her historic run for office. Clinton also released her 2015 tax returns while Sen. Tim Kaine released 10 years’ worth of his. With just 87 days until Election Day, 538's "Election Forecast" looks dire for Republican nominee Donald Trump, who continues to rely on wild, desperate claims to capture each news cycle.
A Mother Jones Investigation: Fully Loaded: Inside the Shadowy World of America's 10 Biggest Gunmakers. [more inside]
The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was established in 1961 and has grown into one of the US government’s largest intelligence organizations. It employs 17,000 people, including thousands stationed overseas, and its 2013 fiscal year budget request was for $3.15 billion. Yet, the DIA is also one of the more secretive agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, regularly denying access to basic information about its structure, functions and activities. On November 20, the National Security Archive posted a new sourcebook of over 50 declassified documents that help to illuminate the DIA’s five-decades-long history. [more inside]
Once a Pariah, Now a Judge: The Early Transgender Journey of Phyllis Frye.
Useful resources for participating in the discussion: Ohio U's Trans 101* : Primer and Vocabulary guide; and GLAAD's Transgender Media Program [more inside]
Useful resources for participating in the discussion: Ohio U's Trans 101* : Primer and Vocabulary guide; and GLAAD's Transgender Media Program [more inside]
In the United States, only 22 states require that sex education should be taught in their schools. Of those, only 13 insist upon medical accuracy. There is no federal standard. As a result, classroom lessons that teach purity culture – the idea that virginity is a state of moral accomplishment – are pervasive. John Oliver's Last Week Tonight covers Sex Education in America. (NSFW) The end of the segment features a modern sex education video created by LWT, narrated by several celebrities (including Laverne Cox, Nick Offerman, Jonathan Banks, Kristen Schaal and Aisha Tyler) that touches on topics outdated lessons may be ignoring. [more inside]
First We Feast: An Illustrated History of Hamburgers in America. "The rise, fall, and resurgence of America's greatest cultural export." [more inside]
"They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing... Once allied with but now increasingly hostile to the Republican hierarchy, conservative media is shaping the party’s agenda in ways that are impeding Republicans’ ability to govern and to win presidential elections."
A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.
Rape on the Night Shift: Every night, as most of us head home, janitors across America, many of them women, begin their night shift. They are often alone or isolated in empty buildings — and vulnerable to sexual violence. On Tuesday, a PBS Frontline/Reveal investigation explored ways sexual violence against janitors is going unreported and unpunished. All content is SFW, but some may find descriptions in the links in this post disturbing. [more inside]
"More than sixty years have passed since Israel started its nuclear venture and almost half a century has elapsed since it crossed the nuclear weapons threshold. Yet Israel's nuclear history still lacks a voice of its own: Israel has never issued an authorized and official nuclear history; no insiders have ever been authorized to tell the story from within. Unlike all seven other nuclear weapons states, Israel's nuclear policy is essentially one of non-acknowledgement. Israel believes that nuclear silence is golden, referring to its nuclear code of conduct as the policy of amimut ("opacity" in Hebrew)." A special collection of declassified documents was published by the National Security Archive this Wednesday, that sheds some light on How Israel Hid Its Secret Nuclear Weapons Program.
The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map. [more inside]
Gun Wars: the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America, in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation. An investigative report from "29 students from 16 journalism schools, as well as an experienced staff of editors" for Carnegie-Knight News21. [more inside]
"With over 200 breweries, Oregon is often considered the craft beer capital of America. Beer geeks and casual drinkers across the country can also thank the state’s farmers for their brews: hops, the essential ingredient that gives beer its bitter flavor, is a rare crop throughout the U.S. but not in Oregon. Last year, Oregon State University established the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives (OHBA), the first archive in the U.S., dedicated to preserving and telling the intertwined story of hop and beer production and the craft brewing movement. They're posting materials from their collection to Tumblr, Flickr and Zotero.
The most recent story in ProPublica's Living Apart: Examining America's Racial Divide series is "Segregation Now," which focuses on the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, city school district "and its fleeting experience with the challenges and virtues of integration." But beyond Tuscaloosa, "almost everywhere in the United States, the gains of integration have been eroded. And nowhere has that been more powerfully and disturbingly true than in the South – once home to both the worst of segregation and the greatest triumphs of integration. Freed from the federal oversight that produced integration, schools districts across the 11 former states of the Confederacy have effectively re-instituted segregation for large numbers of black students, in practical terms if not in law." [more inside]
"In the mid-20th century, in response to the United States’ rapidly expanding telephone network, executives at the Bell System introduced a new way of dialing the phone. Until then, for the most part, it was human operators — mostly women — who had directed calls to their destinations." The new system, which eliminated letters from phone numbers and set the stage for an automated national (and eventually international) dialing system. was met with a minor rebellion against "creeping numeralism." The Atlantic examines "Our Numbered Days: The Evolution of the Area Code." [more inside]
During their Freedom Hosting investigation and malware attack last year, the FBI unintentionally obtained the entire e-mail database of popular anonymous webmail service Tor Mail. And now, they've used it in an unrelated investigation to bust a Florida man accused of stealing credit card numbers. [more inside]
The Fed Up project has collected over 7000 student-submitted photos of school lunches from across the US. They'll be used to create a map and report to make a case for better school lunches. [more inside]
In Conversation: Antonin Scalia "On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy ("I don’t")." [more inside]
To a Chinese Scrap-Metal Hunter, America's Trash Is Treasure: Johnson Zeng is a Chinese trader who travels across the U.S. in search of scrap metal. By his estimate, there are at least 100 others like him driving from scrap yard to scrap yard, right now, in search of what Americans won’t or can’t be bothered to recycle. His favorite product: wires, cables, and other kinds of copper. His purchases, millions of pounds of metal worth millions of dollars, will eventually be shipped to China. [more inside]
In 2011, the CIA declassified documents admitting its involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, details of which were first first disclosed by the New York Times in 2000. Timeline. However, they refused to release them to the public. Today, the National Security Archive research institute has (after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) obtained and made the 21 documents public. "Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup. [more inside]
Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives. "In 2011 the Texas state legislature slashed family planning funds, passed a new sonogram law, and waged an all-out war on Planned Parenthood that has dramatically shifted the state’s public health priorities. In the eighteen months since then, the conflict has continued to simmer in the courts, on the campaign trail, and in at least one PR disaster. Meanwhile, what will happen to Texas women—and their fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands—remains very much unclear."
"We condition the poor and the working class to go to war. We promise them honor, status, glory, and adventure. We promise boys they will become men. We hold these promises up against the dead-end jobs of small-town life, the financial dislocations, credit card debt, bad marriages, lack of health insurance, and dread of unemployment. The military is the call of the Sirens, the enticement that has for generations seduced young Americans working in fast food restaurants or behind the counters of Walmarts to fight and die for war profiteers and elites."-- War is Betrayal. Persistent Myths of Combat, an essay by Chris Hedges of Truthdig. Responses within. [more inside]
In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
"It's his charm. It's his gift. It's his political liability, and it's part of an American conundrum. We beg for authenticity, and then when we get it, oh man, it's hilarious. [Vice President Joe] Biden can be fantastic when he's on his game. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his speech got higher Nielsen ratings than either Bill Clinton's or Obama's. He killed the debate against Ryan, pumped air back into a campaign deflated after Obama's miserable first performance against Romney. Watching those performances, it's almost impossible to see him as a person once crippled by speech."
The Other Redskins. 62 US high schools in 22 states currently use the name "Redskins" for one of their sports teams. 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped the mascot over the last 25 years. As public pressure continues to intensify on the Washington Redskins football team to change their name -- one many consider a racial slur that disparages Native Americans -- similar debates are being waged in towns across the country about their local high school teams.
Rape in the Fields is a Frontline documentary that explores the persistent allegations that female agricultural workers in the U.S. are frequently sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors who exploit their (often undocumented) immigrant status. Victims typically do not seek help from US law enforcement, either out of fear that they will be fired, deported or worse, or from a lack of understanding of U.S. law. Reviews: Popmatters. NY Times [more inside]
There are just 2,795 miles of interstate and 31,000 highway cops between them and the all-time speed record for crossing the American continent on four wheels. Welcome to the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, later known as the US Express race: The Cannonball Run. [more inside]
"'If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.' So goes the old saying. Yet conditions in some American facilities are so obscene that they amount to a form of extrajudicial punishment." Mother Jones is profiling "America's 10 Worst Prisons." Facilities were chosen for the list based on "...three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates." [more inside]
Her encampment is 'an old patio umbrella draped in a white plastic sheet secured with binder clips. It is flanked by two large boards with messages in capital letters: BAN ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS OR HAVE A NICE DOOMSDAY and LIVE BY THE BOMB, DIE BY THE BOMB. This rudimentary shelter has been positioned outside the White House for more than three decades. It is a monument itself now, widely considered the longest-running act of political protest in the United States, and this woman, Concepcion Picciotto — Connie, as she’s known to many — is its longest-running caretaker.' [more inside]
"Women get flustered under fire. They're too fragile, too emotional. They lack the ferocity required to take a life. They can't handle pain. They're a distraction, a threat to cohesion, a provocative tease to close-quartered men. These are the sort of myths you hear from people who oppose the U.S. military's evolving new rules about women in combat. But for women who have already been in combat, who have earned medals fighting alongside men, the war stories they tell don't sound a thing like myths" [more inside]
The Things They Leave Behind. "When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened 30 years ago, something unexpected happened: People started leaving things at the wall. One veteran has spent decades cataloging the letters, mementos, and other artifacts of loss — all 400,000 of them." (Via.) [more inside]
In the 1920's, the Ku Klux Klan operated a resort for Christian white supremacists called Kool Koast Kamp near Rockport, TX. For just a dollar a day per family, they offered swimming and "big game fishing" in "deep blue surf," educational activities and "watermelon parties." All under the protection of a "fiery cross" and "an officer of the law, the same Christian sentiment." (Brochure pages 1, 2, 3, 4) [more inside]
TruthTeller is an ambitious new automated application built by the Washington Post, which fact checks political speeches, ads and interviews "in as close to real time as possible." The prototype is intended to be a complement to the paper's Fact Checker Blog. More on the project from TechCrunch and Poynter.
"If you account for my access to academic journal subscriptions, my salary is really like half a million dollars."
This past Thursday, Forbes Magazine published a pair of articles: The Most Stressful Jobs of 2013 and The Least Stressful Jobs of 2013, the latter of which began with the sentence: "University professors have a lot less stress than most of us." 300+ outraged comments (and thousands of sarcastic #RealForbesProfessor tweets,) later they've added a retraction, and linked to a blog post that takes A Real Look at Being a Professor in the US. [more inside]
The most-watched show in the history of the National Geographic Channel isn't Wild, Taboo or even the longest-running documentary series on cable tv: Explorer. It's Doomsday Preppers, a show that documents the "lives of otherwise ordinary Americans" as they prepare for the end of the world. [more inside]
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Via io9: "The first nine Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942 are a wonder of animated retrofuturism, giving us a peek into a world that not only had a flying superstrong protector, but also filled viewers' heads with dreams of autonomous robots, comet-controlling telescopes, and machines that could shake the Earth. These films are in the public domain and have been available on the Internet Archive," but now Warner Bros. is releasing them (remastered) on YouTube. The first short, "Superman" (also known as "The Mad Scientist,") was nominated for an Academy Award. Also see: The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons. Find links to all nine episodes and more inside. [more inside]
"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
The American Presidency Project is a comprehensive archive of more than 100,000 documents related to the study of the United States' Commander-in-Chief, including transcripts of debates, public papers, state of the union addresses, White House Press Briefings, party platforms and election returns, as well as audio and video recordings. [more inside]
Ephemeral New York 'chronicles an ever-changing, constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York’s collective remainder bin.' [more inside]
In February, PBS and AOL launched Makers, a video archive containing personal stories and anecdotes told in the first person by women, many of whom have sparked groundbreaking changes in American culture. [more inside]
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube. [more inside]
In school, most grades have a favorite teacher. For Rockport-Fulton Middle School's seventh grade, it's Bobby Jackson. He teaches Texas History. (Via) [more inside]
In 2008, the National Journal released The Hidden History of the American Electorate, an analysis of exit poll demographics conducted by multiple news organizations from US presidential elections between 1988 and 2004. The study looked for "pressure points in the electorate": trends which were likely to decide the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. They've released an update for 2012, by adding exit poll results from the 1980, 1984, and 2008 presidential elections. It gives a more comprehensive look at voting trends over a 32 year period of the groups whom they believe are likely to influence the outcome in November. Charts: Voting Preferences of the American Electorate, 1980-2008
824,273 disabled veterans are currently awaiting a response on claims from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. On average, it takes the government 257 days to respond, and there has been a 7.2% growth in claims over the last 1.3 years -- so the delays are growing. While they wait, veterans often cannot access health care from the agency or receive disability compensation. Plus, the backlog on claim appeals is at least 3.5 years. So how can veterans avoid the backlog? A special investigation by the Bay Area Citizen shows that processing speed is a matter of geographic location: veterans in sparsely populated areas have their claims filled faster than those living in urban centers. Interactive Map: Where is Worst Backlog? Related video and transcript.
Last year, The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's Law School released a report (pdf) detailing new, more restrictive state laws that affect voting rights and are likely to impact the outcome of the 2012 elections. The restrictions "fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities." On August 3rd, 2012, they updated their analysis with a pdf of passed and pending State government legislation. Their conclusion: after a century in which the United States "expanded the franchise and knocked down myriad barriers to full electoral participation... that momentum [has] abruptly shifted." [more inside]
"The business of recycling dead humans into medical implants is a little-known yet lucrative trade. But its practices have roused concerns about how tissues are obtained and how well grieving families and transplant patients are informed about the realities and the risks." After an eight month international investigation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published an extensive four-part exposé into the black market for cadavers and human tissue: Skin and Bone: The Shadowy Trade in Human Body Parts (Via) [more inside]
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought. [more inside]
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