June 11, 2023

Rachel Hatzipanagos and Timothy Bella of The Washington Post establishes that based on Andrew Lester’s statements, a motive for the shooting of Ralph Yari was, indeed, racist.

When Ralph Yarl rang the doorbell of Andrew Lester’s Kansas City, Mo., home by mistake last week, the 84-year-old White man was “scared to death,” he told police.


…researchers say Lester’s description of Yarl, who is 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds, according to his family, fits a pattern among shootings of young Black males. Lester said the teenager was a “Black male approximately 6 feet tall” — several inches off Yarl’s actual height, according to the criminal complaint. “Lester stated that it was the last thing he wanted to do, but he was ‘scared to death’ due to the male’s size.”

Similar language has been used in other cases, reflecting the fear people of other races sometimes feel upon seeing Black people, researchers say. In multiple studies, people who were asked to judge the size of Black people tended to see Black men as bigger and stronger than they actually were, and gave Black children the attributes of adults. The result is that they are seen as more dangerous, researchers say.

“This is another case where we see these questions of size and formidability [lead to] perceptions of dangerousness,” Kurt Hugenberg, a professor in psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, said of Yarl.

Jesse McKinley, Hurubie Meko, and Jay Root of The New York Times describes the shooter in Hebron, New York that killed 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis, Kevin Monahan as being, at times, confrontational.

In Hebron, a town of about 1,800 people about 60 miles northeast of Albany, several residents recalled Mr. Monahan as a dyspeptic and sometimes combative personality.

Mr. Matthews said that Mr. Monahan could be intimidating, striking a “righteous” attitude, and recalled an incident where a local church had put up floodlights over a basketball court thousands of feet from his home.

But, he said, Mr. Monahan — whose home has a porch and floor-to-ceiling windows with a commanding view of the valley, and the church, below — suspected something sinister.

“He felt that they had done it intentionally,” Mr. Matthews said. “This is the church, you know? It’s not like somebody set a spotlight up to highlight his house.”

Brian Campbell, the town supervisor, said in a blog post that the shooting had deeply affected his “very quiet and tranquil town.”

He added: “I can’t even fathom what would make a person shoot at a car that was in their driveway if they didn’t even know the people in the car.”

While we’re at it, let’s add the case of two cheerleaders being shot in Elgin, Texas by a 25-year old because one of the teenage cheerleaders got into the wrong car.

Shootings like the one in Hebron are rare but not unheard of in upper New York State.  

Anyone can be shot anywhere (urban or rural) at anytime in this country and for any reason or for no reason at all.

Courtney Kennedy, Dana Popky, and Scott Keeter of Pew Research Center report on how public polling has changed in the 21st century.

This study captures what changes were made and approximately when. While it does not capture why the changes were made, public commentary by pollsters suggests a mix of factors – with some adjusting their methods in response to the profession’s recent election-related errors and others reacting to separate industry trends. The cost and feasibility of various methods are likely to have influenced decisions. 


Pollsters made more design changes after 2020 than 2016. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, it was unclear if the polling errors were an anomaly or the start of a longer-lasting problem. 2020 provided an answer, as most polls understated GOP support a second time. The study found that after 2020, more than a third of pollsters (37%) changed how they sample people, how they interview them, or both. This compares with about a quarter (26%) who made changes after 2016. As noted above, though, these changes did not necessarily occur because of concerns about election-related errors.

The number of national pollsters relying exclusively on live phone is declining rapidly. Telephone polling with live interviewers dominated the industry in the early 2000s, even as pollsters scrambled to adapt to the rapid growth of cellphone-only households. Since 2012, however, its use has fallen amid declining response rates and increasing costs. Today live phone is not completely dead, but pollsters who use it tend to use other methods as well. Last year 10% of the pollsters examined in the study used live phone as their only method of national public polling, but 32% used live phone alone or in combination with other methods. In some cases, the other methods were used alongside live phone in a single poll, and in other cases the pollster did one poll using live phone and other polls with a different method.

Daniel Novack of The Hollywood Reporter explains why Fox news settled the case with Dominion Voting Systems.

I insisted from the outset that this case was fated for settlement. Fox News had too much to lose and Dominion too much to gain. But the case persisted, limping along to trial despite Judge Davis’ evisceration of Fox’s legal defenses weeks earlier. When a judge calls your evidence “crystal clear,” that puts cartoon dollars signs in your eyes as a plaintiffs’ attorney.

Given that gale force winds were at its sails, it’s unlikely that Dominion blinked first. I’ll leave it to others to speculate why Fox softened at the last possible moment, but a week earlier it quietly settled an election fraud defamation suit with a Venezuelan businessman, indicating that it was more flexible than steadfast — if the price was right.


Ultimately, the decision to settle the Dominion dispute likely reflects that Fox’s chief concern is damage to its brand, not its coffers.

The game that Fox News has played over the past few years is to have one strategy on TV and another in court, not unlike the kayfabe in pro wrestling. When Tucker Carlson accused Karen McDougal of extorting Trump, the network beat a defamation suit by arguing his show isn’t factual. The case was dismissed before any documents or testimony could be obtained, allowing Tucker and Fox to preserve their facade. WWE wrestlers like Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bolea) used to take great pains to never let viewers see them as their real selves, to the point where Bolea had to explain to a jury why Hulk has a larger penis than Terry (in reference to an interview he gave in character) in his invasion of privacy suit against Gawker Media. Fox has always said “we’re the real news” but, just like in pro wrestling, the talent behaves differently when they’re off the clock. This case tested the entire edifice of cable news kayfabe. Fox News viewers are not sealed off from the internet. Once the fourth wall is broken, you can’t get it back.

Brett Chase of Chicago Sun-Times reports on research by Northwestern Medicine researchers that shows that COVID-19 patients that were hospitalized with pneumonia seem to have had more of a tendency to suffer from severe brain impacts than those that became infected with COVID-19 but did not need to go to the hospital.

Long-haul COVID-19 patients who initially were hospitalized with pneumonia appear to have had more severe impacts on the brain compared with others who also became infected but did not require a trip to the hospital, a study by Northwestern Medicine researchers has found.

The researchers evaluated 600 long COVID patients, most suffering with cognitive difficulties after being infected with the coronavirus between May 2020 and August 2021 — before vaccines were approved in the United States.

The study, published Wednesday in the medical journal Annals of Neurology, followed 100 people hospitalized with COVID-related pneumonia and compared them with 500 who had more mild initial symptoms, including a cough or sore throat. All of them were evaluated in person or remotely via telemedicine at a Northwestern clinic focused on neurological impact of COVID.

Charles Blow of The New York Times writes about the importance of creating and bringing beauty into our lives.

I believe that the ways we construct our visual environments, including the ways we present ourselves in the world, are reflections of ourselves. And insisting on bringing beauty into lives that can sometimes feel like an unremitting series of horrors is the only way some of us can survive.

I have seen this up close my whole life, growing up in a poor family in a poor community.

I saw it in my grandmother, the way she painted the modest house her husband built daffodil yellow and made flower beds from old tires. I saw it in the way her church hats seemed to get bigger and brighter as she got older.

I saw it in my mother, who made most of her own clothes so that she could afford to buy most of ours. I saw the way she studied the pattern books and ran her hands across the bolts of fabric. I saw it in the way she considered which buttons to buy and which trim.

Her sense of style was never about fashion as we consider it now — the consumption of things, the obnoxious accumulation of conspicuous class markers. It was about honoring the choices we have to make in the everyday, about the irrepressible human need to express creativity and the pride of wanting to demonstrate craft.

That was a beautiful essay.

Jörg Schindler of Der Spiegel describes the economic and social malaise occuring in the United Kingdom. 

Things aren’t going well for the United Kingdom these days. For the past several months, the flow of bad news has been constant, the country’s coffers are empty, public administration is ineffective and the nation’s corporations are struggling. As this winter came to an end, more than 7 million people were waiting for a doctor’s appointment, including tens of thousands of people suffering from heart disease and cancer. According to government estimates, some 650,000 legal cases are still waiting to be addressed in a court of law. And those needing a passport or driver’s license must frequently wait for several months.

Boarded up windows and signs reading “To Let” and “To Rent” have become a common sight on the country’s high streets, while numerous products have disappeared from supermarket shelves. Recently, a number of chains announced that they would be rationing cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers for the foreseeable future.

Last year, 560 pubs closed their doors forever, with thousands more soon to follow, according to the industry association. Without Oxfam, the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations that operate second-hand stores, numerous city centers would have almost no shops left at all.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund forecast that in no other industrialized nation would the economy develop as poorly as in Britain this year. Even Russia is expected to end up ahead of the UK.

Jonathan Askonas and Renée DiResta of Foreign Policy looks at the role and the prevalence of internet culture and gaming in intelligence leaks

While the trajectory of the documents may seem novel, a closer look reveals that many significant intelligence leaks over the past 15 years have been substantially motivated by online reality. These leaks are not the product of espionage, media investigations, or political activism, but 21st-century digital culture: specifically, by the desire to gain stature among online friends.

Beginning in 2021, for example, secret information about weapons systems design and performance has repeatedly been posted to forums related to War Thunder, a massively multiplayer combat video game featuring highly realistic weapons. Hoping to win arguments about such details as a tank turret’s rotation speed or cajole developers into improving the realism of virtual weapons, players have posted classified armor blueprints, restricted manuals for F-16 fighter jets, and Chinese tank specifications. War Thunder’s developers have had to implore users to stop posting classified materials to the game’s forums.

Even where ideological commitments have motivated leakers, internet culture has often played a major role. U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning’s involvement with WikiLeaks began when she started monitoring—and then actively participating in—the forum’s chat channel. Her decision to leak diplomatic cables was initially motivated by debates about Icelandic politics on the WikiLeaks channel. When one looks at Manning’s conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and others on the channel, they read very much like someone trying to connect with and impress her new internet friends; later, it was a similar desire to connect online that led to her arrest. Edward Snowden, too, attributed his decision to leak documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs to his concerns that they undermined the values he cherished as an avid denizen of early internet forums and chatrooms: anonymity, self-expression, and the right to reinvent oneself. (Snowden is now a Russian citizen living in Moscow.)

Finally today, The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer about the questionable language use in the 67-page decision of U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk suspending the use of mifepristone.

Two weeks ago, Kacsmaryk — who is not a doctor — ruled the FDA’s September 2000 approval of the pill was invalid. In doing so, he jeopardized the availability of mifepristone nationwide.

Questionable language abounds in not-doctor Kacsmaryk’s decision, but perhaps none so rankling as his persistent use of the word abortionist — 11 times in the document’s 67 pages.

I read all of them. It’s very Handmaid’s Tale, though at least Margaret Atwood is a better writer.

When Alito’s Dobbs decision leaked almost exactly a year ago, I wrote why the term abortionist (as opposed to abortion doctor or abortion provider) was so explosive: The abortion part of abortion doctor is a modifier, so the term is softer. Any straight, unmodified noun — like abortionist — hits harder than one that’s qualified with a modifier. “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs,” Strunk and White admonished in their Elements of Style. “It is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.” Anti-abortion activists want abortion to sound more vulgar than medical; abortionist helps.

Everyone have the best possible day!

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