MeFi: Escalating Tensions in Ferguson, Missouri

angelchrys shared this story from Popular Posts Across MetaFilter.

We are now entering day 10 of protests in Ferguson, MO, protesting the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by local law enforcement officer Darren Wilson on August 9th.

On August 15th, the Ferguson PD revealed the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown as Darren Wilson after much delay and demand, and released a surveillance video of someone they allege is Michael Brown involved in an altercation with a store clerk. The police initially claimed that this robbery to be the reason for the initial contact between police and Michael Brown. The Ferguson chief of police has since confirmed that Darren Wilson had no knowledge of the robbery prior to approaching Michael Brown, and later amended his statement to say that Wilson stopped Brown for blocking traffic. A lawyer representing the Ferguson market portrayed in the video has stated that the owner did not call the police. This video was released alongside a 16-page incident report of the robbery, against the advisement of the Department of Justice that it would incite further violence. The press conference also revealed that Darren Wilson had left the area ‘days ago’.

An initial autopsy conducted of Michael Brown’s body showed no sign of struggle, and six bullet wounds. Michael Brown’s family has commissioned a second autopsy, citing a desire for independence and objectivity from the Ferguson police, and the Department of Justice will be conducting a third autopsy.

Amnesty International has sent in observers, marking the first time the human rights organization has deployed a team in the United States. The Washington Post has a good summary of how the rest of the world sees the crisis in Ferguson (thanks to naju for that link).

Part of the excessive militarization of the police is being attributed to military supply donations to the local police, which must be used within a year or else forfeit. “When more police departments get SWAT teams, they conduct more SWAT raids.

John Oliver has delivered a scathing take on the situation in Ferguson on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. (Fanfare thread.)

Governor Jay Nixon declared Ferguson an emergency state on Sunday, August 17th, and called for a curfew of 12 AM - 5 AM. However, police crackdown on Sunday began well before curfew, firing off tear gas and blaring LRAD at the protestors. (Tear gas, incidentally, is banned in international warfare under the Geneva convention.)

Barack Obama met with the Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the situation, and gave a televised address to the nation on August 18th, confirming that Holder will be traveling to Missouri. Ezra Klein makes an argument for why a strong show of passion from the President would only make things worse. The FBI is now canvassing the neighbourhood, and the National Guard was deployed to Ferguson, but have largely been employed guarding the “command center" rather than engaging with protestors.

There has been an official petition on WhiteHouse.Gov to enact a Mike Brown law, requiring all state, county, and local police to wear a camera at all times. The petition has over 119K signatures so far, which means it will receive an official response from the white house. A similar law has seen great effectiveness in reducing police brutality in other parts of the country.

Meanwhile, protests have continued nightly, with escalating tension and use of force. Police have become increasingly hostile towards the media and even Amnesty International. Several journalists have been detained and subsequently released, including Getty photographer Scott Olson, who has been steadfastly documenting the events in Ferguson.

Other resources:

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How Artists Got a Flock of Extinct Birds to Invade a Museum

angelchrys shared this story from GOOD.

Sayler/Morris and Elizabeth Kolbert, Eclipse (2014). Video Projection, 7:03. Courtesy the artists and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

At one time, there were more passenger pigeons than people. A lot more. And they hung out together. In fact, it’s been said that there was a flock of passenger pigeons in Ontario in 1866 that may have boasted 3.5 billion birds—nearly thrice the world population at the time. The birds would turn the sky into an organic mass of transitory nocturne. Soon though, they were gone, killed off by habitat destruction and hunting (the birds were given to slaves for food) by mechanized bird-plucker. A single feathered friend by the name of Martha—the last passenger pigeon—expired 100 years ago come September.

Elizabeth Kolbert, a writer for The New Yorker and author of several environmental books, is intimately knowledgeable on the disappearance of the passenger pigeon, having recently written The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. She had an inkling that she wanted to explore the topic further, so she approached her longtime friends, the husband-wife artist duo Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris. Sayler/Morris—who also started an artist collective called The Canary Project, “an organization that produces art and media that seek to deepen public understanding of the Anthropocene”—have made a career out of weaving the environment into art projects, like their photographic series of places that are currently undergoing climate change (“A History of the Future,” 2005-ongoing) and a documentation of the natural world juxtaposed with how the Dutch have adapted to the climatic and geologic challenges of their country, most of which lies beneath sea level (“Their World Is Not Our World,” 2012-ongoing).

Sayler/Morris and Elizabeth Kolbert, Eclipse (2014). Video Projection, 7:03. Courtesy the artists and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

“[Kolbert] had mentioned to us that the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon was coming up on September 1, and asked us if we wanted to do something with her to commemorate that event, because it’s so rare that you know the exact date of a species going extinct,” says Morris on a Skype call from France.

What they came up with together, named “Eclipse" for the way the birds used to blot out the sky, is currently being shown at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)—though it officially kicks off on the date of Martha’s passing. Though there’s no known photographs of the flocks—photographic technology could ironically only photograph individual birds at the time—Sayler/Morris have created an animated video of 250,000 birds nesting in a tree which later take flight across the ceiling of MASS MoCA’s four-story atrium. The simulated flock mimics the terrifying prospect of the flying hordes, something viewers will never actually be able to experience.

Flock of passenger pigeons. Excerpted from Sayler/Morris and Elizabeth Kolbert, Eclipse (2014) pamphlet.

“We wanted to show a massing of the species, so you can experience their numbers and then show a diminishing of it, so you can feel its loss,” says Morris. “They are roosting on a tree, which is to get at this ‘violence’ of the group. We knew that because the space is a raw space, we figured it would add a bit more drama to make a reverse negative silhouette.”

Because of the reverse silhouette, the room becomes brightest when the number of birds is at its peak. This effect is punctuated by an ambient and atmospheric sound design, what Morris describes as “droney tones with lots of spatializations.”

Sayler describes the sound of the piece as being inspired by, but not mimicking, the sounds of the actual pigeons, which were never actually recorded. “One of the really interesting aspects to me when we were doing research was how divergent the descriptions of the sound from the flock were,” says Sayler. “Some people would describe it like sleigh bells, and there were a lot of people that talked about approaching thunder. It started feeling like the people checking out these flocks were high.”

Plumage of a passenger pigeon. Excerpted from Sayler/Morris and Elizabeth Kolbert, Eclipse (2014) pamphlet.

The piece will be accompanied by a tabloid-sized newsprint pamphlet with an introduction by Kolbert and the excerpted account of Junius Brutus Booth, an actor and early animal rights activist, who attempted to eulogize the corpses of several birds prior to their extinction.

Julius Brutus Booth. Excerpted from Sayler/Morris and Elizabeth Kolbert, Eclipse (2014) pamphlet.

“They liked to be close and dense,” says Sayler of the extinct pigeons. “That was part of the reason why they were so easy to kill. It was the first time that people understood that we could cause extinction. No one thought it could really happen. Even Audubon saw the numbers were going down and they were worried, but no one thought that it was possible that humans could actually kill off every single one.”

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A Downtime Irony

angelchrys shared this story from The NewsBlur Blog.

So many things can go wrong and often do, but I spend a good third of my time working on infrastructure, monitoring, and analytics so that they don’t.

Here’s what happened: At approximately 4:30pm PT feed fetching ceased. The feed fetchers were still working, which is why my monitors didn’t fire and alert anybody. But I have a second large Mongo database server used exclusively for collecting data about feeds being fetched. There are approximately 75 servers dedicated to feed fetching. These analytics look at average fetch times on a per task server basis. I use these analytics to ensure that my task servers are humming along, as they each use a ton of network, cpu, and memory.

This Mongo analytics servers works in a curious way. If you right-click on a feed and go to Statistics you’ll see the feed fetch history for a feed, stretching back a hundred fetches if the feed has had any issues in fetching. I keep these statistics on an analytics server separate from the regular Mongo server. I do this so that if the mongo analytics server goes down, everything will operate normally.

But the mongo server didn’t go down. It merely gave this error:

OperationError: Could not save document (Can't take a write lock while out of disk space)

Mongo continues serving read queries while not allowing write queries. I didn’t plan for that! And it gets worse. The way MongoDB stores data is that is just keeps growing, even as you delete data. NewsBlur only saves the last few fetches, but deleting old fetches doesn’t give you back any disk space. Every other database server I use has an autovacuum process that takes care of this maintenance work (PostgreSQL, Redis, Elasticsearch, but not MongoDB). It’s unfortunate that this is yet another instance of MongoDB being the cause of downtime, even though the fault lies with me.

The server that is meant to only be used to ensure things are working correctly was itself the culprit for feeds no longer being fetched. This is the ironic part.

NewsBlur’s developer during happier times wearing the 2013 NewsBlur t-shirt in Big Sur

Now comes the painful part. On Wednesday morning (yesterday) I packed my car and headed down to Big Sur to go backpack camping for the first time. I’ve car camped plenty of times, but I felt confident enough to pack my sleeping bag and tent into a big bag and head ten miles into the woods of coastal California.

I headed out, away from cellular service, at 4pm PT, half an hour before the analytics server ran out of disk space. And then returned nearly 24 hours later to a bevy of alarmed tweets, emails, direct messages, and a voicemail letting me know that things were haywire.

But the real problem is that I set a vacation reply on both my personal and work email accounts to say that I’d be out until September 3rd. Now, I hired a firm to watch the servers while I’m at Burning Man starting this Saturday. But I figured I could get away with leaving the servers for twenty four hours. And I neglected to tweet out that I’d be gone for a day, so theories cropped up that I was injured, dead, or worse, ignoring the service.

Brittany, NewsBlur’s developer’s girlfriend, can handle any situation, including driving a hysterical developer three hours back to San Francisco without breaking a sweat.

If you’re wondering, I think about NewsBlur first thing in the morning and last thing at night when I check Twitter for mentions. It’s my life and I would never just give up on it. I just got cocky after a year and a half of nearly uninterrupted service. NewsBlur requires next to no maintenance, apart from handling support requests and building new features (and occasionally fixing old ones). So I figured what harm could 24 hours of away time be? Boy was I wrong.

If you made it this far then you probably care about NewsBlur’s future. I want to not only assure you that I will be building better monitoring to ensure this never happens again, but to also offer anybody who feels that they are not getting their money’s worth a refund. Even if you are months away from payment, if you aren’t completely satisfied and think NewsBlur’s just about the best thing to happen to RSS since Brent Simmons released NetNewsWire back in 2004, then I want to give you your money back and let you keep your premium account until it expires.

I would like to also mention how much I appreciate the more light-hearted tweets that I read while on the frenetic three hour drive back to San Francisco from Big Sur. I do this for all of your happiness. If I did it for the money I’d probably find a way to juice the data so that I could at least afford to hire an employee. This is a labor of love and your payment goes directly into supporting it.

Big Sur is where a good many new ideas are thought.

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Eyewitness Video of Kajieme Powell Shooting Contradicts Police Story

angelchrys shared this story from Colorlines.

On Tuesday, August 19, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by two St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers, just miles away from where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson on August 9. A disturbing video of the shooting, taken by an eyewitness, that was released yesterday contradicts the initial statement given by the St. Louis Police Chief after the shooting.

As Andres Jauregui of the Huffington Post reports reports, the initial statement was as follows: 

In a statement delivered before a crowd near the scene of the shooting, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that both officers opened fire on Powell after the suspect came within three or four feet of police while holding the knife in an “overhand grip.”

The video shows Powell is much further away then three feet and the object, believed to be a knife, that seems to be in his hand is by his side—not “in an ‘overhand grip.’”

But that’s not all. In his statement, Dotson claimed that, “when [the police officers] initially got out of the car, they did not have their weapons drawn. When the suspect displayed his knife, they drew their weapons.” In the video, both police officers have their guns drawn and aimed at Powell as they’re getting out of the car—before Powell seems to display any weapon.

Furthermore, the officers continued to fire after Powell was on the ground, with at least four additional shots. They seemed to have shot him about a dozen times in total. The video shows Powell pacing back and forth before the police show up, but he does not physically hurt anyone. Storeowners called the police on Powell after he allegedly stole snacks from the store.

Afterwards the shooting, witnesses are heard reacting on the video: “Oh my god. They just killed this man. He didn’t have a gun on him. Now they’re cuffing him. He’s already dead.” Another says, “Over two fucking sodas, man. They could’ve tased that man.”

According to New York Magazine, neighbors have described Powell, who’s heard on the video yelling “shoot me now” multiple times, as mentally ill. He. A 2012 investigation uncovered that approximately fifty percent of people killed by police have mental health issues. The Portland Press Herald states

“In many cases, mentally ill people shot by police have threatened, injured or even killed others. Sometimes, they have threatened suicide or expressed a desire to be shot by the police. Frequently, the use of deadly force seems excessive, if not utterly unnecessary.”

Crisis training in how to deal with the mentally ill is lacking in police departments across the country; according to the 2012 investigation, “virtually all of the officers who pulled the trigger lacked training that might have prevented a tragedy.”

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"You realize that everything the police are doing in Ferguson is carefully calculated, right? They’re…"

angelchrys shared this story from Postcards from Space.

“You realize that everything the police are doing in Ferguson is carefully calculated, right? They’re purposely turning peaceful protests into riots. They’re purposely committing violence to incite violence. From saying ‘We won’t be answering 911 calls,’ which is a very clever way to set themselves up to be able to say, ‘We were afraid for our safety - any call could really be an ambush, our lives were in danger’ right down to the camouflage and the military tanks and wearing more body armor than a soldier in a war zone. Its exactly why they’re going for a media blackout - yet allowing certain photos through - they WANT you to see their tanks. They want you to see their riot gear. They WANT you to see a war-zone. They’re trying to sell the world the idea that this community is inherently and constantly a source of violence and turmoil - they want you to think that they [the police] are being attacked daily in a place so vicious they need full body armor. You know why? Because then, at the end of the day, you might just be able to believe the story they’re going to spin. They’re going to tell you that this (white) officer goes to work in this war zone every day - that he spends every working moment in constant fear for his life. They’re going to tell you that Michael Brown attacked this officer. And then they’re going to bring up everything that has happened in the aftermath and try to use it to convince you that he shot that little boy because he was afraid for his life. They’re setting up a defense. You mark my words, they’re trying to set up a defense.”


My mom’s take on what’s going on in Ferguson (via actualbanshee)

Your mom isn’t wrong. That’s why it’s so important to keep the signal going. Too many are silenced with lies and fear and if they cannot speak then we have to do it for them.

(via auntpol)

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That about sums it up

angelchrys shared this story from Pharyngula.

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Soft, Thick and Chewy Quadruple Chocolate Pudding Cookies

angelchrys shared this story from FoodPornDaily | Food Porn, Food Photography.

Soft, Thick and Chewy Quadruple Chocolate Pudding Cookies

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No Thank You

angelchrys shared this story from Shakesville.

[Content Note: Christian Supremacy.]

I am an atheist.

And here is something that happens to me sometimes: When I do something that a Christian sees as “good,” zie will tell me I’m not really an atheist.

(I’m sure people of other religions do this, too, but in my personal experience, it has only been done to me by Christians.)

Sometimes this is said plainly, or sometimes it’s communicated via a jokey question: “Are you sure you’re really an atheist?” Wink. Sometimes it’s just a comment about how that’s something Jesus would do, or some comment about how God doesn’t care that I’m an atheist; he’ll take me to heaven anyway.

No matter how it’s said, what I’m being told is that “goodness” is the exclusive province of Christianity and that I am a fool.

Of course, no one intends to tell me I’m a fool. But it sure feels a hell of a lot like being called a fool when I’m told, in one of a dozen different ways, that I don’t know the “goodness” within me is not my own.

It’s demeaning. And it hurts to be told things I do don’t belong to me, but to some deity in which I don’t even believe.

Nonetheless, I’m meant to receive that shit as a compliment.

And, if I don’t, I’m the bitch.

If I push back at all on the idea that I did not do something “good” because of divine intervention I can’t see, but because of carefully considered choices I made, then suddenly I’m the atheist asshole who is intolerant of religion.

No, thank you.

Don’t put me in that position. Don’t say this sort of thing to this atheist. It is not a compliment.

[From a conversation with @SpokesGay.]

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Ferguson + Kajieme Powell

angelchrys shared this story from Shakesville.

[Content Note: Police brutality; descriptions of violence; racism.]

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in Ferguson and made promises to its residents that the Justice Department will do a thorough investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. Between Holder’s arrival, and the start of the grand jury investigation, and a big storm, Ferguson was quieter last night. Safer. Despite threats of arrest and pepper spray, people were allowed to protest without harassment.

The officer who was pointing an assault rifle at protesters while shouting, “I will fucking kill you. Get back!” the night before, has been relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely. I suppose “indefinitely” means “until the media presence in the area significantly diminishes.” At least he’s off the streets for now.

I linked this yesterday afternoon, but in case anyone missed it, I’m linking it again, because it’s important reading [CN: descriptions of racist violence]: Jamelle Bouie’s “Why the Fires in Ferguson Won’t End Soon.”

And here is some more recommended reading: @ImKindOfAJeaux’s “The Revolution Will Be Live Tweeted.”

ETA. “Ferguson Good Samaritan Says Getting Maced Felt Like Being ‘In Hell on Fire’." My god. A woman who was handing out water and cookies and juice gets maced by police. Fuck.

* * *

On Tuesday, I wrote about the St. Louis police shooting and killing 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, who had stolen two energy drinks and set them on the pavement and was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. This happened three miles from the shooting of Michael Brown.

At the time I asked these questions:
Why didn’t they tase him? Or pepper spray him? Or at least try any other means of relieving the man of his weapon before shooting to kill?

(Not that people can’t and haven’t died from tasers and pepper spray. But they are generally less lethal than guns.)

Was there any attempt to establish if this man was incapacitated in some way? Did he actually need medical care? Would it have even mattered if he did?

How long did they talk to him? How long did they spend trying to negotiate with him, while he was still a yard away from them, begging them to shoot him? How long before BOTH OFFICERS just opened fire in the middle of a neighborhood, where other people could have been hurt?
Well, yesterday, video of the shooting was made public (it is viewable here), and we now have answers to some of those questions.

I don’t know why they didn’t tase him. There was no attempt to establish if Powell was incapacitated in some way.

And as for how long they spent trying to deescalate via negotiation, how long they spent interacting with Powell before killing him: The police arrive on the scene at the 1:23 mark. They start shooting at the 1:40 mark.

Seventeen seconds.

They spent all of seventeen seconds at the scene before they both started shooting at Powell, in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

Seventeen seconds before they shot him twelve times, and then rolled over his dead body and handcuffed his corpse.

The video also calls into question the police account of what happened.
The chief said that the officers repeatedly ordered the man to drop the knife and drew their weapons after he did not drop it. The chief said the man told the police: “Shoot me now. Kill me now.”

He said the two officers fired after the man moved toward one of them and came within 3 to 4 feet.
Nope. The police drew their weapons as soon as they got out of the vehicle. The man did not come within 3 to 4 feet of officers, and had in fact moved away from them when they began firing. If he is brandishing a knife, it’s not even visible in the video, and the police are not ordering him to drop a knife but to take his hand out of his pocket.

Original reports described Powell as coming at police officers brandishing a knife in an overhead grip. That is manifestly not the case.

After Powell has been killed, witnesses begin asking why they didn’t tase him. Over and over, people ask why he wasn’t tased, why he was killed. The police aggressively push people out of the area, creating an absurdly large crime scene, and speak angrily to the witnesses. No one is asked to stay to give their account of what happened. No names are taken. The police tell them to leave.

Maybe some of that happened afterward. But, suffice it to say, the primary goal is clearly to protect the police, not to immediately begin a transparent process of accountability for shooting a man to death in the street.

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Hibiscus Gose

angelchrys shared this story from Boulevard Brewing Company.

Hibiscus Gose, our second Backroads Beer, begins hitting shelves in the Kansas City area this week. A revival of a Boulevard employee holiday beer from a couple years back, Hibiscus Gose is our take on a traditional German style of low alcohol, sour wheat beer. It’s very important to note that this beer is a gose, not a gueuze which is a blend of Belgian lambic beers.


The somewhat obscure style of gose is seeing a return to prominence in American craft brewing as brewers seek to brew lower ABV beers with intense flavors. The style of gose was born in the German town of Goslar although it has become most closely associated with the town of Leipzig where it became more popular. Stylistically speaking, a gose is composed of a malt bill featuring a large percentage of malted wheat combined with pilsner malt. To mimic the somewhat salty water of the region in which gose was born, we added sea salt during the boil as well as coriander, a spice which would have been used in original interpretations of the style. We use the process of brewhouse souring to acidify the wort before boiling. To accomplish this, we lauter the wort off of the grain and inoculate with our house strain of lactobacillus. Once the wort has dropped to the desired pH, 3.6 in this case, we boil the beer as though it were a normal batch of beer. Near the end of the brewing process, during whirlpooling, we infuse the wort with dried hibiscus flowers while it rests in the whirlpool vessel waiting to be cooled and transferred to a fermenter. This addition of hibiscus flowers infuses a vibrant pink hue and a slight citrus/cherry flavor and aroma.

When you pour your first bottle of Hibiscus Gose, expect a beer with a bright pink body and creamy white head to fill your glass. A slightly salty aroma with a touch of coriander and citrus/cherry notes wafts from the beer. The leading flavor is a lemony tartness obtained from the brewhouse souring process with subtle salt and coriander notes. Hibiscus Gose finishes crisp and dry with a slightly lingering sourness that’s tempered by the sea salt, coriander, and hibiscus flowers.

We are currently formulating the recipe for our next Backroads Beer which will be a wet hopped ale featuring Nugget hops shipped to us within hours of harvesting. While we haven’t nailed down a particular style yet, our goal is to create a beer that serves as a vehicle for delivering huge hop flavor and aroma from the sticky, resinous wet hops. Since the production of this beer is dependent upon the hop harvesting season, we expect to brew this beer in late October for an early November release.

“The road must eventually lead to the whole world.” – Jack Kerouac

- Jeremy Danner, Ambassador Brewer

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