Tuesday, August 19, 2014

7 Things: The Tear Gas Edition

I kept holding off on this post, hoping it would become unnecessary. But, here we are.
1. There are a few kinds of tear gas, but ultimately it's an aerosolized irritant.  It inflames the mucus membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat making them feel inflamed, itchy, and irritated.
2. It can also causing burning, itching, and peeling of the skin.
3. Tear gas can be fitted to a gun, with a blank cartridge. So reports of shots followed by tear gas, might just be the deployment of the tear gas, rather than a cause and response scenario.
4. Not to make this all about me, but I take three medications a day to assist with my allergies and asthma so I can hopefully breathe normally. Given that an estimated 1 in 12 people have asthma, it's highly likely when you gas a town night after night, that some of these people are asthma sufferers.  Asthma is certainly not the only condition that would be exacerbated by tear gas, all sorts of illnesses would be impacted. 
5. It also, as you may expect has a greater effect on children.
6. I saw some people wondering on social media why people would bring their kids to a protest that by now has a pattern of erupting into violence.  Here's the story of a family who stayed in, and gave refuge to one reporter.  They have to turn their AC off to try to slow the creep of tear gas into their house.
7. Tear gas, per the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the US signed, the use of tear gas is banned in foreign wars, it however remains allowed for use against your own citizens.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On Ferguson

I can't speak to why the case of Michael Brown caught my attention any faster than say that of Eric Garner or Ezell Ford or any of the others.  Certainly, in retrospect the actions of the various police forces in handling the case and the residents have drawn additional attention, but the best I can come up with is that I happened to be on Twitter at the right time following the right people and this case came across my radar pretty quickly. 
There are three job trends in my family, writers, teachers and military or police.  So, I want to start by saying that I have the utmost respect for police officers and the difficult job they face and the idea that their jobs are inherently fraught with danger, that the simplest interactions can escalate quickly.  I also know that despite the fact that we arm our police officers, most do not fire their weapon in the course of their career*, and believe that most of them are acting with the intention of protecting and serving. 
However, I also know that the things have become more and more problematic, as police officers seem to react with a higher level of force when dealing with people of color and/or people who are mentally ill.  So.  Ferguson.  I fairly quickly began following some folks on the ground, as it were, in Ferguson, keeping an eye on the hashtag, and well.  As Maureen Johnson said at one point, it was like a bucket brigade of information, trying to make sure the people explaining, photographing, and videotaping what was going on, got that information out. 
Now, a lot of people said they needed to do this because the mainstream media wasn't there, and I think that was partly true the first night, even though two of the people I was following were a local politician with a background in documenting police and government activity, and a musician who also has done some reporting for a local paper.  And once it became clear that things were happening in Ferguson there were plenty of reporters, so many that someone asked the FAA to clear the airspace to prevent news helicopters. 
I know some people of a protesting bent, and sometimes protesters will intentionally ignore orders to disperse, lock hands together, and get arrested in order to bring greater attention.  So, yes, even peaceful protesters can get arrested.  But I live in DC, the place all sorts of people come to protest, and I have never seen the level of response - tear gas, flash grenades, acoustic weaponry, and rubber bullets deployed.  (Which is not to say our local police is perfect, I would remind you of Trinidad.) 
But, it is not my intention to recap, what has been well documented elsewhere. So, the question you may have is what can you do?  Well, small though it is, I think the bucket brigade of information really has been useful. Folks in the middle east checked in on the Ferguson hashtag and provided advice for residents on how to deal with teargas. And, it helps, after all, that is what we all love about social media, is being able to share what's going on with parts of the rest of the world. 
Educate yourself about what's going on - in Ferguson and where you live.
Vote.  Seriously.  Vote.  Ask questions of your candidates about things and vote.  This is such a great example of how even the local elections are important.  Yes, the police are not usually elected (although sometimes the sheriff's office is) but you want your mayor, your city council, your governor, or whatever elected officials you have to be not just tough on crime, but tough on safety of the residents.  And being a voter who votes, is one way to get your voice heard. 
Also, look into what local groups there might be.  Be it community policing, youth activism, whatever angle to work with people in your community to make it a better place for everyone. 

*This fact is cited a lot across the internet, although it does look like it's partly based on extrapolation, since officially there is no national database that compiles data across the many city, county, state, and other police forces. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Interesting Things

This week there has been a lot of loss, celebrity and otherwise. so happy thing, happy things. 
1. A 73 year-old man received the high school diploma that had been withheld due to his participation in a small act of anti-segregation. 
2. A girl who was swept away from her family in a tsunami ten years ago, is reunited with her family.
3. My family often visited, well, other family in Connecticut growing up, where there were tiny plastic beads still washing up on the beach.  They were from a long defunct plastics factory that had been damaged in a hurricane before I was born.  So, this story about Legos washing up after a container ship incident intrigued me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dear Football

Dear Football,
We need to talk.  I was raised on football.  Our family would gather on the couch and watch games.  Even after I had moved out, my parents would invite me over to watch the games together. After my father passed away, my mother ended up married to a (horror) Giants fan, but has remained loyal to the Washington team. 
But, well, here we are.  There have been revelations about concussions and that the NFL not only knew about the issues, but colluded to keep important medical information away from players.  The NFL has never has a particularly good record as far as rape and domestic abuse, but this latest ridiculousness, where rendering someone unconscious gets you punished less than an illegal move on the field might, is hard to take.  Despite the large number of female fans, the NFL has done little beyond wearing pink one month a year to welcome them.  In fact, the NFL hates that you might have a purse. (Yes, I know it's supposedly security.  But, given that no one is searching pockets, it just suggests the manner of carrying your things is the problem.) 
And well, the Washington team has always had a racist name.  We could argue that the name is no longer associated with it's racist origins, I know I tried to make peace with it for a while.  These are issues of varying sizes.  But on the whole it makes justifying supporting this enterprise an increasingly difficult set of ethical calculus.  I'm not quite ready to give football up.  But boy do I wish football wasn't making it so hard to justify my loyalty. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Given all the discussion about RWA about remembering the biases of your source or research material, this article about how the women already in the tech industry, even if not always in technical positions themselves often get erased was interesting.
2. I've had frustrating discussions with people about pictures on the internet, and how to tell if they are copyrighted, so, this chart, I think is helpful. 
3. August is Read a Romance month.  (Yay!) So, there are great posts up about the joy of romance reading, including this one by the lovely Christine Merrill.