Yet another isolated incident of gun violence

I talk quite a bit about guns. Today’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut — where a twenty year old assaulted an elementary school and killed 26 people, 20 of them kids — just leaves me dumbstruck. The only thing I can bring myself to say is, what will it take before people start treating these mass shootings as something more than isolated incidents?

This interactive map shows what I’m talking about quite well. A snapshot:

Since 1999, there have been 45 shootings in schools worldwide; 31 were in the States. Mass shootings are almost a daily occurrence in your country, and each seems to be going for a high score over the last. They are a much realer and more immediate threat than death by terrorism, or plane crashes, or bear attacks. Why are you as a nation so numb to this? Why is your immediate recourse as a nation to demand that people have readier access to guns, to demand that everyone go armed, to put more guns into the hands of more people who might for some reason feel oppressed and take it out on a school full of children?

Meanwhile, in China, children suffered a knife attack in an elementary school. 20 children were injured. Injured, not killed — which would almost certainly not be the case if the attacker had a gun. And people are talking about China having something rotten at its core. Why is nobody saying the same about America and the gun culture that would ignore such trending data?

Other posts you should read:
Kate Donovan: When you tie shootings to mental illness
Miriam Mogilevsky: If not now, when? On politicizing tragedy

Both of these posts lead me to the same conclusion: there is something larger going on here and the more we sweep it all under the rug and repeat the drumbeat platitude of “more guns”, the deeper into the delusion rabbithole we go.

And another: Greta Christina: The Newtown shootings: It is not too soon to start talking

Thoughts on Savita

Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman living in Ireland, was refused an abortion during a complicated miscarriage at 17 weeks because the fetus — unviable though it was — still had a heartbeat. When abortion was the only recourse to save the mother’s life, the doctors refused, telling her and her husband “this is a Catholic country”. The abortion was finally performed after the baby died two whole days later, but it was too late for Savita. As a direct result of that delay, she died of septicemia. She would have survived if the pregnancy had been terminated at the first sign of complication. Hell, she could have been saved if doctors had simply prioritized the heartbeat of the viable human being over the unviable one.

People around these parts have vented their frustrations already. Brianne reinforces the fact that atheism intersects reproductive rights (and thus human rights — reproductive freedom is not only a feminist ideal, but a human rights one!). Ophelia lays the blame for the needless death squarely at the feet of Catholicism. Zinnia decries the theocratic dystopian nightmare the country has evidently become. Avicenna wonders why the country is so faithful despite the innumerable Catholic pedophilia and abuse scandals in the country. Dana points out that the Catholics ignored one entity with a heartbeat in favour of another, for no ready reason. But Stephanie nails that reason — the doctors, being good Catholics, let Savita die because she was failing at her one duty: making babies.

I barely have anything I can add to this collective howl of outrage except, maybe, a bitter and jaded sigh. And a request of adherents.

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Noah’s ark film delayed due to… yes, flooding

Via WorstPreviews.com, a slight silver lining to all the bad news coming out of Hurricane Sandy. It seems Darren Aronofsky’s current project, Noah, has suffered from delays and set damage owing to all the flooding in Oyster Bay, New York. The best part? This quote:

To make it as realistic as possible, the director built a massive ark, which measures 450 feet long, 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be sailed.

Emphasis mine. That’s what you call irony. Considering scholars pretty much uniformly agree that the Bible dimensions wouldn’t carry the necessary load, that’s as realistic as I think Aronofsky could have made it!
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Video of ConEd building explosion in NYC

Apparently this is the ConEd building at E14th and FDR. Pretty cataclysmic. Shouldn’t be long before news outlets start picking this up. If you’re in the path of this hurricane, get off my damn blog and get to a hurricane shelter ASAP.

And remember, Mitt Romney will get rid of FEMA. He said so himself. But don’t worry, his sons are invested in disaster recovery companies.

Maddow: Paul Ryan Pals Around with Right-Wing Terrorists

Hey, remember the whole “palling around with terrorists” argument, about Bill Ayers? Yeah, it was misdirection.

Rachel Maddow has to do a lot of framing — over ten minutes — to give the scope of this issue before getting to the “punchline”, being Paul Ryan’s latest nonsense and the Right Wing Conspiracy Theorists’ latest outrages.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Curiosity piqued, tonight at 2:31am!

Atlantic Daylight Time, of course. So 05:31 UTC.

Remember Curiosity and its Rube Goldberg-like planned landing? That happens tonight. Tomorrow morning, technically, for some of us. Phil Plait has details on how to participate in the fun:

If you want to watch the proceedings live, I have a few things you can do.

1) Fraser Cain, Pamela Gay, and I will be doing a Google+ Hangout on August 5th starting at 03:00 UTC on August 5/6 and running until 07:00 – note that for the US, this starts on the evening of the 5th at 23:00 Eastern time and runs through 03:00 in the morning. We plan on having special guests, a live feed from NASA, and more. The Hangout is being sponsored by Google itself, CosmoQuest, and the SETI Institute, which has a strong astrobiology mission and therefore is very interested in Mars. Our coverage will be complete, intense, awesome, and fun. Promise! There’s more info at Universe Today, and we have an events page set up on G+ to help you out. There’s also a Facebook events page, too! Use the #marshangout hashtag on Twitter to follow along, too.

2) You can always watch NASA TV. They’ve posted a schedule of events for media.

3) If you are in the Pasadena California area, then join the party! Literally: The Planetary Society is throwing a bash to celebrate and watch the landing at the Paseo Colorado – Garfield Promenade on Saturday, August 4. Attending will be TPS blogger (and big pal o’ mine) Emily Lakdawalla as well as Bill Nye (yes, THE Bill Nye). You can get more info on Emily’s blog, and get tickets online. If I could, I’d go there too! But I’ll be at home and quite busy myself (see #1 above).

4) The Planetary Society is holding PlanetFest at the Pasadena Convention Center on August 4 and 5 – it’s again a celebration of planetary exploration. It looks like fun!

X-Box 360 users will also be able to live-stream the landing. My sleep schedule has been completely screwed by work for a very long time, so I’m planning on staying up myself. I’m trying to figure out if the PS3 browser can handle Ustream, but I’m not having a lot of luck with it myself. Anyone know of a good way to stream to PS3, given that’s my primary media centre?

Thoughts on yet another gun massacre

It’s been a few days since the mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre, where a neuroscience dropout killed at least a dozen people at a showing of Dark Knight Rises. The blogosphere has been churning away in the meantime, doing what it does best: collating, aggregating, live-blogging and synthesizing the information that the media has been producing; sorting reactions and likewise reacting; and teasing out details that the media missed or glossed over.

The gunman, James Holmes, carried four weapons — two .40 Glocks, a Remington 870 12-gauge single-barrel pump action shotgun, and a Smith & Wesson AR-15 semi-auto rifle for which he apparently had a drum clip that held 100 rounds. All told, he had over six thousand rounds of ammo for his various weapons. He was well armored, with ballistic helmet and gas mask, tactical gloves, and vest, with groin and neck protection. He began his assault by breaking through the theater’s back door during the first action sequence, tossing two gas grenades (unknown what kind of gas — possibly tear gas), then opening fire. All of his armaments were obtained legally.
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Lonesome George has died

The last Galapagos tortoise, Lonesome George, has died at roughly a hundred years old. Scientists aren’t sure why he died and plan an autopsy, but Galapagos tortoises were thought to have a lifespan of about two hundred years.

George was a member of the same species of tortoise that prompted Charles Darwin, on visiting the Galapagos Islands, to first formulate the theory of evolution.

The footage of George in this clip starts at 2:03, but you may want to watch the start anyway, which tells of fishermen holding George and other iconic animals hostage to fend off conservationists who have been making the fishermen’s lives difficult.

Kid tries to prove his masculinity by shooting himself in the head on live video

See, it’s bullshit like this that motivates me to destroy gender roles, not just for feminism’s sake, but for men as well. This child did not, obviously, think things through before he tried to prove how “manly” he was to his friends on video chat. He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, not realizing that the gun was loaded.

About 1:15 a.m., the teen was video-chatting — police believe it was either over Skype or another video-chat service called ooVoo — with an as-yet-unidentified person while his brothers were asleep in the room in their Kensington house.

Sometime during the video chat, things went horribly wrong.

“His manhood or his ego was challenged and he said something along the lines of, ‘I’ll show you,'” Gallagher said. “He thought he was clowning around, trying to shock the other party on the Internet site.”

That’s when the teen picked up his older brother’s gun and, believing it was unloaded, put it to his head and pulled the trigger, police said.

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