The cruel and inhumane US (in)justice system

The absurdly disparate sentences that are issued in the US legal system is vividly on display in the case of Michael Thompson, aged 68, who has served 25 years of a 40- to 60-year sentence in a Michigan prison. Tana Ganeva describes his case.

In 1994, Thompson sold 3 pounds of pot to a police informant. Michigan legalized pot in 2018, laying the groundwork for a profitable legal industry, making it that much harder for him to understand why he’s still behind bars. “You know after 25 years, you don’t feel nothing no more. You just feel numb,” he said.
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The Pacific Ocean is big. Like, really, really big

Because of the way that flat maps are drawn with the Atlantic Ocean in the middle and the Pacific Ocean split and placed at the left and right extremes, it is easy to not realize how big the latter ocean is. Google maps now shows maps on a spherical basis and if you zoom out, you get a view of how the ocean covers pretty much half the globe. You see the Americas on the right edge, Asia on the left edge, and only Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea form the major land masses.

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The Julian Assange case and freedom of the press

The removal of Julian Assange from the London embassy of Ecuador following the revoking of his asylum has raised concerns about the implications for press freedom. The US immediately unsealed a secret grand jury indictment that it had obtained earlier and used it to demand his extradition to the US. The main charge against him is that of a conspiracy to hack into government computers to obtain secret documents.
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“They may have the money and power. We have the people.” Bernie runs!

Bernie Sanders announced today that he is running again for the Democratic presidential nomination and I immediately sent in a contribution. Within four hours of his announcement he had raised $1 million. He is also seeking to sign up one million campaign volunteers, and that would be great because the only way you defeat the big money contributors who run things is with people power. As he says, “They may have the money and power. We have the people.” I think that he is someone who can dish it out to Trump the way he deserves, with Sanders calling him a “pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction”.”

His platform, given below, consists of measures that I can fully endorse. When he ran four years ago, people dismissed many of his proposals as naïve and unrealistic. Now pretty much all the Democratic candidates have adopted them, showing how much he has changed the conversation. Sanders, like Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, has been fighting for these socialist values all his life, convinced that they would eventually resonate with voters and I think that time is near. If he does not win the nomination I am pretty sure that whoever does win it, especially if it is Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, will have endorsed many of the same issues and ditch the neoliberal triangulation rubbish that the Clintons espoused. For that very reason, be prepared for the neoliberals in the Democratic party to wage all out attacks on Sanders and those who adopt that kind of platform, just like the neoliberal Blairite rump wing of the Labour party are attacking and undermining Corbyn. Bernie’s message echoes that of Labour’s campaign slogan “For the many, not the few”.
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Snippets: Trump caves to Pelosi, journalist upset by rhetorical strategies

Donald Trump has backed down in the face of Nancy Pelosi’s opposition. First he said that he was going to deliver the State of the Union speech in Congress over her objections. She firmly told him again to get lost. Then in an attempt to save face, he said that he would give the speech at some other location next Tuesday. But then today he said that he was not going to do that either and will wait for the government to reopen.

One thing that observers have noticed is that while Trump gives his opponents insulting nicknames, he has not done so for Pelosi, referring to her as just ‘Nancy’. I wonder why. Perhaps he realizes that she now has real political power and is intimidated by her. Let’s see how his base likes seeing him being cowed by her.
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I’m with Rat on this one

One of the things that I disliked about winter was having to get up in the morning when it was still dark outside. Now that I am retired, I go to bed late and get up late, well after the sun has come up. Add to that the ability to stay indoors on really cold, snowy, and windy days and that has made winter a lot more tolerable, though I still don’t like it.

How the peace symbol came to be

I am always on the lookout for interesting pieces of historical trivia and how the famous peace symbol came into existence certainly qualifies. It turns out that it was created in 1958 by Gerald Holtom by superimposing the international semaphore alphabet signals for ‘N’ and ‘D’ so that the symbol represents ‘Nuclear Disarmament’.

On Good Friday 1958, thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest nuclear weapons. They were responding to a string of test blasts conducted by the United Kingdom, the third nation to join the nuclear club after the US and USSR.

For the next four days, the bravest among them marched to Aldermaston, a small village 50 miles west of London where British nuclear weapons were designed and stockpiled.

On the protesters’ signs and banners, a new symbol was making its first appearance. Gerald Holtom, a designer and a pacifist, had developed it specifically for the march just a few weeks prior. He believed that a symbol would make the message stronger.

He was right: The symbol was adopted soon after by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and went on to become one of the most widely recognized designs in history.

“It’s a minor masterpiece with major evocative power,” said design guru and cultural critic, Stephen Bayley, in an email. “It speaks very clearly of an era and a sensibility.

“It is, simply, a fine period piece: the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well.”

The symbol has a strong similarity to the Mercedes Benz emblem (that has resulted in some satire about how people mistakenly used one for the other) and I wonder if the car company ever considered suing for copyright infringement. Of course, this was in 1958 not long after the Nazis had been defeated in World War II and a German company’s efforts to suppress a peace symbol may not have been viewed as the wisest public relations move.