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Friday, June 14, 2013

Blog closed for international travel

Hi all

FYI, I will be traveling to Israel, England, France, and Germany for the next six weeks.

So the blog will be temporarily down until I get back.

Keep an eye on the media for me while I'm gone!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The definition of NEGLIGENCE?

This is a question, related to the story from the previous day of various deaths at a local hotel in my hometown.

Read the end of this story and see if you think it meets the definition of negligence.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What is murder?

A horrible "tragedy" happened in Boone recently. Or was it really just murder?

First, an elderly couple was found dead in a hotel room in Boone.

Then, less than two months later, a young child was found dead and his mother rushed to the hospital. In the same room.

Turns out, as was widely expected by virtually everyone in the community here once they heard the news, the deaths were caused by exposure to carbon monoxide. Apparently, the heater from the pool (located directly below the room) was vented directly into the room. And the hotel was warned by the local health department to correct the problem immediately once it was discovered--BEFORE the death of the boy and near death of his mother.

Yet, either the hotel did not fix the problem or tried but did not successfully correct it (eventually we'll know). And if it is the latter, the hotel rented the room again without first making sure it was safe. And they did it before they received the results from toxicology tests on the first two deaths, which came in only a day or two after the death of the little boy!

So, whether it was negligence (i.e., failing to fix the problem) or recklessness (i.e., exposing innocent people to hazardous conditions), some hotel employee is guilty of murder. So, that should be the headling.

Ironically, on one local news site, there is a headline about murder in a hotel, but one that occurred in Hickory:

As for the "tragedy" that occurred at the Boone hotel, it is of course too early for the media to report on murder charges (since there are none). Yet, its description of the incident as a tragedy as opposed to a culpable killing is irresponsible because it reinforces misconceptions about what murder is (and isn't).

Think of it this way: One man kills one person at a hotel in Hickory, and it's "murder." A for-profit company kills three people over two months, and almost kills another. And that is a "tragedy." If the hotel were a person, it would be a serial killer.

So why don't we call them what they are?

EDIT: Here is CNN's incredibly horrible coverage of the story ("mountain way of speaking?" Really?)
Boone, North Carolina (CNN) -- For a time, it had the makings of a mountain mystery. Three deaths -- first an elderly couple then, weeks later, an 11-year-old boy -- in the same hotel room with the same immediate response from authorities: cause of death undetermined.
When the third death -- that of a South Carolina youth visiting Boone with his mother -- made news over the weekend in a Charlotte Observer story ("Mystery surrounds Boone motel deaths,") it brought on reader comments punctuated with words such as "terrifying," "bizarre," "really weird," "incredibly creepy."
"Bates Motel in Boone?" offered one reader.
In this town where the old ways of the mist-shrouded North Carolina mountains still abide alongside massive multi-million-dollar developments, a booming tourism industry and a lynchpin university complex at Appalachian State, the deaths in Room 225 at the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza hotel were indeed enough to get people talking.
The deaths of Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, in Room 225 were both from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The deaths of Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, in Room 225 were both from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Not so much in the realm of the unknown, however. More in the spirit of there's-got-to-be-an-explanation -- and with genuine mountain sympathy for the victims and their families.
"If it's the same (cause for all three deaths), this is ridiculous," Betty Austin, owner of the Mountain House restaurant near the hotel, told CNN Monday.
"Gotta be something going on," said Chuck Style, a manager at Idol's Tire & Auto Services also near the hotel.
"It's a real nice hotel. That's kinda what's so shocking about it," said Style, who added that the talk in town was focused on an unseen yet quite tangible probable cause: carbon monoxide.
The mysterious deaths in Room 225
Police: Boy likely died of asphyxia
On Monday, investigators confirmed the locals' speculation.
Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford told reporters that shortly after noon on Saturday, when emergency personnel responded to the hotel to find 11-year-old Jeffrey Lee Williams dead and his mother, Jeannie Williams, 49, ill, "a presumptive test indicated elevated level of carbon monoxide in the room."
Crawford said after an autopsy on the boy's body, "preliminary indications are that he died from asphyxia." Other toxicology results were pending, he added.
Crawford went on: full-blown toxicology tests had concluded within the last 24 hours that the deaths of Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, from Washington state, in Room 225 in April were both due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Autopsies conducted soon after the couple died had been incomplete.
Left unsolved is the source of the smothering gas.
"As of today, the business remains closed and under the control of investigators," Crawford said Monday.
Examiners from the state board overseeing plumbing, heating and fire sprinkler contractors will be at the hotel on Wednesday, the chief said.
Williams, according to a relative quoted in the Charlotte Observer, had gone from home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to Boone with her son to pick up her daughter from a mountain camp. She remained hospitalized in stable condition Monday.
An attorney retained by the hotel issued a statement to media saying the "health and safety of guests who stay at our hotel is our number one priority.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those involved," added attorney Paul Culpepper.
"We are cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating this truly tragic incident. The hotel will remain closed as we work closely with authorities to address any issues identified and authorities declare the hotel cleared for occupancy."
In Boone, where the mountain way of speaking to the point can cut as clean as a biting morning wind, restaurateur Austin summed up the attitude of many.
"If you had this happen one time," she said Monday, "why in hell didn't they do something about it?"

Monday, June 10, 2013

Today's top stories

Check out the top stories today from

Count them up. the first section contains stories under a headline called, "The Latest."
There are 11 of them.

How many deal with crime or disaster? 8 of them.

Then 2 deal with Simon Cowell being egged on a TV show. Yeah, that is important news right there. (and technically a crime, raising the total to 10 of 11 stories dealing with crime or disaster).

Then, under a section titled, "More Top Stories," there are these stories:
That's 13 more stories. How many deal with crime or disaster? 6.
And then there are your sports stories as well as stories I'd call straight up silly. Somehoe vido game consoles through time is a top story.
And what is CNN's top story today?

Is man behind the NSA leak a crook or good guy?

Edward Snowden admits he's behind of one of the biggest leaks in U.S. history. He exposed a top-secret program that collects phone and Internet data. FULL STORY
Yep, it's a crime story. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

I told you so, I did

Back in 2004, I wrote an 8-part series in the Watauga Democrat on the USA PATRIOT Act. I explained the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here it is.

Then I spoke everywhere I could get myself invited to speak about it, trying to build support for a resolution I was bringing to the Town of Boone. The resolution was supported by five other entities who passed support pieces. And we gathered about 500 signatures in support.

The resolution passed narrowly (3-2). Here it is.

This was a movement to call on Congress to modify the USA PATRIOT Act. Specific sections of the law were identified as serious threats to the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. More than 400 towns and counties and eight states passed these resolutions.

Yet, here we are, nine years later (and almost 12 years since the law was passed in the first place), and we're learning about how the law is being abused, as well as other federal data mining and spy programs being employed across the nation. And, thankfully, it's all over the news.

Here are some examples:

Obama Administration Under Fire
Over 2nd Mass Surveillance Project

Director of National Intelligence Clapper defends administration's surveillance efforts after report says a secret program is allowing the government to mine nine American tech giants, including Facebook and Google, for user data, a day after report of a secret court order that allows NSA to seize millions of phone records for American Verizon customers.
  • Author of Patriot Act Says NSA Records Collection 'Never the Intent' | VIDEO: Misuse of Patriot Act?
  • Lawmakers Misled on Collection of Phone Records? | Verizon EVP Statement | VIDEO: Government Run Amok?
  • NY Times Editorial Board Says Administration Has 'Lost All Credibility' | VIDEO: McCain Says Explanation Needed
  • OPINION: Even New York Times Sounds Like Tea Party | OPINION: Records Grab May Be Legal, But Is It Wise?

  • I could say, "I told you so." But I won't

    But I will say this: Thank God for the news media. I mean, this is why they exist, to operate as a check on power, to keep us informed, to make sure we are free. So this is a good reminder of why we need to make sure the corporations that own them don't dupe us or keep us in the dark.

    My personal solution would be to wrestle control of the media from the corporations and give it back to the people.

    And of course there are independent media organizations that cover these stories everyday, even when the mainstream media are not. Try Truthout and Common Dreams, just to name a couple!

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    Boom goes the dynamite! Finally a scandal with legs.

    You remember when the George W. Bush administration allowed a national program that tapped phones of Americans? You remember how this was illegal? You remember how Congress approved it, after the fact, thereby giving the companies that participated in the program immunity from prosecution?

    No? Check it out.

    So, would it really be that surprising if the Barack Obama administration continued it?

    Today it is one of the top stories in the news, as shown below:

    Report: NSA snooping on U.S. phones

    Source: Verizon forced to give info to spy agencies

    A top secret court order requires Verizon to turn over the phone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency on an "ongoing daily basis," a London newspaper reports. FULL STORY
    • A British newspaper claims in a new report NSA is collecting phone records of millions of American customers of Verizon on an 'ongoing, daily basis.'

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    Wall Street considering marijuana legalization

    From Truthout:

    In a sign that business interests may trump Washington DC's obsession with marijuana prosecutions, a former Microsoft executive, Jamen Shively, is putting together a company to create the first national pot brand.
    And Wall Street is interested.
    So too are most Americans.
    So you think this might be news everywhere ... but not yet.
    Here is an article on BuzzFlash:
    If you Google "marijuana legalization" these are the first links that come up today:
    1. ThinkProgress
    1. Gothamist ‎- 23 hours ago
      A new, damning report by the American Civil Liberties Union (PDF) illustrates how costly, ineffective, and racist the policing and criminalization ...
    1. Marijuana Legalization | The White House
    Compare and contrast the last one from the White House with what others think and you see the problem.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    You wanna see a REAL scandal?

    You've heard, depending on your news choice, about the so-called scandals of the Obama Adminstration when it comes to Benghazi, the IRS, and investigating journalists.

    If not, Google it!

    In my opinion, each of those "scandals" has a reasonable explanation indicative of something other than bad blood or vindictiveness or achieving some political ideology.

    Of course I could be wrong.

    But here is a true scandal of the Obama Adminstration. In cities all over the nation, including New York, young black males are being rounded up for a relatively minor behavior that Obama himself engaged in on a regular basis as a younger man (smoking or possessing marijuana).

    In this article from the New York Times titled "Blacks Are Singled Out for Marijuana Arrests, Federal Data Suggests," the story reports: "Black Americans were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates, according to new federal data."

    So why is this not being treated as a scandal, even as we know that the drug war has been a massive failure and is having such destrimental effects on the least advantaged people in the country? And how come no one is all upset about it on Fox News?        

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    How come Americans know almost nothing about what's going on around the world?

    Could it be because they do not regularly watch or read the news, and when they do, they get it from networks and organizations that cover this stuff as the top news stories?

    I've italicized those stories that have an explicit international focus. I've starred (*) the "soft" or "lifestyle" type stories that have become so common in today's news. Finally, I've bolded those that deal with crime or disaster. If it is italicized and bolded, it is an international story that deals with crime or disaster.

    Notice, for example, that the first three stories are international stories dealing with death and destruction. Also notice that the first eight stories deal with bad news--crime or tragedies here or abroad.

  • NEW At least 112 killed in plant fire

  • NEW 10 kids killed in Afghan bombing

  • Deadly virus spreads to Italy

  • Manning's court-martial to start Monday

  • Exec: AEG 'knew nothing' of MJ drug use

  • Calif. fire scorches 25,000 acres

  • Search on for Yosemite waterfall victim

  • Mom, kids trapped as canopy falls Mom, kids trapped as canopy falls

  • Syria issues Turkey travel warning

  • Turkish PM refutes 'dictator' jibe

  • Turks targeting prime minister Turks targeting prime minister

  • *Kanye and Kim's baby: It's a ....
  • IRS controversy turns personal
  • IRS in hot seat over lavish spending
  • Issa: D.C. directed IRS targeting
  • GOP chief: Party 'open for repairs'
  • U.S. shocks Germany in soccer
  • High stakes for LeBron in Game 7
  •  *NBA star fined 75K for cursing, gay slur
  • *Tennis star sorry for swearing at fans
  • Smugglers drive grim trade in dog meat
  • Dogs slaughtered in Vietnam Dogs slaughtered in Vietnam
  • Fake kidnapping ends in death Fake kidnapping ends in death
  • No answers in gang rape and killing No answers in gang rape and killing
  • *New gimmicks to sell beer Time
  • The four worst tax breaks
  • Homebuilders struggle to find workers
  • Baptists leaving Scouts 'en masse'
  • Defiant Scouts at gay pride parade Defiant Scouts at gay pride parade
  • *Bruno Mars' mother dies of aneurysm
  • Sex is life's work for doctor
  • Zumba instructor/prostitute sentenced
  • Runaway llama gets Tased by police Runaway llama gets Tased by police
  • Whites-only not racist, resident says Whites-only not racist, resident says
    Could it be this is why we are so clueless about the world?