Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 10th, 2021

Unaccountable: The push to remake policing takes decades, only to begin again

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To balance the good news, a problem that’s more intractable than dengue. Robert Klemko and John Sullivan report in the Washington Post:

In 1988, as Joe Collum drove the New Jersey Turnpike to his new job at a local TV news station, he noticed a recurring scene on the side of the highway: White state troopers rifling through the belongings of Black and Latino motorists.

Collum, an investigative reporter, scoured arrest records in dozens of municipalities. Along the turnpike, he found, Black and Latino drivers accounted for the vast majority — 80 percent — of all state police arrests on the turnpike. “Without Just Cause,” his investigative report on WWOR-TV Secaucus, introduced the world to the term “racial profiling.”

“There was this big initiative to stop drugs coming in and out of New York City, and they were transparent about that,” Collum said, “but the troopers individually and collectively, to some degree, decided that the best way to catch people with drugs was to target dark-skinned people.”

Collum’s reporting exposed how troopers’ biases and assumptions about people of color had infected policing along New Jersey’s main artery. State police denied they were targeting minorities. But a group of attorneys, motivated by Collum’s reports, sued troopers, and a state court affirmed for the first time the existence of racial profiling by law enforcement. The Justice Department ordered an end to the practice.

But nearly 30 years later, the most recent audit revealed that Black drivers were still being subjected more often to searches, arrests and uses of force after traffic stops by state police.

The attempted reforms after Collum’s revelation of racial profiling have led to yet another chapter in the long line of attempts to cleanse policing in the United States of its persistent afflictions — an ongoing exercise in reform that never ends.

For decades, police misconduct and the use of controversial tactics have fueled cycles of outrage that have been followed by commissions, studies and orders or promises to reform. In 1929, the federal Wickersham Commission produced 14 volumes of reports documenting widespread police corruption, including the use of the “third degree” to extract confessions. Eighty-six years later, after the killing of a Black man, Michael Brown, by a White officer in Ferguson, Mo., the Obama administration convened the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which produced 116 pages of recommended changes in U.S. law enforcement.

Last year, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police renewed the calls for change.

Since then, more than 2,000 policing-related bills have been introduced nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In April, Maryland became the first state to repeal its powerful Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a set of legislative protections that included scrubbing any record of complaints against an officer after a period of time. And in Congress, the Democrat-led House in March passed a bill named for Floyd that bars chokeholds and no-knock warrants; it is stalled in the Senate.

The Washington Post examined three historic firsts in policing reforms: the effort to stop racial profiling by troopers in New Jersey, the deployment of early-warning technology to identify troubled deputies in Los Angeles and the use of federal intervention to force change on police in Pittsburgh.

The legacies of these firsts reveal the difficulty of remaking law enforcement. At each agency, the attempts have been stifled by entrenched cultures, systemic dysfunction, shifts in leadership and swings in public mood. Outrage at officers’ conduct eventually gives way to demands for aggressive enforcement when crime flares, and the cycle continues.

“Eventually, too many people get murdered, too many people get raped, and people start saying, ‘Come on. Beef up the police,’ ” said former Los Angeles County sheriff’s assistant chief Neal Tyler, who helped develop the first computerized early-warning system. “And we do that, and then slowly, eventually, we lose our resolve and the pendulum swings back the other direction, and there’s a police scandal of epic proportions.

“Like clockwork.”

A department under federal control

In 1995 in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, an officer pulled over Jonny Gammage, a Black businessman who was at the wheel of a luxury sports car. He had been stopped for erratic driving. Police wrestled Gammage to the ground, putting pressure on his chest and neck until he died of asphyxia. His last words: “I’m only 31.”

Gammage’s death, along with fatal shootings by the Pittsburgh police and other allegations of officer misconduct, pushed the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the department. The ACLU had been investigating the police for three years, gathering evidence of alleged civil rights violations, including by jump-out squads, free-roaming patrol units that stopped people on the street.

After filing suit, the ACLU asked the Justice Department to take on the case.

“A short time later, they had three attorneys in Pittsburgh hungrily downloading everything we’d learned,” said Witold “Vic” Walczak, the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s legal director, who handled the case.

The Justice Department investigated and for the first time invoked a civil power tucked into the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, filing its own lawsuit against Pittsburgh to address a “pattern or practice” of civil rights abuses by the city’s police. In 1997, the city became the first to enter into a federal consent decree, agreeing to changes that would be monitored by the government.

In 83 paragraphs, Justice laid out a plan for the department of 900 officers, including mandates to implement diversity training, better document traffic stops, reduce the use of strip searches and track complaints filed against officers.

But when the federal monitors moved on nearly a decade later, the pressure for reform had dissipated.

Sheldon Williams, who joined the department as an officer in 1997, experienced it firsthand.

Before Williams became a Pittsburgh officer, his encounters with police had included running from them as a child in Wilkinsburg, a mostly Black borough in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. In high school, he said, his family moved to a White part of town, where Williams said most residents did not fear officers. “It’s hard to make people see the unpredictability Black Americans face when dealing with the police,” he said.

Williams, who signed up as the department pushed to diversify, took a job in a new public integrity unit, a team created to look for internal corruption. He said he thought he would be applauded for working to restore public confidence. Instead, he was shunned.

Commanders embraced the reforms, he said, but the rank and file often did not. “As I came in, I started seeing the shifts and the changes right away,” he said. “But I also heard the kicks and scrapes and the complaints about it.”

Under the consent decree, officers were taught how to navigate their own biases and understand why Black people might fear them. The decree also gave police nonlethal tools, including pepper spray, he said. “We used to get issued blackjacks to control suspects,” said Williams, referring to the leather-wrapped piece of metal with a wrist strap.

Officers had to document more precisely why they stopped and questioned people and provide more justification for the use of force.

And the department agreed to track officers accused of misconduct.

“There was a sense from members of the community that the department was doing things that increased the professionalism of the officers,” said Williams, who retired in 2011 and has since become a pastor and member of the Citizen Police Review Board.

In 2002, federal monitors pronounced the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police rehabilitated, ending the consent decree except for a provision to monitor the internal affairs department as it investigated a backlog of misconduct cases. That ended in 2005.

The decree worked initially, said David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh who wrote a book about the intervention, “A City Divided.”

“It changed some of the most dysfunctional parts of the way the department was operating,” Harris said. But once the federal pressure ended, reforms slipped, he said. “When the public pressure is off, departments tend to backslide.”

In 2006, there was a newly elected mayor, and Police Chief Bob McNeilly lost his job. Old problems reemerged. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

And there’s a link in the sidebar:

Accountable
An examination of policing in America amid the push for reform.

Civilian oversight is undermined by politicians and police, who contend citizens are ill-equipped to judge officers.

I would point out to politicians and police that the Secretary of Defense is, by strong tradition, a civilian.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 7:49 pm

Time for some good news: A Pivotal Mosquito Experiment Could Not Have Gone Better

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Ed Yong reports in the Atlantic:

Adi Utarini had her first of two bouts of dengue fever in 1986, when she was still a medical student. Within a few hours, she spiked a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and couldn’t stand up, because her knee was shaking so badly. Within a few days, she was in the hospital. That experience is common in Utarini’s home city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia: It has one of the highest rates of dengue in the country, which itself has one of the highest rates of dengue in the world. “Here, when you ask people if they know someone who’s had dengue, they can always name someone,” says Utarini, now a public-health professor at Gadjah Mada University.

Thanks to her work, that might soon change.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus that infects an estimated 390 million people every year, and kills about 25,000; the World Health Organization has described it as one of the top 10 threats to global health. It spreads through the bites of mosquitoes, particularly the species Aedes aegypti. Utarini and her colleagues have spent the past decade turning these insects from highways of dengue into cul-de-sacs. They’ve loaded the mosquitoes with a bacterium called Wolbachia, which prevents them from being infected by dengue virusesWolbachia spreads very quickly: If a small number of carrier mosquitoes are released into a neighborhood, almost all of the local insects should be dengue-free within a few months. It’s as if Utarini’s team vaccinated a few individuals against a disease, and soon after the whole population had herd immunity.

The World Mosquito Program (WMP), a nonprofit that pioneered this technique, had run small pilot studies in Australia that suggested it could work. Utarini, who co-leads WMP Yogyakarta, has now shown conclusively that it does. Her team released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in parts of Yogyakarta as part of a randomized controlled trial. The results, which were unveiled last year and have now been published, showed that Wolbachia rapidly spread among the local mosquitoes, and reduced the incidence of dengue by 77 percent. “That provides the gold standard of evidence that Wolbachia is a highly effective intervention against dengue,” says Oliver Brady, a dengue expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who was not involved in the study. “It has the potential to revolutionize mosquito control.”

The trial’s results were so encouraging that the researchers have since released Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes over all of central Yogyakarta—a 32-square-kilometer zone that’s home to more than 400,000 people. They’re now expanding into the densest surrounding provinces, aiming to protect 4 million people by the end of 2022. If they succeed, they should be able to prevent more than 10,000 dengue infections every year, Katherine Anders of the WMP told me. And the team is optimistic enough that it’s daring to think about an even grander goal: eliminating dengue from the city altogether.

“Dengue is a particularly challenging virus,” Natalie Dean, a statistician at the University of Florida, told me. It comes in four distinct versions, or “serotypes.” People who recover from one serotype can still be infected by the other three; if that happens, they’re more likely to develop severe and potentially lethal symptoms. For that reason, the only existing dengue vaccine also increases the risk of severe dengue in people who’ve never been infected, and is recommended only for people who’ve already encountered the disease.

Then there’s the mosquito. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 7:17 pm

Margaret Mead on the first archeological evidence of a civilization

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An interesting observation from Margaret Mead:

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.

Ira Byock

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 6:58 pm

Operation Underground Railroad’s Carefully Crafted Public Image Is Falling Apart

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The report by Anna Merian and Tim Marchman in Vice is amazing (and, unfortunately, credible). It begins:

im Caviezel appeared onscreen in Oklahoma on a Friday night, his digital visage bathed in the hot lights of Rhema Bible College’s amphitheater and the adulation of his audience, and proceeded to make a real mess. 

“You can do something now. You can end this,” he told the audience. “If we let our little ones continue to be slaughtered, boy, there’s gonna be a judgment on this world, and especially our country.” 

Caviezel, an actor known for playing Jesus Christ and for his passionate commitment to Christianity, was appearing at the Health & Freedom conference, a dizzying multi-day event devoted to election conspiracy theories and COVID denialism headlined by people like pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood, who frequently and enthusiastically promotes conspiracy theories associated with QAnon. (The event was, in fact, ostensibly two conferences, one devoted to business and the other to health. They were indistinguishable.) Caviezel was there to promote his newest role, in which he plays Tim Ballard, the founder and most recognizable face of the famed anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, or OUR. The film, Sound of Freedom, has been in the works—and its release beset with mysterious delays—for several years. (You can, however, view a trailer here.)

Ballard couldn’t appear in person in Oklahoma, Caviezel explained. “He’s down there saving children as we speak. They’re pulling children out of the darkest recesses of hell,” he said. “All kinds of places, the adrenochroming of children.” 

 

“You said adrenochrome?” host Clay Clark, an Oklahoma personality who bills himself as a “growth consultant” and business guru, asked a moment later.  “We need to discuss that.” 

“Essentially, you have adrenaline in your body … and when you are scared, you produce adrenaline,” Caviezel explained. “If a child knows he’s going to die, his body will secrete this adrenaline. And they have a lot of terms that they use that he takes me through, but it’s the worst horror I’ve seen. It’s screaming alone. Even if I never, ever, ever saw it, it’s beyond. And these people that do it, there will be no mercy for them.” The audience applauded, solemnly.

Caviezel, whose agents and managers did not reply to several requests for comment, had just promoted one of the more extreme and lurid conspiracy theories out there, and one central to the cosmology of QAnon—the utterly false idea that a cabal of elites is torturing and killing children to obtain a fictionalized biological substance—and he’d done it in the same breath that he promoted OUR. (Adrenochrome is a real chemical compound, but the idea that it can only be harvested from terrified torture victims was purely the stuff of horror movies before Q came along. For QAnon believers, however, it has a much larger significance. The concept that evil elites are harvesting the substance from murdered children is a central facet of their belief system; they believe those elites take the substance to maintain their youthful appearances or life force.) 

All of this was awkward at best for OUR, which has spent the better part of a year insisting that it “does not condone conspiracy theories and is not affiliated with any conspiracy theory groups, like QAnon, in any way, shape, or form,” as it says on its website. Caviezel’s comments generated a minor tsunami of headlines linking him, the film, Ballard, and the organization to a poisonous conspiracy theory and a stunningly fringe conference, the highlight of which was Lin Wood, who claimed in November that associating him with QAnon is a “smear,” making the shape of a Q in the air for an adoring crowd. (Wood has more recently claimed to be confused about QAnon even is, writing on Telegram on June 2: “I have been repeatedly attacked for being a ‘Qanon conspiracy theorist. Why? I can do research to educate myself on Q. I can do research to educate myself on Anons. My question is: What is QAnon???”) 

In response to a request for comment from VICE World News, a spokesperson for OUR wrote, “Operation Underground Railroad does not condone child trafficking conspiracy theories, such as the harvesting of adrenochrome, nor is the organization affiliated with any conspiracy theory groups, including QAnon. OUR has clearly stated that the effort to knock out child exploitation and human trafficking is being harmed [by] a number of conspiracy theory groups who have chosen to latch onto child exploitation and human trafficking and used a variety of conspiracy theories as a vehicle to deceptively bolster their causes.” The spokesperson also said that Ballard “participated in the conference out of respect to, and at the invitation of, Jim Caviezel to help promote the upcoming movie Sound of Freedom in which Caviezel plays the lead role.” In response to a specific question about Caviezel’s use of the phrase “he takes me through,” a second spokesperson said that Ballard had never explained the process of adrenochrome harvesting to Caviezel.

Before the blowback and the cleanup came, though, Caviezel and Ballard had a movie to promote. 

 

“This is one of the best films I’ve ever done in my life,” Caviezel said. He drew a parallel between it and The Passion of the Christ, an independently-financed film that was, he suggested, successful despite unnamed forces in Hollywood working against it because of people just like those in the audience. “Whether it ever gets seen in this industry is up to your prayers.” 

A moment before that, Ballard had appeared from what looked very much like a recording booth in an undisclosed location where he was, according to Clark, “actually rescuing kids, tonight.”

“I’m here doing an operation overseas which I hope to be able to tell you about soon,” he said. “It’s involving the rescue of children as young as 12 years old … that’s the only reason I’m not there with you.” The movie in which an actor best known for playing Christ portrayed him was, he said, “an opportunity for the world to understand what’s happening.” It would, he suggested, do nothing less than “save the lives of children.” 

This was classic Ballard: Urgent, heroic, a little bombastic, and deeply self-serving. The narrative of a small organization fighting desperately to shine a light on the darkness of children being trafficked and sexually abused also served to paper over another, truer narrative. In this one, OUR is rife with internal divisions, losing key employees who are starting up rival anti-trafficking groups, and under a serious and widening criminal investigation, which VICE World News has confirmed now involves federal authorities and focuses not just on OUR, but on for-profit companies connected to it.

 

After years of success—tens of millions of dollars of donations, flattering stories in the national press, high-profile partnerships with celebrities across the political spectrum, and seats for its founder before Congress and at Donald Trump’s right hand—OUR has reached a new stage. Its carefully-crafted image is coming undone.

OUR remains under investigation by a county attorney in Utah, Troy Rawlings of Davis County, as it has been since last fall. “The investigation is still very active and fruitful,” Rawlings told VICE World News in early June.

The scope of that investigation appears to have widened beyond what VICE World News and FOX 13 have previously reported, which was that Rawlings’ office was looking into whether OUR has made misleading claims in fundraising appeals. VICE World News has confirmed that several people have been interviewed about their dealings with OUR not just by investigators from Rawlings’ office, but by the FBI. Investigators from the IRS and Homeland Security are also said to be involved, according to people familiar with the scope of the investigation. (A spokesperson for OUR declined to say whether Ballard or other OUR staffers had spoken to the FBI, IRS, or DHS, writing, “We can’t comment specifically on your speculative inquiry.” In response to detailed inquiries about the investigation, the same spokesperson wrote, “OUR has complied with all laws that regulate nonprofits and intends to cooperate fully with any official inquiry, if asked.” The FBI and DHS declined to comment, citing policies of not confirming or denying ongoing investigations; the IRS did not respond to a request for comment.) . . .

Continue reading. There’s much much more, including links to other reports on the organization:

A Famed Anti-Sex Trafficking Group Has a Problem With the Truth

Inside a Massive Anti-Trafficking Charity’s Blundering Overseas Missions

Also, this video of Caviezel’s interview:

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 6:00 pm

Republicans Are Furious Fast-Food Workers Are Getting a Raise

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

The Republican Party, it tells us, has become a workers’ party. The complicating detail is finding ways to lift incomes for low-wage workers that meet the party’s approval. Giving low-income workers money is bad because that creates a disincentive to work. Regulating a higher minimum wage is also no good because that kills jobs. Government-subsidized health insurance or child care is also problematic, and encouraging the formation of unions to give them more bargaining power is totally unacceptable.

That leaves just one Republican-friendly way to increase living standards for low-wage workers: a tight labor market that forces employers to bid up wages. And now, it turns out Republicans don’t like that method, either.

This week, Chipotle announced it would raise its prices by 4 percent to cover the cost of paying higher wages. The National Republican Congressional Committee pounced with a press release attacking the Democrats for having engineered this catastrophe. “Democrats’ socialist stimulus bill caused a labor shortage,” complained a GOP spokesman, “and now burrito lovers everywhere are footing the bill.”

Of course, you wouldn’t expect Republicans to praise the economic results under a Democratic president. What’s interesting is that this is a story they chose to highlight. It’s hardly impossible to find bad or discouraging signs in the economy. There are indicators in the economy that at least hint that the Democratic recovery strategy might not work out. But forcing employers to pay higher wages for fast-food workers is exactly what Biden’s economic program is trying to do.

The Federalist, which has built its reader base by amplifying Donald Trump’s lies in ways more traditional conservative outlets are too embarrassed to follow, has published a column expanding on the official party line. The author, Kylee Zempel, has written several hundred words expressing outrage that the fast-casual joint has “jacked up the price of [her] Chipotle order.”

Zempel is specifically angry that Democrats have engineered a tight labor market forcing Chipotle to raise wages: “Restaurants have had to bribe current and prospective workers with fatter paychecks to lure them off their backsides and back to work,” she complains. “That’s what happens when the federal government steps in with a sweet unemployment deal, incentivizing workers do a little less labor and a little more lounging.”

Well … yes, that’s not wrong. If unemployment is not penalized with absolute deprivation, workers have more leverage to demand higher pay.

Zempel attempts to convey this chain of decisions in a tone of horror: “In an effort to bring on an additional 20,000 workers, Chipotle announced in May that it would raise its average hourly wage to $15 by the end of this month — the same dollar figure Democrats have pushed as a federal minimum wage.”

The putative objection to increasing the minimum wage is that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP

The US always seems to betray people who have helped it. Current instance: Afghan interpreters

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The Kurds are another ally treated shabbily (at best) by the US. Now Afghans who assisted the US are being left to the Taliban’s dubious mercy. David Zucchino and Najim Rahim report in the NY Times:

It was an offhand comment, blurted out in frustration. It may have destroyed Shoaib Walizada’s chances of earning a cherished visa to the United States.

Mr. Walizada, who interpreted for the U.S. Army for four years until 2013, said that he had complained one day, using profanity, that his assigned combat vest was too small. When the episode came to light later that year, Mr. Walizada’s preliminary approval for a visa was revoked for “unprofessional conduct.”

Mr. Walizada, 31, is among thousands of Afghans once employed by the U.S. government, many as interpreters, whose applications for a Special Immigrant Visa, or S.I.V., through a State Department program, have been denied.

The program, established to relocate to the United States Iraqis and Afghans whose lives are threatened because they worked for the American military or government, has rejected some applicants for seemingly minor infractions and others for no stated reason.

Now, as American troops depart and Afghans experience a growing sense of anxiety and despair, the visa applications have taken on renewed urgency. With the Taliban taking advantage of the U.S. withdrawal, many former interpreters say they are more likely than ever to be killed.

“I get phone calls from the Taliban saying, ‘We will kill you’ — they know who I am and that I worked for the Americans,” Mr. Walizada said. He has delayed marriage because he does not want to put a wife at risk, he said, and he has moved from house to house for safety.

The slightest blemish during years of otherwise stellar service can torpedo a visa application and negate glowing letters of recommendation from American commanders. In the last three months of 2020 alone, State Department statistics show, 1,646 Afghans were denied one of the special visas, which are issued to applicants satisfying demanding requirements and rigorous background checks even though interpreters would already have passed security screenings.

Among reasons cited for denial were the failure to prove the required length of service, insufficient documentation, failure to establish “faithful and valuable service” and “derogatory information.”

More than 18,000 Afghans are awaiting decisions on their S.I.V. applications, according to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Many say they are seized by dread, fearing they will be denied, or approved only after they have been hunted down and killed.

No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that advocates for the relocation of Afghan interpreters to the United States, says that more than 300 translators or their relatives have been killed since 2014. Thousands of S.I.V. applicants have submitted “threat letters” they received from the Taliban.

The visa program, first approved by Congress in 2006 for interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq, has long been slowed by chronic delays and logjams. Most recently, a 2020 report by the State Department Inspector General identified six serious shortcomings in the Afghan S.I.V. process, including staff shortages and lack of a centralized database.

Many interpreters complain that they wait for months, and in some cases years, for a decision. Some joke that they have “S.I.V. syndrome” from constantly logging on to a State Department website for updates.

Nearly 21,000 visas were issued to Afghans from 2009 to March 2021, according to State Department figures. Just under 11,000 visas are still available.

Sayed Obaidullah Amin, 46, who interpreted for the U.S. Marine Corps for two years, said that he had passed an in-person interview at the American Embassy. But he was abruptly denied in 2019; a terse letter cited “lack of faithful and valuable service” and “derogatory information associated with case.”

Mr. Amin says he believes the S.I.V. program learned that, during one stint with a Marine unit, he returned to duty two days late after being granted leave to deal with his father’s heart attack.

Officials at the State Department and at the embassy said they could not provide the percentage of Afghan S.I.V. applicants who had been denied.

Most interpreters carry thick folders stuffed with letters from former commanders extolling their dedication and courage. A letter from a Marine officer, sent in hopes of reversing Mr. Amin’s rejection, praised his loyalty and steadfast service.

The officer, Andrew Darlington, a retired captain, said in an email that the embassy had not responded to his queries about the denial. “Thousands like Obaid are facing certain death in the next 12 to 24 months,” he wrote.

Waheedullah Rahmani, 27, said he had been waiting since 2015 for an S.I.V. decision. That year, he said, the embassy asked him to resubmit threat letters and letters of recommendation. He did so, he said, but his emails to the program have since gone unanswered. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s disheartening.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 5:09 pm

4700 steps and a grandson graduates from high school — a good day

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Baltimore School for the Arts, which draws students from across the city. Good weather save for cicadas. And the walks do seem to have an effect on blood glucose. No change in diet, and the fasting reading this morning was 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL).

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

A wind-powered vehicle that goes directly downwind faster than the wind

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Tricky to grasp, but there is the video.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 12:03 pm

Great story: British engineer who accidentally took off in a high-performance fighter jet

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Great story — and a very interesting fighter jet.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 11:25 am

Good news from Grooming Dept

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Last night I got an email sent by Grooming Dept to its mailing list, with some very good news:

I’m pleased to announce a restock of the following products. They’ll be on the site on June 10, 11:00AM-PDT.

Grooming Dept Moisturizing Preshave   
Grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum   
Grooming Dept Shave Oil   
Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel

At the end of the month I plan on releasing several Mallard Shaving Soaps (duck fat formula) Shaving soaps.

Mallard Coconut Rum
Mallard Corretto
Mallard Almond Vanilla
Mallard Strawberry Rhubarb
Mallard Chocolate
Mallard Earl Grey Gelato
Mallard Kulfi

In honor of the occasion, my shave this morning focuses on Grooming Dept, and in particular the Moisturizing Pre-Shave and my Mallard formula shaving soap, Lemon Bay. The Mallard formula uses these ingredients:

Water, Stearic Acid, Duck Fat, Kukui Nut Oil, Goat Milk, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Cupuacu Butter, Kokum Butter, Glycerin, Jojoba Oil, Myristic Acid, Shea Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Coconut Milk, Tamanu Oil, Lauryl Laurate, Carnauba Wax, Beeswax, Allantoin, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Betaine, Sodium Lactate, Silk Amino Acids, Oat Amino Acids, Sesame Oil, Macadamia Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Gluconate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Tocopherols, Silk Peptides.

I first prepped with the Moisturizing Pre-Shave, which I’ve come to love. The Mallard formula is another ultra-premium soap, the fourth in a row I’ve used. This one is fully up to the mark and produces a creamy, thick lather that provide ease of cutting and excellent glide for the Maggard V3A I’m using this morning. The feel of the head is like a more efficient Edwin Jagger: very comfortable and even more efficient.

A splash of Lemon Myrsol finished the job.

I know that some have felt frustrated in reading about how good the Grooming Dept stuff is and finding it sold out. In the preface to the Guide I wrote in general terms about the problem:

Although the total number of traditional wetshaving vendors has increased, some vendors have closed their doors since the previous edition. Many of the vendors mentioned in the Appendix are small operations that depend totally on one or two people. Naturally enough, such businesses are vulnerable to disruption or sudden shutdown from any number of causes: health problems or the passing of the proprietor or a family member, or financial exigencies (or the opposite: the fine on-line store Razor and Brush had to close when its owner, who ran the business as a sideline, was promoted to a more demanding job), or for other reasons.

These businesses, which often offer exceptional handcrafted products of high quality, thus have a certain cherry-blossom quality: they bloom briefly and their products may be available only for a relatively short time. I now treasure irreplaceable soaps, creams, and equipment that I purchased only a few years ago from businesses now gone, never to return.

If you like any products offered by these artisans and small-business owners, buy promptly. You will get something that you can use and enjoy, possibly long after the business is gone. Shop early and often and stock up for your future needs—and when you’re thinking about gifts, consider how a good brush and a shaving soap or shaving cream can improve anyone’s shave.

In this case, the interruption in production and supply was due to a month-long illness. But now the proprietor is back on his feet and swinging into production. But a one-person business always has an uncertain future, regardless of how good its products are — and the Grooming Dept products are very good indeed. Indeed, we only recently saw Mickey Lee Soapworks close its door, and Saint Charles Shave is no more. So consider seriously my suggestion to buy promptly if the products are of interest. (I certainly plan to get another Mallard formula soap — Almond Vanilla, I’m thinking — and I’m going to get a back-up to the Moisturiziing Pre-Shave I now have. A tub will last a long time, but I plan to last even longer and when my current tub is empty, I don’t want to run the risk of not having a ready supply available. – Update: Backup jars have been ordered.)

I’m told that West Coast Shaving, The Razor Company, and Italian Barber will soon be restocked. All three vendors have a “notify when available” option for out-of-stock products, so use it. (Of course, if they get a product not currently in their catalogue, you’ll still have to check for it.)

Update

Labels for the new soaps have been posted; next week he’ll fill in scent notes and ingredients. Many steps, one person.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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