This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

Five ‘Stand Your Ground’ cases you should know about

The Stand Your Ground law is most widely associated with the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who claimed he was acting in self-defense.

But as a recent Tampa Bay Times investigation indicates, the Martin incident is far from the only example of the law’s reach in Florida. The paper identified nearly 200 instances since 2005 where the state’s Stand Your Ground law has played a factor in prosecutors’ decisions, jury acquittals or a judge’s call to throw out the charges. (Not all the cases involved killings. Some involved assaults where the person didn’t die.)

The law removes a person’s duty to retreat before using deadly force against another in any place he has the legal right to be — so long as he reasonably believed he or someone else faced imminent death or great bodily harm. Among the Stand Your Ground cases identified by the paper, defendants went free nearly 70 percent of the time.
Read All »

A rumble in the stacks

The New York Public Library today. Photo: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

The New York Public Library, a place usually synonymous with quiet and calm, has recently been making a lot of noise. Plans to close down and sell off two branches are underway, as are efforts to expand the landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman building on 42nd Street. According to NYPL, these renovations, called the “Central Library Plan,” are estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $300 million. Seven levels of stacks that hold three million research books in the flagship library will be moved out to New Jersey to make room for a lending library, computers and possibly a café. The hope is that these changes will eventually save the system anywhere from $12 to $15 million per year in operating costs.
Read All »

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Ray Bradbury shown in his Beverly Hills office in February 1986, surrounded by an unlimited supply of toys and treasures. Photo: AP Photo/Doug Pizac

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., into a family that once included a 17th-century Salem woman tried for witchcraft. The Bradbury family drove across the country to Los Angeles in 1934, with young Ray piling out of their jalopy at every stop to plunder the local library in search of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.

In 1936, Bradbury experienced a rite of passage familiar to most science-fiction readers: the realization that he was not alone. At a secondhand bookstore in Hollywood, he discovered a handbill promoting meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. Thrilled, he joined a weekly Thursday-night conclave that would grow to attract such science-fiction legends as Robert A. Heinlein, Leigh Brackett and future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Read All »

Romney pushed for individual mandate in Mass., emails show

A bound copy of the 2006 Mass. health care law sits next to Mitt Romney in his official governor's portrait.

An interesting article appeared in the Wall Street Journal today on Mitt Romney’s work to push through the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law. Through a public-records request, the Journal staff unearthed a trove of emails in which Romney defends the individual mandate and expresses strong support for the law.

Read All »

A ‘Grexit’ primer

The swelling protests, marathon summits and market panic can only mean one thing: the eurozone is gearing up for its third consecutive summer of slogging through its never-ending debt crisis.

After a brief respite, Greece once again finds itself on the brink of a financial collapse. Last month, Greek leaders were unable to form a coalition government after the May 6 election, which was largely seen as a rebuke of unpopular austerity measures that have ravaged Greek civil society. A repeat election has been scheduled for June 17, and it has been widely cast as a referendum on Greece’s membership in the eurozone.

European leaders have made it clear that compliance with previously negotiated austerity programs is a precondition for continued eurozone membership. However, Greek citizens have clearly signaled their growing intolerance for the successive government cuts that have taken a dramatic toll on living standards over the past two years.

This impasse has spurred some policymakers to openly acknowledge the contingency plans that are being drawn up in the event of a Greek exit – or Grexit –  from the eurozone. Once seen as an improbability, Greece’s eventual departure from the currency union is now viewed as all but inevitable. While some European policymakers have recently issued statements about a “managed exit,” many believe that the absence of any legal framework governing a country’s departure from the euro would all but guarantee a chaotic chain reaction that would have global ramifications.
Read All »

Keeping tabs on President Obama’s same-sex marriage endorsement

Jase Peeples watches a television broadcast of President Obama declaring his support of same-sex marriage Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at The Mix bar in San Francisco. Peeples, who has lived with his partner for nine years, welcomed the news. Photo: AP Photo/Ben Margot

A few weeks ago, nationally syndicated sex-advice columnist and LGBT rights activist Dan Savage discussed President Obama’s evolving attitudes toward gay marriage in a candid interview: “Barack Obama pretends that he opposes gay marriage and gay people are honor-bound to pretend to believe him.”

All that changed yesterday when the president told ABC News, “For me personally it is important … to go ahead and affirm that … same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

To understand why the White House decided to back marriage equality at the start of a fraught general election season, I spoke with Richard Kim, executive editor at The Nation, who has written extensively about LGBT issues.
Read All »

Video: No president is an island

A new documentary “The Island President” profiles Mohamed Nasheed as he tries to save his island nation of the Maldives from sinking into the Indian Ocean. Rising sea levels and coastal erosion are slowly destroying the island nation’s fishing industry and contaminating its clean water supply.

If this trend isn’t reversed soon, the Maldivian people will eventually lose their home. Nasheed’s priority as the country’s first democratically elected president is to convince other nations to join his cause and take action.

As we see in the documentary, climate change isn’t the only challenge Nasheed has to confront. He is also haunted by the specter of the country’s 30-year dictatorship: This past February, Nasheed was forced to resign his presidency at gunpoint by police and army officers in a coup d’etat. And even as the country prepares itself for a new election, it does so against a bleak backdrop of continuing erosion and decay. A grim reality that Nasheed underscores when he asks, “How can there be a democracy if there is no country?”

I recently spoke to director Jon Shenk about how his film came together and the craft of documentary filmmaking.
Read All »

Photo: Obama on the bus

President Barack Obama sits on the famed Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum following an event in Dearborn, Mich., on April 18, 2012. Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Video: How dirty is the cloud?

You’ve heard about the Foxconn factory in China where your iPad is assembled. But have you ever considered the energy required to store your emails, photos, and videos in the cloud? As worldwide demand for data storage skyrockets, so do the power needs of the servers where all our digital archives live. While some companies (like Facebook) have made great progress in ditching dirty fossil-fuel energy for cleaner renewables, a few internet giants lag far behind. Climate Desk visited Maiden, N.C., for a close-up view of what will soon be one of the world’s biggest data centers — owned by Apple and powered by the coal-heavy power behemoth Duke Energy.

Apple’s new Maiden, N.C., data center is only one of many coal-fueled server farms across the country. The map below shows 52 of the largest, owned by companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Twitter. Mouse over a point on the map to see who owns the plant, and how reliant on coal it is, according to Greenpeace estimates. (Some data centers are clustered close together; zoom in on a particular area to see each one in more detail.)

See a full-screen version here.

The figures in the map are for individual data centers. To give you a better sense of the big picture, here’s an overview of how much of each company’s overall energy comes from coal, according to Greenpeace estimates:
Read All »