Don’t Feed Your Tortoise Pancakes, Please

I saw this little guy on Facebook a while back:

Yes, it’s a tiny tortoise eating tiny pancakes (originally from BuzzFeed Blue). Tiny versions of things that are normally much bigger are almost by definition cute, but there may be a darker side to this GIF, alas. Continue reading

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Monday Morning Cute: It’s Not Like Sloths Will Clean Themselves….

…..right? I mean, they’re called sloths, aren’t they?

I don’t know if this little sloth is happy about this bath, but he certainly is cute.

Bonus cute: Ferrets can be jerks sometimes: Continue reading

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This Week in WTF, August 21, 2015

– No points for good intentions: You have to admire the man’s sense of responsibility, although its belated nature does make it hard to be too sympathetic with his plight. I am referring, of course, to the man in Abbotsford, British Columbia who jumped into the back of what he thought was a taxi after concluding that he was too drunk to drive himself home (h/t Sean Robichaud).

There were two problems with this plan: (1) he came to the realization that he was too drunk to drive while he was driving; and (2) it was a police cruiser, not a cab.

Oops.

– To be fair, plush-animal technology has made huge advances in recent years: A 911 caller reported a live tiger on the loose, which turned out to be an extremely lifelike stuffed tiger. Not “stuffed” in a taxidermy sense, but “stuffed” in a normally-snuggly/cuddly sense.

By Monika Wahi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Oh, sorry, is this your couch? I just needed to rest for a—hey, is that a stuffed antelope? Yum!”

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Monday Morning Cute: The Protective Little Elephant

This little guy is either really friendly, but shy; or he feels very protective of the adults in his family, but is hesitant to reveal to them how much he has been training (you know, since they want him to focus on his schoolwork.)

Or, he’s a megalomaniacal future king of the elephants. Who among us can ever truly understand their ways?

(h/t Jean de Brunhoff) Continue reading

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“Manufactured white American innocence”

Quote

When I was a child, Grandma and I spent hours in Concord Baptist Church in Forest, Mississippi, at revival, in Home Mission and in Sunday school, hoping that we’d learn to walk with Jesus and protect our insides from what white folks had done, were doing and would do. But in far way more ways than either of us want to admit, in our healing spaces in Concord – the place where we were taught to love, honor and remember humungous parts of ourselves – we were also taught to become the world’s biggest fools to and for white folks and white supremacy.

We members of Concord were supposed to love white folks because they knew not what they did. We were supposed to heal them because they knew not who they were. We were supposed to forgive them because salvation awaited she or he who could withstand the wrath of the worst of white folks. We were supposed to pray for them, often at the expense of our own healthy reckoning.

Grandma and her church taught me that loving white folks in spite of their investment in our terror was our only chance of not becoming them morally.

*** Continue reading

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Of Towels and Special Treatment

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was booked into the Collin County Jail last Monday, August 3, 2015, on charges of securities fraud, his mugshot shows him in a suit and tie, giving a rather inscrutable smile/sneer (I suppose your interpretation of the photo will depend largely on your opinion of the man.) Missing from the photo is a towel, which is apparently a standard practice for booking photos in Collin County, according to Mike Drago of the Dallas Morning News:

When my colleague Jennifer Emily reported on the practice in 2006 (it was eight years old at the time), Collin County officials explained that the intent was to help avoid wrongful identifications in photo lineups. If one guy is clearly wearing a suit and the other guy a dirty, old t-shirt, it could lead witnesses to finger the wrong guy. Or so the thinking goes.

Lt. Larry Smart said at the time: “We decided to make everyone the same.”

I couldn’t resist.

If it is the county’s policy to take mugshots with a towel, then taking Paxton’s photo without the towel seems like special treatment. Drago certainly thinks so:

Maybe it’s tempting to brush off the fact that there was no white towel under Ken Paxton’s crooked smile when he posed for his Collin County booking mug. Every other person booked there gets the ridiculous white towel, but not Paxton. So what?

***

But I don’t think it’s a trifle at all. I think it matters, if only as a tiny reflection of a dual justice system that treats nearly all of us one way and a very few of us another. It’s a system that willfully buries human beings in miscarriages of justice simply because they lack the means and access to power and money that Ken Paxton enjoys in spades.

Why should Paxton have been allowed to evade the humiliating white towel treatment when you or I wouldn’t?

As it turns out, it wasn’t anyone with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office who made the call to leave out the towel. It was Judge George Gallagher in the 416th District Court, who issued a written order on August 3 which states, in full:

The Court has been made aware of the policy of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office to photograph inmates in the Collin County jail while the inmate is wearing a towel around the neck of the inmate. Due to the high profile nature of this case and the Defendant’s right to a fair trial, the Court hereby ORDERS the Sheriff of Collin County, Texas to refrain from making the Defendant wear a towel while being photographed in the custody of the Collin County Sheriff’s Department.

It is possible that the judge issued this order on his own, but it seems more likely that Paxton’s legal team made some sort of expedited motion on the morning of August 3. My first thought was also that it seems highly unlikely that this would be the first time that a sitting Collin County district judge had heard of the towel thing, but Judge Gallagher is actually a judge in the 396th District Court in Tarrant County. He will be presiding over Paxton’s case because, according to an anonymous source cited by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (huge grains of salt!), multiple Collin County judges recused themselves.

The point seems to be that the judge does not think Paxton will get a fair trial if his mugshot makes him look like every other individual booked into the Collin County jail—well, that’s one way of looking at it, anyway. A policy that was, at least according to Collin County officials, intended to make everyone appear equal has now been found, by one visiting judge presiding over the case of one sitting Attorney General, to make the defendant look guilty.

Look, I am all for removing elements from our criminal justice system that unfairly burden defendants in favor of prosecutors for no apparently valid reason. But here’s the thing—before now, one could plausibly argue that the towel thing, while humiliating, did not significantly impact the interests of justice because everybody had to wear one in their mugshot. The stated intent was to remove extraneous details that might, consciously or subconsciously, sway people’s opinions. Judge Gallagher’s order destroyed that rationale. Now it’s just a thing that most people arrested in Collin County have to do.

That brings me to my second point: Would anyone else going before the courts of Collin County get this sort of consideration? True, most people are not as high-profile as Ken Paxton, but by making an exception to the usual rule, the court has effectively stated that Ken Paxton is exceptional. Obviously he is entitled to a fair trial, but is he more entitled to a fair trial than others? Does going the extra mile to ensure that his trial is fair, by giving him accommodations others probably would not receive, make other people’s trials less fair? It might. I hope a slew of motions in upcoming Collin County criminal cases test that point. The county’s justice system has only Judge Gallagher and Ken Paxton’s legal team to blame.

(h/t Texas Standard)

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Monday Morning Cute: Give a Fox a Hand

A baby fox who got a bit too curious with some human litter (and let’s be clear, this is totally humans’ fault) approached some Russian hikers (or soldiers, considering the attire) to ask for help.

It’s also possible that the fox was just stumbling around blindly and happened to come across some helpful beings with opposable thumbs, but I prefer to think of this as a parable that portends an era of peace between the human and vulpine worlds.

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Europe’s Forgotten Bunkers

Sometimes the temptation of clickbait-y headlines is too much to resist, but sometimes it leads you to something fascinating*. This was the case with a ViralNova post enticingly entitled “They Stumbled Across This In The Woods… Beneath It Was A Terrifyingly Awesome Secret,” which begins with “Deep in the woods in the middle of northern Germany…”

This piqued my interest for at least three reasons:

  1. Obscure history from World War II and the Cold War are a hobby of mine (and it seems safe to assume that any “terrifyingly awesome secret” found in a German forest dates to that period in history.)
  2. I find the idea of long-lost underground structures fascinating, albeit usually in a tragic way—like the abandoned tunnels in Ghostbusters 2, or the slightly-less-fictional “mole people” (not a very nice term) of Las Vegas, New York, etc.
  3. We’ve been watching the Sundance series Deutschland 83, which just had its season finale.

Deutschland 83 deserves its own post, but to summarize: It is about a young East German soldier sent to spy on West Germany by posing as the newly-assigned aide to a general in the West German Army. I haven’t seen much of the show The Americans, but I suspect they share some thematic similarities. As the title indicates, Deutschland 83 is set in 1983, the year we came closest to nuclear annihilation since the Cuban Missile Crisis 21 years earlier.

Getting back to the ViralNova post, it sets up the story as follows: Continue reading

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This Week in WTF, July 31, 2015

– In some circles, that’s a valuable natural resource: Residents and business owners in La Jolla, a San Diego neighborhood perhaps best described as “tony,” filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court in late 2013 against the city and its interim mayor, demanding that they clean up the apparently excess amounts of sea lion and cormorant poop currently stanking up La Jolla Cove:

The plaintiffs, Citizens For Odor Nuisance Abatement, also want the city to remove a fence that limits public access to the cove.

According the suit, San Diego has “exclusive dominion, control and responsibility for the maintenance of the cliffs in and around the La Jolla Cove and is responsible for keeping the area free of noxious odors.”

The nonprofit group, which was created earlier this year for the express purpose of eliminating annoying odors, claims the city “at some point in time and without public notice, erected a fence along the sidewalk that runs along La Jolla Cove, preventing the public from accessing the rocks. The fence was built without an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and is in violation of the Local Coastal Plan (LCP), which requires maximizing coastal access.”

The fence allegedly prevented access to the rocks and created a “buildup of excrement from sea lions and cormorant birds, causing noxious odors resulting in illness to the citizens of San Diego and others who visit this area.”

"La Jolla Cove view" by Dirk Hansen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons + "Sea lion head" by Alexdi at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons + "Great Cormorant RWD2" by DickDaniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons + "Mladenovo, Guano hill at the bottom of the steeple" by Author:Sors bona (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons = "Free Illustration: Gavel, Hammer, Judge, Justice - Free Image on Pixabay - 568417" by Mdesigns [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via Pixabay

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