May 1st, 2012
Wave after wave of young men surged forward to take turns punching and kicking their victim.
The victim's friend, a young woman, tried to pull him back into his car. Attackers came after her, pulling her hair, punching her head and causing a bloody scratch to the surface of her eye. She called 911. A recording told her all lines were busy. She called again. Busy. On her third try, she got through and, hysterical, could scream only their location.
Church and Brambleton. Church and Brambleton. Church and Brambleton.
It happened four blocks from where they work, here at The Virginian-Pilot.
Two weeks have passed since reporters Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami - friends to me and many others at the newspaper - were attacked on a Saturday night as they drove home from a show at the Attucks Theatre. They had stopped at a red light, in a crowd of at least 100 young people walking on the sidewalk. Rostami locked her car door. Someone threw a rock at her window. Forster got out to confront the rock-thrower, and that's when the beating began.
Neither suffered grave injuries, but both were out of work for a week. Forster's torso ached from blows to his ribs, and he retained a thumb-sized bump on his head. Rostami fears to be alone in her home. Forster wishes he'd stayed in the car.
Many stories that begin this way end much worse. Another colleague recently wrote about the final defendant to be sentenced in the beating death of 19-year-old James Robertson in East Ocean View five years ago. In that case, a swarm of gang members attacked Robertson and two friends. Robertson's friends got away and called for help; police arrived to find Robertson's stripped, swollen corpse.
Forster and Rostami's story has not, until today, appeared in this paper. The responding officer coded the incident as a simple assault, despite their assertions that at least 30 people had participated in the attack. A reporter making routine checks of police reports would see "simple assault" and, if the names were unfamiliar, would be unlikely to write about it. In this case, editors hesitated to assign a story about their own employees. Would it seem like the paper treated its employees differently from other crime victims?
More questions loomed.
Forster and Rostami wondered if the officer who answered their call treated all crime victims the same way. When Rostami, who admits she was hysterical, tried to describe what had happened, she says the officer told her to shut up and get in the car. Both said the officer did not record any names of witnesses who stopped to help. Rostami said the officer told them the attackers were "probably juveniles anyway. What are we going to do? Find their parents and tell them?"
The officer pointed to public housing in the area and said large groups of teenagers look for trouble on the weekends. "It's what they do," he told Forster.
Could that be true? Could violent mobs of teens be so commonplace in Norfolk that police and victims have no recourse?
Police spokesman Chris Amos said officers often respond to reports of crowds fighting; sirens are usually enough to disperse the group. On that night, he said, a report of gunfire in a nearby neighborhood prompted the officer to decide getting Forster and Rostami off the street quickly made more sense than remaining at the intersection. The officer gave them his card and told them to call later to file a report.
The next day, Forster searched Twitter for mention of the attack.
One post chilled him.
"I feel for the white man who got beat up at the light," wrote one person.
"I don't," wrote another, indicating laughter. "(do it for trayvon martin)"
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, died after being shot by a community watch captain with white and Hispanic parents, George Zimmerman, in Florida.
Forster and Rostami, both white, suffered a beating at the hands of a crowd of black teenagers.
Was either case racially motivated? Were Forster and Rostami beaten in some kind of warped, vigilante retribution for a killing 750 miles away, a person none of them knew? Was it just bombast? Is a beating funny, ever?
Here's why their story is in the paper today. We cannot allow such callousness to continue unremarked, from the irrational, senseless teenagers who attacked two people just trying to go home, from the police officer whose conduct may have been typical but certainly seems cold, from the tweeting nitwits who think beating a man in Norfolk will change the death of Trayvon Martin.
How can we change it if we don't know about it? How can we make it better if we look away?
Are we really no better than this?
Michelle Washington is a columnist for The Virginian-Pilot. Email: email@example.com
May 1st, 2012
The New York Times / By MICHAEL MARDER
CR Kim: How does one respond to this? Aside from...interesting discovery, but...pppffftt....
Imagine a being capable of processing, remembering and sharing information — a being with potentialities proper to it and inhabiting a world of its own. Given this brief description, most of us will think of a human person, some will associate it with an animal, and virtually no one’s imagination will conjure up a plant.
Since Nov. 2, however, one possible answer to the riddle is Pisumsativum, a species colloquially known as the common pea. On that day, a team of scientists from the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in Israel published the results of its peer-reviewed research, revealing that a pea plant subjected to drought conditions communicated its stress to other such plants, with which it shared its soil. In other words, through the roots, it relayed to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as though they, too, were in a similar predicament.
Curiously, having received the signal, plants not directly affected by this particular environmental stress factor were better able to withstand adverse conditions when they actually occurred. This means that the recipients of biochemical communication could draw on their “memories” — information stored at the cellular level — to activate appropriate defenses and adaptive responses when the need arose.
In 1973, the publication of “The Secret Life of Plants,” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, which portrayed vegetal life as exquisitely sensitive, responsive and in some respects comparable to human life, was generally regarded as pseudoscience. The authors were not scientists, and clearly the results reported in that book, many of them outlandish, could not be reproduced. But today, new, hard scientific data appears to be buttressing the book’s fundamental idea that plants are more complex organisms than previously thought.
The research findings of the team at the Blaustein Institute form yet another building block in the growing fields of plant intelligence studies and neurobotany that, at the very least, ought to prompt us to rethink our relation to plants. Is it morally permissible to submit to total instrumentalization living beings that, though they do not have a central nervous system, are capable of basic learning and communication? Should their swift response to stress leave us coldly indifferent, while animal suffering provokes intense feelings of pity and compassion?
Evidently, empathy might not be the most appropriate ground for an ethics of vegetal life. But the novel indications concerning the responsiveness of plants, their interactions with the environment and with one another, are sufficient to undermine all simple, axiomatic solutions to eating in good conscience. When it comes to a plant, it turns out to be not only a what but also a who — an agent in its milieu, with its own intrinsic value or version of the good. Inquiring into justifications for consuming vegetal beings thus reconceived, we reach one of the final frontiers of dietary ethics.
Recent findings in cellular and molecular botany mean that eating preferences, too, must practically differentiate between vegetal what-ness and who-ness, while striving to keep the latter intact. The work of such differentiation is incredibly difficult because the subjectivity of plants is not centered in a single organ or function but is dispersed throughout their bodies, from the roots to the leaves and shoots. Nevertheless, this dispersion of vitality holds out a promise of its own: the plasticity of plants and their wondrous capacity for regeneration, their growth by increments, quantitative additions or reiterations of already existing parts does little to change the form of living beings that are neither parts nor wholes because they are not hierarchically structured organisms. The “renewable” aspects of perennial plants may be accepted by humans as a gift of vegetal being and integrated into their diets.
But it would be harder to justify the cultivation of peas and other annual plants, the entire being of which humans devote to externally imposed ends. In other words, ethically inspired decisions cannot postulate the abstract conceptual unity of all plants; they must, rather, take into account the singularity of each species.
The emphasis on the unique qualities of each species means that ethical worries will not go away after normative philosophers and bioethicists have delineated their sets of definitive guidelines for human conduct. More specifically, concerns regarding the treatment of plants will come up again and again, every time we deal with a distinct species or communities of plants.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea,” the true identity of a princess is discovered after she spends a torturous night on top of 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds, with a single pea lodged underneath this pile. The desire to eat ethically is, perhaps, akin to this royal sensitivity, as some would argue that it is a luxury of those who do have enough food to select, in a conscious manner, their dietary patterns. But there is a more charitable way to interpret the analogy.
Ethical concerns are never problems to be resolved once and for all; they make us uncomfortable and sometimes, when the sting of conscience is too strong, prevent us from sleeping. Being disconcerted by a single pea to the point of unrest is analogous to the ethical obsession, untranslatable into the language of moral axioms and principles of righteousness. Such ethics do not dictate how to treat the specimen of Pisumsativum, or any other plant, but they do urge us to respond, each time anew, to the question of how, in thinking and eating, to say “yes” to plants.
Michael Marder is Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz. His most recent book, “Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life” will be published later this year.
Related Posts from Opinionator
May 1st, 2012
A New Jersey couple is suing their landlord for a refund after they said paranormal activity caused them to flee their rental home.
Michele Callan and her fiance, Josue Chinchilla, moved into the home in Toms River, N.J., with Callan’s two children on March 1 and were immediately spooked.
Stylized haunted house
“Three taps on the TV, taps on the shoulder…” Chinchilla told ABC News.
At first they chalked it up to the adjustment period of moving into a new home.
But things only got spookier, they said.
Doors opened and closed. The family even claimed they recorded strange voices whispering, “Let it burn.”
More From ABC News
Callan and Chinchilla filed suit last week in New Jersey Superior Court, seeking the return of their $2,250 security deposit from their landlord, Richard Lopez.
Lopez filed a counter-suit claiming the couple is using alleged paranormal activity as a way to break their lease.
“Frankly, there is something else going on,” David Semanchik, who is Lopez’s lawyer, told the Asbury Park Press. “She is a single mom, she has this fiancé living with her. I think she is in over her head and she can’t afford the rent.”
The couple said that isn’t the case, but ultimately a judge will have the final word on whether the family will be able to escape their alleged nightmare on Lowell Avenue.
May 1st, 2012
Lat year's article revisited, takes a closer look at our reaction to the Navy Seal takedown of Bin Laden and Obama's response, along with a more "realistic version" of what actually may have happened at the White House....
May 1st, 2012
Editor's note: This story is based on internal al Qaeda documents, details of which were obtained by CNN. German cryptologists discovered hundreds of documents embedded inside a pornographic movie on a memory disk belonging to a suspected al Qaeda operative arrested in Berlin last year. The German newspaper Die Zeit was the first to report on the documents.
By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, CNN
(CNN) -- On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.
Buried inside them was a pornographic video called "Kick Ass" -- and a file marked "Sexy Tanja."
Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence -- more than 100 al Qaeda documents that included an inside track on some of the terror group's most audacious plots and a road map for future operations.
Future plots include the idea of seizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. Ten gunmen killed 164 people in that three-day rampage.
Terrorist training manuals in PDF format in German, English and Arabic were among the documents, too, according to intelligence sources.
U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN that the documents uncovered are "pure gold;" one source says that they are the most important haul of al Qaeda materials in the last year, besides those found when U.S. Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago and killed the al Qaeda leader.
One document was called "Future Works." Its authorship is unclear, but intelligence officials believe it came from al Qaeda's inner core. It may have been the work of Younis al Mauretani, a senior al Qaeda operative until his capture by Pakistani police in 2011.
The document appears to have been the product of discussions to find new targets and methods of attack. German investigators believe it was written in 2009 -- and that it remains the template for al Qaeda's plans.
Investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, was the first to report on the documents. One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer "says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public."
Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists "would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners."
The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution.
Lodin and a man called Yusuf Ocak, who allegedly traveled back to Europe with him, are now on trial in Berlin where they are pleading not guilty. Ocak was detained in Vienna two weeks after Lodin's arrest.
According to a senior Western counterterrorism official, their names were on a watch list, and when they handed over documents at a European border crossing, their names registered with counterterrorism agencies.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges. Ocak is also charged with helping to form a group called the German Taliban Mujahedeen, and is alleged to have made a video for the group threatening attacks in Germany.
Prosecutors believe the pair met at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan's tribal territories and were sent back to Europe to recruit a network of suicide bombers.
"We do not know what those men were up to but there are certain files of information that would make it plausible that they were probably thinking of a Mumbai-style attack," says Musharbash.
In the fall of 2010, a year after the document was written, European intelligence agencies were scrambling to investigate a Mumbai-style plot involving German and other European militants -- which sparked an unprecedented U.S. State Department travel warning for Americans in Europe.
"I think it is plausible to think that the 'Future Works' document is part of that particular project," says Musharbash.
"Future Works" suggests al Qaeda was an organization under great pressure, without a major attack to its name in several years, harried by Western intelligence. If anything, its predicament is even more dire today.
"The document delivers very clearly the notion that al Qaeda knows it is being followed very closely," Musharbash tells CNN. "It specifically says that Western intelligence agencies have become very good at spoiling attacks, that they have to come up with new ways and better plotting."
Part of the response, according to the document, should be to train European jihadists quickly and send them home -- rather than use them as fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- with instructions on how to keep in secret contact with their handlers.
What emerges from the document is a twin-track strategy -- with the author apparently convinced that al Qaeda needs low-cost, low-tech attacks (perhaps such as the recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah) to keep security services preoccupied while it plans large-scale attacks on a scale similar to 9/11.
Those already under suspicion in Europe and elsewhere would be used as decoys, while others would prepare major attacks.
That is yet to materialize, but Musharbash believes a complex gun attack in Europe is still on al Qaeda's radar.
"I believe that the general idea is still alive and I believe that as soon as al Qaeda has the capacities to go after that scenario, they will immediately do it," he says.
While "Future Works" does not include dates or places, nor specific plans, it appears to be a brainstorming exercise to seize the initiative -- and reinstate al Qaeda on front pages around the world.