Category Archives: Uncategorized

Arts groups give lessons in disaster preparation, prevention

A military vehicle, left, and a truck pulling a boat

A military vehicle, left, and a truck pulling a boat pass in front of flooded businesses under water along U.S. 67, on May 3, 2017, in the heavily flooded East Pocahontas, Ark. (Photo: Stephen B. Thornton, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

Story I wrote published in The Lawton Constitution years ago regarding preparation for flooding and wildfires.

 

As the rainy season approaches, it’s pretty common for folks who live on a flood plain, businesses, schools, government agencies, and emergency officials to begin preparing for the inevitability of at least a few disasters. But, just as vulnerable to natural and unforeseen disasters — although perhaps overlooked — are those who participate in the arts.

Each year, the Lawton Community Theatre has had to check weather predictions on the internet every single day as spring approaches. Each year, they have had to pile sandbag upon sandbag all the way around the building and in front of the door to decrease the potential for flooding — and every year it cost a lot of money. “Every flood — aside from the labor of sandbagging (and the ugliness of sandbags around the building) — cost us $2,000 each flood,” said Lawton Community Theatre Director Cynthia Kent.

Since the theater is on a floodplain this is not something they prepare for lightly — it’s an arduous process. “We would lose days of work,” said Kent.

Each time it floods, if any water gets inside the building, the theater had to pay for water removal as well … and, that costs more money.

However, this year, the theatre has purchased new dams for their doors — they’re going to see if they work this season and suspect they will do the trick. “They should stop the water. They’re very easy to set up within 45 minutes. They’re cleaner and will keep water out until we come up with a better plan.”

But, exactly how does the theatre prepare for the fact that they will be flooded? How do others in the arts community prepare for flooding or other disasters? It’s something artists may not always be thinking about — but, in our area it’s important.

Kent said the theater simply does not put anything on the floor during rainy season as water around the building can reach up to 12” high. That includes filing cabinets which are up on blocks. She said if the weather experts are predicting two inches of water in an hour there is no doubt the theatre will flood.

Year after year, Kent said they had to re-build their wooden stage due to flooding. “Now we have metal framed platforms underneath the stage,” she said. “It was labor intensive to install but we no longer spend the amount of money we did.”

Museum of the Great Plains Head Curator Deborah Baroff advises artists to protect their work — or any heirloom — as they would protect themselves.

“Where would you go if you were trying to keep away from the elements? Wherever you would go is probably where valuable work should go,” she said. “Storing in the attic or basement are not good places. If you’re an artist I would keep those things in boxes, off the ground, and in an interior room.”

Baroff suggests keeping drawings and photographs safe from water damage by storing in acid free sleeves, inside an envelope, then wrapped in plastic, and finally in a box — off the floor.

“Add as many layers as possible,” she said. She adds, though, that while a flood can potentially cause disaster it’s not as bad as a fire could be. “Water is a forgiving element, but the best thing is to keep it off the ground.”

Leslie Powell Gallery Director Nancy Anderson was faced with a wildfire threatening the field behind her house at one time and she came up with her own master plan to safeguard her personal and professional items. She said she has a plan for both her home and the gallery.

At the gallery, Anderson said the first two or three things she would grab before escaping a fire would be her paper files, her computer, and her pocket drive.

“One of the most vital things I can have on my person would be my pocket drive. It has my mailing list and Quicken on it. Everything else is covered by insurance,” she said.

When Anderson’s home was threatened by an approaching wildfire, she said she was systematic in her approach to safeguard irreplaceable items.

“I took all of the irreplaceable items — including disks and photos — and put them in the trunk of my car. Then, I went through the house and with red stickers chose the most important pieces of art for me … they would be the first to go,” she said. “Next were the second most important which got yellow stickers; third were green and everything else blue — even my dogs had red stickers on their little noses,” she laughed.

Anderson said she plans ahead all the time. “I thought, ‘What happens if the back of the house catches fire?’ and I decided to make the choice when I was not under duress. I can see how when you’re stressed you might make unreasonable decisions. I think the clue is that as we approach these seasons we take note of it and prepare for things,” she said.

Both Anderson and Kent expressed the importance of digital copies of important documents — and digital images — to be stored at a location other than at the theater or gallery, and so does a website called www.studioprotector.org.

The not for profit “Craft Emergency Relief Fund” (CERF) links directly to the site from its own. The organization’s website is a group specially created to assist artists and crafts people in the event of emergencies.

According to its website: “CERF accomplishes its mission through direct financial and educational assistance to craft artists, including emergency relief assistance, business development support, and resources and referrals on topics such as health, safety, and insurance.”

And, they’ve even helped folks in our area. The site goes on to say, “Making some advance preparations such as safeguarding computer files, documents, and photographs can lessen the impact of a fire, flood, or natural disaster on a business.”

This includes shopping around for insurance. Just as with insurance on property in general, there are experts out there who specialize in insuring artists and their supplies.

All three experts, Anderson, Kent, and Baroff agree and said planning for these disasters can save a lot of heartache. “Art is expensive, protecting it is expensive — but losing it is even more expensive,” said Anderson.

 

 

Strength on display

girlbull

Sunday,  in the New York Daily News Voice of the People, a reader wrote:

“In regards to Kristen Visbal’s “Fearless Girl” statue and the heated debate on whether or not to keep it standing in front of Arturo Di Modica’s charging bull on Wall Street: While I am a feminist, and I will forever support anything that encourages the empowerment of girls, I sympathize with Di Modica. His sculpture was meant to symbolize the endless strength of the American people, the will to not give in to economic struggle, and the ability to endure and be steadfast against all obstacles. The newly added statue, while it symbolizes a powerful message, may now paint the bull in a negative light. The girl faces the bull, bravely and proudly staring it down in defiance. But the bull was never meant to be an object or entity to be defied. People are beginning to view it as the oppressive majority, while the girl is being viewed as the protagonist minority, never giving in. To offer a compromise, I think that the girl should be turned around. If the girl were facing the same direction as the bull, the two would be viewed as standing together, strong against all struggles, whether they be economic downfall or systemic oppression, instead of facing each other in a sort of confrontation.”  Sophie Nevel

I actually had thought of that as well. Just as with the recent controversy over the Emmett Till painting, I am happy the discussion about art, culture and society is breached at all.  But, the girl and the bull could be expanded upon in so many ways.  This idea, despite my shoddy workmanship and lack of software to make it a pretty representation, seems like a good one.

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Theory: Trump, Russia, and a possible trade scam

Image result for bauxite

If you know me, you know I’m a huge Rachel Maddow fan, and I enjoy her show openings probably more than a lot of people.  I call it “Professor Maddow time.”  The good professor has been telling us bit-by-bit of connections, assassinations, intrigue, and interesting history regarding Russia for quite a long time.

I’m one of those weirdos who pays close attention to her history lessons.  They may seem unrelated but they always get to a larger point.  Some folks don’t have the patience to pay attention, but I am one who does.

One of her most recent recent-history timelines had to do with Russian oligarchs and, in particular, aluminum magnate Oleg Derispaka. In her story she quoted the Associated Press:  

“President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

“Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

“Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.”

Why might this be important is what Rachel asked and I am now asking? What does aluminum have to do with anything?

Well, with Donald Trump, it’s always important to “follow the money.”

So, let’s start with Russia.  Why is Russia suddenly so interested in Solar Power when Russia has been one of the largest natural gas exporters in the world?  It’s logical that the United States would be interested in staying on pretty good terms with Russia for that reason alone.  However, Russia has been running a little low on oil.

While Russia’s interest in solar power in the past has been pretty much non-existent, phys.org says: “Russia can be one of the most energy-competitive areas based on renewables.”

The International Business Times, in 2010, pointed out that Russia was indeed seeking to branch out into solar:

“A number of Russian private companies are creating joint ventures with Rusnano, the state technology corporation, to address local needs … Industry insiders said solar energy could become a real alternative for traditional energy sources in a number of the country’s regions.”

It continues:

“Russia is, however, behind Japan, the United States and Europe in promoting renewable energy. Many governments have support and incentive programs. Several states and countries have mandated that their power companies reach specific thresholds for share of power from renewable sources.”

Other countries have been in the lead and even outpaced the United States in renewable energy, and it would seem that Russia would most certainly not be really even seriously considering it. That assumption would be wrong.

Here are just a few stories that have popped up regarding solar energy lately.  All of them have a connection to Russia:

Not for nothing, these countries all have been on the top of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visits, and President Donald Trump’s guests.

The thing that links all of these stories: Aluminum.

Even Elon Musk is giving Donald Trump his attention when it seems odd for him to do so Looking at Musk’s interest in solar, space travel, and other high-tech plans, though, it’s not a stretch.

Recently, with the strikes in Syria using Tomahawk missiles and stocks rising in that manufacturing sector, it also has been pointed out that Donald Trump owns stock in the Tomahawk missile manufacturer.  Not only that … he also owns stock in Alcoa – the third largest Aluminum manufacturer in the world.  And, of course Russia is going to defend Syria as much as possible since one of its largest natural resources is crude oil.  All of this conflict also is expected to cause some strain Saudi Arabia as well.

To pile on, Putin is now propping up Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro with whom he made a large deal with on mining one of its largest natural resource … bauxite.

Finally, for now, on March 17, Russia and China cemented what has been called an historic deal:

“Russian Federation aluminium titan U.C. Rusal announced yesterday the particulars on the firm’s joint offering of Panda Bonds … This offering is historic in nature, as it represents the first time a foreign company with global operations outside of China has entered the Chinese bond market via the Shanghai Stock Exchange.”

It may seem like nothing now, and I’ll gladly eat my words if I’m wrong.  With Trump everything has to do with money, and all of this is not implausible considering Carter Page was about to be used as a patsy spy to get insider information about trade sanctions:

“Russian intelligence officers had been given the task of gathering information on potential United States sanctions against their country, according to the F.B.I., and the three men were focused on economic issues in particular.”

This also could be a larger part of a potential scam that would benefit Russia as Trump’s first Executive Order was to withdraw from TPP.

” … on trade, he has a fairly clear vision that he’s pursuing quickly, in a way that’s bound to swiftly reshape the status of vital economic relationships and trade the world over.”

It’s all still sort of emerging bit by bit, so who really knows.  But, as Ms. Maddow would say: “Watch this space.”

 

“ASK. That’s the first step of being a good ally.’

igotyouI think when we’re complaining about ‘activists’ such as #alllivesmatter fretting about ACTUAL activists such as #blacklivesmatter, this is the best explanation you could ever hear or read about what an ally actually is.  And, it’s the best thing I’ve yet heard from ‘I am Cait.’  While everyone was focused on Caitlyn, this was lost in the shuffle:

“I have problems with the word ally. Many people think, ‘I accept you therefore I’m an ally’ … no you’re not. You’re an accepting person. An ally means you ask me what I need, I tell you and you tell me what or how much of that you can actually supply. If I say I need help getting through that crowd of people who think I’m a freak and I need you to be a ‘bodyguard,’ that would be an ally to me . And ASK , don’t assume you know.  Don’t assume that everybody’s big issue is gender free bathrooms . It’s not. And for some people it is the most pressing issue. ASK. that’s the first step of being a good ally.”  —Kate Bornstein

If you can’t be an actual ALLY, kindly escort yourself out of the conversation.

‘Sticker Shock’ for Obamacare in Colorado? No.

I was minding my own business reading my Twitter, as per usual, when this tweet came across my Tweetdeck:

As is his habit, Representative Brady’s Tweets don’t include the whole story, but that’s not isolated to him.  He found the info at the conservative Weekly Standard who got it from Al Jazeera America who got it from CBS. So, after searching and searching for the original full story (which the Weekly Standard of course didn’t want to include because it would disrupt their ‘Trainwreck Obamacare’ narrative), I found it on CBS.

You see, it IS a fact that this particular town in Colorado is having trouble signing people up for Obamacare because of the prices of the insurance:

The Family and Intercultural Resource Center is a charity approved by the government to help Summit County families navigate the health care marketplace. She said not one person has signed up at the center.

“None at this point,” she said. “Everyone takes a look at the rates and they just can’t afford them.”

But that’s not the whole story, as we can only expect from people whose objective is to not really contribute anything unless it suits their agenda.

CBS goes on to say:

“Our health insurance rates have always been expensive. I think one of the things that the Affordable Care Act and the marketplace have brought to light are just how expensive our rates are,” Drangstveit said. “We’re seeing rates two to three times higher than a family in Denver may see.”

You see, it’s actually a really important story that should totally be discussed … but it’s not because Obamacare sucks, rather because the health insurance industry is flawed.  And that’s what Obamacare is attempting to remedy.

Rand Paul just doesn’t understand science and that should worry you

A few months ago it was top news that DNA samples would be taken for evidence collection for investigation of serious crimes, and all the evening shows went just a little crazy analyzing all the things could go wrong in the process.

Even my beloved level-headed thinkers were just a little off and lacked just a little too much depth in covering the story.

Here’s just one example:

Chris Hayes:  “No more secrets. Who you are, down to the very molecular
fiber of your being could find itself on a spreadsheet that 10 years or 20
years from now, the Chinese government or some rogue terrorist, or some 19-
year-old hacker kid is going to get their hands on. And who knows what
they`re going to do with it?

“Because the answer to the question, ‘Can you keep a secret?’ in the 
21st century increasingly is a resounding and terrifying no.”

Well, that’s not really true.

You see, a basic DNA sample taken by the police and sent to the lab won’t uncover all the deep, dark ‘Gattaca’-type or ‘Brave New World’ inspired secrets that some will lead you to believe.

I spoke via email with prominent genealogist Megan Smolenyak to help me understand exactly how DNA is analyzed.

What I thought was obvious, which clearly is not, is there’s a difference between types of DNA testing.  Smolenyak said the three main types of genealogical testing are Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal.

She said, “For the most part, genetic genealogy is something of a match-making game.  You get tested, your results wind up in a database, and you hope to find folks who share your Y-DNA or mtDNA signature or overlap with your autosomal DNA.  But you can also learn some general information without any comparison.  For instance, with autosomal testing, you can get a rough breakdown of your heritage – % Euro, % African, % Asian – or more specific, depending on where you test – and with the other two types, you can get a rough idea of how and when that specific branch (i.e., your direct paternal or direct maternal one) migrated out of Africa.”

Okay, so that’s the breakdown of how it works for the family tree curious, but what about for criminal investigations?

First, she said, the databases are different: “With criminal ones (e.g., CODIS), the intention is to zero in on a single person.  With genealogical ones, the objective is to find similar people – folks with the same Y-DNA signature or overlapping chromosomal segments or whatever.  So one is exclusionary while the other is inclusionary.”

Not only that, though, the scientific analysis is totally different.

“ODIS focuses mainly on autosomal STRs (sometimes mtDNA is also done, but inconsistently so and many people can share the same mtDNA signature), whereas genealogists use Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal DNA,” she said.  “Autosomal tests for genealogical purposes focus primarily on SNPs, rather than STRs.”

She said it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

“You can’t use someone’s CODIS results obtained after an arrest to run against genealogical databases to look for relatives because you’re dealing with two different types of data.  It would sort of be like trying to search Ancestry.com using numbers instead of letters in the search fields.”

Rand Paul expressed his strange concerns at a recent campaign event for Ken Cucinelli.  The Associated Press in Lynchberg, Virginia:  

“In your lifetime, much of your potential – or lack thereof – can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek,” Paul said to a packed sporting arena on Liberty’s campus. “Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?”
Some states ran eugenics programs that sterilized those considered defective in the 1900s, though all were abandoned by the 1970s after scientists discredited the idea.

To that concern, Smolenyak said, “Folks are worried about these databases, but if I want your DNA, it would be much easier for me to snag your soda can when you’re done.  The trick is that I then have to have the means to do something with it – and if I’m just snagging it that way, I need some way of extracting a sample.  And then what kind of analysis am I going to do with it?  Am I (* shudder *) going to find out that you have some distant cousins out there? 

“Honestly, in my experience, most of us are still more or less genetically illiterate at this point.  Even most of what we can learn medically (I participate in one such project) mostly reinforces what we already know from researching our roots (though I have high hopes for what will eventually be possible).”

Smolenyak is not totally unconcerned, though, and neither should anyone else be.

“My long-term concern about this would be the corporate world.  Could they somehow get a hold of our data and medical analysis and then use it to claim “pre-existing conditions” before they even exist,” she said.  “But again, I’m not losing sleep over this as that kind of scenario is a long way off, and am participating in a medical project because I think it’s important for some of us to be pioneers so we can learn what we can learn.”

Melissa Harris-Perry covered such concerns in show this year on breast cancer and hereditary conditions in a brilliant and thorough show that is well worth a watch.  She said:

“You thought your body belonged to you? Think again. Because every copy of 
each BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene in every cell of my body and yours belongs to a
private company. So, does all the information those genes may be able to
tell us about our health.

“And while those genes are just hanging out inside your cells doing what 
genes do, they are busy making myriad genetics a lot of money. The patents
give the company the sole right to BRCA analysis that Angelina Jolie test.
And along with an estimated one million people have decided to take it in
the past decade since myriad was awarded the patents. And with no
competition, myriad is free to set a single price for women who want to
find out if they have a mutation. Any woman wanting to take the test,
should be prepared to shell out $3,000.”

In the long run, I’m inclined to listen to experts such as Megan Smolenyak and ignore sky-is-falling weirdness from the likes of the Paul family.

“DNA is powerful stuff, and yes, we should be thoughtful as we proceed with it,” said Smolenyak.  “But we shouldn’t let all sorts of worst-case scenario fears stop us from unlocking this tremendous resource to see what we can do with it.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Ruth’s sauciest Tweets

Did you know that there’s a new off-Broadway production based on the life of the iconic Dr. Ruth?

Ya do now. It’s called ‘Becoming Dr. Ruth’ starring Debra Jo Rupp. Go see it, and color me jealous.

Here’s a roundup some of Dr. Ruth’s sauciest tweets:

Good Guy Russia?

Doubt it.

After weeks  and weeks of watching the tragic and criminal events in Syria that has caused millions to seek refuge from their own country, and countless thousands perishing sadistically at the hands of its leader, the United States was faced with heavy choices: ignore war crimes, negotiate diplomatically to end said war crimes, or strategically destroy troves of chemical weapons with calculated air strikes.

Eschewing leadership by example (i.e. Bush & Co.), President Obama decided – while certainly having his own ideas about what action to take – to follow the law set forth by the Constitution and go through the proper legal channels to let Congress represent the people of America.

Tuesday, after calling for Congress to begin its inquiry and debate over whether to strike Syria and take out the threat of more chemical holocaust, the President announced that diplomacy just may win out in the matter and negotiations are underway between allies of the United States with the full cooperation of Russia and China.

Cue internet:

And so, the Good Guy Putin ‘story’ began.

Not so bloody fast – also I can find some memes too, ma’am!

A long, long time ago … last month … Vladimir Putin was being himself (read a total asshole), and decided to pretty much outrage pretty much everybody for one reason or another.  He has a horrible record on human rights, a horrible record on gay rights, horrible record on free speech, steals sports rings from people, pouts during meetings, harbors alleged criminals, and is an all around jackass.

The threat was very, very real that President Obama (the United States) would not attend the G20 Summit in Russia, and there even were rumors that the United States may pull out of the Olympic Winter Games because of Pootie’s bad behavior.

  • President Obama has cancelled a planned summit with Vladimir Putin amid mounting US anger over Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden.
  • “The crackdown on freedom of expression since Putin re-emerged as leader is extremely troubling and disturbing,” said Samir Goswami, managing director for Amnesty International’s Individuals and Communities at Risk program. “There has to be a larger conversation at the IOC level, but also among the global community. At what cost are we producing these Olympics?”  Since Putin’s re-election in 2012, over 5,000 people have been arrested in more than 200 protests over anti-gay laws, according to figures from Amnesty International. In addition to the law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors,” Putin has also signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples and to individuals living in countries that allow gay couples to marry. He also signed a law in June that classifies “homosexual propaganda” as pornography.  Those moves, ahead of the Olympics, sparked demonstrations around the world with protesters’ demanding boycotts of Russian vodka and even the Olympic Games.
  • President Obama will be in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 5–6 for the G20 summit. However, the White House has canceled a bilateral visit to Moscow and a meeting with President Vladimir Putin after Russia granted Edward Snowden, a fugitive former National Security Agency contractor and secret national security documents leaker, temporary political asylum.  Moreover, for the past two and a half years, Russia has been America’s major opponent around the world, from Syria to Iran to Europe. Nonetheless, it is possible to improve U.S.–Russian relations, but both sides have work to do.

MMMkay. Now that we have our little recap, let’s address this ‘Good Guy Putin’ nonsense.

Here’s how it probably went down:

Obama: Mr. President (Putin), look, I’ve done everything I can think of to not ‘tread on you’ but you’re really starting to piss me off.  I’m thinking of not even showing up for the G20 because you’re being such a jerk.

Putin: Fine. Whatever you say.

Obama: Fine. But, don’t forget, some shit’s about to get real in Syria and you’re gonna look like a total idiot if you won’t even bother to help with a crackdown on major war crimes.  You’re just gonna make us look militarily stronger than you all over again.  I know we are, and you know we are, but do you really need to have your nose rubbed in it? Alright, have it your way, I’ll come to the G20, but this is the last time and don’t come crying to us if you need something. I’m serious this time.

Putin: … …

U.S. president says his administration is skeptically exploring Russia’s proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control; adds he doesn’t foresee Congress vote on strike in ‘immediate future.’

Obama:  I don’t wanna talk about this again.

And that’s the way I see it.

Either way …

the worst love

i love you. 

that’s the hard part.

i don’t want to love any more.

loving. loving is the hard part.

letting go. letting go is easy.

letting go is hard.

loving is worse.

i don’t want to let go any more.

i don’t want to love you any less.

that’s the hard part.

i don’t love you.

i can’t.

Guardian rolls over for UK government

If the recent Guardian reporting is to be believed, after weeks of pressure by UK officials, the newspaper – rather than defend its right to protect its sources and its obligation to report to its readers – rolled over under pressure and turned over copies of information for destruction.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

Notice in the above quote that there wasn’t a direct threat … rather an implicit one.

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention.

Okay, so, basically, the government said, ‘Hey, if y’all don’t hand over the secret documents, we’re gonna sue you.’  And, rather than be sued for the information, and defending their right to hold the documents, report on the documents, and protect their sources … the Guardian said, ‘Okay.’  Fine, they had backup, but there’s little doubt that the UK government would know that they had backup and copies of the info.   Then, straight out of a Hollywood movie

And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Am I the only one unmoved by their acquiescence, by their weird fear of appearing in court to defend the right to a free press? Who the hell lies down for something like that … symbolic or not? I guess the Guardian does.