Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Police say "Beat Whitey Night" may have racial overtones at Iowa fair

Des Moines police are trying to determine what led to a series of attacks outside the Iowa State Fairgrounds over the weekend that included the assault of two police officers.

At least three people were arrested Friday through early Monday morning. Other arrests may occur as officers investigate the incidents, officials said.

There are indications that some of the fights - which appear to involve mostly teenagers and young adults - were racially motivated, police said.


"We don't know if this was juveniles fighting or a group of kids singling out white citizens leaving the fairgrounds," Sgt. Lori Lavorato said. "It's all under investigation, but it's very possible it has racial overtones."

Officials announced last week that they were stepping up security outside the fairgrounds after a series of attacks Aug. 14 that included a pair of stabbings. Investigators are still investigating those assaults and victims intend to pursue charges.

audio AUDIO: Des Moines Police Sgt. Richard Schuett describes a situation near the Iowa State Fairgrounds Sunday night in which he and other officers were attacked.

Sgt. David Murillo stated in a report on Friday night, "On-duty officers at the fairgrounds advise there was a group of 30 to 40 individuals roaming the fairgrounds openly calling it 'beat whitey night.' "

Jammie Carroll, 36, of Polk City, was seriously injured in the 3000 block of East Grand Avenue Friday night after a group of people beat him up, causing severe injuries to his eyes, cheekbones and nose, Murillo wrote. Carroll is white, and many of the suspects are black, police said.

State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who has worked to fight gang-related violence, said he doesn't have enough information to decide if the fights were racially motivated. He said police comments that race was involved could miss other factors, such as nonracial taunting.

"Unfortunately, like any other city, you have certain parts of town that individuals congregate in," Abdul-Samad said. "You have those that go into that area with no problem, and those who cannot."

He added, "We of course need to work on race relations. If anyone says we don't, they are playing games with themselves."

State Fair spokeswoman Lori Chappell said she had few details about the incidents. Police had increased security near the western edge of the fairgrounds specifically, she said.

The fair, which drew more than 960,000 visitors over 11 days, ended when the gates closed at 1 a.m. Monday.

About 10:30 p.m. Sunday, two police officers were attacked as they waded into a combative crowd outside the fairgrounds' main gates at East 30th Street and Grand Avenue.

Sgt. Richard Schuett and reserve Officer Lynn Hubbs both complained of head, neck and back pain after being punched from behind while trying to make arrests.

"There were pockets of people fighting," Schuett said. "People were leaving the fair and they were walking into the middle of them. We were trying to move people along but some of them wouldn't move."

A police report says Schuett "was on the ground fighting with his suspect, and several other females began to attack him." Another officer grabbed one of the attackers and tried to make an arrest, but she spun away.

Officers sprayed chemical deterrent and deployed a stun gun while trying to gain control. Two teenage girls were taken into custody for questioning following that incident.

Also Sunday night and early Monday:

- Beth Longen, 25, of Des Moines was at the gas pumps at the QuikTrip store, East 30th Street and University Avenue, taking video of the crowd when she was assaulted about 11:20 p.m., police said. A 17-year-old girl allegedly slapped Longen and threatened her in front of police officers. The teen was one of several taken to police headquarters and later released to parents.

- Earl Tice, 17, of Des Moines was attacked near East 30th Street and Grand Avenue about 9:45 p.m. Sunday. He told officers he was jumped while leaving the fair. Tice was having X-rays taken at a hospital when police took a report from his mother. Officials said he had been kicked and punched.

- Officers arrested Daveion Trell Smith, 18, of Des Moines on a charge of disorderly conduct. Police said they observed him with a large group of people, yelling and gesturing and trying to start a fight with another group of people. He was warned and told to leave the area, police said.

- Kiera Agee, 18, of Des Moines was charged with disorderly conduct. Police said they told her several times to leave the area. She allegedly responded by swearing at police. She was arrested and was taken to jail.

- Ashley Robinson, 18, of Des Moines was charged with interference with official acts. Police said they were doing paperwork in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant near the fairgrounds when Robinson walked up demanding answers to questions. Police were holding several suspects there at the time. She was ordered to leave the area. When she refused, she was taken into custody.

Laurie Christensen, a resident of Walker Street near the fairgrounds, said she's never seen such hostility around the fairgrounds.

Groups "have been openly taunting the police - in the street right to their faces," she said. "We found some of them that ran from the police hiding in our backyard."

Register staff writer Perry Beeman contributed to this article.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Michael Ian Black and the Hitler-Shouter in the Dark | The New York Observer

Michael Ian Black lost his temper with an idiot and like a lot of people might do these days, he blogged about it. Black, however, is a founding member of influential comedy troop The State, an actor, author, stand-up comedian and commercial pitchman with well over a million followers on Twitter. Add to that Black's wry, deadpan and seemingly laid-back public persona and you might understand why his experience with an anti-Obama heckler during his stand-up routine in Ohio over the weekend drew so much interest once it received notice from sites like Gawker TV.

In his Tumblr post, Black outlined the exchange with the audience member:

Last night, as I was talking about how much I love the president (because I do), somebody yelled out "Heil Hitler."

Heil Hitler?

My immediate reaction was to crumple to the floor, which I did. I don't know why, except that it seemed to me in that moment that the show had now gone south very quickly, and if bottles were going to be thrown, I didn't want to get hit.

Black questioned the heckler as to why he'd said what he did. The man explained, "Because when you say you like Obama, that's the same thing to me as saying ‘Heil Hitler.'"

Shortly after that, wrote Black, he lost it:

I just started screaming at the guy. Screaming. I don't even know what I was screaming, although the gist was, "How dare you compare Hitler to this president or any president? How dare you equate what he did with Obama is doing? Do you have any idea how insulting that is? Do you know anything about history? Do you have any idea what Hitler did? He killed six million of my people, which is six million more than Obama has killed. You're a fucking idiot. You're a fucking moron. You're the fucking problem with this country. You and your reflexive retardation. You're a fucking this-and-that..." and then I just basically started yelling "fuck" a lot at the guy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Then he stood up and left.

It felt really, really great.

Black explained in his blog post that he felt bad about losing it, but his was "a purely emotional response, the kind that I get upset at other people for making when talking about the mosque they want to build or gay marriage or gun violence or any issue that people use to piss each other off."

We wanted to know a little more, so we reached out to Black via email. His answers to our questions were thoughtful, blunt and—as you might expect—pretty funny.

How did the audience react after you cut loose?

The audience loved it, the way you would enjoy watching anybody go on a rampage. If I was at the show I would have loved it too. Same reason people love NASCAR- for the fiery wrecks. People losing their shit is always entertaining to watch, unless you're at the supermarket and it's a mom with her kid. Then it's just uncomfortable. But also entertaining.

How did you recover your act, get it back into the groove?

It wasn't hard because I was talking about Obama anyway. So it was easy to keep talking about Obama afterwards. To their credit, they stayed with me and it ended up being a good show. As a fan of comedy, I always enjoy watching things go off the rails, so if I had been there I probably would have thought it was great and I think it would have been rooting for the comic to get back on track, which I think they were. Had it been the other way around and I was the one screaming "Heil Hitler," it might not have been as easy to get them back.

Is there maybe an undertone of surprise in your blog post, a sense of 'I can't believe I did that?'

More embarrassment at my own actions. More of "I was pretty close to wading into the crowd with fists flying." If I wasn't such a total and complete pussy, I might have done it. This is one occasion where I am glad I am so hopelessly physically inept. No, that's probably true. I don't think I ever would have instigated a fight over something like that, but I was close to being out of control for a few moments, which is embarrassing to me. Also, it was my show, which is sort of like being the host at a party. Generally hosts don't call their guests "fucking morons," even if they take a dump in the pool.

Are you surprised this is getting so much attention?

I am surprised it's getting any attention at all. This is just something I was feeling bad about and felt the need to get off my chest, so I wrote a blog post. I get the sense that a lot of the support I've been getting about this comes from Obama supporters. I am also a huge Obama supporter (I kind of thought I was the only one left) but my point wasn't about Obama at all; it applied to all presidents. But more than that, it was about how reflexively we've been shouting at each other since Clinton was in office. Maybe it was before, but that's the first time I became aware of it. I just feel like we're turning into a country filled with shitty people and I don't want to be part of that. By screaming at that guy for yelling out his stupid buzz word, that's exactly what I became.

Here's the thing: I honestly believe that the vast majority of Americans want the same things; peace, opportunity, a fair shake, and the freedom to pursue their version of happiness. Democrats want that. Republicans want that. Oprah wants that. Ted Nugent wants that. Everybody. The arguments arise about how we get there. I just think we'd all be better served if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically demonizing the other guy. Here's the thing I am trying to keep in mind: the other guy isn't automatically the asshole. Whenever I start to think that he is, I have to remind myself, "The asshole, perhaps, is I."

Who should be more afraid? The next person who compares Obama to Hitler in front of you or the next fan who says they loved you as a member of Kids In The Hall? (Black was in The State but has joked about people confusing him for a member of the Canadian comedy group).

Nobody need be afraid of me. I am a meek little kitten who just wants his ears scratched.

Was this a Howard Beale moment? Are you mad as hell and not going to take it any more?

Now that I've got two kids, I can use that old dad line. "I'm not mad, I'm disappointed."

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

AFP: China's nine-day traffic jam stretches 100km

China's nine-day traffic jam stretches 100km

(AFP) – 1 day ago

BEIJING — Thousands of vehicles were bogged down Monday in a more than 100-kilometre (62-mile) traffic jam leading to Beijing that has lasted nine days and highlights China's growing road congestion woes.

The Beijing-Tibet expressway slowed to a crawl on August 14 due to a spike in traffic by cargo-bearing heavy trucks heading to the capital, and compounded by road maintenance work that began five days later, the Global Times said.

The state-run newspaper said the jam between Beijing and Jining city had given birth to a mini-economy with local merchants capitalising on the stranded drivers' predicament by selling them water and food at inflated prices.

That stretch of highway linking Beijing with the northern province of Hebei and the Inner Mongolia region has become increasingly prone to massive jams as the capital of more than 20 million people sucks in huge shipments of goods.

Traffic slowed to a snail's pace in June and July for nearly a month, according to earlier press reports.

The latest clog has been worsened by the road improvement project, made necessary by highway damage caused by a steady increase in cargo traffic, the Global Times said.

China has embarked in recent years on a huge expansion of its national road system but soaring traffic periodically overwhelms the grid.

The congestion was expected to last into mid-September as the road project will not be finished until then, the newspaper said.

The roadway is a major artery for the supply of produce, coal and other goods to Beijing.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Replacing a Pile of Textbooks With an iPad - Bits Blog

Inkling's biology textbookInkling

When I’m not blogging away about technology for the Bits Blog, I’m also an adjunct professor at New York University in the Interactive Telecommunications Program.

The program is a technology-focused graduate course, so it came as no surprise when four of my students walked into class in early April with fancy new Apple iPads in hand. After the students got past the novelty factor, a debate ensued about how the iPad would fit into their school life. One factor the students discussed was the ability to carry less “stuff” in their backpacks: the iPad can replace magazines, notepads, even a laptop.

Now there’s an iPad application that could further lighten the load. A new company called Inkling hopes to break the standard textbook model and help textbooks enter the interactive age by letting students share and comment on the texts and interact with fellow students.

Matt MacInnis, founder and chief executive of Inkling, said in a phone interview that the company wants to offer a textbook experience that moves far beyond simply downloading a PDF document to an iPad.

One unique feature the service offers is the ability to discuss passages of a book with other students or professors. By selecting a piece of text you can leave a note for others to read and develop a conversation around the text.

The application also breathes life into textbooks by giving publishers the tools to create interactive graphics within a book. In a demo version of the application, available for download in the iTunes store, “The Elements of Style” includes quizzes that help students learn by touching and interacting with the screen. There’s also a biology book that offers the ability to navigate 3-D molecules from any angle.

Some other features include the ability to search text, change the size of the type, purchase individual chapters of books, highlight text for others to see and take pop quizzes directly within the app.

Mr. MacInnis said that some universities began using the textbook application this week, including the University of Alabama and Seton Hill University. “Professors are really excited about the ability to leave notes for the class in specific areas of the book and to also see commentary from their students,” he said.

One question that will likely come up for college students is the price. The program is currently only available for the iPad, a device that starts at $500. Inkling hopes to solve that problem by reducing the cost of the digital textbooks as compared to their paper counterparts and by allowing students to buy books one chapter at a time.

The cost of college textbooks on paper can easily surpass $1,100 a year. If students find that the price of the iPad and the digital textbooks balance out, then the iPad investment could quickly make sense.

And finally there’s the weight factor. Inkling’s frequently-asked-questions page points out that even if you fill your entire iPad with Inkling books, it will still weigh 1.5 pounds.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Microsoft: 'We love open source' and Linux may not be a "cancer"

Everyone in the Linux world remembers Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's famous comment that Linux is a "cancer" that threatened Microsoft's intellectual property.

Ballmer is still CEO of Microsoft, but that comment occurred in 2001, a lifetime ago in the technology market. While Microsoft hasn't formally rescinded its declaration that Linux violates its patents, at least one Microsoft executive admits that the company’s earlier battle stance was a mistake. Microsoft wants the world to understand, whatever its issues with Linux, it no longer has any gripe toward open source.

Microsoft/Linux milestones

In 2010 Microsoft is trying hard not to be public enemy No. 1 to open source proponents, in some cases by making key contributions to open source code and in other cases by making Microsoft products interoperable with open source software.

"We love open source," says Jean Paoli of Microsoft in a recent interview with Network World. "We have worked with open source for a long time now."

The mistake of equating all open source technology with Linux was "really very early on," Paoli says. "That was really a long time ago," he says. "We understand our mistake."

Paoli is the general manager of Microsoft's interoperability strategy team, which touches on some open source issues. A Microsoft veteran of 14 years, Paoli is also the co-creator of the XML specification.

Paoli's recent work involves a new Microsoft initiative to promote interoperability among the key components of cloud networks. The initiative, described in July at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, is attempting to promote data portability; use of standards-based technologies; ease of migration and deployment across cloud networks; and developer choice. 

The initiative isn't strictly an open source project but it does illustrate Microsoft’s evolving relationship with open technologies.Microsoft seems to be making a concerted effort to befriend portions of the open source community, and the company could benefit in the public relations game from unpopular moves by Oracle, which is ending the OpenSolaris project and suing Google over use of open source Java in Android. 

There are still critics of Microsoft's attitude toward open source, and Microsoft gave itself a black eye in 2007 by claiming that Linux and other open source software violate a whopping 235 Microsoft patents. And in 2008, Bill Gates reportedly claimed that open source licenses ensure "that nobody can ever improve the software."  

Microsoft also launched a patent lawsuit against GPS vendor TomTom last year, forcing TomTom to pay Microsoft licensing fees, and was able to force HTC to pay it royalties over use of Android.

Microsoft embraces "mixed IT"

But Paoli says Microsoft recognizes that its customers use a mix of proprietary and open source technologies.

Microsoft has released some technology under its own open source license (the "Microsoft Public License"), such as IronRuby, which integrates .Net code with the Ruby programming language.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart