Welcome to Thursday, October 27, 2022. Tomorrow I leave for California to see friends and participate in the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference, and will be back in about eight days. Posting will be very light until then, so bear with me. As always, I do my best.
It’s National Potato Day!
It’s also American Beer Day, National Potato Day, Sylvia Plath Day (she was born on this day in 1932, committing suicide in 1963), National Black Cat Day (the first reader who sends a photo of their black cat will have it featured below), Navy Day, and World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.
And here’s our first black cat, from reader Reese. The cat is named after my favorite bourbon:
Probably too late; I’m on Texas time, but here”s Woodford Reserve White, a black cat, assisting at the NYTimes Spelling Bee.
Readers are invited to comment on notable events, births, and deaths on this day by consulting the October 27 Wikipedia page.
*I’d always thought that American jury verdicts had to be unanimous for a judgment of “guilty” or “not guilty” to be rendered; otherwise you’d have a hung jury and a mistrial. It turns out that while this is true in 48 of 50 statess, it’s not in Louisiana or Oregon, which allow split-jury verdicts. In both of these states, a 10-2 vote counts as either a conviction or exoneration.
However, as the Washington Post reports, this practice is no longer legal:
The Supreme Court ruling left it up to Oregon and Louisiana to figure out what to do with the hundreds of people already in prison for such convictions.
Now it seems the right thing to do to let those prisoners go free who were convicted by split verdicts, doesn’t it? But not to everyone!
On Oct. 21, Louisiana’s Supreme Court ruled against vacating those convictions, leaving the door open for the state legislature to take action. Oregon’s Supreme Court is similarly poised to rule on the issue, in an appeal of Watkins’s conviction that could impact an estimated 250 to 300 other inmates in the state.
If the state Supreme Court sides with Watkins, it would provide the path forward that prisoners and their advocates have fought for — an opportunity to seek new outcomes through the appeals process. Crime victims and their supporters, however, say such defendants should not always get another chance.
. . . If no branch of the government takes action, hundreds of people will remain behind bars for crimes that at least one juror did not believe they committed.
I guess the state legislatures can rule against those convicted under a practice now deemed unconstitutional, but it just seems WRONG. If you read further, you find that the practice of allowing split votes derives from cases involving, yes, Jews and blacks, as a way to ensure that they got punished even without unanimity. But the drive for retribution is strong:
Some crime victims and their advocates have opposed new appeals for people convicted in split verdicts, testifying against legislation that would have allowed them. Lynae Wever said the man who sexually abused her and her sister was convicted on an 11-1 verdict. She begged lawmakers not to allow a way for him to appeal his case.
“I speak on behalf of all the victims going through what I am forced to go through when I say that sexual abuse in any degree should not be given any opportunity for a retrial,” Wever said.
Louisiana has over 1,500 prisoners in jail under split verdicts, and is going forward with incarcerating more even as the State Supreme Court considers what to do.
*Climate change is a “tragedy of the commons” scenario: it’s to each country’s benefit to keep pumping greenhouse gases into the air, but also to their benefit if all other countries reduce emissions. It’s no surprise, then, that only a fraction of the countries that pledged to deal with problem have done so.
Countries around the world are failing to live up to their commitments to fight climate change, pointing Earth toward a future marked by more intense flooding, wildfires, drought, heat waves and species extinction, according to a report issued Wednesday by the United Nations.
Just 26 of 193 countries that agreed last year to step up their climate actions have followed through with more ambitious plans. The world’s top two polluters, China and the United States, have taken some action but have not pledged more this year, and climate negotiations between the two have been frozen for months.
Without drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the report said, the planet is on track to warm by an average of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels, by 2100.
That’s far higher than the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) set by the landmark Paris agreement in 2015, and it crosses the threshold beyond which scientists say the likelihood of catastrophic climate impacts significantly increases.
With each fraction of a degree of warming, tens of millions more people worldwide would be exposed to life-threatening heat waves, food and water scarcity, and coastal flooding while millions more mammals, insects, birds and plants would disappear.
THe U.S. and China should be ashamed of ourselves, because we’ll wreak the most havoc on future generations. These emission pledges are like New Year’s resolutions: people have good intentions but somehow never get around to enacting them. Well, we’ll all be dead when the merde frappe le ventilateur, but there’s no doubt that after the penguins and polar bears go, then other species will be next, with humanity all moving towards the Poles.
*Ruth Bader Ginsburg is getting her own stamp! And it’s a “forever stamp,” too, which means you can use it in the future, on first class letters no matter how high the postal rates increase.
The new stamp shows Ginsburg wearing the white beaded collar with an intricate geometric pattern that she said came from Cape Town, South Africa.
Ginsburg’s “dissent collar” — a darkly formal and hard-edged version signaling her opposition on a key issue — became famous as the high court split over divisive issues, but the simpler white collar the stamp depicts was the justice’s favorite.
As it announced the new stamp, the Postal Service noted Ginsburg’s legacy of fighting for equal rights, including her “important majority opinions advancing equality and strong dissents on socially controversial rulings.”
The Ginsburg stamp will be released in 2023 — 30 years after she was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton. It features art by Michael J. Deas, a frequent stamp artist, and is based on a photograph by Philip Bermingham, according to the Postal Service.
Ginsburg will be the first Supreme Court justice to get a solo stamp issue since 2003, when Thurgood Marshall was honored. U.S. stamps have featured a number of other justices over the years, including William Brennan Jr. and Louis Brandies — part of a four-justice issue in 2009 — and Hugo Black and Oliver Wendall Holmes.
Here’s her “dissent collar”, one of three donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
*The U.S. has officially declared the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) an endangered species. “How can that be?”, you ask “This species is not found in America.” I don’t know for sure, but this excerpt from the US Fish and Wildlife Service implies that since it inhabits Antarctia, and no country (despite the claims of some) really “owns” any of Antarctica, it gives the U.S. wider ambit to take conservation measures:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized protections for the emperor penguin, a flightless seabird endemic to Antarctica, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The emperor penguin is listed as a threatened species and includes a section 4(d) rule that tailors protections for the species. The impact ofon sea-ice habitat, where the species spends the majority of its life, is the primary threat to the penguin.
. . . To allow for further conservation of the species, the emperor penguin listing includes a section 4(d) rule that streamlines ESA compliance by providing exceptions for activities permitted by the National Science Foundation under the Antarctic Conservation Act.
The final rule to list the emperor penguin as threatened under the ESA will publish in the Federal Register Oct. 26, 2022, and will be effective 30 days after publication. More information on the final rule is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS-HQ-ES-2021-0043.
How endangered is it? Let’s put it this way: if you were an Emperor Penguin, you’d better start worrying:
Emperor penguins need sea ice to form breeding colonies, forage for food, and avoid predation. As carbon dioxide emissions rise, the Earth’s temperature will continue to increase, and the related reduction of sea ice could affect a variety of species, including emperor penguins, who rely on the ice for survival.
While emperor penguin populations appear to be currently stable, the Service has determined the species is in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future in a significant portion of its range. There are approximately 61 breeding colonies along the coastline of Antarctica, and the species’ population size is estimated to be between 270,000 – 280,000 breeding pairs or 625,000 – 650,000 individual birds.
However, according to the best available science, by 2050 their global population size will likely decrease by 26 percent (to approximately 185,000 breeding pairs) to 47 percent (to approximately 132,500 breeding pairs) under low and high carbon emissions scenarios, respectively.
*In Bret Stephens’s NYT column, “Thank Ye very much,” “Ye” is Kanye West’s new name, not an archaic form of “you.” It is, of course, a criticism of Kanye’s anti-Semitic remarks, remarks that got him roundly criticized but also cost him a huge chunk of his income (I read somewhere that “Ye”-branded Adidas products were 10% of the company’s sales.) But it’s also an indictment of the press for not covering anti-Semitism. A longish excerpt:
With a few outbursts in a few days — you threatened in a tweet this month to go “death con 3” on “JEWISH PEOPLE” and it’s been downhill from there — you’ve probably done more to raise public awareness about the persistence, prevalence and nature of antisemitism than any other recent event.
It’s remarkable how long it took us to get here. For 2020, the F.B.I. reports that Jews, who constitute about 2.4 percent of the total adult population in the United States, were on the receiving end of 54.9 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes. On many nights in New York City, Hasidic or Orthodox Jews are being shoved, harangued and beaten.
So far, this has been one of the most underreported stories in the country — itself a telling indicator in an era that is otherwise hyper-attuned to prejudice and hate.
At times, the reporting has all but accused Jews of bringing the violence on themselves, with lengthy stories about allegedly pushy Jewish neighbors or rapacious Jewish landlords. At other times — such as after the attack in January on a Texas synagogue by a British Muslim man who had traveled 4,800 miles to get there — reporters seem to have gone out of their way to find non-antisemitic motives for nakedly antisemitic attacks.
More often, attacks on Jews are treated as regrettable yet somehow understandable expressions of anger at Israel. In May 2021, Jewish diners at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles were physically assaulted by a member of a group that, according to a witness, was chanting “Death to Jews” and “Free Palestine.” A KABC report of the event was headlined, in part: “Mideast tensions lead to L.A. fight.”
To suggest that “Mideast tensions” led to a “fight” is to obscure both the nature and motive of the assault. Imagine the absurdity of a headline that read: “High Levels of Crime in Minority Neighborhood Lead Police Officer to Kneel on Man’s Neck for Eight Minutes.”
. . .But it’s worth pondering the extent to which, in American culture today, Jews are excluded from inclusion and included in the excluded. That is, the Jewish people’s status as an oft-persecuted minority goes increasingly unrecognized, while the Jewish people’s position as a legitimate target for contempt and ostracism is becoming increasingly accepted.
Take Hollywood, where the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened its doors last year with a panel dedicated to “Creating a More Inclusive Museum.” Yet, as The Times’s Adam Nagourney reported in March, “Through dozens of exhibits and rooms, there is barely a mention of Harry and Jack Warner, Adolph Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn or Louis B. Mayer” — the Jews who essentially founded the modern movie industry. (After an outcry, the museum now plans a permanent exhibition for them.)
It goes on, with more examples given, but who cares about anti-Semitism in America these days? The column is written as a letter addressed to “Ye” and ends by saying that if he were honest, he’d admit that he spoke “for more people than many Americans would have cared to admit.”
*I voted by mail yesterday—a great convenience. Don’t forget to join me! I think that voting should be obligatory in the U.S., with failure to do so punished in some way. This will ensure that (except for the damn electoral college), every Amercan gets a say.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is helping with the gardening again:
A: Leave this forsythia alone.Hili: I’m just checking whether is has a thick bark.
Ja: Zostaw w spokoju tą forsycję.Hili: Sprawdzam tylko, czy ma grubą korę.
From Pradeep, posted Tuesday and captioned “Metro in Tehran today”. The picture speaks volumes:
From Pet Jokes & Puns via Merilee, Larry the Cat speaks out:
From Jesus of the Day. I may have posted this before, and am not at all sure it’s real. An obliging reader might check. If it’s real, Keith probably eats peanut butter sandwiches for lunch!
The Tweet of God, addressed to all those who purport to hear Him, and to those who speak in tongues:
When I start talking to you, you should start talking to a mental health professional.
— God (Thee/Thy) (@TheTweetOfGod) October 26, 2022
More Iranian student protests documented by Masih:
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 26, 2022
From Malcolm: A human white blood cell does its thing. Great video!
Fascinating footage of a human white blood cell chasing a bacterium captured through a microscope. Credit: David Rogers pic.twitter.com/tpqr3XUlCM
— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) October 22, 2022
From Simon: New PM gets a slap from Labour:
Starmer: “The only time he ran in a competitve election he got trounced by the former Prime Minister, who herself got beaten by a lettuce.”
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) October 26, 2022
From Barry, who says “Man, that squirrel is going to be SO pissed when he finds out what happened to his stash!” I have a feeling it was more than one squirrel. I also have a feeling I’ve posted this before, but so what?
150 kilograms of acorns stored by a squirrel in a transmitting antenna.pic.twitter.com/exDGsZMayj
— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) October 23, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
27 October 1887 | A Dutch Jewish woman, Eva Musaph-Kanteman, was born in Hengelo.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 27, 2022
Tweets from Matthew: “Savate” is French kickboxing, and this video was made using photos and AI to smooth and colorize an old black and white film.
French soldiers practicing Savate, c. 1896-1899 pic.twitter.com/L4dL74CtHe
— History Defined (@historydefined) October 25, 2022
The Iranians are contesting their regime in droves!
stunning video coming out of iran
in mahsa amini’s hometown of saqez, thousands ignore govt road closures to walk to her gravesite
40 days after her death in the custody of iran’s morality policepic.twitter.com/u6EvbGQtjw
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 26, 2022
Matthew and I love a good murmuration!
Mesmerising murmuration in Ripon this eve.. my word.. so emotional.. 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/6Axid9cWYk
— H & Rosie the Batdog🐾🦇🐾) (@jamiesonhelen) October 17, 2022