The rebellion in Baltimore is an uprising against austerity, claims top US academic

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Ed Vulliamy writes at The Guardian:

For Baltimore to be the setting for the latest in a recent spate of high-profile police murders and riots in America – after Ferguson, New York and North Charleston – is especially compelling in the public imagination because the city was also the location for David Simon’s brilliant TV series The Wire.

Baltimore is the city from which Simon wrote for this newspaper in 2013 about “two Americas” in the “horror show” his country has become, one crucial element of which is that the US is “the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons”.

The Wire, he said, “was about people who were worthless and who were no longer necessary”, most of them black, and who become the assembly-line raw material for “the prison-industrial complex”. At an event hosted by the Observer that year, Simon said: “Once America marginalised the black 10% of the population it no longer needed, it set out to make money out of them by putting them in jail.”

The Baltimore Sun last year documented a litany of police abuse of black people – mostly but not entirely men (one was a grandmother in her 80s) – as routine as it was savage, and compensation payouts of $5.7m since 2011 for the few cases pursued and vindicated.

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#BaltimoreUprising isn’t just about Baltimore

As unrest continues in this broken and beaten down city, if we simply look at the events leading up to the Freddie Gray incident, we see a pattern – a pattern that is noticeable nationwide. A pattern of robbery, racism, injustice and inequality. Freddie Gray is the tip of the iceberg but this corruption runs deep – from TPP to FTP. #RiseUp

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Dozens of endangered cockatoos found stuffed into plastic bottles

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Yellow-crested cockatoos, an endangered species endemic to Indonesia, are “very heavily impacted” by smuggling operations. A total of 24 cockatoos were found stuffed in plastic water bottles at an Indonesian port.

Euan McKirdy writes at CNN:

Richard Thomas, Global Communications Co-ordinator at Traffic International, which monitors illegal wildlife trade, told CNN that the reported trafficking of them in plastic bottles “shows the lengths that some people will go to try to smuggle birds.”

The bird is one that is “very heavily impacted” by illegal trade, he said. While the species is endemic to Indonesia, it’s disappeared from much of its range and now the only substantial population is found on the island of Komodo, with smaller populations on some other islands.

Traffic’s Southeast Asia Facebook page says that the water-bottle method is “commonly used to smuggle these protected birds.”

Read the entire report here.

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Hip Hop Beats Beatles As Most Influential In 50 Years of Pop Music

If you were asked what was the most important development in pop music in the last 50 years, what would you pick? An evolutionary biologist who normally studies worms looked at 17,000 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 over 50 years and found that hip hop beats out the British Invasion of 1964, Beatles, Stones ‘n all. From the LA Times:

Forget the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson and Madonna. The most important cultural shift in American pop music began with the explosion of rap in the early 1990s.

Public Enemy 4

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones didn’t spark the British Invasion of the 1960s, but they did fan its flames.

And don’t buy snobs’ complaints about the homogenization of pop. With the exception of a brief period in the 1980s, there’s been plenty of diversity in the charts.

These are the conclusions of engineers and biologists who analyzed 17,000 digitized songs from Billboard’s Hot 100 to produce an evolutionary history of American popular music — no listening required.

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Status Quo Meet Future Islands – Revolution in UK Politics

There is no perfect remedy for Scottish Labour's broken record. Photo: Flickr/steve

There is no perfect remedy for Scottish Labour’s broken record. Photo: Flickr/steve

[This article refers to the recent British General Election campaign.]

These days you’d be hard-pressed to find any credible indie rock kids willing to admit they’re Status Quo fans. There are no breakbeats, hip hop samples or underground indie kudos here. It’s just the old guard cranking out the same old hits of yesteryear, pushing nostalgia tours on their ever-diminishing audience.

A once mighty commercial force, Scottish Labour, according to all the polls, are now passé. As far as the electorate is concerned, they have become the Status Quo, minus the ponytails and denim shirts (although perhaps Jim Murphy and Co are missing a trick there.)

How did these formerly psychedelic rebel rockers turn into yesterday’s news? They took their ear from the underground, hooked up with commercial producers to smooth out their sound, and now all they can do is tell the kids that the new music sucks.… Read the rest

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Conspiracy Theory as a Personality Disorder?

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Photo: John Allspaw (CC)

“The treatment of ‘conspiracy theories’ by the US intelligentsia is reminiscent of the Soviet commissions that labeled political dissidents mentally ill,” claims Kerry R Bolton at Foreign Policy:

While psychiatry as a means of repressing political dissent was well-known for its use the USSR, this occurred no less and perhaps more so in the West, and particularly in the USA. While the case of Ezra Pound is comparatively well-known now, not so recognized is that during the Kennedy era in particular there were efforts to silence critics through psychiatry. The cases of General Edwin Walker, Fredrick Seelig, and Lucille Miller might come to mind.

As related by Seelig, the treatment meted out to political dissidents in psychiatric wards and institutions could be hellish. Over the past few decades however, such techniques against dissent have become passé, in favor of more subtle methods of social control. While the groundwork was laid during the 1940s by President Franklin Roosevelt calling dissidents to his regime the “lunatic fringe,” this became a theme for the social sciences, the seminal study of which is The Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno et al.

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Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges

Jed Saul Rakoff is a United States District Judge on senior status for the Southern District of New York. He’s breaking the silence of the judges on mass incarceration in the United States in this essay for the New York Review of Books:

For too long, too many judges have been too quiet about an evil of which we are a part: the mass incarceration of people in the United States today. It is time that more of us spoke out.

The basic facts are not in dispute. More than 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated in US jails and prisons, a 500 percent increase over the past forty years. Although the United States accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The per capita incarceration rate in the US is about one and a half times that of second-place Rwanda and third-place Russia, and more than six times the rate of neighboring Canada.

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1906 Illustrations of H. G. Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’

Henrique Alvim Corrêa, a Brazilian artist who worked primarily in Belgium, specialized in military and science fiction illustration. In 1906, he illustrated a French translation of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. Corrêa’s illustrations were definitely ahead of their time. Their atmosphere and texture echo modern science fiction art. Unfortunately only 500 copies of this edition were ever produced, but Corrêa’s artworks are currently up for auction.

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War of the Worlds. Translated from English by Henry D. Davray. Illustrated by Alvim Corrêa.

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