Freddie Gray killed, big protests in Baltimore, USA


Rally in Baltimore against killing of Freddie Gray

By Nick Barrickman in the USA:

27 April 2015

Thirty-four people were arrested and six police officers were injured over the weekend after thousands marched against police brutality through downtown Baltimore, Maryland. The protest on Saturday had been called nearly a week after Freddie Gray, a young African-American man, died from injuries sustained after being beaten by police in West Baltimore.

The protest, which had been called by a coalition of local activist groups and was largely peaceful, was the largest in a series of demonstrations against police violence that have swept the city since Gray succumbed to his injuries last week.

On Sunday, thousands of people attended a wake for Gray, who will be buried today.

A group of protesters broke away from the main march on Saturday and began committing minor acts of vandalism to storefronts and police vehicles. Police responded by sending out helmeted officers to detain protesters and break up the march. Clashes between protesters and police continued throughout the night in parts of West Baltimore, near the area where Gray was beaten and killed.

The number of police flooding the streets over the weekend was comparable to the total number of demonstrators. Baltimore Police Chief Anthony W. Batts mobilized over 1,200 policemen. He made the ludicrous claim that deploying police across the city would safeguard protesters’ right of “peaceful expression.”

On Saturday night, a photographer from the Baltimore City Paper was arrested and beaten by police in front of the Western District Police Station. “They mobilized,” photographer J.M. Giordano reported of the ordeal as he and a bystander were swept up by heavily armed police amid a demonstration. “They just swarmed over me… I got hit. My head hit the ground. They were hitting me, then someone pulled me out,” he said.

Sait Serkan Gurbuz, a photojournalist for Reuters, was arrested by police at the same time.

Freddie Gray was beaten by Baltimore police April 12 after reportedly making eye contact with an officer and then fleeing. Six policemen gave chase and restrained the youth in a position which severely injured his spine. Gray was then tossed into the back of a police van and driven across town unrestrained by safety belts for over a half hour before being given medical help. The city has refused to release the names of the police officers involved, while suspending each with pay, pending an investigation.

At the protest on Saturday, representatives of local activist groups tied to the Democrats took turns making explicit appeals to leading Democratic Party figures. Malik Z. Shabazz, head of one of the event’s organizers, Black Lawyers for Justice, appealed to Barack Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder, and even demanded that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential elections, come to address her “black Democratic voters” at the march.

Democratic Party officials, however, took the lead in praising the police. “I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances,” said US Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, referring to the Baltimore police force, adding that the march had been disturbed by a “few people, mainly from out of town.”

The Baltimore Police Department issued a statement declaring, “While the vast majority of arrests reflect local residency, the total number of arrests does not account for every incident of criminal activity,” adding that the department “believes that outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction.”

The claim that so-called disturbances of the peace are the product of “outside agitators” has been used by authorities against protest movements dating back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. …

The disconnect between the sentiments of the organizers and those protesting police violence was clear in discussions held with those at the march. One resident of the West Baltimore district where Freddie Gray was murdered told the World Socialist Web Site that the police were “a gang in blue” and that any intervention by the federal government into the circumstances of the man’s death would only be a “cover-up.” (See: “Baltimore residents speak out against latest police killing”)

Another Baltimore resident said, “If you are not totally subservient to them [the police], they will escalate the situation… this is a part of the plan to militarize the country and intimidate the population.”

Last Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would open a federal investigation into Gray’s death after an open letter from Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, as well as Cummings and two other congressmen, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. The five Democrats suggested that such a move would “restore public confidence in the Baltimore Police Department.”

This follows the trend of other DoJ investigations into police departments in places such as Ferguson, Cleveland, Albuquerque and elsewhere that turn up a record of systemic police corruption and brutality, for which no further action is taken.

In pictures: Baltimore protests echo Ferguson: here.

See also here.

South Carolina cops face prison time for sadistically tasering mentally disabled woman: here.

Freddie Gray killed in Baltimore, USA


This video, by Photography is Not a Crime in the USA, says about itself:

Baltimore police kill Freddie Gray

19 April 2015

By Evan Blake in the USA:

More than one thousand protest police killing in Baltimore, Maryland

22 April 2015

Protests in Baltimore, Maryland that began Monday following news of the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police continued over the course of Tuesday afternoon and into the evening. At times during the protest, the crowd is estimated to have reached between one and two thousand people, with hundreds staying late into the evening.

This video from the USA says about itself:

#FreddieGray Rally at the Baltimore Police Station 4.19.15

19 April 2015

Freddie Gray is said to have been running from 4 bike cops in Baltimore on April 12th.

The following is the Office Statement by the Gray family attorney

Statement from attorney William “Billy” Murphy, Jr.:

Freddie Gray dies a week after being injured during arrest

“On last Sunday morning at about 8am, the police chased Freddie Gray, a 27 year old healthy man, without any evidence he had committed a crime. His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything including the police dragging and throwing Freddy into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain.

While in police custody, his spine was 80 percent severed at his neck. He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday, underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life. He clung to life for seven days and died today at approximately 7am. We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie’s death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility. However, his family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth; and we will not stop until we get justice for Freddie.”

The Evan Blake article continues:

Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that it would begin their own civil rights investigation into the death of Gray.

Marches were conducted in the neighborhoods surrounding the site where Gray was beaten and arrested, with pickets later centered in front of the Baltimore police station. Despite the peaceful character of the protests, one protester was arrested for crossing the barricades set up by police in front of their station. Gray’s parents participated in the marches, and at one point his mother collapsed as she was overcome with grief.

Tuesday’s protests came hours after the release of the names of the six officers involved in the arrest and subsequent death of Gray: Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White, and Officers Caesar Goodson, William Porter, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller. All six officers have been suspended with pay during the investigation into Gray’s death.

Chanting “Hell no, we won’t go!” and “No justice! No peace!” the protesters demanded that all six officers responsible for the death of Gray be arrested and charged with first degree murder. Protests are scheduled to continue in the coming days, with plans to occupy City Hall starting on Thursday until protesters’ demands are met.

The circumstances of Gray’s arrest, subsequent injuries and death remain murky, due to an intentional cover up by local authorities. So far, police have only released a brief timeline of events, claiming that the altercation began when Gray ran away after making eye contact with one officer.

Officers then chased and tackled Gray, and claim that they found a switchblade in his pocket, which prompted them to arrest him. The Gray family’s attorney, William Murphy, asserts that Gray was carrying a “pocket knife of legal size.” Numerous witnesses to the arrest claim that Gray was beaten prior to his arrest, and that officers violently contorted his body.

Video footage of Gray’s arrest shows police dragging him into the back of a police van, clearly unable to use his legs and screaming in pain, prompting one bystander to shout, “His legs are broken!”

This is a 21 April 2015 CNN video, called Freddie Gray dies in Baltimore police custody.

After initially being driven back and forth across Baltimore, Gray was finally taken to the police station roughly half an hour after his initial arrest, despite pleading for medical assistance multiple times during this prolonged car ride.

After arriving at the police station, an ambulance finally took him to the hospital, where Gray slipped into a coma less than half an hour later, before dying last Sunday. The police have yet to release an official autopsy, but Gray’s family plans to conduct an independent autopsy once Baltimore police return Gray’s body to them. The family’s attorney has publicly stated that he died from three fractured vertebrae in his neck that severed 80 percent of his spinal cord below the neck, that he suffered a crushed voice box, and that he was in perfect health before police chased and ultimately arrested him.

Speaking on CNN, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, admitted that while he was in police custody, Gray “requested medical attention” between one to three times, which was in turn “not requested for him” by police. Rawlings-Blake also admitted that the officers involved have yet to be comprehensively interviewed about what took place before, during and after Gray’s arrest. She defended this obscene situation by saying that “because of our Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, we have yet to fully engage those officers, and we will get to the bottom of it.”

One of the people who recorded the widely-viewed footage of the police arresting Gray claims that he began filming immediately after he witnessed police using excessive force against Gray. Speaking anonymously, he told CNN that “they had Freddie Gray up into what I would like to call a pretzel type of move, where they had the heels of his feet to his back, and then he was still in handcuffs, and they had his knee to the back of his neck.”

Protester Harold Perry, 73, told a local news station that the arrest took place near his home, and that he heard Gray scream “You’re hurting me! Get your knee off my back.” He also heard Gray tell police “I’m an asthmatic.”

The Justice Department’s investigation will likely seek to whitewash the police killing, in the same manner as the investigation into Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown last year, which concluded that there were no grounds to bring federal charges against Wilson despite over a dozen witnesses claiming that Michael Brown was attempting to surrender when he was gunned down.

Protests over the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland continued on Wednesday, with hundreds demonstrating in front of the Western District police station where Gray was taken following his arrest on April 12. Hundreds of people also marched to nearby City Hall, where thousands are expected to protest Thursday evening. Demonstrations are also planned for Saturday: here.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday he would dispatch 32 state troopers to Baltimore in advance of what is expected to be a large protest Saturday against the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Protests have been held daily since Gray died on April 19, seven days after his spinal cord was nearly severed while he was in police custody: here.

Judge acquits Chicago police officer who fatally shot unarmed woman in 2012: here.

Orlando de Guzman is no stranger to conflict. Born in the Philippines, he covered conflicts in Malaysia and Indonesia as a journalist. But he says nothing prepared him for what he saw when he arrived in Ferguson, Missouri, to make a film. The documentary, called “Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory,” borrows its subtitle from an essay written by James Baldwin during race riots in Harlem in 1966: here.

Michael Brown’s family to sue Ferguson, Missouri. Family of unarmed black teenager killed by police to launch legal action: here.

15-million-year-old snaggletooth shark discovery in Maryland, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

7 November 2014

Snaggletooth Shark Skeleton quarried in Chesapeake Beach on Halloween. Found by the Gibson family in their back yard.
This is the first articulated snaggletooth shark from Calvert Cliffs, if not the world.

From Associated Press today:

Md. family uncovers 15-million-year-old skeleton during dig

JULIE ZAUZMER | Updated 22 hours ago

SOLOMONS, Md. (AP) — Donald Gibson found the first vertebra Oct. 23, just as he had begun to dig out the space for the sunroom he had promised to build in the back yard of his parents’ home in Calvert County.

Over the following week, his brother, Shawn, found another vertebra, and then another, and then a few more — each one about 18 inches deep into the ground. Soon, Shawn Gibson’s 7-year-old, Caleb, joined in on the digging. He’s at an age of being “thrilled to go out and not just play in the dirt, but actually find pieces,” Gibson said of his son.

After all, it’s not that unusual to dig up fossils in the Calvert Cliffs neighborhood. But then they found something more: a straight column of vertebrae, two feet long. And at the end, a tooth.

The digging stopped.

What the Gibsons unearthed were the remains of a 15-million-year-old snaggletooth shark, which paleontologists say is more complete than any other fossil of its kind in the world.

Stephen Godfrey, curator of paleontology for the Calvert Marine Museum, said that the Gibsons’ discovery is so unusual because of the number of bones they found — more than 80 vertebrae and hundreds of teeth, all from the same shark — as well as the position they were in and their unusually good preservation.

In fact, the discovery is so rare that when Shawn Gibson called museum officials and asked them to come out immediately — on Halloween night — Godfrey said he had his doubts.

The description Gibson provided — of a complete snaggletooth shark skeleton, including the spine and the skull cavity — seemed so outlandish to Godfrey that he could scarcely believe it.

But he and John Nance, an assistant curator, were intrigued enough to hop in the car right away.

“While we’re driving up there, I’m thinking to myself, ‘This can’t be an actual fossil of a shark,'” Godfrey said. “But it couldn’t be a horse or a cow. It had to be a shark.”

Once he laid eyes on it, he had no doubt.

“It was immediately obvious,” he said. “It was a genuine article.”

The Gibsons showed him about 50 vertebrae they had unearthed, and Godfrey was grateful that they had stopped digging once they reached the teeth. Godfrey and Nance wrapped the entire skull cavity in a stiff plaster cast, like one used to set a broken bone.

Sharks’ skulls are made mostly of cartilage, not bone, so they almost never withstand the ravages of time, Godfrey said. Yet somehow, the shark that came to rest in the Gibsons’ backyard sank belly-up when it died during the Miocene Epoch. It became buried in sand, then by sediment eroding from the Appalachian Mountains. And its skull cavity — containing hundreds of the distinctively shaped teeth, up to an inch-and-a-half long, that give the snaggletooth its name — kept its shape.

Using a microscope, the scientists digging in the Gibsons’ yard were able to see the distinctive hexagonal shape of shark cartilage, fossilized and preserved.

Donald Gibson said he had pulled vertebrae out of the ground, one by one in a straight line, just as they were positioned in the back of the shark, which Godfrey said was 8 to 10 feet long during its life.

Having preserved the teeth and surrounding remnants of cartilage in exactly the positions they were found in, the paleontologists will be able to take CT scans of the cast and analyze the specific three-dimensional layout of the prehistoric shark‘s mouth, something scientists have never done.

“For the first time, we’re going to be able to know what the dentition — what the teeth — looked like in this kind of shark,” Godfrey said.

Then they will remove the cast, gently clean each piece and put the discovery on exhibit.

Shawn Gibson said that his parents had lent the fossil to the museum but might bring it home eventually.

“Obviously, we wanted to make sure it was able to be studied,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that the historical significance was documented and the specimen’s there to be studied. But it came from the yard, and it was a family affair. ”

There’s also the issue of the value of the fossil. Shawn Gibson said he doesn’t know what the shark might be worth.

“There’s obviously not a Blue Book for shark fossils and certainly not a one-of-a-kind find,” he said.

Godfrey said he is receiving emails from paleontologists up and down the East Coast who are excited about the discovery.

The skeleton will allow scientists to compare the prehistoric snaggletooth, an extinct species, and modern snaggletooths, a descendant species that lives in the Pacific.

Comparing the teeth of snaggletooths then and now will help scientists understand the workings of shark evolution, the likely diet of prehistoric species and the climate during the Miocene Epoch.

And the fact that the spine and the skull cavity of the shark found by the Gibsons are definitively associated with each other, the most complete snaggletooth skeleton ever found will allow scientists to identify whether smaller pieces of future fossils come from snaggletooths or other species.

“When in the future we find just a single vertebra, we’ll be able to say, ‘This comes from that kind of shark.’ And only because we have this association being made,” Godfrey said. “It’s just incredibly unlikely that we would make this kind of discovery.”

As for the Gibsons, the family now has a new hobby. While the sunroom goes up in the backyard, they have continued to dig. Caleb has found less-valuable bits of four more shark species.

“He had the day off of school for Election Day. I told him we could go fishing,” Shawn Gibson said. “He said, ‘I’d like to go look for shark’s teeth.'”

Michael Brown’s death, still protests


This video, recorded in the USA, is called Ferguson, Missouri: Darren Wilson resignation not enough, say protesters – video.

Daily The Guardian in Britain says about this video today:

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, return to the city police station on Saturday night to reject the resignation of officer Darren Wilson. Wilson resigned six days after a grand jury cleared him of charges in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

From DelmarvaNow in the USA:

UMES NAACP to rally in protest of Ferguson decision

Deborah Gates, DelmarvaNow

12:52 a.m. EST November 30, 2014

The UMES chapter of the NAACP plan to rally Tuesday evening in protest of the Ferguson decision

The NAACP college chapter at UMES plans a “UMES Blackout” to protest a grand jury’s decision to not charge the white police officer that fatally shot a black teenager in Missouri.

According to news accounts, 18-year-old Michael Brown was unarmed when fatally shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, 28.

The grand jury’s decision earlier this week set off protests across the nation, including university campuses.

The national NAACP is keeping a close watch. The decision also sparked protests and disruptions at retail centers during Thanksgiving holiday shopping.

The UMES NAACP rally invites supporters to join Tuesday’s gathering in the courtyard at the Student Services Center on the Princess Anne campus. The event starts 7 p.m., according to the group’s Facebook page.

Kianna Harris, president of the UMES chapter of the NAACP, could not be reached Saturday to comment.

A statement on the group’s social media page reads “we are filled with frustration, disbelief, and anger over this decision that the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man with his hands in the air remain free!”

The group calls for justice for Brown, as well as for “all our sons” whose deaths escaped punishment.

“We will not allow the justice system let us down once more,” the statement reads. “Take action today, for Michael, and for all of our sons.”

The “UMES Blackout” also urges participants to wear black clothing.

The “UMES Blackout” was posted on the campus NAACP’s Facebook page Thursday, two days before Wilson’s attorney announced Saturday evening that the officer had resigned from the Ferguson Police Department.

The grand jury decision sparked protests across the nation and abroad.

Activists gathered in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday to march 120-miles to the state capital, Jefferson City, to protest the killing of Michael Brown and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer who shot him dead: here.

Goats better than herbicides, new study


This video is called common reed (Phragmites australis).

From Duke University in the USA:

Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass

18 hours ago

Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds.

Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function.

Land managers traditionally have used chemical herbicides to slow phragmites’ spread but with only limited and temporary success.

Now, field experiments by researchers at Duke and six other U.S. and European universities have identified a more sustainable, low-cost alternative: goats.

“We find that allowing controlled grazing by goats or other livestock in severely affected marshes can reduce the stem density of phragmites cover by about half in around three weeks,” said Brian R. Silliman, lead author of the new study and Rachel Carson associate professor of marine conservation biology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“The goats are likely to provide an effective, sustainable and much more affordable way of mowing down the invasive grass and helping restore lost ocean views,” he said.

In fenced-in test plots at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, Silliman and his colleagues found that a pair of the hungry herbivores could reduce phragmites cover from 94 percent to 21 percent, on average, by the end of the study. Separate trials showed that horses and cows would also readily eat the invasive grass.

In addition to restoring views, the controlled grazing allowed native plant species to re-establish themselves in the test plots over time. The native species diversity index increased five-fold.

“For more than two decades, we’ve declared major chemical and physical warfare on this grass, using all the latest manmade weapons,” Silliman said. “We’ve used helicopters to spray it with herbicides and bulldozers to remove its roots. More often than not, however, it returns.

“In this study, we show that sustainable, low-cost rotational livestock grazing can suppress the unwanted tall grass and favor a more diverse native plant system,” he said.

Silliman said the re-emergence of native marsh plants could happen even faster and be more sustained if managers combine grazing with the selective use of herbicides to eradicate any remaining phragmites and then re-plant native species in its place.

The research findings appear this week in the open-access online journal PeerJ.

“This could be a win-win-win-win situation,” Silliman said. Marshes win because native diversity and function is largely restored. Farmers benefit because they receive payment for providing the livestock and they gain access to free pasture land. Managers win because control costs are reduced. Communities and property owners win because valuable and pleasing water views are brought back.

The approach has been used for nearly 6,000 years in parts of Europe and recently has been successfully tested on small patches of heavily phragmites-invaded marshes in New York, he notes. “Now, it just has to be tested on a larger spatial scale.”

The only drawback, he added, is that “people have to be okay with having goats in their marsh for a few weeks or few months in some years. It seems like a fair trade-off to me.”

LSU ecologist James Cronin and colleague Laura Meyerson from the University of Rhode Island conducted an ambitious large-scale study on the native and invasive species of reed, Phragmites australis, in North America and Europe funded by the National Science Foundation. They found that the intensity of plant invasions by non-native species can vary considerably with changes in latitude. Read more here.

Flowering plants after dinosaur extinction


This video is called Angiosperm (flowering plant) Life Cycle.

From Smithsonian.com in the USA:

Flowering Plants Appeared in Forest Canopies Just a Few Million Years After Dinosaurs Went Extinct

A new study gives scientists some more insight into the weird history of flowering plants

By Mary Beth Griggs

Taking a minute to smell the flowers isn’t that hard nowadays, but angiosperms (a.k.a. flowering plants) weren’t always as ubiquitous as they are now. They appeared rather suddenly in the fossil record, definitively showing up around 132 million years ago. Their sudden appearance has puzzled scientists from Darwin on to the present day, and while today we understand a bit more about how they diversified, scientists are still learning new things about their history.

In a new study published in Geology, scientists think that they’ve figured out another piece of the angiosperm puzzle. Researchers looked at the patterns of leaf veins of flowering plants in tropical forests in Panama and a temperate forest in Maryland. They looked at the leaves of 132 species, reaching the top of the forest canopy with a 131-foot tall crane, and also taking a look at the leaves that had fallen to the forest floor. Leaves that originated at the very top of the trees tended to have a denser collection of veins than the ones further down the tree trunk.

The scientists then compared the patterns found on the leaves in the forests to leaves found in the fossil record, and discovered that flowering plants had reached the heights of the forest canopy around 58 million years ago, during the Paleocene, just a few million years after the dinosaurs went extinct.