The Big Picture: Deadly tornadoes strike again
- A deadly spring continued in the American South and Midwest as more tornadoes cut swaths of destruction through Missouri and Minnesota. The death toll from 2011 tornadoes stands now at 455, the deadliest year for tornados since 1953. — (24 photos total)
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May 13, 2011Enlarge Amanda Brown Murphy/ACLU-NJ
Khaliah Fitchette in her Newark home. (The cellphone she’s holding is not the one she used to shoot video of officers).
There are more than 280 million cellphone subscribers in the U.S., and many of those phones can record video. With so many cameras in pockets and purses, clashes between police and would-be videographers may be inevitable.
Consider what happened to Khaliah Fitchette. Last year, Fitchette, who was 16 at the time, was riding a city bus in Newark, N.J., when two police officers got on to deal with a man who seemed to be drunk. Fitchette decided this would be a good moment to take out her phone and start recording.
“One of the officers told me to turn off my phone, because I was recording them,” she said. “I said no. And then she grabbed me and pulled me off the bus to the cop car, which was behind the bus.”
The police erased the video from Fitchette’s phone. She was handcuffed and spent the next two hours in the back of a squad car before she was released. No charges were filed.
Fitchette is suing the Newark Police Department for violating her civil rights. The New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union helped bring the lawsuit.
“All of us, as we walk around, have to understand that we could be filmed, we could be taped,” says Deborah Jacobs, director of the ACLU chapter. “But police officers above all others should be subject to this kind of filming because we have a duty to hold them accountable as powerful public servants.”
The Newark Police Department did not return calls for comment. But Newark is not the only department that has tried to discourage its citizens from filming on-duty cops.
‘Resistant To Change’
In a video from 2010, a state trooper in Maryland flashed his gun while pulling over motorcyclist Anthony Graber for speeding. When Graber posted the video from his helmet cam on YouTube, prosecutors charged him with breaking the state’s wiretapping law because he recorded the trooper’s voice without consent. A judge dismissed the case. But that hasn’t changed the opinion of some in the law enforcement community who say video recording is potentially dangerous for cops.
“They need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be,” saysJim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“We feel that anything that’s going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he’s being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life,” Pasco says, “or some serious bodily harm.”nikotyc
Anthony Graber gets pulled over for speeding by a Maryland state trooper. The motorcyclist was charged with violating the state’s wiretapping law after posting this video of the incident. The case was dismissed.
Tom Nolan, a former Boston police officer, says police have to get used to the world of cameras everywhere. “There’s always going to be a pocket of police officers who are resistant to change,” he says. “But I think the vast majority of police have been acclimated to the reality that what they’re doing is likely being recorded at any given time.”
Nolan now teaches at Boston University. He says police in Massachusetts train their officers to tolerate video recording, as long as no other crime is taking place.
And Nolan thinks departments around the country will eventually do the same.
“The police will get the message when municipal governments and police departments have got to write out substantial settlement checks,” he says. “Standing by itself, that video camera in the hands of some teenager is not going to constitute sufficient grounds for a lawful arrest.”
Khaliah Fitchette’s lawyers in New Jersey say herdetention was illegal. But Fitchette still says she’d think twice before filming police in Newark again.
“It would have to be important enough to get myself in trouble for, I guess,” she says.
She has this attitude, Fitchette says, because she thinks she could get in trouble again, even though her detention was allegedly unlawful.
But the legality of filming is, ultimately, a question the courts will have to answer. Because no one expects teenagers — or the rest of us — to stop shooting video with our phones.
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The Human Genome Project—a $3.8-billion international human genome mapping project that ran from 1988 to 2003—wasn’t just a money-sucking vanity initiative that only reaped profits for personal genetic testing companies like 23andMe. The project has, in fact, driven $796 billion in economic impact and generated $244 billion in total personal income, according to a new report from Battelle. Sometimes, pricey long-term science projects are well worth it.
More on the report at the click.
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An athletic field scoreboard is seen surrounded by floodwater yesterday in Memphis, Tenn. The Mississippi River crested in Memphis at nearly 48 feet yesterday, falling short of its all-time record but still doing enough damage to require a massive cleanup. —DELTA BLUES, The Daily
So surreal. [tune in]
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America’s appetite for beef is jeopardising the world’s water supply, the Prince of Wales said during a visit to the US.
In a speech in Washington, the Prince said that the need for vast amounts of irrigation in industrialised food production was threatening to deplete reserves of the “magical substance we have taken for granted for so long”.
“For every pound of beef produced in the industrial system, it takes two thousand gallons of water,” he told the Future of Food conference at Georgetown University.
“That is a lot of water and there is plenty of evidence that the Earth cannot keep up with the demand.”
Americans eat more than 41kg of beef a year on average, according to the UN, almost twice that consumed by Britons and four times the international average.
The Prince called for an overhaul of food production, championing organic and sustainable techniques, and also criticised the US for allowing the destruction of vast regions of its rural land.
“Here in the United States I am told one acre is lost to development every minute of every day, which means that since 1982 an area the size of Indiana has been built over,” he told the 700–strong audience. “Again, in the US, soil is being washed away 10 times faster than the Earth can replenish it.”
Five days after the marriage of Prince William, the Prince said his address made “a change from making embarrassing speeches about my eldest son”.
Click here for a video of Prince Charles’ speech urging the United States to embrace sustainable farming practices.
The legislature passed a new law that sought to balance the budget by kindly asking citizens to donate money to the “I Didn’t Pay Enough Fund” (their phrase, not mine). If, as the name suggests, you feel like you haven’t paid enough in taxes, you can choose to pay a little bit extra, which the state will then put to good use—say, for buying tanks to break up cockfighting rings. Per the Phoenix New Times, the law is expected to chip about $2,500 off of the $2.5 billion state deficit, leaving only $2.4999975 billion to go. Baby steps, people; baby steps.
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The Gulf Oil Spill one year later. Click the image for more photographs.
A Louisiana wildlife official displays oil from a marsh on April 19, 2011 in Middle Ground, La. (John Moore/Getty Images).