Staying out of touch while traveling

When you are traveling, sitting in an airplane or walking through an airport, have you ever shivered when you think about all the places people put their yucky fingers? Thousands of people from lots of different places. People who are not perhaps as fastidious about washing their hands as I am? People touching lots of handrails, doorhandles, parts of the plane’s interior, etc.

Well the folks at TravelMath conducted a small study to assess the level of colony-forming units of bacteria on various surfaces in airports and airplanes. The results are shown in TravelMath’s infographic at the right.

My interpretation: Take wipes and hand sanitizer to address issues with

  • Tray tables,
  • Overhead vents, and
  • Seat buckles.

I’m already accustomed to grabbing a towel to flush the toilet in airplane lavatories. I use my elbow for the levers on urinals when they require flushing, and I simply avoid stalls in airport restrooms.

You might find full report at TravelMath worth reading. There’s a description of the study methods as well as a discussion of issues regarding boarding times’ effects on cleaning.

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Almost enough bacon?

bacon church robot

I have not knowingly eaten bacon in over 25 years, but I might be convinced to worship at the United Church of Bacon. Why? Well, the sensibility of the church’s teachings brought smiles to me at the same time as making sense. According to the church’s about page,

The United Church of Bacon holds to a list of 9 Bacon Commandments. We tried to make it 10, but ran out of space on the tablets and didn’t want to start over.

Our mission is:

  • We oppose supernatural claims. We are skeptics and atheists. In our religion, we doubt religion.
  • We fight discrimination. Atheists are not inferior and should not be hated and marginalized.
  • We raise money for charity
  • We perform legal weddings, always for free. How joyful!
  • We expose religious privileges as silly by claiming the same rights for Bacon.
  • We praise Bacon! If you don’t like pigs, praise Vegetarian Bacon or Turkey Bacon.

In the accompanying YouTube video, the church provides suggestions about the nearly miraculous powers of bacon. Prepare to be…well…be chuckling.

I’m adding UCB to the sidebar.

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Would this have happened if it had been a white woman?

Charnesia Corley was stopped in the Houston (TX, US) area for running a stop sign. Presuming these facts are accurate, fair enough. Let’s dig. There’s more to this story.

The officer alleges that he smelled marijuanna so he called back-up support. Ms. Corley is 21-year-old African-American. Female officers came and, despite Ms. Corley’s protests, they held her down and searched her vagina for drugs. According to multiple different reports it is way worse than I am describing.

So, I’m trying to imagine allowing gang a of cops holding me down and probing my privates. I’m an older white guy (note: WHITE.) They’re not likely to expect they’ll find a bag a drugs the size of a sandwich up any of my orifices. Would I—oryou—tolerate this?

To be sure, I don’t know what transpired between the officer and Ms. Coreley that night. Maybe one or the other of them said some nasty things that ignited a personal confrontation. (I hope police officers are prepared to defuse such situations, not to take things personally.) Would this have happened if Ms. Corley had done something differently? I don’t know.

Would something different have happened if the Police Office had behaved differently. I bet so. It smacks of confrontation. It’s his job not to escalate situations.

Let’s get over that! Hello. We are neighbors. We live in the same blocks, areas, precincts, city. Let’s work together.

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Black encounters with the justice system

So what happens if you’re Black and you have a police encounter and, lucky you, you don’t get killed? You just get stopped, detained, arrested….

Writing for Slate, Andrew Kahn and Chris Kirk explain “What It’s Like to Be Black in the Criminal Justice System.” They provide graphics illustrating statistical differences in how Black, White, and other non-Black AMERICANS (yes, I’m shouting) are treated in our American criminal justice system. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to read.

As Mr. Kahn and Mr. Kirk show, these days we don’t need John Griffin to expose how that old racism is lurking about in our society. We simply have to look at the data. Of course, some people will likely try to argue away the data and Mr. Griffin’s Black Like Me case study, but their arguments won’t actually hide contemporary racism, let alone mitigate it.

At the end of Mr. Kahn’s and Mr. Kirk’s article, if you have the strength, you can watch a video interview that Slate has been running during the last week of July and the first week of August 2015 (as I recall). It features a drive around Baltimore featuring an interview with Michael Wood, Jr., a former Baltimore (MD, US) police officer who has spoken out about problems with police training in urban environments. It’s about 12 minutes long, but it’s pretty informative. Mr. Wood explains why, he thinks, urban police officers are essentially trained to respond improperly to Black citizens.

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If you’re an unarmed citizen and you have a police encounter, your chances of being killed by police depend on your ethnic group

As of 8 August 2015, police officers in the US have shot and killed 585 people during 2015, according to reporters Sandhya Somashekhar, Wesley Lowery, Keith L. Alexander, Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post. In just over 90% of those cases, the police killed armed citizens, but in 24 of the 60 cases where they killed unarmed citizens, those citizens were black.

So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.

Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.

However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.

Writing under various headlines— “Black and unarmed: One year after Michael Brown’s shooting death” or “Police gunfire: Unarmed black men: 7 times more likely to die than whites ”—that point to the same story, Ms. Somashekhar and colleagues present a thorough examination of the data they have assembled (and made public). There are compelling personal accounts and thoughtful analyses.

I used their data to create the graph shown here. (Please note that my quick extraction has slightly different counts than those they report, likely because a combination of different counting rules and weaknesses in my technical skills.) The data set is available on GitHub, so others can analyze them; the data set will also change as more incidents are added to it.

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Racism, how healthy thou art

In Racism is Real, Brave New Films illustrates just a few areas where bias lurks for people of different ethnic backgrounds. In what, to many white people, are everyday life events, actors illustrate different experiences documented in research studies. Go ahead a watch it now. It’s brief—only about as long as a TV break.

Perhaps you saw it in the spring of 2015 when it was first airing. At that time, the film got some coverage from the press. For example, Ana Swanson of the Washington (DC, US) Post suggested

[I]f you have any doubts about whether racism still exists in America, this 3-minute video from Brave New Films, a California-based company that makes films to spur political activism, might clear them up. The video counts down eight reasons that racism is still very real in America, using research from Yale University, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New England Journal of Medicine, among others.

Ave. Number Killed per US state per 100,000 White Black
10.4
(3.9)
18.3
(6.5)

Now, please add one more statistic. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported the number of deaths due to firearms per 100,000 population by race or ethnicity for the year 2013. Guessing that these numbers haven’t changed much in the last couple of years, I took a look at them. Some states did not report numbers because there were not sufficient data or because reporting the data would identify specific individuals. To get an idea of the difference by white and black groups, I eliminated the states where there were not per 100,000 rates for one or the other group. Then I simply tool the mean (and standard deviation) for the remaining 34 states. Those are the data you see in the table.

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Can’t keep up?

Do you ever get the sense that you just can’t keep up with all the news. For example, just how many people have died so far this year in mass shootings? As of the time I’m writing this post, that number is 256, according to my arithmetic and the data available from Shooting Tracker. In addition, 744 more people were injured in the 203 incidents when those 256 people were killed. That’s right! One thousand people killed or wounded so far in 2015 in the events spread across the 207 days of the year—almost one incident a day and an average of greater than one death and three injuries per day.

Shooting Tracker defines a mass shooting as one in which “four or more people are shot in a spree or setting, likely without a cooling off period.” That does not mean four or more people are killed. Shooting Tracker is a crowd-sourced site that was developed by some Redditors. People submit documentation for incidents, essentially news reports of shootings.

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