There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Non-Lethal’ Weapon
Late last month, the spill of headlines calling out the Hong Kong authorities’ use of non-lethal weapons against democracy demonstrators gathered international attention and condemnation from NGOs like Human Rights Watch. For onlookers in the US, such news dovetailed with a St. Louis neighborhood’s standoff with riot police that spread 12 miles north, where yet another young black man was recently shot and killed by an off-duty officer.
From the 1960s Civil Rights movement to the Arab Spring, these events fall in line with a decades-long history of televised protests during which police weaponry has alarmed the media, activists, and the public. The use of non-lethal weapons on civilians (like the use of any type of weapon on anybody) is often the spark that leads to city streets devolving into war zones and the police beginning to act like an army. Deaths, accidental or otherwise, start to pile up.
But we should be clear about something: There’s really no such thing as a “non-lethal” weapon. A weapon’s lethality is, ultimately, not up to the object itself. Arguing otherwise is an attempt to shift one of our greatest moral responsibilities onto an inanimate object that has no agency.
The interpreters who worked alongside American and NATO forces in Afghanistan are among our bravest and most loyal allies. They are also in danger of being abandoned.
These are their stories.
Teenagers Are Having Sex in Extremely Odd Places
“Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television,” Gore Vidal once famouslyadvised. While some may argue that the democratizing force of the internet has diminished the power of television, it hasn’t diminished the power of screens: Thanks to webcams and smartphones, we can all appear on our own personal TVs, and we can even have sex through them.
No one has absorbed this lesson more than teens, who just can’t seem to stop sending nude photos to each other. This Wednesday, on her NPR show Fresh Air, national treasure Terry Gross spoke to Hanna Rosin about the phenomenon, which Rosin addresses in a new Atlanticarticle, “Why Kids Sext.” The interview touches on some important points, like the fact that minors sending naked pictures to other minors is something that is both completely commonplace and sometimes a felony (as teenagers in Detroit may soon learn). It’s a conversation between adults who don’t want to judge young people but at the same time don’t completely understand them.
After all, there’s no way for someone who hasn’t been a teen for 30 years to truly understand what today’s adolescents are doing. At one point, Rosin tells Terry that girls say sexts are like, “the guys are collecting baseball cards or Pokémon cards,” adding that, because so much porn is available to teens, sexts are more “like a prank.” Do teens really treat their sexuality so casually? I don’t want to question Rosin’s sources, but I have a slight feeling they may have been grunge-speaking her. And where did she even find a teenager who remembers people collecting Pokémon cards?
-Teens aren’t just not passing up chances to have sex. They’re making new opportunities, sometimes in radical and wildly inappropriate ways. It’s not every day that the tabloidists at theNew York Daily News start an article with “Whoa!,” so when they do, you’d better pay attention. In Florida, where so many crazy things happen that making jokes about it is now gauche, a 19-year-old boy was charged with indecent exposure and criminal mischief after having sex with a stuffed horse inside a Walmart. Security cameras caught the teen grabbing the animal from a clearance bin, taking his penis out of his pants, and “[proceeding] to hump the stuffed horse utilizing short fast movements.”
Does Someone Have to Die Before Gamer Gate Ends?
Brianna Wu is a developer and writer who’s penned pieces on the gender imbalance in modern video games and the harassment women in the industry continue to deal with as part of their daily business. She heads up the small studio Giant Spacekat, makers of Revolution 60, a mobile game hailed as “a most triumphant and excellent adventure” by RPGfan.com and denounced as “a bland, uninteresting, feminism circle-jerk” by Metacritic user Realgamer101. I’m guessing that’s not his real name, but there’s no guesswork required to figure out the poster’s gender.
On October 11, Wu tweeted the above screenshot—a series of threatening messages she’d received from a Twitter account that’s since been suspended.
Before we go any further, it’s important to ask whether or not you want to read anything more on GamerGate. Since you’re on this page, chances are you’re aware of the sides in this bizarre online kerfuffle, as well as the problem with giving GamerGate any further coverage: These words may be further fuel for a fire that needs to die down before anyone can properly discuss the more pertinent points raised by a still-evolving debate.
If that means nothing to you, here’s a summary: A (formerly) low-profile indie developer named Zoe Quinn created and released a game called Depression Quest. Some people argued that it wasn’t a game at all—but that’s not the controversy. An ex of Quinn’s published information in August of 2014 implying that she had slept around to secure positive review coverage forDepression Quest. There’s no evidence connecting any alleged promiscuity—which, in any case, is nobody’s business apart from those doing the screwing, anyway—with the reception Depression Quest received, but the conversation quickly turned to ethics: As in, some game journalists were seen to be favorable toward certain projects that they were incredibly tenuously linked to. That connection could be chipping into a Kickstarter pot, or having long ago worked on a collaborative venture together. You get the idea: Person A once spoke to Person B, and for that reason Person A’s recommendation of Person B’s new Game C is clearly completely corrupt.
A Giant Hole Is Swallowing a Town in Peru
When we arrived in Cerro de Pasco, a medium-size city in the high Peruvian sierra, it was night. We inched through the crowded, twisting streets past a large statue of Daniel Carrión, a legendary medical student who stands there with a syringe in his hand, injecting himself with the disease that’s named in his honor. In the colonial quarter, we abruptly came to a wall, painted alternately with graffiti and the words private property. I could sense a great emptiness on the other side, like when you’re by the ocean but cannot quite see it.
I climbed a rock and peeked over. All around in the distance the city was aglow. Plunging out before me was the hole, void of light but for the tiny headlights of trucks crawling around its sides. This is El Tajo: the Pit.
In Andean cosmology, Earth is Pachamama—Mother Earth—and this massive polymetal mine is the locus of a literal penetration. It is 1.2 miles wide and as deep as the Empire State Building is tall. All day and all night, the rock-grinding machinery produces a low mechanical groan, which is amplified tremendously by the pit’s speaker-like shape. It is the sound of the city being eaten alive.
Photo by the author.
Cerro de Pasco is an environmental and urban catastrophe. The pit, which opened in 1956, is in the middle of the city—not beside it but in it. As it grows, thousands of families have had to move into unplanned urban developments, most of which lack basic sanitation. Now the city is running out of space. In 2008, Peru’s congress passed Law No. 29293, calling for the resettlement of the entire population of 67,000. But the law has gone unheeded.
At least five school districts in Texas have been outfitted with materials through a Department of Defense program, including one with a SWAT team; at least five districts in California, with both San Diego and Los Angeles receiving Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles; as well as a number of other states including Utah, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Nevada that received materials ranging from blankets and laptops to assault rifles.
Why Are Police Using Military-Grade Weapons in High Schools?
Chatting with the Artist Who Turned Edward Snowden into a Mobile Sculpture
On Friday, October 10, Edward Snowden appeared in New York’s Union Square, though few recognized him at first. You couldn’t blame passersby for missing him—the nine-and-a-half-foot-tall, 200-pound sculpture of the world’s most famous whistle-blower didn’t have any distinguising marks; he was just a giant white man made of concrete hanging out in the park. In a moment too serendipitous to make up, the first person to clearly recognize the model of the controversial NSA document leaker was none other than Glenn Greenwald, who happened to be eating breakfast nearby.
"It was totally random—we didn’t tweet at him or anything," said artist Jim Dessicino, who created the statue and put it in Union Square as part of the Art in Odd Places Festival. I talked to the Delaware-based sculptor and MFA candidate the next day, as he was unloading the sculpture in the Meatpacking District. “I emailed him months ago about the sculpture, and he never got back to me.”
The NYPD’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
A series of horrific videos showing flagrant brutality by cops has NYC’s progressive mayor and his controversial police commissioner on the defensive.
How Can We Stop Cops from Beating and Killing? Molly Crabapple on Policing, Violence, and Justice
Occupy Wall Street activist Shawn Carrié always dreamed of becoming a classical pianist, and he was on his way, with a full music scholarship to New York University. That all changed on March 17, 2012, when, during a demonstration at Zuccotti Park, a New York City police officer pulled his thumb back and back and back until it broke. Six other cops kicked him until he bled from his ears, according to Shawn. He told me that while he was held at the Midtown South Precinct an officer named Perez tore a splint the hospital had given him from his finger and said, “You fucking Occupiers. Every time you come back, we’re going to kick your ass.”
Shawn would never play piano at a professional level again.
In December 2013, New York City paid Shawn (whose birth name is Shawn Schrader) an $82,500 settlement as compensation for the beatings and for arresting him on an old warrant meant for a different person named Shawn Carrié. But the officers themselves paid not a cent. Nor were they arrested, as civilians who break peoples’ fingers might be. They admitted no wrongdoing. They suffered no consequences at all. Instead, New York City taxpayers bore the cost.
Shawn’s lawsuit could be considered a success. But it did nothing to dissuade the cops who attacked him from attacking others. When we spoke in my living room, his pale eyes flashed with anger. “Justice might as well be a cotton-candy castle in the sky,” he said. “I’ve never seen it.”