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Thousands Of L.A. Citizens Choose Groceries Over Handguns

Thousands Of L.A. Citizens Choose Groceries Over Handguns | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Thousands of Los Angeles’ citizens lined parking lots yesterday in a chance to exchange their guns for groceries in a city-organized buyback program.
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

In an extraordinary display of commonsense, someone figured out that you can't eat guns, or at least, not more than once. Is this the sign of a worsening economy or a ray of hope in the darkness? Only the Shadow knows.

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Marilyn Baker's Obituary on The Daily Times

Marilyn Baker's Obituary on The Daily Times | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Read the Obituary and view the Guest Book, leave condolences or send flowers. | Marilyn J. Baker Salisbury-Marilyn Jean Baker died Saturday, May 30, 2015, at Coastal Hospice at the Lake in Salisbury, Maryland, at the age of 83. Marilyn Jean Orlebeke was born August 31, 1931
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Marilyn was my friend. She was smart, funny, patient, and the only person I ever knew who didn't just say she was a Christian, but really was, body and soul. I loved our breakfasts together, though they got increasingly rare as both of us were impeded by ailing bodies. We kept in touch as well as we could, visiting Marilyn and John in their home, going out to dinner with them. 

 

She was deeply compassionate, involved in not just talking about fixing what is wrong with the world, but actually doing as much as she was able. It was a dark day when she and John left the Valley. I will never have another friend like Marilyn. In so many ways, she was the me I wished I was. Be at peace Marilyn, my friends. I will never forget you.

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NASA Admits That Winters are Going to Get Colder…Much Colder -

NASA Admits That Winters are Going to Get Colder…Much Colder - | In and About the News | Scoop.it
The Maunder Minimum (also known as the prolonged sunspot minimum) is the name used for the period roughly spanning 1645 to 1715 when sunspots became exceedingly rare, as noted by solar observers of the time. Like the Dalton Minimum and Spörer Minimum, the Maunder Minimum coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures. During one 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum, astronomers observed … … Continue reading →
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Looking out my window, I can easily believe this is true.

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Obama To Disband the Marine Corps

You didn't know this, did you?

On a flight home I sat in between two individuals,  a Marine and boxing promoter. The boxing guy was an older gentleman, and told interesting stories, such as meeting Don King. Both men were very pleasant and that helped make time pass on the flight. We were all combat veterans and all Southerners, so we had a lot in common. Then the discussion, inevitably, turned to politics.

The older guy turned to the Marine and said "You know Obama is getting rid of the Marine Corps, right?"

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

I'm not sure if this is a new rule or it should be a corollary to the Murphy's Law which states "Anything that sounds too good to be true is probably untrue."  This law, simply stated, is "If it sounds unbelievable, don't believe it."

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Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress. | In and About the News | Scoop.it
The underlying anger that goes unnoticed.
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

I don't feel I know enough about the evidence or what really happened to say anything about this on my own. This, on the other hand, raises some important points that seem to get ignored most of the time. It's not a long article and I think it's worth reading.

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Mr. Big

Mr. Big | In and About the News | Scoop.it

On the evening of March 3, 2013, a young paleontologist named Nizar Ibrahim was sitting in a street-front café in Erfoud, Morocco, watching the daylight fade and feeling his hopes fade with it. Along with two colleagues, Ibrahim had come to Erfoud three days earlier to track down a man who could solve a mystery that had obsessed Ibrahim since he was a child. The man Ibrahim was looking for was afouilleur—a local fossil hunter who sells his wares to shops and dealers. Among the most valued of the finds are dinosaur bones from the Kem Kem beds, a 150-mile-long escarpment harboring deposits dating from the middle of the Cretaceous period, 100 to 94 million years ago. After searching for days among the excavation sites near the village of El Begaa, the three scientists had resorted to wandering the streets of the town in hopes of running into the man. Finally, weary and depressed, they had retired to a café to drink mint tea and commiserate. “Everything I’d dreamed of seemed to be draining away,” Ibrahim remembers.

Ibrahim’s dreams were inextricably entangled with those of another paleontologist who had ventured into the desert a century earlier. Between 1910 and 1914 Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, a Bavarian aristocrat, and his team made several lengthy expeditions into the Egyptian Sahara, at the eastern edge of the ancient riverine system of which the Kem Kem forms the western boundary. Despite illness, desert hardships, and the gathering upheaval of World War I, Stromer found some 45 different taxa of dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, and fish. Among his finds were two partial skeletons of a remarkable new dinosaur, a gigantic predator with yard-long jaws bristling with interlocking conical teeth. Its most extraordinary feature, however, was the six-foot sail-like structure that it sported on its back, supported by distinctive struts, or spines. Stromer named the animal Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.

Stromer’s discoveries, prominently displayed in the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology in central Munich, made him famous. During World War II he tried desperately to have his collection removed from Munich, out of range of Allied bombers. But the museum director, an ardent Nazi who disliked Stromer for his outspoken criticism of the Nazi regime, refused. In April 1944 the museum and nearly all of Stromer’s fossils were destroyed in an Allied air raid. All that was left ofSpinosaurus were field notes, drawings, and sepia-toned photographs. Stromer’s name gradually faded from the academic literature.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

I've always been fascinated by dinosaurs. This is a fantastic find. I thought maybe you would find it fascinating too.

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The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic

The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Aaron Carroll today offers a graphic depiction of the toll of the anti- vaccination movement. (H/t: Kevin Drum .) It comes from a Council on Foreign Relations interactive map of "vaccine-preventable outbreaks" worldwide 2008-2014.
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Definitely worth reading. This confirms the opinion I already held, that public health trumps private fears, especially when those fears are not based on science but on mythology.

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It's Worse Than You Think: or why you should care about poverty, jobs and income inequality

It's Worse Than You Think: or why you should care about poverty, jobs and income inequality | In and About the News | Scoop.it
[Row of Unemployed from Flickr Commons] I'm afraid. Truly. I'm afraid of where we're headed. We live in a world where the basic storyline goes something like this: we are born, we get educated, we ...
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Upsetting and important information we should read. Even if we don't want to. Maybe especially if we don't want to.

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9 Cursed Treasures

9 Cursed Treasures | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Some of the world's most famous treasures are also famously cursed. Do you think you'd like to find one of these? Think again...

Via Kenneth Weene, Sharla Shults
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Don't you just loved famously cursed treasures? It's the stuff of creepy movies and crime noels.

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Kenneth Weene's curator insight, September 16, 2013 10:36 AM

Great legends of treasures and curses.

Sharla Shults's curator insight, September 17, 2013 7:27 PM

Tales of buried treasure and curses following along have always tempted the pallet of fascination. If you knew a treasure carried with it a curse, would you still go hunting for it? Many people do and many die but are those deaths truly results of the curse or simply coincidental? You decide...

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If Other People Took On A "Government Shut-Down" Approach... THE BYRONIC MAN

If Other People Took On A "Government Shut-Down" Approach... THE BYRONIC MAN | In and About the News | Scoop.it

“You have cancer, which is horrible.  The treatment is chemotherapy which should help but I think there should be something better, so I’ve decided to let you die.  I will be charging you for the treatment, though.”

“I realize we lost the big game, but we really wanted to win, so we’ve locked the gates of the stadium, and no one is allowed to go home until you change the scoreboard and give us the game ball.”

“I can see you spent a lot of time setting the menu and preparing Thanksgiving dinner, but I think the way turkeys are raised is inhumane, so I’ve set fire to the house.”

“Well, the brake pads are thin, your radiator hose is cracked, and this timing belt has had it.  I can fix it all, and would be happy to, but I also noticed that the door latch is sticking, and I just hate doors, so I’ve put your car in the back lot until the door falls off.”

“I am aware that I voted for you, but that was on the assumption that you had the ethics and intellectual ability to put the good of the people you serve ahead of childish games, feeble-minded combatism, and partisan posturing, so I will be voting for someone else in the next election.”

Oh, wait.  That last one makes sense, doesn’t it.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Well put, my friend. Horrible but funny.

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All I Ask Is For All I Ask

All I Ask Is For All I Ask | In and About the News | Scoop.it

All I ask are moments of peace where I can stop and be in the moment.

All I ask is to be grateful for the things I have.

All I ask is for motivational images that don’t actually connect to the motivation.

All I ask is to be trusted and worthy of trust.

All I ask is to have the courage to try new things, and to be immediately better at them than everyone else.

All I ask is to be liked by people I can’t stand.

All I ask is the ability to orgasm at will.

All I ask is that my friends be less successful than me.

All I ask is to remain at my physical peak with little effort on my part.

All I ask is that “little effort” mean “no effort.”

All I ask is that the things I purchase never break or get worn out.

All I ask is that for one month a year (October?  May?) the schools be devoted to teaching good things about me.

All I ask is that, when I have a conflict with someone, they acknowledge that it’s them, not me.

No offense.

All I ask is for a state to be named after me.

All I ask is that it not be North Dakota or Florida.

All I ask is that the world’s population be reduced by 4 billion without anyone suffering.

All I ask is for a God who has the exact same opinions I do.

All I ask is to be able to make things explode with my mind.

And, really… is that so much?

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

What he said. Like that.

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Smithsonian Finds E-readers Makes Reading Easier for Those with Dyslexia

Smithsonian Finds E-readers Makes Reading Easier for Those with Dyslexia | In and About the News | Scoop.it

"As e-readers grow in popularity as convenient alternatives to traditional books, researchers at the Smithsonian have found that convenience may not be their only benefit. The team discovered that when e-readers are set up to display only a few words per line, some people with dyslexia can read more easily, quickly and with greater comprehension."


Via Beth Dichter
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

I think as time goes on, there will be more discoveries like this!

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Heather MacDonald's curator insight, September 23, 2013 11:20 AM

I love these kinds of advances.  For those of us who know of people who've struggled with language learning challenges this is a great discovery. Language leaning problems create way too many other personal and social problems for children who then grow to be adults with problems unless they are diagnosed and helped.

Way to go Smithsonian researchers!

Sharla Shults's curator insight, October 2, 2013 5:41 PM

The wonders of modern technology never cease!

LS5043-2014's curator insight, November 6, 2014 6:34 PM

Important evidence re: usefulness of e-readers to underserved library populations.

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What's new in Windows 8.1 (New apps, Improved snap and more!)(Full Windows 8 vs 8.1 changelog)

Windows 8.1 will be released soon (Oct. 17), with many improvements over Windows 8. In this video I will show you what has changed since Windows 8. If you tr...

Via Tiaan Jonker
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

The few people I know who actually bought Windows 8 or RT are not happy campers. I hope this really does make it a real usable system because otherwise, my next computer is not going to be Windows based ... and that's a problem, given that all my software IS Windows based.

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Chris Gulledge's curator insight, September 9, 2013 1:24 AM

Can't wait for this release. The features shown in this video make Windows 8 more useable.

Marilyn Armstrong's comment, September 9, 2013 9:13 AM
I sincerely hope this improves the usability of both Win8 and RT because it's pretty bad so far.
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NCIS Boss Opens Up About Cote de Pablo's Surprising Decision ('I Really Wasn't Planning for This'), Hints at 'Romantic' Exit Storyline

NCIS Boss Opens Up About Cote de Pablo's Surprising Decision ('I Really Wasn't Planning for This'), Hints at 'Romantic' Exit Storyline | In and About the News | Scoop.it

As caught off-guard as he was byCote de Pablo‘s decision to walk away from NCIS after eight seasons as Ziva David, showrunner Gary Glasbergrecognizes the seriousness of the situation and as such hopes he will do the character justice during her swan song.

On Monday night at CBS’ Television Critics Assoc. summer press tour party, Glasberg spoke with TVLine about the “very” surprising news, how he reacted to it and what “Tiva” fans can expect when Season 11 gets underway Sept. 24.

 

RELATED |CBS Boss on Cote de Pablo’s NCIS Exit: ‘We Offered Her a Lot of Money’

 

TVLINE| How surprised were you by Cote’s decision?
I was very, very surprised. I think it was you that I told at some point, that I was “very confident” that this was going to work out. And I was very confident. This is not what I was planning on. As [CBS Corp. CEO Les] Moonves said earlier [Monday], everyone really wanted this to work. She’s a part of this family and a part of this team, and the efforts were being made by everyone.

TVLINE | Was it, like, a matter of Cote wanting to re-up for just one year versus multiple years…?
It wasn’t even the specifics. It was clear at the end of the day that this was her decision. And we have to respect it. Someone asked me if I was planning for this, but I really wasn’t, so basically the minute that this became real, I had to throw out a lot of what I was planning to do and start from scratch. But what came out of it is a really terrific [season-opening] two-parter that I think people are going to be really blown away by.

 

RELATED |NCIS: Read the First Details on Ziva’s ‘Emotional’ Exit

 

TVLINE | You previously said that we would find out what Ziva and the others were up to during the four-month time jump. Will Ziva’s story now be different?
Basically, the Ziva story sort of intertwines with where we left Gibbs off at the end of the season, with the sniper rifle. That whole story arc unfolds through the first episode, and then Cote/Ziva plays very prominently in the second one. There’s a really significant Tony/Ziva payoff — everything I hope the Tiva fans have been waiting for.

TVLINE | Oh, but I can’t imagine it’s much better than heartbreak for those fans and for Tony.
It informs her in ways that I think the fans will enjoy. It gives us some insight into this decision that she’s going to make. It’s exciting. And it’s romantic.

TVLINE | Is Tony the first person she shares this “decision” with?
Oh yeah. Look, it’s a storyline that I took very, very seriously — I felt like I had to, for the fans. I recognize what this means to them, and I recognize what her absence is going to mean. Someone asked me what I plan beyond this, and I can’t replace her. I can’t even use the word “replacement” for Ziva and what she means to this team. The only thing I can try and do down the road is come up with another character who feels organic and fills a void of some kind.

TVLINE | Because at the end of the day, Gibbs’ team will be down a man.
Exactly. That desk, at the end of the day, is going to be empty.

TVLINE | So, what are we talking as far as the timeframe for filling that void? November sweeps? February…?
It’s going to be a little while, and I really don’t know who that character is yet. But that’s something we’re talking about right now.

 

Want more scoop on NCIS, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.


 
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

We are going to miss her a lot.

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Richard III remains return to city

Richard III remains return to city | In and About the News | Scoop.it

King Richard III's remains have arrived at Leicester Cathedral ahead of his reburial. His funeral cortege entered the city at the historic Bow Bridge after touring landmarks in the county.

Cannons were fired in a salute to the king at Bosworth, where he died in 1485. His coffin will be on public view at the cathedral from 09:00 GMT on Monday. He will finally be reinterred during a ceremony on Thursday. Richard's skeleton was found in 2012, in an old friary beneath a car park.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

For those of you who like to follow archaeology and history, here's the Richard III update.

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​Net neutrality becomes the law of the land | ZDNet

​Net neutrality becomes the law of the land | ZDNet | In and About the News | Scoop.it

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to accept FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal that the Commission "use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections." Or, to put it in plain English, your ISP must provide equal broadband access to you or any site -- Amazon, Netflix, etc. -- without slowing down or speeding up sites for additional fees.

 

As expected, the vote to treat ISPs as common carriers passed by a party line vote of three Democrats over the two Republicans. Under this regulation, broadband Internet services will be governed by Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Mobile broadband vendors, such as 4G providers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless will also be regulated as common carriers based on Title III of the Communications Act. It should also be noted that since Wheeler made his proposal, the FCC has redefined broadband as delivering at least 25-Megabits per second (Mbps).

 

The Republicans claimed that the FCC was over-reaching its authority by putting in a secret Obama plan for net neutrality. Wheeler dismissed this as nonsense in his final speech. He summed up, "This is the FCC using all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers; to ban paid prioritization, the so called fast lane. [This] will not divide the Internet into haves and have-nots."

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

This is something which affects all of us. It appears we finally have a victory. Let's hope this is the last we hear of it!

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Explainer: How Democrats and Republicans ‘switched sides’ on civil rights

Explainer: How Democrats and Republicans ‘switched sides’ on civil rights | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Or, how the "Party of Lincoln" became the preferred party of racists everywhere.

 

I just about lost my damn mind this morning after coming across this piece from the National Review about how Barry Goldwater totally wasn’t all that racist or anything.

 

As a history nerd, this weird thing the Republicans are doing now where they are trying to pretend that they are the true heirs of the civil rights movement is starting to drive me up the wall. Like, f’reals, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King would not freaking be conservative Republicans today. For that matter, neither would Susan B. Anthony. It’s absolutely absurd. It doesn’t even sort of make sense because at all times throughout all history, all civil rights issues are progressive issues regardless of party alignment.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

This is flippant and funny, but it is a not half bad summary of American politics for the past hundred years. Give or take a lie or two. And it adds some much needed perspective to the lies we hear on the radio, see on television, and read on the Internet.

 

It's always a good thing to add a little truth to an ongoing debate, though considering the incivility, name-calling, mud-slinging, and general bad manners and ill intent of participants on both side, but in particular the "right" side ... one can only wonder if Truth and Facts actually have any role to play in this ongoing melodrama we call politics.

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Salk, Sabin and the Race Against Polio

Salk, Sabin and the Race Against Polio | In and About the News | Scoop.it
As polio ravaged patients worldwide, two gifted American researchers developed distinct vaccines against it. Then the question was: Which one to use?
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The 'Internet Slowdown' Is Coming: Tech Giants to Protest FCC's Net Neutrality Proposal

The 'Internet Slowdown' Is Coming: Tech Giants to Protest FCC's Net Neutrality Proposal | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Etsy, Kickstarter are holding a day of action on September 10 as the deadline approaches for public comments on the proposed 'fast lane' rules.
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

This is a fight we cannot afford to lose. No matter how little of the technology you understand, we all use it. Cell phones, Netflix and other WiFi television connectors, our computers, Kindles ... so much of our lives depends on fast, dependable Internet connections. 

 

If we lose this fight, we will be looking back on these days as those glorious days when we were all equal on the net ... because we won't be any longer.

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Sid Caesar the Curtain Closes on a Comedy Giant

Sid Caesar the Curtain Closes on a Comedy Giant | In and About the News | Scoop.it
Sid Caesar is dead at 91 and the curtain has softly closed on a comedy giant. Although giant is perhaps not a large enough term to refer to a legendary figure who, through his live comedy programs,...
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Truly one the greatest of the greats. I remember "The Show of Shows" when I was a kid. From that show came more giants -- Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen -- to name a few. 

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Review | In and About the News | Scoop.it

MY BACKGROUND

 

I currently own 4 Olympus micro 4/3 cameras, 2 E-PL1s, an E-P3 and an E-PM2. I also own 7 Olympus and Panasonic micro 4/3 lenses. I’ve shot more than 20,000 frames with my Olympus cameras, so I know these cameras well. I’ve also used the newest Olympus Pen, the E-P5, during a week and half evaluation.

 

I’m also a Canon DSLR shooter. I started with the Rebel XT 7 years ago and have upgrade over time to the 20D, 7D and currently own the full frame 6D. While I shoot a variety of subjects, I’m most excited about urban landscapes and street photography, especially in the evening and night. For this reason, I’m usually drawn to fast shooting cameras that have great low light (high ISO) performance.

 

THE 4/3 FORMAT

 

Before micro 4/3, there was an older format called 4/3. Olympus and Panasonic also shared the original 4/3 standard. This standard was for DSLRs with traditional lenses and a flipping mirror. The goal was to create DSLRs smaller than Canon and Nikon by using a smaller sensor.

 

The 4/3 DSLRs were in fact smaller but it ultimately didn’t make a big difference — Canon and Nikon continued to dominate sales. Back then the smaller 4/3 sensor didn’t perform as well in low light, which was the main knock against the format. Also the mirror assembly still added considerable bulk so the 4/3 cameras were not “radically” smaller than the bigger APS-C sized DSLRs.

 

Ultimately, Olympus and Panasonic regrouped to form the now popular micro 4/3 standard. They took out the flipping mirror and further shrank the lenses and, in the process, started the mirrorless interchangeable lens movement.

 

The jewels in the old 4/3 system are the highly regarded Olympus lenses. Olympus DSLRs focused faster than the original mirrorless offerings and while Olympus released an adapter to use 4/3 lenses on micro 4/3 cameras, they didn’t work as quickly. The 2010 release of the E-5 was the last time Olympus updated their DSLR. Since then, 4/3 lens fans had no modern, high performance cameras to use their glass. This changed with the release of the OM-D E-M1.

 

BRINGING THE FAMILY BACK TOGETHER

 

With the release of the OM-D E-M1, Olympus combined the best of the micro 4/3 world with the best of the 4/3 lens world. Though the E-M1 is not an SLR, it has phase detect and contrast detect focusing which allows the older 4/3 lenses to focus quickly. Reports on the web indicate that while some 4/3 lenses don’t focus as fast as on the E-5 DSLR, the E-M1 is significantly faster than previous micro 4/3 cameras. Robin Wong in Malaysia reports that the focus speed with the 4/3 lenses are more than enough and it is a very usable system. It appears that 4/3 lens focusing speed is lens dependent. A reader indicates that SWD lenses focuses even faster. I didn’t have any 4/3 lenses to test but reports on the web indicate positive results indeed.

 

In one bold stroke, Olympus managed to up its mirrorless focusing capability while supporting the older, loyal Olympus 4/3 owners. It’s a move that brought back the two side of the Olympus household under one roof.

 

CHALLENGING THE DSLR

 

While the original 4/3 DSLR never did challenge the Canon / Nikon duopoly, the new mirrorless E-M1 has put together a package that has compelling advantages over the old fashioned DSLR. Imagine a camera that is as fast as a DSLR, with equal image quality, with superior video in a small package.

 

It took several years of refinement and ultimately a new Sony 16MP sensor, but the micro 4/3 system currently has the same image quality as an APS-C DSLR. When I tested the Olympus E-PM2 against my Canon 7D, I found the low light image quality to be equal to or superior on the Olympus. Even the newest Canon 70D, which is better than the 7D, appears to be in the same ball park as the E-M1. Looking at the DPReview results, it appears that the Olympus JPEG engine still does better than Canon, pulling out sharp details. High ISO performance seems about the same for JPEG and the new 70D might be a tad better than the E-PM2 in RAW.

 

At 10 frames per second in continuous focusing mode, the E-M1 is the first micro 4/3 camera that I would recommend for sports. The latest generation of Olympus Pens are quick for normal shooting — it has one of the fastest contrast detect focusing systems. But when it comes to fast action sports, like soccer, the contrast detect can’t keep up. The E-M1 uses phase detect focusing to assist the contrast detect focusing when set in continuous mode with the micro 4/3 lens (on 4/3 lenses, I’m told it uses phase detect full-time) which makes all the difference. I was able to continuously focus more reliably than with my Canon 7D, which by the way, only shoots at 8 frames per second. DSLRs still have the sports advantage in certain ways, which I will explain below however, this is a major step for mirrorless sports photography.

 

One of the knocks against the DSLR is the size of the camera and even worse, the size of the lenses. Since the E-M1 uses the slightly smaller micro 4/3 sensor, the body and the lenses are noticeably compact. Even though this latest OM-D has the beefiest body so far for an Olympus micro 4/3 camera, it is still a lot smaller than a comparable DSLR. Here is a photograph I took at Precision Camera that compares a Canon 70D with the 24 – 70mm f2.8 vs the Olympus E-M1 with the very similar 24 – 80mm equivalent (Note: technically the Canon 24- 70mm lens on a 70D has a 38mm – 112mm equivalent). Notice a difference?

 

A GROUND BREAKING LENS

 

Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 The impact of Olympus’ new lens, the 12 – 40mm f2.8, is hard to overstated. This is the first PRO micro 4/3 lens from Olympus. It has a metal exterior, it’s weather proof and it’s fast. f2.8 is typically what pros like to use. The large aperture and a usable 24 – 80mm equivalent range makes this a do all lens. This type of lens is popular with wedding photographers and photojournalists where fast action and changing light conditions makes it indispensable.

But imagine all this capability in a size not much bigger than a typical DSLR kit lens. That’s what you can get with micro 4/3, a constant 2.8 zoom in a small package. With Canon, for example, their 24 -70mm f2.8 is nearly 3/4″ larger in diameter and over an inch longer. It weighs more than double, coming in at a hefty 1.77 pounds. The Canon lens also runs about $2,300 which is $1,300 more than the Olympus.

 

Unique to the Olympus lens is a feature where you can pull back on the focus ring, which automatically switches the E-M1 into manual focus mode. Between the focus peaking and digital zoom, this maybe the easiest way to manually focus, at least on a digital camera. This manual focus interface is also available on the Olympus 12mm f2 and the 17mm f1.8. The 12mm and 17mm don’t do automatic focus peaking or digital zoom when the focus ring is pulled backed, however. Unlike the 12-40mm zoom, you need to program a function button to bring up the manual focus aids.

 

UNBEATABLE PACKAGE

 

Separately, the E-M1 and 12-40mm lens are excellent in their own way. But together, as a package, the two complement each other perfectly. They’re an unbeatable pair. Of course the E-M1 can be used with any micro 4/3 lens. Conversely, the 12-40mm can be used on any micro 4/3 body. This lens needs the beefy grip of the E-M1 to be comfortable. While the lens is small in DSLR terms, it is one of the bigger micro 4/3 lenses. Perhaps adding the optional grips on the OM-D E-M5 will also do the trick but on a smaller camera like the E-P3 or even the smaller E-PM2, the lens is too heavy.

 

Mated together, you get a total package that is significantly smaller than the DSLR equivalents. Remember, a smaller sensor may reduce the body size somewhat but it really has benefits in shrinking the lens size. I carried around this high performance, weather sealed, f2.8 zoom camera all day with no strain. It fits in my small Domke bag and it didn’t tire me out. Try that with your DSLR.

 

LENS OPTIONS

 

The E-M1 and 12-40mm combo may be the first setup that handles 95% of my needs. That includes my serious photography as well as family vacation snapshots and videos. Action in low light maybe the only time I’ll need a second lens with a big aperture. I like to use the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4. Other choices may include both the Olympus 12mm f2 and the 17mm f1.8, both really good lenses. Finally, the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 is a very popular and compact alternative.

 

A serious portrait shooter, which I am not, may also want to consider a wide aperture portrait lens to decrease the depth of field. The Olympus 45mm f1.8 is a low-cost and highly rated lens. The Olympus 75mm f1.8 is considered by some to be the highest quality micro 4/3 lens.

 

THE ERGONOMICS

 

Olympus E-M1 Details Olympus E-M1 Details The E-M1 is unlike any previous Olympus micro 4/3 camera. The actual size, in person, seems smaller than expected. It doesn’t look “toy like”, which is the reaction I had when I first saw the E-M5. In actual use, it feels more like a DSLR than the typical mirrorless camera, albeit a very small DLSR. It feels very different from the Olympus Pens that I’ve come to know very well.

On first use, I found the camera heavy. It fit well in hand and all the controls are easy to reach — many accessible single-handed. I can change the two control dials with just my right hand which is not possible, for example, with my Canons. I may opt to use my left hand for added stability, but it wasn’t required to change the primary controls.

 

There is enough direct access buttons on this thing that I rarely need to go into the menus or super control panel. And all the buttons are well place and easily accessible. Between the weight, build and control, it’s a totally different experience than using an Olympus Pen. Compared to this camera, my otherwise excellent E-PM2 feels like a plastic point and shoot. In less than a week, I got used to the weight. It became the new normal. My Pens felt tiny but the DSLRs still seemed a size or two larger.

 

While the control accessibly of the E-M1 is superior to my Canon 6D, I prefer the larger grip of the Canon for heavier lenses. The 12-40mm works fine on the E-M1 but with heavier lenses (like the legacy 4/3 lenses), I think you should attach the optional HLD-7 Camera grip. The E-M1 is a lot shorter than the DSLR so the grip does not extend down to the pinky, even with my smaller hands. The optional battery grip will add needed support for heavier lenses.

 

The menu system seems very similar to the other Olympus micro 4/3 cameras however there are some changes. I noticed, for example, the menu options around bracketing and HDR have changed somewhat. There are probably other small differences but I didn’t do a comprehensive check. I like all the options and customizability of the Olympus menus but I know some find it overwhelming. The good news is with all the external, physical controls, you will rarely need to visit the menus.

 

THE DESIGN

 

Olympus E-M1 Details Olympus E-M1 Details Olympus E-M1 Details Unlike the other Olympus models, this camera only comes in black. The dark, angular shape with its sharp creases is in direct contrast to the smooth and rounded shapes of DSLRs. It also has a very different aesthetic from the Pen line. While the smaller Pens are cute, retro or in the case of the E-P5, upscale. The E-M1 looks like a purposeful photographic tool and its smaller than DLSR size still makes it accessible and non-threatening. It strikes a good balance. While there is a similarity to the old, film Olympus SLR, to me the design doesn’t look retro, It looks modern and high tech.

There is enough heft and size, especially with the 12-40mm lens, to come across as a premium product. However, unlike the two toned, Olympus E-P5, it does not look luxurious. The E-M1 is more functional than decorative. My 14-year-old son describes it as cool but not Pro. Meaning, a big DSLR with a large white lens looks more professional and impressive. So if you are getting this camera to impress people, it may not be the ideal choice. But it doesn’t look like a budget plastic DSLR either — you can tell it is something special. This thing has a solid all metal build with nice rubbery grips. The only section that feels a bit lacking is the SD Card door located on the grip, by the palm. It doesn’t seem cheap, I just don’t know how solid it will be after years of use. For the record my Canon 6D also has a similarly placed SD card door, of which I have the same concerns.

 

Not looking like a typical DSLR but with DSLR performance is why I like the camera. It’s certainly not as stealthy as an Olympus Pen, but I don’t think it will attract attention like a Pro DSLR either. Purely on looks, I prefer the two toned E-P5. It has just the right amount of sparkle and it seemed like a “civilized” travel and street camera. Performance and flexibility wise, the E-M1 is clearly superior. You can shoot sports, take it into country for landscapes (in all kinds of nasty weather) and do almost everything in between. In that sense, E-M1 is Olympus’ most versatile camera.

 

Where the E-M1 is clearly superior over the E-P5 is with the integrated EVF (Electronic View Finder). I didn’t like that add-on EVF on the E-P5, one of the few things I complained about in an otherwise fine camera. On the E-P5, the EVF is an afterthought. It doesn’t integrate into the design and, for me, get’s in the way. The E-M1 EVF, I believe, has the same technical specifications but it is full incorporated into the body. (Note: A reader reports that the E-M1 EVF has slight improvements over the VF-4 EVF that optionally comes with the E-P5. It has less lag and automated brightness, adjusting to ambient light) It looks good, design wise, and is less fragile. I don’t typically use EVFs, but on the E-M1 I used it more than usual. Perhaps I used the EVF more because, conceptually for me, the E-M1 handles and feels like a DSLR. The Pen cameras, on the other hand, work more like point and shoots.

 

The EVF quality is the best yet. It is the closest so far to the feel of an optical view finder. It smooth, with great color and it doesn’t get overly bright in dark scenes. It’s the first EVF I don’t mind using, though I still find it comfortable and more flexible using the flip LCD up screen.

 

I know there’s a lot of people who like the Olympus E-M5 but I never warmed up to that camera. The ergonomics, such as the button placement didn’t work for me. Also, it just looked a bit “toy like” because of its small size. It looks like a retro SLR but not sized like one, which is where the disconnect for me happens, I think. The E-M1 just looks right. It still seems smaller than expected but not to any extreme. There is a balance to it that the E-M5 doesn’t have unless you add the optional grips.

 

IMAGE QUALITY

 

There are many aspects to image quality, of course. There is color, dynamic range, contrast, noise levels and sharpness to name a few. Color is probably the most important for me and usually the most visible. The Olympus color, which I really like, is a key reason I use the system. Beyond that, I tend to look at noise levels particularly for high ISOs. I shoot a lot in dark conditions and having great high ISO performance is important. Certainly, I would like better dynamic range but for my serious urban landscapes I often use HDR which increase the apparent dynamic range. This, I find, is a great equalizer between systems.

 

I rarely do serious ISO tests. I generally look at the results from normal shooting and see what looks acceptable to me. I view the photograph on my 27″ Apple Thunderbolt display so that the image fills the display (not at 100%). If I can’t see any noise or general harshness, I deem the image as acceptable for my purposes. While I may do retouching at 100%, I don’t pixel peep at 100% once I know the limits of a camera.

 

Compared to other Olympus cameras

For Olympus Pens I’m usually satisfied with the images up to ISO 3200. Keep in mind that noise levels vary by color and exposure so ISO 3200 is a general rule of thumb. The EM-1 uses a new 16MP sensor. I’ve head reports that it might be better at higher ISOs than the previous E-M5 sensor. I decided to run some quick tests to see if I can detect a difference.

 

I shot the Texas State Capitol on tripod with both the E-M1 with the 12-40mm attached and the E-PM2 with the Panasonic 14mm attached. Both cameras were set to f8 and at 14mm (28mm equivalent). I was testing noise levels, not sharpness so I decided not to use the same lens. I shot 3 photos at -2 stops, 0 and +2 stops exposure compensation. I did this at ISO 200, 1600, 3200, 4000, 5000 and 6400. By varying the exposure compensation, I can judge noise levels with both over and under exposed photographs. I also shot both cameras with RAW + JPEG but did the analysis with JPEG since I don’t have a RAW converter for the E-M1.

 

My results? In this simple test, the two cameras did about the same. I did not see a noticeable improvement with the E-M1. This is in contrast to Ming Thein’s results where he was getting about 1/2 or so stop better noise performance. Ming is a professional photographer out of Malaysia and I certainly trust his analysis. Keep in mind that noise characteristics change with exposure and color. So even if we are both testing noise performance, our results may vary depending on the subject. Also, Ming was using an OM-D E-M5 and I was using a Pen E-PM2. My understanding is that both cameras use the same sensor and processor but a quick check over at DXO Mark reveals something interesting. According to their tests the E-PM2 does a tad better at high ISO. Could that account for the difference?

 

That’s not to say I didn’t see any differences. For my state Capitol scene, things looked about the same until ISO 1600. At 3200 and above, I noticed that the E-M1 processed JPEGs differently from the E-PM2. The JPEG noise reduction on the E-M1 seems lighter creating a more detailed but slightly noisier images. I am splitting hairs though, pixel peeping at 100%. At full size on the 27″ monitor, its hard to make out the differences.

 

That said for the “normal” non-test scenes I shot, I was getting decent, usable image as ISO 4000 and 5000. Even ISO 6400 was okay in terms of noise. Remember that these are JPEGs so the camera adds noise reduction. I usually use RAW where noise is a bigger factor unless I add additional noise reduction. The advantage of RAW is that I can post process the image with more latitude, pulling out details from shadows or bringing back some detail in over exposed areas. I can also manipulate color more in RAW without the image falling apart.

 

So your mileage will vary. I wouldn’t expect radically better high ISO results with the E-M1 over the current generation micro 4/3s. But this camera’s strength lie in other areas. I’ve also noticed more noise in some over exposed images with the E-M1, which I create when shooting HDR brackets. I don’t see it all the time and it may be related to the way JPEGs are processed. The net effect is that I’ve created a noisier than usual HDR image, the one of the State Capitol displayed above. I needed to apply extra noise reduction via software to get it down to acceptable levels. I would need to run more tests to determine if this was a fluke or a real issue. The image above used the photos I shot at ISO 200. And in case you are wondering, the white specs you see on the pavement are not noise but light reflecting off the pavement.

 

Compared to DSLRs

The current generation micro 4/3 are surprisingly competitive, image quality wise, with DSLRs with APS-C sensors. The larger APS-C sensors should give it a distinct advantage but in actual usage there seems to be very little difference. I am more familiar with Canon than Nikon so I will talk about the former. I’ve been shooting with micro 4/3 for a while and I was surprised to discover that my small Olympus E-PM2 matched or exceeded the low light performance of the Canon 7D. I’ve talked a lot about this. Basically, Canon have not improved their APS-C sensor for over 3 years. In that time, smaller sensored cameras, like micro 4/3 caught up. Recently Canon released the 70D. This is first Canon APS-C DSLR that noticeably improves low light performance. I would estimate that 70D is about a 1/3 to 2/3 stop better in RAW performance than the E-M1 (that’s assuming the E-M1 RAW performance is similar to the E-PM2). If you compare JPEG performance, it appears that the superior Olympus JPEG engine still matches Canon’s results.

 

For full frame DSLRs, it’s a very different story. High ISO performance on full frame is clearly better than micro 4/3. The physics of a grossly larger sensor is hard to beat. On my Canon 6D, for example, I get nearly 2 stops better high ISO performance. So ISO 10,000 on my Canon 6D is about on par with ISO 3200 on micro 4/3.

 

Olympus does have one tangible benefit though. The E-M1 has a very sophisticated 5 axis in-body image stabilizer. This allows you to take clear shots at lower ISOs by reducing your shutter speed. This technique will not help with fast action but for scenes with little or no movement, you can reduce your shutter speed greatly. Couple this with some large aperture prime lenses and you can easily best APS-C sensored DSLRs. And you can almost close the gap on full frame cameras too depending on the circumstance.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

See the rest of the story -- comparisons, photos, analysis, summaries on ATMTX PHOTO BLOG at:  http://blog.atmtxphoto.com/2013/10/06/the-olympus-om-d-e-m1-review/

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JUST DIE ALREADY

JUST DIE ALREADY | In and About the News | Scoop.it

 

That’s the message. The ACA doesn’t affect me directly since I’m already on Medicare — except the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare have been going up each year. Higher deductibles and premiums, less coverage for the money and the doughnut hole in prescription coverage just keeps going and going and going. They are nibbling away at the coverage. Slowly and surely.Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a rapid downhill slide into worse medical care. As long as was on MassHealth, the Massachusetts version of “Obama Care,” I was fine. I got medication for cheap or free and if I was sick, they took care of me. Thank God I had cancer while I was still covered under MassHealth!The day I turned 65, they tossed me off of MassHealth. Did I get richer or healthier? Nope. The Great Minds who designed the system decreed when you hit 65, you don’t need money. You can automatically live on about 1/3 the amount you used to need. Apparent the benevolent folks who hold our mortgage and bills knock 2/3 off our payments because they know we are getting old and definitely poor.In your dreams.

I knew it was going to happen but I’d been trying not to think about it. I knew because it happened to my husband when he turned 65. Bang, no more MassHealth. You’re on your own, buster. Garry has fewer major health issues than I do, a situation that is not guaranteed to last forever but so far, so good.

Me, on the other hand … well. I’m just about to hit the second anniversary of the two tumors which cost me both breasts  – the definition of a bi-lateral mastectomy and essentially, I’m getting no care at all, not even checkups. I had cancer twice – simultaneously. Those two-for-one sales are a killer.

My insurer has too few oncologists, so essentially I have no care. I hope for the best and don’t think on it much. Usually. Except at night, when I’m trying to fall asleep. Then, I wonder what’s really going on in my body. It is not the kind of thinking  conducive to relaxation and rest.

I have evolved into a cardiac disaster area. I need a new mitral valve and other things. Turns out that my Medicare Advantage Plan (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) charges $50 per day co-pay for cardiac rehab. Since there is no way we can come up with that money, I can’t afford cardiac rehab. With all the deductibles, I’m not even sure I can afford the surgery itself … and I’m not sure they’ll perform it if I can’t do the rehab. I’m trying real hard to find something funny here and not doing such a great job.

I’ve been considering using Magical Thinking as a medical alternative. Magical Thinking is holistic medicine for the hopelessly deluded. Rather than medication and surgery. I pretend I’m fine and kaboom — I’m fine. Problem eliminated. Magical thinking is cheap, efficient and much less stressful than actually dealing with the problem.

Okay, back to earth. I’m getting a message from the ether and the message, ladies and gentleman is (wait for it) … “Just die already.”

If I could afford $220 per month more, I could get a policy without deductibles. Ironically, that’s exactly what it costs me monthly to keep the house heated. On the budget plan. Could I skip heating and trade up for better medical insurance? But this is New England. It gets cold.

Or, for an additional $200 per month (which we don’t have) — plus the cost of Medicare — I could get a Medigap policy that would cover everything Medicare doesn’t cover. I’d need a prescription plan separately and no plan covers that big doughnut hole in the middle of prescription coverage. Kind of a moot point since I don’t have the money. Hell, we have more month than money now. More? From where? Our generous government entitlements?

If I don’t take care of the bad valves, I will die. If I delay too long, the chances of the surgery working well become increasingly poor. I can’t afford the surgery, not really … and the alternative is?

The message comes through loud and clear. I’ve outlived my usefulness. Just die already.

With the shut down of the government by those opposed to the ACA (let’s call them “Republicans” and be done with the niceties), with the GOP apparently believing “Just die already” is a reasonable message to send to me and lots of other people, I have to wonder how I wound up here. We worked hard our whole lives. We deserve better than this. I try not to be whiney about it, but it hurts to find oneself discarded, marginalized, back against the wall with the wolves closing in.

How did the United States become this ugly, mean-spirited country that would rather close down than offer medical care to its poor, its children, its senior citizens? How did we come to this? Who are we, anyhow?

I know. I get it. Just die already.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

And that's the way it really is for so many of us. It's not theory. It's not funny. It's not political. It's life and death for real. Maybe you want to rethink your position.

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Transcript of the Constitution of the United States - Official Text

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

For those who have never read the Constitution -- and for we who may need a refresher (it being a long time since school days), here is a link to a transcript of the Constitution by which ALL Americans are all sworn to abide.

 

Regardless of party. Regardless of whether or not we like the President. We are a nation of laws, not extortion. 

 

We are all supposed to care about this country. We can disagree, but holding the government to get your way is wrong. Unethical, immoral and unpatriotic. Maybe worse.

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Sharla Shults's curator insight, October 2, 2013 11:29 PM

Also visit Awakenings for information on the signing of The Constiturion of the United States and check your knowledge behind We the People: http://awakenings2012.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-us-constitution.html

Brian Bertram's curator insight, April 9, 2014 12:40 PM

This is the actual text of the constitution. It represents what the laws of our country are based on. Currently it has been around longer than any other constitution in history.  It was created by the founding fathers. They did such a great job hundreds of years ago that other countries now a days base their constitutions on it.  That is very impressive since at the time no other government in the world was like the one that the founding fathers created.

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The Science Behind Foliage | Your Great Outdoors

The Science Behind Foliage | Your Great Outdoors | In and About the News | Scoop.it

The science behind the beauty of the season, from the Mass Audubon Society. One of my favorite organizations. They do good work to help preserve our natural world.


Via JMS1kiddz
Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

I always wondered. Now, I know.

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JMS1kiddz's comment, September 25, 2013 10:54 AM
This is relevent as Spring is here, if you take an interest in nature you'll enjoy this article. It dicusses the science behind the leaves changing colour when the season's change. Interesting.
- Katherine Jones
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Criminals and Gun Violence - SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG, Richard Paschall

Criminals and Gun Violence - SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG, Richard Paschall | In and About the News | Scoop.it

Despite news stories that would suggest the opposite, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are fond of pointing out that the city has endured less shootings than in recent years.  If that is truly the case, then the shootings in past years was under reported by local media.  You can believe that they are all over it now.  Local news in most big cities follow the mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and shootings have become the lead stories all too often in the Windy City and around America.  Chicago has become the topic of national newscasts and unfortunate late night talk show jokes.

Mayor Emanuel and his predecessor, long time mayor Rich Daley, have worked hard to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals.  They worked to restrict gun sales, limit concealed carry and ban guns at certain locations.  In light of gun violence, it seems logical that city leaders would lead the charge to get guns out of the hands of the type of people who would shoot up a city park.  Unfortunately their efforts have met the fight to let criminals have their guns.  “Who would be against the efforts of our elected officials to make the city streets safer?” you may ask.  Is it just the gangs?  Are the gangs using their drug profits to oppose the city in court?  Is it the Mafia and their high-priced attorneys?  Is it some Tea Party extremist?  No, it is none of those although the last might be close.  It is the National Rifle Association that is working hard to let criminals have guns and keep violence on main street America.  They have money.  They have lawyers and they like taking Chicago to court.

Yes, one of the roadblocks to taking guns away from criminals is the NRA.  They will now point to recent shootings as proof that we can not have gun control.  They will again try to force feed us the argument that gun control will mean that only criminals will have guns  and we will all be at their mercy, as if we are not now.  The NRA will use their usual scare tactics to defend their extreme position that actually allows criminals to get more and more guns.  They will then attempt to sell us on the idea that all of those guns in the hands of criminals means we can not have gun control laws.  Somehow they seem to think that arming the bad guys is proof that the good guys should not have to face any sort of restrictions on buying guns.  If you think this philosophy is a bit twisted, you are right (or perhaps I meant left).

The “slippery slope” argument is at the top of the NRA’s philosophy about gun control laws.  They seem to think that if there are any restrictions to buying guns, soon there will be more and more restrictions to follow and eventually  all the good guys will have to give up their guns to the federal, state and local governments.  It does not matter that this argument make no sense and the Second Amendment will protect them.  They continue to fight the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago through misleading pronouncements and court challenges.  Consider the common sense ideas of the state and city along with the extremist, Wild West position of the NRA.

Attempts at restricting private sale or transfer of guns to criminals have been challenged.  Reporting lost or stolen guns has been challenged.  Restricting concealed carry in certain public places has been challenged.  The NRA has won a battle against the State of Illinois in Moore v. Madigan.  That would be Lisa Madigan, Attorney General for the State of Illinois.  They claimed that the State efforts to enforce its laws left people “defenseless” outside their own homes.  They also backed McDonald v. Chicago in a fight against Chicago hand guns laws.  Their direct fight in NRA v. Chicago was later consolidated with the McDonald case.  While the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the Chicago law, the fight went to the Supreme Court where the much of the Chicago ordinance was struck down, leaving the city to attempt a less restrictive ban in 2010.

The State of Illinois was forced in July to adopt a concealed weapons laws, which angered city officials.  The law forced changes on the City of Chicago.  City officials, however, refuse to roll over to the wishes of the NRA.  They are now attempting to ban guns in bars and restaurants that sell alcohol.  They feel guns and booze don’t mix.  They expect the NRA to back the Dodge City mentality and challenge them in court.  Apparently, there should be no checking of hand guns at the door, but Marshal Dillon is not around to toss the bad guys in jail like an episode of Gunsmoke so this may not go well.  Perhaps all disputes will be settled by a duel in the street rather than shooting up Chicago saloons.

If Al Capone were still alive he would be proud of the efforts of the NRA to let Capone and Frank Nitti keep guns on the streets of Chicago.  As for Eliot Ness, the NRA would keep him and the Untouchables busy in court with challenges over any attempts to enforce the law, even common sense laws.

Marilyn Armstrong's insight:

Despite all the palaver that the availability of guns does not affect crime levels, this is so obviously ridiculous and self-serving by gun enthusiasts that it really isn't worth arguing. I think everyone who hunts, competes in shooting sports and has some kind of genuine reason to own a weapon should be allowed to do so. I also think that all guns should be better regulated, insured, and kept track of.  Heres an opinion worth reading.

 

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Victor Davis Hanson - The Israeli Spring

Victor Davis Hanson - The Israeli Spring | In and About the News | Scoop.it

srael could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.

The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.

Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.

In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.

The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.

But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?

There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.

Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.

The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.

Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.

In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.

What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.

Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc

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