1. Days Like Today

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    There’s a certain and particular searching that comes with every tragedy. A search for answers. Culprits and motives. A search for hope and silver linings. It happens every time, and sadly, more often, as history degrades into nothing but a series of explosions and attacks. We send out prayers and thoughts for the affected. We donate blood and shed tears. We imagine ourselves in the shoes of others and get angry, or sad, or just plain tired. Why do we react this way? With empathy and compassion, no matter how self-centered their origin?

    Maybe it’s the only thing that keeps us going.

    Maybe empathy is our reminder that for every tragedy, there is a legion of good. For every injured, a hundred caregivers. For every death, a nation of mourners. For every threat, an army of defenders. For every act of terror, a thousand calls for justice. For every evil act, a million voices to declare, “No. That’s not okay.”

    And that’s the only thing that gets me by on days like today. We outnumber the rotten. We don’t win every round, but we will always have the numbers. Even on days where answers are few and chaos seems to be holding the reins, the good are still winning. Healing, fighting, sleuthing, guarding, weeping, praying, hugging, and holding each other up. We are living, and for as long as that’s true, we will be winning. And that’s the only thing that gets me by on days like today.

     

  2. Pasadena, CA. 12.16.12.

    Sunday Night in America

    It had been three days since the shooting. A massacre of twenty. Our most precious twenty. Precious in the way we all understand it - little plots of joy and promise, life beaming from their round little eyes and toothfairy smiles. It had been three days and life had already moved on.

    A buddy and I were sitting behind a platter of chips and salsa, a diet coke and two beers on the table. We were there to watch the Niners play the Patriots and eat wings. This was America. Every table brimming with chicken bones and beer, fat guys in Brady jerseys and plumpy girls slurring between sips. The place was loud and crowded for a regular season game. So too was Foxboro, the field still hazy on TV from the pregame fireworks. I was in my element: propped up on a tall chair surrounded by a sea of tables too small for grown men, each one littered with cardboard coasters and table tents offering Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake to people who’ve clearly never said no to chocolate or cake or double-fudge anything.

    And then the President appeared. First on two screens, then on twenty. The two big screens went to the President last. I slowly bit into a tortilla chip. The place went quiet as he began: “Scripture tells us, ‘do not lose heart…’” There was no movement. There was silence, but one without reverence or reflection. Like the kind a mother receives from a scolded child - a half hearted show of compliance, almost a taunt, really. As the President spoke, I began to feel the twinge of pain in my chest again. The devastation of even one child lost was unimaginable - much less twenty. I welled up and felt a sigh leave my lungs.

    Not more than five minutes into his remarks, one of the big screens switched back to the game. Time’s up, POTUS. A football game on mute on one side, a somber Obama on the other. It was a gradual change in mood and an awkward one. The President’s speech a perverse soundtrack for the first quarter of Niners-Pats. A handful of booths began to murmur. Hot sauce painted hands raised mugs. Waitresses resumed their duties in sync. Eventually, half the place found its legs again. And with game still on mute it let out an unadulterated pigskin-loving, guacamole-sucking roar after every big play - very much to the disapproval of those still tuned in to the memorial service. 

    This was Sunday Night in America. Tragedy and escape. Real world grief and gridiron delight. Had we moved on or just repressed our hurt? Is football a disgrace in the wake of national heartache or a symbol of our best and truest qualities? I didn’t know. I still don’t.

    We live on a tattered spectrum of empathy and impulse. Where hard-earned wisdom goes head-to-head with deliberate ignorance. And the beauty of our country is that a real and honest slice of her lives in every bar, stadium, school, and home on any given night. Our diversity of spirit, values, and culture present in every microcosmic bubble. I wish there was a right or wrong way to spend that Sunday night, but there wasn’t. In hindsight, there still isn’t. It’s gray matter and it damned well might be the definition of freedom - or at least our brand of it. That and every Sunday night in America we’re free to choose who, what, and where we are. We might fight and fiddle over who’s right or wrong, but that’s exactly the point isn’t it? We’re a country that strives to lift up and live out ideals, but find ourselves in limbo more often than not. And though I’m left bewildered that life can run the gamut from unspeakable tragedy to happy hour wings in a matter of hours, it is who we are. Free to deal with life the way we think or feel we should deal with life. So, three days after a national tragedy, when a mourning president and a football game are shown on split screens in front of us we get to lean the way we wish. It’s gray matter. And in no way is that a judgment. If anything, it’s an acceptance.

     


  3. Chinks in the Armor

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    One morning, when I was 12, I stood waiting for my school bus at the bottom of the hill where Granalta Circle meets Kemp Lane. It was a crisp Maryland morning, still early enough to see the white fog of breath and the light grey sheath of morning dew atop the fields across the street. I was alone at the bus stop each morning as I was the oldest kid in the neighborhood (there were only 4 of us), and I usually just stood there fidgeting in my Redskins Starter jacket, pushing my glasses tight up against my face. This was the only method for keeping my glasses in place on my fat, flat, Asian face.

    My fat, flat, Asian face.

    I wasn’t aware of any of this at the time, my fatness or flat facedness or Asianness. Well, not in a self-conscious way, anyway. I knew I was different, but I was just a goofyass kid. I had scored some major cool points in 6th grade by writing an original horror story about a family that had their limbs cut off and stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered to their relatives as free pizza (because, hey, who doesn’t love free pizza?). Not only was I writing for an audience, I was also performing quite a bit in the classroom. I once received a written referral citing my creation of “250 paper missiles and other spitball projectiles positioned in a threatening way to fellow students.” Another time I was made to sit out in the hall during science class because I kept pointing to an empty chair next to me and telling my friends to “come shit over here.” I once spent an entire math class miming as “Michael Jackson in a Box” from my desk at the back of the room.

    And that morning, waiting for the bus at the bottom of Granalta Circle, I was just another goofyass 7th grader waiting for the bus. The bus was a crazy place. My middle school shared a parking lot with my high school and so, the district thought it only made sense to pack petrified 11 year olds alongside 19 year old redneck ‘super seniors’ who’d had their driver’s license revoked for conducting ‘hillbilly drive bys’ with their BB guns, all in one yellow school bus. This is all true. And for the fifth year in a row, I was the only non-white person on the bus.

    When the bus finally arrived that morning, I climbed aboard and found it unusually quiet, even for a Monday. Our bus driver, Mehrle DuVall, usually had country radio playing in the background, but he was in no mood that morning. I quickly surveyed the scene: the eighth grade girls doing their hair up front, as usual; the 6th graders huddled three to a seat hugging their clarinets; the high school couples dry humping at 6:47 in the morning; and the aforementioned super senior rednecks in the last three rows. I usually sat with my friend Colin somewhere in the teens, but that morning, I saw Colin’s pale arm shoot up and wave me to the last row - he had been accepted by the rednecks! My face lit up as I made my way back; there was always unspeakably awesome mischief taking place beyond row 25, or at the very least, candy. 

    I sat down next to Colin and kept quiet. I had no idea how he got the invite back there, but I wasn’t gonna blow it. I fidgeted some more with my jacket - it kept puffing up in the middle, and I cleaned my glasses with the Redskins shirt I had on underneath (we had just beaten the Giants on Sunday). I still couldn’t help but wonder what Colin had done to move up (back?) the social ladder so fast. After silent deliberation, I decided it was the condom-as-a-skullcap bit he did on Friday that put him over the top. Yep, condom as a skullcap, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The hicks LOVED that.

    So there I was, wedged into row 28 with my knees up against the back of row 27, listening to Alpha Redneck talk about how he was building a wall of beer (“burrr”) cans in his shed. He had fresh welts on his face and arms; apparently from a game of paintball war he plays with his brothers except instead of paintballs, they shoot copperhead BBs at each other. “Paintball is fer pussies,” he said. He looked hungover.

    The bus hit the wavy part of Shookstown Road and Alpha Redneck slowly turned his neck a full 90 degrees to stare straight at me while keeping his shoulders awkwardly square with the seat. I avoided eye contact at first, but flashed a bashful smile and raised my eyebrows.

    "What’re you doin back here (‘hurrr’)?” he asked.
    I just shrugged, unable to speak as my mouth was suddenly deathly dry.
    "This bus is white man only, don’t you know?" 

    His tone was obnoxious and laced with a hint of sarcasm beneath it. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, he always sounded like that. Like Stifler making the jerk off gesture.

    And suddenly, before I could respond, he said it: “no Chinks allowed.”

    I gave a nervous chuckle and looked away. I was scared and I immediately sensed my brain trying to process the situation. The only thing I could surmise was that I had somehow never known the meaning of the word “Chink” until now. Why did I think it applied to Mexican people? Was it ‘Chico’ that I was confusing it with? Chicano, maybe? Wasn’t A.C. Slater Chicano? Is ‘Chink’ supposed to imply that I’m Chinese? He knows I’m not Chinese, he’s asked me before. In fact, just last week he kept referring to me as ‘Koreanese.’ I distinctly remember not knowing how to feel because I had no idea what the intended effect was. Is he joking? Is he gonna pick me up by the collar of my puffy Starter jacket with his huge, hay-bucking hands and kick my Koreanese ass? I knew it wasn’t the “N word,” but I knew it was derogatory. At least, I thought it was meant to be derogatory. No one had ever called me that before. Could Alpha Redneck really be that unabashedly racist and stupid?

    So I just chuckled. That’s all I could do. Chuckle like a harmless, cowardly, little Chink. Chinks don’t fight back. Chinks act like they didn’t just hear that word come out of your mouth. Chinks sit there and chuckle, quietly. Stupid, scared, little Chink.

    Alpha Redneck looked right between my eyes, at my fat, flat, Asian face and he said, “yeeaaah I thought so.”

    Then, suddenly, he shot up like a prairie dog and pointed to the window, “Holy shiet! Look at that buck! Thas at least a 10 pointer right thurr!”

    I was saved by a fucking deer. Durrrrrr.

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    Almost 18 years later, I think back to that morning and what it meant. I remember wanting to cry in the moment, but not because it hurt me; I just didn’t know what to do with it. Maybe it was the impetus for my fascination with words and my irreverence towards race. Maybe it was the day I started classifying everyone in the world as either “stupid motherfuckers who don’t know what they’re doing and saying” or “cool people.” Maybe it was just another one of a billion odd and wonderful things that happened to me in Frederick, MD.

    Last week, ESPN.com went with the headline, “Chink in the Armor,” when the Knicks lost and Jeremy Lin had a bad game. I chuckled. It was the first time I’d heard the word since 7th grade. The first time I recall, anyway. I wasn’t offended. In fact, my first instinct was to laugh my ass off. And when my wife heard about it the next morning, I told her I was certain the writer made an honest mistake as “Chink in the Armor” has become a rather boring, but common idiom in the American sports vernacular. (I swear this was my reaction! My wife will vouch for it! PLEASE BELIEVE ME!!) Anyway, over the next few days, the requisite media shitstorm invaded my internet universe and even conjured up some of Jay Caspian Kang’s best writing. I still chuckle at the whole thing.

    I’m not 12 anymore and I don’t chuckle because I’m scared or confused. I chuckle now because I think a headline featuring an Asian basketball star that says “Chink in the Armor” is a pretty damn funny mistake to make. It’s better than a chuckle, in fact, it’s worth a full-throated laugh. Of course it’s not ok. Of course he should be fired. Of course we shouldn’t teach our children such words or values. Of course it’s hurtful and ignorant. Of course. But we’d all get on so much better if we’d just accept that racism happens. Yes, we’ve come a long way and we’ve all evolved so much in the last 20 billion years (Eminem! Obama! Tiger! Lenny Kravitz! Larry Bird! Jeremy Lin! ALF!!), but stupid racist shit still happens and it always will. Do you know why? Because there will always be somebody dumb enough to be ignorant or hateful, or both. There will always be stupid motherfuckers who don’t know what they’re doing or saying.

    But there doesn’t always have to be somebody on the other side being offended by them.

    In the case of words, victims are voluntary. They called him Chink. So what? Give em the finger and move on. It is beneath us, all of it: the chatter, the fight, the “one step forward, two steps back” essays. I’m more offended by the amount of time and credence given to the word than the actual word itself. It wasn’t wanton (wonton?) discrimination. Jeremy Lin wasn’t denied the right to vote or told to use the Yellows Only bathroom. It was just a stupid word. Laugh it off and move on. Just laugh because it’s all so absurd, especially in this day and age. Laugh, and it loses its power. Laugh, not because you approve, but because it’s so stupidly wrong that anyone who attempts to hurt you with such words looks utterly stupid and wrong. Laugh, and make it “Chinks in the Armhair.” Laugh, and it loses its power. Laugh, and we become bulletproof. Laugh, and we eliminate chinks in the armor.

     

  4. theweekmagazine:

    UC Davis police employed a brand of pepper spray called Defense Technology on peaceful student protesters. The lowest concentration, 0.2 percent, is authorized for tactical deployment. A concentration of 1.3 percent is powerful enough to stop a bear. The type used on the students has a rating of 0.7 percent. The manufacturer recommends the spray be used at a minimum distance of six feet, yet the officers in this case sprayed it on sitting students at near-point blank range.

    Police vs. Occupiers: How dangerous is pepper spray?

    I won’t lie and pretend to know or particularly care about the Occupy protests, but this is absolutely stupid. What the hell is he thinking here? We need equal and immediate retribution for crimes like these and we need to broadcast it on my network television series "F*cked Up!"

     


  5. September 12th

    It’s always the morning after that’s most revealing. Whether it means recovering from tragedy or reveling in triumph, the morning after is what defines us. Throughout each of our personal histories of break ups, and birthdays, and pink slips, and funerals, and graduations, there come those mornings when we can’t believe what just happened the day before. Sometimes we wake up numb to it, like we almost forgot. When we lose a loved one it seems we become surrounded with daily reminders of their absence: a picture, a scent, a sound.

    September 11th was the most significant global event that affected each of us personally. For those old enough to remember, it shook us then and the shock of the day is still palpable. The aftermath of that one morning has shoved and wriggled its way into our lives in innumerable ways. But now, looking back 10 years later, I remember September 12th, the morning after. I remember being relieved that I could return to my routine. I remember feeling thankful the chaos was over, and naively certain that the terrorists were done for now. I imagined the potential devastation of repeated, relentless attacks and I prayed for our country’s protection. It was a confusing morning, but eerily peaceful. Pensive.

    In some ways, it feels like it’s taken 10 years for the collective morning after to arrive. Reading and watching all the memorials and commemorations yesterday it felt like the last 10 years were just a chaotic mix of reaction and adjustment to the events of that morning. But now, 10 years later, maybe we’ve finally turned the clock to greet the morning after. To reflect and remember and to turn our ‘new normal’ into a better normal: a grateful return to routine but with hearts and minds moved for the better.

    It’s the morning after that will define us as a nation and I think the clock may have finally clicked over. Let’s rebuild. Let’s revive. Let’s be renewed as Americans strong in resolve, deep in compassion and ready to lead. Just as 9/11 was a collectively personal experience, 9/12 must be the same; each one of us, making it our personal duty to make life better for one another. And considering the hell we’ve just walked through together, that would be one heaven of a morning after.

     


  6. Honor the Fallen

    22 Navy SEALs among 30 U.S. Troops killed in Afghanistan as NATO helicopter is shot down

    This is absolutely tragic. There aren’t enough words or accolades to describe the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, especially when we lose 30 of our finest in one horrific incident. The War on Terror has gone on for nearly 10 years now, and it’s still surreal and sobering any time I hear of soldiers dying; it damn well better stay that way. The death of a soldier should never feel casual or be confused with one’s personal beliefs on war or violence or politics. They deserve better.

    A soldier’s life lends itself all too easily to cliche because he is a real life hero. Unfortunately, our limited bank of hero vocabulary has been reduced to over-the-top cliches for the caped euphemisms in our comic books. The words feel empty in real life.

    Since the news of OBL’s death, I’ve become mildly obsessed with Navy SEALs; reading accounts of the raid from every major publication and finishing a few great military memoirs along the way (Seal Team SixLone Survivor, The Things They Carried). If there’s a common theme to be drawn here, it’s that SEALs are not like you and me. There is an innate determination and resolve that can’t be faked and a sense of duty that is hammered into them through the most brutal training program on earth. These guys live on the edge so someone like me can enjoy a cushy life in the middle. 

    It’s been a little over two and half weeks since the chopper was downed in Afghanistan and the world’s moved at a blistering pace since then: Somalia is starving, London riots, rebels liberate Libya, an earthquake shakes the eastern seaboard, Steve Jobs retires, Amy Winehouse did too, in her own way and Bert and Ernie’s sexual orientation remains ambiguous. Albert Haynesworth is a Patriot for god’s sake. August 6 seems like ages ago. It’s too easy to forget nowadays. 

    And then I saw this

    (photo credit)

    That is Hawkeye. He belonged to Petty Officer Jon Tumlinson who was one of the 22 SEALs killed on August 6th. In the middle of Officer Tumlinson’s funeral, Hawkeye walked up to his master’s casket and laid down with a mournful sigh. 

    There really isn’t much to say. It’s heart wrenching. It hurts to think about our best coming home in flag-draped caskets and a shame we allow ourselves to move on so quickly. We’ve created an age of perpetual news and narcissism to numb the pain and discomfort of raw emotion. But still, there’s Hawkeye with such purity in his display of grief; there is no politicking, no cry for attention, no agenda.

    What must a dog think when he encounters death? It must be such a hopeless sadness. While we two-leggers lean on our collective myths about heaven and hell, a dog is cruelly trapped in a state of consciousness that lives in the moment, but with deeply seeded memories of the past. The dog cannot cope or dwell or even deny; he mourns in bewilderment, lies down with a heavy sigh and eventually follows his new master home. But he never forgets. Nor should we. 

    Central Command confirms 6,194 U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. 2,292 soldiers under the age of 22. 4,439 under the age of 28. The world is a terrible place sometimes. Take time to remember. Don’t buy into the asinine notion that “the best thing we can do is move on with our lives and do the things we enjoy.” Fuck you if you believe that. Soldiers don’t die so you can play golf and jerk off. They deserve our time and remembrance. Learn about them, thank them, remember them. Sing, write, dedicate. Do something. Read this. By all means take a minute of self-reflection to be thankful and mindful of how amazing we have it.

    And if you pray, then pray for their families and their friends and their souls. Pray for their dogs and that we may be more like them.

     


  7. War Photographers: The Shot that Nearly Killed Me

    "Port au Prince was falling. It was riotous, with widespread looting. A group of us had gone to the port. The thugs with guns didn’t want us there. We snapped from the waist, trying not to make it obvious. We decided to go over the wall. One thug offered me "protection". As we jumped the wall, I saw this boy, and was like, "This is what it’s come to." It was my first digital assignment and I was amazed to be able to look at my shots. I did for a second; when I looked up, everyone had run off. It was just me and the thug. It was like a dog that smells fear. He began pushing and threatening me. Then I was surrounded. One of them hit me. I had a few dollar bills in my trousers, and put my hand there. They began tearing at me, fighting over the bills. I waited 30 seconds, started to walk away, then ran and scaled the fence. On the other side, I tried to breathe.

    I began shooting one guy a metre away. He screamed and pulled a shotgun. I saw the barrel, then he shot the man next to me – I had blood on me, brains. I was crying, shaking. I ran to the car horrified; I was a mess. I love Haiti, but every time I pass the port, I carry some of that fear.” - Saul Schwarz

    Unreal read of the day. More at the Guardian

     

  8. This is not a commentary on politics, but I have a deep trust and admiration for our president. The man is measured, tactful and articulate. The full 60 minutes interview shows a leader, speaking from heart and head without an obvious script or political agenda. There’s plenty to be cynical about in politics, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for Obama as a man and I’m immensely proud to call him my president. I say without a hint of irony that if more people like him ran for office on both sides of the aisle, our country would be so much better for it.  

     
     

  9. If you own pet, know anyone who owns one or have ever considered owning one you need to watch the first 90s of the video and make sure you read this. The popular foods found in the big pet chain stores are actually produced by huge multinational companies like P&G, Colgate Palmolive and Mars. Why are corporations that specialize in shampoos and dishwashing soaps in the pet food industry in the first place? It’s gro$$. Pedigree, Iams, Science Diet, Pro Plan, Royal Canine, Purina, Alpo, Beneful, Nutro, and Eukanuba all make terribly gross dog foods. While these brands may be cheaper than their healthier counterparts, if you breakdown the calories per serving the organic brands are actually a much better value (vet bills!). It’s like the difference between eating taco bell meat everyday or real, 100% beef steak, except the taco bell meat contains road kill, bird beaks and other ‘meat byproducts.’

    Be a responsible pet owner and spread the word. Definitely read this to see which foods are worth buying and what to consider when choosing your pet’s food. Also, never switch your dog’s diet immediately (his stomach will blow up). Mix in small bits of the new food with the old and gradually change over his diet to the new food over a 1-2 wk span. 

     
     


  10. Julian Assange and Wikileaks

    First watch this:

    The read this Open Letter to Julian Assange from Reporters Without Borders:

    Dear Mr. Assange,

    Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article “Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010” on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

    Wikileaks has in the past played a useful role by making information available to the US and international public that exposed serious violations of human rights and civil liberties which the Bush administration committed in the name of its war against terror. Last April’s publication of a video of the killing of two employees of the Reuters news agency and other civilians by US military personnel in Baghdad in July 2007 was clearly in the public interest and we supported this initiative. It was a response to the Obama administration’s U-turn on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The White House broke its word in May 2009, when it defied a court order and refused to release photos of the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks.

    Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article’s publication. We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.

    It is true that you said that “a further 15,000 potentially sensitive reports” were excluded from the 25 July mass posting, that they were being “reviewed further” and that some of them would be released “once it was deemed safe to do so.”

    Nonetheless, indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that Wikileaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing. Wikileaks is an information outlet and, as such, is subject to the same rules of publishing responsibility as any other media.

    Reporters Without Borders has for years been campaigning for a federal “shield law” protecting sources, one that would apply not only to the traditional media but also to the new Internet media without exception. This is why we condemn all forms of harassment of Wikileaks contributors or informants – such as the recent arrest of Wikileaks researcher Jacob Appelbaum – by government agencies and immigration officials. We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings. However, you cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media.

    The precedent you have set leaves all those people throughout the world who risk their freedom and sometimes their lives for the sake of online information even more exposed to reprisals. Such imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium. A total of 116 netizens are currently in prison in a dozen countries because of the comments they posted online. Can you image the same situation in the country of the First Amendment?

    Wikileaks must provide a more detailed explanation of its actions and must not repeat the same mistake. This will mean a new departure and new methods.

    We look forward to your reply,

    Sincerely,

    Jean-François Julliard
    Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

    Clothilde Le Coz
    Reporters Without Borders representative in Washington DC

    Thoughts?

     

  11.  

  12. Dear Joe Barton, 
    Go away and die.

    Thanks,
    The World 

     
     


  13.  


  14. Food for Thought: Gulf Oil Spill

    Is this really where we have come: that the fate of our precious coastlines and the waters off our coasts are in the hands of a single foreign-based company?

    Read David Gergen’s short opinion piece

     

  15. This is still happening. The oil gusher does not stop for breaks or naps or commercials. More pictures here: BP Oil Spill